1. I think Steve Smith is pretty happy he didn't shoot his way out of Carolina now.
2. I think it is wrong to coach players to fake injuries. I also think teams do it (I have long suspected New Orleans defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove took a dive in the Colts-Saints Super Bowl when Peyton Manning had Indianapolis rolling in the no-huddle in the second half), and teams coach it. There's little doubt of that. And I think the NFL needs to make sure officials on the field have the power to enforce a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when they have strong suspicions that it has happened.
It's ridiculous to bring up the specter of teams losing a draft choice if they're found guilty of having players take injury dives; a year after the threat to suspend players for egregious helmet-to-helmet and other dangerous hits, no one has been suspended. A lost draft pick is a pie-in-the-sky, never-will-happen, empty threat. Make the threat real, like a 15-yard penalty plus the player getting sent off for the rest of the series, or that series plus another one.
3. I think it's good to be reminded that this is the 10-year anniversary weekend for the Drew Bledsoe hit by Mo Lewis that led to the ascension of Tom Brady -- thanks, Adam Schefter -- but we all should remember one thing that, for some reason, seems to have been washed away by time. Brady's time was coming whether Bledsoe got hurt or not.
The Patriot staff, Bill Belichick and Charlie Weis most notably, were tiring of studying tape and installing a game plan during the week, then having Bledsoe change an inordinate number of plays and make decisions outside of the progressions Weis wanted in the passing game. Unless Bledsoe led the Patriots to the same Super Bowl victory Brady did in 2001, I believe the Patriots would likely have made the quarterback change before the 2002 season.
Bledsoe was a very good player for the Patriots, to be sure. But even in Buffalo, the staff tired of him taking such strong control of the offense -- and other things. The Bills let Bledsoe walk after some big losses in his third year with the team, 2004. None bigger than the last one, a loss to Pittsburgh on a windy day in Buffalo.
Winds were whipping up pretty strong that day, and before he walked out to midfield for the flip, Bledsoe was advised by coaches to choose to defend the east goal if Pittsburgh won the toss and elected to receive. (Though the official play-by-play listed the wind as coming from the south that day, Buffalo coaches felt it was an easterly wind.) That way, the Steelers wouldn't be wind-aided when they took the ball. Pittsburgh won the toss. Pittsburgh elected to receive. Bledsoe said Buffalo would defend the west goal. West?
Bledsoe explained that when he got to midfield, it seemed to him the wind was whipping around differently than the way the coaches thought, and so he picked the opposite goal to defend. Bledsoe had a seesaw 16-of-30 day and Pittsburgh won 29-24. Bledsoe never played again for Buffalo.
Bledsoe is very smart, but on a few occasions, thinking differently than his coaches hurt his employment career. And it affected the balance of power for years in the AFC East.
4. I think if you read nothing else this morning, read this sad/inspiring/sad piece by Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times Picayune. It's about the man who made the most famous block in Saints history five years ago Sunday in the team's first game back at the Superdome post-Katrina, safety Steve Gleason.
5. I think I don't recall offensive-line play being this sieve-like in the last few years -- particularly with Atlanta, Chicago and Pittsburgh. The injury-riddled Steelers line nearly got Ben Roethlisberger kayoed from the Sunday night game. I'll be curious to see if pressures and hits on passers rise to higher levels -- which, mathematically, they should. Bad news for quarterbacks.
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 3:
a. That's why they paid you the big bucks to come from Cincinnati, Johnathan Joseph, to pick off Drew Brees in a prove-it game for your Texans D. Even if, in the end, the Texans didn't prove it.
b. Even after he's being appreciated more, Trent Cole's underappreciated.
c. "Sounds like they're broadcasting from the shower,'' Dan Patrick said while we listened to the audio during the incredible first-half downpour in Charlotte for Jacksonville-Carolina, while Spero Dedes and Steve Beuerlein did a good job trying to see what was going on. For 15 minutes or so, it looked like the Fog Bowl in Chicago years ago.
