STEEL CURTAIN CRUMBLING AND DOOMSDAY DEFENSE RETURNING?
After only two weeks, it’s difficult to verify new trends that seem to be evident so far in the National Football League.
However, I’ve seen quite a few games in the last two weeks and have closely followed many franchises and have come to the conclusions that many of the teams that usually wereas in the top echelon of their division have already taken it on the chin.
I’m referring to the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots just to name a few.
Of course, at this time of the season most teams are at full strength and their starting 22 players are probably nearly as talented as the perennial winners. But these better teams earn their money with more talent in the lower parts of their depth charts.
Franchises are quicker to replace their head coach and to trade away impact players like their starting quarterback, field goal kicker or hot-shot pass catcher than in years gone by.
A good example is the Kansas City Chiefs, who in my opinion, have a football genius in Andy Reid, who has been successful wherever he worked as the head coach.
After not having as successful season as expected before last year, he dumped starting quarterback Alex Smith and put all his faith in 22-year-old Pat Mahomes of Texas Tech.
And Mahomes didn’t disappoint as he started his career by connecting on 10 touchdown passes and leading Kansas City to two convincing victories, including a 42-37 win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh, throwing six touchdowns which tied a team record.
Pittsburgh, whicho boasted about its Steel Curtain defense for so many years, has yet to win a game and has surrendered 63 points in two games.
I believe that one of the reasons the Steelers have had so many points scored against them is the absence of holdout running back Le’Veon Bell. Without their All-Pro back, nobody respects the run and defends the pass on every play.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can’t lead a sustained drive that gives the defense a chance to rest and consequently the players are on the field 75 per cent of the time. And at this time of the year, they are bushed in the second half and give up big plays to the opposition.
Several teams such as the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals are off to flying starts, mainly because their defenses have improved immensely.
Tampa Bay was forced to use 35-year-old veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick due to the four-game suspension of Jameis Winston and he responded by picking apart Philadelphia’s vaunted defense for 402 passing yards, completing 27 of 32 aerials and winning 27-21.
The 24-year-old Winston, who always seems to be in some kind of off-field trouble, may have a hard time getting his job back. He should just sit back and watch how a real pro quarterback conducts himself on and off the field.
And closer to home, a much-improved defensethis also is true with the Dallas Cowboys, who had a dominating performance at home Sunday night in A T &T Stadium in Arlington against their nemesis New York Giants.
The Pokes won 20-13 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated. The Dallas defense sacked veteran quarterback Eli Manning six times and hurried him so that he completed mostly short passes and limited the rushing to 35 yards&
Quarterback Dak Prescott improved 200 per cent from last week, targeting his receivers frequently and rushing for 45 yards on seven carries.
After getting shut out in the first half for the first time in many seasons, Prescott connected for a 64-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin on the third play of the game. The Pokes led 13-0 until 4:31 of the third period when the Giants managed a field goal.
The Houston Texans weren’t as fortunate, losing at Tennessee 20-17 on a last-second field goal by Ryan Succop.
The Texans self-destructed early as the Titans pulled off a fake punt for a 66-yard touchdown and then came back right after that for another TD. But the main culprit was the 11 penalties for 88 yards, mainly on illegal procedures and personal fouls.
And while the offense scored 17 unanswered points, the defense buckled down and held the Titans scoreless until 5:41 was left in the game when Succop kicked a field goal to tie the score at 17-17.
So, it merely looks like another season when the Houston Texans start off at 0-2. However, three years ago Head Coach Bill O’Brien’s crew started off at 0-2 and ended up 9-7.
And if they don’t do at least 9-7, there may not be a Coach O’Brien around for the 2019 season.
KWICKIES…Local Earl Thomas fans got a double-treat this week as his Seattle Seahawks played the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football and will be able to watch him again Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys venture to the Northwest. Game time is 3:25 p.m. and can be seen on Fox.
The Houston Astros are closing in on the “magic number” that will assure them of a playoff berth and hopefully by the end of this last home stand, the division championship.
New Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher gets a chance Saturday at 2:30 p.m. to match wits with his old boss as his No. 22-ranked team travels to Tuscaloosa to take on top-ranked Alabama. Nick Saban was hired at LSU in December 1999 and brought in Fisher as his offensive coordinator. Saban is 12-0 against former assistants.
The Texas Longhorns’ impressive 37-14 over Southern Cal Saturday night marked only the first time the Trojans lost back-to-back games by 10 or more points since 2000. The ‘Horns are a field goal underdog to TCU Saturday in Austin.
Brigham Young’s 27-24 upset victory over Wisconsin Saturday marked the Badgers’ first non-conference loss since 2003.
The temperature at game time Sunday in Jacksonville between the hosting Jaguars and the New England Patriots was 97 degrees and the heat index 107, which was the hottest NFL game since Green Bay at Arizona in 2003. New England quarterback Tom Brady has played in six games where the temperature was above 90 and the Patriots lost five of them including Sunday’s 31-20 upset win by the Jaguars.
JUST BETWEEN US…The football writers for the Houston Chronicle are as disappointed as the players and fans about the Houston Texans’ 0-2 start. They publish a report card after each game and Monday’s edition graded the overall performance with an F-minus, stating the Texans were outplayed, out-coached and making one bone-headed mistake after another on offense, defense and special teams. O’Brien also garnered an F-minus, calling his coaching an “embarrassing performance that was inexcusable.” Hopefully they will do better Sunday in their home opener against the New York Giants.