Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2006.
Washington Redskins 17 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10
Russell Levine: Yes, I have pewter and red goggles on, so I think the Bucs have already been hosed twice on turnover calls. What did the rest of you think about the fumble-return TD replay call? I saw Williams with his leg draped on Washington, and Williams' leg obviously moves as Washington tries to get up. Arrington also fumbled his interception return, which looked like it was recovered by TB. The announcer barely bothered looking at that one.
I am starting to get the feeling that when there are four bang-bang loose ball opportunities/calls (Arrington fumble? after INT, Washington down/not down by contact on TD return, Bucs chance to recover fumbled punt at WAS 15, Rice nearly forcing a sack/fumble/TD) and NONE of them go your team's way, it might not be their day.
Michael David Smith: It looked like Arrington fumbled, but I really have no idea since ABC couldn't be bothered to show the replay. The other one, Williams was probably touching Washington while Washington was down, but there wasn't indisputable visual evidence. (Have I ever mentioned that I hate the word "visual" in that phrase? Doesn't it kinda go without saying that the evidence is visual?)
Bill Moore: Russ, I'm with you on the fumble call. Even if not draped on him, it sure looked to me like Williams hit him with his leg twice.
Russell Levine: ABC/ESPN is killing me here. They aren't showing replays of close calls, and they go to commercial without identifying injured players.
MDS, you're probably right about the Williams touch/no touch. But it's annoying that the refs are instructed to err on the side of allowing the play to continue, because that's the only way it's correctible on replay, yet the standard for an overturn is so high (as it should be).
Michael David Smith: Is the Sun Belt Conference officiating this game?
In the past I've liked Casey Rabach, the Redskins' center, but he's not clearing any space in the middle of the line at all. The Bucs' defensive line is doing a great job, but the offense is putting them in terrible positions.
The announcers are talking about Gregg Williams as though he's a brilliant Xs and Os tactician, but that's never been my sense of his defenses. When I watch a Gregg Williams defense what impresses me is how well they tackle and how disciplined they are against screens, counters and draws. I don't really think they do anything all that cute, they just execute their base defense better than most teams.
Bill Moore: Interestingly, in the regular season matchup Washington blitzed a lot testing an inexperienced Simms. Out of 20 charted pass plays in the second half, WAS sent more than the typical four rushers 10 times, including once throwing all eight guys into the pass rush. However, Simms completed 50 percent of his passes on those blitzing plays, including a 22-yard pass and a 22-YAC completion on that eight-rusher play. In the first half of this game, WAS seems to be rushing fewer guys â€“ yet getting at Simms more.
After the play when Renaldo Wynn was injured:
Will Carroll: Ooh, that's broken. Hit the forearm and snapped the bone. He's done for the playoffs for a thin team that's just flying around the field.
Aaron Schatz: Yes, I had the same thought and I don't even know medicine. I get this feeling the Redskins are going to win this game and have, like, six healthy guys left next week. It's just Seattle's year, I guess.
Russell Levine: If TB loses, this is going to be one of the biggest "what if" games ever. Their defense has completely dominated. They had four possessions with a chance to tie the game. Dropped a game-tying TD pass. Failed to recover a single one of about four Redskins fumbles. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh.
I do like what I see out of Simms though.
Aaron Schatz: Sorry, Russell. But yes, Chris Simms looks like an absolute keeper, and I can tell you that, while it didn't make it into Mike's article, Ron Jaworski agrees with you.
I thought that the Tampa run plays up the middle were a little too slow-developing. The Redskins defense has so much speed that, even when the front defensive guys were blocked well, the linebackers or safeties could get up to stuff Cadillac by the time he got to the line.
MDS is the one who provided the "Redskins should double Simeon Rice" line in the preview, and he was right.
There were some really strange, strange, punting choices by Washington here. Why would you ever punt on the opponent's 34-yard-line, no matter if it is fourth-and-1, or fourth-and-9, or fourth-and-20? For crying out loud, just go for it. Later, the Redskins had a third-and-21, and they ran a silly RB draw to gain four yards. Why? Why not try a deep pass? If you gain a couple yards, instead of punting while trying to keep it out of the end zone, you have to try ... punting while keeping it out of the end zone! Finally, Derrick Frost shanked that punt late -- he's like the king of shanks. Didn't he shank a six-yarder in Cleveland last year?
