Week 8: Eagles Roll, Saints Stumble and Phillip Rivers Goes Full Romo

No time for dilly dallying, let’s get right to the games.

Ravens 30, Cardinals 27– I think it’s time to officially say that Kevin Kolb is awful. If he made a single big play in the second half, the Cardinals would have won this game; instead he did his darndest to give the Ravens the football as often as possible. In the second half, Kolb was abysmal, going four of 13 for 27 yards, one Kolb-ception (worst Christopher Nolan movie ever), one fumble and four sacks. In a three-play span early in the fourth quarter, he threw a pass directly at Ray Lewis who dropped it; fumbled the ball but the Cards recovered; and threw another Kolb-ception, but it was negated by a Ravens penalty.  Honestly I’m not even mad, that’s amazing.

As unremarkable as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been for the Eagles, that trade has completely screwed the Cardinals. The Cardinals secondary misses DRC desperately- they’re 29th in the league in yards per attempt (7.9) and yards per game (278), despite playing passing juggernauts like Joe Flacco, Rex Grossman, Donovan McNabb and Tavaris Jackson. To make matters worse, Kolb is clearly not the answer at quarterback. Since their week one win over the Panthers, he has a 55% completion percentage, six touchdowns, six fumbles, six losses and eight interceptions. The Cardinals offensive line is terrible, but it doesn’t help that Kolb appears to have taken a blood oath to never audible or change protection schemes. I don’t think it’s a matter of not being able to read defense, I just think he looks up at the line of scrimmage, sees that an all-out blitz is coming and screams, “FUCK EM ALL- I’M GOIN DEEP. DEATH FROM ABOVE, BITCHES!” then gets promptly strip-sacked or overthrows Larry Fitzgerald by 15 yards. The trade would be bad enough if it was just a swap of those two players, but Arizona also gave up next year’s second round pick, which they could have used on a quarterback who is NOT a lunatic.

In case you missed it, Anquan Boldin completely took over this game and seemed hell-bent on destroying his former team in the second half. The Ravens offense basically devolved into throwing to Anquan Boldin down the sideline on every play which, 80% of the time, worked every time because Boldin had the best quarter of any receiver in recent memory. In the third quarter he caught five balls for 117 yards and drew three pass interference calls in the end zone totaling 33 yards), each of which was immediately followed by a Ray Rice touchdown.  Credit offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for basically scrapping their gameplan in the second half;  then again, Cameron was the one who came up with the game plan to begin with, so I guess that’s not all that impressive. I think it’s pretty clear that Cameron or Flacco are done in Birdland barring a Super Bowl appearance this winter. My guess is they’ll give Flacco another year in a new system before moving on. But Cameron’s play-calling is absolutely maddening, to the point that Terrell Suggs called Cameron out after the Jaguars game and John Harbaugh supported him, which can’t be a great confidence-builder for ol’ double Cam. It’s pretty apparent though that inconsistent play-calling and passing are the only things holding this team back from being Super Bowl-caliber.  Look at the first and second halves for Flacco: In the first, he was 12-23 for 98 yards, two sacks, an interception and a fumble. In the second, he was unreal, going 19-28 for 238 yards plus three defensive pass interference calls. If Cam^2 and The AFlaccolypse can actually manage to put in four good quarters, the Ravens are probably the best and most balanced team in football; however, that’s somehow been too much to ask since their week 1 win over the Steelers. Next weekend’s rematch in The City That Never Smiles should be a good barometer of just how good they really are.

Remember when T.O. broke his ankle in the playoffs when he was on the Eagles then came back for the Super Bowl and caught 9 passes for 122 yards against the best defense in football? Well Lee Evans is doing the exact opposite thing this season. He sprained his ankle, like, two months ago and he hasn’t practiced since. I honestly don’t think anyone in Baltimore realizes he’s on the team anymore.  I think he’s been patiently waiting at BWI ever since their bye week for someone to pick him up; either that or Torrey Smith locked him in a storage closet at the team headquarters and no one realized he’s still in there.

