Tuesday, November 08, 2011

2011 Week 9 round up

That's week 9 in the books then and I don't know about you but two things struck me this weekend more than anything else;

1) The amount of drops,
2) The amount of bad pass interference penalties,

It just seemed like a lot of receivers were getting hit in the hands and yet not making the catch, while at the same time it often didn't matter because of some of the highly dubious pass interference calls going about. Now don't get me wrong, I want both players to have a legitimate opportunity to catch the ball. But I also think that when you get two athletic and competitive individuals running downfield while looking back over their shoulders for the ball, naturally there is going to be a degree of contact. The league really needs to let that contact slide, providing there's no serious pulling of jerseys or pinning down of arms.

On a side note, there also seemed to be a few too many flags for helmet to helmet contact that was largely unavoidable. It seems even when defenders go to the effort of leading with the hands or the shoulders whilst trying to keep their helmets out of the way to avoid contact, they're still getting flagged just because of minor scrapes. It's getting really boring seeing flags for that.

Boring could also be a word used to describe many of this weeks games, providing your not a fan of good defensive football. Personally I thought it was quite refreshing to see defenses taking center stage in many of the week 9 games. There's nothing like a good stuffed run or a great sack/pressure to set the tone for a tough, competitive game of football.

The Jets/Bills game probably wasn't as competitive as many (including me) had thought it would be though. Ryan Fitzpatrick was uncharacteristically off form and threw some bad interceptions. The Bills D also struggled somewhat after a ten sack showing the previous week. Praise though for Mark Sanchez, who hit 20/28 and shook off an early interception. Shonne Greene also did well, finally breaking out some big runs.

Now a question; have the Seahawks ever been competitive this season? If they were, then that's long since turned into a distant memory. 2/10 on third down, 3 interceptions from Tavaris Jackson and an offensive line that looks at times like they're just being manhandled. The Cowboys on the other hand finally seem to be pulling it all together. They're using creative blitzes and movement to get DeMarcus Ware some great one on one matchups, while at the same Tony Romo is finding the going a little easier on offense, not least because DeMarco Murray is gouging people in the running game.

Don't worry though Seahawks fans, Browns fans are going through the same thing. One touchdown on offense, which came in the fourth quarter. 4/12 on third down. Four sacks given up. 261 yards rushing given up on defense. It's just a horror show in Cleveland at times. Colt McCoy looks sick and tired of the NFL already and it's only his second season; 14/22 for 146 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Surprisingly that was actually better than Matt Schaub, a quarterback we'd normally associate with being one of the better in the NFL. Luckily for Houston their defense was solid and their rushing attack produced two 100 yard rushers in Foster and Tate, which does kind of rekindle an old question of mine about running games; which is more important, the O-line or the running back?

And if Seahawks and Browns fans thought they had it bad, just spare a thought for Colts fans this season (it definitely sounds weird saying that). After Delone Carter's fumble the Colts basically pulled him in favour of Donald Brown and the rest is history. Matt Ryan barely completed a little over half his passes, but against the Colts secondary that was enough. Julio Jones even managed to make a catch in triple coverage, without a Colts player even so much as touching the ball. I'm still trying to figure out how. As are the Colts coaches no doubt.

Now the other day I picked the Chiefs over the Dolphins, citing that the Dolphins had no pass rush, no pass offense, no running game and couldn't tackle. So what do they do? They throw for 244 yards and 3 touchdowns, rush for 107 net yards (Reggie Bush; 13 carries, 92 yards, 1 touchdown) rack up five sacks on defense and have two players with over 10 tackles as they hold the Chiefs to a single field goal. The two 10+ tackle defenders were linebackers Karlos Dansby (11 tackles and a forced fumble) and the inspired Kevin Burnett (11 tackles, 2 assists and 1.5 sacks). They were still 3/10 on third down, but this was a massive leap forward for their season. Really excellent result for Miami.

Not such a good result for Tampa, who managed to score 16 and hold the Saints to 27. They love them scores. What they don't love is falling apart at the seams, which it appears they started to here, with guys chucking each other around, throwing punches, bitching and generally doing the exact opposite of showing a unified front to adversity. LeGarrette Blount was back for the Buc's, but he was no match alone for the Saints, who found plenty of running room with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory all ripping off yards on the ground. Throw in another 250+ yard game for Drew Brees and you have a Saints team firing on all cylinders beating a Buccaneers team that is still trying to slot all the young pieces into the right place and make them work as a single, purring machine.

