So who said the NFL was becoming a league where no defense was played? In the Sunday games we had points totals ranging from 20 to 73 and everything in between. There were so called “traditional” scorelines in four of the games, some of them came from general incompetence by the offenses and the others came from just good defense being played. This week there are just 2 big game breakdowns as there will be a bit more at the end of the game recaps so please don’t feel ripped off.
Big Game Breakdowns
Buffalo Bills (34) -d- New England Patriots (31)
Chris Kelsay, Terrence McGee, Brian Moorman and Rian Lindell, those are the four players still on the Bills roster from the last Buffalo win over New England back in week 1 of the 2003 season. Tom Brady, Matt Light and Dan Koppen are the only Patriots players to have been with the team (even if it’s on IR) for the 15 prior games between these teams. My first reaction was to ignore this game & pretend it was never played or something but it was a very good contest even if it wasn’t a great ad for competent defense. All the credit must go to the Bills here who promised that they would not lay down and they came roaring back after a rough start.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had two early picks but still managed to complete plenty of passes, at one stage I noted that he had gone 7/10 and two of his three incompletions were interceptions by the Patriots. What was most impressive though was how easily Fitzpatrick shook off the early interceptions and remained composed when under fire. Fred Jackson is really making his mark in the running back group getting 17 touches for 161 yards really getting through the depleted Patriots line. On defense the Bills did something that other teams have really struggled to do in the past year, intercept Brady and get him frustrated. The first interception was an impressive catch after Danny Woodhead slipped and tipped the ball straight to Bryan Scott, the second one had Leodis McKelvin making a great play on the ball undercutting an Ochocinco route, Ocho really should have come back and at least tried to break up the pass. The third pick was the biggest mistake by Brady getting greedy and trying to force the ball to Rob Gronkowski and underthrowing the route. The fourth and final one was simply a crazy deflection off a lineman’s helmet and the Bills getting a good break on the ball. As many mistakes as the Patriots made the Bills made several great plays to stand up to the big brother in the division.
The starting secondary of the Patriots made up of corners Leigh Bodden and Devin McCourty and the safeties Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown all had very rough days getting beaten by the Bills receivers all over the field. Since he signed a big 3 year deal in March 2010 Bodden has been on IR for the 2010 season and has looked a step behind so far this year especially when asked to play in an outside role. Barrett & Brown looked lost out there with regular starter Pat Chung missing due to a broken thumb and with only 3 true safeties on the roster (James Ihedigbo is a special teamer) the depth of the Patriots was tested. Injuries can only be blamed so much as the players on the field still need to execute and do their jobs, the Pats weren’t the only team with injuries this week. Brady’s picks have already been mentioned here and have been covered ad nauseum so lets look at the positive signs of the day for the Patriots offense, the standout performer was Wes Welker who set Patriots team records with 16 catches for 217 yards and 2 TD’s, Rob Gronkowski had a great homecoming (until the loss anyway) proving to be a matchup nightmare. Rookie back Stevan Ridley saw some extended action today and looks like he is breaking into the Lawfirm/Woody backfield rotation. At the end of the day though Brady and co just made too many mistakes to win the game and could not convert when they needed to.
My Pick: Patriots, honestly did not see the 4 Brady picks coming (then again who did?)
Detroit Lions (26) -d- Minnesota Vikings (23) [OT]
In the first half the Vikings played like they were on a long-term winning streak at home against the Lions. When the team is in doubt about the quality of their passing game the best option if you have it, is to go to your all world running back who can take a lot of the pressure off the quarterback. On the 12 play opening drive Adrian Peterson helped keep the chains moving carrying 5 times for 51 yards. Strangely though that would make up the bulk of Peterson’s production as the Vikings went pass heavy putting the ball in McNabb’s hands. McNabb made no major mistakes and was a decent game manager for the afternoon. His throw to Shiancoe on the run for the touchdown right on halftime was a dart and placed perfectly. Neither team was overly spectacular in the first half but the Vikings came out on top because they made more plays when needed.
