Monday, September 19, 2011

Dropping the Ball on the Weekend

To be perfectly honest with you, my weekend was a whole lot like Jeremy Maclin's game in Atlanta last night. On paper, the weekend looked great: Relaxing and drinking some beers on Friday night, tailgating and taking in the Penn State-Temple game at the Linc on Saturday followed by a wedding and then watching the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz fight, and wrapping it all up with football all day Sunday leading up to the Eagles-Falcons game for the nightcap. Oh, and the Phillies had the opportunity to clinch their fifth straight NL East title, not to mention playing under the bright lights of Sunday Night Baseball.

Likewise, Maclin's statistics — 13 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns — were outstanding on paper. But just like my fun-filled weekend hit some hiccups along the way, no amount of catches, yards and even touchdowns can wipe away the memory of Maclin's critical drop on 4th-and-4 last night that sealed the Eagles' fate in Atlanta's 35-31 victory.

It really is a shame for both of us, because had just one or two more things gone right, this weekend could have been glorious for both Jeremy Maclin and me. But in the end, someone dropped the ball and prevented it from being all that it could have been.

Things started out on the wrong foot with the Phillies dropping the series opener to the Cardinals Friday, but at least we had Saturday to look forward to. We headed down to FDR Park around 9 a.m. to set up for a daylong tailgate for the Penn State-Temple game, though I could only partake in the morning portion because I had to leave after the game to go to a wedding.

There, things started great. We got a prime spot right at a group of picnic tables, had plenty of food and beer, and a crowd gathered before the game. We were drinking and eating and having a great time in anticipation for the game. Now, as much as people were talking about this being Temple's best shot ever at knocking off the Nittany Lions, I personally didn't see it. Undoubtedly my bias as a Penn State alum played a hand in that, but I honestly thought that with the talent disparity as far as depth is concerned, Penn State would win by two touchdowns.

I couldn't have been more wrong. The game was an absolute debacle. Penn State looked more incompetent on offense than I've ever seen. For starters, it's become abundantly clear now that neither Rob Bolden or Matt McGloin are any good. In fact, they're terrible. Really terrible. To the point that you wonder how a Big Ten team with the tradition Penn State has is in the position where these two guys are the best option at quarterback.

It doesn't even matter who starts, to be honest with you. Neither one is good, but playing both of them makes them both worse. The offense can get no rhythm because the QBs are being shuffled in and out at random, regardless of performance. Against Alabama, Bolden was playing much better than McGloin, yet the carousel continued. Saturday, McGloin was having a much better game than Bolden, yet the merry-go-round pressed on. Honestly, I don't think the coaching staff has any idea what the hell it's doing, and I don't mean just with the quarterback.

On offense, this team has some truly good playmakers — Silas Redd, Derek Moye, Justin Brown. Yet none of those guys are given the opportunity to get in a rhythm either. Every other play on offense, Penn State rotates in different sets of wide receivers and running backs, and it just makes no sense. Brown, Moye and Redd should be on the field for the large majority, I'm talking 70-80 percent, of the offensive snaps. But they aren't. Instead, in come true freshmen or backups to cut into that playing time, meaning the more talented players are on the sidelines when they could be making plays and developing chemistry with whatever quarterback is in the game. It simultaneously stunts the quarterbacks, those players and the offense as a whole. And it's why this team looks completely inept when it has the ball. More than anything, it's the coaching.

I never thought I'd say this, but the time has come. Clean house. Get rid of every coach in the program except for Larry Johnson, and maybe Tom Bradley and Mike McQueary. At least the receivers get open, and the defense is good.

That's really the shame of it. This defense is really good. Devon Still is one of the best defensive tackles in the nation. Mike Mauti played tremendously on Saturday. As did Chaz Powell and D'Anton Lynn. But their efforts are going to be wasted all season behind a terrible offense that his being horribly coached. It's really not fun being a Penn State fan right now, and I'm saying this after a victory.