Titans 27, Colts 10– Why on earth did the Colts have Curtis Painter throw 49 times (250 yards, 2 INTs, 5.1yds/a)?  In the Red Zone alone on Sunday he dropped back 12 times. What did he do with those opportunities? 15 total yards, no touchdowns, no first downs.

Maybe it’s because their feature running back right now is Donald Brown, who might be the worst running back in the NFL. Could you ask for a better situation than the one Brown stumbled into? First round pick two years with the most dynamic offense in the league. His only competition was Joey Addai, who is decidedly average and gets hurt every time a defender bumps into him. Yet in 32 career games, 24 of which came with Peyton Manning running the offense, Brown still hasn’t amassed 1000 yards.  The fact that Brown is not only on the roster, but handling the majority of their carries right now with Addai out, is emblematic of the Colts’ drafting failures over the past few years. From 1998-2003, they used their first picks on Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Rob Morris, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Dallas Clark. Since then, they’ve taken Marlin Jackson, Joey Addai, Anthony Gonzalez, Brown, Jerry Hughes and Anthony Costanzo. Granted they’ve been picking later in the first round, but Jackson was cut, Gonzalez can’t stay healthy and hasn’t played well even when he wasn’t injured, Brown’s terrible and Hughes is their 3rd string defensive end and rarely sees the field. As a whole, their later round picks have been just as poor. It’s like they just figured they could plug anyone in around Peyton Manning and Dwight Freeney and they’d play well. Even before Peyton’s injury, the Colts appeared to have fallen behind the Steelers and Patriots, and possibly the Chargers and Ravens in the AFC, a fact explicitly revealed now that Manning is out.  Despite having the best quarterback in the game, the Colts have essentially drafted themselves out of Super Bowl contention; ironic, since those same draft habits may lead them the most coveted draft pick in decades, Andrew Luck.

I think Chris Johnson gilded his feet in gold to match his grill, as he had yet another horrific game before being benched for Javon Ringer in the fourth quarter. Besides an 11-yard run in the first quarter, Johnson averaged 1.8 yards per touch and had nine carries of 2 yards or less.  He also turned three targets into one catch for just three yards AND had a 15-yard personal foul called against him.  Did I mention this was against the Colts, who entered Week Eight surrendering 152 rushing yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry? Johnson is ranked dead-last in the league in rushing value by Football Outsiders. The worst part for Titans fans is that, if Johnson weren’t rushing like his dreads were made of spent uranium, they would be looking like a dangerous playoff team. Matt Hasselbeck has exceeded expectations, even without Kenny Britt, and their defense has held five of their seven opponents to 14 points or less. Instead, they’re a middling 4-3 team that seems destined to watch the Texans fill the vacuum of talent left by Peyton Manning’s vertebrae.

Rams 31, Saints 21- Steven Jackson put the whole…team…on his back dooooeeee. He looked like a man possessed- rushing for 159 yards and 2 TDs. After a Saints TD and a pair of costly Rams penalties, it looked like the Rams had lost all momentum and their inevitable implosion was imminent but Jackson gathered his teammates in the huddle and started passionately yelling at them. I’m not sure what he was yelling about, but it seemed to work, as they regained their composure and closed out the game. What I do know, however, is that he wasn’t yelling about the Cardinals. As much as Bob Costas wants to you believe it to be the case, the Cardinals and the Rams wins had NOTHING to do with each other. Steven Jackson doesn’t give a shit about Edwin Jackson. And by Sunday afternoon Chris Long didn’t remember what Chris Carpenter did. Granted, neither did Tony LaRussa, but for different reasons.

Congrats Tony, you just passed the bar exam!

This inane paradigm always seems to resurface every few years, when they talk about how team X was inspired by team Y from the same city. Whether it’s the Cardinals inspiring the Rams, or say, the Red Sox taking after the Bruins, or the Rangers emulating the Mavericks example, it’s insanely naïve to think that these cross-sport successes are somehow consequential or related. Does Bob Costas or Chris Berman really expect us to think that Jackson was not giving 100% effort all season until he watched David Freese hit that home run in game 6? Really? The coaching, the fans, the million-dollar contracts, none of that provided enough motivation to be successful but somehow Tony LaRussa’s pitching changes were?  This entire narrative is as tired as it is erroneous and it represents a level of idealism that should probably taper off after middle school. It needs to stop.

