Stillers 16, Bungals 7 Game #3 Oct. 7, �01
Stillers Postgame Analysis and Grades
The resurgent Stillers slopped out a 16-7 win that was more of a nailbiter than the score indicates. Blowing three golden scoring chances deep in Cinci territory, the Stillers allowed the hapless Bungals to remain in the game until the 4th quarter, before finally putting the game away on Kris Brown�s 48-yard FG.
1. Bettis lumbers 48 yards on the first drive, giving the Stillers 1st and goal at the Cinci 4.
2. Three plays later, Bettis is stopped cold on 4th & inches.
3. Chad Scott snuffs a solid Cinci drive with an INT of a Kitna pass on a post pattern, and also has a nice return afterwards.
4. On a 3rd & 2 from the Stiller 36, Stew fakes the dive play to FB Fu, and quick-pitches to Amoz, who dashes around end for 22 yards. 5 plays later, the Stillers scored to take a 10-0 lead.
5. On the Cinci 8-yard line, just before halftime, Stewart fumbles the snap from center and turns the ball over to Cinci, thus negating a possible TD but more likely an easy Kris Brown FG.
QB: Stewart had his typical spotty outing, misfiring on more attempts, more poorly, than the Iraqis did with Scud missiles during Desert Storm. Don�t be fooled by the 15 of 24 completion percentage. Nearly all of these completions were on WR screens, 0 or 2-step hitches, shovel passes, dumpoffs, and short 5-yard curls. Stewart had 3 weak, lazy passes that should have been INT�d, including a pitifully short "oop" pass to Burress in the EZ on the team�s first drive. There was the pass off his back foot to Burress on the deep slant in the game�s 2nd series, which sailed a good 8 feet over Plex. Then there�s the deep slant to Burress in the 4th quarter, on a key 3rd and 8, which was, no kidding, about 18 feet behind an open Burress on a throw that couldn�t have been more inaccurate had a drunkard been recruited from the Heinz Field bleachers to toss this pass -- blindfolded -- in one of those promotional halftime gimmicks. Another problem that has become a trend is Stewart fumbling a snap when close to the goal line. This time, it was a fumbled snap & turnover at the Cinci 8-yard line just before halftime, which, against a better team, could have been disastrous. Stew did run the ball adroitly and with great courage and guts, including the 8-yard TD run. Then again, his longest run (23 yards) came on a play in which he clumsily fumbled the snap yet again, but was lucky enough to retrieve the ball and scamper around end. The running was nice, but the passing was once again unacceptable for any team aspiring to make the playoffs. I could type even more about his woes today, but time precludes me from doing so. D+.
RB: Bettis lumbered for 153 yards thru gaping holes in a very pathetic Bungals� effort. Very rarely did Bettis encounter any resistance behind the LOS or at the line, and most often had holes at least 4 feet wide to run thru. To his credit, The Bus ran hard and plowed for good 2nd effort yardage. He busted a tackle in the 1st quarter and rumbled 48 yards, which, for him, is about a mile. Amoz was allowed to carry the ball 8 times, much of it on mop-up and futile 3rd down runs while the Stillers were playing for FGs, but he did gain 22 yards on the mis-direction pitchout around left end and ended the day averaging 7.5 yds/carry. Amoz also had a nice long gainer nullified later in the game by the Shaw hold, and he chipped in with a couple sterling blitz pickups. A few warts popped up today, one on the weak whiff by Bettis on the Spikes� sack of Stewart, in which The Doughboy was a bit slow in getting anything on Spikes as he mauled the QB. Another was the complete inability by Bettis to be able to vault over, or dash around, the bunched-up Cinci goal-line defense on the game�s first series. And lastly, trying to run out the clock late in the 4th quarter in a 6-point game, Bettis foolishly ran OOB after eluding a defender, gaining about an extra yard in the process. A.
FB: Jon Witman received most of the FB work today, but Fu got in at FB a couple times, as did the non-blocking TE, Jerame Tuman. For the 2nd game in a row, no 2-yard passes, to a spot inches from the sideline chalk, were thrown to any of these FBs. The faked 3d & 2 dive play to Fu, and the follow-on quick-pitch to Amoz that netted 22 yards, was made possible because a real running threat was in the game at FB. B.
