Here we go. My 256-game journey begins with these three games.
At this point, I'm not sure how many games I'll be putting in each post, or even how often I'll be doing these posts. I'm still deciding on a schedule and pace and all that other good shit to ensure I don't get burnt out on this too quickly. In the meantime, I had a few beers and took in these three games, using the methodology I outlined earlier this morning. Let's dance.
Week 3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at Dallas Cowboys (1-1)
At this point in the season, both teams were still trying to figure themselves out. Dallas was coming off a humiliating loss to Seattle, while the Bucs were just looking for tangible progress after a disastorous 4-12 season.
--Dallas' first possession: incomplete pass, false start, dropped pass, Romoception. The '12 Cowboys in a nutshell. Hey, remember when Aqib Talib was on the Bucs?
--Morris Claiborne's rookie moments continue. DPI on Mike Williams
--Bucs take 7-0 lead at 10:51 in the first. Penalties are killing the Cowboys early, an ongoing theme in their season.
--Felix Jones is still allowed to return kickoffs for...reasons.
--Two more false starts kill the drive. We're 10 minutes into the 1st quarter and by my count, that's about 32 flags on Dallas so far.
--Aaaannd D.J. Ware lets Freeman's pass bounce off his hands into Sean Lee's arms. We're entering shitshow territory and the 1st quarter isn't even over yet.
--DeMarco Murray ties it up. I like Murray when his glass legs aren't shattering.
--The downside of calm pocket poise: not paying attention to your surroundings. Freeman stands still way too long, gets blindsided by DeMarcus Ware, coughs up the ball. Bucs recover, but one dive run and bad snap later and the Bucs wasted another drive.
--The game has devolved into a puntfest. Neither team looks in sync.
--Jordan Shipley muffs a punt, Dallas recovers. Now you know why the Bengals waived him in preseason.
--I'm going to say something positive for once: Gerald McCoy is a monster and well worth the high draft pick. Love the man.
--This game showcases all of Freeman's worst habits: zero pocket awareness, staring down reads, overthrown passes. He remains an enigma to me. "Good Freeman" is a talented QB with incredible upside. "Bad Freeman" makes me wonder how he made it to the NFL. After 4 years, we still don't know which one will show up in any given week. One of the most frustrating players in the league right now.
--Dez Bryant has no business on returns and I have no idea why Garrett kept up that charade as long as he did.
--All of the turnovers. Give me all of the turnovers. All of them.
--Nobody wants to win this stupid game.
--3rd and 9 at your own 41, down 16-7, 2;13 left in the game...stretch run to Doug Martin. That's how much confidence the coaches had in Freeman to win this game.
Cowboys win 16-10 Ugly game that just raises more questions for both teams than they had coming in. Neither team came out of this looking good.
Week 4: Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Detroit Lions (1-2)
The Vikings are already one win away from matching their win total from 2011. Meanwhile, the Lions are trying to stop the spinning wheels on an expected playoff run. Which team is heading in the right direction?
--Percy Harvin takes the opening kickoff for a TD. Percy Harvin is pretty good, I guess.
--It's so cute when the Lions pretend to have a running game. Really, it's adorable.
--Christian Ponder may be the most boring QB in the league. Of course, he may also have the easiest QB job in the league. Hand off to Peterson, screen to Harvin, ho hum. Makes it look boringly easy.
--I'm resisting myself from putting nothing put "ZOMG AP IS SO FUCKING GOOD" in this section. Resistance is proving futile.
--The big takeaway from this game is that if the Lions want to have a running game, Mikel LeShoure is not the answer. Spends way too much time dancing behind the line, makes poor cuts and has little burst. Detroit made a big miscalculation banking on Jahvid Best's health and not finding a viable Plan B.
--Vikings score a huge punt return on the worst special teams tackling I've ever seen. Minnesota up 20-6 in the 3rd.
