Tuesday Stew: Tim Tebow, Tony Romo, RG3, Chuck Pagano and More
Welcome football fans to a weekly column served hot and fresh every week, NFL Soup’s Tuesday Stew. Here, I will give my “ten takes” recapping the top headlines and stories from this past week’s games, list significant injuries that could affect your fantasy team, go over some absurdly awesome stats, end with a little food for thought, and anything else in between. The article may look lengthy, but I promise it’s worth the read. So sit back, relax and fill up on everything NFL from the week that was.
Week 4 is in the books, and it’s time to dish out all the action. We’ve got undefeated teams, potential quarterback controversies, spectacular special teams play and the decision to “ice” kickers. So without further ado, here’s what I’m serving up in this week’s stew:
Ten Takes On Week 4
1. Falcons, Cardinals and Texans All 4-0
In last minute comebacks, the Cardinals and Falcons remained unbeaten after thrilling victories against the Dolphins and Panthers, respectively. Meanwhile, the Texans handily beat the Titans and arguably the best team in the league right now.
Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb threw a 15-yard touchdown on fourth down to Andre Roberts with 22 seconds left in the game, tying the Dolphins at 21 and forcing overtime. Jay Feely’s 46-yard field goal in the extra period would keep the Cardinals unbeaten. They could move to 6-0 over the next two weeks, as they play the Rams and Bills. After that, they have a tough three-game stretch against the Vikings, 49ers and Packers.
A 59-yard completion from Matt Ryan to Roddy White in double coverage helped the Falcons get into position for Matt Bryant’s game-winning 40-yard field goal, and beating the Panthers 30-28. Cam Newton gave the Falcons everything he had with three total touchdowns, but his fumble late in the game diving for a first down negated their chance of running out the clock. The Falcons got another tough challenge next week when they play the Redskins.
The Texans won 38-14, with two touchdowns from quarterback Matt Schaub, as well as two touchdowns from their defense. Right now, they look like the most complete team in football, and get an easy game versus the Jets next week before back-to-back games against the Packers and Ravens. If they come out 7-0 going into their Week 8 bye, it’d be hard to argue that they wouldn’t be the favorites in the AFC.
2. Patriots Put Up Points
Down 21-7 against the Bills midway through the third quarter, the Patriots offense went off and scored 35 unanswered points en route to a 52-28 blowout. Tom Brady threw three touchdowns and ran for another, while running backs Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden each had over 100 yards rushing and combined for three scores. This was a statement game for the Patriots, who are back to .500 at 2-2, and showed that the road to the AFC East title still goes through New England.
3. Special Teams Still Matter
The Vikings are 3-1 and the Lions are 1-3. Yes, you read that right. The Vikings are 3-1 due to mistake-free play from quarterback Christian Palmer, tough running from Adrian Peterson and a defense that sacked the Lions Matthew Stafford five times. And oh yeah, the Vikings special teams were pretty good on Sunday, too.
In a 20-13 victory, the Vikings scored all of their points on special teams. Yes, you read that right, too. Percy Harvin took the opening kick 105 yards to the house, Blair Walsh added two field goals, and Marcus Sherels capped it all off with a 77-yard punt return touchdown. Though it’s still a little too early to tell just how good this Vikings team will be this season, the mark of a great team is excelling in all three phases of football: offense, defense and special teams. And at 3-1, the Vikings, right now, are succeeding in all three phases of the game.
4. Is It Tebow Time?
The Jets were shutout 34-0 at home by the 49ers and, although they’re 2-2, seem to be on a slippery slope to another disastrous season. Additionally, with three subpar performances from quarterback Mark Sanchez, you have to wonder when the Jets will bench him in favor of Tim Tebow.
Now, I personally think it’s too soon to bench Sanchez for Tebow, but if things continue the way they are, it’s going to happen. The fans and media are going to constantly call for it until it happens. Plus, Rex Ryan’s job could be on the line this season and if Sanchez can’t cut it, then why not give Tebow a chance? I don’t think Tebow is a better quarterback than Sanchez (though that’s not really saying much), Tebow is by far a better athlete and leader; he could provide a much needed spark in a team that is sulking over the losses of All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and top wideout Santonio Holmes.
