Wednesday, November 6, 2013

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

Talk about an OFFENSIVE lineman, AMIRITE? But seriously, this is no laughing matter.
 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.

The Good

The Patriots Offense

Where did this come from?

In their last two games, the Patriots had gained just 295 yards in a loss to the Jets and 252 yards in a win over Miami. Then they explode for 610 yards against Pittsburgh, scoring 55 points in the process, the most points scored by any team this season.

The key for the turnaround was health, plain and simple. For the first time all season, the Patriots had Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Rob Gronkowski at 100% effectiveness, and they were able to take advantage of it.

The Patriots offense is built from the inside out, which makes them rather unique. A team like Denver is built from the outside in - their success is dependent on both outside receivers (Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker) drawing the attention of the safeties towards the sidelines, opening the middle of the field. Meanwhile, a team like Detroit is built from side to side - defenses shade their help towards whatever side Calvin Johnson is lined up on, creating one-on-one situations opposite him. The Patriots offense is built from the inside out - they need their inside receivers (Gronkowski and Edelman especially) to draw the attention of the linebackers and safeties, to allow their outside receivers, who are more limited in their skill sets, to take advantage of the strengths they do have.

The effect was evident in a number of the Patriots big pass plays - including Amendola's 34-yard touchdown in the 1st quarter, when he ran right up the seam and nobody followed him, or his 57-yard gain in the 2nd quarter, when he crossed with Julian Edelman deep downfield and the entire defense went with Edelman. When the Patriots have their full complement of receivers, they become a truly potent passing attack.


Cameron Wake 

Injuries had knocked Wake out of games and seemingly slowed the talented pass rusher this season… Until Thursday night in a must-win home game against Cincinnati. Wake applied constant pressure to the Bengals' Andy Dalton all night, and piled up three sacks (0.5 more than he had all year coming in) including the game winning safety on Dalton.

Miami has faded back to the pack after a red-hot start, but the Dolphin defense is a completely different animal when Wake is on the field. They still have plenty of questions to be sure, but I wouldn't count the Phins out yet, not as long as this man is healthy.


The Bad

Kansas City's Offense

The Kansas City Chiefs scored 23 points against Buffalo without scoring an offensive touchdown. They scored two touchdowns in the game, and both came on defense - a 100-yard interception return by Sean Smith, and an 11-yard fumble return by Tamba Hali. They did manage to also score three field goals, but two were set up by incredibly short fields. One of their field goal drives started at their own 47 yard line, the other started at Buffalo's 41 yard line.

Overall, Kansas City mustered just 210 yards of offense. Alex Smith completed 19 of his 29 passing attempts (a very respectable 65.5%), but gained just 124 yards through the air, an average of just 4.3 yards per attempt - a full yard and a half worse than Tampa Bay's league-worst season average. Jamaal Charles gained 90 yards on 17 carries, but all other Kansas City ball-carriers gained five yards on six carries. Collectively, they gained just 3.9 yards per play.

Make no mistake about it, the Kansas City defense is close to, if not the best defense in the league. But they've struggled to move the ball and score points against even the most inept of defenses (they have yet to gain 400 yards in a game, and were held to 292 yards against Jacksonville and 216 yards against Oakland). They've scored over 20 points in seven of their nine games this season, but six of those only eclipsed that barrier because of a defensive or special teams touchdown. They ranked 16th in points scored (23.9 per game), but rank just 24th in points per offensive drive (1.48 - tied with Cleveland and behind St. Louis and Arizona).

Their defense will keep them in just about every game, and will secure them a playoff berth sooner rather than later. But in order to make a deep playoff run, they'll need to find a groove offensively, and fast.


The Yuccaneers 

I was going to put the Bucs in the "ugly" category, but I think this fan base has suffered enough. I mean, Tampa Bay was on the verge of collecting the hardest win you can get in the NFL this year (AT Seattle), and absolutely gave the game away.

Despite building a 21-0 lead, as soon as Russell Wilson threw a 20-yard touchdown just before halftime, you knew the Bucs weren't winning this one. Maybe it's because the players want Greg Schiano out, or because they have zero confidence left after failing to close out several games earlier this year, or because they're legitimately cursed.

Beats me.

Either way, this is the opposite end of the spectrum from a team like Jacksonville, who simply can't play with anybody. I'm trying to figure out which Florida fan base, small as they are, has it worse this year. Would you rather be like the Jags and get blown out every week, or would you rather be like the Bucs and hang in games, only to lose in the most soul-crushing way possible?


The Ugly


By now you've probably read about Dolphin offensive lineman Richie Incognito's alleged harassment of linemate Jonathan Martin. Incognito used threatening and racially fueled language to, among other things, torment Martin in a series of voicemails. It's all very messy, and you can read the whole story here.

When I first saw the story, I sent a Facebook message to a buddy I used to play football with. Well, we didn't so much PLAY football, as we announced it from the sidelines wearing the same uniforms as the people on the field. I was usually Madden, he was Dennis Miller and our other friend was Dan Fouts. That was mean of us, because everybody hates Dan Fouts.

Anyways, I wrote to him that Incognito's behavior in the now infamous video below was simply an extreme version of many of the idiotic characters we had to deal with in high school. Now, I'm a privileged white kid, so nobody ever used racial slurs against me, plus I played on the O-Line a stone's throw from Davie, Florida (very white), but seeing somebody act like this wasn't exactly uncommon (and they weren't even drunk).

Now, some have come out to blame the victim, saying Martin is "soft" and should have handled this in-house or stood up to Incognito. I say bull shit. This type of behavior is never acceptable. It isn't acceptable in school when you're dealing with kids, and it sure as hell isn't acceptable in a professional setting. Remember folks, this is their workplace, football is their job.

If you've played football at any level, you've dealt with a Richie Incognito, and you've just had to accept that he is a brain cell above a boulder and deal with him. But, if you still think Martin is to blame, answer me this: Would you want to be coworkers with the man in this video?

Michigan's Offensive Line 

Devin Gardner "rushed" 18 times. On those 18 "rushes," he lost 46 yards.

Now, because this is college football, that number is slightly skewed by the seven times he was sacked. But even when he wasn't being thrown to the ground by the Michigan State defensive front, there was no room to run, and no time to pass. Fitzgerald Toussaint managed just 20 yards on eight carries (which seems to be a pattern against any half-decent defense - two weeks ago he gained 27 yards on 27 carries), and Gardner completed just 51% of his passes (14-for-27) because he was barely able to complete a five-step drop before he was on his backside.



Not much else needs to be said when a team loses 56-0, as Purdue did Saturday at home against Ohio State. But, if you like to pile on, here are a few facts that make the loss one of the worst in college football this decade.

Well, it was the worst home loss in the 126-year history of Purdue football, so that's not good, but the Boiler passing offense was also historically bad. The Purdue passing game gained 89 yards on 29 attempts, which is bad enough. But, when you add in 40 yards lost to sacks, and 33 yards lost to an interception return, you realize that Purdue only had a net gain of 16 yards passing all game.

Now, when you take into account the six sacks, plus two other drop backs that turned into short runs by quarterback Danny Etling, you get 16 net passing yards on 37 drop backs, good for an average of 0.43 yards per pass play.

I don't know if that's the least efficient passing day ever (probably not), but this stat was also thrown at me by my former boss/tennis coach Tobias Croke: Purdue hasn't been inside an opponent's 20-yard line since September 28th. Yeah, this is probably the worst FBS team in the country.

Still, Hail Purdue.


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