TMQ: The importance of the incomplete pass.

The stadium scene.
Jan. 22 2002 10:30 AM

The Importance of the Incomplete Pass

7_tmq_logobyline
(Continued from Page 3)

Best Kick Blocking: Jermaine Lewis was swell on that 88-yard punt return, but watch the tape again—no Steeler touched him owing to great blocking. Special teams have return plays and formations, but they're hard to discern owing to kicking chaos. Watch the tape; this play forms just like it was drawn.

Advertisement

Best Dancin' With Them What Brung Ya: Pittsburgh had nine snaps from the Baltimore 10 or closer and ran on all nine against the supposedly impermeable Ravens. Result: 17 points. Running got the Steelers into the game, and they honored sports lore by dancin' with them what brung 'em.

In-Depth Media Analysis: At halftime, after Pittsburgh had true-blitzed just three times, Professional Oddity/Could-Not-Have-Been-a-Real-Coach Jerry Glanville shrieked, "Baltimore can't handle the blitz! Pittsburgh is killin' Baltimore by blitzing on every down!" Randy Cross somberly agreed that Baltimore's problem was the Steeler blitz.

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 4: Trailing 20-0, defending champion Baltimore faced fourth and goal from the Steelers' 8 with a minute in the half. In came the kicking unit. Sure, fourth and goal is a long shot—but so is coming back from a 20-3 halftime deficit on the road against the league's top-rated defense. Ravens, you are defending champs.Sparta would not have shown fear.

Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 5: Trailing 27-10 with 8:43 to play, Baltimore faced fourth and three on its 27. In came the punting unit. There's no tomorrow and no BCS rating on margin of defeat. You need three scores. Why are you punting? Why are you punting?

Green Bay at St. Louis
Phaser burns on the fuselage of the Packers' charter plane. Photon torpedo damage reported at Lambeau Field. Did anybody get the license number of the starcruiser that hit us? Ye gods, the space aliens of St. Louis toyed with the Packers—and they were toying with a 13-4 team! Let's hope Green Bay survivors were beamed directly to sick bay.

This time it was the Rams defense—a 383-292 yardage edge for Green Bay, but meaningless in the face of eight turnovers, three returned for scores. New defensive coordinator Lovie Smith has not only transformed the Rams, but has done so without the services of the two first-round draft-pick DLs management gave him. (One hurt, the other nailed to the bench.) Smith spent the offseason preaching "hats" to Rams defenders—good things happen when you put lots of hats on the ball. Why some preachers move the flock and others don't, TMQ cannot say, but Smith's preachin' was taken to heart. On Sunday the Rams gang-tackled and gang-hit as well as any team ever has, multiple hats creating several turnovers and frustrating routine plays.

Sole cautionary note TMQ could think of: The Rams scored their first two offensive touchdowns on regular passes from regular sets at the goal line. This might have worked Sunday, but regular passes from regular sets at the goal line are normally a formula for woe.

Best by a Battery of Space Aliens: It was Rams 24, Packers 10 in the third when bioagent "Kurt Warner" of the Galactic Hegemony (Not Your Father's Interstellar Conspiracy™) bootlegged right from his 43. He stopped and threw back left across his "body"—at least his holographic manifestation of human form—60 yards in the air and hit fellow space alien "Torry Holt" exactly on the hands at the Packers' 7. Sixty yards back across his body. Most Homo sapien athletes can't puntthat far, let alone throw across their bodies. Holt caught it despite being double-covered, and the Rams scored on the next play to pull away. That Planck's harmonic wave-packet collapser Warner bought with him on the starcruiser from his homeworld sure is coming in handy.

Worst by a Battery of Homo Sapiens: Scoreless game, Bay of Green facing second and 10 on its 22. The Packers lined up with two double-wides; a Rams safety blitzed from the offensive right; Brett Favre threw a quick hook to Bill Schroeder on the far right; Schroeder ran a hook and up; that left Ram CB Aeneas Williams the only gentlemen present when the ball arrived, and he ran it back for six.

Obviously a missed communication or missed sight-adjustment between Favre and Schroeder; only someone who knows the Green Bay playbook and signal system could say which Packer was to blame. But here's what made the play so horrible: As Williams caught the pick, Schroeder did not give chase but stood stock-still, waving his hands in theatrical disgust toward Favre. It doesn't matter that the deep zone was clear because the safety blitzed and that had Favre thrown the up, it might have been a huge gain. What mattered was that Favre is a three-time NFL MVP, irreplaceable, bearer of Green Bay's hopes. Bill Schroeder is a dime-a-dozen nobody. Dime-a-dozen bodies do not make theatrical gestures of disgust at three-time MVP teammates in playoff games. It's the sort of thing that leads to blowout losses.