With Sunday’s match-up with the Bills steadily approaching, here are some thoughts on this Saturday from some interesting stories this week, along with some other tidbits heading into their match-up against Buffalo on Sunday.
1) Rams Taking a Page From Brady? – With the Rams sitting at 8-3 on the season, part of the discussion this week has centered around the success of their offense and how effective they’ve been in moving the football and scoring points.
Part of what Los Angeles has been doing seems to involve taking advantage of the communication that quarterbacks and coaches are allotted prior to the snap, where they’re allowed to communicate until there’s 15 seconds remaining on the play clock.
As noted by USA Today earlier this week, the Rams have been aggressive on offense, getting to the line quickly to give themselves more time to evaluate the defense from the sideline. From there, head coach Sean McVay is discussing what to do and helping Jared Goff make the necessary audibles to put their team in the best situation.
It’s been a great strategy, and it’s obviously working. The Rams have won five of their last six games and are putting themselves in terrific position to make a playoff run.
What was interesting about that story is what we learned back in February, which saw Tom Brady discuss this with Peter King in a Podcast following their historic Super Bowl win over the Falcons. King questioned the veteran quarterback, asking him about whether or not he and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels communicate all the way up until the 15-second cutoff and the ways they take advantage of it.
The topic came up as King inquired about a play to Danny Amendola during the game, highlighting how they utilized the time before the communication cutoff, along with the types of things that McDaniels tells him leading up to the snap.
“I don’t remember exactly…because there were a lot of times where [he said] ‘Get them in this formation’, ‘Could be man coverage’, when he sees the corner go inside. ‘You have one-on-one outside’, things like that, which is a great thing to do,” Brady told King. “Part of the advantage of going fast is the coach-to-quarterback communication. So I don’t remember exactly what happened on that play, other than i think he obviously said, ‘Don’t forget about Danny’, or ‘Danny’s got a great shot on this’, something like that.”
That mention gave some insight into how the offense operates, and it highlighted the benefit of speeding things up by going no-huddle. That interview happened to reveal that it allows for two perspectives leading up to a play, which certainly provides an advantage to be able to put themselves in the best situation before the snap.
Here in New England it’s no secret there have been plenty of fans around the league who question what makes the Patriots so great. However, those of us who follow the team more closely simply realize they’re coached by one of the best in the game in Bill Belichick, who has always seemingly been a fan of taking advantage of every inch the league allows, and they make the most of every single one.
Clearly it works and from what we learned this week, it sounds like the Rams are having success with it as well.
2) Tuesdays Now Have a New Meaning – An article by Nora Princiotti of the Boston Globe on Monday certainly changed the way I now view Tuesdays, as well as the amazing amount of respect and empathy I feel for Patriots left tackle Nate Solder, and his wife, Lexi.
Many fans may have already heard about the horrible news surrounding their son, Hudson, who was diagnosed with kidney cancer as an infant. The two reportedly found a lump in his belly while giving him a bath, which prompted an immediate trip to his pediatrician.
That was when Solder and his wife learned the news, which ultimately turned their world upside down.
For Solder, that was another blow after he himself had already been diagnosed and undergone treatment for testicular cancer. The veteran left tackle ended up with a happy ending for himself, as he was able to beat it. Now he finds himself in a situation most parents fear, with he and Lexi forced to be strong to get through while watching their 2-year old son fight a battle of his own.
Hudson’s illness now requires the young parents to make the trip to Boston every Tuesday, which is an off day for the players. According to Princiotti, the two depart at 6am for a two hour trip so that Hudson can get his treatments. Also joining them is their 7th month old daughter, Charlie, and Lexi told the newspaper that they try and make the best of it.
“We do it all together as a family so when we look back years and years from now we can say we did it and she was there and we were all part of that,” said Lexi.
The worst part about the story is the fact that as of last October, the news appeared to be positive as Hudson’s tumors had shrunk to the point where he no longer needed treatment, just monitoring.
Unfortunately this past September, a routine MRI reportedly showed that all of the tumors in each of his Kidneys had started growing again and he started treatment again on October 3rd.
So for those who may get on Solder for a miscue during the game while wondering why he’s not out there performing flawlessly, the fact he’s out there doing it at all is impressive in itself. And now when you wake up every Tuesday morning, think of how the Solders are spending their day and pray that that their son will one day be able to live a cancer-free life.
Garoppolo will finally start on Sunday in Chicago.
3) It’s Jimmy Time in San Francisco – Jimmy Garoppolo may have only spent just over 60 seconds on the field last weekend against Seattle, but he certainly made the most of it.
Garoppolo came into the game after C.J. Beathard went down with an injury and completed two passes, the final of which was a touchdown pass as time expired. San Francisco was trailing 24-6 before the touchdown, so the game was clearly out of hand at that point. But Garoppolo played like he always did here, giving his all while not just going through the motions.
His touchdown provided a spark in the Bay Area and it was all 49ers fans needed to see from the player they believe will guide them back to their former Glory. It appears they’ll get their first opportunity this week to see Garoppolo spend 60-minutes on the field on the road against the Chicago Bears.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan said this week that they’ve scaled things back offensively heading into Garoppolo’s first start, and said that if there’s anything he’s not comfortable with, they’ll change it.
“He’ll work at it all week and whatever he doesn’t feel comfortable with and he doesn’t get down in these three practices, then we’ll take it out and whatever we’re going with Sunday, he’ll know 100 percent of it,” Shanahan said. “I want him to feel real comfortable going into this game. So, we’ll see how he feels at the end of the week.”
Garoppolo finds himself in a position where how he plays over this final stretch will certainly have an impact on his future. If he plays like he did during his limited time as a starter last season for the Patriots, it will bode well for a team that has been in dire need of a talented and dependable starting quarterback.
