1. I think this is what I liked about Week 10:
a. Matt Ryan's poise. After the Thursday-night win over the Ravens, there's no question in my mind Ryan's the superior player to his 2008 first-round-draft peer Joe Flacco.
b. Steve Smith's downfield blocking for Carolina.
c. Arrelious Benn, stuck in Mike Williams' rookie shadow, with a good catch, move and stretch for a touchdown against the Panthers.
d. Dhani Jones covering Jacob Tamme. I know Tamme caught his share, but Jones played tenaciously when they were matched against each other.
e. Way to tackle, Al Harris. I mean that. Nice debut for the Dolphins.
f. Got to hand it to you, Antonio Cromartie. This is a heck of a comeback season for you, as evidenced by another great open-field tackle, this one on Josh Cribbs.
g. Block of the Week: Cleveland fullback Lawrence Vickers on the corner for Peyton Hillis, paving the way perfectly for a first-half Hillis TD run in Browns-Jets.
h. Edgerrin' little cousin, Javarris, scoring to help Edge's old team, the Colts, beat the Bengals.
i. As bad as Chad Ochocinco was Monday night, that's how good he was Sunday in Indy. He laid out for balls. He played hurt. He played like it was the last game he'd ever play.
j. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who throws a nice ball, threw a beauty, in stride, to Lee Evans against the Leos.
k. Last week for byes. Now we've got seven straight weeks of 16 games a weekend.
l. Troy Smith. Fun guy to watch.
m. LaGarrette Blount. Glad he got a legit chance.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about week 10:
a. Four timeouts in the first three minutes of Miami-Tennessee.
b. I wish Braylon Edwards would just play football, rather than try to avenge some perceived slight by the city of Cleveland.
c. "There more pushing and shoving than I ever remember,'' Phil Simms said on Browns-Jets. "Just play.'' Agreed. Why is Edwards bouncing up from a hit shoving? Ridiculous.
d. Memo to Jets D: Cover Josh Cribbs. He's pretty good.
e. There's the Bengals we know and love ... two turnovers in 14 seconds of the first quarter at Indy.
f. Favre giveth ... Favre taketh away, and then taketh away some more.
g. Chad Pennington's big comeback lasted two plays.
h. Nineteen-play drive for the Jets, longest drive in the league this year. And they get nothing out of it, thanks to Nick Folk's clanged 24-yard field-goal miss.
i. Rashean Mathis, who left Andre Johnson alone in the end zone for an easy touchdown throw. I don't care what the assignment is there, whether you're supposed to go cover someone else. Why would you leave Andre Johnson for anyone near the end zone?
j. Randy Moss' first catch of his Tennessee career came two hours and 53 minutes into Sunday's game. So much for a guy being quick to pick up the offense.
k. The Steelers' offensive line caved in way too much against New England. Oakland comes to Pittsburgh Sunday. Richard Seymour's drooling.
l. Found myself feeling sorry for Larry Fitzgerald Sunday. He's clearly a one-man offense, and it's got to be driving him nuts.
3. I think I still don't understand why Kansas City coach Todd Haley wagged a finger at Denver coach Josh McDaniels Sunday after Denver's 49-29 rout of the Chiefs. SI colleague Jim Trotter tweeted last night that "Haley was not happy with broncos max protecting, throwing deep & blitzing regularly with a 32-point 4th-Q lead." According to Trotter, last year against the Broncos Jamaal Charles had the chance to break the single-game rushing record but Haley pulled him with 2:43 to play, needing just 38 yards. From my perspective, I see nothing that rises to the level of a team making a big stink about getting their noses rubbed in it.
4. I think my biggest question after Sunday's games was not about Brett Favre's near future or Brad Childress' long-term one. It was this: After Dallas went on the road to Green Bay and lost by 38 last week, changed coaches from Wade Phillips to Jason Garrett, and after Dallas went on the road and won by 13 Sunday ... I mean, just how must Wade Phillips have felt sitting down in Texas watching that show from the Meadowlands?
5. I think you shouldn't make too much of this, but Sunday was Chris Johnson's 40th NFL game. He now has 4,072 yards. Through 40 games, Emmitt Smith had 3,396. That's almost 700 more rushing yards than the all-time leader. As my daughters often tell me, "I'm just sayin'."
6. I think the first thing Jerry Jones should do when the offseason begins is to announce he's holding training camp in one place -- and preferably not in the Alamodome, with players working every day (and sometimes twice a day) on artificial turf. Wherever it is, and Oxnard is the prefect place because the southern California weather is perfect for training camp, football has to be the sole focus. I'm not saying that's the reason Dallas stinks. But I am saying it's a sign that preparing the football team for the season has not always been the most important thing in the summer; marketing the team has been. And that's a bad message to send to your players.