WR: Ward led this low-producing crew with 8 grabs for a measly 68 yards. Most of these receptions, of course, were on WR screens, 0-step hitches, one shovel pass, & 5-yard curls or slants. Burress caught 3 passes -- nearly a career high -- and didn�t drop any, but fumbled the ball after casually holding it after an 18-yard reception. Luckily, Breuner recovered it, and perhaps this is progress for Spike Burress -- at least he didn�t spike the ball after the catch. Bobby Shaw, who�d been a forgotten man thus far, snared a clutch 22-yard gain on 3rd & 19 on a deep crosser that was thrown a bit low, though he was flagged later for the holding call that nullfied AZ�s long scamper. Troy Edwards is literally the forgotten man, having no passes at all thrown his way the entire game. B.
TE: Mark Breuner actually caught a pass longer than 5 yards today, snaring a low Stewart pass for 15 yards. The blocking in support of the running game was good. Tuman, the "pass-catching TE", once again went catchless, keeping his career NFL reception total at 0. A-.
OL: What more can ya say about this O-line? They physically dominated the Bungals� front 7 the entire day. Rarely was Stewart harassed, and the running holes were wide, gaping lanes that often times could have accommodated a Brinks armored truck. The only down note was the inability to get push on the Cinci line on the 4th and goal plunge. Also, Faneca was whistled for a false start, and Hartings for a hold. A.
DL: Following a stout effort last week against the Bills, the d-line responded with another hard-nosed, mean-spirited effort. They did a good job of clogging Dillons� running lanes, both at the point of attack as well as the cutback lanes. There was also decent pass harassment. A. Smith continues to progress and impress, vaulting over the sturdy Dillon to one-hand sack Kitna on a highlight-film type of play. Bailey had a nice bat of a pass. And Kimo returned to action with a vengeance, literally leveling the normally forward-leaning Dillon back onto his kiester with a vicious hit that left both men a lil� groggy. A.
LB: This was another strong day for � of the Stiller LB crew. Holmes, Porter, and KenBell took turns creating havoc and delivering harsh blows to opposing ball carriers, be it RBs, TEs, or WRs. Holmes finished 2nd today with 10 tackles (5 solos) and delivered some thumping hits. Bell had a few problems on some plays, but this is really only his 2nd full NFL game, since he�d been hurt so early in the Jax game. Porter once again was flying around like a demon possessed. He harassed Kitna more than once with good pass pressure. The weekly WEAK link once again was none other than supposed pro bowler Jason Gildon, who did absolutely jack shit nothing in a feeble, half-hearted effort that made Bin Laden�s air defense look good in comparison. Gildon had one solo stop the entire afternoon, that on a short, simple out-pass to backup TE Marco Battaglia near the sideline chalk in which Gildon had a cake-easy play to shove him OOB. Other than that, Gildon didn�t sniff a stop, nor a QB harassment, nor anything except the backside of RT Willie Anderson, who bullied and punched him around like a soup can. His pass rush was either the Wide Loop Rush or the inside titty-fight, neither of which got him anywhere closer than 14 feet from the opposing QB. Of the yardage Dillon did have, much of it came right at, or right around, Big Jason. I was probably wrong in doing so the first 2 games, but I can no longer, in good conscience, give one and the same grade to all four starting LBs. The real 3 LBs - A. The Invisible LB, Jason Gildong - D.
DB: Facing a decent Cinci pass-catching corps, the secondary rose to the occasion with a solid effort. Chad Scott led the way, leading the team with 11 tackles (8 solo) and the INT. Of course, some of Chad�s stops were on underneath routes where I thought he was a lil� bit soft. But, to his credit, Chad made the sure-handed tackles, as he also did in support of the run defense. DW had solid coverage throughout the game. Reserve safety Myron Bell got the start at SS and played solidly. Brent chipped in some nice run support. The "extra backs" really contributed as well. Logan had a nice play to defended a pass, and DeShea busted up 2 passes with good coverage, positioning, and timing. This secondary has about 7 capable starters, and its time to let these men be men and take some risks with the blitz, because I think the secondary is up to the task. A.
