1. I think this is what I liked about Week 4:
a. Now, I'm assuming I'm going to like Lamar Hunt: A Life in Sports, the new book by Michael MacCambridge, because I really liked Lamar Hunt, and because anything written by MacCambridge is pure gold. But the section about Hunt's role in the founding of the American Football League -- and his battle with the NFL over franchises in Dallas, Houston and Minnesota -- is going to be required reading for football historians and football fans. The book will be on sale Tuesday; Chiefs fans could buy it Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
As his son, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, said Sunday: "It's clear my father was the quarterback in forming the AFL, and without him, there wouldn't have been an AFL." There's a great quote in the book that sums up Hunt, and his competitiveness and his love of football. Here it is: "I can't separate what part of pro football is business, and what part is personal. I just know it's very important that I succeed." That's Hunt, in a nutshell.
b. I liked the league's gesture to the replacement officials, paying them even though they didn't work Week 4. The cost to the NFL: $344,000. Those guys deserved the $3,500 per ref, $3,000 per other official, for how they were villainized.
c. Brian Hartline picked an incredible venue -- at the unbeaten Cards, as a big underdog -- to have the best day of his college or pro life: 12 catches, 253 yards.
d. The luck of Billy Cundiff. He was one miss from landing on the waiver wire this morning, but his 41-yarder beat the Bucs.
e. I know he won't want to hear about it after falling to 0-4, but Drew Brees tying Johnny U.
f. The Browns may not win much this year, but they've got a keeper rush end in Jabaal Sheard.
g. The real refs showing game-control. First example: With 8:25 left in the first quarter at Baltimore Thursday, Gene Steratore's crew pre-empted something ugly by stepping in the middle of of a scrum and forcefully pushing players back to their huddles. That's something the replacements didn't have the experience to do.
h. This great note from ESPN's Adam Schefter: He reported this weekend that at the Redskins' team meeting the night before they played the Rams last weekend, coaches played a video with a collection of the late hits and chippy plays involving St. Louis cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Players were warned to not fall into Finnegan's trap when he tried those tactics on them.
"So what happens?'' Schefter reported. "Finnegan shoves Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan, Morgan retaliates and the Redskins attempt to tie the score with a 62-yard field goal rather than a more manageable 47-yard try.'' Good note.
i. Beautiful 32-yard run around left end by Cam Newton at Atlanta.
j. Great play call, Jim Harbaugh, giving Colin Kaepernick the Wildcat carry around left end in the first quarter at the Jets, resulting in a 17-yard run. He was tackled 10 yards in front of the Jets bench. I bet they wondered, "Hmmmm. That's what Tebow should be doing."
k. Heck of a job, Tim Tebow, on the blocks on Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks out of the backfield. Fullback stuff. Reminds me of what Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff said in camp about Tebow: "The guy's a football player. I don't care what we ask him to do. He just goes out and tries to do the best at whatever job he's given." Degrade and demean Tebow all you want, but if you take away the mayhem of having Tebow and his publicity machine in your locker room, any team would be crazy to not want him to be on the 53-man roster.
l. The FOX graphic in the first quarter at the Meadowlands, showing Alex Smith and Mark Sanchez having identical passing lines: 5 of 9, 52 yards.
m. What a tip-away by Niners safety Dashon Goldson, breaking up a bomb from Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holmes that would have been a sure touchdown.
n. Tom Brady's touchdown run.
o. Cam Newton's touchdown dive. Newton was terrific Sunday in defeat.
p. Roddy White (eight for 169) is a franchise receiver if there ever was one.
q. Just when we wanted to bury Chris Johnson, he comes up 25 for 141 against Houston's tough front wall.
r. The Cardinals, with the best record in the NFL (11-2) over the last 13 games. Who knew?
s. The Cardinals, 4-0 for the first time in 38 years.
t. The Cardinals, for the 500th win in franchise history. All in all, a pretty good day in the desert.
u. Brian Dawkins, for his classy number-retirement ceremony with the Eagles Sunday night.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 4:
a. Cleveland receiver Greg Little's hands of stone.
