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Archive for January, 2010
Thoughts on the NO/MN game last night:
- Gritty effort by both teams. The MN defense showed some serious heart in the second half by stuffing NO and doing their best to withstand the turnover barrage by their own offense.
- Favre should have run on that 3rd and 15 play. I absolutely disagree with Mike and Mike in the morning ESPN radio who rejected this option out of hand saying it’s the QB’s job to look downfield for the pass. I reject that. Like happened a number of times in his last 6-7 years in Green Bay, Favre chose not to run when he could have. I understand that by moving toward the line of scrimmage typically, a QB can open up pass options because defenses usually then have to shift from thinking coverage to thinking about tackling the QB. But with Favre, nobody has to worry about him running because he never does. What Mike and Mike left out of their conversation this morning was the simple fact that even 5 yards there would have gotten the Vikes back to reasonable FG range for Longwell (50-52 yards). But Favre tried to squeeze one in there instead of thinking about picking up just a few yards. Mistake.
- Favre’s interception was a bad one and frankly his overall not-good performance last night (though not a terrible one) lends some credence to the rumors that TT wanted Favre out because he didn’t believe Favre could win the big game anymore. (A rumor came out at one point during the 2008 controversy that TT decided after Favre no-showed in the huge 2007 regular season game at Dallas that he’d had it with Favre’s lack of mental strength in big games.) Well, in 3 of the last 7 years (2004 to present), Brett Favre has thrown costly interceptions in the waning minutes of big playoff games: 2004 at Philly, 2007 against NYG and 2010 at NO. Favre was certainly helped by his teammates and their fumbling last night to be sure, but his inability to execute or do something special in the bigger games has become characteristic of him. For sake of contrast, look at what Peyton Manning did to rally his team in the second half.
- That said, the really costly penalty was the 12 men in the huddle penalty. An incredible failure on the part of the coaching staff – incredible failure. It took them out of realistic FG range (though again, Favre could have easily run for 5 yards to get right back into FG range).
- That penalty against Ben Leber on TE David Thomas in overtime was a bad call. Unless I missed a certain camera view, he didn’t touch Thomas – whether the pass was catchable or not was not the issue – the issue was that he didn’t touch Thomas.
- Garrett Hartley’s FG may have been good from 95 yards.
- Drew Brees looked jittery out there – nervous.
- Sean Payton made a tough decision in overtime to go for it on 4th and 1. Sure it was the sensible thing to do at the opponent’s 40 yard-line, but in a game like that, with a failure meaning you’d give the ball to a strong offense at their own 40, it took guts. That’s why I like Sean Payton – he was ready to take the heat for that decision. But interestingly, even before the delay for a measurement before the play, Payton clearly had already decided to go for it. Chances are, because he’s a good coach, he’d probably already considered the possibility of a 4th and short and had already decided he’d go for it back before 3rd down if it came to that. Nicely done coach.
- Last night, I found myself rooting hard for the Saints. Not only do I just like the Saints as a team, I didn’t want to see Favre go to the Super Bowl. It’s interesting to me that I can go from loving the guy like I did, to rooting so hard for a team opposing Favre – I agree with reader theChoj who said it he found himself rooting almost as hard for the Saints last night as he roots for the Packers.
- Quality, quality Super Bowl coming up. These two teams are going to play a tough, fast game that will be really exciting. And both deserve to be there.
- NYJ @ Indy. I have been extra critical of Rex Ryan this year because I find him obnoxious, arrogant and generally unpleasant. But he’s doing something right by getting this team to play at its potential. Problem for the NYJ is that I can’t help but think their potential won’t be enough against the Colts. Everyone is talking about the Colts’ offense and the Jets’ defense, the Jets’ running game, the Colts’ passing game. But few are talking about the Colts’ defense. Yes, the NYJ’s O-Line has been phenomenal, having their way with both the Cincy and SD D-Lines. But the Colts defense is a bit underrated and while the match-up on paper would appear to favor the physical o-line of the Jets over the speed-emphasized d-line (and defense) of the Colts – I think the Colts’ D will be the story in this game. They will be the first to take calculated chances by putting 8-9 in the box to shut down the run. I know I said it last week, but at some point, Mark Sanchez is going to get back into the interception-throwing game. The Jets are good and must be given due credit for getting this far. But Manning and co will be too much. Colts 27 – Jet 13.
