Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Super Bowl XLI Matchup Mania

Count On Losing The Superbowl

How's that?

Count On Losing The Superbowl

That was the exchange I had with my barber Tony on Saturday.

Tony's a fireplug of a man whose business card reads "Keep coming back until I get it right."

"Count on losing the Super Bowl. That's what COLTS stands for." To get a haircut and that kind of information for $10, that's a square deal.

But it's time to get heart attack serious now and take a stab at some of the matchups I'd expect to see come into play on Sunday -- some to exploit, some to fear.

I feel that Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy are pretty predictable in what they do and there shouldn't be many surprises, which isn't to say they aren't doing the job, they simply believe in staying with what works and trying to do it better than the other guy, without major departures.

Marvin Harrison vs. Charles Tillman

Sports Guy Bill Simmons joked that he's waiting for the shortest DVD ever, the 53-second NFL Films production of Marvin Harrison's playoff highlights. Agreed that Marvin tends to play soft, but so does Peanut Tillman, who is a fine cornerback but has been known to lose too many of those jump-ball handfights in big games (though we'll never forget the day Peanut took one away from Randy Moss, whose career more or less ended that day).

Cheap shots aside on Harrison, part of the reason his numbers haven't been great in the playoffs is that teams like Baltimore routinely dedicate extra safety help. I'd fully expect the Bears to follow this pattern and give Peanut some needed help.

Reggie Wayne vs. Nathan Vasher

The extra help rotated to Harrison will put Vasher on the spot, but he's the Bears' top CB. If any jump-balls go up, I always like Vasher's chances against anyone. With mostly one-on-one coverage, I would expect Wayne to be the Colts' top receiver on Sunday and the target of some deep balls.

Though the Colts' fine receivers are worrisome in these matchups, I like the Bears' chances to make up some ground when it comes to 3rd and 4th receivers such as Aaron Moorehead. Ricky Manning is a fine nickel CB. In the Bears' version of the Cover 2, Lance Briggs often covers 3rd and 4th WRs and the Colts don't have the depth to create a matchup problem for Briggs that, say, Brandon Stokley might have in years past.

Dallas Clark vs. Brian Urlacher

Dallas Clark has come on in the playoffs, nearly outproducing his season totals. Personally, if the Bears have to "let a guy try and beat them," I'm fine with it being Clark, despite his 3 good playoff games. He drops more than his share and it would be no surprise if he limps off early. The Colts' previous opponents didn't have the speed of Urlacher, so the Colts don't have a mismatch to exploit here.

Urlacher is perfectly cast keeping an eye on Clark, where he can also provide run support. He's at his best flyin' around and, conversely, at his worst when taking on blocks. Bears fans don't like to hear that, but it's no coincidence Urlacher doesn't have any sacks. The staff is aware of what he does best, which is, as they say, "playing in space."

Jeff Saturday vs. Tank Johnson

The Colts' center has the edge here, big-time. I'm a little nervous about Tank holding his own, especially when the Colts go heavy on the no-huddle, up-tempo offense. By the end of the Patriots game, Saturday was dominating Vince Wilfork. This doesn't bode well for Tank, who lost a bunch of weight and conditioning during his late-season freak-out. On the bright side, Ian Scott and Alfonso Boone at the other tackle position are stout. The Bears didn't lose a lot in run defense when Tommie Harris went down for the season, it's more the loss of pass rush.

Tarik Glenn vs. Alex Brown

It hasn't been Alex Brown's finest year, but he's a play-maker who may just step up on Sunday, though he tends to have his big games against inferior tackles who can't handle his speed rush. The Colts have the edge in this matchup and I expect them to try and take advantage of Brown's (and Mark Anderson's) aggressiveness and looping pass rush by setting up screen passes. I'll be holding my breath when I see Addai flaring out for one.

Ryan Diem vs. Adewale Ogunleye

Wale talked this week about how, one by one, the coaches took him aside at the beginning of the playoffs and told him he hasn't had a very good year, but now it's money time (as in, time to earn yours). Wale agreed it was deserved, and he responded with a very good game against Seattle and a great one against New Orleans.

In addition to the pass rush he should generate, Ogunleye is a nice wildcard for the Bears, who take advantage of his speed by dropping him into coverage. This should allow the Bears to send other rushers, such as Ricky Manning, and hopefully create some confusion for Peyton Manning.

Bernard Berrian vs. Nick Harper

This is easily one of the best matchups for the Bears, it's just a matter of how frequently they can exploit it. Even before Nick Harper's injury is considered (I've heard he's 85%), Berrian is the player the Bears' opponents haven't had an answer for.

As has been discussed, during the regular season the Colts had one of the worst run defenses of all time. While they have shored this up in the playoffs, they have done so by committing extra bodies, primarily lining up safety Bob Sanders in the box.

Trent Green and Steve McNair failed to make the Colts pay for this. Bill Belichick the Genius barely tried to run at the Colts' weakness, rushing only 4 times in the 2nd half of their loss, allowing the Colts to return to playing straight-up Cover 2.

Early in the game, Berrian will have one-on-one opportunities that may not be there later in the game. The biggest decision Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner will have to make Sunday is how early and often to take shots throwing deep to Berrian, at the expense of the smashmouth ball the Bears would like to play.

Muhsin Muhammad vs. Jason David

Muhammad has been pretty disappointing since signing a big contract with the Bears. With a 6-inch height advantage over Jason David, the Bears would hope to see the veteran's playoff experience and guile come into play, giving Grossman some open 10-yard throws as well as a red zone target. Muhammad has the most predictable TD celebration in the NFL today.

Desmond Clark vs. Antoine Bethea

Desmond Clark has had a good playoff run, starring in most of the successful running plays by flattening multiple defenders. He failed to get paid when Grossman missed him in the back of the end zone against the Saints.

It's interesting that the teams play the same defense but the Colts will have a safety covering the TE, while the Bears usually have an LB. Dungy is simply being realistic that his linebackers are mediocre at best, while Smith is getting the most of his outstanding linebackers' speed.

Against the rookie safety, we should see Dez more active in the passing game. And with Bob Sanders playing up to prop up the lousy rush defense, we might see Dez dropping the hammer with some of those deep routes that we saw earlier in the season.

Olin Kreutz vs. Anthony McFarland

Booger McFarland was acquired mid-season and has helped plug up the gaping holes in the Colt run D. Nonetheless, the Bears have an advantage here. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Colts need to adjust to give McFarland some help. When the Bears really get the run game going, it's when Kreutz clears out an overmatched nose tackle and gets upfield to take on LBs.

Dwight Freeney vs. John Tait

Uh oh. This becomes a real ugly matchup for the Bears if they are forced to throw. Previous Colts opponents have seen this - even though it hasn't been Freeney's best year, he can speed rush and loop around anyone when it's a clear passing situation.

Tait hasn't had the best year either, especially given the size of his contract. The Bears might be wise to motion Dez Clark's blocking skills over to the left side to help Tait out.

Robert Mathis vs. Fred Miller

Mathis is another speed rusher who becomes dangerous if the Colts know passes are coming. We've seen for years that the Bears' offensive line is far more effective at run-blocking and a little weak at pass-blocking. Unless the Bears are forced to throw, Miller will be able to push Mathis around and lead Benson & Jones downfield.

Robbie Gould vs. Adam Vinatieri

This year's best kicker versus Mr. Clutch, the guy who's been there before. I only mention it because everyone will talk Vinatieri, but Gould has better range and will give his coverage teams a better chance on kickoffs.

Peyton Manning vs. Rex Grossman

Is the monkey off Manning's back? That's what I've heard, but that's almost saying he's happy to be here. The monkey's still on his back until he wins the big one. The Bears obviously hope Grossman doesn't come out in monkey on roller skates mode.

I'm going to belabor this one more time: I'll be thrilled to see Grossman take off and run when the situation dictates. It's got to be an option to keep the defense honest and pick up a big first down sometime. I hope he's making a vow to himself like he did before the Rams game. For chrissakes, Peyton Manning runs like a giraffe yet he's been scoring rushing TDs this season and picking his spots wisely to add yet another wrinkle to his game.

Devin Hester vs. Colts Special Teams

The Colts Special Teams are terrible. 26th-ranked. The Bears Special Teams are top-ranked, up and down the line. The Colts would be foolish to let Hester do any damage on Sunday. When you're 7-point favorites, you don't let a wildcard like Hester change the game against your confirmed-terrible unit. Bears' up men, look alive, and let's run the squibs back to the 45.

Chris Harris vs. Cato June

The Bears safety and Colts linebacker obviously don't square off against each other, but this is the Fred Thomas Memorial matchup. When there's a big play against these teams, you can count on Chris Harris and Cato June running 5 to 15 yards behind it. Both guys are terrible football players, there's no point in pulling punches.

I'll call this one a draw. While it's easier to pick on a safety than a linebacker, the Bears are aware Harris is a liability and should have some adjustments in store. Despite being pushed around and missing tackle after tackle, June talks a big game and the Colts don't have much of a choice but to accept it, given the other gaping holes they've scrambled to fill.

