Here’s what I liked about Week 5.
1.) Juli’en Davenport Playing Left Tackle Again
Less and less often do I find myself caring about things that don’t immediately effect me. Everything imaginary, football scores, crappy movies, boring albums, nearly all of it, doesn’t matter much to me anymore. Yet, no matter what, I’ll always be a little mentally ill and care too much about things with no actual relevance or importance. One of the few invisible things that resided in my heart was Juli’en Davenport’s play this year. I was surprised by his video when he played in Bucknell. The dude is a natural kick-slider. I was happy with his results as a fill in left tackle last season. And Friday I was in love when he anchored down on bull rushes and evaporated pass rushes with punches this preseason.
Then the season started. Expectations are meant to break your heart. Seantrel Henderson went down with a broken ankle. Davenport moved to right tackle. Rookie tackle, and 2018 NFL Draft tackle crush Martinas Rankin slid into left. Immediately they both became unplayable. At right tackle, Davenport couldn’t kick slide with any fluidity. His underwear were on backwards. He was uncomfortable. Pass sets were bailed on after getting to the point of attack late, he became susceptible to bull rushes, and then started hurrying out of his stance leading to numerous false starts. Rankin, who didn’t play much at all this summer due to a foot injury, was also late to the point of attack, and kept turning and opening the gate. The Texans were last in the league in pressure rate at around 40%. Watson had been sacked ten times. Houston went from having a promising cost effective solution at the tackle position to being a scratched CD.
Keeping these two dudes on the outside couldn’t last. So they kept Rankin at left tackle, and moved Kendall Lamm to right. Against Indianapolis the Texans gave up seven more sacks, and Rankin once again constantly gave up pressure against an underrated Colts’ front seven. This combination didn’t last either. Last week Houston moved Davenport back to left tackle, and they kept Lamm at right. Houston allowed one sack. Davenport looked comfy and cozy back where he belongs. My heart is full once again.
I’m fine with this combination for now. As long as Lamm pass protects well enough Houston has to keep him there. He’s also hilarious to watch because he holds on every play and looks back at the referee in fear with shreds of jersey in his fists. The big problem with Lamm is he’s slow to the second level, and can’t block linebackers in the run game. For now, this inability is a novelty for Houston, they just need someone who can pass protect at a below average rate on the right side. And if things became horrendous again, Rankin should be practicing right tackle just in case.
2.) Bouncy Interceptions
I was on the couch and buckled in. I had an IV drip of Code Red Mountain Dew going. My sit bones were a torso missing mouse on a sticky trap. Last week was December 22nd. Anticipation made me shake. No longer could I wait for Kansas City-Jacksonville. For I am so tired of all the scoring. Nothing means anything. Touchdowns happen too often, defenders can’t hit receivers or quarterbacks, offenses have spread the game out and it’s hard enough to find even two competent defensive backs let alone six, pass rushes are neutered now that the quarterback doesn’t face repercussions for his actions, and nobody can tackle anymore. This isn’t the football I know. My brain is too slow. My cells are too rigid. I can’t evolve fast enough to get used to and enjoy this 45-42 tom foolery. Hell, even the Jets scored 34 this week.
To me, this game was a battle for the football I’m used to. The football I love. If Jacksonville could hold on there would be hope for the future, and for this season. Instead the Chiefs took a brisk 73 yard walk up the field and scored a touchdown in 5:33 on their first possession. Down already, the Jags couldn’t play their game. This one was over, and it was nailed down and tossed below ground after a redzone fourth down attempt didn’t convert, Chris Jones stole the baby and walked into the endzone, and Blake Bortles Bortled so hard.
This was a beautiful helmet interception. An all-timer. Blake sees the free rush and throws the ball like there’s roaches rummaging along the floor. The ball ricochets of A.J. Cann’s head like brickbreaker and a diving defensive back seals it.
This isn’t anything new. This is an old love for me, one that started back when I got to watch Ryan Fitzpatrick play week in and week out. Because of his inaccurate passing, and his height, his passes would occasionally hit the backs of offensive linemen, bounce off their heads, or the defenders’ heads. Fitzpatrick never learned the tippy-toe trick from Drew Brees. Height limitations would sometimes lead to some absurd interceptions.
The previous iteration is from a vintage 2014 harvest. A one possession Monday Night Football loss for Houston, a game where turnovers and the inability to tackle Le’Veon Bell killed Houston. You don’t have to go back an Olympics to see this though. Fitzpatrick did the same thing against the Steelers on Monday Night Football this year.
You’d think he’d learn how to make these cute little passes after all that dumpster mining and pizza crust sifting he did in a previous life. These are the images NFL Draft Scouts have in their mind when they skip over shorter quarterbacks for the great monoliths.
