Archives for posts with tag: James Bond 007


Sir Roger Moore wasn’t the first actor to play James Bond, but the charming gentleman turned out to be the longest-tenured–and for a generation was the 007 they grew up watching.  In an era before VHS, this was the Bond you saw in the theater and heavily edited for television on ABC.  His was the voice you heard if you read the books.  And unlike Connery who publicly chafed at being typecast in the series, Moore proudly wore the tuxedo and basked in the 007 spotlight.

In the aftermath of Sir Roger’s passing, one looks at his body of work as James Bond.  He came to the role in the early 1970’s when the producers had already tried to recast 007 with an unknown, with less than desirable results (“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” grossed less than the previous four films in the series).  Connery returned for “Diamonds Are Forever”, but it was clear he would never return to the role (see the 1983 film “Never Say Never Again”).  For a while in this stretch American (gasp!) actors were considered to take the role of the British super-spy…let’s just say the series could have gone in several different directions at the time.

Moore brought a fresh face (despite being three years older than Connery, Roger looked about ten years younger than Sean in 1973) and a certain style to the role.  If one compares the two, Connery was more of a between the tackles fullback type of 007 while Moore was a graceful halfback on the perimeter.  Sean provided power, while Roger fielded finesse.  One made the easy things look hard, while the other made the hard things look easy.  But both got the job done.

The new direction of the series followed the lead of its lead actor, from a grittier series laden with gadgets and the occasional witty aside to gadgets, asides, bigger sets and lighter moments with the occasional grit.  It was probably a smart move to create a different Bond that wouldn’t have to compete with Sean Connery’s shadow.  And Moore would wind up surpassing his friend in tenure and movies made (7 “official” films to Connery’s 6).

The actor who plays James Bond is often at the mercy of his material;  it’s tough to make ice cream out of garbage (although I’m sure Q has a gadget somewhere which does that).  It took a while for the series to hit its stride with Roger Moore in the role:  “Live and Let Die” and “The Man with the Golden Gun” both feel more like “thermometer films” (reflecting Blaxploitation and Kung Fu movies of the day) than “thermostat films”.  “The Spy Who Loved Me”  brought big Bond back in spades- and while “Moonraker” made more money and “For Your Eyes Only” was a better film, this is the quintessential Moore movie (his “Goldfinger”, as it were).  After trying to play off “Star Wars” with “Moonraker”, 007 came back to earth with “For Your Eyes Only”.  It’s a shame that wasn’t Sir Roger Moore’s exit from the role, because it would have been a great way to go out.

Initially that was supposed to be his final bow, but Sean Connery returning to a role he said he’d never take again in “Never Say Never Again” forced the producers to cough up an offer Sir Roger Moore couldn’t refuse for “Octopussy”.  He’d even return for “A View to a Kill”, which was a great song that deserved a much better movie.

So without further ado–ranking Roger’s 007 turns as 007…:


7–The Man with the Golden Gun, 1974.  These ratings are fluid, and I keep on rotating the bottom three depending on my moods of the day.  From Lulu’s up-tempo song to sheriff J.W. Pepper’s unwelcome cameo, this feels like a bad remake of “Live and Let Die”.  And there’s no big battle at the end, just Bond and the villain running around a funhouse.  Even more dated than Moore’s outfits:  the energy crisis subplot.  Raised Eyebrow:  the gun is the original “transformer”, made of a pen, lighter and cigarette case.  Rolled Eyes: Tatoo from “Fantasy Island” is a henchman.  “Da Plane!”.

6–A View to a Kill, 1985.  The series was running on fumes, and having a 58-year old play the ultimate action hero is not the way to provide pep.  Christopher Walken and Grace Jones were bright spots in an otherwise lame film.  Tanya Roberts is a less than awesome Bond Girl.  And playing the Beach Boys made casting Timothy Dalton a good idea for 15 minutes. Raised Eyebrow:  Duran Duran delivers one of the best songs of the series.  Rolled Eyes:  there was a dog-robot at the end.  Honestly.

5–Moonraker, 1979.  Ripped for being rather juvenile, but it tries to be bigger than Golden Gun and features a younger Moore which gives it the edge over the previous two films.  It’s basically “The Spy Who Loved Me”, but in outer space.  Michael Lonsdale is a decent villain, but Jaws with a girlfriend takes whatever terror he provided out of the equation.  Bonus points for the late Bernard Lee’s last turn as M.  Raised Eyebrow:  there’s a fantastic fight in a glass factory, and another one on an aerial tramway in Rio.  Rolled Eyes: there’s also a gondola chase in Venice that ends with the gondola becoming a hovercraft.


4–Live and Let Die, 1973.  They wrote the script not knowing who would be 007, just with the instructions of keeping things light like they did in “Diamonds Are Forever”.  The Tarot Card motif is pretty cool and there are a few car and boat chases, plus an alligator farm.  And the theme song!  The lack of Bond identity hurts this film, and J.W. Pepper as a redneck sheriff is cute if you happen to be 8 years old.  Raised Eyebrow:  007’s race across a back of alligators.  Rolled Eyes: the villain blows up like a balloon at the end.


3–Octopussy, 1983.  Many view this entry as one part 60’s seriousness combined with one part 70’s fluff.  There’s  a yo-yo saw to add tension, but also 007 swinging and shouting like Tarzan.  Louis Jourdan makes a solid villain, and it’s nice to actually see Roger Moore hit on a woman his own age (or at least within two decades).  A sassy pre-credits sequence gets things going and there’s another countdown to armegeddon 007 has to foil.  Lamest theme song of the series.  Raised Eyebrow:  the train ride to the US base.  Rolled Eyes:  Q joining 007 for a raid on the villain’s lair.

2–The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977.  Hold on–that year had Star Wars, Smokey and the Bandit and this movie???  Basically a riff off “You Only Live Twice”, but when you haven’t had a “traditional caper” checking all of the boxes in ten years the heart grows fond for a little formula.  Precisely the movie I wish they’d let Daniel Craig make, instead of what amount to four origin stories.  From the world in danger to a great ski chase, from a well-written villain to a big battle, Moore never did it better.  Raised Eyebrow:  the pre-credits ski chase was the best of the decade…and Carly Simon’s theme song answers the challenge.  Rolled Eyes: first appearance by Victor Tourjansky  in the series as “guy who is drinking during a 007 car/gondola/ski chase and double-checks his bottle to make sure he can believe his eyes”. 

