In this weekly segment on FY, Ty will identify the pawns and black swans from the previous week’s action. (Here’s Week 12, 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 13 Pawns
I think by now we’re all aware of the incredible and inspirational game Eric Berry played on Sunday, but were you aware of the contributions these players made in their respective teams’ victories?
Broncos Special Teams
The Broncos defense and their three takeaways (one returned for a touchdown) were the big story of the game, but I ripped the Denver special teams last week, and they responded wonderfully.
I’ll keep this much shorter than last week, I promise.
Brandon McManus was perfect on the day when it came to putting the ball through the uprights. Punter Riley Dixon pinned the Jags inside their 20 three times, two of which were inside the six-yard line, and the cover team held Jacksonville to just 17 yards on four returns.
On top of that, Kalif Raymond took over the return duties, and looked very dangerous. Raymond recorded returns of 19 and 22 yards when it didn’t appear he had much room, and the former set up a Bronco field goal.
As Denver’s offense struggled with Paxton Lynch at the helm, the special teams played an integral role in the 20-10 victory. Hell of a response, fellas!
Andy Reid, Head Coach, Chiefs
I know my boy Henry already touched on Reid’s genius in the Chiefs’ win over the Falcons, but I want to draw out a few more details.
Entering a Week 13 date with the Matt Ryan led Falcons, Reid knew damn well who the more talented team was, and it wasn’t his. He needed to make some ballsy calls to gain an edge, and that’s exactly what he did.
The first came on fourth-and-one from the Atlanta three-yard line, as his team trailed 13-6 midway through the second quarter. Instead of playing it safe and taking the three points, Reid decided to go for it. The Chiefs head coach also refused to try the obvious plunge up the middle. Alex Smith gave a play-fake to running back Spencer Ware, which forced the linebackers to step-up to the line of scrimmage, and then rolled to his left and found Ware in the flat for the three-yard score. It was a brilliantly drawn-up play, and a very gutsy call on the road.
The second time Reid showed off his cajones once again came on a fourth-and-one. This time it was on his own 44-yard line with his Chiefs up 20-16. Kansas City lined up in punt formation, then perfectly executed a direct snap to Albert Wilson, who burst through the middle like he had been shot out of a cannon. Kudos to Frank Zombo and D.J. Alexander for opening up a massive hole, and to long snapper James Winchester for not only putting the ball right in Wilson’s gut, but also sealing the defenders coming from the inside.
Even more credit has to go to Reid for having the backbone to make these two aggressive calls in two completely different scenarios. Reid also did a hell of a job getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers in creative ways. Well done, coach.
Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator, Lions
I know putting up 28 points on the 30th-ranked scoring defense of the New Orleans Saints may not seem like anything to boast about, but the Lions offensive coordinator deserves a ton of credit for his team holding the second-ranked scoring offense to 13 points.
Cooter not only put a scheme together to beat the Saints’ defense, but one that would beat the Saints as a whole. How did he do this? He kept Drew Brees off the field. Detroit possessed the ball for 36 minutes and 52 seconds in this game, and did so by picking the Saints apart underneath.
Matthew Stafford threw 42 passes on the afternoon, and only seven of those attempts travelled more than 20 yards downfield. This wasn’t because the Detroit receivers couldn’t get behind the Saints defense, which has allowed 25 passing plays of 25-plus yards (seventh-most), it was because the Lions didn’t want to get into a shootout with Drew Brees.
I don’t want to say defensive coordinator Teryl Austin played no part in holding the Saints to 13 points on Sunday, but Jim Bob’s beers were likely on Austin’s bill Sunday night.
Week 13 Black Swans
Colin Kaepernick wasn’t good in Week 13. But I don’t need to tell you guys about it. I will offer up these guys, though.
Everything about the Rams
I want to make this crystal clear: the Rams were not going to beat the Patriots on Sunday, regardless of how brilliant Jeff Fisher’s gameplan could have been. However, I have to bring attention to the week the Rams just had.
