Monday, October 30, 2006

I hate Tom Brady. I hate him so much I can't even feel good about him annihilating the Vikings.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I'm still a little bothered by the fact that the MNF game is being referred to only as a gigantic choke by Arizona, first of all, because I think that takes some credit away from the Bears for what they did to win the game, and secondly because I'm not even sure that "choke" properly describes what Arizona did.

I'll start with the second one, cuz it's a little easier. If you want to call that game a choke, I think you'd have to point to some point where Arizona just stopped playing well, and that never really happened. It's not like the Arizona defense, which had been playing amazingly all game, suddenly stopped playing well and let the Bears score 21 points on them. The Arizona defense kept clobbering that Bears' offense all game. I mean, it looked like they even made it harder than it should've been for Grossman to kneel down at the end of the game. Likewise, the Arizona offense. It's been established that Arizona had trouble running the ball all game, just like they have all year. Fine. And when Arizona scored the fourteen points they scored at the beginning of the game, they did it by passing. Yes. But they did all of that in the first quarter, when apparently the Bears defense wasn't ready for the game to start. Arizona got a lot of yards and both touchdowns when receivers weren't stopped by the first people to get to them. That didn't happen the rest of the game. Arizona got two field goals in the second quarter because Grossman gave them the ball in field goal territory, but they didn't get anything running or passing, really, after the first quarter. Lots has been written about how the Cards lost because their play-calling got conservative and they stopped passing, but, by my count, in the fourth quarter, which is when the Bears won the game, Arizona passed fifteen times and ran the ball ten times. Of those plays, nine of the runs were ineffective, with a majority of them being stopped by Urlacher, one of them resulting in a Bears touchdown. Eight of their fifteen passes were completely ineffective, either incomplete or short gains when long gains were needed, and every one of those ineffective passes were because the Bears defense was playing extremely aggressively, hitting receivers as soon as they touched the ball, nailing Leinart just after he let go of the ball, chasing Leinart around so his throw was more difficult. Three other of the passes were short gains that were somewhat effective because they were on early downs, but again, on every one of these, the receiver was stopped as soon as they got the ball and Leinart had to deal with pressure. Of the remaining four "effective" pass plays, there were still none on which the receiver got any yards beyond the first defender to reach him. That means, in the fourth quarter, there were only five effective offensive plays by Arizona, out of twenty-five total. And none of them were effective for anything much more than first downs. There was one passing play that moved Arizona into reasonable field goal range, and it was the last pass they ran, setting up a 2nd down with 2-yards to go for the first. It's at this point that a lot of people point to say that Arizona gave it up, becuase they were jusrt playing for a gimme field goal from forty yards out. I don't think, though, they were playing for a field goal at that point. It's second and two, and even though they hadn't been able to get much running, I think you have to figure, if you're a coach, that you can pick up two yards running the ball a couple of times. It looked like they were trying to run for the first down. And I think there's a good reason at that point to try to run for the first down when you have two yards to go and two downs left in which to do it, which is that if you try to pass it on eithe r of those and it ends up incomplete, which seven out of your fifteen previous passes have been, you stop the clock. And, when you're almost in easy field goal range, and the clock is low, and you need two yards in two plays to keep the drive going, I don't think you want to risk stopping the clock. But, aside from avoiding that risk, if you're an NFL team, you have to figure you can pick up two yards in two plays by running. Even if you're Arizona. They didn't exactly choke at that point: the Bears defense forced them to try for the field goal from farther out than they wanted to. It's not like they ran three straight runs with ten yards to go; they ran two straight runs with two yards to go. On the first run they picked up a yard. It's third and one, you need one yard to pick up the first down and then you can move a little farther into field goal range, if you try to pass and it's incomplete you have stopped the clock and given the Bears more time to try to move themselves into field goal range should you make it, and, I mean, it's one frickin yard, you should trust your running team to pick that up: I just don't think it's the wimpy conservative thing to run here. I think it's a better idea than passing. Another thing about the Arizona passing game: five of their seven not-ineffective passing plays came on that last drive, and it was because Chicago switched back to a softer cover from the aggressive pressure defense they'd been playing. I personally think the Bears should've just kept going right after Leinart on that last drive to absolutely eliminate the Cards from the game, like they'd been doing the rest of the quarter, but that's not what they did. Anyway, on plays when the Bears defense was really going after the Cardinals, the Cardinals passed nine times, six of which were incomplete, and one of which was a 4-yard pass on 3rd & 8. So to say that Arizona had been effective while passing but they gave up on it and then lost is not exactly accurate. The Bears defense pretty much stopped Arizona for three-fourths of the game, and it's more their fault than Arizona's that Arizona couldn't get into decent field goal range at the end. In fact, when Barkley was in the booth in the second quarter, he said something about the fact that Arizona couldn't get to the end zone was a pretty big deal, and I think even said that if the Bears stopped them it was going to be a turning point in the game. The MNF guys kind of laughed at him, but it was funny that he was actually more right than they were about it. When your celebrity guest is analyzing the game bette than your paid commentators, you've got a problem, ESPN...

