In this weekly segment on FY, Ty will identify the pawns and black swans from the previous week’s action. (Here’s Week 5, 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 6 Pawns
Had the Eagles actually won the game, Marcus Smith would have found his name on here for his discipline; he didn’t fall for a Kirk Cousins-play fake and then pressured the QB into throwing a pick-six. Tough break, Marcus. I know your heart was set on a P&BS spot.
Andy Reid, Head Coach, Chiefs
This one is simple. As a head coach, Andy Reid is now 16-2 coming off a bye.
Prior to their bye, the Chiefs were playing terrible defense and weren’t being given the chance to run the ball as a result. They had yet to hold a team under 300 total yards, and had given up more than 350 in three of their four games.
In Oakland after the bye, the Chiefs slowed the Raiders passing attack, held them to 65 yards on the ground, and established their own ground game – rushing for 183 yards. Also, their passing game was extremely efficient, as Alex Smith completed 19 of 22 passes for 224 yards.
When given extra time to prepare, Reid is damn near unbeatable.
Shawn Lauvao, Left Guard, Washington
Entering Week 6, Washington’s offense had only rushed for more than 100 yards in a game once this season. That stat can’t be blamed on their offensive line, though. Jay Gruden has refused to run the ball. But this changed against the Eagles, and it allowed the offensive line to prove its dominance, specifically Shawn Lauvao.
Washington rushed for 230 yards, and could not have done it without some key blocks from their left guard. The one I would like to highlight came on a third-and-seven from their own 26 with less than a minute and a half to go in the game. If Washington could pick up the first down, it would end the game as the Eagles were out of timeouts.
Jay Gruden opted to keep the ball on the ground, and trusted Matt Jones and the left side of his line to get some push, which is exactly what it did. The key block was made by Lauvao, who pulled to the left and manhandled Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham. Lauvao drove him so far towards the sideline that Jones was left one-on-one with a linebacker and given about a ten-yard hole to work with. The play resulted in a 57-yard gain and, more importantly, the de facto end of the game.
This was not the only great block Lauvao made on the day, but it was certainly the biggest. While Kirk Cousins, Matt Jones, and even the defense get love from other media outlets, we’ve got you here at FY, Shawn.
Anquan Boldin, Wide Receiver, Lions
It’s easy to give Boldin credit for his eight receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown. But, I’m sure you know that’s not why he finds his name on this list. Instead, I am giving him praise for his block on the Lions’ game-tying touchdown, which came with six minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The play was a quick slant to Golden Tate, but the other two receivers on his side weren’t even running routes; they were only there to block. First of all, I give Boldin credit for timing his block perfectly. Had he put his hands on his defender any earlier, he would have been called for offensive pass interference, as the pass was not behind the line of scrimmage. Then, Boldin continued the great play by sealing his man (E.J. Gaines) so well that he forced Gaines to try to go underneath to make a tackle, effectively taking him out of the play.
The other part that needs to be commended is Boldin’s technique. He didn’t grab and hold his man, despite appearing to be out of position for a brief moment. Boldin stayed calm and continued to move his feet to get himself in a more favorable spot to seal Gaines.
Without this block, Tate would not have gotten into the endzone, and the outcome of the game may have been much different. While Boldin, himself, may only remember the touchdown, I’ll think back to that sexy block on E.J. Gaines.
Dolphins Offensive Line
I had to do this. Not many have been as critical of the Dolphins, specifically their offensive line, over the last couple weeks, as I have. What they did to the Steelers, specifically on the ground, was downright impressive.
It’s easy to see that Jay Ajayi had a great game, but I have to give credit to Branden Albert, Laremy Tunsil, Mike Pouncey, Kraig Urbik, Ja’Wuan James, and Jermon Bushrod.
The Steelers came into this game having only allowed one team to rush for more than 100 yards. They’d held three under 75 yards. The Dolphins entered with one 100-yard rushing game. They’d been held under 75 in their other four. Yet, the Dolphins were able to rush for 222 yards in an absolutely dominant performance.
On top of that, Ryan Tannehill did not get sacked once after being sacked 17 times in the previous five games. I have to tip my cap to this offensive line, which was an absolute joke the past five weeks. It obviously benefited significantly from the return of Branden Albert at left tackle.
On a side note, Reshad Jones deserves to be in the discussion for DPOY.
Week 6 Black Swans
While it may have been a horrible week for Tony Romo, it wasn’t because of anything he did, so I can’t put him on this list. These other players committed acts that sunk their respective teams. Just for the record, it’s too hard to blame Julio Jones for the Falcons’ loss, even considering his costly drop that resulted in a pick and the game-winning field goal.