1– For Your Eyes Only, 1981.  Probably next to “From Russia With Love” as the best Cold War tale in the entire series.  An older, wearier Bond has more than a few tough moments.  Moore has a good cast to work with, the action scenes are realistic and the gadgets don’t get in the way of a good story.  For those who wanted the perfect mix of seriousness and commercial appeal, I refer to 007 late in the film: “That’s détente, comrade:  you don’t have it…and I don’t have it.”  Raised Eyebrows:  the villain tries to kill 007 by running him over the reefs.  Rolled Eyes:  the pre-credits sequence starts strong but slides into silliness.  The 70’s weren’t over just yet.





Twenty-first century college football is a quarterback’s game.  While great runningbacks will dazzle and occasionally win the Heisman Trophy, they’re a dime-a-dozen in an era where the air attack reigns supreme.  Where once having a great quarterback was the cherry on top of a team’s sundae…not having a competent one in 2016 is the equivalent of melted ice cream.  Look no further than the four area FBS schools.  Virginia and Virginia Tech started transfers at the position this fall:  Jerod Evans (64% completions and 24 touchdowns to 5 interceptions) is a major reason Justin Fuente’s first season in Blacksburg has been bountiful while Kurt Benkert’s fade against ACC foes (7 TD and 5 INT in his last five games) sealed another struggling season in Charlottesville.  Meanwhile, Maryland and Navy both had senior signalcallers go down with injury this fall…and while Will Worth was able to pick up the slack when Tago Smith tore his ACL (1259 yards passing and 1074 yards rushing with 29 total touchdowns for the former backup), the Terps backups haven’t been able to sustain Perry Hills’ early-season success.  Not Tyrrell Pigrome, not Caleb Rowe and not Max Bortenschlager-who may have a career pending as a villain’s henchman in the next James Bond film.  The success of DJ Durkin at Maryland and Bronco Mendenhall at Virginia will hinge on many factors, but one is certainly going to be finding the right quarterback for 2017.


FCS Update- congratulations to James Madison and Richmond…both playoff bound.  The Dukes (10-1, 8-0 CAA) earned a first-round bye and will play the winner of Lehigh and New Hampshire.  Richmond (8-3, 5-3 CAA) despite a season-ending loss to William & Mary will entertain North Carolina A & T Saturday.  Incidentally, the “Competent Quarterback Corollary ” trickles down to FCS as the Dukes’ Bryan Schor and the Spiders’ Kyle Lauletta ranked 1-2 in their conference in passing efficiency.


Alma Mater Update- Syracuse prepares for a winter’s hibernation after Saturday’s loss to Florida State.  One more game in Dino Babers’ inaugural campaign…and one more Saturday to be somber before one can get excited about the men’s basketball team that has a chance to be really special.


Maryland (5-6, 2-6 Big Ten) concluded its November Nightmare with a 28-7 loss at Nebraska.  When first glancing at the 2016 schedule one saw the distinct possibility of needing a win over Rutgers to become bowl-eligible…and while the way they’ve arrived (one thought they’d lose to Michigan State while beating Minnesota or Indiana) that’s exactly where the Terps are.

Terrapin Triumphs:  Sophomore DJ Moore caught 6 passes for 124 yards and the team’s lone touchdown.  Linebacker Shane Cockerille tallied 11 tackles and 2 sacks.  Wade Lees averaged over 40 yards per punt…and his leg hasn’t fallen off after punting 16 times the last two weeks.

Terrapin Troubles:  the offensive line allowed five sacks…and even with that yardage accounted for the running game was held to 46 yards on 20 carries.  The defense allowed three touchdowns and a missed field goal on Nebraska’s four 1st half possessions…putting the offense into a must-pass position with a freshman QB.

Next: 12 noon Saturday vs Rutgers (2-9, 0-8).


Virginia Tech (8-3, 5-2 ACC) rallied in the fourth quarter to win 34-31 at Notre Dame.  While not factoring in the Coastal Division race (they still need a win over Virginia or a North Carolina loss to NC State), the victory purges a little of the pain from the previous week’s stumbling loss to Georgia Tech.

Hokie Highlights:  Jerod Evans continues to be Exhibit A in the “finding the right QB to run your offense” mandate, this week throwing for two touchdowns while running for a third.  The defense held Notre Dame to 4-14 on third down…as Andrew Motuapuaka led the way with 11 tackles.  Joey Slye booted a pair of clutch field goals in the fourth quarter on the road.

Hokie Humblings:  another sluggish start had Virginia down three possessions in the first half.  The defense did allow 200 yards rushing and failed to force a turnover.  And beating Notre Dame in South Bend is no way to convince the Fighting Irish to ever joining the ACC as a football member.

Next: 12 noon Saturday vs Virginia (2-9, 1-6).


Virginia (2-9, 1-6 ACC) for the fourth straight week saw a lead in the first half dissolve into another defeat…this time a 31-17 loss at Georgia Tech.  Matt Johns played the role of the ghost of quarterbacks past…and the season mercifully will end Thanksgiving weekend.  To quote Tiny Tim, “God bless us, everyone!”.

Cavalier Congrats:  Taquan Mizzell, you deserved better during your stay in Charlottesville.  The senior rushed for 131 yards and caught 6 passes.  Junior Doni Dowling grabbed a career-high 9 receptions.  The defense held the Yellow Jackets to 2-10 on third down.

Cavalier Concerns:  Matt Johns threw three interceptions…including a fourth quarter dagger that was returned for a touchdown.  Backbreaking plays killed the defense, as Georgia Tech’s offensive touchdowns came on runs of 60 and 67 yards as well as a 54 yard pass. Sam Hayward missed two of three field goal attempts.

Next: 12 noon Saturday at Virginia Tech (8-3, 5-2).


Navy (8-2, 6-1 AAC) clinched the West Division title with a 66-31 thumping of East Carolina.  They’ll face either South Florida or Temple December 3rd for the conference title; the Owls own the tiebreaker with the Bulls.

Midshipman Medals:  Will Worth proved his again, rushing for 159 yards and 4 touchdowns.  The team tallied 480 yards on the ground.  Justin Norton led the defense with 8 tackles.

Midshipman Miscues:  the defense did allow 30+ points for the fourth time in their last six games.  There’s no chance that will come back to haunt coach Ken Niumatalolo in the conference championship game or against Army…right?

