1. I think this is what I liked about Week 11:
a. Cameron Wake, the Miami outside linebacker, who rushes the passer the way Pete Rose ran the bases. Irrepressible.
b. Everything about Brian Urlacher. He's having one of the best years of his career after three straight years of being All-Trainers Room. The instinctive way he played in the 16-0 whitewash of Miami reminds me of the Urlacher of six years ago.
c. Maybe Adrian Peterson heard what Merril Hoge was saying about him on the "NFL Matchup Show'' Sunday morning. "Adrian Peterson looks tired,'' Hoge said. Peterson didn't run tired against the Pack.
d. "Dez Bryant is the Adrian Peterson of wide receivers,'' Rodney Harrison said when we were watching the games in the NBC viewing room Sunday. I second that.
e. The more I see of Fred Jackson, the more I wonder why the Bills didn't give him the starting job and 300 carries a year about two years ago.
f. Beautiful throw to the corner of the end zone by Donovan McNabb, on the TD to Santana Moss. It shouldn't take until Nov. 21 in a Shanahan offense for a quarterback to get to 10 touchdown passes, but that one was a beauty.
g. Beautiful job, too, of buying time in the pocket by Aaron Rodgers, roaming left before nailing a perfect strike, across his body, to Greg Jennings.
h. Tony Dungy on what the Titans should do with their dissatisfied quarterback: "I think you've got to cut ties with Vince Young.'' Bold. Beautiful.
i. Terrific overturned replay by referee Ron Winter in the fourth quarter at Philadelphia, giving the ball back to the Giants after a called fumble by Ahmad Bradshaw, because the ground can't cause a fumble, and the back of the hand and the wrist hit the ground after he appeared to have been contacted, causing the ball to be jarred loose. Smart call.
j. Marques Colston looked 25 and the Seattle DBs 17. Imposing guy, that Colston.
k. Nice Stewie Griffin image shaved into your head, Tracy Porter. If I were you, though, I'd have used Brian the Dog.
l. Congrats, Ronde Barber, for your 40th interception, a Buc team record.
m. Josh Freeman to Mike Williams ... if Williams stays out of trouble, that's going to be one of the game's great combinations.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 11:
a. Tyler Thigpen. I realize he was put in a tough spot, and I realize the Chicago Bears are no team, on a short week, to debut against. But I thought of Lawrence Taylor's words after sacking Ken O'Brien of the Jets back in the day: "Son, you're gonna have to do better than that.''
b. The Miami running backs. Seven carries, 12 yards.
c. Tough loss for the Denver family. RIP, Rob Lytle. In his time, the Fremont, Ohio, native was a heck of a Bronco back.
d. Ridiculous Carolina secondary play, letting the moderately speedy (which is to say, fairly slow for a wideout) T.J. Houshmandzadeh get behind it for an easy 56-yard TD throw from Joe Flacco, early in the first quarter.
e. 1:07 p.m. Baltimore 7, Carolina 0. Game over.
f. Stephen Tulloch's dropped interception of a Donovan McNabb pass in the red zone. I mean, can a catch be any easier?
g. Nothing personal, Jim Mora. But please, don't deify Randy Moss' impact on the Titans' locker room the way you did in the first half of the FOX Eagles-Titans game. If I hear one more time what a wonderful influence Randy Moss is in the locker room, I'm going to puke. What kind of great influence can he be if he keeps getting kicked off team (Oakland) after team (New England) after team (Minnesota)?
h. Terrible ruling by referee Ed Hochuli in Cincinnati-Buffalo, giving the Bengals a second left on the clock at the end of the first half.
i. GRAHAM GANO! THREE YARDS SHORT on a 47-yard field goal that would have defused all of the debate that Donovan McNabb can't win the close games inside the two-minute warning! Short?!
j. Jim Schwartz was right to be volcanic on what was called a horsecollar tackle in the Dallas-Detroit game, when all the defender did was yank Marion Barber down by the hair hanging out of his helmet.
k. Wonder if Ron Winter's ever put a lampshade on his head at the office Christmas party? Doubt it.
l. I know the buck stops with Mike Tannenbaum on the Jets, and so it's Tannenbaum who has to feel sick about the impact Danny Woodhead is making on the Patriots after the Jets cut him and allowed him to find a home in New England. He had a 36-yard touchdown run, New England's last TD of the afternoon, and clearly has become the most dangerous back in New England's stable.
m. Matt Dodge, the Giants' punter, is a disaster waiting to happen.
