By Peter King
October 04, 2010

NEW YORK -- Five very preliminary things I think:

1. I think I can't believe Kansas City is the only unbeaten team in the NFL on Oct. 4.

2. I think the Eagles fans did one of the classiest things I've seen in that city in -- well, in forever, when they heartily cheered Donovan McNabb.

3. I think it's entirely possible Kyle Orton's better than Jay Cutler.

4. I think the Ravens wouldn't be where they are this morning, and they wouldn't have won at Pittsburgh Sunday, without an excitable little competitor of a cornerback, Lardarius Webb.

5. I think you can be 53, paunchy, skunk-gray of the hair -- and still pull off a little bit of an athletic feat. More later about the adventures of a newborn half-marathoner in northern New England -- yes, I finished, and there was no hospitalization involved.

Now for the headlines of the day:


McNabb got what he deserved.

I'll let my buddy Don Banks cover the nuts and bolts of McNabb's return to glory, which he does quite well on this morning. But as the FootballNight in America crew sat around the NBC fifth-floor viewing room watching the games Sunday afternoon, it was almost unanimous that McNabb was going to get lit up by the fans before the games. Unfairly, I might add.

McNabb never delivered the voracious Philly crowd a championship, but he played his best and he showed class for 11 years, and on Sunday the fans responded -- stunningly, I thought -- with probably 85 percent cheers when he was introduced last in the pregame introductions.

The Redskins could have done far more gloating than they allowed themselves after the 17-12 victory, but McNabb said all the right things, except the one sentence he allowed himself in the locker room when Mike Shanahan awarded him the game ball. "Everybody makes mistakes in their lives, and they made one last year,'' McNabb said in a moment captured by an NFL Films camera.

Who knows? For one day he was right, and we'll see if for three or four years he turns out to be. On this day, I thought the co-star of the show was the Philadelphia crowd.

There was a sadness in Michael Vick getting hurt, and the way he was sandwich-crushed at the goal line by two Redskins isn't a good sign for him playing this weekend at San Francisco, or anytime soon. He'll have an MRI today; X-rays last night were negative. Kevin Kolb acquitted himself well in a pressure spot, and maybe he can keep the Eagles afloat if given three or four weeks to play. But that offensive line would be tough for anyone to function behind right now. The Eagles have three games before their bye (at San Francisco, Atlanta, at Tennessee) and the way Vick walked off the field Sunday, the Eagles will be lucky to get him back for the final nine games, which includes the rematch at Washington Nov. 15.


There's no clear best team in football after four weeks, but Baltimore's the best, for my money.

Good thing it means nothing right now. Ranking the teams is an exercise in dart-throwing. And isn't that great for the NFL at the quarter-pole -- that any of eight to 10 teams might have a legit argument to be the best right now?

I pick the Ravens because I think after four weeks they can win games in more ways than any other team. Pittsburgh, with Ben Roethlisberger returning, and the Jets are close. But the way Joe Flacco played Sunday in the 17-14 win at Heinz Field showed me something.

I thought he made an awful pass on fourth-and-goal from the two with 2:44 to play and Baltimore down 14-10. Flacco waited one beat too long, then threw a fade too far to Anquan Boldin, who was being blanketed by William Gay as he tried to catch the ball past the left boundary, five yards deep in the end zone. Poor execution, I thought. I would have rather seen a higher-percentage call there. (Though when I brought that up in the viewing room, Tony Dungy looked at me like the rank amateur I am.) Hey, I didn't like it. I'd have rather seen Flacco spread the field and try to laser a ball into one of four receivers spread over the end zone. What's the percentage of a fade scoring there or drawing pass interference? Forty percent -- maybe?

But he recovered nicely. With 68 seconds left, Flacco got the ball back at the Steeler 40 in great field position after a punt, still trailing 14-10. Smart player that he is, he used the third play to set up cornerback Bryant McFadden. "We'd run some out-routes on the [right] sideline during the game, and one right before that,'' Flacco told me afterward. That pass, perfectly thrown to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, gained 10 yards to the Steeler 18. Now 34 seconds remained, and the call came in for Flacco to pump to Houshmandzadeh, who'd make a slight fake to his right, simulating the same out-route, then run a post. With any luck, McFadden would bite, and the safety wouldn't get over in time to help.

Flacco pumped just enough. McFadden bit. Houshmandzadeh had the area from the 10-yard-line into the end zone to himself, and Flacco didn't miss. Ballgame.

"You ever think you'd see a receiver running wide open in the end zone, in this stadium?'' I asked him.

"No,'' he said. "Not even close. That doesn't happen. But when he froze on the little pump, I knew it'd be open.''

The Ravens can't beat the Bengals -- Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has Baltimore's number in a three-game, head-to-head win streak -- but the Crab cakes are pretty good against everyone else. Baltimore owns two very tough road wins, at the Jets and the Steelers, in this season's first four weeks. Playing at New England, Atlanta and Houston will be tough, but no tougher than those two places.

"We always have a lot of confidence around here,'' Flacco said. "But this really elevates. There's no better feeling in the world than to win in a place like this.''

One postscript: Lardarius Webb is a very big reason the Ravens are waking up 3-1 this morning. With 10:13 left in the game and Baltimore up 10-7, Charlie Batch sent Mike Wallace deep up the right sideline into the end zone and lofted up a pass to him. Only problem was, Webb, the second-year corner from Nicholls (La.) State, ran with the speedy Wallace stride for stride. When the ball dropped down from the sky, it looked like it was right in Wallace's arms -- until Webb got involved.

