What I Saw, Week 8 – 2103

Blair Miller > WHAT I SAW – WEEK 8, 2013

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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Away from the game(s)

I SAW most teams reach the halfway point of their season, or as most coaches like to look at it – and even said so in several postgame press conferences this week – the end of the second quarter of their season.  Be that as it may, we saw our first legit slate of dud matchups on Sunday.  The NFL came through anyway at some points – particularly in the Motor City where we saw Marinofake 2.0 (see: Detroit wins vs. Dallas, 31-30).  Also the and-oh’s and the oh-fer’s stood pat:

Undefeated

Kansas City (8-0) – Now they’re even winning games when they play out of character.  The hallmark of their season thus far has been a sack-hungry defense, and lackadaisical offense had to survive despite their teammates coming into the week leading the NFL in sacks and getting just one on Sunday.

Defeated

Jacksonville (0-7) – I’ve been critical of the league’s decision to commit to sending its smelliest garbage to games in London.  SI.com’s Don Banks agrees, and I love his line via another reporter (although the  Brits runs circles around the French in terms of sense of humour and it’s the French who love Lewis so much):

Maybe Jacksonville playing in London for four consecutive years will work after all. As one press box veteran noted Sunday, the Europeans used to love Jerry Lewis, so slapstick does tend to play well across the pond.

Tampa Bay – More and more, I wonder if head coach Greg Schiano has pulled a Nick Saban.

I SAW the trade deadline come and pass on Tuesday with a lot of intriguing rumors (DE Jared Allen going from Minnesota to Seattle being the best) but ultimately end with a whimper.  One trade: Philly sent DT Isaac Sopoaga and a sixth-round pick in 2014 to New England for a fifth-rounder in 2014.  Pretty boring, but I love it.  The Pats are clearly desperate without Vince Wilfork (injury) and they still got what looks like a deal that favors them.  How does Bill Belichick & Co. do it?

I SAW Sports Illustrated’s Peter King make some strong statements against the point after kick:

And the biggest waste of time in sports is the point-after. Six were missed all season last year, and this year, only two of 524 have gone awry. It is positively insane that the NFL doesn’t either eliminate the PAT, move the snap way back from the 2-yard line, or force teams to go for two. Something. Anything. For years, it’s been a nothing play, and the Competition Committee refuses to do anything tangible about it.”

Oooookay, Peter.  I understand your argument against the PAT, but to say that it’s “positively insane” not to eliminate/modify it is emotionally hyperbolic to the point of denting one’s credibility.  Use your English more better.

Byes: Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego, Tennessee

TNF- Carolina (4-3) wins @ Tampa Bay (0-7), 31-13

I SAW cause to celebrate in Carolina: The Panthers are above .500 for the first time since 2009 – a stretch of 70 straight games.  (ESPN Stats & Information)  Jesus, that’s bad.

What’s good, however, is the Panthers defense.  The Bucs field goal in the first quarter represented the first points that an opponent has scored against Carolina’s defense in the first quarter all season.  Head coach Ron Rivera’s team is finally getting it together on that side of the ball: The Panthers rank second in the NFL in points allowed, third in overall defense and second against the rush.

Don’t look now, but the Panthers are a legit threat.  After a 0-2 start they’ve won 4 of their last 5, including three straight, making a case as one of those teams each year that capitalizes on a weak schedule.  (They’ve won against the Giants, Rams, Vikings and Bucs.)

Apart from the defense, the story is about QB Cam Newton….

I SAW Panthers QB Cam Newton has been succeeding within a scheme that is more short-pass-oriented than before.  On Thursday against the Buccaneers, Newton went 20-for-24 on attempts that went 10 yards or fewer downfield for 171 yards and 2 TDs.  The story’s been the same during Carolina’s current 3-game win streak:

Can Newton On Passes 10 Yards Or Less Downfield – During Win Streak

% of total attempts 73
Completion % 87.3
TD-INT 4-0

(ESPN Stats & Information)

The broader result: Newton has put up 667 yards, 6 TD passes and no interceptions over the last three games.

I SAW the Buccaneers lose their seventh straight at home, their longest losing streak there since 1977 when they sucked for 13 in a row.  Speaking of thirteen, Tampa has now lost 12 out of their last 13 games under head coach Greg Schiano.  Cue the “fire Schiano” home crowd propaganda, which was reportedly out in full force during prime time on Thursday night.

I SAW Buccaneers rookie QB Mike Glennon heave 181 pass attempts in his first 4 career games, an NFL record according to the NFL Network broadcast.

Am I missing something here?  RB Doug Martin only got hurt last week…must the Bucs be in such Dire Straits?  After numerous big roster moves during the offseason quizzical decisions like this one equate to Tampa Bay getting a lot of Money For Nothing.

