1. I think this is what I liked about Week 11:
a. Now this is good reporting: Mike Klis of the Denver Post, midway through Oklahoma-Baylor Saturday night, had Broncos president John Elway and GM Brian Xanders in the house scouting. Interesting that both teams have first-round-caliber passers, Landry Jones and Robert Griffin III.
b. Eric Mangini's really good on TV. Smart. He distills complicated football concepts down to understandable terms. Jet fans would be surprised to hear this, but I find him likable on ESPN.
c. Welcome to the 2011 season, Taylor Mays. The hit of the day by Mays on the Ravens' return man, Tom Zbikowski, set a tone for the Bengals that normally might be set by the absent Ray Lewis of Baltimore.
d. Miami tight end Anthony Fasano, who makes a play every week.
e. B.J. Raji. The Fridge, 26 years later.
f. Jordy Nelson gets better every time I watch him.
g. Christian Ponder, turning what should have been a sack into a 28-yard drive-saving scramble.
h. Guess who's got the AFC's best road record. It'll surprise you. Oakland (4-1). Raiders hung on at Minnesota.
i. Second-best? Surprise you even more. Cincinnati (4-2).
j. Michael Bush, 60 carries for 266 yards the last two games. How many backs in this day and age get 30 carries two weeks in a row?
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 11:
a. I'm a fan of Jon Gruden's analysis most of the time, but he loses me when he says that Greg Jennings "is the most feared deep-ball receiver in the NFL.'' Most complete receiver, he's in the argument. Most feared going deep? Stop.
b. Ninety-five yards. Season on the line. That'll be on the Jets' 2011 epitaph unless they do an about-face.
c. Andy Dalton, you forgot A.J. Green wasn't playing yesterday. You sent Andre Caldwell, four inches shorter and not nearly the athlete Green is, into the end zone and threw up a jump ball -- in a serious misjudgment -- and Ed Reed picked it off. Dalton's been a smart, precocious quarterback this year, but that was a dumb, dumb decision.
d. Buyer's remorse. Ryan Fitzpatrick.
e. Fitzpatrick's 1-3 since signing his $59 million deal. Passer rating the last three weeks: 51.9, 46.6, 45.8.
f. Giants 29 rushing yards. Really? That's how you come out and play your rivals?
g. No moral victories, Tampa.
h. Bad loss for Steve Spagnuolo. Very bad.
i. Eight games for Sam Bradford. Five touchdown passes.
j. Chargers: 4-1 pre-bye, 0-5 post-bye.
k. Explain to me, Dashon Goldson, the logic of punching another man with a football helmet on his head. How exactly does that exact some sort of revenge on him?
l. NFL Network's GameDay Final, with 17 people talking at once.
m. Your five minutes are up, John Skelton.
3. I think I'd disagree with you who ripped the Jets for sending eight rushers in a heavy blitz on the 20-yard touchdown run by Tim Tebow that won the game the other night. It wasn't a dumb call.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine wasn't going to let Tebow find a seam in the front four or five and dive for the first down. Pettine knew Tebow would probably run out of an empty, or near-empty backfield. That was a run blitz and it should have worked ... except for how safety Eric Smith played it.
Watch Smith on the replay. His job, as the wide rusher, was to contain Tebow and force him to run inside on a third-and-four play; presumably, the inside traffic of eight rushers against six blockers would catch Tebow. But Smith wedged himself too far inside toward the left tackle, enabling Tebow to get outside the containment process and run for the touchdown. All play calls stink when they don't work. But I blame Smith far more than Pettine on this one.
4. I think, by the way, Antonio Cromartie's refusal to shed his block at the goal line and attempt to stop Tebow was shameful. I don't care what position you play, or how much a runner outweighs you. With the game on the line -- and maybe the season -- Cromartie's refusal to take on Tebow says everything you need to know about him as a player. Which isn't much. And overall, I didn't love the Jets defenders' effort once Tebow broke outside. Take a minute to watch the replay. You'll see.
5. I think now I know why so many coaches are so angry over the miking of a center or guard to get more of an on-field feel to the games we watch. On the decisive Denver drive in the fourth quarter Thursday night, Tebow threw a quick nine-yard out pattern to Demaryius Thomas on the left sideline, giving the Broncos second-and-one at the Denver 37. If you've got NFL Game Rewind (which is an invaluable tool, by the way, to see games and plays you miss, on your laptop, and better than hoping you can scare plays up on YouTube), turn the volume up and listen closely over the announcers and the crowd noise.
You can hear Tebow, barely, saying, "Same play. Same play on one.'' At least that's what it sounds like. And Tebow goes to the line in the same shotgun formation, takes the snap, and throws way short on exactly the same route to Thomas on the left sideline.
I was stunned. I mean, what's to stop coaches upstairs from plugging into the game telecasts, straining to listen to the play call in the huddle, and then relaying information down to the sidelines? If a quarterback, 12 to 15 seconds before he snaps the ball, says, "Same play'' in the huddle, isn't that information a defense could use, assuming the info could be transmitted to at least someone on that defense before the snap of the ball?