3. I think the NFL will consider seriously suspending Richard Seymour for his clocking of Ben Roethlisberger. When Seymour sent his stunning punch/slap to the side of Roethlisberger's helmet, it appeared to be unprovoked. But even if anything was said, it won't help Seymour's case. The NFL will examine Seymour's discipline record over the past two years -- he has had fines of $7,500 and $10,000 for two unnecessary-roughness incidents -- and then judge whether this rises to the level of a suspension. My feeling is that it does. There's enough violence in the game without a 300-pound lineman slugging an unsuspecting quarterback. This would send the right message to players, I think.
4. I think we now know why the Jets have been so high on Santonio Holmes. Three games, three huge plays helping them win -- a 52-yard catch to set up the winning field goal at Detroit, the winning 37-yard scoring pass to beat Cleveland, and then the winning touchdown catch as time wound down Sunday against Houston. Rex Ryan always said he was the most dangerous weapon for the Ravens to stop over the years, and, well, if you can't beat 'em, recruit 'em.
5. I think my first reaction when the Bucs announced wide receiver Mike Williams would play Sunday in San Francisco after being pulled over at 2:46 a.m. Friday for suspicion of driving while impaired in Tampa was, "Big mistake.'' The Bucs were one of only two or three teams that seriously considered drafting Williams last April after his checkered history at Syracuse. And this is the thanks they get -- seeing Williams take the wheel after drinking and being out at 2:46 in the morning, two days before a big game?
What made the Bucs go mild on Williams, quite simply, was that he blew a .06 on the blood-alcohol content field meter, below the legal limit of .08. And that he voluntarily took a urine test requested by the arresting officer. "If the blood-alcohol content comes back with a higher number over the limit, we'd be having a different conversation right now,'' Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik told me. "He didn't do what [recent DWI offenders] D.J. Williams or Braylon Edwards did. I'm not going to suspend a guy for testing below the legal limit.''
Now, if the urine test comes back with signs of any other substances, Dominik will likely come down hard on Williams. But Williams said he hadn't done anything illicit, and Dominik bought it. "I was disappointed he was out at 2:45, and I told him that,'' said Dominik. "He was somber and remorseful, which he should have been. But this is a kid who didn't have a drug problem at Syracuse. He didn't have an alcohol problem at Syracuse. He did have a curfew problem at Syracuse.''
This is my conjecture, but the Bucs rescued Mike Williams from landing in the United Football League, and if he's smart, he'll be in by midnight for the rest of his Tampa career, at least from September to December.
6. I think that Parcells documentary on NFL Network brought back a lot of memories. I covered the Giants from 1985 to '88 and was on the receiving end of so many mind games over that time with him -- and since.
Parcells used to come down to the windowless press room in Giants Stadium (we called it The Dungeon) every Thursday night around 6:30 or 7, when most of the beat guys were wrapping up their stories for the day. He'd pull up a chair, light a cigarette and announce, "Well, what are you subversives writing today?'' We were all subversives, commies, communists, socialists ... depending on his vocabulary of the day.
Anyway, the understanding was that everything on Thursday night was off the record, and if you didn't want to be in on the conversations (a couple of guys didn't), you'd leave and Parcells would go on and chat for a couple of hours. Nothing incendiary or all that informative. But let's say you wanted to file away some knowledge about the battle between Joe Morris and George Adams at running back, or you wanted to know how worried he was about cornerback Elvis Patterson staying on the straight and narrow. By his tone, by his inflection, you could tell who was in favor and who was out of favor, and when you wrote, you felt a little more confident in what you were writing.
