Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Say it Ain’t So, Brett

Packers fans are in mourning today--and some are probably still in denial. Brett Favre, one of the game’s best quarterbacks and most interesting personalities, is calling it a day.

After flirting with retirement for years, Brett Favre means it this time. The Green Bay Packers quarterback quit after a 17-season career in which he dazzled fans with his grit, heart and rocket of an arm.

“I know I can still play, but it’s like I told my wife, I’m just tired mentally. I’m just tired,” Favre told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen in a voice mail message.

Tuesday’s surprise move comes after the 38-year-old three-time MVP set several league records, including most career touchdown passes, in one of his most successful seasons.

After his amazing performance last year--critics (like me) who said he was well past his prime were proven incredibly wrong--I had thought that he would take one more stab at Super Bowl glory. I’m sad to see him go.

Read the rest.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Sad Day for Broncos Fans

Today will be a sad one for Broncos fans, although one that most probably expected. Wide receiver Rod Smith--a stand-out talent, a great guy, and, I hope, a man who will still be involved in the Broncos organization in a coaching role--has been placed on the reserve/retired list.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith, the club’s all-time leader in every major career receiving category, was placed on the Broncos’ reserve/retired list on Friday.

Smith played all 13 of his professional seasons with the Broncos after joining the team as a college free agent from Missouri Southern University on May 3, 1994, and posted 849 career receptions for 11,389 receiving yards (13.4 avg.) with 68 touchdowns in 183 games (158 starts).

He was also a key member of their back-to-back Super Bowl championship teams.

His career totals for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns are the most by an undrafted player in NFL history, and he ranks seventh and eighth, respectively, in career games played and started by a Bronco.

His achievements were of will and preparation. While he was, obviously, physically gifted, it was his drive to excel that made him the great player that he was. His first few years weren’t notable except that he learned his trade, he practiced, he studied film, and he made himself into the kind of wide receiver that quarterbacks beg for. Over time, he proved his value and it would be good to see him pass on his attitude and knowledge to another generation of receivers.

If the Broncos do not find a useful way to keep Smith involved in the organization, they will be a lesser team for their failure.

He will undoubtedly be added to the Broncos Ring of Fame, and, I can only hope, be given one last moment in the spotlight next year--a chance for fans to voice their appreciation. Only a couple Broncos have found their way to the Hall of Fame, but I think that this is another name that will be added to that short list.

Read the rest.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Bowl: Final Impression

Congratulations to the Giants for doing what no one would have imagined a few games into the season. It wasn’t the most exciting game (until closer to the end), but it was a gritty performance.

Go Peyton’s brother!

On the other hand, how classless is it that most of the Patriots and Belichick had left the field before the final, ceremonial kneel down. Classless, rude, self-centered, arrogant, and amazingly poor sportsmanship. It makes me feel better when I think what it must mean to lose the perfect season after going 18-0.

Belichick is one of the game’s best coaches, no doubt, but his personality makes Ron Paul seem downright Churchillian in nature.

Now, back to the important part: a brand new House is coming up next!

Okay, one other thing: the MVP should have been someone on defense. The offense did enough to win, I suppose, but it’s the defense that gave them the opportunity to do so. 

Monday, January 21, 2008

About That Super Bowl…

Firstly, let me say that it seems so right that San Diego would lose again (sorry, Don). They had a better season than I expected, but their record wasn’t as strong and their ending was, essentially the same as last year’s exit. It just took a little longer to get there. But it was tough cheering for the Patriots.

The Pats deserve this, though. I never, ever thought I would see the perfect season--and I think I gave Miami a better shot at losing all their games this season than I gave New England for finding a way to win it all the way through. While Coach Belichick remains an irritating figure in the game, there is no denying that he has put together one of the most dominant teams of all time--not just this year, but over the last seven years. The Patriots earned this trip in a way that, quite literally, no other team ever has.

It was a little tough for me to watch the Packers lose, though.

I was one of those people who was saying that Favre needed to retire last year. I said that he had lost some of his talent and that there was no way that they could build a team quickly enough to be a playoff contender with him as quarterback. Boy, was I wrong. Not only did he have the talent, but so did the team. Yesterday’s game wasn’t the prettiest, but it does little to take away from his great season. I hope he comes back for at least one more round.

Speaking of that, I hope Tony Dungy comes back, too. Not only has he been a great coach, but he’s been an upstanding figure in the NFL. With none of Belichick’s antics, Dungy put together a team that has played at the top level for years. It would be sad to see him go and hard as hell to replace. There will be mourning in Indianapolis if he decides to retire.

