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 Wes Welker is bulletproof, Randy Moss has a mad-on, the Steeler D is back, the seat's getting warm for Eric Mangini, the Texans can beat the Colts, Chris Johnson and Arian Foster were born to run, and the Redskins need to thank Dallas for some dumb coaching decisions, including the simple act of allowing Alex Barron to play Sunday night. And, in the grand tradition of the Tuck Rule, there's the matter of a catch America thought was a catch that apparently wasn't.
The story lines:
The rule's a dumb rule, but you can't ask officials to take the law into their own hands. At NBC on Sunday night, Tony Dungy made a terrific point, asking how can the Lance Moore Super Bowl two-point conversion pass be a good catch -- he barely had control of it before breaking the plane of the goal line, then losing control of the ball -- when a much surer Calvin Johnson catch Sunday in Chicago is ruled no good? Dungy's right. The disparity in the two calls is striking and makes fans and the public look at Sunday's ruling and say it's nonsense.
"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, Jim Schwartz, didn't complain because he knows the rule from the NFL digest of 2010 rules: If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control, and the ball touches the ground, the pass is incomplete.
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.
I'm taking a bow for my only good fantasy football advice. Ever. I did tell the world to pick Arian Foster no later than the third round and was roundly Tweet-jeered for it. Turns out I vastly underrated him. Maybe Foster shouldn't have gone in the third round; maybe he should have gone in the top three picks.
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 Eric Winston and tight end Owen Daniels got good seal blocks, Foster made two yards, and Houston finished the 15-play drive with a touchdown.
Wes Welker's just fine. In January, Welker shredded his ACL and damaged his MCL in a game at Houston. Thirty-one weeks ago, the NFL's receptions leader since 2007 had the ACL repaired. And Sunday, he caught two touchdown passes from Tom Brady in the Pats' decisive win over Cincinnati. "It's not heroic,'' he told me. "Rod Woodson once had an ACL early in the season and came back to play in the Super Bowl.''
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.''
Thank you, Alex Barron. The stories coming into Sunday night's Dallas-Washington all centered on the 'Skins: Donovan McNabb's debut, Mike Shanahan's debut, Albert Haynesworth's petulance. By the end of the 13-7 Washington upset, the irreplaceable Redskin was their defensive coordinator, Jim Haslett, whose schemes tormented the Cowboys all night. Oh, with an assist to backup Dallas right tackle Barron, who belongs in the stands selling beer, not on the field charged with protecting Tony Romo.
Barron had three holding penalties in the game's last 31 minutes, including one that nullified the winning touchdown pass by Romo to Roy Williams. According to footballoutsiders.com, Barron's 78 penalties since the start of the 2005 season are the most in the NFL. Amazingly, Barron started his last two holding calls by corralling Brian Orakpo around the neck ... not even a semblance of trying to block him properly.
The return of Vick the Quick. It's not possible the Kevin Kolb Era opened and closed on the same day, is it? With trusting coach Andy Reid in charge, no chance. But the last time Michael Vick both threw and ran for 100 yards in one game was Oct. 1, 2006, against Arizona; he did it Sunday in two-plus quarters, running for 103 and throwing for 173 in the 27-20 loss to Green Bay. "Michael was magnificent,'' Reid said. With Kolb knocked out of the game with a concussion, Philly's starter for next week at Detroit isn't certain, though Reid said it'd be Kolb if he's able to go. Good thing it's not a home game.
Chris Johnson isn't kidding:He wants 2,500 rushing yards. "Of course it's a realistic goal,'' he told me after his 142-yard rushing day led Tennessee to a rout of the Raiders. Maybe so, but even after putting up 142, he's behind the pace he needs to set. He'd have to average 157 yards a game to exceed 2,500. The only way, realistically, a runner could do that is to run the ball at least 400 times and have a coach who would throw him a bone by letting him stay in the game in blowouts. Sunday was Johnson's 32nd regular-season NFL game. He's averaging 105.5 rushing yards per game. Don't get your hopes up, but Emmitt Smith averaged 78.1 yards rushing per game in his first two seasons.
