Posted on: December 18, 2011 2:30 pm
By Josh Katzowitz
It’s been a bit of Good Rex vs. Bad Rex today, but it’s been all Bad Eli so far, as the Redskins have taken a 17-3 lead heading into halftime.
While the problem isn’t solely with Eli Manning, who is 7 of 17 for 77 yards and an interception, the Giants haven’t gotten anything going on offense, and they haven’t stopped the Redskins 27th-ranked offense (in points scored). Despite throwing two interceptions, Rex Grossman is 10 of 17 for 122 yards and a touchdown
With the Cowboys manhandling the Buccaneers on Saturday night, the Giants need a win to keep pace in the NFC East. With a loss, though, New York would slip to 7-7 and reduce a playoff appearance rather dramatically.
It would be the first time since 1999 that the Redskins would sweep a season series against the Giants.
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Posted on: December 2, 2011 5:21 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 5:23 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
Despite a glaring need at quarterback on a number of playoff contenders, no one claimed recently-released quarterback Donovan McNabb on Friday.
McNabb, who reportedly asked for his release after being demoted, was supposed to draw interest from someone, like the Bears (currently starting Caleb Hanie) or the Texans (currently starting T.J. Yates), but instead passed through waivers, which makes him an unrestricted free agent.
Quite obviously, the limited upside that McNabb offers just wasn't worth the downside of picking up the rest of the quarterback's contract with a waiver claim and/or dealing with bringing McNabb into a backup situation that he probably wouldn't be happy with anyway.
McNabb could still sign with someone as a free agent, but Chicago seems like the only truly viable option for him, what with Houston inking Jake Delhomme recently.
Which means that this may be the end of the road, at least for now, for McNabb, who's impromptu live appearance on ESPN Thursday night may be the best predictor of what he'll be doing in 2012. He's now been demoted by three different teams and benched for Kevin Kolb, Rex Grossman and Christian Ponder in the span of two years.
The same team that just cut him, Minnesota, claimed Sage Rosenfels to take McNabb's place. Houston seems willing to roll with Jake Delhomme as Yates backup rather than taking a flier on McNabb. In other words, you don't need shades to stare at McNabb's future on the football field.
But hey, on the bright side, it's not like the Redskins, Eagles and Vikings -- 10 wins between them this year! -- are having a bunch of success this year.
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Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:00 am
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Tim Tebow led the Broncos on a 95-yard game-winning drive against the Jets. The other, perhaps more important storylines to come out of that game: Von Miller is scary, Denver's defense is improving, and Mark Sanchez was the worst quarterback on the field last Thursday.
That's not hyperbole. Sanchez looks the part and has the pedigree but nearly three years into his NFL career and he's a replacement-level quarterback. That would be one thing if he were, say, a former seventh-round pick like Ryan Fitzpatrick (pre-shiny new deal, obviously). It's a different story altogether given that the Jets traded up from No. 17 to No. 5 to take Sanchez in the 2009 NFL Draft.
When New York's defense is one of the best in the league and the running game is working, Sanchez has been good. But that's sort of the point: you don't draft a franchise quarterback to man the controls when everything is going well. You draft a franchise quarterback to win those games that you were previously losing. The Jets are 5-5 and a big part of that is because of Sanchez.
Late in the third quarter of the Broncos game, with the Jets leading 10-3 and facing a third and short, Sanchez threw a pick-six. It wasn't a tipped pass, or a 50-yard bomb that was effectively a third-down punt. It was a jerk route to Plaxico Burress. Typically, the joke is that the defender in coverage ends up looking like a jerk on such plays.
Not this time. Sanchez's throw was off target, Burress didn't come back to the ball, and cornerback Andre Goodman jumped the route. Twenty-six yards later, the score was 10-10. And then Tebow happened.
Head coach Rex Ryan defended Sanchez (Because, really, what's he going to say? "I'm happy to announce that Mark Brunell, 52 years young, will now lead us to the playoffs!")
"This is our quarterback," Ryan said at his Friday press conference. "He’s going to be our quarterback for as long as I’m here, which I hope is a long, long time. He can make all the throws. He’s a competitive guy. Has it been perfect? No, absolutely. But it hasn’t been perfect for our entire team."
But Rex, what about the children!?
Now, for your unintentional comedy interlude, courtesy of Redskins' Radio Network (featuring Larry Michael, Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff and by way of DC Sports Bog)…
The missed Gano field goalWe've been saying for several weeks that there's a decent chance the Redskins lose out. They're now 3-7 and six weeks closer to that reality. Silver lining: players are taking responsibility. In fact, cornerback DeAngelo Hall thinks he should be cut. We won't disagree with him.
“It’s frustrating, but I can’t point a finger at anybody but myself,” Hall said, via the Washington Times. “The way I’m playing right now, they need to go cut me because I’m definitely not worth what I’m getting. It’s frustrating. Hopefully they see something in me and they bring me back next year, but the way things are going right now, I’m definitely not playing up to par.”
We know Hall wasn't responsible for a wide-open Jason Witten sprinting to the end zone on a 59-yard reception midway through the fourth quarter. But Hall didn't exactly track Witten down, either. For a former "NFL's Fastest Man" champion, he sure looked slow (but not quite as slow as the time Hines Ward, wearing one shoe, outran him to the end zone).
