Down 14 – 0 in the second quarter, I took it upon myself to do something to help the boys in blue turn it around: I promptly switched chairs. From there, the Cowboys finished the game 27-3. Coincidence? Ok, sure… It probably was. Whatever the reason, the Cowboys were a different team after the horrible start.
Dak finished the game completing 72% of his 32 attempts for a QB Rating of 114.7, 2 TDs and extended his Rookie record to 134 attempts without an interception. The other half of the rookie backfield, Ezekiel Elliott finished the day with 138 yards on 23 attempts for a whopping 6 yards per carry and 1 touchdown, becoming the NFL’s leading rusher. The offensive line didn’t miss a beat, even though they were missing Pro Bowler Tyron Smith and La’El Collins. If anything, they looked a lot more aggressive on run blocking. In my week 3 preview, I mentioned the line might be improved with Ron Leary back at his Left Tackle spot (albeit with Collins replacing Right Tackle Doug Free), however, we did not see a turnaround like this.
Defensively, Morris Claiborne has continued to dominate the secondary. With Orlando Scandrick sidelined for a second straight week, Mo has risen to the occasion making several key stops including the game winning tackle on fourth down late in the 4th quarter. The defensive line had 1 sack and not many more hurries, but did their job after they figured out how to stop Chip Kelly’s option offense with help from Sean Lee (which couldn’t have come sooner as watching a high school offense make an NFL defense look silly got annoying in a hurry). Overall, this was a solid 2. 5 quarters of defense.
Keys to the Game Scorecard:
- Pressure Gabbert.
Only 1 sack, but the defensive line put the pressure on when it counted, pushing Gabbert to the sideline and closing off half the field on 4th and 6 with 1:49 left to play.
- Get the ball deep. The Cowboys had several lengthy plays throughout the game, however, none were long completions. Brice Butler cut across the middle so often, the 49ers’ secondary began sitting on the routes. With his speed, I expected to see at least a couple attempts of 20-30 yards.
- Don’t be cute. This was an old fashioned ground and pound. Zeke averaged 6 YPC and the ‘Boys finished with 194 total rushing yards.
I came close again in my week 4 preview. The Cowboys finished the game 24-3, but the damage was done on the 49ers’ first two drives. Cowboys cover the spread: Final Score 24-17
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Many things can be said about the game-play in Super Bowl LI, from the Falcons offense looking to be unstoppable through the first 38 minutes to Tom Brady channeling his inner GOAT to pull off what most people could only imagine as achievable theoretically. However, the biggest difference between the New England and the Atlanta was that the Patriots knew who their opponent was and the Falcons did not. The real opponent for both teams was the clock. The Falcons needed it to run as fast as possible, while the Patriots realized that each second was precious, with a 25 point deficit to overcome.
It seems strange that with all of the analytics used in sports nowadays, the degree to which each aspect of the game is individualized (I mean, there are actually separate coaches for inside linebackers and outside linebackers), and the number of times that clock management can affect the outcome of a game, that there is not a position solely dedicated to how to manage that clock.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but looking at the 2017 NFL playoffs, there were three close games, two of which were decided largely by late-game clock management. The first game was the Packers vs. Cowboys in the divisional round, and the second was the Super Bowl.
The clock mismanagement in divisional round was by the Cowboys, who were attempting to comeback from a 15 point 4th quarter deficit. For a two score comeback to occur, both the offense and the defense must play well, but clock management becomes crucial. The biggest misstep for the Cowboys came on their final drive. They received the ball with 93 seconds left in the game. In the final drive, two critical clock management decisions to look at are the spike on 1st and 10 from the Packers 40 yard line with 1:07 on the clock, and 2 plays later with a passing play on 3rd down with 44 seconds left. Perhaps a clock management coach looks at these situations and plays them somewhat differently. From using their final timeout or running a play on first down, so as not to ‘waste’ a down with a spike. That same coach may realize that a successful short pass and a successful run will likely have similar outcomes on 3rd down, but an incomplete pass stops the clock and a running play short of the line to gain keeps the clock running. That running clock may be just enough to make sure Aaron Rodgers does not have time to orchestrate a game-winning drive, and instead push the game to overtime.
In the Super Bowl, the clock mismanagement will be credited to the Atlanta Falcons, who needed only to hold on to a 25 point lead in the middle of the 3rd quarter. Reread that sentence, there is no typo. The Falcons had a four score lead with just over 17 minutes left in the game. There are once again two key plays that involve clock management, they may have swung the game and final score into the Falcons favor. The first was the catastrophic fumble with 8:31 left in the game, and the Falcons possessed a 16 point (two score) lead. Many will say of course you run when you know that a sack fumble is happening, but even not knowing that a pass is much riskier than a run in that situation, especially when your running back, Devonta Freeman, is averaging over 8 yards per carry at that point. The risk is way to high for a 3rd and 1 pass with a 16 point lead and 8:31 left on the clock, compared to the reward. A clock management coach realizes that and runs the ball. The second decision comes with just under 4 minutes left, again a pass play over a run, this time on second down on the New England 22. The play results in a 12 yard sack and the Patriots use a timeout. No big deal, still in field goal range to make it a two score game. 3rd down attempt #1 is a completed pass that doesn’t get a first down but gives them a better shot at a field goal, but there is a hold. Now they are out of field goal range and are forced to pass to get back into range. 3rd down attempt #2 is an incomplete pass and the Falcons are forced to punt without being able to run the clock. A clock management coach realizes that a field goal in this situation is practically just as good as a touchdown, since it pretty much guarantees that the Patriots will have to complete a successful onside kick if they score. Instead, the Patriots get the ball back with just under 4 minutes left, and Tom Brady becomes the GOAT of all GOATs.
