Week 17 of the 2017 NFL season was—whatever man, this is lame. The playoffs are about to start. Scrap the lead. Introductions are lies taught to you by 7th grade English teachers who wore glasses just for summer vacations and winter breaks. Let’s get on with it.
Here’s what I liked about week 17.
1.) In My Heart There’s A Motor That Never Stops
The idea of not watching another Houston Texans game for nine months makes me smile like the outstretched wings of the condor. It’s a smile so wide and pure, one that arrives on only special occasions, like the first time I hit play on a new Jeff Rosenstock album nine times out of ten I’ll be stoned on the subway. Of course there will be things that I will miss about them. The biggest will be seeing the blood drenched and septum pierced Jadeveon Clowney evaporating bones like flood water.
My secret favorite thing about Clowney, which really isn’t a secret, his is motor. He is relentless. There isn’t a play where he pulls up and watches. No matter where he’s at on the field he looks for the ball carrier and stops everything to pursue him. I bet he has made coaches cry with joy in pursuit drills over the years.
A perfect representation of this love was on a simple pass rush against the Colts last weekend. He was lined up as a ‘5’ against left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Clowney attempts an inside move that is quickly soured by Castonzo, nice job Anthony! Rather than try and bull rush and act like he’s doing something in a meaningless game, Clowney plants, and swims back outside. At the same time, Jacoby Brissett decides to try and run for the first. Clowney comes flat down the line of scrimmage and takes a slight angle to leap on Brissett’s back. This is why you never run from a catamount.
But wait, there’s more. This is bonus content. Content only available if you are a platinum one dollar a month Patreon subscriber. It has nothing to do with Clowney’s motor. There was just a cute little battle between future running back number one Marlon Mack and Clowney.
Later in the game, Clowney is lined up as an outside 3-4 linebacker. Hey! Offensive coordinators, don’t use a tight end to block Clowney. You can’t. The tight end blocks Clowney, he gets punched and swam over and cowardly goes to the second level to double team a safety. Clowney goes to make another tackle for a loss and takes one right to the chin. Mack vanquishes him, bounces the run outside, makes Kevin Johnson look foolish, and then almost spins around for the score.
This made the witch doctor head back to his Rainforest Cafe seething in vengeance. Houston shows ‘B’ gap blitz with Clowney and Benardrick McKinney and has both defenders drop back in coverage. At the same time they send two defensive backs to blitz on the outside. It almost ends in a sack. Brissett is stronger than Kareem Jackson and is able to dump it off to Mack. The throw is towards Clowney’s side of the field. He runs down the first down marker, and has to slightly adjust his route to catch up. Mack picks up the first, and then Clowney decimates him like Megaton.
The best part isn’t even in the hit. It’s the camaraderie. Afterwards Mack gets up, claps, pats Clowney on the head, and points to remember this moment, the moment he was hit the hardest in his entire life.
2.) Juju Smith-Schuster & Martavis Bryant Getting Reps
The AFC has to do better. They can’t keep letting the Patriots get away with it. Every year I mutter this to myself as we see the Patriots in yet another Superbowl or AFC Championship. And this year is no different. They are going to walk into the AFC title game. Next week they will get to play either the Bills, Titans or Chiefs. Great. Three teams that don’t stand a chance against New England.
It’s going to be up to the Steelers or Jaguars to prevent another Patriots Superbowl. I’ve made the case for the Jags giving the Pats some hell before. They can run the ball, they have the best pass defense, they can create an interior pass rush Tom Brady can’t escape from, and they can slow the game down and limit possessions. Really, all this means is that Dion Lewis would run for 200 yards and Blake Bortles would throw 4 interceptions in a 27-10 game.
The main contender to give us a slightly different Superbowl spice, which is really just salt instead of pepper, is Pittsburgh. And for them it’s the opposite. It’s all about their receivers and their ability to attack New England on the outside. The Antonio Brown injury was actually #blessed. They were able to feed and get Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant more targets and catches, two players they are going to absolutely need against New England.
In the last two weeks they have combined to catch 24 passes on 28 targets, have 343 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, and 14 first downs. Smith-Schuster has been the better of two. But it doesn’t matter. Both are stars. Great receivers. Send them positive thoughts through the collective unconsciousness.
3.) Myles Garrett or Aaron Donald?
The man freakier than the freakiest freak Jadeveon Clowney has put together a nice rookie season. He had 7 sacks and 29 pressures in 11 games this year. As long as one of his limbs doesn’t explode he’s going to be one of the best defensive players in football, maybe as early as next year.
