1. I think this is what I liked about Week 13:
a. The Atlanta secondary, rising up to play great against Drew Brees.
b. John Abraham, the Atlanta defensive end, perennially underappreciated.
c. Kroy Biermann, the other Atlanta defensive end, getting better and playing the role Ray Edwards was supposed to be playing.
d. Greg McElroy being active, I think for the first time since Tuscaloosa.
e. Great stat by the Bears' PR staff: Lovie Smith's Bears had the 300th takeaway of his coaching tenure Sunday.
f. Said it before this year and I'll say it again: Green Bay wide receiver James Jones is as underrated as any other receiver in the league. Look at the highlight of the first touchdown of the Green Bay-Minnesota game, how Jones picked the touchdown pass off the head of the Vikings DB in the end zone. What hands.
g. Amazing, isn't it, how quickly Randall Cobb has become the go-to guy for Aaron Rodgers?
h. Catch of the Day, and this was an easy choice: The one-handed, reaching-behind-his-back job by Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. Only one word for that one: Wow.
i. Runner-up Catches of the Day: the one-handed pick of Tom Brady by Miami safety Reshad Jones, the Patrick Peterson interception of Mark Sanchez ... and the one-hander on the right sideline by Calvin Johnson.
j. I didn't like the story, but it's a heck of a story, Jay Glazer's report that a Browns groundskeeper hanged himself at the Browns' practice facility Saturday.
k. Congrats on your first NFL touchdown reception, MMQB guest columnist/Colts tight end Coby Fleener.
l. Good camera work, FOX, catching Adrian Peterson looking up at the scoreboard for intelligence on the defenders chasing him on an 82-yard touchdown run.
m. Good hustle, Jaime Maggio. (For those who don't have nine monitors to keep up with on Sunday, Maggio ran off the field at halftime with Pete Carroll, moving at the pace of a 9-minute mile and interviewing all the while.)
n. Colin Kaepernick, saving the day (and his job?) with the longest run by a quarterback in San Francisco history, 50 yards, to set up a fourth-quarter field goal at St. Louis. And the Rams answering with a field goal of their own to force overtime, and another one in the extra period to claim the win.
o. The Rams' pluck against the best team in their division. Ten quarters this year against the NFC West leaders: Rams 40, Niners 37
p. Brandon Weeden, 364 passing yards, and he's got a great rookie weapon to grow with in Cleveland, Josh Gordon.
q. What a tremendous catch and dive at the pylon by Heath Miller to help the Steelers stun Baltimore.
r. Speaking of clutch Steelers, how about the forced fumble by James Harrison? You just don't count the Steelers out.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 13:
a. David Whitley of AOL FanHouse, for writing this about Colin Kaepernick and his tattooed arms: "NFL quarterback is the ultimate position of influence and responsibility. He is the CEO of a high-profile organization, and you don't want your CEO to look like he just got paroled." Does that news organization have editors who care about their writers writing something really dumb? Because criticizing players for having tattoos is something that might have been written in 1978, not today. And even then it wouldn't have been right.
b. I don't like the Chiefs-Panthers proceeding as normal, but I can't get too exercised about it, for a few reasons. First: The NFL's not going to cancel the game, so the game has to be played by the end of the regular season, Dec. 30. So if you postpone the game, when will you play it? Anything beyond Monday night and it makes players play on a short week, jammed in between games each team has every Sunday in December.
Second: Does it really matter if the game is pushed to Monday? Is that time enough to mourn and heal and get over the incomprehensible? Is playing 31 hours later much of a difference? Third: A source with knowledge of the decision to play Sunday told me: "There's no right answer, but the team felt it was better to be doing something they love to do Sunday rather than sitting around thinking about it.'' Four: As Jay Glazer reported Sunday, the team captains were unanimous in their desire to play the game.
c. Don't like Oakland owner Mark Davis wanting to see more passion out of coach Dennis Allen. You can't force a coach to be someone he isn't, and it's a mistake trying to do so. Think the Steelers wanted Chuck Noll to be more passionate in his 1-13 rookie year, 1969? Or Eddie DeBartolo, when Bill Walsh was in the middle of his 2-14 first season, did the fiery owner want Walsh to be similarly raging? A coach has to be who he is. It doesn't work if he fakes it.
d. I wanted to watch the Hoge-Suh interview, ESPN, because I heard how good it was. But I have a personal rule: After the 64th tease, I turn off the TV. The end of the planet isn't worth as many teases as you gave Hoge-Suh, ESPN.
e. Andrew Luck makes too many careless downfield throws. Terrible late-first-half pick in Detroit.
