Should We Still Like Football?
So, should we still like football? I’ve asked myself that a few times over the past week. I think we all have. And what I’ve come to think is this: It’s a personal decision. I can’t tell you to feel better about the gutter the NFL has fallen into, or to spend your money on one more NFL jersey or hat or Red Zone channel. It has to be your decision.
If you’re revolted by Ray Rice cold-cocking his fiancée or Adrian Peterson taking a tree branch to his 4-year-old to discipline the kid or the graphic testimony in the disturbing Greg Hardy trial, and you just can’t watch one more game, don’t. It’s your call. No one can make it for you.
If you think the NFL is so full of greed and Roger Goodell so consumed with the bottom line that human decency is way down the league’s list of priorities, walk away. An ESPN poll said a majority of respondents don’t trust Goodell. If you’re with them, and you can’t enjoy the game because of a commissioner you don’t like, don’t give his league your attention or your money anymore. It’s your call. No one can make it for you.
If you think the NFL is just too dangerous, and you read in The New York Times last week that the league, by its own admission, acknowledged that one in three former players will have some sort of cognitive problem long before an average person in the general population would, stop watching. It’s your call. No one can make it for you.
No one will blame you for walking away. This past week has been the most ceaselessly miserable one I’ve see in my 31 seasons covering the league. I am disturbed for some of those reasons, particularly the greed I see. And this one as well: As I watched the games Sunday in my viewing-room perch at NBC, I noted the brutality of the game. In a 15-minute span in the first quarter of the early games, I saw:
1:21 p.m. ET: Cincinnati wideout A.J. Green leave Falcons-Bengals with a foot injury. He didn't return.
1:22 p.m.: Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III leave the game against Jacksonville with a dislocated ankle. Didn't return.
1:32 p.m.: Knowshon Moreno, Miami’s top back, leave the game at Buffalo with a dislocated elbow. Didn't return.
1:34 p.m.: Washington wideout DeSean Jackson hurt his shoulder against the Jags. Didn't return.
As the day went on, some of the best players—Gerald McCoy, Charles Tillman, Vernon Davis, Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, Vontaze Burfict, Ryan Mathews, Tavon Austin, Eric Decker—couldn’t finish. Last weekend, 55 players left games and didn’t return. I daresay this week’s number might be higher, once all the injury stats are in. Atlanta is on its third left tackle, St. Louis on its third quarterback, Kansas City on its third right tackle. Someone’s got to figure out why there’s an injury epidemic—wimpier off-season work?—and how to stem it.
Maybe I’ll get to the point where that stuff will rankle me enough so that I don’t enjoy the game. And I wondered how I would react Sunday, watching after the relentlessly dark week. I watch the games for the sport and the stories—always have. It didn’t take me long to care again. The Bills, celebrating Jim Kelly and their rebuilt stadium, advanced to 2-0. Hometown underdog Brian Hoyer breathed life into the Browns with two 80-plus-yard drives to enable Cleveland to win. The Jets—the Jets!—went up 18 at Green Bay and lost in one of the strangest ways, even for the Jets. No one could beat Seattle, supposedly. ’Hawks going 19-0! Dynasty, baby! San Diego (on a short week) 30, Seattle (with 10 days of rest) 21. Good drama, good games, some very good stories, all happening Sunday. (And one yelling at the TV—on the Geno Smith-to-Jeremy Kerley touchdown that wasn’t in Green Bay.)
I really liked it again, even when I had so many reservations about the week that just was.
There’s a lot of great guys in the league," C.J. Spiller said. “Two or three guys are not going to ruin it for the rest.
I’ll reserve judgment on Goodell until all the facts are in—though I join the chorus that thinks he has to be held responsible for the chaos in the Rice case. I’ll be troubled by the violence of the game, which may eventually drive me from it. But I can’t demonize all the players. There are 1,696 active players in the league this morning. Peterson, Rice and Hardy are three. It’s abundantly clear that scores of players get in trouble with the law. Too many. But not so many that it exceeds the national average for young men in the average age range of NFL players.
I talked to a few players Sunday night about the week the league had just been through. “There’s a lot of great guys in the league," said Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller. “Good people. Two or three guys are not going to ruin it for the rest."
“On Friday,” Hoyer said, “after the Adrian Peterson thing, I said, ‘Can this week get any worse for the NFL?’ But the NFL is made up of a kaleidoscope of people, all very young. Some of them make mistakes. But there are 32 teams, with 53 players on a team. That’s a lot of people. And the vast majority of them are really good guys chasing a dream. The good stories don’t often get told, but there are a lot of them.”
For now, I’m in Hoyer’s camp. I still really like the game, and I can accept the zits on it. I just saw on Twitter overnight that a fantasy football league disbanded because of the mayhem of the past week, and the members gave their fees to charity. That’s cool, and I understand the feeling. But I don’t have the same feeling. Yet.
* * *
This morning’s headlines …
The five things that made Week 2 compelling:
- The San Diego win over Seattle is an amazing story, for many reasons.
- You cannot name, and almost certainly haven’t heard of, the Browns who beat New Orleans.
- The Bills are a gleeful 2-0.
- Only in New York, kiddies, only in New York, can a timeout lose a game.
- What would you do with Adrian Peterson if you ran the Vikings?
Look at the odds the Chargers faced Sunday.
Seattle played at home Sept. 4, winning in a rout. So the Seahawks, rested, had a mini-bye before the game in San Diego on Sunday. San Diego played on the road Monday night, losing a tortuous game 18-17 to Arizona, and arrived back at the airport in San Diego about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday. The coaches went right to the office to game-plan for Seattle.
Problems. All week, problems. Center Nick Hardwick, 33, the soul of the offensive line, was lost for the year at Arizona with a neck stinger. He was crucial to the line and is Philip Rivers’ best friend on the team. Big blow. On Wednesday, coach Mike McCoy caught a bug that was going around the team. He felt awful. On Thursday in practice, starting corner Brandon Flowers went down with a groin strain; he’d miss the game Sunday. On Saturday night, Anna Johnson, pregnant wife of starting outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, went into labor, and he went to be with her; he’d miss the game Sunday too. The team was hit, as every team was, by the awful week in the NFL. McCoy addressed his team about Ray Rice and domestic violence and said, “The league’s not screwing around anymore.’’
