NFL morning after: A day to enjoy football

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I don’t know about you, but I got sick of the NFL last week. Not sick of football, but sick of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy and Roger Goodell and the other people who were detracting from my enjoyment of football. So on Sunday, once the eight early games kicked off, I tuned all that other stuff out and just sat back and enjoyed football. It felt good.

We can’t and shouldn’t stop talking about and grappling with all that other stuff. But this column will be about football on the field, what I observed watching football all day Sunday.

We still don’t know anything. The best part of the first few weeks of the NFL season is the sheer unpredictability of it. In Week One the defending champion Seahawks looked unbeatable. And then on Sunday the Chargers beat them. The Saints were a trendy Super Bowl pick. They’re 0-2. The Bills were supposed to be terrible. They’re 2-0. The Texans had the worst record in the NFL last year. They’re 2-0. Tennessee won in a blowout in Week One, while Dallas lost in a blowout, and then Dallas blew Tennessee out in Week Two. Ditto for yesterday’s game in Minnesota: The Vikings won a blowout in Week One, the Patriots were run over by the Dolphins, and then on Sunday the Patriots dominated the Vikings in Minnesota.

Eventually this will all shake out and we’ll get a handle on how good all these teams are. I think the Seahawks are more like the great team they appeared to be in Week One than the mediocre team they appeared to be in Week Two. I think the Saints are going to bounce back from 0-2, and the Bills will come back to earth from 2-0, and the Cowboys’ defense won’t be as good as it looked on Sunday and the Patriots’ defense will be better than it was in Week One. But I can’t say for sure. That’s what makes these Sundays interesting.

Why are you punting? Andy Reid’s in-game decisions are baffling. On Sunday in Denver, with the Chiefs facing fourth-and-inches at midfield, Reid decided to punt. Why would you ever voluntarily kick the ball to Peyton Manning’s team, when you only need to pick up a few inches to keep the ball yourself? As expected, Manning proceeded to drive the Broncos down the field for a touchdown on the ensuing possession.

Raiders receiver James Jones had two fumbles on one play. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before: Jones caught a pass, fumbled just before he was pushed out of bounds, got back in bounds, picked up his own fumble, raced downfield and then got caught and fumbled again, and this time the Texans recovered. Jones’s stat line, just for that play: one reception for 26 yards, one fumble recovery, one fumble return for 15 yards, one lost fumble.

Is Rolando McClain’s head finally in the game? There’s never been any doubt that McClain has the talent to be a good NFL linebacker. That’s why the Raiders took him with the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. But there have been many questions about whether McClain would ever stop getting into off-field trouble and start putting all of his energy into football. That’s why the Raiders got rid of him and he didn’t last in Baltimore after the Ravens picked him up. And then the Cowboys traded for McClain, and a lot of us laughed at Jerry Jones for that one. Jones may get the last laugh because McClain is playing excellent football for the Cowboys. McClain led the Cowboys with seven total tackles in Sunday’s win over Tennessee, and he had a sack, a tackle for loss, a pass deflection, a quarterback hit and an absolutely spectacular diving interception.

“I’m here to play football and honestly that’s all I care about,” McClain said after the game. The Cowboys are benefitting from McClain’s new mindset.

jamaalcharlesDurability remains a concern for Jamaal Charles. The Chiefs lost Charles to an ankle injury after he gained just four yards on two carries Sunday in Denver. Durability is what separates many of the most exciting running backs in NFL history from the truly great ones, and durability is what keeps Charles out of that “truly great” group. Charles has the highest career yards per carry average of any running back in NFL history, but he just hasn’t been able to log the carries that the great running backs get. Chiefs coach Andy Reid promised last week that Charles would get more touches, but Charles’s injury took the decision out of Reid’s hands and the ball out of Charles’s hands on Sunday.

