Analysis: Let’s light up those million-dollar scoreboards
Tony Dungy seemed to be in pain during NBC’s pregame show Sunday night when he pleaded: “Play some fundamental defense, please.”
Sorry Tony, not this season. At least not yet.
Oh, the Rams and Giants didn’t make the scoreboard explode in the 17-9 Los Angeles victory. Indianapolis, the franchise Dungy led to a Super Bowl title, and Chicago did their parts as the Colts won 19-11. That’s two out of 11 afternoon games, and with both the Giants and Bears, it was ineptitude on offense more than stingy defense that kept the numbers sane.
Otherwise, it was a points free for all — again.
“We can score points when we need to,” said Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield after a 49-38 win at Dallas.
Seems like nearly everyone can.
Much of the Week 4 scoreboard had winning scores beginning with a 3 and totals beginning with a 5. Or a 6. Or, in Cleveland-Dallas, an 8 — as in 87 as the Browns won 49-38.
Seattle won 31-23 at Miami. The Seahawks have scored 30 or more points in four consecutive games for the first time since 2015.
All of that this weekend is without Kansas City, Atlanta and Green Bay taking the field. The Packers already are the first team in NFL history to have at least 35 points and no turnovers in each of their first three games. They face the Falcons’ potent offense — and sieve of a defense — on Monday night.
We all know what Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl champion Chiefs are capable of; they play Monday night against New England, whose quarterback, Cam Newton, tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Browns (3-1) brought in Kevin Stefanski to bolster their offense and change their culture. Cleveland’s new coach has unleashed a dynamic, if inconsistent, attack on three opponents who have combined for a total of three wins.
“We are four games into this. We are at the quarter mark,” he said. “We are finding different ways to win, which I think is important because there are some really good opponents out there and they run different styles of defense. We are going to have to attack them in different ways.”
Different ways, same ways, offenses are running rampant.
“We have said that it is pick your poison on what you want to defend,” Mayfield added, “so getting everybody involved, they can’t key in on one certain guy. That is big time for us.”
There’s even some aged poison for defenses out there: a couple of forty-something quarterbacks named Brady and Brees who tore apart the Chargers and Lions, respectively.
Despite a Pick-6, Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady threw for 369 yards and five touchdowns to five receivers, none named Gronkowski. Drew Brees saw his Saints fall behind 14-0 before leading them to five straight touchdowns.
“Drew was outstanding,” coach Sean Payton said. “We had them guessing for most of the first half of the game. Our guys up front did a really good job at the line of scrimmage.”
Just like nearly every offense in the league.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who should know something about moving the ball and scoring points given his background as an offensive guru, saw it firsthand in Buffalo’s 30-23 victory in Las Vegas. The Bills, a defense-first team in recent years, have scored at least 27 points every game and 30 or more the last three outings, all victories.
“You watch Buffalo’s offense, they do a lot,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “The quarterback (Josh Allen) can complete passes left-handed. The guy’s a beast standing back there. They got a pretty good attack.”
Boosting many of those proficient attacks are some pitiful defenses. Yes, it makes for excitement, humongous stats and lots of happy fantasy football players. It doesn’t make for impressive football, unless you prefer the flag type of game.
Maybe that’s where the NFL is headed considering how poorly teams are tackling; the lack of offseason training and a preseason contributes, of course. If you have any doubt, watch a Cowboys game. Actually, it might take only one series before nausea sets in — as it probably already has for new Dallas coach Mike McCarthy.
Dallas allowed a franchise-record 307 yards rushing i n the loss to Cleveland and became the first team since the Raiders in 2012 to allow 38 or more points three games in a row in the same season.
“The points are outrageous, the time of possession is totally lopsided, and we’re minus-7 in the turnover ratio,” he said. “That’s not a winning formula.”
Not even in flag football, Mike.
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