In general, this was a great week for bouncy interceptions. Ryan Tannehill threw one of his own in a hideous game. Miami’s mermaid sequin shade of aqua against the Bengals’ kitty-cat costumes was lurid. I’m still nauseous. I’ve watched this throw thousands of times. It’s my own frame 313. I think it bounces off of Durham Smythe’s head.
You can’t even call this a throw. Tannehill flips the pass behind his head. He looks like Nikola Jokic finding a cutter in the paint. He can’t be doing this anymore. He’s 30! years old. Eventually your time in the mosh pit comes to an end.
3.) Time Is A Flat Circle
In the TEXAS-TEXAS-TEXAS-TEXAS Bowl Dak Prescott made an all-time play. One that will be impossible to forget, and one that reminded me of one I still haven’t forgotten.
J.J. Watt is lined up as a wide ‘5’ against Tyron Smith. Smith is creaky now. He needs his exoskeleton oiled. Since Dallas is running a play action pass he takes a quick horizontal pass set. Watt doesn’t buy it. He goes all in on the pass, attacks the outside shoulder, rips, and knocks Smith’s hold off of him like a dog slipping out of his collar. Prescott steps up, and is wrapped up by Watt. Somehow Watt slips off his back. Prescott uses a hand to keep his balance and stay upright, runs past another sack attempt, and finds Tavon Austin running all the way back across the field. Prescott is part Battle Toad. It’s the only way to explain the sack attempts he wrangled out of in this game.
I’ve been thinking about 2014 a lot lately, and I have the Texans to blame. Since they’re back to playing the NFC East again, I’m back to thinking about what I was doing then, and really all I was doing was thinking about this play, this all-time great play, that exemplifies exactly why I love this stupid game.
4.) Adam Thielen WR#1
Let’s take a look at the receiving leader boards. Sitting at the top of the receptions and targets is Thielen with 47 and 66. He’s second in receiving yards with 589, only 5 back of DeAndre Hopkins. Thielen has been soup in a cardboard container to start the season, instantly connecting with new quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Cousins has been able to do what Case Keenum did last year, just toss the ball up high in the vicinity of Thielen. The difference is Cousins can throw an accurate ball. He can place it in the perfect spot. Thielen spent most of last season making insane leaping into green chlorinated water catches to snag Keenum’s balloons. This year the ball falls underneath him. I wonder if he gets bored. I wonder if he misses the glory boy catches he was forced to make playing with Keenum.
Damn, I love taking shots deep out of the redzone. This stop and go flips the field after Minnesota recovered a redzone fumble.
Thielen plays like a Border Collie chasing a UFO. He keeps his head up, ignores the defender, and pursues the ball. When the ball arrives he catches it with his floppy yellow Hamburger Helper dishwashing gloves. There’s no way those things don’t come alive at night once everyone has left the practice facility. Oh, yeah, he’s also a perfect route runner. This is as good as a corner route can get.
Cousins has been better than what Minnesota could have expected for him to be. Right now he’s 9th in DVOA and DYAR, and has thrown 11 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. Sure, he isn’t able to create much out of nothing, and yeah, he throws a little short of the sticks too often, but overall Cousins has been one of the best quarterbacks in football. When Minnesota chose Cousins over Keenum, they weren’t going to be able to get the same efficiency they had the previous season. The signing protected them against Keenum’s glass slipper season and the impeding regression. Cousins has smoothed out the dip like quantitative easing.
5.) LeSean McCoy Is Back
The Bills’ offense used to be composed of Chris Ivory running between the tackles. You see, Josh Allen isn’t a quarterback. He’s a naive early twenties athlete who isn’t a quarterback. He can’t complete passes out of the shotgun, from under center, or really at all.
Last week he completed 52% of his passes for 82 yards. He has a DYAR of -449. It’s only week six. The only thing he can do is run play action, roll out either direction, and make it look like he’s going to throw before he plummets ahead. The Bills shouldn’t be playing him. But hey, I guess it’s better Nathan Peterman.
The Bills did get McCoy back this week. McCoy looks like a point guard out there, shifting around picks, Euro-Stepping into the paint, and picking off passes to start the fast break. He has an all-time juke, and can make any defender miss. The game of football becomes leap frog for him.
With his return the Bills can do stuff. They can run power and outside zone. They can run screen passes to him. After Allen looks downfield and never finds an option he can throw wide to McCoy and make passes so easy that even he can complete them.
McCoy turns even plain inside runs that go nowhere into luscious four yard gains. It’s like reading a great writer describe cutting open a catfish.
Last week McCoy had 26 touches for 108 yards. Even at 30 years old the Bills main focus on offense is to sew McCoy shut and keep feeding him and feeding him and feeding him into BLAM. I’m so glad he’s back. At least the Bills’ games now have some beauty on offense. Allen should have that Mitchell Trubisky 4 completions on 10 targets stat line every single game.
