Strange Days Are Ruling the Season’s Start
“You never pick up where you left off from one year to the next,’’ Bill Parcells used to say. (Maybe he still says it, for all I know.) Don’t the NFC playoff teams from last year know it. Those six teams are 6-12 this morning.
That is the 2013 season after 47 games.
I’ll take Startling Stats for $800, Alex.
San Francisco is supposed to define defense. The Niners have allowed 84 points through three weeks. New Orleans (last in team defense last year) and Indianapolis (26th last year), combined, have allowed 86 points.
The AFC East stinks, right? The AFC East is 9-3. Every team in the division is 1-0 against the NFC.
Those guys making the commercials—how are they doing? Robert Griffin III is the 20th-rated passer in football, and, scrambling in the pocket Sunday, was caught from behind by a Detroit defensive lineman. Colin Kaepernick is 25th. Right behind Bay-mate Terrelle Pryor. And 12 slots below Alex Smith.
That first London game, Pittsburgh-Minnesota in Week 4, sure seemed like a gem when it was announced five months ago. The Steelers and Vikings are a combined 0-6.
Offensive rookie of the year? This morning, it’s Chicago guard Kyle Long. The human sack machine, Jay Cutler, has been sacked three times in three games.
So you’re saying there won’t be a New Jersey vs. New Jersey Super Bowl in the New Jersey Super Bowl. Eli Manning and Geno Smith are 1-2 in the NFL in interceptions, with eight and six.
But I’m confused, Mr. Trebek. Jordan Cameron is seventh in the league with 20 receptions. Cameron Jordan is ninth in the league with 3.0 sacks.
Strange days indeed. On to the news of a particularly newsy Week 3.
The Aldon Smith Decision
Jim Harbaugh is a meteor in the coaching sky. A star. Until Sunday, when the Niners lost their second game in a row (27-7 to Indianapolis), Harbaugh hadn’t lost two games in a row in three years. He and his team will recover from the events of the weekend; they're just too good, too talented. But the world will be watching this Aldon Smith rehab to see if Smith, and the 49ers, are seriously going to address a career-threatening problem, because there have to be legitimate questions about it after Smith played a full game Sunday.
Smith, the team’s star pass-rushing linebacker, was found in his sport truck Friday morning at 7 a.m. about a half-hour from the Niners’ facility in Santa Clara, Calif., the truck up against a tree in a yard. When the police arrived, he blew a .15 on the breathalyzer test, almost double the legal limit in California. Keep in mind, he was supposed to be at the team facility for meetings and practice within the hour, and he obviously would have been in no condition to be there. He was arrested, jailed, bailed out, and practicing with the team just after noon local time. Right after practice, Harbaugh said he assumed Smith would be playing on Sunday, and he did. Smith played all 67 of San Francisco’s defensive snaps against the Colts.
Last season, a Niners special-teams player, Demarcus Dobbs, was arrested early on a Friday morning and charged with DUI and marijuana possession. The team left him home from a trip to play St. Louis that weekend, meaning Dobbs didn’t play. But Smith is not Demarcus Dobbs. Smith is one of the best defensive players in football, and different rules apply to great players than to marginal ones.
After the game, Smith apologized, and the Niners said he would taking an indefinite leave. I reported last night on NBC’s Football Night in America that Smith would be entering an in-patient facility to deal with his problems—Smith has been arrested twice for DUI in the last 20 months, and he was stabbed at a house party in 2012, and sued from incidents at that party. “This is a problem, and it’s something that I will get fixed,’’ Smith said after the game.
Under league policy, teams cannot suspend players for substance-abuse issues. That’s up to the league and the league only. So until his case is adjudicated in a California court in November, Smith would have been allowed to play—unless the 49ers deactivated him and paid him his regular weekly 2013 compensation of $230,759 not to play.
“I think this was the best thing for Aldon,’’ said 49ers CEO Jed York. “And again, there’s no right answer here.” Maybe not—but unless this is a long, serious and intensive rehab process, the 49ers will look like users, and Smith will look like a pawn. We’ll be watching to see if Smith, and the 49ers, take this as seriously as they claimed they would Sunday night.
I would not have played Smith Sunday were it my decision. I wouldn't have abandoned him and let him go off to get in more trouble than he already was in. He would have been with the team all weekend—at Saturday meetings, on the sideline Sunday—but there are some things that are just more important than playing in a football game. If it sends the wrong message to sit a guy and pay him $230,000, so be it. I just don't think it's right to let him play.
