1. I think this is what I liked about Week 2:
a. Catch of the Week: Brandon LaFell, well covered, jumping at the back of the end zone to catch Newton's first touchdown pass of the day and then getting both feet barely in for the score. (The touchdown catch by Oakland's Denarius Moore in double coverage was amazing too.)
b. Pregame story of the week: FOX's Jay Glazer reporting Peyton Manning went to Europe for stem cell treatments on his ailing neck before undergoing surgery back here. Great item. Glazer's on HBO Real Sports this week! Looking forward to it.
c. Amazing interception of the day: Vince Wilfork's batted left-hand-to-right-hand-to-both hands job against Philip Rivers. Terrific hand-eye coordination there.
d. Good for Warren Sapp, laying it on the line about how the Steeler D is too old. He showed a good piece of video Sunday on how Casey Hampton got pushed around in Week 1, and said plainly he thinks the Steelers are too old to be great anymore.
e. You go, Mike Reiss. Way to be a TV guy!
f. Chris Mortensen's right: The Eric Berry injury will cause the NFL to look at whether cut-block-caused injuries could make cut blocks endangered -- and make downfield block only legal from the waist up. The Competition Committee will surely look at that.
g. Seattle safety Earl Thomas provided the only Seahawk highlight Sunday, busting through the line on a goal-line run to wrap up Rashard Mendenhall.
h. Can't make a nicer throw leading Devery Henderson, Drew Brees.
i. What a weapon that Rob Gronkowski is.
j. Tony Romo's guts in getting a cracked rib on the third play of the game, then throwing for 320 yards and leading the Cowboys to an overtime win at the Niners. As Rodney Harrison said on NBC last night: "Tony Romo had every excuse to give in. I missed two weeks with a cracked rib.''
k. Fred Jackson, you're trying to make C.J. Spiller redundant, and doing a good job of it.
l. Newton throws such a good fastball when off-balance or on the run that it's scary.
m. I give Leslie Frazier credit. He went out on a limb to get Donovan McNabb in the fold in Minnesota, and he's not giving up on him after eight mostly "D'' quarters. "This game wasn't his fault,'' Frazier told me. "He's our quarterback.''
n. Dwight Freeney's pass-rush and mauling of Colt McCoy on one early Browns-Colts play -- past tackle Joe Thomas -- was textbook.
o. Matt Forte's a slightly stronger Brian Westbrook.
p. As is LeSean McCoy. Two very good backs.
q. Pay Matt Forte, by the way, Jerry Angelo.
r. For years, I didn't think you could win with Rex Grossman. Too early to say definitively you can, but the first two games are a good start.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 2:
a. Seattle's possessions at Pittsburgh. They ended with a punt, punt, punt, end of the half, punt, punt, punt, punt, surrendered on downs, punt. Charlie Whitehurst anyone?
b. The overreaction to Brady joking about fans getting "lubed up'' for the Pats-Chargers game. As I said on our Friday night Versus show, watching Brady on video, he was clearly joking. To me, it's the PC police gone wild.
c. The overreaction to Chad Ochocinco saying he was "in awe'' of the New England offense, causing ex-Pat Tedy Bruschi to light him up because he shouldn't be in awe of anything; he should be in his playbook learning the offense so he can play more than a quarter of the first game of the year. I like Bruschi, but his reaction was waaaay over the top.
d. How does a team plane get stuck in the mud? That's what happened to the Cleveland Browns Saturday afternoon, making them three-and-a-half hours late on arrival to Indianapolis.
Let's say you got in your car in Cleveland and drove the 310 miles to Indy, all by interstate. That'd take four-and-a-half hours, driving between 65 and 70. By the time you do all the loading and packing and driving to the airport, and then landing and unpacking and driving to the hotel, I doubt the Browns would save much (if any) time by flying anyway.
e. Short career in Denver for Ty (useless $4 million this year) Warren, placed on IR over the weekend.
f. How strong a word can I muster up for the ugliness of the Jets' throwback uniforms, other than to call them throwup uniforms?
g. The same 30-second commercial three times in 53 minutes on NFL Network's pregame show Sunday, promoting part two of Bill Belichick: A Football Life. We get it. Part two of the two-hour show is Thursday at 10. You don't have to Whac-a-Mole us with it.
