NEW YORK -- Seven storylines for a weird Week 7, when rock-bottom teams found a way to get worse, England hosted New England, the Saints blew away what I thought was a good defense,
I think we've all gotten spoiled by the defense of the Steelers. Three times in the past five years, Pittsburgh's finished with the best defensive numbers in football, including last season, when it had an unheard-of sub 4.0 yards-per-play defensive average. (The league average is usually around 5.3 yards per defensive snap.) You get a number like Pittsburgh's 3.90 last year by the kind of D the Steelers played Sunday against one of the game's explosive attacks. The Vikings can pass (
From the start Sunday, the Vikings knew
The Steelers have had 40, 50, who knows how many, of these games over the years. Tight in the fourth quarter, and the defense just does something. Or more than one something. Minnesota had a sure touchdown nullified midway through the fourth quarter when Vikings tight end
Pittsburgh led 13-10. The Steelers were in a position they'd been in twice this year -- ahead in the fourth quarter, only to lose. "Championship teams don't do that,'' LeBeau had told me Thursday. "We have to stand firm. And the other thing we've got to do if we're going to be a great defense is start forcing more turnovers.''
On third-and-goal from the eight, Favre got strip-sacked by left end
Woodley swerved downfield. Favre got disposed of early, then a couple more offensive players got lost in the wash of the seven-man convoy downfield. Woodley scored, covering 77 yards. But Harvin answered, scoring on a kick return to make it 20-17 Pittsburgh. Later, Favre drove the Vikes downfield again, threatening another of his thrilling finishes. He tossed a screen pass to
Back home Sunday night, Woodley sounded content, as if the team had finally played a complete game against a good team. It had -- with a little help from an official's call and a little more from the slippery hands of Taylor. But that's football. Mistakes happen. What are you going to do when they're made?
"The statement we made today,'' he said, "is that the Pittsburgh Steelers will no longer be a team that gives up the lead in the fourth quarter. We're going to make plays in the fourth, not let plays happen to us.''
This is one dangerous two-loss team if the Steelers can keep it up.
The past two Sundays Dallas has played, Austin has led the NFL in receiving. A 250-yard day on Oct. 11 and, after the bye, a 171-yard day against Atlanta on Sunday. He's an undrafted free agent from Monmouth (N.J.) University. His quarterback's an undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois,
Now, the Cowboys might be completely back and they might not -- but what I like is that Romo is playing like you have to play sports. He's playing with his thought on only one thing: getting the ball to the open receiver, regardless of jersey number or salary or pedigree. And Austin gets open. If
One other thing about the Cowboys: Is it just me, or do they look like they're having more fun on offense? Maybe that comes from winning. But the enthusiasm of Austin is contagious. It's amazing how much can get done when no one cares who gets the credit.
"We've had a strong negativism outside the building for a few years at times,'' Turner said afterward, "but the guys have been unaffected. We had a real disappointing loss to Denver Monday night, but we came back in on Wednesday and had our best practice of the year. After the practice, I told them, 'There's some people leaving you for dead out there, but you're not leaving yourselves for dead.' Then we came out today and played well.''
Rivers has a little bit of a pushing motion on his longball, but it works. He hit Jackson five times for 142 yards Sunday, once on a beautiful throw in the corner of the end zone that was spot on. His two partners high in the 2004 draft,
Will Turner be around to see it? You never know. "I never let that get to me,'' he said. "I can't coach for people outside the team. That story's been written twice a year for the last three years, and it doesn't concern me. I think we're on our way to being pretty good.''
As usual, they'll have to survive some bumps in the schedule. After Oakland at home this week, they're at the Giants, home to Philadelphia and at Denver. When this stretch is done, when a good three-game stretch of challenging football happens, that's when I'll take their temperature.
Why not now? Because I want to give Shawne Merriman every opportunity coming off knee surgery and a sore groin muscle to regain his pass-rushing form. And I don't want to be too harsh on the running game, particularly when stalwart center
This is a flawed team, as many are, but when I look at them I still believe the Chargers are a playoff team capable of beating anyone in January -- the way they've beaten the Colts two Januarys in a row.