The Jets host the undefeated Texans next Monday night. If Sanchez flops again in this game, national headlines will be questioning whether the starter should be Sanchez or Tebow. With so much at stake this season for the Jets, it could be Tebow Time very soon.
5. Any Other Quarterback Controversies?
Yes, in my opinion, three. Aside from the Sanchez-Tebow talk, I’m curious about the Cardinals, Seahawks and Browns situations at quarterback.
The Cardinals are 4-0, and a lot of that is due to the play of Kevin Kolb. Starter John Skelton was injured opening day, and head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he’d be the starter again once he returned. But if you’re Whisenhunt, do you really want to hurt the chemistry of your team by putting Skelton back in after Kolb has led you to 4-0? Remember, the Cardinals gave Kolb the big contract this offseason and he’s playing good football right now.
As for the Seahawks, could it be time to bench rookie Russell Wilson and try out Matt Flynn? The team signed Flynn as a free agent this offseason, but Wilson won the starting job after an incredible preseason (at no fault of Flynn’s). Through four games, the Seahawks are 2-2 (and luckily not 1-3), but that’s mainly because of the running game and defense. Wilson is 60-of-100 passing for 594 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions so far this season, and is coming off a three-interception game against the Rams. I understand he’s a rookie and is going to have growing pains, but if he keeps struggling, do you put in Flynn if you’re head coach Pete Carroll? He’s shown he has skill, and it’d be interesting to see if he can play better under center.
Additionally, I want to touch on the situation in Cleveland with the Browns. Now, I understand that they’re investing their future in rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who they took at No. 22 in the draft, but I still question that pick. Colt McCoy, has shown some promise, but it’s hard to blame their offensive problems last season on him, with a young, inconsistent receiving corps that drops a lot of passes. Weeden is finding out that problem now, but at the same time, his decision-making has been poor. Currently winless at 0-4, Weeden’s interceptions have kept them from possibly being 2-2. In a one-point loss to the Eagles at home on opening day, Weeden threw four picks, and the difference in last Thursday’s 23-16 loss to the Ravens was Weeden’s pick-six. You have to wonder that if McCoy had been in the game instead, if they would’ve won those games. Head coach Pat Shurmur’s job is likely on the line, especially with a new owner, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Browns make yet another mid-season quarterback switch. Lastly, do you think the Browns regret trading away the draft pick that gave the Falcons Julio Jones rather than drafting him themselves?
6. Packers and Saints
Another close game that had calls go both ways by the regular referees, the Packers sneaked away with a 28-27 victory after Saints kicker Garrett Hartley missed a 48-yard field goal. Both teams had big stories to take away in this one.
MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense finally had the breakout game they’ve been looking for. Rodgers threw four touchdowns and was never sacked once, after being taken down eight times in the first half against the Seahawks. Even without their top receiver in Greg Jennings, who left the game after re-aggravating his groin injury, Rodgers was able to successfully spread the ball around. I think since halftime against Seattle, head coach Mike McCarthy has gone more and more to running back Cedric Benson, who is providing a nice balance to their offense.
On the other end, the Saints dropped to 0-4 and face an extremely difficult up-hill battle to even get into playoff contention. After they host the Chargers next Sunday night, they still have to play, over the course of the season, the Broncos, Eagles, 49ers, Giants and Falcons twice. Without head coach Sean Payton this year, not only could the Saints miss out on the playoffs, but they could very well finish under .500 this season. Drew Brees has stated that he knows they are better than they’ve played, and I agree, given the fact that their margin of defeat has been by one score in each game. But it’s easy to tell that the loss of head coach Sean Payton to his one-year suspension is hurting. It’ll be interesting to see if this team turns a corner after their true interim head coach to Payton, Joe Vitt, returns after serving his six-game suspension. Remember, Vitt was their interim head coach during training camp and the preseason.
7. RG3’s Redskins
Not enough can be said about the way Robert Griffin III is playing so far this season, as he is running away with Rookie of the Year so far. He orchestrated a last-minute drive that included three straight completions and a gusty 15-yard run to put kicker Billy Cundiff in position to make his game-winning 41-yard field goal, and beat the Buccaneers 24-22. On the season, RG3 is 86-of-124 passing (69.35%), for 1,070 yards, with four touchdowns and only one interception. Additionally, he has ran 39 times for 252 yards and four touchdowns. Not only is this young man playing unbelievable football right now, but also he’s becoming so much fun to watch in the process.
