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Ten Things I Liked About Week Thirteen

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Frank Reich 4th Down Decisions, Young Safeties, Keenan Allen Getting Buckets, Miami’s Throwbacks, and six other things I enjoyed about Week Thirteen.

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

I know it’s already Thursday, but until Thursday Night Football starts, it’s still week 13 to me dammit. Becoming a responsible adult and working and investing to die in the desert and getting more responsibility at work is exhausting. I wasn’t able to write this for yesterday. I was able to write it for today. Don’t hit that buzzer. Anyways, here are ten things I liked about week thirteen.

1.) Dallas Cowboys #1

I need to grab a can opener, pinch down and split the skin outside my temples, and spin that wheel until my skull splits into two pieces. I’ll take off the top half. Pull out my brain with a claw machine. Wrap the top of my skull in big blue moving blankets, be careful, so it doesn’t break. Pour bleach into the folds of my brain. Add pink flower smelling fabric softener and dermatologist approved laundry detergent. Massage it in real deep like. Wash it on gentle. Leave it on the bedroom deck to dry. Put everything back together and wake up with a whole new mind, one that’s clean and fresh. All to remove these thoughts, these wicked and dirty little thoughts. Until then, I’m stuck dealing with wanting the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, kind of liking this Cowboys team.

My horrendous desire to want them to win the division is simple. They can play defense. They’re the only team in the division that does anything. Washington has a mediocre defense bloated by turnovers, and now starts Mark Sanchez, a Sanchize I’ve hated since week one 2009. The Eagles are parking lot puking hungover. Saquon Barkley rules, but the Giants are a waste of talented time until Eli retires, and guess what, he’ll be back next year.

Currently, Dallas has jumped to 7th in defensive DVOA at -7.4%. They are 10th in pass defense DVOA at 0.8%, and 6th in run defense DVOA at -18.0%, and they have the 3rd highest pressure rate. Their defensive line is the most technically correct line in football, they have an All-Pro edge rusher in Demarcus Lawrence, and the hottest linebacker core in football. Additionally, Byron Jones has been spectacular, and the rest of the secondary has been playing the ball well.

Last week they held the third best offense in football to 10 points. Brees threw 10 incompletions, and threw two interceptions, doubling what he had thrown all season. The Cowboys were able to do what the Rams couldn’t, get interior pressure, and made it impossible for Brees to see over the line of scrimmage. He was a Tool Time neighbor wearing a bucket hat. Alvin Kamara had 36 yards on 11 carries, and couldn’t break any tackles. Lawrence had some sublime rushes against the best tackle from last year’s draft class Ryan Ramczyk. And Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander-Esch chased and tackled everything. There were no yards after the catch. There was nothing. Dallas had a defensive DVOA of -78.9%. Arctic water dumped over hellfire.

End results are cool and all, but the best part of Dallas’s defense is they make a ton of plays. It’s not smart and boring, tackle and sit back in zone coverage, maintain gap integrity defensive football. They’re fast, they recognize plays quickly, and they go and get it.

Jaylon Smith stampedes from an inside linebacker position to tackle Kamara out in the flat. It’s a great migration. Kamara has scored on this play like seven times this year, breaking one tackle before the linebacker can fly over. I feel like I’m watching 2013 Thomas Davis right now.

This is 3rd and 2 at midfield. Vander-Esch reads the play right away and runs under the rock climbing right guard. Filling the hole, he squishes the back for a third down tackle for a loss.

This is as good as an edge rush as you’ll ever see. It’s a shame Randy Gregory, wide and swooping, a windmill that Don Quixote once went into battle against, was lined up in the neutral zone.

It wasn’t all on the defense either. The Cowboys’ offense was a single child, spoiled and irritable from a humming bird’s diet, who refused to give up the ball. Dak Prescott had the best game I’ve remembered him playing. He completed 24 of 28 passes for 248 yards, and almost doubled what Drew Brees accomplished on the same number of passes. The Cowboys ran 55 plays and controlled the ball for 36:53. The last Cowboys team to make the playoffs strangled the ball to keep their crappy defense off the field. This version of the Cowboys is starting to hog the ball to keep that raucous defense fresh, and when they’re fresh, they’re violent.

This week they play the 6-6 Eagles who have been pinioned, stabbed, immolated, decapitated, gelded, shot in the heart, and scalped, and are still flapping around. It would be the most Dallas thing ever to lose this game at home after an impossible win last week. Unleash the Facebook memes. No, I’m not here for it.

