Matthew Stafford Comes of Age
Sometimes you just feel it. And on Sunday, staring a loss in the face, the QB felt it, leading the Lions to an inexplicable victory and growing up a lot in the process. Plus, more of my thoughts from an offense-heavy Week 8
Two months down, two to go. Time flies when you’re having fun. The Lions had some fun Sunday, and the resurgent Staffords will lead the column … but some headlines first:
• Mike Pouncey might want to get lawyered up. As Pete Thamel and Greg A. Bedard reported Sunday night, the Massachusetts state police served the Miami Dolphins center with a Grand Jury subpoena after his game in Foxboro Sunday. “What’s this about?’’ Pouncey said when a gray-suited officer handed him the papers. It created a strange scene outside the Dolphins locker room at Gillette Stadium, with stunned Miami officials totally blindsided. Pouncey, too, evidently had no idea what was coming. A source told Thamel that the serving of the papers is related to the ugly Aaron Hernandez case. The source said the authorities are focusing on Hernandez’s potential involvement in interstate gun trafficking. Yikes. Pouncey is a good friend of Hernandez’s dating back to their days together at Florida. Does this mean Pouncey is guilty of anything? No. It could be a way for the authorities to build a stronger case against Hernandez, who is in jail charged with murder.
• Alex Smith: The gift that keeps on giving. Just like Clark Griswold’s Jelly of the Month Club present, the Kansas City quarterback brought more joy to two fanbases Sunday. In lifting the Chiefs to a 23-17 victory over Cleveland at home, Smith continued KC’s perfect (8-0) season. The eighth win also meant the 49ers, who traded Smith to Kansas City so he could run Andy Reid’s West Coast offense this season, would receive an improved draft choice as the second part of the trade. The original trade was Smith for a second-round pick in 2013 and a third-rounder in 2014 … but the third- in ’14 would become a second- if the Chiefs won eight games or more this season. That happened by mid-afternoon Sunday, as the Niners were trudging off the field at Wembley Stadium in London after whipping Jacksonville 42-10. As if San Francisco draft guru Trent Baalke needed more ammo, he now could be looking at six picks in the first three rounds next May: his own first-, second- and third-rounders, plus the second-rounder for Smith, a third-rounder from Tennessee from a draft-weekend 2013 trade, and a pick as high as a third-rounder as a compensatory choice for losing pricy free agents such as Dashon Goldson last spring.
• This just in: Calvin Johnson’s good. He had a nice month in three hours Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit’s 31-30 shocker of Dallas: 14 catches, 329 yards (seven away from the all-time single-game record), one touchdown. That also gives him the all-time two-game record of 484 receiving yards. Eight days, 484 yards. Eight games, 470 yards for Larry Fitzgerald.
• This just in: The Eagles aren’t. Remember the good ol’ days? Way back in the first half of the first game of the season, when the Chip Kelly offense was all the rage? The high-octane Eagles offense is averaging 67.7 plays per game. Andy Reid’s offense last year averaged 67.4. The problem in Philadelphia, which is lucky to be 3-5, is Kelly can’t hang his hat on anything in his offense.
• Be ready for anything with London. There’s nothing of permanence happening with London right now, and I’m told every option is on the table. That includes a team moving there, an expansion team, more than three games (the 2014 schedule) and perhaps even a slate of eight games, played by different teams every year. There’s some thought that because there is no “home” team in England, and selling a bad Jacksonville team (the Jags will play a game there in 2014, ’15 and ’16 at least) will be problematic right now, a good option is every team alternating. Of course, that won’t be a good option the minute you tell a Packers, Steelers, Broncos or Seahawks fan he or she has to lose a home game for the sake of expansionism. I sense frustration from some around the league that the NFL spends huge money to put on a great show in England one to three times a year, and the media there ignores it. But as one league operative told me recently: “If you guys [NBC, where I also work] can get 850,000 viewers for a Manchester United game on NBC Sports Network, why can’t we build a block of fans like that for football over there?”
• The Illegal Bat. I love the sound of that. It’s like a baseball slugger caught corking. It surfaced clear as day in Foxboro and still became controversial. You’ll read more about it in Ten Things below.
• Greg Jennings in the Revenge Game: One catch, nine yards, left the locker room before the media arrived following Green Bay’s 44-31 win at Minnesota last night. That’s 264 yards fewer than teammate Cordarrelle Patterson put on the board.
• Manning 6,000. I wrote last year about the possibility of a quarterback, in the not-too-distant future, throwing for 6,000 yards in a season. Aaron Rodgers, I theorized, would have the best shot. I’m not saying Peyton Manning’s going to do it this year, but let’s acknowledge the greatness of the first-half MVP here. In Denver’s 7-1 start, Manning has averaged 365 passing yards per game. Other-worldly, obviously. But let’s say he adds one medium-range skinny post per game in the final eight games. Say, an extra gain of 20 per game. If Manning averages 385 yards per game in his final eight, he’ll hit 6,000. As it is, he’s on pace for 5,838 passing yards with 58 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Yards will get tougher in December, of course. Manning’s got two home games in five days in the last month, including a Thursday nighter against San Diego Dec. 12. But who’d have ever thought throwing for 6,000 would be remotely possible so soon after 5,000 started getting hit?
Now for the Detroit story. It’s a good one.