Offensive Players of the Week
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina. In a loss, the Panthers won. With the best opening day by a quarterback in NFL history, Newton completed 24 of 37 for 422 yards (422!), two touchdowns and one interception. I didn't see much of the game, only the highlights, but Newton's competitiveness, his arm and his legs showed up at Arizona.
Down 7-0 early, Newton's 77- and 26-yard touchdown strikes to Steve Smith gave Carolina the lead. When the Cards tied it up, Newton bowled over from the 1 for another Panther lead. Think of the low expectations we all had of Newton. He was a downright star Sunday.
Rex Grossman, QB, Washington. The under-the-radar, terminally underappreciated Grossman -- rightfully so -- managed the game perfectly for the Redskins in a 28-14 win over the Giants. He completed 21 of 34 for 305 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions and a 110.5 passer rating. There's a reason father and son Shanahan picked Grossman over John Beck, because they loved Beck. And it's because Grossman had such a good summer. He continued that Sunday.
Defensive Players of the Week
Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago. In the last three or four years, some have tried to put Urlacher out to pasture. Not dominant. Piles on too many downed runners instead of making big plays himself.
How do you spell "pshaw"? Ridiculous. And he showed that Sunday in a 30-12 stunner over the Falcons. His parallel-to-the-ground, diving interception, his 12-yard fumble return for a touchdown, his team-high 10 tackles ... just a tremendous sideline-to-sideline performance for a team that loudly pronounced it's still going to be a very big factor in the NFC playoff race.
Mario Williams, OLB, Houston. Since being drafted No. 1 in 2006, Williams and his Texans had gone 2-8 against the Colts with Manning at quarterback. The rout Sunday was obviously helped by the switch to Collins, but Williams' two sacks and a forced fumble were helped markedly by the fact that Williams could pin his ears back against Collins instead of being matadored over and over by Manning. Williams was in the backfield as much as the Texans hoped he'd be when they moved him to linebacker.
Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Washington. Good game, rook. And great point by NBC's Alex Flanagan, who said Kerrigan never scored in his starry career at Purdue, but he did get an interception and touchdown in his first pro game. Early in the third quarter of a 14-14 game, Kerrigan evaded a lunging cut block by Giants right tackle Kareem McKenzie, leaped and intercepted an Eli Manning pass. He returned it nine yards for the decisive touchdown in a 28-14 Washington win.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Ted Ginn, WR/KR/PR, San Francisco. Hard to be a more valuable special-teamer than Ginn was in the 49ers' season-opening win over Seattle. When the Seahawks got to within 19-17, Ginn returned a kickoff 102 yards, and later a punt 55 yards, both for touchdowns, to make the difference in a 33-17 win.
Randall Cobb, WR/KR/PR, Green Bay. We all know the story by now -- he wasn't supposed to return a kickoff past five yards deep in the end zone, and he returned a kickoff eight yards deep, and he went 108 yards with it. "Thank God he couldn't hear what was being said into our headsets,'' coach Mike McCarthy said afterward. For the game, he had 175 all-purpose yards in his NFL debut: 135 on kick returns, five on a punt return, and 35 on two receptions. Nice start.
Coach of the Week
Chan Gailey, head coach, Buffalo. A year ago, the Bills lost in overtime to Kansas City. What a difference a season makes. The Bills dominated from the start, abusing Matt Cassel with some new defensive parts and pounding the Chiefs through the air and on the ground, and Gailey returned to the place where he was fired two years ago to embarrass the Chiefs and put early heat on the coach who decided he was expendable, Todd Haley.
Goat of the Week
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas. See above. I don't want to kill a guy I like twice in one column.
Noted New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has to be polishing up his drawing board this morning, figuring out what to draw on it. In the Saints' last two games, the defense has been awful. Against one struggling offensive team (Seattle, in the playoffs last year) and one superior one (Green Bay, on Thursday), here's how the Saints' defense fared in eight quarters combined:
Defensive points allowed: 76
Touchdowns allowed: 10
QB line: 49-of-70 (.700), 7 TD, 1 Int., 122.6 rating
Yards allowed: 814
With Manning missing his first game after 13 straight years starting, it falls to the next man on the list to break the Brett Favre consecutive quarterback starts record. Next on the list: brother Eli, who started his 111th straight game (including playoffs) Sunday afternoon at Washington. Favre is at 321, including playoffs. So Eli has 211 straight starts to go. Assuming no playoff games are played by Manning (a faulty assumption, but I'm not going to guess at it), calculating when Eli would pass Favre shows just how amazing the Favre streak is.
