NFL Week 8: NFC South- Shipyards

Doug Martin exploded onto the NFL scene last Thursday night.

When viewing the vessels of a shipyard, we see units that are being built initially or those that are retooling for an endeavor that requires additional equipment. In some instances like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the ability to navigate choppy waters has become easier with the addition of a new outboard engine in the form of rookie RB Doug Martin. Up until last week’s game against Minnesota, the offense was rudderless depending on a passing game that moved the ball in fits and starts. Bouyed by Doug Martin’ dynamic performance (135 yd rushing / 79 yds rec.) their offense rolled throughout in a dominating 36-17 performance. http://www.nfl.com/voting/players-air-and-ground/2012/REG/8?module=HP11_content_stream_voting_fedex#playerId:0ap2000000085516

In their last two games, Martin has gained 336 yards of total offense and scored 3 touchdowns. Something was discovered 3 weeks ago during the team’s bye week. Head Coach Greg Schiano must have been hit in the head and mistaken his young running back for Ray Rice, whom he coached in college. In that time he has turned to his rookie runner more and the team has averaged 34 points per game ever since as compared to 20.5 over the first four weeks. Undoubtedly the game is slowing for Martin who has adjusted to the speed of the NFL. With back to back games coming against the struggling Raiders and Chargers, who just lost to Cleveland (seriously?), this team could be 5-4 and winners of 3 out of 4 before they take on Carolina and Atlanta in pivotal divisional match-ups. If any of you have been following the feud between the Bucs and Atlanta, you will not want to miss that game.

Before we go there, lets take a look at the standings:

South Division

W

L

T

PCT

PF

PA

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

STRK

LAST5

Atlanta Falcons Falcons 7 0 0 1.000 201 130 3-0 4-0 1-0 3-0 W7 5-0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Buccaneers 3 4 0 .429 184 153 2-2 1-2 1-1 2-4 W1 2-3
New Orleans Saints Saints 2 5 0 .286 190 216 1-2 1-3 1-1 1-3 L1 2-3
Carolina Panthers Panthers 1 6 0 .143 128 167 1-3 0-3 1-2 1-6 L5 0-5

Leaving the shipyard and headed for uncharted waters sail the Atlanta Falcons. What has been interesting over the last two months is how few want to recognize them as the best team in the NFC or the NFL for that matter. The key to becoming a champion in the NFL is winning the close games. Especially those against lesser teams who are hard to get up for, or in last week’s match-up with the Philadelphia Eagles, a wounded dangerous team desperate for a win. Over the last few years, games of the latter category gave the Falcons problems. This time they came out with purpose and were up on the Eagles 24-7 before Andy Reid’s team knew what hit them.

Michael Turner helped the Falcons control the tempo of the game with 24 carries.

Even more remarkable was the fact in 13 seasons, Reid’s team were 13-0 coming off of bye weeks. Although the Falcons have a 3 game lead in the division, they took this road game very serious and set the tone from the outset. Philadelphia’s big name secondary was lit up by Julio Jones who had 5 receptions for 123 yards and scored from 63 yards out. Matt Ryan was 22 for 29 for 263 yards and 3TDs and is having an MVP type season. Do you realize Matt Ryan had a career high 29 touchdown passes last year yet is on pace for 39 this season??

This was a big road win that showed how this team and coaching staff is maturing. Pundits and fans have scoffed at their early playoff exits of the last few years but this team is playing with a gritty resolve not seen in previous seasons. Last week’s game against the Eagles was the type of game the Falcons would inexplicably not show up. Exhibit A: Last year during the second half they could solidify themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, yet lost a game to the Houston Texans and were swept by the New Orleans Saints in a five week stretch. Those could have been confidence building wins yet left the team doubting itself. That doubt showed in the 24-2 ouster in the playoffs by the world champion Giants.

However this year we have Exhibit B: They held off Peyton Manning and the Broncos in a Monday night thriller 27-21. They knocked back a Washington Redskin team which is a mirror image of who they once were 24-17 and now this win. These wins against quality teams are those that have you believing in yourselves by season’s end. Especially when you can step on a team that desperately needs a win and you perform that feat on the road. Naysayers will conclude they haven’t played other top-tier teams but that isn’t the Falcons issue. Just keep winning games and building confidence for the playoffs. Food for thought?? Once upon a time, there was a Miami Dolphin team that went 14-0 in the regular season and won the Super Bowl. They only beat 3 teams that year with a winning record…so don’t listen to the idiot pundits who miss this.

