NFL Soup|Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Aldon Smith, Brian Hoyer, South Park and the Monday NFL Stew 

Wow. Let’s just all take a deep breath as we try to digest one of the craziest NFL Sundays in recent memories. The Cleveland Browns somehow staved off an 0-3 start despite trading away would-be franchise running back Trent Richardson – and they did it with a third-stringer at quarterback in Brian Hoyer. Either the Browns know exactly what they’re doing, or they are the worst team in history at tanking.

There was more to love and hate in week three, so let’s get right to the hottest NFL news stemming from the week that was (save for tonight’s Monday night contests, of course):

The Stew Review: Week 3

1. Brian Hoyer Era Begins

The Browns may finally have their quarterback of the future. Or, well, at least this season. Brian Hoyer, making his second ever career start, sparked new life into a Browns team that had basically been told “we’re tanking the season” by upper management earlier in the week. Though his stat line wasn’t the prettiest—30 of 54 for 321 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs—he threw the ball with vigor and was composed when it mattered most. With that game-winning fade to Jordan Cameron with under a minute to play, a new era begun in Cleveland.

2. Panthers Shutout Giants

Who would’ve thought the Tom Coughlin-coached Giants would be sitting at 0-3 and coming off a 38-0 embarrassment? That’s the reality for this team at the moment, a team that, just two years ago, were Super Bowl champions. This team has talent, but not necessarily in all the right places (like offensive line, for example), as well as players not living up to their potential (like David Wilson, for example). We’ve seen this team turn things around before, but the hole they’ve dug themselves so far may be too deep to climb out of.

3. Bengals Contain Aaron Rodgers

As a Packers fan, I have to tip my hat to the Bengals, particularly their defense, who I knew was going to be a tough challenge for the Packers offense. However, I didn’t expect that they’d completely contain Aaron Rodgers—arguably the best quarterback in football—and make him look mortal in this game. Rodgers went a lowly 26 of 43 for 244 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs, with those two turnovers playing a huge role in the Bengals comeback from a 30-14 deficit. But perhaps the greatest play by the Bengals defense came on 4th-and-inches late in the game, when they forced a fumble out of Johnathan Franklin that they then returned for the go-ahead touchdown in a 34-30 victory.

4. Saints Are Marching In

Don’t look now, but the Saints are 3-0. And, their offense is rolling along. In a 31-7 decimation of the Cardinals yesterday, Drew Brees accounted for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing), and Jimmy Graham caught nine passes for 134 yards and a pair of scores. With the offense back to prime form, and an improved defense, this team is looking scarier by the week.

5. Patriots: Problems Solved?

Boy, after all that talk about Tom Brady not being in synch with his receivers against the Jets, man did they sure look good yesterday against the Buccaneers. It still wasn’t the prettiest performance from Brady—25 of 36 for 225 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT—but it certainly was improvement. In due time, and when Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski return, the Patriots offense will go back to being the well-oiled machine we’ve all been accustomed to.

6. Colts Dominate 49ers

After Colin Kaepernick threw for over 400 yards against the Packers in Week 1 en route to a 30-24 victory, if I would’ve told you the 49ers would be outscored 56-10 over the next two weeks, you would’ve looked at me as if I belonged in a mental hospital. That’s the reality for last year’s NFC Champions, who have looked more pretender than contender these past two weeks. Give credit to the Colts though, who stuck to their game plan of ground and pound on offense and manning-up a subpar receiving corps outside Anquan Boldin (and taking advantage of Vernon Davis’ absence due to injury). The Colts offense combined for 179 yards rushing on 39 carries and 3 TDs against a defense that is considered one of the best in the league. Now, there are some serious questions in San Francisco, while things are only getting better in Indianapolis.

7. Dolphins Stun Falcons (And Everyone Else)

Any given Sunday in the NFL. In what is sure to be an instant classic, the Dolphins came back from a 20-10 second half deficit to upset the Falcons in absolutely dramatic fashion. In what is my personal runner-up for Play of the Week, Dion Sims hauled in the game-winning touchdown (with one hand, mind you) from Ryan Tannehill, who threw a beautiful touch pass off of play action. The score put the Dolphins up 27-23 with 38 seconds left, and the defense would eventually seal the victory by intercepting Matt Ryan on the ensuing possession. Oh, and the Dolphins are 3-0 and tied with the Patriots atop the AFC East.