"It hit both of our hands at the same time,'' Webb said. "I wanted the pick soooooo bad. Last year when we played the Steelers here, I didn't play, and it's such an exciting place to play I wanted to do something to help us win. It's such a pleasure playing here. And if I could have just intercepted that ball ... But to make the play, to stop him from catching that touchdown, was a great play. I was happy about it.''

The Steelers went on to score on the drive on a Rashard Mendenhall run, and so all Webb did was delay the inevitable. But I say Webb earned his spurs Sunday with that play and others that mark him as the kind of feisty, competitive cornerback the Ravens have been looking to restock their secondary with while turning it over.

Of all the incredible stats in the NFL this morning, the one that stops me in my tracks is this one: Baltimore's allowing 119.0 passing yards per game, stingiest in the NFL. And before the season, I'd have sworn the secondary would be such an Achilles heel for the Ravens that it would end up ruining their season. But Webb, Chris Carr and Fabian Washington are playing well, and benefiting from a good rush scheme and pressure up front. If I had an assistant coach award for the first quarter of the season, there's a good chance I'd reward secondary coach Chuck Pagano, because he has this group playing terrific football.


New York's got a new LT.

For 13 weeks this offseason, LaDainian Tomlinson got his mojo back while working out in the pastures of New Jersey. What, you don't think Jersey has pastures? Go out near the Jets' training facility in Florham Park and you'll see lots of rolling green. That's where Tomlinson spent about 13 weeks this spring, getting his strength and explosion back after nagging toe and high-ankle-sprain injuries bothered him the last two years.

"I lost a lot of strength in the last couple of years with those injuries, and when you lose strength, you lose explosion,'' Tomlinson said from a very happy team bus leaving Ralph Wilson Stadium after his Jets crushed the Bills 38-14. "So the only way I was going to get back to where I needed to be was to be all-in to the offseason program. I moved to New Jersey and was there the first day of the program and stayed all the way 'til the end in June. I missed only one week -- to move from San Diego to New Jersey. If I'd stayed on the West Coast, I'd never have been able to build the kind of chemistry I've built with these guys right now.''

In essence, Tomlinson looks like he turned the way-back machine to 2007, which is when he had his last great season in San Diego. He's fast. He can beat linebackers around the corner, which he didn't do last year. He bursts into tacklers. Very dissimilar to the last couple of years in San Diego. He rushed for 3.8 yards a clip in 2008 and 3.3 last year, and the Chargers had seen enough. We all thought we'd seen enough. Raise your hand if you thought Tomlinson was going to be anything but a relief pitcher for the explosive Shonn Greene with the Jets. I certainly thought that would be the case. But here they are, sharing the job. The vet has 56 carries, the kid 52. As a team, the Jets are rushing for 168 yards a game -- and 5.1 yards a clip.

I got a kick out of looking at the four-week rushing leaders this morning. Look who's 6 and 7:

With his 133-yard, two-TD rushing day, Tomlinson moved past Tony Dorsett into seventh place on the all-time list. And he joined Jim Brown as the only backs ever to rush for 100 yards and two touchdowns in a game 25 times. "I'm pinching myself,'' Tomlinson said. "I love this team. I love running behind such a great line. It's incredible, really, that I was able to come here.''

I asked him if he takes any delight in showing he's not washed up. "The pleasure isn't showing people they were wrong,'' he said. "The pleasure is showing people the Jets were right in the faith they showed in me. They made the right choice.''

Agreed. Now I think the Jets need to make another good choice and make sure they don't burn out Tomlinson. He averaged 258 carries a year over the past two seasons, and it'd be smart if they kept him on a pace to get around 200, so he's the real Tomlinson come winter.


Please find this play on YouTube, high school coaches.

I ask you to go find Roddy White's desperation save in the San Francisco-Atlanta game, because it's a great example of how a big-money player doing a blue-collar job can mean the difference between being .500 after four games and being .750. The situation: Atlanta trailed 14-13 with 1:31 to play near midfield. Matt Ryan threw a pass for Tony Gonzalez that was intercepted by Nate Clements in the middle of the field, and Clements took off down the left sideline, aiming to score and salt the game away.

"I don't know how far away I was, but I knew the only way I had a chance to do something was just turn and run,'' White, the Falcons' star wideout, told me.

He started about 15 yards behind Clements but made up ground when Clements got into traffic. You could see the play developing, Clements carrying the ball not snug against him but with space out to the side of his body, and if White could just catch him ...

"Sometimes you don't know on a play like that if you're gonna catch the guy,'' White said, "but it's not something you think about. You just go. I just figured, if I can get close enough to touch it, I'm gonna make a play. I watch our defense do that every week in practice and in the games. They do it to me -- punch the ball out. So I know what to do. And I got close enough and I tried to hit it as hard as I could.''

The ball shot out of Clements' arm, and landed near the Atlanta seven, and White tackled Clements so he couldn't recover it. In a split second, White saw the ball on the ground and fell on it -- as did about six other players. "People jumping on me, grabbing for the ball, yelling, screaming, the officials coming in, grabbing guys away. All I could think of was, 'I gotta get out of here.' '' When he did, guard Harvey Dahl had the ball at the Falcon seven, and Ryan went back to work to get the Falcons into field-goal range. A Matt Bryant 43-yarder with two seconds left won it.

Moral of the story: Never give up on a play.

"Sometimes,'' said White, "you gotta do whatever it takes to win. It means a lot, giving my team a second chance to win.'' A lot -- like maybe a playoff spot in January.


The numbers, and the impact, don't lie.

I realize it might be an unfair day to make the comparison that Kyle Orton's better than Jay Cutler, but I'm not pitting the quarterbacks against each other on the basis of Orton's terrific road performance at Tennessee and on Cutler's feeble and concussed one in New Jersey Sunday night. This is about a body of work -- granted, not a deep body of work, but a 20-game stretch.

