Though only two of Tablet Magazine’s three NFL teams lost yesterday, the glass is not even one-third full: The victory was as troubling as a victory can be, and both losses were so putrid you can literally smell them, a day later.
First, the not-very-good news: The New England Patriots won a divisional game against the Buffalo Bills, bringing them to a 2-1 record in what is sure to be a very cutthroat division (after the New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins last night, those three teams are all 2-1). They won 38-30, at home, against arguably the worst team in the NFL, who literally just cut the person who had been their starting quarterback two weeks ago. (Their new starter will apparently be Ryan Fitzpatrick, notable for being a Harvard man.) You can’t exactly fault an offense for putting up 38 points, although really, with the number of weapons they have—and the fact that they had an uncharacteristically good day running the ball, and they were playing at home—they probably should have. But giving up 30 (including a 95-yard kick return, which shows poor special teams acumen, generally an indicator of a lack of discipline), at home, is simply unacceptable if this team wants to compete. More to the point, it appears that the pass defense—specifically the inexperienced secondary—is the main liability, perhaps fatal.
The Washington Redskins lost yesterday on the road, 30-16. There is nothing inherently dispiriting about the previous sentence: The game was not a blowout; it was not a home loss (unless you’re an NFL superpower, the playoff formula is to win the vast majority of your home games and steal one or two on the road); sometimes you can only score 16, and sometimes you can’t hold the other team to 30. It happens. Welcome to the NFL, as they say.
But the other team was the St. Louis Rams. The Rams! They entered this game having lost 27 of their past 28! Their prior home win was in October 2008! The Skins once again evinced their talent of playing down to the worst teams in the League.
Bright spots? They finally established some semblance of a running game; their passing game continued to be much better than last year’s; it’s technically possible that the Rams’s rookie quarterback, number-one draft pick Sam Bradford, is the real deal and that this team (playing in the God-awful NFC West) will go 9-7 and make the playoffs. But even granting all of that, the Redskins’ inability to score touchdowns from the redzone continues to be a plague, what last year was frankly a superb defense (ranked tenth in the League, but the offense was pitiful, and defenses are helped by playing with good offenses) clearly has not come around to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s newly installed 3-4 scheme yet.
The Skins’ schedule between now and their bye week goes like this: At Philadelphia, vs. Green Bay, vs. Indianapolis, at Chicago, at Detroit. That’s arguably the League’s two best teams, plus two more arguably elite teams, plus, well, Detroit—who frankly I would think are better than the Rams. Not good.
Yet, ultimately, the New York Giants’s 29-10 loss, at home, to the Tennessee Titans was worse. The Titans are not a bad team at all; indeed, when you focus on taking away top running back Chris Johnson and quarterback Vince Young makes the throws you give him—as happened yesterday—then they can put points on the board, and put points on the board they did.
But put points on the board the Giants didn’t. Their lead running back, Ahmad Bradshaw, might be the hardest runner to tackle in the League, and he displayed that for much of yesterday. When he is on, Eli Manning actually is a good QB, and he has a corps of fantastic pass-catchers to boot (including recently injured tight end Kevin Boss, who caught a great 54-yard pass in the first half). But my God did this team kill itself: Bradshaw, who generally had a great day, fumbled and lost the ball inside Tennessee’s ten-yard line; Manning threw two interceptions in the first half, both of which were his fault, the latter of which was in the end zone and was one of the stupidest picks I’ve ever seen (see for yourself). Manning threw for nearly 400 yards on 34-for-48 passing, but who cares? His two picks were deadly, and he did not make up for them with any touchdown throws. Coach Coughlin: Put Sage in! The job you save may be your own.
Our record: 4-5.