2009 NFL Season: Closing Thoughts on the Season

Sometimes, the best time to take a look at the season is when the images and recollections are still fresh.  With the New York Jets leading the Cincinnati Bengals 30-0 with five minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, I have a few things on my mind.  Let’s take a walk…

  • I’m sure the Jets offensive line are demonstratively telling the Bengals front 7, “We’re going to kick your pussycat a$$es all over the field next week.”  The Bengals are thinking that Tank Johnson and Domato Peko simply are not going to get pushed around by anyone.  I don’t know who wins that battle, but I know that Darrelle Revis is going to win his with Chad Ochocinco.  Can Laveranues Coles and Andre Caldwell beat the Jets if the Bengals are unable to run with Cedric Benson?  Bengals are a 4 point favorite next week.  Vegas was not impressed.
  • Remember when the San Francisco 49ers were 2-0 and sitting pretty coming off wins at Arizona and vs. Seattle?
  • Remember when the Giants were celebrated for having the best offensive and defensive lines in all of football?

  • The NFC playoffs would be very interesting if the Carolina Panthers were still alive and Steve Smith was healthy.
  • The Bengals, Cardinals and Eagles were absolutely throttled today.  I wonder if they can each rebound from such abysmal losses — particularly when losses like this are only possible if you get beat up in the trenches.  QB’s and RB’s and WR’s don’t get beat up in these games.  They all sit while the guards, tackles, linebackers and other guys take a pounding for the sake of “resting the team.”
  • Chris Johnson can become a legendary back if he masters the position.  So much of what he does is predicated on phenomenal blocking and speed.  Johnson breaks 80 yards and is often untouched.  If he becomes develops the ability to to consistently convert between the tackles (particularly without Kevin Mawae), he’s going to be a great one.
  • I wonder how far the Falcons could have gone with a healthy Michael Turner this season?  I suppose he’ll be the latest entry for The Curse of 370.
  • For all the pomp and circumstance, Adrian Peterson entered Week 17 with just ONE more carry and FIVE more yards than New York Jets running back Thomas Jones.
  • Help me understand this…if the Eagles won today, they would have a had a week off — and could have avoided turning around to play the Cowboys again next week.  The Eagles were shutout.  If the Eagles COULD beat the Cowboys, wouldn’t they have showed that today?  I don’t believe the Eagles CAN beat the Cowboys.  Philadelphia has averaged 29.5 points per game vs. the rest of the league.  They’ve averaged 8 points vs. Dallas.
  • Let me say it this way…it’s not that I don’t think the Eagles can beat Dallas at all — it’s that I don’t think they can beat Dallas standing toe to toe.  I think the Eagles have to rely on tricks, deception and schemes to beat Dallas — and I think the Eagles also believe this about themselves.  I also think they believe they’ll need tricks and schemes to beat any NFC playoff team and chose to forego the risk of SHOWING those tricks today…rather than showing them next week once the tournament begins.
  • The Buccaneers lost today, but they have some things to build on.  Wins over Green Bay and New Orleans mean this team can compete on a weekly basis, but still have some learning to do.
  • Imagine how much better the Arizona Cardinals might be if they never invested a draft pick or any time in former USC quarterback Matt Leinart.  A lot of good players came off the board after Leinart.  It is far from obvious that he is the quarterback of the future in Arizona.  If the Cardinals are smart, they’re still looking.
  • The Denver Broncos are an interesting bunch.  I never thought they would make the playoffs — and now that they’re out, I am pleased I won’t have to suffer through one of their games during a playoff weekend.  I wonder where Brandon Marshall will end up next season?  Last year, someone asked if I’d rather have Brandon Marshall or Santonio Holmes on the Steelers.  Holmes began the day with as many yards as Reggie Wayne.  Marshall began the day with as much chance of playing in a decisive game as my grandmother.
  • It’s not even midnight and NFL.com has already pulled the scores and links to today’s games on the home page banner.  Those scores are usually posted until Wednesday of the following week.  The season is truly over.