6. I think Devin Hester might be a Hall of Famer someday. If he continues on this path for seven to nine years, he deserves the strongest of consideration. But Hester's certainly not one right now -- not after 5.5 great years of returning punts and kicks.
7. I think I wouldn't be surprised if Bengals-Steelers beats out Lions-Saints for the Sunday night game when the flex schedule is announced for Dec. 4. In other schedule notes, how do you like the two Monday-nighters to kick off December? Dec. 5: San Diego-Jacksonville. Dec. 12: St. Louis-Seattle. Yikes. And the last game of the year, New Year's night? Could be the NFC East title game if the Giants and Cowboys hold up their ends and enter the last weekend 9-6.
8. I think I can't fathom how the Chargers don't change the coach or GM if they continue to fade into oblivion. I know Norv Turner is signed through 2013 and A.J. Smith through 2014, but how does Dean Spanos make no changes on a team with such great expectations? The Chargers are 13-13 since opening day 2010. Sometimes, with the weight of expectations, it feels more like 3-23.
9. I think Matt Leinart's not going to blow a two-game lead with six to play for Houston, not with Tennessee playing blah football and the Texans running it so well.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. Just read that Robert Wagner is not a suspect in the drowning death of Natalie Wood a generation ago. After the events of last week, in which the boat captain the night she died directly blames Wagner, my question is: Why on earth wouldn't Wagner be a suspect, and if he isn't, why is the investigation being reopened?
b. Happy 40th, Michael Strahan. Heck of a gap-toothed cake they gave you on FOX Sunday.
c. Toledo's averaging 54.5 points per game in its last four. The football team, I'm talking about.
d. Thanks for all of your well-wishes about our 12-year-old Golden retriever, Bailey. She went in to have a large tumor removed from her liver Friday, and she's home now, resting and sleeping and snoring. Quite an adventure, getting her to take those pain pills. But I've passed along your mountain of Twitter niceties to her, and they are truly appreciated.
e. Boston Globe maestro Dan Shaughnessy correctly critiqued the feeble postseason of the Red Sox and their idiotic handling of letting the under-contract Theo Epstein walk before figuring fair compensation for a two-time World Series-winning GM in his prime: "Let's start our weekly update with the state of non-compensation for Theo. What a joke this has become. Theo is ensconced in his office at Wrigley Field, laughing at the dopes in Boston who let him out of his contract before insisting on payback. And now there's nothing the Sox can do except wait for Uncle Bud to force the Cubs to send Boston some Single A outfielder who'll be waiting tables in a year or two.''
Shaughnessy's right. The Sox should have insisted on Matt Garza or forced Epstein to sit for the season.
f. Coffeenerdness I: I'm sure this will stun and disappoint all you coffee nerds, but I've outgrown the egg nog latte. I must have. Had one Saturday, my first and probably only one of the season, and couldn't finish it. Just too sweet.
g. Coffeenerdness II: Something I never heard at a Starbucks before Thursday: "I'll have a grande milk please."
h. Beernerdness: Yes, we've moved from Boston. But no, we didn't leave Harpoon behind. Very pleased to get reacquainted with the Harpoon Winter Warmer over the weekend. I'd forgotten how great is it. Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon -- it's an experience, almost something you'd want to drink warm like hot cider. Then I noticed in the weekend Wall Street Journal that Winter Warmer is one of five beers they recommend for Thanksgiving revelry. I second and third that.
New England 31, Kansas City 10. "It's all a blur,'' said Andre Carter, the Patriots' defensive end, about his 4.5-sack night against the Jets last week. I asked Carter if this was his best game as a pro. "By far,'' he said. "The most sacks I ever had in a game, college or pro, was two and a half. People normally don't do that in a football game.'' Instead of drafting a young pass-rush prospect last spring, Bill Belichick decided to go with veterans. When Belichick was able to hit the market in July, he found Carter, 32, who bombed out of his last stop in Washington because he didn't fit in the 'Skins 3-4 scheme. "I got the feeling when I talked with coach Belichick, they were going to play a lot of 4-3, and I was happy for the opportunity to come.''
Watch Carter for a few snaps, and it's clear he still has the burst that made him a mainstay on the Niner line before moving to Washington in free agency -- and the strength, at 6-4 and 255, to overpower D'Brickashaw Ferguson a couple of times in the game last week. It'll be interesting to see if he can keep it up tonight against a tackle who has had his struggles this year, Branden Albert. Albert has been called for seven penalties and allowed four sacks this season. One other thing about Carter: he said he counts himself as one of the lucky veterans to have found a job after the lockout. "There's a lot of guys who just never got a chance,'' said Carter. "That's pretty tough. Like Julian Peterson. He could still help somebody. But he didn't get signed. Lots of people forget about those guys.''
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