Defending Super Bowl champs automatically go to the top of the class. This is etched in stone and I've been told not to mess with this directive if I value my job. If I don't work, the Flaming Redhead doesn't eat, which usually makes her cranky.
Here's the deal on Fast Willie Parker, the third stringer who ran for 161 yards against Tennessee. In his senior year at North Carolina, he rode the bench. "I really didn't take any hits in college, so my career's just beginning" he said. Which reminds me of something Tom Keating once told me when he was playing for the Steelers and Tony Dorsett was a rookie, I mean a freshman, at Pitt. "They've got a kid here who's a freshman who could play in the NFL right now. If I were him, I'd go hide in a cave for three years and save my legs."
I liked the defense on Monday night. I mean how could you help but like it, the way DeAngelo Hall took it upon himself to go mango a mango with T.O., etc. What I didn't like, though, was what T.J. Duckett has turned into. At one time I thought this guy could bring it. Monday night he looked like a reincarnation of Jackie Gleason. What's the deal? Too many cream pies or what?
Here's the book on KC's two new outside linebackers. Kendrell Bell: Explosive and dynamic with the Steelers. Then he got hurt. And got hurt some more. Pretty soon people got tired of hearing that he might play, or maybe he might not. A gamble. Derrick Johnson: Fastest rookie linebacker of the current class. Only criticism was not too sturdy at the point. On Sunday against the Jets these two guys were flying all over the field. I mean really serious speed that juiced up the whole defense. A work in progress.
Courageous team, huh? Here's what I like about them. Paul Tagliabue wanted to address them Saturday night. They said no thanks and chose, instead, C. Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, who spoke so powerfully about his city and the failure of the administration and the relief efforts and FEMA ... straight from the shoulder, pow!
So Jeremiah Trotter gets tossed pregame, and Atlanta loses a nickelback. That gave the Falcons a lead even before the kickoff. Here's the way we used to play it. Arm your reserve kicker with all sorts of filthy and vicious insults for the enemy quarterback, and then have him unleash this load of degradation during the warm-ups. A fight ensues and both players are dejected ... I mean ejected. Brilliant, huh? "Don't tell me this actually worked?" the Redhead asks. Well, no, but it's brilliant in its conception, is it not?
Faces have been appearing at my window all day. Boobs. Loonies. Townies, sticking their tongues out. "Hey, what happened to your Super Bowl champ, ha ha ha?" I quote the immortal words of Panthers center Jeff Mitchell -- "It's not college. We didn't lose the national championship today."
The Matt Jones file says the following: What the hell ... ? He's 6-6, 240, runs a 4.37, lines up at his normal wideout position, or he might show up as an option quarterback, or a second tight end. Carried the ball twice for 28 yards, completed a pass, caught a pair. Nickname is Big Slash. I've got this game on the tape. Can't wait to watch it.
This is what the new era means. The Fish are sitting on a 20-10 lead in the fourth quarter. In the old days they'd run twice, throw a safe pass that falls short of the first down, punt and buckle up to play defense and make a game of it. Nick Saban's new era Dolphins instruct Gus Frerotte to go deep on the first snap, which he does, hitting Marty Booker for a 60-yard TD. Game over. Drive safely on your way home. I mean do I ever love this kind of football.
Unsung hero of the Cardinals game -- DT William Joseph. First round draft two years ago. At one time regarded by some as a bust. I keep telling people, with these big guys, sometimes it takes a year or two before they get their sea legs. Right now he's hell on wheels.
I was guilty of a flippancy and I wish to apologize. I wrote that J.P. Losman's job is just not to screw it up for the defense. This is not true. Against the Texans, they emptied the backfield on the first play of the game, spread the field with five receivers, and he completed a pass. He hit his first five tosses on the drive, which set up a field goal. Next possession he accounted for all the yards, 47 passing, eight running, to set up another fielder. Sam Wyche, the 60-year old QB coach, says he worked harder with Losman than he had with any other guy under his command, and it sure showed, no matter what some wiseguy journalist might write. "Fielder," incidentally, was a term I read in a Walter Camp book at the turn of the century. I kinda like it.
Last week Jon Gruden showed Cadillac Williams a tape of Warrick Dunn as a rookie in 1997, breaking a 52-yard TD run to clinch the Minnesota game. The message was: that's how we expect rookies to run. So on Sunday Cadillac clinched the game against -- right, the Vikings again -- with a 71-yard TD scamper. "How was that?" he asked the coach. "Not bad, you're getting the hang of it, " replied Gruden. (OK, I cannot tell a lie. The last two quotes were piped. But they might have said it, right?)
Outside linebacker Julian Peterson isn't all the way back from his torn Achilles, so they told him to just line up as an end and do a little pass rushing. The result was 2 1/2 sacks, a career high. What happens if next week they tell him, "Drop back and see how many balls you can intercept, just for fun?"
Three No. 1 draft choices, two Williamses and a Rogers, representing almost a billion dollars worth of coin of the realm, lined up at wide receiver against the Packers last Sunday. When the day was done they had registered, amongst them, five catches for 54 yards. OK, so it's not a billion. But at least I got the other numbers right.