Now, at last and improbably, we have a Brady-Manning Super Bowl. It’s just the wrong Manning. Congratulations to Eli for playing so well in the playoffs and proving that Archie and Peyton aren’t the only Mannings to make their ways to the big game. The Giants had a season the few expected and deserve some congratulations, too.

Still, in my head, Eli and the Giants don’t match up particularly well with the Patriots. While I wouldn’t mind being wrong, I don’t see this one being an exciting game and I imagine that most people watching will be more interested in seeing how the Patriots close out their season than there are those who believe the Giants have a shot.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Congratulations Miami Dolphins

Still, undeniably, the worst team in the NFL for 2008, but they avoided setting a record that may well have stood as long as their “Perfect Season” record has managed to stand. A winless season would have made this once great franchise the butt of jokes for years to come.

Good win, guys. Congratulations.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bobby Petrino, You Jerk

Bobby Petrino abandoned an Atlanta Falcons team going through a helaciously difficult season after only 13 games. He jumped ship to head back to the college ranks--apparently the pro game was just too tough for him and, without Michael Vick, so was coaching a team that lost its best player to his own damned stupidity.

Bobby Petrino was hired Tuesday as the football coach at Arkansas, capping a whirlwind day in which he stunningly resigned from the Atlanta Falcons after just 13 games.

Petrino succeeds Houston Nutt, who stepped down at Arkansas two weeks ago and became the head coach at Mississippi. Petrino was introduced as the Razorbacks coach by incoming athletic director Jeff Long at a late-night news conference.
On Monday night, the Falcons lost to New Orleans 34-14, and hours later Petrino left the team with a 3-10 record to return to the college ranks.

Apparently a twenty-four million dollar, five year contract doesn’t buy much in the way of loyalty from some people.

Disappointing. More disappointing than National Review’s official endorsement for the GOP’s answer to John Edwards’ hair.

Read the story. And more.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Denver v/ KC: C’mon, Ref…

I wasn’t going to write about the Denver Broncos/KC Chiefs game today until the game was over, but the refs just forced me to my keyboard. Brandon Marshall, one of Denver’s two great Brandons for the season, was just penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. Why? Because after catching his second touchdown of the day, he celebrated by running through the end zone, grabbing a couple handfuls of snow and throwing them into the air. It was completely spontaneous and not much like hiding Sharpies and cell phones on the field. That, apparently, constitutes a celebration with a “prop"--and was probably a good call in the sense that it abides by the letter of the rules.

But, c’mon, ref, that’s just stupid. The players should be allowed to enjoy themselves a little bit, shouldn’t they?

I haven’t seen much of the Chiefs this year, but from watching them during the first half, I would say that they have two glaring problems: an offensive line that isn’t playing with any consistency at all and a receiver corp that isn’t playing quite as well as their quarterback. There were a few dropped passes in the first half that not only should have been caught, but would have had the Chiefs closer at the half.

Now, that aside: the Broncos are obviously winding up a terrible season, but, boy, do they have a few young players that might be huge in this league. Obviously, Jay Cutler has the potential to be one of the league’s better quarterbacks, but Selvin Young has been playing really well. Brandon Marshall has the makings of a top notch wide receiver and Elvis Dumervil (at just 5’11") already is one of the league’s best young defensive ends.

There is talent--and there is young talent--on this Broncos team.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Samari Rolle Acts Like a Child

Samari Rolle throws a temper tantrum in trying to prove his manliness. Which really can’t help his cause much.

“The refs called me a boy. No. 110 called me a boy,” Rolle said in the locker room after the game. “I will be calling my agent in the morning and sending my complaint. I have a wife and three kids. Don’t call me a boy. Don’t call me a boy on the field during a game because I said, ‘You’ve never played football before.’ “

Running to tell mommy that the big, bad man wasn’t nice to you isn’t the best way to prove that you’re all grown up, Mr. Rolle. If you were a man, you’d leave it on the field where it belongs. For the record, Rolle is wrong: Phil McKinnely (number 110) played offensive tackle for six years with the Falcons, Rams, and Bears. Not that having a pro football career is a good indicator or maturity, either…

I was torn between wanting to see New England’s perfect season end last night and my habitual dislike of the players on the Baltimore sideline. When the Baltimore defense came apart at the end with multiple, stupid fouls following a series of mistakes that led to New England’s final touchdown, I knew that I had to decide on the side of habit and just enjoyed the flurry of personal fouls and general stupidity.

It was a better game than I had expected.

