Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 5:
a. Alshon Jeffrey, with his franchise-record-setting day for the Bears: 218 receiving yards on 10 catches (one touchdown) while the Saints spent their time shutting down Brandon Marshall.
b. T.Y. Hilton, on his way to being a big star, with his 73-yard catch and run behind Richard Sherman for a touchdown.
c. Zach Ertz is growing on me. Good, energetic tight end in the Chip Kelly offense.
d. Mason Crosby, coming back to competency.
e. Great FOX camera work on the Eagles’ mugging of Giant special-teams gunner Charles James. Shows everything that’s important about the tenacious mode of play for the players on the outside of the punt teams.
f. My two favorite underrated offensive skill players coming up very big: James Jones with an 83-yard touchdown catch for Green Bay, and Pierre Thomas with two touchdowns for the Saints.
g. Thomas Morstead with a 55-yard punt out of bounds at the Chicago 2-yard line.
h. Peyton Manning’s first scoring drive: three plays, 80 yards, 50 seconds. Scoring on a shovel pass to a 267-pount tight end.
i. Dallas’s time of possession in the first quarter: 13 minutes.
j. Great blocking downfield by Wes Welker.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 5:
a. The NFC East—all below .500.
b. Tennessee without Jake Locker: zero first-quarter points, 10 first-quarter yards.
c. Luke Joeckel, four days after the Eugene Monroe trade, goes out with an ankle injury. Pity the Jags.
d. The Eagles in the red zone.
e. Andre Smith: You’re letting a free-agent rookie from Bowling Green, Chris Jones, beat you on the inside to sack Andy Dalton?
f. Linebacker James Anderson wearing No. 50, Mike Singletary’s number, for the Bears. Just noticed it Sunday, and I don’t like it. It was given to Anderson in April.
g. Does anyone on the Giants not fumble?
h. Blaine Gabbert.
i. I mean, that’s all you need to say.
j. Tom Coughlin with a bad day. He chose to bypass handing Philadelphia a 4th-and-4 from the Giants’ 47, ensuring an Eagles punt, in favor of pushing the Eagles back to a 3rd-and-20 … and then watching Mike Vick run for 31 yards to convert the third down. In the second half he burned two timeouts to challenge an official’s call—and was wrong.
k. Giovani Bernard, the promising Cincinnati running back, who fumbled in the fourth quarter against the Patriots.
l. Three drops for Carolina in the first 20 minutes.
3. I think when I grow up, I want to understand that Calvin Johnson commercial.
4. I think one of the reasons The MMQB excites me so much is because of stories like the one veteran special-teams coach Mike Westhoff wrote for us Friday. It’s a great take on what the diminution of importance of special teams is doing to the game. I strongly urge you to read it. His best point: that the next great special-teams coach won’t be able to climb the ladder on his coaching staff and get an opportunity like John Harbaugh did. Could that rob the game of a great head coach in the making? If the game doesn’t feature enough impact plays to give a chance for special-teams coaches to stand out, how will they move up to the top jobs? Two other Super Bowl winners who got their start coaching special teams: Mike Ditka and Bill Cowher.
5. I think the best on-field idea of Westhoff’s—moving the kickoff line back from the 35- to 25-yard line, lining up the 10 kickoff-coverage players no further back than the 20-, and lining up eight of the 11 men on the kickoff-return unit between 10 and 20 yards from the kickoff line, all in an effort to diminish the high-speed, crashing hits on kick returns—should certainly be considered by the Competition Committee. And I believe it will be, from a league source. But this source said any adjustment to the kicking game would have to come with the proviso that it would not increase injuries or concussions, both of which have gone down with fewer kicks being returned in the last two-plus seasons. Remember: Moving the kickoff from the 30 to the 35 in 2011 was not done to improve the game. It was done to cut down on injuries. So if the number of kickoffs is going to go back up, Westhoff or whoever advances this cause will have to have some proof or logic that it won’t get more players hurt.
6. I think until I watched Terrelle Pryor play early this morning, I would have said the best spot for Josh Freeman was Oakland. No question. Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson coached Freeman in his first three years in the NFL (2009-11), and Freeman had a 10-6 record with a 95.9 rating in 2010, when he looked like a rising star. I think the only better place for Freeman would have been Green Bay. If I were Freeman I’d have gone to work with Mike McCarthy and studied Aaron Rodgers, signed a modest deal with the Packers through the end of the 2014 season, then decided what to do with my future. That way, I’d be mechanically sound, fundamentally better and, at 27 in 2015, much more ready to pilot a team than I am today.
