"We're built for a heavyweight fight. I don't think they're built for a heavyweight fight.''
-- Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, on the Patriots, after Seattle's 24-23 victory over the Patriots, to Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times.
"I had an itch, and I had to scratch it.''
-- Baltimore receiver/returner Jacoby Jones, on why, eight yards deep, he chose to take a Dallas kickoff out of the end zone. Good decision. Jones sprinted 108 yards for a touchdown.
"Nothing's easy, is it? But I know in my mind this is the first of many. I can't wait for the next one.''
-- Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur, to his team in the locker room after the Browns' first win of the season.
"The commissioner says he is disappointed in me. The truth is, I'm disappointed in him. His positions on player health and safety since a 2009 congressional hearing on concussions have been inconsistent at best. He failed to acknowledge a link between concussions and post-career brain disease, pushed for an 18-game regular season, committed to a full season of Thursday night games, has continually challenged players' rights to file worker's compensation claims for on-the-job injuries, and he employed incompetent replacement officials for the start of the 2012 season. His actions or lack thereof, are by the league's own definition, 'conduct detrimental.' My track record on the issue of player health and safety speaks for itself. And clearly, as I just listed, the commissioner's does too."
-- Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita, in a statement after commissioner Roger Goodell reduced his suspension relating to the Saints' bounty scandal from three games to one game last week.
That is what you call a zinger. There's one thing about Goodell's edict from last week that I thought was way off the mark -- his contention that Fujita, as a team leader of the New Orleans defense, could have stopped the bounty program in its tracks. Goodell wrote that Fujita "ignored such a program and permitted it to continue."
It's not Fujita's job to stand up and tell Gregg Williams to cease and desist whatever it was he was doing. If the league had no direct evidence that Fujita contributed to the injurious bounty program, I believe he should have been fined for contributing to the pay-for-performance pool but not suspended.
"Do not carry me."
-- Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, three minutes after breaking his left ankle early Sunday morning in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, to manager Joe Girardi, who was preparing with trainer Steve Donahue to remove Jeter from the field. Jeter put his left arm over Girardi's left shoulder and his right arm over Donahue's, and he left the field putting no weight on his left foot.
What a player. What a competitor.
|Pittsburgh's Aging Defense|
The Pittsburgh-Tennessee game Thursday night was tied at 23 with 39 seconds left, and the ball at midfield. Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck stepped to the line. Third-and-5. If Hasselbeck converted, the Titans would try to get in position for a Rob Bironas field goal attempt to win the game. If he couldn't convert, the Titans would punt and pray for overtime.
On the left of the formation, tight end Jared Cook lined up next to the tackle, with Steelers linebacker James Harrison across from him, four or five yards behind the line. At the snap, Cook ran out a few steps, got inside Harrison, cut right and got a step on Harrison. Two steps. Hasselbeck threw to Cook, who was three steps ahead of the aging Harrison and turned the corner. Now, the Titans ran this play aiming to get six or eight yards and a first down. They got 25 yards. Moments later, Bironas kicked a winning 40-yarder as time expired.
Pittsburgh is 2-3. The Steelers have now lost road games to Oakland and Tennessee. In those two games, the final five possessions by Oakland were all scoring drives, and the final two possessions by the Titans were scoring drives. That's not a playoff team's resume -- with roadies at Cincinnati, the Giants, Baltimore and Dallas remaining.
That brings us to the age of the Pittsburgh defense. Even with the influx of a couple of young guys, cornerback Keenan Lewis and defensive end Ziggy Hood, the defense still has seven starters over 30, including safety Ryan Clark, who celebrated his 33rd birthday Friday.
Detailing (above, right) the starting Steeler D, keeping in mind Jason Worilds subbed in Thursday for the injured LaMarr Woodley and Will Allen for the injured Troy Polamalu.
When James Harrison returned to the Pittsburgh lineup eight days ago against Philadelphia, he and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau made it clear he'd have to pace himself his first couple of games back. Harrison said he'd have to come off the field in the Eagles game so he'd be fresh late in the game.
So in his first two games back after August left knee surgery, in the span of five days -- Philly, then the Thursday-nighter at Tennessee -- here's how Harrison fit into the defense.
Maybe there's a reason the 34-year-old linebacker lost the race with the 25-year-old tight end (see Stat of the Week I) on the decisive play of the loss at Tennessee.
Each week, thanks to play-by-play game dissection by ProFootballFocus.com, I'll look at one important matchup or individual performance metric from one of the Sunday games.
This week, Ray Lewis' performance against Dallas is examined, and the sad part is -- as news that Lewis may have ruptured the triceps muscle in his right arm came in after the game -- that this may be the last game of Lewis' storied career. May is the operative word because he hasn't announced his intentions, and until the results of the MRI are known, Lewis' future is uncertain.
Lewis played 75 snaps (44 runs, 31 passes) against Dallas, missing the last two minutes of the game with the arm injury.