One other thing: The next big issue on Roger Goodell’s agenda—and on DeMaurice Smith’s as well—has to be tougher penalties on DUIs. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s potentially a life-and-death one, for the drivers and the innocents in their way.
The strange business of trading in the NFL.
The Browns abandoned the season—supposedly—by trading Trent Richardson after two weeks, flew to Minneapolis to play a 2012 playoff team, and won their first game of the season with a third-string quarterback starting.
The Colts traded a first-round pick for Richardson, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft. On Sunday, the 250th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Ahmad Bradshaw, was Indy’s best back, rushing 19 times for 95 yards in a 27-7 upset win at San Francisco.
My takeaways from this deal, and the future of the two teams:
Cleveland will be doomed to fail unless they get on a path and stick to it. In the six seasons since 2008, the Browns have had four different front-office regimes: Phil Savage as GM (2005-08), George Kokinis as GM (2009), Mike Holmgren as president and Tom Heckert as GM (2010-12), and Joe Banner as CEO and Mike Lombardi at GM (2013). That has led to the kind of schizophrenic decision-making that, if I was a Browns’ fan, would cause me to go crazy.
In 2011, the Heckert/Holmgren group traded the sixth pick in a very strong top of the first round (Von Miller, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Aldon Smith, Patrick Peterson, J.J. Watt) to Atlanta for two first-rounders, a second-rounder and two fourths. What they got in return:
2011 first: Defensive tackle Phil Taylor, a decent starter, who Cleveland had to deal up six spots to acquire. The tradeup cost Cleveland its third-round pick. Kansas City used that pick to select Justin Houston, who leads the NFL in sacks this morning.
2011 second: Wideout Greg Little, who has been a marginal starter.
2011 fourth: Fullback Owen Marecic, cut by the new regime in camp this summer.
2012 first: Quarterback Brandon Weeden, who is in the process of being replaced as the Cleveland quarterback.
2012 fourth: Used in the trade to move up to draft Trent Richardson.
Essentially, the bounty of picks the Browns received for the one the Falcons on Julio Jones resulted in one player likely to be an average to above-average starter: Phil Taylor, who plays about 60 percent of the defensive snaps. And it cost Cleveland the equivalent of Justin Houston to move up to get Taylor.
Now for the Richardson part of this. Cleveland had the fourth pick in 2012. The Browns tried hard to move up to pick Andrew Luck and failed. They could have traded down a bit and picked the third quarterback in the draft, Ryan Tannehill, but he wasn’t the apple of the front office’s eye. Though there was zero chance Minnesota would use the pick to take Richardson, and a very small chance the Vikes would trade down very far, Cleveland, to move up one spot in the draft, gave Minnesota fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks. Eighteen games into his Cleveland career, Richardson was traded for Indy’s first-rounder next year. Let’s say Indy lands where it did last year—in the wild-card round, giving the Browns the 24th pick in the 2014 first round. That’d mean Cleveland traded Richardson plus three picks for the right to move down 21 spots in a draft two years later.
This is what happens when regimes value players differently. The new Browns don’t want the power back that Richardson is; these Browns want a shiftier, faster back. The good thing about the dealing is that Cleveland has seven picks in the top four rounds next year, including two in the first round. But that’s not going to do any good if this new management group drafts poorly or if it sticks around for three years, gets fired, and another regime erases what this one began.
Moral of the story: Unless Banner and/or Lombardi stinks out loud, owner Jimmy Haslam has to keep them for five seasons. Build a team their way. Build a team in someone’s way, for crying out loud, and stick to it.
“Continuity is invaluable,’’ Banner said Saturday. “But continuity for its own sake is not the ultimate solution. I don’t want a free pass. If in three or four years we aren’t positioned to win … I should have to deal with the consequences.’’ I’m not sitting here lobbying for Banner and Lombardi to stay if they blow these picks. But any smart football person would tell you a draft can’t be judged for two years at least, and three more prudently.
Indianapolis is a different team in a different time.
Sunday’s game in San Francisco was a perfect illustration why GM Ryan Grigson made this deal. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wants to be able to be a power running team. Not all the time, but when it suits his style. And watching the Colts grind out the win against what was supposed to be one of the best run defenses in football, you see why Richardson was important. The Colts entered the fourth quarter with a 13-7 lead. They ran the ball on 15 of 20 (non-penalized) snaps in the quarter. They held it for 10:51 of the 15-minute quarter. And they outscored the Niners 14-0 in the quarter. So what if it was more Ahmad Bradshaw than Richardson? The Colts will need both, in heavy doses, before the end of the season.
