Saturday, January 19, 2019

Jan 18, 2019 - Recovering from NFL Hangover

Watched the San Antonio Spurs last night vs the T-Wolves. It's going to take awhile to get used to Spurs games were the score is 90-88 after three quarters. 116-113 win without DeMar DeRozan. Sounds like just an ankle sprain in what amounts to DeRozan's 1st game missed for the Spurs. It's crazy how the Spurs are doing this by going against the analytics and shooting less 3-pointers. May have to dig more into that someday.  While the Spurs are averaging just 102.7 points per game, they are a very efficient 113.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only one game sample for me, but 2nd year PG Derrick White looked great. 23 points (10-17), 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 turnovers. He may not be Tony Parker (yet) but he is running the offense efficiently.

I've made peace with the Chargers loss and started reading stuff online. Quite a few articles out there criticizing the Chargers and Guz Bradley for not going to a man-to-man defense. My opinion is that it wouldn't have solved the problem of stopping the Patriots running attack, which is what was fueling the open receivers, not the zone defense. My take is that it's just a reaction to Tony Romo's call during the game saying they should go to man-to-man. If anything, man-to-man makes it harder to stop the run because the defenders all have their back to the ball chasing their man. In zone, the defenders are all looking in and reading the play. As soon as they see run, they leave their assignments and can pursue. This includes the linebackers (or in the Chargers case the safeties playing linebacker). Charges were just physically dominated in this game, end of story.

Which leads to what the Chargers have to do during the off season. A deeper LB roster would be helpful. Part of the reason the Chargers went to the 5, 6 or even 7 DB lineup was because of injuries at linebacker. Chargers LBs were the weak link in the defense to begin with and when Kyzir White and Denzel Perryman went down, Bradley started playing more 3 Safety lineups. When Jatavis Brown was lost to injury, S Adrian Phillips started at LB and they started 4 safeties and then against the Ravens they went 7 DBs. Most say that Perryman was the critical loss because he led the team in tackles, but White was a key to Bradley's defense. Like rookie Derwin James, White was a "tweener." As James was a "big" safety the Chargers used to help stop the run, White was a "small" LB the Chargers used to cover LBs and RBs. The two allowed the versatility of the 3-4 safety lineup without going "small."

In the cars I can't afford, but wish I could category. Just listen to the new Mustang GT500. Six plus minutes with no voice overs! There's 2 minutes plus of the car just idling! You can criticize Ford for a lot of things, but one thing they got right is the sound of the GT500 and GT350. As much as I love the blower whine and growl of the GT500, the GT350's flat-plane V8 is still the best sounding car (with no modifications) I've ever heard. GT350 on Jay Leno's Garage. Leno say's it's the greatest engine currently being produced in America today. If you don't want to hear them talk about the GT350 and just want to listen to that beautiful sound the engine makes, go to 18:40. Comments made during the drive. "It's a symphony!" and "you never get tired of that exhaust note."

Monday, January 14, 2019

15 Jan 2019 - Dissapointed, but Animation saved my day

This is the most disappointing I've ever been with a Chargers' playoff game. This was one of, if not the most individually talented rosters the Chargers have ever put together and they were not even competitive. The history of this team, even when they've lucked into the playoffs has been to at least have a chance. Sure they've underachieved, especially during the Schottenheimer years, but to be totally non-competitive is another story.

The defense was run over, physically dominated. I know Tony Romo said they should go to man-to-man, but in reality what good would that have done when your front four is getting pushed 5-yards off the line of scrimmage. Then there is Desmond King, who I love as a player, but pointed out that he really didn't deserve the ranking that Pro Football gave him as the 2nd best defensive back in the NFL. King made big plays when the Chargers needed him to up until this game where he was completely destroyed by Julian Edelman. I think the only chance the defense had was to gamble. Put in the 7 DBs and go all out to stop the run. Put in the linebackers, stack the box, then send an all out blitz hoping Tom Brady changes the play to a pass. Would it have worked? Probably not against Brady, but the hope is that you get a big play or two out of it. If they give up chunk yards so be it, they weren't stopping the Pats anyway.

