Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 13:
a. Justin Tucker, in 32 career games including playoffs, has made 93 percent of his field goals (63 of 68). That says two things: Tucker should be DNA tested for the clutch gene. And the NFL needs to do something to make field goals harder.
b. I believe I’ve made that point before.
c. Is there a better 1-2 running back punch in football today than Reggie Bush and Joique Bell? Absolutely unequivocally not.
d. Bush: 182 total yards against Green Bay. Bell: 128. That’s 310 yards from people not named Calvin Johnson for Detroit in one game.
e. Bill Belichick Is Not Playing Dept.: Stevan Ridley (2012 rushing yards: 1,263), fumbler, was a healthy scratch for New England at Houston.
f. Julius Peppers is a hard day’s work for any offensive lineman, and Sunday in Minnesota was no different.
g. Three sacks on the Vikings’ first three possessions for the Bears, who will not exit contention quietly.
h. Alshon Jeffery’s hands.
i. Rob Gronkowski’s too. Watch the replay of him picking the touchdown pass from Tom Brady up six inches from the tip of the grass.
j. Tim Ryan’s excellent analysis on FOX about Cam Newton being late with a first-quarter throw that turned into an interception.
k. Trent Cole. Stunning that his first-quarter strip-sack of Carson Palmer was only his fourth sack of the year (he added another one later in the game). He’s too good for that.
l. Joe Haden’s fourth pick in the last four games.
m. Larry Fitzgerald, who is so much more of a physical receiver than he looks. Check out the stereo hit he took against the Eagles, followed by him running the last 26 yards without breaking stride.
n. Best decision Chip Kelly’s made this year: Giving Riley Cooper another chance.
o. Cam Newton definitely crossed the plane of the goal line before fumbling in the second quarter against Tampa. Definitely a TD, and good use of replay.
p. Ben Tate’s 20-yard touchdown run against the Patriots. Devin McCourty’s jock is still on the turf at Reliant Stadium.
q. Ernie Accorsi with a nice seat in Charlotte Sunday—right next to owner Jerry Richardson. Accorsi’s a mentor to Panthers GM Dave Gettleman.
r. Whoa, Jon Beason. What a hit on Robert Griffin III in the first Washington series Sunday night.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 13:
a. Green Bay’s offensive line. Don’t tell me what a bad game Matt Flynn had in Detroit. He did. But he never had a chance.
b. Arizona left tackle Bradley Sowell. He was a vacation for the Eagles’ Trent Cole and Brandon Graham.
c. Take the three points, Joe Philbin!
d. I mean, you’re playing a team, the Jets, that is the worst offensive team in football. Bar none. It’s 0-0 with two minutes left in the first half. Fourth-and-goal from the New York 2. You can take a 3-0 lead and instead choose to put it in the hands of a quarterback whose strength, to put it mildly, is not the touch fade pass. I’m only mildly affected by the fact that you did rebound to kick two field goals because of the incredibly inept Jets before halftime.
e. Arizona CB Jerraud Powers, you cannot interfere in the end zone. But you know that. If you’re going to tamper, at least try to disguise it.
f. The first half of Tennessee-Indianapolis, which I think is still going on.
g. It took one hour and 38 minutes.
h. Catch the ball, Heyward-Bey.
i. How bad was Sunday for the Jets? Not just another dispiriting loss, but this: The first-round pick, cornerback Dee Milliner, was benched. The second-round pick, quarterback Geno Smith, was benched.
j. Terrible call on Bears tackle Jermon Bushrod by the officiating crew at Minnesota, the five-yard delay of game for throwing the ball downfield. Bushrod barely dropped the ball behind his back. Silly, over-officious call.
k. Giants. Sieve. Early.
l. Mike Shanahan has many bigger things to worry about, but if I were him, I’d ask the coach who told him to review the fourth-quarter Brandon Myers catch-and-stretch for a first down, “What possibly were you thinking, and why do you think we should have wasted a crucial timeout to review that?”
3. I think the more I see London Fletcher, even now at 38, the more I think he’s the kind of player who will deserve honest consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I mean, how long has he been the defensive centerpiece for teams? Since the turn of the century. He’s never missed a game in 16 years. Did you see Sunday night how he made a stop with a couple of minutes to go and forced the Giants to punt—and Washington had a chance to win at the end instead of the Giants running out the clock. That’s typical of Fletcher. A perfect glue guy for the Rams, Bills and now Washington for the past seven years.
4. I think if you want to measure the value of a good coach, look at what Gus Bradley is doing in Jacksonville. In the last month the formerly winless Jaguars are 3-1. They’re feisty on defense, imaginative on offense and the thing you notice is even though they have nothing to play for, they play as though a playoff spot is on the line. Owner Shad Khan has to be thrilled with the hire.
5. I think we all thought Darrelle Revis had enough time to rehab and play well this season. We all were wrong. He’s trying to gut it out, but to see Ted Ginn school him for a touchdown Sunday … not the Revis we’ve known.
6. I think I don’t see how Peyton Manning’s not the MVP as we speak. But it’s not over. Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Calvin Johnson and Tom Brady can still contend. And perhaps Tony Romo and Nick Foles, but they’d have to have a blistering December.
