Last February after the Super Bowl when the NFL calendar began anew, we were told repeatedly that Tavon Austin was fast. Those who watched him play at West Virginia could easily verify that fact through memories, while the rest of us knew how to use Google.
Then the Scouting Combine came, and while large greasy men watched, Austin recorded a 40-yard dash time of 4.34. That cemented him in the first round, and he eventually landed with the Rams through their eighth overall pick.
But then nothingness followed. Rookies go through that blankness, because NFL football isn’t supposed to be easy. However, someone like Austin with such a dynamic skillset who’ s able line up anywhere and return kicks should, in theory, have an easier transition. Not so, as throughout his first nine games Austin hadn’t even topped the 50-yard mark, averaging a meager 23 receiving yards per game.
That changed Sunday with one sudden burst.
Bursting is a pretty common thing for Austin, as he’s faster than most other humans. That was the recurring theme throughout his dominance during the Rams’ 38-3 thumping of the Indianapolis Colts. There was no angle to take or proper way to pursue him. He was just gone, always.
It started with a 98-yard punt return touchdown, the longest return in team history. But since he’s Tavon Austin and he’s one cool cat, the diminutive wide receiver added his own sizzle. He let the ball bounce several times, content to either let it go out of bounds or through the end zone. But then when it took an awkward bound towards him, he reacted quickly. That’s when he vanished.
He scored twice more on just his two receptions, which is quite efficient. One came on an 81-yard touchdown pass that was essentially a handoff, with Austin racing past everyone and adding 66 yards after the catch. He did that after a 57-yard catch which wasn’t at all short when it traveled over 35 yards in the air and landed in Austin’s hands, with few other bodies in the vicinity. They were slow, and Austin is fast.
That ended in a staggering total, as a receiver who was averaging just 62.6 total yards per game combined between his receiving and returning finished with 310 yards today, which is a wee bit of a gap.
The 81-yard catch and run alone nearly equaled Austin’s receiving total over his past five games (83 yards). It was the sort of day that leads to Austin being the answer for questions in games of NFL Trivial Pursuit that last over 12 hours. Like this one: Who’s the only player to have a punt return of 95 yards or more in a game, and two touchdown receptions of 55 yards or more? Tavon Austin.
Austin is also now one of only eight players in league history to score three touchdowns of 50 yards or more in a game. Including Austin, only three of those players were 22 years old or younger.
Adding to his magic and history is a cheap fake football investment you can make, as right now Austin is owned in only 41 percent of Yahoo leagues. But shhhhh.
Let’s see what other amusing/amazing numbers we can find from the 10th NFL Sunday.
Fun with numbers
- The Saints set a single-game record with 40 first downs during their Sunday night Cowboys pumping, a record that had stood since 1988. Meanwhile, da Boys ran only 43 plays. You should pause here for a few minutes to let that sink in.
- Powered by Drew Brees doing Drew Brees things, the Saints also set a franchise record for offensive yards with 625. That’s the highest offensive output in a non-overtime game since 1982. On the other side, there was angst and depression in Jerryland, as the Cowboys have now given up 600 or more yards in two of their last three games.
- Seriously Colts, what the hell. In just the first half over the past two weeks they’ve been outscored 49-3. Of the Rams’ 28 first-half points today, 21 of them came in the second quarter. What’s either worse or better depending on your fan affiliation is that the Rams’ generally putrid offense was averaging 20.7 points…PER GAME.
- The Colts entered that game as a double-digit favorite, and as Jason Lisk notes, their blowout loss is now that much more astounding, and borderline historical. Going back to 1978, only 12 double-digit favorites have lost by two touchdowns or more. Taking that further, in November no team that was favored by double digits has lost by 21 points or more.
- And one more little diddy on the absurdity of that Rams-Colts first half: it was the Rams’ largest lead at halftime since 1999, their Super Bowl season.
- Regardless of the final outcome, the Jaguars leading a game at any point is a remarkable accomplishment, because the average winning margin in their games this season has been 20.1 points, and of course prior to yesterday they had yet to be on the favorable side of that margin. So yes, a slow clap for leading 13-0 at one point today, Jags. They held on to win 29-27 over the Titans while blowing up all known survivor pools.
- The Bills were absolutely putrid in every way imaginable, and in the process they made me wear the dunce cap firmly. When I made my deep Marquise Goodwin flex pick I expected a layer or three of rust on E.J. Manuel, but not an entire auto body shop’s worth of uselessness. Yet there they were, punting nine times, and Manuel averaged just 4.0 yards per pass attempt while looking the most rookie he’s ever looked, though the approximately one second he had to throw each drop back didn’t help matters. So much hurt.
