NEW YORK -- Now that's what I call some drama, and some good stories.
Remember how the locals wanted to give
Just another frantic Pleasant Valley Sunday. And in my five headlines of the week, the biggest is from a 34-14 game, concerning a guy who gained seven yards all day. Off we go, around the league.
I'll tell you what I worry about with Vick. Greed. I'm not in the man's shoes, but I get a sense that at some point this year, he might want more than some Wildcat snaps and three or four passes a game. He did an interview with
That's essentially what he was in the 34-14 win over Kansas City. He played 11 plays, was 0-for-2 passing, rushed out of the direct-snap once for seven yards, played receiver one play, and handed the ball off seven times. In the next few weeks, I expect the Eagles will give him more to do; clearly against the Chiefs, he was operating a minimal package of plays.
When we talked after the game -- I hadn't spoken with him for three years -- I wanted to know if he was going to be OK with the role
I liked hearing that. It's the attitude he has to have, because this should be the year he uses as training for football and life, not the year he moves heaven and earth to try to be somebody's starting quarterback. It's not important right now.
I asked Vick if there was ever a moment in federal prison when he felt he'd never get to this day. "No, not one moment ... a thousand moments,'' he said. "Days and days and days I didn't think this would ever happen.''
At the time I spoke to Vick, our NBC
"Michael,'' said Dungy, "how'd you do?''
"It's the first time I ever had butterflies playing,'' he said.
Time will tell if Cincinnati deserves it. But it was interesting after the Bengals pulled the 23-20 stunner at home -- breaking an eight-game home losing streak to the Steelers -- to hear
Two reasons this happened. One: The Bengals played a physical game, and they have players --
The Vikings may be playing a risky game with Favre, who turns 40 in two weeks, because they don't know if he can last the full season at his age. But they've now officially won one more game than they'd have won with either
It was one of those plays that at first seemed certain to be overturned because Lewis seemed like he'd come down with at least one foot on the white end line. But in the replay, one foot comes down perilously close to the white line and the other is clearly in. There's no way ref
Lewis said he wasn't supposed to be on the field for this play;
"Just before we left the huddle,'' Lewis said, "Brett told us, 'Stay alive.' [Meaning, if he leaves the pocket, try to find an opening in the coverage where he could find one of them.] Once he breaks the pocket, we're free to go within our landmarks. So I saw him leave the pocket and I just floated toward the back of the end zone, following him as he moved to the right.'' Favre picked out Lewis because he had two steps on his man, and because desperate times call for desperate decisions.
The ball came high and fast, and Lewis went up to get it. "When it was in the air, I thought, 'This is the chance you've been waiting for,' '' said Lewis, cut by the Patriots early this month and signed by the Vikings just before the opener two weeks ago. "When I came down, I felt I wasn't in. But I tried to drag my feet, and they gave it to me.''
I asked him if he was surprised he got cut by the Patriots. "Honestly I was,'' he said. "But you have to be prepared for any situation in this league.'' Good thing he was. And when he said that, I was left to wonder if Bill Belichick wishes he had kept Lewis and cut
Dating to the start of the 2008 season, here are the stat lines for the two most important targets on the Indianapolis Colts, including the playoff loss at San Diego in January:
Though Manning has thrown 29 more passes targeted for Wayne than for Clark since the start of last season (169 to Wayne, 140 to Clark), I'm not overly surprised at the parallel place they reside in Manning's quarterback thought process. Even when
It's likely Clark and Wayne will alternate being Manning's men in the coming weeks, and perhaps even when Gonzalez returns. That's because Manning takes so long to get totally comfortable with new receivers. I've been told that Gonzalez hasn't become the kind of go-to receiver Manning looks for because he's too exact and doesn't yet have the kind of rapport with Manning the veterans do.
"It takes every receiver who comes into this offense a few years to not just be a receiver running routes, but to be a useful target,'' Clark told me. "It took me four years. It's hard to narrow down why, but a good answer is experience. It's my seventh season now, and it's seeing a lot of plays with [Peyton], in the same film room with him, then getting out on the field and feeling it. Same thing with Reggie. I'm sure he didn't have the chemistry in year three he does now."
