Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Around the League


How 'bout them Cowboys??? I was shocked to see Dallas struggle so much with the Chiefs on Sunday. Dallas did everything in their power to give the game to KC. Unfortunately for us, the Chiefs are so bad they couldn't even take advantage of that. Dallas was incredibly sloppy. They muffed a punt. They mishandled another punt. They missed a FG. Miles Austin had a monster game, but failed to make a pair of short TD catches that would have eliminated the need for OT.

Dallas was not alone. Sunday was the sloppiest day of NFL football that I can ever recall:

* The Steelers could never really put away Detroit. PIT won 28-20, but gave up 335 yards. No biggie you say. I bet Calvin Johnson has a big game. Nope. He wasn't 100% and only had 1 catch for 2 yards. Dennis Northcutt was the big offensive weapon.

* The CLE-BUF game was pretty much a complete disaster. Derek Anderson played very well vs CIN last week, but really struggled this time out. He was only 2 of 17. And he won. The Bills have hit rock bottom recently. Roscoe Parrish muffed a punt late in the game and that set up the winning FG. Parrish earlier in the game lost 15 yards on another PR. He fumbled a KO in the loss to the Saints a few weeks back. BUF was also hurt by an amazing 9 false start penalties. Ugly, ugly game.

* The Vikings blew out the Rams, 38-10. St. Louis actually showed some positive signs, gaining 400 yards of offense. They had some good play on STs. The defense did okay vs the run. The Rams negated those positives with 4 turnovers. The Vikings have to wonder about their defense. They gave up 400 yards to a bad offense. 122 of those yards came on the ground.

* The Raiders had a dreadful performance. They allowed 44 points to the Giants. Oakland had 44 offensive plays in the game. Bad. Very bad. Oakland wasn't even competitive. Embarrassing loss.

* The tackling in the WAS-CAR game was bad. I saw several plays for both teams where players caught a short pass and were able to get to the sticks despite defenders being in good position to make the play. WAS called a highly questionable running play when trapped at their own 1-yard line which led to a safety. The long run in the game for either team was 12 yards. That's just sorta weird.

* I saw the most despicable play of the whole year on Sunday in the SF-ATL game. Dre Bly picked off a pass with his team trailing 35-10 in the 3rd quarter. He got the ball around his own 15 yard line. He ran upfield about 15 or so yards and then extended the ball away from his body while putting his free hand behind his head. He struck the Deion pose. He did this more than 60 yards from the end zone. Guess what? He was tackled a second later, fumbled, and the Falcons got the ball back. Football gods 1, Dre Bly 0. I wanted Mike Singletary to cut him on the spot. How do you celebrate when losing by 25? How do you celebrate when you aren't even at midfield and Roddy White is chasing you? In-freaking-sane. Keith Olbermann has a segment where he chooses the worst person in the world. I'm not sure if this is a daily or weekly award, but Bly gets it for the whole year. Not to be too much of a purist/football snob, but that bugged the hell out of me.

SF had more problems in the game. WR Josh Morgan looked like he slowed down on a huge pass play. He was tackled at the 2-yard line. They did get a TD on the drive, but Morgan sure looked like he should have scored. It did take the offense 3 plays to get the final 2 yards. Scoring in the Red Zone is hard.

Also, the play caused an odd problem. Rookie runner Glen Coffee thought Morgan scored on the play and wasn't on the field for 1st/goal. SF had to call a timeout. Spending a timeout in the 1st half of a game usually isn't critical, but this week it did hurt. Later in the half the Niners had to use a timeout prior to a 3rd down play in scoring territory. On the ensuing KO the returner had a non-fumble called a fumble. Horrible call. Replay would have reversed that in a second, but...SF couldn't challenge because they had just burned their final TO. The score was 21-10 at that point. That is a manageable deficit. The Falcons took the gift non-fumble and scored to go up 28-10. The game essentially was over at that point. SF just doesn't have the offensive weapons to make up that kind of deficit against a solid team.

* JAX went out west and lost to Seattle 41-0. I think that's all I need to say about that.

* I saw at least 3 offenses turn the ball over in the Red Zone: TB, CIN, STL.

* 3 teams had costly mistakes while trying to field punts: BUF, DAL, WAS.

Like I said, strange, strange day filled with sloppy football. These are the major lowlights. There are plenty of other miscues and situations that I'm not covering.


* So what is up with the 0-5 Titans? Albert Haynesworth.

You have to understand how that team played last year. They went 13-3, but the Titans were not an unbelievable juggernaut. Their offense was 21st in the league. Their defense was 7th in the NFL. They did finish 2nd in the NFL in scoring defense.

What teams did TEN hold to 14 points or less?

JAX - 10
CIN - 7
HOU - 12
BAL - 10
KC - 10
CHI - 14
JAX - 14
DET - 10
CLE - 9
HOU - 13
PIT - 14

The only Top 15 offense in there is HOU. Most weren't in the Top 20.

The Titans had a good defense, but they were helped by facing weak competition. They had one elite defensive player, Big Al. And he truly is an elite player. His presence affected the entire team.

Albert could not be consistently single-blocked. Teams had to double him or risk having Al disrupt the play. That meant single blocking for the other 3 DL. The other guys are solid players. DE Kyle Vanden Bosch is actually very good, but isn't a difference maker on his own. Al's presence in the middle helped a lot. Jevon Kearse can't do it on his own anymore. DT Tony Brown is good at doing the dirty work. Even with double-teaming, Big Al still racked up 8.5 of the team's 44 sacks. That tells you he's pretty special. Good players get doubled. Great players beat double teams and make plays.

The pressure had a huge impact on the secondary. Those guys didn't have to cover as long. They also knew that QBs would be rushed into making some poor throws. The Titans came up with 20 picks, one of the better totals in the league.

