Monday, September 27, 2010

Bears 20, Packers 17- Bonertime.

First off, a quick note to Green Bay Packers fans and the media (especially you, Trent Dilfer):

Holding calls, blocked field goals, and forced fumbles are caused by the defense. Green Bay didn't give the game away. Chicago took it. This is the NFL. If you "deserved" to win you would have. Robbie Gould missed a FG. Desmond Clark dropped a TD on a pass that hit him in the hands on 4th and Goal. Mike Martz once again forgot the QB sneak on 4th and goal. That's 10 points off the board for Chicago, but you don't hear me bitching. Grow up.

Now, onto the shoutouts:

THE GOOD:

Devin Hester: He's baaaaaack. Hester had two very good returns including his first return TD since 2007. Bonerific. God dammit, I love that sonofabitch.

Greg Olsen: For two straight weeks he's made me eat my words. Keep it up, you big lug. 5 catches for 64 yards and TD and they were all huge.

Johnny Knox: 4 catches, 94 yards. The most consistent receiver the Bears have.

UrlachBriggsamoa: The linebacking trio held Green Bay to just 63 yards rushing (with 20 of those coming on some ridiculous scrambles by Rodgers), Briggs had a pick, and Urlacher forced what was essentially the game winning fumble. Glorious. Please, for the love of all that is holy, stay healthy this year.

Julius Peppers: Michael Lombardi of the NFL said that he "didn't make the big plays" this game. Ummm....Mike, what the hell do you call blocking a field goal and forcing nearly 100 penalty yards singlehandedly? A holding call is a good defensive play. Why don't people acknowledge this? Lineman don't hold unless they know Peppers is half a second away from making Aaron Rodgers eat his helmet.

Tim Jennings: He recovered the fumble, had some big hits, and actually seemed to do a better job in coverage than Bowman, the man he replaced. Nice call, Lovie.

Jay Cutler: It wasn't the prettiest game he's ever played, but don't let a bunch of interceptions-that-weren't tarnish your view of what happened. Cutler took Green Bay's best shot and found a way to make them pay late. He's currently at 60/91 (65.9%) for 870 yards (9.6 YPA, 290 YPG) with 6 TDs, 2 INTs, and a 109.7 rating. He's now over .500 as a Bears starter. This, folks, is what a franchise fucking quarterback looks like. Enjoy it.


The Bad:

The offensive line: They settled down after allowing 3 early sacks, but Cutler still got hit way too damn many times and they only paved the way for 40 rushing yards (I'm not giving them credit for the 37 yards Jay racked up while running for his life.) They've got to be better.

Martz, Lovie, or whoever the hell was responsible for that fourth down call: I give credit to Martz for once again salvaging a working offense out of this patchwork offensive line, but that was a stupid call. USE THE QUARTERBACK SNEAK. YOU HAVE A 6'3" 230 LB QB WHO'S VERY MOBILE. Jesus. As for Lovie going for it on 4th down, well, take the points, moron.

Desmond Clark: All of that would have been a moot point if Dez actually catches that ball. I don't care if the throw was off, if it hits you in both hands you have to make that play.

ESPN: As usual, you people suck at everything. Trent Dilfer immediately dismissing the Bears win as a "disgrace for Green Bay." Replacing Jon Gruden with a GrudenBot that simply says "THIS GUY. I call him the __________. Because he _________." Allowing Mike Tirico near a microphone. Gainfully employing Matt Millen. SOMEHOW FINDING A WAY TO WORK IN FOOTAGE OF BRETT FAVRE'S FIRST CAREER START JESUS CHRIST YOU PEOPLE ARE RIDICULOUS.

Well, that's all for now, folks. Your Chicago Bears are 3-0 and alone in first place. The schedule features a ton of winnable games the next few weeks (@Giants, @Panthers, Seahawks, and Redskins). There's every reason to hope this team can enter the bye week at 7-0. Anything less than 6-1 would be a disappointment, frankly. They open up after the bye week with Buffalo in Toronto and then the Vikings at home. They need to win all of the games that they're supposed to win in that stretch, because the stretch run is going to be more difficult (@Dolphins, Eagles, Patriots, @ Vikings, Jets, @Packers). But enough of looking ahead. Savor this shit for now. The Bears are in first, the Packers are in second, and gameday is just six days away. Bear down, motherfuckers.

College Football Roundup Week 4

Miami 31, Pittsburgh 3
Every year I tell myself I'm going to bury the axe and that the mature thing would be to forgive Dave Wannstedt for shitting on my childhood. Then this happens and I still really fucking enjoy it. Fuck you, Wanny.

Stanford 37, Notre Dame 14
I'm so glad that Notre Dame finally hired a head coach who doesn't start off with one deceivingly "good" first year with the last guys recruits before heading into the tank. Can we stop pretending they're relevant now?

UCLA 34, Texas 12
Holy shit, the Big 12 sucks. UCLA? Really? Yikes. At this point I'm just expecting Nebraska to go undefeated in the conference as a giant middle finger before they head off to the Big Ten.

Alabama 24, Arkansas 20
And lo, the Armcock didst fail in the face of adversity. But he said to his people "fear not, my children, for there is but one Saban, and I should still finish with only one conference loss and an at large bid to the Sugar Bowl"

Oklahoma 31, Cincinnati 29
Last year this would have been understandable. This year, however, it just means that the Big 12 is really bad. Also the Big East. I'm glad that in true Big Ten fashion they've managed to rejoin the ranks of the elite not by getting better, but by watching their rival conferences sink back into mediocrity.

