Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sooner/Steeler Overlap ('Pokes n' Pats)

It's always a little wacky when the Sooner/Steeler Overlap grips us especially tight with some kooky hijinks which we didn't see coming.

Thanks a lot, Frank Alexander and Lawrence Timmons.

Extra-hard helmet slaps for those two ...

LOOK ... nobody's ever bothered to explain it with eloquence (maybe because it's inexplicable), but there's something extremely cool and very unique about linebackers and/or D-linemen when they've got the football tucked under one arm as they sprint in the open field (Y2K calls sprinting in the open field: "running downhill" ... "in space").

When the above happens, we can't help but set the expressions on our faces to: ASTONISHED.

Though we know we shouldn't be surprised.

Let's face it: Linebackers are unquestionably the most-versatile people on the field (speed-rush the QB, shed blockers, stuff the run, drop into coverage, block a kick now and then, save the bacon of the D-line or the DBs), so we oftentimes find ourselves connecting with our inner-"hip-hip-hooray" (or our inner-"fuckin'-A!") when we see the LB INT and the subsequent showcase of better-than-average speed, quality juking skills or both.

LBs need those rewards ...

Last night, Frank Alexander had a clear, unobstructed path to the end zone because most of the players were entangled and piled up inside the 5-yard line when he scooped up the fumble near the 10 and went off to the races.

Indeed ... it's a real thrill when you're spending an Oklahoma Sweatshirt Saturday night watchin' Frank Alexander chug the length of the field in Stillwater while returning that fumble for 2 pts. for OU which made the score 23-19 when it looked as though we might be lookin' at 21-21 ... and then you're noticin' that Frankie wears the same number as receiver Quentin Chaney -- who, it appears, is under-used these days (maybe he's injured?) -- and then you catch yourself wund'rin' why an ESPN roster lists Manuel Johnson as #22 when he wears #1 and why an Oklahoma Sooners quote-unquote "official site" has Dominique Franks listed as #1 when he wears #15 ... which is the same number that backup QB Joey Halzle of Huntington Beach also wears ... the same number which J.T. Thatcher wore with such pride when he was winning the Mosi Tatupu Award as the nation's top special-teams player (an award which now longer exists) for the '00 National Champion Sooner Schooner.

It was Nick Bakay who once taught us that "the numbers never lie" -- and, even though Jermaine Gresham wears the same number as '03 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White, we must remember that there are concepts which extend beyond the numbers.

Such as the moment when, on the possession following OU's theft of OSU's 2 pts., Gresham gathered in the rebound of that Sam Bradford pass which ricocheted off Juaquin Iglesias ("tip drill!") and gracefully strode the remaining 50-some-odd yards for the TD which put 'em up, 30-21.

For 6-6/270 (or thereabouts), Gresham moves about the field as though he's somewhere in the range of 6-3/235 (or thereabouts).

He's very fluid.

And probably better than two-time consensus All-America TE Keith Jackson as the best in school history.

Is that sacrilege?
If it is ... tough shit, y'know?

Speaking of what's fluid, people who made the fluid transition from their Sooner Saturday Sweatshirt to their Steeler Sunday Sweatshirt probably did so only because they maybe aren't blessed enough to have a SOONERS 18 jersey to slip off before slipping into a TIMMONS 94 jersey.

Timmons -- like Alexander and Gresham -- put his "breakaway speed" on display during a non-critical juncture of a 33-10 victory in Foxboro (or Foxburrow or however they're spelling it this year).

Since the Steelers were up, 26-10, the D was merely trying to prevent a window-dressing TD that would benefit Fantasy knobs who were aroused by Cassel's previous-game efforts vs. The NYJ (400 yds.) and the Miamammals (415-yds.).

Fine outings, but, ooopsie daisy, Mr. Chatsworth High, that ain't Reseda or Canoga Park you're playin'.

So, a slightly tardy delivery on a RB quick-out that Kevin Faulk was running ... ACCESS DENIED! ACCESS DENIED!

