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Charlie Whitehurst and the signs of NFL franchise collapse disorder

Fourth-quarter leads greater than two touchdowns should guarantee a win in the NFL, but not if Charlie Whitehurst is playing quarterback. This week's Post-Mortem also examines the Rams' defense and Matthew Stafford's descent into Joey Harrington territory.

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If you lead by 15 or 16 points after three quarters, you should win. That's not an opinion so much as it is a statement of mathematics; as of Sunday morning, 91 straight teams had entered the fourth quarter leading by two touchdowns and at least one two-point conversion, and emerged victorious. That streak is now dead, thanks to the Tennessee Titans, who were outscored 16-0 in the last 15 minutes of their 29-28 loss to the Cleveland Browns. No lead is safe with Charlie Whitehurst.


Last year, the St. Louis defense finished third in sacks with 53. This season, the Rams have ... one sack. Since the NFL merger, only three other teams -- the 1974 Baltimore Colts, 1976 New York Jets and 2007 New Orleans Saints -- found themselves with less than two sacks through their first four games. If you root for the Rams, the good news is both the Colts and Jets had new coaches the following season.


The last 15 minutes were a strength for the Chicago offense in 2013; the Bears finished fifth in yards per fourth-quarter play and third in fourth-quarter touchdowns. That strength has not shown up this year, however. The Bears have dropped to 27th in yards per fourth-quarter play and 10th in touchdowns. And the bottom may have been reached this week against the Carolina Panthers -- of the 18 snaps the Bears took in the final frame, five resulted in a sack or turnover and nine gained 4 yards or fewer.


Continuing with our theme of fourth-quarter performance (or lack thereof), let's compare two other NFC North quarterbacks.

First, Patient A, through five games:

Joey Harrington 4Q

And Patient B, though five games:

Matt Stafford 4Q

Hard to draw a distinction between these two struggling signal callers. Patient A has reached the end zone and avoided sacks, but his yards per attempt are dismal. Patient B hasn't thrown for a score and is getting killed in the pocket, but he's more efficient when he does get the ball off. Who do these two quarterbacks belong to?

The Detroit Lions -- Patient A is Joey Harrington during his final year with Detroit, and Patient B is Matt Stafford in 2014.


  • Eli Manning on first and second down against the Atlanta Falcons: 11-of-20, 90 yards, zero touchdowns, one sack. Eli Manning on third down against the Falcons: 8-of-10, 110 yards, two touchdowns, zero sacks.
  • Congratulations to Drew Brees, who now has his third career win in a game in which he threw at least three picks. Brees still has a way to go to catch the modern master of the 3+ Interception Win, however, since Ken Stabler finished his career with 12.
  • The New England Patriots held the Cincinnati Bengals to 48 offensive plays, tied for their fourth-lowest total since Marvin Lewis was named head coach in 2003.


  • Overtime is a sad, unhappy place for the Houston Texans, who lost to the Dallas Cowboys in an extended game and now have the worst all-time winning percentage in overtime of any franchise, .307.
  • For the first time in their existence, the Jacksonville Jaguars are not on pace to have an individual player finish with at least 400 yards on the season. Their leading back, Toby Gerhart, has 123 yards on the ground through five games, which only works out to 393 on the year.
  • After finishing second in three-and-outs forced in 2013, the Baltimore Ravens have shown almost no ability to get opposing offenses off the field quickly in 2014; their seven three-and-outs forced this season are tied for fifth-worst.