There are weeks during the football season where I’m not sure if I’m more excited about the games or the food. Looking at the week 2 schedule before Sunday, there weren’t many exciting match-ups (as result of the possible work stoppage, week 2 was designed without any divisional games to allow a possible delay to the start of the season with some scheduling magic) so I was leaning heavily to the snacks carrying the day:
1. Homemade fresh soft pretzels (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/New-York-Pretzels-109221) with grainy mustard. These freeze really well and the recipe makes enough for 8 pretzels.
2. Big Monkey Kettle Corn from the Halifax Seaport Market
3. Philadelphia cheesesteaks (“wit wiz” in Philly-speak). The key to doing this at home is to freeze the hunk of meat, then partially defrost it. This makes it much easier to slice really thin.
The snacks were delicious and the football was better than expected. Here’s what I saw during a pretty solid afternoon and evening of football:
1. Steelers bounce back – The 24-0 score flattered Seattle (if that’s possible). Never at any time did this game feel in doubt. Like last week, I wouldn’t read too much into the game as Seattle is cover-your-eyes bad. That being said, there were a number of positives: some of the top defensive players had solid games – Polamalu was around the ball most of the afternoon and Harrison became visible as the game went on.
2. Eagles – The loss to the Falcons drops them to 1-1. It was a sloppy, yet exciting game to watch. Turnovers, penalties, and the injury to Vick made this compelling television. It was a typical Eagles loss – get behind early, launch a ferocious comeback, then lose because you can’t stop anyone late.
- The good: Some excellent d-line play (Cole was dominant all night vs the run and the pass); the left side of the o-line did a reasonable job of run blocking all night (especially Peters at LT); McCoy is a real superstar and showed great elusiveness; Kafka coming in to replace Vick and showing some poise in a tough spot; Maclin’s 13 receptions for 170+ yards.
- The bad: Turnovers (especially Vick continuing to not protect the ball – for all of the highlight reel runs and deep passes, if he doesn’t improve this, it’ll be the limiting factor for the Eagles success this year), the run defence surrendering huge chunks of yardage at points early and late in the game
- The ugly: Reid electing not to challenge a play ruled as a catch (it wasn’t, and he actually got an apology from NBC who was covering the game since they didn’t show a replay quick enough on their broadcast for the coaching staff to see) then watching the Falcons score 2 plays later, Maclin’s drop on 4th down with the Eagles driving for a potential game winning TD, Vick’s injury and what it might mean over the next few games.
3. It’s a 16 game season – Most times, you’re never as good (or bad) as your week 1 performance would lead you to believe. The Bears dominated the Falcons, then get beat pretty handily by the Saints. The Ravens demolish the Steelers, then get completely run over by a Tennessee team that looked awful in week 1 against the Jags. On any given Sunday….
4. Head shots – It’s good to see the league finally taking a stand and throwing penalty flags for hits to the head. That’s a good first step. The proper next step? Deal with repeat offenders and blatant hits to the head that could be avoided. Dunta Robinson of Atlanta is a repeat offender, twice delivering vicious blows to Eagles receivers – last year to Jackson, and this past week to Maclin. It’s time for a suspension for this kind of behaviour.
5. From the “I could have told you this was going to happen file” – Jags starting QB McCown goes 6/19 with 4 INTs against the Jets and his tenure as the team’s starter is already in question. In a year where their division is wide open for the taking, they entrust the team to this guy (and his unproven rookie backup) over David Garrard? Looks like they made a purely financial decision to save about $8M thinking if they lose, they may as well lose cheaply.
6. Tony Romo take 2 – He was dreadful late in last week’s game. This week he plays through a fractured rib (or 2) to lead a 10 point comeback and an OT win. The deep pass on the first play of OT was vintage Romo: an exceptional play action fake and an on point deep pass. The 49ers defence were all looking in the backfield and got fooled on the play. Romo is up there with the best play action ball fakes of any QB in the league.
7. “You play to win the game” – It won’t show up in a box score, but I love the Patriots philosophy on offence. Up 6 points with less than 12:00 left in the 4th quarter, they elect not to punt and go for it on 4th and 4 at mid field. They didn’t make it and the announcers denounced the strategy (Side note on this: Has Phil Simms ever thought an aggressive play call was the right decision? He calls a lot of Patriots games given he’s CBS’s top analyst and the Patriots play in the CBS marquee game many weeks. Week after week, when the Patriots make a bold call, he “tsk tsks” and says if it were up to him, he’d send out the punting unit…. and that’s why he’s talking about football and others are coaching football) It’s easy to criticize a decision that doesn’t work out, but the overall philosophy is the one more teams should take – going for the win rather than playing not to lose. The odds favour you (interesting reads on studies here and here) and if I had Tom Brady, I’d rather see him on the field with the ball than my defence (especially the Pats defence – more on that below).
8. Early favourite for worst team of the year: Kansas City. Wow. So bad.
9. Troubling trends that have been covered up so far:
- Green Bay’s secondary and pass defence – bad vs Saints, really bad vs the Panthers, but they’re 2-0.
- Carolina’s play calling – Cam Newton has thrown for 400+ yards in his first two games as a pro, but the Carolina coaches need to mix up the play calling if they want to actually win games. It’s like they have a shiny new toy and forget they have a pretty reasonable run blocking O-line and running backs.
- New England’s overall defence – At some point in a season, you need to make a few defensive stands to win a game. This may never come back to bite them as Tom Brady, the receivers and their O-line are just humming along, but Miami and San Diego both have put up crazy offensive numbers that were overshadowed by what Brady did.
10. I live with a football savant – I’ve got to give props to Jodi on her picking skills. In her office pool, she’s way out in front after correctly picking a bunch of tricky to call games this week (Cleveland over Indy on the road, Buffalo over Oakland, Atlanta over Philly, Tampa over Minnesota on the road, Denver over Cincy). Heading into Monday night, the only game she got wrong this week was Tennessee over Baltimore, but as a Steelers fan, she didn’t seem too upset about that one.