Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
27 Aug 2009
by Mike Tanier
On Monday, August 24th, I watched preseason football games from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., breaking only for dinner. I watched the NFL Network replays, commercials and all, then watched the ESPN telecast of Jets-Ravens. This is my story:
7:00 a.m.: First game: Bills at Packers. Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon make the call. After a two-minute pregame show, I watch my first commercials of the day: Courtyard at Marriot and eHarmony.com. I feel like meeting my soulmate and taking her to a hotel.
7:08 a.m.: Tip-drill interception by Brady Poppinga. Now the Bills' offensive line looks bad. On the sidelines, Mike McCarthy carries a sharpie in the back band of his baseball cap. Decorative and useful.
7:27 a.m.: B.J. Raji enters game and ... drops into coverage? The new Packers' 3-4 defense looks great. Aaron Kampman looks confident when dropping into coverage. Charles Woodson has blitzed twice. The Packers just ran an overload blitz, something they didn't do much last year. You can tell Dom Capers is calling the plays. The Packers defense dominated the Browns in Week 1 and are controlling the Bills. Can’t wait to see what they do against an NFL offensive line.
7:31 a.m.: Sideline reporter Jessie Garcia is ... let's go with "plain." She introduces a segment with Aaron Rodgers and some other Packers having a guitar jam session. Rodgers is forming a record label called Suspended Sunrise. Groovy. Sounds like Roger Goodell on a power trip.
7:35 a.m.: Lovely back shoulder pass to Donald Driver on the right sideline, then a touchdown. It's 14-0, and Rodgers can suspend all the sunrises he wants with throws like that.
7:42 a.m.: What does the mom in the Febreeze commercial smell on those curtains? Smoke? Should she have the kid drug tested? Is it really a good idea to let him have two girls in his bedroom? I think she is helping her son clean up for a pot-fueled menage a trois. I may be reading too much into this ad.
7:52 a.m.: It's 21-0 Packers after a scramble-and-throw from Rodgers to Driver. Rich Gannon thinks that Dick Jauron is "sick to his stomach." Could be worse: He could have to deal with Terrell Owens... Oh, right.
8:02 a.m.: Brian Brohm enters the game and has a ball batted back in his face. Brohm's glove is strapped to his belt: He's not allowed to wear it after it caused him problems in Cleveland. So now it looks like he has an udder.
8:09 a.m.: Here comes Ryan Fitzpatrick! If you are going to go no-huddle all the time, it helps to have quarterbacks from Stanford and Harvard. A good tackle by the "ever present" (according to Harlan) Desmond Bishop. The Packers are still corner blitzing, the Bills still foundering. An on-screen ad appears: "Eat like the Packers at Curly's Pub." I don't want to eat like B.J. Raji. A kid named Spencer Havnet is playing fullback, tight end, and linebacker for the Packers.
8:19 a.m.: Brohm overthrows a receiver by ten feet, leading to an interception. The Green Bay defense comes on the field, and rookie cornerback Brandon Underwood appears to be 13 years old and weigh 104 pounds. Fitzpatrick fumbles. Bishop makes the play; he really is ever-present.
8:26 a.m.: It's 24-0 Packers at halftime. The Packers are wearing yellow wool hats on the sidelines. August in Wisconsin.
8:32 a.m.: Havner catches two straight short passes. The announcers state for a third time that he plays linebacker, fullback, and tight end. The Packers punt, and gunner Rick Swayne crushes the punt returner a full second before the ball arrives.
8:42 a.m.: A tight end named Jonathan Stupar traps a reception, and there's a long review. The band 3 Doors Down now makes background music for Geico Caveman ads. Maybe Suspended Sunshine Records will pick them up. You can see dirt fly up on the replay, but Walt Coleman says it's a catch. Amazingly, there are still tons of Packers fans at the 24-0 preseason game. And they are ticked about the call.
