We still haven’t mastered the manipulation of time. This is a problem because every mistake that we as humans make is amplified by the fact they cannot be undone. It’s especially troubling for those who have a hand in deciding the outcome of sporting events, because then they’re subjected to scrutiny forevermore.
Surely in just a matter of hours now Mike Smith will have solved our time travel mystery.
Let’s zap back in that whizz-bang machine that doesn’t exist yet. Don’t forget your invisibility cloak.
We’re now at the two-minute warning in the second quarter of last night’s game, and Smith’s Atlanta Falcons currently trail the New York Jets 17-7 (they’ll eventually lose 30-28, but shhhh). It’s already a truly unique accomplishment that they’ve been able to give up 17 points in one half to a team averaging that much throughout an entire game, but here we are. Or rather, here the Falcons are, set to gain back valuable points.
They’re at the Jets’ 20-yard line with all three of their timeouts still remaining. Their run game still really sucks without Steven Jackson, but an offense can make that matter little when it employs Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez. Predictably then, Matt Ryan was asked to pass five times over the next sequence of eight plays, and Gonzalez was the target on two of those attempts, one of which resulted in a Jets holding penalty in the end zone.
That play came on fourth down with only seven seconds left, which was already a cliff straddling decision. Smith was willing to risk coming away with absolutely nothing, instead of cutting the lead to a touchdown. Not only did he make that decision once, he made it again, this time with one second left. Then offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter added to the Falcons’ curious decision making: he put the ball into the diminutive body of Jacquizz Rodgers instead of giving it to Jason Snelling. Rodgers was then stuffed at the goal-line as Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson dummied Peter Konz and Jeremy Trueblood yet again (aside: in addition to one of the leakiest defenses, the falcons may have the league’s worst offensive line). In a game that was eventually won by two points, a seemingly guaranteed three points on that drive turned into zero points.
Now, please exit to the rear of the football time machine, and we’ll enter back into reality, a cold, dark place. This sort of exercise is often — and admittedly — a game rooted in guessing and assumption, because we can’t just extract one event, go back in time and change it, and then assume everything else throughout an entire second half of football would have stayed the same (maybe Julio Jones catches that deep ball in the end zone and none of this matters?). The space-time continuum doesn’t work like that. I know this because I watch television.
But yeah, those three points would have been nice instead of, you know, no points. And in fairness, although taking the field goal was clearly the correct call, Smith’s fatal error was trusting his offense to get one damn yard.
We’re only able to take that morning time travel trip because of another Smith’s brilliance. His first name is Geno, and last week he turned the ball over four times in a loss to the Titans, including a creative behind the back fumble that earned wicked style points. The contrast between Week 4 Geno Smith and Week 5 Geno Smith is, well, stunning.
He misfired only four times while completing 80 percent of his passes, and the distance those passes sailed through the air was vast. Smith averaged 10.0 yards per completion, with 199 passing yards overall and three touchdowns, the highlight of which was a 47-yard heave to tight end Jeff Cumberland.
On his game-winning drive that started with less than two minutes left, Smith completed all four of his pass attempts for 37 yards while also running eight yards for a crucial first down to set up Nick Folk’s 43-yard field goal. He’s now associated with a fair bit of both team and Monday Night Football history.
Despite his inconsistency — he’s still allowed to be a rookie — Smith is the first rookie quarterback to manufacture three game-winning drives over the first five games of a season. And in the long and storied history of escaping household duties to watch football on a Monday night, he’s also only the second rookie quarterback to win on the road, according to ESPN. Oh, and in their entire team history, Smith is only the third rookie quarterback in Jets history to lead a fourth-quarterback comeback.
OK, one more: he’s the first rookie in the Super Bowl era to go on the road, complete at least 80 percent of his passes, and throw three touchdowns with no interceptions.
This kid might be alright.
More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness
Annnnd more fun Geno digits
Because they employ a small nerd army, here’s more Smith fancy stat fun from ESPN:
Smith was good early in the game when the Falcons sent at least five pass rushers. He completed 6-of-7 attempts for 62 yards in those situations, including two touchdown passes.
In his first four games, Smith was vulnerable to that aggressive of a rush, going 25-for-48 with two touchdowns, two interceptions and seven sacks.
The Falcons would only sack him once with a five man rush on Monday.
Smith was 14-for-27 with three interceptions in the fourth quarter in his first four games.
Punters are large people too
For a few years, NFL Network’s Rich Eisen has dropped the line “punters are people too” whenever the opportunity arises. They are, Rich, and Matt Bosher is the sort of person who will take your lunch money while describing the attractiveness of your mother in vivid detail.
Today’s reason why giving quarterbacks “losses” is just the dumbest
The Falcons lost last night against a rookie quarterback making his fifth career start because their defense gave up 17 points over the Jets’ first three drives, and they were averaging 17 points per game. The failed logic of their head coach at the end of the first half wouldn’t have mattered — or maybe even had a chance to matter — had Atlanta played even mediocre defense.
They didn’t lose because of anything Matt Ryan did or didn’t do, as he completed 80 percent of his passes despite a high volume of throwing because of a still inept running game (45 pass attempts, many of which had a high degree of difficulty). In 83 career starts, it was only the third time Ryan’s completion percentage met or exceeded 80.0, and he led his offense on a 14-point comeback, including what could have been a game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter when they took the lead with 1:54 left (yes, a horrible holding call in their favor was helpful).
Yet he’ll still get a loss because…well, I don’t really know why.
Matt Ryan the 15th QB since 1960 to complete 80% of passes, throw for 300 yards, and 0 INTs. Just 2nd to lose – Palmer vs. DET in ’11
— Chase Stuart (@fbgchase) October 8, 2013
Never change, Kellen Winslow
Kellen Winslow was surprisingly active last night after dealing with a knee problem all week. So predictably, he was limited and saw only fleeting glimpses of the field, playing just 19 of the Jets’ 46 offensive snaps, which was still enough time to make a great touchdown catch in the back corner of the end zone.
Yet still, even though his team is now shockingly not toxic and is 3-2, Winslow is pissed that he had to watch position teammate Jeff Cumberland catch three passes for 79 yards. When approached by reporters after the game, Winslow told them to be wary of going further, and said this: “I don’t think that would be a good choice”.
Translation: I’m a grown boy who doesn’t understand he’s lucky to even have a roster spot on any team because of chronic knee issues.
Winslow doesn’t give a hell. Initiate video which is now found on every sports channel filler listicle entitled “WHEN ATHLETES GET ANGRY”.