As of this morning, Indianapolis looks like the best team in the AFC South. Houston’s been struggling to match its level of consistency from its 12-4 2012 season. We could look back on the deal and say Indy overpaid, or Richardson wasn’t worth it. But the offense Hamilton’s going to run needs power. And Bradshaw and Richardson give the Colts two backs who can provide some power, and some ability to make defenders miss too.
A few highlights, and lowlights …
The Bengals and Packers played a game Steve Sabol would have loved. Green Bay scored 30 points in a row, and lost. Cincinnati blew a 14-point lead. Green Bay handed back a 16-point lead. Bengals: four turnovers. Packers: four turnovers. But the biggest play of the game might have been a replay challenge by the Bengals with 4:34 left in the game. Green Bay led 30-27. It was 3rd-and-12 at the Cincinnati 41. Rodgers threw to Randall Cobb, and the officials ruled he gained 12 yards and just barely got the first down. But the Bengals challenged, and won. It was 4th-and-1 at the 30. Eschewing a 47-yard field-goal try from the terminally unreliable Mason Crosby, Green Bay coach McCarthy chose to try to make the yard, and running back Johnathan Franklin fumbled. A Keystone Kops play ensued, and Terence Newman ran it in for the winning touchdown. But the replay was what mattered, I thought. “One of our young personnel guys upstairs saw it,’’ Marvin Lewis said from Cincinnati after the game. “So we challenged. It was close, but it turned out to be a good decision.’’ Lewis’ message—to his team and to the media and his fans—after the game was clear. He didn’t like how the Packers came to Cincinnati as the team with the perceived big edge in talent. “We’ve got great players here too. It’s so week to week in this league. You just never know. But we’ve got enough good players to play with anyone.’’
The Hoyer and Lanning show. Spencer Lanning never played a game of football until his junior year in high school. He was a soccer player until he tore an ACL playing the game. Then he decided to kick a football, and punt one, and pass one. He went on to kick and punt at South Carolina, and throw a football around like any other player having fun before practice. On Sunday, he did all of them, the first time in 45 years an NFL player threw a pass, punted and place-kicked in the same game. The pass was the gem—an 11-yard touchdown thrown from field-goal formation to tight end Jordan Cameron in the second quarter. “All I could hear at the end of our series was, ‘Get off the field! Hurry up!’ ‘’ Hoyer said from Minneapolis. “I’m ticked off, because I really wanted to score down there. I had no idea what we were doing.” Cameron jogged off—but never got all the way to the sidelines. He lingered near the white sideline stripe, Minnesota never noticed him, and as soon as Lanning got the snap, he rose and threw a perfect pass to Cameron, who ran it in. “I just didn’t want to be that guy who overthrows an open receiver and throws it into the stands,’’ Lanning said from Minneapolis. “If you’d ever told me I’d throw a touchdown pass in an NFL game, I would have never believed you.” You did it, kid. You’ve got something in common with Brady and Manning. You’ve thrown an NFL touchdown pass.
The Steelers and Giants shouldn’t be shocked to be 0-3. They can’t block. They can’t protect their Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, the Giants especially. It’s been 10 seasons since these two teams picked in the top 10 of a draft—coincidentally, the year they got Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger—and both are on the way to that ignominious placement in 2014.
David Shaw’s NFL future, briefly.
A 34-second discussion with highly respected Stanford head coach David Shaw, about his NFL desires:
Me: “You tempted by the NFL?”
Shaw: “Maybe somewhere way down the road. I said no to all the interviews last year. I got called by a bunch of teams. I love where we’re at right now, I love this team. This team we have, it’s going to be good for a while.”
Me: “No guarantees in the NFL. The grass isn’t always greener.”
Shaw: “When teams reached out to me last year, I said, ‘Okay, you tell me which NFL city is better than Palo Alto. And then explain that to my wife.’ ‘’
1. Denver (2-0). Just when you thought the season was setting up to be a nice little stroll to AFC home-field advantage, here are the 15 autumn days that will try John Fox’s soul: Nov. 17, Kansas City at home … Nov. 24, at New England … Dec. 1, at Kansas City.
2. Seattle (3-0). A nice afternoon scrimmage against Jacksonville Sunday. There were no casualties, which is all that matters.
3. New Orleans (3-0). Saints started 0-3 last year. Allowed 40, 35 and 27 points. Saints 3-0 this year. Allowed 17, 14 and seven points. Rob Ryan for mayor.
4. Chicago (3-0). Took the air out of Heinz Field in about 15 minutes. How about this: It’s Sept. 23, and the Bears have a two-game lead on the Packers in the NFC North.
