Just How It Should Be

Five Things I Think About the Niners.

1. Michael Crabtree didn’t play the last time San Francisco visited Seattle (and got clobbered), and he’ll make a big difference. He’s the kind of physical receiver who can joust with Richard Sherman and know how to scrap without getting offensive pass interference called. (It’s an art. Ask Michael Irvin.) Colin Kaepernick has had Crabtree for two of his three starts against Seattle, and targeted him 17 times.

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2. Jim Harbaugh may be the nuttiest professor in the league, but he sure can coach. Three years, three championship-game appearances (first time that’s happened in an NFL coach’s first three seasons since the 1970 merger), 41 wins already. Bill Belichick won 20 in his first three seasons at Cleveland, 28 his first three years at New England. Harbaugh makes the tough decisions and doesn’t blink. Good coach for today’s players, many of whom like the feisty guys who rebel against authority.

3. They are a good match against the Seahawks’ run game because of how well they plug the gaps. You saw it against Cam Newton Sunday, with Ahmad Brooks stuffing him, and with the two inside ’backers, NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, not allowing the Carolina run game to get any traction. “Marshawn Lynch is not the kind of guy to wait for the gaps,” said Calais Campbell. “He’ll just hit in there.” Look for Bowman and Willis to be physical early against Lynch, and for tempers to flare.

4. Kaepernick will have some rough spots throwing it, but nerves won’t lose this game for him. “Totally respect Kaepernick in clutch situations,” said Campbell. “Against us, when he had to, he made some clutch throws, and he put them right where they had to be.” You saw it last year in Atlanta, and Sunday in Carolina. You don’t win three road games in the playoffs in your first 14 months on the job by being wary.

5. Like Crabtree, Anquan Boldin’s the type of physical receiver who will be a tough cover for Seattle. He warmed up with eight for 136 against Carolina, and this is his time of year. You saw how he played in January for Baltimore last year.

Check out photographer Simon Bruty’s fantastic work capturing Vernon Davis’ first-half touchdown.

* * *

Manning’s moment.

Much more coming later at The MMQB from Robert Klemko from Denver on Julius Thomas and the two third-down catches that clinched the game for the Broncos. But anyone’s who watched Manning for the last few frustrating playoff runs wanted to see how he’d respond when the game was on the line, late. Forget whose fault it would have been. Blowing a pair of 17-point leads would have been gasket-exploding, particularly when one was 24-7 with seven minutes left in the game. The specter of Rahim Moore may not have been in the heads of the Broncos as the clock wound down and Philip Rivers dissected the defense. But I bet it was.

Now it came down to 3rd-and-17, Denver 20, 3:06 to play, Manning knowing if he doesn’t convert, the Broncos punt. Rivers was ready to tie it. Thomas broke from the right slot and made for the right sideline, about 18 yards downfield. The Chargers were down two defensive backs, there was a mix-up in coverage communication, and no one went to the sideline with Thomas. Manning threw it on target. Gain of 21.

You could hear Denver exhale over the TV.

“Great play call by [offensive coordinator] Adam Gase,” Manning said. “Really big-time play call. He knew what the look would be, and then a good catch by Julius.”

Point was, Gase liked the matchup of the 6-5, 250-pound former college basketball player on either a linebacker or corner out wide, and when Thomas rubbed off the coverage in traffic from the slot, that was a bonus. It’s probably a throw Manning would have made anyway, because of Thomas’ height and ability to win a high ball in single coverage. The bonus was he was uncovered. Another 3rd-and-6 conversion followed three snaps later, and the Broncos could run out the clock.

This week’s going to be filled with the blunt-force trauma of great expectations, and another showdown with the Patriots. I can imagine Manning Saturday night in the hotel, watching New England, thinking, “Not them again.” He won’t admit that, but he’s had so many of these Belichick and Brady battles. Even an Andrew Luck rematch would have been preferable, I’m sure. But it is what it is. Hey, hasn’t that been said before? By some Manning nemesis?

“I don’t see anything different in Peyton this time of year,” Champ Bailey told me after the game. “He was the same all week as he is every week, and I assume he’ll be the same this week. With Peyton, everything’s important. All the details are important. That’s why he’s so good.”

* * *

Some Saintly thoughts.

