Monday, October 8, 2012

0 comments ...Our Pets' Heads Are Falling Off!: Week 5

Not to be a huge downer, but this was not an incredibly exciting week in the NFL, yet still probably better than watching any type of one game Wild Card playoff game in Major League Baseball. This is probably one of the most ugliest weeks in the NFL I can remember. There were some ugly games. As many things annoy me about the NFL, at least they don't have any bad ideas to make the game "more exciting" by creating drama using gimmicks in the playoffs. Anyway, Tom Brady beat Peyton Manning when they went head-to-head...again. The Bills defense leaked like a sieve...again. The good news is Gregg Easterbrook's idea from last week that the NFL needs to do something about this offensive power in the NFL didn't look so smart this week.

St. Louis Rams 17 Arizona Cardinals 3

After Thursday evening was over this game looked like it would be the ugliest offensive game of the NFL week, but it was surpassed during the weekend by another game involving a NFC West team. Sam Bradford completed seven passes and won the game. Kevin Kolb got sacked nine times and the Arizona Cardinals offensive line clearly wanted to remind us it still isn't a very good unit, despite the fact the Cardinals had not lost a game until they played the Rams. The Rams defense won this game really. The Cardinals couldn't run the ball (as usual) and the Rams harassed Kevin Kolb as I had expected defenses to do to him all year. This is the type of game where if it were a baseball game old-school sportswriters would say that Sam Bradford did enough to earn the win. What that means is he did a great job of being on a team that played great defense. This is the Cardinals team I expected to see this year. I am also surprised at what an excellent defense the Rams have put together. Though I have to admit, considering they haven't been very good for a while now they probably should start putting some semblance of a good team together. At some point getting high first round draft picks has to pay off, right?

Miami Dolphins 17 Cincinnati Bengals 13

If Ryan Tannehill has about 10 more games like this I might consider saying I was wrong about him. I never thought he would be a good NFL quarterback and he has played really well over the last two games. Neither team really put up an excellent offensive showing, but the Dolphins got a nearly mistake-free game from Tannehill, which the Bengals can't say about Andy Dalton. If the Bengals really want people to take them seriously as contenders in the AFC then these are the type of games they have to win. They can't be losing at home to the Dolphins against a rookie quarterback. The Bengals had just come off a good defensive showing while missing their top four cornerbacks and then follow it up with a loss to a pretty average Dolphins team? It's not the progress Bengals fans are wanting to see. The Bengals couldn't take advantage of opportunities to score touchdowns early in the game and the Dolphins defense held them to two field goals in the first half. Gregg Easterbrook would say "fortune favors the bold" so I am sure if the Bengals had gone for it on fourth down the entire game it would have turned the result all around.

Indianapolis Colts 30 Green Bay Packers 27

That sound you heard at 4:15pm EST on Sunday was the sportswriters of America getting a little too excited in their pants at being able to (finally!) say that Andrew Luck had a signature win as an NFL starter. NeckBeard beat the Green Bay Packers all by himself, helped an old lady cross the street and then saved a cat from a burning building. Luck has a signature win that 5 years from now nobody but Colts fans will remember, but for right now the sports media will describe as a "signature win" in order to make it seem like it was a win that will forever be remembered by sports fans everywhere. When in doubt, create a narrative. The best narrative for this game is the Colts played emotionally for Chuck Pagano and put together a good win at home that hopefully for them serves as a springboard to show the plan in place is working. Pagano wrote an email to the team urging them not to play for him, but to play for themselves. It was one of those old "here is correspondence from your ailing coach" emails which explicitly is sent to motivate the team to play more emotionally and focus more...but not on the ailing coach's behalf course, but for themselves. Naturally, it always takes the opposite effect and the team ends up playing well for the ailing coach. Reggie Wayne went bananas and reminded everyone that Andrew Luck is fortunate to have a Hall of Fame receiver to throw the football to. Apparently the Packers also played in this game, though you wouldn't know it from any of the game recaps I read.

