The Soapbox: Week 4 2010

I think it's time we blow this scene, get everybody and the stuff together...

Despondent grey clouds

Bring forth Titanic anger

They strike when we're down

Opening Thoughts

After all that deep emotional stuff I made you all endure in last week's Jazz Odyssey, I thought I’d make this week's episode a little lighter. Its topic: Unconventional sex.

Many of you probably know that I used to be known around these parts as papigrande. (Also as Al Davis, K4NYE WEST, the bane of Zappa’s existence, and Yoda). I took a vacation from the site right around the point where I started to fear computers becoming self-aware, and I went on a summer-long generic spirit journey. I came back a different man, and full of the wisdom of many thousands of fortune cookies (I have a friend who works in a Chinese restaurant. Side note: did you know that there are no fortune cookies in China?)

I am healthier, saucier, and fuller of vigor than I have ever been before. Styg, you will be happy to know that I have kicked my glue habit once and for all. Those of you with small children will be happy to know that I repainted my van so that it doesn’t say "Free candy" on the side, and is now filled with drums and guitars. I’m back, baby, and I’m here to stay. After all, I’m obligated now, aren’t I? I’ve got a weekly column.

A weekly column that I'm just two weeks into, and I've already made my first really dumb mistake. See, I go to school in a town that's 45 minutes from where I live when I'm not at school. So, I live in School Town during the week and in Home Town during the weekend. (More on that later.) Well, I left all my notes that I had taken during my watching and rewatching of Sunday's game at my old house, and since I decided to cram writing all of this into Monday night, I have nothing but my memory from which to write this. I'm very sorry, and I won't do it again. Hopefully this week's column doesn't suffer.

Okay, three, two, one, let's jam.

  • I'm putting the bullets up here this time. I think it helps a bit with the flow of the column. However, I'll still probably play around with the format for a few weeks until I find something I really like.
  • I'll lead off with my thoughts on what everyone else has already articulated about fifty times better than I ever possibly could: the decision to go for it on fourth down. I didn't agree with the call when it was made, but I absolutely can see the point of view of someone who would go for it in that situation. Had we made a field goal, we still would have been down, and we would have had to kick off to their return unit that had gashed us earlier in the game for a touchdown. Assuming we stopped them on the return (remember, it was into the wind, so no possibility of a touchback), Vince Young and the Titans' offense would have had the ball at their own 25-35 yard line. If we stopped them, they would have punted from (probably) their own 30-40, meaning that with a good punt we would have gotten the ball at our own 15-25. We would have had to go 75-85 yards for a game winning score, instead of the 50 that we ended up needing. In the end, I think it was about field position.
  • Slightly less serious note: Ryan McBean, you are a big, fat 320 pound man. I never want to see you try to pick the ball up and run with it ever again.
  • More of the same from Perrish Cox this week: he made a few great plays, and got burned for a few embarrassing plays. He's a rookie, and this is to be expected, yadda yadda yadda. You know who Perrish Cox really, really reminds me of? Darrent Williams. Both are/were supremely talented, quick thinking, ballhawking cornerbacks who made as many plays as they gave up. Hopefully Perrish will develop into the playmaker Darrent was maturing into.
  • I loved the tenacity on defense, especially from these players: Brian Dawkins, Kevin Vickerson, Jamal Williams, and Robert Ayers. These guys played feisty defense all game long, and they continually showed heart when we needed it. Each of them brought something that I haven't seen in our defense since a guy named Al Wilson was backing the line.
  • Maybe Wink Martindale had something to do with it? I love this dude. He is exactly what defensive coordinators should be: a fat, ugly redneck who wears awful T-shirts. I don't know about you, but I prefer this over Mike Nolan's hair gel and fashion sense.
  • I got a certain memo when I went back and read the game thread: most of you think Laurence Maroney is a poopy running back. I'm not here to say he's anything spectacular because I don't think he is, but I will give him a little benefit of the doubt because he's only practiced for two weeks since last season ended. When he gets healthy, he'll hit the hole that much harder, and he'll get that much more after each hit. That being said, I do think we need to change something up in the run game until he, Knowshon Moreno, and the offensive line get healthy.
  • Speaking of game threads: I used to be the king of them (by posting more than anyone else, of course) but now I prefer to watch the game on my own terms. I don't like all the bandwagon jumping going on in the threads, so I'll stay out. Nothing wrong with them, just not my thing. Just thought I'd throw that in there before any of you ask where Mr. 600-Comments went.

