1. I think this is what I liked about Week 11:
a. Kyle Williams and Jairus Byrd. Two Bills who never give up.
b. A.J. Green on end-zone fades. He can catch 'em one-handed, in a physical mismatch, whatever.
c. I was totally wrong about Nick Folk. I thought he should have been cut in camp, but he continues to kick well, as he did with a 51-yard field goal in the first quarter at St. Louis.
d. Phil Dawson -- with his fifth 50-yard-plus field goal of the season Sunday in Dallas -- now has a comfortable lead as the NFL's 2012 All-Pro kicker.
e. Justin Blackmon, with a preview of the future if Jacksonville ever gets a quarterback worthy of him, with a 63-yard catch.
f. Good pursuit of Tony Romo, Juqua Parker. Good-looking Cleveland D in The House That Jerry Built.
g. Arian Foster's in-traffic cuts. Things of beauty. How'd this man not get drafted?
h. Rip the Jets for some bad draft picks if you will, but Muhammad Wilkerson (first round, 2011) is not one of them. Second straight week with a big play in the opponents' backfield, this time a strip of Sam Bradford that helped turn the tide in the Jets' win.
i. Dezman Moses, with a great strip of a scrambling Matthew Stafford.
j. Running back on the all-underrated team from Sunday: LaRod Stephens-Howling.
k. When you beat Joe Thomas for a sack, that's one you put in your career time capsule, DeMarcus Ware.
l. A major-league goal-line stoning of Jags running back Jalen Parmele by Houston inside linebacker Bradie James.
m. Play of the Day: The catch by Santana Moss with two Eagles all over him, turned into a touchdown.
n. You're not going to defend a fake-punt play better than Tampa Bay special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky did at Carolina Sunday. The Bucs acted like it was their call, not the Panthers', and sniffed it out easily.
o. You go, Aqib Talib. Great pick. Instinctive 59-yard return for touchdown.
p. You too, Alfonzo Dennard. What a return off Andrew Luck.
q. Great free agent acquisition for San Diego, wideout Danario Alexander.
r. Just my imagination, or does Malcolm Jenkins make a huge defensive play in every New Orleans game -- as he did with an interception returned for TD in Oakland?
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 11:
a. Announcers who say "Tanney-hill.'' There's no "y'' in the man's name. Short "e'' in Tannehill.
b. Jets defense on 4th-and-goal in the first quarter. Two receivers uncovered in the end zone? Who designed that brilliance?
c. Nick Foles. Lord, what a nightmare for the Eagles.
d. Ryan Lindley was worse. Significantly.
e. Come on, Eagles safeties. That's Aldrick Robinson we're talking about, scoring a touchdown, wide open, on you and your mates.
f. The Arizona tackles. They're going to get people fired on that team.
g. Are you kidding, Dez Bryant? Tiptoeing out of bounds a yard short of a first down with your team down 10-0?
h. Great FOX graphic 26 minutes into Cards-Falcons. "Passing yards: Atlanta 141, Arizona 1."
i. Armanti Edwards wide open on a corner route in the end zone for Carolina. Cam Newton throwing it three yards over his head. There aren't many times when a receiver's that open in the end zone, and when he is, a good quarterback has to hit him.
j. The ridiculous non-booth-review in Carolina just before the half, when Tampa receiver Mike Williams didn't complete the act of a catch, the ball was plucked out of the air by a Panthers defender, and no replay review was initiated from the booth. Williams didn't catch it, and it probably wasn't an interception, but that's a play that has to be reviewed. It certainly was not a catch by Williams, which was the ruling on the field.
k. Michael Turner, who looks like he's running with cement shoes.
l. Tough, tough luck for Brandon Meriweather, who appeared to rip up his knee, not touched, against Philadelphia.
m. Onside kicks aren't supposed to travel 22 yards, Dan Bailey.
n. Please explain that performance against Jacksonville, men of Bum Phillips.
o. Patriots fans booing Adam Vinatieri. You kidding me? Your team chose not to sign him when he got too expensive. He saved your bacon in gigantic playoff game after gigantic playoff game. Stop it. Just stop it.
p. Preview of what I won't like about Week 12? Panthers-Eagles. Monday night. Combined record: 5-15. Start your Jon Gruden coaching rumors early, folks.