The Lions are still searching for a replacement for Jason Hanson. For 21 years, the Lions had more stability at the kicker position than any other team in NFL history has had: Hanson was Detroit’s kicker from 1992 to 2012, and if he wasn’t the best kicker in the NFL he was always good enough that the Lions didn’t have much to worry about. That’s not the case anymore. Last year, in Hanson’s first season of retirement, David Akers had a lousy year as his replacement. This year the Lions spent a seventh-round draft pick on kicker Nate Freese, and he’s been miserable: He had a miss in Week One and went 0-for-2 on field goals in Week Two. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lions cut Freese this week. Perhaps they can see what the 44-year-old Hanson is up to.

NFL athletes are amazing. We know this, but do we stop to appreciate it enough? Just a few minutes apart on Sunday I saw two things that made my jaw drop: First, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was pressured in the pocket, didn’t look like he could set up long enough to put everything into his pass, and effortlessly threw a deep ball 60 yards in the air. Then, Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones leapt into the air to block a field goal, scooped it up and raced 58 yards for a touchdown. If you saw someone like Newton flinging 60-yard passes at your local park, you’d be shocked at what you were witnessing. If you saw a 265-pound man like Jones running like a gazelle at the nearby high school track, you wouldn’t believe your eyes. It’s amazing what these men do for our entertainment.

DeMarco Murray is going to have an amazing year. Murray is running hard, the Cowboys’ offense is making him the focal point, and the offensive line in Dallas is one of the best in the NFL. Murray already has 285 rushing yards this season, and if he stays healthy I believe he’ll lead the league in rushing.

Philip RiversPhilip Rivers didn’t avoid Richard Sherman. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers never threw the ball in Sherman’s direction in the Packers’ Week One loss to the Seahawks, but Rivers wasn’t afraid to go after Sherman in the Chargers’ upset over Seattle on Sunday. In fact, Rivers targeted Sherman four times and completed all four of the passes he threw in Sherman’s direction. You have to pick your spots against Sherman and you’re not going to target him many more than four times a game, but kudos to Rivers for competing with the best — and winning.

But Sherman did avoid the media. It’s funny how some guys never stop talking when they’re winning, but suddenly get camera-shy when they’re losing. Sherman didn’t talk to reporters after Sunday’s loss to the Chargers, a rare moment of silence from one of the league’s loudest players.

Replay in the NFL still has its problems. The new system of allowing the referee to communicate with the officiating command center in New York has a major limitation: It only works if a play gets reviewed, and replay officials still sometimes fail to review plays that need to be reviewed. We saw that Sunday in San Diego, when Percy Harvin stepped out of bounds before scoring a touchdown, but was given the touchdown anyway — and the replay assistant didn’t initiate a review, as he’s supposed to do after any scoring play that is even close. Replay may be better now that the referees can talk to the head office, but it’s by no means perfect.

I can’t wait for next week. Next Sunday’s Super Bowl rematch, Broncos-Seahawks in Seattle, actually got more interesting to me when the Seahawks lost to the Chargers. Could the Broncos get revenge and get the great Seahawks off to a 1-2 start? Tune in Sunday, and give yourself a few hours to tune out everything else, and just enjoy some football.

43 responses to “NFL morning after: A day to enjoy football

  1. It won’t be 120 degrees and 80% humidity on the field in Seattle next Sunday, like it was in San Diego. Seahawks rebound 31-20 against the Donks… book it.

    js

  2. “Right before the half, I didn’t want to put more points on the board. I didn’t feel like we could, only thing that could happen was something bad then.”
    _______________________________________

    That’s Lovie Smith in the Bucs postgame presser. Yeah, he seriously said that. In 2 games I now know the feeling of years of Bears fans frustration. Chicago could never win a game like last night under Lovie. And the Bucs never will as long as he’s coach. They can’t even beat second or third string QBs.

  3. realitycheckbaby says:
    Sep 15, 2014 6:32 AM

    Almost unwatchable with the flags.
    _________________________________

    Almost ? No, it is unwatchable. I turned the Bears game off when they took away the reception Bennett had on the sideline at the beginning of the 2nd quarter.

    #ridiculous

  4. Thank you for this, guys. THIS is the kind of article I’ve come here to read over the years- more of this and less of the all-week ProTMZTalk format you’ve had lately would be much appreciated by the majority of your readers.

