Stop With the Belichick Karma Stuff on Gronk
Sorry sports fans, but the next week is going to be brutal when it comes to NFL storylines, since Rob Gronkowski's injury -- a broken arm that could sideline him 4-6 weeks -- apparently happened as the Pats were scoring their 59th point and he was blocking on an extra point.
There will be ceaseless debates about whether or not Bill Belichick got his karma come-uppins, whether Gronk should've been blocking for an extra point and what starters were doing in the game with a 30-point lead.
But this narrative is garbage. The Patriots weren't even really running up the score on that drive: Julian Edelman returned a punt 49 yards and New England took over on the Colts 39-yard line with 7:37 remaining in the game and up 52-24. They called five running plays and two passing plays, burned almost four minutes off the clock and found themselves in the end zone.
What does everyone want them to do, take knees? Or maybe Tom Brady could take a snap and stand in the middle of the field for more than seven minutes while the Colts defense stared at him?
Gronkowski is assigned to block on extra points. It's not like his job in that situation suddenly falls to someone else because the Pats are up a certain number of points.
And then there's this: four plays before Gronk got hurt, Dwight Freeney made a tackle. And the play immediately after Gronk got hurt, Andrew Luck attempted a pass. So is Bruce Arians an arrogant score-monger who deserves karmic retribution as well?
Hell no, and neither is Belichick. It's football and people get hurt. It happens and you move on. Which is precisely what everyone trying to examine the Belichickian karma of Gronk's injury should do as well.
Von Miller Might Break the Single-Season Sack Record
Lost in all the "Oh My God How Is Peyton Manning Doing All of This?" hype in Denver is the incredible play of their defense this season. Or, more specifically, the play of Von Miller.
My colleague Clark Judge is in Denver, and a little birdie told me he might write more on the the star second-year linebacker, so I won't go too far in depth here, but if you go back and look at Miller's last three games and watch him on tape, you'll be flabbergasted.
And he might very well break Michael Strahan's single-season sack record of 22.5. Miller, after piling up another three sacks against the Chargers, has 13 on the year. That means he needs 10 more over the course of the season.
In his final six games, Miller gets to face the Chiefs (2.2 sacks per game given up) twice, the Buccaneers (1.4 sacks per game), the Raiders (2.0), the Ravens (2.11 before the Steelers game) and the Browns (1.6) per game.
Most of those teams were in the top half of Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate before this week. But in all likelihood, Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland will be throwing behind against Denver, which will lead to more dropbacks, which will lead to more pressures, which might lead to more sacks.
It's a hard record to hit and Miller's 1.8 sacks per game won't get him there. But if he plays the rest of the season the way he's played the last three weeks, there's a reasonable chance he can break Strahan's record.
So Much for Burying Andre Johnson
There are many concerns with what happened in Houston on Sunday, particularly with the Texans defense, which was carved up by Chad Henne. What happened to Houston should, as I wrote in the grades this week, make us wonder about their viability as a contender.
But there is a silver lining: Andre Johnson is perfectly fine.
Pete Prisco joked a few weeks ago about the Texans not taking the Ferrari out of the garage and they hadn't done that this year. But when Houston needed Dre Day to step up, he did it in a huge way, catching 14 passes for 273 yards and the game-winning, walk-off touchdown.
They don't want Johnson to have a day like that every week, because it would mean the Texans aren't playing their brand of ball. But when you consider them as a contender, it's also important to remember that, should they get involved in a shootout, they can play too. Matt Schaub went north of 500 yards, Johnson was unstoppable, and the Texans eventually won.
No praise is deserved for needing overtime to beat the Jaguars at home. But Johnson is most certainly not losing a step/slowing down/finished as an elite wideout/whatever else cliche you want to attach. And that should help to remind everyone how dangerous Houston can be when they pass too.
Nice Knowing You, Matt Ryan's MVP Chances
When we made our CBSSports.com midseason predictions, Matt Ryan was a pretty easy MVP choice. The Falcons were undefeated and he was playing lights-out in Dirk Koetter's new up-tempo offense. In the two weeks since ... well, you can kiss his MVP chances goodbye.
It's irrelevant that the Falcons are 9-1 after beating the Cardinals 23-19 in Atlanta on Sunday. That's just what happens when you hand Arizona five interceptions and barely beat a lifeless Cards team captained by Ryan Lindley.
