It’s Often the Little Things That Count the Most

Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, “To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.”

Gary D’Amato at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel indirectly points to the difference between winners and losers in the NFL by writing a critique of the Packers loss to the Patriots:

“One glance at the box score from the Green Bay Packers-New England Patriots game confirms the adage about statistics being meaningless.

“Going strictly by the numbers, the Packers outplayed the Patriots.”

“So how in the world did the Packers lose, 31-27, at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night?

“The same way they lost their other five games this season: by failing to convert in critical short-yardage situations, by committing costly penalties and by making game-changing blunders on special teams.”

You could really sum it up in two sentences:  The Patriots know how to win.  The Packers don’t (yet).

Even as a Bears fan, I have to confess that I love the Packers and their aggressive style.  The team has guts.  But the Bears have been better this year because, like the Patriots, the Bears avoid many of these issues.  Admittedly they haven’t done well in short yardage.  But that aside, they don’t commit that many penalties, they don’t drop many balls, they usually win the turnover battle, and their special teams excel.  Ask the Vikings how important that last one is.

There isn’t that much difference in talent between teams in the NFL.  The margin between winning and losing is often discipline and doing the little things.  Success in these small areas add up to victories on days when you don’t play well, sometimes against a better team.

I’m not exactly ready to canonize anyone.  But in a week when the Bears clinched their division, it seems appropriate to give the Bears and their coaches, especially Lovie Smith, kudos for recognizing this and consistently getting the best out of their players in these areas.  Along with their amazingly good health, this success is the major reason they are headed to the playoffs this year.

Points of View, December 22, 2010


  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune mentions that Virginia McCaskey was at the game in Minnesota and was apparently quite lively.   Kudos to her.  My grandfather is 89 and let me tell you, there’s no way I’d be able to get him out in that kind of weather to watch a football game.
  • I’m not one to criticize referees but I thought the officiating was uneven to say the least in the Vikings game.  It didn’t cause anyone to win or lose the game but the guess here is that the film won’t look good on review at the league office.
  • After Brett Favre came back to start on Monday, most people attributed it to his miraculous healing powers.  I doubt that his shoulder got better quite as fast as his desire to try to play through it did.  With the Bears getting ready to take the field I’m guessing that the old blood got flowing and Favre decided to try one more time to prove to himself that he could or couldn’t play.  In the end, he couldn’t survive it.

I wouldn’t have a problem with this is it weren’t for the fact that it sets a dangerous precedent.  “Out” really should mean “out”.  I couldn’t prove that Favre was better physically than he appeared Saturday.  But given his history, I think its safe to say that he got the benefit of the doubt because he is who he is.

“The Bears won’t acknowledge it, but there is a direct correllation between Devin Hester’s reemergence as a lethal kick returner and his diminished role on offense.”

“Take it for what it’s worth that ESPN analyst Matt Millen enthusiastically endorsed the Bears as Super Bowl contenders, saying they could beat the Saints or the Falcons on the road in a playoff game. Millen was one of the best analysts in the game in his first stint on TV, but his credibility took a hit with the disastrous run as president of the Lions.”

Say what you want about Millen but his credibility can’t possibly be any worse than Bill Cowher‘s.  Last week Cowher not only predicted that the Bears would miss the playoffs but said that they wouldn’t win another game all season.

  • The Bears attracted the usual large TV audience (via the Chicago Tribune) we’ve come to expect for their national games.  I always take pride in this but at the same time it does nothing to help the cause of keeping Bear games on Sunday afternoon and out of prime time.

“Not much in the way of a Bernard Berrian sighting, was there? Look for the ex-Bear to potentially become an ex-Viking in the offseason. He has fallen way out of favor there.”

I’m not sure what Berrian’s problem has been.  Its possible he could become a Bear again if he came at the right price.  But if he does he’s going to have to be more physical.  Ask Devin Aromashodu.


  • Biggs also mentions some of the political talk that went on this week as the Vikings seek a new stadium:

“Certainly NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was on hand trying to get support lined up.

“‘I think there’s a recognition that we need to find a long-term solution for the Vikings here to get a new stadium built,’ Goodell said. ‘We met with the business community. We met with the legislators. And we met with the governor-elect. So we’re all going to be working hard to try to find the best solution to keep the Vikings here in Minnesota.’

“Keeping the Vikings in Minnesota would be good for the rivalries in the division, that is for certain.”

I would agree.  But I’m not holding my breath that a deal will be made unless the Vikings and the NFL kick in a substantial portion of the money needed to build a stadium.  It’s a bad time to be asking for money at any level of government, let alone from the Minnesota legislature with their impending $6 billion deficit.  The state isn’t going to put money in unless they are absolutely convinced that they will break even in terms of job creation and tax revenue.  Its a tough sell.