One last thing: former NFL quarterback turned handball aficionado Jake Plummer spoke recently about playing for Mike Shanahan. The two were together in Denver from 2003-2006 until Plummer retired after it became clear that Jay Cutler would be the starter.
“It just seemed like every game I could have completed these four more passes or these five more shots here and it would have been perfect," Plummer said, via Yahoo.com. "And that just wasn’t my personality....But Shanahan wanted perfection and he wore a lot of us down there.”
We're guessing Shanahan would do just about anything to have such problems now. To Plummer's credit, he didn't take pleasure in Shanahan's current predicament (at least not publicly).
“Yeah and you know what, I don’t like to see that,” he said. “I mean I don’t want to see anybody struggle. And I’m not sitting here gloating or feeling better about his lack of success down there. As time goes you learn more things. … Hey, I was lucky to get the opportunity to play for Shanahan. He helped turn my career around and gave me a chance to show that I was a winner, regardless of how things went down."
Lions selected running back Kevin Smith in the the third round of the 2008 draft. After suffering late-season injuries in '09 and '10, the team chose not to re-sign him. He was out of football until two weeks ago when Detroit, in dire need of warm bodies in the backfield, gave him a call. Against the Panthers Sunday, Smith ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and added another 61 receiving yards and a score.
We mention this because after Chris Johnson treaded the Panthers for 130 rushing yards last week, there were some rumblings of him "being back." Turns out, that performance was an aberration and unless the Titans are facing the Panthers every week from here on out, Johnson continues to be one of the worst backs in the league.
Back during training camp, when Johnson was parked on his couch waiting for a new deal, one of the reasons his supporters gave for paying him was that Johnson's presence in the backfield would take pressure off rookie quarterback Jake Locker. Well, Locker saw extensive action against the Falcons and he looked just fine. And he did it without anything resembling a running game.
Which brings us back to CJ. He carried the ball 12 times in Atlanta for a grand total of 13 yards. That works out to a nifty 1.08 yards per carry. Put differently: Matt Hasselbeck, who left the game with an arm injury and probably travels 40 yards in closer to six seconds than five, was the Titans' leading rusher with 17 yards on the afternoon.
(Even more embarrassing, courtesy of colleague Will Brinson's Sorting the Sunday Pile: "There were nine -- NINE! -- quarterbacks with more rushing yards than Johnson in Week 11.")
“I know we didn’t execute some plays that we could have,” Johnson said, via the Tennessean. “They are a pretty good defense, and they made a lot of plays out there. I’m sure if we would have executed better, then we could have had a better day in the running game.”
Or, as we mentioned above, the Titans could just petition the league to face the Panthers every week. Bears very little responsibility for the Jags' 3-7 season. He's a rookie quarterback on one of the NFL's worst offensive teams, and Jack Del Rio is a lame-duck coach who'll likely ring in the new year looking for a new job.
Jacksonville's final drive against the Browns Sunday was a microcosm of their offense and their season. Trailing 14-10 and on the Browns' 2-yard-line with 13 seconds to go, the Jaguars ran the following three plays:
1st and goal: Maurice Jones-Drew 1-yard run (eight seconds remaining).
2nd and goal: Gabbert throws incomplete to Jason Hill (three seconds remaining).
3rd and goal: Gabbert throws incomplete to Mike Thomas (game over, thanks for coming).
So that happened. When Del Rio was asked after the game why he didn't get the ball to the Jags' best playmaker, MJD, this happened:
“Our offensive coordinator [Dirk Koetter] calls the plays. I can’t speak to his thinking. You’ll have to get with him,” he said via the Florida Times-Union.
Translation: "I checked out of this job in September and I'm just going through the motions until I'm officially canned. I almost forgot we had a game Sunday."
What makes Del Rio's comment even more bizarre: Jacksonville called timeout with eight seconds left. Presumably, he had some say in the final-play strategy.
“We certainly talked about those things through the course of the drive. We got down and took our crack. You can make a case for doing that. You can guess any number of plays when you don’t connect. [It’s] a missed opportunity,” Del Rio said.
As PFT.com's Gregg Rosenthal noted Monday: "Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick and Mike Smith would all be involved in a call like that. They are defensive coaches, but they make big decisions on offense. It’s their team."
You know what else those three coaches have in common? They ain't getting fired in two months.
The first pick was another miscommunication with Vincent Jackson in the end zone (it happened in Week 10 against the Raiders). The second was inexplicably bad. Rivers, flushed from the pocket, went to throw the ball away. Somehow instead of, you know, throwing the ball away, the pass sailed right into the arms of Bears defensive back Corey Graham.
When you're incapable of throwing an incompletion, it portends bad things for the season.
After a 4-1 start, the Chargers are now 4-6. Next up: the 5-5 Tebows are coming to town and Rivers is reduced to saying things like this:
“We’ve got to find a way to think that we have a one-game season against Denver at our place,” he said, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. “And let’s find a way to win that game.”
There are six games left in the 2011 season and barring a miraculous turnaround and a ton of luck, San Diego will miss the postseason. And that, according to the Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee, could mean curtains for Norv Turner.