Bay Area gray area. The 49ers are supposed to win the NFC West. The Raiders are supposed to not be awful. Sunday's combined score: Foes 69, Teams From Northern California 19. "I want to tell Pete Carroll, 'Thank you very much for kicking our tails,' '' said San Francisco coach Mike Singletary. Huh?
Mike Williams (the Seattle one) grows up. "I'm 26 now,'' Williams said after his first NFL start in three years Sunday, Seattle's rout of the 49ers. "The game's a little more important to me now than it was when I first came in the league.''
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 Matt Millen has on his NFL résumé -- or tombstone.
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 T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The four-catch, 64-yard performance Sunday by Williams was only the third 50-plus-yard game of his career. Watching his route-running Sunday, he appears to be a big target with fluid movements of a man four or five inches shorter. Could be a great find.
Darrelle Revis is a great player ... and a news magnet.When I set up a Saturday interview with Darrelle Revis last week, I did it with the thought of asking what's it like trying to be the best corner in football without the benefit of more than a week of practice before tonight's opener with the Ravens. Which I did, in some detail -- and you'll read about in a couple of paragraphs. But my NBC partner, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, was preparing an interesting item for his site Saturday on his belief that Revis was sure to hold out in two years in the same way he just did.
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 Mike Tannenbaum next offseason, when the labor situation will be clarified at some point, presumably, to permanently amend the Revis contract.
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 Nnamdi Asomugha or release him. If Oakland cuts Asomugha, that means the Jets will be right -- the deal was an aberration, with no other corner except Revis approaching the money Asomugha made in two years. And who knows? Maybe Revis will choose to not renegotiate the contract and simply play out 2011 because of the huge balloon payment. But I've got to think he doesn't want to incur the wrath of his team and his fans with a second holdout in two years. Just a thought.
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 Chad Ochocinco in a game. It was more like Brett Favre going to the local high school and throwing to high school receivers ... So when I came back this week, I was a little rusty, trying to get back into the flow. I have picked it up and feel a lot better after the last two practices. I am a fighter and a hard worker. I will do what I need to do to be prepared. Most of the game is mental.''
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.
1. New Orleans (1-0). There wasn't a flawless team in Week 1 and I don't think one was close. So the Saints take the top spot because of a very good defensive performance and because we all know Drew Brees is going to play like Drew Brees for the next four months.
2. New England (1-0). I have one word for Randy Moss: clueless. And I like him.
3. Green Bay (1-0). One thing I worry about -- that line might get Aaron Rodgers hurt. Where'd all those leaks come from?
4. Tennessee (1-0). I don't know if the Titans can keep it up, but I will make this prediction: Albert Haynesworth will play for Tennessee by the trading deadline.
5. New York Giants (1-0). If Kenny Phillips can play 16 games, he's going to Hawaii. All expenses paid.
6. Pittsburgh (1-0). The defense snuffed out Matt Ryan, which is the way the Steelers are going to have to play to stay afloat -- and go at least 2-2 by the time Ben Roethlisberger returns. Decent day for Dennis Dixon. Just decent. Tremendous days for Hines Ward and Head&Shoulders Polamalu.
7. Houston (1-0). Could this finally be a 60-minute team? Sure looked like it Sunday.
8. Indianapolis (0-1). They lost, and they may have lost Bob Sanders, who, as I said on NBC Sunday night, has now played 48 games in his career and missed 49. It's sad. When I talked to him in training camp, he was happy and healthy and anticipating this season with excitement because he finally felt good. If he'd got a serious arm or elbow injury because of a fluky injury in the first quarter of the first game, I'd feel sorry for him.
9. Baltimore (0-0). Interested how the great cornerback question is answered tonight in New Jersey.
10. New York Jets (0-0). Interested how the quarterback they hope will be great plays tonight in New Jersey.
11. San Diego (0-0). I just never thought it would come to Marcus McNeill sitting out. Vincent Jackson, yes, because the Chargers have decided internally to move on without him. But a top-eight left tackle? Mind-boggling.
