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Posted: Monday November 30, 2009 6:58AM; Updated: Monday November 30, 2009 12:24PM
Peter King

MMQB (cont.)

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Ten Things I Think I Think

Ray Rice's 44-yard catch and run on fourth-and-five helped the Ravens force overtime against Pittsburgh.

1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 12:

a. Best AFL throwbacks: 1. San Diego; 2. Buffalo; 3. Denver.

b. Favre's on pace for a 35-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

c. Dixon 73 more professional at-bats in the Braves organization than NFL starts.

d. Shane Lechler might be invisible to some because he's punting for the Raiders, but Tom Cable knows he's his most indispensable player, other than Asomugha. Time after time on Thanksgiving he gave the Cowboys long fields. What a player.

e. I'm told Tim Ruskell has a shot to save his job as Seattle's architect and GM ... if the Seahawks go something like 4-2 down the stretch. Sunday was a good start in St. Louis.

f. Mike Holmgren? Seattle or San Francisco -- as a GM/president, not as a coach or coach/GM -- are the most logical places for him. The longer he takes to consider Cleveland, the less chance the Browns have to get him.

g. Every time I see Brian Cushing play, I think I'm seeing the next great outside linebacker in the league.

h. Nice week for Houston. Embarrassed at home on Monday by local hero Vince Young. Humiliated at home on Sunday by the Colts. At some point, Houston has to win a big game.

2. I think I have no idea how Lovie Smith and his coaching staff can't be in trouble.

3. I think the demotion of Kerry Rhodes has mostly to do with work ethic and commitment, and some to do with Ryan wanting him to be more physical. "I got the message. The message was sent,'' Rhodes said after picking off two passes against Carolina. What I liked about the move was Ryan was blunt about it and sent a message to his team as well as to Rhodes. The message was: When we're losing, I'm going to shake things up-- and I'll have no sacred cows.''

4. I think we started to see the real Lawrence Timmons Sunday night for the Steelers, the guy the Steelers let Larry Foote walk for last winter. Trailing 14-10 in the fourth quarter, in a game the Steeler defense knew it had to make big plays to have a chance to win, Timmons roared through a hole in the Baltimore line and strip-sacked quarterback Joe Flacco. That led to Dixon's go-ahead rushing touchdown midway through the quarter. For the day, Timmons had two sacks, seven tackles, the forced fumble and another tackle for loss. He's starting to realize the potential the Steelers saw in a very young Florida State linebacker in the first round of the 2007 draft.

5. I think I very nearly gave Offensive Player of the Week to Ray Rice. What a football player. He blocks. He catches (one-handed sometimes). He makes some great Steeler run defenders miss. Just a terrific example of what a player with immense desire can do when a coach and a team trusts him. That was an impressive show, particularly down the stretch.

6. I think this is what I liked about Week 12:

a. The NFL Films wiring of Matthew Stafford. In a word: wow. The best thing was the moaning and -- I think -- the unedited pain when he got his shoulder busted.

b. So Aaron Rodgers is being left in the dust this fall by Brett Favre. What quarterback isn't? Rodgers (348 yards, though against Detroit) is still a commanding presence for the Packers.

c. Donald Driver. Ageless. A 142-yard receiving game, on the rug, at 34.

d. Dennis Dixon. More good than bad in his first NFL start. Throws a good-looking ball, if not very accurate.

e. Chris Redman. It took him seven shots to get Atlanta into the end zone in the final minute to beat Tampa Bay, but he played respectably (23-of-41, two touchdowns, no interceptions) after gathering dust on the Falcons shelf for two years. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey kept telling coach Mike Smith that Redman would be OK, and the way Redman managed the game against the Bucs, Mularkey was right.

f. Marvin Lewis doesn't mind boring, and that's what he got against Cleveland: 40 carries between Larry Johnson and Bernard Scott, for 194 clock-eating yards.

g. Play five more games like yesterday's, Alex Smith, and you just might keep the Niners from picking a quarterback to replace you next April.

h. Say this for Justin Forsett: the Seattle running back won't go away, and he refuses to cede the job to Julius Jones forever. The marginal prospect outrushed Steven Jackson 120-89 and led Seattle to a 10-point win.

i. I had no idea Ryan Fitzpatrick was so fast.

j. More dominance from London Fletcher (12 tackles, a sack). The guy just doesn't slow down.

7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 12:

a. The awful pass-interference call that gave the Colts life --and a 43-yard gain -- on the first drive of the third quarter. Jacque Reeves barely arm-barred Pierre Garcon, and a drive-sustaining flag came flying. Manning doesn't need your help, zebras. This is really saying something, but that's the worst PI call of the year.

b. Why no safety over the top to help Dunta Robinson on a red zone throw to Reggie Wayne?

c. Brady Quinn. Best hands on the Browns. And I mean that as a criticism to the Cleveland wideouts. Even without Braylon Edwards, they can't catch.

d. We've written off the Jags a few times this year, but I believe we can write them off for good now.

e. Uh, Donald Brown... you're supposed to block the guy in the other jersey, not your own.

f. Uh, Baltimore ... you're supposed to have containment people on the outside when a runner like Dixon leaves the pocket.

g. Ball security, Chiefs. I guarantee you Todd Haley will have a few periods in practice this week to harangue his team about that.

h. Nineteen minutes of possession time for the Bears. Awful.

i. Twenty interceptions for Jay Cutler. Worse.

