Week 7 rewind: Cam can’t do it alone
Where have you gone Cam Newton and the defenses of the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills?
Where have you been Connor Barwin, Chris Johnson and Malcolm Jenkins?
Jon Vilma, Terrell Suggs and Pat Angerer — welcome back.
Fred Davis, Phil Costa, Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert — get well soon.
And as for Eli Manning, he never left.
Here’s my Marvez Rewind looking at the comings and goings during Week 7 of the NFL season:
New York Giants 27, Washington 23: All of Robert Griffin III’s flash couldn’t match the substance that the opposing quarterback almost always provides in crunch time. The 21st fourth-quarter comeback of Manning’s career came in spectacular fashion with a 77-yard strike to Victor Cruz, marking the longest game-winning touchdown inside two minutes of the fourth quarter in Giants history. A Redskins victory was there for the taking, but Washington (3-4) let the Giants (5-2) hang around with four second-half turnovers. The season-ending loss of Fred Davis (Achilles tendon) is brutal for him and the team. Not only did the tight end enter as Washington’s leading receiver, Davis also was in the final year of his contract after playing for the franchise tender of $5.45 million. This scenario is an example of why players despise the franchise tag — a lack of long-term financial security in case of injury. Who knows what Davis’ value in 2013 will be now?
Dallas 19, Carolina 14: One of the few traits Newton didn’t exhibit last season was a penchant for late-game heroics as the Panthers lost six of eight games decided by eight points or less. Not only did that trend continue against the Cowboys, Newton is no longer displaying the earmarks that made him the overwhelming choice as 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He made a horrible decision on a second-quarter pass intercepted in the end zone when the Panthers had second-and-goal at the Cowboys 6-yard line. He couldn’t lead Carolina to a single first down when trailing by two points at home with 3:25 remaining. And considering how disheveled Carolina’s offense appeared for most of the game, the final play was fitting with the Panthers unsuccessfully trying to recreate Stanford-Cal magic with desperation laterals until Newton had one snared by Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware to end the contest. In his defense, Newton isn’t the only problem and the Cowboys (3-3) do field a quality defense. That’s evidenced by the Panthers being forced into trying to convert seven third downs of seven-plus yards (they succeeded once). Even so, this was a must-win game for the Panthers (1-5) to remain a realistic playoff contender. And once again, Newton came up short. General manager Marty Hurney is the one paying a steep price as he was fired by the team on Monday. One piece of bad news for the Cowboys: Phil Costa was carted off the field with a second-quarter ankle injury.
Houston 43, Baltimore 13: This matchup between two teams that entered tied atop the AFC with records of 5-1 was all about defense. Houston was back playing it in dominating fashion; the Ravens were simply dominated again. The Texans proved last Sunday’s 42-24 home loss to Green Bay was an aberration by rebounding in spectacular fashion. This was especially true of cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who was hobbled by a groin injury against the Packers. A healthier Joseph started the Texans rout by returning a Joe Flacco interception 52 yards for a touchdown on a pass that was tipped by — you guessed it — defensive end J.J. Watt. Barwin, who hadn’t registered a sack this season, got his first when tackling Flacco for a safety and was a force throughout. Defensive end Antonio Smith and rookie outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus also had a field day tormenting Flacco, who finished the first half with a ghastly 4.2 quarterback rating. Baltimore’s injury-ravaged defense — which missed so many tackles last Sunday against Dallas that coordinator Dean Pees said it “makes me sick” — looked just as ill as the Texans set a franchise scoring record. The Ravens hadn’t allowed so many points since 2007 before John Harbaugh became head coach. The only uplifting part of Sunday’s contest for Baltimore was the return of outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who exceeded any realistic timetable expectations with his rapid recovery from an offseason Achilles tendon injury. Suggs registered an early sack and played extensively, but not even his presence can make amends for the loss of stalwarts like cornerback Lardarius Webb and linebacker Ray Lewis.
Tennessee 35, Buffalo 34: The Titans (3-4) found the cure for what was ailing Johnson and the NFL’s 32nd-ranked rushing offense — Buffalo’s 32nd-ranked run defense. Johnson, who hadn’t gotten into the end zone in 11 games, was back in 2009 form. He ripped off runs of 83, 27, 25 and 16 yards as part of a 195-yard, two-touchdown performance. The Bills (3-4) weren’t much better stopping the pass with Nate Washington catching Matt Hasselbeck’s game-winning touchdown pass with 1:03 remaining. Bills first-year coordinator Dave Wannstedt is understandably feeling the heat with his defense surrendering 380-plus yards for the fifth time in seven games. But several Bills came to Wannstedt’s defense after the game for not executing his system properly. “You know that at the end of the day it’s not necessarily what’s going on in the scheme,” said Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who is the poster child of the unit’s underachievement. “It’s fitting the gaps. That’s across the board. That’s every player getting in trouble with that. Things could be different.” But they’re not as Buffalo seems headed toward a 13th consecutive season without a playoff appearance.
