manning and romo2

Stoves are hot. Ice is cold. Water is wet. Rocks are hard.

At a young age we learn the basic adjectives associated with basic things. They’re committed to memory, and are then embedded so firmly that an instant cognitive response takes place whenever the item is mentioned, to the point that its essence is associated with the description. That does this, or feels like this.

It’s all rudimentary work of the mind to connect simple items with an action, feeling, or texture, and it’s not even given a moment of thought. But think about it now, because if you think Tony Romo isn’t clutch — if you don’t think he can meet the definition of a word that can be manipulated to suit your purpose — then your treating him like the stove, ice, or water.

You’re forcing a quarterback to be or not be one thing, and if he isn’t that thing, he’s failed.

He’s failed even though he threw for 506 yards with five touchdowns, at the ridiculous pace of 14.0 yards per attempt — a single-game record — while completing 69.4 percent of his passes. That’s what Romo did yesterday during the Cowboys’ 51-48 loss to the Broncos (tied for the fourth highest scoring game in league history), a game which he completed with an incredible passer rating of 140.0, and combined with Peyton Manning’s 414 there were a total of 920 passing yards. Of course, all of this led to glorious fantasy days too, as Romo finished with 40 points, and he had three pass catchers with 120 yards or more (Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, and Terrence Williams). Much of that chunk yardage for Williams and Bryant came on catches for 79 and 82 yards.

For Manning, it was more of the same ho-humming brilliance: four more touchdown passes for 20 overall (yet again, a record at this point in the season) and he’s now honestly averaging 376.8 yards per game. However, he now has his first and only blemish on the season. Manning threw an interception late in the third quarter of what could already be the game of the year, and Dallas then turned it around for eight points.

Romo threw one too, and it was only his second pick over 135 pass attempts this year. But in the court of public narrative, one throw erases everything.

For Romo, that throw was his last one, the one that ended up in the hands of linebacker Danny Trevathan with under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. From there the Broncos killed the clock before Matt Prater kicked the game-winning field goal.

Romo then resumed being one thing, and an entire 58 minutes of football that would have been much different and far more embarrassing without his outstanding play was disregarded by many. He’s a choker, and a loser, and not clutch.

At the core of those titles is the deep-rooted desire to simplify a game that’s complicated. For some, football is easier if it’s distilled and compartmentalized into convenient words like “clutch” and “winner”. Romo’s interception is then the sole cause of a loss, even though he was being asked to lead an offense towards at least 51 points to win a game, because the defense — the part of the game a quarterback watches while wearing a hat, not a helmet — gave up 48 points, and an astounding 517 yards of total offense. The Cowboys defense was given a two-touchdown lead by the three-minute mark of the first quarter, and yet it still gave up three touchdowns in the second quarter alone.

But there the Cowboys were with a chance at the end of the game, and Romo’s interception nullified that opportunity. That statement isn’t wrong, but neither is this one: the chance to be in the game wouldn’t have existed without Romo.

He’s pretty complex like that, as is Manning, who threw a similar interception last January which led to public ridicule. And as is, say, Joe Flacco, the defending Super Bowl champion quarterback who by that very definition should be the most clutch, yet in one game last week he threw three more interceptions than Romo has in five. Or Tom Brady, whose final throw today was also a game-ending interception.

None of them are one, singular thing.

