How does the Pagano family do it? All season long, only two teams have managed to even slow Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos offense down, and both of those squads have a Pagano on its coaching staff. The Indianapolis Colts, led by head coach Chuck Pagano, made Manning second-guess himself in October. Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers, with defensive coordinator John Pagano, held the Broncos to their lowest point total of the season on Thursday night in Denver. Not surprisingly, the Paganos won both games, and may have provided a blueprint to the rest of the league on how to slow down the NFL MVP.
In October, the recipe for the Colts was simple: be physical on defense and control the clock on offense. Indy’s defensive backs beat up the Broncos’ receivers all game and got a bunch of hits in on Manning as well. That physicality took its toll on Denver, which lost its rhythm for a stretch, going three-and-out on three consecutive possessions at one point and turning the ball over three times overall.
On Thursday, the Chargers used a similar philosophy. Physicality ruled the night, but it was control of the line of scrimmage that killed Denver’s rhythm. The Broncos managed just 18 yards rushing in their 27-20 setback that also featured a stretch of three straight three-and-outs at one point.
San Diego was able to turn Denver into a one-dimensional attack. Additionally, the Chargers spent most of the night preventing that attack from getting unleashed. An edge of almost 17 minutes in time of possession left Manning standing impotently on the sidelines, bringing to mind the old cliché that the only way to stop Peyton is to turn him into a spectator.
The Paganos preach the merits of a physical brand of football. With the game shifting away from the trenches and depending more and more on speed, it is sometimes easy to forget how important a physically imposing presence can be. The Pagano brothers have brought that mentality back to the forefront.
Their teams may not look like they will end up as Super Bowl contenders at the end of the day (although the Colts could be if their offense started executing crisply) but they have both taken turns stuffing the squad everyone figured would be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February.
For the Broncos, it would be easy to shrug off this loss if the only story was an off night by the offense. Denver had not scored fewer than 27 points until Thursday. Manning is only three touchdown passes shy of the all-time single-season record and if Eric Decker catches one more touchdown the Broncos will be the first team ever to have four players with 10 scoring grabs.
Its offense will be alright, so long as it doesn’t get stuck facing one of the Paganos on the road to New York. The same cannot necessarily be said about the Denver defense.
The Broncos yielded 178 yards on the ground to a San Diego offense that entered the contest ranked 19th in the NFL with just 116 yards rushing per game. Denver made countless boneheaded mistakes, including blown coverages, ill-timed penalties and a seemingly never-ending parade of missed tackles. Denver has allowed an average of 28 points over the last four contests.
If nothing else, the Paganos have taught the world that the Broncos cannot conceal all of their warts with offense. Manning and the Broncos are in fact mortal with the football in their hands and are vulnerable without it.
What is Ruben Amaro Jr. doing? Can anyone explain it to me? One day he seems willing to do anything possible to squeeze out one more run at the postseason, and the next he seems resigned to the fact that his team lacks the necessary parts to accomplish that feat.
In a four-month stretch the Phillies general manager has resigned aging sluggers Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz, picked up 36-year-old outfielder Marlon Byrd on the free agent market and then reportedly has put for-sale signs on Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Domonic Brown at this week’s winter meetings in Orlando.
Those moves seem to work in direct contradiction with one another.
Perhaps that is why both Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg dismissed the reports regarding the willingness to move Hammels, Lee and Brown as pure silliness. Amaro went as far as saying that the Phillies are trying to add parts not ship them away, according to multiple media outlets.
Still, as the old saying goes, where there is smoke there is fire. Those rumors did not invent themselves. Clearly Amaro was at least willing to listen to some general manager’s scheme to land either Lee or Hamels. That’s a GM’s job. You always listen, just in case someone makes you an offer you simply cannot refuse.
My argument is simple however: Why isn’t Amaro the guy out there discussing ways to land top-notch performers from other executives? That’s also part of his job.
What the Phillies need more than anything else in the world is a creative way to land talent. They lack the assets necessary to ascertain premiere players through the traditional trade route, and existing long-term contracts leave them too cash-poor to land big names via free agency.
Amaro has to get creative. Instead of listening to opposing general managers attempt to use this strategy on him, he should be trying it on them. Maybe he is, but we didn’t read any banner headlines of rumors about that did we?
They’d be nice though right?
Monday was the perfect topper of a wonderful weekend for the Philadelphia Eagles. First there was the dramatic come-from-behind win over the Lions in the snow at Lincoln Financial Field. Then there was the last-second rally by the Packers over the Falcons. And finally came the Bears’ demoralization of Dallas in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football.
The series of events sets up a much smoother path for Philly to reach the postseason.
For a stretch it was looking like the Birds would have to win out in order to capture the NFC East crown. Earlier talk that eight wins might be enough to win the division had long faded since both Dallas and the Eagles had begun to string together victories during the month of November. The Cowboys own the tiebreaker over Philadelphia, so as long as they kept winning, obviously the Birds would have to keep pace.
With the teams slated to meet in Dallas during the regular season’s final week, Philadelphia knew it had to stay even with the ‘Boys leading into that game to make it a playoff to get into the playoffs. Yet that all got turned upside down thanks to the events of Monday night.
By being unable to stop the Bears offense even once during a 45-28 slaughter, suddenly the Cowboys are a game behind Philly in the NFC East ledger, with a very difficult date looming this weekend. That’s where Green Bay’s surprise win over the Falcons comes into play. Thanks to that effort, plus the Birds’ win over Detroit, the Packers are just one-half game behind the Lions in the NFC North.
Had Green Bay lost to Atlanta, speculation was that it would have ended Aaron Rogers’s bid to return from injury. The team would have no longer felt it had a clear path to the playoffs and would have shut the All-Pro quarterback down for the season. Now it appears Rogers will be ready to retake the reins of the Packers attack in time for Sunday’s critical showdown with the Cowboys.
If Green Bay beats Dallas in that game, the Eagles’ magic number to clinch the division shrinks to two. That means Philly could have its postseason berth wrapped up before its trip to “Big D” for the regular season finale. Considering how the Birds offense sputtered against the Cowboys in the teams’ first meeting, that rematch being rendered insignificant would be a welcome development for Eagles fans.
Things are going so well right now, there even remains a scenario where Philadelphia could earn itself a first-round bye in the playoffs. It is unlikely, but the Birds would have to win out, while Carolina and New Orleans would have to tie at 11-5 in the NFC South. In order for that to happen, the Panthers need to finish 2-1, with a win over the Saints, while New Orleans would have to lose to Carolina and then either the pesky Rams or the surging Buccaneers.
Not likely, but not impossible either. And that’s what makes this time of year so much fun when your team is good. It seems like the possibilities are endless, and you can kill all kinds of time trying to play out the different scenarios.
After this weekend though, many of those potential outcomes have a much happier outlook for the Eagles. That makes it all the more enjoyable.