7 thoughts about the NFL week 7 games + reviews of 7 wines

Touchdown Jamaal Charles
Jamaal Charles leaves the Eagles in his dust.

1) Andy Reid is maximizing Jamaal Charles in Kansas City. I wondered if Reid would use Charles to his full potential. In Philadelphia, fans complained that he ignored Lesean McCoy & committed too much to the pass.  McCoy actually averaged 208 carries per year under Reid, & 224 per year over the last 3 years. 13 carries per game isn’t huge, but including receptions, he got the ball about 16 ½ times per game & almost 18 times per game over the last 3 years.  That isn’t bad.
This year in Kansas City, Charles has been the focal point of the offense.  He is averaging over 24 touches per game & over 128 yards per game.  The offense only averages 330 yards per game this year, so he is accounting for 38% of their yards.
I think that most of this is adapting to circumstances.  I don’t think that Dwayne Bowe & Alex Smith are a good match.  Bowe is at his best when he gets up the field.  Some of his best catches were when Matt Cassel would toss up a jump ball to him & he would fight the coverage to bring it down.  Alex Smith doesn’t play that way.  He gets the ball out quickly, & he almost never throws into tight coverage.  The good news is that he isn’t nearly as likely to throw an interception as Cassel was.  The bad news is that the Chiefs will have to get their explosive plays somewhere else.
So far it is working well enough to keep the Chiefs undefeated.  No one will complain about that.  Talking about Jamaal Charles, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton said, “He’s probably pound for pound the best running back in the league.”

2) Giants 23 Vikings 7.  That score doesn’t tell you how bad this game was.  The Vikings only score came on Marcus Sherels’ 86 Yard Punt Return.  The rest of the game featured terrible throws, dropped balls, missed blocking assignments, and blown coverages from both teams.
Sometimes a game between two bad teams can be entertaining because the playing field is level.  That wasn’t the case here.  Sometimes, a team has a bad record, but has been competitive in all of their games. There are usually teams out there that are a few plays or lucky breaks separated from a winning or a losing record. These teams don’t fit either category.  They are both bad teams that are playing badly.  It is amazing because the Vikings went to the playoffs last year & the Giants aren’t that far removed from winning the Super Bowl.  Somehow though, their offensive lines aren’t getting it done & their defenses can’t stop anyone.
The leading rusher for the Giants was Peyton Hillis with 18 carries for 36 yards (2.0 average).  That’s about what you would expect from a guy who was signed off the street this month . It doesn’t explain how Adrian Peterson led the Vikings in rushing with 28 yards on 13 carries (a whopping 2.2 average).  Usually when one quarterback posts a 63.2 quarterback rating like Eli Manning did, you can assume that the team lost, but he looked like a Super Bowl MVP compared to Josh Freeman’s 6.1 rating.
This looked like a case of two bad teams meeting at a bad time.  I wouldn’t be too cheered up by this victory if I were a Giants fan.  It may just be the win that keeps them from getting the first pick in the draft next year.

3) The new rule about pushing on field goals is incredibly subjective.  Any time the defense is bunched in the center, there is a potential for this to be called.  I think it will be a judgment call for the official on almost every field goal.  That isn’t good for the game.  It will be interesting to see if defenses start using a different formation to rush on field goal attempts.

4) Mike McCoy is looking like a brilliant offensive mind.  Over the last 3 years, he has been successful with 3 different quarterbacks running 3 different offenses.  In 2011 he retooled the Denver Broncos offense in mid-season, which is kind of like rebuilding your car engine while driving down the highway.  He managed to switch from a traditional pro-style offense with Kyle Orton at quarterback to a version of the option with Tim Tebow & they managed to win a playoff game.  Last year Peyton Manning got all of the credit for the Denver offense, but McCoy did a great job of integrating the players into the new system and putting together the best game plan.  His reward was the head coaching position in San Diego.  This year, he has Philip Rivers playing the best football of his career.  He is making the right decisions & avoiding the killer turnovers that have plagued him over the last few years.  I think that he is doing it with less talent at the skill positions than he had when the Chargers were going to the playoffs & Rivers was going to the Pro Bowl.  Danny Woodhead has been a great addition to the roster, but the cupboard got little bare over the last few years as it seemed like every key Chargers free agent signed elsewhere.  Rivers has obviously put in the work and is playing great, but some credit needs to go to Mike McCoy for his willingness to adapt his philosophy to his quarterback and his ability to put the team into the right position to be successful.

5) The Cardinals could be a decent team if they had a running back.  The defense has played very well.  I was afraid that losing Ray Horton would hurt a defense that was just coming together, but it hasn’t.  The offense has some problems.  Bruce Arians asks the quarterback to hold the ball longer than the Cardinals offensive line can support.  Larry Fitzgerald has been less than 100% for most of the year.  Carson Palmer throws a ball up for grabs about 10% of the time (& has an interception about 5% of the time).  Those things are all problems.  The biggest problem is that they don’t have a complete running back.  They need someone who can pick up the blitz.  That would help with the porous offensive line & it might give Palmer more confidence to stand in the pocket instead of the occasional chuck & duck.  They also need someone who can make some plays when the hole isn’t there.  I love to watch Jamaal Charles & Arian Foster any time, but some of their best plays are made when everything goes wrong.  Their ability to bump the play outside when the middle is clogged or to make that jump cut to make the first man miss can energize an entire offense.  Rashard Mendenhall getting 13 carries for 22 yards against the Seahawks will not get it done for this team.  You could tell that the Seahawks didn’t fear the run at all last week.  That makes it harder to pass. I think Arians can be an excellent coach & Palmer can be a decent quarterback, but they have to do something about the running game.

