Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Hangover 10-6-2010

- 3-0 in the division, with the one loss coming from a bizarre meltdown of coaching by Schotty. Oh,and next week, we’re all getting introduced to Santonio Holmes. You can keep talking like this is some win ugly team, but the Jets have more offensive weaponry than anyone else in their division, including the heralded Pats offense.

- What is going on in New Orleans part 1: Don’t underestimate how serious that Reggie Bush injury is. We’ve touched on before, but for all of the talk about Bush being a draft bust, or an overpaid spot back, anybody who has watched Sean Payton work knows that on the Saints, particularly these Saints, he’s something much more valuable. The refrain of “teams are taking the deep ball away from Drew Brees” is one that Reggie Bush is tailor made to prevent in this offense by moving around in different formations, keeping the defensive secondary honest by virtue of their being the only unit speedy enough to keep up with him. Payton has succeeded not so much because of talent as because of deceptive creativity; without Bush, this offensive roster, however talent laden it may be, becomes much more straightforward.

- What is going on in New Orleans part 2: “Teams are taking the deep ball away from Drew Brees” is the kind of thing you say about a team that relies on a system for its success. For the past several years, that has been the way the Saints have grown, and it’s the reason they finally won their Super Bowl last year. This season, however, it’s something that belongs on a still developing team (the Broncos, for example). The fact is that this team was a DeAngelo Williams brain fart away from losing two in a row in their division. This Saints team is too talented at their individual positions for opponents to be able to “figure them out”. At some point, Sean Payton needs to be willing to let his individual stars (of which I count at least three, and potentially four) shine as individual talents. Yes, the system to carry all of these talents as equally potent weapons was great, but this year, teams are expecting it and, as mentioned above, Reggie Bush isn’t around to facilitate its versatility. So would it be so crazy to game plan around two, or even one talent at a time? Why not build a game around Colston as the focus, with the other players spending the entire game taking advantage of the coverage he draws when teams adjust? Why not build a plan around Shockey crushing safeties, and then letting the receivers run wild in the single coverage that results? To arrive, Sean Payton had to synthesize his team’s outliers into one vision; this is the year to embrace a diversity of perspectives contributing to a single direction.

- I like that Jimmy Clausen played a clean game, particularly against a Saints defense that is built around creating turnovers with chaos. I’m generally a believer that if a young quarterback loses without throwing a pick, he’s not actually trying to win, but here, it was a restraint that demonstrates a desire to learn how to function at his position and an understanding of the setting, particularly with this receiving corps (which lost Steve Smith fairly early). Hell, he almost won a game this team had no business being in.

- Why I think the Lions are the best 0-4 team in the league: They got screwed in week 1 (19-14 to Chicago), lost to Michael Vick in week 2 (35-32), caught Adrian Peterson on his best day (24-10), and just lost by 2 to a Green Bay team people think could win it all (28-26). Oh, and they’ve done all of this with Shaun Hill as their quarterback because their starter Matt Stafford injured his shoulder in the first half of the season. That’s right, NFL Europe Champion Shaun Hill. Meanwhile, Calvin Johnson looks every bit as dominant as he should (if only someone would mention this to Jim Schwartz), Tony Scheffler has given them a truly scary vertical receiver at TE, and Jahvid Best is looking a lot like Reggie Bush (though that does continue for many negative qualities as well). At this point, the Stafford injury is pushing this team from absurd into Sisyphean territory, something much darker. The only solace is that one more high draft pick could yield the offensive tackle this team desperately needs. But damn…it would have been nice to see these guys take a reassuring step forward this year.

- I don’t buy the Packers for one second. That offensive line is still suspect, and they can’t run the ball. All the early leads in the world are vapors if you can’t work the clock to hold on to them.