Baltimore Ravens 9 Kansas City Chiefs 6

Joe Flacco proved once again he is a consistently elite quarterback by helping the Ravens run up the score on the Chiefs 9-6. Flacco did it all, throwing for a blistering 48% completion percentage and even running for 14 yards, including getting the first down on a 3rd-and-15 with a few minutes left in the game, which kept the football out of the hands of the powerful Chiefs offense and Brady Quinn. Top that, Eli Manning. The Ravens couldn't afford to give the football back to Brady Quinn with time left on the clock. Oh, Ray Rice ran for 100 yards and the Ravens defense held the Chiefs offense to 124 yards passing. That may have had something to do with this win as well. Romeo Crennel, who as we learned from last week is ready for the Chiefs to get better somehow, found that not having Matt Cassel as the quarterback could be the key to getting better and the "somehow" part of that statement may have an answer as "not having Matt Cassel as the quarterback." As always, the fact Cassel struggled again in this game only further proves Tom Brady is the most overrated quarterback in NFL history. 

This week, with the change in quarterback comes a different focus for the Chiefs offense. Now they have tried to get better somehow, they just need to learn not to drop the ball. I'll let Brady Quinn explain:

"We just want to play a sound football game where we're not dropping the ball as much," said Brady Quinn, who finished the game out and appears likely to start at quarterback when the Chiefs visit Tampa Bay next Sunday. "If we can fix that, we can be a pretty solid team."

As soon as the Chiefs find a way to not drop the football, IF they can do that, they will be on their way to becoming a solid football team. I find it shocking Chiefs fans want Scott Pioli fired. He's a genius don't you know? Remember all those years where he, not Bill Belichick, was running the Patriots team? Well kiss that genius goodbye if you choose to fire him. It's not like he has overpaid for a mediocre quarterback and missed on some first round draft choices while he has been the architect of this Chiefs team. Also, calling Pioli the "architect" of the Chiefs is insulting to the Chiefs players and architects everywhere. If the Chiefs were a building it would be a building well-constructed in certain parts but these well-constructed parts would be wearing down quickly under the weight of the terribly-constructed and mildewed portions of the building.

New York Giants 41 Cleveland Browns 27

The Giants are a really good offensive team. With injuries to their wide receivers they decided Ahmad Bradshaw would have to run the ball 30 times in this game, which he did for 200 yards. The Giants spotted the Browns a 14-0 lead so they could finally be in Eli Manning's comfort zone and have to come back in the game, then put up 41 points on the Browns. Weeden was very mature in this game and handled the adversity of losing well, which is all he is required to do. That's the best part about Weeden after all. He's mature and knows how to lose gracefully and then talk about how he is going to bounce back from it. A couple of Giants rookies had good games, David Wilson and Rueben Randle, which will undoubtedly lead to Peter King showing a graph of Jerry Reese's last six drafts and just how good they have been. The Browns committed 10 penalties for a total of 91 yards, plus they had three turnovers which isn't going to get it done against a good team like the Giants. I almost feel bad for the Browns because I feel like there is some talent on this team. They keep getting in their own way though. Oh, and Victor Cruz scored three touchdowns doing his salsa dance after each one. I'm not sure if salsa music was piped in by the network for each touchdown dance, but let's pray this didn't happen. Let Cruz dance to pretend salsa music please.

Pittsburgh Steelers 16 Philadelphia Eagles 14

I feel like these are the types of games the Pittsburgh Steelers always win. They came into the game 1-2 and had a home game against a quality opponent like the Eagles. The Steelers always find a way to win these type of games. It must be nice to cheer for a team that consistently pays for the fans' support and confidence in that team with well-played games or ugly games that result in wins. Clearly I chose the wrong team to be my favorite NFL team. Mike Vick fumbled twice again and the Eagles couldn't hold the lead late in the game. I wasn't convinced coming into this year the Steelers defense was that great, but they played well in holding the Eagles to a little less than 250 yards of offense. It's depressing how the Steelers even had a penalty hold them back on the final drive of the game and they still managed to convert a first down and get in field goal range to win the game. It's not easy, but sometimes they make it look so easy. The Steelers defense bounced back well after the terrible game against Raiders, which it seems like the Steelers defense always manages to do. So this recap can be summed up with, "The Steelers are annoyingly good at being annoyingly good at bouncing back from bad games."

