Solid History of the Dallas Cowboys

51wvpftrt1l__sx327_bo1204203200_This is a nicely comprehensive history of the Dallas Cowboys.  The only caveat I have is much of the history is already known.  But I enjoyed the book nonetheless.

The first section of the book up to the 1960’s is a bit of a bore and was more about the history of Dallas and building up to the creation of the Cowboys in 1960 and the cultural backdrop of “everything is bigger in Texas.”  It does a decent job of that, and was thankfully short.

The next section covering the 1960’s was reasonably well done as well, but since much of that covers the showdown between Clint Murchison, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL, and Lamar Hunt, the owner of the upstart AFL Dallas team, the Dallas Texans, is more thoroughly done elsewhere.  Nonetheless this is a critical part of the team’s history and was well written.  The best part of this section was on the field issues and the story behind Don Meredith, a very solid quarterback who just didn’t quite get Dallas over the hump.  But it’s also the story of Bobby Hayes who had his best years in the mid-to-late 1960s but eventually declined due to cocaine abuse.

Had it not been for the dominant Pittsburgh Steelers, the 1970’s Dallas Cowboys might have had more than two Super Bowl wins.  But this was a great decade for Dallas and well chronicled here.  This was the also the decade of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach and it was refreshing to see a solid, grounded individual not prone to the decadence and excesses we see in players in future years.  The book also does a good job of chronicling the story of Danny White who took over as quarterback when Staubach retired.  He was also a good quarterback but the Cowboys were in decline and he never was able to bring them back to a path of glory.  He simply took over the reins at the wrong time.

The 1980’s saw the Cowboys as a mediocre team at best slogging through the decade toward a rebuilding era in the 1990’s.  This section starts to get into the impending sale of the Cowboys and the ultimate complete turnover we see under Jerry Jones in the 1990’s.

And of course the 1990’s was the decade of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin, with a host of stars on the offensive line and in the defense as well.  This decade is well chronicled as well, especially the furor over the firing of Tom Landry, and then the shenanigans and bad blood that developed between Jones and Johnson, leading to the firing (or mutual parting of the ways) of these two egomaniacs.  This episode in Dallas’s history was soap opera material and has been very well told in the press, but here we get it in one big sour lump.  Dallas won three Super Bowls in four years, but afterwards saw, again, a precipitous decline as Jerry Jones insisted on being the owner and general manager of the team.

The book goes through 2011 with the Cowboys still struggling to be a relevant team again.

Overall I thought the book was well done but so much of the history I already knew, I at times got a little bored with it.  Nonetheless, this is a must read for Cowboys fans, and a book pro football fans will fine enjoyable.

The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America

NFL 2012 Season Week Six Observations: Is Ray Lewis’s Career Over?

Observations from Week Six

Ray Lewis: Hearing that Ray Lewis is probably out for the season with a torn triceps, which could possibly mean the end of his career, is kind of tragic. To me there are only three current NFL players that absolute locks for being first ballot Hall of Famers, Ray Lewis, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. (Now I know some will argue that Eli Manning and probably Ben Roethlisberger will get in too because of their Super Bowl wins, but they are not as good as those threes. Eli will probably get in for his last name as much as his heroics in the playoffs.)

In my time watching football only two linebackers jump out as being otherworldly, Lawrence Taylor and Ray Lewis. It will be a shame if we suddenly no longer see Ray Lewis on the field again. He has been the heart and soul of the Ravens entire team since its beginnings in 1996 and his name will forever be linked to the franchise that he has been the face of for nearly two decades.

I’m obviously not a Ravens fan, but you can’t help but be a fan of Ray Lewis.

Baltimore Ravens: With both Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb out for the season, and Ed Reed not really playing like the Ed Reed of old, the Ravens could be in trouble. They have world of talent on offense but still don’t seem to get it all together. They are a lucky 5-1, but they have made the plays to win games. But their defense could be in trouble, even if Terrell Suggs does come back soon.

Parity in the League: Everyone thought the Houston Texans were the best team in the NFL but the beat down they received by the Green Bay Packers really exposed them. The Atlanta Falcons are undefeated but won some very close games and are clearly beatable. The 5-1 Ravens are in the same category as the Falcons and look vulnerable, especially on defense with the injuries to Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. The San Francisco 49’ers came into the season as the favorite pick as the number one team but they’ve lost two games. Meanwhile, the Patriots look average at 3-3. It should make for an interesting second half of the season.

Thursday Night Football: I’m not sure I am all that in favor of the Thursday Night Football every week. Favored teams seem to play down to the level of their competition and exposes players to injuries.

The Week of Meltdowns: I thought Tom Brady was the goat of the week against Seattle with his two interceptions and intentional grounding penalties essentially costing us the game, or maybe Tony Romo who just can’t get his offense to make the plays necessary to win a game. But Philip Rivers took it to an entirely different level in his complete meltdown against the Broncos Monday night. It was one of the worst quarterback performances I have ever seen. And the Houston Texans added to the trend Sunday night with their own embarrassing performance against the Green Bay Packers.

