Tag Archives: Seattle Seahawks

Monday Morning Breeze: The Revolution Will Be Caught One-Handed

[(MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: The Breeze will recap CFB’s Alabama-Clemson National Championship game on Tuesday, so this will be Professional Football-heavy, or College-Deflated, depending how you choose to see the glass re: -imisms) It’s near impossible to miss the unfolding humor in a reality that pits America’s Most Traditionally Revered NFL team against the steaming pile of toxic that has been Daniel Snyder’s Washington Trumps, in D.C., for a wild-card playoff game.

When you add the fact that a prominent Packer player is named “Ha Ha Clinton-Dix” while Hillary stumps for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination, I mean, clearly Fate’s got a warped thing for the wickedly absurd. So what could prepare us for an NFL Wild-card weekend that lived up to its name? Where Ace Ventura jokes became re-relevant (“laces out”) making my heart gently weep for Minnesota’s Blair Walsh Project, where it seems everyone wants to be like ODB Jr whether it’s receivers vying for his “Best Ever Catch ‘Til Tomorrow” crown, or Vontaze’s Burfict crime-ing for his “Grossest Cheap Shot” frown, where all he does is Russell Wilson Seattle to wins (or perhaps Faith’s wind), while the Bengals missed Double-Deuce Dalton more than the time it takes to restore sore thumbs, Pack Nation slumbers well ’cause Aaron Rodgers remembered how to kinda throw again, some.

To playoff football let’s succumb. Enter to the beating drum of your heart’s hum and maybe find fun…

NFL PLAYOFFS PORTION OF THE PROGRAM

NFL Playoffs Games of the Week (Wild-card Round) Kansas City Chiefs 30 @ Houston Texans 0 So it was, ho hum, on the very first kickoff of the very first ho hum playoff game KNILE DAVIS EXPLODES THROUGH A MASSIVE HOLE AND ho hum RETURNS IT ONE-HUNDRED AND SIX FREAKING YARDS FOR THE TD. Houston was never really close on the majority of this play or for the rest of the game as Kansas City would never relinquish that lead, with the helpful, steady hand of Alex Smith leading the way and the woefully unsteady hand of Bryan Hoyer (4 picks, yikes!) leaving the Texans exposed like a butterfly filet of poor play.

Jon Gruden quote of the day: “JJ Watt’s battling a bad groin injury.” Look, Watt’s an incredible player, but even he can’t fight a Kansas City O-line AND tangle with one of those “bad groin injury” things at the same time.

Pittsburgh Steelers 18 @ Cincinnati Bengals 16 An enchanting, angry contest. Part 1 of “Insane Catches by Incredible Wideouts,” and Vontaze’s Rage. This story told with the help of Vine’s visuality. We’ll start with the uglier portions of the game and finish with the beauty of Martavis’ gorgeous holy-roller TD catch. In all, it seems Andy Dalton will still get blamed for another 1st round exit, even though he wasn’t playing. We begin with one Vontaze Burfict losing his famously hot-tempered mind, producing a near clone of the ODB Jr. cheap-ass headshot, this time on Antonio Brown…

..but “Oh by the way” Burfict was way more egregious, disgusting, with this cheap headshot on Maxx Williams in a previous game versus the Ravens. Careful, it’s disturbing…

https://vine.co/v/iMWPBbFYELr

…and continuing the ugly parade, Pittsburgh ASSISTANT COACH Mike Munchak, yes, a coach, ripping some of Reggie Nelson’s dreads, rightfully pissing him right off…

…but thank all that’s True and Right in the world for Martavis Bryant’s incredible athleticism, focus, and brilliance all on display on this catch in the 3rd quarter, possibly trumping Beckham’s one-handed stab heard ’round the world…

Seattle Seahawks 10 @ Minnesota Vikings 9 This game will forever be remembered (by me) as “The Blair Walsh Project,” but it also included Part 2 of “Incredible Catches by Amazing Wideouts” and one of the more unlikely turning-point plays in recent history. First off, it looked cold as freezer burn in Minn-eh-sot-ah, -3 degrees for much of the game, with breath bursting from the entire stadium’s mouths like 80,000 proud vapers.

While their defense was its usual stout self, Seattle came out slightly resembling a steaming crater of ineptitude on offense. Then the play below happened, which appears to foreshadow more terror for Wilson and the ‘Hawks offense. Except he’s Macklemore uncommonly composed Russ Wilson, even in the face of certain peril, proving once again on this play why he’s so valuable to Mr. Pete Carroll and the ‘Hawks. For a little forced imagination, think of how 99.9% of the time the QB/center shotgun exchange is botched like this it results in, at best, a sack.

Instead, picture this reality where Wilson recovers smoothly, calmly baseball slides, retrieving the ball and springing back up in one swift motion, rolls away from oncoming defenders, looks downfield and fires a strike to a wide-open Tyler Lockett for the game-changing play. Seattle would go on to a TD and huge momentum swing, injecting life into their moribund offense and turning the tides of what was shaping up to be a certain Viking victory.

Yeah, I believe in momentum, F Nate Silver on this topic, and this was a huge swing in a game largely dictated by field position.

…then Adrian Peterson fumbles on the ensuing Viking possession, and SEA recovers with 10:30 left in the 4th.

…oh by the way Doug Baldwin becomes a bent Beckham-like wizard and makes this incredible one-hander…

…although Chase Coffman proves there should be some kinda permit receivers have to earn to attempt one-handed catch, like a driver’s license, ’cause he tries to be like Doug B. but instead makes an interception so easy…

Trailing Seattle 10-9 very late in the 4th quarter, Kyle Rudolph beat Kam Chancellor in man coverage for a huge first down catch (vindication for Chancellor getting away with a clear hold on Rudolph earlier), putting the Vikings in money-FG position for the certain game-winner. It was a kick that 99.6% of the time would’ve been a Blair Walsh layup 3-pointer. In a kinder, gentler reality Walsh nails the kick, the Vikings win, slay the 2-time Super Bowl Seahawks and move on to the next round.

In this harsher, cruel, coooold reality Walsh shanks the kick so badly left of the uprights, like a boomerang that didn’t go where it was supposed to and never came back, allowing America to brush the 8-inch thick dust off every Scott Norwood and Ace Ventura joke no longer forgotten to mankind. I understand Walsh is a professional, paid a ton of money to make that kick. He has to make that kick. But damn, I just feel bad for him.

