Review of The Mannings

This book about the Manning family is execrably written, so much so that I frankly wanted to quit reading the book because it was horribly annoying. There are way too many times the author imputes emotions to individuals when he has no idea what the person was actually feeling. Worse, he constantly makes juvenile analogies that are trite to the point of making the reader cringe. It is a very amateurish writing style and a rather amateurish book.

While this is an advanced reading copy, two other items that were irritating is in one chapter Archie’s father is 5 foot 6, and in the next he’s 5 foot 7. In most instances it’s his father’s words, “just be a nice guy,” that drove Archie and his nice guy charm and demeanor, one that was not fake or a put on. But in one instances this is attributed to his mother. These are trivial in terms of the overall narrative, but noticeable and distracting nonetheless.

With that said the book did have some redeeming qualities which, overall, made it barely worth reading. First, I never fully understood the level of fame that Archie Manning had throughout the South, especially in his home state of Mississippi and adopted state of Louisiana. He was nearly a household name after his college stint at Ole Miss as its starting quarterback. Second, the book does an excellent job of describing how Archie’s stern but beloved father and his suicide drove Archie to want to excel on the field and in life, and later how it drove him to spend as much time as he could with is sons and tell them how much he loved them. Archie’s background and family history in a small Mississippi town to become regionally famous paints a clear picture of how Archie handled himself when in the pros, a very good quarterback playing for a horrible team. He kept his head up and marched on.

The book also does a good job of telling the story of Cooper Manning and how, while not a great athlete, would have very likely had a solid college career as a receiver at Ole Miss and how his discovery of a spinal condition that forced him to quit football drove his younger brother Peyton to strive to greatness and professional football to fulfill Cooper’s unfulfilled dreams.

Peyton’s personality has a hard worker, studier and leader comes through strongly in the book as well. His vast knowledge of football, football history, and studying the playbook are legendary. The contrast with the demure Eli Manning is very interesting. Much has been made of Eli’s laid back demeanor, shyness, and some would argue lack of leadership. But it turns out that Eli has been shy and laidback since he was a child. And he never studied football, at least its history, like Peyton did. But he has been successful in his own way nonetheless.

The insights into the personalities of the Archie, Peyton, Eli, and Cooper, along with their family history are very interesting and shed a lot of light on this famous football family.

I do have a few more complaints about the book, however. This book seems to be more about Archie Manning than this two football playing sons. Peyton Manning gets a lot more airtime in detailing his recruitment to the University of Tennessee and his years in college and the pros than Eli. Eli, in some respects, especially his college and professional career, seem almost an afterthought.

Two controversial issues that did not get enough detail or interpretation include the sexual assault allegations about Peyton Manning when he was at Tennessee, and the “forced” trade of Eli Manning from the San Diego Chargers to the New York Giants when he was drafted number one overall by the Chargers.

In the first instance the author does, again, a very amateurish job reporting the incident. He basically takes some things he heard in the media and throws them in the book to check off the box. And some of what is stated in the book is disputed in other media outlets. It’s a really sloppy job of reporting the event.

And very little is detailed about all the behind the scenes actions that lead to Eli being traded from the Chargers to the Giants after he was drafted, with Archie and Eli essentially saying he would not play for the Chargers. Odd given the Chargers were not that bad of a team at the time. There is a big gap in the book on this issue.

The book concludes with Peyton’s ultimate retirement after Super Bowl 50 and does decent job of describing the proud Manning family and the difficulty but inevitability of Peyton’s decision.

While this book has some redeeming qualities, that it’s poorly written and structured makes it a bit frustrating. The Manning’s deserved a better chronicler of their journey.

http://amzn.to/2b7eGZY

 

 

2012 NFL Season Week Five Observations

Steven Ridley takes handoff from Tom Brady

Some Quick Thoughts on Week Five

Chop blocks: I agree with Clay Matthews — the chop blocking I saw this weekend was troubling.  Brian Cushing was injured, maybe for the season, a block from the side, right on or below the knee, by Jets Guard Matt Slauson.  It was clearly an illegal play.  Ironically, while not illegal, it was the Houston Texans guards I saw going low, from the side, on defenders they were not engaged with.  In fact, that is how just defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson got hurt when he had to leave the game.  Any of these so called “zone blocking” scheme teams are prone to these low blocks on defensive players they are not engaged with.  I saw low blocks by the Broncos as well against Patriots.  Not sure how much can be done about it within the current rules but it’s one that will continue to put defensive players are risk.

