Sunday, November 6, 2016

Week 9 NFL Notes

It is certainly frustrating to be a Packer fan these days. If you compare their relative passing “efficiency,” Aaron Rodgers certainly appears to be “better” than Brett Favre, but that hasn’t translated into a “better” chance of winning. Favre quarterbacked three teams that won more than 12 games in a season, and each one advanced at least to the NFC Championship game; Rodgers, just one—and that team lost its only playoff game. Since Week 4 of last season, Rodgers has been inconsistent, and mostly on the bad side. Last week, the Packers scored 24 points in the first half and didn’t put together an offensive drive until their last possession of the game—and then their defense collapsed on the Falcons’ final possession. This week against the Colts, Rodgers was again frustratingly ineffective for most of the game, this time most particularly in the first half, throwing for only 77 yards as the Packers fell behind 24-10 despite two early Andrew Luck interceptions. In the third quarter deep in Colt territory, a Rodgers interception was nullified by a Colt penalty; his very next pass was again intercepted, this time counting.  

To be certain, the Packer receivers made their share of mistakes, the most grievous being Jeff Janis allowing a perfectly thrown bomb from Rodgers to go through his hands and bounce off his face guard. The Packers’ special teams also was no great shakes, allowing two long kickoff returns—one a 99-yard touchdown run to open the game—and a missed field goal attempt. Two long touchdown drives in the fourth quarter—one a no-huddle two-minute drill—only served to further frustrate; if the Packers offense played even half this efficiently previously, they wouldn’t have been in a 31-13 fourth quarter hole to begin with, at home against the inconsistent Colts, and eventually lose 31-26.

I wonder if Tom Brady could do better than Rodgers with the team as currently constructed. I recall a few years ago Brady revealing that he had asked Rodgers what “system” he used, and Rodgers surprised him by saying that he didn’t have one, apparently just working on “instinct.” I wonder if that is the “problem” now, that defenses today can more easily confuse him with their coverages. 

With this coming election on my mind, here is an abbreviated look at Week 9 in the NFL:

Matt Ryan was again sharp in the Falcons 43-28 victory over the Buccaneers, as his 9.52 yards-per-pass average this season testifies to…A Titan fumble and interception both returned for touchdowns overshadowed a huge game for former Badger Melvin Gordon, who gained 196 yards rushing and caught passes for another 65 yards in the Chargers 43-35 victory…Ben Roethlisberger’s return did little to stem the hangover from two consecutive defeats, now make it three after the Ravens 21-14 victory over the Steelers…After playing “competitive” football most of the season, the Browns at least looked like a winless team in a 35-10 thrashing by the Cowboys…The Jaguars outgained the Chiefs a staggering 449 to 231, yet still lost 19-14 thanks to coughing up the ball like undercooked chicken…Jay Ajayi held to under 200 yards rushing and the Jets still can’t beat the Dolphins, dropping to them 27-23? The question one must ask: What good is a Harvard degree if you can’t use it to play with some semblance of intelligence?

See if this is a winning combination: two interceptions leading to 14 points, and two interceptions leading to no points; that explains why the Eagles lost to the Giants 28-23…After the Vikings took the lead with 23 seconds left in the game after both they and the Lions looked inept offensively for most of the game, it appeared that the Vikings were going to take “command” of the NFC North again, until a couple of long passes and a 58-yard Lions field goal improbably tied the game. The Lions won it in overtime, 22-16, when the Vikings defensive breakdowns continued, allowing four third down conversions during an 87-yard touchdown drive…The Panthers led the Rams 7-0 heading into the fourth quarter, when both teams began to play like they wanted to win this thing. But the Rams had to settle for a field goal after a first-and-goal opportunity, which proved to be the difference in the Panthers eventual 13-10 victory…The Saints and the 49ers combined for over 1,000 yards in total offense, over 400 of that coming from Colin Kaepernick. But five 49er turnovers (one on downs) meant that half those yards were to no purpose in a 41-23 Saints victory.

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