“I read a quote from Bill Parcells,” Robert Saleh said, driving home from MetLife Stadium around 6 p.m. Sunday, after the biggest win of his head-coaching life. “‘In New York, it’s euphoria or disaster.’”
Yup. Parcells said it—about 78 times a year as coach of the Giants, then the Jets. I’d asked Saleh about his comment that he’s “taking receipts on all the people who continually mock us.” Saleh, a Detroit guy, didn’t care after a lousy opening loss to Baltimore two months ago that he was inviting scorn. In fact, in the grand tradition of Parcells, Saleh wanted the scorn.
“I did,” he said. “You know, until you’re here, you don’t realize it. But there was so much negativity, so much raining down on a young football team. We’re so young. I just felt like it was important to kind of deflect the attention off the players and bring it on me. You know that it was gonna come down on me. Any time you challenge the media, they’re gonna come out guns blazing.
“We have such a young group. They’re so talented. I believed in them, and I just wanted them to have a chance. That statement was more about allowing them to go play freely, and shouldering the criticism myself. In the world of social media, these kids are impressionable. They have feelings too. It’s like, shoot, if they just play football, just play, feel free, play the game they’ve loved since they were kids, hey, they’re gonna be pretty good.”
Jets 20, Bills 17.
The Jets are 6-2 since Saleh began taking receipts.
They’re a half-game behind the almighty Bills in the AFC East.
They’re not going away.
You know what impressed me the most about the Jets Sunday? It’s something I’d call the ethos of Bryce Huff. You don’t know Bryce Huff, do you? You’re about to. He made the biggest play in the biggest win the Jets have had since they beat the Patriots in a playoff-impacting game late in 2015. Bryce Huff. The perfect metaphor for the 2022 Jets.
The week that was in the NFL:
- Tom Brady, who is 45 (have you heard?), earned his 55th come-from-behind win against the Rams Sunday, passing Peyton Manning for the most in history, and two things happened in the process: Brady saved the season for the 4-5 Bucs. And he became the first player to throw for 100,000 yards (regular season and playoffs) in his career. He’s at 100,116 passing yards. To put it in some perspective, Drew Brees is second on the all-time yardage list, 8.2 miles behind Brady.
- It’s Nov. 7, and the Minnesota Vikings (7-1) have a four-game lead in the NFC North after a 20-17 win at Washington. It’s the kind of November lead the Packers have bludgeoned the Vikings with in many years of the Rodgers Era. No more. The next four weeks will tell us a lot about this team that’s had six straight one-score wins—by 4, 3, 7, 8, 8 and 3 points. The slate: at Buffalo, then Cowboys, Pats, Jets at home.
- Contenders turned pretenders. The Rams (3-5) are 2.5 games behind Seattle in the NFC West … Green Bay, playing like the Don Majkowski Pack, is 3-6, four games out in the NFC North … Las Vegas (2-6) is stunningly inconsistent for a team with such weaponry … The Sam Ehlinger experiment has buried the 3-5-1 Colts.
- The best player in football Sunday? Not Tyreek Hill. Not even Joe Mixon. Justin Fields. Not only did he set the NFL regular-season record for a QB with 178 rushing yards, but he had his third straight dominant game in a 35-32 loss to Miami. In the Bears’ first 23 games after drafting Fields, they’d never scored 31 points or more. In his last three games, he’s averaging 31.3 points and 107 rushing yards. What a treat to watch.
- The MVP after precisely 50 percent of the regular season? Muddled. Crazy thing is, Jalen Hurts of the 8-0 Eagles might be number one, and Geno Smith of the NFC-West-leading Seahawks is in the top five.
- Snyder selling? I figured when word came down that the Washington owner had engaged Bank of America to investigate selling all or part of the team, it had to be a full sale. What wingnut would be dumb enough to invest, say, $1 billion or more to go into business as a minority partner with the worst owner in recent NFL history? Not so fast, I heard over the weekend. I kept hearing, If anyone buys a minority stake, there has to be a clear path to buy out Snyder—in a defined number of years. And, re: the hot candidate to buy the team, billionaire Jeff Bezos, I also heard this from a reliable executive well-versed on ownership matters: “It’ll never happen. Dan Snyder detests The Washington Post. No way he’d sell to the owner of that paper.”
The Lead: Jets
Why, after this great Jets win that put them a half game out of first place behind the mighty Bills, with boldface names like Sauce Gardner making such big plays, am I hung up on an undrafted free-agent from Memphis named Bryce Huff who played just 15 snaps Sunday at the Meadowlands?
A few reasons. Did you see the play Huff made? Watch.
Jets up 20-17, 77 seconds left, Bills ball, second-and-two at the Buffalo 33-, and the great Josh Allen is 67 yards away from winning the game with one of his big drives in big moments.
At the snap, Huff, who has one of the fastest off-the-snap rushes in football, sped to the outside of right tackle David Quessenberry. He breached the line in 0.74 seconds, per NFL Next Gen Stats, the fastest sprint across the line of scrimmage of any Jets’ rusher on the day. As Huff bore down on Allen, who didn’t see him, Huff hit Allen’s right arm and jarred the ball free, and it bounced backward, recovered by the Bills at the Buffalo 14-. Loss of 19. Incomplete, incomplete, ballgame. Jets win.
Huff’s a great example of who these Jets are. Invisible, mostly, but maybe not for long. First, in 2020, he had to prove himself to the coaching staff of Adam Gase, and Huff did. Then, when Gase was fired and Saleh hired, Huff had to prove himself all over again. A lightish 244-pound edge player, Saleh wanted him bigger and leaner. He bulked up to 260, adding 16 pounds of mostly lean muscle without losing his quick first step.
With the Jets pass-rush-rich, Huff took his chances where he could find them. A healthy scratch the first three weeks this year, he’s settled into a depth role, playing 13 to 20 snaps a game (15 on Sunday) and making each one count.
“If you have the ability to rush the passer, you’ll play in this league,” coach Robert Saleh told me. “Bryce can. He wins at a very high rate. I don’t know if I’d put it as ‘elite,’ but he’s got a great get-off and rushes with so much power that he’s very hard to block. The way we feel is, if they’re not chipping our rushers [with a second blocker], our ends should win one-on-one every time. That’s why Bryce is on the field in those critical situations. We think he can win.”
He won. The Jets won. And it was not a fluke. Maybe they’re not better than Buffalo—they’re not—but they’re on Buffalo’s level, and these Jets can compete with the Bills because they can play defense.
Three other things about these Jets:
1. Even without injured star rookie Breece Hall, they can run it. New York ran for 174 yards. When you run it great, you can keep a great quarterback off the field. “I’d be interested to know what our time of possession was in the second half,” Saleh said, “because I think we did a good job of kind of getting them out of rhythm.” The Jets held it for 17:39 of the second half, Buffalo for 12:21. Jets 34 plays, Bills just 25. I asked Saleh about running it so well, and he channeled his Parcells. “The best defenses in the world,” he said, “are the ones that watch. They’re on the sidelines because the offense can eat up the clock.”
