It ain't over 'til it's over
Colts' cold-weather shot, Ray Lewis, NFL mediocrity
Posted: Tuesday November 6, 2007 1:54PM; Updated: Tuesday November 6, 2007 5:50PM
Before I get to your mail, two observations on the events of the weekend:
1. The AFC's Super Bowl entrant has not been decided.
The Colts will not be dead in the water if they play the AFC Championship Game at Foxboro (or Pittsburgh, for that matter, which obviously is much more unlikely) on Jan. 20. As I wrote Monday, barring unforeseen circumstance, I'd certainly pick New England over Indianapolis if they match up in the title game at Foxboro. Not only because of the home field. I think New England is better. The Patriots played better when it counted most, in the last 10 minutes of the game Sunday.
But I also would give the Colts -- if they don't get hurt much more than they are now -- more than a puncher's chance to win. They are not the typical dome team in inclement weather, or late in the season outdoors. In fact, since Tony Dungy took over in 2002, the Colts have gone 7-3 in inclement road games (excluding a meaningless Week 17 game at Denver two years ago when Jim Sorgi played all but the first series of the game). I define inclement by these characteristics: 45 degrees or colder at kickoff, or rain, or snow.
The losses: a 41-0 Wild Card blowout at the Jets in 2002, the 24-14 AFC title game loss at New England the next year, and the 20-3 divisional-round loss at Foxboro in 2004.
Among the wins: a 23-20 overtime wind- and snow-whipped affair at Denver in 2002, a 41-10 rout of the Bears on a 43-degree November afternoon in 2004, a 27-20 win at Foxboro last November on a 31-degree Sunday night, and playoff wins in the rain at Baltimore and Miami (in the Super Bowl) in the postseason last year.
Two more points about a January rematch: With FieldTurf the surface in Foxboro, there's still a chance the field could be a skating rink if it's a sleety day. But there's no chance of a repeat of the mosh-pit kind of playoff game held four years ago. And a slippery field would be disadvantageous for two other pretty important players in this game -- Randy Moss and Donte' Stallworth.
My point is that weather won't beat the Colts in January. A better team will.
2. I haven't always agreed with Ray Lewis, but I do today after that debacle last night.
The easy thing to say after Baltimore's embarrassing showing at Pittsburgh is that the Ravens' season is over. And though I don't think they'll make the playoffs -- in order to be a playoff team, the general rule is you need to play better on offense than the '06 Raiders, and that's who the Baltimore Billicks resemble right now -- I do think they can compete with anyone if they'd just stop turning the ball over.
"It ain't hard to correct what's wrong,'' Lewis told reporters after the game. "Just don't turn it over, and make people beat us.''
The Steelers' five touchdown drives began at the Baltimore 20, 28, 36, at midfield, and the Baltimore 44. The drives began after a fumble, fumble, fumble, punt return and interception.
Steve McNair looks old and slow. The offensive line is leaky. We still don't know if Brian Billick will tab Kyle Boller his quarterback of the future, which begs this question. When former Raven Derek Anderson (on pace for a 4,216-yard passing season in Cleveland) becomes a restricted free-agent after the season, would the Ravens consider ponying up the compensation to get him back? At minimum, it would take first- and third-round picks to get Cleveland's attention, and even that, I believe, would not be enough to pry him away.
Now onto your e-mails:
INTERESTING QUESTION ON CROMARTIE. From Mark Zimmerman of New York City: "If a player returns a ball from nine yards deep into the end zone and gets tackled at midfield, it is listed as a 50-yard return, not a 59-yard return. So why does a return like Cromartie's count as 109-yard return instead of 100 yards?''
Mark, I'm told by the Elias Sports Bureau that return yardage from balls taken out of the end zone -- on interceptions, punt returns or kicks -- are added to the return distance. That's why you can have, for instance, a 102-yard interception return, not just a 100-yard return.