Detroit (5-3) wins vs. Dallas (4-4), 31-10

I SAW an early candidate for one of TFQ’s Upside-Down Awards at the end of the season:  

Thief In The Night Award

QB Matthew Stafford & the Lions

Detroit won a crazy game thanks to a Stafford-improvised QB sneak that was so sneaky he might as well have been dressed in a striped outfit brandishing bags with dollar signs on them as he snatched what looked like a win away from the Cowboys.  Well, unless he did it at Krusty Burger.

cartoon robber

(www.thepeacelily.com)

After completing a pass to Calvin Johnson to inside the 1-yard line with the seconds ticking off in regulation and trailing by 6 points, the Detroit offense hustled down to the line of scrimmage while Stafford’s body language gave every indication that he would spike the ball.  But when the teams lined up and Dallas was clearly lackadaisical Stafford took the snap and jumped to extend the ball over the goal line to steal the game.  The move was reminiscent of the sneaky Dan Marino-Mark Ingram TD pass on a fake spike against the Jets in 1994.  Stafford’s decision was clearly off the cuff, with Detroit guard Larry Worford telling the Associated Press: I was just as fooled as the defense was.”

The really fun thing: The Lions had no timeouts left.  If Stafford’s idea hadn’t worked, the game likely would have ended with a Detroit loss that would have made him the goat of the week.

The Lions deserved this win even though they gave up four turnovers and forced none.  According to STATS LLC they became the first team since 2007 to win in such a situation and it was because of huge performances from Stafford and Johnson (see below).

Let’s have some fun and spend a bit more time than usual on this game….

I SAW PROPS to Lions WR Calvin Johnson, who had a day for the ages.  Let’s let this list speak for itself:

Most Receiving Yards In A Game – NFL History

Player Year Team Yards
Flipper Anderson 1989 Rams 336
Calvin Johnson 2013 Lions 329
Stephone Paige 1985 Chiefs 309
Jim Benton 1945 Browns 303

That’s 329 yards off of 14 catches on 16 targets, and a TD.  An argument can easily be made that Johnson’s performance is the best single-game performance by a receiver in history, because Anderson’s record was set in an overtime game.

Ah, Flipper.  Those were fun days back in Los Angeles (before the Rams moved to St. Louis) with he and Henry Ellard hauling in passes from Jim “Don’t call me Chris” Everett.  Hit the link.  That footage never gets old.

There’s a lot more statistical gold to be mined from Megatron’s energon-fueled attack (including more below, after a tip of the hat to Matthew Stafford).  For instance: Sunday’s yardsplosion gives Johnson the NFL two-game record with 484 yards.  (The MMQB)  Also, according to NFL Network, this was Megatron’s 5th career game with 200+yards receiving – an NFL record.  And he’s got, what, 8+ years left in him?  Wow.

Obviously as a receiver Megatron can’t be a lone gun – even if he transforms into one.  For a stat line of that magnitude, he needs a big day from his quarterback….

I SAW Lions QB Matt Stafford have one of the biggest and most entertaining games of his young career, at least since that TDfest against the Browns in his rookie year when he played through a badly injured shoulder.  The highlight of his performance was clearly the game-winning trick TD (see above) but he also threw for his second-most yards in a game as a pro (488) and, despite just one TD pass and two interceptions to Cowboy Sean Lee (one of them an ill-advised throw that the ’backer returned inside the Lions 5-yard line), he was in a zone during the second half.  Personally, when he’s on his game I find Stafford to be one of the more entertaining pivots in the NFL these days.  Yes, there are many more mobile QBs and some (just some) with a better arm, but when he’s playing with positive emotion and slinging touch passes on target from varying arm slots it’s pretty fun to watch.  Some experts think a varied delivery is a flaw in any QB, but it wasn’t for a guy like Brett Favre and it isn’t for Stafford either.  In fact, when done well (which, granted, is very rare) it can help gain access to passing lanes at the line of scrimmage.  It also adds artistry to playing the position.

In all, the Lions racked up 623 total yards on offense for a new franchise record.  Reggie Bush had a good day (92 yards rushing, 8 catches for 30 yards) but we all know the two players most responsible for that mark.

I SAW Megatron achieve a weird stat that might not mean much, but according to ESPN Stats & Information his four times being tackled inside the 5-yard line is the most that’s happened in an NFL game since the start of 2001.

This stat coming up means something….

I SAW a crazy TRIVIA BOMB:

It bears repeating, especially in an era when spreading the ball around to multiple players is the norm: Lions WR Calvin Johnson had 329 receiving yards.  As ESPN STATS & Information points out, there are 16 teams this season that haven’t thrown for 329 yards.  The worst trio of those sixteen are the Chiefs and Redskins who haven’t passed for that many yards in a game since 2009 (c’mon RG3)…And the Cardinals who haven’t done it since 2010.  Jesus, Arizona.

Dear Kurt Warner,

We miss you.

Love,

The Cardinals xo

I SAW the Lions defensive backs play themselves into a hard week of tackling drills against the Cowboys.  It was like Keystone cops out there in a back-and-forth fourth quarter, S Glover Quin morphed into a pylon on WR Terrance William’s 60-yard TD, then two defenders pinwheeled into one another while Dez Bryant legged out a 50-yard score.

I SAW Cowboys WR Dez Bryant’s catch of the year so far, a PROPS-worthy one-handed pin job against his shoulder while getting interfered with.  (No flag was thrown on the play, but one should have been.)  Bryant got a lot of publicity this week for saying he can do everything Calvin Johnson can do – although I heard Brandon Carr tell NFL Network’s Around the League that the comment was taken out of context.  (Shocker!)  Bryant just flat-out can’t match Megatron, if for no other reason than size difference, and, say 329 yards, but that grab in the second quarter on Sunday was a man’s catch that few can accomplish.  (A potential tie for catch of the year so far goes to Redskins WR Pierre Garcon on the same day…see Denver wins vs. Washington, 45-21.)

