Tom Brady on the Couch

Moving the Chains: Tom Brady and the Pursuit of Everything by Charles P. Pierce
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0374214449

This is undoubtedly one of the oddest biographies I have ever read. And one of the most intriguing.
Author Charles Pierce tries to uncover what makes Tom Brady tic. What makes him such a consummate team player and leader on the field? What made a player drafted in the sixth round, whom nobody but maybe Bill Belichick and Scott Piloli, thought would ever amount to much in the pros, become a Hall of Fame bound quarterback, one of the best to have ever played?

There are a lot of things.

First, Brady was never the most gifted athlete and he had to work for everything through high school and college. In fact, he was barely recruited and his father put together a video package and he ultimately ended up at the University of Michigan. He persevered despite not even being a full time starter, even as a senior, despite that he was a winner.

Second, in the pros his work ethic is infectious to his teammates. He is the first to arrive and the last to leave. His hard work put him in a position to take over for Drew Bledsoe when he was hurt during the 2001 regular season and progress. He became the team leader that despite his talents Beldsoe never really was.

Third, he is a team first player. He truly buys in to the Patriots’ modern day credo, there is no “I” in team. He doesn’t care about stats, he cares about wins. But that has propelled him to put up unbelievable stats.

And he his simply a nice person. He gives credit where credit is due. He doesn’t do a lot of endorsements. And when he had the opportunity to do one for a credit card company he refused to do it unless his offensive linemen, his protectors, were involved. He wanted them to shine to.

Don’t believe Tom Brady is a really good guy in a sport fraught with me first, selfish, athletes with an undertone of criminality? Read Charlie Weiss’s book about his near death experience and how Brady helped him and his wife out in their time of greatest need. Read Tedy Bruschi’s book that has a few anecdotes about what Brady’s friendship means. Or simply read this book about to hear what his family, friends, and teammates have all said about his leadership skills. There is a reason his teammates and coaches have the utmost confidence in him.

The oddest aspect of this book is Brady himself did not participate in it and it really takes somewhat of a psychologist’s approach at times in examining its subject. From the influence of his Catholic upbringing, the impact of his athletic older sisters who sometimes outshined him in his youth, to his perseverance in the face of sports adversity, you learn the inner workings of one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

This is a recommended read.

Moving the Chains: Tom Brady and the Pursuit of Everything

New England Patriots’ Super Bowl Hopes Dashed: What Went Wrong Against the New York Jets?

The New England Patriots 28-21 loss to their hated rival New York Jets in the 2010 divisional playoff round is a bitter, bitter pill to swallow for Patriots fans. But the bottom line is the Patriots got outplayed and outcoached and the New York Jets deserve their victory.

That leaves one wondering, what went wrong? Well, a lot went wrong. Here is my take on the game with the keys to the Jets victory.

Defensive Game Plan

I would not call the Jets defensive game plan brilliant because it was copied from the San Diego Chargers, and ironically, the Cleveland Browns (who Rex Ryan’s brother Rob Ryan was the defensive coordinator of at the time). Once the Patriots jettisoned Randy Moss earlier this year they really lost their only deep threat on offense. Brandon Tate was the most likely candidate to fulfill this role but at this stage in his early career he just hasn’t come through. Thus, New England eventually thrived on a short passing game and the run.

Shortly after New England booted Moss to the curb the San Diego Chargers played a perfect defensive game against them. What did they do? They didn’t blitz Brady leaving openings in the short passing game that he has so thoroughly exploited against most teams after that. They simply threw a lot of defensive backs into the game and blanketed the smallish wide receiving crew. As a result Brady had nowhere to go with the ball and was harassed all day in the pocket, not because of a great pass rush, but because the coverage was so good. The only reason the Patriots won that game is gaffs and turnovers by the Chargers.

The Cleveland Browns did the same thing to the offense, while gashing the very young defense in the running game for a blowout victory.

The Jets replicated that, and with two of the best cornerbacks in the league. They covered the receivers and got what I consider coverage sacks on Tom Brady. And later in the game when the Patriots seemed to be making a comeback they ran the ball effectively, but ate up so much of the clock they left little time to complete the comeback.

