Huddle Up Week 7: Plaxico Burress Emerges As NY Jets’ Redzone Threat by Jason King

 It was a wild and wacky weekend in the NFL.  Plaxico Burress tied a career high with three touchdown catches. The Jets beat the Chargers in a “statement” game for both teams.  Tim Tebow lead a Broncos offense that didn’t score a point in the first 57 minutes Sunday in Miami, then rallying to score 18 unanswered points in eight minutes (3 in regulation and 5 in OT) to beat the winless Dolphins. 

The other two winless teams looked hopeless as the Rams and Colts were beat by a combined score of 96-14.  The Bears and Buccaneers played another ugly game in London. And depending on whom you believe Ndamukong Suh is a dirty player. All of that and more in this week’s Huddle Up.

Rex Ryan and Norv Turner both applied for the San Diego Chargers vacant coaching position in 2007 after Marty Schottenheimer was fired.  As we all know, Turner was hired.  Ryan ended up getting the Jets job in 2009.  On a conference call with reporters, Rex was asked a question about how his career would have been different if he had gotten the Chargers job in 2007.  Of course Rex answered the question the only way he knew how, honestly.  “Well, I think I would have had a couple of rings,” Ryan said with a laugh.  “I’m telling you, those teams were loaded.  There’s no question about it. But things happen for a reason. Obviously, Norv Turner has done a great job there, and A.J. (Smith) and everybody.  That’s a great franchise, and he’s probably the best guy for the job at that time.”

Rex called Turner to clarify his comments but Turner still took a jab back at Rex.  “I hadn’t seen his quote and I was a little bit surprised by the call, and after I saw the quote I didn’t have the chance to ask him this, but I was wondering if he had those rings with the ones he’s guaranteed the last couple of years,” Turner said taking a shot at Rex guaranteeing his Jets would win the Super Bowl the last two years.

All of that just added a subplot to a game that didn’t really need one.  The Jets hung tough with the Chargers on Sunday.  They were down 21-10 at the half and didn’t allow the Chargers to score a point in the second half.  Philip Rivers had a rough day.  He was 16 of 32 with 179 yards passing.  Rivers threw one touchdown pass to Antonio Gates in the second quarter, but had two costly picks in the fourth quarter.  For the season Rivers now has 7 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions.  The first pick wasn’t all Rivers fault.  He tried to hit Vincent Jackson on a slant pattern but the ball hitJackson’s body and deflected right to Darelle Revis.  It was one of the few times the Jets played zone in the game.  Revis returned it 64 yards and the Jets scored a touchdown to take their first lead of the game 24-21.  On the next Chargers possession on another third down play, Rivers tried to hitJacksonover the middle of the field but he was double covered and Kyle Wilson was there for the interception.  The Jets turned that into a field goal which made the score 27-21.  The Chargers got the ball back with no timeouts, and looked like they forgot how to run a two-minute drill.  They turned it over on downs and that was the game.

Credit has to go to the Jets defense for shutting down the Chargers in the second half and forcing turnovers at two critical points in the game.  Philip Rivers hasn’t played well all season and it should worry Chargers fans.  The Chargers have a tough schedule coming up and with the Chiefs playing well and the Raiders getting Carson Palmer, winning the AFC West will be a tough task.

This is what Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum envisioned when they signed Plaxico Burress.  Last season the Jets lose this game.  The reason is simple.  Instead of getting touchdowns in the red zone they would have settled for field goals.

This year New York has Burress who is a great red zone receiver. He caught four passes for 25 yards on Sunday, but he was responsible for all of the Jets touchdowns.  He had touchdowns of 3, 4, and 3 yards.  On third and three from the Chargers 3 yard line the Jets had Burress in the slot.  The Jets were losing 21-17 with about 9 minutes to play in the game.  A field goal wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world, but a touchdown puts pressure on a Chargers offense that hasn’t scored since the second quarter.  Sanchez takes the snap and sees Burress open in the back of the end zone.  Game-winning touchdown.  Chargers CB Antoine Cason tried to jam Burress at the line, but he is so big and strong that he got a pretty clean release and Cason lost his footing.

Santonio Holmes is the deep threat and Burress is the red zone go to guy.  Sanchez and Burress still need to gain better rhythm and continuity but this is a good start.

“Every morning you wake up on Sundays and you want to be great.  I have to let the game come to me.  I think I’ve been forcing it.  But this was them saying, ‘He’s been working hard, we’ll stick with it.’  This is gratifying.”

