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NFL Unfiltered Week 4: Jets and Saints floundering, did Cam Newton cost the Panthers Sunday's game?

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Perhaps it is the physical nature of the National Football League. Or maybe it is due to the sheer arrogance of the men in charge.  But whatever the reason, head coaches always behave as if their team is superior to the opponent even when they aren’t.  
 
I am certainly not suggesting they cower or lead in fear. But too often, coaches use safe strategies without taking into account the weaknesses of their teams and the flow of a game.  

The latest example of this is Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. He played linebacker in the NFL for nine years from 1984-1992 (mostly with the Chicago Bears) and has a championship ring from Super Bowl XX.  He has coached since the 1997 season, so he likely knows the game.  However, he made a grave mistake against the Atlanta Falcons  in the Georgia Dome.  Ron Rivera photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

His underdog Panthers were in position to win because of Cam Newton’s clutch passing and a career high 86 yards on nine carries. They even pushed the Falcons around by getting 103 yards on 25 carries from their running backs.  

But instead of trying to win the game by going for it on 4th and 1 from the Falcons forty-five yard line, Rivera elected to punt.  

In the context of many games, Rivera made a sound decision, especially since the Falcons began their last drive from their own one-yard line. But if Rivera had assumed the Falcons were the superior team and acknowledged the flaws in his defense, I believe he would have given Newton an opportunity to gain a yard.  

Far too many head coaches make decisions based on a total lack of awareness.  They should know the strengths and weaknesses of their players better than anyone but they behave as if they have a roster full of all-pros.   

Despite being in position to make a play, I cannot blame journeyman safety Haruki Nakamura for losing his battle with wide receiver Julio Jones; he isn’t Ed Reed.  

Apparently, his head coach doesn’t know it.  

WEEK 4 OBSERVATIONS
What the pundits can’t or won’t say

-Anyone still think Joe Flacco should control the Ravens' offense?

-Speaking of the Ravens, their new no-huddle isn't doing Ray Lewis and Ed Reed any favors.

-The Browns have some talent, but in hiring
Pat Shurmur as head coach, Mike Holmgren obviously wanted a yes man. 

-Now we know: 
Alex Smith can't throw it far enough to utilize Randy Moss.

-Helmet to helmet on a defenseless receiver is certainly dangerous. But helmet to knee changes careers, too.Jets photo: Barton Silverman/The New York Times

-A 3rd and 1 pass near midfield by the Jets, which of course fell incomplete.  What is offensive coordinator Tony Sparano thinking? 

-It didn’t seem possible, but the
Jets are even less compelling now than they were throughout training camp.

-Is there another team in the NFL that loses more "statement" games than the Bills?  

-I heard a sideline reporter say Steve Smith and Cam Newton high-fived "six" times. Good thing because any number less than five is always a concern.

-
Russell Wilson is proving game management isn't as easy as you think.  

-Don't let his gaudy numbers, MVP and Super Bowl championship fool you- Drew Brees is every bit a product of Sean Payton's system.


-NBC providing music after Victor Cruz scores is sophomoric.  

 


-The Vikings are improving but I cannot take them seriously until they win a game outside.

-And while I’m on dome teams, the Falcons can finish 16-0 and I still think they’ll lose to the Packers, Giants or 49ers in January.

-Jay Cutler’s talent is as seductive as a pretty woman at a strip club, but neither is worthy of commitment.

Top 4 this week (rankings disclaimer: my top four will always feature two AFC teams and two NFC teams).

1. Houston Texans
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. Baltimore Ravens

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com

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Ron Rivera photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America
Jets photo: Barton Silverman/The New York Times