Spec Teams: Hank Poteat led the way for the spec teams, making an electric 19-yard punt return and also returning one KO for 30 yards. It�s getting to the point where no fan wants to, unlike the past 7 years, leave the room or the bleachers during a Stiller punt return in order to grab a beer or get a head start on using the latrine, for fear of missing Hank�s return. Josh�s punting was adequate. Kris booted 3 FGs, including a booming 48-yarder, although, with each successful FG, I fear that he is becoming more of a crutch for Field Goal Bill. The coverage teams played pretty well. A.
OC: Those with short memories will fawn and grovel all over Mularkey, praising him for the use of Stewart�s legs for good yardage and ultimately the only TD. And regrettably, those people need a swift kick in the rear end, because Mike Mularkey spent the better part of the first half with his head buried into his ass in a deeper posture than Bid Laden�s gangs are buried in caves in the Afghan mountains. Looking at a 2nd & goal on the Bungal 4 in the first series, Mularkey responded with Neanderthal, bland, unimaginatively stupid playcalling entirely reminiscent of the ill-fated Penn State plungefest against Alabama in 1979 that was stopped stone cold. Three times, Bettis plunged into the line, and 3 times at least 10 defenders jumped at him like a beggar jumping on a 20-dollar bill. All the while, the most athletic QB in the league was relegated to a wooden-legged spectator handing the ball off to the Tubby Tailback. There�s not 1 reason in the world that a play-action rollout shouldn�t have been run during at least 1 of those 3 plays. Then there�s the 2nd series. The series began after the usual TV TIMEOUT, which gives a coordinator at least 2 minutes of "real" time to chat with his QB on the sideline (using his QB coach and head coach, as applicable), and call a play before the QB ever trots off the sideline, with plenty of time to spare. But inexplicably, the Stillers were called for a DoG penalty, not coming anywhere close to getting the play off before the playclock went to 0. This is inexcusable stupidity at its worst. But apparently not satisfied with the level of asininity that he�d achieved thus far, on the next series, the Stillers passed the ball to the EZ from the Cinci 8-yard line, with TWO receivers (Shaw and Ward) crashing into each other from opposite directions as each was trying to make the catch. If it wasn�t so sick -- and all too typical -- it would have been funny. That drive, too, ended deep in Cinci territory (on a FG) with Stewart moving all around in the pocket in a large area roughly the diameter of a toilet seat. Finally, on the next series, the dimwitted Mularkey saw fit to get Stewart ON THE MOVE, with DESIGNED runs of 11, 9, and then 8 (for the TD). The series was kept alive with the 3rd-&-2 22-yard misdirection-quick-pitch to Amoz, which had gained huge yardage in preseason but has not been used even once in the regular season, presumably because it fooled opposing defenses too badly and Mularkey felt it to be too unfair. C-.
DC: Lewis deserves some credit for avoiding the use of the Mamby Pampy Defense, which was a primary culprit in the Week 1 loss to Jax, but fortunately has not been seen much since. The defense looked ready to stuff Dillon. And the pass pressure with varied blitzes caused a lot of hits on Kitna, as well as hurried, off-target throws. B.
Head Coach: This was the kind of game Field Goal Bill loves. "Keep it close till the 4th quarter", despite a game in which Cinci, had they faced a team that has some offensive prowess and hunger for TDs, should have been down by at least 20 points by the start of the 4th. This is precisely what happens when the leader -- and believe me, I use that word loosely in this context -- of your organization has such weak intestinal fortitude and is so risk averse that his ass creaks from airtight friction when he walks. Cowher deserves some credit for having his men ready to hit, as well as for discarding the ridiculously absurd Mamby Pamby 3 & 4 man rush that was so pitifully pathetic in the Jaguar loss. Something must be done about the passing game, and only one man can change it -- Bill Cowher. If -- or rather, WHEN -- he refuses to do so, he and only he deserves 100% of the blame. B-.
Synopsis: Although a nailbiter because of Stiller generosity and inability to score TDs, this was a softer test than I would have preferred. The Bungal defense played soft, passive, and totally un-energetic. Although next week�s foe, the Chefs, has had its troubles, I expect stiffer resistance at Arrowhead from the Chefs� defense than that slovenly defense the Bungals threw at us today. Additionally, the Bungal offense really sputtered under Kitna, who complained afterwards that the commemorative balls used at Heinz Field were too slippy for him to grip. Regardless of what kind of ball will be used, Trent Green will present a sterner test.