This week, I’ve decided to take a little break from the game reviews that I had been doing and just post a review of the NFL weekend as a whole with my thoughts on several things that happened in various games. I’ll probably do a couple of posts on how a few different teams are looking to this point in the season as well this week. There were a few things that caught my attention this weekend that I felt like talking about so, I figured I would put down here on the blog. For example, there were the outstanding defensive back plays of Champ Bailey and Darren Sharper, the continuing wussification of the quarterback position by the NFL, a touchdown that was dropped in the endzone that was overturned and ruled a TD, and a few others.
Broncos-Cowboys (Champ Bailey)
First, I wanted to talk about the outstanding play of Champ Bailey in the game between the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys. I’ll admit that I didn’t follow the game very closely. I watched the early part, saw the Cowboys go up by 10 early, and basically wrote off the Broncos as pretenders. Of course, they came back and won 17-10. IIRC, Joe Buck said that Tony Romo threw Champ Bailey’s way 16 times. He didn’t tell how many were completed, but what stood out to me was the fact that Bailey basically won the game at the end for Denver. He didn’t intercept the ball, but he did have two passes defensed on the last two plays of the game. In each case, at full speed, I couldn’t tell if he knocked it away before the ball reached the receiver or after, or if the receiver just dropped it. But, after the seeing the replays in slow motion, Bailey clearly had his hand on the ball to knock it away before it got to the receiver. It seems rare these days to see a defensive back make such a quality defensive play, and Bailey made two in a row to seal the win for his team. I was very impressed. I do wonder, as others have, why Romo threw in Bailey’s direction so much in that game. In particular, in the two biggest plays of the game, he tried to beat Bailey to Sam Hurd, I believe, who I had not really heard of. That does raise the question of Romo’s decision making of late. Typically, he doesn’t start struggling until December, but this year, he’s been struggling much more than usual in September. Maybe he does miss TO, even though he was a distraction.
Saints-Jets (Darren Sharper)
Another DB that had a pretty darn good day Sunday was Darren Sharper. He had two interceptions, and returned one 99 yards for a TD. I believe it was his second pick-6 this season, putting him in sole possession of 2nd place all time in interceptions returned for TDs, behind only Rod Woodson. From what they said on NFL GameDay Final, he also tied Deion Sanders as the only other DB to have 2 INTs returned for TDs of over 90 yards. I’m not sure why, but I really had not heard Sharper mentioned as one of the elite defensive backs in the league. But, he is just 2 pick-6-es away from tying the career total, and he’s only the second to reach double digits in that category.
NFL Really Becoming a Pansy League?
Last year, after Hines Ward was fined a few times for what most Steelers fans thought were legal hits, Troy Polamalu was quoted as saying that the NFL is becoming a Pansy League. It reminds of something that I think Jack Lambert said back in the 80s, that maybe they should start letting quarterbacks wear skirts, if they were so worried about protecting them. That brings me to the latest example this weekend of the NFL approaching Pansy-dom. On two plays in the game, the Baltimore Ravens were called for roughing the passer penalties. One play was a defender whose hand or fore-arm apparently touched Tom Brady’s helmet. It really didn’t look like enough to knock him down, but Brady did go down, only to get up demanding his penalty flag. This reminded me of a penalty against Polamalu last year (I believe against the Chargers in the playoffs, but maybe it was someone else) where he blitzed the QB and in the process of trying to jump up and block the pass, his arm touched the QB’s helmet. At least, this penalty is called consistently; no one is ever allowed to hit a quarterback’s helmet. But, the other call was essentially enforcing the Tom Brady Rule. However, this time, the defender did not hit Brady in the legs. He would have, but Brady move out of the way. The defender may have brushed against his legs, but immediately, Brady was asking the official for a flag. Is this what this game has come to? There are a ton of tough guys in the NFL, but it seems at every turn, the league is seeking to remove or reduce all risk to the extent that the game is really in danger of becoming steril and possibly losing much of what has made it so popular. They need to think a little more about that, I think.
The touchdown reception that should have been ruled incomplete
In fact, it was ruled incomplete on the field but overturned by replay. I saw this highlight on NFL GameDay Final as well, but the game involved has slipped my mind. Maybe someone can remind me. I’m sure a fan of the team that got screwed over knows. Anyway, a receiver caught the ball and came down on the defender, but when he was on top of the defender on the ground, the defender knocked the ball out. This was pretty much immediately after they hit the turf. The play was ruled an incompletion, which lines up with everything I’ve been hearing on this rule for the last two years. It was overturned after review! This shocks me because, if that play was a touchdown, then Limas Sweed’s drop in the endzone last weekend was a touchdown, as was the Raider player’s drop (Louis Murphy?) in Week 1. Anyway, we’ll see if the league addresses that play, but it was very suspect to me.
Steelers’ late game collapses
So far this year, the Steelers have only had one quality 4th quarter. That was game 1, where they were outplayed for much of the early part of the game. Since then, they’ve had leads in every other game only to give them up (or nearly lose it last night). In each game it was something different. Against the Bears, Jeff Reed missed 2 FGs. He was 27 of 31 last season, and I believe this was the first game he had missed more than one in a game. Last week against the Bengals, it was largely a combination of Santonio Holmes missing a blitz read and failing to adjust his route accordingly, leading to pick-6, Limas Sweed’s dropping a sure TD, the offense’s inability to score in the 4th quarter, and the defense’s in ability to get a stop on the last two drives of the game. Last night, an overwhelmingly dominating 2 and half quarters were nearly not enough as the Steelers allowed a fumble return for a TD, an onside kick and a couple of quick drives for touchdowns to make a laugher turn into a nailbiter. It seems like the team is not as mentally focused overall as they should be. Perhaps it is the number of new contributors this year, but if they hope to contend, they need get focused again.
Well, this post is getting a little long, so I’ll stop here. I may post a few more thoughts in another post. Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these as well!