8:46 a.m.: Desmond Bishop interception! Lateral! Penalty! Kill me! Underwood hurts his eye and must visit his pediatrician.
9:01 a.m.: The Bills are threatening. Harlan does a great job of updating the changes in the Packers defense: He's tracking all the Cyril Obiozor and Danny Lansanah types as they come and go. Touchdown, Bills! Fitzpatrick to Stupar: the first points allowed by the Packers in the preseason.
9:07 a.m.: Here comes Matt Flynn! Gannon says Flynn has beaten Brohm for the No. 2 quarterback job. From what I've seen, I believe him. Jessie Garcia interviews Aaron Kampman. An auto repair insurance ad: the one with the guy who looks like Dhani Jones winking creepily at a mechanic.
913 a.m.: Here comes Gibran Hamdan! He throws to Xavier Oman. Harlan is still introducing every Packers fourth string safety like they are ushers at his wedding. A woman is dancing with a cheese bra. Flynn just fumbled, and he's grabbing his arm. Here comes Brohm again! Attention Packers: Please get a real backup quarterback. Thank you.
9:20 a.m.: Havner is playing linebacker. The announcers can't get enough of him.
9:38 a.m.: Dane Randolph, a right tackle, makes a great block on a touchdown run by Tyrell Sutton. Randolph is a blogger for the Washington Post. He wants to go skeet shooting with Packers fans. His mother is a naval cryptologist. If you need any more information, contact his stalker, Jessie Garcia.
9:55 a.m.: Game One over. Four to go.
10:01 a.m.: Falcons at Rams, Matrin Kilcoyne and Trent Green with the call. Marc Bulger is hurt, so Kyle Boller is starting. This will be rough. On the crawl, the Bengals just signed Sam Swank to challenge Chad Ochocinco for the kicker job. The NFLN’s "all 65 preseason games" commercial is starting to sound like a threat. Sideline reporter Maurice Drummond shows us the new-and-improved Edward Jones Dome, which has the largest scoreboard in the NFL that can't be destroyed by Mat McBriar.
10:12 a.m.: Michael Turner slices and dices on a Falcons touchdown drive. The Rams defense looks overmatched. Here comes Boller!
10:14 a.m.: At least three different companies hawk "auto repair insurance" on NFLN. It’s great to see that our nation's financial predators have adjusted to the new economy.
10:24 a.m.: Turner is done for the day: a smart move. The Rams line isn't getting any pressure and Tye Hill gets outmuscled in the corner of the end zone by Tony Gonzalez to make it 14-0 Falcons.
10:35 a.m.: Boller floats an ugly pass; Brent Grimes nearly picks it off. Rams rookie tackle Jason Smith gets walked back on one play, rag-dolled on the next. Boller scrambles for a first down, and the announcers politely ignore the second overall pick lying on his back.
10:43 a.m.: A Jason Smith highlight reel also misses his Raggedy Andy moment. Boller throws a bomb to a wide-open Laurent Robinson. The pass is overthrown by five yards. That's our Kyle.
10:47 a.m.: Here comes D.J. Shockley! A near interception by Will Witherspoon, then a tip-drill pick by James Laurinaitis. Where have all the dependably boring backup quarterbacks gone?
10:53 a.m.: The NFLN has been running the same "Hang Time" promo for six months. It features comedian Jeff Ross and some Chargers cheerleaders interviewing sailors on an aircraft carrier. There's an intro that suggests "Hang Time" is some sort of series, but this is the only promo that has ever aired. Ross does nothing funny, the cheerleaders do nothing sexy, and the seamen look a little confused as they compare life on a naval vessel to life in the NFL. The more you watch this ad –- and I've seen it at least three hundred times -- the stranger it looks.
10:57 a.m.: Pictures of Joe Laurinaitis with his dad, one of the Road Warriors wrestling tag team. Kilcoyne and Green discuss Rowdy Roddy Piper for a moment. Meanwhile, Jerious Norwood is nearly killed by his own blocker, tackle Sam Baker, on a screen. On the next series, Jason Smith can't keep Jammal Anderson away from Boller despite flagrant holding. Smith isn't ready.
