Wednesday Apple Pie

An open letter to Bill Cowher from a long time fan:

Dear Sir,

The Steelers lost. The sky is falling. The sky is falling. Ha, ha, made you look.

But seriously, sir, I know you may think that this a promotional letter for my upcoming Disney movie, but I urge you to read through this letter. I would have handwritten the piece, but my penmenship is quite sloppy due to the lack of thumbs and fingers. I therefore am using a typewriter and my beak, and well, it's quite sore already from typing, so forgive me if I seem a little harsh when I say: Listen to every damn word I am sending

The sky is falling, No Joke, no crying wolf (different fairy tale). I am quite serious. The sky is falling. After two weeks of looking unstoppable, your team laid an egg and then, like my good friend Humpty, it cracked all over your chin.

Shall I start chronologically? That will probably help, but since no one in the NFL knows how to keep time, I'll dispense with actual game time.

The game started off well enough with both teams scoring early - the Patriots behind Corey Dillon, and the Steelers courtesy of Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger. Then, with Patriots down 10 - 7, the first of many self-inflicted Steeler daggers pierced the black and gold armor. Antwaan Randle-El, that numbskull, turns a big play into a fumble with one flick of the arm. My first question to you is why? And before you reply that you have no control over what happens on the field, I shall ask you to think very carefully upon how you phrase the answer. How is it that in a big game against these New England Patriots your players tend to be selfish?

Then, after a Patriot turnover, your team attempts to kick a field goal. However, a false start pushes the kicker back 5 yards. All Jeff Reed needed to do is kick the ball the same way he kicked the first one. He had the 48-yard attempt by 10 yards. But instead, he tries to knock the laces off the ball and it sails wide.

All game your team was having trouble holding Bethel Johnson and Tim Dwight to minimal returns. Why then did you not instruct Chris Gardocki to quick away from said players? Why was he booming punts directly into the center of the field?

Why did Duce Staley not get one touch during the game? Was he in there as a decoy? Willie Parker was obviously having no success running inside. Did it not make sense to attempt to run Staley once?

Have I mentioned the sky is falling?

Before I forget may I mention the missing players? I swear, even though I saw 11 defenders lined up, I seem to not remember seeing Joey Porter, Troy Polamulu, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Larry Foote and, after an early sack, James Farrior. Oh wait, I did see Farrior. He was being turned out of his cleats by Kevin Faulk late in the game.

Before I forget, you better give that Ike Taylor guy a contract extension.

At some point, you will have to remind your offensive line that, while they may one of the toughest units in the NFL, they hold no hat over the Patriots. That should be good a story to tell them before the next big game. Tell them how, for the 4th time in 5 games, the Patriots offensive line of has-beens and rookies has performed better.

Late in the game it was obvious that your defensive coordinator did not have a clue how to stop Tom Brady. I must admit, I'm pretty lost also. When you blitzed, he beat you. When you didn't blitz, he hammered you. Seems like you should have blitzed more, but I assume since your offense had no running game to sustain drives, that the defense was quite winded at the end of the game. But, I guess at that point you were a little chicken...ha,ha,ha...get it? Little. Chicken. Guess not.

I won't get into the quarterback play here because he didn't throw any interceptions and barely had enough time to get rid of the ball. By the time the 3rd quarter rolled around, he was so jittery in the pocket he was looking to run while still under-center. Now he knows what it is like for Peyton Manning in Foxboro stadium.

Yes, Mr. Cowher, the sky is falling You better pray that your team doesn't see the Patriots in the post-season. On that matter, you better also pray that the Steelers don't meet the Colts. I'm frightened to think what Dwight Freeney will do to Marvel Smith and ultimately to your, if green, quarterback.

Your faithful fan and servant, Chicken Little

P.S. See my movie. It would be the perfect getaway for your team, and I hear you like to have movie days.


Six-Pack Recap

1. Denver 30 Kansas City 10 - Although the Chiefs came into the game thinking their defense had solved many of its problems, they couldn't stand up to the zone-blocking schemes of the Broncos. Jake Plummer had his second consecutive strong, efficient outing and Rod Smith is the new ageless wonder. Denver's pattern of the season will follow this formula: Plummer + Mistakes = Loss; Plummer + No-Mistakes = Win. Simple formula right? Watch it prove itself correct this season.

2. Jacksonville 26 NY Jets 20 (OT) - The Jaguars, in a span of 5 minutes, ended the Jets' hopes of a playoff run this season. Not only does this team lose Chad Pennington for the year, but they lose Jay Fiedler for an extended period of time. Pennington's injury brings up a bigger concern for this franchise. He will undergo his second major shoulder surgery in six months. Are Pennington's best years behind him? Things are not good in Jet land.

