Unnecessary Roughness: Week 7
Every Monday I will bring the NFL fan my reflections, scrutiny, assessment, and hopefully some perceptiveness from the day around the league. Bear in mind that this is being written after 9 hours of football, countless buffalo wings, and a serious lack of sleep. Without further ado, my thoughts on the integral story lines for Week 7:
-Tebow falters, Tebow shines: If you weren't yet sick of the coverage, hype and irrational talk surrounding Tim Tebow's NFL career, you probably will be soon. His performance on Sunday in Miami was everything that is right and wrong with the Broncos new starting quarterback. Much has been written and said over the last 24 hours about how his day (13-27, 161 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 65 rushing yards) didn't give us sufficient evidence on whether or not he is a franchise quarterback or not. On the other hand, it left every Arm Chair General Manager feeling vindicated. The first 55 minutes of this game will serve as hard evidence for the Tebow haters to use in their argument against his success.
He missed wide open receivers by a dozen yards at time, took too many sacks, did not set his feet into throws, and generally looked lost against a winless Dolphin unit. The last 5:23 of regulation were a totally different story, though. Tebow transformed his game, the offense, and the outcome when Denver went to a desperation no huddle offense. Two touchdown passes, an onside kick recovery, and a two point conversion rush added up to one of the most improbable comebacks in league history. When Matt Prater hit a 52 yard field goal early in overtime, Denver became the first team since 1970 to come from behind and win a game after trailing by 15 or more points with three minutes left. On this day, Tim Tebow was everything his critics said he wasn't and everything his supporters said he was.
-Free passes: How long are we going to let poor play from two of the leagues marquee players slide before questioning if something is wrong?
Titans running back Chris Johnson has been bad in 2011. Not bad by his standards, bad by any standards. His 18 yard, 10 carry performance with first place on the line was a joke. I don't want to hear about his offensive line, teams loading up the box, or the missed practice time during training camp. He's not close to being the same player than ran for over 2,000 yards a few years ago.
For some reason, NFL fans have chosen to apologize for Phil Rivers since the day he walked in the league. Didn't start from Day 1 like his draft counterparts? He had Drew Brees ahead of him on the depth chart, silly. Hasn't won a Super Bowl, despite having marquee talent around him his entire career? Marty Ball and Norv Turner's general ineptitude are the reason here. Starting off slow most years and having to rally like crazy just to make the postseason? That just the Charger way! Missing the playoffs last year in what was thought to be a horrible AFC West? Blame the special teams, man! While the Tebow phenomenon is out of this world, the Rivers obsession is comical. Smart football fans will destroy Tony Romo any chance they get because he's never won anything, then turnaround and compare Rivers future Hall of Fame candidacy to Dan Marino. Rivers was terrible yesterday against the Jets. He has nine interceptions already this season. If San Diego misses the postseason again due to a below average Rivers season, will the apologies end? Or will we still be booking rooms for Canton five years after he puts a bow on his career?
-Welcome back, Carson: The Raiders new franchise quarterback looked he could have used a preseason game or two to get ready for his 2011 debut yesterday. Unfortunately, his teammates and coach did as well. Oakland clearly let the circus atmosphere of the week affect their preparation for a division opponent. Kansas City may not be as good as they were in 2010, but they still have more than enough talent that must be prepared for. Kyle Boller started the fire with three picks in the first half, Carson added gasoline to it in the second half. Oakland now has their bye week at a perfect time. They need to get back to business and play the type of football that got them to talk about the postseason and giving up high draft picks for playing in championship games.
-Studs: Offense: DeMarco Murry, RB, Cowboys: The Felix Jones injury might have been the best thing to happen in Dallas this season. The rookie from Oklahoma took his first opportunity to start and ran 253 yards with it. He showed the type of electric ability that was on display for years in Norman, Oklahoma. A 10.1 yards per carry mark has to have Jason Garrett thinking that his offense finally has achieved some balance.
Defense: Jared Allen, DE, Vikings: The guy has 11.5 sacks through seven games. I'm no math wiz, but I think Michael Strahan's single season record is in jeopardy.
