I'll get to football in just a minute but I wanted to start by making an observation about the SF Giants World Series win. Almost without fail it seemed like everyone was picking the Tigers and they were picking the Tigers for the same reason teams spend way too much on some free agent players. They had a power throwing pitcher in Verlander and some great power hitting position players with Cabrerra and Fielder, and power is what many fans and experts find appealing.
The Giants, meanwhile, hit the least amount of home runs of any team in MLB and their best power throwing pitcher, Cain, wouldn't play until game 4 and probably wouldn't play in any other game. So it was a no brainer for the experts to pick the Tigers and all their power over the light hitting, and in some cases like Zito, light throwing Giants.
However, what everyone failed to realize was that the Giants actually can hit the ball fairly well. Since AT&T Park is such a tough place to hit home runs the focus of their roster has been pitching and getting position players who play great defense and can make contact. The Giants finished 5th in MLB with a .269 batting average and a respectable 12th in runs scored with 718.
So how does that compare to the Tigers? They finished just ahead of the Giants at 11th in runs scored with 726 and that was with the benefit of the DH. The Giants manufacture runs while the Tigers rely more on the long ball. Then when you looked defensively the Tigers were robbed of several hits with diving catches, barehanded pickups, and the great throw to the plate in game 2, while the Giants got several hits when Tiger players double gripped balls and couldn't throw out the faster running Giants players at first in time or pulled up at the last moment and let balls drop in front of them.
It's not glamorous, it's not sexy, and sometimes it can seem like they're doing it with smoke and mirrors, but the Giants with their better defense, better base runners, and better contact hitters were able to sweep the Tigers when their hitters had their power plug pulled out by the great Giants pitchers. Those who rarely watch the Giants might still be struggling to understand just how they did it but it wasn't surprising to their fans that have seen them win this way all year long.
Anyways, on to week 8 of the NFL and for any who are complaining about me writing about baseball on a football blog I just want to point out it's not every day the Giants win the World Series, it just feels like it after winning 2 in 3 years.
There's been some talk lately generated by comments made by the great Warren Moon that black quarterbacks are stereotypically only compared with other black quarterbacks while white quarterbacks are compared to other white quarterbacks. For example Andrew Luck gets compared to Payton Manning while Cam Newton gets compared to Vince Young. Well I'm going to buck that trend and say Newton actually reminds me a lot of Jay Cutler. They both have strong arms, both can be very inconsistent with their play, and both can pout with the best of them. In fact it's a really close race between the two to see who will win this year's MVP for Most Valuable Pouter. Get it? I changed "player" to "pouter" so people are like, "Wait, they're not MVP" but then they get the curve of pouter so I'm like, "I tricked you" and then we're all like...it's funny, or something. Then I awkwardly walk away.
In the game itself Newton and Cutler took turns playing well. Through three quarters Newton was the better QB leading the Panthers to a 19-7 lead, but in the 4th Cutler got it going leading the Bears to a TD and game winning FG with a Newton pick-6 and FG drive of his own sandwiched in between. The Panthers finished the game with more passing yards and rushing yards to finish with almost double the amount of total yards (416-210), Cutler was sacked 6 times, and the Panthers even won the turnover battle 3-2, but still ended up losing the game. About the only thing that went well for the Panthers was Justin Medlock was a perfect 5 for 5 in field goals and has yet to miss a FG this season. Maybe he should change his name to Justin FGlock. Get it? He's a lock to hit field goals so FGlock. Ummm...I'm just going to awkwardly walk away again.
If you're a fan of horribly inept offenses and punters this was the game for you. There was actually only 1 turnover in the game but after the Chargers first drive went 51 yards on 10 plays and ended on downs and the Browns first drive went 70 yards on 12 plays and ended with a Trent Richardson 24-yard TD run, the two teams combined for 9 drives of 4 plays or less and punted 15 times for an amazing 635 punting yards. Philip Rivers and Brandon Weeden took turns looking bad and completed only 29 of their combined 61 pass attempts for 283 yards. About the only player who looked good besides the punters was Browns rookie RB Richardson who after getting benched in the second half of last week's game with sore ribs carried the ball 22 times for 122 yards and the games only TD. Weeden, a former draft choice of the Yankees said, "[A final score of] 7-6 reminded me of a game against the Royals in 2006." Please, there's no way the Royals scored 6 runs in a game. I will say I was also impressed by Browns punter Reggie Hodges. He's a black punter, which is a rarity, and he reminds me a lot of another black punter Reggie Roby. I can't quite put my finger on why he reminds me so much of him. Wait, I know what it is. They have the same first name.
