Fri. Dec 2nd, 2022

PHILADELPHIA – “Fifty-something degrees, wind’s blowing 20 or 30 miles an hour, raining sideways, down 14-nothing,” Jalen Hurts said an hour after the remnants of Hurricane Ian had played havoc with a football game here.

He could have continued this way: We’re 20 minutes into a game where we’re getting nothing done, I’ve thrown a pick-six, now it’s third-and-goal from the Jacksonville 16, and I scramble for 13 desperate yards, trying to get something going. Now it’s fourth down just inside the Jacksonville four-yard line.

The play here’s the gimme field goal. Get something on the board.

No. Coach Nick Sirianni chose to go for it. Offensive coordinator and play-caller Shane Steichen dialed up a pass. Hurts took a shotgun snap, looked fast at three covered targets, and took off around the 13-yard line. “Good quarterbacks bail you out when you don’t call the right play,” Sirianni said later. Around the three-, Hurts dove for the end zone and pinged violently off 235-pound rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd at the goal line, the ball bouncing out of Hurts’ hands when he was clearly over the line. Touchdown.

The collision intense. “It happens, it happens. Football. You just do what you gotta do right there,” Hurts said.

Hurts, coach’s son, isn’t a celebrator, and he jogged to the sidelines. The Eagles were back in it on this miserable day. Sirianni found Hurts.

“You know why I went for it?” Sirianni told him. “I went for it because I trusted you.”

Eagles 29, Jaguars 21. The 4-0 Eagles, the NFL’s last unbeaten team. Now, in a hallway outside the Eagles’ locker room, Hurts looked like he was ready for a GQ cover shoot: Sky blue suit, white shirt with HURTS embroidered on each cuff, skinny navy tie, shiny blue pocket square, polished black dress shoes, gold watch. The playing conditions, a distant memory.

What wasn’t a distant memory?

“I went for it because I trusted you.”

Thinking about it, Hurts smiled slightly. “That’s something I really appreciate,” said Hurts, an unemotional sort.

Just five years ago, the Eagles were basking in the glow of their first Super Bowl win. Now, with almost an entirely new cast led by the 53rd pick in the 2020 draft, they might contend to win number two. Just as Doug Pederson trusted Nick Foles in 2017, Nick Sirianni trusts Jalen Hurts in 2022. Football’s a funny, and transient, game.


From A to Z, Adams (Davante) to Zappe (Bailey), with a lot of alphabetic trouble around the letters “UNC,” this was one crazy week in the league where they play for pay.

Davante Adams made some beautiful music in the Raiders’ first win of the year, catching nine balls for 101 yards and eliminating the dumb “Where’s Davante?” questions.

“Gross motor instability” will disqualify players from playing football in that game, per Mike Florio, which is wise.

Jack Jones, a totally unknown New England rookie corner, pick-sixed Aaron Rodgers and then had the nerve to diss him. Kids these days.

Mahomes. That’s it. Just Mahomes.

Zach Wilson of the 2-2 (!) Jets beat the Men of Tomlin. Caught a TD pass too.

Cooper Rush will never lose a football game again. Question is, will he ever start another one?

DOINK! DOINK! Saints will hear that in their sleep.

Jim Irsay is not going to stand for this. He really isn’t. I can feel him fixing to blow from here.

Saquon the QB! Of the 3-1 Giants!

Jamaree Salyer played one of the best games in the NFL Sunday, and you’ve never heard of him. Admit it.

“Hindsight you take the points.” John Harbaugh’s not apologizing. Huge win for the Bills, another crusher for Baltimore.

The Lions. My gosh, the Lions. Average score of their four games: Foes 35.25, Detroit 35.00. Leos are 1-3.

Bailey Zappe (pronounced Zapp-ee) gave the Patriots a chance in Green Bay Sunday, which means that I’ve buried the lede in this column.

Aaron Donald is in my Lawrence Taylor League now. To me, it’s a big deal.

Now back to the Eagles, and to Jalen Hurts. Hey: I thought it was always sunny in Philadelphia.

 

It is sunny, on Jalen Hurts’ side of the street. You know why? Because his team won the game. The Eagles won it in a different fashion than in the bombs-away way they’d won in September, running it 50 times for 210 yards, keeping the ball for almost 40 minutes. Fine with Hurts.

“The point about today,” Hurts said, “is more so about the conditions of the football game and not letting that deter us from our goal and our execution and what we wanted to do. Our ball security – we had that interception early, the pick-six. But you look at the turnover differential, I think it was five to one, just one for us. (True.) We put ourselves in a 14-0 hole. We hadn’t been in a hole like that all year. In these conditions, we played a different game. We just handled it.”

This is the thing you notice about Hurts. He knows the only thing that matters is winning, particularly in a city like this one. Winning humbly, winning with a worker-bee attitude, winning with gratitude.

Philadelphia is ferocious and merciless. Cross Philadelphia, and you’re dead. Play with a Philadelphia attitude – as Hurts did Sunday, down 14-0, knowing he’d sacrifice anything to score on the fourth-and-goal run, and car-crash into the end zone – and you can be a king.

Time will tell if that happens with Hurts here. But his center, Jason Kelce, already thinks Hurts is “the epitome of what a Philadelphia athlete is. He’s the ultimate underdog, and this city loves underdogs.”

The quick bio doesn’t really start off as an underdog story: Hurts was coached by his dad in Channelview, Texas, and recruited by Nick Saban to quarterback Alabama in 2016. He won the job as a true freshman, kept it for two years, lost it to Tua Tagovailoa in 2018, and transferred to Oklahoma for the 2019 season. (I wonder how many quarterbacks have been both first-team all-SEC and first-team all-Big 12. There’s at least one.)

Doug Pederson didn’t see a short (6-1) quarterback with good mobility (4.59 seconds in the 40-). He saw a smart quarterback who knew when to run but didn’t use it as a crutch, with a plus-arm that many draftniks didn’t see, with a chip on his shoulder that he’s used in the right way. GM Howie Roseman wanted a good backup QB for Carson Wentz because he’d been hurt a lot, and so late in round two in April 2020, here came Hurts.

He’d been through so much at such a high level by the time he got to the Eagles that Wentz feeling threatened by him was something he never paid attention to. That wouldn’t help him be a better player. “First time he ever stepped in the huddle as a rookie was in Green Bay,” Kelce said. “You want your quarterback to be confident in his ability but almost stoic. He made everyone feel he was in complete control. Ever hear that saying that 80 percent of how you communicate is by body language? Jalen’s definitely one of those 80-percent body-language guys.”

