PATRIOTS (13-0) 34
STEELERS (9-4) 13
Surprise! Anthony Smith is not Nostradamus. I know, I'm surprised too. Maybe next week Smith and his secondary cronies will talk about how they held Tom Brady under 400 yards passing, because that's pretty much the only thing they accomplished in a demoralizing, embarrassing 34-13 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots.
Yes, the Steelers defense stunk on Sunday. How bad was the stench? I believe it was in the film Anchorman that the phrase "like a turd wrapped in burned hair" was coined. If you can possibly imagine it, the defense stunk worse than that.
I like to throw stats around about how high the Steelers' defense is ranked, but unfortunately this is not a game played on paper. It's played by highly-paid professionals. Some shoot their mouths off; some embarrass their team with shenanigans after the whistle. The Steelers had players doing both yesterday.
I/we are constantly on the war path against players and teams that are classless in defeat. I certainly called out the Mountaineers and their maniacal fans more than a time or two last week. But the Steelers were no better. I realize what a frustrating loss this must have been. We're fans and we're taking it hard. But these guys were completely out of control. Late hits. Trash talk. Pushing and shoving. I think I even saw a punch thrown. By the end of the contest, they were bringing back memories of Baltimore's end-of-the-game meltdown against New England a week earlier. Is that what "Steeler Football" has devolved to? I mean, we have no problem calling out thuggery when Cincinnati or the Ravens pull similar acts. It's time to call out our own guys. That's not the way to lose. Frankly, I expected more from a Mike Tomlin team.
Unfortunately, unruly behavior was the least of this team's problems on Sunday. On offense, they were "OK", but not great, and OK doesn't beat New England, at least not when your defense is letting Randy Moss have free reign in your secondary. It's a team loss, and the Steelers did not get it done on either side of the ball on Sunday. They couldn't score enough points to win, and they couldn't stop the bleeding from the Patriots' numerous body blows. The coaches never had an answer for Brady, Moss, or Welker, if one even exists. And the special teams, as usual, was of little help. But hey, we only gave up 22 yards rushing.
I thought Ben played a "B to B-" game - not his best, not his worst. Fast Willie had a productive afternoon, racking up 124 yards on 21 carries. And Hines Ward contributed on a minor level (would've been nice if he could have cashed in that TD). On the other hand, it was clear that Santonio Holmes was not himself. Further down the depth chart, Nate Washington showed why he's Nate Washington, with some exquisite non-catches in the second half. At least he's consistent in his awful play. Maybe he'll guarantee a victory against Jacksonville next week.
I'll spare you a paragraph lauding the Patriots, because frankly I'm sick of hearing about them, no matter how fantastic they are. Phil Simms was taunting me the entire game to turn down the sound, as he rambled on and on about Patriot stories that had neither a point nor any comedic value. The Pats are a tough team, they've earned their record, and they definitely have a shot at going undefeated. They are hated because they are successful, because fans of opposing teams are jealous, and because the media has gone above and beyond the necessary means of saturation (newest examples: 1. ESPN's Bottom Line scroll on Friday reading...NFL...NBA...PATRIOTS... and 2. ESPN officially titling all Patriot stories "Pursuing Perfection").
They're also hated because they too are a group of classless and smug individuals. Tom Brady enjoys sitting on his high horse with his cute "Well done is better than well said" quote; but where was he when teammate Rodney Harrison was fined 5 G's for taunting the Ravens last week? Is that the same Rodney Harrison that was suspended for using HGH? Yeah, I thought so.
The Patriots are no band of choir boys. From their cheating coach on down, they're an organization that's liked only within the geographical territory known as New England. And even there, they're not top banana. Most residents of that area are more concerned about which Cy Young Award winner they're going to buy before they call the Yankees the Evil Empire in the next breath. But that's a different soapbox for a different season. I acknowledge the Patriots' greatness and their accomplishments, but my dislike for them has never been greater.
Now, on to some bullet points on the game and Sunday's action around the league:
--CBS walked a real tightrope. While watching the dramatic end of regulation in San Diego-Tennessee, we got the "contractual agreements..." message from the network, warning us that they would be leaving that game for the Steelers game very soon. Luckily, we got to see San Diego score the TD that would ultimately send the game into overtime, although we were already into Commercial Land when the PAT went up.