Burress knows what it’s like playing on the big stage.  He has been to the top of the mountain top in 2007 and at the bottom of the barrel in 2009.  Now Burress is trying to make a Vick-like comeback, from incarcerated to playing at an elite level on Sundays.  That was a good start.

Tim Tebow is becoming the most intriguing person in the NFL and one of the most intriguing figures in sports period.  He has fans that love him, and critics that say he can’t be an NFL starting quarterback.  On Sunday Tebow led the Broncos to an improbable comeback victory.  The Broncos became the first team since 1970 to come from behind and win a game after trailing by 15 or more points with 3 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter.  John Fox, who has coached in 358 games spanning 23 NFL seasons, never had a team recover an onsides kick, until Sunday.

Stats like that are what Tebow fans point to.  They want to forget the numbers, and look at these weird occurrences and the final score.  The Tebow critics will point to the other 57 minutes inMiamion Sunday when Tebow was terrible.  The fact is this: Tebow did enough in the last 8 minutes to lead his team to a victory over the winless Miami Dolphins.  John Elway and John Fox are thrilled with the win but they have to feel uneasy about Tebow as their quarterback.

I will say this: it seems like Tebow brings a certain swagger to the Broncos.  A perfect example is the overtime period.  Champ Bailey, once told that the Dolphins would get the ball first, went over and told Tebow that they would get a stop and get the ball back for the offense.  It seems like everybody plays a little harder when Tebow is in the game.  Players look to and respect him because he isn’t the most talented guy but he plays every play like it’s his last.  He gives 110 percent and the players respect that.  The question is will that translate into winning football games.

Tebow needs to work on three areas that I think will ultimately decide his fate in Denver.  The first is pocket presence.  The Dolphins sacked Tebow seven times on Sunday.  Tebow has to realize that while a sack is the best play sometimes; throwing the ball away isn’t a bad option either.  And most of those sacks were the result of Tebow putting his head down and trying to run.  Which brings us to the second point which is Tebow has to keep his eyes downfield on his receivers.  Tebow would make his reads and once the play broke down and he felt pressure, he would put his head down and scramble.  In situations like that the receivers are taught to run back to the ball and help the quarterback, but Tebow won’t see them if he doesn’t keep his eyes downfield.

The last area of improvement and most important is throwing the ball better.  He needs to continue working on his mechanics.  He also has to stop overthrowing receivers.  Tebow had five overthrows on Sunday including one on a simple screen pass.  Tebow also missed Eric Decker on a downfield throw that if completed would have almost certainly been a touchdown.

We will continue to watch the development of Tim Tebow over the course of this season.  He will be the most scrutinized, criticized, and praised player in the NFL this season.  John Fox and John Elway have a lot of evaluating to do over the next 6 to 8 months.  Do they make the popular decision?  Do they make the best football decision?