In their second meeting the Jets blitzed, Brady exploited it, and the Patriots got a lead. Sorry, while all this praise is heaped on Sanchez after this game, but put the ball in his hands for a comeback bid and that is usually going to spell disaster. Tonight the Jets defense didn’t leave it in Sanchez’s hands.

And one final point, this game showed clearly what the lack of a Randy Moss meant to this offense and team. A receiver to stretch the field is sorely needed.

Coaching Decisions

Bill Belichick is clearly one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history. You don’t have a team, especially in the era of free agency and parity, which competes year in and year out for a Super Bowl title unless you have a great coach. But why is it in big games that Belichick seems to outsmart himself?

Everyone remembers the infamous forth and short call against the Indianapolis Colts two years ago. With a small lead and the ball backed up within the Colts 20 yard line, near the end of the game, Belichick decides to go for it on 4th and 1 instead of punting the ball and making Peyton Manning drive most of the field for a winning touchdown. The Patriots didn’t make it, and paid for it with a loss.

Less remembered will be Belichick’s decision to eschew a 51 yard field goal in Super Bowl 42 and instead went for it on 4th and long, resulting in great field position for the Giants. Given the indoor stadium and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, it was a makeable field goal, even if he was a rookie.

So the Patriots are only down 7-3 in the second quarter near midfield and Belichick calls for a fake punt. Patrick Chung botches the snap and it’s the same as a turnover. The Jets have the ball on a short field and it’s suddenly 14-3. (I know Chung claims it was his call but I find that hard to believe).

Playing behind against the Jets defense is not where you want to be.

And what was with the challenge so early in the game on a first down play that was clearly a catch by Santonio Holmes?

Then with a 21-14 deficit with 1:32 seconds to go in the game, Belichick decides to go for an onside kick. Granted the Jets just torched the Patriots defense for a big play earlier to turn a 14-11 lead to a 21-11 lead prior to the long drive and field goal. But otherwise the New England defense had played pretty well in the in second half forcing a few three and outs.

Now I am not going to really fault Belichick for the onside kick call too much because head they kicked the ball and the Jets gotten a few first downs the game would have been over. But give the Jets the ball at midfield on a play that rarely works? Game over. I would have kicked the ball off and forced the Jets to make the first down.

Bad Plays

Despite the great play of the Jets the New England Patriots could have still won the game but the players simply made the worst mistakes and the worst times.

New England’s opening drive was a promising one, moving the ball well and looking to be on their way to a score. But Brady threw an interception which stopped the Patriots’ momentum in its tracks. While the Jets ultimately missed a field goal on their subsequent drive, this was a lost scoring opportunity.

Then on the next drive, Algae Crumpler crumpled and dropped a touchdown pass right in his hands on third down, so the Patriots had to settle for three instead of seven.

Then Patrick Chung, with the Patriots down 7-3, fumbled the ball on a fake punt attempt. Replays showed he very likely would have made the first down to keep the drive alive. Instead the Jets get the ball past midfield and convert it into a touchdown and a 14-3 lead.

In the second half when the Patriots cut the Jets’ lead to 14-11 after a nice scoring drive and two point conversion, the defense gives up a huge play to Jerchico Cotchery which eventually lead to the Jets extending the lead to 21-11. A sad and unforgivable let down by the defensive that had played well in the second half up to that point.

Then the onside kick attempts at the end of the game were simply pitiful. Shayne Graham did a nice job on the first kick but all the Patriots players were blocking but nobody was going after the ball. They should have had at least one player aggressively going after the ball but they were all standing around trying to block. And even worse, they let Antonio Cromartie get the ball and run into scoring position.

And the second onside kick was just as bad. A good kick by Graham, but nobody aggressively trying to get go after the ball, which the Jets recovered.

That was pretty sad for Patriots fans who were teased with a possible comeback.

And finally the kickoffs by Shayne Graham were just pitiful. Line drives to the 10 yard line with Antonio Cromartie consistently putting the Jets in good field position were not helpful.

How Depressed Should Patriots Fans Be?

Any time you lose a playoff game against a team you know you can beat it is depressing. And there is so much parity in the league this year the Patriots had a great chance to win another Super Bowl. So it is very depressing.

