As a Chargers fan, I hate to see him go. But as a Panthers fan, I’m very pleased to see Ron Rivera become the team’s next head coach. He’s consistently impressed me over the years with the work he did with the Bears and later the Chargers. In San Diego, he inherited and kept a 3-4 defense (Rivera coached a 4-3 in Chicago and will again in Carolina) and then got it to #1 in the NFL at one point this season, demonstrating an intelligent and flexible approach to the game. Now, Rivera needs to go and get a good offensive coordinator and perhaps a quarterback.
Remember when John Fox was one of the best coaches in football? Seems like so long ago. I hate to say this but I’m glad that the full slate of Falcons games are broadcast here on HHI, and not the Panthers — this season has been painful enough to follow with ESPN ScoreCenter push notifications.
For the 43rd time, America is celebrating Super Bowl Sunday, an unofficial holiday of junk food, television marketing excess, the existence of Roman numerals, and football (or is it handegg?). And, for the 22nd time in my life, I have very little emotional investment in the game. Oh, sure, I’ve faked it before: I was rooting hard for the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, but that never worked out. The Super Bowl was first serious business in The Smith Household when Stan-The-Man Humphries sent the San Diego Super Chargers up against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX, during which Steve Young and Jerry Rice made history by turning an NFL team into meatwaffles for the first time. The other time, of course, is when the Carolina Panthers had their hearts broken by Adam Vinatieri and the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII, which was also a historic Super Bowl because no other game so far has had as many letters in its Roman numeral.
So today we get the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers are looking to start blinging out their other hand, while the Cardinals are benefiting from Kurt Warner’s innate ability to somehow will really bad franchises to victory. Of course, when I think of the Cardinals, I’m always reminded of Denny Green:
So who wins? The smart money says the Steelers, but the Cardinals have beaten the smart money three games in a row now. The stage has gotten bigger and the Cardinals have proven that the stage is not bigger than they are so far. Both teams are playing their best football right now, too — I suspect this game has the potential to be much better than most people expect. Prediction? I’m really on the fence here. I think I take Arizona in a colossal upset, which means the Steelers will likely win because I haven’t given them a chance all postseason. (One does have to wonder what the week off does to Arizona’s momentum, after all.) Enjoy the game, folks!
This weekend marks the second round of the NFL playoffs. I’ve got a lot of personal pride and fandom running on this weekend (no money, though) as the Chargers and Panthers both play. Here’s hoping they’re not conspiring to make this weekend one gigantic heart attack. (Perhaps I should have rented a defibrillator for this weekend.) Without further ado, here’s what I think of the games. (Yes, I’m paying more attention to the teams that I’m rooting for — this isn’t supposed to be unbiased sports journalism, after all. :) )
This Chargers fan has seen this face far too much, and it needs to stop. Today’s performance was, once again, pitiful. They completely squandered LT’s first real healthy performance of the season with turnover after turnover, and they have completely forgotten how to play defense. There’s a REASON why Ted Cottrell was working in the NFL office before he became the Chargers’ D-coordinator!
But let’s get back to Norv. The Chargers are showing clear signs of being Norved — they’re disorganized, not playing defense, and there are a lot of selfish people on the team making plays for their own stats instead of for the overall big picture (Cromartie, I’m calling you out). Most importantly, they do not look ready to play. That’s where coaching and conditioning come into play.
Remember, Norv took a 14-2 team that was one dropped interception from the AFC Championship down to 11-5 and squeaked into the playoffs. Granted, he got one more playoff win than Marty Schottenheimer could muster, but the more I see this year play out, the more I feel like the Chargers — very, very trendy Super Bowl picks — are going to flame out as the most talented 8-8 team in NFL history.
I realize that injuries have hurt this team somewhat, most notably the absence of Shawne Merriman in the pass rush, but that’s no excuse for completely failing to play secondary, for somehow forgetting the fundamentals of tackling…ugh.
The Chargers are now 3-5 and it won’t get easier. It’s an uphill battle for them to get into the playoffs now, especially if the Broncos right the ship after their bye week. (And I refuse to blame Ed Hochuli for that bad call in the Denver game, in retrospect — yes, it eventually did cost them the game, but the Chargers still have to make that stop, and they couldn’t do it — twice.)
At least the Panthers won today. Might don that shade of blue for the weeks ahead if the Chargers can’t turn it around.
In case you haven’t heard, all indications are that Tom Brady is done for the year. Last year, the Patriots talked about playing through the adversity of Spygate, etc — but they had all their players remain reasonably intact. The rush of air you feel? The rest of the AFC East breathing a sigh of relief. While the Belichick-era Patriots are resilient, losing their superstar quarterback may be too much. The Patriots are definitely more mortal now, and the division is completely up for grabs now.
Meanwhile, I watched my Chargers and the Panthers tangle to the last second, when a Jake Delhomme miracle throw was caught by Dante Rosario for a game-winning touchdown with no time left. Incredible! I hate seeing the Chargers lose, but losing to the Panthers is the only team I can accept them losing to. The Panthers haven’t looked this good in years. Having Steve Smith out may not necessarily be a bad thing for Delhomme; he spread the ball out to everybody. Delhomme always seems to lean on Smith when he’s in the game. The playcalling was very well-balanced (though going for it on fourth-and-1 on their second drive of the game was foolish), and the defense was as strong as ever.