What an interesting day the Bears' castoff had against his old team Sunday in Cincinnati. Eight carries for 70 yards in the first quarter, 12 for 28 in the second, 8 for 54 in the third, 9 for 47 in the fourth. Offensive coordinator
It's easy to be mystified by these Bengals, particularly after they were so lousy against Houston two Sundays ago. But if they have an efficient back and
Shuler, 37, the third overall pick in the 1994 draft by Washington, is a Democratic congressman from North Carolina. He'll quarterback a team from Congress against the Capitol Hill police Tuesday night at 8 at the D.C. Armory, in a game benefiting the Capitol police. The other day, from the floor of the House, he talked to me about life today between votes. "Hold on!'' he said at one point. "Gotta vote on this investment for more solar energy research.'' Shuler went away for 45 seconds, voted yea, and returned.
Of course, Tuesday's flag-football game won't be the same for Shuler. His foot hurts every time he puts too much pressure on it or tries to sprint, the result of two surgeries late in his career after he broke the sesamoid bone in his toe. Still he'll hear the same thing he hears a lot around town these days, with the Redskins in such a funk. "People say to me, 'We need you back with the 'Skins!' '' Shuler said. "I tell them, 'You obviously slept through what it was like back then.' '' Ugly, he means. Shuler was a classic busted pick, winning four games in two seasons before being dealt to New Orleans, then hurting his foot so that he couldn't play anymore.
But he's always been a man of faith who thinks there's a reason for everything, so he hasn't moped much. And he thinks his training in football -- getting ripped by columnists and booed by fans -- helped him in his new life. "Football helped me in so many ways in this job,'' he said. "The work ethic. Leading by example. Having thick skin. Everything didn't go so great in the NFL, and you hear about it when you play. In politics, your opponent can make a 30-second attack ad and go after you. Football's no different from this life.''
On the heels of a third straight sellout in London Sunday, everyone's looking for the Next Big Thing in international expansion. Two games in England next year, probably, with the prospect of going to four in Europe by 2012. But I'm told reliably (and reported on NBC Sunday night) that one of the options the NFL will consider in the next year is choosing one team to play annually in London, so the league can work to develop a following over there.
If the league can find a willing partner --
Favre handled the friendly portion of the blood-feud home-and-home series between Minnesota and Green Bay quite well (24-of-31 passing in the Metrodome, 271 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions). None of those 31 passes were more than moderate-risks, and he didn't go nuts trying to make big plays in Minnesota's victory. I wonder how he'll react walking onto the turf at Lambeau for Sunday's late-afternoon game between the Vikings and Packers.
I think Favre believes he'll have more than a few supporters in the stands. But a longtime Green Bay resident told me recently what he thinks, from talking to the townies, that the crowd will be almost entirely anti-Favre, and the sentiment will be loud. I remember one time
"This is Brett's homecoming, let's be real about it," Packers safety
I checked out StubHub this morning to see the fervor. You can buy two for Sunday in the 14th row at the 30-yard line for $2,800. Later in the month, you can buy a pair against San Francisco in the 12th row at the 30-yard line for $458. Should be interesting to see how Favre responds to whatever comes.
"There was no doubt on our sidelines that we would come back and win.''
There was a lot of doubt elsewhere, buddy.
"I'll be up to the challenge.''
Let's do the math here. Bradford's surgery is Oct. 28. The rehab for the injury is between four and six months. Let's halve that and say five months before he's back to semi-normal. That's March 28 -- precisely four weeks before the weekend of the 2010 NFL draft. That would leave 19 days for Bradford to work out for the teams that would be interested in him, and for every team to see what kind of shape his shoulder is in.
By my count, at least four teams drafting in the top half of the first round next April will want a quarterback -- Cleveland, Washington, St. Louis and San Francisco (which holds Carolina's first-round pick), along with possibly Tennessee and Oakland. Those teams will have a tough decision to make. Do you take a quarterback coming off significant shoulder surgery without being positive whether the injury will flare up again?
"This is going to be one of the diciest picks a team has ever had to make,'' one club official of a team that may have interest in Bradford told me Sunday evening. Another team executive told me this is a hairier decision than teams had to make with Michael Crabtree coming off the stress fracture in his foot last winter, when Crabtree was unable to work out. The investment in a quarterback is different, quite simply because when you've used a top pick on a passer, you forget it as a draft priority for the next three or four years; when you take a receiver high, there's no reason to not pick one high in the next draft because of the widespread use of multiple-receiver sets.
Said the executive: "The team that picks Bradford will be a very, very confident team, because it won't be an easy pick.''
"Under the facts and circumstances of this case, it would be a miscarriage of justice to pursue criminal charges and we will not ask our citizens to give up their valuable time for jury duty, nor will we allow our criminal justice system to be compromised."