Atlanta Falcons 24 Washington Redskins 17

The Falcons continue their trend of living right after last week's big comeback at home against Carolina. They knocked Robert Griffin out of the game and then Matt Ryan was able to lead the Falcons back to a road win. I could say the Falcons are getting fortunate, but good teams get opportunities and then take advantage of those opportunities. Robert Griffin got concussed and had to leave the game. This was a concern I had for him in that he is a mobile quarterback who was built more like Mike Vick than a Daunte Culpepper or even a Christian Ponder (I should remember we have to compare Griffin to black, mobile quarterbacks only). The Falcons took advantage of Griffin's injury and Matt Ryan had another MVP-type game. I imagine we will be hearing quite a bit about Matt Ryan for the actual MVP award if he keeps these types of games up. The Falcons weren't incredibly effective in this game at scoring until Griffin got injured and then they were able to put some points on the board. I'm still not entirely sold on the Falcons being the NFC's best team, but I guess we can't argue with their results. If Griffin isn't able to play next week perhaps we'll see if Kirk Cousins is a NFL-quality quarterback. Those concerns I had about Cousins' presence putting too much pressure on Griffin seem a bit silly now.

Seattle Seahawks 16 Carolina Panthers 12

Oh the humanity of this game. This was one of the worst offensive games between two NFL teams I've seen in a long while. Mostly it was Carolina's fault. The offensive coordinator for Carolina seems to show he cares more about how creative of a play he can draw up as opposed to drawing up a play that may actually work and gain yardage. To the average observer it seems the Panthers offense is regressing and the high expectations the team was selling is just fool's gold. Ron Rivera isn't having any of that though:

"This is by no stretch done," second-year Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "This is 1-4 and we're not going to quit. We're going to show up and we're going to be back on the job (Monday). We will find answers and we're going to win."

It seems Carolina "isn't going to quit" because they have already quit. There's something to be said for talking about fighting and trying to win games, but even more can be said for actually winning games. Results matter. The Seahawks played fantastic defense as they have shown they know how to do and frustrated Cam Newton into missing open receivers and getting the Panthers offense away from the run game. Maybe in head coaching interviews this offseason (if he gets any) Rob Chudzinski can talk about how awesome of a play he knows how to draw up and skip over the whole "if you have fourth-and-goal with three running backs who can get the touchdown along with a 6-foot-5-inch quarterback why not call a roll out to the right and target a blocking tight end" offensive mantra he seems to favor. Both defenses played well, but this game was decided by the great defense Seattle plays. I would vent more and mention Brandon LaFell caught all three passes targeted to him or Greg Olson caught two out of the three passes targeted to him, but that would be underplaying the great job the Seahawks defense did and suggesting a game plan built around receivers who can catch a pass or running the football like a normal NFL team does is a smart idea. Clearly, I'm not as smart as Chudzinski because he can draw up some really cool and creative plays.

Chicago Bears 41 Jacksonville Jaguars 3

I sincerely believed Blaine Gabbert was going to have a good year. I thought he wasn't being given enough help last year and with an increase of offensive weapons and offensive line help he could raise his level of play. He threw more touchdowns to the Bears than he threw to his own teammates and averaged  4.3 yards per attempt in this game. That's pathetic. I know the Jaguars want to focus on a short passing game for Gabbert, but they have to open up the offense a little bit more and stop babying him. If it leads to even worse play on his part, then so be it. They are already losing games as it is. The Bears offense ran up 501 yards in this game, none of those yards will Jay Cutler be given credit for of course. The Bears ran and threw the ball well, further showing Cutler can play well when protected. The saddest quote of the day goes to Maurice Jones-Drew who said:

"It's been the same thing for five years," Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "Obviously, we're not working hard enough. I don't know. We're just not playing well right now. We have to figure something out. No one here is going to save us. It's the guys in this locker room. There's no one we can bring in to help. We got to look man to man at each other and figure out what we're going to do."

Those are the words of a player who knows the Jaguars don't appear to be going anywhere, the players on the current team can't do anything to help, and there isn't any other help available. That is a pretty sad quote to read. Much of these issues start with the quarterback position and right now Gabbert isn't close to being an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. Yes, the Bears are fantastic on defense, but this game was tied at halftime so it as in reach at one point. What's next? "Blow for Geno" maybe?

