Loose Slag from The Still Mill
Some loose slag gleaned while scrubbing the latest tape�
* Why the success of Bettis the past 4 games? Yes, the line has blocked well, but there's much more to it that just that. For starters, OC Mike Mularkey has scrapped the insistence of running the Whaleshit Counter, which was the favorite playcall of Ray Sherman and Kevin Gaypride. The Whaleshit Counter was an anemically slow play that took about 5 seconds to develop, and had the tubby tailback running parallel, rather than perpendicular, to the LOS. I've spent considerable time breaking down the tapes of all of these games, and the preponderance of Bettis' carries are coming on quick-hitters where The Doughboy is hitting the line perpendicularly with authority and momentum. The other factor is something that is really based on the opponent, and that is run blitzing. For some reason, the teams we've faced this past month have all but eschewed the run-blitzing schemes first perfected by New England in 1997 and then by Baltimore in 1998-2000. Bettis isn't getting any of that "nip at the ankles" penetration that has bogged him down the past 3 seasons. What I can't explain, is the "why"�.as in, why aren't defenses using the run blitz on this one-dimensional offense. Perhaps, because these past 4 foes are teams that do not play us every year, these foes were a bit unsure of how they wanted to attack our offense. In fact, it's incorrect that I use the word "attack" in this context, because none of these past four foes has come even remotely close to attacking our offense, instead meekly sitting back and basically having the football jammed down their throat. What will be very interesting are these next 5 games, all against AFC Cetnral rivals.
* The refs had a pretty good overall day in Tampa, making correct calls on the challenge by Tampa on that one out-pass to their WR, as well as the onsides kick. But they hideously botched the placement of Amos Zereoue's forward progress on the 3rd-and-1 plunge on the games' very first drive. Amos had a superb second-effort on this play, and easily made the first down by a good two feet. But unbelievably, the refs marked the ball 5 inches short. While watching the spot, I was a bit perturbed, and in reviewing the tape, I confirmed my suspicion. Luckily, Stew made it on 4th down, but that kind of assaholic spot could have put us in a jam early in the game.
* The direct-snap to Hines was a superb playcall, one in which I've been screaming for since Ward spent the better part of '98 rotting on the bench. What really made this playcall that much better, was the clever speed in which the team broke the huddle, got into their formation, and snapped the ball. This play occurred on first down, right after a TV timeout, and it was readily apparent that Tampa was confused and ill-prepared as the Stillers quickly broke out of their huddle. With the way Tampa was scrambling as the ball was snapped, even Larry Tharpe could have gained a few yards. Credit Mularkey, and at the same time wax fondly at the dismissal of Kevin Gaypride, who routinely took about 18 seconds to get playcalls into the huddle.
* The footwork by Stew on his 2nd INT was absolutely pitiful. He literally did this gimpy shuffle-step and threw off his back foot, in a manner I simply cannot describe because it was almost as dorked up as a right-handed pitcher leading with his right foot as he releases the pitch. This was a poor 2nd-half INT that need not have occurred, and in a closer game against a better offensive foe, this could have been disastrous.
* Speaking of INTs, a Tampa DB (Abraham, as I recall) nearly picked off a short curl to Plex. Like the absence of run blitzes, I really cannot explain why more DBs aren't sitting on the Dink and Dump. Until we burn somebody with a pump-and-go, expect more "sitting", especially against division rivals who are much more acquainted with our offense than the Chefs, Bucs, et al.
* If anyone is surprised with the production by Amos Zereoue, remember this: this is the same man who holds the career rushing record at WVU; who played in the rugged Big East against the likes of Miami, V-tech, Syracuse, et al; and who was the recipient of nothing by admiration and praise from then-long time WVU head coach Don Nehlen. And if anyone thinks that Amos just suddenly developed the skills to produce in this manner after rotting on the pine the past 2 seasons, I've got plenty of oceanfront property in Iowa for sale. Cheap, too�
* Finally, for those who watched the Giants blow that MNF game against the Eagles�. Admit it -- you, too, were thinking, as was I, after the Giants ran up and down the field, only to settle for one FG after another: "Holy hell, the FG-kicking Giants look just like the Stillers offense, and they're gonna blow this game if they don't put Philly away."