Monday, October 23, 2006

NFL Thoughts, Week 7


Depending on the outcome of the Monday Night game, this week’s winning score in my football pool will be either 48 or 51. The week before it was 65, and the week before that it was 104, meaning we as a group seem to be regressing in our predictive ability.

Then again, when the Chargers defense gives up 30 points to the Chiefs (led by a backup quarterback), when the Cardinals come within a field goal of beating the Bears one week and then get blown out by Oakland the next, when Jacksonville gets blasted by Houston, when Cincinnati’s rag-tag O-Line utterly neutralizes Carolina’s pass rush (more on that later), when Seattle gets thoroughly trounced by Minnesota (at home(!)), and when ruthless killer Snoop on The Wire is actually played by a GIRL, it’s kind of hard to be too down on yourself for not seeing any of this coming.

O Panthers, my Panthers…they lie fallen, cold and dead, after a soul-sucking defeat to the eminently beatable Bengals. There was a brilliant passage in Nick Hornby’s memoir, Fever Pitch, wherein he recalls a game involving his beloved Arsenal. In the game, Arsenal goes up 1-0 very early, then spends the rest of the time desperately trying to hold on and preserve the win. When the opposing team eventually ties it with about a minute left, Hornby, who’d been listening in agonized suspense to the whole thing with a transistor radio up to his ear, wrote that “it was like finally getting shot by a gun that had been aimed at my head for an hour.” That’s pretty much what went down at my house yesterday. When they finally lost it all, and with Erin trying to study upstairs, the only thing I can say for myself is that I was at least able to bury my head into my living room carpet in order to best muffle the screams.

Nothing about the game made any sense. Sure, I knew a win was far from inevitable. But if the Panthers lost, I figured it would be because of an injury, or the Cincinnati crowd, or turnovers, or special teams, or Kris Jenkins getting charged with 1st degree murder for killing Chad Johnson during one of his excessive celebrations. I NEVER would have suspected it was because Carson Palmer had ALL DAY to hang back and make passes behind an O-Line that was down two starters. And the really shocking thing is, the Panthers KNEW he was going to pass and they STILL couldn’t get to him. This is not an exaggeration: early in the 3rd quarter, the Bengals actually stopped running the ball altogether. I mean they just completely STOPPED. They even threw on 4th and 1! I have no idea why, considering Rudi Johnson had been doing pretty well up until then, but the bottom line is there was no mystery, and no trickery, as to what they were doing, and the Panthers couldn’t even pressure him. And the crowd was never a factor. I don’t know if they were inebriated or what, but they were fairly docile the whole time. I just don’t get it. Random afterthought: don’t Charlotte and Cincinnati both claim to be “The Queen City?” First of all, why is this? And second, why wasn’t this billed as The Battle of the Queen City?

Defensive Player of the Week: Ronde Barber, who was finally spotted in Tampa Bay this week intercepting two passes for touchdowns, right when I was about to put him atop my 2006 MIA List (along with Larry Johnson, who also broke out this week).

Offensive Player of the Week: Peyton Manning. Watching him operate in the second half reminded me (though probably not commentator Troy Aikman) of the line from Slayer’s Angel of Death: “Surgery! With no anesthesia! Feel the knife pierce you intensely!” Beginning in the second half, he reduced the formerly confident Redskins defense to reeses monkeys, screaming and kicking helplessly around the field while he coldly, clinically carved them up. By the way, Colts fans have to be the most spoiled in the league. Corey Simon goes down, and what do they do? Go out and acquire Anthony McFarland, for a second round draft pick and some fancy stationary.

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