What’s up people? Let’s talk about that lightning strike in Tampa Bay, early winning streaks, hurry-up offenses in college and the NFL and what’s next.
The 2009 NFC Championship Game is just one of several comeback wins I’ve been involved in since I’ve been here. We have a lot of new guys this year, and we almost had to teach them to never feel like we’re ever out of a game.
We’re now 2-0 after two tough divisional games, and I have to give it up to our fans for showing up big in Tampa—at one point, they started a Who Dat chant and it was louder than the home fans! We appreciate that they travel and support us on the road. Who Dat!
I’ve been playing football since the fourth grade, and I’ve never had a rain delay like we did in the first quarter. Yes, there was a lightning strike pretty close to the stadium. But it was a little awkward when the officials ordered us back into our locker rooms. Guys were talking all kinds of weird stuff. I just wanted to stay calm, so I went to lie down, put my feet up, closed my eyes and almost fell asleep. Good thing we got a chance to warm up again, ha ha.
What has encouraged me during our first two games is that when the team needed a momentum shift, I was able to contribute. Week 1, the momentum was heavy in Atlanta’s favor when I caused a turnover on a forced fumble. That changed everything, especially after we scored. And even though we didn’t score off my interception against Tampa, we needed that momentum shift. It was one of those classic defensive battles, and that turnover was big.
We’ve given up only 31 points, second-best in the NFC, and our new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is using players’ skill sets to the best of their abilities. It’s allowing us to play fast and aggressive. Our D-line is getting pressure, and we’re getting stops on third down. It’s about really taking control of the defense from a players’ standpoint, running what we like to run, and that makes it fun.
I want to give a shout-out to our kicker Garrett Hartley, who knocked in the game-winning field goal against the Bucs. He’s just clutch. In the 2009 NFC Championship Game against Minnesota, his kick in OT sent us to the Super Bowl. That was just one of several comeback wins I’ve been involved in since I’ve been here. We have a lot of new guys this year, and we almost had to teach them to never feel like we’re ever out of a game.
OK, did you see that no-huddle scoring outburst (52-34) between my undefeated Buckeyes (3-0) and Cal? It was exciting! Ohio State has a lot of young talent on defense, and they’re still trying to find their identity. Once they settle in, that team is going to be really hard to beat.
On a related note, you’ll get another great look at how the hurry-up works with the Thursday Night Football match-up between Philadelphia and Kansas City. Philly’s doing some special things right now and Chip Kelly has Michael Vick playing with a lot of confidence. Their offense is pushing the pace, causing confusion and just looking for that one mistake to blow up the defense.
What’s the effect? Defensive coordinators don’t have the time to match the personnel they want against a hurry-up offense, so they have to call something quick. Sometimes the call comes in late, then the players are scrambling, and that’s where the offense gets an advantage. So defensive coordinators have to simplify their plans. But offenses also can’t be as multiple when they’re in a hurry-up, they can’t do all the shifts and motions they normally do. So from my viewpoint, coordinators have to be disciplined enough to call simple defensive schemes and let their players use their skills and instincts to make plays.
Hey, if you’re looking for a great evening of food and wine, we still have sponsorship/ticket packages available for my Taste of New Orleans charity fundraiser on Monday, September 23rd. We have close to 20 excellent restaurants from around New Orleans serving up their tastiest dishes matched to specific wines. We have cool live music, plus silent and live auctions. Some of my teammates come out and mingle, and it’s like a big cocktail party, all in aid of my foundation and deserving young people.
So, what’s next for New Orleans? We’ve got Arizona this Sunday and want to be 3-0. Then it’s a Monday Night Football game against Miami on September 30th. All eyes are on you for that Monday game, and the NFL schedules pretty good matchups. Did you see my fellow Made Man blogger Tyler Eifert’s sweet 61-yard grab in the Bengals 20-10 win over the Steelers earlier this week? Speaking of Tyler, I think my wife has him on her fantasy team—oh yeah, she plays!
—As told to Ashley Jude Collie