Posts Tagged ‘Patriots’

Super Post

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

It is always disappointing when the Steelers don’t make the Super Bowl, but as Eli took the field last night to embark on what turned out to be the game-winning drive I couldn’t help but be relieved that it wasn’t Big Ben and the Steelers in the same spot. I know this makes me a spoiled prick. Every other fanbase in the nation was envious of Giants fans in that moment, and I couldn’t have felt any more pleased it wasn’t my guys. The gutwrenching stress of that moment is something I consider myself fortunate to have been a part of many times in my short life, and the exhilaration of hanging on for dear life every time the ball is snapped is special. But there was something exciting about being able to watch the culminating drive of a five-plus month season with little concern how it unfolded. 

For as much as I dislike the Patriots and their fans, I can’t help but feel a modicum of sympathy for what they’re experiencing today. Having been there just one year ago Steeler fans know all to well that there is nothing quite so cruel in sports fandom as to be so close to the ultimate elation only to see Eli Fucking Manning snatch it right out from underneath you. Again. 

As far as the game itself, it was kind of a snoozefest with the exception of some weird plays. In no particular order. 

Wes Welker is getting murdered by the fans and media (the comment section on this post at Barstool Sports provides a representative glimpse at how mouth-breathing broheems from Southie are handling the situation) for dropping a pass on the Patriots’ next to last possession of the game. My Dad always used to say, “If it hits you in the hands you should catch it,” which is a typical refrain from someone born in the 1940’s. Old guys everywhere, including Cris Collinsworth and his 280 score on the SAT math component (“That’s a catch Wes Welker makes 100 times out of 100,” says Collinsworth at the ball hits the turf) will tell you Welker should have caught it. Could he have caught it? Sure, and he usually does catch that pass. And Tom Brady usually throws it better than he did last night.  Welker was as open as he could have been in that spot. Brady threw it wide, Welker didn’t bail him out. It’s a team game, you guys. 

With about a minute to go and the Patriots down to a single time out, Bill Belichick told his defense to let the Giants score the go-ahead touchdown in order to get the ball back with more time on the clock. Someone somewhere (Deadspin, I think?) said it was the ballsiest call in the history of the Super Bowl. This would have been true had Belichick let the Giants score 60 seconds sooner, leaving the Pats down by four but with an extra minute and one more time out. As it happened, the touchdown put the Giants ahead by four with very little time remaining, putting the onus on Brady to engineer one of the greatest drives in NFL history. This obviously didn’t happen, yet some people believe Ahmad Bradshaw made a mistake by not lying down at the one yard line when it became clear the Pats wanted him to score, thus forcing the Pats to use their last timeout and allowing the Giants to run another play before kicking the go-ahead field-goal with 20-25 seconds remaining. This scenario only works if you believe that kicking the field-goal is as much a gimmie as Bradshaw scoring the touchdown that the Patriots literally let him score. 

I’m sorry, but I can’t get on board with that. Ask Tony Romo, former holder for the Dallas Cowboys, who famously fumbled a snap that ruined his team’s season a few years back, if Bradshaw should have flopped to the turf. Ask Billy Cundiff, who missed a chip shot to take the AFC Championship game to overtime just two weeks ago, if the Giants should have given up a free touchdown. Ask the handful of kickers who missed extra points this season just how automatic the field-goal kicking process is. Any number of things can – and sometimes do – go wrong in a field-goal sequence. There is nothing guaranteed about a snap, reception, hold, and kick while blocking eleven men hellbent on saving their season by giving everything in their capacity to try to keep the ball from hitting its mark. Good for you, Ahmad Bradshaw. You magnificent Patriot-killing bastard.

