In this weekly segment on FY, Ty will identify the pawns and black swans from the previous week’s action. (Here’s Week 13, 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 from the Cygnus family that’s colored black; metaphorically speaking, it’s something that causes an unwanted event with extreme consequences. In this segment, it’s a player whose unexpected blunder(s) cost his team.
Week 14 Pawns
Le’Veon Bell is really good and just about every Falcon had a great day. But how about some love for these lesser celebrated heroes.
Dwayne Harris, Wide Receiver, Giants
It’s unlikely that you haven’t already seen how Odell Beckham Jr. changed the outcome, and you’ve probably read all about how well Janoris Jenkins played, too. But I’d like to take a moment to applaud Dwayne Harris’ special teams efforts, as they were an integral part of the Giants’ victory over Dallas.
No, I’m not referring in the slightest to his one punt return for four yards. I’m talking about his duties as a gunner on the Giants punt team. Early in the second quarter, Brad Wing pooched a punt from Dallas’ 38-yard line that was set to land inside the five-yard line. Harris didn’t give the ball a chance to bounce into the endzone for a touchback, speeding down the field and catching it at the three.
Harris made another great play covering a punt with just over 30 seconds to play in the first half. The Cowboys return man, Cole Beasley, caught the punt cleanly, and looked like he may have had some room down the right sideline. Harris split two would-be blockers and kept his contain while making the tackle.
The final play Harris made was much like the first, but even finer. Up by three with only 1:15 to play, the Giants were once again looking to pin the Cowboys deep. Harris didn’t beat the ball down the field this time, but made an excellent play to prevent it from bouncing into the endzone all while being shoved by Beasley. The special teams standout got his body in front of the ball and corralled it off one bounce, forcing the Cowboys to start the drive from their three-yard line again. Four incomplete passes later, the game was over and the Giants were victorious.
Not everyone may have noticed your contributions, Dwayne. But we did.
Buccaneers Punt Team
Yep, more talk about punt coverage, because it isn’t getting enough love in a game that ended 16-11.
The first play that deserves recognition came with just under seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter, with the Bucs up 16-11. Tampa Bay was forced to punt from New Orleans’ 45-yard line, and then this happened…
To start off, Bryan Anger deserves a lot of credit for a phenomenal punt that took a very high, favorable bounce. Next up, Ryan Smith displayed some uncanny field awareness in tapping his toes just shy of the goal line. And finally, props to Alan Cross for hustling down the field and making the heads-up play to get his feet as close to the goal line as well.
After Brees and the Saints went three-and-out, the Bucs were able to kill some more clock. They would, however, be forced to punt the ball back to New Orleans just before the two-minute warning. Once again, Anger executed the punt perfectly. The ball had plenty of hang-time and landed inside the five-yard line. Josh Robinson may have gotten just enough of it on the way down to prevent it from going into the endzone, and the Saints were forced to again start a drive from inside their five.
Without these two fantastic punt covers, Drew Brees would have had a lot more field to work with and may have ended the Bucs’ winning streak.
Dolphins Field Goal Team
Just about everyone had trouble holding onto the ball down in Miami on Sunday (nine fumbles, three interceptions). I can’t say everyone, though, because there were a few players that seemed completely unfazed by the conditions.
Dolphins long snapper John Denney was on target all game; holder (and punter) Matt Darr controlled a slippery ball perfectly; and kicker Andrew Franks nailed every opportunity he had to put the ball through the uprights (3/3 on extra-points and 1/1 on field goals).
Looking to his kicking counterpart, Chandler Catanzaro went 0/2 on extra-points and 1/2 on field goals. Franks and company were the difference in this sloppy game.
Week 14 Black Swans
As much as I’d love to rip Bennie Fowler for dropping a touchdown pass that would have given the Broncos the lead, I’ve discussed my team too much recently. I’m also going to spare Eagles right tackle Matt Tobin, since he may have been playing hurt when he allowed Ryan Kerrigan to walk around him to end the game. How about we focus on these ones, instead?
Austin Howard, Right Tackle, Raiders
I don’t want to harp too much on the lone sack of the game, when Howard was beaten by Justin Houston, because the Raiders’ offensive line has done a great job protecting Derek Carr all season, and it was Justin Houston. I am going to point out the boneheaded move Howard made with the game on the line, though.
With 2:01 to play and the Raiders down 21-13, Carr moved his team from its own 15-yard line all the way to the KC 14. On fourth-and-one, Carr began barking out orders. Howard flinched and was called for the false start. This put Oakland (which gained 135 of its 244 total yards on the ground) in fourth-and-six and running the ball was no longer an option.
Carr’s ensuing pass fell incomplete and the Raiders turned the ball over on downs, ending the game. Had Howard not jumped, the Raiders likely would have converted that fourth down opportunity and potentially tied the game. At least he had NBC to take some of the eyes off him.
Dan Carpenter, Kicker, Bills
Sure, Carpenter missed an extra-point, but it didn’t really factor into the outcome. His horrendous attempt at an onside kick sure did, though.
After scoring a touchdown to get within seven with just under 1:30 to play, Buffalo lined up for an onside kick. Instead of trying to describe how bad Carpenter’s attempted onside kick was, why don’t I just show you. You can see it at 5:23 of this video…
Chip Kelly, Head Coach, 49ers
I’m having a really hard time deciding whether Chip belongs in the swans or pawns section. Yes, he lost the game for the 49ers, but was that good or bad for the organization?
After his team jumped out to a 14-0 lead less than five minutes into the game, Chip and the 49ers looked destined to snap their 11-game losing streak. They headed into the locker room up 17-3 at halftime, and then everything fell apart.
Colin Kaepernick went 11/15 for 116 yards and a touchdown through the air in the first half, and was carving up the horrendous Jets secondary. But Chip clearly didn’t trust his quarterback to put the ball in the air in the second half; Kaepernick only had eight pass attempts after the break, and the 49ers took their foot off the gas just enough for Bryce Petty to bring his team back.
The 49ers watched their lead disappear and prepared themselves for overtime. This is where Chip made his worst/best decision. On the first possession, San Francisco drove into Jets territory and faced a fourth-and-two from the 37-yard line. Kelly decided to roll the dice and go for it. The decision is still baffling to me. Here are all the possible thoughts that could have been going through his head: the coach trusted his ice-cold offense to pick up the two yards; he didn’t trust Phil Dawson to make a 54-yard field goal; he didn’t have any faith in punter Bradley Pinion to pin the Jets deep in their own territory; he had zero faith in his defense to prevent a terrible quarterback from driving his team into field-goal range; or, he just wanted a shot at landing the first-overall pick.
If it was the lattermost option, then well done, Chip. You clearly demonstrated your astute ability to lose a football game.