Three questions from the early games…
Did karma bite Stevie Johnson?
Call it what you want to call it, but the Jets and their fans got the last laugh after Stevie Johnson went into full mockery mode earlier in the afternoon. As a result, New York is alive and well in the AFC playoff race, while the Bills are as good as dead.
Johnson, who’s no stranger to controversy, invited a heap of it when he pantomimed shooting himself in the leg and added a fiery twist to Santonio Holmes’ oft-used flying celebration following a second-quarter touchdown grab. But in the fourth quarter, Johnson, who’s also no stranger to dropping important passes, dropped what might have been a game-winning touchdown pass.
Two plays later, the game was over, and the Bills fell below .500 for the first time this year.
Regardless of what kind of role karma played, Johnson has to be particularly embarrassed. There’s a reason why some of the league’s best receivers have some of the most bombastic and edgy touchdown celebrations — they can typically back it up with their play on the field. Arrogance is sort of admirable under those circumstances.
Johnson’s a good dude, so this isn’t a big joke. He feels as though the celebration cost his team the game, and he might be right. Even setting aside the potential application of the laws of karma, consider that the celebration resulted in a 15-yard penalty that forced Buffalo to kick off from the 20-yard line. Dave Rayner botched the kickoff (would he have done so from the 35?) and the Jets took over at the Bills’ 36, scoring four plays later.
Buffalo had all the momentum when Johnson scored, but the celebration penalty changed everything. And that quick Jets touchdown was the difference on the scoreboard.
It’s a shame, because this could have been a season-saving victory for a Buffalo team that had lost three straight after a surprisingly strong start to the season. Despite not having Fred Jackson and despite starting four rookies on defense, the Bills outplayed the Jets in New York, which is saying a lot considering that Gang Green dominated Buffalo only three weeks ago.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was better than Mark Sanchez. Brad Smith burned his former team. The Bills won the turnover battle 2-0. They had more first downs and more total yards.
All for naught. See ya next year.
Have we already concluded that Blaine Gabbert is a bust?
There was a time when young quarterbacks were given some leeway. We accepted that rookies make mistakes, especially rookie quarterbacks forced to start in their inaugural seasons. But now, there is little margin for error with rookie pivots. For whatever reason, the bar has been raised significantly.
Maybe it’s because, in recent seasons, rookies like Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford have performed so well out of the gates. As the league becomes more and more pass-oriented every year, the demand for pro-ready quarterbacks is sky-high, and the college system has supplied those in demand with a steady crop of well-groomed quarterbacks.
So that has me wondering if time has already run out on Blaine Gabbert, who was benched Sunday against the Texans after another putrid performance. “Sunshine” is only 22 years old, but he’s arguably been the worst quarterback in football this year. And it doesn’t help his cause that fellow rookie pivots Cam Newton and Andy Dalton have been terrific in Carolina and Cincinnati, respectively.
Last year, it only took 10 starts from Jimmy Clausen for the Panthers to decide that he wasn’t cut out to be their franchise quarterback.
This year, Gabbert might have run out of leash after just nine. And considering how poorly the Jags have been playing as a team, his replacement might be on the roster by the time spring arrives.
Now what do the Texans do at quarterback?
Last week, when Matt Schaub was placed on injured reserve and Kyle Orton became available via waivers, the Texans stayed away from Orton, claiming that they were confident in Matt Leinart’s abilities.
But in an incredibly unlucky development that could only happen to a team in the snake-bitten AFC South, Houston has lost Leinart as well, probably for the remainder of the season.
There’s a simple explanation for this: the God (or Gods) of football don’t want the Texans to win. This is a team that has now lost two starting quarterbacks, an elite wide receiver and a Pro Bowl pass rusher, and yet they remain fairly secure in first place in a bad division.
So is this the last straw? If you can survive injuries to Andre Johnson, Mario Williams and Schaub (they won without him today), then you can surely live without Matt Freakin’ Leinart, right? The Houston offense is designed in a way that makes it possible to succeed without a superstar quarterback, but the Texans might be pushing it if they send T.J. Yates onto the field as a starter for the remainder of the year.
This team is talented enough to win the Super Bowl, but they won’t do it with Yates under center. In the pass-happy NFL, that just won’t happen. And don’t use the 2000 Ravens to defend a Yates-led Texans offense, because Trent Dilfer was still a proven veteran and that Baltimore team had a legendary defense.
Unfortunately, with the trade deadline passed and Orton now in Kansas City, there aren’t a lot of options. But the Texans can’t sit on their hands. They need a third quarterback anyway now, so they’d be smart to bring in a group of veterans this week for workouts.
Hey Jake Delhomme’s been to a Super Bowl, hasn’t he?