Sunday, December 13, 2015

Week 14 NFL notes

There is a new film out, “Concussion,” starring Will Smith that is ostensibly about the NFL’s “dark side,” meaning its attempt to cover up traumatic brain injuries. Smith—whose career has been on the downs for some time—plays a doctor whose attempt to warn the NFL of the dangers of excessive hits to the head is rebuffed at every turn. Bennet Omalu is the forensic pathologist he portrays, and his simplistic notion of football, that God did not intend man to play such a violent sport, seems to have an almost child-like naïveté. He doesn’t understand the devotion of the fans of football or that of the players themselves; in this film, supporters of the game are portrayed as little more than blood-lusting mobs cheering on gladiatorial slaughter. 

Several former players are portrayed meeting their end from mental instability brough on from brain damage, although no doubt “artistic” license is used to “heighten” the sense of outrage. For example, former Steelers offensive lineman Justin Strzelczyk is shown attempting to strangle his wife, and then jumping into his pickup truck and driving headlong into traffic in an apparent suicide attempt. The reality was that he and his wife had divorced two years earlier, and he was supposed to be driving to a fundraiser when for some reason he decided to drive 100 mph into traffic in order to evade police; what were the circumstances of this behavior is unknown, although there were personal and business problems weighing on him, as well as his “born again” religion that saw evil on every corner. However, police doubt that he was trying to commit suicide.

There has been the suggestion that Sony, which is distributing the film, forced the filmmakers to tone down the evil villain NFL rhetoric, and went with banal sentimentality and canned righteousness. Given that the NFL has instituted rather tight concussion “protocols” that require players to sit out until they return to their “normal” brain patterns, the movie seems to be so far behind the times that its “outrage” impact is minimal, save perhaps to people who dislike football. 

Anyways, Week 14 is as follows:

Cardinals 23 Vikings 20. It is really hard to tell if the Vikings are “for real” or not, because despite the fact that Teddy Bridgewater put up some numbers (25-36, 335 yards), in the end they are little more than points on a graph; the Vikings also won 10 games in a season with Christian Ponder as quarterback, and I don’t think Bridgewater is necessarily a better quarterback than he was. The Cardinals should have had this game better in hand playing at home, but a win is a win and they remain three games in front of the Seahawks, needing only one more victory or a Seahawk loss to clinch the division.

Packers 28 Cowboys 7. The final score wasn’t surprising, just how long it took to get there. The Packers only led 14-7 in the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers was only 2 of 6 passing for 16 yards in the quarter, but Eddie Lacey and James Starks scored on runs of 24 and 30 yards to make up the difference in the rain. The Packers are now a full game ahead of the Vikings for the division lead, but none of their remaining games will be easy, with road games against the Raiders (winners over the Broncos) and the Cardinals, ending the season against the Vikings. However, even if the Packers lose both of those road games, a victory in the home finale will give them the division title, although running the table would clinch them the two-seed over the Cardinals. 

Raiders 15 Broncos 12. The Broncos seemed to be on an easy road to victory, leading 12-0 at halftime, with the Raiders gaining negative 11 yards of total offense. Yet in the second half it was the Broncos who were offensively awful. On their first four possessions they gained by six yards, fumbling once and giving up a safety on another. The Broncos only sustained drive ended in a missed field goal attempt that would have tied the game. Incredibly, the Raiders won despite only 126 yards in total offense (by the way, the Seahawks hold the NFL record for fewest yards gained in a game, -7 against the Rams in 1979).

Seahawks 35 Ravens 6. With Joe Flacco out, there was no way in hell the Ravens had a chance in this farce of a “game.” The only subject of debate is how did Russell Wilson go from throwing ten TD passes and seven interceptions in the first nine games of the season, to 16 TDs and 0 interceptions in the last 4? Was it that Darrell Bevell decided to “open” up the offense for four quarters instead of just two? Was it because Marshawn Lynch was holding back the offense because of injury, and Thomas Rawls gained 436 yards on almost six yards a carry in those games before he was injured was the real catalyst for the sudden offensive “explosion,” allowing Wilson to take advantage for himself? Whatever; Rawls is apparently out for the season with an ankle injury, so we’ll see what the Wilson is really made of, although two easy home games against the Browns and the Rams before playing the Cardinals on the road may delay that discovery. 