Does anyone know what the play call was when Brunell threw the interception on third-and-3? I couldn't tell who the primary receiver was supposed to be and what Brunell was supposed to do. Roll all the way left and throw across the field was not, I think, the way it was called in the huddle.
This has been a great run for Washington, totally unexpected all season. It ends next week. They were hit by more injuries tonight, and are completely beaten up going in to play Seattle, crossing three time zones to play the best team in the conference, a team whose receivers are finally all healthy. And the Washington passing game tonight was pathetic. If I'm a Seattle fan, I'm pretty happy tonight.
Bill Moore: Third and long less than two minutes â€“ Theismann, â€œPortis wants to run that as far as he can. Each yard pushes the Bucs offense back further.â€? Ah Joe, he wants to run as far as he can â€˜cause he wants to GET A FIRST DOWN!
Russell Levine: Could Suzy Kolber add any less to this broadcast? Not a single injury update, nothing on the Pittman/Taylor spit/non spit issue. No commentary on whether Portis is hurt or why he's not in the game. Thank god this is the last ever game for this crew. What a disaster.
Bill Moore: I have to defend my perfect woman. Who is hotter than Suzy Kolber as an overall package? Sure, there are plenty more stunning-looking women in this world, but where else is there someone with her looks that is also as knowledgeable as she in football? So sure, she didn't add much on the sideline, but who cares. Of course, you'd have to battle Joe Namath for her hand.
God, I hope my wife doesn't read this.
Ryan Wilson: I was a big Suzy Kolber supporter, but I'm not crazy about what she's done to her hair this season. It's very Freakazoid-y. Bonnie Bernstein is my new #1. I never learn anything from those sideline reports, but as long as she's pleasing to the eyes, avoids those ridiculous Lisa Guerrero Daniel Boone inspired raccoon hats, and keeps her segments short, she's A-OK.
Russell Levine: Cadillac needs to learn to just hit the hole sometimes ... although there weren't too many holes there tonight and he did a pretty good job of making something out of nothing a few times.
Despite the excruciating nature of this loss, I'm probably less upset than after any other TB playoff loss. This year's success was so unexpected, and I really think it rejuvenated Gruden. He's clearly got a keeper to build around in Simms, and if the defense can keep it together for one more year, they might really have something in 2006. Some tough cap decisions are looming on Brooks and Rice. I'd expect Brooks to restructure and stay, don't know about Rice though. I'd hate to see him go, he's such an impact player. All his sacks seem to come at meaningful times of the game.
Laying the points on Seattle next week might be the safest bet in history. The Skins are beat up, got nothing out of Portis or Brunell, lost a defensive lineman (hey Suzy, still waiting on the injury update on that one. Really, no rush). And the travel is a killer. Remember a few years back when Miami beat Indy in OT at home, then had to go to Oakland the next week and got absolutely smoked? That's what I see at Qwest on Saturday.
Ned Macey: Watching a game announced by the Three Stooges where I had little rooting interest, I found myself rooting against the announcers. When Theismann said the Bucs should go play-action on the fourth-and-1 play, I hoped that they wouldn't get it. In the end, I ended up rooting for Washington because of the fawning over Sims. Playing against a secondary without its #1 corner and who lost its best safety early in the second half, he hardly had an All-Pro game. Just over five yards per completion. Five tipped passes turning into two picks?
Speaking of Taylor, I couldn't believe the reaction of the announcers to that penalty. Mike Carey was standing right there when it happened. You don't think he knew who took a swing? To think that Carey could have made that big a mistake would make him the worst official of all-time.
Then when Brunell gets picked off, Mike Patrick says it should have been caught. When the replay shows how good an individual play Brian Kelly made, there's no apology to Taylor Jacobs.
I'll defer to Russell on this, but my sense is that other than the QB and RB, this team is old and unlikely to be back. Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks, Joey Galloway, Shelton Quarles, and Ronde Barber are all 30+. We were among the few people who gave Tampa Bay a shot this year, but I bet we'll be one of the few people counting them out next year.