McCoy told his team all week: “Positive play after positive play. Just do the little things right, time after time, and we’ll be fine. We’ll play with these guys." He told the defense to keep Russell Wilson in the pocket; don’t let him escape. On offense, don’t get into third-and-longs, because Seattle will eat you alive with the rush and the great coverage. And one more thing: We’ll go after Richard Sherman if our guy—mostly Keenan Allen—is open.
I am serious about this," Mike McCoy said. “Philip and Antonio could wear blindfolds and complete passes.
What McCoy couldn’t anticipate was this generation’s Fouts-to-Winslow winning the game for him. Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates. Of all the stories in Week 2, the chemistry between these two men makes Rivers-to-Gates the story of the week. Rivers threw three touchdown passes Sunday, all to Gates. He threw seven passes to Gates, who caught them all.
“I am serious about this," McCoy told me Sunday night. “They could wear blindfolds and complete passes."
Rivers and Gates have been together since 2004—this is their 11th season as a tandem, and that’s forever in the NFL. “He reads my posture," said Gates. “He reads my body language." And Gates reads Rivers’ weird throws. Some are vintage rippers. Some are shot-put things. The throws get there, but they’re not beautiful all the time. In the second quarter, Gates was singled by safety Kam Chancellor, and Rivers led him in the back of the end zone perfectly for an eight-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, Gates hand-fought with linebacker Malcolm Smith; Smith would be flagged for defensive holding on the play. Gates veered off after too much contact, and Rivers, who just barely escaped the Seattle rush in the pocket, looped a throw over Smith and Chancellor again. Touchdown.
On the third one, late in the third quarter, Rivers sent Gates up the left side, shadowed by linebacker K.J. Wright—with the ever-present Chancellor steaming over to help. Too late. The ball got there just in time, and Gates made one of the prettiest catches of his life. With two physical Seahawks bearing down on him, Gates reached up and caught it with his right hand, alone, and brought it into his body. There was absolutely no defense for those throws. None. Seattle played good coverage. Rivers and Gates were perfect together.
“I told our guys we’d have to grind it out, and it might not be pretty,’’ McCoy said.
He was wrong there. What Rivers and Gates did Sunday was pretty. Beautiful, actually.
* * *
Here’s why it’s so hard to read the Minnesota tea leaves on Adrian Peterson.
Over the weekend I spoke with both Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman, and I got the distinct feeling they were so deep in uncharted water they had no idea how they’d navigate their way out. Peterson, of course, was indicted Friday in Texas on a charge of child abuse after his 4-year-old son was found with bloody leg wounds from a severe whipping by Peterson with a switch, which is a tree branch. The team de-activated Peterson for the 30-7 loss to New England.
“There’s a lot of speculation out there,” Spielman told me late Sunday afternoon before going into meetings with club officials to discuss what to do with Peterson, the greatest running back in a half-century of Vikings history. “Once we gather all the information we can, we’ll be able to make a decision what to do. Right now there’s a lot of speculation, and a million rumors out there. But we’ve made no decision.”
Zimmer said he was told of the story—the indictment and the fact that Peterson would have to go to Texas to post bail—at 1:30 Friday afternoon. Not a lot of time to adjust the game plan for Bill Belichick, and that showed. “We just de-activated him for one game,’’ Zimmer said, “and then we’ll see.”
The Vikings have four choices:
- Cut Peterson immediately, which is unlikely—not only because he still can play at a very high level, but because he’s been great for the franchise, on- and (before last week) off-the-field, since being drafted.
- Suspend him for conduct detrimental to the team, but that can last only four weeks, and then the Vikings would have to either take him back or release him.
- Play him.
- Trade him before the Oct. 28 deadline. Not easy, because of his current baggage and because he’s 29, old for a back.
It’s a dilemma no one thought possible a few days ago. But then again, no one thought much of the past week was possible before it happened.
* * *
I was prepared this morning to be quite opinionated on Greg Hardy playing football for the Carolina Panthers. Except he didn’t play football, so I’m tempted to say, “Never mind.” But I won’t, because a couple of things need to be said.
The only reason Greg Hardy hadn’t been suspended before coach Ron Rivera had the common sense (or the direction from embarrassed Panthers owner Jerry Richardson) is because—as Jon Wertheim and Emily Kaplan of SI and The MMQB wrote this weekend—there wasn’t a video, the way there was with Ray Rice. But read the trial testimony, and pore over the guilty verdict, and you’ll understand why so many people are outraged that Hardy played in Week 1, or will play at all for Carolina this season.
First, understand that in North Carolina, defendants in criminal trials are eligible to have two cases—one before a judge, and one before a jury. Hardy had a trial this summer in Mecklenburg County (N.C.) Court before Judge Rebecca Thorne-Tin and on July 15 was found guilty of assaulting a woman and making threats to her. Thorne-Tin sentenced Hardy to 18 months' probation and a suspended 60-day jail sentence. Hardy then chose a jury trial, which was scheduled to begin in November. Conveniently, it’s likely Hardy would have been able to delay the trial or find a way to finish earning his $13.1 million salary in 2014 before the jury rendered any verdict in his case; a guilty verdict would certainly have resulted in a suspension without pay for some length of games in the NFL.
The NFL did nothing to Hardy. The league viewed the jury trial as an integral part of Hardy’s due process. This is where I absolutely disagree. Hardy was found guilty by a judge who ruled, “The court is entirely convinced Hardy is guilty of assault on a female and communicating threats.” During the trial, former Hardy girlfriend Nicole Holder alleged that Hardy threw her in a bathtub, tossed her on a futon full of automatic weapons that he claimed were loaded, and dragged her across the floor of his apartment by the hair. “He looked me in my eyes and told me he was going to kill me.”
That is not a domestic violence offense fit for NFL discipline?
So I blame the NFL for saying it wasn’t acting despite a judge having already ruled in the case. And I blame Carolina owner Jerry Richardson, rightfully a beloved figure in the Carolinas, for tearfully playing on the emotions of his constituents when he said last week: “When it comes to domestic violence, my stance is not one of indifference. I stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple. To those who would suggest we’ve been to slow to act, I ask that you consider not to be too quick to judge.”
Hardy is one of the league’s best pass-rushers. My question: If Hardy were an average player, or a backup player, how slow to act would the Panthers have been? How long before they cut him, to rid themselves of the headline-causing headache?
So the right thing was done Sunday when coach Ron Rivera de-activated Hardy. And the Panthers should not play him again, until or if he’s found innocent.
