Offensive Players of the Week
Tom Brady, QB, New England.
The most amazing streak of Brady's career (last eight games: 19 touchdowns, zero interceptions) continued on a nightmarish day at Soldier Field: 27 of 40, .675, 369 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions. Imagine completing 68 percent of your throws with winds gusting up to 30 mph, on a day fit for filming Ice Station Zebra, not playing an NFL game.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland.
In a game everyone expected to be owned by Maurice Jones-Drew, McFadden was The Man, even in defeat. He touched the ball 19 times, rushed and received for 209 yards and scored touchdowns of 51, 36 and 67 yards. And he had nothing to do with the 38-31 loss.
Defensive Player of the Week
Troy Polamalu, FS, Pittsburgh.
Catapulted himself back into the MVP race -- at least into the periphery of it -- with a brilliant 45-yard interception return for touchdown to awaken a comatose Steelers team Sunday at Heinz Field. The Bengals led 7-0 with five minutes until halftime, and Carson Palmer threw a tailor-made interception for Polamalu. This is where it got interesting. From the Bengal 45, Polamalu weaved toward the goal line, got around the 5, and dove, stretching the ball straight out and breaking the plane before falling out of bounds. Polamalu stole another pass from the badly fading Carson Palmer to seal it later.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Brandon Fields, P, Miami.
In a classic field-position game (well, thanks to how bad Mark Sanchez was, and to a horrendous end-zone drop by Santonio Holmes), Fields had the kind of game punters dream of. Ten punts, 56.4-yard average. His punts: 53, 61, 38, 62, 49, 62, 69, 56, 56 and 58 yards. I wonder if there's ever been a game in NFL history with seven punts of 56 yards or more. A virtuoso performance by a punter even ardent football fans have never heard of.
Coach of the Week
Mike Singletary, head coach, San Francisco.
Most people (including me) think Singletary's coaching out the string with the 49ers. But he's still coaching to win every game he can, and making decisions for the short term, because this team, incredibly, still has a chance to win the worst division in recent NFL history. He switched quarterbacks from Troy to Alex Smith (even though he'd grown fed up with Alex Smith by midseason), and Alex came through with the best game a quarterback has played for the Niners this year. And San Francisco routed the Seahawks 40-21.
Goats of the Week
Hunter Smith, P/holder, Washington.
Talk about a choke job. Granted, there was a steady rain falling in suburban Washington. But in the final seconds, with the Redskins down 17-16 and trying to force overtime with a simple extra point, Smith reached for a perfectly good snap, and it whipped directly through his fingers. Ballgame. Tampa Bay won 17-16. On a wacky day at FedEx, the Redskins saved the weirdest thing for last.
Sal Alosi, head strength and conditioning coach, New York Jets.
Nolan Carroll of the Dolphins was running just out of bounds, chasing a punt at the Meadowlands, when Alosi, standing there in a green windbreaker, deftly tripped Carroll by sticking out his left knee. A classic cheap shot, totally uncalled for. The league's going to have to sanction Alosi for that, despite his postgame apology. "My conduct was inexcusable and unsportsmanlike,'' he said in a statement Sunday night. That won't be enough, Sal.
Brian Westbrook seemed an irreplaceable piece of the Philadelphia Eagles success in his Philly prime. In the five years from 2004 to '08, he became the cornerstone of the Eagles' offense. That's what LeSean McCoy is trying to be now, and he has become remarkably similar to Westbrook in many ways. He runs to holes, is an excellent receiver, and a willing blocker in blitz pickup.
Comparing the average season of Westbrook in his prime to the 2010 season of McCoy, which still has three games to run:
McCoy, then, is on pace to be better in 2010 than the man thought to be the perfect Andy Reid back was. Barring injury, McCoy will finish with better numbers and averages than Westbrook experienced.
One of my best friends in the business, longtime Lions beat guy Mike O'Hara, sent me a great note last night regarding Brett Favre's consecutive-game streak perhaps ending tonight in Detroit. Lou Gehrig's streak of 2,130 consecutive games played ended in the same city 71 years ago. "He left old Briggs Stadium, had a cup of coffee at a diner, and walked to the team hotel,'' O'Hara messaged.
I looked it up, and O'Hara was spot on. Gehrig's streak ended on May 3, 1939, when a weakened Iron Horse bowed out of the lineup for the first time in 14 years. Incredibly, the man he replaced 14 years earlier, Wally Pipp, was in the small crowd of 11,000 that day at Briggs Stadium, looking on as Gehrig brought the lineup card to home plate. Gehrig then sat in the dugout for the rest of the game. Gehrig would never play another game. Six weeks later, he was diagnosed with ALS, the disease that now bears his name.
If Favre doesn't play tonight, his streak of 297 straight starts (321 including postseason games) will end at Ford Field, 1.3 miles from where Gehrig sat in the dugout at Briggs (later Tiger) Stadium.
One of the strangest men I've seen sat across the aisle from me on the Boston-to-New York train Saturday. The guy, about 30, took out his Blackberry power cord when we got on, plugged the phone in, had nothing else out on his little table, and when to work texting and looking at email (I suppose) and Tweets or whatever. He did not get up to use the rest room. He did not get up to get anything to eat, not to ask for anything. He sat for 3 hours and 47 minutes. When the announcement came on that we were pulling into Manhattan, he unplugged the phone, put the power cord back in his bag, and, walking off the train, kept his eyes glued to the device.
Blackberry rehab, dude.
"Does anyone know where I can buy some Patience at?'
--@shawnemerriman, idled Buffalo linebacker Shawne Merriman, who can't seem to stay on the field in Pacific or Eastern time.
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