In the NFL, a 20-game sample is enough to make a valid comparison. And on the basis of 20 games, it's hard to argue that Chicago got the better of the Jay Cutler-for-Kyle Orton deal. Forget the ancillary parts of the deal; Denver has not drafted well, and I'm not doing this item to get into the value of the two first-round picks and the third-rounder (which turned into Mike Wallace for the Steelers) acquired by Denver in the deal. Denver didn't do a good job with those picks, but I'm just talking Cutler for Orton. And after Orton's 341-yard performance in the 26-20 win over the Titans, I thought it would be a good chance to take a 20-game look at the two passers. I was surprised by what I found.

Through the first four weeks of the 2010 season, Orton's 1,419 passing yards leads the NFL; Cutler is 507 yards behind him.

As I remember the April 2009 trade, I'll never forget Denver coach Josh McDaniels telling me he wished Cutler just gave him, and his offense, a chance. "He'd have loved it,'' McDaniels said. "I think any quarterback would love it.''

Cutler got the change of scenery he wanted, but he struggled under offensive coordinator Ron Turner last year, and he's being plagued by terrible protection issues under new coordinator Mike Martz this year; he was sacked nine times and suffered a concussion Sunday night against the Giants.

How long will Cutler have Martz to work with? Who knows? Martz doesn't stay in one coordinator's job very long -- two years in Detroit, one in San Francisco and one now in Chicago. Then again, if the Broncos continue to flame out, Denver owner Pat Bowlen could make a change at head coach, but he's likely to give McDaniels at least one more year.

Quarterbacks under McDaniels have to be smart because McDaniels gives them so much latitude to change plays, both in the meeting rooms and on the field. Orton's very quiet, but I've witnessed him (last May) in meetings changing little things to make it easier to recall and call plays.

You'll remember, this was supposed to be a lopsided deal favoring the Bears. It's not every day you have the chance to get a franchise quarterback in his prime, still young enough to give you six or seven seasons. It's still very early, and we don't know if Orton can keep it up. He's going to have Tim Tebow breathing down his neck in a few months, I'd guess. But he's outplaying Cutler right now. When a quarterback is more accurate and has the better average per pass attempt, that means he's moving the chains and getting the ball downfield. Right now, Orton's better at both.


Five Stats I Love:

1. On the day Peyton Manning passed John Elway for third on the all-time pass-yardage list, there seemed an inevitability that Manning will someday own every record a quarterback would want. He is 122 touchdown passes behind Brett Favre (499-377) and 17,493 passing yards in arrears. Manning is 34. Does anyone think he doesn't have five good years left in him?

2. Next Monday at the Meadowlands, Minnesota plays the Jets. Favre could well get to 500 TD passes and 70,000 yards a week from tonight. He's at 499 and 69,926.

3. Tony Gonzalez is pretty special. He has 203 more catches and 1,942 more receiving yards than any other tight end in history.

4. Chad Johnson and ReggieWayne were born in 1978. They entered the league in the 2001 draft, six picks apart. Wayne was the 30th pick, Johnson the 36th. (Receivers picked before them, in order: David Terrell, Koren Robinson, Rod Gardner, Santana Moss, Freddie Mitchell. Can't anyone here scout this game?) At the close of business Sunday, Wayne had 707 receptions, Johnson (now-Chad Ochocinco) 705.

5. Mark Sanchez through 16 quarters: eight touchdowns, no fumbles.


Cleaning out the notebook ...

• The Giants need to keep attacking the way they did last night. The Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl three years ago by a few surprise rushes, but mostly by pure aggression on the front seven. Hit Tom Brady, come from different spots, and then hit him some more. With much of the same cast, minus Michael Strahan, in the lineup against Chicago, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell unleashed a coordinated attack on Cutler last night and it worked. Naturally, the woeful Bear line and the plodding Cutler helped the Giants get their 10 sacks and 17-3 victory. But this is the way the Giants won under Steve Spagnuolo three years ago, and there's no reason they can't take the kind of chances they took last night most weeks going forward.

• A big Monday in Houston, Pittsburgh and New Jersey. This is the day linebacker Brian Cushing (Texans), quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) and wideout Santonio Holmes (Jets) return from their four-week suspensions. Roethlisberger has the benefit of getting back into form during Pittsburgh's bye week; the Steelers host Cleveland in 13 days. Holmes will have an extra day to work with Mark Sanchez -- they formed good chemistry in the spring and summer -- because the Jets play the Vikings next Monday night. Cushing returns a man possessed, I'm told, to face Eli Manning Sunday at home, and he'll provide an important lift for the Texans. Houston's 3-1, but few contenders have a defense as generous; the Texans are allowing 25.5 points per game, and kid corners Glover Quin (24) and Kareem Jackson (22) aren't getting enough help from the pass-rush that Cushing has to come in to help.

• There's some labor news. I reported this on NBC last night, that the owners -- in their first proposal about making a deal for an 18-game regular season -- offered one additional roster spot and two additional practice-squad spots, but the players are far more interested in something else: post-career health benefits. Currently, players have to be vested in the league's plan for three years to accrue post-career health care. The league hasn't come up with a modified health proposal in the early talks, and the players are miffed.

In essence, if the league goes from 16 to 18 games, that would mean players would have to play six additional games over a three-year period to be vested for post-career health care. That, I'm told, is far more important to the current rank-and-file than the prospect of 32 new, real jobs, and 64 new practice-squad jobs. It's early in negotiations, very early, but the league has to address modifications to health care when it continues discussions on a possible 18-game season.

