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NFL morning after: A Sunday of football, the best TV show ever

Aaron Dobson AP

The late, great Hall of Famer Art Donovan was in an old ESPN commercial, back when ESPN first began airing NFL pre-game and post-game shows, in which he pointed out that if you watched both of ESPN’s Sunday NFL shows, plus both of the NFL games airing in your own local market, you’d spend more than eight hours on Sunday watching nothing but football. As the idea of that much football in one day sunk in, Donovan proclaimed, “I love it!”

Now, of course, there’s a lot more pre-game and post-game coverage than there was back then, plus there’s the Sunday night game, which didn’t exist back then. Now you can turn on the TV for the first pre-game show, on NFL Network, at 7 a.m. Eastern, and keep watching football through the Sunday night game on NBC, which often ends after midnight, then watch the various highlight shows that keep going well after midnight. Forget eight hours of football, you can spend 16 hours or more in front of TV watching nothing but football.

And I love it.

The NFL is America’s best and most popular television show, and there’s simply no such thing as too much of it. I think nothing of turning on pre-game shows at 7 in the morning on Sunday and leaving some football, either live games or NFL news and highlight shows, on my TV until I go to bed after midnight. During the offseason, I love a good TV binge — I can go back to Breaking Bad or The Wire or Seinfeld or Arrested Development over and over and over again — but I’ve had my fill of any of those great shows long before I’ve watched 16 hours in one day. There really is no such thing as too much football.

Think about how great the television programming was yesterday, for those of us who can watch all the games on the Sunday Ticket package. In an insane rush of fantastic finishes starting around 4 p.m. Eastern, we got four different thrilling endings within minutes of each other:

– The Jets beat the Patriots in overtime after New England fans found out the hard way that you’re not allowed to push your teammate into the line to try to block a field goal.

– Washington beat Chicago 45-41 in a crazy back-and-forth battle that featured six rushing touchdowns, three passing touchdowns, a special teams touchdown and a defensive touchdown.

– Cincinnati beat Detroit on a 54-yard field goal as time expired.

– The Bills kicked a go-ahead field goal with 31 seconds left, then hung on for dear life as the Dolphins maneuvered into position for a last-second Hail Mary that fell incomplete in the end zone.

That kind of drama beats anything you’ll ever get in scripted television, but that was just a few minutes of Sunday’s football binge. We also got:

Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis, in which the Colts legend turned Broncos quarterback suffered his first loss of the season in front of fans who cheered him loudly when he was introduced before the game, then cheered even louder when the Colts won.

– The Steelers beating the Ravens on a field goal on the last play of the game.

– Two of the most talented receivers you’ll ever see, Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green, putting up 155 yards apiece in Bengals-Lions.

– Monte Kiffin’s Dallas defense stepping up in a big way, completely shutting down Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia offense in a 17-3 win.

Philip Rivers continuing his ridiculously efficient season passing the football by completing 22 of 26 passes in a win over the Jaguars. Rivers has now completed 73.9 percent of his passes this season. (The all-time single-season record is 71.2 percent, set by Drew Brees two years ago.)

Case Keenum leading the reeling Texans to a surprisingly competitive performance against the undefeated Chiefs before ultimately falling to Kansas City, the league’s most pleasant surprise.

Watch all of that football, all day long, and you’re going to be exhausted and bleary-eyed by the end of the day. But it’s still not too much football. There’s no such thing as too much of sitting in front of your TV watching football.

Here are the rest of my thoughts on a great Sunday in the NFL:

The first three touchdowns of the day were scored by the defense, and Matt Schaub wasn’t even playing. Mr. Pick Six himself was out for the Texans’ late afternoon game, but the early afternoon games got started with not one, not two, but three quarterbacks giving up the ball to a defensive player who took it to the house. First we had Sam Bradford throw an interception that Carolina’s Captain Munnerlyn returned for a touchdown. Then we had Ryan Tannehill throw an interception that Buffalo’s Nickell Robey returned for a touchdown. Then we had Mike Glennon fumble a ball that Atlanta’s Thomas Decoud returned for a touchdown. It was Geno Smith and Jeremy Kerley, of all people, who got on the board for the Jets’ offense and ended the league-wide run of defensive touchdowns. (And Smith would throw a pick-six of his own later in the first quarter.)

