Danny Trevathan suspension, Dalvin Cook ACL, advice for the Browns and more from NFL Week 4
1. I think these are my brief truths of Week 4:
a. Two games for Danny Trevathan is the least he should have gotten suspended for the ugly hit on Davante Adams. I don’t believe Trevathan was trying to hit him helmet-to-helmet. But in this case, it doesn’t matter. It happened.
b. And I like Trevathan—the way he plays, the man he is. Hits like that simply must get a major sanction, to ensure the players and the public know that helmet-to-helmet car crashes simply won’t be tolerated, no matter whether they’re intentional or not.
c. If Dalvin Cook has a torn ACL, as is suspected, the most electric rookie runner in the NFC will be lost until next season. With the quarterback injuries the Vikes have suffered, it’s hard to imagine them making a playoff run now.
d. Backup backs on bad teams are usually ignored. Bilal Powell should not be. The Jets are lucky to have him.
e. Cam Heyward makes three or four impact plays every game. His best one Sunday was when he snuffed out a Baltimore drive in the second quarter with a brute-force-rush sack.
f. Bill Parcells Memorial Clock-Eating Scoring Drive of the Season: The Bills drove 82 yards in 19 plays, using 11 minutes 20 seconds of game clock, and kicked a field goal in Atlanta.
g. Great video by the NBC crew, showing Jimmy Graham flying to work in Seattle in his seaplane, landing on Lake Washington next to the Seahawks’ facility.
h. Great info nugget by Michele Tafoya just before halftime, talking about how in pregame warmups Seattle kicker Blair Walsh was having trouble kicking into the end zone where Seattle was about to attempt a field goal on the last play of the half. Sure enough, Walsh pushed a 37-yarder wide right.
i. Not throwing a pity party for the Giants at 0-4, but losing two straight games on field goals on the last play of the game … kind of a brutal way to live.
j. I don’t know how many more big catches Larry Fitzgerald will make in his career. But he is still a huge threat, and even when the Niners knew Carson Palmer would look for him consistently as the final seconds ticked off the clock in overtime Sunday, he won another game with another big touchdown catch. What a special player.
2. I think I have this message for Jimmy and Dee Haslam, as they wake up from a restless night and to a Browns team at 0-4: First, you never make good decisions when you’re angry, or you’re tired. Second, you’re going to go backwards by firing anyone now, or after the season, barring some unforeseen development. Stay the course, stay off social media, and don’t listen to the radio.
3. I think the Raiders, a bit, were victims of their off-season excitement and early success. I still remember Jack Del Rio pumping the brakes with me at training camp on the Super Bowl express, pointing out the Chiefs had won 11 in a row in the division while the Raiders were 3-3 in AFC West games last year. Now, the Chiefs are on a 12-game AFC West winning streak, and the Raiders are 3-4 in their last seven games in the division. Now that Derek Carr has a back issue, it’s a legit question whether Oakland will even make it to January, especially with rising teams like Buffalo coming out of nowhere. We’ll see.
4. I think Indy GM Chris Ballard made one heck of a trade for Jacoby Brissett (acquiring him a month ago for wideout Phillip Dorsett), and that’s even if Brissett settles into a backup role when Andrew Luck is healthy enough to play. Brissett is self-assured, has a great arm and possesses the ability to throw into tight windows downfield—if his early play in Indy is true to him. Plus, as NBC cameras caught Sunday night, Brissett is never afraid to show his passion—a trait he might have picked up from Tom Brady—and light into teammates on the sidelines when necessary.
5. I think one of the benefits of actually going to games rather than sitting and monitoring them and then talking to players and coaches post-game is you get to see and hear the real stuff on site. In the bowels of M&T Bank Stadium, with the Steelers coming off the field after dominating Baltimore, Mike Tomlin said loudly to the players within earshot: “Hey! We got a hot J-ville [Jacksonville] team coming to town next week! Whacked these guys [Baltimore] worse than we did. Let’s get ready to work!” Setting the stage already.
6. I think, not to make a big deal of it in a game in which the whole team stunk, Joe Flacco looked awful on Sunday. “I sucked,” he said. He knew. To have a passer rating of 65.0 is awful—and to have a rating 26.7 points lower than Blake Bortles this morning is even worse.
