Sorting the Sunday Pile looks back at the NFL weekend that was. It's also an unofficial Mike Tomlin blog.
And suddenly, Bill Belichick is just another NFL coach. Apparently, it's a lot easier to be a genius when Tom Brady isn't coming back from a serious knee injury.
For the second consecutive week, the Patriots have looked, well, average. The defense struggled to stop Trent "Check Down" Edwards and rookie Mark Sanchez, and the offense -- particularly Brady -- rarely looked comfortable. That's a problem, especially since Belichick, who shipped Richard Seymour to the Raiders right before the season, seemed to be saying that the 2009 Pats will live or die with its offense. Yeah, that game plan ain't working.
It's early, so when people start talking about must-win games in September, it just means that they're lazy, stupid or both. And while I'm sure folks in Foxboro are concerned about Brady's complete lack of Bradyness, something worth remembering: Peyton Manning was coming off knee surgery last year at this time, and the Colts started 1-2. They were 3-3 before reeling off nine in a row to make the playoffs for the seventh straight year.
The point: it's early. Yes, Brady's injury was much more serious than Manning's, and perhaps Carson Palmer, whose knee exploded in Jan. 2006 and is just now looking like the pre-Kimo-ed version of himself, is a better comparison. Fine. But unlike Palmer, Brady is accustomed to winning. That's bordering on the cliched, but he does have three Super Bowl rings, mostly because of his play late in those games. That counts for something, I'd think.
So, right, I won't be surprised if the Pats win 11 games and end up in the playoffs. Because that's what they always do. (Notable exception: 2008. They did go 11-5, but missed the postseason. Obviously Matt Cassel's fault.) Just something to keep in mind for the Boston-area bandwagoneers, many of whom had already mentally checked out now that it looks like the Red Sox will face the Angels in the wild-card round.
So there's that.
But here's something I kept coming back to as I watched Brady fail to convert one third down after another: What happens if this is it? What if this is as good as Brady will be for the rest of his career?
I ask because Seymour admitted to NFL Network's Marshall Faulk that he was blindsided by the news that New England had traded him to Oakland. And given that Belichick is a heartless, calculating robot, I could see him doing the same thing with Brady. I'd also imagine the torch-and-pitchfork crowd would make some noise, but these are the same people who were upset about Nomar for the few weeks before the Red Sox finally won the World Series.
There's virtually no chance Brady goes anywhere, primarily because the Pats don't have a viable option at quarterback behind him. (The last guy they pegged for the gig served as the Jets' team captain Sunday.) That said, I could see Belichick trading Brady to the Raiders for all their draft picks the rest of the century, then signing Jeff Garcia and bringing in Doug Flutie and Vinny Testaverde as insurance. Because that's how he rolls.
Myron Cope Is Still Laughing
Here's all you need to know: since the Titans desecrated the Terrible Towel in Week 16, they haven't won a game. They lost to the Colts in Week 17, crapped the bed against the Ravens in the divisional round, were outplayed in Pittsburgh last week, and went defense-optional against the Texans Sunday.
A coincidence, no doubt. But just in case, I'm asking Clay for his Terrible Fork so I can stick it in the Titans because they're done. Unlike the Pats and Brady, what you see is what you get with Kerry Collins. If the game plan is hand off, complete screens and dump-offs, and let the defense do the rest, Collins is your guy. Deviate from that and you could end up with Matt Schaub hanging four touchdowns on you.
Which leads me to this: what the hell happened to the Titans' pass defense? Last week, Ben Roethlisberger completed 33 passes for 363 yards. I'm willing to chalk that up to a ridiculous number of pump fakes, but 10 days later, Schaub went for 357 yards, 4 TDs, and no picks. Schaub's a swell guy and a pretty good NFL quarterback, but those are the numbers you'd expect against, say, the Colts. (Plus, he's not nearly as proficient at the pump fake.)
Maybe the loss of Albert Haynesworth is bigger than expected. Or maybe Myron Cope is exacting his revenge from the grave. On the upside: there's a good chance we'll get to see Vince Young in the coming weeks.