Jamaal Charles Finishes Off the Broncos

  • How do you lose to the Chiefs by basically 3 touchdowns at home — in a game you have to win?
  • I wonder how the Chiefs will do next year if Chris Chambers and Dwayne Bowe can get a full training camp in together.  Their physicality could really pay big dividends in the running game.
  • Devin Aromashodu played at Auburn with Jason Campbell and had a brief free agent stint in Washington.  Nothing!  He goes to Chicago and beats the Vikings on Monday night.
  • In the year of the 4,000 quarterback (10), Chris Johnson breaks the NFL record for yards from scrimmage.  Wow.
  • Would you rather have Jay Cutler or Eli Manning?  Manning has a Super Bowl ring and a 4,000 yard season, but his team has been demolished the past two weeks, and he’s only be able to muster 16 points vs. Carolina and Minnesota with a playoff berth on the line.  Cutler beat the Vikings…with Devin Aromashodu.
  • I wonder if Jim Zorn regrets not stretching the field more often with a strong-armed QB like Jason Campbell.
  • My 2009 All-Injury Team features Jamal Williams, Kris Jenkins, Brian Urlacher, Lofa Tatupu, Owen Daniels, Michael Turner, and Scott Bradley.
  • Hnes Ward has played in 178 consecutive games with a reception.  That’s the leading active streak.
  • Will late season losses cost Darren Sharper his Hammer Lock, Vise Grip on the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year Award?
  • I bet some people think the Cowboys are “better because Terrell Owens is in Buffalo.”  You can bet that those people are ignoring the fact that Dallas ran the ball more this season and gained a half yard MORE per carry this season than last.  You can also bet that those folks are ignoring the fact that Wade Phillips ownership of the defense has the Cowboys ranked first in the NFC (points allowed).  Owen’s departure paved the way for Miles Austin, but he was also the one who put the spotlight on Tony Romo’s work ethic.  Romo’s interceptions are way down and confidence is way up.
  • I wonder what the Chargers will do for first downs in tight short yardage situations in the post-season.  Last season, LT wasn’t at full strength and Darren Sproles couldn’t get the job done in Pittsburgh.  Will LT be able to get those tough yards — or will it be easy as pie with the return of C Nick Hardwick?

Charger Offensive Signal Callers: Hardwick and Rivers

  • I bet the Ravens think they can beat the Patriots — if they get a fair shake from the referees.
  • The Colts, Saints and Chargers had great seasons.
  • JaMarcus Russell needs to lose weight.
  • Joe Flacco is overrated, especially by John Clayton.
  • Julian Edelman is going to be a great replacement for Wes Welker.  If the Ravens don’t respect what Edelman can do, they better check the video tape.  Video tape — from a Patriots-Jets game?  You can’t make this stuff up!
  • I think Matt Schaub maybe be getting a bad wrap in Texas.  He led the entire league in passing yards this season and played much of the season without Owen Daniels (remember when they won at Cincinnati?) and without an effective running back.  Remember when Steve Slaton was the man in Houston?
  • Tom Brady has turned into a whiner.  Maybe he was always a whiner, but he seems like he thinks he shouldn’t be touched when he’s out there.  He needs to get over himself.  That team is DONE.  I’ve been saying it since their 38-35 win over the Giants at the end of 2007.  No more Super Bowls…no more nothin’.  Done, done, done.  Smoke and mirrors.
  • I would like to see the Jacksonville Jaguars hire a new coach.  I could be way off about Jack Del Rio, but I don’t think he knows how to take the next step to make the FRANCHISE better.
  • Training camp is going to be very important to Vince Young.  Nate Washington is not the answer for the Titans unless they can play him in the slot.  The Titans need a professional receiver to come in and complement the skill set of Kenny Britt.  I bet the addition of Torry Holt had something to do with the electric plays produced by Mike Sims-Walker this season.
  • I don’t think Terrell Owens and Bill Cowher will get along — at the beginning.  The Bills have become the doormats of the AFC East.  Not too long ago, they were a trendy pick to march to the playoffs.  Remember last season’s early wins over Seattle and the Chargers?  That seems like it happened a decade ago.
  • The Steelers ranked 2nd in pass plays over 20 yards, but 28th in 3rd down conversions in the Red Zone.

Game of the Year Candidates:  Here are a few games I enjoyed.  They aren’t ranked in any particular order.

