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Playoff Report Card

We've reached the midpoint of the playoffs, so I thought I'd chuck a few of my ideas up here.

The first round was chalk. The divisional round, well, a lil different in the AFC. Top two seed lose at homes in games in which they easily could have won. What's the common denominator you might ask? Coaching. Actually, a lack of astute decision making by the head honcho.

Marty, poor Marty. He really means well. But going for it on 4th and 11 - hopeful at best. Not getting the ball into LT's hands at least 7-8 more times than he did - particularly in the second half - well, that was unforgivable. The guy is breaking off 10 yard chunks, the Pats know they can't stop him, and Marty doesn't lean on the MVP until that scoring drive late in the game, giving them an 8-point lead. He should have been grinding it out 4-5 carries per drive way before that.

Also, Marty never found a way to ignite a sense of urgency into his offense, despite its ridiculously good field position. The guy in Baltimore, Billick, was guilty of the same thing. Ravens knew ground game and clock management was the way to stick it to the Colts and their 32nd ranked rush defense (yeah, it's been better in the playoffs but they grabbed a big lead on KC and the Billick abandoned the run essentially after the first quarter.

The Ravens only did what they do best on offense - run Lewis off tackle Jonathan Ogden - repeatedly on one drive, when they marched to the 3 only for Steve McNair to get picked off. McNair, like Marty's QB, Philip Rivers, did the coach no favors with his uninspired play. But the McNair was also hamstring by Billick's pathetically conservative play calling.

They played right into the Colts' Cover-2 scheme but failing to stick with the run - Lewis carried only 13 times despite averaging a half yard per carry more than he did in the regular season, and he was nonexistent in the second half even with the Ravens very much in the game. So Billick never gave the Colts a reason to play their safeties closer to the box. The Ravens also failed to exploit the seam 20 yards downfield - the sweat spot in the zone D - except for on two occasions, instead opting for 3-4 yard routes on third and long.

It was all pretty silly. Now, you can't blame either coach for the turnovers - Chargers and Ravens each had 4 - and mental mistakes. And they can't throw the ball themselves. But for Indy to run 36 times to Baltimore's 20 rushes, well, that's the game right there.

You can't hold BBM to a 39 passer rating, pick him off twice and keep the Colts out of the end zone in your own stadium and lose.

And you can't stifle Brady, have him literally guessing and putting balls up for grabs, take an 8-point lead in your own stadium at home and lose.

I thought the coaches should take a brunt of the responsibility for both failures.

Anyway, the games Sunday should rock. I have no idea who wins either - this league is straight up crazy - but it's hard to see Belichick not finding a way to get in BBM's head, especially with the chump-like way he has been playing and given his history of postseason flops. In the NFC, I love Wilbon as much as the next guy, but how can you not root for the Saints?

-0-

Random Junk: Chuck E. Cheese is slowly sapping my will to live. This mouse - and his female companion who looks like some kind of deranged fowl - has captured Chloe's imagination (three trips there in a 10-day span, two of which bear the fingerprints of her grandparents, could explain why) and now her parents are paying for it. She asks to see Chuck, who she is absolutely convinced is a bear by the way, and, in particular, the singing Duck who stands a few feet down on stage, all day long. But with the magic of the internet, I'm in luck. There are some crazy sites devoted to this decaying restaurant chain, with old commercials and in-store video and home videos taken at old birthday parties.

So I crank up the You Tube, absorb a bit of an auditory beating while Chuck's band kicks out the jams as only they can, but do so lovingly since it seems to make Chloe's day. (The whole underground Chuck E. Cheese scene is bizarre, though, with people paying like $800 for old tokens from the 70s and stuff. I can see where at one time, 25 years ago, this set up was at the vanguard of kiddie entertainment, but to watch the old footage makes it clear just how little innovation has gone into the stores since.)

There has been one positive to come from all of this, however. For all of Chuck's repertoire up there on that outdated, defective stage, his band's rendition of "I Want You To Want Me," thankfully, has become Chloe's favorite. The other night I swear to all things holy she made me play it like 12 straight times while she danced and said "I Want Me! I Want Me!" Without a doubt, "At Budokan" is her favorite album of all-time. So, as far as I'm concerned, that immediately makes her the coolest 23-month old on the planet. She's got good taste in music, what can I say. I'm trying to get her to branch out to other tracks, and I think "Surrender" is starting to grow on her. With all the "mommy" and "daddy" in the chorus I figured it would be right in her wheelhouse ...

While on the topic of kid's music - and so much of it truly does make you want to swallow a dictionary - I thought I would throw out a few recommendations. Dan Zanes, who used to be in the Del Fuego's, does some great stuff for kids. All of his albums stand up well musically, he covers a lot of old folk songs and there is a real vibe of energy in his stuff. Chloe loves it and her friends do too. Worth checking out.

Also, my favorite in this genre so far is the "ABC" disc put out by They Might Be Giants. I used to like those guys back in the day, and the stuff they do for kids is way ahead of its time. It's worth getting the entire DVD. The writing is as clever as ever, the melodies are filled with hooks and the music is tight. Definitely educational, and it won't drive you crazy popping it in the CD player on lengthy trips with the kids.

By Jason La Canfora  |  January 18, 2007; 7:00 AM ET
 
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