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Commentary From the Edge - Week 14
Kevin Ratterree
December 4, 2007

I was all set to trash what I spent the day writing and instead do a Ravens tribute column. I mean, right up until the end of the game I allowed myself this fantasy. That the Ravens would knock off the Pats. No dice.

But it certainly was an enjoyable game. Watching Brady get roughed up and knocked down. Watching Willis McGahee rip through the Pats defense like it wasn’t there. Watching the Pats getting frustrated, whine and jump up and down at non calls all night.

Yes football fans. The Patriots bleed. They are flesh and blood. They can be had. They almost got jacked up by AJ Feeley and Kyle Boller in successive weeks. Does anybody think the defense might be suspect? Oh yeah, I think so.

And this was a perfect example of why teams don’t go undefeated. This was a perfect trap. A road game against a physical team. And the Pats now are the Super Bowl for every team they face every single week. They are going to get every team’s best effort.

But this was more than just a Ravens team that challenged the Pats physically. This was the first time the Pats game plan was effectively altered due to the weather as well. Those long bombs to Moss just aren’t as easy when the temperature is below freezing and the wind is ripping. And just in case you haven’t noticed, Moss catch rate has declined since the weather has turned.

The weather may prove to be the only Achilles heel for this offense. And that home game for the AFC Championship in late January may not be such a blessing for the Pats. This might end up getting interesting after all.

If you watched the Colts v. Jags game you saw a clinic. No, not on the field. On the sidelines. Jack Del Rio put on a clinic about how not to use your challenge flags.

Del Rio obviously understood the importance of this game. Either win and lasso the Colts, or lose and let them have the stranglehold on the division they have become accustomed to by this time of the season.

But Del Rio displayed all the patience of an inmate on a 15 minute conjugal visit.
His team got down early. He panicked. He threw the challenge flag on two ball spots. That in and of itself is not so bad. But the result of winning either challenge would have had minimal and likely no effect on the game.

One challenge was thrown early in the game. The Colts had driven past midfield and completed a pass on 3rd down near the first down marker. The refs gave the Colts the spot and the first down. Del Rio challenged the spot. Even if he had won the challenge, we are talking about inches to a first down. Did he really not think the Colts would convert that? Did he think they would punt on 4th and inches, considering the success they were having against the Jags early on?

You would think after that Del Rio would have had enough, but much like the sick gambler that lost his house, Del Rio found himself walking through the casino doors again later in the game. The Colts completed a pass, the receiver fell at the goal line and the officials gave him the touchdown. Del Rio used his final challenge on that play, though it was fairly obvious the ball broke the plane. Once again he was denied, but even if he had been successful, the reward would have been Colts first and goal at the 2 inch line. Was that really worth it? Is that the one you want to go down with?

On the other side of the field, Dungy used his challenge flags on plays that actually mattered, got them both right, securing possession of the ball both times, leading to two touchdowns for his team.

I didn’t see the whole game, but I would imagine there was another play somewhere along the way that Del Rio would have liked to have challenged if he had the opportunity. In the end, the Colts prevailed by only 3 points. There is no room for mistakes in a game like that. I’m not saying the game would have turned out differently if Del Rio would have not wasted those challenges. But those were two throw away challenges in a game in which the Jags could little afford to be wasteful. Highly questionable.

Speaking of waste, is it my imagination or are NFL officials getting steadily worse as the year progresses? I saw lots of ugliness in week 13, including an official overturning another on a call even though he was 40 yards further away (and wrong by the way). Here’s hoping they don’t gain steam and peak at the Super Bowl like they did a couple of years ago.

I must however commend the zebras on their incredible ball rubbing skills on Sunday night in the rain and slop in Pittsburgh. Every time you looked up, there was a referee cleaning up wet balls. I haven’t seen that much ball rubbing since the special Jackass crotch shots episode. I guess we are too hard on these poor refs. I mean here they are professional men. Lawyers. Doctors. Businessmen. Reduced to wearing a striped suit and spending the night rubbing wet balls in front of a national audience.

I wonder why Andy Dick never became a referee? He probably has plenty of experience with the ball rubbing. A lot of people already hate him. He has poor eyesight. And no clue about the game. He seems qualified. Suit up Dick!

Is it my imagination, or are the Vikings becoming a football team before our very eyes? I know that I am not imagining the fact that Adrain Peterson has progressed markedly as a player since he left college. Unbelievable as it is, he is even better than we imagined he might be. Nobody wants to line up across from Purple #28, including fantasy players entering the one and done stretch run. Call him AD. Call him AP. He looks like fantasy gold heading into the playoffs.