3. Cincinnati 24 Chicago 7 - The Bears ran the ball all over the Bengals, but 5 interceptions by Kyle Orton gave Carson Palmer and his weapons too many opportunities. But, if better teams can run as effectively, the Bengals won't stay undefeated for long. Carson Palmer should be a front-runner for MVP at this point in the season.

4. Tampa Bay 17 Green Bay 16 - Oh, Brett Favre. You made everyone think that maybe, just maybe, you could still pull out a win from the jaws of defeat, and then instead of your patented come-back wins, you went ahead and threw another last minute interception to seal your team's fate. There are so many problems with this team, but the lack of running game (Ahman Green hasn't scored a touchdown in about 10 games now) and run defense are handcuffing any hopes of another season comeback.

5. Atlanta 24 Buffalo 16 - The Bills might be a better team if J.P. Losman had experience. Every time I looked up, the Bills had the ball with a chance to either tie or take the lead. Rounding out Black Sunday, Takeo Spikes' season ends early with injury. That's 3 star players in one weekend.

6. San Diego 45 NY Giants 23 - Just when everyone thought there was something wrong with the Chargers, Marty Schottenheimer goes out of his way to give the ball to LaDanian Tomlinson. And guess what happened: Good Things. All good things.



Apple Pie Six-Pack

1. NY Jets at Baltimore Ravens - It's only week four and we've already arrived at a must-win game. Both teams can ill-afford to lose this game. The Jets need to win to keep pace and keep their mental state. The Ravens need to win to just keep pace with the Bengals and Steelers.

2. San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots - The Chargers and Patriots both come off huge wins last week. The Chargers' best option will be to run Ladanian Tomlinson until his legs fall off. The Patriots will hope that their front seven can dominate the offensive line of the Chargers as handily as they did the Steelers. The Chargers don't want to drop this one with the Steelers coming to town the following week.

3. Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs running game may have a field day against the Eagles. After getting stuffed by the Broncos, that offensive line will be one angry bunch. With Donovan McNabb's groin injured, his best bet will be to attack the Chiefs with Brian Westbrook and then go up top to Terrell Owens for dessert.

4. Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars - I love early games with playoff implictions. This game has wild-card tiebreaker and bye-week tiebreaker all over it. The Jaguars may be the toughest team on defense in the league while the Broncos, after a first week hiccup, have effeciently won their past two games. But, the Broncos always have trouble on the road and Jacksonville can ill-afford to fall further behind the Colts.

5. Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers - If the Detroit Lions want to be considered in the same league with the big boys, they will have to put up a strong showing in Tampa. They don't necessarily need to win. Not with the NFC North being as terrible as it seems.

6. St. Louis Rams at NY Giants - This is another early week game with playoff implications. The Rams have turnover problems and the Giants are still an enigma. They look great one week and then drop the ball the next.



Apple Pie Power Rankings

1. Indianapolis Colts - There is something wrong with the offense, but the defense carries the day for another week.
2. New England Patriots - Won the battle, but ultimately may be losing the war.
3. Philadelphia Eagles - McNabb injured, Akers injured and this team barely beats Oakland, seems like they are ripe for the picking.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers - Lateral, penalities and shoddy o-line play knocks this team back a few pegs.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Cadillac still running on a full tank.
6. Cincinnati Bengals - Don't look now, but here comes the bandwagon.
7. Denver Broncos - Big win on Monday night. Plummer effective for second straight game.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars - Gutsy win in NY while knocking out the Jets' top two quarterbacks.
9. Seattle Seahawks - If Shaun Alexander could play the Cardinals every week, he'd be unstoppable.
10. Kansas City Chiefs - Ran into a brick Bronco wall on Monday. But that was expected.
11. Dallas Cowboys - For 58 minutes Cowboy Matt was ready to jump.
12. Miami Dolphins - The Dolphins could, if they play their cards right, steal the AFC East.


Wisdom From the Girl Apple

Apple: So, Mrs. Apple, you've broken your silence for the first week this season.
Mrs. Apple: Well, seeing how devastated you were on Sunday night, I figured I needed to say something.
Apple: I told you, I'm fine. I'm over the loss. It's time to move on. Mrs. Apple: That's good to hear. Isn't this the first time they've lost all year?
Apple: Yes, as a matter of fact it's only their third loss since the 2003 season.
Mrs. Apple: Wow. Well, I'm sure they'll win the rest of their games right? They have to go to the Super Bowl.
Apple: Actually, they don't. They went to the Super Bowl with an 11 - 5 record. They've also gone deep in the playoffs with 12 - 4, 13 - 3 and 10 - 6 records too.
Mrs. Apple: Oh, well I guess this was an important loss because of some silly football rule, right?
Apple: Well, only for tiebreaker purposes, but division-wise, it really doesn't mean all that...all that much.
Mrs. Apple: Oh why is that?
Apple: Because it was a divisional loss. You are so smart.
Mrs. Apple: You're the smart one. You just explained things that still sound like Spanish too me. But...
Apple: But, don't let bad things blind the future.
Mrs. Apple: Sure. Why not.


