Monday Morning Hangover: Quite a weekend

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 21, 2007



By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts man about town
 
It's an easy assumption.
 
When Team A loses Star Player A to an injury, it's not hard to figure that Team A is in trouble.
 
But what you forget is that while Star Player A may be truly a wonderful player, Generic Player B can sometimes do the job quite nicely.
 
The fortunes of several NFL teams this season have turned on just such a replacement, some soldiering right on through without Star Player A, some struggling mightily with Generic Player B.
 
When the Rams lost Orlando Pace in Week 1, it was a big loss – but one that most thought that St. Louis would overcome.
 
Not even close.
 
The Rams withstood the loss of Pace for eight games in 2006 – in fact, they thrived, going 2-6 with 21.4 PPG in Pace's eight starts, 6-2 with 24.5 PPG in the eight games he missed.
 
But they are just awful without him in 2007, with the various shufflings of the line leading to mayhem and a league-low 11.3 points a game.
 
Overall, since Pace became a full-time starter in 1998, the Rams are 75-57 with Pace in the lineup (56.4% win), 8-12 without him (40% win).
 
They've had better luck replacing Steven Jackson with rookie Brian Leonard, only because both have been equally ineffective. Leonard is averaging 3.9 yards a carry to Jackson's 3.3.
 
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Dallas Cowboys. Starting wideout Terry Glenn, a 1,000-yard receiver in 2006, has missed all seven games. So has NT Jason Ferguson, injured early in Week 1.
 
But their replacements have been just fine, as evidenced by the 6-1 record.
 
WR Patrick Crayton is on pace for 914 yards and nine TDs, and NT Jay Ratliff has helped the Dallas front to a No. 3 ranking in run defense through six weeks (3.41 per carry).
 
Some other notable replacements:
 
New England, DE Jarvis Green for Richard Seymour. Obviously, the Patriots haven't been in any kind of trouble this year – even without Seymour, considered the best defensive player of the Patriots' dynasty. Green doesn't have the versatility of Seymour, but he has collected three sacks in seven games, and the Patriots' Defensive Hogs were ranked third after six weeks.
 
Chicago, S Adam Archuleta for Mike Brown. This has been a nightmare, causing the Bears to move their secondary all around searching for answers when Brown went down in Week 1. Heading into Week 7, the Bears had a defensive passer rating of 94.6 in 2007 – a far cry from the 66.5 of a year ago. Making matters worse, they traded S Chris Harris to Carolina, where he's forced four fumbles and generally been a welcome surprise.
 
Indianapolis: DT Ed Johnson for Anthony McFarland . It should surprise no one that the Colts found a way to seamlessly replace someone that seemed fairly irreplaceable when he went down in August. But Johnson has been just fine, with 13 tackles in five games for a Colts' DL that has an improved run defense (4.22 per carry against) in 2007.
 
Houston, WR Andre Davis for Andre Johnson. The Texans' passing game figured to be finished when Johnson went down, but it's continued to be strong even as the Texans have lost four of five. Davis has 20 catches for 384 yards and two TDs in his five starts, numbers that would pan out to 64 catches, 1,228 yards and six TDs over a full 16-game season.
 
THE KICKING AWAY THEORY
The Eagles did exactly what everyone has been telling the rest of the league to do on Sunday, and that's kick away from Devin Hester.
 
It worked – Hester didn't touch the ball once on a return – and although the Bears had the last laugh on a shocking cardiac drive by Brian Griese, the strategy will certainly be used again.
 
However, the impact of Hester was still felt.
 
On four Philly kickoffs, the Bears started on average at the 35 yard line – approximately 10 yards better than the league average. And Philly's net punting average was 27.0 yards on four kicks, again around 10 yards worse than the NFL average.
 
So, just the threat of Hester gave the Bears an average of 10 extra starting yards on each of the eight possessions that started off an opposing kick.
 
