Kansas City – Denver: What We Learned

Jan 5, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; General view of the NFL Wild Card logo on the field before a game between the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-119966 ORIG FILE ID: 20130105_sal_ad1_152.JPG
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Peyton Manning‘s arm is shot.Yeah, I know. He threw a dramatic game-winning touchdown. And he also threw a number of other nice passes.  But he also threw quite a number of balloons, especially in the first half. When everything is perfect for Manning and he’s got his feet underneath him with a clean pocket, he’s fine. But he’s no longer the playmaker that can make up for other team deficiencies. Which brings me to the next point.
  2. The Broncos need to adjust to Manning’s obvious physical deficiencies. He’s still a smart, savvy quarterback who is one of the best in the business pre-snap. But he’s not going to be able to completely adjust to head coach Gary Kubiac‘s new offense by continually getting under center and running play action. At least not yet.  Manning was a different quarterback when Kubiac put him into the shotgun more often and/or when he was in the two minute offense. Suddenly Manning was reading the blitz and getting the ball out before the Chiefs could touch him. Kubiac is going to have to shelve some of his offense, at least temporarily, until Manning gets his feet back under him.
  3. The Chiefs have a pair of very good tight ends, at least one of which has come out of nowhere. Travis Kelce I’d at least heard about but James O’Shaughnessy was a complete surprise. Both of these guys are athletic and dangerous. It should be fun watching them this year.
  4. These are two of the best defenses in the NFL – we knew that going in. But, even given that, I’m very concerned about both of these offensive lines, especially Denver’s. The Broncos gave up three sacks and the Chief gave up four. Most significantly, Denver had only a paltry 60 yards rushing. That ‘aint good, folks.Denver did a lot of shuffling alone its offensive line in the offseason and its possible that they will gel as the season goes on. But for now, a bad offensive line combined with a physically limited Peyton Manning isn’t a good mix.
  5. On a related note, someone has to settle the Broncos down as they gave away so many personal foul penalties in the first half that all Kansas City had to do was collect them and, as former Chiefs coach Hank Stram put it, “matriculate” their way down the field. I appreciate physical play but you still have to make them earn it, boys.
  6. Also on a related note, is there any doubt that Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is one of the best in the game? He does nothing but win everywhere he goes. He’s one of those guys who is simply born to be a coordinator instead of a head coach. He won a chess match last night against a great offensive mind.And that brings us to Andy Reid.  I’m beginning to wonder if Reid also isn’t simply a born coordinator. He certainly doesn’t appear to be a big game coach and some of the decisions he made from the sidelines last night were head scratchers. I appreciate aggressiveness but putting the game in the hands of Alex Smith by throwing the ball, especially right before half time, was bad news. Reid may have taken the Chiefs as far as they’ll ever get with him as the coach.
  7. Turnovers kill. Jamall Charles and Alex Smith. Protect football. ’nuff said.

Everyone’s a Critic

Chicago Bears head coach John Fox watches from the sideline during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Cleveland Browns, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
                                                                                                                                                 AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Adam Kilgore at The Washington Post writes a thought provoking article on head coaches make such apparently “stupefying” game-management decisions.

The bottom line is that Kilgore claims that the job is too big for one person. The typical NFL sideline is a mass of confusion where head coaches are forced to make time-sensitive decisions in a pressure-packed environment.

I’m on board with that. What I’m not on board with is one of his examples of poor game-management last weekend:

“Late in the fourth quarter, trailing by 15 against the Packers, the Bears scored a touchdown. [Head coach John] Fox made the same inane choice almost every coach makes. In a nine-point game, Fox elected to kick the extra point instead of going for two, making it an eight-point game.

“The decision stemmed from the backward process of favoring hope over practicality. The Bears choose to keep it a one-possession game, but at no benefit. It still needed a two-point conversion to tie. But now it had sacrificed the chance to know whether it would require only a touchdown or a touchdown and a field goal. The Bears surrendered the opportunity to know how aggressive it should play strictly for the sake of appearance.”