The Rant
From the gut of Super Fan Pappy Fried Chicken

The Patriots were the better team on Sunday because they have a good system and they were able to execute when they needed to. They do not have any star players on their roster for one reason - the system does not allow it. Even Corey Dillon has slipped into anonimity since joining the team. You can argue until you are blue in the face about the talent levels of the individual players on the Pats' roster, but talent alone does not make a good football player. Bill Belichick knows that and has always kept his team believing they can win.

You can argue being out-coached, but it is not as though the Steelers do not have weaknesses. Every team does. Any time you play the Patriots you know they are going to exploit your defensive weakness with anyone available and they are going to force your offense to be on the top of their game. That is exactly what they did. I mentioned a while ago that I was concerned about the middle of the defense being a soft spot and was mostly dismissed, but that is exactly where the Patriots killed us. I do not mention this as a told ya so, but if I noticed it then I am sure Belichick did. They also stacked the line on defense and blitzed a quarterback who seemed to be playing hesitantly and short-arming passes due to advertised injuries.

You can not fire your coach for having a different philosophy than another coach. Sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due. Bill Cowher and his team just got beat by a better team. That is it. No whining. Just accept it.



Mock Apple Pie

Last Week's Results

DCFB 99 Barstow Breakdowns 89
Gemini vs. Rebels (Night): Two weeks ago Gemini 24 Lemmiwinks 35
Woodside Avenue Cyber Gemini 34 Philly's Plight 30 (OT)

This Week

DCFB (3 – 0) vs. South Phillthy Sunzabitchez (1 – 2) – Best start ever for my Sportsline.com team.
Gemini (0 - 2) vs. Rebels (1 - 1) – It's Darkside week for the Gemini. The Darkside are my most heated rival.
Woodside Ave. Cyber Gemini (3 – 0) vs. Aces and Eights (2 – 1) – In the AOL league the Darkside owner Ken also owns Aces and Eights. I get him twice in one week.



Bites

Let us please dispense with the biggest myth in football, that the New England Patriots field a team with inferior talent. First of all. that is as much an insult to the players to their squad as it is a flattering statement to Bill Belichick's coaching ability. This team fields 3 first round draft picks on the defensive line, a Pro-Bowl running back, a big-game receiver and the best quarterback in football.

Let us please dispense with the second biggest myth in football, that Bill Cowher is the worst big-game coach in football. He may be one of the worst in-game tacticians in football, but in every big game the Steelers have played, the players on the field have inexplicably failed to show up (insert Joey Porter joke here). In these big games, the Steelers have lost games due to multiple interceptions, special teams blunders, stinky secondary units and now ill-timed laterals (although except in dire situations, I'd be hard pressed to find a good timed lateral).

Let us please dispense with the third biggest myth in Pittsburgh, that Bill Cowher has not learned anything from his past losses. I will go on record and say that Bill Cowher, who played too close to vest in his first years and during the 94, 95 and 97 runs, is not the same Bill Cowher of these years. This Bill Cowher is ultimately frustrated at the lack of big-game players on his team, while that Bill Cowher restrained his big game players in an effort to not-lose the game. Why do I think that? Because this Bill Cowher has seen his team, over the past two seasons, go 18 - 3 with two of those losses to the New England Patriots. I'm sorry to say to all you Cowher-haters, he's doing something right.

Let us please dispense with the another myth in football, that Bill Cowher will win a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh. Knock out the Patriots and then we'll talk, but all signs are pointing to the Patriots being factors in January again. Especially with the AFC East suddenly the fourth best conference in the AFC.

As long as the front seven for the Patriots plays at that incredibly high level, the suddenly Rodney Harrison-less secondary will be okay. This Patriot team wins its division. It wins it at 10 - 6 but wins it nonetheless. They'll end their season in the RCA Dome.

Steeler fans should be nervous about the scoring ability of the Cincinnati Bengals. But, their run defense still needs work. A more seasoned quarterback in Chicago would have made that game a lot closer than it ended.

The Steelers will learn a lot about themselves in the next three weeks with visits to San Diego and Cincinnati and hosting Jacksonville. They must win two of these match-ups or Cincinnati will have a stranglehold on the division.


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