NFL News

Week 11 Pawns and Black Swans

By Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

In this weekly segment on FY, Ty will identify the pawns and black swans from the previous week’s action. (Here’s Week 10, if you missed it.) “What are pawns and a black swans?” you ask.

A pawn is a piece in chess that is often sacrificed to set up a bigger move. In this segment, it’s not the player who scored the touchdown, but the one who made the key block to spring the play, or the receiver who ran a brilliant route to pull coverage away from his teammates. 

Literally speaking, a black swan is a bird that is colored mostly black; metaphorically speaking, it’s an unforeseen event with extreme consequences. In this segment, it’s a player whose unexpected blunder(s) cost his team.

Week 11 Pawns

Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, and the Cowboys offensive line are all really good, but you already know that. You may not be aware of the performances these players put in this past week, though.

Andre Roberts, Wide Receiver, Lions

By Keith Allison (flickr)
By Keith Allison (flickr)

Yes, Roberts returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown, and also added in a 44-yard reception, but neither are the reason he’s getting some FY love.

Instead, I want to look back on the play of the game, which he played a major role in as well. The Lions trailed 19-16 with 11:23 left in the fourth quarter, and faced a third-and-14 from their own 31-yard line. The Jaguars dropped seven into coverage, but three of them got caught playing the same man. I’m sure you can guess who that was.

Roberts was lined up wide to the left with tight end Eric Ebron inside of him. Roberts was given an inside release and worked towards Ebron’s defender before shooting up the seam. The defender responsible for Roberts got tangled up with Ebron, which resulted in both safeties jumping to Roberts. As Ebron recovered from getting his feet tangled, he found himself wide open down the left sideline, and Matthew Stafford recognized the blown coverage.

The play resulted in a 61-yard gain and set up the Lions’ go-ahead touchdown. Had Roberts not run his seam route to perfection, this play would not have happened, and the Lions may not hold the NFC North lead.

Dirk Koetter, Head Coach, Buccaneers

In what was the upset of the week, the Bucs completely overplayed the red-hot Chiefs at Arrowhead. There are a lot of people I could give credit to here, but the most deserving is Dirk Koetter, and it comes down to one play-call.

With the Bucs clinging to a 19-17 lead with 2:11 left in the fourth quarter, they faced a third-and-ten from their own 30-yard line. It would have been so easy for Koetter to call for a Doug Martin plunge up the middle and put his faith in his defense. However, the first-year coach showed trust in his quarterback and decided to put the ball in the air.

Expecting that Kansas City would be selling-out to stop the run, Koetter knew he would get some one-on-one opportunities. Jameis Winston recognized Mike Evans had man-coverage and made it clear where he was going with the ball right away. Evans ran a beautiful comeback route and hauled in the 14-yard pass to move the chains. The first down forced the Chiefs to burn their last timeout before Tampa punted with just 22 seconds on the clock.

The Bucs have Dirk Koetter and his aggressive play-call to thank for the game-sealing drive. I guess Winston and Evans deserve a bit of credit for the execution as well.

The Good Kickers

As you have probably heard, it was a rough week for kickers. Adam Vinatieri’s streak of 44 consecutive field goals was snapped, and a new NFL record was set for missed extra-points. (More on that later.)

However, they weren’t all bad in Week 11. Here is a list of the kickers who converted every extra-point and field goal they attempted:

By Jeffrey Beall (flickr)
By Jeffrey Beall (flickr)
  • Phil Dawson, 49ers
  • Dan Carpenter, Bills
  • Roberto Aguayo, Bucs
  • Chandler Catanzaro, Cardinals (he’s not totally safe, though)
  • Cairo Santos, Chiefs
  • Dan Bailey, Cowboys
  • Andrew Franks, Dolphins
  • Caleb Sturgis, Eagles
  • Graham Gano, Panthers
  • Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders
  • Justin Tucker, Ravens
  • Chris Boswell, Steelers
  • Nick Novak, Texans
  • Ryan Succop, Titans

Way to do your job, fellas.

Week 11 Black Swans

I would love to pick on the individual who decided to direct a laser pointer in Brock Osweiler’s face as he was attempting a pass. (Why go through any trouble to distract Osweiler? He’ll blow it on his own.) But that’s being talked about everywhere else, unlike these guys…

The Packers Secondary

I’m not one for hyperbole, so I’m going to give it to you straight. This was one of the worst performances I have ever seen by a secondary. Let’s Tarantino this one; Kirk Cousins was 21/30 for 375 yards, and three touchdowns, which includes going 4/4 for 195 yards and two touchdowns on passes longer than 20 yards. He was rarely forced to make a difficult pass.

Just like Cousins, though, I’m not stopping there, I want to embarrass these guys a little more.

By Kyle Engman (Flickr)
By Kyle Engman (Flickr)

On Washington’s first touchdown of the game, Cousins found DeSean Jackson wide open in the middle of the field for a 17-yard score. Why was he so open, you ask? Well, first of all, D-Jax absolutely roasts Micah Hyde out of the slot with a move to the corner before cutting back into the post. Hyde flips his hips to the corner with the fake, but instead of executing a “speed turn,” he tries to open his hips up to flip back to the post. This gave Jackson a ton of separation from his man. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was nowhere to be found; he fell victim to Cousins’ looking to the other side of the field after the snap. Quite simply, this play was way too easy.

The next humiliating play committed by the Packers secondary was a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder late in the third quarter. Quinten Rollins was responsible for Crowder, but he gave him a free release out of the slot and then let him run free. The Packers were sitting in cover-2, and one of the safeties should have helped Rollins over the top. Instead, Clinton-Dix and Kentrell Brice both got caught with their eyes on the outside, leaving the middle of the field completely vacant. Again, far too easy.