Kaplan, who went to the Panthers game against Detroit in Charlotte on Sunday, filed this report from the scene:
CHARLOTTE—If you came to Bank of America Stadium on Sunday afternoon looking for an outpouring of support for Greg Hardy, you weren’t going to find it. If you thought there would be protests or flyovers or even an ounce of unrest, you would have to search pretty hard. Instead, on an overcast yet steamy morning in Charlotte, the mood was indifference.
That’s not to say fans altogether ignored the topic. Weaving through tailgates, you heard catch phrases such as “due process” and “domestic violence” as often as references to “Cam’s ankle.” Mary Sanders held the hand of her elementary-school-aged daughter and said: “Well, honey, the Panthers’ player did some very bad things to a lady … ” The young girl, wearing a Cam Newton jersey and Dora the Explorer backpack, looked bewildered. “It wasn’t an easy conversation to have,” Sanders, 44, later told me. “But I suppose sports gives us an opportunity to talk about these topics with our children.”
I lapped the stadium and spoke to nearly three dozen fans before word spread that Hardy would be inactive. By rough estimate, the ratio of Luke Kuechly jerseys to Greg Hardy jerseys: 40-to-1. The ratio of Steve Smith jerseys to Greg Hardy jerseys: 16-to-1. (Smith, in case you missed the news, departed the Panthers six months ago.)
Though, as veteran Panthers scribe David Newton pointed out, not many fans own Hardy jerseys anyway. One who does: Randy Samuelson of Charleston, S.C. “I thought about not wearing it,” the 62-year-old Samuelson said. “But the home team is in white, and gotta support them no matter what.” In general, the women I talked to were less steadfast. “In North Carolina, our appeal process is unique,” said Sarah Benfield, 65. “We have to respect that everyone gets their day in court, and can appeal. That’s why I’m OK with him playing. But I don’t know if I’ll cheer for him.” As it turned out, Benfield wouldn't need to make that choice.
Little Engine That Could 26, Saints 24.
The following players caught passes on the game-winning drive, starting at the Browns’ four-yard line, that sent the New Orleans Saints down the 0-2 hole Sunday in Cleveland:
- Miles Austin, the former Cowboy who was jettisoned by Dallas because he couldn’t stay healthy.
- Taylor Gabriel, a 5-7 ½ undrafted rookie free-agent wide receiver from Abilene Christian.
- Gary Barnidge, a fifth-round pick of Carolina six years ago, from Louisville.
- Andrew Hawkins, the 5-7 restricted free-agent wideout the Browns stole from the Bengals in the offseason.
The Saints led 24-23 when Hoyer, a Cleveland kid himself, started getting little chunks. Without his two favorite targets—the suspended Josh Gordon and the injured Jordan Cameron—Hoyer had to improvise with the new guys. Hoyer got to the Browns’ 38, with 38 seconds left, when he faced a fourth-and-six.
“The big play in the series was the throw there to Gary [Barnidge],” he said later, “because that kept the drive going and allowed us to hope. But I was glad that those guys had a chance to be a part of it. Especially Gary, because after Jordan, everybody thinks of our tight ends as just afterthoughts.”
He found Barnidge for 10 yards over the middle, and he was more open than he should have been. And then the Saints blew coverage on a trips/bunch formation to the right, allowing Hawkins to run free at the top of the route. Gain of 28. Timeout. Winning field goal from 29 yards by Billy Cundiff.
“To be a part of a day like this is something I won’t forget, especially breaking our [nine-game home-opener] losing streak,” said Hoyer.
Amazing: I’m writing about the Browns, and the passing game, and Johnny Manziel is not in the story. Hoyer is going to be able to hold Manziel off as long as he keeps making 80- and 85-yard drives (as he did in the second half) as efficiently as he did Sunday.
* * *
“People put too much emphasis on the preseason.”
That’s what C.J. Spiller thinks, and the last month has proven him right. After a 1-4 preseason in which the offense stunk and quarterback E.J. Manuel was extremely shaky and they practiced like the bickering Bills of old with fights and shouting matches between coaches and players, no one was quite sure what to expect when the season started. But lots of people in Western New York thought it wouldn’t be good.
Well, Buffalo went to Chicago and stunned the Bears in the opener. And last week, the team was sold to Terry Pegula, owner of the Sabres, and wife Kim. He said he would keep the team in Buffalo, which made grown men cry. True story: Grown men called talk radio and were crying tears of joy, so sure were they that some carpetbagger would buy the team and move it to some money-making locale. So the Bills had a stunning opening-day win, and they were staying in Buffalo. Party time! And more: Jim Kelly had been declared cancer-free; the fans in Orchard Park gave him an 80-second standing ovation that made Mr. Tough Guy Kelly cry too. And the gold letters of the late Ralph C. Wilson, the only owner the Bills had ever known, were unveiled before the game at the newly refurbished stadium. Called “The Ralph,’’ by the way.
So how could the Bills go out and lose this home opener, with alumni in the house and fans at a fever pitch? They couldn’t. Buffalo 29, Miami 10.
“We weren’t worried,” Spiller said from Buffalo. “We’ve got a bunch of guys who are not selfish and have come together confident that we’re a good team. People put too much emphasis on the preseason. I’ve always thought that. It doesn’t matter. Nobody on the outside had any faith in us in the preseason, and probably nobody does now. That is fine with us.”
And all the camp fights, which drove coach Doug Marrone to distraction? “No big deal,” Spiller said. “We probably were just tired of camp and tired of practicing against each other. Nobody remembers any of that stuff. It’s football.”
Spiller’s 102-yard kick return was a catalyst to the rout, and for one day at least the daring trade to move up five spots in the first round to draft Sammy Watkins (cost: first- and fourth-round picks in 2015) paid off. Watkins had eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Happy days are here again in Buffalo … temporarily. The next four foes: San Diego (which just beat Seattle) at home, at 2-0 Houston, at Detroit and nemesis New England at home.
* * *
Attention, youth coaches everywhere: Show your teams this video.
We hear a lot of clichés in this business. In fact, most of what comes out of post-game mouths, collectively, is one giant cliché. Even though what you’re about to read (or watch) stems from a cliché, I think it’s well worth your time—particularly if you are a coach or mentor with young athletes or students trying to improve their games or lives.
