1. SUNDAY SUCKED
I learned my lesson once again. After the Texans beat the Chiefs, I almost jumped all the way in. I was sitting at the edge of the pool. Water up to my thighs. Deshaun Watson and Bill O’Brien pumped their Super Soaker until the arrow reached the black. Come in! The water is so nice. Benardrick McKinney rode an orca whale with his Pro Bowl bucket hat on. Flowers twisted in DeAndre Hopkins’s hair. J.J. Watt’s mom was cooking hot dogs. The Lamar Hunt Trophy danced on my carpet. Oh, this heart, torn too many times, seen it too many times, couldn’t jump all the way in. I sat there sunburnt. I deadened my insides with a hangover before the Colts game. An obscene loss. Losing to a team the Texans were better than at that time.
Winning three out of four. I drank three cups of coffee, oooo you’re crazy for this one, buzzing with excitement, I was still able to shut out the win-loss heart yanking and sinking outcomes. Classic game. Fast. Fun. Premier quarterback duel. Waiting all week for Sunday afternoon. These were my expectations when the sentence should have read Expectations? I have none.
Instead the Texans ran the same offense they’ve been running for the past month, against a team with competent linebackers, and were shutdown entirely. Two weeks to prepare and there was nothing new. Lamar Jackson quick passed them to death. 41-7. I still can’t believe they lost like that. What should have been a classic regular season game, see Philadelphia 2018, New England 2017, or Seattle 2017, ended up with a Sunbelt out of conference college football score.
The good thing about loving the entirety of the game is you can watch Houston lose 41-7, check your fantasy football team, see Josh Allen and John Brown combined for 63.8 points, and know that the disappointment of the recent past would quickly be forgotten.
It didn’t disappoint. There were way too many players I liked in that Buffalo-Miami game. New fan favorite Nik Needham. John Brown’s body. Quinton Spain’s Air Force Ones. Jerami Grant kick returns. DeVante Parker breakout season. Lorenzo Alexander old man leverage. Jerry Hughes speed rushes. Ryan Fitzpatrick diving for that last dunk of ranch dressing behind the dumpster—the perfect quarterback for a bad team. Mike Gesicki’s fun name and high top catches.
The name up on the marquee had the best game of his career. I’ve waited so long for Allen to have a classic 60%+ completion rate, 300+ yard, 3 touchdown, 0 interception game. He didn’t quite reach that. He had 256 passing yards, but, but, most importantly, he had 7 carries for 56 yards. That’s kind of 300+ yards. We’ll take it.
The best way to beat the blitz? Throw right at it. Ball placement. American Apparel tight spiral. Brown looks like Larry Fitzgerald right here.
Phew. This is a strike between the levels of zone coverage. Gosh darn Randy Johnson fastball right here.
Love how long he holds this handoff on the fake. How to not defend the zone read 101.
Allen is in the deep left quadrant of the pocket. The edge rush comes across his face. He sprints from the opposite hash to the corner of the endzone and outruns a defensive back with a correct pursuit angle to score.
This was the best throw I saw all day. Allen rolls right from play action. Plants and throws a pass through the defender’s arm and still delivers it on line to the receiver. Unbelievable stuff.
The best part is the Steelers lost Thursday night. We were getting closer to the Pittsburgh Steelers knocking out the Buffalo Bills in week 15. Mason Rudolph ain’t it. I’m not worried at all anymore. Easy schedule be dammed. Buffalo is going to clinch the #5 seed and play...DAMMIT.
2. LT #1
Every piece of a trade is important. The sixth round pick in 2025. The veteran that becomes a compensatory pick. You can’t give assets away. Each speck of gold is valuable when building a team. When the Texans traded two first round picks, and a second round pick for Kenny Stills and Laremy Tunsil they also flipped in Juli’en Davenport. An afterthought, the Dolphins may have been the team to actually get the best player in this trade.
