by NFL Gimpy (Follow him on Twitter…keeps him from being lonely)
If you like possessing finger nails and sitting back in your chair, this week in the NFL was not a good week for you. Of the 14 games played so far, 8 were a one score difference. Five games were decided by 3 points or less and of those 5, 3 of them featured a missed FG for the loser. There are so many games that are literally coming down to one play being the difference.
For the Eagles and Giants, a Ramses Barden offensive pass interference put the Giants a single yard away from victory. Tynes’ 54 yard FG attempt was literally 1 yard short, maybe 2. The penalty easily was the difference in the game between a win and a loss. For Miami, the Cardinals scored a touchdown on 4th and 15 with under a minute to go to force overtime. The Cardinals only had an opportunity to score that touchdown because of a Darryl Washington sack, forced fumble, and recovery on Ryan Tannehill. (Sidenote, anyone who has seen Washington play this season knows he’s probably the best young LB in the game, if not the best period).
The Buccaneers had an improbable lead with less than 2 minutes remaining. The Redskins had to drive 56 yards in 7 plays with no timeouts to get into FG range. A miss and the Bucs reclaim a season that looked to be quickly slipping away. The Redskins would fall 2 games behind the Eagles for the division lead with a defense that’s struggling mightily.
I bring up this to go along with my parity theme from last week. We have 3 games just in my examples where if one single play goes another direction, the victor changes. We’re not talking about a play in the 2nd quarter, we’re talking about one single moment late in a game (or multiple in one game) where it determined the winner. This is how close so many NFL teams are. Take the 0-4 Cleveland Browns or 0-4 New Orleans Saints. Cleveland has lost games by 1, 7, 10, and 7. New Orleans has lost 4 games by 8, 8, 3, and 1, and the 3 was an overtime loss to the Chiefs. 2 winless teams that have lost 7 of their 8 games by a single score.
So where’s the difference between the winners and losers? Clutch play. When confronted with do or die, who steps up? The Eagles have won their 3 games by a combined 4 points. When faced with do or die, they “did”. The Saints missed a FG in the 4th quarter in Week 4 and gave up a double digit lead in Week 3. They didn’t. The Browns failed to score on their last drive in 2 of their 4 losses. They didn’t. If your team is unable to make some type of clutch play late in the 4th quarter, you won’t make it out of this season.
Take the surprising 3-1 Minnesota Vikings. They went 32 yards in 2 plays, kicked a game tying 55 yard FG as time expired to force overtime, then won in Week 1. They stopped a Week 4 comeback on defense when Matt Stafford was sacked on 4th down. Against the 49ers after a Vernon Davis touchdown catch narrowed their lead to 4 points, Minnesota drove 91 yards on 12 plays to get back a 2-score lead. After they allowed a big kick return to Kyle Williams, the Vikings D forced a fumble and the 49ers didn’t threaten again. It’s all about being clutch.
The way this season has gone, you just know the Super Bowl will be determined by one play late in the 4th quarter. If it’s another Eli Manning deep pass where the WR makes an incredible play, I’ll puke and possibly give up the NFL altogether.
The Year of the Rookie QB
Andrew Luck: Bye Week
Robert Griffin III: 26/35 for 323 yards, 7 carries for 43 yards and 1 touchdown, 2 sacks for 9 yards. 102.4 QB Rating
Ryan Tannehill: 26/41 431 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. 4 sacks for 37 yards and a game changing lost fumble. 86.5 QB Rating
Brandon Weeden: 25/52 320 yards 1 interception. 1 sack for 6 yards. 59.8 QB Rating.
Russell Wilson: 17/25 160 yards 3 interceptions, 7 carries for 14 yards. 2 sacks for 20 yards. 45.8 QB Rating.
