The Electric Commentary

Monday, March 08, 2004

PLAYOFFS

The Electric Commentary, Playoff Edition or
Blame Canada!


OK, so for once maybe Canada wasn’t at fault, but we need to blame someone over what happened on Sunday. But first the obligatory credit:

The Eagles played relatively mistake free, if unremarkable football, and should be credited for hanging around and blah blah blah. After all, if Donovan fumbles on one of his 8 sacks or if one of his wounded ducks is actually caught by Harris or McKenzie, the Packers win almost as a matter of certainty.

But giving credit makes no one feel better, bitching does. So let’s bitch. Here are some people that you can blame:

BRETT FAVRE: For the obvious sin of throwing up a prayer without looking down field first. The one good thing about his horrible play is that it will probably weigh on his conscience enough to keep him around the NFL for at least another year. Who wants to retire after that? You may have noticed that the Packer “bomb” plays all occurred on first down and were defended with increasing ferocity as the game went on. Robert “Turd” Furgeson beat his man in single coverage for the games first score, Javon Walker out-muscled two Eagle defenders on his 44 yard catch to put the Pack in field goal range, but note that there were TWO defenders this time. On the final bomb attempt, the Eagle secondary paid no attention to Brett’s play-action and sat back as in expecting the ball to come right to them. They were right. As TMQ wrote just this morning about Brett in MasterCard commercial style “I would have looked for the safety first.” But let’s not pile on the beleaguered QB when…

MIKE MARTZ, I MEAN SHERMAN, MIKE SHERMAN was at least as responsible. And it’s not so much for the “controversial” calls because the first “4th and 1” situation was an easy touchdown if not for Mike Wahle pulling right into Ahman, and the second “4th and 1” situation resulted in the Eagles facing a fourth and 26, and really what better situation could you ask for (although I was screaming at him to go for it anyway, as the Packers possess the best power rushing offensive line in football). He and Tom Rosley and Ed Donatell deserve criticism for the following:

Not informing his players that you can not call consecutive timeouts, which cost the team a chance to block David Akers winning field goal.

Not picking on Troy Vincent’s replacement at all in the second half. Turd was great beating him all day, until they stopped throwing to him.

Not running even more. After all, the Eagles never really stopped Ahman, and a lot of 3rd and 3’s could have been converted if they just would have run, run, run.

Going fraidy-cat after Javon Walker’s bomb catch, and settling for a field goal.

Calling that Horrible defense on fourth and 26.

But wait, there’s more!

NICK BARNETT, for not getting a deep enough drop and getting caught in no man’s land on 4th and 26. That passing lane was his responsibility.

DARREN SHARPER, for getting over to help late on 4th and 26.

MARQUES ANDERSON, who had underside responsibility on 4th and 26, for getting too deep and coming over late. He was also responsible for missing tackles on Duce Staley’s two big runs, which kept drives alive and ultimately led to points. He was also responsible for allowing Todd Pinkston to get behind him for a 40+ yard gain.

BHAWOH JUE, for flat out missing the ball on fourth and 26. Notice that four people had to be out of position for that play to be completed.

KGB for not getting any pressure in regular fronts. Sure Kabeer is sort of a little guy for a defensive lineman, but he let sure tackles on Duce Staley and McNabb get away from him, the latter of which should have caused a fumble, and instead ended up being a touchdown to Pinkston. The D-Line was awful in general, allowing McNabb to scan the field for his horrible wide receivers for 10 and 12 seconds, and allowing him to run uncontested on numerous occasions. For God’s sake, Donovan McNabb set the QB rushing record previously held by, are you ready for this, Otto Grahm! Of the 8 sacks registered by the Packers, just 3 were registered by the by the line, and Aaron Kampman and Chukie Nwokorie (yes, THE Chukie Nwokorie) had all of those. Defensive line should be a top priority in the draft.

