Giving Thanks for Johnny and the Seahawks: NFL Week 13 Recap

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A wild and crazy Week 13 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including the impending arrival of Johnny Football, what it’s like being a Seahawks fan after Thanksgiving, the new Greatest and Most Unstoppable Team in the World, RG3’s future, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.


Derek: Let’s go ahead and get it out of the way. Your Johnny Manziel thoughts? Also, how fun will it be if he makes his first start on the day Trent Richardson returns to Cleveland?

Will: I’m psyched. I have no idea if he can really play, or if this is the best move for the franchise, but I don’t care, because I’m psyched. Everyone was yawning through Browns-Bills until Johnny entered the picture. I spent the latter half of the fourth quarter laughing and grinning and chanting “THIS IS AWE-SOME” in my head and maybe out loud a few times.

There has been a lot of weird former Browns stuff this season. D’Qwell Jackson returned a Colt McCoy fumble for a touchdown Sunday. We had the big Colt-Weeden showdown on Monday Night Football. Jackson, Richardson, and Josh Cribbs are Colts teammates now. Strange happenings all, and they have only enhanced my NFL fan experience this season. Even when you leave Cleveland, you can’t leave Cleveland. The Browns are Hotel California.

Derek: On what or whom would you pin the blame for the Browns’ loss?

Will: No one. Everyone. Someone. I don’t know. They just played like crap, really.

Hoyer was bad, but he was in unenviable circumstances. The Bills have a good defense, and the Browns couldn’t run the ball at all. Isaiah Crowell got tripped behind the line on roughly 95 percent of his runs. Terrance West lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Joe Thomas had a bad game and committed four penalties, which was a bit like Julia Child mis-measuring a cup of flour. Hoyer and Gordon made lovely music together against Atlanta, but couldn’t find the right melody in Buffalo.

Sometimes, there is no room for analysis. They just played like crap. I do know, however, that I had a tiny shred of belief when Johnny Football stepped onto the field. That shred was then shredded like colby jack when he got laid out in the end zone.

Let’s talk about something happier. The Seahawks wrecked the Niners on Thanksgiving. Richard Sherman treated Colin Kaepernick with all the kind feeling of Pilgrims sharing their smallpox-ridden blankets. This game must have been great for you, right? Tell me how great it was.

Derek: It was so much more amazing than I could have ever hoped for.

I was up late watching the first half of the first game with some folks at a bar (the game started at 2:30 a.m. here) then got up to watch the Seahawks game (10:30 a.m.) live. I was really groggy, which I’ve come to find is not the ideal football watching condition.

I didn’t have high hopes. I picked the 49ers on this site, and I picked them in the pick ’em pool I’m in, because I’m a homer and picking against my team disgusts me. But, gun to my head, I would have said I thought the 49ers would win.

The last time the Seahawks beat the 49ers on the road was Week 8 of 2008. The great Seneca Wallace started for the Seahawks that day, with more than half of his yards going to fullback Leonard Weaver. That was Mike Singletary’s head coaching debut. You may remember it as the game when Singletary threw Vernon Davis off the field and gave his famous “Cannot play with ’em. Cannot win with ’em. Cannot coach with ’em. Can’t do it.” rant afterward.

It was a long time ago, is what I’m saying. Brandon Mebane (on injured reserve) and punter Jon Ryan were the only current Seahawks who were on that team.

The Niners needed this game just as badly, if not more, than the Seahawks. I thought the crowd would bring their A-game for a nationally televised Thanksgiving primetime game. I thought the team itself would bring their A game, wanting revenge for the NFC Championship. I wasn’t sure the Seahawks could beat the Niners in this scenario.

Then, Christmas came early. It was a wonderful, glorious, stress-free morning for me. I can’t decide what my favorite part was.

Colin Kaepernick was on fire, masterfully working the Seahawks’ defense and getting his revenge on Richard Sherman by torching him deep repeatedly.