- MN @ NO. It’s hard for me to be objective here because, as a Packer fan, I just want MN to get crushed. Hate the Vikings. But with Favre playing and pulling all this “I don’t have alnything left to prove” crap again this week, I REALLY REALLY want the Saints to blow away the Vikes. I happen to like the Saints anyway because I really like Sean Payton – in my opinion, one of the top 4 coaches in the NFL. But this could be a decent game. My guess is that at least for the first 2-3 quarters, this will be more of a defensive game than people are anticipating. In fact, like the Colts’ D, I wonder if the story of this game will also be the thing nobody is talking about: the Saints’ D. The Vikes’ D is quality, but the Saints’ D has had its moments this year – led by Gregg Williams. And, importantly, no safety in the game knows Brett Favre better than Darren Sharper. It’s hard for me to imagine this game ending without some kind of Darren Sharper interception/big play. (Of course, Sharper’s tackling-angles still aren’t top-notch, so he could make a “big-play” the other way too.) At the very least, this should be a fun game to watch with guys like Percy Harvin and Reggie Bush showing massive athleticism. Saints 34 – Vikes 20.
Unbelievable that the Vikes just went for it on 4th down with 2 minutes left being up by 24. Absolutely no class. I know this is the playoffs and you don’t ever want to give your opponent even the smallest opening. But that was ridiculous – especially on 4th down. While Dallas has played like crap and they don’t deserve any sympathy here, that was poor sportsmanship.
Today because I was antsy before the 3:30pm playoff game, I tuned in to some inconsequential college basketball game between two teams I didn’t care about whatsoever. One of them was Oklahoma and I don’t remember the other. Well I’ve commented on this before, but I’m growing concerned about what I see as the inappropriate affect demonstrated by athletes in all sports celebrating a nice play. It used to be that a nice basket, or a TD, or a homerun or a goal was celebrated by a small acknowledgment by others that you’d done nicely. Originally, it may have been a simple head nod from a teammate – as if to say “that was nice, but it is your job too, so I’m not going to go overboard here”.
Eventually, that gave way to the high five and some more overt demonstration of joy. I think of 60’s or 70’s basketball players with socked jacked up to their knees and shorts that were little more than glorified jock-straps. I think of their high fives after a nice play – maybe an awkward jump into the air of jubilation. That’s about it. Still, back then positive plays were generally met with smiles, happiness, joy.
Fast forward to the last decade or so and something has shifted. It’s rare for an athlete now to make a great play and show a form of joy or happiness afterward. What you see instead is a painful fist bump or an even more painful chest bump coupled with the inevitable face of anger. Lots of aggressive pointing, screaming. No smiles, no happiness, just a portrait of anger despite the positive play.
As I was watching the game today, after a particularly nice basket by one guy, his teammate ran full speed and offered a chest bump – a collision that the guy who scored will feel tomorrow – and then they both made angry, defiant faces at one another. What were they so angry about? His basket was in fact a critical basket in the game.
So anyway, this has made me start to wonder, what will be next in this line of inappropriate affect celebrations? There has been a progression (regression?) from minimal acknowledgment to muted joy to outright joy to apparent anger. What’s next then? How about a punch right in the face? Guy scores a fade away 3 pointer to win the game, or makes a one handed TD grab – how about sprinting over and taking a swing at him? Then maybe spit on him. Seems possible. Seems it would convey the apparent anger that some of these guys want to convey in a far more direct an efficient way.
Funny flip-side to this whole thing is that when these same athletes screw up seriously hurting the chances for their team what do they do? Smile of course.
- AZ @ NO. This should be a great game. A few days ago, after the Packers lost to AZ in the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history, I predicted this game would be another huge scoring affair. Suddenly, I’m starting to think that won’t be the case. There will be a fair amount of points, but nothing like the GB/AZ game. NO will be fresh and AZ will be tired. So I expect the game to play out accordingly. Some good scoring by both teams in the first 3 quarters until AZ gets tired. Then, NO will continue scoring and AZ won’t. NO 34-24 .
- Balt @ Indy. It’s hard to bet against Balt. John Harbaugh gets those guys to play for him and play hard. (Though I have to say, John Harbaugh is starting to be one of those coaches who seems to always be sporting a “that’s-a-BS-call” look on his face.) Like the Jets though, I just have this feeling that the over-reliance on the running game will catch up with them and eventually lead to them getting blown out. Whenever a team has a quality run game, clock control and a strong defense can lead to nice victories yes, but rarely by big margins. For Balt, I think their secondary will struggle to defend Manning’s passing attack and at some point, in order to catch up, Balt will have to pass. They will succeed at first because Flacco isn’t bad and Derrick Mason is a quality older dude. But by the end of the 3rd quarter, Indy will have taken control. The big question in this game might be: what disparaging remarks will Ray Rice make about the city of Indianapolis after the bitter loss? Indy 38, Balt 16.
