The Wack Pack

It's a mistake, you know, to not savor one of these things. After all, in this NFL, you're lucky to get eight or nine or 10 of them.

So we accept and enjoy Sunday's 34-31 victory at San Francisco. (And we sprint like hell to the team bus before somebody decides to take it away.) But we also examine the Wack Pack, a quintet of occurrences in the game that don't go down our throat so smoothly. To wit:

5) As near as we can gather, when monstrous Larry Allen treated kicker Jose Cortez' head like a piñata, he did not do so in response to Jose missing an extra point to keep the score 49ers 7, Dallas 6. Rather, Allen was reacting to Cortez' theatrical griping aimed at long-snapper Jon Condo, whose set-up came in low. Who is right and who is wrong? Cortez' odd-ball arm-waving served to show up a teammate. That's a no-no. Cortez is wrong. Was Larry in the wrong, too? Kinda. Because there is no use busting a piñata that has no candy inside, if you know what I mean.

4) So now the Cowboys are apparently in some insurmountable hole because of a missed extra point. And when they score again, bringing the score to 21-12 with two-and-a-half quarters to play, coach Bill Parcells goes for 2. Mindless.

It is incredible to me that after all this time, NFL coaches still don't understand that the 'when-to-go-for-it' chart is NOT meant for the first quarter, or even the first half, of games. The chart makes sense ONLY when there is so little time left in the game that scoring opportunities are measurable, when you can see the light at the end of the game's tunnel. But with two-and-a-half quarters to play? How can a team possibly calculate how many more scores there will be, and what the final score might be?

Oh, wait. I just dug around in the filing cabinet.

I've got the chart!

Incredibly, according to the aforementioned 'when-to-go-for-it' chart, Parcells even botched this. The chart, in fact, instructs you to KICK FOR THE 1 when you are down nine. So Bill goofed by going for 2, goofed by going for 2 early, and goofed by spitting on his own chart.

One more thing about going for 2, from a mathematical standpoint: Given the odds of making them, a one-point conversion is worth 1 point. A two-point conversion, though, given the same odds standard, is likely to net you 0.8 points. So mathematically, a one-point try is actually more likely to get you points than a two-point try is!

3) The fourth-and-1 punt-team quarterback sneak from your own 34 when you are down just five points with 19:32 left in the game. Go back and read that sentence again and tell me if you, as a football guy, approve of any of it. Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? (Yes, five 'whys' because that's how many it deserves.) It's the wrong decision at the wrong time at the wrong place with the wrong play with the wrong people. But otherwise, genius! The point of a trick play isn't just to be "tricky''; the point of a trick play is also to exploit an opponent's weakness. When Patrick Crayton lined up at QB inside a bunch formation, San Francisco responded perfectly, giving us no indication that they were ripe for the pickin.'

risk reward...

You run a play like this because you a) can exploit AND b) can deceive AND c) are maybe a bit desperate.

Answers as they apply to this situation: a) nope, b) nope and c) nope.

At least Parcells took the blame here (did Hell freeze over?) both on the sideline and after the game. "My fault,'' he mumbled on the sideline. "It was a dumb thought process,'' he said after the game. Good for you, Coach Switz. ... I mean, Coach Parcells.

2) Final seconds. The Cowboys are doing the kneel-down. And by gosh, the 49ers have the audacity to call a timeout. Why do so? As unconventional as it is, coach Mike Nolan didn't want to give up on the remote possibility of that next kneel-down snap going bad. So he wanted to make Dallas go through the rote exercise one more time. And his punishment? On the next play, Dallas didn't kneel; the Cowboys tossed it downfield!

Was this macho stuff? No. Turns out that wasting the final seconds of a half by throwing downfield and out of bounds is something Dallas worked on in camp. It's different from the kneel-down, and different from the backpedal-and-kneel-down, but maybe it's just as effective. It is creative, I'll say that. So I'll reserve judgment until someday, when I see a run-the-clock-throwaway get intercepted. ...

1) I know I've harped on the wrongheadedness of the "bus driver'' thing quite a bit; if you're new here, I'll repeat: I want my QB to be both "blue-chip AND blue-collar,'' unlike Bill, who keeps beating the "bus-driver'' drum. Can I harp one more time?

Drew Bledsoe is, right now, a Pro Bowl-level NFC quarterback. In the two games when he was allowed to sling it around (or forced to do so for an extended period), he's put up terrific numbers and produced two clutch victories. In the one game (Washington) where he was kept under wraps until it was too late, he was only good instead of great.

Parcells is clearly of the opinion that this defense can carry this offense. I'm on record this way: Neither unit is good enough to consistently carry the other. Neither unit, conversely, is bad enough to NEED to be carried by the other. So Parcells must let both units try to win games.

Listen to Bledsoe himself, after the 49ers game: "We've got a lot of weapons and we make it hard for a defense to shut us down by concentrating on any one guy.''

Bill, you've got a lot of weapons. And they don't all line up on defense.

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