2.) Hatin’ Ass Jaguars

The Jags went from beating New England and having a 3-1 record to losing 7 games in a row. I was downtrodden and dejected during this run. The Kansas City game hurt my feelings. I was exhausted by all the points, and by touchdowns meaning nothing, and needed a great pass defense to stamp out the flames a bit. Blake Bortles finally lost in London. They couldn’t even kick the hell out of the Steelers correctly—their favorite thing to do in the world. No, Jalen, Josh Allen is beautiful, he isn’t trash.

Then last weekend happened. The Jags shutout the Colts in 2018 and won a game 6-0. It was about time the Jags played a really great defensive game.

There are hundreds of reasons why the Jags failed this year. They played a tight offensive scheme with a small margin of error. A string came loose, and they walked away. They went through three left tackles, Leonard Fournette didn’t play for the majority of the year, they lost Brandon Linder, Marqise Lee didn’t get to run a single crossing route, they couldn’t get a lead early, their receivers dropped millions of passes, and Blake Bortles lost the modicum of downfield touch he had, going from being the 16th best quarterback to like the 28th best quarterback.

But, people forget this, the defense regressed, even without a ton of injuries. Jacksonville had an all-time great pass defense last year. They gave up only 16.8 points a game, allowed just 4.8 yards an attempt, and had a pass defense DVOA of -27.6%, a better rating than most rush defenses. This year they’ve allowed 20.3 points a game, and have a pass defense DVOA of -6.0%. From first to sixth. A.J. Bouye was hampered with a calf injury, Jalen Ramsey wasn’t as good, they played way too much zone coverage, Barry Church couldn’t play cover 4 and allowed receivers to run past him, and Taven Bryan has offered nothing as a pass rusher. Without an all-time great pass defense, the offense had to do more, and they just laid on the couch instead. You have to do something.

Against Indy the Jags’ defense looked like last year’s Jags defense. Luck averaged just 4.76 yards an attempt. Ramsey had his mouth piece dangling and was yapping all game. He dragged T.Y. Hilton by his dreads across the Mojave and left him in a cradle of chollas for the ravens to snack on.

Hilton went through hell to catch anything.

A.J. Bouye was a smooth moving banshee and looks like the 2016-2017 “The Texans Should Have Franchise Tagged A.J. Bouye Again” again.

Yannick Ngakoue was motor boatin.

There’s still a month left and I’m dying to see more of last year’s Jaguars’ defense. I missed this. We should do this again sometime. How does Thursday Night against Tennessee sound? Wear those jerseys. You now,the ones I like. The ones that look like peepee. K. Thanks. Byyyyeee.

3.) Frank Reich 4th Down Decisions

Of course the Jaguars shutout was misleading. Their defense was ferocious, and left Indy’s hide embedded with kitty-kat scratches, but the shutout wouldn’t have happened without the aid of Frank Reich. There’s aggressive. Then there’s going for it on 4th and 7 with no timeouts in overtime with the ball on your side of the field aggressive. Then there’s going for it on three different 4th and 1s against a Cody Kessler quarterbacked team. Yes, Reich went for it on fourth down three times and was stopped all three times.

The first one came after an Adam Vinateri field goal. Taven Bryan was called for unnecessary roughness. First down. The Colts took the ball to the one and a half yard line. 4th and 1. Unless you’re Matt Nagy or Andy Reid don’t call a shovel pass in the redzone. It sucks. It hardly ever works. Mitchell Trubisky pulls Ngakoue farther outside. Luck doesn’t. Jordan Wilkins never had a chance.

If the first one was The Dumb Bunnies, this one was the The Dumb Bunnies Easter. Turkeys aren’t meant to be dunked like a basketball. Eric Ebron should never receive a jet sweep. Not on 1st and 10, not when the game is 27-17, not when the team is 4-10. Don’t do it. Myles Jack and Telvin Smith murdered him.

These previous two came with the game 0-0. I don’t understand the decision because of the opponent, and the play calls were abhorrent. Down 0-6, I can get behind this one. The Jags just crushed it with their defensive play call. Another 4th and 1 at the 19. The Colts are in 2-2-1 personnel and have their backfield in an I-formation. It looks like the Colts have a ‘Lucky’ call and Anthony Castonzo should block the ‘C’ gap. There’s a miscommunication. Both him and Quenton Nelson block the ‘B’ gap. Ronnie Harrison blitzes unhindered into Luck’s backside.