Now we have to talk about Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Looking at their record the quarterback is the first to get the blame when truth be told, Newton has given the team four 4th quarter leads this season. The fact their defense keeps letting the team down is what everyone is missing. Nevermind the frustrated press conferences of Cam Newton. Head Coach Ron Rivera may be sunk if his team gives up any more 4th quarter leads. It may be in the Panthers best interest to pick up a receiver before the trade deadline to help open up the offense. With Steve Smith (35 rec. 589 yards/ ZERO TDs) they have a good mid-range receiver. They need someone to blow the top off the defense to back the safeties back from the running game. Everyone knows the Panther offense can be defensed 20 yards and in. Once they can get a deep receiver this could open up the offense both running and passing. They still have time to right the ship…they just have some work to do.

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NFL Week 8: The Buccaneers – Doug Martin & The Boise St 50 Club

Doug Martin burst onto the NFL scene with last night’s dazzling performance on NFL Network.

“On any given Sunday” was the phrase coined by the late commissioner Bert Bell back in the 1950’s. Well lets extend that to Thursday nights as well. With NFL Network carrying a full slate of games this year, another stage has been added to showcase players who otherwise would be obscured outside of Sunday highlight shows. Enter Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers.

He powered the formerly 2-4 Bucs to a 36-17 victory over the 5-2 Vikings up in the Metrodome. This was an impressive win for Tampa. Going into the game the Vikings were 4-0 at home and had the NFL’s 11th ranked defense which only allowed 14.25 points per game in those 4 wins. Even NFC heavyweight San Francisco could only manage 13 points in the home of the Norsemen. So who was this group that came up north to wreak havoc on a former division rival??

Well avid readers of the Taylor Blitz Times know this doesn’t come as a shock to us. In Tampa’s previous 4 losses, they came by a total of 22 points, and one of those came courtesy of Eli Manning’s 245 yard 4th quarter (520 overall), 25 point performance when they faced New York. Even in that 41-34 defeat, they stared down the defending champion Giants and have scored 28 or more in 4 of their 7 games this year. Josh Freeman is back to how he looked in 2010 when he was second to Tom Brady in the touchdown to interception ratio with 14 TDs to only 5 interceptions. Here we predicted the Bucs to rise into possible wild card contention with the addition of Martin from Boise St. https://taylorblitztimes.com/2012/08/27/2012-nfc-south-previews-predictions/ Even with our eye on him Martin’s start to the season has been slow and developing. His play mimics that of a team that showed flashes but hadn’t put a complete game together.

The Buccanneers learned to entrust Doug Martin with the football in his hands as the lead horse.

The big night began for Martin in the first quarter where he took a routine draw play 41 yards to the Vikings 16 to set up the first score of the night to make it 3-0. He finally showed the package of speed and burst this night that Boise St. Bronco fans had been accustomed to seeing. Later in the first now up 10-0, from his own 46 yard line, Martin took off on a counter gap and completely plowed over Viking DB Jamarca Sanford (SEC / Ole Miss) for 12 more. A completely physical run, the type of attitude run that establishes dominance on a football field. On this night the Buccaneers ran him on counters, stretches, and draw plays that allowed him to gain over 100 yards by halftime. Then early in the 3rd quarter came his signature play of the night. On a routine screen play, two Viking defenders converged on him, with a signature stiff arm to DT Letroy Guion (from Florida St.) he burst through 3 more Vikings and 64 yards later the Bucs were up 27-10. Ballgame!!

For the night Martin had 29 car. for 135 yards and 1 TD, to go with 3 receptions 79 more yards and another touchdown. Martin was the star of the game and did it on a national stage with the rest of the NFL watching.  Those that doubted his ability to play on this level have all shut their collective mouths for this was a strong performance. Consider his next three games are against the Raiders (12th against the run), down on their luck Chargers (2nd against the run), and Carolina (19th against the run) he might be able to string together a few hundred yard games here.