7. I think I can recommend—if you’re in the New York area—the 5,000-square-foot traveling Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibit that will be at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J. between now and March 2. Barry Sanders was in New York last week promoting it. The display includes a football once carried in a game by Jim Thorpe, and it’s interactive: Visitors can go through some of the scouting combine experiences. “I know people will love it if they love football,” said Sanders, who is working as an ambassador for the Hall. “It’s one of the best things I’ve been involved with.”
8. I think South Carolina pass rusher Jadaveon Clowney as a very, very high draft choice is really starting to scare me. Clowney (two sacks in South Carolina’s first five games) told coach Steve Spurrier before kickoff Saturday against Kentucky that his ribs were too sore for him to play. That means he’s been hampered now in the first five weeks of the season by a virus, bone spurs in his foot and sore ribs, and Spurrier didn’t sound very happy with him post-game. “He may not be able to play next week, but we’re not going to worry about it, I can assure you of that,’’ Spurrier said. Pro scouts don’t look kindly on a player saving himself for the next level, which is what it appears Clowney is doing. At least that’s the impression NFL people have now.
9. I think of all the stories that will get no play this week because of the outcome of the game involved, this is the one that interests me the most: After three quarters Sunday night, Colin Kaepernick had completed 4 of 13 for 45 yards. And San Francisco led, 24-3. Kaepernick finished 6 of 15, but it’s the accuracy that has to concern offensive coordinator Greg Roman. It’s declined from 62 percent last year to 56 percent now.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Excellent New York Times story on Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who has suffered five game-day epileptic seizures in the last three seasons, causing him to not be able to coach. The most recent came Saturday morning, and it prevented him from coaching the game against Michigan. I feel for the guy, and he’s such an admirable role model for people with epilepsy. But I wonder how long he can keep doing the job.
b. And this from the Times, about a 12-year-old girl interviewing major-league baseball players, is very cool. Haley Smilow, for instance, knows Andrew McCutchen has a sock fetish (from an interview with the Pirate), and says of her player interviews: “I don’t ask them statistic-y questions because that’s grown-up stuff and I’m only a kid,” she said. “They’re sick of hearing, ‘Why did you go 0 for 3?’ when they have no idea why they went 0 for 3. I might ask ‘What’s on your iPod?’ or ‘What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?’ ”
c. Watching an A’s playoff game in Oakland, at least on TV, looks like the closest thing to a college football rivalry game that baseball has to offer.
d. Justin Verlander has allowed zero earned runs in his last three starts, striking out 33.
e. It’s Oct. 7, and the Buccos are alive (more than alive; up 2-1 against the great Cardinals), and the Steelers are on life support.
f. And no, I didn’t expect Boston to get 19 runs and 25 hits off the Rays with Matt Moore and David Price starting.
g. Something tells me the Sox-Rays series is going five games.
h. Looks like a long year for my Devils.
i. Saw Enough Said, the romantic comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini. Meh. Let’s just say the acting is significantly better than the story. We’re going to miss a lot of good roles Gandolfini would have played.
j. Coffeenerdness: Did Amtrak do something to the weak coffee on the Acela? Tasted a little more like real coffee and not coffee-flavored water Saturday.
k. Beernerdness: I thought Saranac Pumpkin Ale was the best pumpkin beer I’d tasted—and I’ve sampled maybe eight or 10 of them in recent autumns. But Friday in Boston I had the best: UFO Pumpkin, by Harpoon. A good pumpkin beer can’t be overpowering, and it can’t be sweet. UFO Pumpkin, which is unfiltered, is exactly the right touch of both, though the woman who served me asked: “Do you want that with cinnamon and sugar?” God no! She said some patrons like the rim of the glass coated with a cinnamon-sugar mixture, the way some like margaritas with salt. The beer itself is very good the way it is.
l. It’s easy to root for Northwestern.
m. I hope Art Briles is the next Texas coach. I don’t mean to pilfer him from you, Baylor, but he’d be a smart hire for Texas.
Who I Like Tonight
Atlanta 20, New York Jets 15. The Falcons have ruled out Steven Jackson (hamstring) for the third straight game; with the bye next week, that means he’ll be able to give the hammy 34 days to feel right, before Atlanta faces Tampa Bay coming out of the break. The Falcons should be able to beat the turnover-prone Jets without Jackson and with a gimpy Roddy White (who might have 2011 Falcons practice-squad cornerback Darrin Walls covering him in the depleted New York secondary), but the heat is on coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan here. A loss to the Jets would be disastrous, obviously.
The Adieu Haiku
Two a.m. football.
Surprisingly, I want more.
And I want it now.