NFL Weekly Whip Around: Week Five Musings

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NFL Weekly Whip Around: Week Five Musings
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

What a catch.

A full 360-degree turn in the air, catching the ball halfway through the rotation, then falling into the end zone for what should have been called a touchdown.

The fact that the referee overturned it—incorrectly, in my opinion—did not diminish the spectacular-ness of the catch.

However, this was just one occurrence of many that served to make this weekend special. Well, as special as any other weekend in the fall; it is, after all, football season, and we are well into it by now.

And with that, I bring you this week's installment of the whip around the league. There is something here for everyone, I am sure.

A little magic, a little razzle-dazzle, and as always, a thing or two to make you go, "What the #$%#?!?"

 

Albert Haynesworth Watch 2009

Well whaddya know: The big guy actually contributed a little this week, recovering a fumble in the opening minutes of the game that led to a Clinton Portis touchdown run.

Didn't make much difference, because the winless Carolina Panthers were able to rally in the second half to get their first win of the season over the lackluster Washington Redskins.

I understand that Dan Snyder is none too happy with his team at the moment.

 

Tackling Fundamentals 101, Part One: The Tackle

When did tackling the ball become a valid method of bringing a ball carrier down? I don't have the time, the inclination, or the space available here to start naming names, because I wouldn't want to leave anyone out.

Just pick a team highlight reel and you will see it, because it was all over the league this week: defenders with their heads down trying to knock a ball carrier over with a poorly placed shoulder shot—poorly placed because they couldn't see where it was going. 

Other offenders are guilty of trying to hit the ball with their helmet, completely foregoing any attempt to wrap the ball carrier up. Others look to be playing patty cakes with the ball carrier in a struggle to gain control of the ball.

But the worst offenders don't even try to make contact: they try to swing around behind the ball carrier and swat at the ball as he runs past, with the typical result being that the ball carrier picks up additional yardage, occasionally scoring because the defender was more worried about a highlight reel play than good ol' fundamental tackling.

What ever happened to squaring up on a runner, making him commit, then getting your head across his body, your shoulder pad in his kidney, and plowing him into the ground? When did that become taboo?

And what ever happened to proper pursuit angles?

 

Tackling Fundamentals 101 Part Two:

Things being what they are, when are ball carriers going to get back to proper ball carrying? When are they going to figure out that defenders have only one thing in mind—to knock the ball loose—and start carrying the ball accordingly?

At first I thought I was just being nit-picky. Then I counted.

Last week there were a total of 51 fumbles. Let me say that another way: FIFTY-ONE fumbles. It doesn't matter how many of them resulted in turnovers, the ball was dropped by a ball handler 51 times!

If we consider for just a moment that this week was a typical week in the ball-handling department, then we can say that through week five there have been 255 fumbles. I can't look, I'm afraid I might be right. Someone else do that research and get back to me please?

I thought this was professional football; did I miss something?

 

Quarterbacks Are Football Players, Too

Look, I know that quarterbacks can find themselves in "compromising" situations. It takes guts to stand back there and throw the ball knowing that there is a possibility of being plowed by a guy you never saw coming.

And I get it, I really do; diving at the quarterback's knees is a dangerous move, and should be penalized.

BUT, when a defender just happens to brush the quarterback's legs on the way down after being blocked, is obviously doing everything he can to avoid hitting the quarterback in the knees, and doesn't even make the quarterback break stride as he flings a 30-yard pass downfield, calling a penalty is a bit much.

If we're gonna play that way, just put them in a red jersey and let's be done with it.

 

Attention, Chicago, Kyle Orton Was NOT Your Problem

Probably the most surprising team at 5-0 is the Denver Broncos, led by the quarterback that Chicago rejected. Now, I'm not saying that Kyle Orton is putting up Hall of Fame numbers, but he is coming up big in clutch situations.

He did so again this week, going the distance—and then some—against none other than Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, defeating them 20-17 in overtime.

Something tells me Denver isn't missing Jay Cutler.

 

Bullies Don't Win, and Winners Don't Bully

Yeah, I know it sounds a little passe, but it applies.

The "bad boys" act coming out of Baltimore is getting old. Ray Lewis built his career around being recognized as the biggest, baddest, nothing-sticks-to-me linebacker in the game (for those of you who are quicker than others, yes, that was a reference to the shooting incident after the 2000 Super Bowl in Atlanta).

But nowadays the facade is wearing thin.

For the second week in a row, Baltimore has been penalized for plays that were nothing more than one guy trying to intimidate another, resulting in losses for the Ravens against Cincinnati this week and New England last week.

The shot against Chad "Ochocinco" in Sunday's game smacked of nothing less than aggression for the sake of aggression.

Time to grow up, Ray. Lead by example, fine; just pick a different example.