Isn’t clock management the job of the head coach? Can’t the quarterback figure these things out? Two great questions, but in the heat of battle, having a numbers guy whose sole job is to analyze the game based on the amount of time left, could prove to be invaluable. Just ask Arthur Blank if he would’ve coughed up an extra $150k to have a clock specialist on the coaching staff.Views: 0
A week ago, the image of Colin Kaepernick lounging on a bench during the national anthem was burned into the head of everyone who had turned on a television or browsed the internet. Some hated the protest, some applauded it, while others wondered if there was a better way to bring light to such a sensitive issue. One thing is certain, it grabbed the attention of a nation. And that’s what he wanted, right?
Not really. Kaepernick wanted to bring up a discussion of the oppression he sees for “black people and people of color” in the United States. What he did start a discussion on, is whether or not one should be ostracized for sitting during the national anthem. By many, it was seen as a slight to the military and completely ‘unAmerican’. Anyone that lives in this country knows that going against the military is taboo. This is not the 1960s and 1970s when people spat on, and ridiculed soldiers returning home from the Vietnam War. Not to say that people in the United States do not still have strong feelings against war or the reasons we are in them, but we have evolved to realize that it is not the young men and women who put their lives on the line that we should be angry with. While Colin did say that his sitting was not aimed at the military in any way, it was pretty hard to separate the two once it had gone viral.
Kaepernick was left at an impasse once he said he would not stand until he saw real change with the issue at hand. If he stood after that without progress, he would be viewed as just another whiny, overpaid athlete looking for attention while not really caring about the issue. On the other hand, if he continued to sit, he would be at the center of a media whirlwind, lose endorsements, be jeered at in every stadium he entered (even Levi’s Stadium), and become more of a sideshow than an NFL quarterback, starting or not.
The sign of a true man is not that he is never wrong, but rather, that he can admit his faults and strive to change and become better. Was Kaepernick wrong to protest what he sees as a social injustice in our country? Absolutely not! Could he have gone about it in a better way? I think so. Kaepernick spent 90 minutes with former Green Beret, Nate Boyer, before the 49ers final preseason game, and decided to take a knee during the national anthem instead of sitting. Wow, that was not something I expected to see. While we are supposed to stand for our anthem, taking a knee can still be seen as a sign of respect. Genuflect means to lower one’s body briefly by bending one knee to the ground, typically in worship or as a sign of respect. That is what Kaepernick is doing. What Colin is saying with this action appears to be, ‘I will still continue to protest the problem I see in my country, but I do not want to disrespect those not involved. Most notably, the men and women of the U.S. military.’.
Kaepernick is not perfect, in this protest or outside of it. Wearing socks with pigs dressed in police uniforms was certainly not done in good taste. Protesting oppression, then wearing a t-shirt with one of the most oppressive modern day world leaders on the front of it almost seems oxymoron. However, I for sure am not the one to cast the first stone. If people came looking at all of my poorly thought out plans that I took action on first, I would have my foot so far in my mouth that I could kick myself in the ass simultaneously for screwing up.
All in all, while I may not see Colin Kaepernick as a respectable NFL quarterback, I definitely respect him as a person. Admitting when I’m wrong (however rare that may be) is probably one of my biggest faults, and I could definitely take a page from the book that is Colin Kaepernick. So Colin, continue your protest until you see the change that you want to see in our country. Also, I hope you will be starting on October 2nd, because my Cowboys sure could use the win.Views: 0
Starting Five: C: Dwight Howard PF: Paul Millsap SF: Kent Bazemore SG: Kyle Korver PG: Dennis Schroder
Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 4 seed; Out; Out
The Hawks lost Al Horford and Jeff Teague, and replaced them by moving Schroder from the bench to the starting lineup and signing a hometown hero, Dwight Howard. Both of these seem like downgrades to me, which will make their playoff hopes even more difficult in an improving Eastern Conference. Dwight Howard is one of the greatest physical specimens that the NBA has ever seen, but between the ears he isn’t much more than a college player on the court. Because of that immaturity, Howard requires a coach that can get him to make the best choices for the good of the team, all the while making Howard think it was his own idea. Stan Van Gundy has to be at the top of that list, since he actually accomplished that in Orlando, but I’m not sure how many other coaches could. Budenholzer will have a shot at it, and will definitely be an upgrade over any of the previous nine head coaches he has played for in his career (except Van Gundy).
