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CFB week six: Beasley ties record, thoughts on Brett Hundley

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Vic Beasley has 28 sacks in his last 25 games — tying a Clemson record. The 28th was a sack, strip, touchdown (see above). He explodes off the edge, coasts past the tight end and makes a huge play. Beasley is well known but remains underrated purely due to a lack of brilliant size. In terms of a speed rusher, he’s a fine prospect who certainly warrants top-15 consideration. Look at the production. He’s not going to set the edge and play dominant run-D. He’s not going to line-up inside in nickel. He’s just a flat-out speed rusher off the edge. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Of all the top ranked pass rushers eligible for the 2015 draft, Beasley remains the most intriguing right now. Nobody has his get-off, speed to round the edge and lean/balance. He can use his hands when he needs to. He’s a big-time competitor. He’ll make a ton of money at the combine. Expect a split in the 1.5 range and a very fast forty time.

He lacks bulk and length. Ideally you’d like to see longer arms and the ability to add weight. Marcus Smith was long and looked like he could add 10lbs — he went in round one to the Eagles. Beasley shouldn’t try to add too much weight and he has shorter arms. But he’s incredibly fast. Difference making fast. He’s on a different speed level compared to Smith.

At the end of the day you can’t ignore the production. 28 sacks in 25 games — seven in total in 2014. At the next level he can be productive in passing situations and on third down. Any team needing a speed rusher will have a long hard look at Beasley.

Brett Hundley is not a first round pick

Draft pundits are desperate to force quarterbacks into the first round debate. It happens every year. Every season we see mid-round QB’s getting hyped up. I guess it helps fill out a pointless October mock draft.

This year UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Michigan State’s Connor Cook are getting the hype treatment. Cook is a very average prospect. He’s not particularly elusive or a threat to run. He doesn’t have a big arm. His decision making in the pocket is inconsistent. He’ll force throws and make mistakes. The Oregon tape was hit and miss. Where’s the first round appeal?

Against Nebraska he completed just 11/29 passing and threw a pick and a score. Eleven completions at the college level?

The league is hopefully learning from Minnesota’s error in drafting Christian Ponder in the first round in 2011 — a pick that looked hopeless at the time. Average college quarterbacks lacking tilt-the-field ability are wasted picks.

Hundley is a different case. He has some arm talent. The problem, however, is he’s so lacking in terms of pocket awareness. He takes an age to get the ball out. He’s gun-shy and unwilling to pull the trigger. He constantly hesitates looking for a wide open target. It’s the main reason why he’s been sacked over 100 (!!!) times at UCLA.

Yes, he’s playing behind a poor offensive line. There aren’t many ‘dirt bags’ blocking for Jim Mora. But it’s no excuse and last night’s Utah game was a prime example. Hundley was sacked ten times and several could’ve been avoided.

On the sixth sack of the night he was supposed to fire a quick throw to the outside after a three step drop. His footwork was appalling — it took him far too long to complete the drop and set. He had the single coverage he wanted but still pumped the ball anyway and absorbed the sack. Everything about this play has to be sharp. Drop, set, throw. Hundley made it look so laboured and it’s a really simple concept.

There were various other examples where Hundley’s basic technique let him down — but he also has a really bad habit of holding onto the ball far too long. He locks onto his first read and lingers. He’s not progressing through reads and at the nearest sign of pressure the eyes drop and he’s trying to scramble. He’s not going to be getting overly complicated defensive looks in the PAC-12 and even still — he’s finding it hard to make quick decisions. At the next level he’s going to need to read plays a heck of a lot better — and he’s going to have to be much more decisive to go with the technical improvements he’ll have to make (footwork is vital).

The frustrating thing is he had two throws in the game that really wowed. The first was a lazer between two DB’s to the right sideline. Perfect placement, arm strength and touch. He scored a late touchdown to put UCLA ahead (they were eventually beaten) that looked equally pretty. Yet these are offset by the issues. He conceded a terrible pick six lofting an attempted screen pass straight to the DB. Again — he’s not reading the situation. The screen wasn’t on, Utah had the play covered. He needed to improvise or throw it out of bounds. Instead he just lobbed it straight to a defender who gladly accepted the pick and the touchdown. It’s not good enough.

