Seahawks Collapse, Browns Triumph, and the Ubiquity of DFS Ads: NFL Week 5 Recap

NFL Recap Header

wild and crazy Week 5 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including Seattle’s collapse, Jamaal Charles’ injury, Cleveland’s victory of Baltimore, the future of the Cowboys, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.

AP Photo/Gail Burton
AP Photo/Gail Burton

Will: Please explain what happened in Bengals-Seahawks to someone who was busy watching Josh McCown light the whole goddamn world on fire. Do you think the result says more about the Bengals as a legitimate contender or the Seahawks as a flock of birds struggling to find their way?

Derek: It was a mess. An inexcusable, infuriating mess. The Seahawks led 24-7 after Bobby Wagner returned a fumble for a touchdown with just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. Then they allowed 20 unanswered points and lost in overtime. “What happened” is tough to say, because there wasn’t any one particular thing. Last week, when the Lions climbed back into the game, it was due to a fumble return touchdown in the fourth quarter. But this week, there wasn’t one particular crippling play that turned things around. The playcalling switched to a predictable run-run-pass-punt offense, and the defense once again couldn’t hold a lead.

And that’s the dirty secret of this Seahawks defense. They may be the best defense of this decade, but they can’t be considered one of the best of all time because of their nasty habit for blowing leads in the fourth quarter. Let’s look back at Seahawks losses until I find one in which they didn’t lead in the 4th quarter.

– Week 5 2015: Led Bengals 24-7 at the start of the fourth quarter. Lost 27-24 (OT).

– Week 2 2015: Led Packers 17-16 at the start of the fourth quarter. Lost 27-17.

– Week 1 2015: Led Rams 31-24 with 4:39 left in the fourth quarter. Lost 34-31 (OT).

– Super Bowl XLIX: Led Patriots 24-14 at the start of the fourth quarter. Lost 28-24.

– Week 11 2014: Led Chiefs 20-17 at the start of the fourth quarter. Lost 24-20.

– Week 7 2014: We have a winner! The Seahawks lost to the Rams 28-26 and did not lead in the fourth quarter.

But they blew a fourth quarter lead the week before against Dallas. They allowed the Broncos to force overtime after blowing a 14-point fourth quarter lead in Week 3. They led in the fourth quarter in all three of their 2013 losses.

I won’t list all of the blown fourth quarter leads from 2012, but two in particular stand out. First is Week 13, when they took a three-point lead over the Bears with 24 seconds remaining, but needed overtime to win after allowing Brandon Marshall to gain 56 yards to set up the tying field goal. Then, in the Divisional round, they took a one-point lead over the Falcons with 31 seconds remaining. Naturally, the Falcons needed only 23 seconds to kick the game-winning field goal and end the Seahawks’ season.

I think you understand what I’m saying at this point. The Seahawks have been choke artists, and I haven’t enjoyed it. So in keeping with their recent history of pissing games away in the fourth quarter, I’m inclined to say the Seahawks gave this one away. Again.

AP Photo/Frank Victores
AP Photo/Frank Victores

Who’s to blame? It’s tough to say. I’m leaning toward the defense, because a supposedly elite unit should be able to successfully close games out more often. But in fairness, I should point out that the offense wasn’t doing well at the end of those aforementioned games either. Folks are already piling on Darrell Bevell for his conservative playcalling, but his infamous track record may have something to do with that. Russell Wilson did nearly have Tyler Lockett deep twice, but one time Lockett only got one foot in bounds, and on the other Russell couldn’t get off a good throw due to (surprise surprise) pressure from the Cincinnati defensive line.

This team is way too talented for this, and I can’t take too much more of the frustration. I feel bad and so should the Seahawks.

On a lighter note, the Browns beat the Ravens! McCown to Barnidge is looking like Brady to Gronk Lite! Does it feel especially good beating the former Browns, especially after the recent dominance of Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh? Do you think the Browns will finish higher or lower than their current spot as the 10th seed in the AFC?

