1. I think this is what I liked about divisional playoff weekend:
a. Good job on the Patriots' sideline-tripping story by Jay Glazer of FOX. It'll be interesting to see if the league believes there's clear-enough evidence to fine New England for that Zapruder-like, grainy shot of the New England player the way they fined the Jets when Sal Alosi tripped the Miami gunner.
b. Whatever you think of Rex Ryan, I like TV guys who say what they really feel. Like Terry Bradshaw on Rex Ryan: "I wouldn't want to play for Rex Ryan. I don't like guys like that.''
c. As the "How You Like Me Now?'' song, by The Heavy, plays in all of our heads.
d. Ed Reed's missile tackle on the goal line, stopping Rashard Mendenhall on the first drive of the game by the Steelers. Perfect textbook tackle.
e. Ray Rice trucking Troy Polamalu. He'll put that one on the personal highlight film back in New Rochelle.
f. Aaron Rodgers has started three playoff games ... and averaged 38 points per game.
g. The Green Bay defensive front. Intrusive. Impressive.
a. Trent Dilfer was on fire Saturday night on ESPN. I mean, very good. On the vet Ravens wideouts not catching easy balls to catch: "This is about guys with big mouths, big contracts, big expectations not making the plays.''
h. Chicago tight ends. Thought Mike Martz was supposed to bury them in this offense, not throw them two touchdown passes in a playoff game.
i. Tommie Harris. He lives.
j. Julius Peppers. I think in his sleep overnight, Russell Okung dreamed of backpedaling.
k. Rod Marinelli, the Bears defensive coordinator. Seattle's first eight possessions ended thusly: punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt.
l. Eric Smith. How many plays can one safety make? In the Jets defense, a lot.
m. The unassuming Jerricho Cotchery. He might have been written out of the New York big-play story for 2010, but that doesn't mean he can't be a good teammate and contribute one or two plays a game instead of four or five.
n. LaDainian Tomlinson. Happy to see he has a little burst and the hands most of us thought might be gone.
o. Braylon Edwards' hands. Much improved.
p. Pats going for two while down five late in the third quarter. If you've got a good play, and New England did, why not?
2. I think this is what I didn't like about divisional playoff weekend:
b. "Divisional Playoffs.'' The name. Dumb. Who thought of it? Joe Divisional? How about "Conference Semifinals?''
c. Hines Ward wrestling Ed Reed to the ground on the first snap of Steelers-Ravens. You think the officials aren't going to be calling this one closely? Bad decision by Ward.
d. Joe Flacco's air ball up the right seam, an easy pick for Ryan Clark.
e. Mike Tomlin using one of two replay challenges to gain 14 yards on the opening kickoff. Not important enough play to use one of your two precious challenges, coach.
f. Rashard Mendenhall running laterally. Get upfield, man.
g. Matty Ice. Time to retire the name.
h. Atlanta's secondary. Too many big plays.
i. Matt Hasselbeck's touch. If he played like he played last week every week, he'd be Marino. Didn't have as many guys open Sunday in Chicago as he did last week either.
j. Chris Kemoeatu diving into piles late. Not good. Cost the Steelers 15 yards that could have been very hurtful late in Pittsburgh-Baltimore.
k. The fake punt in the Pats-Jets game, run horribly by Patrick Chung. No way I would have called it there, down 7-3 with 74 seconds left in the first half, knowing I was getting the ball to start the second half. Bad call, I thought ... though I know what Bill Belichick said postgame about it being a mistake.
l. No urgency by Tom Brady on a seven-minute, 45-second drive in the fourth quarter, with the Patriots down 10. Maybe it's New England getting the plays in late there, but the pace of the play-calling made Donovan McNabb in the Super Bowl a few years back look like Usain Bolt.
3. I think there's something about Mark Sanchez that isn't measurable in stats, though his numbers were good Sunday in Foxboro after he started the day throwing the ball off-target. What he's shown this year -- in overtime in Detroit and Cleveland, and Sunday in the second half in Foxboro -- is the ability to make a big throw or two at the biggest of moments. There's something to be said for being able to perform at your best when it's most important. That's the moral of the Sanchez contribution to the first two games of the Jets' playoff run.
4. I think the best news of the day for Seattle, other than the fact they didn't raise the white flag when down 28-0, is that Marcus Trufant and John Carlson, taken off the field at Soldier Field on stretchers, both had feelings in their extremities and were held overnight for observation. Sounds like both will be OK.
5. I think I have one quibble with the FOX-NFL marketing campaign for the Jan. 30 Pro Bowl, with the "Super Bowl week kicks off with the Pro Bowl'' marketing thing. I know FOX has to do it because of the broadcast contract with the NFL, but we're not buying it, FOX. Nobody cares about the Pro Bowl. It might get some ratings, because of general week-before-the-Super-Bowl boredom, but the game ... meaningless.
