Garbage Time and Trash Talk
1) I think there was a lot to be frustrated by with the Giants on Monday night, but one thing truly perplexed me: with New York needing an offensive spark, why was Odell Beckham Jr. targeted just once in the second half?
2) I think it was fitting that DeMarco Murray got his first 100-yard game as an Eagle in garbage time of one of the sloppiest games of the year. For anyone lucky enough not to have watched, don't let Philadelphia’s 27-7 win fool you. It was an ugly effort by both offenses.
3) I think I’ve kept a careful eye on Tyrod Taylor and Michael Vick this season, as I thought their trajectories could form a poetic storyline. Both quarterbacks grew up in the same area of Virginia, and Vick has served as a mentor to Taylor, who broke all of Vick’s single-season rushing and passing records at Virginia Tech. It set a perfect stage for Vick’s last stand coinciding with Taylor’s emerging as the next great dual-threat quarterback. Let’s just say that script has deviated from its neatly packaged promise.
4) I think I wonder if Bill Belichick is on the brink of revolutionizing how teams approach offensive lines. Banged up along the line and deploying three rookies, the Patriots have been using a rotation all season. After losing one of its most formidable linemen, left tackle Nate Solder, to a season-ending injury, the unit wasn’t totally decimated. Part of the reason is that Solder’s replacement, Marcus Cannon, had already played in 49.8% of the offensive snaps. And when Cannon left Sunday’s game after the first drive with a toe injury, Sebastian Vollner slid over while a recently called up practice squad player (Cameron Fleming) filled in. Maybe lack of continuity is actually the best way to withstand the unpredictability of a brutal season.
• ALWAYS A STEP AHEAD: It was Tom Brady’s ability to move, plus some adjustments from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, that topped yet another creative defense designed specially to stop the Patriots
5) I think speaking of offensive lines, this was one fact that amazed me as I reported a story about Devonta Freeman in Atlanta last week: Of the Falcons’ nine offensive linemen, six are new this season and four—Andy Levitre, Gino Gradkowski, Bryce Harris and Jake Long—weren’t even on the roster for the final preseason game. The fortified unit, adapting extremely well to Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme, is one of the biggest catalysts for Freeman’s success this season.
6) I think Kalyn Kahler’s story on the Minnesota Vikings’ Donut Club is one of the coolest you’ll read this season. Just try getting through the story and the pictures and not end up craving a donut—or feeling a little closer to this team. I don’t think it’s possible.
7) I think there’s no shot you’ll see Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi on the sideline in Sunday’s game against the Vikings—because he’ll be calling plays from the press box. Lombardi made the move upstairs last week as Matthew Stafford broke out of his funk to defeat Chicago, 37-34. I don’t think calling plays from a new perspective was the sole reason why Lombardi’s offense broke out against the hapless Bears, but you can almost guarantee they’ll stick with what’s working until further notice.
8) I think I have such a hard time reconciling what is going on with the Packers. Part of me thinks they are the worst 6-0 team in football, as they have yet to face a team with a winning record. Another part of me just marvels that they continue to win with a no-name cast supporting Aaron Rodgers. After a bye week, their Nov. 1 prime-time game at Mile High Stadium should provide some clarity.
• IN DEFENSE OF PEYTON MANNING: Denver is undefeated despite having the league’s fourth-worst offense. Luckily the No. 2 defense—and everyone in the locker room—is standing behind their diminished quarterback
9) I think when I watched Saints linebacker Michael Mauti block a punt on Thursday night, in the same fashion that Steve Gleason famously did nine years ago, I am reminded of the odds Mauti faced to even make an NFL roster. He sustained three ACL injuries in five years at Penn State, and sent handwritten letters to every GM describing what football means to him.
10) I think I don’t know what trash talk Jimmy Graham spewed in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers, but I’d love to know. What else would compel general good guy Thomas Davis to tell Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer: “I don’t even know what to call him. He was out there talking trash. He’s probably one of those guys who is excited about his production and not really worried about his team losing the game.” Ouch.