f. The Patriots are good enough on offense, Brandon Fields. They won't need you to give them a short-field, seven-point gift with a dropped punt snap deep in your territory.
g. Didn't see enough evidence to overturn that Braylon Edwards touchdown catch from Russell Wilson in Chicago. But it was overturned by Mike Carey.
h. Christian Ponder. Too shaky for this far into his second starting season.
i. Brian Robison lost contain on Aaron Rodgers way too often at Lambeau, allowing the Pack QB to get out of the pocket and have a clear lane to throw on the right side of the formation.
j. Delanie Walker, with a drop of what would have been the winning touchdown catch and a holding call on successive plays inside the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter of a tie game at St. Louis.
k. Questionable clock management and playcalling by Jim Harbaugh late. That's being nice.
l. There were quite a few bad throws by quarterbacks Sunday, about half by Ryan Lindley. But I'll put the wafting, foolish duck of an interception thrown by Joe Flacco into the hands of a lucky Ryan Clark very high on the list. It's almost like Flacco had a hot potato and said to Clark, "Here! You take it!''
m. Philip Rivers with another red zone interception at a crucial moment of the game. It's becoming a fatal flaw.
n. Doug Free. The Cowboys made a bad signing there, and it was on display early Sunday night as he got turnstiled by Brandon Graham for a big early sack by the Eagles.
3. I think some good reporting came across the internet this morning, the story by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada documenting 28 more cases of chronic brain damage in dead former football players. Fifteen played in the NFL, including Ollie Matson and John Mackey, who were Hall of Fame players. Boston University researchers continue to pave the way in this important subject.
4. I think the Raiders did the New York Giants a huge favor in 2010. Al Davis chose Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain eighth overall, and he was a player the Giants, drafting 15th, were very interested in as the middle anchor for their defense. With McClain gone, the Giants settled for inexperienced South Florida pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul. What a stroke of good fortune for the Giants and GM Jerry Reese.
McClain has given the Raiders some good football on the field, but he's been a source of immaturity and divisiveness as well. He was convicted of firing a gun near a man's head while in Alabama for a funeral last year -- he appealed and the charge was dismissed when the alleged victim opted not to cooperate in the case. Last Wednesday, McClain was kicked out of a practice and posted on his Facebook wall, "Looking forward to playing for an actual 'team.' ''
Said GM Reggie McKenzie, who has to figure out the McClain mess: "From a leadership standpoint, you cannot do what he did and call yourself a leader. Period. Now, what to do with him afterwards, you're talking about post-suspension, we'll let that play out. I don't want to make a decision or announcement at this time. But, you know, it's not good to act and do what he did ... So far, he is not apologetic.''
Don't hold your breath.
5. I think the other big reason McClain's behavior is so costly is this: If the Raiders keep him next year (highly unlikely), his cap number would be $6.675 million. If they cut him, the dead money assigned to the Raider cap would be $7.26 million. Such is the painful life of Reggie McKenzie, and I totally empathize: A guy you counted on to be a cornerstone long-term, if fired as he should be, will rip 6 percent of your salary cap space in 2013 away from you.
6. I think that, lost in a week as tumultuous as the one that just ended, players and fans of all sports should not forgot the immense contributions to baseball and all sports of the late Marvin Miller, who died Tuesday at 95. The baseball union's freedom fighter forced baseball to establish a real system of free agency, and brethren in all sports should be grateful.
NFL Players Association executive director De Smith is. "He was a mentor to me, and we spoke often and at length,'' Smith said. "His most powerful message was that players would remain unified during labor strife if they remembered the sacrifices made by previous generations to make the game better. His passion for the players never faltered, and men and women across all sports are in a better place thanks to his tireless work."
7. I think the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger did the right thing -- and there was really no decision, if you calculate health in the equation -- in ruling him out Sunday versus Baltimore, just 20 days after his shoulder injury and dislocated first rib. This is not a 20-day rehab. In fact, as I said on NBC over the week, I don't expect him to play Sunday when San Diego comes to Pittsburgh. He should aim for the last three weeks of the season, when he will be 34 days removed from the injury, so perhaps the Week 15 game at Dallas.
8. I think Drew Brees just played the worst game in his seven-year Saints career. In fact, I'm sure of it.
9. I think I strongly, strongly recommend the Earl Campbell documentary (Still Standing: The Earl Campbell Story'), produced by Ross Greenburg Productions and NFL Films, airing Tuesday night on the NBC Sports Network at 11 Eastern Time. (Truth in advocacy: NBC employs me, and I used to work for HBO Sports.)
