Adrian Fucking Peterson. Remind me to never ever ever doubt him again. Going into this game, my weeklong lament was that I couldn’t believe that the “best we have” at RB was a 34 year old legend who is now nursing three separate injuries after just 4 games (shoulder, ankle, knee). Well, guess what? HE IS!! And he’s not just the best WE have… he’s still in the top-10 of rushers in the league from an “eye test” standpoint. Peterson has amazing lateral jump-cut ability at the point of attack, still combined with great vision and instinct on where a hole is going to open up. Rest assured, if this same o-line was blocking for Rob Kelly or Samaje Perine, we’d be pissing and moaning about how over-rated the o-line is. Peterson is routinely making them look good, by maximizing the gashes they create, and finding unintended ones when the play has been effectively stuffed. Before the season, I made a (perhaps foolish) “boast bet” about Peterson not lasting the season, or his production fizzle-ing out by Thanksgiving. I said I’d “eat a pumpkin” if he hit a certain milestone. Well, we’re still many weeks away, but put it this way: I’ve already googled a few recipes.
Josh Norman’s bounce back game. It’s amazing how psycho NFL speculating and punditry can be. For example, after my ex-colleague Kevin Sheehan broke the story on his podcast about Josh’s headphones being angrily removed by force by Jay Gruden at halftime of the Saints game – a story that was ultimately backed up by national reporters like Ian Rappaport and then in-game by Pam Oliver – there were stories being written about Norman being cut this year – CUT! – and speculation about a “messy and expensive divorce” after this year. Well, a great game in coverage and a pick (okay, fair catch, but still!) and a fantastic Peanut Punch forced fumble later, and never mind all of that stuff. The Redskins are NOT going to CUT Norman this year. And I would bet he’ll be here next season, albeit perhaps with a restructure. Jay told me when I sat down for his weekly interview at Redskins Park last Friday that he likes intense players like Norman and that “he’s going to help us win a lot of games in the future.” It was pure coachspeak, but it turned out to be very true. Credit Jay for making a mark on the kind of bullshit he won’t tolerate, then turning the page to help keep a good player fully invested.
Alex Smith as a $24 million quarterback. Smith’s offense has scored a single 2nd half touchdown this season. One. A garbage time TD plunge by Kapri Bibbs while trailing the Saints 43-13. In a league designed as a pinball machine with free-games at 20 million points, this is unconscionable. And sure, I’ll lay quite a bit of blame on the lack of dynamic outside WR’s. But let’s be honest, Smith was dogshit in New Orleans, and not very good vs. Carolina. He hit two wide open guys for TDs on coverage breakdowns, but otherwise was late, unsure, and inaccurate. He was 21-36 for only 163 yards while taking 3 sacks and almost losing a fumble after getting blown up by Julius Peppers. To squeeze just 163 yards out of 35+ trigger pulls is very low wattage. I read one beat writer who floated the “new system” excuse, but I reject that out of hand. Cousins has a new system in Minnesota, a swiss cheese O-line, and he’s 2nd in the league in passing yards. Smith was touted as no worse than a plug-and-play equivalent to Cousins. The giddy vibe in the summer from some voices inside the park were gleefully hinting that he’d be a big upgrade. Upgrade! If Smith doesn’t improve, then even a surprise playoff appearance from this team in January, will have a quick ending. Like his appearances usually do.
Carolina’s cowardice on 4th down and end of game play-calling. What ever happened to “Riverboat Ron?” The Panthers open the game moving the ball nicely. Face 4th and a football at their own 47. Punt. BAHAHAHAHA! You fucking gutless pussy, Rivera! Five running plays and a punt on 4th and less than 1 at mid-field! With an entire game to come! Seriously, bro, what are you afraid of? And with Cam Newton, who can run through, or jump over, just about anything 4th and 2 or shorter? Wow. Well, as I like to say in the NFL: “Cowardice gets punished.” Sure enough, a great punt is botched by rookie DJ Moore wandering around lost in the end zone. Then after a 3-and-out, Moore fumbles after trying to break his 6th tackle on a punt return while facing backward, at his own 22 yard line. Idiot. Next play: Redskins TD. The Panthers – a team that knows it’s not a comeback team – could have been up 10-0 but basically threw away two possessions right out of the gate, and were looking at 0-17 before they could blink. Then at the end of the game, Carolina did something rather amazing: they OVER-saved their timeouts! Don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen. Not only did they die with two in their pocket, but the play calling on 2nd and 5 from the 16 yard line was mindless. Norv Turner dialed up 3 straight “shot” plays (two into the endzone) that relied on touch and timing – neither one Cam’s strong suit. With two timeouts in your hand you can run anything and everything. Runs. Draws. RPO’s. Cam keepers. Get the first down first, then you have essentially 1st and goal, 30 seconds left, and yet another timeout to allow for full playbook diversity. These are the things that make me say you or I could be “average” play-callers in the NFL, if we were giving a full season of immersive training. Not great. But not this brain dead.
The Net Net
First place never felt so soft and smelled so nice! The Cowboys come to town next Sunday, riding high after crushing the Jags. Jay followed up a horrible job with a great focused short week. When we all looked at the schedule back in May, 3-2 was the “chalk line of expectations” and here we are. All in all, not bad.