- The worst kind of fantasy running back depression courtesy of NFL Network’s Michael Fabiano: Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka had more fantasy points today (17) than Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, and Matt Forte combined. All your sleep will die a horrible death if we focus just on Rice’s last two games, a stretch in which he’s averaged only 1.6 YPC on 29 carries.
- We’ll give Forte a pass, because his performances have generally been pretty uplifting. But CJ@$!K and Rice combined for 60 yards on 30 carries, a per carry average of just 2.0. They’re both lost, and maybe forever adrift.
- Peyton Manning threw four touchdown passes today during the Broncos’ win over San Diego, incredibly making it already the fifth game this year he’s thrown four over more TDs. With 33 overall now, Manning has tied Tom Brady’s 2007 season for the most touchdown passes through nine games.
- Colin Kaepernick was constantly pressured and had little support from his receiving options once Vernon Davis went down during the 49ers’ NFC donnybrook against the Panthers. That resulted in some troubling digits: six sacks on a quarterback who had only been sacked five times over his last four games, a completion percentage of just 50.0, and the most damning number during a 10-9 slugfest loss was 2.9, the 49ers’ average yards gained per play. On the season they’re averaging 5.4 yards, and for the most haunting perspective, the last place Jaguars are averaging 4.4 yards. Meanwhile, Kaepernick has now been held to less than 200 passing yards in seven of his nine games (he had just 91 yards today).
This defied all scientific laws
So here’s the scene: Andy Dalton had spent nearly four complete quarters being the sucky Andy Dalton while throwing three interceptions and completing just 47 percent of his passes. He discovered yet again that life against the Ravens defense generally isn’t easy. Although they had a chance to come back and tie the game on a final drive, that was thought to be all but dead when Dalton was sacked for a seven-yard loss at midfield, and the clock ticked down to show just two seconds left.
All that remained was a desperation Hail Mary heave which actually fell just short of the end zone. So of course this happened…
(GIF via Tom Fornelli)
Somewhere, Gus Johnson is screaming incoherently.
Everyone reacts differently when they view the awesome randomness football can give us. Me? Well, this was pretty much me for several minutes…
In the cold and cruel boxscore, that play showed up as a 51-yard game-tying touchdown reception for A.J. Green. Although he had a fine game otherwise, 51 of Greens 151 yards and 11 of his 21 fantasy points today came on that one magic loogie play that had no business happening. Even more cruel was the brief fate of rising Ravens safety James Ihedigbo, who had intercepted Dalton twice — his first two career picks — before having that ball bounce off his hands and into Green’s waiting mitts.
But that crisis was averted when Ihedigbo atoned for his poor luck in overtime, making Giovani Bernard pay for running backwards. Bernard lost 11 yards on a colossally failed fourth-down play and decision by Marvin Lewis, which gave the Ravens great field position at their 44 yard-line. Eight plays later, Justin Tucker kicked a game-winning 46-yard field goal.
That catch though, man. It’s now up there among the other similar measuring sticks every slice of Hail Mary euphoria is compared to immediately.
For those of you scoring at home, that went Dalton to D.Smith to M.Jones to James I. To Green
— Michael Tanier (@MikeTanier) November 10, 2013
Oh and hey look, elsewhere in Sundays’s pinballs…
Now that you’ve been dazzled and amazed, let’s continue that feeling with some fantasy footballers who did a lot of that Sunday.
Nick Foles was both good and lucky
Yeah, the numbers were there, and boxscores grazers the world over will go bonkers over Foles’ continued deep ball chucking. But please realize that of his three touchdown passes today during a win over the Packers, two of them were dramatically underthrown (the 55-yard pass to DeSean Jackson, and the 45-yarder to Riley Cooper).
But I suppose that makes me the jerk splitting every Foles hair. What’s quite stupid is that Foles needed only 12 completions on his 18 attempts today to throw for 228 yards with three touchdown passes, which gave him an average of 12.6 yards per attempt, the second straight game in which that number has gone above 12.0. Half of Foles’ completions went for 20 yards or more.
Foles now has 10 touchdown passes over just his last two games and 16 in total this season. For some perspective on how superbly ridiculous that is, in three starts Foles has matched Matt Ryan’s touchdown total in nine starts, and 232 more pass attempts. He’s the third quarterback to throw 16 touchdown passes in a season before his first interception, and here’s the most mind-numbing number associated with Foles: he’s averaging a touchdown once every 8.5 completions.
