Richard Martin

Bad Losses Fan The Flames Of Discontent

Created on Oct. 15, 2013 4:59 AM EST

Four home teams, two on the rise and the other in the playoffs a year ago but now in trouble, faced crucial tests Sunday. Only one, the Chiefs, won, while the Browns, Texans and Vikings suffered grievous losses.

These are not their daddy’s Chiefs. Forget Otis Taylor and Len Dawson. This year’s version gets it done with defense, and they made it a miserable afternoon for Raiders signal-caller Terrelle Pryor, who at one point faced a third-and-48.

The Chiefs are very good, we know, but we don’t really know how good because they haven’t faced an elite team yet. We’ll find out when they play the Broncos. Alex Smith hasn’t had to be great. Just how good can he be if he has to put a lot of points on the board?

One of the best games of the week was Lions-Browns. It was auspicious in several ways. Brandon Weeden was back for the Browns, Calvin Johnson for Detroit. Both teams are in the mix in their divisions after being terrible last year.

The Lions were behind 17-7 at halftime but dominated the second half and won going away, 31-17. Detroit’s a team to watch despite last week’s division loss in Green Bay, which proved that their offense needs Johnson and that the Packers are pretty good after all. Reggie Bush had another bang-up day and the defensive line is fearsome. Matthew Stafford had a great day, throwing four touchdowns, three to Joseph Fauria.

So what’s the lesson, that the Lions are good or the Browns overrated? More likely the former, though some Cleveland fans are going to wonder whether Weeden might not be the guy. Their backup quarterbacks have played well this season.

Watch out for the Lions, at least as long as they can keep Johnson on the field. Getting Bush was a great move. They’ve already won as many games as they did all last year.

The situations in Houston and Minnesota are mirror images of each other. Both teams are having tough seasons. Fans in both cities are getting seriously frustrated. Quarterbacks are getting a lot of heat on and off the field. Both teams desperately needed home wins Sunday. And both failed miserably.

You can’t blame Matt Schaub for the Texans’ 38-13 loss to the Rams. He had a decent afternoon, with no picks, before he was injured and replaced by T.J. Yates. (Some fans cheered Schaub’s ankle injury.)

The Texans mixed and matched their screw-ups. They had 95 yards of penalties. They fumbled the ball twice, with one of those (on a kickoff) resulting in a Rams touchdown and DeAndre Hopkins’ drop being advanced 43 yards. Yates picked up where Schaub left off in the interception department, throwing two – one of them a pick six. Maybe that amounts to job security for Schaub. (That’s five games in a row where the team has thrown a pick six.)

The Texans were close in the first half, gained yards and had chances. But they settled for two field goals, wasting a great afternoon by Arian Foster, who ended up with 141 rushing yards.

The Vikings’ ineptitude is turning meek, mild Minnesotans into a legion of Don Rickles clones. Columnists’ harshness is historic. Defensive lineman Jared Allen said he wanted to throw up.

Though fans have been blaming quarterbacks – Christian Ponder until recently, Matt Cassel for his two picks on Sunday – the problems begin and end with the defense.

Someone with the team has to admit that they made a terrible mistake getting rid of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield. The team’s pass defense is breathtakingly terrible, and makes it seem likely that someone’s going to have to take the blame.

Chris Cook was hurt, then played Sunday – and was called for holding to keep the Panthers’ initial drive alive. Welcome back. Josh Robinson made a coverage mistake that resulted in the Panthers’ third score, which made it 21-3 coming out of the gate in the second half. Bye-bye, ballgame.

Now, at the same time, injuries have hit the team at its weakest spot, the secondary. Aggravating a bad situation, the team’s best two secondary guys, Harrison Smith and rookie Xavier Rhodes, were both hurt Sunday, which raises the agonizing possibility that the team’s pass defense could get worse.

And then there’s the quarterback situation. As a Twin Cities columnist wrote, the team has three times more potential starting signal-callers than wins. Against the Panthers, Cassel was indecisive, made two terrible throws and looked out of place.

Which seems to indicate that the time for newly signed Josh Freeman to start is now. But fans better not see him as the savior. The team has way too many issues for one change to bring miraculous results.

Looking down the line, all kinds of changes could be in order. I wouldn’t be surprised if the defensive coordinator is fired. Many fans are upset with the play-calling of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, whose calls Sunday were tired and dull, especially with imaginative plays by the Panthers’ Mike Shula.

The Vikings are being outcoached, and sooner or later there have to be changes. Maybe coordinators, or maybe Leslie Frazier’s job is in jeopardy. It’s even possible that general manager Rick Spielman is in trouble, since presumably he made the Winfield decision and picked Ponder in the first round back in 2011. If the team wins, say, only one or two more games, anything could happen.

What a fall from grace. Spielman’s been seen by some as a kind of whiz kid. No more.

It’s hard to tell about Texans’ coach Ted Kubiak, but the fans are sure miffed about the team. Stay tuned. As we know, you may have an NFL job, but Not For Long.

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