He’s got one other Rocky Balboa trait: To knock him off, you’re going to have to knock him out. He just sprang up from that hit by Devin Lloyd Sunday. I don’t know how. But that was a powerhouse right hook from Apollo Creed, and Hurts acted like it was a glancing blow.

“I’ve never lost faith,” Hurts told me. “I’ve been at the top of the mountain and I’ve been in the valley low. Through it all I’ve always been who I am and I’ve tried to stay true to who I am – being a man of God and keeping Him at the center of everything. I’ve never lost faith. I’ll never ever ride waves. Never get too high, never get too low. I just always try to keep the main thing the main thing and control what I can and try to be the best quarterback and best man I can be for my team.”

Talk to people around the Eagles, and you’ll hear this recurring theme about Hurts: This is the first year he’s had the same offense two seasons in a row, so of course he’d be a better player. And he certainly is. Who’d have thought, a quarter of the way through the season, that you’d look at the leaders in yards-per-pass-attempt, the category that most often has the big throwers atop the list, and see this man in first place:

Jalen Hurts, 9.1 ypa

Having two deep threats, A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, helps. But it’s more than that. It’s the quickness of his decision-making. It’s comfort in the system. It’s, even when he tucks and runs, as he did down 14-0 near the goal line Sunday, the discipline of going from 1 to 2 to 3 so fast, and knowing the throw’s not there and knowing instantly the best option is to run. That knowledge base is helped by having the exact same people around him daily for a second straight year—Kelce the center, Sirianni the head coach, Steichen the offensive coordinator, Brian Johnson the QB coach, Kevin Patullo the passing game coordinator.

As Sirianni said post-game, the benefit of players like Tom Brady and Drew Brees and Philip Rivers commanding the same offense year after year is obvious. “They have a mental rolodex, and they know when the defense looks a certain way, they’re going here with the ball, period.”

I fully expected Hurts to say what a great relief it was to finally have the same offense and same mentors for a second year. But he didn’t. Again, he saw the sunny side.

“I’ve always tried to use that as a positive,” he said. “I learned something from Lane Kiffin, from Brian Daboll, from Mike Locksley, from Steve Sarkisian, at Alabama. Learning all those different ways of thinking of football conceptually really helped me. Then coach [Lincoln] Riley at Oklahoma. Then coach Pederson. Now my coaches here.

“I’ve been a sponge. I’ve observed and learned. I apply their lessons to the way I think.” All the way back to high school, and coach Averion Hurts in Channelview, Texas.

“Everything’s simplified in high school,” he said. “You play your best when you have a simple mind, right? Sometimes, when I run a play now, and it’s something like high school, I think, ‘I ran that play for coach Hurts back at Channelview.’”

One other point about Hurts that’s compelling. It’s too early to think the Eagles are certain that Hurts is their quarterback for the next 10 years. Why make that call now anyway, when there’s no real reason to? It’s certainly trending that way – that Hurts will be the franchise guy here. But until he is, and until the Eagles have to lay out the money for Hurts, they can build a more complete team. That more complete team was on display Sunday in the south Philly rain.

The Eagles signed free-agent pass-rusher Haason Reddick for three years and $45 million; he had two strip-sacks of Trevor Lawrence in the fourth quarter. And Roseman took advantage of the Giants’ horrible cap management by pilfering corner James Bradberry for one year and $7.25 million. With five minutes left in the third quarter and the Jags down 20-14, Bradberry baited Lawrence into a huge interception at the Eagles’ seven-yard line.

The Eagles are a continuum. From the looks of it, the 24-year-old Hurts will be at fulcrum for a long time. Good for the Eagles. Bad for the rest of the NFC East.

 

The best stories in the NFL on Sunday:

1. The Zappe-Rodgers showdown was a barnburner.

Packers 27, Patriots 24, overtime. In fact, Green Bay had to play all 70 minutes to get the win, and afterward Aaron Rodgers said, “This way of winning, I don’t think, is sustainable because of the pressure it puts on our defense.” Weird season for the Packers, who are 3-1 despite missing Davante Adams desperately. Lucky season too, because the Pack is in the midst of the most generous six-game stretch – Chicago, at Tampa Bay, New England, Giants (in London), Jets, at Washington – on its schedule, by far. Amazing to think Green Bay’s got the 3-1 Giants in London next Sunday. Yes, 3-1.

Against the Patriots, it wasn’t so much what rookie Bailey Zappe from Western Kentucky did; it’s what Rodgers didn’t do. Among other things, Rodgers threw a bizarrely late sideline route that rookie corner Jack Jones picked off and ran back for a touchdown. What’s more, Jones threw shade at Rodgers for it. “Personally,” Jones said, “I feel it’s disrespectful to throw an out route on me.” Hey kid: They threw out routes on Deion Sanders! (Not many, but some.) How did the 121st pick in the draft get so big-headed to think one of the best quarterbacks ever was insulting him by throwing the kind of route that’s thrown 162 times a week in the NFL? Man, that was weird.

Rodgers and Belichick post-game. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

On the bright side, it was cool to see Bill Belichick and Rodgers, in what is very likely their last meeting on the field, spend significant time talking before and after the game. Belichick, 70, and Rodgers, 38, would have to meet in a Super Bowl unless both hang on till the next Pats-Pack meeting in 2026.

2. Every year in the NFL, reality bites.

I remember on my visit to Steelers training camp how taken aback Mike Tomlin was by the mere suggestion that the Steelers might regress to the mean this year, post-Roethlisberger. Well, we’re just about there. Sunday in Pittsburgh: Jets 24, Steelers 20, dropping the home team to 1-3.

And while we’re at the business of strange NFL developments, consider this: Teams repping New York City (Jets, Giants) are a combined 5-3. Teams repping the state of California (Niners, Rams, Chargers) are 5-5.

Anyway, what the Towel-wavers probably cannot fathom is Jets QB Zach Wilson carrying a 20-10 deficit into the last 13 minutes, driving New York 81 yards in 11 plays for a TD to narrow it, and then driving 65 yards in 10 plays for another TD to win it. “That was some of the most fun I’ve had playing football,” Wilson said. Well, overcoming a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter by completing 10-of-12 to beat the team Mike Tomlin coaches is a pretty big deal.

Re: Tomlin, the fact that he yanked starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky less than three-and-a-half games into his Steeler trial is another big deal. Now it’s Kenny Pickett’s turn to try to justify the faith the Steelers placed in him by drafting him 20th last April. Talk about a trial by fire: Pittsburgh faces Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Miami and Philadelphia in the next four weeks. Yikes.

