15 Things We Learned from NFL Week 9
There were few compelling storylines heading into Week 9, but drama finds itself creating some out of thin air at times. Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill headlined Sunday's NFL action as the first two rookie quarterbacks with winning records to go head-to-head. Ever.
It was an intriguing matchup between two upstart teams with intriguing results. What else did we learn from this week's matchups?
Sean Smith Is No Shutdown Corner
Things were looking up for Sean Smith this season. After the Dolphins traded away Vontae Davis, the fourth-year cornerback had stepped up his game this season, garnering some praise as a "shutdown cornerback."
That praise seems a bit over the top this week after Smith was torched by Colts receivers. Not only did he get burned, he dropped a would-be, game-altering interception.
It was not a good day for the big defensive back.
Adrian Peterson Is Kratos
Adrian Peterson continues to do amazing things after returning from a bad knee injury. Is there any doubt he is the God of Running Backs?
Instead of laying waste to hordes of undead and the like, Peterson is a plague on opposing defenses. Peterson's latest victim was a good Seattle defense that plays its best football at home. All Day had 144 yards and two touchdowns. At halftime.
The Seahawks were able to slow him down a bit in the second half, but Peterson only got the rock five times.
Doug Martin Is Really the Muscle Hamster
Many of us thought losing Carl Nicks—Tampa Bay's best offensive lineman—would be an issue for Doug Martin. We were wrong.
The Muscle Hamster had touchdown runs of 45, 67 and 70 yards along with a puny one-yard touchdown against his hometown Raiders. Of course, the Buccaneers nearly ruined things by hitting the "implode" button, cleverly labeled "LeGarrette Blount."
In the end, it was quite the homecoming for the rookie.
The Raiders Bathe in Crisco
The main reason Martin was so good was because he was so slippery. The Raiders could not bring him down easily. He squirted through the line all game long. Almost all of his damage came from running between the tackles.
Sources say the Raiders take a Crisco bath before each game.
(Note: "Sources" are the bad-joke voices in my head.)
Andrew Luck Is the Top Rookie Quarterback
This has been building for some time, but Luck emphatically reclaimed his status as the top rookie quarterback with a record-breaking performance against the Dolphins.
Topping Cam Newton's 432-yard mark from just a season ago, Luck led his team to victory as Robert Griffin III continued his downward slide. He torched a Dolphins defense that had no answer for his receivers.
This was the day we all knew was coming. It just came sooner than we all expected.
The Chicago Defense Is Approaching 1985 Levels
How many defensive touchdowns are the Bears going to score this season? As fluky as they might be, they seem to have no problem scoring one or two per game.
The Titans were their latest victim. The Bears scored on a blocked punt and a 46-yard interception return by Brian Urlacher, who did not need his walker to get into the end zone.
The 1985 defense is hallowed, and this year's iteration is not going to reach quite those heights. If it keeps scoring pairs of touchdowns, though, it might get close.
Pittsburgh's Backfield Is As Clear As Mud
Jonathan Dwyer was in line to start after two straight good weeks. Then he was injured, putting Isaac Redman in the driver's seat.
Redman took full advantage, rushing for nearly 150 yards and a touchdown against the Giants and putting the game away with some big fourth-quarter runs.
Rashard Mendenhall is coming back soon, though—not to mention Dwyer. Heck, Jerome Bettis might make a comeback.
(Note: Jerome Bettis is not going to make a comeback.)
RGIII Is a Mere Mortal
His performances have been trending south, but Robert Griffin III is no longer leveling defenses like he was at the beginning of the season. His latest offering was a relatively meek performance against last year's Rookie of the Year, failing to get into the end zone altogether.
Opposing defenses seem to have figured him and Kyle Shanahan's offense out. It doesn't help that Pierre Garçon has been out with a foot injury since Week 1, and Washington's receiving corps is rather corpse-like otherwise.
Turner Has Some Burn Left
The Cowboys were hanging tight with the undefeated Falcons in a 6-6 tie. It seemed like they might pull off an improbable road win against their vaunted opponents. Then Michael Turner happened.
The plodding back may not have a lot left in his tank, but he can sure utilize it from time to time. Turner ripped off a 43-yard run at the end of the third quarter, and the Falcons rewarded him with a goal-line look that netted him a three-yard touchdown run to put the Falcons ahead for good.
Rumors of Turner's demise persist, but they continue to be greatly exaggerated. At least at times.
Practice? We're Talking About Practice?
The past several weeks have not been kind to Calvin Johnson, as he had to deal with some great cornerbacks and nagging injuries. Those injuries included a knee issue that caused Megatron to miss practice all week, making him a game-time decision against the Jaguars.
Well, it turns out Decepticons don't need practice.
Johnson had a fine day, catching seven balls for 129 yards, though he was held out of the end zone once more. Mikel Leshoure also missed practice this week, and all he did was score three touchdowns.
The Steelers Defense Is Back
The Giants offense has been out of sorts in recent weeks, but when the Steelers took a 24-20 lead with a few minutes left in the game, another fourth-quarter comeback by Eli Manning seemed inevitable.
Instead, the Steelers did what they had done all game long—shut the Giants down.
The past three weeks have seen Pittsburgh shut down A.J. Green and the Bengals, RGIII and the Redskins and now Eli Manning. All but left for dead after injuries and age ravaged the unit, the defense has been playing quite well.
Green Bay Receivers Don't Use Stickum
Aaron Rodgers had a fine statistical day, throwing four touchdowns, but it could have been much better. His receivers dropped several passes—Jermichael Finley is not the only one, as it turns out—which led to some unnecessary late-game drama against the Cardinals.
Drops have been a bit of an issue for Rodgers this season, but his receivers seemed to have the dropsies on Sunday. The good news is they will likely not be investigated for cheating-by-sticky-substance anytime soon.
The Geno Smith Sweepstakes Is a Two-Horse Race
All right, we don't know if Geno Smith will be the top pick in the draft, but the two teams at the bottom of the standings could sure use a franchise QB.
Who is going to win the top pick in the draft this season? The team that has yet to lead at any point during regulation this season, or the team whose only win came on a last-minute blown coverage leading to an improbable 80-yard touchdown pass?
The Chiefs and Jaguars are pretty bad, but the Jaguars might eke out another victory or two in the softer AFC South.
Cleveland Doesn't Rock
After winning two of three games, the Browns came into a divisional battle against the nemesis Ravens with high aspirations.
For three-and-a-half quarters it seemed like they would pull off the upset. However, a late touchdown drive and some turnovers short-circuited their attempt.
The defense has been better since the return of Joe Haden, but this team is still a ways away from climbing out of that AFC North cellar.
Norv Turner Is a Zombie
It was a gruesome scene the night after Halloween as the Chargers eviscerated the Chiefs.The bloodbath was provided by the defense, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and bringing on the rout.
Could this be the beginning of another late-season run for San Diego? The Chargers have been missing their November-December magic in recent years, but is it possible they could save Norv Turner's job yet again with a strong finish to the season?
San Diego fans might never rid themselves of Turner; he just won't die.