Jags 21, Stiller 3 �� Sep. 9, 2001 Game #1
Stillers-Jags Post Game Analysis & Grades:
���� Season opener.�� These 2 words should have been sufficient enough for any knowledgeable Stiller fan to expect the worst in a Cowher-coached team.� As I�d highlighted in my pre-game report, Cowher has heretofore established an 8-year trend of a total inability to have his team anywhere near ready to play even semi-competent football on opening day.�� And, facing a weak, sal-cap-ravaged Jax team, the trend stretched to its 9th consecutive year with a shameful team stink that showed incredibly poor preparation in every phase of football -- offense, defense, and special teams.�
1.� On 3rd and 13, Brunell scoots from pressure and hits a wide open Smith for a 34-yard TD strike.��
2.� Long-snapper Mike Schneck fails to even get a pinkie on Donavan Darius, who rushes straight up the gut and blocks the punt, giving Jax the ball at midfield.�� 8 plays later, Jax scored its 2nd TD.
3.� Hines Ward catches a short curl, and then coughs up the football, giving Jax the ball on the Stiller 23.� 2 plays later, Jax scored a TD to gain an insurmountable 21-3 lead.
4.� Jax muffs its punt snap, giving the Stillers the ball at the Jax 18.� But 4 plays later, Stewart fumbles the ball back to the Jags to dash the last hope for a comeback.�
QB:� Stewart had his typical statistical day, completing 21 passes for a whopping 192 yards.� To be fair, he was victimized by a few drops.� On the whole, Stewart, within the limitations of the Dink and Dump Offense, played ok.�� He looked confident and in control, and threw the ball decently.� The one INT was thrown a tad bit late and with insufficient zip, and the fumble after a good snap was pretty poor and unacceptable.� �B-.
RB: �Bettis, who supposedly looked so fast, speedy, and quick-as-a-cat in preseason, was back to his lumbering, plodding self, rushing for a measly 28 yards on 14 carries.� �Of course, Bettis chipped in immensely in the passing game, snaring 1 pass for 2 yards.� Amoz Zeroue had a very strong game, slashing thru small creases for nice yardage.�� He gained 60 yards on 9 rushes, along with 2 grabs for 14.� Amoz was the brightest offensive spot on an otherwise miserable day.�� B.
FB:� Jon Witman got the nod, since Kreider is still hurt.�� Witman, as is his custom, did absolutely nothing the entire game.� Of course, not to break from his usual ritual, Witman did snare 1 pass for 3 yards.� C.
WR:� As has been the case before, a spotty performance by this crew.�� There were a couple bright spots, such as Ward�s leaping 34-yard grab.� Burress had a nice 19-yard gainer.� But the bad outweighed the good.�� Ward had the ball jarred loose and gave Jax the ball deep in Pgh. territory, and also dropped a pass.� �Burress was thrown a decent pass on a deep lob down the sideline, but failed to outjump the DB and come down with the ball.�� In fact, he barely got a fingertip on the pass, which was the kind of pass that a man his size and salary should come down with.�� Spike caught 1 out pass, but, for no reason at all, caught it against his shoulder pads, and damn near bobbled the ball as he was going OOB.�� This is a trend that Burress has been doing for quite some time, yet has not been corrected.�� Burress, by the way, got hurt and left the game, although the extent of his injury is known to me at this time.� Bobble Shaw had a high ball glance off his fingers and into the hands of a defender for an INT, though, partially in his defense, this was during a driving monsoon.�� Edwards had 1 reception late in the game, on a 3rd and 14, and had enough yardage for the first down.� Foolishly enough, Troy then ran backwards in an attempt to gain more yardage, and was tackled short of the sticks.� Luckily, the refs botched the ball and gave him �forward progress�.� C.
TE:� Breuner, the �vastly under-rated receiver� and the God of TEs, dropped one perfect pass that was right in his hands, and had 2 receptions for a whopping 4 yards.�� Each reception was of dubious nature, as both times the clever Breuner sat down in his curl pattern a full yard from the sticks, and, much to his chagrin, both times he was easily stopped well short. �His blocking was marginally effective.�� Jerame Tuman, as usual, caught nothing.�� He also committed a foolish false start penalty.� B-.
