Up until 2 minutes left of the Saints-Patriots game, the lead of this blog post was really supposed to be entitled, “Saints are the most complete team in the NFC” or something along those lines touting the Saints after what was virtually a done deal against the Patriots.
After a terrific game plan by the Saints, applying pressure to Brady from various angles, it looked like New Orleans was going to leave Foxboro victorious. The Saints ran the ball beautifully throughout much of the game and tested the interior line of the Patriots that was missing Tommy Kelly and the venerable Vince Wilfork, two stout defensive players. Additionally, Brady was dealing with drops and mis-reads from all his receivers. The contest was back and forth with the Saints looking like they were going to pull away after a beautiful catch by Kenny Stills, while double covered by Steve Gregory and Alfonzo Dennard (who played a great game after Aqib Talib was injured). Brady, on the ensuing drive, went four-and-out after a bone-headed decision by Belichick and the Patriots to go for it deep in their own territory. After a field goal by Garrett Hartley, Brady threw up a ball for grabs with complete reckless abandon and no regard for the game, it had seemed like the Patriots were done.
And then the un-thinkable happened. Although when it comes to Tom Brady, nothing should cease to amaze us.
Brady led his 28th fourth quarter comeback and 39th game-winning drive against a Saints defense that was disruptive throughout the entire game. The throw to Thompkins was put in the right spot, although Jabari Greer completely blew the coverage.
Yes, Sean Payton completely mis-managed the game in the last two minutes. Yes, the Saints let up and did not apply the same pressure that they did in the first 59 minutes of the game. Those are the pro’s and con’s of a Rob Ryan defense, which can look great at times and underwhelming in other moments. Ryan has made his name as a coordinator who loves to show multiple looks and bring pressure, yet during the waning moments of the game, he goes against his philosophy and usually employs a vanilla defense. While that was the case against the Patriots, when the game was virtually theirs, the bottom line is Brady has once again shown us that he is the most clutch quarterback of this era.
Brady has never had a set of receivers that he is this much out of sync with. They are not bad players, but the Patriots run a complex offense with option routes that require the receivers to adjust depending on where the defense lines up. This type of scheme is one that Brady had mastered with the likes of Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Troy Brown and other cerebral pass catchers. Kembrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have the talent, but are not at the level of some of Brady’s former band of renown.
Yes, he can be an annoying prima donna scowling at his receivers, complaining and throwing tantrums on the sidelines. He does not endear himself to pure football fans with his commercials about high-fashion boots either. Brady is an easy target for fans because the media adores him and his story is compelling. But when it comes to leading men and driving down the field to win a football game, there has and likely will be no one better.
For all the above reasons, you are well within your right to have disdain for Tom Brady. When it comes to on the field acumen and needing a big play in the most critical moments, save your scorn for someone else.
SuperCam bounces back
Cam Newton played one of the best games of his career.The third year quarterback was 20-26 for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also chipped in with a rushing touchdown. Mike Shula brought back some of the read-option principles that Newton excelled at when Rob Chudzinski was the offensive coordinator. He was decisive, didn’t stare down his receivers and most importantly, he was accurate on ALL his throws. Newton has a tendency to dazzle us with difficult throws and frustrate with the simpler ones. Minnesota has a terrible pass defense and Brandon LaFell exploited that on a deep route against a blown coverage against Josh Robinson. Newton, as we all know, has the skills to be a top flight quarterback. The Panthers need to stick with the read-option, as it improves their running game with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert, but involves Newton in the offense as it is an integral skill set he posesses. The key for Newton will be to build on this performance, as consistency has been a major impediment to his success as a quarterback.
What is wrong with the Texans
It is hard not to feel for Matt Schaub. Not only was his privacy invaded by moronic fans going to his home and taking pictures of his family, but on Sunday his own spectators were cheering him after an injury. Schaub was not even close to being at fault for yesterday’s loss. T.J. Yates came into the game and threw two interceptions, including one pick six. The special teams were terrible and the defense did not step up when needed. They compiled penalties all throughout the game, to the tune of 95 yards. An over 200 all-purpose yard performance from Arian Foster was wasted as the offense could never get in rhythm. The play-action passing game that has been famed by the Texans is not as effective. Andre Johnson does not look healthy either as he seems to have issues creating separation. Houston is 25th in the league in yards per passing attempt at 6.5. Despite the addition of DeAndre Hopkins, they are not exploiting teams down the field.
The Texans were 1 of 6 on red-zone opportunities, which is a clear recipe for failure. Schaub gives the team the best chance to win, despite his struggles. Houston is in a major hole if he cannot return for the next week against Kansas City.
RGIII is back…sort of
Following the bye, the prevailing thought was that Robert Griffin III should be somewhere between 90 to 95% back from his rookie season health. If we compare Griffin’s comeback to Adrian Peterson, you will see that Peterson struggled during his quarter pole of the 2012 season, averaging 4.25 yards per carry. Conversely, for the next 12 games, Peterson was at 6.7 yards per carry.
