31 October 2005

2005 Week 8 Recap

Week 8: Eagles at Broncos, Sunday, October 30, 2005

Oh my. It took me 4 days to get over the hangover that resulted from Sunday. No, I don't mean the psychic hangover, I mean the bourbon hangover. No, I'm just kidding. I was over the bourbon hangover by Monday afternoon.

OK, so someone needs to mention this to the team: Guys, the game of football consists of four 15 minute quarters. See, that's why they're cleverly called QUARTERS. Because there are FOUR of them. See that? FOUR...QUARTERS. Also, that first 30 minutes? That's actually the GAME, not just more warm up. Those guys in the different colored jerseys? NOT the practice squad. That's the actual OTHER TEAM. That you're supposed to try to beat.

AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!

Never thought I'd say this, but I really miss Todd Pinkston and Freddie Mitchell. I knew I'd be missing Dorsey Levens, just not this much. And Ike Reese? And Hugh Douglas? Damn. Of course, by now we all know that TO's out for a few weeks, so we're, not to put too fine a point on it, screwed - Akers is hurt, D-Mac is hurt and still playing, which week by week seems like more and more of a mistake, TO's now hurt, and apparently every single team in the NFL has AR's number.

Since the football was so bad on Sunday, let me do a menu review of what we ate. Being the first cool weekend of the fall, Chef Spouse and I were both in a cooking mood. On Saturday, Chef Spouse made a batch of veal stock and I made two loaves of honey whole wheat bread. We also made some vanilla ice cream. Sunday morning I made chocolate chip cream scones (to use up the extra heavy cream from the ice cream) and two apple pies (one with Winesaps and one with Courtlands) and then the lunch cookery started. Chef Spouse started us with a nice plate of chopped raw veggies. Then I browned up some brats and poached them in stout. Meanwhile, I chopped up some bacon and browned it, then cooked some chopped apples in the bacon fat and added some sauerkraut. Once everything was ready, I drained off the excess beer, then put the sauerkraut and brats in together. So they made a nice meal with the whole wheat bread. Then we had apple pie with vanilla ice cream and homemade bourbon sauce. Delicious. Almost good enough to make us forget the TRULY HORRIBLE game. Aw man, I almost got past it!

Our shellacking was slightly less painful than what the Redskins suffered at the hands of the Giants. At least we didn't get shut out. Ouch. The Giants are looking like the contender for NFC East. And we're playing the 'Skins on Sunday night. Talk about the battle of pee-wees! I'm starting to feel bad about making fun of the Packers and the Vikings all season. OK - not really.

So what else happened? Oy vey, I'm not even sure. OK, one of the NFC North teams is now above .500. The Bears. Who would've thought? A few other surprises: the 49ers beat the Bucs. The 49ers beating anyone is pretty surprising, particularly the previously 5-1 Bucs. And the Texans won a game - although I'm still not sure they're an actual team. And New England actually won by 5 rather than 3. And the Steelers barely snuck by the Ravens on Monday night - I expected the Steelers to KILL the Ravens. What happened there?

So we're going to the Eagles/'Skins game Sunday, thanks to Spouse's employer and the Fed Ex Field wireless network. We have car service, club level tickets, and entry to the after party. And it's going to be in the 70s in DC Sunday. So I'll wear my D-Mac jersey and have a good time no matter what happens. I just have to keep telling myself that since there are definitely no more guaranteed wins this year.


24 October 2005

2005 Week 7 Recap

Week 7: Eagles v. Chargers, Sunday, October 23. 2005

In the Eagles and Chargers versus the Officials, the Officials definitely lost. Given the blizzard of flags that flew, it's amazing the game's not still going on. The percentage of flags that had to be picked up on review hovered somewhere around 50, leading to the conclusion that at least a few of the refs need to lay off the caffeine or stuff their flags a little more securely into their pockets. C'mon, it wasn't THAT windy!