3. Great Mahomes throws, ranked:

  1. No-look pass to Demarcus Robinson, 2018, vs. Baltimore.
  2. Fourth-down cross-body bomb to Tyreek Hill, 2018, vs. Baltimore.
  3. Lofted basketball shot over traffic to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 2022, vs. Tampa:

Discuss.

That’s how I’d rank them, anyway. Mahomes on the two-yard hoop shot to Edwards-Helaire: “I saw Clyde and just kinda flicked it up to him. I was thinking about getting to the pylon, but then I realized Clyde was open.”

Sometimes, I think Mahomes could make fairly normal throws, but tossing the throw like he did in Tampa is just stupidly fun. Why not do it? Why not insert more fun in the game?

4. A sentence and a quote on four other events:

  • The Colts are in trouble, rushing for just 3.5 yards a carry and getting Matt Ryan beat up, and trust me, the owner is stewing over being 0-2-1 in the division – with a win over Kansas City. “We are all pissed,” defensive captain DeForest Buckner told The Athletic.
  • The Lions are first in points scored and last in points allowed. “I have a lot of faith in [defensive coordinator] Aaron Glenn, but I think we need to take a deep dive on our defense from coaching on down,” said Dan Campbell.
  • Cooper Rush is 3-0 as Dak Prescott’s relief pitcher, and I’m not buying his aw-shucks-I’m-so-lucky routine. “All the breaks you catch, I guess I’m just kind of lucky,” he said after the 25-10 win over Washington.
  • With the Chargers needing to protect QB Justin Herbert (ribs) and left tackle Rashawn Slater out, sixth-round rookie Jamaree Salyer, who moved from guard to play tackle Sunday in Houston, was a gem in the 34-24 Chargers win. “He’s a stud – calm, poised, strong,” said coach Brandon Staley.

 

Hello, Next Gen: AD & LT


Before I write about Aaron Donald, I want you to watch a short video of Donald’s 100th career sack, eight days ago against Kyler Murray of the Cardinals:

So There’s an avalanche of newfangled (and very valid) stats we can use as measurable metrics in football today. When I started covering the game in 1984, the NFL was three decades away from tracking the speed and exertion of players with tiny trackers embedded into uniforms, for instance. In the eighties, you had to trust your eyes.

My eyes told me, covering Lawrence Taylor and the New York Giants for four of their glory years, that Taylor was the best defensive player I saw then, and I’d probably ever see, a merciless roadrunner/hostage-taker of offensive souls. Not only was Taylor a sack machine and fast enough to beat any tackle on the edge, but he could bull-rush like a nose tackle. Boy, was he mean. Effectively mean.

Today, I’m here to say Aaron Donald joins Lawrence Taylor on my personal two-player Mount Rushmore of Defense of the last four decades. Donald, truly, is probably better, and I can’t believe I’m saying that. But you know how Bulls-philes who love Michael Jordan said there’d never be anyone like Jordan, ever? Maybe not. But LeBron’s close. Kobe’s close. Same with there’ll-never-be-another-Joe Montana. Well, Tom Brady came along. I’m not a fan of watching some all-timer play and saying there’ll never be another one as good, or nearly as good. There almost always is.

Metrics say it, and my eyes see it in their 39th season of watching great players play: Aaron Donald is at least as destructive, and at least as impactful, on a game as Lawrence Taylor was.

The final bit of proof came eight days ago, in Arizona, in the video you just watched. Donald was lined up across from right guard Will Hernandez of the Cardinals, in an uncommon (for Donald) one-on-one, no-chip-help look. Per Next Gen Stats, Donald was 6.15 yards from Murray, in the shotgun, at the snap of the ball. When Donald beat Hernandez to the inside on the pass-rush, Donald was 2.36 yards from Murray when both were in full gallop, Murray trying to evade Donald. Donald dove at Murray at the Arizona 34-, and clipped the QB’s ankle with one outstretched whack of the hand, and Murray went down. Murray intentionally grounded the ball while going down, but the officials ruled he was down before releasing it, and that was Donald’s 100th sack.

Next Gen Stats records speeds of everything, including players at all points of the game. The burst of Donald coming off jousting with Hernandez showed him running 14.09 mph to catch Murray. What’s significant about that? Donald, while sacking Murray, had a faster burst to catch a quarterback than any of the great edge players in football—Micah Parsons, T.J. Watt, Khalil Mack, Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa—had in the first three weeks of this season.

This is the essence of Aaron Donald: At 31, after seriously considering retirement last winter, he can still bull-rush and toss aside a 335-pound guard, then catch one of the fastest quarterbacks in NFL history for a sack.

It’s perfect and just, really, that Donald has more sacks than any player in football since he broke into the league in 2014, and his 100th came against a quarterback who runs a 4.38 40-yard dash in full retreat mode.

“I’m an edge rusher playing inside,” Donald told me the other day, driving home from work.

Those six words have to be the most accurate and telling words that Donald has ever spoken about football, because an edge rusher stout enough to dominate inside is exactly what Donald is.

Donald before last Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

“I think I’ve opened some doors about the position since I came into this league,” he said. “When I was drafted, I wasn’t that 6-4, 300-pound interior lineman everyone was looking for. I was 6-1, 280 … but really I played at 265. I heard it all: You ain’t big enough. You can’t be an interior defensive lineman in this league at 265.

“I think what people forget is, my sophomore year at Pitt, I played the edge. I played 5-technique. (A 5-technique defensive end plays just outside the shoulder of the tackle and has to be powerful against the run as well as a good rusher.) And I played pretty well. So if I had to do it now, I think I could do it. I don’t know how successful I’d be, but I know I could it.”

Donald would be pretty damn good. But the shorter path to the quarterback fits his quickness and power like no other player in football—outside or inside. One more Next Gen Stats piece of gold: Since NGS began compiling stats in 2016, he has 458 quarterback pressures, 86 more than any other defensive player in football.

There are other Taylor/Donald things to consider. Donald, entering the Rams game at San Francisco tonight, is averaging .77 sacks per game in his 130-game career, rushing mostly from the inside; Taylor averaged .77 sacks per game in his 184-game career, rushing largely from the outside. Donald had two fourth-quarter sacks, critical plays, in his lone Super Bowl win over Cincinnati. Taylor had no sacks in either of the Giants’ Super Bowl wins he played in. That matters, but it’s not huge.