Coaching Points

Gameplans and Adjustments--Offense

One thing I think many of us are subconsciously missing from the Shanahan era is the fabled "25 scripted plays" with which we led each game. It almost never failed: we came out of the gates and dominated offensively every single week. It seemed like we always had our opponents on their heels defensively every first quarter, and we always spotted ourselves a ten or fourteen point lead.

The problem is, once we got into the second quarter, our offense hit a wall. I vividly remember three very recent examples from 2008. In week 2, we dominated the Chargers in the first half for 31 points. Then we scored 8 in the whole second half. The following week against New Orleans, we got up by a whole bunch and then flatlined again. Those are the two examples everyone remembers, but the one that haunted me the most was late in the season against the Bills.

We torched Buffalo in the first quarter and got out to a 13-3 lead. We lost 30-23. Meaning we only scored 10 more points in the whole rest of the game. Why all the hot starts and lame collapses? I have a theory, and I think I share it with Josh McDaniels. Well, he figured it out way before I did, but you know what I mean.

Josh McDaniels is the opposite of the 25 scripted plays. His playcalling in the first quarter is usually very vanilla. Last week, I mentioned that this caused me trouble when I was trying to figure out the offensive gameplan. Well, now I think that it's by design. He wants to avoid collapses. See, Mike Shanahan did 25 his plays to figure out what would work and what wouldn't. He blew his wad early and gave the defense time to adjust to him.

McDaniels will never tip his hand in the first quarter. He wants the defense to lull themselves into a false sense of security, have them make adjustments, and then strike at the weaknesses they create for themselves. On Sunday, he did this perfectly. He got them blitzing hard and fast for the whole first quarter. They came hard at Kyle Orton and got to him three times. I remember yelling at the TV, "Run a screen! A quick pass! Anything!! We have to slow down their pass rush!"

In the second quarter on, we dominated them with screens and quick passes. Naturally, I thought I was a genius until I realized that maybe we waited to adjust by design. When a defense finds something that works early, they have a tendency to go back to it later in the game. That's just a natural reaction. So when you let them have a little success early, this time with the blitz, you set them up to want to revert to it later in the game. You let them think it is working by waiting to adjust until the right time--on Sunday, the second quarter--and take advantage of it. Their blitzes were easy prey for our slants and screens, and we unleashed them in full force, to the tune of 300-plus passing yards.

Now, I'm still not absolutely, entirely, without-a-doubt sold that this was by design and I'll still have to evaluate it on a week-to-week basis. But it is very intriguing to me, and I think there is some wisdom in that strategy.

Gameplans and Adjustments--Defense

Last week, I said that we should get used to not blitzing, because it's not Wink's game. Boy, was I wrong. We sent five or six guys on almost every play on Sunday. Over and over and over again we blitzed, but we still didn't create a lot of pressure... why is this? It's because we were run blitzing.

We were going up against the best running back in the NFL, Chris Johnson, and we knew that to beat the Titans, we'd have to limit him. Well, we didn't just limit him, we shut him down completely, and we did it by keeping our heavy package in and using the beef to plug up all the gaps.

What leads me to believe this is the fact that most of our blitzes were very straightforward. Our D-line took care of the center and the tackles, while we brought the linebackers in to plug up the gaps. Not only did this stop Chris Johnson, it also limited the ability of Vince Young to get out of the pocket and scramble.