Fun with numbers

  • In addition to all of the awesomeness I just gushed about, Manning moved ahead of Dan Marino for second all-time in passing yards, and he also scored a rushing touchdown, his first in 62 games. Repeated for absurdity: Peyton Manning scored a rushing touchdown. In his career Manning has averaged 3.2 rushing yards…per game.
  • Manning and Romo came just 51 yards short of tying the all-time record for most combined passing yards in a game.
  • Kicking off what became a 34-3 49ers ground and pound in style, Matt Schaub became the first quarterback in the modern era to throw a pick six in four straight games. Add him in all interception only leagues.
  • Before leaving with an injury, David Wilson scored his first rushing touchdown of the season during a loss to the Eagles. Sure, he’s turning his season around and slowly becoming much less buttery after two fumbles over just his first seven attempts during a disastrous Week 1. But here’s how far Wilson has had to climb: he needed only eight rushing attempts to score his first touchdown last year, and this season he needed 40.
  • The Giants’ record over the first five games of a season under Tom Coughlin prior to this year? 31-14. The Giants’ record over the first five games this year? 0-5. It’s the first time they’ve had that record in 26 years.
  • It’s not difficult to spot what’s wrong with the Giants. Mainly, a historic inability to keep the other guys out of the end zone. The Giants have now given up 182 points through five games, which is the most over that stretch since the 1961 Raiders, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Youch.
  • Think of the thing in life that you’re really bad at, a skill you don’t possess even a little bit (for me it’s dancing, mostly because I’m a white male). Whatever it is, your skill in that particular area is far greater than Blaine Gabbert’s ability to be a quarterback. He threw two more picks today, one to James Laurinaitis in the Rams’ end zone that was especially smelly because it happened in a very Jaguars way: Gus Bradley chose to take points off the board after a penalty to replay a fourth down and go for it this time. Over his three starts this year Gabbert has now thrown seven interceptions and just one touchdown pass. Most impressively, he’s humming along at a pace of an interception once every 12 pass attempts.
  • Feel free to jettison Maurice Jones-Drew from your fantasy roster, and take whatever you can get. Only today did he finally crack the 200-yard mark on the ground after five weeks, and just barely (he has 208 total rushing yards, at the meek average of 2.8 per carry).
  • Elsewhere in horrible: Trent Richardson. I like T-Rich a lot, but he’s doing little to silence the growing crowd who very much has the opposite opinion. In a win over Seattle, Richardson averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry (3.1) for the fourth straight game.
  • Put a fork in Dwayne Bowe’s effort to be a meaningful fantasy commodity this season. With only 35 yards today on four catches during the Chiefs’ win over Tennessee, he still hasn’t broken the 60-yard barrier, and he’s had three games with less than 10 yards per catch.
  • Michael Vick had 52 rushing yards in just the first quarter, and 79 in the first half before he left with a hamstring injury. Here’s to hoping it’s not too serious, because through the power of his legs alone Vick is still fantasy money. He’s now had at least 40 rushing yards in four of the Eagles’ first five games, and if — god willing — he doesn’t miss much time, he’s on pace to finish with 982 yards on the ground this year. That’s easily in the neighborhood of Vick’s single-season high of 1,039 rushing yards, which is also the league record for a quarterback.
  • The Bengals’ defense fears no man, and is becoming fantasy kryptonite after they limited Aaron Rodgers to only 5.7 yards per pass attempt prior in Week 3. Today in their 13-6 win over New England, Cincy held the Patriots to their lowest point total in the Brady era, and they did it by keeping them out of the end zone entirely (it was the first time Brady didn’t throw a touchdown pass in 52 games). I don’t care if his receivers are Elmer Fudd and a goldfish, that’s a significant achievement against Brady, who completed only 47.3 percent of his passes. Prior to today over 179 career regular season games, Brady had completed less than 50.0 percent of his passes in a game just six times.

DeSean Jackson never misses a chance to piss someone off

GIF: DeSean Jackson mocks Giants' Cruz with salsa dance on Twitpic

I’m almost positive that kick at the end isn’t the correct execution of the salsa dance. Jackson finished with 132 receiving yards at a ballooning pace of 18.9 yards per catch. It was a welcome adventure for his fantasy owners back to those olden times of just a few weeks ago when Jackson was lighting it mup mup mup (fiyah!). He had just nine fantasy points over the past two weeks, and 19 today.

On to Sunday’s top performers, and you’re about to notice something: it was a pretty good day for the guys who catch balls. At just the end of the early games Sunday and the Thursday nighter, there had already been six receivers this week with 130 or more yards, and that was even before the Manning and Romo circus ignited its burning rings. Romo then added two more (Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams). Meanwhile, with just tonight’s game left there’s been only three +100 yard rushers this week, one of which is a quarterback (Russell Wilson).

Say, we just might be in the middle of a passing era, and next year drafting running backs early could die die die.