But if you had asked me in the middle of the season, with one of the youngest and seemingly weakest defenses in the league, with two rookie corners, no real pass rushing threat, and a team relying on a cast of small receivers with no deep threat, to me it is amazing the Patriots made it as far as they did. The defense is clearly in rebuilding mode, so going 14-2 is pretty good.

On paper, in my opinion, the Baltimore Ravens have the best team in the league and they blew it too after second half turnovers against Pittsburgh.

Atlanta, the number one seed in the NFC got smacked in the mouth by the Green Bay Packers.

Peyton Manning and the Colts suffered a lot of injuries on offense and lost to the Jets last week.

While the New Orleans Saints, last year’s Super Bowl champions, lost to a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks team.

So the Patriots loss, especially considering the personnel they have on the field, is nothing to be ashamed about.

The Patriots were overrated going into the playoffs in my opinion. Their defense has been vulnerable all year and is one of the youngest in the league and other than Brady and a solid offensive line, they really have no big playmakers on offense. I’ve heard commentators say the Patriots have done it with smoke and mirrors. The smoke and mirrors have been Brady’s superlative play all year. Other than the interception early in the game he actually played quite well, his receivers simply could not get open.

So at the end of the day it will take me a long time to get over this loss, but based on the personnel we had on the field all year, we got further than I thought we would.

But it sill stings, because we could have, should have taken it all again.

2010 NFL Football Season: Week 11 Observations

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

Top Ten Teams

Philadelphia Eagles. While not as dominating a performance as last week against the Redskins, the Eagles won a division game against a tough opponent and shut down Giants’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

Atlanta Falcons. I don’t know what the Falcons strength of schedule looks like but it can’t be great. But they keep rolling along with a solid offense and defense.

New York Jets. The Jets’ come from behind wins week after week are pretty amazing. If the Patriots and Jets both win on Thanksgiving the Monday Night match up the following week will be the biggest game of the year so far.

New England Patriots. The Patriots constantly giving up big leads week after week is a real concern for Patriots fan. While the offense seems to have found a rhythm, the defense hasn’t matched up. This could ultimately be their downfall.

Baltimore Ravens. Not much to say about the Ravens game this week against a depleted and woeful Carolina Panthers unit.

Pittsburgh Steelers. After getting convincingly beaten by the Patriots last week the Steelers made a real statement in blowing out the Oakland Raiders.

Green Bay Packers. The shellacking of Minnesota this week must have been sweet for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

New Orleans Saints. It will be interesting to see if the Saints can regain their dominant form they showed last year. They seem to be on a bit of a roll now.

San Diego Chargers. San Diego is starting to look like the Super Bowl contender they were supposed to be. This is a very dangerous team in a weak division.

Indianapolis Colts. The Colts dropped a little this week after losing to the Patriots but only because the Chargers played so well.

The New York Giants dropped off the top ten list this week after losing a home game to the Eagles.

Trent Dilfer

Along with Tom Jackson, Trent Dilfer joins my all time least favorite announcers/analysts list. This guy is complete idiot and does not belong on television. The first week of the season he was the announcer for the San Diego Chargers versus Kansas City Chiefs game. I taped the game and watched it the next day and started right at the kickoff so I wasn’t even sure who the announcer was, I just thought he was an idiot. He kept going on and on and on and on ad nauseum about how great San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is. I thought, gee is this guy married to Rivers?

Every time I see him on television he makes me sick with his stupidity. I turn the channel when I see him now. He was an awful quarterback too.

Brad Childress is Gone, Brett Favre Should Be Next

As soon as I saw that Brad Childress was finally fired from the Minnesota Vikings and Leslie Frazier named the interim head coach, I thought if Frazier really wants to take control of this team he has to release Brett Favre and see what Tarvaris Jackson can do as quarterback. Favre is as much of the problem with that team as Childress was and it will not be resolved until they show him the door. Favre has played horribly this year and clearly is the person who really that runs the team.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Indianapolis Colts, 31-28

After building up a nice 31-14 lead the New England Patriots defense gave up two really quick scores to the Colts in the fourth quarter, and nearly gave up a tying field goal or winning touchdown near the end of the game. This was heart attack city for Patriots fans and a cause for great concern. The defense is clearly still a work in progress but that progress better be a bit quicker as we reach the end of the regular season. The offense is not going to be able to put up 31 points on every team. And if we get behind it seems like the game could be over.

