Monday, December 02, 2013

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, at the Bills Game, Eating a Buffalo Wing Like it's Covered in Crack Sauce

I go back and forth on my feelings about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. At some times he seems lovable for his over indulgence. He's like Falstaff. Or Chris Farley. However, at other times he seems just a few steps away from being a villian in a poorly written TV movie. The evil Mayor who can't help himself, borrows money to feet his habits, and has to sell the city's Christmas lights to China to pay off his debt. The Mayor Who Pawned Christmas.

But I can appreciate the blank-faced joy he's feeling as he devours a Buffalo wing at the Bills game. I've recently gone on a Buffalo sauce spree. Not just putting it on chicken. I've been experimenting. I've put it on steak tips and rice (the best one). On shepherd's pie. I've made Buffalo chicken mac and cheese and pasta with Buffalo chicken instead of tomato sauce. I even made a Thanksgiving leftover burrito with turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, covered in Buffalo sauce. Soooooo good.

I feel like sending these pictures to Toronto and bribing Ford with this addictive cuisine. Maybe force him to arrest Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk in exchange, and detain them until June.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Gary Wiepert

Andre Williams' Heisman Hopes Fall Apart Against Syracuse

What happened to Andre Williams on Saturday makes you appreciate just how difficult it is to rush for 2,000 yards in college football. So many carries. So many tackles. So many times being dragged to the ground by multiple defenders. So many times shoulders, ankles, knees, and elbows would be pulled and strained and bent and pried and twisted. Especially for a north-south runner like Williams. So much wear and tear.

BC's first Heisman Hopeful since Matt Ryan was sidelined for most of the Eagles' 34-31 loss to Syracuse. Williams only managed to accumulate 29 yards on 9 carries. His lowest yardage total of the year. He did however manage to score a touchdown.

Williams' Heisman candidacy was always a longshot. Williams hasn't caught a pass all season, and the Heisman frequently goes to multidimensional players, such as running QBs (Manziel, RG3, Cam Newton, Tebow, Troy Smith, Eric Crouch), pass-catching RBs (Reggie Bush), and cornerbacks who return punts (Charles Woodson). Heisman winners also typically play for teams competing for conference and national titles, not teams that go 7-5 and lose to Syracuse.

I do think Williams deserves considerable hardware for his spectacular season. He's the best RB in the country. He is the second best offensive player in the ACC behind Jameis Winston. He's one of the best RBs in ACC and BC history. And he's the biggest reason that BC went from a 2 win team in 2012 to a 7-5 team in 2013. Give him trophies. Just not the trophy.

There are close to 10,000 scholarship athletes in Division I-A football each season. Only 1 of them wins the Heisman. Sometimes it's Barry Sanders. Sometimes it's Eric Crouch. This time it will not be Andre Williams. And that's not a thing to be ashamed of. It's a hard trophy to win.

NFL Refs Conspiring to Ruin Football Games? Revenge for Lockout?

Nothing will ever match the ineptitude of last year's replacement refs. They couldn't keep up with the pace of the game. They made obvious blunders. They ruined the on-field product so badly that the NFL caved and we all celebrated the return of the real refs, who performed so much better than their scab counterparts.

Then there's this year. For the most part NFL refs have been fine. They're not perfect. They make mistakes. And there's the same old inconsistencies with holding and P.I. and all that stuff that's always been annoying.

Then there are a handful of weird plays, all at the ends of big games, that involve obscure rules, or questionable rule interpretations, or forgetting what down it is.

The Patriots and Jets played an overtime game that turned when the Pats were flagged for pushing each other while attempting to block a hopelessly long field goal. Two Sundays ago the Patriots were in Charlotte and the game ended with a pass interference flag being picked up. And this past Sunday the Redskins were apparently given a 1st down, which was actually 3rd down, then the refs caught the "mistake" and reset the dial-a-down to indicate a 4th down. They also failed to measure the very close 1st down that wasn't actually a 1st down.

Mike Shanahan probably didn't ask for a measurement since he seemed to think his team already had a 1st down.

It's just weird that these things are happening. That was replacement level incompetence in the Redskins game. I haven't seen that pushing penalty called since the Pats/Jets game. And few people who don't work for the NFL think it was correct for the officials to pick up the P.I. flag in the Pats/Panthers game.

There was also the Steelers game on Thanksgiving, in which the refs took a touchdown off the board because the ball carrier's helmet was knocked off half a second before he scored a touchdown.

Is there a conspiracy? I doubt it.

Or do I?