12. Seattle (1-0).Matt Hasselbeck, 34, played like Mr. Peabody put him in the Wayback Machine on Sunday. He was a little colt out there.
13. Washington (1-0). Any team that plays defense the way the Redskins did will be in most of their games this year, no matter how long it takes the offense to be competent.
14. Minnesota (0-1). Vikes should be fine. Imagine if they get Vincent Jackson, and for the last eight games of the year, you've got to face Jackson, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin in three-receiver sets. Yikes.
15. Dallas (0-1). Here's what happened on the idiotic Dallas play at the end of the first half that gave Washington its only touchdown of the night: The Cowboys had the ball at their 36 and had one final play to call before halftime. The play called by offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was a Hail Mary pass from Tony Romo into the end zone. But Dallas was called for a hold.
At first the Redskins declined the penalty and then, a moment later, told Tony Corrente they were accepting it. In the ensuing confusion, coach Wade Phillips said he never communicated to Garrett to call off the Hail Mary. "We needed to call it off and we didn't do it,'' Phillips said. "Tony should have just taken a knee.'' Romo didn't, of course, and got pushed out of the pocket. He flipped the ball sideways to running back Tashard Choice, who, obviously, should have gone down at the first sign of pressure. But he fought for yards, DeAngelo Hall stripped it, and Hall ran it in for a touchdown.
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.''-- Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss, in a rambling news conference after the Pats' victory over Cincinnati Sunday. The man is just not very happy.
As my NBC/MLB Network buddy Elliott Kalb said of the Mossman's postgame meanderings: "Randy being Manny.''
"I've owned the franchise for 17 years. During that time I've had one wife and two quarterbacks.''-- New England owner Robert Kraft, to me, Thursday night, after he told me he reached agreement with quarterback Tom Brady on a four-year contract extension that will keep Brady in New England through the end of the 2014 season.
Kraft's purchase of the Patriots was approved by the league in January 1994, nine months after Drew Bledsoe was drafted by New England. Brady came in the 2000 draft, took the starting job over in 2001, and, except for a 15-start interlude by Matt Cassel in 2008, has been the man ever since. If Brady completes the contract, he'll be 37 at the end of it -- and he's told me he wants to play until at least 40.
"This team is starving for a win! Let's go eat!''
-- Detroit defensive end and captain Kyle Vanden Bosch, on the floor of Soldier Field before the Lions faced Chicago, imploring them to win. If Calvin Johnson had held on to the ball in the end zone, the Lions would feel a little more full this morning.
"I'm just glad he signed, so they'll have no excuses.''
-- Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, on Darrelle Revis reaching agreement with the Jets in time to play in tonight's lid-lifter between the Jets and Ravens in New Jersey.
"I haven't had a normal bowel movement in six weeks.''
-- NFL Films president Steve Sabol, in the middle of editing the "Hard Knocks'' season finale last Wednesday, to me and Ross Tucker on our Sirius NFL Radio show. In other words, there were some tense moments putting the show together.
Side Note That May Interest Only Me: I asked Sabol if he'd gotten phone calls from either Roger Goodell or anyone at the league office after the first episode or two of the Jets' series, asking NFL Films and HBO to tone down the F-bombs in Rex Ryan's scenes. "None,'' he said.
"chester taylor is my new favorite player. I asked him why he signed w/Bears&he said, "the money, first and foremost.''-- SI_JimTrotter, ace NFL writer Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated, on his conversation with the Vike-turned-Bear. Thank you, Chester Taylor, for saying what so few players ever say.
"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.''--@ryanclark25, Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark, at 7:26 p.m. Sunday, obviously watching the Packers-Eagles game after his own game earlier in the day.
Offensive Player of the WeekArian Foster, RB, Houston
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.
