Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 7:
a. What really impresses me about the Cardinals is their defensive tenacity along the front seven. That wasn't there with any consistency last year under defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Ken Whisenhunt had the club fire Pendergast coming off a Super Bowl season, and the renewed emphasis on aggressive pass rush and run-defense paid dividends Sunday night against the Giants. They had Eli Manning on the run all night and forced him into some bad decisions. Arizona clearly has taken control of the NFC West.
b. I loved what Daryl Johnston said on FOX after Jeff Reed gave a weak effort while trying to tackle Percy Harvin on a kickoff return for touchdown in the fourth quarter. "What is THAT!'' Johnston said. "Are you kidding me! That is unacceptable.'' Some would argue the same could be said for Favre's efforts on Pittsburgh's interception returns.
c. Percy Harvin. What a force. And how valuable he's become. Did you see Favre run 35 yards downfield to check on Harvin when he was shaken up in the second half of Vikes-Steelers?
d. Much less yukking on the FOX pregame show Sunday. A very good show.
e. The proverbial difference in philosophy apparently led to the divorce between the NFL Network and its excellent Sunday morning pregame show producer, Brian Hyland (who, in the interest of full disclosure, is a friend of mine from the HBO days). That show is losing a lot of good people.
f. Excellent story by Pete Thamel in Sunday's New York Times about Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle, the Florida State safety who put off the NFL for a year while studying at Oxford. The lesson from Rolle is so good -- that you don't have to be just an athlete, and that using your brain can be as rewarding as using your body. It should be required reading for all college athletes.
g. Stupid, stupid display by Ahmad Bradshaw in the fourth quarter of Giants-Cards. First the killer fumble with four minutes left and the Giants down by seven ... then the punch to the face of a Cardinals tackler, causing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with the Giants backed up inside their five. You can't lose your cool like that.
h. Check out this football card of Josh McDaniels. It's from 1995, from the Big 33 high school all-star game between Pennsylvania and Ohio. It's the only card of McDaniels, obviously, seeing that he went on to play Division III football and never played in the NFL. When he got the Denver coaching job last January, the card could be had for 75 cents. On Friday, it was selling for $40 on some of the secondary markets.
Think of the timing of this. In 1995, McDaniels was a huge Browns fan, and Bill Belichick was getting run out of town right about then. Belichick's the guy who eventually became his mentor, obviously. And now look at him. He hasn't changed much, has he?
i. One leftover from Week 6: No matter what Floyd Reese says about his wife blasting the Titans, he'll be smiling inside.
2. I think, Jeff Fisher, that 0-6 is no time to fool around with wearing a Peyton Manning jersey with cameras present. This isn't a fireable offense by any means, and owner Bud Adams should retain Fisher barring a ridiculous breakdown of team authority and discipline. This just struck me as over the top and wrong.
3. I think the NFL should do its game officials a favor on these AFL classic games, the ones when the original American Football League teams face each other in the throwback unis. Please, please, please take them out of the outfits that make them look like human creamsicles.
4. I think Kevin Boss' diving catch, with the full knowledge that he was about to get ear-holed by Arizona's Antrel Rolle, gets my vote as the second-best catch of the first half of the season, right behind Greg Lewis' tip-toe job in the back of the end zone for the Vikings to beat San Francisco. What a great play, and it was even better to hang on while getting popped.
5. I think this is what I liked about Week 7:
a. One good sign (and there aren't many) for Steve Spagnuolo in St. Louis: Danny Amendola can play. He's a good returner and Welker-esque receiver.
b. I like the call by Brad Childress, down 13-6 after three failures at fourth-and-goal from the Steelers' one. With Casey Hampton over the first-year starter at center, John Sullivan, Childress went for the field goal. I'd have taken the three points instead of going for the seven.
c. Karl Paymah made a great hit on Hines Ward, helmet to midsection, that stopped a Pittsburgh drive. As one of the subs for the uber-valuable Antoine Winfield, Paymah was a real worry heading into this game. He held up well.
d. I like the assuredness and self-confidence Alex Smith showed subbing for the struggling Shaun Hill with the 49ers. I bet Smith starts again next week. (SI.com's Don Banks was equally impressed with Smith.)
