Every Monday morning this season, we’ll do the Post Game Handshakes, in honor of Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz, who meet again Sunday evening. In it, I’ll highlight some of the notable things that occurred during the week, go through the games to find interesting plays, and maybe have Schwartz-like wag of the finger for some coaching decisions.
Hail to the Redskins: Heartiest post-week 1 handshake to the Redskins for going into New Orleans and taking the game to the Saints all day long. Robert Griffin III was great. The Redskins were prepared and focused, and Shanahan’s game plan took advantage of the Saints’ porous defense. On the first field goal drive, Griffin didn’t throw any passes beyond the line of scrimmage as the Redskins methodically moved down the field. His first downfield throw was the big play to Garcon, but it was set up by the previous drive.
After that, things weren’t perfect (Redskins had a punt blocked that resulted in a TD), but just as impressive was how they harassed and frustrated Drew Brees. He got his yards in the end as the Saints tried to rally, but he had several stretches early where he missed three passes in a row, and completed less than half for the day. That’s quite a feat going against a guy who has set the completion percentage record.
Don’t write the Saints off yet, though. I know the storyline will be about the “distractions.” The defense has issues, but they will still beat plenty of teams. After last year’s loss to Green Bay, I talked about teams that lose while scoring lots of points in the opener. That applies this year as well, though the X-factor is that we will find out just how good Washington is over the next few weeks.
Julio Jones dominates a bunch of backups: Julio Jones was literally a man amongst older boys this week. Kansas City had four starters out, including cornerback Brandon Flowers and pass rusher Tamba Hali. Stanford Routt, who replaced Brandon Carr on the opposite side, wasn’t great, though there were other targets to pick on, like Jacque Reeves. Jones and the Falcons moved it at will, and he could have easily had a third touchdown that was overthrown (Ryan eventually scored on a touchdown run on that drive).
Remember how dinged up the Chiefs were, though, because the defense shouldn’t be this bad once Flowers and Hali return.
Worst Touchdown Celebration of the Week: I’ll extend my hand and then quickly pull it back from Vernon Davis after this attempted dunk following his touchdown against the Packers.
Bad Interceptions in a win, a good omen? Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions yesterday. Michael Vick topped him with four. Both were able to overcome those interceptions with a late touchdown drive to beat underdogs in the Rams and Browns, respectively.
Take heart, Eagles fans. The last quarterback to throw at least four interceptions in a win on opening day was Ken Stabler in 1976, and the Raiders went on to win the Super Bowl that year. Of course, Stabler was going against the Steel Curtain that day, while Michael Vick was playing the Browns. You have to go back to George Blanda in 1962 to find the only other quarterback with that many interceptions in a win in game one (Blanda threw six).
Still, only 19 quarterbacks have thrown at least three interceptions in a win since the merger. Fourteen of those 19 eventually reached the postseason.
Chris Johnson is back (and I mean the 2011 version): This was a funny nugget from Kirk Minihane at the end of the Patriots-Titans game: “Aaron Hernandez has more rushing yards than Chris Johnson.” That’s not fair, though, Aaron Hernandez is a better running back than Usain Bolt.
The Referees: They were not as good as the real referees, they also aren’t going to lead to brutal injuries and chaos. Pass interference calls widely differ among the regular crews, so that has to be graded on a curve, because it’s not like it’s perfect ever. I would say the Green Bay and San Francisco game was the worst and most inconsistent.
The officials gave the Seahawks an extra timeout at the end of the game, when it should have been taken away as a result of an injury inside the last two minutes. Seattle did not score. Overall, no major gaffes that decided the outcome of a game.
The 4th-and-1 Log: Here’s a log of 4th-and-1 decisions in close games (10 point or less final margin) to see where the decisions came and how it turned out.
1. Rams kicked a field goal on 4th-and-1 at the 11 to cut lead to 7-6. They eventually lost by 4.
2. Jaguars had 4th and goal at the one yard line in a scoreless game in the first quarter. Mike Smith did not rub off on Mike Mularkey. They kicked the FG to go up 3-0. Eventually lost in overtime by a FG. That wasn’t all, as both teams cancelled out with 4th-and-2 chances. Jacksonville also kicked on 4th-and-1 from inside the 10-yard line when trailing by five, and Minnesota kicked to go up eight on 4th and goal.
3. Eagles went for it on 4th-and-1 with 2:50 left, trailing by six. LeSean McCoy converted and they scored the winning touchdown five plays later. This was a little more obvious, though a smattering of scared souls might have kicked a FG here and try to tie it later.
4. Mike Shanahan went twice in Saints territory on 4th-and-1, converting both, the second by a pass interference penalty. They scored touchdowns on both, and won 40-32.
5. Dallas went on 4th-and-1 at the Giants 37, and got stuffed. They eventually won 24-17. Giants also went on 4th-and-1 in the second half when trailing by two scores, converted, and scored a touchdown.
The Bucs are Tougher: Ten rushing yards allowed, and much stronger defense. Mark Barron made a huge impact, getting big hits, and also defending a key third down pass as Carolina was trying to rally. Carolina’s defense played better after a rough start, and Tampa still needs to get better offensively. Will we see a turnaround like the 49ers? I think that is optimistic, but they are clearly a better team than the train wreck that developed under Raheem Morris.
Other NFL content you may have missed from the weekend:
Send your suggestions for future Post-Game Handshake content to my e-mail jkl1974 at live.com, particularly if there are plays from the next week’s games or coaching decisions you want included, that may fly under the radar nationally.