Panthers 38 Falcons 0. I don’t know why I thought the Falcons might pull a miracle out of their fundaments in this game. After their hot start under former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, six losses in a row seems to have billed him a faker. But let’s be fair: in their previous six losses, the Falcons were actually competitive in each game, with four of those losses by four points or less. But this was an absolute stinker on both ends.

Redskins 24 Bears 21. Jay Cutler is actually having one of his “best” seasons efficiency-wise, but everything is relative, and everything must be put into context: The Bears are just not a very good team, and with a kicker who can’t be counted on to make the critical kick at the critical time, as Robbie Gould has the past two weeks, the Bear are right where they belong, looking down a long, dark tunnel.

Chiefs 10 Chargers 3. Before you start saying that Chiefs’ were lucky to escape with such a bad offense, it should be pointed out that in the previous six of the now seven game winning streak, the Chiefs were averaging 32 points per game, so this was just the inevitable ugly game that the Chargers were fortunately more deficient that Chiefs. 

Jaguars 51 Colts 16. After starting out 4-0 as a starter, Matt Hasselbeck has lost 2 in a row. After an opening drive that led to a field goal, the Blake Bortles and Jaguar offense was non-existent in the first half, but in the second half an 80-yard drive to take the lead, followed by a punt return for a touchdown, and mistakes galore by the Colts led to a tsunami of ill luck for the Colts, who nevertheless remain tied for first place—with the Jaguars just one game back in the AFC South.

Steelers 33 Bengals 20. AJ McCarron didn’t have a bad game subbing for the injured Andy Dalton, and the Bengals just might win a game with him the rest of the season, but this is not good at all for the Bengals. Dalton was having his best season, and who knows how a broken thumb will affect his play. The Bengals may be last season’s Cardinals going from the likely conference top seed in the playoffs to a one-and-done.

Jets 30 Titans 8. The Jets are now 8-5, and Jets fans are now saying “Geno who?” I suspect that some are in the back of their minds thinking they are glad that IK Enemkpali was on the team just long enough to stop the Geno experiment from sending them into an extended state of exasperation for another season.

Browns 24 49ers 10. Johnny Manziel had his best passing performance of his NFL career against the woeful 49ers. He’ll need to get his confidence up to space-case elevations, because now he’ll be up against the Seahawks, Chiefs and Steelers. Good luck, space cadet.

Patriots 27 Texans 6. The Texans with JJ Watt were supposed to be the team with frightening pass rush, but it Brian Hoyer who was running for his life most of the game, ending up being sacked six times for 57 yards in losses. One shouldn’t take away too much from this game as far the Patriots being “back” with Gronk back in the line-up; the Texans’ offense just stunk, with just 63 yards of total offense outside of three wasted plays of 126 yards.

Giants 31 Dolphins 24. I remember back in 1983 when the Packers decided to throw away the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust playbook and Lynn Dickey opened the season with a 27 of 31 for 333 yards and five touchdown game in a 41-38 win over over the Oilers. I only mention that because Eli Manning's seemingly impossibly perfect 27-31, 337 yards and four touchdown performance against the Dolphins was not "unprecedented." But more than Manning's efficiency and the Dolphins' lay-down secondary it was the vast array of penalties committed by the Dolphins on both offense and defense that killed them. While the Giants were just penalized three times, the Dolphins were flagged 12 time for 123 yards--and everyone seemed to come in time thwart positive plays on both sides of the ball. But when Odell Beckham is floating 20 yards free from the closest defender (or so it appeared) on an 84-yard TD grab, it probably wouldn't have made a hill of beans in the outcome of the game. The Dolphins were running the ball effectively until it was decided that Ryan Tannehill needed his reps, and even a game manager like Troy Aikmen knew that his function was to put the ball in the hands of his playmakers.

In other games, the Bills blew an opportunity to remain relevant by losing to the Eagles 23-20, the latter remaining tied for first in the NFC Least. The Rams beat the Lions in a so-what game, 21-14, and the Saints converted three third downs on their final possession to run out the clock and beat the Buccaneers 24-17.

No comments:

Post a Comment