Monday, January 11, 2010

11 comments MMQB Review: The Game of the Year For This Week Edition

This weekend had a pretty good opening round of NFL Playoff Games, though there is definitely room for improvement next weekend since 3 of the games were over by the third quarter. I am really excited for next weekend's games to see how they go since 3 of the 4 teams that had a bye week this past week were for one reason or another not playing all that well when the season ended. This weekend we learned that the Bengals really weren't holding that much back last week, the Eagles probably should try to run the ball at least once or twice a game just to change things up, the Patriots actually can look human at home in the playoffs for once and that Kurt Warner really shouldn't retire after this season.

One other thing I personally learned is how Larry Fitzgerald dominates in the playoffs. It's so easy I never thought of it. He just commits offensive pass interference and hopes the officials don't call it. I'm being kind of tongue in cheek but I do find it interesting the two touchdown receptions Fitzgerald had on Sunday ended with Charles Woodson on the ground yards away from Fitzgerald as he scored a touchdown. The first one was borderline, where he and Woodson got "tangled up" even though Fitzgerald didn't seem to have a problem being tangled, so I can accept that one. The second one was blatant. Woodson dared to cover Fitzgerald so he just extended his arms, pushed Woodson, ran him the hell over and then proceeded to make a great one-handed touchdown catch. It was brutally blatant. It certainly looked like he just ran over Woodson on his way to the touchdown and the officials completely missed it. It probably wouldn't have made a difference in the game (since the Cardinals could score any time they wanted), but I feel like it had to be acknowledged.

Peter King also has some thoughts on the playoff games this weekend.

The game of the year came when football fans needed it, because face it: There's more suspense in a three-game Marlins-Nationals series than there was in the first three games of wild-card weekend.

The other NFL Playoff games were about as exciting as three baseball games between teams that refuse to spend $100 million dollars on players and play in the inferior National League. That's how boring they were. They should just contract these two baseball teams and give the players to the Red Sox and Yankees so there can be real baseball played. In fact, just contract every MLB team and let the Red Sox and the Yankees play every day of every week for 162 games.

I feel for Packers fans this morning. That's an excruciating loss. The worst. It'll take days, weeks, to get over it, I'm sure. But that's sports. Sometimes you get your heart broken, and the only way to not get your heart broken is to not fall in love.

Peter learned this lesson the hard way with Brett Favre. Look for their love story to be played out in a movie coming to theaters near you called "(500) Training Camp Days of Summer."

And there is much to love about this Green Bay team. The quarterback's scary good, even if he did hold on to the ball too long on the last play of the season.

Dammit Aaron Rodgers, throw an interception in overtime when you are being pressured rather than risk getting sacked and having to punt! What were you thinking when you were worrying about ball security in overtime in the playoffs? Throw the ball somewhere to an area of the field. That's what Brett Favre would do (and did against the Giants in 2008). Be like Brett, just throw the ball up for grabs. That's the best way to quarterback in overtime in a playoff game.

These Packers are going to be good for a long time.

Ok, simmer down Peter. Let's not go overboard quite yet. This was one playoff game where the defense gave up 52 points. I don't have them on my list of Super Bowl contenders for next year until they improve the defense.

I don't like to judge active players for the Hall, and I won't.

Cue Peter not judging Kurt Warner in the Hall of Fame in 3,2,1...

But Kurt Warner is a great football player, and a great pressure football player. He played the best pressure game of a career knocking on Canton's door (I mean the best 60-minute game, not the best Super Bowl quarter)...Warner's 9-3 in the playoffs, with one Super Bowl and one Super Bowl MVP. In the regular season, he compares favorably to Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, with just 598 fewer yards, a better touchdown-to-interception ratio (208-128 to Aikman's 165-141) and four percentage points more accurate (.655 for Warner, .615 for Aikman); Aikman, who started 40 more games, has 27 more victories than Warner.

When Peter says he isn't going to do something, immediately look for him to do exactly what he wasn't going to do in the next group of sentences.

Warner somehow threw a ball into the end zone, and Fitzgerald -- after getting away with offensive pass interference by plowing over Charles Woodson -- dove and made a brilliant one-handed catch.