Next: 3:30 Saturday at SMU (5-6, 3-4).

Previously appearing on WTOP.COM amidst our “Countdown to SPECTRE”.


October is usually when things begin to cool outside (or if you’re at Syracuse, when the sun disappears for six months).  In college football, the local forecast is a major heat wave to various seats in Charlottesville, College Park and perhaps even Blacksburg.  All three coaches face pivotal stretches in their tenures with the knowledge that quite a bit of their job security is out of their hands.  Recruits can de-commit for the silliest of reasons.  New administrators can be on different pages–or even different books than the program previously in place.  The invisible hands of boosters and big donors often obscures actual achievement on the field and in the classroom.  Anything can happen.  Not five years ago Ralph Friedgen was voted ACC Coach of the Year, only to get fired a few weeks later.  Will the coaching carousel be far behind?  And do we measure the hot seat in fahrenheit, celsius or kelvin?


Maryland– Randy Edsall is 22-33 in four-plus seasons…20-23 since 2011.  Case for Cool: he’s improved recruiting locally and piloted the transition of the program from a basketball-first league (ACC) to a league known more for football (Big Ten).  Last fall the Terps won at Penn State and beat Michigan for the first time in schol history.  The Heat is On:  last season’s meltdown to Rutgers began a 2-5 stretch where the Terrapins have been blown out 4 times, most embarrassingly by Bowling Green.  The much-improved recruiting leaves the offense without a legitimate wide receiver…and he’s yet to bring in a quality quarterback (CJ Brown was a leftover from the Ralph Friedgen era).  Attendance isn’t much better than it was during the last years of Friedgen.


Virginia– Mike London is 24-41 in five-plus years…12-28 since 2011.  Case for Cool:  the Cavaliers have brought in plenty of players who are now competing at the NFL level despite the rigorous academic standards often mentioned at UVa.  They’ve more than held their own in losses to nationally ranked UCLA and Notre Dame over the last few seasons.  The Heat is On:  they barely beat William & Mary and could be on track for a fourth 8-loss season in London’s tenure.  Quarterbacking has been a disaster, with yearly controversies yielding to transfers who fare better elsewhere (Greyson Lambert).  They have also yet to beat Virginia Tech.  That one especially smarts in Charlottesville.


Virginia Tech– Frank Beamer is 276-138-4 in 28-plus campaigns…but 25-20 since 2011.  Case for Cool:  the man is an icon.  He built a middling independent that was a gimmee game for major programs into a New Year’s Day regular.  Beamer brought his program into the ACC and won 4 league titles in 7 seasons– more than Virginia, Wake Forest or Georgia Tech. He’s a proud alumnus of the school…and has beaten Virginia 11 straight seasons.  The Heat is On:  a 2-3 start lends the belief to another second-tier season in the ACC’s second-tier division (no offense to aficionados of the Coastal, but there’s not Clemson or Florida State).  The offense has been mired in mediocrity since Logan Thomas took his talents to the NFL…and they weren’t even that good his last two years in Blacksburg.  The soft shoe dancing around ending Beamer’s regime with dignity begins.


Alma Mater Update– the Orange are 3-1 entering this weekend’s trip to South Florida.  Recommendations for any Tampa trip include Lee Roy Selmon’s Restaurant.  Can SU continue their solid September (3-1) play with back to back wins on the road?  I’m smelling another Pinstripe Bowl banner, friends.  Bring on the wings with bleu cheese!


Maryland at #1 Ohio State– the Buckeyes boast the Big Ten’s leading rusher in Ezekiel Elliott (7+ yards per carry and 145+ yards per game) while the Terps own the league’s 14th ranked run defense.  They head to Columbus with questions surrounding coach Randy Edsall’s long and short-term status, never ideal when you’re headed to the Horseshoe.  There’s also a question mark surrounding who quarterbacks this week:  Daxx Garman, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe all listed as tri-number ones on the depth chart.  Each has shown glimpses of possibility while also displaying the unfortunate warning flags.  Terrapin quarterbacks have thrown a total of 15 interceptions this fall,  or already one more than all of last season. Buckeyes in a blowout, 44-14.


Virginia at Pitt– the Cavaliers begin ACC play after a 1-3 September where they lost to three teams currently ranked in the top 25…and beat and FCS school.  So they might actually be much better than their record, or perhaps the one-possession win over William & Mary is more telling.  What will turn this year around is turnovers– UVa has yet to tally a takeaway this fall.  The Panther’s lone loss this fall is to an unbeaten Iowa team that’s taking the Big Ten by storm (albeit the Big Ten West)…and even after losing returning ACC Player of the Year James Conner to injury haven’t missed a beat with runningback Qadree Ollison averaging over 7 yards a carry.  They didn’t look great in last week’s four-point win at Virginia Tech…but you don’t have necessarily be great to be better than Virginia.    Cavaliers come up short, 28-16.


Navy visits #15 Notre Dame– the recipe is there for an upset.  The Fighting Irish are crestfallen after a heartbreaking loss at Clemson…and they didn’t look that great in one-possession wins over Georgia Tech and Virginia.  Keenan Reynolds has carved up team after team this fall…and the senior has the unbeaten Midshipmen in the middle of a historic season.  Can the Navy defense contain a Fighting Irish attack that boasts both power and speed?  Midshipmen miss making a miracle happen, falling 31-27.


Georgetown beats Lafayette, James Madison tops Towson, William & Mary falls at Villanova, Richmond edges Elon.

Last Week:  7-1.  Bounceback time!  Unless this is another “isolated incident”.

Overall: 36-7.

If there’s one thing about the current Redskins Regime under Team President Bruce Allen, it’s that they don’t just win preseason games–they dominate.  Since taking over for Vinny Cerrato, Allen’s Skins have won 16 of 21 tuneups– and 14 of their last 17.  For the sixth straight year the Burgundy and Gold kicked off the preseason with a victory– as Thursday’s 20-17 win at Cleveland saw the club rally from a double digit deficit to bring home another hard-earned win.  Get those banner designs ready, my friends…

Only the Preseason is not about wins and losses.  It’s about how your team is playing and who is staying healthy.  Looking at that, the victory over the Browns is a decided mixed bag.

