Week 8 rewind: Seats grow hotter
No NFL head coach has been fired eight weeks into the regular season.
That may soon be changing.
San Diego’s Norv Turner, Philadelphia’s Andy Reid, Kansas City’s Romeo Crennel, Carolina’s Ron Rivera and Rex Ryan of the New York Jets did nothing to help their job security with losses ranging from heart-breakers to routs. Here’s a look at the future of all five as well as the rest of Sunday’s games in my FOXSports.com Marvez Rewind:
Cleveland 7, San Diego 6: #FireNorv trended on Twitter following San Diego’s third straight loss. If the Chargers (3-4) fall again Thursday night against lowly Kansas City, will those disgruntled Bolts fans get their wish? Through the good and bad of his first seasons in San Diego, Turner fielded offenses that ranked in the NFL’s top five in scoring. Now, even Turner’s area of expertise is starting to go awry. The Chargers have gone six quarters without scoring a touchdown, failing to get into the end zone Sunday against Cleveland’s 26th-ranked defense. All of this wasn’t Turner’s fault. Wide receiver Robert Meachem dropped a sure touchdown pass. Ryan Mathews continued his penchant for fumbling by losing another one. And the rainy conditions contributed to Philip Rivers posting his lowest completion percentage (52.9) of the season. But the buck has to stop somewhere. The good news for Turner is that Kansas City (1-6) is struggling even more than the Chargers. In fact, it’s fair to wonder whether the same win-or-else vibe Thursday night applies to Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli considering how badly the 2012 campaign has spiraled out of control for the Chiefs.
Oakland 26, Kansas City 16: Crennel is the AFC’s oldest head coach at 65 years old, but even he wasn’t alive the last time a team had gotten this far into the regular season without holding a lead in regulation. The 2012 Chiefs have become the first squad to achieve that pitiful distinction since 1940. The Brady Quinn experiment at quarterback ended when he suffered a first-quarter concussion. That led to a re-appearance by Matt Cassel, whose penchant for turnovers continued with two more of them. Kansas City’s ineptitude extended to defense and special teams in another embarrassing home loss. As for Oakland, Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer has looked increasingly comfortable when rolling outside the pocket and is finally starting to build some continuity with his wide receivers, particularly Denarius Moore (five catches for 96 yards and one touchdown), even though they dropped four of his passes. Outside linebacker Phillip Wheeler (11 tackles, one sack) was a nice offseason addition by new Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.
Chicago 23, Carolina 22: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera told the Charlotte Observer that, like general manager Marty Hurney last week, he expects to get fired if his team is “not trending up” by season’s end. Losses like Sunday’s that dropped Carolina to 1-6 do not help Rivera’s cause. The Panthers dominated the Bears (6-1) for the first three quarters, especially in stopping Chicago’s passing game, before squandering a 12-point lead in the final 6:52. Cam Newton’s nightmarish second NFL season continued when an overthrown pass to Steve Smith was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Bears cornerback Tim Jennings, giving Chicago the lead. When the Panthers did go back ahead with 2:27 left, the defense couldn’t stop Chicago from driving for Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal. Should Rivera get canned, the top priority for Panthers ownership must be getting a head coach with a plan to get Newton back on track. Jenning’s interception marked the sixth returned by Chicago for a touchdown, which is an NFL record for this point in the season.
Atlanta 30, Philadelphia 17: Congratulations to Atlanta (7-0) for remaining the NFL’s only undefeated team, but that storyline was secondary to the mess continuing to unfold in Philadelphia (3-4). In his 13-plus years with the Eagles, Reid had never fired a staff member during the season until the recent canning of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Another first: Reid had never lost after a bye week until Sunday’s debacle. The Eagles actually surrendered a season-high in points under new coordinator Todd Bowles, whose tweaks did nothing to stop Matt Ryan from picking the unit apart in a 22-of-29, three-touchdown outing. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick indicated afterward that Reid’s next major change may come at his position. Vick didn’t commit a turnover for the first time in a game this season, but the Eagles couldn’t keep pace with the Falcons. Is it realistic to think that rookie Nick Foles could fare any better? It isn’t like Reid is in a position where he’s personally building for the future after having failed to win a Super Bowl over such a long coaching tenure. Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said before the season that an 8-8 record wouldn’t be acceptable. Reid, who himself described Sunday’s defeat as “embarrassing,” is now four losses away from finishing .500 or worse with nine games remaining — provided he makes it to the end of the season.
Miami 30, New York Jets 9: If Ryan’s days as New York’s head coach are winding down, a rotten performance like Sunday’s will be one of the reasons. The Jets were thoroughly outplayed from the game’s onset in every facet, even with the Dolphins forced to use backup quarterback Matt Moore after an early quadriceps injury to rookie starter Ryan Tannehill. The Jets’ inability to back their pre-game trash-talking added to the demoralizing nature of this loss. Ryan’s decision to hire ex-Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano as his offensive coordinator looks worse by the week. Miami’s Joe Philbin should generate early buzz as an NFL Coach of the Year candidate for the dramatic turnaround the Dolphins are experiencing. Who’d have thought entering the season that next Sunday’s game between Miami (4-3) and Indianapolis (4-3) would have playoff implications?
New York Giants 29, Dallas 24: The Cowboys’ season was encapsulated in this game. They looked horrible when falling behind 23-0. They looked great when roaring back to take a 24-23 lead. And then just like when they had a chance to defeat Baltimore two weeks ago, the Cowboys (3-4) couldn’t get the job done in the waning seconds when wide receiver Dez Bryant’s hand barely touched out on what would have been the game-winning touchdown catch. The Cowboys probably wouldn’t have needed last-second heroics had they not committed five turnovers earlier. Giants safety Stevie Brown, who I profiled in this FOXSports.com America’s Game of the Week preview story, had two interceptions and a fumble recovery to help New York’s secondary compensate for allowing three Cowboys receivers to post 100-yard games. That includes tight end Jason Witten, who set a franchise record with 18 receptions for 167 yards. New York (6-2) improved to 4-0 in games played inside Dallas Cowboys Stadium.
