A full quarter of the NFL teams entered Week 5 at .500 and two more reached the break even mark after notching victories Sunday. I focused on five of those teams closely during last weekend’s NFL mayhem. Here are my notes from their respective performances.
This defense set an NFL record for futility – no team in league history had ever allowed 300 rushing yards and 300 passing yards in the same game. It came just one week after allowing 45 second-half points on seven consecutive scoring drives against New England. Buffalo is the first team since 1950 to allow 550-plus yards in back-to-back weeks. Now that’s a struggling stop unit!
This pass D has awful fundamentals, giving up yardage in chunks. Every decent QB should have a field day throwing downfield. There’s no pass rush and these cornerbacks are not shutdown guys. No question this defense lacked effort throughout the second half against San Francisco. They flat out quit.
We got the “bad” Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitz continues to struggle with his deep throws, missing Stevie Johnson for a sure touchdown, one of a good handful of poorly thrown balls. Even worse, Buffalo is starting to get cluster injuries on the offensive line. Much like last year, OL depth is not a strength. With two starters already out, one of their replacements (Colin Brown) left with a hamstring injury and didn’t return.
In-game or halftime bettors should definitely note that when things start to go south for this team, they tend to snowball. We haven’t seen a single come-from-behind-at-any-point-in-the-game win for the Bills since September 2011.
New York Giants
It’s hard to picture a game starting worse than this one for the injury riddled Giants missing six starters from their lineup. An Ahmad Bradshaw fumble set up a short field for Cleveland’s first TD, and on their next defensive possession, the G-men allowed a 60 yard bomb for another score. RB Andre Brown and TE Martellus Bennett both went back to the locker room following early injuries, although Bennett later returned.
Then Eli started to throw, Bradshaw got rolling, and voila; an easy touchdown march down the field that even a chop-block-induced first and 25 couldn’t stop – not a single third down on the drive. By halftime, they had taken a double digit lead. New York passed this character test with flying colors!
Even with a banged up receiving corps, guys like Reuben Randle and Domenik Hixon stepped up – having Eli really helps in that regard. But this defense continued to get gashed; unable to stop the run or the pass. New York allowed a whopping 8.8 yards per play for the first half while only forcing one punt before stiffening over the final 30 minutes.
This defense is not what it was a month ago. Their pass rush is limited without injured sackmeisters Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo plus the secondary is shorthanded without Cedric Griffin or Brandon Meriweather in the lineup. Ryan Kerrigan’s interception return TD was certainly nothing to sneeze at. London Fletcher is making another bid to lead the league in tackles, notching 20 against Atlanta.
This is no elite stop unit by any stretch. The Skins allowed more than 50% third down conversions and ran 33 fewer plays than Atlanta – this D simply isn’t getting off the field.
Alfred Morris continues to eat up yardage between the tackles, giving Robert Griffin a nice complement in the running game. The offensive line is run blocking very well, giving Morris room to reach the second level of defenders. When you average 10 yards per carry for a half of football, you’re clearly doing something right.
RG III is running the ball less, without a single rush attempt through the first half after gaining 234 yards (5.7 ypc) in his first four games. This offense was relatively conventional against the Falcons. Griffin scrambled a couple of times in the third quarter and took a nasty hit, leaving the game concussed. At least OC Kyle Shanahan trusts his backup QB. The first complete pass from Kirk Cousins after Griffin got hurt was a 77 yard bomb to Santana Moss for a TD.
This is a very young defense, loaded with rookies and second year players. Give this organization some credit for drafting very well – this defense ranks among the best stop units in the NFL. Seattle has the tallest cornerbacks in the league. Brandon Mebane is a beast at nose tackle and this defense is simply dominating against the run.
Rookie LB Bobby Wagner had the speed and size to chase down a scrambling Cam Newton from behind – twice! Bruce Irvin sealed the game with a late forced fumble. Seattle didn’t give up a third down conversion on anything other than a penalty until the Panthers two minute drive before halftime. When Newton starts the game 2-14 for 33 yards, you know the defense is doing something very right.
Seattle had been the only team in the NFL with more running yards than passing. There’s no reason to think that they won’t continue to lean heavily on Marshawn Lynch and his backup Robert Turban, for a big portion of their offense. They need the young receivers to step up, most notably Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate because Sidney Rice cannot be considered a true No. 1 wideout.
Russell Wilson is not seeing the whole field; looking very much like a rookie. He’s settling for checkdowns, throwing interceptions and taking big hits in the pocket This is an UNDER machine (5-0 already) with one defensive struggle after the next.
They continue to lack in the execution element of their game plan. Their longest rush of the year, 22 yards, came in the first quarter against the Eagles by the recently-returned Rashard Mendenhall – and that was negated by an illegal formation penalty. Pittsburgh had five first quarter offensive penalties (one third down holding call was declined).
Troy Polamalu returned to the lineup, but he hopped off to the sideline in second quarter unable to put any weight on his injured calf. Lamar Woodley left and didn’t return with a hamstring injury, bad news for a team that plays again Thursday.
This defense was certainly improved, in sharp contrast to their woeful performance at Oakland before the bye. James Harrison’s return had an impact, but they did allow two long TD drives with the game on the line in the second half.
I’m generally not a believer in the importance of any individual running back, but this offense really changes with a healthy Mendenhall off his torn ACL. They simply can’t run the football without him, but with him they’re ripping off long gainers. Veteran linemen Willie Colon and Max Starks actually played well up front, opening up holes for a rushing unit that had been averaging just 65 yards per game.