The $100 Million Decoy
Commentary by PalmerSucks
October 15, 2013
Take it from me: Stillers Nation is alive and kicking.
I had the privilege of watching the team live and in person at Met Life Stadium last Sunday. Considering the 0-4 start, I wondered just what kind of Stillers fan turnout I’d see. I wondered on the drive in, and more as we set up the tailgate.
That question was answered on the way into the stadium as I waded through a sea of black and gold.
Now, I’ve been to plenty of other away games, and have seen some big turnouts. But this one actually beat most of what I’d seen – at times it seemed almost half the fans inside were twirling yellow towels. Again, this was for a team that hadn’t won a single game yet.
Nice job, Stillers Nation. I just hope the home fans earn the same high attendance marks this Sunday.
Now allow me to give you some quick post-game observations:
--The Stillers finally got to play football from ahead, and it showed. The offense took a lead, and the defense seemed more energized. Here’s an example of both sides helping each other – not the other way around.
--Troy Pola’s clean torpedo-shot on Jets WR Hill was exactly the kind of defensive play that’s been missing for far too long. Once Hill absorbed the hit, he seemed less enthusiastic about playing the rest of the game. So did the Jets offense. Was it any coincidence the defense finally scored some turnovers Sunday?
-- Is there a psychological term for “fear of playing rookies”? I knew the Stillers were going to pull Jarvis Jones after he committed a couple of youthful overpursuit goofs. Luckily they came to their senses and put him back in – which paid off when Jones was the player who whacked the QB, forcing the last interception.
--The gadget pass from Brown to Felix Jones was an awesome call. The attempt at the same play later in the game -- on third-and-goal -- was the WORST call of the year. How much are you paying your QB again? A touchdown there ends the game; instead the Stillers keep the Jets alive with this abortion of a play that was dead from the start. Why call TWO receiver-option plays in the same game? And why on THIRD down of all times? You pay your supposed franchise QB the big money to do the job here – not to be a decoy -- taking the ball out of his hands in this situation is just plain assaholic.
--The bomb to Sanders was out of a bunch formation, something that has been missing since Arians left. With Sanders coming out of the bunch, Cromartie had less of a shot to key on him, and it showed. The Stillers need to go back to more bunch sets, which would help smallish Stiller WRs with their separation issues. Long live Bruce Arians! Viva la bunch!
--I watched a special on the Discovery channel about the Stillers and Vikings preparing for the game in London. At the end they showed some game footage; Jared Allen is shown on the sidelines LAUGHING to his teammates about Mike Adams giving away the play pre-snap (run or pass). Yes, like a yokel poker player with a bad tell, Adams spent the game helping opposing pass rushers pad their stats. That’s why he HAD to go. If Beachum can even reach so-so level at LT, the Stillers have a shot to win a lot more games this year.
--Speaking of which: if Allen noticed Adams giving away the plays, why couldn’t the Stillers coaching staff?
Though it was against a so-so Jets squad, damn it felt good to finally see a win. Up next are the Ravens, in a game the Stillers must approach with playoff-like intensity.
The Return of the Average One
Once again the Stillers will face off against Average Joe Flacco, who’s justified his new $120 million contract with a turd-worthy 76.2 QB rating (well below even his lukewarm 85.5 career average) -- meaning he’s not even reached average status this season. A few weeks ago against the Texans, Flacco racked up all of 53 yards passing the first half, yet somehow the Ravens went into the locker room UP eight points thanks to a punt AND a pick returned for scores. (Go into a Vegas sports book and see what odds they’ll give you on both a punt return and an interception being returned for TDs in the same half.)
Yes, once again, instead of being grilled for his own weak play, Flacco skates by blameless, thanks to his teammates covering up for him. And in case you think I’m just being a hater, I assure you I’m not the only one taking notice. (It’s just come a little late.) This includes the central PA Patriot-News, which has the Ravens at the top of their “NFL Teams on the Decline” list. Points out the P-N:
Baltimore: This is more about Joe F(l)acco than the Ravens. The Super Bowl MVP has been far from super this season, throwing eight interceptions to seven TD passes. He also has four fumbles and even though he has only lost one, it's cause for concern moving forward.
Sorry Joe, but sooner or later even an escape-the-blame artist like yourself is going to be exposed. The big question going into Sunday is, can the Stillers make Flacco look as mediocre as everyone else has? The key to the game: no punt-return TDs (like the one that Jones returned to win the Sunday Night game), no defensive TDs; in short, no get-out-of-jail-free cards for the Average One. (And with Boldin gone, maybe we get to see a few less of those patented blind jump balls, too.)
Currently Baltimore is posting some of its lowest rushing totals in years, as teams key on stopping Rice. The Ravens with Flacco having to carry the load are quite the beatable team. Joe Flacco will almost always present you with a late turnover – it’s just a matter of capitalizing on it.
Joe Flacco has received more bailouts than Goldman Sachs. It’s time that ends this Sunday. If the Stillers are going to let Flacco off the hook and give up more special teams scores, however, things are going to end up like they did on that Sunday Night last season.
The other key will be Beachum keeping Suggs off Ben’s back. After getting beat badly by Muhammed Wilkerson on the Stillers’ second possession (only to see Roethlisberger cheat the Jets out of a safety) Beachum was nearly flawless. He’ll need to pick up where he left off for this important division matchup.
A win Sunday, and the Stillers might actually be back in the race for the North. A loss however puts them at 1-5, with a game down against both Cincy and Baltimore. That’s likely a hole too deep from which to crawl.
WELCOME BACK: Once said to be finished, Sean Spence looks to return to practice this week. The Stillers sure could use the help at LB. Spence’s superior football instincts should be intact – let’s hope the knee can keep up.