Eli Manning’s profile picture on his Wikipedia page is of him in a suit sitting in front of some kind of Presidential seal about physical fitness with an American Flag by his side. If you didn’t know any better you’d think he was a senator. For many years I (and I suspect many others) thought Eli would make a better senator than a quarterback. After last night? I’ll admit that he’s very, very good. He isn’t great, and should okay. Not every Super Bowl winning quarterback is great. He turns the ball over too much still, makes some bizarre decisions at times, and aside from decent accuracy he brings no tremendously exciting physical skills to the table. I’d still rather have Rodgers, Brees, Brady, and Roethlisberger over Eli, which isn’t disrespectful. In this NFL, that’s some pretty good company. 


And the Best Team in the AFC is?

November 14, 2011 1 comment

I tuned in to three different radio shows today and each of them asked this question. As a result I have spent a good part of my idle time today thinking about the answer. My conclusion? It’s complicated.

Every team has played at least nine games, so for purposes of this exercise it is probably safe to assume that if a team is in the running for the title “Best Team in the AFC” they had better be at least 6-3, putting them on pace for something around an 11-5 record. In other seasons being on pace for an 11-5 record wouldn’t have put a team in the realm of “The Best Team in the AFC,” but this exercise is relative by its nature and this year’s AFC is a mishmash of terrible teams, good teams, and disappointing teams that were supposed to be great but can’t seem to get their shit together. Anyway, the 6-3 or better teams are.

1) Houston

2) Pittsburgh

3) New England

4) Baltimore

5) Cincinnati

Let’s work our way up. We’ll use record, strength of schedule (SOS), strength of victory (SOV), good teams defeated (arbitrarily decided by me), and bad teams lost to (also arbitrarily decided by me). Wheeee!