"At this point, it is apparent only a drastic turnaround will save Turner, as the Chargers have lost five straight and are in last place in the AFC West, in grave danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight season. [Team owner Dean] Spanos also has wondered about repeated game management decisions, and after five years it is possible Turner has been given enough time to get done what no Chargers coach ever has – win a Super Bowl."
Maybe Rex Ryan was onto something.
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Posted on: November 18, 2011 4:28 pm
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Need further proof that the Redskins won’t turn to John Beck to start at quarterback any time soon? Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is saying he's happy with the way Rex Grossman has played since Beck turned his job back over to Grossman.
Wait, what’s that you say? Grossman threw two interceptions and led his team to three field goals in a loss to the one-win Dolphins while recording a quarterback rating of 58.3? Um, Shanahan looks past all that … I suppose.
“I thought he did a good job moving the ball. I know we’re disappointed we didn’t get into the end zone, but I thought he did a good job out there,” Shanahan said, via the Washington Post. “He did a good job getting completions. Made some good decisions.
“I know he had two picks, but both of the throws he had, it was the right throw. It’s unfortunate what happened, but I didn’t think the two picks were his fault. But he did a good job of getting rid of the ball and making the right reads.”
Grossman, at least, managed to complete 65.6 percent of his passes for a respectable 215 yards, but his stats weren’t actually much better than what Beck accomplished in his three starts with the team.
It seems pretty clear -- at least to Shanahan -- that the team responds better when Grossman is in the game, and even though Beck is more athletic than Grossman, Shanahan likes Grossman’s demeanor better.
“It wasn’t one reason in particular, but Rex has a lot more experience than [Beck]. He’s played in a lot of games,” Shanahan said. “John did a fairly good job in that Philly game, taking us down, and in that Carolina game. But then with injuries going, we felt like John out there, didn’t have the experience to get through those tough times. So we felt more comfortable with Rex and felt he gave us the best chance to win.”
Until next season when, presumably, somebody else will be starting at quarterback in Washington.
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Posted on: November 15, 2011 10:00 am
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Ray Rice, was on the sidelines with the Grand Schemer, Cam Cameron, as quarterback Joe Flacco was winging the ball all over the yard against the god-awful Jaguars. By the time it was over, Rice had just eight carries, and Flacco ended up 21 of 38 for 137 yards and Baltimore lost to Jacksonville, 12-7.
On Sunday, it was an encore performance; Rice had five carries, Flacco threw the ball 52 times … and the Ravens loss to the Seahawks. But Cameron isn't solely responsible for what happened in Seattle. The brunt of the blame falls on kick returner David Reed, who had not one but two fumbles, both recovered by the Seahawks and converted into six points.
“I was kind of hoping that it would go like this, where they wouldn't feature [the run] as much [and] they wouldn't be balanced out,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “We got up enough and at halftime, they decided they were going to throw the football, so that we didn't see much of the running game at all. … I thought that helped us a little bit."
To recap: Cameron played right into Carroll's (!) hands. Let that sink in for a moment.
Here's something else we don't understand: Rice fumbled early in the Jags game and found himself on the bench. He's probably one of the most important players on the roster. Reed fumbles … and head coach John Harbaugh sends him right back out there. And he fumbles again. Reed might be the 52nd or 53rd most important player on the roster.
“You can’t turn the ball over,” Harbaugh said. (Just ask Ray Rice, who was benched against the Jags.) “I mean, hey, this is the NFL, and you’ve got to protect the football. He knows that. And he will, he will. David Reed’s a tough guy, he’s a competitive guy, he’s been there before. I’ve got a lot of confidence in David, a lot of respect for David. He’s one of our guys.”
Kicker Billy Cundiff also honked two field-goal attempts, a 50 and 52-yarder. Yes, those are long-range opportunities and it's hardly shocking that he missed them both. But Baltimore signed him to a five-year, $15 million contract in the offseason, the type of money you pay guys to make tough kicks.
Finally, as our CBSSports.com colleague Will Brinson pointed out in his weekly Sorting the Sunday Pile column: this is unfortunate for Ray Lewis, his knees, ankles and all 10 toes.
Upside: We applaud Ray-Ray for his impromptu Carlton homage. Didn't see that coming.
Juan Castillo, Nnamdi Asomugha (but mostly Castillo) - EaglesThe dream is dead, the team is done and Philly should probably spend the final seven weeks of the season figuring out who's worth keeping around for 2012. To borrow one of Emmitt Smith's favorite words, the latest debaclement came against the lowly Cardinals, who showed up at the Linc for the Kevin Kolb Bowl -- without Kolb -- and proceeded to beat the Eagles with the mighty John Skelton.
We found out Monday that Michael Vick suffered a few broken ribs during the game and that my explain why the offense sputtered, but the defense has been a disaster all year. Some might say that this is what happens when you promote your offensive assistant to defensive coordinator.
But presumably Juan Castillo doesn't teach his players to blow coverages, miss tackles or avoid contact altogether. At some point, the players have to, you know, execute. Which brings us to Nnamdi Asomugha. He's not the Eagle's biggest problem (far from it, in fact), but he came to Philly as one of the league's best cornerbacks with reputation for shutting down the opponent's best receiver.
