Stillers-Indy Post Game Notes (Aug 19th)
Please note 2 things: 1.) This is preseason, so this is not a full-blown "report", but rather notes on some key things. 2.) I've repeated this throughout preseason -- I do not care about wins/losses in preseason, but rather how players, schemes, and teamwork look.
- Gutless . That's the one word that can best describe Bill Cowhead and his GUTLESS approach to calling the shots for this team. I saw pretty much all I needed to see, when we opened the game with a DESIGNED 2-yard out pass to Jon Wittman. We ran this play, oh, about 24 times last year, and 18 times in '98, and only on the rarest occasions does it gain more than 2 yards. Why, then, WASTE a play and a down on such an imbecilicly feeble play ?? Supposedly, we've "revamped" our offense�but all I see is the same old horsedroppings, such as the worthless out pass to the bootfooted Wittman, one of the slowest backs in the NFL.
The more worse case of the GUTLESS Cowher, came near the end of the 1st quarter, with the team down 21-0. The offense faced a 4th and 1 at the Indy 4, courtesy of a 7-yard hitch on 3rd and 9 that netted about 8 yards. Rather than seeing HOW Stewart would handle the situation, and WHAT our receivers could do, or how our 29th ranked offense would perform, Cowher orders a FG by Kris Brown. This was as gutless and no-brained as it gets. Sure, Indy faced a similar dilemma in the 2nd half, but their situation is FAR different. Unlike us, they easily have 1 of the top 2 offenses in the AFC. And Indy wanted their kickoff man, Kite, to boot the FG to see how he would do. We have the one of the WORST offenses in all of pro football the last 2 years, and we have a solid kicker in Brown, who won't reap much training benefit from kicking 21-yard FGs. It was sheer asininity for Cowher to send in the FG team, rather than force Stewart and the offense to TRY to score a TOUCHDOWN, something that was rarely scored the past 2 seasons. Maybe someone can explain the value and purpose of kicking a 21-yard FG, as opposed to seeing what the 29th worst offense in the NFL and the team's Achilles heel can do against a marginal defense on 4th and 1 on the 4-yard line.
More overt gutlessness occurred in the final seconds of the game. Tee Martin led the time on a nice, 89-yard march for a TD, making the game 24-23 with 10 seconds left. Rather than putting the ball in Martin's hand to see how the youngster could perform under pressure, Cowher orders a line plunge to Pepe Pearson, whose ONLY reason for being on the team is to serve as a body in camp while our injured RBs get healed. Here's Cowher, who supposedly is trying to determine whether to keep Wright or Martin as the 3rds stringer, with the PERFECT opportunity to give Martin a mini-crucible to pass/fail, with some sort of rollout or pass to the EZ, and instead he orders a vanilla line plunge to a RB who is soon going to be sent packing to the unemployment line. This should come as no surprise, of course. Stiller fans with good memories may recall the preseason game versus Philly back in '96, in which Stewart rallied the team late in the 4th quarter, after lackluster performances by Tomcrack and Miller. Stewart almost singlehandedly brought the team back, and the team needed a 2-point conversion in the waning moments to win the game. Rather than putting the ball and RESPONSIBILITY in Stewart's hands, Cowher and his dim-bulb staff ordered a line plunge by Fred McAfee, which was easily stuffed by the Philly defense.
Last, but not least�.the team was short of RBs, with Pearson and Amoz the only healthy tailbacks. So, Jon Wittman carried the ball for what amounted to a career day in terms of carries, mostly in the 3rd quarter. Question: WHY?? We don't need to find out about Jon Wittman, the runner. If Pearson and Amoz were getting fatigued, then go to PASSING formations and THROW the damn ball. We have this stable of receivers, many of whom can't catch the ball consistently, and many of whom are rarely on the same page as the QB.
- Kevin Gilbride will be drooling all over himself. On a 3d and 11, late in the game, Martin completed a screen pass -- Gilbride's favorite play -- to Amoz that netted about 13 yards and the 1st down. Of course, never mind that the 5th string defense was in the game�Gilbride will go into opening day thinking his screen play will beat Ray Lewis and the ultra-quick Raven defense.