Not that he wasn't above planting some information he felt could help him in the locker room. But it was a balancing act you had to figure out, and if you played the game long enough -- veteran football sage Vinny DiTrani of the Bergen Record was like our resident Kremlinologist with Parcells -- you could always get something important out of the sessions.
One other note I recall. Before the Giants went to the Super Bowl in 1986, my paper, Newsday, assigned me a story on Parcells' Jersey roots. So I asked and got permission to ride to work with him one morning from his north Jersey home, past his old home and haunts, including the bowling alley on Route 17, a mile or so from Giants Stadium, where Parcells had set pins by hand. That documentary brought back many of those memories and reminded me how much the media business has changed. You think Sean Payton and Bill Belichick are spending two hours on a Thursday night schmoozing the press with off-the-record deepness? I don't think so. I'm glad I was a beat guy in those days, not these.
7. I think Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is one special player. (Wow. Stop the presses.) Not just as a thrower either. The run he made against Cal Saturday shows everything NFL scouts need to see about the mobile side of his game. Put it this way: Without mobility, he'd still be the first pick in the 2011 draft. With the mobility, I could see teams fighting over him. But if Buffalo has the pick, forget it. Buddy Nix might be getting up there in years, but he's not stupid. He won't trade away the right to pick Luck.
8. I think, just to make it clear from my Friday item on Peyton Manning and Tom Moore holding substantive conversations outside the locker room the last time they played in Foxboro, I don't believe there's any way the Gillette Stadium locker room was bugged. I just think in this hugely intense rivalry, the paranoia antennae are raised pretty high whenever they play.
9. I think, as I did a month ago, that a fine is more likely for Brett Favre than a suspension. Nothing has changed my mind on this, basically because of his 14 years with a clean record (since the Vicodin rehab in 1996), and no prior violations of the league's personal conduct policy. Usually -- and I have to stress that word, usually -- the league doesn't whack a guy with a suspension on his first personal-conduct violation.
I can't imagine the investigation is going to take much longer. The league met with Jenn Sterger for three-and-a-half hours 11 days ago, and as Adam Schefter reported Sunday, the NFL is using advanced technical forensics to try to trace the origins or the lewd photos sent to Sterger via cell phone.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Good to see Bill Walton typing away on the laptop on the Acela on Saturday morning, the day after Furthur (the vestiges of the Grateful Dead) played Worcester, and the day the band would play Madison Square Garden. Lots of leg room for 6-11 men with bad backs.
b. So great to hear from Mike McGuire the other day, as he and his men make final preparations for their next dangerous tour of Afghanistan. McGuire is the Army sergeant who became a friend of mine when we met at a St. Louis Cardinals game in 2005, when he was on leave from his job finding and dismantling Improvised Explosive Devices with a platoon of young soldiers in Iraq. Now he preps for his fourth tour -- his final one on the front lines of the madness of the wars.
"Sorry did not answer right away,'' he began. "Busy as hell. Final packout for Afghanistan. Yes, our deployment was pushed 'to the right,' or postponed. But it is full steam ahead now. We packed out our containers and gear, and they're on the way now to Afghanistan. Things are going 100 mph here. Need to take a breath. We have our pre-deployment leave here in a few weeks, then we are gone.
"I am actually going home to the states to see my grandson before I deploy again for the FOURTH time ... the FOURTH deployment. Should have kept you posted on our time frame but we have been living in the 'field' preparing for this deployment. I can honestly say that we are more prepared for this deployment than any other. Lots of training and prep time. We are ready. Because of the location we are going, our time was pushed back. All is good now, nice to know our stuff is gone and we are following.
