Every Monday, we present 10 takes from the Sunday that was. Most Mondays, it’s waiting for you when you wake up, like a hangover.
Some Mondays, it gets a little delayed.
This week, we’ll start with five of them, and we’ll then tack six through 10 onto the list once they’re ready.
And this should guarantee that we receive only 35 e-mails pointing out that we don’t yet have 10 takes in our 10-pack.
UPDATE: The magic number is now six. Or does that make the magic number four?
SECOND UPDATE: The rest of them are there now, if you haven’t figured it out.
1. Replay flaw eventually could have major ramifications.
On Sunday, the Chiefs requested a replay review of a 40-yard touchdown pass from Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton to receiver Jabar Gaffney. The only problem? The replay system was “inoperable.”
As a result, no review occurred.
Though the seven points didn’t really matter in what became a 35-0 lead (and, eventually, a 49-29 victory), the fact that the referee can simply shrug his shoulders and says “them’s the breaks” when the replay system is inoperable represents a major flaw in the system, which could create a huge problem is the replay system becomes inoperable at an inopportune time.
NFL spokesman Michael Signora tells us that it’s a rare phenomenon, but not unprecedented. Per Signora, the league has no Plan B, if the referee can’t review the play on site. Though the league has “backup procedures” for permitting a review by the referee, the “backup procedures” apparently don’t include watching the large video boards that are now in every stadium. Otherwise, the NFL would have used that approach on Sunday in Denver.
All too often, the league implements a rule change after the current rules create an unacceptable outcome. In this context, the failure of the replay system during a key moment in a close game, or during any postseason game, would fall into that category.
If/when that happens, the league would react, changing the system to allow, for example, the in-stadium replay official, who’s upstairs in a booth, to conduct the review. Alternatively, the league office could make the determination.
So if the approach would be changed if/when the replay system becomes inoperable in a key moment, why not change the approach before the replay system becomes inoperable in a key moment?
2. Division games loom over the last seven weeks of the season.
Through 10 weeks of the 2010 regular season, the top two teams in each division are separated by fewer than one game. It’s the first time since the divisions were realigned in 2002 that all eight divisions have been packed so tightly together.
The balance of the season will feature plenty of intra-division games. The Titans and the Colts still play each other twice, as do the Titans and the Texans.
In the NFC, the Giants have yet to play the Eagles or the Redskins, and the Eagles have yet to play the Giants or the Cowboys.
The reward for winning each division is a big one. The champion gets at least one home game in the postseason, no matter how bad the champion’s record.
That’s great news for the teams of the NFC West, where an 8-8 champion will be hosting the second-place team from the NFC East, North, or South — any of whom may have a much better record than the final record of the NFC West champ.
What’s that, you say? The NFC West winner quickly will become a playoff loser? Two years ago, everyone dismissed the 9-7 Cardinals, who hosted the 11-5 Falcons in the wild-card round. And the 9-7 Cardinals beat the 11-5 Falcons. And the 12-4 Panthers. And then the Cardinals beat the Eagles to secure a berth in the Super Bowl, which Arizona nearly won.
In other words, anything can happen over the next seven weeks. And then anything can happen once the playoffs get started.
3. Jerry Jones has a new dilemma.
The Cowboys had a great day on Sunday, knocking off the previously 6-2 Giants in the Giants’ brand-new, electricity-challenged stadium. Finally, Jerry Jones’ team has shown passion and fire and talent and all the stuff we expected to see all year but hadn’t.
It means that, so far, interim coach Jason Garrett’s approach is working. If the Cowboys keep winning, Garrett will move closer and closer to earning the full-time job.
Here’s the problem. No matter how giddy Jerry becomes, he must hold his cards close to the vest. If other candidates for the job conclude that Garrett has coached his way into the permanent gig, no other candidates will be interested in interviewing for it.
Specifically, no minority candidates will be interested. Which will prevent Jones from complying with the Rooney Rule.
Though every team except the 2003 Lions have uncovered a willing minority candidate even if it appeared that the hiring decision had been made, no interim coach since the adoption of the Rooney Rule has been wildly successful.