Robert Ayers, Jason Hunter, Mario Haggan, DJ Williams, Jamal Williams, Justin Bannan, Kevin Vickerson, and Brian Dawkins are all our best run defenders. They ALL stepped up and made big plays in the run game on Sunday. They stayed in for most of the game. I'd venture to guess that we ran our base 3-4 on every defensive first-and-second down. This comes a week after spending three-fourths of the game in a 3-3-5 defense. Just goes to show that the amoeba philosophy applies to defense as well.

Last week I wrote about how I was impressed with our physicality on defense. I was even more impressed this week. Our front seven dominated their offensive line all game. Jamal Williams played like a freak of nature and ate up double teams for lunch. Brian Dawkins hit scary hard. And we tackled... I haven't seen tackling like that since early 2006. Keep it up boys. I'd like to repeat this paragraph every week.


Bridge Vision

What a huge win. What a huge, huge win. By my stupid little formula, this game was less important than last week's game because it was a road game. (Remember my tiers, from most important to least: home division, away division, home conference, home non-conference, away conference, away non-conference.) But we weren't ever going to beat the Colts anyway, so we needed to get one to make up for it. Well, here it is.

This is the hardest stretch of the schedule. We have Indy, Tennessee, Baltimore, and the Jets in four straight weeks. I thought 1-3 would be realistic, and 2-2 ideal. We're 1-1 in it now, but, more importantly, we got a win early and we don't have to worry about being 1-5. You can't start 1-5 and make the playoffs. 2-4 is manageable, especially with a bye coming up and the easiest part of the schedule on the way. But if we're sitting 3-3 and looking at Oakland and San Francisco, we'll be licking our chops.

Ideally, we'll split the next two games. Meaning, we'll find a way to beat the Jets. Put me on record as saying that we have maybe a 10% chance of winning next week's game. We never beat the Ravens in Baltimore, and we probably won't next week. Please don't jump off the bandwagon if we lose. It's a third-tier game and again, I cannot stress this enough, we never win in Baltimore.

No matter what happens over the next two weeks, though, winning this game was absolutely HUGE because it virtually guarantees that we won't have to dig ourselves out of a big early-season hole.

Know Thyself

It's simple, isn't it? We have one major, glaring flaw right now and it reared its ugly head on Sunday. We can't run the ball. 20 carries for 19 yards and having Kyle "Molasses" Orton as your leading rusher with 11 yards? U-g-l-y. We ain't got no alibi. I don't care what goes down in the short term, but we have to find a way to run the ball better. Soon.

What's that, you're saying? We have a different flaw? Red zone offense? That we can move the ball and win while throwing every play? First of all, imaginary person who I made up for this, don't interrupt me. That's rude. Second, these two things are one and the same. Yes, you can pass the ball for a zillion yards every week, but you won't be able to score any points if you can't run in the red zone.

Here's why: if the defense knows a pass is coming in the red zone, they will pull out the Kryptonite defense: Cover 2. Cover 2 is a zone defense in which the safeties take the back halves of the field. The corners play the "curl zone" to the outside and about eight yards off the ball. The inside linebacker(s) take the short middle of the field, and the outside backers cover the flats.

In the open field, Cover 2 is pretty much a conservative, soft defense. It has a gaping hole in the seams that good quarterbacks will always exploit, and it is easy to get two guys into the corner's zone and force him to choose. But in the red zone, Cover 2 is poison. The safeties are positioned much closer to the ball, meaning that they can cover the quick seam pass, and the short field makes it impossible to layer receivers in the corner's zone. This takes away Cover 2's only weaknesses and makes it nearly impenetrable against the pass.

So why don't teams run Cover 2 on every red zone play? Simple: because it's weak against the run. Unless the linebackers play the pass first, quick receivers will be able to get behind them and take an easy catch on the goal line. They have to hesitate and cannot commit to the run until they are sure it is actually a run play. This buys time for the offensive line to get to the second level and get a hat on the backers, creating holes for the running back to go through.