RG3’s stats look good, but he was a little up and down during the game. However, when the clutch moment came, let me show you what he did. As I mentioned, there were less than 2 minutes remaining and the Redskins had no timeouts. RG3 went 4/4 for 45 yards and a 16 yard run. 61 yards in 5 plays. No mistakes, perfect execution. Billy Cundiff, after missing all 3 previous FG attempts, snuck in the 41 yarder to win the game. Even though I’m not exactly a Redskins fan and the Bucs defense is awful, you can’t help but appreciate a rookie QB in his 4th start, who never had a real playbook in college or high school, executing a perfect 2-minute drill to win the game. Run-on sentence be damned, RG3 wouldn’t be denied.
Ryan Tannehill possibly would have claimed the coveted MAQB Rookie of the Week Clipart Certificate if he didn’t lose the fumble that allowed the Cardinals to force overtime AND throw an interception that set up the game winning field goal for the Cardinals. Tannehill was anti-clutch. 2 turnovers in the 4th quarter and overtime that led to the loss after such a brilliant game? Not good. He was 1 yard away from breaking Cam Newton’s record for passing yards in a game by a rookie. He threw for 432 yards with Brian Hartline and Davone Bess as his top 2 WRs. Sadly, he made two awful plays with the game on the line.
The good news is that Tannehill is capable of high end play. I did not think he had this type of game in him yet. If he simply doesn’t fumble in the 4th quarter, the Cardinals probably don’t have enough time to mount the comeback and he’s the Week 4 MAQB Rookie QB champion. The good news is, he should get better at those types of things. Hold on Dolphins fans, it’s been a rough 15-20 years, what’s another season or two?
Poor Brandon Weeden can’t get any help at WR or TE. Greg Little could be in the top 10 in receiving yards if he simply held onto the ball. The Browns were in competition with the Dolphins for worst WR corps but the Dolphins decided they didn’t want to be in the competition anymore. You can see the talent with Weeden but it seems like 5-10% of his passes are just flat out dropped and another 5-10% would be caught by high end WRs. Weeden is looking better and better as time goes on but he needs more help than the Browns can give him right now and that all goes on Holmgren and Heckert for their inability to develop anything at WR or TE.
Russell Wilson was just awful on Sunday. I’m not going to bother breaking it down further because when I was watching, it was sad. I’m rooting for him but games like yesterday can’t happen even as a rookie. One of his picks led directly to a Rams touchdown, the winning margin in the game.
The award this week easily goes to RG3. Stats are great, no turnovers, and a clutch, game winning drive.
Overpaid/Underpaid Players of the Week
Overpaid: Mario Williams, DE Buffalo Bills. I gave Mario a warning last week that if he didn’t show up he’d end up on the list and here he is. The Bills defense got torched by the Patriots in the 2nd half and Mario was non-existent. I know he’s being double teamed and chipped by RBs. That’s why you’re a $100 million player, you’re supposed to overcome that. You’re supposed to be an elite player. He had 2 tackles (1 for a loss) yesterday. He had 0 QB hits. He has 1.5 sacks this season.
Even with teams game planning entirely around stopping him, he still sees one on one matchups. Bad coaching be damned (I know a Bills fan who is a Pitt grad like myself and is suffering through Wannstedt again, keep your chin up Ian) $100 million defensive ends have to overcome double teams and make opponents pay when they give you a one on one matchup. He’s not doing that. Do you think Jared Allen isn’t getting double teamed, chipped by RBs, kicked while he’s down, etc.? Of course he is. Allen isn’t lighting the world on fire this season like he has before, but he still had a sack, 3 tackles for a loss, and 2 QB hits.
Mario, take the millions of dollars you got via signing bonus and salary so far this year and see if you can get a better defensive coordinator. Wade Phillips is pretty good…oh wait, you left Houston for more money and to play 4-3 DE instead of 3-4. I bet the Texans could really use your pass rus…oh that’s right, JJ Watt. Hm, I’m stumped. You left the 3-4 D for more money and to be a 4-3 DE yet the 3-4 DE is dominating at a position you didn’t want. Oops, my bad bro.