• Stay tuned tomorrow for more. Tomorrow's column will feature news about the Rams' first two-game winning streak in about 63 years, my thoughts on why we absolutely, positively should not forget the life of George Blanda or his contributions to football, and thoughts on the Monday-nighter in Miami, when the Patriots try to relocate their missing defense.

This week, I'm going to do it a little differently. I'm not going to pick a one through five. I'm just going to pick five. There's not a clear number one, anyway. So here we go (listed alphabetically).

Tom Brady, QB, New England. So far, he's had to outscore teams. I have no doubt he'll be able to keep it up if he has to.

Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. Eleven touchdowns, one interception and a completion rate higher than he's ever had for a season (.698) helps.

Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore. He's starting to have the kind of regular weekly impact the truly great ones have. His ability to be an athlete on one play and a brick wall on the next is very hard to find in the NFL.

Kyle Orton, QB, Denver. Averaging 355 passing yards a game. He accounted for all but 19 yards in the Broncos' win at Tennessee.

Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh. I know he was outshined by players on both the Ravens and Steelers Sunday, but this is a body-of-work recognition for four games.

1. Baltimore (3-1). Tough call, because there's no clear number one, but the Ravens have beaten two of the top six or eight teams in football on the road (Steelers, Jets), and Joe Flacco, after struggling much of the first three weeks, made a huge throw to Houshmandzadeh to win this one.

2. New York Jets (3-1).Dustin Keller (19 catches, 254 yards, five TDs) is playing like the second-best tight end in football behind Antonio Gates. Well, at least he's competitive for that mantel in the first quarter of the season, alongside Dallas Clark.

3. Pittsburgh (3-1). Ben Roethlisberger reports back to work this morning at the Steeler complex, and we can forget all the "Do they miss Ben?'' stuff after the 210-yard performance against the Ravens Sunday.

4. Green Bay (3-1). I'm not sure the near-loss to Detroit is as bad a sign as you might think. The Lions are no longer an easy game for anyone. But the Green Bay offense is a worry. The Pack didn't have an offensive scoring drive in the final 36 minutes of the game.

5. Atlanta (3-1). Got the great hustle play from Roddy White on Sunday for their second consecutive walk-off victory via field goal. Only loss this year was in overtime to Pittsburgh.

6. New Orleans (3-1). Got a bounce-back win at home, playing without injured running backs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush.

7. Houston (3-1).Gary Kubiak was circumspect about his decision to bench Arian Foster for the first 22 minutes of the 31-24 victory at Oakland, but he did blame the benching on a couple of things Foster did wrong. The beneficiary was Derrick Ward (12 carries, 80 yards), proving that all is not lost without Foster. Even playing two-thirds of a game, Foster continued to rout the rushing field. He's run 85 times for 537 yards (6.3 per carry) through four weeks.

8. Indianapolis (2-2). Kansas City travels to Indianapolis Sunday. The Colts will be upset, and I don't believe we'll see an upset.

9. Miami (2-1). I've got a feeling this is Davone Bess' night. Intermediate throws behind the New England linebackers are the way to go in this game.

10. Chicago (3-1). Good Jay. Bad Jay. That first-quarter pick by Terrell Thomas at the Meadowlands last night was the classic bad play by Cutler, a risky throw in his own territory he never should have attempted. There haven't been many of those this year, but you never know when they'll rear their heads. That and Cutler taking way too much time to get rid of the ball led to seven New York sacks in the first 24 minutes of the game. Inexcusable. "I can't explain it,'' Cris Collinsworth said about Cutler's non-timeliness on the NBC telecast. "I just can't explain it.''

11. Washington (2-2). I don't like the NFC East much, but the Redskins have wins over Dallas and Philly, and they have McNabb playing like McNabb should play, and Jim Haslett has the D performing ferociously.

12. Dallas (1-2). On the Cowboys' bye Sunday, Jerry Jones made no pronouncements. And the media of the Metroplex was pleased.

13. Kansas City (3-0). On the Chiefs' bye Sunday, the Chiefs noticed no respect for their undefeated selves.

14. New England (2-1). When the Patriots start playing defense, they'll climb this august list.

15. San Diego (2-2). The Chargers aren't missing Vincent Jackson much, truth be told. Between them, in four games, Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd have combined for 38 catches, 17.7 yards per catch, and eight touchdowns.

Offensive Player of the Week

Donovan McNabb, QB, Washington

I don't care if he had gone 2-for-33 Sunday. As long as the Redskins won the game and McNabb was a very positive influence in what had to be the most emotional game of his life, he was a lock for the player of the week.

In his first game back at Lincoln Financial Field after his Easter night trade from Philadelphia to Washington, McNabb kept the chains moving (8-of-19, 125 yards, one touchdown, one interception, five rushes for 39 yards) in Washington's 17-12 victory. For one day anyway, the major advantage in the trade went Washington's way.

Defensive Players of the Week

Shaun Phillips, LB, San Diego

This shouldn't be an award for the defensive player of the week -- it's the best single game for a defensive player this year. Phillips had four sacks, an interception, two passes defended and six tackles. The Chargers completely embarrassed the defending NFC West champions (we won't be using that title to describe the Cardinals in 2011, I don't believe), holding them to 128 total yards. With Shawne Merriman ineffective or inactive so far this year, Phillips needs to be the impact linebacker on this defense. He was that and more on Sunday.

Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York Giants

Smart use of the perimeter rushers against a bad offensive line Sunday night, and Tuck and Umenyiora combined for six of the Giants' 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and 11 tackles. This is a rush the Giants have been desperate to see, a rush mindful of the Super Bowl win over the Patriots. GM Jerry Reese has spent enormously to build the defensive front, and when Mathias Kiwanuka was lost to a neck injury late in the week, it looked like this game would be curtains. But the Giants responded with a 17-3 win. New York will need to win more games like this if it's going to salvage the season.