I'll have to do the math on all these matchups later, but clearly my conclusion will be advantage: BEARSS!

With all due respect to the Colts, the Bears are going to best exploit the Colts' weaknesses by simply playing the style they've played all year. Pound away on the ground with Jones and Benson, throw long passes, and not a whole lot in between.

MVP: Bernard Berrian

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Early Returns: Tank Johnson Scaring Media

Media Day began and, predictably, Tank Johnson drew the largest crowd of reporters.

According to one report, Bill Plaschke of the LA Times asked Tank whether he's been to any nightclubs yet and is he sorry for what happened.

Tank: "Sorry to who?"

Plaschke: "Sorry to society."

Tank turns his back.

Plaschke: "No seriously ... no seriously." None of the the other 30 reporters said another word, and neither did Tank. Total silence. Let the good times roll.

If I'm a Media Day reporter in a sea of geeks with laptops, I'd be more afraid of Ricky Manning than anyone else.

If you haven't guessed, I'm mostly compiling some news you can use from various sources.

My favorite Bear bit thus far: Miami Dolphin Vonnie Holliday is doing some reporter work and trash-talking with some of the Bears. Long-time guy Fred Miller shot back the following smack: "We're enjoying your locker room here at the Super Bowl, Vonnie. Matter of fact, I'm in your locker. My naked, dirty ass is on your stool."

Quotable
A couple fun quotes from the past:

  • Matt Millen, Raiders, Super Bowl XVIII, on being told Russ Grimm said he'd run over his own mother to win the game: "I'd run over Russ Grimm's mother to win the Super Bowl, too."


  • John Matuszak, Raiders, Super Bowl XV, on being spotted out all night in New Orleans: "That's why I was out in the streets. To make sure no one else was."


  • Ernie Holmes, Steelers, Super Bowl X, on host city Miami: "I'll be glad to leave here. I feel like eating palm trees. I don't like this place. It's for people with arthritis. They come here to play golf and to die."
Trends

  • The team that scores first in the Super Bowl is 26-14. The Colts scored first in 10 of their 16 games and won 9 of them. The Bears scored first 9 times and won 8 of them. While it doesn't speak directly to this stat, I have duly noted that the vaunted Colts offense hasn't been getting off to fast starts. They have scored no first-half TDs in their 3 playoff games.


  • Memo to Devin Hester: No player has ever returned a punt for a TD in the Super Bowl, not even MVP Desmond Howard. But if you're superstitious, be careful. There have been 7 kickoff return TDs, but those teams have a 2-5 record.


  • Defense wins championships: The team that allowed the fewest points during the regular season has gone 28-11 in the Super Bowl. The Bears allowed 105 fewer than the Colts this season.


  • OK, I admit it, the AFC has won 7 of the last 9 Super Bowls.

I'll have to keep an eye on the wacky prop bets. So far, I've got a 4-team parlay:

  • Bears on the money line


  • Over/Under 49 points: Under


  • Over/Under Billy Joel National Anthem: 1 minute, 44 seconds: Over


  • Beyonce clocked in at 2:09, according to the authority on the subject.

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers Grammy Wins vs. Muhsin Muhammad Receptions: Muhammad (god help us)

Monday, January 29, 2007

How long have you been a slow-witted sportswriter?

This may be common knowledge, so I'll try not to belabor it. But I think we'll hear it enough times to be warranted.

We'll surely hear The Media grouse about each other & Media Day. With the game in Miami, we may not be hear too many writers complain that the city, hotel, freebies aren't up to their standards. This has been a huge story for them the last few years, how poorly they've been treated.

As we know, Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy are black and that will be a big deal, or at least the writers will make a big deal about not making a big deal of it. This means we'll hear the Doug Williams Media Day story for sure. There's never a shortage of writers who re-write the Doug Williams story as the nadir of journalism, in an effort to separate themselves from their brethren.

Remember when that idiot asked Doug Williams how long he's been a black quarterback? That's who gives us guys a bad name. Some dumbass will probably ask how long Tony and Lovie have been black coaches! Ha!

As many know, Doug Williams was never asked how long he's been a black quarterback. A reporter named Butch John of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger said something to the effect of "Obviously you've been black and a quarterback your whole life. At what point in your life did race become an issue?", Doug Williams misheard him and repeated back the joke question, largely as a send-up of the endless string of questions about being black.

All present had a good laugh. Ever since, chili-stained writers have re-written it annually as their prime example of what a waste of life the OTHER media people are.

So it's not particularly amusing and it never happened. Great anecdote! That makes it the football equivalent of the "Al Gore invented the internet" joke. To some, neither will ever get old, apparently.

For the record, the dumbest Media Day question I know of was asked of Raiders QB Jim Plunkett, son of blind parents: "Lemme get this straight, Jim. Is it blind mother, deaf father or the other way around?"

Though I've seen it mentioned as a dumb question, I like the one where the writer asked a St. Louis defensive lineman: "Is Ram a noun or a verb?"

Best Team Ever: 1985 Chicago Bears

Before the current Super Bears fully take over center stage, a quick nod and some facts about the greatest team of all time, and its dominant Super Bowl performance.

1985 Bears playoff resume:
Bears 21-Giants 0
Bears 24-Rams 0
Bears 46-Patriots 10





- Total yards given up in the three games: 434
- Average gain by opponent per play: 2.6
- Third downs converted: 3 for 36

There are always know-nothing doubters. Even the 1985 Bears' bulletin board wasn't empty -- posted was an article by a Boston columnist headlined "Chicago will choke again."

The Patriots broke the first Super Bowl record -- Tony Franklin kicked a 36-yard field goal just 1:19 in. The kick was set up by Walter Payton's fumble on the game's 2nd play. Jim McMahon said: "The fumble was my fault. I made the wrong call. I put him in a bad situation."

The dream of sweeping the playoffs without allowing a point was over, but so was the game, very quickly.

"I looked up at the message board," Mike Singletary said, "and it said that 15 of the 19 teams that scored first won the game. I thought, yeah, but none of those 15 had ever played the Bears."

By the end of the 1st quarter, it was Bears 13-Patriots 3. At the end of the half, Bears 23-Patriots 3.

Though technically, the Bears should only have been up 20-3, if not for a mistake by referee Red Cashion. With the clock winding down on the Bears, before Red Cashion could put a ball in play, Punky QB Jim McMahon threw it out of bounds. Cashion walked off a penalty against the Bears but failed to run off 10 seconds, which would have ended the half. Instead, Kevin Butler was able to add 3 more for the Bears.

New England trotted into the locker room with -19 yards and it wasn't going to get much better, despite the Patriots pulling Quarterback Tony Eason (0-6) for long-time guy Steve Grogan.

In the end, the Bears would allow 7 yards rushing in Super Bowl XX. The Bears very likely would have beaten the Steelers record for fewest yards allowed (119), which had been set 11 years before.

Buddy Ryan mercifully pulled all of the defensive starters with 9:43 left in the game and a 44-10 lead. To that point, the Patriots had gained 81 yards. They gained 42 more yards, to finish at 123. The Patriots wouldn't score on the 2nd string. Henry Waechter's safety to make it an even 46-10 would be the only other score.

The Bears racked up 7 sacks:

Otis Wilson 2
Richard Dent 1.5
Steve McMichael 1
Dan Hampton 1
Henry Waechter 1
Wilber Marshall .5

Not only were the Patriots embarrassed on the scoreboard, their sportsmanship was also embarrassing.

Cornerback Dave Duerson: "When Les Frazier and Mike Singletary got hurt, the Patriots were cheering and patting each other on the back. When their tight end (Lin Dawson) went out on a stretcher, our whole defense all clapped and cheered for him. They were a cheap organization that showed no class."

The saddest part of this Super Bowl, of course, as Coach Ditka has since discussed, was that Walter Payton did not score any of the Bears' 4 rushing TDs. McMahon ran in 2 TDs (no pass TDs) and FB Matt Suhey ran one in.

The most famous TD was Refrigerator Perry scoring from 1 yard out and nearly blowing the head off Patriot Larry McGrew in the process. Earlier in the game, Ditka had rolled the Fridge out to throw a goal-line pass, which ended in a sack.

Full perspective on Payton's not scoring in this game wouldn't come for a few more years. The World Champion Bears were one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Nearly everyone expected that Payton, even in the twilight of his career, would get a couple more chances to score a Super Bowl TD in coming years.

Unfortunately, that did not come to pass and Payton's Super Bowl career stats would end at 22 carries for 61 yards. It was the one blemish on the greatest season any NFL team has ever had.

