TMQ is reporting on an exclusive basis that during the first half of the Washington-Philadelphia game on "Monday Night Football," Chip Kelly shouted into the Eagles' helmet radio, "Mr. Sulu, engage warp six!"
Football does not get much more entertaining than that first half, in which the Eagles rolled up 322 offensive yards, scored 26 points, posted 21 first downs and staged 53 plays using the Blur Offense. Defying predictions about NFL officials enforcing a slow pace, the Blur was executed exactly as in college. It was 16 seconds from runner down to next snap when Philadelphia went for it on fourth down.
The dramatic debut of the Kelly offense was helped by Robert Griffin III looking, in the first half, like a guy who had to skip the preseason. As RG III's play improved in the second half, the Eagles became steadily more human. Still, Philadelphia was able to run 77 plays, while switching to quick-snap tactics in the second half allowed Washington to run 70 plays, versus the league's average of 64 plays per team per game in 2012.
Snaps are not normally a stat that football fans follow -- perhaps this year, they will be. On Sunday, New England staged a remarkable 89 snaps, though any stat compiled against the pitiable Bills comes with an asterisk. And snaps are no guarantee of success: Jacksonville snapped the ball 70 times and scored two points Sunday. But fast-break basketball long has been popular. This season, fast-break football may highlight the NFL. The very fast pace has been working in college football for several years, including in Division III. Monday night showed it can work in the NFL.
Will the Eagles be able to sustain their Blur pace? NFL teams play more games than NCAA teams, and don't get the month of December off to recover. NFL defenders are faster and hit harder than college defenders. One reason most NFL teams use a slow, deliberate cadence is to survive the long season.
Inevitably, Philadelphia will need to adjust as NFL defenses learn to counter what Kelly does. In the first half on Monday night, Washington played defense as if in a two-minute drill -- backed-off and spread out. Philadelphia did much of its damage by rushing against a backed-off defense that was focused on preventing long gains. Kelly's Oregon offense ran up the middle more than generally realized; against Washington, the Eagles threw 25 times and rushed 49 times. Last season, Stanford held Oregon to 14 points by taking away up-the-middle run lanes. NFL defensive coordinators will learn to do this to the Eagles, and that will bring the Blur under control.
But for the early part of the season at least, Philadelphia should be one of the most entertaining football teams in many years.
Many NFL teams fielded defenses that "sold out" to stop the zone read Sunday. Against San Francisco, often the Packers had two defensive linemen, four linebackers and five defensive backs on the field: the defensive front was two down linemen and two linebackers charging straight ahead, never any twists or stunts, never any inside moves, in order to contain the quarterback. It worked -- Colin Kaepernick, who ran for 181 yards the last time these teams met, was held to 22 yards rushing as San Francisco executed only two snaps with a zone read.
But when a defense sells out to stop someone or something, other options are offered. Kaepernick stood in the pocket like Bart Starr and threw for 404 yards -- see more on this game below. The season begins with quarterback rushes from the zone read a major concern. If defensive coordinators focus on tactics that contain the zone read, NFL wide receivers are going to be happy fellows.
In other football news, Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC Sports has decided he will stop using the franchise name "Redskins," shifting instead to "the Washington team." TMQ has been on this bandwagon for a decade, and it's nice to have company on a bandwagon. (Some sousaphones would be nice, too.) King's decision shows he listens to his conscience. The world would be a better place if more people with insider status listened to the voices of their consciences.
Two weeks ago, this column called the moniker "Doomed, doomed. No chance this team name survives." Tick…tick…tick. That's the clocking ticking down on what this column will call the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons until its new name is trademarked.
TMQ's Super Bowl pick is San Francisco over Denver. Unless my pick is New England over Atlanta -- the Flying Elvii just ran up 431 yards of offense using volunteers from the audience at the receiver positions. Maybe my pick should be Jersey/A -- the last time the Giants opened with a loss at Dallas, they went on to hoist the Lombardi. Just remember this column's motto: All Predictions Wrong or Your Money Back. TMQ is free, so if any of my predictions actually proved correct, you would receive -- oh, never mind.
Stats of the Week No. 1: Since Jan. 2012 in the playoffs, Green Bay is 0-5 versus the Giants and Forty Niners, 12-3 versus all other teams.
Stats of the Week No. 2: Terrelle Pyror had 329 of the Raiders' 372 offensive yards.
Stats of the Week No. 3: Home teams Carolina, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Pittsburgh combined to score 28 points.
Stats of the Week No. 4: In the season's opener, Ravens at Broncos, there were a combined 780 yards passing and 123 yards rushing.
Stats of the Week No. 5: Since Bill Belichick arrived, the Patriots are 26-3 versus the Bills and have outscored them by 352 points.