Special Teams Player of the Week

Josh Scobee K, Jacksonville

I've never been a kicker, but I imagine they must grow up dreaming of moments like Scobee experienced on the final play of the Colts-Jags game Sunday in Jacksonville. After Peyton Manning drove the Colts the length of the field (what else is new?) to tie the game at 28, the Jags drove the ball to the Indy 41 and Jack Del Rio sent his kicker out. The ball was spotted at the 49, making it a 59-yard attempt. Scobee kicked it perfectly, lofting it over the middle of the crossbar by three or four yards. Scobee ran around like Favre after his Super Bowl touchdown pass to Andre Rison 14 years ago. I don't doubt he was just as joyous.

Dominique Ziegler, WR; Delanie Walker, TE; Taylor Mays, S, San Francisco

You're not going to see a better-executed punt block for a touchdown. Ziegler and Walker deked their way through the Atlanta offensive line in the first half at Atlanta, bore in on punter Michael Koenen in the end zone and a diving Walker tipped the punt. Ziegler got a second block in -- enabling the acrobatic Mays to grab the ball near the back of the end zone and tiptoe both feet in for a touchdown. Beautiful play.

Coach of the Week

Steve Spagnuolo, head coach, St. Louis

Entering last weekend, the Rams were 6-44 in the last three-plus years. They'd won one of their previous 28 games. This morning, they're 2-2 and playing better than any other team in the NFC West (I know Arizona's 2-2, but I don't call a team with 34- and 31-point losses in the first month of the season a respectable team). I'm sure the Rams are very thankful they listened to a coach who kept telling them they were getting better, and to keep working and they'd see.

Goat of the WeekNate Clements, CB, San Francisco

As detailed earlier, with the Niners nursing a 14-13 lead at Atlanta with 1:22 left in a game they desperately needed, Clements picked off a pass from Ryan -- reading Ryan's eyes perfectly and making an easy interception -- and began a gallop down the left side of the field. Clearly, even though the interception likely clinched the victory for San Francisco, Clements wanted to score, and as he ran down the left side, he didn't protect the ball the way he should, and Atlanta wideout Roddy White caught him from behind and punched the ball out. Dumb, dumb play by Clements. It cost the 49ers their first victory of the year.

"When I came out and got a standing ovation, it was overwhelming. Thank you to the fans ... It's big, it's big. There's no way of hiding it. It's over now. The exciting part of this is, it's over now.''-- Donovan McNabb, to Alex Flanagan of NBC's Football Night in America, on the reception he got, and the emotion he felt, Sunday afternoon on his return to Philadelphia.

"I don't understand why my name is associated with this whole ordeal. I mean, it's the same offensive dinner that we've been doing, that every team does in the NFL, so I don't know why my name is the single name in this thing. I have nothing against Dez; Dez has nothing against me. Like I said in training camp, I don't want you guys to bang our heads together and try to make us hate each other. That's not going to work. He didn't take my pads. Whoop-de-doo, he didn't take my pads. But he's still out there as a punt returner, catching balls and doing things he needs to do, and I'm doing things I need to do to make this team better. So don't associate me with being the bad guy with Dez and Dez being the bad guy with me, because that's not what it is.''-- Roy Williams, to Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News, on the controversial $55,000 dinner tab the Cowboy veterans stuck on first-round draft choice Dez Bryant (with other rookies chipping in) last week.

Williams and Bryant butted heads in training camp when the rookie wouldn't carry the veteran's shoulder pads at the end of a camp practice, which is customary for rookies to do in training camp. Williams did tell Archer he did have quite a nice -- and filling -- meal when the rookies paid. "I ain't ate in two days,'' he said.

This doesn't deserve a monumental amount of coverage, but one thing should be said to the Cowboy veterans who delighted in spending about $2,500 per man (one estimate I heard for the 22 to 25 men who attended this dinner) as most of America struggles to pay for weekly groceries: Stop being pigs. It's disgusting.

"Well that's a good question. I'm not a 'sit around the fireplace' guy. I don't know. I'm not certain about it. We'll see what happens when the time comes, but I know I want to do something, even if it's not day-to-day or something like that. I know I want to do something. I don't like sitting around. I like to get up and get out and go do something.''-- Bill Parcells, asked about his next job in the NFL -- if there will be a next job -- as he was inducted in the New York Giants ring of honor at the new Meadowlands Stadium. Parcells has handed off control of the Dolphins' front office to Jeff Ireland, and he could be bound for a new team as a consultant, and not likely much beyond that, in 2011.

"The 'victory bell' rings two times -- when we win and when else?''-- Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, in a pop quiz to his weekly "Coaching Football'' class on campus at Ohio State, according to a story in Friday's Wall Street Journal.

One of the 49 students in class said, "Third down?''

"Third down? No! At graduation,'' replied Tressel.

The Journal reported that Tressel is the only major-college football coach to teach a class in-season. His class convenes early in the morning, twice a week, on the Columbus campus.

"offended & sad for what...why is it such an issue...I understand time r hard but if he can afford is what it is...

"everybody in this league had to do something one time or another...they don't want u to physically guy get hit..

"monetarily (I hope I spelled that right) lol''

-- QBComa92, Cleveland defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, in three tweets, responding to my tweet about how the $55,000 "dinner'' Dez Bryant had to buy in Dallas for his Cowboy teammates was "offensive in all ways'' and a sad commentary on our society.

