What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
EDITOR’S NOTE: Boyd Bergquist was the sports director at KETS-TV in East Tree Stump, Nebraska for almost 40 years. Known across the “Husker State” as the voice of the Boy’s High School Basketball Tournament, Bergquist was a four-time winner of the Marv J. Butz “Golden Cob” Award For Excellence In Nebraska Broadcast Journalism. That background, along with his quick if not cliché-riddled wit and love of single-malt scotch makes Bergquist a perfect fit to be our “Question” guy.
To me, the first weekend of the National Football League Play-offs really tells you what you need to know. We all get to find out how much of what a team did during the regular was the “real deal”…and how much was “smoke and mirrors.”
So, let’s just to the chase here. This is the time of year when the ol’ mailbag over-flows with NFL-related questions, but thankfully they tend run in some common themes. When they come from fans of teams in the play-offs, they all tend to be about “Do you think my team can win?”
Well, the first weekend eliminates almost half of those with a resounding “NO.” But the first weekend also means the “Hope Factor” sky-rockets for the fans of the winners. In either case, this is the perfect time to quote radio legend Casey Kasem. Some teams really can reach for the stars, and others need to keep their feet on the ground.
I’ve got my thoughts on each, but what really makes this thing work is what you fans think. Hit me up in the Comments section or send me an email through the contact form at the bottom of this piece. You already know my takes. I want your takes on mine!
Kansas City Chiefs: Back in my days in the Navy Signal Corps, I covered the Marine Corps Boxing championships. Those jarheads loved to beat the bejeezus out of each other, and that’s when I learned the best way to tell a winner. It almost always isn’t the guy flat on his back with blood running out of his ears. The Chiefs left a lot of teams in that condition last year on their to a Super Bowl win, and this year looks no different. In the NFL, you’re the champ until somebody beats you in January…or February.
Green Bay Packers: What’s not to like? This is a team with a solid defense, a ground game featuring the 4th-leading rusher in the league, and several AP All-Pro players…including one of the all-time great quarterbacks to ever play this game.
These teams won this past weekend, but every one of them now face the same challenge. If they want to hoist the Lombardi Trophy next month, they all still have to win three more games… just like the “Bye” teams.
But only one will do it.
New Orleans Saints: While some signs point to this being the farewell tour for uber-passer think Drew Brees, the fact remains that the Saints might just be the most complete team in the NFC. Even if this isn’t Brees’ last chance at another Super Bowl, it may be his best since beating the Colts a decade or so ago.
For my money, there’s three teams in this league I would bet can beat any other team on any given Sunday. The way the “chalk” works, it looks as though the Saints will have to beat the other to get to the top oif the mountain…but isn’t that the way it usually works? Sure, it may be that Brees falls short on this quest, but let me ask you this? What’s the amount of money you would be comfortable betting against him?
Buffalo Bills: In the immortal words of John F. Kennedy, “All free men everywhere are citizens of Buffalo. Ich bin ein #BillsMafia!” OK, so maybe they didn’t have hash-tags in 1961, but the idea remains. Every football fan outside of the greater New England area has at least a bit of sympathy for the long-suffering Bills’ fanbase.
First, the Dallas Cowboys rolled through them twice like the Red Army through Berlin in 1945. Then came two-plus decades of complete domination at the hands of the Brady/Belichick New England Patriots. So, when Tom Brady fled for the NFC and the regime in Foxboro crumbled, the dawn of a new day broke across Buffalo.
Saturday’s victory over Indianapolis must have been for Buffalo been like their own fall of the Berlin Wall. Emotions are running high today in Western New York…high enough that the #BillsMafia might be forgetting they still have a long way to go.
Baltimore Ravens: That “Lamar Jackson can’t win in the play-offs” narrative can now be officially retired. It doesn’t matter because as my granddaughter says, “Haters gonna hate.” Here’s what you’re going to hear from the “haters.” Jackson brought that team back from a 10-point deficit, and did it by being Lamar Jackson. You remember him, the guy who won an MVP award last year by using the talent God gave him.
J-Dub always says Jackson will be fun to watch until the first knee injury. And he’s not wrong when he points out what historically has happened to “running” quarterbacks. Can Newton was an MVP five years ago, and now he’s beat to shit and likely done.
