Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 Week 5 recap (so far)

Right, round up time;

Eagles @ Bills
- I don't know why, but there's something hilarious about Mike Vick throwing four picks. It just is.
- A while back I wrote a post on the difficulties of putting together a bunch of stars and expecting them to gel into a miraculous squad. I also pondered out loud how long it would be before the Eagles started turning on each other, and the press in Philly began turning on them. Self destruction due in 5, 4, 3, ....
- Vick had 5 carries for 90 yards, plus 315 yards through the air. LeSean McCoy had 11 carries for 80 yards. Jason Avant had nearly 140 yards receiving. The Eagles would probably be a decent team, possibly even 5-0 or 4-1, if they could just stop killing themselves with turnovers.  For the record, after today's action the top five teams in turnover ratio (positive turnover ratio) are a combined 20-3. The bottom five (including the Eagles) are 7-17.
- Fred Jackson had another outstanding game. 111 yards and a TD on the ground, plus another 85 yards receiving. Jackson is the lynch pin holding the Bills offense together this season.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick, other than his interception, was mostly efficient; 21/27 for 193 yards, 1 touchdown.
- Linebacker Nick Barnett was a brilliant acquisition for the Bills. He added another two interceptions to his list of good deeds this season. Safety George Wilson also had a good game, with 11 tackles and an interception.

Saints @ Panthers
- The Panthers actually had a pass rush! Sods law though, the game where they finally find it is against Drew Brees.
- Tight end Jimmy Graham continues to show why the Saints let Jeremy Shockey go. Graham had 8 catches for 129 yards. Shockey, now with the Panthers, had 3 catches for 21 yards.
- Cam Newton was 16/31 for 224 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception. He still hasn't quite got past the "chuck the ball up in the air and hope someone comes down with it" stage yet. But this was a better performance. He ran 7 times for 27 yards and a touchdown.
- Steve Smith is still the biggest threat on the Panthers. He only caught 3 of the 7 passes aimed at him, but his ability to jump high, his speed and his strength make him dangerous. I can't help but laugh when I see teams leaving him single covered. The words "you brought this on yourself" should accompany any touchdown they give up to Smith.
- DeAngelo Williams remembered he could run again. He had 9 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown. Kind of makes you wonder why he only had 9 carries?
- Drew Brees was Drew Brees; 32/45 for 359 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.

Raiders @ Texans
- The combination of Rock Cartwright and Sebastian Janikowski may just make the Raiders special teams the best in the NFL right now. Janikowski had 3 field goals over 50 yards and Cartwright (who always seems to be making special teams plays) took a fake punt 35 yards.
- Jason Campbell was shaky, completing just 15/35 for 190 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.
- The Texans D managed to hold Darren McFadden to just 51 yards.
- Darius Heyward-Bey arrives! Well, kind of. Seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. A few more games like that wouldn't go amiss for the Raiders, though the return of Jacoby Ford and the emergence of rookie Denarius Moore means the Raiders passing attack is probably the most dangerous it's been in years.
- Raiders safety Michael Huff marked his return to action with a last ditch pick to ice the game.
- Richard Seymour had a good day, putting up two more sacks for the season.
- Matt Schaub was 24/51, for 416 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. In a year when the passing yardage is going off the charts, there's a lot of people throwing big numbers without the touchdowns to match.
- The loss of Mario Williams to injury really hindered the Texans.
- Lawrence Vickers had the opportunity to win the game for the Texans. His drop was critical.
- On an emotional day for the Raiders, they did it. They just won, baby. For Al.

Chiefs @ Colts
- I'm not sure I can believe I'm typing this but; Curtis Painter, 15/27 (ok, that part is normal), 277 yards and 2 touchdowns, no picks.
- Pierre Garcon had 5 catches for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns.
- At one point the Colts lead by 17. I know it's against the Chiefs, but it should make team pay attention. I don't think the Colts will make the playoffs, but they might upset a few apple carts along the way. They're (specifically Painter is) getting better each week.
- Matt Cassel spoilt the party though, emerging from nowhere with 21/29 for 257 yards, four touchdown passes and no interceptions. The Colts just cant catch a break right now.
- Jerome Battle filled in nicely for Jamaal Charles, carrying the ball 19 times for 119 yards.
- Dwayne Bowe was a beast for a change, taking 7 catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
- Free agent signing Steve Breaston also had two touchdowns.
- Dwight Freeney's 1.5 sacks and Mathis's half sack weren't enough, but the Colts defense is stepping up. The Colts now face three tough road games against the Bengals, Saints and Titans.

