This week’s Post Game Handshakes continue to marvel at Doug Martin’s huge performances, cry a little and give Chuck Pagano a hug, and then figure out how it’s come full circle between 1984 and 2012.
Meet the New Playoff Teams, Same as the Old Playoff Teams: If the season ended today, nine of the twelve playoff teams would be repeat contenders from last year. The only exceptions to that are two teams that had quarterback injuries last year, and were in the playoffs the year before (Indianapolis and Chicago), and Seattle. Detroit is lurking at 4-4, with the tiebreaker over Seattle, so they could make it an even ten.
Two of the new playoff teams are currently holding on in the final sixth position. Two of the three from last year who are out were the sixth seeds (Cincinnati and Detroit). Only New Orleans really fits the bill of a recent power to be having a down year, and they have their own very specific issues. The top ten seeds could look very similar, with only Chicago replacing New Orleans.
When was the last time nine playoff teams repeated? Well, never. 1995 was the only year in the expanded playoff era (12 teams) that as many as eight repeated. The average is 6.2 repeating playoff teams.
I might take a look at this further, but a cursory analysis would suggest Red Dawn is at fault. The remake is due out this year, and the last time at least 75% of playoff teams repeated was 1984. In that season, eight of the ten teams repeated, including all five from the AFC.
Chuck Pagano’s Inspiring Speech: I mean, what is there to say about this? Inspiring, heart wrenching stuff from Chuck Pagano as he addresses his team and talks about dancing at his daughters’ weddings and hoisting the Lombardi trophy. The Colts are an improbable 5-3 this year, and probably the story of the first half, and always a must find near the end of games on Sunday.
Doug Martin Is Spinning His Hamster Wheels in Elite Company: Yesterday, I wrote about how Doug Martin was the first back, since at least 1940, to have three different touchdown runs of 40+ yards in the same game. He also had a pretty big game against Minnesota the week before that. Here are the most yards from scrimmage in consecutive games, going back to 1960 (all data via pro football reference):
Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning Just Can’t Avoid Comparisons: First overall picks, one replacing the other in Indianapolis, and now this. Through eight games, both quarterbacks have exactly 2,404 passing yards (via Don Van Natta, Jr.). They also now have an outside possibility of playing each other–if it happens in the #3 vs. #6 matchup in the postseason.
Bears Defense, Again, With All Your Touchdowns: It’s getting ridiculous at this point. Chicago added another interception return yesterday as Brian Urlacher rumbled for the score. That puts them at seven interception return scores this year, and we just hit the halfway point. They just tied the 1999 St. Louis Rams and the 1984 Seahawks, and trail only two teams: 1998 Seattle (8) and 1961 San Diego (9). San Diego was in the AFL at the time, though, so the NFL record is just one away.
Charles Tillman, meanwhile, forced four fumbles . . . in one game. That’s the most in at least twenty years (via Bears Rapid Reports). Last year’s season leader, Defensive POY Terrell Suggs, had 7 all season.
Baltimore’s Boom or Bust Offense: The Ravens came out and took control of the game at Cleveland early with two touchdown drives. After that, they were fortunate they were playing the Browns. Cleveland could not score touchdowns, and had five field goals between the start of the second quarter and the middle of the fourth. Here were Baltimore’s offensive numbers during that span:
7 possessions, 1 first down, 6 of 14 passing for 40 yards, 1 sack. 7 rushes for 11 yards.
Then, down 15-14, Baltimore put together their third drive of the game, to take the lead back. The final field goal came after the Browns were forced to go for it and Baltimore gained no yards. The final result was three long touchdown drives, and eight others that resulted in 43 yards total. The good news is Baltimore is at 6-2. The bad news is that this was not the kind of performance that gives you confident going forward.
Steelers Overcome Early Injuries, and Now Bad Calls: Pittsburgh showed the resolve of a good organization to get to 5-3, and the way Baltimore looks, likely the favorite in the AFC North while trailing by one game. They were not playing well early, but have now put together impressive wins at Cincinnati, at home against Washington, and at the Giants.
They also overcame a questionable penalty that set up the Giants first touchdown, where there was no helmet contact and if the ball isn’t knocked away a split second before (and Clark can’t rely on that in the end zone), it’s a tremendous play. Then, the second touchdown should have been a non-fumble that stood on review, and involved a clip. Even with those 11 points, the Steelers came back to win a game they trailed by 10 on the road.
How? Defense. Hakeem Nicks still isn’t right, and they went toe to toe, often in man coverage, against the Giants wide receivers and frustrated Manning. He went 10 of 24 for 125 yards and an interception. A very impressive four point road win.
Jaguars and Chiefs are neck and neck: Man, the Jaguars are bad. They get to showcase their badness for a national audience on Thursday. On Sunday, they turned Mikel LeShoure into a sensation with three touchdowns in the second quarter. Detroit backs accounted for 196 yards and 4 touchdowns. The final score, 31-14, flatters the Jaguars, as all 14 were scored in the fourth quarter after the game was way out of reach.
Cam Newton victory = Mitt Romney? Yeah, yeah, you’ve heard about this presidential thing. The Redskins lost at home to the Panthers the Sunday before the election, which is supposed to mean that the incumbent is in trouble. I’m guessing there is no cause/effect relationship here, but what do I know?
At least there’s this: no body language analysis this week. The Panthers controlled the Redskins from making big plays, and the Redskins offense is struggling with Fred Davis and Pierre Garcon out. Last two games: 53% completions, 5.4 yards per attempt.
FOURTH DOWN LOG
We continue with the Fourth and One Log, looking at games decided by 10 or less, and situations where going for it is arguable based on past behavior (not including those deep in one’s own territory early in a game, for example).
1. Cincinnati on final drive went on 4th and 1, down 11, went and converted, eventually kicking a field goal.
2. On 4th and 1 on the opening drive, Indianapolis refused to gamble and took the points. They got called for a delay of game, and then Vinatieri missed the field goal.
3. Washington went in the second quarter, converted, but then were stopped on 4th and goal from the 2. Carolina then marched 98 yards to score a TD of their own.
4. Carolina faced a 4th and 1 from their own 46 in the third quarter, and punted, it was shanked for 14 yards to the Washington 40.
5. At midfield near the end of first half, Seattle ran a QB sneak, converted, and scored a touchdown four plays later to take a 20-17 lead. With 3 minutes left, up 10, Seattle went at the Minnesota 32, converted, and ran out the rest of the clock.
6. New York Giants punted from PIT 44 on the opening drive, downing it at Pittsburgh 2.
7. Pittsburgh went at NYG 48, converted, and later punted after a Roethlisberger sack. In the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh faked a field goal from the NYG 3, failed, but stuffed the Giants, got the ball back, and scored the winning touchdown on the next drive that started at midfield.
8. With 1:11 left in the second quarter, Dallas punted from own 49. Atlanta went down and scored the tying field goal at the end of the half. Dallas lost 19-13.
Related: Tony Corrente Cursed Out One of His Fellow Officials With the Mic On
Related: Brian Urlacher and His Movember Mustache Plod Along for Bears’ Seventh Interception TD (Video)
Related: Reggie Bush: Stop-and-Start Touchdown Run Will Remind You of His USC Days
Related: Victor Cruz Got Pulverized by Ryan Clark of the Steelers
Related: Golden Tate Flipped into the End Zone to Give the Seahawks the Lead
Related: Darrius Heyward-Bey Made a Great One Handed Catch
[photos via US Presswire, gifs via @cfbsection]