Has Marvin Lewis Become the New Tony Dungy??

At the beginning of the season, Taylor Blitz Times had the Cincinnati Bengals picked to face the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game. The season before they were picked to make it to their first Super Bowl since 1988. The prevailing theme is they would come of age where their temperament would match their talent and win a few signature games.

Has Marvin Lewis become the new Tony Dungy??

Has Marvin Lewis become the new Tony Dungy??

The type of wins that would send the message to other teams in the conference and the NFL they were a legitimate Super Bowl contender. How long have we been waiting for Marvin Lewis’ Cincinnati Bengals to come through with that signature win??

A few short weeks ago, this team was 3-0 and faced the staggering 2-2 New England Patriots. Tom Brady and co. had just come off the business end of a 41-14 thrashing from the Kansas City Chiefs. After traveling on a Monday night no less. The Bengals were ripe to gain that landmark win, yet were thoroughly outclassed 43-17.

Fast forward to this past Sunday. The Bengals know the Colts will figure prominently in the AFC playoffs. Where they had a chance to redeem themselves and send a message, they were blanked 27-0. Are you serious?? In a month they have gone from the last unbeaten team to an 0-2-1 record in that time. Before anyone can point to injuries take a look at the 5-1 Arizona Cardinals and all the players lost to injury.

Andy Dalton is linked to Coach Marvin Lewis. Like it or not, their chance to change their legacy could be in jeopardy.

Andy Dalton is linked to Coach Marvin Lewis. Like it or not, their chance to change their legacy could be in jeopardy.

We can’t make excuses and the biggest problem is we have seen this before. Whether we’re talking about Marvin Lewis or QB Andy Dalton. The question has been “What are you going to do in January??” With one of the NFL’s most talented teams, The Chancellor has to raise the question “Has Marvin Lewis taken this team as far as he could??”

This is starting to look eerily similar to the plight of the Tampa Buccaneers of 1998-2001. Head Coach Tony Dungy had built the league’s best defense and had acquired a few offensive pieces, yet couldn’t get over the hump. After multiple playoff flame outs, management turned to Jon Gruden and the team went on to win Super Bowl XXXVII. A change of leadership with a new motivation strategy was the ticket then, is that what the Cincinnati Bengals need now??

Super Bowl caliber teams don’t go a month without a win nor do they get embarrassed by teams they figure to face come playoff time. For the record, The Chancellor of Football is a fan of Marvin Lewis, and has been so since his 2000 champion Ravens defense. However the question needs to be raised. Its de ja vu all over again.

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Report Card: San Diego Chargers

While the Denver Broncos have retooled their defense in an attempt to make it back to the Super Bowl, one team has begun to turn heads. The San Diego Chargers aren’t just posing as the #1 challenger for the AFC West crown. They’re posing as a legitimate threat to win the entire conference.

Phillip Rivers is the early season MVP of the league.

Phillip Rivers is the early season MVP of the league.

We keep wanting to take the Cincinnati Bengals seriously but when it’s time for them to win that champion’s building block landmark game, they fall flat on their face. Enter the San Diego Chargers…

Do you realize the Chargers are on a 5 game winning streak which began with a win over the defending champion Seahawks?? Did you know Phillip Rivers is the first QB in NFL history with 5 straight games with a passer rating of 120 or higher?? He is tied for 2nd with 15 touchdown passes thrown. Although Andrew Luck leads with 17, he’s thrown 7 interceptions to Rivers 2.

Head Coach Mike McCoy could be up for NFL coach of the year honors this season.

Head Coach Mike McCoy could be up for NFL coach of the year honors this season.

Their only loss was to the 4-1 NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals. So this team has been through an early crucible that should serve them well as they gear up for a huge game against Denver in 2 weeks. Therein lies the problem. How do they not look ahead of this weeks game against the Kansas City Chiefs?? That is the #1 item for Head Coach Mike McCoy to convey to his team.

Has anyone coached better than Mike McCoy this season?? You would be hard pressed to find one. At the beginning of the season you had backfield cogs Ryan Matthews & Danny Woodhead. Since they have been lost to injury, Branden Oliver (249 yds rushing / 124 yds receiving) has emerged as a spark plug. He runs with an explosive fury where Donald Brown is the steady sacrificial runner for this offense.

I know what you’re thinking… sacrificial?? Yes sacrificial.

