The Sunday Slam: NFL Week 10 Review
Posted on 11/13/2011 8:13:48 PM
I'd like to say, first off, that yes, the top two "over-rated" players on my list from this morning both had monster games, but that doesn't mean that over the entirety of the season they have not pulled their weight or their reputations. That said, it does make me feel a tad idiotic. What is it the NFL harps on? Any given Sunday? Yeah I'll go with that.
Even my infant daughter is peering up at me as though to say "excuses, excuses." Ah well. Making the day even worse, to me, was that
The Seahawks outplayed the Ravens, pure and simple. Most AFC fans don't get to see much of Marshawn Lynch, and know only that he's a supposedly good player on the usually unfortunate Seattle squad, and so there's a degree of surprise in watching him move the ENTIRE SCRUM OF LINEMEN several yards forward SEVERAL TIMES. The commentators were also kind enough to point out that it was perhaps the best game Tavaris Jackson had ever played, and that maybe playing through the pain allowed him to focus to the point where his potential finally blossomed. So, despite more than 100 yards worth of penalties, the Seahawks held out over the Ravens, 22-17. There's no excuse for the Baltimore offense, since had only 12 total rushing attempts. David Reed didn't help by losing two fumbles. Even when Flacco plays well (and he was alright) something always seems to go wrong. Look for this to mark a downhill for Reed, by the way. Laquan Williams, the rookie who grew up in Baltimore and went to Maryland (and unsurprisingly a fan favorite as a result) is slowly emerging as a player of equivalent skill, role... and both less injury prone and with steadier hands.
Moment of humor and hope though? Ray Rice, today underused as a runner (much like at Jacksonville, where...wait...they lost...there might be a pattern here, Cam Cameron) was given the ball in the backfield, on the goal line, and lobbed a beautiful pass to tight end Ed Dickson. Apparently he really can do it all.
DeMarco Murray is everything the Cowboys could have dreamed. Of his four starts, three of them have been at least 100 yard rushing games, including his phenomenal opener against the Rams, and Murray went 135 yards rushing and 36 receiving against the Bills defense. The Cowboys have had a somewhat flux offensive line and it's finally settling in, and the differences are obvious. The Bills absent pass rush made pass protection easy, and Dallas could focus on making holes for Murray to use--which he did, and to great effect. The Bills backfield is good enough to make sure Murray didn't rip for another 200 yard game, but trying to prevent that by sitting low allowed Tony Romo to essentially hold a passing clinic. Honestly, Romo was almost unrecognizable--he set a franchise record by completing 23 of 26 for an 88.5% completion rate, 270 yards and three touchdowns. A few years ago this kind of game was to be expected--the Bills were atrocious--but this year the Bills have fought fiercely, almost primally to acquire a place of respect, and this kind of drubbing only serves to show what the Cowboys really should be doing almost weekly. Still, 44-7? That's just alarming. The Bills are hitting the drawing boards hard tomorrow.
It was a battle, alright, but not in a good way. The Browns-Rams game was just ugly. Probably the singular high point was the play of Steven Jackson, who rushed for 128 yards and did far more to set up St. Louis's touchdown than any passing. Both quarterbacks struggled, which was understandable for Bradford who faced a capable secondary in Cleveland but Colt McCoy wasn't exactly throwing at Revis Island. I was in Colt McCoy's corner for a long time, arguing that he has almost nothing to work with (Josh Cribbs and Seneca Wallace are probably his best receivers, that should make everyone twinge) but he's still not producing the way he should, even with a less-than-talented supporting cast. This stinker of a game, 13-12 Rams with only one touchdown in the whole thing, is an unfortunately eloquent argument for Colt McCoy possibly going down the Kyle Orton route: as Bill Walsh said, he's good, just good enough to lose you the game.
I'm never going to question the supremacy of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, but the Saints and Falcons are making a strong go at being the second most-bitter in football. Neither team is known for its terrifying physicality--the closest you'll come is usually Michael Turner getting a hole on a hard block from a Falcons lineman-- but this almost got ugly. It came down to an overtime field goal, for one thing, and 26-23 is not a score that will resound across the league as the Saints being on top of their form. Atlanta's secondary is not great, and although Drew Brees extended his streak of games with a passing touchdown in a row to 30, his arm didn't end up winning the day. Mike Smith, Atlanta's coach, was looking at 4th-and-a-foot or so in overtime on his own 29 and decided to go for it. There's aggressive, and there's just stupid, and going for it on your own 29 in overtime is the second of those. Frankly I'm surprised it went to overtime--in general this year the Saints have played much better than the Falcons, and it was the rivalry bringing out the best in the birds that made this game close.
Dan Snyder, the owner of the Redskins, should open a ride outside of his stadium entitled The Quarterback Carousel, and at the rate both men are playing it might be a ride with many more faces before the season ends. Under "Signs of the Apocalypse" are that both Rex Grossman and Matt Moore passed for more than 200 yards and Reggie Bush had two touchdowns and is suddenly in danger of achieving consistent competency. His 3.3 yards per carry isn't exactly stellar, but he's getting the job done (Lousaka Polite's blocking has a lot to do with that) and suddenly teams have to pay attention to the Dolphin backfield instead of just blanketing every available man on Brandon Marshall--and Marshall can have a 98 yard day for himself. The fans might be upset but Miami's offense is slowly playing itself out of the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes, and the defense which was so strong last year is responding. There was one shot, maybe a split second, where Karlos Dansby was pulling on his helmet with a smile on his face as his gaze swept from the scoreboard down to the opposition and then to his team. For that, and that alone, I think the Dolphins will fight for the rest of the season: to feel pride in themselves again, and grin in anticipation of playing the game. For the Dolphins it wasn't just 20-9, it was self-fulfillment on a roll.
