Originally posted on Helmet2Helmet  |  Last updated 11/6/12
Each week, various members of the Helmet2Helmet forum community — known as Team Ugly (which includes yours truly) — will analyze, criticize, praise, and mock all of the happenings from the prior week of NFL action in their own unique way. Previously: Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 Week nine did not provide any great surprises, but a few minor ones did catch our attention. It started with Kansas City being Kansas City and ended with Philadelphia being, well, Philadelphia. In between we saw a myriad of teams being like themselves. Boring? Perhaps, but a trend has not escaped Team Ugly in the last couple of weeks. Ending drives in field goals, even successful ones, may be better than nothing but it is not a ticket to success. We’re not talking about the obvious differences, where a teams loses 21-17 and points to that one possession that was the difference on the scoreboard. Ratchet that up one notch and you have the difference between the Steelers and Giants. No, we are talking about teams that fail to finish off four or five drives in a game, collect threes, then find themselves on the short end. This week, consider these gems: Cleveland moved the scoreboard five times against the Ravens, yet lost by 10 points. How? They were a perfect 5 for 5 in field goals. Convert any of those three pointers to touchdowns and the final few minutes of the game change, and get more tense. Washington scored just as many times as Carolina in their game, but lost by 8. They were out of reach until their final touchdown because they could not put the ball into the end zone. Of course, ending a drive on downs at the Panther 2 did not help. Then there was the curious case of Dallas. Atlanta kicked four field goals in a 6-point win. However, the story was much earlier, when the Cowboys twice entered the red zone with a chance to take a serious early lead, but could not make a hard charge into the end zone from there. The result was a less than daunting 6-0 lead. Spin through the rest of the game to see where that puts them. Of course, as we implied, you could easily do the same with any of Atlanta’s four successful or one unsuccessful field goals. There was a similar set of results last week, but we won’t rehash. The moral of the story is teams have to finish drives or face very real potential consequences later. On to week ten. We enter with some good divisional races. The Pats lead the Dolphins by a game, Ravens up on the Steelers by the same number, and the Broncos outpacing the Chargers by the same. Houston has not run away with the AFCS, despite being 7-1, thanks to a surprising Colts 5-3. On the NFC ledger, the Giants lead the NFCE pack by two, same with the Bears over THE Pack, and the Niners are up the same over Seattle. Atlanta has almost made the second half pointless in the NFCS. The juiciest matchup this week is a battle of 7-1 teams: Houston at Chicago on Sunday night. A myriad of other contests include everything from teams trying to nurse their playoff hopes to life, to teams trying to avoid embarrassment, including the Buffoon Bowl between the Cowboys and Eagles. But, before we head into Week Ten, Veterans Day, and start eying up Thanksgiving, here is a final look at Week Nine, thanks to Team Ugly. Good Chicago Bears – We’re starting to think that this Bears defense is the NEW age historically great defense in the NFL. The days of the ‘00 Ravens and ‘85 Bears are long gone because of the rule changes which benefit the offenses. Today defenses are judged by timely stops and more importantly the ever popular “SPLASH PLAYS”. The 2012 Bears defense is responsible for more splashes than Hurricane Sandy on the Jersey Shore. The real question is now whether or not this type of new age defense can win a title. And although the Bear’s offense isn’t chopped liver, they are void of a perceived leader at quarterback. Indianapolis Colts — With Chuck Pagano in the building, making his first live appearance since being diagnosed with leukemia, the Colts put on a storybook performance against the Dolphins. Trailing 17-13 heading into the second half, Indy battled back thanks to a record-setting day by Andrew Luck, who broke the single-game rookie passing record with 433 yards. In a game filled with big plays, hard hits, and ankle-breaking runs, the Colts improved to 5-3 and were treated to an inspiring post game speech by a noticeably thinner Pagano. Indianapolis isn’t receiving a lot of fanfare, but they’re quietly in the thick of the postseason race, with even the division not out of grasp. Raise your hand if you guessed the post-Peyton Manning Colts would’ve been this competitive in 2012. Yeah, us neither. Pittsburgh Steelers – Good teams find a way to overcome adversity and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. That’s exactly what the Steelers did Sunday. Trailing by 10 points entering the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh surged ahead on the arm of Ben Roethlisberger and legs of Isaac Redman. The latter player finished with 147 rushing yards and a touchdown, gashing a stout Giants front-seven to the tune of 5.7 yards-per-carry. From there, the defense did the rest, holding Eli Manning — 10-of-24 for 125 yards, no TDs, and one interception — completely in check and preserving the team’s fifth win of the season. Having had to travel the day of the game — a classy move in the wake of Superstorm Sandy — put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage. But, as we’ve seen over the years, Mike Tomlin is a master of rallying his troops and putting football at the forefront. Bad Philadelphia Eagles – This team just finds ways to lose. In New Orleans Monday, they dug a hole early, deepened it, then declined several chances to emerge from said hole. How exactly did they do all this? Driving the ball inside the Saint 15 five times and having only a pair of FGs to show for it is a start. Add seven sacks to the mix. Then allow a mixture of big runs to an almost exclusively passing offense. It started early, with a pass getting deflected into the air by the intended receiver, intercepted, and returned 99 yards for the game’s first score. That’s a 10-14 point swing. By halftime, that hole was 21-3. The defense managed to avert a “final nail” touchdown in the third by forcing and recovering a Brees fumble, and the offense took advantage to regain a pulse. But, having closed the