0-3 Teams Don't Date Anne Hathaway
Week 3 was when hopes and expectations ran into the brick wall of NFL reality. Fans witnessed some ugly wrecks Sunday.
The Bucs, Giants, Jags, Redskins, Steelers and Vikings all face the looming horizon of a lost season after falling to 0-3. (Forget Jacksonville – we knew they were terrible.)
The Giants proved that defeat and failure have many fathers. No dad would want to claim Sunday’s train wreck.
Not many saw the Panthers’ rout of New York. This was a total beatdown, with the Giants’ offense anemic in a spectacular way. They can’t block, run, or pass. Eli Manning made some poor throws, but he was running for his life. The offense was pathetic, the defense just not very good.
Who saw this coming? The Giants are only two years removed from a Super Bowl win. The offensive line that looked so awful Sunday was missing only one starter, David Diehl.
The Panthers, on the other hand, played impressively after losing two close games. They sacked Manning seven times and made some great plays on defense. What can you say? Carolina played well on both sides of the ball and the Giants were horrible. Go figure. I thought this might be one of the better games of the day.
The most painful loss was probably Minnesota’s. They played a supposedly weak 0-2 Browns team at home, came back to take the lead, and then lost on a touchdown in the final minute. They’re looking up at the Bears, who at 3-0 are three games ahead.
The Vikings, like all the other 0-3 teams, have a multitude of issues on both sides of the ball. They can’t put pressure on the quarterback and their pass defense breaks down often. Christian Ponder’s good plays were more than offset by bad ones. The offensive line has fallen apart.
But Minnesota’s loss was partly due to bad coaching. The Browns, coming off a tumultuous week in which they traded Trent Richardson and tapped their third-string signal-caller, moved the ball without a running game and came up with a couple of successful trick plays on special teams. A fake punt gained 33 yards and a fake field goal turned into a touchdown.
For the second week in a row, the defense followed a horrible first-half performance with great improvement in the second half, culminating in a total collapse in the form of a last-minute touchdown. And the game-losing plays were almost identical, a pass to the left part of the end zone to a tight end. Anyone watching game film there in Vikingland? Hello?
The Viking defense has proved to be the cure for an ailing offense. You listening, Big Ben?
RGIII was better in his third game, but the Redskins defense is going to force the offense to score a ton of points to win.
The Lions won despite an early pick-six that, many thought, would demoralize a Lions team that’s been known for screwing up. But Matthew Stafford was the better quarterback on this day, and his receivers were dynamic – not only superstar Calvin Johnson but Nate Burleson. This is an improved team.
This was a bit surprising because the Lions were missing Reggie Bush. He makes it tough for defenses to double Johnson. But this Redskins defense can’t do much of anything well, and the Lions appear to have morphed back into the good team of two years ago, not last year’s woeful rendition.
The Steelers haven’t shown much in their first three games. This team bears no resemblance to those that have been in the Super Bowl. Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t played well, but it might help if his line blocked someone. And the defense has been poor. In fact, it’s hard to pinpoint any strengths.
You should feel for the Bucs. They could be 0-2, and to avoid 0-3 had to beat the Patriots on the road. Tampa Bay played reasonably well early, but then went for a fourth-and-short at the Pats’ 35. They failed. A few plays later, Brady & Company had a similar situation. The Pats made it, scored a touchdown and ended up winning easily. No surprise.
Do any of the 0-3 teams have a chance to make the playoffs? Sure. The same chance I have to date Anne Hathaway.
It’s the time of year when we seem to have a handle on which teams are bad. So let’s indulge in that delicious bit of schadenfreude: Which coaches and quarterbacks are in the most trouble?
The Hot Seat
The popular choice is probably the Giants’ Tom Coughing. But when you get blown out, no amount of coaching would’ve made a difference. The guy’s won two championships. And the team’s not very good.
How about the Redskins’ Mike Shanahan?
Shanahan went out and paid the price to get RGIII, which meant that the team wouldn’t be able to afford much on defense. He also kept RGIII in the game last year when he was hurt. Remember, too, that owner Daniel Snyder is not noted for his patience.
A sleeper candidate is the Vikings’ Leslie Frazier. It might seem noble to not throw anyone under the bus. But his insistence on staying the course with Ponder might have consequences for him. And, with a roster that appears loaded with talent (maybe that’s an illusion), the fans want scapegoats. Fair or not, coaching mistakes are going to be blamed on the head coach. And there have been plenty of decision-making problems, from play-calling to confusion on defense. This is a poorly led team. They’ve been outcoached by the Bears and Browns.
Mike Tomlin? I don’t think so. I think fans will give you a longer leash when you’ve won the Super Bowl. And I don’t think anyone really expected the Steelers to be great. Fans just didn’t think the team would be so uncompetitive.
Riding The Pine
Vikings fans would love to put Ponder at the top of this list. And if people got what they deserved, he’d be yanked. He hasn’t been very good. He played poorly after the Vikings got a 27-24 lead Sunday. One time it appeared he was so anxious not to be intercepted that he deliberately overthrew a receiver.
But the Vikings’ failure has many causes. The defense has been a bigger problem than the offense so far this year. I think Frazier won’t pull Ponder until he loses a game pretty much all by himself. Which might happen one of these days. Circle your calendar: The Vikings are at home against the resurgent Panthers in a few weeks. That could be Ponder’s last start.
I think Frazier will give Ponder at least two more games. After that, anything could happen.
Now, the Giants pulled Manning at the end of the game. But he’ll keep playing. Not many teams have as capable a backup as the Vikings do in Matt Cassel.
It’s tough for coaches to pull their starter. No one wants to admit he’s wrong. There’s the force of inertia.
Give Rob Chudzinski credit in Cleveland. He rolled the dice, putting his third-string quarterback in there and coming up with trick plays. He showed guts. Three cheers for him. He gets the coaching award of the week.
By the way, let’s recognize that the Panthers’ win took pressure off Ron Rivera. He could well be on the hot seat later, but he’s fine. For now.