The Chargers have been a power rushing team averaging 31.6 rushing attempts per game. The Chargers know Brown (59 car. 126 yds)will not break any nifty shifty runs. His runs are the equivalent of a boxing jab to just help wear down the defense. In keeping defenses honest TE Antonio Gates has re-emerged with 6TDs on 24 receptions. He hasn’t scored at this pace since 2004.

San Diego stands to get Ryan Matthews back from injury in 5 weeks. The ground and pound approach that has allowed Rivers to flourish has kept the defense rested as well. Right now they field the 3rd best defense in football.

Right now the Chargers have the NFL’s longest winning streak in football with 5. They have scored 30 or more in 4 games and it was their blueprint Dallas took to Seattle in their watershed victory last week. Two weeks from now they could be 6-1 going into that Sunday Night tilt in Denver. At stake, control of the AFC West and possible control of the conference as a whole.

Don't forget how well Charger coach Mike McCoy knows Peyton Manning.

Don’t forget how well Charger coach Mike McCoy knows Peyton Manning.

Last year the Chargers won in Denver on a Thursday night 27-20 but lost the rubber-match in the playoffs there 24-17. Those were the two lowest point totals for the record setting Bronco team a year ago who this year aren’t as potent. This year the Chargers are a little more battle hardened and must show it by not overlooking the Kansas City Chiefs.

The following week will take care of itself. Thanks for reading and please share the article.

Report Card: Cleveland Browns

Dare we say it but we could be in the midst of a changing of the guard in the AFC North. No team has played with the verve and spirit of the Cleveland Browns consistently in this division. The proof that this team is growing is they were ripe for a letdown. After conducting the greatest come from behind road win in NFL history, they had to face the Steelers who they had been 1-18 against.

Brian Hoyer has put the debate over who should start at QB to rest.

Brian Hoyer has put the debate over who should start at QB to rest.

We would have said rivalry but when it’s this one sided it doesn’t qualify as one. After totally letting the Steelers off the hook in week 1, they battered them 31-10 this time behind a combined 155 yards rushing and 3TDs between Ben Tate and Isiah Crowell. Much like The Chancellor of Football alluded to last week with the Dallas Cowboys, it was the physical nature of running the football that wore the Steelers down. They ran the football 38 times in this game.

Isiah Crowell and the Browns have run by committee this season.

Isiah Crowell and the Browns have run by committee this season.

By owning time of possession you keep the game close and rest your defense. Going into the game yesterday Cleveland was averaging 143.5 yards per game. Not trickery draws and pass formation runs to fool the defense. We’re talking knuckles in the dirt, fire off the ball physical line play up front.

Hats off to Brian Hoyer who has been the beneficiary of this running game. Several times against the Steelers he used play action to full effect hitting downfield receivers. In all actuality if the vote were to happen now Hoyer would figure to be a Pro Bowl quarterback. His play this season has been more consistent than Tom Brady’s believe it or not.

For the season, Hoyer has completed 60.4% of his passes for 1,227 yards 7 touchdowns to just 1 interception. He’s not turning the football over… in fact the Browns as a team aren’t. They only have 2 turnovers in 5 games and are +3 on the season. If their defense stepped up and made more plays they could be 4-1 or even 5-0.

Free agent signee Karlos Dansby and the defense need to step up their game.

Free agent signee Karlos Dansby and the defense need to step up their game.

Right now the defense has been abysmal giving up 149.6 yards per game. They play well at times but have too many breakdowns to be consistent. Lets face it, the Browns overspent on Paul Kruger. His production doesn’t match the $40 million they have committed.

Maybe he can turn that around and Karlos Dansby (42 tot. tackles /2 sacks) and the front seven need to force more turnovers. Did you know no one in the front seven has forced a fumble yet?? Can’t gang tackle when you can’t disengage from blocks. They need to play with more force up front…period.

If the Cleveland Browns are to make a playoff run, the defense raising its play is the key. This team is 3rd in rushing and the defense should be rested. As Hoyer showed in the 4th quarter comeback 29-28 win over Tennessee, he can rally the team. The defense needs to play better to allow them some separation on the scoreboard.

