There won't be any Eyes in the Backfield this week. It's not that it's not a big game, it obviously is. It's just that it's New Years Eve, and I have too much to do to come up with 18 points about a team that we just saw three weeks ago yesterday. Also, there's no 18 Plays again. Sorry. It's the holidays. I did watch the tape however, so I figured I'd jot down some of my notes about the game. 18 Plays, when it is brought to you, is brought to you by Broad Ripple Tree Service. You get a 5% discount on tree work if you mention 18to88. Winter is a great time to get tree work done. You can usually get a better price in the winter than if you wait until the summer busy season.
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- CBS did an awful job filming the kickoff return. It was impossible to see who was overrunning the play, but what struck me was how many numbers I had to flat look up on the roster to figure out who they were. That pretty much tells you what you need to know.
- Kenyunta Dawson has taken a lot of heat over the years. I've never understood that. I'll give you that he's not very good, but he's also a 7th round pick who keeps making the team. He had a very good game on Sunday, contributing heavily to Mathis's first sack. He showed up with a couple of nice plays, which is more than I can say I've seen from him in a while.
- There were some huge PI calls on the Raiders in this game, but from my vantage point all were well deserved, but also sort of unnecessary. They played some mean coverage, and part of they style obviously is to just be handsy and grab and hope not to get flagged. They grabbed even when they didn't need to. Polian called it one of the best officiated games of the year, and I have to say that I was impressed by the crew.
- The TD to Tamme up the seam was gratifying. That's the play we've been missing in the last 9 weeks.
- Manning's first pick was inexplicable. The first was a weird off balance one footed lob trying to go over the top to Tamme. On a big 3rd down where you have to convert, maybe that's an ok throw, but to start the second half on a first down...just no reason to throw it. Heinously bad decision. It was theoretically possible to drop that ball into Tamme, but I bet he doesn't pull it off 2 in 10 times that he had to throw off balance. The throw was so soft that the safety had plenty of time to get over to pick it off. Dumbassery.
- Cornelius Brown made an exceptional defensive play on a ball to Ford. He might have gotten away with an illegal contact shove before the play, but did an incredible job not interfering. For my money, if a CB, especially a guy like Brown, gets 1 on 1 coverage deep down the sideline, I'm ok if he has to give a little bump. Worst case, it's a five yard penalty...way better than getting beat for a TD.
- Moala made a sick read for a big stop in the backfield. I'm excited to see him develop. He's already turning into a solid 2nd round player. Let's see if he can make another jump this offseason and become a star.
- Manning's second pick was a bad read (he didn't see the linebacker cutting in front of the slant by Garcon). He fortunately threw the ball behind Pierre, because if he had thrown it to him, it would have been picked off and maybe returned for a score. The late throw was tipped up in the air, snagged, then fumbled. Ugh. Peyton has to stop making throws like that.
- Gary Brackett has been incredible for a few weeks in a row now. He's clearly healing up, and is making plays in the backfield again. Honestly, I think that's as big a factor in shutting down the run game as anything. He's a difference maker for this defense when he's healthy, and he's finally getting right.
- I can't figure out what the offensive line is doing differently. They seem to be making more blocks, and the running backs all look better. Brown is healthy. Addai looked like Addai, and Rhodes ran much better than James did. Gold start for Charlie Johnson who had a very nice game again.