Based at least on Sunday’s outcome, Garrett could be the first.
How Jones handles that success could determine whether he ultimately will be able to satisfy the Rooney Rule.
4. T.O.’s evil twin is always only one bad game away.
After a slow start to the 2010, his first (and likely only) with the Bengals, receiver Terrell Owens exploded for seven touchdowns in five games. In those five games, he racked up 682 receiving yards, an average of 136.4.
On Sunday against the Colts, Owens caught only four passes for 64 yards. He appeared to break out the alligator arms on at least one occasion, and on another he didn’t even stick his arms out to get close to a ball that seemed to be close enough to catch.
On the second play, Colts safety Aaron Francisco picked the ball off, and T.O. made an effort to tackle Francisco that would be regarded as lame even in two-hand touch. Then, T.O. made no attempt to recover an apparent fumble by Francisco at the end of the play.
Then, when the Bengals had a last-gap chance to win the game while trailing by six, Owens appeared not to hustle back to the line while the clock was rolling after a pair of sack, prompting Dan Dierdorf of CBS to label the effort “pathetic.”
After the game, Owens accepted blame for the Francisco interception. “That’s my fault,” Owens told the media, per Kevin Goheen of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “When I came out of my break I felt like a linebacker was there. I didn’t come out of it full speed and I should have.”
T.O. then took to Twitter, where he seemed to break out his classic passive-aggressive style, effusively accepting blame for the team’s struggles. At one point, he seemed to admit that he failed to “check in” on time at the team hotel on Saturday night because he had no desire to eat “just OK” food the night before a game.
In other words, Terrell Owens is a great teammate and a good soldier as long as he’s getting his passes and making his catches and scoring his touchdowns. When that doesn’t happen, the time-honored T.O. re-emerges.
5. Injuries have caught up with the Steelers.
Last year, through the first eight games of the season, the Steelers appeared to be one of the best teams in the league. But then their 6-2 record slammed into a five-game losing streak, fueled by injuries to safety Troy Polamalu and defensive end Aaron Smith.
This year, Polamalu is healthy. But plenty of other players are now hurt, including Smith (again), defensive end Brett Keisel, and multiple offensive linemen. Both starting tackles (Max Starks and Willie Colon) are done for the year, and guard Chris Kemoeatu missed Sunday night’s game with a sprained knee.
To make matters worse, receiver Hines Ward missed most of the game with a neck injury that looked like a concussion — and that the team later admitted was a concussion.
The end result? A 39-26 loss to the Pats that wasn’t as close as the score suggests, and an unexpectedly tough game on the horizon with the 5-4 Raiders coming to town.
Though the Steelers may not lose five in a row this year, they need to find a way to overcome the injuries, or it’ll be a second straight year with no playoffs for Pittsburgh, where the home team seemed to be a lot better before Ben Roethlisberger came back from his suspension.
6. Browns should have taken the tie.
On one hand, we understand why the Browns felt compelled to try to salvage the victory that slipped out of their grasp when Chansi Stuckey fumbled on the fringes of field-goal range to end Cleveland’s first overtime drive in that 26-20 loss to the Jets. The Browns surely believed they deserved to win the game, and so despite getting the ball for one last time with 95 seconds left and 97 yards to paydirt, they decided to give it a shot.
They shouldn’t have.
With a win on Sunday, the Browns’ postseason hopes would have been slim. Losing makes their chances of getting to the playoffs virtually non-existent; even if they run the table, finishing 10-6, it likely won’t be enough. Indeed, plenty of 10-6 teams have been left home for the postseason in the AFC over the past decade.
A tie would have put the Browns at 3-5-1, giving them a maximum possible record of 10-5-1.
Three years ago, the 10-6 Browns were edged out of the postseason not by an 11-5 team but by the 10-6 Titans, who held the tiebreaker. With a record of 10-5-1, the tie would have given the Browns the ultimate tiebreaker over any 10-6 team.
Two years ago, the Eagles parlayed their infamous tie against the Bengals, which quarterback Donovan McNabb didn’t realize could end in tie, into a playoff berth thanks to the “1” that was planted after their total wins and losses.