Once again, our offense could not get it together in the first quarter. Actually, it wasn't a great offensive game overall. Our formerly high-powered and high-scoring offense just can't seem to get clicking on all cylinders this year. Of course, if AR would stop talking about how he'd prefer to pass 100% of the time, it might help, since our complete lack of a running game lets defenses cheat their coverage. I can't believe I actually just wrote that Andy should share LESS information, but in this case, it's true. Also, 54 pass plays to 14 run on a week we were supposed to be running more? How is it possible to run less? Golf carts to and from the huddle? If this is all a plot to keep Westy's numbers low so he's not a hot property when he's a free agent next spring, so we can sign him to a long term deal more cheaply, we're cutting off our noses to spite our Super Bowl chances. And LJ, yes, I know that you took some monster hits, but once again, CATCHING the ball is only part of your job. You also need to hold onto it until you're on the ground. A little somethin-somethin on the run would be nice too, but let's focus on one thing at a time.

Fortunately, our defense was kicking a** and taking names. LaDainian Tomlinson was completely shut down, which NO team has managed to do this season. Eagles defenders ended his games-scoring-a-TD streak at 18 and almost managed to hold a back who regularly racks up over 100 yards per game to negative rushing yards. Jeremiah Trotter was all over the field. He was blitzing, he was blocking, he was shutting down the run lanes, breaking up big pass plays, and a few times almost picking Drew Brees off. If I didn't know better, I would've sworn they were actually playing two guys wearing number 54.

Once again, our D provided some critical points. Quintin Mikell managed to block a field goal, which almost NEVER happens, and then it took a lucky bounce right into Matt Ware's arms, who got some good blocking from the rest of the D and ran it back 65 yards for the go-ahead TD. This makes the third? fourth? week in a row our D has scored? We're in danger of turning into the Redskins at this rate, only without the coaching soap opera and the monomaniacal owner.

One area of our game that clearly did benefit from the bye week was our special teams. Although we're still unable to break the big runs on kick returns, we were at least able to break up any Chargers big runs on their returns. Now if we could just get a power back with some speed to break some big run backs for us, so we're not ALWAYS starting with lousy field position, and get Akers back at 100%, we'll be cookin'.

In the NFC North's battle of the pee-wees, the Vikings managed to be a little less pathetic than the Packers, pulling out a win with a 56 yard field goal as time ran out. It's entirely possible that the NFC North division winner will be at or under .500. Yikes. On a separate but related note, given the amount of 40 yard plus field goals this year, I think we're not too far from the time that they'll have to narrow the uprights. The kickers are just getting too good these days. Wonder what that would do to all the stats?

Are the Bengals a myth? Yes, I would say so, after the Steelers decisive 27-13 win. They're having a Cinderella season and will probably be contenders over the next few years, but for now, Blitzburgh still owns the AFC North. The Bengals might be ahead in the rankings, but come the postseason, if they're still in it, I don't see them getting past the Steel Curtain.

The Redskins trounced the hapless 49ers, who have at least realized that their season is over and are starting the top draft pick, Alex Smith, for the rest of the season. They have to - Rattay is GONE. I guess they figure that they're not going anywhere, so they might as well let the new kid cut his teeth on actual games and look towards the future. Perhaps the far, FAR future they way they played on Sunday. Scary. Hallowe'en's NEXT week.

On a happy note for 'Skins fans, LaVar Arrington actually got some playing time Sunday. They tagged him franchise only a year ago, and he's costing them a butt load of money, so even if he doesn't get along with Gibbs or Snyder or Tony Williams or whoever's the problem, the 'Skins have to figure out how to use him. Right now, he's just a drain on resources. And with their salary cap situation, they cannot afford that.

Around the rest of the NFC East, the Cowboys lost a tough one to the Seahawks, 10-13, dropping them to last in the division at 4-3. Bill Parcells, classy as always, shoved one of his coaching staff and cut the kicker who won the game against the Giants for them. Nice. The Seahawks are dominating a bad division, but Sunday's win demonstrates that Mike Holmgren might actually have something going on out there in Seattle.