3. I think I know what it feels like to be Emmett C. Burns now. He's the Maryland state legislator who criticized the Ravens' Brendon Ayanbadejo for his support of same-sex marriage. Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, justifiably in my opinion, all but firebombed Burns in his blog and in a piece for Deadspin.
The other day on Deadspin, Kluwe ripped the 44 voters for Pro Football Hall of Fame in the kind of piece I thought was reserved for mass murderers, all because we haven't elected Ray Guy to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The voters, Kluwe said, were "indolent cows'' guilty of "heartless effrontery,'' were "selfish, short-sighted, too g-------- lazy to learn the subtleties of kicking,'' "indolent, slothful, petulant, ignorant and flat-out stupid,'' "small-minded,'' "UNWILLING TO LEARN'' (all caps).
Added Kluwe: "This is a player who pinned opposing offenses back inside their 20-yard line instead of simply booting a touchback, winning the battle of field position before anyone realized there was even a fight." And he bleated to the selectors: "How dare you tell a man who devoted his life to perfecting his craft that he's not worthy of admission among the game's greatest?'' A few points from this one lazy cow:
Re the gall we have for not enshrining a man "who devoted his life to perfecting his craft:" Nowhere in the bylaws of the Pro Football Hall of Fame does it ask selectors to make hard work and endless dedication the key elements for induction. If so, Lawrence Taylor wouldn't be in and Reggie Williams would. Taylor wasn't much for practice, but he showed up on Sunday and played great. Williams, the longtime Bengals linebacker, was one of the hardest workers in any walk of life I've ever seen. A nice player, but no one would mistake him for a Hall of Famer. Did Ray Guy work harder than Dave Jennings or Tom Blanchard or Reggie Roby? No clue. Nor does it matter.
Re Guy pinning opponents back so consistently: In the 11 years Guy played that stats were kept on punts inside the 20-yard line, he had 210 such punts, an average of 19.1 per season. In two of those years, there were 14 games played, and in another year, because of a strike, there were nine games played. So it's not exactly apples to apples to compare his number to those recorded by today's punters -- and, certainly, there's more emphasis on dropping balls inside the 20 now. But last year, 13 punters had 25 or more punts land inside the 20; in 2010, 16 punters had at least 25 punts inside the 20. I'm not convinced 19 punts a year inside the 20 is special, in that day or this one.
Kluwe points out that Guy never had a punt returned for a touchdown. That is a tremendous accomplishment. Give Guy credit.
I'll remind you, Kluwe, of something you forgot to mention because it didn't fit your plotline: Gross punting average is not the only important stat for punters, to be sure. But it's how history judges punters, the same way batting average judges hitters. It may not be the best judge, but can you say it's meaningless? Ray Guy's career gross punting average is 42.4 yards, good for a 78th-place tie on the all-time list.
I've always wondered why no one ever asks with the same intensity as is done for Guy, "Why isn't Jerrel Wilson in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?'' Maybe it's because he didn't hit the gondola in the Superdome with a punt once, as Guy did, according to legend. I don't know why else Wilson and Guy wouldn't be discussed with the same fervor. Wilson played 217 games, mostly for Kansas City. Guy played 207, all for Oakland. Wilson out-averaged Guy, 43.0 to 42.4. Each won three punting titles, Wilson with averages of 44.8, 44.8 and 45.5, Guy with averages of 42.2, 43.8 and 43.3. (Wilson also won two American Football League punting titles before Guy was a pro.)
As for the future of punters in the Hall of Fame -- of course, there are none now -- I'm open to one or more being in. I think Shane Lechler's body of work will be worthy of discussion for Canton someday; no one who punted for at least a decade is closer than two-and-a-half yards to Lechler's 47.6-yard career average. I think, as far as kickers go, Adam Vinatieri has a very strong case because of his string of clutch playoff kicks over the past 11 years.
