Rookie Running Banks
Some pundits have said that this may be the best rookie running back class in NFL history. Whether that is true or not only time will tell but rookie running backs have certainly made a big impact in the first two games of the regular season with 100 yard rushing games and being difference makers in crunch time. For posterity’s sake here the rookie running backs that have made the biggest impact so far this year.
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (Tulane)
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans (East Carolina)
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders (Arkansas)
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (Oregon)
Five other running backs are expected to make good contributions and have good careers when they get their opportunity.
Steve Slaton, Houston Texans (West Virginia)
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens (Rutgers)
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers (Illinois)
Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys (Arkansas)
Kevin Bell, Detroit Lions (Central Florida)
Laurence Maroney, New England Running Back
Maroney is turning out to be a somewhat disappointing first round draft pick at running back. He doesn’t run hard. He dances behind the line of scrimmage instead of hitting the hole. And he is always hurt. In one series against the Jets this week there was a hole large enough to drive and 18-wheel truck through but Maroney missed it and got tackled for a short gain. The announcers chalked it up to the speed of the Jets defense, but I’ve seen Maroney miss open holes too many times to buy that. He seems to want to avoid any kind of contact. That is why you see Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and LaMont Jordan in the game to get the tough, short yards when we need it most. I wonder if we’ll see Maroney in the Patriots uniform after this year.
Blown Call in San Diego’s 39 to 38 Win over San Diego
Wow. I’ve seen some pretty bad officiating this week but the blown call of referee Ed Hochuli on Jay Cutler’s clear fumble near the end of the game clearly cost San Diego the win. The worst part is it was so obvious that the play was a fumble and there was nobody around Cutler, so it wasn’t one of those close judgment calls that the official just missed.
The worst part for San Diego is that the AFC playoff race would appear at this point to be a very close one, even this early in the season, and that one loss could be the difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home watching them. And it will almost definitely have an impact on home field advantage and seeding.
It’s hard to beat up on the referees too much because it is a fast paced game and the challenge to make the right call for the referees is a difficult one. But even though I have no interest in either of these two teams, as fan you just hate to see a game decided no such an egregiously bad call by the refs.
Here is what a member of my fantasy football league had to say about the call:
It is unacceptable. Totally. Norv Turner was right. If I was coaching that game I might have pulled my team off the field. The NFL should be embarassed…and I mean to a greater degree than issuing some bogus apology to Norv and the Chargers today, which you know will happen. That’s why you have replay and to not use it to its full extent is ridiculous. That play should have been called a fumble with the Chargers recovering, which essentially means “game over.” I understand human error. But technology is employed there to get it right. And the league failed in that regard.
But that’s football as long as it’s not against my Skins 🙂
I have seen the worst pass blocking across the board than I can remember in a long time. Nearly every game I have seen the pass blocking has been suspect at best.
The Denver Bronco’s look like a real force to contend with this year, at least on offense. Jay Cutler appears to heading into the realm of elite quarterback in the NFL, if he isn’t there already. He’s really bounced back from last year and it would appear his diabetes can be chalked up to his less than stellar performances last season. Cutler really does appear to be best QB out of his draft class as Matt Leinert and Vince Young languish on the bench. Eddie Royal, the Denver Bronco’s rookie wide receiver from Virginia Tech looks like the real deal.
Could Donovan McNabb be the comeback player of the year? I guess not since he played last year, but he certainly didn’t play well and missed a few games with injuries. He looks like his old self the past two weeks.
GAMES I WATCHED
Indianapolis Colts over Minnesota Vikings, 18-15
I am sick and tired of the referees doing everything they can to make sure the Colts win a game. Last year’s horribly officiated playoff game against the San Diego Chargers is just one of many examples where I’ve seen bad refereeing that all seems to go in favor of the Colts. Last year the refs seemed to do everything they could to make sure the Colts wound up in the AFC Championship game, but the Chargers prevailed anyway. While Minnesota deserved to lose after settling for 5 field goals (and one miss), late in the game on a 3rd down and about 5 the Minnesota receiver was clearly and definitely interfered with and there was NO CALL! That could have given Minnesota a first down and possibly changed the outcome of the game. Maybe not, given Minnesota’s overall ineptness at scoring, and it did not as clearly cost the Vikings the game as the blown calls in Denver cost the San Diego Chargers, but it definitely had a big impact on the outcome.
The game started off going the Vikings way. The Colts looked out of sync offensively all game and I thought Adrian Peterson would get a 200 plus yard game the way he was gashing the Colts defense in the first half. But the offense could not punch it in the end zone and called a very conservative offensive game, not allowing Tarvaris Jackson to throw the ball. I am not a big believer in T. Jackson as a starting NFL quarterback but he didn’t play that bad and the offensive line didn’t do much to help him when pass blocking. But alas, the Vikings blew a 15-0 lead and you could feel all game long it was just a matter of time before the Colts and the Peyton Manning lead offensive would come to life and put some points on the board, which is exactly what they did.
