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Truly great in Week 8

Manning, Romo, Vick, Goodell display brilliance

Posted: Monday October 30, 2006 10:35AM; Updated: Tuesday October 31, 2006 4:24PM
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Peyton Manning was brilliant Sunday, completing 32 of 39 passes for 345 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Peyton Manning was brilliant Sunday, completing 32 of 39 passes for 345 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
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NEW YORK -- My favorite stories of Week 8, in order: Peyton Manning is pretty good, Roger Goodell is pretty tough, Tony Romo is pretty clutch and Mike Vick is pretty believable in his two-week role as a great quarterback. Oh, and my favorite soldier is leaving Iraq. The week that was in the NFL:

1. You have to ask this question this morning: Was Sunday's masterpiece in Denver the best game of Peyton Manning's life? Three weeks ago, after the Packers' Monday-night loss at Philly, I asked Brett Favre, "If you break Dan Marino's career touchdown record, do you think it'll last? Because isn't Peyton Manning going to break every passing record there is?'' Favre agreed.

It's a heady thing, wondering if this was the best game of Manning's life, which includes 144 pro games (135 regular-season, nine postseason), 45 college starts and 39 high school starts in New Orleans. Just last year he riddled two playoff teams in the span of three weeks on the road, putting up 40 in the monkey-off-the-back game at New England and 45 at Cincinnati. He threw for 437 yards in a playoff rout of Denver three years ago. But Sunday's game was different. Denver had allowed only two touchdowns and 44 points in six games. Indy got three touchdowns (three passing) and 34 points.

Watching him dissect the Denver defense, you almost thought it was unfair. The Broncos didn't have an answer for him. They tried blitzing and never got to him -- he wasn't sacked. Cornerback Darrent Williams will have nightmares from Manning and Reggie Wayne making him look like a turnstile. The numbers are otherworldly: 32 of 39, 345 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions. Denver had allowed quarterbacks a league-low 67.0 passer rating heading into the game; Manning's was 129.2.

You knew Manning had totally intimidated the Broncos, totally defeated them, after Denver tied the game at 31 with 1:54 to play. Too much time on the clock. That's what everyone in the stadium had to be thinking. I know I was. And the way Denver's defenders backed off the Colts receivers was bizarre. It's almost as if they were in some sort of pree-vent defense. Manning to Joseph Addai, with a cushion, for nine. Manning to Dallas Clark over the middle, with a cushion, for 11. A Manning dumpoff to Addai for five, then Manning twice in a row to Wayne on the poor Williams, for 13 and nine.

Indy needed to use but one of its timeouts (that's right; it left two in the bag), on the road, against the best defense in the conference, on an eight-play, 62-yard drive that ended with the winning Adam Vinatieri field goal. Starting at his 20, Manning never had to convert a third down. All he had to convert were two second-and-ones and a second-and-five.

"You can't overemphasize how good the quarterback is,'' said Tony Dungy. And by the way, Manning, 30, is 161 touchdowns and 26,207 yards behind Marino. That's six average seasons after this one, assuming he stays upright. And from the looks of it, I don't think his road whites needed to be washed after Sunday's game.

2. Roger Goodell fines one of his mentors $25,000. Moral of the story: You don't want to mess with Goodell. I looked up what I'd written for Sports Illustrated after Goodell was named commissioner in August:

"A 47-year-old man, registered as Roger Washington, fidgeted and tried to read in room 755 of the Renaissance Hotel in Northbrook, Ill., late last Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Washington was actually Roger Goodell, one of the five candidates for commissioner of the National Football League; all were registered with pseudonyms of late presidents. Ironic, seeing that Goodell's late father, Charles Goodell, was a career politician and once served as a lightning rod of a senator from New York. There was a knock at the door. When Goodell opened it, the co-chair of the commissioner search committee, Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney, stood there with a wide smile on his face. 'Commissioner,' Rooney said, and they embraced....''

Fast-forward to last week, when Rooney, furious over several officials' calls in the Steelers' 41-38 loss at Atlanta, told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Those officials ought to be ashamed of themselves.'' At the NFL offices the next day, Goodell read the comments. Now, the normal fine for criticizing officials has been $10,000. Outgoing commissioner Paul Tagliabue pardoned Mike Holmgren for his rip job on the zebras after the Super Bowl last year. The former commish explained that Holmgren had served the league so well that he was giving him a pass, despite the fact that the wide-ranging view in the league office was that he should fine Holmgren.

Last week at NFL headquarters, the sentiment was just the opposite. Most of Goodell's advisers wanted him to give Rooney a pass. But Goodell was firm: No one had more respect for Rooney than Goodell, but there had to be equal treatment for all, and certainly the world would be watching this one. And Goodell felt not only that Rooney should be fined, but also that an owner should be held to a higher standard than players and coaches. So he told his staff that he was fining Rooney $25,000.

Goodell made it clear that this would be the fine owners would have to pay if they crossed the line with their comments about officials. He figures that if they make those kinds of comments without fear of retribution, what is to stop coaches and players from doing the same? Good call. Excellent call, in fact. More than just the fine of Rooney, the action should trumpet the fact that there will be no sacred cows in Goodell's world, which is the way it has to be.

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