After four games, two exciting, two relatively dull, we look forward, but not now; now we look back at the wonder that was, and the dull that was too.
1. RGIII vs. the knee; the Seahawks march on
Robert Griffin III is definitely a trooper; he played on a less-than-perfect knee for several weeks before this one, and played on it in the Wild Card game until it finally gave out on him. Ultimately, he respected the authority of Mike Shanahan, who left the decision to play up to RGIII. Now, it is debatable if that move cost them the game, is the only reason they were in the game to begin with, or if ultimately Kirk Cousins would have been just fine had he been able to find a rhythm. No matter how you spin it, the Redskins needed a boost after RGIII went down, and didn’t get it.
Which isn’t to take away from what Seattle accomplished; 24 unanswered points after being down fourteen is quite good, especially against Washington at Fedex Field. It wasn’t just enough to come back, though, it also fell to their defense to hold the Redskins, which they did. I’m not saying that Pete Carroll has earned high status amongst head coaches, but he certainly deserves a lot of the credit.
Washington will have success in years to come, barring (knock on wood) RGIII’s career being derailed by injury. Seattle is also poised to contend for years, and oh yeah, they’re still contending as they march into Atlanta next week.
2. Youth vs. Experience: Experience triumphed, and thus did the Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens lost any shot at hosting a playoff game this postseason, given the way the playoff bracket fell into place this weekend. However, that feeling was already in the air when Ray Lewis did his dance to amp up the crowd, a prelude to a thumping of the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts played well, but not well enough, and lost to a Ravens team that wanted to carry Lewis into the sunset on a white horse. The Ravens are onto Denver, a matchup widely anticipated by all. We will see how well they do there.
Meanwhile, for the young Colts, defeat here is not the end of the line. Pagano and Luck will have success in the future, but given their status as a first time head coach and rookie QB, it was unlikely they would advance; rather, they should take what they have learned and move forward, something that will allow Luck to fulfill his role as Peyton Manning’s successor; a task made easier by his unexpected success this season. The Ravens contend year after year; the Colts had no expectations, and blew away everybody. I’d say their secrets out, but I don’t think they mind that much.
3. The Packers route Minnesota; the Vikings miss Ponder?
The Packers had the Vikings outmatched; they had them outmatched last week, but failed to deliver. They delivered this week. However, the X-factor for the Vikings, young quarterback Christian Ponder, was not in play, and Joe Webb was unable to muster anything. Adrian Peterson is not a miracle worker; he needs solid support, even a 3rd class quarterback, to get his rushing yards, and Webb didn’t qualify. Ponder did.
This is more than just hand the rock off, though. The Packers, realizing quickly that Webb couldn’t throw worth a damn, started stacking eight in the box, and from that moment on, all Aaron Rodgers had to do was be average, and the Packers would win; which they did, handily. Ponder could threaten the long ball, which kept running lanes opened. The Packers’ D really won the game, setting a good stage for their offense to come out. Rodgers was solid, and even the Packers’ lack of a running game was overcome by the classic West Coast offense staple of long hand-offs.
The Packers face the 49ers next week; the Vikings need to lick their wounds; elsewhere, the Bears and their fans are screaming about how much better they would have done than Minnesota.
4. The Texans get on track, surprising the Bengals
When one team has momentum, it cannot be ignored, and the Texans didn’t. The Texans forced a dog-fight, rather than a shoot-out, and were thus able to overcome their own slump, and the upstart Bengals. However, it was not an easy game to win. The Texans shot themselves in the foot on a couple of occasions, and it wasn’t until they killed the mistakes that they had the game in hand.
Marvin Lewis and his Bengals were unable to manufacture enough offense, which as ever was adversely effected by the defense not getting stops when they needed to, all of which summed up to a narrow Texans win.
Bonus: Chip Kelly returns to Oregon
After serious flirting with the NFL, Chip Kelly became the second high profile college coach to decline the move upwards, after Penn State’s Bill O’Brien. However, Kelly was not offered more money to remain at Oregon, but rather couldn’t sever himself from it, a feeling greatly augmented, no doubt, by the disaster zones he was looking at taking over. The Eagles and Browns are two teams in serious trouble, and you don’t want to be the guy that can’t fix it, especially after the magical run you’ve had at your college.
So, he’ll wait; O’Brien will wait too. Perhaps he’s looking for a good team’s coach to retire, step down, or just the job to open up; hang on a sec: if that were true, wouldn’t he have been interested in the Chicago job?
I don’t know what drove his thought process, but I do know that he made the right decision, at least with regards to the two teams he interviewed with. His decision to remain with Oregon reflects far more badly on the Browns and Eagles than it does on him, especially when you put it in the grandiose terms of loyalty and commitment. The Browns and Eagles are now effectively screwed for next season, or at least that’s the perception at the moment, because for whatever reason they couldn’t bring in the big guy. That perception will change, though, if they bring in the right guy, who doubtless will watch Chip Kelly challenging the FBS on another national title run.