Russell Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks: Keep your mouth shut punk. You’re embarrassing yourself.


GAMES I WATCHED

Seattle Seahawks over New England Patriots, 24-23

I really hate saying this but Tom Brady was the goat in the New England Patriots loss to the Seahawks. Granted our defensive backs, especially our safeties, were atrocious during the game. And letting Golden Tate catch the ball deep in the fourth quarter for the winning score was a total and utter unacceptable blunder by Travon Wilson of the Patriots. That defense is designed NOT to give up the big play.

Nevertheless, Tom Brady’s two poor decisions on the interceptions, one in the red zone, were extremely costly. His intentional grounding at the end of the first half that required a runoff kept us from kicking a chip shot field goal. And his intentional grounding late in the game gave Seattle the ball in really good field position. Eliminate any of those four plays and we probably win the game. Eliminate all of them and might not have even been close.

The most worrisome aspect of this game is it exposed New England as an average team with a weak defense. The lack the killer instinct they had a few years ago to put teams away, and instead of making the two or three key plays a game to pull out close ones, they are the ones making the mistakes that cost them games. It’s real concern.

Seattle’s defense, despite giving up nearly 500 yards on offense, still won the game for them. They may have the best collection of starting defensive backs in the league and they match up well against bigger receivers. I like quarterback Russell Wilson and think he has a very promising future. His mobility and ability to get the ball down the field are impressive. But right now he’s not that great of a quarterback and don’t see Seattle matching up down the line with the hotter teams. But you never know, Green Bay and San Francisco are both struggling, the New Orleans Saints are all but out of it, so it could be one of those years an unexpected and maybe somewhat average teams rises from the pack. We’ll see.

MVP: Russell Sherman, CB

Tennessee Titans over Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-23

Pittsburgh definitely did not have their best outing against the Titans, except for Isaac Redman who had over 100 yards receiving. Once he got hurt, it seemed Pittsburgh’s offense couldn’t do much of anything. Tennessee didn’t really do all that much either. Kenny Britt dropped the ball, ran wrong routes, but still had some key plays to get the win. It was still an entertaining game though since it was close and came down to the wire. Given all the sloppy play though, Rob Bironis and his four field goals win the day.

MVP: Rob Bironis, K

Baltimore Ravens over Dallas Cowboys, 31-29

Baltimore has been really, really lucky to be 5-1. In fact all their games have been close. Dallas rushed for well over 200 yards against the Ravens and still found a way to lose. But on the flip side of that Baltimore has had a knack for making the key plays to win games, in this case a record tying 108 yard kickoff return by Jacoby Jones, which ultimately was the difference in the game.

Both teams came away from this contest with significant injuries, more so Baltimore who lost Ray Lewis and starting cornerback Lardarius Webb to season ending injuries. Defensively, Baltimore may be in big trouble. Dallas lost starting running back Demarco Murray to a foot injury near the end of the first half. Before that he was on pace for a 200 yard plus rushing day.

The story of this game, Dallas continues to be pretenders and not contenders.

MVP: Jacoby Jones, WR/KR

Green Bay Packers over Houston Texans, 42-24

There were a lot of total meltdowns by teams and players this week, and Houston was certainly part of that parade. They got thumped by the Green Bay Packers on both sides of the ball while Aaron Rodgers put on a clinic in his six touchdown performance.

Houston’s defense, presumably one of the best in the league, not only got thrashed, but was undisciplined and completely fell apart in the second half. And the Packers defense shut down the run while Matt Schaub couldn’t get anything going. This really exposed Houston, at the time considered by some to be the best team in the league, as certainly beatable. The Packers simply steamrolled them.

Clay Matthews, Jr. was a beast, as usual on defense for the Packers. But J.J. Watt, Houston’s contender for Defensive Player of the Year, was erased.

For Green Bay, is this a sign they are back on track to where they were the past two years? Was Houston exposed as weak, not well rounded football team? Time will tell.

Denver Broncos over San Diego Chargers, 35-24

The biggest, most embarrassing meltdown of all ended the week as Philip Rivers completely imploded in the second half with five turnovers, poor quarterbacking, and just atrocious play all the way around. The Broncos, led by Peyton Manning overcame a 24-0 halftime deficit to come back and win the game. Of course they were largely aided by two defensive scores for 14 of those points and a tough defense, but the poise of Manning and the offense in the second half was still impressive.

This is typical San Diego and Norv Turner coached football, good solid talent but just get it all together.

Frankly, I found it fun to watch.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

Washington Redskins over Minnesota Vikings, 38-26

Robert Griffin III. End of story.

