I’m still trying to take it all in. We all are. What a day. What a night.
In Houston, 52-year-old picture-of-health coach Gary Kubiak slumped to his knees leaving his home field at halftime Sunday night. Medics rushed to his side and Kubiak was wheeled off the field, appearing in pain, to a waiting ambulance, which sped to hospital. It wasn’t a heart attack, the club said, but in the wee hours of this morning, doctors examined Kubiak to see exactly what it was—a stroke, exhaustion, something else—as a city already saddened by the recent deaths of local sports fixtures Bum Phillips and Bud Adams held its breath.
In Denver, with 58-year-old coach John Fox lying in a hospital awaiting surgery to replace a defective heart valve, executive vice president John Elway negotiated into the night for an interim coach to fill in for Fox for as long as he needs to convalesce. His target, presumably, was defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, the former nine-year coach of the Jags. “I’m getting close,’’ Elway told me Sunday night from Denver. (Del Rio was named interim coach on Monday morning.)
In South Florida, in a matter of six days, the left side of the offensive line vanished. The apparently excessively hazed left tackle Jonathan Martin left the team on Oct. 28, and Sunday night just before midnight, after a crazy day of charges and angry denials, the Dolphins suspended left guard Richie Incognito (the angry denier) for his role in Martin’s departure.
Then there was football.
Philadelphia hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown in the last two games. Nick Foles threw seven TD passes in the first 41 minutes Sunday against the Raiders. “I mean, it’s crazy,’’ Foles said from Oakland, exuding the same disbelief America had about what he’d just done. Seven touchdown passes in a game … Marino, Favre, Elway, Montana, Unitas never did it. Foles did. Eagles 49, Raiders 20.
Kansas City didn’t score an offensive touchdown Sunday at Buffalo. But with the defense outscoring the placekicker 12-11, the Chiefs won 23-14, remaining the lone unbeaten team in the NFL. After the bye, 9-0 K.C. will travel to Denver to play the Broncos, who will be close to perfect (8-1) if they win at San Diego Sunday.
Carolina put Atlanta out of its misery in Charlotte, while the Jets shocked the Saints. Meaning two things: Carolina is a game behind New Orleans in the NFC South. (They don’t play until Dec. 8 and 22, by the way.) And though the playoffs don’t start until two months from today, the Panthers and Jets would be postseason teams if the derby started now. How does this projected wild-card weekend of matchups look, based on this morning’s standings (and do not tell me you had Peyton Manning and Geno Smith as your office-pool picks for road AFC wild-card quarterbacks):
NFC, with Seattle and New Orleans the 1-2 seeds
Carolina (6th seed) at Green Bay (3)
San Francisco (5) at Dallas (4)
AFC, with Kansas City and New England the 1-2 seeds
Jets (6) at Indianapolis (3)
Denver (5) at Cincinnati (4)
Cleveland, which now has the best division record in the AFC North, continued to play like Believeland. The Browns (4-5) beat the Ravens (3-5) for the first time since Joe Flacco’s senior season at Delaware (2007), 24-18. That’s right. Flacco and John Harbaugh now know what it feels to lose to the Browns. They’d been 11-0 against Cleveland before Sunday.
Seattle (8-1) trailed Tampa Bay (0-8) 21-0 in the second quarter, and Bucs coach Greg Embattled Schiano (check his birth certificate; I believe an official name change has happened) orchestrated the funkiest touchdown play of the season in the process: a jump-pass TD from running back Mike James to tight end Tom Crabtree, the kind Tim Tebow used to throw. Fairy tales happen only in Tebowland. In overtime: Seahawks 27, Bucs 24.
Indianapolis got Andrew Luck’s 10th fourth-quarter comeback in 24 professional games at Reliant Stadium, which was lethargic after the Kubiak incident. Colts 27, Texans 24. Andre Johnson caught three touchdown passes in the first 30 minutes. T.Y. Hilton caught three touchdown passes in the last 16 minutes.
New England beat Pittsburgh in Foxboro, but the story was more the Steelers’ loss, and the way the Steelers lost. New England scored 55 points, the most ever allowed by Pittsburgh, and the Steelers surrendered 610 yards to a team that, at game time, was searching for an offensive identity.
Way back when, on Thursday night, when Richie Incognito was a reborn team leader, Miami won a game in overtime on a walkoff safety.
So really, we should have seen this kind of weekend coming.
Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Colin Kaepernick had byes this week. Sunday’s 11 games featured exactly none matching teams with winning records. And it’s a weekend we’ll never forget.