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.
It Was All Good Just a Week Ago
Andrew Sharp: It feels like just yesterday that Chip Kelly was splitting the earth in half and setting the Redskins secondary on fire and exceeding all the hype. Now? Uhh …
Philly’s 1-3 after Sunday, and everything after that outrageous first half in D.C. has felt like one, long reality check. Especially this week, when the Broncos spent most of the afternoon reminding us that even the Eagles’ biggest strength isn’t half as good as the best offense in the league. Now the backlash starts, and you know the Philly media’s only going to get exponentially more miserable with each passing loss.
It’s all a little bit unfair. Nobody expected the Eagles to actually be good until that first half in D.C. That’s when everyone threw logic out the window. Now Chip’s being judged against that curve, and every loss is proof that he’s a fraud or something. With that in mind, hopefully everyone can just wait and see what happens here. There’s a decent chance it never clicks in Philly, in which case Chip Kelly goes back to college to rain hellfire on the Pac-12 or ACC or Big 12. That would be cool. But there’s also a chance this Eagles team was always going to be kind of shitty, and given a season to learn and tweak things — and an offseason to rebuild that defense — things could look a lot better a year from now. In the meantime, the Eagles are still more fun to watch and argue about than any other 1-3 team in the NFL. That was always the best part of the Chip Kelly deal for the rest of us. Between the grumpy Philly media and the crazy offense and Michael Vick and LeSean and DeSean … The team may not be good this year or next year or ever, but whatever happens, the insanity will keep everyone entertained.
Top 10 Pieces of Commentary From the Guardian’s Website Regarding the NFL Game in London That Prove We Really Need to Move There Stat
Katie Baker: (All quotes from here or here.)
10. “Amid the flag-waving and fire crackers, the unrelenting bass assault on the eardrums and the apple-pie smiles of the cheerleaders in the gloaming, Wembley was treated to a thriller as the Minnesota Vikings clung on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
9. “There are so many people, so much colour and generally a ridiculous amount going on. Some of it is tacky and too American but if you accept it for what it is then it’s a lot of fun. And the cheerleaders are pleasing on the eye to say the least.”
8. “I didn’t have a clue about what was going on, despite the hype and punditry. Seemed to have more rules than rugby, with more stops and padding.”
7. “Also, it was good that the host broadcaster (NBC I believe) only mentioned the Big Ben reference about 50 times. I was afraid the whole broadcast would just be endless Big Ben jokes, but they managed to keep it down to a minimum.” (After being corrected that the channel was CBS, the commenter wrote: “I get easily confused with all the different 3 letter channels Stateside.” We do too.)
6. “And even from the cheap seats you can see why Big Ben is so called, he’s a slippery bugger and you’ll not take him down with one hand on his jersey.”
5. “Several of the American press corp were grumbling about the food in the Wembley press box at half-time, and with good reason: non-descript pie and vaguely-spiced oven chips was all they got. Good job Wembley, reinforcing those cultural stereotypes about British grub …” (This was followed by a comment about press box food in America: “I know of teams that have cookies, brownies, ice cream, popcorn, nachos [with molten cheese], and name-brand doughnuts in their press box.” GODDAMN RIGHT!)
4. “It’d be worthwhile to remind Londoners watching the Steelers and Vikes that in essence they’re watching two fairly-matched second tier Aussie Rules clubs neither of which could stay with Hawthorn. Even an analogy of Sunderland versus Cardiff City would credit them too highly.”
3. “What’s the NFL sartorial equivalent of the FA’s blazer brigade? Does Roger Goodell favour cardigans or fedoras?”
2. “But I do wish someone would explain to them that Vikings didn’t do horned helmets, that’s a misconception based on the misinterpretation of the Iron Age British Celtic Battersea Helmet as Viking when first found.”
1. “I also think Bill Belichick would look bad ass with a full on beard, but I get the impression, he can probably only grow a few chin whiskers.”