 

Lesson Learned

When Mike Singletary took over in San Fransisco, he had a message for his players: no more showboating, no more individualism. They were a team, and they would play—and act—as such.

Dre Bly forgot the message, but he was reminded in a big way Sunday.

After picking off a Matt Ryan pass at the beginning of the third quarter, Bly did his best—or worst, depending on who you ask—Dieon Sanders impression as he jogged towards the end zone for what should have been a touchdown.

Wide receiver Roddy White had other plans, though, and caught Bly from behind, knocking the ball loose and taking the wind out of San Fransisco's sails.

Bly got the message: in a press conference Monday, he apologized to his team, his coach, his fans, and I think even his mother.

 

It's All Over But The Crying

At the conclusion of the week, four teams sat at 0-5, with an additional four teams at 1-4.

Buffalo, Cleveland, Tennessee, Oakland, Kansas City, Detroit, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis all saw any playoff hopes they may have had go up in smoke this week. For the winless teams the odds were bad enough last week: only 15 percent of teams that have started 0-4 have ever made the playoffs.

But 0-5? I don't think anyone even thought to keep that statistic.

As for the 1-4 teams? Twelve wins is what the benchmark will be for the playoffs. Unless one of these erstwhile teams finds the mojo necessary to run off 11 straight, they are looking ahead to the draft next year.

 

Kings of the Mountain

On the flipside of the coin, five teams sit at 5-0 after week five. Well, almost: New Orleans was off this week, but with the way they are playing, expect that mark next week.

Barring a colossal meltdown, the Colts, Broncos, Vikings, Giants, and Saints all seem destined to make postseason appearances this year.

 

Changes "Afoot" in Pittsburgh

Under the tutelage of Bill Cowher, the Pittsburgh Steelers built a reputation as a smashmouth, run-first team. Under Mike Tomlin, things are a little different. They can still run the ball, but Ben Roethlisberger is the man in Pittsburgh.

Through five weeks he has nearly 1,500 yards passing, eight touchdowns, and a passer rating of 102.6.

Doubters beware; he's only gonna get better.

 

He Really Needs to Straighten out His Priorities

Quite a bit of talk was to be had this week concerning Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer being on the sidelines a mere three days after his wife of over 25 years passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. 

It was such an emotional win for the Bengals that he was awarded a game ball after the victory, then gave a touching speech about how his wife loved everyone on the team, etc. etc.

Call me cynical, call me cold, but this is not a feel-good story to me. His wife...of 25 years...had just died...and he thought it prudent to be at the game. There was no word of there having been a funeral, no word of any memorial service, he just up and went to the game.

Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe I just don't understand that to be a professional football coach, you must be selfish enough to put everyone and everything in your life second to football. 

If that's the case, then I am glad I am not a professional football coach.

 

How Do You Spell Exciting? W-I-L-D-C-A-T

Call me crazy, but I think Miami is on to something with their Wildcat offense. Particularly now with Chad Henne under center. Jon Gruden summed it up nicely: I haven't had so much fun watching a Monday Night game in a long time.

It took them a while, but it is beginning to look like the Dolphins have figured out how to make the Wildcat work in the NFL. They completely snowed the Jets defense Monday, to the point that Rex Ryan called their performance "embarrassing."

Rex has never been one to mince words, mind you, but the Miami offense looked electric. Can they sustain that all season?

 

Honest, I Really DID have a 3.5 GPA in College!

This week's indication that being a football player requires a bit of brawn and a bit of athleticism, but not, necessarily, a heavy dose of "common" sense: Seattle Seahawks' fullback Owen Schmitt's pregame routine of smashing his helmet into his bare, unprotected forehead resulted in a gash being opened on his skull, which made for some pretty gruesome highlight reel shots of his face covered in blood.

Not to worry, Owen; the concussion you sustained means you probably won't remember much about the incident.

 

Monday Night Magic

Along with the emergence of the Wildcat as a potentially legitimate offensive scheme, Monday Night Football saw two rookie quarterbacks put on a show that is usually reserved for contests between much more seasoned quarterbacks.

Okay, Henne isn't technically a rookie, but it was only his second start ever in the NFL, and he was drafted last year. Close enough for me.

Henne of the Dolphins and Sanchez of the Jets put on an epic show in Monday night's contest, leading their respective teams to a combined 35 points in the fourth quarter alone.

Not the kind of thing you would expect out of two guys who are supposed to be adjusting to life in the big leagues.

 

And there you have it folks; another exciting week in the books. No doubt there were items of interest I missed, but I am, after all, relegated right now to watching the Titans implode, and must rely on highlight reels and interviews to pass judgement on the week's events.

If I missed your favorite moment, please let me know.

Until next week, enjoy!!

 

 

 

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