Move Over, Johnny Unitas
Coming into their Sunday Night matchup with the San Diego Chargers, the New Orleans Saints (defense, in particular) seemed in need of a sabbatical. They were 0-4 in desperate search of that first win in a division that the Atlanta Falcons have virtually already won. Steve Spagnuolo was also on a hot seat whose temperature was only on the rise.
But, quarterback Drew Brees did send a special letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking for suspended head coach Sean Payton to be present at the Mercedes-Benz Louisiana Superdome. The occasion was the possibility of history happening.
Having thrown a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games, Brees was within 1 touchdown pass in this game vs. the San Diego Chargers from surpassing Johnny Unitas for the most consecutive games in which he’s thrown a TD pass. Unitas is considered right alongside Joe Montana (and possibly either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning) for the title of “greatest quarterback of all time”.
In the first quarter vs. San Diego, Brees went to work. He wasted no time making history. Down 7-0 and on a 3rd & 6, Brees went 40 yards to Devery Henderson to tie the game and set the new record at 40 consecutive games with a TD pass.
Brees was far from finished. 3 more touchdown passes (all to Marques Colston) would give him 4 for the day. He went 29/45 with those 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, and 370 passing yards. It’s only fitting that he’d set history against his former team….and the quarterback that a long time ago, was the reason Brees found greener pastures in New Orleans.
That quarterback (Philip Rivers) would go 27/42 for 354 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception. Both TDs went to Robert Meachem (a former Charger), but Malcolm Floyd caught 5 passes for 108 yards.
The Saints are finally in the win-column with their 31-24 victory over the Chargers. New Orleans is 1-4 while San Diego is 3-2. Other than Brees making history and surpassing Unitas, the main thing I gather from this game is that as spotty as defense has been for the Saints so far, San Diego’s was even spottier. That’s to be expected when you have two quarterbacks the caliber of Brees and Rivers. Colston & Henderson both went over 100 yards on the day. That says something about San Diego’s secondary that day. What say you, Norv Turner?
The Chargers play the Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on Monday Night Football in Week 6. The Saints will be on their bye week.
Win One for Chuck
Recently, the Indianapolis Colts received heartwrenching news when they found out that head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. He had to be sent to a hospital and has been there ever since.
Coming into their home game vs. the 2-2 Green Bay Packers, the Colts decided to use that as a rallying cry. Jim Irsay, being as Twitter savvy as he his, did so by setting up the hashtag “ChuckStrong”. A “ChuckStrong” banner was displayed prominently at Lucas Oil Stadium with an orange ribbon as it is the official color for support of cancer research.
This is coming as the NFL is honoring breast cancer research month by having all of its players and other personnel adorn the color pink for all of October.
Early on, though, it didn’t look promising for Indy at home as the Packers led the Colts 21-3 at halftime behind two TD passes from Aaron Rodgers.
I imagine that Chuck Pagano’s name was probably uttered a few times by interim coach Bruce Arians because the Colts came out of their tunnel at halftime a totally different team. Slowly, but surely, they chipped away at Green Bay’s huge lead and Andrew Luck showed why he was a #1 draft pick. 31/55 for 2 TDs, 1 INT, and 362 yards. Reggie Wayne’s performance was especially phenomenal—13 catches for 212 yards including what wound up being the game winning score as he reached the ball across the goal line just barely enough for it to break the plane & count for 6 points.
After the game, their postgame huddle included a tribute to Chuck Pagano and the game ball was delivered to him in the hospital he was in. This win was definitely fueled by pure emotion & it’s also a sign that Andrew Luck can indeed play football as quarterback in the NFL.
As for the Green Bay Packers, they now have more questions about their defense, especially their secondary. Also, with their division rival Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears both sitting atop the division at 4-1 each, that Monday Night debacle in Seattle is looking much larger in the standings than it was when it happened. They’re now 2-3. Final score—30-27 Indy. Indy goes to Jersey to play the Jets in Week 6. The Pack head to Reliant Stadium in Houston vs. the Texans.
Throwing Too Many Arrows?
One moment in Sunday’s Baltimore Ravens/Kansas City Chiefs game is getting a lot of attention for the reaction it produced from one of an injured player’s teammates.
Matt Cassel only threw for 92 yards, but this was because at one point in that game, he was down on the ground due to an apparent injury to the head. He stayed on the ground for several minutes before having to be taken out of the game. What was very audible was that the injury was actually cheered by many of the fans at Arrowhead Stadium.