Just as disappointing if not more so, was the offense. They weren't facing an elite defense and they have enough play makers that someone should have been able to beat the coverage. Phillip Rivers just hasn't been the same since the week 15 game against the Ravens. After the week 14 win in KC, Rivers had thrown at least 2 TD passes in every game this season. He had 2 400+ games and thrown for at 250 yards in all but 3 games (one was the blowout of the Raiders, so he really didn't need to). Counting the Week 15 game against the Ravens, Rivers was under 200 yards in three straight going into New England and threw only 1 TD pass. He threw for 331 vs. the Pats, but it was almost completely gained during garbage time. I don't know if something was wrong with Rivers or he just hit the down hill slide toward ending his career. In the past Rivers had the ability to carry this team, but couldn't do anything against the Pats. The "amoeba" style defense is going to get the credit, but Rivers has been around long enough and with the receiver talent they have they should have been able to beat it enough times to stay in the game. Probably wouldn't have mattered since the defense wasn't even slowly the Pats' offense down, but they should have been able to at least put up a fight. Rivers even saw that defensive scheme a lot in practice since that's the style they played when John Pagano was the defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2016.

If they had least been in the game I would be looking forward to next season, but with the way they were just manhandled I'm wondering if, despite all the individual talent, that this isn't a good "team."
Wondering if Rivers can play an entire season as an effective NFL QB. Wondering if the coaching staff can take this team to the level it needs to play to win a Championship.

The Rest of Division Championship Weekend
I found it interesting that, in this era of pass happy, miss direction, motion offenses, the two "genius" coaches, the young phenom Sean McVay and old wizard Bill Belichick decided to line up in old school I-formation and run it down the opponents throats and use play-action passes.

Obviously, my prediction of neither the Chiefs nor Patriots making the Super Bowl isn't going to happen. One of them will be there. I still believe that one of the two things I predicted for these teams will happen. Either the Chiefs' defense will fail them or the Patriots won't be able to keep up talent wise despite the game plan.

I missed the best game of the weekend, Saints-Eagles, but I just couldn't watch any more football after the Chargers game. Didn't want to see an highlights and still don't. It's one game I rather just forget happened. I honestly don't know if I'm going to watch a game for the rest of the playoffs.

Into the Spider-Verse
So after the game that will no longer be mentioned, I wanted to just get out and forget so went to see Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse. I really didn't know what to expect, but sure didn't expect how intense it was for an Animated movie. Some of the scenes were pretty intense and even emotional. The story line, although really predictable, was still well performed. I really felt the animation was amazing and they threw in just about every style using the multi-verse as the basis behind the different looks. There was Japanese anime, old style comic book art and of course that modern style that over exaggerates features that you've seen in the previews. There was even Looney Toons style animation with the character Peter Porker/Spider-Ham. I also really liked how they portrayed the Antagonists, especially the Green Goblin, Scopion, and the total re-make of Doc Oc. The 40-year old Parker was also great and was very entertainingly (is that a real word?) voiced by Jake Johnson. Spider-Women was taken straight out of the comics/Ghost Spider, which is cool since it's the 2nd coolest looking spider costume baring the original. Although I can see how it wouldn't be for everyone, but if you like cool animation and/or anything Spidey, it's a must see and is a unique take on Superhero Movies.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Happy New Year

First post of 2019, so Happy New Year to All!

 I'm going to try to post more than the NFL and sports this year, but it was Wild Card weekend so  this post will still be a lot about the Chargers.

 Wild Card Weekend
This really is a different Chargers' team. They can and do win in a different way every week. This time it was the defense and kicker Michael Badgley.

The one thing the Chargers need is a punter. Donnie Jones only getting 38 yards with the help of a good bounce.

The announcers talked about the Chargers playing three safeties like this was something put in just for the Ravens. I've mentioned it here before that the Chargers have played a lot of three safety this year. What the announcers failed to notice was that the Chargers were playing 7 DBs! Seems like the exact opposite of what you would want to do against a run heavy Ravens team, but it worked.

The redemption tour continues in New England where Phillip Rivers can get another monkey off his back. Rivers is 0-7 vs Tom Brady, including 0-2 in the playoffs.

In the "I didn't know that category," Phillip is 4-0 on Wild Card weekend. 

Spurs organization is still the classiest in sports. Before the Raptors game they played a tribute to Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The fans still booed.

At one point the Spurs dropped down to as low as 12th in the Western Conference. They have surged back to the 6th spot, winning 8 of the last 10 and 5 straight. Pop has reinvented the Spurs again. Spurs are winning with offense! 119, 108, 125, 120, and 122, that's the Spurs points during the 5 game winning streak.

