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Monday Morning H-Back

This thing was supposed to post at 7 am - I set the timer - but now I find it's just sitting in the system. So I'll try it again. Here goes:

Okay, so we finally saw what a JC/first-time starter clunker looks like. He wasn't alone - how about Cutler throwing his first TD, followed up by an INT for a TD on the next drive? - and didn't get much help, either, beyond the running game. Too many drops (Cooley), too many passengers (Lloyd - this is really getting ridiculous with him), some strange playcalling and some major snafus in the blitz pick-up.

But saying all of that, Jason was not good. He never found a rhythm in the passing game and that two-minute offense at the end was shaky. But that was his first time in this situation, and I would think he'll be better for the experience. Overall, the pass rush seemed to fluster him on occasion. But even with him playing like a rookie, they could have won this game.

I was stunned when they stopped the Falcons on 4th down, had the mojo going and were beating up Atlanta on both sides of the ball ... then got cute. Why not keep running 80 Crease at the right side of that defense. Yeah, I know Atlanta was keying on the run, but so what? They had been all game and were still not stopping anything. Long pass. Reverse. Pass on third-and-long. Bye-bye win. Hello offseason.

Game changed for good right there, and the players felt it. Sure, they stuck with the run for once even when trailing, but even a field goal on that drive - and it started at midfield - and they might win in a rout. Also, not going for it on fourth-and-two with like 10 minutes left was telling. That's Gibbs being Gibbs, but when you're 4-7, why not go for it? And if you're not going to go, then the third down play might as well be a run given the way the team was pounding the rock.

Also, they never found a way in the scheme to adjust and pick up Lawyer Milloy coming off the edge. He came free between Jansen and Yoder a bunch of times, and I think Campbell hits Randle El for a TD if he isn't pummeled on that pass late in the game. There were too many blitzers just not accounted for. With a kid this green, that stuff is huge, and I felt like a bit more could have been done to help him out.

There were a few more positives:

Andre Carter had a legit big game. He made plays off the edge, has a sack, helped with Vick, and drew some blatant holding calls. Had twice as many tackles as normal.

Golston was a bull. Getting to Vick. Gaining penetration. Knocking down passes. How about the fourth-down stop? Dude needs to get more blog love. This was a 4-5 TCCL-type performance for him.

I have a feeling a new deal with Betts gets done before the end of the season. Not just yet. But I could see him signing in the coming weeks. He did miss at least one key pass protection - going left inside of right - that led to be a big play for the ATL defense (again, where were the adjustments to the blitz?)

These guys are getting sharper and crisper with the zone blocking. Yeah, it's too little, too late. But if Portis can come back 100 percent - and I tend to think that's a big if - you would have to think this would be suited to him. Of course, that's assuming it doesn't take them 10 games to figure out this is what they need to do next season as well.

Santana Moss looked like Santana Moss. Definitely healthy for the first time in a while.

Other observations:

Nick The Kick is a goner. Judging by what Coach Joe said after the game, I think he'll be gone this week, probably by today.

Brandon Lloyd was yukking it up for the Comcast cameras after the game in the locker room. It was quite the scene and did not go unnoticed. Strange behavior after another two-catch, 26-yard game. Gotta love that 15-yard penalty for a chaser. Oh yeah, and he also said, with a straight face, that, "We will fight for this city. We will play for this team." Did Grace Slick write that? We built this city on personal fouls.

So that makes their No. 2 receiver plus-9 for the game. I have a project for you guys. Let's go back and look at the last time a starting receiver went 16 games without a TD and with fewer than 30 catches or 400 yards. I can't think that's happened too many times before. Lift you chins up people of the blog. We might be on the brink of history! Set your TiVos accordingly.
Couldn't someone on the offensive coaching staff LaVar him? Seriously, has he done anything more on offense than Archuleta on defense?

Vernon Fox struggled pretty mightily at times. Had a good start again, but I don't think he's the answer.

Finally, my man Larry had these nuggets to pass along:

1) the skins have led at halftime in all 3 of their home losses....they have been outscored
36-11 in the 2nd half of those 3 games.

2) the defense has forced 8 turnovers (the other was on special teams)....of those 8 turnovers, only 2 were in opponents territory.

Not good. Not good.

By Jason La Canfora  |  December 4, 2006; 10:55 AM ET
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