Or maybe this one freezes brain cells even more: joining Tom Brady, Foles is now one of just two quarterbacks in league history to throw 10 or more touchdown passes and no interceptions during a two-game stretch.
Riley Cooper = Foles’ bestest friend
Riley Cooper’s first eight games: 289 receiving yards. Riley Cooper’s last two games: 241 yards. Neat.
It seems there’s a special bond between Cooper and Foles, and I can only assume they spent this past summer climbing all the world’s known mountains. That sudden yardage spike with Foles as the starter has been fueled by Cooper consistently catching the sort of balls that travel great distances. Which brings us to another fun comparison: including his two touchdown catches, and a 63-yard score last week, Cooper has had five catches for 20 or more yards over the Eagles’ last two games. Prior to that, he had only three such catches over eight games.
Oh, it gets better. Cooper has scored five times while catching half of Foles’ touchdown throws that came against Oakland in Week 9 and Green Bay today. Over his previous 40 career games he had…five touchdowns.
LeSean McCoy is on pace for a career yardage high
Oh hey what the hell, why not stick with this game that bestowed upon us so many wonderful fantasy numbers. With only Monday night’s game remaining, McCoy is the top rusher in Week 10 with his 155 yards on 25 carries, which is a mighty fine YPC of 6.2.
McCoy has had 150 total yards or more in five of his 10 games, putting him on pace for 2,o12 yards this year, easily a career high.
Marshawn Lynch has been getting some chunky yardage
The running game league-wide is beginning to be restored, as following the end of Sunday’s eight early games there were already three running backs with over 130 rushing yards this week (the day ended with four when Mark Ingram ran for 145 yards). Marshawn Lynch was among them with his 145 yards at a pace of 6.0 per carry, which now gives him 270 yards over just the past two weeks.
This is still a Seahawks offense that flows through a steady running gut punch, as while beating the Falcons and winning their fifth straight game (and ninth overall), Seattle ran 42 times and attempted only 26 passes.
Russell Wilson is both accurate and efficient
There may have been a lot less entertainment this week with the Seahawks’ easy bullying of Atlanta never in doubt, whereas last week’s near Buccaneers collapse required overtime and second-half heroics. Either way, completing 73.1 percent of your passes over two games as Wilson has is pretty impressive, and so is throwing nine touchdown passes to only two interceptions during a four-game period.
Not bad, kid, and this is also Wilson’s second straight week with 21 fantasy points.
Thomas squared balls out in San Diego
The screen pass to Demaryius Thomas will be outlawed soon. Stopping it with any sort of consistency hasn’t happened yet, and he scored again on that play Sunday during a scare for the Broncos, but still a win over San Diego. Thomas scored twice more, giving him three touchdowns on the day in total, a single-game career high.
Then there was Julius Thomas, who looked every bit like Demaryius while taking a short screen pass 74 yards, shattering his previous longest catch (which was 29 yards). In total, the Thomas bros in Denver combined for 43 fantasy points.
Reggie Bush is still high steppin’
During a win over Chicago that gave Detroit sole possession of the AFC North — a division now very much available with Aaron Rodgers out — Reggie Bush finished with 113 total yards, his fifth straight game with 100 or more. That’s a fine little pace over just eight games.
He remains a PPR stud too while on pace for 54 receptions.
Brandon Marshall can catch anything within a 100 mile area
That’s not a scientific fact, but often it feels true. While the Bears lost both a game and potentially Jay Cutler again, Marshall had a season high 139 yards and two touchdowns, one of which came on a 32-yard pass in the first quarter.
Marshall’s wide wing span and speed will keep leading to long downfield looks through jump balls up the middle. He’s had a reception for 30 yards or more in four games so far, through despite Marshall’s success there’s at least a small concern with the targets given to Alshon Jeffery on the opposite side (he had 18 Sunday, to Marshall’s 12).
Peyton Manning’s brilliance shouldn’t get old
I fear that at some point as Peyton Manning keeps being a hero every week, our senses will be dulled, and his greatness will be greeted with a “ho hum”. Fight the good fight, and fight that feeling, guys.
Through nine games, Manning now has a TD-to-INT differential of +27. And even with that random blip we saw in Week 8 when he threw three picks, Manning is still tossing an interception on average just once every, oh, 61 throws.
Drew Brees is also very good at quarterbacking
At one point in the second quarter of his Dallas beatdown — a game defense forgot — Drew Brees had 19 straight completions. He quickly and easily controlled the game once the dynamic changed with Sean Lee out, completing passes from every conceivable position.
The result was 392 passing yards, and his second four-touchdown game of the season.