Russell Levine: Ned, I think that's a bit premature. Rice is probably gone, but I bet Brooks comes back and they find a way to sign Barber. Ronde knows he's better in this scheme than he would be in any other. The same is probably true of Hovan, who really had a good year for them and fawns over the coaching staff every chance he gets. Galloway is 34, but he can still play and stayed healthy all year. They drafted Quarles' replacement last year (Barrett Ruud). Dewayne White is ready to be a full-time starter at defensive end if Rice leaves. McFarland is probably looking at taking a pay cut or being let go.
The biggest losses could be to the coaching staff. The Bucs have used every trick in the book in recent years to keep some of that staff intact -- giving guys "assistant head coach" titles, etc. But I think Rod Marinelli's contract is up (D-line coach) and he's a vital member of the staff. I expect him to be a coordinator somewhere next season.
They made major progress in getting the cap under control last year -- cut something like $40 million in future commitments. I think they're on the way up, not down, but then again I watched this game with a Brooks jersey on and made my three-year-old wear a James Wilder creamsicle model. So take my opinion with a grain of salt.
Ryan Wilson: Living in DC, you learn pretty quickly that Theismann might be the biggest Redskins homer in the galaxy (honestly, who picks this team to go to the Super Bowl?). When Taylor got flagged, and after seeing the replay, anybody with half a brain might've figured that there was probably more to it than Pittman just taking a swipe. Of course, common sense never stopped Theismann from making snap decisions on the side of the Skins. My first question after Taylor was sent to the showers was: when is this guy supposed to have that court date for brandishing firearms?
Bill Moore: When the triumvirate was fawning at the end of the game, â€œyou can count on this team going far next year â€“ they'll be backâ€? (or something like that), I was thinking, announcers always say stuff like that â€“ and how often it never comes true. The first teams that came recent memory â€“ '04 Falcons, '04 Eagles, '03 Panthers. The same statement was made at the end of each of their final games.
Al Bogdan: Taylor has a ton of talent, but he has to lead the league in dumbass penalties. It seems like every time I watch the Skins he gets at least one 15-yarder called against him.
It doesn't matter much if Tampa keeps their defense together if they can't get some improvement on the offensive line. The only way the Bucs were able to stop Washington's pass rush in the first half was to keep seven blockers back. Even then, Washington was able to get through when they sent in a defensive back on a delayed blitz.
Michael David Smith: Taylor got 15-yard facemasks against St. Louis and Dallas this year and he got an unnecessary roughness against the Giants. But for the most part I think he's been a good player who's worth the occasional penalty. And speaking of penalties, I withdraw my statement that it was the Sun Belt crew doing the game. Looking back on it, even though Pittman should've gotten a penalty for retaliating against Taylor, for the most part it was a well-officiated game.
Aaron Schatz: Goodbye to the Three Stooges. Our long national nightmare is over.
Jacksonville Jaguars 3 at New England Patriots 28
Will Carroll: Has anyone ever seen Curt Schilling and Jack Del Rio together? Someone check Jack's sock.
Leftwich looks so immobile that I'm wondering what will happen first -- he tries to take the brace off and play or Garrard gets his shot. Remember, I said Leftwich would play, not that he should play.
Michael David Smith: They need to get Leftwich out of there if this is the best he can play. He looks horrible.
Will Carroll: It was pretty clear on that fumble by Alvin Pearman that when he was hit, helmet to helmet, he was briefly unconscious. Watch his arms -- they "lock up" and as he bounces, there's a very delayed reaction before his brain almost literally reboots. Great play by the defender, but hits like this worry the heck out of me. These "minor" concussions don't register and I worry that Pearman will be wondering why he feels like he does in 20 years ... or at least I hope he's got enough mind left then to wonder.
Ryan Wilson: Shouldn't that've been a helmet-to-helmet penalty? If not, what's the rule on helmet-to-helmets? And I'm currently setting the over/under on Jags delay of game penalties at 40. And I've got the over.
Russell Levine: Leftwich seems to be getting more comfortable. He's never been mobile (What, a black QB who's not light on his feet? Can that be?), so it's just a matter of getting used to how the ankle feels.