So don't think I won't vote for a punter or kicker (if I'm still on the committee). I believe in special teams' impact on the game; I have long supported Steve Tasker's case, because I believe he's the best special teams player in NFL history, and special teams is worthy of being represented in the Hall.
I'm all for a healthy debate on all subjects Hall of Fame, which you know if you read this column and follow me on Twitter. I like to consider all angles, and not just the incendiary ones. We're not out to get punters. We're out to be fair. Kluwe doesn't think we are, and if he can present further evidence to show me I'm wrong, I'll listen.
Finally, I'm disappointed in Kluwe. I like him. He's the kind of independent voice football, and all of sports, needs. His column in Deadspin is beyond mean-spirited things. It's the kind of thing you'd pen to read at the trial of the men who dismembered your mother with an ax.
I'm open to hear your thoughts on all of it. I'll print some of the best emails in my Tuesday column.
4. I think ref Bill Vinovich made a tremendous call in Atlanta. With Cards quarterback Ryan Lindley back to throw, Falcons defensive end John Abraham stripped Lindley of the ball with Lindley's arm extended back. Very, very close whether Lindley was in the act of throwing or simply had the ball up in the air, verging on throwing. The ball bounced away, and the Falcons picked it up and ran it back for a touchdown, and there was no whistle, and the touchdown was ruled. Reviewed by replay, the call stood. Perfect call by Vinovich, and good job by the crew in not blowing a whistle when everyone was standing around before it got picked up.
5. I think, speaking of officiating, I'd like to ask the NFL one thing: You mean Tony Corrente gets a $9,000 fine for accidentally cursing on an open mike, and replay officials Bob Boylston gets nothing for blowing a touchdown call in Carolina-Denver? Bad, bad precedent set there. If I were Tony Corrente, I'd be appealing that $9,000 fine. And I am fairly sure he'll get some, or all, of that fine back. Deservedly.
6. I think Cam Newton is playing nothing like an entertainer or an icon, though his defense didn't help him down the stretch in the loss to Tampa Bay, allowing four long drives in the last 25 minutes of the game.
7. I think Atlanta's Mike Smith is too good of a coach to have thrown a replay-challenge flag after a turnover ... and he's lucky it didn't cost him in a big way. In the third quarter of the Arizona-Atlanta game, Cardinals safety Greg Toler made an incredible save of a fumble going out of bounds, batting it back in the field of play so a teammate could recover the fumble. Smith thought Toler has stepped out of bounds. So he threw the challenge flag to appeal the call. But the NFL has instituted automatic reviews on all turnovers, with an odd rule attached: If a coach throws the challenge flag on a turnover before the review has begun, the coach gets a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, and the replay-review is negated. If the officials on the field have already been buzzed, notifying them a review must take place on the field, there is a penalty but the review goes on. Because this review hadn't started, Smith got the 15-yard flag and had the review negated. Arizona couldn't take advantage of Atlanta's error, though, and the Falcons won the game. Still, it's a pretty easy call -- on a turnover or scoring play, keep the flag in your pocket.
8. I think I am so, so sick of the debate over elite quarterbacks. How meaningless is this stupid debate about who is elite and how many quarterbacks should be in the elite category? Every time I hear another question asked about elite quarterbacks I want to stick my finger down my throat.
