In this weekly segment on FY, Ty will identify the pawns and black swans from the previous week’s action. (Here’s Week 4, 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 5 Pawns
I have given credit to the New England Patriots far too often this year, so I’ll let everyone continue talking about Brady, while the defense gets no love for holding the Browns, who led the league in rushing entering the week, to a measly 27 yards on the ground.
(Some) Washington Special Teamers
I’m certainly not referring to Dustin Hopkins here, who missed an extra point and a field goal against the Ravens. Instead, I’m bringing attention to Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett, and Niles Paul, who all made key blocks on Jamison Crowder’s 85-yard punt return that accounted for Washington’s only bright spot of a poor first half.
Starting with Blackmon, his first block on Ravens gunner Darren Waller actually put Waller in better position to make a tackle on Crowder, but Blackmon re-positioned and got just enough of Waller the second time for Crowder to find a lane. Without this block, Crowder may have been ankle tapped by Waller.
Onto Everett, who made the block to open up the lane. Side note: Deshazor is one of the best names in the game. Right, back to football. Anthony Levine Sr. was in great position to bounce Crowder to the outside, until Everett cleaned him out with a big shoulder-to-shoulder block that sent Levine to the turf.
Finally, just as Crowder burst through the lane, Kendrick Lewis and Zachary Orr were converging from both sides and it appeared they were going to be able to bring him down around midfield. That was until Niles Paul made a diving effort to get just enough of Lewis, preventing him from getting a hand on Crowder.
Without the efforts of these three players, Crowder would not have been able to provide his team with a very needed six points.
Zack Martin, Right Guard, Cowboys
I want to start by saying Ezekiel Elliott is extremely explosive and is making Jerry Jones look like a genius for bypassing all the team’s other flaws to bring in another running back. But, he’s getting plenty of love elsewhere.
The guy I’m here to talk about is Zack Martin. If you look back to both of Elliott’s touchdown runs, it is Martin who makes the key block to spring him loose.
On the first one – a 13-yard scamper – Martin not only shows off his strength and quickness, but also his intelligence. The play started with center Travis Frederick and Martin executing a double-team on defensive tackle Domata Peko. However, Peko got so far upfield that Frederick could be left on his own to continue washing him out of the play. Martin noticed this, peeled off, and climbed to the second level to seal the only linebacker who could’ve made a tackle, Rey Maualuga. Without that block, Elliott is brought down for a five-yard gain.
The second Elliott touchdown – a 60-yard score – saw Martin push defensive tackle Geno Atkins so far that the cutback lane for Elliott was about five yards wide. Side note: Doug Free also makes an excellent block to ensure Maualuga doesn’t get a hand on his running back.
These aren’t the only two plays Martin made an impact on, though. If you want to see what elite guard play looks like, flip on the tape from this one.
Adam Vinatieri, Kicker, Colts
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: kickers only get noticed when they miss or hit a game-winner. Their work throughout the rest of the game often goes unnoticed. But no more will a kicker who goes 5/5 on the day receive a slanderous, “all he does is kick, he should be perfect.”
This is to you, Adam Vinatieri (and your crew: holder Pat McAfee and long snapper Matt Overton, because they deserve some love, too).
One of Vinatieri’s five makes was a chip shot from 26 yards. He also hit from 41, 46, 53, and 54, making his 5/5 day all the more impressive. On top of that, he was also 2/2 on extra-point attempts, which is apparently a feat these days.
Vinatieri has now made 38-straight field goal attempts. Try to say this man isn’t a part of his football team, I dare you.
Ronald Darby, Corner, Bills
Sure, LeSean McCoy’s 150 yards on the ground and Nickell Robey-Coleman’s two interceptions were major factors in the Bills’ win over the Rams in Week 5. But the unsung hero of the day was Ronald Darby.