Stats of the Week No. 6: The Browns (2.0) are 1-14 in openers.
Stats of the Week No. 7: At 1:59 p.m. Eastern on Sept. 8, 2013, the Oakland Raiders scored their first rushing touchdown since October 2012.
Stats of the Week No. 8: Green Bay has gone 44 regular season games without a 100-yard rusher.
Stats of the Week No. 9: Stretching back to the playoffs, consecutive Falcons games have ended with Atlanta failing on fourth-and-goal with seconds remaining.
Stats of the Week No. 10: Andrew Luck has appeared in 18 NFL games, and has already led seven fourth-quarter comeback victories.
Sweet Play of the Week: Defending champions Ravens leading 7-0 in the opener, host Denver lined up with two wide receivers right and little-known tight end Julius Thomas standing up right in the suddenly popular "flex" position. (A flexed tight end is an F receiver; H means tight end in the backfield and Y means tight end in the conventional position.) Pre-snap, Peyton Manning noted a linebacker would be matched up on Thomas. Manning motioned the tailback to the right side. At the snap, he faked a handoff to the tailback going left, freezing the safeties for an instant; the two wide receivers faked a hitch screen; Thomas ran a deep seam and was covered by the middle linebacker. Touchdown pass, first of a record-tying seven for Manning. Yet another record for Peyton! And surely another endorsement deal.
The touchdown was Thomas's first in the NFL. A collegiate basketball player, he lasted until the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft despite having strikingly similar athletic abilities and background to Jimmy Graham, selected the previous year and now one of the league's top performers.
Sour Play of the Week: City of Tampa seemed to have the Jets defeated, until a pointless personal foul out of bounds with 15 seconds remaining put Jersey/B into position for a long winning field goal. Jersey/B has now won eight straight against the Bucs.
City of Tampa committed 13 penalties, including the out-of-bounds foul and an obvious helmet-to-helmet hit. Bucs' head coach Greg Schiano, who all but boasts of bad sportsmanship, often talks about how he wants to intimidate other teams. Playing smart is better. Peyton Hillis did not carry the ball for the Bucs. Since Hillis became the "Madden" cover boy in 2011, his career has evaporated -- 896 total yards rushing with three teams, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry.
Sweet 'N' Sour Play of the Week: Cincinnati leading 21-17 at Soldier Field, the Bears faced fourth-and-1 on the Bengals' 27 with eight minutes remaining. The "safe" thing is to take a field goal. New head coach Marc Trestman, who has his own website, went for it. First down. On the next snap Chicago scored what would prove the winning touchdown. Sweet.
Before the Bears' fourth down try, Cincinnati called its second timeout. Immediately after the conversion, Cincinnati called its final timeout. (Which referees insist on describing as the "last and final" timeout, as if this were different from the "final" timeout.) Not only did Cincinnati allow a touchdown on the snap after calling a defensive timeout; it was now midway through the fourth quarter of a tight contest, and the Bengals could not stop the clock. Sour.
It's a Marvelous Night for a Moondance: NASA just shot an unmanned probe to the moon. The launch vehicle was described in press reports as privately developed -- actually most of the rocket was a modified ICBM, built by the Air Force and left over from the Cold War. Better used to carry probes than bombs, of course.
What's up in outer space? Not as much as expected. In the 1968 movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," by the year 2001, there are colonies on the moon, commercial flights to orbit, and NASA has built a giant ship bearing a crew to Jupiter. In this spring's Tom Cruise flick "Oblivion," by 2017, NASA has built a giant ship bearing a crew even farther, to Saturn. Nothing remotely like this is on anyone's drawing board, let alone funded.
The space station continues to circle the globe, accomplishing -- ahem, we'll have to get back to you on that. This most expensive boondoggle ever is now serviced by Russian rockets at American expense. Asteroid strikes continue to be unlikely, but disturbingly real potential catastrophes.
Barack Obama announced a plan to use an automated spacecraft to capture an asteroid, then drag it to orbit around the moon, there to be studied by astronauts. The idea sounds interesting, but doesn't have any clear relationship to preparing a defense against space rocks -- mainly, this project would give the astronaut corps something to do. Building a defense against space rocks would take at least a decade and cost at least dozens of billions of dollars, would not involve the manned flights that make for dramatic TV footage, and might result in systems that are never used. Then again the United States spent more than a trillion dollars to construct a nuclear ICBM system, in the hope it would never be used. If NASA were to stop an asteroid from striking a city, this would be, hmm, well, the single greatest achievement in human history.