“‘Football should be played outdoors,’ Wilf said before the 40-14 loss to the Bears, ‘and for the Vikings in the past, the weather has given the Vikings a big advantage.'”

  • Aaron Rogers has passed all of th necessary test and will be back for the Giants game according to Jason Wilde of via Greg Rosenthal at  They’re going to need him.  They need to win their last two game sot make the playoffs, starting with the Giants this week.  The Giants will certainly have sufficient motivation themselves.  They are in the playoffs with a win.
  • Kevin Goheen at the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (via head coach Marvin Lewis‘ response to a report that the Bengals were considering making Terrell Owens inactive for the last three games because of his attitude and performance:

“Lewis denied the report, which was attributed to an anonymous league source.

“‘Pro Football Talk? Enough said. I don’t need to address it,’ said Lewis. ‘Have I ever addressed anything in here from Pro Football Talk? No. I don’t even know where it is.'”

Lewis has apparently been taking lessons from Lovie Smith on how to answer reporter’s questions.  This could have easily come from him.

In any case, even though the reporter called it one (twice), those of you who are paying attention might note that failing to address the report is not a denial.  Just sayin’.

  • Donovan McNabb feels “disrespected”.  But presumably not enough to quit and give up any money he might have coming to him.  Mike Shanahan waited until Thursday evening to tell him he wouldn’t be starting last weekend.  Maybe McNabb should get on board and do what the offensive coordinator asks him to do.
  • The Lions won a road game last weekend and, though the significance of it went by most of us, Jamie Samuelson at the Detroit Free Press points out that they did it with their third string quarterback.  With three quarterbacks who can play ball, the Lions enjoy a luxury most teams would love to have.

The Lions are a team worth keeping an eye on the last two games.  If they finish strong it could be taken as an indication that they will be ready to turn the corner next year.

One Final Thought

Its Potash day here.  He got this interesting comment from Rashied Davis regarding Devin Hester after he set the record for career returns for a touch down:

“Asked the best thing he could say about Hester, Rashied Davis had an interesting answer:

‘‘’He’s a good dude,’ Davis said. ‘He respects what we do, which makes us play harder, because he doesn’t think it’s all him. He knows we have a huge part of it and gives us credit. So we definitely. appreciate his attutude toward what he does.'”

Bears Must Continue to Work to Improve

Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Sun-Times makes a debatable point about what the Bears should do with their last two games:

“The battle cry might be that winning the division title is just one step, but you can’t help but wonder if you might be able to find a shortcut to the Super Bowl by settling on the No. 3 seed and calling it a day on the 2010 regular season.

“Yes, it is a great betrayal of the integrity of the league and might leave an indelible stain on the franchise. It also might work out just fine.”

I know that there are always health concerns when it comes to playing football games.  Most coaches believe that you keep your guys healthy and rest them before the playoffs whenever you can.  I understand that.  But I think Mulligan might be taking it a bit far in this case.

Before the season began I said that this year was going to be one where self-improvement was going to be the theme.  At the time I thought the Bears would have eight wins.  But the fact that they’ve got more than that and are on their way to the playoffs doesn’t change my opinion.  They need to continue to improve if they are going to make a deep playoff run.

New England taught us that the defensive backs need to get better, particularly in man coverage.  There are young defensive linemen that need to improve if they are going to take maximum advantage of Julius Pepper‘s presence.  And more than anything else the offensive line has to continue to develop technique and work toward attaining better cohesiveness.  Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune did his weekly film review and also found a number of aspects of the Bears play against the Vikings that need to be cleaned up.

Three weeks is forever in the NFL.  All of these things and more need to continue to improve and they can do so dramatically if the team continues to put the correct amount of effort into the games they have left.  If they are going to be able to look in the mirror after the year is over and be able to say that did everything they could and played their best when it counted, that’s what they have to do.

Steve Johnson Twitters a Picture of His

Buffalo wide receiver Steve Johnson sent a picture of his johnson to his Twitter followers (via  The photo can be found at Media Take.  Johnson says it was an accident but that’s beside the point.

Someone familiar with the mentality of the average NFL player is going to have to explain this to me some day.  Really, I don’t care how proud you are, do they really feel the need to take a picture of it?  Can’t you just look in the mirror?  For heavens sake, can’t you just look down pretty much any time you want?

The NFL is unlikely to be amused, particularly given that you might expect this guys to be a bit extra careful after the Brett Favre flap.