Saturday, November 26
Seahawks, Giants game of the week
By John Madden
Mike Holmgren is a heck of a coach, it has taken him a while to get his program in there and it looks like he has that done now. Along with that he has a great runner in Shaun Alexander and that is big. I talk about this all the time. The league has become a passing league and a league about quarterbacks but to make all of that stuff work you have to have a good running back and Alexander fills that bill. Another thing that helps him be the runner that he is is the offensive line. The left side of their line can be as good as or better than any in the NFL.
I think this team is legitimate. When you ask the question who is the best team in the NFC? The previous weeks the talk has been the Carolina Panthers now the Seahawks are starting to get a little of that talk.
The Giants kind of disappointed me with their last possession against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10. There are all of these statistics on offense and defense but to me it is all about winning the last two possessions. They had the Vikings, they were playing them well, got the score tied and the defense has to go out and get a stop against an offense that just couldn't get on track. On that possession Brad Johnson goes four for four, marches the ball right down the field they kick a field goal and the Giants lose the game. To me if you are a good defense that doesn't happen. Football is a game that you have to play for four quarters. You have to win those early possessions and if you are going to be a good team you have to win those last two possessions.
The Seahawks have always kind of had a yeah but and in the last couple of years it has been their defense. They kind of fell into that category with the Vikings and the Kansas City Chiefs, those teams that can score a lot but you can score on them. Now they have gotten a little better, I'm not saying they are a good defense but they are better. What the Giants have to do is avoid turning the ball over. Eli Manning is playing very well although he did have some problems against the Vikings with those four turnovers but the key for the Giants is Tiki Barber. If there is anyone who is an underrated back, you know when you talk about the top running backs that get forgotten, it is Barber. He is a big big part of this offense.
Having said that Chris Simms is going to have his hands full and Jon Gruden knows that and will prepare him to do things like once in a while taking a sack, throwing the ball away and not forcing anything. I think when you try to force things is when you get into trouble against this Bears defense. When they get pressure on you and you should probably just take the sack but you try to get the ball into a tight area and then they intercept it and run it all the way back for a touchdown.
I think the thing being overlooked is the job that Ron Turner, the Bears offensive coordinator, is doing. You look at players and people that the Bears picked up in the off season and I think Turner has done an outstanding job. They have had a quarterback change and now have a rookie leading them and he is being pretty productive.
Ben Roethlisberger is going to be back and is going to have to get ready for game conditions very quickly. That is the thing, he is coming off the knee injury and you can rehab, trainers can say he's ok, doctors can say he's ok and all of those kinds of things but when you have been off for three weeks, Bill Cowher brought it up the other day, it's the speed of the game. You have to adjust and adapt to the speed of the game and how quickly Roethlisberger can do that is going to be important. I think the Colts defense is better than they were a year ago but I still don't think that they are a good defense or a top defense yet. We kind of get caught up with the fact that they are better and confuse that with being a good defense. I think they are a little inconsistent, a little undersized, and I think as long as you get first downs and pound the ball at them then you can wear them down a little. That is what the Steelers will do to you. They have that good offensive line and they'll get that running game going. They are a running team. Now if the Colts can stop that run then it is going to be a lot easier for them now if they can't stop the run they are going to get a heavy dose of it and when you get the heavy dose of it then they are able to mix in the pass with not only Roethlisberger but with guys like Antwaan Randle El that can make it really tough for that defense.
I don't remember any offense in the history of the game that is as potent as this Colts offense, maybe Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. The things that they are able to do is start with Marvin Harrison out on the right side, Reggie Wayne on the left side and put Dallas Clark in the slot and the defense plays this with their base defense and treat Clark like a tight end then the Colts will treat him like a slot receiver. If you run out your nickel defense, five defensive backs, then the Colts will put in Brandon Stokley which gives them three wide receivers so they can really get you into a bind.
Another thing for the Steelers is they love to blitz. Dick LeBeau loves to use exotic blitzes to try to get pressure on the quarterback but watching the Colts and Peyton Manning and the things that they are able to do makes teams very reluctant to bring a lot of blitzes. You see teams who have come out and the previous weeks blitzed like crazy and they come up against the Colts and run like one blitz.
Manning is going to figure out where you are vulnerable and that is where he is going to go. The blue print this year against the Colts has been to play them soft with seven or eight guys dropping into coverage so of course you are then vulnerable to the run. So what teams are saying is if you are going to beat us it is going to be with Edgerrin James and the run not by throwing the ball down the field.
For Edgerrin James this is the best year that he has had as a pro. He is a complete player and watching him run he has that wide base, runs that stretch play and he is an amazing guy in that he can run at three levels. One level is kind of up where he can see everything, the second is down low where he can still have power and then he has one more that is lower and he is still powerful. I don't know that I have every seen anyone do that. The other thing that amazes me about him is if you are going to play in the same backfield with Manning then you had better be able to pass protect and he can certainly pass protect. As tough as he is as a runner and finisher as he is he is an equally tough pass protector.
You might wonder if there is some concern for Tony Dungy that his team might be a little too tight playing on National television trying to stay undefeated. The answer is yes, you only have to go back to the Monday Night game against the St. Louis Rams. The Rams came out and put up 17 points early and Dungy felt that was exactly what happened. He thought his team was too high, too tense and instead of being really ready they weren't ready at all.
Super Bowl-winning coach John Madden is an analyst for ABC's Monday Night Football.