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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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Bill O’Brien frustrated by Texans performance

Bill O'Brien AP

The Houston Texans have lost three straight games and four out of their last five after falling 30-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.

And Texans head coach Bill O’Brien is none too happy about it.

O’Brien was noticeably heated in his post-game press conference after watching his team allow 21 points in less than 90 seconds at the end of the first half. The Texans never recovered and were unable to rally against Pittsburgh.

“You can’t turn the ball over. You can’t field a kick, bobble the kick. We can’t give up shot plays. You can’t have 12 men on the field on third down to give them a first down. We just can’t do those things,” O’Brien said. “And with all that being said, we’re one onside kick away and these questions are like we lost 50-0. We lost by a touchdown. With all of that stuff that we did. We have to improve it. We gotta coach it better and we gotta play better.”

Houston turned the ball over twice backed up inside their own 20-yard line that led to two quick touchdowns for the Steelers.

“It’s very frustrating when you turn the ball over on your own 2-yard line,” O’Brien said. “The whole thing’s frustrating. Players are frustrated, coaches are frustrated, but again, it’s not like, again, we’re an onside kick away, which, we almost recovered. Almost only counts in horseshoes, but we’re an onside kick away from having a chance to tie the game with all of that being said that we did wrong.”

It’s the second straight week the Texans had allowed 24 points in a quarter. They fell behind Indianapolis 24-0 last week in a 33-28 loss to the Colts.

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Steelers overcome early deficit to earn 30-23 victory over Texans

Houston Texans v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers scored 21 points in the final three minutes of the second quarter to help dig out of an early 13-0 hole en route to a 30-23 victory over the Houston Texans on Monday night.

The Texans took the early lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Alfred Blue and a pair of field goals by Randy Bullock to take a 13-0 lead.

But it went all downhill after that for Houston.

After a 44-yard Shaun Suisham field goal put Pittsburgh on the board, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sparked the Steelers offense on their next possession.

It took just two plays for the Steelers to march 63 yards for a touchdown. Roethlisberger connected with LeVeon Bell for 28 yards and then hit rookie Martavis Bryant for a 35-yard touchdown to pull Pittsburgh within three. It was the first career catch of Bryant’s career.

Backed up inside their own 10-yard line, Arian Foster coughed up the ball as he was stripped by Jason Worilds and the fumble was recovered by Sean Spence.

On the next play, Antonio Brown came in motion and took a handoff from Roethlisberger, pivoted and rolled to the left and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Lance Moore to give the Steelers their first lead.

The deluge continued for Houston as Fitzpatrick was intercepted by Brett Kiesel on the first play of their next possession to give possession back to the Steelers. Two plays later, Roethlisberger hit Bell for a 2-yard score to take a 24-13 lead into halftime.

The Steelers scored 21 points in less than 90 seconds to completely flip the game into their hands. It was the first time since 2002 that a team scored 21 points in that short a time span. The Seattle Seahawks scored 21 points in the span of 90 seconds against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 29, 2002.

Two Suisham field goals extended the lead to 30-16 with three minutes to play. Fitzgerald’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Arian Foster pulled Houston within a score with 1:31 left but the ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Steelers to seal the victory.

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Saints re-sign TE Tom Crabtree

Tom Crabtree AP

Two days after releasing tight end Tom Crabtree, the Saints have brought him back.

The club re-signed Crabtree, the ex-Buccaneer and ex-Packer, on Monday, according to the NFL’s transactions.

The 28-year-old Crabtree gives the Saints a fourth tight end behind Jimmy Graham, Josh Hill and Ben Watson. Graham, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, played just 30 offensive snaps in Sunday’s loss at Detroit, catching no passes on two targets.

In another roster move Monday, the Saints waived rookie linebacker Todd Davis, whom they signed on Saturday, which necessitated Crabtree’s release. Davis played 18 snaps on special teams and two snaps on defense at Detroit.

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Pete Carroll believes there won’t be fallout from locker room on Harvin trade

Percy Harvin, Russell Wilson AP

Percy Harvin’s former teammates with the Seattle Seahawks were just as surprised as anyone when they learned the mercurial receiver had been dealt to the New York Jets for a conditional draft pick on Friday.

The players found out about the trade as the team was boarding buses to head to the airport for their flight to St. Louis on Friday afternoon. A Seahawks player said Friday night he found out about the trade on Twitter and wasn’t the only one.

While Harvin had altercations with Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin during his tenure in Seattle, he certainly wasn’t a universally disliked member of their locker room. Finding out one of the focal point pieces of the team’s offense through the first five games of the season had been traded as the end of a week of preparation had certainly stunned the rest of the team as well.

Head coach Pete Carroll said Monday he spent much of the flight to St. Louis Friday evening conversing with players and discussing the decision with the team so they understood what had happened.

