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Hornswaggle is an alternate spelling of hornswoggle, an archaic word that means to bamboozle or hoodwink. I take my pronunciation from the late Harvey Korman in "Blazing Saddles" --

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Football Blogging

[Editor's note: The following took place between 1:30 p.m. PST on Saturday and 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. It was written in a Word document, then pasted here. It did not involve Jack Bauer killing somebody.]

[Disclaimer on non-football-related content: If you don't like football content, and if you can find it, maybe you can find ... non-football-related content in this post.]

Saturday 2 p.m. This Seahawks-Redskins game is definitely the least exciting matchup of the weekend, and so far it hasn’t disappointed. The Seahawk’s Shaun Alexander fumbled on the Redskins’ 10-yard-line on the Seahawks’ first possession. Then the Skins, who gained 140 yards of total offense last weekend in their first-round defeat of the Bucs, punted. Then the Seahawks punted. Then the Skins punted. Then the Seahawks punted. Now the Skins have the ball. Now they’re going to punt.

The Redskins’ defense really is pretty good. Who knew Gregg Williams, known for his unimpressive stint as head coach in Buffalo, was such a mastermind? I thought it was a bunch of hype before this season, and I just didn’t see how the Skins had the personnel to be an elite defense. I’ve come around to reality.

I predicted the Skins would be pathetic this year. I still think the long-term picture for them is not great because of their quarterback situation. I didn’t think Brunell would come back and have a good season, but he can only have 1 or 2 years left, at the absolute maximum. After that, who are they relying on. Jason Campbell?? Yikes. Santana Moss had an absolutely monster year. Didn’t see that coming. But they’re going to have to get help for him, because David Patten on the other side isn’t going to cut it.

Another Seahawks punt. Dick Stockton just said there have been six straight three and outs. Now Alexander may not return to the game because he’s been concussed. I have two reactions: 1) Hard as this is to process, this game is now going to be even more boring. 2) Maybe the Skins can actually luck into winning this game.

Jesus. Matt Hasselbeck done lost his mind. He just spun around and threw a pass up for grabs down the sideline. Third and long and ... now it’s time for another punt ... Wow, after a Skin’ punt, a muff by the Hawks and the Skins recover. Is Seattle going to blow this? This is the only way the Skins can win this game. Get a short field for their pathetic offense with turnovers. A Seattle collapse would mean Chicago might wind up in the Super Bowl. How pathetic is the NFC this year?

The Skins are going to settle for a field goal. Gee, that’s a surprise. Meanwhile, Seattle WR Darrell Jackson is out with a back injury and some other dude on defense just limped out of the game. This doesn’t look like it’s their day. And having watched the Eagles blow two NFC championship games at home over the past three years, I know whereof I speak. And on a related note, Seattle needs a couple big plays by Joe Jurevicius if they’re going to win this game. It’s Jurevicius time, baby!

This game is boring enough that I’m going to go to the gym now and watch it while working out, rather than wait to go later.

Saturday 7 p.m. Back for the fourth quarter of the fourth quarter of the Broncos-Pats game, champs down 17-6.

Looks like it was Darrell Jackson who stepped up for Seattle in the first game, coming back from his injury. And the Seahawks, down 3-0 and struggling on offense, did what they needed to do to take back control of the game, and what the Eagles were never capable of in their two championship game losses: drive the ball the length of the field and put it in the end zone.

Vinatieri just missed a field goal. Things not going the Pats way here.

Pats’ fans are no doubt pissed off about that interference call on Asante Samuel in the first half, which led to the Broncos’ first TD. For them I have two words: Tuck rule. It’s taken four years, but the Pats finally have had a big call go against them. The tuck rule call was the biggest slopheap of bullpuckie that I have ever seen, and without it, the Pats’ dynasty would never have even begun. So suck it up.

Very un-Pats-like, though, all these turnovers. They’ve outplayed the Broncos in the second half, and were on the verge of taking the lead when Brady threw the pick that Champ Bailey returned 101 yards to the one.

Another turnover! Jesus. The Pats are just throwing away this game. Wow. Got to hold them to a field goal now, after Troy Brown’s fumble. Well, that didn’t happen. Hard to win a playoff game on the road when you turn the ball over three times within your own 35 yard line.