11:19 a.m.: Boller stays in the pocket under pressure on third-and-long and throws a nice pass to Laurent Robinson on an in-route. Robinson looks good. My attention is starting to wane. I have been sitting in one spot since 8 a.m.
11:31 a.m.: Here comes Brock Berlin, healthy after an injury last week! A third quarter end-around gets called back when receiver Ronald Curry holds. The Rams roster is littered with these guys: Samkon Gado, Curry, Hollis Thomas.
11:38 a.m.: Kilcoyne and Green contrast the new Edward Jones Dome with Cowboys Stadium and agree that there's no comparison. Somewhere in America, Jerry Jones gets a tingle up his spine. Kilcoyne is trying to talk Trent Green out of retirement. Shockley has settled down at quarterback, but the Rams bring two blitzers off the right edge. Neither is blocked, and Shockley fumbles. It's the first Steve Spagnuolo moment I have seen. He is probably keeping the blitz packages under wraps until he figures out who can execute them. Berlin throws a touchdown to Derrick Stanley on a slant. Stanley, like Robinson, has good hands and can adjust to the ball.
11:49 a.m.: Chandler Lewis trips during a kickoff return. A Rams gunner rips his helmet off as Lewis tries to get up. Football at its finest.
12:05 p.m.: NFLN announces that JaMarcus Russell is the Raiders starter. If you don’t like it, take it up with Coach Cable, who can kill you 20 ways with that chair. Jason Elam just kicked a field goal: 17-10 Falcons. Green asks, "This is still the third quarter, isn't it?" Yes, Trent. And Billy Bajema is in the game.
12:31 p.m.: John Parker Wilson is the Falcons quarterback: a good time to collect my thoughts. I got a look at the new Packers defense, which looks vastly improved. Kampman looks comfortable as a linebacker. Aaron Rodgers is ready to take another step forward. I've seen the Bills in all three preseason games, and I don’t know what they are trying to do offensively except run the no-huddle poorly. The Falcons looked professional and efficient; the Rams are a rebuilding team with an injured quarterback and a hundred guys to sift through on the roster. I've seen some players I like -- Robinson, Raji -- and I've learned about a few buzz guys like Desmond Bishop. So this has been productive. Not as productive as, say, living my life. But productive.
12:42 p.m.: Gado is returning kickoffs in the fourth quarter. Here comes Keith Null! In a commercial, Kevin Boss catches a football one-handed from a ball machine about 15 feet away. No L.J. Smiths were killed during the making of this advertisement.
12:50 p.m.: Null leads the Rams to a fourth-and-6 situation in the red zone. A touchdown and extra point would tie the game. Trent Green wants a very specific play: a high-low that puts pressure on the safety. Coach Green doesn’t get his wish. Null misses a drag route that would have netted first down yardage, throwing an interception in the end zone instead. Time to get ready for Game Three.
1:00 p.m.: Vikings-Chiefs. This is going to be brutal, for one obvious reason. Ari Wolfe and Mike Mayock make the call. Mayock will save us.
1:07 p.m.: Fumbled kickoff by Julian Battle, then a penalty. Here comes Matt Cassel, scrambling for a first down!
1:11 p.m.: Jamaal Charles trips and fumbles. The Chiefs' first series shows little. I can't tell what Todd Haley has in store this year: He is running a lot of vanilla in the preseason, and Cassel is mostly running for his life. Defensively, the Chiefs reveal a little more. They are blitzing a lot, with Mike Vrabel lining up all over the formation, dogging, blitzing, and dropping.
1:20 p.m.: "That was a Cover-2 with a trail technique by Antoine Winfield." I heart Mayock. Now he is explaining scramble rules. It's a shame we will never get to hear analysis like this during a real game.
