Things to consider while appreciating Peyton Manning for turning his bulbous, freakishly large fivehead pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month:
*When the Patriots offense is firing like it has the last 6 quarters, I can’t imagine what it must be fans of the defense trying to stop them. We all saw the Pats face New Orleans in 2009 when Drew Brees had arguably the best passing game of all time. We saw Iraq vs. the US in Desert Storm. And we saw Obama debate Romney. So we all know that feeling of utter, helpless futility. For Denver yesterday, it had to be even worse.
*89 frickin offensive plays. 35 bloody 1st downs, 18 rushing, 16 passing. 64% on 3rd down conversions. A “give up” running play on 3rd & 17 that they convert. And the best QB of all time handing off to running backs for 251 yards. As long as they protect the football (casts a stern eye at Stevan Ridley), the only thing that can stop them would be the Rules Committee outlawing the Pats offense the way they outlawed their defense in 2004.
*I can’t believe this is the same offensive line we saw look so bad all preseason. Sure they weren’t perfect and there were some protection problems. But they got significant reps out of bottom-of-the-depth chart guys like Donald Thomas, Marcus Cannon and Nick McDonald and still got huge production. It’s like Dante Scarnecchia could coach up the cast of “The View” to get you 4 yards a carry.
*Though on the biggest running play of the game, that 3rd & 17 pickup by Danny Woodhead, a stretch run where the line got a great push and Woody made a terrific cut, the key block was by Wes Welker. He was in the slot on the weak side and came all the way across to blow up S Mike Adams. Deion Branch did the same from the front side of the play to seal off Jim Leonhard, but Welker made that play.
*Woodhead arguably had the most important 3rd down reception of the game as well, 3rd & 14 on the 11. He had Mays reading him so that if Woody stayed into block, Mays would rush. If he went out, Mays would cover him. He hesistated for a second, then released and put a double move on as Brady had to leave the pocket and was wide open for 25 yards. Woodhead’s contribution to the win is way in excess of his numbers.
*And that wasn’t even Welker’s hardest hit of the game. That would be when he leveled Joe Mays on a run after catch and knocked him out of the game. And he gives away 65 lbs to Mays so it looked like Miles Finch kicking the snot out of Buddy for calling him “elf” one time too many.
*In my life I’ve never seen a Hurry-up offense run as Hurried-up as the Patriots did yesterday. I’m going to say something no one under the age of 35 will get, but they ran plays like Lovey Howell when she got whacked out on radioactive sugar beets. The half our audience that missed that reference are missing out, because it was brilliant. You’ll just have to trust me.
*I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that no matter what team Manning is with, no matter who his receivers are or how many neck surgeries he’s had, every game he plays against the Patriots will go the same way: The Pats build up a sizable lead, and he stages a furious comeback. Book it for the 2022 season now: Manning will be 48 years old and 3’11” from only having 2 vertebrae left, but in the 4th quarter he’ll put up 200 passing yards and 3 TD’s and almost lead Liverpool to a dramatic come-from-behind win. You read it here first.
*I’d read that Denver had completely scrapped their offense for Manning but my eyes told me there are a few differences. For one, the Colts ran pretty much the same basic alignment with Marvin Harrison/ Pierre Garcon in the Z out to the right and Reggie Wayne as the X to the left, then moved the slot guy and TE around inside. The Broncos flipped Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker a bit. And they repeatedly went to a bunch formation, which Manning never did in Indy.
*Still there were a lot of the same basic plays. The one where Thomas fumbled the ball was a Deep Cross, where the backside WR comes “under Sam but over Mike” to get behind the LB’s and draw the safety, and Thomas runs a post, which was a staple of the Colts. It’s still not as complex as Indy ran, but when your last QB was Tim Tebow so your last offense was the 1924 Chicago Cardinals playbook, it has to feel like advanced physics.
*I read Tedy Bruschi’s book, and it really does have a lot of good insight. For example, when the Colts were putting on their last drive, moving the ball at will, picking up chunks of yards with a chance to pull within 3? From reading Tedy’s book I knew that what was happening was: I was having a stroke. Good stuff, Tedy. Thanks.
*When Richard Branson is hanging out with Mr. Kraft, even a self-promoting egomaniac like him has to realize he’s only the second best CEO in the room. I’ll grant him that launching commercial flights into space is impressive. But not nearly as visionary as looking at the old Schafer Stadium dirt parking lot and seeing a future Bed, Bath & Beyond.
*Was it just me or did the Patriots not get the benefit of a single spot of the ball? How many times did it look like they pounded it across the goal line and the refs would be placing the ball somewhere back around midfield? Or Denver looked stopped and they’d move the chains without a measurement? I’m as glad as anyone the real officials are back but these guys made the Refauxrees look like Euclid.
