NFL OPENING WEEKEND NOT SO SHINY FOR MANY TEAMS
Now that the “real” National Football League season is under way, I kind of felt sorry for the season-ticket holders who had to endure a month of pre-season exhibition games which was part of the deal. Many of the players they were forced to watch are back at the car wash or slinging hash somewhere after their bubble of becoming an NFL player burst. But the 2017 season started off with a huge surprise as the world champion New England Patriots looked like butter under a hot knife as the Kansas City Chiefs beat them in every phase of the game—except the losing quarterback whining about some of the game officials’ calls—42-27 in a special Thursday night lid-lifter. I think I may have learned two things from that game—either the Patriots are a mere skeleton of previous years OR that Kansas City is a bona fide Super Bowl team. The first two games I watched Sunday were VERY disappointing as the Houston Texans versus the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars that was supposed to make Houstonians feel normal for three hours at NRG Stadium didn’t, ending with a humiliating 29-7 loss. In fact Sunday NRG must have meant Not Really Good because the Texans stunk up the stadium. The offensive line—with their stalwart Duane Brown still holding out to have his contract re-negotiated—surrendered 10 sacks to the usually-mediocre Jaguars’ defense. The return of J.J. Watt to the Texans defense failed to show any signs of being the top-rated defense in the NFL last season. Watt suffered a dislocated finger which limited his performance to one tackle and one quarterback hit. In the meantime, when the game was still close, the defense failed to come up with stops when it had to. And Head Coach Bill O’Brien’s first game of calling the offensive plays should be his last because his offense—especially starting quarterback Tom Savage—was savagely inept. Houston gained a mere 24 yards total offense in the first half with Savage in command. When O’Brien finally heeded the chants from most of the 71,710 fans wanting rookie Deshaun Watson to replace Savage, the former Clemson All-American responded on his first series by gaining more than twice the first-half total and then marched the team downfield for a touchdown—sadly the only score of the game for the Texans while the Jags rolled up 27 points. Another team that showed a weak offense was the Seattle Seahawks, who were trying to beat the Green Bay Packers for the first time at Lambeau Field. Again it was quarterback Russell Wilson who got sacked and stripped from the ball in the shadow of his own goal which made a big difference in the Seahawks’ 17-9 loss to the Packers. Seattle was horrible in the red zone, managing only three field goals and zero touchdowns. But whenever a defense holds quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a mere 17 points, the team usually beats Green Bay. And Seattle’s defense was led by Orange’s Earl Thomas who was all over the field making his usual hard tackles as if he never broke his leg last season. The free safety led the team with 11 tackles, four of them solo. My only favorite team that was victorious was the Dallas Cowboys, who showed a voracious defense for the first time in several years and completely shut down quarterback Eli Manning and the New York Giants offense, limiting it to a mere field goal and slaughtering them in time-of-possession. The Cowboys’ offense was led by quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, who riddled the proud New York Giants defense. If the Pokes showed any weakness Sunday night it was in the red zone, but I’ll take a 19-3 win over the Giants any time. And as long as Elliott continues to appeal his six-game suspension, the Cowboys’ offense will be just fine. KWICKIES…The Houston Astros appear to be in their usual September swoon as the end of the 162-game season comes to a close. I think the expansion of the roster with the extra players from the minor leagues is the culprit and does not promote winning. Fortunately, the Astros should win the AL West Division handily. But they won’t begin the playoffs with a winner’s mentality as manager A.J. Hinch finagles with the daily lineups. After all, nearly half of the players on the expanded roster won’t be eligible for the playoffs anyhow. As pathetic as the season’s opener was for the San Francisco 49ers’ offense Sunday with Brian Hoyer at quarterback, the 49ers’ front office should get down on their knees and beg Colin Kaepernick to return to their team—even if he wants to lay down on the bench naked during the National Anthem. Texas and Texas A&M should follow the example of the Missouri Tigers, who fired defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross a day after Mizzou got stomped by South Carolina 31-13 and a week after surrendering 43 points to Football Championship Subdivision opponent Missouri State. Cross’ firing was effective immediately and no replacement was named according to the school’s announcement. JUST BETWEEN US…Many of you local golfers are wondering about the status of Orange County’s only course—Sunset Grove Country Club. First of all the restaurant and pro shop suffered NO water or wind damage from Harvey. However, the cart barn was not so lucky, with some three feet of water inundating the facility, virtually ruining the golf carts parked there. I talked to club manager/head pro Kerry Lamb Monday afternoon and he said the grill will be open, all the employees still have jobs and the status of the restaurant, dance floor and the bayou room will be determined later, contrary to an e-mail some of the members received last week from a former board of directors member and former Men’s Golf Association member of the executive committee. Lamb assured members that everything right now is temporary and hopefully things will be back to normal in the very near future.