JOSH BIDWELL, for sucking. I read an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about how the Packers may not be able to afford Bidwell. God help us if this is the case. Why? Is there a run on punters who can’t land a punt inside the 20? Why does no one coffin corner? It makes no sense! Every year not having Craig Hentrich looks worse and worse. Bidwell banged his most important punt of the season into the end zone for a net of 23 yards. It took the Eagles exactly one play to get those 23 yards back. He also hit two costly touchbacks in the Seattle game. He did bang a crucial 53 yarder to pin the Eagles fairly deep earlier in the game, but then he banged another 53 yarder from the Eagles 43-yard line. He must be replaced. Either that, or the Packers can simply follow the Colts lead and never punt.

RYAN LONGWELL for his repeated short kickoffs. I actually put the blame for this more on Bidwell as he is apparently so useless that he can not even out-kick Longwell on kickoffs. Still, Ryan does it, and he does it poorly. Opponents often get running starts on his kickoffs from their own 15 with 10 yards between them and the nearest defender. With Westbrook out of the game, it should have been easy containing the Philly return team. Instead James Thrash had many good runbacks, and even his poor ones resulted in good field position. I’ll take Longwell as a cold weather field goal kicker over almost anyone else, but his kickoffs are just awful, and costly.

TONY FISHER for getting stopped on the shovel pass yes, but more so for his inexcusable block in the back on the Eagles punt in overtime. It was unnecessary and cost the Packers 25 yards of field position. It is unlikely that the first offensive play in OT for the Packers would have been a pass, let alone a bomb if they were starting inside Philly territory with only 20 yards to go until field goal range. The Packers had 4 “illegal block” penalties on special teams in this game, all costly.

AHMAN GREEN for not cutting back on his long run that ultimately resulted in the Packers failing on 4th and 1. Green had open field to the inside and one man to beat, but instead of cutting back and scoring almost for certain, he stepped out of bounds.

TOM ROSLEY, for passing too much, for being predictable, for not throwing to Turd, for not understanding his personnel, and for playing for a field goal when going for the jugular was required. He who does not learn from Mike Martz is doomed to repeat him. See more below.

ED DONATELL, for that one play yes, but by and large I think Donatell deserves the most slack. After all, it is not his fault he lacks a pass rush, and he creates one through blitzing relatively well. No matter how horrid a team’s WRs are they will still get open after a long enough period. Donatell gave up a few big plays blitzing (both Staley runs, although Grady Jackson should have stopped one of those, and Pinkston’s catch) but he also got a big reward many times including McNAbb’s fumble. If the Packer’s had a pass rush it is likely that they would be a top 10 defense. As it stands they are not too shabby.

One Note on the Pinkston play. The one thing that stuck out to me (If I did not mix up my dreadlocks) is that Al Harris is usually blitzing when the offense hits big plays, as was the case here. The reason is not that Harris is bad at getting to the QB, on the contrary, he is quicker than McKenzie and tends to get there faster. But, opposing teams know that McKenzie is a better corner, hence their first options are usually on Harris’s side of the field. This means that when Harris blitzes the QB is more likely to notice, as was the case on Pinkston’s huge gain. Notice that when McKenzie blitzed McNabb often did not see it until it was too late, and if he did, he could not square up to throw back to McKenzie’s side of the field. Even though Mike did not directly cause Donny’s fumble, his backside pursuit made McNabb scramble in an uncomfortable way.

DONALD DRIVER, for being conspicuous by his absence. Where was Donald?

MIKE WAHLE, who had a great game except for tripping Ahman Green, which cost the Packers the game.

NICK LUCHEY, for picking the wrong gap to lead block for Ahman and Najeh on several occasions, costing them about 2 yards per run, and turning 1st and 10s into 3rd and 3s.

THE REFS for not seeing Todd Pinkston step out of bounds before pulling in his touchdown catch. This made him ineligible, and should have been a penalty.

Finally,
RUSH LIMBAUGH for saying Donovan was overrated. I don’t know if it’s Karma or just more focus, but ever since Rush made his statement that Donovan is overrated, Donovan’s team has been great, sometimes in spite of the QB’s efforts. Maybe without the controversy, the Eagles collapse after week two. Instead they go out with something to prove. So thanks Rush.

Did I miss anyone? Feel free to comment, as it makes you feel good. Trust me. I’ll post them at the bottom of next week’s column.

Now, let’s move on, there are still 3 games to be played.