OL:� Facing a ravaged Jax front 7, the O-line did a relatively poor job today.� They allowed far too much pocket push and harassment, and they failed to dominate the LOS for the ground game.�� Marvell Smith continued his wretched play with a thoroughly feeble effort.� Gandy struggled here and there, which disappointed me.� The interior line played ok, but gave up some unacceptable pocket push.� This entire unit can, and should, do better.� C.
DL: This unit received a severe blow when Kimo got hurt on the 2nd play from scrimmage.� Their run stuffing of Taylor was decent at times.�� The pocket push and QB harassment, however, was virtually non-existent.� �Fat Casey Hampton had 1 decent slash-and-grab, dropping the RB behind the LOS.� Smith had 4 stops, and Bailey and Combs each had a stop, but no impact from this D-line unit at all.�� B-.
LB:� Joey Porter had a pretty strong game today, holding his own against the run and applying the best pressure out of any Stiller defender.�� Porter, who led the Stillers with 8 solos, helped shut off both the wide, and the off-tackle, lanes for Taylor.�� He also had some good harassment.�� Porter was the man who flushed Brunell from the pocket on the long Smith TD strike, and Porter forced Brunell to hurry an errant throw to Brady in the end zone, which caused Jax to settle for a FG miss.� Earl Holmes also had a decent game in the run-stuffing department.� Holmes punished Mack for a 2-yard loss from the Stiller 2-yard line, forcing the Jags to throw on 3rd down rather than attempting to plunge it in.� Holmes and Porter were unquestionably ready to play football today.� Holmes appeared to be out of position on a couple completions, but, in his defense, the team spent all summer trumpeting the pass-coverage skills of fellow LB Mike Jones, only to deactivate Jones prior to the game.� KenBell got injured during the game, and it�s unknown right now as to the severity of his injury.�� Fiala stepped in for Bell and played like a turd.�� Didn�t scrape well at all; didn�t get to the ball; and didn�t do anything worthwhile or productive.� �Of course, the same could be said about Big Jason Gildon, who stood around like a traffic cone the entire game, and did nothing.�� Gildon had exactly 1 solo the entire day, that coming on a Taylor run to the left which was sealed off, and an untouched Gildon came down the line for the easy stop.� Otherwise, Gildon got hammered and bullied every time the Jags ran right, including a long Taylor scamper of 19 around end and 11 up his right tackle.� Not once did Gildon pressure Brunell into a hurried or poor pass.� One has to wonder exactly where Gildon was on the rainbow throwback pass to TE Jones that netted 22 yards (which I�ll review on tape tomorrow).� B-.
DB:� The Smith/Brady/Jones trio abused this secondary.�� Smith torched DW on the TD, on a play in which DW had inside help, yet foolishly bit way inside and got beaten badly on the �up�.� �Brent struggled today, slipping a couple of times and providing very little safety support.� Townsend took a few lumps from Smith.�� They faced a good passing offense, and got little in the way of pass pressure from the front 7, but this crew should still be disgusted.�� C.
Spec Teams:� A total fiasco.�� Hank calls a FC with no one within 15 yards of him.� The punt coverage was atrocious.� The punt protection, led by Schneck lunging to his left for no useful reason at all, followed by a Witman whiff, got Josh injured.� Will Jackwell did nothing but tip-toe on his 2 KO returns.� If this were an 80-man college roster, I�d replace this entire crew with fresh faces for the next game.� F.