I always like to seek answers to how really good players try to get better, and I asked J.J. Watt that question:
“Well, the first thing I’ll say is the reason clichés become clichés is because they’re true. They hold some truth in their words. People talk all the time about work ethic, working hard, dedication and commitment, and sometimes people write those answers off because they do seem clichéd. But the honest-to-God truth is if you put in the time and you put in the effort, and you watch the film and you study and you work out, and you treat your off-season the right way, and you treat every single practice the right way, you truly can be great.
“I think it’s a daily commitment. I heard a quote that I like one time. It says, ‘Success isn’t owned. It’s leased. And rent is due every day.’ And that’s a cliché right there. But it’s the absolute truth.
“Because every single day, someone’s coming for your job. Someone’s coming for your greatness. If you’re the greatest, someone wants to be the greatest, and so if you’re not constantly improving your game, somebody else is. And somebody wants to take your spot. So the way I attack it, every single day is like a game. Every single practice rep I treat like a game rep. I get pissed if I get blocked. I get excited if I make a play. But that’s because you put in so much effort, you put in so much energy. I get just as excited for my teammates. If they make a play, I love it, and we try and help each other chase greatness. At the end of the day, that’s why … If you’re going to put in all these hours, you’re gonna come out on the practice field sweat your … butt off, and you’re going to put in all this work, why wouldn’t you want to be the greatest? That’s what it’s all about, man.
“Some people chase money. Some people chase fame. Some chase greatness. And that’s what I’m trying to do."
* * *
You are going to like this A Football Life.
I consider this the ultimate compliment for an NFL Films piece: “I wish Steve Sabol were alive to see it." That’s what went through my mind after watching Brandon Marshall: A Football Life, which debuts this week on NFL Network. Producers Shannon Furman and James Weiner got Marshall (and, surprisingly, Jay Cutler) to open up on things that surprised me. Marshall is candid about everything else in his life, including his mental illness. Much of it is painful. I would have liked to have seen more, however, on the disturbing 2011 stabbing incident in South Florida—Marshall and wife Michi Nogami-Marshall had a domestic violence incident that resulted in Marshall being hospitalized with a stomach wound, and the details in this show are unfortunately lacking.
Absent that, the admissions throughout are compelling. “I’ve been trapped my whole life, not by men or cages, but by my emotions," he says, and explains how he spent three months in 2011 in intensive therapy. Marshall takes the crew to the Pittsburgh neighborhood where he grew up, with some stark footage about how hard it is to get out of environments like that and flourish. His agent, Kennard McGuire, said, “He has destroyed maybe five of my vacations.” His mother once told Michi-Nogami, struggling in the relationship with Marshall, “Run for the hills.”
The stuff about his relationship with Cutler is great. They describe themselves exactly as they are—as an old married couple. In a June minicamp, Marshall, wired for sound, approached Cutler at practice. He put his arm around the quarterback.
“Listen,” the acerbic Cutler said, “I know you’re miked up, you got your cameras here. Get the hell away from me.”
“Look to your right, wave to the camera! Come on! This is your only appearance!” Marshall pleads.
Cutler glances over and gives the camera a dirty look. “Hi,” Cutler said, with no enthusiasm.
This show is worth an hour of your life. It airs during an interesting week, and NFL Films will get criticized some for soft-pedaling the domestic violence aspect of his life, and rightfully so. But overall, it’s still a very good tale, told in the Sabol way.
1. Seattle (1-1). In these exercises, the idea is to try to put the teams in order of goodness. If you ask me this morning to name the best team in football, I still say Seattle. One game won’t change that.
2. Denver (2-0). Wonder if anyone will notice this week that there’s a Super Bowl rematch at CenturyLink on Sunday afternoon at 1:25 Pacific Time. My early prediction: Denver will not lose to Seattle by 35 again. The Broncos haven’t been on the road (in a game that mattered) since you-know-what happened in New Jersey on Feb. 2. Now they buzz to Seattle for a game with two more answers than they had in the Super Bowl—DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib, both of whom have started the season on fire.
3. Cincinnati (2-0). No Mike Zimmer, no problem. The Bengals under new coordinator Paul Guenther have allowed 26 points and held opposing quarterbacks to a 61.7 passer rating.
4. Carolina (2-0). Cam Newton doesn’t play Week 1; the Panthers overcome. The Greg Hardy inactive hubbub mars Week 2; the Panthers overcome. Carolina’s defense is really good. The Panthers haven’t allowed a first-half point so far this season.
5. New England (1-1). It helped that Adrian Peterson didn't play, but the Pats would have creamed the Vikes anyway, as long as Matt Cassel turned it over the way he did.
6. San Francisco (1-1). When Colin Kaepernick turns it over four times and the Niners commit 16 penalties for 118 yards, well, a 28-20 loss to a beleaguered Chicago team should be expected.
7. San Diego (1-1). It isn't very often that Russell Wilson is clearly bothered by a pass-rush. But the Chargers bothered Wilson in the heat of San Diego, and it was a huge factor in the biggest upset of the young season.
8. Arizona (2-0). Drew Stanton in the Meadowlands. Brian Hoyer in Cleveland. Kirk Cousins in Washington. Three Michigan State Spartans. Three wins, when you least expected them.
9. Green Bay (1-1). The 31-24 win over the Jets will be much like lots of future Packers games this year. Aaron Rodgers will have to outscore teams on many Sundays (and Thursdays and Mondays).
10. Buffalo (2-0). Bills 56, Foes 30. E.J. Manuel’s completing 67 percent. Two statoids I never thought I’d be writing after two weeks.
11. Philadelphia (1-0). Eagles weren’t thrilled with a lot on defense after Jacksonville raced to the 17-0 lead last week. But here’s one thing defensive coordinator Bill Davis loved: Philadelphia held the Jaguars to 2-for-14 on third-down conversions. Somehow I doubt that’ll happen against Andrew Luck tonight.
12. Houston (2-0). All those who thought Ryan Fitzpatrick would have a passer rating 39 points higher than Tom Brady after two games, raise your hands.
13. Baltimore (1-1). You know who’s playing great? Left guard Kelechi Osemele. Even without Ray Rice, the running game will be solid because of interior line play, led by Osemele, and Justin Forsett’s emergence.
14. New York Jets (1-1). Mark Sanchez gave us the Buttfumble. Marty Mornhinweg gave us The Fatal Timeout.
15. Chicago (1-1). Brandon Marshall is one heck of a football player. I bet he was 75%, or close to that, and he had three touchdowns. Maybe he’s trying to promote his A Football Life show this week.
