Palmer, Favre and an unsung receiver added to Week 3 drama
Josh McDaniels has as many wins as Belichick, Tomlin and Fox combined
Baltimore sits atop the Fine 15, but five other 3-0 teams aren't far behind
Players of the Week, Tweet of the Week, 10 Things I Think I Think, and more
Football Insiders: Check out Stewart Mandel's College Football Overtime.
NEW YORK -- Now that's what I call some drama, and some good stories.
Carson Palmer converting two fourth-downs in the final minute to slay the Steelers. The Jets riding Mr. Charisma again. The Lions breaking the 19-game schneid. Pierre Thomas gaining more yards in 28 minutes than any other back in the league gained in 60.
Remember how the locals wanted to give Josh McDaniels a one-way ticket out of Colorado before he ever coached a game? Now he has as many wins this season as playoff veterans Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin and John Fox combined.
How'd Brett Favre get that ball in there? How'd Greg Lewis get both feet down inbounds?
Just another frantic Pleasant Valley Sunday. And in my five headlines of the week, the biggest is from a 34-14 game, concerning a guy who gained seven yards all day. Off we go, around the league.
The Michael Vick Experiment gets off to a slow start.
I'll tell you what I worry about with Vick. Greed. I'm not in the man's shoes, but I get a sense that at some point this year, he might want more than some Wildcat snaps and three or four passes a game. He did an interview with Sterling Sharpe for NFL Network Sunday morning and seemed almost embarrassed to be called a decoy by Sharpe.
That's essentially what he was in the 34-14 win over Kansas City. He played 11 plays, was 0-for-2 passing, rushed out of the direct-snap once for seven yards, played receiver one play, and handed the ball off seven times. In the next few weeks, I expect the Eagles will give him more to do; clearly against the Chiefs, he was operating a minimal package of plays.
When we talked after the game -- I hadn't spoken with him for three years -- I wanted to know if he was going to be OK with the role Andy Reid has for him, assuming Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb remain the top two quarterbacks. "I'm fine with the role,'' he said. "I'm blessed to be back in the NFL. My future is at quarterback, but for now this is fine with me. The city has embraced me, the organization has embraced me, the players have embraced me.''
I liked hearing that. It's the attitude he has to have, because this should be the year he uses as training for football and life, not the year he moves heaven and earth to try to be somebody's starting quarterback. It's not important right now.
I asked Vick if there was ever a moment in federal prison when he felt he'd never get to this day. "No, not one moment ... a thousand moments,'' he said. "Days and days and days I didn't think this would ever happen.''
At the time I spoke to Vick, our NBC Football Night in America was preparing for the evening show, and I asked Vick if he wanted to say hello to Tony. "Tony who?'' Vick said. And I said, " Dungy.'' Of course he wanted to say hi.
"Michael,'' said Dungy, "how'd you do?''
"It's the first time I ever had butterflies playing,'' he said.
Could it be? Could it possibly be? Could the Steelers actually respect the Bengals?
Time will tell if Cincinnati deserves it. But it was interesting after the Bengals pulled the 23-20 stunner at home -- breaking an eight-game home losing streak to the Steelers -- to hear Ben Roethlisberger say: "Tough loss for us. Tough divisional fight.'' Tough divisional fight -- those words have been reserved for games with the Ravens, not the Bengals or Browns.
Two reasons this happened. One: The Bengals played a physical game, and they have players -- Brian Leonard on offense, Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers on defense -- more suited to that style than Bengal teams have been in the past. Two: Carson Palmer. A good quarterback (a healthy good quarterback) always gives your team a chance. "We deserved to win the game,'' Palmer said afterward, and he was right.
New Vikings hero Greg Lewis will have a place in the Favre history book -- even if he wasn't supposed to be in the game.
The Vikings may be playing a risky game with Favre, who turns 40 in two weeks, because they don't know if he can last the full season at his age. But they've now officially won one more game than they'd have won with either Sage Rosenfels or Tarvaris Jackson playing. That's because Favre pulled a Favre -- he threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Lewis at the back of the end zone with two seconds left to beat the 49ers.
It was one of those plays that at first seemed certain to be overturned because Lewis seemed like he'd come down with at least one foot on the white end line. But in the replay, one foot comes down perilously close to the white line and the other is clearly in. There's no way ref Jerome Boger could have nullified the play.
Lewis said he wasn't supposed to be on the field for this play; Percy Harvin was supposed to be in the left slot, where Lewis lined up. "But Percy was gassed,'' Lewis told me last night. "He just ran, like, seven straight go-routes, and they needed someone to go in for him.''
With Sidney Rice and Bernard Berrian split wide, and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe just to the right of the formation, the Vikings called a four-man all-go pattern on third-and-three from the Minnesota 32 with 12 seconds left and San Francisco up 24-20.
"Just before we left the huddle,'' Lewis said, "Brett told us, 'Stay alive.' [Meaning, if he leaves the pocket, try to find an opening in the coverage where he could find one of them.] Once he breaks the pocket, we're free to go within our landmarks. So I saw him leave the pocket and I just floated toward the back of the end zone, following him as he moved to the right.'' Favre picked out Lewis because he had two steps on his man, and because desperate times call for desperate decisions.
The ball came high and fast, and Lewis went up to get it. "When it was in the air, I thought, 'This is the chance you've been waiting for,' '' said Lewis, cut by the Patriots early this month and signed by the Vikings just before the opener two weeks ago. "When I came down, I felt I wasn't in. But I tried to drag my feet, and they gave it to me.''
I asked him if he was surprised he got cut by the Patriots. "Honestly I was,'' he said. "But you have to be prepared for any situation in this league.'' Good thing he was. And when he said that, I was left to wonder if Bill Belichick wishes he had kept Lewis and cut Joey Galloway.
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