This season, he's been miscast (which we can blame on Castillo). Brinson likes to say the Eagles want Asomugha to be Charles Woodson 2.0 when it makes much more sense to let him be the original Nnamdi. In the fourth quarter of Sunday's Cardinals game, Asomugha lined up offsides (seriously, how does that happen to veteran defensive back?) allowing Arizona to convert on third down. He also dropped a fourth-quarter interception.
The biggest crime, however, was that he wasn't super-glued to Larry Fitzgerald all day. And that again falls on Castillo.
"It would've been nice to be on him in that situation," Asomugha said. "I've done it before. With him. With others. Done it before. Chase guys. Follow guys."
Not Sunday. Instead, Castillo's gameplan seemed to involve letting Fitzgerald get open, which happened seven times for 146 yards, including two touchdowns.
One score came in the second quarter when Castillo got the bright idea to cover Fitzgerald with … rookie linebacker Brian Rolle.
Then, in the fourth quarter, Fitzgerald snagged a ball that deflected off Joselio Hanson's hand's and he walked into the end zone for the game-tying score. On the game-winning drive, rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett was in coverage on Fitzgerald on two of his receptions.
Asked after the game why Jarrett -- and not, I don't know, Asomugha -- was covering Fitzgerald at that point in the proceedings, Castillo said "Because I gotta do a better job."
This is the sort of answer you expect from an eight-year-old who forgets to take out the trash, not a grown man in charge of coordinating up a defense that happens to have a legit shutdown corner at his disposal.
The West Coast offense isn't suited for the Rust Belt, especially when everybody knows what's coming (we talked about this phenomenon plenty last week). It was more of the same against the Rams, but the Browns, trailing 13-12, had a chance to take the lead with just over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Instead, Dawson shanked a 22-yarder. Replays showed that Pontbriand's snap his the foot of left guard Alex Mack, causing the ball to skip back to holder Brad Maynard, throwing off Dawson's timing in the process.
“This is one of the lows of my career,” Maynard said, via the Columbus Dispatch.
Pontbriand added: “I pretty much cost our team the victory. I’m pretty numb right now.”
Four years ago, Pontbriand earned an honorable-mention nod as one of Cleveland's top-five athletes. And that probably still holds. It's just that he had an off-day Sunday. Most amazing, perhaps, is that it hasn't happened more frequently. This is Cleveland after all.
Rex Grossman, QB, WashingtonLast week, John Beck got the nod in this space. And we suspect that whoever head coach Mike Shanahan starts next week will end up here, too. The takeaway isn't that Grossman and Beck are bad (they are), it's that the Redskins organization is a complete and utter disaster. This comes as news to exactly no one, except maybe Shanahan, who somehow finds a way each week to look more exasperated than when we last saw him after the previous loss.
The latest demoralizing setback came in Miami against the Dolphins, a team that won its first game of the season last week. Miami notched win No. 2 Sunday against the Skins. Grossman finished the day 21 of 32 for 215 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. And the offense consisted of three Graham Gano field goals. Not exactly reminiscent of those heady Shanahan days in Denver with John Elway.
“It’s the same thing each and every week,” wide receiver Jabar Gaffney lamented, via the Washington Post. “That’s what’s really, like, frustrating. We work on it, think we have it controlled and figured out. Then we come back out and we still have the same problems.”
Shanahan decided to reinstall Grossman as the starter after Beck went winless in three games, citing some nonsense about injuries and Beck's inexperience.
“You go with more of an experienced guy that has dealt with these situations,” Shanahan said in explaining his switch to Grossman. “I didn’t want to put John in a situation where we had a number of guys down, and with his experience, especially over the last two weeks, I didn’t think that was the right thing to do.”
We said it last week but it Bears repeating: the Redskins could lose out. They're that bad. But they're also cursed and/or unlucky -- even if they go 3-13, they ain't getting Andrew Luck because there's no way the Colts are winning three games.
Defense, San DiegoFor once this season, Philip Rivers wasn't the reason San Diego lost. Last Thursday, Rivers was adequate (which is an improvement over his recent performances) but the Chargers' defense -- their run defense, in particular -- was a no-show.
This might be understandable if Darren McFadden was in the backfield wreaking havoc. He was not. Instead, Michael Bush did the heavy lifting, rushing 30 times for 157 yards and a score, and hauling in three passes for 85 receiving yards.
The Raiders' offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, Bush took full advantage, and ultimately, Carson Palmer was the beneficiary.
San Diego's now 4-5 and tied with the Broncos (!) for second in the AFC West. Credit to Rivers for taking the glass-half-full approach.
“We’ve been worse,” he said after the Raiders loss.
Safety Eric Weddle was more direct in his assessment of what happened.
“We got our butts kicked. Every facet of the game. They ran the ball at will. We gave up too many deep plays.”
It gets more depressing. The San Diego Union-Tribune's Kevin Acee wrote Friday that only 18 times in Chargers history had they surrendered more yards than the 489 the Raiders had in Week 10.
Can San Diego get it together and make a late playoff push like they do every year?
“You know, every man can say they messed up here and there, didn’t play the way they’re capable of playing,” Weddle said. “And that’s what’s going to happen, you’re going to get a beat down like we did.”
So you're telling me there's a chance?
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Posted on: November 14, 2011 3:37 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 3:49 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
It's only Monday, but we've already got our weekly Redskins quarterback semi-drama out of the way: Rex Grossman will start for Washington when they play the Cowboys in Week 11.