Are a group of rogue referees trying to get revenge on the NFL for last year's lockout? Have they decided to spoil the endings of close marquee NFL games with confusion? They waited until the end of the game to penalize the Patriots for their pushing. They tried to go back in take a touchdown from the Steelers. They royally screwed up the end of the Redskins game, and never paused to explain the confusion to anyone on either sideline.

Lack of explanation is another trend in these calls. Belichick didn't get one in Carolina. Shanahan didn't get one Sunday night.

How many times have we heard football pundits and talking heads say "I've never seen anything like this," in regards to officials this year?

It's almost too odd. And keep in mind, the crew that officiated that Steelers game also did the Pats/Panthers game with that waved off pass interference in the end zone.

And three of these four games were nationally televised. The Steelers and Redskins games were on NBC, the Pats/Panthers game was on a Monday Night. Three were divisional matchups. Three were rivalry games. And 6 of the 7 different teams involved are among the NFL's most popular. The teams involved have also won 9 of the last 13 Super Bowls.

It's just too weird for the best football refs to make such bizarre decisions at the endings of big games. A little too weird.

BCS System Pisses Me Off One Last Time

Those are Ohio State players celebrating Auburn's last-second 109 yard field goal return touchdown against Alabama. The video was recorded and posted on Instagram by OSU receiver Frank Epitropoulos. As OSU's players rode on a bus somewhere in lower Michigan, 800 miles to the south in Auburn, Alabama, insane events unfolded that knocked Bama out of the BCS title game, and might have put Ohio State in.

And that's what pisses me off. Ohio State didn't knock out Alabama, Auburn did. Ohio State essentially advanced to the title game at the expense of Alabama, without ever playing Alabama. I'm doubly pissed off because Ohio State would have never had a chance to knock off Bama themselves.

I'm not suggesting that Ohio State doesn't deserve a title shot. I'm not suggesting that Alabama does deserve one. OSU took care of business, Bama didn't. And in this system, Ohio State deserves a title shot more than Alabama.

But how Ohio State passed Alabama is what pisses me off. Auburn did the dirty work for Ohio State. To be fair, Ohio State would have never been given a chance to knock off Alabama. Which is also a flaw of this horrid BCS system. OSU could have gone undefeated and not been given a title shot. Just like NIU and Fresno State. How ludicrous is that? An undefeated Big Ten champion on the outside looking in? It might have happened if not for a missed FG return.

I'm not bitching about the BCS's unfairness or inequalities. I'm complaining about the entertainment the BCS robs from the college football fan. We don't get to see OSU and Bama decide who is best on the field. Or OSU and Auburn for that matter. Instead of letting the gladiators fight it out in the arena head-to-head, they fight against their own local neighbors. Then someone somewhere somehow decides which 2 are the best and they fight to be crowned champion.

The BCS deprives us of big games between contenders to decide who is worthy of a shot at the Championship. The BCS deprives us of the thrill of elimination football. We get to enjoy it in the pros, and in all other college sports. But not big time football. And I hate the BCS for that. Good riddance.

And to the Ohio State players celebrating, you were a 2-point conversion away from being knocked out by Michigan. And you still must play Michigan State. I hope you lose and make things even more confusing.

And there's a chance Auburn could get in, but it won't be because they beat Ohio State or Florida State. Michigan State and Duke have more control over Auburn's national title hopes than Auburn does.

And how must Stanford and Oregon feel? Had they beaten USC and Arizona, respectively, then they'd be near the front of the line if OSU or Florida State lose their conference title games.

And for the record, I don't feel an ounce of pity for Alabama's A.J. McCarron. Mostly because of this...

Going home to that must be, in a word, comforting.

Antonio Smith Accuses Patriots of Cheating

After the Houston Texans their 10th straight game, defensive end Antonio Smith indirectly accused the Patriots of somehow knowing something that they shouldn't have been able to know:

"You can tell they changed their scheme in the second half. It's miraculous they changed some things on offense that keyed on what we put on this week to stop what they were doing. They did things they never did all year before. It was a specific thing that was important to what we were going to do today, as to how we were going to call the defense. We'd not ever did it before, and they never changed like that before. It just let me know that something wasn't right.

"Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are among the best at their craft because they work so hard at their craft. But you have to be a descendant of Tones-tradamus (sic) to know what we put in this week to be able to change that fast. I got the only crystal ball in existence. I don't know what it is. Either teams are spying on us or something's going on."

That's supposed to be Nostradamus. Before saying all that, Smith was asked for an example of what the Patriots did:

"I can't tell you an example because it's G-15 classified. It's a defensive thing that we might continue to use... I'm trying to say it without giving it away. When you watch film of the team do something a certain way all the time no matter what team they play - it's been 12 games played and they always did it - and then all of a sudden it's changed? It was pretty clever and pretty suspicious."

