Posted: Monday November 7, 2005 9:42AM; Updated: Monday November 7, 2005 7:51PM
THE AWARD SECTION
Offensive Player of the Week
Kansas City QB Trent Green, and not just for his 22-of-35 performance, or his 72-yard touchdown drive on the last series of the game to beat the Raiders 27-23. But for playing so well with such a heavy heart. Eleven days ago, his father, Jim, died of a heart attack. Trent went home to Arkansas for a couple of days, hustled back to Kansas City, caught the charter west to the game at San Diego and compiled his best passer rating of the year (111.3) in the 30-20 loss to the Chargers. He flew back with the team, spent time with his family around his dad's memorial service, got back to the team on Thursday, studied for Friday practice and worked with the team. And then on Fridayhe held his long-arranged charity event, Tailgating With Trent, which benefits Children's Mercy Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House and other causes. He signed every autograph and posed for every photo, even though he knew he'd have to spend time cramming for his game -- time he really didn't have. The man understands his role as the quarterback for an NFL team. He's aware that so many people look to him as a leader in the community and for this team. He did a tremendous job in the wake of such a trying personal time and I haven't even mentioned the job he did in a must-win game, helping his team raise its record to 5-3, a game behind Denver for the AFC West lead. The league could use a lot more Trent Greens.
Defensive Player of the Week
(tie) Carolina DE Julius Peppers, whose two sacks and constant pressure on Chris Simms made Carolina's 34-14 win a lot easier than it should have been. Finally, Peppers hit his pass-rushing stride in the Panthers' biggest game to date.
(tie) Miami DE Jason Taylor, whose mid-fourth-quarter sack of Michael Vick showed how foolish all of us are who don't include him in the discussion about the best defensive player in football. On a third down deep in his own territory, Vick faded back to pass. Taylor, pirouetting perfectly around Atlanta right tackle Kynan Forney, blew into the backfield and sacked Vick. Textbook spin move to get to the quarterback. To me, Taylor's the guy who is forgotten as we glorify every new (and very good) kid on the block.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Arizona K Neil Rackers. I made this point in SI a couple of weeks ago and I'll make it again: Neil Rackers is the best player at his position in the NFL. Four more field goals against Seattle, including a 50-yarder, and no misses. That makes him 26-for-26 this year. He's also the league-leader in touchbacks. What more do you want from a kicker? I suppose Denny Green wishes Rackers could play quarterback, but that's a different story.
Coach of the Week
Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil. Five seconds left in the game. Oakland 23, Kansas City 20. Chiefs ball at the Raiders' 1. First down. No timeouts left for the Chiefs. Conventional wisdom says: Take a quick and safe shot throwing it into the end zone, and if it's incomplete, kick the field goal to send it to overtime. But this wasn't a conventional time, Vermeil thought. "The last two times [the Raiders] had the ball, they went down the field and scored,'' Vermeil said later. "I figured if we lost the toss and kicked off, they may win the game right there.'' So Vermeil, leaving himself open to get skewered if the strategy didn't work, decided to go for it. The Chiefs called a Larry Johnson run up the gut.
And Johnson scored. "You can't say enough about that final play,''' Trent Green said. Agreed. Great call. And I wouldn't have ripped him if it didn't work. His decision makes all the sense in the world. Would you rather risk it all on a one-yard rush with a running back who's had a good day? Or would you rather risk it all on a coin flip?
Goat of the Week
San Diego LT Leander Jordan, who couldn't keep the Jets' John Abraham out of the backfield on one of the biggest plays of the game for the Chargers. Playing for the injured Roman Oben, Jordan let down his guard and his team on a third-and-12 late in the game. With the Chargers nursing a five-point lead at the time, Jordan allowed Abraham to cruise around end and bash into Drew Brees' blind side, forcing a fumble that gave New York a chance to win on the last drive. Very luckily for Jordan, his defensive teammates saved him by stopping the Jets inside the San Diego 10.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I can promise you at this game there will be no wardrobe malfunction.''
--Sheryl Crow, the singer, upon being introduced as the halftime entertainment for the Dallas-Denver Thanksgiving Day game to benefit the Salvation Army.
FACTOID THAT MAY INTEREST ONLY ME
The length of Joe Gibbs' tight, testy press conference on Friday: I have heard three estimates, none longer than a minute.
Lots of two-word answers. Lots of pursed lips.
This is no way to enjoy one's golden years.
AGGRAVATING/ENJOYABLE TRAVEL NOTE OF THE WEEK
For everyone who saw me driving like a crazy banshee Saturday afternoon down the Baltimore Washington Parkway (very nice road, by the way, but it's no Merritt Parkway, for all you East-Coastophiles), I will admit that I violated the law by driving 30 miles over the speed limit and using the breakdown lane for about three miles.
But because the Amtrak Acela was an uncharacteristic 57 minutes late leaving Newark on Saturday afternoon, I was in a tizzy trying to make a 4 p.m. appointment with Andy Reid at the Eagles' hotel. This is when you know you have a good life: You get to the hotel, it's 4:24, you're hopelessly late, and you jog into the lobby, hoping against hope Andy Reid is still somewhere in sight on the most controversial of game weeks. You look to your right, and there is the slimmed-down, tired-looking redhead, having been held a few minutes longer than expected by the ESPN crew.
That's not like you, Acela. I praise you too much for you to be that late.
STAT OF THE WEEK
It's not meant as a knock on LaDainian Tomlinson, especially in light of his four-touchdown performance at the Meadowlands that allowed the Chargers to stay in the AFC pennant race against the Jets. But I find it funny that Tomlinson, without discussion, is proclaimed the best player in football. I love the guy, and there's a good chance he's the best running back in football. But let's not eliminate the discussion. For instance, why isn't Tiki Barber in the discussion, if Tomlinson is?
Stats of Tomlinson and Barber since the start of 2004:
Total yards over the past year and a half: Barber 3,008, Tomlinson 2,875.
Again, I'm not saying Barber's better. I'm saying: Why isn't there at least a discussion about it?