Of course, as he so often can, Bryant soured thing up by acting like a brat….

I SAW Cowboys WR Dez Bryant launch into a sideline tirade directed at his quarterback Tony Romo and then take on other veterans afterward.  Apart from one missed opportunity when Bryant was open and a bad throw at him on a short sprint out, I’m not sure what Bryant was so worked up about.  Then again, the better Bryant plays, the more entitled he acts.

I generally don’t have an issue with sideline blowups.  Football is an intense game, physically and emotionally.  When these issues come up, I’m reminded of a time back in the day when the Eagles were throttling the Niners and Steve Young went ballistic on everyone.  It was embarrassing.  It also turned out to be a turning point in what was a big season in San Fran.

I’m not saying Dallas will play well because of Bryant’s antics now – far from it.  The young wideout’s passion would be admirable, were it not so misdirected.  It’s very important to note that the audio from the incident at the bench with Romo and the coaches is available and once you hear them merely talking about plays in an animated fashion that exchange was misinterpreted.  But another blowup from Bryant minutes later was more concerning.  You know you’ve acted out of order when you have clean-cut choirboy TE Jason Witten getting red in the face from telling you off.  Leader and defensive end DeMarcus Ware also tried to calm Bryant down and seemed to get pretty pissed off in the process.  The sad thing is that Bryant kept going off anyway.  He is crazy-talented, but will never be a respected voice unless he undergoes a personality makeover.  He told the Associated Press that, “people who have a problem with me are the people that don’t know what’s going on.

I’d say Bryant needs to explain to some of his teammates what’s going on.

I SAW Lions RB Reggie Bush carry the ball like a loaf of bread when he fumbled it to Dallas in the third quarter.   That lack of discipline is the sort of thing that sends a less gifted and/or valuable player to the bench.

Denver (7-1) wins vs. Washington (2-5), 45-21

I SAW a game that got wacky at times – especially late.

Case in point: This one just blows my mind…there were seven turnovers in the fourth quarter.  Seven!

TRIVIA BOMB:

Those 7 fourth quarter turnovers are the most by two teams in a quarter since the Oilers and Dolphins had seven of their own in 1991.  (Elias Sports Bureau)

Aside from spoiling ’Skins head coach Mike Shanahan’s return to the city in which he won two Super Bowls, Sunday’s result might tell us more about the vulnerabilities of the Broncos.  Those fourth quarter turnovers certainly don’t instill confidence in an offense that might still be reeling from its poor performance against Indianapolis last week.  QB Peyton Manning was responsible for 4 turnovers, which is quite rare against an inferior defense like Washington’s – especially the pick-6 he served up to CB DeAngelo Hall.  In short, Clockwork Orange looks a bit off time.  I’m wondering how much those two sprained ankles are nagging on Manning.

On the other side of the ball, the Broncos came into Week 8 ranked dead last in passing yards allowed per game this season, so holding a disorganized Washington offence to 154 of them doesn’t exactly erase doubts about the D in Denver.  Also, like last season, the Broncos’ record might be inflated due to the quality of the competition.  Case in point: Denver has gone 4-0 against the NFC East this season, arguably the worst division in the league for 2013.

I SAW the Redskins defense overachieve for the first time this season.  A normally inept group against the pass, Washington held QB Peyton Manning and the vaunted Denver Clockwork Orange offense to seven points midway through the third quarter   …that is, until they got torn apart in the fourth quarter (see below).

For all their struggles this season, the ’Skins D is at least creating plays.  It notched its 5th defensive TD this season, which is already the most in a season in D.C.  since 1994.  (FOX broadcast)

I SAW Broncos QB Peyton Manning reach the halfway point of his regular season with 2,919 passing yards – the most in NFL history through the first eight games.  After stacking up a franchise-record 31 points in the fourth quarter on Sunday, Denver as a team has an average of 42.8 points per game – also a league record through 8 games. (STATS LLC)

I SAW the Denver defense really turn up the pass rush against RG3 and the Redskins, particularly in the fourth quarter once the Broncos got a lead and the D smelled blood.  LB Von Miller hasn’t exactly blown up the stats sheet since coming back from his 6-game suspension but his presence is clearly affecting blocking schemes and freeing up the front 7 as a group.

I SAW Broncos WR Wes Welker not be one of the people unhappy about his move to Denver from New England this season.  According to ESPN Stats & Information, this season represents the first time in his career that the receiver has had a TD reception in 7 or more games in a season – and we’re only halfway through this campaign.

I SAW PROPS to Redskins WR Pierre Garcon for joining Dallas’ Dez Bryant on the same day for catch of the year so far – a twisting, off-hand one-handed grab for a first down.

Kansas City (8-0) wins vs. Cleveland (3-5), 23-17

I SAW the Chiefs run into a tough Browns team.  Cleveland boasts one of the better all-around defenses in the NFL.  Unfortunately for them their offense is abysmal, and what could be considered a flat game for Kansas City turned out as a win for the lone undefeated team in the NFL anyway.