1:25 p.m.: E.J. Henderson tackles Larry Johnson. Johnson has even less left than he had last year and the year before. Chad Greenway gets quick penetration on a third-and-short. The Vikings linebackers look good. Ryan Succup makes a field goal. A Percy Harvin fake reverse kickoff return ends up at the 23-yard line. The Vikings are a garden of unrequited hype.
1:39 p.m.: Cassel sacked: Fred Evans blows up Rudy Niswanger. Evans is the primary backup to the Williams tackles, so the Vikings may need him to play well through a suspension. Mayock beats me to that observation. Another sack, loose ball, and debacle. There will be no quick turnaround in Kansas City.
1:42 p.m.: A Tarvaris Jackson bomb to Sydney Rice ... just out of bounds. He threw too late. More Mayock wisdom. I feel obsolete. Jackson then throws a nice pass on the run to Jaymar Johnson. It's a shame Jackson is about four yards downfield when he throws it.
1:48 p.m.: The Chiefs run an interesting play-action rollout sweep, with Cassel hitting Dwayne Bowe on a crossing route. They follow with a counter-play-action-screen that falls apart. Then a reverse to Quinten Lawrence. These plays look like a peek into the Todd Haley playbook. Touchdown to Bowe on a slant.
1:54 p.m.: Darius Reynaud leaps over a defender on a kick return. Take that, Harvin! Naturally, there's a flag on the play. Vikings executive Steve LaCroix, whom Mayock calls "Ice Man," is in the booth. The Vikings must like guys with French names. I should apply for a job.
2:00 p.m.: Adrian Peterson is still in the game with 8:46 to play in the second quarter. He is trucking Chiefs defenders. The Vikings are feeding him to the line. Is this really necessary? The play-by-play has deteriorated into a long infomercial by Ice Man for Vikings season tickets. It's shocking to think they are still available.
2:19 p.m.: Guess who the Vikings "Locker Room Player Spotlight" is about?
2:24 p.m.: Halftime over. Ann Carroll, the sideline reporter, has an Andrea-Kramer-on-Wisteria-Lane quality. At 2:30, my television flips automatically to Fairly OddParents because of some auto-recording function. I flip it back to find a commercial about health insurance.
2:33 p.m.: Here comes Brodie Croyle! He's getting hit on every throw.
2:42 p.m.: Mayock says Kenny Onatolu was the best special teams player in the CFL the last couple of years. How much film does this man watch? Amani Toomer is in the game for the Chiefs; guess the Rams missed him on the free agent wire. Succup hits another field goal.
2:53 p.m.: Jackson to Renauld, 64-yard touchdown, a thing of beauty.
3:00 p.m.: Croyle fumbles a handoff. This is hour eight, and I am having a hard time focusing. New quarterback John David Booty won't help. Ann Carroll interviews Visanthe Shiancoe. He’s a Twitterer, or a tweeter, or whatever. I should have a Twitter presence. How does Twanier grab you?
3:09 p.m.: Mayock is talking about Onatolu again. Another airing of that Golden Corral commercial where the guy screams "Problem!" Golden Corral is a great restaurant if you are pregnant, a glutton, or think food is best served in a trough. They don't advertise on FO, do they?
3:35 p.m.: Ari Wolfe calls Ann Carroll "Aunt Carol" by mistake. Ouch. She will drink his blood for that. It turns out that Percy Harvin’s mom drops him off for practice every day. Does she sniff his curtains and Febreeze his room, too? Is "Febreeze" a verb? Here comes Matt Gutierrez!
3:47 p.m.: This game ends with an unlikely series of plays. First, there's pass interference in the end zone, then a goal-line challenge that invokes the "goal line goes around the world" axiom. On third-and-short, tackle Herb Taylor enters the game as a tackle eligible but doesn’t report. Guard Wade Smith pushes him out of the huddle, and Taylor falls flat on his face. I've never seen a player beaten up in his own huddle before. Jackie Battle is stuffed on third-and-goal. On fourth-and-goal, Ashley Lelie catches a fade route out of bounds. "You scratch a competitor and good things come out," Mayock says. Geez, Ashley Lelie.