Michael David Smith: Brady was never sacked more than three times this season and he's already been sacked four times in the first half. They're mostly coverage sacks, though. The New England line is actually doing a pretty good job against a good Jacksonville pass rush.
Bill Moore: Ok. I have been pretty down on the development of Asante Samuel, but that pick was a defensive thing of beauty. Playing "man," but then passing off his coverage to the safety, and stepping in front of that pass.
Someone with more knowledge of the rules would surely know this better than I, but is the helmet-to-helmet negated when the offensive player is "ducking" or heading down? It seems logical since it is more difficult to know where the offensive player's helmet is. E.G., I go to tackle you at the chest, you try and duck under my tackle and our helmets collide. I can't be expected to avoid that.
I know Madden said ... "Now that Garrard is in the game and doing well against a prevent D, everyone will say that Garrard should have played earlier, if not started." I certainly understand his point, but it begs the question, should Garrard have started this game?
Michael David Smith: I don't want to be a second-guesser, but yeah, I think Garrard should have started. Leftwich is better than Garrard when both are healthy and neither is rusty, but Leftwich looked like he's still hurting and still rusty. But the Patriots would have won anyway, so it's not like it's a big deal.
I just heard Jaws say, "The Steelers were missing something. That something was swagger and confidence." Mike, did you give him your article while you were at NFL Films?
Ned Macey: I may be the only person who was not very impressed by the Patriots in the win. I will say first that I watched the game in a bar with no sound, and second I cover the AFC South, so I couldn't help but watch from the Jaguars' perspective.
I still think Leftwich was the right play because the only way the Jaguars could win the game was to make big plays in the passing game. Garrard just doesn't do that yet. I think starting in the second quarter he actually played pretty well. It was sort of reminiscent of Manning last year at Foxboro where the quarterback was playing ok, but nobody else was doing anything.
The biggest sequence that made what should have been a 7-10 point Patriots win a blowout took place in the third quarter with the Pats up 14-3. On third and long, Jimmy Smith just completely dropped a first down pass out by midfield (awful game for Smith which is too bad considering he is the Jaguars franchise). On the ensuing Patriots' possession, Watson should have been stopped by Peterson short of the first down forcing a punt. Not only does he break out of that, but he ends up scoring. On four of Leftwich's last six drives, they made it into New England territory, and one of the misses was when Smith dropped the pass.
The Jaguars desperately need to fix the right side of their offensive line this off-season. Probably not a coincidence that the team with the better offensive line won both games.
By the way, of the six fumbles in the game, the Patriots ended up with the ball after five. Of the four non-aborted snaps, the Patriots got the ball after all of them, including three times when they fumbled. The better team certainly won this game, but if these two teams played 50 times, I doubt there would be another blowout like this.
Aaron Schatz: I agree with Ned. Leftwich struggled very early, but so did Brady. I thought Leftwich played pretty well through the second and third quarters, but the Jaguars had no running game at all and the receivers kept dropping passes. Ned's comparison to Manning in last year's playoff game is apt. By the end of the third quarter, however, Leftwich had clearly been reinjured or the ankle was bothering him much more or something -- I'm sure Will could clarify -- and his play definitely was affected. If this makes sense, I think starting Leftwich was the right decision, but I also think they pulled him too late.
Jimmy Smith looked pretty bad. I know I had predicted that the Jaguars would have more success throwing to second and third receivers but I didn't think Smith would drop easy passes. He had a naked screen where he took an hour or two to turn and start running, at which point the Pats were on top of him. The fact that he is "the franchise" is a serious problem. You cannot have an aging receiver as the franchise. On the other hand, the Pats coverage on Wilford was terrible. And I was shocked that when Reggie Williams caught an important out pattern for a first down in the fourth quarter, he did not dance. Reggie, dude, this was your last chance of the year to dance!
On the Pats side, I thought that they were doubling Stroud much more often than they were doubling Henderson -- that is not based on counting plays, just a subjective observation. Also, an impressive thing about the Patriots is the way Kevin Faulk always falls forward when he is tackled. He must gain an extra yard or two each time he is tackled just because of the way he falls down.