7. I think, somehow, I don’t get the same excited feeling I had about the Dr. Z NFL Films piece two weeks again and the Steve Gleason: A Football Life last week when I hear this week’s NFL Network special is about the wacky ’90s Dallas offensive line.
8. I think this is all you need to know about the New York Jets’ quarterback situation: Geno Smith’s last touchdown pass was three days before the first pitch of the World Series. That’s 43 days ago. He was not replaced as the starting quarterback at any point during those 43 days. And as of this morning, he is still the starting quarterback of the Jets.
9. I think if you’re wondering what Brett Favre will be doing Friday night, the offensive coordinator of the Oak Grove (Miss.) High football team will be accompanying his ballclub north to Jackson for the 6A Mississippi High School Football Championship Game against Tupelo High. On the road to the title game, Oak Grove has scored 38, 38 and 45 points in the playoffs. Mike Holmgren, and Irvin Favre, would be proud.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. I have tried to think since the end of the Alabama-Auburn game whether I’ve ever seen a more significant, thrilling and shocking end to a sports event. There must be, right? I just can’t for the life of me think of it. Think of the potential national champion in a sport—a team that has won two straight national titles—losing out on a third because a return man ran a missed field-goal attempt back the length of the field for a touchdown. It’s unheard of. And in a bitter rivalry game, no less. Just an amazing, amazing finish.
b. Happy wedding, Drew Rosenhaus. Is it possible you are seeing there is more to life than football? Good luck.
c. I guess this means you’re a restricted free agent now.
d. Watched Oregon-Oregon State Friday for a bit. Thought I was watching a game played by Crayola Crayons. The big box, with all the burnt oranges and colors so bright you’ve got to wear shades.
e. Duke is in the ACC Championship Game, with 10 wins. Yeah, I called that. Sure I did.
f. If you’re a high school quarterback, or a skill player on offense, and you’ve seen TV specials and stories out the wazoo on Peyton Manning praising Duke coach David Cutcliffe and using Duke facilities for his rehab, and then going back there again this year with brother Eli, Wes Welker and Victor Cruz … all of a sudden, you have to think, “Maybe I should consider Duke.”
g. I can see Carlos Hyde being a Trent Baalke draft choice. Perfect physical Niners back.
h. Glad to see the officials throwing out three guys for fighting in Ohio State-Michigan. Should have been more.
i. Only 113,511 at the Big House. Thinking that should on my bucket list. Covered a game there; never sat in the stands.
j. John Tortorella did not have a nice afternoon at Madison Square Garden Saturday.
k. Starting to like you a lot, Cory Schneider.
l. Coffeenerdness: In the midst of a jillion Manhattan Starbucks shops, here comes Ground Central, on East 52nd. Very good espresso. Hope it can survive.
m. Beernerdness: Beer of choice on Thanksgiving: Brewmaster Jack’s James Happy Blonde Ale, with a chunk of the malt grown in Hadley, Mass. I had three bottles and gave away two, which put me in misery when the second pint was finished. Absolutely delicious. Bold and smooth, a perfect taste. I love that Brewmaster Jack beer. Tiny little brewer in Northhampton, Mass.
n. Pope Francis Quote of the Week: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
o. I think the new Pope is trying to get me back in the pew every Sunday.
p. Headlines you see only in New York, this one from Wednesday’s Daily News about a reputed gangster acquitted of ordering a hit on a police officer: “Mob goon beats rap in cop slay.”
Who I Like Tonight
Seattle 30, New Orleans 27. For this to happen, I have to have some belief in the Seattle bench at cornerback—particularly in 2011 sixth-round pick Byron Maxwell, making his first career start, and the marginal Jeremy Lane, now in the nickel role. How’d you like to be Maxwell? Eyes of the nation on this game, national TV, first start, knowing as the corner opposite star Richard Sherman that Drew Brees has a bulls-eye on your chest for four quarters? “All our corners will be confident in this game,” safety Earl Thomas told me the other day. “The way our attitude is, just because you’re not starting doesn’t mean you’re not a starting-caliber player. Our backups are just as good as our starters—that’s our feeling. How do you think Richard Sherman got his start? You’ll be surprised. They’re all going to play well.” Without starter Brandon Browner (hurt, and facing a possible suspension) and nickel back Walter Thurmond (four-game suspension), Brees will complete his share. Watch, particularly, for the breakout fifth-round pick, receiver Kenny Stills, to be a big threat in the game.
Why do I like Seattle? Russell Wilson—playing his idol, Brees, for the first time—is 13-0 at home in his two years as starter. But I think the biggest weapon Seattle has tonight is Marshawn Lynch. A rested Marshawn Lynch, mind you. Seattle’s been idle for 15 days, and Lynch will be ready for the stretch drive beginning tonight. I think Seattle has to play clock ball in this game. Long drives, limiting Brees’ possessions, will be Seattle’s best friend. I can see Seattle running it 40 times.
The Adieu Haiku
Chaos at FedEx.
A ref’s job: control the game.
Jeff Triplette didn’t.