by Robert Ferringo - 10/18/2005
My esteemed colleague Mike Hayes wrote a story this week for Doc's Sports outlining some facts about backup quarterbacks in the National Football League. He proved to be a soothsayer, because Week 6 saw three backups each play a critical role, for good or ill, in determining their team's fortune.
Tampa Bay was locked in a struggle with visiting Miami, holding a 10-3 lead in the second quarter when Brian Griese's knee got bent back like a Twizzler. Chris Simms, who never met a big spot that he couldn't choke in, entered the game and guided Tampa to a 27-13 win over the Fins. Simms finished 6-for-10 for just 69 yards but did an excellent job by not committing any turnovers and letting Tampa's rushing game and defense take over.
In Detroit, 58-year-old Chris Weinke was thrust into action after Kenoy Kennedy's concussion-causing hit on Jake Delhomme. Visiting Carolina, despite controlling the game, trailed 20-14 with 3:07 to play. Unlike Simms, Weinke couldn't just sit back and not make mistakes - he had to go out and win a game for his team. And he did. Weinke finished 5-for-7 for 47 yards, including a game-winning strike to the venerable Ricky Proehl with 36 seconds remaining.
So we were 2-0 with the backup QB's. Then Tommy Maddox struck.
Maddox was 11-for-28 with 154 yards and three interceptions for Pittsburgh while subbing for injured Ben Roethlisberger, His final pick was returned 41 yards by Jags corner Rashean Mathis for the overtime-ending score. Maddox looked terrible all afternoon, and wasn't even close with most of his throws. But it wasn't a misguided toss that caused the most crippling damage to his club. After Quincy Morgan's 73-yard kickoff return to start OT, Maddox's third-down fumble with Pittsburgh already in field goal range was enough to send my Steelers fanatic friend Rich into a state of shock and self-loathing.
That moment when the backup quarterback is thrust into action - trading headsets for hot reads - can be one of the most harrowing moments in a bettor's weekend. Will they rally the troops, or lead them down the path of doom and destruction? One can never tell. But remember, it's that type of excitement and unpredictability that keeps us coming back for more. And hey, two outta three ain't bad.
Here are my nonsensical ravings on Week 6:
--So far the Lions and the Giants have been the league's top teams against the spread at 4-1 apiece. Cincinnati and Jacksonville are right behind them at 4-1-1. The worst teams? That would be St. Louis at 1-5 and Minnesota at 1-4.
Note: My numbers are based on a combination of lines from USA Today and Bodog.
--The worst penalties in football:
1. Roughing the kicker. No matter when it occurs. Kickers have pads too.
2. Defensive holding or jumping onto a teammate's back during a field goal.
3. Touching the quarterback's helmet. Fifteen yards and a first down for that?
Again, Saints coach Jim Haslett has a legitimate right to bitch. They got jobbed.
--I touched on it in Doc's NFL Power Rankings last week, but I think the biggest reason Denver has been so successful so far this year is because they haven't put Jake Plummer in a position where he has to do too much.
Sunday against New England was a perfect example. Plummer finished 17-for-24 with 262 yards and two touches, with no interceptions. He was 2-for-5 on 3rd down, with only one conversion. But Denver had 12 possessions and 59 plays, and Jake was only in a tough spot five times. That's offensive execution, and it shows a shift in attitude by Mike Shanahan. It also helps when the Broncos are averaging 153 yards with a 4.9 average.
--Seattle demolished the Houston defense for 320 rushing yards on 42 carries. Miami (64), Detroit (51), Carolina (54), Minnesota (80), and Cleveland (70) combined for 319 yards on 104 carries.
Shawn Alexander now has 715 yards and 12 touchdowns in six games. He's on pace for about 1,900 yards and 32 scores. And Seattle was going to trade this guy last summer?
--I think I would pay to see a 100-yard dash between Steve Smith and Santana Moss.
So far this season Moss has 33 catches for 631 yards, four touchdowns, nine plays of 20+ yards and 29 catches for first downs. The player for whom he was traded for, the Jets' Lavernaus Coles, has 26-289-1, with only three catches for 20+ yards and 18 first downs.