Both play angry. I once saw Taylor, in a replacement game in 1987, try to gouge the eyes of a Buffalo tackle who’d consistently played him dirty. In August, I saw Donald rip off the helmet of teammate Ron Havenstein in a camp brawl and hurl it in the air. Not a good trait, obviously, but indicative that even in practice Donald plays with intensity. Their competitive streaks match.

If I had to draft one of them at 22, I’d take Donald. I can’t think in my little football world of a bigger compliment to give a defensive player than to say I’d choose him over Taylor.

Donald is not a big talker, especially about himself. But on his ride home Thursday, it was clear he knows what he’s done so far, and also that he knows he still has more greatness to chase.

“My expectation entering the league was never this,” Donald said. “It’s so hard to talk about it, honestly, hearing my named mentioned with all the greats. Hard to find the words. I’ve surpassed anything I’ve ever dreamed of, but I have so much more to do. I won’t let it all soak in till I’m finished, whenever that is.”

Donald has committed to play through the end of 2023. Selfishly, I hope there’s more.

 

Tua and Player Safety


20

The best thing that can be said about the Tua Tagovailoa concussion drama is that the league and the players union seem on the verge of taking the game to a safer place with their joint admission that they “anticipate changes to the [concussion] protocol” in the coming days.

But the process of how they’re getting there is clunky, at best. From the time Tagovailoa was slammed to the turf in Miami eight days ago, to being rag-dolled to the turf in Cincinnati Thursday night and stretchered off the field, what seemed obvious over the five-day period was made questionable by the adults in the room. And late Saturday, after reports of the NFL players union dismissing the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant (UNC), which is their right under the concussion protocol, the league and union admitted they had a fractured process.

“The NFL and the NFLPA agree that modifications to the Concussion Protocol are needed to enhance player safety,” Saturday’s joint statement said. “The NFLPA’s Mackey-White Health & Safety Committee and the NFL’s Head Neck and Spine Committee have already begun conversations around the use of the term ‘Gross Motor Instability’ and we anticipate changes to the protocol being made in the coming days based on what has been learned thus far in the review process.”

When I talked to NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills Sunday morning, he stressed that no decisions had yet been made about changes to the concussion protocol. He made the point that it’s possible that when players stumble on the field after a play—as Tagovailoa did against Buffalo four days before he was concussed in Cincinnati—it’s not always because of head trauma. “Sometimes players stumble and it’s not coming from the brain,” Sills said. “Did he (Tagovailoa) stumble from a brain concern or something else?”

It’s plausible, of course. We’ve got to be cognizant that it’s possible—possible—that Tagovailoa might not have had head trauma the previous Sunday against Buffalo, when he was shoved by linebacker Matt Milano and his head slammed against the turf. Tagovailoa claims it was his back, not head, that hurt. And apparently the UNC and Dolphins team medical officer who examined him at the half agreed, because he returned to play that afternoon.

But there’s a problem with clearing a player to return to play after he: a) has his head slammed to the turf; b) demonstrates instability getting up; c) has to go to a knee to steady himself to avoid falling. First, did the medical officials see the back of Tagovailoa’s head slam into the turf? They should have, because they’re supposed to review visual evidence of the incident. And when the head hits the turf at great force, and it is followed by a player appearing punch-drunk and needing to go to the ground to avoid falling, that must be cause for a player to be removed from the game immediately.

Mike Florio reported Sunday night that the “gross motor instability” loophole is going to be removed from the concussion protocol. That is the best result from this ugly situation.

Not that other factors should come into play on a pure safety issue. But you’d be naïve to think the NFL isn’t concerned about its long-term talent pool. And think of parents of young athletes who saw Tagovailoa get knocked down, return to play, then get stretchered off the field four days later. What must they be thinking?

I asked my readers, particularly those with kids who might play football, how the situation affected them. This, from George Recine of Andover, Mass.: “I played four years of high school and four years of college football. I believe strongly in the good football has done for me and can do for my 9-year-old son. I want him to be able to play when the time comes. But my wife was watching the game with me Thursday night, and when Tua’s fingers locked in that grotesque position she turned to me and said, ‘And that’s why Charlie’s not playing football.’ What possible comeback could I have had?”

Multiply Recine by how many? Fifty thousand? More? Don’t dismiss those parents. They matter to the NFL.

The NFL says it’s serious about player health and head trauma. Now’s the time to prove it. Force a player to the bench when he suffers a major blow to the head and can’t stand or walk straight. In this case, that’s where the fix must start.

 

Rob Ninkovich, the former linebacker who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots, retired after his last one five-and-a-half years ago. He played 11 seasons, and Bill Belichick asked him to come back for a 12th in 2017. Ninkovich said no. Now with ESPN, Ninkovich is a thoughtful voice on football, longevity, injuries, risk, and life after football. His thoughts on 24-year-old Tua Tagovailoa:

“I think if 54-year-old Tua could talk to 24-year-old Tua, he would ask him, ‘What were you thinking?’ Twenty-four-year-olds think they’re indestructible. A football player is made to never want to come off the field. He never wants to surrender. And head injuries are the hardest injury for athletes to accept. You don’t know the effect of most of them till later in life.

“But you have to protect the player from the player.

“My career started to come to an end when my daughter was born. I was 30 years old, and we beat Seattle in the Super Bowl that year. My mom wanted me to retire then. She said, ‘You defied all the odds—what else is there?’ Two years later, I was still playing, and we beat Atlanta. But I knew I was retiring.

“The Patriots reached out multiple times about playing, and I was tempted. It was actually a very stressful time. I got shingles that off-season from the stress. It’s one of the hardest decisions you can ever make, as a football player. You’re stopping your lifelong dream, voluntarily. You’re never gonna put the pads on again. It’s so final.

“But if you’ve played for a few years, and you have decent money saved for life after football, and you’re deciding whether to play one more year … The price you pay for one more year of salary is you might take another 850 shots to the head. Is it worth it? It wasn’t for me.

“The league preaches safety all the time. But then they add a 17th game, and one game a year for every team on three days’ rest, the Thursday night game. What really bothers me is Tua is a highly talked-about person in a highly sought-after position, so this gets a ton of attention. Rightfully so. But what about offensive linemen or lesser-known players when this happens to them? Nobody notices. It’s brushed under the rug.

“The whole thing is upsetting. It’s the families, the wives and the children, who will deal with the consequences of things like these far down the road. They’ll be dealing with what happened to these players when they were 24 years old.”