I am a glass half empty kind of fan after years and years of woeful Patriots teams in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, and I complained about the offense not doing more in the second half after a few bad series. But I was reminded that Peyton Manning threw three interceptions and the game loser, so I will just have to take that.

Danny Woodhead’s 36 yard touchdown run in the third quarter with little Wes Welker blocking downfield was a thing of beauty.

MVP: Danny Woodhead, RB

Chicago Bears over Miami Dolphins, 16-0

With third string quarterback Tyler Thigpen starting for the Dolphins off a short week I thought they were in big trouble, and they were. Add to that some injuries on the Dolphins’ offensive line and they were in even bigger trouble. The Dolphins offense just never could get it going and they were giving up a lot of yards on kick returns to Devin Hester that set up Chicago for an early lead that they never relinquished.

I think Thigpen is a decent quarterback and with a regular practice schedule and some protection can win some games for the Dolphins.

MVP: Devin Hester, KR/WR

Baltimore Ravens over Carolina Panthers, 37-13

This game went pretty much as expected with the Ravens dominating the undermanned Carolina Panthers on both sides of the ball. Nothing against Brain St. Pierre but when you sign a perennial backup and third stringer off the street to be your starter you are in big trouble. That goes doubly true if you are facing a ball hawking Ravens defense.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

Philadelphia Eagles over New York Giants, 27-17

Despite being only a game up on the New York Giants in the NFC East, the Eagles staked their claim to the division title with a win over the New York Giants. While it wasn’t the otherworldly performance of a week ago against the Washington Redskins, the Eagles played good enough, especially on defense, to pull out a tough win. More impressive is the defense is playing better than it has all year long.

While the Giants are a bit banged up they are a strange team to watch week in and week out. Some weeks they look great and other weeks they look awful, even in some of their wins. You never know what Giants’ team is going to show up.

MVP: Jeremy Maclin, WR

San Diego Chargers over Denver Broncos, 35-14

Has a sleeping giant awoken from its slumber? After three straight wins and basically handing a game to the New England Patriots, the Chargers, even at 5-5, are poised to take the AFC West title if they keep winning. They have some tough matchups ahead but I am not a big believer in the Kansas City Chiefs or Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos are almost out of it.

This was a very dominating performance in all phases of the game by the Chargers. And while Philip Rivers was brilliant and really is having an MVP type season, backup running back Mike Tolbert set the tone early in the game with tough runs.

MVP: Mike Tolbert, RB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
Defensive Player: Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears
Offensive Lineman: Sebastian Vollmer, T, New England Patriots
Special Teams: Devin Hester, KR/WR, Chicago Bears
Rookie of the Week: Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay

2010 NFL Football Season: Week Nine Observations


The Dallas Cowboys

Watching the Sunday night debacle where the Green Bay Packers demolished a Dallas Cowboy’s team that had been thumping their chests about a Super Bowl run at the start of the season was just too much fun to watch. For all those lifelong Cowboy’s haters like me, it’s great to see this team not only buried in mediocrity, but actually be a bad team that quits. I knew after watching that travesty of a game that poor Wade Philips was going to get the proverbial axe. Jerry Jones had to do something to stop the bleeding. I like Philips but never thought he was quite cut out to be a head coach. I am not so sure Jason Garrett is the answer as I see the offense, which he runs, as part of the problem as well. If they really want to make a statement they need to cut Mike Jenkins who has been a horrible cornerback all year long. The Cowboys are providing some good fodder and good entertainment.


GAMES I WATCHED

Cleveland Browns over New England Patriots, 34-14 (On NFL.com Game Rewind)

I had to force myself to watch this game online. What I saw made me sick to my stomach.

The New England Patriots defense has been very soft all year long. We have mostly been winning through special teams and turnovers. And our offense, without Randy Moss stretching the defense, has been extremely inconsistent as teams are able to simply double cover the underneath receivers. Wes Welker is getting a lot of unwanted attention from defenses these days. And when we can’t establish a running game to loosen up the passing attack, the offense is just flat.

But the defense was just absolutely mauled by the Cleveland Browns. The scariest thing about this game is it is either an aberration and just a trap game between contests with the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers, or it exposed our defense and weak, undisciplined, and patsies. I hope it was just an aberration.