- NYJ @ SD. This one is a bit tough for me to be objective about because I’m developing a strong dislike for Rex Ryan and I want the guy to lose. I think the Jets are tough and could play SD tough for the first half. But SD is better and they are a more complete team. They have been on an incredible roll and I just can’t see the NYJ coming in with their clock-control game style and sticking it to high-flying SD. At some point, Mark Sanchez is going to screw up. As a coach, you can offer your full faith and confidence in a player all you want but when the player hasn’t yet developed his own foundation of confidence you might be building false confidence that could wind up collapsing in a heap. If I were a Jets’ fan, I would worry right now that Mark Sanchez and the Jets are like a skyscraper being built up bigger and bigger, but with a questionable foundation. I can just see Rex Ryan obnoxiously yelling “the sky is the f-ing limit…the f-ing limit” – then eating an extra meal. If they pull this one out, that foundation might fortify yes. But I think it’s far more likely that they get crushed here exposing a foundation that may in fact need a lot of work in the coming years. SD 37, NYJ 17.
- Dal @ MN. Very interesting situation because this game features 2 QBs who have been great this year, but who also have a history of chunking it in big games – throwing a few picks. Neither has had an atrocious game this year but both are certainly capable of it. Keys will be the Dallas pass rush. If Ware is contained, this could end up being a long, long day for Dallas (possible blowout). But if he’s not, Favre could fumble/throw picks and make this a game. In the end, I hate to say it, but I can see Favre and company winning mostly because the Dallas’ offense will get stuck when their running game goes nowhere. Also, fun match-up to watch will be Antoine Winfield on Miles Austin. Winfield is still hurting, but if he’s any healthier after having a week off, he could be a big reason the Dallas offense gets stuck. Definitely be on the lookout for the down-14-not-sure-what-the-hell-to-do-now look from Wade Phillips in this one. MN 27, Dal 14.
Ever see a guy on crack? It’s…scary. Ever have a guy on crack running after you at full speed trying to drag you to the ground? Also…scary.
I watched part of Mark McGuire’s interview with Bob Costas the other night and while I felt a tiny bit bad for his family – the bottom line is, Mark McGuire cheated. He and the other steroid users put a substance into their bodies that enabled them to do things they likely couldn’t have done without it. They cheated.
But after watching for just a few minutes, Bob Costas’ out of control sports knowledge made my mind wander. It wandered until it stumbled upon a question I’ve considered before: did Lawrence Taylor use a performance enhancing drug during his playing days? I think he did. The only real difference between what McGuire did and what Lawrence Taylor did was that they used different performance enhancing drugs. McGuire used steroids and Taylor used cocaine (and eventually crack). Generally, cocaine is not considered a “performance enhancing” drug but for a linebacker in the NFL, I sure think it ought to be.
Lawrence Taylor revolutionized the position of outside linebacker. He was absolutely brutish, reckless, relentless…and he was everywhere. He was incredibly effective. He was easily one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history if not THE greatest. When I was a kid I watched a few Giant games on TV (like the Joe Theisman leg-snap game) – and I remember the cameras would focus in at times on Taylor’s eyes. Now that I’m older, I realize that his weren’t the eyes of a man feeding off of natural adrenaline but instead the eyes of a guy who was likely hopped up on cocaine.
If there is one position in all sports where a guy could benefit from the use of cocaine or crack, it would be linebacker in the NFL. Taylor was busted twice for using cocaine and crack DURING the season. I can’t claim to know for sure if Taylor was high during games, but considering he was busted more than once, he admitted to using the urine of teammates for drug tests and considering that he played the wild style of football he did, I would say it’s quite likely. So why hasn’t more been made of the possibility that the cocaine/crack use enhanced his play? That it helped him maintain his trademark frenzied style of play? Does he deserve an asterisk or two next to some of his amazing stats? Should he even be in the Hall of Fame?
What do you think?
And let me preface this post by saying — in a declarative, upfront way, so that I cannot be misunderstood — that I don’t want people to obsess about the officiating in the final game of the season. My view is simply: There were missed calls, that happens, we discussed them, and let’s move on.
But I can’t let this pass. When people wonder why the NFL is getting an increasingly bad rap these days for its refs, having the head of NFL officiating tell people that they didn’t see what they saw is a good place to start. Via Greg Bedard, Mike Pereira used his regular Wednesday spot on NFL Network to explain that the facemask on the final play of the game Sunday was “incidental.”
I get that Pereira has an incentive to protect his refs, but that’s the kind of thing that doesn’t help his credibility…or theirs.
UPDATE FROM ANDY: Mike Florio from profootballtalk.com brings up a point that I wondered about myself concerning this whole situation. Isn’t it irrelevant whether or not the facemask was turned or tugged or whatever the rule is? Just the fact that Adams hand clearly was in contact with Rodgers’ facemask should have been enough to throw a flag because it’s an automatic penalty whenever a defender touches the head of a QB.