What bothers me most about all the choke talk is that it doesn't give the Bears credit in an area in which they really, I think, deserve some credit. This has to do with the flukey nature of football in general. Everyone knows that things can change suddenly on one play, if the defense, say, recovers a fumble and runs it in for a touchdown, or if a punt is returned for a touchdown. The Bears had several of those things happen in the game, and those things are the reasons why they one. Of course, because those events are so sudden, they seem to be flukey, and to a pretty high degree they really are pretty flukey. But what I think the Bears and Lovie Smith don't get enough credit for is that, instead of taking the normal approach to those events, which is to try to ignore them or play in spite of them and take what you can get while shrugging off what you give, they try their best to make those things happen. That is how Lovie got the Bears to win that game: he had them go out in the second half, and especially in the fourth quarter, and try to make something crazy happen on every play. He did the unexpected on-side kick, which easily could've worked had Gould kicked it just a little lighter. He went for the block on the punt. He brought Hester in to return touchdowns, too. He knows that on every play, it's possible to create the possibility to score, and he had the team really attacking to try to create that possibility. Most people have a more rational approach to the game and try to get their team to win by minimizing mistakes and through solid play and stuff. But a football game is just as likely to be won by "freak" plays that lead to sudden changes in the score, and Lovie has his team playing with an eye to that fact in a way that I don't think any other football team plays. If you say repeatedly, as Lovie has, that your defense and special teams are out there not just to create opportunities for the offense but to actually score themselves, and then you win a game for precisely that reason, I think you have to get some credit for that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

By the way, congratulations to Matt Leinart, who was officially granted manhood following the Monday night game. Apparently Michael Irvin saw some pubes popping out of the former boy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Everyone is talking about how embarassing the loss was last night for the Cardinals. And I guess that it must have been, but, not being a Cardinals fan, I don't quite see what was so embarassing about it. After watching that game I came away convinced that the Cardinals are actually real team. Leinart is going to be a fricking good quarterback, and their defense actually looked really good. I mean, granted, they had their amps turned up to 11, and Grossman pretty much threw away any hope of having an offense during the game last night, but that Arizona defense looked legitimately tough. The few times when Grossman was able to settle down enough to get a few throws in, the d-backs punished the receivers in a way that I was not expecting at all from the Cardinals. Plus, everyone's acting like the fact that the Bears won without scoring an offensive touchdown means that Arizona took it away, but that is a serious slight to the Bears defense. They took the game away from the Cards. The Bears defense and special teams have been built to win games without an offense, because that's what they had to do for the past three years. They were 11-5 last year, and doubtlessly one of the three top teams in the NFC, and that was without an offense! Last night's game might have seemed flukey, but how many times does the defense have to win a game by itself before you have to acknowledge that it's not a fluke every single time it happens. People look at football, mostly, this way: the offense scores points; the defense stops the other team from scoring points. The Bears defense thinks that they're out there to score points just as much as the offense. Sure, it may be harder to score when you're on defense, since the other team gets to decide what is going to happen to the ball initially, but, if the Bears have decided that they're going to score points on defense, and then they do it, on a relatively consistent basis, at some point it just has to be accepted that Lovie Smith is revolutionizing the way defense is played and thought about at a professional level.

