Wednesday Apple Pie

If you are Dick Lebeau, how do you stop the San Diego Charger offense? Well, if I had 13 days to prepare here is what I would do and it may sound a bit unorthodox.

I would go three safeties and three linebackers instead of two safeties and four linebackers. The line-up would look like this: at linebacker I'd have James Harrison and Joey Porter on the outside and Farrior in the middle. I'd bring Troy Polamalu up as a linebacker/safety tweener and let Mike Logan run the traditional strong safety spot. Obviously Chris Hope would round out the safety position. The rest of the players on the defensive line and cornerback spot remain the same.

Now that the defense lineup is set, here are the duties. James Farrior shadows Antonio Gates. On paper this is a mismatch, but at least Farrior will have Mike Logan to help him as the secondary shadow of Gates. Why Logan and not Polamalu? Well, Polamalu would be free to play his freelance style but with his sole responsibility, when not blitzing, to shadow LaDanian Tomlinson.

What does this do to the defense? Well, it makes it a front six, with not one but two strong safeties flying in from unorthodox positions to attack the running game. It also limits the Tomlinson's ability to break off a big gain from underneath because Polamalu has the athletic ability to at least limit Tomlinson's big play ability.

As for Gates, if Farrior blitzes, Logan gets the responsibility for the big tight end. If Logan blitzes, then Farrior gets the duty. The problem for quarterback Drew Brees is he won't know who has the responsibility to blitz and who shadows Gates.

But, you ask, what about Keenan McCardell? Well, in two wide receiver sets, Hope can swing over to give Ike Taylor support. That leaves Deshea Townsend on single coverage with Eugene Parker. In three wide receiver sets, you bring Joey Porter into the secondary to take over for Logan, who gets single coverage on the third wide receiver.

In dime defense situations, the Steelers can eliminate one linebacker for another cornerback. This leaves the Steelers the ability to send at least four and hold seven back in coverage.

Although this defense may sound radical, its success depends on the ability of the Steelers to send four guys and get consistent pressure on the quarterback. If they can force Brees to get uncomfortable, the Steelers should be able to limit the San Diego offense. As I said, it's unorthodox and ultimately probably not feasible, but that's what I would do.


Six-Pack Recap

1. Baltimore 13 NY Jets 3 - This was the classic match-up: the movable object versus the resistible force. When the Jets had an apparent fumble return for touchdown nullified by a penalty on the first play from scrimmage, it was apparent the Jets' best chance to score had come and gone. Brooks Bollinger made some nice throws, but too often couldn't hit the sideline out or the deep pattern. The Ravens gave him the underneath and stacked nine on the line to take out Curtis Martin. Game. Set. Match.

2. San Diego 41 New England 17 - Its amazing how depleted this Patriot team looks when the opposing quarterback has time to throw and the running back has room to run. On the other side, the Patriots had some success early running Corey Dillon, yet on a crucial 3rd quarter series with the Chargers up by seven, Dillon didn't touch the ball once. Three incompletions later, the Chargers got the ball again and were on their way to scoring again. Miami leads the AFC East.

3. Philadelphia 37 Kansas City 31 - For one quarter the Chiefs were unstoppable and then Trent Green threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. That opened the turnover floodgates. Somehow, the Chiefs knew the Eagles were going to pass, but couldn't stop McNabb or his receivers. But the real reason was that the Chiefs couldn't mount any sustained drives after the first quarter. Their defense became winded and, by the fourth quarter, couldn't keep up with Terrell Owens and Greg Lewis.

4. Denver 20 Jacksonville 7 - Don't look now, but the Broncos have won another big game with playoff implications. If Jacksonville is on the small list of teams that could win a wild-card spot, the Broncos just got a leg up. Even with another huge day from Jimmy Smith, Byron Leftwich couldn't muster enough offense and added an ill-timed interception to the mix. Team Prisco also misses Fred Taylor. He's disappeared for another game.

5. Tampa Bay 17 Detroit 13 - The Lions were so close to being considered big boys, but once again do not have the moxie to steal a game on the road against a worthy opponent. With Cadillac Williams stuffed, the Lions were gutted by Michael Pittmann.

6. NY Giants 44 St. Louis 24 - Mike Martz is officially the worst coach in the NFL. Granted, he no longer has the personnel to play "Turf" football, but his disregard for turnovers is despicable. He honestly believes his team can outscore the other no matter how his defense plays nor how many turnovers his team gives up.


Apple Pie Six-Pack

1. Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars - With a visit to Pittsburgh next week, Jacksonville is in a must-win situation. Against the Bengals, Team Prisco can ill-afford to lose another home game to a possible playoff team. On the other side of the field, the Bandwagon Bengals sweated out a win last week at home against the Texans. But remember, good teams win games when they play poorly. The Bengals are a good team. A win at Jacksonville could turn this team into a major threat in the AFC.

2. New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons - First the Panthers, then the Steelers, next the Chargers, and now the Falcons. The Patriots' schedule of Murderer's row just keeps getting tougher. A win would keep the Patriots from falling under .500 for the first time in 3 years. A loss won't kill this team, however, not with the AFC East officially the weakest division in football.

3. Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys - This is a do-or-die game for the Cowboys. After failing to steal a game from the previously winless Raiders, the Cowboys now must face an Eagles team that has terrorized them over the past 5 seasons. Donovan McNabb is playing the best football of his career, yet he always saves his best performances for the Cowboys. Cowboy Matt should be put on suicide watch for this game.

