What I think they’re thinking (or should be) in the headquarters of the four AFC South teams this afternoon.
Back to work. Can’t wait. It’s amazing how many people won’t allow for the possibility that Matt Leinart has grown up and improved. But there are an awful lot of quarterbacks whose second acts were better than their firsts. We need to make sure he gets the same production from the supporting cast that Matt Schaub was getting. That means we run block efficiently, springing Arian Foster and Ben Tate. It means we play defense befitting the No. 1 unit in the league -- and that shouldn’t be hard considering how bad the Jaguars are on offense. Jacksonville’s defense will be a big challenge, but we have reason to be confident we’ll be just fine overall.
More of this? How unfair. We guess we are obligated to trudge through six more games and suffer the consequences of a season without Peyton Manning and with a poorly planned and constructed secondary. There is no sympathy for us and we don’t deserve any. Most people around the league were sick of our success and are enjoying our failures. Manning’s got an important check-up in December, and December isn’t that far off, so there is something to look forward to. Cam Newton and the Panthers, meanwhile, are not something we’re looking forward to. The rookie quarterback has shredded defenses a lot better than ours.
We’ve got a good defense but an offense lacking talent and lacking an experienced quarterback. We got ourselves in a tightly contested game in Cleveland and we executed well enough to be in position to win at the end. In a spot like that, we need to be well-positioned by our coaches to maximize our chances to win. They failed us. They botched the timing of our final timeout, which cost us a chance at one extra play. And they out-thought themselves by not calling for a Maurice Jones-Drew carry at the goal line on what was certain to be the game’s final play. Jack Del Rio defended the timeout strategy but complained about the pace of the play that slowed things down. He’s the guy who’s in charge of having us ready to execute in a hurry. JDR also passed the buck to offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for the play selection. We understand he doesn’t want to meddle, and we guess that’s admirable on some level. But he has to take the heat here, because he has the power to click the headset at any time and say something like, “run Maurice here.” It’s no one’s fault but his own if he fails to use his override power.
It’s becoming easier and easier to think we don’t have the people we need to stand toe-to-toe with a team like the Falcons. Their offensive firepower is more than we could handle, and we made stupid mistakes, especially in the penalty department. Jake Locker provided a nice boost, but we shouldn’t need an injury at quarterback to show life and we’re expecting Matt Hasselbeck to be back in the huddle as we host Tampa Bay Sunday. The Bucs are up against it like we are. While we’ve struggled against good teams, we are still in position to be in position to make a bid for a wild-card berth. But time is running out for us to start the kind of little streak we’ll need to make it happen.