Ten Things I Think I Think: On C.J. Beathard, Luke Kuechly, Jack Del Rio, NaVorro Bowman and More

NFL Week 6 notes on C.J. Beathard, Luke Kuechly, NaVorro Bowman, Jack Del Rio and more.
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C.J. Beathard went 19 for 36 for 246 yards with a touchdown and an interception Sunday. He will start the Niners’ next game.

C.J. Beathard went 19 for 36 for 246 yards with a touchdown and an interception Sunday. He will start the Niners’ next game.

1. I think these are my quick notes of Week 6:

a. Stunning penalty-yardage disparity Thursday night: Eagles 126, Panthers 1. I would love to be in the officials’ room on Park Avenue to hear the discussion over the fact that the Panthers were not whistled for one hold in a game that has become a clutch-and-grab-fest.

b. I have never heard what CBS analyst Nate Burleson said about rookie running back Kareem Hunt of the Chiefs: “He’s the carpet that brings the room together.” How did I miss that?

c. WHOOOOOOOSH! Marvin Hall just showed up Saturday on the active Atlanta roster for the first time, then got five yards behind the Miami secondary and caught a too-easy long TD.

d. Case Keenum is playing the best football of his life—and looks so confident doing it. His inside shovel pass to Kyle Rudolph for seven yards near the Green Bay goal line was a thing of beauty.

e. The Lions are in the NFC North race because of the Aaron Rodgers injury, not because of good football.

f. The book on C.J. Beathard is he’s one tough guy. Which he showed in the 26-24 loss at Washington. But he showed much more, enough that he’s got at least one more start next Sunday against Dallas.

g. Can someone please teach Jordan Howard that when your team is trying to bleed the clock, you don’t intentionally run out of bounds? Sheesh.

h. Oakland punter Marquette King had a day: four punts, 56.5-yard average, 55.0 net, all four inside the 20.

i. What a pass by Tarik Cohen, the bowling ball of a back for Chicago. He rolled right with a handoff and let one fly, 37 yards in the air, and it nestled perfectly into the arms of Zach Miller in the right corner of the end zone. First Bears rookie running back to throw a TD pass since Gale Sayers did it in 1965.

j. Good for the Chargers winning in Oakland. Anthony Lynn is keeping that team together against so many odds.

k. Jack Del Rio has a big problem, and it’s not only that the Raiders are 2-4. They’re an uninspired, toothless 2-4. They’ve got a must-win game Thursday night against the Chiefs—and they’ve only lost five in a row to Kansas City.

l. Where to start with that New Orleans-Detroit game. Well, I’ll leave you with one note on it: The Cam Jordan tipped-to-himself interception for a touchdown was the biggest play in a game with 90 points scored, and one of the most athletic plays of the season. Jordan’s a heck of a player. The Saints need about five more of him on defense.

m. When he’s healthy, Janoris Jenkins is a top-five NFL cornerback. Showed it again Sunday night with the pick-six in Denver.

n. Could be that I jinxed him, but if you want to see my "Football Night in America" ride-along with Trevor Siemian, here it is.

o. Cam Newton will not put the Thursday-nighter in his time capsule.

p. There is no good reason—nor a crappy reason—to fine a celebrating football player for throwing a football into the stands after a great play. I mean, the player is happy, the player is celebrating, the player gives the souvenir touchdown football to a fan. I do understand the NFL’s reasoning. The league doesn’t want anyone to get hurt in a scrum for a prize football. And if there is an instance of a fan getting hurt beyond a couple of scratches on a ball thrown into the stands, maybe I’d change my tune. But Davante Adams got fined $6,076 for throwing his winning touchdown catch into the stands in Texas last week, and there’s the cutest picture of the recipient, a little girl, cradling it this week. It’s wrong.

q. Thomas Davis still has it, even after three ACL surgeries.