4. Washington Redskins at Denver Broncos - Clinton Portis returns to Denver and in doing so, the Redskins will most likely lose their first game of the season. Jake Plummer is playing efficient football and the Bronco defense is one of the top units in the league. But, talking with Jason "The Bronco Fan", he says that he's seen this before: a fast starting Bronco team that fades in the end.

5. Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills - Raise your hand if you fathomed the Dolphins in first place heading into Week 5. Well, incredibly it is true. The Dolphins always had the defense, but it's been the strong play by Gus Frerotte that is most surprising about this team. The Ford City native has a chance to put the Dolphins firmly in control of the AFC East with a win in Buffalo.

6. Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns - The Bears go to Cleveland and find themselves in the midst of a winnable game. Amazingly, if the Bears and Lions both lose this week, the NFC North would have no teams over .500. Could we see the first 8-8 division winner since the realignment? I'd put good money on it.


Apple Pie Power Rankings

1. Indianapolis Colts - Outclass a young Titan defense.
2. Philadelphia Eagles - Gutsy win for the Eagles in KC.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers - Bye week spent getting ready to visit San Diego.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Lack of Cadillac almost leads to loss.
5. Cincinnati Bengals - Fumble or incomplete pass? Bad call helps Bengals sweat out a win.
6. Denver Broncos - Broncos firmly entrenched as the team to beat in the AFC West.
7. New England Patriots - Has the glass slipper fallen off?
8. San Diego Chargers - First Monday night game since Clinton administration.
9. Atlanta Falcons - Falcon faithful should be worried about Vick's health.
10. Washington Redskins - Bad interception almost ends magical start to season.
11. Carolina Panthers - Waiting to get a shot at the Bucs.
12. NY Giants - Plaxico Burress is the greatest wide receiver in the game (cough, cough). Now back to reality.


The Rant
From the gut of Super Fan Pappy Fried Chicken

Allow me to briefly repaint the picture for you. We had a real pocket presence with Tommy "Gun" slinging the skin the likes of which we have not seen since "ol' horse face" O'Donnell took us to the Super Bowl. Maddox had targets that were weapons in their own right. The perennial probowler in Ward, a potential star in Burress who we were hoping would turn out to be a disruptive force on the field instead of off the field, the super secret "Slash" in Randle El and a couple of fourth and fifth guys in the mold of a Doering whose names are escaping me at present, but none the less fan favorites good enough to get a better shot with a lesser team. All this and Bettis in the backfield. Yeah, Zereoue was the starter, but I choose not to remember his amazing ability to fall down.

What did this new high powered offense do for Pittsburgh. . . . 6-10? Blech!

That is not what Steeler fans really want. Come on ... dig down deep! You know it is true. We want to smack Ray Lewis in the mouth. We want to see the field actually start to tilt downward in the direction of the opponent's endzone until the sod behind the offense begins to uproot. That is not what happened with 6-10. The city was dumbfounded and the coaching staff was reeling. The completions were not coming and ball control was a distant memory.

I do not believe this year's boys will be a disappointment by any means. The big plays are going to be there and the ball control will not be as much of an issue as it was two years ago, but big plays have a harmful side as well. While the quick score is nice it also can catch the defense in the middle of a well-needed sit spell. This is a Steeler team that very well may adjust to the frequency of it, but it is going to take some time.

The coaching staff in 2003 had a good game plan in place, but eventually got caught flat-footed by their own success and were surprised to find themselves in unfamiliar territory, leaving them vulnerable. Preparation is the only thing that is going to combat this potentially glaring issue that the Steelers will face at some point this season.

"With great power comes great responsibility." Winners execute all phases of the game. If the staff and players keep their heads and the Steelers do not forget their successful roots in the running game and ball control, we can all pat ourselves on the backs and think about that time we spoke out and told our buddies how all we needed was a homerun big play guy to go with this already great team.


Mock Apple Pie

Last Week's Results

DCFB 85 South Phillthy 112
Gemini vs. Darkside (Night): Two weeks ago Gemini 18 Rebels 20
Woodside Avenue Cyber Gemini 19 Aces and Eights 28

This Week

DCFB (3 - 1) vs. Queenz Chunkz (3 - 1) - Heavyweights battle it out for the top spot in the league.
Gemini (0 - 3) vs. Grey Groose (0 - 3) - The rematch of last year's championship has lost its luster.
Woodside Ave. Cyber Gemini (3 - 1) vs. The Sweatin' Sopranos () - Can the Gemini dominate the weaklings of the league?


Bites

Sometimes bias from the national announcers is a figment of someone's imagination and paranoia, but in the Giants-Rams game, this bias was true and real. FOX color analyst Bill Maas made it his mission to question every call against the Giants with subjective responses like "Oh, really?" "I don't think so." and "No, way!" He also made it a point to ridicule Mike Martz (who deserves most ridicule) for a good challenge on Amani Toomer's touchdown catch. It was a questionable call by the referee in real-time, even though the touchdown stood based on the replay that showed it to be a definite catch. Therefore, a challenge was a very logical move. The only difference in his booth demeanor and that of a "hometown" crew was the fact that he gets to wear the FOX logo and isn't on the WFAN payroll. This was reminiscent of Beasley Reece's style, which ultimately demoted him out of the booth.

I bet somewhere there is a Steeler fan who believes that Hurricane Rita and Katrina were Bill Cowher's fault.

I also bet that somewhere a Steeler fan thinks the Pittsburgh Pirates are a pathetic franchise because of Bill Cowher.


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