Bengals @ Jaguars
- Speaking of the Bengals, the scoreline belies the fact that the game was pretty close. The Jaguars miscues helped Cincinnati big time.
- Blaine Gabbert; 15/28, 221 yards, 1 touchdown. And even that is giving him too much credit. On the touchdown pass to Jason Hill, Hill was wide open.... and it still took Gabbert a few seconds to find him. And even then he a) under threw him and b) pulled him in towards to the safety, when he should have just dropped it into his path. Luckily Hill made a good adjustment. After the game ProFootballTalk added its voice to the increasing number of people questioning Gabberts pocket presence. My question is simply this; How did you not see that on his college tape? This is an article I wrote back in May, highlighting precisely that. If you want we can go back further, to mid-March? This was all over his college film, yet somehow people are having this sudden realisation? I'm honestly gutted that Gabbert is earning first round money while Jeff VanCamp is probably working at McDonalds.
- I still don't understand how Jack Del Rio justifies not giving Maurice Jones-Drew more than 19 carries. He took those for 85 yards and a touchdown. Just stupid.
- Andy Dalton was 21/33 for 179 yards and two touchdowns, one interception. He looked pretty good and connected well with fellow rookie A.J. Green (5 catches, 90 yards, 1 touchdown). Probably Dalton's finest moment though was tackling Dawan Landry to save a touchdown after Landry picked him off. Landry's hang time was impressive.
- The Jaguars D is still its biggest weakness. They had two sacks, but that's the exception not the rule for them these days.

Cardinals @ Vikings
- The Vikings are probably the most insane team in football right now. For all the talk about the Packers and the Saints, the Bills and the Patriots, and all those other high power offenses, the Vikings put up 28 points in less than 15 minutes. In 5 weeks the Vikings have put up 89 first half points. As stupid as it sounds, the Vikings are ripping people to pieces in the first 30 minutes.
- Adrian Peterson finished with 29 carries for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns. Now that he's sorted his problems with fumbles, he is easily the best back in the NFL. At one point he was hit by a safety (I think it was Wilson) on the 6 yard line, but managed to stand him up and then drive him back the six yards needed to reach the goal line. It's the most fun you can have watching offensive football.
- Most importantly, Peterson had 13 carries in the first half, with the majority of his work load coming in the second as Minnesota ran down the clock. The Vikings are starting to learn how to close games out.
- Kevin Kolb was 21/42 for 232 yards, two interceptions and a fumble. He never really stood a chance though. Once the Cardinals went that far behind it was obvious they would have to throw their way back into it.
- And didn't the Vikings D know it. Jared Allen had two sacks and a fumble recovery, Brian Robison had two sacks and a forced fumble, and credit to third year safety Jamarca Sanford for his two picks.

Seahawks @ Giants
- Only the Giants. Only the Giants could have this much talent on their team and still blow it to the Seahawks.
- A big part of that is due to Eli Manning; 24/39, 420 yards, 3 touchdowns.... 3 interceptions, 2 fumbles (one lost) . You can rack up all the yards you want. You can drive up and down the field all day long. But when you turn the ball over 4 times, and then one of your receivers fumbles another ball away, you're simply going to lose most games.
- Seattle tried their best give it back though, with an interception from Tavaris Jackson and two fumbles from the running backs.
- Tavaris Jackson was doing ok (15/22, 166 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) until the Seahawks tried running a College style zone read, which lead to Jackson taking preciously the kind of injury inducing shot that will exclude pure running quarterbacks from the NFL for many years still.
- His replacement Charlie Whitehurst was 11/19 for 149 yards and a touchdown. Not great, but at least he didn't turn the ball over which is all the Seahawks needed from him.
- Marshawn Lynch had another good game, nearly hitting one hundred yards and scoring a touchdown.
- Giants receiver Victor Cruz was unlucky to be on the losing side. He had 8 catches for 161 yards and a touchdown, played with great concentration, and nearly scooped up a badly thrown pass from Manning. Unfortunately the ball was snagged by Brandon Browner who returned it 94 yards for the score.
- The pass rushes were flying today. The Seahawks had 3 sacks, including 2 for Chris Clemons. The Giants had six, with Jason Pierre-Paul picking up 2.5 and Osi Umenyiora getting 1.5. That's one of the frustrating things about the Giants, they have such a good defense, if only they could stop pulling a "Dream Team Eagles" and turning the ball over so much, their defense could probably win them a few games.

Titans @ Steelers
- Just when you thought the Steelers were down...
- With James Harrison gone through injury, someone had to step up. Enter James Farrior with 9 solo tackles and LaMarr Woodley with 1.5 sacks and a pick.
- Matt Hasselbeck ended up throwing 49 times, completing 29 for 262 yards, but just one touchdown and also an interception.
- Young Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer had a big run (76 yards) to bump up his total yardage for the game to 107 yards off 11 carries.
- The story of the game though was Ben Roethlisberger. 24/34 for 228 yards, 1 interception, and five touchdowns. Count them. Five. All of this with a busted left ankle. I say this all the time but I'll throw it out there again for kicks; whatever you think of Roethlisberger off the field, on the field he can straight up play. It's shame for the Steelers that he hasn't played like this more often this season.

