In this weekly segment on FY, Ty will identify the pawns and black swans from the previous week’s action. (Here’s Week 3, 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 4 Pawns
Jeff Fisher, Head Coach, Rams
Are the Rams too talented of a team to go 7-9 this season?
After winning three in a row, including wins over the Seahawks and Cardinals, Fisher’s Rams sit atop the NFC West and seem to have left all their 7-9 bullsh!t in Week 1.
If I told you at the beginning of the season that the Rams would be 3-1 and that Todd Gurley would have 216 rushing yards through four weeks, you would have laughed at me – for good reason. But, here we are.
Although he has made some nice throws over the last two weeks, it would be ludicrous to say that Case Keenum is carrying this team to victory. The defense has keyed the win-streak by getting pressure on the quarterback and generating turnovers (nine on the season). Big plays from their special teams units have also helped. Ok, even the offense is pitching in once in awhile.
Fisher deserves a lot of credit for not only the win in Week 4, but for where the team is right now. After their Week 1 embarrassment, there were people calling for his head. It would have been easy for Fisher to abandon everything they were doing and turn the team over to rookie quarterback Jared Goff, whom everyone knew was not ready to take NFL snaps. The season appeared to be over after one week. But Fisher maintained his confidence in this team, and now has them feeling awfully confident in themselves.
While I’m not ready to crown Fisher and the Rams division champs, I am prepared to acknowledge what Fisher has accomplished without an offense.
Ball Boy, Monday Night Football
While Odell Beckham Jr., known for stunning one-handed catches and an inability to keep his cool, took a night off from making highlight reel grabs, the Monday nighter needed someone else to step up and provide the viewers with a spectacular catch.
Sensing the desperation in the crowd, one man rose to the occasion: the ball boy!
Please step forward and identify yourself to the world, ball boy.
The best part was how he maintained his composure after the catch. But seriously, you’re killing my fantasy team, OBJ.
Kyle Shanahan, Offensive Coordinator, Falcons
Every now and then you see an offensive coach let his genius (or perceived genius) get in the way. When you have over 900 plays, 40 different formations, and a wide variety of personnel packages, it can be tough to keep it simple.
But that’s exactly what Kyle Shanahan and the Falcons offense did Sunday against the Panthers. Shanahan knew there was not a player on the Panthers defense who could cover Julio Jones, and he didn’t try to get cute. Jones was targeted 15 times on the afternoon, and hauled in 12 of those balls for 300 yards and a touchdown.
Shanahan deserves credit for how Jones racked up all of his yards. The route tree for Jones consisted of hitches, comebacks, drags, a couple fades, and a lot of slants. He didn’t catch any balls on double or triple moves. Jones ran very basic routes and let his athleticism take the game over.
Good on Shanahan for checking his ego and not opting for a more convoluted approach.
Maurkice Pouncey, Center, Steelers
It’s easy to give credit to Le’Veon Bell for the Steelers’ 149 yards on the ground against the Chiefs, and it’s effortless to point to Ben Roethlisberger when figuring out how Pittsburgh put up 43 points on the night. But it takes a true football fan to be able to appreciate the job Maurkice Pouncey did for his team.
The Steelers ripped off big chunk after big chunk against the Chiefs, thanks, in large part, to catching Kansas City in man-coverage. It was Maurkice Pouncey and the rest of the offensive line who made this possible.
The Chiefs were in a lot of man-coverage because they were often sending an extra player after Roethlisberger. On two occasions, they were able to get to Big Ben, but more often than not, they were stood up by the Steelers’ offensive line. When your blitz doesn’t get to the quarterback almost immediately, you’ll get eaten up. When your blitz doesn’t get to the quarterback at all, you give up 43 points. Pouncey’s line calls, as well as his ability to identify and pick up blitzing defenders, allowed Roethlisberger to shine.
Pouncey wasn’t just a force in pass-pro, though. Le’Veon Bell often wasn’t contacted until he was at least five yards down the field. The Steelers man-handled the Chiefs front-seven, and Pouncey’s athleticism was on full display. On one particular play in the fourth quarter, Pouncey did a service to all offensive linemen who have been referred to as nothing more than “fat guys.”
It was third-and-four and the ball was around midfield. Bell took a hand-off out of the shotgun and burst through a hole to the left, finding himself in the open field. But he wasn’t alone. As Bell got back up to full speed, he found Pouncey sprinting with him stride for stride down the field and followed behind him for another 25 yards.
