Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Week 13 recap
It's probably about time that I did a recap. New Orleans 34 @ Cincinnati Bengals 30: With seconds left in the game the Saints lined up on 4th down as if to run a play. They were mere yards from a first down but also had the option of a chip shot field goal. It was a simple decision for the Saints. Line up, call a hard count and try to get someone to jump offsides. At best they would get a fresh set of downs to have a few shots at the end zone. At worst they would take a 5 yard delay of game penalty, repeat fourth down and simply kick the easy field goal to take the game to overtime. It was an optimistic plan, but one that had zero down side. And then the unexpected happened. The Bengals jumped. Now you can argue (and I had planned to) that the actions taken by Drew Brees just before the offsides (or "Neutral zone infraction" to give it it's proper term) would constitute a penalty of their own. But I'm not going to. I think I'm finally coming to accept the fact that certain teams will be allowed to get away with more infractions than others, that certain penalties just won't be called (presumably at the leagues discretion) and that trying to defend the Bengals is a worthless task. Carson Palmer was 23/33 for 249 yards and a TD, but contrary to the general opinion that he had a much better game, I still don't understand why 6 trips to the red zone produced just three touchdowns, two of which came from running back Cedric Benson (19 carries, 49 yards, 2 TD's). The Bengals defense tried to play it's part, with rookie Carlos Dunlap producing 2.5 sacks and Geno Atkins (watch list) taking the other half. But it wasn't to be. Drew Brees was 24/29 for 313 yards, 2 TD's and 1 INT. WR Robert Meachem was the prime beneficiary with 3 catches for 106 yards and a TD. RB Chris Ivory also had a great game, with 15 carries for 117 yards and 2 TD's. Ultimately the Bengals will look back on this game and realise that they could have taken the defending Super Bowl champions to overtime, if not beaten them outright. But that's just the way the Bengals season is going right now, e.g. down the toilet. Chicago Bears 24 @ Detroit Lions 20: It almost appears as if the footballing gods hate the Lions and loves the Bears. After the whole "touchdown catch that was ruled not a catch" fiasco from the last meeting, now we have the last Bears TD being set up thanks to a 15 yard penalty for unnecessary roughness against DT Ndamukong Suh. Apparently pushing a QB in the back as he tries to run for a first down is no longer considered fair game. I know I bang on about this point all the time and I know I sound like a broken record, but it is truly getting fucking ridiculous. How is this football? Since when did games stop being decided by the quality of individual players and start getting decided by dubious refereeing decisions? After the game Lions coach Jim Schwartz was very gracious (and indeed truthful) when he said that his team shouldn't have to rely on officiating decisions to go their way in order to win games. He's right, they shouldn't. But we all know that increasingly bad calls are making important changes to the games we watch. The Lions have been involved in an almost record number of close defeats now (I believe the previous record for losses by five or less points in a season is held, appropriately enough, by the 2001 Lions). And these decisions are having a huge impact on the season. The Bears have benefited greatly from their two calls against the Lions. That's two division wins they've picked up as a result, and subsequently two division losses for the Lions. Something has to be done. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, Football cannot continue on this path permanently. It is destined to lead to disaster. You only have to read the various forums and comments sections on footballing sites around the web to notice the sudden rash of people who sound like they've simply had enough. Personally I'm just gutted that instead of dissecting an interesting clash between two division opponents, I'm once again left talking about how officials have dictated the result. I'm just sick of these kind of games and these kind of finishes. San Francisco 49ers 16 @ Green Bay Packers 34: The only thing more disturbing to the eye than the Packers throwback jersey's was Troy Smith, who threw 10/25, for 194 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Actually, scrap that. The most disturbing thing was watching the 49ers defense trying to tackle. Donald Driver is a big guy, as is Greg Jennings, but some of the ridiculous attempts at tackling by the 49ers players are enough to make any fan of defensive football cry. It's simply ludicrous. This is supposed to be Mike Singeltary's forte. As a former middle linebacker (and a very good one) Singletary has built his reputation for being a no-nonsense tough guy, a motivator who demands physicality and effort from his players and will not abide the kind of appalling defensive display we saw against the Packers. So what's happened? This is supposed to be his thing, his one thing at least that he's very good at. So why can't the 49ers tackle? And how can people have confidence in you when you can't even do the one thing you're supposed to be well known for as a coach? Aaron Rodgers wasn't complaining, finishing the game 21/30 for 298 yards