Each Monday, Pat Kirwan provides six observations from Sunday's action.
1. Sack that quarterback!
This was one scary and dangerous weekend for quarterbacks. In the 12 Sunday games, there were 82 sacks. That's an average of 3.4 per quarterback. Every quarterback who played Sunday got sacked at least once and six were sacked five or more times. John Beck (nine), Tim Tebow (seven), Drew Brees (six), Kevin Kolb (six), Cam Newton (five) and Ben Roethlisberger (five) took the biggest beatings.
There has been a steady increase in sacks in recent years. In 2008, the league averaged 61 sacks a weekend. In 2009 that number went to 65, and in 2010 it was 66. Right now, the league is at 69 sacks per weekend but with a spike in the number this weekend we could be on our way to 70-plus, especially when we get past the bye weeks.
2. False advertising
A couple of quarterbacks fooled us into thinking they were ready to win. John Beck took over in Washington because of Rex Grossman's turnover problems. Beck turned the ball over twice this week, was sacked nine times and still hasn't won a game in the NFL. Tim Tebow might have treated us to a thrilling comeback a week ago, but after watching him get sacked seven times vs. the Lions, it's clear he has a long way to go.
The Pittsburgh defense was labeled an over-the-hill group that couldn't stop the run. Then the unit lost James Harrison and Aaron Smith. James Farrior couldn't go this week because of a calf injury and the Patriots were in town. The Steelers' defense stepped up big time.
3. Impressive accuracy
This weekend there were four field-goal attempts over 50 yards and all four were good. The success caused me to look at long field-goal attempts for the season and the findings were very interesting. Kickers have made 45 of 62 tries (72.5 percent) in the 50-plus yard range. In the last three seasons, kickers averaged 57 percent on those kicks. Also, the 62 attempts in eight weeks is on pace for 131 such attempts this year, which is significantly higher than the 105-attempt average over the last three years. Before you know it, we'll be taking 50-yard field goals for granted.
4. Glad to see the Ringer
Tennessee's Chris Johnson was great from 2008-10, when he accumulated 5,606 yards from scrimmage with 38 touchdowns. He got a big fat contract this summer, and he hasn't done a thing since. He is averaging 2.8 yards a run and has one touchdown in 134 touches. Prior to 2011, Johnson scored once for every 28 touches. Sunday, the Titans finally asked Javon Ringer to fill the void left by the lack of production from Johnson. Ringer doesn't have Johnson's speed, but he does play with heart. Behind the same line that blocks for Johnson and his 2.8 yards per carry, Ringer averaged 4.3 yards on 14 rushes. Ringer also led the Titans in receiving with five catches. Maybe Johnson will get his hunger for the game back watching Ringer do his thing.
5. I told you so
The lead-up to Week 8 featured more speculation about what Bill Cowher was going to do next season and how he was supposedly in contact with the Dolphins. Last Wednesday, I refuted all those reports because I spend a lot of time with Cowher, and we talk regularly about his plans. The guy really loves his role on TV and isn't in a rush to rejoin the coaching ranks anytime soon. Cowher is going to do some great things away from football in the next few years, perhaps involving our troops. I was so glad to hear him clear up the issue this weekend. Now it's time to leave him alone.
6. Time to recognize the unsung guys
There were a number of excellent performances this weekend, and the coordinators who developed the game plans also need to be recognized. Here are my top five coordinators of Week 8:
Dick LeBeau, Steelers defensive coordinator: A Hall of Fame defensive back with 37 years of NFL coaching experience went up against Tom Brady and a Patriots offense that averaged 33 points a game coming in. New England had 17 points, gave up three sacks, and could only accumulate 213 yards.
Juan Castillo, Eagles defensive coordinator: Castillo has been with the team since 1995 as a tight ends coach, offensive line coach and now defensive coordinator. He made some solid adjustments over the bye to improve the defense and held the Cowboys to seven points. Castillo has been under criticism from early season struggles, but the Eagles have given up 20 points in their last two games against Washington and Dallas, .
George Edwards, Bills defensive coordinator. The former Duke linebacker has 15 years of coaching experience. His defense sacked John Beck nine times, intercepted him twice and held the running game to 2.2 yards a carry.
Ken Flajole, Rams defensive coordinator. Flajole, whose defense was as healthy as it's been in a while, devised a scheme that produced six sacks, picked off Drew Brees twice and allowed only 2.8 yards per carry. New Orleans, which is used to scoring in the 30s, entered the fourth quarter with only seven points.