Here’s your moment of irony—in 2008, this same Matt Cassel had to be the starting quarterback for the entire season for the New England Patriots after Tom Brady was injured in the Pats’ home opener against….you guessed it…the Kansas City Chiefs. So, Cassel knows something about what injuries can do to a football team. New England went 11-5 that year & barely missed the playoffs.
The Ravens did beat the Chiefs 9-6 (or should I say the Orioles beating the Royals) in a game that was dominated by the running attacks. Rutgers’ Ray Rice ran for the Ravens 17 times for 102 yards. The Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles had 140 yards in that game, but it could’ve been much more since he ran for 125 yards before halftime. 125 yards—on THAT (aged, but still dangerous) defense.
Don’t tell Chris Johnson.
What outraged Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Winston was the audible cheering of the KC fans after the Cassel injury. After the game, Winston was fuming.
“We are athletes. We are not gladiators. This is not the Roman Coliseum. People pay their hard-earned money when they come in here and I believe they can boo, they can cheer, and they can do whatever they want. I believe that… …But when somebody gets hurt, there are long-lasting ramifications to the game we play… …when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don’t care who it is and it just so happened to be Matt Cassel—it’s sickening… …I’ve been in some rough times on some rough teams , I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life to play football than in that moment right there… …Matt Cassel hasn’t done anything to you people…hasn’t done anything to the media writers that kill him, hasn’t done anything to the people that come out here and cheer him. Hey if he’s not the best quarterback then he’s not the best quarterback and that’s OK. But he’s a person. And he got knocked out in a game and we have 70,000 people cheering that he got knocked out?… …I want every single one of you people to put this on your station and in your newspapers because I want every fan to know that. This is a game that’s going to cost us a lot down the road. That’s OK. We picked it, we deserve it and I don’t want your pity. But we have a lot of problems as a society if people think that’s OK.”—Eric Winston.
The Chiefs are 1-4 while the Ravens are 4-1. In Week 6, the Chiefs head to Tampa Bay to play the Buccaneers. Baltimore goes home to play the Cowboys.
1 Quarter Doth Not A Game Make
Or we’d be talking about the Cleveland Browns at 1-4 right now. In their game vs. the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, a 14-0 lead had Giants fans panicking about a blowout by the Cleveland Browns of all teams. They couldn’t seem like they could stop Trent Richardson on the ground.
But, Giants fans also know that as games go longer, Eli Manning and the G-Men seem to get stronger. That’s what happened. After going up 14-0 on Big Blue, the Browns were outscored the remainder of the game 41-13. Eli Manning’s line was 25 for 37 with 259 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.
And the huge rusher of the day didn’t turn out to be Richardson, but Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants. He carried the ball a total of 30 times for 200 yards. Overall, the Giants ran for 240+ yards to the Browns who only had 84. This means that Bradshaw alone had more rushing yards than the entire running game of the Browns. That says something about how strong the run defense was for New York in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters.
Another New York Giant who had a huge game was Victor Cruz. Even though he only had 5 catches for 50 yards—3 of them came in the end zone. All 3 of Eli Manning’s TDs were thrown to Victor Cruz. Insert salsa reference here.
The Giants won 41-27. They now move to 3-2 while the Browns are still winless at 0-5. With the Saints winning, they’re now the only winless team in the league left. The Giants go to San Francisco to play the 49ers in Week 6. Cleveland goes back home for a divisional matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Keystone State Divided
With the Eagles coming off a turnover-free Sunday Night game vs. New York and the Steelers coming off a bye week, The Eagles/Steelers matchup was expected to be very entertaining for reasons beyond that whole Philadelphia/Pittsburgh thing.
But early on, the Eagles made that Sunday Night Football game seem like so long ago. Philadelphia QB Michael Vick early on committed 2 more turnovers. Those would be the only turnovers they’d commit throughout the game, though.
One of those turnovers would come as Vick would fumble the ball right on the goal line where it was recovered by Pittsburgh. That turnover would be a huge difference as the Steelers would only win thanks to a Shaun Suisham field goal at the end of the game. Many Eagles fans are blaming this one on Andy Reid’s play calling. Overall, Vick fumbled the football 3 times. Desean Jackson also had one of his own that the Eagles would recover.
But at the other end of the spectrum, Pittsburgh was penalized 9 times for over 100 yards. Pittsburgh also had 3 fumbles, but luckily for them, all 3 of theirs were recovered.
A lot of attention was shined on Rashard Mendenhall who had 1 touchdown in addition to 14 catches for 81 yards. Isaac Redman also chimed in with 41 yards on 13 carries. Ben Roethlisberger’s line was 21/37 with 207 yards. No TDs or Interceptions.
