4. I think this is what I liked about Week One:
a. Hines Ward hurting so much for fumbling near the goal line and almost blowing the Thursday-nighter. That's the attitude I want in my franchise receiver -- I want him to feel pain when he makes a huge gaffe. Shows how much he cares.
b. The Steelers talking to Mike Tomlin about a contract extension.
c. Tennessee's pass-rush without Albert Haynesworth. It's still one of the league's six or eight best rushes, because of the depth Mike Reinfeldt and Jeff Fisher have built and how well line coach Jim Washburn has cultivated it.
d. Josh Cribbs running the Wildcat. What a great use of the option play, and Cribbs got Cleveland's first first down of the year on a Wildcat run.
e. Chicago defensive end Adewale Ogunleye played one of the three or four best games of his life Sunday night at Green Bay, with two sacks and a pressure of Aaron Rodgers. I didn't make him defensive player of the week, though, because of the sieve-blocking of Green Bay right tackle Allen Barbre.
f. I just loved the job Cadillac Williams did running the ball for Tampa Bay, after so much pain and suffering with his knees in the last three years. Thirteen carries for 97 yards, many of them hard fought.
g. Congrats, Jones brothers. Julius and Thomas were two of only five backs to rush for 100 yards or more Sunday.
h. Tremendous Job of the Week By a Scribe: Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe (well, I can't really say that anymore; Reiss goes to ESPNBoston as of today) performed one of the great services a football writer could perform on Thursday in the Globe's NFL Preview section. He printed the starting lineups, including punter and kicker, of every team in the NFL That's 768 pieces of very valuable information for his readers who really love football.
The reason it's so admirable is because Reiss, as a very solid beat man, has enough work to do covering the most clandestine team in football. No one said to him, "Hey, for our NFL preview section, why don't you go out and find the lineups after training camps and preseason games end, and we'll run every one of them.'' It's just something he took on as a project as a guy who wants to get to know the league well and be a good national writer -- while covering the Patriots.
5. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 1:
a. Tennessee defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil losing his blitzing tendencies when it really counted late in Titans-Steelers, enabling Pittsburgh to overcome a 10-7 deficit and win 13-10.
b. Minnesota, with the best defense in the NFC, going against one of the worst offenses in football, giving the Browns a short field on a game-opening onside kick in Cleveland. Just dumb. If Cleveland starts at its 25-yard line 10 times against Minnesota, it might score once. Maybe twice. If it starts at midfield, it has to go 20 yards to get a field goal. The Browns went 31 yards and opened with a field goal. Why the onside kick? Why?
d. Jay Cutler surrendering not only four interceptions but also 129 interception return yards ... to zero and zero for Green Bay. You think that wasn't a huge factor in the Sunday-nighter?
e. Arizona's protection.
f. Detroit's readiness.
g. The desperate straits Jake Delhomme has left Carolina in. By choosing to show faith in Delhomme and not going out and getting a proven backup in the offseason, John Fox cast his lot with a beloved but shaky player. No team can win with a turnover machine at quarterback.
h. Miami's margin for error. It's paper-thin. Of all the pretty good teams in football, Miami's the one that can least afford to make two mistakes on offense and think it still can win.
i. Brad Childress cutting Bobby Wade after asking him to take a pay cut., which Wade did a week before getting whacked for Greg Lewis. If you think that loses you points with your veteran players, you're right.
6. I think this is what I don't get about the Bears Sunday night: In training camp, I sat with coach Lovie Smith and GM Jerry Angelo, and spent some time on the phone with offensive coordinator Ron Turner after the Chicago-Denver exhibition game. And the message was clear. They loved tight end Greg Olsen and running back Matt Forte as vital cogs in the passing game. When I left Bears camp, I was convinced that Olsen was going to be Cutler's go-to guy, even with Devin Hester as his primary wideout target. So this is how the 36 Chicago passes were distributed by Cutler Sunday night:
Of his 36 throws, seven went to Olsen and Forte, with only one completion, total, to them. I mean, Hester, Olsen and Forte combined had three fewer balls thrown to them than did Earl Bennett, who had never caught an NFL pass until Sunday but who was Cutler's teammate at Vanderbilt. That distribution has to change in the coming weeks.