 

Offensive players of the week

Cooper Rush, quarterback, Dallas. With Dak Prescott openly campaigning to play next week at the Super Bowl champion Rams, let’s take a moment to appreciate Cooper Rush. He’s now 4-0 as a Dak relief pitcher, including three wins in a row since Prescott went down opening day with the broken thumb. He’s also the first Cowboys quarterback in history to win each of his first four starts. In Sunday’s 25-10 win over the Commanders, Rush went 15-of-27 for 223 yards and two touchdowns, including a 30-yard pass to CeeDee Lamb at the start of the fourth to make it a two-score game. Will Dak Prescott be ready to regain his job next week? Suddenly, it’s not so vital.

Saquon Barkley, running back, New York Giants. Barkley’s splashy return to form continued this week in the Giants’ win over the Bears with 31 carries for 146 yards, his second game of the season surpassing 100 rush yards. The Bears’ defense has been its (relative) strength this season, but they had few answers for Barkley. Daniel Jones added 68 yards on the ground and rushed for two scores of his own before leaving the game with an ankle injury. When backup Tyrod Taylor entered concussion protocol, Barkley stepped up to play Wildcat QB. “Like you were eight years old playing with your friends,” Barkley said post-game of watching Brian Daboll draw up plays on a grease board on the sideline.

Zach Wilson, quarterback, New York Jets. It wasn’t a perfect performance from Wilson in his first start since his August knee surgery, but it was a fun one. The second-year QB went 18-for-36 for 252 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against Pittsburgh. Before he ever threw a touchdown pass in the 2022 season, he caught one. In a Jersey twist on the Philly special in the second quarter, Wilson handed off to wide receiver Garrett Wilson, who flipped it to Braxton Berrios, who found Zach Wilson in the end zone for the 10-0 lead. More importantly, Wilson powered the Jets to the fourth-quarter comeback: Down by 10 in the fourth, he went 10-of-12 for 128 yards and a five-yard TD pass to Corey Davis. More amazing, perhaps, than winning in Pittsburgh: the Jets are 2-2.

Rashaad Penny, running back, Seattle. A bit like his team, Penny got off to a slow start this season, with zero touchdowns entering this week. In Detroit, Penny cemented the Seahawks’ win with a pair of long second-half touchdowns, from 36 and 41 yards out, the latter extending Seattle’s lead from three to 10 points with 2:14 left to play. When the Lions again closed the gap to 3 points, making it 48-45, Penny ended their comeback hopes when he converted on third-and-five with 58 seconds remaining. He went for 151 yards, 10 more than his season total entering the game.

 

Defensive players of the week

Jordan Poyer, safety, Buffalo. Late in the fourth quarter of a game tied at 20, the veteran safety picked off Lamar Jackson in the end zone on fourth and goal, arguably the most pivotal moment of the Bills’ 17-point comeback and 23-20 win over the Ravens. Credit as well to rookie defensive tackle Prince Emili, who was elevated from the practice squad for each of Buffalo’s last two games and who tipped Jackson’s pass. It was the second interception of the day for Poyer (both came in the fourth quarter), and his fourth of the season – he has at least one interception in each of the three games he’s played in this year.

Haason Reddick, linebacker, Philadelphia. More fourth-quarter heroics as Reddick strip-sacked Trevor Lawrence twice in the final frame. The first put the Eagles on the road to a Miles Sanders touchdown and a 29-14 lead. The second came just inside the two-minute warning, with the Jaguars at the start of a fresh set of downs, and sealed the 29-21 victory for Philadelphia, the only undefeated team in the NFL. Reddick, who has been making impact plays at Lincoln Financial Field since his days at Temple, signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the Eagles ahead of this spring, and has so far played up to the money, with 3.5 sacks through four games to start the season.

 

Special teams player of the week

Ryan Wright, punter, Minnesota. Executed a classic fake punt to rescue the Vikes after another stalled drive, late in the third quarter in London against the Saints. With Minnesota up 16-14 late in the third quarter, on fourth-and-two from the New Orleans’ 47-yard line, Wright, a rookie, tossed a 13-yard completion to another rookie, wideout Jalen Nailor. Minnesota turned that into a 46-yard field goal and a 19-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. Wright, by the way, was a pretty logical faker: He threw 30 touchdown passes as a high school quarterback in 2016 and ’17 in California, at the aptly named California High School. Vikes 28, Saints 25.

 

Coach of the week

Bill Belichick, head coach, New England. All you need to know about the Belichick gameplan is this: Someone named Bailey Zappe played most of the game at quarterback for New England in hallowed Lambeau Field against Aaron Rodgers The game went to overtime Zappe had a higher passer rating than Rodgers Rodgers threw a pick-six to another unknown Pats rookie, Jack Jones And the Packers needed all 10 minutes of OT to eke out a 27-24 win. The Patriots are 1-3, but if Belichick ever coached a game that was a moral victory, this was it.

 

Goat of the week

Trevor Lawrence, quarterback, Jacksonville. Football giveth, football taketh away. A week after he gave a 262-yard, 3-TD, no-turnover performance in a road win against the Chargers, Lawrence all but handed the Eagles a win on Sunday – or perhaps it’d be more accurate to say he dropped the win in their laps. After the Jaguars went up 14-0 early, Lawrence turned the ball over five times – including four lost fumbles for a 21st-century record, per ESPN – resulting in 22 of the Eagles’ 29 total points on the day. The Jaguars fall to 2-2 in rainy Philadelphia.

 

Hidden person of the week

Jason Kelce, center, Philadelphia. Should a 12-year veteran of the trenches really still be road-grading people at age 34, at the highest level of the game? Kelce is. In his 126th straight start, Kelce was the center of a great Eagles offensive line against a strong Jaguar defensive front Sunday. Case in point: 30 seconds left in the half, game tied at 14, Philly ball at the Jax 10-. Handoff to Kenneth Gainwell, and Kelce erased defensive lineman Adam Gotsis at the point of attack, then veered off to shove a Jags linebacker on the next level. Kelce too often is the hidden guy—to everyone other than those who know the game.

 

The Jason Jenkins Award

John Metchie III, wide receiver, Houston. In July, Metchie, a second-round pick for the Texans out of Alabama, announced that he’d been diagnosed with a form of leukemia that would likely keep him out for the entirety of his rookie season. This week, he brought his “hospital family” to NRG Stadium for a surprise tour and dinner to thank them for their support and compassion – the group included nurses, doctors, and some of the patients the 22-year-old Metchie met during treatment. “Keep a strong faith, win day by day and brick by brick,” Metchie said of what he’s learned while fighting Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. “No matter what situation you’re in, how down you are or up you are, it’s always a blessing to be able to be a blessing to somebody else.”

