Richard Martin

Gather 'Round For The Lowlights Of Weak 1

Created on Sept. 10, 2013 5:17 AM EST

Dumb is the most obscene four-letter word.

Don’t believe me? Ask Lavonte David, who wins this week’s Alfred E. Neuman (“what, me worry?”) Award for most knuckleheaded play in a week chock full of them. You could rightly say that as many teams lost games, an equal number won them.

The weird thing is that the screwups only make the games more interesting. If players were robots, it might be boring. The team with more talent would always win. As we know, that’s often not how it shakes out.

Also, consider this: Turnovers make for more ups and downs, thus creating more excitement. If there wasn’t the possibility of a Joe Pisarcik-type play, well, why watch until the end? (Note to Roger Goodell: Get rid of the kneel-down. It’s embarrassing.)

One thing’s for certain: The Bucs gave their game away. The Jets didn’t seem to want to take it — coach Rex Ryan was slow calling timeouts during what should’ve been the Bucs’ game-winning drive.

The Jets had the ball at their own 20 with no timeouts and 34 seconds remaining. Desperate situation, right?

Rookie quarterback Geno Smith completed a pass to the 45 and spiked it. Then, unable to find a receiver, he raced to his right and went out of bounds in Bucs territory. Great play, but the Jets were still outside field goal range.

Not to worry. David, who had a decent game, tackled Smith when he was well out of bounds. It was an easy, obvious call that had to be made. It most definitely was not a borderline call. The extra 15 yards were just enough for Nick Folk, who nailed a 48-yarder. Jets fans were probably thinking, “At last, someone else screws up!”

David just might be too dumb to know he did a dumb thing. 

"I don't know what to say," David told reporters afterwards. "They called a flag. I guess I hit him out of bounds. Everybody told to me to keep my head up. All the guys in here were very supportive."

That’s nice. But I think it’s safe to say most of us don’t have bosses or co-workers quite so understanding.

One of the storylines of the first Sunday of the season, such illustrious pundits as ESPN’s Tom Jackson said, was the stellar play of two rookie quarterbacks, Smith and the Bills’ E.J. Manuel. Both guys played well and earned jobs. That’s a heartwarming story.

Hold on. Without David’s blunder, both rookies would’ve started out home losers.

The Lion Ding

Ground zero for bad plays of every kind has to be Ford Field, where the Lions have specialized in lemons for more years than Detroit fans care to count. It’s worth noting that Detroit was one of six sites of divisional matchups this first weekend. (Through Sunday, every home team but the Bills won.) 

That was an interesting game in another way. It pitted one of the coaches most likely to be fired (Detroit’s Jim Schwartz) vs. one of the quarterbacks most likely to ride the pine by season’s end (Christian Ponder).

The Lions dominated the Vikings from beginning to end, though they were behind at halftime, 14-13. Adrian Peterson scored on his first run, going 78 yards, but did nothing afterward. 

Detroit ran and passed at will against what was supposed to be a stout Vikings defense. But the Lions channeled their inner Alfred E. Neuman (Mad magazine’s moron) from the outset and could’ve matched the Broncos’ 49 points if only they  hadn’t screwed up over and over.

Team Snafu did what they’re known for. Detroit botched an easy field goal attempt on their first drive, and the boo birds were out — perhaps the season’s first. Ndamukong Suh made both a stupid and dirty play on a Detroit interception, cutting John Sullivan and negating a touchdown. A tipped pass resulted in a Viking interception one play later. 

Overall, the Lions committed 11 penalties for 88 yards, continuing a trend from last year. It ended up not mattering because they dominated a Vikings team that was pretty good in 2012. Now, well, we’ll see.

The Lions looked great when they weren’t screwing up. Reggie Bush had 191 all-purpose yards, and there was one fine quarterback on the field: Matthew Stafford, who adjusted to the Vikings’ game plan of stifling Calvin Johnson.

The Vikings made more than their share of bad plays. Ponder did his own impression of Alfred E. Neuman with some head-shakers. (I suppose some could compare his antics to the Three Stooges’ Curly, but Curly had talent. And there’s no Moe to slap Ponder around, though you can bet some Vikings fans wish there was.) 

Here some Jet fan might toss this out: Gang Green actually has a guy named Curly (OK, it’s spelled Jeremy Kerley). Vikings fans could counter that their team has lost four Super Bowls; and witnessed various disasters that prevented their three best teams -- 1975, 1998 and 2009 -- from reaching the Super Bowl.

Overall, Ponder threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball once. He made several errant passes and was nearly picked off other times. One would’ve been a pick six ... if the Lions player hadn’t channeled his inner Larry.

Something about Ponder sitting on the bench reminds me of Mark Sanchez. They bear a certain resemblance. And frustrated fans in purple and green, if they compared notes, would find similarities. Both players made head-scratching mental errors. The truth is both guys have decent arms but play like rookies too often. Both make the same mistake, telegraphing their passes.

And both seem to emit that “What me worry?” sense that it’ll all work out. Hmmm. Where have I heard that before?

In December 1941 in Hawaii, some guys said, “Hey, forget about all those planes heading for Pearl Harbor. They have to be our planes. Get back to sleep.”

Does Ponder worry? He sure doesn’t appear to as he sits on the bench. 

He should. The Vikings have a capable backup in Matt Cassel, and there will be a lot of pressure on coach Leslie Frazier to make a move if the team starts poorly. Vikings fans are not exactly enamored with Ponder. He has to show something.

It doesn’t get any easier. Next week Ponder faces a Bears defense that has proved to be very adept at forcing turnovers — last year scored nine touchdowns, eight from interceptions and one on a fumble recovery. They beat a very good Bengals team Sunday.

Little Giants

Another crucial game that was lost more than won was Giants-Cowboys. The Giants turned the ball over six times, with one fumble and one interception returned for a touchdown. The chief goat was David Wilson, who dropped the ball twice.

During the telecast of that game, the NBC sideline reporter interviewed Giants coach Tom Coughlin at halftime. Coughlin said the first half was one of the worst first halves during the time he’s been coaching, though the Giants were down just 13-10. They were fortunate to be close.

Early in the second half, the Cowboys scored on a Giants fumble and New York proceeded to bumble and stumble even more. New York reporters had to be happy: Coaches give much better quotes after a loss — especially a bad one — than a win. Not to worry.

"You're not going to win the game turning the ball over five times and muffing a punt," Coughlin said. "I'm totally, totally disappointed, embarrassed about that football. That's sloppy, sloppy football."

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

It was a day marked by epic screwups. Consider this: In only one game did a team that committed more turnovers win the game — Patriots-Bills. (The Rams and Cards, Jets and Bucs, and Broncos and Ravens were even in the turnover department.) Three safeties were scored, one when the Titans’ Darius Reynaud caught the ball at the one and went back into the end zone. Larry or Curly?

Perhaps this was to be expected. It was, after all, opening week. And these days, starters play very little during preseason because of injury fears. You just don’t know what you’re getting in the first game.

There are two James Bonds in the NFL: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Most teams have to get along with the likes of Frank Drebin and Inspector Clouseau, who succeed for reasons that aren’t always clear. That’s Hollywood. No one writes the endings of the NFL. That’s the beauty of it.

Let’s all admit that the mistakes make it all the better. Unlike other arenas of life, there’s accountability.

Mistakes matter.

We all love that.

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