I put on my Santa Dukes hat and shared my rendition of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ on Total Access Saturday, taking a special look at the rift between Brad Childress and Brett Favre, what was the matter with Randy Moss, and why Joey Porter has the right formula for the Dolphins to get into the playoffs.
Many would argue that the New England Patriots’ slide began that fateful Sunday vs. the Indianapolis Colts when Bill Belichick decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the end of the game. The Patriots have been reeling ever since and their offense has not been the same following that dreary night.
While I didn’t agree with Belichick’s decision, I understood it from his perspective, because what people fail to realize is that the Patriots’ prevent “D” could not stop Peyton Manning. Had Belichick punted, his defense was going to have to get in the same formation Manning had been carving up like a honey-baked ham.
Belichick’s real mistake came last week. He’s known for his head games, but I think he crossed the line when he sent four players home for being late to work. Look, I’m all for discipline but it was clear that on this particular dreadful day there were extenuating circumstances due to weather. I have never seen a situation in my 20-plus years of being around this league that a player was sent home for being late. FINED? YES! BEING SENT HOME LIKE A 2-YEAR-OLD? NO!
Belichick’s little head game may have blown up in his face. Randy Moss was one of the four players sent home. To his credit, Moss has been a good soldier, keeping his mouth shut during the good and the bad. I agree with Michael Irvin’s assessment that Moss is fragile. Moss is clearly distracted and in a funk. According to my sources, Moss was humiliated by being sent home, and the fact that Tom Brady is throwing 14 balls a game to Wes Welker is adding to his frustration.
For those who don’t want to hear a player apologist pontificate, you should read no further. Moss gets paid a lot of money to play for the Patriots and in an ideal world, you would hope he could block this out. Unfortunately, Moss is not that kind of guy. When stuff is bothering him, he can’t function. If the Patriots want to have a chance to win the Super Bowl, they need Moss to get hot. As much as I appreciate the talents of Welker, the Patriots won’t go far with the “death by paper cut” brand of offense they have been working since the Colts game.
Dr. Dukes examines the hearts and guts of the Steelers, Giants and Patriots, providing a diagnosis for what has gone wrong with these recent Super Bowl winners.
We’re headed down the home stretch of the season, and one of the big stories everyone is following is the performance of Cowboys QB Tony Romo. I have some trust issues with “Mr. November.” Will he wilt down the stretch?
Let’s listen to some of Romo’s upcoming exclusive interview with Michael Irvin, which will air in its entirety on NFL GameDay Morning, which starts at 9 a.m. ET.
Time to highlight some guys who got it done in Week 12. These are the players who caught my eye, and I now see a new frontrunner for league MVP.
- Vince Young, Tennessee Titans — Deion Sanders said it best when he said, “I love second-chance stories.” Young is making the best of his second chance at the most difficult position to play in all of professional sports.
I have stated many times over the last few weeks that I liked what I seeing in VY’s reincarnation, but I wanted to see what he would do if he had to put the team on his back and throw 40 times. Well, he did that in Sunday’s 20-17 win over the Cardinals, completing 27-of-43 passes for 387 yards with a touchdown. This in no way means he has arrived on the level of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but I am convinced this kid can win in this league.
- Chris Redman, Atlanta Falcons — It’s not easy to come off the bench and perform at a winning level after not taking a snap since the preseason. Ask Chris Simms. That’s exactly what Redman did filling in for the injured Matt Ryan.
The 5-5 Falcons had no room for error coming into the game against the Bucs. It was a game they were expected to win, but all bets were off when Ryan went down. Tampa Bay rookie QB Josh Freeman continued to show promise and put the Bucs in position to win, but it was the resolve of Redman that won the day. A brief history lesson: Redman made such an impression after being out of football for a couple seasons that the Falcons parted ways with Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills — While I’m convinced that Fitzpatrick is a backup in this league, he showed great poise and resolve as he led the Bills to a 31-14 victory over the enigmatic Dolphins. It didn’t take an Ivy Leaguer to figure out that Terrell Owens was a good receiver, but the Harvard alum has gotten more meaningful production out of T.O. in two weeks than the Bills had done all season.
Fitzpatrick’s performance has all but sealed the fate of Trent Edwards. That said, when the new coach arrives, it is also likely Fitzpatrick will lose his starting gig. Still, he has earned the right to remain on the roster as a capable backup.
- Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts — WOW is all I have to say… although he has given way to Lord Favre as the frontrunner for MVP.
- Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings — See comment above.
As Arsenio Hall used to say, I’ve seen some things lately that make me say “hmmm.” I want to start with the Chiefs. First, coach Todd Haley pushed his players away after the win over the Steelers. Then he was cheered entering his postgame news conference. Hmmm … Then Broncos QB Jay Cutler and Eagles QB Donovan McNabb might have been a bit too cuddly with each other.
- San Diego’s offensive line — Earlier this year, the Broncos dominated the Chargers’ line. On Sunday, the unit got its revenge as the Chargers held the Broncos without a sack.
- Matthew Stafford — Never mind the five touchdown passes and 400-plus yards passing, Stafford showed the heart of a champion to come back on the field and throw the winning TD despite the pain he was in from getting clocked on the previous play. I also have an honorable mention for Brady Quinn, who has obviously not brought the luck of the Irish to Cleveland.