Buccaneers @ 49ers
- As a 49ers fan, I'm still in a mild state of shock.
- However, even in my state of shock I'm alert enough to understand that people are getting way too carried away by Alex smith. Yes he threw three touchdowns, but he was only 11/19 for 170 yards.
- How do you score that many times, with such small yardage? Part of it is Frank Gore rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown from 20 carries. Part of it is rookie Kendall Hunter taking it 65 yards off nine carries.
- But the biggest part of it is the defense. Jim Harbaugh is getting all the credit for turning the 49ers around, for his good coaching, for "saving" Alex Smith etc, but it's the defense that has really changed this year. Carlos Rogers had another interceptions, as did Chris Culliver. Those two alone have made a massive impact in what has easily been the 49ers biggest problem area for years; the secondary.
- Rookie D-lineman Aldon Smith has also had a big impact. He had another two sacks against Tampa, along with a third from Justin Smith. Those two have done more for the 49ers than Smith.
- Josh Freeman was 17/33 for 187 yards and two interceptions. With the 49ers opening up such a big early lead, it basically committed the Buc's to throwing.
- Just when we thought the Buccaneers were starting to show promise, they only came away with three points from the game. They were 7/16 on third downs (46%) and only made it into the red zone once.
- To highlight why I and other 49er fans shouldn't get too excited (I'm not) about the offense; red zone efficiency was 3/6, third down efficiency was 2/7. Just hold off on the Alex Smith street naming party for now.

Chargers @ Broncos
- Kyle Orton needed a good game to shut the crowd up. He didn't have it; 6/13 for 34 yards and a pick.
- Meanwhile Phillip Rivers was doing what he does best; hitting 18/29 for 250 yards and one touchdown, but also one pick. That's the trouble with Rivers this year. He's still picking up the yards, but can't see to find the end product to go with it.
- Running back Ryan Matthews came to his aid though with 24 carries for 125 yards.
- The crowd was getting restless though. They chanted for Tebow and in the second half they got their wish.
- I've been a Tebow supporter, and I think inventor of the term "Tebowleiver", since day one, so I was psyched to see him take the field and hit... 4/10 for 79 yards and a touchdown. The numbers don't always tell the tale though, as he carried 6 times for 38 yards and a touchdown, leading the Broncos back into the game with a turnover-less performance. It just wasn't quite enough though.
- Lost in all of this was the performance of Willis McGahee, who carried 16 times for 125 yards. Say it with me now "doesn't get enough credit..."
- The Broncos D found a second gear and came up with four sacks. If Tebow is going to take over the starting job then they need to keep bringing that production to the table each week to give him more help than they did for Kyle Orton.

Jets @ Patriots
- Tom Brady went over 300 yards again, but his 24/33 for 321 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception performance was not the key.
- The key was running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, with 27 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The amusing fact (amusing if you're not a Rex Ryan fan at least) is that the Patriots, probably the Jets biggest rival, have the kind of running game that Rex Ryan wishes he did.
- Speaking of which, his best runner was Shonne Greene, who put up 21 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown.
- Mark Sanchez looked a lot better this week, throwing 16/26 for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns, with no turnovers.
- Also looking better was the Jets O-line, which only gave up two sacks and generally looked a lot more solid. Part of that is down to the Patriots weaker pass rush.
- Patriots defensive end Mark Anderson did manage to squeeze through 2 times though, being officially awarded 1.5 sacks.
- For me the big disappointment was the Jets D. David Harris had 7 solo tackles and a sack, Jamaal Westerman put two more sacks on the board, and they also picked up a fourth, plus a red zone pick of Tom Brady. But they gave up 152 yards on the ground and failed to contain Wes Welker. I expected a coordinator as good as Rex to find a way of doubling up on Welker, but instead they bought their own hype over Revis and his single coverage skills. Without the opportunity to pull Welkers shirt (too quick for that), Revis was unable to stop Welker putting up 124 yards off 5 catches. One of these days, someone actually will take Welker seriously and put together a proper game plan for him.
- The Jets offense could help out more still; 3/11 in the red zone.

