November 29, 2010
Embattled NFL head coaches.
Leslie Frazier made his head-coaching debut for the Vikings on Sunday and came out with a hard-earned win. Now, beating the 2010 Redskins isn't going to get anyone named the Employee of the Month, but this wasn't a gimme, either. It was a road game against a .500 team, and considering the mess the Vikings put on the field last week, a win this week is a nice feather in the cap for any coach. I'm thrilled for Frazier.
I wonder, though, if this win from Frazier, combined with the early success of Jason Garrett in Dallas, will lead to a quicker trigger finger for NFL owners disappointed in their coaches.
Trends dominate the NFL. If something works for one team, expect 20 teams to copy it within a week. The midseason firing of a struggling coach may not be a trend yet, but are we headed in that direction? I'm not saying it's a good thing or a bad thing -- it's hard to argue with the results -- but this can't be good news for coaches who had high expectations and aren't getting results. Frazier's win didn't help Josh McDaniels or Marvin Lewis sleep any better Sunday night.
It was Rusty Smith against the Texans secondary and, as I wrote last week, someone had to win that pillow fight. Turns out, it wasn't even close. Rusty, the poor fellow, was nowhere near ready to face even the Texans secondary.
It's really not fair to the guy. He's a rookie sixth-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic -- if he's going to turn into a quality NFL quarterback, it's going to take some time. But his presence allowed the Texans to sell out against Chris Johnson and the Titans run game, which they did very well. Brian Cushing(notes) was particularly good.
But even then, Rusty couldn't capitalize. On anything. He finished the day 17 of 31 for 138 yards and three interceptions.
While we're here, I might as well ask ... does this make anyone else appreciate Vince Young(notes) any more? Are we any more willing to accept that maybe Young had a point in his disagreement with Jeff Fisher? It doesn't excuse running out of the locker room, of course, but Young had a quarterback rating of 98.6, and just a week later, with the quarterback as the only variable, the Titans are getting shut out by arguably the league's worst defense. Maybe the hook shouldn't have been so quick.
I hate that a great game between two excellent teams gets highlighted by an LVP appearance, but that's how it goes sometimes. Aaron Rodgers(notes) led a brilliant drive, capped with a tremendous fourth-down touchdown throw to Jordy Nelson(notes), to tie the game with about a minute left. On the ensuing kickoff, return man Eric Weems(notes) came out of the endzone with a head of steam, and could only be stopped by a nasty facemask penalty on Packers linebacker/special teamer Matt Wilhelm.
Not that the blame can be placed on Wilhelm entirely. The entire kickoff coverage unit failed, and the penalty was the result of a desperation reach; not a blatant or mindless breaking of the rules. If Wilhelm doesn't reach out and grab facemask when he does, Weems might have gotten those 15 yards anyway. In fact, he might've gotten way more.
Anyway, the penalty set the Falcons up at the Packers' 49, needing only a field goal. Matt Ryan(notes) completed four short passes, and a Matt Bryant(notes) field goal ended it. A rematch in January would be most welcome.
I don't want to flog the horse carcass, but yeah, that happened. Throws don't get any better than that. Opportunities for 2-9 teams don't get any better than that. It's kind of a shame.
It wasn't just that play, though. Obviously, that's the big one, but Johnson's hands were leaky all day. Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) targeted him 15 times against the Steelers (only Dwayne Bowe(notes) was targeted more this week), and the connection was completed just seven times. At least five of those were outright drops by Johnson.
A few Colts had rough games against the Chargers -- Reggie Wayne(notes) comes to mind -- but when a defensive tackle turns you into a weapon to be used against your own quarterback, you've had a particularly rough night. Antonio Garay(notes) used Linkenbach as a battering ram to knock Peyton Manning(notes) down for a sack. It will not be a part of his personal highlight reel.
It was symptomatic of the Colts' struggles all night. Peyton Manning was intercepted four times because the Colts couldn't protect him. On both sides of the ball, the Chargers dominated the battle up front.
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