Sunday, January 11, 2009

Divisional Weekend - v1

Balt @ Tenn

A really exciting football game, but as I discussed with Patrick he's turned me to note it wasn't really a "great" game but more just a sloppy game, at least by one team.

This game actually reminded me a lot of the Ravens @ Titans game from the '00 season. The Titans really beat the Ravens up and down the field that weekend too, except two. Turnovers, and scoreboard. This one was the exact same way. The Titans almost doubled up total yardage, but couldn't finish their drives. Three drives in scoring position resulting in turnovers, one a missed FG.

Was there anything more critical in that game than Chris Johnson's injury? LenDale White didn't have a horrible game, but Johnson was averaging almost 7 per rush and a virtual lock to put up 100 rushing yards on the game. When the Titans came out in the second half with Johnson limping on the sideline, all the wind just seemed to come out of them offensively. The Ravens were dropping an extra guy into coverage, able to attack Collins more and disrupt him, and keep a lot of those passes from being completed. It was like two different offenses in the first half and third quarter.

One of the big differences between this game yesterday and the regular season was the end-game play of Joe Flacco. This regular season, his biggest issue has been the inability to mount end-of-game drives to put the team in position to win. Last night, with about four minutes left, Flacco got the ball deep in his own territory, needing about 35 yards to have at least a shot at a winning FG. This season, those drives have gone nowhere. Yesterday, he picked up 51 yards to put Stover well within his range with the wind at his back.

The Ravens will limp into next week's game, banged up after such a physical game. But they've got to be feeling pretty good about their chances after going in and knocking off the #1 seed.

AZ @ Car

So Larry Fitzgerald is completely taking over on offense. What a huge difference he's making offensively to this team.

Third and one and we see virtually the exact same play that went for their first TD in the Atlanta game. Double covered, Warner puts the ball up, and Fitz just goes up and gets it. If he's going to be making plays like that, how is it even possible to defend the guy?

Then a play that in my opinion was even bigger, where Fitz came across the middle of the field clean, took the pass, and cut up-field. He knew exactly where he had to get the ball for the end zone, left his feet, and basically punched the pylon with the ball.

Fitzgerald seems like what I'd call the "perfect" receiver. The only thing I'm not certain of is his blocking ability, more cause they just don't run the ball a lot, and when they do it doesn't seem like they're hitting the perimeter with their rushers a lot. But other than that, the guy really is the full package. Tall, fast, incredible hands, fights for the ball, runs fantastic routes, exceptionally aware of where he is and needs to be with the ball in his hands...he's everything a team could want in a receiver.

And how 'bout Jake Delhomme? No one can melt-down quite like him. He had an average season this year, which was good enough with their run game and defense, with 15 TDs against 12 INTs, and an 84.7 QB rating.

But 7 of those 12 INTs came in two of their 16 games this season. With his 84.7 rating, he had only six games with a QB rating under that, and only three rated under 70. Those three games, his ratings were 55.3, 38.6, and 12.3.

He's a pretty classic hot-and-cold QB that's good more often than he is bad. And we know he can do it over sustained stretches as he almost beat the Patriots in the Superbowl. During that stretch he was never rated under 96 in those four games.

But there's no question he's capable of dropping one of those stinkers. He did it in the '05 post-season to bump them out of the Conf Championship game with a 34.9 QB rating. and last night went 39.1 in what was almost assuredly the biggest reason for the Panthers losing that game.

Meanwhile, now we've got a situation where two teams with a combined 15 regular season losses could be hosting the Conference Championship games next week. How amazing would that be?


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