By HCR Staff | Oct. 1, 2018
Here are five key observations from this week’s games:
1. The Saints’ Mr. Everything
With the New Orleans Saints trailing the Giants 7-0 early at MetLife Stadium, New Orleans was lined up to punt for the second time in two possessions. With a fourth-and-2 at their own 33, head coach Sean Payton called for a fake. A gutsy call. Fail to convert, and the Giants are in good position to take a two-possession lead in front of a fired-up home crowd.
But Payton had his not-so-secret weapon – backup QB Taysom Hill. Lined up as the upback, Hill took the snap and ran for the first down. The Saints would kick a field goal on the drive and eventually win, 33-18.
We noted Payton’s excellent use of Hill last week, and he continues to use Hill all over the field. In this game, Hill lined up numerous times as the QB and was effective in an RPO role. Hill also returns kicks, and plays tight end. Against the Giants, Hill threw two passes (completing one), caught a pass, ran four times and returned one kickoff – accounting for 50 yards in all.
Defensive coordinators will have to account for Hill whenever he is on the field.
2. Confident Vrabel
One of the biggest headlines of Week 4 was the Tennessee Titans’ overtime win over the Eagles. After the Eagles kicked a field goal in their first OT possession, the Titans moved into field-goal range themselves. On fourth down, Vrabel sent in his kicking team – but then he called timeout and sent the offense back out. Marcus Mariota threw a game-winning TD pass to Corey Davis.
What’s interesting is that Vrabel didn’t call the timeout because he changed his mind. After the game, he explained to ProFootballTalk that he intended to go for it all along. He knew he’d be calling the timeout, so he sent the kicking team out first so as a) not to show any kind of panic; and b) not to give the Eagles defense more time to adjust.
More notably, Vrabel displayed the kind of confidence in his young team that can be a real building block. If Tennessee failed to convert, it would have opened the floodgates for second-guessing.
“Never even crossed my mind,” Vrabel said. “I get criticized a lot.”
3. Masterful McVay
The ability of Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay to create mismatches for his offense was on full display in Thursday night’s 38-31 win over the Vikings. He was able to create opportunities for his slot receivers and running backs all night long. McVay’s scheme contributed to the massive game by Cooper Kupp, who was routinely covered by a Minnesota linebacker. It was a brilliant game plan by McVay, another reason he has been near the top of our Head Coach Rankings since the start of last season.
4. No rest for Brady?
There have been a few instances in recent years when observers have questioned why New England Patriots QB Tom Brady was still on the field late in games that have long been decided. It happened again Sunday.
Playing the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots were up 38-0 in the fourth quarter and driving again in a game they ultimately won, 38-7. Some may have felt it was surprising to see Brady still in the game. Sure enough, he took a hard hit and threw his second interception. Especially considering the Patriots have a short week – hosting the Colts on Thursday night — perhaps risking his QB in this way was not very prudent of Bill Belichick.
5. Marrone stirring the pot?
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has never been too concerned about what others say or think about him. So he probably won’t lose any sleep over the criticism he’s getting for his decision Sunday to go for two against the Jets – even though they were up by 19 points with 25 seconds left in the game.
After the game, Marrone said he was just going by “the chart,” which says to go for two with a 19-point lead. But he also said that he had some players on his kicking team that were banged up and he wanted to give them a rest. So which is it?
The Jets and Jaguars aren’t division rivals who play every year, but as Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins said after the game, “we won’t forget it.”