Green Bay Packers 35 @ Washington Cousins/Trumps 18
This game started with a bizarre “DeSean Jackson scores but doesn’t” on a catch and run where he crossed the goal line near the pylon but crossed too far and stepped first out of bounds while holding the ball back pre-goal line. Green Bay went on to hold Washington to a field goal and early momentum. However, Green Bay’s offense was dormant for much of the first half until Aaron Rodgers started hooking up hardcore with Davante Adams and James Jones (don’t worry, Olivia Munn) and headed into halftime up 17-11 after giving up a safety.

In the second half, the Packers could not cover Washington’s Jordan Reed, who played incredibly (9 catches, 120 yards) with Kirk Cousins putting the Washingtons up 18-17 with a QB run. As the second half wore on though, Green Bay wrested control away, shutting down Washington’s attack, pounding Washington’s D with a steady diet of Lacy and Starks, and squeezing just enough juice out of A-Rod’s recovering air raid to coast comfortably into the next round. Kirk Cousins and the Washingtons were kinda like Leo here, at the Golden Globes: they won their division, had home-field against the Pack, everyone was lauding them for pulling through the RGIII fiasco.

They’re laughing, they’re having a good time, sitting nearer the top than they’ve been in a while. Meanwhile Rodgers and the Pack were like Lady Gaga: they just hadn’t looked like their typically dangerous self after blazing to a 6-0 start to the season before dropping 4 of their next 5 and finishing 2nd in the NFC North.

But oh, never forget about the beautiful power of Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, as they approach laughing Leo/Washington all the way from the forgotten back, shimmering the entire way as they (purposefully?) knock the Snyder’s over-extended elbow out of the way, smirking a triumphant return to the next round with a future full of promise, leaving Leo and the Snyders meekly grimacing in their wake.

https://vine.co/v/iMApWTgWgvL

THIS WEEK’S SIGN SOMETHING’S ASKEW IN THE WORLD

https://vine.co/v/iMm2OdgxwAK

Selfishly Sprayed Tweets Peak at Past Week

Indianapolis Colts Crash and Burn in the Sunshine State

Opportunity was knocking for the Indianapolis Colts as they headed south to play Jacksonville this past Sunday afternoon. The Colts, despite their struggles, were in first place in the AFC South. They came into the game carrying a 16-game winning streak within the division. A victory against the 4-8 Jaguars would go a long way toward securing a playoff berth for The Horseshoe.

With all this at stake, and a “winnable” game in front of them, you would expect a quality team to take advantage of a scenario such as this. Instead, the Colts took a promising start and turned it into an avalanche as they fell 51-16 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The way this game unfolded was eerily similar to that of last week’s debacle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that game, Indianapolis led 10-6 late in the first half, but were outscored 39-0 the rest of the way. Against the Jaguars, Indianapolis held a 13-3 lead late in the first half when Jags DE Andre Branch stripped QB Matt Hasselbeck of the ball, recovered the ensuing fumble and coasted 49 yards for a touchdown. After falling behind by 10 points, Jacksonville outscored the Colts 48-3 from that point forward.

How bad were the Colts in this contest? Let me count the ways. The Colts allowed the aforementioned fumble return touchdown. They allowed a 73-yard punt return touchdown to the Jaguars’ Rashad Greene. They gave up 154 rushing yards, allowing a gaudy 5.3 yards-per-carry average. QB Blake Bortles threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions in a very effective performance.

Some of Indianapolis’ offensive numbers actually looked pretty good (they were only outgained 380-322 yards on the day), but this was a case where the yardage gained did not turn into points on the scoreboard. Every time the Colts drove down the field, they were eventually stopped. Every time Jacksonville drove down the field, they found paydirt.

The bottom line to all this is very simple: good teams make plays in the crucial moments, and find ways to win. The last two weeks, Indianapolis had late first half leads, and when “crunch time” was upon them, they wilted. Badly.

Around midseason, the two most disappointing teams in the NFL were arguably Seattle and Indianapolis, both preseason Super Bowl favorites, both sitting at 4-5. The Seahawks have proven they are a legitimate contender in recent seasons, so what have they done since that 4-5 start? They have gone 4-0, winning the last two in blowout fashion. In short, they’re on a roll.

The Colts, on the other hand, have lost their last two games by identical 35-point margins. This is not what contenders do, honestly, this isn’t even what decent teams do.

The Colts are still in the thick of the race for the AFC South Title after New England defeated Houston on Sunday night. But, does this really mean anything in the big picture?

The Colts are a mess right now, and trending very much in the wrong direction…they’ve basically hit rock bottom these last two weeks when the division race was just starting to heat up. We can talk about the offensive line problems, the fact that QB Matt Hasselbeck is starting to come back down to earth, a defense that can’t get much pressure on the quarterback and is giving up big plays at an alarming rate, and so on.

But, the real concern here has to do with intangibles. The players are not showing much fight or will to win, and the coaching staff seem to be losing their players at a critical point in the season…the players simply aren’t responding to head coach Chuck Pagano on any level right now.

Another “important” game looms next Sunday, when the Houston Texans visit Lucas Oil Stadium. There’s no sugarcoating it, everyone in the Colts organization from management to coaches to players need a serious gut check. Things like heart, resolve and commitment are necessary for a team to make the playoffs and be a contender once they get there. The Indianapolis Colts are showing a disturbing lack of these key ingredients, and they will go nowhere without them.

More Than A Friday: Airwaves and Arizona Cardinals

No matter where you go on the AM dial, it’s the time of year where NFL talk simply dominates the airwaves. Oh, it’s hockey season? Well, that incredible hat trick and the pace of 3-on-3 overtime are going to have to wait; we’ll try to shoehorn that 90 seconds of NHL coverage between our fluff interview with the head coach of our local team and our commentary on another team’s quarterback’s reaction to being called names. Oh, there’s basketball too? Let’s see, the playoffs start in April, so we’ll see you at the end of May. The NFL season has made the turn for the back 9, so let’s keep that conversation going, ad nauseum.

Only I’m not nauseous. We only get 17 weeks of these regular season games, so give it to me, from every angle you’ve got. Just about every game serves up its share of intrigue, even if it’s just because the NFL has taken a page out of the Oregon Ducks playbook and decided to make uniforms part of the side show. We have heard a lot of talk about paper tigers, and that kind of thing sells when you’re dealing with more that just the football purists.

Here in Arizona, the tailgate was a bigger deal than the games until the Cardinals started playing respectable football. While the pregame parking lot party lot is still a huge draw, the curtains are really pulled back to start the show once you get inside University of Phoenix Stadium and witness the product the Cardinals are putting on the field.

Sure, we can find our Suns and Coyotes in action on any given night of the week, but the locals suddenly find themselves longing for Sunday in these parts. Let’s face it, there’s a lot more to say about a dysfunctional organization, and that dysfunction was the epitome of the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals for many years after they landed here from St. Louis almost 30 years ago, but the casual fan is more interested in talking about success.