That touchdown “late in the fourth quarter” was scored with 34 seconds left in the game. To suggest that this is enough time to score a touchdown and a field goal to me is, itself, “stupefying”. The truth is that if Fox had chosen to go for a two point conversion and failed, the game would have been over. He chose to take the one point instead, thus keeping it a one score game and giving his team hope that they could still pull it out.

I neither heard nor read any criticism up until I read this article over Fox’s decision. The best you could do is argue that this decision was a coin flip. But I’m inclined to support Fox on this one.

There Are “Injuries” and Then There Are “Injuries”

brain-injuryAdam Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times is off base with this comparison between quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer:

“But [Arizona head coach Bruce] Arians is the perfect coach for him at the perfect time. The No. 1 pick in 2003, Palmer just happened to connect with Arians in his 30s, a decade into his career.”

“The point is, it’s never too late for a quarterback to find that right fit, especially at a time when college schemes have impeded their development and most NFL teams desperately need them.

“It’s an interesting notion to consider as Bears quarterback Jay Cutler prepares for his second start under coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

“Can Fox and Gase finally be the right guys for Cutler?”

This doesn’t fly with me. Palmer was always a pretty good quarterback whose career was simply derailed by injury. He happened to hit upon both Arians and a pretty good Arizona surrounding cast at the same time to revive his career. Cutler’s only injury is in his brain, which simply isn’t wired in a way that’s likely to generate wins.


I’m much more inclined to agree with Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, who was spot on this morning when he said that “…Jay Cutler is in Year 10 and has won one playoff game. If you don’t believe the quarterback you have can win the Super Bowl for you, you’re spinning your wheels until you get one.”

Wondering Why the Bears Shouldn’t Build Through Free Agents? Look at Their Current Signings.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“How do you add talent to this team quickly? Do you think GM Ryan Pace will spend in free agency given how the Bears may have a ton of cap space next year? — @HumanSabre from Twitter”

“There is no quick fix to years and years of poor drafting and developing. I expect the Bears to have oodles of salary cap space after this season. Enough to do whatever Pace wants to in terms of re-signing players currently under contract and pursuing free agents on the open market. But the Dream Team approach rarely nets positive results. The Redskins have been super aggressive in free agency over the years under Daniel Snyder. That hasn’t worked so well.”

Could not agree more. As Biggs points out, Bears free agent signees have rarely made a difference in the win-loss column. Players are available on the street for a reason and that includes the ones that appear from the outside to have worked out.


For instance, Martellus Bennett is a marvelous tight end – a Pro Bowler. But from the rare report in newspapers that address or imply that any player’s behaviour off the field might not be up to snuff, it’s evident that Bennet is immature, has a serious problem with authority and, if we read further between the lines, might allow some of his other interests to distract from football. If you doubt my opinion here, look no further than the fact that the Bears by all reports were trying to trade the undeniably very talented Bennett last spring rather than deal with the headache he’s turned out to be.

Cover of Bennett’s mixed tape Year of the Orange Dinosaur, release in 2014

The Bears need to draft well and draft consistently well. That way they will be using that cap space to extend the players they want to keep rather than having to throw money at other teams’ castoffs.

Regrets: Adam Gase Would Have Handled the Red Zone Differently

gaseRich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune relays comments that Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase made on Thursday. He discussed why the Bears threw four straight passes against the Packers in the fourth quarter on a goal-to-go set of downs that began at the 6-yard line:

“‘It’s one of those deals you wouldn’t have called them if you didn’t feel great about them,’ he said. ‘You’d like the execution to be a little better. Probably one of those calls I wish I could have had back. But at the end of the day, whatever we end up calling, we’ve talked about it. We’ve worked on it. Nobody should be surprised by those things, and we have to execute them.’

“Which pass did he want back?

“‘I don’t want to tell you,’ he said with a smile.”

It certainly doesn’t have to be done this way but standard red zone procedure at times like this is to run the ball a couple times, then hit the defense with a play action pass, often to the tight end. The Bears were running the ball well and Martellus Bennett was having a reasonably good game. This seemed like a good spot for that.