Week 1 in the NFL left plenty to chew on and a play to stew over
NEW YORK -- As far as opening weekends go, the NFL's 91st was boffo. Not that all the games were terrific, but we got our first games-that-count glimpse of players and teams we've been speculating about for months. We found out
The story lines:
"I caught it, got two feet down and went to the ground,'' Johnson told me after the game. As he rolled over and was getting up, he flicked the ball away; it's a close call as to whether it was a continuous motion that ended with him losing the ball. Johnson said he felt the play was clearly a touchdown. But his coach,
I think we'd all agree the Competition Committee needs to tweak this rule because no one can watch that replay and say Johnson's possession is debatable or marginal.
His 231-yard rushing day broke a six-game Texan losing streak against AFC South kingpin Indianapolis. All but 40 of those came in the second half, and as he told me after the game, the most important two of happened on fourth-and-one, 10 minutes left in the third quarter, with the Texans hanging on to a 13-10 lead. "I looked each one of my linemen in the eyes and said, 'This is the play that's going to define us,' '' Foster said. Right tackle
He might get an argument from the Foxboro crowd about the heroic part. Welker's legend grew as he went in and out of cuts effortlessly Sunday, with his same elusiveness. "It's not sore at all,'' he said of the knee. "Just a little stiff.''
Barron had three holding penalties in the game's last 31 minutes, including one that nullified the winning touchdown pass by Romo to
Absence from the game made the 6-5, 233-pound Williams' heart grow fonder. His poor practice habits and laissez faire approach to games got him canned from the league after only seven starts over four frustrating years; he'll always be known as one of the receivers Lions GM
I asked Williams if he'd seen Millen or any of the Detroiters responsible for taking him high in the 2005 draft. "I'm not sure they'd want to talk to me,'' he said. But Pete Carroll, his old college coach, gave Williams a last shot this summer, and the 'Hawks liked how he played so much that they cut rich free-agent
Revis will make $32.5 million in the next two seasons combined, then $13.5 million combined in 2012 and '13. The contract is written that if Revis holds out, the final three years of the deal, 2014-16, would kick in. But Florio's theory, which I agree with, is if Revis held the Jets hostage this year with three years left on his deal, why wouldn't he do it again with five years left if he demonstrated consistently he was the best corner in football this year and next?
So I asked Revis about it Saturday afternoon before our Notre Dame halftime at NBC. "That's a great question,'' he said. "If I continue to play ball like I usually do, we'll probably be back at that same position we were this year.''
Maybe. But I think it's just as likely the Jets will address the Revis deal in 2011 and not wait 'til the next incendiary holdout date. For one, the contract calls for Revis to get an $18 million roster bonus on the day after the first game of the 2011 season. Assuming Revis has a very good 2010, that gives GM
The Jets will not only have the clarity of the labor deal on the table, but also will know if the Raiders exercise the very rich third year of current cornerback-salary leader
Back to football. Until last week, Revis hadn't had pads on, or contact, since January. Can an elite athlete at a skill position like corner return to the intense, physical environment of an NFL opener -- particularly against one of the game's most physical teams -- with no training camp?
"What does my body say to me?'' Revis said, repeating my question. "I have been working out, but working out and football -- being on that field -- they're totally different things. I was running, doing some drills, working out against a couple of guys before they went to UFL [United Football League] training camps. To be honest, it wasn't like working against
I also wondered about the pressure Revis will have on him. Last year he was an ascending player whose importance to the Jets rose as the weeks went by. But his profile is such now that he can't possibly live the life he used to. He's a big star now, like his coach, the reality-show star, and his quarterback, a glamour guy from Southern California.
"There's no pressure on me,'' he said. "Just play the best football I can. I look forward to competition. I have always thought there was a bull's-eye on me. People want a piece of me? That's fine... You can't listen to the negativity. I just have to cover great receivers the way I know how.''
He's right: Playing great shuts 'em all up. Act 1 is tonight in the Meadowlands.
At first the Redskins declined the penalty and then, a moment later, told
Phillips took the blame, but Garrett, obviously, should have known to call a kneel down. Romo should have known to audible to a kneel down if it wasn't called from the sideline. Choice should have known to lay on the ground ... Just a stupid, stupid play all around that showed disorganization on the part of the Cowboys.
