It snowed. I’m not sure how much, but were I to guess, I’d say something like 82 feet of it. So I was inside watching football yesterday (which is exactly what I’d have been doing if it had been 81 degrees and sunny, if I’m honest) and once again I wasn’t disappointed.
One of my previous giant snowstorm memories also featured a Green Bay/San Francisco playoff game; 16 years ago, the 49ers beat the Packers in a Wild Card game that I watched on a tiny, over-the-air television after the cable went out. That was an excellent game, (it was the Terrell Owens “catch while being sandwiched” game) as was yesterday’s, and they both ended with the Packers losing by three points. I’m not going to gloat about the Packers loss, because that would be a petty, bitter, and jealous thing to do. But I enjoyed it nevertheless. Also, that snowstorm 16 years ago? School was closed for two weeks (another storm came through a week later), turning Christmas Break into a four week vacation. That was all well and good until we had to make up school on Saturdays in March, along with added days in June. That was one of my first brushes with the dangers of instant gratification, and it remains the most effective.
- As mentioned, San Francisco prevailed 23-20. Phil Dawson nailed a game-winning field goal as time expired. The 49ers have now knocked Green Bay out of the playoffs in consecutive seasons, both times on the strength of Colin Kaepernick’s running abilities. After taking the league by storm last year, the use of the read option seemed to decline this season. Perhaps a fallout from the Robert Griffin injury? Just a general desire to keep quarterbacks healthy? The league’s defenses making the necessary adjustments? Probably a combination of all three of those factors, along with a few others. Last year Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards in a 49er rout; this year he rushed for 98 in a closer game. I wonder if teams with mobile quarterbacks will be more willing to take some chances in the running game during the postseason. (Of course, only two teams with traditionally mobile quarterbacks remain, in Seattle and San Francisco. Andrew Luck is also quite capable of scrambling, but I’ve not seen the Colts use him as part of a designed running scheme. I haven’t exactly broken down Colts tape, though, so maybe I’m missing that one.)
- I’m obviously not the world’s biggest Green Bay fan, but my rooting interest was swayed even further when Green Bay fans began booing their own offense harshly. In the first quarter. Down six points. Allow me to say this: I’m not someone who makes a habit of telling people how to be a fan. If you want to go to the game and boo terrible players, boo the refs, boo opponents, do whatever you like. Tickets, parking, and concessions are expensive. But as with anything, you have to have a level of understanding. And considering the narrative of Green Bay fans being the most passionate in the sport, you’d think that when your team is down only six points in the first quarter after having made a miracle run to the playoffs maybe you don’t bust out the full-stadium booing. It wasn’t just a few drunkards in hunter’s orange; this was the majority of Lambeau field booing Aaron Rodgers off the field, after they dared fail to score on three drives against one of the league’s more talented defenses. (The boos may have started during the second drive, to be honest.) Packers roundly turning on their own offense that quickly is quite a display of entitlement. How spoiled can you be? You really don’t have faith in the McCarthy/Rodgers tandem to score points? That eventually happened, of course, and the fans were cheering full blast. But if I have to read one more puff piece about how the Packers have the most dedicated and knowledgeable fans in the sport, I might throw something.
- In the early game, the Bengals lost at home to the Chargers, meaning I went 3-1 picking winners. Andy Dalton played poorly, throwing two picks and losing a fumble. He’s been an up and down quarterback for his entire career, and I think we’re finally seeing his limitations come to light. But instead of that being the driving narrative during the game, I saw much more “he’s not a playoff quarterback” than I saw “he’s an inconsistent player who has had bad games in the playoffs.” Why people are so fascinated by how a quarterback plays in playoff games, I’ll never know. Andy Dalton just finished his third season, and he’s played in three postseason games. Because he has played poorly in those three games, people now think he won’t ever play well in the playoffs? Listen, he very well might not play well in a playoff game, but that’s not because he lacks some sort of mystical secret playoff knowledge that other quarterbacks have. It’s because his skill level is such that he often plays poorly. When the McCown debate was raging, I wrote this piece on the dangers of using small sample sizes, and how football as a sport really struggles with that due to the inherently small sample of a 16 game season. We know that Dalton played poorly in his playoff games. But that’s not enough to predict future performance.
- This slipped through (no idea what else could have been announced that buried it) but as part of Phil Emery’s press conference, he noted that rookie guard Kyle Long was named as a Pro Bowl alternate. I’ve really liked watching Long play, and though this might be a bit odd, I especially love that he’s the first guy to run in if a defender takes a cheap shot at one of his teammates. (Normally Cutler.) That was my favorite thing about Olin Kreutz as well (it certainly wasn’t his ability to snap the ball without fumbling) and it’s nice to see some fire on the field. Given Long’s size, I wonder if a move to tackle is in his future. Jordan Mills started strong but faded, and traditionally guards are easier to find/replace than tackles, although if you’ve just followed the Bears for the five years before this season, you’d think competent offensive linemen at any position were as rare as diamonds.
- Larry Mayer is the beat writer for the team’s official website, and he explored the idea of Shea McClellin moving to linebacker. If the Bears switched to a 3-4 that would be an obvious move, but I’m not sure I see a place for him in a 4-3 scheme, especially if Bostic is also moved outside. Shea’s always been a tweener, and though that term is sometimes thrown around lazily, as shorthand for “non-traditional size”, I really think it fits for McClellin. He’s quick for a defensive end, but I don’t think that speed would be exceptional as a 4-3 linebacker. He’s a bit big for that position, while being small for a defensive end. He’s just right in the middle, but not in the Dwight Freeney/Robert Mathis way, where they have elite speed and pass rushing instincts despite being undersized for their position. I also don’t think the Bears should switch to a 3-4 just to suit one player, no matter the round in which he was drafted. As it is now, they have one player who doesn’t fit. Making the switch would greatly increase that number. The Bears might still do it, if they think the players available that give them the best chance of overhauling the defense would be best suited to play in a 3-4 scheme. I think that remains to be seen, and there are still so many variables at play, not least of which being whether Mel Tucker will return.
Today’s the day I learn what a -40 windchill feels like. I’m morbidly curious.