Tight End Terrors– Niles Paul’s broken ankle ends #84’s season before it begins.  They’re already minus Logan Paulsen and his sprained big toe…while Jordan Reed’s hamstring issues won’t go away.  That trio combined for 102 catches in 2014 (28% of the team’s receptions)…and although this is a train driven by DeSean and Garcon, the offense needs a viable threat at tight end to move the chains consistently.

Quarterback Carousel– Robert Griffin III completed 4 of 8 passes (despite Garcon’s drop in the end zone) for 36 yards while scrambling for a first down as well.  Backup Kirk Cousins hit 12 of 14 attempts for 154 yards while running for a 4-yard score.  Colt McCoy made 4 of 6 throws for 33 yards while running 3 times for 13 yards.  Not a bad first night for the triumvirate…although one would have like to see RG3 throw his first preseason TD pass since 2012.  Cousins looked the best, but remember he took the bulk of his snaps against 2nd and 3rd stringers.  McCoy was serviceable mopping up in the 4th quarter– and will get the 2nd and 3rd quarter snaps next week.

Running Rivalry– could Mr. Morris finally have his Slater?  Alfred Morris ran 8 times for 42 yards (including an 18 yard scamper on a 3rd and 1) while rookie Matt Jones gained 38 yards on 5 tries.  Chris Thompson and Trey Williams looked sharp as well--while Silas Redd left with a knee injury (MRI Friday).

Third and Encouraging– the Skins went 6-13 at moving the chains:  RG3 converting 2-5, Cousins 3-4, McCoy 1-4.  Griffin advanced the marker with his feet and arm… scrambling for a 3-yard gain on 3rd & 2 while hitting Ryan Grant for a 9-yard pass on 3rd & 5.  The only time Cousins failed to advance the chains was on a 3rd and 25.  One of McCoy’s 3rd downs was a clock-killing run by Mack Brown.  Down by distance:  they converted 3 of 4 short yardage (1-3 yards needed) attempts, 3 of 7 medium range (4-6 yards needed) and 0-2 long range (7+ yards necessary).

Defensive Diagnosis– the unit that ranked 20th last year began August by surrendering touchdown drives two of the first three times they were on the field (the third time made possible by a fumbled punt return).  But after a shaky start, the D settled in and wound up getting off the field on 10 of 13 third downs.  The pass rush generated 5 sacks…(with rookie Preston Smith notched 6 tackles and a sack) and Akeem Davis grabbed a 4th quarter interception.  At least we don’t have to debate the merits of former Coordinator Jim Haslett.

Special Teams at Last?– okay, the fumbled punt return was not ideal, but Chris Thompson tallied a 32 yard kickoff return and a 9 yard punt return.  Kick coverage held the Browns to under 30 yards per return (with a 54-yard scamper by Darius Jennings the outlier)…and no punts were returned.  Tress Way averaged just under 40 yards per punt and nothing blatantly embarrassing happened (blocked kicks, slippery snaps, swinging gates).

Cobra Kai– Everybody’s favorite bully sweeps the leg again in fine fashion– nailing field goals from 33 and 52 yards.  Ty Long handled the extra points.  Or given the new distance, extra extra points.

Coming this season– the new James Bond film, “Spectre”, will be released this fall.  Much like I went on 007 tangents in 2012 with “Skyfall”, I’ll stumble through 50-years worth of J.W. Pepper ramblings this fall.  So we’ve got that going for us…

From 3-5 to 3-10.  From gaining traction to being under a tractor.  A 45-10 loss to Kansas City that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.  Thankfully, Burgundy and Gold Nation has at its disposal the “Kübler-Ross model” aka the “five stages of grief” to accompany the current slide.   The Minnesota come from ahead loss?  Denial:  “that didn’t just happen…the Skins couldn’t have coughed up a 13 point lead to a 1-7 team”.  The Philadelphia defeat?  Anger: “how could they start so slow again…and who was RG3 throwing to?”.  The smackdown by San Francisco?  Bargaining:  “if they could just play a full 60 minutes in all three phases, the Skins might be able to make a run…”.  The collapse against the NY Giants?  Depression: “they blew a double-digit lead AGAIN?  And clinch their way out of the playoffs with FOUR games to go?  Life sucks…”  Sunday’s loss to Kansas City?  Acceptance:  “WOW.  This team is rudderless…and beyond bad.  Ten losses for the seventh time in eleven seasons.  Last year’s turnaround was a mirage after all.  And who knows when things will get better?“.

Now turnarounds happen– and there’s been many a team that’s gone from 10+ losses to the playoffs in one season.  Witness the Skins last year.  But the current cloud that hangs over the owner, coach, and quarterback only masks more than a few things that demand attention–this is not a good football team.  This team does not execute well in any phase of the game…and things may get worse (maybe much worse) before they get better.  Perhaps Pepper Rodgers is available.

Special Teams Execution?  I’m all for it— Dexter McCluster returned 7 punts for 177 yards…and his first three changed the tone of the game.  Return #1 was 57 yards and gave the Chiefs the ball at the Washington 13…five plays later KC had its first touchdown of the day.  Return #2 was a 24 yarder that put the ball on the Redskins 41…and five plays later the Chiefs reached the endzone again.  Return #3 came after a Quentin Demps fumble return for a score was overturned on replay:  instead the Skins punted and McCluster ran the ball back 74 yards–giving Kansas City a 31-0 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the second quarter.  But don’t feel bad for Demps:  he returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score later in the quarter.  Beyond abominable.

RG3ver– the face of the franchise completed 12 of 26 passes for 164 yards…one touchdown and one interception…while running 4 times for 29 yards.  The pick set up the Kansas City touchdown that made the score 17-0.  Although he did lead the Skins on two late first half drives,  RG3 went 1 for 8 in the second half and gave way to Kirk Cousins…who in a 7-16 for 59 yards performance further entrenched himself as a #2.  As in “not #1”.

Alfred the Invisible– 12 carries for 31 yards.  Granted, this is the one game during the slide when not using Mr. Morris in the second half made perfect sense.  But there is great news!  Zack passed the 1,000 yard plateau…but much like the Palm Springs Weekend where the focus was on Jessie’s accepting her father’s new wife and Slater getting together with a foreign princess (?), another week saw another Morris performance go with minimal notice.

Passive Protection– another rough day for the offensive line:  6 sacks, running the total allowance to 24 over the last 5 weeks.  It’s very tough to produce in the passing game  when you’re lying flat on your back.