For the Bruce Arians’ Cardinals, defining success and turning the corner from being the team that was blacked out locally for over a decade isn’t about their accomplishments, but their potential. They reached the Super Bowl, and almost won the damn thing, if not for an incredible Santonio Holmes toe-tap to give the Steelers their 6th title, but that’s in the past. What have they done for you lately?

Kurt Warner’s retirement after the 2009 season put the Birds into a bit of a tailspin, leaving people to look back on the team that reached the post-season in consecutive years for the first time since the 70s as a fluke. It’s no wonder; since Warner, the Cardinals marched Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer out under center, with limited to no success for the team in that time frame.

So, why not throw Oakland a 6th-round pick for the services of a washed-up Carson Palmer? He’d spent the better part of two seasons in Oakland, after retiring rather than returning to the Bengals for the 2011 season. Speaking to the numbers, Palmer wasn’t as bad as most of us remember him being in Oakland, it was that his play didn’t add up to Raider wins, but the Cardinals were arguably one Peyton Manning away from being a Super Bowl team, the way the roster was built a year earlier.

Despite starting out 4-0 in 2012, the bottom fell out after the hot start, and the team would go on to lose 11 of their last 12, which equaled a 5-11 record and a pink slip for head coach Ken Whisenhunt. After that, enter Palmer and Bruce Arians, stage left.

At that point, they were playing meaningful football, going into the month of December. That first year, 10 wins weren’t good enough to make the tournament in 2013. Come 2014, you could have made a case for Arizona being that one team in the National Football League that no one wanted to play, provided the Cardinals stayed healthy at key spots. They were not able to do that, and the net result was Ryan Lindley marking himself as one of the worst quarterbacks in post-season history in a loss to the Carolina Panthers.

With a recent history that does garner some looks from football people that wouldn’t normally give their organization the time of day, Palmer and the gang entered this season with a chip on their shoulder. What they’ve done before this season is inconsequential, especially if you want to be taken seriously in discussing their Super Bowl aspirations. Through nine games, a 7-2 mark has given some weight to those thoughts previously thought to be outlandish, but who have they played?

But, They Haven’t Played Anyone

It took a big play or two at the end to put away the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, and the Saints seem to be a continuation of the mess that was the 2014 Saints. Okay, crossing them off the list. How about the Bears in Week 2 on the road? Forget about the Bears you’re seeing now, now that Jay Cutler and Adam Gase have found their groove, the Cardinals are awarded no points for a 48-23 win at Soldier Field.

It wasn’t that long ago that voices behind the microphone your drive home were trying to sell Niners and Cardinals as a rivalry. Sometimes, you have to reach for the narrative in the NFC West, which is seemingly void of natural rivalries1Not having a team in L.A. makes it difficult for fans in San Francisco and Phoenix to see a rival that isn’t a direct drive down the interstate.. Sure, maybe players have told the teams’ flagship stations that they don’t like the other team, and maybe those two teams were at the top of the division, but that pairing never screamed, “throw the records out the window when these teams square off”.

Seattle and San Francisco had a little thing going, when they were the top 2 in the division, with the Cardinals playing games with the likes of Derek Anderson, John Skelton, and Kevin Kolb running the offense. It made for exciting marketing for the games, but the 49ers regressed, and the edge was taken off of all their division games. So, the Cardinals score defensive touchdown after defensive touchdown at home against the Niners, and no one cares about their 3-0 start.

They’d lose to the Rams, obliterate the then-winless Lions in Detroit, and lay an egg in Pittsburgh to fall to 4-2. They still haven’t played anyone and they’re way behind the pace of all these unbeatens we’re covering in the NFL. No denying they were a good football team, but there were just too many great teams to get hung up on the pretty good one in the desert.

Let’s put them on Monday Night Football. The Ravens making their first trip to University of Phoenix Stadium, that should make for compelling TV. I’m sure a 1-5 Ravens team isn’t what ESPN had in mind, but they made it a football game, right up until the end. Kudos to the Ravens for showing up in prime time2Baltimore’s one win at that point came in overtime at Pittsburgh on Thursday Night Football in Week 4, and Gruden and Tirico will be in Cleveland on November 30th, when they visit the Browns., but surviving a 1-6 team at home doesn’t sell anyone on your Super Bowl prospects.

A second half comeback, after trailing 20-10 at the half, in Cleveland had some people inspired, not just in these parts, but on the national scene. There were some skeletons rearing their ugly heads from the loss in Pittsburgh, that this team couldn’t handle adversity, and while the Browns are absolutely nothing to write home about, a 24-0 whitewash in the 3rd and 4th quarters of that game in Cleveland had everyone feeling this team was on the right track headed into their bye week. Even though there was no game to talk about that next weekend, terrestrial radio gave you your fill of Birdspeak, whether you wanted it or not.

Who could blame them? The Seattle game hung in the balance, and at 4-4, the Cardinals could potentially throw something of a knockout punch to the 2-time defending NFC Champions. Now, the Cardinals have been able to crack the code for winning in front of the Sea Chickens rowdy fans, but Carolina figured out that formula in Week 6, so the task may not have seemed so daunting. We’ve learned, from our talk-radio hosts, that you can dismiss some of the negatives with Seattle, namely their mediocre W-L record, and that the Cardinals have not proven they are a better team than the Seahawks until the show they can beat them.

Well, beat them, they did. The 39-32 final score doesn’t really tell the tale of how that affair went. Arizona got out to a big halftime lead, had a complete meltdown with Palmer putting the pigskin on the turf twice, deep in their own territory, and when they needed the big play, Jermaine Gresham and Andre Ellington were happy to oblige.

Leading up to this game, the sister stations up in Washington were calling these Cardinals “paper tigers”. They haven’t played anyone, they said. Now, the joke is on those who reside near the Puget Sound. Those Sea Chickens that went down at home to their division rival, they’re 4-5; at the end of the day, I guess the Cardinals still haven’t played anyone.

Is Anyone Out There?

Remember, what they’ve done means nothing. We see no rings, therefor the job isn’t done. What does 7-2 get you? Nothing, but maybe prime time games. The NFL flexed this weekend’s contest with Cincinnati into Sunday Night Football, the Cardinals second-straight appearance in NBC’s prime time slot and the Bengals third-straight under the lights. The Bengals look a lot less intimidating after their stripes were exposed by the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football, and the big baby that is Andy Dalton showed a complete void of maturity, based on hearsay.

