Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 12:
a. Pierre Thomas. The terminally underrated back for the Saints was one of the few positive offensive forces Thursday night in Atlanta.
b. Kyle Long interrupting his mother, Diane, with a kiss on the cheek while she prepared for a FOX interview before the Rams-Bears game.
c. Cam Jordan, the precocious Saints defensive end, returning from a mini-slump to sack Matt Ryan twice, share in a third sack and knock him down another time.
d. Linebacker Paul Worrilow of the Falcons, with 44 tackles in the last three weeks. As with Tramaine Brock of the Niners, Worrilow has gone from nowhere to vital in half a season.
e. Adrian Clayborn with a tremendously instinctive pursuit and tackle of Reggie Bush on the first series at Detroit.
f. Now you know why Jacksonville spent a fifth-round pick on Ace Sanders, the poor man’s Tavon Austin.
g. Scott Tolzien with one of the great quarterback-spin moves of this, or any, year.
h. Good picks on pass plays by the San Diego receivers. Legal, as far as I can see.
i. Excuse me for praising Miami GM Jeff Ireland—that is quite out of fashion these days—but the value of getting pass rusher Olivier Vernon with the 72nd pick of the 2012 draft is pretty good. Vernon is a big help to Cameron Wake, giving offensive coordinators another pass-rushing headache when they play Miami.
j. Excellent example of the correct way to pick up a flag in Baltimore. Jets safety Ed Reed crashed into Ravens wideout Jacoby Jones in the end zone, but he hit him absolutely correctly—without the helmet, and below the shoulders.
k. Great TD route by Donnie Avery, turning Chargers corner Derek Cox beautifully in Kansas City.
l. What an incredible play by Joe Flacco against a seven-man Jets rush. While being tackled by two Jets, Flacco let a throw go to Dallas Clark, who caught it for a first down.
m. See how much Matthew Stafford missed Nate Burleson after that pizza-box incident? Stafford found Burleson five times for 67 yards in the first 18 minutes of the Bucs-Lions game.
n. Maurice Jones-Drew, looking very much like the 2011 version of MJD.
o. Zac Stacy, proving the Rams were lucky Steven Jackson walked. Hope he’s okay after leaving with a head injury.
p. The more I see Mike Glennon, the more I like him.
q. Great job, I thought, by Chris Long, rushing on the field and possibly preventing his brother Kyle from being kicked out of the game after seeing him kick (and miss) a Ram.
r. Cam Newton is so impressive, physically, in the pocket. What a weapon. So hard to bring down, and to catch.
s. Nice acrobatic pick by thrice-waived Jags defensive end Ryan Davis.
t. Just as Joe Buck says Tony Romo has to step up in the fourth quarter, less than four minutes left in a 21-all tie at the Meadowlands, Romo lofts a perfect back-shoulder 18-yard third-down conversion on Antrel Rolle to keep the Dallas drive going.
u. Fourteen plays, 80 yards for Tennessee … for the win at Oakland. Great final drive. The Titans are alive.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 12:
a. Ref Ron Winter in the Saints-Falcons game missing both a facemask and blow to the head call on Akiem Hicks against Matt Ryan.
b. This business of players dunking the ball over the crossbar (as Jimmy Graham did Thursday night) and bending the crossbar down so time has to be taken to fix it before play resumes. When that happens and the game is delayed, the offending team should get a delay-of-game penalty.
c. Seriously: Were 50 percent of the seats in Miami filled by the middle of the first quarter? Sure didn’t look like it, via the overhead camera shot.
d. Again, Antonio Cromartie, getting beat for a big play when your defense can’t afford it.
e. Tamba Hali limping off. Now that could be a disastrous injury if his foot/ankle/Achilles is seriously hurt.
f. I’d bet a significant sum that when the Lions look at offensive tape of Sunday’s game, they’ll look at Brandon Pettigrew and say, “You’ve got to help your quarterback and break up the interception.” Pettigrew hurt his team there Sunday.
g. You’re not supposed to boot a field goal into the helmet of a lineman on your own team, Graham Gano.
h. Dee Milliner, who still looks awful for the Jets.
i. Ed Reed, who looks done for the Jets.
j. Very bad call on the Muhammed Wilkerson low hit on Joe Flacco. Not a foul—not when he’s tripped into the quarterback by a Baltimore lineman.
k. Luke Kuechly’s a lucky man. Two weeks in a row now.
l. Terrible pick thrown by Alex Smith. He is sometimes inaccurate, but very rarely makes a dumb throw deep in his own turf. The Marcus Gilchrist pick leading to the go-ahead third-quarter TD, that was dumb.
m. The Giants may well have scored on the drive anyway. But tight end Brandon Myers caught a deep ball from Eli Manning, fell to the ground, and Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter simply ran past him on the ground without touching him. Myers got up and ran the final seven yards for the touchdown. Just a lazy play by Carter.
n. Stevan Ridley, whose fourth lost fumble of the season couldn’t have come at a worse time. On New England’s first drive of a frigid night at Foxboro, Mr. Fumble got stripped by linebacker Wesley Woodyard, and Von Miller picked it up and ran it back 60 yards for the first points of an ugly half for the Patriots.
3. I think this tells you what you need to know about how much of a lead Jerry Rice has on the field on the NFL’s all-time receptions list. Tony Gonzalez caught his 1,300th pass on Thursday night. Gonzalez has five games left in his NFL career. If Gonzalez averages 50 catches a game in his final five games, he’ll pass Rice. By one reception. (Rice had 1,549 in his career.)
