We've now come to the portion of the season where tensions are high. Some guys are anxious because they're in the middle of a playoff race and they know every loss puts them further away from their ultimate goal. Some guys are nervous because their team underachieved and they know major changes are probably coming during the offseason. No matter the reason, each guy goes into these last two weeks on a hair trigger. It's a recipe for emotions to boil over into "extracurricular activities."
I've been there; I know how it goes. That's why I wasn't particularly surprised to see a few fights break out last week and to see some guys ejected for going slap off on the officials. Guys are fed up with the bullshit and something has to give.
However, one thing I am not used to seeing is a team's starting quarterback catching a one-piece, no biscuit from an opposing defensive lineman and having that defensive lineman not catch the fade by damn near that quarterback's whole team.
Jets, bros, I know you are dysfunctional as all hell, but doesn't that mean this kind of chaos and mayhem should've been right up your alley? I'm not endorsing bounties or anything like that, but since when does that same defensive lineman also get to stay in the game and not have to fight every play from that point on?!
Before you say it, this has nothing to do with Geno Smith specifically or whether his teammates like him or any of that other clickbait bullshit. This is about a code. This is about principles, Smokey! If you'll let somebody on another team just roll up and drop beads on the guy who is supposed to be the leader of your offense, if not your whole team, with no repercussions, what in the hell exactly won't you let an opposing player do?
Look, you can feel however you want to feel about fighting in football. Me personally, I thought it showed a devastating lack of pride from the majority of Jets players that Jurrell Casey, a guy who I have praised recently as one hell of a player, didn't get stole on repeatedly before the game ended. It is what it is.
That one play ...
It isn't often that you can narrow it down to one play during a game as the turning point in the outcome, but I found that one play this weekend. It happened in the second half of the Patriots' win over the Dolphins last Sunday, when all of a sudden a tight game mushroomed quickly into an embarrassing blow out.
After the Patriots scored a touchdown to go up 21-13, the Dolphins faced a third-and-3 from their own 27-yard line with 9:49 left in the third quarter. Ryan Tannehill was having a decent day up to that point, having led his team on two field goal drives as well as a touchdown to Mike Wallace. He had also thrown an interception that ultimately led to a short Patriots touchdown drive.
Still, you'd think the Dolphins would've had enough confidence in Tannehill to be able to move the sticks on third-and-3 considering improved play this season. Whether throwing the ball or using his legs with all that "sneaky athleticism," Tannehill should've been the guy whose number got called in that situation. The Dolphins, in their infinite wisdom, instead tried to pick up the three yards with Lamar Miller on the ground running a read/option play.
There was just one problem with that plan. The Patriots stacked every hole available to Miller, and with no lead blocker, the only way Miller could've possibly found success was if one of the Patriots defenders literally fell flat on his face and left the gap unattended.
If you already know the outcome of the game, then you also obviously know that is not how that ended up going down.
Nope, the Dolphins got completely dominated up front. Miller, who the defense made contact with in the backfield, could only get two yards out of the play, forcing Miami to punt on fourth down on the next play.
Watching the replay, you could almost feel all the momentum shift to the Patriots' sideline after that. The Pats ended up kicking a field goal and scoring two touchdowns on their next three drives. One of those touchdown drives was, again, very short due to another Tannehill interception. The fact remains that after the Dolphins decided to try to run for a first down on third-and-3 instead of putting the ball in the hands of young Mr. Tannehill, they went from an modest eight-point deficit to a wrong side of an ass-kicking, 25-point deficit, all in the final 8:46 of the third quarter.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but man, I bet the Dolphins wish they had that play to do over again today.
Not good enough for Washington?
So let me get this straight, this Bacarri Rambo kid picks off the greatest quarterback of our generation twice last Sunday en route to indisputably the most surprising upset of the day, but he wasn't good enough for Washington's secondary?!
Coach Raheem, you got some 'splainin to do, bruh!
Watt for MVP
Justin James Watt has been on one hell of a hot streak, if you hadn't noticed. Over the last three games, the man has notched seven sacks to up his total for the season to a whopping 16.5.
I was one of those people who was very skeptical of all the "Watt for MVP" talk, mostly because for as dominant as he has been, his sack totals were a little low. We tend to get distracted by numbers, and the fact that Watt wasn't leading the league in the premier statistic at his position would end up hurting him with some voters.
Now, with Watt just a half a sack back of the leader Elvis Dumervil for the NFL sack title, I actually can't see a way that voters don't award him the MVP and still expect to be taken seriously. He has damn sure earned it on the field!
Another week, another horse shit roughing the passer penalty
This time it was Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds who put a textbook BLAAAAAAAAAAAM on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and for his efforts he had a flag thrown on him, insinuating that he did something illegal and maybe even malicious. This is getting to be absurd; guys are getting flagged basically for hitting the quarterback too hard. I've also noticed that it seems like pass rushers are missing a lot more sacks than normal, and I have to wonder if the rules have neutered them so much that they are hesitant to pull the trigger when they have the quarterback in their sights for fear of hurting their team with another flag.
And don't you dare make it seem like wanting the game to be officiated correctly is somehow insensitive to the concussion discussion. I wouldn't have any problem with the helmet-to-helmet/defenseless player rules if the calls were reviewable so teams aren't unfairly penalized because some official forgot to wear his contacts that day.
Look at the hit Barkevious Mingo puts on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton early on in their game. That is textbook helmet-to-helmet and should be flagged every single time because it's dangerous. However, if the NFL won't allow those plays to be reviewed, then they should error on the side of actually having seen the offense rather than relying on if it just appeared to be helmet-to-helmet. In other words, the hit should be blatant or else keep your damn flag in your pocket.
Otherwise, it all comes across as the sham it is, meant to make people get over it rather than actually addressing the problem. Flagging guys for inadvertent helmet-to-helmet hits or non helmet-to-helmet hits, doesn't have a damn thing to do with safety and everything to do with covering their own ass. And I for one am sick of it!
Will Julio ever stay healthy?
In four seasons, Julio Jones has yet to play in a full 16 games. Even in many of the games he has played in over the last two years or so, he has been hobbled and not the same explosive guy. Considering the fact that he is probably as healthy now as he is ever going to be again in life, is it time to start wondering if he'll ever live up to his tremendous abilities? Will injuries continue to derail his career before he can ever get it really going?
I'm serious about those questions because we have all seen Julio when he is in a zone, and he looks pretty damned unstoppable. He's so good, you would assume he would be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame eventually, provided he plays at least 10 years or so. But, what if these nagging injuries slow him down just enough so that his numbers are never as dominant as they should be in any single season. The 1,428 yards he has so far this season are by far his career high for a season. The 10 touchdowns he caught in 2012 are his best in that category.
Josh Gordon blew the bullshit stats away last year with more than 1,600 yards receiving and nine touchdowns in just 14 games. Do you think Gordon is the better receiver of the two when they are both 100 percent, though?
I, for one, do not.
I hope we get to see Julio fully healthy for at least one whole season, just to see what he might be able to do to the record books. At the same time, if he continues to miss games every year, I wonder if he will start to lose value in the Falcons' eyes as well.
Just being real, him not playing Sunday was a humongous part of why they lost to the Steelers, a game they definitely could've won. If they end up on the outside looking in during this crazy year for the NFC South, you would almost certainly have to say losing that game was a major reason. Had they beaten the Steelers, the Falcons would have had the same record as the Saints. Having already beaten the Saints once this year and sporting a perfect 4-0 division record, they would have had their fate in their own hands with the last two games of the season division contests against those very same Saints and the Panthers.
And yet the best player on their team was, once again, not available. At some point, they can't keep over looking that.