Snap Judgments (cont.)
What exactly got into Reggie Bush? The Saints fourth-year running back finally had the kind of spectacular game that everyone was braced for the moment he stepped foot off the USC campus in 2006.
Maybe he got a motivational kick start from seeing Pete Carroll re-join the NFL? More likely, he realized it was now or never in regards to ever fulfilling his vast play-making potential. And what was up with that black bat he carried on the field in the pre-game? Bringing the wood? Really? At the NFL level, do motivational gimmicks like that actually work?
In my 20 seasons of covering the NFL, and in another 20 years of watching the game prior to that, I've never seen a punt return break open as wide and as early as Bush's 83-yard back-breaker in the third quarter. It looked like Arizona only had about six players on the field, and none of them thought Bush had the ball.
In NFL history, a playoff team's defense has never been torched like Arizona's was these past two weeks. The Cardinals gave up 45 points in the final three quarters last week against Green Bay -- and won -- and surrendered 35 in the first half at New Orleans. That's 80 points on 11 touchdowns and one field goal in about five quarters of action.
And to think last year Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt fired his defensive coordinator, Clancy Pendergast, even after the team's Super Bowl run. What might he do to Billy Davis in light of this month's defensive meltdown?
The Saints would have beaten almost anybody on Saturday the way their offense was firing on all cylinders, but the Cardinals having to face New Orleans without cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee sprain) and safety Antrel Rolle (concussion) for most of the game was almost not fair.
Ultimately it probably wouldn't have mattered in the outcome all that much, but if you're Arizona, and you want to keep the ball away from the Saints' point-a-minute offense, how do you not keep running the ball after you get a 70-yard Tim Hightower touchdown burst on the first snap of the game? The Cardinals had just 15 rushes against New Orleans, for 101 yards and a 6.7-yard average.
I'm probably in the distinct minority on this, but Deuce McAllister was a very good NFL player, and it doesn't seem completely right to see him turned into a mascot of sorts to fire up the Saints and lead them onto the field against Arizona. Did New Orleans really have to go to the trouble of adding him to its roster to have him play that ceremonial role?
This much the Cardinals proved on Saturday against the Saints: You can't give up 45 points in the playoffs and live to tell. Not that anyone really needed to remind Whisenhunt of that particular football truth.
The Ravens' crying need for more offensive weapons should be job one, two and three this offseason. Running back Ray Rice is all alone when it comes to the reliable options that Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has to choose from.
It's Rice runs left, Rice runs right, or Baltimore throws it to Rice. Baltimore could have played another eight quarters against the Colts and wouldn't have topped the 20 points Indy put on the board.
Sometimes I think Baltimore beats itself better than any of its opponents could. Key penalties bedeviled the Ravens throughout this season, and they were far too prevalent once again in Indianapolis. And then there was Ed Reed's crushing move of fumbling away that potentially game-turning third-quarter interception. It was a fantastic hustle play by Colts receiver Pierre Garcon, but why can't defenders anticipate the strip tackle or the ball punch every second they have the ball on a return? They all run with it like they're already envisioning what the play is going to look like on SportsCenter.
I knew Baltimore was doomed when down 10-3, it unwisely allowed the Colts to get the ball back at their 36 with 1:26 left in the first half and two timeouts still in their pocket. You don't give Manning another late-half scoring opportunity, even if you have to turn conservative with your own play-calling staring at a seven-point deficit.
That Reggie Wayne touchdown with just seconds remaining in the first half was the back-breaker that forced Baltimore into trying to execute a two-score comeback on a day its offense looked as limited as the old Ravens used to look in their Kyle Boller era.
Just my best educated guess, but I'll be surprised if Warner doesn't come back for one last go-round in 2010. Getting absolutely blown up by Saints defensive end Bobby McCray on that interception return probably didn't make Warner want to think about playing next season at age 39, but I don't see him wanting to end his career on the down note that Saturday in the Superdome represented for the Cardinals.
Just what we need though: Another veteran quarterback retirement watch to follow this offseason.
Here's what Warner should do: He should do whatever it takes to avoid ever playing another game in New Orleans. That building has not been kind to the NFL's most famous former grocery shelf stocker. He's now 0-3 in the playoffs at the Superdome, having lost a 2000 first-round game to the Saints when he was with St. Louis, the 2001 Super Bowl upset at the hands of New England, and 31-point beatdown by New Orleans on Saturday.
He should retire from the Superdome.
Ed Reed says he's 50-50 on possibly retiring, and he does have a neck injury to consider, but I'm willing to bet that the Baltimore safety is back in his familiar spot come next September. If you took a poll of NFL players on the day their seasons ended, with the long grind finally over, my guess is that more than half would be thinking about hanging it up in at least a corner of their minds. That's just the level of exhaustion and the mental and physical toll that the season takes on a player.
Gaines Adams gone already, at just 26? The Bears' third-year defensive end never remotely lived up to his No. 4 standing in the 2007 draft -- he was chosen three spots ahead of the Vikings' Adrian Peterson -- but he at least was getting a chance to re-launch his NFL career in Chicago, after being traded there by Tampa Bay in October. You have to think that Adams would have benefited from a full season of tutelage from Bears defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, one of the best in the business.
On top of the Chris Henry tragedy last month, it has been a season filled with some sadness in the NFL.
You may not know much about him except for his familiar last name, but I stand in awe of the coaching career of Redskins defensive assistant Kirk Olivadotti, who just might be the NFL's version of a cockroach. And I say that with the greatest respect, in deference to Olivadotti's ability to survive anything.
The Redskins on Saturday announced that Olivadotti has been retained by new Washington head coach Mike Shanahan, who moved him from linebackers coach to defensive assistant, making room for new linebackers coach, Lou Spanos. Olivadotti, the son of former Dolphins defensive coordinator Tom Olivadotti, joined Washington in 2000, and is the senior most Redskins assistant in terms of tenure. Remarkably, he has somehow managed to work for -- and be retained by -- every Washington head coach of the past 10 years: Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn and now Shanahan.
Mike Tice's decision this week to go from being Jacksonville tight ends coach to Lovie Smith's new offensive line coach in Chicago might be a lateral move, but it makes all the sense in the world when you consider that his son, Nate, is a reserve quarterback at the University of Wisconsin, having transferred there in 2009 from the University of Central Florida.
Chicago is a mere 150 miles southeast of Madison, Wis., and Tice is now in better position to watch his 6-foot-5, 220-pound son play ball. The younger Tice had to sit out this season due to transfer rules, but he'll be eligible in 2010 as a redshirt junior. I live in Madison, Wis., these days, and I've seen the Tices in town more than once already. People forget, but before he had a 14-year NFL career as a tight end, Mike Tice was a quarterback at the University of Maryland.
I can certainly see why the University of Tennessee rushed to hire Derek Dooley, the former Louisiana Tech head coach and the son of legendary Georgia head coach Vince Dooley. Because things worked out so well for the Vols the last time they hired the son of a well-known veteran football coach. That would be the Lane and Monte Kiffin tandem. You remember them.
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