Giants 20, Dolphins 17- I think the Vikings tagged in the Dolphins after week 5 in their “blowing 2nd half leads” campaign. When the going got tough, Matt Moore freaked the hell out. Once the Giants took the lead with six minutes to play, Moore dropped back to pass seven times while trying to lead his team from behind. He was sacked four times, threw an interception and completed two passes for 1 net yard.  Eli Manning, meanwhile, is one of four quarterbacks who are averaging 300 yards per game this season, Brees, Rodgers and Brady being the others.  It seems pretty clear at this point that as long as they can control turnovers, the Giants are deadly.  But then, we’ve always known that haven’t we?

Reggie Bush has had two career 100-yard games. Both have been against the Giants.  Can you imagine how good of a game he would have had if he knew that Kim Kardashian was back on the market? He might have broken the single-game record. There needs to be a betting pool for who Kardashian’s next squeeze will be. I think Bush would have to be considered the odds-on favorite at this point, although Kris Humphries was as random as they get (considering it had to be a large, famous African-American man), so who knows. I’d bet on Bush, Tiger Woods, Cam Newton, Thaddeus Young, Greg Oden and, if there is a God- Herman Cain. Or Mitt Romney. Either one.

Vikings 24, Panthers 21

Mare? Not present.
Cam Newton had another big passing game, although his two turnovers doomed the Panthers. On the first and last plays of the first half, Newton fumbled the ball and gave the Vikings a short field. Both times the Vikings converted the opportunity into seven points. Finally Minnesota found themselves on the business end of a heartbreaking loss, which is I suppose is justified after they blew second half leads in each of their first four games this season.  Christian Ponder was very solid against a decent Panthers defense, going 18-28 for 236, one TD and no turnovers and the Vikings finally got AP involved in the passing game (five for 76 and a touchdown, to go with 86 yards and another TD on the ground). Ponder was best when it really counted, going 9-10 with seven first downs on third down, which is impressive if you’re an accomplished veteran let alone a rookie in his second career start.  Side note: I went to the thrift store for my Halloween costume over the weekend, which was amazing. Thrift stores have everything you could ever want and so much more (like bed bugs!). I know Todd Haley agrees with me. Anyway, there was only one sports jersey in the entire store. And that was a Donovan McNabb Eagles jersey. How depressingly appropriate.

Texans 24, Jaguars 14- I hate that the Cardinals won the World Series for a lot of reasons really. But the worst is that I’m subjected to those “The St. Louis Cardinals are World Series champions, here’s your chance to own a piece of history” Sports Illustrated commercials. I really don’t know why I hate those commercials so much, maybe because they always remind me for weeks after the game that a not-Philadelphia sports team won the championship, or because they’re so blatantly patronizing a fan base or because their “piece of history” is usually a generic t-shirt or “commemorative” baseball, which is just a regular baseball that cost you 59.99 in subscription fees. Either way, they annoy the bejesus out of me. However, I think I’d like it if they applied the same concept to other magazines. For example, after Seal Team Six went Expendables in Abbottabad, Time magazine should have launched a commercial following Obama’s speech with a gleeful voice-over, “The United States Military has just killed Osama bin Laden! Don’t miss your chance to own a piece of history! For just $39.99, you get 56 issues of Time Magazine, plus this commemorative fake beard and camouflage Nalgene bottle!”  I would buy the shit out of that, and you would too.

Bills 23, Redskins 0– Hey Redskins fans, wasn’t it fun when John Beck had barely played so you could imagine how good he’ll be, even though he was cut by the Dolphins and lost a quarterback competition to Rex Grossman? Well, those days are over.  John Beck’s only good attribute at this point is that his name isn’t Rex Grossman. That’s it.  Beck holds the ball for entirely too long, which is a big reason why he took NINE sacks. Granted the Bills have a pretty good pass rush…wait, no they don’t. In fact, they have the worst pass rush in the league. They were dead last in the league with just four sacks through six games before Sunday’s sack-kakke.  In fact, the Bills had given up 400 yards of offense in all but one game this season, yet Shanahanaconda and his legion of garbage men couldn’t even manage 180 yards of total offense. Beck also fumbled once and threw two interceptions and the Redskins as a group rushed 12 times for 26 yards against a Bills D that was missing their best player Kyle Williams, which is just hilarious. I sleep better at night know the Redskins are back in their rightful place at the bottom of the NFC East.