Last week he forced the first fumble of his career. He’s up against Alejandro Villanueva. He takes a wide pass rush. When Villanueva goes to make his punch, Garrett slaps it away with his left hand and comes back under with the same arm to neutralize the punch. He then uses that same arm’s shoulder to shield himself from the tackle when he plants. The block is beat. He chases down the quarterback. The only probably is he’s too deep. His closing speed is insane. Garrett comes back to the quarterback and is able to run past Villanueva without taking another shot. When he gets to Landry Jones he swings his right arm to plop it out of his hands.
It’s a great rush move. It’s a great finish when he gets there. My favorite part though is the immediate ability to plant and find the quarterback. It’s something Aaron Donald does all the time. Sometimes the rush takes you past the quarterback. When this happens to lesser defenders, they don’t have the athleticism to speed past the blocker and get back to the quarterback. Garrett is the most, not the lesser.
4.) These Pat Mahomes Throws
I love how Andy Reid managed his team in a meaningless week 17 game. The Chiefs had already locked up the AFC West. Resigned to their fate of getting a home playoff game as the #4 seed. This one didn’t matter. But coaching never stops. Reid took the time to start Patrick Mahomes, put longtime bruiser Anthony Sherman at running back once Kareem Hunt clinched the rushing title, got Tyler Bray some snaps, and then put Mahomes back in to lead a game winning drive. Beautiful stuff.
Mahomes’s start went better than expected. It already seems like Reid has done a great job at corralling Mahomes. Compared to his Texas Tech days, Mahomes is sitting in the pocket, maneuvering around it, and is no longer aimless and drifting backwards. This was his biggest issue in college. Nobody questioned the talent or the arm strength or the athleticism, it was the pocket presence and decision making.
In this game the talent was everywhere. Mahomes made some oMg throws. The first was my favorite. Empty backfield, five receivers, 3rd and 10. Mahomes throws the post to the slot receiver and puts it right over the back of the safety’s head.
The second one had him dealing with a free inside rusher. Rather than run left and away so he could throw the ball out bounds at a minimum and turn a electron into a nuetron, Mahomes sidesteps the rush. The defender can only only get a hand around his waste. He’s able to stay upright and strong. Throws the tackle off and hits Albert Wilson to convert 3rd and 14.
The third throw was also against the blitz. Mahomes is hanging on his back foot with the rush coming after him. He unfurls a plastic bag touch pass that travels between two defenders for the completion.
The fourth was Texas Tech Mahomes. The problem wasn’t that he did things like this. The problem was he constantly relied on doing things like this. These type of plays can’t be an every down thing in the NFL. But they are great in certain situations when they are necessary.
Mahomes leaves the pocket to run away from Von Miller. Because of Miller’s speed, Mahomes is forced to take a dramatic route away from him. Deep and obtuse. Far and away he throws on the run for a 12 yard gain. He’s 17 yards behind the line of scrimmage. This is what talent, athleticism, and arm strength does.
Alex Smith gets a bad wrap. He’s thrown the ball downfield well this year. He’s the best game manager you can have, the point guard who averages 12 points and 10 assists game. Smith is the perfect driver of a fast car. Yet, I don’t want to see him anymore. I want Mahomes. He’s new and fast and exciting. And the Chiefs in their current form, with Smith at quarterback, will never get past the divisional round of the playoffs, which only means more New England AFC Title games.
5.) The Way It Should End
This season Joe Flacco finished 32nd in yards per attempt with 5.7. He was absolutely awful. He couldn’t throw the ball downfield when his receivers were open. Eventually he got discouraged and decided to just dump the ball off and wait until his defense or special teams gave him a short and easy field. So after this happened, the greatest play to happen for the Buffalo Bills this century,
Flacco was forced to lead a touchdown drive with 3 timeouts and 38 seconds remaining and the ball at the 27 yard line. If he didn’t, the Ravens would be knocked out of the playoffs, and the Bills would get in instead. He didn’t. The Ravens went 4 and out. And of course both of his completions were dumpoffs short of the sticks.
It ended the best way it could. I sure do love a perfect ending.
6.) Clinching IT
I like when teams finish it. When they have their fate in their own hand and they close out and clinch. Shout out to Atlanta, and sigh, Tennessee, and Buffalo.
7.) NFL BLITZ
I love a good defensive back blitz. It’s a sucker punch. The quarterback rarely sees it coming, and if he does, it’s like getting T-Boned in an intersection. You see a flash and all the sudden there is a pop, glass everywhere, a seatbelt in your throat, and a pillow case filled with rocks is breaking your nose.