Willie McGinest taking over the all-time lead for sacks in the playoffs is very impressive. In baseball, these records are a joke because they compare guys with three rounds of playoffs now to guys who had just the World Series back in the 1960s. But -- understanding that the sack was not tracked until 1982 â€“ McGinest set this record in fewer games (17) than Bruce Smith (20) or Reggie White (19), who shared it before him.
I watched the game with my friend Sean Benak, and we were talking about the magic beans and how the rest of the country hates Patriots fans. Sean said, "You know, we learned how to be insufferable bastards from the Yankee fans. They lorded it over us for so long that when we finally get a winning football team, we think that's how you are supposed to act."
Michael David Smith: I honestly really liked the Pats until the whole "no respect" thing started. I'm sorry, but it is hard for me to respect someone who can say with a straight face that he doesn't get any respect a couple of weeks after he was named Sportsman of the Year.
Will Carroll: I watched Leftwich's ankle closely and my guess is that he had a painkiller that wore off. They said he didn't, but I'm not going to take the Jags or any NFL team at their word on that. If greenies are the dirty little secret of baseball, the "spike" is the secret of the NFL. Someone with a tape of this could say better, but I'm going to guess it was about 3 hours into the game in real time that Leftwich got lifted, give or take 15-30 minutes.
He was clearly struggling late, but the replays that they tried to show that he got that ankle cranked again didn't show me anything other than that the brace was still on, which makes it near impossible to invert or evert the ankle. You could see from the way he moved that the brace was very tight, limited movement, and was overtaped to boot (no pun intended).
That said and leaving the analysis to the experts, I think Leftwich played much of the game at a pretty high level physically, probably in the 80-90% range. I don't think anyone can blame Leftwich's injury or the medical staff for the loss.
Carolina Panthers 23 at New York Giants 0
Aaron Schatz: Will, is there any difference between a "stinger" and a "burner"?
Will Carroll: No, two terms for the same thing.
Aaron Schatz: To me, it looks like Carolina's success running the ball isn't related to the linebacker injuries. On run blocking, at least, the Carolina offensive line seems to be manhandling the Giants defensive line.
Mike Tanier: The Panthers are double-teaming two or three different Giants linemen and counting on the Giants' LBs not being able to make big plays. It's working, in part because DeShaun Foster is playing well. He does seem to be coming around as a decision maker with the ball, but it helps that he is running through lots of arm tackles.
Michael David Smith: Mike Wahle is having a very good game on runs, although he did pull out and barely block Michael Strahan on a pass. I was actually rather disappointed by Wahle when I saw him this year, and I was very surprised that he made the Pro Bowl. But he's looking good today.
I couldn't tell who was assigned to block Strahan on that sack. It was either Jordan Gross or Kris Mangum, but neither one even tried to block him. Whoever blew the assignment, it's a pretty big mistake not to know who's supposed to block one of the best defensive ends in the history of the game.
Russell Levine: And there's yet another one, on the Nick Goings play. That was the same play as last night, with Goings taking a helmet-to-helmet shot, getting KO'd and losing his grip on the ball.
Aaron Schatz: Well, I feel like an idiot for a) picking the Giants and b) taking Tiki Barber in the first round of the fantasy playoff draft. We can talk about the linebackers all we want, but who stole the Giants offense and where did they hide it? Tiki is not going anywhere, Kareem McKenzie looks like he came back too soon, and now in the second half Eli Manning's decision-making skills have dropped from bad to FEMA-level.
Michael David Smith: I hope people don't blame Eli Manning for all of the Giants' problems. Tiki Barber has given them nothing today, the offensive line is getting outplayed, Plaxico Burress looks like he's jogging on half of his routes, and the front seven is making DeShaun Foster look like he's bound for Canton.
Aaron Schatz: This game is going to mean another whole off-season of us trying to convince people that DeShaun Foster is really not very good. For some reason this guy seems to have his best performances on national television so everyone thinks he is a stud, and the rest of the time he's carrying the ball 20 times for 47 yards. He does look good today but it is impossible to tell how much that is just the Giants defense looking pitiful.
Mike Tanier: Let's not exonerate Eli Manning, either. He has made some awful decisions. Maybe he's just not a playoff quarterback. Like his brother. Oh my God, I can feel my IQ dropping.