Third and Why are we doing this?– the Skins went 3-15 in moving the chains…0-7 after halftime.  RG3 went 4-8 with 3 conversions…while scrambling twice to no avail and getting sacked once.  Kirk Cousins went 1-3 with Logan Paulsen fumbling his one completed pass.  The yardage breakdown:  1-3 on short (1-3 yards needed), 1-4 on midrange (4-6) and 1-8 on third and long (7+ yards necessary).  Once again the majority of third downs come with 7+ yards needed…more of an indictment on first and second down.

Defense Dismal– missed tackles when it mattered.  Turning an ordinary Alex Smith into something special (7 of his first 9 attempts for 80 yards and a TD).  No sacks.  And only three more weeks.

Cobra Kai–  Mr. Forbath connects on a 50 yard field goal (career long) and his lone extra point attempt…but was an afterthought like Billy Zabka in the TV series “The Equalizer”.  How can you bully teens on a CBS drama with a Sean Connery knockoff starring as an investigator?  No mercy, indeed.

Flying Flags– four penalties for 27 yards.  Two holds:  one on a kickoff return that pushed a 1st & 10 from the W14 to the W7…the other turning a 3rd & 2 into a 2nd and 17, effectively setting up a punt.  Ryan Kerrigan’s illegal contact helped set up a KC (missed) field goal attempt.  A neutral zone infraction during an extra point attempt against Perry Riley only affected where the ensuing kickoff was teed up.

Dissecting the Division– Philadelphia’s win plus Dallas’ loss leapfrogs the Eagles ahead of the Cowboys into first place of the NFC East…as Philly gets the #3 seed and a first round game with San Francisco (at least it’s at home).  Dallas drops to 9th in the conference…losing the tiebreaker with Chicago.  The NY Giants hold down 3rd in the East, and 11th in the NFC…but are eliminated from the playoffs because even if they were to finish in a 3-way tie with Philly and Dallas at 8-8, they wouldn’t hold the tiebreaker (the Cowboys would).  The Redskins?  Tied with Atlanta for last in the NFC– and they face the Falcons next weekend.  A Giants win or a Skins loss over the last three weeks clinches a last place finish in the NFC East for the fifth time in six years.  Where are the Cardinals when you really need them?

Divisions of Dominance…and Depression– the NFC West remains #1 at 33-19…two games better than its AFC counterpart.  The AFC South remains the gang that can’t shoot straight (19-33) with Jacksonville actually the hottest team in the division.  The NFC/SEC?  7th at 23-29…and the division’s 5-11 mark against the AFC is one reason why the NFC isn’t pulling away in the interconference contest (they still lead 31-27 with six games remaining).

I grew up an hour north of Boston.  I’ve covered the Marathon.  My sister was on the same block as the explosions yesterday…and my cousin’s wife was at the finish line with her 1 and 3 year old until a half hour before the blasts.  One reason why I fell into sports journalism is that it’s fun…aka the toy department… and I can try to be mildly amusing when talking about Toronto playing Tampa Bay by saying “You can call them Rays, you can call them Jays”.  Again, the focus is more on mild than amusing.  But one can’t be sarcastic about train accidents, trials or war.  I’m the comedic relief.  It’s tough when the nasty world invades my own…I was covering Otto Porter Jr’s announcement he was headed to the NBA when the Marathon went from sporting spectacle to a day of disaster.  I scrambled to reach my sister and although she was safe she was understandably shaken.  I’ve heard her happy and sad over the years–but never in terror…and as a big brother that shook the hell out of me.  I feel for the victims.  I’m happy friends and family are safe.  And I hope justice comes in finding who’s responsible for this.  Now it’s time for another press conference (Maryland’s Alex Len going pro)…and afternoon drive updates on WTOP, where I try to be mildly amusing.  To paraphrase Lorne Michaels and Rudy Guiliani, “Can I be funny?”–“Why start now?”.

Miami makes everything go down better– Seems as thought all the Nationals needed was a trip to South Beach to cure their recent ills…getting swept by Atlanta. It’s a long season, but it’s never good to be broomed at home by one of your division rivals.  Bullpen issues (13th in the National League in OBP, 14th SLG, 3rd in blown saves) catching injuries (Ramos on the shelf in a strange sense of deja vu) and the inability to beat playoff teams (1-5 against teams that made the 2013 postseason) have to temper whatever Nattitude was as full steam after the opening series sweep of the AAA Miami Marlins.  I almost want to downgrade the Marlins to a minor league city like “Dade County Dipsy Doodles” until they get their act together.  And with another three-spot against this mess of a franchise, the Marlins may be the worst thing for this club right now–giving the Nats false confidence when they still have a ways to go to get back to last year’s level.  If you win, so what– these are the Marlins.  And when you can’t beat the worst team in the league like Tuesday night, what are you to do?  A key early stretch is on the horizon–from April 22nd to May 2nd the Nats play 11 games against St. Louis, Cincinnati and Atlanta.  Brace yourselves.

Capital Blossoms– last week I compared the Capitals to the Cherry Blossoms in DC… blooming in early April before becoming an afterthought by mid-May.  Now they have been on a tear as of late… but how much of that is a byproduct of being in the softest division of the NHL (let the record show they are 14-3 against the Southeast Division)? Can this team compete effectively over a seven game series against a legitimately good team?  Tuesday’s 5-1 thumping of Toronto was the 10th out of division win for the team this season (10-14-2) in 26 games…how tired were the Maple Leafs after last night’s 2-0 win over New Jersey?  In a season that’s given us plenty of schedule quirks (like consecutive nights in Winnipeg)… the Caps have started a five game stretch against teams from Canada.  But more importantly they play their final three games at home–including a duel with second place Winnipeg Tuesday April 23rd (Jets trail the Caps by 4 points with 5 games remaining).  Eight straight wins… is there any room left on the bandwagon?

Moving Days– Sophomores Otto Porter, Jr. and Alex Len declare for the NBA one day apart while Georgetown and Maryland wish them well.  Coach John Thompson III wasn’t shocked:  “We weren’t caught off guard…we expected Otto to move on after this year.”  Coach Mark Turgeon knew it was time:  “Alex has been a pro since he set foot on campus…the way the practices, the way he takes care of himself”.  While the Hoyas and Terps would be much better next winter with Porter and Len, the lure of first round guaranteed money was too good to pass up.  Even if the 7-foot-1 Len turns out to be a project.  Even if Porter has trouble finding minutes or an ideal position for his skill set.  Each coach heralds their respective sophomore’s work ethic…which is a huge key in making the transition from college to pro basketball.  One hopes they find their way to solid organizations with non-cancerous locker rooms where they can learn, grow and thrive.