That said, I sort of felt better about last night's win than any of the others so far this year, except for maybe the Seattle game, b/c the Bears managed to pull off a victory despite almost nothing going right for them for the first three-fourths of the game. That comeback easily ranks as one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Right up there with Indy's comeback from 28 down against the then-defending Super Bowl champs Tampa, a game that ushered in the Payton Manning era in football, and the Bears 2000 back-to-back Mike Brown interception returns. I love football because of games like that.

Here's probably what happened: After two years of carrying the team without any semblance of an offense, the Bears' defense was starting to feel a little sad and neglected after all of this talk about Grossman being the new McMahon/Luckman and how the Bears offense was now so flashy and awesome and all of that. Everyone seemed to have forgotten about the defense. I mean, sure, there was talk about how they were dominating and such, but they were no longer the sole focus of all the talk. The defense and special teams frankly got a little jealous. They thought, "Hey! We know how to win games all by ourselves! Sure, a working offense is nice, but, c'mon, it's just not all that necessary!" And in order to prove it, Mike Brown and Brian Urlacher got together and worked a little magic, with the help of the Chicago football gods, and spiked Grossman's gatorade. Just to further their point, they decided to take the first quarter off and give the Cards a 14-point head start. Shutouts are nice and all, but where's the excitement? No one could doubt the greatness of the Bears D/ST if they managed to pull off a victory all by themselves in a game they once trailed 20-0, right?

Seriously, though, hopefully someone on the Bears offensive coaching staff will sit down with little Rexy and make sure he understands how unnecessary he is for wins. It's nice if he can put together a decent drive now and then, and, seriously, it's easier to throw the big play after you've lulled the other team's defense into thinking you're just going to manage the game, but if you try to start out with the big play and it doesn't work, you need to get ahold of yourself and build off of some solid play. Okay? You're not necessary to win games, but it makes it a little tougher if you're going to be all Favre-like and throw the ball to the other team four times... sheesh...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Well, after two weeks of decent fantasy scores for my team, pretty much nothing worked for me this week. I've been struggling all year because I completely failed to take into account the importance of running backs and the dearth of decent ones in the league before my draft. But I managed to pick up Domonic Rhodes several weeks ago, who hasn't really put up many points but at least has been used a few times each week. And then a two weeks ago I managed to pick up M. Jones-Drew, who last week finally gave me decent fantasy points for a running back. Both Rhodes and Jones-Drew had bye weeks this week, however... I thought I'd be alright, though, cuz I'd picked up M.Turner along the way, and the way San Diego had been running their back, it looked like there was a really good chance of Turner putting up some stats against the 49ers. Well, San Diego put up 48 frickin points, but Shanahan decided this week to only give Turner the ball once for no yards. Augh!! Now I know why fantasy owners everywhere hate coaches like Schottenheimer... The other running back I had as a starter was Musa Smith, who for the past couple of weeks was looking more and more like he should take over for Jamal Lewis as Baltimore's starter, since JL sucks a lot, so of course, this week, Smith decides to audition for a losers league spot and fumble the ball one of the two time he touched the ball. Augh!! And then there's Randy Moss, who is on a team so hapless they don't even know how get him some touchdowns. I saw about five minutes of the Oak/Den game last night, and every time I turned to the game Oakland was giving up the ball. No one could exaggerate how bad of a team Oakland is. And then I've got Travis Henry on the bench, who I picked up last week just in case he looked like he might get good enough to take a spot when Tennessee plays weak run defenses, and he rushed for 178 yards against Washington... I've got Grossman, Gould, and Bears D/ST all left to give me some points, so hopefully they decide to give Arizona an unprecedented beatdown. So here's hoping Grossman throws for five touchdowns, none to Berrian (who's on my opponents team), the defense sacks and/or intercepts Leinart ten times, causes and recovers ten fumbles, scores five touchdowns, and doesn't give up a points, and Hester returns a couple kicks for scores, and for good measure, Gould kicks eight field goals. It could happen! It will happen!

