What have we learned - Week 11
The nice thing about next week in the NFL is that I have pretty much zero hope that the Eagles can go to Massachusetts and beat the Cheaters. So I can watch the game without getting upset at all. I'll probably still get upset, but I'm figuring if they hold the Cheaters below 35 points, it will be a win! But that's for next week. Let's review this week!
I had to go out for a while early in the afternoon, so I paused the Eagles' game (I love DVR!) and watched it when I got back. This meant I watched very little of the early games, plus I got to watch a lot of the Philly game in fast motion. Basically, when the Eagles had the ball I watched in regular motion, but the rest I watched in fast motion. This is a cool way to watch a game, because you don't have to listen to the yammering of the announcers. Anyway, the Dolphins are the only team that can win the turnover battle and lose the game, because their offense is awful, especially with a rookie quarterback. Donovan McNabb sprained his ankle and left the game in the second quarter and did not return. Brian Westbrook simply ran 32 times for 148 yards, and A. J. Feeley settled down after throwing an early interception. The big debate in the Philadelphia newspapers today is why Andy Reid doesn't call more running plays with McNabb in even when it's obvious he's not as good as he used to be. It begs the question whether the Eagles are better off without McNabb in the lineup. It's strange, because Reid should be able to see that McNabb isn't as good as he was 5 years ago, and their receivers aren't great. Westbrook dominated yesterday, and Feeley was able to "manage" the game, which is a bad word around the NFL but works when you have a good running game and a pretty good defense. I think the Eagles are going to get pounded in New England on Sunday, but it's weird that their only chance might be if McNabb doesn't play. That way, Reid will run the ball more, keep the ball away from Brady, and maybe cause them to become impatient. If McNabb plays, Reid will throw the ball all over the place and try to outscore the Cheaters. That won't work! Why doesn't Andy Reid see this? He's not stupid!
Turnovers: Eagles 3, Dolphins 0. Final score: Philadelphia 17, Miami 7. Turnovers = loss? It's the Dolphins, so no. The Dolphins are really bad. 0-1.
Atlanta had won two games in a row with Joey Harrington at quarterback. So Bobby Petrino, naturally, replaces him with Byron Leftwich. What? WHAT? Hey, the only touchdown drive by the Falcons, when they were trailing 31-0 was led by ... Joey Harrington. Coaches make my head hurt sometimes.
Turnovers: Falcons 4, Buccaneers 2. Final score: Tampa 31, Atlanta 7. Turnovers = loss? Indubitably. 1-1.
Antrel Rolle got ripped off yesterday, as he should have gotten three touchdowns on interception returns. The final one was wiped out by a penalty when a teammate blocked Carson Palmer. Now, if you haven't seen the play, you might wonder what the problem is. He didn't hit him in the back or anything. The reason he got a penalty was because the rules say that you can't hit the quarterback when he's "defenseless." The play was going right past Palmer at the time, and he was looking at Rolle and, presumably, thinking of chasing him. He didn't see the blocker, but it's one of those calls where I can understand the reasoning behind it (quarterbacks are the movie stars of the NFL, so we must protect them!), but it makes me wonder why they just don't put a flag on the quarterbacks and take the pads off of them. Aren't they football players? Other players get popped without seeing it coming. Shouldn't the coaches tell the quarterbacks to just fall down if they don't want them trying to make a tackle? Sheesh. Anyway, the Bengals are spiralling down the toilet, and I don't want to freak you out, but the Cardinals are a game out of first place with 4 of their last 6 at home, where they've played pretty well. Arizona in the playoffs? Could happen!
Turnovers: Bengals 5, Cardinals 0. Final score: Arizona 35, Cincinnati 27. Turnovers = loss? Absolutely. 2-1.
Jon Kitna made some stupid decisions, but did anyone see his last interception? He's driving the Lions to a possible game-winning touchdown, and he throws a nice pass to a wide-open Shaun McDonald for a first down. The ball hits McDonald right in both hands, and he doesn't catch it. The ball pops over his head and the Giants intercept it. How are you a receiver in the NFL and not catch that? The Lions, by the way, have lost 2 in a row and look like the Detroit we all know and love. I doubt they'll even make the playoffs.