You can’t invest in Hundley as a potential franchise quarterback. For me he’s a mid-round development pick who needs to sit and learn behind a veteran, accomplished starter. He will struggle like crazy if he’s challenged to start quickly. It’ll be car crash.

Right now it wouldn’t be a major surprise if Marcus Mariota went first overall and we didn’t see another QB taken in the first round. Jameis Winston’s laundry list of off-field incidents will be a major cause for concern — so much so you wonder if he’ll even declare for next years draft. This is only his second season as a starter, after all. He’s a redshirt sophomore. As things stand — Cook, Hundley and the rest don’t warrant first round consideration.

Other notes:

— Kevin White (WR, West Virginia) equalled Steadman Bailey’s WVU record with a sixth straight 100-yard game. White had six catches for 132 yards in a win over Kansas, including one touchdown grab. He leads the NCAA for passing yards after a relatively ineffective day for Alabama’s Amari Cooper at Ole Miss.

— Whatever happens to Georgia down the stretch, Todd Gurley should win the Heisman. He’s the best player in college football this year and should be a first round pick in 2015 — even as a running back. Melvin Gordon (WR, Wisconsin) also has a great shot of getting in round one. It’s hard to imagine any other RB’s cracking day one, including T.J. Yeldon and Jay Ajayi.

— Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor) is going to be a top-ten pick if he tests as expected at the combine. In one play against Texas he shed the left tackle, destroyed the running back and made a huge sack. Height, length, power, speed. Oakman is a beast and will go a lot earlier than some are currently projecting.

NFL draft prospects who’ve started well in 2014

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
Nothing has changed here — he will be the #1 pick in 2015. He’s yet to throw an interception this season, he’s showing technical progression and he has the potential to be Kaepernick-plus. It’s hard to imagine the team picking first overall passing on Mariota. Why would you? He’s the real deal.

Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
He’s an athletic playmaker and the perfect compliment to Oklahoma’s pro-ready D-line. The Sooners have plenty of beef up front and Striker flies around. He rushes the passer from the edge, he moves sideline-to-sideline. He just makes plays. He doesn’t have ideal size but if you keep him in space, he’ll impact games.

Jacoby Brissett (QB, NC State)
He had to leave Florida to get his shot — but he’s making up for lost time at the start of 2014. He can move around for a big unit, he’s throwing well downfield. You don’t need to be Russell Wilson, you just need to be elusive. Brissett might not declare for the next draft but he’s one to monitor.

Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
Few players have done more than Shaq Thompson to boost their stock. He already has three touchdowns on defense, he’s taking snaps on offense. The scary thing is he can get better. Thompson’s athleticism will appeal to teams picking in the top-25. He can feature in any scheme. He’s a modern day defensive playmaker.

Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
Big, competitive and productive. White is enjoying a break-out year. He high points the ball, he knows how to get open. He’s a definite Biletnikoff candidate. In a year without a lot of quality receivers turning pro, White could go earlier than expected.

Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
He’s a freak of nature. The NFL loves freaks of nature. Is there another man on the planet who is this tall (anywhere from 6-7 to 6-9) who carries 280lbs this well with such brilliant athleticism? He’s destined to go in the top-10. He’s a better prospect than Ziggy Ansah.

Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)
He has four sacks so far despite missing a game with a hamstring strain. He has it all — ideal size to set the edge, a brilliant speed rush and the ability to disengage a blocker and make splash plays. Golden is incredibly underrated and destined for the first round if he tests well. He should do.

Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
Golden’s team-mate is the sack leader in the NCAA with eight so far. He was unstoppable in the first half against South Carolina. He’s not the biggest but he’s still effective stunting inside and working through blockers. He’s gritty, he plays with an attitude. Could we see two Missouri pass rushers in round one next year?

Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
339lbs nose tackles who run back fumbles for 69-yard touchdowns are a rarity. Chapman isn’t just a big body who wears you down in the run — he can act as a pass rusher too. He plays on a terrific defensive line filled with NFL talent, but he’s that rare athletic big man who nearly always goes early. Missed last year with an injury waiver and is listed as a redshirt sophomore.

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
He has 27 sacks in his last 24 games. He terrorised potential first round left tackle Cameron Erving. Speed kills in the modern NFL and Beasley has plenty. There will be concerns about his size and length, but expect a super-fast forty time and ten-yard split. He could be a high pick.