KC is in pressure territory now.  Whether or not they care about their unblemished record as a team, we’ve reached the point in the season where the and-oh team grows a target on their back – even if they’re the sort worthy of this TRIVIA BOMB:

The Chiefs are the first team in major North American sports to start a season 8-0 after having the worst record in the league the year before.  (NBC Sunday Night Football)

I SAW Chiefs QB Alex Smith continue to demonstrate his inability to complete passes downfield beyond, say, 15 yards.  It’s why WR Dwayne Bowe has been relegated to the side of a milk carton this season, and it’s why this team is starting to resemble the Ravens of 2000, with a lockdown defense and a game-managing offense led by a quarterback whose hallmark is not screwing up too badly.

Mind you, Smith is a godsend compared to Trent Dilfer.  He’s been very poised under pressure, as his franchise-high (since 1986) six times sacked served as mere noise en route to a QB rating over 100.  The Chiefs quarterback has been a breath of fresh air for a rudderless franchise that won two games last season, but his lack of a deep ball to expand head coach Andy Reid’s playbook could come back to bite this team.

There’s more about Smith…

I SAW Chiefs QB Alex Smith elevate the Chiefs this season – as well as improving the Niners.  As pointed out by Peter King at The MMQB, one aspect of the Smith trade that San Francisco stipulated was that should Kansas City win eight games this season the fourth round draft pick the Niners got would change to a third-rounder.  Nostradamus himself would have shat his pants over the notion of the Chiefs satisfying that qualification after 8 games, but that’s what has happened.  Now, San Fran has a chance to have 6 draft picks in the first three rounds next year.  (Assuming the compensatory pick from the league for losing S Dashon Goldson to free agency is a third-rounder, which it should be.)

I SAW Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles go somewhat under the radar so far in this ephemeral 2013 season.  According to ESPN Stats & Information the KC back leads his position with 38.5 percent of his team’s yards per scrimmage.  That should be recognized more but isn’t, given the prominence of the rebuilt defense, the arrival of Alex Smith at QB and Andy Reid as head coach.

I SAW the Chiefs convert nine of their twelve attempts on third down in the first half against the Browns.  It’s tough to lose when you’re playing like that.

I SAW Browns WR Josh Gordon have another big day.  Imagine how putrid Cleveland’s offense would be right now without him.  No wonder the team refused to trade him before Tuesday’s deadline.

I SAW a Dunce cap being fitted for Browns WR Devon Bess, who had three drops and a lost fumble.  The fumble came on a sloppy-ass punt return.  The last straw was on a huge third down late in the game when Jason “Eriq LaSalle” Campbell scrambled for his life all around the ER and threw across his body to a wide open Bess, who slid just in time to get both hands and his stomach on the ball before dropping it.

I SAW cause to ask: Anyone else feel like they’re watching ER when Campbell goes under center?   Or that you’re letting your Soul-Glo?

Campbell:

Jason Campbell

(NFL.com)

La Salle:

eriq-la-salle-darryl-jenks-coming-to-america

Oh yeah.

soul_glo

New England (6-2) wins vs. Miami (3-4), 27-17

I SAW the Patriots get booed at home at the end of the first half after putting up just 59 yards and 3 points before the break.  Then they won and Boston turned their channel to the World Series in St. Louis to see their other favourite team (Celtics too, I know, I know) and life moved on.  This New England team feels more and more like the original Belichick-Brady teams that scrambled around with a depleted roster and won Super Bowls.  Even their star player is banged up now….

I SAW Patriots QB Tom Brady throw for 166 yards.  The whole game.  Then I saw late night highlights that showed how swollen Brady’s throwing hand was, so that explains that.  Nonetheless, Brady had to gut out a poor outing on his part.  Not counting the 2008 season opener during which he tore his knee early and left with 76 yards, it has been since a December outing in 2006 against the Texans (109 before being relieved by Matt Cassel in a blowout) that Brady had such an unproductive day in the regular season.  Since his first year as a starter twelve years ago, the New England star has thrown for less than Sunday’s yardage output only six times including that Chiefs game.

I SAW no one need more evidence that the Patriots offense isn’t playing up to its usual standard.  However, it’s worth noting that QB Tom Brady’s pass to WR Aaron Dobson was the first TD in the third quarter of New England’s season thus far.  (They ended up scoring 17 in the frame, actually.)  This is from a team renowned for adjustments in the locker room.

I SAW the Patriots beat the Dolphins in seven straight on the strength of their pass rush.  With their talented cornerback Aqib Talib sidelined again with an injury (hip) and the sad state of the Dolphins O-line it was clear the Pats wanted to send more blitzers than usual.  In fact, New England blitzed a DB on 14 out of 29 dropbacks for 3 sacks, a forced fumble and just 69 yards on 6-of-11 for ’Fins QB Ryan Tannehill.  Coming into Sunday, the Patriots had sent a defensive back on a blitz five times in all. (ESPN Stats & Information)

I SAW the Dolphins lose their fourth straight game.