The travel Palmer and company face isn’t as severe as it was in their first nine games, what with Seattle out of the way and those three of their four games in the Eastern time zone in the books. They’ll travel to play the Niners and Rams in consecutive weeks, pretty much with a chance to lock up the division before a lot of people even get their Christmas trees up, but that division title isn’t the long game.

Unlike the old days, where you’d know who was in town because of the dominance of visiting jerseys at Sun Devil Stadium, this team has a distinct home-field advantage, and they want that in January. They’re still two games behind the 9-0 Carolina Panthers in the loss column, but they’re going to see the Vikings and Packers at home, with home playoff games and maybe a first-round bye in the cards, so there are no breaks.

If they take any, they might be stressing over their home finale with those pesky Sea Chickens in Week 17. In that case, I’m sure talking heads on the radio dial will have plenty to talk about, but topics for discussion are never in short supply in an NFL market. Though, you already knew that.

   [ + ]

1. Not having a team in L.A. makes it difficult for fans in San Francisco and Phoenix to see a rival that isn’t a direct drive down the interstate.
2. Baltimore’s one win at that point came in overtime at Pittsburgh on Thursday Night Football in Week 4, and Gruden and Tirico will be in Cleveland on November 30th, when they visit the Browns.

Super Bowl Superlatives

Did the Patriots win the Super Bowl or did the Seahawks lose it? A ridiculous question, but one that has been frequently asked in the past two days. Following any game, reasonable people can criticize a team’s poor performance or question a coach’s decisions but must also remember to recognize the team that won. Always focus on awarding credit, not assigning blame.

Congratulations are in order for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the rest of the New England Patriots. They are victors of a truly incredible Super Bowl. After a slow first quarter, this game had nothing then it had something and by the end it had everything. With so much to cover, let’s concentrate on the game’s most powerful moments, the ones that made it truly super.

His GOATness, Tom Brady.

The Great

Fitting that Tom Brady added to his legacy as the greatest quarterback of all time with what was perhaps his best performance on the biggest stage in the game. Brady orchestrated a methodical attack that moved the ball down the field with a series of carefully executed timing patterns. New England’s game plan was to take advantage of mismatches in man coverage. Brady did just that. He consistently identified single coverage on Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski and burned the defense with precise throws.

After trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter, Brady elevated his game even higher. He dissected the dominant Seattle defense for two momentous touchdown drives. Brady finished with 321 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, a victory, and an MVP.
Brady’s brilliant work was nearly all for naught when Jermaine Kearse secured a circus catch down the right sideline with 1:06 remaining in the game. At this moment, Brady must have had flashbacks to his previous two Super Bowl appearances, which both ended in defeat, due in large part to miraculous late-game completions. Alas, the heavens smiled on Tom Brady this time around.

Two plays after the Kearse catch, rookie defensive back, Malcolm Butler, intercepted a Russell Wilson pass in the end zone. On second and goal from the one, Ricardo Lockette ran a quick slant. Wilson delivered the ball on time and in the right spot. Butler simply made a spectacular play to jump the route and snatch the ball away from Lockette.

All of this was made possible in no small part due to Bill Belichick’s clever decision not to call a timeout following Seattle’s first down run. The common thought was that the Patriots needed to stop the clock to leave themselves enough time to answer the Seattle touchdown with a field goal of their own to force overtime. Instead Belichick played through. Precious seconds ran off the clock, which may have influenced the personnel package that Seattle chose for the next play. Whether it did or not, Belichick’s decision led to a victory, so he must be given credit for his gutsy call.

The Awful

Here it is. We have all heard it a hundred times by now. “The Seahawks should have given the ball to Marshawn Lynch instead of attempting a pass,” says most of America. I hate to even mention the play call again, but with something that bad, I must.

I heard Pete Carroll’s explanation of the play call after the game. I understand his reasoning about the mismatched personnel; I just do not agree with the decision. At all. Too many things can go wrong with a quick slant in a congested field at the one yard line. With 20 seconds and one timeout, Seattle had time for at least two rushing plays. That’s two servings of beast mode. He scores on one of those runs. I am certain. Then again I was certain that The Hangover Par II was going to be as funny as the first one.  Just as Pete Carroll was certain that Russell Wilson‘s pass would not be intercepted.  We all make mistakes.  Seattle just happened to make its mistake in the worst possible moment.

Incredibly, Seattle had a glimmer of hope following the turnover. The Patriots needed to take a knee to run out the clock and end the game. The problem with that: they were at their own one yard line. Seattle had one last chance to muster up some magic and somehow stuff Brady for a safety. Then Michael Bennett jumped offside.

Unfreakingbelievable. Did he really think that Brady was not going to try a hard count? Even though Seattle’s aggressive style is part of what makes them great, this was a time for discipline and Bennett displayed none. Chances are that the Patriots would have won anyway, but this was still a pitiful mistake.

Patriots Rob Gronkowski and Seahawks Bruce Irvin square off as tempers flare.

The Ugly

Following one of the most shocking turn of events ever to happen in the Super Bowl, a handful of players lost their composure. This was type of indiscretion is understandable given the circumstances, but nonetheless disappointing.

Who exactly instigated the fight is unclear. We saw that Gronk was right in the middle of the mayhem. Bruce Irvin was ejected. Many others participated in the skirmish as well. The players’ lack of restraint led to a brawl that left a black mark on what was an otherwise fantastic day of world-class competition.

The Picture-Perfect

Shortly after a handful of the Seattle and New England players shamed themselves by taking part in the tussle, two of the game’s most polarizing figures had their own moment. In stark contrast to their previous post-game exchange, both Sherman and Brady were pure class. It was a beautiful sight: Sherman, the infamous trash talker, displaying ideal sportsmanship on the heels of a crushing defeat and Brady graciously accepting the gesture. In a game full of great moments, this was one of the best.

The Admirable

Amid the inevitable questioning of the final offensive play call for Seattle, Pete Carroll absorbed all the blame. He was completely incisive, and he ensured that criticism would not be directed at anyone but him. That’s the mark of a great leader.

Even Lynch took a break from his tired repetitive shenanigans by responding with class and without placing blame. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe I do want to hear more from Marshawn Lynch. His answer was selfless, short, simple, and totally free of any bitter feelings. Well done, Marshawn.

The Inspiring

I’m glad this moment happened to Russell Wilson. I have no beef with the guy; actually, I like him quite a bit. From all accounts, he seems to be a wonderful young man and an impressive football player. I’m glad that this happened to him (if it had to happen to someone) because he can handle it. I could not hand pick another player in the NFL that is better suited to deal with the backlash from something as devastating as that final interception. Russell Wilson has already displayed resilience and grace in the face of what may go down as the most heartbreaking loss in the history of the Super Bowl.

