"Somebody went after Jim? Lemme put it this way: I've been in fights with Jim before myself. I won a few early. Then it got slanted the other way after a while.''
-- Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, on his brother's confrontation with Jim Schwartz.
"When you stink, they're gonna let you know you stink. And I'm all kind of all right with that.''
-- Eagles coach Andy Reid, the embattled one, on the Philly fans. The Eagles, of course, came back from a four-game losing streak to win their first of many proverbial must-win games, at Washington on Sunday.
"As we look at the one-year anniversary, we can say it's a pretty happy anniversary. As we have studied it over the past year, there is no question in our minds that players have adjusted their target areas. There is no question they are aiming lower. I think we have a safer game than we had a year ago.''
-- NFL vice president Ray Anderson, the league's discipline czar, to me on the one-year anniversary (today) of the day the NFL experienced a barrage of major helmet hits and increased the fines on them drastically. I can tell defensive players don't like it still, and many have not changed a thing about the way they play. But some have, as Carolina linebacker Jon Beason told me: "Officials have told us to aim lower. We know it's their way or the highway.''
"Kind of like going from the Wood Memorial to the Kentucky Derby.''
-- San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, on the difference between coaching in college and in the NFL.
The attendees at former Broncos, Titans and Jets assistant Mike Heimerdinger's memorial service Friday night in Nashville: Former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher; Head coaches Mike Shanahan, Gary Kubiak and Jim Schwartz; club execs John Elway, Mike Reinfeldt and Rick Smith; assistant coaches Alan Lowry, Sherman Smith, Bobby Turner, Kyle Shanahan, Bob Slowik, Frank Bush, Dave McGinnis, Chuck Cecil, Rick Dennison, Alex Gibbs and David Gibbs.; players Benji Olsen, Brad Hopkins, Donnie Nickey, and Zack Piller. The wife of longtime friend and fellow Titans coach Jim Washburn drove to the service from Philadelphia.
Friends and relatives packed the church Friday, and I've mentioned only the ones you might know. But it's a pretty good sign of a man when that many people fly in during an in-season game week to pay their respects.
Lived in Jersey for 24 years, and in all those years I never actually walked in the Meadowlands. (Not many people do and live to tell about, I suppose.) Finally did on Saturday, taking my dog Bailey for a 90-minute walk on the roads and paths near the tall reeds and grasses in the area around the stadium there. My wife and I were in the area for a few days while waiting for the closing on our apartment in Manhattan; the timing of this move didn't exactly work out in a golden way, as you can tell. Have to say it was a very nice walk. At one point, Bailey ducked off a path and spent a good two minutes sniffing at one specific spot. I had to cajole her to come out of there.
"Jimmy Hoffa?'' I said.
Bailey had no comment. Smart dog. She knows what's good for her.
"Somehow, I'd never stood next to Calvin Johnson before. Jesus. Built like Karl Malone.''
-- @albertbreer of NFL Network, reporting from the floor of Ford Field Sunday morning.
"Derrick Mason: Rexiled."
-- @NYPost_Serby, columnist Steve Serby of the New York Post, after the Jets gave away wide receiver Derrick Mason (for a conditional seventh-round pick to Houston, following a Daily News story that some receivers went to Rex Ryan to complain about offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Mason is rumored to be the one who leaked the story.
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 6:
a. Are you trying to imitate Dwayne Bowe, Brent Celek? What a catch, tipping the ball to himself twice and catching it while on the ground.
b. Devin Hester. Said the same thing about Wes Welker last week: There's a good chance we'll be sitting in judgment about Hester for the Pro Football Hall of Fame some year.
c. Fred Jackson is so good. You know what's so impressive about him (and I knew this before his 80-yarder against the Giants)? His instincts. Such great feel for when he has tacklers around him.
d. Lots of tackling the right way Sunday -- like Terrence McGee of the Bills on Mario Manningham of the Giants.
e. Not Donovan McNabb's fault. Not at all. But Christian Ponder showed enough Sunday night that, if I'm Leslie Frazier, five games out of first place with 10 to play, I'm playing the kid. "I've got a lot of things to think about Monday,'' Frazier said after the 39-10 embarrassment in Chicago Sunday night.
