1. I think this is what I liked about Week 9:
a. Terrific strip/forced fumble by DeMeco Ryans in Houston, which effectively ended the game with Cleveland. The Texans, already up 7-0, finished their second scoring drive quickly
b. That Tony Romo can sure hold.
c. Something you don't see every day: Patrick Willis getting trucked. Washington fullback Darrel Young steamed him on the sideline on a pass play.
d. Don't see many better fade routes, throws and catches than the Drew Brees-to-Lance Moore job late in the first quarter of the game against Tampa Bay.
e. Excellent replay reversal, Mike Carey. He overturned a diving Julio Jones catch at the Indy goal line, ruled an incompletion on the field, and correctly ruled that Jones had both hands under the ball as he hit the ground. Touchdown, Jones.
f. Brees, 36 straight games with a touchdown pass ... 11 games behind Johnny U's record.
g. Red Bryant's playing like a monster for Seattle.
h. Speaking of Seattle monsters: Cornerback Richard Sherman, a rookie from Stanford, saved a Dallas touchdown with a bone-jarring forced fumble on Dez Bryant. No ifs, ands or buts -- that hit by Sherman prevented Dallas from taking a 10-point lead in the second quarter.
i. What an effort by Rian Lindell, saving a touchdown with a diving shoe tackle of Jets kick-returner Joe McKnight.
j. Great line by FOX's Chris Myers on Dallas-Seattle: "Why do I think of the Big Lebowski when I see Rob Ryan?''
k. Let history note that at 3:01 p.m., in Orchard Park, N.Y., history was made. Darrelle Revis allowed a 53-yard completion to Stevie Johnson.
l. Tim Tebow's 2-1.
m. Top three receivers in football: Wes Welker, Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham. Who had that trifecta in the office pool?
n. Will Svitek had help, but his protection of Matt Ryan was very good.
o. Jerry Reese's architecture job with the Giants.
p. Carlos Dunlap, with two sacks and more pressure for the Bengals.
q. Steven Jackson. What a horse: 29 carries, 130 yards.
r. Cris Collinsworth, on the end-zone drop by Torrey Smith of the Ravens: "That's a championship play. It's not a simple catch, but it's a catch that has to be made."
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 9:
a. Protect yourself, Dustin Keller. That sort of leap you made against Buffalo is just too dangerous.
b. Uh-oh. My Friday column guy, Derrick Johnson, let Anthony Fasano get way behind him and score a touchdown in the Chiefs debacle against formerly winless Miami.
c. Brutal throw, Matt Ryan, the misguided toss from your own end zone that was picked and returned for a touchdown by Jerraud Powers.
d. Ryan Fitzpatrick's first-half passer rating: 2.8.
e. Looks like you panicked on that pooch punt fiasco, Dustin Colquitt.
f. The Chiefs, losing by 28 to Miami.
g. The idiotic inconsistency of flags for hitting receivers very hard, legally.
h. How was that not offensive pass interference on Plaxico Burress on the clear shove before the touchdown pass to LaDainian Tomlinson? He mugged the DB.
i. Philip Rivers, officially out of sorts, misses Sproles.
j. Green Bay, for all its greatness, giving up 38 points and 460 yards to the Chargers on a muddy track.
k. John Skelton's Orlovskian end-zone awareness. You've got to know when to throw it away, and how to throw it away back there.
3. I think there's so much that makes me sick about the Jerry Sandusky story, but the timing of the case troubles me greatly. It took 13 years from the time it first became known to authorities that there was credible evidence that Sandusky was a sexual predator for the man to be indicted. Thirteen years! When I read the grand jury report Saturday, with the mountain of evidence against Sandusky, including a monitored 1998 conversation with an angry mother of a son who he all but admitted to abusing, I just kept thinking, How many boys had their lives changed forever because this case somehow didn't get on the front burner of law enforcement?
The benign neglect of it should haunt authority figures at Penn State and in law enforcement in the area forever. And if his position as a football coach in a powerful program is found to have had anything to do with the power over young boys that he allegedly exercised, then shame on the football culture that holds too much influence over our lives. As for the future of Joe Paterno, the status of a football coach who should have retired long ago is not foremost on my mind with this story. But if he in any way attempted to either look the other way or influence the outcome of any investigation in Sandusky's behavior (and there is no evidence he did), he'll deserve his day in court too. What a sad day for America.
4. I think this is what makes the Matt Forte contract situation so difficult to solve: guaranteed money. Four star backs have gotten new deals in the last few months, with significant guarantees. They are Adrian Peterson ($36 million), Chris Johnson ($30 million, DeAngelo Williams ($21 million) and Frank Gore ($13.5 million). Peterson and Gore have played well this season; they are second and third in the league in rushing yards this morning. Johnson and Williams are 28th and 29th in the league in rushing.
