Around the NFL (11/19 â€“ 11/25/09 Edition)
Â Once considered dead in the AFC West race, the San Diego Chargers have surged into a tie for the division lead as the Denver Broncos have stumbled after a 6-0 start. And turning back the clock was LaDainian Tomlinson, who rushed for a season high 96 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles after learning his wife was pregnant. (Jeff Lewis for Sentinel)Â
By Jason LewisSentinel Staff Writer
4th and wrong
So what was New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick thinking when he decided to go for the first down on 4th and two from the Patriots own 28-yard line while hanging on to a six point 4th quarter lead over the Indianapolis Colts?
No matter how that decision is looked at, it was a very bad decision. It is a no brainer. Punt the ball! Force the Colts to drive 70+ yards to win the game. Who cares who they have at quarterback? Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, John Elway, or any other great quarterback. It does not matter. There is no decision to be made there, punt the ball. Even if the AFC Pro Bowl offense was on the other sideline, punt the ball.
The risk of going for the first down by far out weights the reward. If the Patriots convert the first down the game is still not over. They still have to convert another first down so that they will be able to run out the clock.
It appeared that Belichick feared Manning so much that he made a bone head decision just to keep the ball out of Manning's hands. Belichick did not have any confidence in his defense, and he put his defense in an impossible situation to win the game.
The Patriots defense had actually played well. During the second half of the game, in the Colts five drives leading up to their final drive, the Patriots defense intercepted Manning twice and forced a punt, and the Patriots defense forced the Colts to punt the ball seven times over the course of the game. So there was no need to think that Manning would have driven down the field with ease.
Belichick, as great of a coach as he is, blew the game. It is a simple as that. If the Patriots had the ball on the Colts side of the field, it may have been a gamble worth taking. But from their own 28-yard line? That is just not smart.
There are a lot of coaches who would lose their jobs over a decision like that. A decision that cost their team a meaningful game. Reports are that a number of Patriot players were livid at Belichick's decision. The coach is supposed to make decisions that put the team in the best situation to win games. Belichick did the opposite. And it was on a decision that is easy to make. Punt the ball. This is not NFL Madden football on Playstation. This is real football, and teams with leads punt from their own 28-yard line every single time.
The Colts are now sitting at 9-0 and are on track to get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Patriots are still leading the AFC East, but they will most likely have to hit the road come playoff time.
Weekly Vince Young Report
The weekly JaMarcus Russell report will be on hiatus for at least this week, and hopefully for the rest of the season. As usual, he stinks. Nothing new to report.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, on the other hand, has proved his doubters wrong again for the third week in a row by leading his Titans to a 41-17 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Before benching quarterback Kerry Collins, the Titans were 0-6 and scored only 84 points for the season, for an average of 14 points per game.
Since inserting Young into the line up the Titans are 3-0 and have scored 105 points, for an average of 35 points per game.
A lot of credit needs to go to running back Chris Johnson, who leads the league in rushing with 1,091 yards, and he could make a run at 2,000 yards this season. But Collins also had Johnson as his running back and the Titans could not win a game.
Johnson's numbers have gone up since Young was named the starter.
In six games with Collins as the starter, Johnson rushed for 596 yards, which is an average of 99 yards a game. Those are really good numbers. But in three games with Young as the starter, Johnson has rushed for 495 yards, which is an average of 165 yards a game. Those numbers are outstanding. Those are MVP type numbers.
The running and passing games complement each other, and it appears that Young and Johnson complement each other perfectly. Young is being efficient while limiting the mistakes, which is allowing Johnson more opportunities to run the ball. It is also keeping defenses honest. If they crowd the box with extra defenders to stop Johnson, Young is making plays to keep the drive going, which forces defenses to back off. That makes it a lot easier for Johnson to gain yards.
In Young's three starts he has completed 70 percent of his passes with only one interception. In Collins' six starts he completed only 54 percent of his passes with eight interceptions.
The Titans have a really good team, but it appears that one player, Collins, was holding them back. What would their record be if Young was named the starter earlier in the season? They might be in the playoff hunt.