Damian Swann (CB, Georgia)
Georgia changed defensive coordinators this year, hiring FSU’s Jeremy Pruitt. They needed to make a change — their defense was a disorganised mess last year. Swann regressed more than anyone but he’s back with a bang in 2014. With the right guidance he can develop into a fine NFL corner. Goes after the football.

Arik Armstead (DE, Oregon)
Like Oakman, he has a rare combination of size (6-7, around 295lbs) and athleticism. He’s exactly the type of player the NFL is willing to take a chance on in round one. He’s been inconsistent at Oregon but a dominating performance against Michigan State was very encouraging. I’m eager to see the Washington State tape.

Notable mentions:

I didn’t want to include too many obvious candidates here. Clearly Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia) and Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin) have delivered on their promise and could be first or second round picks next year. Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama) is back to his technical best. He’ll get marked down for a lack of elite size/speed, but like A.J. Green he’s such a natural receiver. Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida) continues to make plays on a struggling Gators defense. Randy Gregory has 4.5 sacks in his last two games and could be the best 3-4 linebacker eligible for the draft. Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami) is having another big season while Devin Funchess (WR, Michigan) has made a solid adjustment from tight end to receiver. All of the big name tackles have prospered and we could see 6-7 first round offensive linemen again. Ty Montgomery (WR, Stanford) always seems to make plays.

Players I’m not totally sold on yet:

Leonard Williams (DE, USC) — is he a special enough athlete to play 4-3 defensive end? If he has to kick inside or act as a five-technique, does that limit his stock? Danny Shelton (DT, Washington) is having a massive year in terms of statistics but does it translate? Is he enough of an athlete to warrant early pick status? To me he looks like a mid-rounder. Can anyone justify putting the future of their franchise in the hands of Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)? Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon) hasn’t had a great start to the new season and Shilique Calhoun (DE, Michigan State) just looks like the player who struggled badly in last years Big-10 Championship game. Marcus Peters (CB, Washington) has the potential to be excellent, but can he be trusted and can he become more consistent?

Several teams will be in the QB market next year. Right now, Mariota might be the only viable prospect to go in the first frame. Unless you want to gamble on Winston. And it would be one heck of a gamble. Brett Hundley (QB, UCLA) is too boom or bust and lacks technique. Connor Cook (QB, Michigan State) is being touted as a potential first round pick by some. Why, exactly?

Zach Miller out for a while

Monday, September 29th, 2014

It’s a big blow for the Seahawks. Miller’s blocking ability has been crucial in helping rookie Justin Britt through the first three weeks. Seattle doesn’t feature the tight end in the passing game as much as they could, but when Miller is involved he’s a reliable safety net.

They had plenty of time during the bye to adjust schematically and adapt to this news. But it’ll be interesting to see if this has an adverse effect on Britt.

UPDATE — this is positive at least…

College football week five notes: Damian Swann shines

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

Damian Swann has a chance to rebuild his stock this year

Tennessee vs Georgia
Damian Swann (CB, Georgia) showed a lot of promise in 2012 before regressing last year. The Georgia defense was terrible in 2013. A real joke at times. In several key situations they failed to line up correctly, they were badly organised. They’ve changed the staff and Swann appears to be benefiting. Against the Vols he played well in run support and had a sack on a corner blitz. In coverage he was extremely competent. It took a superb route by Marquez North to beat him in the red zone late on. He also had a big time impact on special teams. On a punt he made an incredible play on the ball to down it on the one-yard line. Two plays later Tennessee fumbled the ball in their own endzone for a defensive touchdown. Some players have what it takes they just need the appropriate pro-coaching. Richard Sherman was one of those players. Swann could be a steal if he lands on a team that knows how to develop defensive backs.

I’ll go out on a limb and suggest Georgia aren’t likely to drag their way back into playoff contention, but Todd Gurley still deserves to be at the heart of the Heisman chase. Whether he can translate his insane promise into a productive pro-career, who knows. He’s insanely talented, but so was Trent Richardson. In college he’s a class above and a huge run in the fourth quarter acted as a real exclamation point. It’ll be very interesting to see how he tests at the combine given his size.

I’m not sold on Leonard Floyd — a favourite of some. He’s tall and lean, looking more like a wide receiver playing defensive end. He’s not as explosive or as polished as Barkevious Mingo — a player he at least compares to physically. He didn’t have much impact here. As a redshirt sophomore it’s hard to imagine him declaring for the 2015 draft on this evidence.