We have at least one more playoff game to determine whether DeShaun Foster has really improved in the last month or so or it is just a mirage.
Russell Levine: Man, that no challenge on down-by-contact rule really needs to be looked at. That's two obvious ones in the playoffs already (the first being Arrington's fumble after his interception yesterday). The rule would have to be written very carefully to only cover certain aspects, but there's no reason plays like those two shouldn't be corrected on replay.
Al Bogdan: My daughter's christening was today so I didn't have to sit through the Giants game live. Thanks to Tivo the pain was limited to only an hour.
As Mike pointed out, the Panthers did a great job at keeping the New York defensive linemen occupied on running plays so that they could give the linebackers an opportunity to miss tackles. Where was Kendrick Clancy today? He's arguably been the real key to the line's success this year by getting great penetration up the middle, stuffing the run and collapsing the pocket to allow the ends to make plays. After one play early on in the game, I never noticed #70. Now I want to go back and watch some of the games from the middle of the season where the Giant defensive line was so dominant and try to figure out just how much of their good play was because of the attention teams were giving to Antonio Pierce and his competent sidekicks.
Nick Greisen had no business being out there after his burner. If he made a tackle after the first quarter it was purely by mistake. When you have DeShaun Foster wrapped up and you can't bring him down, you shouldn't be on the field. There was a reason the Giants went out and signed Antonio Pierce to replace Kevin Lewis and then didn't even bother to keep Lewis around as a backup until they were down to their seventh and eighth string linebackers -- Lewis can't tackle anyone.
I wasn't surprised that Steve Smith was able to score two touchdowns, but the complete lack of offense from the Giants was a shock. All week, the sports radio hosts have been talking about how John Fox was going to do everything in his power to shut Tiki down and make Eli move the ball. And that's what happened. There were regularly eight Panthers in the box on running plays, and I counted nine in the box on two different occasions.
I have to disagree with MDS on Eli's role in the loss. He was awful yet again today. He did nothing well. He threw maybe three balls on target before the garbage drive at the end of the game. The interception where he was jumping backwards and throwing the ball three quarters of the way across the field into triple coverage was as bad of a throw as you can make. He's developed this awful tendency to roll out to the side of the field where Shockey is running a route and throw the ball even when there's a defender on top of Shockey. Today, the defender was literally on top of Shockey, who was lying on the ground underneath a Panther when Eli threw the ball. Whatever good feelings I had from the first half of the season about Eli have completely disappeared. I have no confidence in his ability to be a successful starting quarterback for the Giants next year.
Is anyone else unenthused about next week's games? Other than New England at Denver, none of these games look to be at all compelling.
Pittsburgh Steelers 31 at Cincinnati Bengals 17
Aaron Schatz: I feel bad for Bengals fans. Even most people rooting for the other team don't want to see the best player on the field go down with an injury at the beginning of the first quarter. It showed a lot of character for the Bengals to keep this close for a while.
Palmer has the ACL tear and now, apparently, the MCL also. The Bengals say they hope he will be back for the start of training camp. That sounds a little too optimistic for me, shouldn't recovery take longer than that? He doesn't have to get his speed back like a RB, at least. Kitna is a free agent so this will be an interesting decision for the Bengals, how much do you pay for a backup quarterback who may have to play significantly. The Jets, if you think about it, are in the exact same place. There were a lot of injuries in this game. Just caused by all the intense hitting, or is there something weird with the Cincinnati playing surface?
Kitna was terrible when he had to play this year but he looked good in this game -- for a while. KC Joyner wrote in his book that Kitna makes bad decisions, but I thought that was fine. He did have a tendency to lead his guys too much or not enough on sideline passes. He was definitely faltering as the game went on, and the Pittsburgh pass rush was improving gradually. The strangest was the play where Pittsburgh rushed two and the offensive linemen for the Bengals couldn't seem to block even just those two guys ... then Kitna dropped the ball.
Do you guys think the refs in this game were as bad as the readers on the open thread seemed to think?