Masters– Ah, yes. Tiger’s drop and a 14 year old’s tardiness overshadowed the best weekend for an Australian since George Lazenby landed the role of James Bond.  Tiger tailed off after being in the hunt for most of the first two rounds. Was there golf karma in taking the longer drop? The US Open will be the fifth anniversary of Tiger’s most recent Major championship. Jack Nicklaus’ longest gap during his run?  He had two “droughts”– just under three years (1967-70) and just over five years (1980 PGA-1986 Masters).  One feels it’s only a matter of time before Woods wins another and with conditioning what it is now there appears to be a larger window for him to win 4 or 5 more– but for every Lee Trevino that wins a PGA at 45, there’s a Tom Watson who stops winning majors at 33.  Oh– and congratulations to Adam Scott for winning the tournament.

Standing Pat–  Broadcast legend Pat Summerall passes away at 82.  The voice of the NFL on CBS and FOX called 16 Super Bowls for the two networks over four decades.  His booming voice dominated game opens (check them out on youtube)… and his economy of words made him the perfect complement to John Madden.  In 1981, Summerall and Vin Scully were competing for the #1 play-by-play job at CBS and while Scully painted better word pictures, Summerall didn’t bring the easel as much as set the stage for Madden’s “BOOM’s” and the telestrator.  He said more in five words than most said in fifteen.  I fell for the NFL of Summerall/Madden.  And he made announcing something a 13 year old want to dream about doing.

Sometimes it takes an incredible effort to end a continued run…no matter where that run might be.  Case in point:  the Redskins are roughly as bad overall as they’ve been the last four years where they’ve finished last in the NFC East.  But the Philadelphia Eagles are so much worse– the Skins will have their hands full in trying to catch the Eagles sprint for the cellar.  It’s not impossible– but the way the Eagles have played during their six game losing streak leads one to believe the burgundy and gold may be wearing a bronze NFC East medal come January (despite their deficiencies).  Sunday’s 31-6 rout of the Eagles showcased a team that appeared to be down for the count– and it wasn’t the Redskins.

RG3ver– the rookie reached perfection Sunday– completing 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards and 4 touchdowns… resulting in a “perfect” rating of 158.3.  What bothers me about the passer rating is when broadcasters remark “I have no idea how they figure that out”– it’s rather simple.  Do you complete passes?  Do you complete passes downfield? Do you throw touchdowns?  Do you throw interceptions?  I could calculate it as a 15 year old (there was a letter to the editor in Sports Illustrated that covered the percentages).

Playing Deep– what was nice about Griffin’s day was he tossed two back breaking TD’s…from 49 and 61 yards out.  Nice to see the Skins try to stretch the field vertically.

Mr. Morris– Alfred didn’t help Screech win a Chess Tournament or hit on a homeless girl at the mall… perhaps the rookie’s 20 carries for 76 yards and recovering his own fumble is more reminiscent of when Zac and Mickey liked the same girl during the Our Miss Bliss Season:  a decent showing that builds up his overall numbers.

Pierre Plays, and Merriweather Misery– Monsieur Garcon is back on the field for the first time since October 7th and catches three passes for a total of five yards.  But at least he’s coming back next week.  Brandon Merriweather, meanwhile, takes the one-and-done award.  The safety notched an interception in his first and last game of the season… as a knee injury claims another victim.  Do we call him the George Lazenby of free agent defensive backs?*

Third Down Breakdown– the Skins converted 5 of 11 third down opportunities… and Robert Griffin III had a hand in all five conversions…including a 61 yard strike to Santana Moss that all but ended the game in the third quarter.  Looking further, one has to be concerned with the lack of success on 1st & 2nd downs… the Skins faced two 3rd and 1-3, 1 3rd and 4-6… and 8 3rd and 7+ (moving the chains four of eight times) .

Defense Does Damage– the 29th ranked unit holds the Eagles to a pair of field goals while sacking Nick Foles four times…intercepting the rookie twice and recovering a fumble.  The Skins tallied 10 points off turnovers.

Kai is kicking competently– the Skins newest kicker made the most of his lone attempt– drilling a 25-yarder at the end of the first half.  That makes Mr. Forbath 9 for 9 to start his career.

Flying Flags– 13 penalties for 80 yards can definitely impair a team’s ability to win…and fortunately for the Skins the Eagles were executing at such a miserable level the penalties didn’t come back to haunt them.  This time.

Dissecting the Division– the idle NY Giants remain atop the NFC East (#4 seed) with Dallas one step behind at 5-5 and 9th in the conference (Cowboys own the tiebreaker with New Orleans).  The Redskins own 3rd place at 4-6… while Philadelphia’s in last with the 15th best record in the NFC.

Up North– both the NFC and the AFC North’s have the best records in their conference:  the NFC North continues to separate itself from the slumping West (on a 5-13-2 run).  Meanwhile the AFC West builds up a three game lead…and while Denver looks to be a Super Bowl contender the rest of the division is dreadful.  Meanwhile the NFC inches closer to 33 1/2…now leading the AFC 27-17.

*If you were going to appear as 007 in only one movie, I would have to put OHMSS there.  Lazenby wasn’t a bad actor…he just wasn’t Connery.  But then again neither was anyone else.

Did the Redskins wave the white flag after their 21-13 loss to Carolina?  Coach Mike Shanahan’s comments after the defeat led many to believe he’d be focused on roster building for 2013 once the Skins got back on the field after their week off.  Naturally cooler heads in Burgundy and Gold Nation did not prevail and that became the issue as opposed to wondering what went wrong during the team’s third straight loss.  A defeat to a one-win team that had dropped five in a row.  Another game where the defense was gashed… and another week where the offense was held to one touchdown.  Maybe there’s something to evaluating personnel extensively over the final seven games– if only to prevent the current situation from happening again in 2013.  And in 2014.