The Giants squeaked out a 1 point win over the Broncos in a very exciting game. Broncos went out to an early lead, but then seemed to run out of steam after the half, when Eli Manning and the Giants came out and tore up, pulling off the tying TD and go-ahead extra point with 5 seconds left on the clock. The Broncos had the full lateral-lateral-lateral plan ready for the run back, but they only got to lateral-lateral before Giants strong safety James Butler slipped in and picked them off, ending a nail-biter in the Meadowlands. So will Jake Plummer cut his beard now? We'll find out next week, when the Eagles head to the Mile High city.

The Cowboys' loss to the Seahawks puts us, the Giants, and the 'Skins technically tied for first in the NFC East, but based on the arcane calculations of who's played who, we're second behind the Giants, who are, to be honest, having a hell of a year. Eli Manning's finally starting to look like he's related to Peyton - maybe not quite as good yet as brother, but certainly edging up into second cousin territory.

In the Jets/Falcons Monday night game, of course the Falcons won. Jets are still playing...wait for it...Vinny Testaverde. Who is almost 42 years old. And started his pro career when most of the guys he's playing with and against were in elementary school. Testaverde went out late in the game with a bum Achilles, leaving the Jets playing their FOURTH string QB. Herm Edwards did NOT look happy. The thing about the Falcons is Michael Vick RAN for 2 of their 3 of their TDs (the third was a defensive TD off a Testaverde fumble). He's exciting to watch, they win games, but you can't win championships with your QB providing that much of your offense. Also, he's a REALLY inaccurate passer - 3 interceptions last night. The Falcons are just lucky the decimated Jets offense couldn't capitalize on them.

Endzone celebrations: TO's maitre d' impersonation for his 100th career TD was fun. The Chargers Keenan McCardell aping it later was just stupid. Clinton Portis' Riverdance attempt was just sad, but his cartwheels were kind of funny, although he shouldn't give up football to start training for the Olympics. I think this is a trend whose Warhol-mandated 15 minutes have passed, though.


17 October 2005

2005 Week 6 Recap

Bye Week October 16, 2005

Bye week. Just in time. WHEW! Don't want to be seeing a repeat of last week any time soon. And everyone will get a little time to heal up and think about what he's done wrong. No Gameboy for a week, Mister, and Internet use only for your homework! After the abysmal performance against the Cowboys, one does have to wonder why AR decided to give everyone a week's vacation. Maybe he couldn't stand to look at them after that mess at Texas Stadium. Or he needed time to locate and travel to a voodooienne to get the curse the team seems to be operating under lifted.

It's been interesting to read all the "What's wrong with the Eagles?" coverage this week. One of the stupidest theories, propounded by a Philly sports writer whose name has been withheld to protect the morons, was that McNabb's afraid to throw into coverage because he doesn't want to risk his stellar interception percentage. I'm going to go with he won't throw into coverage because he's pretty damn sure his receivers aren't going to exert themselves to come down with the catch given their recent performance. Ocham's Razor and all that.

So anyway, I was able to enjoy the games in peace, comfort, homemade pizza, and root beer floats. How very 10 years old! And can I just say how much I'm enjoying Spouse’s new hobby: kicking Bobby Flay's culinary a**? (I know - everybody hates The Flay, so he probably has to get at the end of a VERY long line.)

Lots of heartbreaker games this week - and a LOT of sloppy playing. I chose the Cowboys/Giants game at 1 pm because they're both in my conference and it was likely to be a good game. It was definitely an exciting game, but "good" game would be stretching it. TONS of turnovers on both sides. Now admittedly, it was over 100 degrees on the field, but NO ONE could hang on the ball. Or concentrate. Or even pay attention. It was sad. Great plays on both sides - Shockey's tying TD with under a minute to go, Cortez' game winning 45-yard field goal - and terrible mistakes - Bledsoe's two fumbles, the Giants fumble on the Dallas 1 yard line that cost them a TD (and ultimately, the game), a critical pass interference call in OT against the Giants that set up the winning FG. Sloppy, sloppy game on both sides. This does give me confidence that, assuming we can get our stuff together, we maintain our chokehold on the NFC East.