d. We say this all the time, but this is zero percent exaggeration: Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 54-yard field goal at the end of the first half against the Jets that landed -- on a line drive -- two-thirds of the way up the net behind the goal post. That kick would have been good from 70. I'm sure of it. What a weapon Janikowski is.
e. Excellent job by FOX, and host Curt Menefee, to apologize for the network's bungled Chicago Bear reporting on a phony, negative Jay Cutler headline.
f. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who used to watch Tom Brady in his dorm room at Harvard, outdueled him. What a story.
g. Tom Coughlin. He can coach.
h. Fred Jackson. He can run. Stat of the day: Jackson leads all NFL backs with a 6.45 yard-per-carry average. McFadden's at 6.44.
i. Glad to see Jason Hanson kick the game-winner for Detroit. After all the years he played for awful teams, he should have one good year, at least.
j. Joe Flacco had the best throwing day of his career Sunday in St. Louis, 389 yards passing.
k. Big win for Seattle. Didn't know the Seahawks had it in 'em.
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 3:
a. Still waiting for Shonn Greene to take the Jets rushing job by the throat and run with it. Look at the comparison of backs Sunday in Oakland. It told the tale, basically. Green, 15 carries for 59 yards. McFadden, 19 carries for 171.
b. I'll tell you what's making Rex Ryan sick this morning: gaining 439 yards on offense, and losing by 10.
c. The phrase "indisputable evidence.'' Study it, referees.
d. Guess I don't blame the fans in Cincinnati, but a couple of wide shots of the game with San Francisco showed a lot of empty seats. When you don't sell out the home opener (the announced crowd was 43,363), and when you lose to the Niners, you could have some ugly home dates.
e. The options for Philadelphia at quarterback. If Mike Kafka or Vince Young has to start for the Eagles against San Francisco Sunday, Andy Reid will not sleep easy Saturday night. Kafka threw two interceptions in a cup of coffee relieving Vick, and Young has been nursing a hamstring injury and appears just about ready to play. But how much of the Eagle offense he knows is another matter.
f. It'll be a long time before Matt Cassel forgets the throw to Eric Weddle.
g. That wasn't a step back for the Rams, it was a football field back.
h. Billy Devaney needs to get more speed in the secondary, but I'm sure the St. Louis GM knows that.
i. Not to pick on Steeler left tackle Jonathan Scott, because Dwight Freeney has abused many an NFL tackle. But the Steelers need help on the line -- or they need to keep a tight end in consistently to help.
8. I think, speaking of another awful year in the NFC West, if 7-9 won it last year, 6-10 might this year.
9. I think Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum told a great story the other day about how Larry David called him out of the blue before the 2006 draft and told him he had to take Reggie Bush with the Jets' first draft pick. David's a big Jets fan. And he was in mourning when the Saints took Bush before the Jets were even on the clock. He shouldn't be now that D'Brickashaw Ferguson has solidified the New York left tackle job and Bush is struggling with his second team.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. It's the end of R.E.M as we know it, and I feel fine. Not really. But we did get some great music out of R.E.M. Thank you, Mike.
b. I'm thinking of using Pandora as my music source. Thoughts?
c. Not sure which is my favorite Red Sox collapse stat. Maybe this one: They've started the last 12 games in the hole, by the following scores: 2-0, 4-0, 2-0, 3-0, 3-0, 2-0, 3-0, 4-1, 1-0, 9-0, 4-0 and 3-0. That, folks, is how you blow a nine-game Wild Card lead in three weeks and stand one game up on Tampa Bay entering the final three games of the season.
d. Or this one: They're 2-18 this month when they don't score 12 runs or more.
e. Or how about this: In the first two weeks of the season and the last three, they've won 22 percent of their games (8-28); in the months between, they won 66 percent (81-42).
f. Or how about how game one Sunday in New York started, with Tim Wakefield on the mound and the Yankees clearly taking advantage of his age and his unpredictable pitch: bunt single, steal, bunt single, passed ball (for one run), passed ball, wild pitch (for a second run).