8. Monsters of the Midway

Ok, maybe it’s too early to resurrect this nickname of the dominant 1940s Bears team, but this current squad is looking pretty beastly so far. Sure, they aren’t blowing out opponents, but they are 3-0, looking complete on offense, defense and special teams. New head coach Marc Trestman has gotten this Bears team on point, with an offensive line allowing Jay Cutler to look like the quarterback we all knew he could be. Meanwhile, the defense doesn’t even seem phased by the departure of Brian Urlacher. If things continue the way they are now, there will be a new champion in the NFC North.

Play of the Week: Andrew Luck’s Gold Rush

Continuing with my mantra of being clever (read: corny), this incarnation of Play of the Week comes courtesy of the Colts and Andrew Luck. Facing a 3rd-and-3 only six yards from the end zone and clutching a 13-7 lead with a little over four minutes remaining, the Colts called a play that faked out the entire 49ers defense and all but sealed their victory.

Luck gave a play action fake to Ahmad Bradshaw and then took the ball on a naked bootleg untouched to the end zone. That is the epitome of perfect play-calling and perfect execution.

Absurdly Awesome Stat

The 49ers, Falcons, Packers, Redskins, Vikings—five of the NFC’s six playoff teams from 2012—are a combined 3-12 so far this season. Meanwhile the Seahawks, the other NFC playoff team from last season, is 3-0.

Countdown Clock: Tom Brady Chasing Drew Brees

Tom Brady has now thrown a touchdown pass in 51 consecutive games, only three short of tying Drew Brees’ record. If Brady continues his streak against the Falcons and Bengals over the next two weeks, he’ll have a chance to tie Brees in Week 6 when the Patriots host the Saints, and then break the record the following week on the road versus the Jets.

Side Dish: Aldon Smith’s DUI (And Subsequent Entrance Into Rehab)

It kills me when I see stories like this about today’s athletes. For those that don’t already know, 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was arrested Friday morning under the suspicion of driving drunk after he drove his car into a tree (there’s not really much suspicion when police find you hammered in a car that hit a tree). He was also booked for possession of marijuana. Anyway, despite his chargers, Smith was released on bail and played in Sunday’s game against the Colts (personally, I would’ve suspended his stupid ass, but the team was gathering all the information they could from a legal aspect and I believe they wanted to hear from the league about this matter in regards to punishment as well). Yes, I called Smith a stupid ass because Smith is a stupid ass for this, solely because the NFLPA has provided him with a freaking number you can call to have a taxi service pick you up at the bar so you don’t drive drunk. I mean, how much easier can they freaking make it!? If I could go out to the bar, knowing I had a taxi service provided for me that would drive me home later, I’d get freaking smashed like it was going out of style! Well, that, and Smith’s a stupid ass for getting drunk two days before a game. Seriously, come on man, you have the privilege of playing in the NFL, as one of the better players on one of the better teams might I add, and you want to squander this opportunity by driving drunk. Anyway, Smith has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the team to voluntarily enter a treatment facility. Hopefully he will not only get the treatment he needs, but also realize he has the opportunity to do something most people dream of: play professional football. If not, then he truly is a stupid ass.

Dessert: Sweet Picks for Week 4

Upset Pick

St. Louis Rams over San Francisco 49ers

Survivor Pick

Indianapolis Colts over Jacksonville Jaguars

South Park: Season 17 Premiere

I felt I had to announce that South Park finally returns this week, with the premiere of Season 17 coming on Comedy Central at 10 p.m. on Wednesday night. You can catch a sneak peak of the newest episode, which pokes fun at the National Security Agency (NSA) and the recent leaks on their motives and policies, here on their official website.

About the author: Michael Cellars

Michael Cellars currently attends Kent State University, where he is majoring in English with minors in writing and psychology. During his free time, he surrounds himself with as much of the NFL as possible, while also being a contributing writer for NFL Soup. Michael’s favorite team is the Green Bay Packers, who he has been an avid fan of his entire life. Twitter: @NFLSoupMichael

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