Tuesday, January 10, 2006

We Dey

First things first:
"Palmer getting injured liked that really took all the fun out of the game. If the Steelers were going to win i wanted it to happen against them at full strength. What's worse is I spent most of the game feeling sorry for the Bengals fans. I also feel bad for Kimo because it was an accident and he's a nice guy. now he'll forever be linked to that injury."

I couldn't agree more. Palmer getting hurt on their second play of the game sucked. Kimo, maybe the nicest guy on the team, falling into Palmer sucked. And I was preparing for the suckiness of the inevitable accusations that Kimo was a dirty player, sure to following in the next days news. Except that it really didn't happen. This poll on Cincinatti.com asks if the play was a cheap shot and as of 8:00 PM Monday night, 69% (911 people) said it was not. And every TV or radio segment on the game seemed to agree that it was just really bad luck.

Interestingly, immediately following the game, Tom Jackson seemed to accuse the Steelers of playing after the whistle and he was kinda noncommittal on the Palmer injury being dirty. Of course, it's important to remember that Jackson lives in Cincy, and he's probably a little biased. (And that's fine -- nothing wrong with being a homer, just putting that out there.) Also, I don't really take Jackson all that seriously (or anybody else on that god forsaken network not named Jaws) after Belichick told him to go f-himself a few years ago.

(Short story long: Just in case you missed it, the first game of the 2003 season, with Bledsoe in Buffalo, and newly acquired Lawyer Milloy a Bill, the Pats got blown out 31-0. During Primetime Jackson said that the Patriots players hated their coach because of the Milloy stuff. Except Jackson apparently didn't talk to any Patriots players. At some point later in the year, Jackson saw Belichick, and instead of stopping to talk, Belichick gave Jackson the always effective, F-off. Since then, Jackson has been New England's biggest shill. It's kinda embarrassing to watch, but I guess that's what happens when you disrespect Rodney Harrison and Tom Brady.)

Anyway, in addition to Kimo seeming pretty upset about the whole incident, I think it says a hell of a lot about Carson Palmer to be as gracious as he was only a few hours after getting his knee blown up. And I know Marvin Lewis let one slip during the post-game press conference when he said that his team wasn't going to "cry about the hit like their quarterback did," but it's hard not to think the guy was frustrated as hell after he lost Palmer. I chalk it up to having to answer a bunch of silly questions a couple of minutes after a tough loss.

I was watching the press conference live, and I must admit that I was confused about the comment. Not that I didn't understand the words that were coming out of his mouth, just that I didn't know what he was referring to. It finally occurred to me that he was talking about the Dec. 4 game when Odell Thurman got tripped and went in low on Roethlisberger. (And for the record, I didn't think either that hit or the one by Luis Castillo in San Diego was dirty. Just unlucky.) And later in the week Ben said something to the effect of, "whenever a player goes low, it's probably dirty." I saw that sound byte too, and I wouldn't say Ben was crying when he said it. He was sniffling and his eyes were puffy and red, but he wasn't actually crying. Either way, Ben probably wishes he hadn't said it. Whatever. It still doesn't change my opinion of Marvin Lewis and what he's done in Cincy in three years. I'm glad for all of the Bengals' success, and I hope Carson's able to make a full recovery in time for training camp. Seriously.

One more thing on this subject, and then on to the rest of the game. In addition to the media and the players all in agreement on The Play That Changed The Game, the Bengals Nation Blog was also very clear that Kimo's intent wasn't to intentionally hurt Palmer. That doesn't change the fact that JD absolutely hates the Steelers, but I can't really blame him given his allegiances. And I actually thought this was pretty funny:
"Honestly, when Carson Palmer went down I still wanted the Bengals to win, but only because they were playing the Steelers. If they'd been playing anyone else I really wouldn't have cared, because they certainly weren't going to beat Denver next week with Jon Kitna at the helm.

I'm putting on my Colts hat this week, and I'm personally hoping for at least a five touchdown win over Pittsburgh. Won't make things better, but it'll damn sure help."
Dude, I know how you feel (Tom Brady, I just indirectly disrespected you).

Now, with that out of the way, some thoughts on the game ...

... Phil Simms mentioned it during the first quarter, and Tom Jackson and Mike Ditka talked about it after the game: the Steelers' defense was especially chippy early on. I watched the first quarter again last night and Chippy Target Numero Uno was TJ Whosyourdaddy. Other than that, I didn't really see Pittsburgh doing all that much. Should Chris Hope and Tyrone Carter have been flagged for not letting Houshmandzadeh after that incompletion in the end zone? Probably. If that had happened to Cedrick Wilson, I'm guessing he would've started crying. But here's the thing: Wilson wasn't running his yap all week, and he also didn't -- get ready for it -- disrespect the Terrible Towel during their last meeting. Word on the street is that Jim Wexell brought up the shoe shining incident to some Steelers' players last week (OK, I didn't really hear that on the street. I read it here), and it made it all the way to bulletin board status.

I have no idea, but I'm guessing Cowher used this as motivation, and if that means Hope and Carter set the tone early, fine by me. If that would've resulted in a personal foul call, that's fine too. Houshmandzadeh really didn't do too much in the game and I know a lot of that was Kitna-related, but if Crazy Tyrone Carter was at all in his head, all the better.

(By the way, when did Carter become the team goon? He looks like Webster out there, but Webster on steroids. I like it.)