I mean really? The running, the smart passing. RG3 is carrying the Redskins right now and making everyone around him better. If, and that is a big if with his style of play and the Shanahans’ stupid play calling putting him at risks constantly on option plays, he is going to be a phenomenal.

MVP: Robert Griffin III, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Michael Oher, T, Baltimore Ravens
Special Teams: Jacoby Jones, WR/KR, Baltimore Ravens
Rookie of the Week: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins


Ten-Gallon War: Dallas Cowboys v Dallas Texans

Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future by John Eisenberg
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0547435503

When I first picked up this monograph on the “war” between the NFL expansion team Dallas Cowboys and the upstart AFL Dallas Texans I did not have high expectations.  After all, what more could really be said about the history of the maverick AFL and its eventual merger with the longer tenured NFL?

Well, I dare say I was wrong because Eisenberg has written a very interesting account of how Lamar Hunt, the owner of the Dallas Texans and founder of the AFL, and Clint Murchison, another oil magnate who finally received a chance to own and expansion team because of the AFL, waged a battle within the city for football supremacy.

First off let’s be clear that the Dallas Cowboys, despite being in the NFL, did have some clear advantages being in the older league, but these advantages were evened out because it was an expansion team, and as such, a losing team.  And fans don’t want to root for losing teams.  The Texans, on the other hand, had creative owner in Lamar Hunt but also a roster that included some local stars that made it an attraction as well.  But the Texans did not have the advantage of having well known NFL teams to play home games against.  So all things being equal, the competition was pretty even.

This book recounts how both teams tried to recruit local talent and be the team to draw the most fans to games.  Lamar Hunt here was a bit of genius and while a nice fellow, manipulative.  He made sure he got a stadium lease that disadvantaged the Cowboys in their first year, gave away tickets to make it appear the gate receipts were a lot larger than they really were, and the battle to sign college players was comical.  Hunt also staged halftime shows to try to draw fans in and make professional football both sport and spectacle.

And for the most part Hunt succeeded.  And despite their sometimes bitter competition, Hunt and Murchinson maintained a respect for one another.  For example, Lamar Hunt jumped out of a birthday cake at Murchinson’s birthday bash.

All the nitty-gritty details of the throw down between these two teams is here, and told in very lucid prose.

So why did Hunt and the Texans ultimately leave?  Part of it was simply he got a deal too good to refuse from Kansas City and he started to realize it would be hard for two professional football teams to be successful in Dallas.  Another reason too was likely he had more than his own team to worry about; he had the survival of an entire league on his mind.  And thus the Dallas Texans became the Kansas City Chiefs.

If you like football history and are interested in the American Football League and Lamar Hunt, this is a great place to start.  Because here you have the rivalry between the two leagues played on mostly even terms in one city.  I highly recommend it.

Ten-Gallon War: The NFL’s Cowboys, the AFL’s Texans, and the Feud for Dallas’s Pro Football Future

2012 NFL Season: Week One Observations

Before launching into the games I watched a few comments on some major themes at the start of the season.

Replacement Referees: Granted watching on television you can’t see everything that goes on on the field but so far I think the replacement refs are doing okay. Granted there are some glitches but that is to be expected with officials with no NFL experience and probably have not worked together before. The blown reversed holding call on Green Bay’s punt return for touchdown is a good example of where one official was probably looking at one set of players where there was no holding/block in the back but the call was actually on another set of players. Thankfully it didn’t affect the outcome of the game. And I’ve seen regular officials make the same mistakes. It’s just magnified in this situation.

RG III and Andrew Luck: Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck will be tied at the hip for the rest of their lives. Not just their NFL careers, but their lives. I continue to see stories about the bust Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning, much to Leaf’s deteriment. These two will share the same experience. So far so good but if one game is any indiacation RG III came out of the gate with a small grasp on Rookie of the Year after his performance against the New Orleans Saints. He was phenomenal. He reminds me of a MATURE version of Michael Vick as a rookie, which should be very scary for NFC East foes. I was stunningly impressed. Okay, it’s one game I am not putting him in the Hall of Fame yet but everything points to him being the real deal, including, shall I say it again? His maturity. I did not see Andrew Luck but the Redskins putting it to a discombobulated Saints team was kind of fun to watch.

Super Bowl XLVII: No comment.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Tennessee Titans, 34-13

Are we going to have some kind of defense this year? Please? After this game, despite some shakiness, the defense looked rather improved from the debacle of last year. We STUFFED the run but at times struggled in pass coverage. But that has been a league wide trend this week so I am not overly worried about that.

I was really pleased to see a running game develop with Stevan Ridley but I am a bit worried about our depth at that position. I am MORE WORRIED about Nate Solder’s ability at left tackle. He missed or was late on too many blocks and he let Cameron Wimbley get a shot on Brady from behind that bloodied him up. We will miss the reliable Matt Light at left tackle this year. I pray that Solder steps it up.