The asteroid capture plan would require a new heavy-lift rocket unimaginatively called the Space Launch System, with roughly the power of the old Saturn V. Dull names are a symptom of the lack of vision at today's NASA. The space station is just the International Space Station: it might as well be called the Please See Disclaimer Space Station. SLS is the dumbest rocket name ever. How about calling it Artemis? She was the sister of Apollo.
An SLS might someday be used for asteroid defense, but the rocket is so overpriced it may never fly. The program has been grinding on for years without a flight test, or even one scheduled. A Saturn V launch cost about $2 billion in today's dollars; projections have the SLS costing $10 billion per launch.
Space historian Robert Zimmerman recently wrote that a cycle of nonsense has taken hold at NASA. President A announces a vast, sweeping space plan whose big costs won't happen until he leaves office. President B arrives and huffily cancels A's plan, announcing his own vast, sweeping project whose big costs won't happen until he leaves office. President C arrives and cancels B's plan, announcing -- fill in the rest. All that happens: The pork-barrel flow to congressional districts with NASA installations continues. "America's incoherent space program is unable to accomplish anything other than to spend money," Zimmerman concludes. NASA has not produced an important new piece of hardware in more than a decade, though has burned through about $180 billion in that period.
NASA doesn't want to build an asteroid defense because such a system would have no role for astronauts. Mars travel? Way too expensive to be practical. The agency is so adrift it has started claiming space spending is for jobs creation. Paying people to dig holes and then fill them creates jobs, too; space subsidies are an inefficient way to stimulate the economy, since unlike bridges or subways, space dollars have no multiplier effect. NASA's motto should be: Nowhere to Go But Up.
StubHub World: The day of the NFL opener, the cheapest seat on StubHub for the monster Atlanta at New Orleans pairing was $138. Seats at the laugher Kansas City at Jacksonville contest -- teams a combined 4-28 last season -- could be had for $14. That's below face value: owners of Jax seats were taking a loss to be rid of them. A 50-yard-line seat behind the home team box for the monster Green Bay at San Francisco contest could have been had for $409. That was a value price considering the magnitude of the game. A sideline 50-yard-line seat for the woofer Arizona at St. Louis pairing could be had for $118. That might have been worth it just so you could say you'd sat on the sideline at midfield of an NFL game.
Wacky Food of the Week: Best restaurant name ever.
Trojan Horsing Around: Professional football teams are strictly entertainment organizations. They do not play any larger role in society -- which is a reason subsidies and tax favors to the NFL are offensive. Colleges and universities do play a larger role in society, so subsidies and tax favors to them may be justified. Yet sportscasters and sportswriters treat college football teams as though they had no purpose other than to generate victories.
Last season, perennial power USC finished 7-6. This was spoken of by sports commentators and the Trojan faithful as some sort of calamity. Recently the focus has been on whether USC will win this season. Saturday, USC was held to 7 points by Washington State. Soon boosters may be calling for Lane Kiffin's head.
But while an NFL team must win to have a good season, providing entertainment is only one of several things an NCAA football team should accomplish. Good examples should be set for young people; high standards should be upheld; players should graduate. That's why what is disappointing about Kiffin is not the Trojans' won-loss record, rather that under him, only 49 percent of African-American players have graduated, versus 73 percent of African-Americans in the USC student body as a whole during the same period.
Don't think low graduation rates are fine because USC players all cash multimillion-dollar NFL bonus checks. As of cut-down day, 17 Trojans who played under Kiffin were on an NFL roster. That means about three-quarters of players under Kiffin who have left USC never took a snap in the NFL. And of those on NFL rosters, how many will stick around long enough to have anything resembling a career?
This problem stretches broadly across the football factory landscape: Boosters and the sports press fixate on game performance, avoiding the issue of the education that big universities are supposed to be providing to football players to justify their indentured status. Monday's noon "SportsCenter" led with 12 minutes -- a long time in live broadcast terms -- on Texas allowing 550 rushing yards in a loss at BYU. This was spoken of as some kind of calamity. The calamity in the Longhorn football program is that in the most recent year, 46 percent of African-Americans graduated. That was not mentioned.
True, most of the college football audiences only want exciting games. But that is no excuse for universities to accept tax exemptions and public subsidies, then stage NFL Lite contests without educating players; nor any excuse for the sports press to treat rushing yards allowed as a scandal, but say nothing about graduation rates.
College coaches have multiple incentives for victory but are never penalized in any way if their players don't graduate -- though they have more influence over their players' daily routines, and financial aid than any professor has over any regular student. For its part the NCAA could not care less if football-factory athletes don't graduate. But woe onto Division III Utica College for failing to enforce every comma of the rules about Canadian hockey players.
Concussion Watch: Reader Matthew Clark of Mt. Lebanon, Pa., writes, "An interesting side effect of the concussion debate seems to be that in the Pittsburgh area, fewer high school students are interested in playing football. Pittsburgh of all places!.