  1. Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers.  A classic QB shootout between Rodgers and Roethlisberger with a classic ending.
  2. San Diego Chargers vs. Dallas Cowboys.  Great late season matchup between playoff contenders.  Dallas didn’t get the win, but they showed they could compete in December.  Prelude to the Super Bowl?  Chargers were the last team to beat the Cowboys.
  3. Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints.  That Cowboy defense showed up and shut down the Saints.  Too bad the game was only on the NFL Network.  The Saints didn’t score much, but they did score.  New Orleans was the last team to score against the Cowboys.
  4. San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings.  The game that made the Vikings believers in Brett Favre.
  5. Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings.  The game that made the Vikings believers in magic.
  6. New Orleans Saints at Miami Dolphins.  22 fourth quarter points for the Saints.
  7. Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins.  Time of possession means nothing compared to quality.
  8. Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots.  59 reasons why the Titans needed to make a change at quarterback.
  9. Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers.  Algernon Darius Crumpler crumples the knee of Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
  10. Carolina Panthers at New York Giants.  Prelude to Giants at Vikings and prelude to the Rolling of Heads.  41-9, then 44-7.  Ouch.

9 comments

  1. I actually wanted to work my way down the offensive and defensive lines as well, too. So many big injuries during the season. I heard the top 6 scoring defenses in the AFC made the playoffs. The Steelers would have been in that group except for the special teams and offensive turnovers. Ball security and coverage cost them. I thought the defense was good enough (even with late game collapses) for them to have won another 3 or 4 games. KC, OAK, CHI, CIN 1 and 2, and CLE…Defense was killed only in the Oakland game. Special teams were simply fatal.

  2. I can’t say I’m surprised after what I read yesterday. It appears that both Tomlin and Roethlisberger like Arians. I’ll have to write about this. Since he’s staying, it is clear that they like some of what he does. Tomlin clearly wants to run more. Perhaps he feels as if Arians’ hands were tied a bit in the middle of the season when Parker was injured and not running well, while Mendenhall was either riding the pine or fumbling. The Steelers have to get more carries per game than this. They clearly have other problems, but third down is just a huge factor in their limited success.

  3. My worst nightmare come true. I hope that Tomlin will put his hands on the offense some, or lean on Arians to find more balance.

    Not only was third down a problem, but also red zone efficiency. Far too many times this past season, the Steelers got field goals when they should have gotten touchdowns. Had they gotten those touchdowns, the season would have been much different.

  4. The split between offense and defense is stark on most teams. The New England Patriots are an exception to this. Bill Belichick has a reputation for strong coaching and play calling on both sides of the ball. I only heard about his work on offense over the past two seasons, but the Patriots certainly move the ball.

    It makes sense that you have some proficiency at defending elite offenses, you must know what they are attempting to do schematically. How hard is it to get video of the top 5-10 Red Zone offenses over the past 4 or 5 years? All Arians needs to do is watch those games, digest the approach, and match the 2010 approach to those best-suited to his personnel.

    To me, the Steelers can borrow from the Saints and Chargers. They can line Heath Miller up as a WR in the Attack Zone (40-20) and the Red Zone. They need to get a back with better hands if they want to emulate what teams have done with players like Bush, LT, or even Marshall Faulk. Mewelde has the hands, but not the speed. The Chargers and Saints use fullbacks. The Colts do not — but they use 2TE formations and play action fakes far more frequently than the Steelers.

    This offense under Bruce Arians morphed into a passing offense, but it STILL does not have an identity. 4,000 passing yards off of a scramble offense means the schemes are secondary to Ben’s play making ability. He has led the league in sack yards lost for 2 straight years — and that means the offense is going to have trouble sustaining drives until they get an identity. The Colts, Chargers and Saints rarely take negative plays. Of course, they all have Pro Bowl caliber centers, when healthy. Seldom do you see a runner getting stuffed in the backfield. The QB’s don’t take many sacks. And they all have backs who are versatile. They can run between the tackles, on the edge, pass protect, and catch the ball. They also all have backs who can make the first guy miss.

    If Tomlin wants to follow Bruce Arians down this path, they have to make additions in the draft. I have a new post up about how the Chargers make really aggressive plays downfield. They have some real red zone advantages. No one is better at running in the RZ than a healthy LT. No one is better at catching passes in the RZ than Antonio Gates. Mendenhall and Miller have to be given more opportunities to max out.

    I know we need draft picks to rebuild the team in the trenches, but I think a guy like C.J. Spiller or even Tech’s QB Nesbitt would be outstanding. Nesbitt has the size, intelligence and versatility to really open up the system — and Spiller has wheels and hands…and he returns kicks, as well.

  5. It’s going to be interesting to see who they draft, who they cut and (perhaps) who they add through FA. Despite Arians juvenile playcalling, the Steelers were only a few plays away from making the playoffs. However, things have got to change for the better. The offense must focu more on controlling the clock….and that means running the ball. I’m hearing that Arians agreed to incorporate more running plays into his offense. We’ll see what happens.

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