Pro Bowl voting begins way too early. The NFL allowed fans to start voting for Pro Bowl rosters on Sunday morning, when some teams had only played five games and some had only played six. Why on earth are we voting for Pro Bowlers now, when they’ve still got two-thirds of the season to play and the game is more than three months away? If the NFL wants to make the Pro Bowl more relevant, how about waiting until the end of the season to vote, so fans can actually vote for guys who had good years?

Jimmy Johnson said something about Jerry Jones masked as something about Jim Irsay. Asked on the FOX pregame show about Irsay’s comments tweaking Peyton Manning last week, Johnson said, “Just because a guy has money and owns an NFL team, doesn’t mean he’s smart.” Johnson was ostensibly talking about Irsay, but I think he was also taking a little shot at Jerry Jones, his old boss in Dallas with whom Johnson has had a famously prickly relationship.

Devin Hester, the greatest kick returner ever. Hester’s return touchdown was the 19th of his career, tying him with Deion Sanders for the most return touchdowns in NFL history. But most of Sanders’ return touchdowns came on defense. All of Hester’s were kick returns. There’s really no one who has been even close to the kind of consistent big-play threat returning kicks that Hester has been throughout his NFL career. Usually, once a return man establishes himself as one of the best in the league, opposing teams start kicking to him differently and limit his effectiveness. They punt high to force him to fair catch, or they punt out of bounds. On kickoffs, if they’re not sure the kicker can boot it out the back of the end zone, they tell him to kick it high and short to help the coverage team get into position to make the tackle. The amazing thing about Hester is that he’s still scoring touchdowns even after opposing teams have come to realize that they must kick away from him. As soon as a team’s attempted punt out of bounds ends up staying just barely inbounds — which is what happened with Washington on Sunday — Hester makes them pay for it.

The top picks in the next two drafts had big days on Saturday. It may be too early to talk about the top pick in next year’s NFL draft, and it’s definitely too early to talk about the top pick in the 2015 NFL draft. But I’ll do it anyway. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney spent as much time in Tennessee’s backfield as their own running backs on Saturday, looking like the kind of one-man wrecking crew who absolutely deserves to be considered the top pro prospect in college football right now, despite some talk that he was off to a slow start this season. And then there’s Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. A redshirt freshman, Winston won’t be eligible for the draft until 2015. But his performance on the road against No. 3 Clemson, in which he completed 22 of 34 passes for 444 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, leaves little doubt that he’s good enough to play in the NFL. No, I don’t mean he will be good enough to play in the NFL. I mean he’s good enough right now, and the only thing holding him back is the NFL’s three-year eligibility rule. Winston is better right now than either of his two immediate predecessors at Florida State, EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder, ever were. And Manuel and Ponder were both first-round draft picks. Winston has all the tools to be a great NFL quarterback.

I hate it when coaches won’t be aggressive. Tennessee’s Mike Munchak punted on fourth-and-inches in the third quarter while the Titans were trailing 24-0. What was Munchak afraid of? Your team is losing and needs to do something. If you’re just going to give up on fourth-and-inches, you might as well give up on the game. If there’s anything that’s not fun about a day watching football, it’s watching a bunch of punts from coaches who don’t have the guts to go for it.

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Rex Ryan: We can win with Vick, but Geno is the starter

genosmith AP

Jets coach Rex Ryan made official after Friday night’s preseason game what has been expected all along: Geno Smith will open the regular-season as the starting quarterback.

Ryan said that the Jets have been pleased with Michael Vick, but Smith has earned the starting job.

“He’ll be our starter,” Ryan said of Smith. “He’s done everything that we’ve asked him. This is no slight to Mike Vick because, believe me, I wanted to come out of this with two really good quarterbacks that we think we can win games with, and in my heart, I feel that we have two that we can win with. I’m really happy with the way Mike played as well, but we’re going to go with Geno. I feel very comfortable with that.”

Ryan was asked if Smith is “a week-to-week starter,” and he didn’t seem to like that question.