Many readers including Corinne Goldstein of Brooklyn, N.Y., noted a disturbing story from the Chronicle of Higher Education on college athletic trainers whose safety recommendations have been brushed aside by football coaches, or who feel pressured to allow players with serious injuries back into games. Brad Wolverton writes that college "coaches have too much power over medical professionals."
Human beings respond to incentives. In college football, head coaches are lavishly rewarded for victory, hardly punished in any way if they interfere with players' educations or cause physical harm to players. The incentive structure of big-college football needs to change.
'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Then Never to Have Rushed at All: New Orleans leading 23-17, Atlanta reached first-and-goal on the Saints' 7 with 1:09 remaining, Falcons holding two timeouts. Atlanta came into the season vowing not to forget about the rush. The timeouts meant Atlanta could call anything in the playbook. So what happened? Four passes -- incompletion, short gain, incompletion, interception.
On the final play, fourth-and-goal from the New Orleans 3, the Saints were so certain Atlanta would go pass-wacky that they put just two defensive linemen and a dime on the field. In the middle, Atlanta had five blockers opposing three defenders. Matt Ryan could have called a sneak and walked into the end zone. Instead he was deep in the shotgun, forcing the pass into double coverage.
Adjusting for sacks and scrambles, Atlanta coaches radioed in 42 passes and 13 rushes. In their previous outing, the NFC championship game versus San Francisco, Atlanta coaches radioed in 45 passes and 21 rushes. Both games ended with the Falcons throwing at the opposition goal line, not even trying to punch the ball across.
The 500 Club (New Running Item): Once, Tuesday Morning Quarterback had a running item recounting football teams that had gained at least 400 yards on offense yet lost. Then in 2011, the University of Miami gained 519 yards on offense against Virginia Tech and lost; Marshall gained 506 yards against the University of Houston and lost by 35 points. In 2012, Baylor gained 700 yards against West Virginia, and lost. But even with the pendulum swinging toward offense -- quick-snap tactics that create more plays, rule changes that favor scoring, the best athletes on the offensive side of the ball -- these outcomes were flukes, right?
Already so far in the 2013 major-college season: at Clemson, Georgia gained 545 yards and lost. At Texas A&M, Rice gained 509 yards and lost by three touchdowns. Hosting lower-division Eastern Washington, Oregon State gained 527 yards and lost. Hosting Northwestern, Cal gained 548 yards and lost by two touchdowns. Hosting Oklahoma State, the University of Texas at San Antonio -- which didn't even have a football team a few years ago -- gained 504 yards on offense and lost by three touchdowns. At Southeastern Oklahoma State, Southern Arkansas joined the rarified 600 Club, gained 641 yards on offense and losing. Gaining 478 yards yet losing in their turnover-fest at Dallas, the Giants barely missed admission to the 500 Club.
Once having a fantastic day on offense yet still losing was astounding; now this seems on the way to becoming the new normal. In the most recent Super Bowl, San Francisco gained 468 yards, scored 31 points, and lost. This season, TMQ will track the 500 Club -- teams that have put up spectacular offensive stats, and lost.
If you know of a college team below the football-factory level that gained 500 yards and lost, or a high school team that broke 50 points and lost (yardage stats at the prep level often are unreliable), report with specifics to TMQ_ESPN (at) yahoo.com. Give your full name and hometown if you wish to be quoted in the column.
Bring Back the Ludlow Amendment: Tonight President Barack Obama is scheduled to address the nation on his proposal to attack Syria. The United States has never bombed this nation -- perhaps it's on our national bucket list. However wise or foolish Obama's proposal may be, once again debate is engaged regarding exactly how martial power is apportioned between Congress and the executive. See Article I, Section 8, and Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution and try to figure it out for yourself.
During the 1930s, Rep. Louis Ludlow, Democrat of Indiana, campaigned for a Constitutional amendment that would vest the power to initiate war in a national referendum. In 1938, the proposed amendment drew 209 votes in Congress. One of the objections to Ludlow's plan was that a national referendum would take months to administer -- perhaps too long if events were pressing. Today using electronics, such a referendum could be put together in days. If the American public could vote on bombing Syria, what would happen? Last week the Pew Research Center found 29 percent support for yet another war.
Buck-Buck-Brawkkkkkk: The Bills entered their opener on an incredibly lame 3-25 streak versus New England. Trailing the Patriots 10-0, home crowd roaring, Buffalo reached fourth-and-2 on the Flying Elvii 44 -- and punted. You don't need to know anything else about the game.