7. I think two calls will live in infamy from the final minutes of the Falcons' 26-21 victory over the Ravens. I've watched them several times. Let's address both to see how they affected the outcome of the game:
a. The Terrell Suggs facemask call with 13:11 left. Atlanta led 13-7 and had a third-and-10 at the Baltimore 33. Matt Ryan completed a seven-yard pass to Jason Snelling to the Raven 26. Suggs was called for a facemask violation. What happened is that Suggs and the offending Falcon grabbed each other's mask; but only Suggs was called. Instead of replaying the down and again trying to convert a third-and-10, Atlanta got a down and continued a touchdown drive.
b. The non-pass-interference call against Roddy White on the winning touchdown pass. Baltimore led 21-20 and Atlanta had a first-and-10 at the Ravens' 33 with 27 seconds left. White ran nine yards off the line of scrimmage, came into contract with Ravens cornerback Josh Wilson and pushed him. Wilson fell to the ground. "I just pushed him down,'' White admitted in the middle of a detailed explanation of the play after the game. White continued downfield and, alone, caught the winning pass from Ryan.
If interference had been called on White, Atlanta would have had first-and-20 from the Ravens' 43 with 20 seconds to go ... time enough for at least two more plays to gain the 12 to 15 yards to get into reasonable field-goal range. Would the Falcons have made it? Maybe. But the fact that White didn't get an offensive pass-interference call had the Ravens privately seething, both immediately after the game and the day after the game. And they were right to be seething. That's a blatant non-call that, as I pointed out on NBC Saturday afternoon, could play a major role in home-field advantage in both conferences.
Atlanta, after 10 weeks, is tied for the top spot in home-field competition in the NFC at 7-2; Baltimore, 6-3, is now a game off the pace for home-field edge. And if you don't think home field is a big advantage in January -- at least for the Falcons --a you're not a student of numbers. Matt Ryan is 18-1 in the Georgia Dome as a starting quarterback.
8. I think I have to hand it to Deion Sanders for his magnanimous gesture Wednesday on our Sirius NFL Radio show. Sanders and I hadn't spoken in 10 years. We used to be tight; he gave me the pseudonym he used for all hotel stays, so when I'd need to talk to him on the road, I always had the password to get to him.
But he was broken player when he signed a $56-million contract with the Redskins in 2000. The Cowboys, his employers in 1999, wouldn't have passed him on their physical in 2000, and thus cut him. The Redskins surely didn't do all their due diligence in investigating Sanders' health (he had major turf toe problems that inhibited his great cover ability), and from the start of the season, he was a shell of himself.
The Detroit Lions, in the second game of the season, went after Sanders early and often, which would have been unheard of when Prime was in his Prime. And so early in that season I wrote the Redskins had been robbed by Sanders, and Dan Snyder had made a dumb signing. The dumb signing was right; the fact that Sanders had pilfered the money was a stretch, because clearly it takes two to tango, and the blame should have been on Washington for a dumb signing.
Anyway, Sanders held a grudge over what I said; when I tried to interview him that season, team PR man Doug Green asked him to talk to me, and Deion, according to Green, said, "Tell Peter, God bless him, but I'm never going to speak to him again.'' And that was that until he was a guest on the Sirius show the other morning. At the end of the conversation, Sanders said to me: "Peter, I miss you. We had a great relationship early on, you did something I thought was offensive, but it wasn't bad, because you just gave your honest opinion when you thought I was slipping, and I took it personal. I apologize. You're a good man, Peter. You're a good man. You really are.''
Why, thank you, Deion. No apology necessary. The thing that's hard about this job sometimes is that when you call out people you've had good relationships with, you know it's going to either ruin those relationships or change them forever. It's happened with Sanders, Bruce Smith, Bill Belichick, and, to some degree, with Brett Favre over the years. Reporters have to call 'em as we see em, and sometimes the truth as we see it hurts. That's the business we're in.
9. I think, by the way, if you're going to claim Mike Shanahan is a racist over this Donovan McNabb benching issue, you'd better have some proof. Playing the race card here is dangerous, obviously, and pretty cavalier. Play the performance card. That's what I'd like to do. I'm not saying what Shanahan did was right. But let's look at performance here.
