Week 3 had its share of redemption and surprising, feel-good stories
Week 3 storylines from NFL cities across the country:
CHIEFS -- Kansas City is 3-0, and a bunch of guys names
FALCONS -- Atlanta pulled off the upset at New Orleans, and I asked coach
VIKINGS -- Minnesota is off the schneid entering the bye, and
COWBOYS -- Dallas is off the schneid entering the bye, and
NINERS -- The Niners are in trouble. Big trouble. And
STEELERS -- The quarterback America's rooting for,
A very interesting week.
• He overcame the disappointment of not being able to compete for the starting job when
• He went to training camp knowing he was No. 2 and, as a good soldier, never agitated to displace Kolb. Nor did he outplay Kolb in camp, so there was nothing of note happening to make a story there.
• He entered the first game of the season, against Green Bay, when Kolb suffered a concussion, and in the two-and-a-half games since, has led the offense to 80 points, accounting for seven touchdowns and 920 passing and rushing yards. He's thrown no interceptions, and has a 110.2 quarterback rating. He's never had a rating higher than 81 in his career.
• On Sunday, he threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth score, bailing out his coach after the incredible flip-flop decision Reid made to bench Kolb and start Vick last Tuesday.
• This week, he'll face his mentor and local lightning rod, McNabb, in Philadelphia. Go figure how each man will be received when the Redskins take the field.
There's a group of people (I hear from them every time I write about Vick) who won't be happy if Vick succeeds, because of his dogfighting history. But the fact is he did his time and has tried to redeem himself by doing and saying all the right things in the 14 months since the Eagles signed him. Handling the pressure of having the public's eyes burn into him for so long has to make football seem more like a game and less a pressurized business than it ever has. And he's playing like it.
His career plans, obviously, were derailed last year, when he suffered a nauseating compound leg fracture against the Raiders. The bone actually pierced the skin. "Since then,'' he told me, "my goal has been to write the kind of story my kids can be proud of -- to see their dad come back from a compound fracture of his leg. And it's going great.''
On draft weekend, Seattle stole Washington, hoping he'd return to form. The Seahawks traded a fifth-round pick, the 138th overall, to the Jets for Washington and a seventh-rounder. The fifth, for New York, became fullback
On the first play of the third quarter, he returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown. And then, after the Chargers tied the game at 20 midway through the fourth quarter, Washington struck again, taking a low hopper at the one-yard line and storming through the Chargers for a 99-yard score. Seattle won 27-20.
"My special teams coach,
Looks like Washington's all healed -- and worth the money he felt he should have gotten from the Jets.
Take Moeaki. When GM
Pioli's draft class is rapidly becoming one of the league's best in 2010. The top six picks all played extensively Sunday in the 31-10 win over the Niners.
Logic said you pin the Saints back, or try to, with a lead late in the game. Smith chose to gamble, thinking the Falcons had a winnable play called to tight end
The Saints tied the game with a late field goal and forced overtime. Lucky for Atlanta, Hartley missed a 29-yard gimme field goal attempt in overtime, and the Falcons went down and won it on a 46-yard field goal of their own by
That's the fine line here. Both teams are 2-1. New Orleans isn't 3-0 because Hartley missed a kick high school kickers make 90 percent of the time. The Saints were left to pick up the pieces, start auditioning kickers and wonder why they have struggled in all three of their games. Atlanta walked away euphoric after running for 202 yards and dodging a loss.
"We're not even past the quarter pole yet,'' said Smith. "There was no statement made today. I told our guys this week that one of the reasons I like what I see in this team is because they handle adulation and humiliation very well. We lost to Pittsburgh in overtime and handled it, then we beat Arizona and handled that.''
We've seen in the Vick and Roethlisberger cases that the public may one day forgive after a scandalous offense, though the process is slow. But this much is clear after watching the Jets' 31-23 win over the Dolphins in Miami last night: The Jets need the deep-threat presence Edwards provides, especially with
Even though he drops too many balls, Edwards is the kind of physical receiver who can play over corners' heads and can be a security blanket for Sanchez, who now has six touchdowns and no interceptions in the last two games, both wins over their main challengers in the division, New England and Miami.
We've all had time to debate whether the punishment of sitting out a quarter was severe enough -- that was my prediction Saturday on NBC; I knew
As for the Vikings, Peterson was back to his dominant self -- 23 carries, 160 yards, two touchdowns. So far this year, he's had 83 touches with zero fumbles, proving his work on the fumbling problem -- he had nine in the regular- and postseason last year -- is working. "I just keep the ball high and tight,'' he told me last night. "It comes natural now because I did it for so long in the offseason. Now, I just play the game. It's not in my mind.''
