Ahhhh.... that felt good to write. Is it true? Do I even believe it is true?
>looks at Houston Texans<
Nah, I guess I don't. Not entirely. Of course, two weeks ago I would have put "San Francisco 49ers" in between those marks... and that turned out pretty good. But darn it feels good to
be a gangsta at least have the optimism to write that headline without even being all sarcastic and VFPD-ridden like I was just two short weeks ago. You know, I started three- THREE!- stories the week after the Colts loss, and I ended up deleting all three, even the one that was actually almost a full four pages in Microsoft Word. They were nothing but a bunch of pissing and moaning, negativity and pessimism. Nobody comes here to read that. When our favorite team gets punched in the cahones, we all feel it. You don't need to me to explain why in written form.
The same cannot be said of optimistic diatribes. I went ahead and published that ridiculous we're-going-to-the-playoffs-just-because-of-one-game piece last week without a second thought. We all love to get around and talk about just how great our favorite team is.
That said... I will attempt- attempt- to walk a fine line here. Rather than just release and let myself get swept up in the euphoric aftershock that was the "holy hell we just curb stomped the 49ers!" feeling, I'm going to point out a few things that concerned me this game. However, I'm going to do so via something I learned in the business world many a moon ago: the ‘compliment sandwich'. You know, where you have to sit a poor performer down, but you're goal isn't to fire him or her but to motivate them to do better. So to avoid the soul-crushing breakdown (as I was unfortunately quite well known to do... positive reinforcement just was never my thing), instead of saying "Employee X, your call backs are atrocious and I can't read a single one of your chicken scratch notes left on my desk, you incompetent piece of garbage who's only employed because your sister-in-law is a friend and I'm doing her a favor", you say, "Dear valued contributor to our team, I appreciate how you are timely with your call backs. You're doing a great job with that. That said, there is some concern that your voice is robotic and emotionless, and it could be felt by some that you are treating important members as nothing more than checkboxes on a spreadsheet. If you could work on that, I'd think you'd be the best receptionist I've ever had, and I can already tell you that I'm indebted to your sister-in-law for bringing me such promising talent."
You know... you kinda lie, and make them work to find the important piece of information that will keep them gainfully employed through the next paycheck.
Of course, this team did a lot of good today, so fortunately this should be a bit easier. I won't have to lie. As much. Let's get started!
Compliment: The offense is certainly looking sharp in terms of Adrian Peterson's impressive return, and I'd say he's 100% back, baby!
But: No passing touchdowns? Really? C'mon guys. These are the Detroit Lions, who while boasting an impressive front seven, aren't exactly rocking the Cardinals secondary here. Kyle Rudolph was barely targeted (which hurt me fantasy-wise as well, I might add), and Percy Harvin went all ghost on us in the second half. What happened?
That said: Jerome Simpson did a lot more than I figured he would his first game back, and I can only imagine it's going to be even better from here on out. While I don't give WRs much credit for PI calls (while it's nice you scared a defender that much, there's still no guarantee you would have actually made the catch, and really it comes down more to them being boneheaded than you being a great playmaker), that one catch to keep the clock ticking before the 2 minute warning was a heckuva play, and something we haven't seen out of our WR corps since basically 2009.
Compliment: Our defense looked SOLID this game, in particular against the run. Mikel Leshoure shouldn't be taken lightly, and the fact that we were constantly smashing him behind the line of scrimmage, and even better taking the ball away from him on what would have probably been his best run of the game, was just a cherry on top of the cake.
But: Guys, INTERCEPT THE BALL. Look, one of the announcers said it best today: if you can catch the ball, you'd be a wide receiver. I get it. Your job is to defend the pass- INTs are really just bonuses. And going for an INT when you should just be smacking it away can lead to disaster. That said, there were a couple of plays where the ball was RIGHT IN YOUR HANDS! This game would have been a runaway had we made just one or two of those picks.
That said: This secondary is certainly a helluva lot better than last year's incarnation. Josh Robinson looked really, really good out there when one-on-one with Megatron, who is IMO the best WR in the NFL. And considering that statement, we did an amazing job of keeping him as limited as humanly possible. I suppose I can live without the INTs so long as we can keep shutting down those kind of players... but INTs are really, really something you should be making when the ball is tucked between both your hands and your chest.
Compliment: Christian Ponder did a lot better job IMO moving into and around the pocket. Rollouts are OK here and there but I just don't like seeing a QB do it all the time. At least to my eye, I didn't see him move from phantom pressure this game (which it seems like he did the last 3 games at least once), and considering the nightmare that Detroit's front line can be, I think he reacted admirably.
But: This one admittedly may be way off base, but it seemed like perhaps Ponder's worst game this year. Now, it wasn't IMO a bad game per se, but it seemed like he took a bit of a step back. The reason why I say it could be way off base is because I'm not Arif: I don't have rewind or the fortitude to sit down through it scouring each and every play for on-the-mark breakdowns. He does an awesome job explaining why plays that looked good (Ponder's second TD to Rudolph last week) really weren't that great and why plays that looked bad (Ponder's near INT at the end of same game) weren't Ponder's fault. I'm going off my pure eyeball, gut feeling on this one. That said, until Arif can prove me wrong, I'm sticking by the fact that this just seemed like something of a step backwards for Ponder.
That said: Ponder continues to keep his INT-free streak alive, to the point that I almost don't want to bring it up for fear of jinxing it. He showed good poise today in knowing when to throw the ball away and how to do it- certainly, he was smart and calm enough at one point to move out of the pocket first before doing so to avoid an intentional grounding penalty. Considering doing so caused him to get hit shows considerable courage under fire as well, and he gets big marks from me for that.
Compliment: The Minnesota Vikings are, as of this writing, in the lead in the NFC North. Technically the Bears have a chance to regain it... but I must say, that's the one team I really don't fear competing with in that territory. I mean, c'mon. They've got Jay Cutler. He's no Christian Ponder.
But: ...nope, that's it. Just wanted to end on that note. SKOL!!!!