It's September 11th, and I'm sure other people can discuss it much more eloquently than I can. I didn't know anyone who died in the attacks, and I don't have any kind of connection to New York, so beyond the fact that our country was attacked and people died, it doesn't have that much resonance with me. I mean, you should know by now how I feel about relatively arbitrary constructs like "nation-states," and people are dying right now in Darfur and other places around the world in a lot more horrific circumstances than the events of September 11th, so that's that. I will say that this attack simply reminds me how people in power use that power to kill more than they use it to help. So fuck you, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, whoever the hell is running Iran, Kim Jong Il, but also George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and even Bill Clinton and his bunch. You all suck. Here's a comic strip from three years ago that sums up my feelings, as well as a lot of others', I suspect. Sorry if it's too small to read, but that's the way it is, I guess.
Moving on, pro football started this weekend, and that means I get to rant about it on Mondays for the next five months or so. If you don't like football, well, I can't do anything about that, so you'll just have to come back another day. Sorry!
I don't want to ramble on about college football too much, but I want to say a few things about Penn State's debacle at South Bend. I still think Penn State would have lost the game, but it could have been a LOT closer than it was. Here are things that bugged me:
1. Penn State won the opening toss and deferred to the second half. This is the trendy thing to do in college, but why did they do that? Notre Dame's strength is its offense. I would expect you want to keep that offense off the field as long as possible. If you take the ball first, you might move it right down the field (as the Lions did the first time they got the ball) and score (which they didn't do, but that was because of a bad snap on a field goal). That puts the pressure on the Notre Dame offense, and everyone in the country (with the possible exception of the Penn State coaching staff) saw how Notre Dame handles pressure against Georgia Tech. Yet JoePa and his staff decided to give Brady Quinn and the very good Notre Dame offense the ball first. First decision of the game, and already I was worried.
2. Speaking of pressure, Georgia Tech showed how to beat Notre Dame: put pressure on Quinn. Any quarterback is going to look ordinary if you put pressure on them, and Tech showed that Quinn, although he's being touted as a Heisman Trophy winner and first pick in the draft next year, gets rattled easily. So what does Tom Bradley have his defense do? Rush three guys for most of the first half and drop eight into coverage. They barely laid a hand on Quinn, and he had plenty of time to pick the secondary apart. Yes, you have eight people in coverage, but if the QB has ten seconds to throw, someone is bound to get open. Even when they rushed four players they put some pressure on Quinn, and early in the second half, when the game was lost, they rushed more and sacked him a few times and rattled him the other times. Where was that in the first half? Inexplicable. Quinn showed last year that he is good at finding receivers when he has time. Penn State played right into that. It's not even as if they blitzed him early and he burned them. From the beginning of the game they put no pressure on him. Idiotic.
3. Penn State botched a field goal try and fumbled, killing two scoring opportunities, but toward the end of the half, they were losing only 13-0 and were driving. On a second down, they had a perfect screen pass to Tony Hunt that got them 27 yards down to the Notre Dame 20. They hadn't committed a penalty yet, but the Pope must have called the ref and told him he was going to hell if he didn't start screwing the heretics from PA over, because on that play, the officials called a phantom clipping call. They showed the play, and the Penn State player did not appear to even touch the Notre Dame player, and if he did, it was just barely. The Notre Dame player didn't even fall down. Even the announcers, who have to be pro-Notre Dame (NBC is the Notre Dame network, after all), were skeptical. Instead of first down at the 20, it was second-and-long on the Penn State side of the field, and they had to punt. Notre Dame took the ball down the field and scored a touchdown, making it 20-0 at the half. Now, Penn State should have played better defense, of course, but that one call really changed the game. It would have probably been 13-7, possibly 13-3, and the Lions would have been in the game, but instead it was 20-0 and they were pretty much out of it.
4. Finally, the first drive of the second half. It's 20-0, but the Penn State offense had moved it in the first half. A good drive and a touchdown to begin the half gets them right back into it. On third-and-two, instead of running Tony Hunt right up the middle, where he gained 8 yards on first down and had been successful all day, Penn State runs an option. With Anthony Morelli, who doesn't appear that mobile a quarterback. WTF? He fumbled as he was hit and tried to pitch it, the Notre Dame guy picked it up and ran it back for a touchdown. Game over. What kind of stupid call was that?