- When will Troy Edwards put up and shut up? On 1 SERIES in the 2nd quarter, he dropped 3 passes. One was an easy gimme, on a hitch. One was a semi-tough catch on a slant. And one was a TD pass, had he caught it, in which there was a flag for PI, but the PI occurred before the ball arrived.
- Stewart played alright�.at least much better than the 2 previous stench-o-ramas. He was victimized by a drop by Shaw on a WIDE open flag pattern that would have netted 25 yards. On the play prior to that one, a long looping toss down the s-line to Plex was inc., but should have been ruled either PI or illegal contact past 5 yards. The INT was a pass to Breuner in the EZ on a play that began at the 12. I'm not fond of Breuner at all, and I'm rarely fond of throwing to him in the EZ when we have Burress, Malcolm, and others on our payroll. And Breuner, to his discredit, SAT on the ball, rather than coming back to the QB to snare the ball. To Stewart's detriment, he missed 2 EASY TD passes�.one on an simple in-route to Ward from relatively short distance, and one on a semi-mini-scramble and deep-throw to Burress, who was clearly behind the defense, but the pass was out of the end zone. The name of the game is scoring TOUCHDOWNS, and Stewart is still struggling poorly in this endeavor.
- Cowher supposedly has preached about focus, and "little details", etc. Oh, sure. On the game's opening kickoff, which Brown booted deep into the EZ for a touchback, Mike Vrabel -- he of 3 prior NFL seasons -- was flagged for being offsides.
- How 'bout all that brutally hard tackling at camp that we CONTINUALLY hear about from the media and from the coaches�? The coverage teams went about their tackles as though they were trying to tackle lepers.
- It's nice to see Jason Gildon rounding into mid-season form. On the 1st Colt TD, Manning faked the play-action, and Dilger acted as though he was blocking down on the DE. Gildon bought the whole fakery -- hook, line, and sinker. Dilger snuck out in the flat and EASILY beat the bamboozled Gildon for a 10-yard TD play. The next series, on a key 3rd-and-1, E. James bounced the running play around his right end, while Gildon was getting BURIED head-first into the Mexican mud, for a 4-yard gainer (plus Scott's facemask penalty). And on a Manning scramble to his right late in the 2nd quarter, Kendrick Clancy blew by Gildon, in their pursuit of the QB, like Michael Johnson blowing by the field on the final turn of the 200-meter dash. This was so alarming, that at halftime, I immediately re-wound the tape to watch this play 3 more times, just to be sure. Yeah, sure, Clancy was drafted for his quickness, but it's embarrassing for a NT to whip by a supposedly "quick OLB" in the pursuit of a scrambling QB. If you have a VCR, ya gotta watch this play.
- Hank Poteat had a fairly miserable nite. On his 1st punt return, he foolishly called a FC with no one in sight�.and then coughed up the ball and gave it to Indy at the 11. On another punt, he again called for a FC with no one within 15 yards. I guess he's just taking after his head coach, the gutless Bill Cowher�.
- John Fiala had a nice nite, making stops, chipping in, even batting a pass downfield.
- Chad Scott was simply abused by Harrison on the 77-yard bomb. Of course, Shields -- frozen by Manning's play-fake -- left him out to dry and offered no help whatsoever.
- Anyone watch Manning's play-action fakes??? Now, compare them with Stewart's. And then explain why Manning's play-action fakes are about 8 times more believable, more carried out, and more deceptive. Isn't Gilbride supposed to be the grand guru of offense ??
- Bear in mind, of course, that Manning has a QB coach. Cowher staunchly insists that Stewart doesn't need one.
- I need to start cooking up my prediction for the Stiller season. Frankly, I'm not overly optimistic. Going into camp, I was HOPING to see some changes in the scheme of this offense --- ie, using Stewart's athleticism; using more skill players and less lumbering slopokes like Wittman and Breuner; spreading the field; improved mechanics by Stewart; more downfield passing. We've seen such little change that I feel like Tom Hanks in "Groundhog Day", and despite a defense that will be better this year, I'm disappointed how slovenly this offense looks. And next week versus Wash, the starters will play a couple series and then be rushed to the bench to avoid injury. If changes haven't occurred by now -- after FOUR preseason games -- they ain't gonna occur, period. Especially with Little Billy at the helm.
The Still Mill