Sunday, October 18, 2015

Week 6 NFL notes

Saints 31 Falcons 21. A game the Falcons should have easily won to remain unbeaten. A blocked punt leading to a Saints touchdown and two fumbles in the red zone turned what could have been the start of a first half rout instead spun the Falcons into a ball of confusion from which they never recovered.

Jets 34 Redskins 20. Ryan Fitzpatrick added another nail to Geno Smith’s casket of a career as a starting quarterback in New York, as the Jets improved to 4-1 on the season—the Jets’ entire win total last season with Smith and Michael Vick at quarterback. On the other side, Kirk Cousins is proving not to be much of an improvement over RGIII. Where is he, anyways?

Steelers 25 Cardinals 13. Carson Palmer threw for 421 yards, and Vick throws for 6 before being benched in favor benchwarmer Landry Jones, and Le’Veon Bell wasn’t particularly impressive with 88 yards on 24 carries, and this happens? A 3-0 turnover advantage can’t explain it, and one lucky pass for 88-yards out of 168 total passing yards for Landry can’t explain it, either. I suppose that three trips to the red zone ending in a missed field goal, an interception and loss on downs didn’t help, but it seemed that every time the Cardinals were ready to finally put away the Steelers, they found a way to allow the tortoise to win the race.

Broncos 26 Browns 23. Peyton Manning throws 3 interceptions, including one in overtime, and twice the Browns had an opportunity to win the game late when they only needed a few yards to get into field goal range, the last time after Manning’s third interception which gave the Browns the ball on the Broncos’ 39. The Browns failed to recover a fumbled punt right after that drive where they lost yards on three consecutive plays, and then allowed the Broncos to march from their own 12-yard line for the winning field goal to improve to an improbable 6-0 record. Save for a 75-yard touchdown pass right after throw his second interception which was returned for a touchdown and giving the Browns’ a short-lived lead, Manning looked old out there; take away that pass, he was 25-47 for 215 yards, no TDs and three INTs. He now has 10 picks in six games, and the Broncos have won all of their games by a touchdown or less. How long can this keep up?

Bengals 34 Bills 21. The Bengals improve to 6-0. Bills’ back up EJ Manuel wasn’t much better or worse than Tyrod Taylor, but Andy Dalton’s experience helped the Bengals take advantage of the opportunities presented them. As for the Bills, who are now 3-3, the question is not what team will show-up for game day, but who cares; because they are not really “set” at the quarterback position, if they win a game by chance, that is all it is.

Lions 37 Bears 34. Wow. This was an “exciting” game. The teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards in total offense, Matthew Stafford threw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns, and Jay Cutler threw for 353. In a wild fourth quarter, the Lions scored the go-ahead touchdown with 21 seconds to play, before Cutler led the Bears to the tying field goal with two long passes and an interference penalty within 17 seconds. Overtime was anti-climactic, as neither team moved the ball on their first two possessions before Stafford completed a 57-yard pass to Calvin Johnson, leading to the chip-shot game-ending points.

Dolphins 38 Titans 10. The Titans have now lost four games in a row, although two of those games were winnable. We are now hearing the usual excuses for Marcus Mariota, who was sidelined late after trying to play through a second quarter injury on a roughing the passer penalty: the offensive line stinks (he was sacked five times), and he has no “weapons.” Being a rookie he should be given a “pass,” but Mariota is going to have to have a great deal of intestinal fortitude to get through the season at this rate—as will Titan fans.

Panthers 27 Seahawks 23. For three quarters this was more of the same in the Cam Newton-Russell Wilson match-up, with Newton playing like a big, dumb oaf for three quarters as the Seahawks led 20-7. But as in last week’s loss to the Bengals, in the fourth quarter the “Legion of Boom” secondary looked more like the Keystone Cops, flailing about in confusion about who was supposed to be where, when. They appear to be a unit living off its reputation, surprised that things are not happening “naturally” as expected. Everyone is playing like a “free agent” with no one on the same “page.” 

But the offense deserves just as much blame, and it isn’t all on Darrell Bevell, since players still have to play. I believe a lot of blame rests with Wilson, due to certain unnamable limitations he has. Local commentators are talking about the Seahawks “pedestrian” wide receiver corps, and it is. But Seahawks did bring in two receivers who a true Hall of Fame quarterback, Brett Favre, turned into Pro Bowl-caliber receivers, namely Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. Both are in the “Where are they now” file, but the point is that Wilson was unable to duplicate whatever it was that Favre did in 2009 with them. Why is the question analysts must answer.

49ers 25 Ravens 20. Is this a “turnaround” game for Colin Kaepernick—or is he just the fortunate recipient of playing the Ravens, who are now 1-5? I mean, somebody had to win this game, right?

Packers 27 Chargers 20. The Packers also move to 6-0 with this seemingly on paper improbable victory. The Chargers dominated the game statistically, 32 to 17 in first downs, 548 to 370 yards in total offense, and 38 to 22 in time of possession. The previous two weeks the defense had saved the Packers, and frankly Aaron Rodgers wasn’t sharp again, and one must ask if he is playing injured, because blaming his pedestrian play on the absence of Jordy Nelson holds little water when he was replaced by James Jones, a fine receiver in his own right. Phillip Rivers, on the other had, knifed the Packer secondary like butter between the “twenties,” completing 43 of 65 passes for 503 yards, but for all of that only two touchdowns. 

On the final drive of the game, Rivers shredded the Packers secondary, completing seven straight passes into a first-and-goal situation. But his last two went for short yardage, setting up third-and-goal, and the Packers managed to force incompletions on third and fourth downs, and the Packers held on for the victory. Like the Broncos, the Packers have won ugly; Manning is clearly nowhere near 100 percent physically, and something is not quite right with Rodgers these past three games, and one wonders what is being hidden.

Patriots 34 Colts 27. Football, more than any other sport, is a game of “what ifs.” What if the Colts, down 27-21 in the fourth quarter, had not tried a bizarre “trick play” on fourth-and-three and lost the ball on downs in their own territory, allowing the Patriots to score a short field touchdown? What if they had punted the ball instead, forcing the Patriots to start deep in their own territory, and not scoring that touchdown? What if when the Colts came back on Andrew Luck’s third touchdown pass (and no turnovers) late it was in fact the game-winner (provided that PAT was good under different circumstances), 28-27? We can of course dream about it. But the reality is that the hated Patriots are still unbeaten.

Eagles 27 Giants 7. Don’t blink now, but the Eagles—left for dead a few weeks ago and Chip Kelly out the door to the Texas or USC jobs—are in first place in the NFC Least (although the supposedly invincible NFC West is vying for that honor). The Eagles still looked bad, with Sam Bradford throwing three interceptions and nearly a fourth that wound up being a touchdown. Fortunately for the Eagles, DeMarco Murray found his legs (at least for this one game), and it was Bad Eli who came to play for the Giants.
In the don’t care department, the Vikings topped the Chiefs in a snoozer, as did the Texans over the Jaguars.

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