The second half was a total reversal of fortunes as the Lions stormed back from a 20-0 deficit to tie the game at 20, take a 3 point lead and then have it pegged back to send the game to overtime. Detroit’s comeback began when Calvin Johnson kicked into gear and caught a jump ball touchdown early in the third quarter. On Johnson’s second TD catch Stafford showed enough mobility to elude the pass rush and find Megatron open in the back of the end zone. It’s easy to simply say Johnson is an athletic freak and that is why he gets open but his mental strength is a great asset too as he knows how to read defenses and find the best spot to make his catch. On Jahvid Best’s 60 yard screen catch Johnson made a great block to spring Best for the big gain. At 17-20 the Vikings waived off the punt team at the insistence of Adrian Peterson thinking he could convert the 4th and 1. All well and good except the ball never got to Peterson instead going to Toby Gerhart on a fullback dive, that failed conversion meant the Lions could knot the game up with a field goal. After taking the lead 23-20, the onus fell on the defense to make one more stop of the Vikings offense, McNabb managed to make enough key throws to get the ball in range for a tying field goal. After getting the ball in overtime Matt Stafford threw a deep ball up for Calvin Johnson and that was it as Johnson made a good adjustment to catch the ball inside the Vikings 20 setting up the game winning field goal.
My Pick: Lions, thought they could make enough plays to win.
Carolina (16) -d- Jacksonville (10)
The thing that really stood out for me in this game was that playing in the monsoonal rain in the first half would have been so freaking cool. Watching the players sliding around reminded me why I love open air stadiums because you get crazy weather games like that. In terms of execution it wasn’t a great advertisement for the rookie quarterbacks even if the rain did play a hindering role. Cam Newton didn’t throw for 400+ yards but he got a much more important stat that being the win, Maurice Jones-Drew rolled too with 24 carries for 122 yards.
My Pick: Carolina, thought Newton’s experience would make the difference.
San Francisco (13) -d- Cincinnati (8)
Well this game was one for the hardcore fans to sit through & noone else, neither team’s offensive line seemed overly interested in blocking for their quarterback as it became a battle for field position. Mercifully it ended in regulation after the 49ers managed a touchdown with 4 minutes to play. Andy Dalton had a rough outing too taking hits and throwing picks. There was a rather odd play in this one too where the entire 49ers offensive line false started.
My Pick: Cincinnati, really though, everyone lost in this game.
Cleveland (17) -d- Miami (16)
With Peyton Hillis missing due to strep throat the main threat of the Browns offense was taken away allowing the Dolphins to play a more balanced scheme. Colt McCoy looked like he struggled with the added attention paid to him and the passing game in general. In the crunch however he was able to make plays and live up to his “winner” tag from his time at Texas making a nice throw to Mohammad Massoquoi for the winning touchdown. Dolphins rookie Daniel Thomas gave the Browns defense fits during the game which is an encouraging sign for their running game.
My Pick: Cleveland, even though I picked them assuming Hillis would play.
New Orleans (40) -d- Houston (33)
Well that was kind of fun to watch, Matt Schaub and the Texans came into the Superdome ready to take on the Gregg Williams defense. A couple of quick scores had the Texans out in front but Brees lead the Saints back with the assistance of Darren Sproles who is looking more & more like a better Reggie Bush than Reggie Bush. In the first half Brees and the Saints made several mistakes that had the Texans been more efficient could have put the game away then & there but were forced to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. Schaub worked his tight ends very effectively throwing to them for 10 catches and 200 yards. In the end though the Saints came out on top thanks to an growing Jimmy Graham and Mark Ingram’s first touchdown run.
My Pick: New Orleans, even had the shootout aspect.