And not just because the editor of this column, Tom Mantzouranis, is the biggest Saints booster this side of Steve Gleason:

• For as good a play-caller as Sean Payton is, and as valuable a player as Marques Colston is, and as smart a quarterback as Drew Brees is, the Saints’ prayer of a last drive was stupid, and it had the fingerprints of each man on it. No timeouts left, ball on the Saints’ 41, and 24 seconds to play. First play: a short curl to tight end Jimmy Graham in the middle of the field. Graham had been held without a catch for the first 59-and-a-half minutes Saturday, and this terrible play-call smacked of stat-padding. (Or stat-something.) Graham caught the ball at :22 and went down, and the Saints rushed to the line … :19, :18, :17, :16, spike at :15. Just a foolish waste of time. You can’t throw an out there? Second play: Brees to Colston on an out to the right, gain of 13, Colston looks like he’ll go out of bounds … and he, incredibly, pauses with eight seconds left and throws a forward pass—it wasn’t even close to a lateral—all the way across the field. So, instead of having seven or eight seconds left at the Seahawks’ 36, with a chance for one quick completion to the sideline and then a shot into the end zone, Colston throws an illegal forward pass and the game is over because the ensuing penalty calls for a 10-second runoff. It was clear in the locker room after the game that no one had any idea why Colston threw that pass. Let’s recap: With 24 seconds left and trailing 23-15 with 59 yards to gain against a very good defense, your chances are not good. But you should have four plays if you’re smart. Maybe five. New Orleans got three off, and one was a spike. I’m still shaking my head over the mismanagement, a day and a half later.

This is the perfect visual representation for Jimmy Graham's day against the Seahawks. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
This is the perfect visual representation of Jimmy Graham’s day against the Seahawks. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

•  Brees turns 35 Wednesday. The window’s closing. It’s not closed. But if I were GM Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton, I’d be thinking about drafting a quarterback, and not just a seventh-rounder for third-string purposes. Denver and New England don’t know if Brock Osweiler and Ryan Mallett will ever play significant snaps for them, but those teams know that when old quarterbacks are nearing the end, the position’s too important to wait until stars are gone to worry about a succession plan. Brees was still very good this season, a top-five quarterback, and he could give the Saints three or four more very good years. Look at Peyton Manning at 37 and Tom Brady at 36. But LAD—Life After Drew—is coming, and if an Aaron Murray is there late in the second round as he rehabs from knee surgery, Loomis has to think about it.

• Dying to know how, in the last six quarters of the postseason (second half at Philly, all game at Seattle), Jimmy Graham, who was only the overwhelming first-team All-Pro tight end this season, could have this receiving line:

Targets: 6.
Catches: 1.
Receiving yards: 8.
Touchdowns: 0.

The Saints’ best offensive weapon in the passing game accounted for eight token yards in the last six quarters of the postseason. That is unacceptable. That’s like a healthy Adrian Peterson touching the ball nine times in 1.5 playoff games. When I watched Graham Saturday, I saw a clear-out receiver. I didn’t see a fighter. He wasn’t loafing, but often in the second half he’d round off his routes and not fight Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas for position; he looked content to open space for Colston often. I tried to envision Tony Gonzalez in this case—the same kind of athletic space player Graham is. And I think Gonzalez would have been battling to get open more, to present his quarterback with another go-to option.

•  Snaps missed by Graham in the two playoff games: 46. I understand different players playing different packages, but when your best weapon is sitting 30 percent of the time, it’s a mistake.

•  Watched a lot of rookie left tackle Terron Armstead in the game. That wasn’t just a good decision Payton made in benching Charles Brown with two games left in the regular season and replacing him with the third-rounder from Arkansas-Pine Bluff—it was a great decision. Armstead is quick to seal the edge, strong and not intimidated. He has some chippiness to him. The Saints have a keeper at left tackle, for good value.

• Plugging in Armstead, however, wasn’t the best move Payton made in this return-to-football year. Hiring Rob Ryan was. He installed a more aggressive defensive philosophy and instilled the kind of junkyard-dog attitude the Saints haven’t had since Gregg Williams’ way was working four years ago. The defense got run on by Seattle on Saturday, but Russell Wilson struggled all day—some because of the wind and some because the New Orleans front didn’t let him breathe. Cameron Jordan is a star, and he’s going to be a bigger one next year. The secondary needs healthy corners and the return of safety Kenny Vaccaro, but it’s headed in the right direction with Keenan Lewis an invaluable addition. Oh, and do not think of moving on from David Hawthorne. One of the underrated inside ’backers in football. There is great hope for 2014 because of this defense—and because Brees won’t have to get in a scoring contest every week to win.