The above was the first Preposterous Punt of the 2013 season. TMQ began tracking Preposterous Punts a decade ago, when, trailing New England as usual, the tastefully named Gregg Williams, then the Bills' coach, ordered a punt on fourth-and-short from the Patriots' 32. Ordering up a Preposterous Punt in the first half of his first game as Buffalo head coach, Doug Marrone embraced the Bills' bizarre obsession with rolling over against New England. At least postgame, Marrone had the dignity to be upset.
NFL teams average around 5 yards per offensive snap; possession of the ball is far more valuable than field position; so why do NFL coaches order punts on fourth-and-short? To shift blame. If a coach goes for it and the try fails, he is slammed by the sportsyak world; if a coach does the "safe" thing, orders a punt and the team loses, the players are blamed. TMQ contends that going for it on fourth-and-short and failing is actually better than punting. Going for it tells the players their coach is challenging them to win; launching a punt tells the players their coach is trying to hold down the margin of defeat.
In Sunday's action, Buffalo did the "safe" thing with the punt and lost. Game tied at 24, Arizona faced fourth-and-2 on its 41 with 1:50 remaining, on a day on which the Cardinals averaged 5.6 yards per down. The Cardinals did the "safe" thing and punted. St. Louis needed just four snaps to pass the point where the ball would have been, had Arizona gone for it and failed. Les Mouflons kicked the winning field goal as the clock toward all-naughts.
What about coaches who went for it? As noted above, Chicago went for it and knew victory; Houston went for it in the fourth quarter, and was smiled on by the football gods. Leading 31-28, San Francisco faced fourth-and-2 on the Green Bay 36 with three minutes remaining. Jim Harbaugh went for it -- first down, and later when the Niners kicked a field goal, the clock was nearly drilled. Atlanta leading 7-0 at New Orleans, the Saints faced fourth-and-1 on their own 47. New Orleans went for it and failed -- a slow-developing play with no misdirection. But Sean Payton sent his team the message that he was challenging them to win, and they did.
The Football Gods Smiled: While the football world goes offense-wacky, last season the Seahawks held opponents to an average of 15.3 points. To open the 2013 season, the Seahawks held Carolina to 7 points on the Panthers' own field.
The Football Gods Chortled: During the offseason, Anquan Boldin was traded and Wes Welker was allowed to walk after acrimonious contract negotiations. Then both did star turns in Week 1. Whose fans will feel worse about the discarding of these super-productive gentlemen: New England's or Baltimore's?
Sportsmanship Watch: Baylor put up stunning stats hosting perennial doormat Buffalo, officially the University at Buffalo, not of Buffalo. The Bears had 761 yards of offense in just 26:18 time of possession, staging plays of 91, 83, 61, 53, 44, 40 and 33 yards.
But Baylor showed poor sportsmanship. Leading 63-10 in the fourth quarter, coach Art Briles still had his team throwing passes, frantically trying to run up the score. A host team that runs up the score on an opponent that obviously has no chance is not behaving honorably. Baylor faithful should be embarrassed by this game, and also forewarned -- the football gods will exact vengeance.
The Big-Bad Character in "Under the Dome" Was Bald -- Coincidence? The hit summer series "Under the Dome" wraps its first season in a few days. Conceived as a one-off, "Dome's" ratings led to renewal, which is sure to mean some ludicrous cliffhanger just when viewers were hoping the ludicrous premise finally would be explained.
"Under the Dome" calls itself based on the 2010 Stephen King sci-fi novel, but TMQ thinks the series actually is based on "The Simpsons Movie," which hit theaters in 2007. The premise of "The Simpsons Movie" was a huge impenetrable cupola lowered over Springfield. Chester's Mill, the town in "Under the Dome," seems to be located in the same state as Springfield in the Simpsons.
So is "Under the Dome" original or a remake? Led by the endless Batman and Spider-Man remakes, the Hollywood remake has spiraled out of control. This summer's "Man of Steel" was at least the third remake -- there have been so many the count is disputed -- of the 1978 movie "Superman." The summer film "R.I.P.D." was a remake of the television series "Brimstone." The quickly cancelled primetime show "Vegas" was assumed to be a remake of the series "Vega$," but actually a remake of the cult hit "Crime Story." (Cult hits are best left alone.) The Will Smith summer flick "After Earth" seemed like a remake of the cartoon movie "Titan After Earth, " but merely borrowed its title and premise -- that's certainly not a remake! "Olympus Has Fallen" was followed weeks later by an instant remake, the wearyingly similar "White House Down." An upcoming big-budget flick, "Ender's Game," sounds wearyingly similar to "The Last Starfighter," in theaters in 1984. Yet another remake of "Godzilla" is in the cards, along with yet another "RoboCop." How stupid does Hollywood think audiences are? Wait -- don't answer that!