Rookie Kickers: I don’t think I have seen a year when you had three such unbelievably good rookie kickers in Matt Blair of Minnesota, Billy Hunter in Baltimore, and Greg Zuerlein with Rams.  And the Rams have a great rookie punter as well in Johnny Hekker.  Makes me wish the Patriots had one now that Gostkowski has a case of the misses.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England over Denver, 31-21

Coming into this game I really wondered how we’d fare against a team with a good offense and defense.  Thankfully, the Patriots look back in some semblance of top form, at least on offense.  I love the balance attack with the running and passing game going.  Not being so one dimensional on offense will serve the team well going throughout the season.  The defense also played reasonably good, opportunistic football.

MVP: Stevan Ridley, RB

Baltimore over Kansas City, 9-6

It was awfully painful to watch the Chiefs utterly self-destruct against the Ravens.  The Chiefs pretty much outplayed the Ravens the entire game except turnovers.  And the turnovers just killed the Chiefs chances of winning.  And I am sorry but Matt Cassel has played terribly this year.  I hated to see him get hurt and think that fans that cheered that should be ashamed.  But, it is time to give Quinn a chance to see what he can do, although if his past performances are any indication, he probably won’t do much better.  It’s a shame too because there is talent this team otherwise.  The Cheifs beat themselves in this game and handed the Ravens a win.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

St. Louis over Arizona, 17-3

Exposed.  That is what Arizona was on Thursday night.  Not so much their defense, although even that unit has seen it’s better games, but th offense was just awful.  But it has been all year long, the defense just kept bailing them out, until Thursday night’s loss to the Rams.  The Cardinals offensive line is embarassing.  It seems defensive ends have career days against them every week. They can’t run the ball.  And while I don’t think Kolb has much chance back there, even when he does he doesn’t always do much with it.  I feel sorry for Larry Fitzgerald who I think is the first or second most talented reciever in the league (along with Charles Johnson of Detroit).  He has a bad quarterback coupled with a bad offensive line.

I frankly I am not a big beleiver in the Rams or Sam Bradford, which is surely and unpopular stance.  I love Danny Amendola though, and it’s too bad he got hurt this year again and will be out for a while.

Chris Long just schooled the Cardinals tackles.

MVP: Chris Long, DE

New Orleans over San Diego, 31-24

Fair or not, I just can’t root against the Saints after the bounty scandal, not this year at least.  But I like San Diego even less so this game left me wanting both teams to loose, although I probably leaned a little toward the Saints.  The Saints and Drew Brees got the offense rolling late in this one and never looked back, as Drew Brees broke Johnny Unitas consecutive game with a touchdown pass record at 48.

Given the weakness of the AFC West, at least until Denver starts winning some games against good teams, San Diego might be in the drivers seat.  It will be interesting to see how that race plays out this year.

MVP:  Drew Brees, QB

Houston over New York Jets, 23-17

The New York Jets played well enough to win this game.  But they made mistake after mistake after mistake, espeically on offensive, leaving them no chance to beat a good team.  And it was not all Mark Sanchez’s fault.  It was just a sloppy, mistake prone offensive game.  It was also rather poor blocking by the offensive line as well.  Only Nick Mangold is any good.  D’Brickshaw Ferguson has always been wildly overrated.

The defensive backs played really well containing the Oilers passing game with the exception of a few gaffs, but the defensive line and linebackers were just mauled by the Texans offensive line.  They gave us some really big runs to Arian Foster.  But they hung in and kept them to field goals instead of touchdowns enough to give their offense a chance.  Their offense just didn’t take advantage of it.

I don’t think the Jets are as forlorn as many, but this could be a tough year for them.

MVP:  J.J. Watt, DE

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants [200 yds rushing]
Defensive Player: J. J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Offensive Lineman: Eric Winston, T, Kansas City Chiefs
Special Teams:  Johnny Hekker, P. St.  Louis Rams
Rookie of the Week: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

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

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

2010 NFL Football Season: Week Two Observations

I know this is coming grievously late this week but I was out of town without Internet access.

What a wild week this was with two things standing out strongly, many starting quarterbacks being pulled or losing their jobs and Super Bowl aspirants Dallas and Minnesota staring off 0-2.

