Being Jeff Fisher
January 6, 2004
by Ward Lowe
I can only imagine the pep talk that Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher gave to his Titans during halftime of Saturday’s game against Baltimore:
“OK, guys. We’re down by only a field goal. We can do this.
“Let’s get some better protection for our quarterback. Steve needs to stay in one place—his left ankle is sprained and has bone spurs, and his right calf is strained. Can someone carry him to the huddle?
“Make some good blocks for the running backs, especially Eddie. The doc just popped his dislocated shoulder back into the socket, and Eddie’s going to wear a harness. Let’s try to keep the defense from hitting him, too.
“Remember, we’re down only three points. This game will probably come down to who makes the field goals, so we need to get the ball in tight for our kicker—real tight, because Gary is 44 years old and can’t jack ‘em like he used to.
“Let’s win this thing!”
Good god. The Titans escaped 20-17 despite the injuries to Steve McNair and Eddie George, and McNair’s three interceptions. Tennessee can’t win at New England with those weaknesses.
Harris saves Green Bay
Never bet against Brett Favre at home. Never bet against Brett Favre at home. Someday, I will learn.
This game had more subplots than an episode of the “Love Boat,” with former Green Bay coaches and players wandering the Seattle sideline. But for all the pre-game drama, the deciding play was one blitz in overtime that produced the game’s only turnover: a pass from Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselback that found the arms of Green Bay cornerback Al Harris.
Game over. 33-27.
Manning loses his monkey
Peyton Manning played an almost mistake-free game (22 of 26 for 377 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions) and finally silenced critics who loved to point out that he was 0-3 in playoff games. His Indianapolis Colts rolled to a 41-10 victory over Denver after being spanked by the Broncos at home two weeks ago.
The Colts never punted and made the number-four-ranked Denver defense look silly. They will need to duplicate every bit of Sunday’s perfection if they are to stand a chance next week in Kansas City.
Panthers are for real
I kept looking at my TV schedule and scratching my head. Dallas at Carolina—did someone add another week to the regular season? Because these two teams certainly didn’t make the playoffs.
I know Dallas hired Bill Parcells, master of the makeover, but going to the playoffs after three consecutive 5-11 seasons seemed a bit much even for him. And it was. Dallas may have ended the regular season with the number-one-ranked defense but finished the third quarter against the Panthers with zero offensive yards. I think we know what Parcells will address in the off-season.
Meanwhile, Carolina heads to St. Louis where they hope to get a few licks on banged-up Rams quarterback Marc Bulger. “Carolina over St. Louis” doesn’t sound any more far-fetched than “Carolina over Dallas.”
Ward Lowe is a writer and editor in Austin, Texas, who believes that 2004 will be The Year for his beloved Boston Red Sox. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.