Monday Morning Hangover: all about the passing game
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 20, 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.)
This week's Monday Morning Hangover was compiled in a hazy, drunken, dream-like state, with visions of SEC cheerleaders running through our heads.
Arizona 31, Jacksonville 17
Think you got problems? Of course you've got problems. Look at you.
But it could be worse. You could be Jacksonville coach Jack "Tick, Tick, "Tick" Del Rio, whose sorrowful defense has been victimized by the two most accurate passing days in NFL history in its last 19 outings.
Legendary Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner exposed the Jaguars defense Sunday by completing 24 of 26 passes (92.3%), setting the regular-season record for completion percentage in a single game (min. 20 attempts).
The postseason record for completion percentage, meanwhile, was also set against Jacksonville – and not that long ago. Tom Brady completed 26 of 28 against the Jags (92.9%) in the 2007 playoffs, leading the Patriots to a 31-20 victory.
In other words, twice in the past 19 games, the Jacksonville pass defense has been virtually incapable of forcing so much as an incompletion, surrendering the two most accurate passing days in the history of the NFL.
The Jaguars have a Defensive Passer Rating of 96.8 since the start of 2008 and they've allowed QBs to post a rating of 94 or better in nine of those 18 games. If you're looking for a reason why Jacksonville is 5-13 since the start of 2008, now you have it.
(It could be worse, Jags fans ... you could live in Detroit: see below for more on that train wreck.)
When it comes to Warner, nobody in the NFL wanted him, but he can start for us anytime. Deemed expendable by three different NFL teams and relegated to the bench by a fourth, Warner's rise to glory to rejection and back to glory has been well documented.
Sunday, he merely added to his legacy. - DZ
Minnesota 27, Detroit 13
In one of the biggest clashes of statistical jugger-nots in NFL history, the hapless Lions actually grabbed an early 10-0 lead on the Vikings.
But then razor-toothed reality crept up from the deep and bit Detroit like a great white off of Amity Beach snacking on Captain Quint.
Overmatched rookie QB Matt Stafford, making just his second NFL start, threw two more picks, and now has a passer rating of 40.5.
In contrast, all-time interception leader, Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre, making his record 271st NFL start, was very solid (23 of 27, 155 yards, 2 TD) while miraculously throwing zero interceptions for the second straight week.
Favre's passer rating for the young season is a sparkling 110.2. But the Lions defense makes everybody look like a superhero. Through two games, Detroit is easily on pace to surpass the record for worst Defensive Passer Rating in NFL history that it set in 2008. Here's what opposing QBs (Drew Brees, Favre) have done to the Detroit defense in two games:
49 of 61, 80.3%, 513 yards, 8.41 YPA, 8 TDs, 1 INT, 134.5 passer rating
When you can't even trick Favre into throwing a ball into your hands, something is very, very wrong with your team.
The turnover battle was critical, as it always is: The Lions and Vikings actually gained the same number yards (265). But Minnesota's go-ahead and game-clinching touchdown drives covered just 27 and 16 yards, respectively, because of the short fields provided by Lions turnovers.
Detroit's 19-game losing streak is tied for the second-longest skid in NFL history. The Raiders (1961-62) and the Chicago Cardinals (1942-43, 1945) also lost 19 straight.
The gold standard for losing remains the expansion 1976-77 Buccaneers, who lost the first 26 straight of their NFL existence. – TC
Baltimore 31, San Diego 26
Credit CHFF Facebook friend Richard Stephen Maher for the line of the week: "Shawne Merriman put a bigger hurt on Tila Tequila than he did on the Ravens."
The volatile, loud-mouthed San Diego linebacker – a phrase that seems to describe many Chargers – was credited with a single assist while his defense got tuned up like a Fender Stratocaster.
But the real story of the day was the disastrous red-zone failings of the San Diego offense. The Chargers cranked out 474 yard of offense and an average of 7.0 yards per play, led by a career-high 436 passing yards for Philip Rivers. But they failed to score a single touchdown in five red zone trips, while Rivers tossed two second-half INTs that the Ravens converted into 10 points.
The Ravens were a model of efficiency offensively, while the Chargers were a model of futility. In fact, here's how the game looked through the prism of our Scoreability Index, our measure of team-wide scoring efficiency:
Baltimore scored 31 points with just 311 yards of total offense – an awesome average of 10.68 Yards per Point Scored.
San Diego scored 26 points with 474 yards of total offense – a dreadful average of 18.23 Yards per Point Scored. - KJB
San Francisco 23, Seattle 10
Wow! We haven't seen one of God's winged creatures carved up this gruesomely since James Taylor and Carly Simon butchered "Mockingbird" back in '74.
show video here
San Francisco running back Frank Gore has had a great career, with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and a brilliant average of 4.7 YPA on his resume.
