What I Saw, Turkeygasm 2012

Blair Miller > WHAT I SAW – TURKEYGASM 2012

One Legendary Coach Bill Parcells-ism: “I go by what I see.”

Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot by watching.”

This is What I Saw from the past week’s NFL action.

(A list of TFQ’s PROPS from this column will be posted monthly.)

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A Special Thanksgiving Edition

TNF- New England (8-3) wins @ N. Y. Jets (4-7), 19-49

I SAW that the Jets clearly did this one backwards: They ate their turkey dinner before the game.  You could practically see them nodding off from the tryptophan during a disastrous second quarter when New England took two fumble returns for touchdowns in a nine second span.  In fact, the Pats scored three TDs in 52 seconds (and tied a franchise record with 35 mazoolians in that quarter) en route to the earliest trip to the woodshed of the 2012 season and one of the hardest-hitting blowouts from start to finish I’ve ever seen.  Players from both teams were bringing the wood all night but for New York it was only about…pride?  Do they still have that?

I SAW the Jets continue to maintain their season of extremes.  When they win they win big, and when they lose, well…

Jets Win Big, Stink Hard

In 4 Wins In 7 Losses
Pts/gm 33.3 12.6
Opponents’ Pts/gm 17.5 31.4
Yards/gm 353.0 286.6
Opponents’ Yards/gm 337.5 363.8
Turnover Differential +10 -13

(NFL Network)

I SAW the Patriots play at a dizzying level of performance, scoring 108 points over 103 hours (5 days) after throttling the Colts.  ColdHardFootballFacts.com put this in perspective by pointing out that the Chiefs have scored 152 points all season thus far.  Incredible.

As they have before, the Pats are schooling the league, winning their last four games by an average of 27.3 points.  What’s more, the 37.0 points per game average for this year’s edition of the Pats is a hair ahead the 2007 team that holds the record for scoring in a season (a 36.8 average).

Though it is by no means given that New England will keep up this scoring pace, the odds are against them swooning over the remainder of the season…

I SAW that the Patriots are off to a good start in terms of continuing their dominance in the second half of the regular season.  Check out these ridiculous numbers, especially the turnovers:

Patriots in Second Half Of The Season Since 2010

W-L 19-0
Pts/gm 38.7
Opponents’ Points/gm 18.8
Yards/gm 412.8
Turnover Differential +51*

*- 5 Giveaways, 55 Takeaways

That should help further calm the nerves of New England fans who are nervous about the loss of TE Rob Gronkowski for at least the remainder of the regular season.

I SAW Jets QB Mark Sanchez commit two turnovers.  In his defense, it’s hard to perform effectively when Pats DT Vince Wilfork beats you over your head with your own guard, Brandon Moore, as was the case with the second quarter fumble and TD return.  Wilfork is a beast.

Washington (5-6) wins @ Dallas (5-6), 38-31

I SAW Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III continue his torrid pace.  He had already been so impressive both as a quarterback and a leader that his teammates voted him in as a team captain during their bye two weeks ago.  Not that they need it, but the rest of the ’Skins have been vindicated for their decision – to the max.  Last week against the Eagles, RG3 posted a perfect passer rating of (158.3).  Thursday’s game against Dallas started much the same, when, after a 28-point second quarter (the most points in any quarter for Washington since 1999) Griffin went into halftime with yet another 158.3 rating.  All told, he is now the first rookie in league history and first Redskin ever to throw four touchdowns in back-to-back games.

I SAW Redskins QB Robert Griffin III describe the pass thrown behind WR Pierre Garcon for a second quarter touchdown thusly (Associated Press):

“As Pierre is running on his long touchdown, and I was like, ‘Man, that was a great catch.’  I had to throw it to only that spot, and you don’t see many guys make catches like that.”

RG3 shows preternatural discipline for a first-year pro.  There are times when Griffin will thread a needle with a pass but those are during plays when his confidence tends to be justified by a completion.  Generally, as the quote indicates, his priority is to make sure he puts his throws in safe spots, regardless of how tantalizing leading his receiver in between zone coverages may look.  The other unusually mature aspect of that comment is that the rookie is willing to trust his players to make the tough plays when he has to put the ball in an awkward spot.  Leadership is often about trusting people and making them better by asking them to do special things that lift everyone, like Garcon did.  Griffin is special.

