NFL Run & Shootaround: Boom's Day

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson Richard Sherman

On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.

Reign Men

Robert Mays: Typically when I watch football, I try to watch the line. That isn’t an attempt at snobbery. It’s just what I enjoy. Watching massive men fight for three feet of space, all with a combination of brutality and a criminally understated amount of grace, is my favorite part of the game.

Last night presented its share of opportunities for that. The 49ers have probably the best — and definitely the most imposing — offensive line in football, and Seattle’s rotating group of pass-rushing, run-stopping terrors is one of the better tests that San Francisco group will get all year. And while I did see plenty of that, the best battle at the line of scrimmage yesterday didn’t involve any linemen.

The Seahawks’ base defense involves each cornerback being assigned to one side of the field. For Richard Sherman, it’s the left. But after watching what Anquan Boldin did to the Packers last weekend, Sherman asked Pete Carroll for a tweak in his assignment. He wanted to shadow Boldin wherever he went. “I wanted to follow him,” Sherman said. “There was a lot said this week; he had a great game last weekend — there’s a lot of talk about elite corners, and who follows who, etc., etc. I wanted to negate that.”

It wasn’t only a matter of mirroring where Boldin lined up. It was about mirroring his style of play. Even in his younger days, Boldin was never fast. His game is predicated on outmuscling smaller players, both off the line and for the ball. It’s a reputation Sherman both understood and wanted to challenge. “A lot of people think he’s just going to out-physical you the whole game,” Sherman said. “I think I countered that with physicality.” The result was not only contact at the line, but collisions. Sherman is not the typical 5-foot-11 corner. At 6-3, he has the size to match Boldin’s tactics, and he did — all game.

Sherman added an interception late, one of three for Colin Kaepernick, who’d thrown for more than 400 yards in the 49ers’ dismantling of the Packers’ defense a week ago. The other two went to secondary mates Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, who, along with Sherman and the injured Brandon Browner, have taken to calling themselves the Legion of Boom. The Seahawks’ secondary is their defining quality on that side of the ball, but the dominance against Kaepernick last night was an effort that extended to every part of the defense. Newcomers Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril both had sacks, and the 49ers struggled to move the ball on the ground the entire game. With Browner out, Walter Thurmond stepped in opposite Sherman, and the 49ers didn’t have much luck going after his side either.

That really is what’s most striking about the Seattle defense — how interchangeable it all seems. Players rotate in and out, and everything from their stature to their play seems to hold. The secondary is a group of 6-foot-something condors, while every member of the group up front seems to both get after the quarterback and hold up against the run. And that’s without Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin.

Kaepernick finished with 127 yards passing — 25 of which came on San Francisco’s second-to-last drive, with the game well in hand. Sherman said after the game that he believed the 5-0 lead Seattle took into the hour-long rain delay would have been enough. And last night, I think I believed it too.

Big Fan

Chris Ryan: Washington, D.C., football fans haven’t had a ton to cheer for recently. Their preseason was dominated by talk of whether Robert Griffin III and coach Mike Shanahan were on the same page regarding RG3’s participation in preseason games. There’s been an uptick in public debate about whether the team’s nickname is a thing to have out in the world in 2013. And if all that weren’t enough, they got blown off the road by Chip Kelly’s speed freaks in Week 1 and met Aaron Rodgers, Destroyer of Worlds, in Week 2. That’s a tough beat for any fan base to deal with.

But at least they can still count Kevin Durant among their number.

This is Durant arriving at Lambeau Field for yesterday’s Green Bay–Washington game. By now, Durant’s love of football is pretty well known. He practically spent the lockout turning himself into a two-sport athlete, showing up at a fraternity flag football game in Oklahoma …

And playing in a game in Akron against LeBron James, the greatest tight end who never was

There’s also this clip of Durant throwing to Russell Westbrook during a University of Kentucky practice, which pretty much encapsulates the Durant-Westbrook relationship …

Whatever Durant’s interest in playing football is, it’s dwarfed by his unabashed fandom. I didn’t think I could like this guy any more than I already did, but I was wrong, apparently!

New Man

A Beautiful Mind

Life With a Lame Duck

Andrew Sharp: I want to believe the Panthers can turn things around and go 10-6 somehow. The combination of Luke Kuechly on D and Cam Newton on offense is fun to watch, and we always need more Steve Smith in our lives. But the Panthers are doomed. The Cowboys are doomed, too. Fans of these teams knew this months ago. Right?

Even back in May, Jason Garrett and Ron Rivera were two coaches we knew would probably end up getting fired at the end of this year. The 7-9 season in between is just a formality.

Every time I watch a Cowboys game and they waste away a game like they did in Kansas City on Sunday, I remember, “Oh right, Jason Garrett’s still our coach. Of course this is happening.”

That’s been happening in winnable games for three years. Same with Carolina. There’s no way Rivera, after puttering through the past two seasons, suddenly becomes a great coach for the Panthers now. So even though Carolina has talent and decent potential on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to pick them to do anything as long as we’re all waiting for them to finally get rid of Rivera.

