THE NFL REPORT

NFL Week 15 observations: The good, bad and ugly

Marcus Peters and the Chiefs put it on the Chargers. Chiefs.com

Week 15 saw the return of one of the NFL’s faces as Aaron Rodgers returned for the Green Bay Packers to face the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton. Another heavyweight bout was played as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots faced Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let’s get into this week’s action…

The Good

-The Jimmy Garoppolo era of the San Francisco 49ers has started with a third consecutive win by a score of 25-23 over the Tennessee Titans. The Titans kicked a field goal to go up 23-22 with 1:07 left in the game. All the time behind Brady as a backup, plus Kyle Shanahan calling plays, allowed Garoppolo to lead the 49ers on a game winning drive as Robbie Gould kicked go-ahead field goal as time expired.

-The Minnesota Vikings locked up the NFC North with a 34-7 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Case Keenum solidified himself as the Vkings quarterback with another great performance going 20 of 23, for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Perhaps the best part was seeing former Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater get his first regular season game action in 714 days. The reaction of not only the crowd, but also his coaches and teammates was pretty damn awesome. It got a bit dusty and my allergies may have acted up.

-Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy eclipsed the 10,000 rushing yards mark in their 24-16 win over the Miami Dolphins. At 29, “Shady” still has some juice left in the tank as he looks every bit as elusive as he did when the Philadelphia Eagles drafted him in the second round out of the University of Pittsburgh in 2009. While he’s not mentioned as one of the all-time greats, I’d like to see where he ends up once he hangs up his cleats. Oh, and that win keeps his Bills squad in the No. 6 seed spot in the AFC.

The Bad

-Rodgers made his return for the Packers, but it was spoiled by the Panthers defense. They got three interceptions off of the future Hall of Famer as he tried to keep his team’s playoff hopes alive. They still had a shot to tie the game after pulling within a touchdown and recovering an onside kick, but Geronimo Allison fumbled at the Panthers 28 with 1:50 left in the game. The Packers will miss the playoffs now for the first time since 2008.  

-In the Oakland Raiders/Dallas Cowboys game Sunday night, referee Gene Steratore used an index card to measure a very important fourth down on the Cowboys game-winning drive. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry which uses technology all over its organization. Why haven’t they figured out a more technologically advanced way to figure out what’s a first down? That was akin to our government used smoke signals to communicate.

-The Los Angeles Chargers played the Kansas City Chiefs for the lead in the AFC West and a clear shot at a playoff spot. The Chargers have come a long way since starting 0-4, and appeared to be hot enough to overtake the faltering Chiefs. They not only lost 30-13, but gave the Chiefs four turnovers to boot. Quarterback Phillip Rivers picked the wrong day to throw three picks. Now they’ll need tons of help and weird scenarios in order to get a wildcard spot.

The Ugly

-In a battle for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Patriots beat the Steelers 27-24. But it’s the way they lost that landed a mention in The Ugly. Down by three, the Steelers got a 69-yard catch and run by Juju Smith-Schuster down to the 10 yard line. Jesse James appeared to have caught the game winning touchdown, but it was reversed as the refs say he didn’t maintain possession when he hit the ground crossing the goal line. After a 3 yard gain, they appeared to want to down the ball, but Roethlisberger faked it and tried to thread the needle on a slant to Eli Rogers that was tipped then intercepted by Duron Harmon. Game over.

-The Washington Redskins beat the Arizona Cardinals in a game in that featured a combined 11 punts, three turnovers, 15 penalties, and seven field goals. The Redskins won mainly because of a fumble recovery and return to the 6 yard line by Preston Smith set up the first of their two touchdowns. That, and Blaine Gabbert remembered he is a 1st round bust by going 16 of 41 for 189 yards and an interception. I’d rather have rewatched the blizzard game from last week than to watch this one.

-The Seattle Seahawks fell to the Los Angeles Rams 42-7. I looked at this game as a potential passing of the torch and expected to see a bit of a dog fight. However, the Rams beat the snot out of the Seahawks allowing a paltry 149 total yards of offense with the aid of only two turnovers. The Rams came into Seattle, smacked the Seahawks around, and took their lunch money, as well as control of the NFC West. There’s a new big dog on the porch, and they appear ready to sit there for a while now.

The catch rule, measuring for first downs, touchdown/not a touchdown, helmet to helmet collisions…the list continues to grow as far as the problems the NFL has yet to fully solve or figure out. While earlier this season, people had their panties in a bunch over anthem protests, the league has many more issues at hand they need to deal with. Some of these rules need to be clarified and made simple (the catch rule). Some, they need to apply their vast billions into better technology in order to better officiate the game (first downs and touch downs). How about bringing in former players to help re-write some of these rules? This would help ease tensions between the players and a commissioner that have a rocky relationship. Plus, it just makes damn good sense. But why would the NFL do anything that makes that much sense?

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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