By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Thinker of Things
Some thoughts from the first Sunday afternoon of football in nine months, a very competitive three hours that saw seven of 11 games decided by a touchdown or less.
Rex Ryan can coach defense.
Look, we know Rex Ryan is a bit of a blowhard, a heart-on-his-sleeve type who sometimes lets his emotions make him look bad.
But he’s a damn good football coach.
It was pretty clear that Tampa Bay was bringing guns to a knife party at the New Meadowlands Sunday – the Bucs had all of the best skill players, Darrelle Revis, the better QB, a solid offseason and bright future.
And the Jets won. Sure, it took a late hit by Tampa’s Lavonte David, and a long FG by Nick Folk, but they did it.
They did it with defense, holding Tampa to 12 first downs and 250 net yards – no small feat. They didn’t have many sacks (3) or picks (1), but they just held the Bucs in check more or less all day long (one 39-yard catch by Vincent Jackson the exception).
Ryan’s record as a pro coach is now 35-30 with four playoff wins in four seasons, and four top-ten finishes in yardage defense. If new GM John Idzik and offensive coordinator Marty Morninhweg can bring the balance that Ryan needs to succeed, who’s to say this team can’t do what it’s done twice in his era – ride a pedestrian offense to the playoffs.
Hey, some teams tried really hard!
Jacksonville and Tampa won’t be smiling much in Florida this week. The Bengals aren’t too psyched after a 24-21 loss to Chicago. Pittsburghers might have to take Monday off.
But there were cheers for most of the other losers on Sunday afternoon.
Buffalo: The Bills wanted it, the fans wanted it, most of America wanted it, but you kind of knew when New England got the ball with 4:00 left down a point that this wasn’t going to be in the cards for the wagon-circlers. E.J. Manuel avoided turnovers, and the Bills got their money’s worth, but they also got New England in a restocking phase and lost the game. No confetti, please.
Oakland: On paper, this was shaping up as one of the worst teams since the invention of the forward pass, but they challenged Indy on the road for one of the greatest moral victories since the Crusades. Terrelle Pryor pulled a Johnny Manziel, running for 112 and throwing for 217. He threw two INTs, but one was on a deep ball shot, and he didn’t fumble despite 13 carries and four sacks. Heck of a start. They might win four games yet!
Minnesota: They still have Adrian Peterson, who had three touchdowns on the day even if he was largely bottled up by Detroit’s defense. So there’s that. And on a day when nothing else went right (28 first downs allowed, three INTs by Christian Ponder), they only lost by 10.
Cleveland and Carolina: A 23-10 home loss to Miami isn’t great, but the Browns’ defensive numbers were – they allowed just 275 total yards, had four sacks and held Miami to an improbable 0.9 yards a carry. Ditto for the Panthers’ defense, which held Seattle to 13 points
Hail to the new defensive bosses.
Bob Sutton in Kansas City. Andy Reid had struggled mightily for a defensive coordinator he could turn to after Jim Johnson’s death in Philly, but Sutton made the most of his first shot after 13 years as a Jets assistant. The Chiefs were swarming, basically pitching as shutout as the Jags’ only points came on a safety. Even in garbage time, the Chiefs were getting it done, allowing 2.5 yards a play getting six sacks and forcing 11 punts.
Gregg Williams in Tennessee. He’s not officially the coordinator, but the Titans played Williams-style ball in his first game back from a year’s suspension. The Titans held Pittsburgh to 195 yards – in Pittsburgh – and OLB Zach Brown (two sacks, 9 tackles) put the league on notice that he’s going to be a Pro Bowler before long. Williams’ defenses have been hit or miss, but they were all miss a year ago in Tennessee under Jerry Gray (29.4 PPG against, last in NFL).
Rob Ryan in New Orleans. When Atlanta got up 10-0 early, you wondered if the Saints wouldn’t need 41 to win this. Instead, the Falcons only managed seven more, the Saints forced two turnovers and Brees didn’t need heroics to win it.
Grab bag of stuff and things:
Russell Wilson has still never been blown out of a game as a pro (27 preseason-regular-postseason games) …
The Bears got a lot of hype for their new-look offense, but it was pretty much a replication of what they did last year. Matt Forte had 92 yards, Brandon Marshall had 104, Jay Cutler was good not great (21-33-242, 1 INT, 2 TD). What’s changed? …
Seattle was great with Scoreability last year (8th), but not Sunday – they needed 28.5 yards for every point, which would have ranked them last on the Index a year ago. …
When Danny Amendola went out in the first half with an injury, you could hear an entire New England fan base erupt: WE SHOULA KEPT FACKIN’ WES WELKAH!!
But Amendola came back in the second half, presumably thanks to some miracle of modern science, and was the only reliable option for Tom Brady in the Patriots’ win. He finished with 10 catches, 104 yards, and a lot of NFLShop.com jersey orders. …
Good news for the Lions – in a game where Calvin Johnson only had 37 yards, his teammates combined for 430 of their own. …
Dan Dierdorf and Dick Stockton look more and more like the critics on the Muppet Show with every season. …
The Bengals might be a Super Bowl contender, but at some point two things have to happen: they have to run the ball (18 for 47 from the running backs), and Andy Dalton can't keep having 2-turnover days (four in his last six regular-season games).