In this weekly segment on FY, Ty will identify the pawns and black swans from the previous week’s action. (Here’s Week 15, 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 16 Pawns
Yep, Aaron Rodgers had a hell of a week, but what else is new? Although that was rhetorical, I will actually follow-up by telling you what’s new…
Travis Kelce, Tight End, Chiefs
If you’ve read this article before, you know I won’t have anything to say about his 11 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown. What I do want to discuss is the work he put in when the ball was not in his hands.
Just have a look at this, and watch for #87 on every one of the Chiefs’ big plays.
Kelce throws the key block on Alex Smith’s touchdown run and Tyreek Hill’s touchdown. It really hurt that this came against my Broncos, but I have to applaud the big tight end for his incredible performance.
Doug Marrone, Head Coach, Jaguars
In their first game under new head coach Doug Marrone, the Jaguars finally looked like the team that was garnering all the offseason hype. And Marrone deserves a ton of credit for the game-plan he put together.
First of all, he clearly simplified Blake Bortles’ reads. The Jaguars quarterback looked decisive with the ball, took shots when he had one-on-ones, and was efficient with the underneath routes. On top of that, Marrone got his deceivingly athletic quarterback out of the pocket often, which cuts the field in half for him. This was the best performance from Bortles all season.
Marrone also made sure that Allen Robinson was more of a focus in the passing game, and his star receiver repaid his trust with 147 yards receiving. Marrone’s gameplan precipitated a fast start, which neutered Tennessee’s strength, the run game: the 58 yards the Titans gained on the ground was a season-low.
What Marrone got from his team in his first week as head coach is certainly worthy of a shoutout. Let’s not forget that the Titans squad he was playing was fresh off victories over Kansas City and Denver, and also laid a beating on the Packers in Week 10. Well done, coach.
But knowing the Jags, they’ll probably overlook him in their coaching search.
Week 16 Black Swans
The Jets are really, really bad, but they were playing the Patriots. Unfortunately, not all these players have that same excuse.
Josh Lambo, Kicker, Chargers
After everything the Chargers have been through this season, it only seemed fitting that they would give the Browns their first win of the season.
In spite of how poorly Philip Rivers and the rest of the San Diego offense was on the day, they still gave Josh Lambo the chance to at least send this game into overtime.
Lambo’s first had a chip-shot 32-yard attempt with 3:49 to play in the fourth quarter. Instead of knotting the game at 20, however, the kick was blocked, which wasn’t totally Lambo’s fault. The 45-yard attempt he shanked with five seconds left can be placed squarely on his shoulders, though.
He shouldn’t have been put in that high-pressure spot by his team, but he had a chance to bail out his teammates and he let them down. At least he didn’t rush to have a pint with Cody Parkey after this one.
(I didn’t forget about you, Dan Carpenter; picking on Buffalo is just too easy right now, though.)
The Los Angeles Rams
There’s a lot of hyperbole in NFL analysis. I don’t want to succumb to that. So let me phrase this in a measured and realistic way: that was the most embarrassing display of offense I have seen in all my years of watching football. (No exaggeration.)
Jared Goff and Todd Gurley had golden opportunities to prove themselves against the league’s worst defense. The 49ers had just given up 550 total yards of offense to the Falcons, and even allowed Bryce Petty and the Jets to rack-up 404 yards the week prior. They ranked last in both total and scoring defense, and had given up the most yards on the ground. Yet, the Rams managed 177 yards. Nope, not through the air, nor on the ground, that’s combined. They had 177 yards of total offense.
Jared Goff posted a 35.1 passer rating while completing less than 50-percent of his passes, two of which landed in the hands of the 49ers. Meanwhile, Todd Gurley rushed for 67 yards on 23 carries.
But let’s not stop there. Their five linemen – Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown, Tim Barnes, Rodger Saffold, and Andrew Donnal – got beat-up in the trenches all day.
Despite their offensive ineptitude, the Rams actually had a 21-7 lead at one point. But the coaching staff – interim head coach John Fassel, assistant head coach Dave McGinnis, offensive coordinator Rob Boras, and offensive line coach Paul Boudreau – couldn’t craft a plan to close it out.
Due to their role in allowing a pedestrian level of football to become acceptable, general manager Les Snead, executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff, and owner Stan Kroenke deserve to be shamed for the putrid showing in Week 16.
But hey, maybe the Rams will draft a solid player who can turn around their franchise with their first-round pick in the 2017 draft. Oh right! They traded that pick for Goff. Well, better luck in 2018, just so long as LA still cares about football by then.
Nick Easton, Center, Vikings
This play completely changed the game.
So this happened https://t.co/3qHyKrwAxb
— Drew Magary (@drewmagary) December 24, 2016
At the time of Easton’s gaffe, the score was 14-6 for Green Bay, but Minnesota was driving for a potential tying score. Instead, Green Bay scored another seven off the turnover and would never look back from there.
How emblematic of the Vikings season: their offensive line cost them a game.