  5. Andy Reid always has been the most over rated coach of all time. He is the coaching version of Tony Romo.

    I agree with the comments on the penalites, they are just awful. It’s almost as if you can’t even tap the QB without a call. What’s worse is that it’s conditioning the players to think there is a call on every play. I have never seen a QB complain more than Aaron Rodgers (even though he gets away with countless grounding calls) and I am including Brady and Manning in that argument. Every WR wants a flag after ever incomplete pass (and they usually get one). Let’s throw in the amount of commercial breaks as well as awful announcers and I can see the NFL losing some momentum in the future.

  6. Great Article PFT. Finally, lets just relax and watch football and all the great plays.

    Thing about it: In America, we can’t find 32 men to lead teams. How many ? about 10 we agree on that will make the playoffs ?

    And then we see some backups come in and do well.

    Any given day…

  7. Can the NFL start suspending officials ,yesterday they were terrible. They are making games unwatchable

  8. .
    The Patriots have had many steady players on defense over the past decade, however they’ve lacked playmakers. With Jones, Hightower, Collins, and Revis added to the roster, that’s no longer true.
    .

  9. The 2 fumble play was not legal inside 2 minutes. What is supposed to happen when an offensive player recovers his own fumble? The play is dead since the ball cannot be advanced,

  10. Good article, except you are wrong on the Bills………best front four in the NFL…….that Defense is for real, it’s deep too. In the AFC East (on paper) they have as much or more than any of the four teams.

  11. He completed 4 of 4 for 56 yards to Sherman’s side? I’m not sure that’s a win, as those were some dink and dunk passes that were extended just a couple yards (YAC).56/4=14 YP completion. I think a “win” would be a TD, or at least multiple 20 yard completions. Not a shut out. Just my .02 cuz this is sounding overblown (unless I got stats wrong).

  12. Crazy thought for the day: Philip Rivers may be the best quarterback from the 2004 NFL draft class. Eli and Ben obviously have the hardware, but if you break down their completion percentage, QB rating, and touchdown/interception ratios, Rivers has them both beat.

    Shame he still has to live in their shadows though since they each have two rings and he doesn’t have any.

  13. I didn’t watch yesterday. I followed the scores online, but didn’t watch. I cannot separate between the games and everything that surrounds them, from Ray Rice to the likelihood than 30% of the people playing will suffer for it later. I want to like football the way I used to, but it is impossible now.

  14. You know what is sad, is that it was probably the best week in the history of the Bills organization last week and no one is talking about it. Upset on the road of the Bears, (how good does that win look now?!), Jim Kelly declared cancer free, new owners saying that Bills will stay in Buffalo forever, (a cloud that has been hanging over the organization and fans for over twenty years was lifted this week) and they dominate their most hated rival in the home opener, which by the way, unveiled 130 million worth of renovations to their stadium and all anyone wants to talk about is wife and kid beaters and a drug policy that lets guys do all the tainted ecstasy they want and smoke an ounce of weed before it is flagged by the testing. No place like first place!!!

  15. Do you think that Bear who speared Cutler will get suspended? It looked flagrant. For a second I didnt think they were going to call a penalty, just to be consistent.

    Now our safety Merriweather is back. Say what you want but watch him, he is a ball magnet. Great instincts. Lets severely punish guys who struggle transitioning from something they spent their entire football years being trained to do that was perpetuated by the league.

    The league is a cesspool of late with their over concern for PC and overly sensitive folks.

  16. What’s really irritated me these past couple of days is people saying “I’m giving up on football because of Ray Rice/Greg Hardy/Adrian Peterson.” I understand and agree with the calls for the NFL to do something about the domestic violence problem but saying your giving up on football reeks of false outrage. Why didn’t you give up on football when the Saints had bounties on other players? Why didn’t you give up on football when Miami Dolphins players tormented Jonathan Martin to the point of leaving the team? Why didn’t you give on football when Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and then himself in the Arrowhead parking lot? Are going to stop because it happened to be NFL A-listers who got arrested this time, not some backup, bottom-of-the-roster types?

    I know that seems long and rant-y but I thought it needed to be said.