Davenport had a rough week one. He was panting with Kahale Warring and Martinas Rankin in the shade of malodorous wood strewn with ancient paint. Practice reps were hard to come by. He watched preseason football action. He drank a lot of water from that pipe with holes drilled in it. He went from that to immediately starting against Baltimore. It didn’t go too well. He broke his leg the following week in practice. Devastating.
But Davenport doesn’t give up on his team or a season. He loves the men in that locker room. He loves playing the game. Doesn’t matter what the team’s record is or the deficit they’re facing. Put me out there. I want to help my team win. So he battle fought and recovered from a broken leg to comeback and start on a tanking football team.
He was an absolute guard dog. Back at his natural habitat at left tackle he moves better and his stance looks better. All that shuffling and turning at right tackle is gone. I missed this. Nice kick off the snap. 45 degree angle. No turning. Square and low ready for the head on rush. The running back needs to get out of here. Davenport (#70) doesn’t need a chip.
Fairly tight five. His initial punch is off. He loses it, but keeps one arm long to feel the rusher. The key is that his feet never stop. Jerry Hughes (#55) tries to swat him off balanced. It doesn’t work. Davenport is a problem!!!
This is a good look of Davenport’s new pass stance. He’s royalty. All the weight on his post foot. Man on man, he handles the inside move, and takes it all the way to the guard. There’s no sticking. He rides the wave to the shore. From there he bounces wide to pick up the heaving Jordan Phillips (#97). Phillips has seven sacks this season. Doesn’t matter. This is how you pick up an end-tackle stunt when blocking man on man.
Buffalo shows ‘A’ gap pressure. There’s a man in each gap. This changes up the numbers for Davenport. He counts from inside out. An interior blitz will have him blocking down. At the snap he looks inside, sees the ‘A’ gap take off, and gets deep against Hughes. Love this drop step to get deeper. When he makes contact he’s a little high. His hands are off. Hughes is in his belly. This is next level pass blocking. He readjusts and gets his hands inside and on the chest. From there he drives Hughes as the pass is released.
Hughes tries to bullrush this time. Davenport devours it with a great punch. Perfect. Every day is arms, chest, and shoulders when you have a broken leg.
Two first round picks, a second round pick, a future $18 million salary, leading the league in penalties. A $645k cap hit, a year and a half left on a rookie contract, only has two penalties. Who would you rather have? I know what my choice is.
The Los Angles Rams are no longer an all-time great rushing team. They’re a mediocre one. This is even a milestone. They lost two interior starters from their offensive line last season and have replaced the replacements this season. Austin Corbett has replaced Brian Allen at center, who replaced John Sullivan. David Edwards has replaced Joe Notebloom, who replaced Rodger Saffold III. Bobby Evans has replaced Rob Havenstein. These are late round picks and replacement part trade pickups replacing the midround picks who replaced dominant players at these positions last season.
The Rams are going to miss the postseason because of this. Jared Goff struggles to win downfield. Their receivers are hurt. Defenses are sitting on their crossing routes. Regardless, they do enough interesting things on offense to keep watching. With Robert Woods out, my favorite thing they’ve been doing is pulling Cooper Kupp from way across the formation on power run plays.
They have two strong double teams that are set up well by the alignment and end goal. The covered man is holding up the first level, until the second block can create movement. Since these are down blocks taking on the side of the defender it’s easier for the second block to create movement. It also allows them to block the second level at an easier angle. The motion prevents Kyle Fuller (#23) from sticking in the box. Kupp pulls through the hole and into Eddie Jackson (#39).
Kupp makes a fine block. The second blockers get caught up and turned at the first level. Tyler Higbee (#89) does a great job flipping back around to drive Roquan Smith (#58) out of the hole. Edwards (#73) gets away with a spectacular hold. It happens.
This time it comes off the edge instead of between the tight end and tackle. Kupp makes a better block here. The key to this play is Todd Gurley’s (#30) footwork before the hand off. The slight shuffle, the interior hole that awakens, gets the defense flowing inside, and opens the edge for him.