Oakland assistant coach
"Actually I wasn't.''
If that performance isn't "out of sorts,'' kid, I'd like to see a performance that is. Russell was 6-of-11 with no touchdowns and two interceptions. After seven games, he's completing a league-low 46.3-percent of his throws.
I'd like to thank two people --
On a day of great defensive performances -- Patriots safety
The third-team tight end had two of the biggest plays, back-to-back, in the Packers' lopsided win at Cleveland. With the Browns up 3-0 early in the second quarter and fellow tight end
Meaningless games beckoned earlier this month, with sprouting billboards calling for Jauron's job as the Bills stared at a two-game trip to the Jets and Panthers. During the visit to the Jets, a quarterback from Harvard,
One step forward last week, three steps back this week. On the Raiders' first play, 12 seconds into the game, Russell showed his poor sense of pocket presence again, getting strip-sacked by
Russell completed the trifecta 14 minutes into the game, throwing a pick to
In sum, Austin makes 1/6th annually what Williams makes, and he's produced as many yards in two weeks as Williams has in a totally unproductive 12 months with the Cowboys.
Indianapolis won at St. Louis Sunday. In its past 19 games, Indianapolis is 17-2 and St. Louis is 2-17.
I guess I don't mind foreign football, though I have doubts it will work. But if I were a fan in Miami, New Orleans or Tampa in the past three years, I'd have a big problem with it.
The New England-Tampa Bay game Sunday in London was a home game for the Bucs. The Bucs haven't hosted the Patriots in a regular-season game in Tampa Bay since 1997, and under the current scheduling format, which calls for NFL teams to play at out-of-conference foe at home once every eight years, the Patriots won't be in Tampa 'til 2017. Tom Brady will be 40 then. Who knows? He may still be playing, but I'd bet Brady will never play a regular season game in Tampa, ever.
Two years ago, the league moved Miami's home game with the Giants -- likely the only Giants-Dolphins game in Miami 'til 2015 -- to London. That would make it a full generation, 19 years, between Giants games in south Florida.
And when the Chargers played the Saints in London last year, it meant no San Diego trip to Louisiana until 2016. So Saints fans in New Orleans will never get to see
What I'd suggest: The league should stop scheduling cross-conference games for foreign soil, or limit them. The Tampa fan probably wouldn't miss an Atlanta game nearly as much as he'd miss Brady's only appearance ever in Raymond James Stadium.
If you traverse this great land, you know the difference between gum-chewers and gum-poppers. Chewers are barely audible. Poppers somehow make a snapping sound with each chew. Know what I'm talking about? It's madness, I tell you.
On Saturday, about 30 minutes into the Boston-to-New York Acela trip, I found myself sitting in front of a gum-popper. Across the aisle in the quarter-full car were two silent Kindle readers. Behind me, with his Bose headphones silencing all the noise in the car (including his gum-chewing), was the nearly rhythmic snap-pause-snap-pause-snap of the clueless gum-popper. I had three choices: ignore it and go on with my typing, tell the guy to please stop popping, or move to the opposite end of the car.
I moved. Gum-popping, I think, is one of the truly annoying things that we just have to put up with. Like the 35 erectile-dysfunction drug commercials per Sunday.
"My father played for the coach from 'rememeber the titans.' Our coach played golf. My father played for redskins briefley. Our coach. Nuthn."
First, it's emotional, done in the heat of the aftermath of a disastrously one-sided loss to the Chargers. Second, it's a shot at a coach who's given Johnson a tremendous chance this year (Adrian Peterson touches: 156; Johnson touches: 144). Third: How does Johnson think this isn't going to be become public knowledge?
Before this, I thought Johnson was a smart guy.
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 7:
a. What really impresses me about the Cardinals is their defensive tenacity along the front seven. That wasn't there with any consistency last year under defensive coordinator
b. I loved what
c. Percy Harvin. What a force. And how valuable he's become. Did you see Favre run 35 yards downfield to check on Harvin when he was shaken up in the second half of Vikes-Steelers?
d. Much less yukking on the FOX pregame show Sunday. A very good show.
e. The proverbial difference in philosophy apparently led to the divorce between the NFL Network and its excellent Sunday morning pregame show producer,
g. Stupid, stupid display by
h. Check out this football card of
Think of the timing of this. In 1995, McDaniels was a huge Browns fan, and
i. One leftover from Week 6: No matter what
2. I think,
3. I think the NFL should do its game officials a favor on these AFL classic games, the ones when the original American Football League teams face each other in the throwback unis. Please, please, please take them out of the outfits that make them look like human creamsicles.
