Sunday, November 16, 2014

NFL Week 11 notes

There were a couple of notable “upsets” in the early games in Week 10. The first was the St. Louis Rams 22-7 stunner over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. I put “upset” in brackets here because despite being “least” in the NFC West, the Rams have played competitive football most of the season, including “upsets” over Seattle and San Francisco. Manning, of course, didn’t need an excuse to abandon the running game, he just does it; by the time the Rams took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, the Broncos had passed on 13 of its first 15 offensive plays. On four consecutive possessions in the second half, Manning ran 22 consecutive pass plays, completing 14 of 20 passes for 147 yards—typical Manning stat padding. “Fortunately,” two of those passes were intercepted, and two other drives ended on downs after Manning was sacked. 

The other early “upset” was the Kansas City Chiefs sacking the defending Super Bowl champions, 24-20. On paper Seattle should have won this game; they gained more yards both running and passing, dominated time of possession, and had no turnovers to the Chiefs’ two. But after taking the lead 20-17 late in the third quarter, the Seahawks lost the ball on downs on their final three possessions. As often occurs, the Seahawks could have won had it not been for a lack of vision into the future. Early in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks eschewed a chip-shot field goal that would have narrowed the KC lead to 24-23, instead failing on a fourth down play at the Kansas City 2. Had Pete Carroll “known” better, the Seahawks in Chiefs territory on their next possession could have settled for another field goal to take the lead and likely the victory.

As for Russell Wilson, with the Seahawks playing “their game” by rushing for 204 yards, had his fourth consecutive game under 200 yards passing. Two short touchdown passes managed to bloat his passer rating, but once again one has the sense that Wilson is suffering from the same disease that his cohorts RGIII, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton are suffering: NFL defenses figuring them out and exploiting their very real weaknesses in the passing game. 

Elsewhere, shock of shocks, the Atlanta Falcons have resurrected themselves from the dead and are in first place in the NFC South with a 4-6 record. For a team that was in the throes of Armageddon  a few weeks ago, the Falcons have played just bad enough to be better than their rivals—particularly the New Orleans Saints, a team that can’t make up its mind if it wants to run away with the easy pickings, or just wants to make things “interesting” after its loss to Cincinnati, another team with personality issues.

Where else? San Francisco again won an undeserved victory because the other team was just too bored with the idea of winning. Kaepernick had another rather listless day, but he looked like a “Hall of Famer” compared to Eli Manning, who had that kind of day we knew he was going to eventually have this season—throwing five interceptions, including four on consecutive possessions in the second half. Time after time the New York Giants squandered opportunity after opportunity to score the go-ahead touchdown in a 16-10 defeat. There are those who believe that Eli’s days in New York are numbered. Even so, I hope he continues to be a starting quarterback somewhere; he has 182 career interceptions, and with another good seven years left in the tank, he has a chance to break Brett Favre’s all-time career interception record. 

I must confess that this is one of more interesting weeks we’ve had in a long time. How is Robert Griffin III doing? The Washington Redskins have won three games this season, and none of them have been with RGIII at quarterback. He is now 3-15 since Washington ended the 2012 season winning their last seven regular season games. This time it was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which doubled its own win total in one game with a 27-7 victory. RGIII threw two interceptions and was sacked six times in the game. In the past he might have simply have run with the ball on every opportunity, but what we are now seeing is what happens to a “read-option” quarterback like RGIII when his movement is limited. 

For the second straight week, my Green Bay Packers put a brutal hurt on its opponent, scoring 50+ points for the second week in a row. However, I took no over-enthusiastic pleasure over seeing at seeing it at the expense of Mark Sanchez. For the second straight week, Aaron Rodgers looked like he was going to put up record-breaking numbers in the first half, but then just took the foot off the gas in the second half, perhaps to avoid another injury opportunity.

As for Sanchez, this game will be regarded as “typical” Sanchez, with two interceptions and a fumble run back for a touchdown, although his 346 yards passing was a personal best, and the Philadelphia offense continues to function. In all "fairness" to Sanchez, his turnovers occurred after the game was already out of hand, and he devolved into "forcing" plays needlessly. One wonders if a loss like this will be seen as all Sanchez’s “fault”; after all, Nick Foles had 10 interceptions to go with 13 touchdowns in seven complete games. The Eagle’s “system” certainly can pile-up the yards, but not necessarily the points. I also can't help but note that Sanchez's--and Tony Romo's--most vehement detractors tend to soft-pedal the questionable performance of certain other quarterbacks.

The Packers victory puts them in a tie for first place in the NFC North, as the Detroit Lions (finally) failed to overcome a double-digit deficit despite the Arizona Cardinals giving them every opportunity to do so. With the Seahawks loss, the Cardinals with backup quarterback Drew Stanton playing just well enough to win have a three-game lead over Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West.

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