Wide Right: Colts and Eagles and Hokies, Oh My!
by Jeff Cockey, 1/20/04
Itís been a while since I wrote my last column and there are many reasons. I havenít been in the zone. Iíve been busy writing thank-you notes for my Christmas gifts. (That one will never ever happen to me. I could very possibly be the most ungrateful gift receiver in all the land. My brother gives me a run for my money every year but itís me who comes home with the hardware. Is it wrong that I am slightly proud of this achievement? Is it technically an achievement?) But when you get right down to it, laziness might have something to do with it. Anyway, Iím on my couch thoroughly enjoying the throttling that my second favorite NFL team (the Skins being number one of course) is giving to Peyton and the boys, and I got excited about a column. You know, like when you pull the Q-tip out and, hey, youíve found wax (I know Iím not the only one.) Yes, that excited. Finally an idea to put on paper . . .
What do both Paul Revere and a mountain lion have in common with the Virginia Tech Hokies? Think about that for a second while I pose another: How about commonalities between (this one hurts to type) Frenchmen and Patriots? See any? Well I sure do.
To my first question, we have the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers, held up against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Why? Because the former two teams did exactly what the latter did not this past football season. Could be a big reason why the professional teams are still playing in late January and will both be playing in February as well. Go Pats. The Pats and the Cats do what we (VT) have stopped doing and that is why they are going to the Super Bowl. Their defensive backs are up on the line of scrimmage hitting, harassing, and otherwise completely shutting down the oppositionís receivers.
Peyton Manning had a perfect quarterback rating through a game and a half in this post season. He threw for a million touchdowns and spread the ball around to an infinite number of Colt receivers. The guy was deemed unstoppable. To play off his clubís mascot, Manning was viewed as "War Admiral," making any defense that he went up against look like the plastic horse outside your local Kroger. Put in a quarter and watch Peyton go. Little did anyone (other than Pats fans) know, Seabiscuit (read Ty Law) was waiting in Foxboro. I saw Ty Law lock onto and drive out of bounds, arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, Marvin Harrison, as soon as the ball was snapped. I saw him disrupting routes so proficiently that he was then able to leave his man and intercept a pass thrown to another receiver. Ok so this column isnít about the Patsí stellar victory or Ms. Hillenbrandís excellent novel turned movie, but it brings to light an interesting point Ė where have our DBs gone? Sure you can say, "but Cockey, itís Ty Law! Heís a full-time pro-bowler. One of the greats at his position." OK, Iíll give you that. But we had DeAngelo Hall, one of the best cornerbacks in college football last year. We could have done it.
Now to answer the second question. The French and the Pats both execute very intelligent short-passing-route offenses. And they both do it scary well. The Pats, well enough to earn them a trip to beautiful, scenic Houston, and the Hoos . . . well enough to make Heath Miller look like Mark Bavaro. (I love referencing older football players. Iím still trying to figure out a way to incorporate Jim Plunkett into a column.) This, in addition to the long ball passing attack and come to think of it, the running attack, is an offense that we havenít been able to defend in quite awhile.
So whatís my point? Why the pedantic diatribe? I know almost everyone reading this (hi, Mom and Dad) watched those championship games, and even if it wasnít what you were paying attention to, it was easy to see the Pats DBs shut down the Colts passing game. The same occurred for the Panthers against the Eagles. They attacked at the line of scrimmage. Maybe, every once in awhile, this type of aggressive defense will draw a pass interference or defensive holding call. But Iím thinking that might be just a tad bit better than watching Pitt go the full length of the field on the last drive of the game. Throwing and catching the ball with more ease than my friend Bog and I used to do on the sideline in high school while the first four strings (of receivers) actually played in the game. And how about Cal? How many yards did they throw for against us? Anytime you need an abacus and a Masters degree in Calculus to compute the Golden Bearís passing yardage, it canít be good.
So here is what I propose Ė Beamer, please call Belichick and take the guy out to lunch. Pick his brain and take copious notes. Look, Iím sure Will would even foot the bill (Editor's Note: Sure, if Jeff is willing to work for free. -- Will). We need to put our corners back on an island and get aggressive. I donít have game tapes and my photographic memory only works for driving directions (laughable) and movies with Charlize Theron. (Why did she have to go and ruin it for all of us? After Monster, I will never be able to look at her the same way.) But I dare say we lost at least two, maybe three, games this year simply because our DBs didnít want to break a nail. So I am taking up a collection for kindling, logs and lighter fluid. Iíll drive it myself to Bud Foster and show him how to put these ingredients together to effectively light a freakiní fire under our defenseís collective arse! (Iím not British but Will never letís me type "A--.") More attitude and fewer clean uniforms please. Take note. Look at who wins the big games. Defense! Defense! Defense!
