4th & Inches: Championship Sunday

4th & Inches is a weekly discussion during the NFL regular season, playoffs, and occasionally during the offseason of all things football – the good, the bad, and the Oakland Raiders. Some weeks all games will be discussed. Some games three games will be discussed. Topics will range from quarterback play to the dictatorship structure of the league to trending topics.

As a whole, the purpose of 4th and Inches will be exactly what the name suggests. As a team on the field often is in desperation mode when it decides go for it on fourth down and inches, these blog entries will be a desperate attempt to make sense of what is going on in the National Football League.

If you have any topics you wish to see discussed on 4th & Inches, or any comments at all, you can suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

 

Big Brother is watching

In the 45 minutes or so leading up to the NFC Championship, news was coming out of the NFL threatening to eject Marshawn Lynch – honestly, who else – from playing.

What? Say what? Oh my goodness, what did he do? Did he get in some bar fight last night that the league had learned about? Did he badmouth someone, refuse to talk to media, what Marshawn antics has Marshawn gotten into this time?

Well. None of the above. Lynch apparently was being told he would not be able to play if he went through with a particular wardrobe choice.

Gold cleats, huh? I can dig it, Marshawn. You do you, man. Too bad the NFL didn’t allow him to do so, for reasons that only god knows about.

In some respects this shouldn’t even be surprising. The league has had such a chokehold on how players should behave and say that dictating what they wear was bound to come up. Granted, this isn’t the first time that players have come under fire from the league for some fashion choices, but it is one of the most perplexing.

The thing about this story isn’t the weirdness factor. The thing about this story is that it isn’t weird at all, not with the dictatorship structure of the league. But this does raise it to a whole new level – one in which the league almost its own dystopian society, one where each player is pressured to act the exact same way, say the same things, wear the same colors on their cleats.

The fact of the matter is that players are expected to be mindless, choiceless drones at the service of the NFL, and to The Almighty Goodell. It transcends the standards of keeping a business running smoothly; it’s beginning to delve into a type of psychological control that is in place for the welfare of the league itself, many times at the expense of players’ free will. At least it seems that way.

Goodell is continuing to show that what he wants is what the NFL needs, with zero regard for the choices of his enslaved players. And thank goodness he does, because we can’t IMAGINE what kind of chaos gold cleats would have caused.

marshawn-lynch-doesnt-talk-to-pete-carroll-is-on-his-way-out-of-seattle

We’re onto you, Marshawn.

 

Cutler’s gotta be cut

All signs point to John Fox being the next head coach of the Chicago Bears after “mutually parting ways” with John Elway and the Broncos last week.

Fox coached Peyton Manning during what some would call the best couple seasons of his illustrious career. That seems to have been one of the primary factors in his hiring, as many believe Fox will be able to help “resurrect” Cutler’s career.

I say “resurrect” lightly because, in truth, Cutler is beyond saving, beyond redemption. Even with an abundance of weapons at his disposal – Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon Marshall, etc etc – Cutler was an absolute joke in 2014, right up to his benching for backup Jimmy Clausen.

For Fox – who went 46-18 with a Super Bowl berth in his four seasons at Denver – to have any success with his next job, Chicago has to pull the plug on Cutler. Because for him to turn it around and take the Bears to the Super Bowl would be would one of the most remarkable transformations in NFL history.

Cutler has thrown for at least 12 interceptions in seven of the last eight seasons. The average season-long passer rating for Cutler is 85.2, right about average on the scale. He’s topped 25 touchdowns only three times in his nine-year career. He has a .512 career winning percentage.

None of these numbers are exactly anything for Fox to get excited about and, more importantly, they don’t show any growth in Cutler’s time as a quarterback. Sure he threw for the most touchdowns in any season of his career last season (28), but he also led the league in turnovers, a word that unfortunately became synonymous with his name.

Jay Cutler was the very definition of "ineffective" in 2014.
Jay Cutler was the very definition of “ineffective” in 2014.

The most important thing to pay attention to is Cutler’s playoff career. In short: he doesn’t have one. He is 1-1 in the playoffs, both games coming from a 2010 trip.

How does one garner expectations based on that number? If your quarterback can’t even play well enough during the regular season to even get to January football, how do you expect him to perform if he DOES get there?

You can’t. You’d have better luck turning the Raiders around.