The offense seemed decent but a bit shakey. Brandon Lloyd really had extremely poor technique in missing an easy touchdown bomb from Brady and there were a few other uncharacteristic drops as well. But overall we moved the ball well and finally got a little running game going.

While this was a team win with now true standouts, my MVP has to go to Ridley for making believe we might be able to run sometimes this year.

MVP: Stevan Ridley, RB


Dallas Cowboys over New York Giants, 24-17

Dallas put on a surprise showing for most in this game although I really was not that surprised by the outcome. Dallas defense was much improved over its inconsistent performance from last year and wide receiver Kevin Ogletree kind of came out of nowhere to be a force on offense. Overall it was a very efficient game for the Cowboys with mostly decent offensive line play, although the Giants Jason Pierre-Paul still looks to be the best defensive lineman in the league, and a solid running game. But really the key to the game was Tony Romo’s mobility. He was harassed often but used his feet to extend plays.

The second major factor in the game was the Giants defense was clearly sucking wind late in the third quarter and really didn’t do much to stop Dallas’s offense.

It will be interesting to see how these teams progress as the season wears on. The Giants always seem to start slow then finish strong, and Dallas has a habit of collapsing.

MVP: Kevin Ogletree, WR

San Francisco 49’ers over Green Bay Packers, 30-22

Solid defense, a decent running game, and a few big plays still equals a win in today’s NFL. And that is what the 49’ers brought to the table I this game. I keep wondering when Frank Gore will suddenly get old but he looked solid today. And the much maligned Alex Smith was hitting on his passes and even the mecruial Randy Moss got himself a touchdown pass.

The defense for the 49’ers was very solid and impressive.

Green Bay suddenly doesn’t look like the hot team everyone favors for a Super Bowl run. And frankly their defense looked pretty ragged and their running game non-existent. If they hope to the big game again, they probably are going through San Francisco (or maybe Atlanta)?

MVP: Frank Gore, RB

Denver Bronco over Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-19

Denver already had a solid defense. Now they have Payton Manning, who makes any offensive automatically better. They schooled the Steelers whose defense is growing ancient before our eyes and their offense was anemic at best. The Broncos defensive backs really shut down the Steelers recievers and I thought Tracy Porter was the best player on the field other than Manning.

The other thing that stood out to me in this game is Willis McGahee. I mean this guy is old and washed up right? I’ve never seen him play better.

After this performance the Broncos, so far, look like a force to be reckoned with. And despite the offense clicking, I thought the defense was even better!

MVP: Tracy Porter, CB

Baltimore Ravens over Cincinnati Bengals, 44-13

If you asked me right now who the best team in the NFL is it would have to be the Baltimore Ravens. Flacco played as good a game at quarterback as I have ever seen him play. He was poised, made great decisions and seemed much more calm in the pocket that is his norm. Ray Rice was running well, Torrey Smith had a few big plays, and Michael Oher at left tackle seemed to be getting off the ball faster and be more comfortable on that side of the line that he as been in the past.

And the never aging Ray Lewis? Are you kidding me? And Ed Reed (who keeps getting hurt but so what?). It’s week one but this team was clicking on all cylinders.

MVP: Joe Flacco, QB

San Diego Chargers over Oakland Raiders, 22-14

This was a very painful game to watch at times. The Raiders early on in the game constantly kept shooting themselves in the foot with stupid penalties. And then by now everyone probably knows of the fiascos in the punting game that occurred after the regular long snapper went down with an injury. I don’t think I have ever seen three botched punt attempts in one game. Two, yes. Three? Never that I can recall. And those were as good as turnovers. But the Raiders defense hung as tough as they could throughout the game. A big shout out to former Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour who had a great game in a losing cause.

I do have to say, without any vulgar references, what does Trent Dilfer have for Philip Rivers? For the past few years, hearing Dilfer talk, you’d think Rivers walks on water. Trent Dilfer is the most idiotic, worthless, know nothing announcer in the game today. I got sick of hearing him blather on senselessly throughout the game.

But back to the game! If San Diego barely escapes winning a game with a mistake prone Raiders, and Kansas City can’t do much more than they did against Atlanta, then those three teams are probably just conceding the division the Payton Manning lead Denver Broncos in the AFC West.

MVP: Antonie Cason, CB


Washington Redskins over New Orleans Saints, 40-32

Robert Griffin III had the best rookie quarterback debut I can ever remember. He really reminds me of a much, much, much more mature version of Michael Vick. He was poised in the pocket, has a rocket arm, and for the most part made good decisions. Across the board the Redskins looked better in this game than I have seen in a long, long time. The offensive line, a big question mark coming into the season, played mostly very well with a few glitches. Left tackle Trent Williams played well, of course against a rust Will Smith, and out of nowhere for most Alfred Morris, the sixth round draft pick from Florida Atlantic showed why he is the starting running back.