Turnovers: Lions 4, Giants 2. Final score: New Jersey 16, Detroit 10. Turnovers = loss? It looks that way, doesn't it? 3-1.
I just can't talk about R. C. Favre. It just upsets me too much.
Turnovers: Panthers 3, Packers 0. Final score: Green Bay 31, Carolina 17. Turnovers = loss? Yes, but I have a feeling Jesus wants Green Bay to win anyway, so it won't matter. 4-1.
Hey, if you put some pressure on Peyton Manning, he looks ordinary! I wonder why nobody thought of that before now? And if you take away one of his great receivers, he looks ordinary! What a shock! Now, if only they could play someone who could play some offense, they would get stomped. I don't hate the Colts, but I always like when a team that has had it easy has to play through some adversity. The Eagles had their back-up quarterback in for most of the game and won. Can Indy say that Jim Sorgi would lead them to victory? I'm not sure why Tony Dungy is a "genius" for going for it on fourth down with 2 minutes left at the KC 2-yard line with the score tied. It's a nice call, I guess, but I don't know if it's a "genius" call.
Turnovers: Chiefs 2, Colts 1. Final score: Indianapolis 13, Kansas City 10. Turnovers = loss? I suppose. 5-1.
I wonder if Adrian Peterson's success has anything to do with Minnesota's very good offensive line and especially Steve Hutchinson? Peterson didn't play, and Chester Taylor gained 164 yards. Offensive lines don't get enough credit. Surprisingly enough, Oakland sucks. That's a shock.
Turnovers: Vikings 5, Raiders 2. Final score: Minnesota 29, Oakland 22. Turnovers = loss? No. I guess the Raiders are also so bad that teams can turn the ball over more than they do and not lose. 5-2.
If you get a chance to see Maurice Jones-Drew block Shawne Merriman, check it out. The Jaguars were down at the goal line, and David Garrard went back to pass. Jones-Drew, who's about 4'6", went right and blasted Merriman so hard that the steroid-user was lifted off his feet and fell hard, not getting back up for the rest of the play. It is, quite possibly, the greatest block ever. Garrard threw the game-winning touchdown on the play. Jacksonville isn't great, but they play mean, and you have to love that. San Diego, meanwhile, stinks. The only thing they changed from last years 14-2 team was their coach. Norv Turner sucks. Bad.
Turnovers: Chargers 2, Jaguars 0. Final score: Jacksonville 24, San Diego 17. Turnovers = loss? You bet. 6-2.
Speaking of which, I just found the block on YouTube It's not very good quality, but it gets the point across:
Cleveland won its second 33-30 overtime game in three weeks. That's weird. If you haven't seen the game-tying field goal, it's a doozy. Phil Dawson's kick hit the left upright, then hit the curved support pole before bouncing back through the goalposts. By rule it's a field goal, but the officials said it was no good. Field goals, inexplicably, are not reviewable (they probably will be after this year!), but the officials got together and talked about it. They claimed they didn't see a replay, but that's unlikely, as the stadium was playing it on the big screen. They finally decided the field goal was good, well after many of the Ravens had left the field and some even started taking showers. Very weird. Then, the Ravens couldn't cover the kickoff in overtime, and the Browns won the game on a field goal. The ref got it right, but why didn't the officials at the uprights see the ball originally? It's pretty obvious it hit the pole and not the crossbar. I don't want to freak you out, but the Browns are 6-4 and in the playoff hunt. Go, Derek Anderson!
Turnovers: Ravens 4, Browns 2. Final score: Cleveland 33, Baltimore 30. Turnovers = loss? The Browns returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown, so sure. 7-2.
Mario Williams had a much better game than Reggie Bush. That's kind of funny, as everyone rushed to judgment on the draft picks last year. Houston, by the way, is 5-5. New Orleans is 4-6. Where are the mea culpae from the "experts"?
Turnovers: Saints 3, Texans 2. Final score: Houston 23, New Orleans 10. Turnovers = loss? Why not? 8-2.
I like how last week people were ready to put Ben Roethlisberger third on the "best quarterback in the NFL" list, and this week he's a bum. Yes, he had a bad game. Everyone has a bad game now and then. He'll be fine. What should worry the Steelers is their pathetic running attack, which got 112 yards. That's not good enough. Plus, there's not that huge a difference in talent between the better teams in the league and the crappy ones. The Cheaters and probably Colts, of course, are far more talented, but other than that, the margin is pretty thin. Usually it comes down to stupid plays and bad coaching, and in this game, it came down to Leon Washington returning a punt deep into Steeler territory in overtime. I'm not going to say the Steelers can beat the Cheaters, but they're better than this game indicated.