Friday, October 13, 2006

I think it must really suck to be a non-Bears fan in Chicago right now, at least if you care about football at all. For proof, head on over the the FootballOutsiders comments track for Week 6's DVOA. There you will find, starting kind of early but especially once you get into comments 200 and on, a poor man who goes by internet name of Fnor, who seems to have annointed himself the corrective to "everyone's" over-rating of Grossman, and thus the Bears in general. I don't know what Fnor means, but when I first read the name I figured he was a Vikings fan. However, after five weeks of NFL play, the Bears have so clearly dominated their opponents and Grossman's put up decent enough numbers that the words "Grossman" and "Bears" apparently got to him, and starting in the late 200s of the comments, he kind of flips and starts accusing everyone who thinks Grossman might not be terrible of being obtuse. My favorite part is when he exasperatedly reveals that he is a Steelers fan living in Chicago. I actually was kind of surprised to find out that he's not a Vikings fan, but really this was just because his posting name is "Fnor," although he seems to assume that people thought he was a Vikings fan just because he hates Grossman. But, anyway, after reading his desperate post about being a Steelers' fan in Chicago, I kind of feel a bit of sympathy for the guy. For me, one of the most annoying things about being a football fan over the past five years leading up to last season was how high all of the Vikings fans around here got on Daunte Culpepper. Sure, the guy was putting up some absolutely spectacular numbers, but every time I watched him play all I could see was how he seemed to fumble the ball if anyone touched him and how obviously flustered and shitty he got when his team wasn't rolling. It was obvious to me but no one else seemed to notice it. Of course, both ends were probably exaggerations. Culpepper did get lucky that in a lot of cases his ridiculous fumbles and stupid mental errors didn't hurt him, but he also was capapble of throwing a pretty good game in between the blunders. Really, probably every "great" quarterback was like this. But now poor Fnor is stuck in Chicago where everything is turning up Bears all of a sudden, and when he watches a Bears game, he sees the throws that bounce off of a d-backs hands and gives Berrian the credit for all of Grossman's successes. What's kind of lame about it is that he is apparently a game charter for FO and he's said he's been charting some of the Bears' games this year, and so to whatever extent that charting is a subjective process, he's got a chance of skewing the analysis against Grossman. Not like it matters. Mainly I am just feeling some pretty rockin' schadenfreude while I imagine the words "Grossman" and "Bears" and "Super Bowl" resounding in poor Fnor's ears everywhere he goes in Chicago.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I was just listening to the KFAN show with Brad Childress and the radio dude asked Childress what he would say to fans who've been complaining about their lack of a vertical passing game. Paraphrasing: "Well, I'd just say that we've been facing a lot of two-deep zones and they've been covering us pretty well, deep." So, basically, Minnesota, your coach says that they can't get their deep passing game going because the teams they're playing are using basic cover packages. Good luck ever playing an NFL game in which that doesn't happen. Unless you're the Bears' offense from the last couple of years, of course... But, really, Childress seems more and more like an idiot the more I hear from him. Yay!!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Here's something I found on ESPN: "The Bears have posted four wins by 25 or more points during their 5-0 start. The only other team in NFL history with four 25-point wins after five games was the 1941 Bears, who were coming off a 73-0 win over the Redskins in the 1940 NFL championship game and went on to win another title in 1941." I was wondering if there was any precedent for blowing this many opponents at this point in the season...

I read Boomer Esiason's lips during the half-time program and he said, twice I believe, that the Bears are the best team in the NFL right now. If Boomer says it, I'm convinced. I was kind of worried that there would be a bit of a letdown after the last game, since it was all "this will be the game where we see how good the Bears really are" and some people stuck with that. Some people just said, "Look, the Seahawks just aren't as good as they were last year. Hasselbeck's struggling. No Shaun Alexander." After five weeks of football I think there's now a pretty established pattern: after the Bears play a team, there's a few more people on the bandwagon, and the rest of the people just decide that the team they played against wasn't very good. I think Buffalo, this week's team unfortunate enough to play against the Bears, are actually a pretty good team, but that only puts them better than about twenty of the other teams in the NFL. The Bears are way better than about twenty of the other teams in the NFL. Most encouraging, though, is that there was no letdown. A week after the Bears dominated in every phase of the game, they came back and dominated even more in every phase of the game.