We saw this last Monday night in Miami, and not just on the opening play of the game, when Manning froze linebacker
Before the snap, Wayne went to offensive coordinator
Clark was lined up to the right of the line, and his assignment was to run a corner route across the field. On this play, there's no defined depth to the pattern. "Peyton's got to know, and I've got to know,'' Clark said. "My landmark depends totally on the defenders.''
Clark has to find the midway point between the linebacker in shallow coverage and the safety or safeties downfield. For Clark, on this play, the soft spot was about nine yards downfield, and he cut left and ran diagonally across the field. Manning hit him near the left hash, and Clark sprinted out of bounds. Twenty-yard gain. Two seconds left. Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal ended the half.
And last night, in the 31-10 rout of the defending NFC champion Cardinals, you'd have never known he was missing two of the four key guys to the passing game from the last two years, Harrison and Gonzalez. That's how at-ease Manning was in his four-touchdown night.
There's probably enough pressure on
Delhomme said all offseason he was completely over the nightmarish five-interception game in the NFC playoffs against Arizona. But as it turned out, he wasn't. He told me thoughts of the playoff game would creep into his mind often, and that they not only crept into his mind during Philadelphia's rout of the Panthers in the season-opener ... but also prevented him from playing the game he thought he could have played. It's funny -- big, tough football players aren't supposed to have these mental blocks. But sometimes they do. Delhomme did.
"I thought quite a few times in the offseason that I hadn't been there for my team during the playoff game, and it really bothered me,'' Delhomme said. "I thought, 'Why? Why?' And I couldn't figure it out. And the Eagles' game, it was like I was playing and thinking, 'You can't make another mistake.' I was thinking like that on every play. Not good.''
"So,'' I said, "there was a carryover from the playoff game.''
Delhomme threw four interceptions and was yanked for backup
Delhomme said he thinks he has the problem fixed now, and he did it by, in essence, talking to himself, and by caring about nothing but the next play, and by having an attitude of Bleep it. What's interesting is what he felt from his teammates. He said he's not the type of person who ever needed to hear congratulations from teammates after a win, or after a great performance. That's what he's supposed to do, play well. But after the Eagles debacle, he needed someone to tell him he wasn't worthless, and that someone was tackle
"And now,'' Delhomme said, "I feel great. I really do. Not just saying that. I just want to play. See the field, throw the ball, play, run the offense.''
Starting in Dallas tonight, Delhomme could save the Carolina season if those aren't empty words. God knows the Panthers, at 0-2, need a good jolt to stay in the running for the defense of their NFC South title.
I haven't even been to bed yet, and I can't wait 'til Sunday. The looming highlights of Week 4:
• Baltimore (3-0) at New England (2-1). Why shouldn't Tom Brady face every quarterback of the future.
• New York Jets (3-0) at New Orleans (3-0). Because this is FOX's doubleheader week, and this game is a CBS game, it won't go to much of the country. A pity. These might be the two most intriguing teams in the league after three weeks.
• (Sunday night) San Diego (2-1) at Pittsburgh (1-2). Did you see Mike Tomlin's post-game presser from Cincinnati? He's mad as heck, and he's not gonna take it anymore, from the looks of it.
• (Monday night) Green Bay (2-1) at Minnesota (3-0). The big storyline:
In a book hitting the shelves Tuesday about the 1981 NFC Championship Game, ("
In those days, as Myers points out, there was no security at the turnstiles of stadiums. It'd have been simple for anyone in the crowd of 60,525 to carry a handgun into the stadium that day. Montana told Myers he thought about it a couple of times during the game, but as he said, "You are alone. There isn't a whole lot that could be done.''
Then, late in the fourth quarter, he rolled out and threw the high ball that Clark caught that catapulted the Niners past the Cowboys as the power team of the NFC. And when Montana kneeled on the last play of the game, Dallas unable to stop the clock with 19 seconds left, his teammates were surprised by Montana's actions. He grabbed the football and started running off the field, pausing to celebrate with no one, and sprinted to the San Francisco Giants dugout, which had a tunnel leading to the locker room. No celebration. Just a run for what he thought might be his life.
This book is full of nuggets I'm sure you didn't know -- some of which I doubt you'd know even if you played in the game. You want to know why little-used running back
My favorite nugget of many from Myers: In the 1979 draft, the Cowboys had an in-the-twilight
"Let's go win the game! Let's go win the game!''