4:00 p.m.: Redskins-Steelers. It's raining, or at least it was on Saturday. "We had monsoon conditions earlier" says Mike Patrick. With him is ... no ... no oh God no ... Joe Theismann.
4:04 p.m.: The sound keeps breaking up. This is not a problem when Theismann is speaking. There are two sideline reporters. Kellie Johnson has a plastic umbrella and is lovely. Lindsey Czarniak is wearing a hood and is also lovely. I don't usually ogle sideline reporters. I think I have been sitting here too long, because they are starring in the Febreeze commercial in my mind.
4:07 p.m.: Rainy night plus pregame fireworks equals fog. Either that or I have cataracts.
4:10 p.m.: Fake punt! Rock Cartwright, the personal protector, runs for a first down. "This game is already, in four plays, more exciting than last week's," Theismann says.
4:15 p.m.: A slow-developing Redskins drive. They do look a little sharper than last week, but there's no downfield game. Lots of short runs, then a burst by Clinton Portis up the middle. Scott Suisham kicks a 19-yard field goal to end the drive. Lame. "Points! Points for the Redskins!" Patrick declares. All it took was a fake punt and 14 plays.
4:23 p.m.: My wife points out that the Febreeze lady smells the chair in her teenage son's room. Gross. Here comes Charlie Batch! Andre Carter swats the ball back in his face. The Steelers offensive line doesn't block anyone in the first two plays. On the third play, Doug Lugursky has two handfuls of Albert Haynesworth's jersey, but there's no call.
DeAngelo Hall gets flagged for a late hit. Theismann is outraged. Theismann says "he just lowered the shoulder." Patrick points out that the contact was pretty late, the ball clearly out-of-bounds. "He tried to avoid him," Theismann says, altering reality. That's why he's a legend.
Patrick wants us to "check out the guns" on Philip Daniels. Lindsay Czarniak says Daniels has a "huge heart" and describes an emotional moment on the bus with Daniels that sounds like a scene from Almost Famous. I expect to hear "Tiny Dancer" in the background. I wish the sound would malfunction again.
4:31 p.m.: "Another Immaculate Reception" cries Sunshine, except that this ball went from Hines Ward's fingers to the ground to Santonio Holmes's arms. The play is called back after a long review. Walt Coleman would have called it a catch. The Virginia Lottery has a $50 million Redskins Mania scratch-off game. Win the game and Dan Snyder signs you. Theismann is excited that the Redskins are throwing downfield. Patrick points out that they aren’t completing any. "Don’t get greedy," Theismann says.
4:45 p.m.: A long Steelers drive, highlighted by two deep completions over the middle on third-and-long. A Willie Parker touchdown at the end of the drive. Limas Sweed can block. On the touchdown, he strings out Philip Daniels, guns and all.
4:51 p.m.: Jason Campbell and Fred Davis cannot connect on third-and-3. Stefan Logan looks like a good punt returner for the Steelers. Legursky is just awful on the Steelers line. Sweed drops a pass. I see six penalties in the span of about seven minutes.
5:00 p.m.: OK, a commercial decrying "bathroom tissue that leaves pieces behind." With red bears playing football. Is this just an assault on my sanity? Are toilet paper shavings really a problem for some people? Don’t answer! Patrick and Sunshine are showing the YouTube video of Keith Eloi jumping backward out of the pool. Eloi and Xavier Omon should get together to form an ancient religion. Here comes Todd Collins! Kellie Johnson is at least an inch taller than Santana Moss. Mike Sellars is in excruciating pain.
