Thoughts from the early slate of games in Week 7:
Tebow gives Broncos hope, throws wrench into the race for Luck
For the majority of the Denver-Miami game, I was convinced that both the Broncos and the Dolphins were indeed sucking for luck. With Tim Tebow making his first start of the year and Brandon Lloyd now in St. Louis, Denver was comically bad for the first three quarters, while the Dolphins were typically bad as well.
But it was Miami leading by 15 at home in the fourth quarter, and what happened next proves that John Elway’s team probably isn’t throwing in the towel in an attempt to land another famous Stanford quarterback. Tebow made several clutch plays down the stretch and Denver scored twice in the final three minutes, also adding a two-point conversion and benefiting from an onside kick recovery to force overtime in South Florida.
Then it was Denver’s defense that made a big play, forcing a fumble to set up Matt Prater’s game-winning 52-yard field goal. Broncos, 2-4. Dolphins, 0-6. Forget about Andrew Luck in Denver.
Now, despite a poor performance on paper, we’ll hear all week about Tebow’s magic. And while that’ll be painful for most of us, I will give the guy credit for evading a sack in remarkable fashion on his first touchdown, and for leading Daniels Fells beautifully on the pass to set up the second one. I know it’s cliché, but he was quite poised. And although he isn’t a particularly good passer and he lacks consistency, he gives the Broncos a lot more hope than Kyle Orton did.
So does Miami become the frontrunner — if it wasn’t already — for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft? With Cleveland, Carolina and Denver winning and Miami losing, the Dolphins, Colts and Rams are dominating the Suck For Luck sweepstakes. Miami has now lost 11 of its last 12 home games and is completely out of contention in the AFC, so if head coach Tony Sparano survives this week, it’s safe to predict that team owner Stephen Ross is secretly satisfied with losses the rest of the way.
Someone should tell the Chargers they aren’t sucking for Luck
The Chargers choked on a double-digit third-quarter lead in New York, giving Kansas City and Oakland even more hope in the NFC West (and hey, even the Broncos are only two games out of first place). It was another one of those baffling performances from an inconsistent San Diego team.
Philip Rivers had two more picks, giving him a league-leading nine on the season. Vincent Jackson was completely shut down by Darrelle Revis. The run defense let Shonn Greene hit triple digits. And when they had a chance to salvage things down six with less than two minutes to play, there was no sense of urgency.
It looked as though the Chargers had never practiced a two-minute drill before. They had 89 seconds to work with, but it took them 52 seconds to run their first two plays, and they were forced to check down for less than five yards on back-to-back occasions (failing to get out of bounds in either case). That forced them into a Hail Mary situation on their final attempt. But inexplicably, none of Rivers’ receivers went deep on the last play. Rivers was forced to throw it away and the Bolts fell to 4-2.
A loss to the Jets on the road is nothing to be embarrassed about, but it was the way in which San Diego lost. And that’s the way it’s always been with this team. They haven’t played a really strong, complete game of football this season, and now the schedule gets tougher with Kansas City, Green Bay, Oakland and Chicago looming on the schedule.
Despite an obvious talent gap between the Chargers and the rest of the division, the AFC West appears to be wide open. Again.
Detroit’s season taking a turn for the worse?
I tried not to overreact to the Lions’ super-awesome 5-0 start, and so I probably owe it to Detroit not to overreact to back-to-back home losses to very good teams.
That said, the pair of losses hurts. At lot.
Not just because both losses came at home, but because they came against teams they’re likely going to be battling for playoff positioning with. With Green Bay now in control of the NFC North, the Lions are probably going to be forced to battle teams like Atlanta for a wild-card spot in December.
Making matters worse, Matthew Stafford was hurt on the final series today. Without Stafford, the Lions have no realistic chance to compete in the top-heavy NFC, so Lions fans are again holding their breath. With Stafford’s status in doubt, the suddenly mortal Lions now have to go to Denver (where Tebow will be making his first home start of the year) before travelling to Chicago (where they haven’t won since 2007) after a Week 9 bye.
With Green Bay, New Orleans, San Diego, Oakland and the Packers (again) on the schedule for the second half of the season, Detroit could run into serious trouble. If it hasn’t already.