"It was definitely a blessing. I never would have changed. I was able to sit back and see what was missing in my life. When I had all the money in the world, I didn't have peace in my life. Now I do.''
The Raiders have been stung by Gannon's criticisms of the team, among them Gannon saying in a radio interview that the team should blow up the current structure and start over. Now there's a revolutionary concept for the losingest team in football since 2003. Now, it's all well and good for the Raiders to be steamed at an alumnus. But what kills me about this organization, dating to the freeze-out of
Say what you want about how Rich Gannon got to the Raiders, or what he's said about the Raiders in retirement, but to imply he was an unimportant or marginal quarterback who was lucky to be employed by such a wonderful organization insults any football fan's intelligence. He and
Further, I see no credible way to dispute that Gannon is one of the three best Raiders quarterbacks in the first 50 years of the franchise -- unless you think a checkered eight-year run by
Plunkett never played a 16-game regular season for the Raiders. Gannon, in six Raiders seasons, played 16 games four times. In those four seasons, 1999-2002, he averaged 3,947 passing yards per year, completed 63.4 percent, and threw 105 touchdowns with 44 interceptions. The Raiders have had three NFL MVPs -- Stabler in 1974, Marcus Allen in 1985 and Gannon in 2002.
Look, I've got no problem with a team sniping at a critic. Critics are fair game if they're going to step out and take shots. But let's not treat Gannon like
Tampa Bay's initial first down of the game against the Giants came at 2:52 p.m. Eastern Time, 111 minutes into the game in real time, 40 minutes into the game on the game clock.
Difference Between Baseball and Football Dept.:
On Wednesday, in Kansas City for a series with the Royals, a group of eight members of the Red Sox traveling party -- including manager
I can't emphasize enough -- though I've said it a few times in this column over the years -- how marvelous train travel is up and down the Boston-New York-Washington corridor. I now take the train on Saturday at different times from Back Bay Station in Boston to Penn Station in Manhattan. Because we had no Saturday obligations at NBC this weekend, I took the regular Amtrak train at 4:45 p.m. from Boston to New York, stopping at the Kingstons and New Londons, and when we got into the little train station in Old Saybrook, Conn., just off Long Island Sound, there was a slight sunset struggling to be seen through the cloud cover.
Four placid hours, having a couple of Heineken Lights and banging through some elements of this column. I think you could save 60 or 90 minutes by taking the Delta shuttle, but then you wouldn't see the people walking on the seashore where Rhode Island meets Connecticut in a part of the country not many people know.
"It's interesting how the media views
I got this started by telling people on Twitter the other day they shouldn't be all excited about Millen being on TV. Before he went down his destructive path with the Lions, he was considered by all to be the heir to
Stats, schmats. Palmer was 20 of 37 for 183 yards, with one TD and no interceptions in the 23-20 upset of Pittsburgh. But his value to this game, and to his team, can be measured in one very important one: He gives the Bengals hope that they can win any game they're in late. Against the Steelers, he led his team 71 yards in the last five minutes, bleeding the clock so the Steelers wouldn't have a chance to score after the Bengals did. A brilliant, clutch drive by a guy we've forgotten could be this good.
You mean this team has a catalyst other than Drew Brees? Thomas didn't touch the ball for the first 32 minutes of the game, then carried it 14 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. His 34- and 19-yard fourth-quarter touchdowns gave the Saints the padding to coast home in a 27-7 win at Buffalo.
Sorry for taking the lazy way out and not choosing one player. I can't. New York held Tampa to 86 net yards, and didn't allow them to convert one third down. The Giants didn't let Tampa Bay breathe. By the time the Bucs got a meaningless long drive in the final 10 minutes, the Giants had thoroughly suffocated them. Tampa Bay's drives, in plays, until that last one: three, one, three, three, three, one, three, five, and three.
Not only did McGowan do a great job in coverage on Atlanta tight end
His 101-yard kickoff return gave the Vikings a 20-17 lead late in the third quarter, but that's too antiseptic. What made the return amazing to me was that he did not appear to have been touched on it. How often do you see a touchdown on a return accomplished without any of the 11 defenders touching the return man? I asked Harvin if anyone hit him or even grazed him on the return. "I don't believe so, sir ,'' said Harvin over the phone from the locker room.