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648 comments
ESe
ESe

Wish the hype over Brady would stop.  The reason they've gone to the run is that they realize Brady's arm, first, has no long passing capability.  He has seriously air-balled at least two long passes this year.  Second, his red zone passing is suspect.  Used to be he had great "seeing-eye" passes down there.  This year he's thrown passes that have actually fell short for no apparent reason (Gronkowski - Carolina, Edelman - New Orleans).  Appears that a shoulder separation that went untreated for an entire season (2003) is finally wearing him down.  Brady (age 36) this year has thrown poorly at times, while Manning (age 37) is still in top form.  Appears the Brady replacement game will replace the Brady vs Manning game.    By the way, the answer to that game is Manning, every time.  It's Belichick that beat Manning, not Brady.  Belichick will probably be rated as one of the best coaches, but he's made his mistakes; but that's another discussion.

Peter Parker1
Peter Parker1

"e. Sounds crazy to praise a field goal as a smart play, but Steven Hauschka’s 48-yarder late in the first quarter was just that. Knowing a high kick would have a better chance to float off-course (being in the wind longer), Hauschka line-drived the ball low, right down the middle."


yeah, a good play because blocked field goals at the line from low trajectory kicks just don't happen anymore!  I think Hauschka got lucky, just like Phil Dawson when his game winning field goal the week before went exactly between the Packer player's arms. 

Sick Dr Joe
Sick Dr Joe

Peter King's haikus

Now let me phrase this gently

They suck with two hands

nostereagle
nostereagle

I think people are getting upset about the politics because of what it represents. I've been reading MMQB since it's inception, and PK has changed. There used to not be any politics in the blog. Now there is. No other writer on here writing for MMQB has one iota of political commentary. Why is that? Because they are journalist. PK is now a celebrity. The arrogance and ego that title produces makes Mr. King believe his political opinions are much more valuable than they really are. (see most celebrities). He may disagree, but he would be wrong. I'll give you an example. The overwhelming majority of people that read his column are here for the football. There might be a small part here for his beernerdness section, and maybe even a handful of people here for his travel notes section. Do you think one person clicks to read this column to get there political information? NO, but he still feels the need to tell us how it is. Again...this stuff NEVER used to be in his columns. He has gotten bigger and more popular because of his football writing, but like many who are ill prepared for their fame, he thinks it is just because he is so darn great. Not just his football writing, but all around he just must be the bees knees. Surely the masses want to hear what this genius has to say about politics. 

The guy is a good football writer with a ego that has gotten away from him. Nothing more, nothing less. It happens so much now in this country with fame that most people don't even realize it. While in a Dentist's office a few years ago I watching the TV in the waiting room and saw an interview where Snooki from Jersey Shore was being interviewed and asked about her political opinions. No difference between that and what PK does. He's an entertainer now, not a journalist.  

  And this is coming from an independent who leans left. 

Frotoon
Frotoon

Peter King, your haikus are atrocious. You seriously need to learn there's more to them than just syllable count.

Frotoon
Frotoon

Bruce Irvin's a pass rusher, not much of a run stopper.

"Khiry Robinson. The guy’s a revelation. The undrafted quick back from West Texas A&M got the ball in the open field and was face-to-face with 2012 first-round rush linebacker Bruce Irvin. Robinson deked Irvin, made him miss and added eight yards to the play"

shaner021
shaner021

Big fan here Peter, but how you do not literally take Drew Brees and Sean Payton to task for their historically bad clock management last weekend is beyond me. The lack of play clock awareness by Drew Brees is astounding for a veteran quarterback in such a critical game. Someone on the Twitter-verse said that Drew Brees had the most timeouts called this season to avoid delay of game penalties. Based on last week's performance, it's easy to see why.