I've seen the show, and a couple of things about it. One: Everything Greenburg touched as the former HBO Sports czar was quality storytelling, and it goes without saying that NFL Films is superb at stories too. This is on the level of that great storytelling, particularly about Campbell having risky spinal surgery and his sons, Tyler and Christian, stridently urging him to go to rehab to beat his addictions.
Two: If you're 35 or younger, you didn't see Earl Campbell play, at least in his prime. And you missed one of the greatest big backs in NFL history. What made Campbell special, and what this documentary shows, is the combination of power and speed that only Jim Brown can match in NFL history. (Sacrilege here, but Jerome Bettis is very close, and give credit to Bettis, because he was 20 pounds heavier than Brown and Campbell and could still run past some safeties.)
I'll never forget sitting in Athens, Ohio, in my senior year in college, watching the Houston-Miami Monday-nighter in Campbell's rookie year, 1978, and seeing him run over and around the Dolphins for four touchdowns, including the winner, an 81-yarder, late in the fourth quarter. You need to experience Campbell's greatness, if you haven't already, and this show's a good introduction to the great career, and the great post-career pain, of Campbell.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Rick Majerus won't go down as the greatest basketball coach ever, and many will remember his girth as much as his victories. But the man had 517 college coaching wins. Imagine averaging 21 wins a season. That's what Majerus did. Not many men in the college game can say that. It took Majerus 538 games to reach 400 wins. It took John Calipari 537. When Majerus died of heart failure in Los Angeles Saturday, college basketball lost an excellent coach.
b. Regarding the Old Navy ad with Chevy Chase reprising National Lampoon Christmas Vacation: Chevy Chase has had an inglorious last 15 years.
c. Rewatched The Descendants the other night. Just as good the second time around. The two girls in that movie have stunningly good dialogue, so real in kid rebellion.
d. "DEREK EATER,'' screamed the back page of the New York Post the other day, showing the Yankee shortstop with his foot in a boot and a few extra pounds around the middle.
e. Be Glad You Don't Drive And Live in New York Dept.: Live in Jersey and go into the city through the Lincoln or Holland Tunnel, and your toll rose from $8 to $12 in September 2011. This weekend it went up to $13. Just another reason for the rest of the country to shake its head at New York City.
f. Bowl fever, baby. The Military Bowl, in Washington. Bowling Green versus San Jose State. The weirdest matchup, in a place a combined 3,700 miles from the two campuses.
g. Jon Heyman says the Red Sox might be interested in Josh Hamilton. Didn't they just shed a bunch of Josh Hamilton contracts?
h. Coffeenerdness: I have not a nerdy thing to say about coffee this morning. Other than that I need it mainlined right now, and fast, to finish this column.
i. Beernerdness: In Boston the other day, I realized how much I miss Harpoon, particularly the Harpoon UFO White. They've got to get that stuff on tap in New York.
j. Had a swell time at the Boston Ad Club's Sports+Entertainment Summit Thursday. Thanks for the invitation and the chance to talk to some good people.
k. I don't know how it happened. I don't know why it happened. But the tape loop at the Starbucks near Rockefeller Center Sunday morning had the Carpenters' "Top of the World" playing, and I couldn't get it out my head watching football all day, or on the train to Washington in the wee hours of the morning, or polishing off the column in a D.C. hotel this morning. There are a lot of songs I wouldn't mind being stuck in my head for a day or two, but that is not one of them.
The ace Boston Globe columnist wrote a wonderful column about the death of senator-elect Elizabeth Warren's golden retriever Otis five days before the November election. Writes McGrory: "It's the misery of ever loving a dog." Those of us who have been through it know exactly what Warren's going through now, and exactly what McGrory means.
Washington 30, New York Giants 27: Robert Griffin III is getting the attention he richly deserves, but he's also getting terrific help from a group of young receivers (except for Santana Moss, 33). Pierre Garcon, 26, made a ridiculous catch-and-run for a touchdown last week in Dallas, and two wideouts picked in the 2011 draft, Leonard Hankerson from Miami (23) and Aldrick Robinson from SMU (24) are emerging as long-term solutions in the Washington passing game. Josh Morgan, 27, is another puzzle piece. Washington will have holes to fill, particularly on the offensive line and defensive backfield next offseason, but it looks like Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan have the right mix to help Griffin at receiver.
Romeo remembered her.
We all should. Often.
Crosby's goal and two assists help propel Penguins past Ovechkin and the Caps
Crosby's goal and two assists help propel Penguins past Ovechkin and the Caps