Super Bowl 49 ½ and the Return of Carson Choker
Anybody here, seen my old friend Carson? Can you tell me where’s he gone?
Funny, I was considering changing my handle this summer, figuring that the whole Carson Palmer thing was pretty much old news -- when suddenly what do I see on the schedule? Why nothing less than an October meeting with the Southern Cal Choker himself! Where’s my old friend Carson gone? Ironically to Stillers West, aka the Arizona Cardinals. WWKS – What would Kimo say?
Some of you know I’ve picked the Stillers to make the Super Bowl this year, but the other half of that prediction included facing these same Cardinals in a rematch of Super Bowl XLIII. That call drew some laughs, but now I don’t think anyone’s chuckling.
That’s because Arizona has stormed its way to a 4-1 record, and it’s how they’ve done it that’s caught people’s attention. The most potent offense doesn’t reside in New England, it’s based in Phoenix, averaging a whopping 38 points per outing. The Cardinals lead the league in rushing, with the one-two punch of Johnson and Ellington jamming the ball down throats. Larry Fitzgerald may have lost a step, but the ones he’s got left are still pretty impressive, and the Cards are no slouches in the passing department, either.
Add in pickups like All-Prolineman Mike Iupati, and the Cardinals have pretty much done what Cincinnati did for Palmer years ago: surround and pamper him with protection and skill-position standouts, allowing him to flourish. And flourish he has, compiling a red-hot 114 passer rating so far.
The Cardinals shine on defense, too. Already they’ve returned three picks for TDs, courtesy of what’s likely become the league’s best secondary. Petersen, the Badger and Cromartie have been joined by emerging star DeoneBucannon to form atop-shelf unit. Arizona’s not bad up front either, with DLs Calais Campbell and Rodney Gunter manning the trenches.
The Stillers have the WR corps to match their secondary, but last heard, Antonio Brown was whining in public about his sudden lack of production (if you’ve got an issue with your QB, ‘tonio, best keep it between you two). So much, of course, for the morons and their “but Ben has Antonio Brown!” line. No, the fact is, it’s Brown who is lucky to have Roethlisberger delivering him the mail, as plainly seen the last couple of games. I must say, though, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the play of Hey-Bey (no longer Hey-Bum) who made a clutch leaping grab of a high ball for a crucial late-game conversion Monday. Sure, he made that TD catch against Baltimore too dramatic, but along with Wheaton he’s filled in nicely as Brown continues drawing the major share of coverage.
Of course, this Super Bowl preview is a bit low-key simply because it will be Vick behind center, somewhat neutralizing the Stillers’ own powerhouse offense. If Vick plays anything like he did Monday Night, it won’t be much of a match-up. Facing an Arizona squad that’s excelled both at home and on the road is a tall order even with Roethlisberger in the lineup, so a Stillers loss here wouldn’t surprise me.
That said, there are some things the Stillers can do to improve their chances of taking this one anyway:
STUNTS AND TWISTS: Last week the Cards’ OL struggled with some DL twists, and both Tuitt and Heyward have shown the athleticism needed to pull off such moves. I expect Arizona to have some success on the ground, so pressuring the QB on passing downs is key.
MAKE PALMER WIN IT LATE: This is a given no matter what uniform the Great Gagger’s wearing. As I’ve documented through the years, nobody this side of Tony Romo is as good for the late, game-blowing pick or fumble like Palmer. If the Stillers can keep it close late, they’ve got a shot.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO FLING IT DEEP: Arizona may have a sick secondary, but as I’ve said before, Vick’s passes look better the farther down the field they travel. With Martavis Bryant activated, this is a prime opportunity to pick up where Vick left off that Saturday in Buffalo when he hooked up with Bryant for close to 150 yards in one half.
It’s a shame the Stillers blew the Baltimore game, because then this one becomes a house-money contest. But there’s no reason the Stillers should play tight, even if they’re going to feature a load of Le’veon (although I would add they need to work in Williams too). I’d like to see more boots and roll-outs with Vick, who’s taken a pounding in the pocket. As for Bell, he needs to be featured in the passing game, too.
A tough one for the Stillers, and a chance for Arians to show why he should still be O-coordinator in the ‘burgh. Have no doubt: he’ll be looking to absolutely FRY the Stillers come Sunday.
A special shout-out to Ross Cockrell, a guy I’ve mentioned as someone I wanted the Stillers to draft when he came out of college. Thanks to some incredible luck, he’s landed in their laps and has given the team the size and football smarts at CB they were too dumb to draft this year. I’m pleased to see both Cockrell and Chickillo make the 53-man.
And one more thing for a few guys in the know: “Jergens!!!”
MR. CLOCK MANAGEMENT STRIKES AGAIN
I have to admit I was struck by fear when the Stillers hit that last pass play in San Diego Monday night. Having the ball so close to the goal line with only five seconds left leads to some serious coaching decisions. Had the ball been on the ten-yard line, it’s an easy call to make the three and head into overtime – but less than a yard away, it’s too tempting to go for it all.
I’m all for going for the kill here, but it’s HOW the Stillers went about things that bothered me. The priority here is to preserve the FG kick at all costs, and with five seconds left, anything more than a quick-hitter play jeopardizes your chances. A run play here is simply an asinine call, as it reduces things to win or lose. As you saw, Bell took every second off the clock on the final play.
What’s amazing is that the play actually worked; it took one of the best team-blocking efforts in years to barely get the ball across the plane. What’s more, Bell himself nearly blew it, unnecessarily complicating what should’ve been a walk-in score. Allow me to break things down.