2. They got quarterback Zach Wilson out of his funk. One of the first things Saleh said about Wilson (no turnovers after three picks last week against New England) was, “He had a great throwaway. One of the great things about Zach is how he takes coaching. We told him, ‘Trust that throwing the ball away is a positive play.’ We’re not asking Zach to be our Superman yet. One day we will. And there will be times we need him to be, but now’s not that time.”
3. The future is tough, but promising. After the bye this week, the Jets have this tough road: at New England, Chicago, at Minnesota, at Buffalo. Yikes. “Every game’s a championship game,” Saleh said. “Like today—Buffalo’s incredibly well-coached. Incredibly talented. The quarterback’s ridiculous. We can’t let the narrative of this Goliath coming into our building be the story, and we won’t in the coming weeks either.”
Saleh thinks it’s a tougher task these days to coach young players, and for young players to excel. Back in the day, coaches could control the narrative with an iron grip. Today, they can’t. Today, players are hit with omnipresent talk radio, social media, instageniuses dissecting games who don’t really know the game. Saleh battles it, and he battles the euphoria-or-disaster thing Parcells talked about.
“The market is hard and it feels sorry for no one,” he said. “When you lose games, it’s ‘fire everybody.’ When you win games it’s amazing. So just keep our head down. Try to educate our players. Stay off social media the best you can.”
Saleh said: “We’ve got two big signs players see as they walk out of the building every day: ‘Ignore the noise.’ “
“Ignore the noise and what?” I asked.
“That’s it. ‘Ignore the noise.’ We got signs on each side of the door. Ignore the noise.”
Don’t ignore the accomplishment, though. Beating the Bills has to make a long-downtrodden team feel: Why not us?
DON’T TELL US THE ODDS pic.twitter.com/v9rdhxCd7J
— New York Jets (@nyjets) November 6, 2022
4 teams, 4 stories10
Tampa Bay. There was something so symmetrical to the record 55th NFL comeback victory of Tom Brady, the fact that the winning drive started and ended with a nondescript rookie tight end who is gaining more trust with Brady by the week. Cade Otton, a Bucs’ fourth-round pick from Washington, was targeted by Brady on a crucial first snap of the drive with 44 seconds left, a 28-yard throw up the left seam that Otton dove for and caught cleanly. Then, with 12 seconds left, from the Rams’ one-yard line, Otton was tight to the formation on the right, with Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller in the area. They created a traffic jam while Otton athletically chip-blocked a rusher and pirouetted right, sprinting to the right pylon. Brady found Otton before the coverage did. Otten had his first NFL touchdown catch. Brady—including playoffs—had his 720th TD pass.
Otton told me he was the first option on the TD. But he said he wasn’t intimidated that, on the play sent in by offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, the play the Bucs needed to save their season, he was the primary receiver. “All I was thinking when the call came in was focus on what I need to do to execute the play,” Otton told me. “Football can be really complicated at times. You have to focus on how to do your job exactly right to make the play go right.” Otton called it a team touchdown. “I really counted on [Miller and Godwin] to create a pile so it would be hard for the defense to focus on me.” I told Otton the story of the Brady targeting lesser lights Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan continually down the stretch of the comeback Super Bowl win over Atlanta. Now it’s his turn. “We do the extra things you need to do to build trust,” he said. “This play, we practice every week. Repped it a lot. You can see the result in this game—it was practiced to perfection.”
Detroit. Tough week for head coach Dan Campbell. A football lifer, Campbell fired an assistant coach, secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant, from a defense that had allowed the most points and yards of any team in the league. The fact that the Lions won 15-9 over longtime division dominator Green Bay was good, but not everything. “It’s awful and I hate it,” Campbell said of parting with Pleasant. “The truth is, you’d much rather it be you than the guy you’re letting go.” Backs to the wall, the Lions had a different practice week (“We weren’t on the practice field long, but every rep was higher intensity,” he said), then tried to disguise coverages better against Aaron Rodgers. The results were good: The Lions picked off Rodgers three times, all in the red zone. “I just knew that if we could keep him out of sync a little bit, that would certainly work well for us,” Campbell said. When you’re giving up 32 a game, as the Lions were, holding even the tarnished Packers to nine was a huge win.
Minnesota. Vikes are a strange team—7-1, winners over Washington 20-17 after being down 17-7 and being flat offensively much of the day—and we don’t know how good they are. They’re on a six-game winning streak, with an average margin of 5.6 points a win. “I’m not really paying attention to the outside world,” Kirk Cousins said post-game. “If people do underestimate us, I like it that way. We don’t need to be recognized now.” Foes have out-rushed and out-passed them, and opposing QBs have a higher passer rating than Cousins. But Minnesota’s been a good fourth-quarter team (70-37 in points) and there’s something to winning the close games consistently, seeing that so many games are one-score games.
Kansas City. That 20-17 overtime win over the Titans was one weird Sunday night game. I thought it said two things about Kansas City. First: There’s no quarterback I’d rather have down the stretch, when urgent competence is required, than Patrick Mahomes. Two: His mostly new cadre of receivers, post-Tyreek, is plenty good enough. First things first: Down 17-9 with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Mahomes willed KC on a 93-yard scoring drive against one of the league’s best defenses, scrambling 20 yards mid-drive on a third-and-17 to keep it going. Needing a two-point conversion, Mahomes trusted himself and ran it in. Now to the receivers. In overtime, on the winning drive, he hit Travis Kelce (“That ball was like six feet behind him!” Cris Collinsworth yelled on NBC), who made a great catch for 18, then a key low ball between two defenders that JuJu Smith-Schuster dove and somehow caught for six, then a good throw but a better juggling catch by Noah Gray for 27. In all, Mahomes threw 68 passes for 446 yards, targeting Kelce 17 times and newcomer Kadarius Toney twice. A wild game, but it enabled KC to tie Buffalo at 6-2 for AFC supremacy (though the Bills hold the tiebreaker). One other note: Mahomes is apace to throw for a career-high 5,536 yards this season. After all the hullaballoo over the Tyreek Hill loss, that’d be 697 yards more than he compiled last year in his only other 17-game season—when Hill was his ace.
Hello, Next Gen!
FMIA has partnered with NFL Next Gen Stats for a deeper look into one story each week, using motion and speed trackers on players all over each NFL field.
This week: What’s gotten into Justin Fields?
In the last three weeks, the second-year Chicago quarterback has been reinvigorated by play-calling from Chicago offensive coordinator Luke Getsy that allows him to run more, to throw outside the numbers more, to throw more from play-action. The result in the last three games: The Bears have scored 94 points, Fields has rushed for 320 yards, and Fields has thrown six TDs and one interception. The Bears have beaten New England but lost to Dallas and Miami … but have left the impression that they’re using the speedy and versatile Fields in a much smarter way.
The most impressive metric is Fields’ “rushing yards over expected,” particularly in his NFL quarterback record 178-yard rushing day Sunday in the 35-32 loss to Miami. By Next Gen’s tracking, Fields’ 15 carries should have netted him 65 yards. But his athletic skillset added 113 yards over the expected number. And his 88 yards after contact showed he can be a physical runner, not just one to make tacklers miss. Getsy is smart to design some runs for Fields, and to encourage him to take off running instead of forcing throws when the windows are tight. He scrambled for 61 yards on one run Sunday.
JUSTIN FIELDS GOES 61 YARDS FOR SIX! 🔥
📺: #MIAvsCHI on CBS
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/PrdJzxjse4 pic.twitter.com/EaiuoLqHYO
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2022
Getsy is obviously allowing Fields to use his mobility in the passing game as well. Per NGS, in the first six weekends of the season, Fields was out of the pocket or on the run on 16.5 percent of his pass attempts; in the last three weeks, it’s risen to 25 percent of his throws. He’s gained more confidence in his outside-the-numbers throws, with 58 percent of his attempts on those routes, compared to 43 percent in the first six weeks.
Smart offensive play-callers learn what their quarterback does best, running and passing, and build gameplans for their strengths. It’ll be interesting to see Fields against some good defenses down the stretch of this season—Jets, Packers, Eagles, Bills, Vikings—as the Bears continue to figure out how to maximize Fields’ talents to lead them into the future.
Mystery of the Week20
The most interesting, and the most mysterious, trade at the deadline was one that came out of left field—Atlanta dealing wide receiver Calvin Ridley to Jacksonville. For a player who was a top-15 wide receiver in football in 2020 to be traded in 2022 for only one certain low-round pick is bizarre. Ridley is currently on a one-year suspension for gambling on NFL games and can apply for reinstatement after the postseason.
This is what we know:
Jacksonville GM Trent Baalke is a risk-taker anyway, and it’s understandable why he had been trying to acquire Ridley since last June. Even though Jacksonville takes on Ridley’s full $11.1-million compensation in 2023, Baalke didn’t saddle the team with a prohibitive draft giveaway. Ian Rapoport had some good details on the compensation, and per Rapoport plus a league source, here are most of the terms of the deal:
2023: Jacksonville will send its sixth-round pick to Atlanta if Ridley is not reinstated by the NFL at some point before the draft. If he is reinstated—which is no sure thing—Atlanta will receive Jacksonville’s fifth-round pick in the ’23 draft.
2024: If Ridley is on the Jaguars’ 53-man roster when final cuts are made at the end of the 2023 preseason, Atlanta would receive at least Jacksonville’s fourth-round pick in ’24. If he reaches certain play-time and performance markers, that pick would increase to a third-rounder. And if Ridley signs a new contract with the Jaguars at some unspecified time before the ’24 draft, the pick would rise to a second-rounder in ’24.
So the risk for the Jags is if Ridley is a total washout and doesn’t play there, they’re on the hook for relatively little compared to the upside. Ridley is a player the Jaguars need for Trevor Lawrence—a very good outside-the-numbers receiver who, though he’ll turn 29 in 2023, would be a strong addition to a building team. That is, if he’s in a good frame of mind, and if the NFL reinstates him.
As to why Atlanta would let loose a receiver in his prime who caught 90 balls for 1,374 yards in 2020, it’s unclear. Part of the reason could well be that Ridley—drafted by Thomas Dimitroff in the first round in 2018, coached by Dan Quinn and Raheem Morris, with Matt Ryan as his quarterback—has zero of those who drafted, coached, nurtured, and threw to him remaining in Atlanta. If he came back to the team in 2023 post-suspension, he’d be coming back to a new quarterback (either Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder), playing alongside a new franchise receiver (Drake London). He’d played only five largely unimpressive games for new coach Arthur Smith in 2021 before his mental health pause. Had he returned to the Falcons in 2023, life, and football, would never have been the same, and the Falcons likely weren’t pleased about the prospect of committing significant money to Ridley.
Also, Ridley did not appeal his year’s suspension by the NFL for betting on football, handed down last March. That seems odd. According to SportsHandle.com, Ridley, after saying on Oct. 31, 2021 that he was stepping away from football to focus on his mental health, made six bets totaling $3,900 that included the Falcons to win, and two $100 bets on other NFL games. That’s a breach of a clear NFL policy that says players can’t gamble on NFL games.
But at the time, the NFL was called hypocritical because it was in bed with gambling companies, and respected former players like Emmanuel Acho and Torrey Smith were highly critical of the ban. Very often, players appeal suspensions, particularly lengthy ones, and get some relief. It figures that Ridley would have at least had a chance to cut some weeks off the suspension. But he didn’t try. What does that mean? Maybe nothing. Maybe not.
In the end, Jacksonville took a shot on a player at the top of his game just two years ago, and if he plays well, the cost will be well worth it. Atlanta traded a player it apparently had lost faith in, saved $11 million, and could recoup second- and fifth-round picks if Ridley rekindles his career. Seems like a strange, but good, trade for both teams. We’re not going to know the real result for well over a year.
So there’s a giant, heavy coffee table book out by a 77-year-old San Francisco-based photographer, Michael Zagaris, called “Field of Play: 60 Years of NFL Photography” (Cameron and Company, Petaluma, Calif.). It’s got to weigh seven pounds. I’ve run into Zagaris a hundred times over the years—at Super Bowls, inside the Niners’ locker room, at training camps. Since being given total access by Bill Walsh in 1979, Zagaris has been omnipresent. Still is, after 60 years shooting football. One time, at a San Francisco-Dallas playoff game at a drenched Candlestick Park, I was on the soggy sidelines interviewing the great groundskeeper George Toma, and I looked up and there was Zagaris, snapping our picture.
I normally don’t feature a book mostly of photos (there are words, including some good ones from Joe Montana), but this book is extraordinary. It is the real story of football, dating back to Vince Lombardi and George Halas on the field at old Kezar Stadium. Halas, impeccably dressed, in a pristine blue suit, white pocket square, perfect fedora. Why don’t coaches dress like that anymore? It goes all the way to the Niners’ playoff win at Lambeau last January; the last photo is a wide-angle beauty of Robbie Gould’s winning field goal, frozen in time over the desperate grasp of a bunch of Packers, in frigid Green Bay.
“Field of Play” is great because it’s real. Dwight Clark being checked for a concussion in the trainers’ room, 1983. Joe Montana, looking almost incoherent, sprawled under a sink in the locker room, totally spent after The Catch game, 1982. Matt Millen, white jersey caked with blood on a Monday night in Anaheim, 1989. A card game, for money, on the plane on the way to the Super Bowl, 1990. O.J. Simpson and Al Cowlings, playing backgammon on the 49ers plane, 1989. Colin Kaepernick congratulating NaVorro Bowman in the locker room, 2013. George Kittle, veins popping, screaming, on the sidelines, 2019.
And the pain is real. Steve Young, lying on his stomach unclothed from the waist up, getting a pain-killing injection, 1997. Bill Romanowski taking a shot in the shoulder, 1990. Pierce Holt getting a halftime IV in New Orleans, 1992.
The real is the appeal of “Field of Play.” My conversation with Zagaris will be on The Peter King Podcast, dropping Tuesday.
Michael Zagaris on telling the whole story of the NFL:
“You know when I started out, Bill [Walsh] had some misgivings. He said what if you go too far? I said you know coach, I probably will go too far. All you have to do is give me a look. After a while, I was invisible. With the league now, it’s all about controlling the narrative. But when I started, there was none of that BS. But now like so many things in American life, anything cool, corporate comes in and they co-opt it.
“Steve [Young], Bill [Romanowski] never said anything, because I was always there, and that (injections) was just part of the business. I was at practice, at games, on team buses, always an ongoing conversation. Of course, if I was starting out now, none of this would ever be happening. First of all, now or even then, how many coaches would’ve been like Bill Walsh, signing off on all of this. That would’ve never happened with Belichick or Parcells or Halas. Because it’s all about control. It’s all about, ‘This is what we think is best.’
“Yeah, I was really lucky to be able to be there for so much of football history, to be able to tell the story.”
The Award Section30
Offensive players of the week
Justin Fields, quarterback, Chicago. I don’t care that the Bears lost. The most impressive player in the NFL Sunday was Fields, who rushed for the most yards by a quarterback in NFL regular-season history, 178 yards on 15 carries, including a 61-yard TD scramble, and also threw for three touchdowns with no picks. Imagine being the best rusher in football in week nine, and having a 106.7 passer rating at the same time. Fields was incredible at Soldier Field Sunday, and after a season of uncertainty about him last year, it’s looking like he has a good chance to be a good quarterback of the future for a franchise that so desperately needs one.
Joe Mixon, running back, Cincinnati. With four seconds left in the second quarter at Cincinnati, Mixon climbed on the Bengals bench and held up one, then two, then three, then four fingers. That’s because he had four touchdowns in the first half—on runs of two, three, and one yards, and a toe-tap end-zone catch of 13 yards. Mixon added a fourth rushing TD, from 14 yards, in the third quarter, giving him five touchdowns and 211 scrimmage yards in the best game of his 75-game professional life.
Davante Adams, wide receiver, Las Vegas. In a game the Raiders had to have to save their disappointing season, and a game they blew, don’t blame Adams. He caught a week-nine league-high 10 balls for a league-high 146 yards and two touchdowns. Seven of the catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns came in the first 20 minutes. His 25- and 38-yard touchdown receptions from Derek Carr were the 79th and 80th of his career. Only 118 to go to pass Jerry Rice, Davante.
Defensive players of the week
Kerby Joseph, safety, Detroit. The third-round rookie from Illinois had the game of his young life, picking off Aaron Rodgers twice in the red zone and making 10 tackles in Detroit’s 15-9 win over the Packers. The first pick came in a scoreless first quarter when Joseph nabbed a ball intended for Allen Lazard in the end zone. With the Packers still scoreless midway through the third quarter, Joseph intercepted a ball intended for tight end Robert Tonyan at the Lions’ three-. Huge day for GM Brad Holmes’ day-two pick last April.
THE ROOKIE. Kerby Joseph has his second INT today! @JKERB25
📺: #GBvsDET on FOX
📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/NERF3hGPfV pic.twitter.com/nmmtrCw7Cz
— NFL (@NFL) November 6, 2022
Josh Uche, Matthew Judon, linebackers, New England. Identical twins in the 26-3 rout of the outmanned Colts in Foxboro. Uche and Judon each had three sacks, and each had six tackles as the Patriots overran Sam Ehlinger in an eight-sack beatdown.
Javon Hargrave, defensive tackle, Philadelphia. In his first 100 NFL games, Hargrave, a nice role player on the Eagles’ defensive front, had 26.5 sacks. In his last two games, he’s had five, in 87 snaps for Philadelphia. Three sacks came against Davis Mills Thursday night in the Eagles’ 29-17 win at Houston. Hargrave is a bit more important to the front now because standout rookie Jordan Davis was just placed on IR with an ankle injury. He said after the game he studies Kobe Bryant and his refuse-to-lose ethos for inspiration, and it showed in his relentless pursuit of Mills.
Special teams players of the week
Cameron Dicker, kicker, L.A. Chargers. The winner of the kicking competition at the Chargers’ facility Thursday following an injury to Tayler Bertolet, Dicker the Kicker (I didn’t make that up—it’s his nickname), the fourth kicker for Brandon Staley in 1.5 seasons as Charger coach, came through big-time in his first game with Los Angeles. With 5:27 left in the fourth quarter, he tied the Falcons at 20 with a 31-yard field goal. Then, as time expired, he won it with a 37-yarder, 23-20.
Jaelan Phillips, linebacker, Miami. Interesting: The stat sheet will credit Phillips with a blocked punt of Chicago rookie Trenton Gill in the second quarter. Actually, it was a smothered punt, not a block. Phillips got by the wing blocker on the Bears’ punt team so fast that Gill was in his natural catch-stride-punt motion and Phillips was on top of the punter so fast that the ball was punted into the stomach of Phillips. It bounded away, was recovered at the Chicago 25- by linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel and returned for an easy touchdown, giving the Dolphins a 21-10 lead.
Jonathan Jones, cornerback, New England. Another first-half blocked punt deep in opposition territory—this one against Colts punter Matt Haack—by Jones, an excellent Patriots kicking-teamer, led to easy New England points and a 13-0 lead against the toothless Colts in Foxboro. Jones got a bonus late in the game—a deflected pick-six off a very shaky Sam Ehlinger late. Quite a day for Jones, responsible for 14 points in a 26-3 win.
Coach of the week
Aaron Glenn, defensive coordinator, Detroit. Tough season in Detroit for the defense, and tough week for the defensive coaches. Head coach Dan Campbell fired secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant early in the week, putting the rest of the coaches on notice that the 4-19-1 record in the regime’s first 1.5 seasons wasn’t going to cut it. Glenn’s D entered Sunday last in the league in points allowed and yards allowed. The Lions cut down practice time during the week but told players every practice snap would be played at full speed. That translated well to Sunday. To give up nine points to Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers was a win for the embattled Glenn and a team that should be better than it’s played. Glenn was rightly celebrated afterward in the locker room, where he told the team, “We gotta make it a habit.”
Gotta make it a habit pic.twitter.com/KraBqPNQbf
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) November 7, 2022
Goat of the week
Aaron Rodgers, quarterback, Green Bay. Threw three red-zone interceptions against the worst defense in football in a 15-9 loss to the woeful Lions.
Hidden person of the week
Benjamin St-Juste, cornerback, Washington. The third-round rookie from Minnesota was assigned the best receiver to play in Minnesota since the Moss/Carter days, Justin Jefferson. Mixed results. In the first quarter, Jefferson beat St-Juste cleanly for a nine-yard TD. In the second quarter, with Jefferson aiming for a second TD catch, St-Juste broke it up in the end zone and it was picked by Washington CB-mate Danny Johnson. In the fourth, Jefferson beat St-Juste cleanly for a 47-yard catch, with the Vikes trying to come back from a 10-point deficit. On third-and-goal for the Vikes at the two-minute warning, St-Juste broke up another pass for Jefferson in the end zone. Oh, and St-Juste had a sack of Kirk Cousins, and he had an interception that was negated by penalty. This is a game St-Juste will remember for a while. Perhaps forever.
The Jason Jenkins Award
Lawrence Guy, defensive end, New England. Last week, Guy and his wife Andrea hosted their second annual baby shower for new or expectant single mothers in Massachusetts. While in labor for the couple’s third child, Andrea shared a hospital room with a woman who was without supplies and a support system after giving birth, inspiring the Guys to help her personally, but furthermore to help others like her. The Guy Family Foundation baby shower includes gifts and necessities to help mothers meet the demands of parenthood – like diapers, car seats, blankets, and strollers – and also provides a support network in the form of the Patriots Women’s Association.
Supporting single mothers ❤️💙@thatLGUY and his wife, Andrea, hosted the second annual Guy Family Foundation baby shower to supply their favorite baby items to single moms in the community. pic.twitter.com/IAM3o4VgIz
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 2, 2022
Quotes of the Week
I’ve seen him do that in college. Not here.
–Kansas City coach Andy Reid, after Patrick Mahomes threw 68 passes in the 20-17 overtime victory over Tennessee.
Mahomes: 43 completions.
Malik Willis of Tennessee: five completions.
That was awesome. That was f—ing awesome.
—Tom Brady, on the highly unlikely length-of-the-field comeback drive in the final minute to beat the Rams.
Frustration and miserability are two different emotions. So, when I decided to come back, it was all-in, and I don’t make decisions and then hindsight 20-20 have regrets about big decisions like that. So, I was all-in, and this is a lot of life lessons, for sure, this year. But luckily it’s not over. There’s still a lot of games left.
—Aaron Rodgers, after throwing three interceptions and losing to Detroit in a game that defined “miserability.”
It’s a fumble by the offense, recovered by the defense, subsequently fumbled by the defense and recovered by the offense.
–Referee John Hussey using his field mic in the Chargers-Falcons game, after a double-fumble wreaked havoc on the game with 46 seconds left.
Tua Tagovailoa started the day as the highest-rated passer in the NFL. He misses a layup that would have given them a first down and let them work some more clock.
–Scott Hanson, on Tagovailoa throwing a worm-burner on what would have been one of the easiest completions of his year, a fourth-and-one throw to tight end Durham Smythe from the Bears’ 14-yard line with eight minutes left, nursing a 35-32 lead at Chicago.
Last week was, ‘Oh, the same old Jets.’ Guess what? We’re not the same old Jets.
–New York tight end Tyler Conklin, to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, after not the same old Jets beat Buffalo.
The start for Miami receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle has been historic. No combination of receivers in NFL has averaged 200 yards per game, and through Miami’s first nine games, Hill and Waddle have.
I went back through NFL history over the past 50 years to see whether Hill and Waddle were on the way to something big. They are. I compared Hill/Waddle to some of the greatest single-season combinations for receivers in the last half-century. This is not a comprehensive list; I have the best combined seasons for Lynn Swann/John Stallworth and Fred Biletnikoff/Cliff Branch listed, because all four of those receivers made the Hall of Fame.
I ranked the combinations by total yards per game for the two receivers, keeping in mind that the NFL played 14-game seasons prior to 1978, 16-game seasons from 1978 to 2020, and 17-game seasons the last two years.
Want to know why, regardless of the numbers Hill and Waddle put up this year, Dolfans will always have a special feel for Duper and Clayton? In Dan Marino’s second season as Miami QB, the Marks Brothers scored 26 touchdowns and each had more than 1,300 receiving yards. That’s a high bar for Hill and Waddle to jump over, but they’re off to a good half-season start.
The Bills, odds-on favorites to win the Super Bowl on Labor Day, will enter December without a division win in September, October or November.
They’re 0-2 in the AFC East. Starting Dec. 1, they have four division games left.
In 2020 and 2021, per Fox Sports, Aaron Rodgers had 377 pass attempts against NFC North foes. Zero interceptions.
In the first 36 minutes in Detroit Sunday, Rodgers had 23 attempts against the NFC North Lions. Three interceptions.
Three-and-outs, Bucs vs. Rams, Week 3, 2021: 3.
Three-and-outs, Rams vs. Bucs, Week 9, 2022: 13.
King of the Road50
PHILADELPHIA—One of the reasons I like going to one game of the World Series most years is it’s totally out of my professional world and totally into my leisure one, an in-season day back to the game of my youth, a day when the stakes are highest. Last Thursday, I went to game five in south Philly with my brother-in-law Bob. This one was different than the rest. It was the noise, mostly, during Astros-Phillies. This was Seahawks home-game decibel level, and it never, ever stopped—except maybe on the three occasions when Houston scored a run and on the occasion of one of the best catches of the year, Astros center fielder Chas McCormick leaping and smashing into the right-center-field fence to rob J.T. Realmuto of a triple in the desperate bottom of the ninth.
OMG! #WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/hNHKLFl2z3
— MLB (@MLB) November 4, 2022
I could have done without the never-ending curses yelled at Jose Altuve, though there was a good scream when Altuve came up in the ninth: “Altuve shops at Baby Gap!” But I have so much admiration for the Phillies’ fans. The night before, the Phils had been no-hit, and on this night, after Kyle Schwarber’s leadoff home run, Philadelphia had four measly hits and no serious threat till the bottom of the eighth. And still, these fans stood. And stood. And screamed. I wish they sat, because I wanted to sit, but hey, good for them. This felt so large, for four hours.
Something cool: the Eagles were playing Houston simultaneously, and a guy three rows ahead of us down the first-base line had his phone streaming Eagles 29, Texans 17. For an hour, I’d say, the guy held up his phone and between pitches, 10, 12, 15 people craned necks to see the iPhone screen to monitor their other passion team.
Fun night. The catch by McCormick—just wow. And to see, after the Astros closed out the win, McCormick, a kid from nearby West Chester, Pa., absolutely skipping through the infield collecting congrats from his grateful mates, that was cool.
Only downside: The game ended at 12:05 a.m., and I had to be on my home camera in my Brooklyn apartment for the Pro Football Talk morning show with Mike Florio, 6 hours and 55 minutes after the final out 94 miles away. Luckily I knew a parking lot close to the Walt Whitman Bridge on-ramp, and we stopped in Princeton, N.J., halfway home, at 1:20 a.m. and slept for three hours. Well, well worth the sleep deprivation, and I do believe I was brilliant for two hours Friday morning on the show.
Tweets of the Week
Not your average Joes 😎 pic.twitter.com/Mu2KnNTy3R
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) November 6, 2022
The Bengals crowing, rightfully so, about the play of Joe Mixon and Joe Burrow in the 42-21 rout of Carolina.
Cooper Kupp's ability to be open ALL THE TIME even though he's by far the Rams best offensive player never ceases to amaze me.
— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) November 6, 2022
The veteran NFL analyst saying what everyone in America is thinking after somehow, some way, the Bucs let Kupp run free deep for a long first-half TD.
Welcome to FedEx Field, where the #Commanders are using Taylor Heinicke’s photo in ads for 2023 season tickets. We’re live up to kickoff against the #Vikings on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/ZucbaDDXq5
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) November 6, 2022
Pelissero covers the league for NFL Network—and this is a very interesting factoid from him, particularly as it relates to Carson Wentz.
James Brown is one of the great voices of conscience in sports.
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) November 6, 2022
Kevin Seifert on an excellent monologue from CBS’ James Brown.
49ers’ Week 7: Sky is falling!
49ers’ Week 8: Sky’s the limit!
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) November 3, 2022
Barrows covers the 49ers for The Athletic.
Musk makes me think of Tom Sawyer, who is given the job of whitewashing a fence as punishment. Tom cons his friends into doing the chore for him, and getting them to pay for the privilege. That's what Musk wants to do with Twitter. No, no, no.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) November 3, 2022
King, the writer, on Musk’s plan to charge Twitter users with the blue check mark $8 per month to retain the “privilege” of the blue check.
Reach me at email@example.com, or on Twitter @peter_king.
A vote for Ezekiel Elliott over Tony Pollard. From Sean Westendorf of Waverly, Iowa: “While I agree with you that Tony Pollard is an exceptional running back, I find it difficult to say he has surpassed Ezekiel Elliott as best on the roster. More importantly, I believe it is the two of them together, working as a ‘Thunder and Lightning’ duo, that gives the Cowboys run game the edge. I would also like to point out the amount of joy Elliott had while watching Pollard have a monster game last Sunday. He was always seen on the FOX video cameras grinning ear-to-ear when Pollard ripped off a long run. It would be easy for Elliott to turn his back on Pollard, but it shows what a special teammate Elliott is and how much he wants this team to succeed.”
That’s a significant thing, Sean. Thanks for pointing it out. I’m using the old saw from Bill Parcells, “I’m going by what I see” here. Since opening day 2021, the stat lines of Pollard and Elliott:
Pollard: 211 rushes, 1,225 yards, 5.81 yards per carry.
Elliott: 346 rushes, 1,445, 4.18 yards per carry.
To me, 1.6 extra yards per rush is important. It’s a big edge.
Your point about two different styles of back is interesting and I think valid. But let’s say Pollard runs the ball equal to Elliott for the rest of the season—say they each get 14 rushes per game in the last nine games of the season, instead of, say, Elliott getting 19 and Pollard nine. If the yards-per-carry stays constant, an equal number of carries over the last eight games would net Pollard 56 more rushing yards. It might not be worth messing with team chemistry, but when I see five more rushing first downs on a team with less than 28 minutes of ball possession each game, I think it’s something to consider.
Hypothetical of the Week. From Kevin D., of Arizona: “Do you think the Vikings would have the same record if they hired Jim Harbaugh?”
This one really made me think, Kevin. Thanks for it. I guess I would say there’s a decent chance they would. Remember: Entering Sunday, Minnesota’s foes were 3-5, 8-0, 1-6, 3-5, 3-5, 5-3, 3-5 and 4-4 (including the .500 Commanders). The Vikings lost to the 8-0 team and beat everyone else. I think the test will come when the schedule toughens in the next two weeks against Buffalo and Dallas.
Ummmmm. From Frank W., of New Jersey: [This email was written last Monday, a day before the trade deadline, after I wrote that the Dolphins and Jets had some interest in trading for Bradley Chubb.] “The thing I hate about the sports media is the rumors that are thrown out there. In your column today you talk about the Jets and Dolphins wanting Bradley Chubb, and then I see the Jets shot down your report. Why are you interested in this rumor-mongering?”
Guessing you might want this email back. By the way: Would you rather, when I hear something from an ear-to-the-ground source, that I don’t pass it along?
I guess I’m pretty brave. From Ed Harrison: “You really had nothing to say on the MSU/UM tunnel brawl? That was a real outrage. Oh, but wait—I forgot that the media doesn’t want to draw attention to black on black crimes, and you have become just another dishonest, biased media personality. So sad. Will you have the courage to print this?”
I didn’t see anything about this till last Monday because I don’t pay much attention to college football. Yes, it was outrageous. And now you’ve made up your mind about me and my dark motives, so that’s a win for you, Ed.
10 Things I Think I Think
1. I think this was a great piece of writing from Tom Silverstein, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s longtime Packers authority, on Sunday night, on the looming conflict between coach Matt LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers as the Green Bay season goes down the drain:
LaFleur wants more motion, Rodgers wants less. LaFleur likes the quarterback under center, Rodgers likes shotgun. LaFleur needs Rodgers to be patient and supportive of the young receivers and Rodgers suggested after the game they need more hurry-up and believes in tough love.
Does anyone really think LaFleur came up with the tackle-eligible play that called for Rodgers to throw the ball to David Bakhtiari, a guy who can barely practice during the week because of the four surgeries he’s had on his left knee?
2. I think there are decisions that reverberate, and this is one I was thinking about late Sunday night, as Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee Titans, heavy underdogs at Kansas City, forced a 14-9 first-half lead. In January 2018, the Titans and Colts had coaching vacancies. Indy GM Chris Ballard had the most desirable job out there, because he had Andrew Luck and everyone wanted to coach Luck, the coachable franchise quarterback. For Ballard, his decision came down to an offensive mind, Josh McDaniels, or a defensive mind, Vrabel. Ballard really liked Vrabel—thought he had the tough demeanor to be a good coach in the league long-term. He obviously liked McDaniels too, the man who’d been close to Tom Brady for a decade. Ballard chose McDaniels. Tennessee chose Vrabel. Man, Ballard must die watching Vrabel, who is still only 47, coaching his biggest rival now.
3. I think the insanity of the National Football League in 2022 can be summed up in 14 words: If the playoffs started today, Seattle and Tampa Bay would host Wild Card games.
4. I think we all saw what happened in the Sunday late game at Tampa. But I can’t see the 3-5 Rams making a run this year, not after gaining 206 yards and registering nine first downs against a team that had lost five of the last six. Whew.
5. I think these were the most interesting things (other than the Calvin Ridley trade, above) about the trading deadline:
a. Since spring 2020, Miami GM Chris Grier has traded for six first-round picks, traded away four, and used first-rounders to either draft or acquire Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill and Bradley Chubb. That’s one heck of a job. Chubb missed 24 games due to injury in his first four years, which is a worry that won’t go away. But Miami signing Chubb, 26, to a multi-year deal gives Miami the piece to its defensive front it had lacked. What I also like for the Dolphins: Even after the franchise was docked next year’s top pick in the Stephen Ross tampering scandal, Grier retains three picks in the top three rounds of the ’23 draft, a second- and two third-round picks.
b. Totally unimpressed with Green Bay’s lack of urgency to help the offense. Aaron Rodgers has what, two-and-a-half years left? Maybe? There are times you sit on your picks, and there are times you need to overpay for a weapon. This was one of the times GM Brian Gutekunst needed to overpay. He should have figured out what the cost was for Chase Claypool and paid it. Or same with Darren Waller with the Raiders—another target of the Packers before the deadline, per Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Or with Carolina’s D.J. Moore, for whom the Packers offered a first-round pick, per Jay Glazer. Who cares? In the immortal words of Bill Parcells: “Don’t tell me how tough the pregnancy was. Did you deliver the baby?” Gutekunst needed to get something done here and he didn’t.
c. Houston and Brandin Cooks both lost. Cooks should have known he was casting his lot with a losing team when he signed for $18 million guaranteed in 2023, and that was going to be a near-impossible contract to trade without the Texans paying much of it. They wouldn’t do it, so now they’re stuck with a bitter player (even if it’s his fault) who they’ll have to take 20 cents on the dollar for next spring if they trade him then.
d. Running back Chase Edmonds, dealt from Miami to Denver in the Chubb deal, is the most underappreciated player who changes teams. Denver needed a trusted back badly.
e. The Rams never came close in any deal, and they seem comfortable in letting 2021 undrafted free-agent Alaric Jackson handle left tackle. Well, “comfortable” might not be a great word here—but they’re willing to give Jackson a multi-game trial, and optimistic he’ll be okay.
6. I think I’ll always remember Sean McVay talking to me about the Hall of Fame candidacy of his grandfather, John McVay, last July. Sean was working on the case for John McVay on his vacation before camp. “It’s something I want to do,” he said, “and something I have to do. His influence in my life and my career is huge.” John McVay died at 91 in California last week. John McVay was the quiet guy behind some of Bill Walsh’s great drafts with the Niners, a great second career after the disastrous end of his tenure as New York Giants head coach.
You might recall the Miracle of the Meadowlands on Nov. 19, 1978, when instead of kneeling on the ball to run out the clock in a victory, the Giants’ offensive coordinator called a handoff to Larry Csonka, and the exchange was fumbled, and Herm Edwards ran it back for a Philadelphia touchdown. The Giants canned McVay—who had nothing to do with the call—and he joined the Niners a year-and-a-half later as a personnel VP and later GM. “You are the master,” Walsh inscribed on a photo he gave to McVay after their long association. A very good man, too.
7. I think the 36-month hair transformation of T.J. Hockenson is impressive. The tight end as a Detroit rookie in 2019:
The tight end after his trade to the Vikings in 2022:
8. I think the Shaq Barrett torn Achilles is a huge injury at a position with little backbone for Tampa Bay. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, the 2021 first-rounder, now is the only rusher with even a bit of pedigree for a Tampa team that’s just been battered with injuries and player losses. At some point, you look at the Bucs and realize they’ve just lost too much.
9. I think congrats are in order for Jim Mora, the UConn football coach. The Huskies are 5-5, with ugly losses to Syracuse, Michigan and North Carolina State. But ask anyone with a passing interest in college football—after seeing UConn go 1-11, 2-10 and 1-11 the previous three seasons they played (two of the wins were over Wagner and Yale)—and you’ll realize that 5-5, with wins over Fresno State and Boston College (first win over the Eagles in school history), means something.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Inspirational Story of the Week: “He’s Coached the Same Team for 63 Years, and He’s Not Retiring. He Has a Playoff Game This Week,” by Jason Gay of The Wall Street Journal.
b. Miller Bugliari has coached the soccer team at Pingry, a private school in New Jersey, since the year John F. Kennedy was elected president. Bugliari has no plans to retire. He is 87.
c. Wrote Gay:
The legendary American boys’ high school soccer coach is still at it—coaching his 63rd consecutive season, at age 87. The accumulated numbers are absurd. Bugliari possesses a lifetime coaching record that looks like an international telephone number: 916 wins, 130 losses, 82 ties. The list of titles includes 21 state championships. There is so much hardware and memorabilia piled into Bugliari’s office it can be difficult to locate the Hall of Fame coach behind his desk.
“I think everyone is blessed with something they like to do,” Bugliari says. “I just enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed working—and the kids keep you young.”
d. Football Story of the Week: Joe Drape of the New York Times, in Kansas City, with a withering look at the Britt Reid sentencing of three years in prison for driving while impaired, and the damaged little girl he leaves behind as he enters prison.
e. Drape questions, legitimately, the breaks Britt Reid may have gotten because his father is Andy Reid.
f. Wrote Drape:
Britt Reid became addicted to painkillers at 14, was arrested twice in his early 20s and spent five months in jail. A couple of months before his crash in 2021, according to a police report, he got into a road rage incident with an off-duty law enforcement officer, punched the officer’s driver side window but wasn’t prosecuted — an episode that hasn’t been previously reported.
Britt Reid, the married father of three, lost his coaching job and has now lost his freedom. But to Felicia Miller, the mother of Ariel Young, the girl who was severely injured in the crash, his three-year sentence — based on a deal with prosecutors that capped his prison time at four years instead of the maximum seven — looked like more good fortune for someone who has had a lot of it.
“He has a prior D.U.I. He’s been to prison. And he’s asking for probation? On what planet does this conduct deserve probation?” Miller asked in an impact statement read by prosecutors.
… On Tuesday in court, [Britt Reid] apologized again. “Every time I see my daughter, I think about Ariel and how my decision affected her so deeply and her family,” he said.
After the sentencing, Porto released a statement saying Ariel and her family were angry that Reid received three years instead of the seven-year sentence allowed by law. Still, the statement said of Ariel: “She will endure. She will strive and she will strive. She is Ariel strong.”
g. There is no word for this story, on all angles, other than tragic.
h. Ambitious Project That is a Home Run of the Week: The Boston Globe sent four teams of journalists on road trips across the country to take the temperature of America.
i. The photographs are stunning. A dog on a bar in Sheridan, Wyo. The end of the road on Route 66 in Santa Monica, Calif. Sampling the huckleberry ice cream in West Yellowstone, Mont. Catching a king mackerel in Panama City, Fla.
j. Julian Benbow with a man who has shined shoes—Steve Wonder’s, Kobe’s, Shaq’s—in Memphis for 56 years is great.
k. Wrote Benbow of Don Bickerson, who Benbow found on Beale Street in Memphis:
This was his life’s work.
“I started when I was 14,” he said. “And now I’m 70 years old.”
He explained to me how he got started. His mother had kicked him out of the house. “For being unruly,” he said. He learned the trade at International Port.
“And I been doing it ever since,” he said.
I wondered what made him stick with it for 56 years.
“Didn’t have no money, I had to survive and I don’t steal,” he said.
There’s honor in it.
l. Beernerdness: When in Philadelphia for the World Series, I had the Orange Street Wheat (Sterling Pig Brewery, Media, Pa.) at Interstate Drafthouse, a delightful bar in Fishtown, a Brooklyn-type neighborhood. What a great spot, with an excellent collection of local drafts (and one California IPA) and the wheat beer from nearby Media. Subtle and light, with a very good slight citrus tinge.
m. American Obsession of the Week: I guess we love Legos. I mean, really love Legos. William Goodman of The Wall Street Journal on how much we love the plastic bricks and art as Lego turns 90.
n. Talk about being clueless about something—I had no idea. But this is some serious hobbying.
o. Wrote Goodman:
“I grew up making Lego when I was eight, nine years old, and actually I continue it,” superstar athlete David Beckham told Jimmy Fallon during a “Tonight Show” appearance in late February 2020. “It calms me,” he added.
Mr. Beckham is one of many celebrities (see: Britney Spears, Daniel Radcliffe and Anna Kendrick) who tote their Lego bona fides in public. Yet their fandom pales in comparison to that of Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner. Mr. Turner commissioned a 100,000-piece statue of himself as Darth Vader from Black Lego artist Ekow Nimako, who specializes in creating Lego art and sculptures through the lens of Afrofuturism.
p. RIP Ray Guy. He’s one of the best examples over the years of a player that his peers and teammates tirelessly went to bat for to try to get him in the Hall of Fame.
q. Radio Story of the Week: Jaclyn Diaz of NPR on a woman in Bullhead City, Ariz., who was arrested for feeding cooked food to the hungry and homeless, and is now suing.
r. I understand safeguards on food, but a 78-year-old woman doing such a good deed and being arrested? This is a disaster. Or, as Diaz reported, “The video captures the officer over the phone telling his supervisor, ‘I think this is a PR nightmare, but OK.’ Shortly thereafter, he arrested [Norma] Thornton, though he declined to place the woman in handcuffs.”
s. Another debacle involving Kyrie Irving? I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you.
t. So you want to know how NOT to build a great team? You’ve seen the Nets do it twice. In 2013, the Nets traded three first-round picks and six players to Boston for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Pierce lasted one year, Garnett not even two, and the best Brooklyn could do in the post-season was lose to Miami in the conference semis in 2013-14.
u. In 2019, the Nets signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and a year later traded four players (including two starters), three first-round picks and four first-round pick swaps to Houston for James Harden. In three years they haven’t gotten past the conference semis. Harden lasted 80 games before being traded to Philadelphia. The coach got fired last week. (Steve Nash must be the happiest man on earth.) Irving is a lost cause by now. Durant, rumor mills say, can be had in trade. And for the next four drafts, the Nets will have two first-round picks total, both likely in the lower half of the round.
v. And that is how to ruin a franchise. Keep thinking collecting megastars and only stars is the way to win in the NBA, and you’ll never win.
w. Attaway, Dusty Baker. Great baseball man. Great World Series. Great win. Fun fact: Fifty-five years ago, Baker was drafted by the Atlanta Braves and as a Black man, didn’t want to go play in the Deep South. The Braves had Hank Aaron convince Baker and his mom that he, Aaron, would take care of him if he signed with the Braves. Aaron did. Baker the player won a Series with the Dodgers in 1981. Baker the manager had to wait till 2022 to win his first as a manager.
x. Not to say this is a Latin revolution or anything, because baseball has so many truly great players from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic and all over the baseball hotbed in Latin America. But the four biggest players for the Astros in this series (Ryan Pressly, from Flower Mound, Texas, is close) all were born in Latin America:
Jeremy Peña, shortstop, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Cristian Javier, pitcher, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Framber Valdez, pitcher, Palenque, Dominican Republic
Yordan Álvarez, left fielder, Las Tunas, Cuba
The future is here. We’re seeing it. Peña moved to Rhode Island when he was 9, and he went to college at Maine and played baseball, and the Astros picked him in the third round of the 2018 draft. Talk about not missing Carlos Correa—the Astros love Peña, the 2022 Gold Glove shortstop, the MVP of the American League Championship Series, and now the MVP of this World Series. He’s the first rookie position player ever to win World Series MVP. Amazing rise from Peña.
y. Nice call, Brian Kelly. No one in Louisiana’s making fun of your “accent” anymore.
NO. 10 LSU WENT FOR TWO AND WON IN THE FINAL SECONDS 😱 pic.twitter.com/9QAfuJtBiy
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 6, 2022
z. A lost purse, a 1959 calendar, a Mom recently deceased, and a surprise three daughters never could have imagined. I liked this story on the NBC Nightly News from Jose Diaz-Balart Saturday. I think you will too.
Baltimore 25, New Orleans 23. Very interesting game in the wake of the Saints’ 24-0 wipeout of the Raiders last week. The Ravens have the benefit of a bye-plus (11 days, Thursday to Monday) so new sideline-to-sideline linebacker Roquan Smith, acquired in trade from the Bears a week ago, should be a major part of the defensive gameplan against a lively Saints’ offense. The defense will need to be stout, after the Ravens lost Rashod Bateman (foot) for the year and may not have a whole Mark Andrews tonight. Amazing, by the way, that the Saints for the third straight season, will have to live without wide receiver Michael Thomas for the rest of the season. Including this year, Thomas will have missed nine, 17 and 14 games over the last three seasons due to injury. Missed: 40. Played: 10. Yikes. Talk about having big contract regrets. The Saints have a few with Thomas’ mega-deal in July 2019.
Games of Week 10
Seattle at Tampa Bay, Sunday, 9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network. The league’s first-ever regular-season game in Germany—in Allianz Arena, Munich—looked like a showcase for Tom Brady to have a Beatles-coming-to-the-U.S.-in-the-sixties vibe when it was scheduled last spring. It’ll be cool for Germans to go gaga over Brady, to be sure. When the NFL changed over from playing preseason games to real games in Europe, this game was the kind the league desired: two teams competing for division titles playing a big game in front of fans dying for the NFL. With a megastar shared with the world.
Houston at N.Y. Giants, Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS. I’ll tell you what’s interesting about this little midseason stretch for the 6-2 Giants, coming off their bye. They’ve got (perhaps) the worst two teams in the league at home on the next two Sundays—Texans, Lions. Say they’re 8-2 entering their last seven games. The NFL went to a seven-team playoff system in each conference in 2020. In the NFC, the seven seeds in the first two years of the system have been 8-8 Chicago in 2020 and 9-8 Philadelphia in 2021. The Giants have Philly twice, Washington twice and Dallas, Minnesota and Indianapolis also on the schedule. Seems they’ll finish 10-7 at least. The seventh seed calls their name.
Minnesota at Buffalo, Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX. Vikes and fans have been Dangerfieldish about getting zero respect in their 7-1 start, but they’ve had a bunch of narrow wins against the midsection of the NFL, plus a 17-point loss to the Eagles. They need a statement win. This would be an unlikely one.
Dallas at Green Bay, Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX. In the 13-year prime of Aaron Rodgers (2009-’21, let’s call it), Green Bay is 8-1 in this rivalry. Now that the Packers have fallen to earth and the Cowboys are on the rise, that 8-1 stat might mean nothing. The Packers have a chance to make life hard for Dak Prescott, and it will need to for a team that’s not going to score in the thirties much anymore.
The Adieu Haiku20
Saleh and Daboll.
Jets and Giants have their dudes.
Twelve and five. Oh my.