With the Bills up 23-19 and less than five minutes to go in the game, Buffalo’s defense forced the Rams offense to bring out the punting unit deep in its own end. However, Jeff Fisher and John Fassel dialed up some trickery in hopes of moving the chains and bringing their offense back out.
The Rams executed a direct snap to Bradley Marquez, who tried to find some space around the right end. But Ronald Darby, who would normally block the Rams gunner, was not fooled. Darby sniffed the play out, leaving the gunner to run downfield on his own, and flew in to make the tackle before Marquez could get to the first down marker.
This set the Bills up on the Rams’ 25 yard-line, and they would punch it in to put the game out of reach.
If Darby had not been so alert, the Rams likely would have picked up the five yards they needed and had a chance to bring their offense back on the field only down four. McCoy and Robey-Coleman may get NFL Network coverage, but you, Mr. Darby, get some FY love. (We’ll let you decide who the real winner is.)
Week 5 Black Swans
You won’t find Cameron Meredith on here for his costly fumble, because playing for the Bears is punishment enough. Roberto Aguayo was finally able to make a kick, and subsequently saved himself from an appearance on this list, but not everyone was so lucky. Again, Dolphins fans, you’ll probably want to look away. Also, if we don’t get a decent prime time game in Week 6, the NFL schedule-makers will be making their anticipated arrival on FY’s wall of shame.
The Miami Dolphins
This is going to be bad. Not the write-up, it’ll be very thorough. I’m referring to the nature of what I’m about to say regarding this horrible team.
To start, we’ll look at the offensive line. I don’t know how a Dolphins fan can stand watching this. After a pleasant start offensively (they gained a first down!) the Fins found themselves facing second-and-five. That’s when Ja’Wuan James decided to let Derrick Morgan walk past him and put a big hit on Tannehill. This was far from the only sack James gave up in the game.
But James wasn’t the only one allowing defenders to walk around him. Billy Turner’s awful footwork resulted in multiple defenders being given a free run at his quarterback. Fortunately, Dallas Thomas’ abysmal play just inside of Turner drew some eyes off him once in awhile. It was so bad between these two that both were waived by the Dolphins after the game.
The defense shares in the embarrassment. Outside of Reshad Jones, who is trying to prove that he can be everywhere at once, there isn’t a single defensive back on this roster who is capable of playing man coverage. The unit is so bad that bringing in Bene’ Benwikere seemed like a good idea.
It’s not just that this team lacks talent, though. They’re also committing some of the dumbest plays I have ever seen.
Exhibit A: Walt Aikens running into the punt returner after he had signalled for a fair catch, giving the Titans a chance to get into field position with just 19 seconds left in the first half.
Exhibit B: after Tannehill threw behind Devante Parker, resulting in a juggled ball and an interception, Jay Ajayi took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, putting the Titans on the Miami 24 yard-line.
Exhibit C: (yep, there’s a C) after booming a 57-yard punt, Matt Darr proceeded to shove the ball carrier after he had already gone out of bounds and the play had been blown dead. That’s right, the punter is taking unnecessary roughness penalties. The punter!
The worst part of all those bonehead plays is that they came with the game still very much in reach. It feels like Miami wants to lose.
What Adam Gase would give to be back in Chicago with Jay Cutler (make that Brian Hoyer) right now…
The Broncos’ Right Tackles
Although this brings me a great deal of pain to write as a Broncos fan, it hurt me even more having to watch the horrific play at right tackle.
Don’t think I’m letting Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis off the hook this easy for their blown coverage assignments on Tevin Coleman. But Wade Phillips takes some of that blame too for repeatedly asking them to do something they can’t.
Back to the offensive line.
Ty Sambrailo started the day off at right tackle, and was getting absolutely no push in the running game, winding up on his butt far too often. But that wasn’t the worst part. Sambrailo’s poor play has given Falcons fans hope that Vic Beasley is finally living up to his first-round potential. Beasley had a field-day with Sambrailo at right tackle and was made to look like Von Miller.