So the Jets lost Darrelle Revis to a strained hamstring late in the first half of the second game of the season and have played without him for the last two and a half games. How the team has fared against the pass with Revis and without him this year:

I know, I know -- Revis played Joe Flacco and Tom Brady in the first six quarters, and they've faced Brady (for two quarters), Chad Henne and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the last 10. But it's curious, at minimum, to see how the Jets were more generous against the pass with Revis playing than they've been with Revis out.

Starting at 4:10 p.m. Saturday, the Red Sox and Yankees played baseball for 11 hours, 27 minutes of the next 24 hours. In those three games, Brett Gardner of the Yankees faced 75 pitches.

Last week I told you how the 2008 Favre trade from Green Bay to the Jets netted the Packers Clay Matthews. This week brings the tale of the McNabb deal looking like it could be a good one for Philadelphia -- at least through the first quarter of the 2010 season, and it comes off a good observation from my friend at the Elias Sports Bureau, Alex Stern.

The Redskins traded two draft picks, including a 2010 second-rounder, to Philadelphia on April 4 for McNabb. This created space for the Eagles to hand the starting quarterback job to Kevin Kolb. And with the second-round pick, the 37th overall, Philadelphia took safety Nate Allen from South Florida.

In his first month on the job, Allen earned a starting safety job with the Eagles, got an interception in Games 1, 2 and 4, and a sack in Game 3. The NFL voted him NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month for September.

Though Kolb got concussed and then benched, the backup quarterback, Vick, brought on to the Eagles in 2009 after Andy Reid got the approval of several Eagles' execs and McNabb, played well enough in the first three games to be named NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September. With the injury to Vick Sunday, Kolb will almost certainly return to the starting lineup Sunday in San Francisco.

I won't say Philadelphia got the better of the deal, of course, not after McNabb waltzed back into town and won a very big game Sunday.

Here are three postscripts from a little Friday digging:

• The Eagles have either a third- or fourth-round pick coming from Washington in the 2011 draft. If any of three events occur -- McNabb makes the Pro Bowl this year, the Redskins win nine or more games, or the Redskins make the playoffs -- it's a three. If not, it's a four.

• Washington is committed to deal the third- or fourth-rounder not traded to Philadelphia as compensation in the deal to acquire tackle Jammal Brown from New Orleans. So if the second half of the McNabb deal is a fourth-round pick sent to Philly after the season, that means Washington will send its third-rounder to New Orleans.

• You want to know why Washington wasn't aggressive in pursuit of Jackson when the Chargers dangled him in trade recently? Blame it on the McNabb deal.

Trading for McNabb, I believe, caused the Redskins to not deal for a receiver they very much need. The Redskins had a bare-bones draft last April, with only two picks in the top 170. Their second-, third- and fifth- had been dealt away or used (as in supplemental pick Jeremy Jarmon in the 2009 summer draft), and they weren't going to dump their second-rounder in 2011 and be left with one pick in the first 130 choices next April. Talking to sources in the organization, I learned that the 'Skins want to get away from the quick-fix mentality and start building for the long haul.

Standing in front of me Saturday afternoon in line outside the Legal Sea Foods Test Kitchen restaurant at Terminal A in Boston's Logan Airport was a couple, including a man with a navy sport coat and a U.S. Navy cap pulled down over his forehead. They asked for a table for two. The server nodded and took them to a table in the corner, where they put down their carry-ons, picked up the menu and sat undisturbed by a good crowd at the bar and restaurant focused on CNN and the Ryder Cup on the big screens in the place.

For 15 minutes, no one said a word to the guy, which really surprised me. Did no one notice the scar on his neck, the wry smile and, even with the hat pulled low, one of the most recognizable visages in America? Or were people just being nice and giving the man his space?

I'd be surprised if no one in the place knew John McCain was among them.

I came to a fork in the road in the middle of New Hampshire Saturday morning, orange- and red- and green-leafed trees on three sides of me, a half-hour into the New Hampshire Half-Marathon, and I saw this sign:


As in 10 miles. My God! Ten miles to go. For a 53-year-old sedentary person, that was a slap in the face if there ever was one. All the while, smart runners like Amby Burfoot had told me entering my first half-marathon to run my race, don't think too far ahead, don't try to run a faster pace than you're used to. But no one ever said, Don't let the road signs beat you. BRISTOL 10. What a dagger.

But I had lots of help right about then. My runner brother-in-law, Bob Whiteley, is funnier out on the racecourse than he is in real life, and he kept our six-man team pretty loose with a vivid (to put it mildly) story about, well, about his brother's loose bowels on a training run. My new Wounded Warrior friend, Jon Kuniholm, talked about his 90-something grandfather's love for Duke basketball and the story of getting the old man his first flat-screen TV to watch the Blue Devils. And my Montclair pals, Mike Goldstein and George Frole, kept it lively.

In other words, we ran through rural New Hampshire and past choppy Newfound Lake and by some of the best foliage you'll see, down hills and up, and I never felt like I was working very hard -- because I had friends with me having a conversation like we were sitting around having a few cold ones. In all, before we neared the finish line, there were 26 fans (I counted, and I may have counted one fellow in an Orioles cap twice) along the course cheering us on, so this was no New York City Marathon where the crowd carries you along. Team King carried me.

I had a little kick in the end, running the last mile in 9:31 (Prefontaine-esque for me), and I was stunned to be able to sprint pretty hard the last 200 yards. Our group finished in 2 hours, 19 minutes, 24 seconds. No records were broken, but my two goals were kept -- I ran the entire way (except for a 25-second relief stop in mile 8) and I didn't finish last. You can look it up:

A wonderful day. An absolute gift. A day I'll always remember with great fondness. On the way to my NBC gig in New York late Saturday afternoon, I sat thinking about what had been accomplished here. Three months ago, I was in middling condition, running a little and trying to get my weight down. Then this Ocho thing blew up and I opened my big mouth. I'm damn glad I did. Never would I have mustered up the endurance to run 13.1 miles. The side benefit is I came to realize how eminently doable a very hard physical task is. When I've watched runners most of my life, I've thought how out of reach what they were doing was. Saturday proved to me it's not.