8. I think I'm doing the same thing if I'm Mike Shanahan: waiting for the end of the year and surveying the field. Because I want to see what the Bears do. I want to see what a lot of teams do -- Dallas, Washington, Carolina. Why jump at the first team with an opening? How much would Shanahan kick himself if he commits to the Bills and then in a month his old friend Jay Cutler is coachless and it could have been Shanahan's gig?

9. I think it's getting to be the time of year when we 44 voters on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee get bombarded with the pleadings of fans and teams about their candidates for the Hall. This is how silly it gets: I answered a Tweet Friday from a follower who asked why Floyd Little isn't in the Hall of Fame. I replied: "1 1,000-yard season, career 3.9 yards per carry, 54-yard average rush yds per game.'' I didn't say I didn't support him, or he wouldn't he get in this year as one of two Seniors Committee nominees. I was asked a question about why he wasn't in and answered why, in my opinion, he has never been voted into the Hall.

I'm going to guess that the next three or four hours brought 50 responses, most of them outraged that I would dare to question Little's qualifications, many of them offering reasons why he should certainly be in the Hall. Thanks for your input, folks. I have a Floyd Little file at home. Most of those reasons are it. Haranguing doesn't help. Calling me names doesn't help. Reasoned arguments are good; I'll take those. I'm not saying some people don't respond positively to being called a know-nothing dillweed. I'm not going to shout back at you, but rest assured your point doesn't get better the louder and angrier you get. Thank you.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Rest in peace, Mike Penner. I didn't know you, but everyone who did said you were a gem.

b. Sometimes the media does the darndest things. On Wednesday, anchor Suzanne Malveaux teased an upcoming story about safety measures to avoid the repeat of a tragic 2008 stampede death on Black Friday on CNN. Two seconds later, a commercial began with these stern and excited deep-throated words: "Friday doorbusters at Joseph A. Bank!''

c. You have until Saturday to get the cheapest, most valuable holiday gift of the season -- Monday Morning Quarterback a Fully Caffeinated Guide to Everything You Need to Know About the NFL. I'll personalize, sign and return to you in time for the holidays, but only if I have it in hand by Saturday. You can buy the book on or or at or at your local bookstore. I'll have it back to you by the middle of the month, plenty of time to spread that Peter King holiday cheer. Send books to: Chris Mahr, Sports Illustrated, 1271 Ave. of the Americas, Room 33-120B, New York, NY 10020.

d. Michaele and Tareq Salahi, you are pathetic. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You want to be on a reality show, and so you crash a White House state dinner. A state dinner! Which one of you moronic 8-year-olds got this great idea? Did you sit around one night thinking, "How can we get on some sad reality show that no one will watch?'' And you have a publicist, and a camera crew as part of this, and Larry King booked you? Larry King? What do you have to say for yourselves? Speak! I can't wait to hear whatever reason you have for this immature cry for attention and fame.

e. I don't know when I've been more embarrassed for two adults than in reading that story.

f. Can you please speak, Tiger? Say something. Anything.

g. Coffeenerdness: Well, at least the Egg Nog latte is skim this year. At least that's what one of the midtown Manhattan baristas told me this year. As in past years, it tastes different depending on where you buy it, because there's no universal flavor for egg nog. But the couple I've had in the past week are lighter than I recall last year. I always add three or four shakes of nutmeg, which helps. It's not good enough to replace hazelnut in my life, but it's a good diversion.

h. How great would a Boise-TCU national championship game be?

i. Never thought I'd say this: I do believe The Office is aging better than Seinfeld did.

j. I guess Mount Union really misses Pierre Garcon. The Mount's won two Division III playoff games, 127-14.

Who I Like Tonight

Though I've written about it a few times, and others have done so before and after that, you're making a big mistake if you view the 10-0 Saints as a team that has to throw for 350 yards to win. New Orleans ran on 38 percent of its offensive snaps last year. This year, it's 49 percent rushing.

That's no surprise to the Patriots. When I spoke with safety Brandon Meriweather the other day, he said normally he'd watch maybe four games of a team. Preparing for this game, he said he'd watch every Saints game -- as well as sitting in with Belichick on a one-on-one session to get his take of the important keys against the New Orleans offense.

"The thing I've noticed about Brees,'' said Meriweather, "is he can change his mechanics in a split-second. You've got no room for mistakes. He thrives on your mistakes. The best way is to try to confuse him with different looks.''

After watching a lot of the Saints, Meriweather had especially high praise for Jeremy Shockey, who he figures to see a lot of tonight. As the heir to Rodney Harrison in the New England back end, Meriweather knows he has to be both physical and good in coverage against the versatile tight end. "Shockey's passion is so noticeable. He's a great receiving tight end who blocks well.''

I expect New England might play this game the way it played the first Super Bowl this decade against St. Louis. That day, Belichick put the word out to hit Marshall Faulk every time he moved. Someone else might beat the Pats, but not Faulk. Look, there's no right way to play such a multiple offense. You try to figure out the best way to stop the dam from bursting. My best guess is they'll try to stifle Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas and hope they can force Brees into a couple of turnovers. Belichick knows his side will put up points, particularly against a patchwork secondary that will struggle to contain Brady, Moss and Welker.

But I also think some pretty good defenses have had well-oiled plans for this offense this year. Philadelphia, the Giants and Miami entered their games with New Orleans confident that if they pressured Brees and put a stopper in the run game, they'd have a chance to force him into mistakes. The Saints put up 48 on Philly, 48 on the G-men, 46 on Miami. In other words, it sounds logical -- the same way so many teams thought they had the 2007 Patriots figured out.

My pick: New Orleans 37, New England 33.


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