#Tebowmania has taken over twitter, ESPN, and our hearts. I’m not going to talk about Tebowmania. I’m going to talk about one of the most impressive OL performances I’ve ever seen. No, I’m not doing this to take credit away from Tebow. He blew me away with his performance on Sunday. He played a game I never thought he could play. However, Tebow is not in position to make the plays he made without an incredible OL performance.
I’m going to watch this game again and just focus on the Broncos OL simply as a fan. Not as a wannabe sportswriter, not as a Tebow fan, but as a fan of dominating OL play. Everyone is talking about Tebow and Demaryious today, earlier in the season it was all about their defense. I’m ashamed I didn’t give credit to their offensive line earlier. While the Steelers may not have shown it statistically this year (only 35 sacks, good for 17th in the NFL), as a Pittsburgh resident forced to watch the Steelers on TV every week, I can assure you their pass rush is feared. Don’t believe me? Ask a LT how they feel going one on one with James Harrison on 3rd and 7. Better yet, ask a QB how they feel knowing James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are coming. The sack numbers may not be there, but trust me, they can rush the passer. With that said, let me give you the Steelers pass rushing numbers against the Broncos:
0 FF, 0 sacks, 0 QB hits.
That’s incredible. Granted, the Steelers sold out to stop the run and maintained gap control to keep Tebow in the pocket, but when you rush 4 or 5 guys and your QB has at least 3 seconds to throw on every down, you’re just begging to be torched in the secondary and Tebow did just that. You can attribute a little of that to the scheme the Steelers played, but they were consistently sending 4 or more pass rushers and Tebow just stood there like a statue. Dick Lebeau is famous for using crazy zone blitzes, sending guys from every direction and the Broncos OL just picked it up. It was a great combination of superior coaching, game plan, and execution. When your OL is able to properly read a Dick Lebeau blitz, everyone has done their job.
I wish I had the time to really break down play by play how incredible this effort was because I lost count of how many times I watched one of Lebeau’s famous blitzes get picked up without any fanfare. The average fan probably didn’t notice it because they didn’t work. You always notice a blitz when it works. Unfortunately, this is a hobby not a job so I don’t have the time. If I have any unemployed fans reading this, all I ask is a simple count of how many times the Steelers sent 4+ pass rushers at Tebow and how many times they only sent 3.
Tebow is about to face almost the exact opposite team on paper. Poor defense, excellent offense. The only shootout Tebow was involved in was against a Christian Ponder led Vikings without Adrian Peterson. I’d say Tom Brady and their record setting TE duo are a little better than an Adrian-less Vikings on offense. Just a little.
* * * * *
I spoke a few weeks back about how the Falcons offense was starting to look a little more explosive with Julio Jones. Oops. Well, the biggest oops goes to Mike Smith’s awful decision making, not me. Mike Smith is surely everyone’s goat of the week for some of the worst coaching decisions you’ll see in a playoff game. He was aggressive at the worst possible times and passive when he needed to be aggressive.
The question is who came up with the offensive gameplan. Did Smith tell Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey to play it safe or did Mularkey do that by choice? Either way, it was a bad choice and had a huge role in the Falcons loss. The Giants secondary isn’t exactly good (30th in the NFL in yards allowed, 25th in touchdowns) and for some reason Atlanta coaches decided “hmm, this team isn’t very good in the secondary, their safeties aren’t good in coverage, let’s run the ball and try to pass the ball no deeper than 10 yards down the field and nullify their biggest weaknesses.” Julius Jones and Roddy White averaged 9.7 yards per catch on 12 catches. That just screams passive play calling.
Atlanta was very conservative in the passing game, almost as if they were protecting Matt Ryan, not from hits, but from making mistakes. Then, the Falcons got aggressive at the worst possible times. 0-0 game in the 2nd quarter and you go for it on 4th and short when your running game hasn’t worked for over 1/4th of the game? Kick the stinkin’ FG, take a 3-0 lead. Sure, they got the safety immediately after that, but that’s irrelevant to the coaching decision. Later in the game, another 4th and short in easy FG range and Mike Smith goes for it again…with a run. Even worse is Michael Turner was on the sideline. Why in the world do you have a Pro Bowl caliber RB who specializes in physical play on the sidelines for 4th and short? Falcons miss it again, Giants score on the ensuing possession, game out of each.
can’t understand their game plan. You mortgage your future on adding Julio Jones to make your passing game more explosive and you call one of the most conservative passing attacks you’ll ever see with an experienced QB. TJ Yates, a 5th round rookie who started off the season as the 3rd string QB made more attempts to push the ball deep than Ryan and the Falcons.