For the season Doug Martin sits at 543 yards, which is more than halfway to the 1,000 yards The Chancellor of Football told you he’d get. Do you realize he’s only played 7 games?? Do you realize if he duplicated last night’s performance next week, it would put him on pace for a 1,356 yard season?? For all the Johnny Come-Lately’s we have been touting this talent here for more than two football seasons now. https://taylorblitztimes.com/2011/08/02/2011-heisman-campaign-doug-martin-of-boise-st/ This was a gem we wrote to get some exposure out there about him when no other writer or pundit had anything good to say. It was us and no one else writer-wise. The only guy who did talk about Martin as a 1st round pick and will do great in the pros was fellow NFL analyst Mike Mayock. Ironically, he was the color analyst for last night’s game. We argued the merits of Doug Martin and the National Championship legitimacy of the Boise St Broncos against a tidal wave of naysayers… Which brings us to our next point…

Are you familiar with the Boise St 50 club?? I know you aren’t… The Boise St Broncos class of 2011 was the first Division I (we use old school terminology here) graduating class to win 50 games during their collegiate career. They should have played for the National Championship at least one of those years. Yet NCAA, CBS and BCS politics kept them from their legitimate place as one of the great teams in college football history because they didn’t play in the SEC or a BCS power conference. They were 6-0 against teams from BCS conferences, won 4 bowl games including 2 BCS bowl games, and had 2 undefeated seasons. Now those former colleagues that argued against The Chancellor’s points are nowhere to be found now that every skilled player from that Boise St. team made the NFL. Kellen Moore is in Detroit along with WR Titus Young, and WR Austin Pettis (Rams) who scored in last week’s game against the Packers. They were the winningest team in college football from 1999-2011. There are other notable Boise St Broncos in the NFL… Ask Aaron Rodgers and now Matt Ryan what they think of Daryn Colledge as a tackle. He started for the 2010 Super Bowl Champion Packers. Then go tap Peyton Manning on the shoulder and ask him what school his left tackle Ryan Clady went to.

Yet the lasting legacy of that group will be Doug Martin’s NFL career and he’s now off and running. He was the crown jewel of that group and last night was a glimpse into what he can do as a runner. Isn’t it ironic that Tamp Bay RB LaGarrette Blount became infamous for punching a Boise St player and now he sits behind one on the Buccanneer depth chart??

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Another friend to the Taylor Blitz Times is the Ray Ellis Show on Voice of America Sports. Talks about pro football on every Tuesday and has many former players on his show. The Chancellor has been on the show a few times talking football and being from Ohio he knows his football. Tune in on Tuesdays http://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/64762/ray-ellis-sports

2012 NFC South Previews & Predictions

Second year wideout Julio Jones skies over a Ravens defensive back for a touchdown in last week’s preseason opener.

As the 2012 regular season beckons, many pundits and fans are looking for the Carolina Panthers to light up this division. There will be several young stars that will come to the fore in the toughest division in football, yet there will be one second year player who should take the league by storm. Oh you thought we meant Cam Newton?? He’ll do well but the player who is about to break out is WR Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons. His play so far in the preseason along with the maturation he showed toward the end of last year. Look out his star is on the rise.

No division in football has been as competitive from top to bottom as the NFC South. Since its inception in 2002, there hasn’t been a repeat division winner and again its the only division to have every team play for the conference championship during that time. Each team can run at you physically, Atlanta with Michael Turner (1,340 yards in 2011), thunderous LeGarrette Blount (1,007 yards in 2010), former Heisman winner in Mark Ingram, and former twin thousand yard rushers DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart in Carolina. Yet with last year’s emergence of Cam Newton and 2010’s Josh Freeman (25TDs to only 6 ints), each team fields better than average quarterbacks. This is before we get to record setting Super Bowl champion Drew Brees and 3 time playoff participant QB Matt Ryan. This division is stacked on offense…

However there are several questions moving into 2012. How will the Saints fare with the suspension of Head Coach Sean Peyton?? Will their game day adjustments suffer or will the overall gameplan be inferior?? Have the Panthers made enough moves to allow Cam Newton to star again or will he have a sophomore slump?? Which team was the real Tampa Bay Buccaneers?? Was it the 10-6 2010 team that was coming on at the end of that season or last year’s 4-11 debacle that got Head Coach Raheem Morris fired??

We’ll answer a few of those later in the article….as for our predictions

2012 NFC South Predictions

Atlanta Falcons 11-5 *

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-7

New Orleans Saints 9-7

Carolina Panthers 6-10

Now that the Saints signed Drew Brees to a long term deal: How will he fare this season without Sean Payton?? Payton and Brees have been lethal these last several years with game plans but they will suffer with game-day adjustments. There should be a drop off this season as Interim Coach Joe Vitt can’t put his stamp on the team. In a single season lame duck situation?? Not going to be good. More important, without their spiritual leader on defense with the suspension of Jonathon Vilma, this defense will give up points by the bushel and will behind in the race to win the south. As evidenced in Saturday night’s preseason game against Houston, this defense struggled in a 34-27 shootout. The Texans marched to two easy touchdowns while the starters were out there. Don’t forget the Saints were at home. How do you think they will fare when they are on the road this year?? http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2012082554/2012/PRE3/texans@saints#tab=recap&menu=highlights

