Monday Hangover: gunslinger edition
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 13, 2009
(The Monday Morning Hangover is compiled by CHFF contributors and writers from around the blogosphere, including Deshawn Zombie of 18to88.com in Indianapolis, Mark Sandritter in Seattle, Bryn Swartz in Philadelphia, Tony Cocco in his cardboard-box kingdom in Boston, and our own beloved Chief Troll.)
By the CHFF staff
This week's Monday Morning Hangover was compiled in a bleary-eyed state of oblivion as we counted all our empty 40s of Olde English 800 and tried to come to grips with the true irony of Chris Collinsworth comparing Jay Cutler to Brett Favre during the Bears-Packers game Sunday night.
Minnesota 34, Cleveland 20
We here at the CHFF cardboard-box world headquarters weren't fortunate enough to be around when the original Vikings ravaged Europe, but based on what we've seen out of Minnesota, we doubt that the Norsemen could have cut a more destructive path through opposing defenses than does Adrian Peterson.
The NFL's marquee running back had a marquee opening day, as he tore through Eric Mangini's defense with 180 yards and 3 TDs on 25 carries (7.2 YPA), leading the Vikings to an easy victory. His 64-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter was a thing of hammer-wielding majesty: cornered along the sideline by Cleveland CB Eric Wright, Peterson stiff-armed the defender and tossed him to the ground like an empty beer can (see the play here).
Oh yeah, Minnesota unveiled a new starting QB on Sunday as well. That Old Yeller guy, with Peterson by his side, didn't have to do much to guide Minnesota to victory. That is good news for Vikings fans, because as CHFF has pointed out numerous times in the past, you do not want to rely on Brett Favre to carry the day here at this stage of his seemingly never-ending career.
Favre attempted only 21 passes, completing 14 of them for 110 yards and 1 TD (to rookie Percy Harvin). Most importantly, in fact, in something of a minor miracle, Favre threw zero INTs. It was the first time in his last seven games that Favre went and entire contest without tossing a pick.
One bright note on an otherwise tough day for the Browns: Joshua Cribbs scored his seventh career special teams touchdown in the second quarter on a 67-yard punt return. - TC
Game of the Week: Green Bay 21, Chicago 15
The Bears sent two first-round picks to Denver to acquire quarterback Jay Cutler this year. They got four first-week picks from him in return.
In fact, Green Bay's primetime victory over Chicago was also a victory for the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
As one of the few outlets not wowed by Chicago's acquisition of Jay Cutler, we weren't surprised that his Midway debut got off to such a rocky start.
Put most simply, Cutler sucked, repeatedly forcing the ball into coverage and making a long series of bad decisions with the football. It was so bad that at one point NBC broadcaster Chris Collinsworth paid Cutler the ultimate dishonor, comparing him to "gunslinger" Brett Favre when he threw into a crowd of four defenders, with the Bears trailing 13-12 and just 9:20 to play.
Favre, said Collinsworth, "would have been proud of this one."
The pass somehow fell incomplete.
Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, took another step in his effort to emerge from Favre's long shadow in Green Bay.
He played unspectacular but mistake-free football (zero picks) and came through when his team needed him the most. He threw a beautiful 50-yard scoring strike to Greg Jennings for the game's winning points with just 1:24 to play. It was a strong first step in what we believe will be a great rebound year in Green Bay, from 6-10 last year to division champs this year.
Player of the Week: Drew Brees
The New Orleans quarterback picked right up where he left off in his prolific 2008 season, when he passed for 5,069 yards.
In fact, if Sunday is any indication, Brees may surpass his 2008 output this season. Brees threw a career-high six TDs with 358 yards. In fact, his stat-line was monstrous:
26 of 34 (76.5%), 358 yards, 10.5 YPA, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 137.0 passer rating.
His 10.5 yards per attempt really leap off the page. As we've shown in the past, YPA is one of the best measures of a passer's effectiveness and crossing the 10.0 mark for a game is an impressive feat.
Brees has now topped 10.0 YPA 15 times in 108 games. For a comparison, Peyton Manning has topped 10.0 YPA 15 times in 177 games. Tom Brady has reached 10.0 11 times in 113 games.
It was also the 32nd 300-yard passing day for Brees. (Manning has had 48; Brady, 24). - MS
New Orleans 45, Detroit 27
Of course, Brees's monster day came against what is truly one of the worst teams in NFL history.
The Lions, as we noted, fielded the worst pass defense in history last year (110.8 Defensive Passer Rating). So they make everybody look good through the air. And in a sport where passing well and stopping the pass mean everything, that's no way to win games.