Timmons -- who ranks as a quality, modern-day "L.T." in the NFL food chain somewhere between LaDanian Tomlinson and Lawrence Tynes -- -- rode Faulk's hip smartly then used a powerful burst to "close" on the ball and pluck it for the INT at the 10-yd. line.

We all thought that he was "off to the races" down the near sideline, but, Timmons' coast-to-coast gallop was destroyed 1 yd. shy of 90-yd. glory when Ben Watson dragged down L.T. The LB (it sure as hell looked as though the ball BROKE THE PLANE when his knee touched, goddammit).

Maybe God was punishing Timmons for not simply lowering his shoulder and bowling over Watson inside the 5, causing the Pats TE to land on his kiester in the end zone.

Or maybe God was punishing Timmons because Ryan Clark threw a crappy, quasi-brushblock on Watson near the 15-yd. line.

Or maybe God, as He usually does, was listening to the Steelers radio broadcast on satellite radio and maybe He got pissed when L.T. made the interception and then Tunch orgasmed into the mike with an "uh!" at the 14-yd. line, an "uh!" at the 25-yd. line and an "uh!" at the 31-yd. line.

No word on when exactly Tunch climaxed ... and, now that ya mention it, wasn't Watson the Pat who ran down Champ Bailey on that controversial 100-yd. INT ret. in the playoffs 3 yrs. ago at Mile High? True ... Champ probably DID lose possession of the ball shy of the goal line, blah blah blah ... but, since it negatively impacted Belichick and Brady, everything's cool ... )

Before anybody prepares to release a Timmons Tragedy report, it might be wiser to take a moment and salute the player with the longest INT return by an LB in the Steelers' glorious 76-yr. history.

But, wait!
There seems to be a discrepancy!

On pg. 332 of the Steelers 2008 Media Guide, the longest interceptions in team history are listed as:

99t Martin Kottler (9/27/33 vs. Chicago Cardinals)
91 Jack Hinkle (10/9/43 vs. New York Giants)
86t Glen Edwards (9/30/73 at Houston)
84 Joey Porter (9/15/02 vs. Oakland)
82t Jim Bradshaw (10/24/65 at Philadelphia)
82t Tony Compagno (11/7/48 at Green Bay)
81 Russ Craft (10/17/54 vs. Cleveland)
80 Bill Dudley (11/3/46 vs. Washington)

However, on pg. 407, the INTs of at least 80 yds. are listed as:

1. Martin Kottler (9/27/33 vs. Chicago Cardinals) 99t
2. Glen Edwards (9/30/73 at Houston) 86t
3. Tony Compagno (11/7/48 at Green Bay) 82t
4. Russ Craft (10/17/54 vs. Cleveland) 81

On the second list, there's no Hinkle (Jack, not Bryan), J-Peazy, Bradshaw (not the famous one) or Bullet Bill Dudley.

Something's terribly amiss.

**Addendum to the tangent of the sidebar: Not many fans of the Black N' Gold remember that the longest INT ret. vs. the Steelers was that by the Raiders Chris Carr (because it occurred during that game we've all tried to forget ... the L to the eventual 2-14 OakTown team two seasons ago), but some of us have discovered that a fantastic ice-breaker at parties (and a fun-fact which'll get chicks into bed lickety-split) is any time you reference the two SHORTEST TD-interception runbacks vs. the Steelers ... both times, Neil O'Donnell was the victim ... during games one month apart in '95 -- first, when the Bears' Barry Minter returned that O'Donnell INT 2 yds. for a TD in a game which the Steelers won, 37-34, at Soldier Field then, one month later in Oakland (in the Raiders' first season back in the East Bay after 13 seasons in L.A.), Aundray Bruce intercepted O'Donnell and returned it 1 yd. for a TD in a game which the Steelers won, 29-10 ... but, there's not much more detail to provide, given that O'Donnell -- with one of the lowest INT/att. ratios in NFL history -- threw two more bizarre INTs later that season ... in the same game ... to a nobody named Larry Brown, who is definitely not to be confused with THE REAL Larry Brown who was wearin' #87 as a TE catchin' a TD pass in the Steelers' first Super Bowl and then was the #79 RT Larry Brown in Super Bowls XIII and XIV ...