5:08 p.m.: Collins throws a one yard pass on third-and-2. The Redskins offense looks a lot like last year: churning, plodding, taking 15 plays to go 45 yards. Steelers ball. Here comes Dennis Dixon!
5:14 p.m.: "He looks like a kid who explains the Dewey Decimal System to you at the library," Patrick says of safety Reed Doughty. I can picture Patrick and Theismann, baffled by the rows of books, hoping that a defensive back will come and explain the card catalogue to them. The Redskins punt returner. Dominique Dorsey, led the CFL in total yards last year. Wonder how many times Onatolu tackled him.
5:18 p.m.: Rookie Brian Orakpo, who is having a great preseason, tackles Rashard Mendenhall, who has also looked pretty good. Patrick and Theismann start chirping about Orakpo. It is now late afternoon, and the commercials have changed: no more insurance scams, more imported beer and luxury cars. I am no longer in the "daytime television loser" demographic.
5:25 p.m.: A long challenge on a Dixon-to-Sweed completion. If there's one thing I always hated about the Patrick-Theismann booth, it was how they handle challenges: They natter, they waffle, and they could talk themselves into seeing an image of the Blessed Virgin in the turf after a few replays. Theismann’s Orakpo fetish is getting out of hand.
5:32 p.m.: A draw play on third-and-20 is another excuse to cuddle Orakpo. Patrick calls him "virtually unstoppable," while Theismann says something about a "Jimi Hendrix award." Next comes an Orakpo highlight reel and a sideline Gatorade shot. Theismann says he is breathing "heavy, but not really heavy" considering the work he has had. Shoot me. Shoot me now and put me out of my misery.
5:36 p.m.: Ziggy Hood crushes Eloi. Theismann makes some stupid remark about the kick returner knowing how much time is left and not bringing the ball out of the end zone. I don't think the kick went in the end zone (the game book says it was fielded at the three-yard line). As the game goes on, Theismann drifts further from reality.
5:45 p.m.: Czarniak, who is blonde now that the rain has stopped, interviews Fred Smoot. Patrick and Sunshine talk about Smoot's bowling skills, and Patrick says he will challenge him to a game. Calling a preseason game is a lose-lose scenario. Take it seriously, like Mike Mayock, and you sound like an obsessed football robot by the third quarter. Play up the yucks like Patrick and Theisman and you trivialize the game and sound like a braying imbecile.
The reality is that nobody is supposed to watch these regional telecasts but fans who are emotionally invested in guys like Eloi and Onatolu. For the rest of us, it’s like watching the farm report from a faraway county once the second half comes.
My eyes are bugging out, my knees are stiff, and I am currently on 14 pages of notes that I will have to condense. It's time to give Sunshine a break and have dinner with my family. See you in a few hours.
7:47 p.m.: I am at P.J.'s Bar, feeling refreshed after some time away from the tube. NFL Network is on. Microbrews are two dollars off. Edgerrin James just signed with the Seahawks, who must feel like they cheated themselves out of Shaun Alexander's decline seasons. Mike Martz is in the NFLN studio. I order a Stone Arrogant Bastard, because the bar is fresh out of Stone Mike Martz.
8:05 p.m.: Graham Gano kicks off, Leon Washington returns it to the 24. On the first play, 300-pound tackle Wayne Hunter starts at fullback and motions wide left. I am sure I am hallucinating. Mark Sanchez throws a pick-six to Haoli Ngata. Nope, this is really happening.
8:10 p.m.: A near interception by Ray Lewis. Sanchez is learning about the difference between the Ravens defense and the Rams defense. Next to me, a guy orders a dozen wings, all drumsticks. Grow up, buddy: poultry anatomy doesn’t change just because you’re too lazy to pick the meat out from between two bones.
8:16 p.m.: Rex Ryan has shown a lot of different fronts, and the Jets have blitzed six defenders a few times. On offense, the Jets are much more tentative. Ryan (or Brian Schottenheimer) calls a draw on third-and-long. They don’t want Sanchez shell-shocked.
