I continue my trek through the entire slate of 2011 games in the NFL. Almost two weeks into it and almost two weeks of football complete. I will want to pick up the pace. Eventually, I will knock out a whole weeks worth of games in one day.
Can't wait for bye weeks!
In this edition, there's a whole lot of games watched including: a look at the Patriots win over the Chargers, some breakout candidates for next season, another look at super rookie Cam Newton, plus Saints, 49ers, and the mascot that haunts my nightmares.
All after the jump...
Who could ever forget "Tim Hightower against his old team"? Boy, was I tired of that story-line.*
Extra important to watch these NFC West games. Cardinals ended the season on a high note, must watch to see how underrated they were in the beginning of the year, if at all.
One of those random times where it turns out to be a good thing when you screw up: Cards stop Redskins on third down but called for personal foul. Rex Grossman intercepted three plays later.
The Redskins are picking on rookie Patrick Peterson a little bit. His improvement over the year may prove to be a big difference in how Arizona fared.
It's 10-7 WAS at the half, in case you were mildly interested.
This is Kevin Kolb
This is Larry Fitzgerald:
"Yes, I have one. Why aren't they covering that Larry guy?"
Because they either A) Can't or B) Are dumb. However, sometimes A+B = C Larry Fitzgerald score.
Redskins go for it on 4th and 3 from the Cards 18 and Arizona lets Santana Moss get behind them for a touchdown. 2-point conversion is no good. AZ up by a deuce.
The Cards go 3-and-out and run no time off of the clock. Skins drive down for a field goal. On the Cards first play on the next series, with 1:45 left, Chansi Stuckey fumbled.
Arizona is talented but made some terrible penalties, critical mistakes, missed assignments, and couldn't stop Grossman or Roy Helu (I think he'll be a star next year) when it mattered.
WAS 22, AZ 21
Cam Newton versus Aaron Rodgers!!
Panthers score first on a Brandon LaFell TD catch and then Randall Cobb fumbled the kickoff return. Great start for Carolina. But they settle for a FG from the Packers 3. Can't settle if you want to pull an upset like this.
I'm watching this game in full mode because I love watching both of these teams. I think Cam Newton can become the best player in the NFL.
Green Bay might be the second youngest team in the league, but they don't start a single rookie.
The Packers ran three plays in the first quarter but the Panthers fail to score when they had first and goal from the three. Could be 21-0, but its 13-0.
:45 left in the first half, down 13-7, Mike McCarthy goes for it on 4th and 4 at the Carolina 45. Some Belicheck shit right there. It's no good.
Packers could get nothing going in the first half. Then they go 80 yards in less than three minutes to start the second. Charles Woodson makes his second INT of the game, and a FG later the Packers lead 17-13. This game turned quickly.
This play had gone for 25 yards:
But the ball jumps out of Steve Smith's hands and Woodson has a fumble recovery. I blame Derek Anderson.
The Panthers were inside the Packers 10 with a little over three minutes left and a chance to tie it, but turn it over on downs. Jordy Nelson scores an 84-yard touchdown, his only catch of the game, a couple plays later.
The Panthers need to clean up how they play in the red zone. I assume they do that later, as they got better as the season went on, but they could have won this game despite four turnovers.
GB 30, CAR 23
Jay Cutler is far from perfect, but I believe he could have led Chicago to the Super Bowl. This is a good test.
Chris Spencer at right guard. I don't think I would draft Jesus Christ in the first round if all he did was play center.
I just learned that there is something called a jerk route. It would make perfect sense that I'd learn about a jerk route on a pass from Cutler.
Now there are quarterbacks that might complete a long pass, but in reality it was just a screen that went for 75 yards. See: Matt Hasselbeck to Kenny Britt in week one. It masks passing yards as simply the product of a quarterback and not a failure in defense or the skills of a wide receiver or running back. Darren Sproles can do this with the Saints because he's one of the best screen men in the game. But Drew Brees can also do this:
Brees drops it on a dime of nearly 60 yards in the air alone. Devery Henderson takes it the rest of the way for a 79-yard touchdown.
