I think I can speak for all of America today by saying, "Wow.''
That was a ridiculous display by the Saints on Monday night, and a telling one by the Patriots. I'll get to my five quick points about the game in a moment, but I have to start by asking: How in the world, in such a cornerback-needy league, was
I asked McKenzie, the defensive player of the game, that question very early this morning, an hour or so after the Saints whacked the Patriots 38-17 in one of the most impressive offensive and defensive performances in years. And here's the most startling thing of all: McKenzie, healthy but frustratingly unemployed, called Saints coach
"When I saw a few guys go down with injuries, I just picked up the phone and called Coach Payton,'' McKenzie said. "When I left last March, he was real good about it. He said, 'Stay ready. And make sure you come around. Don't be a stranger.' So I called, and I told him I was in good shape and ready to play, and he said they were going to bring me in next Monday to look at me.''
"Did you think that would happen?'' I said.
"Who knows?'' McKenzie said. "But I'm glad I called. I didn't want to take any chances.''
With four corners injured, the Saints signed him after confirming that McKenzie, 33, was fully recovered from a fractured kneecap suffered Nov. 9, 2008, at Atlanta. That injury effectively ended his Saints' career ... for the time being, as it turned out.
McKenzie said he felt fully recovered by May. But after tearing his ACL in 2007 and fracturing the kneecap in 2008, he says his injury history and age conspired against him when he went mining for jobs last summer. Seattle and Houston worked him out, but neither offered a contract. So he spent the summer and fall staying in shape, going to college football games (a passion of his) and sitting in
"I love the National Football League,'' he said. "I played 10 years and loved every minute of it. I just wanted to make sure I stayed in shape so if someone did give me the opportunity to play again, I'd be ready.''
McKenzie was ready Monday night. He made what I thought was the biggest play of the game. With 19 minutes left, the Saints led 31-17, and New England was at the New Orleans' 10 with a fourth-and-4 call to make. Coach
Now, I think more than a few defensive coaches would be saying, Don't let Moss get behind you here so Brady can throw him the fade. Give Moss a little cushion. Keep him in front of you. That's not Saints defensive coordinator
"You've got to know the situation of the game there,'' McKenzie said. "I just figured there was no way they were going to go for it [the touchdown] there, even with Moss and how good he is near the goal line. They wanted to get the first down. But I think they thought I'd be playing soft there.''
So McKenzie stayed back momentarily, making it look like he was giving Moss cushion. And when Brady's arm went in motion toward Moss, McKenzie sprang forward. No pain in the rehabbed ACL, no discomfort in the mended kneecap. Just adrenalin.
"Then you just make a play,'' he said. "Just football. We'd been coached all week to be aggressive, and that's how we played the game.''
McKenzie met the ball a foot before it would have hit Moss' hands, and he swatted it away. The Saints scored an insurance touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. That was it.
McKenzie also picked off Brady in the first half, stepping in front of Moss on a short post, and broke up two other passes. He'll be a great asset for the Saints down the stretch. He looks to be in better football shape than the other veteran signed for the beleaguered secondary,
Five quick points on the game:
2. New England has faced two top-10 offenses in the first 12 weeks of the season. The Colts and Saints have put 73 points (nine touchdown passes) on the board, with 887 total yards.
3. The Patriots have no pass-rusher who scares anyone, no cover corner who quarterbacks fear. With potential playoff matches against
4. That first-round pick in 2011 from Oakland will look awfully nice in 17 months. Right now, the
5. Gregg Williams doesn't need a résumé to show owners when/if he's interviewed for head-coaching jobs this winter. All he has to show is the video of this game, with the havoc he created in defending Brady.
Now for your e-mail:
When the Associated Press takes ballots from the football media for MVP, we vote for one player to win. That's it. I've been doing a five-player ballot Monday mornings, as you've seen, and this week I had, in order,
Don't discount Rivers. The Chargers have won six in a row, and Rivers is the cornerstone reason. But I recognize Johnson's recent greatness -- 130 rushing yards or more in each of the five games they've won to crawl back in the playoff race. And Mark, thanks for your service over there in the Army in Clarksville.
Matt, when I first read your e-mail, I thought it was ridiculous. But I don't think anything is ridiculous anymore in the NFL's attempt to do something about head trauma with its players. So while I'd say it sounds far-fetched, I could see the day when it is seriously considered. What a smart e-mail. For now, I think what the league is going to do is urge the players to wear helmets with max protection -- perhaps even make it mandatory; as of now, the kind of helmet players wear is left to their discretion. I talked with
Very small. Thanks for your kind words, Tom. But I think unless current Giants offensive coordinator
Yes I do. I wish I'd seen it Sunday. I have to say there are parts of the show that I don't see because I'm in the studio working or checking on injuries. Sunday night I missed that, and didn't see Ward's comments until the transcript came out late that night. Certainly I think players have to be more cognizant of head injuries, and teams are going to be far more vigilant about them.
Well, it was one of those deals where San Diego GM