By Justin Henry (@cynicjrh)
NFC Witch of East-wick
And nine turnovers later, the Philadelphia Eagles are alone in first place in the NFC East.
The Eagles are the first team since 1983 (the then-Los Angeles Rams) to have at least nine cough-ups over their first two games, and still be 2-0. Michael Vick’s six interceptions top the four chucked by Vince Ferragamo in his two unlikely victories, but Vick made up for his errors with two ice-water-laden fourth quarter comebacks.
Eli Manning, meanwhile, not only shook off an opening night loss to the Cowboys, but also a daunting 27-13 hole against Tampa Bay to improve his team to 1-1. In the game, Manning threw for a career best 510 yards in the comeback.
All was not well for Dallas and Washington, however. The Cowboys celebrated winning the first game of the 2012 season, as well as 11 days off, by letting the Seattle Seahawks walk all over them.
The Redskins, meanwhile, lost a tough one to the St. Louis Rams, after wide receiver Josh Morgan’s temper got the best of him.
1. Eli Joins the 500 Club Via Monstrous Fourth Quarter
Counting the postseason, Eli Manning has played 133 career games. Before Sunday, Manning had only thrown for more than 400 yards passing 3 times, and all 3 games were in 2011. His peak performance was on October 9 of last year, when he threw for 420 yards in a loss to Seattle.
Manning topped that career best by 90 yards on Sunday, throwing for 510 in a comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 41-34.
Manning’s performance is tied for eighth place all time in single-game performances with a 2006 output from Drew Brees. The all time record belongs to Norm Van Brocklin, who chucked a staggering 554 yards in 1951 for the Rams. The closest since then was a 527 yard performance by Warren Moon in 1990.
Making Manning’s output more impressive is the fact that nearly half of it (243 yards) came in the fourth quarter. Eli’s totals for the first three quarters were 96, 119, and 52 yards respectively, before coming from behind in the final 15 minutes (Tampa Bay was up 27-16 going into the fourth).
Aiding the Giants incredible fourth quarter comeback were 2 long touchdown passes to Victor Cruz (80 yards) and Martellus Bennett (33 yards), as well as a 50 yard completion to Hakeem Nicks. The Giants were also 2 for 3 on third downs in the fourth, after going 3 for 10 in the first three quarters (Cruz’ long bomb of a touchdown came on third and two).
By comparison, against Dallas on opening night, Manning only threw for 48 yards passing and a touchdown in the fourth quarter. In addition, the reigning Super Bowl MVP threw five incompletions, and the Giants were 1 for 4 on third down.
In addition, the Giants only possessed the ball for 4:58 in that quarter, thanks to two long Cowboys touchdown drives (as opposed to the 6:42 against Tampa Bay, which led to three quick touchdown drives).
2. Nicks and Cruz Formidable Once More
If you’re fortunate enough to have drafted Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks for the same team in one of your fantasy leagues, may I be the first to congratulate you on your victory this week.
Despite a combined fantasy projection of 18 points (10 for Cruz, 8 for Nicks), the duo put up a combined 378 receiving yards (199 for Nicks, 179 for Cruz), and one touchdown apiece in the Giants’ shootout victory.
Those 378 yards set a record combined total for Cruz and Nicks in their young careers, topping the 265 combined yards achieved against Arizona last season (162 for Nicks, 98 for Cruz)
For his part, Nicks’ 199 yards are the fourth most for a single game since 1960 for the Giants, behind Del Shofner (269, 1962), Plaxico Burress (204, 2005), and Amani Toomer (204, 2002).
The impressive dual performance comes on the heels of Cruz’s lackluster opening night showing, in which he caught 6 balls for 58 yards, but notably dropped 3 passes in the Giants’ loss. Nicks was more under the radar, hauling in 4 throws and 38 yards.
Although Eli Manning couldn’t top Phil Simms’ Giants record for passing yards in one game (513), Cruz and Nicks topped Simms’ top two receivers. Mark Bavaro and Lionel Manuel combined for 287 yards on 20 catches, but neither had a touchdown. The Giants also lost that game 35-30.
3. If Not For Turnovers, Eagles Dominate Ravens
Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles committed 4 turnovers against Baltimore in their home opener. Yes, they needed a touchdown from Michael Vick with under two minutes to go to take the lead and, ultimately, win the game 24-23.
When you get past the fact that Philadelphia used another layer of skin on their teeth to win this game (after leaving one layer sprawled across 91 yards of real estate in Cleveland last Sunday), the Eagles absolutely dominated a Ravens team that some will say is a Super Bowl contender.