Sam Hurd interferes with Sproles on an attempted fair catch of a punt.
I'm not going to make a joke about this.*
This game was 16-13 in the third quarter, when Cutler was sacked and fumbled. That was the end of the Bears. Everyone except Matt Forte had a pretty non-descript game, they offensive line is TERRIBLE at pass protection. Seemed like Cutler is on his back a lot.
The Bears had three major turning points this year: The injury to Forte, the injury to Cutler, and *Sam Hurd stopped supplying.
NO 30, CHI 13
I hate end-arounds as it is. This is double idiotic.
A good drive going here and they are at the Niners 30. Romo fakes the handoff and then hands it to Miles Austin.
Then Austin pitches it to Kevin Ogletree. First of all, why are you asking Austin to pitch a football? It's hard enough that you have to consider the possibility that Ogletree misses or drops it and now you're basically handing the ball to the Niners for an easy fumble return TD. But that doesn't happen.
The pitch is fine, but this is how many yards they pick up.
End arounds SUCK! This one double sucked. They rarely work, they take too long to develop, defensive players are too fast now to get beaten on one. Stop running them.
Dan Bailey shanks a 20 yard field goal.
Alex Smith makes a great play after the shotgun snap goes over his head. Smith manages to gather it in and roll out to the far right while under pressure and fire a bullet into the end zone that is barely dropped, but Cowboys called for pass interference. Great athleticism and awareness by Smith on what could have been a disaster.
A really nice TD pass by Smith to Kyle Williams. I'm impressed so far by Smith, he doesn't do the "4,000 yards" thing, but so efficient and looking accurate and athletic.
Then Smith throws an interception and Kitna redeems himself with a TD pass. 14-14.
The 49ers kick a FG to go up 24-14, but the Cowboys are called for a penalty and San Fran could keep the drive alive, but elect to keep the 3 points.
Romo is back in the game. Dallas converts a 4th-and-5 and then a TD pass to Austin (his third) on the next play.
Bailey redeems his earlier shank with a 48-yarder to tie it at the end of regulation.
And Cowboys win it on a 19 yard FG. Man, San Francisco is good though. If you don't think they are a top five team, then you just don't value defense and efficiency, I personally would value anything that gets you more wins than the other guys.
DAL 27, SF 24 (OT)
When I have nightmares, a standing Dolphin is in 50% of them.
Arian Foster plays the first series but would later leave with an injury. Neil Rackers hits the goal post on a field goal but it's good. Dan Fouts and the other guy argue about whether it went "Doink" or "DOINK!"
I am curious about how good Reggie Bush really was this season.
Chad Henne interception. Arm was hit as he threw it, ball was a duck. Texans score a couple of plays later.
Things I learned today: Missed or blocked field goals inside the 20 are put at the 20 for the opposition. I never knew that.
A blocked field goal, a Brandon Marshall dropped touchdown catch, and a missed field goal means that the Dolphins are still down 13-3.
The Dolphins don't even try to pretend as if they aren't going to throw it to Marshall when they're in the red zone. It's all they ever do! And it rarely works.
Texans win, but Miami could have been right there with them if not for missed opportunities. Game was much closer than the score indicates. The Dolphins started 0-7, but they weren't that bad. They've played the Patriots and Texans and those teams might be the best two teams in the AFC when the Texans are at full-strength, which they almost never were.
HOU 23, MIA 13
Steelers convert on 3rd and 2, then two plays later Brandon Browner called for PI on Mike Wallace. He's just not fast enough to keep up with a guy like Wallace. Is that really damning? Wallace is one of the fastest receivers in the NFL.
4th and Goal and the Hawks stop them thanks to Earl Thomas. I don't know how Seattle's D ranked in "goal line defense" but it feels like #1. Both coaches react to the same play on the 4th and 1:
This is a scary thought:
I'm still watching and kind of thinking the Hawks can win this damn thing.
Kind of amazing...
This reminds me of the Dark Knight Rises commercial... except in the trailer the scene had a happy ending.