McNabb, entering the weekend, was the 25th-ranked quarterback in the NFL. The 24th-rated quarterback, Chad Henne, just got benched by Tony Sparano. The 28th-rated quarterback, Alex Smith, lost his job to Troy Smith due to injury and is in the process of losing it for performance to Smith. The 21st-rated quarterback, Jason Campbell, could get replaced by Bruce Gradkowski any minute now.
Was it very odd and poor timing and a very questionable decision by Shanahan to yank the quarterback with two minutes left in the game? Yes. Was McNabb making some poor decisions on the field, causing Shanahan to question his grasp of the playbook? Perhaps; I don't know. But the same way I'm not going to make a big deal of black men being 1-2-4 (Mike Vick, Vince Young, David Garrard) in the QB-rating standings entering this weekend because I don't think the success or failure of a quarterback has anything to do with what color he is, I'm not going to think Mike Shanahan benched McNabb for racial reasons unless I have some proof other than something incidental.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. The worst song of all time, "Popsicle Toes,'' was playing as I went into my neighborhood coffee shop in Boston's South End the other day. "Worst song of all time,'' I said to the friendly barista, who said to me cheerily: "We seem to play a lot of those.'' And now, five days later, I can't get the damn thing out of my head. Help.
b. Now, "Harvest Moon'' by Neil Young and "Burn Down the Mission'' by Elton John, you can play those songs any time you'd like.
c. Glad I don't have a vote for the Heisman. What if Cam Newton wins and he's found to be Reggie Bush II a month from now?
d. I'm a sucker for the Matt Light Foundation, but it's because I know how helpful the foundation is to at-risk teenagers the world has given up on. And the foundation is running the coolest raffle right now, involving winning a huge portrait of Tom Brady and Wes Welker, a meeting with those three men (including Light) and four tickets to the Pats-Colts game next Sunday: Get all the info right here. It's worth a click, and an investment of as little as $2.
e. Dice-K for Kosuke Fukudome. That rumor surfaced the other day. And let me say on behalf of Red Sox followers everywhere: "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.''
f. How do you say, "Worst trade since Larry Anderson for Bagwell'' in Japanese?
g. Not saying Fukudome is useless, but a man who has played in a hitter's ballyard for three years and never hit .265 or driven in 60 runs (despite having 590 and 603 at-bats in two of his three years), and made $33.5 million in the process ... well, I'd call that 80 percent of J.D. Drew, and not exactly a solution for any team except the Toledo Mud Hens. Maybe.
h. Coffeenerdness: Not really high on the Starbucks experience in Manhattan. I've tried eight or 10 of them this season, looking for a comfy spot to write on some Saturdays and all Sunday mornings, and I've come up mostly disappointed. The music is too loud, the panhandlers too prevalent at a couple of the midtown ones, the wireless spotty, and too many rest-room-less. I'm taking suggestions, either by e-mail or Twitter for a good, quietish place to work. Willing to commute to any one of them, but the closer to midtown the better. Let's see if you can help me out.
i. And by the way, urban legend has it that I tweeted if Derek Jeter could win the Gold Glove this year, there's hope that Wade Phillips could win coach of the year. Never said it, never tweeted it. Just wanted to correct the public record and perhaps stem the tide of bashing I've received from a certain large radio station in New York.
j. C'mon, Devils. Snap out of it. Earn your dough, Ilya.
k. Nice week on the road for the Edmonton Oilers. Between Tuesday and Sunday in the Eastern Time Zone, they lost four games by a combined 25-8.
l. Saranac Pumpkin Ale is gone and I am in mourning. It lasted far too short a time for so great a beer, which is why I'm counting the days 'til next October when I can drink it again. Best pumpkin beer on the market, by far, and for some odd reason, I'm attracted to the beer type and have tried every one I've found. Saranac is number one. If you see any stray bottles to purchase anywhere in the Boston area, tweet me. I'll be there.
m. Hey, Mary Pat Mercuro and your Montclair High field hockey team! Congrats on winning the sectional field hockey championship. Great to see the Mounties keeping up the Jersey field hockey tradition. I miss those games, coach.
Philadelphia 24, Washington 13. Now, no one can predict how a man, backed against a wall the way Donovan McNabb is, will come fighting back. But this Eagle defense is a little better than when McNabb pierced it last month. Here's how Peyton Manning's second-half drives ended last week at the Linc: punt, punt, punt, punt, touchdown, interception. The five futile drives netted just 64 yards. McNabb has had 15 days to stew/think/rehab-two-hammies/learn from his last-two-minutes benching against Detroit, and we should see fairly early in this game if it's done him any good, or ruined his relationship with Mike and Kyle Shanahan. If my score is anywhere near correct, the fourth quarter of this game could be very, very interesting for McNabb's future.
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