As mentioned above, Miami’s offensive line sucks.  They’re really missing left tackle Jake Long who wasn’t resigned by the team after some prolonged injury issues and it shows in the lack of time for QB Ryan Tannehill to be efficient downfield.  On passes thrown more than 10 yards downfield on Sunday, the quarterback was a woeful 2-for-11 for 35 yards and two interceptions – according to ESPN Stats & Information.  Take a look at their telling breakdown of the ’Fins season in this regard:

Ryan Tannehill On Throws More Than 10 Yards Downfield

Weeks 1-3 Weeks 4-8
Comp-Att 22-35 16-50
Yards Per Att 12.6 8.1
TD-INT 2-2 0-5
W-L 3-0 0-4

My take: Teams have realized that the Miami running game isn’t cutting it, so they’re tearing apart that porous O-line.   The state of that unit is killing the Dolphins.  What’s more, it renders expensive wide receiver and free agent signee Mike Wallace useless.

I SAW Patriots S Devin McCourty jump up and, while sailing out of bounds, tip an errant Ryan Tannehill pass back in bounds to teammate Marquice Cole for an interception.  The play was the sort of moment that ultimately justifies the well-known tip drill that defensive backs partake in during practice.  Very pretty.

Cincinnati (6-2) wins vs. New York Jets (4-4), 49-9

I SAW the Bengals beat the Jets – BY a 40-burger.  Jinkies!

Cincy is padding their lead in the AFC North thicker than Richard Simmons’ donut pillow.  The victory was by the largest deficit during head coach Marvin Lewis’ 11-year stint in town.  Their defense is still firing on all cylinders with two pick-6’s against the Jets.  The unit also held N.Y. to 1 net yard in the first quarter – the lowest total by an NFL team since 2009.  (STATS LLC)  The Bengals are making my prediction of them earning a playoff bye seem less stupid than I actually am.

The Jets?  Well, they looked just about as stupid as most people expected them to look before they started surprising people with a resurgent defense.  That D got shredded on Sunday….

I SAW Bengals QB Andy Dalton put up the best performance of his young career – at least on paper.  Dalton threw for 257 yards in the first half en route to a career-high 5 TD passes and a 125.7 rating.    My ears are ringing from the thunder of people running to climb on the Dalton bandwagon.  “Oh, he’s figuring it out; he’s becoming great.”  Easy now.  We’re at the point now with the third year quarterback that he needs to produce in the postseason in order to reach the next level.

Either way, Dalton’s big day is forever connected with an even more improbable performance….

I SAW Bengals WR Marvin Jones pounce out of obscurity to score a franchise-record 4 receiving touchdowns on Sunday.  According to STATS LLC Jones is the first player to catch four TDs in a game since Randy Moss and Terrell Owens both did it in 2007.  For a fifth round draft pick this year, I’d say that’s a solid breakout game.  It was clear that Jets CB Antonio Cromartie was causing problems for star WR A.J. Green, who despite 115 receiving yards had just 3 catches on 7 targets.  So, when the red zone came into play, QB Andy Dalton looked to the other side of the field and picked on corners like rookie Dee Milliner (see below) and the still-disappointing Kyle Wilson.  It’s safe to say the plan worked successfully.

I have one question after Jones’ performance: Where is Mohammed Sanu?

I SAW Jets rookie CB Dee Milliner get benched in the midst of the Bengals’ aerial orgy.  Not the best sign for a 9th overall draft pick assigned to cover a relative nobody in Marvin Jones (see above).

I SAW Jets rookie QB Geno Smith regress in this game.  I’ve already lauded the Bengals defense but three pick-6’s in the last two games is unforgiveable, no matter the opponents.  Unless you’re Matt Schaub, that is.  (Too soon?)

Oakland (3-4) wins vs. Pittsburgh (2-5), 21-18

I SAW Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor turn the first play from scrimmage of the game into history.  The young quarterback took a ride fake handoff and legged out a 93-yard TD run – the longest run ever by an NFL QB.

According to STATS LLC Pittsburgh’s Kordell Stewart, at 80 yards, ironically, held the previous record.  At first glance it seems like someone, somehow, should have run for a longer score but then you consider that very few QBs (even the quickest ones) possess the open field breakaway speed to beat the pursuit angles downfield from defensive backs after passing midfield.

Or, you can also consider how long the Pittsburgh defense is in the tooth.  The first thing I thought as Pryor breezed past the third level: Look at those poor old Steelers bastards try to chase that guy….

CB Ryan Clark tried to offer this…defense (via The MMQB):

You have to understand the beast that’s playing quarterback. Once a guy like that gets in front of the whole defense, he’s a legit 4.4. It’s real.”

What’s also real, Ryan, is that any quarterback shouldn’t be getting “in front of the whole defense” on the first play of the game from scrimmage.  More realer: I bet Pittsburgh doesn’t have a single defender that can run a 4.4 without the help of some sort of ACME product.  Understand that the touchdown came on a zone-read QB keep, which means that several Steelers players didn’t play it honest, and then the rest of them lacked the range to close out on Pryor at some point, somewhere within 93 yards before he crossed the goal line.  That’s more embarrassing than those A-gap dive plays that get broken by tailbacks for the length of the field.

I SAW Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor’s game set off a TRIVIA BOMB:

Pryor had 100 yards for the second time this season.  He is just the fourth QB since the merger in 1970 to have multiple 100-yard rushing games in a season.

