Thursday, September 22, 2005

On leave, light blogging, NFL reflections from Upstate New York

My apologies for leaving without any explanation. I'm on leave with my family, and we've just returned from two great days in the Adirondack mountains, very close to Lake Placid (a two-time Olympics site). Anyway, before I get into a description, here's the column I whipped off for the newspaper after Sunday's strange NFL games.

NFL reflections
from central
New York

By SPC. IAN BOUDREAU/Turret Sports Editor

I'm writing this from my hometown in central New York. It's a chance to catch up with my family, including my brother, who's visiting from Pittsburgh.

Naturally, Sunday afternoon we had to find a place to watch the Steelers game, but since they were playing in Houston, none of the basic cable markets were carrying the game.

A couple phone calls led me to a bar downtown that had the complete NFL package. When I asked if they were playing Pittsburgh at Houston, the girl who answered said, "Oh yeah... we're playing ALL the games."

So at one, Zach and I walked into the Dark Horse Tavern, which was already crowded with a multitude of jersey-sporting football fans of all descriptions. There was a guy wearing an old purple Vikings jersey with "MOSS" written on the back, lots of Patriots shirts, and a smattering of Jets and Giants supporters.

As the one o'clock games wore on, it was clear that this was going to be another strange weekend. Across the league, weird things were happening.

Peyton Manning and the Colts -- formerly one of the most prolific scoring offenses in the business -- weren't managing to get anything past a tenacious Jacksonville defense (Indianapolis only won 10-3).

The Baltimore Ravens, who had been ranked at the top of the AFC North in the preseason, choked against the Tennessee Titans, who shouldn't have been a threat.

And most astonishingly -- in my book -- Bill Belechick's New England juggernaut was stopped cold by the Carolina Panthers, which caused the crowd in the bar to send up choruses of whoops and jeers.

The only games I could have called with any certainty were Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the latter dishing out a rather ferocious beating on the still-weak San Francisco 49ers.

In Houston, the Texans did everything they could to scuttle the game for the Steelers before it started, including, according to Associated Press reports, opening the roof of the Houston Astrodome, which sent field-level temperatures into the 100s. Houston hoped, perhaps, to bake the black-clad Steelers.

It didn't work, and neither did the Texans' goal of forcing Big Ben to pass 25 times. Ben Roethlisberger -- who's been listed as a weakness in every pre-season projection I read -- fired off completions to wide receiver Hines Ward totalling 254 yards in the air and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh's defense sacked Texans quarterback David Carr eight times, and the Texans fired their offensive coordinator Monday.

Sitting behind my brother and I was a large man in a Bears jersey. I said to Zach that being a Chicago fan was sort of like loving depressing movies -- maybe they're just in it because they love the heartbreak. Turns out, however, that the Bears beat Detroit, and not by any mean margin. Chicago came out and stomped the Lions 38-6. It was pretty similar to the score of the Minnesota/Cincinnati game -- 37-8. And to think, Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper was projected to do so well.

The fellow in the purple Moss jersey was in the corner, drinking beer and looking sheepish.

Week two is over for pro football, and my family and I are heading up to the Adirondack mountains now. I'll be back to Fort Knox in time to catch all the action Sunday.