To Whom It May Concern: We’re 37 minutes late due to J Fizzle traveling at less than 8 miles per hour down the Kennedy and TC being stuck on a bus next to a woman smelling strongly of stale cigarettes who spent the first 10 blocks methodically eating blueberries out of her purse by the handful. TC studiously avoided eye contact. That said, thanks to the power of TiVo, we’re here, we’re “live,” and it’s the playoffs. Fortunately, you’re probably reading this on a different day, because, honestly, it’s Friday night: get out, people. Do things.
Philadelphia, PA! Tony Graziani! A bridge! Cheesesteaks! Other Gruden!
Stafford kinda looks like Rex Grossman,” says J Fizzle.
Other Gruden says, “It’s 20 against this building.” Riveting.
Philly coach: “We’re going to war for 4 quarters – ARE THERE ANY COWARDS AMONGST US?” They cut before the cowards can be pointed out and mocked.
Hey, it’s Captain Soul and Moxie! And… about 12 of their closest friends. The Playoffs: sparsely attended.
Tonight, your commentators are Ray Bently and Dave Pasch. I’m forced to ask: who? Joe goes back to check, and he almost has a nervous breakdown attempting to rewind my TiVo. If you want precision, Joe, use one boop, not three.
I forgot to mention in tonight’s earlier post that Tony Graziani played for the Barcelona Dragons. “It must be an emotional day for him,” says Special Guest Philadelphia Phan Josh.
14:20 Graziani and his receiver get mixed up on routes, and a 47-yard pass falls to the turf. The receiver had tons of space, but ran a corner instead of a post. Nice job.
13:50 Flag on the play, Graziani under pressure, is picked off! But, the illegal formation penalty negates that.
12:26 Graziani overthrows another receiver, and the nearly-silent crowd stirs, politely requesting a flag. None is forthcoming.
11:40. Our first mention of “there’s no punting in Arena Football,” but there is pass interference. First down, Philadelphia. We’ve also sussed out what Yo-Yo means: the motion WR goes straight backwards, and then straight towards the line of scrimmage. We are Holmsian in our deductions.
Tony Graziani pulls the Orlando defense outside like a mofo. Things Tony would not be good at: bomb squad (DON’T CUT THAT WIRE!), Faberge egg shop (WOULD YOU LIKE THAT WRAPPED!?!), Funeral home director (I’M VERY SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS!)…
While we think of funny things that Graziani would be unskilled at, three straight runs get stuffed, including Graziani on 4th down. Turnover on downs, Orlando takes over at the 1 with 8-something remaining. That’s a crazy-long drive; Orlando stopped them, but the time eaten off the clock could come back to haunt them.
I would like to take this opportunity to say that we now love the Arena Bowl XXI commercial. We like Dixieland jazz, and referees that boogie, and that creepy skeleton guy who’s the Voodoo mascot. Really. It’s the highest of high art.
“The walls are 4 feet high, and they’re undefeated – they’ve never lost,” says one of the two indistinguishable announcers. What does that even mean? Forget it – Shane Stafford with a 49-yard touchdown bomb, Philly biting on a sharp pump-fake. 26 seconds have elapsed. 7-0 Orlando.
7:03 remaining, and Tony Graziani is a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in an enigma, as he tells us “I should’ve pulled it.” The announcers are baffled, we are baffled, and Josh asks “Do they preview these sound bites before they air them?”
6:23 remaining, and the Jack linebacker rushes instead of the Mac, and BRUTALIZES Graziani. Unfortunately, as we immediately learn, that’s wholly illegal. For those of you new to the league, the Mac and Jack linebacker are assigned their names by which side of the line the tight end lines up on. In fact, this was educational for us, as we didn’t know what created a Mac or Jack linebacker.
Hooray! We do get the replay of Graziani’s shoulder separation! Three times! Whee! Violence!
5:02. Pauley alligator-arms a touchdown pass that he should’ve pinned against the wall. The walls that, our announcing team reminds us, are live.
3:38, and Philadelphia kicks a 24-yard field goal. Joe notes that Todd France
(Frantz? Which one is it?) is as ripped as Graziani. That’s a little gay, Joe. 7-3, Orlando.
Tolliver fumbles on the kickoff – too many moves! – and Philly recovers for a touchdown! Show the Soul dancers! Joe recovers from his admiration of a kicker’s physique by suggesting that he would like to take the cheerleading squad out for a pleasant seafood dinner. 10-7, Philadelphia.
Josh notes that the late Randy Walker would like the Soul, as they win every game where they have a positive turnover ratio. That was his pet stat, for those of you interested in that sort of thing.
