HCR Staff | October 26, 2020
The weather is starting to turn, and so is the fortune for many teams. Let’s get to it.
The Cowboys Are A Mess, And It’s All On The Coaching. Right now, the NFC East is historically bad – the total amount of wins among all teams is the least in history, this far into the season. All 4 teams are equally poor, which means that when they play each other, there really shouldn’t be any blowouts.
Well, the Cowboys got blown out, and it didn’t have to be this way. Let’s start with some common sense: you just lost your starting quarterback for the season, but you’re fortunate to have a veteran backup with playoff experience. That’s a luxury most teams don’t have. And behind him, you’ve got a 2020 seventh-round draft pick.
Most importantly, your offensive line may be the worst in football at the moment.
Given this set of circumstances, the first priority for Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and head coach Mike McCarthy should be to protect quarterback Andy Dalton. If this means throwing the ball less, so be it. If it means lining up in more conservative formations, so be it. After all, what good are wide receivers CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper if you can’t get them the ball? Plus, you do have running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is one of the best running backs in football.
Moore and McCarthy didn’t do this. Instead, they still run plays as if they have a Top 3 offensive line. This simply isn’t acceptable. This isn’t competent coaching.
Adam Gase’s Jets Actually Had A Nice First Half Going – But Still Lose. Yes, it would be perfectly normal for anyone to ask why we’re watching the Jets. But this is a football site; that’s what we do, and we actually liked what we saw out of the Jets – in the first half.
The Jets took a 10-0 lead, and actually led 10-6 at halftime. Gase called a very good game in the first half, staying patient with his running game, and they actually found a rhythm. One thing that stood out to us is that as long as the Jets run ‘straight ahead’ plays, i.e., plays that don’t require quarterback Sam Darnold to turn his back to the defense as much, they’ll have more success. Virtually every time Gase wanted play action or a naked boot, however, a negative play ensued. Darnold hit on a couple of boot plays, but right now, those kinds of timing plays are just beyond their competence right now.
Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams also had a very good outing; his unit performed excellently, but when your offense gains only 4 yards in the 2nd half, there isn’t much else you can do.
Like the Cowboys, the Jets need to far more conservative on offense – it’s the only chance they have.
Sean Payton v Matt Rhule – Best Coaching Performances Of The Day. In a day where we saw bad coaching all around the NFL, we at least were treated one terrific matchup in Payton vs. Rhule, and we weren’t disappointed. This game was a heavyweight slugfest, and both coaches performed well.
For the Saints, Payton did well in adjusting without his top wide receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. One of Payton’s strengths is knowing his roster, and what each player can or can’t do. On Sunday, he utilized undrafted wide receivers Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, and Austin Carr to great effectiveness, and he had quarterback Drew Brees playing well within himself. It was a solid game plan, well-executed and thought out.
One troublesome thing we’re noticing about the Saints though – they’re reverting back to where double- digit leads aren’t secure anymore. In our view, once any team has a two- possession lead in a game, such a lead should be overcome only under rare circumstances. The data backs it up.
The Saints, however, are showing cracks in their defense, and they still have troubling miscommunication breakdowns. On Sunday, Panthers wide receiver DJ Moore got behind the secondary for a long TD, and he was literally 15 yards clear – that really should never happen for a team as talented and experienced as the Saints.
As for the Panthers, this team is going to be a very tough out for the rest of the NFL. Head Coach Matt Rhule is forging an identity for his team, and young offensive coordinator Joe Brady is a rising star. The Panthers play fast, very physically, and show a high level of discipline.
On Sunday, the only things we’d nitpick Rhule about would be the lack of adjustment in covering Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who had a big day. With the Saints’ best wide receivers out, Kamara was going to be a big offensive coordinator us on 3rd down particularly, and we would have liked to see the Panthers take Kamara out of the mix by double teaming him, etc.
Rhule also had some difficulty with his time management; he burned a timeout on a questionable challenge on a spot in the second half, and in a close game, we’re of the belief that you just can’t take that risk.
Bill Belichick Has A Rare Stinker. You don’t see it often, but Belichick turned in a disastrous performance on Sunday. Three things stood out to us that will have to give Pats fans concerns.
