1. I think this is what I liked about Week 9:
a. Terrific nugget from Sunday morning's "NFL Matchup'' show: When Michael Vick was sandwiched five weeks ago and suffered a rib injury against Washington, a review of the coaches video found Vick should never have taken off to run. He had a crosser, from right to left, totally uncovered in the middle of the field and just never saw him. Great example of how Vick still doesn't see the whole field when he goes back to throw. For him to have a long career, he has to learn to scan the field better so he doesn't endure the kind of hits a quarterback is bound to receive if he takes off six or eight times a game, every week.
b. And a very good early Veterans Day story (Thursday's the day) by Ed Werder on ESPN's pregame show on Brad Childress' surprise reunion with son Andrew during the coach's summer trip to Afghanistan with three other coaches. Andrew Childress is a Marine, on the front lines in Afghanistan, and left his unit for a few days to see his father on the USO trip. You had to get emotional watching that story, particularly in the e-mails Andrew Childress sent to Werder explaining why he wouldn't sit for an interview (he didn't want to set himself apart from his platoon).
c. Cleveland defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (bet you didn't know Ahtyba) beating a Pro Bowl-caliber guard, Stephen Neal, for a sack of Tom Brady.
d. What a catch by Aaron Hernandez, getting both feet down at the end line of the end zone to finish an acrobatic grab.
e. Ray Rice: 83 yards rushing, 97 yards receiving. Ho-hum.
f. Not a bad set of hands on Raiders tackle Khalif Barnes, who caught a two-yard touchdown pass against the Chiefs for his first NFL catch.
g. Santonio Holmes. Anyone else think he looked a little like Larry Fitzgerald in Super Bowl XLIII on that catch-and-run down the middle of the field in overtime?
h. Darrelle Revis held Calvin Johnson to one catch for 13 yards. Welcome to Revis Island, Megatron.
i. Nice try on the PAT, Ndamukong Suh. And not bad form, either.
j. Wes Welker hit his PAT. His versatility knows no bounds.
k. Darren McFadden continues to dominate. He had 114 total yards Sunday. Where would the Raiders be without him?
2. I think this is what I didn't like about week nine:
a. Cheap shot by Detroit corner Chris Houston, blindsiding Jets wideout Jerricho Cotchery way away from the ball at the end of a play -- with an official staring right at him.
b. Amazing how reliant the Vikings are on Percy Harvin -- even with a badly sprained ankle. They need to figure a way to get the ball to Greg Camarillo more.
c. Where is Santonio Holmes, Brian Schottenheimer? Call his number more often.
d. You'll be hearing from the league soon, Nick Collins, for that helmet-to-helmet hit on Roy Williams.
e. Charlie Whitehurst. Your job is safe, Matt Hasselbeck.
3. I think the win by the Chargers could well have set them up nicely for the second half of the season. They're 4-5. They're 1.5 games behind first-place Kansas City in the AFC West. They have a bye this week. Then they're home for four of the next five (Denver on a Monday night, at Indy on a Sunday night, Oakland, Kansas City, San Francisco). Isn't this the way the Chargers always do it? Getting in position after crushing early disappointments, staring over the edge of a cliff, and recovering just in time to make something of their season? If San Diego gets Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson right for the stretch run, how many teams in the league will be more dangerous?
4. I think the coolest event of the weekend in New York, obviously, was the ING New York City Marathon, and not just because one of the Chilean miners actually ran and finished the thing in a little over 5 hours. But how about Amani Toomer, who raised about $20,000 for charity by starting last and getting $1 for every runner he passed along the way ... and finishing his first marathon in 4 hours, 13 minutes and 45 seconds.
"I feel great,'' Toomer, the Giants' all-time leading receiver, said Sunday evening. "I really wanted to break four hours, but I started cramping up near the end and I had to slow down.'' He ran for a few reasons, one of them to prove that football players, who've seldom been much for marathons, can run the long distance, and also to prove to himself that he could do it. Because he'd gotten some attention for his plan to raise a buck for everyone he passed, and because he's a recognizable former Giant, Toomer was a familiar face along the course. "The people everywhere were fantastic,'' he said. "Some guy gave me a one-dollar bill to help with the cause.''
5. I think Eli Manning, quietly, is having a terrific year. The Giants have rebuilt their receiver corps around Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith (12 touchdowns combined), and Manning (65.7 percent) is throwing downfield well, and with accuracy. The Giants are going to be a tough out because they can rush the passer, they can run it and they can throw it over the top.
6. I think Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch deserves credit for a terrific column the other day -- and a good explanation of why the Rams, desperate for a receiver to help rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, didn't trump the Tennessee Titans and pick up Randy Moss on waivers before the Titans claimed him.