2:27 remaining in the first, and T.T. Tolliver doesn’t get another chance to return, as the kick is off the slot and into the stands.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Orlando Predators have the longest current streak of making the playoffs in all of professional sports, tied with the Detroit Red Wings. Mind you, only 5 teams MISS the playoffs, but why quibble.
1:24, and we get a flag on the play after a long run off a screen. Facemask and offensive holding, the penalties offset, and we’ll just do it again. Josh notes that 2nd and 1 is a Hail Mary down. Not this time, though, as Johnson gets popped the instant he catches the ball. First down, Orlando.
Phew. We’re through the first quarter. Success.
14:53 Touchdown, Orlando! Stafford hasn’t missed on a pass attempt yet. The pass is caught off the bobble, as Dudley pins the ball against the wall. Cerebral. That’s staying with the play. 14-10, Orlando. It’s a shootout!
Whee! We get clips of Jay Gruden in Zubas-designed uniforms! It distracts from the slurping that the announcers give him. We think that he motivates his team by saying “If you win this game, I’ll put in a good word with my fancypants brother. Perhaps you’ve heard of him, he is a coach in the National. Football… Oh, you know… nah you probably wouldn’t be interested…”
13:20 remains in the 2nd, and Graziani has a ton of time in the pocket and uses it to throw an absolute laser to the corner of the end zone. Nobody’s back there.
11:48, and Pauley catches a little screen, zigs and zags into what looks like space, but gets upended.
10:54 The lack of instant replay screws Philly, as Pauley follows that play up with a neat little dip after the catch. The defender tried to nail him into the boards, Pauley ducked the hit, and scooted into the end zone, but they called him down by contact into the boards at the 4.
Another couple misfires, including one nice pass break up by Orlando. Graziani pleads for a flag, and it’s picked up by the mikes – that’s the best part of this whole AFL thing. Seriously. Bubble screen to Pauley, Touchdown! Maybe they’ll let him put the 9 back on the rear of his jersey. Attention, Uni Watch: the numbers are falling off of the jerseys again. Right now, Pauley is #19 from the front, and #1 from the back. Go ahead, make your sophomoric jokes.
We are left speechless by the mentally unbalanced fan who Pauley delivers the ball to in the stands. He completely loses his mind, and does the following: dances with the ball, listens to it, as if he can hear the ocean, violently lifts the ball above his head and below his waist no less than 35 times, and terrorizes small children.
While I write this, Stafford throws two balls into New Jersey. He’s had days in the pocket, but is forced to throw the ball thirteen rows deep.
Special booth guest Ron Jaworski lets us know that he watches a lot of tape. Really, Jaws? Why have you never told us about the amount of tape you watch before? I would’ve expected you to mention that if you were so proud of it.
I was so busy wielding my sarcasm that I almost missed the 4 and 10 desperation heave caught by a writhing, twisting Fryzell, that really fell incomplete, but I guess they gave him points for degree of difficulty. 1st and 10 at the something.
Fryzel looks like the goofy soldier in Stripes, notes Joe, and proceeds to quote three scenes. Which makes us miss a pass interference call, a play on which there is a second foul for using the umpire to pick the defensive player. That’s a warning. And that’s an excellent penalty to call.
“You can’t tuck in your shirt on the air, Jaws?” and “He doesn’t wear ties?” are vying for the title of “Most Curmudgeonly Comment from 4 20-somethings.”
Orlando has to settle for a field goal, which Stafford does yeoman’s work, pulling down an unpleasant snap. 2:40 remains in the half, and we have a 17-17 tie.
We get a Primary Gruden sighting, and nothing else of interest happens on the kickoff. Except for the doofus with a foam cheeseteak on his head.
We have to pause the scouting report on Tony Graziani, so I may transcribe it, verbatim:
- Philadelphia QB
- Has all the throws
- Lightening release
I’ve become so much dumber for reading that. We’re trying to figure out what would constitute a “lightening” release. We think that his release may have been too heavy. That’s unhelpful. Equally unhelpful is the commentary, as Graziani “can release the ball when he wants to,” as opposed to being unable to release the ball. He’s always clutching that ball, that poor guy who’s the opposite of Tony Graziani.
1:00 warning. Josh says “It’s never too late for clock management,” everyone gives him shit, and he says he has “lightening diction.” We’re geniuses.
Trust us, you haven’t missed anything while we’ve been debating semantics.
45.8 seconds left. Pauley can’t get under the pass from Graziani as the defender gets away with just enough contact to slow him down.
