Week 3: Eagles v. Raiders, Sunday, September 25, 2005
Wow. What an amazing weekend of football. Salary caps and the construction of draft seeding works to ensure that the NFL isn't dominated by a handful of great teams, with tons of scab teams, unlike some other leagues (MLB, I'm looking at you.) As Life-Long Eagles Fan Mom says, "Any given team on any given day can beat any other team." Damn straight. Wise woman.
Let's start with the Eagles. David Akers has the heart of a warrior. He was quoted after the game as saying that he didn't want his teammates to think he was wimping out. Um, I don't think anyone will ever think that about him after Sunday. Watching him go down after the kickoff was truly horrible. (As a side note, I suspect the offsides penalties were a result of his timing being off.) But after he crumpled and they had to re-kick, I COULD NOT BELIEVE AR let him go out and kick again. My friend The Editor, who came over to watch the game with us, and I were speculating about how to keep him off the field. The Editor suggested that the trainers should take him to the locker room, forcibly remove his uniform and, if he still tried to get back on the field, have security escort him from the stadium (presumably after letting him put on something else). I was pulling for chaining him to a locker. Watching him kick the game-winning field goal, keel over, get up in tears, and practically be carried off the field by his long-time holder Koy Detmer was heart stopping. Another great moment: Donovan on the sidelines with his arms around a clearly in agony Akers after the game. High drama indeed.
HOWEVER, the rest of the team never should have put Akers in that position in the first place. We had some weak offense in the first half, with some blown opportunities. Dear LJ Smith: you have the potential to be a great receiver. And you clearly know the second rule of football, which is: try to get more yards. However, the FIRST rule of football is HANG ON TO THE DAMN BALL, 'kay? Dear TO: you are a great receiver. And I see you took my advice to get some gloves. Maybe you should look into some Velcro patches. Yeah, Donovan throws hard, and sometimes it's catch the ball, get out of the way, or get your head knocked off. I would recommend you think seriously about picking option number one.
D-Mac was clearly in pain, too, throughout the day, either as a result of his still-bruised sternum, his groin pull, or the combo platter. Given the fact that he got better in the second half, it would seem that it was the groin pull, since it would've loosened up as he warmed up. Still, in interviews after the game, he said that the change resulted from a halftime realization that he'd have to use his legs more, as his chest was so sore, which argues for the sternum bruise. And having bruised my sternum as a kid in a gymnastics accident, I can attest to the fact that it is REALLY painful and tends to take a while to heal. Bye-week can't come soon enough. And while we're at it, let's talk about sitting Akers through the next two games (Chiefs and Cowboys, both on the road) and the bye and letting him heal up. Sunday clearly demonstrated how much we need him.
But you have to fault coaching, too. Reid knew that Akers' hamstring was in BAD shape throughout the week. How did he not have a better plan than letting Simoneau kick the extra points? OK, Simoneau played soccer in high school and came through for us against the 49ers (when there was NO pressure and nothing at stake), but that does not make him an NFL kicker. Aside from the fact that NFL kickers pretty much always hit the extra point, they NEVER miss because they kicked it into the back of one of their own players. Why was French not dressed out for the game? We signed him last week. And how did we not have a backup for field goals? Call me crazy, but wouldn't our highly experienced punter, Dirk Johnson, be the logical choice? At least he's used to, you know, kicking. Footballs. Professionally. Just saying.
The up side? The D kicked a**. Trotter was in on almost every single tackle made anywhere on the field for the entire game. He TORE UP. Dawk broke up how many receptions? And several that would have been TDs. The Freak seems to have gone missing, but the D was rockin'. There was a curious lack of blitzing - it's not like Kerry Collins is Michael Vick. The big worry isn't containment. But whatever - it worked. And the O line totally stepped up to protect our injured QB. They did an almost superhuman job of holding the pocket and not making D-Mac scramble around, which he clearly could not do.
Two class moves on the part of Oakland: OK, tub-o-lard Warren Sapp landed hard on Donovan a few times, but there were a few times other Raiders snuck through and took him down, but were clearly bracing themselves up once he was on the turf to keep from putting extra weight on him. And no one ever rushed Akers or even made any moves towards him at all. Who would've thought that the Raiders + Randy Moss (who was CLEARLY not having a good day and was VISIBLY pissed off on the sidelines) would behave so well?
Around the rest of the league, 20-20 was a VERY popular score for the day. Lots of really close games - Dallas/San Francisco, Tampa Bay/Green Bay, Steelers/Patriots...
I was expecting Dallas to blow out the 49ers the way we did lat week (OK, maybe not quite THAT bad). High scoring game on both sides, and the 'Boys just pulled it out. Either Dallas isn't going to be as good this year as a lot of people are predicting, or the 49ers aren't going to be as bad. They did seem to locate their D over the past week. Maybe they just forgot to get off the bus last week.
Green Bay is, as I predicted, tanking. Wah-wah-wah, poor Brett Favre. His dad died, his wife has cancer, and he lost his house in Mississippi. He either needs to deal with it and play, or he needs to retire and go into therapy. End of story. Lots of normal people have to deal with personal tragedy every day WITHOUT the excessive sympathy of the entire sports casting world, the maniacal devotion of fans, AND millions of dollars to cushion things. Yelling at receivers for not catching bad passes on field during the game is a pretty low-class move. Take the blame for your screw ups like a man, Vicodin Boy.
The Steelers-Patriots game was amazing. Plenty of mistakes on both sides - interceptions, fumbles, and sacks - and at the half, it looked like the Pats were going down and we'd have a repeat of the Eagles-Falcons in week 1 in which we see the championship game loser get a little payback. But it was not to be. Once again, the Pats found a way to win. And once again, it was on the leg of Adam Vinatieri. 45 yard FG with ONE SECOND left on the clock. Talk about another gut-buster.
So at the end of week three, only three teams in the league are 3-0, and they aren't the teams I would've figured for that record at this point: the Bengals, the Bucs, and the Colts (OK, I probably would've picked the Colts to be 3-0 at this point). All 4 teams from the championship games last year are 2-1, and some of the pre-season picks to be division leaders (Vikings and Chargers, I'm looking at you) are at 1-2. It's still early, everything's still up for grabs, but it seems like this may be one of those "realignment" seasons.
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