While contemplating the enormous amount of sports that I watched over the weekend, I stumbled on an interesting palate of similarities that exist between two of my favorite teams.
The CSU volleyball team played in two very entertaining matches last weekend. The match against BYU on Friday was especially intriguing because it went to five games and the Rams were extremely close to pulling off another last second miracle. Alas, they were thwarted in the end by three consecutive errors and lost the final game 15-12.
The Rams played with two separate identities on that night. And this, even above the very good performance by the Cougars, cost the Rams the match.
The first identity the Rams came out with was a spike-everything-in-sight-into-the-ground identity. They were nearly flawless in the first game. They passed well, their timing was on, they had only three attack errors, they were putting blocks up, and most importantly they were serving well. The control they demonstrated in that first game was awarded by a 30-19 win, which made this match seem like a shoe-in.
This is where the aforementioned other team enters the picture. I’ve been watching my beloved Broncos for nearly 20 years now, and they too often exhibit separate identities, particularly on offense.
When the Bronco offense is running at its full potential, there are few defenses in the NFL that can stop it. The offensive line is creating holes for runners and putting up good pass protection for its less than consistent quarterback. The said quarterback is comfortable in the pocket and his receivers are running nearly perfect timing routes. The use of the short timing patterns forces the defense to drop into cover two, which pushes the defense’s safeties back and gives the running backs room to make big plays.
Oh, if it were just that easy all of the time.
In the second and third games of Friday night’s volleyball match, the second identity reared its ugly head and the Rams dug themselves into a hole that they could not claw their way out of.
Everything seemed to be working against the Rams. Their service returns became sloppy, which led to bad passing, which made it harder for the best setter in the conference to put the ball in good positions for the hitters. Thus, the timing of the hitters was shaken, and many important scoring opportunities were missed. The Rams had 22 attack errors in the second and third games, while the Cougars only put up 10. The Cougars began putting themselves in much better positions to block, and were successful on out-blocking the Rams (something that rarely happens) in those two games.
Because the Rams were taken out of their offensive rhythm, they began to make other mistakes. Service errors caused major problems. Miscommunication occurred on a few plays, and free balls that could have been turned into scoring opportunities were wasted.
The Broncos also have offensive breakdowns that cause them demise. More often than not, it occurs when the pass rush gets too intense, and the less-than-consistent quarterback wets his proverbial pants.
The less-than-consistent quarterback is very smart in calm and cool situations, but when he gets scared, he can do little more than this lowly column writer to get his team out of a jam.
Once his timing has been shaken, his receivers can do little to compensate for his bad throws. Since the rhythm of the passing game has been disrupted, the defense can cheat their safeties up, and use them to contain the running backs. The only way to break out of this is to throw the ball downfield to try and spread out the defense. The less-than-consistent quarterback has major qualms with throwing the ball downfield and often gives the ball to the other team.
In essence, when both of these teams are at the top of their respective games and are playing with focus and confidence, they can beat any team they play. But often the mental errors that get in the way are what keep these teams from excelling in their sport.
The Rams are young. They have a lot to learn, and by 2004 they will probably be among the best teams in the nation.
The Broncos are learning as well, and are possibly a playoff team this season, but unless the less-than-consistent quarterback learns to deal with pressure, Super Bowl Supremacy is not going to be in the near future.