  • Record: 6-3
  • SOS: .458
  • SOV: .345
  • Good teams defeated: Buffalo, I guess? Tennessee, maybe?
  • Bad teams lost to: Denver – pre-Tebow
Yeah this team hasn’t played anybody. Their other four victories have come against Cleveland, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Seattle (a combined 9-28), hence their pathetic SOV number. Their loss to the Steelers yesterday was a “good” loss (as far as that goes) in that they overcame an early 14-point deficit and the loss of their most dynamic offensive weapon early in the game (A.J. Green) and had the ball late in the game with a chance to tie. They’re playing an awful lot better than anybody expected (myself included, who said at the beginning ofthe year that they might go 0-16. My bad!). Their schedule gets quite a bit tougher these last seven weeks with games @Baltimore, @Pittsburgh, vs Houston, and vs Baltimore. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Andy Dalton continue the decent back to earth he began yesterday and for the Bengals to finish 8-8 or 9-7 and miss the playoffs by a mile.
  • Record: 6-3
  • SOS: .500
  • SOV: .544
  • Good teams defeated: Pittsburgh (twice), New York Jets (maybe?), Houston
  • Bad teams lost to: Jacksonville, Seattle
The Ravens. What the hell, man. You only get up and play hard against the Steelers, is that it? How do you lose to Jacksonville and Seattle? Nobody loses to these teams. It took a monumental comeback for you to defeat the Cardinals at home. Seriously, the Kevin Kolb Cardinals.
This team is totally bewildering. Joe Flacco can look like Joe Montana one week and Akili Smith the next. Jim Harbaugh goes through apparent week-long lapses where he completely forgets that Ray Rice is on his team and is REALLY GOOD. Their strength of victory is better than any of the other five teams which tells us they have the ability to play well. Unfortunately for their old-bay-eating fans they’re susceptible to the trap/let-down game (two of their losses came the week after emotional victories against the Steelers). Is this an indictment on their character?  Does this tell us they are incapable of handling the emotions of the NFL playoffs, where each game is most important game of the year, bigger than the last? Or do they simply play to the level of their opponents and they’ll easily be able to avoid these ugly performances in the postseason? Just last week they were hailed as the clear-cut #1 team in the conference. Does one bad loss undermine that analysis? More questions with answers with these guys.
New England
  • Record: 6-3
  • SOS: .537
  • SOV: .481
  • Good teams defeated: San Diego (I guess?), Oakland (?), New York Jets (twice, possibly no good), Dallas (totally schizophrenic)
  • Bad teams lost to: None
New Englad has played the toughest schedule of the five teams and it isn’t even close. Their victories, with the exception of week one against Miami, have come against fairly quality opponents. I have a hard time categorizing those teams as “good,” but each of them has won more games than they’ve lost and they’re all still potential playoff teams. Their losses – to Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and the New York Giants – don’t jump out at you as being heinously bad like Baltimore’s or Cincy’s. The greatest indictment on this New England team is their inability to stop the pass. Heading into this week they were the worst team in the entire league at defending the pass. Luckily for them Mark Sanchez pretty much sucks and made them look fairly decent last night, but make no mistake. This team struggles mightily at pass defense.
The first four weeks of the season saw the Patriots score 30 or more points in each game. Week five they managed a comeback victory against the Cowboys, but only put up 20 points and appeared fairly disjointed. After that they proceeded to lose their next two games and only managed 17 and 20 points in those games, respectively. Many of us wrote them off. And through one half last night they appeared to be withering on the vine. In the second half, though, Tom Brady came alive, and the offense put up three touchdowns and reminded us all what they are capable of.
So are they back? Maybe. I’m still not convinced they can be truly great with no defense, no rushing attack, three legitimate receivers (two tight ends and a midget), and Tom Brady.  One thing that is clear is their schedule the rest of the way is possibly the softest of any team in the entire league: vsKC, @PHI, vsIND, @WAS, @DEN, vsMIA, vsBUF. This team will make the playoffs, and there is a fairly high probability that they’ll be the #1 or #2 seed.
  • Record: 7-3
  • SOS: .489
  • SOV: .406
  • Good teams defeated: Tennessee (maybe), New England, Cincinnati
  • Bad teams lost to: None
If the Steelers get one more first down against Baltimore last week this post never gets written. They should have beaten the Ravens. They played a better game than Baltimore for the first three and a half quarters and lost anyway. Football.
The defense is exceedingly stingy in allowing both yards and points, and if they can figure out a way to force more turnovers they’ll be downright frightening. Offensively they have become a true passing team. Roethlisberger is playing as well as he ever has and his receiving corps is multi-faceted and extremely dangerous. There aren’t a ton of glaring weaknesses with this team.
The Steelers’ schedule hasn’t been particularly difficult by any means. And, like New England, they benefit from playing a fairly soft homestretch. (They’re only two quality opponents are the Bengals and 49ers). Unlike in previous seasons, the Steelers seem to be handling their business against the floormats of the NFL. Assuming they can continue that identity they should have 11 wins wrapped up fairly easily.
  • Record: 7-3
  • SOS: .452
  • SOV: .369
  • Good teams defeated: Pittsburgh. Yep, that’s it.
  • Bad teams lost to: Oakland (maybe, but it was the day after Al Davis died and that game was super wacky).
Everybody loves Houston because they aren’t Indianapolis.
Look, those SOS and SOV numbers are just too glaring to ignore. Their schedule is an absolute joke. I realize you can only play who is on your schedule, and they’ve done a good job of handling their business, but it’s really tough to get a read on what this team is all about when they’re spending their Sundays beating up on Indianapolis and Miami and Cleveland. And it doesn’t get much more difficult for them. The two toughest games remaining on their schedule are vsATL and @CIN.
For their benefit, I will say this. Matt Schaub has been pretty solid [EDIT: Welp, apparently Schaub is out for the season. Didn’t know that until after I wrote all this], especially considering he hasn’t had Andre Johnson to throw to since week four. And Arian Foster might be the best player in football when he’s healthy. There isn’t a place on the field from which he is containable. If they had a healthy Mario Williams this team would be extremely dangerous.
But here’s the thing. Aside from Williams, Johnson, Schaub, and Foster, can you name anybody else on that team? For some reason I feel like this means something. I wonder about their depth and their ability to last the season. Williams is gone, Johnson is fighting a hamstring injury, and Foster spent the first few weeks dealing with a hamstring injury of his own. They seem fragile. And what happens when they have to play Baltimore or Pittsburgh or New England in the playoffs? Their schedule provides them little opportunity to play top-level talent. Will they be able to raise their compete level to meet these battle-tested teams? Did I steal that last sentence straight out of Merril Hoge’s ESPN cliche book? Maybe. But I’m not convinced the Texans are much more than the beneficiaries of a supremely easy schedule.
So there’s that. And then there’s this:
Houston hasn’t really played anybody good, but they did beat Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has beaten New England and Cincinnati, but lost twice to the Ravens and once to the Texans
New England has lost to Pittsburgh but beaten some other good teams
Baltimore has beaten Houston and Pittsburgh twice, but lost to a couple really miserable teams
Cincinnati lost to Pittsburgh, and haven’t really played anyone good other than that, and they also lost to the Broncos
Okay so that’s like 1500 words and I still have no idea what the answer is. I think what we have right now is a clear top-tier of five in the AFC with no real way to determine who is better than who. Houston won’t really be challenged enough by good teams for us to know what they’re made of until the playoffs. The Patriots could easily catch fire against their soft schedule and convince everyone they’re great again. The Bengals very well may fade into anonymity as their schedule gets tougher. The Ravens may continue to drop winnable games to lousy opponents. The Steelers might continue to play well through the rest of this season, but after having lost both games to the Ravens can they really be viewed as the best in the conference?
Gun to my head, my order is:
5) Cincinnati
4) Houston
3) New England
2) Baltimore
1) Pittsburgh
The Steelers seem to be the most complete team in all three phases. They’ve only played one bad game all year (week one) and have gone 2-1 against three teams on this list in the past three weeks. In my mind the Steelers benefit from having played the other four teams on this list and, while they’re 2-3, they easily could be 3-2. Push comes to shove, I have a hard time seeing any of these teams beating the Steelers in the playoffs. (Although I don’t like how Pittsburgh matches up against the Texans just because of Arian Foster.)
No matter the order, I love that the AFC is this tight. I can’t recall the last time a conference race didn’t have at least one or two clear-cut favorites. It seems this season that all 16 games might count for something. What a concept.
Categories: NFL, Steelers Tags: , , ,