Huddle Up

  1. Huge statement the Texans made on Sunday.  Without Andre Johnson and Mario Williams the Texans dominated the Titans on Sunday.  Matt Schaub had a superb day completing 18 of 23 passes for 296 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He wasn’t sacked once in the game.  The Texans also ran the ball effectively piling up 222 yards on the ground.  The Texans outgained the Titans 518 to 148.  That’s right, Wade Philips defense held the Titans to 148 yards of total offense.  The Texans look like a team that is going to be around in January.  If this defense keeps getting better they will be a team nobody wants to face.
  2. The Kansas City Chiefs have turned their season around.  They were outscored 89-10 the first two games of this season.  They lost RB Jamaal Charles, S Eric Berry, and TE Tony Moeaki for the season.  They were more competitive in Week 3 against the Chargers losing 20-17.  Since then they beat Minnesota, Indianapolis, and Oakland to even their record at 3-3. People were writing this team’s obituary.  Now they are only one game behind the Chargers for first place in the division.  Seven of their final ten games are against teams with winning records.  It’s hard to point to one thing as the catalyst of the Chiefs turnaround, but Todd Hailey has to get a lot of the credit.  He got his team to fight when they could have easily quit, especially after the first two losses and the injuries that they have suffered.
  1. Ndamukong Suh is gaining a reputation as a dirty player.  Suh is widely considered one of the best young defensive linemen in the league.  He already has been fined for a preseason hits on Andy Dalton and Colt McCoy.  The Falcons said that Suh called for the trainers to get Matt Ryan off the field after what looked to be a serious leg injury.  Suh said that what happened to Ryan was “karma”.  Suh has to be careful, especially when he gets a title like this.  He is a good young player who plays with the kind of emotion that any coach or GM would want on their team.  The way all of this can be avoided is to just play the game and cut out the talking.  As the old saying goes, “let your game do the talking”.
  2. Were there really 70 players better than DeMarco Murray in the 2011 NFL Draft.  Murray was the 71st player selected in April’s draft.  He had a career game Sunday.  25 carries 253 yards and 1 touchdown.  That is the 10th highest rushing game in NFL history.  He had a beautiful 91 yard touchdown run in the first quarter.  Murray described it best when he said “a bus” could have run through that hole.  Tashard Choice was rumored to be on the trading block before the deadline last week.  The Cowboys didn’t trade him but I’m pretty sure they wish they could turn back the hands of time.  Felix Jones and Choice will have to share the load with Murray.  The Eagles would be wise to game plan for the rookie from Oklahoma.
  3. The NFL needs to stop playing these games in London.  The Bears beat the Buccaneers 24-18 in the annual game across the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday.  It was an ugly game with 15 combined penalties for 123 penalty yards, 6 combined turnovers, and both teams were a combined 2 of 6 in the red zone.  It was a good experiment and now it has run its course.  It is a rigorous trip that the players can’t seem to get use to.  The idea of putting a franchise in London is absolutely absurd.
  4. NFL discipline is a disgrace.  Jim Harbough and Jim Schwartz weren’t fined for their postgame incident.  Troy Polamalu was fined $10,000 for calling his wife on the sideline letting her know that he was ok after experiencing concussion like symptoms.  That seems unfair to me.  Two coaches almost come to blows but don’t even get reprimanded.  Polamalu calls his wife to let her know that he is ok and is 10 grand lighter in the wallet.  Roger Godell needs to do some soul searching because the way he disciplines players leaves a lot to be desired.
  5. Peyton Manning for MVP!  I know every week I’m campaigning for a new MVP candidate but as I have stated since August, Manning is the most important player to his team in the NFL.  Everything finally came to a head Sunday night.  The Colts were beaten by the New Orleans Saints 62-7.  That is the worst loss in the Manning era.  The Colts are guaranteed to have fewer than 10 wins for the first time in 9 seasons.  Those two stats alone would give Manning MVP consideration but if you have watched the Colts you may be inclined to vote Manning MVP unanimously.  The Colts are at an all time low.  I expect the veterans on that team like Reggie Wayne and Dwight Freeney and Coach Jim Caldwell to have this team continue fighting as the season goes along.
  6. The Rams can still be a factor in the NFC West race.  I’m not saying that they can win the division but they will have something to say about who does.  After playing the Saints on Sunday, 6 of the Rams last 9 games are division games.  That can be a good selling point for Steve Spagnola.  If he can get this team playing good football it can build confidence for next season.  A young team like this can take these blowout losses in the first half of the season and turn them into competitive games and possibly even wins.  The flip side of that is that if they don’t play well, it may be time for wholesale changes in St. Louis.
  7. John Beck and Christian Ponder look the best of the first time starters.  There were six quarterbacks starting for the first time on Sunday.  Beck and Ponder were the best of the bunch.  Beck was 22 of 37 for 279 yards.  He had one touchdown and one interception.  He looked to have command of the Redskins offense.  He made good throws and good decisions.  Ponder didn’t have good numbers but he played well.  On the first play of the game, Ponder completed a 72 yard pass to Michael Jenkins.  It was Ponder’s best play of the game.  The Vikings offense was tailored to Ponder’s abilities.  He made some good plays and some typical rookie mistakes.  He will continue learning on the job.  Tim Tebow was the only one of this group to win.
  8. The Ravens offense can’t be as bad as they showed on Monday night.  Josh Scobee was the star of the game Monday night.  If you don’t know he is the Jaguars kicker who made four field goals, three of which were of 50 or more yards.  The Ravens 146 total yards of offense.  They had 34 yards rushing.  Joe Flacco looked like Charlie Whitehurst.  Cam Cameron has to figure out the best way to utilize Flacco.  Ray Rice only had 8 carries.  If Flacco throws the ball 38 times and Rice only carries it 8 times, the Ravens would have trouble beating any team in the NFL.  The defense was stellar as usual, but if the offense doesn’t find an identity the Ravens are in trouble.

 

Jason King is a contributing writer at Taking It to the House and can be reached at jdk2032@yahoo.com

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