Best Philip Rivers face: Only Philip Rivers can execute a Philip Rivers face that’s this Philip Riversy…
Most efficient: Vincent Jackson made his 22nd catch of the season in the third quarter of San Diego’s win over Denver. It was also his 22nd reception that earned the Chargers a first down.
Quarterback who should give his dog an opportunity to play next week: As has often been the case with Mark Sanchez and the Jets’ passing offense lately, both the good and the bad were on display today during a loss to the Patriots. And the trend of the bad outweighing the good continued.
Sanchez had six of his 16 completions in the fourth quarter when it mattered most, and he threw a touchdown pass that narrowed New England’s lead to six points with just over six minutes remaining. The problem? Sanchez and his passing attack that’s now lost were effective for just that one drive.
Throughout the rest of the game Sanchez completed only 10 passes, and momentum early simply didn’t exist. The first quarter nearly ended without Sanchez completing a pass, and the completion that saved him from that fate was a meager two-yard check-down to LaDainian Tomlinson. Prior to that fourth quarter surge the longest pass Sanchez completed was just 11 yards, which is rather weak for a quarterback who supposedly just had a breakout game, and for a passing offense that had 11 completions for 40 yards or more last year.
The Jets are continually failing to stretch the field with Santonio Holmes this year, who now has 204 receiving yards, and over his first five games of 2010 he had 321 yards. There’s no downfield movement for New York, even against a Patriots secondary that entered this week surrendering 368.8 yards per game through the air, and a front seven playing without Jerod Mayo.
Quarterback who can crawl out of his grave now: I’m fully aware that quoting myself is about as self-centered and self-promotional as it gets in blogdom. But what I wrote when Alex Smith was re-signed by the 49ers serves as a prime example of just how low the prevailing opinion was towards the former first overall pick in August.
Over his five seasons in the Bay Area, Smith has had only one year in which he started all 16 games, a blatant sign of drafting failure. Eight other quarterbacks (Tim Rattay, Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett, Trent Dilfer, Shaun Hill, Chris Weinke, J.T. O’Sullivan, and Troy Smith) have started a combined 45 games during Smith’s troubled tenure. Some of those starts were due to injuries, but most were because of overall terribleness. Smith has more career interceptions (53) than touchdowns (51), and still hasn’t eclipsed the 3,000 yard mark for passing in a season.
The assumption at the time was that Smith would spend a year or maybe less being a bridge to Colin Kaepernick. The other assumption at the time was that Smith would continue to be very bad at being an NFL quarterback.
Now he’s thrown seven touchdowns this year, putting him on pace to throw over 20 TDs for the first time in his career. Three of those scores came today during a 48-3 destruction of Tampa Bay, a team that narrowly missed the playoffs last year.
This offense and Smith’s continued success will hinge on the health of Frank Gore. Smith still isn’t stretching the field and putting up gaudy yardage. He had only 170 passing yards today, the third time he’s finished with fewer than 200 yards in a game this season. But he’s finally showing an ability to convert in the clutch and lead key scoring drives, and those opportunities are often provided by Gore, who’s had 252 rushing yards and two touchdowns over the last two weeks.
Best escape from Revis Island: Hype is a wonderfully deceiving thing. While it’s now clear that Wes Welker can catch balls and put up yardage even if he’s being shadowed by Inspector Gadget and Captain America, it was anticipated that a matchup against Darrelle Revis today would at least keep Welker’s numbers to more mortal levels.
That mostly happened, and it kind of didn’t. Perhaps I’ll explain with the help of ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg.
Forsberg charted the matchup between Welker and Revis, and observed that the two faced each other directly on 42 plays. It was a poker game of mini battles that led to Tom Brady targeting Welker just three times when Revis was lurking, showing again that Revis’ mere presence can cause even an elite quarterback to look elsewhere. Only one of those targets came in the first half.
However, Welker gained 77 of his 124 yards against Revis, with 73 of those yards coming on one play early in the second half. Revis became overzealous and cheated a touch, but he felt free to take that aggressive approach because he thought he had help over the top from safety Eric Smith, who didn’t get to Welker in time.
The harsh nature of the cornerback position is that one mistake can lead
The harsh nature of the cornerback position is that one mistake can lead to one major play, and that mistake then dampens an otherwise efficient day.
Worst verbal flub: When BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored on a three-yard run late in the third quarter to give New England a 10-point lead over the Jets, CBS play-by-play man Jim Nantz proudly said that the play put Tom Brady in sole possession of eighth in the all-time passing touchdown list.
That list would be much different if hand-offs counted as passes.