First Down, Fourth Down: Chiefs’ mediocrity reaches historic proportions
Romeo Crennel basically parlayed the Chiefs’ Week 15 win over Green Bay last year into Kansas City’s head coaching job. His calm, stoic demeanor was supposed to help that struggling franchise move past the tumultuous Todd Haley era.
Suffice it to say, things are not going well so far.
The Chiefs lost at home to Oakland on Sunday, 26-16, their fourth straight loss. Brady Quinn, who was handed the starting QB job earlier this week, completed all of two passes for one yard before exiting with an injury, bringing Matt Cassel back on the field.
Nothing worked. And nothing has really worked all season.
Kansas City has yet to hold a lead at any point in regulation of any game in 2012 — the Chiefs’ lone win, in Week 3 at New Orleans, came after they rallied to win in overtime. It has been 72 years since an NFL team went through its first seven games without leading a game.
Crennel, as you might expect, already finds himself on the hot seat. GM Scott Pioli, Cassel and any number of Chiefs players are there with him. With each passing game, Kansas City falls further and further behind the rest of the AFC and closer to being one of the league’s all-time worst teams.
And, with that, it’s time to roll through Sunday’s action to find the best (First Down) and worst performances (Fourth Down):
First Down: Vick Ballard’s touchdown leap.
In case you have not watched this play yet, [si_launchNFLPopup video='79e2eaf3ff924283a0e69a25965a16ab']go do it now[/si_launchNFLPopup] — you may not see a better individual effort all season.
The Colts took the ball first in overtime at Tennessee, meaning they needed a touchdown to win the game. Ballard ensured that they got just that. He caught a screen pass from Andrew Luck, dove at the 5-yard line to avoid Tennessee’s Ryan Mouton, flipped onto his back and outstretched the ball across the goal line as he took a hit.
This game flew under the radar, but the Colts chalked up a huge win on that play. They’re now 4-3 and currently tied for the AFC’s two wild-card spots with Pittsburgh and Miami.
Fourth Down: Robert Meachem.
A confession: I tried my darndest to draft Meachem in fantasy leagues this year, believing that he would have a huge season after arriving in San Diego.
Meachem (with his four-year, $26 million contract) has been a total bust — he had all of 12 catches heading into Week 8. And he slipped even further into the abyss Sunday, dropping what appeared to be a certain touchdown pass from Philip Rivers in the fourth quarter … of a game San Diego lost 7-6.
First Down: Titus Young.
Calvin Johnson continues to be a total enigma this season — he let a potential game-winning TD pass slip through his fingers Sunday. Luckily for him, Young and the rest of Detroit’s passing attack picked him up.
Young’s role has increased in the Lions’ offense with Nate Burleson sidelined for the year with a leg injury, and he earned that additional trust against the Seahawks. Young not only finished with a game-high 100 yards receiving, he made a tough catch on 3rd-and-goal in the closing seconds to hand Detroit a much-needed victory.
Fourth Down: St. Louis’ defense.
NFL teams might want to stop playing the Patriots in London. Back in 2009, New England hung a 35-7 loss on Tampa Bay at Wembley Stadium; Sunday, the Rams were on the receiving end of a 45-7 Patriots beatdown.
The Rams are a much-improved team this season, compared to 2011, but the pass defense is in shambles. Aaron Rodgers threw for 342 yards against the Rams in a Green Bay win last week, and Tom Brady hung 304 and four touchdowns on St. Louis Sunday. Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Lloyd had two TD catches each, part of 45 straight Patriots points to answer St. Louis’ opening score.
First Down: Tim Jennings.
The Chicago Bears set a club record Sunday with their sixth interception return for touchdown of the season. It’s Week 8!
The latest defensive heroics came courtesy of Tim Jennings, who picked off a Cam Newton pass, after Steve Smith slipped, and [si_launchNFLPopup video='e084168b1d5945f680a79e27221e16d4']took it to the house[/si_launchNFLPopup]. That play gave the Bears a 20-19 lead in the fourth quarter and came just eight seconds after Jay Cutler hit Kellen Davis for a touchdown. Jennings also had an interception late in the second quarter to kill a Carolina drive.
Fourth Down: Washington’s wide receivers.
Give some credit to the Steelers defense, which played a terrific game Sunday and held Robert Griffin III to eight yards rushing. But the tenor of the Steelers’ 27-12 win might have been different had Redskins’ receivers not dropped 10 passes on the day. Griffin wound up just 16 of 34 through the air. There’s only so much one guy can do, though.
First Down: Matt Moore.
Before his NFL career is done, Matt Moore will get a legit starting shot somewhere. He went 6-6 in a fill-in role last season for Miami, only to lose his job to rookie Ryan Tannehill in 2012.
Moore had to step in for Tannehill against the Jets on Sunday, after Tannehill injured his leg early. Moore finished 11 of 19 for 131 yards and a touchdown, and he helped lead four different Dolphins scoring drives during an emphatic 30-9 victory.
Fourth Down: Green Bay (for three quarters).
The Packers’ bye falls on Week 10, and there may not be a team in the NFL that needs a few days off more than Green Bay. Playing without Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Charles Woodson and so on, the Packers looked extremely lethargic for three quarters against an abysmal Jacksonville team. They managed to turn it on a bit in the final 15 minutes to pull away for a 24-15 win, but Aaron Rodgers’ stat line (186 yards passing, his lowest total in a full game since Oct. 31, 2010) tells you all you need to know about what a struggle this was.
First Down: Stevie Brown.
Brown was the 251st overall pick in the 2010 draft and has been let go by the Raiders, Panthers and Colts in his brief career. He has found a home with the Giants, though, and he stepped up again Sunday in a 29-24 win over the Cowboys.
Brown had three interceptions and a fumble recovery over New York’s first seven games. He nearly matched those numbers in Week 8, recovering a fumble and [si_launchNFLPopup video='5180efd545e24bd08010c745754428a3']picked off two Tony Romo passes[/si_launchNFLPopup]. His first two plays led to six Giants points, while his late INT of Romo on a 4th-and-1 helped seal a New York victory.
Fourth Down: The Eagles’ playmakers.
Maybe benching Michael Vick would solve Philadelphia’s problems. Whatever is wrong, the Eagles just cannot come up with big plays when they need them. And Sunday, they could not find any big plays, period. Their longest play from scrimmage in a 30-17 loss to Atlanta was a 32-yard Vick-to-DeSean Jackson pass. Nothing else topped 16 yards — LeSean McCoy’s longest run accumulated just 10 yards, and he finished with a mere 45 yards on 16 carries. For a team with the types of athletes Philadelphia has, the home-run threat should be higher.