"I think around here in the New England area, a lot of people don't want to see me do good. And the reason why, I don't know ... Sometimes you want your boss to tell you you're doing a good job. If you're doing a good job and think you're doing a good job, you want to be appreciated. I really don't think that, me personally, that I'm appreciated ... I'm not here to start any trouble. I am here to play out the last year of my contract.''
As my NBC/MLB Network buddy
"I've owned the franchise for 17 years. During that time I've had one wife and two quarterbacks.''
Kraft's purchase of the Patriots was approved by the league in January 1994, nine months after
"This team is starving for a win! Let's go eat!''
"I'm just glad he signed, so they'll have no excuses.''
"I haven't had a normal bowel movement in six weeks.''
"chester taylor is my new favorite player. I asked him why he signed w/Bears&he said, "the money, first and foremost.''
"I see ya Mike Vick. Do your thing man. Glad Vick is performing well with this chance. In case people have forgot how impressive he is.''
The former philosophy major at Tennessee didn't do a lot of thinking Sunday -- just running. He ran 33 times for 231 yards and three touchdowns, personally putting the game out of reach in the second half. Foster ran the ball 23 times for 191 yards in the last 30 minutes. There's no question the Texans have the free-agent find of the last several years in Foster, who could have left Tennessee early in 2008 and been a high draft choice, but chose to stay in school -- and then got platooned and injured and was forgotten in the 2009 draft. He's not forgotten anymore.
Against two different styles of quarterback -- a more stationary Kevin Kolb in the first half and the mobile Mike Vick in the second -- Matthews played a brilliant game in defensive coordinator
The Texans drafted Williams to beat
Few will ever forget the gruesome broken left leg (a fractured, femur, actually) Henderson suffered last December in a violent collision trying to make a tackle. I pulled it up on YouTube over the weekend to see it again, and it's just as disturbing to see his left leg break on the iso-camera replay.
Henderson had a titanium rod implanted in his leg, then spent the next four months in a wheelchair, using crutches, then a cane. It wasn't 'til April that he felt good enough to actually be ambulatory without help, and I'm not even talking doing the kind of running drills necessary to get ready to be an NFL middle linebacker. This rehab should have taken a year or longer. But Thursday night, exactly nine months after breaking the leg, he was back patrolling the middle for the Vikings, playing very well in the 14-9 loss to New Orleans. Henderson had nine tackles -- second most of any player in the game -- including one for a loss. His condition bodes very well for a Vikings' D that didn't have an answer at middle 'backer without him.
Here's the not-so-secret weapon the Patriots have been thinking all summer long would pay dividends once the real games started. Tom Brady bragged about him to me in May, and Tate blew through the Ram kick-coverage team in preseason Week 3 for a 97-yard touchdown. Against the Bengals Sunday, he grabbed a bouncing kickoff and sprinted/weaved untouched 97 yards for a crippling touchdown.
He's taken the slings and arrows throughout the offseason for not doing enough at the receiver position or the running back position; his starting wideouts combined for 13 catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns against Cincinnati, while his backs rushed for a clock-eating 118 yards. The defense was too young or didn't make enough of an impact.
You had to see this game against the Bengals to realize much of the yardage Cincinnati made was after the game seemed well in hand; 428 yards happen when you fall behind 24-0. Four recent very high draft picks --
Kubiak went for it on fourth-and-1.5 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter, ball on the Indianapolis 20.5-yard line, and the Texas up 13-10.
I loved the call, miss or make, because of Houston's six-game losing streak against the Colts, and Kubiak knowing he's can't play for threes, and the momentum of the game going Indianapolis' way. Houston always blows leads against the Colts, and its earlier 13-0 lead had already dwindled.
So with the drive stalled at the 20 and a half, Kubiak called a run to the right for running back Arian Foster, and he appeared to be stopped until tight end
Move over Alex Barron, you have company. The Raiders. Collectively. In the absence of any single true goal, I decided to give a team award, and I could have rewarded either Bay Area team because the Niners were awful at Seattle. The Raiders were a chic pick to be decent in the preseason. Decent, in Oakland, would sell a lot of tickets. But their impressive performance in exhibition games -- another great example of why we should ignore the summer completely -- was erased in Nashville.