b. Ten straight losses for the Browns. Since 2008, 18-50. When will the nightmare end?
c. You still there, Dennis Pitta? And you, Ed Dickson? They played 97 offensive snaps Thursday. Zero catches. Two targets.
d. C.J. Spillman's double-mistake -- the 49er gunner on the punt team was forced out of bounds on an early punt against the Jets, then fumbled the ball into the end zone when he tried to down it inside the 5-yard line. Wouldn't have counted anyway, because a man who steps out of bounds cannot be the first one to touch the ball when he comes back in bounds.
e. The Chiefs, who make too many mistakes with the ball to be any good.
f. Did I hear correctly? Did Dick Stockton say on the Atlanta-Carolina telecast, after an Armenti Edwards pass attempt for the Panthers, that Edwards had been a quarterback in high school? Uhhh, yeah. I suppose he was. There's a slim chance he might be better known as a quarterback for taking Appalachian State to Ann Arbor and quarterbacking the massive underdogs to a win over the mighty Wolverines. Slim.
g. Seattle's offense, which, one week removed from the euphoria of Russell Wilson-to-Golden Tate, was reminded in a three-interception Wilson performance that he's still a raw rookie.
h. Oakland's defense, which was supposed to be the scotch tape that held the team together in this transition season. Not happening.
i. Buffalo's offensive line, which had shined until Sunday. Left tackle Cordy Glenn and right guard Kraig Urbik could be out for several weeks with ankle injuries. Glenn's a big loss.
j. I'm sure I don't have to tell Billy Cundiff, but 25 percent isn't going to make it in the NFL.
k. Or Canada.
3. I think I have two words for that vaunted, expensive Buffalo defense: fool's gold.
4. I think you might put the DVD collection of A Football Life (out Tuesday) on your holiday gift list -- if only to see the 1997 interview between Steve Sabol and Al Davis. Now there's something I'm glad Sabol did. He asked Davis: If you could make one course required in school for all American children, which one would it be?
Said Davis, "It would be history ... the history of all the great people who have contributed to our culture in different environments, different fields, such as entertainment. I've done a eulogy, for instance, for Sara Vaughn, the great singer. Our kids don't even know who Martin King is. Some of them, most of them, didn't know who Jackie Robinson was until we got that Jackie Robinson euphoria this year because it's been 50 years [since he broke into baseball] ... What I think is, we have to make the young people realize who came before them, who paved the way, who paid their debt to society before they came through. I realize that we've got a lot of problems in our society. We've got a group of young people growing up without values, without tradition ... Somehow or other, someone has got to raise his hand and say, 'I'm going to see that it [teaching history] is done.' ''
5. I think the "Hello Kitty'' Cam Newton cartoon in the Charlotte Observer was funny, not racist. What possibly is racist about a cartoon of Cam Newton ripping open his shirt to show a Hello Kitty logo rather than a Superman logo? The implication clearly is Newton, through three weeks, was a soft superstar -- and watching his game against the Giants, that's pretty tough to argue.
6. I think I remain unconvinced that Golden Tate had as much of the ball as M.D. Jennings did Monday night in Seattle (Tate's right arm was dislodged from the scrum as the players fell to the ground in the end zone, which is my tell-tale argument against simultaneous possession), but I am convinced that there's not 100 percent proof that the call should have been reversed on replay.
A call to be reversed must have indisputable visual evidence to produce a change, and I don't know how you watch the play over and over and not have some reasonable doubt that Jennings had clear possession. Check out this angle from the FOX affiliate in Seattle, which adds another view to the play.
7. I think the one thing the NFL absolutely must make a point of emphasis with its officials in the 2013 offseason is pass interference on Hail Marys. Jostling for position is fine. A two-handed push-down of a player cannot be allowed. I've heard and read all the opinions on this, from former officials and smart people in my business -- you can't call anything in the end zone because it's such mayhem. Which it is. But I have two questions.