So, teams can't run Cover 2 and take away our passing in the red zone if they are worried about our run game. Ahh, it all makes sense now, doesn't it?

Freeform Jazz Odyssey

"This… is Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Stockholm. 1963… two masters of freedom, playing in a time before their art was corrupted by a zillion cocktail lounge performers who destroyed the legacy of the only American art form — jazz."

"...What IS this music?"

Story of My Life

Story of My Life is a segment that I will include whenever I feel I need to tell you a story. From my life. This weekend I had myself a doozy, so I thought I'd throw it in here. As you are about to see, it is glorious.

Where to begin this one... OK, so I was in this band in high school with my friends Dwayne and T-Boy (again, Internet confidentiality). Well, me and T-Boy decided that, like all bands, we needed a "band vehicle." So we went out on Criagslist last year and bought us a crappy blue 1983 Nissan 280ZX for $500 that we had thrown together. It had issues when we bought it, the idiots that we were, and we certainly didn't help its cause.

It was truly a band car: it could have been at my house or T-Boy's on any given day, since we both drove it equally. (Not Dwayne, though. His mama wouldn't let him drive.) Oh man, we drove that thing everywhere. We took it to Guitar Center and dicked around until they kicked us out; we didn't sniff glue in the back of it; we drove it to Springfield.... It fit my drums and T-Boy's guitars and Dwayne's bass in its huge hatchback, so it was really all we needed and we drove the absolute piss out of it.

Piss, indeed. And most of the vinegar also. See, we rang up a few issues that we tried to fix ourselves. And, as we were 18-year-old backyard mechanics, we failed miserably.

Here's the laundry list: It had 220,000 miles on it, the springs were shot, there was a short in the electrical system that caused the taillights not to work, the brakes were worn out, BOTH the tachometer and speedometer were fried, the tires were worn out, the motor had no oil in it, the emergency brake didn't even pretend to work, the tranny was low on oil and went "THUD" every time you down-shifted, and it made this weird whining sound when you accelerated or decelerated that was probably due to a bad rear differential. Oh, and the frame rails were both completely severed due to rust, meaning that the whole thing was held together literally only by the floorboards and the roof, which caused it to sag in the middle in a way that was both cute and depressing. So it had some issues.

Seriously, we took it to be inspected in March, and the mechanic just wrote "LOL" and handed the sheet back to us.

For whatever reason (laziness, probably), we didn't try to get rid of the thing until I found out that I was $200 short of $2,156, the magic number that is the cost of a new MacBook Pro with a 15" screen, a 2.66 GHz Intel i7 processor, 4 GB random-access memory (expandable to 8), a 500GB hard drive, triple single coil pickups and a whammy bar.

This car, when junked, must be worth $200, we said. It will still drive, we said. We should drive it to a junkyard! Cue adventure.

I go to college in Warrensburg, MO, which is about 45 minutes southeast of Lee's Summit, where I went to high school and where the car is still located at my house. T-Boy goes to school in Springfield, which is just a short 4-hour drive south from me. Dwayne still goes to high school in Lee's Summit. My grandparents, who also live in Warrensburg, are apparently chummy with the owner of a scrap yard in between the Burg and Lee's Summit. So we laid out this great master plan in which T-Boy would come up for the weekend to send off the Z properly. He and Dwayne would ride behind me while I drove the Z in case it burst into flames on the highway or something, and we'd all follow my grandparents out to the scrapyard located in Middle of Nowhere, Missouri.

So we convene at my house and, after many, many tries, finally get the junk heap started. We line up in our procession, and I immediately get second thoughts about this. Here I am driving this aluminum deathtrap that smells like skunk, corpse, and vomit all rolled up into one and has no license plates OR proof of insurance. I'll be in front of two people who shouldn't be responsible for babysitting a snake (easiest. pet. ever.) and behind two others who initiate full panic mode when they run out of Cheerios. I get just a tad nervous.