Cool highlight: On the bus out to the starting line, I sat with a fellow from Tallahassee, Don Dietrich, who said he and his friends pick out a different place to go in the country every year; he runs a race there, and they tour the area, and this was their race this year, and the foliage was the attraction. He asked me my story, and I told him that I was a sports writer who'd called out Chad Ochocinco over a tweet last winter (see for the hackneyed story), and this race, in part, was my way of paying him back for calling him out. And the woman in the seat in front of us turned around and said, "You're the reason I'm running this race.'' Whoa!

"My husband reads your column,'' Lauren Jensen said, "and he saw you were running here, and I was looking for a race to run, so he suggested this one. We're going apple-picking after the race.''

Lauren Jensen, by the way, wiped the racecourse with me. I saw her jet away at the starting line, and didn't see her again 'til she introduced me to her husband, Mike, after the race.

And so it ends -- but I hope your generosity doesn't. I have many people to thank for their support in the last few weeks. You, readers of this column and my Twitter feed, and, have helped raise more than $20,000 for two worthy causes (with more coming in this final week, I hope). I'll have final totals for you next Monday, but there's still time to contribute at

I'd like to thank the sponsors of the run, Under Armour and Harpoon Brewery, and the town of Bristol, N.H., which put on such a fun half-marathon (and 10K and full marathon, too), and Jon Kuniholm for coming from North Carolina, and my four other partners in the race, including my trainer Roberto Portocarrero, who makes difficult things happen, and my wife, Ann, for making the best pre-race meal ever made in a Residence Inn: pasta with her simple and wonderful basil-tomato sauce, swordfish and chicken breast, salad with a delicious vinaigrette, and sugar-free blueberry-raspberry Italian crostada.

And thanks to NBC for surreptitiously videotaping my feeble stretch run and stunning me with it on "Football Night in America'' Sunday. That was ... really weird to see, and I'm sure the nation would agree. I am grateful for the participation of all of you in the first half-marathon of my life.

But not the last.

1. I think this is what I liked about Week 4:

a. Jim Mora's interview of Mike Vick on NFL Network. Hearing Vick call prison "the best thing that ever happened to me'' was an incredible TV moment. It's the best interview in TV this year. And Vick adding he never would have changed had he not gone to Leavenworth: "If that didn't happen, I wasn't going to change. I wasn't gonna stop fighting dogs. My mom tried to tell me, and it was in one ear and out the other.''

b. Derrick Mason. His 40-yard catch of a Flacco rainbow early in Steelers-Ravens -- the 875th catch of an underrated career -- was a great example of how a receiver can block out a defensive back without getting called for pass-interference, and shield the defender from having any chance to make a play. Smart veteran move.

c. The embattled Alex Smith -- for a while on Sunday. A 10-play, 88-yard drive (and completing six consecutive passes) to start the game. I know he made two bad throws later, and I'm a broken record here, but it's not time to give up on Smith.

d. Haloti Ngata is such a force, and such a deceiving athlete, that I swear the Ravens could put him at defensive end in pass-rush downs consistently and he could get double-digit sacks.

e. Nobody places the ball at the perfect spots for his receivers like Drew Brees. Jeremy Shockey was blanketed by the Panthers in the third quarter on a short out pattern, and Brees put it perfectly, where only a diving Shockey had a chance.

f. Chris Canty. You're alive.

g. Osi Umenyiora. You're a man possessed.

h. Way to hang in there, Seneca Wallace.

i. Terrell Owens took a big step toward a bust in Canton against the Browns Sunday with his 10-catch, 222-yard day against the Browns. He's second in history with 15,325 yards, and fifth now with 1,030 catches. He needs 64 receptions to catch Tim Brown, 71 to catch Cris Carter and 72 to tie Marvin Harrison. He'll probably have to play another season to do so, but Owens could well finish his career second to only Jerry Rice, the man who ran the receivers' room in San Francisco when Owens was drafted by the 49ers in 1997.

2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 4:

a. Nomination for worst game of the week by a player on a winning team: Laurence Maroney, running back, Denver. Incredible that the Broncos paid a fourth-round pick, in part, to acquire this back who can't make something from anything but big holes. His day at Tennessee: Eleven carries for five yards, two receptions for 10 yards.

b. Nomination for worst game of the week by a unit: Chicago's pass protection. Cutler didn't throw fast enough, and the Bear line was a simple sieve in a nine-sack first-half performance.

c. I don't like Giants return man Darius Reynaud's instincts. He doesn't know when to fair-catch a punt.

d. Me thinking Tomlinson was washed up.

e. The Raiders letting Derrick Ward and Arian Foster roll over them.

f. Jimmy Clausen has to learn to throw the ball above the hands of the defensive linemen, not into their numbers. Sheesh.

g. Buffalo's secondary. What a poor display. On the Jets' third touchdown pass of the day, there were three Jets open in the end zone. Watch the wide-angle replay. Three guys open, including the one who caught the touchdown pass from Sanchez, tight end Dustin Keller.

h. Kelvin Hayden, Kelvin Hayden ... How do you not catch that interception, the pick that could have clinched the win for the Colts at Jacksonville in the fourth quarter?

i. Soon to be seeking another line of work, or at least another team: Giants punter Matt Dodge. Hard to find something more indictable about a pro athlete, but Dodge is a Nervous Nellie out there.