Patriots Week

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

“Ownage is Ownage.” – Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper

I should confess that I don’t know if “Kruk ad Kuip” (San Francisco Giants color commentator and play-by-play man, respectively) actually invented this saying. If they did it’s likely it only  took one of them. I don’t really see them sitting around:

  • Krukow: Hey Kuip, I got this phrase I’ve been working on. You know, like when a pitcher absolutely dominates a hitter. So far all I got is “Ownage is..” Then I hit a wall. Any ideas?
  • Kuiper: Ownage is.. Ownage is… mhhmmmm.. Well ownage is, uh, ownage is ownage. I guess. Right?
  • Krukow: [stunned] You’re a god damned genius.

So while I don’t actually know who invented “ownage is ownage,”  I do know that since 2001 the New England Patriots have exhibited a staggering amount of ownage over the Pittsburgh Steelers. So much ownage has been wrought upon the black and gold by the Pats that Patriot week in Pittsburgh feels an awful lot like finals week during that semester of college where you did nothing but slam top-shelf margs at the local tavern and sleep until 4pm every day. You know you’ve got no chance to pass any of your exams and the whole week is going to be one massive, embarrassing failure. But you have to go out there in front of god and country and suck hard for all to see. There’s no other option. This is the feeling right now in tPittsburgh. It’s amazing.

I’ve been gone for a while, but this feeling is familiar. There is dark, stinking cloud of pessimism hanging over this city. Sports talk radio has been a comedic mix of fans and hosts resigning their beloved Steelers to the fate of another throttling at the hands of BradyChick empire. Hosts and analysts – both local and national – speak not of ‘what the Steelers need to do to beat the Patriots,’ but rather asking themselves, ‘how in god’s name can the Steelers beat the Patriots?’ Steelers not in awe of Patriots explains an ESPN article.The way the article is written it feels like the editor removed the word “somehow” after “Steelers” in that headline.