“We had a really good talk about it and talked with guys from across the board on our team. I think it was pretty clear that it was accepted as the next thing that we had to do and we did the right thing and on we go,” Carroll said.

“They took it in stride. I think they trust our decision-making and they’ve stood by us throughout. I don’t think there is any fallout at all,” he added.

Receiver Doug Baldwin said after the game Sunday that the trade of Harvin had an effect on the players as they learned of the decision. Carroll said he understands that reaction but also believes the players didn’t let it affect them during their game against the Rams.

“Obviously, like (Baldwin) said, you’re human, you react and you have a response to it but I don’t think anybody had any problem and everybody was concerned about getting to business of playing football. So I think it was fine.” Carroll said.

Seattle’s offense in the second half looked the most productive its been in weeks. The Seahawks scored touchdowns on their final three possessions with each drive covering at least 80 yards. Maybe getting rid of a piece that clearly didn’t fit will jump-start the Seahawks offense. Or maybe they’ll miss one of the more dynamic athletes in the league. Only time will tell.

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Steelers ORT Marcus Gilbert out with concussion

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert has been ruled out of Monday night’s game vs. Houston with a concussion, the team announced.

Mike Adams replaced Gilbert at right tackle for Pittsburgh, which holds a 24-13 lead at halftime.

The 26-year-old Gilbert has started all six games for the Steelers this season. He signed a contract extension with the club in August.

Gilbert will have to be cleared via the NFL’s concussion protocols to return to practice and game action.

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Watt, Mercilus punish Ben, but Steelers storm back

texanssteelers AP

The Texans’ defense got off to a stellar start on Monday night in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers aren’t going away without a fight.

As expected, J.J. Watt is having a big game, with a sack and a recovery of a Ben Roethlisberger fumble. That fumble was forced by Whitney Mercilus, who’s also having a big game, with two sacks in the first half. Mercilus has also knocked down a pass, and Watt has hit Roethlisberger twice.

But Brian Cushing, the linebacker once viewed as one of the best young defensive players in the league, looks like injuries have severely limited him. Cushing just can’t keep up in coverage on Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who already has 89 receiving yards, and as a result the Texans took Cushing off the field and went into a dime package late in the second quarter. That didn’t help, however, as Roethlisberger hit Martavis Bryant for a 35-yard touchdown pass.

That touchdown narrowed the score to 13-10, after the Texans had taken an early 13-0 lead. The Steelers are right back in it.

UPDATE: Then the Steelers scored two quick touchdowns to make it 24-13, Pittsburgh. Wow.

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Arian Foster powers Texans’ fast start

Derek Newton, Arian Foster, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin AP

The Texans rode Arian Foster to a fast start in Pittsburgh.

Foster had five carries for 59 yards on Houston’s first drive as the Texans marched 94 yards in 10 plays to take an early 7-0 lead. The touchdown was scored by Foster’s backup, Alfred Blue, who took a short pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick and ran it in for an 11-yard score.

Foster and Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell are dueling for second place on the NFL rushing list, behind DeMarco Murray of the Cowboys. Bell entered the game leading Foster, 542 yards to 513. But after the Texans’ first drive, Foster had moved ahead of Bell. (Neither is close to Murray’s league-leading total of 913 yards.)

Now the Steelers need Bell to get going, as their defense is struggling to contain Foster.

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Report: Austin Pettis late for meeting on Saturday

Austin Pettis AP

The Rams made a somewhat surprising move Monday, waiving wide receiver Austin Pettis, who had caught 107 passes over the last four seasons for St. Louis.

Well, pieces of this puzzle might be starting to emerge.

According to Fox’s Mike Garafolo, Pettis was tardy to a Saturday night team meeting. The next day, Pettis was a healthy scratch for the Rams’ upset of Seattle.

The day after that, he was on waivers.

Garafolo, it should be noted, also opined that Pettis’ tardiness was certainly a contributing factor in his departure, though he didn’t believe it was the only one.

In any event, the reasoning for the release doesn’t matter. Players at Rams Park and points beyond understand being late can come at a big cost, with those outside the starting lineup most vulnerable.

We’ll know by Tuesday afternoon whether the 26-year-old Pettis has been picked up, which is quite possible. He’s making $570,000 this season, per Rotoworld data, and he is in the final year of his contract.

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Jadeveon Clowney inactive vs. Steelers

Jadeveon Clowney AP

The Texans are still waiting for No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to get healthy.

Clowney, the pass rusher who has been sidelined since a Week One knee injury, is inactive for tonight’s game against the Steelers. The Texans had listed Clowney as questionable, and he went onto the field for pregame warmups, but he apparently still isn’t at full speed.

That’s disappointing news: When Clowney had arthroscopic knee surgery, the Texans said he’d be out 4-6 weeks. That surgery was exactly six weeks ago, and he’s still out. So the injury appears to be more serious than the Texans originally believed.