New Orleans 35, Tampa Bay 28: The Saints hoped Malcolm Jenkins would become the same kind of difference-maker as predecessor Darren Sharper but have only seen flashes from their free safety for two-plus seasons. Another one came in a crucial third-quarter defensive turnaround that helped propel New Orleans (2-4) to victory. Jenkins motored to stop Bucs wide receiver Vincent Jackson just short of the end zone on a 95-yard reception, then helped spearhead a goal-line stop with a third-down tackle on running back LaGarrette Blount. Jenkins led the Saints with nine stops. Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman did shred the Saints for 420 yards and three touchdowns, but those gaudy statistics went for naught because his own secondary played even worse excluding cornerback Ronde Barber’s 30-yard interception return to set up Tampa Bay’s first touchdown. Drew Brees passed for 313 of his 377 yards in the first half. He completed 27 of 37 attempts with four touchdowns to cap the final game of the Aaron Kromer “era.” The interim to the interim head coach, Kromer will return to his role handling the Saints’ offensive line with Joe Vitt set to come off his NFL suspension for involvement in the franchise’s bounty scandal. Speaking of which, Vilma played in his first game since his suspension was upheld pending appeal. Playing primarily in nickel packages, Vilma finished with one pass defensed and one quarterback pressure.
Indianapolis 17, Cleveland 13: This victory wasn’t the only good news Sunday for the Colts as head coach Chuck Pagano, who is battling leukemia, was released from the hospital earlier in the day. As competitive as he is, Pagano surely would have enjoyed his homecoming a little less had Browns rookie Josh Gordon not dropped what could very well have proven the game-winning touchdown with 2:52 remaining. Like with fellow linebackers Vilma and Suggs, Pat Angerer also was playing in his first game since suffering a preseason foot injury. Angerer, who finished fourth in the NFL in tackles last season with 148, played off the bench on a defense that made Cleveland (1-6) one-dimensional by holding the Browns to 55 rushing yards. That was a far cry from last Sunday when Indianapolis (3-3) was gashed for 251 yards by the Jets. The most effective rusher on the field Sunday was Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who had more rushing yards (12) and touchdowns (two) than ailing Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson (8 and none).
New England 29, New York Jets 26 (overtime): Chad Henne isn’t the only former member of the Miami Dolphins who should be considered a goat. Ex-head coach Tony Sparano, who is now New York’s offensive coordinator, did the Jets (3-4) no favors with another round of suspect play-calling and personnel usage. Embodying this is the ineffective use of Tim Tebow to spell quarterback Mark Sanchez, who remains maddeningly inconsistent himself. Don’t let New England’s victory fool you. Championship-caliber teams don’t consistently struggle in the fourth quarter like the Patriots (4-3) have for much of the season.
Minnesota 21, Arizona 14: With the way Arizona’s offensive line is blocking, it won’t take much longer for quarterback John Skelton to join the injured Kevin Kolb (ribs) on the sideline. Skelton was sacked seven times with rookie right tackle Bobby Massie getting drummed by Vikings defensive end Brian Robison (three sacks, three tackles for losses and one forced fumble). Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald deserves better than this. So does the Cardinals defense. Christian Ponder threw for only 58 yards with two interceptions on seven-of-18 passing, marking the second time that Arizona (4-3) lost to a quarterback who didn’t reach double-digit completions. Running back Adrian Peterson saved Ponder’s bacon with a 153-yard, one touchdown rushing performance.
Green Bay 30, St. Louis 20: There are occasions when Aaron Rodgers will be good enough to overcome Green Bay’s ongoing problems rushing the football. This victory was one of those times. Alex Green (20 carries for 35 yards) couldn’t do squat but it didn’t matter with Rodgers picking apart a solid Rams defense in a near-perfect effort (327 yards, three touchdowns, no turnovers). When Rodgers is playing at that level, it’s understandable why Rams head coach Jeff Fisher decided (unsuccessfully) to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Packers 14 early in the second quarter rather than kick the field goal. Two of the young wide receivers in this game — Green Bay’s Randall Cobb (eight catches, two touchdowns) and St. Louis rookie deep threat Chris Givens — are future stars.
Oakland 26, Jacksonville 23 (overtime): Sunday proved even rougher for the Jaguars (1-5) with a triple-whammy. Defending NFL rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew suffered a lower-leg injury that forced him to watch the second half on crutches in a walking boot on the sideline. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert was sidelined with an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. And then the Jaguars lost in overtime largely because backup Chad Henne (9 of 20, 71 yards) was inept in place of Gabbert. The victory doesn’t erase the fact that Oakland’s offensive line frequently looked like five guys who had never met before kickoff. Sebastian Janikowski — who missed what would have been an NFL-record 64-yard field goal attempt on the final play of regulation — redeemed himself with the game-winning 40-yarder after a big-time forced fumble by Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston.
Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 17: Andy Dalton and A.J. Green connected on a touchdown pass for the sixth straight game, but it was the inability of the duo to do much more that led to Cincinnati’s demise. Along with some bracketing help in coverage, Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor smothered Green for most of the night. Taylor did a great job being physical while avoiding the penalties that had marred his season. As the Bengals were being limited to 185 total yards, no other receiver took advantage of the extra attention Green was getting. This includes tight end Jermaine Gresham, an underachiever for not transferring so much physical talent into productivity. The difference in this game was Pittsburgh’s superiority in the passing game and pass defense even without injured free safety Troy Polamalu (calf). Cincinnati’s defensive line isn’t as much of a strength as projected entering the season. Better pass rush would help compensate for ongoing issues in Cincinnati’s secondary. Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has yet to prove a better option than had Cincinnati re-signed Cedric Benson at a much cheaper rate. Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace may not have as many drops the rest of the season as he did Sunday night. Slowly but surely, the Steelers are using more of speedy rookie running back/returner Chris Rainey. Note to Ben Roethlisberger: Did you not understand that Todd Haley is calling all these wide-receiver screens to compensate for the lack of a running game before putting your offensive coordinator in a bad light publically? #dense.