Sunday, December 7, 2014

Steelers 42 - Bengals 21, and Other Football Thoughts

There are very few absolutes in life - the sun will rise in the east, the Pope will always pray for peace, the Yankees will always spend vast amounts of money.  That's about it, but there is another one that you can take to the bank with as close to absolute certainty as there is in professional sports, and that is this: with rare, very rare, exceptions, the Cincinnati Bengals will almost always revert to being, well, the Cincinnati Bengals.

Facing the a home game against the Steelers wherein a victory would just about put a death knell on the Steelers playoff aspirations, and increase their own playoff possibilities, the Bengals took a 21-17 lead into the fourth quarter and proceeded to allow the Steelers to score 25 straight points in the space of about nine minutes.  That ain't easy, but if any team has shown a historical propensity for such happenings, it is the Bengals.  I don't want to sell the Steelers short here.  They thoroughly earned this victory in what, for three quarters anyway, was a close, hard fought, and pretty good football game.

The Steelers are a flawed team, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  They give up too many long plays, often for scores  - it happened twice today - but the offensive unit sure seems to be peaking at the right time of the season.  Ben Roethlisberger continues having one of his best seasons ever (despite some inexplicably bad games this season), Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are having Pro Bowl seasons, and the offensive line appears to be among the best in the league.  Can they make a deep run in the NFL Playoffs?  Given the weaknesses of the defense, probably not, but the trick is to get into the Playoffs.  To do that they will need to win at least two of their remaining three games, with one of those wins coming in the season finale against the Bengals.  Once you get into the Playoffs, anything can happen, as the KayCee Royals can tell you.  I know, I know, different sport, but still a good analogy.


Because Marilyn and I went to a play this afternoon, I only watched the Steelers game via my DVR recording, beginning at around 4:45.  Did you realize that you can watch an entire NFL game in about ninety minutes or so this way?  Terrific.

Anyway, this circumstance meant that we listened to the radio broadcast of the game for the twenty or so real time minutes of the fourth quarter that transpired during our drive home.  It would take a writer much, much, MUCH better than I to describe just how incredibly bad the radio team of Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin, and, yes, Craig Wolfley is.   On the long incompletion  that Andy Dalton threw to A.J. Green with Cincy down 28-21, Hilgrove described it as, and I may not have it exactly here, but the gist is correct: "A guy came and knocked the ball away, pushed Green out of bounds and another guy almost intercepted the ball."  The two "guys" in question were, I might add, Steelers with whom, presumably, Hillgrove is familiar and should be able to identify by name.  I might also add that Tunch made no effort to step in a identify who those two Steelers defenders were.

Awful, and the Steelers and their broadcast partners should really move onto some fresh blood next season.  The glory days of "turn down the TV sound and listen to Fleming and Cope on the radio" are long gone.

I see that the college football playoff committee has settled on Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and Ohio State as the first ever college football final four.  I think it's a just line-up.  All the pre-weekend hype centered on whether or not TCU should be ranked ahead of Baylor if all teams held serve over the weekend.  All teams did hold serve, and all but still undefeated FSU won in blowouts, including fifth ranked Ohio State.  It seems to me, and to some knowledgeable football people out there, that as the season progressed, it became apparent that Ohio State, despite playing in a weak Big Ten, was certainly among the four best teams in the country, and maybe even the best team.  The advanced metrics crowd will surely argue that this is not the case, but they passed the "eye test" to me, and, apparently, the twelve person committee, so I like the line-up.

I also like that Alabama and Ohio State will be matched up in one of the semi-final games.  With two such cheerful, outgoing, and likable coaches like Nick Saban and Urban Meyer going head to head, gosh it's going to be tough to decide which guy you would like to win more.

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