Monday, December 11, 2006

Growing Pains

Going back a week ago Monday morning I was coming off the huge vicarious high of my beloved 'Boys beating the Jints on that last-second Martin Grammatica field goal, hoping for a big lucky old week. Lamentedly, if that's even a word, instead the week turned out to have its requisite share of heartache.

That loud thud you may have heard in Texas last night was Tony Romo and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys crashing back to earth. Call it the Sports Illustrated jinx if you will, but all I know is that the day after me and my brother bought the new SI after discovering a lengthy feature on Romo, he plays his worst game of the year as Dallas gets embarrassed on prime time, losing to the Saints 42-17 in true blowout fashion.

Back on September 12, in a desultory, long-winded
post, I included a photo of then-obscure Tony Romo after the disappointing Eagles loss but more significantly wrote the following: "One more similar underperformance by Bledsoe and I think Bill Parcells will be hard-pressed not to make a QB switch and go with soon-to-be-famous Tony Romo. You heard it here first." Damn, that's pretty good, considering it would still be another six weeks or so before Bill Parcells made the switch from Drew Bledsoe to the untested Romo.

Last night was one of those Murphy's Law games you're gonna have every once in a while, but coming on the heels of a Giants win, we're only one game up in the division. I now hate the New Orleans Saints with a passion, especially their head coach, Lee Harvey Oswald lookalike Sean Payton. It wasn't only the unnecessary onsides kick that he called for, just his behavior in general, such as pointing out to the referee that Parcells had thrown his challenge flag on the field within the last 2 minutes of a half, warranting an absurd unsportsmanlike penalty -- just one of many questionable calls by the clueless Jerry Austin's incompetent crew. I thought that Payton's action was super-petty and bush-league all the way, considering all Bill did for him while he was on the Cowboys staff and in the offseason when he got the Saints job. I add Payton to the list of people I will root against from hereon out. I see Bill was pissed off when he shook Payton's hand after the game. Bill won't forget it if he's ever in position to exact vengeance, that's a given, because revenge is what drives the NFL if you've been paying attention here.

Romo was only
16-33 for 249 yards and 2 INTs, but he played even worse than the numbers would indicate. And Parcells himself had a bad game plan as well, with some questionable in-game decisions. For instance, on the disputed challenge play, instead of throwing the challenge flag, why not use one of your 3 remaining time outs so that the replay officials upstairs can get a chance to look at it. He also abandoned the running game way too early. When it was still a game at 14-7, the Cowboys took over and ran Julius Jones for 10 yards, then 5 yards, then called two straight passes that fell incomplete. When a back is on a roll like that -- Julius already had a first quarter 77-yard TD -- you keep giving him the ball until the defense stops him for less than 5 yards. That's just basic, especially when you're looking to keep the ball away from Drew Brees and the Saints offense. Jones finished with 116 yards on only 10 carries. Brees is good but he's playing way over his head right now. He too will come back to earth before the season is out, and I hope Dallas meets them again in the playoffs, wherever that game is played.

I talked to my man Gatt on Sunday morning and he asked me if I saw any weaknesses in either Romo or the Cowboys. I really couldn't think of any at that moment, but after last night it's obvious we miss Greg Ellis because the pass rush is lackluster/subpar. If you block DeMarcus Ware, the pressure isn't really likely to come from anywhere else. Without a pass rush (1 sack total), opposing QBs (Eli Manning, Brees) have lit us up for 7 TDs and 654 passing yards in the last two games. That's "a no too berry good" as my Italian friends might say.

At one point in the Giants-Panthers game, RB Brandon Jacobs had four carries. He was stopped for no gain on three straight 3rd-&-one plays, then fumbled the ball on 1st-&-goal from the 3-yard-line. That is futility personified. Remember all the Giants fans who cried when Jacobs didn't take it inside on a key 4th-&-inches against Dallas last week, instead bouncing it outside and losing yardage? It's not so easy or so simple to gain yards if the other team knows what's coming, even if you're a 6-4 265-pound back with speed. Jacobs finished with 16 yards on 10 totes ... Where are all the Vince Young doubters now? Against Houston yesterday, he went 19-29 passing for 218 yards and had another 86 yards rushing, including the electrifying 39-yard dash for the win in overtime. Anyone who saw him against USC last year and didn't think this guy was gonna be an absolute once-in-a-lifetime talent had to be either a fool or Chris Russo, which is often really the same thing, isn't it? ... Russo, co-host of the Mike & the Mad Dog Show on WFAN radio, said he doesn't think this year's runaway Heisman winner, Ohio State's Troy Smith, will make it as a QB in the NFL and will have to switch to another position. With him it's either stupidity or latent racism, and of course that also is often the same thing ... Of course, no less a personnel expert than legendary draft guru Gil Brandt seems to disagree ... Russo also thinks Peyton Manning is overrated and not one of the all-time great QBs. As part of his argument he keeps repeating that Manning has two Hall of Fame receivers in Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. No arguing with Harrison, but to put Wayne anywhere near the HoF at this point without a ticket is borderline asinine. He's had THREE good years! Playing with the best pure QB the game has seen in perhaps a decade or more! Yeah, let's put Wayne in the Hall and forget about receivers like Bob Hayes and Art Monk and Michael Irvin, they're just average players. A know-it-all Long Island blowhard, Chris Russo gets more grating and annoying every day.

One of the more absurd replay challenges in recent memory came from the Giants' Tom Coughlin. In the first quarter, with the score 3-0, the officials rule that WR Plaxico Burress trapped a ball, negating a 6-yard gain with the Giants still in their half of the field, bringing up a 2nd-&-1o play. So what does Coughlin do but throw his red hankie on the field. Even if he wins it's still 2nd-&-4! Why in the world would you waste a timeout there considering how little you're gonna gain even if you're right! ... We told you how atrocious Panthers QB Chris Weinke was the other day and he didn't "disappoint" -- despite one of the weirdest stat lines from a QB in recent memory. Amassing a metric ton of yards in what Marv Albert calls garbage time, Weinke went 34-61 for 423 yards and 3 INTs for a passer rating of 62.4, making some horrid throws when the game was still on the line ... Tony Romo's overall QB rating dipped below 100 for the first time in weeks and at 96.6 he is no longer the NFL's leader in that category, trailing Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Damon Huard.

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