So Penn State lost, as I expected. But it wasn't as bad as the score, and Notre Dame really didn't impress me all that much. On Saturday night Lee Corso said that he doesn't see Notre Dame losing a game until they go to Southern Cal in November. Did he watch the same game I did? I can see Michigan beating Notre Dame this week - they're more experienced than Penn State, they have a better defense, and they won't have stupid turnovers. Watch out, Fighting Irish! As for Penn State, they have three games on their schedule that are important: at Notre Dame, at Ohio State, and home for Michigan. I said before this game that they had to win one, and it looks like the home game against Michigan is the best chance, because OSU is going to kill them, if their win at Texas is any indication.
But enough of that. Let's get to those who pay for play!
Philadelphia looked very good after the Texans' opening drive, on which they scored a touchdown. Of course, playing the Texans is the pro football equivalent of playing a Division 1-AA team in college, so we'll see how the Eagles play this coming week against the Giants, but McNabb looks healthy, Donte' Stallworth was open all the time, and Andy Reid actually ran the ball quite a bit. Good to see. The defense played pretty well, too. Again, I don't want to put too much stock in this, but whenever you go on the road and win in the NFL, it's a good thing.
Meanwhile, in a stunning turn of developments, the Arizona Cardinals were shown on local television. For a home game. To appreciate the magnitude of that statement, consider that in 18 years in the desert, the Cardinals have sold out and therefore had no blackout 12 times (the newspaper had the number this past week, and I could be off by a few, but I think it was 12). Twelve times! One of those times was the first week of games after September 11th, when the NFL lifted the blackout, and 7 times were when the Cardinals played the Cowboys, who have a lot of fans in the area and would go to the game. So the new stadium is already paying off, and the game was pretty entertaining. The Cardinals certainly have talent, but their defense looked poor at times - Alex Smith might be a good quarterback in the near future, but he and Frank Gore shredded the Arizona defense. Dennis Green said he would run the ball more, and there is consternation around here that Edgerrin James only gained 73 yards, but the point is - he ran it 26 times. I've said it before - yards are nice, but attempts are better. The Cardinals had a 10-minute edge in time of possession, and that helped win them the game. If James gets 25 or so carries every game, the Cardinals might actually finish over .500.
I didn't watch a down of the Seahawks-Lions game. I suppose I didn't miss much. I will say that a lot of people are picking the Seahawks to either return to the Super Bowl or challenge Carolina (we'll get to them) for it. You won't do either if you can't score more than three field goals against the Lions. I don't care if it was in Detroit, that's just sad.
The Jets are walking a tightrope with Chad Pennington, because they need him desperately to play the way he did yesterday. Who's running the ball for them? If Chad gets hurt, they're done. Meanwhile, their kicker missed a PAT and two pretty easy field goals. Can no one kick in the NFL anymore? Tennessee will be awful. Can we write a team off after one game? I say yes.
My friend Mike has a man-crush on Marc Bulger, so he always watches St. Louis, but he was angry yesterday, because apparently the new coach has decided that touchdowns are bad. It's nice to win and get field goals, and their defense played well, but that's not going to get it done a lot. Just ask the Cardinals, who last year didn't score a touchdown in the first quarter, which is hard to believe. Jake Plummer is reverting to form without an established running game, and I wonder how long he will last before Jay Cutler takes over.
Buffalo shot itself in the foot once again. The game was the fourth in NFL history in which the winning points were scored on a safety. My question is: how stupid is J. P. Losman? The safety came on third down, and the ball was snapped at about the seven- or eight-yard line. So he ran all the way back into the end zone, took his sweet time, and then panicked and ran sideways instead of forward. Jesus. If that's the indication of the quarterback play in Buffalo, it will be a long year for the Bills. Tom Brady, meanwhile, looked very mortal. Who knew Deion Branch was so important to that team?
Everyone is talking about how badly the Panthers stunk up the joint, and they did, but a couple of things leap out at me from the game. First, is Carolina that dependent on Steve Smith? He's a wide receiver, for crying out loud? Second, yes, the Falcons won the game, and good for them, but they won it with defense. Michael Vick was 10 for 22 for 140 yards. I'm sure Logan
is happy this morning, but that's an ugly line. Vick is just not getting better. It's bizarre.
I'm not terribly surprised that the Bengals went into Kansas City and beat the Chiefs, but I am surprised by how easy it was. Whenever I turned the game on (these early games were on while the Eagles were, so I missed a lot of them), the Bengals were doing whatever they wanted on offense and stuffing the Chiefs on defense. Pretty impressive. I first thought the hit on Trent Green was cheap, but it does look like the guy got pushed by a Chief, so maybe not. It's a shame for KC, because Damon Huard is the backup. Yeah, that doesn't fill anyone with confidence. Woody is already talking smack about the win
(oh, I'm kidding - he's just happy).
