Monday Morning Hangover: purple nightmares & nuclear cabbage unis
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 27, 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 made all the more difficult by a sleepless night interrupted by haunting nightmares.
Here's the scene: a cold, dark night in February. Purple confetti falls from the sky. Somebody screams over and over:
"BrettFavre, you were just named MVP of Super Bowl 44. What are you going to do???!!!!"
"I'm going to Disney World ... and I'm never retiring!!!!"
If there's any consolation to the next wave of BrettFavre love (which began with Scott Hanson's orgasmic reaction to Minnesota's win Sunday), it's that the Cold, Hard Football Facts continue to be one of the great prognosticating powers of pigskin. As reported by our First Response team on Sunday, we went 10-5 picking games ATS in Week 3 – our second week in three tries of double-digit wins.
Game of the Week: Minnesota 27, San Francisco 24
We came to bury BrettFavre with 30 seconds left to play Sunday. But now we can only praise him.
And you don't know how much that hurts – because it means there will be yet another week of national pigskin "punditry" when the word BrettFavre is uttered every 3.2 seconds in every broadcast. But we have to join the gridiron Greek chorus this week, as we discussed in some detail in our Week 3 First Response on Sunday.
This battle of rising NFC powers went almost exactly as we had predicted it would, right down to the score – except BrettFavre's final desperation pass didn't end up in the hands of the 49ers defense. It ended up in the hands of Vikings receiver Greg Lewis at the back of the end zone.
The Vikings emerge as one of three 3-0 teams in the NFC, with the Giants and Saints. They also emerge as a scoring machine – with 88 points through three games, only the Saints (120), Ravens (103) and Eagles (94) have scored more points this year.
So Favre has brought the kind of offensive injection at this point that the Vikings envisioned when they signed him in the middle of training camp. There's still plenty of time for it all to go horribly wrong. But for now, it's nothing but sunshine and happy faces here in BrettFavreland. - KJB
N.Y. Jets 24, Tennessee 17
Rex Ryan's new-look Jets defense surrendered its first offensive touchdown of the season Sunday – in fact, it surrendered two.
But the ferocious Gang Green also forced four turnovers and held Tennessee to 286 total yards, while the Jets improved to 3-0 and firmly placed themselves among the AFC front-runners heading into October.
By holding Kerry Collins (15 for 37, 170 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) to a 41.5 passer rating on the day, the Jets lowered their already sparkling Defensive Passer Rating this season to 50.2. That's the best mark in the NFL in this critical indicator of team success.
Offensively, QB Mark Sanchez was efficient if unspectacular, (17 for 30, 171 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 81.4 rating) and became the first rookie quarterback to lead a team to a 3-0 record out of the gate.
His uncanny ability to avoid rookie mistakes is a big key to New York 's success so far: Sanchez has thrown just two picks through three games. That's the same number of picks thrown by rookie phenoms Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco through three games of 2008.
Sanchez now sports an 87.7 passer rating and his 6-yard TD pass to Jerricho Cotchery late in the third quarter provided the winning points for New York .
The Titans, meanwhile, are a mess three weeks into the young season. Collins, last season's surprise hero, has a passer rating of 69.9 after yesterday's performance, and Tennessee 's Defensive Passer Rating, which was a key to their 13-3 season in 2008, now sits at a Detroit-like 100.7 after three games, all losses. - TC
New Orleans 27, Buffalo 7
Think the Saints are all about Drew Brees and the offense?
Think again. On a day when the New Orleans offense was held to less than 30 points, it was the defense's time to shine. The Saints D led the league in Defensive Passer Rating entering Week 3 (53.4). It looked just as good in Week 3.
The Saints harassed Trent Edwards for three sacks and held him to a 56.4 passer rating, and it was more than enough to give their offense a breather. Buffalo's only score was a trick TD pass by punter Brian Moorman on a fake field goal attempt.
Buffalo's ineptitude in the passing game wasted a solid effort by its pass defense and secondary.
The Bills held Drew Brees to under 200 yards and zero TD passes. It was the first time that the prolific Brees was held under 200 with zero TD tosses since Week 1 of 2007 – a stretch of 34 games. - BS
Indianapolis 31, Arizona 10
Quarterbacks get all the glory. But they can't do anything without a lot of help up front.
Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner entered this game neck and neck statistically (No. 2 and No. 3 all time in career passer rating ... see list below in San Diego-Miami wrap).
In virtually every major passing statistic, you can find Manning and Warner hanging near the top of the all-time leaderboards. Everyone expected a shootout Sunday night between the two men with a combined five regular-season MVP awards and two more MVP awards in the Super Bowl.
Manning did his part, throwing for four scores and posting a 130.5 rating. Warner, on the other hand struggled with two picks and a rating of 67.1.
What made all the difference?
Pressure. Dwight Freeney and his line mates sacked Warner four times, and pressured him into mistakes all night.
Manning, meanwhile, was barely grazed by the Cardinals. As a result, he had no problem posting a passer rating better than 110 for the fifth time in his last six games.
Indy already led the league in Passing Yards per Attempt (9.35 YPA, using our team-wide indicator that includes sacks), and with Manning posting a sparkling 10.8 YPA on Sunday night, that won't change. Last year, Indy's line struggled in pass protection and Manning averaged just 7.2 YPA, his lowest mark since 2002 (7.1). – DZ
Jacksonville 31, Houston 24
The numbers don't lie ... unlike CHFF Trolls, many of whom claim to have seen a naked woman. Seriously guys, if you are going to lie, make it believable.
In this case of Jax-Houston, the numbers told us that it was a match-up of two of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Both teams followed the Quality Stats to a T.
The Jags pounded away behind Maurice Jones Drew (23 attempts, 119 yards, 3 TD) to the tune of 184 yards on the ground and 5.9 YPA, with four rushing touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Houston QB Matt Schuab took his turn to throw all over the Jags sorry secondary, posting a 116.4 passer rating.
So how do you settle a death match between terrible defenses?
Someone has to screw up last – like a CHFF Troll blowing yet another chance to see a naked woman.
With just 2:10 to play the Texans were one yard away from tying up the Jaguars.
They fumbled away the ball and the game. Against a struggling club like Jacksonville, that one turnover made all the difference.
The fumble recovery helped the Jags win the turnover battle for just the sixth time since the start of last season. Jacksonville is 5-1 in those six games, and 1-12 in its 13 other games. - DZ
New England 26, Atlanta 10
Last week, the pigskin sensei that is the Cold, Hard, Football Facts channeled our inner Mr. Miyagi and warned New England that they had better learn balance. "Balance is key: if balance good, football good; everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home."
Sunday against a 2-0 Atlanta team, the Patriots unveiled a balanced offensive attack that would make Mr. Miyagi proud (42 passes, 39 runs) and proceeded to treat Atlanta's defense like Daniel-San treated the Cobra Kai at the All Valley Karate Championships.
show video here
The Patriots had featured the most unbalanced offense in the NFL, as 100 of their 143 offensive plays through the first two games were Tom Brady pass attempts.
Newcomer Fred Taylor keyed New England's renewed commitment to the running game against Atlanta registering his first 100-yard rushing day as a Patriot (21 carries for 105 yards, 1 TD, 5.0 YPA).
Brady (25 for 42, 277 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 87.1 rating) still appears to be scraping off rust after his one-year layoff, as his 2009 passer rating remained at a subpar 79.9. However, his fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Chris Baker was the 200th of his illustrious career, against just 88 INTs. That's a NFL record 2.27 TDs for every pick.
The young and much-maligned New England defense limited Matt Ryan's favorite target, Tony Gonzalez, to just one catch and held a good Atlanta offense to 10 points, lowering their poor Defensive Passer Rating by nearly 10 points (from 108 to 98.4) in the process.
New England's defense has been a big concern for the Cold, Hard Football Facts. But Bill Belichick's team of no-names and newcomers has held all three opponents under 300 yards of offense and surrendered an average of just 16.7 PPG.
The Patriots have now won a record 16 straight regular-season games against NFC opponents. New England's last regular-season loss to an NFC opponent was a 27-17 defeat at Carolina in Week 2 of the 2005 season.