Will: Oh man. It was such a bizarre game. The Browns looked like warm poop early on, and I nearly opted for a nap instead of watching the second half. The defense had its usual troubles, letting running backs get to the edge and the like, and Joe Flacco’s naked bootleg touchdown run was particularly hard to watch. McCown and the offense strung some solid drives together, but they could only come away with field goals. Somehow they kept it close and went into halftime trailing 14-9.

The Browns went five-and-out on their first drive of the second half, then promptly let the Ravens march 90 yards for their third touchdown of the game. Things looked bleak.

Then things got fun. The defense started to get a little pressure on Flacco. McCown flung the ball all over the field, exploiting Baltimore’s slow linebackers by hitting guys like Duke Johnson or His Holiness Gary Barnidge in space. McCown ran it in from 10 yards out, this time not diving into a concussion. The Browns still couldn’t really run the ball in the second half, but they hit enough short completions for it not to matter. Isaiah Crowell broke a few tackles en route to a 22-yard score with three minutes to go, and oh my god what the hell could they actually win this thing?

The Ravens got it back with a chance to tie or win. The Browns stopped them on three straight plays, but a dubious personal foul against cornerback K’Waun Williams (he nailed a Baltimore receiver on a pass that sailed out of bounds) kept the drive alive. The Ravens took it deep into the red zone, all the way down to the 4-yard line, and the Browns forced them to settle for a field goal. The Browns had half a chance to win in regulation but ran out of time.

The Ravens went three-and-out to start OT, went 51 yards in 12 plays, and folk-hero-in-training Travis Coons knocked in the game-winner from 32 yards out. I have a dumb smile on my face just thinking about it. What a weird game.

Let’s address an important off the field matter. You were in on FanDuel fairly early. Being in Korea, are you free from the unceasing onslaught of ads for both FanDuel and DraftKings? It’s the biggest storyline of the season thus far.

Derek: No, I’m not. Granted, I only see/hear them when I’m watching football or listening to podcasts, but I can’t get through either of those things without being told to sign up for FanDuel and DraftKings numerous times. I can’t imagine how bad you guys have it back in ‘Murrica. It’s almost enough to make me not play out of principle. Well, that and the apparent insider trading that’s been going on.

Just how pervasive are these ads? Do you know anyone who has responded positively? Have you?

Will: They. Are. Everywhere. There’s a 10-story tall billboard in downtown Cleveland. They’re on every talk radio show and podcast. They’re mentioned on every NFL studio show, with some segments explicitly devoted to maximizing one’s daily fantasy sports experience. Everyone, as far as I can tell, hates them. I was talking to a friend about DFS a few weeks ago, as I didn’t know much about it, and it actually sounded semi-fun and interesting to me. I hate the commercials so much, however, that I will literally never play on FanDuel or DraftKings unless someone pays me a lot of money to do so. Never underestimate the power of spite.

Speaking of things that suck: Are there just a LOT of bad teams this year? How many do you feel comfortable writing off (in terms of playoff contention) after just five weeks?

Derek: I’m hesitant to write off too many teams this early, even though some have looked pretty horrendous. The Bears were the worst team in the league two weeks ago, and now they’ve won two in row. We could completely change our tune on any team in 14 days.

That said, I think there are two teams that can pack it in: the Lions and the Chiefs. The Lions don’t need me to tell them, because they looked like they had already packed it in as the Cardinals slapped them around and they didn’t seem particularly bothered by it.

The Chiefs are 1-4, and they just lost their greatest weapon. While not exactly equal, I’d say the Chiefs losing Jamaal Charles for the year is comparable to the Packers losing Aaron Rodgers or the Patriots losing Rob Gronkowski. It was going to be difficult to crawl back to respectability with Charles. Without him, they’re done.

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Anyone I’m missing from the list?