9. I think, and I've got my NBC hat on here, you'll enjoy Cris Collinsworth's idea on the Thursday night Pats-Jets game on NBC. John Madden's going to introduce the game, focusing on his Thanksgiving tradition of football, family and food, and NBC, which has a Thursday night game for the next decade, will inaugurate the John Madden Thanksgiving Player of the Game. Collinsworth's idea, executed by game telecast director Drew Esocoff. I'm looking forward to seeing Madden's ode to turkey and football.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. Congrats to Cornell wideout Luke Tasker, son of Steve, for a great senior year at Cornell: 75 catches, 1,207 yards, 16.1-yard average. Chip off the old special teamer.
b. Personal college football note of the week: Take a bow, Dick Ebersol. You're the one who always believed Notre Dame could get back to the top of college football.
c. No Matt Barkley Saturday ... I mean, how can Notre Dame not play Alabama for the national title in a month and a half?
d. Good luck editing the Washington Post to my old neighbor in Boston, Marty Baron. Very good newspaper man.
e. Great line: "I don't know who deserves more blame: Western Carolina for taking the money, or Alabama for scheduling Western Carolina." That's from NBC studio host Jimmy Roberts, showing highlights of the game between national power Alabama and one of the worst teams in the NCAA FCS, formerly NCAA I-AA, Western Carolina.
At the time the highlights were shown, Alabama had possessed the ball five times and had a 35-0 lead; the final score was 49-0. Roberts also had one of the best stats I heard all weekend: In its last 27 games, Western Carolina is 2-0 against 1,200-student Mars Hill (N.C.) and 0-25 against all other teams. Western Carolina got a check for $475,000 for playing the game Saturday.
f. Welcome to the world, Asa Cormier. You've got a good big sister and a couple of great parents. They'll never lead you astray.
g. Coffeenerdness: Woman in the Indianapolis Airport Friday, in front of me in line at the Starbucks in the rotunda/lobby before the security gates, was just finishing some kind of frappucino, a huge one, and got to the front of the line. "Grande pumpkin spice latte, with four extra shots.'' So ... you've finished a 16-ounce frap, loaded with caffeine, and now you're getting a pumpkin drink, which normally has two shots of espresso, and now you're getting six shots. Wow. I wonder if she's been to sleep since.
h. Beernerdness: Had the pleasure of the Strand Brewing Company's (Torrance, Cal.) 24th Street Pale Ale, a tan ale, filled with malt. Bitter, but a very easy drink. Liked it a lot.
i. All this talk about Twinkies makes me want one. Like, now.
j. Glad to see you're feeling better, Mike Ditka. Football's not the same without you.
Fatsis has written an enlightening piece for Slate on why young children shouldn't be allowed to play tackle football, and wherever you fall on this issue, it's well worth your time to read. Of all the great lessons football teaches, I have to say I agree with Fatsis: I think there are too many dangers in allowing young children whose brains are still in their formative stages to play tackle football. If I had a son, I would wait until he was 14 or 15 before allowing him to play tackle football.
Fatsis quotes NFL head-trauma adviser Dr. Robert Cantu as saying he's proposed to ban tackle football until kids are 14. Writes Fatsis: " 'Youngsters are not miniature adults,' Cantu said. For starters, he explained, their brains are not fully myelinated, meaning their nerve cells lack the complete coating that offers protection. That makes them more susceptible to concussions and means they recover more slowly from them than adults. Cantu said children have big heads relative to the rest of their bodies and weak necks, creating a 'bobblehead-doll effect' that elevates the risk of concussion. They typically play in the oldest equipment, with the least educated coaches, and with little or no available medical care.''
Football wouldn't likely die if kids didn't play until they were in high school, or if only flag football were allowed at an earlier age. Just a couple of weeks ago, I spoke with the man who might be the Offensive Rookie of the Year this season, Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin. He never played a football game 'til he got to high school. The point about the future of football that I think everyone should realize is this: All options are on the table.
Now, for San Francisco 17, Chicago 13 tonight at Candlestick. It's likely I would have picked the 49ers if Jay Cutler were healthy as a mule. But with an Alex Smith-Jason Campbell matchup, I'd be very surprised if Chicago could muster enough offense to win. Not because at his peak Campbell isn't a good enough player to win a shootout against Alex Smith; but because Campbell has practiced with the first unit of the Bears for exactly four full days of his life. It's hard to go up against a defense of San Francisco's pedigree and pressure if you've only been practicing with the guys you'll be playing with for a week.
So no more Twinkies.
No! Oh the humanity!
I'll miss Ding Dongs too.
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