Coaching: Mike Mularkey, Offensive coordinator, Falcons: This team looked out of sync and about to hit rock bottom two weeks ago. Mularkey has used Julio Jones injury as a blessing in disguise in order to get the Falcons back to what they do best: run the football and throw it off play action. The game plan on Sunday helped keep the explosive Lions offense out of rhythm.
-Duds: Offense: Every offensive player that stepped on the field in Cleveland. 6-3? Really, guys? Seahawk QB Charlie Whitehurst attempted 30 passes for less than 100 yards. You can't make this stuff up.
Defense: Wisconsin defensive backs: We'll go to the college football world on this one. The Michigan State Hail Mary was awesome, but it never works if one of the Badger DB's does what they've been told a million times. KNOCK THE BALL DOWN.
Coaching: Mike Nolan, defensive coordinator, Dolphins: His defense had to be the only eleven people on earth who didn't know Tim Tebow was going to run ball for the two point conversion.
-Hot seat: Tony Sparano is too easy to bash at this point. How about Jimbo Caldwell? It doesn't get much worse than the 62-7 loss in New Orleans on Sunday night. Peyton or no Peyton, his team wasn't a professional outfit in prime time. It seemed like the team would rally around not having their leader and muster a few wins early in the season. Now the players look dejected, coaching staff looks lost, and the camera crew can't get enough of Peyton staring angrily onto the field. Having Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck isn't going to solve the problem on the sideline in 2012.
-Suck for Luck: Ranking the bottom five teams in the league and their likelihood of landing Stanford's star quarterback in April:
5. Arizona (1-5): This kind of play is unacceptable for a team that paid a ransom to acquire a new quarterback in the off-season. By the way, Ken Whisenhunt is 6-15 since Kurt Warner walked out the door.
4. Jacksonville (1-5): A win tonight would knock them out of this group for the time being. They are in a tough transition period right now, working in a new quarterback behind a poor team. Jack Del Rio is a magician if he can survive his first really bad year.
3. St. Louis Rams (0-6): They might go 0-9 before their first victory, but I still don't see Luck here for a few reasons. One, the money and belief they have in Sam Bradford. Two, they have now played all of their games against the NFC East and will begin to see their NFC West foes more often. Three, they are mostly young and hungry. Tanking will not occur in St. Louis.
2. Indianapolis (0-7): Despite the embarrassing 62-7 loss in New Orleans, I don't have Indy in the top spot. They had played relatively close games before last night and I have to believe there is a win or two in there somewhere.That being said, even Peyton couldn't have won that game last night.
1. Miami (0-6): They blew a 15 point lead at home to the Denver Broncos. Let me repeat. They blew a 15 point lead at home to the Denver Broncos. Tony Sparano won't make it two more weeks, Mike Nolan looked lost as Tim Tebow carved them up, and the fans have revolted. Go ahead and look at their schedule. You find me the win.
-Quick hits: Despite the pedestrian numbers, Christian Ponder showed flashes of ability while keeping Minnesota in a game against Green Bay. Rolling him out of the pocket has to be the way to go right now for that offense...Aaron Rodgers first half brilliance summed up in six words. Three incompletions. Two drops. One spike...Plaxico Burress might never be back to what he once was, but three red zone scores is more than enough for Gang Green...It's time to pay Matt Forte in Chicago. The guy is putting on a Marshall Faulk impression on a weekly basis...We might have jumped the gun in Detroit. The defense is immature, offense sorely missing a running game, and have looked zapped since their Monday Night Football win two weeks ago. With road games at Denver, Chicago, Oakland, New Orleans, a home date with San Diego, and two dates with Green Bay left, maybe the 5-2 Lions aren't a lock for the postseason after all...Back-to-back character wins for Atlanta. Beating Carolina at home and winning on the road at Detroit might not have been big preseason games to watch, but the grind it out nature of the games has me believing in me Super Bowl pick again. Matt Ryan was the leader they needed him to be coming back from injury to deliver a victory...Tony Gonzalez moved into the #2 spot on the all-time receptions list. He now has 35 catches this season, putting him on pace for a 14th consecutive year of 59+ catches...I knew Cam Newton had revitalized Steve Smith in Carolina, but 818 yards receiving by October 24th is crazy...Welcome back to stardom, Arian Foster.