4. I think
5. I think this is what I liked about Week 7:
a. One good sign (and there aren't many) for
b. I like the call by
d. I like the assuredness and self-confidence
f. I loved Arizona's philosophy of blitzing
g. Best sign for the Jets:
h. Houston's better than we think.
k. The Jets had two runners over 120 on the road, which is great ... until you realize it came against the Raiders. How the Raiders can follow an inspired 13-9 win over Philly, a team just as good as the Jets, with a 38-point loss to the Jets is beyond me. Very poor tackling by the Raiders Sunday.
6. I think these are the things I didn't like about Week 7:
b. Two bad throws in a row by
c. Anyone on Kansas City feel like covering
d. Jake Delhomme almost seemed resigned to his fate after the bad loss to Buffalo.
e. The Bears without
f. Looks like a season-ending knee injury for impressive rookie corner
g. You got schooled by
7. I think it's incredible that we're almost halfway into this season and Kyle Orton is ahead of
a. Wins: Orton's 6-0, Cutler 3-3.
b. Passing yards: Orton's 13 ahead.
c. Touchdown-to-interception differential: Orton's plus-8, Cutler plus-1.
d. Yards-per-attempt: Orton's .70 better, against the guy who's supposed to have the biggest arm in the league.
e. Passer rating: Orton 100.1, Cutler 82.9.
8. I think I might have overrated the impact of the video board in Dallas. Still some big legs coming to town, but in three regular-season home games, there have been no direct hits of the board ... though
9. I think I'd be a lot more impressed by the Patriots scoring 80 straight points over the Titans and Bucs the last two weeks if they weren't a combined 0-13.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week.
a. It pains me to say it, obviously, but congrats to the Yankees. They're the best team in baseball, and they deserve to be facing off against the defending champs in the 2009 Arctic World Series.
b. Baseball has to do something about its postseason schedule. Come on,
c. Call me 112 Across.
d. I'm at a book signing last Wednesday for
Whoa. Now, a month ago, I wrote in this column that my goal in life was to be in the crossword, which was a bit tongue-in-cheekish but nonetheless something I thought would be extremely cool. My wife and I are crossword people, but we can't get past the Thursday puzzle generally. Anyway, come to find out that I'm actually the theme in the puzzle, for wishing I would one day be in it.
That raised the ire of one
Anyway, the King-themed puzzle clogged up a blog run by crossword aficionado
And from 'Meg': "I did not have a negative reaction to this puzzle. Actually, I feel kind of sorry for the guy. I mean, if your goal in life is to be mentioned in a puzzle ... So I felt like BEQ was doing this poor sot a favor more than showing adulation.''
And this: "For Peter King's egomania to be rewarded so laboriously is icky.'' And this: "Build it around a
And, finally, this: "It doesn't matter how well known Peter King or the quote is or how much Peter King likes Brett Favre, who I've despised from the beginning of his career for a lot of reasons, one of which is that he's supposedly a 'blue collar' player on a 'blue collar' team. That drives me nuts! Do people think the players on these 'blue collar' teams all go to offseason jobs at the brewery or the steel mill? The Canton Bulldogs haven't played in years. Now that was a blue-collar team. The Packers and the Steelers get their players from the same places all the other teams do. Also, that stupid fiction everybody subscribes to that somehow the northern teams play better in the cold. Most of their players grew up in Houston! Auugh! I can't stand Brett Favre!
Aaah, the crossword crowd. Anyway, thanks for the highlight, Brendan.
e. Coffeenerdness: I'll tell you what we need in midtown Manhattan -- a Starbucks open until midnight on Sundays. As my MacBook Air expired Sunday, I had 4,500 forlorn words for MMQB written, but they were locked in the snowy vault of the white screen. Uh-oh. Screwed. So I went about recalling everything and rewriting everything, miserably, with only green tea and deli coffee as strong as a dying housecat. I needed something to kick in around 5 this morning. What's the closest Starbucks to Rockefeller Center with late Sunday hours?
g. Good note from NBC's
h. Good luck at Comcast,
"That's not going to happen,'' he said. "But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.''
He also said owner
The Redskins probably are going to have to get a quarterback after the season.
This is a game the Redskins defense is going to have to win, and I don't think they can hold the Eagles down. Philly's explosive plays will carry the day.