Lions 45, Broncos 10– In the end of the third quarter, Tebow had more sacks (five) in the game than completions (four) and the Broncos did not convert a third down attempt until the final play of the quarter. Here’s about all you need to know about the Broncos offense- down 38-3, they were lining up in a full house backfield, which literally might be the first time in NFL history that’s happened. Tebow’s QBR rating was just 3.4, the lowest in a game since 2008.  BUT IT’S NOT HIS FAULT YOU GUYS. It’s not his fault his offensive line can’t protect for nine seconds every play so that he can do three spin moves then miss his receiver by 10 yards. It’s not his fault the Broncos can only run one or two receiver routes even though he’s had three months to learn the offense.  It’s the defense’s fault- they can’t stop anyone, especially those two Lions defenders who scored touchdowns on Tebow’s turnovers. Tebow’s just gonna do what he always does- work his ass off and praise Jesus and circumcise Filipino babies and make weird abortion commercials that run during the Super Bowl. WHAT MORE CAN YOU ASK FROM HIM?  Some people said that this celebration from Stephen Tulloch was poor taste.
Not true. It was awesome. THIS celebration from this past weekend was in poor taste.

Steelers 25, Patriots 17- Not only did the Steelers get a message-sending win over New England, but they also gave the league a blueprint on how to take down the Pats. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau abandoned his trademark zone-blitzing defense and played man-to-man almost all game. He put Ike Taylor, the Steelers best cover-corner, on Wes Welker in the slot and pressed him at the line, taking him out of his pin-point routes and holding him to just 39 yards. Brady threw for just 170 net yards and 4.9 yards per attempt, a season low. The best thing the Steelers did to stop Brady and the Pats was actually done by their offense. On third down, the Steelers were 10-16, compared with just 3-10 for the Pats.  Their third down success allowed them to have long drives, clock-eating drives, which resulted in nearly double the time of possession for the Steelers offense (39:22) as the Patriots (20:38), a big reason why they outgained the Pats with 427 yards to just 213.

To no one’s surprise the Steelers keyed in on the Pats weak pass-defense, throwing 50 times for 365 yards.  Roethlisberger dropped back a league-high 21 times in the first quarter alone as the Steelers set out to attack a very thin secondary. Devin McCourty may have fallen off a bit this season, but he’s still the Pats best cover by a long shot. As a result, the Steelers spread the ball to 10 receivers and targeted #2 receiver Antonio Brown fifteen times for nine catches, 1 touchdown, and one very awesome touchdown dance.

The Steelers look to be back at their rightful place atop the AFC, providing they can get healthy. Like the eventual champion Packers last year, they had a rocky first half-of the season thanks in large part to a rash of injuries, but if, like the Pack, they get most of their key guys healthy by January, they’ll be a very popular Super Bowl pick, even if they’re the #5 or #6 seed in the AFC.

49ers 20, Browns 10– Let’s just pretend this horribly boring game never happened.

Bengals 34, Seahawks 12– All you really need to know about the Seahawks in one sentence- Charlie Whitehurst was benched mid-game for an injured Tavaris Jackson who ran into Marshawn Lynch and lost a fumble on his first play.  The Seahawks starting corners for this game were fifth-round rookie Richard Sherman and straight-from-the-CFL signing Brandon Browner, yet Andy Dalton managed just 168 yards on 29 attempts and two interceptions. Dalton completed just three of his last nine passes for 17 yards and both interceptions, yet Seattle still somehow lost by 22 despite outgaining the Bengals 411-252.  Touchdowns on defense and special teams bailed out an offense that managed just three points in the final 32 minutes of the game. Pacman Jones also nearly had a punt return for a touchdown in the first half but pulled his hamstring on the play and was caught by the punter before he could score. The Bengals added the oft-arrested Pacman to their active roster this week without dropping anyone since Cedric Benson was suspended for his assault charge in the offseason. And that, my friends, was the most Bengals sentence of all time.