Oh wait, the exact opposite happened. Kaepernick was atrocious, and Sherman picked him off twice. He looked so overmatched that by the 4th quarter he looked like he just wanted to disappear. Did you see the way Sherman was covering receivers? He wasn’t even acknowledging them! It wasn’t on every play, but on one of his picks and at other times he was just staring straight at Kaepernick. Kaepernick locks on to one receiver so blatantly that Sherman just had to watch his eyes, and he knew exactly where the receiver was and where the ball was going. It was incredible.

And Harbaugh! He wasn’t even throwing his usual tantrums in the fourth quarter. He had the look of a man who was deciding between more money in Ann Arbor or rebuilding the Raiders or waiting for a contender to open up.

It was the biggest game of the year, against the biggest rival, in their house, and it seemed like the game was just one way the 49ers were defeated. Can you imagine the Browns playing the Steelers in Pittsburgh on national television, then beating them so badly that people were wondering if Ben Roethlisberger was worse than Alex Smith and the entire Steelers’ fan base was calling for every coach’s job? It feels amazing even before you get to the playoff implications! I may not have gotten a Thanksgiving feast, but I got the next best thing.

Will: That Browns-Steelers scenario sounds divine, like a rich bar of chocolate to be savored and remembered. But no, I seriously cannot imagine it.

So, all that goodness aside, how concerned are you about Seattle settling for field goals? Three-pointers are much less good in football than basketball. What’s the problem, and how can they fix it?

Derek: Yeah, that was the distant black cloud of the week. I tried to resist the urge to nitpick after such an enjoyable win, but it’s a problem.

The field goals didn’t matter against Drew Stanton and Colin Kaepernick. It might not matter the rest of the season. The remaining quarterbacks on the Seahawks’ schedule: Mark Sanchez, Kaepernick, Stanton, and Shaun Hill. But, if the Seahawks make the playoffs, sooner or later, they’re going to run into an offense that can score. The Seahawks’ defense is good, but holding opposing offenses to three points per game isn’t exactly a sustainable rate.

What happens if Chip Kelly unleashes Good Mark Sanchez this weekend? What if the Seahawks face Aaron Rodgers again? They need to score some touchdowns.

Fixing it is a tricky issue. You’d think a team with a mobile quarterback and a powerful running back would be lethal in the red zone. I guess penalties are partially to blame. There were some stupid false start and holding penalties, but also a couple of questionable officiating decisions. The league told Pete Carroll that the Chiefs committed pass interference against Doug Baldwin in the end zone a couple of weeks ago, but that wasn’t called. Robert Turbin got called for offensive pass interference on Thursday when Paul Richardson caught a touchdown pass. It looked like Turbin was running a route and just ran into the guy.

I’m certainly not pinning it all on the officials. I only mention them because I don’t know the reason. That’s the only one I can really point to. I just hope they figure it out. Sooner or later, it’s going to hurt them badly.

Since the Packers beat the Patriots, are you prepared to declare them the new Greatest and Most Unstoppable Team in the World?

Will: Sure! It makes more sense to give them that title than the Raiders. But the NFL season is like a game of king of the hill, and you’re only on top until you’re knocked down. Green Bay holds the high ground right now, but there are four weeks left in the season, and football is fond of rendering casual predictions idiotic.

The Packers-Pats game was terrific, with the clubs looking as evenly matched as twins slap-boxing. They are compelling franchises with interesting characters and fine aesthetic value. I would welcome a rematch in the Super Bowl. Each team played wonderfully, and their quarterbacks are truly among the best in their field.

I realized Sunday evening that the reason I enjoy watching these teams so much is because I have never cheered for consistent, first-rate quarterback play. Watching Aaron Rodgers evade a blitzer, slide in the pocket and beat a safety on a corner route is like seeing a cheetah pounce on a gazelle in the Serengeti. It’s not of my world, and thus it amazes me.