 

I.

CTE takes you to a dark place, and I want these players to know, it’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself. Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody.

Rodney Harrison, on NBC’s “Football Night in America,” with a poignant message for current players.

 

II.

I’m going to look at everything.

–Detroit coach Dan Campbell, after his defense gave up 48 points to a mediocre offensive team, Seattle, on Sunday.

 

III.

In the end, Rodgers was just too good. He made some throws that only Rodgers can make. We had pretty good coverage on some of those and he was just too smart, too good, too accurate. In the end he got us.

Bill Belichick after what might’ve been his last game against Aaron Rodgers, an overtime loss for the Patriots at Lambeau.

 

IV.

I probably evaluated over 100 players in the NFL with concussions or potential concussions in my 26 years in the league. If you’re trusting the players to give honest objective information, you shouldn’t, because the brain is not functioning the way it should and won’t give you necessarily the truth.

Mike Ryan, longtime NFL athletic trainer and current NBC sports medicine analyst for Sunday Night Football.

 

V.

Greatest receiver in the history of football and certainly in that era.

Bill Belichick on Hall of Famer Green Bay receiver Don Hutson who, in the first quarter-century of professional football, had three times as many catches for three times the yardage and three times the touchdowns of any receiver in football.

 

VI.

It’s a blessing to be an American.

–Philadelphia 76er Joel Embiid, who was born in Cameroon, on being sworn in as an American citizen in Philadelphia last month.

 

Number of undefeated teams entering October 2020: 7.

Number of undefeated teams entering October 2021: 5.

Number of undefeated teams entering October 2022: 1.

 

I.

Let the record show that the first in-game lead of 2022 for the Arizona Cardinals came on Oct. 2 at 6:34 p.m. ET.

II.

On Sept. 29, 2019, Teddy Bridgewater threw for 193 yards quarterbacking the New Orleans Saints, with left tackle Terron Armstead protecting his blind side. On defense that day for the Saints: defensive end Trey Hendrickson, cornerback Eli Apple and safety Vonn Bell, who accounted for two takeaways (both fumble recoveries).

On Sept. 29, 2022, Teddy Bridgewater threw for 193 yards quarterbacking the Miami Dolphins, with left tackle Terron Armstead protecting his blind side. On defense that day for the Bengals: defensive end Trey Hendrickson, cornerback Eli Apple and safety Vonn Bell, who accounted for two takeaways (both interceptions).

 

I.

BOSTON—This is what happens when you take the train to Boston for a noon lunch, have four hours till your train back to New York leaves, and there’s a meaningless baseball tilt in town on a lovely early-fall day. You’ve just got to walk over to Fenway, take full advantage of your four hours, drink a couple of Cisco Shark Tracker Light Lagers from Nantucket, and enjoy J.D. Martinez’s last big hit in Boston (very likely), a two-run eighth-inning home run, to top the pesky O’s. The evidence of the day:

II.

Francisco Alvarez, a highly touted 20-year-old catcher for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse, finished his season, or so he thought, last week with a Wednesday home matinee against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. He, his parents, and a friend set out Thursday morning for a 24-hour drive to Miami, where Alvarez would begin his off-season.

About 13 hours into the drive, on Thursday night, Alvarez was near Greenville, S.C., when his phone rang. It was a representative of the Mets, telling him he was being called up by the Mets for their series against the Braves, which just so happened to be the biggest series of the baseball season, beginning Friday night. You’ll need to get to Atlanta, the rep said.

Luckily, Atlanta was just a 2-hour, 20-minute drive south on I-85, so Alvarez got there in time to get some sleep. About 26 hours after getting the fateful phone call, Alvarez, who started and batted seventh for the Mets, strode to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, Mets down 5-2, one out, and 42,402 in Truist Park on their feet (37,000 more than in his final game of the Triple-A season) and loud. Alvarez, facing vet closer Kenley Jansen, with 387 career saves.

First pitch, fouled off. Second pitch, swinging strike. Third pitch, flailing strike.

The Mets lost 5-2, and the National League East was tied exiting the evening, Mets and Braves, at 98-59 with five games left.

There will be better days, Francisco. But probably none as unusual.

 

I. 

Oh.

 

II.

McLane, who covers the Eagles for the Philadelphia Inquirer, as Doug Pederson’s Jags were stomping the Eagles 14-0 at the Linc after one quarter Sunday.

 

III.

Terron Armstead, the former Saint, watching his old team take the lead over Minnesota in fourth quarter on a run-dominated drive.

 

IV.

Mike Tomlin showing some dad pride.

 

V.

Carlin, who might be a 52 long, hosts a show on ESPN radio.

 

Reach me at peterkingfmia@gmail.com, or on Twitter @peter_king.

I’m giving you the floor this week. Presented without comment:

“You only get one brain.” From Marc Stewart, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: “I was watching the Dolphins-Bengals game with my teenage sons. It was horrifying to watch Tua’s fingers frozen in place. My oldest son, 16, shouted, ‘I don’t want to see that again.’ My youngest, 13, said ‘Is he dying?’ I didn’t know what to say to them except that this why neither one of you are playing football. Soccer is much safer. My wife and I decided that the risk for brain injury, paralysis or death wasn’t worth them playing football. You only get one brain.”

Still loves football. From Matt Kaplan, of Ardsley, N.Y.: “I have three high school sons who’ve played football since third grade and have had no concussions. I thought the Tua situation was an abomination. Just because the independent doctor cleared him doesn’t mean the team and the broader support network should have permitted it. [But] the benefits of team work, discipline and hard work far outweigh the risks for my sons. Their lives have been significantly enriched by playing football.”

He’s sickened. From J Lentner, of Oneonta, N.Y.: “I have been watching the NFL since the seventies. I vividly remember the Theisman injury and watching the replay over and over in college. Thursday night, I was surprised by my reaction. I had to turn off the game. I knew about Tua’s injury on Sunday and the controversy surrounding it. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s the history of CTE, maybe it was seeing the ‘fencing’ that he went through. So I turned to a baseball game of which I had no rooting interest. I’ll likely watch the NFL on Sunday but I am still living with what I saw.”

Boycotting football. From Bill Piwonka, of Oregon: “My son played tackle football through eighth grade and I absolutely loved watching him play, but was happy when he decided to stop in high school. He graduated college a few years back, and got together with 10 high school buddies Monday, prior to Tua’s injury last night. Every one of them—most played in high school—said they didn’t want their sons playing football.”