Read the story.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Priest Holmes Retires

He was a great player for so many years and it looked like his return might play an important role in keeping the Chiefs heading in the right direction this year. Unfortunately, injuries have cut short his return and Priest Holmes is retiring.

Four-time Pro Bowl tailback Priest Holmes, who returned to the field with the Kansas City Chiefs last month following nearly two years of inactivity, has decided to leave the game, and announced his retirement at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

Holmes, 34, spent the past few days counseling with family members and friends, and speaking with medical experts about a re-occurrence of the neck problems that sidelined him for two years, two sources close to him told ESPN.com on Tuesday night. The decision to retire came after Holmes suffered three hits in last Sunday’s game at Indianapolis that left him with some tingling in his extremities.

A great player and, from what I’ve heard, just as strong a citizen, it is a shame he didn’t have one last season in his banged up body. Here’s hoping that whatever life holds for him next will be as rewarding as his NFL career.

Read the rest.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Broncos v/ Titans: The Ten Point Review

Tell me about those Broncos. Who are they?

  1. Let’s get right to the funniest play of the game. Mike Shanahan, when you live by the last second timeout, you die by the last second timeout. By “freezing” the kicker at the end of the first half, Shanahan gave the kicker a second chance at a missed 56 yarder. Rob Bironas ,the kicker, came out and knocked it through. Oops.
  2. After that butt kicking a few games ago, this Broncos team looks rejuvenated. They are playing with far more aggression and passion than they had through the first eight games and it’s really showing.
  3. But they aren’t that much better. Tonight a quarterback like Tom Brady would have eaten them alive. Champ Bailey wasn’t having a good night, there wasn’t much pressure on Vince Young, and the defense continues to give up far too many big plays and long third down conversions.
  4. And Sam Adams--who, to be fair, is actually starting to make his XXXXXXL presence felt--seems determined to give up at least one encroachment or lined up in the neutral zone infraction in each game.
  5. The offense seems to be finding the script, though. Even with all the replacement parts and young players, the offense is starting to score points and make big plays. Enough of each to overcome the defense’s unevenness (for now at least). All of the Broncos’ four touchdowns were 40 yards or more.
  6. Cutler had a really good night. His stats aren’t gaudy with just 200 yards on 16 completions with two touchdowns. But he only missed on 5 passes, he threw no interceptions and made no big mistakes, and, most importantly, converted a ton of third downs on the way to a respectable score. Add in his one scramble for 10 yards and a first down and you’ve got a game that is absolutely huge for a Broncos team that needed him to lead them to a victory.
  7. Vince Young and the Titans have the potential to be a good team. Young deserved to be the first quarterback taken in 2006 and he played very well tonight--his two interceptions came close to the end of the game when the Titans were desperate for big plays and had abandoned the running game. His receivers dropped a number of balls that could have kept them in the game.
  8. Yes, I do think that the Scaife pass was a completion at the end of the first half. Which doesn’t really change much.
  9. The starting running back, Travis Henry, didn’t play. The back-up running back, Selvin Young, is injured and out of the game. Andre Hall, the third string guy, comes in and scores on a long play for the Broncos. Mike Shanahan’s running back mystique continues to grow.
  10. It’s depressing to see Rod Smith in civvies on the sideline. A while back I wrote that it seemed like he might be coming close to the end of his great career and that story is really growing. I hope that I’m wrong, though; I hope he has one last season of greatness in him before he retires. He deserves one last victory lap.

All that aside, could the NFL see two really big record broken this season with the Patriots going unbeaten through the Super Bowl and the sad Miami Dolphins going winless through the end of the season. If you had asked about that at the beginning of the season, I would have said that there was no chance. I’m starting to think that it could happen.

The Patriots this year are devoted not just to winning games but to destroying opponents. They have been amazing and it’s hard to imagine any team beating them (barring injury, that is). Miami, by comparison, looks like they could lose nine of ten to the Raiders, who I thought would be the worst team in the league. Not a good season to be a Dolphins fan.

Whatever. The Broncos, even with all their mistakes and poor play, are back up to .500. They are tied with the Chargers and are leading the AFC West--for now at least. That is much less a comment on the Broncos than it is on the state of the AFC West in 2008.

Check out Darren Copeland’s view of the game.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Broncos v/ Chiefs: The Ten Point Review

Yes, I’m stealing my own lazy method for movie reviews and using it for the Broncos game. My sense of guilt is overwhelming.