7. I think I really wouldn't be overly concerned if the Bears started 0-2. (Pittsburgh comes to Soldier Field for the home opener Sunday. After that, here's Chicago's next eight weeks: at Seattle, Detroit, Bye, at Atlanta, at Cincinnati, Cleveland, Arizona, at San Francisco. Of course, the Bears pay for that by playing Minnesota twice and Green Bay once -- all after Thanksgiving. This division's got miles to go before it sleeps.
8. I think, now that Bill Belichick has dispatched two men who helped him win three rings to the NFL's pasturelands -- Kansas City (Mike Vrabel) and Oakland (Richard Seymour) -- if I were Brady I'd be thinking, When my expiration date comes, Belichick's gonna send me to the Hamilton TigerCats.
9. I think every future Pro Football Hall of Famer needs to get a copy of Michael Jordan's 22-minute induction speech Friday night at the Basketball Hall of Fame. Perfect. Just perfect.
The template for recent football speeches seems to be: Start with your parents, go to the grade school teacher who inspired you, laud your high school coaches and college coaches, then thank every coach and most teammates who had anything to do with your pro career. We're sleeping by the sixth minute. What made Jordan's speech so perfect was the overarching story of his career -- this insane motivation he derived from everything -- and the fact that he told stories. Story after story after story.
About Leroy Smith, the high school player kept when Jordan didn't make his high school team. About how he burned when Sports Illustrated wanted a picture of the North Carolina starting five during Jordan's freshman year but Dean Smith kept him out because he was just a freshman ("That burned me up,'' Jordan said). About longtime assistant Tex Winter trying to prevent Jordan from bighead syndrome by telling him there is no "i'' in team, and Jordan responding, "Yeah, but there is an 'i' in win.''
About, in retirement, Pat Riley once slipping a note under his hotel room door telling him they would compete against each other again. About Bryon Russell of the Utah Jazz telling him in his first retirement he wished he'd come back so he could guard him. See, that's what we want to hear -- stories from the inside, from the court, from the life that illustrate why you are who you are. Humility is all well and good, but there's a way to make Hall of Fame speeches compelling and relevant, and Jordan gave every big star the how-to book on them.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Saw The Hurt Locker the other day, and, presuming you have a strong stomach, I highly recommend it. It's a movie about soldiers in Iraq who dismantle Improvised Explosive Devices (yes, that's Mike McGuire's job, and I have more respect than ever for the sergeant after seeing what his life is like). It's one of the best you-are-there movies I've ever seen, and as you can imagine, a you-are-there movie about IEDs is rather nerve-wracking. A shame it's on a limited run around the country. Hope you can find it somewhere.
b. Re: Michael Jordan and the Hall of Fame. Well, I've got my Jordan story. I was a 25-year-old college basketball writer at the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1982, covering the Final Four. North Carolina beat Georgetown in New Orleans, and Jordan, a freshman, made the winning shot from the left elbow in the final seconds.
The next morning, early, a few writers (I remember college friend Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer) went out to the lakefront airport in New Orleans to see the team before it jetted back to Chapel Hill. There, we spoke to James Worthy and Matt Doherty about winning the title, and off in the distance I noticed Jordan, who'd thrown down the winning shot nine hours earlier, in a coat and tie with a shirt about three neck sizes too big, with his big gym bag slung over his shoulder, carrying a film projector in his right hand and eight or nine canisters of film in his left hand. Yes, film. Those were the days of real film, not videotape. I said to Doherty: "Why is Jordan carrying all that stuff?" Doherty said, "The freshman always carries the film and the projector.''
c. Read that, college coach enablers.