Next up, LaDarius Gunter got beat deep, simply because he couldn’t keep up with Pierre Garcon. Once again, the safeties both occupied themselves with underneath routes, failing to notice that Garcon had already separated from his defender. This was just pitch-and-catch.

And finally, there was one last blow-by courtesy of Crowder when he had linebacker Joe Thomas covering him. There is no reason Thomas should be responsible for Crowder, and it’s even worse that the safeties didn’t recognize the obvious mismatch before the snap. Crowder, yet again, didn’t need anything more than his speed.

If all of that doesn’t paint the picture of how bad they were, then you need to consider that Aaron Rodgers was in MVP form on Sunday night … and the Packers still lost 42-24. At some point, Dom Capers needs to be fed to the wolves as well.

The Cameraman in Minnesota

Nope, I’m not referring to any of the broadcast cameramen. My issue comes with the individual responsible for the coaches’ film. Thanks to his terribly unfocused camera, I was unable to identify the Cardinal who totally blew the kick coverage on Cordarrelle Patterson’s 104-yard kick return touchdown.

What I do know is it was the player lined up second from the left. I did my best to narrow it down by special teams snap counts, but I would never want to throw the wrong guy under the bus.

The mystery man was far too aggressive coming down the field and basically took himself out of the play. His blunder allowed a massive hole to open for Patterson, and the explosive return-man made the Cardinals pay.

I was able to ID a couple others who played a role in Patterson’s score. First, Chandler Catanzaro didn’t even force Patterson into making a move after he burst through the hole. In fact, the kicker basically just laid down and allowed the returner to run right by him. The last man who had a chance to make a play was Tony Jefferson, but he over-pursued when coming from the opposite side of the field and couldn’t even execute an ankle-tap on the play.

While those two certainly didn’t help, it was the unknown player who allowed the whole play to develop. And since I can’t call him out, I’m stuck pointing a finger at the lousy camera work up in Minnesota.

The Rams tackling

By Jeffrey Beall (flickr)
By Jeffrey Beall (flickr)

Quite often in this column, you see the names that are not well-known, and I’m sure some that you haven’t even heard of before. However, that’s not going to be the case here. I am about to hold, arguably, the Rams’ three best defenders accountable for the team’s loss to the Dolphins on Sunday, and it all boils down to one play.

The score was 10-0 in favor of LA with 4:13 left to play. The Dolphins were finally showing some signs of life offensively and were facing a second-and-nine from the Rams 10-yard line. Ryan Tannehill took the snap out of the gun and found Jarvis Landry on a quick hook over the middle. Lamarcus Joyner was covering Landry on the play, but instead of coming up to make the tackle, he was more concerned with containing the quick receiver and funneling him into the rest of his defense. The first man there was linebacker Alec Ogletree, who had dropped into a bit of a Tampa-2 look. Ogletree attacked the receiver and made the initial contact just inside of the five-yard line.

Landry continued to pump his feet and would not go down. At that point, Lamarcus Joyner closed in and made contact with the receiver as well. But all that did was knock Ogletree off the ball-carrier, allowing Landry to spin away. Fortunately for Joyner, Aaron Donald had turned and chased after the ball was thrown, and the big defensive lineman was there to offer some support. After both Ogletree and Joyner were shaken off, Donald was the only defender left holding Landry up. However, the much smaller receiver continued to pump his feet and regained some momentum. This bought time for all of Landry’s teammates to join in the maul and afford some extra push.

Extra Rams defenders tried to stop the forward progress, but it was too late. Landry wound up in the endzone and the Dolphins put their first points on the board, giving life to the eventual comeback. In total, Landry fought off the contact for six seconds before being pushed into the endzone. This was a horrible display of tackling by the three players the Rams defense relies upon the most.

But I’m sure Jared Goff will begin masking those flaws… [giggle]

The Bad Kickers

Here is the list of kickers who missed an extra-point in Week 11:

By Jeffrey Beall (flickr)
By Jeffrey Beall (flickr)
  • Connor Barth, Bears
  • Mike Nugent, Bengals (missed both he attempted)
  • Cody Parkey, Browns
  • Robbie Gould, Giants (missed two)
  • Jason Myers, Jaguars
  • Matt Prater, Lions
  • Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots (what happened?)
  • Steven Hauschka, Seahawks
  • Kai Forbath, Vikings (Ha! The Blair Walsh curse?)
  • Dustin Hopkins, Washington

Here is the list of kickers who missed a field goal in Week 11:

  • Connor Barth, Bears (missed a 51-yard attempt)
  • Adam Vinatieri, Colts (missed a 42-yard attempt; you know it’s a bad week when he misses)
  • Mason Crosby, Packers (missed a 36-yard attempt)
  • Greg Zuerlein, Rams (missed a 48-yard attempt)
  • Wil Lutz, Saints (blocked 38-yard attempt)
  • Steven Hauschka, Seahawks (missed a 44-yard attempt)

That’s a grand total of 12 missed extra-points and, in total, 14 kickers missed on an opportunity to put the ball through the uprights (half of the kickers who played on Sunday). Why aren’t more teams going for two yet?

Tags : Aaron DonaldAlec OgletreeAndre RobertsCameramanChandler CatanzaroDirk KoetterDom CapersHa Ha Clinton-DixJoe ThomasKentrell BriceKickersLaDarius GunterLamarcus JoynerMicah HydePackersQuinten RollinsRamsTony Jefferson
Tyler "Ty" Worer

The author Tyler "Ty" Worer