Football Deception

Aside from a game on my birthday when I had a game where I picked a couple of interceptions and had a punt return for a touchdown–something I’d never done before and haven’t done since–I can’t remember a play I’ve been able to savor for so long than the one I had the Wednesday before Christmas during a league touch football game with City Sports Connection.

The best thing about my play was that not only did I not score on the play, I didn’t even touch the ball.

The play was designed for The Veteran as the primary receiver. He was to run a ten-yard out pattern on the right side. I was lined up as the slot receiver on the same side and it was my job to run a fly pattern to pull the safety with me and away from The Veteran.

I burst off the line, huffing and pufing, selling the bomb. The safety bought what I was selling, turning his back to the play and running with me stride for stride. I glanced over my shoulder and noticed out of the corner of my eye that The Veteran had caught his out route and had turned up field, having beat his defender.

All that stood betwen him and the end zone was my defender and I. So my job turned into keeping my defender as far away from The Veteran as possible. Toward that end, I started waving my right hand, as if to signal to my quarterback that I was open. My defender bought it, turning his running up a notch.

The guy followed me for another 15 yards when I noticed him turning his head to look back, so I stretched both arms out in front of me, pinkies touching, as if to catch the ball over my shoulder. That bought me enough attention from the defender to bring him down to about the 10 yard line. At that time I noticed him starting to look backfield again, so I stuck my right arm around him, as if I was trying to catch a poorly-thrown ball with one hand. That made him pay attention to that move and bought The Veteran just enough time to slip into the end zone before my defender figured out that The Vet had the ball.

"David, you ROCK!" The Vet said as he crossed into the end zone.

One of the great things about playing sports, is when you make a great play, you’ve got the memory of that play to carry around with you until the next great play. Conversely, bad plays can haunt you in just the same way.

And that is why it helps to play as often as I do; currently, three times a week: Wednesday and Thursday in league games, and our normal year-round Saturday pick up touch football game.

So, I’ve been carrying around the memory of this play for longer than normal because we only had four people show up last Saturday, Christmas Eve; any plays I made are mitigated by the fact that with two-on-twos, it’s easy to make plays.

But some plays, like my aforementioned punt return, will stand out for a long time to come. The deception play will be one of those that will bring a grin to my face every time I think of it.

Preview – Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears

So, this year went disasterously wrong. To be fair to myself, it did require that the Vikes beat some teams they were perfectly capable of beating. On the other hand, I shouldn’t let myself off the hook too easily, either: I was being awfully optimistic about their chances.

But those things happen when you’re caught up in the excitement of a six-game winning streak.

With no chance to play in the offseason, I approach game with ambivalence. As division champs, the Bears have a bye, so their main concern will be to stay healthy for the playoffs.

With the Bears resting their starters, will the Vikings be able to pull this one out? With nothing to play for, will the Vikings rally behind and try and send owner a message that they want their coach back? Will they suit up to play simply for the dignity of finishing the season with a winning record?

Or, faced with a meaningless game and a lost season, will they play it safe and not give 100% in order to avoid injury? I have no idea.

See what I mean? Ambivalent.

When Did The Metrodome Become British?

I have been wondering for some time why the folks at KFAN keep dropping the “the” when referring the Metrodome, such as when Paul Allen introduces his Vikings broadcast by saying “Welcome to Metrodome” rather than “Welcome to the Metrodome.”

I’d first noticed the British habit of dropping the “the” during BBC news broadcasts where the anchors would say, for example, a student was “at university” or a victim was “at hospital.” Then, maybe two years ago, I noticed the phenomenon make it’s way into the mouths of American anchors at 24 hour cable news outlets like CNN. Well, they’re trying to sound cosmopolitan, I thought.

It makes a certain amount of sense for CNN to adopt the habit, especially if they are positioning some of their content for a European or global audience. But when sportsguys on KFAN start doing it, it just sounds like a) they’re mindless copycats, or b) they’re trying too hard.

So today, P.A. and Dubay did a bit on the subject prompted by a letter from a listener taking them to task for dropping the “the.” P.A., to his credit, believed that the letter writer was correct. Jeff Dubay, on the other hand, was derisive and dismissive of the letter writer, saying flatly that he was wrong.

Sorry, Dubay: You’re wrong. :

A few “institutional” nouns take no definite article when a certain role is implied: for example, at sea [as a sailor], in prison [as a convict]. Among this group, Commonwealth English has in hospital [as a patient] and at university [as a student], where American English requires in the hospital and at the university. (A nurse, visitor, etc. would be in the hospital in both systems.) On the other hand, American English distinguishes in back of [behind] from in the back of; the former is unknown in Britain and liable to misinterpretation as the latter. Both however distinguish in front of from in the front of.