Geno Smith Is the Mother of Invention
Sean Fennessey: Geno Smith, deposed King, did something yesterday that I have never seen before. I’m not referring to his turning the ball over four times and single-handedly costing his team the game; Jets quarterbacks have been doing that very thing for nearly 40 years. No, Geno attempted to avoid a defender’s searching paws by moving the ball behind his back, from right hand to left. He failed. He was sacked. He fumbled, and lineman Karl Klug recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Many will say that this was a colossal error; that this rookie QB is a blockhead; that by merely recalling the Butt Fumble, Geno has aligned himself with a long line of ignominy. I’m going the other way: Geno is on to something. Behind-the-back moves are way overdue in the NFL. And here is all the evidence I need:
That’s the Kings’ Peja Stojokovic hitting a streaking Bobby Jackson in a game against the Dallas Mavericks and it is also one of the most delightful pieces of NBA YouTube flotsam. If you are feeling down about the world, watch this video and marvel. Now imagine Peyton Manning firing one of those okie-doke passes to Eric Decker. Picture Drew Brees hoisting one through the legs to Jimmy Graham. Envision RG3 hitting Leonard Hankerson in the end zone, behind the back. Geno Smith hasn’t figured out that in this life, “Air Raid” isn’t an offense — it’s something deranged women yell at freshmen and what linemen like Karl Klug exert upon dumb rookie QBs. But maybe Geno is also a pioneer. A visionary. A Peja for these times. If he can’t be King, perhaps he can be Merlin.
The Legend Continues
Bucs coach Greg Schiano said Josh Freeman was sent to the suite as part of a mutual decision.
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) September 29, 2013
The agent for Josh Freeman said Greg Schiano's claim that it was a 'mutual decision,' the QB watch from a suite Sun was a 'Lie. Obviously.'
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) September 29, 2013
Sharp: So wait, Schiano actually banned Josh Freeman from the sideline Sunday? What? What is even happening in Tampa Bay at this point? How is Greg Schiano still coaching in the NFL? And can we please keep this going forever?
The controversies just get stupider and more amazing every week, and it’ll only get better as the Bucs keep losing. We’re like three weeks away from Schiano cutting Mike Glennon at halftime and then coming out to take snaps himself. No pads, no helmet, nothing. Just line ’em up and hit. You don’t need pads when you’ve got HEART.
(GIF via FanSided)
There Will Be Blood
Robert Mays: J.J. Watt’s Jesse Ventura impression at the season’s quarter point makes it as good a time as any to remind everyone that he’s more or less continued last year’s destruction tour through the first four games. Yesterday, Watt added five tackles for a loss or no gain and half a sack. On the play where his nose exploded, Watt chased down Russell Wilson along the sideline and sent him sprawling out of bounds on third down. At one point, color commentator Tim Ryan had to stop in the middle of describing Watt dumping Robert Turbin four yards in the backfield to recoil in horror at the destruction. Actually, now that I think about it, Watt’s impression yesterday was more like Jesse Ventura crossed with the Predator. The guy is a monster.
Closer Is Not Better
Sal Iacono: So Friday night I’m at my computer trying to score tickets for this Dallas–San Diego game. I figure watching my Boys blow a double-digit lead in person is always more enjoyable than viewing it in the comfort of your own living room.
Eventually I land what appears to be a great deal: two seats, five rows up, off the 45-yard line.
Or so it seems — until you get there. Between the five rows and the sideline are 53 players. A dozen of those 53 are getting rubbed down on super-tall massage tables. Another dozen are reaping the benefits of giant mist machines. In back of that action are three 25-foot-tall gib cameras and 30 security guards staring you down. I guess they’re daring those in the front few rows to run on the field, but why would you attempt to move when you’re in paradise?
Not to mention — everyone in the first four rows in front of you are standing to try to see over the sideline action, and if you dare join them you incur the wrath of the gangsters behind you. And to top it all off — a plus-size Romo fan sweats into your $8 lemonade all afternoon. Yep — the fifth row in an NFL stadium sucks. But like my grandmother used to say … when life gives you lemons — make perspiration-laced lemonade.
