Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 8:
a. Miami tight end Charles Clay, making the Dolphins forget about the damaging loss of Dustin Keller in the preseason. Joe Philbin’s splitting him wide, playing him tight to the formation, and leaning on his versatility to be a good intermediate target for Ryan Tannehill.
b. Brandon Myers, doing his part to make the Giants forget about the tight end who got away, Martellus Bennett.
c. A 93-yard read-option keeper by Terrelle Pryor? With no Steeler taking him? What a run—through the heart of a once-dominant D.
d. Take those trade rumors and stuff ‘em, Josh Gordon says with his play every week.
e. Excellent legal use of the pick by Jason Campbell throwing to Gordon late in the half. That’s smart football, for a big gain.
f. Thad Lewis, who is very tough.
g. Look at that lunging touchdown catch by Dexter McCluster. What a talent he is, and he’s being used perfectly as an everything back by Andy Reid.
h. Kevin Ogletree, who ran 70 yards to chase down Sean Lee on the Cowboys..
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 8:
a. Tom Brady, throwing behind Rob Gronkowski and getting picked by cornerback Dimitri Patterson (a very good Jeff Ireland offseason pickup), leading to Miami’s first touchdown.
b. Almost on cue, a few seconds later, Mike Vick handing the Giants an early pick with a lollygagged pass.
c. Uh, Jags? You’ve got to cover No. 49 in white there, Bruce Miller for the Niners, lined up wide right. He counts.
d. Garrett Hartley, doinking a makeable field goal on the Saints’ first drive.
e. The normally accurate Alex Smith, overthrowing a wide-open Anthony Fasano in the end zone, forcing Kansas City to settle for a field goal in the first quarter against Cleveland.
f. Geez, Tom Brady: It’s so bad you’re throwing to Rob Gronkowski in triple coverage? The good side: Officials gave the Patriots a gift defensive pass interference call on the play.
g. Throw it away when you’re under duress, Matt Barkley.
h. The Jags are one heck of an ambassadorial group for the league over in England, eh?
i. I do believe I have never seen a snap as bad as Zak DeOssie’s fourth-quarter snap. It was so bad it was out of the FOX replay camera’s view. That thing had to be 12 feet over Steve Weatherford’s head, and it handed Philadelphia its only offense.
j. Why, oh why, Chip Kelly, when you’re one score behind with four minutes to go, your defense playing well and three timeouts left do you onside kick?
k. Bad day for Davone Bess, with the muffed punt and the drop on the last Cleveland play of the game.
l. Reggie Bush did recover, but this play could have haunted the Lions had they lost to Dallas: Five minutes into the third quarter, trailing Dallas 10-7, Bush ran left and was confronted by a free-agent rookie safety, Jeff Heath. Bush moved the ball to his left hand, carrying it like the proverbial loaf of bread, and tried to stiff-arm Heath. For some reason, instead of tucking the ball under his left arm, he left it out there, Heath knocked it free, and Dallas recovered..
3. I think I’m still trying to figure out why the illegal bat call in the Miami-New England game was so controversial. It’s like the illegal pushing call last week in the Pats-Jets game: You may not like the rule. You may think it has no place in the game. But when you see it—unless you’re discriminating between penalties, or don’t think a penalty should be called at a vital time of the game because it’s a vital time of the game (which is wrong, by the way)—it’s got to be called. Now, the timing of the call killed Miami Sunday in Foxboro. The Dolphins were down 20-17 with nine minutes left in the game, with New England driving for insurance points. Tom Brady was strip-sacked, the ball fluttered loose, and Miami defensive lineman Olivier Vernon dove for the ball and struck it with his hand toward the New England goal line. The ball bounced back to the Miami 45, where Patriots tackle Nate Solder recovered. It would have been 3rd-and-29 from the 45, well out of field-goal range. But the officials threw a flag. “Illegal bat,’’ they ruled. Instead of 3rd-and-29 from the Miami 45, it was 1st-and-10 from the Miami 13. Here’s the rule, from the same NFL rule book I quoted last week: “It is an illegal bat if (a) a player of either team bats or punches a loose ball in the field of play toward his opponent’s goal line … Penalty: For illegally batting or punching the ball, loss of 10 yards … If it is a foul by the defense, it is an automatic first down.’’
4. I think the problem with yakking about the rules, or one team getting an edge, or the league favoring some team, is that when you read the exact wording of the rule in question, it usually clarifies exactly what call needs to be made. In this case, watch the replay of Vernon slapping/pushing the ball toward the New England goal. It’s pretty clear. Is the penalty onerous? In this case, certainly. But it’s a rule.
5. I think you’re not going to see more effort on any play this season than on Adrian Peterson’s eight-yard bullish touchdown run at the end of the second quarter in the Sunday night game. Show that one to your high-school backs, coaches. The man will not be denied.
6. I think for a fully healthy Peterson to have 36 carries in the last three weeks, with Minnesota struggling so much at quarterback, is absurd.