4. I think, regarding the Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinal vote, the four men I feel for this morning are Steve Tasker, the best special-teams player in history; Gil Brandt, whose career in football deserves to have an airing in the room when the final 15 candidates are debated the day before the Super Bowl; Steve Sabol, whose role in the history of football is undisputed; and Ron Wolf, who set up the long-term greatness of the Packers with the trade for Brett Favre, the hiring of Mike Holmgren, and the convincing—somehow, some way—of Reggie White to sign a free-agent contract in Green Bay. I am glad for the 25 men who have reached the semifinals. All have rich histories and are worthy of the collective consideration of the 46 voters. I look forward to winnowing the list to 15 in the coming weeks.
5. I think sometimes you can tell which refs the NFL wants to do which games. Sunday night was the third straight meeting between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady that Gene Steratore has presided over. (The first was a Colts-Pats game, the second two Broncos-Pats … 2010 in Foxboro, 2012 in Foxboro, and last night in Foxboro.)
6. I think Pete Carroll might need to redouble his efforts to warn players about substances they can’t put in their bodies, with Walter Thurmond blowing the chance of a lifetime by accepting a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. He’s the third Seattle defensive back to get similarly whacked in 12 months, and this will put tremendous pressure now on Richard Sherman to be really good over the next four weeks.
7. I think Darnell Dockett is the winner of the NFL’s Most Underrated Interview award.
8. I think under the category of “Contracts They’d Love To Have Back,” I give you Cortland Finnegan, the 108th- and lowest-rated cornerback in the NFL after 11 weeks, according to ProFootballFocus.com. The Rams paid him $50 million over five years in 2012, and place him on injured-reserve Saturday … after he’d allowed 76.5 percent of the passes to his men to be complete, and allowed opposing quarterbacks a 136.0 rating on passes thrown in his area. Finnegan’s due $26 million in his last three years, including a $3 million roster guarantee next year, so you can bet the Rams will try to make him take a financial haircut next spring.
9. I think this is This Week’s Sign of the Journalistic Apocalypse: The lead story on the aol.com front page Thursday night was headlined, “Ex-NFL player makes confession.” Subhead: “Played six seasons with Miami. ‘Nobody in the stands would know.’ ” So of course I look. Aren’t these things designed only to make you look? To get another click? The story is about former Dolphin Channing Crowder saying he urinated on himself during every game of his NFL career. Lord help us.
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. Seen those Bonnie and Clyde ads or billboards? Hope the upcoming TV show is more realistic than the blood spatterings that look nothing like blood.
b. I am an incredible know-nothing about the NBA, but there’s a chance I knew what I was talking about when I said the Nets were dumb for thinking you could win an NBA title with an Old Timers team.
c. Even I can see Paul George is an incredible basketball player.
d. The Yankees got better by signing Brian McCann. No doubt about it. Great ballpark for him. But …
e. I know we’re not supposed to care about batting average anymore, but he has hit .242 over the past two years. RBI high over the last four years: 77. I would have liked the signing a lot more in 2009 than 2014.
f. Jason Vargas is 51-58 with a 4.30 lifetime ERA. Guess what the Royals just paid him? Four years, $32 million.
g. Jamaal Charles is in the midst of a six-year, $28 million contract in Kansas City as a top-five NFL running back. Odd athlete salaries in Kansas City: Jason Vargas, $8 million per. Jamaal Charles, $4.7 million per.
h. Devils went out west for three games in four nights, playing teams (Ducks, Kings, Sharks) with three of the best eight records in hockey. Beat Anaheim 4-3 in overtime. Beat Los Angeles 2-1 in OT. Lost to San Jose 2-1. Cory Schneider is a heck of a goalie. Well worth the ninth pick in the 2013 draft, which is what Lou Lamoriello paid for him.
i. Tough luck, Iceland. Would have loved to have seen the ultimate World Cup underdog playing in Brazil.
j. Coffeenerdness: There is not much better in life early on a Sunday morning than the smell of Italian roast coffee wafting through the home.
k. Beernerdness: Tried perhaps my last pumpkin brew for the year (they start to disappear in favor of winter ales now), the River Horse Hipp-o-Lantern Pumpkin Ale from Ewing, N.J., the other night. Not enough pumpkin nose or taste for me. A little too alcohol-laden at 8.7 percent. I’ve had better.
l. Best TV show I saw (and I didn’t see many) on the JFK anniversary: Tom Brokaw’s two-hour special Friday night with so many of the vital characters in the story. The shoe-store manager who followed Oswald into the theater where he was captured, one of the two cops who nabbed Oswald, the guy who drove Oswald to work (with his gun disguised as curtain rods) on the fateful day, the doctor who tended to Kennedy when he was wheeled into the operating room at Parkland Hospital. Great work.
m. Why, exactly, does UMass (average margin in 10 losses this year: 22.5 points) play football? And what student in Amherst thinks it’s a good idea to drive 92 miles to home games in Foxboro?
n. Duke’s football team has eight more wins than UConn’s.
o. That’s not the strangest stat of college football. Georgia Southern winning at Florida without completing a forward pass is.
p. Speaking of weird football stats: Montclair (N.J.) High School, the alma mater of my two daughters, won a New Jersey state tournament game Saturday against Union City while recovering three onside kicks.
Who I Like Tonight
San Francisco 23, Washington 20. This will be a better game than people think, and not just because the Niners have to travel. With ace guard Mike Iupati out, and with Washington linebackers London Fletcher and Perry Riley having good seasons in the run game, the result could turn on Colin Kaepernick’s ability to hit three or four balls downfield (which he’s struggled to do all season), or his ability to make front-seven Washingtonians miss. On the other side, I see Robert Griffin III channeling his inner anger (though it’s of his own making) and out-playing Kaepernick. The difference in this game, though, will be that the Niners’ defense is capable of making more plays. And will.
The Adieu Haiku
Dan Dierdorf rode his
bike to the Hall as a kid.