In this weekly segment on FY, Ty will identify the pawns and black swans from the previous week’s action. (Here’s Week 17, 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.
Wild Card Pawns
Aaron Rodgers’ stuff is on fire and he continues to wow us each week. He’s already getting his just desserts from the media, unlike these guys.
Bobby Wagner, Linebacker, Seahawks
The anchor of the Seahawks defense made eight solo tackles and two assisted against Detroit, but he also made the play that changed the game on Saturday.
The Lions were facing fourth-and-one from the Seahawks 38-yard line to open the second quarter with the game still scoreless. Detroit rolled the dice and ran a play-action boot to the field side. As Matthew Stafford began rolling out he immediately looked for his running back in the flat, but Wagner and Mike Morgan were all over it. Stafford dumped the ball back inside to his tight end Matthew Mulligan, who had two blockers in front of him. Wagner peeled off the back and stuck Mulligan with the form that gets John Madden out of his seat.
Seattle would take over and used the momentum to take a 7-0 lead. Russell Wilson and company were only able to manage 31 total yards on their first two possessions of the game. Wagner’s big-play sparked the onslaught.
Chris Clark, Right Tackle, Texans
Chris Clark drew the assignment of blocking Khalil Mack on Saturday and performed admirably against one of the league’s best pass-rushers. Brock Osweiler threw 25 passes against the Raiders, five of which were deep balls, and Mack did not record a single sack.
It’s no coincidence that a clean Osweiler had one of his better games of the year, posting a 90.1 passer rating. This isn’t praise Brock time, though; we all remember what he did in his previous 14 starts. Way to make him look serviceable, Chris.
Wild Card Black Swans
Odell Beckham and his boat-load of drops are already being torpedoed by pundits. Since I don’t have any good nautical puns left, I’m going to focus on a couple other less-than-seaworthy vessels.
The Left Side of the Dolphins Offensive Line
I can’t put the fault on one player in particular (there was clearly a major communication issue), but this play changed the game significantly.
Branden Albert could have passed L.T. Walton to Laremy Tunsil and slid out to James Harrison; or Tunsil could have kicked back, realizing he had no defenders in his lane, and got his hands on Harrison. Either way, the Steelers rushed four and had a free-run at Moore, resulting in the Dolphins coming away empty-handed on a very promising drive to finish the first half.
If Miami comes away with a touchdown, it’s a one-score game going into halftime and the Fins would have had the chance to pull level when they got the ball to start the second-half. This could have been a much different game if this drive ended in points.
Steven Patrick, Back Judge in Green Bay
We have all gawked at the Hail Mary from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb that closed out the first-half of the Green Bay/New York game. I’m wondering if Steven Patrick was a little distracted by the awe of the play. As the back judge, Patrick is responsible for everything that was happening in the back of the endzone. It appears the zebra was in perfect position and had an unobstructed view of the play, yet he didn’t flag Cobb for offensive pass interference. Cobb clearly pushed off and gained an advantage from it.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) January 8, 2017
A 7-6 scoreline at the break would have felt much different than 14-6. Not only did the TD put the Packers up by eight, but it created the feeling that everything was going the Packers way, even after the Giants shutdown Aaron Rodgers for the majority of the first half. Patrick robbed us of the one good game we were all so excited for. Forget about the Giants receivers and the defense giving up 38 points.