Can you imagine if we would've missed the beginning of the Steelers-Patriots, though? Yinzers would've probably burned down KDKA. Pomps would have surely feared for his life.
--The game opened with that Kill Bill instrumental. Is it me or is that song a bit played out by now?
--I'm convinced that wasn't really Troy Polamalu on the sidelines. It was either a body double or Tom Hanks reprising his Castaway role.
--Speaking of Tom Hanks, I see in today's commercials that he has a new movie coming out, featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman, also known as the long-lost brother of ESPN Radio 1250's Eddy Crow.
--Unintentional Comedy Highlight of the Day: Jim Nantz proclaiming that "Santonio was grimacing in pain", later brought up in the game when I asked where Santonio was and my brother reminded me that he was probably still grimacing. When he said that, who else out there thought of this guy?
--My Phil Simms disgust hit its pinnacle when Brady's sure TD pass went right through the hands of The Best Receiver in Football. Simms literally said that Brady through it too perfectly. Of course, minutes later, in a trademark Simms gay innuendo line, he said that Moss "couldn't handle the high, hard one". Apparently, neither can Nate Washington.
--From the fashion file: no sunglasses for Coach Cool, and no hoody for Coach Homeless Man.
--The Steeler D clearly had no answer for the Patriots passing attack. Was I the only one who thought Lawrence Timmons should be inserted into the game to step on Tom Brady?
--It's around this time of the NFL season that the commercials really start to get to me. In the past, it's been "Viva, Viagra!" or "This is ouuuuuur countrrrry". This year, I'm being gradually worn down by those way-too-intense people driving their Cadillacs (Does your car turn YOU on?). And a new favorite is the Citi commercial with the kid who looks like Adam Morrison. His big Christmas gift to his mom? Buying himself a suit. Real thoughtful, jerk. Go back to Gonzaga and take your outside shot with you.
And while I'm at it, can the PA Lottery please spring for a new commercial? That "Best Wishes From the Lottery" spot featuring the carolers is ancient. I'm sure the old, bearded newsstand owner wearing a Belichickian hoody is long dead. Don't know what I'm talking about? Watch any Pittsburgh TV station and you'll probably see it in the next 30 seconds.
--My condolences to all the angry 60 Minutes fans who had to endure the final 6:46 of the Steeler game. I like how the Steelers were literally playing ball-control down 21 points, clearly to avoid any further embarrassment that the Patriots surely would have attempted.
--From Don Banks' SI Snap Judgments:
"Towing a banner in its wake, a small plane circled Gillette Stadium in the pre-game hours before the Steelers-Patriots. The banner read:
Bonds: 756*Belichick: 3 Super Bowl Wins*
Best I could tell, Don Shula wasn't piloting the plane. But who knows, the Hall of Famer might have paid for it."
--Two quick "seperated at births" for you:
1. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the Pitt Panthers basketball team. They're both really good year-in and year-out, but they never seem to get to the next level. For Pitt, they can't break through the Sweet 16. For the Jags, they're a perennial 2nd place team in the AFC South. And as long as things stay the same, we can continue to make that analogy.
2. Donte Stallworth = Alfonso Soriano. Both of these young men are individuals with loads of talent. So why do they move from team to team to team? If you're a great, young player, teams usually find a way to hold on to you, especially in Soriano's case, when he was on the Yankees. There has to be more to the story in both cases.
--Detroit lost again, and you know what that means: they can only win nine games at the most, crushing Jon Kitna's prediction of at least 10. So that's two guarantees that went by the wayside on Sunday.
--Is there an NFL by-law that says Green Bay's defensive backs must always wear dreadlocks?
-Other than Pats-Steelers, there were some real blowouts on Sunday:
Indianapolis 44, Baltimore 20
Denver 41, KC 7
Minny 27, San Fran 7
Seattle 42, Arizona 21
Buffalo 38, Dolphins 17
Jacksonville 37, Carolina 6
Packers 38, Oakland 7
Yep, it looks like some teams have already closed the books on 2007.
--So the Steelers take on the aforementioned NFL version of the Pitt Panthers hoops team next week. Anyone care to offer a guarantee on the outcome?