Bears 46, Patriots 10

1st
NE- FG Franklin 36, 1:19
CHI- FG Butler 28, 5:40
CHI- FG Butler 24, 13:34
CHI- Suhey 11 run (Butler kick), 14:37

2nd
CHI- McMahon 2 run (Butler kick), 7:36
CHI- FG Butler 24, 15:00

3rd
CHI- McMahon 1 run (Butler kick), 7:38
CHI- Phillips 28 interception return (Butler kick), 8:44
CHI- Perry 1 run (Butler kick), 11:38

4th
NE- Fryar 8 pass from Grogan (Franklin kick), 1:46
CHI- safety Waechter, 9:24

Friday, January 26, 2007

Tribune Writer: Rex Grossman Needs Another Beatdown

I'm not Rex Grossman's biggest fan, not at all. I've criticized him when he's said dumb things, forgot what day it was mid-game, and tried to call 14 timeouts in a row. But I have to admit I start feeling bad for the little monkey when the writers have his keyster under constant attack.

Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey's premise today is that everyone's being way too positive about the Super Bowl-bound Bears QB and it's high time that someone rips him to shreds again. And who better than Morrissey? (Rhetorical answer: any of the columnists with talent who used to write for the Tribune when it was readable, such as Verdi or Lincicome)

As I noted in previous posts, type "Grossman" and "Super Bowl" into Google and you'll find all the "Worst Super Bowl QB Ever" columns you'd want to read. I voted on ESPN's Worst Super Bowl QB Ever poll yesterday just to see the results and Grossman had a healthy lead over Vince Ferragamo, Trent Dilfer, David Woodley, and Tony Eason.

That's no surprise, polls skew recent. Point is, the premise for Morrissey crapping out another bashing column is false. No one's referred to Rex as a hero until Morrissey did here, to set himself up for the spike.

I'll go over a few points he makes but, for example, nothing in the first 3 paragraphs -- Compton, Emeril, Pluto, Shakespeare -- makes any sense to anybody, so it's hard to even break down on any logical level.

He's a resilient kid who goes into each game offering absolutely no clues as to whether he's going to be good or bad, naughty or nice

He's a resilient kid because he has to be. Again, I'm not trying to paint Grossman as a sympathetic figure, I just don't understand the nastiness and hostility and frequency of all this. Why does it bother guys like Morrissey so much that when the gun sounded Sunday and the scoreboard said Bears 39 - Saints 14, Bears fans started celebrating and enjoying it?

And what player goes into a game offering clues whether he'll be good or bad in that game? What does that even mean? "Naughty or nice." Cute. Whatever.

He had the very nice series in the second half [Sunday] that seemed to give everyone a case of amnesia as to what happened in the rest of the game... Actually, that one series generated the kind of poetry last seen during the Elizabethan period.

There he just insults the intelligence, or more specifically the memories, of Bears fans. That's right, "everyone" forgot but you, Rick. No one recalls seeing 3-for-12, 5-for-19, etc. after every play on Sunday.

There's a difference between amnesia and euphoria. We can remember that Grossman didn't complete very many passes early, that he missed a wide-open Dez Clark in the end zone, we just don't cry ourselves to sleep worrying about it because it's irrelevant to the one remaining game.

The poetry bit, not sure why I left that in there and I haven't the foggiest what or whom he's referring to. What are you rebelling against, Morrissey? "Elizabethan poetry." OK, very good then. Bring on the next misconception and debunk it for us.

This season, the Bears stood by Grossman through it all.
Technically, yes.


That was quick. So it wasn't a misconception at all. Heck of a point, though. You've straightened everyone out on that.

The Bears are 15-3 this season with Grossman at the helm.
This is true


That was quick, too. Your theme was shooting down 4 misconceptions, and so far you've agreed 2 of them aren't misconceptions. We haven't seen this type of journalism since the Mariottian period.

I'll continue with his pithy semantics on this:

but it's also true that they're 15-3 with Hunter Hillenmeyer at linebacker, Alex Brown at defensive end, Jason McKie at fullback and the guy who squirts water in the players' mouths during timeouts

This makes me even more excited about the Bears' chances, when the Bear's mere "cogs" that he's diminishing are very good players in Hillenmeyer and Alex Brown. If those are the Bears' mediocre players, we're in great shape, gang!

And Morrissey should probably have done his homework. They're not 15-3 with Jason McKie. He missed a couple ballgames. Might want to look that up.

Someday, the Bears will let him be a risk-taker like the big-boy quarterbacks. But that day is in the distant future.

Another smarmy insult that Grossman isn't a "big-boy." I must have been watching a different season because I saw Rex Grossman take plenty of risks, sometimes enough to make me hoarse.

Why is any of this important? Because everybody—including Grossman—needs to be realistic about what the Bears have at quarterback heading into the game.

Rick's addressing "everybody" again, as if he's the only one who understands and is realistic that Grossman has run hot and cold all season.

I'm still not following why this is important and needed another column about it. Why is it important for me, in front of my computer right now or with a beer in my hand during the Super Bowl, to adopt your reality that the Bears' QB stinks?

One of the story lines of the season was Grossman's bizarre play.

You don't say. We did not know that.

To pretend it wasn't is to risk the return of Bad Rex. To ignore it is to give him ideas that everything has been dandy all season.

There's no one ignoring or pretending, Rick. Even if we tried to ignore or pretend, we can count on your ilk to come along and beat us over the head with this again, from your perch as smartest guy in the room.

Perhaps the lamest part is that Morrissey truly seems to believe that he needs to straighten all of us fools out on a thing or two, otherwise Grossman will get the wrong idea and that will have an effect on the game.

Morrissey imagines a lot of things, yet he missed Grossman saying directly a few weeks ago that the writers flatter themselves, if they believe the negative stuff they write has a big effect on him. But maybe that's the point - Morrissey won't accept that. The next best thing is to keep the fans booing the QB and claim it's good for everybody and for the team.

No thanks, Rick. You go ahead and crap on this Super Bowl run, we'll continue enjoying despite you. Watch your cornhole, Rex, man.

Footnotes:

  • Ted Cox of the Daily Herald did a nice little lash back at some of the haters out there, led by the insufferable Steve Rosenbloom, who are trying to divest themselves of all the negativity that the Bears outplayed.

  • On his ponderous blog, Steve Rosenbloom jumped to the defense: "Rick Morrissey has the Rex story right. Grossman had a great clutch series against the Saints after a bad first half. To paraphrase Denny Green, he is who we thought he is, going from all-or-nothing to all-or-no-turnovers-at-least. He is the player who is just as likely to win the Super Bowl for the Bears as lose it for them, and that prospect has fueled most smart observers' fears all season." SMART OBSERVERS?

  • BEARSS!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Psycho Babble Mars Super Spectacle

First a positive note. An unofficial study of all published pre-season Super Bowl predictions showed that 3 experts correctly predicted that the Bears would make it to Miami. They were (left to right):

Brian Baldinger of Fox Sports, Katherine Smith of the Tampa Tribune, Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News.

Nice jawb! Apologies to Baldy for the crop job. You've got a heck of a melon there, big fella.

Many others selected the Carolina Panthers, who failed miserably at making the playoffs. SI's Don Banks was among the Panther faithful, continuing well into the season with his assertion that they'd run the table.

Regardless of this, Banks has thrown down the gauntlet on Super Nonsense and written this classy item called Told Ya!, all about what a genius he was for correctly predicting Indianapolis would win the Super Bowl.

I nailed this one, folks. I had Indy's path to the Super Bowl laid out for all to see, making the case that the Colts would be the latest pro sports team to win it all precisely because of the way they lost the year before.

All right, Don. You can tear a rotator cuff patting yourself on the back for one good prediction versus all the bad ones, if that makes you feel good. But contrary to your opinion, the Colts haven't won anything yet - you haven't told us squat that has proved true.

That's what passes for journalism these days, I guess. Banks did a great job on Monday calling the Parcells retirement:
He doesn't look like a head coach who's preparing to walk away from the league to me. Parcells is planning on attending the Senior Bowl workouts in Mobile, Ala., this week, and has been showing up to work each day at Valley Ranch. Contractually he has until Feb. 1 to clue Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in on his 2007 intentions.

Feb. 1. Doesn't that fall during Super Bowl week? Ah, now I understand his timing. Parcells won't clear things up for us until he gets to steal a little bit of the spotlight from the two teams who actually make Super Bowl XLI.
He nailed that one, too. Told ya!

Meanwhile, what's unfortunately passing for news, until the players start talking, is some twerp who calls himself Chong on his cable access show trying to shake Safety Chris Harris down for tickets.

The bums will always lose, Chong. Get a job, sir.

Another week-plus of this. Let's play some football already. Bearss.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Super Bowl XLI: Worst Everything Ever

I'm starting to enjoy watching this Super Bowl matchup eat away at the predominantly right-coast media. We're barely into the longest two weeks of their lives and they're already failing at covering the game with any class.

They're too pissed off to even bother trying to hide their nasty, snarky nature that they dole out in smaller doses throughout the season.

There's no Jerome Bettis retirement, no Patriots "dynasty" to fawn over. So what better way to attack it than pick out some easy targets to beat up on, groundlessly stamp some stuff the Best or Worst Ever, and then shut the laptop down.