Sure, the Browns don’t worry about their record, and they focus on one game at a time. Sometimes, however, a team needs to think big picture in order to make the best decision in a given situation.
In Sunday’s situation, the Browns and coach Eric Mangini should have been happy with kissing their sister. The end result — a win by the Jets fueled by the short field and ample time they received — means that the Browns can now kiss the playoffs goodbye.
7. Todd Haley could use a little humble pie.
The Chiefs were humbled on Sunday in Denver. Their coach wasn’t.
After the game, Todd Haley chose wagging fingers at over shaking hands with Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. By all accounts, Haley believes that the Broncos ran up the score.
That said, the final score was 49-29, hardly the kind of pinball-machine totals with which Haley’s boss, G.M. Scott Pioli, surely is familiar based on his time with the 2007 Patriots.
And even if the final score had been something like 56-10 or 52-7, the Chiefs host the Broncos on December 2. Why not save the finger wagging for some ass kicking in three weeks?
The incident does nothing to improve the image of a coach who may be a little too demonstrative and/or belligerent, given that he has a career record of 9-16. But even if Haley’s Chiefs were 16-9, it makes no sense to lecture the coach of a team that Haley’s Chiefs will soon get another crack at beating. If anything, Haley’s move gives McDaniels’ Broncos extra motivation to complete the sweep.
8. Moss may not have it anymore.
Randy Moss arrived in Tennessee with the same fanfare that greeted him in Minnesota. Moss did even less in his debut with the Titans. He had one catch for 26 yards, he drew an interference penalty, and he flashed at times the “Randy being Randy” approach to playing when he wants to play.
After the game, Moss wasn’t going to speak to the media, again. Eventually, he relented (he had 25,000 reasons for doing so), giving little more than a minute of his time and admitting that he had a “bad game” and that he needs to go “back to the drawing board.”
But how could that be? The player who used to respond to external motivation better than any other player suddenly seems to be ambivalent, despite being less than two weeks away from essentially being fired by the Vikings. Sure, he’s still a pain in the butt. But where’s the guy who responds to critics not with a pragmatic acknowledgment that critics criticize but with two touchdowns and 150 receiving yards?
The fact may be that, while we’ve been trying to figure out why a team like the Patriots would trade him and why a team like the Vikings would cut him, we haven’t noticed that he’s simply a shadow of what he used to be. Of course, he’s still better than many. But we may be at the point where the production no longer justifies the headache.
9. Dez Bryant, the next superstar wideout.
A dozen years ago, the Cowboys made the mistake of passing on Randy Moss in the draft. This year, that error made owner Jerry Jones even more determined to give receiver Dez Bryant a chance to prove that he can mature into a high-end wideout.
He already has.
Bryant exudes that man-among-boys vibe, always giving maximum effort and, in so doing, making some spectacular plays.
Though there’s nothing wrong with having a chip on the shoulder, Moss used his draft-day slide as a way of settling scores. At age 33, he’s apparently gotten bored with it.
Bryant instead seems to be counting his blessings and maximizing his talents. Those are qualities that a guy never outgrows — and if Dez stays healthy he could become the guy that Moss could have been, maybe even better.
10. Cardinals blew their chance at one more Super Bowl run.
There’s a perception that, after Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner retired, the team at least poked around a little about the possibility of getting him to come back for one last run for a championship.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it never happened. “They never tried,” the source said.
Well, they should have. With (as of the middle of September) less than $100 million committed to 2010 salary in a year without a salary cap, the Cardinals could have offered Warner $20 million for one year. If he declined, they could have offered more.
Surely, there’s a number for which he would have returned for one more season. The question is whether the Cardinals were willing to pay it.
Given the franchise’s history, it’s no surprise that they didn’t even start down that path.
And so Arizona is now 3-6, two games behind the Seahawks and fading out of contention in the NFC West, with no short-term or long-term answer at quarterback and, in time, a superstar receiver who’s going to want to take his talents to anywhere but the Southwest.