The season is winding down and the significant games for this week are in the books. Tonite, the San Francisco 49ers play the Arizona Cardinals. The game may well prove to be very entertaining (Remember last year’s tilt in San Francisco?), but both of these outfits have proven unfit for the rigors of this season. Big winners this week: the New England Patriots who have found a way to get deep without deep speed; the San Diego Chargers who are serving notice that they are a team to be reckoned with — until the playoffs start; the Chicago Bears who provided a template for beating the high-flying Eagles; the Atlanta Falcons who showed that in the Dirty South, they have just enough to take all comers; and the “Survivors” — Pittsburgh and Baltimore — who were probably peeking around their Week 12 opponents, and thinking about health insurance for Week 13.
Chargers, Chargers Everywhere!
A few random thoughts:
As great as Peyton Manning has been in his career, he cannot like living THE LIFE OF MCNABB right now. Without Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, and Ryan Lilja, Manning is experiencing life on the other side. He still has Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and others, but this is his first taste in years of getting hammered — with no hope of relief. Manning, unlike McNabb is not able to make plays with his feet — and it shows. He’s giving up interceptions for touchdowns. He isn’t choosing to throw the ball at the feet of his receivers to avoid turnovers. He’s taking big risks and losing. Fortunately for Manning and the Colts, they’ve lost 2 games in a row, but moved ahead of Jacksonville in the playoff hunt.
In 5 of his last 7 games, Manning has averaged less than 6 yards per pass attempt. That’s awful. You cannot win in today’s NFL doing that. During that span, the Colts are 4-3, with one of those wins coming by 6 points over the Bengals who were “fueled” by Carson Palmer’s 3 INTs. Manning has thrown 10 picks over the frame — and had two games with no touchdown passes.
The national media is articulate, understanding, and acutely accusatory in their analysis of Peyton Manning’s present condition. Commentators are able to identify injured players at skill positions and along the offensive line. Many have become Maddenesque with their ability to break down offensive line play (Exhibit A: former wide receiver Cris Collinsworth; Exhibit B: Yahoo.com’s Shut Down Corner column). THE LIFE OF MCNABB, however, is not about making excuses. It’s about making plays…even when playing with guys like James Thrash, Todd Pinkston, Hank Baskett, and Freddie Mitchell. It’s about figuring a way to move the ball on the ground even when your running backs all weigh 180 pounds soaking wet and the last tackle they broke was made by a toddler on the living room floor. The Colts may make the playoffs, but I suspect Peyton Manning may need what Jay Cutler needed last year if he is to right this ship, right now.
Get consistent hits on Peyton Manning. The Saints already know this and have admitted as much. Gregg Williams, the defensive coordinator, like to bring pressure. The Saints knocked around Kurt Warner and Brett Favre as much as I can recall in years. Warner hasn’t been hit like that since he played for the Giants.
The Saints have an “ace in the hole.” Unlike most teams, the Saints have NO FEAR of getting outscored by the Colts in a shootout. This means that even if Manning burns the blitz, the Saints will not feel the added burden of trying to slow down the game for their offense. New Orleans’ capacity to SCORE will impact their willingness to blitz throughout the game. Three teams in the AFC have used this same approach with some success against the Colts: the New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers. When teams don’t feel that they can keep up on the scoreboard, they get conservative defensively. New Orleans showed none of that in their all out attack on the Cardinals and Vikings quarterbacks.
Bobby McCray: Saints Speed Rusher and QB Retirement Machine
The 2009 NFL regular season comes to a close next Sunday. It’s time to dole out the hardware. This year’s awardees will receive the coveted Cyber Ankh Award for injecting the spirit of Ma’at into their work. The list of competitors is long — and I’ll attempt not to leave out too many men who have had great years. At the end, I have a few additional awards for folks who’ve demonstrated some unique skills worthy of mention.
2009 Cyber Ankh Awards
Without further ado…the 2009 Cyber Ankh Award winners are: (more…)