The Texans’ other inactives are OT Jeff Adams, S Josh Aubrey, CB Darryl Morris, CB Jumal Rolle, WR DeVier Posey and QB Tom Savage.

The Steelers’ inactives are QB Landry Jones, WR Justin Brown, CB Ike Taylor, SS Shamarko Thomas, ILB Ryan Shazier, G Chris Hubbard and NT Steve McLendon.

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Rams waive Austin Pettis

Bryan Mattison,  Austin Pettis,  Lionel Smith AP

Austin Pettis’s days in St. Louis are done.

The Rams waived Pettis, a wide receiver and 2011 third-round draft pick, today. Pettis was surprisingly left inactive on Sunday after having played in all five previous games this season.

The 6-foot-3, 203-pound Pettis is a good athlete who showed promise at times but never quite lived up to what the Rams thought they were getting when they drafted him. This year Pettis has 12 catches for 118 yards and one touchdown.

Pettis has contributed enough, both on offense and on special teams as a punt and kickoff returner, that it wouldn’t be surprising to see some other team claim him on waivers tomorrow. But in St. Louis, he’s finished.

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Evan Mathis cleared to practice

Jacksonville Jaguars v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Eagles have been without their preferred starting offensive line the entire season, but they are getting closer to having everyone healthy and available at the same time.

Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly reports that Mathis has been cleared to return to practice as he makes his way back from an injured MCL and that he will do so on Wednesday. That’s the first day that Mathis is eligible to practice after being placed on injured reserve with the designation to return. He won’t be eligible to play until Week 10 and plans to ramp things up accordingly.

“I won’t jump back into it full speed. There’s no rushing into it,” Mathis said. “I have three weeks of practice before I have to play.”

With right tackle Lane Johnson back from suspension, center Jason Kelce is the other missing starter. Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News reported Monday that Kelce hasn’t been cleared for full practice yet, but has been on track for a Week 10 return as well since having sports hernia surgery.

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Reggie Wayne, Trent Richardson having MRIs after Sunday injuries

Reggie Wayne, Terence Newman AP

The Colts didn’t have much stress during their shutout of the Bengals on Sunday, but they’ll have a bit of worrying to do as a few of their players head for MRIs after getting dinged on Sunday.

Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, running back Trent Richardson and linebacker Jerrell Freeman are all headed to the tube to have their injuries evaluated.

Wayne injured his elbow during the contest, but was able to play through it. He wound up with four catches for 15 yards, giving him eight for 50 yards over two weeks that have had him looking like he’s a 35-year-old wideout returning from a torn ACL.

Richardson shrugged off his hamstring injury as nothing serious after the game, which was one of his best as a member of the Colts. Richardson gained 77 yards on 14 carries and added 41 more yards as a receiver. Freeman hurt his hip during the game, but returned to action.

Wednesday should bring updates on all three as the Colts start preparing for their trip to Pittsburgh.

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NFL and other sports leagues file suit to stop New Jersey betting

83797196 Getty Images

With New Jersey planning to launch sports wagering this weekend, the NFL and others have filed a lawsuit hoping to block the expansion of gambling in a state that two pro football franchises technically call home.

Via ESPN.com, the NFL, NCAA, and other sports leagues initiated a legal action on Monday.  On Tuesday, a request will be made to block sports wagering while the case proceeds.

The NFL contends that the latest effort to legalize sports wagering in New Jersey attempts to circumvent federal law.  The NFL previously defeated under applicable federal law an effort by New Jersey to permit wagering on sports.

If New Jersey prevails, it’s unlikely that another Super Bowl would be hosted at MetLife Stadium.  Depending on how strongly the NFL feels about the issue, it’s also possible that the next Jets/Giants stadium would be built somewhere in New York.

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Jon Beason going to see a foot specialist again

Jon Beason AP

A frustrating season has continued for Giants linebacker Jon Beason.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin told reporters that Beason was going to see foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson after leaving yesterday’s game against the Cowboys.

Beason’s been bothered by a toe problem all season, and may have aggravated it yesterday. He’s missed three games, and hasn’t been able to stay well this season.

If anything, there’s familiarity there, as Anderson knows Beason’s (growing thicker) medical file well since he’s the Panthers’ team doctor as well.

When Beason’s on the field, he’s a difference-maker for the Giants defense. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to this season.

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Ravens sign a new long snapper after Morgan Cox tears ACL

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

It’s good that a player the caliber of Haloti Ngata is versatile, but the Ravens didn’t want to make him their full-time long-snapper.

So they found a new one today.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, the Ravens are signing veteran long snapper Kevin McDermott, after Morgan Cox tore his ACL in yesterday’s win over the Falcons.

McDermott has played with the 49ers and Broncos in the past.

When Cox left yesterday’s game, Ngata came in to snap for a late extra point. There seemed to be some confusion on the Ravens sideline about going for two given the injury to the snapper, but the veteran defensive tackle did the job capably.

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