4th and 3 – Graziani overthrows Sean Scott, and we get another “Stop Running Into the Umpire” penalty and a holding call. Both are declined, turnover on downs. Orlando takes over with 39.8 seconds remaining. Graziani has overthrown a lot of receivers – I wouldn’t expect those sort of adrenaline-fueled mistakes from a veteran. Shows you how much I know.
Northwestern product Dwayne Missouri stops the ludicrously delayed handoff in the backfield, which stops the clock with 25.2 seconds left. Stafford eludes four or five defenders, but gets past the line of scrimmage to keep the clock moving. 11.4 remains in the first half.
Once again: I love that they’re all miked. Stafford complains about T.T. Tolliver being held, and somebody walks up, just goes “I’ll smack the shit out of him,” and ESPN’s a little slow on the dump button. God bless you, dump button guy. Also, Shane Stafford has the thickest Cajun accent I have ever heard.
Orlando settles for a field goal, bringing the clock down under 10 seconds, and making the score 20-17, Orlando.
Oh, that’s a tactical error – the kickoff goes out of bounds, and Philadelphia will take over at the 20 with no time off the clock. Other Gruden sounds like your dad: “[Kicker], I’m just disappointed, man. We need you.”
Todd France lines up for a 38-yard attempts, and splits it down the middle. 20-20, and we’ve made it to the half.
HALFTIME STRATEGY DISCUSSION
Joe: I think that if Philly wants to win, they should score more touchdowns than Orlando.
Tom: [Silence, typing]
/HALFTIME STRATEGY DISCUSSION
And we’re back. T.T. Tolliver dances, gets nowhere. This hasn’t seemed like a defensive struggle, but both defenses are capitalizing on the playoff jitters of the QBs.
Stafford once again buys just enough time to get the ball to Fryzel, and Fryzel gets tagged again. One of Philly’s defensive linemen has been really wreaking havoc. That’s the third or fourth ball batted down at the line.
Moten, apparently, is “playing choo-choo train” by committing pass interference. That’s quite the turn of phrase, there, mostly-anonymous announcer guy.
11:06, 3rd and something, apparent touchdown, Orlando. Johnson is mid way through his celebration (mounting the boards and rowing with the ball), by the time the ref is able to announce the offensive holding, negating the touchdown. Stafford is immediately sacked, and Orlando settles for another field goal. Remember what I said about this being a shootout? I totally lied. 23-20, Orlando.
9:39 remains in the 3rd, the kickoff is returned to the 9, and we’re treated to a Brett Muncie Is Fired Up Montage. Mostly, he seems to pick a word, and he repeats it with increasing volume. As you do. Except for the time that he is exTREMEly cranky about Orlando repeatedly rushing the Jack linebacker. Which we now know more about than we did before this game started.
7:50. Graziani almost brains the side judge with a somewhat errant pass. That made my evening. In his defense, the ref was wide open. Graziani pulls Orlando offsides again with the hard count. (WHAT CAN I HELP YOU WITH, HERE IN THE REFERENCE SECTION?)
6:33. Touchdown, Graziani to McKelvey, who’s been strangely quiet this game. He’s a jumper, and that’s something you have to exploit, if you’re Philadelphia. 27-23, Philly.
As France tees it up, we get the seventeenth reference to the fact that Muncie and Other Gruden are best of friends. We mentioned this in a live-blog I’ll link to eventually.
5:16 left in the 3rd. Hey, it’s Captain Soul and Moxie – hi, guys. Special Guest Shouter Mike would like the foam Blues Brother head that someone’s sporting. Center Gigantor Cleveland of Orlando needs to have his finger put back in place by the trainer. We’re treated to hypothetical narration from the announcers: “Hold on, big fella, I’m going to do my business.” So, he has to sit out a play, and the backup center has no idea what the snap count is, and the motion WR makes it three quarters of the way to the New Jersey Turnpike before he snaps the ball. Cleveland comes back in, and we learn that he was shot in the chest twice, and was playing two weeks later. We are stunned, and I force the gang to pause TiVo so I can chronicle all this.
Again, he was shot. Twice. In the chest.
4:46, 3rd and 7. Stafford underthrows Ron Johnson pretty significantly. They’re going for it. Stafford is sacked and swears up a storm. Philadelphia turns the ball over at the 18.
Ideal coverage by Shell on the crossing route from Graziani, batting the ball down. If Polley catches that one, that could be the evening.
2:41. Perhaps I spoke too soon. Same play, and this time Polley is wide open. 34-23, Philadelphia. Polley gives the ball to a reasonably attractive woman in the stands. Somebody suggests it’s his wife, but I’d expect his wife to have better seats than that.