Of course, they kind of forgot to win the most important inter-conference game during that streak, a 17-14 loss to the Giants in something called Super Bowl XLII. – TC
OK, so here's the deal: The Broncos are one of just seven 3-0 teams in the NFL.
The other six teams boast a pantheon of gridiron greats at quarterback: Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning (3-0 Giants), Super Bowl MVP and stat machine Peyton Manning (3-0 Colts), Super Bowl champ and ageless warhorse Brett Favre (3-0 Vikings), the amazingly prolific Drew Brees (3-0 Saints), the sophomore phenom Joe Flacco (3-0 Ravens) and the highly touted rookie first-round draft pick Mark Sanchez (3-0 Jets).
And then there's Kyle the Horseshoe Orton in Denver, whose greatest gift is good fortune.
We can't figure it out, either.
But the Broncos did have the benefit this week of facing one of the most pathetic passing attacks in modern NFL history.
We thought JaMarcus Russell bottomed out last week against a lousy Chiefs team: he completed 7 of 24 passes for 109 yards – a brutal 4.9 YPA.
But this week was even worse: Russell completed 12 of 21 passes for 61 yards – not 161 – 61. That's an average of 2.9 YPA.
The Raiders were once known for their ability to stretch the field. But whatever the opposite of stretch the field is, that's what they do these days. - KJB
Detroit 19, Washington 14
Leave it to Detroit fans to miss a good thing.
Jim Zorn and the Redskins sunk to an all-time low, as they followed up an embarrassing two-point victory over teh Rams with a loss to a team that was just a single game away from moving into second place on the all-time consecutive losses list.
Washington's 100-million-dollar man Albert Haynesworth suffered an injured hip. He was carted off the field but returned before the end of the game. Meanwhile, the Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell doomsday clocks are now just 1 minute from midnight.
So the Redskins have that going for them.
Even in victory, the Lions allowed a mediocre-to-bad QB to have his way with them. Campbell completed 27 of 41 (65.9%) for 340 yards, 8.3 YPA, 2 TD, 1 INT, and a 97.6 passer rating – among the best statistical games of his career, but just another empty effort on the scoreboard. – BS
Philadelphia 34, Kansas City 14
Even with McNabb out of the line-up, the Eagles had more than enough playmakers to humiliate the Chiefs.
Kevin Kolb became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards in his first two starts, as he earned his first career victory as a starter.
Brent Celek, meanwhile, became the first Eagles tight end in 44 years to post back-to-back 100 yard receiving games, and WR DeSean Jackson added 149 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown. Remarkably, it was the shortest score of the season for the explosive Jackson.
The Chiefs are bottoming out: they lost their last nine games of 2007, went 2-14 last year and are 0-3 this year. That makes Kansas City 2-26 over their past 28 games.
To put that into perspective, the Lions are 3-25 over their past 28 games. – BS
Baltimore 34, Cleveland 3
Eric Mangini waited until a week before the regular season to name Brady Quinn the Browns starting quarterback.
It took him only two-and-a-half games to change his mind.
Either way, one thing is for sure. The Browns quarterbacks are awful. Quinn and replacement Derek Anderson combined to complete 17 of 27 passes for 126 yards, a dismal 4.7 YPA, 0 TD, 4 INTs and a brutal 34.4 passer rating.
And this wasn't your daddy's Baltimore defense that the Browns struggled against: Baltimore entered the game with woefully sub-standard 95.9 Defensive Passer Rating.
The Eric Mangini Era in Cleveland may end sooner than even we anticipated: the team is bad, it has no No. 1 QB and now there's an uprising in the locker room.
The lone bright spot for Cleveland was Jerome Harrison who totaled a team-high 85-yards from scrimmage in his first career start at running back. Harrison has averaged 6.2 yards per touch over his career in limited action.
You could call Joe Flacco the anti-Quinn, but don't be surprised if your calling him a Pro Bowler soon.
Baltimore's great missing link threw for a career-high 342 yards while posting an impressive 9.8 YPA and a 111.8 passer rating.