The Saints, meanwhile, looked as discombobulated, mistake prone, and had scads of penalties which fueled the should have been blowhout. While one can see how explosive this offense can be, this game would not have been nearly as close had it not been for a blocked punt and poor calls by the referees.

After bounty gate I am glad to see the Saints get there cumuppance. And while I am not, by far, any kind of fan of the Redskins, they suddenly look intriguting.

MVP: Robert Griffin III, QB

 

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Defensive Player: Tracy Porter, CB, Denver Broncos
Offensive Lineman: Manny Ramirez, G, Denver Broncos
Special Teams: David Akers, K, San Francisco 49’ers (Tie NFL record with 63 yard field goal)
Rookie of the Week: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins

2010 NFL Football Season: Week Ten Observations

General Observations

Michael Vick. I hereby officially and unequivocally eat my words. When Michael Vick took over the starting job for the Philadelphia Eagles I said he would never be more than a running quarterback. I predicted he would look brilliant at times and has a cannon for an arm but would make bad throws and poor decisions just like he did in Atlanta not allowing the Eagles to get over the hump. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When Vick has been healthy he is the best quarterback in the league. He brings an unprecedented threat of the run at the quarterback position but now makes good decisions in the pocket and throws the ball more accurately than I ever saw from him in the past. He has always had an unbelievable arm. The only reason he didn’t make my Midseason All Pro team is because he missed too many games because of injury. Were I picking the team after Philadelphia and Vick embarrassed the Washington Redskins I’d go Vick, Brady, Manning (Peyton). I must say that I have a hard time getting over his abuse of poor dogs, but he has been simply amazing this year when healthy.

Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys showed up against the Giants after being railed on in the press all week about being quitters. I wonder how long it will last?

Brett Favre. Brett Favre stunk, throwing three interceptions in the Vikings loss to the Bears. Now he says he needs an MRI on shoulder. I wonder what excuse he will come up with next. Brad Childress is gutless or Favre would be on the bench. Neither Childress or Favre are likely to be back next year with the Vikings.

Terrell Suggs. Suggs should keep his fat, ugly, slobbery lips closed and quit making a fool of himself. Shut up already.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Pittsburgh Steelers, 39-26

I was really worried last week that the embarrassing loss to the Cleveland Browns exposed our young defense for what it really has been all year, a bit undisciplined, a bit out of place, and at times a bit soft. This game proved otherwise. As in the game with the Minnesota Vikings the Patriots defense played tough, hardnosed, disciplined football, while the offense found some rhythm, built a lead, and never looked back.

The offensive line of the Patriots played a wonderful game. Left tackle Matt Light has struggled more than I am used to seeing this year but he did a great job against James Harrison. Granted he often had a little help from Algae Crumpler and the Steelers attempted to play more coverage than blitz, nevertheless Light handled himself well. And Logan Mankins added that little bit of toughness and meanness to the offensive line that was sorely needed against a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Overall I thought the Patriots game plan on both sides of the ball was excellent and Tom Brady played a great game. Of course you give just about any quarterback the kind of protection Brady had they are going to slice you up.

The only bothersome part of this game was the defense playing so soft in the second half keeping the Steelers in the game and making me nervous until the final seconds ticked off the clock.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB

Atlanta Falcons over Baltimore Ravens, 26-21

The Atlanta Falcons are an impressive team and will be a real threat in the playoffs. Matt Ryan is a calm, cool customer at quarterback and Roddy White is having a career year at receiver. Along with a solid offensive line, a thumper in running back Michael Turner, and a very good, solid defense, other NFC teams better take notice.

After building a 13-7 halftime lead that really should have been more, the Falcons let the Ravens back in it in the second half. Both teams hds very nice drives for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but Atlanta had the last laugh with the last score and the win. Both teams are upper echelon teams.

Roddy White had a great outing with 12 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner. He has always been a very good receiver but this year he is having the best of his career.

MVP: Roddy White, WR

Indianapolis Colts over Cincinnati Bengals, 23-17

Cincinnati is fun to watch, mainly because it is so comical watching them beat themselves week after week. The defense and Chad Ochostinko played well enough to win this game. Ocho was making great catch after great catch. But five turnovers, including three interceptions by Carson Palmer, one that was returned for a touchdown, just doomed the Bengals.

The Colts played well enough, especially on defense. Their offense, significantly hampered by so many injuries, was a bit mistake prone. There were a lot more dropped balls and miscues than I am used to seeing from a Colts team on offense, but they were good a lot of the time and excellent at other times.

But this game was very winnable for the Bengals. They gave up five turnovers, one an instant touchdown, and still only lost by six points. Carson Palmer was just simply horrible in the second half. And Terrell Owens, after a great outing last week, didn’t even look like he showed up for the game. He clearly short armed a few balls, one which lead to a Palmer interception.