7. I think there are so many teams that could use Cleveland wideout Josh Gordon, so many receiver-needy contenders, and with the trade deadline coming Tuesday, he’s the most obvious candidate to be moved. Gordon, who is signed through 2014, will cost an acquiring team only $437,000 for the rest of the season (as opposed to, say, looming free-agent defensive end Jared Allen, who would cost $7.57 million to a team for the last nine weeks of the year). I realize Gordon could be a positive substance test away from a lengthy suspension, but if I’m the Patriots, and I still have my full load of 2014 picks, I’d offer Cleveland a fourth-round pick that could conditionally upgrade to a third- depending on performance and try to get Gordon.
8. I think the Eagles have to be the disappointment of the season. The offense in particular. They do nothing well. In the last two weeks they’ve had 25 drives in two home games, against the Cowboys and Giants … and scored one field goal and no offensive touchdowns. A Chip Kelly team first and foremost has to have consistency and efficiency at quarterback, and Philadelphia hasn’t had that all season. Which is why I think Michael Vick isn’t back next year, and why I think Kelly probably drafts a quarterback high. The Eagles, by the way, have lost 10 straight at home, by an average of 9.9 points per game.
9. I think Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver doesn’t want to be best known for flipping his middle finger at the officials after a bad call, but in this media world, unfamous coaches become famous for things like that, and that’s going to be how people remember Tarver. For now. If that’s not a deterrent to future misdeeds for a coach with a bright future, I don’t know what is.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. No more walks on the wild side for Lou Reed, who died Sunday at 71. Loved his music.
b. Memo to Darren Rovell (said with slight annoyance): The Riddell helmet/NFL divorce you wrote about, a story that was written by Jenny Vrentas of The MMQB on TheMMQB.com last Tuesday, was not written on SI.com, as you reported. It’s The MMQB.
c. Nothing against SI.com; I love SI.com. This column runs on SI.com at well as The MMQB. But the story was not written on SI.com.
d. Thanks, Florence and the Machine, for “Shake It Out.” That’s my song of the week.
e. And Macklemore … I actually have listened to a few of his songs, and he’s pretty incredible. Is there anyone who can talk faster and make some sense?
f. So … Game 3 of the World Series ends on the first walkoff obstruction call in Series history. Game 4 of the World Series ends on the first walkoff pickoff in Series history. That’s weird.
g. So … the Red Sox have lost two games in the World Series on errant throws trying to catch oncoming runners at third base. That is particularly and peculiarly hurtful.
h. The obstruction call (he said through gritted teeth), though a stupid rule because umpires cannot use interpretation, was called correctly to end Game 3.
i. Yadier Molina and Dustin Pedroia are such superior defenders. What a play Pedroia made, the diving stop and throw to home to start the weird walkoff obstruction play.
j. Quote of the Series, from Jonny Gomes to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, concerning the fact that he was only in the lineup Sunday night because Shane Victorino’s back tightened up and forced him to the bench, giving Gomes the chance to hit the game-winning three-run home run: “I had to ‘Tonya Harding’ Victorino.”
k. Google or Bing “Tonya Harding” if that one slips past you.
l. It’s only four games, but David Ortiz is batting .727 in the Series, the rest of the Red Sox .138.
m. Coffeenerdness: Had a good latte with strong espresso from an artful barista at Flat Black Coffee Company in Boston’s Financial District Friday. Recommended.
n. Beernerdness: Also had the good fortune to be at Game 2 of the Series on Thursday, and was nearly as lucky to be back in my favorite old neighborhood restaurant Picco, in Boston’s South End. Very good beer menu. Tried the Star Island Single, a Belgian ale from Smuttynose in New Hampshire, and it was almost like a light ale. Okay, and eminently drinkable, but not memorable.
Who I Like Tonight
Seattle 33, St. Louis 10. Bet you thought I’d say, “Boston 4, St. Louis 3,” didn’t you? I don’t think there’s much chance the Seahawks will pull a no-show tonight. That’s not the way they’re wired. Recall, for a moment, the Richard Sherman column on The MMQB the week before Seattle faced downtrodden Jacksonville. Wrote Sherman (with an eye on any team that is downtrodden):
“I can still remember my worst event in track at Stanford before I left the sport as a sophomore: the 110-meter hurdles. It was a difficult transition, going from the fluidity of football movements to the repetitions of the hurdles. But I do remember my personal best time—14.4 seconds. I don’t remember where I was, or who I was running against, but I’ll never forget the time. The mindset must be the same, whether you’re covering Anquan Boldin or a Jaguars rookie. That’s the way we look at football games. We remember two things: the final score, and whether we met our defensive goals. No matter who we play, we want to accomplish certain things in the red zone, certain things on third down and achieve a certain number of turnovers. It doesn’t matter if I’m playing against Boldin, Cecil Shorts or Andre Johnson—when I go up there, I want to dominate whoever is in front of me.” In other words, beware Kellen Clemens.
The Adieu Haiku
I have always thought
the home for illegal bats
was in the belfry.