Defensive Players of the WeekClay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay
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 Dom Capers' aggressive scheme. Matthews had seven tackles, two sacks, one pass deflected and a forced fumble. His sack of Vick on the last Eagle drive of the game helped clinch the 27-20 victory for the Packers. I still think Matthews should have won the Defensive Rookie award last year.
Mario Williams, DE, Houston
The Texans drafted Williams to beat Peyton Manning and the Colts, and he'd only been able to do it (with a little help from his friends) once in eight tries since coming to Houston as the first overall pick in the 2006 draft. On Sunday, Williams contributed mightily to the Texans' victory over Indianapolis. He hit Manning five times, once sacking him, and added four tackles. The way he knifed through and around the Indy offensive line Sunday, more than a few Houstonians should be sending former GM Charley Casserly a thank-you note this morning for ignoring the cries to take Vince Young or Reggie Bush and taking Williams instead.
E.J. Henderson, MLB, Minnesota
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.
Special Teams Player of the WeekBrandon Tate, KR/WR, New England
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.
Coach of the WeekBill Belichick, head coach, New England
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 -- Patrick Chung, Jerod Mayo, Darius Butler and Brandon Meriweather --combined for 43 tackles. For one Sunday at least, the moves of the best coach in football were home runs.
Coaching Decision of the WeekHouston coach Gary Kubiak
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 Owen Daniels sealed off Clint Session, and Foster burst forward to the 18. It was just the play the Texans needed. They continued on a 15-play, 66-yard drive, covering the first 7:57 of the second half, culminating in Foster's one-yard touchdown run. Houston's 20-10 lead with 22 minutes to go held up. Texans 34, Colts 24.
Goats of the Week
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 Sean Payton is certainly going to give Brees a chance to keep things that way.
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 Karen Dmochowsky, who took me on the 6.2-mile loop and gave me a living history of the park and the neighborhoods it abuts. Shameful that I lived in New Jersey for 24 years and never spent more than a few cameos in that fantastic park. On Saturday, there was a bike race, a four-mile running race and hundreds of runners. All passing me and Karen, because I was holding her down like an anchor.
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 http://www.runpeterkingrun.com/ and clicking on the links for each charity's fundraising page.
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 Bob Neumeier, Ron Borges and Ian Rapoport of TheBoston Herald, and Albert Breer of The Boston Globe at the Harpoon Brewery in South Boston at 7 p.m. We'll take your questions, and the superb folks at Harpoon will be serving of their fine products -- gratis.
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 Maurice Jones-Drew hosts a Fantasy Football show (Friday, 7-9 p.m. EDT, Sirius Radio), is in a Sirius league, writes a fantasy column for SI.com on Fridays and has his own drafted players on his show to tell them they better play well. "I'm a cutthroat owner,'' Jones-Drew said the other day. "I'll call you out on my show.''
Jones-Drew had the first pick in his draft recently -- and took himself. His lineup: Himself, Matt Forte and C.J. Spiller in the backfield ("I'm trying to trade for Arian Foster,'' he said), Eli Manning and David Garrard (had to take the guy handing him the ball in Jacksonville) at quarterback, and a strong receiver group, including Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall and Brent Celek.
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:
a. Terry Bradshaw's rant to Louisiana TV station KTBS, in which he said of Rex Ryan and the Jets: "If they can't run the ball, they're going to have to throw it, and they can't pass protect. He'll shut up real quick. You know what? I don't like guys like that, OK?"
I like it when TV guys are unfiltered.
b. I loved what New England guard Stephen Neal said to Ian Rapoport of The Boston Herald after Brady had a fender-bender on the way to work Thursday: "We can't protect him all the time.''
c. I didn't just like this. I loved it. It was great to see Len Pasquarelli back in action for The SportsXchange and CBSSportsline.com Thursday night at the Saints-Vikes opener. Pasquarelli is one of the hardest workers in any business, and I'm glad he's back to his edgy Internet self after being marginalized by ESPN following his heart problems of the last couple of years.