All of a sudden the Vikings look like bullies. And they are matched up against 98 pound weaklings over the last month of the season. Believe the hype. I think this deal is going to get done. With Tarvaris freaking Jackson at the helm? Seems impossible, but Peterson is the great equalizer. And he came along at just the right time. The NFC is thin at the top and the Vikings are riding a fairly easy schedule to the top of the scrap pile.

The Cowboys did what they needed to do against the Packers last Thursday. They are clearly the best team in the NFC. But I would have been much more convinced had they put the Packers away. They didn’t. They let them hang around. The Packers were depleted and had a bizarre ineffective game plan coming in, which mostly entailed Favre throwing bombs down the field up for grabs. It should have been over by halftime. But the Cowboys let Aaron Rodgers keep the Packers close right until the end, and never could deliver that knock-out blow. I’m not sure whether that says more about Rodgers or the Cowboys defense, but I must say I was stunned that the ‘Boys didn’t blow them out given the circumstances.

Big character game for a young Packers team. And the good news for all involved is that we won’t see the championship game played in -20 wind chill blizzard conditions. And I’m ok with that. That might make up for the miserable game in New England …….nah, probably not.

The Cowboys are good, but they still seem to lack that killer instinct that they will need to slay Brady. But the good news is they will go down winging it, and you have to like that. But who knows, maybe they keep getting better and peak at the right time. Oops, there I go again. Almost allowing myself to dream…

I heard Keyshawn on ESPN radio refer to Les “Big Mouth” Miles. Thats right Key. Take the safe road. Talk about what you know. Very good.

During a time out in the Monday Night game, I made the mistake of turning to ESPN news. I was just in time to hear Mercury Morris doing a rap song about how the Pats had done nothing yet or some such nonsense. At that time it looked like the Ravens might actually pull off the victory and Morris was feeling it and really selling it with his rap. Too bad his night didn’t turn out like he hoped it would. A damn shame I tell ya’. (snicker)

I had some fun reading lips during the Bucs / Saints game. Gruden was in great form. After one of his players committed a dumb penalty the camera shot Gruden just in time to catch, “That F’n J.O.!” I’d hate to see how he talks about his enemies.

The moment of the week on television was on College Gameday in San Antonio. While the talking heads were hashing out the days action, in the background was a horde of Oklahoma fans one of which was holding a sign that read, “Chase Daniels Eats Boogers!”

That clever sign artist was a youngster of about 14. I have to wonder, does the Heisman voting committee take into account alleged booger eating? Or maybe it was just a ploy to throw Daniels off his game. Spending the entire night worrying about the booger eating allegations. Maybe that’s what happened.

I can’t imagine my mother would have let me make and take a sign to a game that read: “Joe Theisman Eats Boogers!” or “Snap Theisman’s Leg Like a Twig!” It’s nice to see that today’s kids have opportunities that I never had.

Crazy as Hell Pick of the Week

Well, as it turns out this segment is perfectly named for this season. You come here for help and I give you losing picks every week. I find myself and embarrassing 8-6-2 and you’d be crazy as hell to listen to anything I say right now. I track my picks ATS in a local contest, and I had a good week. I hit 60% picking every game. Why can’t I give you just one loser? Why?

Look, I have been here before. We who play the numbers have all been here before. I’m not a quitter by nature. But I am going to quit if I can’t do any better than this. I mean, you can get lousy picks anywhere. You don’t need me for that.

I’ve put myself on double secret probation before and it has worked every time. This Crazy as Hell Pick segment has had more brushes with death than Evel Kneivel, but has survived every time. I’m not kidding. If I get this weeks pick right this segment is over. Dammit!

I like the Browns this week. I kind of like the Titans this week, though for the life of me I can’t figure out why. But I’m not going to pick those games. Nope. If I am going down. I’m going down in flames.

The Cowboys go to Detroit to administer the last rites to Kitna’s 10 win season. And they are hefty 11 point favorites. The Cowboys are coming off 10 days rest following their 10 point win over the Packers in their third game in a row at home. The Cowboys are 6-1 ATS on the road including 11 and 21 point wins over the Giants and Eagles.

The Lions are reeling with 4 straight losses. They have failed to cover the spread in any of those losses, and were ripped apart by the Vikings last week. Now Roy Williams is out. Are any of you really thinking there will be a rebound here? No. I think last weeks ripping at the hands of the Vikings was a precursor of things to come. The Lions defense can’t stop anybody. Certainly not the Cowboys. Yeah, the spread is 11. That is some hefty lumber my friends. Especially for a road favorite. But I don’t think the Lions have anything left for the Cowboys. They looked spent last week, and I expect the rested Cowboys team to maul them as well. Lions +11

Misery Index

10) Eagles: A.J. Feeley turned back into a toad a week after his masterful performance against New England. The stat line: 19-42 220 1 td 4 int. Yes, those fickle Philly fans will be searching the injury reports praying for the guy they were ready to run out of town to show up and stop the bleeding.