The Raiders allowed 205 rushing yards. They allowed a quarterback who historically has not been accurate, Vince Young, to complete 76 percent of his throws. A few teams had to go home depressed Sunday night, but none more than the Raiders in a 38-13 rout at Tennessee and Alex Barron's Cowboys in a 13-7 loss to the Redskins.
Passing yards by Kevin Kolb in the first 28 minutes of his debut as Donovan McNabb's successor Sunday against Green Bay: 0.
He finished his abbreviated day 5 of 10 for 24 yards, leaving in the second quarter after a hit by Clay Matthews resulted in a concussion.
With the news that Brady signed a four-year, $72-million contract extension with the Patriots (he'll play out the final year of his existing contract this year, and the new one runs from 2011 through 2014), a few thoughts occurred to me. One: This is the first time in Brady's career he's earned more than Manning in average pay. Two: If he moves ahead of Manning, it'll be for about 15 minutes, because the Colts will make Manning a higher-paid player, most likely sometime this fall.
Three: This is very good news for Drew Brees, whose six-year contract runs through 2011. Why? He's been more productive than both Manning and Brady over the last four years (passing yards from 2006-09: Brees 18,298, Manning 16,939, Brady 12,089, though that's obviously asterisked by Brady missing 2008), and the Saints offense called by
It's always hard to chart the worth of players, but I thought it would be fair -- to illustrate Manning's financial dominance over the position in recent years -- to illustrate how much the three best quarterbacks in football have made since 2004. Since then, each quarterback has won a Super Bowl; until Brady signed his new deal the other day, each quarterback had signed one new contract (not include redo's for salary-cap purposes) in that period.
Arizona and St. Louis met in St. Louis Sunday, and if anything tells you the transient nature of the football business, it's how the quarterback depth chart for each team has changed in nine measly months.
If you can honestly say you knew who those two number three Ram quarterbacks were, then I think you need to go to NFL 53-Man Roster Rehab.
Interesting week in the training-run department -- seven miles on Martha's Vineyard last Monday, six down St. Charles Avenue on a brutally humid Thursday morning (I don't know how anyone runs outside there; it was intolerable), and on Saturday morning, eight in Central Park (in 86 minutes).
That Central Park run I owe to former SI publicist and friend
Best reaction by a passing motorist: Running on the outskirts of Edgartown on the Vineyard, a guy in a passenger seat rolled down the window and yelled, "You can start running anytime now! HAAAAAAAAA!''
The aforementioned runs are for the half-marathon I'll be running Oct. 2 in Bristol, N.H., benefiting two charities: the Wounded Warrior Project, which cares for our most seriously injured soldiers as they transition from war back to society, and Feed the Children, which feeds a lot of children, and their families too, all over America. I'm asking those who can afford to give $10 ($5 to each charity, or $10 to one of them), or more than $10 if you're so inclined, by going to
If you're anywhere in the eastern Massachusetts/southern New Hampshire/Rhode Island/eastern Connecticut area, and you're interested in a good night of football talk, I've got a proposal for you. For a $50 donation to the cause, you can join a two-hour chalk talk with five people who've covered the game, collectively, for longer than you've been alive.
On Thursday, Sept. 23, I'll be joined by NBC's
I've got 60 spots available. If you'd like to come, make your $50 donation at www.runpeterkingrun.com and e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, with the name the donation was made under, and e-mail address. Once we confirm that you've donated at least $50, you'll get a return e-mail from me thanking you, and you'll be part of the fun on the night of the 23rd.
So make your donation today if you're anywhere in the reach of this column. And if you're a New Englander and want your Patriots dissected, or you want any of the other 31 teams in the league put under the microscope, pony up $50 and we'll have a great night together.
Most NFL players learn to hate fantasy football, because fans run into them in restaurants or airports or wherever and implore them to be more productive for their fantasy team, or they grill them for information on that week's strategy, so the fantasy GM will make the right lineup moves. But Jags running back
Jones-Drew had the first pick in his draft recently -- and took himself. His lineup: Himself,
Jones-Drew gave his own team 98 rushing yards and 15 through the air Sunday in the 24-17 win over Denver. But no touchdowns. He'd better start scoring, or his owner could dump him.