- That’s the kind of win that goes a long way toward getting me back on board with the Broncos system. Yes, this team is far from complete; the interior blocking is a mess, their pass catchers are still growing, and the pass rush isn’t getting enough pressure on opponents. Still, there is a lot to like here. Orton is the perfect distributor for these receivers, none of whom are marquee names and all of whom are deadlier for it (though I say again: Bey Bey is going to make that team forget about Brandon Marshall in a hurry). They have two running backs capable of being deadly as pass catchers and speedsters out of the backfield (yes, Maroney is one of them). If they can make a couple of smart defensive draft picks this offseason, all they need to be is solid on that side of the ball to make for a hell of a matchup. I’m generally not a fan of the total absorption of talents into a system, but this roster is young enough to come of age in a system as disciplined as McDaniels and still maximize their potential in it. It’s more dojo than prison.

- Eddie Royal is the cobra. It’s lost some hype as a killer, but it can still sneak in and do just as much damage as it could when it was better known.

- We’ll talk more about this, but the Marshawn Lynch trade is HUGE. Gives that team a legitimate power back, and we’ve all forgotten that there was a time when he rivaled AP as an all around back. Seriously, I might need to start a FREE ALL OF THE BILLS campaign.

- The scary thing is that I’ve never seen a team rally around a coach at home and wilt on the road like the Seahawks. It’s like all of that untapped potential can only get released in an atmosphere of positive thinking. It’s a strange relationship of emotional surroundings and execution.

- Yeah, he had one bad pick, but every time I watch Sam Bradford work I get a little more impressed with his patience and appreciation for finding the right moment to make the throw. That long screen pass to Steven Jackson to set up a touchdown was placed perfectly in a pretty tight window, and created the long run that followed as much as Jackson’s speed did.

- I mean, if you doubted that Joe Flacco was a war machine, you didn’t watch that year when he beat the Steelers twice in the regular season, only to have the refs take it away on terrible calls. Also, THAT strikes me as how you challenge the Steelers: Mobility in the pocket, and double moves into the secondary. You’re not beating them up front, but if you have the receivers, they can get shaken over the top (but you need at least two…otherwise Polamalu is ruining your day). Anyway, Flacco’s throw to Housh to win the game was exactly the kind of take-it-all ball that he was built to throw, and Housh (who had a solid 3 catches for 49 yards) was brought in to catch (once Stallworth went down). If they actually are developing chemistry, this offense may have developed the outlying orbit that it needs to function ideally.

- I had a talk with someone who explained how thrilled they were that Michael Vick’s return to form had been halted by injury, and I got angry, because some people just don’t get that Vick’s already gotten his due. Then I sighed, realized I’m not gonna handle this well, and chalked it up to life being unfair. Damn.

- As weird as they’ve looked the San Diego Chargers are the 3rd best passing team, the 10th best rushing team (and Matthews is heating up), the 4th best team against the pass, and the 7th best team against the run. As Rivers gets more comfortable without Jackson, and as a still young secondary improves, this team is shaping up to be a scary playoff opponent. That said, I’d like to see them put up some numbers on a team that’s actually good, instead of losing to teams that actually aren’t.

- Spoiler alert: Max Hall is Brady Quinn.

- The most ridiculous “that was Jay Cutler’s fault” comment I heard all week came from Trent Dilfer, who called Jay Cutler the new Jeff George. Hey, Trent, you know who the new Trent Dilfer is? Jake Delhomme. Thank goodness Cutler’s brain was too swollen for him to hear Trent say that.

- Oh, and maybe somebody should have thought of taking him out and tweaking the plan after sack number five.

- Wait, I’m confused, is it better to have a mediocre quarterback who has thrown 5 TD and 4 INT in his third year, or a second year QB who has thrown 8 TD and 0 INT. Seriously, enough with the Chad Henne talk, Miami fans.

- Meanwhile, the real question is why the Dolphins insist on proving to us that Chad Henne is the future of their offense, neglecting the run in the process. Ricky Williams was tearing the Patriots front seven apart, and he only got 8 carries! On what planet is that an intelligent game plan? For all the talk about the Jets being frauds in the offseason, I think we can all see what I’ve been saying since they made the Brandon Marshall trade: This Miami team isn’t much better than last year’s version.

