02
Dec
07

Chicago Bears, were you watching?

Boy, where do you even begin after a weekend like that?

Ol’ Captain Kirk Herbstreit got us off to a great start  by reporting something, eating his words, then spitting them right back out again. And I don’t want to get all high and mighty here (I am presently writing a blog after all), but it just seems like we see more of this premature/flat-out-wrong reporting when it’s former athletes “breaking” the news and not real reporters (no, that doesn’t include you Andy Katz). Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m sure there is another blog out there keeping tabs on that kind of stuff.

And as for what happened after Les Miles left, then stayed, then made the National Championship, well… I’m still processing all that. All I know is that I’m not holding out much hope for exciting games between USC & Illinois nor Virginia Tech & Kansas.

Rather, I want to turn some attention to something very easily lost in all the shuffle of a full weekend of sports. Watching the Missouri-Oklahoma game, it was hard not to be impressed by Mizzou freshman Jeremy Maclin. As some may say, “Kid’s got skills.”

To me, Maclin is another example of the newest weapon to grace a football field. Jerry Rice ushered in the age of do-it-all receivers, Lawrence Taylor brought the DE-LB hybrid, and guys like LT and Brian Westbrook are closing the gap between running backs and wide outs. But until Devin Hester, special teams were just that — special. As in, not nearly as significant.

But now we are seeing more and more of these super fast, super agile, able-to-hit-the-gap-between-Strahan’s-teeth kind of players. The trick, however, is getting the ball in their hands with some running lanes in front of them.  Getting back to that Mizzou game, the Tigers thoroughly convinced me that they have figured out with the Chicago Bears have not: it’s not that hard to get somebody the football.

Leave it to the time-tested play calling of the Chicago Bears to screw this one up, but punts and kicks are easy to steer away from somebody. Nifty little slot-receiver sweeps and screens — not so much. Now I’ll grant you that Maclin might have slightly better hands than Hester (though not a better whip), but one way or another Missouri managed to get him 12 offensive touches for 109 yards (40 rushing, 69 receiving). And none of those touches came from plays like, “Hey, why don’t you line up in the slot, there, and run real straight, real fast.”

In closing, I’ll concede that college is a different game and, yes, there are a lot of things that work on that level that don’t work in the NFL. The point I’m getting at is that Saturday I watched a team with a player that gave them a distinct advantage over their opponent, and utilized creative play calling to tilt that advantage in their favor. On Sunday, I saw a lot of kicks out of bounds, and a Bears loss.

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