Thursday, September 24, 2009
Bruschi on Tap: Rooting for the Lions
By Tedy Bruschi ESPNBoston.com
Who I'm cheering for this week: The Detroit Lions. No team should ever have to experience a 20-game losing streak. This organization is deep in tradition. The Portsmouth Spartans moved to Detroit and renamed themselves the Lions in 1930. Ever since, the people of Detroit have been loyal to their team. They deserve at least one win, don't they? Go Lions!
Players who deserve more recognition: Here are some guys who don't get a lot of national notoriety, but they are great players who help their teams win. None have made the Pro Bowl:
Ty Warren has 10 tackles and one sack in two games this season.
1. Ty Warren (DE, Patriots): All the credit in years past has gone to Warren's defensive linemates, Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour. But the former Texas A&M standout has done nothing but dominate for the Patriots. Maybe with Seymour now in Oakland, people will start to realize how good he really is.
2. London Fletcher (LB, Redskins): How this guy has never gone to a Pro Bowl is beyond me. He is a tackling machine, with more than 1,700 tackles in his career. For the last 10 seasons his tackle totals have surpassed 100 each year. In two games this year, he has already totaled 27 tackles. He was also the starting linebacker for the Super Bowl XXXIV Rams.
3. Vincent Jackson (WR, Chargers): This will be his breakout year. He has improved every year he has been in the NFL. The five-year veteran receiver had his first 1,000-yard season last year. He's QB Philip Rivers' new go-to guy.
4. Heath Miller (TE, Steelers): The fifth-year tight end out of Virginia can do it all. He is one of the best blocking tight ends in the league and is also a big threat for QB Ben Roethlisberger in the red area. After two weeks, he has already caught 11 balls for 91 yards.
5. Mike Peterson (LB, Falcons): A big-play linebacker who has spent time with the Colts and Jaguars, he is now a leader for the Atlanta Falcons. He's amassed more than 1,300 tackles in his 11-year career. He already has 16 tackles, one interception and two forced fumbles in two games this season.
Jay Cutler helped lead the Bears past the Steelers in Week 2.
Bounce-back award:Jay Cutler, QB Chicago Bears. How many of us cut the cord on Cutler after his high-school level performance against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1? He displayed poor decision-making and even worse quarterbacking techniques, throwing across his body to the opposite side of the field. Bottom line: four picks and an embarrassing loss to a longtime division rival. But look at Cutler's stat line in a Week 2 win over the Steelers: 27-of-38 for 236 yards, two TDs and zero INTs. Props to Jay for taking all the criticism, focusing on what he had to do, and bouncing back. I chose Chicago as my breakout team of the year on "NFL Live." Prove me right, Jay.
Something to watch for: With the firing of three offensive coordinators during the preseason, I'm wondering if there will be more changes this year. The pressure of winning, and winning now, is more evident in today's NFL. With two rookie head coaches taking their teams to the playoffs last year -- Tony Sparano in Miami and Mike Smith in Atlanta -- I can't help but wonder if owners or head coaches will cut their losses during the year to shake things up and inject some life into their teams. Buffalo fired Turk Schonert and is a Leodis McKelvin fumble away from being 2-0.
Take this to the water cooler: Want a defining statistic on the Patriots? They have had two chances to pick up a first down in short-yardage situations -- on the opening drive versus the Bills (fourth-and-1) and in Week 2 against the Jets midway through the third quarter (third-and-1). They attempted to run the ball both times, and both attempts were unsuccessful. The ability to pick up one yard can define your season and indicate how tough you are. The Patriots must start to convert these short-yardage situations.
Give 'em an ice cold Bruschi: These players were studs in Week 2. Drinks are on me for...
1. Ray Lewis (LB, Ravens): Not only did he have a great stat line (12 tackles, forced fumble, QB pressure that forced an INT), but he also sealed the game with his fourth-down stop on Chargers running back Darren Sproles. It was an exclamation-point tackle that ended the game and crushed whatever hopes the entire Chargers team and the 66,882 in attendance had of being 2-0. Game over, start the buses!
2. 49ers offensive line: Running back Frank Gore had a huge day, rushing for 207 yards. It was amazing how he wasn't even touched during his long runs of 79 and 80 yards. The offensive line had plenty of motivation after coach Mike Singletary told them they got their "tails kicked" by the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1. Adam Snyder, David Bass and the rest of the O-line did the tail kickin' this week.
Tedy Bruschi played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots and is a member of the franchise's 50th Anniversary team.