"Kind of excited, new place. Never been to Afghanistan before. A routine will be nice. Since we have got back I have not been able to work out very often. At least down range, I get to do it every day. Hard to believe that down range I could bench-press 400 pounds. Pretty good for a 5'6 guy that weighs 220. Anyway, I will keep you posted and sorry for leaving you in the dark. On the upside, I have been able to watch some football. Weird year. Take care and look forward to hearing from you. Mike.''
c. Great to hear from you, Mike. I know I speak for everyone who reads this when I say: Strap the armor on tight, and step lightly.
d. I'm a great uncle! Congrats to my niece Katie and her husband, Jon Cormier, up in Vermont -- and to my sister Pam and brother-in-law Bob for being grandparents -- on the birth of little Evie Cormier Thursday morning. That is one cute bundle of joy. Good luck to all.
e. Good luck to my best buddy, Jack Bowers, on his surgery Tuesday in Baltimore. It's a big one. You've got many communities praying for you, Jack.
f. And one piece of advice to all of you, everywhere, especially you fair-skinned ones like me: Monitor the moles and freckles and marks on your skin. Skin cancer is not picky. It chooses everyone, particularly you sun-worshipers. And just because it's cold, that doesn't mean you should go out without sunscreen on the face and neck.
g. Coffeenerdness. I have finally figured out the mystery of Starbucks discomfort. They've taken out the comfy chairs in most of the shops so you don't buy one coffee, hang out for hours and use the free Internet for the whole time. In other words, if you want an office, pay for it somewhere. And about as long as I can take in one of the shops, working on my writing (and thanks to all of you who offered Manhattan suggestions, by the way) , is about three hours, sitting on those chairs like I sat on in seventh grade.
h. Who's that Westbrook guy for Oklahoma City? What a basketball player.
i. Great story -- and highly disturbing -- in Saturday's Wall Street Journal about a decent middle-class town in northern Mexico being abandoned because of the multi-gang drug war going on in the country. In May, a man was hung from a tree and dismembered in Ciudad Mier, a town on the border with Texas. How is this not the lead story in that country and on our front pages every day?
j. The creative thoughts of a great storyteller, Stieg Larsson, will be revealed Friday when On Stieg Larsson is released. The new book contains e-mails from the late Larsson -- whose three Millennium books have sold 46 million copies -- to his editor, and the Wall Street Journal excerpted a couple of them Saturday. It is amazing to read Larsson's words to editor Eva Gedin 12 days before he dropped dead of a heart attack. He had no idea that his books would sell a single copy -- none of the three was in print yet -- and he'd just finished the fixes on the books, and was waiting for them to hit the bookshelves.
"Hmmm,'' he writes, according to the Journal. "I cannot be sure, but I have the impression that you ... people are seriously enthusiastic about my books. OK, I know they are not bad, and of course, I am delighted to read such flattering judgments: but I hope that you are not, for whatever reason, holding back negative comments. I am perfectly capable of coping with criticism.''
Stieg, if you only knew. The saddest thing about the cop/thriller genre is that you aren't around to write more about the adventures of one of the best characters in fiction in my lifetime, Lisbeth Salander.
k. If you see me at the Manchester (Conn.) Road Race Thursday, come by and say hi. Will be running/walking (after a minor surgical procedure) with my daughters and niece and nephew and sister-in-law. Really excited about being in such a grand old race.
l. Happy Thanksgiving, one and all. My favorite holiday of the year. You didn't know? I love to eat, and there's nothing on the Thanksgiving table I won't touch -- as you can probably tell.
San Diego 31, Denver 28.
Why so close? A few reasons. I respect the Broncos' ability to put points on the board, obviously. But there was this tweet from ace Charger beat man Kevin Acee late Saturday afternoon: "Injury report: Naanee, Gregory and Mathews doubtful. Gates questionable.''
The fact that Antonio Gates has not played a football game for 22 days and still is 50-50 to go tonight is a sign that the Chargers won't be full-speed in the first of four games they need to take over the AFC West pennant race (Denver, at Indianapolis, Oakland, Kansas City). At 4-5, they need to take at least three of those four, and you figure this will be the easiest of the four. But with a so-so Gates, and with two other prime offensive weapons hurt even more -- running back Ryan Mathews and wideout Legedu Naanee -- it's going to be up to Philip Rivers to be the human highlight film tonight.