After the early and late Sunday afternoon games we’ll hand out some hardware. The awards will range from serious to silly, and anything in between.
Best effort to remain a glaring Achilles heel: Michael Vick has no problem scrambling to escape pressure. This is what’s made him an elite, explosive, and unique quarterback throughout his career, and he seemed comfortable while he ran for 98 yards today. But often Vick didn’t run because he wanted to after seeing an open lane. Vick ran because he had to, as despite an impressive first showing by the Dream Team he still faced pressure often and was sacked three times by St. Louis, once for a fumble resulting in a turnover as Philly approached the red zone.
Vick can compensate for his leaky offensive line with his legs, but his body will only take a beating for so long.
Best impersonation of a crappy run defense: The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the best defenses in the league, and especially one of the best run defenses. We can say this with absolute certainty because they were nearly impenetrable last year, allowing a league best average of 62.8 yards per game. The second-best team against the run in 2010 was Chicago, and they finished nearly 30 yards worse than Pittsburgh, allowing 90.1 yards per game on the ground.
This is why what the Steelers showed us today against Baltimore was an aberration, albeit an incredibly ugly one for a defense that’s rarely out-muscled. The Steelers did more than just lose a physical battle–they looked feeble, and allowed Ray Rice to run for 107 yards and a touchdown, which came after putrid performances by Rice last year against Pittsburgh in which he had only 52 yards over two games.
The surprisingly weak day by a usually forceful run defence started in the first quarter when Rice had a 36-yard run, meaning that mere minutes into this season the Steelers matched the amount of +20 yard runs they gave up last year, and were four yards away from allowing a 40-yard run for the first time since 2009.
It was a weird and inexplicable day in Pittsburgh, with all the main defensive contributors healthy.
Best impersonation of a quarterback who isn’t Peyton Manning: As we noted earlier in our Sunday Notes, no one who’s sane expects Kerry Collins to replace Peyton Manning. That effort belongs to the entire offense, starting with hopefully more support from the running game with rookie Delone Carter thrown into the mix, and Dallas Clark having an even greater presence as Collins’ safety valve.
But the supporting cast around Collins can’t control their new quarterback’s ability to hold on to the football, and Collins lost fumbles on his first two series. Manning is old and slow, but could easily compensate for his lack of mobility with his superior vision and timing in the intricate Indy offense. Collins is just old and slow.
However, blaming Collins for the debacle today in Houston is downright foolish after his crash course to learn the Indy offense. But if you insist, there’s an award for that…
The senseless excuse award: Manning alone was responsible for the Colts giving up 34 points by halftime, and 167 rushing yards to a Houston backfield playing without last year’s leading rusher.
Best scream: John Harbaugh will literally rip your face off.
Best old guy act: Steven Jackson had a tremendous burst to score on a 47-yard run against Philadelphia on the Rams’ first offensive play of the season. Moments later he was on the training table with a strained hamstring, showing the opposing Jacksons that we’ll see this season. One is still fast, shifty, and capable of reaching the second level quickly. The other is old, brittle, and easily injured.
Most predictable injury: It’s just not football season until Shawne Merriman is hurt. Merriman left with a shoulder injury during Buffalo’s surprising 41-7 domination of Kansas City, thus continuing the long, painful spiral since he was turning lights out in San Diego. He’s appeared in only 18 games over the last three years, and has just four sacks.
Best footwear: When you’re a Hall of Fame quarterback whose job now consists of laughing every Sunday morning for several hours, dignity is in short supply. Terry Bradshaw has never seen a pair of Eskimo boots he doesn’t like.