Four other tidbits from Sunday's games:
1. How can a player have a more redemptive day than Ted Ginn Jr.? Demoted from the starting lineup and ripped by old-time Dolphins after dropping two easy passes in Week 7, Ginn came back and won a game Miami had to have. Only once in history had a player returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in a quarter; Ginn did it in seven minutes against the Jets.
"I never had such a terrible game in my life,'' Ginn told me afterward, alluding to his dropped passes in Miami's 46-34 loss to New Orleans in Week 7. "I fought through it all -- the naysayers, the media, the critics. Today was the kind of day you dream about growing up.''
What I liked about Ginn was how he didn't try to shift the blame for what were his mistakes and his alone. "We're in a high-performance league, and if you don't perform, things happen.'' Like benchings. But not for long. Not if you return kicks 100 and 101 yards for scores.
2. Troy Aikman did the game for FOX Sunday, and he thinks Favre won't need much else to leave football a happy man. "No matter what happens from here on out,'' he said last night, back home in Texas, "I think with these two wins over the Packers, Brett could walk away from football pretty satisfied at the end of the year. Now, he won't admit that. But I think for him, to win these games was huge.'' And Aikman has the same question I do about a 40-year-old man trying to play at the highest level of his career: "How's he gonna feel in Week 12?''
3. Baltimore sent blitzing 'backers more often Sunday in the the win over Denver, and it worked. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison knew the front wasn't getting the pressure it needed, and from the start, particularly on early downs, extra defenders like Jarrett Johnson surprised Kyle Orton around the edge. Good idea. They'll need to keep that up, for a couple of reasons. Deion Sanders isn't walking through the locker room door to save the beleaguered secondary. And the schedule continues to be a bear. The Ravens are in the midst of an eight-game stretch in which they play seven teams either alone in first or tied for first in their division.
4. Joseph Addai finally completes his option pass ... and it wins a game for the Colts. Soon after drafting Addai in 2006, the Colts put in a play designed to send the southpaw around left end and to throw a pass if the intended receiver is open. It had been called but once, in his rookie year, and Reggie Wayne was called for offensive pass interference on the play. Addai said the coaches put it back in the game plan this week (he completed five-of-five attempts in practice.)
When they ran it Thursday, Peyton Manning reminded Addai to "sell'' the run better, so the defenders would get sucked in to play like it was a running play. "He told me to sell it so they'd bite on the run,'' said Addai. "So today, I did that, and I think I brought [49er defenders] close to the line.'' Manning's reaction at the touchdown pass to Wayne? "I think he was proud of me,'' Addai said.
Two very good tackles -- Chris Samuels and Walter Jones -- are nearing the end, and that shouldn't be something just in small type this weekend.
Jones has been a better player, Samuels a better leader. I'm writing about them because I think we -- fans, media, people in the game -- are so inured to players near or at the end of their careers that we turn the page with no regard to the person who has to walk away. That's life. But each has been such an honorable player and person in the game that I think a few paragraphs need to be written about them.
Jones, who turns 36 in January, couldn't come back from microfracture surgery on his knee. He's going to try again in 2010, but the history of microfracture is such that anyone with that much wear on his tires, and at that age, is doubtful to return. "It's too early for a career eulogy,'' said Seattle coach Jim Mora, "but Walter's level of consistency, his level of excellence, is unmatched. In a world in which there's so much boastfulness now, and self-promotion, Walter's gone about his business in a very respectful and dignified way.''
Jones was dominant at the point of attack in the run game, and he had the feet to swing outside and latch onto the top pass-rushers. From this era, he and Jonathan Ogden will go down as top-10 tackles of all-time.
Samuels was drafted by the Redskins third overall in 2000 to be their left tackle for a decade. He almost made it. He's started 141 of 150 games, playing through painful shoulder, knee, ankle, back and neck injuries. But now, having been advised he risks his long-term health if he continues to play with a neck injury, he'll sit the rest of the season. Many of his teammates think he's played his last game.
I followed Samuels in 2000 during the run-up to the draft and through training camp -- in part because SI wanted to do a you-are-there story on a top prospect as he prepared to leave the cocoon of college and enter the pressure of playing right away in the NFL, and in part because of the rise in importance of left tackles. Michael Lewis tells the tale of the value of a left tackle superbly in The Blind Side, and I credit him for seeing what the game has become. Tackle has joined quarterback and pass-rusher as the three most important cornerstone positions for NFL teams.
But as I followed Samuels, I saw not only a good player but also a compelling and conscientious person. The day before the draft, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on Broadway, he twice turned away the housekeeper who wanted to make up the room. "It's OK,'' he said. "I got it.'' He'd already made his bed, tidied the room and straightened up the bathroom, hanging the towels neatly on the rack.
In training camp, Bruce Smith and Dana Stubblefield took it upon themselves to school the rook and make his life miserable on and off the field. He took the taunts and the hazing through mini-camps, but determined he wouldn't take it once the real practices started. It took just one practice for Samuels to fight back, taking Stubblefield on a wide rush and, when Stubblefield popped him in the forehead, Samuels cold-cocked him with a roundhouse right to the neck, just below the helmet. He knew as the cornerstone of the offensive line, he had to be a fighter and defend not only his turf but his peers'. He became one of the go-to guys on the team.
When Sean Taylor died senselessly, Samuels vacillated between outrage, fury and leadership -- knowing he had to be there for the grieving, mostly younger guys in his locker room, which he was.
"I've been here six seasons,'' Chris Cooley told me, "and three of those six seasons we've had some significant turmoil. But I never saw guys quit or try less, and part of that is because of Chris. He set such a great example with his work and his play. Part of being a leader is just showing up every day and working hard, and that's all he's ever done.
"It's just so unfortunate that we lose him. He's been the solid rock of the Redskins for 10 years. Cherished by the community. So respected by everyone in the locker room. He's the kind of guy who would have made a great Hog. That's about the greatest thing I could say about him -- he would have fit in with those great Redskins of the past.''
If Samuels and Jones are forced to retire, the league will be diminished without them, and without players like them.
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