It’s a work in progress…

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First Quarter Report Card: Dallas Cowboys

With today’s 20-17 win over the Houston Texans, the Dallas Cowboys stretched their record to 4-1. Detractors are waiting for the shoe to drop on this team. However the front runner for Taylor Blitz Times Coach of the Year is Scott Linehan who has kept Dallas a run oriented offense. So much so DeMarco Murray just became the first RB since OJ Simpson in 1975 to begin his season with 5 straight 100 yard games.

Murray and Bryant have weathered the storm of 8-8 seasons.

Murray and Bryant have weathered the storm of 8-8 seasons.

Yes you read that correctly, it’s the first time in 39 years a back has begun the season with 5 straight 100 yard games. Here we have been critical of Murray from going down at first contact. He has run with purpose and fury in this his contract year and redefining his career. Never in his career has he been able to string together more than 7 straight starts.

Now they have to travel to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champions. This line with 3 – 1st round draft picks & has matured into road graters. Murray is running with purpose and fury. A contract year will do that for a runner. To The Chancellor he’s always been a displaced 3rd down back. He’s breaking 2 to 3 tackles and falls forward after contact.

Rolando McClain has made plays along with fellow LB Bruce Carter.

Rolando McClain has made plays along with fellow LB Bruce Carter.

Right now he’s on a torrid pace with 670 yards rushing. On pace for 2,144 yards this season, which will be hard to maintain. Yet make no mistake about it, the Cowboys are 4-1 and teams that start with that record make the playoffs 75% of the time.

With the offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage, this is no fluke. This is The Great Wall II and they are built for a 5-7 year run of dominance barring injury. If they could play game 1 again against the 49ers this team would be 5-0. When you can physically dominate your opponent on the line of scrimmage, it sets the tone for your football team. Now your defense is rested and playing less. Remember that worst defense in NFL history?? Well now they’re just 21st in defense. Keep in mind fresh defenders can make game changing plays.

Take it from The Chancellor of Football this is a recipe for championship football. Don’t listen to these idiots on ESPN who keep trying to feed the masses “it’s a passing league.”

With a run first offense, Romo isn't forced to make every throw which lead to some of his interceptions.

With a run first offense, Romo isn’t forced to make every throw which lead to some of his interceptions.

If so, then why did Seattle destroy Denver in last year’s Super Bowl?? Why has Drew Brees and the pass happy Saints watched the ground and pound 49ers play in 3 straight NFC Championships?? Why did it take the Cowboys, averaging 37 pass plays to 21 runs until week 7 to pick up their 4th win last year??

Before yesterday, Dallas was averaging 32.5 rushes to 29.5 passes per game. Murray ran for 136 yards on 31 carries as the Cowboys won their 4th game in a row to start this 2014 season. If you asked the Cowboys they would love to replay game 1 with the 49ers again. Somewhere down in Texas, they must be in the meeting room showing this offensive line the Football Life for The Great Wall of Dallas. Just as the team’s history had a second version of The Doomsday Defense, keep your eye on this offensive line.

This team is going to make the playoffs.

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Alex Smith v. Colin Kaepernick: In Whom Do You Trust

Today’s football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs isn’t just another football game. The saga playing out will be the Alex Smith v Colin Kaepernick debate. Did the 49ers keep the right quarterback?? Most 49er fans think they did. Is that because they’re blind loyalists and wanted to move on with the new QB??

Alex Smith goes back to San Fran to take on the 49ers

Alex Smith goes back to San Fran to take on the 49ers

This has a similar backdrop to the 1994 game between the Chiefs and 49ers. In that one Steve Young brought the 49ers to Arrowhead to face his predecessor Joe Montana, now a Chief. However this one is taking place in San Francisco. Its a shame this game couldn’t happen at Candlestick Park with all the history.

For the record, The Chancellor of Football believes the 49ers kept the wrong quarterback.

Short sighted 49er fans forget that Smith drove Harbaugh’s first team to an NFC best 13-3 record. Then knocked off the Saints with “The Catch III” playoff winner to Vernon Davis in the final seconds. Smith didn’t lose that NFC Championship Game to the Giants. Those two muffed punts by Kyle Williams did them in.

In 2012 the 49ers were an established contender at 7-4, when Harbaugh made the switch to Kapernick. Smith said all the right things as he watched the 49ers make the Super Bowl. They lost that game to a superior team and the game revealed Kaepernick’s fatal flaw that still haunts him.