Turnovers: Steelers 2, Jets 1. Final score: New Jersey 19, Pittsburgh 16. Turnovers = loss? Yes. 9-2.
I'm certainly not going to cry over spilled milk, but why has Terrell Owens suddenly become super-teammate? Is it because he realized that people were sick of his act? Couldn't he have wised up before so that he could have helped the Eagles? Or is this just a function of Jerry Jones caving and throwing money at him? It certainly can't be just because he has a man-crush on Tony Romo, because when he played with McNabb, they had a pretty good relationship as long as they were winning. I'm still dying to see what happens when the Cowboys hit a rough patch. Not when they lose one game, but if they lose two or three in a row. Then we'll see if Owens really has reformed. The interesting thing about Owens' performance, as well as Randy Moss': no one covered them. NO ONE COVERED THEM!!!!! It's pretty easy to catch four touchdown passes when you're simply standing in the end zone with no one near you. I hope the Eagles decide to, I don't know, cover Randy Moss! That would be nice.
Turnovers: Washington 2, Cowboys 1. Final score: Dallas 28, Washington 23. Turnovers = loss? Pretty much, as Campbell's last interception came with less than two minutes left on a 3rd-down play where he had plenty of room to run and either get the first down or make it a very short 4th down. Run, Jason, run! 10-2.
God, the less said about the St. Louis-San Francisco "game," the better. I will say that I watched Torry Holt catch a pass for a first down in the middle of the field, turn upfield briefly, and then slide like a quarterback when confronted by three tacklers. The defenders weren't even about to tackle him, although if he had kept running, they would have. Holt could have easily gained three or four more yards, and maybe, if he tried, he could have eluded them. Instead he slid. He's a football player! I have never heard anyone call him on this (another reason why I should have a show on ESPN) except my friend Mike, who has a man-crush on Marc Bulger. Then, this morning, a radio sports talk guy said that Holt is tough to get a good hit on. He implied it was because he was soft, but didn't come out and say it. That's the closest I've ever heard anyone make an issue of it. Last week, Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals dragged about six Detroit Lions from about the 5-yard line into the end zone. I can't even conceive of Holt doing that. What a loser.
Turnovers: 49ers 2, Rams 0. Final score: St. Louis 13, San Francisco 9. Turnovers = loss? The last interception came in the end zone at the end of the game, so sure. 11-2.
I watched very little of the Chicago-Seattle game, but whenever I turned it on, I was amazed, again, by how much better the Seahawks look with Maurice Morris in there rather than Shaun Alexander. Sorry, Shaun - you're going to be looking for work next year.
Turnovers: Chicago 1, Seattle 1. Final score: Seattle 30, Chicago 23. Turnovers = loss? It's a wash.
The Cheaters ran up the score again, and although I do agree that it's the job of the defense to stop them, Bill Belicheat is really courting trouble with the way he runs up the score. It was 42-10 in the fourth quarter and Brady was still in the ball game. Belicheat went for it on fourth down and scored a touchdown, which, again, I'm not that bent out of shape about, but I can't believe he's willing to sacrifice a Super Bowl victory just to rub the NFL's nose in it. All it takes is one really pissed-off defender to not care what kind of fine he has to pay for breaking Brady's leg in a game that's well out of reach and Belicheat can kiss that ring goodbye. When it went to 42-7 with 9 minutes left in the third, did anyone really think the Bills were coming back? Give Brady the rest of the night off. Let Matt Cassel go for it on fourth down if you want. I hate myself for thinking this, but I hope Trent Cole breaks Brady's leg in the first quarter of next week's game. Not only is it the Eagles' only chance to win, but I bet the rest of the league would pony up the money to pay his fine.
Turnovers: Bills 2, Cheaters 0. Final score: New England 56, Buffalo 10. Turnovers = loss? Probably not, but the numbers say they do! 12-2.