and 3 touchdowns. The only real downer for the Packers offense was giving up four sacks, two to Ahmad Brooks, one to Travis LaBoy and a half each to Justin Smith and Issac Sopoaga. The Packers D hit back though, with B.J. Raji and Frank Zombo both taking a single sack each and Cullen Jenkins taking home two. Ultimately the Packer greater quality when it comes to fundamental defensive play showed through. Denver Broncos 6 @ Kansas City Chiefs 10: The Broncos put on a show that has ultimately just cost Josh McDaniels his job. The defense finally noticed that it wasn't pulling its weight and stepped up... just at the precise moment that the offense collapsed. Kyle Orton was 9/28 for 117 yards. Nine. Of twenty eight. That's just crazy. How do you play that badly after having such a good year? What made it worse was that the Broncos finally found their rushing game as well. Knowshon Moreno carried 23 times for 161 yards! How unlucky can you be? Everything else that you've struggled with all season finally comes together, only for the one good thing you've had going all season to collapse around your ears. Unfortunately for the Broncos, as Orton went into meltdown in a tight contest, the Chiefs came up big. Tamba Hali and Javier Arenas (watch list) both got 2 sacks. Matt Cassel was 17/31 for 196 yards and a touchdown. Jamaal Charles carried 21 times for 116 yards. Thomas Jones had 11 carries for 53 yards, as well as catching 4 passes for 54 yards (tied for the lead on his team with TE Tony Moeaki). Cleveland Browns 13 @ Miami Dolphins 10: Well, well, well. What's this I see on the table before me? Is that a nice, freshly baked slice of humble pie. I think it is; yum, yum, yum. Basically it comes down to the quarterbacks and the fact that I was expecting their numbers to be reversed. Chad Henne finished 16/32 for 174 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. That was the kind of show I was anticipating from Jake Delhomme. Instead the Browns QB finished the game 24/34 for 217 yards and a TD, which was much more like what I was expecting from Henne. Then there is the surprising performance of the ground games. Peyton Hillis carried just 18 times for 57 yards, while Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams of the Dolphins put together 26 carries for 98 yards. If only their QB hadn't stung them that might have been enough for a win. On defense Cameron Wake did for Miami what he always seems to do with 1.5 sacks to add to his season tally. But unlike some of the better pass rushing teams in the league, he got little assistance from the rest of his team mates. Compare to the Packers who had four sacks between three players and that was without their leading sack artist Clay Matthews getting any. On Championship caliber teams, other people always step up. This lack of team production helps explain why an otherwise very good Dolphins are now 6-6. Buffalo Bills 14 @ Minnesota Vikings 38: I blame Brett Favre for ruining my pick. On his first pass of the game he tossed up an interception while going down injured and that was him done for the night. Enter Tavaris Jackson. But I guess I can't complain. Jackson may have gone on to finish 15/22, for 187 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he also threw 3 interceptions (it seems some of Favre's magic has rubbed off on him). The Bills however couldn't turn picks into points in the same way that consistently winning teams would. Drayton Florence took one of his two picks for a TD, but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick could only muster 15/25 for 158 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT as the Bills offense spluttered. By comparison the Vikings offense went back to its roots and came alive, despite the efforts of excellent Bills LB Paul Posluszny (11 tackles, 4 assists and a sack). Adrian Peterson. That's all that needs to be said. 16 carries, 107 yards, 3 TD's. Add another 12 carries for 54 yards by Toby Gerhart (watch list) and 10 carries for 27 yards by Albert Young and you have a dominating ground game that the Bills just weren't up to handling. Washington Redskins 7 @ New York Giants 31: What a brutal beat down! When you look at this and then remember the Eagles similar drubbing of Washington, you get a good impression of where this Washington team is right now. That would be; heading rapidly towards the bottom. Donovan McNabb was 26/44 for 296 yards, but with just 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Meanwhile he had to sit on the sidelines and watch as the Giants pounded his sides defense into the floor. Brandon Jacobs had 8 carries for 103 yards and 2 TD's. That's more than 10 yards per carry on average. Ahmad Bradshaw then came in and ripped the defense for another 97 yards and 2 TD's from 25 carries. Eli Manning took on a supporting role for a change, ending the game 15/25 for 161 yards and an interception. Oh, and did I mention the Redskins fumbled the ball 6 times? Justin Tuck forced 2 fumbles along with a sack. Osi Umenyiora forced another to go with his sack. Jason Pierre-Paul forced none, but had two sacks to make up for it. Corner Terrell Thomas forced one fumble as well as getting an interception. It was, quite simply, and overwhelming victory for the Giants defense. Jacksonville Jaguars 17 @ Tennessee Titans 6: Aaaannd order is restored with the Titans. Kerry Collins + 32 pass attempts = 14 completions + 2 interceptions. Just like the good old days. Chris Johnson on the other hand can only watch as his dreams of another 2,000 yard season and a pay rise go up in smoke (13 carries, 53 yards). It must have been particularly agonising as he watched Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jaguars get fed the ball all day long. 31 carries for 186 yards. I didn't watch the game, which is lucky. I probably would have gone into a football induced, run biased fit of excitement and promptly died of a heart attack. Tack on another 10 carries for 44 yards and a TD for Rashad Jennings (told you I've been watching him, this is a small sample of why). It's just another brutal loss for the Titans and for the Jaguars a chance to open some distance in the AFC South if only Dallas could beat Indy... Dallas Cowboys 38 @ Indianapolis Colts 35: ... ta da! Job done Dallas. I'm not sure what is more satisfying; the fact that Peyton Manning threw 4 interceptions, the fact that he was seen on camera seemingly chewing out his receivers when the interceptions were clearly his fault, or that fact that the Colts "unstoppable offense" myth is finally coming crashing to the ground in a burning, flaming wreck. Manning was 36/48, obviously for 4 interceptions, 2 touchdowns and 365 yards. Both Colts defensive ends (Freeney and Mathis) also got themselves a sack. But it wasn't enough to stop a Cowboys team that was in many ways on fire. Linebacker Sean Lee might look like his face was generated by the character generation system of some video game, but he came up good with 2 interceptions. QB John Kitna was 18/26 for 167 yards and a touchdown. RB Tashard Choice had 19 carries (finally!) for 100 yards and a TD. Felix Jones also carried 22 times for another 83 yards. Add a bit of assistance from the Colts defense committing penalties on a field goal block to give the Cowboys a fresh set of downs and you have yourselves a Cowboys win. Still, I will give some credit to the Colts and a frown to the Cowboys. When you throw 4 interceptions, you're not supposed to still end up taking the opposition to overtime. Oakland Raiders 28 @ San Diego Chargers 13: What the hell? Remind me somebody, who has been the catalyst for most of the Chargers wins this year? That's right, Mike Tolbert, the running back. So how do you explain 7 carries? 7? Some coaches just deserve to get their butts kicked. Which Norv Turner did. Philip Rivers was 23/39 for 280 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. The otherwise superb Chargers defense mustered up just one sack and a forced fumbled. Contrast with the Raiders who put up four sacks and a pick. Again though it was the Raiders offense that did a lot of the damage. Jason Campbell was scaled back to just 16 throws of which he completed 10 for 117 yards and a TD (he also rushed 7 times for 37 yards and a TD). The real grunt work was done by Darren McFadden (19 carries, 97 yards, 1 TD) and Michael Bush (23 carries, 95 yards, 1 TD). Once again the Raiders went back and looked at what had worked very well for them in the past this season. And once again the AFC West takes another wild swing as the Chargers and Raiders are now level on 6-6. St. Louis Rams 19 @ Arizona Cardinals 6: Oh my god. Just thinking the Cardinals playing is enough to induce somebody to vomit, let alone having to actually watch them. Three different Cardinals quarterbacks managed to combine for 11/29, 148 yards, 0 TD's and 2 INT's. Derek Anderson was the worst, completing just 7/20 for 93 yards and one of the picks. Kurt Warner will be laughing all the way to Canton at this rate. As I've said before though, it's not just the offense. Last season and the season before that it was the Cardinals defense that played a big role in taking the team to the playoffs. This season there is just nothing. A sack and an interception for Kerry Rhodes maybe. A sack for Calais Campbell. But other than that, bugger all. Compare and contrast to the Rams defense, that produced 4 sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. DT Fred Robbins had two of the sacks and safety Craig Dahl had one sack, one interception and led the team with 7 tackles. The Rams offense was also in the mood to prove a point. Sam Bradford may have only finished 18/29 for 187 yards and an INT, but RB Steven Jackson stepped up to propel the team along with 28 carries for 102 yards and a TD. That takes the Rams to 6-6 and still leaves the possibility that the NFC West winner might finish with a reasonable score. Carolina Panthers 14 @ Seattle Seahawks 31: One minute the Panthers were up by 14. They went in at half time up by 11. "Ah," I thought "that was a good pick for the Panthers to win!". They ended the game down by 17. Not quite so good. I'm actually quite surprised. If you're the Panthers then I imagine you look at your offensive roster and say to yourself "Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson. That's where are strength lies." Apparently not. Despite being up by 14 the Panthers fed Stewart just 21 carries for 92 yards and a TD. Mike Goodson got it worse. He received just 3 carries for 19 yards and a TD. Jimmy Clausen was loving it; 18/34.... for 169 yards and an interception. I can only presume one of two things happened, either; the Panthers really want that first overall pick badly or they were just testing Clausen's sea legs. Either way, they didn't seem at all concerned with winning the game. I know I jest about hating the Panthers (well, sort of jest), but I do feel sorry for their fans. In retrospect, it's not so much the Panthers I hate as their Coach John Fox. As for the Seahawks? They appear to have spent the night watching the video on offensive line drills that I dug up for them as they actually did much better. They still gave up 3 sacks, but at least they managed to block some people in the run game for a change. Marshawn Lynch carried 21 times for 83 yards and 3 touchdowns. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 229 yards and 2 interceptions, but unlike Clausen he didn't have any of his returned for touchdowns. The Seahawks defense also came up with 3 sacks. That now leaves them joint top of the NFC West with 6-6. That's equal with the Colts record... Atlanta Falcons 28 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24: The Buccaneers didn't just make a fight of it, they damn near won it! Only a 102 yard kickoff return by Eric Weems and some last ditch offensive steel from "Matty Ice" Matt Ryan pulled the Falcons threw. Ryan was 18/36 for 205 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions. RB Michael Turner had 24 carries for 88 yards and a TD. It almost wasn't enough. The Buc's fought hard and deserved more from the game. Josh Freeman was 19/38 181 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. LaGarrette Blount had 20 carries for 103 yards and a touchdown. Even Earnest Graham contributed, throwing a half back pass to TE John Gilmore for a touchdown. In the end, bad special teams coverage let the Buccaneers down, setting up a thrilling comeback by this seasons come back specialists. Pittsburgh Steelers 13 @ Baltimore Ravens 10: What should have been remembered as an awesome display of defensive football that seems to have a lot more people excited than some crappy offensive blow out, will probably be looked back on for the wrong reasons. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was hit in the face incidentally by Haloti Ngata. The result was a broken nose. And no flag. First, let's be clear here; I think it was incidental and I would like to see that kind of contact be allowed in football. But as per the leagues rules and emphasis on said rules, that was a 15 yard penalty. The Steelers know this well as they've been tagged for more "unnecessary roughness" penalties than I can remember. They've seen James Harrison fined a grand total of $125,000 now, some of which was charged on phantom penalties. This incident, along with a sickening looking (and illegal) hit on TE Heath Miller that also failed to draw a flag, will only serve to further demonstrate what we all already know is true; the Steelers -- love them or hate them -- aren't geting a fair deal from the officials this year. Now the league has fined the Ravens players involved in these incidents, but that's not the same as getting 15 yards of valuable field position in a tight battle such as this. It also threw up two other points of interest. During the game NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth outright stated that it is illegal to hit any player with a portion of your helmet. This is simply not true. It's illegal to lead with the head and it's illegal to use the helmet, shoulder or forearm to strike the helmet of a defenseless receiver, but helmet to helmet (or body, for that matter) contact is not strictly forbidden during the course of regular play. That's issue number one. Issue number two is with Mike Florio of NBC. God knows I can't miss a chance to rag on Florio ever since he stopped being a semi-probing, fair, middle of the road journalist and instead became the leagues Internet bitch. See, Florio has taken great delight in bashing the Steelers this season and telling the world about how we're all wrong to defend James Harrison and about how uneducated the Steelers are when it comes to tackling, otherwise they'd do it properly, as well as taking the high road with regards to how the rules should be interpreted. Yet not once have I heard a peep from him about correcting Collinsworth on his gross misrepresentation of the rules, live on air. Not a peep have we heard from Florio about the Ravens not understanding the rules and not knowing how to tackle even though they clearly committed two peanlties similar to the ones that Florio has so gleefully bashed the Steelers (and Harrison) for committing. The little toad couldn't even give credit to Roethlisberger for what was -- love him or hate him (personally I think he's an ass) -- a very good, very gutsy performance. Here's all he had to say on the matter. So yeah, Football. Roethlisberger finished 22/38 for 253 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, one busted ankle, one broken nose and an unknown number of truly great plays (it was in the high single digits). Among the best was a hot read made on a blitz (naturally) that produced the touchdown for Issac Redman. Joe Flacco was less impressive with 17/33 for 266 yards and a TD. This game was all defense though. The Steelers produced 4 sacks, but the critical play was Troy Polamalu stripping Flacco, which made up for some very un-Polamalu like mistakes earlier in the game. The individual performance of the night was Terrell Suggs, with 1.5 sacks, a bag full of QB hits and generally just making a very difficult to block