5. Miami (3-0). Two straight cliffhanger wins, and this is what I like most: Ryan Tannehill, though taking a beating, is completing two-thirds of his passes and spreading the wealth to four different receivers.
6. Indianapolis (2-1). Watched most of the second half at San Francisco. That was no fluke win. Ahmad Bradshaw made the following statement: I count.
7. New England (3-0). First time since the 16-0 regular-season of 2007 that New England has started 3-0. I mean, just saying.
8. Kansas City (3-0). Quarterback Alex Smith has something in common with the rest of the KC offense: zero turnovers through three games. Not to rewrite history, or say the Niners made the wrong call on Alex Smith/Colin Kaepernick, but to refresh your memory about what a gutsy decision Jim Harbaugh made in benching Smith for Kaepernick last fall, Smith was 27 of 29 (.931) for 313 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 151.2 rating in his final passes as a 49er.
9. Baltimore (2-1). No Ray Rice with the explosive Texans coming to town, and the Ravens win by 21. That’s a big win for a team with a lot of new parts. And good contributions by newbies Daryl Smith and Tandon Doss (he's sort of a newbie).
10. Cincinnati (2-1). This is an odd team. The Bengals can look like the Bungles, as they did in allowing Green Bay to score 30 points in a row Sunday. But then the D can rise up and bat three Aaron Rodgers passes down at the end of the game to preserve one of the wildest wins Marvin Lewis has ever had.
11. San Francisco (1-2). Last two weeks—Foes 56, Niners 10. Best line of the Aldon Smith stupidity, from Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: “Aldon Smith was arrested at 7 a.m., one hour AFTER Kaepernick starts work.”
12. Dallas (2-1). The Cowboys are the class of the NFC East by default—though they played well in embarrassing the Rams. DeMarco Murray needs to stay healthy, or the over-reliance on Tony Romo will hurt their chances of playing deep into January.
13. Atlanta (1-2). Roddy White: seven catches, 56 yards. For the season. Don’t tell me that doesn’t hurt.
14. Houston (2-1). The Texans are better than they showed Sunday, but in their three weeks so far, they: overcame a 21-point deficit to win at San Diego, needed a huge late-game rally to beat Tennessee in overtime, and got whacked by the Ravens. Not good.
15. (tie) Tennessee (2-1). Sunday was the first day I have watched the Jake Locker Titans and said: I can see this guy being a good quarterback for a long time.
(tie) Detroit (2-1). The defense is making progress. Three foes have a composite 70.8 passer rating. The Lions haven’t been under an opposing passer rating of 89 for the season since the Joey Harrington Era.
The Award Section
Offensive Players of the Week
Brian Hoyer, QB, Cleveland. Roll this one around in your head: The third-string quarterback for Cleveland won a road game over a 2012 playoff team and had a 30-of-54 performance in a stunning post-Trent-trade victory. (I understand the three interceptions are big minuses, but drive after drive Hoyer showed he belonged on this stage.) No way he can be yanked out of the starting job now.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Indianapolis. You saw the will of a very good running back in the fourth quarter at San Francisco. Bradshaw, who had to hear for three days before the game that the Colts finally got a franchise back to shore up a weak position, came out and bled the clock in the fourth quarter like Emmitt Smith. He ran it 11 times for 62 yards when everyone in the stadium knew the run was coming—and when coach Chuck Pagano had Trent Richardson next to him on the bench for much of the quarter. For the day, Bradshaw ran 19 times for 95 yards in a win no one saw coming.
Defensive Players of the Week
Justin Houston, OLB, Kansas City. Hard to imagine any defensive player in any game this season playing any better than Houston did Thursday night in Philadelphia. Houston set the edge against the wide runs by Philadelphia, and tormented Michael Vick like he has been few times in his career. Houston, a third-year player from Georgia, is just 24, and we could be seeing the dawn of the career of the next great outside linebacker. Houston’s game in Philadelphia:
• 4.5 sacks, for 28 combined yards lost.
• Three passes deflected.
• One forced fumble.
• Two fumble recoveries.
Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina. Pretty tough to hold the Giants (at least the Giants of old) to 150 total yards and zero points, but Hardy and his friends in the Carolina front seven stifled Eli Manning all day and totally embarrassed the New York offensive line. Hardy: three sacks, eight tackles.
