The Award Section: Career Days for Saints’ Mark Ingram, Falcons’ Adrian Clayborn Lead to Wins
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Mark Ingram, running back, New Orleans. Not just for his production (21 carries, 131 yards, three touchdowns), but for how hard he runs consistently, and for going into Buffalo and absolutely dominating the Bills on the ground the way the Saints used to dominate teams through the air. New Orleans: 48 carries, 298 yards (!), six touchdown runs (!!).
Case Keenum, quarterback, Minnesota. As noted above, Keenum’s first NFL day with four touchdown passes was the highlight of his NFL life. Minnesota’s 38-30 win over Washington kept the Vikings two games clear of the Lions and Packers in the NFC North.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Adrian Clayborn, defensive end, Atlanta. With four major injuries requiring surgery in the previous five seasons, Clayborn seemed destined to be that guy who never would fulfill his NFL promise. The Bucs cut him loose after the 2014 season, and he landed in Atlanta. “God had a reason,” Clayborn said from Atlanta on Sunday night, after his six-sack dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys. “And I don’t really ask why. I just know today’s a good day, and I’m happy.” Clayborn took advantage of Dallas left tackle Tyron Smith being sidelined with an injury to abuse backup tackle Chaz Green. Ugly for the Cowboys, beautiful for the Falcons.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Jesse James, tight end, Pittsburgh. He made the hustle play of the year to save two points in Indianapolis. With the Steelers down 17-9 and lined up for a PAT in the third quarter, the attempt was blocked by Margus Hunt and recovered by Matthias Farley, who took off down the left sideline on his way to what appeared to be a two-point conversion for the Colts. (The defensive team can return a failed conversion after touchdown and be awarded two points.) James began sprinting at the Colts’ 19, and he ran down the faster Farley 78 yards later, the Colts just three yards away from making this a 19-9 game. How huge was that play when the Steelers scored in the fourth quarter, then made the two-point conversion to tie the game at 17? Pretty big.
Tyler Shatley, long-snapper, Jacksonville. Never long-snapped in a game in high school. Never long-snapped in a game in college. Never long-snapped in an NFL game. But with Matt Overton out with a shoulder injury, Shatley entered and snapped for Josh Lambo’s game-tying field goal with three seconds left in the fourth quarter. Then he snapped for Lambo’s game-winning field goal in overtime. Now that’s a fairly clutch performance.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Sean Payton, head coach, New Orleans. After the Saints went 7-9, 7-9, 7-9 in the past three seasons, Payton made a conscious decision to change his explosive offense. No longer would the team be dependent on Drew Brees to keep the Saints in every game; now Payton and GM Mickey Loomis would put more pressure on the running game and the offensive line, with a maturing defense, to carry the load. Well, with a defense keeping the Saints in every game, and Brees not the only offensive crutch anymore, the Saints have won seven in a row. A bold preseason move by Payton continued to pay dividends Sunday in Buffalo.
GOATS OF THE WEEK
Chaz Green, left tackle, Dallas. Allowed five of the six Adrian Clayborn sacks against the Falcons, playing in relief of Tyron Smith. A left tackle cannot play an uglier game. You just have to hope, for this young guy’s sake, that it doesn’t stick with him and mar his career.
Jack Doyle, tight end, Indianapolis. With the Colts up 17-9 with 13 minutes left against Pittsburgh, Jacoby Brissett threw an eminently catchable pass to Doyle right near the line of scrimmage. It went through Doyle’s hands and into the arms of Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was tackled at the Indy 10-yard line. From there, the Steelers scored on a touchdown pass, and a Martavis Bryant two-point conversion gave them the tie, and they won in overtime. Sort of a vital mistake by Doyle.
John Fox, coach, Chicago. Bears back Benny Cunningham was ruled down at the half-yard line in the first half against Green Bay after a 23-yard gain. Fox challenged the ruling on the field, claiming it should been a touchdown. Instead of having first-and-goal at the half-yard line, the Bears actually had a turnover. That’s because while Cunningham dove for the end zone, the ball was coming loose as he stretched for the pylon … and the ball was ruled a touchback for Green Bay. The Bears trailed by seven at the time, and never tied or led thereafter. Tough decision for Fox to make, but it turns out actually throwing the challenge flag on the play likely cost the Bears a halftime lead—and quite possibly a win in this incredibly close series. Green Bay leads all-time, 95 wins to 93, with six ties. Bizarre to think of it … but without this challenge by Fox, it might have been 94-94 this morning.
Quotes of the Week
“Man, I was trying to keep it together. But it's just, opportunities like these don’t come around twice. When you get that second opportunity, you cherish it. And you hold it. You never want to let it go. Today it got the best of me.”
—Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, per ESPN Dianna Russini, after cameras caught Bridgewater tearing up on the bench before the first game he dressed for in 22 months Sunday in Washington.
“Those trying to peddle that nonsense are profoundly misinformed or deliberately trying to mislead.”
—NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart, after ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that in his most recent proposal to the NFL’s Compensation Committee, Roger Goodell asked for a contract with about $49.5-million in compensation and a lifetime use of a private jet.
“I personally wish that he would take that charge and lead. Be a leader and try and unify us as a country. Step out of your comfort zone, swallow your pride, and, with humility, try to lead us back to together.”
—Former Army Ranger and Colin Kaepernick adviser Nate Boyer, on what he thinks Kaepernick should do now, to Tim Rohan of The MMQB.
“With Alex, there are going to be a lot of people out there who think he is a quack. But the proof is in the pudding. Brady looks like he’s 27 years old, and the man is 40.”
—New England wide receiver Julian Edelman, on Tom Brady’s mystery man of a trainer, Alex Guerrero, on “The MMQB Podcast with Peter King” this week. Edelman was discussing his new book, “Relentless: A Memoir,” with Tom Curran.
