The 49ers choked away a fourth quarter lead, the Raiders had their asses handed to them in Denver, and Terrell Owens wants the damn ball already. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and Minnesota Vikings are all undefeated. It's the NFL, baby, where on any given Sunday, any team can win.
Actually, those above records aren't another of my indictments of the NFL's commitment to parity. Tampa Bay and Kansas City look like serious powerhouses. Miami and Denver look like pretty solid clubs. Tennessee and Indianapolis have a shot at the Super Bowl. It's the NFC that looks potentially embarrassing, beyond the Buccaneers.
Carolina hasn't lost, but their starting quarterback is Jake Delhomme. They only beat Tampa Bay by blocking a field goal and two extra points in Week 2, which was amazing, and screwed Martin Gramatica of the hated Gramatica brothers, but is not a great indicator for future success. Seattle needed a few penalty calls and a few tipped passes turned interceptions to beat St. Louis, at home, last week. They're nothing special. Some people seem to like the New York Giants, but they already lost to Dallas, due to an inability to kick off in bounds. I also think that running back Tiki Barber is going to give them bad karma. Last year, his team lost an incredibly heartbreaking game to the 49ers, blowing an enormous lead, desperately coming back in the final seconds, and eventually losing on a botched field goal snap. After this game, Tiki decided that he would be an honorary member of his twin brother Ronde's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, haunting the sidelines and hanging out with the team all the way through to their Super Bowl victory. After a debilitating loss, i just don't think it's appropriate to pretend to be a member of a different team to soak up postseason glory. Tiki and the Giants are going nowhere.
49er Game: Cleveland 13, San Francisco 12
Man, the Niners are depressing this year. They had a beautiful drive on their first possession, taking up nearly eight minutes of time. Unfortunately, after going for it on fourth-and-goal and failing, they got no points to show for it. When the team loses by a single point, an inability to score on two plays from the one yard line looms very large.
Terrell Owens Surliness Update:
It's Week 3, so it's about time for Terrell Owens to complain to the media about how he isn't getting the ball. Often Owens is portrayed as an arrogant prima donna when these complaints become public, but I don't think it's that big a deal for these reasons:
1) If the coach is going to call plays based on what the local paper's NFL reporter writes, the team has bigger problems than one disgruntled wide receiver shooting his mouth off.
2) Owens isn't coming back to the team next year, no matter what happens the rest of the season, so his relationship with the team doesn't matter much.
3) Owens is right - he should be getting the ball more. On the final drive of the second quarter, he caught four passes for 50 yards, and the team moved into field goal range in a minute and a half. In the second half, he caught two passes. Granted, the team only scored 6 points in each half, but the team's inability to get a single first down in the fourth quarter opened the door for Cleveland's comeback.
Scapegoating the Kicker:
Before the game this week, the 49ers cut placekicker Jeff Chandler, and replaced him with a guy named Owen Pochman. Chandler was selected in the third round of the draft in 2002, but couldn't win the job from XFL refugee Jose Cortez until nearly the end of the season. Up until then, the 49ers wasted a roster spot on an extra placekicker for countless games, while Cortez blew countless crucial field goals. Keeping multiple kickers is one of the stupidest things a team can do, though the San Diego Chargers are going one better this year and keeping two punters and four tight ends.
The 49ers haven't had much luck with the placekicker position over the years. Cortez was awful, probably the worst NFL kicker to ever keep his job as long as he did. He missed multiple last-second kicks last season, often on chip shot field goals, and his replacement, Chandler, wasn't a whole lot better. Since 1994, they've employed, then lost NFL kickers Doug Brien, Wade Richey, and Jeff Wilkins, all of whom have later beaten them with last-second field goals. Now, Pochman joins the squad, while I fully expect Jeff Chandler to beat the 49ers with a crucial field goal sometime in the next 12 months.
NFL Announcer of the Week:
Monday Night Football's Al Michaels was recently named the lead broadcaster on ABC's telecasts of the NBA. This means that Michaels will be teamed with both the insane John Madden and the even insaner Bill Walton. His broadcasting career from now on will be but a blur of "Boom!"s and "Horrrrible!"s, as he deals with the two wackiest, least-connected-to-reality TV commentators working today.
I would have thought Michaels might need the NFL's long hiatus to recover from having to deal with Madden, but apparently he's decided to take this broadcasting challenge head-on. It's like a heroin addict in the midst of withdrawal deciding that he might as well quit smoking that same week. A noble quest for Mr. Michaels, but I fear for his sanity. The best-case scenario is that he becomes really, really good at interrupting marathon stream-of-consciousness rants to describe game action.
Goodbye to Alameda County:
I moved out of Alameda County two months ago. San Francisco is a big upgrade, I feel, both for quality of life and a marked absence of Raider fans. Everywhere I went in Berkeley or Oakland, I would inevitably pass one person wearing at least one item of silver and black paraphernalia. Riding the bus, walking home, avoiding flaming stores on International Boulevard, those fans were everywhere. When I, along with four Squelch staffers spent 24 straight hours in a Super K-Mart in Oakland, we discovered that between 2 and 4 AM, everyone in the store was:
A) a Super K-Mart employee, or
B) wearing a Raiders jacket
The lack of Raider fans is refreshing. But not quite as refreshing as the knowledge that, since I no longer reside in Alameda County, the Oakland Raiders will no longer receive a single penny of my tax dollars. It's bad enough that I had to sponsor scumbags like Al Davis and Bill Romanowski as long as I did. The Raiders are out of my life, and they'll soon be out of playoff contention as well. Good riddance.