New York (29) -d- Philadelphia (16)
The Eagles dream team is struggling now with Michael Vick slowly working his way towards injuring every part of his body this season. When he was on the field Vick looked like someone who had suffered a rough concussion the week before seeming just a little bit off his game. When he broke his hand and left the game Mike Kafka came in to replace him. Kafka, who was asked to manage last week could not lead a comeback this time instead throwing two interceptions. On the other side Eli Manning took control of the game finding 2010 preseason favourite Victor Cruz for 3 big catches including two touchdowns. In the end the Giants won by making big plays, their first three touchdowns all came from over 25 yards out and the one that did not was from 18 yards on a screen.
My Pick: Philadelphia, seriously Giants? What next?
Tennessee (17) -d- Denver (14)
Matt Hasslebeck is keeping the Titans offense rolling so far this year while normal star Chris Johnson struggles thanks to his newly heavy wallet. This was actually a very tight game & came right down to the end. Losing favourite target Kenny Britt did not hinder Hasslebeck as he found a new best friend in Nate Washington who caught 8 passes for 92 yards. Kyle Orton was once again serviceable but made two costly mistakes throwing two interceptions. The biggest call of the game came right before the Titans winning drive as John Fox made an aggressive call up 14-10 to go for it on 4th & goal on the 1 yard line. The play was stuffed and the Titans used the momentum swing to march down the field for the winning touchdown catch from Daniel Graham.
My Pick: Titans, they are doing just enough & that’s all that matters.
Oakland (34) -d- New York (24)
As one of the last teams to have their home opener, the Raiders wanted to do two things, put on a show for their fans to make up for the heartbreaking loss last week and two, make a statement about their intentions for the season. Last year the Raiders struggled winning games outside the division so facing the two time AFC Championship Game Attendees New York Jets would be a good chance to break that trend. To win the game the Raiders needed a solid contribution from Darren McFadden & boy did they get one, he ran riot against the Jets for 171 yards on 19 carries and 2 touchdowns. The Jets meanwhile had LaDanian Tomlinson as Sanchez’s best receiver on the day but made two crucial turnovers that made the difference in the end as they could not come back.
My Pick: Oakland, McFadden made the difference
San Diego (20) -d- Kansas City (17)
Kansas City must have been wondering what they did to piss off karma in the offseason after getting blown out in the first two games of the season and losing three key players all to knee injuries. Well at least this week they did not get blown out, rather got toyed with by fate playing a very slack San Diego Chargers team who had to overcome a poor showing by Phillip Rivers and got saved by a late interception by another player with a newly heavy wallet safety Eric Weddele. Ryan Matthews got an opportunity to take the lead back role and contributed well going for almost 100 yards.
My Pick: San Diego, divisional matchup meant it was a bit closer than spread thought.
Baltimore (37) -d- St Louis (7)
So Torrey Smith made his presence felt in this win which also happened to be his debut, he torched the Rams secondary for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns (all of which were in the first quarter) completely bitch slapping the man , the one thing I would love to say to him now after that performance is, “do it again!” Of course it wasn’t all Torrey Smith, the running backs went riot too running over the Rams defense. Sam Bradford once again struggled completing only half his passes and throwing another interception. Steven Jackson returned to action for all of 4 carries leaving Cadillac Williams to take the bulk of the rushing attempts.
My Pick: Baltimore, early contender for bipolar team of the year.
Green Bay (27) -d- Chicago (17)
Even with his first interception of the season Aaron Rodgers is maintaining his groove from the end of last year. This time he wasn’t doing anything crazy or special but he was just continuing to successfully make plays to help the Packers win. The Packers defense was dominant for long parts of the game which made life difficult for the Bears offense. A couple of bright spots however are young receiver Dan Sanzenbacher (please don’t make me write that name too much) who is fast emerging as a reliable target for Jay Cutler to find. Another positive is Cutler only got sacked 3 times today and avoided getting injured. If it wasn’t for the holding penalty the fake punt return would have been the coolest play of the season.
My Pick: Green Bay, still the champs.