Passing Game (1 tackle, 1 assist): Of the 12 blitzes the Ravens ran while he was in, he rushed Tony Romo on six of them. He didn't really get close to the passer at all and looked a little slow at times. On one play he clearly tipped Romo off about the blitz by coming early; Romo audibled out of the play and the Cowboys picked up 19 yards on an in-route to Miles Austin.
Of the 25 plays he was in coverage he was targeted only once, for a four-yard gain on a first down throw. Lewis did make an assist late in the fourth quarter, which helped stop Jason Witten short of a first down.
Running Game (7 tackles, 5 assists): The first two quarters were bad for Lewis, who was pushed around on occasion. All three interior linemen pushed him to the ground at different stages. In the second half he made one good tackle, stopping the back dead for a one-yard gain (although he was unblocked). His five second-half tackles still were for an average gain of five yards; almost all came unblocked.
In summary, this was far from a vintage display and the tackle numbers shouldn't fool you. They are more indicative of just how frequently the Cowboys ran the ball between the tackles, and it's instructive that most came after a substantial gain was already made. Lewis won't put this game on his list of favorites, not after the Cowboys ran for the most yards the Ravens have given up on the ground since moving to Baltimore in 1996. It's obvious the weight he has shed to prepare for the season has affected his ability to be a more forceful presence against the run.
Why does the NFL kick extra points anymore?
Through the Sunday night game, the 90th game of the season, kickers had made 429 of 430 extra points this year.
Since the opening days of 2010, including playoffs, kickers have made 2,976 extra points out of 2,996 attempted -- 99.3 percent -- in 624 games. Twenty misses in 624 games. That means an extra point has been missed, on average, once every 31-and-a-quarter games. What exactly is the purpose of making fans, TV viewers and bored special teams go through the motions of 45 seconds spotting, lining up and booting a 19-yard kick through the uprights? It's anachronistic. It's a waste of time for everyone.
Some coaches, most recently Bill Belichick in 2011, have railed against the meaninglessness of the extra point. I think it's time for the Competition Committee to discuss during committee meetings next spring a good alternative. Either move the line of scrimmage for the extra point back to the 25-yard line, or force teams to go for two after a touchdown, or force teams to dropkick the extra point, the way the Patriots did with Doug Flutie in the last game of the 2005 season. But it's time to do something.
The cat of Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mat Latos is named Cat Latos, according to Deadspin, via the Twitter account of Dallas Latos, the co-owner of Cat Latos and wife of Mat Latos.
A great question in Chuck Klosterman's "The Ethicist'' column in Sunday's New York Times Sunday Magazine, and if you travel, the question's for you. The question, from a reader identified as "S.B.'' from New York:
"My boyfriend often travels for business. I always ask him to bring back the shampoo and conditioner from the hotel room, and if he is staying multiple nights, to put the shampoo in his suitcase so that the maid will replace it and he can bring home an additional bottle. He says this is stealing. I say the shampoo is included in the price of the room, and the room is not discounted the second night, so therefore the second bottle of shampoo is included the second night. Incidentally, I haven't purchased shampoo or conditioner in over four years, a point of pride for me. Your thoughts?"
The way I see it, there are three possible answers here -- and I'd love to hear your thoughts on which one you think is just.
a. You're entitled to take as much shampoo and conditioner and soap as the housekeeper puts in your room for the length of your stay.
b. You're entitled to one bottle of shampoo and conditioner and one bar of soap per stay.
c. You should never take any toiletries from a hotel room.
Here's a paraphrase of the kernel of Klosterman's reasoning: The items put in your hotel room are meant to be used in your hotel room and not stashed in your travel bag, unused.
I'd probably choose "b."
You know what I do with these little bottles? Nothing -- unless I find one that has a screw-on top and is easily able to be filled with the shampoo I use. Then, a couple times a year, I empty one of them per trip, clean it out, then put it in my bag, take it home, and fill it with my shampoo to take on a future trip. I do this so I don't have to take a large bottle of shampoo, which would necessitate checking a bag, which I am loathe to do. The small shampoo bottles mean I can walk on with my bag.
Your thoughts? Email me using the link at the top of the column, or send me a tweet.
"A man just jumped from outer space and landed safely back on our planet. ... And now back to our coverage of Tim Tebow.''
-- @RVacchianoNYDN, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, after Felix Baumgartner jumped from 24 miles above earth and landed safely Sunday, and while Tebow was in the midst of throwing a 23-yard fake punt-pass to a benchwarming linebacker.
"The stands are angry tonight, my friends. Like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.''
-- @TylerKepner, the fine baseball writer for the New York Times, with the best "Seinfeld'' reference of the baseball postseason -- by far -- after Detroit's Doug Fister struck out three Yankees with two in scoring position in the bottom of the sixth Saturday night, and the fans responded in kind.
"Raul Ibanez is the St Louis Cardinals funneled into one man.''
-- @BMcCarthy32, Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy, after Ibanez's two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth Saturday night tied Game 1 of the American League Championship Series -- three nights after his two miracle homers beat the Orioles.