Kaepernick is dazzling when he runs but suspect when throwing.

Kaepernick is dazzling when he runs but suspect when throwing.

He makes splash plays when he runs the football but hasn’t developed as a downfield quarterback. Watch his play. He can’t throw his receiver open to a designated spot in the defense, and relies on a straight path to drill the football to his receivers. In other words, he can only complete passes like a game of catch. He hasn’t shown the ability to throw on time and drop the ball in over the linebackers or the fade routes to Crabtree Richard Sheman was talking about.

This is why you see so many of his interceptions by defenders undercutting his throws. Think back to the Monday Night game against Chicago. Kaepernick hasn’t developed the touch that failed him on that final throw in Super Bowl XLVII, and is still throwing the same way. Relies too much on running and scrambling instead of allowing the specificity of the planned offensive play to take shape.

As these two went on separate paths, the 49ers went 12-4 and did make it back to the NFC Championship Game. Not only did Smith have a better record the year before with the 49ers but went 11-5 with a new team and new offense. Yes the Chiefs lost in the AFC Wildcard 45-44 but it was the most points scored by a team that lost an NFL playoff game ever.

Is Harbaugh going to make it in San Francisco past this year??

Is Harbaugh going to make it in San Francisco past this year??

Last year Kaepernick threw for 3,197 yards 21 TDs to only 8 interceptions. Smith tossed 23 TDs, 7 interceptions and 3,313 yards. So the tale of the tape is close.

Isn’t it ironic that after a week in which the NFL community is questioning whether Harbaugh has lost his locker room, here comes what ultimately could be his demise in San Francisco?? The Chancellor of Football told you before the season, Harbaugh will be out after this year.

Both teams are showing up to today’s game at 2-2 and Smith knows this defense pretty well. If you think this game doesn’t mean a lot to him, look at last week’s footage between the Texans and Bills. Before that game Ryan Fitzpatrick passionately told the Texans what beating his former team meant.

If you thought the buzzards are starting to circle above Harbaugh now, don’t let them lose this football game. By the way…Joe Montana and the Chiefs won that game in 1994 too.

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First Quarter Report Card: New Orleans Saints

It is totally amazing how in the game of football, a team can look nearly identical as it once did but the results are totally different. Take the 2014 New Orleans Saints. Here at Taylor Blitz Times The Chancellor of Football posed this question: When do you say when? What were the Saints about to sacrifice when they were about to commit heavily financially in Jimmy Graham??

Will the Saints turn it around in 2014??

Will the Saints turn it around in 2014??

Over the first quarter of the new season it looks like they sacrificed everything. When it was time to sign TE Jimmy Graham it was expressed he was the security blanket Brees needed. This isn’t true. He’s a weapon but the true chain mover of this offense was RB Darren Sproles.

Every time the Saints needed a first down they went to Sproles on screens, circle routes out of the backfield, draws, you name it. They haven’t had the same returns going to Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. A combined 6 receptions for 40 yards and no big plays. Last year after 4 games Sproles had 23 receptions for 277 yards and 1 touchdown.

Defenses are focusing in on this and the Saints first down totals 30, 27, 26, and 20 are diminishing per game. You won’t see it in Drew Brees totals but you see it here and in defensive statistics.

Jarius Byrd is out for the year.

Jarius Byrd is out for the year.

Last year, the Saints owned time of possession and wound up with the league’s 4th best defense. In 2013 the Saints were 3rd in time of possession where this year they are 16th. Couple that with poor tackling and free agent losses and they’ve plummeted to 30th on defense. Allowing 89 more yards and 27.5 points per game.

They have a chance to right the ship in the upcoming weeks against the Bucs, Lions, Packers, and Panthers. None are offensive juggernauts and Green Bay is ranked 28th. ESPN and their talking heads keep mentioning Aaron Rodgers like this is 2010.

However Brees is playing like its 2010 as he has completed 71% of his passes for 1,203 yards and 7 TDs. He leads the NFL’s #3 offense into battle with the 26th, 1st, 22nd, and 24th ranked defenses in this next quarter. To get back into this season the Saints need to go 3-1 in this next quarter to give themselves a chance. If they can get to 4-4 or even 5-3 by the midway point, they will put themselves in wildcard contention.

If Atlanta keeps backsliding with their 31st ranked defense, they can still grab the division.

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