Jay Cutler Is a Winner
I'm a Steelers fan. I suspect that won't garner much sympathy from most of you since Pittsburgh has six Super Bowl titles, two since 2005. That's fine, and I don't blame you. For the first half of this decade, I hated the Patriots for similar reasons, and I'll happily admit that the Giant's Super Bowl victory over the Dreamboat All-Stars was one of my favorite NFL memories in recent years.
That's a big part of what being a fan is about: hoping the teams you abhor fail. (This is also why the terrorists hate us, I'm convinced; we have so little to worry about in this country that we can spend large parts of our day contemplating such things.)
Even though Jay Cutler is a sad little clown with a sad little clown haircut, I can't really muster the energy to hate the Bears. Probably because most of the Bears fans I know are decent people and they've suffered enough without me piling on.
That's changing. Matt Snyder, FanHouse blogger and Bears supporter, thought it would be great fun to send me some instant messages during the second half of Steelers-Bears, as Pittsburgh, leading 14-7, was driving. In general, I have no problem with this. It goes back to wishing the worst on your opponents, and if you have the opportunity to point it out to them during the game, all the better.
The reverse jinx, however, is absolutely unacceptable. It reeks of desperation. Then again, Snyder has had to watch the likes of Cade McNown, Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart, Chad Hutchinson, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton and Week 1 Cutler so maybe I should cut him some slack.
Whatever, the transcript is cut and pasted for your enjoyment:
6:26 PM Matt: so I take it you're feeling pretty confident right nowSteelers get a first down deep in Bears' territory, touchdown appears imminent.
6:27 PM me: well, not confident. santonio hates water, and cutler went bonkers on the steelers in den. in '07. it's early.
6:29 PM Matt: it's overJeff Reed misses field-goal attempt.
me: ha. i love that.
Matt: Briggs is the only guy who can tackle
6:30 PM me: fair point. btw. willie parker is the tommy maddox of running backs. all or nothing and a HUGE [expletive deleted].
6:31 PM me: you [expletive deleted] jinxCutler hits Johnny Knox for touchdown pass to tie the game.
6:32 PM Matt: really, three straight good Bears plays! (well two and a missed FG by the drunken kicker)
6:40 PM me: /blocks snyderSteelers driving again, late in the fourth quarter.
6:41 PM Matt: but Cutler has NO RECEIVERS!!!!
6:42 PM me: knox is doing pretty well. he's no brandon lloyd, mind you, but he's been impressive.
6:52 PM Matt: BRIGGS JUST GOT [EXPLETIVE DELETED] TACKLED [EXPLETIVE DELETED]Reed misses another field goal, Bears have decent field position for one final drive.
6:58 PM me: dear snyder: you [expletive deleted] suck.Cutler gets the Bears into range for a Robbie Gould field goal, he converts with 15 seconds to go, Chicago leads 17-14.
7:07 PM me: seriously, you're the worst. hands down. biggest mush ever.I may have overreacted. Snyder's not the worst. He's the second worst after Jeff Reed. (In related news: the Homeland Security threat level for Pittsburgh-area Sheetz has been elevated to red.)
(Also, randomly: people who say things like, "The Steelers need to establish a running game if they want to be successful," either don't watch football, are dumb, or both. Because the Steelers ran the ball effectively against the Bears ... and lost. And they were ineffective for most of last season ... and won the Super Bowl. You know, just like those Pats teams that won three championships from 2001-2004.)
Leftovers from Sunday's action...
... The 2009 Saints might be the 2007 Patriots. That's a scary thought, but not nearly as disturbing as this: back in 2006, when Drew Brees was a free agent, then-Dolphins head coach Nick Saban thought Daunte Culpepper would be a better fit for that offense.
... When the Packers recovered an onside kick with 45 seconds to go and trailing the Bengals 31-24, I fully expected Gus Johnson to be teleported to Lambeau Field to call the finish. By the way, when Green Bay faces Pittsburgh in Week 15, I'm predicting 75 quarterback sacks.
... Didn't think it was possible for Rex Ryan to be more intolerable, but I'm guessing he'll find a way after beating the Pats.
... Worth pointing out (to Snyder): Kyle Orton still has a better record than Jay Cutler. And everybody knows that wins and losses are all that matter.
... The Jags clearly could benefit from Matt Jones.
Via Gretz: "The Chiefs-Raiders game set offense back 200 years."
... Nuked, indeed.
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