This is bonus content. Subscribe to my Patreon for $1 a month to unlock it. On 3rd and 8 with 8 seconds left, the Colts didn’t go for the endzone. Luck can’t throw the ball that far, and Jacoby Brissett was unavailable, so they tried to shorten the field with a quick pass. Erik Swoope had to wait for the ball, allowing Ramsey to ride his bike downhill and pull the rug out. Game over.

Reich will be forever remembered for his week four decision. Yet, these three 4th down decisions were even more atrocious. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. The Philly special has ruined everyone’s brains.

4.) asdnuaosfipyfa Feelin’ Like A Rockstar

Screw numbers, screw the All-22, screw context, screw any sort of analysis whatsoever when it comes to Josh Allen. It doesn’t matter. Instead of worrying about whether he’s good or not, take pleasure in the wonder that it is to watch him play. Life is terrible and awful and we are all going to die one day. Don’t say something stupid like Allen leaves the pocket too early when there’s pressure. Bask in the knowledge that you are alive at the exact time required to be able to watch him play.

He’s a front yard grazing deer taking off and leaping over fences once the dog is let out. First it was Anthony Barr, now it’s Kiko Alonso he’s making look absolutely foolish, making him reconsider everything he thought he knew about pursuit angles, but hey, it’s better than being hurdled.

OH BABY, OH BABY, PROFESSA, PROFESSA, PROFESSA, OH BABY. All the sudden it’s 2004 and ESPN2 is cranking at 2 in the morning.

Kiko Alonso has to retire now. Take your tight shrunken jerseys with you.

I mean, yeah, sure, freeze the entire field because nobody can make a play on a ball that is an electron bouncing from one side of the universe to the other.

Tie a monkey to this ball and you can kick off the space age in a third world country.

GTFO. This is a casual 55 yard overthrow.

Put this up there with the DeAndre Hopkins one hand no catch against New York. This is the second greatest almost play I’ve ever seen. He’s rolling to his left and throws it all the way across the field to a wide open Charles Clay after evading a small army. This isn’t an underthrow. This is more than anyone can get on a pass like this. Blood is on Clay’s hands. He just doesn’t haul this one in. I’ll hate him forever for it.

Allen is like 17 years old. This is frontal lobeless football. It’s relentless skinny dipping youth that has no bounds. Nobody makes the absurd as casual as him, and the banal as entertaining as him. Stop being a nerd. Turn that radio up. Allen is a rockstar. Who cares what his DYAR is? That’s a dumb number anyways. Hand me my cigarettes. I don’t care about the creases in my face. I don’t care about the viability of the future. I only care about right now.

5.) Young Safeties

This has been a great safety draft class. As a group they’ve started 84 games, and 12 of the 18 safeties have played a substantial amount.

There’s Minkah Fitzpatrick in Miami, who’s doing a little bit of everything. They’ve had him play a lot more man coevrage than I thought they would, and he’s been good at it.

I’m not a liar. I don’t speak in cliches and lies and type out football talk and say something like Terrell Edmunds just knows how to play the game, or Jessie Bates is a real instinctual player. Everything here, and everything I’ve ever wrote, is earnest and truthful goodness. I don’t know anything about these two other than these secondaries can’t stop the deep ball.

Derwin James has been the best player of this group though, and he’s my pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year. James has 81 tackles, 56 of which are solo, both numbers that lead the team, 6 quarterback hits without a sack, 12 passes defensed, and 3 interceptions. James splatter players in a safe and correct manner, and no, football can never die.

Here he’s rummaging from deep middle to the sideline to obliterate Antonio Brown. Crushing a great route, and big completion, into green goop.

When I talk about players making skillful plays this is what I’m talking about. This isn’t easily replicated. James grabs his sling and takes on the 6’9” insurance salesman Alejandro Villanueva, pops off, and tackles James Conner, who has the an entire security detail protecting him.

I have no idea what Ben Roethlisberger is trying to do here. My guess is Roethlisberger loves those artillery games and tried to emulate Scorched Earth or Worms and wanted to see what happens in real life if you pointed the cannon straight up. Regardless, James has Vance McDonald covered and is position to watch the ball.

Justin Reid was also spectacular this week, making the meaningful skillful plays that Tyrann Mathieu wishes he could make. I wrote about Reid on Monday. Also, Harrison in Jacksonville is awesome. He’s going to start at strong safety instead of Barry Church next year. The NFL may need to get us a wider telecast for next season so this great group of young players can’t spend the majority of time existing outside the confines of the screen.