The Award Section
So a few years ago, my friend Len Pasquarelli said to me, “Just my two cents, but you shouldn’t have three or four or five players of the week in one category. It kind of cheapens it.” Last Monday, when I gave out about 39 of these things, column editor Dom Bonvissuto told me to settle down and cut out the mega-multiple award winners. They’re right … so my goal moving forward will be to keep it to two max in each category.
Offensive Player of the Week
Brian Hoyer, quarterback, Cleveland. The numbers were okay: 24 of 40, 204 yards, one touchdown, no picks, an 81.7 rating. But the significance of this win, and the two second-half drives Hoyer executed to break an awful streak of losing nine straight home openers, cannot be overstated. Particularly for a Cleveland kid who grew up wanting to play for the Browns. Down 17-16 late in the third quarter, Hoyer took the Browns 80 yards in 14 plays to give his team a 23-17 lead. Down again, 24-23, with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter, Hoyer took a crew of backup skill players another 80 yards in 14 plays, and Billy Cundiff converted the winning field goal with three seconds left. “It’s a day I’ll never forget, obviously," Hoyer said.
Defensive Player of the Week
Ryan Kerrigan, outside linebacker, Washington. In a command performance by a defense that needed one, Washington had 10 sacks in the rout of Jacksonville … four of them by Kerrigan from his left outside linebacker spot. He had the four sacks in the last 38 minutes of the game, going against vulnerable right tackle Cameron Bradford of the Jags, including sacks of Chad Henne on consecutive snaps in the third quarter. “This was definitely one of the most fun days I’ve had playing defense, and it was a great day for all of us," Kerrigan said. “We had 10 sacks. That’s unbelievable. We would have liked to have more turnovers. We only had one." Don’t get greedy, Ryan. Jacksonville’s offense is weak, to be sure. But holding Grand Valley State to eight first downs and 148 total yards would be pretty good, never mind doing it to an NFL offense.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Chandler Jones, defensive end, New England. Late second quarter, Patriots up 17-7, Blair Walsh lining up for a 48-yard field goal. (And remember, Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer wasn’t in the ballpark while he served the second game of his two-game suspension for homophobic comments last season.) Jones burst through the tackle-end gap on the right side of the Minnesota line, put his hands up for full extension, leapt, and blocked the Walsh kick … it bounced to him, and Jones ran it back 58 yards for a never-challenged touchdown. Instead of having a 17-10 lead, the Pats were up 24-7, and Minnesota never got close. Jones added two sacks and eight tackles in what likely is the best game of his NFL life.
Coach of the Week
Rod Marinelli, defensive coordinator, Dallas. To say the Cowboys defense and its coordinator were embattled this off-season would be putting it mildly. And after two games, including a beatdown of Tennessee in Nashville on Sunday, the Cowboys are more than just competitive on defense. They’re good. Last year the porous Dallas defense allowed 415.3 yards per game; in the first two games this year they’ve allowed 316.5. Marinelli has been playing more man than usual in pass coverage, and the changing schemes really confused Jake Locker. Great job by Marinelli and his defense so far.
Goats of the Week
Colin Kaepernick, quarterback, San Francisco. Two interceptions on consecutive fourth-quarter series, two bad decisions, and that completed the Niners’ swoon in the first regular-season game in Levi’s Stadium history.
The Jacksonville secondary. Don’t know whom, so let’s blame them all. Inexcusable coverage, or lack thereof, on the first two long throws by Kirk Cousins after he entered the game in relief of Robert Griffin III—23- and 31-yard completions. The Jaguars didn’t cover the intended receivers. I mean, they truly didn’t cover them. I’ve been bullish on the future of this franchise. But no one watching Sunday could be bullish about anything involving this team other than contending for the first draft pick next May.
Quotes of the Week
“We started the week with players beating up women, and we ended it with players beating up children. We are in a very serious state here in the National Football League.”
—ESPN’s Tom Jackson, on the network’s Sunday pre-game show
“Prior to the snap, New York called its third and final team timeout.”
—Referee Walt Anderson, after one of the most controversial calls in recent Jets history—offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg furiously called a timeout that was allowed, just as Geno Smith threw a gorgeous rainbow touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley.
That’s got to hurt.
“I’ve never questioned my career path as much as I have this week. Is it right to cover this league? Promote it? Glorify its players? I call the commissioner, owners, ‘Sir.’ I’ve begged them for interviews. Enthusiastically covered their events. I’ve worked so hard to not only get to this seat, but to stay here. And while I’ve worked for this for over a decade, this week made me question whether I’ve made a terrible decision. It’s made me wonder, ‘Which side of this do I want to be on?’ The one that, in effect, deified Ray Rice, or the one that lends a hand to his battered wife? The beloved shield the NFL seeks to protect is bloodied and bruised—just like Janay Rice, Kasandra Perkins [killed by Kansas City Chief Jovan Belcher in a 2012 murder-suicide] and all the other women who suffered in silence at the hand of an abuser … For so many years I’ve wondered, ‘Am I worthy of covering the NFL, a job so many people would love to have?’ Now after this week, I’m wondering if the NFL is worthy of me.’’
—SI Now host Maggie Gray, in a video essay that was hard-hitting and particular timely, given the events of the week.
“Thirteen years since that fateful day. We spent a moment in respect for those that perished. And we also talked about never forgetting. Never forget 9/11, but we also honored America and the resilience and the courage shown by the country and the way that New Yorkers and all in the tri-state area rallied around each other in that point in time.”
—Giants coach Tom Coughlin, talking about the significance of 9/11 after his team practiced on the 13th anniversary of the fateful day, last Thursday in East Rutherford, 11 miles, as the crow flies, from where the World Trade Center fell.
“I don’t use the term personally, and I think it is offensive and derogatory … I am a Civil War buff, and there were a lot of terms that were appropriate at that time that aren’t appropriate anymore.”
—FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, to Broadcasting and Cable, adding that he hopes Washington will change its name absent being ordered to do so.
"People need to understand, the choice was not PTI [pre-trial intervention] versus five years’ state prison. The choice was not PTI versus the no-early-release act on a 10-year sentence. The parameters as they existed were, ‘Is this a PTI case or a probation case?’ ”
—Atlantic County prosecutor Jim McClain, explaining one of the most incredible factoids of a crazy week of news: Under the laws of the county in which Atlantic City sits, a first-time domestic-violence offender, if convicted, would never go to jail. That seems beyond unbelievable to me. Who makes laws like that? ESPN found late in the week that only 1% of those charged with domestic violence get the pre-trial option, but still, to have no chance for jail is just wrong.