  17. I’m not ready to say “Jones may get the last laugh” on McClain, but it looks good so far. His post game comments are just as reassuring as his play. He seems happy.

  18. Regarding the SNF matchup featuring that improbable comeback by the Bears:

    1.) Jay Cutler is the toughest QB in the league, and he proved it last night. Not only did he not miss a play after Quinton Dial speared him, he threw four TDs to bring the Bears a win.

    2.) I’m curious how much $$$ Dial’s gonna lose for his cheap and stupid hit. I’m also thankful Cutler was able to shake it off and make him pay in another way, as well.

    3.) Get back soon, Peanut.

    4.) Great game for Willie Young, but he needs to tone down his sack celebrating. I was sure the refs were gonna flag him for unsportsmanlike conduct or taunting.

    5.) Kyle Fuller is a beast.

    6.) Chris Conte is maybe better than we thought, but now he is injury prone.

    7.) Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde.

  19. Most BORING NFL weekend I can remember. Emphasis on Illegal Contact has taken the drama and excitement out of the game. I agree on the rule change, but they should replay the down. A 5 yard penalty by definition is a minor infraction and shouldn’t ever result in an automatic 1st down. I’ve agreed with all of the player safety changes and such, but this rule change as is , is the worst move by the NFL in a long time.

  20. Reid coached teams have always had horrendous clock management, zero sense of urgency and don’t seem to understand ball control.

    Other than that he’s a great coach.

  21. New England didn’t have playmakers on defense? Yeah, that’s nice and all…but Buffalo didn’t have any on offense.

    That has all changed, for sure.

    Now the Bills boast a RB and WR group that rivals any in the league. They have a dominant offensive line. They have a very good TE who can get the job done…and their young QB has turned a corner.

    And the Bills defense is STILL better than the Patriots, and one of the NFL’s best.

    Overall, the talent on the Buffalo roster is probably the best in the AFC East…if EJ keeps managing games and not turning the ball over, Buffalo will be hard to beat.

    The Dolphins beat the Patriots…and the Bills just smoked the Dolphins.

    They also beat the Bears without their starting #1 CB (Gilmore) and their #2 starting LB (Bradham)…now they’re back.

    Keep sleeping on the Bills…we like being underrated by overrated amateur blogs.

  22. Fox’s coverage of the Chargers Seahawks game was abysmal at best. They showed a grand total of 3 replays for the entire game. And this is a game in which the refs made many bad calls for both teams, including giving the Seahawks a TD when Harvin clearly stepped out. The refs were horrible in this game and that left plenty of time for the broadcast team to analyze the plays. But they didn’t. The camera crew spent every timeout and free second looking at the coaching staff for some reason. And the play by play guys were awful too. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to put David Diehl huge head on high definition large format televisions should be fired. Not only can that guy not come up with anything useful to say during a game, he can’t even focus on the current play. He just kept going back to the Harvin touchdown. Yes, we get it – it shouldn’t have counted. Anyone with eyes can tell you that. But in a game in which the refs were blowing every call on both sides of the ball, there is a lot more for the broadcast team to talk about. And what was the deal with no pregame show??! Fox Sports, you suck.

  23. To the Bears fans who blasted Conte last season. He was third on the team in tackles. When your safeties are #2 and #3 on the team in tackles, your alleged problems with safeties are waaaaaaay down on the list of problems on defense. Conte received really unwarranted and ignorant criticism

  24. Count me as one who is sick to death of the NFL period. I stop watching several yr ago, about the time I purchased a 22 ft bay boat that I take out on weekends, weather permitting, and fish the islands of the western Lee Co. Fla. in the gulf of mexico. The islands are much nicer then watching very poor pro football. If you don’t believe the NFL is poor play. find some film of the 60s, 70s, and even early 80s, thats if you want to see REAL football and not this water down version of the NFL.

  25. Since DeMarco Murray became a starter for the Dallas Cowboys, which season has he remained healthy for all 16 games? And remember, Murray has had a light load carrying the football up until this season because the Cowboys seldom have run the ball more than 18 to 20 times per game while Murray has been the RB.

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