by Robert Ferringo - 09/28/2005
Like a masterful poker player, the Patriots simply make all the proper plays while waiting for you to make an err of judgment. When that moment occurs, they quickly pounce and snatch your bankroll out from under you before you even know what happened. Pittsburgh, with the exception of a few plays, put together a strong performance on Sunday at Heinz field and displayed ample resolve with their fourth-quarter comeback. However, they made one egregious error in the final two minutes. And with the Patriots, that's all it takes.
Pittsburgh, down 20-13 with 1 minute, 25 seconds remaining and a first-and-goal from the two, had overtime in its grasp. But I quickly pointed out to my friend Rich - as rabid and diehard a Steelers fan as I've ever seen - that the best result here would be for the Steelers to run the ball and get stopped on first down, then punch it in on one of the next two plays. Sure enough, instead of reacting to a pretty obvious situation the Steelers went play-action and scored immediately. It was a nice scoring play, but a poor example of clock management.
Instead, there was 1:14 remaining when Brady took the field, needing only 40 yards to enter Adam Vinatieri's range. What ensued was a drive eerily similar to the one Brady directed in Super Bowl XXXVI to beat St. Louis. Similar not in it's drama, but in it's simplicity - two short dump offs that turn into big gains due to missed tackles, a final completion for some insurance yards, and Viniatieri sealing the deal. Thanks for coming, drive home safely.
Such surgical precision is a primary reason that New England hasn't lost two games in a row since 2002, and is 36-5 over their last 41 games. At their zenith, the Miami teams of the 70's went 37-4 over a similar stretch. The victory marked Brady's 17th career game-winning drive, and Vinatieri's kick was the 18th silencer of his career. And that, my friends, is why you bet against the Patriots at you own risk.
Moving on, I watched the American Film Institutes show on the Top 100 movie quotes of the last century, and I decided to splice a few of the selections into the Ferringo Report this week. I hope all of you movie connoisseurs enjoy.
"Attica! Attica!" - Dog Day Afternoon
Sunday was the Day of the Dog in the NFL. Underdogs were 9-5 against the spread and home dogs were 3-1 ATS. This is continuing the early trend, where dogs are 25-21 ATS in this young season, a nearly 20 percent differential for teams with higher payoffs.
"Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get." - Forrest Gump
Former first-round pick Sebastian Janikowski shanked two field goals in Oakland's three-point loss to Philadelphia. One hit the post, and the other was a 37-yarder that he pushed left. His counterpart, David Akers, shook off a severe hamstring injury to knock down a game-clinching 29-yarder. Oh, and both Akers and the aforementioned Vinatieri both went undrafted.
"You talking to me?" - Taxi Driver
Someone tell San Francisco linebackers to shut their mouths. One week after Derek Smith was talking smack about ex-49er Terrell Owens (which ended in S.F. getting thrashed by T.O. and the Eagles 42-3), Julian Peterson guaranteed victory this weekend over the Cowboys. Of course, the Niners blew a huge lead to lose 34-31, and are now 3-16 over its last 19 games.
"Well, nobody's perfect." - Some Like It Hot
In the Tennessee/St. Louis game, Titans defensive end Antwan Odom recovered a Marc Bulger fumble and rumbled 25 yards for a touchdown. He then spiked the ball against the wall, tripped over his own feet and slid, crashing into the same wall. Part of me was hoping that he sprained knee so I could put him in the Gus Frerotte TD Celebration Hall of Shame.
"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." - Sunset Boulevard
New York, get ready to meet Brooks Bollinger. Chad Pennington's shoulder problems have sidelined him for the season and pretty much ended any Jets/Super Bowl talk.
Several other notable injuries occurred this weekend as well. Rodney Harrison (ACL) and Takeo Spikes (Achilles) are both done for the year, Akers will miss time, and Kurt Warner strained his hamstring.
"I'll have what she's having." When Harry Met Sally
Do you think Hillary Clinton is going to be watching "Commander-and-Chief"? It's kind of odd to say, but how that show is received by audiences could actually have an impact, on some subliminal level, on any potential run at the presidency by the former First Lady. So, for Clinton's sake, I hope the show is better than that terribly uncomfortable exchange Monday between John Madden and Geena Davis (never thought I'd be typing that sentence).
"I feel the need - the need for speed!" - Top Gun
Running backs had monster games on Sunday. LaDainian Tomlinson joined Frank Gifford as the only player to have a TD pass, five catches, over 100 yards, and three TD's in one game en route to 246 all-purpose yards. Cadillac Williams put up 158 yards, setting a new record for the most yards in a player's first three games. Also, Willis McGahee (27 for 140) and Ronnie Brown (23 for 132) silenced their critics with outstanding games, and Shaun Alexander blew up for four touchdowns.
However, the weekend's most impressive performance belonged to Fred Taylor. People have always questioned his toughness, but Taylor logged 37 carries to grind out 98 yards and a touchdown in a hard fought road win over the Jets.