Underpaid: Andre Roberts, WR Arizona Cardinals. Andre is a 3rd year player out of The Citadel (I’ll pause while you google…small school in South Carolina, got that? OK!). Roberts caught the game tying touchdown pass late in the 4th quarter to send the game to OT. He had a 46 yard touchdown early in the 4th quarter to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game. He finished with 6 catches for 118 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Roberts is on pace for 90 catches and over 1100 yards through 4 games. The Cardinals have been looking for a talented WR opposite of Larry Fitzgerald since Anquan Boldin was traded after the 2009 season and Roberts may be that man. They drafted Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd in the first round, but Roberts seems intent on keeping the gig with games like yesterday.
Andre take your meager salary and do everything possible to mimic Larry Fitzgerald. His eating habits, exercise habits, hell, try to take a dump at the same time as him because whatever Fitz has done as a WR has clearly worked. Fitz is the youngest player ever to have 700 career catches (take that Jason Witten) and will soon join Randy Moss as the only other player to reach 10,000 career receiving yards before age 30.
-I stick by it, if Alex Smith goes down for an extended period of time, Colin Kaepernick will not give him his job back. Yes it’s a mancrush, don’t hate.
-If you want to know why some NFL players don’t like the new head shot rules, look straight at Dedrick Epps, a young TE for the Jets. Epps caught a short pass and 49ers Safety Dashon Goldson went low to avoid a headshot and took one of his knees out. I haven’t seen anything regarding the extent of the injury, but a hit like that can completely blow a guy’s knee out and cost him his career.
It’s a clean hit according to NFL rules and Goldson was in no way intending to hurt Epps, so don’t take this as me calling Goldson dirty. It’s a direct cause of the new protections on headshots. Most players would rather get hit in the head as opposed to the knees in this scenario. If you can find a highlight (Epps fumbled so it’s probably out there) take a look at it. That hit could have cost Epps the rest of this season and possibly his career. Concussions rarely take more than a few weeks to heal. Torn ACLs are almost always a season ender.
-The Jets don’t know the extent of Santonio Holmes’ foot injury, but they’re certain he’s going to miss several weeks. The Jets can’t run the ball at all. Their top WR is going to be out for a decent amount of time. Without Revis, their defense can’t function properly (and it showed on Sunday). This might not be too pretty Jets fans.
-The Panthers defense is awful. They can’t tackle, can’t execute, and they let WRs get behind them 50+ yards downfield in the last minute of the game. On top of that, they’ve spent more money on two RBs than any team in the NFL. In the 6 combined games (Stewart has missed 2) they’ve combined for 69 touches. Each player is averaging 10-12 touches per game. Seriously? You give long term extensions to 2 RBs and at best, they combine for 25ish touches?
Meanwhile, Jon Beason got benched yesterday. You have garbage at DT and I’ve already mentioned a giant mistake by your secondary. Maybe you could have traded Jonathan Stewart for a 3rd or 4th round pick since Mike Tolbert is a decent backup RB and used the pick and cap space to add something else on defense. Not a good use of resources.
-My thoughts are with Chuck Pagano, who was just diagnosed with leukemia. Doctors are confident he can beat it and any man who can coach the Ravens D and earn their respect is one tough SOB. I don’t think leukemia is going to know what hit it by the time Pagano’s done.
-I can’t recall if Kenny Phillips came back in the game Sunday night for the Giants, but if he’s hurt, he should send the bill to LeSean McCoy so he can frame it. My man Shady (obligatory Hail to Pitt!) juked Kenny so hard he hurt himself trying to keep up. If there’s no leg injury, he certainly needs a new jock strap, because he left it on the field.
-If Mario Williams is somehow still reading this column, he should stop right now. Elias Sports Bureau reported yesterday that the 45 points the Patriots scored after halftime are the most by any team in 40 years. Ouch.
Monday Night Prediction
Da Bears: 27
Da Bears D isn’t ready to crash yet and a few turnovers give Chicago a few short fields that they capitalize on.