Tarvaris Jackson just threw the ball away. Daryl Johnston is talking about how Pete and Darrell Bevell really wanted to see Jackson make better decisions this week, like throwing the ball away if there's nothing there. I guess... I guess there were no consequences if he never improved on that. Obviously.
Pick you favorite Steelers fan:
Aaron Curry drops a sure interception/potential pick-6.
Steelers up 14-0 after Isaac Redman makes the defense look silly. Good blocking by Pitt, bad positioning by Seattle and missed tackles/getting juked.
Eddie Williams sighting.
Golden Tate made some awesome catches this season. If he can become a more complete receiver, he'll be great or at least very good. The ability to get two feet in on the sidelines or back of the end zone this year displays superior athleticism by Golden.
First half stats:
First downs and penalties...
Early second half and Doug Baldwin just got his first target.
Getting shut out sucks, and I'm not trying to make excuses, but... I'm not surprised in retrospect. Tarvaris Jackson's second game with Seattle and after a lockout and his progression is clearly non-existent. He (or Bevell) has picked a receiver to go to before Jackson makes a pass. This team has the youngest offensive line in the league, on the road, against a good defense, on the east coast, without Sidney Rice, before Baldwin was really a big part of the offense... I'm not surprised or really discouraged that they were shut out. And also, Jackson looks pretty accurate, throws a strong ball, he just has little ability when the first option is covered.
Antonio Brown was a huge steal in the draft for Pittsburgh.
Do we have enough guys on this tackle on Wallace?
I'm not watching condensed mode by the way. Full mode. I now have to listen to Tony Siragusa and Mike Periera discuss chop blocks for three minutes? Fast forward please.
Hey, Kris Durham is making catches.
Well, that's it. Game is over. I was actually not as disappointed with this loss in hindsight. It's pretty simple: The offense wasn't ready to play a game like this, so they couldn't stay on the field, the defense had to play too many minutes, and Browner was covering Wallace for much of the game. Not discouraged at all, really. It just adds up to:
PIT 24, SEA 0
Chargers at Patriots
Roughing the passer penalties are out of hand.
In the 2nd, San Diego had a chance to tie it at 10 from 4th and Goal at the 1. They went for it and failed. Patriots drove 99 yards for the touchdown and its 17-7. Norv Turner is still employed by the Chargers.
Chargers look to score before half and then Vince Wilfork with a fat guy interception:
He tipped it to himself, FYI.
Why are the Patriots so tough to beat? They got that ball back with :09 left from the SD 47. They didn't even need to use their last timeout as Tom Brady hit Deion Branch for two quick passes to the sideline and then Stephen Gostkowski hit a FG to make it 20-7. The Chargers also allowed that ridiculousness... Norv Turner is still employed by the Chargers.
I said this in my last Chargers review: I want nothing to do with Mike Tolbert. He just back-peddled and then fumbled with the Chargers down six in the fourth.
No offense to Sidney Rice, but I really wanted this guy. V-Jax:
Bad run defense and four turnovers spell doom.
NE 35, SD 21
Norv Turner is still employed by the Chargers.
It honestly doesn't feel like the Broncos are a better passing team with Kyle Orton. Oh, it's halftime, Denver 10-3.
I've heard people claim that Denver "played better" for Tim Tebow. Like, that the defense didn't show up until Tebow did. Well, the Bengals just scored their first TD of the game with 3:36 left in the third and they're short-handed, and the Bengals were a playoff team. So, Exhibit A in me not buying that notion.
A couple plays later, Orton is stripped at the CIN 14.
Broncos played such great D and then gave up 90 yards to Jerome Simpson.
Punter Dustin Colquitt booms a HUGE punt from deep in Broncos territory to pin the Bengals deep. Then Chris Harris, a rookie, is called for "Unsportstmanlike Conduct" because he went out of bounds and didn't come back in. That's "half the distance" and re-kick. This comes with 5:44 remaining, and Denver up 24-22. The next punt,Brandon Tate returns to the Denver 45. (The first kick was probably the CIN 15 or so.)
It doesn't cost them though. Denver holds off the Bengals comeback attempt twice. I will say that A.J. Greenlooks pretty damn good to me.
DEN 24, CIN 22