I'm not a fan of the early bye, but Peterson is. He'll go home to Texas, "relax, see my family and go to the Oklahoma-Texas game.'' As for the coaches, they'll examine the right mix for the offense. Sunday's against Detroit looked good to me while
What peeved Coughlin is that he told his players during the week that
All Batch wanted, really, was one chance to shine for the team he grew up worshiping. Sunday in Tampa, he got it. Taking advantage of an injury to Leftwich to stick on the opening day roster, and then an injury to Dixon last week to become the starter, Batch used the entire playbook instead of the slimmed-down game plan Dixon had been using. He threw deep to
"Honestly, I didn't think I'd ever get a chance for another start here,'' Batch told me from Tampa. "But what was great today was we had everything in the game plan, and we were going to take our shots downfield early. We were just trying to open it up, because we weren't playing us, honestly. And before the game, Mike [Wallace] said to me, 'Give me an opportunity, Chuck. Throw it up there for me.' We decided that if 35 [Grimm] ever turned his back to me, I was putting it up there.''
That's exactly what happened on one of the TD bombs to Wallace. Batch put it up for Wallace, and Grimm lost the ball, and Wallace won it in the end zone. Just like the Steelers drew it up.
"Game ball goes to Chuck,'' said coach
Sweetest words he's heard in years. Now he'll have to stare down the barrel of
Not to keep you hanging, but in tomorrow's column I'll update you on what Roethlisberger's been doing while suspended.
Quick note about this category this week. I could name Vick, Sanchez (six TDs, no interceptions in the last two weeks),
27* Receptions; 359* Yards; 13.3 yards per catch; 4 touchdowns. (* NFL-leading totals.)
You'd think the Ravens' D would be immune to this kind of day, but it's the fourth time in the last 19 games a runner has surpassed 100 yards against Baltimore, dating to the start of the 2009 season. Still, running against the physical front of the Ravens line, even though it came in a 24-17 loss, is a great accomplishment for a back who was a clear number three, at best, entering camp less than two months ago.
Lots of NFL folk in this game. Garcia (23-39, 226, three touchdowns, no picks) outdueled
And this decision, at least this week, was a gem, with Vick throwing 61-, 16- and 45-yard touchdown passes and running for a fourth score from 17 yards out in a 28-3 rout of the Jags. Yes, Reid has to salvage Kolb for the future, but for now, in the midst of the local and national hue and cry, his decision looks golden.
"We were really going to be in bad trouble if we lost this ballgame. Quite candidly, I was worried about going home and facing weeks without a win.''
I bet I've heard Jones say "quite candidly'' 300 times. He loves saying it.
"I guess in this world we don't have a lot of people with, like, backbones. Just because somebody pay you money don't mean they'll make you do whatever they want or whatever. I mean, does that mean everything is for sale? I mean, I'm not for sale. Yeah, I signed the contract and got paid a lot of money, but ... that don't mean I'm for sale or a slave or whatever."
"How is Kevin doing?''
"Blair [White] had run a couple of slant routes and they were playing inside, so he said to me, 'I think I can get him with a slant and go.' We encourage that kind of feedback. Now, I don't have to do it, but he said that a slant-and-go would give him a shot. That's the thing our practice squad guys always know: They're one injury away. They're talking about the 18-game schedule and cutting the offseason workouts. Well, Blair White does not get ready to play if you take those away.''
"Wow. From his Wikipedia page: 'Kareem
I checked. Politi's spot on. There's a Wikipedia sports terrorist out there.
The number of arrests, per team, in the AFC East since January 2009, when Rex Ryan was named coach of the Jets:
I'm not minimizing the arrest of Braylon Edwards for DUI last Tuesday morning. And testing at twice the legal limit for drunkenness, being arrested after 5 a.m., and having two teammates in the car makes it fair game for critics who said the Jets should have pushing Edwards by not allowing him to play Sunday night in Miami. But I'm also asking for a little perspective in calling the Jets the outlaws of the NFL.
According to an arrest log kept by ProFootballTalk.com, there have been 22 players arrested for driving while impaired or DUI since Jan. 1, 2009. I went back and checked what happened to each player arrested, and not a single one who was a viable NFL player was kept out of his team's next game. Seven were either roster marginalia or practice-squadders who were cut by their teams and who I don't believe apply to those being kept out of their team's next game, because they weren't valued members of their teams. What happened to the other 15:
• Ten players were arrested in the 2009 or 2010 offseason, and every one played in the opening game of the following season.
• Five players (San Diego's
None of this makes Edwards' case acceptable. And as
The Green Bay Packers can thank Brett Favre for one more thing, other than a lot of memories, when they take the field tonight in Chicago.
