Week 7 was as ever full of surprises, full of dead certs that never came off. Its Monday morning after a NFL Sunday and twitter has blown up over Robert Griffin III's performance on the road against the New York Giants.
In a sign of things to come over the next few years in the NFC East, a rivalry has been planted between two of the most durable quarterbacks in Eli Manning and RG3. RG3 kept the Redskins in the game, and gave them a 23-20 lead when he hooked up with Santana Moss for a 30 yard touchdown after scrambling what seemed like an eternity. You saw the best of him when he evaded two pass rushers out of the pocket on 4th and 10, yet somehow found Logan Paulson for 19 yards which led to the Moss TD a few plays later. RG3 was ready to celebrate his first statement win.
Yet he - and we for two minutes - forgot that he was facing two-time Superbowl winner Eli Manning who is renowned for running the two minute drill as well as anybody. And whilst RG3 is a dynamic individual who can pretty much do anything with his offense. RG3 cannot play defense. Manning was able to connect with Victor Cruz for the go-ahead TD that ended the scoring at 27-23.
The Redskins might have lost the game yet they remain potentially in a wildcard race from the NFC East and right now they have the second best QB in the NFC East. The Giants are the cream of this Eastern crop, with Manning again winning, last season they would have lost this game at home.
Time to Buc up
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers conspired to lose a game they should have won. At home to the New Orleans Saints, the Bucs took a 21-7 point lead thanks to some great passing by Josh Freeman (who seems to get big numbers v the Saints D, then yet again who doesnt) who ended up with a career-high 420 yards and three touchdowns. Attempting to engineer a game-tying TD drive in the dying seconds, Freeman did connect with Mike Williams to send the home fans into a frenzy, yet Williams had already stepped out of bounds and so by rule cannot be the first receiver to touch the ball. The penalty resulted in a 35-28 victory for the now 2-4 Saints, who have won two in a row and still have something to play for.
My problem here is that the Bucs had seemed to turn the page in the summer. They hired a new coach in Greg Schiano, who would plug a leaky defense; they made moves in the off season to get a name receiver in Vincent Jackson who had a 200+ receiving game and one TD. Jackson should have had two, yet in a 95 yard play was tackled at the one.
The Saints then had a big goal-line stand as the Bucs went for it on fourth and goal, yet it was the play-calling that was mystifying as three times they lined up pack horse, LaGarrett Blount in the backfield and three times they handed it to him. The Bucs were woefully guilty of naivety here, where was the invention, where was the pick and roll, where were targets Doug Martin and Jackson who went awol.
Instead of being 3-3, the Bucs are now 2-4 along with the Saints, both teams are four behind the Falcons who were on a bye and now need three more wins to tie up the division. Admittedly, both teams have to face the Falcons twice yet the chance of gaining a wildcard is slipping away due to the impressive starts by teams in the NFC West and North.
Cameron lets down Rice
The Baltimore Ravens are seemingly a different side away from home to the team at M&T Stadium. The Ravens went to face the only other AFC team with a winning record in the Houston Texans, who were swept aside by a rampant Aaron Rodgers last Sunday night as he threw for 6 TDs in the Texans' first game without Brian Cushing who tore his ACL.
Cam Cameron must have hit upon the idea to try and outshoot the Texans, yet in an advert for selling yourself wrongly, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense forgot what it was that made them good, two words: Ray Rice. Rice was neglected in terms of momentum and usage. During the first half, Rice had only six carries, whilst Flacco had 20 attempted throws, completing 7 and one pick six.which led to a 29-7 half-time deficit from which they could not recover.
All in all, the Texans outgunned the Ravens by 244 yards in total offense, Rice ended up with 42 yards from just 9 carries. The Ravens are better engineering plays for Rice from the backfield - screens, tosses, runs - here they thought they could out throw the Texans. The Texans stuck with a mix of air and rush, Arian Foster had 19 carries for 98 yards and 2 TDs. Schaub threw 37 times. Flacco threw 43 times.
This was a bad weekend for Baltimore as the Steelers won on the road at the Bengals. Even though they were without two running backs, they stuck to their gameplan and got yardage from Dwyer (17car, 122 yards) and Big Ben threw for 278 yards. Pittsburgh got the job done, and with the Ravens suffering terrible season-ending injuries to Ray Lewis and DeMarcius Webb, they may have got Terrell Suggs back but morle must be low at the moment.
The Pats almost sent packing
Will the real New England Patriots please stand up, as the reigning AFC champions are struggling with continuity and a lack of finesse on both sides of the ball. The good defensive work in the first few weeks of the season is being undone by injuries to the worrying secondary, too many long balls are being executed, too many plays of 20+ yards given to receivers.
The offense are thinking they can get by on reputation alone, both tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are not fully fit, Wes Welker is still get good yards but Brandon Lloyd is letting down his expectation levels, dropping too many passes that a man of his talent has.
Thanks to some dumb play-calling from the New York Jets offense, the defense came up with a recovered fumble to end the game and put a stake in the heart of the Jets. The Pats sit atop the AFC East at 4-3, and own a tiebreaker over the Jets. The Bills lost at home to the Titans, and the Dolphins had a bye.
In hindsight, this week will be a good one, yet it could have been far worse for Tom Brady and the Patriots. Instead of packing their up their hopes of title aspirations, they pack their bags ready to travel to the United Kingdom to face the St.Louis Rams at Wembley Stadium. The Rams lost to the Green Bay Packers at home 20-30. The Patriots may return to Boston 5-3 and feeling a lot better about themselves.
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