In his post-game interview, Wilson mentioned that he doesn’t question the final play call and he gives the Patriots a lot of credit. He continued his showcase of unflappability Monday morning when he sent out a tweet stating that he will not allow that play to define his career.

How can someone who just threw an interception at the one yard line to seal the Super Bowl victory for the opponent possibly come away looking impressive? Only people who possess it, that ineffable quality that defines a champion, can possibly pull off something like that. These rarest of individuals always seem to thrive under intense external pressure, responding to adversity and returning to the top of their field. They eventually bear hands heavy with rings.

Russell Wilson has tremendous confidence in himself.  He believes that he will return to the Super Bowl.  I, for one, see no reason to doubt him.  Because Russell Wilson has it.

Follow Jared on Twitter @JaredAndrews3 and More Than a Fan @MTAFSports!

Down By Contact: Super Post-game Show

In Super Bowl XLIX, the New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24.  The win is Tom Brady’s fourth championship in six tries.

The Players

Chris Green – @cgrn731
Jeff Rich – @byJeffRich

Down By Contact: Super Pre-Game Show

Seattle is back, and you could say not much time has passed since the Patriots played for the Lombardi Trophy themselves, so the Super Bowl is familiar ground for the principal players on both teams involved.  Chris Green and Jeff Rich take a look at the game ahead.

The Players

Chris Green – @cgrn731
Jeff Rich – @byJeffRich

Fixing the NFL Playoffs

Well, it finally happened. We had seen it coming for weeks, but now it’s official. A team with a losing record ended the season in first place in the NFC South when the now 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers defeated the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday to capture the division title.

Afterwards, the Panthers’ players and coaches celebrated the same way that any other team would celebrate a division crown. They certainly were not concerned about their losing season.

“The beautiful thing — record doesn’t matter,” coach Ron Rivera said. “That’s the best part.”

Really, record doesn’t matter? The NFL regular season’s purpose is to determine which teams are worthy of competing in the playoffs, and this is measured by a team’s wins and losses i.e. its record. Typically, the regular season effectively weeds out the weak and sends 12 of the league’s best teams to vie for a championship in the postseason. This year Carolina found a loophole, the same one that Seattle took advantage of in 2010. Despite finishing with losing records, they won their divisions. Based on the current NFL playoff setup, both of these teams not only qualified for the playoffs, they earned themselves home-field advantage in their first round games
The idea of referring to a sub .500 team as a champion of anything, even the worst division in the NFL, sounds disingenuous. Add the fact that this team will host a playoff game and it becomes downright repulsive. The NFL failed to amend this systematic flaw after the 2010 season, but it is not too late to make the correction now. The solution to this issue is simple (mostly).

Here is the plan: the playoff teams in each conference will typically still consist of the two wildcards and the four division winners. The possibility of an adjustment comes into play when a division winner finishes with a non-winning record (8-8 or worse). If a division winner finishes 8-8 or worse, that team can be replaced by a third wildcard team if and only if said wildcard team meets three criteria.

  1. The additional wildcard team must have won at least 3 more games than the division champion.
  2. The additional wildcard team must have won the head-to-head matchup with the division winner if the two teams played during the regular season.
  3. The additional wildcard team must have a better conference winning percentage than the division winner.

Since a single conference rarely has three non-division champions win 11 games, this new setup would likely not be a factor unless a division champion finishes with a losing record. The NFL playoffs are meant to give the teams that succeeded most during the regular season a chance to contend for a Super Bowl title. Most would agree that a 10-6 team had a more successful regular season than a 7-9 team. Therefore, most would also agree that the 10-6 team is more deserving of a playoff slot than the 7-9 team—hence this adjustment allows a more deserving team to make the playoffs.

This playoff proposal involves one additional change. The new setup determines which team hosts each matchup based upon which team had the better regular season record. For instance, an 11-5 wildcard team would host the playoff game against a 10-6 division champion. This change would take effect with or without the inclusion of a third wildcard team replacing a division winner.

While this proposal ensures that the most successful  regular season teams will be rewarded with a playoff berth, not everyone is in favor of the change. Some will argue that a division champion, regardless of record, has earned the right to compete in the playoffs. However this is a myopic line of logic. There are 16 teams in each conference of the NFL. The goal should be to send the six most deserving teams from each conference to the postseason. This does not mean that divisions should be abandoned. They still serve the league by creating rivalries, simplifying scheduling, and reducing the amount of travel that each team endures. But a division title should not be the only requirement for a postseason berth. Record should matter. A 10-6 team that finishes third in its division is more deserving than a 7-9 division winner. That third place finish is not an indictment; it’s just a testament to the toughness of that team’s division. Teams should not be punished for playing in strong divisions.

Likewise teams should not be rewarded for playing in weak ones.

Perhaps the NFL opted not to make any changes after Seattle made the playoffs at 7-9 because the Seahawks won their opening postseason game. Maybe the league believed that the victory proved that Seattle was playoff-worthy. Even if that was the league’s reason for taking no action, they still blundered.

Seattle’s playoff win may have been impressive (even though they had the luxury of playing at home against a team that won four more games during the regular season) but it did nothing to validate their playoff-worthiness. A team’s playoff-worthiness is determined solely by its regular season performance.

A postseason victory does not retroactively validate a team’s playoff berth the same way that a postseason loss does not suddenly make a team’s berth invalid.
In all likelihood, the NFL is not going to make any changes to the current playoff selection process. If this is the case, maybe they will agree to a compromise—let regular season records determine playoff seeding. This will still reward the lowly division winners like Carolina, but it will reward them less by making them the sixth seed. At the very least, the NFL should leave division winners as the top four seeds, but let the team with a better regular season record host each playoff matchup. If any change is made, this is certainly the most likely.

A small improvement is better than no improvement at all.  The NFL must realize this and make the necessary changes this offseason.  The entire league will improve as a result.

Monday Night Football, Where 5-8 Doesn't Add Up

Some things just don’t add up. Sure, after Monday night’s contest at Soldier Field, the Bears, Saints, and everyone else in the NFL had played 14 games, but the logic with numbers stops there. In New Orleans and wherever else Saints fans might reside, they watched their 5-8 team on Monday Night Football, with the hopes their beloved Saints would jump the 5-8-1 Panthers for the division lead in the NFC South. Meanwhile, the hometown crowd just hoped Jay Cutler and the 5-8 Bears wouldn’t embarass their city on national television.