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 1:
I like it when TV guys are unfiltered.
b. I loved what New England guard
c. I didn't just like this. I loved it. It was great to see
d. New Orleans held the Vikes to 253 yards. If the Saints do that every week, they'll not only repeat -- they'll lap the field.
f. Good story by
g. Loved the fireman helmet
i. What a tackle,
j. Good line by
k. Great addition by Fox, bringing in former NFL vice president of officiating
m. Good start for
n. I'm buying Vick stock.
o. What a goal-line stand by the Lions. With the Bears at the Detroit one-yard line, the Lions stuffed three Matt Forte runs and stopped one Jay Cutler pass.
p. And congrats,
r. The Redskins deserve kudos for starting the offseason tackleless, basically, and now looking like they're in above-average shape there.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 1:
a. Brett Favre's accuracy. Is he rusty or too far gone? "There were three or four throws I just missed,'' he said after the 14-9 loss to New Orleans. Give him four or five weeks to get back in shape; if he has two or three more like that one the other night, we'll think it's because he's a 40-year-old man with an 80-year-old left ankle.
b. The language of a few of the fans in the first row behind the Viking bench and the NBC
d. Warm up in the bullpen,
e. What happened to all those chances for
g. Not the best way to start out trying to impress the new boss,
h. Hang time,
j. Officials missed
3. I think the umpire move, for one week, was pretty much a non-story. I was watching the Colts' game at Houston for evidence of how the move would impact the game. Didn't see much.
For safety's sake, the first 28 minutes of the first half and first 25 of the second, the ump now stands 12 yards behind the offensive line instead of his previously customary five yards behind the defensive. When the final tweaks were made to the system, the league tested them in Week 4 of the preseason, timing four games and figuring out how much time elapsed from the time the ball was spotted to the time the ball was snapped, and the difference was about one-half second more, on average, between the Week 4 tests and the average time it takes between spotting of the ball and the snapping.
But the league knows the real test won't come until some team plays hurry-up at some point during the 53 minutes the ump is behind the offense. Would the ump be able to not be a timing distraction? Would the ump be able to call penalties while running back to his position instead of being stationary? We'll have to wait to see a team legitimately trying to hurry the pace before judging if the league has a handle on this.
4. I think
5. I think you want to play 18 games, NFL? I'm watching this Eagles game Sunday, and two of Philly's 10 most important players (Kolb,
6. I think Carolina wideout
"What I said in the summer was shallow, ignorant, immature and really no need," Smith said the other day. "I don't need to be that way and I'm not going to be that way to my opponents anymore." And Sunday's game at the Meadowlands went off without a vengeful hitch.
7. I think Favre is not the only October 1969 baby who's a vital cog to his team right now.
8. I think after I slapped around Alex Barron of the Cowboys on Twitter on Sunday night, I got this very interesting response from one of America's most knowledgeable football fans/authorities,
9. I think I was wrong about a lot of things in my predictions, as usual, and one of those might have been picking Tampa Bay to win two games. I like what I saw out of
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I wish I could climb into that ivory tower the NCAA lives in and find out how they say to a kid like
b. One other thing: If you cut every NCAA sanction in half, you'd more closely approximate fairness.
c. Very good puffy hair in the shampoo commercial,
d. There will be better days,
g. Coffeenerdness: Saw something I never thought I'd see in Central Park near the end of my run Saturday -- a man jogging lightly with a grande Starbucks cup in his hand. Maybe it had water in it. Maybe a latte. Maybe it was empty. Or just maybe it's a sign to me that there's never a bad time for a coffee.
h. Good luck to retiring center
j. And one more good cause: Arsonists burned down a shed containing high school football equipment at an Indianapolis high school, TC Howe Community High. The loss was approximately $11,000, and the school is looking for financial help replacing the lost equipment. To help, contact Danny Wilson, TC Howe High School, 4900 Julian Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46201.
I wrote this in my evolution-of-the-spread-passing-game piece in the
If this crew calls PI strictly tonight, I'll be fascinated to see what happens when a physical receiver, Anquan Boldin, gets covered by Darrelle Revis, who is very good in coverage (obviously) and very good at looking like he never initiated the contact when there is some.
"You've got to be aware of Mr. Anderson and his crew,'' Revis told me. "We know they throw a lot of flags, but you've got to play. We work on certain techniques in coverage. But what it comes down to is, you've got to be yourself.''