Preview – Minnesota Vikings vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

HBO’s Inside the NFL host to beat the today. His co-host and former receiver wouldn’t go that far. I will, of course, because the Vikings have an excellent chance to win this game.

It’s a safe assumption, after the Steelers beat the Bears by running the Bus down their thoats last week, that Pittsburgh will try and do the same this week against the Vikings; especially with nursing what everyone thinks is a broken thumb on his throwing hand. The Steelers have not had a deep passing game, so it’s also a safe assumption that the reason is Roethlisberger simply can’t throw the ball that far.

That’s good, because it allows the Vikes to focus on shutting down the run against a tough running team. The chatter has been that we’ve got to shut down bruising running back Jerome Bettis but if I’m Cowher, I’d put the rock in Willie Parker‘s hands because it makes more sense to start the faster back on the Field Turf of the Metrodome.

Regardless of whose in there for the Steelers, I’m confident of the Vikings ability to keep the running game in check. Pat Williams has been a monster this year and despite the excellent play of rookie DT C.J. Mosely, we get Kevin Williams back from injury today and that will definitely help.

This will be a game of ball control and field position for both teams. The Steelers want to run run run and the Vikings will want to run just enough to make the play-action-pass believable. And if the game will turn on field position, I’ll take the Vikings for three reasons: Robinson, Moore, and Kluwe.

If Koren Robinson and Mewelde Moore have some good kick returns today, it will go a long way toward putting the Vikings offense in position to put some points on the board. I’m not going to go all hating on punter Darren Bennett because he did us a favor last week by playing for the injured Chris Kluwe, or as we Vikings fans have taken to calling him: The Franchise. It was glaringly apparent how much we miss Kluwe’s 45 yard average last week. We get him back this week and if he continues the way he’s been playing all year, he will help set up a long field from which the Steelers must start their drives.

Finally, quarterback Brad Johnson has just found a way to win since he took over for Daunte Culpepper. It don’t always look pretty but a win’s a win and it’s hard not to feel confident in Johnson’s veteran savvy.

Preview – Chicago Bears vs. Atlanta Falcons

I’ll be doing a little bit of scoreboard watching today, hoping the can pull out a victory today over the and help the cause.

The Falcons–who are also fighting for a playoff spot–have an excellent chance leave with a victory today in Chicago. Atlanta is one of the league’s premier running teams and use Denver’s zone blocking scheme, which is very tough to defend against. (The best article explaining zone blocking that I’ve read thus far is by . Read it.)

The Bears, obviously, have a tough defense but the absence of strong safety Mike Brown hurt them last week against the , and could hurt them again today. Brown is supurb against the run; there is a performance drop-off with his replacement, Todd Johnson, who is also vulnerable against the pass.

Atlanta just needs to get ahead, hold the lead, and make the Bears rookie QB Kyle Orton prove that he can come from behind. I don’t think he can.

Finally, Atlanta does have their X factor at quarterback, Michael Vick. If one player can single-handedly beat a team, as we Vikings fans know, Vick can.

Scouting – Pittsburgh Steelers News

Here are some links for you to read up on this week’s opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Reason 4,553.98 Why I Love The Internet

I love the Internet(s) so much. How much? This much:

Mistakes can be hilarious, as Harry Shearer demonstrates to great effect each week. Shearer devotes a segement of his radio show, Le Show, to detailng the apologies of the week with The BeatlesUncle Albert playing in the background: We’re so sorry

Likewise, Craig Silverman‘s Regret The Error blog does a superb job of chronicling the mistakes of the news media. His December 13 post details 2005’s best errors and corrections,

The Correction of the Year goes to the Denver Daily News who ran a story that referred to New Jersey as "Jew Jersey." Oops.

Summit Beer

On September 25, 1986, Minnesota’s best home brew, , was born. It’s not surprising that this momentous event went overlooked at the time.

On September 25, 1986, there were .

On September 25, 1986, , the president of the Philipines, went into exile in the US after a 20 year rule and was replaced by , who became that country’s first woman president. But you couldn’t have hoisted a nice cold Summit Beer in celebration.

On September 25, 1986, President appointed appointed to Supreme Court of the United States.

On September 25, 1986, the were 65-86 before they . Twins pitcher lost to the Royals’ . went 2 for 5, driving in for the Twins only run. It was ‘s 13th major league game as a head coach. The Twins woud finish 71-91, just edging out the Seattle Mariners for possession of the cellar of the American League’s Western Division. the following year. But if you’d gone to the game that day at the Metrodome, you couldn’t have ordered a Summit Beer in the third inning.

On September 25, 1986, an 1884-S Barber Head dime was sold for $83,000 in a California coin auction.