MVP: Kelvin Hayden, CB

Dallas Cowboys over New York Giants, 33-20

You never know what is going to happen when two bitter division rivals meet. Records don’t matter. With new coach Jason Garrett at the helm and players admitting they didn’t show up last week in an utterly unprofessional, embarrassing outing against the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys woke up and played football. The Giants, on the other hand, did their best imitation of the Dallas Cowboys this season and were just plain awful in nearly every phase of the game.

Many pundits touted the Giants as the best team in the league before this game but they have had some major clunkers this season.

Dez Bryant, the Cowboys rookie wide receiver is about the only player that has showed up week in and week out and this week as no exception.

MVP: Dez Bryant, WR

Chicago Bears over Minnesota Vikings, 27-13 (DVR)

Brett Favre’s three interceptions plus a couple of nice kick returns by the Bears’ Devin Hester doomed the Vikings to another loss. I really am sick of the Favre soap opera this year. I’ll be glad when he is finally gone.

While the Bears looked pretty decent at times in this game Cutler just doesn’t cut it for me as a quarterback. While he had a decent outing he too threw a few interceptions. While his offensive line is a struggling mightily, he doesn’t help them much as he seems to run right in to trouble. And let’s face it this team just does not have the personnel to run a Mike Martz style offense. They are not fast enough, their offensive line isn’t good enough, and they don’t frankly seem smart enough to get it done.

MVP: Devin Hester, WR/KR

Philadelphia Eagles over Washington Redskins, 59-28

This game was simply mindboggling. I don’t believe I have ever seen an offensive performance as unbelievable as the one the Eagles put up against the Redskins. From the first play from scrimmage, an 88 yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson, through a lighting quick 35-0 lead, the offense just embarrassed the Redskins. I frankly don’t know if the Eagles are this frighteningly good, or the Redskins defense just had a horrible off day.

Vick played as well both passing and running as I have ever seen a quarterback play. It was simply amazing to watch.

I will give this to the Redskins, I never throughout the game got the feeling that the team quit. They fought hard and played hard throughout. This just very clearly was not their night.

And let’s face it, as bad as McNabb has played this year, the offensive line is a disaster, he has what would be a fifth or sixth running back on most teams, he has no good receivers except maybe the aging Santa Moss and the dinged up tight end Chris Cooley. He really is in a no win situation. Now, maybe if he were a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. But he never has been, never will be.

MVP: Michael Vick, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Defensive Player: Kelvin Hayden, CB, Indianapolis Colts
Offensive Lineman: Max Jean-Gilles, Philadelphia Eagles
Special Teams: Devin Hester, KR/WR, Chicago Bears
Rookie of the Week: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

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

2010 NFL Football Season: Week One Observations

Wes Welker Scores Against the Bengals

A new season is upon us and it should be an exiting one.

In the NFC we wonder if the New Orleans Saints can repeat as Super Bowl champions, if all the hoopla over the Dallas Cowboys will end again in ignominy, if Brett Favre can take a depleted receiving corps back to the playoffs, if the San Francisco are as good as advertised, and how will the only rookie starting quarterback in the league, Sam Bradford, fare in St. Louis?

The AFC appears to be even more wide open than the NFC. Several teams have a legitimate shot at Super Bowl glory. The New England Patriots with a healthy and hot Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Randy Moss and a young defense should improve over the year and be a contender. The New York Jets and their slothful undisciplined coach say they are the heirs to the AFC East. The Baltimore Ravens are loaded on offense and their defense looks as good as ever. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has proven to be as formidable as ever and when Big Ben gets back their offense should improve. The Indianapolis Colts are always a tough team and the Houston Texans are emerging. Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers may or may not slip. They are in the weakest division in the AFC and despite losing their opener, will likely have a spot in the playoffs.

Before jumping in the games I watched this, a few big picture headlines that week one revealed.

  • Brady, Welker, Moss and the offense are back and as good as ever.
  • New Orleans appears to have started right where they left off last year, with a powerful offense and defense that is solid. They are the favorites to emerge from the NFC.

  • Minnesota, after the tiresome annual saga of Brett Favre’s retirement dance, suddenly found themselves without receivers. Their defense is solid but their opening salvo on offense bodes ill for their chances this season.

  • Thankfully, for once, we won’t have the annual will the Indianapolis Colts go undefeated as they spank the teams in their weak division. Houston hung a loss on the Colts, and if their offense line continues to struggle, Peyton Manning is in for a long season.

  • Will Michael Vick be the Eagles starter this season?

  • San Francisco is not as good as we thought they were.

  • Dallas continues to shoot itself in the foot.

  • Finally, for the most part the defenses in the league seem to have started the season a step ahead of the offenses. This is likely to change as the season progresses but as someone who loves the defensive side of the ball, it was refreshing to see.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Cincinnati Bengals, 38-24

One word: Welker.

