Jim Harbaugh's "Taking the Points" and the 5 Worst Decisions of Week 2
Ah, second guessing.
Is there anything more gratifying, more empowering than looking back at a slate of decisions made without the benefit of information you now have and criticizing those special few that went awry? I say yes, but countless NFL observers would disagree with me.
In fact, it's tough to say whether some fan bases take more pleasure in big coaching calls going for or against their teams given the glee with which they put coaching heads to the curb in the wake of decisions that fizzle. Metaphorically speaking, of course (I hope).
And, yes, I'm looking at you, Philly and New York.
So it is in those fans' honor that I offer up the five worst decisions made during Week 2 in the National Football League.
Mind you these aren't all decisions made by NFL head coaches or even players—in the spirit of equality, I'm taking aim at those guys, but degenerate gamblers and you average fans are gonna have to take your lumps, too.
No. 5: Denarius Moore Releasing the Ball at the End of Regulation
If Oakland Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore doesn't let go of the football, allowing Buffalo Bills rookie cornerback Da'Norris Searcy possession, they might still be wrestling for the pigskin and the Week 2 victory.
As it was, the final possession of the Bills' hotly contested, 38-35 win over the visiting Raiders took 10 minutes to review before Searcy's interception was upheld. Had Moore been able to pry the ball away from the defender, it would've been six for Oakland and a 2-0 start.
In all seriousness, you can't blame Moore, who had one hell of a football game and who would've authored one of the great football miracles in recent memory had he somehow ended up with quarterback Jason Campbell's Hail Mary. The ball was up for grabs and Searcy had better positioning.
I just wanted an excuse to mention the game of the day.
No. 4: Taking the Baltimore Ravens, Laying Points Against the Tennessee Titans
That picture is a perfect metaphor for what happened in Tennessee on Sunday between the Titans and the invading Baltimore Ravens—the visitors put up some fight, but basically got their collective head ripped off.
What added insult to injury was the fact that the Nevermores were substantial favorites entering the AFC clash, laying six points to the homestanding Titans.
Sure, the Titans were at home and winning on the road in the NFL is one of the hardest things to do in all of professional sports. Sure, Tennessee had its star running back Chris Johnson back in the fold for a full week of practice. Sure, new quarterback Matt Hasselbeck looked like a dandy against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a Week 1 loss.
The Ravens were fresh off a mauling of last years' AFC Super Bowl representative and perennial juggernaut, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore quarterback Joey Flacco played like a world-beater and running back Ray Rice was finally coming into his dominant own.
So you took the bullies and gave the dog the points.
Tennessee 26, Baltimore 13..and it wasn't even that close.
No. 3: Cam Newton Deciding Charles Woodson Is the Weak Link
If you're not impressed by what Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton is doing, well, you're just being unreasonable.
Like many observers, I was turned off by the things I heard and read about the Heisman Trophy winner out of Auburn, and I'm still reserving judgment on those elements of the kid's makeup. But you cannot deny that he's one special talent when it comes to the game of football and he's proving it with each snap in the NFL.
It seemed highly unlikely that Newton would muster an encore to his historic debut, the one in which he threw for 422 yards, two touchdowns and almost rallied his Panther squad to victory. That performance come against the Arizona Cardinals—not quite a notoriously rigid defense—and Cam had the Green Bay Packers standing in his Week 2 way.
So, yeah, not only was he facing a better defense, but also a Super Bowl caliber D.
No matter. The youngster threw for even MORE yards, 432 of them to be exact, as well as another score on 46 attempts.
Alas, he made the fatal decision to fire some of those passes in the direction of legendary Packer cornerback Charles Woodson.
Not a good idea...
Cam's fellow Heisman Trophy winner—Woodson got his at Michigan—picked him twice, killing momentum building drives on both occasions. Safety Morgan Burnett also nabbed a Newton throw as well and, against the defending Super Bowl champs, that's all she wrote.
In a game that ended 30-23 in Green Bay's favor, those turnovers look suspiciously like the difference.
No. 2: Arian Foster Playing Against the Miami Dolphins
The Houston Texans had a mildly successful opening week when they blew the barn doors off the Indianapolis Colts, 34-7. It was a sound thrashing of a regular favorite to make the Super Bowl as well as the annual owner of the AFC South, which just happens to be the same division the Texans occupy.
It's true that the Colts were without their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning, and no single player is more critical to a team's success than Manning (with the possible exception of the New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady).
However, the Texans were without their stud running back Arian Foster so it's not as if they were at full strength while pummeling the Colts.
Flash forward to Week 2—Houston was staring down the prospect of traveling to Miami to face a Dolphins squad that had just gone toe-to-toe with the vaunted Patriots in a shootout, almost coming out on top. Winning on the road is hard enough, but doing it against a team that's playing well requires all hands on deck.
Foster had practiced and all systems seemed to be go...until Arian left the game early nursing the same hamstring that kept him out of the Week 1 annihilation.
The real kick in the teeth is that Houston won the game without Foster being effective, riding robust games from backup running back Ben Tate, wide receiver Andre Johnson, quarterback Matt Schaub and a good enough defensive effort to its second consecutive win.
So the hobbled All-Pro running back didn't even need to play in the first place, which makes the decision to have him taking reps even worse.
Ain't hindsight grand?
No. 1: Jim Harbaugh Keeps the Points, Returns the Flag
I hear there's an old adage in football that says, "you NEVER take points off the board."
I hear there's also an old adage that says, "there's an exception that proves every rule."
Well, if leaving points on the board is the rule, then the fourth quarter of the game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys was the exception. Specifically, the moment when Niners coach Jim Harbaugh decided to take the three points from a 55-yard David Akers' field goal rather than accept a 15-yard leverage penalty called on Dallas linebacker Keith Brooking.
I understand that "points" are always better than 'no points' and that the San Francisco offense wasn't clicking on all (if any) cylinders.
But I also understand that the Cowboys were mounting a ferocious rally, perhaps inspired by quarterback Tony Romo and running back Felix Jones who were both playing despite significant injuries (broken rib and separated shoulder, respectively). I understand that if Akers can hit a 55-yard field goal, there's no reason to believe he can't hit a shorter try if the offense fails to gain a single yard.
Shoot, the Niners could've gone backwards after accepting the penalty yardage and the field goal attempt would've still been a good 10 yards closer.
And what about the clock?
Even if San Francisco failed to gain a single yard after taking the penalty, what about the precious seconds it could've run off the game? Seconds the 'Pokes took full advantage of before kicking the tying field goal as time expired and winning the game in overtime.
Given the field days savored by Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin (9 catches, 143 yards, 3 TDS) and Jason Witten (7 catches, 102 yards), Harbaugh's suspect choice wasn't the only culprit in an unnecessary loss.
Sadly, it does rank as the worst decision of Week 2.