This A.J. Bouye blitz was negated by an offside penalty, but it doesn’t make it any less perfect. Pre-snap Marcus Mariota is thinking cover three. There is one safety deep middle, the other is lined up underneath. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey are off the line of scrimmage on opposite sides of the field. When the ball is snapped Bouye takes off and runs through the hole in the middle of the line of scrimmage and lashes into Mariota.
8.) Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better
Terrible performances create terrible box scores. And boy, there were some horrific AFC South quarterback performances last week. Two came in a playoff clinching endeavor and the other came in a game where the loser gets to play the Browns and Jets next year.
In the important one, Mariota completed 12/21 passes for 134 yards, 1 touchdown and averaged 6.4 yards an attempt. 66 of these passing yards came on a screen to Derrick Henry, which was the only touchdown of the game. I know Eric Decker dropped some open throws, and Mariota ran for 66 yards on 10 carries, but damn dude, come on. I’m an idiot though. I do like them being competitive against the Chiefs. I just can’t quit you. I’ll never be able to not TITAN UP.
On the other sideline staring across from him was Blake Bortles. He Bortled so hard in this one. Against a sleazy pass defense Bortles completed 15/34 passes for 158 yards. This comes out to 4.6 yards an attempt. He also threw two interceptions to Kevin Byard. And despite all of this, if Dede Westbrook holds onto a perfectly thrown ball down the sideline the Titans lose 17-15 and we don’t have to deal with them this weekend.
Houston v. Tennessee. T.J Yates v. Jacoby Brissett. Yates was 14/24 for 137 yards, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception with nobody to throw to, and Brissett was 15/25 for 114 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions, and averaged a teensy 4.6 yards an attempt. I can’t believe anyone watched this game.
The best part is that all four of these teams selected quarterbacks in the first round. The Jaguars took Bortles #3 overall, the Titans took Mariota #2 overall, The Texans took Deshaun Watson #12 overall, and the Colts took Andrew Luck #1 overall. I can’t believe this is the world we get to live in, a little marble where Mariota and Bortles are awful, and Watson and Luck are out.
9.) My Friend Kyle
I became a Bills fan way, way, way back in 2014 when I wrote an article on the Bills’ defensive line. A front four combination of Kyle Williams, Marcel Dareus, Mario Williams, and Jerry Hughes was destructive in Jim Schwartz’s rush four, drop seven scheme. Of the four, Williams was my favorite. He was a meatball in the center of the line of scrimmage, using a combination of hands and pad level to rush the quarterback.
Then Rex Ryan became the head coach. He changed a beautiful thing and went to a 3-4. None of these guys fit in except for Hughes. But with him, LeSean McCoy, Tygod Taylor, and an exotic run scheme, the Bills became a top ten offense. They would have been a Superbowl contender if Ryan didn’t screw up the defense because his teams play a 3-4 dammit.
I kind of forgot about Williams. He was injured and wasn’t producing under Ryan. This last weekend he was playing in what maybe was his last game for the Bills after spending his entire career there. Who knew what would happen in the Baltimore game. To celebrate his time there they handed him the ball while up 13-0 from the one yard line. He scored. And of course he dropped the best touchdown celebration this year. The Any Given Sunday nuclear football.
10.) I’m Mad, He’s Mad
Here’s what I didn’t like:
—Tennessee and Buffalo making the playoffs
They did what they needed to. They won. But the Chargers are an actual good football team, the Ravens have arguably the best defense in football, and a Ravens-Jaguars playoff game would have been so GOOD, so GOOD. Instead because of some silly tiebreaker that I’m unable to look up because my heart can’t take it, and the Ravens blowing it, we get the Bills. Whatever.
—Cleveland going 0-16
This is actually sad. It’s not good. The Browns are rebuilding the way you should. Accumulate as many draft picks as possible, create a comfy-cozy situation for a young quarterback’s forever home, and save up cap space for whenever the team is on the cusp of actually competing. They were on the track to do it right. No one could have said for certain that Carson Wentz and Watson were going to be what they are. They made the right move at the time by trading down.
The Browns are 1-31 in their last two seasons. Sashi Brown was fired. Hue Jackson is still here. Jackson is a dump. He put Deshone Kizer in a difficult vertical offense immediately and threw too much at him right away. Greg Williams is a blitz all the time hack. The team has talent. They are 1-31 primarily because of coaching.
—No AFC South title game
All this stupid heart aches for is a week 17 AFC South Title game. We should have had one last year, because the Titans blew it, and Randy Bullock missed a game winning field goal, because of course. This year it was taken away from us yet again because of the Titans yet again. This time they lost three one possession games in a row to the Cardinals, 49ers, and Rams. I hate this team. Fire Mike Mularkey.