It was a very happy sight to see Wes Welker looking like, well, Wes Welker, after his amazingly fast recover from reconstructive knee surgery after suffering an injury in the last game of the season last year. WELKER! WELKER! WELKER!

Tom Brady also looked very sharp in this game, as did the entire offense. It was good to see a little bit of the running game back in the game plan, although I still think they could run the ball even more. Fred Taylor seemed to have fresh legs in the first half and the running back by committee approach worked. And I continue to be amazed at how older players like third down back Kevin Faulk can continue to be so effective.

What was also heartening to see is the very young defense with two rookie starting cornerbacks holding up well against the powerful Cincinnati Bengals offense with two of the best receivers in the league. I did get somewhat worried in the second half when the Bengals had two back to back sustained scoring drives. Barring injury I expect the defense to continue to improve as the season progresses. While it was not a lock down defense, it was good enough to win this game.

And Brandon Tate! His kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half was crucial, as it turned out, to extend the lead. Instead of providing even more momentum for the Patriots, it almost seemed like the Patriots players thought the game was over and played really rather poorly in the third quarter. The defense suddenly looked vulnerable and the offense didn’t do much either.

The Patriots played a very good all around game while the Bengals really didn’t get started until the second half. But for us Patriots fans the story was Wes Welker.

As a side note, good riddance Baloney Lauren Maroney. And don’t worry about Randy Moss, he’ll be fine.

MVP: Wes Welker, WR


New Orleans over Minnesota Vikings, 14-9

There are really a lot of storylines to this game.

The Saints look like a Super Bowl team. While their offense did struggle a bit their two scoring drives were dominant and once they started running the ball in the second half, they locked the game up. If they can continue to mix in a solid running game with their vaunted passing attack they will be very difficult to beat this season.

The Saints’ offensive line was the most dominant unit in the game and the best I saw all weekend. Guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, along with center Jonathan Goodwin, completely dominated Minnesota’s defensive tackles, Pat and Kevin Williams. Maybe the Williams boys need to get back on that supplement that almost cost them a suspension. They got punked in this game. And I really have to give a huge shout out to Jermon Bushrod. He totally handled my 2009 defensive player of the year Jared Allen entirely on this own. Last year I got a lot of criticism for favoring Carl Nicks over Jahri Evans as my All Pro guard. I did so because last year Nicks often had to help Bushrod, who really was the weak link on the offensive line. I don’t know if this is a one game stellar effort by Bushrod or if he has really improved that much. If continues this level of play the Saints may even be better this year than last.

In the second half the Saints finally started running the ball with Pierre Thomas, who ate up the clock and moved the chains. He has solid performance behind the dominant offensive line and I felt it was a great change of pace by Sean Peyton.

Minnesota, meanwhile, looked awful on offense. With Sydney Rice out for at last half the season and Percy Harvin ailing and running lousy routes, there really were no receivers open to throw to. Bernard Berrian looked awful in preseason and woeful in this game as well. He seems to have completely disappeared. I was surprised Greg Camarillo did not see more action in the slot.

Minnesota’s defense did not play up to their usual standards on the defensive line but they settled down and did manage to hold the Saints to 14 points. They are battling injuries in the secondary and Antoine Winfield is also coming off an injury plagued 2009 and really did not play up to his usual standards. It was great to see linebacker E.J. Henderson back in the lineup and playing extremely well after suffering a gruesome broken femur last year. I though his career was likely over, but clearly it’s not.

Minnesota is likely to continue to struggle on offense unless the receivers get their heads out of their ass and start playing football.

While Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans are better and played wonderfully, I am giving the most valuable player award here to Jermon Bushrod for handling Jared Allen.

MVP: Jermon Bushrod, T

Green Bay Packers over Philadelphia Eagles, 27-20

Let the quarterback controversy begin! The Eagles offense looked absolutely miserable in the first half. Kevin Kolb was harassed and the receivers weren’t really getting open but he wasn’t doing much either. I am not sure if it is because Michael Vick kept entering the game and did not allow Kolb to establish a rhythm or something else, but once he sustained a concussion and Vick took over the offense came to life. But, that was mostly because of Vick’s legs. His running really broke the game open for the offense even though they still fell short in the end.

It will be fascinating to see what transpires this season now that Kolb might be out for a few games and Vick will be the starter. If Vick is successful it will be hard for Andy Reid not to keep him behind center once Kolb is healthy. But you know what? Vick will never lead a team to the promised land (although he has sent quite a few dogs to doggie heaven). His success in this game was mostly his running ability. Just like in Atlanta, once teams scheme against him, his inaccurate passing and poor decision making will catch up with him. Yes, he may have a rocket arm and can throw the ball 60 yards with a flick of the wrist, but Eagles’ fans should not get too giddy over the possibilities. Unless he continues to be a running quarterback he will not be that dynamic, and eventually teams will catch up with the Eagles if Vick is at the helm.

