The Award Section
Offensive Player of the Week
Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota.
We asked in Sports Illustrated last week which of the young breakout receivers would own the playoffs this year, and Rice began to take possession Sunday. In the first half of the divisional showdown with Dallas, Rice caught the pass of the weekend, a 47-yard laser from Favre, on the second drive of the game for Minnesota. Then Rice made the complete play of the weekend, lining up wide right, coming toward right end in motion and, at the snap of the ball, chopping the legs out from under DeMarcus Ware in a textbook cut block. Then he got up, ran uncovered up the seam, caught a flip from Favre and dove in for a touchdown. For the day, Rice caught six balls for 141 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Week
Ray Edwards, DE, Minnesota.
Very tough to not pick a Colt like Gary Brackett after the way Indy snuffed out the Ravens. But Edwards has been in Jared Allen's shadow since Allen's huge trade from Kansas City to Minnesota 21 months ago, and he escaped it Sunday with one of the best individual performances of the 2009 season: three sacks for 23 yards in losses, another tackle for loss, three additional levelings of Tony Romo, five tackles and a forced fumble. It's going to be a long time before Marc Colombo of the Cowboys, the right tackle victimized embarrassingly all game long by Edwards, forgets this day.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Reggie Bush, PR/RB, New Orleans.
His 83-yard punt return for touchdown capped the Saints' 45-14 rout of the Cards, and his hard-charging 84 rushing yards conjured up memories of his USC days. He was untouched on the punt return. He was touched plenty on his five rushes, and didn't seem to mind. This is the back Mickey Loomis and Sean Peyton made the first draft pick of the new regime in 2006, and if he shows up like this Sunday night in New Orleans, he'll give the Saints the kind of jolt Percy Harvin has given the Vikes this year.
Coach of the Week
Rex Ryan, head coach, New York Jets.
He epitomizes brash, and his players love it. "Players want to have fun,'' offensive line coach Bill Callahan told me after the game, "and Rex makes it fun for them every day. Plus they know he's doing everything in his power to put them in the best position to win.'' Ryan has told his players all season, and again this week, that they were better than the opposition, and they have come to believe it without questioning him. The chemistry and good feeling around this team starts with Ryan.
Goats of the Week
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego, and Nate Kaeding, K, San Diego.
Rivers came up incredibly small in the biggest game of the year. I still have no idea who he was throwing the ball to on the vital, late-third-quarter interception by Jim Leonhard that set the Jets up for the go-ahead score early in the fourth. MVP candidates can't let lesser teams hang around like Rivers allowed the Jets to do. Can you think of one big throw that Rivers made all day? I can't. His 27-of-40, 298-yard passing line is one of the most misleading you'll ever see.
Kaeding hit the trifecta for the Chargers: He blew a three-point game every which way -- wide left (from 36 yards), short (from 57 yards) and wide right (from 40 yards).
"What happened on the three missed field goals?'' Kaeding was asked afterward.
"I didn't kicked them between the uprights,'' he said.
The last one, the kick wide right, showed me it was either a choke job by Kaeding or he was pressing terribly. He pushed the ball. He didn't kick it, but rather punched it, like instead of taking a natural kick he was pressing. It showed. He has eight months before he can make it up to his team.
Stat of the Week
Downfall of the Cardinals Dept:
Arizona allowed 90 points in 78 minutes between midway through the second quarter of the wild-card win over Green Bay and midway through the third quarter of the divisional playoff loss to New Orleans.
Of the 16 Packers/Saints drives in those 78 minutes:
11 ended in touchdowns.
Thirteen of 16 scoring drives. If defensive coordinator Billy Davis has a drawing board, he's going to have to go back to it.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
In the span of three complete seasons, dating to opening day 2007, Kaeding, the most accurate kicker in NFL history (87.2 percent) entering Sunday's game, had made 69 consecutive field goals of 40 yards or less.
In the span of 21 minutes against the Jets, he missed two within that distance.
Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note Of The Week
Nine flight segments since the aborted terrorist on the plane in Detroit on Christmas. Zero difference in security that I've seen. Have I just missed it? Or is there just not the vigilance we should be seeing? Hard to tell, but I've not seen slower lines with more patdowns or anything I thought we'd see. I hope TSA knows what it's doing.
Tweet of the Week
"I'm donating $1 to the Red Cross for each follower I have by midnight. PLS RT & let's help the ppl of Haiti 2gether 2day.''
By the end of the day, Stallworth had increased his Twitter followers from about 18,000 to 33,000, and he got former teammate Wes Welker to match his donation to Project Medishare, a medical group dedicated to providing care to the affected masses in Haiti. Just through this simple act, Stallworth raised at least $68,000 to treat the sick and injured. Moreover, Joshua Cribbs has promised to donate his Pro Bowl check, win or lose.
NFL Truth & Rumors