Observations from the "Peyton Manning: World Domination Tour" 21/02/12 Game

1) Well, that was expected. Let's be fair, Mr. Gary Shelton, we Bucs fans had every reason to fear this game. An All-Pro QB vs. a Bucs defense with swiss-cheese-holes in the passing game? Don't be shocked if Peyton Manning throws for the number of TDs he did this game (although it was kind of a relief he stopped at three).

If the Bucs can console themselves on any particular point, it's that we kept the Broncos offense to a single touchdown in the First Half. And this was with Manning trying to run a no-huddle quick-snap offense to get the Bucs' defense on their heels. Getting hit with only one Illegal Substitution penalty in the first two quarters? We can live with that...

2) The game really wasn't as close as the final score - 31-23 - suggests. Manning was able to open up a can of whupass in the Third Quarter, notching two TDs alongside a Von Miller INT Pick 6 before the Bucs could respond with a feeble FG.

3) What killed the Bucs this game: missed pass attempts. Josh Freeman went 18 for 39 throws. That's a lot of drops, and a lot of overthrows. Yes, it's nice we've got Jackson and Williams, and they're a good WR tandem. But Williams only caught 6 of 12 throws his way, Jackson 3 of 8. That's a lot of missed down conversions and end zone scores...

3a) Part of me wonders if during the Fourth Quarter, with Denver cruising on a big lead and expecting a lot of deep passes, if the Bucs could have handed off to Doug Martin more, catching the Broncos in pass coverages and finding more open running lanes to break loose some long TD runs.

4) The talk has been about the lack of D-line pressure on the QB over the last 4... well 8 weeks or so. Part of that has to do with the season loss of DE Clayborn: while Bennett has been a solid replacement, he's just not as fast as Clayborn was by the look of things. And without that pressure, McCoy has seemingly been double-teamed and his numbers are down as well. We can't blitz too much or that often: it opens up too many passing lanes and makes the porous secondary worse. And I contend it is the secondary that is hurting our sack numbers: because QBs are finding their WRs open and easy to throw to, they're throwing it away before our pressure can even get to them. For a seasoned vet like Manning, he was practically untouched all afternoon because he was getting the ball out quickly and confidently. Ouch. It's the Coverage Sacks we're not seeing in the stats anymore: that usually accounted for a solid number - not a majority, but close to half - of total sacks our team could get.

5) The playoff race is looking less likely at the moment: yes, Minnesota lost today but Seattle won, keeping the Seahawks in serious contention. Barring a total collapse of one of the NFC North teams - either Chicago or Green Bay - the Bucs simply won't make the postseason... even if they win all four remaining games. And that is not certain...

5a) The next game is versus Philly. They're wounded but playing for pride. Then AT New Orleans, and Brees knows how he can shred our D. Saint Louis maybe yet be in the playoff hunt as well when they visit. And then AT Atlanta which may not count towards winning the South division - didn't they clinch it now with the Bucs at 6 losses? - but may involve getting home field through the playoffs... nope. This is not an easy December.

6) In other NFL news... there is nothing funny to say about what happened in Kansas City this weekend, and let's leave it at that.

6a) Wouldn't it have been slightly entertaining to have the 49ers - Rams rematch end in ANOTHER overtime tie? I mean, did that EVER happen before in the NFL, having more than 1 tie in one season... and for two teams to have 2 ties by virtue of tying each other?!

6b) The third-string QB for the New York Jets is now the most popular man in New York City. It's supposed to be the second-string QB under usual circumstances but sad to say The Tebow is not in a good place with the Jets. He should never have gone there in the trade... Did he have any say in the trade, like a right of first refusal or something? If not, then the Jets GM is solely to blame here...

7) In professional hockey news, commissioner Gary Bettman has taken a busload of nuns hostage and is demanding they drive him to Detroit, all the while taunting law enforcement officials to arrest him for that, the Furby-punching incident from last week, and other crimes against humanity for mismanaging the NHL into oblivion.

8) In baseball news, BJ Upton is no longer with the Rays. This may cause some consternation for Rays fans, as Beej might not have been the most consistent offensive power we needed him to be, he was a damn good base-runner/base stealer and a decent glove in the outfield.

8a) Rays fans are just gonna hafta console themselves with the knowledge that Evan Longoria has renegotiated his contract to make him a Ray for Life, and at good money (not Free Agent money, but not too shabby when compared to, well, everybody not playing baseball).

8b) What this may mean for the Rays long-term is still up in the air, but this move by owner Sternberg is a far better behavior than his greedy, backstabbing SOB mirror opposite known as Jeff "Hey I Also Killed The Expos" Loria running the Marlins franchise into jokedom (yet again).

9) In college football news: we have Notre Dame and Alabama playing each other for the BCS national title. The Mayan Apocalypse thankfully will occur well before that hated match-up of hated teams for a hated fake title ever happens.

9a) Skip Holtz is no longer head coach at South Florida. May God allow us a sign of benevolent forgiveness to allow USF to hire on a coach who f-cking knows what he's doing.

9b) I kinda wanted to see a Florida - Northern Illinois match-up in the Sugar Bowl. Ah well, Louisville makes for a thematically pleasing match-up anywho.

9c) Has the Rose Bowl ever witnessed a less-impressive invitee than 7-5 Wisconsin?

9d) The Destruction of Sane College Football Conference Alignments continue apace. The Big East is pretty much turning itself into a higher-quality Conference USA... which is meaningless as the other conferences like the Big 10, ACC, SEC and PAC-whatever continue to scarf up programs like Dove ice cream bars. The Big 12 and Big East are left eating dust as superconferences converge into Red Giant stars doomed to collapse upon themselves in an orgy of television money... and no-one will survive save the biggest programs operating in the black no matter what happens (which are roughly 8, maybe 12 school teams).

10) Next up: Bucs return home to face the Philadelphia Eagles that can once again face the threat of Black Out... as though blackmailing/extorting local fans into spending dough for games that get expensive in-person - tickets, parking, vending food/water - is any better than having a sensible Pay-Per-View option for local sports bars to buy in and allow locals to watch at local restaurants keeping the local economy turning...

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