Want to see one of the best form tackles you'll ever see on a kickoff return? Hamilton, a Saints' insurance policy with the early-season injuries in the backfield, contributed five carries for 24 yards in Buffalo, but he made his presence felt midway through the fourth quarter when he burst through the Bills' blocking front on a kickoff return, wrapped both arms around
With the Niners lining up in field-goal defense at the end of the first half at Minnesota, trailing 13-7, McDonald burst through the middle of the line, got a big paw on the Ryan Longwell kick, and knocked the ball directly to
Anyone recall a team this young and green playing as clean a game as Detroit did -- especially with the weight of a city on its shoulders? The Lions didn't get intercepted, nor did they lose a fumble, and they allowed but two sacks in 38
What has been the story of this preseason and early football season? Michael Vick. Vick this, Vick that. And so Vick had just touched the ball in a National Football League game for the first time in 33 months -- almost three years -- and then we hear from the booth, "Let's go to
What?!!! Let's go to James Brown?!! Unless it's for live coverage of Armageddon, you're not going to James Brown. MICHAEL VICK HAS JUST TOUCHED THE BALL FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOREVER.
This is not play-by-play man
Jets up 7-zip, kickoff goes to Tennessee, rookie Mouton takes the ball and fumbles it back to the Jets, who are soon ahead 14-0. But the Titans come back to take a 17-14 lead, and they just might add to it midway through the third quarter when the Jets punt to Mouton. Oh no! The dreaded muff happens, and Jet special-teamer
My mix of sort-of MMQB classic and new stuff, due out in mid-October, can be
One is a Factoid That May Interest Only Me: At one point, the same lawyer represented
Two is a Quote of the Week, from
Lots more where those came from.
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 3:
a. I'd expect both
b. Chargers are 0-13 in Pittsburgh in regular-season games. Strangely, San Diego is 2-1 in Pittsburgh in the postseason.
c. Not the best look for
d. Awful, awful, awful Jets' throwbacks. The only thing worse on the Giants Stadium field Sunday was the officials' garb. I believed I said the old AFL officials' unis made the men in stripes look like creamsicles when these things debuted in the opening Monday-nighter at Foxboro. Ditto.
e. Re the Seattle shock-green uniforms, which are to the eyes what a triple-espresso is to the heart rate: I didn't hate them as much as I thought I would.
f. Three weeks into the season and the Colts have a three-game lead on the Titans.
g. Did it rain on every football game Sunday, or was it just my imagination?
h. Excellent touch by Jim Schwartz, sending the Lions back out on the field from the locker room to thank fans for supporting the team.
j. If I were
2. I think in the tampering charges files by San Francisco against the New York Jets over the
(The absurdity of that, by the way. The sixth pick this year,
But I feel the organization is mostly firing a shot across the bow of any other team that might think of playing footsy with Crabtree, agent
3. I think -- and trust me on this --
4. I think there's no question the happiest man in the league Sunday night was Carson Palmer. He might not have shown it, but I can tell you the immense personal satisfaction he derived from that game in Cincinnati. When I convened five quarterbacks for the SI quarterback roundtable in Lake Tahoe in July, Palmer was the de facto leader of the group. He was into the topics, and I thought he liked how the others there looked at him with the respect they all obviously had for him.
Palmer was sitting next to Ben Roethlisberger when I asked the guys who they hated. "Since I've been in the league,'' Palmer said, "the Steelers have been at the top of our division. We just happen to be in the same division. You always want what you don't have. You're always jealous because you all want the same thing. [Turning to Roethlisberger.] He's got two Super Bowl rings; we all want one. They've got two and you're jealous, you're envious, you want what they have and personally ... Ben, don't take this the wrong way, but when the Steelers were in the playoffs [in 2005], after I got hurt and I was on the couch and I was watching in California, and
And then Palmer went out Sunday and outdueled Roethlisberger 35 miles from Big Ben's college campus in Oxford, Ohio. That's a great day for Palmer.