h. Twitter is "changing the league,'' ESPN? That was the tease from ESPN before a story on Twitter on the Sunday Countdown show. Come on. Coaches don't coach games differently because of Twitter. Players don't play football differently because of Twitter. I sincerely doubt fans watch the game differently because of Twitter. "Changing the league.'' Pfffffft.
i. You had better check that advice you're getting from the coaching booth on replays, Mike Tomlin.
j. Uh, Marv Albert: You called the Browns "the Cavs'' in the second quarter.
k. It's almost unfair to pick on Atlanta rookie punter Matt Bosher, because the Falcons made enough mistakes to go around. Punting from the back line of the end zone with four minutes left in the third quarter and Atlanta trailing the Eagles 24-21, Bosher shanked the ball off the right side of his foot. His 18-yard punt led to an ultra-short field, and the Eagles had only a 20-yard drive to make to lengthen their lead to 31-21.
l. Thirteen catches for Jeremy Maclin. One drop was bigger than them all.
m. Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson's helmet-to-helmet hit in the game Sunday night. No surprise here, but he may be the first player to be suspended for a game under the league's increased vigilance on vicious hits.
3. I think I gained a ton of respect for Julius Peppers and some of his Bear teammates over the weekend. Peppers rented a private plane to fly some players from Chicago to Lovington, N.M., early Saturday morning for the funeral of Brian Urlacher's mother, and after the funeral, flew the Bear contingent from New Mexico to New Orleans for Sunday's game. And Anthony Adams, Charles Tillman, Israel Idonije, Pat Mannelly and Chris Harris went to the funeral and split the cost of another charter. That's class, and love from teammates.
4. I think it's interesting Bill Leavy worked Sunday's Pittsburgh-Seattle game. His crew made some questionable calls six years ago in the Steelers' Super Bowl victory over the Seahawks, which fans in the Pacific Northwest will never forget. The rematch in Pittsburgh was relatively uneventful; six penalties on Seattle, four on Pittsburgh in a 24-0 Steeler win -- but it wasn't the first Seattle game Leavy's done since Super Bowl 40. Matt Hasselbeck pointed out to me Leavy did the 49ers' 23-10 win over Seattle on Sept. 20, 2009, in San Francisco.
5. I think one of the most interesting things I read Sunday came from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn (no surprise there), on Russ Ball, the unknown cap guy and football scouting aide to GM Ted Thompson. McGinn's not one to throw around praise if it's not well-deserved, and the behind-the-scenes Ball comes off as a candidate to be the next top GM candidate in the league.
It was interesting to read the very strong praise from Mike McCarthy, who has known Ball for 19 years. "I'd hire him,'' McCarthy told McGinn. "He's the best I've been around ... Russ manages the cap, but his people skills are second to none. He gives Ted the ability to be a GM and for me to be a coach. He is as involved as he [can be] in the personnel part of it.''
6. I think, just to set the record straight, Carson Palmer never went back to Cincinnati during training camp to plead for his job back, or to plead for them to deal him. Neither did his agent, David Dunn. Nothing's changed there: Palmer wants to play, but not for Cincinnati.
I do not see that changing this season, unless the Bengals choose to trade him before the Week 6 trading deadline. The only way that has a chance of happening is if a desperate team offers the Bengals a second-round pick for him. I don't see that happening, the way Palmer's played the last two years. No one knows if he's a premier player anymore.
7. I think a sucker punch to the gut (by Charles Woodson) should be fined more than a horse-collar tackle (by Troy Polamalu), not less. Woodson got $10,000, Polamalu $15,000. A horse-collar is more dangerous to a player's health, yes. But if you're going to fine one horse-collar, you've got to fine them all.
8. I think I think I have ticky-tack problems with the Belichick special on NFL Network. The main one is it's not a true documentary, because it was done by the league's TV-PR arm. That said, the first half of being embedded with Belichick for the 2009 season was tremendously insightful into Belichick the coach.
I remember how snide he could be with his players when I covered him as Giants defensive coordinator in the '80s. When he was unhappy with the work of his receivers in 2009, NFL Films caught him in a staff meeting saying acerbically: "Wednesday practice is over and where do the receivers go? Straight in. We've got it all down. We don't need extra work. That sums it up for me.''
Perfectly snide Belichick, sending a message to his coaches to get on the receivers to run some extra routes after practice. Secondly: Everyone's shocked to see Belichick grant this kind of access. But he has such an appreciation for history, football and otherwise, that he wants the story to be told right. And he wanted NFL Films to have a record of Belichick the coach, the way it had with Vince Lombardi and George Allen and Hank Stram.