The Packers traded Favre to the New York Jets for a conditional draft choice in 2008. The pick became the Jets' third-rounder in the 2009 draft because Favre played more than 50 percent of the snaps in the 2008 season. So when the Packers started looking for an extra pick to pair with the 41st and 73rd overall picks to send to New England for the 26th overall pick in the first round on that draft day, GM
NFL sack leader Clay Matthews.
In the last seven days, I've been on Southwest, AirTran, the Amtrak Acela (twice); I've been stranded in Baltimore for four hours, been in Houston, in Manhattan ... and I have these five questions:
1. Why does Southwest have different seat belts than every other airline?
2. Why, when a child is crying that endless, bloodcurdling cry on an airplane, does a parent over and over say "Shhhhhh, shhhhhh,'' instead of taking the baby out of the seat, putting the child over his/her shoulder and rubbing or gently patting the baby in the back -- anything to change the dynamic or to try to coax a burp out of the poor kid?
3. Why could I find the
4. Why, if a flight is scheduled to leave at 10:15 a.m. out of Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport, and your plane backs away from the gate at 10:15 a.m. and gets out to the runway on a cloudless, windless day (last Thursday), and it isn't the morning rush hour or the afternoon rush hour, does it then take 32 minutes to get up in the air? Atlanta's infamous for this, in all weather.
5. Why don't more of us take the train, and why doesn't Washington invest in the rails across the country to give more of the country, and not just the northeast corridor, the pleasure of the Acela, with speeds up to 150 mph between Boston and Washington?
T-minus five days and counting for the New Hampshire Half-Marathon Saturday in Bristol, N.H. What began as a nightmare thought -- running twice as far as I've ever run in my life, at 53, in the middle of my crazy time of year -- has turned into one of the most interesting experiences I've had in years. Interesting because I've found I can actually run a long way and not be hospitalized after it. I actually think I'm going to do this.
Please go to our website, www.runpeterkingrun.com, for the story if you've missed it, and for a more important reason: to contribute to my causes for the race, Feed the Children and Wounded Warrior Project. I'd really like all of you to feel the pride of funding one semitrailer full of food and home supplies for 400 inner-city families somewhere in the United States ... and it costs $7,500 per trailer to do that. Also, I'm hoping you can find it in your hearts to support rehab and prostheses for the bravest people in the country, our wounded veterans coming home and trying to make new lives for themselves. I'll be contributing to both after the race as well. If I finish the 13.1-mile race Saturday at 9 a.m., I'll give each charity $1,000. If I don't finish, each charity gets $2,000. So when the two causes tell me to "Break a leg,'' maybe they'll really mean it.
I have to tell you about a great experience I had in Boston last Tuesday. The PR man for
And so we made the arrangements, and last Tuesday morning at 7:30, we met on the steps of the Boston Public Library on Copley Square. He's 64 now, but with a runner's body and a terrific, patient attitude ... and with a strained calf. "I'm 64, but I think I'm 24,'' he said with a grin. "Things don't heal the way they used to.'' But he was in training too -- for the Athens Marathon in Greece at the end of October, and our eight-mile run, at my pace, would actually be a good day on the road for him.
We set off down Boylston Street, then left toward the Charles Rivers, where we'd run for a mile or so, then across the bridge near Mass General to Cambridge, then around the Science Museum, then four miles southwest along the Charles through Cambridge, then back over a bridge to Allston, then over a footbridge to Boston University, then past Fenway Park back to his hotel.
I wanted to know his advice for the run. Start slow, he said. Don't run for time; run for fun. Don't sprint down the hills. Just run your short strides. Don't get impatient.
"And get behind a really attractive woman runner,'' he said. "Women are great at keeping up a pace, so you won't have to worry about your pace. And, you know, there will be some other benefits.''
I'm not much for talking when running, but I had to know about the day he won Boston. So I interviewed him as we ran. There were 980 runners that day, a Saturday. The running culture at the time, he said, was pretty nerdy. He said he was a skinny, weird nerd who couldn't get a date, as he settled into a slow jog so as not to embarrass me. He said it "was sex, drugs and rock 'n roll on college campuses,'' but he'd go to bed many nights at 9 and be up at 6 to run. He knew he'd have a chance that day because some of the world's pre-eminent runners were saving themselves for the Olympic trials and the high-altitude Olympics in Mexico City that year. After about 10 miles, Burfoot was in a pack of 10 runners. They ran together for a few miles, and he wondered what would happen if he picked up the pace just a little bit. So he did -- and only one of the runners stayed with him. That runner,
As we ran this morning, we cast long shadows to our right. That's the same kind of shadow, Burfoot said, that shadowed him that April day in 1968. Even as the two runners ascended Heartbreak Hill -- Burfoot was great at hills -- the shadow hung in there. But as they descended the hill the shadow went away; Burfoot found out later Clark strained a muscle coming down the hill. Now he was in the clear. And he won the race.
