Sunday, September 27, 2015

Week 3 NFL notes

Colts 35 Titans 33. This game started out with Indianapolis’ running game finally getting on track with Frank Gore, and Andrew Luck had fewer opportunities to fail to get his bearings as the Colts took an early 14-3 lead. But then Marcus Mariota shook off the rookie blues and lit up the Colt defense for 27 unanswered points as Luck stumbled and bumbled as he has done the first two games of the season, and by all appearances it seemed that the team that had won 11 games three straight seasons with Luck now seemed to run out of it. 

But we should have known that Luck could pull a rabbit out of his helmet eventually, as he did in overcoming a 28-point deficit in the playoffs against Kansas City. With the help of a Titan turnover deep inside their own territory, Luck led the Colts to three touchdown drives in a five-minute span late in the fourth quarter, and survived a final minute comeback by Mariota that fell a two-point conversion short. One has to be impressed with Mariota’s performance this season. He wasn’t supposed to be able to function in a “pro-style” offense, and thus far in three games he has thrown for 833 yards and 8 touchdowns for a 109.2 QB rating.

Eagles 24 Jets 17. How did the Eagles win this game after another lousy performance by Sam Bradford, 14-28 for just 118 yards? How could they win with a offensive output of 231 total yards? When your opponent has four turnovers and nullifies a critical turnover by a defensive penalty, allows an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown, and Brandon Marshall fumbles in Jets’ territory which led to an Eagles touchdown. Ryan Fitzpatrick did throw three interceptions which did not help the cause, but the Eagles only managed a three-and-out with only nine yards gained total and punted after each one. I expected the Jets to wrap-up Bradford like a cocoon, but the Jets’ defense sacked him but once and had no interceptions. This will go down as a “victory” for the Eagles, but for a team that punted 9 times and had 10 drives of five plays or less (5 three-and-outs, and one ending in a fumble), this was more of a game “lost” by the Jets. 

Falcons 39 Cowboys 28. You have to feel for Cowboys fans. After engineering touchdown drives of 80,77,56 and 80 again in the first half and slinging that ball with precision everywhere, Brandon Weeden really did seem for a moment there like the second coming of Kurt Warner. In the second half, however, he was more like Ryan Lindley, or Elmer Fudd. The problem was that Atlanta didn’t just quit, or the Dallas defense did. This was a game that Dallas was literally being given as a gift out of pity, but then the Falcons said we can’t keep up this charade any longer, let’s just bury these bozos in the second half. And they did.

Bengals 28 Ravens 24. Donald Trump says Joe Flacco is an “elite” quarterback, in his humble opinion. Why? Because he was the quarterback on a Super Bowl team known for its defense? Flacco wasn’t on the field when Colin Kaepernick threw all those incomplete passes at the goal line. Looking over his career stats, he appears to be a serviceable quarterback who was just good enough not to waste the efforts of a top-ten defense every year (including top-3 four straight years). This year the defense ranks near the bottom, and so goes the team which is now 0-3 for the first time since it blew the coop to Baltimore, because Flacco isn’t “elite.” Opinions are like a-holes like Trump--everyone has one.

Patriots 51 Jaguars 17. According to a Sports Illustrated story the other day, Tom Brady needs to “explain” his virtual endorsement of Trump for president. Last month two men assaulted a 58-year-old Hispanic homeless man in Boston, both claiming that they were “inspired” by Trump; funny how that didn’t make CNN and become an incident to discuss hate crimes and the atmosphere of hate generally against Hispanics in this country. One of the men claimed that Trump is “right” because all of the “illegals” need to be deported, even though the man they assaulted wasn’t an illegal—as are 40 million Hispanics in this country, or the 34 million who are U.S. citizens. Trump excused the behavior as simply people who were “very passionate.” How about very hateful and racist? SI suggested that Brady’s support for such a race-baiting (and misogynistic) moron carried “weight” in this star-obsessed country. In the meantime, we have to hope that somebody comes along to bring the Patriots back down to Earth. Soon, so we don’t have to stomach the arrogance of this team forever.

Panthers 27 Saints 22. I’ve never been a Cam Newton “fan,” whose principle attribute is that he is “big” and can stand some punishment and run over people. As a quarterback, he is just “big.” His one playoff win was over a wounded-duck Cardinals team last year, barely. Thus far this year, the Panthers have beaten three teams with a combined record of 1-8 by a combined total 23 points. If you wish to be impressed, so be it. I’m not.

Cardinals 47 49ers 7. After Colin Kaepernick complained of not being allowed to pass early (as he perceived) last week in a blow-out loss to Pittsburgh, he was allowed to pass early—and too often—against the Cardinals.  At one point Kaepernick was 5 of 10 for just 19 yards and 4 interceptions in the first half—two returned for touchdowns. Free safety Tyrann Mathieu claimed to be amazed by the “simplified” passing game of the 49ers, and how “easy” it was to anticipate routes. Suddenly gun shy, Kaepernick threw just one pass until the 49ers’ last possession, and finished the game with a measly16.7 passer rating. The moral to this story: Be careful for what you wish for, especially for an “athletic” quarterback opposing teams have learned how to defense and maximize his deficiencies. 

Vikings 31 Chargers 14. Adrian Peterson ran the ball just 10 times for 31 yards in Week One, and the Vikings lost. In weeks’ two and three, he ran 49 times for 260 yards, and the Vikings won. Teddy Bridgewater might have a cool name, but that doesn’t win you games; an ambulatory and present Peterson will.

Bills 41 Dolphin 14. Now let me get this straight: According to the “eye test,” Tyrod Taylor looks like a five-year back-up for a reason, and Ryan Tannehill is being paid millions because he is on the cusp of being a top—well, let’s not get carried away—15 quarterback. Taylor finished with a 136.7 passer rating in this game, and Tannehill a 59.7 rating. I’m of the opinion that Taylor is a quarterback waiting for opposing defenses to take him seriously, while Tannehill is a quarterback who is taken too seriously—by the “experts,” not by opponents who know he is really just an average quarterback whose numbers are inflated because he is given so many opportunities to do so.

Texans 19 Buccaneers 9. I’m not going to blame this all on the kicker who missed an extra point and three field goals. If we went by that measure, Houston still would have won this game 22-19. The Buccaneers are just a bad team, and Jameis Winston has not yet taken to the pro game as well as Mariota has, despite the fact that Winston was supposed to be more “pro” ready. That is not to say that he won’t be, but if he had “finished” on two of those four drives that ended in field goal attempts, we wouldn’t be talking about the kicker.

Seahawks 26 Bears 0. What did this game prove? The Bears offense that had five three-and-outs and 22 total yards in the second half, so it was plain that they just laid down and died. What was the point of prolonging the pain, either psychologically or physically? For awhile in the first half I thought that the Bears might make it interesting, as the Seahawks’ offense was less than pedestrian, but a 105-yard kick-off return for a touchdown by Tyler Lockett to begin the second half to make it a two-score ballgame was simply too much to overcome for a team that had nothing in the tank but prayer.  This was a nice game for the Seahawks to regain their “swagger,” but it was the kind of win that fool’s gold is made of. We’ll see.

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