Week 8 Recap: Beyond the BoxScore
When Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III get together, you know what that means: Turnover bonanza! What?
Manning committed four turnovers -- including three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown and another one that was simply taken out of DeMaryius Thomas' hands by DeAngelo Hall late in the game. Griffin committed three turnovers. In fact, six of the final seven drives in this game ended with an interception. Even Kirk Cousins got into the act with a pick-six in the closing minutes. Manning still came through for his owners as he topped 350 yards to go with touchdowns to Thomas, Wes Welker and Knowshon Moreno (who racked up a team-leading 89 receiving yards). It's worth noting that Moreno averaged just three yards per carry on the ground, and Montee Ball pushed the pile for his first career score in the third quarter; he got 11 carries. If you own Moreno, you should pick up Ball right now. It sounds like we could see more of the rookie going forward.
The Redskins led this one 21-7 early in the third quarter before Denver ripped off 38 unanswered points. It was a close game into the fourth quarter, but don't be fooled; this was a pretty dreadful performance from the Redskins' offense. It was a step back for Griffin. One week after putting up big numbers against the Bears, Griffin completed just half of his 30 passes. He averaged 4.4 yards per throw. He missed a handful of wide-open receivers for big plays, including Pierre Garcon in the end zone. He was sacked only three times, but he took hit after hit after hit. Part of the punishment was due to the Redskins' poor protection, and part of it was due to Griffin holding on to the ball too long. He left the game for precautionary reasons late in the fourth quarter after defensive tackle Terrance Knighton drilled him and landed on his left knee. Also, after rushing for a career-high 84 yards versus Chicago, Griffin ran five times for just 7 yards. Not one designed run was called for him.
Jordan Reed was able to take advantage of garbage time as he gained 90 yards on seven catches. Roy Helu, coming off his three-touchdown breakout, touched the ball just six times for 25 yards. The Redskins somewhat inexplicably went away from Alfred Morris for most of the second half, but he still registered 93 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
In other injury news, Julius Thomas left during the third quarter with an ankle injury and didn't return. You have to think he, not Joel Dreessen, would have been the target of a Manning touchdown pass early in the fourth.
Terrell Owens. Randy Moss. Marvin Jones. Again, what?
Jones, who entered Week 8 with touchdowns in consecutive games, scored four times against the Jets as he repeatedly got the best of cornerbacks Dee Milliner and Darrin Walls. He became the first wide receiver to score four times since Moss and Owens did it on the same day back in 2007. Is it a fluke? The four touchdowns are, but Jones now needs to be owned in all leagues. He caught all eight of his targets for 122 yards and is clearly Andy Dalton's No. 2 receiver right now. Speaking of Dalton, he is loving life right now. Between Jones, A.J. Green, and Giovani Bernard, this is the most talented group he has ever thrown to. Dalton has 11 touchdowns and an average of about 345 yards in his last three games. He won't keep that kind of pace up, but he may be a low-end QB1 next week against the Dolphins.
Bernard bottomed out with just 27 total yards on six touches. I'm willing to overlook that line. He is still a solid play in Week 9 as the Dolphins are giving up a lot of fantasy points to running backs.
Geno Smith is living the life of a rookie learning the ropes. He was determined against the Patriots; he was flustered by the Bengals. He saw a ton of pressure from the Bengals' defense. He threw two telegraphed pick-sixes on sideline routes and was replaced by Matt Simms in the fourth quarter.
Since the Jets fell behind by 18 in the second quarter, Chris Ivory was basically taken out of the game plan. One week after 34 carries, he got six and gained 11 yards.
The Steelers must have thought Jim Plunkett was starting for the Raiders today. I have no other way to explain how they could be fooled so badly by Terrelle Pryor on his record-setting 93-yard touchdown run on the opening snap. Past that one play, Pryor was awful -- 88 yards, two interceptions. Rod Streater led Oakland with four catches and 45 yards. Darren McFadden picked up the slack with 24 carries and a pair of scores. McFadden showed good burst, but gained just 73 yards behind Oakland's poor offensive line. McFadden has some favorable matchups ahead, but you might want to sell before the fantasy playoffs as that's when McFadden's schedule gets really bleak. He faces the Jets, Chiefs, and Chargers from Weeks 14-16.