Green Bay didn’t really look all the wonderful either. The offensive tackles had a hard time handling the rush but they did manage a couple of really nice touchdown drives. The star of the game was Clay Matthews, Jr. who was all over the place on defense and recorded a couple of sacks.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

Washington Redskins over Dallas Cowboys, 13-7

GOAT: Jason Garrett. And no, that is not for “greatest of all time” but idiot. I am sure everyone has seen the play by now, but at the end of the first half, in bad field position, with little time left on the clock, the Cowboys ran a short sideline route to Tashard Choice who ended up fumbling the ball which was returned for a Redskins touchdown and was the difference in the game. What made this play so stupid? First, the Redskins offense was doing absolutely nothing and had only a 3-0 lead. Scores were clearly going to be a premium in this game and with so little time left on the clock, the smart move was simply to run the time off the clock and regroup in the second half. Secondly, the play had no chance of even netting enough yards to get into field goal range. It was stupid play call, period, for that situation.

What this play and head coach Wade Phillips’ comments after the game shows is that Wade Phillips is not in control of this team. He basically threw Jason Garrett under the bus by saying they should have kneeled on the ball, didn’t know why the ran a play there, and tersely said the defense (which he runs) did its job and did not give up a touchdown. I believe they will continue to be destiny’s stepchild this season.

Otherwise, both teams struggled a great deal on offense. Dallas’s offensive line did not protect Tony Romo well but they finally got going late in the game to finally make a run for a win, but alas they failed. A holding penalty on the last play of the game negated a would be game winning touchdown. It was clearly holding too so nobody can gripe about the call.

The Mike Shanahan era started off with a win over archrival Dallas on Dallas’s home turf. While it was not a dominating or particularly impressive win, especially on offense, it was a win. As usual, the Washington defense is very solid this year, as they have been in year’s past. While they have sometimes been criticized for not getting enough turnovers, they are basically a very sturdy unit.

The offense, however, was woeful and did nothing. Shanahan needs to find a way to fix that quick because they won’t be winning many games like this otherwise. He can thank DeAngelo Hall for the fumble recovery and touchdown, which was the difference in the game. Or, send Jason Garrett a thank you card for the gift.

MVP: DeAngelo Hall, CB

Baltimore Ravens over New York Jets, 10-9

The New York Jets are an undisciplined team and reflection of their coach, the slovenly Rex Ryan. They shot themselves in the foot with penalties and giving up big plays on third and long when they had the Ravens’ offense on the ropes, which was the difference in the game. Add to that the harassment by Jets players of a female reporter also shows a lack of professionalism, decorum, and discipline, again a reflection of their head coach. The Jets may very well implode this season.

The Jets defense continues to be a stellar unit, one of the best, if not the best in the league. But their offense looks awful and Mark Sanchez has not proven, yet, that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. They were facing another top defense in the Ravens, so maybe time will tell.

The Ravens defense played excellent football and Ray Lewis continues, in his fifteenth NFL season, to be one of the best defensive players in the league. He got some great hits on the Jets, and the rest of the unit played excellent as well. I was surprised at how the offense was so throttled, however, even facing the Jets. With Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and a very good offensive line, Anquan Bolden, Derrick Mason, and Todd Heap, I thought they were loaded on offense. The Jets bailed them out with bad penalties most of the game and Ravens were lucky to escape with a win.

MVP: Ray Lewis, LB

Kansas City Chiefs over San Diego Chargers, 21-14

I was happy to see the Chiefs beat the Chargers on Monday night but Chief’s fans shouldn’t get too excited. It was really two big plays on offense that sealed the deal, a great 56 yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles and a 94 yard punt return for a touchdown by rookie wide receiver Dexter McCluster were the keys to the game. Otherwise the offense looked anemic and Matt Cassel really did not do much to distinguish himself.

The Chief’s defense did play well. Defensive tackle Glen Dorsey finally looked like a first round draft pick in this game and the defensive backs did a very nice job on the Charger’s receivers, especially Brandon Flowers.

Philip Rivers made himself look like a complete idiot and proved what a jerk he is yelling at his teammates and carrying on a like a petulant child in the second half. While indeed his teammates made mistakes, I can’t imagine that endears him to his offensive line or establishes him as the leader of the team. They did almost come back and win, however. Rookie running back Ryan Matthews had a decent game, but he gave up a fumble that lead to a touchdown, helping the Chief’s secure the win.

MVP: Dexter McCluster, KR/WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans (231 yards rushing, 3 TDs)
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Jermon Bushrod, T, New Orleans Saints
Special Teams: Brandon Tate, WR/KR, New England Patriots
Rookie of the Week: Dexter McCluster, WR/KR, Kansas City Chiefs