But in Jackson’s case, until then…Ravens’ fans need to just roll with it. Someday he might be a great pocket passer. Randall Cunningham became pretty damn good after getting his knee blown out. But for now, Jackson wins games with his legs. Enjoy it while you can.
There’s another thing J-dub is right about. “Running” quarterbacks don’t win Super Bowls…at least not yet.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A few years back, I had a buddy that had a classic “muscle” car in his garage. He kept it under a tarp. It was a beautiful piece of machinery. But in the ten years I knew that guy, I never once heard that engine run. I got a lot of lip-service about that “awesome” 442 cubic-inch power plant. But I never heard it fired-up one goddamn time.
That’s how I feel about the “Brady Bucs.” On paper, everything looks great. All-time great quarterback, downfield threats for him to work with, a solid running game, and a killer defense. Sure, they beat the stuffing out of the Packers, but during that whole game I never felt like “Wow, the Bucs are pretty damn good!” Instead, I thought “everybody has a bad day, and this is it for the Packers.” That thought was bolstered by how the Pack did something the Bucs couldn’t do twice…beat the Saints.
In other words, I still have no idea if the Bucs’ engine actually runs.
Los Angeles Rams: BREAKING NEWS – Your very own Boyd Bergquist might be suiting up at quarterback for the Rams next week. Jared Goff looked awful, but he still has surgical pins in his throwing hand. We still don’t know how scrambled back-up John Wolford’s brain is after the bashing he took. On the plus side, Cooper Kupp can wreck any coverage scheme as long as there somebody who can get the damn ball to him and Aaron Donald can still lay waste to any offense in front of him. But to win, the Rams need to pull all that off in Green Bay.
Cleveland Browns: This year’s Cleveland Browns are the new young “up-and-comers” in this year’s play-off class. But now, the over-achieving child prodigy has to perform as an adult…and they get to do it against the defending champions.
In other words, Baker Mayfield faces far larger challenges than carrying all his groceries in one trip.
Tennessee Titans: I’ve been trying to find a way to say the Titans aren’t just the “Derrick Henry” show. I’ve wanted all year to say Ryan Tannehill is a legit NFL quarterback. I’ve wanted all year to say that A.J. Brown is the best receiver in the NFL nobody’s talking about. And I’ve wanted all year to heap praise on Tennessee’s defense.
But this weekend reinforced an inescapable conclusion. When you shutdown Henry, you shutdown the Titan offense. That’s not to knock Tannehill, or the rest of the offense…it’s just clear that as goes Henry, so go the Titans.
It’s also clear that when Henry and the offense can’t control the ball and dictate the pace of the game, the boys on defense are susceptible to being left on the field too long. That’s the big reason why they gave up 17 unanswered points, and at times looked pretty gassed doing it.
Indianapolis Colts: What can you say about team that can rack up over 450 yards of total offense, commit 0 turnovers, and still lose? Don’t ask me, because I don’t know. I don’t know because no team in the play-offs has ever done that before.
For my money, the narrative on the Colts is all about Philip Rivers. When I was in the 5th grade, my teacher was Mrs. Schadler. One day, she was in a pretty bad car accident and couldn’t come to school for a few months. In the mean time, we had a long-term substitute teacher named Mr. Workman.
He was a nice enough guy, but he could never get past being “the substitute.” That’s the best way I can think of to describe Philip Rivers’ relationship with the Colts. He’s Mr. Workman. He’s a great guy…you might even like him. But you know he’s not the “real deal.”
Eventually, Mrs. Schadler came back and we never saw Mr. Workman again. Philip Rivers is just taking the snaps until the Colts find their “franchise” quarterback, and there was never a valedictorian who thanked a substitute teacher in their graduation speech.
Once the Colts get their “Mrs. Schadler” back, they should be a perennial play-off contender for the near-term because they have four 2020 AP All-Pro players.
Seattle Seahawks: When will the bloom finally come off the rose that was Pete Carroll? Let’s face it. Since the Seahawks bested the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, then pulled the “Malcolm Butler” special in Super Bowl XLIX, they’ve become quite mediocre. The record since then doesn’t lie.
Here’s how that adds up. In the last six seasons, Carroll’s Seahawks have 5 play-off appearances, two division titles, a 62-33-1 overall regular season record, but are only 3-5 in the post-season, and haven’t advanced beyond the second round since.