It’s not that the failures are entirely the coach’s fault, but there’s a tipping point with NFL coaches where you start to accept that it’s time to move on. When teams keep lame-duck coaches past that point, it generally just prolongs the misery for everyone involved. The only coach I can think of who turned around a situation like this is Tom Coughlin with the 2007 Giants, and that team was clearly working on a supernatural level. With everyone else, life with a lame-duck coach looks a lot like it did for the Cowboys and Panthers this week. They have impressive talent on both sides of the ball, you keep waiting for them to start dominating, and then you look up and wonder how they lost. Then at the end of the season you wonder how they lost nine games.

This has been my life for two years now. As a Cowboys fan, I can try to convince myself that this year will be different and I can buy into it for all kinds of reasons, but it all comes back to the same place eventually.

“Why did we keep him again? Why did that make sense?”

At least Panthers fans feel my pain.



Rembert Browne: I sincerely believe there’s a collection of athletes who, unlike their tape-watching, habit-studying peers, treat every opponent the same — with the same amount of brash disrespect.

Example: Serena Williams. It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side. More often than not, she probably doesn’t even remember their name. She’s just trying to win in 37 to 45 minutes so she can leave and go listen to that new Drake leak in her convertible.

Another athlete who’s rapidly creeping into this group: Falcons safety William A. Moore.

The man does not care who he’s playing against, and sometimes I’m not even sure if he is aware of the score. He’s just trying to give another professional football player the opportunity to run at him, so he can hurt and/or embarrass that player in front of his friends and family on television.

Enter Mike McNeill of the Rams and a ball that, in retrospect, he should have just dropped.

And here’s the same video, but from SB Nation and with Jim Ross wrestling commentary in the background.

And here’s the GIF, which, if you know McNeill personally or peripherally, you should text to him this morning.

William A. Moore has a lot of emotions, and sometimes he gets them out via two-minute freestyles.

But mostly, it’s by picking up other grown men and pile-driving them into the ground, all in the name of disrespect and indifference.

Long live William A. Moore.

Jag Me With a Spoon

Cousin Sal: There are very few things gamblers can compare to the experience of betting the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars on a three-team teaser. I personally would have to put the stupidity of that particular wager somewhere between betting Floyd Mayweather to say he got lucky during a postfight interview and betting Paula Deen will get an Evite to a White House bake-off.

Yesterday I made this agonizing mistake. Here’s how a three-teamer works: You pick three teams and knock 10 points off (or add 10 points if you’re picking the underdog) to the real spread. The first two teams almost always win against the outright spread (not needing the 10 extra points), and then you sweat out the third. That was exactly what happened yesterday. The Packers (+2.5) and Dolphins (+13) took care of business with relative ease.

And now the hard part. On the surface, taking Jacksonville seemed as good an idea as any in Week 2. After all, they were matched up against the putrid Raiders. You sit down, look at the slate, and realize you’d be getting 16 points! You make a few jokes to yourself about how two years ago Al Davis died out of boredom when he saw this game scheduled and the next thing you know you are all-in on this horrific Jags organization. And then the NEXT thing you know the Jaguars are losing by exactly 16 points midway through the fourth quarter. And then two things dawn on you:

1. Ties lose on teasers.
2. You have a decent percentage of next week’s paycheck riding on Chad Henne locating Clay Harbor in the end zone.

Then no. 2 comes through and just like that, you’re a genius again.

This is the kind of anecdote that can get you permanently booted from a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. You know what — forget I said anything.


The King Stay the King

Mays: Six days ago, when Michael Vick dropped 26 first-half points on the Redskins, it was enough to make us lose our minds. When Aaron Rodgers puts up 24 — and 335 yards in two quarters — nobody thinks twice about it. That’s where we are with Aaron Rodgers. He’s already boring.

Week 1 is our annual opportunity to overreact to everything and everyone, and thankfully, Rodgers was there yesterday to be a corrective force. Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes a week ago, Kaepernick outdueled Rodgers in a revenge game that the Chip on Aaron Rodgers’s Shoulder usually salivates for, and Chip Kelly started the offensive revolution. Yet a week later, football is still football, and Rodgers is still better than everyone else.

What separates Rodgers from the previous two owners of the QB Belt is the way he moves. Tom Brady and Manning both were experts at subtly navigating the pocket — a sidestep here, a step up there. But what Rodgers can do on the move — especially going to his left — is something I don’t remember seeing elsewhere.

It’s what Rodgers did on the most impressive play of his 480-yard day — a play that actually didn’t count. On a play-action pass down in the red zone early in the second quarter, Rodgers faked a handoff and began drifting to his left. That’s the important distinction. Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck can make plays rolling left — and often do — but the difference is that Rodgers never looks like he’s in a hurry. Somehow, he buys time and space while always keeping his feet parallel to the line of scrimmage. And this time, as he did it, he managed to hit a sliding Jordy Nelson in the back corner of the end zone, with a throw that could not have been more perfect. The score was nullified because of a hold, but that’s not what’s important here. The whole thing defies my understanding of quarterbacking, physics, and the rules of the universe.

Manning has made his case so far, but when it all settles at season’s end, Rodgers will likely remain at the top. And the most incredible part of it all is just how easy he makes it look.

Filed Under: Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Sharp, Buffalo Bills, Chris Ryan, Cousin Sal, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kevin Durant, NFL, Robert Griffin III, Robert Mays, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins