On Sunday afternoons during the NFL season, I’m sitting in my house with three TVs showing games in one room, plus another game showing on my iPad, with my laptop at the ready to check scores and stats. I have the Sunday Ticket package and I watch the Red Zone channel and the Game Mix channel, and I’m the fastest draw in the West when I need to change the channel. My wife brings me snacks so I don’t have to get up for even a minute. If anyone should be able to keep up with every single thing that happens on an NFL Sunday, it’s me.
And as this Sunday’s nine early games came to the late fourth quarter, even I couldn’t keep up with it all. What an amazing Sunday afternoon.
Don’t you wish we could see Sunday’s highlights as edited by Steve Sabol? Sabol, the NFL Films president who died of brain cancer on Tuesday, would have told an amazing story with the material the NFL gave him on Sunday. The nine early games featured three overtimes, three other games decided by a touchdown or less, a shocking upset by the Vikings, a tremendous defensive effort by the Bears and a Bills-Browns game that was, well . . . let’s just say there were eight really good games.
My choice for the best game of the day was that insane finish in Tennessee, where the Lions came back from 14 points down with 18 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime, only to end up losing 44-41. But the Chiefs-Saints battle was also lots of fun, and every time I looked at the Bengals’ 38-31 win over the Redskins I saw one of the league’s bright young stars (either Cincinnati’s A.J. Green or Washington’s Robert Griffin III) making a big play. There was no shortage of greatness on display on Sunday.
These are the days when you sit there on your couch and just say, This is why I love football. What a great day.
Here are my other thoughts from Week Three in the NFL:
The replacement officials need to pick up the pace. Games are simply taking far too long. Heading into this week the average length of games was about five minutes longer this season than last season, and maybe that doesn’t sound like much. But those delays while the officials are sorting things out are making some games really drag. The Steelers-Raiders game, in particular, felt like it was taking forever. If Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski had missed his game-winning field goal and the game had gone into overtime, it’s entirely possible that it still would have been going on into the start of Sunday Night Football.
The NFL needs to fine Bill Belichick heavily. I don’t care how bad the officials are — and they were bad during Sunday night’s Patriots-Ravens game — you simply cannot put your hands on an official. Belichick put his hands on an official. A fine of $100,000 might be enough to send the message that that simply cannot happen.
Still, the Belichick story shouldn’t overshadow the larger issue. The quality of the officiating in the NFL right now simply isn’t acceptable. The NFL has to fix it.
How did Matt Schaub get cleared so quickly? NFL teams are supposed to have an excess of caution about players suffering concussions, taking the time to have the medical staff check anyone who takes a hard hit to the head, and only clearing players to return to the field if everything is OK. So something seemed suspicious about Texans quarterback Matt Schaub missing only one play after taking a brutal and illegal helmet-to-helmet hit, a hit that had him crumpling to the ground and grabbing his head. I hope I’m wrong to be skeptical, but it sure didn’t seem like Schaub was out long enough to get the kind of thorough examination that a hit like that would warrant.
Jason Hanson should be a Hall of Famer some day. Hanson, the Lions’ 21-year veteran kicker, is the oldest player in the NFL at age 42, and has played 314 games with the Lions, the most games any player has played with one team in NFL history. But Hanson doesn’t just have longevity on his side, he has one of the most impressive kicking legs the game has ever seen. On Sunday against the Titans he went 4-for-4 on field goals, making kicks from 47, 53, 33 and 26 yards. That 53-yard field goal was the 51st field goal of his career from 50 yards or farther, the most any kicker has made in NFL history. Oh, and when Lions punter Ben Graham went down, Hanson stepped in and punted flawlessly, averaging 39.3 hards a punt and landing one of them inside the 20-yard line. Hanson probably won’t make it to the Hall of Fame because kickers are remembered for big field goals in big games, and the Lions haven’t been in many big games in Hanson’s career. But the Hall of Fame is supposed to be about individual greatness, and there’s been no greater kicker in NFL history than Jason Hanson.
Jamaal Charles is in very good company. Charles, the Chiefs’ starting running back, had 233 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards in Sunday’s win over the Saints, joining Jim Brown as the only players in NFL history with at least 225 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards in the same game. Charles and Brown are also the only NFL players with more than 230 rushing yards in two different games. And if Charles keeps running at his career 6.0 yards-per-carry average and gets 196 more rushing attempts, he’ll break Brown’s record for the highest yards-per-carry average of any running back in NFL history with at least 750 carries. For half a century, Brown has been the gold standard for NFL running backs. It’s amazing that Charles is putting himself in Brown’s company.
Greg Schiano is right in the kneeldown controversy. Schiano, the Buccaneers coach who angered Giants coach Tom Coughlin last week by instructing his players to try to force a fumble while the Giants were kneeling down to run out the clock, did it again on Sunday against the Cowboys. Coughlin might not like it, but I do. Schiano coaches football the right way: Play hard until the game is over.