Special Teams Players of the Week
Spencer Lanning, P/K/holder, Cleveland. Hard to imagine a special teams player doing more for his team in a win. Lanning holds for kicker Billy Cundiff. He punts, and averaged 46.8 yards on five boots at the Metrodome Sunday. In the second quarter, from field-goal formation, he threw a perfect 11-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron. And with Cundiff slightly injured late in the game, Lanning, who was a kicker/punter in college at South Carolina, entered and kicked the PAT on the final touchdown of the game. He’s the first man since Sam Baker of the Eagles in 1968 to have a PAT, punt and a touchdown pass in the same game.
Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City. Hali thought he was playing on the extra-point defense team when the Eagles scored their first touchdown Thursday night. But Philadelphia called for a weird formation, where only long-snapper Jon Dorenbos, the holder and kicker were in their usual spots. The other eight players on the Eagles’ conversion team were split left, with a huge gap between Dorenbos and the rest of the linemen. Behind the linemen was tight end Zach Ertz. Instead of snapping the ball for a PAT, Dorenbos lifted it off the ground and passed it sideways to Ertz, who immediate lurched forward trying to score the two points. But Hali, sprinting in from Ertz’s right, slammed him to the ground for no gain. Imagine how alert you have to be to anticipate this, and then to react to something you’ve never seen before and wreck it.
Tandon Doss, PR-WR, Baltimore. Cut and re-signed by the Ravens in their desperation for a receiver/returner, Doss made the play of the game in a 21-point Baltimore victory over Houston. Doss took a Shane Lechler punt at the Ravens’ 18, veered toward the right sideline, and sprinted/tiptoed for 25 yards of the trip. His 82-yard touchdown run was a tribute to his athletic ability and jarring speed.
Coach of the Week
Chris Ault, consultant, Kansas City. Andy Reid hired Ault, who coached Nevada and developed Colin Kaepernick into an NFL quarterback, in the offseason to help his team in a variety of ways. Ault’s job is shrouded in mystery. But you can see his effect on both offense and defense. Andy Reid has adopted some of Ault's stuff into his West Coast offense—Pro Football Focus had Alex Smith lined up in the pistol eight times Thursday night—and he’s also been active in helping the Kansas City defense against the wide-open offenses the Chiefs will play this year. I can only guess why Ault’s role is top secret: Kansas City travels to Washington Dec. 8. Ault and Kyle Shanahan, before Ault took this job, exchanged some ideas informally last winter. I can tell you Reid’s staff values Ault highly, and he had a big hand in divining what Chip Kelly was doing on Thursday night.
Goats of the Week
Will Beatty, tackle, New York Giants. The Giants haven’t had a worse shutout loss in 40 years than the 38-0 job at Carolina Sunday, and it’s doubtful anyone played worse than the left tackle, Beatty. He was awful in the first half as the Panthers ravaged Eli Manning for six sacks, and he added two penalties.
Marcus Gilchrist, strong safety, San Diego. Gilchrist dropped the clinching interception with 44 seconds left in the fourth quarter (Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker helped with a hit, but this was 90 percent on Gilchrist), and that drop is a direct reason why the Chargers are 1-2 today and not 2-1.
Quotes of the Week
“This is insanity … Embarrassing. I’ve never seen a Giants’ offensive line so bad.”
—Former Giants linebacker Carl Banks, doing color on the New York radio network Sunday, in the midst of the Giants’ offensive line allowing six sacks in the first half.
“This is comedy. It’s comedy. It’s shameful.”
—Banks, a few minutes later, when the shameful play continued.
“It’s embarrassing. If you’re going to be a steady lunch for the guy rushing you, then you’re in the wrong profession.”
—Banks, at halftime, when the Giants had one yard passing.
“I’m at a loss for words.”
—Banks, when the score got to be 31-0.
“Their will is gone. They have no will.”
—Banks, when it got to be 38-0.
“I believe the safest pick in the draft—beyond Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III—is Alabama running back Trent Richardson. He's a blue-chip player and has all the skills to quickly establish himself as a top-five player at his position. Forget the nonsense about not taking backs early—everyone would love the chance to get this guy.”
—Mike Lombardi, current Cleveland GM and former NFL.com columnist and NFL Network analyst, writing on NFL.com on April 23, 2012, three days before Richardson was picked third overall in the draft by the Browns.
I have scores—hundreds, probably—of quotes from my past that are blush-inducing, and very wrong, and which I wish I’d never written or said. But I can’t imagine one Lombardi would like to have back more from his days in the media than this one.
“How do you make your team better by trading your best player? … If I’m the coach and someone came in and did that, I’d say, ‘Okay, fire me, or I’m going to quit.’ Or we’re both going to go to the owner and talk about this, and then we’ll see who’s still standing.”