The Browns did beat the Saints after all and Peyton Hillis, who had a 184 yards rushing in this game, put up 144 yards on the stout Baltimore Ravens defense (okay, I know they are not as stout this year but still). And I thought the Patriots’ defense played very physical and tough against the Minnesota Vikings and the hard running Adrian Peterson. So that gives me hope that defense just had an off day. But you never want to lose this badly and look that soft against any team, much less one with losing record.

Cleveland certainly appears to be better than their 3-5 record. They beat the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots and played very well against the Baltimore Ravens.

MVP: Peyton Hillis, RB

Baltimore Ravens over Miami Dolphins, 26-10

The Baltimore Ravens had little trouble dispatching the Miami Dolphins. I thought they were going to pay for settling for field goals after having the ball in the red zone twice in the first half. Once the Ravens got near the goal line they had comically bad offense series after looking great up that point and had to settle for three points instead of seven. But Miami was never able to take advantage of their breaks. It was only 13-10 Ravens at halftime and it should been much worse for the Dolphins. But the Ravens dominated the second half.

Most impressive was the Ravens ran the ball straight up the middle over and over with guard Ben Grubbs and center Matt Birk just dominating the interior of the Dolphins defense. The Ravens, while giving up a few yards, forced three interceptions and never looked back.

MVP: Ben Grubbs, G

Philadelphia Eagles over Indianapolis Colts, 26-24

I have a lot to say about this game and the horrendous officiating. The officials did every thing they could to give the Indianapolis Colts the win. The officials used zero common sense in call helmet-to-helmet contact. I could care less about the Eagles and despite many who think I hate the Colts, I really don’t. But I have observed over the years just how much the bad, horrendous, game changing calls always seem to go in their favor.

The bottom line is the Eagles completely outplayed the Colts and deserved to win the game.

The biggest mistake the officials made is calling a roughing penalty on defensive back Kurt Coleman late in the second quarter after Austin Collie was knocked out on a hard, legal hit. Collie clearly caught the ball, had possession, moved forward and ducked his head, and was crunched by Coleman in what appeared to be the chest area. Collie drops the ball and the Eagles recover it. The correct call by the officials would have been a fumble by Collie and the Eagles getting the ball wherever they returned it. At the very least it should have been the Eagles ball at the spot Collie fumbled it. Instead the Colts get a 15-yard penalty in the red zone and are able to score a touchdown and pull to a 16-14 deficit against the Eagles.

I know part of the officials’ reaction to the hit was probably that Collie was knocked completely unconscious and had to be taken off on a stretcher. I have a lot of admiration for Collie and thankfully he appears to be fine now. But that doesn’t absolve the officials for practically handing the Colts a touchdown.

But they were not done yet! Down 26-17 with three and half minutes left in the game, the Colts face a 4th down and 18 yards to go from the Philadelphia 41 yard line. The Eagles sack Manning, game over, right? Hold on, defensive end Trent Cole barely grazes the back of Manning’s helmet as he was being blocked. Manning probably didn’t even feel or notice it. But the officials, seeing that the Colts were about to lose, drop the flag, 15 yards, let’s hand the Colts another touchdown refs!

The Eagles were able to survive for a close win but it should have never come to having to get first down and run to run out the clock.

Lost in all this is Michael Vick played an excellent game both passing and running and the Eagles defense played as well as I have seen them play all year.

MVP: Michael Vick, QB

Green Bay Packers over Dallas Cowboys, 45-7

There really isn’t much to say about this game other than that Green Bay destroyed Dallas and the Dallas players simply quit. Jerry Jones must have been horribly embarrassed by the lack of effort or will on the part of his team. The Packers played a great game, of course, but they didn’t have a real football team to compete with.

And Clay Matthews, Jr. just terrorized the Dallas offensive line while receiver James Jones had a nice day with 8 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

Pittsburgh Steelers over Cincinnati Bengals, 27-21

The Bengals are an enigma to me. They have great receivers, a good quarterback, and a solid running game but just can’t seem to get it done. Their defense is a bit weak and not at all like the Marvin Lewis defenses of the past, but they are not horrible either. Had the Bengals not given up scores after turnovers and a blocked punt, they might have been able to win this game. But they just seem not to be able to get over the hump.

