What have we learned - Week 7
Some things annoyed me about the Chicago-Philadelphia "clash." On the game-winning touchdown and the play prior to it (unless the play prior to it was a spike, in which case the play prior to that), it was pretty obvious the Bears' offensive linemen were holding. It was out on Griese's left side, and both times, he would have been sacked if the hold hadn't occurred. I'm not that bent out of shape about it, because the Eagles deserved to lose, but it was frustrating seeing the hold both times, in real time, yet the officials missed it. It wasn't as annoying as the defense allowing the Bears to drive 97 yards in less than two minutes with no timeouts to score the winning touchdown, however. What the crap? They weren't even playing a big "prevent" defense - they even blitzed on the first play of the drive! How does a team that until then hadn't done anything offensively drive 97 yards in two minutes with no timeouts? That's just sickening. And, of course, the Eagles continue to have an aversion to scoring touchdowns. The game shouldn't have been in doubt, but because Philadelphia can't put the ball in the end zone, it was. At this point, with the team 2-4, Andy Reid shouldn't kick field goals anymore. Tell his team to suck it up and put the goddamned ball in the goddamned end zone. I don't blame a defense that does as much as it can (except get turnovers, which is annoying) when the offense just sucks. Reid has apparently decided to show all those people who said he wouldn't run the ball (like me) and is now going completely conservative. Um, Andy? That's not what we meant. You tool.
Turnovers: Bears 0, Eagles 0. Chicago 19, Philadelphia 16. Turnovers = loss? It made no difference, but it does show you how close to the vest these two teams played. Open it up, coaches!
The Ravens-Bills game was dull. Not quite Bears-Eagles dull, but pretty dull. Let's just move on.
Turnovers: Ravens 1, Bills 1. Final score: Buffalo 19, Baltimore 10. Turnovers = loss? Again, it's a wash.
Here's why you shouldn't turn the ball over. Jeff Garcia had a monster game, but the Buccaneers fumbled a couple of times. Against a decent offensive team like Detroit, that's just enough. Don't turn the ball over!
Turnovers: Buccaneers 2, Lions 0. Detroit 23, Tampa 16. Turnovers = loss? It would seem so. 1-0.
I may hate the Cheaters, but when I wasn't watching the Cardinals (which I didn't for long stretches, because they sucked), I was watching Tom Brady stand behind an impregnable offensive line and do whatever he wanted. It was like he was throwing short passes and calling running plays just to allow his big-time receivers time to catch their breaths, at which point he'd say in the huddle, "Okay, Randy - you go deep." Bang, touchdown. That's the only reason I can think of for not throwing the ball 60 yards to Randy Moss on every play - he needs to catch his breath a bit. Dan Dierdorf, who's an idiot, claimed it was "mysterious" how Brady is able to do what he's doing this year. Um, Dan, no it's not. He has 10 seconds to throw every pass because his line is excellent, and he has three very good receivers. He was great when he had crappy receivers, and now he has good ones. Any quarterback in the league could pick apart defenses if they had the time Brady has and the people to throw to. I mean it - watch a New England game. He simply stands back there for what seems like two minutes, surveying the field. The poor defensive backs can't keep up! Also, I forgot to mention last week that Randy Moss said something about their big win in Dallas shutting the naysayers up. Which ones, Randy? I guess he meant the ones who said he would destroy the team, but like Terrell Owens, Moss is happy when he's winning. If he meant the people who thought the Cheaters weren't that good, considering that most "experts" are calling them the best team of all time, I think Randy should shut up. Of course, I think that most of the time.
Turnovers: Dolphins 2, Cheaters 1. New England 49, Miami 28. Turnovers = loss? Miami probably couldn't have won this game if they had a +6 turnover margin, but we'll say yes. 2-0.
Here's another game I couldn't bring myself to watch, because the Falcons are just terrible. Good to see that switch to Byron Leftwich is working out so well.
Turnovers: Saints 1, Falcons 0. Final score: New Orleans 22, Atlanta 16. Turnovers = loss? No. D'oh! 2-1.