—Mike Holmgren, the former Cleveland club president who oversaw the trade up for, and drafting of, Trent Richardson before the Browns cleaned house after the 2012 season.
“I’m talking about the pain and instability that comes with a body that’s always hurt in one way or the other. Pain supersedes all boundaries. It goes above and beyond the dreams and the money and the women and all that. The dream that you’re talking about is the dream that we believe when we watch it on television. We see these guys playing on Sunday, 16 times a year. But 349 days of the year, there is a job, and it is professional football, and it is not that dream.”
—Nate Jackson, the former NFL tight end and author of the revealing new book, Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile (you can read an excerpt here) in a Sunday interview on NPR’s “Weekend Edition.”
Not sure if I’ve ever heard the reality of being an NFL player ever put better, and with such feeling, as Jackson did in the NPR interview.
Stat of the Week
Peyton Manning will be 39 at the end of the 2015 season, assuming he plays that long. I assume he will. We all do.
In the first 226 games of Manning’s pro career, he has averaged 266.7 passing yards a game. That has left him 11,583 passing yards shy of breaking Brett Favre’s all-time record of 71,838.
Beginning tonight, Manning has 46 regular-season games until the end of 2015. If, in this pass-happy era of pro football, Manning averages the same number of yards he has to this point, he’d break Favre’s record for career passing yards in Week 15 of 2015. It’d be quicker to break the career record for touchdown passes. Favre had 508 of those. Manning’s at 445, an average of 1.97 per game. That means, at this pace, he needs 33 games to pass Favre … which brings us to Week 3 of the 2015 season.
The one record of Favre’s that Manning would have loved to break he can’t. (Unless he plays every week until he’s 56.) Favre played 297 regular-season games in a row from 1992 to 2010. Manning plays his 19th straight tonight in Denver.
Factoids of the Week That May Interest Only Me
So call Alex Smith what you want—Captain Checkdown is probably the most charitable derisive moniker he hears—but understand why Andy Reid wanted him so badly when he took over as Chiefs coach. Reid is what I’d call a conservative West Coast offense coach. He wants his quarterback to move the chains, engineer long drives, and not turn it over. He might have the most perfect quarterback in football for those traits. The Smith-led offense has zero turnovers in the first three games, and the team is 3-0. Let’s go back and include Smith’s late 49er career for this gem:
In his last 17 starts, Smith has been intercepted in three games, and has lost three games.
Kansas City has won three games in the last 12 days.
Kansas City won twice in the previous 614 days.
Before Sunday, the last time Detroit beat the Washington franchise on the road was two years before the team moved to Washington. The franchise was in Boston then, in 1935. The site of the 17-7 Detroit road victory? Fenway Park.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
Found myself in a new hotel, the Residence Inn Fenway, in room-starved Boston Tuesday night (big convention in town) after doing some business for The MMQB during the day in the western suburbs. So of course, staying in a hotel just across Brookline Avenue from Fenway Park, I wanted to attend the game. Before heading over, I had this only-in-Boston moment: On the sidewalk outside the hotel were two small groups: a family of five, with three young boys all in Red Sox gear and caps, ready to walk over to the game. And three men dressed in monks’ robes; two of the monks carried black backpacks with MIT logos. I loved the diversity of the Boston area when I lived there, with so many universities around.
Tweets of the Week
“Starting to have some doubts about a Giants Jets Superbowl this year in NJ.”
—Novelist @HarlanCoben, in the midst of one of the worst Giants losses since Gary Wood quarterbacked them, 38-0 in Carolina.
“Beautiful fall day for a football game ... or staying home and smoking a couple racks of ribs.”
—@poisonpill76, former Minnesota, Seattle and Tennessee guard Steve Hutchison, tweeting from Minnetonka, Minn., on a glorious first-day-of-autumn Sunday.
“It's so intimidating when fans flip off our bus. How will I ever play tonight?... Lol”
—@geoffschwartz, the Kansas City guard, as the team bus pulled into Lincoln Financial Field Thursday evening. Kansas City really was shaken up, as the 26-16 win over the Eagles proved.
“Congratulations @JManziel2 for putting on a fantastic show. He may not be able to make money off himself but I can.”
—@FloydMayweather, the boxing champ.