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2. I think, Luke Kuechly, it’s time for that deep conversation with yourself and with your family and maybe with your good friends on the Panthers. You’re 26, and when you’re on the field you’re as dominant and instinctive as you were in 2013, when you were named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. But with a likely third concussion in three years Thursday night, the danger with playing such a physical position and risking further head trauma is something Kuechly and those closest to him are going to have to consider when trying to decide about his future in football. Kuechly came steaming around right end to get an Eagles’ ball-carrier, and he was met directly by guard Brandon Brooks. Brooks didn’t Kuechly him helmet-to-helmet; rather, he simply stopped Kuechly and leveled him with a strong block into his shoulder/neck area. Players get up from that almost every time … but when players have a history of concussions, even seemingly ordinary contact can be dangerous. Whatever Kuechly does—and he told me last year he planned to play as long he physically is able—the emotion has to be taken out of it. He’s got to make the best call for 50-year-old Luke Kuechly.

3. I think I get the release of NaVorro Bowman—a veteran on an 0-5 team who wouldn’t be there after this season. He’s been one of the best professionals and competitors I’ve covered. I also get the Niners releasing him instead of taking a low-round pick for him. I’ll tell you where I’d go if I were him: Carolina. Great insurance for Kuechly, and a great one-year landing place. Backup plan: Oakland.

4. I think when I saw the Panthers in training camp, coach Ron Rivera was adamant that Carolina was going to be a power-running team. If that was the case, Carolina would be at least one win better than its 4-2 record right now. But in the last two games, Carolina’s running backs have 35 carries for 37 yards. The Panthers should be using the speed and horizontal misdirection of Curtis Samuel and Christian McCaffrey to create uncertainty on the defensive side of the ball.

5. I think it’s only mid-October, and it’s starting to be hard to fathom how a guy who seemed bulletproof on Labor Day, Giants coach Ben McAdoo, will still be in that job in 2018.

Justin Pugh Stood His Ground Against Von Miller in Giants' First Win of the Season

6. I think it’s only mid-October, and it’s starting to be hard to fathom how the Eagles won’t win the NFC East, with this schedule over the next four weeks: Washington, San Francisco and Denver, all at home, followed by the bye. The Eagles don’t play a road game until the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

7. I think I enjoyed the NFL Films Presents “Touchdown in Israel” show I screened over the weekend. The show debuts Friday at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. Patriots owner Robert Kraft took 18 Pro Football Hall of Famers to Israel, to promote football (the players actually coached a game between two teams of young players from Israel) and so Kraft could show off Israel, which he loves. Most touching parts: At the end of the show, Joe Montana, Jim Brown, Eric Dickerson and others—most emotionally Marshall Faulk—discuss their experiences on the last night in Israel. Faulk, not an emotional sort, struggles to get through his thoughts speaking to the group, because the trip was so powerful to him. “Coming from the Ninth Ward in Louisiana, to be in Israel … UN-believable … And not just to be here, but [struggling to speak] … to be here with some guys who I look up to. I grew up poor. I sold POPCORN in the Superdome just to watch y’all play! [fighting off tears]  … Cuz that’s the only way I could get in! … So to be here, and to be friends with y’all, and to hear your stories, and to have y’all listening to my stories, um, is unbelievable. I came here as just a member of the Hall. Man, I’m leaving with some special relationships.”

8. I think I applaud the filing of the Colin Kaepernick collusion case, though I’m skeptical attorney Mark Geragos will find any evidence to prove that multiple NFL owners, or the league office, colluded to deny Kaepernick employment. This may not be the best thing to get Kaepernick on an NFL roster (the dreaded “distraction” that so many teams quake about would be the result of signing him now), but the more noise that’s made about Kaepernick not being given a chance to play the better.

9. I think there’s an overlooked story you should know about it. It happened last week at a small-college football game in upstate New York, St. Lawrence at Union. Two friends from the Albany area from the early 1940s, World War II vets apart for more than 70 years, gathered to renew their friendship at the game in Schenectady, and the emotion that came out left both men weeping. Donald Sommers (Union class of ’45), age 95, and Ted Rosen (St. Lawrence class of ’48), 93, hadn’t seen each other because of the war and because life took them in different directions. Sommers’ daughter Caroline, a New York City-based TV producer, worked for months to locate Rosen, just as a favor to her father, who recently lost his wife. “This is unbelievable, to be able to spend time with such a good friend after so many years,” said Sommers. “I haven’t seen this young man in 70 years! We chose to do it at the football game. I am a very ardent football watcher.” Caroline Sommers was filled with emotion when the two friends stood with the teams from their respective alma maters as the anthem played. “This was a bucket list thing for me to do for my father,” she said. “You know the scene in the Grinch where his heart grows a lot at the end? That’s what this felt like—to do something that made these two great men so happy.”

