Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Week That Was: Week VI

First of all, I would just like to say how happy I am I jumped on the Matt Leinart bandwagon before his coming out party last night. I'm not saying I'm the driver, but I did call shotgun. Should be a fun ride.

I know its way, way, WAY too early to make these kind of comparisons, but there's some Tom Brady in Matt Leinart, I think. I'm certainly not saying he will have the success or the career Brady has had - that's pretty improbable, obviously- but he seems so unfazed by anything. I mean, everyone all but wrote his funeral before facing the new Monsters of the Midway on Monday Night. (Wow, look at that alliteration. Bonus points for me.) Steve Young's advice for Leinart before the game was "be careful and don't get hurt." If there was ever a regular season game in which a rookie would panic, this was it.

And he cooly marches them down the field for a pair of first quarter TDs, patiently picking apart the league's most vaunted defense. Then, after the Cardinals blow a 20-point lead because Denny Green made him sit on the football for nearly three quarters (we'll get to this in a minute), he strolls the Cardinals into field goal range, working the two minute drill without even changing his facial expression.

Believe me, I fully understand he isn't Tom Brady and it's his second game of the season and Brady is the greatest QB of my generation - I get that, I really do. All I'm saying is, Leinart shares his demeanor. That's all I'm saying.

Leinart has this paparazzi image - the whole Paris Hilton thing - and the "Hollywood Jack" nickname and those pics of him partying it up after losing the Heisman and hanging out with Nick Lachey (which I think should actually count against him in the "cool" category), but I think he's a genuinely good guy. I think he's a regular guy that got thrown into the Hollywood limelight by going to USC and did what anyone would do - took advantage of it. But in every interview I've ever seen with him, he comes off as a humble, down to earth guy who can't believe his good fortune and just wants to win. And that's a good thing.

I mean, maybe he is this huge Hollywood prick and he's completely fooling me, but I don't think so. I hope not, anyways. And until proven otherwise, I'm sitting shotgun on his bandwagon.

But back to the game - you can hang this L squarely on the shoulders off Denny Green. Which is a shame, because it looks like he devised a hell of a game plan against the NFL's top offense and defense. His defensive scheme had Sexy Rexy Grossman absolutely baffled, and his offense was having its way with Chicago's D.

So here's my question: after having so much success passing on the Bears in the first quarter, why sit on the ball until you blew the lead with 2:53 left in the game? The Bears had at least two, arguably three chances in the second and third quarters to put sevens on the board after Chicago TO's deep in the Bears territory, and they settled for field goals every time. I mean, they didn't even try to score a touchdown. They ran the ball twice, then dropped Leinart back on third and long when the Chicago D could just tee off on him. And once they blew the lead, they finally took the cuffs off Leinart, and what did he do? Got them to the Chicago 24 yard-line with 1:04 left in the game. All through the air. I understand settling for the field goal, but wouldn't you want something a littler better for your kicker, who missed one attempt already this game and had missed the game-winner in an identical situation the week before?

I really don't get Dennis Green sitting on that lead. You are the freakin Arizona Cardinals for God's sake. If something is working, against the best team in football, I'd say you exploit it, wouldn't you? I really don't think any lead is safe against the Bears.

And that running game he was in love with was atrocious. Absolutely horrific. Edge had 36 carries for 55 yards. Throw out that 12 yard run he had when he broke roughly seven tackles, and that's an average of less than 1.2 yard per pop. He got freakin drilled as soon as he touched it. He got hit before he broke the line of scrimmage 14 times. 14! Hell, I coulda done that. Take a hand off, get tackled. Not too challenging. (And while we are here, Joe Thiesman's inexplicable praise of the Arizona offensive line was the most absurd running theme I've heard in a while. That o-line got absolutely owned. They couldn't possibly have done any worse. What fucking game was Theisman watching? And no one could call him on this? Edge got drilled as soon as he took the hand off, and I'll be damned if Leinart took more than a handful of seven-step drops. They were so, so bad.)

I really don't know why this has me so worked up - I couldn't really care less about either team. I guess it was just infuriating watching a team dominate, then lose because they went into a shell. Ya dance with who brung ya, ya know?

(Final thought: ESPN had Leinart mic'ed up for the game. After a three-and-out, Leinart comes over to the sidelines to talk to Warner about the third down incompletion he threw, and Leinart dropped this gem: "What were they doin' on that play? Yea, I dunno what coverage they were in either." Ah, Kurt. Might wanna keep that one to yourself there, buddy. That and your baby hands might be the reason you are currently riding pine.)

Still, the game was exciting as hell, even more so because of Mike Tirico's call of Devin Hester's punt return. When something exciting is happening live, I'll take Gus Johnson first, and Tirico second. And it's too bad he couldn't have called all the games on Sunday, because there were some of the most exciting finishes of the season.

Here's some thoughts on Week 6, bullet-style:

- The NFL is turning this league into a league of freakin' skirts. Each week they outdo themselves with their roughing the passer calls and their "unnecessary roughness" calls in the secondary. Every week, it gets worse. Marvin Lewis has it right: "I guess you have to cuddle them to the ground." I understand protecting the QB - he is just standing back there, after all, and the NFL is a better business with its poster boys not on crutches - but they are officially tampering with the competitiveness of the game. And it needs to end.