Two questions:

1) Is George Clooney doing the voice of a Budweiser ad? What’s up with that? Shilling for one of the crappiest products out there, measured relative to said product’s cultural/marketplace prominence. Does he really need the money?

2) Which group is the bigger bunch of losers? Mike Patrick, Joe Theisman and Al MacGuire, or Bryant Gumble, Boomer Esiason, Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe? Discuss.

Let me help you get started: When you hear Jim Nance say, “Let’s go to New York and join Bryant Gumble, along with Dan, Shannon and Boomer,” do you want to break a bottle over your head and then gash yourself with it? As bad as Fox’s half-time gang is (what was up with Jimmy Johnson’s new Nick Lachey haircut today? He looks like he just got out of the shower and toweled off his hair), CBS’s is so much worse. It’s the no-charisma gang. Dan Marino is fine on HBO, but he’s dragged down by that group, or maybe he plays down to their level.

Next time you're watching "the NFL on CBS" (how bad is that synthesized horn theme music, by the way? I have a Pavlovian response to it now that dictates I must not be near an open window when I hear it) and you see a promo for the half-time show, check out the little vignette at the bottom of the screen, where the four hosts are horsing around. Keep your eyes open for the moment Boomer Esiason rips the ball out of Shannon Sharpe's hands, then tosses it to Gumbel. It's one of those moments that's supposed to be playful, but in fact reveals an underlying aggression on Esiason's part, which he perhaps compensates for subconsciously by tossing the ball to Nance, as though he's the Robin Hood of footballs. It all goes to my theory that Boomer is basically a humorless dick. I have more thoughts on this, if you'd like to hear them.

Regarding Shannon Sharpe, don't you think the first thing you would want from a studio commentator is the ability to enunciate? I can't understand a single word that Shannon "No Consonant" Sharpe says. Even Michael Irvin, though a ranting lunatic who it's only a matter of time gets into a fist fight with Steve Young on the air, can make himself understood most of the time.

Sunday 11 a.m. Okay, on we go to the Steelers-Colts, after the Patriots' death rattle Saturday, in the form of a really poor decision by Tom Brady to heave the ball downfield into triple coverage that was truly Favre-esque. The game was over, but Brady's toss seemed like the act of a man who just said, "Screw it, I'm done."

Wow. 14-0 Steelers and Manning just got sacked. I really thought going into this game that the death of Tony Dungy’s son, in addition to the time off, could derail the Colts’ momentum, rather than galvanize and unify the team. I didn’t expect the Steelers to come out throwing and go up 14-0 though.

Dick Enberg and Dan Dierdorff are the worst offenders among announcers who constantly refer to Ben Roethlisberger as “Big Ben,” a nickname that is stupid, smacks of homerism/favoritism, and refers to a big phallic clocktower. Enberg, who is borderline senile at this point, sounds like a grinning, drooling maniac when he crows Roethlisberger’s name after a big completion.

Man. The Colts offense is in bad shape. They need to run some screens or draws to offset this defensive pressure by the Steelers. They are in trouble.

Kudos to Enberg, who to be honest isn’t such a bad sort when he’s not hopping on the Steelers’ bandwagon*, and Dierdorff for calling out the officials for missing an obvious pass interference call against the Colts on a long pass down the right sideline to Antwan Randel El. “Blatant interference,” Dierdorff said.

(*Watching the Steelers against the Jets in the playoffs last year, for instance, at a bar filled with star-crossed Jets fans, Enberg had a strange way of making it even more horrifying as the Steelers gashed the Jets defense before the roaring Pittsburgh home crowd, crowing, "There goes the Bus, rumbling for another first down!" and "Big Ben completes it to Hines Hard, and it's another first down for Pittsburgh!" after every Steelers offensive play.)

The cardinal sin for any football announcer is being afraid to rock the boat, and presumably upset the league, by pointing out when officials get the call wrong. It’s a kind of establishmentarian, toadying mentality that is just insufferable.

Now the Colts are rolling. A couple big Edgerrin James runs and a completion to Dallas Clark and Brian Fletcher. The crowd is back into it. Manning is feeling it. The Steelers are on the ropes a bit. Just now, a perfect blitz adjustment on a rush by Polamalu. Still though, just 5 minutes left in the half.

The Colts only came away with three points. They did establish that they can move the ball, so their confidence should be back. The most important thing they did in the first half was not panic, just as the Seahawks didn’t yesterday.