Driving home from mom's I was listening, mainly I guess so I'd have something to complain about when it hadn't turned into a Chicago Bears praise station, to ESPN radio. The Chargers beat the Steelers, who are kind of stuck right now since Roethlisberger's decided to have his rookie pains this year. The Chargers are back to being in everyone's book as one of the elite teams, and they're defense does seem to be pretty good, but I think that their coach is really holding them back. He seems to actually have an aversion to scoring points. He wants to score just enough to win and then sit on the lead. Everyone knows this, but I don't think that even most critics of "Martyball" realize why this is actually a dumb strategy, which is that at any point in a game something freak could happen and the other team could all of a sudden have seven points that they didn't even earn. So sitting on any lead of fewer than seven points is stupid. Sure, you'll win most games if you get really good at it, but it's more of a gamble than most people seem to realize. You're not playing to win if you're not going for a big lead; you're only playing for a chance to win.

By the way, congratulations to Philip Rivers, who was declared a man today by the Westwood radio crew. They actually got to watch the "maturation" process, which in most humans take's several years and is only noticeable if you see a person about once every couple of months, but Philip Rivers grew hair where it matters right out there in front of everyone! I got to watch a little bit of the first half, and he did look kind of young, so I'm kind of curious to see him now with his new man-sized Adam's apple, and I really hope he has a kickass beard.

I won two fantasy games in a row! I'm so fracking jazzed! Guess who's carrying my fantasy team? Robbie Gould! No, seriously, I blew away my opponent this week, and as of right now have the second highest fantasy score, mainly because of Robbie Gould and the Bears' Defense. The guy I'm playing started Seattle's kicker. Seattle has a bye. So maybe he's not paying any attention to his team anymore. But I still won! and I would have beat almost everyone else in my league! If only I knew any of them so I could get all cocky about how I'm being carried by Bears fantasy entities...

Wait, Jacksonville beat NYJ 41-0? I didn't hear about that at all... wtf? People were too busy running stories about how TO in Philly turned out not to really be a story... god the sports media sucks...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

So... last weekend was a little too awesome for words, but I found myself feeling a little down this whole. I couldn't figure out why, but I loosely blamed it on the fact that the Bears don't really have any competition, and I don't just mean in their schedule, I mean, I really think the Bears are capable of being historically great this year, and there aren't any other teams who have anything like that potential. So the Bears' awesomeness will kind of go wasted, since nobody can even hope to compete with them. But then I realized that I was just kind of sick. Which sucks. But now that I'm not quite as sick anymore, it's okay, and I can just be happy about how frickin' great the Bears are. On to other matters.

Rick Morrissey is weird. He writes a column about how the Bears should just go ahead and not lose for the rest of the season so we don't have to hear about the '72 Dolphins anymore, a sentiment that I can totally get behind. But then in his little blurb about his pick this week, he picks the Bears to beat Buffalo 21-7, and then says that people in Chicago are stupid because they think the Bears are so good but, c'mon, Seattle didn't even have Shaun Alexander! The victory hardly counts! So, Rick Morrissey thinks the Bears are great, but that people who think the Bears are great are laughable. Okay.

Really, though, I've been thinking about it all week, and the Bears really do have a chance to go undefeated. But then, lots of teams have had a chance to go undefeated. It's way harder to do than to win a Super Bowl. Not to mention the fact that if the Bears do end up, say, 14-0 or something, Lovie'll probably end up resting a lot of the starters, since 14 wins will probably end up being good enough for home field advantage in the playoffs. It would be pretty nice, though, if they did. Also, enough with the '85 Bears already. I love them as much as any Bears fan, but I kind of think it's more fun to just focus right now on how good the current Bears are. Mmhmm.