I SAW Cowboys QB Tony Romo throw a career-high 441 yards, giving him an 0-3 record in games when he surpasses 400 yards passing…

I SAW Cowboys QB Tony Romo drop back for 62 attempts on Thursday, tying a career high.  During Sunday’s win against Cleveland he did so 50 times.  Don’t let Sunday fool you.  Dallas simply isn’t going to win many games during which Romo is asked to throw over 50 times.  I know I’ve confessed my Romophobia in the past, but it’s not about that.  There are only perhaps 5-6 quarterbacks (or less) for whom throwing 50 times doesn’t become generally problematic and Romo isn’t one of them.

Case in point: I checked it out and for his career Romo has a 2-4 (.333) record when he attempts at least 50 passes.  It gets worse – he’s 4-14 (.222) when taking at least 40 attempts.  In this sense, when Romo is asked to throw as much as his top-tier QB counterparts he doesn’t win games for his team.  It’s not a sign of a great quarterback when asking for 40 attempts is asking too much.

I SAW it take eleven games for it to happen, but the Cowboys tendency to play well and then undo it with frequent lapses in player responsibility has finally spread to the defense.

Please, please put this team to bed now, media.  And PLEASE Jerry Jones – blow this group up.  Use that big bank account to buy a backbone, let go of your blind loyalty and improve your roster with the depth and breed of disciplined players that won you your three Super Bowls.  You’ve been coasting on that dynasty for almost 20 years now.  Wake up.

He likely won’t, though, because as usual the Cowboys do just enough on the field to give the illusion of not sucking and thus allowing The Emperor (Jones) to continue through life spineless like a crustacean while he paints a silver lining all over a rotten playbook.

 

Houston (10-1) wins @ Detroit (4-7), 34-31 OT

I SAW a reason to start the holiday feast with some juicy, basted trivia courtesy ESPN Stats & Information.  This game was the first game of the day and the fifth Thanksgiving Day game to go to overtime and the first since ’05.  Thursday’s win for the Texans was their second overtime game in five days.  The only other two teams in NFL history to play OT games in a five-day span both did so in the same game when, in 1994, the Vikings beat the Bears after both teams had played in overtime bouts on the previous Sunday.  (Minnesota lost their Sunday game to Tampa Bay while Chicago won against Arizona.)

I SAW this overtime period go like Houston’s extra time did on Sunday against Jacksonville, in that QB Matt Schaub threw an interception again and things looked bleak for the Texans.  On Sunday the Jags gave them a turnover on downs to reopen the door.  On Thursday uber-reliable Lions K Jason Hansen hit the upright from 47 yards out on a field goal attempt to win the game and then Texans’ Shayne Graham booted one of his own to steal the game for the road team.  In other words, so far this looks like Houston’s time to live.

I SAW the Texans play almost 10 quarters of hard-fought football in a five-day span.  Keep an eye on that fatigue level (read: potential for injury) next week…

I SAW that Houston missed CB Johnathan Joseph (hamstring) to cover Lions WR Calvin Johnson and in the first half it showed when Megatron had three receptions of 20+ yards, primarily against backup Alan Ball, who must have been busy trying to improve his now-chaotic True Blood series.

I SAW that the way to attack the Texans’ defense is becoming more obvious: Spread them out.  Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ defensive front likes to bunch up big outside linebackers in the 3-4 to overwhelm offensive blocking schemes but they can’t do that with the same effectiveness if they have to patrol bigger spaces, and those LBs aren’t nearly as comfortable running around as opposed to pinching down and meeting in the middle.  Going forward, look for opponents to do more of the same against Houston.

I SAW the Texans allow their first rushing TD of the season on the first drive of the game when Lions RB Mikel Leshoure carried the ball into the end zone.

Ah, the strange NFL.  Who would have guessed that of all the teams to crack Houston’s rush defense that it would be the typically run-inept Lions – and they did it twice.

I SAW a solid argument to downplay the importance of passing yards in today’s NFL: On Sunday Lions QB Matt Stafford notched his tenth game this season with 250+ yards passing – most in the NFL.  Is anyone considering Stafford’s season a successful one?

I SAW Texans WR Andre Johnson answer his career-high day on Sunday against Jacksonville with another big game: 9 grabs for 188 yards.  What a week for ’Dre:

Most Receiving Yards In 2 Consecutive Games

YEAR PLAYER, TEAM YARDS
2012 Andre Johnson, HOU 461
2006 Chad Johnson, CIN 450
1989 John Taylor, SF 448
1995 Jerry Rice, SF 442

Elias Sports Bureau

This made me wonder: Flipper Anderson holds the NFL record, with 336 yards in a game in 1989 (on 15 catches), so what did he do in the following game?   The lesser-known half of the dynamic duo of Anderson and WR Henry Ellard that helped make QB Jim “Don’t Call me Chris” Everett a star had four receptions for 77 yards, giving him 413 total over two games.