d. And from Terry Francona, his manager during his minor-league trial in Birmingham: "He pinch-hit one night in Jacksonville. He had a scheduled night off but he ended up pinch-hitting with the game on the line. And he didn't get a hit. But after the game, he came in and said, 'Thank you.' And I hadn't done it as a favor. I don't know why we did it. At that point of his career, I think that was every bit as exhilarating as him trying to hit a 3-pointer. Game on the line, his at-bat.''
e. It's disturbing enough how Serena Williams blistered the line judge in her U.S. Open semifinal, causing Williams to get a penalty point, the last one in her loss Saturday night. But what was more disturbing, to me was her failure after her tirade to own up to what she did, denying that she threatened to kill the lineswoman when multiple witnesses heard exactly that. Yes, the foot-fault call was terrible. But threatening people the way Williams did ought to be cause for a suspension. It was disgraceful.
f. September baseball is interesting. If you're shallow in the bullpen or on the bench, you might be doomed. In the American League, four Wild Card contenders -- Texas, Seattle, Boston and Tampa Bay -- had two and a half days off (from Wednesday night until Saturday night) because of a scheduled day off and then rainouts in Arlington and Boston Friday, though the Sox and Rays played for 14 minutes before getting washed out. Then the Rangers and Mariners played three games in 26 hours Saturday and Sunday. The Red Sox and Rays played three in 25 hours.
g. The Rockies are fun to watch.
h. Keith Olbermann is very worried about A.J. Burnett. And he's a big Yankee guy.
i. Coffeenerdness: I tried to be a good citizen, Starbucks, and support your efforts in Africa by buying a pound of that "Red' coffee you're pushing. I should have guessed it might not be my cup of coffee when the front of the bag advertised brown spices and citrus. Let's just say the Red coffee is, well, an acquired taste. It would be better, Starbucks, if you just put a donation jar on the counter.
j. First former SI guy Josh Elliott doing "SportsCenter,'' and now Rick Reilly. Who's next? Phil Taylor? Selena Roberts? Nice job, Rick.
k. The USC-Ohio State game was one of the best sports events I've seen in a while. I love Matt Barkley, the true frosh USC QB, taking the Trojans the length of the field to win.
Who I Like Tonight
Good thing ESPN's got some good stories tonight. They're not going to have good games.
Patriots 31, Bills 6, at Foxboro.
In a meeting at NBC Friday morning with Rodney Harrison and the rest of the NBC Sunday night studio crew, I found myself thinking about the strange case of the New England transformation. The team it fields tonight will be offensively identical and defensively almost completely new.
Ten of the 11 offensive starters are the same; only Kyle Brady is not there anymore, and in his place could well be the exact same kind of bulky blocking tight end, 270-pound Michael Matthews, acquired from the Giants a week ago. But on defense? Check out the difference. I should note that I'm using the projected 3-4 lineup that the Patriots are likely to use when they're in their standard look tonight. But there are indications the team will use a four-man front more than in recent years this year, and if so, rookie tackle Ron Brace and Myron Pryor will both get significant playing time, as will pass-rush specialist Derrick Burgess. Burgess figures to play at least 25 snaps.
I could envision a 4-3 front-seven alignment tonight where only one player who started for the team at the end of 2007 would start today -- Burgess and Green or Tully Banta-Cain at the rush ends, with Brace and Pryor or Green inside up front, with Mayo flanked by Woods and Thomas at linebacker.
Chargers 37, Raiders 13, at Oakland.
Richard Seymour is playing, which is reason to tune in. Reason to stay tuned in is unlikely.
More NFL coverage from SI.com...
Jerome Bettis: Fox's job in jeopardy; eye-opening remarks on Steelers
Don Banks: Rodgers, Packers show they can finish
Andrew Perloff: Ten 'Against The Grain' observations from Sunday
Don Banks: Rise of Brees, fall of Delhomme, more Snap Judgments
Order a copy of Peter King's new book, "Monday Morning Quarterback: A fully caffeinated guide to everything you need to know about the NFL"
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