6) Harry Douglass looked great for the Falcons as they beat the Buccaneers 31 to 23.  He had 7 catches for 149 yards & 1 touchdown.  In 6 games, he has 23 catches, which would be his 3rd best season total in his 5 year career.  I know that it takes a couple of years before most wide receivers can play their best in the NFL, but this is a huge jump for a 5th year pro.  With the injury situation in Atlanta, look for him to obliterate his previous totals if he can stay healthy.

7) I don’t play fantasy football, but if I did, I would be tempted to take whoever plays the Rams as my defense in every game for the rest of the year.  They have 9 games left & I can’t see them winning more than 2 of them.  One of those winnable games is against the Cardinals & I doubt that will be a high scoring affair either way.  Even before the season began, I expected the Rams to do no better than 8-8.  Jeff Fisher has a career head coaching record of 150–128–1.  Out of 279 games, he has won just over 53% of the time (.533). That is worse than Brian Billick (.556) Jim Caldwell (.542), Dennis Green (.546) Jim Mora (.541), Barry Switzer (.625) & Wade Phillips (.573).  Those are 6 guys that will probably never get another head coaching opportunity in the NFL (unless Gary Kubiak gets fired during this season), but they all have won more consistently than Jeff Fisher.  A couple of them are even considered something of a joke as a coach.  Somehow Fisher has been able to coach in the NFL for longer than seems reasonable.  He trails only Bill Belichick, Mike Shanahan and Tom Coughlin in wins by a current head coach, but of course they have all won at least 2 Super Bowls.  When a Jeff Fisher team has a good season, the next season I expect regression to the mean.  With that history, & with Kellen Clemens as their new starting quarterback, I would be shocked if the Rams equal last year’s 7-9 record.


Here are 7 random wine reviews for the week.
1) Famille Perrin Cote du Rhone Reserve Blanc 2011
The Perrin family has owned Chateau Beaucastel since 1909.  Over the last few years they have been buying up some vineyards in the Southern Rhone.
This is a fairly simple, but very nice white Rhone.  It has peach & apricot on the nose.  On the palate, the immediate taste is peach, honey, & honeycomb.  By honeycomb, I mean that there is some typical waxiness to it that tastes better than it sounds.  It actually gives you mouth feel.  As the wine opens up, there is some nice , fairly subtle vanilla as well.  I think that this is from the fruit rather than from oak.  If there is any oak on this wine, it is minimal.
The grapes are Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, & Viognier.  I don’t know the percentages.  The peach & honey probably come from the Viognier & a bit of the Roussanne. The Marsanne is the source of the honeycomb waxiness.
I had this with Indian food & it was tasty.  It might be great with grilled chicken & a mango habanero sauce.
2) Chateau de Beaurenard Chateauneuf du Pape Boisrenard 2001 magnum
This is full of berries.  There is blackberry, boysenberry, & blueberry.  It seems to get even denser as it opens up.  This is just an amazing, mouthwatering wine.  The oak has integrated so nicely that it is more about structure and it isn’t overtly “oaky” in any way.  Robert Parker liked it as much as I did apparently.  He gave it 97 points & wrote “There have been a number of spectacular vintages of Domaine de Beaurenard’s luxury cuvee, Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Boisrenard, but the 2001 may be the finest they have ever produced.”  Wine Spectator gave it 95 points & said it would be good through 2021.  Mine didn’t make it that long. I would love to try it again in a few years, but I doubt I can afford it!

3) Schramsberg Blanc de Noir sparkling wine 1988 magnum
This was fantastic. I actually wasn’t expecting this.  The bottle had been lying around for a long time & hadn’t been kept in ideal conditions.  I felt like it was something that might end up getting poured out.  I was wrong. It was a fantastic wine!  It had a real Pinot Noir taste to it.  It was full bodied with great mouth feel.  If I tasted it blind, I would have guessed that this was Champagne instead of California.  It has lots of taste notes due to autolysis.  For those who aren’t wine geeks, this just means the wine sat on the dead yeast after fermentation.  Usually the dead yeast, (lees) is stirred on a regular basis.  This can make a white wine taste bigger, which usually is called mouth feel.  It also can lead to toasty or baked bread flavors in the wine.  It can be tricky to get right, but it is a key component of the best Champagne.
4) Dolia DOC Vermentino Di Sardegna DOC 2011 Cantine Di Dolianova
This has light melon, mostly cantaloupe.  This isn’t really my style of Vermentino.  To me, this is kind of watery & it doesn’t have the acidity that I associate with the varietal.  There are some great Vermentino’s out there, but this isn’t one of them.

5) Chateau Loudenne Medoc 2006 Bordeaux
The toasted oak on the nose almost gives it a coffee smell.  It has mouth filling, very solid tannins.  It has old world structure, but some new world power.  Michel Roland was the consulting wine maker for this wine & it shows some of his trademarks.  It is smooth, with bigger fruit than some other Bordeaux.  Cherry was probably the most prominent fruit to me.

6) Edmeades Zinfandel 2010 Mendocino
There are ripe fruit and herbal notes on the finish, with some sage and maybe fennel.  My second tasting picks up some nice black pepper.  Nice tannins.  I would like to try this with roasted or smoked duck.

7) Montes Alpha Syrah 2010 Colchagua Valley Chile
I used to bike a lot in August on roads that had been freshly tarred.  The heat would melt the tar and the smell would mix with the mesquite trees on the side of the road & that is what this smells like to me.  There is a ton of tannin!  It will be interesting to see how this wine develops.  It has nice fruit at the finish.  Tastes like plum or roasted plum.  This is Syrah that leans more to the new world style.  No delicate blueberries here.  The blend is 90% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, & 3% Viognier.


Tasty stuff!
Tasty stuff!

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