e. Rashard Mendenhall's the man in Pittsburgh now. Face it. When you have 14-, 15- and 17-yard carries against the Vikings defensive front, you're solidifying your grip on a job the coaches already want to give you.
f. I loved Arizona's philosophy of blitzing Eli Manning so much, and blitzing the Giants on run downs too.
g. Best sign for the Jets: Mark Sanchez playing with confidence.
h. Houston's better than we think.
i. Al Michaels is probably right: that was one of the Arizona Cardinals' biggest wins ever, going to the Meadowlands and being the better team and coming out with one.
j. Ryan Grant will tell you he had to work pretty hard for those 148 yards against Cleveland. That was a good old game of grind-it-out played by the Packers in Cleveland.
k. The Jets had two runners over 120 on the road, which is great ... until you realize it came against the Raiders. How the Raiders can follow an inspired 13-9 win over Philly, a team just as good as the Jets, with a 38-point loss to the Jets is beyond me. Very poor tackling by the Raiders Sunday.
l. Sidney Rice is flowering with Favre throwing him the ball.
6. I think these are the things I didn't like about Week 7:
a. Chris Chambers: San Diego traded for you a couple of years ago, in part, for your hands. Use them.
b. Two bad throws in a row by Matt Cassel with the Chargers-Chiefs game getting interesting in the second half. Gotta make better throws than that.
c. Anyone on Kansas City feel like covering Darren Sproles?
d. Jake Delhomme almost seemed resigned to his fate after the bad loss to Buffalo. John Fox, after the three-pick game by Delhomme, probably has to bench him. And now how bad does the Carolina trade of its 2010 first-rounder (to get defensive lineman Everette Brown last year) look, obviously needing a quarterback of the future?
e. The Bears without Brian Urlacher and Tommie Harris look hopeless to stop anything.
f. Looks like a season-ending knee injury for impressive rookie corner Bradley Fletcher, the Rams' third-round pick.
g. You got schooled by Dwight Freeney in your first start at left tackle, Jason Smith. Join the club.
7. I think it's incredible that we're almost halfway into this season and Kyle Orton is ahead of Jay Cutler in almost all ways. Count them:
a. Wins: Orton's 6-0, Cutler 3-3.
b. Passing yards: Orton's 13 ahead.
c. Touchdown-to-interception differential: Orton's plus-8, Cutler plus-1.
d. Yards-per-attempt: Orton's .70 better, against the guy who's supposed to have the biggest arm in the league.
e. Passer rating: Orton 100.1, Cutler 82.9.
8. I think I might have overrated the impact of the video board in Dallas. Still some big legs coming to town, but in three regular-season home games, there have been no direct hits of the board ... though Michael Koenen of the Falcons snaked one around the board Sunday against the Cowboys.
9. I think I'd be a lot more impressed by the Patriots scoring 80 straight points over the Titans and Bucs the last two weeks if they weren't a combined 0-13.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week.
a. It pains me to say it, obviously, but congrats to the Yankees. They're the best team in baseball, and they deserve to be facing off against the defending champs in the 2009 Arctic World Series.
b. Baseball has to do something about its postseason schedule. Come on, Bob Costas. Rattle a cage or two. Tell Bud Selig you can't have a one-day-on, one-day-off schedule. It negates the importance of having a deep team and a real bullpen if all your 'pen men can pitch every game.
c. Call me 112 Across.
d. I'm at a book signing last Wednesday for Monday Morning Quarterback: A fully caffeinated guide to everything you need to know about the NFL, in Boston, and this fellow I don't know, Brendan Emmett Quigley, comes up to me in line and introduces himself. Says he's a "crossword constructor,'' hands me a card with said title on it, asks if I remember my wish to one day be in the New York Times crossword, and tells me to make sure I read the Sunday crossword. Intimates I'll be in it, and for more than one clue.