If a defensive end has to pull up before tackling the QB, that gives the QB an extra split second to deliver the ball. Advantage, offense. If a safety has to change the way he tries to hit a wide receiver, now the receiver is able to maybe hang on to the ball for the catch or break the tackle all together. Again: advantage offense. This is football, for god's sake. We might as well put flags on the quarterbacks. Kickers, too. They barely get touched and its a 15-yard penalty. They are all football players, right? Then let them hit. No one in the NFL can tackle, anyways - its a big hit or its nothing - so at least give us that. Please.

- While we're talking about rules, can someone explain the 10 second run off rule to me? When does it apply? When doesn't it? Why doesn't anyone know except for Ed "Guns" Hochuli (who actually rolls the sleeves up on his uniform to show off his biceps)? I don't even get why you have to run 10 seconds off after a penalty. So if someone could just clear that whole thing up for me, it would be much appreciated.

- Who's better: Steve Smith or Torry Holt? Put a gun to my head, and I'll take Steve Smith. The Panthers are just so different with him. Holt might be more physically ideal and technically superior - best route runner in the League, if you ask me - and that catch he had with two minutes left against Seattle was unreal; the concentration that took is something else. But its not like Smith is a slouch in those departments. Smith is just a completely unique weapon in the NFL. Throw him a 2-yard hitch, he'll break the cornerbacks ankles and take it 80 yards. No one can keep up with him on a go route and even though he's on the shorter side, he's so athletic he wins 50/50 balls. Throw in the fact that Delhomme has a gigantic man crush on him, and you've got the league's most prolific wide out.

- Larry Johnson is crazy. A week after a facemask/horse collar tackle on the sideline nearly ends his career, he goes and does the exact same thing to Troy Polamalu. I mean, you'd think if anyone would know...whatever. But I think the thing that has me the most confused is how Troy doesn't have a huge bald spot on the back of his head. I mean, LJ pulled that shit hard. The kids in that United Way commercials should use his mane to climb that wall instead of that flimsy ladder they have.

- I think players who have to wear their entire name on the back of their jersey are pitiable. I just feel bad for them. How bad does BRYANT JOHNSON look stretched from shoulder to shoulder in about size 8 font? Just call him Johnson, and since we can see the friggin' huge 80 on his jersey, we'll know who it is. Cool?

- The term "PUP list" makes me happy.

- Denver is going to end up with a good record, but they can't win the Super Bowl. Not with Jake Plummer at the helm. Shannahan is so scared to let Jake throw the ball, he took about, oh, one shot down field against the Raiders. The Raiders for God's sake. They can ride that stellar D and the Mile High advantage for a good while, but eventually, a good defense and a capable will expose them for what they are.

- Speaking of Oakland, the winless streak is now at 0-6 - 10 more weeks! - and our boy Million Dollar Porter got himself suspended for four weeks. In a related story, I kicked a fire hydrant in my bare feet and it really hurt.

- I'm not sure how good New Orleans is. What if Katrina never happened, but they still had this same roster? Their home field advantage wouldn't be half of what it is now, and they wouldn't be playing such inspired football. But they would still have a very capable and potentially explosive offense - Drew Brees has four playmakers around him that he takes advantage of very well - and the defense is playing better than expected. Can they keep it up? I dunno...after their Week 7 bye, they start a brutal five game stretch: Baltimore, @ Tampa, @ Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, @ Atlanta. I say they go 10-5 heading into a Week 17 showdown with Carolina that will decide the division.

- I can't believe how good Philip Rivers is. I really missed the boat there, even though him and Vince Young have the weirdest throwing motions in the NFL. And Byron Leftwich. Those three won't be on any of Bill Parcell's "Backyard Instructional Videos" any time soon, will they? Rivers kind of pushes the ball - it looks so akward. Works, though. He can't even pitch it correctly - he threw a knuckle ball to LT on that "fake the hand off one way, flick it to the tailback going the other way" play that I think the Steelers invented. I think he needs Rev to teach him the veer. (Who got that reference? Anyone? I'm doubtin it.)

- The teams that will be in the playoff hunt next year has been expanded from Buffalo and now includes Arizona. Just letting you know.

- I hope Dallas and TO enjoy that three TD hugfest. Cuz it ain't lasting. They aren't finishing over .500 this year. Nope. Oh! I just had an idea! Jerry Porter vs. TO: who can do the craziest shit this year? TO is in the lead with an attempted suicide (alleged, I know). But Porter has an all-star cast around him; he couldn't be in a more ideal situation. Maybe Sports Center can do those little graphics they do, like the "Chasing Aaron" one for Bonds or the "Chasing Sisler" one for Ichiro. They can call it "Chasing Reality" or something.

- The Best Five Teams in the League After Six Weeks, In Order: Bears, Colts, Chargers, Patriots, Saints.

- The Worst Five Teams in the League After Six Weeks, In Order: Raiders, Miami, Green Bay, Cleveland, Tennessee.

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