Two things Eagles fans will take from this game. The first is why doesn’t Andy Reid utilize LeSean McCoy more? Shady can be a runningback who can run for 100 yards a game and 1400 to 1500 yards a season. But many will look at Andy Reid for answers. Also, 2 more turnovers for the Eagles. It’s not as bad as the first 3 weeks, but the fumble at the goal line was the difference in the game.
The Steelers won 16-14. Pittsburgh is now 2-2. Philly is now 3-2. The Steelers play the Titans in Nashville on Thursday Night Football in Week 6. The Eagles go back home to play the Detroit Lions.
Brady vs. Manning Round….Too Many to Count
When Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are facing off in a football matchup, there’s no debate as to what will be the most talked about subject of that football game.
Coming off a 52-28 thrashing of the Bills, it looked like the Patriots would continue that against the Broncos. With 4 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Patriots’ lead on the Broncos was 31-7. Brady only threw for 1 touchdown but he also rushed for another.
Brady didn’t need to throw for 3 TDs as he normally does as long as Stevan Ridley has games like he did against Denver at Gillette Stadium. He carried the ball 28 times and ran for over 150 yards. Wes Welker had a huge game too catching 13 passes for 104 yards. Both Ridley and Welker had 1 TD each.
Neither QB threw a pick. Peyton Manning’s line was 31/45 with 345 yards and 3 TDs. 2 of them came as it looked like the Broncos were going to stage a furious comeback. What was 31-7 became 31-21 and seemed on its way to becoming 31-28. 1 fumble from Manning later & this one was in the bag. Patriots win 31-21.
Manning is now in a position that he’s not used to being in—under .500 on a team that may not be the best team in their division. That’s what happens when you have to go to new teams and have to adapt to new coaches, new offenses, and coming off neck surgery. Next week—they go to San Diego on Monday Night Football to play the Chargers. That game will go a long way in determining who wins the division.
New England is now 3-2 with Denver now at 2-3. Week 6 for New England is at Seattle.
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Bulls on Parade
Don’t mess with (these bulls from Houston) Texas—they’ll give you the horns. A 4-0 start in a weak as-you-know-what division should probably have the NFL printing H-Town’s Division Champions gear today. They became 4-0 with a 38-14 thrashing of the Tennessee Titans—a team that the Space City faithful probably knows a thing or two about.
It sometimes is a head-scratcher when you consider that Matt Schaub at one point was a backup to Michael Vick with the Atlanta Falcons. Now, he’s the starter for a Texans team that has Super Bowl on their minds. His line for the game was 20 for 28 with 202 yards and 2 TDs. Another of Houston’s TDs also came via Arian Foster.
And if the offense wasn’t enough to make people think that the Texans can reach the Big Dance this year, what about the defense? 12 of the Texans’ 38 today were via interceptions from Kareem Jackson as well as Danieal Manning. Houston also got to the quarterback 4 times today—Matt Hasselbeck 3 times and Jake Locker once. Locker is now injured.
There isn’t much more to say about this one other than the fact that it was a total beatdown for Houston. Every time, though, the Texans defeat Tennessee, it makes many Houstonians happy considering that it was Bud Adams (known by many in Southeast Texas as “Bud the Dud”) who relocated the team to Music City, USA—Nashville, Tennessee.
These bulls are certainly on parade & they plan on a parade route to New Orleans this year. Since blue is one of the Texans’ colors, maybe they’re H-Town’s new “Luv Ya Blue”.
(Christian) Ponder This For a Second….the Vikings are 3-1
Over the offseason, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was a stadium dispute in the Minnesota state legislature shy of ordering up a fleet of U-Haul trucks and relocating the franchise to Southern California. Fans in the Land of 10,000 Lakes have been there before where they’ve lost teams to that part of town—see: The Lakers.
Fast forward to the end of the first month of the football season & those same Minnesota Vikings have a record of….
A quarter of the season is in the books and the Vikings aren’t thinking about the 2013 season. The Vikings are 3-1 atop the NFC North. Today vs. their division rival Detroit Lions, they wasted no time in getting an early lead. The opening kickoff resulted in a 105 yard return by Percy Harvin for a touchdown—the longest in Vikes history.
They had another long return—a punt return from Marcus Sherels early in the 3rd quarter for 77 yards that made it 20-6.