One, the Patriots didn’t play with any energy or passion. Basically, they didn’t show much pride. That’s alarming. There are going to be times where the other team simply has better players, but you have to show fight, and that’s been a hallmark of Belichick teams. On Sunday, the Patriots laid down.
Second, on defense, Belichick’s squads are excellent at setting the edge against run plays. This is essentially Rule #1 for his defenses, before anything else. Belichick’s philosophy is that if you can’t or don’t set the edge, you lose. And that’s what happened on Sunday – the Patriots never set it, and the 49ers continually gashed the Patriots over and over.
Finally, Belichick seemed resigned, and that manifested itself by his acting out against the officials over some routine calls. This observation was a bit alarming to us. It’s an indication he knows that 2020 is in jeopardy. Fortunately for the Patriots, the rest of the division is very average as well, but the Patriots season – as far as making the playoffs – is in jeopardy.
Pete Carroll And Kliff Kingsbury Give A “How To Coach Badly” Clinic On Sunday Night. There were so many coaching judgment errors in the Seahawks-Cardinals game that we really don’t know where to start. Neither head coach distinguished himself; both coached as if winning were not the objective.
There’s been a lot of talk about the NFC West being the best division in football because every team is above .500. But the scheduling has the division playing the NFC East, which is on a historically bad pace, and the AFC East, which is very, very average – at best.
Right now, we don’t think either the Seahawks or Cardinals are Super Bowl teams.
Quarterback Russell Wilson carries the entire Seahawks team. We’d give him the MVP right now; it’s as if he doesn’t even have coaches; he has to improvise everything. Yes, he threw 3 interceptions last night, but the Seahawks aren’t even in a game without him.
The Seahawks defense is poor. Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton isn’t putting a very good product on the field. They look undisciplined, and it’s like this virtually every game.
Two words define the Seahawks product right now: Helter and Skelter.
As for the Cardinals, they have the players to perhaps win a playoff game, maybe even two, but they don’t have the head coach. Kliff Kingsbury is a play-caller in our view, not a head coach. He just doesn’t show enough poise and judgment for us to have confidence in him.
He passed up an easy field goal attempt after a Budda Baker interception that would have narrowed the score in order to attempt a 4th –and-goal from the 3-yard line… which under any circumstance, is an incredibly low percentage play.
At the end of regulation, he iced his own kicker on a game-winning 41-yard attempt. Who does this?
Yes, they’re 5-2 – for now.
Odds And Ends For Week 7.
No To Raheem Morris As A Head Coach. Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris probably cost himself the permanent Falcons gig when he made two unforgivable errors.
First, he passed up a short field goal attempt that would have put the Falcons ahead 16-14 at 12:01 in the 4th quarter. Trailing 14-13, and facing a 4th-&- 5 at the Lions’ 13, Morris went for the 4th down. He didn’t get it…because it’s a low probability play. The Falcons would go on to lose by one.
Second, Morris didn’t explicitly instruct and remind Falcons running back Todd Gurley to avoid scoring at the end of regulation. The Falcons were in position to win the game simply by kneeling on the ball and kicking a short field goal. Instead, Morris chose to give Gurley the ball, and Gurley proceeded to score a touchdown… which gave the Lions an opportunity to get the ball back – an opportunity they never should have had.
Morris is a good guy, and a good coach. But we wouldn’t hire him as a head coach. Head coaches are paid to win, and if you don’t know how to close out a game and win, what’s the point?
Bills Run Defense A Concern. If you’re a Bills fan, be worried about your run defense – it’s just not good right now. The Jets actually controlled the first half the game yesterday, and that was through the ground. The Bills play right now as if they expect their opponents to lay down for them, and that’s not going to happen.
And Bills Fans Have To Worry A Bit About QUARTERBACK Josh Allen. Allen’s play has hit a ceiling, but we don’t think it’s Allen’s issue. Instead, we assign accountability to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Right now, Daboll isn’t helping Allen. Allen plays as if he has to do everything, and it’s going to get him hurt. The Bills’ offense at the moment is far from a disciplined unit; most gains are off broken and off-schedule plays by Allen and his amazing athleticism.