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

a. Story of the Week: by John Branch of the New York Times, “The Girl in the No. 8 Jersey,” on the tragedy in Las Vegas hitting home on a soccer field in California.

b. Stacee Etcheber and the Girl in the No. 8 Jersey should have some rights. Rights to live without the fear of being cut down by some normal-seeming sniper from 400 yards away.

c. Goodellian Story of the Week: by Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal, about an anonymous (but no longer) defender of Roger Goodell on Twitter.

d. Baseball Story of the Week: by Peter Gammons of The Athletic, on the Astros’ Game 4 ALDS win in Boston, writing about the rise of one franchise and the fall of another at Fenway Park on a murky October day. “This is what I live for. This place is so great, so electric,” said Justin Verlander, who almost was a goat in the first relief appearance of his life in professional baseball. “To me, baseball is about the moments, walking up on the mound with something on the line.” 

e. And that wasn’t even the baseball game of the week. Cubs 9, Nats 8.

f. I cannot rave enough about Jose Altuve. The man invents runs. Friday against the Yankees, in a scoreless game, he bounced a normal ground ball up the middle, and the throw to first was a tick late. Then he stole second, safe by a whisker. Then, on a single up the middle, his little pistons took him home for the first run of a 2-1 game. The man is Pedroia with 40 percent better power and 30 percent better speed.

g. Justin Verlander with the game of his later career in ALCS Game 2. Then I looked up and saw he’s still only 34. Thought he was older. So glad to see a guy throw 124 pitches and a complete game and no one freaks out. Look how good Verlander was late: In the last four innings, he struck out seven, got five batted-ball outs, walked one, allowed one hit. That’s dominance.

h. Cleveland … that one hurt. Not as bad as losing the 3-1 Series lead last year. But watching Corey Kluber go cold, and Jose Ramirez go colder, will lead to some bummer evenings this winter. 

i. Coffeenerdness: Not a good idea to run low on Italian Roast at my two local stores, Starbucks. You do realize I’m an addict, don’t you? STOCK THE ITALIAN ROAST!​

j. Beernerdness: I’ve gone Sober October, as you may have read last week, and you filled my inbox with your passion about favorite beers. So I’m going to use the next three columns to feature your choices. The first: from Mitch Clingman of Wisconsin: “I live in Milwaukee but I'm from Minnesota, and I enjoy watching my Vikings while sipping on King Sue, an American Double IPA from Toppling Goliath in Decorah, Iowa. Orange in color, one of the hoppiest fresh noses you will ever find, this is absolutely a life-changing event in a bottle. My leg starts twitching when I take my first sip. I highly suggest giving this one a try in the near future.” Toppling Goliath … well, of course I’m going to try anything from Toppling Goliath.

k. Great job by the Vegas Golden Knights feting the city, the police, the victims and the first-responders at the first home game in franchise history. That 58-second “moment” of silence was marvelous. Truly emotional. Nice start for the first big-league team in the history of the state.

l. Liked the analysis by Don Banks of The Athletic on the quote-unquote Ben McAdoo “losing the locker room” perception. Often, teams settle into cliques during really bad times, and Banks captures it.

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Who I Like Tonight

Tennessee 30, Indianapolis 24. I love the battle of the quarterbacks. Who’d have thought Jacoby Brissett might outduel Marcus Mariota on a Monday night in Nashville in October? This will be a competitive game with the Colts having a chance to win in the last five minutes. Tennessee defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s troops are having a very bad year (a league-high 28.4 points per game allowed through five weeks) and may have to make a stop here to win.

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The Adieu Haiku

Huge week for Goodell.
Ultimate knotty problem.
It’s mayhem. Trump wins.

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