Monte Kiffin, my former defensive coordinator with the Buccaneers, had a rough go of it as defensive coordinator at USC. Specifically he never seemed to find an answer for Chip Kelly's Oregon offense and many would say that led to his "decision" to resign from the position. I'm probably being too kind here, the Ducks averaged a whopping 601 yards and 50 points in the three games Kiffin coached against them as USC defensive coordinator.
The Cowboys eventually came calling this spring and many people questioned the hire. Then Kelly was hired as the Eagles head coach and you could imagine the headlines. After all if he couldn't stop Kelly on the college level, how could he ever hope to stop him in the same division in the NFL?
It didn't help that the Cowboys' defense has been up and down so far this season, including the thrashing the Broncos and Peyton Manning put on them them just a few weeks ago. A growing crowd of people openly questioned the hire.
On Sunday Kiffin finally got his revenge on Kelly for all those losses at USC. It was in a game to decide the leader of the NFC East, no less. Not only did his defense shut out the Eagles for a half for the first time in Kelly's head coaching career, they also held them to a measly three points for the whole game.
They were helped by a lot of dropped passes by Eagles receivers, to be sure. But the most glaring statistic to me is they held electrifying Eagles running back LeSean McCoy to just 55 yards on 18 carries. The Cowboys also knocked Eagles starting QB Nick Foles out of the game and then feasted on former USC quarterback rookie Matt Barkley for three interceptions in the game's final seven minutes and fourteen seconds.
Revenge, how sweet it is!
Revis vs. Douglas
The Falcons were without the services of their dynamic duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones at wide receiver going into Sunday's game against their division rivals, the Buccaneers. That left Harry Douglas as the only wide receiver on the game day active roster who had more than one catch this season. In fact, the rest of the guys combined had one catch on the season. You would think that would make things easy when Bucs coaches were deciding who all-pro cornerback Darrelle Revis -- a player that they traded for and are paying a cool $16 million this year -- should be covering man-to-man the entire game.
And of course, you would be wrong.
You see, Douglas had a career day on Sunday, hauling in seven passes for 149 yards and a touchdown to help drag the Falcons to their second win of the year, 31-23, over the Bucs. And how many times was Revis lined up opposite Douglas on those seven catches you ask?
One time it was a third-and-10 and Revis broke up and tackled Douglas for a 7-yard gain, forcing a punt. The other time, Revis was lined up 7 to 8 yards off Douglas, who ran a crossing route and picked up 26 yards. Here's Revis lined up off Douglas on that play, on second-and-11 with 49 seconds left in the first quarter.
Here's Douglas immediately after the catch, trailed by Revis who played off coverage through the entire play. Dashon Goldson, the white jersey on the right of the highlighted circle, comes over to make the tackle.
I'm not a math major but I believe that means Douglas caught five balls for 116 yards and a touchdown with someone not named Revis covering him.
And no, before you ask, Revis was not covering future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez on those five plays, either. I checked.
Oh, I did find a play that Revis lined up across from Douglas within five yards, jammed him and played him man to man. It was erased by a roughing the passer penalty on a Buccaneers defensive lineman, but that pass got broken up by Revis.
The Buccaneers are now 0-6 and have shown no sign of turning things around. Their defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan thought he was a comedian last week making jokes about fans coming to the facility to help him do his job, but I have a feeling the joke will be on him soon if he continues to waste Revis' talent like this.
Everything's working against the Jaguars
The Jaguars have not won a game, I realize that, but they weren't helped at all by some shoddy officiating on Sunday in their game against the Chargers. There were several blown calls and several calls that should've been made but weren't in my opinion and I started to wonder if that was a Pac-12 crew reffing the game.
The most egregious blown call of all occurred with around 7:36 left in the third quarter. Chargers tight end Antonio Gates caught a shovel pass inside the Jaguars' 5-yard line and appeared to have a shot at scoring. Instead the Jaguars tackled him, ripped the ball out before he hit the ground and their rookie safety Johnathan Cyprien clearly recovered it.
Now from the side view it was hard to see when the ball came out but on the broadcast they showed the end zone view which left no doubt that it was in fact a fumble. At the time the Jaguars were trailing 14-3 and it would have been a huge momentum swing for them.
Not only did the referees blow the call live, the play was then challenged by Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley and the refs came out of the booth and said with a straight face that the call stood. The announcers were justifiably perplexed and so am I.
If that crew isn't suspended for their performance on Sunday something is terribly wrong.
Better with age
Hold on young bucks. This offseason there was a lot of talk about some young defensive linemen having a shot at breaking the single-season sack record held by Michael Strahan. Von Miller, Aldon Smith and J.J. Watt, all in their third year in the NFL, were supposed to just annihilate offensive tackles and quarterbacks all year.
The first two guys have had some off-field issues hold them back and Watt, for him, is off to a slow start. But what is most interesting to me is that there are some guys making a run at the record, it's just that most of them are salty veterans.
