NFL morning after: An extra-long day of football
What’s better than the usual routine of watching football for 10 or so hours Sunday afternoon and evening? How about an extra three hours in the morning?
I love the league’s decision to schedule overseas games for a mid-afternoon kickoff in London, or 9:30 a.m. Eastern. Sure, it’s preposterous to sit there on the couch and watch football for 13 hours, but what else are you gonna do on a Sunday? Go to church? Spend time with family? Get outside for some fresh air and exercise? Pfff. Not while there’s football on.
Of course, it was bad football yesterday. The 2015 Miami Dolphins pretty well define “bad football.” And anecdotally, it seems like these London games are disproportionately bad games, perhaps because the teams are jet lagged or perhaps because the NFL sends a disproportionate number of bad teams across the pond.
But bad football is better than no football, and I’ll gladly take football spread across my day. With the NFL talking about expanding its overseas presence, I hope the league continues to put football on our televisions at all hours of the day on Sunday. If the NFL starts playing 13 hours of football every Sunday, I’m prepared to watch it all. It’s a rough job, but someone has to do it.
Here are my thoughts on Sunday’s games:
Bill O’Brien messed up the Texans’ quarterback situation. O’Brien made the right call when he picked Brian Hoyer as the starter during training camp, but he screwed it up when he benched Hoyer for Ryan Mallett in Week One. Yesterday he seemed to realize his mistake and went back to Hoyer, but he waited until the Texans were losing 42-0 to do it, and Hoyer’s solid garbage-time performance was too little, too late. The reality is, neither Hoyer nor Mallett is a very good quarterback, but Hoyer is at least competent enough that the Texans might be able to compete in the terrible AFC South with Hoyer under center. “I have to do a much better job coaching this team,” O’Brien admitted after the game. That should start with giving the job back to Hoyer, and sticking with him.
Overrated: Adam Vinatieri the Patriot. Underrated: Adam Vinatieri the Colt. Yesterday Vinatieri became the first player in NFL history to score 1,000 points with two different franchises. If Vinatieri gets into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day -- and he has as good a chance as any kicker of getting to Canton -- most of the highlights you’ll see at his induction ceremony will be of his game-winning kicks in playoff games and Super Bowls with the Patriots. But the reality is Vinatieri has actually had a better career in Indianapolis than he had in New England. After Vinatieri’s 54-yard field goal Sunday in Indianapolis, he has twice as many field goals of 50 yards or longer with the Colts as he had with the Patriots: Vinatieri was 8-for-17 (47 percent) on field goals beyond 50 yards as a Patriot. He’s 16-for-26 (62 percent) on field goals beyond 50 yards as a Colt. Vinatieri also made the game-winner for the Colts in overtime yesterday, and he’s still going strong at the age of 42. He got more attention for his handful of clutch kicks with the Patriots, but his body of work has been greater with the Colts.
Jay Cutler is actually a decent quarterback. I know, I know, Cutler is an easy guy to dislike. And he’s overpaid. But Cutler, who marched the Bears into field goal range to help them get their first win of the season on Sunday, is not a terrible quarterback. He’s OK. He’s decent. He’s good enough to win if you have a good team around him, which the Bears don’t have. I’m not here to praise Cutler, but I’m not going to bury him either. He’s not good enough to win games all by himself, but he’s not the reason the Bears are a bad team, either. He has actually played pretty well this year when healthy. He deserves a break.
Charles Woodson continues to amaze. Cutler’s one very bad pass of the day was intercepted by Woodson, whose pick in the fourth quarter almost won the game for the Raiders. Woodson turns 39 on Wednesday and is the oldest player with an interception since Darrell Green, the Washington Hall of Famer who had seven interceptions after turning 39. Woodson is one of the game’s all-time great players.
Jameis Winston is a big disappointment. Every rookie quarterback makes his share of mistakes while learning on the job, but Winston is missing way too many easy throws and throwing into coverage way too often. Winston was terrible again on Sunday, throwing four interceptions in Tampa Bay’s 37-23 loss to Carolina. It’s too early to write Winston off, of course, but through four weeks he is performing below expectations as the first overall pick in the draft.
Both coaches struggled in Philadelphia-Washington. Jay Gruden’s team got the win, so he won’t get much criticism, but his decision to punt from the Eagles’ 35-yard line while Washington was losing in the fourth quarter yesterday nearly cost his team the game. That punt went into the end zone for a touchback, meaning Gruden gave up the ball and gained a whopping 15 yards of field position. But even worse was Chip Kelly’s team, which looked like a mess. Yes, Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford threw three touchdowns and no interceptions, but those stats don’t tell the whole story. Washington’s injury-riddled secondary was leaving guys open all day, and Bradford really didn’t do anything special to throw those three touchdown passes. Kelly was given complete personnel control this offseason, and the team he has assembled just isn’t playing well. At 1-3, the Eagles are in last place in a bad NFC East. That’s Kelly’s fault, and if things don’t get turned around in a hurry, I won’t be surprised if Kelly leaves for a college job in a few months.
Six undefeated teams remain. The Panthers, Falcons, Packers, Broncos and Bengals all improved to 4-0 yesterday, but the best team in football was off this week. That’s the 3-0 Patriots, who still look like the favorites to win the Super Bowl.