This would be in stark contrast to the Eagles in their championship game losses. In both games the crowd fell into a state of dread when things started going the wrong way, and the Eagles followed suit. And as for our quarterback -- unlike, say, Tom Brady, a fiery leader who gets angry when his team is strugglng -- QB Donovan McNabb got that vacant look in his eyes that Philly fans have seen too many times.

I’ll never forget how, in our loss to the Panthers two years ago, Troy Vincent told reporters after the game that he thought to himself, after Jake Delhomme got lucky and heaved a ball into the end zone that was underthrown, and Muhsin Muhammad adjusted and caught the touchdown despite the fact that Brian Dawkins and Vincent were there with him, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead, that he thought, “Maybe it’s just not our day.”

I don’t know whether Vincent was channeling Philly fans’ morbid fatalism, or whether he came up with that can’t-do attitude on his own, but that pretty much captures the defeatist mentality in Philly that only a Super Bowl win will erase. Or maybe the Flyers could win the Stanley Cup. That would help take the pressure off a bit.

Second half now. Colts were forced to punt and the Steelers are driving. The Colts, if they don’t somehow get this lead down to within one score, are going to have to move into hurry-up mode, with only 6 minutes left in the third quarter. Colts get a sack, forcing third and 16. Huge, huge play here for the Colts on defense. They need to force a punt. And they do.

Oops! Commercial break and there’s Pete Coors, cross-country skiing in the mountains, presumably the Rockies – “Some brewers look out their window and see smokestacks,” he says with a grin. “Some don’t.”

That’s a good commercial. I have an alternative script for him to read in the next one:

“Some brewers look out their window and see smokestacks. We see mountains. Well, that’s not exactly true. You can kind of see them in the distance from our factory complex, on a day when the smog index is low enough.

“Of course, there won’t be much snow on these mountains when global warming really starts to accelerate. Did you know that smokestacks at oil refineries and coal-burning power plants could and would be much cleaner, emitting much less carbon-dioxide and fewer particulates and toxins, if it weren’t for the efforts to obstruct that progress by the Republican majority in Washington, which depends so heavily on the efforts by think tanks to kill environmental protections, obfuscate the issues in the media and protect the rights of businesses to pollute at the expense of the health and welfare of average Americans?

“Think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, which my father Joseph Coors helped found. Yes, the world would be a lot cleaner, and the future much brighter when it comes to global warming and other serious, pressing environmental problems – like mercury poison – if it weren’t for the efforts of my family. And yet I’m selling beer to you and enriching myself by evoking and associating myself with the very environmental beauty that my family has helped to destroy. What a country!

“Anyway, enjoy Coors, cold as a mountain stream. And check at the gozangas on those Twins! Whoo-eee! Those are some good, old-fashioned, patriotic, Christian hoo-has on those gals."

Colts in big trouble now. Almost a safety, now punting from the end zone. Pittsburgh with the ball at the Colts’ 30. If the Colts don’t hold them to a field goal, they’re done.

Now we have August Busch the 29th telling us that with society in such a rush, the best thing to do sometimes is slow it down. That’s the mantra they follow when making Budweiser Select, because a beer that crappy is worth taking time to produce. You can’t have your hops taste stale and lifeless, you see, unless you let it sit in a factory for months, or in dusty metal bins out by the shipping yard.

The Steelers get another touchdown. Good bye, Indy. Wow, with the Colts out, either the Steelers or Broncos are going to go to the Super Bowl. Why did the Eagles pick this year to suck? The league’s only elite team during the regular season is about to bow out. Man, the league really is mediocre this year. Bill Simmons was right.

Nice, Manning just overrode Dungy, who tried to send in the punt team, with the Colts with the ball on their 35, down 21-3, with one minute to go in the third quarter. I like that. Got the first down! That was huge.

Let’s just say this would never happen on the Eagles. Reid is too pusillanimous, and McNabb can’t be trusted to do that kind of thing. The last time he tried to pull a Manning, by faking a spike in Redskins territory at the end of the first half, perhaps not realizing that the other members of his offensive unit might want to have been clued into his plans during like practice, ended in disaster, when not only did he not find a receiver to throw to, but he was drilled and decleated by a big Skins defender who came in at him unblocked.