I’m sure the game plan was to nullify their pass rush with a short passing game. The problem is that doesn’t make any sense in the playoffs. Your biggest problem in the playoffs has been an inability to make explosive plays…so you use the exact same type of strategy that caused you to lose your previous playoff games? If you’re going to play conservative, YOU TAKE FIELD GOALS WHEN THEY’RE PRESENTED TO YOU. You don’t call a conservative game and go for it on 4th and short in FG range. It’s completely counter productive. When expecting a defensive struggle, take the points.
Mike Smith will be on the hot seat in 2012 if they don’t win a playoff game. No matter what their regular season looks like, I see a Marty Schottenheimer scenario if they lose their first game. Marty was fired after going 14-2 with the Chargers yet losing their first playoff game a few years back.
* * * * *
-While the Lions didn’t lose specifically because of bad officiating like I predicted, it certainly didn’t help. The officials who did that game not only need a thorough review, but possibly unemployment checks.
-It was tough to figure out who to root for when my 2 favorite “underreported” teams were playing on Saturday (Texans and Bengals) so I was just hoping for a good game. The differences in the game like just about every other NFL game were mistakes and the running game. The Bengals turned the ball over 3 times, the Texans none. The Texans ran the ball 35 times for 188 yards and the Bengals 19 for 76. Ladies and gentlemen, when you lose the turnover battle by 2 or more and get outrushed for 100+ yards, you will lose 90% of games in the NFL. A ton of credit to the Texans for playing within their means and not forcing the issue.
-I just checked the box score for the upcoming Saints-49ers game and Drew Brees already has 75 passing yards.
-About 30 minutes before the end of the Steelers-Broncos game, I posted this on twitter: “Does anyone else think @Denver_Broncos wr demariyous thomas would be a star in as pass heavy offense? Always open, great hands, physical.”I said this before Thomas broke out for an 80 yard catch and run in which he made a great catch, stiff arm, and outran the Steelers secondary to the game winning score. Thomas was hindered by injuries his rookie year but he is an impressive athlete. I see a little bit of Hakeem Nicks in him the way he muscles his way around the field.
-I don’t care what Mike Tomlin says, they should have rested Big Ben in Week 17. He was clearly not 100% and I bet a healthy Big Ben wins that game.
-Was there a worse unit on the field that the Detroit Lions’ secondary? If the Lions only improve their secondary for the 2012 season to average, they’ll challenge the Packers for the division title. How great are the QBs in the NFC North? Rodgers and Stafford are all pro level and Jay Cutler could have easily led the Bears to the playoffs over the Lions if he stayed healthy. The Vikings better hope Ponder pans out or they’ll dwell in the basement for the next 3 or 4 years.
* * * * *
I was asked a 2 tiered question on the St. Louis Rams by a coworker. First off, are the Rams a better situation than the Dolphins for Jeff Fisher and should they take WR Justin Blackmon or OT Matt Kalil with their #2 overall pick assuming they don’t trade down.
I’ll start off with Jeff Fisher. A lot of analysts have said that the Rams may be the best open coaching gig in the NFL. Why? First off, cap room. The Rams are projected to have $40 million in cap space. That means the Rams can sign anyone they want that’s a free agent. They have the 2nd overall pick in the draft, which means they can take a blue chip player like Blackmon or Kalil. Most consider Sam Bradford to still be a franchise QB. If you don’t think Bradford is a franchise QB, you have Robert Griffin III staring at you on the board. Trade Bradford for something and start fresh with Griffin.
