September 13, 2010
Week 1 of the 2010 NFL season brought a series of surprises. The Seattle Seahawks were off every radar, but they trounced the San Francisco 49ers, a team that was supposed to have had the NFC West wrapped up before the year began. The Cincinnati Bengals parlayed the acquisition of Terrell Owens(notes) into a 31-3 disadvantage early in the second half against the New England Patriots before Cincy was able to make the 34-24 game more respectable than that score indicated. Here are a few more talking points from Week 1, fleshed out in greater detail.
If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass [with or without contact by an opponent], he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or in the end zone. If [the player] loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.
When you look at the play, it's very clear that Johnson caught the ball and put the ball on the ground in the act of pushing himself up (probably to celebrate what he thought was a touchdown). Disallowing the touchdown was the right call, but just as the Tuck Rule hosed the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 playoffs and the "ingredients of a hold" meme cost the Seattle Seahawks an opportunity to score in Super Bowl XL, this rule was over-implemented and done so incorrectly. Maintaining control after the ball touches the ground should be unnecessary. If a player maintains control of the ball all the way down and makes a "football move" before the ball hits the ground, that should be it -- possession, and touchdown if it's in the end zone. The Competition Committee needs to fix this one in a hurry.
The Bears stole a win they didn't deserve. The officiating fiasco hid a series of concerns for the Bears -- though they won the game, 19-14, the offensive line had major problems protecting Jay Cutler(notes), and the team's red-zone gambits were comical at best -- they were 0-for-4 converting there. In the fourth quarter, Chicago failed to score a touchdown on four attempts from the Detroit 1-yard line. There's no question that the Lions' front four is much-improved with Kyle Vanden Bosch(notes) and Ndamukong Suh(notes) on board, but the Bears will go nowhere in this league until they realize that offensive lines are, y'know, important and stuff.
The Texans' win was more impressive than you may have thought. Not only did the Houston Texans put that 1-15 record in their last 16 games against the Indianapolis Colts to bed with a convincing 34-24 win -- they did so without linebacker Brian Cushing(notes), their best defensive player. While Cushing serves his four-game suspension for a violation of the league's substance abuse policies, his team got a bit of much-needed smashmouth in the running game in the person of Arian Foster(notes).
In 2009, Foster led the Texans in DVOA in the red zone, and it wasn't even close, because Houston had such a problem pushing the ball through in any important short-yardage situations. But in this game, the Texans were 5-of-11 on third down and perfect in red-zone conversions, because they gave Foster the ball 33 times, and he responded by picking up a team-record 233 yards and three touchdowns. In truth, that toughness was the only missing component in the Texans' offense. If they keep it up, they'll be a real force in this league -- especially when they get Cushing back.
Michael Vick(notes) is not a package -- he's a quarterback. The Philadelphia Eagles have had trouble finding ways to use Michael Vick in option situations ever since they acquired him. But what Vick showed when he took over for Kevin Kolb(notes) in the Eagles' 27-20 loss to the Packers was that he's better-used -- and still has something to offer as -- a starting NFL quarterback. Vick completed 16 of 24 passes for 175 yards, and rushed for another 103 yards on 11 carries against a Green Bay defense that was out to get him -- and they sacked him three times.
I have questioned the Eagles' coronation of Kevin Kolb as Donovan McNabb's(notes) replacement -- based on the game tape, things look pretty shaky with Kolb under center -- and when Kolb went out of the game with a concussion, it was clear that the offense was more dynamic and integrated with Vick in there. Is there a quarterback controversy in Philly? I don't know, but there should be. Vick is ready to lead this offense. Kolb is clearly not.
We saw Alex Barron(notes) coming. Surprised by the three holding calls on Dallas Cowboys left tackle Alex Barron, including the one that took away what would have been a game-winning touchdown pass from Tony Romo(notes) to Roy Williams? You shouldn't be. From 2005 through 2009, Barron led the league in penalties with 75, and we detailed this in May, when the ‘Boys traded linebacker Bobby Carpenter(notes) to the St. Louis Rams for Barron. The Rams wound up releasing Carpenter, but they also didn't have a single holding penalty called on their offensive linemen in Week 1. And that must have been a nice change of pace for them.
The Redskins obviously and specifically put linebacker Brian Orakpo(notes) on Barron to exploit Barron's primary weakness (pass protection), and the strategy paid off -- Barron looked completely outmatched and practically tackled Orakpo on two occasions. Had Barron not held on that play, the game would have ended with Orakpo driving Romo's head into the FedEx Field turf. With Alex Barron, there isn't much middle ground. You get a hold, or your quarterback gets destroyed. And until further notice, the Cowboys are one offensive line away from competing for the NFC East.
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