Not bad, just out of sheer fear from the other sideline.
 
LAVERANUES COLES: UNDERRATED
 
We suspect that Laveranues Coles, like T.J. Houshmandzadeh, doesn't get the credit he deserves mostly because his name is difficult to spell.
 
But Coles, who had two TDs in vain Sunday as the Jets lost to Cincinnati, has been as consistent as any receiver in the league since cracking the starting lineup in 2000. In his 106 starts, he's averaged 5 catches and 64.1 yards, and his average season as a starter is 80 catches for 1,025 yards and 5.5 TDs.
 
Over the last five full seasons (two in Washington), he's been between 73-91 catches and 845-1,264 yards. Coles has never missed a game in his eight-year career, and has lost exactly one fumble.
 
That's Laveranues, L-A-V-E-R ...   

REGGIE BUSH: OVERRATED On the NFL Network postgame show, Jim Mora mentioned how well Reggie Bush has played in the Saints' two wins, then showed clips of him at a press conference. Here are two questions: what is Jim Mora smoking, and why is Reggie Bush giving a press conference?
As usual, Bush did nearly nothing to advance the cause of a New Orleans win. Against a defense that was 23rd in run defense, allowing 4.27 yards a carry, Bush had 17 carries for 54 yards – a 3.2-yard average right on par with his 3.5 season average and 3.6 career average. Ah, but he added a four-yard TD catch and ensuing two-point conversion to give NO the lead with 5:17 left. For this, he was awarded NFL.com's "Game Ball." Did we mention that his longest gain of the day on 22 touches was nine yards? NFL.com could have awarded the "Game Ball" to Charles Grant, who had five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble and helped keep Atlanta to 75 yards rushing on 24 carries, but that would have been too hard. Might as well give it to Reggie, who looks awfully nice in ads but not so hot on the actual football field.  
 
 
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, MORTEN ANDERSEN While Rob Bironas (8 FGs) and Jason Elam (walk-off 48-yarder to beat Pittsburgh) were your most memorable kickers from Week 7, it's Mr. Morten Andersen that continues to amaze the Cold, Hard Football Facts. Andersen went 3-for-3 for Atlanta Sunday, leaving him 12-for-15 on the season. At his current pace, he'll finish the season with 120 points – which would be only two less than his career-high of 122 set with Atlanta in 1995. He also had 121 points in 1987, which for the mathematically challenged was 20 years ago. Lykønskningen, Morty! (That's congratulations, on the off chance the faithful reader doesn't speak Danish).     FIVE AMAZING SUNDAY DEVELOPMENTS 1. The Cardinals going for two points to tie at the end of the game in Washington ... and making WR Anquan Boldin the quarterback. That's Cardinals football if we've ever seen it. 2. Minnesota still using Chester Taylor on key third downs and in key fourth-quarter situations. Note to coach Brad Childress: rookie Adrian Peterson is averaging 7.2 yards every time he touches the ball on a run or pass. 3. Baltimore actually scoring touchdowns, not field goals in Buffalo. Matt Stover had kicked more FGs than XPs in five straight games. 4. Tennessee blowing a 32-7 fourth-quarter lead then winning it on their kicker's eighth field goal of the day. If only Vince Young had played, we could have given him all the credit. 5. The Kansas City Chiefs winning a road game over Oakland to go to 4-3 and take the AFC West lead. The "Hard Knocks" jokes can now end, as the Chiefs are in first place in October for the first time since their 9-0 start in 2003.   AFC-NFC There were no interconference games played in Week 7, leaving the AFC's lead at a slim 14-12. And the NFC holds a 15-11 lead in Quality Wins. Some very interesting interconference games are on tap for Week 8: Indy at Carolina, Washington at New England and Jacksonville at Tampa Bay – all games between Quality Teams. It's capped off Monday night with Green Bay at Denver. Less intriguing: Giants-Dolphins in London and Browns at Rams.
 

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