5. I think, from the sound of the boos at Oakland on Sunday, the locals have had just about enough of
6. I think, thanks to columnist
In 2006, Malzahn used it, in part to get
In 2007, Malzahn moved to Tulsa as offensive coordinator, ceding the Arkansas job to Lee. Lee continued to use the Wildcat that year, then brought it to Miami when hired as the quarterback coach in 2008. A year ago, in a Week 3 game at New England, Miami head coach
The Dolphins continue to use it, and we see it league-wide now, as we did Sunday with Michael Vick in his first NFL appearance since 2006.
7. I think this is what I liked about Week 3:
a. Mark Sanchez's guts in going for the end zone on a 14-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter.
d. Odd that
e. Speaking of offensive Ravens,
f. But Mark Sanchez or Percy Harvin (touchdown in all three NFL games) would win it.
g. That is not a misprint in your morning paper or evening Internet source: Atlanta middle linebacker
h. Arizona probably hated the Week 4 bye when the schedule came out. I bet the Cards love it now. They need it.
8. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 3:
a. If the Chiefs' biggest area of concern isn't the offensive line, it should be.
b. What an embarrassing replay review by
c. Joey Galloway is killing the New England offense.
d. The Redskins can't allow
e. I can't believe how bad the Browns looked in Baltimore. As Olbermann said, "Tackling was optional.'' When I picked Cleveland to go 2-14 in SI before the season, my reasons were simple: The Browns don't have a quarterback, don't have an offensive weapon who scares a defensive coordinator, and don't have a defensive player (except maybe
f. Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, St. Louis, Oakland ... 32, 31, 30, 29, 28.
g. In the eight quarters following his energetic Monday night debut,
9. I think this is the best example of how you never pick up where you leave off in the NFL: Eight months ago, Pittsburgh and Arizona went down to the wire in a thrilling Super Bowl. Now they're a combined 2-4, and it would be 1-5 if Tennessee played even semi-clutch down the stretch in the season opener against the Steelers. And each looks so vulnerable; Pittsburgh can't run nor protect Ben Roethlisberger. Arizona got manhandled by a decent Indy defensive front Sunday night. It always seems strange when last year's champs struggle so mightily the following year, but it happens so often that you'd have to be naïve to be surprised by it.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I love
b. Should I watch the Strahan show? I suppose I should invest 30 minutes for my old Montclair neighbor, but the premise of the show holds no interest for me. I'd like to hear your feedback.
f. I thought the Yankees couldn't pitch. They look pretty good to me.
g. Swine flu is coming. We're not even in flu season and I know six people who've come down with it.
i. Hope you're OK,
j. Coffeenerdness: True story in Starbucks in Boston's South End Saturday morning. Man, about 23, waiting for in long line for his drink, picks up
k. Remember when
l. Was it just my hotel TV in Manhattan, or was the sound awful on U2's "Breathe'' on
m. I would have liked to have laughed at least once in the endless Khaddafy spoof that opened the
But instead of previewing the game, I thought I'd review the Cowboys Stadium -- from a player's perspective. I asked Giants tackle
"You pull up to the place in the bus, and you're amazed at the size. I mean, it's three times the size of Giants Stadium. None of us had ever seen a stadium this big. It was cool before the game to be warming up and to be able to see the highlights of the other games and see how incredibly clear the video picture was ... Walking out before the game, you feel a little like an animal in a zoo. Normally, you go onto the field through a tunnel, and there's no one there but you and your teammates and the coaches. But the people there, and most of them are drinking, obviously -- you hear a lot of things. You're sort of trapped in there, with people pounding on the glass at you ...
"The [video] boards are so high above the field that when you're playing, you don't even notice them. I'll tell what was frustrating to me. I'm always looking for down-and-distance on the scoreboard, and in most stadiums, you can look on the side and see it pretty easily. But in this place, there are mostly ads where that normally is. Miller Lite, Dr Pepper ad screens instead of the down-and-distance. I found it in the corner of the end zone, but it's hard to see ...
"When we were on the sidelines, I didn't find myself looking up all that much, because you're at a bad angle to the boards. I'd glance up every now and then, but I didn't spend the game when the defense was on the field watching the TV ... As far as the atmosphere, I thought it would have been a lot louder. It was loud at the beginning, then at the end, but there were times you were surprised at so many people without all the noise.''
Overall? "Exciting, really exciting,'' Diehl said. "Stadiums are becoming big attractions. This is the future of the NFL -- bigger, glamorous stadiums.''