The Steelers defense, as usual, is solid but they seemed to relax after getting the big lead and let the Bengals back in the game late. And the offense had to resort to a trick play with Antwaan Randle-El throwing a touchdown pass. But despite a speedy receiver, Big Ben, and a good running attack, they don’t tend to produce a lot of points.

While the defense really won this game, they let the Bengals back in it so I’m going with the speed receiver Mike Wallace as the MVP who had 110 receiving yards and extended the Steelers lead in the fourth quarter with his touchdown grab from Randle-El.

MVP: Mike Wallace, WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., Linebacker, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Ben Grubbs, G, Baltimore Ravens
Special Teams: Wes Welker, WR/K, New England Patriots
Rookie of the Week: Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders

As the NFL Turns: Observations on NFL 2010 Season Week 8

Nearly every NFL season has its soap operas, usually revolving around diva wide receivers (Terrible Terrell Owens, Chad Ochostinko, Keyshawn Johnson, and Randy Moss have provided good fodder for years). But frankly, I cannot remember a season with so many teams falling apart and in disarray.

The real center of the soap opera of the 2010 season has been two teams, the Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre and the Washington Redskins with Albert Haynesworth and now the benching of Donovan McNabb in the last two minutes of a winnable game.

Let’s start with the Vikings. It’s been fun watching them implode this year.

The Minnesota Favres, Brad Childress, and Randy Moss.

Brad Childress does not run the Minnesota Vikings, Brett Favre does. I used to have a lot of respect for Favre but now I simply find him despicable. It has become clear over the last several years that Favre wants the universe to revolve around him and craves attention. The Green Bay Packers finally got fed up with his will he retire, won’t he retire annual soap opera and jettisoned him. Luckily for the Packers they did it before he could destroy the team. He has now succeeded in doing just that to the Minnesota Vikings. I am so sick of Favre I can hardly stand to see the purple uniform anymore. Hopefully they will continue to lose so I don’t have to see them in the playoffs.

First, Favre had his annual rite of lounging around in Mississippi leaking word that he might retire, he might not retire, don’t you want me back Vikings? “I’m injured and had ankle surgery so I might not come back. Did you hear me? I might not come back?! But I’m throwing the ball and working out. Pssst, I might retire. But I’m working out! Hey, look at me…I might retire, but the arm feels good.” I have come to believe the entire story of several Vikings players flying to Mississippi to get Favre and bring him back to Minnesota was entirely scripted. He missed all of training camp and has played mostly horrible this season.

Then rumors surfaced of him sending voice mails trying to lure a then New York Jets sideline reporter to his hotel room when he played for the Jets, and then supposedly sending lewd pictures. He admits to the voicemails but not the pictures. Give me a break. If he did one he almost certainly did the other. And guess who knows if those pictures really are of Brett Favre? His poor wife, a breast cancer survivor who has become a public figure herself. I feel sorry for her. Maybe the injuries and certainly a lack of domestic bliss has Favre distracted and that is why he isn’t playing well. Or that he missed all of training camp. Or that he is, and always has been, overrated.

Reportedly he doesn’t get along with or respect coach Brad Childress, and maybe for good reason. How can Favre respect a coach when he is the one that is really in control of the organization, not Childress? And stemming from that, why should the rest of players respect him? It’s becoming pretty clear they don’t.

And then we have the Randy Moss saga. The Vikings, desperate for wide receivers with the injury to Sydney Rice and the health of Percy Harvin, make a trade with the New England Patriots for the mercurial Randy Moss. And then cut him four weeks later after a tirade in the locker room aimed at some poor mom and pop outfit feeding the team and his rant about how much he misses the Patriots and taking a subtle jab at the coaching staff for not listening to before getting beaten by the Patriots this week. So the Vikings are out a third round draft pick for four weeks of Randy Moss with little to show for it.

Brad Childress, aka Chili, must be feeling the heat after the Vikings owner Zygi Wilf showed up to practice to talk to the players about their coach. Another nail in the proverbial coffin as far as any respect the players are likely to have for Childress. He may last this season, but he has got to be gone next. And if the Vikings are smart, so will Brett Favre, even if they have to lock him out of the facilities.

