OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Antonio Brown, wide receiver, Pittsburgh. Three touchdown catches against the defense of Hall of Fame Steeler alum Dick LeBeau is impressive enough. But the third one was one of the prettiest catches of the year, a one-hander on the right side of the end zone, Brown securing the ball against his helmet as he fell to the ground. He continues to be 1 and 1-A with Julio Jones atop the NFL Receiver Greatness Board. For the game: 10 catches for 144 yards in the Steelers’ 40-17 rout of the Titans. This was the first offensive explosion against a good team that Pittsburgh’s had this year, and Brown was the keystone.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Casey Hayward, cornerback, L.A. Chargers. Per Pro Football Focus, Hayward allowed a 0.0 passer rating in the eight balls thrown his way, intercepting two, batting down two, and allowing one inconsequential completion in the incredibly weird 54-24 rout of Buffalo.
Anthony Harris, safety, Minnesota. With 4:11 left in the first half of a 7-7 game against the Rams, L.A. rookie wideout Cooper Kupp steamed toward the end zone and a Rams’ lead, but Harris, a third-year player from Virginia, forced a fumble at the 1-yard line that turned around a very big game. Harris added a team-high seven tackles in a statement win for the Vikes.
Landon Collins, strong safety, New York Giants. Collins in 2017 hasn’t had a lot of days like the 2016 Collins, the one who was a serious candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. But he was immense in the 12-9 stunner over the Chiefs. He had 14 tackles and an athletic interception of—I’m serious—Travis Kelce.
Matthew Judon, outside linebacker, Baltimore. The Ravens beat a toothless Green Bay team for the first Packers home shutout in 11 years, and Judon, out of that football factory Grand Valley (Mich.) State, led the way. By halftime, this is what he’d done: forced a fumble recovered by the Ravens, stoned Randall Cobb for zero yards, sacked Brett Hundley for minus-12 yards, sacked Hundley for minus-13 yards. The Ravens dominated the feeble Pack.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Stephen Gostkowski, kicker, New England. In a quarter-and-a-half of the high altitude of Mexico City, Gostkowski kicked field goals of 62 (a Patriot record), 51, 40 and 29 yards, missing none. One of the best days of an outstanding career.
Matt Prater, kicker, Detroit. On a day with 23-degree wind chill and 16-mph winds buffeting Soldier Field, Prater stepped up to try a 52-yard field goal in a tie game with 1:35 left. As with many of his pressure kicks in the past couple of years, Prater’s boot was perfect. Detroit 27, Chicago 24. Three wins in a row.
T.J. Watt, defensive end, Pittsburgh. Give an assist to special teams coordinator Danny Smith for a smart, overloaded-to-the-right field-goal rush early in the second quarter, with Watt cleanly blocking a 48-yard Ryan Succop field goal try that could have tied the game at 10. Sparked by this excellent field-goal block design, Pittsburgh outscored Tennessee 30-10 the rest of the way.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Ben McAdoo, coach, New York Giants. So the Giants were one big lost cause, 1-8 coming off an embarrassing no-show performance at the previously winless Niners last week. The owner had to release a statement saying he wouldn’t fire McAdoo during the season. The tabloids mocked McAdoo, and COO John Mara. McAdoo began meeting with his players individually, telling them the season was not lost. McAdoo appealed to fans during the week to come to the game Sunday against the AFC West-leading Chiefs—vanquishers of New England and Philadelphia—and said he loved their chances against Kansas City. In the game, the defense played like the 2016 Giants. The 12-9 overtime win wasn’t really all that surprising. Maybe the man does still have a grip on the locker room after all.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
Nathan Peterman, quarterback, Buffalo.His ascension to the starting job was controversial to begin with, replacing the popular Tyrod Taylor. And the fifth-round rookie had the kind of nightmare game that will be hard to overcome. First 18 minutes as a pro football player: four interceptions. Buffalo never had a chance. The Bills (5-5) lost their third in a row, and barring a miracle finish by the team, a generation of Bills fans seems destined to experience their 18th straight season cheering for a non-playoff team. One more thing: Peterman had more picks in 18 minutes than Taylor (three) had in eight games. Wait, another final thing: Peterman threw a fifth pick in the last minute of the half. What a disaster.
Connor Barth, kicker, Chicago. Down 27-24 with under a minute left, the Bears get a fourth-and-13 run for a first down from Mitchell Trubisky, then a pass from Trubisky to put Chicago in field-goal range. With eight seconds remaining, here comes Barth to try a 46-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. Snap perfect. Hold perfect. Kick 20 feet wide right. A miss is a miss, but this was a ridiculous miss.
Quotes of the Week
“It’s very simple. I cost us the game. … There’s your headline. You can write it.”
—Bruce Arians, Arizona coach, after he chose to go for it on fourth-and-one in his territory, down 24-21, in the fourth quarter. Adrian Peterson was stuffed for no gain, and Arizona lost.
“I was a little taken aback by it. But he was telling the truth.”
—Denver All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller, reacting after another loss Sunday night to the words of club GM John Elway, who called the team “soft” during the week.
“It's going to be hard to yank him out of there right now. He's playing good. I still have really high hopes. You know a lot of things happen throughout the course of this season so we'll just see how it goes.”
—Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer, on the dilemma of whether to continue to play Case Keenum, who has led the Vikings to 95 points in the last three games—all wins—or the man thought to be the long-term starter in Minnesota, Teddy Bridgewater. For now, it sounds like Zimmer will stick with Keenum.
“If you think Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p---y compared to what I’m going to do.”
—Dallas owner Jerry Jones, in the ESPN.com story by Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham about the battle between Jones and commissioner Roger Goodell over the suspension of Ezekiel Elliott, referring to New England owner Kraft dropping his appeals with the league over the four-game Tom Brady suspension in 2016.
That not a Quote of the Week. It’s the Quote of the Year.
“The arm had played a trick on everybody: It hid his brain. Stafford is a lot more like Peyton Manning than people realize.”
—Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated, from his excellent profile of Matthew Stafford.
“At the end of the day, there’s a First Amendment right as an American citizen. You have a right to protest peacefully. Protests aren’t supposed to be comfortable.”
—Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon, who is the only Giant to continue to not stand for the national anthem (he is kneeling), to Bob GlauberofNewsday.
“Mike and Mike signing off.”
—Mike Golic, co-host of the ESPN Radio morning show “Mike and Mike,” in a pretty simple signoff after the 18-year run with Mike Greenberg ended at 10 a.m. ET Friday morning.
Stat of the Week
I’m not sure exactly what word to use about the state of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, picked 1-2 in the 2015 NFL draft, after 2.5 seasons of their careers. Worrisome, perhaps, particularly with Mariota’s abysmal performance in Pittsburgh on Thursday.
If you combined their passing line in their third NFL seasons, Winston and Mariota, together, would be rated 25th. The combined numbers of the first and second picks in the 2016 draft, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, would place those two fourth in the ratings.
• Winston/Mariota: 83.4
• Goff/Wentz: 101.1
Here’s the stunner … and it is not exclusively the misguided, careless performance of Mariota on Thursday night at Pittsburgh. Touchdowns to interceptions this season:
• Winston/Mariota: 18-16
• Goff/Wentz: 44-9
Factoids That May Interest Only Me
In Dallas last week for a Jason Witten story for NBC’s “Football Night in America” show, I opened up the Dallas Morning Newshigh school coverage on Saturday morning. Eight broadsheet pages, no ads, of high school football. You think the game’s going away? It’s endangered? Texas begs to differ. (And maybe it should go away. But man, look at Texas high school football. It’s ridiculously huge.)
On the endless page of agate, with scores from all over the state, I noticed this one: Plainview Christian 97, WF Christian 96
Whoa. I needed more info on this game. Googled it. Turns out that this was a Texas Six-Man football game. In six-man football in Texas, placekicks are more difficult, because with only four linemen, the path to block the kick is shorter. So a field goal is worth four points, and the extra point is worth two.
According to the Plainview Herald, Wichita Falls Christian, trailing 97-90, scored a touchdown with four seconds left to narrow it to 97-96. The kicker came on. After a 193-point game, it came down to this: make the PAT, and Wichita Falls Christian wins 98-97. Miss the PAT, and Plainview Christian wins, 97-96.
Snap. Kick. IT’S BLOCKED!
Texas Southern is the ultimate NCAA Division I college basketball mercenary. The Tigers do not play a home game this season until 2018. Their first 13 games, all non-conference, are roadies, in every time zone, and paychecks for a school that obviously uses its pre-conference schedule to raise money for the program. The non-conference schedule:
Eastern Time: Ohio State, Syracuse, Clemson, Oakland (Mich.), Toledo
Central Time: Kansas, Baylor, TCU
Mountain Time: Wyoming, Brigham Young
Pacific Time: Gonzaga, Washington State, Oregon
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note
Delta flight, Dallas to LaGuardia, Tuesday morning. I board, take my aisle seat, and a few minutes after takeoff, open my MacBook Air to do some work. I hadn’t cleaned the screen in some time, and there was a large smudge in the middle of the screen. I do not travel with a screen care kit, or screen wipes, so I proceeded to begin to wipe the screen with the sleeve of my sweater.
I felt a tap on my shoulder, and I turned around. “Here,” the guy on the aisle one row behind me said, proffering me a single-pack screen wipe. “Know what that’s like.”
“Wow,” I said. “That’s incredible. Really—thanks so much.”
I don’t know exactly why that made such an impact, but I had to thank the guy at the end of the flight. He said, “Glad you could have a clean screen.” That’s a pretty cool thing.
Tweets of the Week
New section of the column this fall—My MVP, as part of The MMQB’s partnership with State Farm. Each week I’ll ask an NFL person what his most valuable possession is, and why.
Latavius Murray, running back, Minnesota. “I have a custom chain that me and my boys back home from Syracuse had made to honor one of our best friends who passed last Thanksgiving. Actually, our friend was murdered. His name was Jonathan Diaz. So we had chains made for us to wear, and they say, ‘RIP, JD’ to honor him. That’s the most significant material thing I have. I cherish it.”
From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.
This week will be a different podcast, dropping Wednesday morning, just in time for the drive over the river and through the woods to Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve gathered some voices from around the NFL—led by an emotional Chargers coach, Anthony Lynn—who have reason to be thankful this year. And we’ll get an interpretation of the Goodell-Jones conflict from ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, who co-wrote with Don Van Natta the powerful piece on the birth of the battle. I urge you to subscribe to the podcast. Lynn has a great message.