Flacco played game manager in his rookie season last year, but is starting to prove to be a top flight passer with two 300-yard performances already this year (zero last year).
Flacco has also eclipsed the 7.0 YPA mark in all three games this season. It is the first time in Ravens history they have had three consecutive games with a 7.0 YPA or higher average while also completing 60% of their passes. – MS
San Diego's Philip Rivers was extraordinarily efficient against the Dolphins, averaging a solid 8.7 YPA on the day. He sports an impressive 8.5 yards per attempt for the season and – we should have noted this last week – now counts himself "officially" among the all-time leaders in two key passing categories: passer rating and yards per attempt.
During San Diego 's Week 2 loss to Baltimore , Rivers surpassed the minimum 1,500 career pass attempts required to qualify for official NFL records.
Following the win over Miami , Rivers' career stat line now looks like this:
957 of 1,542 (62.1%), 11,688 yards, 7.58 YPA, 81 TD, 39 INT, 92.36 passer rating
If you're not impressed by the numbers, you should be. He's fifth all time in passer rating, just ahead of the great Joe Montana. Here's the top six in career passer rating as of the end of Week 3 of 2009:
Steve Young (96.81)
Peyton Manning (95.11)
Kurt Warner (93.45)
Tom Brady (92.41)
Philip Rivers (92.36)
Joe Montana (92.26)
With an average of 7.58 YPA, Rivers ranks in the top 20 all time in this key indicator of success.
Rivers is also on the very short list of passers in NFL history with a TD to INT ratio of better than 2 to 1 (2.08 to 1). The record is held by Brady, who's thrown 2.27 TDs for every INT.
That's winning football, and Rivers is a winner, with a 35-16 (.686) career record following Sunday's win.
Miami, meanwhile, is a team that's quickly watching it all fall apart. The Dolphins were a sterling +17 in the all important give away/take away category last season, the best mark in the league. They were a surprise 11-5 team.
But they committed two more costly turnovers on Sunday and now have a –6 turnover differential on the young season. Now they're a surprise 0-3 team.
Miami's turnovers against San Diego on Sunday were especially costly. In the first quarter, Ronnie Brown fumbled at the Chargers' 1-yard line and the ball went out of the end zone for a touchback; and in the fourth quarter, Chad Henne threw an interception that Eric Weddle ran back 31 yards for a game-clinching TD.
Henne was in the game because CHFF's 2008 NFL MVP Chad Pennington left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter. That could be another harbinger of bad news for Miami going forward, since Pennington's biggest problem over the last several years has been staying healthy enough to play a full season. His teams have generally won when he played and lost when he didn't.
The Dolphins continued to gash opponents on the ground (31 carries, 149 yards, 4.8 yards-per-attempt; 4.7 season average), but as noted above, their turnover problems are killing them so far in 2009. – TC
Cincinnati 23, Pittsburgh 20
The Super Bowl champs clearly are feeling the loss of all-everything safety Troy Polamalu.
For the second consecutive week an opposing quarterback drove his team downfield against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense for the winning score in the waning moments of the game.
Last week it was the Chicago 's Jay Cutler maneuvering his team downfield for the game-winning field goal.
This week Bengals QB Carson Palmer needed a touchdown with his team trailing by 5 points with 5:14 to play. Sixteen plays and 71 yards later, Palmer found Andre Caldwell in the end zone from 4 yards out with 14 seconds left to lift the Bengals to one of their biggest regular-season wins in ages.
Cincinnati continues to be one of the surprise teams early in the 2009 season, as the only thing standing between the Bengals and a perfect 3-0 start is a fluke touchdown by Denver 's Brandon Stokley in the final 15 seconds of their Week 1 loss to Denver .
The Bengals went 0-8 in the first half of 2008, dismal even by their standards. Since then, they are 6-4-1, including a 2-1 mark here in 2009.
Ben Roethlisberger (22 for 31, 276 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 95.6 rating) threw for a touchdown and also scored the 12th rushing TD of his career, which is the most by a quarterback in the NFL since 2004. But Big Ben also threw a costly pick-six that allowed Cincinnati , which trailed 13-3 at halftime, to climb back into the game in the third quarter.
