Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Weekend Football Roundup - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Tom Brady threw the game-winning touchdown to beat New Orleans, but was he the real star? (Flickr)
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Every Tuesday during football season, editors Jeremy and Joe will bring you the good, the bad and the ugly from the college and pro football weekend that was.

(Editor's Note: Joe is too busy this week "going to New Hampshire" and "getting married to his fiancee" to contribute to the recap. I know, selfish, right? So I've taken it upon myself to do the Weekend Roundup myself this week, which is why you won't see initials designating the author of each section. Except this one. Also, I didn't watch any college football on Saturday, so you're only getting NFL coverage this week. Don't blame me, blame Joe. Nobody is forcing him to get married. -JC)

The Good

Aqib Talib

Everyone's favorite NFL writer Bill Barnwell already covered this in his column yesterday, but Talib may as well be the best cornerback in all of football so far this season. After three good-to-great games in coverage opposite Vincent Jackson, Julio Jones, and A.J. Green, Talib produced the best cover game of any defensive player in the league this season, holding Jimmy Graham to zero catches off six targets in Sunday's game.

Playing Talib in "zero" coverage (i.e. no help over the top) for most of the game allowed Devin McCourty to constantly shade towards Marques Colston's side of the field, and Colston ended up with just one catch (off three targets) for 11 yards. When the top two downfield targets for an explosive passing attack combine for just one catch off nine targets, that's an indisputable win for the defense.

Talib left the game in the 3rd quarter with a hip flexor injury. I've had a similar injury before, and I can say that a hip abductor is not just a trendy kidnapper - it makes it difficult to walk and impossible to run (or climb stairs). If Talib's injury isn't serious, this defensive scheme of putting Talib on an island and allowing McCourty to shade towards the opposite side could serve the Patriots very well.

Carolina's New Found Aggressiveness

After establishing himself as a frustratingly conservative coach over the last year and a half, Ron Rivera flipped the script and went 2-for-2 on 4th-down conversions on their opening drive of the game Sunday, giving the Panthers an early 7-0 lead that they never relinquished.

Rivera followed that aggressiveness up by saying after the game, "it's kind of what we're going to do, and we're going to do the best we can to make things happen." The Panthers have one of the most dominant short-yardage runners in football, and the front seven of their defense is one of the best in football. Scoring touchdowns instead of field goals on offense and turning the game over to a strong pass rush is a recipe for success in the NFL, and had they been doing this all season, Carolina very well could be 4-1 instead of 2-3.

The Bad

Geno Smith In Even-Numbered Weeks

ESPN ran this graphic yesterday:

There's a clear trend here. The Jets play the Patriots next week. Welp.

Terrelle Pryor

There has been a lot to be positive about for the Raiders through the first six weeks. Perhaps even enough that they won't be actively looking for a quarterback in next year's draft. After all, they did straight-out waive Matt Flynn barely six months after trading for him with the expectation that he'd be their starter.

However, Pryor still has a lot to learn before he becomes a consistently positive contributor for an NFL offense.

He has an incredibly strong arm, but that often gets him into trouble, making him think he can make throws that no quarterback, regardless of arm strength, can make. For instance, the only way a quarterback can softly lobbing a throw into traffic and hope his receiver can come down with it and have it NOT be a disaster is if the quarterback is Aaron Rodgers (pinpoint touch) and the receiver is Calvin Johnson (freakish in-the-air ball skills). Pretty much any other combination (like, say, Pryor and Denarius Moore) will result in an interception. That's what happened in the 4th quarter Sunday as the Raiders were driving for a potential tying touchdown. Pryor either needs to rely more on his athletic instincts (which would tell him to pull the ball down and take of running) or become smarter about his pass selection (which would tell him to throw the ball away and live for another down). If he can do those things, he could develop into a very good quarterback.

The Ugly

Brandon Weeden's 4th-Quarter Interception

I don't even have any words for this. All I have is this GIF, via BuzzFeed Sports:

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