Ben Roethlisberger will never have to worry about proving his toughness again. Entering Sunday with broken bone in his right foot, Roethlisberger suffered a broken nose on the first series of the game, but stayed and led the Steelers to a 13-10 win over division rival Baltimore to take the lead in the AFC North division. It was Roethlisberger's sixth straight win over the Ravens as their starting QB. Looking back, its hard to remember another QB who battled similar physical adversity, while leading his team to victory. Donovan McNabb comes to mind; when he threw four TD passes versus the Arizona Cardinals with a broken leg for a big win back in 2002. How about former Kansas City Chiefs QB Steve DeBerg playing with a rod in the pinkie finger of his throwing hand, and leading the Chiefs to 11 wins during the 1990 season. I find it remarkable that Roethlisberger was able to stay in the game Sunday with a broken nose. Anyone that has ever suffered a broken nose will tell you that your vision becomes completely distorted because you keep tearing up. For Roethlisberger to stay in the game and focus downfield at the various defensive looks of Baltimore is simply miraculous. When QB's play hurt, it goes a long way in terms of earning their confidence. After being suspended for the first four games of the season, many wondered whether or not Roethlisberger's teammates would accept him back as their leader. After Sunday's gutsy performance, it's hard to imagine anyone doubting their QB's willingness to suffer in order to win. And it couldn't have come in a bigger game or at a better time for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Rediscovering Their Swagger
It's always easy to say "woulda, coulda, shoulda". Where would the Dallas Cowboys be right now had Jason Garrett been head coach at the beginning of this season? My belief is that they would be at least 8-4, hovering at or near the top of the NFC East division. At 4-8, the Cowboys will not be playing in the post-season this year, but "America's Team" has found a resurgence since Garrett took over a month ago, going 3-1 with him as head coach. None of this surprises me. I was a teammate of Garrett's in New York, and it was easy to see that he had what it takes to be successful as a head coach. "J.G." is an extremely cerebral person, and has an incredible knowledge of the game. Because he played 12 years in the NFL (mostly as a backup to Troy Aikman on 2 Super Bowl winning Cowboys teams), the Cowboys players are forced to respect him. I think the biggest adjustment that Garrett has made during his short time as head coach in Dallas, is holding all of his players accountable. He doesn't care which players have played in Pro Bowls, or how many players were first round draft picks. He shows no favoritism, and expects great effort from everyone in the locker room. Jason Garrett has delivered a wonderful message to his team in the past month: stacking good days on top of one another. This team has been able to build on it's positive experiences in the last month, and grow along with them. It started with an emotional win in New York versus the Giants, then came an impressive win vs Detroit, the Cowboys first win at home all season. The Cowboys then came within a field goal of beating the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, but were able to rebound for an emotional win in overtime on the road in Indianapolis this past weekend. The Cowboys have rediscovered their swagger with Jason Garrett as head coach, and because of his immediate success, many in Dallas are left wondering what could have been.
Bring On The BCS National Championship
The BCS National Championship game is set. The No. 1 Auburn Tigers will square off versus the No. 2 Oregon Ducks in Glendale, AZ on January 10, and what a matchup this promises to be. Both teams are undefeated, and both have explosive offenses, led by Heisman Trophy finalists Cam Newton of Auburn and LeMichael James of Oregon. Auburn was easily the most resilient team this season, as they trailed in eight of their 13 wins this year, on their way to winning six games versus teams ranked in the Top 25 of the final BCS standings. Oregon, meanwhile, is a team that never left any doubt. The Ducks play at the fastest tempo on offense in the country and because of it; they average 49 points per game. There are many similarities when comparing both teams, offensively speaking. Both teams play up tempo, but love running the football, and both have multiple playmakers that touch the football. I think the Tigers do a better job of stretching the field vertically, as QB Cam Newton is currently the most efficient passer in the nation and has accounted for 49 touchdowns this season (that's more that 86 other FBS teams). Oregon, meanwhile, has tremendous speed on offense and do a better job spreading the field horizontally with their east-west running game. They have two running backs in LeMichael James and Kenjon Barner, both members of the Oregon Ducks track team, as well as many others who can make defenders miss in space and take the rock to the house. An SEC team has won the national championship a record four straight times, and the Auburn Tigers will be looking to make it five in a row come January 10. Can't wait!
How Did The Bengals Fall For It?
At a crucial time of their game Sunday, the New Orleans Saints were able to draw the Cincinnati Bengals offside in order to extend a late drive on their way to a go ahead touchdown. How did the Saints do it? The better question is: how did the Bengals actually fall for it? The key to any situation when you are trying to draw the defense offside on fourth down before burning a timeout is to make everything look as if it is going to be a real play. The offense should huddle closer to the line of scrimmage, and sprint out of the huddle to the line of scrimmage to get set up quickly. The QB must be very loud with his cadence and very abrupt, as he is trying to force a defender to flinch in order to get the free five yards. Often times, you'll see offenses shift and motion before the snap, trying to trick the defense into thinking that the play has already begun, tempting the defence to fire off from the line of scrimmage. You very rarely ever see these tactics work, especially in the NFL, because defences practice against these plays each and every week. During the game, when these situations arise, coaches are yelling onto the field, warning the defence to "watch the ball"! Linebackers and safeties are yelling at the defensive line to "hold their water" because the offense is obviously trying to trick them! On Sunday, the Bengals couldn't help themselves, and it cost them the game.