Adrian Peterson is the real deal at running back. He gets through small holes and just pile drives down the field. And he’s got a good burst of speed too. Peterson and Chester Taylor, who also played well, are about the only thing the Vikings have on offense, which in some games might be good enough. But they are 0-2 and things aren’t looking up. As of today, I consider Peterson to be the best running back in the league over LaDanian Tomlinson.
The Colts Anthony Gonzalez (9 catches, 137 yards) had a big day at wide receiver and was my MVP of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him supplant Marvin Harrison in the starting line-up this year.
New England Patriots over New York Jets, 19-10
Oh, what a sweet victory for Patriots fans!!!! While the Patriots didn’t look like the dominate offensive team they were last year, and Matt Cassel is no Tom Brady, the kid played well enough to win the game and we’re proud of him. Cassel took some huge shots during the game as well, including one where he came up limping, but he came right back out and played mistake free ball and made key throws when he had too.
New England was clearly determined to run the ball more, especially once they got the lead. Kevin Faulk made some great third down plays and LaMont Jordan was a better ram in the fourth quarter to help us milk the clock and hold the lead.
The defense seemed a little shaky at times, especially in the first half, but settled down a little in the second half and got good pressure on Farve and slowed down the running game.
I know Moss didn’t catch many balls but I sure hope he keeps his head up. We’re not dead yet.
MVP: Matt Cassel for winning in his first start since high school. I lean toward Kevin Faulk for key plays in the second half but I have to go with Cassel.
Pittsburgh Steelers over Cleveland Browns, 10-6
This was a very weird game to watch. I guess it was the wind but both offensives looked anemic. The Browns were just an absolute mess, especially their offensive line and their terrible clock management. Just like last week Derek Anderson looked awful and Braylon Edwards looked worse. It’s hard to tell if they are really just playing that badly or if they chalk this one up to the weather. But after all the high expectations they have started off 0-2 and even though they were playing good teams, they looked awful in both them. Things aren’t looking too good for the Browns if they don’t right their ship fast.
Willie Parker had a 100 yard day and Ben Roethlisberger managed the game will in bad conditions. I love watch Troy Polamalu play who was all over the field and had an interception.
MVP: Troy Polamalu, Strong Safety
Dallas Cowboys over Philadelphia Eagles 41-37
This was one of the wildest games I have seen in a long time. It featured a Tony Romo fumble in the end zone leading to a Philadelphia touchdown, a kickoff return for a touchdown by the Cowboy’s rookie running back Felix Jones, a terrible pass interference call against the Cowboys on a long throw into the end zone that should have been called against the offense, chalking up an easy score for the Eagles. And the game was really decided by a McNabb mistake on a poor handoff to Brian Westbrook in the fourth quarter resulting in a fumble and a Dallas go ahead touchdown. It was quite the wild affair.
This game was very entertaining and looked like two Super Bowl contenders slugging it out. It’s kind of hard to say slugging given the lack of defense, but it was one heavyweight offensive blow after another.
For Dallas, they certainly seem to have picked up right where they left off last year offensively before they ran into the New York Giants in the playoffs. Other than his fumble, Romo looked great in the pocket and handled pressure well. And you just have to love the way Marion Barber runs so hard every single time he touches the ball. He is one of my favorite players to watch. And the rookie running back Felix Jones looks as good as advertised. One only wonders where the defense was?
On the Philadelphia’s side, Donovan McNabb extremely comfortable and played very well, except for a few errant passes, and a couple of inexplicable miscues on handoffs, once of which ultimately cost the Eagles the game. What is particularly surprising is that McNabb is doing it without his starting receivers. Brian Westbrook once again was stellar running and receiving.
One of stupidest plays of the game was rookie DeSean Jackson catching a long pass from McNabb and racing to the end zone but throwing the ball down in celebration before crossing the goal line. I get sick and tired and of seeing these idiotic types of plays and so wish one of the Dallas defenders had picked up the ball and gone the other way with it so we could gloat at the goat that he is. He has the speed and potential to be a big time threat in the league, but I hope he learned his lesson.
My only question at the end of the game is can either team win a championship without a better defense effort?
MVP: Marion Barber, RB, 114 total yards, 2 touchdowns, hard running
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player: Brandon Marshall, WR, Denver Broncos. 18 catches for 166 yards and touchdown.
Defensive Player: Chris Horton, Free Safety, Washington Redskins. Two interceptions and a fumble recovery. I had to go with this rookie from UCLA who unexpectedly had to start in the game. Otherwise I would have chosen Troy Polamalu.
Offensive Lineman: Leonard Davis, G, Dallas.
Special Teams: Darren Sproles, KR/RB, San Diego Chargers (103 yard kickoff return for a touchdown).
Rookie of the Week: Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland for his 164 yards rushing. (Last week I’ll go with Eddie Royal, WR, Denver).