g. It was, however, nice to see Paul Simon at Yankee Stadium Saturday. And the Yankees did a terrific job honoring the memory of Roger Maris on the 50-year anniversary of his 61-homer season
h. It's nice to be able to overmanage when your bullpen is pitching well, but Joe Girardi was out of control Saturday, painfully and unnecessarily making three mid-inning pitching changes to match lefty for lefty, righty for righty, with a 9-1 lead.
i. Nice week for the Phillies. Lost doubleheaders to the Nats and Mets. Went 0-8 between Sunday (eight days ago) and Saturday.
j. To the many who have asked (honest: many have), yes, Leon has passed Marty Funkhauser on the Curb Your Enthusiasm male co-star power ratings based on the performance of the last two seasons. But if the writers would write Funkhauser into the series a little, maybe that would be a different story. Can't hit home runs if the manager doesn't send you up to the plate.
k. I think the whole college conference realignment thing is out of my league. I haven't followed it much, but this passage from Pete Thamel's Thursday column in the New York Times snapped me to attention, about the team in my native state, the UConn Huskies.
"UConn, which has no athletic director and a new president, may have nowhere to go. Because most realignment decisions are driven by football, joining Massachusetts in the Mid-American Conference could be UConn's best available option at this point.'' Eight observations:
I bet Paul Pasqualoni has a stronger word than that.
If I were UConn, I'd rather play as an independent.
In 2010, the UConn season began in front of 113,909 people in Ann Arbor (University of Michigan) and finished on New Year's Day in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. In the MAC, the UConn season could begin in Ypsilanti, Mich. (Eastern Michigan) and finish in Mobile, Ala., at the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
I just can't imagine the UConn press corps going to Athens, DeKalb, Mount Pleasant and Muncie. And Kent.
Now I know why former coach Randy Edsall left for what appeared at the time to be a parallel job, at Maryland.
I love the MAC. I went to Ohio U. I covered the MAC track championships in Ypsilanti once. But to think of UConn playing in it ... well, that's about the biggest headline of any of these conference changes to me.
Oh -- I wonder what Gary Patterson and the brain trust at TCU are thinking of their decision to join the Big East now. Suddenly, those trips to Fort Collins and Laramie don't seem so stupid.
l. Coffeenerdness: I did have a Yankee Stadium latte Saturday afternoon. Surprisingly competent. Not good, but passable, with good foam. It's the first baseball latte I've ever had that wasn't made in Seattle.
m. Beernerdness: Not sure who among the fine brewers up at Saranac, in Utica. N.Y., put out the Saranac Pomegranate Wheat Beer, but it's not good. Not at all. Had two sips of it Saturday night and it tasted something like a cross between cough medicine and spoiled Boone's Farm, with some tarnished fruit aftertaste. I did, however, love the label -- a bear in sunglasses, juggling pomegranates.
n. Congrats on the baby, Gregg Rosenthal. Gregg and wife Emeka had a girl, Ella, named after Ellis Burks, who was Gregg's favorite baseball player growing up rooting for the Red Sox. Yes, I did question the Rosenthals for not naming her Carleen, or Teddette, or something based on one of the great Sox players ever. But I will say this: Burks did have more career homers than Boog Powell, Ron Santo and Bobby Bonds. So you have my blessing, Rosenthals.
Dallas 23, Washington 20. Is Tony Romo incredibly brave, playing with a cracked rib and a punctured lung? Are Dallas doctors, as former quarterback and CBS analyst Boomer Esiason suggests, negligent for allowing him to play after the injury last week, and again tonight? Good debate.
Romo will be equipped with the kind of Kevlar vest that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan wear. As he told us on the Versus Friday night NFL preview show: "It's a pretty neat product. Thinner than you think. These things take bullets. They put people in 'em that take a lot more risk than I do.''
Well, the Redskins will be blitzing early and often, and Romo's favorite wideout, Miles Austin (hamstring), will be missing tonight. Be very happy if you have Jason Witten as your fantasy tight end.