  1. It was nice to see the Broncos break their losing streak at Arrowhead where they had been winless since 2002.
  2. It was just as nice to see the Broncos win a game by more than three points and by more than a Jason Elam field goal.
  3. But, like victories over any of the AFC West teams this year--it is an amazingly weak year for the AFC West--there is a question as to how much it means. Does it mean that the Broncos are settling in to their new defensive schemes and replacement parts? Or does it mean that the Chiefs are even weaker than a lot of us thought?
  4. My money is somewhere in between those two points.
  5. On that last drive of the game, how many stupid mistakes would it have taken for the Broncos to let the Chiefs score an offensive touchdown? Because, I swear, with something like five offsides (including two lining up in the neutral zone infractions), the Broncos tried to let the Chiefs get there. It has to be painful for Chiefs’ fans that their team came away without a point. That was an ugly bit of the game.
  6. In fact, lots of sloppy, stupid penalties on the Broncos today.
  7. Offset by a handful of big plays and smart plays.
  8. Selvin Young looks an awful lot like a running back making a damned good case for taking over the starting role from a frequently hurt, lame duck Travis Henry who seems very likely to be missing a good chunk of this year and the rest of next year with another drug suspension. Young ran hard and ran well, showed good eyes and slipperiness with a nice little bit of speed. For an undrafted player, he definitely looked better than many might have expected in his first start.
  9. Cutler looked solid through most of the game, too, especially on some surprise running plays--I had thought they would keep him in the pocket for most of the game to keep him from aggravating his leg injury; instead, there were a number of what looked like called quarterback runs that were very effective. But that interception was ugly as hell. Either a tremendously bad throw or a phenomenally bad decision.
  10. After the first quarter, I’m pretty sure Chiefs fans were feeling pretty good--that first quarter was an ugly one for the Broncos with a combination of bad field position, unforced errors, and a mostly ineffective offense. One thing this shows, though, is that turnovers can really define a game. The Broncos mistakes were numerous, but turned out to be relatively small in terms of the effect on the game. The Chiefs mistakes--a handful of turnovers that led directly to at least 14 points--ruined a good opportunity for them to stay at the top of the AFC West.

Bonus Point: Welcome back to Priest Holmes. It was good to see him running again (although, I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was happy that he was on the losing side).

Update: Kindly linked by my twice-a-year football nemesis. Thanks, Nathan. You can also read his post on the game here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Denver Broncos: Coming Together as a Team

It was good to see the Denver Broncos come together as a team today against the Detroit Lions. Unfortunately, it was a brilliant team effort aimed toward losing.

Dropped passes, missed coverage, bad protection, injuries, turnovers, bad passes, anemic running, lackluster effort, odd coaching decisions, and even a missed field goal. About the only person who didn’t do his best to contribute to the loss today was Todd Sauerbrun, whose punting was actually damned good.

The Lions deserved the win and outplayed the Broncos in every way, but the nasty truth is that the score should have been far more lopsided. Against a truly good team--say a Patriots team who really love running up the score--this would have been one of those Nebraska v/ William and Mary of Southwest Missouri’s School for Young Women. The Broncos, as bad as they looked, probably looked better than they should have because Detroit spent most of the first half scoring field goals instead of touchdowns.

How bad are the Broncos? They were having a hard time winning when they had their starting team; now that they have lost a safety, offensive linemen, a couple wide receivers, and, perhaps, a quarterback, the Broncos have little in common with the team from last week much less last year. They have lost talent, leadership, and experience through injuries and off season personnel decisions leaving this team frequently looking lost and confused (especially on defense where they also saw a change in coaching and defensive philosophy).

So, back to the question: how bad are the Broncos? They’ll be fighting with the Raiders for last place this year, and that says an awful lot.

This season is shaping up to be the worst Broncos team that I’ve seen in years and this game is, undoubtedly, one of the worst that I’ve ever seen them play. It’s also a tragic waste of a season for some of the Broncos’ older players (Champ Bailey, for example). It’s become an accidental rebuilding season with very little in the way of promise for next year.

None of which changes the fact that I just had a great freakin’ week of vacation where I enjoyed sun, sand, and far more booze than was healthy. Big thanks to Don and Jerry for posting and keeping the place interesting while I was gone. In fact, it’s probably a more interesting place for my absence, which is about as painful as another Broncos loss.

But well spent vacation time. Yeah, that’s nice for me.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Denver Broncos: The Fans Are Angry Edition

Today’s home game against the Chargers showed a couple of nasty things about the Broncos. Perhaps most notably, by the end of the game, it looked like players on both the offense and defense had stopped even trying. Not that they were as focused or aggressive as you might have imagined in a home game against a division opponent after playing some pretty bad football during the first quarter of the season; still, the lax defense on the long touchdown run in the fourth quarter and the weak efforts on offense after that made it seem like the Broncos just didn’t care anymore.

