Once upon a time there was a boy who was very talented. He and his friends would hang out and enjoy their talents and try to get better at them so that they could do well in school. Billy was good at English, Johnny was good at math, and Esteban was good at economics. So come the first day of school, Billy, who was good at English, enrolled in all math classes and did not attend his English class, Billy enrolled in all economics classes and did not attend his math classes, and Esteban enrolled in all English classes and skipped his economics classes.
All three boys failed their first assignment.
Now this thinly veiled analogy is far from interesting or complex. In fact, it is just a story about three kids who were stupid and it cost them. It is simplistic in every sense, but just makes you wonder, why were those three teams so stupid? They knew what they were good at, and they just ignored it and paid the price for it.
So how on earth can a team of highly paid professionals do the same thing seemingly every Sunday in the NFL? I know the Monday games have not been played yet, but we have pushed up the date of the article for a couple reasons you will find out about soon. Let’s discuss the carnage of week 1.
The Dumb Kids
I was originally going to lump them all together as dumb, but I think a few deserve so much criticism that I wanted to discuss them individually. Buckle up if you are a fan of one of these teams.
I actually loved watching the Cowboys shoot themselves in the foot on Sunday night. This little section about them will not get into the extreme number of penalties they get, nor will it go into how teams reflect their coach and the Cowboys reflect Wade Phillips lack of discipline. Hell, I am not even going to harp on how flabbergasting it was to actually call a play at the end of the first half (which lead to Washington’s only TD). I am here to talk about why Dallas is one of those dumb kids.
Dallas has 3 outstanding backs in Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, and Felix Jones. Dallas has a mammoth offensive line capable of mauling Silverback gorillas in their sleep. Dallas has a pretty good QB who would be a great QB if he was just asked to be a game manager instead of being asked to go out there and win games for them. So naturally, the Cowboys are a great run team. Wrong. Dallas is so infatuated with the pass that they ignore their ground game, which could probably be the best in football. When you decide to throw the ball 40 times a game, you open yourself up to inconsistency. The really good teams that throw it a bunch have elite QBs, and Tony Romo is not an elite QB. Why do you think the Cowboys lose random games that they have no business losing? That inconsistency manifests itself in extreme forms every once in a while, and it is the LAST way you want to structure your team for a playoff run. He is very solid, and can make plays in multiple ways, but he is not an elite QB. I don’t care what his stats are, lots of QBs could have his stats with that cast. For some reason, Wade Phillips, Jerry Jones, and the Ego Empire have decided that the Cowboys should be a passing team. Maybe the worst part for the real Cowboys fans is that the stats look good so the blame gets put elsewhere. It belongs squarely on the shoulders of Jason Garrett.
The Cowboys are that kid who is a math genius who chooses to be a therapist, but not because of any human element like enjoying therapy more. They just are disillusioned and will not win a Super Bowl until they get over themselves.
P.S. The Redskins are not very good either, but at least they do not have an obvious strength to ignore.
San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore is a beast. Vernon Davis is a beast. The offensive line should be pretty good in a few weeks. Alex Smith is the lukewarm dish at the end of the buffet that will almost definitely get you sick, but that you have to eat because the other entrée option looks like it has already been digested, vomited, and mixed with chicken. So naturally, the 49ers decided to throw the ball. The stats are a little out of wack because they were so far behind, but the very fact that Alex Smith’s first pick lead directly to the rout should tell you plenty. They do not need to throw the ball in any exotic way. Throw a short out to Vernon Davis. Hit Crabtree on a slant. Throw Ted Ginn a bubble screen. Be careful when you are trying to eat that disgusting lukewarm buffet entrée. You have to eat some, but you should really be enjoying the delicious bowl of running game that Chef Frank Gore offers. The offensive line definitely shoulders some blame here, but why on earth are you putting the game in the hands of one of your worst players on offense. I really mean that. Alex Smith is one of the worst players the 49ers have on offense. And they gave him the ball to try and win them the game. I wonder why that didn’t work…
Remember, kids: Don’t drink and drive or give the ball to Alex Smith a whole bunch of times and expect him to do anything other than mess up. Just foolish.
This team gets a little bit of a pass from me because the Patriots looked really, really good. However, they also did exactly what I thought they would and abandoned the running game in favor of the more glamorous, but not more effective (see Cowboys) passing game. Again, the offensive line deserve a lot of criticism over the lack of running since it seemed that every play was getting blown up in the backfield and the Bengals were forced to pass from being down, but I honestly think the Bengals would have thrown it anyway. They are getting Cowboys Syndrome. Lots of egos on the roster, lots of misconceptions about how to win football games, and a coach who, while more respectable than Wade Phillips, is not necessarily strong on keeping his players disciplined. Again, they Bengals get a somewhat free pass, but get a slap on the wrist for my suspicions of their intentions. Unfair? It is my column, so go to your room, Bengals.