But nobody's noticed outside of Nob Hill because the 49ers had gone just 23-41 since Gore joined the league in 2005.
The football world will take notice now: Gore carved up the Seahawks so badly that even Taylor and Simon blushed, rushing for 207 yards on just 16 attempts – a stunning average of 12.9 YPA.
The sad-sack 49ers are suddenly 2-0 and in the early drivers seat in the NFC West, with a 2-0 record in the division. They still have two games left against St. Loseris and a home game against Arizona. So 5-1 in the division looks quite reasonable right now.
We already commented Sunday on our budding love affair with 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill – he's 9-3 now as an NFL starter and a team that sucked with him on the sidelines is suddenly a winner with Hill under center.
You do the math. - KJB
N.Y. Giants 33, Dallas 31
Call it the curse of the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
No sooner had we cited Tony Romo's amazing career stats here on CHFF and over at SportsIllustrated.com that he went out and laid a major egg in a big game at home against a division rival on national television.
Can you say "Sunshine Superman?" How 'bout "not ready for prime time?"
Romo completed just 13 of 29 for 127 yards, 4.38 YPA, 1 TD, 3 INTs and a 29.6 passer rating.
One of the picks was controversial: the officials reviewed what looked like an incomplete pass to Jason Witten, but then ruled that the ball never touched the ground. Kenny Philips was awarded the interception (one of his two on the night).
The INTs, as they always do, crushed the Cowboys, leading directly to 17 Giants points and more questions for Romo about his ability to come through in the clutch.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning, meanwhile, never has to answer those questions ever again: He has the greatest drive in Super Bowl history on his resume.
He was at his clutch best in this one, too: the Giants took over at their own 25 with 3:34 to play and trailing 31-30. Manning expertly led his team down to the Dallas 19, sparing just 4 seconds on the clock – just enough time for Lawrence Tynes to kick the walk-off game-winning field goal. - KJB
Chicago 17, Pittsburgh 14
(Ed. note: see more on the game of the week here)
Jay Cutler is a whiny bum who chokes in the bright lights and big moments. That was the story of Chicago's season through the first seven quarters of play.
Trailing the defending Super Bowl champs by a touchdown, the Bears had to place their slim hopes in the hands of their new quarterback. There was only one problem. His passer rating through the first game and three quarters stood at a Tomczack-ian 59.6.
But a funny thing happened on the way to 0-2: Cutler figured out how to throw – against the Super Bowl champion defense, no less. In his two fourth-quarter drives, Cutler went a sparkling 9 for 10 for 90 yards and a score. His passer rating of 117.1 in the final quarter warmed the hearts of Bears fans as they rallied for 10 points and the victory.
For good or for ill, Cutler is the story in Chicago this year. On Sunday, he was just good enough right when it counted. - DZ
Player of the Week: Cincinnati's Antwan Odom
The sixth-year defensive end had a monster day, treating Green Bay quarterbacks much the way we treat Green Bay bratwurst on gameday: he ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Odom sacked Aaron Rodgers five times, easily a career high for the Bengals defender. In fact, he's surpassed five sacks in an entire season just once, recording 8 with the Titans in 2007.
N.Y. Jets 16, New England 9
Perhaps no team or fanbase in league history has done more unjustifiable trash talking over the years than the New York Jets and their fans—despite the fact that it's been more than 40 years since the Jets actually accomplished something on the gridiron.
This year, it's beginning to look more and more like the Jets can finally back up the trash talk: for the second week in a row, Rex Ryan's defense held a talented offensive team out of the end zone.
New York's aggressive, blitz-happy front seven pressured and hit Tom Brady all day, forcing him to make hurried, off-target throws, and the secondary, led by Darrelle Revis and this week's lead trash talker, Kerry Rhodes, threw a curtain across the New England receivers.
The Jets defenders won CHFF's first Golden Nuggets award this week for walking the walk after talking the talk.
Brady (23 of 47, 216 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT., 53.1 rating on Sunday) has now attempted an even 100 passes in two regular season games since his return from a torn ACL which cost him the 2008 season.
That puts Brady on a pace to attempt a record shattering 800 passes in 2009 unless New England's offensive approach changes soon – and it must change if the Patriots are to reassert themselves as an AFC power. You can only buck the historic trends so long and only once in a while – not every game.
New York's offense, meanwhile, sprung to life in the second half. Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez (just 5 pass attempts in the first half) had the handcuffs removed after intermission and pieced together three nice scoring drives: New York outscored New England 13-0 in the second half and Sanchez was rock-solid in the pocket (14 of 22, 163, 1 TD, 1 INT, 101.1 rating).