Miklasz interviewed Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, who did not want to be quoted on the story but who spoke with the columnist so he could understand why the team passed on Moss. And then Miklasz walked the journalistic tightrope we sometimes have to walk in cases like this, and he did very well. Wrote Miklasz:
"I think Spagnuolo believes the team's infrastructure could withstand the Moss temper, the pouting, the loafing on select plays. But still, the Rams decided to play their final eight games without Moss. You see, Spagnuolo believes there is a right way to do things. And a wrong way.
"Spagnuolo insists that he is willing to take a chance on a risky player, a player with a shaky rep -- but not this particular player. I don't know what Spagnuolo was told when he made his calls, as he did his homework. But the coach gathered enough information to make the no-Moss ruling. And you know what? Even as someone who was in favor of bringing in Moss, I can respect Spagnuolo's decision. That doesn't mean I agree with it. But I definitely respect it.
Why? It's pretty simple: I trust this coach. I see how he's building a roster, and reinforcing it by filling it with as many honorable, team-oriented, character players as he can find. The Rams are a surprise at 4-4 for several reasons. Bradford, for sure. Some emerging young lions on defense. An improving offensive line. But this goes beyond talent. Spagnuolo is putting together an admirable team ethic. Everyone works hard. Everyone is accountable. There are no separate rules for star players. This team is unified. It's tenacious. Whatever the players do, they do together. They don't point fingers. They don't splinter. There's no hint of controversy. They're all in ... all 53 of them.''
The Rams clearly and justifiably got spooked about Moss' inability to shut his mouth and be a team guy.
7. I think I don't blame the Titans for picking up Moss. Not at all. This is the last-chance diner for Moss. There are already 20 to 25 teams that would never sign him to a multi-year deal in 2011 (his stated goal), and a few more teetering on the verge of never doing so. But it's worth the $3.3 million gamble for the Titans, whose coach has a chance (and I mean a chance -- there's no sure thing in the study of Mossology) to get a receiver who clearly will take some of the heat off an inexperienced receiver corps, and a group that will be without budding star Kenny Britt while he recovers from his hamstring injury.
It's no lock that Moss will behave in Tennessee, but Moss knows he needs to be on his best behavior if he hopes to make any money in 2011 and beyond. That guarantees nothing, of course. But I understand the gamble Tennessee is taking -- the Titans believe Moss can win them a game down the stretch. If he does, it's money well-spent.
8. I think the only coach in football who I'm sure can handle Moss is Bill Belichick.
9. I think Tom Brady has never forgotten where he's come from. I saw him the day after the World Series ended, which was also the day after Indianapolis and Houston played in the Monday night game. He said, "You see the game last night?'' I thought he meant the football game. I said I did see it. And he said: "How about those Giants!" Then I knew what he meant -- the San Mateo, Calif, native watched his Giants win the World Series for the first time in his life.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. Does Oregon have uniforms? The definition of "uniform'' has to have something of the concept of sameness. I'm not knocking the unis; I actually like them. I just wonder if they've ever worn the same uniforms two games in a row ... or two home games in a row.
b. If TCU goes unbeaten, aren't the Horned Frogs deserving of playing for the national title?
c. If Boise State goes unbeaten, aren't theBroncos too. The NCAA has to pray one of them loses. Actually, I bet the NCAA hopes they both lose once.
d. Quiz answer: Michael Vick, with a rating of 105.3. He leads Vince Young (103.1) and Philip Rivers (102.9) entering the last eight weeks of the season.
e. There simply is no actress alive with the skills, presence, beauty and grace of Grace Kelly. Saw Dial M For Murder' the other night for the first time. (Shame on me, after seeing Rear Window at least five times.)
f. Nice win, Chris Russo. Have you been fitted for your World Series ring yet?
g. Coffeenerdness: The pumpkin spice latte, no whip. So delicious. So misunderstood.
h. There's no way the Yankees don't get Cliff Lee. Is there?
i. Ninety-four days 'til pitchers and catchers report.
Pittsburgh 17, Cincinnati 13. Not a great night for the Steelers if you've got a fantasy football matchup riding on great Pittsburgh productivity. This is Cincinnati's last-gasp playoff hope, and if I thought its passing game could move the ball consistently, I'd be a Bengal man tonight. But I don't see it.
One side note: Roger Goodell will be at the stadium tonight, and if you have a hankering to see the commish or to ask him what magic bullet he has to bridge the labor gap, come on down to the parking lot outside Paul Brown Stadium. He'll be meeting fans around 5 p.m.
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