For anybody who is actually keeping tabs on JaMarcus Russell, he was benched again this past Sunday in the Raiders 16-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. After completing only 8-of-23 passes, the Raiders pulled him late in the third quarter of the game. The question is, why did they even let him attempt 23 passes?
How 'Bout Them...Bengals?
Yes, the Cincinnati Bengals! Not only are they legit, but they now have control over the AFC North, one of the best divisions in the NFL. They completed their sweep of the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers this past Sunday, they have already swept the Baltimore Ravens, now all they have to do is finish strong and they will be in the playoffs, possibly with a first round bye.
Heading into the season head coach Marvin Lewis looked like he was on the hot seat after a number of uneventful seasons. But a lot of the problems that the Bengals have had can be blamed on poor management from the front office. This offseason Lewis was given more control over the roster, and he has brought in a number of players that have responded well to his coaching philosophy.
The Bengals did hit a slight bump in the road during their 18-12 victory at Pittsburgh. Running back Cedric Benson, who is one of the leagues leading rushers, did not play in the second half of the game because of a hip flexor injury.
No problem, the Bengals went out and signed recently released running back Larry Johnson, who has two 1,700+-yard rushing seasons under his belt.
Johnson talked himself off of a 2-7 Chiefs team, and now he is on a 7-2 Bengals team. And the Chief still have to pay him for the remainder of the season, while he collects a new check from the Bengals. Yeah, he may be a malcontent, but he is looking like a genius right about now.
Denver Broncos collapse comes early this year
Last season the San Diego Chargers did not make up the three game difference between themselves and the Broncos until the very end of the season. This year the Broncos collapse has come much earlier, as well as the Chargers mid season serge.
Since starting the season 6-0, the Broncos are now on a three game losing streak, and after losing quarterback Kyle Orton in the second quarter with an ankle injury against the Washington Redskins, the Broncos were not even competitive on the offensive side of the ball.
Broncos backup quarterback Chris Simms, son of Super Bowl winning quarterback Phil Simms, looked like he did not even belong in the league in the game. He finished 3-for-13 for 13 yards and an interception. The Broncos did not score any points with him at quarterback, which allowed the Redskins to come back and win the game.
Simms apparently did not get many of his father's genes. He must have gotten his abilities from his mother's side of the family, because he did not look anything like an NFL quarterback, let along like the son of Phil Simms.
The Chargers and Broncos are now tied for first place in the AFC West, and they play each other in Denver this Sunday for the division lead. Orton is questionable for the game. If he does not play, it looks like the Chargers will take sole possession for first place.
The Cowboys are still streaky
The Dallas Cowboys have had a bit of a role reversal over the past month of the season. In recent years they have been a team that has looked good against the bad teams, but then laid an egg against the good teams.
They seemed to be moving in the right directions with wins over the back-to-back wins over the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. Those are wins against teams who are in the hunt for playoff spots. Those were games that the Cowboys usually lost. But the Cowboys came out on top.
Well, this past week the Cowboys showed that they are still a hit and miss team by losing, and nearly being shut out, but the Green Bay Packers, who are a middle of the road team.
This was supposed to be a game that the Cowboys were supposed to win. A game where they would flex their muscles and show that they are a contender. But instead, their offense was a total no show, and they did not get on the scoreboard until the final minute of the game when quarterback Tony Romo hit wide receiver Roy Williams on a touchdown pass, making the final score 17-7.
Williams is one problem with the Cowboys. All the talent in the world, but he just cannot put it all together, even though he thinks that he can. Williams has mouthed off that he is the team's No. 1 wide receiver, even though Patrick Crayton has put up better numbers this season.
Williams finally had his break out game against the Packers, catching five passes for 105 yards, but what did that get the Cowboys? Not much of anything. And he had another key dropped pass. He has been upset with the way the Cowboys have used him, but really, he just does not make the plays when they come his way. Looks like the Cowboys should have just kept Terrell Owens, who is rotting away in Buffalo.
The Cowboys are still in first place in the NFC East, mostly because the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles are slumping. If the Cowboys do find themselves in the playoffs it does not look like they will be going very far.