Will: You’re wise to note that any team can make us look stupid within a couple games; just think of how silly we’ll feel when the Browns sweep the Broncos, Rams, Cardinals, and Bengals over the next four weeks (…yikes that’s a rough slate). Baltimore is 1-4 and banged up, but they’ve been consistently good enough to earn some benefit of the doubt. The Dolphins look like a train wreck, but there’s the off chance that they rally after Joe Philbin’s firing. The entire AFC South looks like crap — even the Colts — enough so that any of them could conceivably compete for the division title. I think the only other team I’m comfortable eliminating is the 49ers, both due to their own suckitude and the competitiveness of the NFC West.

The Broncos are 5-0, thanks in large part to their defense. Will Peyton’s age eventually catch up to them?

Derek: Quite possibly. The defense has done very well so far against Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Matthew Stafford, Teddy Bridgewater, and Derek Carr. In the next six weeks, they’ll face a potential Hall of Famer in Andrew Luck, and three first ballot Hall of Famers in Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Josh McCown. They’ve also got a date with the presumably full strength Steelers in Week 15. They won’t be able to count solely on the defense in those games. It’s weird saying this, but Peyton is going to have to step up. Remember all those years he was unstoppable but his defenses sucked? I’m sure it crosses his mind from time to time.

The Cowboys looked respectable against the Patriots until it came time to score some points. Should Dallas bench Brandon Weeden for Matt Cassel? Can the Cowboys hold on until Romo and Dez return?

Will: I mean, I guess so? Weeden’s actually been decent for the Cowboys — his completion percentage and yards per attempt are just a hair below Romo’s — but I think we’ve seen enough to know that his ceiling is as high as a gingerbread house’s. It’s a shame there’s no Triple-A in football; I think that level would be just right for him.

Dallas has a fairly friendly schedule over the next seven weeks: at the Giants, home for Seahawks, and then Eagles, @ Bucs, @ Dolphins, Panthers, @ Redskins. Those first two games will be tough, but it’s not unreasonable to think that they could go 4-3. That would take them to 6-6, still a tough spot given their history in December. But 10 wins has been enough to win the NFC East in four of the past five seasons. I wouldn’t bet on it, but they could pull it off.

Derek: Let’s identify the Gentlemen of the Week. I’m going with Rob Vernatchi, better known as the side judge from Monday Night Football who didn’t fix the clock operator’s error that cost the Steelers 18 potentially valuable seconds. I imagine Vernatchi saw the error, but didn’t want to embarrass the clock operator. Who wants to look like an idiot in front of a stadium full of people? Nice etiquette, Rob. The mark of a true Gentleman.

Who you got?

Will: Gary, Mother, Fucking, Barnidge. What a man. He had 44 catches total in his first seven seasons, and he has 24 through five games this year. He’s second on the Browns with 374 yards receiving and three touchdowns. He is exactly one yard behind Rob Gronkowski for the league lead among tight ends. He’s 30 years old, he’s from Bowling Green, Kentucky, he’s been on Total Divas, and he’s my hero.

Derek: And now for our Most Hungover Fan Bases. It’s gotta be the Chiefs, due to their record and the aforementioned Charles injury. Not only are they probably not going to the playoffs, but they have 11 more games to watch Alex Smith check down to Charcandrick West. Not good times. If the Royals lose on Wednesday, we may have to declare a state of emergency.

What’s your pick?

Will: I feel like we’ve mentioned them in this space a million times already, but drink up, Detroit. A 42-17 loss at home, and it didn’t feel that close. Matthew Stafford got mercy-pulled for Dan Orlovsky. Rookie Ameer Abdullah fumbled twice and was yanked in favor of something called Zach Zenner. Calvin Johnson might not be Megatron anymore. The fans rightly booed on nearly every play. I know the Cardinals are a good team, but good god. Jim Caldwell is going to be furious when he snaps out of his coma and hears about this.

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