The Falcons beat the Saints on a bad call and a last minute field goal. The Jaguars beat the embattled, Roethlisberger-less, Ward-less Steelers in OT. "Yeah, they were missing their starting QB and number-one receiver, but we kicked their asses (by one OT TD)! Woo-hoo!" The much-improved Redskins lost a tough game to the Chiefs, largely due to their own mistakes and turnovers. That game also featured a truly beautiful short catch and long run by the Chiefs' Priest Holmes that ended with him tap-dancing down the sideline into the end zone. Run, do not walk, to the nearest TV to see if they're still playing it on Sports Center.

The Pats/Broncos game was a nail-biter too. In the first half, the Pats looked, well, like the Eagles did last week. The Broncos totally had their number. It was like that scene in The Waterboy during the Bourbon Bowl where Brent Musberger and Dan Patrick comment that it's like Coach Red Beaulieu is in the huddle with the Muddogs as the camera pans to, sure enough, Red Beaulieu reading a copy of the Idiot's Guide to Coaching College Football and giggling. But Belichick must have given the Patriots one hell of a pep talk at the half - or threatened to trade a bunch of guys to the Texans - and they fought hard and got close, but couldn't quite pull off the win, due in part to a totally blown final possession with about 5 minutes left on the clock that burned time but got nowhere. Of course, the Pats may not care because the good news is that Tedy Bruschi has been cleared by every doctor in the world, including Dr. Spock, Dr. Who, and Dr. Feelgood, to resume play. Meanwhile, Jake Plummer's theory of not cutting his beard seems to be working. I thought it was baseball players who were supposed to be superstitious. The loss puts the Pats at a surprising .500 a little over 1/3 of the way into the season. The late game was Seahawks/Texans. Are the Texans even a real team, or is this just an elaborate practical joke?

I foolishly went to bed at half time Monday night, thus missing the Colts amazing comeback. Down 17-0 at the end of the first, with a Rams offense that seemed to be steamrolling their defenders and their own offense unable to get anything going, the Colts managed to turn it around, in part due to a poor call on possession of a fumble that set up their first touchdown and really seemed to swing the momentum of the game. At the half, the Rams were still up by 6 and seemed to be getting their mojo back after the disappointingly bad call. Or not. Colts completely dominated the second half, racking up 31 points to the Rams 8. Ouch.

Finally, I can't let week 6 go by without commenting on the Vikings "love boat" scandal. Now clearly the beleaguered Vikings were trying to console themselves over the loss of Randy Moss and the subsequent complete Daunte Culpepper meltdown. But I'm not sure booze, coke, and hookers were the best way to soothe their troubled souls. Couldn't they have adopted a team puppy or something? Puppies make much better pets than hookers, particularly once they're house broken (since you never can really house break the hookers), and they're much less likely to get you in trouble with Paul Tagliabue. Unless of course the puppy pees on his shoes.

And I would be remiss were I not to congratulate the Chicago White Sox on their first pennant since 1959. Go Sox!


10 October 2005

2005 Week 5 Recap

Week 5: Eagles at Cowboys, Sunday, October 9. 2005

Well, that was just pitiful. Offense, defense and special teams ALL forgot to show up for the game. Guys? The bye week is NEXT week. There is so much blame to go around, it's hard to know where to start.

Dear special teams: the guy's not tackled unless you actually STOP him. This is not touch or flag football. We had to rely on our replacement kicker, Todd France, and punter Dirk Johnson to stop some run backs. That's not right. Oh, and on our kick return team? Dear Rod Hood and Dexter Winn: run BEHIND your blockers, not AWAY from them. They're on your team and are trying to help you. And wedge guys? Might help if you waited a few seconds until the guy who received the kick was actually, you know, with you.