Blunt warning. From Nate Taylor, of Loakewood, Ohio: “Our blind allegiance to the shield will be the downfall of this great game. The instant gratification culture has caught up with the NFL at the expense of so many. We don’t let players develop or sit out a week to play it safe because we have to win now. Today. This year. Nothing else matters. You can’t put a price tag on life and health and cognitive awareness. If we are going to continue to ask them to entertain us then we all need to demand that they are treated like humans, not commodities.”

Sad evening. From Jochen Haas: “Thursday was the first time I switched off a game because I was disgusted at myself for supporting young lives being ruined by brain damage for my entertainment. I never thought the NFL ever really took CTE seriously enough but at least was moving in the right direction. I worked in neuroscience for a few years and I still think people do not understand what concussions really do to your brain and the lasting damage it can bring to you and your loved ones.”

Good point. From Jeremy Bullock: “My thought is: I’m glad I have all girls and I don’t have to tell them they can’t play tackle football.”


Two other emails this week:

The Mississippi welfare story. From Jeff Detra: “Your weekly podcast is always a must listen for me, but I have never felt compelled to reach out to you and thank you before. However, your conversation with Anna Wolfe, the Mississippi Today reporter, was riveting to me. She has rightfully received accolades on many platforms for her incredible reporting on the embarrassing Mississippi welfare scandal, but hearing her choke up talking about the people affected by this atrocity shows her incredible empathy and support for those less fortunate. I was deeply moved and impressed by her.”

I think it’s so great that smart, dogged reporters want to cover poverty. Poverty in the state is her beat, and she’s owning it.

I was hoping no one noticed. From David Lopan, via Twitter: “Your Saints are looking great, Peter!”

Lot of season to go, David. (He said bravely, stupidly.)

 

1. I think, for as shaky as the 1-3 Saints have been, they’re a double-doink – maybe 10 inches of a kick – away from being tied for the NFC South lead.

2. I think if I’d been writing the headline on the Saints’ 28-25 loss to Minnesota for the New Orleans Times Picayune last night, this would have been my headline: DOINK. DOINK.

3. I think I was highly impressed with the Jags Sunday. Competitive team, hustle to the ball at all times, good edge presence led by Josh Allen. Trevor Lawrence needs to have a better sense of pressure in the pocket and he must take care of the ball better, obviously. They could use a receiver to take some of the heat off Christian Kirk. But Duval wasn’t built in a day.

4. I think Jets alums and fans suffered a double blow over the weekend with the deaths of offensive linemen Marvin Powell and Jim Sweeney. Powell was a four-time all-Pro, a mauler and technician on the line. Sweeney was a versatile lunch pail guy. He started every game for 11 straight years in his career, going from left guard to left tackle to center. I knew Sweeney, who was a classic blood-and-guts ballplayer and a valued teammate. I saw his friend and ex-teammate Jeff Lageman—he’s a Jacksonville radio voice—in the press box here Sunday, and he said, “Jim could have played in the fifties, which is the ultimate compliment I can give a player. So tough, such a great guy in the locker room.”

5. I think the hole got deeper for Brett Favre the other day when Katie Strang and Kalyn Kahler of The Athletic reported on some questionable giving patterns by Favre’s Favre 4 Hope foundation. In 2018, they reported, Favre 4 Hope—whose mission was to aid “charitable organizations whose focus is to provide support for disadvantaged children,” plus assistance to breast cancer patients—gave the Southern Miss Athletic Foundation $60,000. That same year, The Athletic reported, no other charity received more than $10,000 from the Favre foundation. Maybe that’s not illegal, but it certainly is unethical.

6. I think it’s not incredibly concerning, because today is Oct. 3, and the draft is almost seven months away. But it’d worry me, if I were a GM with a potential quarterback need, that Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, the potential first pick in the 2023 draft, hurt his shoulder Saturday against Arkansas. Nick Saban played down the injury after the game, but did you hear what Gary Danielson said on CBS during the game? “I tore my rotator cuff on a play exactly like that.” And Pro Football Talk reported that Young “was in pain and could be heard yelling loudly” on the field. We shall see.

7. I think the possible change to MVP voting reported by CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones is tremendous news. The 50 voters (national NFL media people, chosen by the Associated Press) who choose the MVP after the final game of the regular season have annually been asked to choose one player for the award. Now, per Jones, the AP is considering ranked-choice voting, the way other sports’ MVPs are chosen. Voters would vote for a number of players in descending order, with point values assigned to each. For instance, if the AP asks voters to pick five, the players on each ballot could be assigned point totals of 10 for first place, seven for second place, five for third place, three for fourth place, one for fifth place. I love the idea. As one of the voters, I hope the AP institutes it for this season.

8. I think the NFL doesn’t deserve praise for changing the Pro Bowl to a skills competition and flag-football event. The NFL dallied on this decision for years while an embarrassing display of non-football with players giving 36-percent effort was shown on national TV.

9. I think this Pro Bowl decision should have been made 15 years ago. I’d always hear from the pro-Pro Bowl crowd, But it gets good ratings—better than big NBA games! The NFL could show Patrick Mahomes playing marbles and get good ratings. That’s no excuse for continuing to show a product that has demeaned the NFL for years.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Hurricane Ian Story of the Week: Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald with a vivid account of what search and rescue is like on Fort Myers Beach.

b. This is startling, eye-opening and tough to read in spots. The power of a hurricane must, must, must be respected. It’s great journalism by Robertson.

c. Writes Robertson, quoting a first responder, a Miami firefighter who traveled to the area to help with search and rescue, describing the task at hand from the front lines:

“We received a head’s up that a neighbor was missing. Fourth house down on Anchorage. But there is no house here. They told us to look for a blue roof. But there is no blue roof here. We found it on the next block,” he said. “We were looking for two bodies on Andre-Mar Boulevard. We had to hunt for clues — the color of the paint, a house number, the make of the car that used to be in the driveway. We found them 200 yards from where the house had stood.”

d. Whew.

e. The American League MVP should be Aaron Judge, and it wouldn’t be close if not for Shohei Ohtani being as other-wordly as he’s been—capped by pitching a near-no-hitter last week and hitting 34 home runs. But Judge should get the award, and probably will in a rout.