“Oh man. It’s week-to-week. We don’t name starters all the dang time. We don’t have to do the song-and-dance,” Ryan said. “We’re happy with both the quarterbacks, period. We think we can win with both quarterbacks. Just refer to any other coach who has a similar situation and what he would say. I know we have two really good quarterbacks. A lot of things happen. That’s why I never wanted to do this. Last year, we thought the competition was still wide open, but Geno had three interceptions in one game. It wasn’t great. You leave it there and let guys compete. The thing that I love about what Mike and Geno are doing is that they push each other. They support each other more than anybody. It’s a great situation to have and one that I feel blessed to have. We have two outstanding quarterbacks.”

Now Smith has to play like an outstanding quarterback when the season starts, so Ryan can stop getting questions about Vick.

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Greg Gumbel stopped using Washington’s team name years ago

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Add Greg Gumbel to the list of NFL broadcasters who won’t say the name of the team in Washington.

Gumbel, the No. 2 play-by-play announcer on CBS and the host of Showtime’s Inside the NFL, told NJ.com that he doesn’t say the team’s name. Although the long-simmering controversy over the team’s name has boiled over in the last year, Gumbel said he stopped using the controversial team name years ago.

“I told our PR department this summer: I haven’t used that nickname on the air in three years,” Gumbel said. “It’s just a personal choice; I just didn’t feel like I needed to call a news conference and announce it to everybody.”

Gumbel added, however, that he does not believe Daniel Snyder is prepared to change his team’s name, and Gumbel will be surprised if a change is made.

Snyder has insisted that he won’t change the name. But as more and more people in and around the NFL disassociate themselves with Snyder’s team’s name, Snyder is going to find himself more and more alone.

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Jaguars stick to their guns, name Chad Henne starter for Week 1

Jacksonville Jaguars v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars swore that Chad Henne would be their starting quarterback this season even after drafting Blake Bortles with the No.3 overall pick in the draft.

They gave no indication they were willing to deviate from that plan despite Bortles’ strong play during the preseason. After Friday night’s 13-12 loss to the Detroit Lions, they once again announced their intention to stick to the plan.

Chad Henne will start the Jaguars season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 7.

Bortles was 10-of-16 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown Friday night against the Lions. That pushes his preseason totals to 28-of-44 for 435 yards and a touchdown, or a passer rating of 103.9.

Nevertheless, head coach Gus Bradley said after the game that Henne will start the opener, per Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Henne was 9-of-14 passing for 70 yards against the Lions. For the preseason, Henne is 25-of-38 for 230 yards and one touchdown, good for a 90.9 passer rating.

The Jaguars had committed to Henne playing all season with Bortles being a spectator from the bench. But with Bortles’ performances this preseason, there will be a loud contingent wanting to turn to the rookie if Henne struggles out of the gate this year.

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Seahawks offense rolling again in building 21-0 lead over Bears

Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson AP

The Seattle Seahawks first-team offense scored on each of their first four possession in building a 24-0 lead last week against the San Diego Chargers.

The offense hasn’t slowed down at all this week against the Chicago Bears either.

Seattle scored touchdowns on each of their first two possessions in the first quarter of Friday night’s preseason game against the Bears.

Marshawn Lynch carries three times for 16 yards on the opening drive and scored a 7-yard touchdown to give Seattle a 7-0 lead. The one drive was all Seattle needed to see from their starting workhorse back as he took to the bench after the opening series.

Russell Wilson then led Seattle on a 14-play, 89-yard scoring drive with Wilson scrambling for a 7-yard score to give the Seahawks a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.

The Seahawks scored again on their third possession of the game. Wilson connected with Jermaine Kearse for a 12-yard touchdown to cap an 11-play, 83-yard drive to give the Seahawks a 21-0 lead.

Seattle has now scored on seven straight possessions with their first-team offense dating back to last week’s game against the Chargers. Six of those possessions have ended with touchdowns.

The Seahawks defense is still expected to be one of the league’s top units. If Seattle’s offense can play like this during the regular season too, they could be a nightmare for the rest of the league.

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Bucs’ position on Evans “unchanged” in light of TMZ video

Evans AP

In the wake of a video that surfaced Friday on TMZ involving Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans, the team that made him the seventh overall pick in the draft has reiterated its faith in and commitment to Evans.