That's according to Mike Shanahan, who didn't hesitate to announce the news at his Monday press conference.
"I was impressed with the way [Rex] played," Shanahan said.
Impressed here is relative, of course, because Grossman wasn't good in the Redskins 20-9 loss to Miami, going 21 of 32 for 215 yards and two picks.
But Grossman was more effective than John Beck, who he replaced this past week. Grossman didn't get the win, obviously, and he wasn't necessarily good, but he at least moved the offense and provided some hope that the 'Skins could pull off the upset in Miami.
As did rookie wideout Leonard Hankerson, who flashed some serious potential with an eight-catch, 106-yard effort against the Dolphins.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, Hankerson's season ended Monday with the announcement that he was placed in injured reserve with a torn labrum. Shanahan said the timeline for rehab would be about four months.
Shanahan also said that Santana Moss wouldn't be available against Dallas (though he could be back for the Seattle game), which means the Redskins top-two receiving options against their hated rival will be Jabar Gaffney and the newly-signed David Anderson.
Clearly, things have gone south for Washington since their 3-1 start, and there's no real reason for hope in the near future.
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Posted on: November 14, 2011 3:55 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 10:18 am
Posted by Will Brinson
Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 10 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.
1. Houston We Don't Have a Problem"Who's the best team in the AFC?" -- that's a question I got asked a couple of times on the radio this past week, and I pointed out each time that we shouldn't be sleeping on the Texans. Following their 37-9 pimp-slapping of the Bucs in Tampa, I doubt I'll be the only one saying that this week.
Yes, they play in one of the NFL's worst divisions and, yes, they have a ridiculously cake schedule this year. No, Matt Schaub is not "elite." Yes, the Ravens have beaten them this year.
I don't expect people to stop using those arguments to knock down the Texans. That's fine -- but people need to realize that Houston is as complete a team as there is in the NFL.
They can run: Arian Foster and Ben Tate are the most dangerous backfield combo in the NFL, Derrick Ward's a nice third option and their offensive line is criminally underrated. (All three guys scored Sunday against the Buccaneers.) They can pass: pan Matt Schaub all you want, but he's thrown just three picks in the six games since losing Andre Johnson, and when Johnson returns after the bye he'll only get better. They play defense: after ranking 30th in total yards allowed in 2010, the Texans find themselves as the stingiest defensive team in football through 10 weeks of the 2011 season.
The Texans rank third in the NFL with 14 interceptions. That's one more than they had in all of 2010. And their point differential (107) currently tops the league.
Heading into Week 10 the Texans were the only team to rank in the top 10 of Football Outsiders efficiency metrics on offense, defense and special teams. The Steelers could join them in that distinction after this week, but thanks to an absolutely dominant game in Tampa Bay, there's zero chance the Texans will see their stock fall.
Look, it's perfectly OK to expect the Texans to figure out a way not to make the playoffs. It's what they do. But it's not like they're working on some fluky formula here. Their offense won't slow down, particularly with Johnson returning, and their defense, despite losing Mario Williams, really appears to be gelling.
And because the division's so terrible, there's a distinct chance the Texans clinch their first AFC South title before Christmas.
2. The Only Stat That Matters ...If I told you that Tim Tebow would go two of eight passing on Sunday while Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno left the game early with an injury, you'd assume that a) the Chiefs rolled the Broncos and b) Tebow got benched. You would not assume what actually happened, which is that the Broncos beat Kansas City 17-9 to hand the Chiefs their second-straight inexplicable victory.
And what's weirder, that Tebow was 0-fer at halftime, missing on all five of his passing attempts? Or that he only attempted three more passes in the second half? Or that his second completion was a straight-up NFL throw that resulted in a 56-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker?
Or maybe that Broncos coach John Fox was clearly overjoyed to beat a division rival with an offensive gameplan that probably caused the NFL's marketing arm to set fire to the highlight reel within 15 minutes of the final whistle.
"It's just a mindset. It's a low-risk offense. It's not an indictment on Tim Tebow or whoever our quarterback is," Fox said. "It's just whatever is working for us. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We tried to possess the ball and keep our defense fresh."
That sounds kind of ridiculous, and I guess it is. But we're talking about John Fox here -- he's not exactly an offensive innovator, much less someone who cares in the slightest how many passing attempts his quarterback has, particularly if the team wins.
But hey, there's a precedent for this kind of game -- it's the 27th quarterback time since the merger that a team's won a game despite having a quarterback who completed two or less passes on eight or more attempts. The parameters are weird, and the list is weirder, especially because several of the quarterbacks weren't the only guy to take snaps for their team. Most interesting (to me) are a pair of names on the list with Tebow: Kyle Orton ... and John Elway.
Tebow's not the same quarterback as the man in charge of his future, but he's now 3-1 since taking over as the Broncos starting quarterback. He's improving, Denver's figuring out how to design offensive schemes around his specific skillset, and they're turning what looked like a lost season into an interesting little run in a weak AFC West.
