Monday Night Football Madness
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Normally, I probably won't blog about the weekly Monday Night Football matchups*, but since ESPN decided air back-to-back games and screw all East Coast residents that need to actually, you know, WORK and shit early in the morning, I guess I'll go ahead and discuss last night's results.

It was the best of times.... Watching the pre-game show, Chris Berman mentioned that the Bills had announced their plan to play in the no-huddle offense for the entire game. He then pitched it to his fellow commentators to discuss. Tom Jackson made a valiant attempt to be fair-minded, but eventually settled on (paraphrasing here), "I.... I.... I just.... it just seems like a bad idea to give the Patriots offense MORE time to beat on you." Other hosts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka and Keyshawn Johnson couldn't even manage that, breaking down into giggles almost immediately at the thought. Naturally, I went into the game thinking that I was about to see a disaster unfold.

Surprisingly enough, though, Alex Van Pelt (the new offensive coordinator) put together a very solid game plan. Trent Edwards looked really in control of the offense, which was a promising sign. Though much will be made of the fact that T.O. only caught 2 balls, he did exactly what he was supposed to do - pull double coverage on deep routes. This allowed the Bills to take advantage of the defense by running screens, draws and crossing routes. Fred Jackson was on his way to earning a game ball for the way he gutted out several huge runs that kept drives alive. The Bills defense dug its heels in and stopped the Patriots on 4th down twice. Things were looking like they were headed for an upset with just over 5 minutes to go.

The second game of the night - featuring another predicted division winner against a team that no one thinks will be any good this year - unfolded much in the same way. The Raiders, expected to suck as they usually do, matched the Chargers blow for blow, with newly acquired Richard Seymour anchoring the defense (6 tackles, 2 sacks). Then suddenly, miraculously, JaMarcus Russell had a moment where he lived up to his billing, as he tossed a gorgeous 57 yard TD pass on 4th down that put the Raiders up with just over 2 minutes to go. The Black Hole was rocking.

... it was the worst of times. There is a competition among fans of certain franchises to see which team truly is the more woeful. Cincinnati had already made their case for Most Woeful with their bizarre last minute loss to the Broncos. However, clearly the Bills and Raiders weren't to be counted out so easily, as both teams imploded in the worst way. The difference between good teams and bad teams is that good teams know how to finish, and bad teams do not.

In some ways, the Raiders loss seems a little less painful, in that they did go blow-for-blow with the Chargers the whole night. The Chargers simply had the final blow that sealed the game in their favor, as Darren Sproles ran in the go-ahead score. The Bills, by contrast, were more spectacular in their utter failure. They gave up a TD before the 2 minute warning, but were still up by 4 points. All they had to do was run the clock out, or at least take a good chunk of time off the clock (and drain the Pats remaining time outs), putting the game in the defense's favor. However, Leodis McKelvin fumbled the kickoff and Tom Brady capitalized on it by quickly driving for the game winning TD. That the TD came to the same exact receiver on the same exact route as the previous score was just extra salt for the Bills' wounds.

Random thoughts. First, the Richard Seymour trade isn't looking so insane anymore. He clearly made the Raiders defense better immediately. And seeing the Bills tear apart the Patriots defense for a good part of the night made me think perhaps the Patriots were premature in letting Seymour go.

Second, the "B" crew for ESPN was simply horrific. Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic and Steve Young were terrible commentators. Listening to the game, I thought that ESPN had strolled down to the local sports bar and just randomly picked 3 guys off bar stools to work the game. At one point, Golic went off for several minutes about how he would like to change the rules about illegal contact. He was stunningly uninformed about the nuances of why the rule was in place, and what the ramifications of his proposed change would be. It was embarrassing. Greenberg was slightly better, and I do enjoy him on his radio show, but wow... his voice is not suited for color commentary work at all. Nasally and too high-pitched.

Third, I don't believe in moral victories, but the Bills did a lot of things right that they should be proud of.

Lastly, I think the Chargers will be fine this season, and they'll probably still win the AFC West. The Patriots I'm not quite as sure about. They looked really rusty on offense (which will probably improve), but they looked very vulnerable on defense (which might not improve, especially if Jerod Mayo is out for awhile). I'm curious to see how Rex Ryan reacts after this game, as the Patriots O line looked like it could barely stand a 4 man rush. I expect to see a lot of crazy blitzes from the Jets next week.

Studs of the night. Tom Brady and Philip Rivers both started rusty, there's no doubt about that. Sometimes players are studs because they put up gaudy numbers. However, these two are studs this week because they showed real poise and leadership when it really mattered, putting their teams on their backs and willing them to victory. Though the Bills lost, you have to admire the way that Fred Jackson ran all night long, and the impact that Aaron Schobel had. And when the game was on the line, it wasn't LT that got the call - it was Darren Sproles (who also had a killer return earlier in the game). You never want a TE as your leading receiver, but Zach Miller was simply excellent.

Duds of the night. LaDainian Tomlinson didn't look sharp at all. He lacked the quick step we've seen in previous years. All the speed in the world can't help Darrius Heyward-Bey if he can't catch the damn ball once in awhile. And I'm getting sick of hearing that JaMarcus Russell is a work in progress. A third year starting QB simply cannot go 12 for 30. That's horrible. Even if you spot him Heyward-Bey's two drops, he's still below 50% completion. Leodis McKelvin should be punched in the throat. That is all I have to say about that.



*you can always message me or discuss the games in the comments section of my weekly wrap up posts.

**photo credits (all images borrowed from AP/ESPN, ohgoddon'tsueme)
Bills are excited image by AP Photo/Stephan Savoia
McKelvin fumbles image by AP Photo/Steven Senne
Raiders/Chargers image by AP Photo/Marcio Sanchez
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1 comments:

On 10:28 AM , Beers said...

Apparently, some Buffalo Bills fans have taken your suggestions regarding punching McKelvin in the throat literally as I have been reading reports that following the game his home has been vandalized.
http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=4476626