Well after all the anticipation, DirecTV very much let me down yesterday. I was all excited to watch the Seahawks and Jaguars (a statement uttered by no one else in the country), and for some reason all of the live streaming feeds for the late games weren't working. Eventually, DirecTV's service twitter feed suggested turning on closed captioning as a workaround (apparently it's a different video feed). Then they went out of their way to state that only the PC streams were having problems (as if it's a minor inconvenience to have less than 100% of your features actually usable.
Was this a one-week hiccup? I certainly hope so.
Onto the games...
Okay, San Francisco officially has a problem, and I'm not even talking about Aldon Smith. When their offense went into Seattle and was completely shut down, I was willing to write that off as great defense, hostile environment, bad night. When the Indianapolis defense shiut them down one week later in San Francisco? Something's rotten in the Bay Area.
It certainly seems like the 49ers are trying to run their whole offense through Kaepernick. While Kaepernick is a great talent, right now he has nobody (outside of Anquan Boldin) to throw to. The 49ers should get back to pounding the running game. When they did so yesterday, it worked. Frank Gore had 82 yards on 11 carries. Less than 5 of those carries came after halftime, and San Francisco was within 6 until less than 5 minutes remained in the game. Whatever the reason was to abandon what was working, it was the wrong decision, and San Francisco paid the price.
The Packers-Bengals game was about as crazy as they come. Cincinnati jumped out to a 14-0 lead, the Packers scored the next 30 points, and then gave up 3 touchdowns in the last 19 minutes as the Bengals came back to win, 34-30. The two main themes from this game were 1) The Packers defense can't stop anybody and 2) When is the last time an Aaron Rodgers-led team turned the ball over 4 times?
The game turned on a 4th and 1 play with just under 4 minutes to go in the game. Green Bay was up 30-27 at the Bengals 30-yard-line. Rather than ask his shaky kicker to make a 47-yarder and go up 6 points, McCarthy tried to get the first down to bleed more clock. I actually have no problem with the decision, but the play call was horrid. Asking 3rd string rookie running back Jonathan Franklin to gain the first down on a run up the gut into the strength of the Bengals defense was lunacy. Green Bay might be better than inept at running the ball for the first time in three years this season, but with the game on the line, put the ball in Rodgers' hands. As it turns out, Franklin not only failed to gain the necessary yardage, he fumbled the ball and watched it get returned for a Bengal touchdown, providing Cincinnati with the winning points.
Congratulations to the Lions, for beating the Redskins on the road for the first time...ever.
I completely underestimated the offensive competency of the Miami Dolphins. I knew their defense was good, but didn't believe they'd score enough to mount a legitimate challenge to the Patriots for the AFC East. It looks like I was wrong, the two Dolphins-Patriots match-ups will be very interesting television.
Is it wrong that my first reaction at the end of the Seahawks 45-17 win over the Jaguars where Seattle's backups entered the game in the 3rd quarter, was slight annoyance that Jacksonville scored 17 points?
Houston, we may have a problem. After beating San Diego and Tennessee by the skin of their teeth, Houston again dig themselves a sizable hole against a much better team, only to find they couldn't claw their way out of it this time. You cant fault Houston's defense: they only gave up 236 yards and one of Baltimore's three touchdowns. The Houston offense is simply short-circuiting.
The league has 6 winless teams at this stage of the NFL season. Why are these teams struggling?
What's wrong with...
The Washington Redskins? Well, RG3 is rusty and not fully physically or mentally back from his knee injury. Without him being transcendent, the offense is just ordinary. Without the offense putting up points and sustaining drives like last year, they can't cover for a pretty bad defense like they did last year.
The New York Giants? I honestly do not know. All of a sudden New York's pass rush has disappeared (it doesn't help that Jason Pierre-Paul is a shell of himself as he plays through an injury). Without the benefit of their usual great pass rush, their mediocre (if that) back 7 is being fully exposed. On the other side of the ball, the Giants' offensive line is doing its best to get Eli Manning killed. Eli feels he has to do everything himself, which is leading to massive amounts of turnovers.
The Minnesota Vikings? Teams are daring Christian Ponder to beat them, and he simply can't do it. Trading Percy Harvin may have made sense for chemistry and financial reasons, but the offense needs playmakers desperately to take some heat off of Adrian Peterson, who's deal with the devil may have expired, as he looks human again. Also, their defense has collapsed from last year, forcing the Vikings to play catchup more, which means less Peterson and more Ponder. That's bad.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Their quarterback is regressing by the game. The coach is spending his time trying to put out fires rather than scheme for the opposition. In fairness, they are 2 plays away from being 2-1, which would look much better and probably paper over much of the bad feelings leaking out of the locker room. But because those breaks haven't gone their way, discord is mounting and it's starting to affect the on-field product.
The Pittsburgh Steelers? No running game, a leaky offensive line, and a quarterback who doesn't buy in to the offensive game plan has crippled the offense. The defense has gotten old, and the youth being injected into it isn't as good as we've come to expect from the guys Pittsburgh plugs into its defense. As a result, the defense can't carry the load like they have in the past, and the offense isn't even carrying its own weight.
The Jacksonville Jaguars? They are a talent-poor team with no decent quarterback on the roster. They are in year 1 of a multi-year rebuild so things are going to get uglier before they get better.