Justin Blackmon has arrived

Blackmon returned, and reminded us that he’s immune to the rampant plague of suck that’s engulfed all who dare to enter Jacksonville. He even managed to do something few men can accomplish: make Gabbert look competent. He ran a routine hook and caught a pass that traveled about 12 yards (!!!), and then he exposed a busted Rams coverage while taking it the rest of the way for a 67-yard touchdown.

Like Hilton below, Blackmon has been pretty economical with his exploding, as that was his second catch of 65 yards or more despite a modest 69 receptions while missing four games this year, and being involved minimally over the first three weeks last fall.

Both Blackmon and Cecil Shorts will continue to avoid the Jaguars disease because this is a team and an offense which is forever clawing from behind. That’s also why MJD has plummeted and will remain in the depths of fantasy hell. Well, that and the loss of two tackles in a matter of days.

Hey look, Mike Wallace isn’t horrible and completely invisible

Here are some fun Mike Wallace numbers: by the eight-minute mark of the second quarter after the Dolphins’ first six drives during an eventual loss to Baltimore, he already had 99 receiving yards on six catches. Over the first four games, he averaged only 44 yards with 3.75 catches per game. He didn’t do much in the second half and finished with 105 yards on seven catches, but his first half performance was plenty.

Even though Ryan Tannehill often wasn’t comfortable in the pocket today while getting sacked a pretty unhealthy six times (three at the hands of Terrell Suggs), he still found the time and space to connect on three pass of 40 yards or more, meaning in one game he exceeded his total for long bombing over the first four weeks (two 40 yarders).

Oh and hey look, Hakeem Nicks still plays for the Giants

There had understandably been talk of pulling the rip cord on Hakeem Nicks in fantasy circles. The combination of his slowing and the general ineptitude of the Giants’ offense has added up to a lot of anger for a lot of people.

Then today with the Eagles evidently focused on stopping Victor Cruz (who was held to only 48 yards on five catches), Nicks said “cool guys, put it on me”. He turned nine receptions into 142 yards, including a 49 yarder. Over his last three games Nicks had all of 116 yards, a stretch of woe low-lighted by zeroes across the board in Week 3, and only 33 yards last week.

Perhaps Nicks’ success today means he’s resumed his old weekly training regime, which mostly consists of catching cards.

Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall are living in bizzaro land

Today for the Bears’ receivers, Chicago was a place where up was down, right was left, and cats liked dogs.

Defenses seem to have discovered this Brandon Marshall guy, and about 38 seconds of film work reveals that Jay Cutler likes to target him a ton. So they’re focusing on him in coverage, which is why he’s had only 161 receiving yards since Week 2, a lowly three-week stretch for a wideout who paced himself at 94.2 yards per game last year (his YPG is now down to 75.6).

But this is precisely the situation Alshon Jeffery was drafted for, and he responded today with 10 receptions for 218 yards, which easily shatters his career yardage high set, um, last week (107 yards). That’s 325 yards and two touchdowns over two games for Jeffery then, which translates into 44.5 fantasy points.

What’s especially encouraging for Jeffery owners is his increased targets from Cutler, and their growing connection. Jeffery was targeted 13 times today, volume which resulted in long chunk yardage, and catches for 58, 49, and 42 yards.

T.Y. Hilton is the greatest boomer and buster

Nobody does boom/bust quite like T.Y. Hilton this year. He had 124 receiving yards in Week 2, then 58 yards over the next two weeks, and then 73 yards on one catch (a first-quarter quarter touchdown) today. He now has a minimal 70 career receptions, and already four of them have gone for 60 yards or more. He added another touchdown later on a 29-yard catch while finishing with 140 yards on five catches.

So here’s where all those digits leave us: over five weeks Hilton has 45.5 total fantasy points, but 26 of them came today.

But in a close second, we have James Jones

Like Hilton, James Jones’ scattered production is a reflection of his position in an offense with an abundance of pass-catching options. Still, his last three weeks are pretty difficult to compute: 178 receiving yards against Washington, then he was held to only 34 yards by the Bengal’s prior to a Week 4 bye, and now he posted 127 yards on the Lions during a 22-9 win, a day which included an 83-yard touchdown catch.