I am glad someone else noticed this. Larry Fitzgerald must be a ghost because the announcers barely mentioned it, and just kind of glossed over the pass interference. They were more focused on the holding non-call against the Cardinals which ended up being a personal foul on Green Bay because Jenkins got held and pushed into Kurt Warner's face.

(I hate complaining about calls that are in a game I don't care about, but I like good officiating and it wasn't great officiating in that game)

When punter Steve Weatherford was kayoed from the Jets-Bengals game two minutes before kickoff due to an irregular heartbeat, Feely, who hadn't punted in a game in his nine-year NFL career, got the call.

I know an irregular heartbeat is serious, but couldn't he just have punted the ball out of bounds like Feely did? It made sense that Feely punted in the game but this still bothered me. Even though I know an irregular heartbeat is serious, he punts the ball and in a playoff game wouldn't there be a way to make sure he didn't overexert himself other than to kick the ball? I am sure Weatherford wanted to kick and the training staff didn't want to be responsible for him dying on the field. I just like to ask insensitive questions.

Cowboys 34, Eagles 14: Dallas has a lot of ways to beat you. First of all, Charles Barkley ... Chuck, Chuck, Chuck. Are you serious? On the NBC air, he said, "Donovan McNabb is the most underrated player in Eagles history.'' Wow. Some statement. We're going to part ways on this one, big fella.

Who does Peter King thinks is the most underrated player in Eagles history? Brett Favre.

Seriously, I bet Peter thinks a guy like Reggie White is the most underrated player in Eagles history. I am sure his selection would be equally as asinine as Charles Barkley's selection.

Ravens33, Patriots 14: It wasn't that close. New England was woefully outmatched on both sides of the ball for the first time in a playoff game in the Belichick Era. I think there's trouble in Red Sox City, but the team is certainly salvageable.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think the Patriots are actually located in Boston, which is actually Red Sox City. I get his point, but I'm just saying...

A traffic jam at the Hall of Fame. The Hall cut the list from 25 semi-finalists to 15 by eliminating, among others, Paul Tagliabue (it was hopeless for him this year with the labor strife some voters trace back to him), Steve Tasker (I am weeping), Cliff Branch (if Lynn Swann is in, so should he)

Fine then, let's take Lynn Swann out of the Hall of Fame. I have talked about this before, but Swann never had great statistics and though he was important to the Steelers of the 70's, I don't think this should have been enough to get him in the Hall of Fame, especially with another Hall of Fame receiver on the other side of the field in John Stallworth. Swann is the floor for Hall of Fame receivers in my mind.

1. Regarding the non-facemask call on the last play of Arizona-Green Bay: I've watched the TiVoed combination of replays six times now. Arizona's Michael Adams blitzes, dislodges the ball from Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, rakes his hands over the facemask of Rodgers, then appears to grab the facemask, and the ball is inadvertently kicked by Rodgers...Adams keeps his hands on the mask as he plows into Rodgers and brings him to the ground. Adams didn't tackle him by the mask, but his hand did stay secured on the mask as Rodgers fell to the ground.

This would have been a tough call to make against the Cardinals, I don't know if the official should make the call honestly. Of course Peter has to go and defend the official on the play, which makes me question the call more...

The referee, Scott Green, is the official on the crew with the responsibility of watching plays involving the quarterback. Once the ball has been dislodged, Green has to watch the ball, not the contact on the quarterback. He has to see if the ball hits the ground and judge if it's a forward pass or a fumble, then he has to follow the live ball until the end of the play. So Green could not -- at least, he should not -- have seen the contact on the mask of Rodgers.

Under this line of thinking any time a quarterback throws the ball, wouldn't the official also miss any illegal contact or unnecessary roughness calls that took place on the quarterback? This may be a better example: Say at the snap Rodgers runs right with the ball and pitches it to Brandon Jackson, wouldn't the official follow the ball and never see potential illegal contact called on the defender against the quarterback after he had pitched the ball? The official is trying to determine if the pitch is a lateral or not, right, so he can't watch what happens to Rodgers in this situation? But, I have seen illegal contact or a personal foul called in situations like this in college football, so I have a hard time believing an NFL official couldn't follow the ball and notice Adams had a hold of Rodgers' facemask at the same time.