The Giants are getting scary good on defense, which really pisses me off. Whenever I turned that game on, the defense was blowing past the San Francisco offensive line and drilling Trent Dilfer. I didn't even see New Jersey on offense (I didn't watch much of the game, obviously). I would say that the Giants have lost when they've played good teams, but of course, most of the league is mediocre these days, so they could still win 10-11 games without beating anyone good.
Turnovers: 49ers 4, Giants 1. Final score: New Jersey 33, San Francisco 15. Turnovers = loss? Sure. 3-1.
With 6 seconds left in the half, down 14-0 and with no timeouts, Arizona had the ball on fourth down at the Washington 2-yard line. Kick the field goal, right? Ha! Not Ken Whisenhunt, who is quickly becoming my favorite coach. Whisenhunt had Kurt Warner throw a pass to Anquan Boldin for a touchdown. Of course, Washington blocked the extra point, which led to the other bold call by Whisenhunt: down by 2 with 20 seconds left, he took Warner out of the game on the 2-point conversion and called a direct snap to Boldin, who went right with a run-pass option and, unfortunately, threw an interception. Still, I love both calls. Remember, Fortune Favors The Bold! It's only a matter of time before Whisenhunt's boldness is rewarded. Right now he's just working out the kinks. I really hope he doesn't become a wuss as the Cardinals become more successful. That would suck.
Turnovers: Cardinals 3, Washington 1. Final score: Washington 21, Arizona 19. Turnovers = loss? Pretty directly. 4-1.
The weirdest game of the weekend had to be Titans-Texans. I watched a bit early, then saw Tennessee continue to pull away. Matt Schaub was knocked out of the game, and Houston kept turning the ball over. Then, with the score 32-7 in the fourth quarter, Sage Rosenfels decided to turn into John Elway. I watched the last few minutes as Sage took Houston down the field for the go-ahead touchdown. Then the Titans came right back and Rod Bironas kicked his 8th field goal (an NFL record) for the win. When your kicker scores 26 points, something ain't right. A discussion of field goals below!
Turnovers: Texans 6, Titans 2. Final score: Tennessee 38, Houston 36. Turnovers = loss? Of course! 5-1.
Cincinnati escaped with a win against the hapless Jets, who are still hanging in there with Chad Pennington at QB. How's that working out for you, New Jersey? Sheesh. Bench the dude already. The season is over. Time to see what Kellen Clemens can do for you.
Turnovers: Jets 2, Bengals 1. Final score: Cincinnati 38, New Jersey 31. Turnovers = loss? The winning points came on an interception return! 6-1.
Here's what I don't get about going for two. Kansas City scored a touchdown yesterday to go up 12-7. They went for two to make the difference 7 points, but didn't get it. So the Raiders kick a field goal and were driving for the winning FG when the Chiefs intercepted the ball. Yay, Chiefs! But if they had kicked the extra point, it would have just been for a tie, and they could win it in overtime. I understand the concept of going for two in that situation, but isn't it subtly saying to your defense, "We believe you're going to give up another touchdown"? I would only go for two if you're behind and trying to catch up. Otherwise, take the sure points, Herm!
Turnovers: Raiders 2, Chiefs 1. Kansas City 12, Oakland 10. Turnovers = loss? Yep. 7-1.
As I hate the Cowboys, I watched very little of their win over the Vikings. I will wonder why Adrian Peterson, who, if you listened to the "experts" last week is going to challenge Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record, got only 12 carries. If he's so great, shouldn't he get more? I honestly don't know if he was hurt or what, but it seems like in a close game, you'd be wanting him to pound the ball more.
Turnovers: Cowboys 2, Vikings 1. Final score: Dallas 24, Minnesota 14. Turnovers = loss? No, no matter how much I wish it were true. 7-2.
Man, the Rams are awful. Just awful. My friend who loves Marc Bulger was very upset yesterday because their receivers are so bad (yes, they have Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, but if you watch those two, they're really quite soft and drop way too many balls they should catch), but I always point out to him that Bulger didn't need to sign a contract extension with St. Louis. He knew last year how crappy their offensive line was! No one held a gun to his head, especially when half the teams in the NFL would be happy to have him.