Is a Hail Mary a pass play? Yes. And is there anything in the NFL Digest of Rules that says you don't call offensive or defensive pass interference on a last-second pass into the end zone? No. Look at every replay. There's Golden Tate with a two-hand shove of Sam Shields. That simply cannot be allowed. What's next -- a coach instructing one offensive player to clear out two defenders as the Hail Mary comes down in the end zone, to give another offensive player a better chance to come down with the ball?
8. I think the Fan Confidence Meter in Kansas City on Matt Cassel is at an all-time low.
9. I think Steve Gleason has a goal in his life now, as I've written about, and it's to try to get a residence built in New Orleans to house patients with neuro-muscular diseases such as ALS. Gleason's been asked many times why he chooses this path rather than the path of standing up and decrying the violent world of football, which very well could have caused his ALS. (There are an increasing number of studies that suggest football players are at an increased risk for ALS because of the brain trauma that occurs when you play football.) Gleason's not dumb. He knows there's a good chance his disease was either caused or accelerated by football. But his feeling is that while he's able to be a functioning, productive person, he wants to leave his mark on the world with this ALS House in New Orleans.
"Let's do something productive rather than polarizing,'' he said. "It may not be realistic, but I would like to get a former NFL player in the residence, to potentially give players with ALS a bigger platform to make an impact on the world, to tell their story, instead of just suffering through the disease with nobody seeing it.''
I'd like to thank all of you -- from this column, and via Twitter -- who have gotten involved and supported the ALS House by donating to the Hamptons Half-Marathon I ran on Long Island. I'll keep the fund-raising page open this week in case any more of you want to contribute to our little five percent of the $1 million Gleason is trying to raise to get the ALS House up and running. You can donate here. I'm humbled by your support.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. There is no rotisserie baseball team that died as excruciating a death as mine did over the last two months, as David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Paul Konerko, Carlos Beltran (until Sunday), David Freese, Tyler Clippard (well, just this month for him) and Addison Reed combined to stink it up/sit it out and send me sinking from second to seventh.
b. Forget my pain. What about fans of the Buccos? Last 51: 14-37.
c. Red Sox Alumni Association Award goes to Josh Reddick and Brandon Moss this week. Reddick's been up with the A's all season, and Moss has been up for the second half of the season. So for 1.5 seasons, combined, Reddick and Moss have 52 homers and 128 RBI this year. Not that those are missed in Boston or anything.
d. Not a big golf guy, but that Ryder Cup competition was some fun to watch Saturday. Golf is more fun head-to-head.
e. Good job, Tim Rohan of the New York Times, on the story about West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith's maturation and love of art.
f. I've got your Tuesday night TV show to watch. It's a reality show, a good one. Not sure where it'll be on if you don't live in the New York or South Florida areas, but make no mistake -- if you've got MLB Network on your TV, you'll be able to see the sports story of the week.
On Tuesday night, the Mets and the Marlins will play a playing-out-the-string baseball game in Miami. (Well, Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey will have one last shot to bolster his case for the National League Cy Young Award.) But the national significance of the game will be Adam Greenberg getting the big-league at-bat that has eluded him for seven years.
You may remember the first time he stepped into the box in the bigs, on July 9, 2005. On the first pitch he saw in the big leagues as a Chicago Cubs outfielder, Greenberg was hit in the head. "I thought my head was split open,'' he said the other day. He came back as a rehabbing Cub minor-leaguer too fast, 21 days after being hit, and struggled mightily -- in part because of persistent vertigo. And despite years of trying, he never made it back to the show.
Last spring a Chicago filmmaker familiar with his story, Matt Liston, embarked on his quest to get Greenberg to get a real big-league at-bat, and on Thursday morning, I met Liston and Greenberg on the set of the Today show in New York. (I was there to discuss the ref settlement, Greenberg there to discuss his glorious story.) "I went to spring training to ask teams how viable it would be, and I was laughed at,'' Matt Liston told me. "I actually had one team say, 'The days of Bill Veeck are gone.' ''
But he persisted, and Greenberg, who played for the Israeli team in the World Baseball Classic qualifier last week, finally got his shot when Miami president David Samson called him late one night last week to tell him the Marlins would sign him to a contract to get his at-bat. He'll get at least one, Tuesday night, against the Mets. Against, quite possibly, the Cy Young winner. "It's fitting for the situation -- to face the best knuckleballer in the world, and one of the best pitchers in baseball," said Greenberg. "What a cool thing to be able to face one of the best in baseball, if that's how it turns out.''