The Broncos were left with no choice but to pull Sambrailo from the game and move Michael Schofield from right guard to right tackle. Yes, this the same Michael Schofield who allowed Khalil Mack to record five sacks in one game. Surprise! It didn’t get any better. Paxton Lynch continued to face immediate pressure from the right side, and Beasley continued to wreak havoc.
Thanks to the poor play at right tackle (Max Garcia wasn’t good at left guard, either), Denver’s offense struggled all day against a very weak Falcon defense that was forced to play a safety at linebacker due to injuries.
I never thought I’d be so eager to get Donald Stephenson back on the field.
The Bad News Chargers
I can’t take credit for being the first to compare the Chargers to the Bad News Bears, as Philip Rivers beat me to it. But the resemblance is uncanny.
The most recent way San Diego chose to lose was quite humorous, well at least to Josh Lambo. To the other 52 men on the roster, I’m sure it was just as heartbreaking as all their other losses this season.
Let’s start here: late in the third quarter, after Oakland had just kicked a field goal to pull within five points (24-19), the Chargers had the ball on their own 25 yard-line. After a nine-yard gain on first down, Melvin Gordon took the ball again, but this time fumble it away – just as he did late in the game last week. Oakland would capitalize on the field position and take a 27-24 lead.
On the Chargers’ next drive, they stalled out at their own 16 yard-line, and sent out punter Drew Kaser. In need of a deep punt to ensure the defense wasn’t put on a short field again, Kaser blasted a 16-yarder. Oakland took over at San Diego’s 32 and would again take advantage of the field position with a major, making the game 34-24.
Philip Rivers then led his team 75 yards for a touchdown and cut the lead to just three. After the Chargers defense forced a rare three-and-out, Rivers and the offense got the ball back at their own 33 yard-line with a chance to tie or take the lead.
This is when disaster struck, yet again. After Rivers drove the ball 49 yards to the Oakland 18, they faced a 4th-and-one. Mike McCoy sent out his field goal team for the tie. Once again, Kaser made a costly error, bobbling the snap and failing to get the ball down for Lambo.
After watching all of that blooper reel gold, I can see where Lambo finds the humour.
Ken Zampese, Offensive Coordinator, Bengals
After Hue Jackson became the most recent Bengals OC to get a head coaching job, not many believed the Cincinnati offense would change much. Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, and the offensive line all remained, so why would the simple departure of Hue Jackson matter, right? Wrong.
Coaching in the NFL is criminally underrated, and it’s time certain coaches received the credit they deserve. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, Ken Zampese is not one of those coaches.
I know that Tyler Eifert has been out with an injury and they lost Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones Jr. to free agency, but there are still more than enough pieces to be better than the 24th-ranked scoring offense.
Last season, with Hue Jackson calling the plays, the Bengals ranked seventh in scoring, 15th in total offense, 15th in passing, and 13th in rushing. The Bengals were a run-first team, evidenced by their 467 rushing attempts (seventh), and they were able to gain big chunks through the air after they had established the ground game.
In 2016, Zampese has totally abandoned the run: the team ranks 21st in rushing attempts and 26th in rushing yards. Their offense has become reliant upon A.J. Green making big plays. The offense stalls out and has to settle for field goals when those big plays don’t materialize in the red zone. Zampese’s play calling is not fooling anyone, and this past week against the Cowboys was the worst yet.
We can’t blame Zampese for the Bengals giving up touchdowns on the Cowboys’ first three drives of the game, but we can point the finger at him for the offense not being able to keep up. The Dallas defense is giving up 4.6 yards per carry (29th), sits 19th against the pass, and had just six sacks through four games coming in. Yet, the Bengals offense amassed 96 yards on the ground, Dalton only threw for 269 yards (most of which came in garbage time), and the line gave up four sacks.
Zampese better put together a better game-plan for Week 6 in New England or else he may be the next coordinator fired in 2016. I’m sure Hue Jackson misses Cincinnati at this point. Reunion, anyone?!