1. I think this is what I liked about Week 1:
a. Fantastic tribute, not too over the top, for the eight early games. DeNiro was good, the taps emotional, the field-length flags appropriate, and the anthems good. (I heard three.)
b. Good to see new life from John Kasay Thursday night. He had his first non-Carolina field goals in the NFL since 1994, kicking two for the Saints.
c. Fantastic add by Phil Simms on the initial touchdown Sunday in Baltimore, saying Ravens coach John Harbaugh texted Joe Flacco and told him on tight coverage, don't be afraid to try to stick the ball in there. That's precisely what Flacco did early in the first quarter of the opener against Pittsburgh.
d. It took Mario Williams exactly six minutes to begin to prove Wade Phillips right. He got around Dallas Clark from the standup outside linebacker position and nailed Kerry Collins.
e. It took Chris Long eight minutes. More credit to Long. His was of Michael Vick.
f. Ben Tate, Houston, 24 carries for 116 yards. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
g. Bruce Gradkowski was more than a clipboard-holder in Cleveland. His on-target 41-yard touchdown pass to rookie A.J. Green, the first in Green's career, was the winner in Cincinnati's 27-17 upset of Cleveland.
h. No matter how we try to marginalize Cedric Benson, he keeps coming back and playing well: 125 more rushing yards Sunday.
i. Jag Mike Thomas is a tough little receiver. Physical, too. Just doesn't drop the ball.
j. Philip Rivers had it when he needed it.
k. As did Mark Sanchez. That was a weird game in the Meadowlands, but the thing I like about the Sanchize (26 of 44, 335 yards) is he doesn't let four or five bad series carry over to late in the game, when he knows he has to be good.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 1:
a. Well, Michael Irvin sure gets the shiny-silver-suit award for Week 1.
b. Sidney Rice, inactive (shoulder). Just leads to more thought that Rice is not going to be as durable as needed to be one of the highest-paid skill players in football.
c. Gotta catch that ball, Andre Johnson, and not let it slip through the hands for an Indy pick.
d. Still waiting for the Eagles to touch Steven Jackson on that long first-quarter touchdown run.
e. You too, Tennessee D, on the Maurice Jones-Drew touchdown run.
f. So much for the great story of the Baylor firefighter going in the first round to Philadelphia: Guard Danny Watkins, who just lost the starting right guard job, was a healthy inactive for the Eagles.
g. Horsecrap Journalism of the Week Award: To FOX, for taking my quote from Tony Dungy about Lee Roy Selmon and putting it on the screen of the Lions-Bucs telecast without sourcing.
h. In the last two drafts, the Bucs picked four defensive linemen in the first two rounds: Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers. Combined, they had five tackles, no sacks, no quarterback pressures on Sunday. Yikes.
i. In fact, the Bucs had no sacks and no pressures ... against a Detroit offensive line that isn't in the league's upper echelon. That's a bad sign for a team that will live or die on its young defensive stalwarts.
j. Kerry Collins. I know it's not all his fault, but he looked his age in Houston.
3. I think before we move too far away from Thursday night's game, I have to give a nod to New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston. I know he fumbled on the Saints' first series, leading to a short field and an easy second touchdown for the Packers. But late in the fourth quarter, with the Saints down eight and driving to try to tie it up with no timeouts left in the last minute, he did something pretty brave, and smart.
Drew Brees threw him a 23-yard post, and Colston made a diving catch with 31 seconds left. The dive fractured his collarbone. If he lay on the turf with, say, 27 seconds left, the officials would have called for an automatic 10-second runoff because the Saints had no timeouts left. Then the Saints ran to the line, Colston knowing his collarbone was broken, and he lined up because there wasn't time to get off the field, and Brees threw a short pass to Darren Sproles, and then Colston had to get back to the line again for Brees to spike the ball. Tick, tick, tick. Finally, with three seconds left, Colston was able to get off the field. Now he's out for at least a month. Those are the kinds of sequences you remember about a player. At least I will.
4. I think the one thing to know about the new deal between the NFL and ESPN that interests me a lot is that the deal includes no playoff games, with an asterisk. If in any way ESPN telecasts a playoff game -- either because the playoffs are expanded sometime between 2014 and 2021, or because the league hands them a playoff game from the existing inventory -- the network will pay what I'm told is a huge premium price.
5. I think it's admirable for the Steelers to have given Troy Polamalu a contract extension through the 2014 season, with three new years totaling about $30 million to tack onto the end of this year's deal. But what worries me is Pittsburgh has the oldest starting defense in football since the turn of the century, and this contract pushes their 2012 cap -- as of today, with the full knowledge that it can change by cutting players whose 2012 deals would be onerous on the cap -- to more than $20 million over the projected 2012 spending limit. This was a good deal for Polamalu, and if he plays like he has for most of his career, it will be money well spent. But I have my doubts that a man who has thrown his body around the way he has will still be great in 2012, never mind '13 or '14.
6. I think the underrated player of the day has to be Mike Scifres, the San Diego punter, who subbed for the injured Nate Kaeding against Minnesota and boomed a 40-yard field goal to the back of the net that would have been good from 55. He hadn't kicked a field goal against a rush since placekicking for Western Illinois against Western Kentucky in the 2002 NCAA Division I-AA football playoffs. And his holder, Eric Weddle, wasn't the usual holder either; Scifres holds for Kaeding. "So today was the first day Eric held in a game, and the first day I kicked in a game in the NFL,'' he said after the game. "I was a little nervous, and now, driving home, I still find it hard to believe I did it, honestly. I'm kind of shocked. But it comes back to you: swing easy, just try to make solid contact, don't try to hit it too hard.''