And then, unfortunately for a team that was on the cusp last year, they will likely be almost in a rebuilding phase next year.

If Childress were smart he’d bench Favre and put in Tarvaris Jackson to see, once and for all, if he can be a starting quarterback in this league. I suspect not, but they need to be looking to the future

Fat Albert, Donovan McNabb, and the Shanahans

No, this is not a new age rock band. This is the mess that is the Washington Redskins. Granted, the Redskins are much better this year with essentially the same personnel, except at quarterback, as they had last year. Mike Shanahan has clearly improved this team’s play. But what a whacky way to start his new coaching gig. It’s not a very auspicious start.

I find it hilarious that Dan Snyder gave Albert Haynesworth a $100 million contract with nearly half guaranteed. Last year he played okay but not a $100 million worth. And then he shows up to camp out of shape, doesn’t want to play nose tackle in the 3-4 defense, and can only get on the field in third down situations. I bet a lot of players would love to be making Haynesworth kind of money for taking a handful of snaps in the game. That is what Danny Boy gets. He loves the high priced, flashing signings instead of going after players of substance both mentally and physically. Haynesworth has no heart but he has a bank account full of Danny Boy’s money.

And now we get an even juicier story. The Redskins sign one of the better quarterbacks of his generation to lead the team into the future. And let’s face it, he has been very streaky this year and most of the Redskins’ wins have been because of their defense. McNabb played horribly against the Chicago Bears but the Redskins won thanks to four interceptions, with one being a touchdown, by DeAngelo Hall. But with about two minutes to go against the Detroit Lions this week, in a winnable game, they bench McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman. Rex Grossman! Of course Rex promptly fumbles the ball and gives up a touchdown to seal the game for the Lions.

Now wait a minute. You bench Donovan McNabb with two minutes to go for Rex Grossman? Shanahan first said it was because McNabb didn’t know the two minute drill as well as Grossman. So what has McNabb been doing since training camp during the two minute drill offense? Then he said it was because he was out of shape. Okay, maybe he is but what does that say when your starting quarterback is not in shape to run the two minute offense halfway through the season? Then he said it was because of injuries. While McNabb is dinged up, he said this is not the case.

Clearly Shanahan made an emphatic statement that he does not trust nor think McNabb is the quarterback of the future. His actions speak loudly. This will clearly be a strain on the Redskins’ psyche the rest of the season. Even with McNabb playing poorly with his overthrows and under throws and missing open receivers, Shanahan undermined a team leader. If McNabb is not your guy just say so and move on. It should be an interesting rest of the season for the Redskins.

The Dallas Jerry Joneses

The Dallas Cowboys are 1-6. Before he got injured Romo was inconsistent and the play calling suspect. Now with Romo out and Jon Kitna in the defense seems to have quit on the season as well. All the talk before the season started from the Cowboys and pundits was that this team would be playing the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Then the losses mounted up. Wade Philips took what appeared to be a swipe at offensive coordinator Jason Garret and heir apparent to the head coaching job after the loss to the Redskins. And Jerry Jones weekly, but it seems like almost daily, has to reiterate that Wade Philips is the coach for at least the rest of the season. It’s been fun watching the Cowboys lose this year. I hope it continues.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Minnesota Vikings, 28-18

The New England Patriots shut out Randy Moss and after a shaky first half offensively and defensively, outplayed the Vikings in the second half to secure the win. One of the biggest keys to the game was the Patriots’ outstanding goal line stand, stopping Adrian Peterson on fourth and 1 with a few seconds left in the first half to keep the Vikings from building their lead.

New England finally got its running game going in the second half with BenJarvis Green-Ellis pounding the ball for 112 yards and Danny Woodhead making some nifty runs to keep the chains moving. The biggest play of the game came in the third quarter when Brady scrambled around and then found a wide open Brandon Tate for a 65 yard touchdown pass and a 14-10 lead. That was followed by a Devin McCourty interception of Brett Favre (which actually bounced out of Percy Harvin’s hands) that New England promptly turned into another touchdown and never looked back.