The fans in the stands seemed to agree. With nearly ten minutes left in the game, the stands were mostly empty, the typical loud environment sounding--at least on TV--more like a high school football game than a pro game.

Most losses are team efforts. I’ve said before that the Broncos are weak on kick returns, and that proved true again today. I’ve also said that the Broncos and Cutler turn over the ball in bad situations too often, and that showed again today (with, at this writing, one interception, one fumble on a kickoff return, and one fumble after a long reception). And what has been a bright spot through much of the season--the running game--never got started as Denver’s offense went all lopsided (a total of 18 rushing attempts with just 6 minutes left in the game) after giving up an early 14 points to the Chargers.

The real story continues to be the defense, though. The defense has gotten worse every week this year, and their performance today was grotesque.

The Broncos gave up a 2nd and 33 to the Chargers. They gave up long passes, long runs, and let the Chargers (again, as of this writing) 66% of their third downs. When the offense managed to score a meager field goal with a minute left in the first half, the defense found a way to let the Chargers march quickly enough down the field to match that field goal before the half was over--and, of course, the points were set up by a long run.

As advertised, the rushing defense is ugly. That lack, though, is starting to have an effect on the passing defense, too. For that matter, the Broncos got absolutely no pressure on Rivers all day. A look at his passing stats would give you a hint as to how the Broncos new (accidental) unpressure defense is working. And don’t even imagine that the defense has been taking the ball away from opponents; the Broncos are digging a hole in the plus/minus turnover department.

Mike Shanahan, the fans are angry.

What can the Broncos do to right the ship this year? That’s tough. Not only have they brought in players--a tactic that has worked, marginally, better for the offense than the defense--but they brought in new coaches to improve the defense and the special teams. This experiment has been a brutal failure.

On offense, Travis Henry has been strong and Brandon Stokely was a great pickup. On the other side of the ball, Simeon Rice might have been a bad idea, Sam Adams hasn’t worked out well, and Dre Bly hasn’t performed as expected. Much of that failure, I believe, is that the Broncos moved away from their disciplined, fast, light defense and decided to go with a bigger, less mobile defense that has been torched weekly by opposing teams.

The biggest, first fix for the Broncos has to be on defense and it may be as simple as firing the defensive coordinator, Bob Slowik, sitting Sam Adams (releasing him if they can find someone talented, younger, and quicker to replace him) and accepting that this season just became a “rebuilding” year where images of taking the division are already dead.

Too early to give up? Perhaps, but the Broncos haven’t shown any significant growth on defense, little growth on special teams (less the kicking, which has been solid past the first two games), and not nearly enough strength on offense to overcome the other problems. In fact, the offense hasn’t played particularly well; it’s only when comparing it to the Broncos defense that the offense starts looking okay. The Broncos aren’t getting too many chances on offense right now--the defense is letting the opposition stay on the field with long drives--but they certainly aren’t capitalizing on the opportunities that they do have.

Sticking with a losing strategy on defense and a coordinator whose defensive philosophy simply isn’t working is basically the same as saying to fans, “Sorry, we’d like to continue to lose this week.” Making a change on defense--including shaking up the roster--might give fans (and players, although I doubt that they would admit it) a little hope that the Broncos might win a few more games this year and even find a way to be a decent team next year. Unfortunately, there are some older players on the team who deserved better this season.

The Broncos aren’t just underachieving at this point--regardless of the talented players on the team, they simply aren’t doing anything positive in any phase of the game. There are some pieces that just don’t fit. They are well past the point where they can excuse the lapses with talk about the new players or new coaches; they’ve been playing together long enough that they should be playing well now. If they aren’t performing, either the coaching schemes aren’t working or the players aren’t executing--either of these things comes down to coaching in most cases, though.

I try to stay pretty level-headed about my team, and a trip through the Denver posts on this site over the last five years would show that to be true. I don’t often fall into the “my team is next to Godliness” trap, but I also try to be reasonable about bad games. Bad games happen and not ever game is going to make me smile. Point being, I don’t think I’m overstating the Broncos problems at this point--they are broken to the point where fixing the team is going to require some pretty tough decisions. Last year, they were one good game away from being in the playoffs. This year, the playoffs aren’t even on the table. Fans would be happy to see the team get back to being competitive in all its games and maybe even finding a way to win a few.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Travis Henry, You Jerk

I hope the report isn’t true, but Travis Henry has a rather spotty past when it comes to substance abuse, so it isn’t hard to believe the current rumor that he has failed another drug test and faces a year-long ban from the league. If true, Henry will have wasted a year of his career--and likely face some kind an attempt from the Broncos to recover a portion of his rather large signing bonus--for an infraction that he could and should have avoided.