First of all, their head coach could not name a Patriots running back outside of LeGarrette Blount and possibly Brandon Bolden. (Click on the link for clarification on the “possibly.”) This is quite problematic considering James White has caught 47 balls for 393 yards and four touchdowns, while Dion Lewis has 27 touches in his three games since returning from injury. The two combined to average just over 4.5 yards per touch on Sunday.
And how does the Rams organization react to this kind of blunder? They reward their coach, who has a .421 winning percentage in his Rams tenure, with a two-year contract extension early Sunday morning. If that wasn’t bad enough, the organization also felt general manager Les Snead deserved an extension, too. Good move, Stan Kroenke.
Continuing along the timeline, Fisher once again embarrassed himself in the public eye when he could not find his challenge flag early in the third quarter. He’s just lucky that he was trying to challenge while his team was on offense.
The Rams lost 26-10 and totaled 162 yards on the day. To really rub the salt into the wound, Todd Gurley is now up to 679 yards on the ground through 12 games, which is as many as he played last year when he rushed for 1,106. But Jared Goff looked good, though…
Josh Lambo, Kicker, Chargers
After going one whole week without shaming a kicker, I couldn’t let this one slide.
The Chargers came out of the gate hot against the Bucs, scoring a touchdown on the first drive of the game. Their defense followed suit by picking Jameis Winston off on Tampa Bay’s ensuing possession, and the Chargers found themselves in great position to go up two scores in the first ten minutes of the game.
But then this happened. Yep, that was one of the worst field goal attempts I have ever seen, and it should be noted that conditions were damn near perfect! Lambo’s horrid shank from 53-yards cost the Chargers more than three points, though. The miss gave the Bucs an opportunity to pull their collective heads out of their asses, and that’s exactly what they did. Winston drove the field after the miss and tied the game.
Had Lambo converted those three points, Tampa Bay may have never caught their breath and the result likely would have been much different.
Do we know what pass interference is anymore? How about defensive holding? Is it too much to ask for a little consistency when it comes to a blow to the quarterback’s head? The officials not only created all of these questions in Week 13, but also allowed their inconsistencies to decide the fate of more than one game.
First of all, Steelers defenders were allowed to have their hands on Odell Beckham all game. The fans tuned in to see OBJ and Antonio Brown go head-to-head, but we were robbed of it because Terry McAulay’s crew clearly has a bias against the Giants’ star receiver. Even worse was when they called him for offensive pass interference when the hand checking was clearly going both ways. This entire crew deserves to be disciplined for this.
More missed pass interference/defensive holding calls came down in Jacksonville, too. The Jags faced a fourth-and-four from the Denver 38-yard line, down 17-10 with just over eight minutes to play. Blake Bortles dropped back to pass and fired a pass across the middle to Allen Robinson, who had Aqib Talib all over him. There certainly should have been a flag, but there was no yellow to be seen on the field. As a result, Robinson picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing the call, and the Broncos took over. The bad calls did go both ways, though. Later in the game as Denver was trying to end the game with a seven point lead, Paxton Lynch threw a ball to Demaryius Thomas just beyond the first down marker on third-and-five with less than two minutes to play, but Prince Amukamara had clearly made contact with the receiver beyond five yards down the field, causing Thomas to drop the pass. Craig Wrolstad and his crew at least called it both ways, but definitely allowed the boys to play more than we’re used to.
If those weren’t bad enough, take a look at the blow Sam Bradford took to the head from Cedric Thornton on the Vikings’ two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game. I may not support the protection quarterbacks have been afforded, but the NFL has made that rule very clear. Had that been Tom Brady, you bet some laundry woul dhave been tossed on the field. And no, Tony Corrente, it was not below the head. The officials blew the game for the Vikings.
In spite of everything I said about Andy Reid’s genius, the Chiefs had some help from the officiating crew as well. When the Falcons were down 11 in the third quarter, Dan Quinn rolled the dice and went for it on fourth-and-one from the Kansas City ten-yard line. As Devonta Freeman went to the flats, he was clearly held by Chiefs linebacker Frank Zombo. Matt Ryan went in his direction with the pass, but no flag was thrown. Had the Falcons come away with points on that drive, it may have been a much different outcome. We expect more from a Walt Coleman officiating crew.
Be better next week, zebras.