NFL Splinters | Week 10, 2009

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
AP Photo/Darron Cummings

By Paul Gotham

Down to the wire

Indianapolis and New Orleans took different paths, but both remain undefeated. The Saints had to “hang on, hang on, hang on,” while Indy was able to “look out, look out, look out.”

thumbNeil Young - Decade (The Very Best Of 1966-1976) FrontUncharacteristically, the Saints turned over the ball four times to the St. Louis Rams, but as it has been all season, the Saints found a way. Courtney Roby returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.  From there, the Saints held on for dear life. Fortunately for the denizens of Cajun country,  the Rams forgot to practice clock management prior to the game – squandering a chance to win as time expired.

Saints head coach, Sean Payton, will have to turn his attention to the recent injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Jabari Greer was sidelined with a groin injury, and Tracy Porter limped off with a possible ACL injury.

On the other hand, the Colts woke up the echoes of cliches past and ‘grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat.’   This week’s most debatable coaching call made for great drama as Peyton Manning led the Colts to two touchdowns in the game’s final 3:00 for a 35-34 triumph. Belichick and the Pats went for it on 4th and 2 inside their own 30. The Colts D held, and the rest is highlight material.

The Chinchillas-"anything goes in love and war."
The Chinchillas-"anything goes in love and war."

Critics are slamming Belichick for the decision. Yeah, “anything goes in love and war. Yes, anything goes.” When a guy wins three Super Bowl titles in one decade, he earns the benefit of the doubt. Thing is, the game never should have been that close. New England had two turnovers inside the Colt ten yard line. Belichick went for the win, on the road in the tenth week of the season. Something tells me Tom Brady and the Pats will recover.

The Football Night in America crew reported that they timed Randy Moss running 40 yards in less than four seconds. I’m not sure I trust their stop watch. 40 yards in less than four seconds? 10 yards in less than a second?

Ladies and gentlemen – the leaders of the AFC North

No need to adjust your set at home. The Cincinnati Bengals have ascended to heights the Queen City hasn’t known for a couple of decades. With a defense to shake the last drop of ketchup from a bottle of Heinz 57,  the Bengals have swept the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.  Cincinnati’s D has given up one touchdown in the last two weeks – a span where they downed the Ravens, 17-7 and yesterday, the Steelers, 18-12.  Cincinnati held the Super Bowl Champion’s offense, which was number one in the league, to a third down efficiency of 3 /15.

Street Fighting Man

beggars-banquet_1968Could anyone blame Aaron Rodgers if he lobbied for the Green Bay Packers to implement the Wildcat into their offense. After last week’s loss to Tampa Bay, Rodgers had been sacked a total of 37 times for the first half of the season. You read that right. The Packer QB kissed the turf 37 times in the first eight games. Multiply that over a 16-game campaign, and the Packers would have an infamous record.

“And what can a poor boy do?”

Yesterday, Rodgers threw one touchdown and ran for another as the Pack downed the Cowpokes, 17-7. Rodgers completed 25-36 for 189 yards.

Tin men, scare crows, and lions

Any chance of the Buffalo Bills salvaging some semblance of a respectable season ended yesterday. Deadlocked at 17 after three quarters, the Bills looked good. Then, Tennessee scored 24 unanswered. Mount T.O. exploded. And the Bills fans have to be wondering about this organization. Other than Jarius Byrd, who intercepted a pass for the fifth game in a row, the Bills have few positives. The only thing missing from yesterday’s game was the yellow brick road because the Bills had no heart, no courage, and yeah, you guessed it, very little brains.

Tennessee is now 3-0 with Vince Young under center. In the 21st century NFL given to ‘spread’ offenses, the Titans have turned to the ‘option.’  Chris Johnson gained 132 yards on the ground and 100 through the air.

Empire burlesque

NFL fans scratched their heads as the Denver Broncos sprinted to a record of 6-0. Three consecutive losses – including yesterday’s to the Washington Redskins, 27-17 – have fans wondering if we have “seen the real Broncos at last.”  Denver’s losses coupled with San Diego’s four game win streak has knotted the AFC West. Next weekend’s tilt in Denver should be interesting.

Blinded by the light?

What started 3-0 has now turned into 4-5. In September, Rex Ryan looked like a genius, and Mark Sanchez a prodigy. The New York Jets toppled Houston, New England, and Tennessee. The view from above must have been too much because lately the Jets look “cut loose like a deuce.”

Josh Scobee kicked a field goal as time expired, and Jacksonville downed New York, 24-22.

Maurice Jones-Drew took one for the team. Instead of scoring a touchdown, the Jaguar running back opted to kill clock and took a knee. Jones-Drew went to the turf at the two-yard line keeping the clock in motion and the jet offense on the sideline.

MNF

Baltimore at Cleveland. Browns’ coach, Eric Mangini, tapped Brady Quinn for the start tonight. Did I hear someone say lamb to the slaughter? That’s great ‘Mangenius’. Give the kid the ball against Baltimore who is coming off a loss. You couldn’t wait a week when you guys play the Lions?

10 Responses to "NFL Splinters | Week 10, 2009"

  1. Pingback: Pickin' Splinters

  2. Chas   November 16, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    You forgot to mention that the Giants had their best week of the last five.

  3. Casey   November 16, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Haha – that would probably be the T-Heads: “We’re on a road to nowhere.”

