Sunday, November 9, 2014

Week 10 NFL notes

The New York Jets finally found the “formula” for winning football games: Dump Geno Smith, force lots of turnovers and don’t turn it over themselves. What a concept. Pittsburgh had scored 94 points in two games against quality opponents (Indianapolis and Baltimore), and there was a certain expectation that the red-hot Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers would go into New York and put a thumping on the Jets. But despite “outplaying” the Jets statistically, two interceptions and two fumbles to none for the Jets led to wasted scoring opportunities (0-3 in the red zone) and surprisingly opportunistic—if by the numbers pedestrian—play by Michael Vick and company. With this victory over a quality opponent (not like, say, barely escaping with a win over currently winless Oakland) before the home crowd, it is unlikely that we will hear the “be careful for what you wish for” from Geno partisans, if there are still any out there.

Turnovers also allowed the San Francisco 49ers to escape with an overtime victory against New Orleans. The Saints had recovered from a 14-0 deficit to take a 24-21 lead late in the fourth quarter. Colin Kaepernick completed only one of six passes during the 49ers final series of the fourth quarter—except that it happened to be a 51-yard pass play on fourth down that put the 49ers in position to kick the game-tying field goal. But Drew Brees excited fans by throwing a deep touchdown strike on the last play of regulation to apparently win the game, except that the “12 Man”—in this case the officials—overturned the play on offensive pass interference. Kaepernick—who finished the game completing only 14 of 32 passes—was not even required to move the ball after Brees was sacked and fumbled deep in New Orleans’ end of the field. Not taking any chances, the 49ers simply trotted out the kicker for a chip-shot field goal and a not particularly inspiring victory by one of alleged two best teams in the NFC against an equally disappointing opponent.

As a Green Bay partisan, I have to admit that it is continuously frustrating to see Detroit pull out another win at the end, 20-16 over Miami after eking out one-point victories out of double-digit fourth quarter deficits. This is not like the Lions; in the past, they would have passed on by now. How are they doing this? Matthew Stafford is not putting up huge numbers, and their leading rusher, Joique Bell, only has 357 yards in nine games, and the team is averaging only just over 22 points per game. The answer, if there is one to positively point to for the Lions, is their defense, which after being at or near the bottom for years is suddenly the top-rated defense statistically in the NFL. I don’t know if this means anything, but the Lions have won only one playoff game since 1957, when they beat Cleveland for the NFL Championship.

Elsewhere, a pair of late defensive touchdowns overcame another injury to Carson Palmer as the Arizona Cardinals maintained their edge over their “superior” rivals in the NFC West with a 31-14 victory over the St. Louis Rams, a team that had beaten both San Francisco and Seattle in recent games. Russell Wilson’s third 100-yard rushing game in an easy win going away against the once more pathetic New York Giants will of course mask another dismal passing performance. Take away a lucky 60-yard pass play and Wilson was 9 of 16 for 112 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 38.5 passer rating. The Seahawks rushed for 350 yards, which must be close to a team record; but this merely underscores the fact that Wilson is a “running” rather than a true passing quarterback.

In the night game, the Packers for the second time this season blew-out their rivals the Bears, this time 55-14. The main thing of interest is that Aaron Rodgers became just the second quarterback to throw 6 touchdown passes in one half, the first.  The NFL record for a game is 7, held by many players. Yet he--or rather coach Mike McCarthy--didn't take advantage of the opportunity to tie or break the record, If this was Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, who would doubt that they would have played at least another quarter and at least give it a shot? It seems remarkable that the current record for passing yardage in a game is 62 years old despite this passing age, and opportunities have been lost to break the single game touchdown record.

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