Ryan finished the day 28-of-46 for 301 yards but the five picks are just brutal, regardless of whether or not they're all his fault. He crossed 3,000 yards passing on the season, but 20 teeters and 12 picks aren't the type of numbers that score you any hardware.
Factor in the other storylines around the NFL (Adrian Peterson's return, Peyton Manning's play and Tom Brady rolling) and Ryan's shot at winning the award are as good as done.
Pat Shurmur's Good Decisions Are Even Bad
Ignore the final score of the Cowboys-Browns game for a second and let's focus on what happened to Cleveland before they scored a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. With less than two minutes left, his team down four points to the Cowboys in Dallas and the ball at the Dallas' one-yard line, Pat Shurmur had a decision, of sorts, to make.
Kick the field goal or go for it? Just kidding: it wasn't actually a decision, because anyone with brains knows you go for the score and use your three timeouts to stop the Cowboys if you don't get it.
Shurmur did that, which was good. But instead of running Trent Richardson up the middle, Shurmur had his rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden throw a fade to tight end Jordan Cameron. The pass wasn't just incomplete, it was thrown out of the end zone. Dan Dierdorf rightfully called Weeden's throw "horrible" by on CBS, it's almost irrelevant what Weeden because there was zero logic in having the biggest play of the game, one that required a single yard, not involve Richardson.
Shurmur seems pretty unlikely to end up coaching the Browns in 2012, and a large part of that is his inability to make smart decisions late in games.
Ron Rivera is Done
Speaking of "unlikely to continue coaching in 2012," Ron Rivera is as good as dead. That loss to Tampa Bay was as brutal as they come, with the Buccaneers storming back, forcing overtime and taking a win away in Charlotte.
Jerry Richardson's never fired a coach in the middle of the season, and maybe he'll give Rivera the full year. But every week the Panthers either a) don't show up or b) somehow manage to bungle an end-of-game situation. It's why they have two wins in what was supposed to be a very promising season and it's hard to fathom that the slew of cringe-worthy losses for the Panthers this season will allow Rivera to elude temporary unemployment.
Richard Sherman Can Probably Keep His Nickname
Tramon Williams declared it was he, not Sherman, who deserved the Optimus Prime nickname for shutting down Calvin Johnson. Sherman, naturally, disagreed. Williams got the win (unlike Sherman) on Sunday, but Megatron went off, catching seven passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Far be it from me to assume I know every single defensive play call from Dom Capers; I don't. But Sherman's argument stands up pretty well when Johnson has more yardage on a single catch against the Packers than he did for the entire game against the Seahawks.
What Brady Rule?
When Bernard Pollard shredded Tom Brady's knee in the Patriots first game of the 2008 season, the NFL made it clear: no more diving at quarterback's knees. Somewhere along the way, this rule's been forgetten about, because the referees aren't doing a good job of calling it.
Our friend Bill Barnwell wrote about this recently at Grantland, but it's something that deserves continued attention. And we saw a great example on Sunday during the Panthers-Buccaneers game. On third-and-goal, Cam Newton threw a pass into the end zone towards Steve Smith. You will see three arrows in the (admittedly horrible) screenshot below.
One is Newton, just standing there and hanging around. The second is Daniel Te'o-Nesheim who is headed in a downward direction towards Newton's legs. And the third is the ball, which is almost halfway to the end zone.
Inexplicably, Te'o-Nesheim continued along his path towards Newton's leg, hit him hard in the knee area and sent Cam to the ground wincing. Again, the arrows, just a second later:
This ball is LONG GONE. And maybe Te'o-Nesheim got a little blocked into Newton. But this penalty has to start being enforced again. To not do so is a travesty and it's going to result in some superstar quarterback tearing his ACL.
But an ACL tear to a big-name quarterback shouldn't be necessary for the NFL to get referees back on top of this. My sense of things is that there's so much concern for shots to the head of quarterbacks that the zebras have slacked up on the Brady Rule. They shouldn't, and the NFL should make a point to remind them what kind of bad things can happen on late hits to knees. Cam was lucky, but the next guy might not be quite as fortunate.
GIF O' THE WEEK
HAHAHA OK THEN JOSH FREEMAN. The Buccaneers quarterback got a sick fake, got a huge jump and somehow, with the power of MAGIC, managed to get a football through someone's legs to another player on his own team.
WORTH 1,000 WORDS