Really, it's not a big deal, but I have a hard time buying an excuse that IF that should have been a penalty, it wasn't called because the official can't pay attention to the ball and Rodgers. Hell, shouldn't another official have seen it then?

The deep hole Pete Carroll is stepping into.

What would make Pete Carroll want to go to the NFL again? (Besides money.) He has NFL players at USC and he is the king there. Is he bailing after one tough year? What would make an NFL team hire Pete Carroll again? It's not like he was incredibly successful the first 2 times he coached in the NFL. I thought it was ironic the Seahawks interviewed Leslie Frazier to satisfy the Rooney Rule, when I think they should have interviewed him with serious intentions to give him a chance to win the job. This seems like a lose-lose situation for Carroll and the Seahawks to me. The Seahawks get a coach who hasn't been successful as a head coach previously and Pete Carroll gives up a great college football job.

Remember when Charlie Weis last month said Carroll, the married father of three, was "living with a grad student in Malibu?'' Carroll, furious, said it was "untrue, irresponsible ... and incredible that he'd be talking about me like that.''

Kansas City (Weis' new employer) at Seattle, date TBA, next fall, Qwest Field.

I want to go on record as saying I would be surprised if Pete Carroll WASN'T living with a grad student in Malibu. I am not saying he looks like a bad guy, but he looks and acts like the kind of guy who would be living with a grad student in Malibu. Maybe I think this because Pete Carroll also looks like the kind of head coach whose players get illegal benefits and there are never NCAA ramifications through sanctions.

"I immediate thought of Ted Williams going into the last day of the '41 season batting .399995, or whatever it was,'' Brees said, "and I thought, 'If I don't play, I'm letting Teddy down.' ''

First off, Ted Williams is dead so Brees wouldn't be letting him down. Secondly, Ted Williams never had a personal relationship with Brees so because they didn't know each other, it is hard for Williams to be let down when he never knew or cared about Brees. I get what Brees is saying, but this is like me saying I don't want to let Willis Reed down by not playing a pick-up game of basketball because my ankle hurts.

5. New Orleans (13-3). The more I thought about it the past few days, the more faith I had in the Saints offense to play well this weekend after slumping late. They just have to use Kyle Eckel or one of the tight ends more than Sean Payton probably wants -- but that's the cost of keeping Brees clean.

How many punts do you think we will see in the Cardinals-Saints game this weekend? Maybe 2 or 3?

Special Teams Player of the Week

Rico Murray, S, Cincinnati.

I celebrated Jay Feely higher in the column, so I'm reserving this for a guy who made one of the heads-up plays of the weekend -- and I bet you don't even remember it.

I love it when Peter names a player in his "Player of the Week" section and then says we may not even remember what that player did. I find it hard for a player to be a "Player of the Week" and no one can remember why he deserves it.

On the first Feely punt of the game, the ball hits at the Bengals 32, and takes a high bounce, and out of nowhere streaks in Murray, who is not the return man on the play. He grabs the ball, much to the surprise of players on both punting units, and turns upfield and sprints 23 yards to the Jets 45. Seven plays later, Cincinnati strikes first and takes a 7-0 lead.

So he made a crucial play (possibly also a pretty stupid play since he wasn't the return man) that had absolutely no effect on the game. Now it makes sense why Peter gave him this fake award.

It helps to have Wes Welker sitting up in the owner's box, and to have Randy Moss nursing some sort of injury and playing soft all day. But the Ravens embarrassed the Patriots, and the defensive scheme was a big part of that.

Dammit Peter! Randy Moss wasn't playing soft! He was playing as hard as he ever plays. It's not like he only plays when he wants to play...even though he said he did exactly that a few years ago. See what Belichick defending Moss earlier this year after the game against Carolina did? It boosted Moss up for a couple weeks, but then Moss played soft again yesterday. I know Belichick stands up for his guy and I respect that, but I think the more coaches make excuses for some of Moss's lack of effort, the more he gives a lack of effort in some games.