For now, Garoppolo admits that he’s not worried about what his future holds and he knows it won’t mean anything unless he plays well this week.
“I’m trying not to think about the future too much,” Garoppolo said. “I’ve learned in the past that when your mind wanders like that, quarterbacking in this league is hard enough. So, when you start thinking about other things you’re going to have a tough time. I think just staying focused on the Bears this week.”
Manning’s time in New York appears to be over. (USA TODAY Images)
4) Manning Situation Makes You Wonder About Brady’s Future – Seeing what happened in New York this week was a harsh reminder that the ending is not always happy when it comes to teams and their aging starting quarterbacks parting ways.
One of the things that obviously comes to mind with Manning’s situation is the fact that it’s hard not to wonder about how the Patriots will eventually handle parting with Brady. That would be hard to imagine, and if what we’ve seen is any indication, it looks like it might hopefully be a while before it reaches that point.
But what’s been interesting here in New England has been the fact that most aging players who have opted to retire, many have done so on their own accord. Players like Troy Brown, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi and Rob Ninkovich are just a few examples of guys who as soon as they felt they couldn’t do it anymore, they hung up their cleats and left with some level of dignity. Even a player like Vince Wilfork, who while he didn’t finish his career in New England, he still went on to play at a relatively high level in Houston while playing a part in that group being one of the best defensive units in the league. Wilfork’s end had a special twist as he had the rare satisfaction of ending his career on the same field he started on, with his final career game coming in a playoff loss for the Texans in January at Gillette Stadium.
With Manning, he’s in a bad situation because he’s on a team that’s been decimated by injuries this season, preventing him from improving off a year where they finished 11-5 before getting blown out 38-13 against the Packers in the Wild Card round last season. At 36-years old and with the team at 2-9, the Giants apparently feel like they’ve already gotten his best, and now they’re ready to move on.
By sitting Manning and putting their immediate future in the hands of Gino Smith or Davis Webb, they’ve now put themselves on a collision course for a divorce from their franchise quarterback this offseason, ending one of the longest remaining current tenures for a starting QB remaining in the NFL, along with ending Manning’s 210 game streak as an NFL starting QB. With that streak coming to an end, it now gives the Chargers Phillip Rivers, who has started 188 straight games, a chance to surpass him.
Change is the only thing that’s consistent in this league and unfortunately, for Manning that’s just how it is and he appears to be a player who will make the offseason a little more interesting by giving it a shot with another franchise.
As for Brady, hopefully he’ll be able to go out the same way that John Elway did, with Elway having walked away after leading Denver to back-to-back Super Bowls. Elway’s situation was a little different, but only because he had taken a bigger beating than Brady and realized his body didn’t have enough left to come back one more time. He wanted to go for three in a row, but didn’t feel he could do it.
Meanwhile, Brady finds himself playing well while putting his team in position to contend for another this season. Hopefully he’ll be able to go out in similar fashion as Elway, while edging out the former Denver QB with a little longer championship streak of his own.
5) NFL Getting Help From Amazon – An interesting note in the New York Times this week revealed that the National Football League will be working with Amazon to try and improve the analysis of the league’s games by using some of the online retail giant’s technology.
According to the newspaper, the NFL, which already uses Amazon’s cloud computing services, is planning on using the company’s advanced machine-learning technology, which recognizes patterns and analyzes data captured during the games. They believe that data will help provide new kinds of statistics for fans as well as help coaches.
Amazon will also reportedly become an official technology sponsor of the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, which already offers some unique stats via their official site.
It makes for an interesting situation and it’s another sign that things are continuing to evolve when it comes to the way we currently consume football. The league has already had plenty of success with their own GamePass service, which has grown and in recent years added coaches film, increasing fan interest in evaluating plays after the game. It’s continued to grow, becoming a popular product that the league claims to have subscription rates in the “six figures”. With a powerful partner like Amazon, for those who are into analysis and breakdowns, this will definitely be a story to keep an eye on to see what additional products they come out with.
Brady’s first quarter numbers have been terrific so far this season.
6) Fast start will be key on Sunday – With the Patriots about to play on the road out in Buffalo, one of the areas that will certainly be important will be for the team to get off to a fast start, which they did when these two met last season in their second meeting.
In that game Tom Brady opened with a first quarter that saw him complete 8-of-11 passes including two touchdowns, as the Patriots went on to build a 24-10 first half lead that they wouldn’t relinquish as they beat the Bills in Buffalo 41-25.
Fortunately, that’s one of the areas where Brady has excelled this season. The first quarter has been his best statistically this season, with the veteran completing 73% of his passes, including 7 touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown more than three incompletions in the opening quarter over his last six games, which included an 11-of-11 performance two weeks ago against Oakland. That essentially means you have to go all the way back to their match-up against the Buccaneers in Week 5 when he missed four passes by starting 8-of-12.
One of the other notable stats is the fact he’s thrown at least one touchdown in the opening quarter over each of the last three games, which was preceded by a stretch where he didn’t throw a first quarter TD in five-straight contests that started in their loss to Carolina in Week 4.
For now with their first game in December looming, the goal is to try and finish strong against a Bills team that will likely be a tough challenge.
“It’s so important,” said Brady when asked about finishing the season off strong. “I think Coach [Bill] Belichick said it best the other day. He said whether you’re 5-5 at this point or 10-0, it really depends on what we do going forward because I was here in 2001 when we were 5-5 and we ended up not losing a game after that.”
“A few years ago we were 10-0 and the season didn’t end very well. I think so much of your season is dependent on how we’re going to do at this point moving forward. We put ourselves in decent position but we’re going to have to go capitalize.”