Offensive Players of the Week
Quick note about this category this week. I could name Vick, Sanchez (six TDs, no interceptions in the last two weeks), Kyle Orton and Philip Rivers very, very easily. I thought Rivers was huge in defeat, as was Orton. But I'm going with three other players who distinguished themselves over the weekend.
Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis. With Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez out with injuries, Collie had another big game, catching 12 Peyton Manning passes in Denver for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Check out his stat line for the year:
27* Receptions; 359* Yards; 13.3 yards per catch; 4 touchdowns. (* NFL-leading totals.)
Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland. "Throughout my past,'' Hills said after the game in Baltimore, "no one ever gave me much of a shot to do anything individually.'' Maybe they will now. Hillis, a 250-pound throw-in to the Brady Quinn trade from Denver in the offseason, started in place of the injured Jerome Harrison and rammed the run at the Ravens all day, rushing 22 times for 144 yards and a touchdown.
You'd think the Ravens' D would be immune to this kind of day, but it's the fourth time in the last 19 games a runner has surpassed 100 yards against Baltimore, dating to the start of the 2009 season. Still, running against the physical front of the Ravens line, even though it came in a 24-17 loss, is a great accomplishment for a back who was a clear number three, at best, entering camp less than two months ago.
Jeff Garcia, QB, Omaha Nighthawks. No, I'm not going to make the United Football League a regular part of The Award Section. But Garcia, 40, deserves some praise here for rallying Omaha to victory in the first game in its history, 27-26 over Hartford. After practicing with the team Monday, he flew to California to be with his wife, Carmella, for the birth of their third child, Jax, on Tuesday, and flew back to be with the team for Wednesday's practice -- and the game Friday night. He threw the winning touchdown pass to ex-Packer Robert Ferguson, a 12-yarder, with six seconds to go, in front of 23,067, a sellout, at Rosenblatt Stadium, the longtime home of the College World Series. "That's the way to start a franchise,'' coach Jeff Jagodzinski said.
Lots of NFL folk in this game. Garcia (23-39, 226, three touchdowns, no picks) outdueled Josh McCown (22-25, 264, 2-0). Ricardo Colclough's punt return and Ahman Green's runs helped set up the winning score. Colclough, Nick Green, Stuart Schweigert and Cato June were among Omaha's leading tacklers.
Defensive Players of the Week
Trent Cole, DE, Philadelphia. With the embattled Eagle defense holding Jacksonville to 184 yards (now we can see why the upper deck is tarped), Cole led the way. He had eight tackles, two sacks of David Garrard, two more quarterback hits and a pass deflected. For Philadelphia to cover for some of their weaknesses in the back end, Cole and his front-seven mates have to continue to get the kind of pressure they got Sunday.
Tamba Hali, DE, Kansas City. He owned Alex Smith at Arrowhead, sacking the 49ers quarterback three times in the rout and forcing one fumble. The Chiefs weren't able to use the last two drafts to solve every problem they had. Fortunately for them, Hali is one of the holdovers from the Peterson/Kuharich regime who has a chance under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to blossom into a pass-rush fixture in Kansas City.
Special Teams Players of the Week
Leon Washington, KR, Seattle. When you run back kicks for 99- and 101-yard touchdowns in one half, is there any argument about you winning this prestigious award?
Kevin Huber, P, Cincinnati. Of the many great special-team performances Sunday, why pick a guy who averaged 38.2 yards per punt? Because Huber, a second-year punter from two miles away from Paul Brown Stadium -- from the University of Cincinnati -- dropped five of his six punts inside the 20, including two gems. He put a 45-yarder at the Carolina 4 and a 37-yarder to the Carolina 2. The Bengals stopped the toothless Panthers both times and got the ball back in great field position -- at the Cincinnati 47 and the Carolina 42. That is the unseen story in so many games, the field-position the punter hands the offense. And Huber was magnificent at that in Charlotte.