The Lions have now lost 18 straight games, which puts them in historically bad company. With a loss next week against Minnesota, Detroit will join the Chicago Cardinals (1942-43, 1945) and Oakland Raiders (1961-62) for the second-longest losing streaks in the history of the NFL.
Only the expansion Buccaneers of 1976-77 will have lost more consecutive games (26).
This is also hard to believe: the Lions looked like an impressive 6-2 team halfway through the 2007 season, and were fresh off a thorough 44-7 destruction of the Broncos. They've gone just 1-24 since that dominating victory -- a breathtaking change in fortunes.
The good news for the Lions is they don't have to try and defend Brees until at least next season. The bad news is they still have 15 games to play. – MS
Philadelphia 38, Carolina 10
Opening Day in Carolina began with two quarterbacks who had combined for 309 touchdown passes and 209 starts in their NFL careers (Donovan McNabb and Jake Delhomme).
It ended with quarterbacks who had combined for three touchdown passes and three starts in their careers (Kevin Kolb and Matt Moore).
That's not a good direction for either team.
Philly's McNabb threw for two touchdowns and rushed for a third score, before a broken rib sidelined him for the remainder of the game. McNabb will likely miss 2-4 weeks, marking the fifth season that he has missed time due to injury, including four of the last five. (The CHFF crew has generously offered to take his broken ribs and braise them in beer.)
He was replaced by third-year player Kevin Kolb, who fumbled twice and averaged a paltry 2.09 yards per pass (7 of 11 for 23 yards).
Carolina's Jake Delhomme turned the ball over five times, including four interceptions. That's a total of 11 turnovers in his last two games, including last year's five-pick debacle against Arizona in the divisional playoffs.
Delhomme has also committed 11 turnovers (10 INT, 1 fumble) in his last three starts against Philly. He was benched in favor of Josh McCown (1 of 6, 2 yards), who left the game after sustaining knee injuries.
Enter Matt Moore for the Carolina offense, who had seen little action since earning Offensive Rookie of the Month honors in December 2007. Moore was only marginally more effective than McCown or Philly's Kolb (6 of 11, 63 yards, 1 INT).
Philly's longtime defensive coordinator Jim Johnson passed away this summer, of course. The Eagles were also without defensive stalwarts Brian Dawkins and Stewart Bradley. But the Eagles defense, under new coordinator Sean McDermott, generated seven turnovers and five sacks.
Philly also scored touchdowns on offense, defense, and special teams for the first time in the Andy Reid Era. - BS
Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21
Looks like the Cold, Hard Football Facts whiffed badly in their prediction that Tony Romo would fall off the face of the earth without Terrell Owens as a battery mate.
The Cowboys quarterback connected on three touchdowns, all longer than 40 yards, including a career-high 80-yard strike to Patrick Crayton. Romo's 353 passing yards were also a career high.
Roy Williams, who scored just a single touchdown as a member of the Cowboys last season, contributed with a 66-yard touchdown reception.
Romo's final line was spectacular, highlighted by an amazing 13.1 YPA:
16 of 27, 59.3%, 353 yards, 13.1 YPA, 3 TD, 0 INT, 140.6 rating.
It was not a good way for the Bucs to begin life after legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The Bucs have now lost five straight, and their defense has surrendered an average of 31.4 points in those defeats.
The two teams combined for 912 yards of total offense and, incredibly, committed no turnovers.
New Bucs quarterback Byron Leftwich spread the ball around to ten different receivers. Michael Clayton led the attack with five grabs for 93 yards, including a 47-yard reception. – BS
N.Y. Giants 23, Washington 17
The Giants opened their quest to defend their NFC East title with their sixth win in their last seven contests versus the Redskins.
And just as CHFF predicted in our very real and spectacular Week 1 picks, the stars of this game were on defense.
In his first game since Super Bowl XLII, Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora sacked the quarterback, picked up a fumble and raced 37 yards for his third career touchdown.
Washington linebacker London Fletcher led the way for his club with an incredible 18 tackles. However, offseason acquisition Albert Haynesworth was less-than-impressive, generating just four tackles in his first game in the NFC
The Redskins scored both their touchdowns in the final two minutes of the half, the first on punter Hunter Smith's second career fake field goal touchdown. The second score came on Chris Cooley's 17 yard touchdown reception with 1:30 remaining.
Eli Manning spread the ball around to six different receivers. Mario Manningham scored on an impressive 30-yard catch-and-run, his first NFL touchdown. – BS
Indianapolis 14, Jacksonville 12
Conventional wisdom and its idiot puppet on ESPN, Merrill Hoge, say you can't win if you don't run the ball well.
But Peyton Manning and the Colts prove you can.