3. Texas Is Big Enough for Two TeamsIt really is nuts how much the NFL playoff picture can change in a matter of weeks. Or days. Or hours -- the Cowboys entered Sunday morning two games back of the Giants for the NFC East lead with the potentially resurgent Eagles hot on their heels. Less than 12 hours later, after a 44-7 whipping of Buffalo? Dallas is one game back of the Giants, the Eagles look done, and it's like the Cowboys season was never in jeopardy.
"We needed a game like this," Jason Witten said. "This needs to be the foundation of what lies ahead for this team."
"A game like this" equates to what might be the best game of Tony Romo's career. The oft-maligned quarterback was 23 of 26 for 270 yards and three touchdowns, and the only reason his numbers were suppressed is Dallas 28-7 halftime lead. Romo attempted just seven passes in the second half and set the Cowboys franchise record for completion percentage, hitting 88.5 percent of his passes.
Could it be a coincidence that Romo got rid of his flak jacket for the first time since his broken ribs in Week 2? Maybe. But over the course of the next few weeks, it probably won't look like it, because the Cowboys go to Washington, play Miami and travel to Arizona before hosting the Giants on December 11.
Given that the Giants play the Eagles, the Saints and the Packers in that same time frame, don't be surprised if we're approaching that Week 14 matchup throwing out terms like "division-leading Cowboys" and "darkhorse MVP candidate Romo."
Things change, because this is the NFL. But watching the Cowboys bounce back over the past two weeks, and knowing that Romo's now 17-2 in November (his .895 winning percentage in the month is the highest of any quarterback in the Super Bowl era), it's hard not to think they're getting hot at the right time.
4. Bold But BadMike Smith's decision to go for it on a fourth-and-inches on his own 29-yard line in overtime will be analyzed a lot over the next seven days, because it giftwrapped a 26-23 victory for New Orleans Sunday. And, most importantly, it put the Falcons way behind the eight ball for a shot at the NFC South title, as they're now two games back of the Saints.
Atlanta's still in decent position for a wild card berth, and I'm OK with the call Smith made, even if, like my man Pete Prisco, I probably wouldn't have made the call. (This is hindsight creeping in -- I hated it at the time.) The Saints are terrible against the run (a league-worst 5.2 yards per carry allowed), handing the ball to Drew Brees in overtime is the football equivalent of suicide, and Michael Turner is the perfect back for that situation.
My beef is with the playcall, which was precisely the same play that Atlanta used on fourth and one with six minutes left in the third quarter. Witness what the Saints defense looked like then:
Obviously New Orleans is playing to stop the run, but they're not selling out. They got no penetration, and they're certainly wary of the possibility that Matt Ryan could roll out, or that Turner could cut outside to try and pick up the first down.
The second time around, in overtime, that wasn't the case.
As you'll recall, Gregg Williams called a timeout right before Atlanta broke the huddle not in punt formation for this second try. Do you think he might have pointed several Saints defenders in the direction of where Michael Turner might be running with the ball?
Judging by the relative positions of said Saints defenders in the two pictures above, that seems like a pretty reasonable assumption.
And I understand that Turner's a bowling ball and that the Falcons have Smith's back on this and they appreciate his confidence in them picking up a half-yard or less in such a situation.
But knowing that you showed Williams this exact same play less than an hour ago, you have to be more creative with the playcall, especially when there's a division title on the line.
5. Deja Vu All Over AgainAfter the Patriots lost to the Giants in Week 9, there was a weird feeling of deja vu. You should have that same feeling right now, because after New England pummeled the Jets 37-16 in New York, every single "the Patriots are dead" column from the past week is totally pointless.
Making the premature eulogizing of the Patriots even more irritating is the similarity between 2010 and 2011.
Last year, the Patriots lost their second game of the season when the Browns shocked them 34-14 in Week 9 in Cleveland. The loss of Randy Moss meant that the Patriots couldn't get vertical and ergo/therefore/henceforth the Pats were dead men walking. Naturally, Tom Brady waltzed into Pittsburgh on November 14, went 30 for 43 for 350 yards and hit Rob Gronkowski for three touchdowns.
On Sunday (Week 10! November 13!) Brady waltzed into the New Meadowlands and carved up Rex Ryan's defense, going 26 of 39 for 329 yards and hitting Gronkowski for two touchdowns.
In case you forgot, Brady closed out last year in pretty good fashion -- he didn't throw an interception for the rest of the year, the Pats didn't lose another game and finished 14-2, and Brady became the first-ever unanimous MVP winner in NFL history.
My point is this: though the Patriots defense might stink, Tom Brady is still on the roster. It's not as if the defense in 2010 was all that good; they finished 25th overall in the NFL last year. But the Pats went 14-2 because Brady played at an unholy level with essentially the same offensive personnel he's got now.
In other words, Expecting the Patriots to lose three-straight games -- they haven't since 2002! -- was about as smart as writing off Belichick and Brady after what went down last season.
6. Run This Man!I planned on taking screenshots of all the commenters who ripped me for picking Seattle to upset Baltimore and posting them here. But there were too many of them. And they were all too vulgar.
Plus, I'm sure everyone who called me names will be back to apologize later anyway.
But really, should we be surprised at this point when the Ravens fail to win after refusing to utilize Ray Rice, clearly the best offensive weapon on their team?
No, no we should not.
Rice's usage and subsequent success (or lack thereof) isn't a direct correlation with the win-loss record of the Ravens. He's had nine carries in a game (against the Rams) where the Ravens absolutely rolled.