I can say without hesitation that that disgusting 14-10 win was the most miserable I have ever been at game in which the team I was rooting for won. I have nothing more to say about this, because honestly this game wasn't worth anyone's time.

Also, Evan Lewis should never be allowed on the field ever again. I know at least 15 people personally who could kick a football better than him.

After that sorry disgrace for a game, my cousin and I hopped in my car, made a quick getaway and changed at my house before heading to a wedding for our other cousin.

That was just the appetizer to the Mayweather-Ortiz fight, which I watched at my other cousin's house after the wedding.

The fight started off with plenty of promise. Floyd was clearly outclassing Ortiz through three rounds, especially dominating in the third by picking apart the 24-year-old, but Ortiz wasn't backing down, was taking it to Mayweather in the 4th and it looked like we were in for a good fight. But then Victor dropped the ball, inexplicably heading Floyd when he had him pinned against the ropes, then kissing him on the cheek to make Money even more angry, then trying to apologize 15 damn times before getting knocked the fuck out when he lost focus and forgot he was in a boxing match.

Hands down, man down. Say what you want about Floyd, the dude did his job. Ortiz is a moron. He dropped the ball.

At least the Phils won and clinched the NL East behind Raul Ibanez's grand slam and Roy Oswalt's gem.

Then last night took place. The Phils lost yet again, putting it on Doc's shoulders to clinch home field tonight. While I never want to see the Phils lose, the silver lining is that I'll be in attendance tonight as Roy Halladay takes the ball to clinch home field. Should be good.

What was not good was the Eagles. We all know what happened last night, because everyone was watching. Mike Vick was playing extremely well until he fumbled in the red zone, leading to a Falcons touchdown and a 14-point swing. Then the game went on the see-saw, Maclin dominated, Vick got knocked out and the Eagles looked be in control. Until they weren't.

Mike Kafka did all he could, playing extremely well and putting the Eagles in position to go ahead late, until Maclin, who had been the hero to that point, dropped a ball that anyone in the world with hands could have caught. With the way Maclin played, you want to give him the benefit of the doubt there, but you really just can't. That's not just a ball that should be caught or could be caught, it's a ball that has to be caught, 100 times out of 100. To be frank, it's absolutely ridiculous that any player in the NFL would drop that pass. But shit happens, unfortunately, and a whole lot of shit happened in that game — the turnovers, Vick getting concussed by his own guy, and the dropped ball. Ugly.

A few other notes on the game:

-LeSean McCoy is an absolute stud. Seriously, this guy needs to get the ball a ton and should be on his way to perennial Pro Bowl status. The things he does out there are amazing, and he was great last night.

-Jason Peters is a man's man. It's really frustrating watching him commit a false start, but all you need to do is watch him maul everyone in his path to forgive him. That guy is insanely good.

-Nnamdi and Asante are everything everyone expected them to be. Asomugha played practically a flawless game, blanketing Roddy White and holding him to 3 catches for 23 yards, while Julio Jones only had 2 catches for 29 yards. Meanwhile, both Asante and Nnamdi came up with a pick, and no one is going to be able to throw to their receivers against this defense.

-Unfortunately, they will be able to throw to the tight end all day. While the linebackers improved against the run this week, even Casey Matthews, they showed they cannot cover the tight end at all. Tony Gonzalez went bonkers, routinely burning the linebackers and safeties.

-And that's why the Eagles gave up 35 points, mainly because of the linebackers and safeties in the passing game. Honestly, the defensive line played well, with Trent Cole playing beastlike as the best defensive player on the field all night, and Cullen Jenkins impressing even more. But Matt Ryan just kept going over the middle, exploiting the linebackers and safeties in coverage, and it worked. It's frustrating when so many players on defense are playing well yet the Falcons still scored 35 and went 5-for-5 in the red zone.

-I really hope Mike Vick is all right. Having said that, Kafka played really well.

Seriously Maclin, how the hell did you drop that ball?

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