Colts ballcarriers generated just 75 yards rushing on 28 attempts (2.7 YPA) Sunday, yet Indy still managed to eke out yet another victory over the Jaguars. (Official stats, which including Manning's end-of-game kneel downs, list the Colts at a meager 31 for 71 and just 2.3 YPA on the ground.)
Over the past 27 games (including playoffs) the Colts have failed to rush for 100 yards 21 times. In fact, they've failed to top 80 yards 18 times. Their ground game has been pathetic. Yet Indy is 19-8 (.704) in those 27 games.
With Marvin Harrison yesterday's news and Anthony Gonzalez injured in the game, Manning connected with Reggie Wayne 10 times for 162 yards and 1 TD.
Close games have defined the Indy-Jax series in recent years. In the eight seasons since the creation of the AFC South, the average margin between these two teams has been just 5.1 points. This was the fourth game in eight years decided by 3 points or less. – DZ
Our Week 1 Long-Distance Dedication
This week's CHFF 1980s long-distance dedication goes out to clipped-wing Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Everybody, now: "So take, these broken ribs, and learn to fly again, learn to live so free ..."
show video here
Baltimore 38, Kansas City 24
Baltimore's quarterback Joe Flacco wasted no time taking the next step from efficient rookie to spectacular sophomore.
He attempted 43 passes for 307 yards and 3 TDs – all career highs. It was also his first 300-yard effort, and a microcosm of how far he's come as a starter.
Flacco's final TD toss, an icy 31-yarder to Mark Clayton, broke open a surprising 24-24 tie with just 2:14 to play (Willis McGahee added a 1-yard insurance score in the final seconds).
Last year as a rookie, Flacco did not record his third touchdown pass until the seventh week of the season (against 7 INTs). Since then he's thrown 14 TDs with just 6 picks in his last 10 regular-season games.
Kansas City quarterback Brodie Croyle, meanwhile, played well in place of Matt Cassel, but still can't buy a victory. He completed 16 of 24 passes for 177 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs and a 116.1 passer rating – a great showing against a Baltimore defense that led the league in Defensive Passer Rating last year.
Despite the effort, Croyle fell to a frigid 0-9 as an NFL starter.
Baltimore's defense was once again dominant against the run: Kansas City generated just 29 yards on 17 rush attempts (1.7 YPA). - DZ
N.Y. Jets 24, Houston 7
The Jets were on the road against an up-and-coming AFC team and entererd the game with a rookie quarterback at the helm.
Not usually a recipe for success – but this game was never really close.
Mark Sanchez looked sharp in his NFL debut: He completed 18 of 31 (58.1%) for 272 yards, 8.8 YPA, with 1 TD, 1 INT and an 84.3 rating.
He became just the fifth rookie since 1960 to top 250 yards through the air in his NFL debut, joining an exclusive list with Peyton Manning, Jim Kelly, Jim Zorn and Frank Tarkenton.
Sanchez was aided by a great day on the ground from Thomas Jones and Leon Washington who combined for 167 yards on 35 carries (4.8) YPA. Jones led the way with 107 yards and 2 TDs on 20 attempts (5.4 YPA).
In the past, the Jets had struggled to take advantage of great outings by Jones. This win raised their record to 6-4 when Jones tops 100 yards.
The Texans, meanwhile, just can't stay out of their own way in September. They lost their opener for the fourth time in five years and, since 2004, they are just 3-13 in September. The slow starts have meant almost instant death in a tough division. - DZ
Denver 12, Cincinnati 7
We promised you a snoozer and the Broncos and Bungles delivered – well, at least for 59 minutes.
After boring the holy hell out of the fans in attendance at Paul Brown Stadium for the better part of three hours, the Broncos and Bengals gave NFL Films a classic clip for their next "miracle finishes" video montage: with just seconds to play, Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley hauled in a deflected desperation pass from Kyle Orton and raced 87 yards for the game-winning TD.
As one CHFF reader said last night, "Orton must be the luckiest quarterback in history."
The gut-wrenching loss for the Bengals was even more painful in light of the fact that Cincinnati had taken a 7-6 lead on Cedric Benson's 1-yard TD run with just 41 seconds to play. But as we said yesterday, never underestimate Cincinnati's ability to grab ineptitude from the jaws of comptency. And this loss was a classic example.
Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer missed the pre-season with an injury and has over the last few years has been in and out of the lineup more times than a rich hedge fund manager at the Moonlight Bunny Ranch.
He showed significant rust (21 of 33, 63.6%, 247 yards, 7.5 YPA, 0 TD, 2 INT, 61.0 passer rating) in his return, but he did lead the Bengals on an 11-play TD drive in the final minutes of the game that at the time appeared to provide the winning margin.