QBs With Multiple 100-Yard Rushing Games In A Season – Since The Merger

Player Team Season(s)
Terrelle Pryor Raiders 2013
Michael Vick Falcons/Eagles 2004*, 2006, 2010
Donovan McNabb Eagles 2002
Bobby Douglass Bears 1972

*- 3 times in 2004 with Atlanta

(Elias Sports Bureau)

I SAW that if things weren’t already bad for the Steelers, they saw three offensive linemen leave the game due to injury (Ramon Foster, Guy Whimper, David DeCastro).  Good luck with that, Ben Roethlisberger.

Like the Falcons, this team is done like dinner.

New Orleans (6-1) wins vs. Buffalo (3-5), 35-17

I SAW the Saints play a sloppy game but still prevail over the Bills.  As Brees said during the postgame press conference, it’s nice to be able to make those sorts of mistakes and still come away with a win.  Sure, but it’s also gotta be very frustrating to make said mistakes against an inferior team.

I SAW Bills QB Thad Lewis get overwhelmed by the Saints defense.  In all, New Orleans sacked Lewis four times, forced an interception and two fumbles, and made the young pivot look even more rattled than those numbers indicate.

I SAW what might be a coming out party for Saints rookie WR Kenny Stills.  For What It’s Worth, Mr. Stills got all Springfield against Buffalo, treating the Bills like they were from Shelbyville by churning out 129 yards for 2 TDs on just 3 catches.  QB Drew Brees does such a great job of spreading the wealth – he connected with 10 different Saints on Sunday – so it’s hard to read much into Stills’ output.  But if someone could step into the edge receiver role that Marques Colston used to fill capably and thus compliment TE Jimmy Graham, I’m sure Brees would appreciate it.  So far Stills strikes me as more of a speed guy than a go-to guy – a la Raven Torrey Smith – but stretching the field would make the Saints even more dangerous than they have been while relying on Graham to shoulder the load.

I SAW Saints TE Jimmy Graham play with what has been reported as plantar fasciitis in his foot.  Graham made the most of what little direct impact he had on the game by snagging two touchdowns on three targets for the game.  This injury feels like one that might hold the star tight end out of practice for most of the season, like what happened to Charger Antonio Gates several years ago.  The Saints need him on the field, so you can be sure that the coaching staff and trainers will try to rest Graham as much as reasonably possible.

I SAW the Saints defense continue its surprising play.  After last season’s historic shitshow, ’Nawlins has held 6 of their 7 opponents this season under 20 points.  And next game defensive coordinator Rob Ryan gets to scheme for his brother Rex’s team and its undermanned offence.

I SAW Bills WR Stevie Johnson labour through this game with what appeared to be leg pain, although it could just be the back issue he’s been dealing with – he’s pretty banged up right now.  The Bills primary receiver still managed 7 catches for 72 yards and a touchdown, but his spotty health this season has hampered the passing game in Buffalo.

I SAW PROPS for Saints QB Drew Brees for throwing an NFL-record eighth 5-TD passing game.  He’s atop a pretty impressive list:

Most Games With 5 Touchdown Passes – NFL History

Player # Of Games
Drew Brees 8
Peyton Manning 7
Dan Marino 6
George Blanda 5

(Elias Sports Bureau)

New York Giants (2-6) win @ Philadelphia (3-5), 15-7

I SAW the Giants stink their way to a win, earning their first victory without scoring a TD in eleven years (STATS LLC) and they did it by looking weak against a weak rookie QB in Eagle Matt Barkley after starter Michael Vick re-aggravated his hamstring injury.

I know a win is a win, but this is pushing it.

One thing the G-Men can hang their hat on is that the run defense has tightened up, which is a show of pride.  According to STATS LLC, New York has held top running backs LeSean McCoy (twice), Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson to 189 yards on 67 carries – just 2.8 yards per rush.  If you recall, Big Blue has been throwing around the dreaded “playing for pride” euphemism as early as September.  Better late than never in the NFC East.

Now, if the rest of the team could just stop sucking.

Lucky for them, the whole NFC East can’t stop sucking, so with two wins the Giants are right back into the division race.  Hilarious.

I SAW on QB Michael Vick’s hamstring injury: The Eagles pivot reportedly felt a pop.  With backup Nick Foles’ availability uncertain as he deals with a concussion, Vick’s re-injury could spell a write-off of sorts for head coach Chip Kelly’s first year in the city of brotherly love.  Sunday’s loss was Philly’s 10th straight at home, dating back to September 2012, and after averaging over 420 yards of offense in their first six games, they’ve totaled just 479 total in the last two weeks against the suspect D’s of Dallas and New York.

Even if healthy Vick is not the long-term answer at QB, and rookie Matt Barkley has done nothing to instill confidence in him as the guy to plan the team around (see below).  Kelly’s program will likely require patience, but in a town with little of it things might get worse before they get better….

I SAW an unenviable trend starting to take shape in the first year of the Chip Kelly era in Philly.  Basically, the Eagles are good for what ails you as an opponent – unless you really suck.  Philadelphia’s three wins have all come against teams that were winless at the time, and any team that has had at least one win has beaten them.

Another trend I’ve pointed out before is holding true as well.  I pointed out several weeks ago that the Eagles were somehow leading the NFL in rushing yards, but sat in dead last in time of possession.  That mind-bending stat has softened – but only somewhat.  Philly is now third in the league in rushing yards per game.  However, they trail first place Seattle by just 4.0 yards, and they trail only Minnesota in T.O.P.