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.
e. Adrian Peterson did rip off a couple of good chunks versus the Saints, but Saints DTs Sedrick Ellis and Remi Ayodele (sack, blocked extra point, tackle for loss) were stout and outstanding Thursday night.
f. Good story by Chris Mortensen on a team filing a protest over the Jets holding workouts in California in the offseason -- and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and coach Ryan attending at least one of the workouts. That's not allowed, and the league will have to either warn the Jets to not have coaches attend optional offseason workouts or sanction the team for it.
g. Loved the fireman helmet Justin Tuck wore running out for introductions.
h. Aaron Kampman lives! He stunted from his right end-rush slot into the A gap and smothered Kyle Orton on the first series of Jags-Broncos.
i. What a tackle, Kenny Phillips, on DeAngelo Williams. Saved a touchdown.
j. Good line by Phil Simms as the Patriots throttled the Cincinnati D early: "Somebody better say to the Bengals, 'Hey, guys, the season's started.' ''
k. Great addition by Fox, bringing in former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira to interpret calls in mid-game. Very smart idea, popping him on the screen and letting him be interviewed by the game announcers when a controversial call happens. He nailed a Matt Ryan incomplete pass in Pittsburgh that was being reviewed; he was way ahead of everyone on the Calvin Johnson missed-catch interpretation in Chicago. We'll see how it works for a few weeks, but this could be the broadcasting innovation of the year. There's such little downside.
l. Steve Breaston, the hustling fool, made a huge mark Sunday at St. Louis, the kind of mark that'll minimize the loss of Anquan Boldin.
m. Good start for Koa Misi and Cameron Wake, who each had a sack in the 15-10 win at Buffalo. The pass rush in Miami has to flow through them.
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, Tony Gonzalez, for being the first tight end to catch 1,000 footballs. When he retires, whenever that comes, he'll probably have 300 more catches than any other tight end in history.
q. Devin McCourty certainly wasn't scared Sunday for the Patriots.
r. The Redskins deserve kudos for starting the offseason tackleless, basically, and now looking like they're in above-average shape there. Jammal Brown, playing for the first time in more than a year after 2009 hernia surgery, manned the right side well Sunday night, and Trent Williams was competitive and strong; they held DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer to nine tackles and a sack in the odd 13-7 Washington win.
s. Hakeem Nicks. Last year, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham entered the season as the wideouts with the best chemistry with Eli Manning. But Nicks has became a vital part of Manning's progressions. Eli found him for three touchdowns Sunday, leading the Giants over Carolina.
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 Football Night in America set was enough to make Rex Ryan sound like Fred Rogers.
c. Matt Moore, Matt Moore ... you cannot loft a throw to the goal line with four Giants in the vicinity and one Panther. Your first pick of the year -- well-deserved.
d. Warm up in the bullpen, Max Hall. Derek Anderson attempted 15 passes to one of the biggest targets in the game, Larry Fitzgerald. Completed three of them.
e. What happened to all those chances for Tim Tebow? Two rushes, two yards. Dud debut if there ever was one.
f. Alex Smith. Matt Moore. Two of my August QB chia pets were much more bad than good Sunday.
g. Not the best way to start out trying to impress the new boss, Eric Mangini.
h. Hang time, Matt Dodge. Come on. Giants hired you to be a professional punter.
i. Hands, Kevin Faulk. Missed two catchable balls in the first half versus Cincinnati.
j. Officials missed Johnathan Joseph nailing a defenseless receiver, Faulk, at New England.
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 Joe Buck said what a lot of us were thinking after seeing a highlight in the first half of Seattle-San Francisco, a shot of wide receiver Mike Williams -- the failed Lions draftee -- catching a key pass on a Seahawk drive. Said Buck: "Somewhere, Matt Millen is saying, 'Oh, now you want to play.' ''
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, Stewart Bradley) go out with concussions, and the starting center, Jamaal Jackson, is lost for the season with a torn biceps. Bob Sanders, Matthew Stafford, Kevin Boss, Matt Moore ... and I'm sure I'm missing 20 more. Adding regular-season games is an idea whose time should never come.