Henry, 28, was suspended by the league for four games in 2005 because of a repeat violation of the substance abuse policy. The substance for which he tested positive on that occasion is not known. Under the league guidelines, another test within a two-year period would trigger a one-year suspension. Henry would then have to apply for reinstatement and his compliance with the treatment program prescribed for him would be reviewed.

Under the two-year policy, which essentially wipes a player’s slate clean, Henry was scheduled to rotate out of the substance abuse program on Oct. 1. But his lawsuit to block further testing of his urine sample was filed Sept. 20, indicating that the positive test occurred before Oct. 1.

So, to recap:

  • It’s idiotic to use any banned substance when you know that the NFL is going to be regularly testing your pee.
  • It’s a bit more down the road to moronic when you’re a multi-time loser who will face a year long, unpaid vacation for your next violation.
  • It’s positively brain dead to do so when your multi-time loser status is about to be wiped clean after rotating out of the substance abuse program.

That’s the obvious stuff. There’s some less obvious stuff that bothers me nearly as much.
  • A year-long suspension doesn’t just hurt Henry, it hurts his teammates and the organization.
  • Even in the middle of a difficult season, Henry was likely to end up close to the top of the NFL rushing list this year. He had started well, he fit the Broncos running scheme well, and even in bad seasons the Broncos typically have one of the top-ranked rushing offenses. Being a part of this kind of an attack is a dream for most backs--and Henry needed the fresh start.

Wasted year and wasted talent.

The only upside is that Selvin Young shows some promise and Mike Bell is talented, too. Whether either of them is ready to be a full time starter, though, is open to speculation. Since Henry didn’t practice this week--suffering from ankle and knee injuries--at least the starting offense has been practicing with the backs who they will likely be working with for the rest of the year.

Read the rest.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Diagnosing the Broncos

The Broncos lost again--as most people expected. This time, at least, the loss was to one of the league’s best teams.

The Broncos got off to a good start against the Colts, scoring the first ten points of the game and rushing for well over 100 yards in the first half. The Colts, being the Colts, got themselves right back into the game with smart, almost mistake-free play. Meanwhile, the Broncos made a few costly, unforced errors that kept them from getting back ahead.

So, what’s wrong with the Broncos? From the least important to the most important, these are the things that I think are wrong with my team this year.

1. Special Teams
Throughout the first four games, special teams has been a problem. Missed field goals, uneven punting (although Sauerbrun seems to be hitting stride in these last few games), a mediocre return game, and soft coverage on kickoffs that have given opposing teams great field position have combined to put the Broncos in some pretty tough spots. These have hurt, but they aren’t the biggest part of Denver’s losses--especially since much of the worst of it came in the first two games which the Broncos won.

2. Passing Game
The Broncos have a great set of receivers. Even with Javon Walker not playing today, the Broncos two Brandon are both top flight. Add to that the fact that Cecil Sapp, Selvin Young, and Nate Jackson can all catch the ball, too, and you have a reasonable set of receivers. In fact, the Broncos have a decent passing game by most measures. The problem, though, is that the young Cutler can be counted on to give up the ball once a game. And his interceptions only seem to come in two situations: when the Broncos are in scoring position or when the interception puts the opposition in scoring position.

For all the praise of his poise, Cutler has had some brilliant mistakes in these first four games. His interceptions have lead directly to a ton of points for Broncos’ opponents; they’ve also messed up some vital scoring opportunities that might not have won games, but certainly would have made those games a little different. On top of that, his pressured attempt at a lateral to Selvin Young earlier in the year almost lost a game; if it wasn’t for Young’s quick-minded save, the Broncos would be 1-3 instead of 2-2.

I still think that Cutler will mature into one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but he is young, inexperienced, and not quite so poised as we might hope. In fact, if Jake Plummer had made some of those decisions, the local media would have torn him apart. I have to imagine that the honeymoon will be over soon if he doesn’t come up with a game sans painful error soon.

3. Defense
This should be obvious. The defense gave up some good players over the off season because they wanted to change the “defensive philosophy.” The change hasn’t gone so well.

Run defense is nearly non-existent. Pass defense has been solid, but has also failed to come up with the kind of turnovers that a Dre Bly/Champ Bailey secondary would be expected to have. It didn’t help, today, that stalwart John Lynch wasn’t on the field (aside: didn’t he look like he was being groomed for a coaching position when he was on the sideline today, though?)--but the pass defense simply hasn’t been as impressive as I’d expected. Part of that might be the lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Give people quarterbacks like Manning too much time and even good pass defenses will usually let someone loose.