... Jabbs42 mentioned this in the comments, but it's worth repeating: you can game plan all you want to stop the run, but when the running back is listed at 5'10" 255 lbs (yeah right), not a lot of people actually want to try and tackle that load. And we saw that again Sunday. It wasn't as embarrassing as the effort not put forth by the Lions, but the Bus's touchdown run from five yards out was a close second. The only thing worse than getting run over by Jerome, is having him put the ol' Fred Flintstone Twinkly Toes Two-Step on you leaving you grasping for air as he walks into the end zone.

And I know Willie Parker's the starter, and I'm actually in the Fast Willie camp, but after the last Colts game, I wouldn't mind introducing Bob Sanders to the Bus on five straight carries. He might get five good shots on Jerome, but he'll pay for it. And then I bring in Duce and run at him five more times (I know, this requires Staley to be active, but I just consider those pesky little details). After that, Fast Willie time. Look, the Steelers aren't going to outrun the Colts defense, so they might as well punish them along the way. Yeah, I've been beating this drum for most of the season, and it probably won't happen, but it doesn't mean I can't talk about it.

... The injuries to James Harrison and Quincy Morgan are pretty big. Both guys have the dreaded high ankle sprain, which basically means that, unless you're T.O., you ain't getting on the field any time soon. Both players are important to the special teams, and whenever an injury leads to Morey seeing time as a wideout, it's not a good thing. That said, I saw this today on The Sporting News:
The team will miss the deep speed of WR Quincy Morgan (ankle) who is expected to miss the game against the Colts. Rookie Nate Washington could become the No. 4 receiver; he isn't as fast but has reliable hands and runs good routes. TE Heath Miller also could be split wide in some four-receiver formations.
I don't know how Washington is on special teams, but it'll be interesting to see if he can run a route without actually pooping his britches. This game is a little bigger than the last time he saw the field (that oh so memorable Jags game).

Was anyone else glad to see Andre Frazier out there knocking people silly on the coverage teams? I was a little nervous when he had to come in and spell Haggans on defense, but he held his own. Now if another linebacker goes down, Pittsburgh's in real trouble. (Can Morey play in the 3-4?)

... I really think Troy Polamalu forgot to take his meds Sunday. (Did anybody else see SportsCenter and here Stuart Scott pronounce Troy's last name as, "Paaal - a - mooooo - lou?" Priceless. Here's an idea: maybe you should spend less time making up dopey catch phrases, and, I don't know, watch the sports you're supposed to be covering. Or don't. Booyah!) Here's the thing with Troy: he's a pretty intense guy (big surprise, right?). Seriously, he seems to take it to another level when it's a big game. Remember the Chargers game? He got at least one 15-yarder, and spent most of the evening yapping at or trying to pop Antonio Gates. And he did a pretty good job stopping him (or at least slowing him up). Just like last night. The only difference is that Sunday Troy tried to squeeze a football through Rich Braham's facemask around Pittsburgh's five-yard-line. Yeah, pretty stupid. Ideally, these kind of mental lapses wouldn't happen, but I think it's the bad you have to occasionally put up with to get the mostly good that Polamalu gives the Steelers every week. For me, that's a tradeoff I'm willing to make.

Now the lateral after the interception is a different story. Polamalu called it "foolish" and that's putting it lightly. But hey, the guy keeps making plays. Just stop with the laterals. Please.

... Plus, if that had been Ike Taylor on the play, the ball would've hit him in the face mask and either (a) landed in Chad Johnson's hands for a touchdown, or (b) gotten wedged there, and during the return, Troy would've ripped Ike's helmet off and tossed it to Chris Hope. OK, maybe that's exaggerating a bit, but for the love of god, please, please, Ike, catch the friggin' ball. He can catch kickoffs, because he replaced Quincy and did a good job. He just seems to have trouble finishing plays while in coverage. And seeing that he's a defensive back, that's kind of an issue. Still, he's the best cornerback on the field, and I love the way he plays, but he's going Steve Sax on me with the mental block on making interceptions. (Which reminds me, maybe somebody should've tested Tommy Maddox for Steve Sax Syndrome. Just a thought.)

... I remember back during the preseason ( Geez, doesn't that seem like four years ago now?) how everybody was worried about Ben struggling to throw the ball. One of the knocks on him was him staring down receivers. On the TD to Hines last night, I watched Roethlisberger take the snap, look left just long enough to freeze MLB Odell Thurman and then, in one motion, look right and fire a bullet to Ward. Pretty impressive. Of course, my next thought was, "what if Hines was double-teamed? Ben basically made a no-look pass, and if there had been good coverage, it might've been picked." (Yep, that's me, always looking for the silver lining.) Either way, it was a great play.

... We talked about this last week, and it was never made more evident than Sunday. Cowher may not have the best record in the post-season, but it has nothing to do with him being a former assistant coach under Marty Schottenheimer. Instead of getting tight-assed in close games, Cowher's at the extreme other end of the spectrum. That super hookie-dookie play was Exhibits A through ZZ (AAA is the onsides kick in the Super Bowl; AAB was that silly play on third down in the red zone where Antwaan did a pirouette in the backfield and was promptly tackled). The funniest thing about that play (well, other than the fact that the Steelers somehow managed to pull it off) was that in the post-game press conference, Marvin Lewis explained that they weren't surprised to see it, and if the defenders didn't drop their assignments, it's probably not a TD. If the Bengals practiced defending that play last week, they might be the best game-planners in the league.

... OK, the line's already up to 9.5 and it's only Tuesday. You know what this means: it's time to play the disrespect card (me stifling a giggle)!

... Oh yeah, one more thing. Did anybody else see Larry Foote interviewed by Jaws on the field after the game? After the interview, Foote stuck his head back in frame and said to nobody in particular, "Who dey? Who dey? We dey?" Your bad.