The fifth Sunday of the 2015 NFL season is in the books and if we've learned anything, it's that we hardly understand what constitutes a touchdown.
Atlanta's Devonta Freeman scored late in the fourth quarter to beat Washington and keep Atlanta's undefeated season alive. Hooray! Only he didn't because it was ruled he didn't because ... who really knows for sure. But then he scored another touchdown immediately after the one that didn't count and ... you'll never believe what happened next: this time it counted! Hooray!
From Freeman to Calvin Johnson to Tyler Eifert, we've seen many plays near the end zone this year get overturned against all common sense. And this on the heels of Dez Bryant's (non-)catch in last year's playoffs. The players themselves admit they don't fully understand the rules and, based on their calls, many of the refs don't either.
But it's actually all very clear. This is the flowchart the heads of officiating crews have at their disposal to review touchdowns. Let there be no more confusion.
Quote of the week
“He’s a guy who can take your team and win a Super Bowl. And that’s the biggest compliment I can give somebody.” — Mike Shanahan on Kirk Cousins
That was Shanahan on ESPN980 Radio on Friday, two days before Cousins was erratic in Washington's loss to Atlanta, including throwing a game-losing pick-six in overtime. But Cousins' Week 5 performance wasn't an aberration. He's been a turnover machine since entering the NFL, and he hands the ball to the other team far above the rate that even Robert Griffin III ever did.
It might just be that Shanahan is off on his evaluation of Cousins. But then you remember that he also raved about RG3. And as recently as December said he still believes in Jay Cutler, whom he drafted out of college and played over Jake Plummer just one season after Plummer took Denver to the 2005-2006 AFC title game. And then you dig further and find that all the way back in 2000, SHANAHAN COMPARED BRIAN GRIESE TO JOE MONTANA.
So let's not focus on Shanahan whiffing on Cousins. Let's focus on the fact that he's been wrong about every quarterback he's touched since John Elway. Shanahan has said that he would coach again for the "right organization" that can win a Super Bowl. That means you, Patriots and Packers. Mike Shanahan can coach Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers to championships. Give him a call.
Stat of the week
Josh McCown threw for 457 yards in Cleveland’s overtime win in Baltimore, becoming the first quarterback in Browns history to have three consecutive 300-yard games and breaking Brian Sipe’s 24-year-old team record for passing yards in a single game.
Sipe is arguably the greatest quarterback in modern Browns history. He had a 57-55 career record with Cleveland, won the 1980 league MVP—but capped the season with an interception in the end zone with 41 seconds left in the divisional round of the playoffs—and holds many team records. His old single-game record of 444 yards that McCown broke came in the middle of a 5-11 season following his MVP year. So Sipe was a deeply flawed quarterback and also a Browns quarterbacking great because, as I said, he was just deeply flawed, not completely flawed.
But this is not about Cleveland’s past, but their present. And McCown has answered all questions about whether he is their present. Those 457 yards he threw for on Sunday? His third straight game of 300-plus? In Johnny Manziel’s three career starts, he has a total of 284 passing yards. There is no longer any QB controversy. Josh McCown is your quarterback, Cleveland. And he has a chance to be your greatest quarterback ever. Congratulations.
This week’s horrible fantasy team that crushed your team
JOSH MCCOWN, QB, Browns — 36-for-51, 457 yards, 2 TD, 1 rushing TD
THOMAS RAWLS, RB, Seahawks — 23 carries, 169 yards, TD
RYAN MATHEWS, RB, Eagles — 96 total yards, TD
JAELEN STRONG, WR, Texans — 2 catches, 53 yards, 2 TD
MARQUESS WILSON, WR, Bears — 6 catches, 85 yards, TD
BENJAMIN WATSON, TE, Saints — 3 catches, 36 yards, TD
Press conference questions someone should have asked
Jim Caldwell: Do you think these Lions could beat your 2-14 Colts team or your 1-10 Wake Forest team?
Jeff Fisher: How do you make mediocrity look so damn cool?
Pete Carroll: Is this Seahawks team the worst team you’ve had since your 2005 USC team that went 0-13?
Jason Garrett: Does it feel good knowing that even though your team lost, you were able to get Greg Hardy a huge check?
Reader Twitter question of the week
I don't know if we're there yet, but we very well may be entering the Post-Is-Joe-Flacco-ELITE Era. At some point, a full 100% of the nation will tire of debating Flacco's ELITEness. We're still in the mid 99-percents. Plus, Flacco and the 1-4 Ravens are going to need a big turnaround to reach .500. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger have never had a single season in their careers in which they've had a sub-.500 record. Joe Flacco: NOT elite. (Or is he? #Debate.)
But Dalton could be the one to carry the ELITE debate torch, which could be a torch or could just be his hair. Tough to say. Either way: In five weeks he's gone from the guy holding the Bengals back to leading the NFL in passing yards. He's trailing only Brady and Aaron Rodgers in passer rating (115.6) and he's on pace for 4,858 yards, 35 touchdowns and just six interceptions. ELITE numbers by any measure. Of course, none of this will matter if Dalton doesn't win his first game in the playoffs ... and then go on to win the Super Bowl. After that, we would be treated to the same amount of #elite debate we got after Flacco got one ring.