In "The Simpsons Movie," the solution to a town under glass was Homer Simpson. If Homer appears to save the day in "Under the Dome," perhaps he will explain how a river flows through Chester's Mill. The impenetrable dome is said to cut off the outside world and extend to bedrock, rendering it impossible to tunnel in or out. So where is the river water coming from, and where is it flowing to? Clouds float by. Breezes gently waft through the trees of Chester's Mill and cause the hair of the flaming-redhead protagonist, played by actress Rachelle Lefevre, to ruffle as though she were facing a fan during a modeling shoot. How can there be wind inside an impenetrable dome?
At one point a character declares that it is five miles from the edge of the dome to the center. A circle with a five-mile radius would cover about 78 square miles, roughly the size of the District of Columbia -- though the opening title sequence, showing a helicopter passing over the dome, makes the enclosed area seem about the size of a football stadium. Within those square miles there is a town large enough to have a hospital, a river, a forest, a scrapyard, a lake whose opposite shore cannot be seen, a large island on the lake, several farms, a cattle ranch, an abandoned warehouse district, an abandoned factory and an abandoned mine. Horror writers love abandoned things! The show is filmed on the Atlantic coast near Wilmington, N.C.: At one point an egret flies by, though the location is supposedly a forested area enclosed by an impenetrable dome.
The first season takes place over a span of about two weeks. On the fifth day by the show's clock, the Air Force fires its most powerful non-nuclear weapon at the dome. When the weapon bounces off, the government loses interest. There are no longer soldiers or police officers stationed outside the dome -- Chester's Mill is forgotten. If an impenetrable dome mysteriously appeared over an American town, would the government really lose interest after five days? More likely a Department of Dome Administration would be established with hundreds of senior-level officials who cannot be fired.
TMQ's favorite aspect of "Under the Dome" is the propane subplot. The evil bald guy stockpiled propane to use making a street drug he plans to sell as a competitor to "molly." If propane is used as a feedstock for street drugs, that's news: it is not a federal "schedule" substance . Characters discuss the subterfuges they employed to prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration from noticing they were buying propane. The show's writers seem to view propane as a rare, exotic material; apparently the writers have never seen an RV! Propane tanks are stacked outside supermarkets and convenience stores across the United States, and even available online.
Green Bay at San Francisco Analysis: Though the Packers are thought of as a stronghold of football traditionalism, recently this has been anything but the case. Head coach Mike McCarthy not only doesn't order many runs, he seems offended that the run exists. McCarthy is known for working with quarterbacks -- Joe Montana, Rich Gannon, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers -- but not known for working with running backs. Watch the Green Bay offensive linemen: they "rock back," the first move in pass blocking, even on rushing plays. The Packers drafted tailback Eddie Lacy, but still seem all about passing records for Rodgers. In the last decade, teams with terrible running games have won the Super Bowl -- the Colts, Giants and Packers. But the Green Bay offense handicaps itself by being one-dimensional.
On defense, coordinator Dom Capers likes to be unorthodox. But always being unorthodox can become its own orthodoxy. The Packers under Capers lead the league in funky fronts -- sometimes everyone is standing, rarely does Capers field more than two defensive linemen with their hands down. Once on a third-and-short on Sunday, Capers put only two defensive linemen on the field. The Packers closed last season at San Francisco and opened this season at San Francisco. In those contests, Capers used funky standing fronts almost exclusively -- and the Squared Sevens gained a total of 1,073 yards. Maybe, just maybe, funky fronts weren't the answer.
By having the outside linebackers contain rather than pinch toward the quarterback, Green Bay showed that the zone read can be stopped dead in its tracks. But corners and safeties were so worried about not letting Kaepernick get outside that they let him throw over their heads. Several of Boldin's 13 receptions came on broken plays where Boldin simply looked for an opening in the secondary, then turned around and waved; defensive backs were watching Kaepernick, not Boldin. Any coach would rather have an efficient disciplined offense than an efficient improvising offense. But when Kaepernick improvises, good things happen.
Both Green Bay and San Francisco averaged 6.6 yards per offensive snap: the key to the game was that the Niners ran 17 more plays, while Kaepernick did not throw an interception. Having as run-or-pass threat allowed San Francisco to convert third downs, adding more snaps. In last winter's playoffs, the San Francisco secondary went haywire, and this is still a concern -- on Green Bay's touchdown drive just before halftime, Perrish Cox and Nnamdi Asomugha badly missed tackles.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman sure can draw up plays. On the late drive that led to the decisive fourth-and-1, the Niners faced third-and-4. San Francisco lined up in a college-style pistol-L backfield with Kaepernick in a short shotgun, Frank Gore behind him and tight end Vernon Davis to his side as an apparent blocking back. Kaepernick held out the ball to Gore in a "show" fake, making sure defenders saw the rock; while this was happening, Davis came across the formation, crouching behind the offensive line, then took a flat pass for the first down. Sweet.