Tony Graziani takes a moment at the end of this interview to make a long-distance dedication, Casey Kasem-style. This one goes out to all the goldfish out by the Azores…
1:26 left in the 3rd. After going 5 for his first 5, Stafford’s been brutal since. He’s putting the ball on people, but his receivers aren’t getting free, and he’s had to throw the ball away a lot.
2nd and 11, penalty flag – Dwayne Missouri is offsides, unabated to the quarterback. That’s okay, Dwayne. They’ll all work for you someday. (Josh suggests that Missouri can run the Evanston-based af3 team.)
Top of the 4th Quarter: the announcers just obliquely made fun of Jay and Jon Gruden’s mom. Jay is going to kill them with his mind.
Stafford’s receivers are still having the damndest time catching the ball. Particularly egregious is the tip into the air in the end zone. The ball caroms off the crossbar, and fortunately the four Soul players in the area are caught flat-footed.
12:35. Stafford buys a ton of time, and finds Ron Johnson wiiiiide open in the end zone. An extremely late flag signifies… offensive pass interference? Wow, late AND iffy. that’ll push them back, and Orlando settles for another field goal. 34-26, Philly.
12:09. Graphic: 11 penalties on Orlando, taking 3 touchdowns and 1 interception away.
Joe : “You know that look Gruden has when he knows he’s fucked?”
TC: “Yeah…” [Typing]
Joe: “He’s had that for about 15 real-time minutes.
Gruden looks like he’s doing the pee-pee dance during his interview with the booth, he’s so irritated. Apparently his OL is more banged up than they’re showing. His center has a dislocated thumb, one of the tackles has a hamstring (something), and there’s something else wrong. If that’s true, Stafford’s a magician back there to have any time at all.
9:44. Touchdown, Philadelphia! Graziani once again stays alive for the maximum amount of time he is able, steps up, and puts it right where James can lay out for it. 41-26 Philadelphia.
Joe has a great deal of difficulty fast-forwarding through the commercials again. Mike’s of the opinion that it would’ve been quicker just to watch the commercials.
8:48. T.T. Tolliver is writhing on the ground; he comes up gimpy, and that’s more bad news for Orlando, and they can’t afford much more.
7:45 left in the 4th. Johnson makes the reception in stride, breaks a tackle and almost gets around another on third down. Orlando working on the short half of the field now.
Nyenhuis is the lineman that’s been tipping those balls at the line, if you’re curious.
Ball off the net, but nobody’s there.
Another tipped ball, and Fryzell is claiming he pinned it against the corner of the boards, but if I may speak frankly to Fryzell right now: you sir, are full of bull doody.
4:24. Interception, Philadelphia and – to borrow a Simmons Meme – there’s the Other Gruden Face. He’s thinking about how he’ll have to live in the cupboard under the stairs for the rest of the summer.
We also just got treated to a recap of last year’s playoffs where Philly knocked off Orlando, and apparently, Graziani had the majority of the flesh torn off his chin. Gross. Thanks, ESPN; I’m never going to be able to eat my Chinese food (delivered at the halftime we TiVoed through) now. Dammit.
3:28 left in the game. Oh – I get it! The Blues Brothers guys are Soul Men! Like the song! I apparently am the only one in the room who took that long to figure it out. Josh wants the foam heads to be based on “Jaws’ visage.” Mike asks who he’s talking about, and Joe says “Not the Bond villain. With the mandibles?” Silence ensues, broken by, “Come on! How often do I get to say ‘mandibles’?” Meanwhile, Philly fumbles inside the 10 – we’re going the other direction.
1:23 remains, Orlando down 2 scores. Stafford deep for Fryzell, who makes a valiant effort, but can’t pull it in one-handed, and that’ll bring us to the 1:00 warning. By the way, Fryzell’s really going to end up the unsung hero of this one.
Well, we hit the end of the TiVo, and skipped 4 minutes. Included in that 4 minutes apparently was… some variety of turnover. On downs. Maybe.
Anyway, Philly has the ball, they just have to get positive yards, and, we’ll call it a day.
Final score: 41-26, Philadelphia. Those penalties completely broke the back of Orlando. Philly moves on, and didn’t look like a complete team, but got the job done. However, they run in to Dallas or Georgia next week, and if they played like they did this week, it’s going to be wildly insufficient.
It’s 9:30, we’re going to get drunk and play Guitar Hero. Look for your analysis in the
morning afternoon. I’m not getting up that early.