BWYATT
BWYATT

Peter...just a quick comment to correct your note about Harbaugh's antics costing them 15yards...he lost it because the refs failed to stop the clock on the "incomplete" call on V Davis...the clock kept going for like 5 seconds...either way, his emotions and fire set the tone for that team, hard to criticize 3 straight NFC Championship Games...the red zone play calling is the real concern...in other news, has this year's officiating been as bad as I think it has? $9B+ in Revenues annually should warrant full time officials...too many games were impacted by bad officiating...the game is too fast for these guys, give them the help and support they need to be successful...allow teams to challenge flags is a good start

SteveTrumbull
SteveTrumbull

Regarding "Then Things I Think" #8:

“You’re an idiot for not putting Andre Reed in the Hall of Fame” - Just kidding but I believe that he deserves to be there before Marvin Harrison.  Reed was part of the core of that Buffalo Bills team of which much of the rest of that core is already there, he had great personal stats for the time period, and he has no off field issues that I'm aware of.

x72
x72

Conservatives are just upset that their guns are going to be taken away.

kingwhat
kingwhat

Hey, Peter, did you read Dan Shaughnesy's rant on Indianapolis radio last week, calling the Patriots "the worst 12-4 team ever assembled"? And encouraging the Colts to come in a destroy the Patriots in Foxboro. Is that the kind of objective reporting you were defending Shag for a few weeks ago. Is it Peter? Or are all of you journanlists like doctors, when one of their own is sued for malpractice.

TruthSeeker12
TruthSeeker12

Peter in all your team analysis you forgot to mention the contributions of some vey important players that also make the difference but always go unheralded - the Offensive Line.  Yes, you need a good defense to keep the other team from scouring but you also need a good offensive line to allow your QB to put points on the board for your own team.  Would really like to see some articles on the Offensive Line and how critical they are to winning the game.

robbosing
robbosing

Peter: I share your love of Manny's Pale Ale, and I believe Manny Chao is the finest beer man I have been around in my 20+ years in the business. But on the matter of Dan Le Batard, this illustrates the "pen is mightier than the sword" - this man gave up his status as a voting member to make a point in public that may be the impetus for change that many of us believe should happen. It is similar to your Snowden reference in that he has risked a great deal (not as much as Snowden, certainly) to make a bold statement. The only reason it is relevent (the ONLY reason) is that his statement resonates with so many of us in the sporting public (as is also the case with Snowden / American public).


Keep doing the good work and being brave in your reporting. You were very very good in your preseason predictions, but I am now pulling for a Seahawks 23 - Broncos 21 Super Bowl. Go Hawks!!!!

tom.aikins
tom.aikins

Dierdorf finally gone. Hallalujah. Now if someone would just hire Gruden to coach somewhere and if Simms would get fired we'd be a long way towards getting some decent announcing for more than just one or two games a week.

John52
John52

Peter, have you read Gates' book?

MK_Nashvegas
MK_Nashvegas

I have to say that I am done reading this article or ever clicking to the website.  I (like several other people have stated previously) used to read this article for football and not political views of sports writers. Also I didn't see similar remarks about "wink-wink" when the IRS scandal broke or the fact that The President did not know about the website failure.    

Scramble
Scramble

The NFL got what it wanted, it took a couple non calls to get the ball out of the Colts hands and back to the Patriots. Even the Browns could win if you keep giving the ball back to them.

Rexal Parshapswich
Rexal Parshapswich

I couldn't care less about his politics, but his homerism of the Pats is bordering on pathetic.

Knowitall
Knowitall

And what Peter King column would be complete it out the cheap shot at the despicable ARod?

Not enough to chortle at the blatant head shot BoSox' Ryan Dempster threw at ARod when he returned to play last year.

Peter - your beloved Red Sox tried to sign ARod, but were too cheap to make it happen. Your beloved Red Sox won titles with juicers like Manny and Big Papi. Not a critical word for the home team, however.

How long do you expect to foist this hypocrisy on us?

davidhd
davidhd

@ESe  A lot of the issues you attribute to Brady might come from his WRs, considering he doesn't have one receiver that would start on the Broncos.

AlainLapointe
AlainLapointe

Totally agree , also in regular season games at Carolina and N E

Gandoffthewise
Gandoffthewise

Please leave Big Lib Peter alone. He would NEVER actually research something or someone he criticizes. That would take work and an open mind.

drudown
drudown

@MK_Nashvegas  

Oh, stop crying already. It's his blog. You don't like it, don't read it. 


As for the alleged IRS "scandal"…you conspicuously omit any reference to the FACT these sham GOP "charities" were VIOLATING federal law by engaging in overt political activities. So there is no "scandal" other than the GOP "faux" media trying to make hay over the IRS trying to collect taxes LAWFULLY due to the People. 


Which, given the FACT the GOP seems hall bent on BANKRUPTING the State via its suicidal "no new taxes, ever" policy, maybe we should be applauding the IRS for trying to SUBSIDIZE our government instead of uncritically adopting the GOP "government is the problem" groupthink. 