Eagles 34, Cowboys 7– This game was Eagles porn.  Neither Dez Bryant nor Miles Austin had a single target, let alone catch, in the first half. In all, Romo had four completions, 36 yards, three sacks, four passes defended and a sack in the first half, while Vick went 13-17 with 232 yards and two TDs.  The Cowboys entered the game as the #1 rush defense in the league, but the Eagles ran all over them- going for 239 yards, including 185 yards and two TDs by Shady McCoy.  That’s a big reason why the Eagles gained a ridiculous 31 first downs on eight possessions.  When the Eagles punted with nine minutes remaining in the game, it was their first drive of the game that did not end in points. Perhaps most encouraging, the Eagles showed huge improvement in one of their weakest areas- coverage by their linebackers and safeties. Jason Witten was targeted 12 times in the game but caught just four balls for 28 yards. Now, as encouraging of a performance as this was by the Eagles, it’s important to remember that this is still the NFC East, home to four of the least consistent teams in the NFL, so before we declare that the Eagles have conquered their early-season demons, let’s have a little perspective. After Sunday’s game, Steve Mariucci and Michael Irvin declared on NFL Network that the Eagles were the best team in the NFC besides the undefeated Packers. Come on now, this was the best performance by the Eagles since last year’s Monday Night annihilation of the Redskins, but it was also just their second win in seven weeks, so let’s consider it a return to the mean more so than an indication of who they really are.  There’s no doubt though that they’re finally correcting what ailed them early on. The defense has finally switched back to playing primarily man-to-man defense instead of that inane zone. The “Wide-9” was narrowed a bit to help the linebackers against the run. The offense has shifted from relying on the Jackson/Maclin home-run ball to moving the chains with the running backs, tight ends and slot receivers, which hit are considerably more reliable. Finally, and perhaps most important, the offensive line has finally started to gel and get used to coach Howard Mudd’s system, allowing them to protect Vick from some of the amnesia-inducing hits he took in weeks 2-6.  Mudd came out of retirement to coach the Eagles this offseason and he may be the best offensive line coach in the league. He also may be the most homeless looking coach in the league, or at least tied with Todd Haley. He looks like Santa Claus after he fell of a reindeer and, apparently, off the wagon. Howard Mudd IS the 99%.

MNF Chargers Chiefs: We’ll all remember October 31st, 2011 as the night Phillip Rivers went full Romo. And you never go full Romo.  Rivers legitimately played like he was a double agent for the Chiefs. About 50% of his passes were spot on-target, and the other 50% were hilariously inaccurate. Time and time again, he overthrew wide-open receivers or tried to force the ball into double coverage down field. His first of two interceptions may have been the worst throw of his career. Towards the end of the fourth quarter, the Chargers had basically given up on him and decided to hand it off to undrafted free agent Curtis Brinkley to close out the game, but even that appeared too difficult for Rivers since he fumbled the snap just before they could attempt the game-winning kick with seconds to play.  That’s has to be the worst turnover since Romo’s botched hold five years ago seeing as Rivers had the game locked up until he tried to take the snap with his closed fist! It’s like he had a stroke right before the play or something. It was so bad that in overtime, Gruden remarked that, “this has gotta be the worst day of Phillip Rivers’ life.” That seems like quite an overstatement, until Rivers apparently agreed with him from the sidelines: 

Fat white guy? Check. Visor? Check. Willie Roaf jersey? Check. Monstrous amount of dip in his mouth? Why, that must be the official mascot of the Kansas City Chiefs:
Todd Haley sees you drivin down the field against the team he loves and he’s like : Todd Haley’s outfit looks like it came from Mugatu’s the NFL’s Derelict campaign. His sweatshirt is also the exact color scheme as his beard, which you have to respect. (Disclaimer: I am brutally color blind so take this with a grain of salt, if there are any grains of salt left after what’s in Haley’s beard).

Enjoy Week 9, everyone.


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