Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 11:
a. Great point by Raiders beat man Steve Corkran: “Matt McGloin went from camp arm in late April to Raiders starting QB on Sunday. No way anyone saw that happening.”
b. Great quote from Manish Mehta in the New York Daily News, from Jets defensive rookie stalwart Sheldon Richardson, asked about teammate Muhammad Wilkerson: “I don’t feel like Mo’s the best defensive player in the league—I am. I’m dead-ass serious.” I thought vets kept rookies in their place?
c. Joique Bell: Heck of a backup back.
d. Calvin Johnson can make every catch, he can toe-tap, and he can lay out. But you knew all that. Andre Johnson’s close. Brandon Marshall’s a physical force like they are. A.J. Green, who drops too many, is excellent too. But Calvin Johnson’s the gold standard of NFL receivers.
e. Matt McGloin to Rod Streater. Beautiful throw.
f. McGloin to sixth-round rookie tight end Mychal Rivera for a picture-perfect in-stride touchdown. Even better.
g. Great goal-line stop by Buffalo strong safety Aaron Williams to stop a Jets rushing TD when Jets-Bills was still a game.
h. So Nick Foles wasn’t a big star Sunday. He also didn’t make a big mistake.
i. The quiet and terminally underrated Marques Colston, setting the Saints’ record for receiving yards. He has 7,923 now.
j. Nate Garner and Sam Brenner. Meet your new Miami center and left guard, at least for the time being. They were good enough to help the Dolphins beat San Diego.
k. Congrats to the extra guys for a huge play at Cincinnati. Undrafted linebacker Jayson DiManche blocked a Cleveland punt, and rookie Tony Dye, just promoted from the practice squad Saturday, ran it in for a touchdown. Cool stuff.
l. A 31-point quarter against Cleveland. Now that’s something I didn’t think would happen to these Browns. Defensive and special-teams touchdowns helped.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 11:
a. The Steelers’ throwup uniforms. I mean, their throwback uniforms.
b. If Dan and Art Rooney look at those prison uniforms and do anything but wretch, I’d be stunned.
c. Please don’t humor the Steelers by giving your Steeler fan friend one of those things for the holidays.
d. The Washington secondary.
e. The Washington passing game: 26 yards in the first 35 minutes.
f. What in the name of quarterback competence is Robert Griffin III doing throwing that wasted Hail Mary with the game on the line on a third down late in the fourth quarter? Just not a smart play. Not smart at all.
g. I bet NFL Network’s excited about the Falcons hosting the Thursday nighter this week.
h. The First Half Geno Smith.
i. The Second Half Geno Smith.
j. Live by the Stafford, die by the Stafford.
k. The 49ers complaining about the Tony Corrente call. Watch it again. It’s a call that has to be made in today’s game.
l. Dumb play by Corey Liuget, the San Diego defensive tackle, whose clear roughing-the-passer penalty against Ryan Tannehill was a sign he has to get his aggression under control. Very, very good young player. But you can’t go hurting your team like that.
3. I think this is the moral of the story in the Ed Reed-being-cut-by-Houston-after-making-$5.4-million-for-275-mostly-invisible-snaps debacle: It’s okay to pay for a name and leadership in a veteran player who is far over the hill … but base the pay on performance. For Reed, the Texans were a gold watch before retirement. But instead of Swiss Army, he was a Rolex, and after his recent dip in performance with the Ravens, Houston just paid him too much. In a tight-cap era, with too many stars on defense to pay already, Reed, at his age, was too luxurious.
4. I think the American sports media fired Greg Schiano too early.
5. I think running back Bobby Rainey deserves a load of credit for sticking with it and taking advantage of his opportunity in Tampa Bay, after the Bucs’ myriad running back injuries. That was a Greg Schiano grind-it-out running performance by Rainey, 163 yards on 30 carries, with two touchdowns. Schiano loves to grind teams down with his backs. But this performance, to me, also says a lot about the Falcons. Rainey is not fast. He’s not a Bettis-type tackle-breaker. The Atlanta defense has much to answer for this morning.
6. I think you may never hear it from Ben Tate, because he’s not the kind to talk about his pain. But the man has four cracked ribs, and he got crunched solidly by the Raiders three or four times Sunday, including one accordion tackle that made me cringe. Nineteen carries for 88 yards, in this dirge of a Houston season … pretty impressive.
7. I think just when you think you can get Drew Stanton warming up in the bullpen, Carson Palmer responds with impressive football. I’m told he’s now feeling comfortable with Bruce Arians’ deep-strike offense, and 30 completions and 419 yards looked pretty comfortable Sunday at Jacksonville. Good to see Michael Floyd becoming a strong alternative to Larry Fitzgerald, finally.
8. I think the defection of the Braves to an Atlanta suburb 12 miles north of town said the Falcons made the first deal downtown, and the city wasn’t going to make two of them. I was in the first event ever at Turner Field (not called that on the night of the Opening Ceremonies of the ’96 Olympics), and it’s amazing to me that it’s already aged out.
9. I think to clear up some of the confusion—and there has been much of it—over who has the authority to increase the regular-season schedule from 16 to 18 games, the league must get approval from the players to do so. Article 31 of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement states it clearly: “The League and/or Clubs may increase the number of regular season games per team above the standard of sixteen (16) only with NFLPA approval, which may be withheld at the NFLPA’s sole discretion.” That comes up occasionally, and you should have that in your informational hip pocket.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. What a great thing Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean did Friday night in Bloomington. Late in a game against Samford, during a timeout on the floor, Crean grabbed the arena microphone and praised retiring referee Ed Hightower (36 years as a Division I ref, with 10 Final Fours) thusly: “He has not only been one of the best officials, but one of the classiest officials.” Goosebumps on that one. Hightower shook hands with each coach and the game went on.
b. Also on that three-man Hightower crew, as a warmup to his ref stint Sunday at Soldier Field: Gene Steratore.
c. Duke is 8-2. The football team.
d. Please don’t wear those uniforms again, Northwestern. They hurt the eyes.
e. I’ll ask you nicely, college football: Stop with the timeout after first downs. Some of these games … interminable.
f. Headline someone at CNN would like to have back after the state of Illinois was ravaged by more than 50 twisters: “Tornadoes touch down in Illinois; Bears game interrupted.”
g. Coffeenerdness: Bring the maple oat nut scone back, Starbucks. Don’t make me beg.
h. Beernerdness: I had no new ones this week. I simply must try harder.
i. One postscript to all of your email, texts, tweets, actual mail and phone calls following the death of our Golden Retriever, Bailey: What touched me the most, and in one case brought me to tears, were the four of you who said you were either going to get a dog at your local shelter or seriously considering rescuing a dog as a tribute to Bailey. Wow. Happy dog ownership. There is nothing like it. Thank you.
Who I Like Tonight
Patriots 20, Panthers 16. There’s a lot to like about the Panthers’ defense, which is allowing a league-low 12.8 points a game and is coming off a stifling of the 49ers. But that San Francisco contest was the first “welcome to relevancy” game the Panthers have played in a while, with a nation’s eyes on them, and now they have to do it again against a team and quarterback that are experts at these high-profile affairs. With Shane Vereen’s return adding to the weaponry, I like Tom Brady to outplay Cam Newton, who has posted a couple stinkers in a row (56.5 completion percentage, one touchdown, three interceptions).
The Adieu Haiku
And then there were none.
Buoniconti pops champagne.
Perfection is safe.