This game is a gut-check for the Chargers, who need to strongly rethink their policy of leaving players out completely in preseason. Everybody was shaking off rust, and the regular season just isn’t the time for that. One silver lining: Philip Rivers looks as sharp as ever. His mobility was all there — it’s uncanny considering that less than seven months ago he had his ACL reconstructed. The Chargers will bounce back and will be fine; they needed this game to get a few things in check.
Looks to be a fun and wild year ahead; I’m really glad football’s back, especially after such a dismal baseball season.
The NFL regular season has concluded, so that means a fairly unhappy New Years’ Eve for a few underperformers. The shakeup begins — where else? — in Miami: general manager Randy Mueller is Bill Parcells’ first casualty in what promises to be a tumultuous offseason for the 1-15 Dolphins. Brian Billick, the coach of the Ravens who lost to the Dolphins, found out what happens when you lose to a 1-15 team enroute to a nine-game losing streak: you lose your job. Billick didn’t have a chance; the Ravens were undisciplined and sloppy the last few weeks of the season. Meanwhile, many believe coach John Fox and GM Marty Hurney are on the hot seat in Carolina. Fox expects to be back, but owner Jerry Richardson hasn’t decided yet. I say give Fox another run at it with Jake Delhomme or Matt Moore at quarterback, but by all means, fire Hurney. The Panthers have had a few substandard drafts (no more USC receivers, please!) and the David Carr signing turned out to be an atrocious $6 million disaster.
The last part of this AP article (via ESPN) is just shocking to me:
The fans turned on Carr and the Panthers quickly. After Carr’s third-down pass was batted down near the end zone, John Kasay kicked a 29-yard field goal to cut the halftime deficit to 10-6.
But not before fans started chanted “We want Moore.”
“It’s not like we were purposely trying to not score points,” Carr said. “They were chanting ‘More’ — that they wanted more points. And we were trying to give it to them.”
Moore, by the way, is Panthers third quarterback Matt Moore, an undrafted rookie. And yes, I want Moore too.
Anyone with any sense knows that it’s time to bench Carr, not just because he’s ineffective, but also out of concern for his own safety, because he is clearly delirious from all the hits he’s taken as a result of him holding the ball eight seconds in the pocket every friggin’ down. How can he possibly believe that the chant was anything but a call for the backup? I’d put him on IR at this point, I think — too many blows to the head. After the season’s over, I’d cut him. He is not part of the solution.
People will say the Panthers’ defense isn’t as good this year. Statistically, they’re not, but considering they’re always on the field, I can understand why they look worn, weary, and exhausted every game. They’re just not given an opportunity to stay off the field for any period of time, it’s as simple as that.
On an aside, keep Sean Taylor of the Redskins in your thoughts. He was shot at his house early Monday during an apparent burglary. His troubled past aside, this is a guy who’s been doing a remarkable job getting his life back on the right track — and he almost had it all taken away Monday morning in front of his girlfriend and daughter in his own home.
He’s still in critical condition (he lost a lot of blood and apparently flatlined twice during surgery), but the fact that he’s made it this far is certainly reassuring.
UPDATE: Sadly, Taylor passed away early this morning. Very, very tragic…
This is one of those Lousy Football Days that I will just care to forget…
- David Carr is not the answer for the Panthers. Period. He may be a warm body at the quarterback position, but there’s nothing that tells me he knows how to win. This is his second start where a touchdown in garbage time avoided the shutout. I hope Vinny gets better soon, and if not, then it’s time to call it a season and put Matt Moore in. Carr was, fairly, given a second chance outside of Houston, but he’s just rattled, porous line or otherwise.
- It’s too bad the Titans are in the Colts’ division. They’ve played all-out gritty football this year. I have to give kudos to a team that keeps its head coach around longer than three years, too. Jeff Fisher is one of the good ones.
- John Fox embodies the definition of insanity: Trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. More David Carr starts will result in more near-shutouts. He is not directing that offense. Fox needs to put away his blind loyalty to his starters and put Carr on the bench.
- Whatever comes of Jake Delhomme’s recovery from Tommy John surgery, it’s time for the Panthers to think very hard about drafting a quarterback next April, just in case.
- Something’s wrong with John Kasay. I don’t know what it is, but he is not as automatic as he used to be.
- And here I thought the Chargers were making progress. Instead, they lose to a 2-5 team and give up 296 yards to one player, Antonio Cromartie’s NFL-record 109-yard short field goal return notwithstanding.
- Brad Childress had better be awful careful not to burn out Adrian Peterson now. That’s a weapon he’ll want around for years to come. There are so many great running backs that have had their careers cut far too short because of being worked too hard (Terrell Davis, Jamal Anderson, and soon, Cadillac Williams, for starters)
- The Packers are 7-1. The Lions are 6-2. No, I can’t believe it either.
- The Saints will still win the NFC South. They are most definitely back on track.
- …and yes. The Game. It was a good one, too — one the Patriots should have probably lost — but they kept plugging away. Make no mistake, they beat a good team that largely outplayed them most of the day, and yet they found a way to win. The Patriots proved today they can win ugly. This team has the best chance I’ve seen at going 16-0.
- The disgusted look on Peyton Manning’s face as Brady was kneeling to finish the game really said it all. I can’t say I blame him.