The Dolphins don’t have a franchise QB. Matt Moore is at best a decent starter who needs a phenomenal defense and running game to win a Super Bowl a la Trent Green and the Ravens. You couldn’t build a team around him. The Dolphins also don’t pick 2nd overall, they pick 8th or 9th (coin flip between Dolphins and Panthers will determine it). They would have to give up a lot to pick RG3 because I don’t think he’ll make it past the Redskins at 6. Cleveland and Tampa would love to trade down a little for the right price though.
With that said, the Dolphins are a significantly better team right now. They finished the season 6-3, have a solid 1-2 punch at RB, a pro bowl caliber WR, and a defense that could easily be a top 10 squad. That makes the question does Fisher prefer to tweak a team or to build one? If he wants to win now, take the Dolphins. If he wants to build a team from scratch with almost nothing but a QB, take the Rams. I’d take Miami and sign Matt Flynn to compete with Matt Moore, but I think Fisher is going to take St. Louis because he wants to build a team around a franchise QB.
As to who to take with the 2nd overall pick (assuming it’s not a QB or a trade down), I’m going Kalil all the way. Jason Smith was a wasted pick and Rodger Saffold isn’t a LT, he’s much better suited at RT or OG. I know Tommy has said Saffold could be an All Pro at OG and I believe him. The reason I say Kalil is on paper he has everything you want out of a franchise LT. He has the athleticism, he has experience playing top end competition while at USC, multi year starter, and with a brother already dominating in the NFL, he has pedigree. The reason you take a LT over a WR is twofold. First off, history. NFL GMs and coaches value LTs more than WRs. That’s something you cannot argue. Second off, with $40 million in cap room, you have a better shot at landing a WR than a LT in free agency.
Let’s take a look at potential free agents at WR and LT:
WR: Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, and Steve Johnson. Each one of them either is or can be a 1200 yard 10 touchdown WR. None of them is perfect (both Jacksons, Johnson and Bowe have character concerns, Wayne is getting old, Colston could be a product of the Saints, etc.) But as I said, each one of them could be the #1 threat a passing game needs.
OT: Demetrious Bell, Levi Brown…need I go on?
The Rams should draft Kalil, sign one of those WRs with their cap space the first day or two of free agency and get them on the practice field with Bradford. Heck, sign 2. Sign Reggie Wayne and Steve Johnson and let Reggie show Steve how to be an NFL WR and how to just shut up and play. It works on Madden, so it has to work here, right?
Overpaid/Underpaid players of the week
Overpaid: Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott, RBs Cincinnati Bengals. In a playoff game with a rookie QB, you need your RBs to have a good game. Scott and Benson combined had 13 carries for 25 yards and 4 catches for 27 yards. 17 touches for 52 yards when your team needs you the most. Their 3rd string RB (Brian Leonard) outperformed both of them. It’s not surprising Leonard got playing time because they need to return their game checks after that pathetic performance.
Underpaid: Arian Foster, RB Houston Texans. As I stated previously, it was turnovers and the running game that won the game for Houston and Foster was brilliant. 27 touches for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns. Dare I say, the Texans could upset the Ravens with another performance like Saturday. Somebody needs to pay Foster in the offseason, he’s a star.
Next week’s headline
“God may love Tim Tebow, but Tom Brady’s pact with the devil is better as Brady shreds Denver’s defense then goes home to supermodel wife who makes more money than him.”
C’mon, there’s nothing wrong with hating Tom Brady.
Divisional Round Predictions
Tom Brady and the Patriots offense prove to be too much for Tim Tebow.
The 49ers defense is great, but the Saints can only stop themselves on offense. Alex Smith just isn’t capable of going score for score with Drew Brees.
Ray Rice picks the Ravens up on his back and carries them to victory in a close game. Flacco fails to impress and doesn’t look decidedly better than a 5th round rookie.
That’s right. You are reading that correctly. I love the way the Giants are playing and they were one play away from upsetting the Packers earlier this season. The playoffs are more about who’s playing the best right now, not who’s been the best. Eli Manning has that stupid confidence/luck thing going right now and I dare anyone to find a nicer looking pass than his over the shoulder touchdown to Mario Manningham. When Eli is on and the defense plays like they did yesterday, this can happen. I hope I’m wrong because I hate the Giants, but I just have a hunch.