Missouri vs South Carolina
I just sat and watched Markus Golden and Shane Ray in this game, clearly the two best players on the field. Missouri’s pass rush caused problems all day, usually due to the attention given to the star pair. Golden wasn’t playing at 100% after missing the loss to Indiana with a hamstring issue. The fact Mizzou lost to such a basic opponent and played this well on defense a week later says a ton about Golden’s talent. Even without a mega stat-line he had numerous splash plays. For his size he has great balance and lean. He can mix it up and dip inside. He’s an impact pass rusher and is destined to be an early pick in 2015. Terrific prospect.

We’ve talked about him a ton already so without re-hashing the debate, they key here is the ability to engage a blocker and still make plays. Golden is smooth enough to round an edge but if he needs to use his hands he can. He plays with an attitude and on a day where he doesn’t get any sacks — he’ll help others make plays.

Ray had an explosive first half and was virtually unstoppable at times. He stunted inside to great effect, he rushed the edge with success. He’s lighter than Golden and has a better first step and initial burst. It’s deadly. The only concern will come with his size. He’s listed at a generous 6-3 and 245lbs but looks shorter and lacks length. He had less impact in the second half. If he measures well at the combine and the athleticism he showed here translates to the combine, he too will be an early pick. Both players are superior to Kony Ealy — a second round pick in 2014.

Other notes

Arkansas running back Alex Collins has some talent. He showed a great cut-back ability in a tough loss to Texas A&M. He keeps his feet moving, he has good size. He’s capable of a pro-career. I think he’s only a redshirt sophomore.

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson) had two more sacks against North Carolina. Make that 27 sacks in his last 24 games. He’s explosive and productive and will go early.

Leonard Williams (DE, USC) could easily play his best football at the next level but I’m not sure what he is watching him for the Trojans. He doesn’t look like a speed guy off the edge. He doesn’t look like a natural three-tech. If he’s just a 3-4 five-tech do you have to limit his stock? I have a hard time imagining him going in the top 5-10 of the draft.

Most impressive emerging player in 2014? WVU’s Kevin White

Friday, September 26th, 2014

West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White stood out in week one against Alabama. The Mountaineers flirted with an upset and most of that was down to White. He had nine catches, 143 yards and a touchdown (see the video above). For a player who’s suffered with confidence issues in the past, it was the perfect start. A launchpad.

After four games only Amari Cooper has been more productive in the NCAA. White is a legit candidate for the Biletnikoff and his stock is growing. I’m not convinced he’s the 6-3 210lbs listed by ESPN, but he ticks a lot of boxes. He’s got excellent acceleration, he high-points the football, he makes difficult grabs and he knows where to sit and find the soft spot in zone. He has a shot at the next level.

The big concern, sadly, may be those confidence issues. He’s extremely softly spoken to the point of being quite shy. He’s no fool, far from it. But he’s shy. One of the big things we learnt this year is Seattle wants players who can survive in their ultra-competitive locker room. This is a question we have to ask now about every player, including White. Can they have a rocky session against the Legion of Boom during camp and come back the next day with amnesia? Can they take the talking, the physical challenge? Can they thrive in the environment of this team? Can White?

If there are questions to be asked there, you’ll struggle to find many regarding his on-field performance. Against Maryland he had 13 catches for 216 yards. Watch the tape below and tell me you’re not impressed. At the very least check out the following plays:

2:13 — An explosive catch and run on a WR screen, breaking off a 44-yard sprint through traffic.

2:58 — Competent run blocking at the perimeter, sealing his man and allowing the running back to get a first down and make a significant gain.

3:51 — Complete trust from the quarterback. On play action he steps into the pocket and throws into blanket double coverage. Against two defenders White goes up and plucks the ball out of the air. It’s textbook stuff.

5:25 — Excellent catch again in good coverage. White tracks the ball superbly and somehow makes the completion and gets both feet down.

He’s a smooth athlete, he competes for the ball and he can make big plays. It’s hard to judge his stock right now and he’ll need to maintain consistency throughout the year. He’s an exciting player though, certainly the most impressive prospect to emerge in the early stages of the 2014 season. He’s putting up numbers against good teams too — Alabama in week one, Oklahoma last week (10 catches, 173 yards and a touchdown).