I won't deny that the Midwest isn't very exciting and is inhabited largely by Bushpeople. Doesn't mean our football teams aren't worthy of the Super Bowl and we shouldn't get to enjoy it.

I'll just mention a few belabored untruths from the early returns. Play along at home as you hear more, over and over and over ...

Untruth: Prince doing the halftime show in 2006 is a damn joke.

For example, Peter King: "Good thing the NFL is promoting the Prince Super Bowl appearance so heavily. It would also be a good idea to promote some of his music, because he hasn't had a song any of the human race has heard since, oh, about 1999."

I presume the "Worst Performer Ever" label can't be used, even by a blustery fool like King, because no one can ever change that Up With People provided the halftime entertainment on 4 occasions.

But whether King and all the other shouters and jokers are aware or not, Prince's album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts earlier this year, the first time that happened in his career. He's nominated for 5 Grammy awards and had a song in the popular movie "Happy Feet."

Pretty sure many members of the human race heard some of Prince's songs this year, let alone since 1999. By some measurements, he's more popular than he's ever been.

Good try, Pete, but you're just being an asshole again. Not for nothing, if you want to be bitchy and elitist, why wouldn't you just gripe about why Billy Joel is singing the National Anthem? That would make some sense. Be the first to predict that Billy drives his car through the wall of Dolphin Stadium. He deserves the ribbing, the drunken old sod.

Untruth: Rex Grossman is the Worst QB Ever to play in a Super Bowl

For example, Don Banks: "Grossman is the worst Super Bowl quarterback since guys like New England's Tony Eason and Miami's David Woodley made the big stage. And don't throw names like Trent Dilfer and Jeff Hostetler at me. They both won their games and therefore don't deserve inclusion."

So Banks went back 21 years to find a "worse" QB than Grossman. I've already read others say Grossman's the worst ever, and we'll read that again before the 2 weeks are up. Before I continue, the rip on Tony Eason doesn't make sense either. He was pretty good for a few years, but it's easier to be jerky and clever than looking that up that kind of thing.

Just call it the worst ever and put a bow on it. That's what Banks did with the AFC Championship game to make his point, as well. This was the Best Playoff Game Ever, he wrote -- better than the Super Bowls that came down to final plays and inches.

I also like how Banks has already called the Bears the losers in this game, dismissing the possibility that Grossman will win and therefore not qualify for his pithy commentary.

Grossman may be the most inconsistent, volatile, or frightening. He may even be the least intelligent or most ADD-stricken. He's not the worst ever. Not even close. He's also young. Not sure why these unhappy writers want to go out of their way to crap on him or how that increases interest in the sport they cover, but that's how they want to play it.

Statistically, Grossman has the lowest passer rating of a Super Bowl QB since John Elway. If they put the gun to my head and force me to play their game, both QBs in 2000 were worse than Grossman: Trent Dilfer and Kerry Collins. But what's the difference, really? What does that prove?

Untruth: The Chicago Bears don't even belong on the field for Super Bowl XLI

There has been no shortage of this sentiment, nor will there be this week. There was no way the mediocre Bears defense would handle the Saints' #1 offense.

The writers hated it throughout, but the Chicago Bears have been the best team in the NFC from game one, when they shut out Brett Favre for the first time in his career. Worst Quarterback Ever Rex Grossman threw 4 TD passes the next week, and so on.

Every week, the writers pined for a new darling of the NFC. They shoved them all down our throats one after the other. The Giants because they're in New York. Then the America's Team, the Cowboys and hourly indignation over Terrell Owens. Then the Saints. Then the Eagles and Jeff Garcia. Then the Saints again. Anyone but the Bears.

Doesn't really work out when your hot team loses and you have to pick a new one each week, while the Bears continue cruising as #1 in the conference, wire to wire.

Like it or not, the Bears and their pathetic offense led the NFC in Points Scored, scoring the same number (427) as the Colts. And the Bears allowed 255 points, the fewest in the NFC by 50.

Sounds to me like they belong, gang, and there may even be some excellence about their season that can be reported. We're all very sorry they're not a better story. Cheer yourselves up, go see a movie or listen to FM radio during these 2 weeks - they say it might soothe your savage breasts. Stay classy.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dr. Z: Colt team best of the Manning era

When you're a 7-point underdog and rising for a full 2 weeks like the Chicago Bears, you have to find good news where you can, or at least find reasons to debunk some of the bad news that comes along.

Dr. Z, Paul Zimmerman, of Sports Illustrated opened his column Monday with:

"Oh my God, where can I get a bet down on the Colts -- quick! OK, it's seven. I don't care if they bet it up to eight or nine, I've got to get in on this thing."

And ended with:

"I see a big Indy win, with the hurry-up gradually breaking down an opportunistic but worn out Bear defense. Final score: Colts 34, Bears 24."

The Doc also picked the Bears as the worst team in football going into 2005, but we've forgiven him for that. For the most part.

What's in between the quotes above is what doesn't make any sense. Zimmerman called the Bears' Super Bowl opponent "a Colt team that is the best of the Manning era." Really? The Colts were pretty good last year, I recall, falling just short of an undefeated regular season and then against Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

I'm a simple man looking at the simplest stats that define the goodness of a team. We can break down their shoddy run defense, their loss to the Texans, and Edgerrin James vs. Joe Addai another day. Here I'm just talking W/L, Points For, Points Against for the season.

2006: 12-4. 427-360
2005: 14-2. 439-247
2004: 12-4. 522-351

  • The 2005 version scored more and allowed 113 fewer points.
  • The 2004 version allowed fewer points and scored nearly 100 more.

How is neither of those teams better than the current one? And that's before you even consider that in 2006, the Colts did not have meaningless games at the end (as the Bears did) to hurt the overall numbers. They needed every game this year to earn 3rd in the AFC -- and perhaps the not-resting has helped put them on this playoff roll.

  • In 2005, after finally losing to San Diego, the Colts rested up, turned it over to Jim Sorgi and lost to Seattle 28-13, followed by the backups edging Arizona 17-13.
  • In 2004, the Colts rested and lost to the Broncos 33-14, then throttled them by 25 in the playoffs the following week.

Point being, the W/L, Points For, and Points Against in 2004 & 2005 were even better than they look on paper, and they already dwarf the 2006 iteration's accomplishments. I'll go as far as to say the 2006 Colts are the worst squadron they've fielded in the last 3 seasons. There's no shame in that at all, these are all very good teams we're talking about.

Not that I have a choice, the time machine is in the shop, but I'll take my chances with the Bears duking it out with the 2006 version instead of the others. Bearss.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What Would Adewale Do?

Adewale Ogunleye:



"I told Reggie that was unprofessional of him to do that. I think he's going to be a hell of a player in this league. But for him to point back and taunt, that was no class. … I swear, I was a second away from punching him."





“Yeah, that pissed me off. That totally pissed me off. It was a hell of a play…I think that was a slap in the face. I’m glad we responded.”







Bearss.

Chicago Bears Go Easy on America's Sweethearts, Cruise by 25

Contrary to popular opinion, the Chicago Bears are pretty good.

Many of this country's deepest thinkers forgot the way the Bears dominated games early in the season, much the same way they dominated this one.

The Saints may have been the best offense (on paper) that the Bears faced this season, but I'd be damned if their offensive line is better than even the Seahawks. The important thing now is how they compare to the vaunted Colts O-line.

Besides the obvious victory in the turnover battle this week, which the Bears were on the short end of last week, the Bears once again played nearly penalty-free and the coaches should take a bow for that. Other than the 4 clipping penalties on Devin Hester's punt return against the Seahawks, the Bears are keeping it clean and smart.

The frustrating, not quite putting their foot on the opponent's throat Bears were present in the first half again Sunday. Rookie sensation Mark Anderson popped loose the first of many fumbles by weather-unaffected Purdue product Drew Brees and the Bears had it surrounded.

But Adewale Ogunleye couldn't scoop it. Fall on it! Where's Hub Arkush to shout BALL!

Another missed opportunity for the Bears here, but this will not be this team's legacy. The Bears will not be known for outplaying the other team but failing to cash in. The Bears we know and love then emerged. The opportunistic, in-control Bears, who've seen a loose ball and have been there before.


The Bears came right back and popped another ball loose, this time from rookie Marques Colston. Turnover machine Nathan Vasher took charge of the situation, drew a bead on the loose ball that danced near the sideline, and began directing traffic.

That's what I'm talking about. Seeing Vasher in charge, Tank Johnson peeled off just in time to avoid another clusterbumble and started heading upfield to lead the caravan.

The caravan, however, ended after only 14 yards and the Bears would only get 3 points from it. But then the ensuing kickoff would bring another fumble, another Bears recovery and another Bears field goal.

By the time the Bears made it 9-0, it could have been 17 or 20. Despite not taking full advantage, the Bears had taken full control of the game, having spent almost all of the first quarter hammering away at the Saints' suspect front 7.