The front seven was able to shut down running games pretty consistently (6th in the NFL). A lot of this was due to Big Al's presence in the middle. The running game is based on inside plays. If you can't run in the middle because of a stout DT the defense is able to scheme to control the edges. Since TEN could shut down the run that let the Safeties stay back and play the pass a lot of the time. Those guys responded with great production (11 INTs, 19 PDs).

With the opposing team unable to score, the Titans could stick with the run game as much as they wanted. The best offensive players were RBs Chris Johnson and Lendale White. TEN could throw the ball when they wanted. The success of the running game made the play-action pass effective. The top 2 TEs caught more passes than the starting WRs. That is a simplistic passing offense that is based on situational comfort. Get in a shootout and you're in trouble. Get behind by a couple of scores and you're in big trouble.

Haynesworth is gone this year and it shows. TEN has had to play from behind more than last year. They only have 9 sacks and 4 picks, putting them on pace to have 29 sacks and 13 INTs for the year. That means less pressure on the opposing offense and fewer short fields for the Titans offense. The rushing offense is only off a little from last year's pace, but check out TDs. The Titans ran for 24 scores last year. This year they are headed for 13. Same yards, but less TDs tells you field position is a big part of the situation.

Big Al was a great fit for TEN. He enabled them to play a certain brand of football. Without him things are much tougher. There is less fudge room for mistakes. Injuries to CB Courtland Finnegan would have been a problem last year, but this year that is a major hurdle and has had a huge impact on Tennessee.

The Titans are not an awful team like KC, STL, TB, or OAK. They aren't as bad as BUF, CLE, or DET. Still, 0-5 is 0-5. That record is real. Playing well enough to lose close is still losing. I think Jeff Fisher is too good a coach for them to finish with only 3 or 4 wins. This nightmare start is going to be an interesting test for Fisher, the players, and the organization.

Why hasn't Al had a huge impact on WAS? Complicated question, but I think a lot of it is the fact that they don't have as sound an infrastructure. Also, playing in the NFC East is a huge challenge. One guy is rarely going to make or break a team. Plus, the WAS defense was pretty good last year. The offense is the problem.


Michael said...

You had a couple of things wrong in the Niners game, Tommy.

On the play that Morgan got tackled at the two, the Niners did indeed score a touchdown on that drive (a toss to Coffee on 3rd down), not a field goal.

And because Coffee thought Morgan scored on the play, the Niners did have to waste a time out, but it was only their second, not their third.

They wasted their third on their next drive, when they got a field goal...

Tommy Lawlor said...


I watch a lot of football and sometimes going off memory is a dangerous thing. Always let me know if I screw up on a detail. I prefer to get the correct info out there.

Cliff said...

Full moon on Sunday?

Adam said...

If you insist on being corrected then here's one you missed. WAS had the terrible play call with CAR getting the safety, you have it backwards.

Also I saw on NFL Network last night that Antonio Pierce said that playing against the Raiders was like playing in a scrimmage game. He felt the tempo was so slow and that they hate no fight in them what-so-ever.

It's sad when a franchise is beginning to crumble so terribly due to the owner not allowing his staff to make the important desicions in the offseason. I find it hard to believe that any coach of any kind would want to go to that franchise having to deal with Al Davis. I wonder how at fault Lane Kiffin was last year in regards to that ridiculous press conference Davis gave. Personally I'd want the hell out of dodge as well.

"Commitment to Excellence" my ass

Tommy Lawlor said...

I saw the WAS-CAR safety. That was just a mental blunder on my part.

RE: Al Davis

He's running the Raiders based on a 1970's paradigm. You could run a team in a dysfunctional way back then. Athletes didn't make as much money. Football was more sport than business.

Football now, for better or worse, is corporate. Al doesn't fully understand that. He gets the sales part of it with fans, but still can't grasp that concept when it comes to the players. He still thinks of the Raiders as a family, where the guys will be committed to winning because of loyalty to each other and him. That just isn't the modern player.

Tommy Lawlor said...

Funny note on the Titans. They beat PIT late last year. They stomped on the Terrible Towel in that game as a way of celebrating.

Since that happened, TEN is 0-7. Coincidence or curse?

Cliff said...

Isn't it ironic how the owners who get the most publicity are usually the one's who fail to field successful teams?

Al Davis and Dan Snyder come immediately to mind. Jerry Jones has had good Cowboys teams in the last decade but still can't put the right pieces together to win a playoff game.

That's why I cringe when Lurie gets flack in the Philly media. It could be so much worse.

Fans would love a guy like Snyder who doesn't hesitate to drop $100 mil on a player, but I'm not sure fans are ready for the futility that goes with it.

frankfurtler said...

The Titans also let Chris Carr go this year too. I'm not saying he would soften the loss of Haynesworth and DC Schwartz, but it seems a shame the Titans could not find a way to keep him.

Tommy Lawlor said...

Chris Carr wanted more playing time as a DB. TEN didn't think he was good enough to merit more snaps. They wanted him just as a RS.

The Ravens offered him PT as a Nickelback and RS. If you saw his "coverage" on the game winning TD vs Cincy you'd understand why the Titans didn't want him playing DB.

Stephen said...

The Ravens D has looked a lot less impressive this year than normal, I wonder if the departure of DC Rex Ryan is hurting them. Oftentimes coaches aren't given nearly as much credit as I think they deserve, especially compared to the glorification that goes with personel moves. For instance, Mike Singletary has taken the same guys Mike Nolan has and molded the team into winners, and Mike Nolan has taken the Denver defense which was supposed to be absolutely atrocious talent wise, switched schemes, and is producing some of the best defense in the NFL.

Sometimes having the right coach can make all the difference, and having the wrong coach can be disasterous.