So whatís the deal? I know you (Foster) always like to take away the run and make them beat us with the pass. Problem is, they beat us with the pass and in turn that opens up the run and allows them to beat us with the run since we now have to honor the pass. "Ah thereís the rub. Thereís the rub." So get some attitude. Act like that wide receiver across the line from you just kicked your dog, stole your car, slept with your wife (life partner Ė for the UVa fans that might be reading this), made you pull over to ask for directions . . . Whatever! Find your very own Ivan-Drago-killed-Apollo reason, and let it fester inside you until that ball is snapped. Then open up a can and go "Rocky" on him. Hmmm, canít seem to stop humming "Eye of the Tiger" right now. It is that easy. We have the talent Ė just add water. Get it done, Frank and Bud.
The other glaring difference between the two Super Bowl contenders and the Hokies involves the use of the blitz. Carolina was blitzing until the last whistle, and the game was out of reach way before then. How can their guy complete passes when our DBs are molesting their receivers and our backers are introducing themselves to their QB? Sure they may get a lucky run for a large gain or even a score, but how many turnovers might we be able to produce? How many QBs might we be able to rattle into throwing an INT or an incompletion? Fold up the lawn chairs, boys, and letís go play in their yard.
Pop in Scarface and watch the last scene over and over. Did you see Tony Montana snap? Talk about a blaze of glory. That Cuban with his "leetle friend" took out like 52 bad guys, by himself, before the small-leisure-suit-army-leader dude shot him in the back. He got up on the line, in their faces, and invited them to bring it Ė "OK Sosa. Chu wanna (expletive) with me? Youíre (expletive) with the best. Come on. Chu wanna (expletive) with me? OK. You little cockroaches. Come on. Chu wanna play games? OK. I play wit chu. Come on. OK. Chu wanna play rough? OK. Say hello to my leetle friend. OK. Chu wanna play rough? OK. OK. Chu like dat? OK. Chu want more? OK. OK. Come on. Howíd chu like dat, huh? Chu think you can take me? Chu need a (expletive) army to take me." Thatís the attitude Iím looking for. Sure he ended up face down in a pool of water with holes in his back and a severe case of cocaine induced post-nasal drip, but he thrived in the heat of battle . . . OK!
So I guess what I am saying is that I am extremely excited. Oh did that not come across above? Look, I know we lost D. Lo but look who weíve got takiní off the redshirt. Linebackers galore. Yeah theyíre young, but you know what, I like that. It means theyíre hungry, looking to prove that they belong. Sure thatíll lead to some bone head plays and maybe theyíll give up some points that they shouldnít, but is that worse than what weíve done the past three years? If we go down (and who says this will even happen) Iíd rather die fighting, and thatís what our youngsters will do. If you are going to lose, do it by trying to win and not by trying to do whatever the hell it is weíve been doing. So back to being positive. Weíve got strong, fresh, young backers coming in and we have to replace D. Lo which means the DBs now have to collectively step it up. This excites me. We are no longer complacent.
Now letís take a look at our offense. Our line is strong. Our receivers are now plentiful. Our QBs are all highly touted and both Marcus and Bryan could start for many other college teams. Our running backs are work horses. Yes, we lost Kevin Jones and I do believe we will miss him, but this is the offense we are talking about, and frankly, offenses donít win football games. Look at the Pats vs. the Colts this year and the Pats vs. the Rams in the Super Bowl two years ago. Not convinced? How about the Bucs over the Raiders last year, or the Baltimore Ravens winning a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at the helm. Defense. Defense. Defense. Defense wins games.
Weíve got a fresh, young, strong, hungry for success, Cuban-drug-dealing defense and our offensive threats are icing on the cake. I am excited. You should be, too. We open the season with a trial by fire. USC does nothing but pass. Visit Bill, Frank. (Thatís an odd sentence.) Bump and run. Fake man-on-man and hit him hard off the line then let him drop into our zone D. Send Adibi (the kid brother) on a delayed blitz into the gap to let the QB know heís no longer wearing a yellow jersey. Own the Trojans, oh excuse me, I mean the Men of Troy, sorry Ė The Fighting Prophylactics. Whatever they want to call themselves, letís rattle their offense. "Shake Ďem like a Polaroid picture. All right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right, all right" (It makes no sense, but I just wanted to incorporate Outkast into the column somehow.)
Look I canít tell you whether or not I have a point any more than you can, but I will conclude with this thought: We have a lot to look forward to. Go Hokies.
Thanks for sending all of your emails pertaining to things that you saw during the season that we will be able to build upon for next year. I am compiling the best ones for a column to come out soon. If you have any others please send them in. And now Ė Movie Trivia: The last one was kind of difficult and nobody got it. It was from the movie Bottle Rocket (the first movie with Owen and Luke Wilson). So I decided to make this columnís movie trivia a bit easier. Here goes: "And you (expletive)! Youíre lucky to be here." "Thank you sir."
As always, any questions, comments, or insults Ė let Ďem rip . . . [email protected].