This week’s Handshakes wonder how many more Giants-Redskins shootouts we will see between Robert Griffin III and Eli Manning. The Redskins continue to surrender late leads, managing to somehow forget that Victor Cruz ALWAYS does this. Also, Pat Shurmur punted on fourth and one in the fourth quarter on the Colts side of the field as his new owner looked on. Way to really show him, Pat!
Illegally touched in the end: Tampa appeared to have tied the game against the Saints when Josh Freeman connected with Mike Williams as time expired. Instead, Williams was flagged for illegal touching, after having been shoved out of the back in the end zone and coming back in for the catch. The rule was applied correctly, so there is no refereeing controversy here. There is no ability to re-establish for the receiver. Once he goes out, as long as the contact was legal, he cannot be the first to touch the ball.
In this case, the contact was legal because Josh Freeman had rolled outside of the pocket, and there is no penalty for illegal contact downfield once that happens. It was frustrating to see the shove out, but the rule has a legitimate purpose. We whine about the offense getting all the rule changes, do we really want another one?
If the contact had either occurred after the pass was thrown (pass interference) or while Freeman was in the pocket (illegal contact more than five yards downfield) then the touchdown would have counted.
Heath Miller, All Pro Candidate: Steelers tight end Heath Miller has always been a solid all-around player, blocking and catching, but has made only one pro bowl in his career. That should change this year. In a year when we’ve seen other top tight ends struggle with injuries, Miller has flourished with the emphasis on the shorter passing game in Pittsburgh. He is on pace for career highs in catches, yards, and touchdowns at age 30, and had the key block on the winning touchdown run, while also catching his fifth of the year.
Houston, We Have a Problem: The angst over the debacle last Sunday Night was short lived. Houston moved to the front of the AFC race by handling a wounded Baltimore team easily. The pass defense that was shredded by Aaron Rodgers returned to its previous form, with J.J. Watt again tipping a pass that was returned for an interception touchdown.
Ray Rice should have run more, right? Baltimore should have given him more carries because we all know they win when they run. Well, Rice started effectively (6 carries for 35 yards), and the Ravens did run on first down 5 of the first 8 times, until the point they were 23-3 down. The problem was the other downs and Flacco struggling on third down.
The final line for Flacco: 21 of 43 for 147 yards, 2 interceptions. Game one post-Ray, post-Lardarius, and the defense was gashed again. The offense and the franchise quarterback couldn’t make it up, and now the problem in Houston lies with this week’s visitors. Flacco will get more opportunities to show he’s ready to be considered Elite again this year with a suspect defense.
I’ll let these geniuses sum up the rest of the game for you. Quality programming (language and background noises NSFW).
The NFC North Back on Top: The NFC West surprised early. Yesterday, the NFC North teams went 2-0 against the West, and after tonight’s Bears game, the NFC North will have a 16-10 mark, surpassing the West at 16-12. Green Bay did it with another methodical performance against the Rams, coming off the Sunday Night slaying in Houston. Randall Cobb was the offensive star this time while Greg Jennings is out. Aaron Rodgers has returned to MVP form the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Minnesota came up with another win, as Christian Ponder continues to be that guy. You know, the tabloid guy who just wins (8 of 17 for 58 yards, 1 Td, 2 Int, woof). Adrian Peterson had a big game, while the defensive line overwhelmed the Cardinals woeful line.
Buffalo scored to go up 33-28 right at the end of the third quarter against Tennessee. Chan Gailey kicked the extra point. Tennessee eventually scored the game winning touchdown and kicked the extra point that provided the difference, 35-34. Was it too early to go for two in either case?
They are two different situations. The Tomlin situation, while it seems early for conventional decision. Is a pretty neutral decision. The benefit of being tied versus the disadvantage of down 2 work out about the same, compared to knowing you are down 1 going into the half. Neither decision is significantly better than the other.
When I look at the game winning probabilities at Advanced NFL Stats, though, Gailey’s decision was different. It pains me to say that conventional wisdom is right here, but it is. With 15 minutes left, being up 5 is more costly than up 7 is beneficial with all the permutations. There are enough possessions that you can get beat by two field goals gained, or not extend the lead with another field goal.
