By HCR Staff | Oct. 21, 2019
Jon Gruden likes veteran players for a reason–they tend not to make the same mistake twice. Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr won’t be long for the Raiders if he continues to make the same mistakes. He’s an NFL vet now, and he’s expected to play mistake-free football. The Raiders had the Green Bay Packers on the ropes in a pivotal road game, and Carr’s mistake at the end of the first half cost them a very real opportunity to steal a huge road win. The Raiders were in the red zone near the end of the first half, trailing 14-10, when Carr took off on a scramble toward the sideline. As he neared the end zone, Carr attempted to reach for the pylon–even though he had no chance of getting there–and fumbled the ball through the end zone. The resulting turnover led to a Packers possession resulting in a touchdown that increased their lead to 21-10. The Raiders never recovered from the turnover, and it was the pivotal play in the game. Carr did this once before earlier in his career, and the same turnover caused another Raiders loss. Current Raiders head coach Jon Gruden won’t be as patient. He expects his quarterbacks to be smart, and play smart.
If the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line stays healthy, this team is going to go a long way. Colts General Manager Chris Ballard’s best work may be putting together an elite offensive line. To our eyes, the Colts’ offensive line is its most valuable unit, and if it keeps playing the way it did on Sunday, we expect the Colts to seriously contend for the conference championship. It’s a shame that former Colts QB Andrew Luck did not have the luxury of playing behind this line, and if he did, there is no telling what kind of statistics and success he would have had. However, current Colts QB Jacoby Brissett is playing marvelously, and with tremendous confidence due to the play of this elite unit.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton continues to show why he is a serious candidate for Coach of the Year. The Saints came into this game missing significant parts to their operation. QB Drew Brees, running back Alvin Kamara, and tight end Jared Cook were nursing injuries, but Payton successfully engineered around this in a significant victory over the Chicago Bears. The Saints, to a large degree, rely more on execution than on sheer talent, and that is a credit to the elite coaching. Payton never asks a player to do more than what he is capable of, and that increasingly is a rare trait among head coaches. It’s a highly disciplined team, and Payton’s decision-making is similarly disciplined. That’s led to a 6-1 record, and currently being in charge of the NFC South.
Mike Zimmer’s Minnesota Vikings are cutting down on their mistakes, and have made key adjustments. The Vikings are playing much better complementary football, and that is a credit to the work of head coach Mike Zimmer. On offense, the play calling has improved, as they’re becoming choosier about when to take their shots downfield. The Vikings are allowing their offensive line to get into a better rhythm during games, and that improvement has led to much improved play from QB Kirk Cousins. Zimmer’s in-game decision-making also has improved, as he has shown more consistent good judgment whenever the Vikings are trailing.
While the Washington Redskins lost, interim head coach Bill Callahan’s game plan was the right one against the San Francisco 49ers. We have no idea whether Callahan will be considered for the permanent job, but he certainly did give his Redskins an opportunity to win yesterday. He put the Redskins in a favorable position simply by not asking his players to do too much in a rain-soaked game. His strategy of run the ball, shorten the game, and do as much as possible to take the elements out of consideration actually had the Redskins on the verge of a big upset. Absent an Adrian Peterson fumble, the game plan might have brought a victory. This is what coaches are supposed to do–put their team in a position to win, and Callahan did that.
While the Miami Dolphins are showing some signs of life, the Cincinnati Bengals continue to show none. Dolphins head coach Brian Flores continues to show week-by-week progress, even though he has not notched a victory. The Dolphins played a spirited game against the Buffalo Bills yesterday, and at certain points in the game, actually controlled the action. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, on the other hand, is going the opposite direction–the Bengals players simply do not appear to be giving much effort. The Bengals had the game close, but once they began trailing, seem to completely lose emotional interest. While the losses are piling up on to Taylor’s resume, he is only partially to blame for the situation. He inherited a franchise in transition and on the decline. Any improvement from the Bengals will require far more than just his performance. With the trade deadline looming, the Bengals front office will be confronting some significant decisions.
Brian Flores and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman are adventurous with special teams. This week they ran a fake field goal against the Bills that resulted in a first down. Last week, they ran a fake punt against the Redskins that also resulted in a first down. They also had an onside kick returned for a touchdown late in the game.
Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn went for the win rather than the tie, late in the game. We can’t help but think that this aggressiveness on the road was encouraged by a prior attempt in a road game last year. On a Thursday night game late in the season, the Chargers were successful in converting a two-point conversion against the Kansas City Chiefs to take the lead rather than attempt a PAT to tie the game. This time the gamble didn’t work out against a stout Tennessee Titans defense. It’s much different to try to win the game against a strong defense like Tennessee’s rather than a porous defense like Kansas City’s had in 2018. The analytics might say “go for it” in that situation, but it matters who you are attempting it against. That is something that is a little more difficult to capture in a stat.