The worst part has been watching opposing teams convert long third downs almost at will. If the defense could stop opponents and give the offense a shorter field, we might see our boys start winning the war of field position. We might even see them score a few more points.

The Broncos have had reliably horrible starting position the whole season and that isn’t wholly because of the bad coverage on kickoffs. The defense simply isn’t doing their job; whether the talent on the field simply isn’t there, the players aren’t executing well, or the defense scheme is merely crap, I couldn’t say. I’m hoping someone on the Broncos defensive staff can find a clue, though. Otherwise this really could be an unpleasant season for a team that should be better.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Things I Like. Mostly.

  1. I like that the CU Buffs beat the #3 Sooners. Cool. Surprising. Signs of a resurgent CU team? I wouldn’t quite go that far yet, but it’s obviously going to be a better season than last year.
  2. I like the idea of an “eternal net tax ban.” I’m not actually opposed to taxes and I do believe that the government at its many different levels does provide services that are valuable and necessary. But taxes are an eternal struggle--to keep politicians and bureaucratic growth in check, it’s the responsibility of citizens to tug money out of the pocket of the government when they have the chance. An eternal ban on Internet access taxes is one of those things that citizens should support to keep our money from flowing into government coffers (and because network access taxation would likely have an adverse effect on small businesses and consumers).

    “Preventing the taxation of Internet access will help sustain an environment for innovation, ensure that consumers continue to have affordable access to the Internet, especially high-speed Internet, and strengthen the foundations of electronic commerce as a vital and growing part of our economy,” they said.

    The officials’ statement is likely geared toward lighting a fire under a U.S. Senate committee scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would merely extend the tax ban for four more years, as opposed to making it everlasting. President Bush in the past has also advocated for the tax halt.

    If the moratorium is allowed to expire on November 1, states would be allowed to levy taxes on digital subscriber line, cable modem, wireless and even BlackBerry-type data services. They would also be free to charge different tax rates for goods sold on the Internet and goods sold offline. It’s unclear how many states would have immediate plans to enact such laws, though, if the ban lapses.

    Because none of the pending permanent tax ban bills has been called up for a vote in the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday, a temporary extension appears more likely. That approach represents a compromise of sorts with state and local officials who have balked at the idea of never having the opportunity to revisit the potential for Internet access taxes as a revenue source. (Some states are still allowed to levy such fees because of “grandfather” provisions in existing law.)

  3. I love my new iPhone. More about it later, but, damn, what a wonderful piece of kit.
  4. Speaking of the net tax ban, I don’t like that quiet congressional inaction could kill the idea. In fact, it makes me cranky.

    If a lackadaisical Congress does nothing, in other words, Americans soon are likely to be paying more to local governments for the privilege of buying DSL and cable modem service. (These are some of the same local governments that have adopted as their motto: “If it exists, tax it. And then tax it some more.")

    Time’s running out. Sen. John Sununu, a New Hampshire Republican who does support renewing the moratorium, made a good point in a statement after the nonvote: “We introduced a bill to permanently ban Internet access taxes back in January. I just don’t understand the continued delay in action. The clock continues to tick, placing Internet tax freedom in real jeopardy.”

    You can blame the Democrats for this state of affairs. Not all of them in the Congress, to be sure, but if this was a priority for the Democratic leadership, Majority Leader Harry Reid would make this happen post-haste.

  5. I really like the idea of BMW bringing back the Triumph marque. They did a damned fine job with the Mini. I doubt it will happen, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt my feelings.
  6. I don’t like that TheDenverChannel.com was a little overzealous in protecting their copyright in relation to a story published by Trench. I understand their point; I just don’t agree with it.
  7. I like that the Rockies are in the hunt for their first playoff spot since way back in ‘95. Although, to be fair, I’m pretty cranky that it has taken this long for them to really show the potential.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Michael Vick, You’re an Idiot

His career already in question, facing a potential jail sentence for his role in dog fighting and animal cruelty, and with his reputation in tatters, Michael Vick has now submitted a pee test that is positive for marijuana.

What kind of stupid is this man cultivating in his head?

A urine sample submitted by Michael Vick has tested positive for marijuana, and as a result he’ll have tighter restrictions on his freedom.