“WCCO reached out to Hardin, and he was out of the country.”
—Statement from WCCO television in Minneapolis, trying to get a comment from attorney Rusty Hardin, who represents Adrian Peterson, after the shocking story that Peterson had been indicted for child abuse. He is alleged to have punished his 4-year-old son with a switch, and photos available to the media Friday showed bleeding and bruising from the alleged beating. Hardin was later reached and issued a statement on Peterson’s behalf.
Stat of the Week
Cincinnati won its 10th straight regular-season home game Sunday, beating Atlanta. Dating back to the final game of the 2012 season, the Bengals have a pretty good record of embarrassing some pretty good quarterbacks (save Andrew Luck).
Looking at the quarterback performances in the past 10 games at Paul Brown Stadium in the regular season:
|Week, Season||Opponent||Quarterback||Opponent passer rating|
|Week 17, 2012||Baltimore||Tyrod Taylor||60.2|
|Week 2, 2013||Pittsburgh||Ben Roethlisberger||73.1|
|Week 3, 2013||Green Bay||Aaron Rodgers||64.5|
|Week 5, 2013||New England||Tom Brady||52.2|
|Week 8, 2013||N.Y. Jets||Geno Smith||51.9|
|Week 11, 2013||Cleveland||Jason Campbell||44.3|
|Week 14, 2013||Indianapolis||Andrew Luck||113.1|
|Week 16, 2013||Minnesota||Matt Cassel||32.6|
|Week 17, 2013||Baltimore||Joe Flacco||49.8|
|Week 2, 2014||Atlanta||Matt Ryan||48.6|
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
Adrian Peterson was indicted for child abuse Friday in Texas and declared inactive Friday evening for Sunday's game against New England.
The game ticket for the Oklahoma-Tennessee game Saturday in Norman (Peterson went to college at OU) had Peterson's likeness on it.
The game ticket for the Minnesota-New England game Sunday in Minneapolis (Peterson plays for the Vikings) had Peterson's likeness on it.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Notes of the Week
A couple of New York stories:
Wednesday, midday, walking down East 52nd Street in Manhattan. Fairly crowded. I look ahead at the people walking toward me, and everyone, and I mean everyone, is walking while staring down at their phones.
How many is “everyone”? I counted. Thirteen in a row passed me with head down, checking their smartphones.
On some cars of the New York subway system, the transit authority posts poetry. I wouldn’t know e. e. cummings from E.J. Marshall, but I thought this one, on the 6 train headed downtown Friday night, was pretty good. It’s by a poet named Jim Moore:
I remember my mother toward the end.
Folding the tablecloth after dinner
As if it were the flag
of a country that no longer existed but once had ruled the world.
Tweets of the Week
Flag. Flag. Flag. Flag. Flag. Flag. Flag. Flag. Flag. Flag. Flag. Flag.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 15, 2014
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, watching the Sunday night game, when flags flew ridiculously. There were 34 flags thrown in the Chicago-San Francisco tilt.
Meanwhile, in downtown Charlotte, just saw a guy walk into a bar wearing a t-shirt that read "I Go Hardy." Really.
— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) September 13, 2014
The MMQB reporter on assignment in Charlotte late Friday night, seeing a man who apparently supports the embattled Greg Hardy.
Thoughtful gesture by @SeanPayton: Sean Payton buys 100 Devon Still jerseys to support pediatric cancer http://t.co/Nte3hlMYzw via @nolanews
— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) September 11, 2014
The columnist at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, after the Saints’ coach spent $10,000 to help Still, the Cincinnati defensive tackle, raise money for pediatric cancer causes. Still’s 4-year-old daughter is undergoing treatment for cancer. I'll have much more on Still in my Tuesday column.
NFL players get fined for avoiding the media and Q&A sessions. Goodell hand picks an interviewer and network. #hypocrite
— John Skelton (@johnskelton19) September 10, 2014
The former Cardinals quarterback, after the NFL’s decision to have Goodell appear on the CBS Evening News instead of at a press conference to discuss the Rice fallout.
I have a four year old. My wife taught four year olds. The only thing a four year old learns from what Peterson did is fear and violence.
— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) September 12, 2014
A Bleacher Report writer with the best Twitter summation of Adrian Peterson’s “discipline” of his son.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think this is what I liked about Week 2:
a. Owen Daniels can sell a fake.
b. Le’Veon Bell is one tough back. He’s Mike Tomlin’s type.
c. This line on FOX from former NFL head of officials Mike Pereira: “I’m glad I don’t work there now.”
d. What Mike McCarthy of the Packers told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about his desire to be both a coach and GM: “I don’t think an individual can do both jobs. I don’t think it’s feasible. You just look at the way we’re structured, I don’t know how you’re down here and have to be with the team and then you’re also going to be down the hall on top of that. I think if you do that it has to be a different structure where you’re managing the head coach and whoever you pick for personnel … From that point of it, I don’t desire that. But like anything, when you get in situations where all ties are broken by one person, it’d be nice to be that one person that breaks the tie. It’s never been an issue here. I don’t see it being an issue. I wouldn't want to work for anybody else.” Good question, and interesting answer.
e. Matt Cassel, 4 of 4 for 75 yards on the opening drive, without you-know-who.
f. Good reversal on the Larry Fitzgerald touchdown-that-wasn’t.
g. Incredible job of Calvin Johnson getting two feet down on a first-quarter catch at Carolina, when half the receivers in football wouldn’t have gotten down one.
h. Good on Dan Connolly of the Patriots, diving to recover Julian Edelman’s fumble, allowing Stephen Gostkowski to kick a long field goal in the first half. That’s a three-point recovery.
i. The Browns defense. Held Drew Brees to 15 yards passing in the first 20 minutes at Cleveland.
j. Tremendous save of a downed punt by the Cowboys’ Dwayne Harris.
k. Very impressed with Carolina rookie Kelvin Benjamin. He’s got a great feel for how to get open, and fights for the ball well in the air.
l. Joe Theismann’s omniscience.
m. Which, of course, is tied into his Kirk-Cousins-would-win-the-job-in-an-open-competition comment from training camp. Cousins’ first three series of the season, in relief of RG3: 8 of 8, three touchdown drives.