“During his time here since we drafted him in May, Mike has met all of our expectations both on and off the football field,” coach Lovie Smith said in a statement issued Friday night.  “After speaking with Mike, our feelings about him remain unchanged.  We expect him to be an important member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for many years to come and we consider this matter closed.”

While TMZ contends the events occurred last Saturday night, Evans claims it happened several months earlier.

“The incident in question happened during spring break in March while I was vacationing with friends in Miami,” Evans said in a statement.  “The issue occurred at the end of the night when someone in my party was approached by a member of the security staff.  The situation escalated very quickly from there, but fortunately no one was injured.  I regret that this incident that happened nearly six months ago has become a distraction to my team and I look forward to continuing to prepare for the start of my rookie season with the Buccaneers.”

No arrests were made or charges filed.  Given that the incident, which included Evans eventually taking a swing at a bouncer, happened before Evans became an NFL employee, it’s less likely that he’ll face scrutiny under the personal-conduct policy.

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Blake Bortles is making it very difficult for Jaguars to sit him

Jacksonville Jaguars v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Jaguars have said, affirmed, insisted that Blake Bortles was going to sit and watch Chad Henne play this year.

Bortles keeps making it more and more difficult to justify that decision.

The No. 3 overall pick continued to put up solid numbers in the preseason, and looking more and more like the guy the Jaguars can build around now instead of later.

Bortles was 10-of-16 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown Friday night against the Lions. That pushes his preseason totals to 28-of-44 for 435 yards and a touchdown, or a passer rating of 103.9.

Granted, some of those numbers were inflated by playing against deep reserves. But Bortles has looked composed and calm in all three appearances.

As the Jaguars build to the future, they were hoping to use this year to develop Bortles as a passer, and let him take over when the team as a whole was better able to contend.

But with every passing week, it looks like he’s the guy to help them take that step.

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Sio Moore gives thumbs-up as he’s stretchered off field

Nick Roach, Sio Moore AP

The most frightening-looking injury of the night happened in Green Bay, with Raiders linebacker Sio Moore taken off the field on a stretcher.

According to Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com, Moore gave a thumbs-up as he left the field after a scary few moments.

Moore won’t return to the game, but there has been no further word on his condition.

He was hit in the back of the neck by Packers fullback John Kuhn, and was face-down on the turf for several minutes.

Trainers took his facemask off his helmet and strapped him to a backboard before he was taken off.

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Maybe it’s the preseason, but see how they run

reggiebush AP

Perhaps coaches just want to keep the clocks rolling in the preseason.

But there have been a number of outstanding rushing performances tonight, or at least enough to make you think the art of handing off to the guy behind the quarterback isn’t dead.

The best of the bunch was an 86-yarder by Lions veteran Reggie Bush. He took one good block from Eric Ebron and took it to the house against the Jaguars, showing the kind of burst that will get him plenty of looks in a high-powered passing game as well.

The surprise might have been Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew’s 40-yard touchdown, as he showed a bit of popped he lacked in Jacksonville last year. He looks to be in condition, which didn’t always seem to be the case last year.

The Jets also showed the ability to pound the ball, with Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory each popping long runs (18 and 17 yards), combining for 62 yards on 11 carries.

On the other sideline, Giants running back Rashad Jennings had 67 yards on 13 carries in the first half.

So while all the attention this preseason has been on the emphasis on certain rules to free up the passing game, old man football can still work from time to time.

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Giants guard Geoff Schwartz carted off with dislocated toe

Geoff Schwartz AP

The Giants made an early push in free agency to land guard Geoff Schwartz from Kansas City, but he wasn’t able to make it through the preseason without being carted off the field.

Schwartz left the game in the first half, and Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reports that he suffered a dislocated toe. Trainers were working on his right foot, and he couldn’t put any weight on it before he was loaded onto the cart.

A powerful run blocker, Schwartz would be a tough loss if he’s out a significant amount of time.

And the way the Giants are playing on offense (despite a touchdown just before halftime), it’s a loss they can ill afford.

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Ndamukong Suh seems to be in midseason form

Ndamukong Suh AP

It looks like Ndamukong Suh will be making a preseason donation to The Human Fund.