8:31 p.m.: Ryan calls a corner blitz. Joe Flacco reads it and throws a bomb to Derrick Mason. A few plays later, a sweet Statue-of-Liberty style draw play to Ray Rice yields a touchdown.
8:44 p.m.: Sanchez completes his first pass. Unfortunately, it nets eight yards on third-and-12.
9:03 p.m.: The Jets line is at its best when it is pulling, trapping, and creating little creases for Leon Washington. Washington is the only bright spot on the Jets offense. After a few first down runs, he beats Jameel McClain up the sidelines for a touchdown.
9:14 p.m.: Here comes Troy Smith! The Ravens run a funky Pistol formation screen pass. Is this a look at a new package?
9:23 p.m.: Here comes Kellen Clemens! The Jets don’t let him throw during his first series.
9:30 p.m.: Oh, that’s why they didn’t let Clemens throw: He tosses a pick-six to McClain on his second series. Halftime arrives. ESPN interviews the man who shot Plaxico Burress.
9:48 p.m.: Lardarius Webb fumbles the kickoff into the arms of Marques Murrell. Clemens throws a touchdown off his back foot to August All-Pro David Clowney. I don’t know if I can take one more half of muffed kicks, penalties, and backup quarterbacks. After watching PSAs about drinking and driving all day, I have switched to diet soda.
9:53 p.m.: If there are three penalties on a play, why do they offset? Shouldn't the team with two flags be penalized once? Troy Smith looks terrible. The Ravens run some cheesy pistol belly play. That will be the name of my record company: Cheesy Pistol Belly.
10:02 p.m.: Schottenheimer loves spread formations in goal-to-go situations. The Jets settle for a field goal after a sloppy drive, denying Clowney any further heroics.
10:09 p.m.: Vernon Gholston does something right, flushing Smith into Ropati Pitoitua's arms! Spontaneous celebrations in the streets of Manhattan and the Pitoitua household.
10:16 p.m.: Ron Jaworski is diagramming fronts. ESPN displays a graphic showing that Jaws is still third on the all-time list for consecutive quarterback starts. I remember most of those starts. Jaws doesn’t.
10:27 p.m.: Here comes Erik Ainge! He leads a clock-killing drive. Go, buddy, go.
10:37 p.m.: ESPN cuts to the Little League World Series final. Should Little Leaguers be playing baseball at 10:37 p.m.? Troy Smith throws a bomb to Justin Harper, then runs a pistol counter keeper. Everything sounds cooler with "Pistol" in front of it.
10:44 p.m.: Aundrae Allison somehow fumbles the same kickoff twice. After seeing so many muffed kicks today, Allison looks like an overachiever.
10:54 p.m.: The Jets are threatening. Pass interference gives them the ball on the 1-yard line. Schottenheimer keeps spreading the field. The final seconds of the game linger past 11 p.m. I fear a tie. Finally, Ainge punches it in on an empty-backfield sneak. Rex Ryan goes for two. I love him like a brother. The attempt fails. I am freed from my obligations.
I've fully recovered from my marathon. I have no urge to watch football, but the itch will return by Thursday night. Monday felt like it lasted forever, and I was too fatigued to sleep soundly after the marathon. I spent the day in a nether world between work and play. Watching football is supposed to be fun, but this rarely was. Writing about football is a job, but this was more of a chore, like folding an endless laundry pile.
As useless as this exercise seemed and as useless as it often felt, I wound up with about 18 pages of notes to distill. Those notes became this Walkthrough, but they will also become talking points, hooks for in-season game previews, and threads I will follow during the season.
I often find myself covering football catch-as-catch can, fitting study sessions between teaching and family obligations. For 17 hours this week, I lived football, jamming more down my throat than could really fit. It was exhausting, aggravating, and often boring, but it worked. I'm ready for the season to start.
63 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2009, 1:30am by Rich Arpin