Rodgers will often play receiver roulette with your fantasy heart, but today Jordy Nelson also had a fine day with 82 yards.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is quite the comedian

Ryan Fitzpatrick was sort of jacked after doing something good in a football game. He scored on a nine-yard run to give the Titans a temporary lead they would inevitably fail to maintain while falling to the still undefeated Chiefs (typing those words still goes against all that is logical and right in my brain).

Going all beast mode on us is cool, Ryan, and pretty understandable given your usual state on a football field (utter dismay). But maybe leave the Superman celebration in the bag next time

This game was stuffed with great Fitz magic comedy, and included another goal-line play in which a batted ball at the line of scrimmage came right back into the quarterback’s hands, and he then proceeded to get stuffed at the half yard line. You da superman, Ryan.

Ryan Fitzpatrick completes pass to himself

Where did you come from?

Zac Stacy is the…answer?

Maybe by the grace of something holy from high above, the Rams have found an answer in their backfield, and they could begin to end a persistent fantasy migraine. Yes, Zac Stacy was given just one more carry than Daryl Richarson (14 to 13) in the Rams’ win over Jacksonville. But that matters little.

What matters is what he did with that workload, as Stacy’s 78 rushing yards easily trumped Richardson’s 48 yards. Stacy will be a hot commodity on the waiver wire this week, and he’s a fine add for a Lamar Miller owner plugging a hole at RB2 prior to the Dolphins’ Week 6 bye.

Rueben Randle  returns

Since his 101-yard game in Week 1, Rueben Randle had done the same thing has every other Giants offensive player: mostly nothing. A three-game stretch with only 61 yards reduced him to afterthought fantasy status. But today he exploited a good matchup against the Eagles’ leaky secondary with 96 yards and two touchdowns.

About those waiver wire sizzlers: Randle — who’s owned in 55 percent of ESPN leagues — will certainly be one this week. With the Falcons on their bye, you could do a lot worse for a Roddy White or Julio Jones replacement.

Face painting is still a bad idea

There are people among us who treat sports as much more than a passionate interest, or a pleasant diversion from their daily affairs. These people do things like paint their face and die their beard and eyebrows to match team colors, and they do this even when their team enters a particular contest without a win. Then, when said team still doesn’t have a win several hours later and has instead lost their fifth straight game, the fans who define fanatic look like this after morphing into an angry blue gremlin-like creature.

The metamorphosis is stunning, and it can’t be undone.

Ouch

And thus we’ve arrived at the most ungood part of our weekly proceedings: the damage report, and the notable injuries.

  • If you know a Jaguars fan, you should probably hug them. First, Luke Joeckel — the second overall pick in last spring’s draft — was carted off in the first quarter, and the team has now said he’ll miss the remainder of the season with a fractured ankle. His presence was part of the motivation for the Eugene Monroe trade this week, and now an already inept offensive line as lost two key pieces in a matter of days. Maurice Jones-Drew’s chances of becoming relevant anytime soon are plummeting.
  • And then there was Blaine Gabbert, who left with a hamstring injury. Our football overlords intervened to save us from watching another Gabbert snap. Over his last 10 starts, he’s now left six of them with an injury. I’m reaching here, but it’s possible that he’s just really awful, and injuries are a convenient excuse to dodge admitting that.
  • David Wilson started to actually do something productive with a touchdown early. And then he promptly left with a neck injury, because of course he did. Thankfully, it’s not considered serious, according to Mike Garafolo.
  • When his string muscles are in their proper working order, Michael Vick is still fast and able to run great distances even at his age, and therefore he remains the late-round fantasy bargain we thought he’d be. But about that whole staying healthy deal: it’s not happening. Vick left today with a groin injury, and the early speculation is he’ll miss at least a week.
  • Clay Matthews broke his thumb, and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to play through it. With Baltimore and Cleveland up next for the Packers, two speedy deep options — Josh Gordon and Torrey Smith — could have plenty of time to run far.