6.) Detroit Receptions
This is perplexing. This is like trying to have someone talk to you about Quantum Physics and how everything can be here and there and be kind of sort of everywhere at the same time. Whatever man. The Lions are 13th in points scored per game, are 21st in offensive DVOA; 22nd in passing and 16th in rushing, and are composed of Pro Bowl quarterback Matthew Stafford, rookie 100+ yard breaking sensation Kerryon Johnson, one of the better pass protection offensive lines in football, and a Cerberus of Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, and Marvin Jones.
If you like spectacular catches, this is the team to watch. Tate can turn a simple curl or comeback into a ballet, breaking one tackle than stampeding down the sideline to score.
Golladay is a leaper. Flames erupt out of his feet as he shoots upwards over defenders.
Jones can dive and catch anything in an astounding radius around him.
Even Theo Riddick likes to get in on it.
This offense should be better. It has the talent to be a top ten unit at a minimum. Instead it’s wallowing in mediocrity despite the blocking, weapons, and quarterback it’s composed of. I don’t get it. Hopefully things get better for Detroit right away. This dog can still hunt in a weird NFC North, and if they can win enough miraculous Stafford close games, the playoffs aren’t impossible.
7.) An Actual Tackle!
I couldn’t believe what I saw. I thought for a second I was hallucinating. That what I was seeing was fabricated by my brain and that I would need to go lie on a couch somewhere and spoil my secrets. No. It was a real. Someone made an actual tackle. I still can’t believe it.
The Vikings’ defense is fun when their safeties are hellacious and scurrying around like a one on one Polo game between two of the four horsemen. Slot blitzes. Unblocked backside run tackles. Colliding into fresh catch receivers. They can create negative plays, and influence the game with their physicality.
Now, this sort of play is going extinct. The quarterback can stand in the pocket or throw it up to any receiver without worrying for his safety. No one can crush anyone no matter what weapon they choose, whether it’s the shoulder, or wrapped arms, it doesn’t matter.
Against Philadelphia last weekend Carson Wentz threw a pretty touch pass to the sideline. The receiver ran a corner route, caught his pass, and turned to look up field. Andrew Sendejo was there. Correctly, Nelson Agholor turned his shoulder to the tackle, and took this whopping hit. He fell out of bounds. The catch and tackle was made. Everyone was ok. Ahhhh, the casual type of football play I’ve found myself missing these first five weeks.
Of course this was an unusual moment. Sendejo was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting Zach Ertz in the back when he went up to catch a pass in the redzone. You can’t hit someone jumping, and now you can’t use violence as a way to influence passes.
The only good thing to come from these rule changes is how defensive linemen react to sacks. They coddle and lay the quarterback down, then stand up and raise their arms up. They’re dormitory roommates feigning innocence while their spoon is in someone else’s peanut butter jar.
Since Russell Wilson entered the league he and Andrew Luck have been the most hit quarterbacks in football. They’ve been slaughtered by terrible infanticide committing offensive lines, and the way they play didn’t help things either. The ball is held onto forever, and sometimes released at the last moment, leading to cataclysmic hits.
Wilson has survived. Luck has taken his rehabilitation to the field itself. From these situations Wilson has learned a ton of little things to survive. He can turn his shoulder and sprint backwards from defensive linemen, he can leap backwards away from the hit and toss it in the vicinity of the receiver, he can dip under sack attempts, and he can zig-zag around and complete little shovel passes and strange lofting flicks while on the run.
He’s some type of post-apocalyptic survivor who wakes up one day surprised by everything he knows. He can turn Pine-Sol into apple juice, siphon oil from the tank of a derelict gas station, harvest shrunken apples turned leather like skin, and cut his own hair from the comfort of an angelic stumbled upon doomsday shelter. I can’t wait for it to become cold and grey. Kill all the mosquitoes. I’m ready to read The Road again.
9.) 3-2 San Diego
Football seasons are played in 16 game samples. Because of the short season variables outside the teams control can wreck havoc on a season. Turnover differential, fumble recoveries, one-possession losses, and injuries, are all things that may murder a team one year and then save them the following year. It’s regression to the mean. Things typically balance out for all teams. Every team except for the
San Diego Los Angeles Chargers. Every year the Chargers miss the playoffs because their entire team is injured, Rivers throws an interception, or their kicker misses gimmes.
Currently the Chargers are 3-2. Both their losses came against the two best teams in football. They’ve stayed healthy since the season began after suffering summertime injuries to Joey Bosa, Hunter Henry, and Jason Verrett. They’ll get Bosa back sometimes soon. Phillip Rivers is 4th in DVOA and DYAR, has completed 70% of his passes, and has thrown just 2 interceptions to 13 touchdowns. This year maybe different. Dammit I hope so. We all need one more Rivers playoff run.
10.) Do You Believe In Life After Love?
I’ve never loved something this much. I don’t know what this man will do once Drew Brees stops completing 80% of his passes. Bless his heart. Sincerity over irony.