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BlackChampagne -- no longer new; improvement also in question.: Miami 23, San Diego 21

Sunday, December 11, 2005  

Miami 23, San Diego 21

Well that's it, then. SD falls to 8-5, loses at home to a team with absolutely nothing to play for, and fully deserves the crushing blow to their hopes and dreams. Much to my confused surprise, the game was on here afterall, despite the fact that San Francisco was playing (and being destroyed) at the same time, up in Seattle. That was SOP for the many years I watched the NFL while living in San Diego, but I believe it's the first time all season another game has been on while either Oakland or SF were playing. (Oakland lost miserably on Sunday as well, true to Bay Area form.)

So I got to watch the Miami@SD game, though I'm not sure that was such a blessing. I saw most of the first half, while waking up and making breakfast, but thanks to SD's woeful play, I began rooting against them in the second quarter, and was fully cheering on Miami by the 3rd. SD simply didn't deserve to win, and though by the end I hoped they would come back, I wasn't entirely dissatisfied when they did not. I'm not much of a loyalist, I guess.

The final stats are somewhat balanced, thanks to SD's two long 4th quarter drives, but I remember laughing at the halftime stats. Brees, the SD QB, was 20/30 passing, for 138 yards and an INT. I saw at least 28 of those passes, and to the best of my recollection, perhaps 2 or 3 were thrown more than 15 yards down field, and none of the longer ones were completed. There was one fly pattern all day, on about the 3rd play of the game, and on it Brees overthrew an open receiver by at least 10 yards, with the ball sailing well out of bounds for good measure. Other than that, virtually every single pass was about a 5 yard dink over the middle, with at least 8 or 10 (in just the first half) desperation dump offs to the fullback or running back.

Miami's defensive scheme was simple; they played with a 4 or 5 man front all the time, stuck their linebackers and safeties about 10 yards downfield, and waited for SD to run plays right into them. When SD handed off, invariably on some slowly-developing trap back, the LBs rushed up and destroyed it. When SD threw, their WRs and TEs ran 8 or 10 yards and turned left or right, just about where the LBs and Safeties were standing already. Repeatedly, Brees would back up, stand there, and look, and look, and look, with great blocking, but apparently no one to throw to. Eventually he'd force about a 5 yard throw to someone well-covered, or run for his life and dump it off to a fullback who had absolutely nowhere to run.

The TV coverage was horrible, with never a long shot of the entire field, but from the few looks downfield I saw on replays and such, the SD receivers were usually blanket covered by a single guy. Either Miami has the best secondary in the NFL, or SD's receivers are very slow and run terrible routes.

The sad part is that Miami was helpless early on. On their first 10 plays they'd gained 10 yards, and had 3 punts and a fumble. And yet it was just 7-3 at the half, thanks to SD's incredibly conservative passing game. Since SD's secondary sucks, and anyone can score 20 points on them if they just throw it a lot, the second half seemed sort of inevitable. Miami started throwing, Miami started scoring, and SD didn't open up their own offense until it was too late.

As for the playoff picture, Jacksonville lost as expected, Pittsburgh rebouned and won, (as expected, (see comment #11.) and KC lost, as expected. Denver won, though it was ridiculously close, so now they're 2 games up on SD and KC, and have by far the easiest remaining schedule. We'll give them the division, which means 9-4 Jax, and 8-5 KC, Pitts, and SD are fighting for two wildcard spots.

Jax has a comically easy last 3 games, so they're a sure bet for at least 11 wins. Pitt is inconsistent, but they play 2 horrible and one mediocre team, so they're a good bet for 10 or 11 wins. KC plays 3 tough teams, and they'll be lucky to get to 10 wins. SD, on the other hand, is screwed. They absolutely had to win this week though, since their last 3 games is probably the most difficult 3 game stretch any team plays all season (assuming Indy and Denver play hard, rather than resting starters for the playoffs). They're at 13-0 Indy next week, then at 8-5 KC (5-1 at home), before hosting 10-3 Denver. And they have to win all 3 to be sure of a playoff spot, and absolutely have to win at least twice, when they might well be the underdog all three times.

Ironically, SD might have been best served by KC winning today. KC is likely going to lose twice more (assuming SD beats them, which they have to to have any wild card hopes), and SD's only chance to beat Pittsburgh is a 3-way tie. Pitts beats them head to head tiebreaker. Jacksonville isn't going to come down to 10 wins, so SD has to have Pitt lose twice (unlikely), win twice themselves, while hoping KC wins next week in NYG, and wins the last week at home against Cincinnati.

It's possible, but for now I'm trying to decide who to root for in the AFC playoffs, with my only sort of favorite team out of them. Jax is boring and will lose painfully in the first round without any offense. I can't root for Payton, I've never liked Pittsburgh or Denver, and I'm pretty indifferent about KC. I guess I'll be pulling for Cin and NE then, with NE being root-for-able despite winning the last 2 superbowls, just because they've had such a tough season with injuries and are looking very vulnerable. And it's fun to root for the underdog.


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