The 49ers meanwhile are anything but a purring machine, yet still somehow find a way to win games (*cough* soft schedule). 3/12 on third down, 0/2 in the red zone, but four field goals and a 30 yard TD pass to Bruce Miller were enough to get it done. Frank Gore had another 107 yards rushing and Alex Smith actually threw for 200 yards on the money. Still, they look less than inspirational and while the NFC West is basically wrapped up now, the seemingly inevitable fall from grace in the play offs is going to hurt.

Staying in the west, this time the AFC West, a division that is very much up for grabs not least because three of the four teams lost this week and the sole victors, the Broncos, did it against a division rival in the Raiders. For a while it looked like Oakland might squeak the win, with Carson Palmer looking a lot better now he's had some time with his receivers (he still threw three interceptions). A late collapse however sealed the Raiders fate. Tebow's passing looked a lot better and his receivers actually graced him with a few catches, but it was on the ground where Denver did most of its damage. Willis McGahee had 163 yards and 2 touchdowns, with Tebow contributing another 118 yards. The Broncos pass rush also came alive somewhat with Elvis Dumervil producing 1.5 sacks alone.

One young quarterback who is doing really well is Andy Dalton. 3 touchdowns for him and some good drives put together as the Bengals win their fifth in a row. Perhaps the story of the day might be the Titans rushing attack, as Chris Johnson finally started to find his feet, picking up 64 yards on 14 carries, which isn't great but could just be him getting warmed up? Hasselbeck made some nice throws at times but his inconsistency overall let him down.

Rams/Cardinals next. Now normally when two bad teams with ok offenses play each other, it turns into a shootout. This didn't. The Rams needed two safeties just to keep it competitive, despite 130 yards on the ground for Steven Jackson and 255 yards through the air for Sam Bradford. In the end it came down to a 99 yard punt return for a touchdown by Patrick Peterson who is rapidly becoming the new Devin Hester e.g. not a very good corner, great at special teams returns, does a stupid dance going into the end zone and is loved by Deion Sanders for no apparent reason.

Now if you thought the Rams were going to get an earful for letting Peterson return that punt, I'd love to know what the Patriots got from Coach Belichick after giving up the ball four times, including 3 turnovers from Tom Brady. I'm just loving the Giants defense right now, as they step out of the normal mold for 4-3 teams and get a bit more creative, and hopefully I'll take a closer look at that later this week. Even with that pressure Brady still managed to pass for 342 yards, but it was Eli Manning who made the biggest impression from the quarterback spot, cooling leading a last minute drive to win the game. This was a huge win for the Giants.

Now I have another question for you; who needs Aaron Rodgers when the opposing quarterback throws two pick sixes? The answer is the Green Bay Packers and they really did need him, because after scoring 14 defensive points they still left the door open until a last ditch interception iced the game. Rivers ended the game with 4 touchdowns and was driving well for a fifth when he threw that third and last interception. Aaron Rodgers was blazing once again though, hitting 21/26 for 247 yards and 4 touchdowns.

What? The Steelers and Ravens having a physical game of football. Would never have seen that coming! Of course the league doesn't like games like this because they might actually be fun for people to watch, so the refs made sure to stick a few flags in there just to dampen the affair down a bit. Notice also that if you had to pick one game that most neutral fans would love to watch and are excited about, it's nearly always going to be a Steelers/Ravens game. There is a reason for that and it's called physical football. This one didn't disappoint and even managed to likely please Goodell because both quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards with not a lot of running going on, at least not after Ray Rice's huge opening play TD run was called back for a hold. James Harrison had a big night on defense with 3 sacks and plenty more pressure, but ultimately Joe Flacco held it together for the winning drive. His receivers should also take the brunt of the blame for why they didn't score more.

And last but not least, Monday Night football saw the Bears beating the Eagles. You have to watch Eagles games. You just have to right now. More out of morbid curiosity than anything. You just want to see what they'll mess up next and this time it was a fake punt on fourth down that saw Eagles punter Chas Henry throw possibly the worst pass I've ever seen in my life. Couple that with a hit and miss performance from Mike Vick, average pass protection by the Eagles O-line and some poor defense from the Eagles linebackers and secondary, mixed with a dash of suspect penalties and you have the recipe for a Bears win. Cutler didn't look great, but was just good enough to support the running of Matt Forte. The Eagles are in a tough spot again.

So pick wise that leaves me 10-4 for week 9, not bad at all, and that bumps me to 78-57 for the season. A few more weeks like this and I'll be back on track in no time. As for the rest of the week, I want to take a look at some of the things the Giants did defensively against the Patriots but other than that I'm a bit sparse for material, so I might take a look at how last years rookie watch list (and missing watch listers) are getting on.

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