That begs the question. Is the problem Carrol himself, or is the problem nobody has addressed the fact that the days of the “Legion of Boom” defense are long gone? To me, it could be a bit of both since Carroll’s main means of an in-game adjustment seems to be little more than “Hey Russell…go win the game for me.”
Pittsburgh Steelers: Remember when there was talk about the 11-0 Steelers being the best team in the NFL? Neither do I, because that seems like eons ago. Clearly that was before they lost 4 out of their last 5, and two of those “Ls” came at the hands of the Cincinnati
Bungles Bengals and the Washington Redskins Football Team.
Again, this leaves a lot of questions. Is this the end of the road for Ben Roethlisberger? Will the Steelers ever have more than a “patchwork” running game anytime soon? But more importantly, this might just be another “bloom off the rose” question.
I know the Steelers don’t fire coaches. They’ve only had three in the last 50+ years. Maybe that’s why Mike Tomlin continues to get a pass for being even more mediocre than Pete Carroll. Since the Steelers’ last Super Bowl appearance (which they lost) under Tomlin ten years ago, they have six play-off appearances…only one of which saw them advance beyond the second round. They’ve also had four seasons in which they didn’t make the play-offs at all.
But the complete collapse at the end of this season is unlike anything seen in the last half-century of Steeler history. Maybe it’s just me, but I would think somebody might expect more from a man consistently celebrated as one of the “best coaches in the game.”
Chicago Bears: Heading into this post-season, there was a lot of noise about how a team with a losing record shouldn’t be in the play-offs. We hear that crap every time it happens. The 7-9 Washington
Redskins Football Team are this year’s example. But unlike the Chicago Bears, the Washington Redskins Football Team at least showed up for their game.
I would love to believe that the NFL knew how badly the Bears would look last Sunday and that’s the reason why they picked that game for their experiment with the children’s channel Nickelodeon. I want to think they knew they could hide the Bears pathetic performance with animated graphics and slime cannons.
Most of the things I’m about to say about the Bears also apply to the Washington
Redskins Football Team. But there simply wasn’t the noise about the Bears being the in the play-offs. Nobody has a crystal ball, but there were plenty of “previews of coming attractions” pointing to an impending Chicago catastrophe.
There’s an old saying about teams wanting to go into the play-offs “hot.” That means it’s not a good look for a team to lose it’s last regular season game by nearly 20 points and need the “help” of certain other teams losing to get into the post-season. It’s an even worse look when a team manages to make it into January after a regular season containing a six-game losing streak.
But nothing looks worse than benching your starting quarterback and figuratively leaving him for dead, only to scream from the roof-tops about his redemption moments before he lays an egg in the play-offs.
Even SpongeBob SquarePants couldn’t hide how badly the Bears played.
Redskins Football Team: Saturday night’s loss to the Buccaneers was like that “Dr. Rick” commercial with the blue-haired guy.
We all saw it…we all saw it…we all saw that the
Redskins Football Team would have won that game if Washington’s vaunted pass rush would have showed up when it mattered.
“But Boyd,” you might say. “Washington had three sacks and seven quarterback hits.” Don’t throw stats at me. The truth is Washington had momentum going it’s way heading into the second half. Some guy who was playing in the XFL nine months ago was having his way with the Buccaneers defense, and the
Redskins Football Team’s defense couldn’t come up with a stop when they needed one.
The key moment came when Washington’s quarterback Taylor Heinicke led the
Redskins Football Team on a 7-play, 61-yard touchdown drive in the closing minutes of the third quarter. Not only did this cut the Bucs’ lead to two points, it was clear this was the moment Washington could take control of this game. All the defense had to do was come up with a stop, and give the ball back to their quarterback who had the “hot hand” at the moment.
But they didn’t.
Redskins Football Team’s “D” came up with a big fat “F.” They collectively clocked out with 15 minutes left in the game, and let the Bucs go on two scoring drives which gave them a lead they never relinquished. Again, this was not a case of the Buccaneers winning…it was a case of their opponents losing.
And we all saw it.
Got a question for our 70’s TY Sports Anchor? Got your own take? Nothing is “off-limits,” and no take is “too hot.” The only questions or comments Boyd Bergquist can’t handle are the one you don’t send him!