Wow.  So the most up-tempo offense in the NFL and the team with the best running back in the league holds the ball for the least amount of game time.  Know why?  Because their defense stinks too much to get off the field.  In the Eagles’ case, their goal of snapping the ball with around 18 seconds left on the game clock even further exposes a weak defense.

I SAW Eagles rookie QB Matt Barkley’s first 4 pro possessions end in a turnover by him.  I’m thinking that’s not a good omen.  The offense picked up a bit when he came in to relieve Michael Vick, but that was deceiving.  Philly was hampered by Vick’s tightness in his leg(s), and any quarterback who was healthy enough was going to be an upgrade after Vick reinjured himself.

I SAW the Giants snap an 8-game road losing streak.  QB Eli Manning has now gone two games without throwing an interception after serving up 15 in his first six games.  Their defense also hasn’t allowed a TD in 10 quarters.  They also suck.

I SAW Giants QB Eli Manning pass Phil Simms at 33,462 for career yards as a Giant.  Not PROP-worthy, but impressive.

San Fran (6-2) wins @ Jacksonville (0-8), 42-10-London

I SAW the Jaguars’ 4-year run as a London team start out as would be expected – with a steaming log of a performance.  I understand Jags owner Shad “Shaka” Khan is at the forefront of the league’s initiative for global marketing, but come on, guys.  Could there have been a more unsavory product to promote abroad than Jacksonville’s?  That would be like if I were shopping North American football to China and I sent the CFL.  Don’t be deceived – the numbers will tell you that the majority of the sellout crowd of 83,559 at Wembley Stadium waved Jaguars flags.  That’s because they were part of a free giveaway.  (via Associated Press)

I SAW the Niners continue to rebound from a rough start to their season.

Yes, this was just a win over the moribund Jaguars.  But San Fran’s motto today could very well be Five Alive.  According to Elias Sports Bureau Sunday’s win marked the first time since 1995 that the Niners have won 5 straight games by 10 points or more, and they have now scored 30+ points in a game in five consecutive tries for the first time since 1997.

QB Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been wowing us like we’d thought he would.  The defense has taken its lumps.  But San Fran and division rival Seattle represent the league’s best versions of teams – ones that can dominate without dominant individual numbers.

I SAW that I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but the London games have to get more marketable to knowledgeable football fans.  Otherwise, it just comes off as shameless, complacent NHL-like expansion and we’ve seen how that goes.

Arizona (4-4) wins vs. Atlanta (2-5), 27-13

I SAW a fitting moment in the Falcons’ season thus far when a black cat ran across the field before the game.  Usually one would expect any bad luck to go the way of the Cardinals, but with just 2 wins this season after almost winning the NFC Championship in January, it’s safe to say that Atlanta is the one getting Karma Sutra’d (when life comes back to fuck you in the ass) – especially by injuries.  On that note, RB Steven Jackson made his first appearance for the Falcons since Week 1, but it was for naught – at least that’s what I’d call 6 yards on 11 carries.  Naught.

To make matters worse, it looks like the short-handedness of the roster and the mistakes around him are finally starting to affect QB Matt Ryan’s game – much like how Eli Manning is trying to do too much in New York, to disastrous results.  Ryan’s a better quarterback than Manning (yeah, I said it), but even the best ones can’t overcome as many hazards as the Falcons have encountered so far.  To wit: Ryan had thrown three interceptions coming into this game, and put up four more against Arizona.  Mind you, that defense is one of the better ones.  But Ryan looked unusually out of sorts in the pocket Sunday.

I don’t want to nail a coffin closed prematurely, but the Dirty Birds are officially on life support.

I SAW a coming out party for Cardinals rookie RB Andre Ellington.  The sixth-round speedster from Clemson was too much for an injury-riddled and slow Falcons defense that looked stunned for most of the afternoon.  The high point of Ellington’s 15 carry, 154-yard day came with a long touchdown run in the second quarter.  That 80-yard score is actually the third-longest run in franchise history, the other two both coming prior to 1960.  (STATS LLC)

I SAW an early nominee for one of TFQ’s Upside Down Awards, given following the Super Bowl:

The Back-To-Basics Award

In an increasingly cerebral league sometimes it makes all of the difference to get back to the simple things…

Another positive for the Cardinals to take away from RB Andre Ellington’s performance Sunday: According to ESPN Stats & Information, 130 of the rookie’s 154 rushing yards against the Falcons came before contact.  Not only is that the third-most yards before contact by any player so far this season, but it almost matched Arizona’s 159 total such yards coming into the week.  Obviously credit is due in large part to the run blocking.

I mentioned this numerous times over the last few years, but haven’t touched on it yet this season: the best remedy for an inept offensive line – and lord knows ’Zona’s group has been awful the last two seasons – is to get those big guys looking to hit people in the run game, as opposed to pass protection where they mostly have to hold their ground and be hit.  The former can be a huge confidence-builder.  In fact, there have been instances in the past (New England last season, for example) where this momentum gained in the run game actually translates over to improved pass protection.  It’s too early to know if that is the case in the desert, but Sunday was certainly a good start.  I know of one player who was likely happy about the development….