Browns-Jaguars on Dec. 1 Shaping Up as Worst Game of Year: As Cleveland was scoring only 10 points at home, Brandon Weeden threw three interceptions and was sacked six times. The Browns averaged just 4.6 yards per pass attempt. Yet though Weeden was performing poorly, Cleveland coaches radioed in 59 passing plays versus 13 rushes.
Nine undrafted rookies made the Browns, including seven late-summer waiver-wire acquisitions. Normally TMQ roots for the waived or undrafted. But as yours truly has pointed out, despite one of the league's weakest rosters, during the April draft, Cleveland banked choices till 2014 rather than use them now. That left space on the Browns' roster for players other teams did not want. A bad team doesn't improve by banking draft choices.
NBC Should Have Promoted the Second Season of "Revolution" During the Lightning Delay: The previous time the Ravens took the field, against San Francisco in the Super Bowl, there wasn't enough electricity. At Denver in the opener, there was too much. Officials delayed the game start about 45 minutes because storms were reported in the area, though National Weather Service radar never showed lightning within 15 miles of the stadium, and Sports Authority Field, like most pro and college fields, has numerous lightning rods. But by the same token that the NFL sets the example for youth and high school play on helmet-to-helmet hits, it sets the example on lightning safety. Most high school and youth fields don't have lightning protection -- caution whenever thunder is heard is important. So kudos to the league, or the Denver stadium authority, for deciding that erring on the side of caution was more important than maximizing ratings.
Consecutive Ravens games have now involved extended waiting around because of electrons. Maybe the newly wealthy Harbaugh/East should add a waiting-around drill to Ravens' practices.
Because the night was unusually hot for Denver, kickoff temperature was 70 degrees higher than when Baltimore visited in the playoffs. Not counting kicking-play specialists, the Ravens started five gentlemen from below the testosterone-pumped level of Division I; Sunday, Dallas would also start five from below the football-factory level.
The game produced nine touchdown passes versus one touchdown run -- this really must be the 21st century. Welker muffed a punt, leading to a Baltimore touchdown, but caught nine balls, two for touchdowns. Denver used aggressive defensive tactics, keeping six or seven men on the line of scrimmage, big-blitzing on third-and-long. By the second half, the Broncos' front was noticeably outperforming Ravens offensive linemen. Bear in mind -- big-blitzing usually works early in the season and fails late.
As for the defending champions, they allowed Denver to post an 80-yard touchdown drive in 59 seconds, an 80-yard touchdown drive in 2:29 and an 80-yard touchdown drive in 2:30. In the Super Bowl, Baltimore allowed its opponent 468 offensive yards. To open 2013, Baltimore allowed its opponent 510 offensive yards. Welker's early second half touchdown came off a two-receiver "combo" move, a standard football action, yet Baltimore defensive backs looked confused. Welker's second touchdown came when he ran a short combo to the other side, and the other side of the Baltimore defense looked confused too. The entire Ravens defense looked awful on the 78-yard hitch screen touchdown to Demaryius Thomas that iced the contest. Now would be a good time for the Baltimore defense to panic.
As for newly rich John Harbaugh, he ran up the white flag in the fourth quarter, taking a field goal from the Denver 4 when trailing 42-24, then not even having the decency to onside kick. And what was the point of the fake onside Harbaugh/East ordered with 5:30 remaining?
Bolts Stage Annual "MNF" Wheeze-Out Most of the nation east of the Mississippi River was snugly in bed for the second half of the "Monday Night Football" doubleheader -- too bad. Houston outscored San Diego 17-0 in the fourth quarter, using a remarkable display of power defense. In the fourth quarter, the Bolts ran 10 offensive snaps (not counting punts). Result: three rushes for 1 yard, seven pass attempts for minus-10 yards and a Texans touchdown.
You'll be reading a lot this week about how the Eagles staged 77 plays on Monday night using their Blur Offense. Houston staged 75 plays the same night, though the reason was that the Moo Cows' defense forced San Diego into four three-and-outs and a turnover in the second half.
In their 2012 appearance on "Monday Night Football," the Chargers took a 24-0 halftime lead over Denver, then lost the game. In their 2013 appearance, the Chargers took a 28-7 third-quarter lead over Houston, then lost the game. Both contests occurred on San Diego's field. It's the home team, not the visitors, that's supposed to stage the big comeback.