Ah, one of my favourite moments in sports talk show history.

I SAW Texans DE J.J. Watt continue his Armen Tanzarian-like reign of terror.  According to ESPN Stats & Information Watt leads the league by a huge margin in terms of percentage of dropbacks disrupted (dropbacks disrupted represents sacks, interceptions and passes defended).

Most Dropbacks Disrupted, 2012 Season

PLAYER DISRUPTIONS % Of Team Dropbacks Faced
J.J. Watt 28 6.24
Tim Jennings 18 4.40
Aldon Smith 15 4.07
Von Miller 14 3.37

PROPS to Bears CB Tim Jennings for making this list as a defensive back, which is much more impressive than it likely seems.

I SAW a play that should likely alter the rulebook.  In the third quarter Texans Rb Justin Forsett ran the ball 81 yards for a TD, but early on in the play his knee and elbow were down by contact.  However, the officials didn’t blow the whistle, and Forsett kept running for the longest run in franchise history.  Forsett was clearly down on the replay, but the play was not reviewed because Lions head coach Jim Schwartz threw a challenge flag on a play that is automatically reviewable (all scoring plays and turnovers are now subject to automatic replay review).

Three thoughts:

  1. It’s ironic that the team perhaps known the most for hitting after the whistle didn’t play to the whistle on this play.
  2. Coming down on the refs for missing the live call is a bad call in itself.  Remember the Ed Hochuli controversy that decided a Chargers-Broncos game in 2008, when a missed call was not reviewable because the whistle had blown and, by, rule, a play whistled dead in not reviewable?  Since then officials have been trained to resist blowing the whistle if they are unsure of a player being down by contact.  A number of people – such as Sports Illustrated’s Peter King – have chastised the refs for missing the call.  Maybe they didn’t see Forsett clearly enough.  At any rate, they did what they’ve been told and had they blown the whistle and Forsett not been down, there would have been a problem too.
  3. EPIC FAIL by the rulebook!  Why is this play not reviewable?

I’ve given myself my own tryptophan trance by reading parts of the rulebook to check this rule out.

There are two key passages Rule 15, Section 9 – as stated in the 2012 NFL Rulebook:

“If there is a foul that delays the next snap, the team committing that foul will no longer be able to challenge the previous ruling. No challenges will be recognized from a team that has exhausted its timeouts. A team that is out of timeouts or has used all of its available challenges may not attempt to initiate an additional challenge.  Penalty: For initiating a challenge when a team is prohibited from doing so: Loss of 15 yards.”

“There is no limit to the number of Referee Reviews that may be initiated by the Replay Official. He must initiate a review before the next legal snap or kick and cannot initiate a review of any ruling against a team that commits a foul that delays the next snap.”

There’s the rule in all its silliness, avoiding what replay review is supposed to do – correct missed calls.

(A friend of mine heard this argument: If I’m a coach that scores a controversial touchdown or forces an iffy turnover, why wouldn’t I just throw the challenge flag myself to avoid a replay?  But the rule above states that only the team that commits the delay (by throwing the flag) cannot benefit from the replay review.  The other team, however, can still have one made, so the hypothetical loophole is only that – hypothetical – and can’t be exploited.)

Scrap this rule.  Again, it gives more significance to coaches’ challenges – a game within the game that too often avoids having the correct call get made.  There’s no guarantee that change will occur, but the league at least announced that it will reexamine the rule in the offseason.

At any rate, you can bet Detroit fans wanted to pelt referee Walt Coleman and his crew with Thanksgiving dinner like Sam did to Elaine on Cheers, but all the refs were doing was upholding a flawed rule. 

In fact, the mere thought of turkey might get Detroit residents upset because their Lions have now lost nine straight Thanksgiving games there.

STAY TUNED THIS WEEK FOR WHAT I SAW, WEEK 12 – HERE AT TFQ. 

IN THE MEANTIME, ‘LIKE’ THE FIFTH QUARTER ON FACEBOOK.

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One thought on “What I Saw, Turkeygasm 2012

  1. Pingback: What I Saw, Wk 12 2012 | The Fifth Quarter

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