When is it too late to go for one point in either of these situations, though? As it turns out, the answer is roughly between the 6 and 7 minute mark of the fourth quarter. That’s when possessions become more limited and you must try to tie, or make it where a touchdown doesn’t beat you.
Marty Hurney Out in Carolina: The GM axe fell this morning on Marty Hurney of the Panthers. Two weeks ago, he was listed #1 when we talked about GM’s who could be in trouble, and #2 on that list was Cleveland President Mike Holmgren, who will be officially out at season’s end and has been replaced as well. Next on that list: Gene Smith of Jacksonville.
I’ve already seen chatter tying Cam Newton’s post game press conference comments to the firing. Nonsense. The Panthers again lost a close game where they didn’t make the plays in the end. Among those was Cam Newton getting stuffed on a 3rd and short run at the end of the 3rd quarter, and missing a pass on 4th and 1 near midfield late, when the Panthers only needed to get a field goal to take the lead.
Newton expressed his frustration about the close losses, about everyone needing to do better, including himself. It’s the fourth game this year, and third in a row, that Carolina either had the lead or had the ball with a chance to take the lead late in a game and lost. He talked about things needing to change quickly. It is a pretty big leap to assume he was asking for a GM to be fired the next morning as the change that would make them pick up a fourth and short in crunch time.
Hurney was fired for the overall progress of the team, after more than a decade in Carolina. He arrived with John Fox and was part of the immediate turnaround. Recent years have been characterized by a decline in talent and some curious contract decisions. He pays running backs more than anyone, and DeAngelo Williams has been worthless. He paid a kicker a ton of money. There were legitimate reasons to move on.
Fourth and One Log
1. The Giants punted (after a delay of game) from the WAS 41 on the first drive. The Redskins took the ball the length of the field, but kicked a field goal on 4th and goal from the 2. Later, the Giants kicked a field goal from the Washington 9 to tie the game at 10-10 near the end of the second quarter.
2. Washington punted on 4th and 1 from their own 40 at the start of the second half. They went on 4th and 1 from the Giants 30 early in the fourth quarter down by 7, converted, but fumbled on the next play.
3. Buffalo kicked a FG at the Tennessee 12, down 21-14 in the 2nd Q. They eventually lost 35-34 when Tennessee scored with just over a minute left.
4. Dallas kicked a FG at the goal line to take a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. They won 19-14.
5. Carolina went on 4th and 1 just outside the two minute warning at the end of the game, trailing 16-14, and Cam Newton threw incomplete.
6. Indianapolis lined up to go for it at their own 23 in the 2nd Q. Cleveland jumped offsides. The Colts later went on 4th and 1 at the Cleveland 24, converting, and later kicking a field goal to extend lead to 17-13.
7. After consecutive deep passes that went incomplete, Cleveland punted on 4th and 1 from the Indianapolis 41, trailing by 4 with 6:38 left in the game. They got the ball back a few minutes later and went for a 4th and 6 in almost the exact same part of field just inside two minute warning, failing to convert.
8. Up by 14 in the fourth quarter, Minnesota punted from Arizona 45. Arizona took the ball down the field and scored a touchdown, but failed to get the onsides kick and the Vikings won 21-14.
9. Green Bay punted from St. Louis 49 up 10-3, 2nd Q. The Rams got a field goal on the next drive, cutting it to 10-6 at the time. At the end of the 3rd Q, Green Bay punted from STL 44, got an interception on the next play, and added a field goal to make it 20-6.
10. New Orleans punted from own 41. Tampa got the 95 yard pass to Vincent Jackson, but . . .
11. Josh Freeman was stuffed for a 4 yard loss on 4th and goal late in the third quarter, trailing by 7 at the time. (Connor Barth had missed a field goal on previous possession). Tampa lost by 7. Tampa also had a conversion on the final drive before the Mike Williams illegal touching play to end game.
12. Leading 17-3, Jacksonville went for it from the Oakland 46, and Chad Henne threw incomplete. Oakland eventually got a short Janikowski field goal before halftime to make it 17-6. Jacksonville eventually lost in overtime.
13. Cincinnati went at the PIT 21, converting and eventually scoring to make it 7-3 in the first quarter, in a game they lost by a touchdown. In the second half, Bengals kicked the field goal from the PIT 30 to take a 17-14 lead at the time.
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[photo via US Presswire]