Cutler hasn’t been much of a favorite with the home crowd, or any crowd, except maybe the Green Bay crowds, since being traded to the Windy City in 2009. Under Lovie Smith, he was just expected to be better than Rex Grossman or whatever other void has lined up under center for the Bears this century. In other words, he just needed to do enough to let the defense win them ball games. Now, enter offensive-minded Marc Trestman, add Cutler’s favorite weapon from his Denver days, plus a big physical receiver, and the role has changed. Nobody was asking for leadership from the Vanderbilt product, just good quarterback play and an attitude that reflects the opposite of what you might consider a douchebag.

The Bears haven’t gotten that, but they also haven’t had a losing season, since going 7-9 in Cutler’s first year with the team. It’s for that reason and possibly a legitimate fear of not being able to upgrade the position that a decision was made to commit to Cutler for the next seven years after his contract expired at the end of last season. It didn’t take long for what we assume would be buyer’s remorse to kick in with Cutler’s play in 2014, even if mitigated by key injuries in his supporting cast. The Bears wear their 5-8 with shame, while their fans look to the NHL, NBA, and Major League Baseball chapters in town for some sports salvation.

Meanwhile, the Saints are far enough removed from both their World Championship run of 2009 and the scandal that plagued in 2012 that they have both expired as factors for the 2014 Saints. They did, however, still enter their Monday Night game with an identical 5-8 record to the Bears, who are, by every definition of the word, broken. However, hope springs eternal in the Bayou, as there hasn’t been a more perfect year than this to be medicore, or even slow, out of the gate in the NFC South. Entering play on Monday, the division was a collective 17-37 in the Win-Loss Column.

There’s no criteria to flex out of Monday Night football, but if there was, this was the one to kick to the curb. Maybe someone could have sold you on the idea that the Saints weren’t as bad as their sub-500 record might have suggested, but it’s countered by Chicago is probably worse than their 5 wins might insinuate. The Bears might have stolen a few and New Orleans probably gave a few away, but the bottom line is, you are what your record is. Come to think of it, both of these teams were ranked in the bottom 5 of many pertinent defensive categories across the National Football League. You expect teams like this to lose more games than they’ve won, but somehow the Saints still control their own destiny to host a playoff game.

It only took two plays from scrimmage from each team to demonstrate to anyone who has dismissed either participant in Monday’s game that they’ve done so with merit. Cutler’s first pass was ridiculously incomplete, and in a “I should probably tell everyone I was throwing the ball away, only I wasn’t throwing it away” kind of way. His second pass was picked off. The Saints didn’t fare much better. After a nice run to move the chains, Drew Brees hit his tight end, Jimmy Graham for another first down, inside the 10, but didn’t protect the football and the Bears defense had quickly bailed Cutler out for his first mistake of the night.

The two teams stalemated for 15 minutes, but the Saints opened up the scoring in the second quarter, and eventually took us to the fourth quarter with, really, a less than impressive 24-0 lead. The Bears did salvage some points to go through the motions, but ultimately looked exactly as sloppy as you might have expected in a 31-15 defeat. There’s out-of-order, there’s dysfunctional, and then there’s the 2014 Chicago Bears. They host the Detroit Lions next week, and you can expect to see some empty seats. You can also expect a lot of talk about eating eight figures in guaranteed money that Bears ownership might decide to eat just to rid themselves of another six years of the headaches that #6 brings to the table and the locker room.

It’s a different story for Sean Payton‘s team, going forward. As tough as the sledding has been for the Saints, they know that they’re in the playoffs with wins at home against Atlanta, and in Week 17 at Tampa Bay. They won’t even need the win over the Bucs if the Browns beat Carolina and they hold serve against the Falcons, but it gets a little messier with a loss to Atlanta, who also controls their own destiny at 5-9. If the Saints do win their last two games against their division rivals, they would finish 8-8, like a handful of division champions before them, and it’s a non-story.

If the Saints lose in Week 16 or 17, we’d have our second playoff team with a losing regular season record ever, whether it’s a 7-9 team or the 7-8-1 Panthers. On the bright side for the NFC South, at least the Saints know all too well that a team with a losing record isn’t doomed to be one and done in the postseason. In 2010, the 11-5 Saints visited the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks as the top Wild Card team in the NFC, and left the emerald city with a 41-36 defeat, which prematurely began their off-season.

It’s funny how we talk about trends early in the year, as soon as Week 2 or 3 sometimes, and how doomed a 1-2 team might look when stacked against teams of the same record historically. You might think a Week 15 battle of 5-8 would spell doom a little more boldly, and for the Bears it does. In this case, the winner is sitting pretty, and 6-8 equals 14 games just the same, but it just doesn’t add up. I’m not sure it ever will.

Down By Contact #2: The Fun and Games

DownloadRSS (audio) | iTunes (audio)

The late week edition of Down By Contact will focus on the fans, and how they can be interactive with the action on Sunday, Monday, and even Thursday. Some people like to do it all, office pools, friendly wagering with friends, betting games against the spread, and of course, the ever-popular game of Fantasy Football.

This week, Jeff Rich welcomes Mike Burgermeister and Tarik Adam, the facilitator and top player in the Cheddar Bay Reality Football Competition, respectively, in the first segment. They preview the prime time and other marquee matchups in the National Football League, and even weigh in on the classic Army-Navy game in the college ranks on Saturday. Then, we shift gears from reality to fantasy, where More Than a Fan guru Alex Squires gives our host a remedial lesson on Fantasy Football, and gives some tips on who to start/who to sit in Week 15.

The Players
Jeff Rich (Host) – @byJeffRich

Mike Burgermeister – @603_brown
Tarik Adam – @ClevTA
Alex Squires – @ASquiresFF

11-on-11: TJ Ward Puts Dolphins on Ice as Broncos Bounce Back At Home

Ten years ago, Terrell Ray Ward had finally overcome his high school’s depth issues, but suffered a knee injury his senior season at the acclaimed De La Salle High School in Northern California. These days, we know him as TJ Ward, the Pro-Bowler, an integral part of the Denver Bronocos success, and the days of walking on at Mike Belotti’s Oregon program are long forgotten. On Sunday evening in Denver, he called off the Dolphins bid for the upset, despite a valiant effort on Miami’s part, with a late interception of Ryan Tannehill.

We’re going to change the format around here a little bit. Instead of being touch and go on just about every game played between Thursday and Sunday night, our focus will be on a single game each week, but I’ll drop a little bit of insight on what I see out of the corner of my eyes throughout the league. This week, we’re in The Rockies with the #1 crew from CBS and 76,987 paying customers for the Dolphins 39-36 road defeat.

Who is TJ Ward, and What Does He Do?