But two games above really stand out in terms of similarity -- the loss to the Seahawks and Jaguars. Both were on the road, both were against teams that aren't even remotely considered on the Ravens level and both featured Rice inexplicably getting less than 10 rushing attempts.
The Ravens were behind for much of each game, but never were they in full-on blowout territory, and the downside of running the ball is really only losing a couple of seconds of game time and actually getting the defense to respect the natural balance that the Ravens offense should feature.
It's doesn't seem that hard to figure out that the Ravens are 1-3 when their best player on offense rushes the ball less than 15 times in a game. And yet somehow Cam Cameron can't do it.
7. Red RocketAlright, I give up: Andy Dalton, despite losing to Pittsburgh 24-17 on Sunday, deserves to be the leader for Rookie of the Year right now.
This might sound weird considering he's coming of a loss, he threw a game-ending interception (his second in the fourth quarter Sunday) and my blatant homerism deep respect for Cam Newton.
But it was ridiculously impressive that Cincy took the Steelers best shot early in the game and then rallied back to get within a touchdown, despite losing their other studly rookie A.J. Green after he hyperextended his knee.
Oh, it also doesn't help that Newton absolutely laid an egg on Sunday, failing to score a touchdown in a football game for what he said might be the first time in his life. I haven't seen any confirmation of this, but I also have no trouble believing it.
Back to Dalton and the Bengals though: if Green's injury is substantial, I don't think the Bengals make the playoffs (they currently project as the sixth seed) because not only are the Ravens and the Steelers better, but the Ravens might actually try against Cincy.
And if Newton bounces back over the next few weeks, and the Bengals lose their last three games against the Steelers and Ravens, it's going to be tough for voters to hit Dalton up.
But if he improves from the growing pains he suffered against the Steelers, he might end up stealing the award after all. And, you know, a playoff berth.
8. Andy Reid's Hot PantsBefore the season, we penciled in the Week 10 Cardinals-Eagles matchup with the idea that Kevin Kolb would lead a revived Arizona squad into Philly with a chance for redemption against the team that cast him off for Michael Vick. Instead, Kolb couldn't play Sunday, so John Skelton started and ... the Eagles still lost, 21-17.
With that L, let's just go ahead and bury the Eagles 2011 season. Instead of debating whether 9-7 is possible, let's discuss whether or not Andy Reid should be fired if the Eagles miss the playoffs.
I, unequivocally, say he should not be fired. He's got issues with his roster construction, his clock management and his balance on offense, but there's a reason why he's the longest-tenured coach in the NFL.
Additionally, this is a lockout year, and teams were supposed to struggle to adapt under circumstances. "Bringing in a bunch of new faces" is one such circumstance where there's a built-in excuse.
And perhaps the best reason to hold onto Reid: he's Michael Vick's guy, and Michael Vick just got paid $100 million. That's not to say Vick couldn't play for another coach and succeed, but Reid's mentored him on and -- perhaps more importantly -- off the field. He's turned Vick from an ex-con into a franchise quarterback.
Vick's taken a step back this season, but if Philly can beef up its offensive line and address some of the defensive issues, there's no reason why Reid can't just can Juan Castillo in sacrificial lamb fashion and come back next year, regardless of how this season plays out.
9. What the Helu?Would the Redskins beat the Colts if they played today? Wilson and I talked about that on the podcast (I assume you hit play above and are listening now but just haven't gotten that far yet), and, um, I'm not sure?
Indy's terrible, but Washington is just depressing -- the latest feather in Mike Shanahan's cap is a 20-9 loss to Miami that not only gave Shanny his first-ever five-game losing streak, but also handed the Dolphins their first win at Sun Life Stadium in 364 days.
The saddest part of the Redskins failure on Sunday isn't even that Rex Grossman gives them a better chance to win than John Beck. That's just the truth, even if it's cringe-worthy. Although apparently Shanahan doesn't know that? Or he does? Or ... you tell me:
"We’re going to make decisions that we think gives us the best chance to win," Shanahan said about the decision to go with Grossman. "Then before the game we decided to go in another direction."
I know what he's saying (I think), but it's kind of awesome that this quote, taken out of context, sounds like "Beck gives us the best chance to win, that's why we started him. But on Sunday we changed our minds."
Anyway, the saddest part is that Roy Helu broke Art Monk's single-game receptions record last week and he was inexplicably benched Sunday in favor of Ryan Torain.
"Well, I wanted to give Ryan a chance, see what he can do," Shanahan said of the decision. "[The Dolphins] are a very good defensive team."
Again, I don't know what that means or how it's sound logic for benching Helu.
Whatever, an obviously motivated Torain carried the ball 10 times for 20 yards. Helu still managed to end the day as Washington's leading rusher, though, as he carried the ball six times for 41 yards in the second half.
This logical result would have stemmed from an illogical decision, but there's nothing justifiably rational about the Redskins right now.
10. Bear With Me HereFirst of all, allow me to congratulate my colleague Matt Norlander, who not only got engaged Sunday, but got a win for his precious Bears (an awkward 37-13 slaughtering of Detroit) and a Devin Hester touchdown return.
