Monday, February 05, 2007

A call for positivity

Colts win! Colts win!

Following the Colts 29-17 Superbowl win (giving Indy its first-ever major championship, as far as I know) over the Chicago Bears, and the IU Hoosiers loss at Iowa (81-75), there's been some considerable negativity in the air.

Let me come to the defense of three who are being maligned.

1) Rex Grossman

This kid, in his first full year of NFL play, goes to the Superbowl, plays in conditions that even the offensive juggernaut Colts found difficult, to wit: a wet humid, downpour. Btw, all last night I was schadenfreude-ing about all the folks who must have bought HD tv's in time for the superbowl, only to see the rain destroy any visibility/clarity. But seriously, to expect Rex to make a difference against what was turning out to be the NFL's best defense, minus one of his running backs, in those conditions, was just not reasonable. If Big Ben had a miserable Superbowl last year in great conditions, what was Rex going to do? You got to give him a pass on this one, yeah, he threw some late interceptions, but he had to take the risks as the game was slipping away from Chicago. See how he bounces back next year, but he helped get Chicago to the Superbowl for the first time in over 20 years. Let's not call him cooked just yet.

2) The Bears' Defense
Lots of blah-blah-blah about how the Bears didn't show up, the defense didn't play, and few "experts" blabbering about how they saw in the statistics that this defense wasn't all that great anyway. Is this defense All-Time great? Maybe, maybe not. They'll need to bounce back next year with a championship to prove it. But this defense played smart and tough and got takeaways against the Colts, and kept the Bears in the game until the fourth quarter. Peyton took what he was given, exploiting an early lapse for the big play, and then when the Bears stayed back to protect against that, he handed off or tossed short passes to his RB's to wear down the Bears. The Colts learned well from the Patriots, and looked the part of the more veteran team, dominating time-of-possession. It would've been a very tough defense indeed that could've done more against the Colts.

3) Hoosier Men's basketball team
I've seen some print about the "let-down" and the "same-old same-old" and "maybe-they're-not-so-good" about the Indiana loss at Iowa. I think that Indiana didn't lose this one as much as Iowa won it. Iowa was juiced for this one, and played about as well, and as physically, as they can play. And this game was something of an anomaly, due to all the foul calls. Who knows what kind of game would actually be played on a neutral court in the Big Ten Tournament? But it was a sort of predictable loss, if you watched the way Iowa rallied against IU in the first meeting. And more than anything, this was a typical road game. Crazy stuff happening, some strange whistles, a couple of mental lapses (AJ's technical, noone coming back for the ball leading to a Ben Allen turnover) that could've changed the nature of the last minute.
Indiana showed up to play in this one, and indeed, wasn't that far away from having a chance to win it. The biggest problem was the double teams DJ faced in the second half. In the first half, he hit 3-point shooters, but in the second half, the Hoosiers needed to hit someone cutting to the basket (and at times that person was there, but DJ didn't see them). Composure and passing out of the double teams are the two things I would hit on if I were Sampson, but I'm not him, and he's done pretty well so far.

I'm not confident about IU's chances at Purdue and MSU, but then, I never was. I do think that if the Hoosiers tighten up, they could still get road wins at Michigan and at Northwestern, which would mean an 11-5 conference record, and 20-8 overall going into the Big Ten tourney (given home wins over Illinois, Minnesota, and Penn State).


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