Tell me, how can you purport to be "more offended" by PK sharing the FACTS surrounding Christie's abuse of power than the incident itself, to say nothing of the GOP's refusal to even COLLECT federal income tax from US Corporations (see, "We're Not Broke" documentary) in a manner that comports with the Equal Protection Clause? It gets so tiresome listening to you "paid for" PR puppets proffer conclusory drivel with no FACTS or LOGIC to support it. 


"Waaaah, we don't like the ACA!" Really? Despite the FACT since it was signed into law Health Care costs have SLOWED to the lowest levels in 40 years? My pre-ACA Health Care premiums were $760. Now I get ACTUAL coverage (i.e., I cannot be arbitrarily dropped) under an ACA PPO for $343 a month. So, start with some reason and analysis instead of your lock-step, do-anything-we-are-told mentality that got our Nation enmeshed in a $4 TRILLION quagmire in Iraq (aka war started under false pretenses). 


So, spare us your "oh, the HORRORS of the ACA website" gibberish and write us a brief summary as to how, pray tell, the GOP Congress did not VIOLATE THE LAW- much less follow a "strict construction" of Article I, Section 8 requiring the Congress RAISE REVENUE- to avoid the premeditated "shut down" of the federal government? Let's hear it. 

SammyBuka
SammyBuka

@MK_NashvegasYeah....and don't forget the phony birth certificate.  How did he pull that one off?

ScottHill
ScottHill

@Scramble I just love how the conspiracy theorists come out after a loss.

tom.aikins
tom.aikins

@Scramble Yeah, right. I suppose they somehow got Blount to run for 166 yards too.

ScottHill
ScottHill

@psychsports Thanks for the referral. This is a great website. I will be using it quite a bit in the future.

ScottHill
ScottHill

@Knowitall Manny Ramirez. Yes, he was busted. Big Papi, was only rumored to be on a list. That was the one and only time.

bserious
bserious

@KnowitallWhat about the fact that nobody will be happier to see ARod go away than the Yankees?  This suspension helps them, and therefore hurts the Yankees competition, aka the Red Sox.  Anyone who only cared about what was best for the Sox hates this suspension.  Your comment actually made me think of something, I kinda don't think of ARod as a Yankee, even though he's been there for years now.  He's such a selfish, narcissistic little baby, who separates himself from everyone around him, I just don't really associate him with a team, because he doesn't want to be part of a team, all he cares about is himself.  I'm no Yankee or NY fan, but when I think of Yankees, I think of Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Mattingly, Reggie Jackson (though I don't think of him as just a Yankee) Mantle, etc.  If I were to think of great Yankee players, ARod just wouldn't come to mind, no matter what his stats are.

88keys
88keys

@Knowitall

FYI knowitall, the Sox were not too cheap to sign A-Fraud.  They were willing to pony up the dough.  It was the Players' Association that nixed the deal because they felt A-Fraud was sacrificing too much value in his deal while renegotiating his contract.

pickle
pickle

@Knowitall Meh, I am a lifelong Yankees fan and I am just as sick of hearing about A-Rod as Peter is. And I definitely wish he would just "go away"

coachochoa
coachochoa

@drudown@MK_Nashvegas Facts? What facts?  The only fact that matters is how much less take home pay Americans are taking due to ACA.  We are paying more for healthcare, higher premiums, higher copay, higher deductible, and get less coverage thanks to ACA.  The insurance policies that are offered in the website are still worse than my crappy insurance.  What world are you living in?  Because the ACA sucks in the real one!  Just because you state "fact" on your comment doesn't make it one.

AlainLapointe
AlainLapointe

O K Scott but admit that Edelman acting is getting ridiculous .

Scramble
Scramble

@Bostonctychamps1 The Patriots won't last past this weekend. Remember they don't allow filming anymore. It isn't like they have a steroid user like Ortiz to carry the team.

ScottHill
ScottHill

@SammyBuka Scramble has got it all twisted. I compare this Patriots team with the 2001 team. A bunch of no names that just refuse to go down. They get back up and forget about the last play and go on to the next. I would not be surprised to see them go to the Super Bowl and with all. But at the same time, they could lose next week if they don't play their best game, i.e. fumbling the ball.

SammyBuka
SammyBuka

Wow Scramble.....you should really charge Boston rent for living in your cranium.

CUE THE DUCKBOATS!

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