Before the season, Forte and his agent turned down a contract with between $13 million and $15 million guaranteed. Forte told our NBC SportsTalk show on Versus Friday night that there had been more contract talks recently, and certainly those would have included a ratcheting up of the guaranteed number. Question is, what do you give a back like Forte? He's 25 (turning 26 next month), and set to be a free agent after this season.
The Bears could label him the team's franchise player and keep him next year; the franchise number won't be determined until after the season, but it's likely to be about $7.8 million. So the Bears could franchise Forte for a total of $17.2 million over the next two years (2012 plus 120 percent of that number for 2013). Or, in keeping with what other top backs have received recently, they're supposed to hand him $30 million guaranteed? That's not really acknowledging the fact that Chicago has the leverage of the franchise tag.
5. I think Forte and the Bears are at least $10 million guaranteed apart. Unless Forte comes down toward the Williams neighborhood of guaranteed money -- or unless he continues to put up 175 rushing-receiving yards per week -- I can't see the Bears folding.
6. I think, as I said on NBC Sunday (what, you were watching the end of the Giants-Pats?), Forte's not the only back looking for a new deal. Ray Rice is too. Very quietly. Both Forte and Rice have contracts expiring at the end of the year.
7. I think DeAngelo Williams' season is a mystery. He's not hurt, but he's averaging only nine carries a game, and Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton are equal rushing threats.
8. I think Colt McCoy cannot afford games like he played in Houston Sunday. You're on trial, son. Cleveland's scouting quarterbacks, and the 2012 draft will be full of them, and you can't go 6-of-12 for 54 yards and a pick and fall behind 24-3 at the half against anyone. No way Cleveland won't be looking long and hard at quarterbacks next April.
9. I think there's black crepe paper all over Miami this morning. They just experienced The Day They Lost Their Real Chance At Andrew Luck.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. "Fire Edsall'' chants at Maryland? In the ninth game? Sheesh.
b. Best New York Post description of Kim Kardashian: "big-bottomed professional celebrity.''
c. OMG! Pam pregnant!
d. I mean, I caught 10 minutes of The Office the other night and saw a weird-looking James Spader and Stanley being way too congenial (what's up with that?) and Pam being pregnant and Dwight being funny. Now Dwight funny, that's good.
e. Every time I think of that Sandusky story I want to punch a wall.
f. Good luck in the job, Ben Cherington. One piece of advice, and the only one, and one you probably don't need to hear, from a Red Sox season-ticket holder (with others): Don't take lightly the anger of the fans over this players-drinking-during-games issue. Not acceptable under any circumstances. I can tell you from the fans I know well and talk to, this is still very much an open wound, and you would be smart to not ignore it.
Other than some CYA words from John Henry on the radio, the team has done an awful job of addressing the stories of players not taking their jobs seriously enough. You, or someone of great importance there, need to understand it's not going away. I mean it when I say good luck. You come highly recommended.
g. Old buddy Brian Hyland went to the two private Springsteen shows in Pittsburgh over the weekend (to raise money for wounded servicemen) and filed this series of texts to me: "In the Soldiers & Sailors Hall, in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, the backyard of a tiny home where an NFL legend named Marino was taught by his steelworker pop how to throw a football better than anyone ever has, in a building built at the turn of the 20th century, the granite halls surrounding the stage exhibit glass-enclosed renderings of the American soldier as he looked in each war this nation has fought. Over this tiny stage, so ordinary you'd expect to watch a second-grade performance of the Wizard of Oz, reads every word of the Gettysburg Address. In this setting -- in Steel Town, on Ravens Weekend, surrounded by a crowd of 2,000, nearly all clad in black and gold, with Roethlisberger and Keisel backstage nodding approval -- steps Springsteen, his guitar a lunchpail in a lunchpail town. With a mighty "1, 2, 3, 4.' The strings are struck and for two hours the earth shakes.''
h. Why don't I get those assignments?
i. A huge thank you to the hotel where NBC housed me for the last couple of years on NFL weekends, the Omni Berkshire Place on Fifth and 52nd. Great hotel. Friendly but not obtrusive staff, and comfy, quiet rooms. I'll be back to say hi.
j. Coffeenerdness: Now, on the homestretch of writing this column, I get to brew my own Starbucks Italian roast for the last 1,000 words or so. Believe me, I need it then.
k. Beernerdness: Tried the Captain Lawrence Pumpkin Ale the other day. Not my style. I want a pumpkin ale with a heavy bite of pumpkin, not a faint taste.
l. Congrats to Apolo Ohno, a first-time marathoner, for running the New York Marathon is 3:25.14. Heartier congrats to another first-timer, Jennie Finch, coming after the birth of her second child, for her time 4:05. That's some accomplishment.
m. Fun event of the weekend: Riding through Central Park on a bike Saturday morning. I could get used to that.
Philadelphia 23, Chicago 21. Something's got to give: Eagles back LeSean McCoy's gashing the opposition for 5.6 yards a carry, Matt Forte of the Bears for 5.4. My money's on the Eagles to hold the line slightly better, and to protect the quarterback loads better.
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