8. Brian Dawkins’ Number Retired
Prior to the start of Sunday night’s Giants-Eagles, long-time Eagles safety Brian Dawkins had his No. 20 jersey retired by the team. During his 13 seasons in Philadelphia from 1996-2008, Dawkins was voted to seven Pro Bowls and named an All-Pro five times. Though he played his last three seasons with the Broncos, adding two more Pro Bowls and one All-Pro selection to his résumé, he signed a one day contract this offseason to officially retire as an Eagle; that’s who we’ll all remember him as anyway. Dawkins was one of the best safeties of his era, and could very well find himself enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday.
9. Giants and Eagles
Wow, what a thrilling game. Then again, could you really expect anything less from these bitter NFC East rivals? The game started off as punt-apalooza, as both defenses kept the opposing offense in check for most of the first half, and the Eagles only led 7-3 at the midway point. With the Giants down 13-10 at the start of the fourth quarter and in scoring position, quarterback Eli Manning through a costly interception in the end zone that drained all of their momentum. The Eagles continued to feed the ball to running back LeSean McCoy, who was really wearing down the Giants defense towards the end of the game; he ran 23 times for 123 yards.
Yet, you’re never out of the game with Manning, who began to put together yet another game-winning drive, down 19-17 with under two minutes to play. After three pass interferences penalties—two against the Eagles and one against the Giants—Lawrence Tynes came on the field to win the game with a 54-yard field goal for the Giants with 15 seconds left. That decision, as well as the Eagles ensuing timeout to try to “ice” him, I’ll talk about more below, but Tynes’ kick had the accuracy but was just short.
10. Tony Romo’s Monday Night Mistakes
The Bears defense on Monday Night Football was not kind to Romo, who intercepted him five times, returning two of those for touchdowns in a 34-18 rout. Now, two of Romo’s picks were not his fault–route communication and a tip on a catchable ball–but there were the three that Romo can only blame himself for. Now at 2-2, the Cowboys face a tough five-game stretch against the Ravens, Panthers, Giants, Falcons and Eagles. Those two games against the Giants and Eagles (the latter of which they play again later in the season), will really show if the Cowboys have a chance in the NFC East this year.
As for the Bears, Jay Cutler had a great night, going 18-of-24 passing for 275 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His go-to-guy, Brandon Marshall, continues to provide the offense with a valuable receiving weapon, as he caught seven passes for 138 yards and a score. The defense did their thing, as mentioned above, and running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush provided just enough in the ground game. In a competitive NFC North, the Bears are 3-1 and seemed poised to return to the playoffs again.
Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano
Thoughts and prayers with Pagano, who was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, which is treatable, during the Colts bye this past week. Football aside, this is a very unfortunate circumstance for him and his family, but it’s important to his health that it was able to be diagnosed early enough so treatment can begin.
Dr. Larry Cripe, Pagano’s physician, had this to say at a press conference on Monday, “The goal of the treatment is to cure the disease. That means that he returns to a fully functional life, the life that he’s worked so hard to earn, and he is looking forward to leading the Colts to some Super Bowls. The process is long and complicated. We’re just starting right now. For the next several weeks, this will be day-by-day. We’ll be vigilant and do everything we can to help him reach a full recovery.”
Again, thoughts and prayers to him and his family. I hope he makes a full, speedy recovery, and can get back to doing one of the things he loves most–coaching the Colts.
Fantasy Football Injury Report
Greg Jennings, WR, Packers
Aggravated the groin injury he suffered opening day. Head coach Mike McCarthy mentioned on Monday that they may shut him down for a week so that he can recover.
Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets
Left the game with a foot injury and didn’t return. It’s unknown how long Holmes will be out for, if he is at all, but it’s likely he’ll miss some time.
Jake Locker, QB, Titans
Left the game after dislocating his non-throwing shoulder. Currently listed as day-to-day, but Hasselbeck is going to be hot on the waiver wire this week.