Quarterback Shuffle

I cannot remember seeing this many starting quarterbacks pulled or losing their jobs this early in the season. Most of the quarterbacks benched or losing their jobs are marginal starting quarterbacks or ones we have a lot of questions about. Let’s look at the list.

Vince Young (Tennessee) was pulled against the Pittsburgh Steelers after multiple interceptions but will retain his starting job. While there are a lot of questions about Young, he was facing one of the top three defenses in the league and really had a poor outing. While I am not a big believer in Young, he should bounce back from this one.

Jason Campbell (Oakland) was pulled in favor of Bruce Gradkowski in Oakland’s close win over the St. Louis Rams. To top it off, Campbell has now lost his starting job, after being signed to be the man in Oakland. While I like Jason Campbell a lot as a person, I have never been sold on his abilities as a starting quarterback in the NFL and it looks like this may be his last stand as a viable starter in the league, although I would not be surprised to see him back behind center at some point this year.

David Garrard (Jacksonville) was pulled out of the game against Denver but there really are not great options behind him. He has been a steady, if not stellar, quarterback for the Jaguars.

Trent Edwards (Buffalo) has lost his job to Ryan Fitzpatrick after a rather shaky start to the season. I doubt this will help the Bills woeful offense.

Matt Moore (Carolina) lost his job to rookie Jimmy Clausen out of Notre Dame so we will now have two starting rookies in the league to watch get pummeled.

And of course the change everyone is talking about is Michael Vick replacing Kevin Kolb as the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Last week I said Vick is not a long term option at quarterback because of his poor decision making and teams being able to scheme against his running. Time will tell if I am right.

Dallas and Minnesota

Dallas and Minnesota both entered the season with high expectations. Now they have both started 0-2 and staring 0-3 in the face. Of the two Dallas seems better positioned to turn things around quickly. While they have problems on the offensive line, they have great talent at skilled positions on offense and an outstanding defense.

Minnesota is in trouble. Brett Favre is clearly not in sync with is injury depleted receiving corps and they could be in for a long, miserable, season.

GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over New England Patriots, 28-14 (On NFL Game Rewind)

The loss of Kevin Faulk to a season and possibly career ending ACL injury is a devastating blow to the Patriots offense. This 12 year veteran has been one of the most reliable third down backs in the league for years and is Brady’s go to guy on third down. He is going to be sorely missed.

The Patriots simply looked lost on offense in the second half of this game and did nothing right. With Darrelle Revis out of the game the Jets double teamed Randy Moss and did a good job of covering Wes Welker. And without being able to establish any kind of run, the Patriots simply couldn’t get anything done offense.

Unfortunately, the Patriots’ young defense was exposed in the second half, especially cornerback Darius Butler. They made Mark Sanchez look like the second coming of a young Joe Namath. Hopefully the defense will improve under the tutelage of Bill Belichick. They better.

LaDanian Tomlinson looks to have young legs and his 31 yard run setting up the go ahead score got it all started for the Jets. Of course it didn’t help that linebacker Rob Ninkovich missed the tackle on the play.

MVP: LaDanian Tomlinson


Cincinnati Bengals over Baltimore Ravens, 15-10

Joe Flacco looked awful in this game. He looks uncomfortable in the pocket, even with a “normal” pass rush, misses open receivers, and seems to be rushing his decisions even when he doesn’t have too. Something is going on with Flacco and whatever it is isn’t good. There is no reason an offense with this kind of talent should be struggling to move the ball and in this case a lot of blame has to be placed on Flacco’s poor play.

On the other side of the ball, despite all the talk about this being a down year for the Ravens defense, they are playing at an extremely high level and had an excellent game. The Ravens just could not overcome the four interceptions and poor offensive play.

The Bengals bounced back after last week’s loss to the Patriots but like the Ravens, it’s their defense that is turning in stellar play. The offense with Chad Ochostinko, Terrible Terrell Owens, and Cedric Benson really did not get much done against the Ravens defense. It was an unimpressive performance by both teams on offense.

MVP: Jonathan Joseph, CB

Houston Texans over Washington Redskins, 30-27

The Redskins somehow blew a 17 point third quarter lead to lose to the Houston Texans in overtime. That somehow was Andre Johnson, who right now may be the best receiver in the league. He had a monster game against the Redskins, particularly in the second half when the game was on the line, and on a twisted ankle at that. It was a gutsy performance by the entire offense and proves the Texans may have finally turned the corner and become an elite team. But they need their big name defense to step it up more if they hope to challenge for the AFC crown.