Coach of the Week
Andy Reid, Philadelphia. All you're judged on in the coaching business is whether your decisions pay off. We can argue all day about Reid saying all winter that Donovan McNabb was his guy, and then trading him; and then all spring and summer about how Kevin Kolb was his guy, and Reid benching him after 15 non-concussed snaps. But the way Vick played Sunday proved that the best quarterback to lead this team right now is Vick, and sometimes decisions in which you clearly contradict yourself can be painful and awkward. But all that matters is how it turns out.
And this decision, at least this week, was a gem, with Vick throwing 61-, 16- and 45-yard touchdown passes and running for a fourth score from 17 yards out in a 28-3 rout of the Jags. Yes, Reid has to salvage Kolb for the future, but for now, in the midst of the local and national hue and cry, his decision looks golden.
Coaching Decision of the Week
The Chiefs going razzle-dazzle to break open a 10-3 game against San Francisco in the third quarter in Kansas City. Matt Cassel had struggled through the first 10 quarters of the season, and this was the perfect time to inject life into the offense. Cassel lined up wide left. Running back Thomas Jones took the snap and Dexter McCluster came around to run a reverse. With the defense keying on McCluster, Cassel came around and took a short pitch from McCluster, then threw a perfect bomb into the end zone to Dwayne Bowe. That made it 17-3, and the Chiefs cruised from there.
Goats of the Week
Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans. His 29-yard miss in overtime, a chippy just to the right of the middle of the field, against the Falcons may be fatal to his NFL career. It's his third miss of the year in three games, all from manageable distances (46, 32, 29), and I learned last night that his time may be short. The Saints will audition kickers this week. I don't think he's about to be fired necessarily, but as I said last night on NBC, the man who kicked the Saints to the Super Bowl eight months ago is on very thin ice in New Orleans.
Sebastian Janikowski, K, Oakland. Not a good day for the booters. Janikowski missed a 32-yarder to win in the final seconds, not long after missing 41- and 58-yarders at Arizona in a game the Raiders lost by one. To miss in a weather-less environment from short range ... inexcusable. And for a $4-million-a-year kicker ... doubly inexcusable.
"We were really going to be in bad trouble if we lost this ballgame. Quite candidly, I was worried about going home and facing weeks without a win.''
-- Dallas owner Jerry Jones, after the Cowboys handled Houston to win their first game of the year.
I bet I've heard Jones say "quite candidly'' 300 times. He loves saying it.
"I guess in this world we don't have a lot of people with, like, backbones. Just because somebody pay you money don't mean they'll make you do whatever they want or whatever. I mean, does that mean everything is for sale? I mean, I'm not for sale. Yeah, I signed the contract and got paid a lot of money, but ... that don't mean I'm for sale or a slave or whatever."
-- Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, to radio station 106.7 The Fan. Haynesworth has been paid $34-million since signing with the Redskins 19 months ago, and is not happy the team is asking the defensive tackle to play defensive tackle.
"How is Kevin doing?''
-- Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, to coach Andy Reid, when Reid told Vick that he, not incumbent Kolb, would be the starting quarterback for the Eagles' game with Jacksonville Sunday. Vick and Kolb have become friends, and Vick said several times in the wake of his impressive performances in the first two Eagle games that Kolb deserved to be the starting quarterback. This is one of the reasons Reid cited as factors in the maturity of Vick.
"Blair [White] had run a couple of slant routes and they were playing inside, so he said to me, 'I think I can get him with a slant and go.' We encourage that kind of feedback. Now, I don't have to do it, but he said that a slant-and-go would give him a shot. That's the thing our practice squad guys always know: They're one injury away. They're talking about the 18-game schedule and cutting the offseason workouts. Well, Blair White does not get ready to play if you take those away.''
-- Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, on his touchdown connection with former practice-squadder Blair White, in a column this morning by Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star.
"Wow. From his Wikipedia page: 'Kareem Michael McKenzie (born May 24, 1979) is literally human garbage for the New York Giants ...' ''
-- NJ_StevePoliti, columnist Steve Politi of the Newark Star-Ledger, 63 minutes after the Giants lost to Tennessee, and McKenzie, the Giants' right tackle, committed two personal-foul penalties for New York.
I checked. Politi's spot on. There's a Wikipedia sports terrorist out there.