Shakeout Sunday A Day Of Revelations, Reckoning
by Richard Martin
Oct 08, 2013 7:53 AM EDT
You don’t have to be Einstein (or Eisen) to know what the storyline was this Sunday: The five unbeaten teams had brutally tough games.
Call it Shakeout Sunday. Like knights seeking the Holy Grail, we want truth about the NFL. Maybe, at long last, our wish would be granted.
It was. A day like this was why we bought NFL Sunday Ticket even if our wives had to work three jobs to do it. What a trip.
Plenty of commentators believed this was the day at least three, perhaps four or even five unbeaten teams would fall from glory. It made sense: All five of the teams were on the road. This would be a day of reckoning.
It’s a good story. But while so-called reality TV is scripted, the NFL is not. And three of those unbeaten teams kept their streaks alive. It wasn’t necessarily the ones picked.
With Sunday Ticket, it’s a merry ride. And at the end of the early games, a wild and unpredictable one.
Many of the cognoscenti love the Chicago Bears, who faced the rejuvenated New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field. They have a storied history, etc.
This year is about redemption for the Saints. Sean Payton’s back as coach after a year in the NFL wilderness. Rob Ryan signed up as defensive coordinator. And that’s the real difference to this year’s team. Drew Brees is one of the top five quarterbacks and the offense has plenty of weapons. But this year the defense has improved.
The Saints put plenty of pressure on Jay Cutler, who’s reverting to his Bad Jay self. Part of it is that he’s still getting hit too much. That offensive line needs help.
But it’s also clear that Cutler has some mechanical issues. He doesn’t plant his left foot and follow through.
Chicago flashed a bit of Good Bears but revealed too much of the Bad Bears: They show little offense, depend on Devin Hester for returns and big plays from the defense. Hester didn’t do much, the defense got no takeaways, the Bears lost. That’s the way it was at the end of last year.
The Bears made too many mistakes. The Saints faked as if they were going for it for fourth and one, and Lance Briggs was offsides. The Bears went for a fourth and two, and Earl Bennett dropped a well-thrown ball.
The Saints, for their part, don’t have to score a ton of points to win. They’re strong defensively, make plays. And they don’t give up the ball.
Arguably the game of the day was Colts-Seahawks in Indianapolis. One loss between them. Both have beaten the 49ers.
It was a seesaw affair. Russell Wilson ran for more than 100 yards, made a few good throws. But their defense faced Andrew Luck, who was more than up to the challenge. The Colts were down and marched 86 yards with a TD and two-point conversion. Score: 31-28 Indy.
Luck made the same throw in the two-point conversion that Matt Schaub had thrown for a pick-six to Seattle’s Richard Sherman a week ago. But his throw, to the left while going right, threaded the needle.
The Colts hit a field goal with 1:55 left, so it was all up to Wilson.
He was pressured and threw a pick. And here’s the knock on the ‘Hawks: Wilson hasn’t been able to pass for victory. This might change if Percy Harvin’s back in time.
Chiefs-Titans was also a great game. But let’s remember, first of all, that Tennessee fielded its backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Bills fans are probably relieved that Fitzpatrick is giving fans in another city indigestion and high blood pressure.
The Chiefs went ahead, the Titans scored 17 straight. The Chiefs marched down the field, helped by a bad call — the refs said Alex Smith was tackled out of bounds.
It was all on Fitzpatrick. And he screwed up, throwing a ball behind the receiver that was picked off.
That’s the theme of the day, great quarterback play and big interceptions.
Tom Brady, in a driving rainstorm and slop in Cincinnati, threw a last-minute ball that was picked off. His streak of games with a touchdown pass was ended at 52.
And then there’s the game that drew all the ink, the shootout at the OK Corral. Peyton Manning outdueled Tony Romo, who threw a late pick. Great game, but we know which guy’s the one we’d take.
“What have you learned?” the voice asks questing knight Percival in “Excalibur.”
“The land and the king are one.”
No, no, no, that’s not our lesson. How about this: “Find a good quarterback, or thy quest will end on the seat of thy pants, looking upward at stars that be not there.”