Schadenfreude Heals All Wounds


(AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

(We’ll have more on the teams that did not make the playoffs in a feature we’ll be calling “Degrees of Fail.” For now, the quick recaps.)

Eagles 44, Cowboys 6 – Tony Romo is now officially the A-Rod of the NFL, in a comical sequence in which he and his Cowboy teammates turned the ball over on five consecutive possessions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. This was a sequence not even Andy Reid could do his best to mangle with poor play calling or bad clock management, as he rocked Michael Moore stubble and made some great play calls, particularly the play-action from Donovan McNabb to TE Brent Celek with 16 seconds left in the first half for a score, and now Philly has snagged the NFC’s 6 seed.

Texans 31, Bears 24 – This became possible for Philly because the Bears, minus Mike Brown at safety (AGAIN) could not defend or even contain the Matt Schaub-to-Andre Johnson combo (10 catches, 148 yards, two TDs.)

Raiders 31, Buccaneers 24 – The Bucs also complied by giving up two TD passes to JaMarcus Russell and a 150+ yard day to Michael Bush in their fourth consecutive loss to drop out of the playoff tour, and Al Davis a measure of satisfaction on both the coach who ditched him (Jon Gruden) and the father of the coach he fired (Monte Kiffin).

Patriots 13, Bills 0 – On a very windy day in Ralph Wilson Stadium that had kicks going every which way, a rushing TD by LaMont Jordan and two Stephen Gostowski FGs were enough to vault NE to 11-5, a remarkable record given the injury to Tom Brady in the first game of the season (and rumor says he may not be ready for 2009. Can you say “franchise tag”, Matt Cassel? I knew you could.)

Ravens 27, Jaguars 7 – Baltimore closed one hole for the Pats to sneak into the playoffs by defenestrating Jacksonville in a humiliating fashion, including two TDs by Le’Ron McLain.

Dolphins 24, Jets 17 – And Miami shut down the other, as Chad Pennington had his revenge on the Meadowlands by throwing for two TDs for the AFC East title (and a home game against the Ravens next week.)  Begin the Brett Favre retirement speculation! (How fitting if his final pass is an interception, one of his three on the day — but he was having fun out there.)

Chargers 52, Broncos 21 – The Pats must sit on the sideline while an 8-8 team represents the AFC West. Denver’s collapse would have been more notable than the Cowboys if anyone had regarded Denver as anything more than one-dimensional. As it is, it’s merely depressing to watch a three game lead go down the drain to LaDainian Tomlinson, his three TDs, and a ridiculously accurate Philip Rivers, who now host the Colts next week in the matchup of the hottest teams in football. I’m glad I only listened to most of it on the radio.

Packers 31, Lions 21 – Treasure this season in football, both college and pro, for we witnessed a sight we may never see again: a major D-IA program (Washington) and an NFL team both went without the taste of victory for an entire season. If you think this is easy to do when parity is affecting both sports, think again: being this horrid takes real work.

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Heading Into The Home Stretch


Eagles 20, Giants 14 – The most irritating aspect of this result is the “Plaxico factor,” as if everyone wants to call the Giants “distracted” by the lack of their soon-to-be former franchise wide receiver.  They weren’t distracted. Philly just played better because they didn’t have to commit a safety to defending Burress (and Domenik Hixon dropped an easy deep ball that should have been six early.)  Philly is always dangerous in December even when we think they’re out of it, and Brian Westbrook’s 100+ rushing yards and 2 TDs (one rush, one receiving) certifies his status as top-flight back again. Now, Andy Reid, why do you wait until so late to play ball like this?  Back to the Giants — they are still a Super Bowl contender and should be an NFC favorite — their receiving corps just needs a couple games to get used to life without Plax.

49ers 24, Jets 14 – The Giants’ co-residents in the Meadowlands do not have depth in the secondary, and it cost them against a San Francisco team that is playing hard and playing better under Mike SingletaryShaun Hill looks respectable enough at QB to win games (although if the Niners really want to think out of the box, they have a former blue-chip QB playing fullback in Michael Robinson) and the New York Bretts’ playoff chances are going to come down, fittingly, to the game against the man he displaced on Gang Green.

Dolphins 16, Bills 3 – The Fins, like the Jets and Pats, are deadlocked at 8-5 after the man displaced from Jersey/B, Chad Pennington, threw a touchdown pass to Anthony Fasano and led drives for three FGs.  The defense did the rest, and let J.P. Losman do some of the work for them by being his lousy self. How good an idea does playing in Toronto, in the dead of winter, look now?