This is what happens when you give a city hope:

In March 2006, the Saints had 44,000 tickets available.

Today, the Saints have a season-ticket waiting list of 50,000.

I know I may get killed for saying this, but isn't this also the very epitome of fair weather fans? I know they had Hurricane Katrina dramatically affect the entire state prior to 2006, I get that, but many of the people who can afford season tickets to Saints games didn't lose their home and possessions in Hurricane Katrina. There is a different type individual that seemed to lose everything and can afford to buy season tickets to the Saints games. For me, I am glad the fan base is so happy, but this is also the epitome of pretty fair weather fans.

I mean, come on, that's a swing of 94,000 tickets in 4 years.

Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel Notes of the Week

One other note, from a quiet Amtrak regional train home from New York Sunday. Five people in my car. I sit in the middle of the car and continue typing out a story for the magazine on Drew Brees. A smartly dressed woman in the back of the car, eight rows behind me, is on the phone. She is Loudwoman. "CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? ... YEP, 35 TOMORROW! THE BIG 3-5! ... NO, NOTHING. NOTHING. WHAT SHOULD I DO, GO TO A STRIP CLUB? ... YEAH, LIKE RICHIE WOULD DO THAT ...'' And on and on it went. After a couple of minutes, I packed everything up and went to the front row of the car. It was better, but still not silent, for the next 10 minutes.

Then it got quiet for a while. Then clip ... clip ... clip Loudwoman, clipping her nails on Amtrak. Fingers, not toes.

Oh how annoying. How dare anyone riding on public transportation do anything but sit still quietly! Remember Peter is typing a story on his computer, so I bet some person in the same car was thinking, "Jesus, will you quit pounding the keys on that keyboard so hard," and wanted Peter to quit pecking away on the computer so he could enjoy HIS commute in peace. Of course Peter doesn't think he may be annoying others by typing because he is so focused on complaining about the person annoying him.

e. A smart man in Buffalo told me: "They love Leslie Frazier.'' Bills interviewed him for five hours Thursday, and as I said on NBC Saturday night, he's the leader in the clubhouse for that job, but so many golfers are still out on the course -- like Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Why would any team want to hire a smart, young offensive/defensive coordinator who have been successful in the NFL at their respective jobs like Frazier and Schottenheimer when they can hire coaches like Mike Shanahan and Pete Carroll who have been fired a total of 4 times between them?

i. Jermichael Finley's really good.

Here Peter goes with the obvious statements, though I do have to admit this isn't as obvious as the Andre Johnson statement last year...and at least Finley hasn't made a Pro Bowl yet and Peter is just now realizing, and mentioning, he is a good tight end.

4. I think I'm pretty skeptical that this shotgun wedding between Pete Carroll and this John Doe GM can work long-term.

I'm pretty skeptical Pete Carroll is an above average NFL head coach or even the best head coaching candidate available for the Seahawks to hire. In fact, I can think of 5 other coaches that would be better than Carroll as a head coach in the NFL just from the college football ranks. Add in the coordinators in the NFL who I think are better candidates compared to Carroll and I really question this hire by Seattle.

We saw some bad quarterback play over the weekend out of a couple of other vets -- Carson Palmer and Tom Brady -- but the difference is that Palmer has no one behind him and Brady's a three-time Super Bowl winner coming off an injury and was beat up the whole year. The Eagles have a strong prospect behind McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and I can't think of any physical excuses for McNabb.

He's slightly overweight? I am kidding Eagles fans.

Possibly what is wrong with McNabb is that his offensive line isn't that great, the Cowboys defense is just better, and his head coach absolutely refuses to help him by trying to run the ball on a consistent basis?

If the Eagles believe Kolb is a player, and I'm told they certainly do, Reid owes it to the franchise to think long and hard about allowing Kolb to compete for the job or take the job next year in his fourth season, at age 26. It's not like the Eagles need draft fortification, but McNabb could bring, let's say, something in the range of two second-round picks from Brad Childress if Brett Favre retires.