NCAA Football 
I don't have cable so didn't see the Clemson beat down of Alabama, but it seems I wasn't the only one. The game drew a 14.6 overnight rating, the lowest of any game in short history of college football playoffs. I know it's a small sample size (just 5 years since Div 1 football went to a playoff system), but many are saying the 3rd Clemson-Alabama match up is justification for not expanding the playoffs. Especially with Alabama now appearing in 4 straight Championship games and Clemson in 3 of the last 4. But my take on the Playoffs is that it proves Div 1 college football needed a playoff. Again, small sample size, but the #1 ranked team (the one that would have been awarded the Championship pre-playoffs) has never won. Even more telling is that the #4 ranked team has won twice and the #1 team has failed to make the Championship game twice.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Week 17 - Now the Redemption Tour Begins

The Chargers won 23-9, that's the good news. The defense was solid, they have gotten better each week. Obviously, getting Joey Bosa back was big, but Desmond King has been a nice surprise as the slot corner and Derwin James is seemly in on almost every play. I'm still shocked that James fell to the Chargers at pick 17 of the draft. He would be a lock for Defensive Rookie of the Year if it wasn't for Dallas LB Leighton Vander Esch, who set the rookie record for tackles.

As far as King goes, I'm not going to claim he is one of the better Defensive Backs in the league, or even that he should have made the Pro Bowl, as some Chargers' fans and sportscasters have proclaimed. King has his faults, but he makes timely plays, both as a defender and kick returner. Yes I know Pro Football Focus has him graded as the #2 DB in the league, but if you look at PFFs top 5 you realize their must be something flawed about how they grade DBs.

As for the offense...what happened? OK the Ravens' defense is pretty good and the Broncos' defense is still pretty good, but no way this offense, with all those play makers, should be shut down for the entire half of both games. Chargers didn't convert a 3rd down score on offense until the 3rd quarter of either game.

A big part of it has been that Philip Rivers has struggled. Take away the 4th quarter comeback against KC and Rivers' has been mediocre in the last 3 games. Of the 12 interceptions he's thrown, 6 have come in the last 3 games. 5 have come in the 1st quarter of those games and he's thrown an interception in the open drive in all three. I don't have an explanation why, but I can make some assumptions. The 1st would be that the 37 year old Rivers is wearing down over the course of a season, but neither Rivers, the Chargers, or the media at large is reporting even a hint supporting that. Rivers' has under thrown a lot of passes lately though and almost everyone of the recent interceptions were under throws. The only assumption I can make is that the Rivers or the Chargers are tipping plays somehow, but I have no proof of that either. I can only hope the Chargers can straighten things out before next weeks Playoff game in Baltimore.

Which brings me to said Playoffs. The Chargers have a good possibility of facing every team they lost to (except the Broncos who didn't make the playoffs) if they make it the Super Bowl. They travel to Baltimore first. Keep winning and they'll likely to meet KC the following week or in the AFC Championship Game. The long shot is if they face the Rams in the Super Bowl and make it the dreaded All LA Bowl.

First things first though. The Ravens shut down the Chargers' offense in Week 16 allowing the only  Chargers TD after a turnover. They kept Rivers' guessing by stacking the line of scrimmage and making the Chargers figure out who was rushing and what type of defense they were in, which is pretty much how the Ravens play everybody this year. While the result wasn't good and take solace in the fact the Chargers at least got a chance to see that defense on the field. Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt needs to earn his pay this week and come up with something effective they can run against that Raven Defense. The Chargers have found different ways to win this season and I can see them winning with defense, much the same way they beat the Broncos, but I would rather they play a much more complete game, something I feel they haven't done yet. That's both encouraging and disappointing at the same time.

TE Hunter Henry was seen taking first team reps on Monday. Henry was supposedly lost for the season with an ACL injury during the preseason. Rumors have popped up lately that Henry's recovery was going better than expected and it looks like the rumors were true. He's expected to play Sunday vs. the Ravens. Love Antonio Gates, but Henry provides another big play threat that Gates can no longer deliver and is an effective run blocker, something Gates never excelled at.

Thoughts on the rest of Week 17

So that's the season. Out from last year, the Falcons, Jaguars, Bills, Panthers, Steelers, and Vikings. In is the Chargers, Colts, Texans, Ravens, Bears, and Cowboys. My biggest disappointment award goes to the Jaguars. They hung with the Patriots 24-20 in the AFC Championship last year and avenged that loss with a 31-20 beat down of the Pats in a game that wasn't as close as the score, but could only muster 4 wins for the rest of the season.

I still believe it's going to tough to beat the Saints in New Orleans and although KC is a tough venue to play in, I wonder how the weather is going to change how they play. I have a feeling they are going to really miss Kareem Hunt.

