Wrapping up Week 10 ...
I can't quite believe this, but the Jaguars don't practice the Hail Mary. Well, they practice the play in walk-through practices, but not live. That's what the hero of the day, Mike Thomas, told me Sunday night.
With three seconds left in a tie game and the ball at midfield, Jacksonville huddled and, as Thomas said, "basically began to think of overtime.'' Then David Garrard got the play in his helmet and announced it to the 10 guys surrounding him: "Rebound.'' That's the Hail Mary play the Jags don't work live, apparently for injury-risk reasons. "We jog through it, and we know what position to be in, and then we look at diagrams,'' Thomas said. "[Tight end] Marcedes Lewis is the point man. He's supposed to tip it to one of us if he can. I'm the scoop guy, out front.'' In other words, Thomas is the rebounder on the rebound, a couple of yards in front of the scrum, just waiting for the 1-in-100 chance that the ball would get batted to him, or ricochet to him. This time, Houston cornerback Glover Quin boxed out in the end zone and batted it straight ahead instead of down to the ground, which a defender is supposed to do. "When it happened,'' Thomas said, "all I could think was, 'Oh my goodness! Did he really just tap it to me?' '' He did, and the Jags, lifeless after seven games at 3-4, are one of those 19 teams in the running, 5-4 now, with a tiebreaker edge over AFC South leader Indianapolis (6-3).
The Vikings can't bench Favre. Yet. The Vikings are 3-6, and logic says after the most tumultuous year in their history, they ought to be playing for 2011, because they can't run the table. Probably not. But you didn't go get Brett Favre out of the Mississippi retirement home to raise the white flag when you're three games out of first with seven to play. I expect Brad Childress to survive the season, and the way he does that is to try to win every game he can down the stretch. That isn't to say if the Vikings are eliminated three weeks from now that Childress wouldn't or shouldn't play Tarvaris Jackson; I think Childress will make the move and give Jackson a couple of games when the Vikings are mathematically out of it. But not until.
What we learned last night won't be good news for Steeler Nation. Jonathan Scott, subbing for Max Starks at left tackle, and Ramon Foster, playing for right guard Chris Kemoeatu, were porous against the Patriots, and caused Ben Roethlisberger to be sacked five times and hit hard at least four more times. Along with the loss of defensive end Aaron Smith, Pittsburgh might have taken too many hits to be super this year. In the next five weeks, Oakland, Baltimore and the Jets will throw the same kind of odd-man fronts at Pittsburgh that New England did, and for the Steelers to survive, they'll need a healthy dose of short drops and quick throws from Roethlisberger.
As for the Patriots, they continued a ridiculous backs-against-the-wall streak for Bill Belichick (see Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me later in the column), and they did it with a great night from Tom Brady and lots of help from guys who are household names only in their households. The Patriots are 7-2, and the two-headed rushing tandem of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead have combined for 715 yards and 4.4 yards per carry. (The Bears, for comparison's sake, have used Matt Forte and Chester Taylor to rush for 676 and a 3.6-yard average.) Tully Banta-Cain and Mike Wright, not to be confused with Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, combined for three of New England's five sacks. Speaking of Freeney and Mathis, guess who's coming to Foxboro for the annual Polian-Belichick November cookout on Sunday?
This is the best chance Los Angeles has to get a team in a long time.
Nothing's going to happen until after the owners and players get a new collective bargaining agreement, but once that happens, I expect, as I said on NBC last night, the league to get cracking on bringing one of the 32 teams to a new stadium adjacent to the Staples Center and LA Live complex in downtown Los Angeles.
All along, what's held the NFL back is either that the league didn't really want to be at the Coliseum -- and USC wasn't crazy about having the NFL there -- or the league didn't want to be in the endless 'burbs of southern California. But the backers of the new stadium, Casey Wasserman and Tim Leiweke, are well-connected guys who want to build the kind of retractable-roof events center that could be used to attract the 2022 World Cup final (or some future World Cup) and Final Fours, as well as an NFL team. Influential owners in the league are excited about the Los Angeles prospect ending a generation-long drought in the city, and these are owners who -- I can tell you with certainty -- have not been nearly as excited about any of the previous L.A. ventures.
As for the team to play there, the obvious candidates are San Diego (likely the favorite, unless a stadium gets built there, which appears increasingly unlikely) or Oakland. I'd say San Diego's more likely, but this thing has a couple of years to play out.
Look for more Tebow in the coming weeks.
Nearly lost in the Broncos' 49-29 rout of the Chiefs: the emergence of Tim Tebow as a passer and runner. Tebow's not going to replace Kyle Orton anytime soon, and he probably doesn't have a chance to do so, rightfully, until 2012; that's how good Orton has been. But Tebow ran for a one-yard score in the second quarter Sunday, then threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Larson in the third quarter, a long-awaited first NFL pass from Tebow.
Talked to Denver coach Josh McDaniels last night, and he said, "The package for Tim will continue to grow, and we'll expand it. We like what we've seen in him, a lot. We've had more than a few [passes] in for him in the past few weeks, and we just got a chance to use one today.''
A good day for the Broncos, and a needed good day, happened because Orton was able to pummel the Chiefs secondary early -- he threw three touchdown passes in the first quarter -- and keep Kansas City on its heels. "We wanted to throw the football so we could run later,'' McDaniels said. And it worked.
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