--Favorites were 12-2 SU this week (that's counting Carolina as a dog, since the line started with them +1) and finished 10-4 ATS. Home teams were 9-5 SU and ATS. For the season, favorites are 60-28 SU, but just 46-42 ATS. When in doubt, play that money line.
The over was the play in Week 6, as it hit on 10 of 14 games. Ironically, two totals that didn't hit were in games featuring four of the league's top scoring teams (Dallas/New York and San Diego/Oakland). Also, two games (Denver/NE and Carolina/Detroit) covered by just half a point.
--Each week it seems like a new low for Joey Harrington. He had the ball at midfield with 24 seconds left, needing only about 15 yards to give kicker Jason Hanson a chance for the win. Four straight incompletions and another loss. It didn't help that three of the passes were to Glenn Fernandez, a guy who was on the practice squad Saturday morning, but Harrington still got shown up in his house by Chris Weinke.
--The Patriots aren't exactly trying to dissuade Tedy Bruschi because they desperately need him. Just look at their game against Denver - Broncos with the ball, 3:36 to play, Pats down a score. Over their three championships, New England has always managed to come up with a stop in those situations. Instead, Denver easily earned two first downs and ran out the clock.
--The official ruling is that it's okay to watch "Rocky 6" on TV, but you're open to ridicule if you rent it and you're to be publicly flogged if you actually pay to see it in the theater. Seriously, I hope that the theaters showing "6" are actually gas chambers, because anyone who pays eight bucks to see that garbage deserves to be removed from the gene pool.
--I think Carson Palmer is the illegitimate love child of Troy Aikman and Annie Oakley's great-great-great granddaughter. Palmer was 27-for-33 (81 percent) for 272 and two touches. And that's just an average day for this cat.
--Jake Delhomme is starting to look more and more like a poor man's Jake Plummer - money in the clutch, but maybe wouldn't have to pull out so many late-game heroics if he played better in quarters 1-3. I'm just not sure how much I can trust him.
--That USC/Notre Dame game was one of the best college football games I've ever seen. How Matt Leinhart ever completed that fourth-down pass (which was both amazingly accurate and incredibly lucky at the same time) I'll never know.
That game is why we're fans, and it capped an outstanding weekend of college football.
--I'm looking forward to seeing "Jarhead", which is opening this weekend and stars Jamie Foxx and Jake Gyllenhaal. This may be the first time that a movie has come out portraying a war that's still in progress. To the best of my knowledge, works concerning World War II or Vietnam came out after those conflicts had been resolved. If any of you can come up with any examples email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. People haven't even let the dust settle or wounds heal for this one. I'm not saying it's wrong, it's just different.
--Minnesota now has a former FBI employee manning security for the Vikings. Does that mean anal probes for all? Doesn't Mike Tice have to display intelligence before he can partake in counterintelligence?
The Mess in Minnesota is responsible for three road losses by an average of 24.6 points. And they're now 2-23 in their last 25 road games. They looked real sharp a week after the bye too. Try 3-for-16 on third down, with muffed, missed, and blocked field goals crushing their will.
--The Steelers threw the ball 28 times and only ran it 30 (for 73 yards) against the NFL's 29th-ranked rush defense (130 per game). That's nearly a 1:1 ratio with Tommy Maddox. When Big Ben is under center the ratio is still closer to 2:1 run, and Ben the better QB. That's poor play calling.
I know they weren't having too much luck on the ground, but you have to keep pounding. That's what Pitt does. They threw the ball on only 6 of 18 first downs in the first three quarters. That fits. But in the fourth quarter and overtime they threw the ball on 6 of 10 first downs, with Maddox going 3-for-6 for 17 yards. I don't understand it.
--New Orleans is 2-0 ATS in San Antonio, and 1-3 on the road. You know how I feel about betting on the Saints, but these are trends worth monitoring.
--There's no way Sergio Mora beat Peter Manfredo in their Contender rematch. Stuff like that is why boxing blows.
--I hope Cedric Benson is learning something while watching Jones, because TJ was a fucking animal last weekend with 23 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns in a game that no one thought he would play in.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail email@example.com.