The New England Patriots may have the best record in the league but their offense really has struggled at times without Randy Moss, who opened up the short passing game, and their defense has been mostly not up to par. In this game both units played very well in the second half, which was heartening to see for Patriots fans.

Danny Woodhead has been a huge addition to the team. If you simply look at his stats they appear unimpressive but Woodhead is a playmaker. He made some very nifty moves and fought for yardage to secure key first downs in the game and is as valuable a player as anyone on the squad save Tom Brady. And New England finally getting a running game going in the second half greatly helped keep the Viking defense a little off balance. On defense, Jerrod Mayo is a rock. He was mostly responsible for stopping Adrian Peterson on the goal line stand to end of the half, and frankly had stopped Adrian Peterson on the Vikings first score of the game but the referees gave the Vikings a touchdown.

Brett Favre actually played quite well in this game despite his ankle injury and before being knocked out of the game on a hit late in the game. But this team is in disarray and will likely continue to spiral downhill.

Meanwhile the Patriots are winning games on special teams, turnovers, and simply playing smarter than their opponents.

MVP: BenJarvis Green-Ellis, RB


Detroit Lions over Washington Redskins, 37-25

This was a fascinating game to watch. Both teams’ defensive lines dominated their opponents and both teams had outstanding special teams play, especially in kick returns. Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams just decimated the interior line of the Redskins leaving the running game and passing game in disarray. But the same can be said for the Redskins front three, plus London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo.

The difference? In the second half Matthew Stafford handled the pressure better than Donovan McNabb did, hitting Calvin Johnson for three touchdown passes. Johnson was taking a beating in the process but manned up and grabbed some tough catches. And Stefan Logan’s kick returns consistently set the Lions up on good field position. While he didn’t outduel the Redskins’ Brandon Banks returner who took one to the house for a score, his runbacks were a real difference maker for the Lions.

For the Redskins, like last year’s loss to Detroit, this could be a negative turning point in the season as Mike Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb with about two minutes to go in a winnable game. This unfathomable decision led to backup quarterback Rex Grossman taking a snap and getting mauled by the Lions’ defense and giving up a fumble for a touchdown. Redskins Park will be interesting for the next two weeks after this call (see above).

Ndamukong Suh is the real deal at defensive tackle and when healthy, Detroit rookie running back Jahvid Best has proven to be a dynamic runner. The Lions have a good, young core of players to build around for the future.

I know it will be odd not to give Calvin Johnson and his three touchdowns or Ndamukong Suh for his sterling play the MVP award for the game. Both of them deserve it. But the most telling difference in the game, outside of McNabb’s poor play even when he wasn’t under pressure, were the kick returns.

MVP: Stefan Logan, KR

New Orleans Saints over Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-10

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is the toughest, roughest, meanest, nastiest unit in the NFL. They are scary. And they played a great game against the Saints. The only problem is the Saints defense played a great game too and a turnover by the Steelers’ Heath Miller late in the fourth quarter was too much to overcome. With the score 13-10 New Orleans, and the Steelers moving the ball well, Miller fumbles near midfield. The Saints score what turns out to be the decisive touchdown. Then Big Ben throws another interception on the ensuing drive. Game over.

This very well might be the hardest hitting game I have seen all year long by both defenses.

MVP: Jonathan Vilma, LB

Indianapolis Colts over Houston Texans, 30-17

Many pundits crowned the Houston Texans Super Bowl champs and said the Colts were through after the Texans upset the Colts in their first tilt in the season opener. Peyton Manning simply did what Peyton Manning does best, pick apart the Texans like they were schoolboys against real men. Even with injuries to several starters and his security blanket Dallas Clark, Manning just made the Texans look silly on defense. It was a little embarrassing to watch actually.

And of course once behind, Dwight Freeney could tee off. He got a couple of sacks and some good pressure on Matt Schaub. At the start of the season after seeing him for a few games I thought Texans’ Duane Brown might be the best left tackle I’d seen. After being suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy he looks rusty and got schooled by Freeney. Maybe he needs to get back on whatever it was he got suspended for.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (238 total yards)
Defensive Player: Ndamukong Suh , DT, Detroit Lions
Offensive Lineman: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
Special Teams: Stefan Logan, KR/WR, Detroit Lions
Rookie of the Week: Ndamukong Suh , DT, Detroit Lions