  4. Smitty   November 17, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I have to believe that most Monday Morning Quarterbacks disagree with me but I loved the call by Coach Belichick. It made absolute sense and while it goes against “traditional” playcalling – I give him credit for going against the grain. This is why I agree with the call:

    1. The Pats were kiling the Colts secondary all day. Belichick has a ton of confidence in Brady and Co. to get 2 yards! Two freakin’ yards. Personally I think they got it and I thought it was a bad spot. Yes, Faulk juggled, but I thought he still got the first down. The lack of timeout was an issue for me – especially since they had to burn a timeout coming out of a TV timeout to start the 4th quarter. How does that happen? Apparently Charlie Weis picked up Belichicks clock management skills.

    2. Peyton Manning. Two out of the 3 drives before that last drive, the Colts drove the length of the field in less then 2 minutes – on both drives. So do you punt a ball back to Manning knowing that he has over 2 minutes to work with and has essentially 4 timeouts (2 minute warning)? The Pats defense was tired and they were down a couple of guys. To me, letting your offense try to win the game for you, makes perfect sense.

    Casey mentioned it, but the Pats really lost this game in the 3rd quarter. They were ahead 31-14 and really should have been ahead 45-14. The fumble by Maroney was a killer. Also key was the conservative play calling after the Pats picked off Manning during the 4th quarter. I think they called 3 plays, were extremely conservative and kicked a field goal to go up 34-21. Why not go for the kill here? Why did they get so conservative. Nobody was covering Randy Moss all day – why not try to take it in for 6 at this point.

    Most of New England is calling for Belichick’s head at this point. If this had worked, it would have been another example of the genius – Mangini only wishes he could be. Which makes me think of the saying – if you are poor, you are considered crazy,. If you are rich, you are just eccentric. Would any other coach been able to make that call and get away with it.

    Could you imagine Dick Jauron make that call? Ralph Wilson might have joined Bud Adams in flipping him off.

  5. Wally   November 17, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Bad decision by Belijerk … very unWeis! And I’m not saying that cuz they didn’t get the 1st down. You don’t leave Peyton Manning on the doorstep when he has to have a TD and ~1:40 left. Push him back 40-50 yards with a punt. I’ts amazing how much crap happens when you have much further distance to travel … esp to get a TD. That decision was soooooooo bad, I thought Uncle Charlie was back on the sideline calling plays for Belijerk.

  6. Casey   November 17, 2009 at 11:55 am

    That play is only being questioned because it didn’t work. I was surprised when they DIDN’T convert. I figured there was no way Indy would make that stop. You push Manning back 40-50 yards and he has that much more space to work with – like what he did on the previous possession. On their previous drive, Indy went 79 yards in 1:49.

    The call wasn’t bad; the execution was. Why that ball is only being thrown two yards is beyond me. To not throw to Moss or Welker is also puzzling.

    Smitty – if you can say the ball was juggled (which I don’t know how you can because the replays were horrible), then the spot was correct.

  7. Smitty   November 17, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Wally,

    You are being very generous and assuming that the punt is going 50 yards and no chance of a return? It also would have been 2:00+ and 4 timeouts he would have been working with. A punt wouldn’t have taken over a minute to run.

    You are right – so many things can go wrong. Like they return the punt for TD. But Manning was in a groove and the Pats defense was clearly exhausted.
    The Pats weren’t even coming close to generating a pass rush against Manning and he was picking them apart the whole 4th quarter. At that point, you have place the game in the hands of the guys that will win the game for you – for the Pats it was their offense. It clearly wasn’t the Pats defense.

    Manning had already orchestrated 2 70+ drives in the 4th quarter that both took less then 2 minutes. With a tired defense, the odds were in the favor of Manning.

    My criticism is the waste of timeout that happened at the start of the 4th quarter. Had they had that timeout, they could had that spot reviewed. I think they got a bad spot and should have challenged. Problem was – they were out of timeouts.

  8. Smitty   November 17, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Casey – I agree with you.. Why put it even close where you have to rely on a spot for the first down? Indy couldn’t cover Welker or Moss all night.. It wasn’t the right play call.

    Wally – I think this decision is very Un-Weis like. You couldn’t get Weis to think outside of the box if his lunch depended on it. This is the difference between Belichick and everyone else. He has the guts.. or 3 Super Bowl rings to make that call.

  9. Chas   November 17, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I think Belichik made a mistake, but it wasn’t as crazy as it seemed in the moment. For the record, when they lined up to go for it, and I realized they weren’t just trying to draw the Colts off-sides, my reaction was “Is he crazy?” but deep-down I thought they were going to make it.

    But, to set the record straight, the 4th-down play ran the clock down to under the two-minute warning, and the Colts only had one time out left. So, if a punt had netted just under 40 yards, they would have had to go about 65 yards in just under 2 minutes, with the ability to stop the clock only once.

    Their two previous touchdown drives were longer than that, and took less than two minutes, so they definitely still had a good chance, but in-between these was one that resulted in an interception, and none of the four possessions prior had resulted in a touchdown. That’s 2 out of 7, by the way. So, to assume this was a slam-dunk for Peyton and crew is a bit of an exaggeration.

    But, the Colts were on a roll, and this 65% chance of converting that fourth-down play that everybody’s talking about certainly comes into play. So, it wasn’t as crazy as it seemed, but I still believe with a six-point lead, the Patriots were still in control, but Belichik handled the situation as if they were desperate. And, for that reason, he screwed up.

    That said, he’s one of, if not the only, coach who could get away with making that decision, more because he has the rings than the guts.

  10. Smitty   November 17, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Bills fired Dick Jauron – Rumors they are going to offer Charlie Weiss the job..

    Okay, I made that last part up..

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