The groundwork was laid for the dominant performance that would follow. Not to go Roy Williams (Detroit version), but the Bears could have gone for 60 on Sunday if they hadn't called off the dogs out of mercy. They could have at least gotten one more to make it an even 46 as a tribute to the old days.

A tribute to the better days of this season was fine. The days when the tackling was so sure that one Bear could focus on ripping the ball out before the ballcarrier could get to the ground.

It wasn't shoddy tackling so much that gave the Bears their final scare. Chris Harris and Danieal Manning never got close enough to tackle little Reggie Bush on his 88-yard reception. Manning should have made the tackle about 30 yards downfield, or at least slowed him so Urlacher or other Bears could have punched a fumble loose.

Instead, ESPN rejoiced as the Saints closed the gap to 16-14. Reggie Bush scampered, he taunted, he taunted the Bears some more, and then he front-flipped into the end zone.

That's fine. If you're not going to act like you've been there before, then you may as well act like you won't get there again.

Not coincidentally, the Saints wouldn't get there again, even though only 53 seconds had elapsed in the 2nd half.

The Bears would spend the rest of the game running up 200 yards and 3 TDs on the ground, ending with Cedric Benson's triple jump TD run. They'd make Brees look like a rookie in taking a safety on an intentional grounding that made you wonder if he'd forgotten how to play. The refs are going to let Brees get away with that if he makes it look good at all, but the Bears wouldn't allow even that.

And of course, the Bears would work in the occasional heave to playoff superstar Bernard Berrian. Lost in last year's loss to the Panthers was that Berrian established himself as a force, a trend that has continued into this playoff season.

Weren't the Bears supposed to be shit-scared of Deuce McAllister? Did he play Sunday? Billy Cundiff, the Saints' "long-range kicker" who could never hit a 40-yarder in the first place, was more of a factor than Deuce. I'm still a little surprised that when Cundiff's ill-advised field goal predictably came down in the end zone, Devin Hester wasn't there camping under it.

Still a few things for the Bears to clean up if they're to beat the Colts in Miami. Rex will still put a scare in you, even if it doesn't matter. He's the only one who didn't know the first quarter was ending. Not a big deal, but I'd like to see my QB locked in.

Christ knows what they were doing to close the first half, following a blitzkrieg TD drive by the Saints. With 40 seconds left, Rex handed to Thomas Jones then headed for the locker room. When he noticed no one else was coming, he got back under center and winged one out of bounds without looking for a receiver. Then he took a knee and that was that.

Leave it to the Bears: before you can even debate whether to get the 40-second drill rolling and try for a field goal, they make a few spastic moves and you're relieved that they're taking a knee before something happens that's even more worse.

Let's find a way to keep that Lance Briggs, gang. A Super Bowl win would surely help keep the band together. Bearss.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nearly Unanimous: Saints over Bears

I don't find it "disrespect" that it's very hard to find an expert who picks the Bears to beat the Saints in Soldier Field Sunday. In fact, I wish the Bears players hadn't taken the bait and played the tired "We feel we're being disrespected card."

Dez Clark led that cry, so we'll see how he responds. He already played quite well last week with some terrific blocks on Thomas Jones's TD runs. I'd expect to see him catch some passes this week against a shoddy Saints linebacking corps led by journeyman Scott Fujita. There's a reason the Saints are in the bottom 1/4 of the league at defending the run.

The reason the Bears will win is tackling. It will neutralize Reggie Bush. Offense is more exciting, so announcers love a good blown tackle or 4. The Bears rarely accommodate. Urlacher overran a few last Sunday and that's not going to happen.

Tip on getting ready for the game: I read Mike Silver of CNNSI write the latest media whine about how the Bears hurt his feelings in the locker room, and this is one reason he chose to cover the IND/NE game instead. Be like the Bears Sunday.

A couple minutes before kickoff, scan your living room for undesirables such as media slime. Have everyone who does belong start shouting at the top of their lungs, in a T-Rex like roar (as Silver described it) to flush out the unwelcome un-Bears elements.

Let's throw it to the panel of independent thinkers one more time for highly intelligent expert analysis. Go Bearss.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Beat the Shitwit: Championship Round

Tough week for most of the Shitwits. Looks like it'll be a real battle between Norff and azibuck.

The line for the Bears game is the final indicator that the people have spoken and the Saints are the better team. Bears can't even hold the assumed 3-point home edge.

Maybe Joe Buck will bluster "Rex Grossman - his best game and his biggest moment" again this week, but this time be correct about it.

Lines for this week:

Ind -3 over NE
Bears -2.5 over NO

Remember to denote your lock.


A steamed guest: azibuck (5-3, 1-1)

IND
New Orleans










Shitwit #1: Mike North (5-3, 1-1)


Bears
Ind




Shitwit #2: dhort (3-5, 0-2)

Bearss
NE










Shitwit #3: Dan McNeil (3-5, 0-2)


Bears
IND









Esteemed reader: Freen (2-6, 0-2)

Bears
IND

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sports Illustrated's Love Affair With the Bears

If you want to bask in the glory of the Bears playoff run, no need to swing by cnnsi.com.

Peter King wrote, by my unofficial count, 5211 words about the 4 playoff games this weekend in his Monday Morning Quarterback column.

A very low percentage of them mentioned the Bears. Let's review all of Pete's thoughts on the Bears and their overtime playoff victory.

5. Chicago (14-3). Good to see Tank Johnson make a huge play for the Bears, sacking Matt Hasselbeck on that big fourth-quarter series. The Bears will need him to stop Deuce McAllister on Sunday.

Peter's first mention is required as part of his Fine Fifteen ranking of NFL teams. There are only 4 teams left in the running and he has the Bears ranked #5. OK then.

In his Goat of the Week segment:

Whoever Called the Timeout With Two Seconds Left in the Fourth Quarter, Chicago. Are you kidding me? I guess Lovie Smith was thinking, "Maybe they'll punt it and Devin Hester will have a shot to run it back.'' Crazy. Just crazy. In this kind of loony game, the Bears are lucky Hasselbeck didn't have a chance to throw a good Hail Mary.

He's right, of course, how crazy and stupid that was. Not sure about the game being loony, but it's a Bears mention. Go Bears!

The next 3 are things he liked about this weekend's action:

f. Lovie Smith's faith in Rex Grossman. We all said Grossman was on a short leash before Sunday's game, but only Smith knew for sure. And the way he spoke about Grossman, Smith sounded like he had Johnny Unitas on the roster, not Grossman.

g. Grossman. Not masterful, just good enough.

h. Lance Briggs is a heck of a football player.

AGAIN, "we" all said Grossman was on a short leash, except for those who were paying attention to Lovie Smith at any point this season or anything he said during the week. Props for Briggs, a backhander for Rex. But the Bears were mentioned. Go Bears!

And one thing he didn't like:

e. Nice, huge drop, Bernard Berrian. It's only your team's season on the line.

5211 words and that's all the Bears get. Not a mention of Robbie Gould. You'd think the game-winning FG, from 49 yards in OT, in brisk weather would have been one of the mentionables from the football weekend. He was somewhere in the also-rans for Pete's specialty teams player of the week.

The good news is, on Tuesday Pete mentioned he'd be covering the Bears-Saints game. The Saints were barely mentioned in the 5211 words, by the way. Not a big surprise from a guy who once said if you didn't grow up near New York, you'll never really understand big-time intense sporting events.

Pete's colleague Don Banks wrote more about the Bears. What do you have, Don? Throw us a bone here.

Early NFC title-game prediction: I like the Saints. If New Orleans and Chicago both play like they did this weekend, the Cinderella Saints might win by 14.

Ouch, 14 points. That'll put a crimp in the Super Bowl plans. Wait, Don is writing again.

Okay, I'll say it: The Pats-Colts will be Super Bowl XLI, even if it won't be played in Miami. Whoever advances out of New Orleans and Chicago in the NFC, I like the AFC champ by a lot in the next game.

Uh oh, so 14-point underdogs this week and underdogs by "a lot" 2 weeks later. Why's that?

Banks wrote a glowing piece about the Bears' victory Sunday called "Good Enough Rex." Here's the Cliffs Notes:

Grossman is a calamity in a football uniform.

"I thought Rex played well,'' Lovie Smith said, with a straight face.

The bulletin board runneth over. To give equal time, here's my stat of the week:

In AFC/NFC Championship games, dome teams playing on the road are 1-9. The exception was Atlanta topping Minnesota in 1999, however, that doesn't really apply here because it was a dome team playing in Minnesota's shitty rollerdome. I'll take the 14 points, Banks. Bearss.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Sore Loser Sunday

Sounded like an awful lot of crybabying coming out of Sunday's games.

I haven't followed the blow-by-blow of LaDainian Tomlinson's crybabying about the Patriots. What I saw immediately after the game was Tomlinson trying to get off the field before he cried. He was trying to get through Patriots quickly, without stopping to congratulate them, and some Patriots appeared to be detaining him.

