Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What A Difference A Day Makes

There is nothing I want to do more than break down most, if not all of the games this weekend. The only problem with that is there is nothing to be learned. Week One is an illusion. With the exception of Indianapolis and New England, there is no telling yet who will be the elite teams of 2007. You cannot say Cincinnati will be better than Baltimore this year, or that the Saints will be awful, or even that Atlanta will have a top five pick. One thing you might be able to take out of this weekend though, is coaching. And oh, were there some bad coaching calls...

There is something to be learned when you are watching football with casual fans. For example, if a group of people who rarely watch games that their teams aren't involved in start making fun of a commentator's analysis of a play, make note of it, because the commentator was probably right. However, if you are watching a game where their teams are not involved, and they are looking around in disbelief of a play call (or a series of calls), then they are probably on to something. This happened during last night's Bengals/Ravens game. Somehow, with eight plays on a goal-to-go basis with the game on the line, Baltimore threw five times with, get this, Kyle Boller. Needless to say, an interception in the end zone ended the game. Which suits them right, since they decided to throw on fourth and one earlier in the game. All of this makes you forget that in the first quarter, the Ravens fumbled three times in five plays. You would think having the advantage of an extra day to game plan (or, in the case of the Colts and Saints, four days), that Brian Billick would be more prepared than the other coaches. You would think. But he's not the only one...

...because Mike Nolan and Ken Whisenhunt didn't seem to use the extra time wisely either. Games where there aren't very many offensive highlights will be hailed as a great defensive struggle by purists. In the case of the Cardinals/Niners, it was just bad play calling. It's not hard playing defense when the other team refuses to throw beyond the first down marker. There is only one word I could think of to describe the offensive calls of last night's game: scared. And scared play calling is the precursor to scared quarterbacks. I respect the fact that Whisenhunt comes from the Bill Cowher School of Ram-It-Down-Your-Throat Football, but you have to use the tools in the shed. With one of the best wide receiver tandems in the game, an aging running back and a weak offensive line, smash mouth football isn't the way the Cardinals are going to win games. What this game should have looked like is what happened at the end of the game when both teams went on their ending drives. We saw the best of Alex Smith and Matt Leinart in those drives. So what's with the conservative play calling? With an extra day to figure out how to score on the other team, these coaches still decided that run-run-pass was the best option for victory.

There isn't a lot to gain from one game, but one thing has been true for a while: coaches tend to over think situations way too often. Both Monday night games were atrocious to watch, despite the fact that they came down to the wire. Very few teams were well prepared this weekend, but if anybody should have been, it would be the participants of last night's games. What a difference a day makes.


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