Naturally, the first thing we see is a cop sitting right off the entrance ramp of the highway. ****, I think. This does not bode well for us. I smile awkwardly at him, my heart rate at a cool 200bpm, and by the grace of whatever god you believe in he does not follow me. We settle in behind a station wagon going under the speed limit and cruise for awhile. T-Boy calls me on my cell phone and we chat for a few minutes about the officer we just missed. Then, abruptly, he yells, "COP!!" and hangs up the phone.

Startled, I jump a bit, causing the car to swerve a little in my lane. I look up at the mirror to see a state trooper with a glorious mustache speed around T-Boy's Mazda. He slows down diagonally to my car and our eyes meet. ****, I think again. I am boned now... Then, miraculously, he just shakes his head and speeds forward, turning on his lights to nab the station wagon we'd been behind, which was, I just realize, swerving around all over the place and the driver of which was obviously drunk.

No more scares, please, I think. I roll down the windows and we drive 30 or so miles before my phone rings again. It's my grandma. "I think we missed the exit." Turns out we'd missed whatever exit she was looking for by about 10 miles, and we had to backtrack (past another cop on the side of the road, but at that point I just didn't care anymore) before we turn down an ominous-looking, heavily forested gravel road. I get a text from Dwayne.

"Drive faster Joey, I hear banjo music."

Dust pours into the Z. I forgot to roll the damn windows up. I choke and fumble for the air  and the window switch as little particles fly around my face and cling to my clothes. The inside of the car quickly turns brown. We drive for about 20 more minutes before my grandma abruptly stops. She calls me. "We're lost."

Well, this is just wonderful. T-Boy has the brilliant idea of trying to head back to the highway to see if we can't just go to an easier-to-find junkyard. After all, they're quite common 'round these parts. So we do just that. Problem is, we don't know which way the highway is and we don't want to stop anywhere along the road because, well, have you ever driven through rural Missouri? Yeah, you go do that and stop for directions and see where it gets you.

We drive for at least 20 minutes trying to get back on the highway. By this point I'm almost to tears.The THUDding of the transmission is now becoming dangerously loud. Like, to the point that I'm legitimately afraid that I am about to start pooping car parts onto the road. I never want to see this car again, I decide. It is the bane of my existence, and I'm willing to wait two weeks for my paycheck before I get my MacBook.

Then I see a billboard. "RICHEY'S SALVAGE," it says. It is like a sign from God. We all honk our horns in excitement.... and then we drive up closer to it and see on another sign, "OUT OF BUSINESS."

I hate my life. We stop get directions back to the highway at a gas station we happen upon, when my grandma mentions that we were looking for a salvage yard. I'm like, no grandma, we've been through enough already. Let's just go push this thing off a bridge or something. I don't want to go through all the trouble of--Oh, you mean the salvage yard? Why yes, we do. Well it's just down the highway, about 10 miles, take a right on 58, then a left on Division Road. Can't miss it.

We find our way back to the highway and drive the 10 miles past things we have already driven past twice, and, finally, we arrive at the salvage yard and I can get rid of my automobile. I shut the driver side door and the mirror pops off. As I walk away from it for the last time, I notice that it is making a weird blowy noise. The air conditioner is still running. Wow.

Finally content and covered head to toe in dust, I go back to my uncle's house in Warrensburg with my bandmates, crack open a cold case of beer soda pop and we embark upon the most epic jam session in the history of music.

The bottom line? I just put my life on the line for $220. But damn if this MacBook wasn't worth it.

And they say I'm boring for not living on campus.

Allow Me to Play You Out

Today, I play you out with a clip from a 1980s sitcom called Mama's Family, which is where I got the Dwayne and T-Boy names. Now hold on, wait a minute, why would I play you out with that? Unless it were something special...

50 points to the first person to get what Mama's Family has to do with me! Go!

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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