I believe "G-15 classified" refers to a scene in Rush Hour.

Smith was asked if the Patriots offense knew what the Texans defense was going to do before they did it:

"I'm saying it seemed like it. You can't never be for sure on anything because I ain't over there in their huddle, in their locker room, but it just felt like it."

It's hard to discuss the validity of Smith's accusations without knowing exactly what he is accusing the Patriots of doing. Nevertheless, this lack of information won't stop people from speculating, and some from concluding, so let's join in the uber-hypothetical fun.

Smith seems to accuse the Pats of knowing something before they could have known it. So that would mean the Pats spied on Houston's practices, or somehow got a tip, or hacked into Wade Philips' GMail account, or planted a bug in Houston's locker room.

It's a weird accusation because the Patriots offense played like crap for half of this game. The adjustments seemed to occur in the third quarter. So did the Patriots get their illicit foreknowledge during halftime? If they knew about Houston's tactics before the game, why wait until halftime to adjust? And if they adjusted to Houston at halftime, what's so alarmingly suspicious about that?

The Texans have been a poor second half team all season. They've had a lead at halftime 5 times this year, and lost EVERY time. They blew three halftime leads in November alone, including a 21-3 lead to the Colts.

At the same time, the Patriots have made some big second half comebacks.

Smith's evidence seems flimsy at best. The Patriots adjusted to something Houston was doing, and hadn't done all season. The Patriots seemed to adjust too quickly than they should have been able to. At least too quickly by Antonio Smith's reckoning. What Houston was doing and how New England adjusted remain a mystery to us.

This won't stop rabid Patriot haters from using this to convince themselves that Belichick cheats and that the continued success of the Patriots is a moral affront to football and to America, and must be stopped at all costs. No matter how many asterisks or worn out SpyGate jokes it takes.

This also probably won't stop the Houston Texans from losing games. Smith comes across as paranoid, emotional, and just tired of losing. I can't say I blame him. Losing 10 in a row, 5 of which you led at halftime, it must wear you down. Then you try something new against a good team, it works for 30 minutes, yet you still lose. You're bound to entertain crazy theories and wild ideas.

Still, there's no crying in football.

Patriots Again Wait Until Halftime to Start Playing

The Patriots continue to dig holes for themselves, then climb out of them and finish on top. Just barely. If not for 106 yards of Stephen Gostkowski field goals, the Patriots would have fallen to 8-4.

Tom Brady's performance was the biggest difference between halves. In the first two quarters he was inaccurate. He wasn't driving the ball, he was tossing it. He lobbed a pass intended for Gronkowski that was a real turkey. It was intercepted by Johnathan Joseph. That led to a Houston field goal.

In the second half Brady found a rhythm. He spread the ball to 8 different receivers, but most of the time he targeted Gronk and Edelman (12 targets each). Amendola and Vereen were his secondary targets (5 and 6 targets, respectively).

Gronkowski's return to the lineup has turned Tom Brady into a different thrower. Gronk can catch anything near him. So many balls that would be uncatchable for other players are catchable for Gronk. NFL officials, are you paying attention?

The impact of Shane Vereen's return has been less obvious, but still important. Almost all of his catches are key plays in the drive. He finally caught his first TD of the season in this game. In 4 games he's caught 23 passes for 183 yards. All other Patriot RBs have combined for 27 catches and 178 yards. Vereen adds another dimension to this offense.

As the offense has taken steps forward, the defense has taken steps back. They're struggling to stop the run, they're struggling on third down, and now they're allowing big plays.

I'll praise the defense for stopping Houston twice in the 4th quarter. Then again, Andre Johnson helped them out with a drop. And these aren't the Broncos or the Saints. These are the Texans. And the Patriots allowed 31 points.

With no Wilfork and no Mayo, the running defense probably won't improve. And I don't know how many times I can endure seeing Dont'a Hightower wandering aimlessly around the field until I snap. Hightower just seems sluggish and casual, like he's playing a post Thanksgiving dinner game of two hand touch with his family.

The offense must continue to produce for this team to win. Sound familiar? One difference between this situation and years past is that this is a much less finesse kind of offense. Gronkowski has always been a beast. Now you add big runners like Blount and Develin. I think Edelman is tough for his size too. This is a physical offense.

The Patriots host the 4-8 Browns next week. They can clinch an AFC East title with a win and a Miami loss/tie.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/David J. Phillip