Offensive Players of the Week
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seattle.
In the unlikeliest performance of a distinguished career (in a game he knew might have been his last of 10 years as a Seahawk), Hasselbeck threw four touchdown passes in the first 35 minutes of the 41-36 stunner over the Saints in an all-timer Saturday at Qwest Field. Playing with a hip injury that kept him out of action the previous week, Hasselbeck completed 22 of 35 throws for 272 yards, those four touchdowns and one (tipped) interception. A vintage performance for one of the game's truly good people.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle.
There's no debating his 67-yard touchdown run was one of the best in NFL history. I know that covers a lot of ground, but think back to all the great runs you've seen. Marcus Allen's field-crosser in the Super Bowl, the gallops you saw from Gale Sayers on NFL Films (unless you're 55-plus and saw them with your own eyes), the scores of terrific ones by Barry Sanders that took your breath away. This one had it all. Breaking three tackles at the line of scrimmage, the speed to break away from the pack, the violent and punishing straight-arm of Tracy Porter, and the eight Saints total who had chances (some good, some vague) to tackle him. Oh, and he rushed 19 times for 131 yards in one of the upsets of the year.
Defensive Players of the Week
Tramon Williams, CB, Green Bay.
America held its breath when Michael Vick, from the Packer 27 with 44 seconds left, down 21-16, sent four receivers downfield and for some reason targeted the one playing against Green Bay's top 2010 cover corner, Williams. Intended for Riley Cooper in the back left corner of the end zone, Vick left it a yard short, and Williams leapt high to pick it off. Ballgame. Biggest play of young Williams' career. "He's played incredible one-on-one coverage all year, and I'm not surprised he made the play,'' Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
Terrell Suggs, OLB, Baltimore.
This recognition is as much for an overall Baltimore defensive smothering of Matt Cassel as anything; the Ravens held the Chiefs quarterback to 53 net yards. But Suggs had two sacks and two more pressures of Cassel, and he must have been in his line of sight another three or four times. A great game by a great pass rusher.
Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets.
In the worst stat line in MMQB Defensive Player of the Week history, Revis had one tackle, no sacks, no forced fumbles, no recovered fumbles, no interceptions, no passes defensed. That's because Peyton Manning threw only one pass at Revis all night, and it was a one-yard completion to Reggie Wayne. I had problems with Manning targeting Wayne once (as did Wayne), but it's a measure of respect, obviously, for the clinging coverage Revis had.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Adam Vinatieri, K, Indianapolis.
In the last 20 minutes of the 17-16 loss to the Jets, the best clutch kicker of this era (and probably any era) kicked field goals of 47, 32 and 50 yards. The 50-yarder, with 53 seconds left to play, would have been enough for the Colts to win a 16-14 game, but the Jets refused to fold.
Coaches of the Week
Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine, coach/defensive coordinator, New York Jets.
Saturday's Stat of the Night: The Jets had one sack and zero additional recorded pressures of Peyton Manning ... and held the Colts to 16 points and won the game. We kept waiting for the blitzes to come Saturday night -- I'm sure Peyton Manning did too -- and they rarely did. Ryan, in his days running the Ravens and Jets on defense, had such scant success playing Manning with all his different blitzes and sub packages. So Saturday night, the Jets had 10 defensive backs active and only four defensive linemen (that should have been clue number one) and Pettine had his defenders lay back in coverage, flooding the intermediate zones especially and leaving Darrelle Revis to blanket Reggie Wayne. Pretty good result.
Goat of the Week
David Akers, you're lucky this man was so bad Saturday.
Roman Harper, S, New Orleans.
Harper picked a bad day to have the worst day, by far, of his career. The mainstay in the New Orleans secondary was badly duped on two of the first three Matt Hasselbeck touchdown passes. It was so odd to see a Gregg Williams secondary get beat up like that, and Harper was at the head of the class of dunces. Harper at least was honest with the New Orleans Times Picayune on the play that he let John Carlson flop around on the ground like a dying fish, then watched him get up and run to an open spot for a touchdown throw. "He hit me with the 'oh, crap!' screen, you know, where the guy's on the ground and everything's going the other way and all of a sudden he gets up off the ground and goes the other way," Harper said. That's your man, Roman.
This is not a convoluted stat, but then again, Baltimore-Pittsburgh is not a convoluted rivalry. When the Ravens and Steelers meet Saturday in the AFC divisional playoff round, it will be their eighth meeting in 28 months.
Think about that for a second: three games in 2008, two in 2009, three in 2010.
In inverse order, here are the scores. Amazing: last four each decided by a field goal.
Baltimore by 3 and 3. Pittsburgh by 3, 3, 9, 4 and 3.
One more reason to root for labor peace in 2011 before it wrecks the regular-season schedule: There will be a Harbaugh Bowl. San Francisco (Jim) plays at Baltimore (John) in 2011.
Sunday, 9:18 a.m., Fifth Avenue and 51st Street, Manhattan:
I'm walking to get a coffee at Starbucks and just as I'm about to cross Fifth, a young guy, maybe 23, almost walks past me when he sees my Seattle Mariners sweatshirt. "SEAHAWKS BABY! How 'bout Matty Ice!!!'' he yells, and puts his hand up to give me a high-five. I give him one, and he says, "It's our year, baby. Super Bowl!''
Only in New York, kids, only in New York.
"Jets should send Sanchez to Iran so he can overthrow Ahmedinejad.''
-- @BigYankeeMike, a fan named Mike Brusco, Saturday night, at halftime of a game the Jets trailed 7-0, with Mark Sanchez having missed four open receivers with throws that would have been six feet over 7-foot-6 Yao Ming's head.
"A main point of college is to figure out professional aspirations. No 1 ever begrudged zuckerberg. I hate the double standard.''
-- @gcomella, former NFL running back Greg Comella, a Stanford graduate, on Andrew Luck deciding to stay in school.
"So if the Dolphins were your girlfriend, they'd go from breaking up with you to agreeing to go to Vegas and bringing her twin sister.''
-- @PeteAbe, Pete Abraham, baseball writer for the Boston Globe, in a fine crossover move to the gridiron, after Miami went from wooing Jim Harbaugh when they still had a coach to reaffirming that the coach was still the coach and giving the coach, Tony Sparano, a two-year contract extension.
What a country.