Seattle (13) -d- Arizona (10)
Travaris Jackson had the sort of game that has become standard for someone of his skill level, after struggling to complete passes and throwing an interception giving the crowd plenty to worry about, Jackson made a massive play running into the endzone in the third quarter for what would be the winning touchdown. Kevin Kolb looks like he is slowly starting to adjust to the Ken Wisenhunt offense but he just does not seem to be there yet, it will come though. Until it does though it is understandably frustrating.
My Pick: Arizona, thought Kolb could outplay Jackson
Tampa Bay (16) -d- Atlanta (13)
It must be nice for Josh Freeman to finally beat the Falcons having failed to do so in his career before then. Freeman was far from impressive in this game stats wise but he made two major plays that wound up being the difference in this division battle. At the end of the first half, Freeman ran a quarterback sneak into the endzone for the Buccaneers only touchdown then in the fourth quarter when trying to run down the clock, he made a crucial hard count on the line to get a first down for Tampa. Matt Ryan rebounded from a rough first half and came close to bringing the Falcons back but could not do enough.
My Pick: Tampa, NFC South going to be tight this year.
Pittsburgh (23) -d- Indianapolis (20)
How much of this game was Pittsburgh struggling and Indianapolis finally realising they have to play with the guys who are on the field. It’s probably somewhere in the middle but it was surprisingly entertaining given the fact everyone was expecting a blowout. The Steelers made the going tough struggling to close the game out and the Colts did everything they could to give themselves a chance.
My Pick: Pittsburgh, should have been by a lot more.
Dallas (18) -d- Washington (16)
Dallas did enough to get by Washington here, it was a true NFC East game where both teams knew exactly what the other was going to do. It was amazing to see how Washington just decided to blanket Witten on 3rd down leaving Romo to look elsewhere. Felix Jones made the most of his 14 carries too going for 115 yards total and keeping the Redskins defense honest. Dallas needs to solve their red zone efficiency problems too since 6 field goals will not be enough most weeks. For Washington the run game which is the focus of the Shannahan offense provided no support as they struggled all night.
My Pick: Dallas, they would do just enough to get through
Picks Record: 11-5 (32-16 on the Season)
Week 3 Overreactions:
- Buffalo will win the AFC East and get a first round bye
- Ditto for Tampa & NFC South
- If Jim Harbaugh can get the 49ers to 8-8 he should be coach of the year
- Only 1 win for Kevin Kolb so far? Totally not worth the price tag (these are jokes Seth, please don’t fire me).
Week 3 Random Thoughts:
- Those new Buffalo uniforms really are awesome, nice throwback to the old days.
- I can’t fault John Fox for making the call to go for it on 4th down on the goal line
- Some defenders really need basic tackling lessons
- I would love to be a free agent offensive lineman right now, Pittsburgh will be desperate to add bodies.
- Baltimore seemed to rebound from a bad loss pretty well, now we need to see if they can back up a good win
- Troy Polamalu can still make the occasional play but he’s not the every down threat he used to be
- Awful day from Brady, he seemed rushed and jittery until he started to huddle up and slow the game down. Still though, 4 TD passes on a bad day isn’t all bad.
Questions I’m Left With
- Can the Patriots stop any quarterback?
- Why did the Vikings go away from Peterson?
- Wasn’t Wes Welker meant to be a short, underneath receiver who doesn’t put up big yardage?
- What is up with Chris Johnson?
- Will St Louis ever get healthy?
- Will Dallas score a touchdown next week?
- Detroit & Buffalo are undefeated so far… WHAT THE HELL?
- How would some of these NFL players fare playing in the Rugby World Cup? Andre or Calvin Johnson would make great backs I think
Andrew Luck Favorites
- Indianapolis: Better showing this week but until they win (or something exceptional happens) they will be top of this ranking.
- St Louis: Ok so they don’t actually need Luck but they could very well wind up with the top pick with that schedule & trade it for a bounty of picks & players
Chasing Dan Marino
Marino - 5084 yards (317.75 ypg)
Tom Brady- 1327 yards (442.3 ypg) [3 games]
Remaining - 3757 yards (289 ypg) [13 games]