Three Absurdly Awesome Stats
1. Drew Brees tied Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas’ record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown on Sunday against the Packers. I went into greater depth on the significance of this record in last week’s stew, so I’ll only touch on it briefly here. For Unitas’ record–once considered one of football’s unbreakable records–to stand for over 50 years is amazing, and it may be another 50 years until it’s even challenged again. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight for Brees’ streak to end, which may make it impossible for Tom Brady, whose current streak is at 36 games, to break it.
Whenever Brees’ streak does ends, and Brady doesn’t break it, I firmly believe it will stand as one of pro football’s two unbreakable records, the other being Brett Favre’s streak of 297 consecutive starts (321 including playoffs).
2. I’m a big fan of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan–he’s got my vote as the NFL’s MVP through the first four weeks of the season. Matty Ice has completed slightly under seventy percent of his passes, thrown for 1,162 yards, with 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions. With his high level of play and an outstanding receiving corps, his numbers are almost right on par with Aaron Rodgers through the first four games of his MVP season in 2011.
Additionally, since becoming the opening day starter as a rookie in 2008, Ryan has missed only two of the Falcons’ 68 regular season games from then until now. His record as a starter is 47-19 (.712), including 28-4 (.875) at home in the Georgia Dome. Those numbers are absurdly awesome for Ryan, who has been one of the best regular season quarterbacks over the past couple of years, and though he and the Falcons have struggled in the playoffs–his career record is 0-3 in postseason play–this year could finally be their year.
3. It’s not the NFL, but the shootout between the Baylor Bears and West Virginia Mountaineers deserves recognition here. In an amazing game that featured absurdly awesome, video game-like stats, the Mountaineers defeated the Bears 70-63. The biggest highlight of this game? Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith completing 45-of-51 passes for 656 yards and eight touchdowns. Absurdly awesome. (NFL Soup’s draft expert, Keet Bailey, has more on Smith and other college prospects in his latest draft news and notes piece.)
Tuesday’s Five Fun Links
1. Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud plays the Super Troopers “meow” game during a SportsCenter interview.
2. This high school football games ends in dramatic fashion no one’s seen before…until meow. (Note: skip to :40 mark.)
3. Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Adelson chronicles the Peyton Manning of Louisiana Tech’s offense. Hint: it’s not a quarterback.
4. But speaking of quarterbacks, the Patriots Tom Brady gets explicitly excited after his touchdown run is upheld. Wes Welker got a good laugh out of it.
5. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan also gets explicitly excited after Matt Bryant’s game-winning field goal is good. I doubt Cam Newton was laughing.
Food For Thought: Giants-Eagles Finale
I question the decisions by Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and Eagles head coach Andy Reid at the very end of their Sunday Night Football game. With 15 seconds on the clock and no timeouts, Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes went on the field to kick a potential game-winning 54-yard field goal. His kick went wide of the upright, but, Reid had called a timeout right before the snap and Tynes got a mulligan. The next kick fell just short, and the Eagles held on for a 19-17 victory.
To start, I question Coughlin’s decision to try and attempt that 54-yard field goal. Granted it’s not out of Tynes’ range, but it’s still a very far kick, nonetheless. With 15 seconds on the clock, there was enough time to try for a quick out route, gain a few extra yards and get out of bounds. Manning is a smart enough quarterback to know when to throw it away and not take a sack. Though there were risks because they had no timeouts and it was third down, I still think they have to at least attempt to get a bit closer for Tynes.
After Tynes’ miss that fell just short of winning the game, if you’re Coughlin, you have to wonder if you left a play out on the field that you should’ve ran.
As for Reid, the decision to try and “ice” the kicker by calling a timeout right before the snap is a dumb one, and often hurts more times than it helps. How many times have you seen a kicker miss the field goal, but get a second chance because the opposing team called timeout, then makes the second try? More times than not. The kicker gets a chance to adjust himself and gain confidence in knowing he has another shot at winning the game. Vick questioned the decision after the game and Reid even expressed regret for calling the timeout. It’s a decision that normally backfires for coaches, and I think you should give the opposing kicker only one chance to make or miss it.
If Tynes would have made the second kick because of the timeout after missing the first, Reid’s coaching seat would’ve gotten even hotter, and the fans would’ve likely began to call for his job already.