NFL – 2017 WEEK 13 – STATS THAT STICK OUT
Alex Smith, QB (Chiefs)
KC 31 at NYJ 38
Oh, the irony. Just a couple short weeks ago (Week 11), I described in this weekly column how Pro Football Focus put much of the blame for the Chiefs’ mid-season meltdowns on QB (Alex Smith). But, after Smith’s tremendous performance during Week 13 (which some akin to MVP caliber) and KC still lost to a team under .500, he should not be solely incriminated for the struggles this team is dealing with. Last week, Smith was the league’s passing leader and threw for 366 yards, had 4 TDs and 0 Interceptions, plus a 135.9 passer rating. Meanwhile, his defense allowed almost 38 points and 500 yards to the Jets, NY converted 13 of 20 third-down plays, and KC’s defense committed 8 penalties. As a result, the Chiefs lost their 4th straight game on Sunday and fell to 6-6 in the AFC West division to compete in a three-way tie for first place with the Raiders and Chargers. I can’t help but to think this all goes back to Week 1 and the injury to KC safety Eric Berry. Remember when he ruptured his Achilles in the fourth quarter of the Chiefs win over the Patriots in NE and was declared out for the season? I knew then that could be enough to stop this team from succeeding down the stretch. Berry was the team’s “heart and soul on defense” and a leader in that locker room. He had galvanized this team and helped to bring the Chiefs’ early belief together. Without him now somebody else needs to step up in that locker room and carry the torch, before it’s too late. It may be just that simple to get these Chiefs back on track.
Alfred Morris, RB (Cowboys)
WAS 14 at DAL 38
While Dallas’ lead RB Ezekiel Elliott is out on suspension, this 28-year old six-year league veteran has been asked to step in and hold the line. On Sunday against his old team (the Redskins), he did more than that when he became Week 11’s rushing leader with 27 attempts, 1 TD and a season-high 127 yards (the most yards he ran in a game since 2013). His performance also gives Dallas some hope they could be productive on offense if they want to win out the rest of the season and make it to the playoffs (which they must do). For Morris, he is also taking advantage of the opportunity to show what he’s got since he will become a free agent in the off-season. He said recently, “It’s good that I can get some film out there to kind of show that I’ve still got this – because I still do. I know a lot of people say ‘He’s washed out’ and that type of stuff, but I don’t listen to them.” The good news for Morris is that in the next 2 games remaining before Elliott comes back, he will face the NY Giants who have the worst run defense in the league and then the Raiders (11th ranked).
Tyreek Hill, WR (Chiefs)
KC 31 at NYJ 38
It’s not surprising to see this 23-year old sitting here at Week 11 as the week’s receiving leader. He’s been brilliant in his 2nd NFL season and first full year as KC’s top receiver, as he currently ranks 7th in the league with the most receiving yards (911) on 60 receptions and 6 TDs. And, last Sunday against the Jets, Hill had a career day with his 6 receptions for 185 yards and 2 TDs. It was the most yards produced by a Chiefs player since 2013, the most by a Chiefs wideout since 2010, and Hill’s third 100-yard receiving game of his career. He also showed off his star high school track abilities when he caught for TDs of 79 and 40 yards in last Sunday’s game. For many, Hill’s stats prove that the Chiefs’ move to cut veteran WR Jeremy Maclin in May and name the rookie special teams player top WR was the right move. Hill has shown growth in all areas and is quickly vaulting himself up towards being one of the top receivers in the game.
Clay Matthews, OLB (Packers)
TB 20 at GB 26
It was expected that this nine-year veteran linebacker would be “limited” in his first game back after missing Week 10’s matchup with the Steelers due to a groin injury. Instead, the 31-year-old played in 74% of the snaps against the Buccaneers last week and had one of his best games of the season when he recorded 3.0 sacks (a season high) for 11.5 yards, had 4 QB hits, and 7 tackles (a season high). Already this year, Matthews has 6.5 sacks and broke the Packers’ career sack record in September. But, perhaps an even better highlight of the week for Matthews was the fact he was recognized as the Packers nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year, one of the NFL’s most prestigious awards. Each year, the league picks 32 players for their “excellence on and off the field”. In January, 3 finalists will be chosen and the winner announced during the NFL Honors awards show on Feb 3, the night before Super Bowl 52. For the rest of the season, Matthews will wear a Man of the Year decal on his helmet. He is very involved in and participates in multiple charities such as the Boys and Girls Club of America, the Jimmy V Foundation, Hugs from holly, St. Mark’s Lutheran School, Make-A-Wish and has worked hard to raise awareness for CureDuchenne (an organization aimed at finding a cure for a debilitating type of muscular dystrophy in children). For a complete list of the 32 nominees, check out their great stories on SI.com.
Robbie Gould, K (49ers)
SF 15 at CHI 14
The quick stats about Gould are that he’s 35-years-old and has been a kicker in the league for 13 seasons. And on Sunday, he was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his 5 field goals that scored San Francisco all of its 15 points, including the game winner in the final seconds. His performance ultimately helped the 49ers secure their 2nd win of the season. But beyond that, the underlining story is that Gould exacted the most delicious revenge any player who got cut by a former team could. On Sunday, he went into Chicago where he played the bulk of his career (2005-2015) and singlehandedly beat the team that shockingly cut him to free up $3 million in cap space in 2015. It had been a jolt for Gould to be asked to leave. He was a player who scored the most points in Bears history (1,207), made 85.4% of his field goals, 99% of his extra points, and never once missed a kick in the playoffs. After leaving Chi-Town, he went on to play 1 year with the Giants before signing with the 49ers this year. Gould was replaced in Chicago by Connor Barth who was far inferior (made only 74.4% of his field goals) before getting cut earlier this season himself. But, on Sunday, Gould returned to Chicago for the first time since his Bears career came to an end and made a point to the Coach and GM who abruptly fired him. After he put the game winning ball through the uprights, he was apparently seen yelling towards the Bears’ sidelines. He admitted after the game, “I wanted this one really bad. I downplayed it all week. For my own peace of mind, to be honest with you. But I’m just happy it went this way. It was pretty sweet.” For all those people who have been fired in their lifetime (including myself), good for you, Robbie Gould!
By now, we are all familiar with the fiasco the NY Giants put down this year after going 2-10 through Week 13, the benching of QB Eli Manning and the firings of their Head Coach and GM with 4 games still left in the season. But, the Denver Broncos have laid a similarly awful egg of a season and the finger pointing has begun. Denver has lost 8 in a row – 1 more will tie a franchise record set in 1967. They also currently sit in last place in the AFC West with a 3-9 record and all expectations of another winning season have all but flown out the window. What has gone wrong mostly has to do with a totally inept offense, revolving QB situation, and bad coaching. Take these numbers: Denver is 0-6 in games where they trailed in the first quarter; 0-8 in games where they trailed at the half; are one of the most penalized teams in the NFL; rank 31st in turnover ratio (-16); 27th in Total Points; 23rd in Total Offense; 24th in TDs (passing); 2nd in Interceptions (18); T-3 in sacks allowed (39); and are 31st in Completion % (57.5). Word is also that frustrations are boiling over in the locker room, altercations between players are occurring and there has been nothing coming from the front office except that they are “embarrassed” by the incompetence and have no plans to fire Head Coach Vance Joseph after his 1st year. Whatever GM John Elway does decide to do, the numbers speak for themselves. This team has gotten away from him and Joseph since the Broncos started the season 3-1. That seems to indicate bad decision-making and coaching. I can’t wait to see how things shake down after their terrible season comes to a merciful close in 4 weeks.
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