First of all, the Stillers come out in the wildcat, meaning the Chargers already know it’s a run play (I’m surprised they even bothered to split out a couple of DBs to cover the Stiller WRs). The Chargers are stacked tight in the middle, so what does Bell do after taking the snap? Inexplicably he heads right into the jam-up.
Now cut to the left-angle shot: here you’ll see the backs of Spaeth’s and Miller’s jersey’sfacing perpendicularly, meaning they’ve perfectly sealed off the edge. Meanwhile, Nix has crushed the left-side defender, and as Merril Hodge would say, there’s not just an alley there’s a CAN-alley off left tackle for Bell to dash through into the end zone. Yet Bell heads straight ahead, even trying a little limp leap as if he’s thinking of vaultingOVER the defense. His forward progress stopped, he finally heads left, but his leg’s being grabbed at by a Charger defender. Only Bell’s bizarre ability to turn negative yards into positive ones saves this play from being a complete abortion.
Bell shakes free and heads left, but if not for the pulling DeCastro taking out TWO defenders does Bell have any chance to reach paydirt. But AGAIN he complicates things by pushing ahead then pulling back the ball, needing to reset, just BARELY extending the ball over line before his knee touches the ground. The Stillers win the game, but are fortunate to say the least to do so.
With five seconds left you MUST pass, preserving a couple seconds for the FG attempt. Instead Tomlin decides not only to run, but TELEGRAPH the fact he’s going to do so by formation. That’s taking an awfully big risk here, and he’s lucky he’s not getting roasted for it this week.
Here’s what else I found infuriating: after the game Tomlin practically boasted how he knew he had to get the ball into superstar Bell’s hands. Where was that wisdom last week, Coach? Third and four with two minutes to go: a first down ices the Ravens and the game. Running Bell here makes a LOT more sense than doing it when you’re BEHIND with time running out in San Diego. Instead, Mike puts the game into the hands of Mike Vick and a kicker who couldn’t have hit the ocean from the beach that night.
Then of course there was the big post-game flap over the clock-keepers themselves, who lost the Stillers nearly 20 seconds at the end of the game. And yes, while it is the side judge’s job not to blow things like that, guess who else is responsible for knowing how much time is left in the game? If you answered Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff, give yourself a cigar! Hey, why not put the responsibility for keeping track of time on Roethlisberger, too? Apparently he’s been doing the playcalling, anyway. What’s one more little duty?
Yes, Mr. Clock Management strikes again. Luckily, the clock didn’t strike on the Stillers’ season Monday night.
WHINER NATION AT IT AGAIN
What is this bizarre obsession Patriots fans have with Ben Roethlisberger? A few weeks ago they took to the ‘net to protest his Player of the Week Award. Last week they were at it again, this time trying to start trouble by claiming Roethlisberger was violating league rules by holding a cell phone on the sidelines during the Baltimore game. Hall of Fame backup and voice in Mike Tomlin’s ear Scott Zolak banged the drum loudly, with a “J’accuse!” piece on a Boston sports site.Of course, Roethlisberger was in fact holding a play sheet (which the NFL itself later confirmed) but that explanation just wasn’t good enough for them. http://boston.cbslocal.com/2015/10/02/embarrassing-for-nfl-to-claim-ben-roethlisberger-wasnt-using-cell-phone/
Be sure to read the comments section of the Boston article, for a good time. By the way I particularly laughed when the camera panned on Ben Monday night holding what was clearly another play sheet, in the same sideways manner that Whiner Nation had pointed to as the “smoking gun” which proved he was texting. Further backing up the idea the QB’s been engaged in play --not phone-- calling: the fawning credit that Roethlisberger collected after the game for drawing up the big TD pass for Vick. Note to Whiner Nation: I think Ben has better things to do during games than text his snookums to tell her how much sweetie-kins loves her.
The reason for all the ruckus? What else: Tom Brady. Just as their bitching about Ben winning the award was all about the Brady, likewise Patriots fans have appointed themselves sherrif licensed to hunt down and expose all other team’s cheating in the wake of Deflategate. You see, if the league engages in witch hunts against our hero, then WE’LL start one of our own against YOUR guy! Nyaaah – take that you mean dirty Tommy-hating NFL!
Speaking of the Golden One, fresh off his victory against one large corporate entity he’s all puffed up and ready to take down another. This time it’s mighty Coca-Cola, whose product he refers to as “poison”; Kellogg’s also takes a hit, with Tommy “mocking” the idea that Frosted Flakes are actually real food:
Wow, what corporategiant that enables his luxurious lifestyle WON’T Tom Brady take on? I suggest Mr. Brady do some research on how much these two corporations spend on sporting events and sports-related marketing (including being the official soft drink of the NFL for oh, about 30 years up until recently). Then, in the interests of a hypocrisy-free lifestyle, I suggest he quit professional football, donate every dime he’s ever made from this evil corporate-sponsored game to charity, and pursue a new vocation feeding starving children the “real food” he feels they deserve. There are plenty of worthy organizations out there devoted to such causes.
Oh and why stop with just these two companies? Trying counting how many beer commercials you see during games. If Coke is poison, then what does that make that margarita-flavored malt liquor stuff? Are Doritos considered real food? Can you even watch one quarter of a game without seeing some fantasy-football site spot? Imagine how many households get ruined by gambling. There’s a whole world of sponsors to trash and lives to better, compadre: go for it!
For Stillers.com, this is PalmerSucks saying “have a good one.”