Coming into the game the Seahawks had been one of the best at stopping teams on 3rd down but against the Lions that wasn't the case. The Lions converted on 12 of their 16 3rd downs including all three 3rd downs on their final game winning drive. After the Seahawks took a 24-21 lead with 5:27 remaining Matthew Stafford, who finished with 352 yards passing and 3 touchdowns, led the Lions on a 16-play 80 yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard TD throw to Titus Young with only 20 seconds left in the game. Young, who was starting after Nate Burleson broke his leg on Monday night, finished the game with 9 receptions for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. "I wasn't worried about Titus," Schwartz said. "Titus has never lacked for self-confidence," which sounds like code for, "He's really cocky." "Huge win," Detroit defensive end Cliff Avril said. "I'm just glad we pulled it out because 2-5 is a bigger hole than 3-4." You don't say. Any other nuggets of wisdom you'd like to share with us. How about, "It's always better to win a game than it is to lose it," or maybe, "It's never a good idea to have your entire retirement portfolio invested with one company especially if that company is Enron."
Let's play "Guess the Stat Line" with Aaron Rodgers and Blaine Gabbert as your quarterbacks:
Quarter back A Completed 27 throws for 303 yards and 1 touchdown
Quarterback B Completed 22 throws for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns
The Answer: Gabbert (A), Rodgers (B)
OK, I didn't give all the info. Gabbert threw the ball 49 times while Rodgers only threw it 35, but I still find it hard to believe in a game at Lambeau Field Gabbert threw for more yards than Rodgers. What makes this game even harder to believe is that one of the Packers touchdowns came on a blocked punt so Rodgers only managed to put up 2 more points on the board than Gabbert even though the Jaguars were missing their best offensive weapon, Maurice Jones-Drew, with a foot injury. Without that TD I'd be talking about a Mason Crosby game winning FG with only 25 seconds left in the game. Yes, I know, a win is a win is a win, and sometimes every team has on off game. It's just that this team, which was held to 24 points or less only two times in 16 games last year, has now been held to 24 points or less four times in just 8 games. And perhaps the most shocking stat of the game was that the Jags had 341 yards of total offense compared to 238 total yards for the Packers. Maybe the Packers should "double check" their offensive game plan. You know because Rodgers does those State Farm commercials with "discount double check" so they should...you know...double check...no?...awkwardly walking away again.
The Titans had a 13-6 lead late in the 4th quarter, the Titans defense had been frustrating Andrew Luck all game, and Chris Johnson was actually running the ball well for his third straight game with 99 yards on 21 carries (who knew all he needed to improve was have a different QB hand him the ball). That's when Luck finally got the Colts offense going. He led them on a 14-play 80 yard TD drive to tie the game with just over 3 minutes to play and then led them on a 9-play 76 yard TD drive in the first possession of OT for the win. But I can't help but wonder if Luck would have even had that chance if Titans coach Mike Munchak had tried for the 58-yard FG with 56 seconds remaining instead of punting. Rob Bironas has hit from 60 yards and he had a strong wind at his back but taking risks seems to be frowned upon in the NFL. "I thought about it, but there was too much time left to leave them the ball there," Munchak said. For a game that is so violent and risky to play it sure is coached by a bunch of timid men. Kick it! You could have won the game! Of course if he tried the FG and missed and Luck drove 10-15 yards to set up their own game winning FG I would have blamed you for making such a idiotic decision that cost you the game, but what else are fans supposed to do if not complain about decisions in hind sight.
Well we got the annual London game and after spotting the Rams 7 points the Patriots got rolling and simply steamrolled right over the Rams both offensively and defensively. Tom Brady threw for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns, Stevan Ridley ran for 127 yards and a TD on only 15 carries, Rob Gronkowski caught 8 passes for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns and did a TD celebration after one that I think was supposed to look like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace but he described it as a nut cracker which maybe he thinks those guards are since they don't talk or move, and the Patriots defense intercepted 2 passes while holding the Rams scoreless after the initial TD. How long is Rodger Goodell going to keep trying to make football popular outside of North America? Next year the NFL is going to play 2 games in London neither of which will feature the Rams who pulled out after agreeing to play in 2013 and 2014. Really, who can blame them after getting blasted in what was supposed to be a home game but was overwhelmingly dominated by fans cheering for the Patriots. Then again, I guess that's not that different from their normal home games over the last several years.