Flacco Haters Not-So-Anonymous
Mallory Rubin: Hi. My name is Mallory Rubin. I’m a Ravens fan. And I think Joe Flacco is the worst.
During the last five-plus seasons, I’ve developed something of a habit of telling that to anyone who would listen. Now, I don’t actually think Flacco is the worst quarterback to ever live or play (though in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve said those exact words before). But I did cackle like a hyena when he said he was the best quarterback in the NFL. I took more joy than I probably should have from discovering that my phone’s autocorrect changed “Flacco” to “Flaccid.” And when my then-boyfriend and now-fiancé bought me a Flacco jersey a few years back, I seriously considered ending the relationship. (He made it up to me with an East Dillon Lions Vince no. 5 jersey.)
While Flacco may not be the worst quarterback in the history of the world, he was definitely the worst quarterback in the Baltimore-Buffalo game Sunday. Normally, saying that wouldn’t mean much, since there are only two quarterbacks in a game. On Sunday, when Joe Flacco was playing against EJ Manuel, it was saying a lot.
Here’s a very quick tale of the tape: Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl–winning and Super Bowl MVP quarterback. He’s a five-year vet. And he signed a (ludicrous) $120.6 million contract this offseason. (By now, you can probably guess how I felt about that one …) EJ Manuel, on the other hand, is a rookie. He plays for a bad team. And coming into today’s game, he’d completed less than 60 percent of his passes while posting a QBR of 47.43. In other words, Flacco should have outplayed Manuel and led his superior team to a win.
Instead, Flacco threw a career-worst five interceptions, torpedoing the Ravens’ chances. For those counting at home, that brings Flacco’s season total to seven picks (compared to five touchdowns). Here’s a little nugget for you, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information: Flacco’s seven picks tie him for the second most through the first four games of a season by a Super Bowl MVP. Talk about “elite” company …
Now, Flacco is hardly the Ravens’ only problem. Ed Dickson can’t do the thing he’s paid to do: catch passes. The tight end/receiving corps has been decimated by injuries (add promising rookie wideout Marlon Brown to the ever-growing list). Ray Rice and the run game can’t get going, largely due to a line that can’t run block or pass-protect (the Bills hit Flacco 12 times Sunday). The defense has been spotty, particularly the secondary. The return game has lacked a spark ever since Jacoby Jones’s injury.
But Super Bowl MVPs are supposed to be bigger than that stuff. Dudes who make $120.6 million are usually good enough to play around the problems rather than exacerbate them. The guy Flacco beat in the Super Bowl? He’s besting Flacco in QBR by nearly 10 points. The guy Flacco beat in the divisional playoffs? He’s got seven more touchdowns and seven fewer picks on the year. The guy Flacco lost to on Sunday? Well, he may not have been the reason his team won, but at least he wasn’t the reason his team lost. Manuel’s Sunday line was pretty abysmal — he posted 10 completions, one touchdown, two picks, and a laughable 9.8 QBR — but I don’t need the stats to tell me who the inferior quarterback was in this game. I just need eyes.
Let’s Talk about 16-0 …
Matt Borcas: Through four weeks, the Broncos’ offense looks unstoppable. It’s basically last year’s version (which was ranked second in efficiency by Football Outsiders), plus a legitimate tight end, a good Knowshon Moreno, and oh, just the best slot receiver of the past 20 years. They’re scoring at will, averaging an otherworldly 45 points per game, and might hit triple digits when Jacksonville comes to town in two weeks. In other words, they’re a Spygate short of being the 2007 Patriots. Peyton Manning is Tom Brady, Demaryius Thomas is Randy Moss, Eric Decker is Donte’ Stallworth, Wes Welker is Wes Welker, and it’s time to start openly speculating about the possibility of a 16-0 season. I’ll go first. Here’s a breakdown of their remaining schedule:
Jaguars (Week 6), Redskins (8), Titans (14), at Raiders (17)
At Cowboys (5), at Colts (7) (PEYTON IS NOT LOSING IN INDY), at Texans (16).