f. Winning needs to count in the MVP award, I believe. The Yankees are 26 games over .500, close to winning 100 games. The Angels are 15 games under, and have been under .500 every day since June 5. They haven’t played a meaningful game in the last four months of the season. I realize sometimes an MVP can come from a bad team and should come from a bad team if the performance is so great it overrides a great performance on a great team. But the way Aaron Judge, with the weight of baseball’s biggest franchise on his shoulders for most of 162 games, has carried the Yankees while passing Babe Ruth and (as of today) tying Roger Maris for the most homers in American League history and for being this close to winning the Triple Crown—he’s got to win it.

g. Story of the Week: Ksenia Ivanova and Catherine Porter of The New York Times on “Panic, Bribes, Ditched Cars and a Dash on Foot: Portraits of Flight from Russia:”

h. “People were running so fast that the wheels from their suitcases were falling off.”

i. Some 200,000 Russians – mostly men – have escaped, including through a thin gorge separating Russia from the country of Georgia. Wrote Ivanova and Porter:

DARIALI, Georgia — They are bus drivers, programmers, photographers, bankers. They have driven for hours, bribed their way through many police checkpoints — spending a month’s wages in some cases — and then waited at the border, most of them for days, in a traffic jam that stretched for miles.

Many grabbed their passports, abandoned their cars and crossed the frontier on foot, fearing that Russia would slam shut one of the last, precious routes to leave the country. The Kremlin dispatched teams to border crossings to weed out draft-eligible men and hand them conscription notices, and rumors spread on social media that it would seal the border.

Most of those who left had no idea when they would return home, if ever.

j. Ivanova, a photographer, found Russians in the woods and on the roads of Georgia and took their photos, and briefly told their stories. One of her subjects was Vladimir, a geologist from St. Petersburg:

His grandmother adores Putin. His mother hates Putin.

Vladimir thinks the Russian president is a madman who isn’t bluffing about using nuclear weapons — one reason he waited in line for 13 hours to cross the border.

“Every Russian family has someone who supports the war, and someone who’s against it,” he said. “It’s just some families fell apart because of it, and some have not.”

He went to one antiwar protest, but quickly realized both its danger and its futility, he said. “There’s probably 10 times more police than protesters,” he said. “It’s all pointless.”

k. That’s one of the things I absolutely love about reporters, about newspapers, about this craft: This story took you somewhere you cannot go, to see things you could not know. Fantastic.

l. Alarming Story of the Week: Oliver Whang of The New York Times on the rising percentage of burnout among American physicians.

m. If 63 percent of all U.S. doctors are experiencing at least one tangible symptom of burnout, we as a country are in big, big trouble. Wrote Whang:

Results released this month and published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a peer-reviewed journal, show that 63 percent of physicians surveyed reported at least one symptom of burnout at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, an increase from 44 percent in 2017 and 46 percent in 2011. Only 30 percent felt satisfied with their work-life balance, compared with 43 percent five years earlier.

“This is the biggest increase of emotional exhaustion that I’ve ever seen, anywhere in the literature,” said Bryan Sexton, the director of Duke University’s Center for Healthcare Safety and Quality, who was not involved in the survey efforts.

The most recent numbers also compare starkly with data from 2020, when the survey was run during the early stages of the pandemic. Then, 38 percent of doctors surveyed reported one or more symptoms of burnout while 46 percent were satisfied with their work-life balance.

n. We need more doctors. We need shorter hours for the doctors we have.

o. Football Story of the Week: Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle on 49ers linebackers coach Johnny Holland, who doesn’t sound like he’s battling a disease that may kill him.

p. In 2019, Holland was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that has no known cure. He needs to bottle his optimism, patent it, and sell it for thousands of dollars.

q. “If you can get through the storm, you’ll see the sunshine.” Wrote Branch:

Multiple myeloma has no cure and is infamous for roaring back after periods of remission. Barring a medical breakthrough, Holland’s battle will not end in victory.

Holland is back in remission. He’s in his 11th month of a clinical trial at UCSF that has eliminated the abnormal plasma cells that were multiplying about a year ago, forcing him to leave the team for the only time since he was diagnosed. He feels good. His biggest physical ailment is a balky hip that needs to be replaced, a reminder of the ex-linebacker’s seven-year NFL career with the Packers. So how often is his cancer in the back of his mind?

“Oh, all the time,” Holland said. “‘When is it going to come back? How long will this treatment work?’ You just don’t know.”

r. Radio Story of the Week: From NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, Eric Westervelt reports on the five-year anniversary of the Las Vegas shooting that killed 60 people.

s. Never found a motive. How is it possible that no motive was ever found?

t. “It’s something that’s forever, unfortunately, going to be part of me.”

u. The crime scene is now one of the parking lots for the Las Vegas Raiders.

v. No easy segue from that.

w. Newspaper Tease of the Week: A lifestyle section tease, referring to a story inside the paper, from The Wall Street Journal: “Can you teach an old dog to crop his pants?” Crop, meaning cut off the bottoms so the pants will be shorter. And not meaning anything else. At all.

x. Hey Dave Sims! Great call on the Cal Raleigh home run that sent the Mariners to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.

y. “THE DREAM LIVES! THEY ARE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS! THE DROUGHT IS OVER!”

 

z. I HAVE TO SEE “The Greatest Beer Run Ever.”

 

              San Francisco 23, L.A. Rams 20. Toughest game of the weekend to pick. Rams are better, Niners more desperate at 1-2 and coming off a pathetic offensive performance in the 11-10 loss in Denver. Until the Rams edged San Francisco in the NFC title game last January, Jimmy Garoppolo was 6-0 as a starting quarterback against the Rams. I’m gambling Garoppolo will play well enough at home tonight, and use Deebo Samuel as his 2021 self, to make it 7-0 in the regular season against L.A.

 

Brutal week of games coming up. Might be a good week to peek at the foliage, because this could be the worst slate this year. Picking through the iffy tilts:

Miami at N.Y. Jets, Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS. All eyes, all week, on Tua.

Dallas at L.A. Rams, Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX. Cooper Rush, 4-0, might have another week or two before Dak Prescott returns, but no player in the NFL has improved his stock as much in the first month of the season as Rush has.

Philadelphia at Arizona, Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FOX. Jalen Hurts at Kyler Murray. The future at the future.

Cincinnati at Baltimore, Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC. Tough slate for Baltimore here. Miami, New England, Buffalo and Cincinnati, all in the span of 22 days, and then roadies at Tampa and New Orleans before the week 10 bye. Ravens could know their ’22 fate by the middle of November.

 

Got some Mahomes news.

Starting Vegas magic show.

Penn and Teller! Out!

 





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