NFL Quick-Six: Lessons learned after Week 5
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 23:10
Week 5 of the NFL season enlightened me in more ways than one. First off, after seeing the Lions fail to get anything going offensively in Green Bay without the supernatural Calvin Johnson, I think Megatron deserves a few more annual MVP tallies. Speaking of MVP votes, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s elite play has forced me to totally reverse my stance on him. Also, as crazy as it sounds, the Braves were not the only Atlanta sports franchise to see their season come to a screeching halt on Monday night.
Before the Vikings decide to obtain yet another run-of-the-mill QB, let’s get started with “Quick-6” – 6 tidbits I learned after another jam-packed week in football.
1. The Lions without Megatron won’t be scaring opponents anytime soon.
In 2012, Calvin Johnson set an NFL single-season record with 1,964 receiving yards. This past Sunday, with Johnson sidelined due to a knee injury, the Lions threatened the NFL single-game record by suiting up one of the more uninspiring wideout cores in recent memory. Detroit’s “Big 3,” if you will, consisted of Ryan Broyles, Kris Durham and Kevin Ogletree – Matt Stafford completed just seven passes to the trio, instead deferring to tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. Even more disturbing than an offense having to rely on Pettigrew and Scheffler is the fact that Reggie Bush was shut down completely (44 rushing yards, 25 receiving yards). When Johnson is plucking balls out of the air and torching opposing secondaries, he’s obviously the best receiver alive. But what makes the Lions’ offense so dynamic with him in the lineup is the attention he requires, which immediately opens up lanes in the running game and clear pastures for his fellow route-runners. Hopefully, the knee injury is a short-term issue, and Johnson is able to come back against the Browns in Week 6. The return of Megatron will pay immediate dividends for the Lions.
2. I was so very wrong about Andrew Luck.
Admittedly, while others were betting the house on the Colts’ No. 1 draft pick, I didn’t buy into the Luck hype at first. Was he impressive as a rookie? Sure, but I thought Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson were more impressive – even Brandon Weeden threw less interceptions than Luck did. He threw for close to 4,400 yards, but that’s because all Indianapolis did was throw. Going into Year Two, I wanted to see more from Luck. Well, how’s that saying go, be careful what you wish for? Five weeks into the season, I can’t get enough of the guy. He’s more accurate (62 percent completion percentage, up from 54 last year), making better decisions (just 2 interceptions), and has developed into an underrated scrambler. Under pass-happy offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Luck attempted 40 passes per game last season. Now that Arians is the head coach of the Cardinals, Luck’s coordinator is Pep Hamilton—who he worked under at Stanford. He’s averaging just 31 attempts so far, but he’s more efficient than ever. Against that stout Seahawks secondary, Luck went for 229 yards on 29 tries, hooking up twice with T.Y. Hilton (see below) in the end zone. Luck’s not going to be an absolute stud in this league—he already is. With a vastly-improved Colts defense, the question is what will occur first: Luck winning MVP, or Indy reaching the Super Bowl? I’m predicting both will happen within the next five years.
3. For the record, Luck isn’t the only star sophomore on the Colts.
Sticking with the theme of “burning the Seahawks secondary,” it’s time to introduce wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to the “Quick-6” column. Hilton, one of my new favorite athletes in sports, had a national coming-out party of sorts against Seattle in Week 5. Hilton averaged a remarkable 28 yards per catch, finishing with 5 grabs for 140 yards and those two scores. He held nothing back on Sunday, exhibiting his deep-threat skills on a few drives (the touchdowns went for 73 and 29 yards, respectively) while making a spectacular third-down catch in the fourth quarter on a ball that was thrown behind him – with Richard Sherman playing man coverage on him, nonetheless! After the statement win, Hilton thanked Seattle’s other cornerback, Brandon Browner, for providing all the necessary motivation. Supposedly, Browner poked fun at T.Y.’s lightweight frame early on, not realizing that Hilton was about to use that frame to blow past Browner’s secondary multiple times. While Sherman can talk the talk and walk the walk, it’s conclusive that Browner still has a ways to go in that department – he may be better off just shutting his trap altogether. As for Hilton, he’s slowly becoming the go-to guy for Luck, as Reggie Wayne isn’t getting any younger. The Luck-Hilton connection is going to be lethal for years to come.
4. The Braves and Falcons’ seasons both ended on Monday.
Courtesy of the Dodgers’ Juan Uribe, the Atlanta Braves were knocked out of the playoffs Monday evening. Courtesy of Geno Smith, a swarming Jets defensive front, a lackluster offensive line, and a shoddy defense (should I keep going?), the Atlanta Falcons also might’ve very well been eliminated from playoff contention. If it’s premature to rule out the reigning NFC South champions in Week 5, especially when I predicted them to defend their division title, then so be it. A week after committing four turnovers at Tennessee, Geno lit up the Falcons to the tune of 199 yards (80 percent completion percentage) and three touchdowns. Not only did Atlanta let Smith set up camp in the pocket; they couldn’t buy any time for Matt Ryan to throw on the other side of the field. Ryan had great stats despite the lack of protection (also 80 percent completions, 319 yards and 2 touchdowns) but, in another shot to the heart of Atlanta fans everywhere, it was revealed Tuesday that top wide receiver Julio Jones is out for the year. With Jones done and Roddy White dealing with multiple ailments, defenses might put four guys on Tony Gonzalez. What a way for the Hall of Famer to go out – triple, possible quadruple-teamed, and no postseason.