Potential Division Slip-ups
At Chargers (10), Chiefs (11), at Chiefs (13), Chargers (15).
It All Comes Down to This, Probably
At Patriots (12).
Where’s the loss? I don’t see one, unless Peyton’s neck falls off, or the Broncos liberally rest starters à la the 2009 Colts. The looming returns of Von Miller and Champ Bailey will bolster an already-solid defense, and Chris Clark is performing admirably in place of Ryan Clady. An undefeated season is a very real possibility, and you should be rooting for it, too — at the very least, won’t it be kind of cool to watch Peyton go 16-0 while Eli stumbles his way to 0-16?
Look at Where We Are
Mays: Last night, right after Julio Jones made another mind-bending, game-altering catch along the sideline, former Browns GM and NFL personnel lifer Phil Savage tweeted this:
Regardless of ATL/NE outcome, WR Julio Jones has lived up to and exceeded the hype that has surrounded him since 7th grade. BIG-TIME player.
— Phil Savage (@SeniorBowlPhil) September 30, 2013
It’s true. Jones was plastered all over every recruiting magazine in the country before his senior year at Foley High School in Alabama. When he finally joined Nick Saban and the Tide, all Jones did was win a national championship and be generally excellent when Alabama did decide it needed to throw. He entered the NFL draft as the same type of prospect he was when he entered college, and Thomas Dimitroff, he of the Bill Belichick School of Humdrum Draft-Day Prudence, leveraged his franchise’s future to trade up and make Jones a Falcon. And here we are.
The tweet, and Jones’s entire trajectory, made me think of Reggie Bush — probably because I’d been thinking about him a lot yesterday. In the first two stops of his nationally recognized football life, Bush was a lot like Jones, only better. He was the no. 2 recruit in the country coming out of high school, won himself a Heisman, and ended up the no. 2 pick (and consensus best player) when it came time for the draft. It’s the third part of the story that hasn’t gone as smoothly.
But still, there was Bush yesterday afternoon, making the Chicago Bears look like Fresno State. He did the same thing three weeks ago, with his 191 yards of total offense in the Lions’ blowout win over Minnesota. In the two games he’s started and finished this year, Bush has 364 yards from scrimmage. The Lions are 3-1 with Bush missing an entire game and most of another (his 2.8 yards per carry against Arizona weren’t great, but then again the Cardinals have given up just 3.0 on the season), but they’ve looked like an entirely different offense whenever he’s been around. Without Nate Burleson, lost to a broken arm suffered last week, Detroit is in desperate need of a secondary offensive option after Calvin Johnson, and Bush has been that and more. He’s been the difference between Detroit looking like a middling NFC also-ran and a potent playoff contender. Yesterday, as they decimated the Bears, Detroit looked very much the latter.
Bush’s afternoon was one of the best a running back has had against Chicago in a decade. Since 2004, the Bears’ run defense has finished outside the top 10 in run-defense DVOA only twice, and among running backs who had at least 15 carries against them, Bush’s 7.7 yards per rush are the fourth best in that span (Chris Johnson’s game from last season looks better on paper, but his 141 yards were buoyed by a late 80-yard touchdown in a blowout).
He did it all, as Reggie Bush will do, while looking spectacular. His 37-yard touchdown run required hurdling a diving safety before going 20 more yards to the end zone. At point, he did a spin move in the hole that sent Tim Jennings crashing to the turf. If you can imagine, this run, with Bush and Chris Conte alone in open space, ended in Bush’s favor — and with Conte crumbling amid a cloud of black rubber pieces.
That image is the one that will stick with me from Sunday, even more than the ridiculous touchdown. Half that space is too much for Reggie Bush, and in this offense, with this team, on that turf, he’ll get plenty of it all season. Three teams and seven years after his NFL career began, we might finally be seeing the Reggie Bush we expected for so long. Reggie Bush is home.