6. I think Rashard Mendenhall, two touchdowns Saturday and all, is just not a big-time back.
7. I think one of the arguments that makes the most sense about NFL Films founder Ed Sabol's Hall of Fame candidacy came to me the other day from Washington GM Bruce Allen, who has a unique view into the impact of Sabol on football history.
Bruce was at his dad George's side when NFL Films came into being as the sixties dawned -- and as NFL Films began to get embedded with some of the best teams of the day to tell the real story of pro football. I'll let him tell the story because it elucidates the reasons I think Sabol belongs in the Hall, and why I hope he, as one of the 15 finalists, gets in when we 44 selectors meet in Dallas on the morning of Feb. 5.
"When my dad got to the Rams as coach in 1966, he saw the value of promoting the game and trying to fill the stadium,'' Bruce Allen said. "They were averaging about 40,000 fans a game, and Dad wanted more. He knew Ed, because Ed had made movies about the championship games before that, including the one when he coached in Chicago and they beat the Giants in 1963.
"Now, Dad was a square, and he viewed Ed as kind of a Hollywood guy. But Dad knew how good Ed was at making films. He let him inside the team, and he just wanted him to get deeper, get inside the game.
"Now, people would always ask me what it was like to be on the sidelines and what it was like to be around the team in the locker room, and I felt like I was so lucky to have a window into this football world that everyone wanted to know about. I wasn't able to really express words about how special it was to be inside. Then I watched what NFL Films did about our team -- and I watched what they've done for years after that -- and I say to people, 'That's the world I'm in! They showed the inner sanctum as it is!' ''
Says it all.
8. I think this is my this-just-in note of the week: The union doesn't trust Bob Batterman. At all.
9. I think my favorite press-box moment of the night Saturday -- I was sitting between Michael Vega of the Boston Globe and the Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin -- came when Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger got a half-sack on Ben Roethlisberger on the Steelers' final drive. Kruger. Hmmm. "It's a Festivus miracle!'' I said. Didn't take long for Vega to say: "He's airing his grievances against Ben.'' And that's why we make the big bucks, me and Vega.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. The new Oregon basketball court is the weirdest-looking basketball floor I've ever seen. How can you watch Oregon play on TV and not look more at the floor than at the game?
b. Wow. The Yankees are paying $12.3-million a year to a guy to pitch the eighth inning. Ridiculous.
c. But Rafael Soriano is worth it. That is a great signing by the Yankees. Imagine a one-run lead after seven, and Soriano and Mariano Rivera pitching the final six outs. Absurd to pay a non-closer that money? Maybe. But it won't be if he and Rivera are healthy and pitching the way they did in 2010.
d. My thanks to the management at The Claddagh, the Irish pub on Pittsburgh's South Side that hosted my little Tweetup Friday night. Tremendous job on the hosting and the space and the hospitality. Which brings me to ...
e. Beernerdness: Had one of the strangest and most interesting beers of my life at The Claddagh -- Vanilla Java Porter (Atwater Brewing Company, Detroit). Imagine a Guiness-textured beer with a slightly smaller head, smelling of espresso and vanilla latte, that goes down like a light beer. One word for it: unique. Enjoyed it a lot. And thanks to the two fans who brought Fat Head's Head Hunter India Pale Ale (North Olmstead, Ohio) for me to try. Very nice, A little potent for me, but tasty.
f. Coffeenerdness: While it isn't true that I choose hotels because of the adjacent coffee venues, let's just say I was enormously please that the Omni William Penn had the only sub-$200 nightly rate of the hotels my travel agent could find in downtown Pittsburgh over the weekend. And in the lobby is a full-service Starbucks, open early so I can nerdily get an early Sunday head-start on this column. Also love the old hotels with the grand lobbies, which this Omni has. Feels like you might see Big Daddy Lipscomb come walking around one of the huge columns in the lobby.
g. Going to see True Grit this week. Really want to see The King's Speech.
h. Anything happen in the Golden Globes? Missed it. Just know Melissa Leo was winning something when I looked up at the TV at one point.
i. And I'll leave you with this last thing. Last week, I wrote about the Tucson shootings peripherally, and asked, in a na´ve way I suppose, for people to stop yelling at each other in the media and in society. And I came across this nugget. Thursday will be the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's inauguration. In his speech that day, he asked the countries America was in conflict with -- the Soviet Union and Cuba, without mentioning them by name -- to be able to start over in discussing how to control the arms race.
"Let us begin anew,'' he said, "remember on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.''
That's not exactly what's happening in our world today, obviously. But I do think JFK's words 50 years this week have value for us. We can be strident without verbally slapping people around, critical without screaming. That's all.
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