6.) Keenan Allen Getting Buckets

Allen is long and stretchy. He’s like a tough piece of gum under a buffet table that’s been outstretched to stave off boredom. And Allen just catches the football. He’s like one of those former varsity pickup basketball players with a shirt that says ‘Basektball Never Stops’. This season Allen has 53 first down catches, tied for the 6th most, Adam Thielen leads the league of course. Last week he had 14 catches on 19 targets, 10 of those were first downs. Allen just gets buckets.

7.) Pittsburgh, When They Throw It Deep

The Steelers offense can fall into some deep ruts. As a former adolescent and sometimes sad boy, I know that feeling. The sky gets grey, you just want to sleep all day, the sad music helps, but the sad music just keeps you feeling sad, then one day you stop playing Red Dead Redemption on your roomate’s XBOX and start running, and eventually you feel better, and then it happens again, and will continue to happen again and again.

Pittsburgh’s offense can get too horizontal and too short. They have JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown. Toss that ball downfield. Before last week’s loss to the Chargers, the Steelers had scored just 37 points combined in back to back weeks. During this time Roethlisberger threw the ball 103 times, had 3 touchdowns to 5 interceptions, and averaged 7.5 yards an attempt when you include the 78 and 97 yard touchdown passes he had. When you remove the outliers this figure drops to 5.42 yards an attempt.

Last week something similar happened. In the first half Roethlisbeger completed 60% of his passes, but averaged 6.9 yards an attempt, and the Steelers scored 23 points. In the second half he completed 70% of his passes, but averaged 5.5 yards an attempt, and the Steelers scored just 7 points. I know the defense does things to limit downfield throwing and whatever, but you have to take shots. Without the downfield puking, the Steelers offense is a waste of fire power, like all those nukes sitting around in Nevada warehouses.

Do this all the time. Stop with the screens, and stretch run plays, and quick crosses. Give Bruce Arians a call. Go vertical.

8.) Miami Throwbacks

It’s an atrocity that these uniforms sit in a closet. Get rid of the post-modern squirt of toothpaste Dolphin, the aquamarine, the mermaid sequins, the seats that come right up to the back of the endzone that makes the game look like a Seaworld. Bring back the orange and the stripes and the diamond endzone and the Dolphin wearing a helmet while holding a football and leaping out of the water like a swordfish and standing there in a YES! song.

Damn, I looked up the lyrics. He’s been saying mountains this entire time? My heart is broken. I’m going to bed.

9.) Case Keenum’s Vengeance Has No Bounds

Kirk Cousins threw 44 passes last week. His longest reception was for 24 yards. He averaged only 4.56 yards an attempt. This is [NAME REDACTED] territory. This is what $24 million this year has gotten them, and they still have to pay him another $60 million guaranteed over the next two years. The problem with Cousins is he doesn’t create and manufacture anyone open. It’s either there, he sees it, and hits it, or it isn’t, and he looks and looks and looks and never finds it. Without great pass protection things can get stuck fast. This is what happened against New England when they scored 10 points against a mediocre pass defense.

The former captain in his seat is high rising now. The Broncos have won three straight, two thanks to some insane turnover luck, and last week was a brutal skinning of some old cage ridden small town zoo striped cats. Keenum completed 12/21 passes for 151 yards and 1 touchdown. No longer does he have to be the most efficient quarterback to win football games. He can do just enough with one of the best rushing attacks in football.

The Vikings paid to stiff arm the impending Keenum regression. They were expecting Superbowl this year with Cousins before his contract really takes off. Instead, the Vikings could miss the playoffs entirely. They play @ Seattle, Miami, @ Detroit, and Chicago. They have a 58.5% playoff chance. Denver plays @ San Francisco, Cleveland, @ Oakland, and Los Angeles (C) in what could be a meaningless game. With a schedule like that, they’re my AFC #6 seed pick. Keenum getting in, while the Vikings are spurned, is something that could happen. I’m not saying I want it to happen exactly like that, but it could happen.

10.) New England Suffocating

This is the worst Patriots team since Matt Cassel started at quarterback. It doesn’t matter. Here they come. The Patriots pass rush is picking up. The ball control quick passing offense is a plastic bag. Against Minnesota, Brady led an 8 play 81 yard drive that lasted 3:52, a 15 play 68 yard drive that lasted 8:16. and then threw a bunch of passes to Josh Gordon to kick down the door. Everyone is now healthy. Brady completed a pass to nine different receivers last week. James White, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Rob Gonkowski, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Sony Michel, Cordarelle Patterson, and Rex Burkhead, all have different skill sets, and ways to attack a defense. It’s super annoying they’re going to win the AFC again.