Tim Gerheim: Kitna seemed like a Brett Favre-type "gunslinger" -- the sort of quarterback who doesn't really care how open a guy is, if he's open at all the quarterback thinks he can get it in. But he's not quite as accurate as Favre, so he ends up looking really bad sometimes. But he did look good in the first half. In the second half his main problem seemed to be that he held on to the ball way too long. But I don't know if the outcome would have been much different if he had thrown the ball away more instead of taking so many sacks -- they weren't particularly costly because they didn't lead to fumbles.
Whatever the Steelers defense did to adjust to what Kitna was giving them in the first half, Dick LeBeau and the rest of the defensive coaching staff deserves a lot of credit. But in the end, the Bengals looked a lot like what they were: a team that overachieved in the regular season. Without five interceptions a game, they don't really have the ability to beat good teams. But this seems like a team that will be good next year, since their strength is their offense (more consistent year to year) and their defense doesn't really have any good reason why it should get worse.
Mike Tanier: Kitna doesn't have much of a fastball. I don't think that he has figured that out yet. The officiating didn't seem bad to me.
Ned Macey: I still think Cincinnati was better than 50/50 to win this game if Palmer had stayed healthy, and that is with how bad their defense looked. After a couple drives, Pittsburgh just realized Kitna was useless beyond 15 yards.
The media is going to talk up the Steelers last two drives as the Steelers getting back to their roots and running the ball. The only reason the Bengals got the lead was because the Steelers insisted on running early. This game was won by Roethlisberger who made good decisions all day. I still say Roethlisberger is the type of guy who will throw picks like Kitna threw when he presses, but he was excellent today.
It is hard to root against Jerome Bettis in his final year. Didn't need quite so many shots of his parents, but Bettis seems like a great guy and he is fun to watch. I loved the touchdown run where he went around the safety and then carried the cornerback into the end zone.
Bengals defense collapsed this year when they started emphasizing stopping the run. They'll need another big defensive draft to take the next step. On the first two big pass plays, it seemed that Kaesviharn messed up on both. And I think the Bengals will have to re-sign Kitna provided nobody offers him a starting job. I agree with Phil Simms that all Kitna does if he goes to Detroit or somewhere is get to suffer with a bad team until they go with whoever their young quarterback is. See Trent Dilfer.
Troy Polamalu is a very good player who makes exceptional plays, but between the 15-yard penalty that kept the Bengals touchdown drive alive in the second quarter and the lateral when falling to a knee effectively clinched the game, he makes some questionable decisions.
Ryan Wilson: I'm the biggest (Steelers) homer on the planet, but I absolutely hate opponent injuries. I feel awful for Palmer and I agree that if he didn't get hurt, there was a 50/50 chance the Bengals win. Second on my, "God, I feel really bad for this guy" list is Kimo von Oelhoffen. Seems like the nicest guy in the world, and is a former Bengal from the "dark years."
I watched the postgame press conferences, and Marvin Lewis was very gracious despite being visibly upset. After some baiting from reporters about the legality of the hit, he did let slip a, "... let it go. Carson got injured; what, do you want us to cry about it like their QB did?" Apparently, that was in reference to the Dec. 4 game in PIT when Odell Thurman hit Roethlisberger low and later in the week Ben said it was probably dirty. Honestly, I had totally forgotten about the Thurman play and was a little confused when Lewis made the comment. That said, it's certainly understandable why he was upset, and it really sucks that Palmer got hurt.
On a lighter note, this afternoon before the game I was listening to the sage-like advice of Salisbury, and he said something to the effect of, "You won't believe this, but when the Steelers run the ball 40 times a game, they're undefeated?" Really? You think so? Do you have any idea that half those runs come after they're up by 20 points? God, what a numbnut.
Russell Levine: Couple lousy calls stood out -- failure to call PI on one Cincinnati deep ball, then calling it against the Bengals on a very similar play, might even have been on the next series. I also thought they were too slow to get control of all the chippiness at the beginning. All in all, not the greatest weekend of NFL officiating.
Ryan Wilson: I thought the officiating was atrocious â€“ especially against the Bengals. The late hit called against Randle El was ridiculous, and there were other random calls that left me scratching my head. Usually I'm all for crappy officiating helping my team, but after the Palmer injury, it just didn't seem right.
Also, Polamalu apparently didn't take his meds tonight. What a complete spaz. Making a guy eat a football on your own 5-yard line might be the worst idea ever.