n. Tom Brady’s perfectly dropped-in touchdown pass to Edelman in the end zone in Minnesota.
o. Terrific one-handed TD catch by Rueben Randle of the Giants.
p. Lord, what a shake-and-bake move by Cordarrelle Patterson in the open field to juke three Pats.
q. Lots of good plays for the Browns to put New Orleans in the big hole—including defensive back K'Waun Williams stopping Travaris Cadet at the 12-yard line on a first-half kick return.
r. Ditto, with Buffalo’s Robert Woods making a kick-return stop at the Miami 12.
s. Delanie Walker makes a big play every week for Tennessee. Great free-agent signing last year.
t. It’s a tie between C.J. Spiller and Ted Ginn Jr., for the prettiest return of the day.
u. Did T.J. McDonald block a punt and a field goal Sunday for the Rams in Tampa? I thought so, but then the play-by-play credited the FG block to E.J. Gaines.
v. Cris Collinsworth saying the replay reversal on the disputed Martellus Bennett catch in Santa Clara was “micromanaging” replay. He’s right. That call was not indisputably wrong.
w. “Now we go to the second half of zebras run wild,” said Al Michaels, after the 18-penalty first half.
x. Mike Zimmer not wanting to make excuses with Adrian Peterson not with the team: “It didn’t affect the team. You know what affected the team? Throwing interceptions, getting a field goal blocked, not tackling well enough, having penalties on defense. That’s what affected the team. The team was fine." Not really right, but Zimmer is not going to let his team succumb to excuses.
2. I think this is what I didn’t like about Week 2:
a. Six very shaky quarters in a row for the Steelers: Foes 50, Steelers 9, since halftime nine days ago against Cleveland.
b. Ed Hochuli’s crew identifying unnecessary roughness. It’s a rough game, men. You’re calling it waaaaaay too close.
c. Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell, you did nothing wrong on those ridiculous second-half flags. America vomited at those flags.
d. Cowboys cannot survive you fumbling, DeMarco Murray.
e. Third-and-30 for the Cowboys on the next series. Going to be quite a year in Dallas.
f. Saints just look out of sync. How do they not cover Andrew Hawkins coming out of the bunch formation on the key play of the final Cleveland drive?
g. Rob Ryan is not going to have a comfortable day in Metairie today.
h. First two quarters of the season: Jacksonville 17, Foes 0. In six quarters since: Foes 75, Jags 10.
i. First 23 minutes of Washington-Jacksonville: Jags trail in first downs, 16-0.
j. Luke Kuechly getting trucked for a touchdown by Detroit fullback Jed Collins. Never thought I’d see Kuechly get trucked for a touchdown. Unless, you know, it was by a truck.
k. Terrible penalty by Patrick Peterson, grabbing Victor Cruz needlessly in the end zone for a defensive pass interference, enabling the Giants to score an easy TD.
l. And I was really looking forward to the first NFL matchup of all time between Cameron Jordan and Jordan Cameron (inactive) in Cleveland on Sunday.
m. A whole lot of turf is looking sketchy when I watch these games. But that Levi’s Stadium turf looked very good, which, for a field that’s already been ripped up twice, was needed.
n. The first certified blown replay review connected to the new system with the officiating command center in New York. In San Diego, Percy Harvin sprinted the tightwire down the left sideline and stepped out of bounds, barely, at the Chargers’ 21-yard line. In fact, two parts of the system failed here. The NFL officiating staff in New York could have called for a review, or the replay official in the booth upstairs in San Diego could have called for one. Big mistake, obviously. Good thing for the officiating empire that Seattle didn’t win the game narrowly. Then the faux touchdown would have been a big factor in the game.
3. I think you’ll like the most recent book penned by the writers and editors of Sports Illustrated, with some of great unearthed football photography. It’s NFL QB: The Greatest Position in Sports. You’ll find classic Dr. Z on Joe Montana and the perfect system for him, Austin Murphy with a piece on busts, and another great one—Dan Jenkins—on the life of Joe Willie Namath. Favorite photo: Terry Bradshaw and JoJo Starbuck, husband and wife, ice-skating on the Rockefeller Center rink in New York City. Two interesting nuggets from a Richard Deitsch-led conversation—he's great at these—with a cadre of great retired quarterbacks. Bradshaw was asked which quarterbacks not in the Hall of Fame belong. He said Ken Stabler and Kenny Anderson. Of Anderson, Bradshaw said: “He had that quick, over-the-shoulder release and ran that West Coast Offense. We did not know what the hell that was. I remember one time he went 20-for-22 against us, and I remember thinking, Nobody can complete 20 of 22 against us.’’ And Bradshaw on the coach he wishes he could have played for: “Bum Phillips is number one. Why? Because I think he would have understood me. I’m a southern boy, a cattle guy, a cowboy-hat-wearing guy, his kind of guy. I think he would have been a guy I would have killed for.” Just saying: There’s a lot of good stuff in this book. You can order it here.
4. I think I need to ask you ladies wearing number 27 at the Ravens game Thursday night just one question: Why? I mean it. I really need to know why you’d wear that jersey after you saw Rice pop a woman with a hard left cross, knocking her unconscious. Do you know what it means, to wear that jersey at that moment?
5. I think Ray Rice is not a perfect man. He was not good to Robert Klemko of The MMQB when Klemko, then with USA Today, asked Ray Lewis a question about the Atlanta murders a couple of years ago in the Ravens’ locker room. And “not good” is an understatement; Rice was rude and immature. But in all the calls I made and all the reporting I did on Rice in the last seven days, this is what interested me the most: A Baltimore teammate, a player who played more than a decade in the league, said, “He was the greatest teammate I ever had.” Ever? I mean, ever? “The front office could come to him and ask him to do something on off day and he’d do it. The coaching staff would come and tell him someone was screwing up in the locker room, and he’d try to help. Never was he selfish, on the field or in the locker room."
6. I think that’s not meant to say, Hey, Ray Rice got railroaded. He didn’t. It’s meant to say, Let’s not lock Ray Rice up and throw away the key.