Dear receivers: McNabb is not always going to put the ball right on your numbers. You're being paid millions of dollars. Jump, reach, stretch, go back a step, speed up a little - SHOW SOME DAMN EFFORT! Oh - and when he does put the ball on your numbers, you need to actually, you know, hold on to it. Some extra yards might be nice, but at least catch the ball. Let's start with the basics and move on to the complicated stuff once you’ve mastered that. Dear TO: you want to go somewhere else for the 2006-2007 season? You might want to start dialing it up a notch, or no one is going to want your 32 year old, coming off injury, prima donna, whiny a** next year.

Dear o-line: our QB is playing injured. Y'all might want to try to provide a modicum of protection. At least try to keep him from being hurried, hit, or sacked on EVERY SINGLE PLAY, OK? What happened? You did great against the Chiefs, but Donovan didn't get all better in one week. You have to keep playing. Yes, every week.

Dear D: where were you guys? There was not ONE successful blitz the ENTIRE game. Drew Bledsoe was back there leaving the pocket, getting a hot dog, stopping in the stands to sign a few autographs, calling his agent, doing a quick sideline interview, and coming back to throw for major yardage TO WIDE OPEN RECIEVERS EVERY SINGLE PLAY.

Dear D-Mac: I love you, man, but if you can't play, you need to admit it and go do what you need to do to get healthy. Koy Detmer can handle things for a few weeks if he needs to.

Dear Andy Reid: you spoke of a need for some changes in your post-game press conference. May I suggest moving corner back Sheldon Brown to running back? He scored our first TD against the Chiefs and our ONLY TD against the Cowboys. He seems to have an eye for where the ball is, an ability to hang on to it, and he seems to be able to find the end zone. It's not like we have anyone else in the power back role. Oh - the officiating was terrible, too, but we played so badly we wouldn't have won anyway. So it didn't really matter.

AND it was DALLAS. Y'all lost to DALLAS. Why don't you just kill me now? Yes, it's only one game, but we haven't done well in our conference so far - one conference win against the 49ers (THE 49ERS!), and losses to the Falcons and Cowboys. Has all the "of course we’ll see the Eagles in the postseason" talk gone to everyone's heads? It's not a gimme here guys - you actually have to win some games. They aren't going to invite you to the postseason for your charming personalities. And our division is MUCH improved this year, as is NFC South. Keep playing like this, and you'll be damn lucky to see wildcard.

OK, so the game to watch was clearly Falcons/Patriots. GREAT game. Vick was out with a bad knee, and Atlanta was playing a guy who’d played precisely ONE pro football game before Sunday (and lost it), Matt Schraub. And he did GREAT. Patriots, as usual, won by 3 points on Vinatieri's leg (although to be fair, it wasn't a long field goal). But it was looking for a while like the Falcons might pull it off with their number 2. And those same Falcons were able to rack up a 58 yard field goal by letting their punter take a shot. Hmmm - seems to me I suggested that same thing against the Raiders when Akers went down and France was still on the practice squad. I’m just sayin'. But if the Pats get the ball back within the 2 minute warning in a close game, they are practically impossible to beat. Belichick actually has a two minute offense and understands how to make the clock his ****, rather than the other way around. See, the Patriots have something called a "running game," which allows something called "clock management," which means they get to kick game winning field goals with fewer than 30 seconds left in the game, rendering it nearly impossible for their opponents to tie or win. See how that works? Nifty, isn't it? AR might want to write that down.

In other news, there were a few surprises: Vinny "Van Winkle" Testaverde and the Jets beat the Bucs and the Jaguars beat the previously undefeated Bengals, leaving the Colts the only undefeated team in the NFL. Not that that seems to help Peyton Manning once he gets to the playoffs, but hey, there's a first time for everything. The Redskins lost a heart-breaker to the Broncos, very likely due to some bad officiating, and not only did the Packers win their first game, but they kicked the already down Saints in the process 52-3 and then gloated about it. This season, even when they win, they're a bunch of jerks. And the hapless 49ers: I have to give them credit. They seem to have realized early on that their season is looking hopeless, so they're going ahead and playing their rookie Alex Smith some. Wise move - get the kid some experience and look towards next year. I hope we're not saying the same thing in a few weeks.