- Brett Favre — Right now, it seems to be a three-man race for MVP between Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Favre. I’m putting my vote with the senior citizen.
- Chris Chambers — It’s not often a guy comes off the waiver wire and makes an impact late in the season. That’s exactly what Chambers has done in his short tenure with the Chiefs.
- Bruce Gradkowski — It wasn’t pretty, but it was gritty as Gradkowski made enough plays to defeat the hot Cincinnati Bengals.
Bill Belichick made the right call in going for it on fourth down and has three Super Bowl rings as justification for his decision.
Belichick rightfully thought that his defense could not stop the Colts. Based on that assessment, he opted to put the ball in the hands of his best player, Tom Brady, who is also the best player in the league.
Belichick has used his intuition to win three Super bowls and navigated a 16-0 regular season. His instincts served him well and his team executed the play. It’s laughable that people would call Belichick’s decision making into question given his accomplishments.
Leadership is not easy. Belichick chose to lead as he has done successfully for many years. His only mistake was handling his timeouts, but no one could have guessed that he would need that final timeout for a review.
Bottom line, things happen and Belichick did what he felt was right in that situation. No different than what he’s done for many years. That’s why he’s a future Hall of Fame coach.
It’s that time again, time to pass out my midseason awards. I’ve got some special awards to hand out, including the Barry Sanders Award (aka, I’m so fed up with losing it’s time to retire), the Fall Award (players who thrive during the fall, but wilt during the winter) and the Enron Award (demonstrating poor football etiquette).
Check out the video from NFL Total Access to find out the winners.
Posted: November 7th, 2009 | Jamie Dukes | Tags: Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Drew Brees, Eric Mangini, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Roy Williams, Ted Thompson, Tennessee Titans, Tom Coughlin, Vince Young
Midway through the season, it’s time to see what we’ve learned. I took a look at Ted Thompson, Eric Mangini, Vince Young, Roy Williams (of the Cowboys), Tom Coughlin and, last but not least, Drew Brees, on Saturday’s NFL Total Access on NFL Network. But here’s the bit: I did it Twitter-style, offering my thoughts in 140 characters or less.
Posted: November 5th, 2009 | Jamie Dukes | Tags:
I’m going to keep this short and sweet. THERE WILL NOT BE A PLAYERS WALKOUT BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS! Let me repeat: THERE WILL NOT BE A PLAYER WALKOUT BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS. There are rumors being floated around from sources who have no credibility. All they have is access to the Internet. I have talked to high-ranking officials in the NFLPA, and they are infuriated by these erroneous reports.
Catch me on Twitter @jamiedukes
Expectations were high in Tennessee this season, but it’s been an awful year for Jeff Fisher and the Titans. The Titans are mired in an impossible hole.
What has been the problem? Is it because they lost their best player, Albert Haynesworth, in free agency? Is it because QB Kerry Collins is playing his age? Is it because they lost defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz? Or because of injuries?
No, history shows us that when you disrespect the Terrible Towel, bad luck comes your way. Check out my Put Up Your Dukes segment from NFL Total Access, where I explore the illustrious history of the Terrible Towel. It might be a good idea to show the Terrible Towel some love.
While I didn’t expect the Vikings to be undefeated at this point in the season, I did expect Brett Favre to be playing well as long as his arm held up. The reason is as simple as A-B-C. Teams are rightfully locked in to Adrian Peterson in the form of eight-man fronts. Therefore, it is easier for Favre to recognize in his pre-snap surveillance which receiver has man coverage.
Some teams have tried to keep the safety in the middle of the field to mask the coverage, but that’s not working, either. Favre still has a lot of arm strength and that’s why he’s hitting Sidney Rice on the deep slant. Watching the tapes, you will also see Favre manipulate the safety by looking to one side, which causes the safety to drift in the direction of his eyes, and then he throws back to the backside.
What say you?
Catch me on Twitter @jamiedukes
All of the juicy soap opera scenarios appear to be coming from one place this season — the NFC East.
In Dallas, Wade Phillips seems to be the fall guy for Tony Romo’s shortcomings. But it’s not his fault. In Washington, Jim Zorn sounds like he’s a beaten man. But his players need to play better. Then there’s Brandon Jacobs in New York, who was kind of right, but really more wrong in his comments this week, on a few different levels. Last but not least, it’s back to the drawing board for Andy Reid in Philly. The Wildcat and Michael Vick didn’t make much of an impact last week.
Check out the video above from Saturday’s Total Access for my latest.
For some teams the Wildcat is a trend or trinket. Consequently, these teams make a cursory attempt at executing the Wildcat offense. Just like any other aspect of life, if you give a half-hearted attempt it will yield little or no fruit. If you are going to be successful with this or any other offense, it requires execution.
The reason the Wildcat is working so well for the Dolphins is because the players are committed to executing the play. More importantly, the players recognize the Wildcat is a vital part of their offense. I’ve heard recent criticism of Andy Reid and his utilization of Michael Vick, but Reid is in a precarious position. His starting QB is insulted because the team is utilizing “gimmicks.”
If the team looks at these plays as gimmicks, they will execute them like they are gimmicks. Reid has to be as meticulous and demanding of perfect execution as he is with other plays. Players are fickle and if Reid puts some players on blast after a poorly executed Wildcat play, the results will be better.
What say you?
Catch me on Twitter @jamiedukes