That would be Week 4 in 2024.
Randall Cobb's nickname inside the Packer locker room is Corn.
I've been on some short flights before, but how's this for the 66-miles-as-the-crow-flies puddle jump from Chicago to Milwaukee last Tuesday:
7: Minutes from the time we got above 10,000 feet and could use laptops to the time we were on our final descent and had to turn off all electronic devices.
27: Minutes from takeoff to landing.
For those who would ask (I might be one of them if I hadn't flown myself and knew my itinerary), "Why'd you fly from Chicago to Milwaukee?'' the answer is that I flew from Boston to Milwaukee, with a plane change in Chicago. Normally I might just get a rental car in Chicago and drive up, but I was able to use the time at O'Hare to finish my Tuesday column.
I was in Milwaukee Tuesday afternoon to speak to students at Marquette. Afterward, I drove two hours to Green Bay, directly to an NBC planning dinner at the Brett Favre Steakhouse. I got off the highway, took a right on Holmgren Way, drove a mile or so to Brett Favre Pass (just before intersecting with Lombardi Avenue), took a right on Brett Favre Pass, and pulled into the parking lot at the steakhouse. Had I driven further on Brett Favre Pass, I'd have come to Tony Canadeo Run. From there, I'd have been able to take a left onto Reggie White Way, or I could have driven another block and dead-ended at Bart Starr Drive.
Rumor has it Green Bay's a football town.
So when Hurricane Irene was headed up the East Coast, ESPN's Adam Schefter, who lives right in the path of the storm on Long Island, thought he should pack up the family -- wife, two kids, dogs -- and drive west. He found a Hampton Inn in Hershey, Pa., that would take dogs. Oh, Schefter has dogs all right. Five of them: four Labradoodles, one Wheaton Terrior, all between 25 and 90 pounds. So into the family SUV went this modern-day National Lampoon Vacation trip, with nine living beings and Schefter as Chevy Chase.
"Other than the grandmother tied to the roof, it was exactly the same trip,'' Schefter said.
They made the four-hour drive to Hershey Saturday morning, and when the power was lost in his town, they decided to stay a couple of extra days. Through Wednesday. "We had seven living beings sleeping on the bed at one point,'' said Schefter. And housekeeping? Never happened. They made the bed themselves and just exchanged towels with the maid. Too much mayhem in the room to clear out and let cleaning happen.
The power on Long Island was still out when they decided to drive back home -- saying they were getting on each other's nerves might be understating it. On the way home, his son, wife and Schefter all traveled with a dog on the lap. "Driving four hours with a dog on your lap -- that's a lot of fun,'' said Schefter. And when they got home ... surprise! A foot of water in the basement.
"Let's just say I was pretty happy to get back to work,'' Schefter said.
"Cromartie Island is sinking.''
-- @PriscoCBS, Pete Prisco of CBS Sportsline, after cornerback Antonio Cromartie of the Jets allowed his second touchdown reception of the night, a tug-of-war he lost with Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin.
"Thank God! My brother @tpolamalu will retire a Steeler! That's the way it should be! Thank God!"
-- @RealRClark25, Ryan Clark, the running mate of Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu, who signed a contract through the 2014 season Saturday afternoon at the Pittsburgh airport, before the Steelers left for Baltimore.
"People so wishy washy, you either on the train or you not. Our team has each other back thru the good and the bad that's why we'll be great!''
-- @mark_ingram28, the rookie running back of the Saints, after the opening loss to the Packers. Evidently, he doesn't want bandwagon-jumpers.
"Moon lit sky, free I lay. These words kiss thoughts and walk miles for you. We own the night.''
-- @ArianFoster, the Houston running back, who is a poet and writer when not rehabbing a bad hamstring and trying to run over foes. He wrote that at 11:14 p.m. Central Time Tuesday.
"Sad to see how rusty these elite QBs are after the lockout. It's going to be a few weeks before everyone gets on the same page.''
-- @ericwinston, the Houston right tackle, after watching the two sides Thursday night run up and down the field on each other -- 84 passes thrown, no interceptions.