The Opposite of the Above Teams
I am a Colts fan so it hurts me to write this. The Texans figured out the obvious and stuck to it. They didn’t outsmart themselves, they didn’t try to throw the ball into what was a very solid Indy secondary even though they were the top passing team in the league last year, they just pushed the smaller Colts defense off the ball and carved the Colts up like it was Thanksgiving Day. I mean it is hardly a new tactic as the rest of the AFC South has been doing it for ages, but the Texans were finally able to take advantage of it and overcome a team that has been seen as the boogieman around Houston. The defense had some issues as Peyton Manning did kill them for 433 yards, but the running game was so effective that it did not even matter. Hats off to the Texans and Arian Foster. I think almost any running back could have run through those holes, but hats off to him for actually doing it.
See, in the above examples, it wasn’t like the teams they were playing had a specific weakness that the offenses were trying to exploit, the offenses just ignored their strength. The Texans are a good running team, they just usually can do both well. They saw what they needed to do and did it. And most importantly, it worked.
I could talk for hours about this game, but for your sake, I will not. I will bring up that a few bad breaks like the bad review of the Anthony Gonzalez catch on 3rd and 13 and the unfortunate, but well-caused, Austin Collie fumble could have easily changed the course of the game. However, when you get so severely manhandled up front and your defense is so completely helpless to get themselves off the field, you do not deserve to win. I take my hat off to the Texans, and say a prayer to the football gods that the Colts offensive and defensive lines improve. The only other time the Texans beat the Colts was the year the Colts won the Super Bowl, so it is really not a big deal loss, but if the lines do not improve, it could be a sign of things to come.
Lions vs. Bears
Before we get to the Calvin Johnson situation, let’s talk about how bad this game was. Jay Cutler threw for 372 yards and the Bears only put up 19 points? Is that a joke? They get the ball at the one foot line and can’t punch it in? Even worse, they choose not to take the lead on that possession. Shaun Hill did his best to keep the Lions in check, showing a repeated commitment to sucking and leaving the Lions, who looked pretty good until Tommie Harris planted Matthew Stafford’s shoulder in the ground, just over 100 yards for the game. I though the Lions were the better team until Stafford went out. Forte impressed, and the Bears defense was pretty good, but most of this game was just miserable.
Shaun Hill was evidently channeling his inner torpedo and sinking the Lions hopes, at least until that last possession. I liked Jahvid Best’s performance, but again, when Stafford went out, so did Best’s running lanes as the Bears knew how much respect they had to pay the Shaun Hill passing game (none at all). Neither team really impressed me, though the Bears clearly had better stats, which mean little to nothing.
I think Calvin Johnson caught the ball, went to the ground when his butt hit the ground, and was using his arm to stop his face from hitting the ground. If I was the referee it is a touchdown. I can see why they ruled the way they did, but I think Megatron scored. I do not think I am alone on that. However, it should not have mattered because Calvin Johnson should have been a focal point of the offense all along and they should have tried that type of route with him far sooner. Bears probably deserved to win after the Stafford injury, but consider me unimpressed.
You can be the judge, but it really does not matter either way at this point:
The Rest in a Sentence or Less
Arizona looked pretty bad for much of the game, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that St. Louis played pretty well.
Miami almost joined the Dumb Kids, but they pulled out the win and were going up against an underrated defense. The Bills still have Trent Edwards and he still is not good.
The Packers tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and almost succeeded. The Eagles snatched a moral Vick-tory in seeing that their troubled playmaker still has some juice left, even though they only found out because the Packers were bouncing Kolb’s head off the ground so frequently that they were called for a double-dribble.
Jacksonville played a team I think it is pretty equal to and came out the better team (boring appraisal, I know). The Broncos are pretty mediocre too (even more boring).
The Titans put a cap on what was a very impressive day for the AFC South in dismantling the Raiders. The Raiders started off what is sure to be a disappointing week for the AFC West by being themselves.
The Panthers were a little underrated as expected and played well on the road. The Giants looked pretty good and if they can get the running game going, might be the NFC East winners.
Atlanta did its best to not score TDs in the Red Zone and succeeded in doing so. The Steelers proved that their defense is still really good and that their offense still really needs Big Ben and a Vincent Jackson (maybe).
Cleveland proved that bad football teams can still play decent football games. Tampa Bay seconds that motion.
The Vikings proved that they are ready to disappoint their loyal fans again. The Saints showed that a little rust can be fixed by facing a QB with more rust on him than the Tin Man.
Well, that is all for now. It just so happened that two of the games we picked for this weekend were Monday Night games and we were just about spot on with our New England pick (including how it would happen) so check it out and enjoy our double-dip on Monday Night.