Derek: And speaking of great quarterbacks–since Colt McCoy is headed for the Hall of Fame, it has to be asked: If you could put RG3 on one team to resurrect his career, which would it be?

Will: Honestly? College GameDay.

I’m sure Robert still has football skills and wants to win a Super Bowl one day. There are dozens of coaches out there who would love the chance to build an offense around his playmaking gifts. I’m afraid it’s just too late.

Have you seen those Subway commercials? They’re on TV all the time, especially during football games in which Robert is not starring. It’s terribly uncomfortable. Robert is charming and accessible on-screen, and the ads would be just fine if I wasn’t thinking about how he just lost his job.

So why not capitalize on that charm and make the jump to broadcasting? He could slot right in there between Herbstreit and Corso. He would attract casual observers from Texas and angry psychos from Washington. Tim Tebow was able to extend his career moving to TV, and now he doesn’t have to spend decades circumcising children on missionary trips. He still does it, but he doesn’t have to.

Maybe you have a more reasonable take on the matter.

Derek: I was gonna say the Eagles, but College GameDay is a better answer. That might be best for everyone.

But the funniest answer is clear: the Rams. I can imagine the 30 for 30 introduction now.

What if I told you … you could give up a king’s ransom … twice. ESPN Films presents a 30 for 30 film brought to you by Subway. King Robert III, Saturday at 9 on ESPN.

The Steelers-Saints game confused me. Do the Steelers suck now? How come the Saints can’t win huge games at home but they can win in Pittsburgh? Can you make any sense of either of these teams?

Will: I’m all in on that 30 for 30. Dan Snyder could narrate it himself.

As for the Steelers and Saints: I thought the Saints were crap and the Steelers were solid. I thought this would be Pittsburgh’s declaration that they are to be reckoned with in the AFC playoff picture. Nope; they laid a stinker and only salvaged a respectable final margin with garbage time touchdowns.

I think Drew Brees just had it this week. I think a couple times a year, a quarterback just has a great ballgame, like a shooter getting in the zone. Brees had one of those games against Green Bay six weeks ago, and he had another one this week in Pittsburgh. The Saints offense isn’t the machine it once was, but Brees at his best is still damn good.

Let’s put a bow on this. Who’s your Gentleman of the Week?

Derek: I’m going with 49ers CEO Jed York, who tweeted after the game that his team’s performance “wasn’t acceptable.” If the game itself was the turkey and mashed potatoes, York’s tweet was definitely the pumpkin pie. He really went out of his way to make sure I had a good Thanksgiving.


Will: I love a good Thanksgiving, so I’ll stay thematic and choose a man whose performance was acceptable: Richard Sherman. He was interviewed on the field along with Russell Wilson after the game, and the good people of NBC produced turkey for them. And Richard Sherman, good American that he is, tore the leg off a bird and dug right in, because that’s what you do when you’re on television because you were the best player in a Thanksgiving football game.

How about Most Hungover Fan Base?

Derek: That distinction belongs to the supporters of the Arizona Cardinals. Remember back when they were going to be the first team to host the Super Bowl? That was two rough losses and several injuries ago. I kind of feel bad for them, too. Of all the NFC West teams, I hate them the least. They’re the only team in the division to not win a Super Bowl.

Don’t get me wrong, I want the Seahawks to win the division and I don’t care if that’s at the expense of the Cardinals. I do feel for them, though. If I run into a Cardinals fan in the next week, I’ll buy him or her another drink.

Who’ve you got?

Will: Yes, the poor Cardinals look to be on the downswing. Chin up, lads. They are one of a number of worthy options this week.

There are the Giants, who lost their seventh straight, and after being up by 21, against the Jaguars. The Jets, who were the losers of a Monday night game only slightly more exciting than C-SPAN 2. There’s Washington, and its ongoing sociocultural experiment exploring methods in which a football team can achieve success.

I’m afraid I can’t choose. This week, we’re all the most hungover fan bases — cheers! But don’t burn out just yet. We have four weeks of December football to enjoy.

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