Colin Cowherd, who's entertaining because he says so many idiotic things, said today that Vince Young will never win a Super Bowl because of the way he plays, but that's okay because he's entertaining and will win 60% of his games and win some playoff games. This is the same Colin Cowherd who loves what the Cheaters are doing because they play to win the game. So it's okay for the Cheaters to pile it on because they're paid to score, but it's not okay for the Titans to either change the way Vince Young plays or get rid of him because they'll never win a Super Bowl with him? What an idiot. Anyway, I watched hardly any of this game, but I did see a play early on where Young threw a deep ball to a receiver and put it right on his hands. The receiver dropped it. I don't know if Young will ever be a good quarterback, but lousy receivers aren't helping him!
Turnovers: Titans 3, Broncos 1. Final score: Denver 34, Tennessee 20. Turnovers = loss? Sure! 13-2.
That makes teams a pretty good 111-15 when they turn the ball over fewer times than their opponents. Someone on ESPN was bitching this week about boring offenses built "not to lose." I think it was Mortensen, and he went on to say that teams don't take chances, don't turn the ball over, and win 3-0. This is "boring," according to Mort. Well, sure, it's boring to Mort, but I wonder if the fans in Baltimore will give up that Super Bowl victory because their team was "boring." Not every team can have a rock-solid offensive line and Randy Moss running 50 yards downfield uncovered, you know!
So, back to Penn State, who blew a 24-7 lead, a chance to win 10 games in the season, and a New Year's Day bowl because their defense decided to start sucking at the wrong time and because whoever was calling plays for them needs to be fired. Here's the situation (I know you don't care, but indulge me): they're losing 35-31 but have two timeouts with about 1.50 left. They're at about the Michigan State 20, having gotten the ball with about 4 minutes left and driven down the field, mainly using their powerful running game, which the Spartans haven't been able to stop. So on first down, Anthony Morelli throws incomplete into the end zone. Okay. Not a great call, because if they score, MSU gets the ball back with three timeouts and plenty of time, with a Penn State defense that is phoning it in. Then they throw an idiotic screen pass in the center of field, which is incomplete. Even if they had completed it, the receiver had a guy draped all over him and wouldn't have gone far. Third down: another deep route, another incompletion. Fourth down (with still 1.20 left or so): another deep route, another incompletion. What the hell happened to the running game? Not only have you been ripping off huge chunks of yardage, you'll probably force the Spartans into taking timeouts and you'll probably score with very little time left. But no, the Lions had to go pass-happy. Why should the person who called those plays keep his job?
In other college football news, some team from Ohio beat some team from Michigan, prompting Lloyd Carr's resignation. The pundits have been talking about how he was a mediocre coach (Cowherd again) or, on the other end, a great coach (Kirk Herbstreit mostly, but his opinion seems to be the prevailing one). One thing they agree on is that Carr cared more about graduating players and making sure they were well-rounded individuals and less about beating the Buckeyes. But who makes winning such a huge priority? The same people on the network that is now praising him for caring about things other than football. Nice one, ESPN. Oregon lost last week as well, opening the door for a bunch of other schools to jump up, including Arizona State (if they can beat USC on Thanksgiving - watch the game on ESPN!). Some "experts" - Corso, I think - were talking about how great Oregon was and how they were the best team in the country. Can you really be a great team when you're so dependent on your quarterback? I love the Ducks, but like a lot of teams, if you're that dependent on one player, you're probably not that good. It's a lot more obvious in college football, where one great player (Vince Young, for instance) can take a team to #1, but a lot of NFL teams are too dependent on their quarterback. I hate bringing this back to the Eagles, but the Eagles often win without their back-up quarterback in there, because they play a game that isn't too reliant on McNabb. Take Brady off the Cheaters and see what happens. Anyway, the last two weeks of college football ought to be fun. I hope that Missouri beats Kansas, then loses to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game. I hope that West Virginia loses one of its last two. I hope LSU loses to Arkansas or to Tennessee/Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. I hope Arizona State beats USC and Arizona, because then they'll play for a National Championship. If Penn State and Oregon can't win the thing, I'd rather see ASU do it!
I hope everyone enjoyed their football weekend. And remember: skipping the NFL games, which feature one of the most loathsome teams in the league and the most overhyped quarterback ever, is your patriotic duty! Eat some bird, then watch the Sun Devils!