I remember in 2004 being assigned a who-is-Belichick story by Sports Illustrated, and calling him and talking to him for an hour to get a list of the people he considered most important in his life. His list, from his youth, where his uber-educated mom helped him become a great reader to his apprenticeship under his father to high school to Wesleyan to his first job with the Colts to the Browns to the Giants to the Pats. He was exhaustive.
I remember him touting how significant Joe Bellino, a Heisman-winner-turned-Boston-businessman, was in helping his young players learn how to take care of themselves financially. His list certainly wasn't everyone I spoke with for the story, but it was a good start. So you can be sure Belichick understands how he wants to be remembered, and he does what he can to contribute to the finished product.
9. I think the NFL Network made a great hire, taking young and hungry Jeff Darlington from the Miami Herald. He'll be a difference-maker nationally the way he was in south Florida.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Carl Crawford in the 18 games against his buddies, the Rays, this year: eight singles, two doubles, no triples, no homers, no RBI, one steal, .208 batting average, .240 on-base percentage. That might be why
b. I had never heard of Desmond Jennings before the last couple of weeks -- he's the Rays' leadoff hitter -- but in a four-game series, he did more damage to the Red Sox than Crawford did to the Rays in a season of games.
c. Today Boston has Kyle Weiland and John Lackey going in a day-night doubleheader against Baltimore. This has to be the first Boston-Baltimore doubleheader in what -- 20 years? 30? -- played at Fenway Park when the Orioles would have the pitching advantage, by far, in each game. And I don't even care who they've got throwing.
d. It was swell to be in the crowd at Fenway the other night when Tim Wakefield, whose career is absolutely on fumes right now, won his 200th game. The crowd stayed for about 10 minutes after the game, waiting for Wakefield, a beloved player in Boston because of his longevity and his team-first ways, to come out of the clubhouse for an on-field interview, and when he did, what was touching was seeing all of his teammates -- I think everyone -- come out with him and watch him from the dugout as he talked and waved to the crowd. Wakefield's total class, even as his knuckle ball maddeningly flattens out and is BP for the AL East.
e. Justin Verlander's the American League MVP and Cy Young winner. Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira cancel each other out for the MVP, and Verlander's 24-5 with at least one start left.
f. Thanks for meeting me for lunch, Peter Abraham. The Boston Globe Sox beat man is not only great at his job, but also an excellent storyteller in and out of print.
g. Last week, you made my podcast with Nnamdi Asomugha the number three sports and recreation podcast in the country on iTunes. This week, you made the Thomas Dimitroff podcast number one. Thanks many times over for your support. I truly appreciate it. I want your suggestion to make the podcast better. Send 'em along.
h. Finally caught up on the end of the Curb Your Enthusiasm season. I'd give it a B-plus. Leon and Susan were A-plus characters last year, but there was something about the edge to them this year. They were very good, but not the edgy nut jobs of last season. Love the Bill Buckner scenes, particularly with the rescued baby (see? No spoilers here). Thought the Ricky Gervais stuff was forced and not very funny. But it's still a fantastic show.
i. Coffeenerdness: I committed one of the cardinal sins of the TV business the other night on the Friday night Versus show I do with Mike Florio and host Russ Thaler. I had a cup of Keurig French Roast on the set and put it on a small box, just under the desk, between me and Thaler. When he turned to me, he jostled the table and the uncovered coffee went flying. Idiot me.
j. Beernerdness: Pumpkin Ale is back. Had my first Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat, and though it doesn't have the sharp pumpkin taste of Saranac's pumpkin offering, it was crisp and quite good.
k. Electioneering is upon us. I detest negative campaigning. I should just disappear then, because that's what this one will be all about.
New York Giants 20, St. Louis 13. You might have to start respecting me as a picker of games. I'm 25-6 so far, including 13-2 this weekend (missing on the Houston and Tennessee victories). I wish I felt better about the beat-up Giants. I picked them because I know offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will be smarter than to give Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs a combined 19 carries and 20 total touches, which is what they had last weekend at Washington. They need 30 to 35 touches, minimum. That'll keep the Ram possessions down, and it'll keep Eli Manning from feeling the pressure of having to win a game with so many receivers either missing or hobbled.
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