#1. I have no doubt Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will get to Cam Newton. But what happens when they get there? Newton ain’t Tom Brady. He’s more likely to throw Miller to the ground than be sacked by him.
#2. What happens if the Panthers offense struggles early? This is a team that hasn’t faced adversity a lot this season and certainly hasn’t faced a defense of this caliber. If Carolina doesn’t score on their first couple drives, do we see Cam Newton force things?
#3. One of the untold stories of the AFC title game was how many receivers Peyton Manning missed for big plays down the field. But the biggest stat of this game may be Manning’s interception total. Can he avoid the big mistake, especially in the middle of the field? If he does, the Broncos defense will keep the game close.
Carolina Panthers 24, Denver Broncos 20
Wrote extensively about this earlier in the week so no reason to repeat. Here is a passage from that short piece:
And pass rush, despite what people will have you believe, is not necessarily a quantifiable statistic. Sacks are great but pressuring a quarterback into a poorly timed throw can often be far better. Sustained pressure throughout a game is a recipe for success but intense pressure in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, is a recipe for championships.
Pass rushers, much like quarterbacks, must raise their games in the pivotal moments.
The postseason is a collection of pivotal moments. The Super Bowl is a hundred of them.
There is an inane phrase repeated, many times in Chicago, about a quarterback being a “guy that can win you the Super Bowl”. Let’s take a look at Peyton Manning’s 2015. He completed less than 60% of his passes in a league where you could complete 60% of your passes. His touchdown-interception ratio of 9-17 will be the worst such differential attached to a Super Bowl starting quarterback in history. He has the mobility of Stonehenge. And, let’s not forget, he seems completely unable to throw the ball outside the numbers or down the field. 2015’s version of Peyton Manning checks none of the boxes for a “guy that can win you the Super Bowl.”
Photo screenshot from Chicago Tribune.
There’s an old maxim in the NFL repeated ad nauseum in press conferences across the league: injuries are not an excuse. In a league with a hard salary cap not allowing for depth at any position, injuries are absolutely an excuse. If the Bears were at full strength yesterday, they win. Simple as that. With Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, a heathy Pernell McPhee and even Antrel Rolle (see below) the Bears would now be heading to Thanksgiving at .500. This roster is not deep enough to beat good teams short-handed.
The best I’ve ever been taught the three-act structure of playwriting was by a a wonderful writer and teacher named Pat Cook at the BMI Musical Theatre Writing Workshop. Cook, recalling the lessons of a teacher from his own past, described it thus:
Act One: get the main character up a tree.
Act Two: throw rocks at him.
Act Three: if he comes down safely, comedy. If he falls to his death, tragedy.
At the risk of harping on an issue many readers of this site could care less about, this structure is being more or less abandoned by the modern dramatic writer. The three-act play is being replaced by the 65-minute “meditation” on a relevant theme. (How hard it is to be gay, violence in schools, sex scandals in politics!) Plays with beginnings, middles and ends – once referred to as “well-made plays” – are now considered old-fashioned.
John Fox is not the hot coordinator of the moment, the NFL’s equivalent of a meditation on a relevant theme. What has Adam Gase actually done? How much does Dan Quinn actually provide the ridiculously-talented Seahawks defense? Shhh! Who cares? These are the names of the moment and they excite owners and fans in the same manner any shiny toy in the window excites a child: they’re new!
Fox is not new. He is a veteran head coach, an established structure, an old-fashioned play. The Chicago Bears are his third act.
Around the League Tweets has our Pro Day Monday. No Tweeting that day. Will instead display our ability to eliminate apostrophes & articles.
2 of 10. There must be a dearth of corners on market if Champ Bailey still has interest from teams. 2013 tape made 1 thing clear: he’s done.
[Side note: I love when people make statements like, “Bailey should retire now.” Champ Bailey is thirty-five years old. Thirty five! And the morning after he retires he’ll enter a period of irrelevancy he hasn’t experienced since he was about 10. He won’t be a football player. He won’t be a star. He won’t be receiving a massive pay check weekly. Bailey should retire whenever the hell he wants.]
3 of 10. Urlacher didn’t learn from Tiki. Fans ma love ya in team’s uniform but they love TEAM far more. Best not criticize em post-career.
[Side note: If Urlacher continues to complain about the organization, he’ll start hearing boos at Soldier Field. ESPECIALLY if the Bears win without him.]
4 of 10. Release of Desean Jackson far too convenient for the Eagles. Wanna bet they had say as to when the DJax gang piece would come out?
5 of 10. Dont know if they’ll gel but Giants quietly went about fixing their biggest issue: porous offensive line play. Big, veteran bodies.
I have never lied. (Is that true?) I enjoy the release of the upcoming schedule far more than the NFL draft. I am someone who travels with extensive itineraries, does vast amount of research, knows the oldest bar in every town I’ll find. The NFL schedule is like a treasure map. The booty is football.
Here’s what should happen this year.
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks
No brainer of no brainers. When you have an opportunity for a Super Bowl rematch, involving Peyton Manning, to kick off your season, you do it. I have also been an advocate for the NFL opening the season with non-conference games (with no tiebreaking implications) and this game fits the bill.
Around the League Tweets, Free Agency Ya Next Tuesday! 1 of 10. Aren’t the Oakland Raiders lucky the Cleveland Browns exist?
2 of 10. Can’t imagine Darren Sproles would have chosen Philly as an FA. Doubtful he wanted a team with a more dynamic, faster back.
3 of 10. One of my biggest surprises: Andy Reid letting Dexter McCluster leave KC w/out a fight. Struck me as pivotal weapon for Chiefs.
4 of 10. Harbaugh acquiring Blaine Gabbert & Jonathan Martin is him sending message: I can get to NFC title game w/the worst players in NFL.
5 of 10. There’s only player outside a Chicago Bears uniform I pull for to win Super Bowl: Steve Smith. Pound for pound best player in NFL.