I’m not convinced he’s as good as DeAndre Hopkins — a very underrated receiver who thoroughly deserved to go in round one. They share similar traits though.

West Virginia don’t play this weekend but White will get another opportunity to impress on October 4th against 2-1 Kansas.

Lincoln Kennedy on the NFL in London & Seattle’s chances of repeating

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Reflecting on the Denver game, CFB week four thoughts

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Are the Seahawks weaker than last year?

That was the question debated on ‘First Take’ this week. The answer, resoundingly, is ‘no’.

Pete Carroll made quite a bold statement on the Brock & Salk show on Monday. He claimed the Seahawks had done a better job against Denver’s offense compared to the Super Bowl rout back in February. The 43-8 and 26-20 scorelines suggest otherwise.

Having watched Sunday’s game for a second time today, the score doesn’t matter.

He’s right.

The Super Bowl was an avalanche. Seattle got momentum early with the safety, forced a couple of big turnovers (including a pick six) and scored on a kick return to start the second half. It was a very opportunistic performance. They took their chances.

Denver still put up stats — Demaryius Thomas had a Super Bowl record for receptions. Peyton Manning threatened a couple of times before Seattle took the ball away. On the night everything that could go wrong for Denver did go wrong. They were helpless.

On Sunday, Seattle completely shut down the Broncos. They didn’t rely on huge momentum-changing turnovers. They didn’t need a kick return for a touchdown. They simply did to Manning and his record-breaking offense what they’ve done to so many lesser teams in the last couple of seasons.

They made them look bad.

The run game was totally ineffective. Denver tried desperately to establish it early and were forced to become one-dimensional. The screen game — so integral to their system — was never allowed to prosper. They didn’t attempt any downfield throws and kept everything short. Emmanuel Sanders had some success because hey — you can’t cover everyone brilliantly and he’s the only one on that offense with the speed to compete with Seattle’s defense. He played well. Nobody else did. Not Demaryius Thomas. Not Julius Thomas. Not Wes Welker. Not Montee Ball.

As the game headed to the fourth quarter, this was a beat-down. Another one. A more comprehensive destruction of Denver’s much vaunted offense. They had no answer. Manning sat sweating on the sideline with a look on his face that screamed, “this team has our number”. On another day Seattle would’ve added a couple more scores and romped to the kind of home win they had in week one.

They were totally responsible for what happened in the fourth quarter — turning a coast into a near crumble. The missed a field goal, conceded an avoidable safety and gave up a careless interception. Then to cap things off — an 80-yard, 40-odd second, eight-point drive where the Broncos used the same concept multiple times.

Kudos to Denver — this time they were the opportunistic team. Manning still had to make those throws. The two-point conversion was a brilliant piece of scheming and execution. The shovel pass for the first touchdown was equally good. Aqib Talib breaking off his route to deflect Russell Wilson’s pass was another excellent play.

All of this was avoidable though. Seattle almost gave the game away — before finally snatching it back.

None of this should diminish the performance of Seattle’s defense for three quarters of smothering, dominant football. This was possibly their most accomplished performance in the Carroll-era.

A 2-1 record might look only ‘Okay-ish’ for a team carrying so many expectations. In reality they played incredibly well against Manning and the Broncos, handled Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and were beaten, just, in 120-degree heat in San Diego at the hands of Philip Rivers at his very best.

Seattle lost three games last year. In none of those defeats did they face an opponent like Rivers playing at such a high level. They almost lost other games too — including against a Kellen Clemens led St. Louis and against hopeless Tampa Bay fielding a rookie QB.

In the video above it’s pointed out that Seattle has conceded a lot more points in their first three games this year compared to 2013. This year they’ve faced Rodgers, Rivers and Manning in weeks 1-3. Last year they faced Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Chad Henne.

That information wasn’t disclosed in the take-making process.

Week four college football notes

— I posted the video earlier in the week, but I was very impressed with Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson) against Florida State and left tackle Cameron Erving. Seattle has the smallest roster in the NFL but they’ve got a ton of speed. Beasley plays in the 235lbs range but he has fantastic get off, terrific balance to lean round the edge and explode to the quarterback. He’s prepared to use his hands (vital) and will mix it up. Yes — he will get blocked out of plays. Yes — he will struggle in run defense. As a pure pass rusher though he is exceptional. He’s a fighter. He plays with the required attitude. In his last 23 games he has 25 sacks. I’m convinced he’ll go a lot earlier than people think next year, especially if he tests well at the combine.