Dickey has faced the Marlins five times this year, throwing eight, nine, nine, six and seven innings, so there's a good chance Greenberg, 31, will face him. He said he's faced a knuckleball pitcher "maybe five times'' in his minor-league career. "There's so much to prepare for,'' Greenberg said. "It's not like you can ask a buddy to go throw you batting practice and have him throw knuckleballs.''
Greenberg is in Miami and got to take batting practice Saturday. He's a wispy guy, but I love his spirit. "Life's going to throw you curveballs,'' he said. "Or fastballs to the back of the head. The key is, 'How are you going to respond?' ''
g. Wouldn't be shocked if Dickey himself is rooting for the kid to get a single. A bases-empty single.
h. Well, I'm going in reverse trying to be a better half-marathoner. I did 2:19 in New Hampshire two years ago, 2:31.48 (1,092nd out of 1,330 runners) on Saturday on Long Island. Nobody to blame but myself; I was in great shape for a 10K, as it turned out, but when it came time at the 10-mile mark to up the ante and start doing 9:30 miles, my legs said: "You'll have to settle for 11:40, sucker."
But it was a fun time -- a great, pretty, woodsy course, running by Long Island Sound near the end -- and my brother-in-law, Bob Whiteley, deserves all the credit in the world for hanging with me when he could have had a 1:45 race and been on his second coffee by the time I finished. But he stuck with me. Thanks, too, to my running partners Mike (From Montclair) Goldstein, George Frole and Tracy Benaman, and to my trainer Branislav Vukojevic and his girlfriend Julie Hughes for running the race -- and for not making too much fun of an old man trying to get a little bit of his youth back.
i. There are so many of you -- friends, people I cover, peers, total strangers -- who have given to the ALS House cause, too many to mention because I don't want to forget anyone. But your generosity leaves me speechless. On the road Saturday morning, I kept thinking about how many of you made this generosity happen. It was really an emotional time when I thought of that. So just know all of you have made an impact not only on the noble effort of Steve Gleason to create a home that's so needed, but also on me.
j. Coffeenerdness: Never needed a triple latte more than I did Saturday afternoon after the race. The Starbucks in Bridgehampton, N.Y., by the way, is quite possible the prettiest one I've seen.
k. Beernerdness: Celebrated the run Saturday evening with one St. Cloud Belgian White, a wheat beer from Rochester, N.Y. I'm a witbier fan, as you'd know if you read this column, but this one wasn't for me. A little too bitter.
l. Does Lindsay Lohan ever have a quiet day?
m. Does Hollywood have anyone who's more of a train wreck than Lindsay Lohan?
Lake's story in Sports Illustrated on the child of Rae Carruth who was targeted for death while in his mother's womb is one of the best things I've read all year. (I highlight it now because it was not available on our site in the first week after it was in the magazine.)
As for the game tonight -- I've got Dallas 20, Chicago 13 -- let's pause to appreciate the great start of a player you don't know well, smurfy Bears cornerback Tim Jennings. Playing a clinging and physical style and not missing a snap through the first three games, the 5-foot-8 Jennings leads the NFL with four interceptions. That's good, but tells only a smidgeon of the story.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Jennings has held opposing quarterbacks to a Revis-like 4.9 passer rating, with just nine completions in 27 passes thrown at him. That'll help tonight, but I don't think it's going to be enough. I think the fact that Chicago is obviously going to spend lots of personnel attention to help out left tackle J'Marcus Webb on the great DeMarcus Ware is going to be a bigger factor here. I trust the Cowboys to protect Tony Romo better than the Bears protect Cutler.
One month into '12:
The Saints have gone marching out.
The Bayou weepeth.
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