They have a murderous schedule and will lose tie breaker advantages during the weeks of 12-15 where they face San Francisco, who beat them in last year’s playoffs. Then they face a stronger Atlanta Falcons team on the road, then travel to play the World Champion Giants in the cold, then come home to face a resurgent Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. Even though Tampa had a down year in 2011, they only lost 27-16 in New Orleans and defeated the Saints in the Superdome in 2010. At full strength with Coach Peyton, Jonathon Vilma on defense, the Saints would be in good shape against these ball clubs but with a coaching staff trying to keep the ship steady?? These are four losses waiting to happen and all to NFC teams. This is after they would have played the Packers at Lambeau in week 4, and the Philadelphia Eagle in week 9.  Too many in conference losses will doom the Saints this year.

Super Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers.

Has there been a more electrifying rookie quarterback in NFL history than Cam Newton?? The Chancellor can only think of one and that was Dan Marino’s 1983 season. Yet a closer look and Newton broke the rookie record in week 1 with 422 yards against the Cardinals, rushed for 706 yards and 14 TDs (another record), while completing 60% of his passes for 4,021 yards (another record) and 21TDs. All as a rookie?? Yikes! That dwarfs Marino’s 20TD passes and didn’t start for Shula’s Dolphins until week 6 and was no threat with only 45 yards rushing. What is he going to do for an encore??

Once upon a time Tim Tebow was given the nod over Newton at the University of Florida. My how the tables have turned as the Panthers defeated Tebow and the Jets 17-12 last night in pre-season action.

The question is did they do enough to move up in the competitive NFC South?? They still have the “Cash & Carry” backfield of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart, who just signed an extension last week. Ageless Steve Smith revitalized his career with Newton’s emergence and may have a running partner in WR Louis Murphy who scored in last night’s game.  On offense the answer is yes, but on defense they haven’t done enough. They did get LB Thomas Davis back but they have to keep their fingers crossed he doesn’t injure his knee for a fourth time. They need all the help they can get on a defense that was 28th last year and finished 25th against the run. In this division that last stat will be what they need to improve and the draft only brought one lineman in 4th rounder Frank Alexander. New leaders have to emerge for the Panthers to make a  move up… that can happen in 2013. The problem is it’s still 2012 so they’ll improve just a few wins on offense as a team.

Former Boise St running back Doug Martin should rush for 1,200 yards for Tampa this season.

Now a team that will be the surprise winner in this division is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last year this team dropped to 30th in the NFL in rushing and brought unnecessary heat on QB Josh Freeman. Team brass addressed that with 1st round selection RB Doug Martin out of Boise St. With the rushing attack under performing it also kept the Buccaneers defense from resting. In 2011 this was a run first, pass second team that went 10-6. Josh Freeman had the second lowest touchdown to interception ratio, 25TDs to just 6 interceptions, to a record setting Tom Brady. With the acquisition of WR Vincent Jackson from the San Diego Chargers to go along with TE Kellen Winslow Jr, WR Mike Williams and WR Arrelios Benn, this team has some big targets.

Speaking of Tom Brady, the Buccaneer defense made his life miserable in pre-season action Friday night. The Bucs pass rush harassed him all night and made him throw a pick six in a 30-28 win. Brady played into the 3rd quarter (unheard of in pre-season) and New England needed 2 4th quarter touchdowns to make the score close. One of the differences was the efficient play of Freeman and Doug Martin, who rushed for 53 yards on 13 carries and sat out more than half the game. This talent who has been a Taylor Blitz Time favorite https://taylorblitztimes.com/2011/08/02/2011-heisman-campaign-doug-martin-of-boise-st/ will tilt the balance of power for them from a tactical standpoint all year. They should return to form and match the 10-6 record of 2010. They’ll be ready to make a serious move in 2013.

However 2012 will belong to the Atlanta Falcons. They have built for this season for the last four and this is the year for the payoff. TE Tony Gonzalez can’t go forever and RB Michael Turner is about to turn 30. When the Falcons lost in last year’s wildcard to the New York Giants, it marked the second season in a row their season ended at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champions. As a matter of fact, if you include the 2009 NFC Divisional playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals, 3 of the last 4 seasons has ended at the hands of the eventual NFC Champion. Its time for their maturation and ascend to a Super Bowl themselves. Head Coach Mike Smith and Matt Ryan have to prove they can win a playoff game. They are primed as a team talent wise to make a move.