On the other hand, rookie head coach and alleged offensive guru Josh McDaniels' debut in Denver wasn't exactly the stuff of which legends are made. His Jay Cutler-less offense struggled all day, registering just 10 first downs and, sans Stokley's miracle play, just 156 gross passing yards.
But at least Orton (17 of 28, 63.0%, 243 yards, 9.0 YPA, 1 TD, 0 INT, 104.4 rating) protected the football, which is something that his predecessor, Cutler, had trouble doing in 2008, especially in the red zone and at critical times of the game. (Cutler, of course, had that same problem Sunday night in Chicago's loss to Green Bay.)
Orton takes a lot of heat – but he's now 22-12 (.647) as an NFL starter. – TC
San Francisco 20, Arizona 16
It's only one game, but Arizona's opening-week loss doesn't bode well for their chances to defend their division and conference titles.
Last season Arizona won the division by two games thanks largely to their 6-0 record against division opponents.
This season the Cardinals are playing with a new offensive and defensive coordinator. The defense did a great job holding the 49ers to 203 total yards and just 13 first downs, but Arizona's previously high-flying offense was out of sync all day.
Kurt Warner was unable to utilize the best 1-2 punch at wide receiver in the NFL, and instead completed most of his passes to running back Tim Hightower (12 catches, 121 yards). Warner targeted his typically explosive receiving tandem of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin a total of 16 times, while throwing 14 passes in the direction of Hightower. Warner also threw two picks -- instantly reducing his team's chances of winning by 40 percentage points (as followers of the CHFF interception ladder are aware).
On the other side of the ball, San Francisco quarterback Shaun Hill was CHFF's pick to be one of the great breakout players in the NFL this year. He was solid and steady if unspectacular.
18 of 31, 58.1%, 209 yards, 6.7 YPA, 1 TD, 0 INT, 89.3 rating.
But you know our take: solid, steady (and mistake-free) quarterbacks usually take the day. Hill is now 8-3 leading a team that was otherwise awful before he and head coach Mike Singletary (6-4) were paired together. – MS
Seattle 28, St. Louis 0
CHFF shocked some by picking two teams from the weak NFC West to reach the playoffs this year: San Francisco and Seattle. Both emerged with big in-division Week 1 wins.
Seattle and St. Louis were both coming off some of the worst seasons in their respective histories – and one of those teams look like it's still going too suck.
Steve Spagnuolo's debut as the Rams head man was spoiled by many of the same issues that plagued St. Louis in 2008, including penalties and poor execution. The Rams were penalized 10 times for 82 yards, including a momentum shifting 12-men-on-the-field penalty which negated a blocked field goal touchdown return late in the second quarter.
The 2008 Rams ranked 29th in the league in third-down conversions (31.9%) and they continued to struggle Sunday (2 of 12).
Jim Mora's Seahawks got off to a rocky start as well, turning the ball over three times in their first four possessions. But they soon found their groove offensively and took over the game.
- Seattle's first four possessions – 14 plays, 78 yards, 3 turnovers, 0 points, 4 first downs
- Seattle's next five possessions – 38 plays, 304 yards. 0 turnovers, 28 points, 18 first downs
The Seattle defense appeared to be much improved from last year's unit which allowed 24.5 PPG, pitching their first shutout since week 10 of the 2007 season.
Seattle was also held Steven Jackson to 67 rushing yards on 16 carries. Jackson has yet to post a 100-yard outing in 10 career games against the Seahawks. - MS
Atlanta 19, Miami 7
Proving once again the old credo that the turnover battle is pretty damn important, the Falcons swamped the Dolphins in an otherwise evenly-played game between two of last year's surprise playoff teams.
Atlanta's +4 differential in turnovers was the biggest factor in the win.
Sophomore QB Matt Ryan (22 of 36, 61.1%, 229 yards, 5.6 YPA, 2 TD, 0 INT, 98.0 rating) submitted a mistake-free game and made ample use of his latest weapon, future Hall-of-Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, who caught 5 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Gonzalez's 73 receiving yards pushed his career total past the 11,000 mark, making him the 21st player in NFL history to reach that milestone and the first tight end.
Miami's startling turnaround last year was powered by their ability to protect the football. They submitted a league-leading +17 turnover ratio in 2008. So the –4 turnover margin to start the 2009 season does not bode well for a repeat performance of 2008's magical season. And neither does aging sack master Joey Porter's rather feeble opening day line of 3 tackles, 0 assists and 0 sacks.
Porter's amazingly resurgent 2008 season, after two years of modest-to-poor production, was another huge key to Miami's 2008 turnaround. If the brash, trash-talking Porter reverts back to his 2006-2007 form, it could be a long year for football fans in Ace Ventura's hometown. – TC
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