7. I think the country officially went way too far on the Rice story the other day when 16 senators wrote to Goodell asking that the NFL adopt a one-strike-and-you’re-banned-for-life policy on domestic violence. The main point of the 16 politicians: “We were shocked and disgusted by the images we saw this week of one of your players violently assaulting his now-wife and knocking her unconscious, and at new reports that the NFL may have received this video months ago. Tragically, this is not the only case of an NFL player allegedly assaulting a woman even within the last year. We are deeply concerned that the NFL’s new policy, announced last month, would allow a player to commit a violent act and return after a short suspension. If you violently assault a woman, you shouldn’t get a second chance to play football in the NFL … It is long past time for the NFL to institute a real zero-tolerance policy and send a strong message that the league will not tolerate violence against women by its players, who are role models for children across America.” So: Why stop at the NFL? Why not adopt this in the halls of Congress? At the top levels of the military? In baseball, basketball, hockey? In the Screen Actors Guild? Police officers? Aren’t all of those occupations filled with role models too? I am firmly in favor of drawing a boldface line and putting a scarlet letter on abusive men. I am not in favor, at all, of taking away their livelihood, forever, at 24 or 25 after one horrible incident. And if one incident of domestic violence gets a player bounced, how about one DUI? One other significant arrest?
8. I think Kurt Warner made a wonderful acceptance speech into the team’s Ring of Honor last Monday night. Why did I love it so? Warner hit all the right notes, unselfish as always and pointing to his team first. He told the crowd: “I hope when you look up there and see that name, regardless where you are in life, you say to yourself, ‘With a little bit of perseverance and a little bit of passion, and the pursuit every day of excellence, and you mix a little bit of faith in, man, anything is possible. Arizona, I say thank you for choosing me as your quarterback. I love you guys. God bless you! Go Redbirds!”
9. I think the not-so-subtle dig of the week comes from Michael Powell of The New York Times, on Ray Lewis and Ray Rice: “[Lewis] was charged in 2000 with murder and obstruction of justice in the stabbing deaths of two men with whom he and his friend quarreled at a nightclub after a Super Bowl party. Lewis’s white suit, which was alleged to have been splattered with blood, never was found. Prosecutors dropped murder charges against Lewis in exchange for his misdemeanor plea to obstruction of justice and his agreement to testify—somewhat vaguely—against two of his friends. Those men were acquitted and no one was convicted in the murder of the two men. Lewis, who is taken with his own Christianity, has pointed to this resolution as evidence of some godly plan or another. ‘There is no comparison of me and Ray Rice,’ Lewis told [ESPN's Suzy] Kolber. ‘It is night and day.’ That just might be the nicest thing anyone said about Rice this week.”
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. The Big Ten Network promoting the Penn State-Rutgers Saturday night game by shouting, “BITTER RIVALS MEET!’’ An invention of some TV idiot. The schools haven’t played in 19 years. Rutgers has beaten Penn State once since 1918. Stop the lying.
b. What a great job by CNN’s Rachel Nichols on her interview with Floyd Mayweather. Her best volley, after he said all the charges against him—even the one that caused him to serve jail time—were trumped up: “The incident you went to jail for—the mother of your three children did show some bruises, a concussion when she went to the hospital. It was your own kids who called the police, gave them a detailed description of the abuse. There has been documentation." To which Mayweahter replied: “Uh-huh. Once again, no pictures. Just hearsay and allegations. And I signed a plea-bargain. Once again, not true." A good day for Rachel Nichols. A bad day for a bad guy.
c. How does anyone root for Mayweather? What a bum. Biggest bum in sports today, and that encompasses a lot of bums.
d. Four questions for college football-philes. One: Ohio State 66, Kent State 0. Hope you enjoyed that game, Buckeye fans. When will garbage games in early September get killed off by athletic directors?
e. Two: Why do college teams changes their uniforms as often as the rest of us change underwear?
f. Three: Why would Baylor travel to Buffalo for a college football game?
g. Four: Any logical reason why USC would lose at Boston College?
h. Boston College ran for 454 yards against USC, and I was left to wonder late Saturday night: Did the Trojans think it was a seven-on-seven game?
i. Fifty-three carries, 454 yards, 8.5 yards per rush. That is an amazing evening for both teams.
j. The Big Ten seems like it stinks.
k. Story of the week: This one, by Kent Babb and Adam Goldman, of the Washington Post, on the NFL’s secret society of security people—which apparently failed the league in the Rice case.
l. Move over, Kenyans! Well, maybe 94-year-old Kenyans. I ran 6.2 miles in 59:33 Saturday. Something about being in Central Park, I think. Gives you a little extra when you feel you’ve got very little left.
m. Things can only get better (I think), Allen Craig: 10 for 95 (.109) since the trade from Boston to St. Louis, with 24 strikeouts.
n. At some point ESPN needs to do a “30 For 30” on Tim Lincecum. His line—in long relief, not as a starter—Saturday night versus the Dodgers: three innings, seven hits, five runs, five earned, one strikeout and one walk.
o. Lincecum over the past seven weeks: 33 earned runs allowed in 30.2 innings. That’s a 9.68 ERA, for you scoring at home. Is there a chance Bruce Bochy leaves him off the playoff roster?
p. Watched Philomena for the second time over the weekend. If you haven’t seen it, you must. It borders on my top 20 all time.
q. Greatest movie of all time: North By Northwest.
r. I cannot believe what has happened to the Oakland A’s.
s. Coffeenerdness: Thanks, I Am Coffee, for a great latte the other day. The East Village is lucky to have you.
t. Beernerdness: Not saying I’d pick Presidente as my beer of choice for anything other than an everyday fridge beer. But there’s something about a crisp, light pilsner that, once every couple of weeks, I like a lot.
Who I Like Tonight
Philadelphia 23, Indianapolis 21. News Item of the Week That Got Absolutely No Attention: The 2013 NFL sack leader, Robert Mathis, suspended for the first four games of the season for a PED violation, will miss the entire year with a torn Achilles. That’s a huge blow to the Colts’ chances to win their division, particularly with the Texans rising and the Titans showing life. Where does Indianapolis get 19.5 sacks from? Mathis’ replacement, Bjoern Werner, didn’t get close to Peyton Manning last week, and he and fellow rush linebacker Erik Walden (who had the team’s only sack of Manning) simply must do better that one sack and zero pressures in 128 snaps, collectively. Nick Foles doesn’t get the ball away as quickly as Manning, but he certainly has better escapability. This is a tough game to pick, because the Colts played so well in the second half at Denver. But Indy is vulnerable against the run, and Philly’s got the back with the best Twitter handle in football (@Cutondime25)—and LeSean McCoy will do damage against the vulnerable Colts front.
The Adieu Haiku
NFL on fire.
Worst week I’ve seen for the league
in my 30 years.