I was stunned as the Baltimore-Tampa score kept showing up. I knew the Ravens would be better and the Buccaneers worse, but the highlights showed just how good the Ravens were and how bad the Bucs were. Holy crap. I hate Ray "Just Call Me Murderer" Lewis, but he looks like he did six years ago. I'm wondering how much of it is just a shot of adrenalin from having a quarterback who can actually, you know, play. I'm not sold on the Ravens yet, because Steve McNair has been pretty fragile the past few years, and if he gets hurt, it's back to 6-3 losses for Baltimore.
Reggie Bush not only ran for 61 yards (wow!), had 58 yards receiving (impressive!), and 22 yards in punt returns (astonishing!), but he also cured cancer at halftime and restored Lindsay Lohan's virginity and cleansed Paris Hilton of diseases just by a wave of his hand during a fourth quarter break. He's that
super-fantastic! Yes, he had a nice game, but come on, sports commentators - it was Cleveland (sorry, Disintegrating Clone,
but it's true). Kellen Winslow Jr. decided to show up and catch a touchdown pass, so I'm sure we'll hear more about how he's the best tight end in the business. Both these teams will probably play tough the whole year ... and still end up 5-11.
You know, I hate to dogpile on Nancy-Boy Favre when he's down, but that game yesterday was just sweet. SWEEEEEEEET!
Favre, who was overhyped when he was good, is now seeing the other side of the media, and I can't believe the Packers would stick with him through the whole year. They will, but it's a bad move. Did you see some of the passes he threw yesterday? They weren't even in the same zip code as the receivers. I love the fact that he's playing, because he might throw 30 interceptions this year, but the Packers should face reality - it's time to bench him, because they have to see if Aaron Rodgers can play. If he can't, they can draft a quarterback next year. So, because of one Super Bowl win a decade ago, last season was lost, this season will be lost, and next season probably will be lost too. Fair trade-off? I suppose you'd have to ask Packers fans.
Another sweet game was the Cowboys-Jaguars game, because you could just sense the announcers (I want to say it was the Fox A team, which means it was Joe Buck and Troy Aikman) were just ready to start praising Dallas and talking about how they're going to the Super Bowl and how Terrell Owens is such a great addition ... and then it all fell apart. Owens caught a touchdown pass, yes, but he was wide open a few times and Bledsoe missed him, and Bledsoe in general looked awful. Meanwhile, after warming up, the Jags moved easily against the Dallas D. I will always hate the Cowboys, but it's been kind of hard recently to hate them with such vitriol, because they've been kind of bland. Owens makes it easy, as does the praise heaped upon them. I'm just waiting for the situation to explode, because I will laugh.
The game last night was strange. On the one hand, it was entertaining, but also, paradoxically, kind of boring. Both teams looked sharp but neither team could score very well. The Giants got hosed with the phantom interference call toward the end of the game, but they had a lot of opportunities that they blew. The Colts couldn't run the ball at all, but for some reason that didn't affect Peyton's play action. Why were the Giants falling for it? Anyway, it was two good teams beating each other up, which is always good to see, and the Giants look like they might be tough in that division (pending how Washington looks tonight). An early season showdown in Philly next week should be interesting.
Oh, and Thursday's game inspires only one comment: who taught Nick Saban how to throw?
Well, that's it. Let's break it down just a bit more:Most impressive win:
Baltimore, I guess, although Atlanta and Chicago get some love. It's hard to shut out a team, and the Ravens did it on the road against a playoff team.Least impressive win:
Seattle. God, that game looked boring. Better step up, Seahawks, or watch as Arizona steals the division from you!Most impressive loss:
Probably the Giants. They played the Colts toe-to-toe, and only a few mistakes and a horrible call kept them from winning. Yes, they were at home, but Peyton is just better than Eli right now.Least impressive loss:
Carolina. Not a good way for a Super Bowl team to come out. A lot of teams stunk up the joints, but the Panthers are supposed to be the class of the conference.
Next week: Tampa at Atlanta, Giants at Eagles, KC at Denver, Washington at Dallas, Pittsburgh at Jacksonville, and the Cardinals go to Seattle to take control of the division! Whoo-hoo!
Labels: Sports, What have we learned