The Eagles finally fired their defensive coordinator and it helped about as much as putting a band-aid on an arm that's been cut off. Michael Vick thankfully didn't turn the ball over but that was about the only good thing you could say about his performance on Sunday while on the other side Matt Ryan was completing 22 of 27 passes for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was the first time in Andy Reid's 14-year tenure as head coach of the Eagles that they lost following a bye. The Falcons are now 7-0 for the first time in their teams 47 year history while the Eagles are so bad Vick has publically said he'd understand if he was benched. Reid came out saying he has no plans to bench Vick to which Vick spoke to Reid and said, "No really, I'm OK if you bench me. Honestly, I'm fine with it. I mean, I'm really, really, really, OK with being benched. Please for the love of God bench me! If you have any pity in your heart you'll bench me." I can't help but think there are a lot of dead dogs somewhere smiling. That is, of course, assuming dogs could actually smile and if they weren't, you know, dead.
Giants 29, Cowboys 24
They say one knee is the same as two feet but it turns out the tip of your pinky finger is also the same as two feet. The Giants jumped out to a 23-0 lead, watched as the Cowboys came storming back to take a 24-23 lead, took the lead once again with two field goals to make it 29-24, and then almost lost when Dez Bryant caught a Tony Romo pass at the back of the end zone for the game winning TD that was overruled after review showed the tip of Bryant's pinky being the first thing to hit the ground out of bounds while the rest of his body landed in the end zone. Romo finished the game with 437 yards passing and a TD but he also threw 4 interceptions and since he's Romo he always seems to find a way to almost win but fall just short in some of the weirdest ways imaginable (think back to blowing the PAT against the Seahawks in the playoffs). "Just tough when you think you've won the game," Romo said. "It switches at that moment. You put a lot into it, obviously. We put a week's worth (of emotion) in that one game." You'd think he'd be used to it by now.
Well the Brady Quinn era in Kansas City sure didn't last long. Fans cheered when they knew Quinn was going to take over at QB but 2 games later we're back with Matt Cassel. The Raiders have struggled on the road this year but playing the Chiefs seems to be the cure for that. It was the Raiders first road win since they played, well, Kansas City last year in December. Palmer threw for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns, Darren McFadden ran for 114 yards and the Raiders easily got by the Chiefs. "Phenomenal," Palmer said. "I don't think my jersey needs to be washed." I think that should be added to the list of comments opposing players would least like to hear after a game.
I know the NFL is trying to make money any way they can (see the London game and Goodell's attempts to extend the season to 18 games) but not all throwback jerseys need to be worn. And who would even want to buy that jersey anyways? Honestly, I don't have a problem with stripes but didn't anyone ever tell them that horizontal stripes make you look fat? You want vertical stripes not horizontal. Oh those poor lineman. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 222 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Steelers jumped out to a 20-6 halftime lead and cruised the rest of the way for the victory. Probably the biggest problem the Steelers had was confusing the officials with their own players, while the jerseys so enraged DeAngelo Hall he went postal on some poor officials.
Don't look now but after a tough stretch of games to start the season the Broncos are back over .500 at 4-3 and the rest of the AFC West stinks to high heaven. When your main competition is the Chargers who just lost to the Browns, you know you're in a good spot. Manning once again efficiently moved the Broncos offense throwing for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns while Willis McGahee rushed for 122 yards and a TD. Of course they were playing the Saints and the Saints defense might be one of the worst units in the NFL this year so it's not hard to look good against them, but it did give a brief insight into just how scary the Broncos could be with Manning under center. "I've got to do a better job of preparing our football team," newly returned linebacker/interim head coach Joe Vitt said. "I've got to do a better job of getting the team ready physically, mentally and emotionally to play in a game like this. And quite frankly, there's things I need to do better." Read that a couple of times and tell me what's wrong with that. So when he was saying, "I need to do" over the first part did he really mean, "they need to do"?
Put a fork in the Jets, they're done. How much longer will the Sanchez & Ryan show continue? Maybe they should fire both of them and just let Tim Tebow become the new QB and head coach kind of like how they had in the old days. Ryan Tannehill started the game but had to leave after being injured which brought in last year's starter Matt Moore. Moore efficiently completed 11 of 19 passes for 131 yards and a TD as the Dolphins jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and had no problem beating the Jets by 21 points on their own home field. "To say I never saw this coming is an understatement," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "This one, no question, is a tough one to accept." Well you thought you were going to win the Super Bowl each of the last 4 years so I find your judgment to be a little suspect. The Dolphins now look to be the Patriots main threat in the AFC East and have to feel good knowing they have multiple players who can step in and play QB if needed. "It always helps having backup come in and perform like that," Bush said, "not missing a beat." Somewhere Chiefs and Cardinals fans are crying wondering why they can't even get one halfway decent QB.
49ers 24, Cardinals 3
The Cardinals are officially the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde of the NFL. They started last season 1-7 before finishing 7-1, and now they started this year 4-0 before going 0-4 in their last 4. Does anyone else feel like order is finally being restored in the NFC West?