In conclusion, the best way to watch football is to never watch pre-game or post-game shows, halftime shows, mid-week shows, First Take or really anything on ESPN, and always mute the volume during game broadcasts. That's how ELITE fans who want to not hate football do it.
A random number of random things
1. Peyton Manning looked bad again in Denver’s narrow victory over Oakland, and he’s now on pace for 19 touchdowns and 22 interceptions this season. His 77.3 quarterback rating is 30th in the league. Manning is under contract for 2016 at $19 million, and there’s obvious concern about what he might look like a year from now. But I don’t see it. One, he’s Peyton Manning. He’s an all-time great. Two, by next year, he won’t have enough arm strength to throw the ball to the line of scrimmage, so there’s no way he’ll ever be intercepted.
2. It’s a shame that good players who play for teams like the Jaguars and Buccaneers don’t get the same amount of publicity as guys who play in New York. On the other hand, when guys on the Jaguars make awful and baffling plays—like Bernard Pierce blocking his own team here—it doesn’t get the same ridicule as equally horrific plays like ButtFumbles.
I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re going to be bad at football, play for the Jaguars. Oh, right. This has been done in the league for years.
3. Let me tell you the tale of a tiny, 5'7" running back. He played college football in the “blue collar” town of Pittsburgh. He was a mid-round draft pick. He’s been traded once and cut twice. He missed an entire season with a broken leg. He now plays for the New England Patriots, the heroes of gritty Boston, where he has earned a two-year contract extension after working his way into the lineup. His name is Dion Lewis. And if you search “Dion Lewis” and “scrappy” on Twitter, you get five results all-time. And if you search “Danny Woodehad” and “scrappy” on Twitter, you get ... unlimited scroll, unlimited scroll, unlimited scroll. Weird!
4. After Detroit’s latest pathetic loss to fall to 0-5, Golden Tate—a strong contender for the NFL’s Least Likable Player Award (Non-Criminal/Greg Hardy Division)—ripped Lions fans, saying they “turned their back on us.” Well, yeah. You’re horrible and it costs a lot of money to go to professional sporting events. If a local theater puts on a play and the play is terrible, people don’t go. There’s no civic obligation to go watch a sports team, especially one that had done nothing but embarrass the city for generations. Anyway, let’s check with Lions fans on how they’re taking Tate’s comments. Well said, guy! And I can’t blame you.
5. Seattle’s offensive line is so bad that Russell Wilson has been dropping weight and working on his agility and mobility so he can better elude the rush. I feel like this is not addressing the core issue: God hates Russell Wilson now. (The second issue being that the Seahawks line should learn how to block before Wilson is forced to adapt.)
6. I thought Sam Bradford’s butt looked terrible in the first half on Sunday.
But in the second half? DAMN! That ass!
7. Wow. Football players who aren’t football players are getting really defensive lately! (Fun fact: If they were truly defensive, in that they played defense, they would be real football players.)
This is sort of an odd tact by these ball kickers. It’s one thing to say someone like me can’t have an opinion on this. (Although it’s a fact that kickers and punters aren’t real football players, not an opinion. But I digress.) But Jon Ryan and Jay Feely think Brian Billick, a guy who coached a team to a Super Bowl, doesn’t get to weigh in because he never played in an NFL game? Really? Interesting. Then someone must have been hacking Feely’s Twitter for years with political hot takes because, as someone who never served as president, Feely would never critique Barack Obama.
8. Let’s all pray for Odell Beckham during this troubling time and hope doctors don’t find more of them.
Odell Beckham Jr. has a hamstring and his return his questionable— New York Giants (@Giants) October 12, 2015
9. It’s fun to call the Patriots evil and root against them. But none of it is serious. They may have deflated some balls, they’ve done some cheating over the years, but none of that is important in the grand scheme of things. We watch them and hate them and hope they lose, acknowledging the whole thing is a farce, not far removed from the male soap opera that is pro wrestling. And the NFL and its media partners stoke it all to boost ratings.
But then on Sunday, the Patriots played someone who truly is an awful person: Greg Hardy. And the cameras kept cutting to Hardy for reaction shots, just like they would of Brady or Belichick if the Patriots were losing. But Hardy isn’t a guy who messed with some PSI on footballs; he’s an actual, real-life monster and now he’s just there in the mix with the rest of the NFL storylines. “Cut to the shot of Hardy. O.K., now cut to the shot of the Cowboys cheerleader who Hardy would beat the hell out of if he had the chance.” Is this what we really want as football fans? Do we really want to be part of this?
10. We’re all going to watch next week, though, aren’t we? Me included. NFL ratings are higher than ever. And preachy, anti-NFL screeds are more prevalent than ever, too. It seems like the hypocrite demographic is still watching a lot of pro football. Again: myself included. Depressing. I should probably end with a joke to lighten the mood, huh? O.K. “Why did the chicken cross the road? Because there was an NFL game on over there and even though he knew he’d likely get run over by a semi-truck while crossing, he still couldn’t help himself because he found it entertaining.” Mood: lightened!
How they spent their bye week
Jets: Looking for things to do in their hometown of East Rutherford, N.J.
Anything cool going on in the city tonight?— Due Season.. . (@BMarshall) October 7, 2015
Panthers: Asking people to stop calling them.
Vikings: Interviewing their cheerleaders in a relaxed, casual and empowering setting.
Dolphins: Kicking down the doors of power in Washington.