The Steelers were listless in Oakland. They didn't even reach the red zone until near the end of the second quarter. Ben Roethlisberger took five sacks and threw two picks. Le'Veon Bell was stuck in neutral all day, but at least he scored a touchdown. That score came after what would have been Roethlisberger's third interception was negated by a defensive holding call. Bell scored from two yards away on the next play. Antonio Brown caught nine more passes for 82 yards. Emmanuel Sanders finished with 88 yard and a score as his up-and-down season continues. And yet, Pittsburgh probably would have won this game if Shaun Suisham had not missed two field goals from fewer than 35 yards away.
Now we know what Andre Ellington can do with 15 carries. The rookie exploded for 154 rushing yards and an 80-yard touchdown on which he showcased his tremendous speed. Ellington couldn't find any room to run up the middle on the play, so he bounced outside to the left, and that was basically all she wrote. Unfortunately, the Cardinals now head into a bye week, and Rashard Mendenhall should be healthy when they come back. But hopefully this performance won't be forgotten by Bruce Arians and Co.
The Falcons' running attack ... oy vey. I credit them for trying to get Steven Jackson going, but his legs looked dead as he kept ramming into a sea of bodies. He gained six yards on 11 carries. It won't get much easier against the Panthers next week, but hopefully Jackson will get stronger. Jacquizz Rodgers touched the ball just four times.
The Cardinals led by a healthy margin for most of the afternoon, so Carson Palmer attempted just 18 passes. He connected with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd in the end zone. Fitzgerald caught only four passes for 48 yards, but he looked free from his hamstring woes, and his day would have been better if the Cardinals had any reason to throw the ball after halftime.
Matt Ryan chucked it 61 times, but without Julio Jones or Roddy White, that's not a good thing for the Falcons. Ryan was picked off four times. Tyrann Mathieu and Daryl Washington wreaked havoc all day. Harry Douglas came through with 12 catches on 18 targets for 121 yards. Half of those yards came in the final 16 minutes, but it all counts, right? I thought Drew Davis looked impressive as he gained chunks of yardage while the game was still to be decided. He scored on a late touchdown thanks in part to a questionable fourth-down pass interference call on Mathieu in the end zone that gave the Falcons another life. Put Davis on your watch list as he has real talent. I just would have liked to see him get more than seven targets in such a pass-heavy game, especially with Tony Gonzalez double-teamed all day.
Cordarrelle Patterson took the opening kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown, and then the Packers got serious. Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson did as they pleased, connecting for two touchdowns. Nelson could have scored a third time if a fourth-quarter slant pass from Rodgers was a little more on target. As it was, Nelson caught the ball and slipped down at the one. Eddie Lacy took on 33 touches and used them to gain 112 yards and a touchdown. He has been given at least 24 touches in each of the past four games and hasn't fallen short of 95 yards in any them.
Adrian Peterson carried the ball just four times in the second half as the Packers absolutely dominated the time of possession and the game got out of hand. Peterson's hamstring injury didn't seem to restrict him as he averaged 4.6 yards per carry against a good run defense, with no reason to respect Minnesota's passing game. I know we've come to expect more than 60 rushing yards and one touchdown out of the reigning MVP, but this was his best game this month. Peterson's biggest problem may not be the Vikings' quarterback gutter; it's the Vikings' defense. The have lost their past three games by a combined 54 points and are forcing the Vikings to abandon the best running back in football.
Christian Ponder completed 14 of 21 passes for 145 yards. He didn't commit a turnover and ran in for a score, but you should expect the quarterback carrousel to continue spinning in Week 9. Toby Gerhart and James Starks scored touchdowns so as to solely upset the owners of their must-start running mates.