3. I think nothing will be easy for the Saints this year. Hasn't been through four games. Won't be for the next 12.

4. I think the quarterback crop for the 2011 draft is taking shape nicely, with one of the top prospects looking great for a half Saturday night in Eugene, Ore., before the roof fell in. I asked ESPN's Todd McShay to give me his top five college quarterbacks, and here's his list, complete with his projected overall pick in the draft in parentheses, or, in one case, a school returnee:

a. Andrew Luck, Stanford (1)b. Jake Locker, Washington (10).c. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas (17).d. Blaine Gabbert, Missouri (return to school for senior year).e. Christian Ponder, Florida State (46).

5. I think this thought occurred to me while watching Carson Palmer struggle in the first quarter of the season: He's owed $53 million over the next four years, but whether there's a salary cap next year or not, the Bengals could cut him and not have a dime count against a cap.

6. I think Max Hall starts for the Cardinals -- maybe for the rest of the year. The biggest reason Ken Whisenhunt let Matt Leinart go is because he likes Hall and is sure Hall has a chance to be better than Leinart in his system. With Derek Anderson struggling mightily, there's no reason not to play Hall now.

7. I think the Bills look farther away from contention than I ever remember.

8. I think the 49ers aren't out of it. Not at all, not in the NFC West. If they beat the Eagles Sunday night (and Philly playing Kolb behind that line makes that very possible), and with Arizona hosting New Orleans and the Rams at dangerous Detroit, the Niners could go to bed Sunday night a game out of first through five weeks after an absolutely wretched start.

9. I think this could be Arian Foster's wakeup call --though I must say I didn't think he needed one. I had dinner in Houston with Foster 12 days ago, and I found him to be quite responsible and absolutely thrilled he was getting a real chance to be a big-time running back after his checkered past at Tennessee.

Here's what I mean about responsible: We sat at the restaurant for a good three hours. At the start of the evening, we each ordered a glass of wine. I knew we'd be there for a while, so after we'd ordered the wine, with the waiter still there, I asked Foster if he'd like to just order a bottle because we'd probably be there long enough to drink two glasses. Oh no, he said; he didn't want to drive after having two glasses of wine.

He was kept out of the lineup Sunday for missing a meeting and being late for another, apparently, and he was chided for it early Sunday morning by one of his Twitter followers. "I'll try to be better,'' he wrote to his fan.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Apropos of Nothing Quiz Dept.: What is Everbank Field? (Answer at bottom of this section.)

b. This is what I call paying it forward: A couple of weeks ago, I put two club seats to Friday night's Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park in play for my fundraiser. The face value of the tickets is $340 for the pair. I asked for $500. A reader from West Lafayette, Ind., Rick Johnston, came up with a $500 donation and told me to keep the tickets and auction them off again. Wow, I told him; thanks.

So I did, lowering the price to $400. This time, Greg Morville of Glen Ridge, N.J., came up with the dough. He told me to send him the tickets, and he had some friends interested in them, and he'd try to sell them for a good buck if he could. Wow, I said; thanks.

At the same time, two other readers combined to donate $416 and said they'd take the tickets if they were available, but if not, good luck with the race. Wow, I said; thanks.

Greg Morville got back to me and said his buddy Jim Hayes offered to buy the tickets from him for $450. One baseball game, two tickets, $1,766 to Feed the Children/Wounded Warrior Project. I'm so grateful for your generosity.

c. Baseball awards: MVPs: Josh Hamilton, Texas; Joey Votto, Cincinnati ... Cy Youngs: Felix Hernandez, Seattle; Roy Halladay, Philadelphia ... Rookies: Neftali Feliz, Texas; Buster Posey, San Francisco ... Managers: Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota; Bud Black, San Diego.

Now, it took me a while to come over to the Felix Hernandez camp, and I don't love giving the award to a 13-12 pitcher, but pitching for a team that offensively challenged (zero runs scored by Mariners in seven of his last 13 starts) has to be a very strong consideration. One final note: Almost picked Jose Bautista for MVP, but Hamilton had as many big hits as Bautista and maybe more -- and he did it in a pennant race.

d. Turns out I was right about the Red Sox. Picked them to finish out of the running in the AL East, with the Ray and Yanks making the playoffs. I figured one thing right -- they didn't have the bullpen to make the playoffs -- but the injury thing, obviously, no one can predict.

e. Coffeenerdness: The most shocking thing about my run in the wilds of New Hampshire? I did it fueled by a non-Starbucks coffee. Dunkin' Donuts, you did just fine. Thank you.

f. Congrats on a great first year at The Boston Globe, Pete Abraham.

g. Good luck on your new NFL assignment with the Globe, Greg Bedard.

h. I'll miss box scores for the next six months.

i. Everbank Field is the home field for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Miami 30, New England 23: Pretty simple, really. The New England defense is a mess right now and the secondary has contributed generously, giving up 28 points to Mark Sanchez and 23 to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Jaworski detailed well the problems of the Patriot D against play-action on Sunday morning's State Farm NFL Matchup show on ESPN.

The game's in Florida, and New England has been a bad road team lately, too, losing five of the last six away from home and giving up 28, 34, 10, 22, 38 and 35 points in those six games. It's entirely possible that Tom Brady could put up 30 tonight. But that might not be enough. And he might get tormented by the resurgent Miami pass-rush, too.

Walking to my plane in Boston Saturday afternoon, a Massachusetts state trooper told me, "You picked the wrong team, Petah. Shoulda picked the Pats.'' Maybe, but if I did, I wouldn't have much confidence in the pick.

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