Steelers 20, Cowboys 13 – When Tashard Choice is the most dangerous weapon on the field in a defensive struggle (he had more than 150 all purpose yards), why is Tony Romo trying to hit Jason Witten or Terrell Owens when the checkdown to the RB would seem to get more results? Bad offesnsive play-calling gave this game away to the Steelers, who are more than happy to take ugly wins on defense to cover up Bruce Arians’ curious obsession with ineffecitve five-wide sets on offense.

Ravens 24, Redskins 10 – It was out of reach when after Ed Reed picked off Jason Campbell on the first series and then recovered a fumble on the very next one for six. The tone had already been set, and after a series of back and forth punts for the better part of the rest of hte half, the late touchdowns were superfluous.

Vikings 20, Lions 16 – That was likely the best shot at avoiding 0-16 the Lions had because Daunte Culpepper didn’t look horrific and they were playing tight with a Minnesota team that has never looked right with Gus Frerotte under center. When Frerotte got hurt, then we saw Tarvaris Jackson come in and throw 8-10, with the finishing TD pass to Visanthe Shiancoe.

Cardinals 34, Rams 10 – A walk-over win for Arizona, which means the NFC West is theirs. Enjoy losing in the first round of the playoffs, guys. St. Louis isn’t even worth writing about at this point, except to note: remember how it seemed like Jim Haslett was gonna have the interim tag taken off after he notched two wins out of the gate after Scott Linehan was fired? No one talks about that anymore.

Bears 23, Jaguars 10 – Same old story for the Bears: if they’re scoring, it’s through the tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen, who both caught TD passes from Kyle Orton, or via RB Matt Forte.  Of course, they also get help from their defense, who helped make the Jags look like more and more of a joke. This team has turned on Jack Del Rio and he’s not getting them back.

Colts 35, Bengals 3 – Yawn. Three TD passes for Peyton Manning. Cincinnati is still terrible.

Titans 28, Browns 9 – Double yawn. Kerry Collins throws two TDs, Chris Johnson and LenDale White both run for one each, the Browns have completely broken down in all possible ways and their coach will be looking for a defensive coordinator’s job in a little under a month.

Saints 29, Falcons 25 – Aerial shootout, leavened by solid running games.  Having Reggie Bush back matters for Drew Brees, as the two hooked up and Bush combined with Pierre Thomas for more than 100 yards rushing. This wasn’t a game that would dissuade anyone from thinking that the Falcons are still surprisingly good, though. Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White are still putting up good numbers, and their lines on both sides will get them into the playoffs.

Patriots 24, Seahawks 21 – Tough play and resolve as Matt Cassel leads a drive that ends with Sammy Morris scoring the game winning touchdown, however, the Seneca Wallace-led Seahawks were ahead for much of the game and showed promise with the Iowa State product behind center, if it should come that after next off-season.

Broncos 24, Chiefs 17 – After falling behind 17-7, it turned into the Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall show, as the two hooked up for two scores and got one step closer to winning their awful division.

Chargers 34, Raiders 7 – Apparently a visit from Oakland is still good for what ails you, no matter how bad the Norv-rot is down there. 3 TD passes from Philip Rivers, despite the fact that the Bolts don’t really run any more to open up the pasing game.

In Which I Lob All Sorts Of Obscenities At Andy Reid


Eagles 48, Cardinals 20 – In a thorough defenestration of an Arizona team that holds up its bargain of the “No West Coast team shall win on the road on the East Coast” Law of the 2008 Football Season, we saw the classic form of Iggles offensive football, the way it was when they were getting to conference championships (without T.O.) That said, the following rant should apply whether you are a Philly fan absolutely frustrated with the inconsistent play calling of Andy Reid or a fantasy owner who has had to play the guessing game with Brian Westbrook all season with his health and whether Reid would actually, y’know, get him the ball again:


That feels better. Yep, I benched Westbrook after four weeks of nada and look at what I got. He had 4 TDs, as did Donny Mac, and DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant sniffed end zone too. At least I got one from Jackson, and I picked up quite a few TDs in the other two games.

Cowboys 34, Seahawks 9 – The Seahags have descended to the level of a JV team. Tony Romo threw three TDs, hitting Martellus Bennett, Jason Witten, and Terrell Owens (three TDs for me!) Cowboys fans, do not confuse this with any sort of a return to form yet — it’s only Seattle, it might as well not count. Hell, if they didn’t blow them out, we’d be asking what the hell was still wrong with this team. Mike Holmgren, the Original Walrus, has looked like someone stole his bucket all season long.