— Markus Golden didn’t feature in Missouri’s costly defeat to Indiana. He reportedly has a hamstring issue — but it’s not clear how long he’ll be absent. The Tigers clearly need him alongside prolific team-mate Shane Ray.

— We highlighted Kevin White (WR, West Virginia) in week one after he put up gaudy numbers against Alabama. This guy is legit and worth monitoring. He’s tall (6-2/6-3) with deep speed and excellent control. He high points the football well and he’s competitive. In the past he suffered with confidence issues but there’s no sign of that in 2014. Against Oklahoma he posted a 10-catch stat-line for 173 yards and a touchdown. He looks a bit like Bruce Irvin with the WVU jersey, dreads and #11. Only Amari Cooper has more yards in the NCAA after week four.

— Landon Collins (S, Alabama) had his best game in college against Florida on Saturday. At times he’s looked a bit pedestrian — perhaps more suited as an undersized linebacker without the range at safety. Yet against the Gators he was all over the field — breaking up plays, making tackles at the LOS and grabbing a nice interception. On this performance he has the skills to be effective at the next level. He’s got to keep it up though. It looks like another weak group of safety’s this year.

— Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama) already has more touchdowns than last season and it won’t be long before he has more yards too. Cooper was sensational as a true freshman — flashing natural catching ability, route running skills and the ability to get open. Arguably he was the best receiver in the SEC in 2012. Last year was a step back. I’ve seen arguments to suggest he wasn’t 100% — but he still made to many mental errors. Alabama are throwing a ton right now and Cooper is putting in a Biletnikoff winning year. He had ten catches against Florida for 201 yards and three touchdowns — you can see the tape below. He’ll need stats and technical quality to make up for a lack of elite size/speed.

— Austin Hill (WR, Arizona) has injury issues but is incredibly talented. On Saturday he had his first big performance in a while — helping the Wildcats beat California with 127 yards and two scores, including the game-winner. A serious injury history will hold him back, but he can make it in the NFL.

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson ) vs Cameron Erving (LT, FSU)

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Here’s Tony Pauline’s take:

A year ago when Florida State annihilated Clemson, Beasley’s performance ran parallel to the beating his team received as he tallied one solo tackle and was handled all game by Seminoles left tackle Cameron Erving. And while Clemson lost a close game in overtime this weekend, Beasley’s performance was brilliant compared to a year ago. The senior terrorized Florida State all night posting 2 sacks and 2 tackles for loss. It was obvious Florida State focused on Beasley as two blockers were assigned to him most of the night. The end result was Beasley breaking through blocks to make plays or the creation of opportunities for teammates. Most impressive was his ability rushing the passer out of a three point stance as well as standing up over tackle. This time around Erving looked intimidated and confused through much of the game.

Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Broncos (just), move to 2-1

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Marshawn Lynch won the game for Seattle in overtime

The Seahawks had two opportunities to finish this game. They wasted the first, but grabbed the second to defeat the Broncos 26-20 in overtime.

A missed Steven Hauschka field goal, an avoidable safety and unnecessary Russell Wilson interception gave the Broncos a chance to steal a game they appeared destined to lose at 17-3. Russell Wilson’s brilliant overtime drive made sure Seattle kept the victory — just.

It’s not often you play as badly as Seattle did in the fourth quarter and still beat Peyton Manning. The Seahawks got away with an uncharacteristically sloppy final quarter to escape with the win.

At one point the game threatened to turn into another one-sided Super Bowl-esque beat-down. The Broncos were struggling to sustain drives and suffered with a conservative approach in the first half (two draw plays on 3rd and long proving fruitless). Seattle established a big lead thanks to touchdown passes from Wilson to Ricardo Lockette and Marshawn Lynch. Even without scoring, they remained in control in the third quarter.

Then they threw it away.

The game-tying 80-yard drive with a minute to go was inexplicable. The Seahawks rushed three and played prevent defense — no shocks there. Manning hit Emmanuel Sanders on a blown coverage by Byron Maxwell for 42-yards just moments after surviving a big scare on the exact same play call. Moments later he found Jacob Tamme on another poor coverage and a similar wheel route exploiting K.J. Wright. 80-yards in just over 40-seconds with no time-outs. In Seattle.