9) Redskins: Everybody has a different set of criteria for what they expect from a head coach. For instance, I like a head coach to know the rules of the game. I think that is important. Because when you are the head coach of a football team, making millions of dollars a year, I would think that one of the minimum qualifications would include a basic grasp of the rulebook. Okay, come on Grandpa….right his way….we have a nice room fixed up for you. That’s it. Now you just settle in to your lift chair and ring the buzzer if you need anything.

8 ) Detroit: For the second game in a row the Lions had negative net yards rushing. They looked like destiny’s child a month ago, now they look like a third world orphan. The season has unfolded like a horror movie. The first half was full of good time partying, people getting juiced up and everybody (even the nerdy guys) getting their freak on. Then the slasher showed up and now there is blood everywhere. You can almost envision Matt Millen standing on the stage in his white dress, bouquet, and tiara with Kitna standing next to him in a suit, and then came week 10 and the bucket of pigs blood.

7) Chiefs: Remember when the Chiefs were unbeatable at Arrowhead in December? Remember the time before Herm Edwards when the Chargers and Raiders never came into Arrowhead and won? Remember a month ago when the Chiefs were on top of the division? The good news for most Chiefs fans is that this is what we were braced for, so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise. But isn’t it ironic that the Chiefs find themselves so sub par in this particular season where their typical 8-8 or 9-7 would probably win the division. Crap. Now we won’t have the pleasure of seeing them get their ass stomped in the first round of the playoffs. So much for tradition.

6) Ravens: Once again the evidence will show your honor, Brian Billick is standing in the way of this franchise. They came one stupid misplaced time out away from beating the unbeatable team. You might blame the 13 penalties. You might blame Bollers horrible interception that wiped out a potential game deciding field goal. You might blame the football Gods themselves for playing a cruel joke on us for 59 minutes and 15 seconds. I choose to blame Billick. His defense had the Pats on the ropes. You could just feel it. They stuffed Brady on that 4th and one, only to pick themselves off the ground and find that Billick had called a time out just before the snap. Nobody kills momentum like Billick. Ray Lewis didn’t need to gather the defense and game plan for a quarterback sneak. The Ravens defense was aware what was coming. They stopped it. Billick or whichever bonehead coach called that time out blew it.

5) Saints: Sean Payton has had a wild ride. From freshman boy genius to whacked out loser sophomore. They had the game won. They had the Bucs right where they wanted them. They were on the brink of knocking off the division leader and scratching their way back into the playoff picture. It was right there in front of them. Just a few minutes left. Driving down near midfield. Eating the clock. It was all coming together so nicely. The fans were celebrating. The sideline was all smiles. Life was good. And then? The double reverse. On their own side of the field. A slow developing play run against a desperate ball hawking defense. FUMBLE! Hey, nobody appreciates thrill seeking more than I do. I mean, I have eaten at McDonalds on a few occasions. But I know better than to eat there every day. Put down the Big Mac coach. Put down the Big Mac.

4) Jets: Well, they swept the Dolphins. That was the extent of their contribution for the season. That, and proving that they were players in the ugliest throwback uniform derby.

3) Bengals: How involved is Chad Johnson? Not very. The Bengals were in desperation mode with time running out. They were driving down the field but faced a 4th and 15. The pass went to CJ, who caught the ball two yards shy of the first down sticks, and backpedaled out of bounds. Afterwards he seemed completely surprised by what had transpired, and it was apparent from the way he acted that he thought it was a 3rd down play. Instead the Steelers took over on downs, and one of CJs teammates filled him in on what a bonehead he was.

2) Falcons: It took 3/4 of the season but it finally dawned on Bobby Petrino that Leftwich and Harrington are not NFL quarterbacks. So in desperation at the arrival to this epiphany, he turned to the little heard from Chris Redman. Ta da! He almost led them back from the grave. In another baffling development, Petrino seems to have finally decided to actually give Norwood more touches rather than just talk about it every week. Give this Petrino guy enough time and he catches on.

1) Dolphins: Last week I heard a lot of pundits that were convinced that the Dolphins were finally going to get that elusive first win. I feared they might just be right. I didn’t watch the game. I just couldn’t stand to see another of my dreams dashed before my eyes. Of course, one doesn’t really need an excuse to avoid watching the Dolphins playing football…or whatever that game is they are playing. In any event, my worst fears were not realized. The Jets kept my dream season alive. Guys, this might actually happen. They may not be as putrid as those ‘76 Buccaneers, but then, they aren’t exactly an expansion franchise either. I have heard media people defending the Dolphins, saying they aren’t as bad as those ‘76 Bucs. Don’t kid yourself, if the Dolphins pull this off it will be much more impressive than what the Bucs did. The Dolphins may not be as bad of a team, but they are far more pathetic.

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