Mayweather bet $220,000 in Vegas that Texas A&M, favored by 17.5 over SMU in the first half Saturday, would outscore SMU by at least that much. Johnny Manziel’s team was up 32-6 at halftime. So Mayweather won walked away with $420,000—his original bet plus $200,000.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 3:
a. The blitz pickup by Jamaal Charles. Did you see how he demolished Eagles safety Earl Wolff?
b. Dontari Poe. When former KC GM Scott Pioli picked Poe, he was supposed to be the most perplexing prospect in the 2012 draft—a 346-pound defensive tackle who could run a 40 in under five seconds but had questions about his desire. He’s been a disruptive player for defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, and has 3.5 sacks through three games. He swatted down a Mike Vick pass Thursday.
c. Philadelphia Inquirer headline Friday morning: “Reid It And Weep.”
d. Good reporting by Mike Reiss, too, with the story of Rob Ninkovich’s contract extension through 2016 in New England.
e. Antonio Gates and another one-handed catch.
f. Fantastic touchdown throw from Brian Hoyer to Jordan Cameron. In stride.
g. I kept hearing Johnathan Franklin was looking like a bust, and then he went out and ran for 103 yards on 13 carries against the Bengals. Had a big fumble late, but the Packers know they’ve got good depth in the backfield for the first time in a while.
h. Chuck Pagano can coach.
i. Speaking of coaches off to good starts: Joe Philbin, a Bay Stater, is tied with the team he grew up loving, the Patriots, at 3-0 atop the AFC East. And Marc Trestman is proving he should have had his NFL head-coaching chance a long time ago.
j. Geno Smith’s intriguing. Makes too many errors, but he also makes two or three throws a game that make you say: This guy’s got a real chance to make it.
k. Santonio Holmes, five catches for 154 yards. Not bad for a guy who didn’t know if he’d be playing at all this year.
l. Think of the Eagles without LeSean McCoy and his 132 rushing yards a game. Yikes. Big trouble.
m. Ezekiel Ansah caught RG3 from behind Sunday. I think that says a little more about Ansah right now. The guy’s got difference-making speed.
n. Brandon Fields makes a difference every week as Miami’s punter.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 3:
a. Mike Vick reverting to the turnover-prone Mike Vick.
b. Aldon Smith and Von Miller, top-10 picks in 2011 and big, big stars. Miller is suspended for six weeks. Smith will be out indefinitely. Disconcerting is what it is. Smith and Miller could learn from a player picked No. 11 in that first round, beneath them both: J.J. Watt. Now we know why Von Miller’s suspension was six games, not four. Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported Sunday on ESPN that Miller tried to corrupt the urine-collection process by getting one of the collectors to substitute someone’s clean urine for Miller’s dirty urine.
c. The first pick in the draft, right tackle Eric Fisher of the Chiefs. He got beat up by the Eagles pass rushers, and called for two penalties too. You mean there’s an adjustment period from the Mid-American Conference to the NFL?
d. How is that Dez Bryant red-zone TD catch not offensive pass interference? He pushed the defensive back down, then turned around and caught the pass. Yes, he and Cortland Finnegan both made contact, but Bryant extended both arms and pushed Finnegan down.
e. The Giants’ offensive line is a disaster. What a fall from grace.
f. Art Vandelay Import/Export Note of the Week: The four teams playing in London this season—including Steelers-Vikes next Sunday—are a combined 1-11.
g. I can’t think of any reason to be optimistic about the Bucs. I’m starting to wonder if Greg Schiano can survive if the Bucs continue like this.
h. Year too early on the Rams optimism.
3. I think Aldon Smith is trying to catch up to Lawrence Taylor, in all ways.
4. I think Von Miller’s lucky he got only a six-game ban. Very lucky.
5. I think I learned a few things from The MMQB’s Andrew Brandt’s interview with concussion lawsuit plaintiffs attorney Sol Weiss at a sports law conference at Villanova Thursday. They are:
a. Weiss, on taking the settlement instead of fighting the NFL longer: “People say you only got $765 million. I’d rather have that than $1.5 billion 10 years down the road.”
b. If players chose to splinter off from the settlement and fight the league on their own, Weiss brought up an important point, and something I’d heard previously: The NFL was prepared to show that players got head trauma in games before they reached the NFL. Said Weiss: “They were going to have to prove that the injuries they have didn’t occur when they were playing football in high school or college.”
c. He insisted that the pool of money would last 65 years, long enough for retiring players this year to live into their golden years. That’s a matter of some dispute. What it means, I believe, is that players with cognitive difficulties aren’t going to get the gold mine they’d hoped for. “We hired economists and actuaries and medical scientiests,’’ said Weiss, “and we are very comfortable there is enough money in that fund to last 65 years.”