I SAW PROPS to Cards WR Larry Fitzgerald.  His last few seasons have been an eyesore while playing with struggling QBs but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming the youngest player in NFL history to amass 800 career receptions.  His 30 years, 57 days tops the 30 years and 258 days mark set by Cowboys TE Jason Witten, according to the Associated Press.

SNF- Green Bay (5-2) wins @ Minnesota (1-6), 44-31

I SAW the Packers stay in first place in the NFC North.  The receiving corps is decimated, but elite QB Aaron Rodgers is playing great under such circumstances.  The first sign of a clock controlling running game in Green Bay in years is making an even bigger difference.  Head coach Mike McCarthy has been pining for a reliable ground attack for some time, and it showed Sunday: On its first two possessions the Pack ran 31 times for 160 yards that sapped 15:48 off of the clock.  Rookie back Eddie Lacey is continuing his impressive pace over the last month or so, and RB James Starks added 57 yards including a nice 25-yard TD scamper.

When the smoke cleared the score didn’t indicate Green Bay’s dominance.  They never punted and their only drive that didn’t end with a score was a kneel-down to end the game.

If this current group can hold serve like they have been until guys like Jermichael Finley and Clay Matthews – amongst so many others – can return to the field, this team could find itself hitting January with a lot of momentum.

I SAW the Packers go all Jambi on the Vikings.

Micah Micah Hyde, Micah Hy-dee Ho!

Pee-wee_Jambi_400px

(www.makeupmag.com)

That’s right, Green Bay punt returner Micah Hyde had a sweet 93-yard punt return for a third quarter TD that ultimately won the game.  That’s all I have to say about that.

I SAW some numbers that beg serious questions, for which no one can have reasonable answers.  Vikings all-world RB Adrian Peterson has had just 13 rushes in the last three games.  In fact, According to ESPN Stats & Information, Peterson’s three straight games with 13 rushes or less is tied for the longest streak in his career.  Honestly, what’s up with that?

I SAW Packers WR Jordy Nelson solidify himself as a big play wideout.  Actually, Nelson’s 7 receptions for 123 yards and 2 TDs on 8 targets is pretty damn good in general, but his 4 TD catches for over 75 yards since the start of the 2010 season is tied with Atlanta’s Julio Jones for the most.  (ESPN Stats & Information)

I SAW Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson return the opening kickoff an NFL-record 109 yards for a TD.  It’s too bad that Patterson isn’t getting integrated into the offense more (think Tavon Austin in St. Louis, but less so), but he’s sure looked great on special teams so far.

TRIVIA BOMB:

The two longest plays in league history (109 yards) have both happened in the Metrodome: Then-Charger Antonio Cromartie’s 2007 return of a missed field goal and Patterson’s return.

MNF- Seattle (7-1) wins @ St. Louis (3-5), 14-9

I SAW the Seahawks earn an ugly win.

In fact, how did Seattle win this game?

Seahawks vs. Rams On Sunday

Seahawks Rams
Plays 40 71
First Downs 7 23
Yards 135 339
Time Of Possession 21:51 38:09

(ESPN Stats & Information)

It’s been since 2010 (Miami) that a team has won a game with 135 total yards or less and 7 or fewer first downs.  Seattle finished the first half with its lowest yardage output in a first half (37) since 1998.  (STATS LLC)  Worse: They had -1 total yards in the first quarter.

Often, stats like this would be a candidate for our Upside-Down Award, Thief In The Night.  To be sure, it’s not like Seattle controlled the game.  But the Rams defense isn’t to be underestimated and the ’Hawks came out lame, perhaps due to the weird atmosphere in St. Louis, where a B-Team home crowd came out thanks to Game 5 of an awesome World Series being played in town at the same time.  (Actually, Thief In The Night was awarded to Matthew Stafford and the Lions.  See Detroit wins vs. Dallas, 31-30.)

At the end of the day, Seattle continued its best start in franchise history en route to being the first NFC team with 7 wins this season.  For me, this victory doesn’t dent the Seahawks’ reputation as arguably the best team in the NFL.  But one thing does concern me: How does RB Marshawn Lynch only get 8 rushes in a close bruising game like this one?  Hopefully the play calling isn’t getting too complacent with their quarterback’s success against adversity….

I SAW Seahawks QB Russell Wilson continue to win despite blasé stats.  Russell seems to be a really good player that will be good for a while, but he’s under a lot of duress lately.  According to ESPN Stats & Information, Wilson’s career-high 7 sacks against the Rams on Sunday is almost par for the course in 2013 – he’s been pressured on 38.5 percent of his dropbacks this season, most in the NFL.  That’s the main thing that separates this team from their division rival, the Niners.  San Fran has a great bruising O-line.  Seattle doesn’t.

I SAW the Rams prove themselves a solid team.  It’s just so sad that they lost QB Sam Bradford for the season, because despite several hiccups this season they continue to prove that they can hang with the best.

I SAW that the Seahawks have allowed an NFL-best 31.6 completion percentage in the red zone this season.  (ESPN Stats & Information)  Now that’s some lockdown defense.

STAY TUNED NEXT WEEK FOR WHAT I SAW, WEEK 9 – HERE AT TFQ. 

IN THE MEANTIME, FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK AND @TFQuarter

  

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One thought on “What I Saw, Week 8 – 2103

  1. Pingback: What I Saw, Week 9 – 2013 | The Fifth Quarter

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