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP

EAGLES v. PANTHERS

First, a shout out to Mike Martz for once again proving my theory that Mike Martz is dumb. If you coach the Rams, the “Greatest Show on Turf,” how can you play for the field goal from the 15-yard line with a time-out and 23 seconds left? You have two end zone shots. We may never know. What we do know is that the monumental collapse of the Rams has lead to this NFC “Championship” game. Here is what we know.

1. The Eagles can not stop the run. At all.

2. The Panthers best RB, Stephen Davis, is hurt. His backup, Deshuan Foster, is almost as good, so it might not matter.

3. The Eagles have a good mobile QB, an OK running attack, but horrible WRs.

4. The Panthers have a great front 4 and pretty good linebackers. Unlike in the Packer game, McNAbb will feel pressure, and Carolina LB Dan Morgan will probably keep his scrambling in check. So, can Todd Pinkston, James Thrash and Freddy Mitchell beat the Carolina secondary? What happens when the movable object meets the stoppable force?

5. Both John Fox and Andy Reid are good coaches. This game will not be sloppy.

6. The best WR on the field will be Steve Smith of the Panthers. The second best will be Mushin Muhammed of the Panthers.

After careful analysis, I think the Panthers are a bad matchup for the Eagles. If the Eagles are playing the Rams, there is a good shot that Mike Martz doesn’t run the ball and Marc Bulger throws like 10 interceptions. Instead they get a careful team with a good pass rush. The Eagles are an early 5.5 point favorite, and I suspect the Panthers will at least cover, and probably win outright (Note to J. I have just guaranteed that your Eagles make the Super Bowl by picking against them, so you should thank me later).

One last thing. If the Eagles do lose this game, does the Eagle’s Brass fire Andy Reid a la Tampa Bay and Tony Dungy? If so, can the Packers hire him?

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP
COLTS v. PATRIOTS

I hope everyone got to see the Colts-Chiefs game because it was probably the most entertaining football game ever. Neither team punted, there was only one turnover, and the Colts (who have yet to punt in the ENTIRE PLAYOFFS) continued to be utterly unstoppable. It is as if Edge was just saving up his energy for the post season, and he’s certainly peaking at the right time. Perhaps the best thing to happen to the Colts all year was an injury to teensy weensy WR Troy Walters, which led them to sign free agent Brandon Stokely, who is now officially the Claude Lemieux of the NFL (For those of you unfamiliar with Claude’s exploits, he is a mediocre hockey player who, for some reason, would always make big plays in the playoffs and played for several championship teams.)

You may remember Mr. Stokely as the only good WR for the Baltimore Ravens during their Super Bowl year. He has put up post season MVP type numbers.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention that the Chiefs would have tied up this game if a bogus offensive pass interference penalty had not been called on Tony Gonzales. I mention this because while the Colts offense was great on Sunday, their defense was awful. Fortunately for the Colts, the Patriots are not the Chiefs on offense.
The Patriots are a weird team. They were a Drew Bennet fingertip catch away from losing to the Titans on Saturday. Bill Belichick is without question one of the greatest defensive minds in football, and his defense (especially at home) shows it. He also has a history of beating Peyton Manning, as he understands what all of Peyton’s clucking at the line is all about (Note: The more motion you see out of Manning at the line, the more likely it is to be a running play. Now you have something to watch for on Sunday). This game will be played at about 0 degrees in Foxboro, but despite the frigid temperatures, last week the Patriots threw more than they ran. This game looks like it will come down to mistakes. The weather will be a huge factor.

When in doubt, I will take the defense. Sure the Colts have looked unstoppable, and the Denver D was pretty good, but the Patriots at home are on another level. The weather will probably slow the Colts down a bit, and it may even negate their passing game. The Patriots will score just enough to get over the hump, and they will win the turnover battle. No matter who wins this game, they destroy the NFC team in the Super Bowl, but that is a subject for next week.

Next Week: The Super Bowl Preview Spectacular!

We look at who’s playing at half-time, the Lingerie Bowl, the coaching carousel, Super Bowl proposition bets, party necessities, oh, and the game itself.

Until then, I recommend you get over the Packers loss ASAP. There are only 3 games left before the 9-month wait until next year. Carpe Diem!

Paul Noonan
Electric Mayhem

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