It has Big Ben's first loss in the state of Ohio since his sophomore season at the University of Miami , when his Redhawks lost at home to Central Florida in November 2002 (48-31).
The win was Cincinnati 's first over the Steelers in six tries dating back to Week 3 of the 2006 season. – TC
Chicago 25, Seattle 19
With seven starters out due to injury, it appears that Seattle's strategy was to level the playing field by making the Bears violently ill. But instead of sabotaging a couple of room service meals, Seattle tried to induce sickness by wearing the ugliest uniforms in the history of professional sports.
Fortunately for Chicago , Jay Cutler wasn't fazed by the nuclear cabbage uniforms. Cutler played his best game with the Bears: he tossed three touchdowns, completed 78 percent of his passes (21 of 27), compiling a nifty 9.1 YPA and 126.4 passer rating.
Cutler was at his best when it mattered most, completing all five of his fourth quarter passes, including the game-winning 36-yard touchdown pass to Devin Hester.
Seattle was plagued by miscues, including two missed field goals and two turnovers in their own territory.
The Seahawks lost despite outdoing Chicago in nearly every offensive category including first downs (19-14), third down conversions (41%-33%), total yards (346-318), rushing yards (103-85) and net passing yards (243-233).
But the Bears easily won the critical passing YPA battle: Cutlers averaged 9.1 YPA (247 yards, 27 attempts); Seattle's Seneca Wallace averaged an anemic 5.9 YPA (261 yards, 44 attempts). – MS
N.Y. Giants 24, Tampa Bay 0
The Giants began one of the more improbable postseason runs in NFL history with a victory in Tampa Bay back in the 2007 playoffs.
The G-Men returned to Florida's Gulf Coast for the first time since that day and manhandled the Buccaneers. In fact, the Bucs were unable to generate so much as a first down until late in the third quarter.
It was the first shutout for the Giants since the 2005 season, and the first road shutout since 1983, back in the Bill Belichick-Lawrence Taylor days.
The Tampa passing game was atrocious in the face of New York 's defense: Byron Leftwich and the never-heard-from-before Josh Johnson combined for the following JaMarcus Russell-esque performance:
11 of 26 for 58 yards (a brutal 2.2 YPA), 0 TD, 1 INT, 33.8 passer rating
Folks, when you put your offense in the hands of Leftwich and a guy who just made his first NFL appearance, your team is in deep trouble.
The Bucs were 9-3 and looked like Super Bowl contenders at one point last year. They've lost every game since that day.
Eli Manning and a punishing ground game, meanwhile, led the Giants to their second consecutive 3-0 start. The Giants picked up 226 yards on 49 rush attempts (4.6 YPA) while Manning, given all day in the pocket, was a virtually flawless 14 of 24 for 161 yards, 6.7 YPA, 2 TD, 0 INT, 106.4 passer rating. – BS
Green Bay 36, St. Louis 17
After out-Bungling the Bungles last week, the Packers got a dose of the NFL's best hangover remedy, the Rams.
The St. Louis offense is similar to Bigfoot (the mythic creature, not the mythic barleywine from Sierra Nevada). People report sightings and the rumors swirl, but there's little evidence that it actually exists.
Even after putting up 17 points on the Packers, St. Louis has scored just 24 points in three games. That'd be an average of 8.0 PPG for those of you keeping score at home.
It's been a remarkable fall from grace for the Rams passing game. From 1999-2006 the Rams ranked in the top five in passing yards every season. Since 2007 they have not ranked better than 26th.
It may get even worse for St. Louis with Kyle "Death to Passing Games" Boller in line to start at quarterback, depending on the condition of Marc Bulger's injured shoulder.
The Packers put up 36 points but may still have a long way to go offensively if they want to compete for the NFC North, where the Vikings now field one of the most explosive teams in football. Green Bay converted just 2-9 on third downs and failed to capitalize on St. Louis mistakes.
The Packer defense recovered two fumbles inside the Rams 15-yard line in the first quarter but the offense combined to gain one total yard and had to settle for two field goal attempts.
But it could be worse for Packers fans ... they could be Rams fans. – MS