Titans 47, Lions 10 – Tennessee came angry, ready to run some motherfuckers over. Detroit was more than eager to be those motherfuckers. 252 rushing yards total in the game, two TDs a piece for Chris Johnson and LenDale White (four more for me!), and a Vince Young sighting after the game got out of reach, and a comedic reminder of just how horrid the Lions are on the way to 0-16. Everyone keeps telling me the Saints are the only team the Lions have a chance of beating. I don’t think they could even bother to defend Drew Brees at this point. Telling sign: post-game, when they gave Johnson, White, Kevin Mawae, and one other Titan awards after the game, there wasn’t a Lion fan left at Ford Field. They couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

A final note on the Thanksgiving entertainment end of things: NFL, do us a favor and get halftime acts for these games that people who watch football could actually give a shit about. Jesse McCartney and the Jonas Brothers do not count under this rubric; neither does that tiny pixie brunette whose name I can’t recall that butchered the anthem before ‘Boys-Hags. Just sayin’, Lord Rog. If you can ratchet up the player discipline, you can certainly contract out the entertainment to someone who has half a clue about what football fans want to watch.

The Red Zone: Giant Steps

Giants Eagles FootballGiants 36, Eagles 31 – New York essentially neutralized Brian Westbrook and then dared Donovan McNabb to beat them. He had a very good shot, too, as the Giants’ pass rush never really got going — but bad clock management and use of challenges left them behind the eight-ball late, and the line eventually broke down as Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Ahmad Bradshaw kept running at them.

Colts 24, Steelers 20 – Ben Rothelisberger throws a bad pick late to seal the win for Indianapolis after a back and forth game complete with acrobatic catches on both sides. Peyton Manning threw three touchdown.

Chargers 20, Chiefs 19 – I would actually defend the two-point conversion choice by Herm Edwards, but if I were a frustrated Chiefs fan, I’d be pissed that he hadn’t kicked the XP for overtime, too — especially when it wrecked the nice comeback Tyler Thigpen had made down the field. He threw for 3 TDs, matching Chargers’ QB Philip Rivers, who got going in the second half after the Bolts looked listless.

Panthers 17, Raiders 6 – Jake Delhomme can go 7-27 and throw 4 picks, yet the Raiders still lose. Such is the Commitment to Excrement.

Jets 47, Rams 3 – It was 40-0 at the half, ti wasn’t really even running up the score. 4 turnovers by the Rams in their own end has kind of taken the luster off of Jim Haslett’s interim tenure, hasn’t it?

Vikings 28, Packers 27 – The Vikings won on the back of Adrian Peterson — who basically comprised all fo that final drive, after Gus Frerotte threw a mountain of picks yet again, but they also got a lot of it from the aggressivenss of their defense, particularly Jared Allen.

Titans 21, Bears 14 – Chicago dared Kerry Collins to beat them and he threw 2 TD passes to do it. A 35-year old can still threw it around and score.

Dolphins 21, Seahawks 19 – More Wildcat to make the difference with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown both scoring out of that formation, and yet no one can completely defend it, because those two running backs are very good athletes. Miami isn’t winning by impressive margins, but they are winning.

Falcons 34, Saints 20 – Atlanta’s defense gets to Drew Brees: he threw 3 picks on the day, including a pick-six, while Matt Ryan threw for 2 TDs to Roddy White and Jerious Norwood.

Patriots 20, Bills 10 – Turnovers from Trent Edwards are causig the Bills to sink like a stone, while New England is still in a tie at the top of the division with the Jets. Matt Cassel and BenJarvus Green-Ellis both rushed for scores.

Ravens 41, Texans 13 – Houston may have to go back to the well for a starting QB again: Matt Schaub gets hurt way too easily and Sage Rosenfels had another 4-turnover game, throwing two of his picks to Ray LewisJoe Flacco threw for two scores; Willis McGahee rushed for two others.

Jaguars 38, Lions 14 – Daunte Culpepper threw a pick on his first pass, which is probably a clear sign that the team would go 0-9 yesterday.  Maurice Jones-Drew ran for three touchdowns and David Garrard threw for two others.

The Red Zone: Getting The Point Across

(Video tip to Black Sports Online.)

Seahawks 34, 49ers 13 – Normally I would not lead with this because there were a litany of better games on, and I was saved from having to watch this travesty by the grace of my local Fox affiliate who rationally decided that no one in our little part of California wanted to watch the Niners get beat. However, it produced the most coherent yet quotable of coach rants from Mike Singletary, who is visibly and understandably frustrated with a quarterback who is responsible for 11 fumbles and 17 interceptions, a tight end that dogged it a bit and cost them 15 yards on a dumb penalty, and a defense that allowed a fullback, a fullback, to gather up 116 yards and two TDs on only four receptions.

