Sunday, November 2, 2014

Week 9 NFL notes

“Be careful for what you wish for” is the refrain we have been hearing from Robert Griffin III’s legion of partisans. Despite Colt McCoy leading Washington to two victories, and the much maligned Kirk Cousins to a third—as many as RGIII won over an entire season last year—it appeared that the (slight) possibility that McCoy might actually prove a more viable quarterback option than Dan Snyder’s darling (who he paid very dear to acquire), convinced the Washington Redskins’ owner that a “change” was needed. Perhaps Snyder thought that if the team could win a ball game or two under an “inferior” quarterback like McCoy, certainly RGIII couldn’t do worse. 

So the gods decreed that RGIII would start in place of McCoy against the hapless Minnesota Vikings and their rookie “read-option” quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. At first the “gamble” seemed to pay off, as the Redskins opened up a 10-0 lead as RGIII completed his first six passes for 103 yards. But we have seen this before in his past 16 starts.  For some “inexplicable” reason he just does not do enough often enough at the precise time when it is most needed to do so. Bridgewater started slowly but eventually outplayed the supposed franchise superstar, showing cool under pressure in leading the Vikings to an improbable 29-26 victory.

The end result is that RGIII has now lost 13 of his last 16 starts, including the playoff loss to Seattle in which he clearly hurt his team’s chances to win when he refused to leave due to a knee injury that would soon need surgery. As they say—be careful for what you wish for.

Elsewhere, Cam Newton was awful in a 28-10 loss on Thursday night against New Orleans; the excuse here is that the team around him is also “awful.” This doesn’t, of course, explain the overthrown passes, the fumbles or the lack of touchdowns. Through eight games started, Newton is 2-5-1 with only 8 TD passes and 2 rushing touchdowns; four years ago as a rookie, he accounted for 35 combined touchdowns. It’s been all downhill ever since. What really has happened? Is it just “figuring him out” and exploiting his limitations as s quarterback?

Meanwhile, Tony Romo haters, who have already forgotten that Jerry Jones forced him back into last week’s overtime loss to the Redskins despite reinjuring his back, will be unhappy to know that he is actually much better injured that his “healthy” backup, Brandon Weeden, who “led” the Cowboys to a 28-17 loss against Arizona. The good news (not for the Cowboys) is that Cardinals (7-1) overcame another “hurdle” in their quest to knock over the 49ers and the Seahawks for NFC West supremacy, having “upset” the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

What else? The San Diego Chargers suffered its worst defeat in the Philip Rivers era, 37-0—to Miami? The Chargers, after defeating the Seahawks, were suddenly one of the best teams in the NFL, “proving” it by beating the likes of the Jets, Jaguars and Raiders—teams who had a combined 2-23 won-loss record. They have since come back down to earth, losing three straight to teams with winning records.

Let’s see. Not to worry, Jets fans: Geno did not start, although the rationalization provided was that he was “injured.” On paper the Jets outplayed Kansas City and did not turn the ball over a single time the entire ballgame. Unfortunately, the fact that Smith was the starter designee from the jump still had its ill effect on the team, as Michael Vick repeatedly failed to “click” with his “weapons” once inside Kansas City territory. It must be pretty close to a record for a team to gain 238 total yards in a half (the second) and not score a single point.

Meanwhile, the Jets’ former quarterback, Mark Sanchez, played for the first time in almost two years, performing well enough in place of the injured Nick Foles to lead the Eagles to a 31-21 victory over Houston. It may turn out that Sanchez is the best backup quarterback in the league, although his two interceptions in the game are, of course, food for thought. 

Austin Davis of the St. Louis Rams tossed for a mere 105 yards and 2 interceptions, yet the Rams still outplayed the San Francisco 49ers until Colin Kaepernick led a desperation 87-yard drive into the final seconds before fumbling for the second time in the game, this time at the one-yard line. Even a challenge from the replay booth couldn’t disguise the fact that for most of the game the 49ers looked less than ordinary against a less than ordinary opponent. What does this say about Seattle and San Francisco when they lose to a team like St. Louis with a substandard sub at quarterback? Is it too easy to say that on “any given Sunday” this is supposed to happen? Of course, my feeling is that the “new era” of read-option quarterbacks—with its once bright flame—is flaming out. That is just my opinion. I may be wrong, for another year or two.

What of the defending Super Bowl champions? The winless Oakland Raiders went into the domain of the 12th Man and actually made it interesting in a baffling sort of way for home fans, no less because of yet another uninspiring performance by Russell Wilson. With the 49ers playing themselves out of the division race, the Seahawks are now a game clear of them in the division, but still two behind Arizona. After Seattle barely survived a 30-24 scare against the Raiders after being fortunate to escape with a win last week against Carolina (another bad team), I still maintain that the Cardinals will win the West if they can take one of two games against Seattle.

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