The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
We mixed things up a bit this week, handing the Winners and Losers keys over to Christopher Carter for a variety of reasons. One thing I'm hoping to avoid is the notion of ripping his picks for either category.
What's interesting to me here in the re-watch is I'm not even entirely sure who I'd put in either group (outside of token and earned nods to The Big Three for their record-breaking performances in the win). William Gay deserves a shout-out, as I thought he played particularly well and showed even more playmaking ability. We've seen him get burned going for the same thing, but anyone with sense would trade three defensive touchdowns over a season for one touchdown allowed.
I really liked Cameron Heyward in this game as well and, really, throughout the season. I think he plays with so much passion, there are times it seems to consume him. But when he's focused and controlled, there aren't many better than him at the point of attack. Watch him continue to grow as the Steelers look to hammer out a long-term deal with him this off-season.
Can't say I'm not disappointed in Jarvis Jones. The rookie Jake Matthews is without question the worst tackle he'll face this season, and Jones did next to nothing. He's still coming back and isn't 100 percent...hopefully.
Hit on Matt Ryan, Flag on Jason Worilds
The easy narrative is to dog the official who threw a flag on Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds when he delivered a crushing blow to Falcons QB Matt Ryan. The reality is it's borderline impossible for officials to see, in real time, whether Worilds actually struck Ryan's head. Ryan's dazed demeanor after the hit was caused most likely by his head bouncing off the Georgia Dome turf rather than Worilds hitting his jaw. It looks as if Worilds' hit was clean, and the only consolation is it's unlikely he'll be fined. It won't give back to the Steelers a critical down on which a team that struggled getting to the quarterback finally hit him.
What's funny to me, and this is perhaps overdue, is the notion this is protecting the quarterback. If Worilds was flagged for slamming Ryan into the ground, I can understand that (maybe not agree with it, but I get it). Outside of that, how is throwing a flag protecting the quarterback? How is a fine protecting the quarterback? Jason Worilds, a free-agent in 2015, is losing far more money by not making that hit than he's risking by hitting him in a way that may draw a fine from the league.
If anything, the only protection an NFL team can truly provide for a quarterback is with strong, pass-protecting tackles. The Falcons lacked proper security on that play...so maybe they ought to fine the right tackle, I dunno.
I'm sure there are naysayers to this, but watching it again, this was a really good, balanced football game between two very evenly-matched teams. We saw a lot of big plays on both sides, we saw two quarterbacks who threw very well - I think Worilds shook something out of Ryan's head on that hit, he was spot-on after it and he had looked pretty rough before it. His interception was bad.
Standing out to me, maybe not in an overall sense but from a perspective few people probably noticed, was Shamarko Thomas. What an excellent job he did on special teams. He made a few big tackles against Devin Hester, who is still one of the best return men in the league. Thomas got low and he got fast, doing everything he could to take the dangerous Hester down where he stood. He definitely deserves a shout-out for his performance.
Will Allen filled in big for two Steelers' safeties who went down on separate plays. Allen vs. Thomas seems to be decidedly in the favor of Allen when it comes to defensive snaps (Allen replaced both Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell when they went down with injuries in the game), but it will be interesting what the Steelers do with their safety positions this off-season.
Every time Martavis Bryant catches a slant, I get a little more excited. It's coming together...it's all coming together. If he makes that one-handed snare in the end zone, is he lighting the cyber world on fire like Odell Beckham did? Probably not, but due to reasons I cannot understand. Beckham's catch was nice and all, but not worthy of such a ridiculously huge amount of coverage. Bryant did not miss that catch by much, and I'd argue his would have been better, if for no reason other than the amount of difficulty involved. He had to use his other hand to go over the defender, and catching it just with his back eye on the ball is tougher than with both eyes facing it, back to the end zone. I digress...I still love it every time he runs a strong, hard slant off the line and comes up with the catch. And the out-route he ran to pick up that first down? Dude runs like a deer...and clearly the Steelers love getting him the ball in space.
More of this, please. His future is so bright right now, we may as well just add another "B" to our memes library.
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