f. Michael Irvin's right: Never thought I'd see an Eagle back as good and as versatile as Brian Westbrook for a while. Shady McCoy is.
g. What a hit by Nnamdi Asomugha on Chris Cooley, preventing Cooley from converting a third down into a first.
h. Loved the CBS iso-camera on Fred Jackson as he changed fields.
i. Didn't know you still had that leap in you, Kellen Winslow. What an athletic play, leaping a Saint in crunch time.
j. Brett Keisel: six tackles, two sacks, a tackle for loss, a pass defensed. Thought he was just a run-stopper.
k. Paul Posluszny: 16 tackles.
l. Michael Turner: 27 carries, 139 yards.
m. Rashard Mendenhall: 23 for 146. Is the run making a comeback? Some good days on the ground Sunday.
n. Corey Peters, that's one of the best big-man interceptions we've seen in years. You're a Wilfork.
o. Can't get over another Fassel making his name as an NFL coach. You go, John Fassel.
p. Looks like NFL Network might have good-fortuned its way into a great game in the Nov. 10 debut for Thursday night football: Oakland-San Diego.
q. I see Dallas Clark has rediscovered his hands.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 6:
a. What happened to your man coverage in the red zone, Colts?
b. Saturday, noon, college football, Louisville at Cincinnati. Attendance: 40,971. Sunday, 1 p.m., pro football, Indianapolis at Cincinnati. Attendance: 52,068 -- and it absolutely didn't look like that many.
c. Notice that every screen is now called a "bubble screen'' by every announcer?
d. Hey, Jermaine Gresham: A.J. Green's on the team now, and if you drop many more like the wide-open drop you had in the second quarter against Indy, Andy Dalton's going to throw the ball elsewhere.
e. It's always something with the Cowboys late in games.
f. What a bizarre, idiotic throw by Vince Young.
g. "Dirt on the face'' of Michael Vick? That's the reason Vince Young was in the game long enough to throw one of the silliest interceptions of the year?
h. I'm not exactly Joe TV, and I definitely learn something when I speak to him about football, but I really don't like all the screaming Steve Mariucci does. It's a communication business, not a circus.
i. I'm not writing a lot about it, and I don't fault Mike Carey for making the replay call he made allowing the touchdown catch by Nate Burleson. But we at NBC showed the Burleson catch and last year's Calvin Johnson catch side-by-side, and I don't know how you watch both of those catches -- with receivers stumbling after the catch, steadying themselves on the ground with the ball, the ball laying on the ground instead of in the receivers' hands at the end of the play -- and say one's a touchdown and one isn't.
Now, the league has made it more a point of emphasis this year that if there's significant time between the ball being possessed by the receiver and the ball leaving his grasp, and the player is able to make a football move in the process, then it should be a catch. Watch those two catches side-by-side. Other than the fact Burleson put the ball down out of the back of the end zone and Johnson put it down in the end zone, tell me the difference.
3. I think Mike and Kyle Shanahan will play John Beck at Carolina Sunday. Why would they not? They liked Beck a lot in the summer, and when Grossman won the job in September, it was by a sliver. I think they're anxious to see what they've got.
4. I think the reason Andy Reid wouldn't be on the hot seat, yet, is because not only hasn't his team quit on him yet, but also the players remain doggedly loyal. "We could be 1-13,'' Michael Vick said after the win at Washington, "and everything he tells us, we'd do.''
5. I think, if you're reading this between 8 and 11 Eastern Time Monday morning, you're reading while Sean Payton is under anesthesia and under the knife in a New Orleans hospital. He's having surgery to repair the medial collateral ligament, torn when Jimmy Graham plowed into him on the sidelines in the first half, and to mend the top of the tibia near the knee cap.
Ironic: Last week at practice, Payton was bragging to some players about how he never had to have surgery while he played college and pro (briefly) quarterback in the '80s. Days later, he'll miss the two game-planning days for the Sunday night game against Indianapolis because of the surgery. Expect him back at work sometime Tuesday or Wednesday.
