In NFL, offenses become new defense
Gregg Easterbrook [ARCHIVE]
Page 2
January 4, 2012
t Facebook t Twitter

third-and-1 on the Jersey/A 26. Ryan sends a six blitz, the result is a 74-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz, who caught a 99-yard touchdown pass the previous week against the team of Ryan's brother Rex. Both plays look eerily similar -- short pass intended for a first down, careless missed tackles, safeties way out of position. Megabucks corner Terrence Newman whiffed on a chance to tackle Cruz after a short gain; Jersey/A receiver Hakeem Nick threw a seal block; then safety Gerald Sensabaugh, who just signed a megabucks contract extension, celebrated by not reacting till Cruz was halfway down the field.

Now the Giants lead 7-0 and have second-and-goal on the Dallas 5. Again Ryan sends a big blitz -- his defensive calls are about drawing attention to himself, not about winning. Abram Elam misses a tackle in the backfield, Nicks pastes Newsman and Ahmad Bradshaw walks into the end zone. Later on a 29-yard Bradshaw rush, the Cowboys were in a two-man front -- which has consistently backfired against Dallas, including in the 'Boys late collapse in their first game against these selfsame Giants. Ryan is so concerned about drawing attention to his own perceived genius, he can't just orchestrate a regular defense -- everything's got to be an exotic blitz or a weird two-man rush. Result? Cowboys are out of the postseason while the Giants, who play a conventional four-man front, are in.

The Boys lack football IQ on offense, too. Down 21-0 with 21 seconds remaining before intermission, Dallas run up the middle, then threw short, then threw short, trying to set up a field-goal attempt. Trailing by 21 points you should not be trying for a field goal! Outraged, the football gods pushed the kick aside.

Then Giants leading 24-14 with 5:13 remaining, Dallas punted. I don't care if it's fourth-and-13, there is 5:13 left in your season! TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook. On the play before the punt, Tony Romo threw a short checkdown pass, even though it was third-and-13. Outraged, the football gods caused the pass to be dropped. When it was 31-14 with 2:30 remaining, Romo was still throwing short.

What to make of the Giants? The Jersey/A defense jelled late in the season just like in the Giants' Super Bowl season four years ago, and just like then the defense jelled based on the conventional four-man rush. Jersey/A got six sacks versus Dallas, only one on a blitz. But down the stretch Jersey/A went only 3-5, including a home loss to the woeful Redskins.

Sour Ryan Boasting No. 2: Boast, boast, boast -- Rex Ryan of Jersey/B has boasting down to a science. Playing is another thing. Needing a win to stay alive for the playoffs, the Jets lost to Miami, which had nothing to play for. All that boasting by Rex about the Jets' defense, and Jersey/B surrendered a 21-play, 12:29 touchdown drive on which South Florida was six-for-six on third down, four of the third downs being failed big blitzes by Ryan's charges.

Then, trailing 16-10, Jersey/B reached first-and-10 on the Miami 14 with four minutes remaining. Rush to control the clock, win the game! Instead the Jets went short completion, incompletion, interception returned to Jersey/B territory. And TMQ wrote the words "season over" in his Jets' notebook. Both Ryan brothers ended their seasons by boasting nonstop, then lost do-or-die games.

Will Houston's Fifth-String Quarterback Start in the Playoffs? By the second quarter against Tennessee, the Houston Texans were down to their fourth-string quarterback. Nevertheless, the Moo Cows scored with 14 seconds remaining to pull within 23-22. Coach Gary Kubiak went for two. Win or lose it made sense to conclude the game: Houston had locked its best seed, nothing would be gained by an exhausting overtime just before the playoffs. Tight end Joel Dreessen jumped offside, perhaps because the call was a play-fake bootleg to him. Spot moved back to the 7, Houston got a bad snap from a backup center, and that was that.

Tennessee won, which was sweet, though results from other games eliminated the Flaming Thumbtacks. But about the final scoring play with 14 seconds remaining -- the Titans rushed three, meaning eight defenders to guard five receivers in a small area, since the down began on the Tennessee 5. Yet no one was covering Bryant Johnson when he caught the scoring pass. Had Houston converted its deuce and won, meaning Tennessee eliminated itself, this would have been a sour play indeed.

TMQ Readers Know Too Much: I said California's bullet train plan would produce a nice train but cost too much and that federal taxpayers should not foot the bill, asking, "Why should people who live in Iowa pay for transportation solely within California?" Reader Ian Akers of Radford, Va., replies, "Consider this chart that shows how much each state contributes in federal income tax versus receives in federal funding. For each dollar it pays in federal taxes, California gets back $.78. For each dollar it pays, Iowa gets back $1.10. That means had a net loss of about $30 billion while Iowa had a net gain of about $700 million in '05 (the year of the chart).

"California is currently paying for Iowa's, and my state of Virginia's, highways. Data show the big prosperous states -- California, New Jersey, New York -- are heavily subsidizing other states, with New York for example getting back 79 cents on each federal income tax dollar, while New Mexico receives $2 for every $1 it pays in. So the pros and cons of high-speed rail aside, California may have a valid claim to receive more federal support, while other states should receive less."

Eric Fox of San Jose, Calif., sends this report from the San Jose Mercury News showing that job-creation claims for the proposed California bullet train are severely inflated. I'll repeat my point that what government should be funding is construction of bus rapid transit lanes, which cost less than 10 percent as much per mile as trains, can be completed much faster, and provide mass transit for average people. Who would ride bullet trains? Politicians and the expense-account set.

Russ Sultenfuss of Boca Raton, Fla., notes this story of a high school coach who resigned because the school's insistence on academics was distracting his players from football.

Atlanta Should Go Forward Into the Past: The Falcons head to New Jersey to open the playoffs; under Mike Smith, they are 43-21 in the regular season and 0-2 in the postseason. TMQ continues to think Atlanta has become so obsessed with its no-huddle offense -- everything called at the line, with multiple checks before the snap -- that the Falcons are losing track of the fundamentals. When receivers and linemen don't get the actual call till two seconds before the snap -- Matt Ryan sometimes uses more than one "sim" call before he checks to the real play -- there just isn't time to get set...
Next >
< Previous

t Facebook t Twitter
MORE NEWS & ANALYSIS
ALL TOP NEWS
NEWS BY SPORT
ANALYSIS BY SPORT
Back to Top
ESPN Mobile Web Home
En Español
ABC News Headlines
Help and Feedback
Search
Terms of Use
Interest-Based Ads
Privacy Policy/Your California Privacy Rights
SIGN IN