3 and Out – Thoughts From Week 5 In The NFL

No week in the NFL is short of surprises. Week five showed us to never underestimate a team which has got emotion on their side, quarterbacks in this era are for real and it’s not about playing 60 minutes, but rather 16 games.

#chuckstrong

In what was easily the greatest storyline in the NFL so far this year, the Colts upset the Packers, and in doing so offered up a worthy tribute to their Head Coach Chuck Pagano.  Pagano has been away from the team since he was diagnosed with Leukemia just over a week ago.  The NFL community has been vocal in their support of Pagano, but nothing compares to the message sent by the players and interim coaching staff in Indianapolis.  The Colts, who finished dead last in the league a year ago, trailed the Packers, who lost once in 2011, 21-3 at halftime.  They channeled Pagano’s never-say-die attitude and fought back to pull off the upset.  If Pagano fights cancer the same way the Colts fought on Sunday – Leukemia doesn’t stand a chance.  Get well soon Chuck.

Brees Passing Record

On Sunday night, against his old team (great scheduling by the NFL), Drew Brees threw a touchdown pass in his 48th consecutive game.  With that pass he broke Johnny Unitas’ longstanding record of consecutive games with a touchdown pass.  Is it impressive?  Absolutely.  As impressive as Unitas? Not even close.

To put this into perspective, Unitas set the record in 1960 at 47 games.  He more than doubled the former record of 23 games set by Cecil Isbell in 1942.  When Unitas played for the Colts, football was a running game.  He retired having passed for 300+ yards in 26 games.  By today’s standards that’s a low number (by the end of this season 9 active QB’s will have more than Unitas).  When Unitas retired, his mark of 23 games was an NFL record.

Last year Brees broke Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season.  So did Tom Brady.  Matt Stafford was close.  Brady trails Brees by 10 in the “consecutive games with a touchdown pass” department and will likely pass Unitas in early December.

The game is different now.  Every passing (and likely receiving) record will fall in the next decade.  Despite playing in this pass happy league, Brees deserves the accolades because he’s the one who did it.  Maybe if he goes over 65 games I’ll be as impressed as I am with Unitas.

Pretender or Contender

A lot can change in a week.  Just ask the Arizona Cardinals who went from undefeated contender to banged-up pretender.  A playoff caliber defense won’t be enough to save the Cardinals whose offensive line cripples their ability to perform on offense.  I gained a ton of respect for Kevin Kolb last Thursday night as he stood tall in the pocket and delivered the ball despite doing his best tackling dummy impression.  Even with talent at the receiver position, the line can’t protect Kolb long enough to make plays down the field.  The tandem of Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams couldn’t get the run game going, so I find it hard to believe things will get better now that the depth guys have to take over due to injury.

On the other hand, the Vikings arrow is pointing up.  Christian Ponder has been excellent this season.  His maturation as a passer has freed up some room for Adrian Peterson in the run game.  What was once a run first offense is now a balanced attack run by Ponder who makes smart decisions (no interceptions this season).   He understands his role is to get the ball into the hands of Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph and allow them to make plays.  Head Coach Leslie Frazier has the defense playing at a high level and rookie kicker Blair Walsh is automatic.  The Vikings will be in the playoff hunt this season.

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