6. I think you'll see an interesting new commercial on the air next Sunday. (You'll probably be so sick of it in two weeks you'll never want to see it again.) But it's one of those NFL Play 60 commercials, with players from one team getting on a yellow school bus to the tune of "The Power Is On,'' by The Go! Team. (I had to look that up. There's no way I would know who The Go! Team is -- the band is from Brighton, England -- as you well can figure.) But the song's catchy, and this commercial is pretty good too.
It's the Carolina Panthers on the bus with kids, then getting off to exercise with them. There's Cam Newton, nodding in tune with the song, and Steve Smith, and Ron Rivera, and Jon Beason, and other players ... and -- spoiler alert now -- when the front door of the bus opens up to let everyone out, you see the driver. Jerry Richardson, the Carolina owner. In a spiffy blue suit. "When we heard Mr. Richardson would be the driver, we were all like, "Whoaaaaa,'' said Beason. Beason agrees with me: "The music is very catchy.''
7. I think the reason Denver wideout Brandon Lloyd should go somewhere -- my choice would be the Rams, for a fourth-round pick -- is pretty simple. The acquiring team would owe him only $1 million for the rest of the year, and it would get a supremely motivated player because he's got to play for a new contract. And even if the acquiring team doesn't sign him, it would probably get a compensatory draft choice in return in 2013. So trade a four in 2012, get Lloyd to use for 10 games, and get a fifth-rounder, in all likelihood, in 2013 if you don't sign him.
8. I think Mike Florio and I are getting the hang of nailing each other pretty good on Friday night, when we argue about various and sundry football things on Versus on our NFL preview show. The other night one of the topics was a list of the top five receivers in football. Calvin Johnson was a pretty easy No. 1, and our lists weren't too different except for one thing: I had Wes Welker three, he didn't have Welker on the list. Florio's of the anyone-can-be-a-slot-receiver-for-Tom-Brady school. On Twitter, I see about half of you agreed with him, and half agreed with me. Fair enough.
But for those who say, "Anyone can do that with Tom Brady throwing the ball,'' I would say this: In 2007, with Brady his quarterback, Welker caught 112 balls for 1,175 yards, a 10.5-yards-per-catch average. In 2008, with Matt Cassel his quarterback, Welker caught 111 balls for 1,165 yards, a 10.5-yard average. Now, if you want to argue that slot receivers don't have the value of outside receivers, I'd almost get that one -- except that in many offenses, the slot receiver is as important as the outside receiver.
Look at what Peyton Manning did with Dallas Clark in the slot, following what Brandon Stokley had done. In today's offenses, the slot receiver is a vital chain-mover. If the Patriots have had one of the two or three best offenses in the game over the last half-decade -- which they clearly have had -- the most valuable receiver for them over that time (save for 2007, with Randy Moss) has been Welker.
9. I think I have graduated from the Tony Dungy School of Never Kick to Devin Hester. Ready for my graduate courses.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. What a week it was for birthdays: Favre 42, Steve Young, 50, Jerry Rice, 49, Jerry Jones, 69.
b. Ernie and Cheryl Johnson: saints. Nice job, Mike Lopresti.
c. And very nice job, Gary Myers, on Al Toon's son Nick, a wideout prospect at Wisconsin, with a good look at the history of concussions that affected Al, who will be inducted into the Jets Ring of Honor tonight in New Jersey.
d. I see the Big East is interested in adding Boise State. Boise is east, after all. Of Walla Walla.
e. Air Force at Central Florida. Now that's a great Eastern rivalry.
f. Almost as good as SMU versus Boise State.
g. Imagine a year when Boise State has road trips to play UConn and South Florida. That's 2,578 miles to Storrs, 2,629 to Tampa. That's what I call conducive to great regional rivalries.
h. My reaction to the Bob Hohler's Boston Globe story on the downfall of the Red Sox: superb story -- with an asterisk. If there's a reason to write about Terry Francona's use of pain medication, other than to say team sources "expressed concern'' that Francona's job performance "may have been affected'' by the use of pain medicine, it needed to be stated in the story. Without any hard and fast examples of him being affected -- slurring words, tardiness, aberrant behavior -- that's the kind of kind of thing I would have kept out of the story, because there's no reason to think it had anything to do with the Red Sox's 2011 performance.