Steeler fans and media have a little brother complex when it comes to the Patriots. Against other teams we feel like the Steelers always have a chance to win. The pre-game narrative changes during Patriots week. Brady and Belichick do this to teams. A lot of teams. They own people. They own coaches. They are the modern-era Walsh and Montana: a coach who seems to be smarter than every one of his peers and a quarterback who understands him in a way that turns them both into dominant forces. I am convinced Tom Brady is the player he is today because of Bill Belichick. (Consider Matt Cassel’s 2008 season: from a nobody on the bench to a 3600 yard phenom in 16 weeks).

Physically, Tom Brady is not particularly gifted. In fact, he’s particularly not gifted. He’s a decent size (6’4″ 225lbs.) but not especially strong so he doesn’t shed tacklers like Ben Roethlisberger or Josh Freeman. He’s godawfully slow. Runs like a donkey. And because of this, 1) he’s never a threat to run and 2) his rollout passing game is non-existent.

However what he lacks in strength and speed, he makes up for with his arm.  He is deceivingly strong and knee-bucklingly accurate. His entire career he has been surrounded by top-notch offensive lines, allowing him to stand about in the pocket until one of his (almost always) mediocre receivers reveals a modicum of openness into which Brady zings the ball. He is tremendous at this. This is what he does. This is all he does.

Belichick realizes Brady’s physical limitations and strengths. For that matter, he realizes his entire team’s limitations and strengths. This might seem like a rather obvious and  prerequisite skill for a coach to have, but it is staggering how many seem to lack this. You know how Ray Rice only carried the ball eight times for the Ravens on Monday night and Joe Flacco threw over thirty times? Belichick would never make a mistake like that.

Belichick knows his team’s strengths and weaknesses extremely well and he manages his games to that end. Brady throws the ball a ton. Wes Welker catches lots of passes in space so that he can make a few moves and rack up the yards. High passes are thrown to tall receivers. The Patriots don’t run much because they don’t have a greatly skilled running back, so they throw short passes that serve effectively as running plays. They play an intelligent defense that is designed to limit mistakes. They focus on forcing turnovers, having forced eleven through six games. (Although I suspect this has largely to do with the poor-quality passers they have faced.) They will allow yards but try to limit opponents to field goals.

There isn’t a whole lot going on here that is difficult to understand. What separates the Patriots is Tom Brady’s arm and the team’s crisp execution.

For some reason the Steelers find this to be unbeatable. So much so that fans find themselves – myself included – rationalizing a loss to the Patriots before it even happens. There is no excuse for this. The Steelers have beaten Brady and Belichick before. In 2004 the Steelers crushed the Patriots 34-20 at Heinz Field, ending their 21-game winning streak. It was week eight. Halloween. This year’s game is also week eight, and only one day before Halloween. SPOOKY.

I hope the Steelers win Sunday not only because it is a vitally important game  in the standings but because I want Steeler fans and the media to get over the Patriots. When the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl last season I heard a lot of, “Well the Steelers sure got lucky the Patriots stone-cold choked against the Jets cause there is noooooo way they’d have beaten Brady at home!”

It’s time to put this garbage to rest.


And now, picks

Last week: 4-8-1 (thank you very little, Tim Tebow and Joe Flacco)

Overall: 47-50-6

Home team in CAPS


Colts (+9.5) over TITANS

Jaguars (+10) over TEXANS

Vikings (+3.5) over PANTHERS

Saints (-14) over RAMS

RAVENS (-13) over Cardinals

Dolphins (+10.5) over GIANTS

BILLS (-6) over Redskins

Cowboys (+3.5) over EAGLES

Chargers (-4) over CHIEFS

BRONCOS (+3.5) over Lions

Bengals (-2.5) over SEAHAWKS

49ERS (-9.5) over Browns

STEELERS (+3) over Patriots (I mean, after the last thousand words how can I possibly pick the Pats?)