The Philadelphia Eagles are in! They were destined for a fall from Super Bowl Champs to not making the playoffs, but the Vikings left the door wide open for them to sneak back in. It may not be all Kirk Cousins fault, but that big contract they gave him sure is looking like a bad investment right now. Of course Case Keenum's performance in Denver isn't working out well for the Broncos either, so the Vikings can at least say they were right about that.

I am going to make an insane prediction that I probably shouldn't make, especially since the Chargers are in the Playoffs. My prediction is that neither the Patriots or the Chiefs make it to the Super Bowl. I believe the AFC representative will be one of the teams playing this week end. Obviously, I hope it's the Chargers, but I can see any of the 4 (Chargers, Ravens, Texans, Colts) playing in the Super Bowl this year. I just don't trust the talent or execution the Patriots have shown this season and either KCs defense and/or weather will eventually cost them a win. An icy and windy day against the Ravens would be their worse nightmare.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Week 16 - Opportunity Lost

If the Chargers fail to reach to Super Bowl this year, they will look back on Week 15 and wonder what might have been.

All the credit goes to the Ravens. They did exactly what they needed to do, holding the Chargers to 5 drives, 2 first downs, 72 total yards, an interception in the first half and owned time-of-possession 19:54 to 10.06. Meanwhile, the Chargers defense doing their bend but don't break thing, holding the Ravens to 6 points despite giving up 195 yards and 3 trips into the Red Zone in the 1st half.

Then the Chargers got the break they needed, forcing a turnover on the Ravens first possession of the 2nd half. The offense finally gets into the end zone, but unfortunately the Ravens offense gets their one big play of the game and answer with a TD of their own on a 68 yard TD from Lamar Jackson to TE Mark Andrews.

It was all setup for Phillip Rivers to pull off the comeback again. It all sounded familiar. 4:46 left in the game. Chargers punt and the defense has to get a quick stop to give the offense one last chance. The defense follows the script of the last two Chargers big wins over the Steelers and Chiefs. They stuff two Raven running plays and on 3rd down sack Jackson to force the punt.

Next the special team does their part. Desmond King, returns the punt 24 yards to the Ravens 39. It's all setup, down 10-16, 3 minutes to go, only 39 yards for the game winning TD, and still 2 timeouts. It should have been easier than Pittsburgh or KC. Unfortunately, Antonio Gates makes a catch for 11 yards and fumbles. Ravens recover and take it the house to seal the win 22-10.

With a win over the Ravens, the Chargers would have awaken Monday morning with the #1 seed in the AFC. Instead they enter Week 17 with only a glimmer of hope placed on a Raiders win over the Chiefs in KC. As it looks right now, the Charges will be visiting Baltimore for a rematch next weekend.

Thoughts on the rest of the Week 16...

 Chiefs have now lost 2-in-a-row. I would say that teams are figuring out the Chiefs offense, but they put up 31 points against a good defense in the Seahawks. Mahomes played another clean game, going 23-40, 273 yards, 3 TDs, 0 int. This was the first game that the Chiefs trailed for the majority of the contest, taking a brief 10-7 lead early in the 2nd quarter, but the Seahawks quickly answered to take the lead back, 14-10 and didn't trail for the rest of the game.

Aarond Donald leading the NFL in sacks as a Defensive Tackle is historic in itself, but with 19.5 sacks he has a shot at the all-time record of 22.5 against the 49ers.

Tight End Travis Kelce only needs 54 yards to break Rob Gronkowski's single season record of 1328 receiving yards for a TE. Chasing them both is SF TE George Kittle, who has 1228 receiving yards. With the Chiefs playing the Raiders and the 49ers playing the Rams I can see a scenario where the Chiefs are blowing out the Raiders and sit Kelce right after he sets the record. The 49ers will likely have to play catch up and Kittle's is capable of lighting it up. Kittles put up 210 yards against the Broncos in Week 13. Would Reid put Kelce back in if they find out Kittles is getting close?

Everyone is back on the Patriots bandwagon now that they're the #2 seed, but I still don't think this version of the Patriots can make a serious run at the Super Bowl.

Article on Bleacher Report by rules analysis Mike Pereira who's name NFL fans should be familiar  with, The Game is Over Officiated. All I have to say about that is...DUH! I don't blame the refs and agree with Pereira who comments in the article "...that officials are simply doing what they're instructed by the league..." The rules committee was originally put together to protect the fairness of the game. Now the rules are geared to favor the offense. At least for me, many of these games have not been fun to watch despite the scoreboard barrage. High scoring shoot outs used to be that one or two great presents you got in an NFL season, now they're just a gift that you return to the store because you received a half a dozen of them.