I'll Spot You a Handicap of Two Points: On the opening kickoff of the Flaming Thumbtacks at Steelers contest, Tennessee return man Darius Reynaud knelt in the end zone with his foot in the field of play -- safety! So the game commences with the visitors spotting the hosts two points plus possession of the ball to start both halves -- and Tennessee goes on to win 16-9, as Pittsburgh suffered numerous injuries. This could be a long season for the Steelers, who are 8-10 since trotting out for their playoff contest in Jan. 2012 at Denver.
Adventures in Officiating: Twice in the first half, zebras raised both arms for Detroit touchdowns, then took the points off the board. The home crowd was not amused, but both calls were correct. One was a flag for low block by Ndamukong Suh -- the rule is clear that on a change of possession play, neither team may block below the waist. Suh has said he didn't intend to go low, but intent is an issue for courts, not referees. Suh was far "behind the play," the block unnecessary whether or not legal. Once again a prominent member of the Lions displayed low football IQ: Suh ought to know that at all levels of the sport, officials do not tolerate violent hit behind the play. If he is suspended again, there will be no sympathy.
When Ed Hochuli called a personal foul for forearm to the head in the Jets-Bucs contest, he acted out the foul, showing how the forearm was used. Officials should always act out fouls! If, say, the call is low block, one zebra should dive at the knees of another.
Best Crowd Reactions: It was 1:12 p.m. Eastern, just 12 minutes into the new season, and the Lions' home crowd was booing lustily. Detroit had reached second-and-1 in the Minnesota red zone and gone run stuffed, incompletion, botched field goal snap. The Lions would recover in spectacular fashion, the 77-yard middle screen touchdown to Reggie Bush being one of the sweetest plays in a long time. Detroit has so much talent, if the Lions can exhibit even below-average football IQ, they will be dangerous.
At New Orleans, early on, a Saints' defender was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The home crowd booed lustily, though the call was correct. Perhaps there's a little residual hostility regarding Sinnersgate.
The Football Gods Chortled: Jacksonville lost 28-2 at home to Kansas City, which was last season's worst club. Remember, Jacksonville is the team that's too good for Tim Tebow.
Does the NFL Think Knees Are More Important Than Brains? As of this weekend's opening games, NFL players must wear knee and thigh pads. This small reform has been long coming. If highly paid professionals want to bruise their thighs in exchange for a little extra speed, that's their business. But NFC stars with without pads set a bad example for youth and high school athletes who get avoidable injuries in return for nothing.
So the pads issue is fixed. But the NFL still does not require teams to use only the helmets that are believed to reduce concussion risk, nor does the NFL require the double chinstrap. Over the summer, Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals went home to Minneapolis and donated 1,000 Riddell Revo Speed helmets to youth league players. The Revo Speed is a better-quality helmet than worn by some NFL players. When NFL players wear inferior helmets, that sets a bad example for the 1.2 million high school players and 3 million youth players.
Here are the latest Virginia Tech football helmet star ratings. The Riddell 360, Riddell Revo Speed, Xenith X2 and Rawlings Quantum Plus drew five stars. The Rawlings Impulse looks like the best value -- four stars for $100 less than the top models. Players and parents, beware the Riddell VSR4 and Adams A2000. Research shows these should not be on anyone's head.
Obscure College Score of the Week: MIT 28, Pomona-Pitzer 26. Should college football teams travel to the opposite coast? Class time inevitably is lost. Saturday, Oregon flew east to play at Virginia, and MIT flew west to play near Los Angeles. In the MIT-Pomona contest, four touchdowns were recorded by Duncan Hussey, a Pomona fifth-year senior who's already received his bachelor's degree, with a 3.97 GPA in molecular biology. Duncan, about that A-minus you must have pulled -- see me in my office!
Perhaps you did not know MIT has a football team; the school even has cheerleaders. MIT sports are Division III -- which means a Division III team traveled through three time zones for a game. Even MIT has gone nuts for football!
Located in Cambridge, Mass. the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers intramural air pistol. Located in Claremont, Calif., Pomona College and its next-door neighbor Pitzer College field combined teams known as the Sagehens; here is their angry-grouse logo. That the University of South Carolina's sports nickname is the Gamecocks has long led to snickering about the women's teams, though Gamecock in this usage refers to Revolutionary War hero Thomas Sumter. A sage hen can be of either sex, but just as the South Carolina nickname makes the women's teams sound male, the Pomona-Pitzer nickname makes the men's teams sound female. This alone may be enough material for a college gender-studies course.
Next Week: The defending champion Ravens hope to hold the Cleveland Browns under 500 yards of offense.
In addition to writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback for ESPN, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of "The King of Sports" and eight other books, and is a contributing editor of The Atlantic. His website is here and you can follow him on Twitter here. Every Tuesday during the football season, at 3 p.m. Eastern, he will answer questions on Twitter about that day's column.