Whoa. Now, a month ago, I wrote in this column that my goal in life was to be in the crossword, which was a bit tongue-in-cheekish but nonetheless something I thought would be extremely cool. My wife and I are crossword people, but we can't get past the Thursday puzzle generally. Anyway, come to find out that I'm actually the theme in the puzzle, for wishing I would one day be in it.
That raised the ire of one Keith Olbermann, a much more famous man than I am, because he's been trying to get in the puzzle, even appealing to editor Will Shortz. And so Keith gave me a few raspberries Sunday on the Football Night in America show.
Anyway, the King-themed puzzle clogged up a blog run by crossword aficionado Rex Parker in New York, eliciting comments like: "This puzzle is about the weirdest thing I've seen in the NYT. It's like a love letter to one guy. Why anyone else should care, I don't know. If you wanna put the guy in a puzzle, just put him in a puzzle. No need to beatify him like this.''
And from 'Meg': "I did not have a negative reaction to this puzzle. Actually, I feel kind of sorry for the guy. I mean, if your goal in life is to be mentioned in a puzzle ... So I felt like BEQ was doing this poor sot a favor more than showing adulation.''
And this: "For Peter King's egomania to be rewarded so laboriously is icky.'' And this: "Build it around a Winston Churchill quote, or even someone alive and not nearly as famous. But a blowhard sportswriter -- with a Brett Favre infatuation -- who has his share of critics?''
And, finally, this: "It doesn't matter how well known Peter King or the quote is or how much Peter King likes Brett Favre, who I've despised from the beginning of his career for a lot of reasons, one of which is that he's supposedly a 'blue collar' player on a 'blue collar' team. That drives me nuts! Do people think the players on these 'blue collar' teams all go to offseason jobs at the brewery or the steel mill? The Canton Bulldogs haven't played in years. Now that was a blue-collar team. The Packers and the Steelers get their players from the same places all the other teams do. Also, that stupid fiction everybody subscribes to that somehow the northern teams play better in the cold. Most of their players grew up in Houston! Auugh! I can't stand Brett Favre! Don Meredith, now there was a quarterback.''
Aaah, the crossword crowd. Anyway, thanks for the highlight, Brendan.
e. Coffeenerdness: I'll tell you what we need in midtown Manhattan -- a Starbucks open until midnight on Sundays. As my MacBook Air expired Sunday, I had 4,500 forlorn words for MMQB written, but they were locked in the snowy vault of the white screen. Uh-oh. Screwed. So I went about recalling everything and rewriting everything, miserably, with only green tea and deli coffee as strong as a dying housecat. I needed something to kick in around 5 this morning. What's the closest Starbucks to Rockefeller Center with late Sunday hours?
f. The Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry dating not one handicapped woman but two has got to be on the top 10 "Curb'' list of all time.
g. Good note from NBC's Joe Gesue: Looks like next Sunday's going to be the first day ever with regular or postseason hockey, basketball, baseball and football all going on the same day.
h. Good luck at Comcast, Tom Curran.
Who I Like Tonight
Philadelphia 23, Washington 10. I expect the voices that began to waft up into the owners' box last week ("Sell the TEAM! Sell the TEAM!'') will grow louder tonight if the Redskins put up another performance like the all-time stinker against Kansas City last week. Even though Redskins football czar Vinny Cerrato said Friday that Jim Zorn won't be fired this year, I'm skeptical. I said to Cerrato Sunday, "What happens if you guys get your clocks cleaned the next three games? Won't you have to fire him then?''
"That's not going to happen,'' he said. "But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.''
He also said owner Dan Snyder was "on board'' with the change of play-callers from Zorn to Sherm Lewis. "Who do you think I talked it over with?'' Cerrato said.
The Redskins probably are going to have to get a quarterback after the season. Charley Casserly had some good tape Sunday on the CBS pregame show of Jason Campbell ignoring open receivers downfield to consistently throw checkdowns. This echoes what opposing coaches have been saying, and it's certainly part of why McDaniels wouldn't trade Cutler to the Redskins in April; he wanted a quarterback he could trust and one he felt he could win with, and that quarterback was not Campbell.
This is a game the Redskins defense is going to have to win, and I don't think they can hold the Eagles down. Philly's explosive plays will carry the day.
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