I don't agree with it if the Patriots were truly forcing him to congratulate them, but it sounded like LT may have taken a little shot at someone who was dancing on the Charger logo.

That's where Tomlinson lost me on this and I'm on the Patriots' side in all this. They're not supposed to celebrate? Tomlinson ought to have wiped his nose and classed up instead of whining about how the Patriots were doing "the dance Shawne Merriman is known for." The Steroid Shimmy?

Besides that Merriman isn't a sympathetic figure, I don't abide anyone's gloating dance being off-limits. If you're going to dance in your opponent's face, expect your opponent to dance in yours. If you can't take it, I can't help you. Same thing happened this summer with AJ Pierzynski "showing up" Carlos Zambrano by doing "Zambrano's move" - you don't like it when you're down, then don't be an ass when you're up.

Also read a fair share of Seahawk whining. I notice I didn't hear any of this talk from the Seahawks who cost them the game, namely Kelly Jennings and last week's hero Babineaux. These guys got toasted all day by the Bear offense and they knew to keep their mouths shut.

Michael Boulware, the strong safety of the defense that allowed 371 yards to the Bear offense, is a real genius. He had to disrespect the Bear QB by saying his name wrong multiple times. Very adult. For example: ''All Gross Rexman has to do is help the team win. He doesn't need to be a Pro Bowl quarterback or try to make plays.''

371 yards of offense, asshole. That's making plays. Go get your shine box.

Darrell Jackson had some ideas as well: "We should have won the game easily. We're a better team than them. Some calls went against us, some calls we didn't get. We shot ourselves in the foot sometimes. I don't think their secondary can handle our wide receivers."

The Seahawks are a better team, see. The calls went against them. The most laughable statement there is how the Bears secondary can't handle the Seattle receivers. A pretty interesting comment coming from a guy who didn't catch a pass in the 2nd half. But I guess it makes sense coming from a guy who's complaining about calls, in a game where there were no penalties in the first half.

What calls are you talking about? You're not talking about the Seahawks winning the coin flip and coming right out to finish off showing who was the better team. You won the flip and you still got beat. Take it like men.

Here are the calls they're complaining about:

> Julian Peterson heard the reaction on the field. He just wished the Seahawks would have had an opportunity to get a second look after the ball came loose from running back Cedric Benson in overtime. "We had three [officials] say, 'White ball,' " and one guy say, 'He's down,' " Peterson said. "We should have at least been able to challenge that or something."

Bzzzzzzt. It wasn't close to being a fumble. You could have reviewed that all day and you weren't getting the ball, Jules. Anything else?

> That wasn't the only complaint the Seahawks had. Peterson cited a first-half hit by Leroy Hill on Grossman in which Grossman's arm was coming forward and the ball came loose. "He straight-up fumbled," Peterson said. "They called it incomplete. I didn't understand that."

Bzzzzzt. So you don't understand the rules. That's fine, but that's not the victorious Bears' fault.

Other quick thoughts:

- I never, ever want to see the Bears run another 2-man rush. No idea where it came from, but I'd like to send it back. If you're counting on coverage sacks or an idiotic INT like Hasselbeck threw when he couldn't find anyone, the Saints are going to make it a real long afternoon. Dropping DE Israel Idonije back 2 yards isn't going to work.

- Besides the plays with the 2-man rush, I was very impressed with the Seahawks O-line. I'm hoping that's valid, or I'll quickly become depressed with the Bears D-line.

- At least Lovie admitted that calling a timeout with 2 seconds in regulation and allowing a Hail Mary attempt was stupid. I almost threw up.

- On that note, I'm not so sure what he intended to do would have been much wiser. He said what he wanted to do was call the timeout with "more seconds" so that Devin Hester would get another chance. After 3 fumbles already on Sunday, I was pretty OK with ending regulation on a defensive stop. Devin, what are you aiming at, son? Let's go get them son of a bitches!

- If the premise of the show "24" is one 24-hour day (of shooting people), then how the hell did Kiefer Sutherland grow a 2-foot beard that day?

- I've read versions of this slam on perennial whipping boy Peanut Tillman about 18 times, this one from shallow-thinking Steve Rosenbloom, co-host of the most insipid radio program ever, "Rosenbloom and Salisbury":

"Tell you what, Charles Tillman can’t blow that sure interception for a sure touchdown next week."

Tell you what, Rosenbloom and other geniuses: watch the play. The ball bounces off of Tillman's chest because, at waist level, Darrell Jackson has a hold of both Tillman's hands. That was a sure touchdown if Tillman learns to catch it in his mouth.

- One other bit of ... not so much advice ... but thinking for Lovie. Seen this throughout the season and hated to see it again Sunday. The Seahawks special teams pulled a boneheaded play on a Bear FG attempt and gave the Bears a HUGE first down, when all the Bears were trying to do was make it a 24-24 tie.

This gave the Bears 1st-and-goal at the 8, and the Bears made nearly no effort to score. They never challenged the goal line. And my point on that is this: handing the ball off gives you a chance to score a TD. Both teams demonstrated that earlier in the game, with 10-yard TD runs by Jones and Alexander on 3rd and 4th down.

What doesn't give you a chance to score a TD is throwing a pass to the 6-yard line, with 4 defenders around the receiver. Right here, the 2nd and 3rd down passes were no threat to Seattle, there's no upside. Not Lovie's fault, but in this case the downside happened and the tip-and-pick almost killed the Bears.

> 1-8-SEA8 (15:00) T.Jones right tackle to SEA 8 for no gain (M.Boulware, G.Wistrom).

> 2-8-SEA8 (14:27) PENALTY on CHI-B.Berrian, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at SEA 8 - No Play.

> 2-13-SEA13 (14:09) R.Grossman pass short right to T.Jones pushed ob at SEA 10 for 3 yards (J.Babineaux).

> 3-10-SEA10 (13:40) R.Grossman pass short right intended for M.Muhammad INTERCEPTED by P.Hunter at SEA 5. P.Hunter to SEA 21 for 16 yards (O.Kreutz).

Where I was watching, we'd have been happy with a running play on pretty much every down in the 2nd half. So don't get caught up in any labels, Lovie. We won't call you conservative for handing off.

We'll only call you conservative if you run 3 pass plays that have no shot at reaching the goal line.

- And, Lovie, no one can call you emotionless either. I've heard that knock: Lovie doesn't shout at enough guys on the sidelines and what-not. I can't recall the last time I saw an NFL coach show such pure glee in rushing the field after a game-winning field goal. Nice jawb.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Beat the Shitwit: Divisional Round

The blind squirrel found a nut in the first week. After long season of terrible picks, Mike North stepped up his game and swept round one here. That's foyne, we'll catch him. 7 games to go. Bearss. Shockingly, we have no ties at this point. We ran the gamut.


Lines for this week:
Bal -4 over Ind
NO -5 over Phil
Bears -8.5 over Sea
SD -5 over NE

Remember to denote your lock.

Shitwit #1: Mike North (4-0, 1-0)

Ind
NO
Bears
SD



A steamed guest: azibuck (3-1, 1-0)
Ind
Phil
Bearss
SD







Shitwit #2: dhort (2-2, 0-1)

Balt 26-17
Phil
(NO wins 30-27)
Bear 23-13
SD 23-15








Shitwit #3: Dan McNeil (1-3, 0-1)


Balt
NO
Seattle
NE






Esteemed reader: Freen (0-4, 0-1)


Ind
NO
Bearss
NE

Lovie: No Leash on Rex

Lovie Smith said he watched a lot of football this weekend and heard that "Grossman is on a short leash" talk flying around from all directions.









He was surprised by these reports and confirmed what I wrote a couple days ago: Rex isn't on a short leash. He's not even on a long leash. He's free to move about unabated, though he rarely strays from the pocket.

What about it, coach? Then where are all these guys getting the "quick hook" story from?

''We talk about perception and reality,'' Smith said. ''That may be the perception, but I don't know where it came from. It is not the reality at all. Just go with our track record. I keep hearing these things. It hasn't happened, so where does this come from?''

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Countdown to Hochuli

Was just recalling that in the Jets/Patriots playoff game Sunday, they had the fattest official I've ever seen out there. I don't know what position he was manning, but it seemed like every time I looked up, it was a profile of his huge belly.

And when you think of referee fitness, it's a played cliche but you think of Hochuli. What I was thinking was: my football hell might be Hochuli were working a gamesmanship-filled genius showdown between Belichick and Mangini.

I appreciate the heads-up manner of the Patriots... hurry-up, quick snap, keep them from substituting. To have both teams doing that stuff got pretty tedious, but holy cow, if they'd had Hochuli working that game.

Because as much praise as Hochuli gets, he's more interested in proving he knows more than anyone about the rules than applying the rule at hand. It lets him talk more.

A St Louis/Seattle game this year was a good example. I'm not saying he didn't get the call right when Seattle committed a penalty with 4 seconds to go. But Hochuli felt a segment of the stadium yelling "10-second runoff!" And, for once, it seemed like they might be right.