nuisance of himself. Of course it helps when the Steelers run block as only they and the Seahawks can; incredibly inconsistently. Credit also to Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham. He actually hit a beautiful 45 yard line drive and did pretty well as the emergency punter! New York Jets 3 @ New England Patriots 45: This game had everything I could want for Christmas; A beat down of the Jets, a high scoring offense, a great defensive display, the "Sanchize" misfiring, some great plays out of the I-formation, and probably the most blatant example of offensive pass interference (the so called 'pick' play) you could imagine. So let's address these. I like seeing the Jets beat down because as funny as Rex Ryan is, it's also getting intolerable listening to him, the players and Jets fans talking about their team as if the Super Bowl is in the bag this year and everyone else is out to chase them for it. The reality is that the Jets have struggled at times to win games against something of a soft schedule. Coming face to face with probably the most consistent team in football right now, they got absolutely creamed. Brady was 21/29 for 326 yards and 4 TD's. BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried 18 times for 72 yards and 2 TD's. The leading Patriots receiver? Danny Woodhead, Jets reject. 4 catches for 104 yards was a big middle finger from a player to the team that said he wasn't good enough. A lot of this came out of the "I", which is amusing in that only a few years ago the Patriots were known for their spread offense, and now here they are, the seeming masters of old school football. Then to cap it all three critical interceptions on defense, two by rookies, helped seal the Jets fate. Mark Sanchez was 17/33 for 164 yards, 3 interceptions. And he didn't look good. The Pick he threw to Brandon Spikes was odd because earlier in the season I've seen him make that read and make that throw for a touchdown. My suspicion is that rather than reading the field and whatever keys he has for a play, Sanchez is instead operating too automatically, just turning and throwing because in practice the route was open etc. At the minute it's costing his team dearly. Lastly, the "pick" play. The best clip I can find is here. Just before you nip off to watch it, remember keep your eyes on number 39 (that's Danny Woodhead) at the bottom and remember that the down and distance is 4th and 3. He motions out of the backfield and lines up inside Deion Branch. At the snap he then procceeds to charge off the line and blatantly obstruct the defender in front of him who would otherwise have been able to make a break on the quick slant and intercept it. This is, without question, the most clear example of offensive pass interference I've ever seen. Yet you never see the flag thrown. Why? If it's against the rules, flag it. If the league doesn't care for the rule then fine, but take it out of the rule book. In my opinion it's cheating (others might call it "bending the rules"). This is one of the reasons I dislike the Colts so much because they are the worst offenders of this kind of thing. For me, if you can't play fair, don't play at all. It's fourth down, 3 yards to go.... and they cheat to get the yards (and a score). In my opinion, as much as I like the Patriots offense this year, this play is a disgrace. It makes a complete joke of the rules and the spirit of the game. Can't get the yards in three downs? Who cares, just cheat! And it's about fucking time the league did something about this sort of thing! But now I'm just ranting. Must be calm, must be cool. On to happier things. -- This week I went 11-5 for my picks, which is much better. That puts me now at 94-82 for the season. Still pretty crappy, but improving. -- I was also heartened earlier this week by reading this article from the Charlotte Observers Darin Gannt. At least someone out there has the same twisted sense of humour as me. Grudging nod to ProFootballTalk.com for pointing me in the direction of it. -- In case you hadn't noticed, Josh McDaniels has been fired. His replacement for the interim is running backs coach Eric Studesville..... yeah, I have no idea who he is either. Apart from a few assistant jobs in college, he's been an offensive quality control coach for the Bears, a running backs coach for the Giants, a running backs coach for the Bills and a running backs coach for the Broncos. He's never even been an offensive coordinator. And now he's a Head Coach. -- Finally, we end with the sad news of the passing of Don Meredith. Meredith was a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys between 1960 and 1968. In that time he threw for 17,199 yards and 111 touchdowns. Meredith then went on to join ABC's Monday Night Football team, where he became a fan favourite and was most well known for singing the Willie Nelson song "Turn out the lights" when it seemed like a game was over as a contest. Having spent a 3 year period from 1974-77 with NBC, Meredith returned to ABC until his retirement in 1984. He was 72 when he died. Now, tomorrow I will hopefully take a look back at who should have made the rookie watch list. This is based on a combination of hindsight having seen some of the players play, and some instances of players who I praised before the draft... and then inexplicably didn't put on the watch list. Until then, Have a great day everyone.