I think Kolb should get a chance for the job, simply because I don't think the fall-off between he and McNabb is that great, Kolb is younger and McNabb still has some trade value. I think it is HILARIOUS that Peter thinks Brad Childress would trade for another aging quarterback if Favre retires after this year (do we ever really know if Favre is actually retired or not?). If Peter's thought was true, isn't it funny how Childress just absolutely refuses to sign a quarterback under the age of 30?

b. The Sanchize. The Jets didn't win in spite of him, and they didn't have to be cautious with him.

Like I said, he just has to manage the game and he has a few guys who can help him do that, along with a great running game. The problem lies when he tries or is forced to do too much.

i. Green Bay's passing game. Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, Greg Jennings. Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne. Not sure which combo platter I'd rather have right now.

We all know I like Aaron Rodgers, but until further notice is given, I would rather have Manning, Clark, and Wayne. It's getting closer but I still say the Colts combo platter is best.

c. Nice catch, Braylon Edwards. Toughest call of the Jets offseason will be determining how much this restricted free agent's worth. He's not in Larry Fitzgerald's league, but he'll want to be paid in it.

If anyone, or even Braylon Edwards, thinks he is in the same class as Larry Fitzgerald they need to be drug tested immediately. Braylon Edwards should be re-signed but if he is asking for money even a notch below Larry Fitzgerald, the Jets shouldn't re-sign him.

e. Coffeenerdness: Shared a coffee with Drew Brees at P.J.'s Coffee House in the University Section of Uptown New Orleans the other day. Actually, he is lactose intolerant and had a soy latte. I had a triple latte. Interesting that there's a Starbucks across the street and this place holds its own. It does that because the espresso is excellent -- rich, no bitterness. Highly recommended if you're around Tulane or Loyola, or visiting the Mannings down there.

Seriously Peter? If I am "visiting the Mannings down there?" Does Peter really think the people who read his MMQB are just going to New Orleans to visit the Manning family or something because they are friends with the family? This is an absolutely stupid statement. What normal person would go visit the Mannings just randomly and expect them to open their door to talk to you?

g. Congrats to Jets director of media relations David Tratner and wife, Jessica, who had son Mark Harrison Tratner late in the second quarter of the Jets' Saturday win. The game was in the delivery room until the doctor entered for the final act, shall we say. But Mark got to see the second half. Precocious little fellow came out yelling, "J-E-T-S! Jets Jets Jets!''

Why do I feel like that child is in for a lifetime of disappointment? Or at least a lifetime of constantly being nervous because he always expects the worse to happen?

I posted the standings after the first week of the BotB NFL Playoff Challenge. I lost to Bill Simmons during the regular season by one game, that's it (which makes me unhappy), so I am still counting the playoffs as us competing since we are both still making picks. With this big 0-4 weekend, it looks like he has lost his touch from earlier this year and I am two games ahead of him now.


KentAllard said...

I hate those "if ______ is in the Hall of Fame, then _______ deserves to be in." It makes past mistakes continue to ruin things for you.

According to at least one report, Herm Edwards is the frontrunner for the USC job. This would delight me no end.

rich said...

As for the officiating in last night's game, I don't think there was a conspiracy, but those refs were pretty awful. When Joe Buck starts saying things like "that will be holding on Arizona" and it turns into a penalty against GB, then I know that the NFL really didn't put the best team on the job.

On the same play that Fitz was saved from PI, there should have been a holding call on Arizona that got called as a personal foul on GB because the DT got pushed into Warner.

There was also a helmet to the head call that was missed on the same play that had a GB holding (leading to the 3rd and 20).

And of course the facemask on the last play.

I understand refs are human and they will miss some things, but when you miss three penalties that would have negated a TD and pushed them back 15 yards (possibly forcing just a FG) and then to blow not one, but two, calls on the last series of the game? It just bothers me that the refs had a more than negligible impact on the game.

Then again, does it really matter? Both offenses dominated the game and really neither of those defenses played well enough to win a playoff game.

However, the best part of next week? Peter probably has his article for next week written.

