Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Pat Yasinskas' QB Watch
By Pat Yasinskas
New York's Eli Manning, left, and Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick both helped their teams snap long losing streaks against divisional foes this past Sunday.
Back in the New Orleans Saints’ 2009 championship season, coach Sean Payton repeatedly told his players that if they wanted to go somewhere they’d never been before, they’d have to do things they never did before.
That philosophy helped the Saints win the first Super Bowl in franchise history, and it looked like some quarterbacks around the league were borrowing that motto recently. Week 3 of the NFL season was a time for quarterbacks to stop some unpleasant streaks.
ESPN has dedicated 2011 to examining one of the most crucial positions in all of sports -- the quarterback. Year of the QB »
Speaking of ending bad streaks against division rivals, Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman helped the Bucs break a five-game skid, dating back to 2008 when Jon Gruden was still coaching the team, against the Atlanta Falcons. Finally, Carolina rookie Cam Newton got his first NFL victory as the Panthers defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With the streaks off their backs, all four quarterbacks let out sighs of relief. The role reversals showed that things might be changing for the better for the Bills, Giants, Buccaneers and Panthers.
“It’s huge," Freeman said. “It’s about time one went our way. They’ve been really close games. Since I’ve been here, they’ve won the first four [plus one before Freeman arrived], and they’ve all been close. I can think back to my rookie year. We went in to Atlanta, and had the lead down to the very end of the game. And [Chris] Redman [playing for an injured Matt Ryan] came in and hit it on a fourth down. They’re a great divisional opponent. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys, offense and defense. They’re a good team. We’ll get to see them again. I’m looking forward to that."
Fitzpatrick was the only one of the four streak-busting quarterbacks to have a truly huge day. In a game similar to what he did against Oakland the week before, Fitzpatrick rallied the Bills after they fell behind 21-0 in the third quarter. He threw for 369 yards and helped set up Rian Lindell’s game-winning field goal as time expired.
Manning didn’t have a big yardage total (254), but he did throw for four touchdown passes against Philadelphia’s highly paid and highly hyped secondary. Freeman only threw for 180 yards and was intercepted twice, but he scored the first rushing touchdown of his career and got plenty of help from a defense that probably played its best game since coach Raheem Morris took over in 2009. Newton threw for a career-low 158 yards (he threw for more than 400 in each of his first two starts), but he threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Greg Olsen with four minutes and 20 seconds remaining on a day when heavy rain made throwing the ball difficult.
Newton won’t have to face the Jaguars again this season, unless Carolina and Jacksonville somehow end up meeting in the Super Bowl. But Fitzpatrick will have to face the Bills again, Manning will play the Eagles later and Freeman and the Bucs will have to go up to the Georgia Dome.
They won’t be carrying the burden of those ugly streaks and that may help them get to more places they’ve never been before.
Quarterback | Baltimore Ravens ... Next Game: 10/2 vs. NYJ
A week after what could have been a disastrous loss to the Titans, Flacco had the Ravens roaring back in St. Louis. This game was over quickly because Flacco had about as good a first quarter as anyone could have dreamed up. In that quarter alone, Flacco threw three touchdown passes, totaling 133 yards, to rookie receiver Torrey Smith. The Ravens took a 27-0 lead into halftime and Flacco finished with 389 passing yards.
Quarterback | Tennessee Titans ... Next Game: 10/2 at CLE
The Jake Locker fan club can stay quiet for now because Hasselbeck showed he's far from being over the hill. Against the Broncos, Hasselbeck was efficient all day, completing 27 of 36 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, one of those touchdowns came in the clutch and after the Titans had lost receiver Kenny Britt to a season-ending knee injury. Hasselbeck hit Daniel Graham with the game-winning touchdown with 4:24 left.
Quarterback | New England Patriots... Next Game: 10/2 at OAK
The bar is set incredibly high because Brady is the best quarterback in the league, period. He did throw for four touchdowns and 387 yards, which helped him set the record for most passing yards in the first three games of the season, against the Bills. But he had a very uncharacteristic day as he threw four interceptions. Even if you're the best quarterback who ever has set foot on the planet, your stock is going to take a hit after a four-interception game.
Quarterback | St. Louis Rams ... Next Game: 10/2 vs. WAS
A lot of people forecast greatness for Bradford as a rookie last season. He's shown plenty of promise, but his performance against the Ravens was a sign that he hasn't truly arrived as an elite quarterback. Big-time players have to win big-time games, especially at home, and Bradford didn't come close. He failed to get the Rams on the scoreboard in the first half. He finished the day completing only 50 percent of his passes with one touchdown and one interception.