8 Thoughts & 8 wines for NFL Week 8
1) Bill Belichick & his staff teach smart situational football.
I’m impressed with the record of the New England Patriots in a year with so many injuries & such a jury rigged receiving corp. I think that part of the reason that they have been able to remain so successful is that Patriots players play smart football. Three defensive examples stood out to me in their victory over the Dolphins. On one play Devin McCourty was in position to intercept a pass from Ryan Tannehill. He realized that his momentum would prevent him from catching the ball in bounds and he tapped it like a volleyball back in bounds to Marquise Cole, who made a great catch & just barely kept his feet in bounds. It was a great combination of athleticism & quick thinking.
With just under 3 minutes left in the game the Patriots blocked a field goal attempt. Steve Gregory recovered the ball and made a point of turning to stay in bounds. That only made a difference of a few seconds on the game clock, but at that time of the game a few seconds can make a difference. If you don’t believe me, ask the Dallas Cowboys.
On the Dolphins’ final offensive play, the ball was intercepted by Duron Harmon. I noticed that McCourty & Cole immediately motioned for him to take a knee. That meant that there was no chance of anything bad happening (fumble, penalty, etc.) & the offense could come out & take a knee & end the game.
Without talking about a specific play I should mention Rob Ninkovitch. He isn’t the most physically gifted player in the NFL, but he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He is really stepping up his leadership role with Vince Wilfork & Jerod Mayo out for the season.
2) I wish that the Jaguars would take a chance on Vince Young. I know all of the perceived downside to Vince Young, but I think that the threat that he might run would free up Maurice Jones Drew the way it did Chris Johnson. He isn’t the most accurate passer in the world, but he has been a consistent winner. Additionally, compared to the current quarterbacks for the Jaguars, he looks like Joe Montana. Young’s career quarterback rating at ESPN is 58.1 with a passer rating of 74.4. The last year that he was a starter for the Titans, he posted a 98.6 rating. Chad Henne does have a passer rating of 75, but his QBR is 42.3. Blaine Gabbert has a passer rating of 66.4 & a QBR of 21.5 & even that may be giving him too much credit for short completions against prevent defenses.
I have been impressed with Jaguars coach Gus Bradley’s willingness to keep trying & to take chances. Last week they went for it on 4th down in their own territory & made several other plays that showed that the coach hasn’t thrown in the towel on a lost season. They are probably going to get the first or second draft pick & draft (they hope) their quarterback of the future. In the meantime, bringing in Vince Young might at least make the games entertaining to watch. If they can’t do that, maybe the NFL could quit showing their games on TV. I have watched more inept Jaguars quarterback play this year than seem reasonable. I’m on the West Coast at the moment & due to the scheduling, 7 of the 8 Jaguars games have shown locally. Even the people in Jacksonville shouldn’t be subjected to them that often.
3) Matthew Stafford made the play of the day last Sunday. The Cowboys have tons of coulda, woulda, shoulda, about the last few minutes of the game, but that doesn’t take away what a smart & gutsy play Stafford made. When he decided to dive over the top for a touchdown instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock, he took responsibility for a win or a loss. If the Cowboys had paid attention & stopped him, he would have been killed in the press for single handedly losing the game. The safe play would have been to spike the ball & then run a play. Instead, he gambled & won. That is a highlight reel play we will be seeing for years.
4) For a few years now the Bills have been a trendy pick for the team that is going to turn things around & make a run. For years they have disappointed. So I am probably wrong here, but the Bills look like a team on the way up. Thedefense is really playing well. They have some injury issues at running back, but that’s nothing compared to their quarterback problems. Thad Lewis has been playing injured, but has been doing a decent job. That’s amazing considering how little was expected of him this year. I think that the plan was for Kevin Kolb to start the season & to bring along rookie EJ Emanuel as the season progressed. Lewis started the season on the practice squad as the 4th string quarterback. When you are a quarterback that is still eligible for the practice squad in your 5th season, it is safe to say that not much is expected of you. After injuries to Kolb & Emanuel, Lewis jumped up to 1st string over Jeff Tuel. He has done a solid job, but I think that when Emanuel can start a full season & the offense can be less of a drag on the defense, that the Bills will be a force in the AFC East.
5) A lot of jokes have been made about the clown circus at quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings & much of that has been deserved. On the other hand, the defense isn’t getting nearly the blame that it deserves. In 7 games, the Vikings have averaged over 23 points per game. In fact, if you take out the game where they foolishly started Josh Freeman, who didn’t know the offense, they are averaging 26 points per game. With a defense like the Chiefs have, that would be an undefeated season. With a Vikings defense allowing 32.1 points per game, 1-6 is about right.