Whoa. Hold everything, people! Quiet down! The national punt, pass and kick winners are about to be announced. Could I possibly care less? What competition could tell us less about a teenager’s ability to become a good football player? What kind of a mythical ruse about young Nebraskans punting their weathered football into the cornfields is being played out here? Notice how these kids are almost always white? How about having them do a shuttle drill, run a forty, and do a bench press in the middle of the field? That might actually tell us something.

Dallas Clark! What an effort! Touchdown. Manning’s got some serious moxie. But going for it on fourth was the right decision. They were at the 35. If the Steelers get the ball there, at least they won’t take time off the clock in running the ball down the field. With the ball at the 35, as long as the defense holds them to a field goal, it’s alright. Because the clock is there biggest enemy now. They need touchdowns. If they give up one field goal, while down 21-3, they still need three TDs. Not that big a deal.

Now it's third and 2 for the Colts defense with the Steelers near midfield with 12 minutes left in the game. Huge play. If the Colts get the ball back and cut the lead to 21-17, the crowd will lose its mind, all the momentum will swing to Indy, and Roethlisberger will have to be very smart and poised or get some huge runs from Parker or Bettis to prevent a total collapse on offense. Wow. Now it’s fourth and inches. Oh, my Lord. Offsides on the Colts?? Colts defenders now hoping if they point enough at the Steelers offensive line, the refs will agree that they were drawn offside by a false start. No foul? No contact by a D-lineman?

Wow, the refs blew that. Cowher’s saliva glans are ramping up to full production.

Steelers get the fourth-down conversion on Roethlisberger’s second effort. It’s a pain in the butt to write out R’s name every time, but I refuse to sign on to “Big Ben.” I’ll go with BR.

Fourth and one now. Another fourth down conversion. And time ticks off the clock. Colts have to prevent the Steelers from getting into third and short situations.

Colts get the ball back. Big completion to Reggie Wayne. Polamalu intercepts. Game over. He is Manning’s worst nightmare. Holy moly. They rule it is not an interception. That was a terrible call. [UPDATE: The league agreed: crappy call.]

I think the ref went into the porno/replay booth and rather than seeing replays, he saw Paul Tagliabue’s face, live via videoconference, telling him the league would like to see the Colts get a shot at winning this one. [UPDATE: Well, I think the whole what-exactly-are-they-looking-at-in-there? angle is officially played out. Someone else made the exact same observation over at ESPN.com]

Big completion to Harrison. Big completion to Wayne at the two yard line. The Eagles should sign this man. Wayne, two point conversion. Sign this man!

Colts force a punt! Wow. Manning looks in his comfort zone, walking up to the line from the shotgun and pointing out defenders to his O-line. Lucky he wasn’t intercepted on their first play, under pressure. Nice catch by James. Sack. Uh-oh. Third and a lot. Fourth. Three timeouts, I would almost punt here. Blitz. Manning sacked.

Bettis fumbled! That is unbelievable! The return. Harper should have been able to take that all the way. If he had stayed to the outside, Harper would definitely have beaten BR to the corner and gone the distance. A split-second decision that went wrong. What a hit by Brackett. Not a good last play for Bettis’ career, if the Steelers lose.

Vanderjagt completely shanks the game-tying field goal it under pressure. Holy Moly. Welcome to the nether regions of the soul, Indy fans.

The Colts really screwed up on third and 2 from the 31 yard line. Their mindset, with 25 seconds left and two timeouts, should have been to get two yards. Manning threw the ball 20 yards down the field and didn’t look like he had good routes underneath to go to. They should have run a play designed to get them five yards, called timeout with 20 seconds left, then either taken a shot at the end zone or tried to get another 10 yards or so to get Vanderjagt closer. That was a brain freeze.

Sunday 5 p.m. So the Bears couldn’t stop the Panthers, Rex Grossman was playing in only his second or third game of the season, and the Panthers rolled into the championship game. I was out for the first half and at the gym while watching the second half. Steve Smith is amazing. However, with Deshaun Foster out with a broken ankle, I’m not sure the Panthers can win two straight games now. Seattle-Carolina should be a good game though.

Sean Salisbury is getting carried away on the ESPNews post-game show. Calm down there, buddy. Remember, sucking at football doesn't mean somebody is a bad person. Were that true, you would be Ted Bundy.

.: posted by hornswaggler 10:47 AM

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