The week of September 25, 1986, you could have heard singing Stuck With You and singing Amanda. On September 25, 1986, , watching bad movies on HBO and preparing for and playing a gig at Stashe’s. But no one at Stashe’s was drinking Summit Beer.

On September 25, 1986, you could have chosen to see , , , , , , , , or at your local movie theater.

On September 25, 1986, the books on your bedside table could have included It by ; Red Storm Rising by ; Whirlwind by ; The Bourne Supremacy by ; Hollywood Husbands by ; Fatherhood by ; His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra by ; The Rotation Diet by ; Word for Word by ; and James Herriot’s Dog Stories by .

On September 25, 1985, you would have watched the following shows on TV: ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; or

In fact, , you wouldn’t have been able to have a nice, cold Summit Beer. But fortunately for us Minnesotans, our state’s best craft beer, Summit Beer, is now fairly widely available.

Looking Ahead – Vikings Playoff Chances

Six weeks ago I’d resigned myself to watching a losing season of young players developing and a consolation prize of a high pick in next year’s draft. I even started watching some college games to familiarize myself with potential picks. And that’s saying a lot because I do not like college football.

Then came the first Detroit victory and I’m like, yeah, well, it was Detroit. But when we beat the Giants with no touchdowns on offense, you had to be impressed. With the win at Green Bay with time expiring–again–you started to think, yeah, well, maybe this could work.

While coach Mike Tice is telling anyone who will listen not to look ahead, it’s an admonition only the players need to heed–and they do need to heed it–not you and I. So let’s look ahead.

If the don’t look ahead to Pittsburg the following week, they should have an easy time of it against the Rams on Sunday. The Rams are a battered team playing with a rookie seventh-round quaterback. They apparently can’t muster enough run support to protect Ryan Fitzpatrick. Last week against the Redskins, Rams running back Steven Jackson gained a measly 24 yards on 11 carries.

The team is just as battered on the opposite side of the ball. Starting linebacker Dexter Coakley dislocated his ankle and broke his leg last week, landing him on the IR and ending his season. Former Viking linebacker Chris Claiborne has been a disappointing offseason free agent acquisition for the Rams, contributing little thus far this. Strong safety Adam Archuleta will return to the lineup after missing two games because of a concussion but cornerback Travis Fisher‘s season is probably over with a groin injury that exacerbates an already thin secondary, depleted because starting corner Jerametrius Butler is already on IR.

The Redskins had two one hundred yard rushers against the Rams last Sunday. Two.

So the offense can’t run and the defense can’t stop the run. All this and they’ve got an interim head coach running the show.

If the Vikings can’t beat the Rams at home…well, c’mon.

The , meanwhile, go to Pittsburg on Sunday and with a . Kyle Orton has played unspectacular and unproductive but largely mistake-free football while riding an eight game winning streak. Rex Grossman, the talented but fragile QB the front office apparently still believes to be their future, is getting healthier by the minute and has just been promoted to the number two postion.

Don’t look over your shoulder, Kyle. Can Orton handle that pressure and the at the same time? We’ll see.

The Steelers are not looking like their usual badass selves of late–they’ve apparently lost the ability to run–but it’s not implausible that they could find their running game against the Bears. Or the Steelers tough D matches the Bears D and it’s up to which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes. I’ll put my money on Roethlisberger.

This week we could very well gain a game on the Bears.

The following week we’ve got Pittsburg, at home. If we’re lucky, the Bears will have beat them bloody in a losing effort so we get to play a Steelers team hobbled from the week before. Even so, Pittsburg is not so formidable anymore. The Bears, meanwhile, host an team that ain’t all that anymore but still has enough talent to potentially beat the Bears.

In Week 16 we travel to Baltimore to play a punchless–and now, Ray Lewisless–Ravens team. That’s a win, if, again, the Vikings do not look past them to Chicago. The Bears have to travel to Lambeau Field to play the who, despite having a horrible season, have been very close in nearly every game this year. NFC North teams always play each other tough. I could see the Bears losing in Green Bay.

That sets up our final game of the season in Week 17 when we host the Bears for a game that will possibly–dare I say probably?–decide the NFC North. The good news is they have to play in the Dome and, with the title on the line, the crowd noise will be deafening. It is a distinct advantage that can usually screw up one or two drives a game for the visitors.

If Grossman is the starter by then, all we need to do is tackle him a few times to get Orton back in the lineup. The defense has been improving weekly so by then it’s possible we could be hitting on all cylinders. That would leave it up to the quarterbacks, and I’ll take Brad Johnson‘s veteran savvy and smart game management over any quaterback Chicago cares to throw at us.

And, voila! There you have it: Vikings, Division Winners.

Scouting – St. Louis Rams News

Here are some links for you to read up on this week’s opponent, the Saint Louis Rams (updated 12/31/06):