Florida 48, Kentucky 14
It was good to see Steve Addazio finally unleash John Brantley in the first half. If he keeps his head out of his ass they might threaten Alabama.

Auburn 35, South Carolina 27
So Stephen Garcia finally learns how to pass, has 3 touchdown passes, is down by only 8, but Spurrier benches him for a freshman quarterback in the fourth quarter against a ranked opponent on the road. The freshman then throws 2 picks on his only two possessions. You should have retired before you ever left for the Redskins, Steve. Jesus Christ. You've totally lost it.

Boise State 37, Oregon State 24
About what I expected. Boise has to be hoping that OSU can contend for the Pac 10 title in order to strengthen their argument.

LSU 20, West Virginia 14
Yeah, neither of these teams is very good, actually.

Arizona 10, California 9
Arizona narrowly avoids the hangover loss after their big win over Iowa.

Oregon 42, Arizona State 31
Oregon's defense didn't look very good, but I think that won't be a problem, for the most part.

Pivots, Drives, Levels, and 476 Passing Yards for Kyle Orton

I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of the website SmartFootball.com. Chris Brown (not a rapper) does a better job with X's and O's than anybody else in the blog world (and certainly better than anything you're going to get on ESPN. But that's what you get when you hire Trent Dilfer to explain strategy.) Last year Chris wrote this article explaining how the Patriots' spread offense works in the NFL and specifically the things they do with Wes Welker in order to make the offense work.

Through three games the Patron Saint has put up 1,078 yards. Add that to his 3,802 yards from last year and Kyle's got almost 5,000 yards passing and a 257 ypg average as a Denver Bronco to go along with a 62.3 completion %, 7.3 YPA, and an 88.7 rating, all of which far exceed his averages as a Bear (55.3% completions, 161.2 YPG, 5.8 YPA, 71.1 Rating).

How is Kyle racking up these yards at such an alarming rate? It's all about the way Josh McDaniels schemes to get his receivers wide open. If you watch, the Broncos use a lot of play action and even the occasional roll out as well as numerous crossing routes and multiple wide receiver sets to create mismatches and get Kyle wide open guys on easy throws with plenty of room to move. Or, as Chris puts it:

"Critics say that all Welker does is catch a ton of short passes, as if that were something to regret. Bill Belichick is merely playing to Welker’s strengths, and the very point of the Pats’ pro-spread is to stretch the defense sideline to sideline — throw short, throw short and throw short, that is, until a defender jumps an underneath route, allowing Brady to find another receiver running free downfield."

Replace Welker with Gaffney or Brandon Lloyd and you get basically the same answer. The Broncos make extensive use of the pivot, drive, and levels plays that Chris talks about and charts in that article, so I'd suggest giving it a quick look through. Last year, according to footballoutsiders, Orton threw short passes or medium passes about 85% of the time. This year the Broncos are still doing the same things but with even greater success between the 20s. Watching the game yesterday, I think the only pass that actually traveled over 25 yards in the air was the 38 yarder to Lloyd, but Orton still has 13 completions this year of 25 yards or greater thanks to a tremendous job of finding guys in space.

Now, lord knows I've spent the last year and a half waffling between trying to maintain my support for Kyle, a player I genuinely like, and my desire to see the Denver Broncos fail in order to shut up the mouthbreathers who decide to throw out Kyle's great numbers with Denver every time Cutler throws an interception. More than once I've tried to explain why Kyle's been having the success he's having in Denver and yet why it's a bit misleading as the Broncos have struggled to score despite consistently large outputs in the yardage category. The money line has always been something like this:

"The problem is that when teams move from the "bend but don't break" philosophy that most defenses are forced to employ to their red zone defenses, the underneath stuff is taken away and teams have to revert to conventional out routes agains tighter coverage, the kinds of throws that NFL quarterbacks are made of. Orton, as we know, struggles with these, and the Broncos offense is a perfect example of the tendency of spread offenses to rack up yards and not points. The Broncos, despite Orton's 1,236 passing yards and the great run game leading to a 6th place ranking in total yards, are just 22nd in the league in scoring at 19.8 ppg."-
That quote was from last October, but the point remains. Over his last seven games Kyle has averaged 322 yards passing and yet the Broncos are just 1-6 in those games and have only averaged 21 ppg.

The issues remains the same: red zone problems. The reason the Patriots went from 35 ppg in 2007 to 25 ppg in 2008 under Matt Cassel despite only dropping to 5th in the NFL in yardage was because of Matt Cassel's limitations. Cassel, like Orton now, struggles when defenses tighten up in the red zone and they run out of room to throw underneath. The inability of either team to run the ball (a common problem for spread offenses that college teams have solved only by featuring running QBS) all that successfully is yet another problem.

Kyle Orton hasn't magically become a world-beating quarterback. We didn't imagine the physical limitations that he has. Sure Ron Turner didn't utilize him as well as McDaniels has, but the end result (3.9 touchdown % in 2008 with the Bears, 3.9% in 2009 with the Broncos, 3.2% in 2010, 23.4 PPG for the 2008 Bears, 20.4 PPG for the 2009 Broncos, 20.3 for the 2010 Broncos) has been largely the same. Orton still can't make difficult throws against tight coverage, and that is why Josh McDaniels made the erroneous decision to draft Tim Tebow, and why I'd still rather have Jay Cutler.