"Shortest INT-return-TDs" usually live in an off-the-wall neighborhood not found in most media guides -- yet, when they are excluded from a media guide as if they are a Bullet Bill Dudley pick-off, we're sad.

We're sadder still when we consider the meticulous work required to assemble a media guide and notice a Super Bowl X recap on pg. 321.

The photo on the page is of Mel Blount and Steve Furness converging on Tony Dorsett.

The problem with that, as we know, is that in Jan. '76, Dorsett had just completed his junior season at Pitt.

He hadn't even won the Heisman yet (punch line: Good thing it wasn't a photo of Greg Lloyd sacking Steve Pelluer, ha ha ... ).

Goddammit, kids ... this is the Steelers' media guide, not the CinShitnati BenGirls media guide.

These errors and omissions make it difficult to earn the trust of the end-user.


Anyway, with all the havoc that James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley create as OLBs in the 3-4 ... and with the steady play of ILBs Farrior and Foote, sometimes ya forget that Timmons is a passing-down LB who's slowly but surely gaining our trust as the '07 first-round selection.

And, Ben Watson?
Who gives a shit?

Aside from his tackle which only delayed the inevitable (a Gary Russell TD), he looked mighty weak when attempting to reel in that high-but-catchable pass which bounced off his hands and into the waiting arms of Troy Polamalu for the drive-killing INT.

THAT turnover DID matter since the score at the time was 23-10 ... and the potential for a 23-17 score with six or seven minutes to play could've made matters VERY interesting.

But, 5 turnovers in the second half of a game which was 10-10 at halftime ... fatal! (thanks to a pair of dandy sack-strips by the ferocious guy in the HARRISON 92 jersey).

It's kinda weird when we remind ourselves that Harrison wears the same number as the Steelers' all-time sacks leader (Jason Gildon) and Timmons wears Chad Brown's #94.

Yet, when it comes to classic numbers, a lot of us were having Paul Ernster withdrawal when we didn't see him wearing his #5 jersey as he stood in punt formation in the drizzle n' cold in Fucksboro today.

Alas, Paul Ernster is merely a memory now ... a 3-game fill-in who might've lasted longer in the Steel City if only he'd dialed into his inner COLQUITT 5 and not made a spectacle of himself in the swirly-snow during that Thurs.-niter vs. CinShitnati 10 days ago.

Five punts for a 28-yd. avg.

Whereas he seemingly had won our hearts when he double-handedly took down the Chargers with his professional handling of the long snap from Jared Retkofsky (placing the ball on the damp, semi-frozen lawn, turning the laces to face Retkofsky's arse and using two fingers on his left hand to hold the ball at its highest point as Jeff Reed's foot swung through), that act in itself is probably not justification for those of us who were considering it to purchase and then wear around town an ERNSTER 5 jersey.

Ernster or no, what we're wondering now is whether what we saw today was a preview of a future AFC playoff showdown. Granted, the Steelers get their shot at the formidable-looking Titans (11-1) three rrrrrweeks from now, but if the Black N' Gold goes 2-2 vs. Dallas, Baltimore, Tenn. and Cleveland, what will 11-5 mean to the postseason?

They've already lost to the Giants and Colts at Heinz ... and that's where last season ended w/ a first-round KO vs. Jax.

Does home field matter?
It didn't three yrs. ago.

Well, this weekend is in the books ... the Sooners beating the Cowboys and the Steelers tuning up for the Cowboys.

Damn right, there's overlap, even if the Cowboys retired #12 for Roger Stauback and Okie State has yet to do the same for the #12 worn by QB legends Rusty Hilger, Mike Gundy and Asoteletangafamosili Pogi.

And, let's not forget Okie State's importance in the Steelers cosmos -- for it is the university which gave us Jon Kolb (LT in four Super Bowl wins ... and THE all-time Steelers #55, sorry, J-Peazy) as well as Jason Gildon (career sack leader w/ 77).

[HEY ... we had to put Aso Pogi's name in there ... because we forgot to mention how the Sooner OL neutralized Tonga Tea yesterday ... ]


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