Cowboys wins: "Tony Romo overcomes playoff past and wins playoff game! Cowboys new SB favorites"

Minnesota wins: "I talked to Brett Favre after the game, he said it was tough to play with testicles the size of watermelons. Vikings new SB favorites!"

Bengoodfella said...

I hate it too and I talk a little bit more about it in what I am planning on posting tomorrow. I hate players who are the floor for Hall of Fame induction being compared to other players who should make it as well.

I have not heard the Herm Edwards report linking him to USC. That would be great. Somewhere Mike Riley and Chip Kelly are getting really excited about this.

Bengoodfella said...

I don't think there was a conspiracy either Rich, but I think there were some bad calls. My fiance asked me what I would have done if it was a Panthers game and I told her I thanked God it wasn't.

I couldn't decide which call to criticize more, but I thought the interference on Fitzgerald was pretty obvious. The holding call should have been as well since the same official Peter makes excuses for about the end of the game missed that call also.

I agree with you about those refs. The OT could have been much cleaner in regards to the refs. I know it is hard to call that last fumble back, but if it was the right call then it should have been made.

Agreed with you about whether it matters or not. I don't really care either way, other than I picked Green Bay. Neither team really showed defensively they should be in the playoffs, much less two games from the Super Bowl.

I am already concerned with picking the Cowboys-Vikings game next week. You are probably exactly right about Peter's headlines. I hope those are his headlines because I would love to tackle those.

Martin said...

That Packer-Cards game was just terribly officiated. Penalties were missed all over the place, to the point you just toss up your hands trying to figure out if it really favored one team or the other. I think I can call it a wash, so long as everybody agrees there was at least a half dozen obvious blown calls.

As for Simmons going 0-4, how could he pick the Eagles over the Cowboys, but not the Jets over the Bengals or Ravens over the...well wait, I know why he couldn't take the Ravens, cause Boston fan would lift the team on it's shoulders to mighty victory. But seriously, if one was going to try and make an "upset" pick against the grain, the Eagles was a baaaaaaad choice. Dude went 0-4. This says as much as anything that his run early in the year was nothing more then total sheer luck.

Bengoodfella said...

I personally just gave on the officiating part of the game and started to enjoy the offensive display that was being shown. It was probably the 1st NFL game I ever saw where the officials "let them play." It was kind of interesting to see. By interesting I mean, "there was some bad officiating."

I didn't think the upset pick to choose was the Eagles over the Cowboys last weekend. I felt pretty good about my choice in choosing teams. He had a bad weekend in choosing teams for sure. It's funny because he writes an entire column on gambling rules and then goes 0-4. Most of gambling is sheer luck, but I think his run earlier this year was luck as well. He may want to give up the "rules" for gambling at some point if he keeps this up.

Dylan Murphy said...

Trying to set up rules for gambling is idiotic. We all claim to have some reason for our picks, but in reality its a guessing game. Setting up rules for betting in my opinion makes someone look dumber. Essentially its like trying to explain why you should choose heads or tails. I realize there's a little more to it than that, but its impossible to predict that the Ravens would dominate the Pats at home. If I had to pick a lock of the wild card weekend, it would have been that game.

Martin said...

When do we all get together for the road trip to visit the Mannings, and should we tell them we're on the way or just surprise them?

Bengoodfella said...

Dylan, there really are no rules for gambling. Sure there may be short term trends but I don't think it is enough to make rules. I think Simmons makes his rules as sort of entertainment, though he is pretty serious about them and sticks to them.

Gambling really is a guessing game and I think the more you analyze it, the more difficult it becomes to give yourself solid answers because you go in circles. I think the Patriots were a lock this weekend too, though I didn't think they would cover.

Martin, I say we just drop by. I know the Mannings are usually delighted to see me at their door step unannounced.

rich said...

If we're going to the Manning's place, we need oreos, lots and lots of oreos.

Bengoodfella said...

I would bet that's what Peter brings when he goes to visit them...tons of Oreos and then has a "Twist-off" (I think that's what it was called) between he, Favre and the two Mannings.