Last night, we saw more glimpses of the return of the explosive RGIII as he ran for over 77 yards on nine carries. Griffin displayed the burst that he showed last season, breaking contain and running past defenders. When he was not holding on to the ball too long, he stepped up in the pocket and was mobile enough to avoid rushers. His accuracy was still an erratic as he missed the marked on a few throws.
The Redskins receivers are still having issues creating separation. Brandon Carr shadowed Pierre Garçon for most of the game and gave him virtually no room to maneuver by running his routes for him. Mike Shanahan needs to take off the training wheels from Griffin and open up the offense some more. There were too many 2-man routes with Griffin only making one or two progressions. It led to him holding on to the ball far too long, which was the Redskins undoing late in the game when he fumbled the ball deep in Cowboys territory. I would like to see this offense run more four or five wide sets, with Griffin working with a progression-based passing attack. It may open up more running lanes for himself as well as Alfred Morris. The latter, aside from a 45 yard touchdown run, was corralled for most of the contest.
In any case, let us remember that Griffin did not play in the preseason and did very minimal work in pads in practice. Patience must be preached, but he is very close.
Who is the best fit for Chip Kelly’s offense?
Chip Kelly was not lying when he said a mobile quarterback is not a pre-requisite for his offense. Sunday against the Buccaneers proved that he may be on to something. Michael Vick has played well and you couldn’t really attribute any of the Eagles 3 losses solely to him, like you could have last year with most of the games he started. Having said that, Nick Foles looks like the better quarterback for this team, even after a game and a half. He is only completing 67.2% of his passes (Vick is at 53.8%) with already more passing touchdowns (6) to Vick (5) as well. We are always enamoured with Vick and his ability to escape the pocket and extend plays but at certain moments, that is a detriment to his team. Vick has often gotten himself into trouble creating his own mess by moving around in the pocket when it is not needed. From there, he ends up holding on to the ball far too long and is susceptible to being stripped sacked or injured. Vick has more fumbles over the last four season’s than his age (35)
On the flip side, Nick Foles gets rid of the football much faster than Vick. No, I am not necessarily referring to arm talent as Vick throws a beautiful ball that explodes out of his hand. Foles is perfect for this quick-strike offense. He makes his reads and is decisive in the pocket. He is more vulnerable if the pocket collapses, but that should not be a cause for concern as the ball needs to come out of the quarterback’s hand within 3-5 seconds, at the most, in this offense. You’ll notice that DeSean Jackson has been used more in the intermediate game this season and they are taking less deep shots with him. The offense is more geared towards quick decisions.
Analysts are always enamoured with Michael Vick and are supporters of him. When asked on NFL Network’s Gameday Final if the offense runs better with Foles over Vick, LaDainian Tomlinson, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin and Marshall Faulk all flat-out said: “No”.
Fair enough guys, but slow and steady Foles is making the Eagles offense click more than the feast or famine Vick.
Other quick hitters:
-Greg Schiano needs to go. Tampa has no discipline and they are misusing Revis as a zone coverage player, when he has excelled in man coverage
-Carolina’s front four is making up for their lack of a secondary. Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy are as good a duo at the defensive end position in the league. Good to see Thomas Davis back healthy as well.
-Sean Lee is one of the best middle linebackers in the game. He was all over the field against the Redskins
-Never count out Ben Roethlisberger. What a gutsy performance for his team at 0-4 in a must win game.
-Eddie Lacy gives a dimension that the Packers have not had in almost a decade. He runs with power and authority.
-Am I the only one who thinks Ray Rice looks slow and lacks explosiveness? I know their offensive line has been down, but I am not seeing the same Ray Rice as in previous years.
-Justin Blackmon, off-field issues aside, will be a top 5 receiver. He mauls opposing corners with his size. Broncos had no answer for him.
-Aqib Talib has been the MVP of the Patriots so far. His coverage on the top receiving threat in each game has been nothing short of terrific.
-Kansas City has the best defense in the league and no one should be surprised. They have talent at every level of the unit. The two matchups against Denver will be absolute humdingers.
-No shocker that the 49ers turning the corner coincides with their re-commitment to the running game. No, not the read-option running game. The Power I run game with Frank Gore. Mike Iupati is the best pulling guard in the league and it is not even close…I am a little worried about their corners though.
-Staying with the 49ers, Eric Reid is the early season favourite in my book for defensive rookie of the year. He’s been great in the run game, but even better against the pass with three interceptions.
-Doug Marrone is doing much better as a first year head coach out of college than Schiano. Love what he has done with E.J. Manuel and free agent off the street, Thad Lewis. Lewis looked good and gave the Bills offense some exuberance against a good defense
-Joseph Fauria…Nuff said
-Brandon Weeden turning 30 was not enough for the Browns to realize they need a new signal caller. He had to throw up this brutal interception.
-Late on this, but I love the way Jay Cutler is playing. Setting his feet, accurate and not locking down on Marshall. He is not forcing the ball into triple coverage either. Trestman has been a great addition for Cutler’s progression.