6. I think this is one interesting take on the Trent Richardson trade, from former longtime NFL assistant Mike Westhoff after watching the narrow Week 2 Miami win over Indianapolis: “I think if the Colts had Trent Richardson in that game and could have controlled the clock better against the Dolphins, they’d have won that game.”
7. I think, ICYMI, I strongly urge you to check out two stories from last week from The MMQB. The first is Greg A. Bedard’s enlightening look at the NFL prospects of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Jenny Vrentas with the intimate details of a 63-minute ACL surgery. So proud to have both writers on our staff.
8. I think I never thought I would see a Tom Coughlin team look as rag-tag and feeble as these Giants.
9. I think I love the nickname Mike Florio has adopted on the grounds where the Cleveland Browns play: The Factory of Sadness. (Browns fan Mike Polk Jr. dubbed the stadium that in a YouTube clip.)
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. “I’m hoping my son’s death is going to save other kids,’’ says the mom of a 16-year-old Montclair (N.J.) High School football player who died on the football field five years ago. Parents of concussed athletes, please read this story about his death, a lawsuit, and Second Impact Syndrome, from the Newark Star-Ledger.
b. Speaking of excellent newspaper stories, here’s one, from Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, about the difficulties the Boston Marathon bombing victims face in returning to normal lives. Haunting.
c. Starting Tulane quarterback Nick Montana’s four-game numbers: 77 of 135 (.570), 919 yards, eight touchdowns, three picks. Son of Joe.
d. Couldn’t be more surprised about a baseball season. For Boston to clinch the division with nine days left in the regular season … I mean, bizarre. Baseball is such a mysterious game. I liked this quote from Red Sox owner John Henry to Gordon Edes after the Friday night clincher, referring to former manager Terry (Tito) Francona: “Tito used to say if we had nine Dustin Pedroias, we'd be champions. This year, I felt like we had 25."
e. Congrats, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Impossible to not admire those two retiring Yankees, no matter what you think of the franchise.
f. Also hard to not have admiration for Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters (who has sat 20 games all season) after his four-day stretch in Boston and St. Petersburg last week. Wieters caught four days in a row (big deal) and four full games—two nine-winning games, as well as 12-, and 18-inning games. He never came out. All on the road, all with wild-card-race pressure, and the 18-innning job after the Orioles arrived at their St. Petersburg hotel after 3 a.m. Friday from Boston. The totals:
Innings caught: 47.
Hours between first pitch of Game 1 and last pitch of Game 4: 79.
Batters faced: 190.
Pitches called: 748.
Different pitchers: 14.
Passed balls: 0.
g. Finally saw the last episode of The Newsroom. Other than the fact that anchors and producers don’t get engaged on Election Night while in breaks between awarding states to Obama or Romney, it was a pretty good episode that buttoned up quite a few loose ends.
h. Everyone seems to think The Newsroom will be back for year three.
i. In case you didn’t catch Jeff Garlin’s Ten Things I Think on The MMQB the other day, he said his gut feeling is Larry David will get the Curb Your Enthusiasm gang back together for another season—at some point. “I don’t ask,’’ he said.
j. Coffeenerdness: I might be mainlining Italian Roast too often at 1:15 a.m. I’m sure it’s not good for me. But I’ve tried the va-voom energy drinks. They taste foul.
k. Beernerdness: Flower Power IPA, from the Ithaca (N.Y.) Beer Company, was already one of my favorite beers before I found it on tap in Eastern Standard, the restaurant around the corner from Fenway where I met Greg Bedard and Pete Thamel for dinner Tuesday. But on tap it’s ever better—just the right kind of bitterness for an IPA.
l. Congrats, Max Scherzer. Took you a long time to get to 20, but that shouldn’t derail your Cy Young.
m. I’d be worried about the October Miguel Cabrera if I were the Tigers. Just doesn’t look the same.
Who I Like Tonight
Denver 30, Oakland 13. The story here is one of the game’s top left tackles, Ryan Clady, on IR for the year with a Lisfranc injury. And so the spotlight will be on a man getting his first NFL start ever at left tackle, Chris Clark.
“No feeling of fear,’’ he told me the other day. “I will not be afraid.” One of the reasons he shouldn’t be: Peyton Manning gets rid of the ball fast. For Manning’s sake, he better look to his left. Often. The man across from Clark, Lamarr Houston, had more quarterback pressures and knockdowns in the first two weeks of the season (18) than any rusher in football.
The Adieu Haiku
Yo, Spencer Lanning:
What a day you had v. Vikes.