Packers @ Falcons
- There is definitely a curse on Sunday Night Football that makes their games more interesting. Hint; it has nothing to do with the TV coverage.
- Aaron Rodgers seems to cruise through games, even when his starting left tackle gets injured; 26/39, 396 yards, 2 touchdowns.
- Part of that is down to the pass rush he's facing. The four sacks the Falcons had hide the fact that they didn't really get enough pressure consistently over the 60 minutes, even with the injury woes on the Packers O-line.
- Of course letting Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones etc run free at your secondary doesn't help either. What happened to bump and run coverage? I'd like to see Aaron Rodgers try and whip that ball out quick to his receivers when they have a face full of their own shoulder pads.
- Speaking of pass rushes though, the Packers pass rush has died a death this year. Desmond Bishop managed one sack to go with his seven solo tackles, but that was it. Casey Matthews has been drawing extra attention, but not that much.
- Matt Ryan was 18/32 for 167 yards, 1 touchdown and two interceptions. For the first fifteen or so plays, which the Falcons coaching staff script, he looked great. He made some good checks at the line to. Once the script ran out and the Falcons had to start thinking on the fly, they fell apart.
- Surprisingly for the Packers they were 0/3 in the red zone. Their two touchdowns came off almost the same play-action play, while the boot of Mason Crosby did a lot of the damage.

So that's the game recaps done. And sitting here now, almost 5 hours after I first started them, I think to myself, "fuck, this new format was supposed to make all this quicker". Oh well, back to the drawing board. Before I disappear though, a quick Roger Goodell rant.

Roger Goodell
- Dear Roger, your stupid new rules are a sham. Tell me, why does a receiver who has caught the ball and got both feet down in bounds then have to "maintain possession through the process of going to the ground"? If a runner in the open field falls over or is tackled, and the ball is knocked loosed by the ground, we're told "the ground can't cause a fumble". But it can force a receiver to lose out on a perfectly legitimate pass? And yet when a receiver catches the ball and takes two steps or turns, and then gets hit and fumbles, that's an incomplete pass? It's ridiculous. We're getting to point where we're watching "officalball" or "replayball" instead of football. Used to be you could tell whether a play was good or not with your eyes. Now you need a 500 page rulebook, a set of slow motion cameras and a degree in contract law to make sure you understand the correct wording of the rules.
- Speaking of constant replays, can we please, please go back to the Coaches challenge? I'm sick of listening to a stadium go dead because the fans have to twiddle their thumbs waiting for permission to cheer. It's fucking boring and combined with all the other rules and regulations, it's killing off what makes football, football. I keep harping on about this, but there comes a tipping point. People watch football not because they have to, "oh you always watch it!" etc, but because they enjoy it. As soon as they stop enjoying it, they'll stop watching.
- The commissioner also announced recently that in a weeks time he will present to the owners a plan for a second game to be played in London. As someone who lives about 50 miles from London and has been to two of the Wembley games, let me say this... fuck you Roger.

That sounds odd, but here's the deal. You're not "growing" the game at all. I guarantee you that 95% of the fans who go to the Wembley games are like me. They watch football all the time. They know all about football. They run or participate in the amateur teams that play in the British league. They run or participate in the teams that play in the College league. They're the people that stay up till 4:30 in the morning just to watch Sunday/Monday Night Football. They're the people that endure the god forsaken mess that is and it's video delivery system, just to keep themselves up to date with the game.

They're the people like me, that have been watching the game for many, many years now (17th season for me personally). Shit, most of the fans over here know more about football than Roger Goodell does! And that's why, despite being grateful for the chance to watch a game live in person, especially those of us who've been able to see "our" teams play, we also quietly resent the London games because we know that they're stealing home games from the fans who live in the cities where the teams play.

We resent the London games because we know they're part of a plan to introduce a London franchise that will fall flat on its face, because the simple fact is we all have our own teams here that we support. We don't need nor want a London based team. If they play the 49ers I'll go... to cheer on the 49ers and boo the London team.

It's just another example of Goodell thinking he knows what fans want when he doesn't. Like the 18 games debacle. People don't want 18 games and they don't hate the preseason. Most fans understand the purpose of the preseason and how valuable it is. What the fans don't like is having to pay full regular season prices for those games. If you cut the ticket prices in half and waived the parking fees, most of the games would probably sell out (excluding maybe Jacksonville, Tampa and San Diego, who can't even sell out their regular season games).

It's like him thinking that what people want to watch is basketball on grass, where the offenses stack up points and nobody tackles. It's not. Most people were attracted to football in the first place for the same reason I was; the hitting and the physicality. Football is a violent sport, that's just how it is. More importantly, that's just how people like it.

If Goodell really wants to "grow the game", then simple; sign a deal with a non-satellite TV provider (BBC, ITV, Channel Four or Channel Five) to show a game from either the 1pm Eastern (6pm GMT) or 4pm Eastern (9pm GMT) bracket. That's how to get your new fans.

Now I must sleep. It's 09:44 am.

No comments: