A few thoughts on the league during this bye week and the midpoint of the 2012 NFL season:
- Thank you NFL for working out an agreement with the referees, but was it really necessary to wait so long to get a deal done?
- While Peyton Manning will surely win the Comeback Player of the Year award, in my opinion it should really go to Adrian Peterson. This not to disparage Manning at all; he has surpassed everyone’s expectations while recovering from three very delicate and hazardous surgeries. The thing is this: Manning has had more than a full year to recover and rehabilitate; Peterson had just nine months since he underwent reconstructive knee surgery for both a torn ACL and MCL.
Again, not to slight Manning but the importance of the knees to the productivity of a running back cannot be overstated. Peterson not only overcame the severe obstacle but here he is leading the entire NFL in rushing. In nine games he has carried the ball 168 times for 957 yards, a 5.7-yard average, and six touchdowns; extrapolated Peterson is on pace to rush for over 1,700 yards. As the season has progressed he has actually performed better, averaging 6.7, 8.2, and 10.7 yards per carry in the last three games – with that 10.7 number coming against what had been considered to be one of the NFL’s very best run defenses, the Seahawks, in Seattle, where they play their best ball.
Peterson’s accomplishment simply cannot be overstated; it is utterly amazing. Unfortunately won’t win the comeback player because (a) he did not miss a year of football (his speedy return actually works against him to the minds of some) (b) he’s not a quarterback, and (c) he’s not Peyton Manning – but at bare minimum he deserves to share the award with Manning.
- Barring an unlikely collapse by the Falcons Matt Ryan will win the MVP. Why? Because too many people look at the league’s best team, and then give the award to that team’s quarterback unless the QB is obviously undeserving.
Similar to above, this is not a criticism of Ryan; he has played extremely well this year. It’s just a case of at least two other players having a slightly better season: J.J. Watt and Charles Tillman.
So which player is the most deserving? When Brian Cushing‘s season ended I thought the Texans would be in trouble. Every team has that one player they cannot do without: for the Ravens it is Terrell Suggs, for the Jets it is Darrelle Revis, for the Patriots it is Tom Brady. I think that although the Bears would miss Tillman, with Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs they would still be very formidable. I believe that Watt really changes the way opposing offenses game plan with his ability to pressure the quarterback on every drop back, forcing him to throw early, sacking him for a loss, and of course getting his hands up to deflect a pass.
If the season were to end today I would say give Watt the MVP, Tillman the Defensive Player of the Year award, and Ryan the Offensive Player of the Award – even though there is no way in reality that would ever happen.
- On the other end of the spectrum there are multiple worthy candidates for the Most Disappointing Player of the Year – Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ndamukong Suh, Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald all come to mind – but in my opinion the dishonor has to go to the Bills’ Mario Williams. There was so much hype about Buffalo being a playoff contender, and when you factor in what his contract, he has to win the award easily. Fitzgerald gets a pass because that team has no QB and no running game, and Johnson’s lack of production is more on the coaching staff.
- Offensive Rookie of the Year will end up being Andrew Luck over Robert Griffin, but as the number one and two picks in a pass-happy league, is it really that surprising? Two players that won’t win the award that deserve serious consideration are a pair of running backs: Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin and Washington’s Alfred Morris. Martin is second in the league with 99.3 yards rushing per game, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, second with 7 rushing touchdowns – and has zero fumbles. Morris’ 793 yards rushing ranks 4th in the league, one yard behind Martin; he has rushed for 41 first downs (4th), 4.8 yards per carry, and perhaps most importantly has solidified what was a running game which was totally up in the air for Washington in August. This in turn has taken a lot of pressure off Griffin, and allowed him to better develop as a quarterback.
- Defensive Player of the Year award is a close call, but to me it is Pats DE Chandler Jones. Runner up has ties to the Patriots as well: it is the player that was selected when the Pats traded down from late in the second round last April, Green Bay CB Casey Hayward. As a reminder what the Patriots ended up getting in return for the #62 pick was Jake Bequette (#90), Nate Ebner (#197), Alfonzo Dennard (#224) and Jeremy Ebert (#235). Although the New England pass rush is far from perfect Jones has quieted what was probably the biggest off-season question mark, what would the patriots do to replace the loss of Andre Carter and Mark Anderson. While Chandler has given New England’s defense a much needed boost, Hayward has done the same in Green Bay; his four interceptions are third best in the NFL.
- I don’t know what you would call it, maybe Lifetime Achievement Award but how about Reggie Wayne? Here’s a guy that many thought would not be brought back due to the Colts cleaning house and he’s leading the league in receiving with 835 yards, and also in first downs with 44. Journeyman Tim Jennings (six interceptions) deserves consideration as the Most Surprising/Better Than Expected Player, but as we saw with Kyle Arrington a year ago interception stats can sometimes be deceiving.
- The Colts and Dolphins have been big surprises as far as teams go, so perhaps Joe Philbin deserves to be Coach of the Year – though it will surely go to Mike Smith or Lovie Smith instead.
- Worst Prediction of the Year has to be my thinking that the Chiefs would win the AFC West. Instead of the playoffs they are instead the Team Most Likely to end up with the Number One Draft Pick next April due to their propensity to turn the ball over. On the subject of turnovers while Romeo Crennel and the Eagles’ Andy Reid lead the nominees of Coach Most Likely To Be Fired, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has made it clear that Ron Rivera is a dead man walking.
- Before the season began I predicted the Pats would go 12-4 with the losses most likely to be to the Seahawks, Ravens, Texans and 49ers; I’ll stick with that 12-4 guess. My revised AFC picks are the Pats, Steelers (rather than the Bengals), Texans and Broncos (not Chiefs) winning their divisions, with Baltimore still a wild card, and Miami replacing Buffalo as the other wild card. In the NFC I originally went with the Eagles, Bears, Saints and 49ers as division winners; the Giants replace Philly and Atlanta replaces New Orleans (duh). Green Bay and Atlanta were my wild card picks; I’ll go with the Packers and Seahawks now. Before the season began I had Houston over Baltimore and San Francisco over Chicago in the conference championships, then the Texans win their first Super Bowl. The only mid-season revision I would make is the Patriots replace Baltimore in the AFC Championship game.
This Day In Patriots History
November 7, 1965:
Buffalo Bills 23, Boston Patriots 7 at Fenway Park
Once again the Pats, who finished the season last in the AFL in points scored in ’65, could not get anything going on offense. After Buffalo opened up a 13-0 lead a one-yard run by J.D. Garrett in the second quarter cut the lead to six. However, Buffalo ran the ensuing kickoff back 102 yards and was never seriously threatened again. The Patriots defense did a good job, allowing just one touchdown and just 161 yards of total offense but the Patriots offense turned the ball over four times (two interceptions, two fumbles) and was stymied on the ground (28 yards rushing on 29 carries). Jim Colclough was the lone bright spot with four receptions for 114 yards.
November 7, 1971:
New England Patriots 28, Houston Oilers 20 at Schaefer Stadium
Touchdown runs by Jim Nance and Carl Garrett capped a 4th quarter come from behind victory for the Pats in Foxboro. Houston’s Dan Pastorini threw for over 100 more yards than Jim Plunkett, but the Pats defense picked off three Pastorini passes while Plunkett was error free on the afternoon.
The Patriots got some contributions from unlikely sources in this game. Hubie Bryant scored the only touchdown of his NFL career on a 10-yard pass from Plunkett in the first quarter to give the Pats a 7-0 lead. In the second period Jack Maitland found the end zone from two yards out for his only TD as a Patriot, and one of only two scores in his NFL career. Houston then scored on Mark Moseley‘s second field goal of the game to make the score 14-6 Pats at halftime.
The Oilers came back in the second half when Pastorini hit future Hall of fame WR Charlie Joiner for a 28-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to one, and took the lead early in the fourth quarter when Pastorini ran it in from one yard out. However the Pats came back with a 4-yard TD by Nance and then Garrett scored the game winner on a 2-yard run.
Randy Vataha had seven catches for 77 yards for the Pats and Bryant, who was primarily a punt and kick returner during his three years in the NFL, had five catches for 79 yards, both career highs. Bob Gladieux came through with a 48-yard left-handed halfback option pass completion to Bryant, and on defense Jim Cheyunski, Randy Beverly and Steve Kiner each had an interception.
November 7, 1975:
After being ousted as President of the Patriots the previous year, Billy Sullivan became the first majority owner in club history when he purchased additional voting stock to give him 88 percent of the franchise’s voting stock.
November 7, 1976:
New England Patriots 20, Buffalo Bills 10 at Schaefer Stadium
Sam Cunningham rushed for 141 yards and Mike Haynes had the first punt return for a touchdown in franchise history as the Pats improved to 6-3.
John Smith kicked a pair of field goals before Haynes scored on his 89-yard punt return to put the Patriots up 13-0. Buffalo then got on the scoreboard with a field goal to make it 13-3 at halftime.
In the third quarter Cunningham scored on an 8-yard run and the Pats defense never let the Bills back in the game. The Patriots dominated in all three phases of the game: on offense (172 yards rushing), special teams (Haynes’ touchdown) and defense (an amazing eight turnovers). Haynes, Steve Nelson, Tim Fox and Prentice McCray each had an interception for the Patriots’ defense.
The win would be the first of what turned into a six-game winning streak to finish the season that came to an abrupt end in the infamous Ben Dreith game.
November 7, 1993:
Buffalo Bills 13, New England Patriots 10 in OT at Foxboro Stadium
The one-win Pats almost pulled off a huge upset over the one-loss Bills but once again came up short. For the third game in a row first-year coach Bill Parcells’ team scored no more than one touchdown and fell to 1-8 heading into their bye week.
After a scoreless first half Leonard Russell scored on a two yard rush, and then early in the 4th quarter Scott Sisson kicked a 27-yard field goal to put the Patriots up by ten. The Bills then scored on a 9-yard pass from Jim Kelly to TE Pete Metzelaars, tied the score on a 27-yard field goal by Steve Christie and then won it in overtime a 30-yard Christie field goal.
Buffalo took over at their own 13 with 1:04 remaining and the Pats up by three. Pats FS Harlon Barnett missed a sideline tackle on Buffalo WR Russell Copeland, allowing him to run to the Pats nine-yard line to set up the game tying field goal.
On the opening drive in overtime Parcells elected to go for it on 4th-and-one on the Buffalo 48 but Russell was stopped for no gain. However the Pats were able to get the ball back when they recovered a Metzelaars fumble on the 25. The Pats offense stalled once again though and when Buffalo got the ball back Pats CB Reyna Thompson was beat for a 46 yard completion from Kelly to Andre Reed down to the Pats 19 which set up the winning kick.
Despite the late lapses the Patriots defense did come up with three fumble recoveries to overcome a 317-yard passing game by Kelly and 142 total yards by Thurman Thomas (111 rushing, 31 receiving). Leonard Russell led the Pats with 95 yards rushing.
Scott Sisson missed a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter, making it the third straight game that ‘Missin’ Sisson‘ had been a factor in close losses. After this game Sisson was just 12 for 20 on field goal attempts on the season, and was 0-for-5 from beyond 40 yards.
When QB Scott Secules left the game with a separated shoulder and was replaced by Drew Bledsoe the crowd cheered; it was not clear if the applause was for Bledsoe entering the game or for Secules’ exit. Bledsoe had some choice words for the fans after the game but due to this happening almost twenty years ago it did not create the stir that happened in Kansas City earlier this season.
November 7, 2004:
New England Patriots 40, St. Louis Rams 22 at Edward Jones Dome
The Pats had a touchdown pass to a linebacker, a kicker throw a pass for a touchdown, and a wide receiver, practice squad player, linebacker, and rookie free agent all playing defensive back at various times in this win. In addition Troy Brown became the first player in Pats franchise history to catch a pass thrown by a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and now a kicker during his career.
The Pats came into this game without starting RT Tom Ashworth, CB Ty Law or CB Randall Gay, and then number 3 CB Asante Samuel was sidelined with a shoulder injury on the second play of the game. Bill Belichick ended up going with WR Troy Brown and Earthwind Moreland, who was just promoted from the practice squad two days earlier as defensive backs. The Pats secondary was helped out by the front seven, who sacked QB Marc Bulger three times and harassed him on every drop back.
After two Adam Vinatieri field goals the Rams got on the scoreboard when they knocked the ball out of Tom Brady‘s arm and fell on it in the end zone. On the following possession Brady moved the ball 64 yards on 10 plays, scoring on a 2-yard TD pass to LB Mike Vrabel in the corner of the end zone to put the Pats up 13-7.
The Rams finally took advantage of the depleted New England defense, completing a 48-yard pass to TE Brandon Manumaleuna, who was covered by a linebacker with no safety help; on the next play Bulger hit Isaac Bruce for an 11-yard touchdown. The Pats came back on a tremendous 50-yard pass and catch from Brady to David Givens which set up another Vinatieri field goal, a 45-yarder to give the Pats back the lead at 16-14. With two minutes left the Rams were shredding the Pats secondary but the line came through, knocking the ball out of Bulger’s hand with Jarvis Green recovering it on the 28.
After a roughing the passer penalty Brady completed a 20-yard pass to David Patten, moving the ball to the Rams’ 37, and then hit Patten again for 19 yards to set up another Vinatieri field goal as time expired, giving the Pats a 19-14 halftime lead.
In the second half the Pats pulled off one of the more memorable plays in the history of the franchise. Vinatieri was lined up for a 21-yard field goal but the Rams defense was asleep, leaving Troy Brown all alone on the edge of the field. Vinatieri took the direct snap and threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Brown and the Pats led 26-14. Four plays later the Rams had a mismatch with Willie McGinest covering WR Tory Holt, yet Willie was able to get his hands on the pass and the deflection was picked off by Roman Phifer, who returned it to the Rams’ 21-yard line. A couple minutes later Corey Dillon juked a Rams defender out of his jock to score on a 5-yard run and the Pats went up 33-14. In the 4th quarter the Rams scored to get within 11 but the Pats came back with Brady hitting Bethel Johnson a 4-yard touchdown to finish the scoring.
Givens finished the game with five catches for 100 yards and Dillon had 112 yards on 25 carries for the Pats.
November 7, 2005:
Indianapolis Colts 40, New England Patriots 21 at Gillette Stadium
With eight key players out with injuries the Patriots were no match for the 8-0 Colts on Monday Night Football, as Indy controlled the clock and dominated the Patriots on both sides of the ball. The Colts had drives of 54, 68, 73, 60, and 74 yards, including a 17-play second-quarter drive that chewed up over nine minutes.
The turning point came in the 2nd quarter after an interception by Mike Vrabel gave the Pats the ball, down 14-7. A banged-up Corey Dillon had the ball ripped away from him on a 1st down from the Colts’ 17 by Dwight Freeney, and the Colts drove 73 yards for a two-touchdown halftime lead and were never seriously threatened after that.
David Givens had four catches for 64 yards, Deion Branch had five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, Troy Brown had five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown, and Daniel Graham had five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown for the Patriots.
November 7, 2010:
Cleveland Browns 34, New England Patriots 14 at Cleveland
The Pats came out flat and the Browns just ran the ball right up the gut and over the Pats. Peyton Hillis had the best game of his career, running for 184 yards and two touchdowns while the Patriots were just out of sync and a step slower all day. Aaron Hernandez scored both touchdowns for the Patriots, on short passes from Tom Brady.
For the Patriots the game seemed to serve as a wake-up call: they went on to win each of their next eight games, finishing the season with an NFL-best 14-2 record.
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November 7, 1943:
Joni Mitchell was born in Alberta
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