But overall, the story was very good. So good, in fact, that it drove my brother-in-law (and I assume quite a few others) to say he was finished with paying a dime to the team. He told me he'd be dropping out of our little season-ticket consortium. I'll be very curious to see how much company he has.
i. Hooray for Curt Schilling on WEEI, ripping the players involved, particularly the three pitchers named (Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester) for often staying in the clubhouse when they weren't pitching to drink beer, play video games and eat fried chicken. (Nice bit of detail there, Bob Hoehler.) I wondered how common it was for players to not be on the bench during baseball games when they weren't playing. It seems wrong, unless they're getting some sort of medical attention or taking extra batting practice to prepare to pinch-hit.
Evidently, it's not common, and in fact, it's frowned upon. Which makes the added insult of beer-drinking even worse. (My other question: What if Lackey pitched three innings Monday, got shelled, threw only 58 pitches, and was in the clubhouse after five beers Thursday ... and the game went long. In the 15th inning, what if the manager called for Lackey to warm up, which starters once or twice a year have to do in extra innings -- and learned he was tanked? That's a good use of $16.5 million a year, which is what Boston pays Lackey. Is it too much to ask for the beer to stay unopened until after the game?
j. Anyway, here's Schilling on WEEI: "The amount of disrespect that the players involved here showed to each other, to the organization, to Tito [Francona], to the game, is staggering to me. Probably as staggering are some of the names that are on that list. I'm blown away. I'm incredibly disappointed. Things have changed here for a long, long time, and I think it's for the worse. I think the way that this was handled by the organization is pathetic and embarrassing. Why would you want to root for this team?"
And Schilling on what to expect next April: "This could be the most abysmal Opening Day in the history of sports. These guys are going to get booed. They are going to get booed. No matter what they say in the winter time, can you imagine John Lackey jogging onto that field? . I'm saying, John is going to get a Yankee-like reception.''
l. Really happy, by the way, for the Midwestern teams in the baseball playoffs. Tony LaRussa should be a miniseries. Or a reality show.
m. Congrats, Jon Daniels. Good man from New York who followed his dream of constructing a major-league baseball team and got it done in Texas.
n. Coffeenerdness: Green Mountain Keurig Cups, I'm getting used to you at Versus on Fridays. I use the French Roast pods, flush six ounces of boiling water through one, and then another, and have a very nice 12 ounces of bold-roast coffee.
o. Beernerdness: Had the Flying Fish Exit 4 American Trippel Ale the other night. Though you don't want to drink just one, the alcohol content (9.4 percent) almost forces you to. (Me, at least, because in the middle of the second one I was practically nodding off.) Mindful of the Dogfish Head 90 in taste and impact. Delicious and bold. But drink it slooooow. Hey, how about a really good beer from Jersey? Good job, Flying Fish.
p. Help out a good man, Buster Olney. The ESPN baseball writer is organizing a roundtable discussion in November in Vermont to help the flood victims of that suffering state. He's got a great event scheduled, plus an auction of some terrific baseball stuff.
q. And this, much to my delight, came in this morning at 2:51, from St. Louis native and Army First Sergeant Mike McGuire, the biggest Cardinals fan I know: "Peter, how about them comeback Cardinals? They come from 10.5 games out to make the World Series! Last time they won, I was deployed in Ramadi, Iraq. I will take a World Series title for this deployment! Take care, Mike."
Well. I can see MMQB has a rooting interest in the Series now. Thanks for writing, Mike.
Miami 23, New York Jets 20. Desperate times, desperate team, desperate win. By the Dolphins, I mean. Regarding the best thing that happened to the New Yorkers on Sunday: On the Sabbath, the Jets shutteth up.
Antoine Vermette scores two as the Coyotes beat the Avalanche
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