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Tavern talk: Here’s to McDaniels and Denver

A toast to the winners, but what’s wrong with the Cowboys? Michael Lombardi

Print This October 05, 2009, 05:39 PM EST

I’M BUYING A ROUND FOR THE HEAD COACH OF THE WEEK…

Josh McDaniels, Denver. He took tremendous amounts of criticism for his handling of the Jay Cutler situation, but that can’t take away from the ability he’s shown to be a great head coach. McDaniels has demonstrated all the characteristics needed to be successful, and he’ll bring a consistent winner to Denver. He’s well schooled beyond his years, is very smart, and once he gets a better quarterback, the sky’s the limit. But he’s laid down a successful infrastructure in Denver and has that city excited about the Broncos.

I’M BUYING A ROUND FOR AN ASSISTANT COACH OF THE WEEK…

Gregg Williams, New Orleans defensive coordinator. Williams has provided the Saints with an aggressive style of defense that complements their offense well. Sunday, the Saints welcomed Mark Sanchez to the NFL with multiple blitzes that were hard to handle -- and the Superdome crowd noise was at an all-time high. The Saints need to keep doing the little things well, like converting third-and-short situations, in which they currently rank fifth after being so bad last year. Once they get a lead, they’ll be tough to beat when their defense plays at this level.

RAMBLING THOUGHTS

1. Tony Romo loves to throw the ball to his right, as most right-handed passers do, but his eye level was to the right as well and he missed Miles Austin on the left. This is not on Romo. The pressure was overloaded to that side, and quarterbacks are taught to look at the side the blitz is coming from, and he was not protected (the Broncos brought more than the Cowboys could block from that side). Change the formation, change the call, change the personnel group; the coach must make it easier for the quarterback. Denver ran the same blitz twice. Situational football is key.

2. Did you notice that Jason Garrett was saying something to Wade Phillips on the fourth-down call, but Wade never said a word? Those situations must be practiced over and over, and losing a down at that point of the game is hard to overcome. They had to stop the clock, but they needed to have two plays called — or throw the ball in the back of the end zone. A throwaway is better than a completion for four yards.

3. San Diego’s Shawne Merriman is not right health-wise. He was not factor Sunday night, and he needs to get back to full strength before the Chargers defense will be able to stop anyone. No sacks, no tackles for loss this season – and no sacks in his past five games, longest drought of his career.

4. Speaking of not being the same, Patrick Crayton of the Cowboys is either hurt or has gotten much slower. All the Romo haters out there might want to watch the play he makes on fourth down because no one was open. He had to make something out of nothing.

5. Denver is playing much better on defense, and a big reason is its ability to tackle so well in the secondary. The Broncos are making stops in the secondary.

6. Someone sent me this today: With the Raiders’ loss in Houston, they are 25-75 in their last 100 games since they played in the Super Bowl. Tom Cable just completed his 16th game as the head coach, and the offense has gone seven games without a touchdown, four games with one touchdown, two games with two and two games with three.

7. In the last 10 years playing the Packers at home, the Vikings have averaged 26 points per game and only twice have been below 20 — in ‘06 and ‘07. Vikings coach Brad Childress is 1-2 at home against the Packers.

8. The NFL trading deadline is Oct. 20, and I wonder if some of the very bad teams might be inclined to trade a good player for a draft choice. Was thinking if the Browns got a call from the Jets about Braylon Edwards, who was held without a catch, what might they do now. Same with the Rams and Stephen Jackson.

9. Heath Miller is on my all-underrated team. He blocks like a tackle and makes plays in the passing game with his overall speed that are very deceptive. He’s a very good all-around player, and he never ceases to amaze me with his ability to just keep scoring.

10. Another player on my all-underrated team is Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson. He’s really talented, and while the others get the publicity, Johnson is hard to block and must be accounted for in the Ravens’ front.

11. Darren Sharper might have lost a step, but he can read quarterbacks’ eyes and has to be looked off, especially in the red zone. His hands are exceptional.

12. Dwight Freeney was not even supposed to play for the Colts on Sunday, but he did anyway and got another sack. He’s always been great, but he’s really special this year.

13. Patrick Willis was all over the field against St. Louis, and the 49ers’ front was just too tough and too physical for the Rams. The Niners are winning with their ability to play mistake-free, with a great punter and with physical football. All three of their wins have come against the NFC West.

14. Talent young players find a way make to plays, and Johnny Knox of the Bears is very talented. His return further identifies his unique skills.

Teams to Start 0-4 or Worse
NO. 1 SEED IN PREVIOUS SEASON, SINCE 1975

                           Started        Finished
'09 Titans               0-4                  ?
'02 Rams               0-5                 7-9
'99 Broncos           0-4                 6-10
'87 Giants              0-5                 6-9

LET’S SAY A PRAYER FOR THE FAMILY OF…

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Paul Soliai. He’s mourning the loss of at least two relatives in the disaster-stricken Samoas, and he fears the toll on his family could grow worse

"It's a pretty tough time," Soliai said Thursday. "I've been talking to some of my family members. They say there's too much damage. They're still finding more bodies. There are still people missing -- cousins, relatives. They keep me updated."

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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