The Ravens run game did it again. They ran the ball 36 times for 263 yards and had a rush offense DVOA of 34.5%. This wasn’t the predominant reason why the Ravens scored 41 points on Houston. There a whole malady of other reasons, but it was the most fun way they attacked Houston’s defense.
I watched the film. I found a savior in Greg Roman. I did the math. I’ve never seen a rushing play like this. Motion Hayden Hurst (#81) to a fullhouse backfield. They get two big double teams. The left tackle Ronnie Stanley (#79) shows, gets wide, and climbs up to Benardrick McKinney (#55). Lamar Jackson (#8) is reading Whitney Mercilus (#59). This is the unblocked read. He crashes, Jackson keeps. He sits, Jackson hands off. The split back tight ends take off into the open field. Charles Omenihu (#94) also goes unblocked by design.
Nick Boyle (#86) does the most disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen. He runs at, swims over the top of Omenihu, and then leads the way to the safety. The Ravens purposely pull two blockers into the open field and leave two unblocked. Insane. It works because Omenihu struggles recognizing simple power runs, let alone calculus like this, and gets turned around in the run game. Mercilus sits, but he sits wide enough to be able to swing outside and play Jackson. He misses. Omenihu can’t chase him down. Jackson goes on to Vick the Texans’ defense.
5. THE JAMEIS EXPERIENCE
Jameis Winston leads the league in pick sixes thrown with four. Ryan Fitzpatrick is second with two. He’s leading the league in sacks taken with 36, ahead of Kyler Murray by 1, and Daniel Jones by 4. He’s leading the league in interceptions with 18, ahead of Philip Rivers by 4. But, on top of all that, he’s thrown 19 touchdown passes, which is tied for 4th. Only three quarterbacks have met these minimums in each of these categories. Blake Bortles in 2015, Phil Simms in 1985, and Lynn Dickey in 1983. He’s going to crush all three of them. There’s no one like him. There’s never been a passing season this dumb.
Last week he was two up on Baker Mayfield in the most interceptions thrown race. He added four (!) more last week, including a pick six. Winston has finally thrown every interception possible, including a behind the back one, and a slingshot one. Trouble finds him wherever he goes.
6. LONG ARM
Alejandro Villanueva. Army ranger. 6’9” 320 pounds. Loving young father. USAA commercial star.
Myles Garrett. 6’4” 272 pounds. Calls himself flash. Had 10 sacks and 18 quarterback hits. Got punched by a fan asking for a photograph. Is a better writer than I am. A completely absurd individual who does absurd things.
Here the absurdity takes the form of longarming Villanueva into the core of the Earth. It’s composed of molten metals and Villanueva’s skeleton. That isn’t the football. That’s Rudolph’s lung.
The fight sucked. It was stupid. Down 21-7 at the meaningless part of the football game the Steelers kept trying to throw the ball. Rudolph was sacked on first down, sacked on 2nd and 20, and hit by Garrett on 3rd and 27. PISSED. The professional football player was tired of being hit. He tried to take off Garrett’s helmet. Garrett took off his. He came after him. Garrett swung like a morning star.
The fight was started by Rudolph. If Garrett walked off the field with his helmet, or just tossed it away, that would have been cool, tough, iconic, hang it up on the door to my bedroom. Instead he reacted. Respecting the shield is stupid. There’s no place for that in football is dumb. Garrett is spectacular and football is worse without him here. A year long suspension is too long. Just let him say I’m sorry. Fine him. Give him two weeks too cool off. Remake Stuck On You with him and Rudolph sharing the same pair of pants and cooking pancakes. Get him back out there.
The spin move is a dying art. Edge defenders prefer quicker rushes: swims inside, bullrushes, outside-in rips. Swims are so dizzy and disorienting. Plus, offensive tackles are too mobile. They can pull back and adjust to the barbarian’s whirlwind.
T.J. Watt (#90) occasionally uses it, and wowwee, did he break out a great one against Chris Hubbard. The key is the plant outside. This feigned movement gets the tackle turned sideways and opens the path inside. Along the way he knocks each hand away, and slingshots off of Hubbard to chase down Baker Mayfield like science fiction star travel.
He’s a plastic bag blowing in the wind. So beautiful. Maybe life isn’t so bad.
8. OLD BONES GET COLD
Tom Brady is old. Even plastic has a half life. The android can only be updated so many times before the stuff inside is absolute. Grandpa isn’t moving so well. His pants are filled. His shorts keep riding higher and higher. Turkeys are gobbling. Corduroy can be pink, and can be worn all year long.
The cold weather is coagulating his marrow. The temperatures that hover around freezing congeal his blood, turning it into the bouncy pastel shapes at the end of the Luby’s line. It gets into bones. Feels it in his knees. Football’s weapons, helmets and shoulder pads, stiffen and harden into iron. Brady’s been getting hit this season. He hates it. He isn’t used to it.
It usually goes the same way every year. The Patriots have a top five pass protecting offensive line, there’s a horde of gnomatic receivers scampering across the middle of the field, the blocking is great, but the ball is out quickly even when it isn’t. That’s changed this year. Marshall Newhouse has subbed in at left tackle. Ted Karas is starting at guard. The tight end position doesn’t exist. Their offense has fallen from automatic top five to an average one.
Brady moves a frame at a time nowadays. His shoulder pads are two refrigerators sewn together. He’s stuck in the pocket and has been sacked 16 times and hit another 19 times. Now’s the time to get him. Exact revenge after all those sparkling games where he would wear the same unwashed jersey the following week. Philadelphia was able to hit him six times and sack him five times. That was the best part of the 17-10 game the actual Superbowl MVP didn’t participate in.
Sit down by Grandpa’s bean bag chair. The 1990s were flooded with toy stores and the attempt to change everything into a slightly more extreme version. It’s really the fault of roller blades, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, and Shaquille O’Neal bringing down the backboard. Basketballs had to glow in the dark. The mustard was green. Regular old brown pigskin didn’t cut it.
Fifteen yard post routes were boooring. Nerf turned the football into a easy to hold squeezy oblong with a stealth bomber tail attached to the end. The ball could go 120 yards easy. Could you catch it? No. Could you throw it this far? Of course not. But the television lies to you as the profit margin increases.
I got one for a birthday present, or maybe I won it at the pizza buffet after spending a day at the gambling wheel that always landed on yellow, sparking a love of probability that has been a part of my life ever since. I took this football to school. It was gray and would whistle when a spiral was thrown well. At after school care, with the progeny of other working parents, we played Jackpot. One of the older kids threw it as far as he could, putting it on the roof of the sheer metal Eisenhower era gymnasium. A grave yard of throwable objects: kites, tennis balls, big red dodge balls. Its cremains are probably still billowing up there.
I haven’t thought about this in a long time since nostalgia is for losers. But seeing that ball fly forever in Mexico City opened up all those days sitting around waiting to get picked up. High elevation. Thin polluted air. All that despair. The National Nerfball League.
The Chargers don’t have a home. No one loves them. No one in LA cares about them. Abandoned. The franchise that lost its way home. There was London talk. Oy, the new we’ll move your team here if you don’t build a stadium scapegoat. I don’t want that. I want more Mexico City Chargers football. I want the wind resistance set to zero. I want Felipe Rio. I want a completely unique experience in a game that can be bland and run down by run-run-passing in empty stadiums.
10. POISON CRAZY LUSH
Greedy Williams is playing football again. My first round draft crush. The coverage was whatever. He isn’t jamming receivers at the line, but is playing press coverage and getting spun around some in the process. Shame. At least he’s breaking on the ball well. What he isn’t doing is missing tackles. That was a fun narrative. Williams isn’t worth drafting because he can’t tackle. One, he really wasn’t that bad at it, and two, he weighs like 160 pounds. Let him grab and hold on. He’s done a little more than that.