Minnesota Vikings 30 Tennessee Titans 7

The good news is that Chris Johnson was back to his sub-2.0 yards per carry average in this game. At least things are normal for him. Matt Hasselbeck in one year has gone from a quarterback who can be counted on to start a game and keep his team in the game to a quarterback who gets to be one of my bad punchlines. The Titans defense is somewhat to blame, even though they did create two turnovers, they couldn't stop the Vikings from scoring when they needed to. This was a team loss for the Titans. Offense, defense and penalties killed them. The Vikings ran the ball very well, which allowed Christian Ponder to be comfortable in the pocket and find receivers like Percy Harvin. It's amazing what drafting an offensive lineman like Matt Kalil can do to help a young quarterback feel comfortable. It is almost like quarterbacks don't like pressure in their face during a game. I didn't expect this turnaround from the Vikings, mostly because I didn't think Christian Ponder could play this well. What a crazy plan the Vikings had in making draft picks recently. Draft a quarterback (Ponder), protect him (Kalil), give him offensive weapons to work with (Rudolph) and then shore up the defense (Harrison Smith). It seems to have worked for them so far.

New England Patriots 31 Denver Broncos 21

The Patriots have turned themselves into a running football team. The Patriots ran for 251 yards in the game and Wes Welker continued his rise from the dead to catch 13 passes. I've seen a John Fox defense get killed by the running game and unable to stop a slot receiver/tight end quite a few times, but it never gets easier to watch. I'm confused as hell about the Patriots defense. I feel like one week they look bad and the next week they look great. The Broncos fell behind early and then had to make their way back by throwing the ball. Peyton Manning almost led the Broncos all the way back, but Willis McGahee forgot to take a few extra sips from the Fountain of Youth prior to the game and fumbled on the New England 11-yard line. Brady is 9-4 in his career against Manning, which obviously means Peyton Manning is overrated, which makes me wonder how good of a quarterback Peyton Manning really is since Tom Brady is apparently the most overrated quarterback in NFL history. If the Patriots are going to decide they can run the ball for 200 yards in every single game that is going to make it extremely hard to stop them from scoring 30 points in every game.

San Francisco 49ers 45 Buffalo Bills 3

This wasn't a very good matchup for the Bills coming into the game. The 49ers have a tough defense and the Bills haven't been able to stop teams from scoring over the past couple of weeks. The 49ers agreed and ran up 621 yards of offense while holding the Bills to 204 yards of offense. This was a Grade-A beatdown. The 49ers ran for 311 yards of offense and threw for 310 yards. I'm sure Gregg Easterbrook is going to have a lot to say about the highly-paid, glory boy defensive line of the Buffalo Bills while ignoring the high draft picks the 49ers have on their offensive line who do their job very well. Alex Smith went over 300 yards in a game for the third time in his career. He's been in the NFL since 2005 by the way and has played in 75 games in that span. So I am still calling him a game manager for the foreseeable future and not considering it an insult. I don't think the 49ers are as strong on offense as they showed against the Bills, but when they can run the ball they are incredibly hard to stop. The Bills...well, I would point to the quarterback as an issue because Fitzpatrick hasn't played great, but he only had one interception in this game. The loss goes against the Bills defense and Dave Wannstedt. This type of shoddy defense is completely unacceptable.

New Orleans Saints 31 San Diego Chargers 24

The Saints won a game! That's great, but the more important thing that happened in this game is that Drew Brees had a personal achievement and broke an NFL record. He threw a touchdown pass in his 48th consecutive game, which means absolutely nothing to him of course, because he is humble and not about personal achievements. That's why Sean Payton and Joe Vitt attended this game to see him break the record, because Brees isn't about personal achievements and didn't care if they were there to see him break the record or not. Also, Brees celebrated the record with Payton and Vitt after the game because the personal achievement isn't something he cares about as you can tell by this quote:

"It gave us a good mojo for sure," Brees said of Payton's presence. "I love my coach, so glad he could be here. Mickey and Joe Vitt as well. It is special for our team, special they could be a part of this record."

It was also special Payton and Vitt could be there for the Saints win as well, right Drew? Of course, it's all about the team isn't it?

The Saints defense played really well and sacked Philip Rivers five times, though they still gave up 427 yards of offense. When the Saints defense starts to turn it around, the Saints are going to start winning games. That's an easy prediction to make. The Chargers played well, but they couldn't overcome two turnovers late in the game. If the Chargers want to be considered a really good team they need to start beating teams like Atlanta and New Orleans. Good thing for the Chargers they have the Broncos and then can feast on a soft schedule of Cleveland, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay over the next three games before they play a tough stretch of Denver, Baltimore and Pittsburgh over three of the next four games after that. That's when we'll find out how good of a team the Chargers really are.