Off Coord:� Well, so much for the �new� Steeler offense, which coordinator Mike Mularkey had kept so top secret the past several weeks.�� It turns out that this offense, aside from a couple minor deviations, is the same old sh!t as the previous 3 years� offenses.�� The Dink and Dump Offense -- aka, the Nickel-Dime Offense -- is alive and well.�� Aside from the deep lobs to Plex and Ward, the offense was content to dink and dump the entire game.� You know it�s bad when a dufus like Craig James sees it, and then draws a line on the TV screen and shows the 10-yard area where 99% of all passes are targeted for.� The Dink and Dump Offense was never more noticeable than in the fourth qtr.�� On 1 series, on a 3rd and 5 and the team down by 18 points, the Dink and Dump Offense hit the speedy Breuner on a 4-yard curl, which was immediately stuffed to force the punt.� Then the Stillers took over at their 20 after a missed FG, with 10:16 left, still down by 18.�� Amoz rushed for 2 and then 18.� Then, the crap-pile sequence of the game began.�� 1st down, 6-yard out to Ward, inc.� 2nd down, 5-yard in to a blanketed Ward, inc.�� 3rd and 10, a 6-yard curl to Shaw, who squirmed for 1 yard of RAC.� �Four plays later, on the play that totally epitomizes the lethargy of the Dink & Dump/15-Cent Offense, Breuner snares a 1-yard pass on 3rd and 2, and gets nothing in RAC.�� The resulting 4th down play turns into a sack; game over.�� We heard this bovine-dropping rationalization a full 2 years ago about Kevin Gaypride�s offense, about �he�s hiding his offense in preseason�.�� It was excrement-filled logic back then, so WHY would anyone get fooled into believing it again?????�� Curl and hitch, curl and hitch -- nothing in this offense gets the ball to receivers who are in-stride, moving toward the end zone.� Mularkey did show a couple attributes...one, a fetish for running the toss sweep to his tubby tailback, which, on 4 occasions, netted a combined 6 or 7 yards.� Two, a predilection to, as his predecessors did, wasting timeouts for no reason whatsoever, such as what occurred at 10:36 of the 2nd qtr.� F.�� �
Def Coord:� Lewis has been here long enough to know that his defense needs to make a few big plays to compensate for a sorry offense.� So what does Lewis do?� He plays a softee, mamby-pamby defense that does NOTHING to pressure nor punish Brunell.� NOTHING.�� The 15-yard scoring pass to Smith came against Lewis� vaunted 3-man rush.� Yes, THREE men rushed the passer, against 5 offensive linemen.� You do the math.� There�s simply too much aggressive talent on this defense to be playing this timid, �back off and react� defense.�� Here�s another brilliant Lewis move --- Mike Jones spent the entire summer being the team�s �coverage LB�, only to be deactivated for today�s game.�� Great planning.�� D.�
Head Coach:� Cowher will be swift to deflect any and all blame, but the fact remains crystal clear: For the 9th consecutive year, Cowher blatantly failed to have his team ready to play football at an NFL level on opening day.� That overt slop you saw today was exactly the kind of slop that Cowher�s teams have perennially done on opening day since 1993.�� It�s quite obvious that the team was nowhere near prepared for the speed of the regular season.� It�s also pretty shameful to have such hideous boners committed on special teams, in which Cowher supposedly is an expert.� And the ultimate fault of that Dink & Dump Offense, and the sit-back, Mamby Pampy Defense that applied ZERO pressure on Brunell the entire game, rests squarely on the head coach, who approved the game plan for this fiasco.� Cowher should -- bit won�t -- shoulder full responsibility for the total abortion committed today at Altel Stadium.�� F.
���� Just as predicted, this was the total team stink that has come to be associated with a Cowher-coached team on opening day.�� There shouldn�t be too many players, nor any member of the coaching staff, who should be too pleased after the through whipping administered by the Jags.� Defensively, the performance was decent, aside from the TDs to Smith and the long gainers by Brady and Taylor.�� The 2nd Jax TD drive was 50 yards, and the 3rd was only 23, so that�s not entirely the fault of the �D�.�� Offensively, trouble looms and the forecast is poor.�� The �new, innovative� offense turns out to be nothing more than the Dink and Dump with a different coach on the blame line.�� A total unwillingness to stretch defenses means that: defenses will crowd the line to stuff Bettis; defenses will continue to sit on the short curls; and this offense will be entirely incapable of coming back from any deficit larger than 2 TDs.�� There�s 15 game remaining, so if the mule stubborn Cowher wants to be competitive, there�s plenty of time to adjust this pathetically grade-school offense, while also turning up the pressure with this defense.��