6. I think Carolina wideout Steve Smith just might be learning. The guy who has long talked first and thought second seems to regret what he told me at Panthers training camp six weeks ago, about going after Giants safety Michael Johnson right away in the Panthers' opener against the Giants. Johnson laid a hit on Smith that broke his arm last December.
"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. John Kasay's an amazing story to me. Like Favre, he'll be 41 by midseason, and he's played every season in the Carolina Panthers' existence -- all 16 of them. On Sunday at the Giants, Kasay started his 20th NFL season with a bang. By the end of the second quarter, he'd already kicked field goals of 52, 43 and 21 yards.
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, John Turney of New Mexico. He e-mailed to point out a lineman who had a far worse game than Barron. He wrote: "1984. Rams at Cardinals. [St. Louis tackle] Tootie Robbins. After giving up three sacks and countless hurries to Jack Youngblood in the first three quarters, in the fourth quarter Robbins was flagged for holding three times. The last was right before a potential game-tying FG and this put the attempt back to 48 yards. The kick was then blocked -- by Jack Youngblood. Rams win 16-13.'' Yikes.
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 Mike Williams on Sunday. The fourth-round rookie from Syracuse is an athletic, physical receiver who looks to have tremendous confidence in himself.
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 A.J. Green, the Georgia receiver who was suspended for four games for selling a autographed A.J. Green jersey: That's an offense worthy of losing a third of your season. Ridiculous. I'm not even talking about the concept of a kid bringing in the money stars bring in to college programs. I'm talking about the fairness of the penalty.
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, Troy Polamalu.
d. There will be better days, Nate Montana.
e. You're kidding, Virginia Tech. Right?
f. Eric Dungy, son of Tony, is a frosh Oregon receiver. Ducks played at Tennessee on Saturday night. Eric texted Peyton Manning before the game and said, in effect, if you want the Vols to win, you'd better come back and play quarterback. Like the kid's moxie.
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 Kevin Mawae, a consistently good player and person, on his retirement at 39. He's going to be vital to the negotiations between players and owner as president of the NFL Players Association, and he's ready for battle.
i. John Lynch and Champ Bailey, once pals in the Denver secondary, are trying to keep the name and spirit of murdered Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams alive. They're hosting a wine tasting, buffet and live auction next Monday in Denver (more current and former Broncos will be there), and for the third straight year, they're fund-raising for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, home of the Darrent Williams Memorial Teen Center. For information and tickets, go to www.prolinksports.net.
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.
Jets 16, Ravens 14. Interesting little factoid about this game. Last year, when tonight's officiating crew in the new New Jersey Stadium, led by ref Walt Anderson, worked the Baltimore-Green Bay game, the crew whistled nine pass-interference penalties. So now you know one of the reasons the Ravens had an interesting coaching point with their secondary players this offseason: Don't touch the receivers going downfield.
I wrote this in my evolution-of-the-spread-passing-game piece in the SI NFL Preview issue. Listen to coach John Harbaugh's words from that story: "If you watch the game today, you notice that if there's a collision -- a receiver running into a cover man -- it's the job of the corner to get out of the way of the receiver. Watch how it's called. If it's a collision, the call's going to go against the defensive player. So we're coaching the corners now, 'Don't touch the receiver going downfield.' Run the route, play the ball, don't hand-check. That's the only chance we have to not put the game in the hands of the officials. When I see pass-interference called now, it's not just about the way the game is played. It's about the way it's officiated.''
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.''
Chargers 30, Chiefs 17. In the Peter King DVRed Game of the Week (10:15 p.m. EDT kick? I'll be lucky to see the first Charlie Weis iso shot in the booth), I don't think I'm making too much out of the prospective lack of Dexter McCluster for the Chiefs -- if indeed he doesn't play with this illness that has him doubtful. Kansas City needs his Where's-Waldo offensive spark. But it's not hopeless for the Chiefs, who should be able to attack the holdout-depleted San Diego offense. Better get the ball out on time, Philip Rivers, and pay attention to your blind side.