Exceptions may be made if Cutler was still young and learning, but he’s a veteran, a veteran who has shown over the course of his career that he is as ineffective as he is confident in his play.

So if Chicago is going to start over, they might as well START OVER. Letting go of Cutler should be as the top of their to-do list. Yes, their defense was just as laughable in 2014, but how much can you expect them to really play when they know their efforts will more than likely be for naught when Cutler gets the ball again?

Fox’s impact in Chicago begins with Cutler’s departure. He’s gotta go.

 

 

A triumph of the 12th degree

Prior to Sunday’s NFC Championship, the Packers had no business winning to advance to the Big One.

With five minutes left in the fourth quarter in Sunday’s NFC Championship game, the tables had turned – to the tune of five turnovers – and suddenly it was the Seahawks who had not business coming out on top.

I mean, not after plays like this…

Or this.

I mean, check this out.

The game is SURELY over now.

But then this happened.

 

A GB special teams miscue, a Wilson touchdown scramble, a rumbling tumbling Marshawn Lynch earthquake run later (all in a span of a few minutes), it was apparent that this game wasn’t going to end the way it looked with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

A miracle descended upon CenturyLink Field, and Russell Wilson went from Least Valuable Player to Messiah for the 12th Man.

Fortune favors the bold, and I’ll be damned if Russell Wilson’s play in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime was not bold. Not since the 1960s has a quarterback overcome a four interceptions to win a title game. Wilson himself couldn’t have seen it coming.

It’s a rare quality, to be able to perform like No. 3 did when all hope was lost. To be able to keep it together, keep your emotions and sanity in check until after the game. To be able to perform your highest when so many of the NFL’s most devoted fanbase had already lost faith. But if there’s one thing Wilson has shown since he entered the league, it’s that he is quite the rare quarterback.

After Sunday’s victory, it is perfectly justified to call Wilson the clutchest of the clutch, the most composed of composed, the mentally toughest of the mentally tough. The Packers, by and large enormous underdogs in this game, had victory in their hands…for 55 minutes.

So, of course, it would be the Seahawks triumphant in the end, finishing the greatest comeback in NFL title game history, improving to 26-2 at home since the start of the 2012 season, becoming the first team since the 2004 Patriots to return to the Super Bowl.

Because Wilson is a rare breed. Because there is no such thing as “game over” with these Seahawks. Because games like this, and Wilson’s speech afterwards, are the reason we love sports.

 

Take 4

Everything that the NFC Championship was, the AFC title game was not.

Andrew Luck entered the matchup at New England winless in three tries against Tom Brady, but to say that Brady was the one who beat him in two of those three match ups would be inaccurate.

Over their last three meetings, including the playoffs, the Patriots have rushed for 673 (!!!) yards and 13 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) touchdowns.

Nothing about tonight’s game showed growth in the Colts with how they match up against the Patriots. From beginning to end it was pure deja vu for Indy fans. The Patriots have now outscored the Colts by 116 points over their last four meetings. This shouldn’t happen in football.

And this shouldn’t have happened on Sunday. Not with the resurrection of Indy’s run defense in these playoffs. The way they shut down the Bengals’ and Broncos’ running game established that this was should have been a more competitive matchup than the last three.

Instead, Luck dropped to 0-4 against Bill Belichick, and in epic fashion, having lost by 21 points in each game. Oh they made history, make no mistake about that.

This loss shouldn’t be put on Luck, at least not entirely. Almost every phase of the Colts game was completely overmatched by New England – their receivers couldn’t get open, Herron couldn’t get it going on the ground, their defense couldn’t stop LeGarrette Blount, and they beat themselves with dropped passes and turnovers.

It was a perfect storm of lack of preparation and lack of confidence that lasted 60 minutes and resuled in Tom Brady’s postseason legacy growing ever larger.

 

Chuck Pagano will receive credit for leading his team one round deeper into the playoffs for a third straight year, and rightly so. But to get to the next level in 2015, the one level that really matters, they need to work their butts off to get home field advantage next season. The citizens of Indianapolis are all too accustomed to seeing familiar foes in the playoffs.

As for New England, Tom Brady gets his third shot at a fourth Super Bowl ring when they head to Arizona in a few weeks. No matter what happens, Super Bowl XLIX has to be better than last year’s debacle….right?

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

 

 

 

 

 

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