Here are, in order, the top five sack men for the first seven weeks of the season, what year they are in and how many sacks they have so far.
Robert Mathis: 11th year, 11.5 sacks
Justin Houston: third year, 10 sacks
Mario Williams: eighth year, 10 sacks
Tamba Hali: eighth year, eight sacks
Terrell Suggs: 11th year, eight sacks
Houston is the only guy not at least in his eighth year in the league in the top five and I don't think anybody saw him being a guy that might break the record. Turns out some of these old guys are hungry and still want a piece of the action as well.
Oh, and the top sack man at defensive tackle? Jason Hatcher, who is in his eighth year and has six so far.
- More late-game coaching fails. Last week I explained to you why I blamed Saints head coach Sean Payton for his team's loss to the Patriots because of his horrible mismanagement of the clock at the end of the game. Today I will put two more coaches on blast who likely cost their teams the game on Sunday.
First up, Lions coach Jim Schwartz. At the end of the Lions' game with the Bengals they were tied at 24 and the Lions had the ball on their own 22-yard line with 48 seconds left after a run. The Bengals had one timeout left so because it was highly unlikely that the Lions could position themselves in 48 seconds for even a game-winning field goal, the smart thing to do was run it twice and go to overtime.
If you aren't so inclined to play it safe and you want to throw, at least take a shot or two deep down the field. Hell, Calvin "Megatron" Johnson had already made several circus catches, including a touchdown over three defenders, so I might have been good with that also.
Schwartz and the Lions went with option C: run Johnson on a short crossing route on the back side of the formation and hope for the best.
And when nobody was open of course Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw it away rather than eat it and ... milk the clock.
That and a crappy 28-yard punt resulted in the Bengals getting the ball at their own 49-yard line with 26 seconds left and a timeout. They go down and kick a field goal to win the game as time expires and most people are probably blaming the punter or the defense.
No sir, not me. That loss is totally on Jim Schwartz.
The second coach I'm calling out is Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.
The Dolphins and Bills had been going back and forth all game, but in the fourth quarter with 2:57 left, the Dolphins clung to a 21-20 lead and had the ball at the 50-yard line. With the clock running after a Daniel Thomas run for 2 yards on first down the Dolphins tried to get cute and throw the ball, and Bills defensive end Mario Williams made them pay for it. He sacked the quarterback and caused a fumble that was recovered by the Bills.
Buffalo also went on to run down the clock and kick a game-winning field goal. The only difference was they left 36 seconds on the clock.
No matter, the Dolphins' Hail Mary attempt with no time left on the clock did not make it into and of their wide receivers' hands. And so they lost a game right at the end that they had a very good chance to win.
There are no guarantees that the Dolphins could have run the ball to get a first down or two and get into field goal position. And yes a one-point lead isn't exactly something to hang your hat on. But had they run the clock down and punted I would have put my money on the Dolphins' defense holding the Bills, who were once again starting a backup quarterback, instead of betting on my right tackle's ability to block Mario Williams on a pass play.
I know Philbin has a reputation for being a highly intelligent guy but that was a pretty dumb move on his part.
Tight ends, butcher knives, etc.
Back during my playing days Herm Edwards was our defensive backs coach with the Bucs for a time, and he would give us motivational speeches from time to time. I can't remember the whole thing but I do remember him giving one of those fire and brimstone speeches and saying that he wanted our defense to attack like a "ball of butcher knives." That was quite the colorful turn of phrase and for some reason it always stuck with me.
I swear every time I see a healthy Chris Ivory run the ball, he looks like the living embodiment of that phrase!
Now playing for the Jets, Ivory has finally gotten himself reasonably healthy and he is back to being that physical, angry runner we all remember from his days with the Saints. On Sunday, Ivory was an absolute work horse, carrying the ball 34 times for 104 yards and absolutely grinding on that Patriots defense play after play after play.
He didn't have the gaudy numbers, and no he didn't score, but he was a huge part of the Jets beating the Patriots in overtime. I can also promise you the upcoming teams on the Jets' schedule won't be looking forward to tackling Ivory after seeing that film.
- Washington rookie tight end Jordan Reed had himself quite the coming out party against Chicago. He hit that normally stout Bears defense to the tune of nine catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. The third-round pick looked like a seasoned veteran just making catch after catch without a hint of rookie jitters. He played so well in fact that all of a sudden there are trade rumors circulating about veteran tight end Fred Davis being unloaded. The Washington Redskins appear to have hit a home run with this mid-round pick.
- Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill is the real live version of the character Featherstone from the movie Necessary Roughness.
- The Patriots welcomed back their all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was seeing his first action of the year. Their quarterback Tom Brady still couldn't find a way to complete more than 50 percent of his passes, however. That is the third time this year that Brady has had a sub-50 completion percentage. Are we going to just keep mindlessly blaming his "young receivers" forever?