In the second issue of PFF: The Magazine, Pro Football Focus owner and Sunday Night Football commentator Cris Collinsworth gives his perspective on the biggest storylines from around the NFL. Get the latest issue here.
Welcome home for the Vikings
The last game I called in Minnesota before this one was the playoff game against Seattle at TCF Bank Stadium where it was six degrees below zero, so it was just fine with me that the Vikings built a dome, and I think it was just fine with the players as well. Certainly quarterback Sam Bradford, who now gets the chance to go back to playing in a dome in great conditions and all that goes with it. To some extent it showed up already in that game against the Packers, but it’s a great stadium behind the scenes too.
From an announcer standpoint, it’s probably the best booth in the league. It’s big, it’s spacious. My wife got to sit up in the box with us. It’s fantastic. It’s low, so you’re not a million miles away like in Jacksonville or someplace like that. It’s really the perfect venue from our standpoint, and we get to do the Super Bowl there at the end of the next season. They had a tough act to follow with the atmosphere there used to be in the Metrodome.
It was so loud in there I couldn’t hear what Al Michaels was saying during the pregame conversation. I think it was plenty loud. I didn’t think it reached the level of a Seattle, and some of the really crazy ones, but sometimes it’s a little difficult to say sitting in the booth. You get a little distorted view of the world. It was definitely loud, but probably not the loudest in the league.
They’re trying to come up with new traditions, new chants. Some ‘Skol’ chant, the Viking Thunder Clap they were working on. You could see, they haven’t quite figured it out yet, but the coolest thing about it is that you’re indoors but it feels like you’re outdoors because there’s so much glass there. There’s Dallas, this new stadium, and I hear LA is going to be off the charts, but those are definitely some of the top-end stadiums now.
Aaron Rodgers stuck in a rut
Aaron Rodgers told us this week that he practices awkward throws. He said, “I have to assume I can make throws with perfect protection and when I’m standing on a perfect platform making the throw. So every day in practice every throw I make is off balance, throwing across my body, because there’s muscle memory in that as well. So I work on weird throwing motions.” And you can see them show up in games, and he wins games because of them. That sort of extreme practice conditions is something I had never thought of much before.
You go back to the Jacksonville game and the throw he made with somebody hanging on him, and getting it to Davante Adams, who boxed out the guy in the end zone. So many of their big plays come from those busted plays, but what really has been missing are those traditional explosive plays where they get the running game going and then get the hard play fake with a two-man route, Jordy Nelson does a double move and suddenly you have a 70-yard touchdown.
In 2014, Rodgers completed 51.8 percent of his passes that were 20-plus yards in the air. Last year without Nelson, he completed 39.1 percent of those passes, so there was a huge dropoff without Jordy. Now Jordy’s 31 years old and he’s coming off this surgery. Is it that the running game isn’t working as well so it’s not setting up those deep balls? Is it that Jordy Nelson isn’t 100 percent and maybe he will be by the end of the season? From 2010 to today that pair had the NFL’s best QB rating of 132.5 and a 69-percent completion rate. That shouldn’t be possible, those numbers are completely off the charts. Maybe they’re just coming back to reality, but the reality is the numbers in that offense have not been the same or anything close to what they were in 2014.
More stories to watch this week
Pittsburgh Steelers keep rolling
It never ceases to amaze me that the Pittsburgh Steelers keep rolling along. They had every excuse this year with injuries and suspensions, but they came out and their toughness always shows. Their ability to play defense and just knock people around just makes them unique. Old-school football is not dead in the National Football League.
Carson Wentz leading the Eagles
The whole Carson Wentz thing has yet to be fully vetted, but how many teams that impacts directly is fascinating. Philadelphia, Minnesota, the decision to not take him by the Cleveland Browns, and the decision to take Jared Goff is going to be talked about forever in Los Angeles. He creates this endless conversation point because of all the big deals that surrounded it. So far it’s been a positive for two teams (Philadelphia and Minnesota), and it’s not looking so great so far for the Browns and the Rams.