Bell and Roethlisberger got the microphones in their faces after the game, but it’s Maurkice Pouncey who gets my applause.
Week 4 Black Swans
If you’re a Dolphins fan, for the sake of your sanity, you may want to skip this part over. As much as I wanted to pick on Tony Lippett, I feel the Bengals already did enough of that. (See AJ Green’s touchdown … and most of his other receptions.) But the rest of the team isn’t safe. I’ll also spare Dave Gettleman further embarrassment for not paying Josh Norman, because it was Julio Jones, after all.
The Entire Dolphins Offensive Line
When head coach Adam Gase called for his players to either “perform, or get benched,” I don’t think he was prepared to bench all five offensive linemen.
I am struggling to think of a worse performance from an entire group than what Laremy Tunsil, Billy Turner, Kraig Urbik, Jermon Bushrod, and Ja’Wuan James put forth on TNF.
It wasn’t even the five sacks that were the most frustrating part of the night, or the handful of passes knocked down at the line. Instead, it was the fact that Cincy did all that with a four-man rush. The Bengals only blitzed on five-percent of their defensive snaps, and they really didn’t have to win many one-on-one battles, either. The communication along the Dolphins offensive line was abhorrent. We were forced to watch three blockers focus on one Bengal, while another got a free run to the quarterback.
I don’t want to take all of the credit away from Cincinnati’s defensive line, but they didn’t have to work that hard to dominate this game. Marvin Lewis himself could have gone out and applied pressure on Tannehill in this one. If only Lewis could throw the ball for Andy Dalton in the playoffs.
The Officials in Washington
This is the worst call I have ever seen in my years of watching football. I don’t understand how, with 82 officials on the field (slight hyperbole), they could all miss this.
Not only was it a humiliatingly awful call, but it also cost the Browns the game. When this happened, Cleveland was down 24-20 and had just entered Washington’s half of the field. Their first two plays of the drive went for 17 and eight yards, respectively, and the “fumble” play went for five and a first down.
The “turnover” flipped the field position, and when the Browns got the ball back, they had their backs against the wall on their own two yard-line. If the referees don’t completely blow this call, Cleveland may have won this game.
If that’s not bad enough for the most snake-bitten franchise in the league, the NFL then crushed them with a folding chair over the back, actually backing the officials’ decision. I feel for you, Browns fans.
Terrence Fede, Defensive End, Dolphins
Last week, I called Taylor Lewan’s unnecessary roughness penalty (which cost the Titans a game) the biggest bonehead play of the year. Well, I stand corrected.
With just over three minutes left in the third quarter of the Dolphins Thursday night thriller, Miami was set to get the ball back in good field position, down 19-7. That’s right, there was actually a point the Dolphins were in this game, sort of.
However, as Kevin Huber stood admiring his 50-yard punt, Terrence Fede decided to throw him to the ground. The unwarranted, moronic play by Fede was rightfully flagged, and the Bengals were awarded an automatic first down.
Cincinnati used the bonehead play to their advantage, driving down the field, taking valuable time off the clock, and putting three more points on the board.
Sure, Ryan Tannehill and the offense probably wouldn’t have done anything with the field position, but I won’t let that bail Fede out for his selfish play.
The San Diego Chargers
This is difficult for me to say as a Broncos fan, but I do feel bad for Mike McCoy. The Chargers head coach was under the microscope coming into the season, and he has been dealt some pretty awful hands each week. Not only has the team’s first-round pick provided only headaches to this point (zero snaps played), McCoy lost his two best offensive weapons in the first two weeks of the season (Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead). Now it looks like the guys who are out there want to lose.
With less than seven minutes to go in their Week 4 tilt with the Saints, the Chargers found themselves up 34-21 and with the ball. What would ensue next was just laughable – for everyone who isn’t a Chargers fan, of course.
Melvin Gordon would fumble a first-down carry on their own 13 yard-line. The Saints recovered and Drew Brees made them pay, bringing the Saints within six. San Diego got the ball back with less than five minutes to go. On the first play of the drive, Travis Benjamin fumbled again, completely on his own. Seriously, nobody had touched him yet.
Again, New Orleans capitalized on the turnover and short field, giving them a one-point lead.
The following drive would result in Philip Rivers being intercepted on a fourth-and-22 with just over a minute to go, putting the game on ice.
San Diego turned the ball over three times in less than six minutes to squander a 13-point lead to the New Orleans Saints. If the visual wasn’t bad enough, the text is pretty sickening, too.