Turnovers: Rams 5, Seahawks 1. Final score: Seattle 33, St. Louis 6. Turnovers = loss? Yes. 8-2.
I didn't watch the game last night, but I wonder if the Broncos only won because they're sick of the Rockies. "Hey," they said, "Over here! Football being played! Remember Elway? He played football!"
Turnovers: Steelers 3, Broncos 2. Final score: Denver 31, Pittsburgh 28. Turnovers = loss? Looks that way. 9-2.
The record of teams that turn the ball over less than their opponents remains strong, despite two teams not coming through this week. It's now 69-11 when you turn the ball over less. I wonder what that means. Although neither Chicago nor Philadelphia turned the ball over, and those offenses were anemic. There's something to be said for taking risks, even if it leads to a turnover.
Okay, as for field goals. I haven't liked them in a long time. I think the NFL should do something to make them more difficult, if not ban them outright. There is no way a kicker should score 26 of a team's 38 points. It's disgusting, and it makes the game boring. But wasn't Bironas' last second field goal exciting? I guess, but how about the field-goal fest in Philly? Every time the teams got near the goal line, they played not to lose, and ending up kicking field goals. Only when they got desperate at the end of the game did they try to get the ball into the end zone. It was a horribly boring game, despite some good defense, and it makes the league look bad. As for game-ending field goals, sure, they're exciting, but they put the fate of the game in players who barely play. I'm not happy about bullpens by committee, either, but at least specialty pitchers have to face the opposition. Kickers don't have to do that - they just stand there and kick. If you got rid of field goals completely, the scoring would go down a bit, but the games would be far more exciting, because teams would be trying to get in the end zone. I would get rid of punting, too - 4th-and-20 from your own 10-yard line? Tough shit! Maybe that's extreme. How about no punting if you're in the opponents' end of the field? I just want the NFL to do something (even though they won't), because it's sucking the life out of the game.
Moving on, we check out college football, where Ohio State stands atop the rankings, and Mark May, the Pitt alum who can't deal with the fact that Penn State has always been and always will be better than Pitt, says that the Nittany Lions have "no chance" to beat them next week. Why the hate for Penn State? They played on ESPN on Saturday, beat Indiana 36-31, yet I often couldn't tell, just by listening to the announcers, who the Hoosiers were playing. All they talked about was James Hardy, the very talented Indiana wide receiver, and Kellen Lewis, the talented but untested quarterback. Even when Lewis was turning the ball over three times in the second half, they kept talking about how great he was. I know Penn State isn't terribly exciting, but they did, you know, win the game. As for May - "no chance"? Really? The last time Ohio State lost a regular-season game, it was ... to Penn State. He wondered how Penn State would move the ball against the vaunted Ohio State defense. Well, Ohio State doesn't have much of an offense, and Penn State's defense (when they're not playing spread offenses like Indiana's) is pretty darned good. How will the Buckeyes score, Mayday? I doubt if Penn State will win, but to say they have "no chance" is just idiotic. I envision a 13-10 kind of game, and in those kinds of game, one mistake is all it takes. And Ohio State just gave two touchdowns away to Michigan State this past weekend, so they're not perfect. Meanwhile, Tom is still mightily peeved at Cal, who got their quarterback back but still lost to UCLA. Longshore made a horrible mistake late in the game, down 23-21 but in field goal range, when he threw a weak pass in the flat and got it intercepted and returned for the clinching touchdown. It doesn't get easier for Cal, as they come to Tempe next week to face a rested Arizona State team. And two weeks ago, Woody! wondered if I could mention Cincinnati. Since then, they're 0-2. I think I'll keep my mouth shut about them. I'm looking forward to that Arizona State-Kansas National Championship Game, just to piss EVERYONE off.
Well, another football weekend (almost) in the books. If the Eagles can get to 4-4, I'll have some hope. Other than that, the off-season is looking to start early on Broad Street. Oh well.