*Theoretically, if you were to keep getting “half the distance to the goal” penalties, one right after another an infinite amount of times, eventually the spot of the football would split the atom. That’s the kind of thing you think about when you’ve been watching too much “Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman.”
*The most encouraging thing of this whole game was how well the rookie DB’s played. With Steve Gregory out, Tavon Wilson started and just like in camp he seems to have a nose for the ball and is a rock-solid tackler.
*But Alfonzo Dennard was the real revelation. Manning was picking on him, especially late in the game. He repeatedly went to Decker with Dennard in single coverage and the rookie was with him step for step.
*His best play was a 3rd down stop when Denver ran a 3-man bunch. The Pats had bracket coverage on it, with Dennard taking the inside zone which turned out to be TE Joel Dressen. Dennard timed it perfectly, gave Dressen an arm bar just as he got a mitt on the ball and knocked it away. I’m already wanting to thank that cop he punched outside that bar a week before the draft.
*But then… there’s the Devin McCourty question. McCourty is quickly becoming the hot topic among Patriots fans. The family controversy you don’t want to bring up around the table because it’s going to start an argument and ruin everyone’s dinner.
*I’m still on Team Devin. The catch by Decker in the end zone was one of those plays you just can’t stop. A quick release throw by Manning that Decker picked right off the turf. And there was a long bomb to Thomas late in the game where Manning made a brilliant underthrow because McCourty had taken away the deep route and Thomas did a great job coming back to it. In an age when they’ve legistated good cornerback play out of the league, there’s not a lot more a guy can do on that throw.
*Having said that, I’m as fed up as anyone with watching McCourty or any of the others run full steam into a receiver in the end zone without ever looking back on the ball. God knows I’m no one’s idea of a secondary coach. But if I was, my coaching techique would be to say “Stop doing that.”
*I’m not the world’s biggest video gamer (at least not since the invention of free internet porn), but “Assassin’s Creed III,” the one with the guy attacking the Redcoats in colonial America looks awesome. If Curt Schilling developed that he’d still have his money, his house, the Bloody Sock and his dignity.
*We can say this about the Patriots defense: No one runs outside on these guys. Every running play Denver attempted was an inside rush, mostly on draw plays and against subpackages. The only time those even worked was when the starters were being rested. For instance on a couple of long 2nd quarter runs by Willis McGahee, the Pats were spread wide and Dan Koppen smothered Ron Brace to open up the middle. It was the kind of BC Eagle-on-BC Eagle crime you rarely see except at closing time at Mary Ann’s and it was the only running attack the Broncos had all day.
*I’m stunned to see Koppen play so well, especially against Wilfork and Love. Because all through camp he was getting destroyed by guys who right now are living off EBT card income. Good for Koppen. He was always a solid guy here but looked as done as any O-lineman they’ve ever had.
*John Fox is turning into Jeff Dunham’s crotchedy old guy ventriloquist dummy before our very eyes. And he either needs to get his teeth whitened or say he’s making them yellow to support the troops or something because it’s not a good look.
*I don’t even care that the country isn’t named after Columbus. It makes a lot less sense to me that we’re named after Amerigo Vespucci’s FIRST name. I mean, who does that? And does it mean that if Mr. & Mrs. Vespucci named their boy William, we’d be living in the United States of Billerica?
*I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The only difference between Rob Ninkovich and Mike Vrabel is the resume. Vrabel was not a substantially better athlete than Ninko, but he made huge plays when they counted most. Two forced fumbles in a game they could have otherwise lost certainly helped Ninkovich close the gap.
*And on the subject of huge plays in big games, it’s starting to be a pattern for Sterling Moore. He knocked that ball out in the end zone to save the day against Baltimore in the playoffs. He forced a fumble in the Super Bowl that was called back for a penalty. Now he knocks that ball loose from Thomas. Granted, I’d prefer he not give up the completion, but you can’t have everything.
*This week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “I hate you Ron Burgundy. With every inch of me I plain, straight, hate you. But goddammit, I respect you.” – Wes Mantooth, Anchorman
*Based on what he’d done against the Pats, I thought Von Miller was all hype. But he was huge yesterday. He outran Seabass to the outside for a sack. Put Nate Solder on his ass and almost got a safety out of it. He drew a hold on Ryan Wendell. The last time anyone moved around that much dishing out abuse the Church got sued for it.
*There might have been 100 people in the red seats a minute into the 2nd half. Can Mr. Kraft just hire seat fillers? Like when Kramer was at the Tonys? It’s a national embarrassment.
*This next game in Seattle is huge, especially for the Patriots defensive front. Because the nickname “Seven Psychopaths” is still up for grabs but someone is going to pounce on it soon and I want it for them. But it has to be earned, and 21 points surrendered won’t get it done.
*Thank God today that they won so we don’t have to listen to a month worth of “4th & 5-Gate” talk.
(Thanks to @iBlumsack) @JerryThornton1