Schroder is not a huge downgrade from Teague, and they have a seasoned veteran backup point guard in Jarrett Jack. Jack has been known to come up big in late game situations, just ask the Golden State Warriors, who have been on both sides of his antics. Atlanta’s biggest issue this year will be their lack of shooting. Kyle Korver’s three point shooting of 39.8% last year was almost ten percent lower than the year before. While I assume the Hawks see that stat trending back to his norm this year, they do not have anyone else on the roster that shoots over 35% from long range. What would surprise me more, the Hawks making the playoffs or Dwight Howard actually being an enjoyable teammate? Definitely the former, and that says a lot since Dwight Howard seems to be one of the toughest guys to get along with in an NBA locker room.
Starting Five: C: Cody Zeller PF: Marvin Williams SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SG: Nicolas Batum PG: Kemba Walker
Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 5 seed; Out; Out
The Hornets were tied for the third best record in the East and they’re a young team, of course they are going to get better this year. Not so fast, losing your second and third leading scorers in Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin, and not replacing them with anyone of significance, will not be very helpful. No, Marco Belinelli is not a player of any significance. The biggest issue this year for the Hornets will be their lack of depth. They have one of the worst second lineups in the league.
MKG will be back this year after two shoulder injuries, and will be a great counterpart to Nicolas Batum on the wing. Those four long arms will make passing through this defense very difficult. The dire playoff hopes for the Hornets are due to the front office, and there really are not any trade chips they can use to improve apart from future draft picks. I want to see Charlotte back in the postseason, especially after the exhilarating series with the Heat last year, but I see the more experienced Bulls and youthful Bucks edging them out.
Starting Five: C: Hassan Whiteside PF: Josh McRoberts SF: Justise Winslow SG: Josh Richardson PG: Goran Dragic
Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 7 seed (if Bosh is healthy); Out; Out
The 2016-17 Miami Heat will be difficult to watch, think back to the 2007-08 Heat team when Wade was injured and they won 15 games. Okay, it may not be that bad, but it will be closer to that than the 48 wins they had last year. As if losing Dwyane Wade wasn’t enough, now it looks as if Chris Bosh’s career may be over. Bosh keeps saying he is not done yet, but that seems to be more wishful thinking than an actual medical opinion. Bosh is a great competitor and truly a pro’s pro, but no Heat fan (or hater) wants to see the unimaginable happen to him.
Hassan Whiteside will now get to see how it feels to get paid as a superstar, without any of the talent. Get ready for the boos and chants whenever he does not play up to that near $100 million contract. Justise Winslow will also get to find out how hard it is to play on the wing in the NBA when there is not a future Hall of Famer on the other side. There aren’t many teams I enjoy seeing suffer more than the Miami Heat, so I may DVR a few games here and there this season just to watch one of the
worst teams in the NBA lose.
Starting Five: C: Nikola Vucevic PF: Serge Ibaka SF: Aaron Gordon SG: Evan Fournier PG: Elfrid Payton
Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 8 seed; Out; Out
The Magic have a multitude of raw talent and athleticism, and if I had to start a football team with an NBA team, they would probably be my choice. Orlando will be a scary place to play this season because opposing players will feel like Monday morning NFL players the day after the game. With a frontcourt that consists of Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, Serge Ibaka, and Aaron Gordon, slighter guards may choose to pull up for a mid-range jumper more often than not.
The trade to send Oladipo to the Thunder in exchange for Serge Ibaka seemed to benefit both teams, but it was somewhat confusing when the Magic signed Bismack Biyombo two weeks later. They are essentially the same player, except Ibaka has a better jumper and Bismack is more aggressive on the offensive boards. Orlando has a good spread of talent among every position, with each position possessing complementary skills to the other, but they are very inexperienced. This may be a team that can make it to the second round of the playoffs, but not for at least two years.
Starting Five: C: Marcin Gortat PF: Markieff Morris SF: Otto Porter Jr. SG: Bradley Beal PG: John Wall
Ceiling, Floor & Most Likely: 3 seed; Out; 5 seed
The Wizards are as dysfunctional as they are talented. It is never a good sign when your two stars can’t stand each other, on or off the court. John Wall hates to see to his counterpart in the backcourt making $10 million more per year, while missing an average of 20 games per season. That’s right, hometown DC may have lost the Durant sweepstakes, but they did find someone to give a max contract to. Beal now has 125 million reasons to stay healthy and play a full 82 for the Wizards through 2021. With Wall’s speed and Beal’s sharp shooting, they can definitely be one of the best backcourts in the NBA, but that has yet to be seen. Hopefully Scott Brooks can get them to play nice on the court, like he did with Durant and Westbrook in OKC.
The frontcourt is not void of drama either with Markieff Morris upset that his twin brother isn’t able to fill the top bunk at home. Hopefully, the Morris twins got plenty of family time in over the summer so the will be able to finish the season without an episode of separation anxiety. Ian Mahinmi was a good pickup in the offseason. While he will never be a starting center in the NBA, he is a very capable backup. The key to the Wizards making the playoffs will really depend on health. Even if they stay healthy, don’t plan on seeing them in the second round, mostly because of lack of maturity and cohesiveness.Views: 0