RG3ver–  #10 wasn’t bad… but he wasn’t really that good.  Yes, the rookie threw for over 215 yards and heading into the 4th quarter was a sick 15 of 21…but he was neutralized by the Panthers defense… and while he completed 9 of 11 passes on third down… only two moved the chains (and one came after a penalty tacked onto the play).  Griffin ran for 53 yards… but couldn’t get the two that mattered in the second quarter.  But even on an off day, he’s much better than anyone playing QB since Brad Johnson.

Short Circuit– one reason why Griffin’s numbers have plateaued has been the lack of downfield threats;  with Pierre Garcon on the shelf and Fred Davis done for the year, is there anybody who can stretch the field?  Of the nine receivers who caught passes, only Leonard Hankerson (3-49) and Niles Paul (1-22) averaged even 12 yards per catch.  That clogs things up and keeps defenders closer to a scrambling quarterback.

Mr. Morris’ Bell Rating–  Alfred injured his shoulder but still finished with 76 yards rushing… moving him into the league lead with 793 on the season.  Another solid day where he wasn’t the star.  I’m feeling this is kind of like when Jessie’s new stepbrother comes to town and upstages Zack for the two-episode arc never to be seen again.

No Defense for the Defense–  where to begin?  The 4.8 yards per carry?  Just a pair of 3 and outs?  NO sacks or turnovers?  Or how about the monster plays like the 82 yard pass in the 4th quarter…yeah, I’m kind of stumped.  Every opponent’s possession is a potential nightmare.  When a safety is the leading tackler, there’s a problem.  When Ryan Kerrigan only has one assist on the day, there’s a problem.  But with the injuries sustained and the personnel that remains what do you tweak?  Unfortunately, they can’t take 4 years off and reboot the defense like the Bond series did with “Casino Royale”*.

Saved By the Whistle– the Panthers got on the scoreboard and took the lead for good in the first quarter with a 30 yard run by DeAngelo Williams… aided by an inadvertent whistle that slowed down the defenders and let the running back score untouched for the final stretch.  Thankfully the next day the league apologized and said it shouldn’t have been a touchdown.  Thanks… all the Redskins need now is a DeLorean and some Plutonium.

Third and… Let’s Just Quick Kick– the Skins went 3 for 15 at moving the chains… a paltry 20%.  Now, they did convert 3 of 5 fourth down attempts but you can’t win when you can’t move the sticks consistently… or even inconsistently.  Once again the seeds are poor performance on 1st and 2nd down:  ten of their fifteen 3rd down situations were by 7 yards or more (Skins went 1-10 thanks to a penalty).  Of the five that were 3rd and 4-6, they made the necessary yardage twice.  And no 3rd and 3 or shorter.

Dissecting the Division– after an 0-4 week everybody slides down the NFC ladder a little bit:  the division leading NY Giants are now the 4th seed… while Philadelphia holds the divisional tiebreaker over Dallas (1-0 to 1-1 NFC East record) the Eagles would have jumped to 9th in the conference with a Monday night win over New Orleans;  instead Philly’s 13th.  Dallas drops to 14th after its Sunday night loss to Atlanta…while the Redskins have only Carolina behind them in the conference standings– and we know who has the tiebreaker there.

North Stars– the NFC North remains the division to beat at 22-12… while the South has eclipsed the West on percentage points after a 4-0 week.  The NFC ‘s lead increases to double digits (23-13) as the AFC doesn’t have a division with a composite winning record (although the North and South are both close at 16-17).

*”Casino Royale” easily makes my top 5… with “Goldfinger” #1… “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” #2… “From Russia With Love” #3… and “For Your Eyes Only” #4.  Favorite Timothy Dalton film?  “License to Kill”… while “Tomorrow Never Dies” is probably my number one Brosnan.

While the DC metro area braced itself for a Hurricane/Tropical Storm/WTOP Listening Bonanza, the Redskins were dealt their worst loss of the season.  One where the offense never seemed to click and one where the defense was all to accommodating.  A 27-12 loss to Pittsburgh where the Steelers, perhaps exacting revenge on the Skins wearing burgundy on burgundy four years ago, wore uniforms that resembled the Beagle Boys from the Donald Duck comic books.  Sixty minutes of football to showcase what is right and what is wrong about this roster.  A football season is often like the theme song to a James Bond movie:  a little jazzy hook… followed by lyrical setup that rhymes with the title of the movie and then the movie title belted anywhere from 20 to 25 times during the song.  We’ve enjoyed the flashing instrumental hook that is RG3… and know the words by now: “the defense coughs up another touchdown again;  that is why– they’re 6 and 10”.*

RG3ver– the rookie suffered his worst outing of the season… completing under 50% of his passes and being held to a little over 1 yard a carry.  He also was whistled for offensive pass interference…yes, the player who almost missed a game due to a concussion was used as a wide receiver on a pass play.  Hmmm….

Damaging Drops– of course, if you took away the dropped passes from Griffin’s 16 of 34 performance he’d be completing 67% of his throws.  Sadly, such accounting only exists in my Eagle Apologist friend’s world (can’t wait for those games, White Shoes).  Ten drops?  Thank goodness Chris Cooley’s back.

Cooley Effect– Captain Chaos returned to limited action… notching no receptions on one target.  At least he has his old locker.

Alfred the Underused– #46 didn’t have a disastrous Morris outing like when Zac was busted for smashing up Dr. Turtle’s car during the Tori Season… 13 carries for 59 yards is more like when he lost the tennis girl to Screech during the College Years.  Not the best results– but with the the Steelers controlling the ball for over 18 minutes in the first half, one learns its tough to establish the run when your offense is sitting on the sidelines.

Third and Long Gone– the league’s worst team at moving the chains converted just 3 of 12 third downs… although they did make two of three fourth down attempts.  Do they get partial credit then?  This weeks breakdown:  1 for 2 on 3rd & 1-3 yards (both Morris runs:  he lost 3 yards on their first drive but gained 6 on the other attempt)… 2 for 5 on 3rd & 4-6 (a pair of 8 yard completions to Josh Morgan and Santana Moss)… and 0 for 5  on 3rd & 7+ (RG3 going 1-4 for 2 yards with one sack).  And even though Santana Moss’s best days are behind him– he remains the #1 third down option as 3 of Griffin’s 7 passes were targeted to him.