To be as good as the Denver Broncos have been, there has to be a little more to your defense than luck and reliance on the offense to do the lion’s share of the work. There’s a good feeling you have to have with Jack Del Rio running your defense, provided he’s not also your head coach. They have Terrance Knighton up front to disrupt the run game, which is a Miami strength, and pass-rushing options even after Von Miller, which is frustrating to third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The secondary isn’t all the way just yet, but they’re coming along pretty well after signing TJ Ward away from the Browns last off-season.

Ward is accustomed to having talent around him, and while Denver might not have a headliner like Joe Haden to join him in the seconary, but you couldn’t ask for more from Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby in his rookie season at the corner positon. Having watched Ward closely in Cleveland, you knew that he could keep his head on a swivel, find his target, and let it rip. Unfortunately, “letting it rip” the way Ward did early in his career drew penalties and fines, but over the last two seasons he’s channeled it in a good way.

He’s reacting better and identifying run/pass in the pre-snap moments better, which makes him a good run-stopper without getting beat over the top. He has two interceptions this season, and Sunday’s canceled the threat of Miami snatching victory from the grips of a 32-28 deficit with three and a half minutes to play. It was a first down play, and Tannehill had enough clock that there was no critical sense of urgency, meaning Miami still had options on the ground, but tried to go to Jarvis Landry on back-to-back plays and he tried to force it. Harris Jr had him covered well enough to force a deflection into No Man’s Land, where TJ Ward was serving as governor on Sunday afternoon.

Ward has transitioned from head-hunter to ball-hawk, which doesn’t mean he’s at all hesitant to make the pads audibly crack. In 2013, he got his first pick-six, and he nearly got touchdown #2 of his 5-year career in this one. Ward cut it all the way back across the field, after swiping the ball at the Miami 45, and he got as far as the 8 before being shoved out of bounds. To give Peyton Manning and that offense a 1st and Goal at the 8 is basically a guaranteed touchdown, two plays later Manning and Wes Welker obliged with a short touchdown pass. In four plays, Denver went from trailing by three to nursing a two-possession lead, thanks in large part to their newly acquired safety Ward.

Watch at NFL.com

Ward Giveth, Ward Almost Taketh Away

So, you just got a key takeaway, one that allegedly put this game on ice for your team. Whether victory seems inevitable or not, you have to play all sixty minutes. We understand that these pass defenders are playing with the deck stacked against them. The play that draws a pass interference is almost as much of a necessary evil as actual completed passes in this day and age, but you still never want to hear your name called.

In Miami’s last-ditch effort to get two scores inside of the two-minute warning, they went for two to close the margin to three points, and Ward gave them two cracks at it. It’s probably important to mention that 35 of the 84 yards Miami went on their final offensive possession were courtesy of unnecessary roughness and pass interference calls on Malik Jackson and Omar Bolden, but it was yielding a second attempt at the conversion try that made the nightmare of a collapse slightly more realistic. Ward laid Landry out for one of those “the official can’t find his flag quick enough to throw it violently” flags, giving the Dolphins an easier chance to extend the game if they were fortunate enough to snag the onside kick.

Kickers Are Weird

Look, I’m of the mindset that if you have 53 players on your active roster, they all better damn well be football players. Kickers are very important to this game and are, perhaps, a little under-appreciated in the grand scheme. That said, I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that they’re a bit off. However, sometimes the bizarre things they do are worth noting, so let’s make sure the onside kick attempt from Miami’s Caleb Sturgis was notable.

The concept is simple, but the execution is difficult when it comes to onside kicks. Boot a ground-ball ten yards or draw the hands of a player on the receiving team player to make contact with it before the threshold, and hope one of your 11 guys ends up with possession of the ball. There is only so much trickeration you can attempt, especially now that the no-fun police say you can’t really overload one side of the tee or another with too many players. Sturgis put his right foot behind his right leg as he approached the ball, as if to kick it left, but the misdirection fooled no one and Denver running back CJ Anderson recovered it with ease.

CJ Anderson Is Short for Cortrelle Javon Anderson

With his performance today, CJ Anderson has done just enough to make me interested enough to view his Wikipedia page, only to be disappointed when I saw how desolate his bio was when I got there.

He made up to 7 people miss on his 51-yard catch and run in Oakland two weeks ago for his first career touchdown, but was more than just a highlight against the Dolphins, without Montee Ball or Ronnie Hillman available. He combined with Jawan Thompson for 200 yards on 32 carries, but it was the second-year player from Cal that put the offense on his back and showed some brilliance in the game’s final minute.

He’d already run for 151 yards and found paydirt once, the initial go-ahead score, on 26 carries, but he got cerebral with his final touch of the game. It was also his longest run, going for 26 yard before he gave himself up in the interest of getting the clock to 0. Anderson had the first down his team needed to close the playbook and run the only play diagrammed for victory formation, Peyton Manning drops to a knee. It was a nice follow-up to recovering the onside kick, not sure how often you’ll see that from your featured running back, and put a bow around the gift of a day he gave his offense.

No Julius, No Problem

Sudden-superstar tight end Julius Thomas was a scratch for today’s game with a bad ankle, which is a shame. He’s hauled in 12 touchdowns in ten games this season, and the Broncos were 7-0 when Manning targeted him at least 5 times in a game. In the games against Seattle, New England, and St. Louis, he looked for the small forward-turned-tight end four times or less, and Denver won less than one of those games. Today, he’d have some familiarity in Jacob Tamme and the seldom-used Virgil Green to supplement Thomas’s out of this world production in the offense.

As it went, he threw in Tamme’s direction twice. One didn’t count, but it would have been a touchdown if not for a penalty on Demayrius Thomas. The other was for a loss; that’s what we see on the stat sheet and it tell us the tight ends didn’t factor into the outcome of this one. Coincidentally, it was Demaryius Thomas who got the six after negating Tamme’s glory. To let my praise of Anderson carry over into another blurb, he had a huge 21-yard pick-up on 4th and 2 to set up this touchdown, which got the Broncos as close as 28-25 early in the fourth quarter.

Burse-Snatching

This 39-36 game only feature four punts, and three of them came off the foot of Brandon Fields of the Dolphins. On the receiving end of those punts was Isaiah Burse, who combined for 12 yards on those 3 returns, so we’re probably going to say something bad about the Broncos punt returner here. Well, he fumbled, with his team already down in the second half. Damien Williams stripped him of the football and John Denney landed on the football. Three plays later, Tannehill and Landry hooked up for six. They scored after a reprieve from the officials on what appeared to be a Von Miller interception to bail Burse out of trouble, but Ward was called for holding and Miami was able to convert the second chance into an 11-point lead.

