Football Happenings …

Not a lot of important stuff in the world of college football happened last weekend other than UCLA firing head coach Jim Mora meaning that there will be more than a couple of “name programs” out there looking for new leadership.  So, I won’t dwell on college football today because there were lots of strange doings in the NFL.  I want to start with the utter collapse of the Skins against the Saints.

  • With less than six minutes to play, the Skins led the Saints 31-16 and they had the Saints pinned deep in their own territory.  The Skins’ defense had been pressuring Drew Brees all day long and there were few if any receivers running wide open all day long.
  • And then it happened…  There was no pressure on Brees; receivers ran routes that confounded defenders and the Saints marched the field to score making it 31-23.
  • The Skins went 3-and-out and punted the ball away – only to watch the Saints parade down the field with no timeouts eating up large chunks of real estate on every play.  The touchdown came, and the 2-point conversion came, and the game was tied.
  • The Skins got to the edge of field goal range only to get an intentional grounding penalty that sent the game to overtime.
  • The Saints kicked off and held.  The Saints got the ball and ran off tackle twice for about 60 yards and kicked the game winning field goal.

This loss belongs squarely on the shoulders of the defense and/or the defensive play caller in the final 5 minutes of the game.  It should never have gone to OT; that game was in the bag until the Skins’ defense decided to cough up the game.  Consider these defensive stats

Last Friday, I said that I did not understand why the Bills’ braintrust had decided to bench Tyrod Taylor in favor of Nathan Peterman.  The Bills have made some strange personnel decisions during the last off-season and near the trade deadline this year but this one was really out of left field.  Peterman proceeded to throw 5 INTs – – in the first half before he was benched.  I only saw the highlights here, but I have no idea what he might have shown in practice that would have convinced the coaching staff that he was ready to see the field on a Sunday.  He would have had to have shown a lot more “savvy” just to reach the level of “bewildered”.  The Bills lost to the Chargers 54-24

It is important to learn new things every day.  Here is what I learned from yesterday:

  • I learned why there were 7 college QBs taken ahead of Peterman in the NFL Draft last Spring.

Speaking of less-than-competent quarterbacking, the Green Bay Packers are up against it.  Brett Hundley was simply overmatched playing the Ravens’ defense and that defensive unit pitched its 3rd shutout for the season.  Hundley threw 3 INTs and lost a fumble in this debacle.

And speaking of good defensive units, the Vikings took on the NFL’s most prolific scoring offense last week and beat the Rams 24-7.  Case Keenum led the Vikes to 451 yards of total offense while the Rams were limited to 254 yards.  The Vikes are going to the playoffs – either as the NFC North champ or as a wild-card.

The Lions stayed 2 games behind the Vikes in the NFC North beating the Bears despite giving up 222 yards of rushing to the Bears. On Thanksgiving Day, the Vikes visit the Lions for the traditional “early game”.  Usually, the “early game” has little if any meaning regarding playoff races; this year the “early game” is a critical matchup; the Lions must win if they think they can win the NFC North.

Recall last Friday that I said the Browns needed for Blake Bortles to throw the game away if they were going to have a chance to get their first win of the season.  It almost happened – until the Browns remembered that they are the one-and-only laughingstock of a team in the league and proceeded to prove it.  Here is how it went:

  • The Jags led only 13-7, the Browns got the ball with about a minute-and-a-half left at their own 20 yardline.  The Browns’ defense had done its job; it had held the Jags to 3.7 yards per play and less than 200 yards of total offense.
  • So, how did the Browns’ offense respond?  DeShone Kizer fumbled the ball; and in a mad scramble for the fumble that looked like NFL Films was doing an homage to the Keystone Kops, the Jags recovered it in the end zone to win the game 19-7.
  • Just for the record, that lost fumble was Kizer’s 4th turnover of the game…
  • I did not watch this game, but I read one report that said the Browns total offense in the first quarter was all of 4 yards.  Yowza!

The Broncos’ defense had been missing in action for the past several games, but they made a significant reappearance yesterday.  The Broncos’ defense held the Bengals’ offense to 12 first downs and only 190 yards total offense.  Unfortunately, the Broncos lost the game anyway by a score of 20-17.  The turning point had the Broncos ready to score a TD when Brock Osweiler threw the ball to a Bengals’ defender who returned it about 100 yards to the Bronco’s 1-yardline.  When the Bengals scored on that 1-yard drive, that was a 14-point swing in a game decided by a field goal.

Somehow, the Chiefs held the Giants to 9 points in regulation time but still managed to lose the game in OT.  That makes 4 games in a row where the Chiefs have been on the short end of the stick, but they still lead the AFC West by 2 full games.

The Raiders did not take advantage of the Chief’s loss against the Pats in Mexico City.  It was plain and clear from the first possession that the Pats’ offense was going to have its way with the Raiders’ defense.  Let me give you just a few numbers here:

  • Tom Brady was 30-37 for 331 yards.
  • Pats averaged 7.2 yards per offensive play.
  • Pats’ TD drives were 73 yards, 80 yards and 85 yards.

The Eagles/Cowboys game was a night and day event.  In the first half, the Cowboys led 9-7 and Carson Wentz looked very much the part of a young QB who had gone to a Division 1-AA school and who was still learning what pro football was all about.  I have no idea what the Eagles’ coaches said at halftime but by the end of the 3rd quarter, the game had changed 180 degrees to the point where it looked as if the Eagles’ offense was playing against a group of guys who had never played defense together before that game.  The Eagles ran the ball for 215 yards and their shortest TD drive was 75 yards.

Do not make the mistake of looking at the final score here (Eagles 37 Cowboys 9) and attribute that to Ezekiel Elliott’s absence.  Yes, the Cowboys missed Elliott, but it is not as if they did not have a running game.  Alfred Morris – who once ran for 1500 yards in a season – gained 95 yards on 17 carries.  The Cowboys were undone by an uncharacteristic performance from Dak Prescott last night; he threw 3 INTs and lost a fumble that turned into a “scoop-and-score” for the Eagles.

Finally, a news item/prediction from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Think this guy just might have an ink-cartridge endorsement in his future?

“Introducing Stanford placekicker Jet Toner.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………