7. I think Jimmy Graham’s just not the same player now that he was in New Orleans.
8. I think I’d watch NFL advertisers this week. If a major one breaks ranks and comes out and says it’s considering dropping its NFL sponsorship, you’ll see ownership work hard to mollify players. It’s a touchy time.
9. I think—no, I know—that, if I were Giants GM Jerry Reese, I would not offer the unrepentant Odell Beckham Jr., a long-term contract until I see whether he can keep his distracting emotions and behavior in check. If that means they risk losing him, so be it. Beckham’s blasé and unapologetic reaction three days after he faux-urinated on the field to celebrate a touchdown in Philadelphia also tells me there’s no one in the organization who can talk sense into Beckham, which is also worrisome.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Important Story of the Week: The staff of the New York Times, on a day in the life of hurricane-ravaged and neglected Puerto Rico. A superb look at a disaster we need to address with more fervor as a country.
b. So … I’m not going to make this a political issue, or comment on our government’s handling of the post-hurricane life of this island. I am just going to say this: Puerto Rico is an American territory. Those born in Puerto Rico are American citizens. Puerto Ricans have served in the U.S. military since 1899. Residents of the island (population: 3.4 million) annually pay more than $3 billion in taxes to our federal government. Now Puerto Rico has been devastated as ruthlessly as any time in its history by a natural disaster. It’s great that we in this country go all-out to help areas of Texas and Florida when hurricanes and flooding struck recently. We need to be good responders to our friends in Puerto Rico too. The first lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rossello, began the United for Puerto Rico fund that has garnered support in the philanthropic community. And Save The Children has boots on the ground to help with food and clothing and baby and child supplies that are so sorely needed in this disaster. I’d urge you to help if you can.
c. Football Story of the Week: Kyle Meinke of MLive.com on Lions long-snapper Don Muhlbach, who played his 200th game for the franchise Sunday in Minnesota—tied for third in the glorious history of the Detroit Lions. A quick clip:
Muhlbach started long-snapping as a young high-schooler in Lufkin, Texas, to have something to do while his ride home, the punter on the football team, practiced after the regular practice.
d. Great story, great factoid on a player no one notices but who’s really good at his job. That, folks, is how to write a great feature story on a guy no one knows.
e. Sign of the Times Story of the Week: From Scooby Axson of Sports Illustrated, a former soldier in the Army. He favors players doing what they want during the national anthem. It’s a logical piece. Axson writes, “I don’t feel disrespected if a person chooses not to stand for the national anthem. I fought for your ability to make that choice. What is disrespectful is the use of the great military as the basis to deny some citizens freedom of expression.”
f. Obit of the Week: Laura Mansnerus of the New York Times, on the passing of Hugh Hefner, at 91. Great last line of the obituary: “Mr. Hefner will be buried in Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, where he bought the mausoleum drawer next to Marilyn Monroe.”
g. Liz Clarke Note of the Week, a nod to the greatest Springsteen fan I know: I talked to someone who attended a formal rehearsal for Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway show Friday night. The show is a combination of Springsteen telling life stories, some of them heartily depressing, and Springsteen singing (including “Born To Run,” slowly and soulfully), and Springsteen and wife Patti Scialfa singing together (including “Tougher Than the Rest”), and then telling some more life stories. My friend who went cried. Evidently it’s a heck of a show, though not like a rollicking Springsteen stadium performance.
h. This is how amazing Jose Altuve is: He has 225, 200, 216 and 205 hits the past four seasons; all-time hits leader Pete Rose never had four straight seasons of at least 200 hits.
i. This is how amazing Ichiro is: In each his first 10 major-league seasons, he had at least 200 hits.
j. How great to see Matt Cain throw five shutout innings in San Francisco in the last baseball game of his MLB career. That’s what he did Saturday.
k. Fifty years ago Sunday, the 100-to-1 shot Red Sox won the 1967 American League pennant. I could live to be 101, and that will be the pennant race of my lifetime. From Aug. 31 until Oct. 1, Boston was never more than a game ahead in the standings, or more than a game behind. In the second half of the season, the Red Sox played 13 doubleheaders. Thirteen!