03 October 2005

2005 Week 4 Recap

Week 4: Eagles at Chiefs, Sunday, October 2, 2005

Spouse and I were in Vegas last week, and I put $50 on the Eagles to win Super Bowl XL. At halftime on Sunday, that was starting to look like a REALLY stupid bet. France, our new kicker, had missed not only a makeable field goal but an EXTRA POINT. Mark Simoneau can miss an extra point, but c'mon, you're supposed to be an NFL kicker. Donovan couldn't connect with anyone, and TO couldn't hang on to anything. And Westy was too busy blocking for our injured QB to be much use running.

And then - 28 unanswered points. 28. TWENTY EIGHT. That's a lot, football fans.

As Life-Long Eagles Fan Mom observed, I don't know what Andy Reid said to those guys in the locker room at half time, but maybe he should've said it BEFORE the game started. The last few games have been running this way - we can't get anything to work in the first half, and then we come out of the locker room after the half and tear up. Not that being a strong second half team is bad - last year my worry was that we got so far ahead in the first half that we tended to phone it in for the second half, which bit us in the a** in the end of the season.

But it was good to see the boys come out after the half and start clicking. McNabb started completing passes to everyone - TO's still the dominant receiver (and why on earth did the Chiefs have him in single coverage so often? Are they nuts? Did the VCR they use to watch game footage break like 3 years ago and they keep meaning to replace it, but they just never manage to get across town to the Best Buy to pick one up?), but D-Mac's still spreading the love to everyone. France seemed to settle down - or somebody reminded Detmer that he's RIGHT footed - and everything just fell into place. D-Mac, a week after being visibly and obviously in serious pain against the Raiders, was playing pretty much like normal. With a sports hernia, a bruised breastbone, and a damaged shin. He's an iron man. Or crazy. Whichever, I'm glad we have him.

The Freak was finally a factor in a game - I was starting to worry that he'd forgotten to come back from wherever he spends the off season. Trotter and Dawk played their usual tough D, and our first points were provided by cornerback Sheldon Brown. The O line continues to do a great job protecting the injured QB in our pass-heavy offense (which is probably a result of lacking a power back who can push it through, no offense meant to Westy). A QB who's on track for a league MVP season even with the injuries. Fighting back from a deficit like this gives me a good feeling for the playoffs.

Around the rest of the NFL:

The normally terrible Redskins are 3-0. They haven't started a season 3-0 since the last time Gibbs was coaching. Admittedly, they haven't had a very tough start to the season - Bears, Cowboys (OK, that was a tough one, at least psychologically), and Seahawks. Their season's about to get a LOT harder over the next few weeks. But 'Skins fans haven't had much to cheer for in a while, so more power to them. Until they play us on November 6th.

The Pats dropped another game to the Chargers, who ANNIHILATED them. Ouch. Not pretty. The Pats seem to be struggling with major issues, ranging from new coaching staff to injuries to new players. Lots going wrong in Foxboro.

Meanwhile, the Bengals, Colts, and Bucs are all still undefeated. My pick of the Falcons for NFC South may have been a mistake, particularly given that Vick's hurt again - this time it's an ankle. Minnesota continues to SUCK royally. What is going on with Daunte Culpepper? He's better than this - or at least I would've argued that before this season. Yikes.

And apparently we're trying to generate interest in American football in Mexico by sending the two worst teams in the NFL? Of course, I may be speaking too soon on that - in the midst of Monday Night Football, Panthers versus Packers, we have two teams in the NFC North that are 1-2 (Lions and Bears), one that's 1-3 (Vikings), and one that's 0-3 (Packers). Of course, the result was that the Packers dropped another game to the Panthers, marking their worst start since...well, it's been a REALLY long time. Oh my. It's a race to the bottom in the NFC North.

Finally, the Saints went to .500 against the Bills in an actual "home" game. How does playing the Giants IN New York count as a SAINTS home game? Hello? Anyway, good to see them back in San Antonio and winning one.