Indianapolis 19, Tennessee 13 (overtime): Vick Ballard > Michael Vick. The Colts running back made the kind of dynamic play we once saw from the beleaguered Eagles quarterback with his twisting dive to the pylon for the game-winning touchdown. The score came on a throw-back screen by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, who survived a fierce Titans pass rush to complete 26 of 38 passes for 286 yards. Jake Locker is unquestionably Tennessee’s quarterback of the future, but that doesn’t mean he should be starting in the present as long as the Titans (3-5) are in the playoff hunt. The offense has clicked far better under Matt Hasselbeck in the past two games than at any point previously under Locker, who suffered a shoulder injury in Week 4.
Green Bay 24, Jacksonville 15: Entering as a 16-point underdog, the Jaguars (1-6) appeared far more motivated to play than Green Bay (5-3). It didn’t matter. Even with Jacksonville’s defense having its best showing of the season, the Jaguars didn’t have the offensive juice to keep pace after fizzling in the second half. Jacksonville’s coaching staff should be second-guessed for some questionable decisions. The Jaguars attempted a two-point conversion at the end of the first half with the score 14-12 (it failed) and called a quarterback sneak with Blaine Gabbert, who is playing with an injured left (non-throwing) shoulder. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon’s underwhelming rookie season continues. With a touchdown catch Sunday as an eligible receiver, offensive lineman Guy Whimper has gotten into the end zone more times than the No. 5 overall pick in last April’s draft. It was good to see that 37-year-old Donald Driver still had the hops to perform a nice Lambeau Leap after scoring Green Bay’s final touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Detroit 28, Seattle 24: Matthew Stafford threw a first-half touchdown pass for the first time this season, but the Lions (3-4) remain at their best in the fourth quarter. The NFL’s most prolific offense in the final 15 minutes struck again Sunday with Titus Young Sr. catching Stafford’s game-winning touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining. The Lions have now scored 58.4 percent of all their points (94 of 161) in the fourth quarter. Young (nine catches for 100 yards, two touchdowns) and tight end Brandon Pettigrew (7-74) were this week’s beneficiaries of the extra attention defenses are giving to wide receiver Calvin Johnson. “Megatron” has caught three passes in each of Detroit’s past two contests. That marks his lowest two-game total since Weeks 13 and 14 of the 2010 season. The Seahawks (4-4) have now lost three of four games on the road. All of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson’s eight interceptions have come in those contests.
New England 45, St. Louis 7: Rams head coach Jeff Fisher should feel fortunate the Patriots aren’t in his division. When he was head coach in Tennessee, New England outscored the Titans by a combined margin of 109-23. The abuse continued Sunday with the Patriots fielding the triumvirate of a 300-yard passer (Tom Brady), 100-yard rusher (Stevan Ridley) and 100-yard receiver (Rob Gronkowski). After surrendering just 33 combined points during a three-game stretch in Weeks 4-6, the Rams (3-5) have now allowed 75 in losses to Green Bay and New England. The Patriots (5-3) made NFL history in Sunday’s blowout by becoming the first team to ever produce at least 350 yards of offense in 17 consecutive games. Gronkowski’s incorporation of the Queen’s Guard into his touchdown celebration was a nice homage to the NFL’s return to London. With touchdown catches in four consecutive games, New England’s Brandon Lloyd is everything Chad Johnson wasn’t in 2011.
Pittsburgh 27, Washington 12: The words “fast” and “Jonathan Dwyer” won’t appear together in too many sentences. But the plodding Dwyer has become the first Steelers running back to post consecutive 100-yard games since “Fast” Willie Parker in 2008. No NFL quarterback is quicker than Washington’s Robert Griffin III, but the Steelers limited him to his lowest passing (177 yards) and rushing (8) totals since a Week 5 loss to Atlanta. Running back Alfred Morris (59 yards) also was held in check by a Steelers defense that has hit its stride in the past two games. Washington’s defense was able to compensate for injuries earlier this season by forcing turnovers. The Redskins didn’t generate any Sunday while getting picked apart by Dwyer and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw three touchdowns in a 24-of-33, 222-yard performance. That may have contributed to the frustration of Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who was ejected late in the game after crossing the line in an argument with a game official.
Denver 34, New Orleans 14: Yup, Peyton Manning is back from a career-threatening neck injury. So let’s start stop talking about the past and focus on what’s ahead for him and Denver. Specifically, are the Broncos (4-3) a legitimate Super Bowl contender? There are indications this may not be far-fetched despite an uneven start to the 2012 campaign. The Broncos have the NFL’s lowest strength of schedule remaining after having to face a murder’s row in the first six contests. Manning improves each week and his third-quarter touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas had pre-surgery zip. Defenses like the Saints’ that try to counter with nickel personnel risk getting gouged by an underrated Broncos running game with Willis McGahee and Ronnie Hillman that produced more than 220 yards Sunday night. Defensively, the Broncos are hit and miss so far. Against New Orleans (2-5), they were a Beyonce-caliber smash. Returning Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt was right: He isn’t a “miracle worker.” The defense is leaking at a record-setting pace, becoming the first unit to allow more than 400 yards in seven consecutive games. There’s also no parting of the Red Sea in the Saints’ running game for Mark Ingram, who is well on his way to “bust” status 1-1/2 seasons into his NFL career.