Give credit to the Broncos for finding the hole in the defense — give them more credit for a brilliantly executed two-point conversion. Yet for such a good defense to get beat like it did — this was a shocker.

Until that point Seattle’s unit had appeared every bit as dominant as in the Super Bowl.

Having coughed up one chance to finish the game it was left to Wilson to get the job done — and he did so with a brilliant game-winning drive of identical length to Manning’s surge. 80-yards of hurry up, keeper’s, nicely designed plays to the perimeter and eventually a strong run up the middle ended an entertaining contest. The type Super Bowl Champions are supposed to win at home.

Other notes:

— Seeing Walters, Lockette and Richardson line up on 3rd and 9 at 17-12 was, well, strange. Seattle failed to convert on a throw aimed at Walters. That’s no disrespect to the three receivers on the field, but surely you’d expect to see Harvin, Kearse and Baldwin in that situation — at a critical point in the game?

— Ricardo Lockette had a big day — catching a nice deep ball on Aqib Talib for a score (high pointed the football too), excelling as a gunner (again) and even breaking up a sure-fire pick-six with a tactical offensive P.I.

— Justin Britt might not face a tougher non-NFC West opponent this year. DeMarcus Ware gave him fits at times. Ware and Von Miller did a great job containing Wilson in regulation. Denver also had Seattle’s number defending the run — the Seahawks appeared to have most success when using Harvin as a decoy, before handing off to Lynch. It’s a nice wrinkle to have, especially if standard formations are struggling to penetrate.

— Prior to Kam Chancellor’s late pick, Peyton Manning hadn’t thrown an interception in the month of September in any of his previous 380 snaps.

— Russell Okung couldn’t afford another serious injury. He looked in serious pain at the end of the first half due to a shoulder problem. To his credit he returned after half time — and he needed to.

— Marshawn Lynch is so vital to this team, it’s going to be virtually impossible to replace him whenever that day comes.

— San Francisco lost to Drew Stanton’s Arizona to drop to 1-2. I dipped in and out of the game and from what I saw they appeared ill-disciplined, rattled and nothing like the 49ers of recent memory. They face 3-0 Philadelphia next week. Meanwhile Arizona leads the NFC West at 3-0. Bruce Arians is a fantastic coach — they haven’t missed a beat despite a series of key injuries. After the bye the face Denver (A), Washington (H), Oakland (A) and Philadelphia (H). They face Seattle for the first time on November 23rd. The 10-6 record last year was no fluke.

College football week four open thread

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Thoughts to come after the weekend, in the meantime feel free to use this thread to debate today’s games.

Comedy moment of the weekend goes to Florida State, who suspended quarterback Jameis Winston for the whole of today’s game against Clemson. Winston still dressed in full pads, but was sent back to the locker room by Jimbo Fisher to change. The look on his face is priceless…

As PFT’s Michael David Smith writes, I’m not sure Winston “gets it”:

Florida State announced late last night that Winston will not play at all in today’s game against Clemson. He had initially been suspended for the first half of the game for screaming an obscene phrase in the student union; the suspension for the second half reportedly comes because Florida State discovered that Winston lied to school authorities about some of the circumstances surrounding that incident.

Winston, of course, has had many prior off-field incidents that will make NFL teams question whether his immense talent is worth the headaches. By far the most serious is the accusation from a female Florida State student that he raped her. Winston was not charged, and the Tallahassee Police Department botched that investigation so thoroughly that we’ll never know what really happened.

Winston’s other incidents were far less serious than a sexual assault, but the sum total of them is to question whether he cares at all about the potential consequences of his actions: He was arrested for shoplifting crab legs. He was involved in a BB gun battle that damaged his apartment complex, and hours later Florida State police stopped him and handcuffed him for carrying a pellet gun near campus (he said he was using it to shoot at squirrels). Before last season’s national championship game, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher kicked Winston out of practice and explained later that he wanted Winston to understand that “it’s not about you.”

For me it’s quite clear, Jameis Winston isn’t ready to be a professional football player and has no place declaring for the 2015 draft. Whether he does or not remains to be seen. But he isn’t ready.