6) I was expecting another terrible Monday Night game this week with the Rams & Seahawks. It wasn’t a barn burner, but it was a nail biter. If Greg Zuerlein hadn’t missed a 50 yard field goal in the 4th quarter, the Rams might have actually won. They still had a shot on the last play of the game, but some unimaginative play calling and working with a backup quarterback kept them out of the end zone. A lot of analysts have the Seahawks in ink on their Super Bowl prediction for the NFC, but that may be premature.
7) Last week I wrote about the Cardinals needing a running game to be competitive. I wish that I could say that I predicted Andre Ellington to have a breakout game like he did. The 6th round pick got his first start and rushed for 154 yards. I don’t know if he can contribute half of that every game from now on, but if he can, the Cardinals are going to be much tougher to beat. Their defense doesn’t need a great offense. A decent one will get them wins. If they could score as often as the Vikings, they would be contenders.
8) The Raiders may not be very good, but they are fun to watch. You never know when Terrell Pryor will make a huge play. He isn’t always accurate & he is still learning to read a defense, but there is always the chance that he will put it together on any given play. The Raiders defense still has some flaws, but they are playing like a team. I think that the return of Charles Woodson has brought leadership and an understanding of what it takes to be a winning team to the defense. This is a transition year for the team while they fix their salary cap problems. It will be interesting to see if Pryor develops into a solid enough starter for them to stick with him for the next few years. The Raiders are another team that looks like it is on the way up.
8 random wines of the week
1) McCrea Cellars Rose’ non vintage
This is a blend of Carignan & Grenache. I have tried to find out a little more about it, but have only found information about some other rose’s that they have made over the years. This is a full bodied rose’ with nice spice. It has a long finish. It’s really one of the nicest American rose’s I have ever had. I tried this at The Funky Door in Lubbock when the Glazer’s rep was showing it to the owner & Carrie let me tag along. I will buy a bottle of this when I get a chance!
2) Upstream 2011 Malbec. Made by Watts winery
This is a really light & fruity Malbec. I actually like this a lot, but I don’t think that your average person who likes Malbec would identify it as Malbec. It has lots of fresh red fruit. The tannin doesn’t jump out, but it is fairly high & fairly dry.
3) Saint Amant Mohr Fry Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi)
Coffee, dark chocolate, & dark fruit combine with a long finish in this wine. It’s a nice example of how to make a powerful Zinfandel, without going over the top. It is well balanced at 14.9% alcohol. Although there are no legal definitions for “old vine” in American wine labeling, this does have some old vines. The Mohr Fry Ranch has two blocks of Zinfandel that are used in this wine. One block was planted in 1901 & the other in 1944.
4) Concho y Toro Casa Concho 2011 Chile Puente Alto
There is not much on the nose. Nice cocoa powder on the palate. Definitely some cassis in there as well. Strong tannins. Long finish.
5) Jeremy Wine Company, The Lady red blend non-vintage (Lodi)
Good body, but it might be a little bit hot (high in alcohol for the non wine geeks out there). After it settles down a bit, it doesn’t taste as hot. It has lots of body, lots of tannin & structure. This would be good with duck or lamb. This has a really long finish. The wine is a blend of Petite Verdot, Petit Sirah, & Cabernet Sauvignon. I don’t know the percentages, but they are listed in order of prominence. They only make about 120 cases of this wine & it runs about $25.
6) Chasing Lions, North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Very astringent, but still fruity. I might be tasting this at the wrong time, but this tastes like a decent wine with pizza, but nothing special.
7) Chateau Caronne Ste. Gemme Haut Medoc 2010
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. It smells of earth & berry & a little bit of coffee. Strong tannins make this a very dry wine. It has fairly heavy oak. This could use some more time in bottle to really enjoy it at its best. It reminds me a little of a cocoa dusted espresso bean. Try this with lamb or something else with a decent amount of fat. The winery has been around since the mid-17th century. The current owners purchased it in 1990 & have recently made a commitment to sustainability. For those who care about this sort of thing, this is a Cru Bourgeois. For those who don’t, it is a solid wine worth the $20 and it is a wine that you can hang on to for a few years & it will probably taste better…but it wouldn’t be a bad choice tonight.
Girl Go Lightly Rose’ 2011 11% alcohol
Based on the packaging, I am not the target customer for this wine. The label has a drawing of a girl in a frilly pink dress & heels with her face covered by a bundle of balloons. I don’t know if balloons bundle or flock or whatever, but there is a grouping of them & bundle of balloons is alliterative. As you might expect, this is sweet. What I didn’t expect was that it still has varietal flavor. Watermelon is the primary flavor. I also get seem cherry. It is an easy drinking rose’ for a hot day. This would be nice with grilled chicken or spicy BBQ. This isn’t as complex or interesting as the McCrea Cellars Rose’, but it is about $15 cheaper. I’m confident enough in my masculinity to drink a girly wine if they are going to do such a nice job of it.