--Finally, LeShoure breaks his big run of the day. First down and more, ready to get Detroit back in the game...and he coughs it up at the 29. Vikings ball. Faaaarrrttt.
--A Matthew Stafford sneak finally gets this within one possession, but with less than 3 minutes left it's too little, too late.
Vikings win 20-13 Minnesota dominated this game from beginning to end and improve to a surprising 3-1. The Lions fall to 1-3 and a once-promising season is quickly falling off the rails.
Week 11: Indianapolis Colts (6-3) at New England Patriots (6-3)
Andrew Luck rides his impressive rookie season into Foxboro, hoping to carry on the tradition of great Colts-Pats games of the past decade. It didn't exactly go according to script...
--A Kyle Arrington DPI sets up an early TD as Indy draws first blood. Time for Tom Brady to answer!
--That answer didn't take long. Brady hooks up with Rob Gronkowski to quickly tie it up.
--I guess neither team wants to play defense in this game. Luck marches right back down the field and finds T.Y. Hilton to go up 14-7.
--3 total possessions, 3 touchdowns in the 1st quarter. The punters are considering taking off and hitting the bars early.
--Every time Wes Welker begs for a flag and doesn't get it, an angel grows its wings. Stephen Gostowski shanks a 36-yard attempt, Colts ball.
--Luck starting to unravel early. He overthrew Dwayne Allen by 3 feet in the flat, nearly threw a pick trying to force a throw to Reggie Wayne and had another pass broken up by a blitzer. A quick 3-and-out is not an optimal strategy when you're playing Brady.
--Neither is shoddy special teams play, for that matter. Julian Edelman takes the ensuing punt to the house. 14-14 halfway through the 2nd.
--Well this is getting ugly fast. On Indy's very next drive, Luck badly overthrows Wayne, leading to an easy pick six for Aqib Talib.
--I may be one of the few people who still thinks Dwight Freeney has gas left in the tank, but he's just a hilarious misfit as a 3-4 OLB. Does not look comfortable standing up at all. If he lands with a team smart enough to let him do what made him great in the first place, a big comeback season could be in the cards.
--Brady just makes it look too easy. Another surgical, methodical TD drive puts the Pats up 31-17, and the rout is on.
--Down by two possessions, this is where Luck's worst habits start to emerge. He too often likes to force the ball into tight windows and leaves his receivers hanging out to dry. Damn near got Wayne killed several times this week.
--Colts defense forces NE's first punt of the game. What is this sorcery.
--So much for that momentum. Luck gets stripped by Rob Ninkonvich, Pats ball at the 24.
--And on the very first play, Brady2Gronk makes it 38-17 with 3:22 left in the 3rd. What did I tell you about giving Brady free chances, Colts? Look at all those happy Pats fans in the stands, why are you making them happy.
--This is turning into a snuff film. Alfonzo Dennard jumps a telegraphed hitch route to Wayne, takes it down the sidelines for another pick six. The fat lady can show up any time now....
--12:32 in the 4th and it's garbage time already. Luck2Hilton cuts the deficit to 45-24.
--Emperor Belichick doesn't like being scored on in garbage time, so he and Darth Brady summoned up their midichlorians to engineer another quick TD drive. 52-24.
--The big talking point after this game wasn't the supposed "running up the score" (It's NE, this is what they do, deal with it), but that Gronk broke his forearm during an extra point attempt up huge late in the game. The team sorely missed his red-zone presence late in the season and the playoffs. Should Belichick have pulled his starters on such a meaningless play? Debate below.
--A tipped ball interception was all she wrote for Luck. Easily his most forgettable rookie game.
Patriots win 59-24 This was quite the reality check for the Colts, a young but flawed team riding #Chuckstrong to an inspiring season. This game was a painful reminder that the roster is just one season removed from 2-14, and there's still a lot of work left to do. As for the Patriots, Gronk's injury made it more of a Pyrrhic victory.
To Be Continued...