l. Game 1 of the Boston-Houston ALDS series: Chris Sale at Justin Verlander. Now that’s going to be a good event, and New Englanders are likely hoping it will be a day game, saving them from channel-flipping with the Patriots in a Thursday-nighter at Tampa Bay.
m. Some great drama in the Red Sox’s division-clinching win over Houston on Saturday. In game 161 of the 162-game season, David Price (the highly paid one, who came back from an arm injury and was made an Andrew Miller-like lefty specialist who could pitch anytime in relief) came out of the bullpen in the top of the seventh, up 5-2, tying run at the plate, no outs, to try to save the division title. Price got three outs without allowing an inherited runner to score, in the rain, with Price striking out George Springer, a New Englander from Connecticut who went to UConn, for the last out. Pretty good.
n. Now would be a good time to remind you of my baseball genius. Preseason NL MVP pick: Kyle Schwarber, Cubs. Batted .211. Hitting so badly early in the season he got sent to Triple-A for a couple of weeks. Did hit 30 homers, but this was not my finest prediction. Preseason AL MVP pick: Rougned Odor, Texas. Batted .204. Had one of the worst on-base percentages (.252) of a non-pitcher in baseball. Did hit 30 homers, but this one was ever worse than Schwarber.
o. Preseason Cy Young picks: Masahiro Tanaka and Kyle Hendricks. Oops. Went a combined 20-17, with respective ERAs of 4.74 and 3.03.
p. I did get four of the five playoff teams right in each league, including Colorado and the Yankees. Missed on Arizona (picked the Giants) and Minnesota (picked Texas).
q. Preseason World Series pick: Astros over Cubs in 5.
r. Today’s World Series pick: Astros over Cubs in 7.
s. Coffeenerdness: There is no smell like freshly ground Italian Roast from Starbucks. Worth the price of admission. Coffee is superb too. My favorite drip.
t. Winenerdness: I neglected to praise a highly praiseworthy cabernet last week when I wrote about Drew Bledsoe’s Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon, from Walla Walla Valley in Washington. I had a glass in New York when I saw it on a menu (I’d always wanted to try his wine), and it was terrific—rich and fruity and smooth. An excellent cab. When I heard Bledsoe was involved in the wine business, I knew he’d only put his hand in it if he could make a very good product. This is.
u. Since the death of a Steely Dan founder Walter Becker a month ago, and since I got an Amazon Echo Dot, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat at my desk and said, “Alexa, shuffle Steely Dan songs.” I put the volume way down and work, sometimes for long periods, to the library of this great music. Rediscoveries after all these years: “Bad Sneakers,” “Any Major Dude,” “Midnight Cruiser,” and the song playing in my head as I write these words: “Any World (That I’m Welcome To).” Listen to the genius. How about “Change of the Guard?” That’s been forgotten over time, but it’s a great song.
v. RIP Dave Strader, the voice of the Dallas Stars, who fought cancer with tenacity and dignity, and who brought hockey to prominence for so many Texans.
w. News of the Las Vegas concert shooting was unfolding as I was finishing this column. My thoughts are with the victims and their families.
Who I Like Tonight
Kansas City 30, Washington 22. Well, this could be the Monday night game of the year, so I think we’ll all like the game. But a particularly dramatic part of the evening could come in the ESPN pre-game show (6-8:20 p.m. ET), with Michelle Beisner’s piece on former Kansas City and Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer, who is in the early stages of suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Beisner is sensitive and touches the right notes, letting Schottenheimer and wife Pat tell the story; it’s the mark of a good reporter to know when to let the story tell itself, and Beisner is excellent in that role here. At one point, Beisner asks Schottenheimer about whether one game sticks out for him in his career, and Pat jostles his memory and reminds him of the 1994 Joe Montana-John Elway classic Monday-nighter, with Montana in his Chiefs’ cameo years winning with a dramatic late touchdown pass, and Schottenheimer smiles.
“What do you remember about that game?” Beisner asks.
Schottenheimer, sitting across from her, thinks for a moment. “To be honest with you,” Schottenheimer says, “I don’t remember a lot about it.”
Well worth your time tonight before the game. Here’s a trailer of the story.
The Adieu Haiku
Hey, Bills Mafia.
You’re in first place. Think it lasts?
McDermott fans, eh?
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