A full quarter of the
NFL teams entered Week 5 at .500 and two more reached the .500 mark after
notching victories on Sunday. I focused
on five of those teams closely during this week’s NFL mayhem. Here are my notes from their respective
How bad is this defense? Well, they set an NFL record for futility – no
team in league history had ever allowed 300 rushing yards and 300 passing yards
in the same game. And that came just one
week after they allowed 45 second half points on seven consecutive scoring
drives against New England, making the Bills the first team since 1950 to allow
550+ yards in back-to-back weeks. Now
that’s a struggling stop unit!
This pass D has awful fundamentals, giving up yardage in chunks. Every
decent QB should have a field day throwing downfield -- there's no pass rush,
and these cornerbacks are not shutdown guys. And there’s no question that this defense
lacked effort throughout the second half here – they flat out quit.
We got the ‘bad’ Ryan Fitzpatrick today. Fitz continues to
struggle with his deep throws, missing Stevie Johnson for a sure touchdown, one
of a good handful of poorly thrown balls.
To make matters even worse, Buffalo is starting to get cluster injuries
on the offensive line. Much like last
year, OL depth is not an area of strength.
With two starters already out, one of their replacements (Colin Brown)
left the game with a hamstring injury and didn’t return.
In-game or halftime bettors should definitely note that when
things start to go south for this team, they tend to snowball. We haven't seen
a single 'come-from-behind-at-any point-in-the-game' win for the Bills since
It's hard to picture a game starting worse than this one for the
injury riddled Giants missing six starters from their lineup. An Ahmad Bradshaw fumble set up a short field
for Cleveland's first touchdown, and on their next defensive possession, the
G-men allowed a 60 yard bomb for another score. RB Andre Brown and TE Martellus
Bennett both went back to the locker room following early injuries, although
Bennett later returned. Coming off a tough, frustrating loss at Philly, all of
a sudden this became a test of the Giants character.
Then Eli started to throw, Bradshaw got rolling, and voila; an
easy touchdown march down the field that even a chop-block-induced first and 25
couldn't stop -- they didn't face a single third down on the drive. By halftime, they had taken a double digit
lead. New York passed this character
test with flying colors!
Even with a banged up receiving corps, guys like Reuben Randle and
Domenik Hixon stepped up -- having Eli really helps in that regard. But this
defense continued to get gashed; unable to stop the run or the pass. New York allowed a whopping 8.8 yards per
play for the first half while only forcing one punt before stiffening over the
final 30 minutes.
This defense is not what it was a month ago. Their pass rush is limited without injured
sackmeisters Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo and their secondary is shorthanded
without Cedric Griffin or Brandon Meriweather in the lineup today. Ryan Kerrigan's interception return touchdown
was certainly nothing to sneeze at, and London Fletcher is making another bid
to lead the league in tackles, notching 20 today. But this is no elite stop
unit by any stretch of the imagination. The Skins allowed more than 50% third
down conversions and ran 33 fewer plays than Atlanta – this D simply isn’t
getting off the field.
Alfred Morris continues to eat up yardage between the tackles,
giving Robert Griffin a nice complement in the running game. The offensive line
is run blocking very well, giving Morris room to reach the second level of
defenders. When you average 10 yards per carry for a half of football, you're
clearly doing something right.
RG3 is running the ball less, without a single rush attempt
through the first half of the game after running for 234 yards (5.7 ypc) in his
first four games -- this offense was relatively conventional today. Griffin
scrambled a couple of times in the third quarter and took a nasty hit, leaving
the game concussed. At least offensive
coordinator Kyle Shanahan trusts his backup QB. The first complete pass from
Kirk Cousins after Griffin got hurt was a 77 yard bomb to Santana Moss for a
This is a very young defense, loaded with rookies and second year
players. And let’s give this organization
some credit, because they’ve drafted very well – this defense ranks among the
best stop units in the NFL.
Seattle has the tallest cornerbacks in the league – it’s really
hard to throw jump balls against this team! Brandon Mebane is a beast at nose
tackle -- this defense is simply dominating against the run. Rookie LB Bobby
Wagner had the speed and size to chase down a scrambling Cam Newton from behind
-- twice! Bruce Irvin sealed the game
with a late forced fumble. Seattle didn't give up a third down conversion on
anything other than a penalty until the Panthers two minute drive before
halftime. And when Newton starts the
game 2-14 for 33 yards, you know the defense is doing something very right.
Seattle entered the game as the only team in the NFL with more
running yards than passing yards. There's
no reason to think that they won't continue to lean heavily on Marshawn Lynch
and his backup Robert Turban, for a big portion of their offense. They need the young receivers to step up,
most notably Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate, because Sidney Rice cannot be
considered a true #1 wideout. Russell Wilson is not seeing the whole field;
looking very much like a rookie -- he's settling for checkdowns , throwing
interceptions and taking big hits in the pocket
Put it all together and this team is an Under machine (5-0 already); one
defensive struggle after the next.
Just like they did for the first three games, this team continues
to lack in the 'execution' element of their gameplan. Their longest rush of the year -- 22 yards in
the first quarter from the just-returned-to-the-lineup Rashard Mendenhall --
was negated by an illegal formation penalty; one of five first quarter offensive
penalties (one third down holding call was declined). Then they had another penalty on their
Troy Polamalu returned to the lineup, but he hopped off to the
sideline in second quarter, unable to put any weight on his injured calf. Then
Lamar Woodley left the game and didn’t return with a hamstring injury; bad news
for a team that plays again on Thursday. This defense was certainly improved, in sharp
contrast to their woeful performance at Oakland before the bye -- James
Harrison’s return had an impact. But they did allow two long touchdown drives
with the game on the line in the second half, including one that could have
been the game winner had Big Ben not rallied the troops.
I'm generally not a believer in the importance of any individual
running back, but this offense really changes with a healthy Rashard Mendenhall
off his torn ACL. They simply can't run
the football without him, but with him they're ripping off long gainers.
Veteran linemen Willie Colon and Max Starks actually played well up front,
opening up holes for a team that hasn't been able to run the football (only 65
yards per game coming into the week).