“His pocket presence, that’s the most impressive thing. … This is the maturation of Tyrod Taylor that really makes him exciting. … Watch how he has matured as a quarterback. He’ll slide, he’ll buy himself some time. His eyes are always up.”
—Chip Kelly, in a pro-Tyrod Taylor piece for ESPN’s pre-game show Sunday. Very well explained, very good TV by Kelly.
Stat of the Week
New England since the beginning of 2016 in regular-season games:
This is why the Patriots likely have little concern over the next five games: vs. Oakland in Mexico City, Miami at home, at Buffalo, at Miami, at Pittsburgh.
Factoids That May Interest Only Me
Regarding the Pittsburgh-Indianapolis game Sunday: After 10 minutes in his Week 10 game, Ben Roethlisberger, for the season, had 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and had taken 10 sacks.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note
In the past couple of years, my job at NBC has morphed into doing longer, reported stories for “Football Night in America.” I had an idea for one this year: follow globetrotting Larry Fitzgerald to his 97th country visited. He’d been to 96 through the end of 2016, and I figured he’d be going somewhere in 2017. When I asked, he said he was trying to get a tee time at the Old Course in Scotland, and if he could get one, he’d be headed there. He did get a tee time and set the trip for July with two good friends, including the man who introduced him to golf four years ago, former Cardinals wideout Andre Roberts (now a Falcon). NBC dispatched me to Scotland, with a British TV crew familiar with the Old Course, to trail Fitzgerald’s group on their 18 holes. Boy, it was fun. Here’s how it looked on TV Thursday night.
I walked the Old Course with Fitzgerald and just talked most of the way. “I bet the maintenance bill here is a fraction of what it would cost back home,” he said, walking on the front nine. “I’ve seen some pictures where the goats come out and eat this grass [on the fairway]. Old school.”
On travel: “When I was younger, my parents, we used to travel a lot, not internationally, but to the Bahamas for the cruise or national park, Disneyland, Disney World, Staten Island, Statue of Liberty … My parents always thought, travel would give you exposure and opportunity to learn about history. That’s how my love for history developed, and kind of my passion for travel developed and we didn’t have the means to do a lot of international things, but the trips we did take were so much fun. I loved being with the family and being able to see new things, and try new foods, and all those things were really exciting to me. When I got to the NFL, my first trip I took, I went to Australia, and that was before I had any children so I went for 40 days. The next year, I went to China, Japan, Korea, went all through China down to Cambodia … to Thailand. I biked, so it was a few days on a bike, but I got a chance to see all the country and that was one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been.”
Fitzgerald says he thinks he has 20 or so more countries in him. He wants to see Scandinavia and Greece soon. He has eaten snake and monkey. One of his highlights: seeing the lake in Vietnam where John McCain—his friend and Arizona senator—went down, leading McCain to become a POW. Fitzgerald jumped into the frigid water off Antarctica. He has been to 48 of our 50 states, and he plans to get to Alaska and Maine one day.
“I like the off-the-beaten path, local vibe when I travel,” he said.
He shot a 78 on the Old Course … after being 1-under, incredibly, after 11 holes. Then he and his crew drove to a nearby course, with the wind blowing hard off the North Sea, and played another 18 holes before heading back to London that night, and then back to Phoenix a few days later, and then to training camp.
New section of the column this fall, as part of The MMQB’s partnership with State Farm. Each week, I’ll ask an NFL person about his most valuable possession.
Greg Olsen, tight end, Carolina. “It’s the ball, glove and my shoes from my first touchdown in the NFL. I have them in my house in Charlotte. It came in Week 5, I think, [correct] on a Monday night against Green Bay. My first game in Lambeau Field, Brian Urlacher on my side, Brett Favre on the other side, tight game. I ran a wheel route into the end zone, and in today’s rules, it would not have counted as a touchdown. I was in the air and got pushed out, and in those days, it counted as a touchdown even though I landed out of bounds on the force-out. That’s a game I’ll always remember. I think it was Brian Griese who threw the ball. That stuff will always be prized possessions of mine.”
From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.
This week’s conversations: Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and New England receiver Julian Edelman, on the release of his book: “Relentless: A Memoir,” with Tom Curran.
• Edelman on making that incredible catch a millimeter above the ground in the Super Bowl, with two Falcons battering him: “A lot of it has to do with feeling like a cornered animal. If you don’t at least catch this ball [above] the ground, your season is over. That sense of relentlessness … Was it luck? Was it skill? I can’t tell you that.”
• Edelman on the tough love he got growing up from his father in California: “When you're young and you're a kid, you may not think it is pretty good for you. You may snivel, you may pout. My dad was the type of guy who would challenge me. He would challenge me to the point where he got under my skin and he was trying to do that on purpose because he would always say, ‘You have to be mentally tough if you want to make it.’ Me being a stubborn kid and getting that stubbornness from my mother, I wanted to prove him wrong when he challenged me and it pissed me off. In baseball for example, he'd be throwing inside at me, and I'd be dipping my shoulder and he would throw it closer to me and I would start spitting towards the mound. I’d say, ‘Throw it harder!’ And I was swinging harder and it got to the point where one day I charged the mound on him and he had to put me in my place. But that's how it was with the Edelman household and I wouldn't be where I am at today without that.”
Tweets of the Week
Tyron Smith needs a pay raise— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) November 13, 2017
#NFL #concussion protocol is a fraud. QB Jacoby Brissett goes back in after showing the clearest concussions signs of the season. Helmet-to-helmet hit, holds head, then goes limp, then needs help up. You don't need a protocol to hold this player out for the game. Check the tape: pic.twitter.com/db8sDwVmVl— Dr. Chris Nowinski (@ChrisNowinski1) November 12, 2017