Categories: NFL, Steelers Tags: ,

We Are All Witnesses (and Week 8 Power Rankings)

October 1, 2011 Leave a comment

And what we are witnessing is the decline of the Patriots. Well, maybe not THE decline of the Patriots, to the extent that they’ll return to their tragic early 90’s suckdom, but certainly this year’s version of the Patriots seems to be deteriorating before our very eyes.

I’ll admit: On Sunday I was nervous. A little more nervous than usual because it was the Patriots and that meant something. They were viewed as a quality opponent, and the Steelers were 0-2 up to that point against quality opponents. It was a game I wanted to see the Steelers win for more reasons than just another notch in the W column.  And as the Steelers took a 17-7 lead into halftime I was saying I was nervous still, and I guess in some ways I was, but I was no more nervous than I would have been if the Steelers had been playing Cincinnati or Tampa Bay or Chicago. The Patriots simply did not frighten me in any way that second half, and I knew if the Steelers could avoid mistakes and score one more touchdown that the game would be over.

The thing is, the Patriots kind of stink.

Tom Brady is all-world, all-galaxy, all-universe, and aside from him the Patriots are all kinds of screwed up. Wes Welker – 30 years old, 5’9″ 185lbs.  – is their star receiver, along with a couple of tight ends who are wholly tight-endy in their speed and overall usefulness. They have a ceiling, and that ceiling is about 15 yards away from the line of scrimmage.  Chad Ochocinco is on this team and is supposed to function as a deep threat, although this is unclear. Their backfield consists of some combination of BenJarvus Green – Ellis/ Kevin Faulk / Danny Woodhead, I guess. And you don’t need to be a trained analyst to see their defense is beyond atrocious. Yes, they sacked Roethlisberger five times, but it didn’t matter much because Ben and the offense could get that yardage back the next play.

The Patriots could literally do nothing to stop the Steelers between the 10s. When New England had the ball the Steelers had to do nothing more than defend an area within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage and make sure Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski were hit as they came off the line to disrupt the timing of their patterns. That’s it. That’s all the Steelers did. It was remarkable and pathetic that the Pats had no answer for this. They literally do not have any other personnel that can hurt a competent defense. Once Welker and the tight ends were neutralized the Patriots had no chance.

Something else I loved about that game was the way the Steelers completely dominated time of possession in the most non-Steeler way possible. The old strategy of “Brady can’t hurt you if he’s on the bench” was originally thought best applied by running, running again, and then running even more. But this version of the Steelers is built to pass, and it was almost as though you could see a light bulb go on over everybody’s head – as Roethlisberger completed short pass after short pass – that completing passes in bounds is just as effective a way of managing the clock as fruitlessly jamming a running back into the pile over and over again. In fact, it’s a much BETTER strategy because those completions tend to accrue more yardage and first downs. It helps, of course, that 1) Roethlisberger has the deepest receiving corps he’s ever had and  2) that he’s reaching that sweet spot of experience and youth where nothing confuses him AND he has the physical tools to pick apart a defense. It was a glorious thing to watch.

So now the week one pantsing at the hands of the Ravens is no longer the signature moment from this season. If the playoffs started today Pittsburgh would be the #1 seed and the Ravens would be spectators. Things have changed dramatically, but that should be the lesson. The Steelers went from, “Old, slow, and it’s over,” to the best record in the conference, but they can wind up right back where they were on September 12th if they lay another egg on Sunday. Baltimore looms.


Some rankings.

Biggest Movers:

  • UP: Eagles (19 to 12)
  • DOWN: Cowboys (9 to 16)

































































































































































































 0-8  .1678
Categories: NFL, Steelers Tags: , ,