"Show me the money!" - Jerry Maguire
The other big winner (in the gambling world) on Sunday was the AFC vs. the NFC. While the conferences split the straight-up battle (3 wins each) the AFC was 5-1 against the spread on Sunday. That runs their 2005 record to 7-4 ATS against the NFC.
"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?" - The Graduate
I'm still not totally sold on Tampa Bay and Cincinnati as elite teams. Good, obviously. Elite, no. Tampa has downed Minnesota (1-2), Buffalo (1-2), and Green Bay (0-3). Cincinnati has topped three teams (Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago) that are a combined 3-6. They both have two road wins (which is crucial) but they don't have a statement game yet. Also, I know that Seattle and Denver have looked unstoppable these last two weeks, but that's what they always do this time of year. They sucker you in, and then they disappoint. Proceed with caution.
"Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?" - Little Caesar
I know that Indianapolis' defense has looked great in their first three contests (16 total points given up). I understand that it's crucial that the Colts learn to win tough, grind-it-out games. But there's something fishy about their lack of offense. It's actually kind of creepy. Are they holding back or have people started to figure them out?
So far, the Colts have scored just 47 points in three games (16 points per). That's half as much as they tallied last year when they put up 33 per game, and had totals of 45,49,49 and 51. They are running more, but they're not doing it to protect the defense. Their average time of possession last season was 28:40 (25th in the league). This year it's 29:09 (22nd). I'm going to give them another week or two, but this is a story worth coming back to.
"Can you smell what The Rock is cookin'?" - WrestleMania XVII
OK, this wasn't on AFI's list. But what the hell was The Rock doing as the emcee of Denver's MNF game? Isn't he from Miami? I swear I saw a couple of Broncos give him a bump on their way out the tunnel. How great would that have been if John Lynch had come out and given him a stunner?
"Snap out of it!" - Moonstruck
Carolina has left thousands of people shaking their heads. They beat New England, but they lose to New Orleans and Miami? Jake Delhomme has made some terrible, costly decisions the last two weeks. He's trying to do too much.
In a related note, Miami is now 33-10 in September since 1992 (there you go Hayes).
"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." - Casablanca
Certain Wal-Marts throughout North America will soon be selling dildos and inflatable dolls. Seriously. Wal-Mart is going to stock sex toys. That's awesome since that 2-to-6 weeks on mail orders always seems to be closer to six. So I've heard.
"Elementary, my dear Watson" - The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
If you run the ball effectively, you're going to win ball games. One of the most impressive examples of this phenomenon was Atlanta going into Buffalo to beat the Bills. The Falcons were only 9-11 on the road with Mike Vick under center since 2003, but held firm for a win in a tough venue. The credit (as usual) goes to the running attack, which posted 236 yards and a 6.6-yard average.
"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!" - Dr. Strangelove
My fiancé was in hysterics while I was watching Sunday NFL Countdown, when the crew walked out onto their little make-believe football field to re-enact plays. "They're grown men, in suits, pretending to play football," she laughed. She has a point. Instead of breaking down film to show viewers subtle nuances of the games (see: Ron Jaworski), they shed the jackets, let the guts hang out, and "pal around" while displaying how the quarterback takes the ball from the center. The point this serves is to remind us (in case they ever let us forget) that these clowns used to be great players - and take our focus away from how awful most of them are at analysis.
"What we have here is failure to communicate." - Cool Hand Luke
I want to see an episode of "Pardon the Interruption" with Shannon Sharpe and Michael Irvin as the hosts. They'd make zero sense, and the over/under on words of English out of Irvin's mouth would be 18.5.
"Shane! Shane! Come back!" - Shane
Before people get too carried away with how Brett Favre is somehow the reason Green Bay is 0-3, they need to realize that this team would still be terrible with Manning, Brady, Jesus or Shane Falco under center.
"What a dump." - Beyond the Forest
Chicago's average drive on offense through two games was 22 yards. Their average drive on Sunday against Cincinnati was 17 yards. Try having to root for that every week.
"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." - Wall Street
The Bengals became the first team in NFL history to intercept five passes in back-to-back games. They now have forced 16 turnovers in three games, which is more than the Packers and Rams managed all of last year. They're on pace for 22,000 turnovers this year (95, actually). Their secondary is very physical and active but they still get pushed around up front. When they run into a smashmouth team they're going to get rolled over (see: Pittsburgh).
"We'll always have Paris." - Casablanca
If you're a Giants fan you shouldn't be upset about that loss in San Diego, which was the lock game of the week. Instead, be very happy about the fact that Eli Manning is making such progress (689 yards, five touchdowns and only two interceptions) through his first three games.
But I would be concerned with the defense. San Diego rang up 485 total yards (the Giants managed 425 of their own), and the Chargers drive summaries went like so: TD, TD, TD, fumble, punt, end of half, TD, TD, TD, FG, punt.
"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" - Network
Minnesota linemen Bryant McKinnie and Marcus Johnson were arrested late Sunday night after an alleged scuffle outside a gas station. Maybe they're sick of price gouging too.