"Today, you get $150,000 for winning Boston,'' he said, chuckling. "In those days, I got a laurel wreath, a diamond pendant, though you could barely see the diamond, and a big bowl of beef stew -- and I was a vegetarian.''
His big celebration was getting in the family car and driving 90 minutes back to Groton. And then going back to Wesleyan for class Monday morning.
"When you went into class Monday, did anybody stand up and give you an ovation for winning Boston?'' I asked.
"God, no!'' he said. "I was such a shy kid. I'd have been horrified!''
As he told me stories, it occurred to me what a special club he belongs to -- American men who have won Boston. No American has won it in 27 years. I felt like I was taking fly balls off the Green Monster with
When we finished, I had a kick left for the last 300 or 400 yards, and I felt good about that. We got a coffee in the Starbucks at the Sheraton -- the same hotel that houses the marathon runners every April -- and now I was the running nerd, needing affirmation from one of the greatest American runners ever. I didn't know how to ask it, so I just blurted it out:
"What'd you think of me as a runner?''
"You look smooth, comfortable,'' he said. "In eight miles, I never heard you breathe. You've got a very economical stride. You don't look like you're working hard. You're smooth. You're an athlete.''
"You're just a little hunched over at the shoulders. But you look like a lifelong marathoner in terms of the ease and the comfort of your stride. I really think you could run a marathon if you wanted to. You could fit into a running group with experienced runners here in Boston and fit right in.''
"You're really going to do well,'' he said. "You're going to love it.''
I know it. I can't wait for Saturday.
a. Kyle Orton has really taken command of the Denver offense, and I don't say that just because he threw for 476 yards Sunday. You notice that
b. Talk about two backs fitting well together. Thomas Jones vs. San Francisco: 19 carries, 95 yards; Jamaal Charles vs. San Francisco: 12 carries, 97 yards.
c. What a run by
d. You're not as slow as everyone thinks, Charlie Batch.
i. No peeking: Sports quiz--Where'd
j. Excellent use of instant replay by
k. The Saints' decisiveness in bringing in some kickers this week for auditions. Can't hold the seat forever without performing, Garrett Hartley, not after missing gimmes.
a. Adrian Peterson is going to see that first-quarter drop, with nothing but open field in front of him, for a long time.
b. If you won't trust your kicker, Dallas, and you certainly don't when you won't let
d. As will Tampa Bay rookie safety
f. You're staring down your targets,
g. How do you NOT cover
h. You're not making everyone forget the way last year ended,
i. Come on, Kareem McKenzie. Control yourself. His double-shove of a Titan in the fourth quarter -- inexcusable.
j. The Giants, in general, are contending with San Francisco for 2010's most disappointing team.
"His successes were often of a nature whereby he worked behind the scenes to prevent something from happening, rather than reacting after the fact. An example was during the anti-trust suit with the USFL, our outside council suggested that he would settle the case with the USFL. Tagliabue spoke up and said he had a different opinion and that settling the case would be the worst thing the NFL could do. It would open the door to other people to start a league then sue the NFL to get an award from the suit or to have teams join the NFL. His argument and logic made sense and the owners agreed ...
"As to whether or not Paul is responsible for whatever happens next [in the labor negotiations after pushing through the last agreement in 2006], that is confusing to me. Times change and both sides know that we are probably at a point where we need to make changes. Paul successfully guided us during his tenure and now it is time to examine where we will be in the future. That is always inevitable as circumstances over time demand adjustments.''
I doubt Tagliabue will get in soon; I should know, because I presented his case for three years to the body of voters, and there's a sense that he'll not get in until this labor thing is resolved -- and maybe not for a long while beyond that.
a. Congrats on 2,500 wins,
c. The last week of the baseball season was looking interesting, until
d. The Red Sox have to think seriously about whether Papelbon's going to close for them next year. Maybe this is just one of those years. But he can't get the Yankees out anymore. That's sort of important.
e. I wish something could make me interested in the National League West race.
f. I've got a lot of admiration for
g. I'm not saying my wife and I went to a nice restaurant in New York the other night or anything, but when she put her purse on the floor by her chair, a server hustled over, picked up her purse and put it on a velvet footstool.
h. Coffeenerdness: Quite pleased to try the Italian Roast from the New Hampshire Coffee Roasting Company. The darker the better, as far as I'm concerned, and this one's got a good kick to it with no bitterness.
j. A big thanks to