Hochuli opened up the mike and shouted "THIS IS NOT A 10-SECOND RUNOFF!" just to re-establish who was in charge. He even has a quote about it in the game story as a convincer. You think you know, but you don't know.

"The 10-second runoff people are familiar with is a false start, or when the players never get set before the ball is snapped. This is not a 10-second runoff situation."
Anyways, I can see him doing in Belichick if they converge. Belichick will think he's quick-snapped and drawn a 12 men on the field penalty and Hochuli might just whip out an archaic rule he's had up his sleeve.

It would be a great battle. I know Hochuli's worked their games before many times and Belichick had high praise, but the Pats are relying more on that sketchy stuff these days and Ed might finally bring the hammer down, especially with Belichick letting his appearance go a little more each week. Ed don't abide slobs. The fatass working the Jets/Pats game would never have been on Ed's crew.

Each ref team only works one playoff game, so Ed's is still coming. The suspect Triplette and Morelli teams are out of the way. Fingers crossed the Bears don't draw Hochuli. I don't want my game sullied with his know-it-all filibustering on the mike.

In closing, I pulled up a great letter about Ed from the fine 'Ask Jerry Markbreit' column.

"Are you, or other NFL referees, scared of Ed 'The Hulk' Hochuli?" - Nate from Phoenix

Jerry's response: This is the first time that I have heard Ed Hochuli referred to as "The Hulk." No, the other officials are not afraid of Ed. He is a very fine gentleman and a great official who has developed a national following because of his prowess on the field and his very impressive physique. He is a very good friend of mine and doesn't scare me in the least.

I'll skip the cheap illegal touching joke, but this kid looks a little scared. First down!



A Minor Defense

This is a very minor point, but I want to give a little shout of encouragement to none other than little Marty Gramatica. He's been getting hammered for his role in the fumbled FG attempt that ended Dallas's season and I don't think he deserves it.

In fact, I'll state that when I watched the replay right after it happened, I thought "Gramatica did an OK job getting in a defender's way there."

No, it wasn't much. He's not Keith Van Horne when it comes to throwing a block, let alone on a freaky broken play, but when was the last time you saw a kicker or punter throw a block? Exactly. So I just found these mainstream rips curious and unfair.

PETER KING:

Dallas fans might always wonder what would have happened if kicker Martin Gramatica had gotten a good block on Babineaux amid the chaos of Tony Romo's muffed snap on what should have been the game-winning field goal. Go back and watch it again. Romo picked up the ball and began running around left end. Gramatica made a feeble and wimpy attempt to block the 200-pound Babineaux, who shucked him aside and sprinted to catch up to Romo.

DON BANKS:

But Babineaux never would have been in position to make his game-deciding play had Gramatica done anything -- and we mean anything -- to get in the way of Babineaux when he had the chance, after Romo butterfingered the hold.

I say nice jawb, Marty. You jumped over Romo's hands and then a rolling defender, recognized what was happening, and got a hand on Babineaux. It wasn't enough, but you done good under the circumstances. Don't listen to the haters who just pick out the easy targets. Viva Automatica!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Ditka on Grossman: "I'd play the other guy"

I heard the moral compass of Bears fans, Coach Ditka, on AM 1000 Sunday morning with Chet Coppock & Steve McMichael.

Da Coach's take on the Rex Grossman non-preparation flap last week was simple: it's surprising that the Bear QB is so dumb that he wouldn't prepare for a game, and shocking that he's stupid enough to come out and say the things he said.

Coach was not amused, gang. Flat out, Ditka said "I'd play the other guy, period."

One thing I like about Coach Ditka is that Coppock is always trying to piggy-back onto the Coach's thoughts with his own trademark filibuster and Ditka doesn't really abide it.

Chet started shouting about "If you're John Tait, if you're Roberto Garza [and so on, naming every lineman], you wake up hurting every week from protecting your quarterback. And you have to listen to some little ... punk from Gainesville, Florida saying he wasn't prepared because he was planning a New Year's Eve party?"

Coach comes back with, hey, he doesn't know about all that - people do things different than him. Alls he knows is he wouldn't play Grossman again, he doesn't need that crap, and he'd clear out anyone else who takes a paycheck but doesn't prepare for a game.

Ditka did add "He's lucky he doesn't get his ass kicked."

I believe Grossman is going to come out and play well on Sunday because Seattle isn't very strong, but it would be very interesting to know how short his leash is. On television, it will be presented as an extremely short leash just like the Kansas City game. As with Damon Huard, the TV guys will have constant shots of Brian Griese pacing the sidelines.

This week, I've heard several different people including Joe Theismann say that Rex's leash won't even be as long as one interception. Just a couple bad throws and Lovie will go to Griese.

While I think that's a logical thought process based on the fact that Grossman has been unable to turn himself around during a game, that a fumbled snap is usually close behind some bad throws, I don't think it's the true length of his leash.

I believe Lovie has no intention of pulling Grossman for Griese, just like Herm Edwards wasn't going to pull Trent Green under any circumstances. All the talk by the talking heads is just that. Lovie's committed to his guy.

A couple other random notes:

- Freen busted me up good watching games and asking if he sees it right that T. Banta-Cain is a linebacker on the Patriots. Tony Banta-Danza-Cain. During Chiefs games, I always think I hear that ColecoVision is playing defense, but it's Kawika Mitchell. Sober up, right? Very well.

- We also wondered why the Bears were locked into the Sunday slot so early, when the most likely outcome was going to be the 2 Saturday teams from the wildcard round playing next Sunday, while the Eagles unnecessarily get shorted a day's rest. Must be a TV thing.

- Hey NBC: Jim Mora? I can't think of anyone that football fans have less respect for and have less interest in hearing from.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Al Michaels Has Lost His Fastball, Screwball Also Shaky

Al Michaels has completely lost it. I came to the computer and started typing instead of waiting to see who NBC's "Rock Star of the Game" was, whatever that means. I'll assume it was Pink.

In the last 2 minutes of a playoff game, it was too much to expect of Al Michaels to know who was ahead. He insisted repeatedly that the Seahawks, leading 21-20, had no choice but to let the Cowboys waltz into the end zone unchallenged.

I wrote this down - when the replay put Dallas at 4th down with 1:19 to play, trailing by 1, Al said "Parcells is almost compelled here to kick the field goal." Yes, I'd agree he's "almost compelled" to try and take the lead instead of losing the game. Good thinking. Check the friggin' scoreboard.

Al was screwy earlier on the wacky play that ended up being a Seattle safety on Terry Glenn's fumble. Al went into the commercial shouting that Parcells had a hundred choices as to what to ask to be reviewed.

Al, the ref reviews the whole play. The coach doesn't have to guess right. If Glenn never caught it, it'll be reversed whether that's what Parcells asked him to look at or not. I know this, so why don't you?

One thing I wanted reviewed about the Witten play was the clock. Seems pretty important at that point. That play started at 1:53 and, to be crazy, let's say it took 10 seconds. Then they reviewed it and Seattle obviously wanted a timeout as soon as the play ended.

So how is there only 1:19 left when Dallas lines up for the FG? Holmgren got screwed out of a lot of time there. But Romo's butterfingers made it a moot point, and actually it gave the Seahawks a lot less time to run off.

Dallas only had time for a Hail Mary once they got Romo to wipe his nose and stop crying for long enough to throw it. You'd think since Terry Glenn was a big part of the reason they blew the lead, she'd dive for the Hail Mary that slipped through near her reach.

I ain't scared of the Seahawks, that's for sure. Now-former MVP Shaun Alexander looks awfully furby-ish. But I'll put Jerramy Stevens down for a TD when he runs past Hunter Hillenmeyer next week. I'll also put Devin Hester down for a return TD and I hope he has as much fun as the Austin kid did when he was running that kick back. That was a good moment.

But I wanted the Cowboys coming to Chicago. I wanted to see them come in here and talk all the bullshit I saw them talking tonight. Holy Christ, Julius Jones is such a tough guy, McManus. A lot of big talkers got sent home tonight.

I'm sure TO will have a lot to say. 2 catches for 26 yards against street CBs. Marion Barber 3 carries for 4 yards. Nutty stuff.

Next week's schedule is already set. Bears vs. someone at Noon Sunday. Giddyup. Tony Parrish was close to making it back, but it looks like welcome back to Bobby Engram.

Saturday, January 13
4:30 p.m. on CBS -- Indianapolis Colts (13-4) at Baltimore Ravens (13-3)

8 p.m. on FOX -- Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) or Seattle Seahawks (10-7)
at New Orleans Saints (10-6)

Sunday, January 14
1:00 on FOX -- Seattle Seahawks (10-7) or New York Giants (8-8)
at Chicago Bears (13-3)

4:30 on CBS -- New England Patriots (12-4) or New York Jets (10-6)
at San Diego Chargers (14-2)

Is it the hook-and-ladder or hook-and-lateral?