7. I think there will be a female NFL official by 2014. My guess is 2013. Not a referee, but a field official at one of the other six positions. The league is scouting the small handful of female officials at the major-college level this year, and it's not the first year a search has been conducted.
8. I think it's been a long time -- maybe ever -- since I've seen fans as imaginative as the three I met on the sidelines in Green Bay the other night.
9. I think the oddest story angle of Week 1 had to be this: On a day Kerry Collins got pulverized and was almost wholly ineffective, he had 197 passing yards and passed Joe Montana into 10th place on the all-time passing-yards list, with 40,638.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Great new logo and uniforms, Winnipeg Jets. Love this logo.
b. Sidney Crosby, on the chance his post-concussion syndrome might end his career: "It's a pretty slight one. I wouldn't bet on that.'' Let's hope he's right.
c. I love quirky little stats like this one: Last Monday and Tuesday, the White Sox and Twins played three times at Target Field. Chicago won all three. I'd be hard-pressed to figure three straight games this year in which the starting pitching was as dominant. Chicago's Phillip Humber, Zach Stewart and Jake Peavy put this pitching line together over the three games:
d. If Armageddon ever happens, I hope it's not during the two weeks of the U.S. Open. Not sure the New York Times could find space for it, what with all the tennis.
e. Love watching Panda's at-bats.
f. Sorry. I liked the Maryland uniforms. They look like the state flag. Thought they were fun.
g. Liked Maryland's. Loved both Michigan's (with the great block "M" on the front and the stripes on the shoulders) and Notre Dame's. And if you want me to start watching college football again (NO!!! Too many other things to follow!), show me a few more of those Notre Dame-Michigan games, with three touchdowns in the last 75 seconds, and Denard Robinson accounting for 446 yards of offense -- 400, seemingly, in the last few minutes. Wow.
h. Beernerdness: Yes, I had the Spotted Cow in Wisconsin. Good summer beer. Light and a little cloudy-yellow. You could probably drink a lot of them and be relatively unaffected. Problem was, I had it at the end of a very long day in Green Bay last Wednesday (at the incomparable Nicky's Lionhead), and barely made it through one. Too tired. But I approve.
i. Coffeenerdness: I tried the Alterra Coffee in the Milwaukee Airport, as many of you suggested. I've had it before and liked it OK, but there was some different taste to it that I couldn't quite figure out. This time I could: licorice. And licorice in the espresso -- uh, no.
j. Coffeenerdness II: What a good coffee town Appleton, Wisc., is. In a two-block stretch of downtown on College Avenue (I once had night-before-the-game dinner with Bears linebacker Ron Rivera in an Italian place on this street), there are local espresso places -- the trendy and modern Copper Rock, the homey and filled-with-locals Brewed Awakenings -- and if those aren't good enough for you, there's a Starbucks on the corner. I can't imagine there's a better downtown coffee experience in a medium-sized, middle America city.
k. And thanks to Ira Freehof and his wonderful Comfort Diner on 45th Street in Manhattan for giving me a great place to write Sunday morning -- and some pretty good oatmeal pancakes.
l. Interesting 15-second experience in my Manhattan hotel Saturday. Got stuck in an elevator, sort of, with Bob Lanier. You know, the Hall of Fame basketball player. I was on the elevator, it stopped at Lanier's floor, he got on, doors closed ... and nothing. For 15, 20 seconds. Then I opened the doors by pressing the door open button, let them close again, and finally we got down to the lobby.
He told me his favorite stuck-in-an-elevator story, then we were off. But before we left, I did manage to look down at his feet. I'd always been amazed as a kid to read that Bob Lanier had size-22 feet. And though I didn't measure (wouldn't that have been an interesting sight?), they sure looked like big shoes to me.
m. Great story about the dedication of kids in flood-ravaged Vermont to even GET to to school with so many washed out roads.
New England 37, Miami 20. I understand many of you Fin fans are upset with me picking New England to put up 37 on the Miami D. (You guys are pretty active Tweeters.) Some of that comes from New England averaging 39.8 per game on its last four trips to south Florida. Some, too, about the Pats' penchant for forcing turnovers. Tony Sparano knows it.
"They were plus 28 in turnovers last year and they won a ton of games," the Miami coach said Saturday, "so the importance is that when you turn it over against this team, at least in the past --and every year is a new year -- but when you turn it over against them in the past, they would turn it back over into about 63 percent scoring, which is one of the best in the league. They had 31 possessions and turned them into 19 scores.'' Be warned.
Oakland 21, Denver 20. Bad news for Jason Campbell: no Kevin Boss (knee) in what should have been his Raider debut. Campbell needs his tight end, and the Raiders have big plans for Boss in Hue Jackson's offense. For Denver to take advantage of that absence, the Broncos will have to fly around Campbell with a newly credible pass-rush (Elvis Dumervil, rookie Von Miller). That's why it'll be so close. But Oakland's run game will win out, I believe. If you stay awake until 1:20 or so Tuesday morning in the East, you'll get to see this second game of tonight's ESPN doubleheader. I'll be TiVoing, thanks.
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