Another special teams gaffe worth mentioning is the missed Brandon McManus attempt from 33 yards away that infuriated Manny Ramirez on the Broncos sideline. It came 13 plays after the Broncos received the second half with a drive that stalled at the Dolphins’ 15, when Jelani Jenkins sacked Manning on 3rd and 1. In addition to the sack, the second-year man from Florida led all Dolphin defenders with 9 solo tackles.

Harmless Fumbling

As devastating as Ward’s late interception was, some serious self-destruction on the visitors’ part ended up not hurting Miami at all. On a 10 play, 5 minute drive in the second quarter, Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews combined for three fumbles. Gibson actually dropped both out of bounds on short receptions, but Matthews put the ball on the turf in play right before the 2-minute warning, but Lamar Miller recovered the ball 3 yards further down the field at the Broncos’ 10. Tannehill hooked up with Mike Wallace on the next play to put Miami up 21-10.

Setting the Tone Early

There’s a serious difference between being on pace to do something and carrying out that pace. Based on the first half numbers, it would shock someone that didn’t watch the second halff, that Miami didn’t have 100-yard receiver or runner on the day. In fact, after a fast start, the Broncos figured Lamar Miller out. He finished the day with 59 yards on 12 carries after getting about 50 in the first half alone. Obviously the 21-10 2nd quarter lead didn’t translate to a big win for the Fins over the AFC’s best team, or at least the one with the best record. The Dolphins took the Opening Kickoff and used the running game and short passes to draw first blood and take the crowd out of the game. Again, there’s a difference between setting the tone and actually riding that them out. Daniel Thomas ran the ball well when he touched it, it’s a wonder Joe Philbin didn’t go to him more.

Possession is Nine Tenths

The Broncos score quickly in the present tense, so you shouldn’t let that time of possession number tell you anything, but the Broncos held the ball for about 35 minutes, giving them about a ten minute edge in time their defense got to rest. Today was the first time Manning took on the Dolphins as a Bronco, but he saw them plenty as an Indianapolis Colt, and you might surprised to hear he’s just 6-7 against them in his career. With the Colts, he was just 2-7 in his career before they moved out of their division to the newly-formed NFC South in 2003. The last time he saw them, on a Monday night in 2009, he had less than 15 minutes of game clock time to work with a hot night in Miami, but still left with 27-23 victory there.  He now has four straight wins against the mammals from South Beach.

Monday Is For Degenerates

This week, our degenerate gamblers are blessed with not just one, but two games to recover from taking the Cardinals and the points in Seattle or whatever wage-losing wager didn’t work out for them. We’ll start with the standard product, which features the Ravens traveling to Bayou Country to take on the Saints. Caesars says the Saints are giving three and setting the point mark at 50. Now, the Ravens are a sub-par team on the road and they’re even worse against the spread this season, but I just can’t see the Ravens losing this game straight up. I am taking the Ravens and I think it’s enough of a shootout to think 51 is likely. Even in a vacuum, I think I’d be excited to see how this AFC North is going to play out. Who is going to be the next to lose and when?

Our bonus game is in Detroit, which doesn’t mean anything to Buffalo who is displaced from their natural home game, since they aren’t very good in Buffalo anyways. The bonus is they’re playing the Jets on a fast track. Buffalo is decent away from their home digs, maybe more business-like and the Jets don’t really pose any type of a threat. They cover 2 and a half, but this game doesn’t really sell itself as a game that’s going to feature more than 42. Enjoy it in select markets and on Sunday Ticket, while the rest of us suffer through Flacco versus Brees in that monopolized national space.

Random Thoughts Around the League and Elsewhere

Oakland won the other night. For shame, Kansas City, for shame.

A time might come where we have to discuss things like the clock management debacle between Mike Pettine and Mike Smith in Atlanta on Sunday. Pettine chose to take the Browns timeouts into the half with him, and attempted the same impossible field goal twice, even after Smith gave him a reprieve, where it was revealed Cundiff doesn’t have that distance on a shank nullified by a Falcons timeout. The Falcons had no business beating the Browns or even winning that game, but no excuse for not running the clock all the way down and letting Matt Bryant win the game with less than 44 seconds left.

Josh Huff started the Eagles scoring against Tennessee in the highest scoring game of the week with a 107-yard return on the opening kickoff. It might start to feel unfair of Chip Kelly can get the type of athletes he had at Oregon, such as Huff, to join him in Philadelphia.

Every time I looked at the Jaguars-Colts game, I had the broadcast showing me a former Cleveland Brown. One minute, D’Qwell Jackson is making a play, and my eyes could have been fooling me, but I saw both Trent Richardson and Joshua Cribbs cross the goal line with the football in their hands. It didn’t look like the Colts absolutely controlled the game with their division rivals, which makes you glad that game control is a factor that matters in the NFL.

Lovie Smith returned to Soldier Field as the head coach of a pretty lousy Tampa Bay team. His team looked inspired out of the gate, while the Bears looked the same unenthusiastic, flat team in the beginning. The only thing that would have been better than a Smith victory there would have been if he signed Brian Urlacher to a 1-game deal for this game, so his last appearance at Soldier Field would have been in that nasty Bucs uni. Too cruel or too soon? Bears spoil Lovie’s homecoming in this one, 21-13.

I think and I’ve thought a lot of things about the Arizona Cardinals this season, but the main thing is that I’m believing they could be the first to play on their home field in the Super Bowl and I think they can win that game. You know what I didn’t think they would do? I didn’t think they’d play a desperate Seattle team in the House of SeaChicken and come away with a victory. They’re a match-up problem for the Cardinals, which is really unfortunate for a team that needs to count on their ability to pull a rabbit out of their hat from time to time. The magic just isn’t there, not without Larry Fitzgerald in the mix. Maybe they’ll find that in their rematch with the defending champs in Glendale, but it will take more than luck if the offense is as stagnant as it was on Sunday.

Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. for six points. Let’s not get caught up on making this the best thing we’ve ever seen. It was amazing. If you didn’t see the play, go find it. It just seemed to defy some basic principles of physics.

Let’s not forget the Giants lost, and the Cowboys continue to win. Tony Romo might be fun to poke fun at, but he’s leaving less room for criticism. If he and DeMarco Murray stay healthy, Dallas is one of those teams that might spoil the prospect of a home game for a certain team in the desert.

Lastly, on a personal note, Thanksgiving is coming up on Thursday and I want to say I’m thankful for everyone I have in my life. I often underestimate how blessed I am to have all that I have and love in this life. Stay healthy and safe, however you spend the upcoming week.