Posted: Monday December 19, 2005 1:24AM; Updated: Monday December 19, 2005 11:59AM
The Awards Section
Offensive Player of the Week
(tie) New York Giants RB Tiki Barber, whose 29-carry, 220-yard effort in the Giants' pivotal 27-17 win over the Chiefs was the league's biggest rushing day in two years. The guy's got 1,577 rushing yards in 14 games.
New England T Tom Ashworth. Playing fullback in the Patriots' goal-line package, Ashworth snuck out of the backfield on first-and-goal from the 1 and made a nifty touchdown catch looking over his right shoulder to make it 7-0. On Corey Dillon's 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Ashworth lined up at fullback again, leading the way with a good block at the one. Ashworth, at left tackle, was a key part of keeping Tom Brady clean. Against the second-rated defense in football, Brady got sacked once and the Pats gained 336 yards.
Washington QB Mark Brunell. Four touchdown passes in a must-game of all must-games. Just when you swear it's curtains for the guy, he rises from the scrap heap.
Defensive Player of the Week
San Diego pass-rusher Shawne Merriman, for his seven tackles, two sacks and ridiculously good game that helped knock the Colts from the ranks of immortals. I have a feeling Merriman and his rookie partner in crime, Luis Castillo, are going to be in this space many, many times over the next few years.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Kansas City WR Chris Horn, who made a textbook save of a Chiefs' punt deep in Giants territory in the first quarter of their 27-17 loss. With the ball bouncing toward the end zone, Horn flew past Giants punt returner Chad Morton, propelled himself into the end zone, batted the floating ball from two yards deep in the end zone back to the Giants' 3, where it was downed out of bounds. Keep doing that, Chris, and someone's going to call you Steve Tasker.
Coach of the Week
(tie) New England defensive coordinator Eric Mangini. Bill Belichick has always given his assistants lots of latitude in game-planning, and the 33-year-old Mangini is repaying that faith as his unit gets healthier down the stretch. In the last three games, all New England routs, the Patriots have surrendered 164, 183 and 138 net offensive yards, their three lowest totals of the year. "They are incredibly well-drilled and well-schooled on defense,'' Chris Simms told me after the game. "You can tell how well-coached they are.''
Houston coach Dom Capers. The owner has a possible successor looking over Capers' shoulder and talk-show hosts everywhere think his team is throwing games to get Reggie Bush, given that the Texans lost by three of the freakiest ways you'll ever see in the three games preceding last Sunday's. But Capers got his team ready to play so well that Houston routed Arizona 30-17. Not a job-saver, but proof that his team's not mailing it in.
Stat of the Week
Last eight quarters between them: San Diego 57 points, Indianapolis 51.
Quote of the Week
"The Jets have been good to me, and I appreciate them. I like it here. It's my kind of place. I'd rather play here than with the Colts right now. I don't know what my role will be here next year, but I'd rather be here than anywhere else. I'd rather lose with the Jets than win somewhere else.''
-- Injured Jets running back Curtis Martin on the prospects of returning to New York next season, even though that might be in a diminished role.
Is there any doubt that Martin is one of the classiest athletes alive?
Factoid That May Interest Only Me
The little brother of Matt Hasselbeck, Nathaniel Hasselbeck, played Pop Warner Football in Westwood, Mass., growing up. Nathaniel is the son of former Patriots tight end Don Hasselbeck. On one of the other teams in his league was another son of a Patriot. Lofa Tatupu, the son of New England special-teams favorite Mosi Tatupu, butted heads with Nathaniel in the Pop Warner games.
Now quarterback Matt Hasselbeck calls signals for the Seattle offense. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu calls signals for the Seattle defense.
Last week, after Seattle's game against San Francisco, Matt Hasselbeck saw Mosi Tatupu, who was there to watch the game. "Hi, Mr. Tatupu,'' Hasselbeck said.
Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note of the Week
You've got a swell hotel, Providence Westin. In fact, you've made me think twice about my lodging on every trip to Foxboro, because I used to automatically stay in Boston every time. Now it's about half and half. The convenience -- five-minute walking distance from the train station, right off I-95, a couple miles down the hill from the great Starbucks on Thayer Street at Brown -- is terrific. Particularly the access to the train. You walk off the Acela and 10 minutes later you're in a Westin room. Can't beat that.
But charging $6 for the health club is ridiculous. Charging anything for the health club is ridiculous, at any hotel. I'd say eight out of 10 hotels, even the best ones, have free health club visits for guests. And when you think about it, for $189 a night (plus every insane ripoff tax known to man), should you really be charging for 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer?
Come on. Do the right thing. Eliminate the health club fee.