And second of all, allow me to say I'm sorry for thinking the Bears stink. Because they don't. I can't justify saying that if I'm going to tout the Texans as the top team in the AFC; after all, the Bears play a complete brand of football. They're great on defense, they generate turnovers, they can run the ball on offense and, needless to say, their special teams are pretty good.
Now there's still room for an implosion here. Lord knows they were 2-3, couldn't protect Jay Cutler and looked like a lost team only a few weeks ago. But just like 2010, Mike Martz realized just how true the old equation of "seven-step drops + passing every down = quarterback injuries" really is and Chicago currently projects as the final NFC wild card.
The Bears getting ready to run the not-so-scary AFC West gauntlet, playing San Diego, Oakland, Kansas City and Denver over their next four games. No, that portion of the schedule could not come at a better time, and if you think that running a cover-2 against a read-option offense and having Brian Urlacher shadow Tebow depending on what side of the line he runs off won't be fun, well, you clearly don't enjoy pain.
With Seattle and Minnesota also on the sked -- only Green Bay is really scary -- and Detroit having to play the Packers twice over the rest of the schedule, Chicago could somehow easily weasel their way to 11-5. Again.
Muffed PuntsLeftovers from Sunday's action...
... For the third time in his career, Reggie Bush scored multiple rushing touchdowns.
... The NFL West went undefeated on Sunday for the first time since division realignment. According to my buddy RJ Bell of PreGame.com, a $100 bet on that happening would've paid out $8,400. So, yeah, everyone saw it coming.
... Tebow's the only quarterback in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass and rush for 25 yards in each of his first seven starts.
... Drew Brees passed Brett Favre for the second-longest streak of consecutive games (37) with a touchdown pass.
Worth 1,000 Words
GIF O' THE WEEKThis is unfortunate for Ray Lewis:
Hot Seat Tracker
Chasing Andrew LuckColts (1/4): Everyone else in the NFL has two wins, and the only game Indy might even reasonably come close to winning is their Week 16 matchup against the Jaguars. We can almost call this off.
Redskins (3/1): My darkhorse! I think they'll lose out, but I just don't buy the idea of Indy winning one game, much less three.
Vikings (4/1): They play the Packers Monday and get the Lions and Bears again.
Dolphins (5/1): That whole Stephen Ross in a leopard-skin bikini thing is working out well.
Panthers (6/1): Tough schedule coming down the pipe ... and they play the Colts!
Rams (7/1): NFC West schedule and they're starting to fight a little.
MVP WatchAaron Rodgers will most likely extend his season-long virtuoso performance on Monday night and further give us reason to pick him as MVP. But just in case he falters, I've got my eye on a few guys who could get hot and supplant him in the second half, via what we talked about above: Brady, Foster and Romo. Brady, well, duh, he's good. And he sure wasn't a unanimous MVP winner after Week 9 (or Week 10) in 2010. So it could happen. Foster's playing as well as any running back in the NFL right now; if the Texans win out and clinch the top spot in the AFC, people will talk about it. And if Romo can blow up over the next two months and get the Cowboys a division title, well, weirder things have happened.
Tags: Andre Johnson, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Andy Reid, Arian Foster, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Buffalo Bills, Cam Cameron, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Devin Hester, Drew Brees, Gregg Williams, Houston Texans, Jason Witten, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, John Beck, John Elway, Johnathan Joseph, Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Schaub, Miami Dolphins, Michael Turner, Michael Vick, Mike Shanahan, Mike Smith, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Ray Rice, Rex Grossman, Rex Ryan, Rob Gronkowski, Roy Helu, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Torain, Seattle Seahawks, Sorting the Sunday Pile, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Wade Phillips, Washington Redskins, Will Brinson
Posted on: November 13, 2011 10:35 am
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
At some point you have to wonder if the decision-making process of coach Mike Shanahan is one big reason the Redskins likely will finish the season last in the NFC East. Yes, the talent isn’t necessarily there, but the way Shanahan has handled his quarterbacks the past two seasons has been nothing short of disastrous.
On Saturday, colleague Will Brinson brought us the news that that Shanahan, after starting John Beck the past three games following a four-interception performance by Rex Grossman, had split the first-team reps at practice this week between Beck and Grossman.
Now, NFL.com’s Jason LaCanfora is reporting that Shanahan informed the team over the weekend that he was going back to Grossman when the Redskins face Miami today.
While this quarterback controversy has continued since Donovan McNabb left for Minnesota -- and you’ll recall that Shanahan benched McNabb in favor of Grossman last year, leading to all kinds of problems in Washington -- Grossman and Beck, statistically, aren’t much different.
Beck has a better completion percentage (60.6 to Grossman’s 55.8), his quarterback rating is higher as well (72.1 as compared to Grossman’s 66.5), and the two have combined for eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The biggest disparity, though, is that the Redskins are 3-2 with Grossman starting and 0-3 with Beck (including the first shutout loss of Shanahan’s career).
While Beck won’t get the chance for revenge against the Dolphins -- he was originally drafted by Miami in 2007 before being cut two years later -- the Redskins can take solace in this fact: the last former University of Florida standout quarterback to start a game against the Dolphins, a guy by the name of Tim Tebow, walked out of Miami with a victory.
At this point, that’s as good a reason as any to make yet another quarterback switch.
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