Sanchez has won his first two NFL starts and carries a strong 91.3 passer rating into Week 3. – TC
Atlanta 28, Carolina 20
The Falcons won their second straight game over a 2008 playoff team behind Michael Turner's effort on the ground (28 for 105 yards, 3.7 YPA, 1 TD) and yet another strong performance by QB Matt Ryan (21 for 27, 220 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 122.2 rating). His three TD tosses were a career high.
Ryan, who raised his season passer rating to a gaudy 108.5 for the young year, continued to take advantage of the future Hall of Fame tight end at his disposal: he found Tony Gonzalez seven times for 71 yards and a touchdown.
In two games, Ryan and Gonzalez have now connected 12 times for 144 yards and 2 TDs.
We said before the game that John Fox needs to take the ball out of the hands of his quarterback and put it in the hands of his running backs.
Once again Fox messed up and the result was another loss.
The Panthers averaged a tremendous 5.8 yards per attempt on the ground against Atlanta, but their dynamic duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for just 25 carries.
Instead, Jake Delhomme, fresh off his well-publicized horrendous back-to-back performances, was called upon to pass the ball 41 times.
Sure, he put up big numbers (25 for 41, 308 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 82.2 rating), but in true gunslinger style he threw a critical INT at the most inopportune time.
Delhomme's lone pick of the day occurred inside the Atlanta red zone with 2:44 to play in the fourth quarter and choked off Carolina's last realistic chance to tie the game. Somewhere, Brett Favre beamed with pride.
Delhomme's performance on Sunday actually raised his 2009 passer rating to 45.3, while his 300-yard passing day was his first since Week 2 of the 2007 season, exactly two years ago. - TC
Buffalo 33, Tampa Bay 20
Tampa traveled to Buffalo for the first time in franchise history Sunday – and like most people who see the other Mistake by the Lake, they won't hurry back anytime soon. (For some curious reason, the first eight meetings between these two teams were all played in Tampa.)
Both teams entered the game 0-1 and mired in dreadful losing streaks. The Bills had started the 2008 season 5-1 but lost eight of their last 10 to miss the playoffs. The Bucs lost their last four games of 2008 to become the first team in NFL history to miss the postseason after a 9-3 start.
Something had to give.
In this case, it was the Tampa defense:
Wide receiver Terrell Owens scored his first TD in a Bills uniform, a 43-yard reception early in the fourth quarter that gave Buffalo a 30-14 lead.
But the big story out of Buffalo is that they have a rising star in running back Fred Jackson, who ripped off a career-high 163 yards on 28 attempts (5.8 YPA). He's rushed for 356 yards on 70 attempts (5.1 YPA) in his last three games, including two 100-yard efforts.
In fact, Freddie Jackson hasn't looked this good since he sang at the Quincy High School junior prom back in 1986. - BS
New Orleans 48, Philadelphia 22
When Drew Brees torched the worst pass defense in history at home in his comfy dome in Week 1, we took it as just another bad day for the Lions.
But when he went on the road and lit up a tough Eagles defense like a joint at a Grateful Dead concert, it's time to take notice that something special might be underway. Brees passed for 311 yards, 3 TDs and a 118.6 passer rating.
Remember, this performance came against an Eagles defense that had forced 12 turnovers, scored three defensive touchdowns, and allowed just 16 total points in its last two regular season games, both blowout victories. The 48 points are the most Philadelphia has surrendered since a 49-21 loss at Denver in 2005.
Through two games, Brees has completed 51 of 68, 75.0%, for 669 yards, 9.84 YPA, 9 TD, 2 INT, 132.9 passer rating
We certainly don't expect Brees to keep up this pace. In fact, he won't. But it's certainly a fun exercise to marvel at the numbers. Here's what his season looks like projected over 16 games:
408 of 544, 75.0%, 5,352 yards, 9.84 YPA, 72 TD, 16 INT, 132.9 rating.
Four of those marks – completion percentage, yards, TDs and rating – would all easily break the existing records.
The amazing YPA figure, meanwhile, would be the second highest mark in the history of the game among passers with a min. 300 attempts. Kurt Warner averaged 9.88 YPA in 2000.
The big day by Brees, meanwhile, forced the Philly offense to put the game in the hands of quarterback Kevin Kolb, who was making his first NFL start. He completed 31 of 51 for 391 yards and 2 TDs – but, like most inexperienced quarterbacks in that situation, he made a series of mistakes, including three costly INTs.
As CHFF proved last week, teams that pass a lot lose a lot. Kolb learned this lesson the hard way. - BS
Cincinnati 31, Green Bay 24
Carson Palmer probably woke up with that rare, just-fresh feeling this morning: He won a game for the first time since the last week of the 2007 season
In fact, it was Cincinnati's first win at Lambeau Field in franchise history (0-4 in their previous visits).