Saints 37, Chargers 32 – Essentially, the Chargers stalled themselves early in London, which allowed Drew Brees and whatever mishmash of talent he has catching footballs to get up early and get a lead. 14 penalties for more than 100 penalty yards don’t help, especially when the defense has completely quit or doesn’t have enough to stop any sort of potent offense. The AFC West is slowly morphing into the NFC West, if you can believe it.

Panthers 27, Cardinals 23 – Kurt Warner got the Cards out to a 17-3 lead, but then Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith powered a Carolina comeback in Charlotte, prodded on by an amazing play where Smith looked like he had gone out of bounds on his way to the end zone, but his heel had not touched the sideline while his foot came down near it.

Cowboys 13, Buccaneers 9 – An ugly game in which Tampa Bay essentially got stopped in the red zone when they were able to mount drives, including the last failed drive with less than a minute to go. Brad Johnson threw one TD pass to Roy L. Williams, and if you have any Dallas players on your fantasy teams, I’d advise benching them until Tony Romo comes back.

Jets 28, Chiefs 24 – New York won in spite of Brett Favre as much as they did because of him. The Gunslinger threw three picks, making Tyler Thigpen look like a competent quarterback until Herm Edwards’ late conservative playcalling got int the way. Thigpen finished with two TD passes.

Giants 21, Steelers 14 – Something I’ll never understand about defensive coordinators: you go to all this trouble, if you’re Dick LeBeau, to develop good coverage and blitz schemes to use on Sunday, yet, after your team’s offense gives up and awful safety on a botched punt snap, you play prevent. Of course, when you play prevent, you give up a score, and Eli Manning hitting Kevin Boss to go ahead for good seemed utterly predictable. It would help if Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t spending half the game on his back.

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The Red Zone: Desperate In Dallas

Rams 34, Cowboys 14 – I’m honestly not sure how much better this would have been with Tony Romo available. Brad Johnson threw bad picks, but Romo can be conned into those too, and Steven Jackson’s 160 yards and 2 TDs cemented a lousy day for the Dallas defense if your name wasn’t DeMarcus Ware (who had three sacks on the day.)

Bills 23, Chargers 14 – And the West Coast streak of losing when its teams travel to the East Coast continues apace.  Philip Rivers fumbled repeatedly, and the Bills’ D never allowed the Bolts’ O to really get going. Also, Marshawn Lynch scored twice, and Trent Edwards continues to be a solid, steady QB, completing 25 of 30 passes.

Bears 48, Vikings 41 – If you bet the Over on this one, congratulations.  Gus Frerotte threw several picks, punter Chris Kluve was involved in one of several special teams fuck-ups, and Kyle Orton had another good day, throwing for two TDs.

Titans 34, Chiefs 10 – 336 yards of rushing and 4 TDs between Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Really all you needed to know.

Panthers 30, Saints 7 – The Carolina D held Drew Brees to under 300 yards passing (no small feat) and no TD passes. Jake Delhomme threw two TD passes while Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and Steve Smith all had very good days.

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The Red Zone: Insane Finishes

Falcons 22, Bears 20 – Qualifying for the bizarre in the end.  Kyle Orton is officially a good QB to me now, having led the Bears on an incredible drive for the go-ahead score, and finishing it with a perfect fade throw to Rashied Davis, putting it where only his guy could get it. But then, the Chicago coaching staff decided to squib kick, and those ten extra yards wound up mattering: Matt Ryan, finishing off a 300+ yard day (first of his career), hit Michael Jenkins at the 34 of Chicago with one second left. Jason Elam then redeemed himself from 48 out after missing one that might have iced the game for the Falcons earlier.

Cardinals 30, Cowboys 24 – We all saw the punt block in OT that won the game (nice play.)  But there are concerns now to addressa bout Dallas’ D, which not only couldn’t get any pressure on Kurt Warner (who hit Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston all day), but looked like a colleciton of talent more than a squad. The same went on offense, where Tony Romo fumbled as much as he threw for touchdowns.

Rams 19, Redskins 17 – So, after beating Dallas and Philly on the road and getting a good jump start on the season, Washington gives up five turnovers en route to allowing St. Louis its first iwn on the season. What  a letdown.

Eagles 40, 49ers 26 – Thankfully, Donovan McNabb led a comeback, because this didn’t look good Philly at the end of hte first half, after San Francisco returned a blocked FG for a score and took a 26-17 lead in the third. The Eagles’ defense got into turnover mode, though, creating short fields and reminding the NIners that they are, well, the Niners.

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