Of course, we don't have the offensive line of KC, Seattle, Denver or Pittsburgh. But we certainly could have done a better job of getting LT in the flat. He's right--we have Gates, McCardell and Parker. That's why we should be able to run a screen without the defense expecting it every time. Smith, who wrote that scathing editorial against Schottenheimer in the Philadelphia Inquirer in the days following the disaster against the Eagles, erroneously blamed Marty for suspending Antonio Gates in Week One. When he broached the subject with LT, you could see that Tomlinson truly believes in Schottenheimer. When Smith questioned some of Marty's sideline decisions, LT explained that Schottenheimer defers to his assistants many times and that it's not his style to point fingers.
Ironically, the rumors that Marty is either on his way out or will be sent immediately packing should the Bolts not reach the playoffs in '06 are running rampant. The one thing Smith said that I did agree with was that it was foolish to start Brees against Denver. Apparently, Smith and Schottenheimer butted heads on this issue as well. There are whispers that Marty started Brees in order to secure the incentive-driven bonus that would come with a 10-win season. I hope to hell that's not true. The way Drew played down the stretch, he would have been better off starting Rivers anyway if he wanted the best possible shot at winning against the Donkeys.
Speaking of Denver, it was nice to see them get knocked out. I know it's petty, but what else is there left to root for? I'll pull for Seattle in the Super Bowl for the opposite reason as LaDainian Tomlinson himself. I'd rather see a team that we rarely play win the Lombardi Trophy. There is no question that the Steelers we faced on Monday Night are not the same squad that is rolling now. There is no question that they (and Seattle, for that matter) are worthy of a title. However, it doesn't mean I have to root for it. Denver and Indianapolis both had their pivotal moments against the Bolts. You could argue that Brees' careless throw to Champ Bailey (who wasn't even supposed to be playing that week) not only cut into the Chargers' 14-3 halftime lead, but got the Bunkos rolling for the rest of the year. The Colts lost not only their perfect mark, but the air of invincibility they carried once they lost to the Chargers. Sadly, it was the last game we won in 2005.
Denver, Indianapolis, New England---all these teams met disappointing finishes to their seasons. But we couldn't even get in the playoffs. That has to change. I'm sick of hearing about our four East Coast swings this year. If it wasn't for the disaster in Philly, we'd have won all of those games. Down the stretch, Drew Brees said it himself: those experiences can leave you resilient and ready. It had that effect on the Steelers. We just use those games as excuses after the fact. And that, FAITHFUL READER, is our problem right there.