Golden Tate only requires one hand to catch a football
He’s a pretty economical guy…
Where did you come from?
Andre Brown doesn’t need your soft touch
All week there had been reports that in his season debut after breaking his leg late in August, Andre Brown would be eased in slowly and treated with caution. So then of course he was given 30 carries during the Giants’ win over Oakland that was filled with comedy. Brown did his part, though, turning that workload into 115 yards and a touchdown. With Peyton Hillis a mere punching dummy behind him, Brown will be a reliable RB2 going forward.
Kellen Clemens knows where his bread gets the butter
I suppose someone had to throw Austin those balls while he did the rest, though the 57-yard touchdown came on a beautiful, sailing bomb. Whether you’re inclined to give Clemens much credit or not, this number isn’t in dispute: he averaged 15.4 yards per completion, which is a rather steep ascent from his 6.0 last week, and he needed just nine completions to throw two touchdown passes.
Mark Ingram lives
During a game that saw a rare abundance of running from the Saints because that’s what teams do during blowouts, Mark Ingram pounded away for 145 yards. Because of first general awfulness and then an injury, Ingram had a sparkling total of only 50 yards this season prior to Week 10. Sunday’s total then is not just a career single-game high, but also Ingram’s first career +100 rushing game.
While Ingram’s rushing was nice and all, his sudden boom is much more of a comment on the Cowboys’ defense and its supreme stench, as Pierre Thomas also added 87 yards. Toss in Darren Sproles’ 12 yards, and that math gives us 244 rushing yards allowed to running backs during the Sunday night game. Ungood.
Andre Johnson is not a human being
Alright, I’m sure he is, but this says otherwise…
(GIF via Timothy Burke)
Oh man. This will be known forevermore as the week every quarterback combusted. Brace yourself…
- Seneca Wallace quickly left the Packers’ loss to Philly with a groin injury, meaning Scott Tolzien — the undrafted backup to the backup — was left to take over. Tolzien was actually pretty alright all things considered, completing 24 of his 39 pass attempts for 280 yards, an interception, and two touchdowns. In fact, he played alright enough to earn another start next week even if Wallace is healthy. If you’re a Tony Romo owner in a deep league looking to cover his bye, Tolzien in a favorable matchup against the Giants may actually be worth consideration.
- The bell that tolls for Jake Locker is much worse. If losing to the Jaguars wasn’t bad enough, the Titans also likely lost their starting quarterback for the remainder of the season with a foot injury. Further tests are forthcoming, but if Locker’s season is indeed over, another year with brief flashes of promise that leaves us with more questions than answers has ended.
- Because having a recently torn groin isn’t good enough, Jay Cutler also injured his ankle during the Bears’ loss, and he had to be replaced by Josh McCown. This new injury — later diagnosed as an ankle sprain — is likely the result of overcompensating and trying to stay off the groin. Cutler’s status for Week 11 is uncertain, and streaming McCown if he plays is much less appealing against the Ravens.
- Hold me, and never let go. Peyton Manning was whacked by Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget during the closing minutes of Denver’s win, and the combination of that body and a bounce off the turf aggravated those already sore ankles. Manning didn’t leave the game, and the chances of him missing a heavyweight slobber-knocker against the Chiefs next week reside somewhere between slim and none. Still, Manning admitted during his post-game press conference that he’s pretty sore, and the fact that he’s getting an MRI means there’s reason to be at least mildly concerned, though you should breathe normally.
- Sean Lee departed during the Sunday nighter with a hamstring injury that left him unable to put much weight on his left leg. Combine that with DeMarcus Ware fresh off a quad injury and he was therefore limited, and the absence of Morris Claiborne and Jason Hatcher, and the Cowboys’ defense didn’t look like a defense at all. Lee’s departure was particularly jarring, as it changed the complexion of the game immediately, putting Brees into “screw you I’m passing every damn play and try to stop me ha” mode. Something more definitive will likely come out later this afternoon, but Lee’s hamstring scored pretty poorly on the immediate eye test.
- Eagles tackle Jason Peters was evaluated for a head injury and returned, but then left with a quad problem. That’s a pretty crappy day at the office. Any long-term absence from Peters would significantly effect the production potential of Foles and McCoy.
- Stevie Johnson has another groin injury, and he’s already unsure of his Week 11 status. If Robert Woods still can’t go, that could leave an already scatterbrained E.J. Manuel with Marquise Goowin and T.J. Graham as his top two, every-down receivers. Combined, Goodwin and Graham currently have 26 receptions.
- Vernon Davis left with a concussion, and now he begins fighting the clock to be ready for another NFC punch fight next week against the Saints.