- Look, Alex Smith played a bad game, and unfortunately Singletary doesn’t have anybody ready to step in and helm the offense more competently (though I stand by Troy Smith, who should get the nod if he’s even close to up on the system). Still, you can’t look at that loss and not blame Singletary, and you’re justified in wondering whether or not he’s the right man for the job. Singletary can’t claim the position under the banner of disciplinarian and then not take the brunt of the blame when Nate Clements loses that fumble purely due to a lack of discipline. Things don’t get much easier over the next two weeks, and I certainly wouldn’t like to see Troy Smith lost in another coaching staff shuffle…but if these 49ers start 0-6, you have to fire Singletary. When you lose so poorly, and in so many ways, with so much talent, the coach needs to pay the piper, or you risk losing your team to the mediocrity of a man clinging to his career.

- Yes, Jack Del Rio fans (who do not exist), that last bit was aimed at your team. If he keeps his job by eeking out 8-8 thanks to that Colts loss…just ugh…

- Jim Caldwell playing for the win instead of going to OT shows how little trust he has in his defense (which makes sense) or his offense’s chemistry (which is absolutely ridiculous). He let two mistakes (the bobbled INT and the Wayne fumble) convince him that the Jaguars could sneak up and steal one in OT. The truth, however, is that the Colts did a decent job on MJD (holding him to just 4 yards per carry) and only got caught in the end by newly discovered mismatch at TE Marcedes Lewis (who I’d be happier for if he wasn’t coached by Neanderthal Jack). Great teams believe they can get one defensive stop and turn that into points, which is a win in OT. For some reason, the Colts don’t look convinced that they’re a great team, but rather one that needs to win by craft instead of potency. Strange.

- Oh, and David Garrard played a perfect David Garrard game (17/22, 163 yards, 2 TD, no turnovers). The two times he’s done that, the Jaguars have beaten two teams significantly more talented than they are.

- I hate the way that the Browns have decided to limit Seneca Wallace as a dynamic athlete, and am convinced that it’s primarily an excuse to go back to Delhomme, but that was a well run game against the Bengals. Sensing Palmer had the hot hand, they let Peyton Hillis grind the clock down (27 carries for 102 yards and a TD), and limited their mistakes (An aside: That Seneca INT was a classic Seneca INT, in that it hit the receiver in the hands and was pretty much bobbled right into the defender’s hands. We need a stat to show when an INT is on the receiver and not the QB…Seneca would be the all time leader in this category.). The result was a win over a team that is much, much, MUCH more talented than the Browns. If Mangini and Daboll (the worst offensive coordinator in football, now that Jimmy Raye is gone) could actually game plan for Seneca Wallace as an athletic QB instead of plugging him into the Jake Delhomme show, the Browns could win a lot more than anybody thinks they should (like those first three games, for example). I’ll say it again: A coach as smart as Mangini should understand the value of winning with the team you have instead of planning to win with the team you don’t. Such a waste of so many strange football talents (and from Watson to Wallace to Cribbs, there is a LOT of undervalued talent on that roster).

That's all this week. Be sure to follow us on twitter at @titraffic, and check back tomorrow for our thoughts on this Randy Moss madness (AND A BONUS POST ON MARSHAWN LYNCH BECAUSE WHAT THE HELL ARE WE JUST NOT GONNA ACKNOWLEDGE HOW GOOD HE WAS?).


Cecilio's Scribe said...

great post all around

Cian said...

while i won't advise anyone to buy the packers (because, in essence, i agree that they aren't worth buying except on the expressed agreement that they're a cheap thrill that could net you some sort of disease without proper protection) i disagree that the packers can't run the ball... they in fact *won't* run the ball. my guess is that fo's stats on teams going five- and four-wide would have the packers as the clear leaders in this young season.

mccarthy is so desperate to prove that the packers offense *could be* legendary in a tecmo sense that he's forsaking common sense. this could be laudable in a mad scientist way but it's working against the system which he's tied himself to... in that sense it's foolhardy. in all senses, mccarthy's getting ahead of himself. rodgers is good but has no assuarances to be "great" despite what a media contingent may blurt out while picking their collective navels in august.

i appreciate the lunacy of these mccarthy packers in some abstract sense, but as a fan it's a little like having to apologize constantly for your crazy great uncle who carols from a low-flying plane every christmas eve over your tiny town (true story).