This is a big help. One of the first google hits is about.com and it goes:

"Hook and Ladder: A pass play in which the receiver catches a pass facing toward the line of scrimmage, then laterals the ball to another offensive player who is racing toward the opponent's end zone."

So lateral is in the definition.

It's a little embarrassing to even ax the question. Boise State's excellent rendition rekindled all of this.

A few years ago, I'd have told you it's called the hook-and-lateral, stupid. The receiver runs a hook route and laterals it to the other guy. What the hell is a hook and ladder anyway? The answer was that it's a fireman term, but what does that have to do with it?

But somewhere along the line, I flip-flopped and decided it's the hook-and-ladder. Maybe just because it sounds better when you say it. More likely, I started noticing that the "hook-and-lateral" guys sounded like pricks and I'd rather just be potentially wrong instead of that guy.

So hook-and-ladder, then. I was fine with that. Didn't even blink when I mentioned the Boise State play.

Then the other morning, I was on the can and turned on the radio. Fat Mike and Fruity Mike were embroiled in this debate. Fruity Mike says hook-and-ladder, Fat Mike says hook-and-lateral. But you know how it is with these two. They decide during the commercial break what to argue about and have to write down who's on which side so they don't forget. Because a fake, inane debate is such great radio.

A few minutes later, they brought on Bill Curry and axed him. Curry's answer was "Why, lateral isn't even a football term. There are forward passes and backward passes, there's no such thing as a lateral. C'mon guys, it's hook-and-ladder."

But then, I was reading the Sports Guy Bill Simmons yesterday and he wrote that hook-and-ladder is a malapropism: "Flicking over to the Fiesta Bowl and catching the last few minutes of Boise State-Oklahoma, seeing Boise's QB seemingly blow the game with one of those Paul Crewe "I'm openly shaving points" picks, watching him rally back with the first hook-and-ladder play I've seen live in 26 years (it's really the "hook-and-lateral," but I like the malapropism better)."

The American Heritage Dictionary says a malapropism is a "Ludicrous misuse of a word." Jeez, now I'm ludicrisp?

I'd trust Sports Guy over the aforementioned opiners, not because I worship at his altar, but because he's probably written a 9000-word column about it and his buddies Uncle Lou and Hunch-Bug are in his court. They'd punch him in the arm and stuff if he didn't get it right.

I'm still saying hook-and-ladder, but I'm re-shaken now. Seriously, what's the answer?

This also made me go back to a much simpler question: Shovel Pass or Shuffle Pass? For years, Freen and I loudly mocked announcers who'd shout "SHUFFLE PASS!" Even when someone got it right, we'd shout "SHUFFLE PASS!" at the television when one was shoveled.

Stawp yourselves, it's shovel pass.

Went back to an e-mail dated 11 Oct 2005 after I'd seen an NFL Films joint all about this debate. Funny note: in the same e-mail, I'm mocking then-Bills coach Mike Mularkey for this:

> Coach Mike Mularkey will not announce his starting quarterback for week six until just before game time, according to a report by the Associated Press. "We think it is an advantage as a team, when you have two different types of quarterbacks, to play it out as long as we can," Mularkey said. "I think it's an advantage regardless of what other people think."

JP Losman and Kelly Holcomb were so different. How did the Bears let Mularkey get away?

Anyways, my findings on Shovel Pass/Shuffle Pass from this NFL Films program were as follows:

- Some of the dumber old QBs said both are right, Shovel Pass or Shuffle Pass.

- God's Gift to QBs, Peyton Manning said "Shovel Pass? Naw, that makes no sense at all. It's called a Shuffle Pass."

What a rube. Then, another hat was thrown into the ring. Shuttle Pass. Manning says: "Huh, Shuttle Pass. I don't know that one, but it makes a whole lot more sense than SHOVEL Pass."

- Peter King said he has no idea.

- Paul Tagliabue said it's Shovel Pass, stupid.

- Kordell Stewart was the smartest guy in the room. He said (and I'm not quoting really, obviously): "Shuffle Pass? Naw, naw, there's no shuffling involved. We're not playing cards, we're not dancing. SHUTTLE PASS? Wow. So now we're putting the ball on a bus and sending it into space."

Not sure about the spacebus deal, but Kordell had it right. It's Shovel Pass and the rest is rigoddamnediculous. Hook-and-ladder...al. You've got me. I still need help with that.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Beat the Shitwit -- Wildcard Round

I don't drive much anymore, so I don't listen to the talk radio about town like I used to. But I assume it hasn't changed that shitwits Mike North and Dan McNeil brag every Monday & Tuesday about all the cash they won "at the window" over the weekend betting on football.

Their picks against the spread have been printed in the Sun-Times every week and they're not winning bags of dough with those. I also pick each game every week at a page on my brother IckyJoey's site. My percentage is nothing to brag about either, but it's far better than these boasting shitwits.

So let's have a Shitwit Playoff Showdown, shall we? We'll go today's Sun-Times lines as final:

  • Colts -7 KC
  • Seattle -3 Dallas
  • NE - 8.5 NYJ
  • Eagles -7 NYG
Note: Season records have been tracked and published all season but may not quite add up, due to slight differences in the lines used, and the Sun-Times guys skipping at least some of the Thursday games.

Shitwit #1: Dan McNeil (Regular Season Record: 105-141-7... bwahahaha!)

This weekend's picks (best bet in bold):

KC
Seattle
New England
Philadelphia




Shitwit #2: Mike North (Regular Season Record: 107-139-7... laughable, man)

Indianapolis
Dallas
New England
NY Giants



Shitwit #3: dhort (Regular Season Record: 128-122-6)

Indianapolis
Dallas
NY Jets
Philly








I'm aware I'm talking to my bloody self here, but if you want in on the shitwit derby, post your picks based on the lines above and let's get after this thing!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Grossman: I'm Focused on Being Focused

Saw Rex Grossman talking to the media, saying "Coffee makes me nervous when I drink it, mmhmmm." Not really, but Yikes, Rex, Yikes.

The Bears loss to Green Bay bounced right off of me. Meaningless game, all that.

I was fine with Rex saying he sucked, he's heading back to his fort and he'd come out fighting.

But then Rex has to come out and speak again, giving some insight and excuses into what happened last Sunday.

"And the situation was I felt like I was going to play about a half, and it was the last game, it was New Year's Eve -- there were so many other factors that brought my focus away from what is actually important, and that's something that I am never going to do again. It's another lesson."


That fact that it was New Year's Eve prevented you from focusing? Please, don't say these things out loud. It's really, bumming me out, man.

Not for nothing, Rex was slated to play into the 3rd quarter, but Lovie Smith explained afterward that he saw no point in sending him out there to stink up the joint in the 3rd quarter, too.

Repeatedly this season, we've seen so-called "Bad Rex" show up and throw the unconscionable interception. The worse-than-rookie interception, often for an opponent TD.

During every broadcast, you'll hear about "making adjustments" in all facets of the game. Making adjustments during a game is apparently out of the question for Rex and/or the staff. Once it's Rex's off-day or unfocused day, a couple more bad picks and a fumbled exchange with Center Olin Kreutz are in the offing.

I know the feeling. Some days at work, I get my ass kicked by about 10 AM and decide I'll go back to the drawing board and try again tomorrow. That's Rex's plan. Fix it next week. Next week we'll make it all better, nothing we can do today.

I'd like my QB to try harder than I do, please. I'm not setting the bar that high, believe me, gang.

What a house of cards this feels like. Rex has to be perfectly focused -- so it can't be a holiday or anything -- or else we can expect rookie mistakes. He's got to give himself a pep talk for the whole week so he remembers to be focused and be functional on Sunday.

It's not dissimilar to earlier in the year when Rex announced during the week that, by god, the quarterback running and picking up 5 yards once in a while is a good thing. I should really do that this week.

It was only 2 months in coming. Defenses have been playing with the knowledge that he refuses to run. Sure enough, he cracked off a nice 20-yard run against the Rams that week. Since then? Nothing. It was just that one week because Rex spent a week pontificating it, now it's off the map.

My buddy Freen (a real buddy, not a Bill Simmons buddy like H-Bug, Stench, K-Flab, or J-Dog who are just silly names he made up to make his story seem funnier) pointed out that the coaching staff had the same plan with the shotgun. Some writers pointed out that there's a formation called the shotgun that's used sometimes. Ron Turner implemented it that week for a couple plays, said "There ya go," and it hasn't been seen since.

I'm sure I'm being hard on Rex, but I'd prefer a QB who didn't have to think everything through for a couple days to have a chance at success. Where's the innate skill that would indicate there are better things to come? So we get just the basics then?

This is like going to see a band play and watching the guitar player have to stare at his fingers on the strings to be able to keep up. All right, I guess they won't be taking requests tonight or playing any notes different than what's on the album.

I get the feeling that if Rex learns how to change a tire this week, he may forget half of the playbook, as well as his closing promise for next week's game: "You're going to see a focused and intense quarterback."

Write that down, buddy. Focus on it and don't get distracted by shiny objects or dogs with puffy tails.