Next up: NFC North

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2011 Heisman Campaign: Doug Martin of Boise St.

Boise St’s talented Doug Martin

Heisman Trophy

One of the nation’s best running backs wasn’t even a guaranteed starter at his position just two years ago, let alone last year. Would you believe he was a complimentary back and special team standout who switched to and from safety several times at Boise State?? At 5’9 201lbs, he runs with a Mark Ingram-like low center of gravity, yet unlike the past Heisman Trophy winner, Martin has an explosive burst. He began the 2010 season as a complimentary option to incumbent starter Jeremy Avery and just flat unseated him. He wound up rushing for 1,260 yds on just 201 carries, had a whopping 6.2 yards per carry average and 12 TDs. Yikes! What would he have done if he had been the undisputed starter at the beginning of the season??

He exploded at the end of the season when he dazzled the nation with one of the best performances in college football against Nevada.  Boise St was ranked #3 with a 10-0 record and traveled to play Nevada, who was on a 10 game winning streak, and were 10-1 with a #19 ranking. This was the last hurdle for the Broncos to push to play in that elusive National Championship Game. In a nationally televised game, the Broncos sprinted out to a 24-7 lead thanks to 2TDs by Martin. The last of which was a 51 yd sweep to the left that left Wolfpack defenders gasping for air as he sprinted into the endzone for what appeared to be a clinching touchdown. Yet the Wolfpack furiously fought to get back into the game tying the score at 24 with 5:10 left in the regulation.

The Boise offense had been stifled for the better part of two quarters when they turned to their dynamic junior running back. In what should have been a last possession time consuming drive, Martin accidentally showcased his flare for the dramatic. On 1st and 10, he took a routine screen pass, set up blocks with a few electrifying moves and powered through an attempted tackle and exploded for a 79 yard touchdown. The play was stunning by itself yet when his team was playing pensive and they needed it most he came through. Alas the finish to the game robbed the Broncos of their shot at playing for it all falling 34-31 in overtime. However that Saturday night in front of an ESPN audience Martin amassed 152 yds on 24 carries for 2TDs while gaining 78 yards on 3 receptions and another touchdown. Two of his scoring plays were from 51 and 79 yards out.  For the season he had 11 plays of over 25 yds or more and 3 that were over 50.

After receiving a slight from the Bowl Committee and having to play December 22 in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl, the Broncos again had a national television audience tune in. After both teams started off sluggish, Martin moved the crowd with an 84 yard touchdown run in which he outran the entire secondary the last 50 yards to the endzone. He had another breathtaking cutback run of 32 yards and finished the day with 17 carries for 147 yards and 1 touchdown in a 26-3 win. When the lights came on and it was time to perform, he played his absolute best.

So why the high expectations on Doug Martin? He finished with 6, 100 yard games and if he carries the football to the tune of 250-275 times this season he could rush for 1,700 yards and over 20TDs in the Mountain West Conference. He rushed for 15TDs in a complimentary role in 2009 so those numbers aren’t far-fetched.  His stock is clearly on the rise and this is an NFL ready running back. As we debated the merits of a Boise St’s legitimacy to play for the National Championship last year, we expect some flack because of the Broncos schedule and conference. Until you realize

  • LaDainian Tomlinson -TCU Hornedfrogs WAC- 13,404 NFL Career Yards, 144 rushing TDs & NFL record 31TDs in one season
  • Walter Payton – Jackson St – SWAC- Former NFL All Time Rushing leader with 16,726 yards rushing
  • Jamal Anderson-Utah WAC- Ran for Atlanta Falcon record 1,750 yards on NFL record 410 carries in 1998
  • Mike Anderson-Utah WAC – Ran for NFL rookie game rushing record 250 yards against New Orleans Saints 2000

2011 Boise State Bronco Stadium Banner of Doug Martin

Just to name a few of the merits of those coming from smaller schools and their ability to compete with their BCS Conference School counterparts at the next level. Take a look at Reggie Bush for example….yet I digress. Ahem it’s at the collegiate level we’re talking about. As the video illustrates Martin can avoid the big hit with his quick feet yet when contact is imminent, he explodes into tacklers with the mentality of a defensive player. If you approach Boise St’s Stadium, you’ll see these huge banners of Kellen Moore and a few other players, yet its the one to the left of this column that will catch your eye. Keep your eye out for him this season and in next April’s draft. You haven’t heard the last of this talent and with an injury free season could be the best in the country and worthy of the Heisman Trophy.