Quick aside: Ryan Kerrigan is quietly carving out whole sections of the field where are scorched the letters "RK was here." Few of his draftmates are elevating their whole part of a team the way he is (I say few, not none, oh Yes We Cam) and if he keeps playing like this then he will be a foundation stone for the new Redskins defense to rebuild on much like Haloti Ngata was for the Ravens half a decade ago.
Speaking of Yes We Cam, apparently it takes a Titan to really just shut him down point blank. Oh, and Chris Johnson showed up. The day started as usual for Cam Newton. He was poised, he threw crisply and accurately, he scrambled faster than most running backs and gave his all. But as the game went on and Steve Smith got blanketed by the tempestuous Cortland Finnegan and crew Newton went to his tight ends, all for short yards, and in the complete absence of a run game it just wasn't enough. The Titans defense basically rode around in Newton's back pocket with him, which is impressive given how strong Carolina's line usually is, but the Titans really needed this one to keep potential pace with Houston. Carolina could probably have survived their offensive meltdown if their special teams hadn't given up great field position frequently and a score, or if their defense besides Chris Gamble had played even decently. But they didn't. This game highlighted two facts: that Cam Newton is a fantastic athlete and quarterback but can't win games by himself and that the Panthers have improved but not enough to avoid being on the wrong end of a 30-3 beatdown.
Honestly, as a Tebow fan, I have no idea how this keeps happening. The winning, I mean. It makes no sense. He did not complete a pass in the first half--his entire game was 2 for 8. Even I can do that math without a calculator--25% completion. High school quarterbacks with that kind of completion rate would be booed off the field. When both starting running backs--the surprisingly tough Willis McGahee and the strangely, suddenly ascendant Knowshon Moreno--left the game with injuries, I just wrote the Broncos off. No big deal. Lost their starting runners, the offensive line is a little banged up already, the Tim Tebow era goes 2-2. Nope. One of Tebow's completions was the longest of his career, a 56 yard touchdown pass that was so precisely, iconically, perfectly placed you'd think he was a pocket passer born and raised. Too bad an earlier one to the same receiver, Eric Decker, was so underthrown it almost hit a surprised defender in the helmet, along with a bevy of other missed wings. Without that one long pass, it'd be possible to assess Tebow and say "inspiration leader, born running back" or something along those lines, but he always taunts us with the little shadows of ability that make him so intriguing. Denver's defense really should be the story here, how they held down a talented if inconsistant Chief squad and managed to limit Dwayne Bowe to two catches for 17 yards and sack Matt Cassell three times. But as long as rolls on his improbable journey, I doubt anyone will be able to look away, especially from the pure strangeness of this 17-10 Denver victory.
For much of the first half the score between the Jets and Patriots looked more like a baseball statistic than a football one, but don't worry--Tom Brady got tired of that. For someone who plummeted in the draft in part because he has all the speed and grace of a walrus on its back Tom Brady avoided the Jets' vaunted pass rush fantastically today, although not before giving up a humorous safety in the first half. Muhammad Wilkinson, the rookie 1st rounder for the Jets, won't get the statistical sack for that play because Brady tried to throw it away, but don't be fooled. Mark the calendar. November 13, 2011- Tom Brady was sacked into a safety by a rookie. It was a moment the Jets will have to relish, because it turns out that Brady was still himself after that. The Patriots quarterback carved up the Jets linebacker corps and safeties using Rob Gronkowski's freakish size and skills and--get this--he even worked in Chad Ochocinco on the outside! That's how you know it's a bad day for the Jets, when Ochocinco puts up 65 yards on you. Also, Welker vs. Revis ended in decided favor of the island-maker. Welker did have 6 catches, yes, but normally when Revis was pulled to cover someone else (probably no one knows why. Do you know, Sexy Rexy? Do you? I think you might have to kill whoever reassigned that coverage) and it was almost sad to watch Brady scan the field, look at his wideouts on the sides be covered and his screen option not separating enough and finally, pathetically, Brady would almost visibly sigh at seeing Revis sitting on top of Welker's head half the time while wearing a look of obnoxious superiority. The league's leading receiver (Welker) was held to 6 catches for 46 yards.
So instead Brady hit up Gronkowski for a career day, 113 yards and 2 touchdowns, and the Patriots crushed the Jets 37-16. Next week, really, will be the test of whether or not Tebow's magical (divine?) charm works in full. The Lions matched up well against the Broncos, but the Jets are a little less tailor made to crush the Mile High mustangs...although now Rex Ryan will be out for blood, cackling and chortling in his mad blitz-planning laboratory. If Tim Tebow feels fear, this is an appropriate time, so that Thursday won't be such a shock to his system.
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