The Panthers Defense
I can’t hold back any longer. The Panthers allowed the Saints to throw for 460 net yards in Week 6, and it was due to one comedic error after another.
To start off, Zack Sanchez cannot be biting on an out-and-up when it’s Brandin Cooks running the route. I know Sanchez is a rookie, but that just can’t happen. This wasn’t the only instance he got greedy. Check out Josh Hill’s touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter to go up eight.
Next, linebacker Shaq Thompson should not be undercutting throws; just make the tackle, man! A linebacker should also never be responsible for covering Cooks.
Teddy Williams joined the party with his weak attempts at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. If he whiffs again in the future, I sure hope he puts a better effort into bailing back out afterwards.
One of the most embarrassing plays came on a 3rd-and-14, when Drew Brees just threw the ball up into a crowd of four Panthers defenders in the middle of the field. Not only did two of them (Luke Kuechly and Tre Boston) not even make an attempt to play the ball, but Kurt Coleman missed the ball and the receiver. To complete the play, they watched Coby Fleener rumble for 25 yards to the end zone.
Derrick Kindred, Defensive Back, Browns
This is so Browns. (Can’t say Cleveland anymore, since the Cavs and Indians are bringing respect back to the city.)
Up 7-6 early in the second quarter, the Titans had a first-and-ten at the Cleveland 49-yard-line. Marcus Mariota play faked to his left before dropping back and looking downfield. After shifting around in the pocket, he stepped up and found Kendall Wright deep to his left.
Before I continue with the result, it should be known that Derrick Kindred just allowed Wright to cross his face. I will cut him a bit of a break here, as it appeared the Browns were supposed to be in cover three and Kindred was responsible for deep middle. It’s not his fault that corner Jamar Taylor had been sucked in by the play-action fake, but Kindred also didn’t make any effort to run with Wright.
The big problem on the play was that, after Wright made a diving catch and slid to the Cleveland two-yard-line, he was then helped up and thrown into the endzone … by Kindred. Instead of getting a chance to stuff the Titans at the goal line and hold them to a field goal, Kindred made sure that it was seven points.
In a game that was decided by just two points, this thoughtless play certainly cost the Browns. What are the chances of Hue Jackson just switching sidelines in Week 7 when they play his old team?
Russell Okung, Left Tackle, Broncos
This one hurts to write. Not only am I a Broncos fan, but Okung has been the lone reliable player along the offensive line. Unfortunately, Okung’s holding penalty late in the fourth quarter was a key factor in Denver getting upset by San Diego on Thursday night.
With just under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Broncos offense had finally come to life. Trevor Siemian led an 11-play, 51-yard touchdown drive on the previous possession, and the defense responded by forcing the Chargers into a quick three-and-out. Denver got the ball back down by 11 and drove deep into San Diego territory.
On 1st-and-10 from the Charger 20, Siemian dropped back and dumped the ball off to C.J. Anderson, who made an incredible play, bouncing off tacklers on his way to the end zone. At this point, all the momentum was in Denver’s favor. That was until the officials got on the microphone and announced that the touchdown would be nullified due to a holding penalty on Okung.
On the very next play, Trevor Siemian was sacked for a ten-yard loss, setting up 2nd-and-30 from the San Diego 40. The following play saw Demaryius Thomas put the ball on the turf, and the Broncos squandered an opportunity to get points on the board.
Had Okung not committed the unnecessary holding penalty, the Broncos would have had a ton of momentum and only been down by one score. I don’t know for sure that the outcome would have been different, but the Chargers would have likely found a way to give this one away, too.
Keshawn Martin, Wide Receiver/Kick Returner, 49ers
In spite of the Bills appearing to dominate San Fran on both the scoreboard and the box score, the game was in reach for the 49ers until a massive blunder early in the fourth quarter put the nail in the coffin. As you can guess, Keshawn Martin was the blunderer.
The Bills had just scored a touchdown to put them up 31-16 with 10:53 to play in the fourth quarter. The 49ers were down two scores, but had moved the ball well on their previous two drives (40 and 46-yard drives), one of which resulted in points. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t even get to take the field on the next possession; Martin received the kick at the six and proceeded to fumble it after taking a big hit at his own 27 -yard-line. Buffalo recovered the fumble and turned it into seven points, putting the game out of reach.
Not only did this one go wrong, but his other return in the game only accounted for 17 yards. San Francisco has had enough problems with its offense this season; the last thing they can afford is special teams blunders as well. I’m certainly not saying that Colin Kaepernick would have led a fourth-quarter comeback, but I’d like to see him squander that opportunity himself.
Another loss is probably in the best interests of the organization. I doubt I’m the only one who wants to see Chip Kelly draft Lamar Jackson. So maybe you’re a pawn, after all, Keshawn Martin.