Look at the facts: three of the Eagles turnovers took place in the red zone, meaning Philadelphia could have had anywhere from 9 to 21 points if not for bad luck and poor decisions. A 33-23 victory? How about 45-23? Maybe the Eagles were only a 3 point favorite after Vegas remembered their proclivity toward coughing up the ball.
For the game, Philadelphia was 7 for 15 on third down (46.7 percent, up from 42.1 percent last week (8 for 19). Baltimore was relegated to going just 4 for 14 (28.6 percent), down from an equally unimpressive 3 for 9 against Cincinnati (33.3 percent).
Ray Rice may have ran for 99 yards on 16 carries (6.2 YPA), but take away a 43 yarder in the second quarter, and you’re down to 3.7 a carry. 9 of those carries came in the second half for a measly 21 yards (2.3 YPA), so the Eagles defense clamped down.
Speaking of clamping down, despite having a 17-7 halftime lead, Baltimore withered in the second half, scoring on just two field goals, and turning the ball over on an interception by DeMeco Ryans.
Joe Flacco in the first half: 14 for 17, 92 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 108.8 passer rating.
Joe Flacco in the second half: 8 for 25, 140 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 35.4 passer rating.
Anyone who says the Eagles got lucky should look at it this way: it’s not like Baltimore did much in that second half to deserve the win.
4. Dallas Gets Run Down
Oh, the perils of being behind early.
A blocked punt for a touchdown, an interception, and efficient ball control by the Seattle Seahawks all played a big part in their 27-7 pasting of the Cowboys, who had 11 days off after kicking off the 2012 season with a victory over the Giants.
Prior to Russell Wilson’s touchdown pass to Anthony McCoy with about five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Dallas’ DeMarco Murray had only run the ball nine times, but for a respectable 36 yards. After McCoy’s score, Dallas was down 20-7, and only ran Murray three times after that, picking up 8 on the ground.
Contrast this to the Cowboys-Seahawks meeting in November of last year, when Murray ran wild on a solid Seahawks D with 139 yards on 22 carries (6.3 YPA). Dallas would win that game 23-13.
Marshawn Lynch played up to his general “beast mode” standards in that game (23/135/5.9 YPA, and a touchdown), but unlike Murray, he carried that greatness over to this year’s battle.
That Cowboys defense that relegated New York to 82 total yards on the ground was horse-whipped by Lynch’s Tasmanian Devil act. The Skittles-fueled malcontent ran for 122 yards on 26 carries (4.7 YPA) and a rub-it-in touchdown in the fourth.
Seattle was also confident enough to run 15 other times with quarterback Russell Wilson, and running backs Leon Washington, Robert Turbin, and Michael Robinson. Together, they added 60 yards to Dallas’ immolative bonfire.
For a team that handled the World Champions with relative ease on September 5, Dallas looked awfully one-dimensional in their ensuing outing.
5. Redskins Undone by Lack of Discipline, Efficiency
Robert Griffin III gets his first NFL loss not with humbling dominance, but a rookie mistake by Josh Morgan, who should know better.
Down 31-28 in the fourth quarter, Griffin completed a pass to Morgan to the Rams’ 29 yard line to set up a tying field goal. Morgan would undo that favorable position by gunning the ball right at cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who’s known for using his abrasive attitude to make opponents lose their cool. The throw cost Washington 15 yards, and Billy Cundiff missed the ensuing 62 yard field goal to give the Rams the victory.
Sure, one can blame Morgan’s faux pas for the loss, but Washington, much like their aforementioned Beltway rivals in the Ravens, didn’t exactly play a stellar second half.
|Time Frame (Score)||RG3's Passing Numbers||Penalties (Yards)||3rd Down Efficiency|
|1st Half (21-16 WAS)||8/11, 113 yards, TD pass||4 (36 yards)||3/7|
|3rd Quarter (28-23 WAS)||4/5, 37 yards||3 (15 yards)||1/2|
|4th Quarter (31-28 STL)||8/13, 56 yards||4 (45 yards)||0/4|
So seven penalties for 60 yards in the second half, plus going 1/6 on third down? Averaging less than 8 yards a completion in the second half after averaging over a 14 a catch in the first 30 minutes? The lone second-half score by Washington was a 7 yard dart by Griffin himself in the third quarter, after putting up triple that point total in the first half.
Media outlets may damn Morgan tomorrow and through the week, but had the Redskins dug their heels in and outplayed St. Louis down the stretch, Josh Morgan never would have been in position to get rattled by Finnegan's mouth.