The Lions defensive tackle was already flagged for a late hit on Chad Henne, which was fairly egregious.

SB Nation has a good look at it, as Suh takes a good two steps after Henne has thrown the ball before drilling him in the chest.

So perhaps Troy Vincent’s talk with him might not have been as productive as Vincent thought.

Suh is one of the league’s best players, but too often, finds the spotlight for unnecessary hits like this one that take the spotlight away from his talent.

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Jason Pierre-Paul, Sheldon Richardson dodge injury bullets

New York Giants v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The second big-name defensive player has already left the Giants-Jets game, and it appears both sides can breathe a sigh of relief.

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul left the game, and though he walked off the field under his own power, was having his right knee checked by a fleet of trainers and doctors.

Injuries have kept Pierre-Paul from following up on the 16.5 sacks he posted in 2011, and he has vowed to come back better than ever.

He was able to return to the game, though it’s worth monitoring.

The Jets were at least able to breathe a sigh of relief, as defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson returned to the game after leaving the field with trainers earlier.

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Short night for Tom Brady, as Ryan Mallett works with ones

Ryan Mallett AP

Maybe the Patriots are still trying to polish him up for a trade, or maybe they want to see how he reacts against a good defense.

But the Patriots put quarterback Ryan Mallett in with the starters in the middle of the first quarter, replacing Tom Brady. He led them to a field goal drive and an early 3-0 lead over the Panthers.

Mallett’s currently competing with Jimmy Garropolo for the backup job, and as the Patriots have carried two quarterbacks in recent seasons, it’s natural to wonder whether they’re willing to keep both.

Brady worked a couple of series and completed 4-of-6 passes, but he also went down after being stepped on by his center, so the Patriots might just be seeing how Mallett reacts to a possible relief situation.

UPDATE 8:30 p.m. ET: Brady returned to the game on the next series, and hit Shane Vereen for a 40-yard touchdown pass, so he’s OK.

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Sheldon Richardson heads to locker room with trainers

Jets Falcons Football AP

The early stages of the Snoopy Bowl hasn’t featured much offense, but one of the better defensive players in the league has already left the field.

Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson left the field immediately after a play, holding his face.

It’s unclear if he was poked in the eye or otherwise injured, but he was quickly taken to the locker room with trainers. He returned to the sidelines moments later, however.

Otherwise, there hasn’t been much to see in this one, as the two offenses continue to do what they’ve been doing lately.

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High school games at Levi’s Stadium scrapped over grass issues

levis AP

A high school doubleheader originally scheduled for next Friday night at Levi’s Stadium has been scrapped because of problems with the grass at the 49ers’ new stadium.

Just weeks after the new stadium opened, the sod already has to be replaced on the 49ers’ home field, and as a result of that replacement the field won’t be available for the two previously scheduled high school games next week.

Jesuit High School of Sacramento was supposed to square off against Concord De La Salle in one of the two games, but now those two schools are scrambling to determine where else they can play.

Yeah, we’re disappointed,” Jesuit athletic director Chris Fahey told the Sacramento Bee. “The kids are really disappointed, but it happens and we’ll deal with it. And we need to get over it quickly because we’re still playing a great team. It’s no one’s fault what happened. It’s like a natural disaster – sod.”

The 49ers have announced that the four schools that were expected to play next Friday will all get to use Levi’s Stadium for their home games the weekend of October 10-11 instead.

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Report: M.I.A., NFL settle middle finger dispute

Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show Getty Images

On a day in which we learned Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel was reportedly fined $12,000 for showing his middle finger toward the Washington bench on Monday night, we also learned the NFL and rapper M.I.A. have settled their dispute over the performer’s middle finger display in Super Bowl XLVI.

The Associated Press reported Friday that the two sides have struck a confidential settlement in arbitration over the matter. The NFL had been seeking as much as $16.6 million for the incident, which occurred during the annual Super Bowl halftime show in 2012.

The NFL first filed a claim for breach of contract against M.I.A., whose given name is Mathangi Arulpragasam, in 2012, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

But since it’s a confidential settlement . . . well, we may never know if, indeed, everyone’s a winner in this case.

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