The test was taken on Sept. 13. Because of the positive test, federal court probation officer Patricia Locket-Ross, who is assigned to Vick, asked Judge Henry Hudson to place special conditions on Vick’s release, which include refraining from use or unlawful possession of a narcotic drug or other controlled substance.
Also, Vick must submit to any method of testing at any time.

Folks who know me know that I don’t consider marijuana to be a dangerous drug, know that I support legalization, and know that my typical answer to a story of some celebrity smoking weed is, “So what?” That doesn’t mean that a person with a lot to lose is showing very good judgement when they choose to lose it on something as inconsequential as a puff of weed. That’s just not very bright. Michael Vick, right now, is just edging himself closer to losing that career, seeing a lengthy jail sentence, and becoming one of the most ridiculed men in the country--all this just a year after it looked like he was going to be set for life.

Again, what kind of stupid is this man cultivating in his head?

I’m sure that someone out there is using the “maybe he wasn’t smoking; maybe he was around someone who was smoking” defense. That doesn’t shore up my opinion of his mental acuity. The smart move for Vick right now is to get away from the friends and family members who helped him come to this point where he could destroy his future. Keep a low profile and only come up when the photo op is going to put him in a good light. The last thing he needs to be doing is putting himself in situations where he will just get into more trouble.

Vick--a football player with so much potential--just seems intent on making the worst decisions for his own future. That’s just stupid.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jacksonville v/ Denver: Ouch

So, what went wrong for the Broncos today?

  1. Jacksonville is better than Buffalo and Oakland. The Broncos were able to run up the yards and the minutes against both of those previous teams, but the tables were turned by a Jaguars team that played far better, far smarter.
  2. Broncos defense exposed. The defense played horribly. Poor run defense, poor pass defense, too many long third downs converted, and not enough pressure on the quarterback.
  3. Offense off balance. The Broncos offense couldn’t get its feet today. The running game was far from impressive and the passing game was sporadic. Unforced errors--like the late drop of a very catchable ball followed by a stupid delay of game penalty for spiking the ball--kept the Broncos from finding their way back into the game even when the (few) opportunities arose.
  4. Bad special teams play. The Jags racked up the return yards, the Broncos were anemic on their own returns. The kicking game was fine (if unspectacular), but poor tackling on returns really hurt Denver today.
  5. Questionable play calls. Shanahan’s call to go for the first down on fourth and 6 with just a few minutes left in the game was on the cusp of being brilliant. If it had worked, he would have saved the game. Instead, as mentioned above, it was an incompletion followed by a bad penalty which lead to some easy points by the Jags. Shanahan basically said that he had no faith in the defense to hold the Jags to three and out and preferred to gamble on the long shot fourth down. Earlier in the game, down by a few scores and struggling, Shanahan decided to go for another fourth down conversion attempt instead of settling for a field goal that would have at least given the Broncos a few more points as they played catch-up. It was too early for desperation and the call--a quarterback sneak on fourth and nearly 2--was the wrong one for the situation. Too much gambling by Shanahan didn’t help on a tough, tough day.

And that’s the shape of it. The team didn’t play too well today and had played barely well enough to win the past two weeks.

That said, the Broncos have a lot of young talent and a lot of potential. The two questions, coming away from this difficult loss, are these: can the defense come together to perform better than they have through the first part of the year, and can the offense start scoring points when they have the opportunities?

I don’t think the Broncos are a horrible team, but they sure looked like it in this game.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Patriots v/ Chargers: A Comment

I thought it might be so when I heard the news. I wondered after the first game of the season. Now I’m sure: Randy Moss was the steal of the off season.

He’s a jerk. He’s egotistical. He only plays when he wants to. All these things are true, but, damn: when he wants to play, he’s still one of the two or three best wide receivers in the league. The Patriots got him for next to nothing (which was fair since his value to the Raiders, a team that he didn’t want to play for, was next to nothing). As long as balls keep coming his direction (don’t get all excited there, Mr. Craig) and as long as the Patriots keep winning, he’s going to be a tremendous asset to an already powerful team.

I think that anyone who thought he had lost a step or any of his skills has been proven about as wrong as they could be; Randy Moss is back and he’s looking damned good.

Which doesn’t explain why San Diego is looking pretty vulnerable at this point of the season. Does anyone think that they might be missing the consistency and continuity that a certain former coach might have provided?

Just wondering.

Raiders v/ Broncos: Just a Question

Why aren’t the Raiders starting Culpepper today? Their banged up quarterback doesn’t have the legs or the talent of a healthy Culpepper--and, from all reports, Duante is healthy.

Seriously, I don’t get it.

Update: I’m betting that Darren will have more to say on the game as it progresses.


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