Another week has nearly come to a close here in the NFL, and with it, as per usual, has come another batch of story lines to examine. In Whooley’s Weekly Words, I, Bruno Boys Whooley, tackle just a few of the more interesting items to catch my eye from the weekend.
This week, I’ll be discussing the 4-0 Denver Broncos, the 0-4 Tennessee Titans, and the 4-0 New Orleans Saints.
Broncos Riding the McDaniels’ Highway
First time head coach, Josh McDaniels, made it poignantly clear upon his arrival in Denver that he was going to do things his way—the old, “My way or the highway” type attitude. Initially, it appeared that mantra was going to derail McDaniels’ coaching career before it got started.
Not only did it cost McDaniels and the Denver Broncos, their quarterback of the future in Jay Cutler, who took offense to McDaniels’ attempts to trade for Matt Cassel, thereby demanding and getting a trade of his own, but it, also, led to tensions between Brandon Marshall, the Broncos’ top wide receiver, and McDaniels. Needless to say, Bronco fans were a bit weary.
However, McDaniels’ way has turned into a winning way in Denver, and winning ways have a tendency of alleviating worries. Following Sundays, 17-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys, the Broncos are now 4-0 with their closest competition in the AFC West, the San Diego Chargers, two games behind them in the standings.
So, what’s gone right for Denver?
For starters, Kyle Orton, Cutler’s replacement, has done a tremendous job putting McDaniels’ game plans into action as he’s thrown for 906 yards, 5 TDs, and more importantly, has yet to throw an interception.
Add Orton’s strong play to a running attack, consisting of rookie Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, that ranks fourth in the league, and Denver’s offense is one to contend with, especially now that it appears Marshall, who had 4 catches for 91 yards and the game winning TD this past Sunday, is on board with McDaniels. Again, winning will do that.
Offense, though, hasn’t been the Broncos’ problem in recent years. Rather, it’s been the struggles of their defense that have held them back. McDaniels brought in former San Francisco 49ers head coach, Mike Nolan, to fix that. And, fix it he has. After four games, the Broncos are allowing just 6.5 points per game and only 239.8 yards per game.
McDaniels has everyone in Denver drinking the Kool-Aid, and if the team continues to rack up the “Ws,” everyone around the league will take note of McDaniels’ management. Need I say it again, winning will do that!
After only four weeks of play, the Tennessee Titans have already exceeded the number of losses they had in all of 2008. Following a dominating year in which they went 13-3 during the regular season, the Titans have stumbled out of the gate big time in 2009 as they’re off to an 0-4 start following a disappointing 37 to 17 loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The scary thing for the Titans is that it’s not just one area that they’re struggling in.
Yes, defense is a large component of the Titans’ troubles as the Titans are giving up 27 points per game and 362.0 yards per game this season after a year in which they gave up just 14.6 points per game and 293.6 yards per game.
And, yes, part of the problem is the loss of Albert Haynesworth. But the Titans’ defensive troubles are, also, the result of the teams’ offensive struggles.
While running back, Chris Johnson, resumed his sophomore season right where he left off his rookie campaign, racking up 434 rushing yards in the team’s first four games, no one else is playing at the level they were playing at last season.
LenDale White seems to have lost his tackle breaking ability along with the weight he shed this offseason, as he’s totaled just 83 yards and 1 score so far this year, while Kerry Collins, who had just 7 INTs in all of 2009, has already thrown four on the young season.
Don’t be surprised should the poor play continue and that first “W” continues to elude the Titans to see the team turn to Vince Young and give him a chance to right the ship.
No Brees’ TD, No Problem
Through two weeks of football, New Orleans’ Saints quarterback, Drew Brees had thrown for 9 passing TDs, as such the Saints ended those two weeks 2-0. Since then, Brees has yet to throw another pass into the end zone.
Still, the Saints remain undefeated, currently sitting at 4-0, which should scare the rest of the 31 teams in the NFL.
The strategy for beating the Saints last season was pretty simple. Simply contain Brees, and you win. Note the word “contain” in the previous sentence because teams didn’t even have to stop Brees to win; rather, they just needed to slow him down while their offense took advantage of a weak Saints’ defense that allowed 24.6 points per game.
This year, though, that defense has shed a full TD from that number, giving up a mere 16.5 points per game through four weeks of play, good for seventh best in the league. With the Saints allowing their opponents to score less, opposing defenses need to do more if they want to keep their team in it.
Were opponents simply able to key in on shutting Brees down, the task mentioned above may not be the most difficult; however, in addition to an improved defense, the Saints are also sporting an improved running game, led by the legs of Mike Bell in weeks one and two and Pierre Thomas in weeks three and four.
Last season, the Saints averaged less than 100 yards per game (99.6) placing them 28th in the league when it came to rush offense. Through four games, they rank second in 2009 with an astounding average of 166.2 rushing yards per contest.
In 2008, a zero TD outing by Brees would have meant disaster for the Saints, but with an improved defense and running game, a no TD day for Brees is no problem for New Orleans.
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