Now That Looked Familiar
14/37 for 136 yards. 5 of 22 at one point in the second half. Missing high, missing low, missing long and missing short. That was Derek Anderson’s Sunday afternoon in Washington. And predictably it erased all the good will that last week’s anomaly of a performance produced for the Cleveland Browns.
It all led up to a 14-11 Washington victory at Fed Ex Field. Another eminently winnable football game that came down to a desperation 54 yard FG attempt to send it to OT from Phil Dawson that was wide to the right.
To paraphrase Denny Green (who was Romeo before Romeo was Romeo) in regard to DA and the Browns, “They are what we thought they were.”
And what they are is a seriously flawed football with an empty-headed coach who is either too stubborn or too dense to make a change at a position that’s taking on water despite the fact that he’s standing hip deep in it.
Tell me coach, when DA is misfiring like a ’76 Pinto what exactly is the harm in bringing your fragile-psyched field general over to the sideline for a blow and to clear his head? Maybe show him some pictures of ponies and bucolic shots of clear streams and scenic landscapes to potentially chase away his demons for a few plays while someone else takes the helm?
It’s too bad. The defense has improved to the point where they’re reliable, if not overwhelming. They’re holding their ground at key times in a game and causing turnovers to put the offense back on the field. But the kamikaze pilots at the coaching and QB controls just seem intent on crashing and burning and sending the season up in a huge plume of smoke.
DA had some help from a familiar party on Sunday. Braylon Edwards, with no ESPN cameras to play to, dropped another 3 balls on Sunday to get his catches to drops ratio back to about 1:1. Ryan Tucker was also noticeably inactive and the Redskins were able to get better pressure on DA than the Giants did 6 days ago.
But make no mistake about it. Scatter-armed and weak-minded has never really played all that well at the QB position throughout NFL history. Two men currently have the ability to change that dynamic in Cleveland. How much faith do you have in either Derek Anderson or Romeo Crennel to get that done? And how long before an interested (more or less) 3rd party decides to get involved from the owner’s box?
A lot of people said Kelly Pavlik never should have taken the fight with Bernard Hopkins. TCF’s own resident boxing/MMA expert, Scott Swerbinsky, opined that much on this site. Taking the fight, aside from the $3m payout, was a ‘lose-lose’ proposition for Pavlik. If he won the fight it would be a case of a much younger, heavier puncher beating up an old but valiant legend. If he lost the fight it would an indictment of Pavlik’s sudden rise to fame and glory and it would provide opportunities for fight fans to doubt Pavlik’s credibility.
Let the doubting begin.
Kelly Pavlik not only lost Saturday night’s non-championship fight in Atlantic City to the 43 year-old Hopkins, but he was dominated from the opening bell through the final round. He consistently got beat to the punch and it was Hopkins who landed the heaviest and most effective punches of the night. The 43 year-old looked like he could have gone another 12 rounds afterward while Pavlik looked weary, beaten up and frustrated like we haven’t seen before.
Maybe it was the increased weight that Pavlik put on to meet Hopkins. He went from his customary 160lbs to 170lbs for this fight and he appeared sluggish and slow. Maybe it was the legendary Hopkins’ style of slowing the fight to a grind and making himself a tough target. Truth be told, Hopkins was the aggressor Saturday night. He initiated the action and exchanges on his terms and Pavlik’s punches never found Hopkins regularly.
People either love or hate Hopkins. He’s right on the verge of being a dirty fighter and his style certainly doesn’t draw people to the arena. But the guy has put together a long and effective career by not altering the style that gained him elite status. And for all his bravado and idiosyncrasies, Hopkins made it a point to go over to Pavlik after the decision was announced to lecture the Youngstown native with some fatherly advice. He could clearly be heard giving Pavlik some technical advice and doing so in an instructive helpful way and he went out of his way to state how heavy Pavlik’s punches actually were. It was a gracious way to cap off his impressive performance and his victory by unanimous decision.
Pavlik is still young and still has some learning to do. He had a horrible time of it with the technically superior and faster Hopkins. Hopkins told Pavlik after the fight he’d come to Youngstown and make sure Kelly was working on his deficiencies. That might not be a bad idea. Pavlik and his corner certainly had no answer for Hopkins Saturday night. Maybe Hopkins himself can help correct the deficiencies in Pavlik’s approach that he exposed in Atlantic City.
Notice Served- Collision Ahead
The Buckeyes served notice to the rest of the Big10 in East Lansing on Saturday. Their 45-7 complete domination over the Spartans of Michigan State, previously unbeaten in conference, play told the rest of the conference that the king is not quite ready to hand over the throne without a fight.
Terrelle Pryor played mistake-free football (again, at times, almost painfully so) and threw for 116 yards and a TD while running for 72 yards and a touchdown as well. Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells rushed for another 140 yards and a couple TDs and the Buckeye defense scored twice on long fumble returns to knock the legs out from under MSU early in the football game.
The Buckeyes were never close to be challenged in this one. They took a 28-0 lead into the half and Thaddeus Gibson’s 69 yard return of a fumble early in the 4th quarter with the score 28-7 pretty much closed the door.
Head coach Jim Tressel is clearly doing everything he can to build up the confidence of his prized freshman. Pryor attempted almost exclusively high percentage throws and used his legs more so than his arm to lead the Buckeye offense. Any long down and distance situation was either a short pass or a run to limit exposing Pryor to potential mistakes and turnovers.
It may be a little bit more difficult to keep the reigns drawn so tightly next Saturday however. 3rd ranked and undefeated Penn State visits Columbus with the de facto Big10 title on the line. The Nittany Lions are coming off a 46-17 win over Michigan Saturday afternoon. Penn State actually trailed that game at the half and then threw up 32 unanswered points after the intermission to win a laugher.
PSU QB Daryll Clark is what the Buckeyes are looking for Pryor to become this season. Clark threw for about 170 yards and TD with no interceptions against Michigan and he also ran the ball 9 times for 45 yards and two more TDs. Clark is a junior while Pryor is a freshman but you’re going to see a couple teams on Saturday that are very similar in regard to the talent they put on the field and how they implement it. Evan Royster is the Penn State answer to Beanie Wells and he’s a pretty fine answer. Royster has already rushed for about 900 yards and ten TDs and the Buckeyes are going to have to find an answer for Clark and Royster if they hope to continue their run to another Big10 title and a BCS Bowl bid.
Expect Tressel to again rely heavily on his defense to keep it close and to again limit the play selection for Pryor on Saturday. Tressel is a master at managing a game and giving his team a chance to win. He’s going to need to do it again next Saturday to overcome Penn State.
I will channel my inner Peter King in this section.
Big congratulations to the Madison Mystics U-9 travel soccer team. This group of 7 year-old ladies went into hostile territory and defeated the older, bigger, stronger and more experienced Shaker Heights U-9 girls team 2-1 on Sunday for the first win of their existence.
It’s amazing how ambivalent I was to soccer until about 6 weeks ago. But those kids getting their first win Sunday afternoon was clearly the highlight of the weekend. It was pure, unadulterated joy for those girls who have taken their lumps for the last 6 weeks and still showed up twice a week to get better under the supervision of coach Bill Weaver. I was as wrapped up in that game in the late going (as Shaker desperately pressed the action) as I’ve ever been in any game I played in or watched.