by Robert Ferringo - 12/20/2005
Sunday was a solemn and conciliatory day in the National Football League. While many people - including the self-important members of the 1972 Dolphins - basked in the glow of San Diego's upset victory over the previously undefeated Colts, I, for one, was sad to see the Streak come to an end.
What had taken months of preparation, good-fortune, and execution to construct, took a mere 10 seconds to destroy. That's how long it took San Diego's Michael Turner to shake free for a game-sealing 83-yard touchdown run. Ten seconds for the Death of a Dream.
As humans, we are all infinitely flawed creatures. This leads to an innate yearning that all of us have towards the Dream of perfection and, by extension, immortality. It's a tale as old as time: the Promise of a better Tomorrow, wrapped in the Potential of today. For a few months, in a small way, the Colts had become the latest vehicle for that aspiration.
In the grand scheme of things, the Colts failed quest for the Undefeated Season is quite trivial. Their imperfections forgivable. But the Hope that had followed that team around, and the want of touching the unattainable, was the true loss on Sunday.
Therein lies the beauty of sport: as one hope fades away, another quickly replaces it. And my new hope's name is Rex.
Here are the rest of my random thoughts on Week 15:
-- Everyone is quick to deify Peyton Manning, so he should be able to handle the criticism of his play in that loss to San Diego. That late intentional grounding penalty resulted from a horrible decision by Manning, and he compounded that mistake by taking a sack on the following snap. Those two plays took the Colts out of field goal range, and ultimately cost them the game.
But more disquieting than Manning's decisions was Tony Dungy's play calling. The Colts were at the Chargers' 23-yard line with just over three minutes to play. A chippie field goal would've given them a one-point lead. But instead of pounding the ball and running the clock, Indianapolis tried those two fateful passes. Was that out of respect for the Chargers offense or a lack of confidence in the Colts defense?
-- The AFC made a statement this weekend by going 5-2 straight up against their NFC counterparts (4-3 against the spread). More impressive than the total of wins was the manner by which they claimed them. New England, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Houston won by an average of 16 points. The NFC's two wins (by the Giants and Seattle) were by an average of only seven points.
-- The oddsmakers were able to stem the tide against the favorites again this week. While the chalk has been ripping at a nearly 60 percent clip this season, they went just 8-8 ATS this week.
-- During the Denver/Buffalo game on Saturday, ESPN's Suzy Kolber reported that Jake Plummer spent a lot of time this offseason working on throwing the ball away. All I could picture was Plummer, alone out on the field, picking up balls and just throwing them all over the place like Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite.
-- Home field has most decidedly not been an advantage for the last two months. Over the last seven weeks, the hosts have posted a record of just 55-53 straight up, and are 48-58-2 ATS over that period.
-- The Vikings once again proved to be paper tigers. Their ballyhooed six-game win streak was against opponents with a combined record of 31-53. When Minnesota faced a playoff-caliber opponent in the Steelers on Sunday their true colors shined through. Red zone turnovers, eight false starts, a blocked field goal, a safety, and special teams breakdowns are exactly what we've come to expect from a Mike Tice team.
-- Jacksonville's last four wins have been by a combined 17 wins. The four teams that they beat have a combined 15-41 record. Thoroughly uninspiring.
Pittsburgh should be full of Jaguars fans right now. The Steelers are tied for the final wild card slot with the Chargers, but hold the advantage by virtue of their 24-22 win over San Diego in Week 5. However, if Jacksonville loses and a three-way tie ensues, then Pittsburgh is out by virtue of some crazy playoff tiebreakers.
-- Carolina is officially Team Zoloft. This may be the most schizophrenic team in the NFL, and I can't endorse them as a true Super Bowl favorite. I would suggest staying away from them come playoff time.
-- The loss of Randy Thomas (broken leg) on Washington's offensive line is a big blow. When Washington saw Jon Jansen go down last year, the line fell apart. For their sake I hope the same thing doesn't happen again.
I mentioned two weeks ago that Washington was still very much alive in the playoff hunt. Well, as of right now the Skins have a tenuous grasp on the No. 6 seed in the NFC. What an outstanding comeback by the Forgotten Team. With that defense and Clinton Portis running as well as he is, I won't be surprised if they are able to win out (even if I don't think they will).
-- How dare you judge Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry? I know that if I were a promising rookie on a playoff team I would spend my Thursday nights trolling backwater Kentucky towns, stoned out of my mind looking for high school chicks. Hell, that's how I spend them now.
And that right there is why the first-round talent fell to the third round.
-- My favorite charge against any of the Vikings in the Love Boat scandal was the one against Fred Smoot for "manipulating a sex toy". What did he do, get it all liquored up and convince it to sing "I Will Survive" on the karaoke machine? Did Smoot talk it into signing up for some real estate pyramid scheme? Manipulate. Priceless.
-- We might have found something that Jamal Lewis can still do. Lewis delivered a crushing hit to help spring (Mark) Clayton on the Ravens second touchdown on Monday. How about Lewis pack on about 15 more pounds and reincarnate himself as a fullback?
-- If you got suckered in to going Christmas shopping on Saturday, here's what you missed: dropped passes, missed tackles, domination by New York's backup lineman, 15-yard penalties, complaints by announcers about how badly the weather in the Northeast in December, and lots of gushing over how dreamy Tom Brady is. New York and Kansas City could've saved themselves a lot of time if Tiki Barber and Larry Johnson had just faced of in a game of Breakthrough and Conquer.
-- Any doubts that Shannon and Sterling Sharpe share the same bloodlines were dispelled on Saturday night. Sterling was doing color for the Denver/Buffalo game, and I heard him say that Rod Smith was having a "fantabulous day" in the first half.
-- Wow. It didn't take long before everyone hopped back onto the Patriots bandwagon, did it?
The Patriots are 6-2 with Tedy Bruschi, and are 5-1 since Richard Seymour worked his way back from injury. New England has yielded just 375 rushing yards (63 per game) in their last six games - the only six in which they've had both Pro Bowlers on the field together.
-- My top five non-quarterback MVP candidates:
1) Steve Smith
2) Shaun Alexander
3) LaDainian Tomlinson
4) Tiki Barber
5) Snoopy (if you watched A Charlie Brown Christmas last weekend you'll agree that Snoopy is obviously The Man).
-- Ricky Williams, Jamal Lewis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Terrance Newman, Quentin Jammer, Sean Taylor, and Cadillac Williams were all drafted in the No. 5 slot since 1999. If any teams are going to tank games for draft position, that's the spot that they want.
-- I think I have an idea of why not everyone is sold on Seattle as a legit Super Bowl threat (besides the fact that they play in the worst division in football). A friend of mine asked me to describe their defense and I drew a blank. How would you depict them? They're not rugged. They're not overwhelming. They stop the run (7th), but they're in the middle of the pack in every other category.
-- I thought Dennis Green was a quarterback guru?
-- The Bears have been involved in only two games where more than 32 total points were scored. They've been an ATM on the under, and have been the closest thing to a guaranteed win as you'll find in this business (of course, bet the over this week because I just jinxed them).
And God help the rest of the NFC if the Bears suddenly find a passing game. Rex Grossman looked sharp in the second half of that game, and infused the Chicago offense with an air of confidence and ability that they haven't had in years. If the Bears suddenly start putting up 20 points a game, they may not lose another game. That's a huge IF.
-- "The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now- with somebody- and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives."
- Hunter S. Thompson, 9/12/01
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