Facing a defense that embarrassed Jay Cutler a week earlier, Palmer completed 15 of 23 for 185 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT and a 93.3 passer rating.
He got a big assist from Chad Ochocinco (4 receptions, 91 yards, 1 TD) who, true to his word, performed the Lambeau Leap after his third-quarter touchdown pass gave the Bengals a lead they would not relinquish, and from RB Cedric Benson, who shredded the Packers defense for 141 yards on 29 attempts (4.9 YPA).
It was just the sixth 100-yard day in Benson's career and his second greatest single-game total. - BS
Houston 34, Tennessee 31
Last season the Titans owned a league best 13-3 record. This year, they are 0-2.
What's gone wrong? The Quality Stats tell all.
The Titans were sitting pretty Sunday, leading the Texans 21-7. That's normally the time when a team with four Pro Bowlers in the secondary should shine. After all, the Titans had a defensive passer rating of 68.7 last year and allowed only 6.0 YPA through the air.
Ah, but that was last year, and last year is like the Chief Troll's hopes and dream: buried in the cold, hard ground. This is 2009, and yesterday Houston quarterback Matt Schaub threw for a stunning 357 yards and 4 TDs to help the Texans pull the come-from-behind road upset.
The once formidable Titans pass D has melted. The winless Titans have a pathetic 107.8 Defensive Passer Rating and have surrendered an insane 8.78 YPA.
If the Titans don't fix their pass defense fast, a promising year will also soon be buried in the cold, hard ground of the 2009 season. - DZ
Denver 27, Cleveland 6
The only thing more boring than reading about this game was watching the Cleveland offense.
In consecutive eye bleeders, the Browns, led by former first-round pick Brady Quinn, have averaged a snooze-inducing 4.3 YPA (using CHFF's formula that includes sacks).
Quinn's inability to get the ball downfield to his receivers shows up most on third down. The Broncos held the Browns to just 3 of 14 on third down with three turnovers, bringing Cleveland to just 6 of 27 on third and fourth down this year (22.2%).
The Browns can't score because they can't sustain drives (whereas the average CHFF contributor can't score because he can't sustain conversations with women).
The Browns can't sustain drives because they are throwing for just over 4 yards a pop (whereas we can't sustain conversations with women because we just stare at their boobs).
Meanwhile, Denver quarterback Kyle The Horseshoe Orton completed less than 60 percent of his passes for the 22nd time in 35 career games. Yet, his teams have gone 13-9 in those 22 games. - DZ
Oakland 13, Kansas City 10
QB Matt Cassel made his long-awaited debut in Kansas City and failed to deliver: 24 for 39, 241 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 66.3 rating.
His two costly interceptions on the Oakland side of the 50 typified a frustrating day for the Chiefs, who dominated time of possession (38:39 to 21:21), first downs (25-11) and total yardage (409-166) but still managed to lose their home opener to their bitter rivals.
The Raiders won perhaps the most important statistical battle of the day: red zone efficiency. Oakland's one trip inside the KC 20 resulted in a game-winning touchdown run by Darren McFadden with just over 90 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs got a field goal on their first trip into the Oakland red zone, but horrendous clock management cost them badly on their second trip when Dantrell Savage caught a short pass from Cassell inside the Oakland 10, but was unable to get out of bounds before the clock expired to end the first half.
Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell submitted a passer rating below 50 for the second consecutive week (7 for 24, 109 yards, 4.5 YPA, 0 TD, 0 INT, 46.0 rating).
But he performed when it counted: on Oakland's game-winning drive in the final minutes, he went 4 for 7 for 67 yards. - TC
Washington 9, St. Louis 7
The Redskins avenged their embarrassing two-point loss to the Rams last season with an almost equally embarrassing two-point victory this season.
Washington went 0 for 5 in the red zone, settling for three field goals against a team so bad that they'd probably lose to the Lions. (But we'll find out on Nov. 1, when the 0-7 Rams face the 0-7 Lions in Detroit. Can't wait!)
The Week 2 victory marked the first time in four years that the Redskins scored fewer than 10 points and still won the game.
The game was not without something that almost passed for a highlight for St. Louis:
Marc Bulger set the franchise record for pass completions, surpassing Jim Everett's mark of 1,847. Bulger has now completed 1,861 passes in a Rams uniform – and has a 40-49 career record to show for it. The Rams also actually scored some points – they were last team in the NFL this year to finally register on the scoreboard.
The Rams have now lost 12 straight games, the second longest streak in the NFL. It's quite possible that, when the Rams play the Lions on Nov. 1, the two clubs will be sporting streaks of 17 and 23 consecutive losses, respectively.
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