Washington played a surprisingly excellent game on offense. Donovan McNabb looked as good as I have ever seen him. While the Redskins did not do much in the running game, their passing game was clicking but just could not quite get it done. The loss of rookie left tackle Trent Williams really hurt them as backup Stephon Heyer simply is not all that great at pass blocking. Jamaal Brown will likely move to the left side, a position he played at an All Pro level in New Orleans before suffering a knee injury.

The question for the Redskins is was their offensive performance because of a weak defense or do they really have something going?

MVP: Andre Johnson, WR

Indianapolis Colts over New York Giants, 38-14

There really isn’t much to say about this game except that the Manning Bowl turned into the Stupor Bowl. The Colts just smashed the Giants from beginning to end. The Giants defense could do nothing to stop the Colts and the Colts defense was determined to redeem their embarrassing performance last week against the Texans. And as soon as the Colts got a big lead and the Giants were forced to pass it was all over. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis just pinned their ears back like rabid dogs and attacked Eli Manning.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

New Orleans Saints over San Francisco 49’ers 25-22

The 49’ers handed the Saints an early Christmas present. They gave this game away. A snap over Alex Smith’s head for a safety and multiple turnovers doomed the 49’ers to defeat. Otherwise, they played quite well and could have, should have won the game but for the mistakes.

The Saints, like last week, looked amazing on offense on some drives, and totally out of sync in others. You can still see this team slowly coming together on offense and their defense is vulnerable but opportunistic. Having received two early passes in games they could have lost bodes well as they start to coalesce on offense. And while the loss of Reggie Bush for several weeks to injury will hurt, they have a lot of talent on offense.

The 49’ers just need to clean up their mistakes. They looked solid and well rounded on offense and their defense played well for the most part against one of the best offenses in the league. But you can’t win games making stupid mistakes.

MVP: Garrett Hartley, K


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Javid Best, RB, Detroit Lions
Defensive Player: LaRon Landry, SS, Washington Redskins
Offensive Lineman: Duane Brown, T, Houston Texans (now suspended four games)
Special Teams: Mike Nugent, K, Cincinnati Bengals
Rookie of the Week: Javid Best, RB, Detroit Lions

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

New Orleans Saints, Super Bowl XLIV Champions: Another Average NFL Films Production

The New Orleans Saints Super Bowl XLIV highlight package is rather average, but a bit better than the last few years.  Of course, for any New Orleans fan it is a great keepsake, no doubt.

The feature of all the team specific Super Bowl highlight packages is about an hour long highlights reel of the New Orleans Saints regular season.  This year’s edition does a decent job of showing the key highlights of every regular season game.  It moves at a much faster clip than most years, or at least seems to, and doesn’t even tease at making an attempt at building up any drama, which is the greatest failure of most of these highlight packages.  But unlike many previous years, where the film unsuccessfully feigns drama building, at least in this one you get what you get, a nice, fast paced journey through the New Orleans Saints’ 2009 season.  There is nothing particularly special about it, unless you are a Saints fan, and is entertaining enough if you are not.

This edition, however, does a horrific job of building up any of the drama of the Saints’ postseason.  It certainly shows all the Saints highlights from the Saints point of view.  But the drama building, especially of the Saints very close playoff win against the Minnesota Vikings, and their very close (despite the final score of 31-17) Super Bowl win over the Indianapolis Colts is simply a joke.  You’d think the overtime victory against the Vikings and the win against the Colts were undramatic, almost foregone conclusions watching this compilation.  It just does a completely lousy job of it.

Worse yet, there are very few close breakdowns of dramatic plays and events during the season, and of the NFC Championship and Super Bowl wins.  It’s just a simply a highlights reel from the Saints’ perspective, and that is about it.

The Bonus Features are also a huge let down. You get the postgame celebrations, NFL media day, the halftime show, and a short personal close-up of the travails of Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, which is really the best of the Bonus Features.  The Bonus Features are simply thin and not very good.

The Saints made history with their first and rather dramatic win in Super Bowl XLIV.  While any Saints and NFL fan will enjoy the journey, the video robs the viewer of just what an amazing and dramatic run it really was.

NFL Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints Champions