Grading the D? Actually a D sounds generous– we know the banged up bunch is ranked last in the league when it comes to stopping the pass… but Sunday the Skins showed minimal ability to contain the ground game.  Jonathan Dwyer rumbled for 107 yards and the Steelers averaged 5.2 yards a carry.  Pittsburgh scored on five of its first six possessions;  you could call their last possession in the first half a clock-killing 3 and out that just didn’t take enough time off the clock…and with 4 minutes left in regulation the Steelers burned most of the time remaining as well.  While offense was the Achilles heel last fall (reaching 28 points once), this year it’s the defense’s turn (allowing at least 22 points in every game).

D-Hall getting other “D” chants– the Skins flashiest defensive back didn’t disappoint in the style over substance category– getting ejected from the game after berating an official.  Wise man say:  one cannot be burned in the secondary if one is cooling off in the locker room.  Mr. Hall awaits discipline from the league office– which is shut down for a few days due to Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy.  So any roster adjustments the defense may have to make could very well be on the fly later this week rather than sooner.

Ahh… the Blocked Kick– I’ve learned it doesn’t matter who kicks, punts or holds for the Burgundy and Gold, the block is always lurking.  Thank goodness it was only a blocked extra point instead of a field goal returned for a TD or a punt blocked and run back.  The kicking game was this close to earning its “s” moniker again…

Dissecting the Division– the NY Giants win in Dallas means their first place advantage is now a game and a half… while Philadelphia owns the second place tiebreaker over the Cowboys due to a better record against common opponents.  The Redskins are just a half game behind in last place…in the driver’s seat to wrap up a 5th straight finish in the cellar.

North Stars…plus a wasting West– an eight week sample is usually enough to see how different divisions size up… and the NFC North has cruised ahead of the pack with a 19-11 mark…as the NFC West has gone on a 2-6 run to slip to 17-15.  Note that even with an unbeaten Atlanta the NFC South has a losing record… and no division in the AFC has a winning mark (the NFC leads the “race to 33 (interconference wins)” at 20-12).  Peyton Manning seems to have picked the right location for his rehab:  the AFC West is a league worst 11-17… with a Kansas City team that has yet to have a lead in any game this year (their lone win came in overtime against New Orleans, thus the game was over once they took the lead).

*The mold for 007 theme songs was set in 1964 with “Goldfinger”, mimicked by “Thunderball” and followed over the years up to and including Weird Al Yankovic’s “SPY HARD” parody.  The rumor persists that either Shirley Bassey or Tom Jones passed out while holding the final note to their respective songs.  “A View to a Kill” was the first theme to go #1 in the US and despite the fact the movie itself is awful, Duran Duran does it right.  “The Man with the Golden Gun” is the classic case of letting a 7th grade class cobble together verses and chorus.  What bugs me is the occasional Bond theme song that doesn’t sing the title at least 10 times.   Until you’re not only tired of the song but tired of the title and maybe even the movie itself.  Just like some Redskins seasons.

The Burgundy and Gold entered divisional play with a thrilling 27-23 loss at the defending Super Bowl champions’ field.  Unfortunately the inability to cover Victor Cruz has consequences…as does turning the ball over repeatedly in the second half.  Plus, there’s even a little injury added to the insult…and a comeback for Captain Chaos.

RG3ver– the rookie threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns… while tossing an interception and losing a fumble.  Nice moxie against the divisional bully… as we are beginning to run out of superlatives.

Alfred the Great– #46 enjoyed another stellar afternoon… rumbling for 120 yards on 22 carries.  Although he did lose a fumble, the other Redskins rookie is piecing together one solid season (averaging 87 yards a game on the ground).

The Bakery is Open– after turning the ball over four times in six weeks… the turnovers were flying out of the oven in the second half– three fumbles and an interception.  Ouch…

Triumvirate Hex?– Fred Davis was on his way to repeating 2011’s breakout campaign when the tight end tore his Achilles… abruptly ending his season after 24 catches and 325 yards (but no touchdowns).  With Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas both out of the league– perhaps the 2008 second round trio has a curse hanging over it.

Keeping  Cool with Cooley– with the team’s leading receiver out for the year, the Skins dialed up their past by inking Chris Cooley.  Following the rush of excitement surrounding #47’s return to Redskins Park, the fact that the 30 year old was released in August may start to sink in around the beltway.  After notching a career high 83 catches in 2008, Cooley missed 20 of 48 games over the next three seasons… tallying 8 receptions over 5 games last year.  Much like the 007 fans first excited by the return of Sean Connery for “Diamonds are Forever”– and then realizing he’d gained 20 pounds since “You Only Live Twice” ( a movie he was out of shape for)*.  I’m not saying Cooley is out of shape, but he’s not the player he was 4 years or even 2 years ago.

Third and Lukewarm– the Skins converted 6 of 13 third downs… beginning with a bang (4 of 5 to start) and winding up with a whimper (misfiring all 4 fourth quarter attempts).  What’s nice is that the team was in more third and short (4 of 5 on 3rd and 1-3) situations as opposed to third and long (1-4 on 3rd and 7+).  Leonard Hankerson was the surprisingly popular target (3 receptions and 1 conversion).

Grading the D?…Sounds about right– the 32nd ranked pass defense gave fans a mixed bag:  was it the unit that intercepted Eli Manning twice in the second half or the one that coughed up three straight double digit play drives for points in the first half?  The pass rush notched just one sack and the D allowed the Giants to convert 8 of 12 third downs.

Kerrigan Contained– when Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker went down to season-ending injuries… many wondered when teams would figure out a way to isolate Ryan Kerrigan.  The second year player notched just one tackle against the Giants–and with London Fletcher banged up with a leg injury, the team can ill afford to have another game where #91 is limited.

What Kicking Controversy?– Kai in week two with the team goes 3-3 on field goal attempts… with both extra points converted.  Pinch me… I’m dreaming.

Dissecting the Division– the Giants have a game and a half lead and would own the #3 seed in the NFC.  Philadelphia is in second place because of a better record than Dallas in common games… and the four-time defending cellar dwelling Skins have a half game lead for last.

North Star… and a waste in the West– the NFC North creeps past the West for the best division (16-10 to 16-12)… while the AFC West continues to drop (9-15).  The interconference contest?  A landslide looking 19-9 in favor of the NFC…with no division in the AFC owning a winning record.

*Diamonds suffered not only because Connery was past his Bond prime– but a script that played for more laughs and a foppish Blofeld with hair turned the movie from a potential revenge filled film to a lark.