There was a troubling aspect to last Sunday's game. Yes, there is good news. Coming off the dominating win in Houston, the Steelers ride with full momentum this week as they prepare for New England in a nationally televised game on Sunday afternoon. Yet, something still bugs me.
James Farrior played a bad game. I take that back. He played a terrible game. Perhaps his worst game in two years. Now, I know everyone has bad games. But Farrior, the top inside linebacker in the NFL last season, had a game that I'm sure he privately wishes would have never happened.
He did lead the team with 6 tackles and 3 assists. But, it's the missed tackles that hurt. For the second straight week, Farrior had trouble defending the underneath dump-off. The glaring play was an over the middle dump-off to Dominick Davis where Farrior took a bad angle and Davis broke the tackle attempt for a 14-yard gain and first down.
During rushing downs on Sunday, when he wasn't driven out of the play, Farrior often looked out of position and many of his tackles were after long chuncks of yards. Again, some bad angles, over pursuit and general brain cramps.
I wouldn't mention these things, but the problems covering the underneath pass will become an issue when the Steelers meet up with San Diego, Indianapolis, New England, Green Bay and Detroit, teams that have strong running backs who catch the ball frequently.
Farrior is the team's best, most reliable cover linebacker. Last season, he was also the surest tackler on the team and rarely was out of position. Being an All-Pro player, Farrior no doubt will raise his game up to an esteemed level, but for one Sunday afternoon, one small blip on an otherwise clear radar, the Steelers' best linebacker delivered a turkey.See, I told you it wasn't long. And in the end, its probably nothing to worry about either. And now, onto the games.
Apple Six-Pack Recap
1. Indianapolis 10 Jacksonville 3 - Team Prisco confused and harassed Peyton Manning all day. Yet, it was the new found Colts defense that battered and bruised Byron Leftwich. Manning ended the day with his worst outing in 3 years, but the Colts had just enough offense to win. The Colts won the field position battle as the Jags seemed to start every series inside their own 20. I'm not sold on the Colts defense yet. I still need to see how they handle high powered offenses like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis.
2. Carolina 27 New England 17 - Watching the second half of this game, one couldn't help wonder when the Patriots were going to pull out the old game-changing, momentum-altering play. Mike Vrabel came through in fashion, picking off a poor decision by Jake Delhomme and closing the gap to 20 - 17. But, after Carolina punted, the Patriots were unable to move the ball. The momentum that Vrabel had nicely given Brady went unused and the Panthers muscled their way with the help of a timely Patriot penalties turnover to the end-zone. Lost amid the hoopla is that for the second straight week, the Patriots have been unable to run the ball with any effectiveness. This could become a serious problem.
3. Washington 14 Dallas 13 - The battle of the has-been quarterbacks proved to be a rather ho-hum evening until the 4th quarter. WR Santana Moss provided his most impressive quarter of football since his college days and Mark Brunell shook off the rust to lead the Redskins back from a 13-point deficit. What is more shocking is that Bill Parcells' team could not hold a 13-point lead at home.
4. Tampa Bay 19 Buffalo 3 - Bills fans are going to have to be patient. There will be days like this past Sunday when J.P. Losman looks like a confused rookie. Don't forget that is still a smart, wily Tampa defense. And as long as Derrick Brooks is there, they will be one that intimidates young quarterbacks.
5. Denver 20 San Diego 17 - Is Marty Schottenheimer channeling Mike Martz? That's the only explanation I can think of for the Chargers once again forgetting about LaDanian Tomlinson. Arguably the best offensive player in football hasn't had a reception in two games. On the other side, the Denver defense finally came through, limiting Tomlinson's running and harassing Drew Brees all day. Two missed field goals by Jason Elam made this one go down to the wire.6. Cincinnati 37 Minnesota 8 - The Bengals look like they are for real this season, and should be an early pick for the Super Bowl dark horse. Running just under radar, the Bengal offense played spotless football as Carson Palmer had a field day on the hapless Vikings. Looking at their schedule, it is quite probable the Bengals could visit Heinz Field with a 5 - 1 record.
1. Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos - The Broncos host the Chiefs for first place in the AFC West. This game is bigger for the Broncos as a loss would send the Chiefs to at least a 2 game lead over the rest of the division. The Broncos, my pick as division champs, will need to defensively play as stout as they did last week against the Chargers.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars at NY Jets - It's week three and I'm already going to talk about playoff implications. This game has wild-card tiebreaker written all over it. The Jaguars, who will most likely not win the AFC South, can take a big step towards the playoffs with a win. The Jets could, with a win, find themselves in first place if the Patriots are unable to hold off the Steelers in the GOTW.
3. Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears - Here's the deal Bengal fans. Playoff-caliber teams win these types of games: on the road, hostile environment, lesser opponent. Here's the deal Bear fans. Division winners win these types of games: at home, superior opponent.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers - The Packers need to let Ahman Green have more touches, whether that's through the air or on the ground. He is their best weapon, yet they seem to have forgotten about him and continue to put their faith on the shoulders of an aging Brett Favre, who even admits he can't do some of things he used to do. The Bucs on the other hand with a win will continue to lead the difficult NFC South.
5. Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills - Here's the deal Falcon fans. Super Bowl-caliber teams win these types of games: on the road, hostile environment, strong opponent. Here's the deal Bill fans. Division winners win these types of games: at home, inconsistent yet powerful opponent.6. NY Giants at San Diego Chargers - So we all know the sad saga of Phillip Rivers and Eli Manning. It's no doubt the boys at ESPN won't let us forget all game. But, the important aspect of this game is that the loser will be faced with a momentous challenge to remain in the playoff hunt. The Giants with Eli at quarterback need as many breaks as they can get. The Chargers with their schedule need the same breaks.
Apple Pie Power Rankings
1. Pittsburgh Steelers - Uh, oh, the Steelers can go vertical.
2. Indianapolis Colts - The Jags took the Colts to the limit, but Team Turf came through.
3. Philadelphia Eagles - It was only the Niners. Let's not go crazy.
4. New England Patriots - No running attack makes Tom Brady very average.
5. Kansas City Chiefs - Shutting down the running game is the only way to stop this team.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Strong showing over the Bills. Cadillac passes the Bus as the favorite auto.
7. Cincinnati Bengals - One of six undefeated teams. Whaaaa?
9. Jacksonville Jaguars - Great defensive effort. But that offense still leaves a lot to be desired.
10. NY Giants - Big Blue jumps to the top-10 with its defeat of America's Team, and I'm talking about the Cowboys.
11. Carolina Panthers - Big win for the cats. Eased some doubts for Panther faithful and created some doubts for the Patriot faithful.
12. Denver Broncos - Big win at home against the Chargers because Jake didn't make many mistakes.
From the gut of Super-Fan Pappy Fried Chicken
There will be some crying this Sunday night.
Most of it will be me lamenting the last day I have to check the 20-29 box on an application, but the rest of it will be from the losing team in this weekend's rematch of last year's AFC championship game.
I'm going to pay through the nose for anything I say this week as my near-Boston born girlfriend gives me a come-uppance every time I even mention the Patriots, but it has to be said so this one is going to hurt.
The Patriots are not the same team they were last year (sorry "Sweetpea", it's true). They are still one of the top teams in the NFL, but you can't lose both coordinators and a couple of key defensive players and not at least expect some needed transition time.
The Steelers, on the other hand, have magically transformed into a near perfect team in the first two games this season, but they are not fooling anyone. Hopes in the Steeler nation are high, but I think we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop. None of the above though will be the reason for the crying. In fact, I expect this contest to be the best of this early NFL season, but White Lightnin' (my gut) tells me this one is not going to be so much decided in the trenches. This will be dictated by the zebras.
Last week the immensely humble Bill Belichick sourly questioned the official's touchdown call on a Stephen Davis fumble in or into the end zone. Bill Cowher also scowled as the black & white boys made a few stinkers in his game, including a completely wrong holding call on Jerame Tuman in the second quarter.
The problem here is that the officials are human. That means they are going to make mistakes. I do not have a problem with that, but it also means they sometime try a little to hard to atone for their gaffes by making equally bad calls on the other team. Let us call it the "playback system". A system in which team B gets a play called back for no other reason than team A should not have had a prior play called back.
It also seems that officials do not like winners. Both of which the Steelers and Pats are. We all know what I am talking about. But at the risk of pulling a "Madden" from the Raider years here, I just want to point out that sometimes good teams get penalized just so the officials feel like they are doing their jobs. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say that the refs are usually correct 90 percent of the time, but I can not shake the feeling that number is going to drop to about 80 to 85 and create a snowball effect due to the aforementioned "playback system" this week.At press conference time after the game let the crying begin. I am not saying it will be without merit. I just do not need another reason to be doing it myself this weekend.
Mock Apple Pie
Last Week's ResultsDCFB 76 Class of Confluence 53
Gemini vs. Lemmiwinks (Night): Two weeks ago Gemini 19 Charmed Life 22
Woodside Avenue Cyber Gemini 13 Texan Terror 12
This WeekDCFB (2 - 0) vs. Barstow Breakdowns (1 - 1) - Best start ever for my Sportsline team.
Gemini (0 - 1) vs. Rebels (1 - 0) - Rough start for my best team last year. Early word is, I'm starting 0 - 2.
Woodside Ave. Cyber Gemini (2 - 0) vs. Philly's Plight (1 - 1) - Took out two of my best friends.
The Saints lost, which is probably the best thing that could have happened for the team. As Jim Haslett said, it is time to now separate the Katrina tragedy from the New Orleans Saints football team. It's time to let the football players play football and worry in their own private time.
ABC's Robin Roberts sure seemed like she wanted to jump Donovan McNabb last night? There was more sexual tension there than when Joe Namath tried to kiss Suzy Kolber.
Say goodbye to NFL Primetime on ESPN. The most entertaining way to relive the previous Sunday's hours won't be on the air next fall in its usual 7:30 timeslot due to NBC taking over Sunday night football.
Coaching watch: Mike Tice, Mike Sherman and Dom Capers better be watching their backs.
I'd add Brian Billick, Mike Martz and Mike Holmgren to that list, but these three shouldn't have any problems keeping their jobs while consistently guiding their underachieving squads to average records.
Besides, canning Billick could be the worst move for the Steelers organization. As long as he is helming the Ravens, the Steelers will have no trouble holding them off.