gap to 21-10 and recovering a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, the offensive line raised their hand and said “not so fast,” allowing another sack that forced the Eagles to settle for a FG. It still was not over even after the Saints followed up with a touchdown to re-extend the lead. The Eagles attempt at trickery on the ensuing kickoff, a cross-field lateral, resulted in an apparent touchdown (ala the Music City Miracle). Alas, it was not a lateral, but an illegal forward pass, negating yet another chance. One final drive in the fourth ended in a fumble inside the Saint 10. Between inopportune mistakes and an offensive line that too often made the Saints pass rush look like a combination of the Bears and Giants, this was another frustrating performance. The sad thing is they were not Bad all game long, or even most of the game, but they were Bad often enough to lose a winnable game and wind up here. Washington Redskins – When a team is trying to establish itself, even with an identity of mediocrity, there are games they just must win. One such game is at home against a team tied for the worst record in the NFL. The Redskins failed in that effort Sunday against the Panthers, who entered the contest at 1-6. The Redskins managed this great feat despite running 25 more plays, holding the ball over 10 minutes longer, not turning the ball over, and not giving up points on returns (or to the opposing defense since they did not turn the ball over). They did manage to cap a 10 minute drive that consumed most of the second quarter by turning the ball over on downs at the Panther 2, trailing only 7-3, by running a play that the defense gave no chance of success and by design had few options. They took sacks at inopportune times. On the other side of the ball they ceded two 90-plus yard Carolina drives for TDs. One followed the futile marathon drive, the other included an 82-yard pass to a guy who has two receptions in his career, and now 94 yards receiving. Then sprinkle in 13 penalties. About the best you can say is they weren’t Ugly, nor were they consistently Bad, but they picked their spots for both against a team that generally does not accept wins. That is more than enough to land Washington here. Ugly Tennessee Titans – Bud Adams may be overbearing, but you can’t blame him for his post game comments after this performance by the Titans. If there was a manual on everything not to do in the game of football, the Titans went through every chapter against the Bears. Turnovers? Check. Special team breakdowns? Check. Lousy QB play? Check. Terrible Red zone defense? Check. The garbage time TD by Chris Johnson and the 20 points only spray a little of perfume on what was the biggest turd of Sunday. It is time to get Jake Locker back under center and see what you have moving forward. Honors Mikel Leshoure – Three rushing touchdowns, accounting for all of the first half scoring. Not a bad day at the office for the second-year pro. Doug Martin – He did it again. 251 yards rushing (a franchise record) and four touchdowns on runs of 45, 67, 70, and a mere 1 yard. Andrew Luck – Colts fans will never forget Peyton Manning, but Andrew Luck may cause them to forget Manning is still in the league. Luck was 30 for 48, set a rookie record of 433 yards, tossed a pair of TDs, and made several pinpoint throws to lead the Colts to their fifth win of the season. Charles Tillman – What do you really need to say about a guy who forces four — count ‘em, four — fumbles? Isaac Redman and the Steelers’ interior O-line – They went old school this week, wearing down the vaunted Giants’ front-seven. Dishonors Mike Shanahan – We used to think this guy was a great coach. Now we’re starting to think that John Elway should get a cut of all of his contracts. Michael Vick – The guy has shown his spots. He is a turnover machine which along with a terrible O-line has killed the Eagles’ playoff chances. NFL teams in the state of Ohio – We’re starting to believe that these two teams are cursed. Both look like they are content with just staying competitive rather than doing what is necessary to win games. Both defenses played excellent until their offenses got the lead, and then they looked to say, “what now?” Awards Ciron Black (Best of the Good) – Jay Cutler lost a fumble and the Bears surrendered a safety by way of a penalty in their own endzone. That’s it, those are the highlights for the Titans, and the complete list of everything the Bears did notably wrong in 60 minutes of play. Everything else can be covered by any number of sports clichés describing lopsided victory, most notably that this one was “over after the 1st quarter.” Aunt Esther (Ugliest of the Ugly) – The Titans’ epic display of buffoonery led to, among other things, a vitriolic presser by Bud Adams condemning his club from top to bottom. Hyperbole or not it has to twist the knife quite a bit when a guy who likely recalls the bulk of the league’s entire history, says he cannot remember a game this ugly. They have to hope this will serve as nothing other than a fluke and a merciful reprieve for the Chiefs and we assume they’ll do their best to take it as a wakeup call while Esther tries desperately to keep her free hand on the snooze button. Lone Ranger (Who Was That Masked Man?) – There was an entire posse of potential winners this week but in the end there could be only one masked man, Doug Martin. Though the nature of the award makes it hard to have a repeat winner, it seems fitting to give it to a running back during a time when feature backs are allegedly losing their importance to the game a dominating performance like this may become more and more of a rare thing., But don’t look for Martin here much more because if anyone is still asking “who is that guy?” they won’t be for very long. Amber Alert (Greatest Disappearance) – It seems somehow fitting that on a day where Andrew Luck had a breakout game, Robert Griffin III, Luck’s biggest rival if only in the eyes of media driven hype, and thus far leader on the unofficial “who is the best looking Rookie QB” scorecard, would shrink a bit. It was not a completely terrible day for Griffin but he looked a bit off with the exception of a too little, too late 4th quarter drive. He missed a prime opportunity for a comeback win against a team which has been very vulnerable to squandering leads so far this year. (Photo: Joe Howell/AP)
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