Also, the way Adrian Peterson is running the football this year, you would not think he’s a year removed from ACL. 21 carries for 102 yards today against Detroit. They won this game today largely because of Adrian Peterson, huge plays on special teams, and defense. They recovered a fumble and also sacked Matthew Stafford 5 times.
Stafford threw the ball 51 times for the Lions for over 300 yards. Both teams’ offenses were one-dimensional (Vikings with the run & Lions with the pass). But when you can run #28 “all day”, you’ll get away 9 times out of 10 with being one-dimensional.
The Vikings won 20-13 today. Forget the City of Angels, the only place the Purple People-Eaters want to go this year is the postseason. Four games in, fans are already buzzing with those possibilities in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
It’s also possible that last week’s victory vs. the 49ers (whom going into that week were considered the best team in the league) may have changed the mindset of the Vikings as well as the organization & fans. That win may have them thinking that the playoffs are an achievable goal this year despite being a tough division with Green Bay and Chicago lurking.
Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired
The New England Patriots off their Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants started the season sub-.500 for the first time in the Tom Brady era since 2003. After defeating the Titans in Week 1, they’ve suffered losses to the Cardinals and the Ravens. The loss to Arizona had to be especially humbling with the Cards’ D sacking the Golden Boy 4 times.
Midway through their divisional matchup with the Buffalo Bills (a team that got thrashed by the New York Jets 41-7 Week 1), the Pats were down 14-7. Early in the 4th quarter, they increased that lead to 21-7. The Patriots would be 1-3 coming off a year where they reached the Super Bowl.
Bill Belichick had to have said on the sidelines: “Over my dead body we’re losing to the Buffalo Bills & going 1-3!”
The remainder of the game, Danny Woodhead, Rob Gronkowski, and Brandon Lloyd all caught passes from Tom Brady. Brady also ran in for one himself, something he doesn’t do often. New England put up 45 in the 2nd half (the football equivalent of what happened in the USA-Nigeria men’s basketball game at the Olympics) to put the Bills out of its misery. Their final score was 52-28.
All 4 scores from the Bills came from Ryan Fitzpatrick touchdowns. He threw the same amount of picks as he did interceptions. Buffalo is 2-2, but both losses came to division rivals in authoritative fashion.
Point proven, Brady. Point proven. A GIF is now circling around the internet of Brady mouthing “FTBs”. That’s an acronym for something but what it actually means escapes me at the moment. The point is it translates to “You don’t like us New England Patriots when we’re sick & tired of being sick & tired”.
J! E! T! S! Blech! Blech! Blech!
Gang Green knew exactly what they were getting into when they brought Tim Tebow on board. There’s a reason why his opening press conference was so large it had to be moved out of the Jets press room and to their training facility in New Jersey.
Mark Sanchez’ performance today had Jets fans chanting the name of their backup quarterback from MetLife Stadium to Montauk Point in easternmost Long Island. He was a mere 13/29 for 103 yards, 1 interception, and 3 sacks. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Santonio Holmes was knocked out because he hurt his foot catching a pass from Sanchez. Not exactly a good sight for the Jets with them already losing Darrelle Revis for the entire season.
And, the 49ers displayed early on that the Wildcat is not an endangered species in NFL circles. Their first score of the day to their backup QB, Colin Kaepernick came the way of such a play. They went up by one score & it’d be all they needed. They won 34-0 despite Frank Gore not running for over 70 yards on 20+ carries and Alex Smith not throwing any touchdowns and under 200 yards for the day.
After the game, Rex Ryan told the press that he’s sticking with Mark Sanchez, but we know the truth. This isn’t Cincinnati where the “Sanchize” can escape from the press the way Steve Young could escape incoming defenders. Every play, word, and move is analyzed a million different ways in Gotham. A few more bad words & before you know it a certain QB from Florida will be the one taking snaps for the Jets.
“I was gonna say we got our butt kicked, but really, we got our ass kicked.”—Rex Ryan. He should’ve ended the presser there. Next week probably won’t be any different as they play Houston next week.
Dealt a Bad Hand, But Playing the Cards Right
The Arizona Cardinals were up against the other team in the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins. And for a while, Miami had their sights set on putting the redbirds in the loss column for the first time in the young season.
The advantage to being Ryan Tannehill is that you are a rookie quarterback with a hot wife and/or girlfriend in a flashy market. The disadvantage is that you are a rookie quarterback on a team with low expectations in the same division as the New England Patriots.
That quarterback would throw for over 400 yards and 26/41 for 1 touchdown & 2 picks (one of them coming in overtime). This includes an 80 yarder to Brian Hartline, who himself finished the game with 253 receiving yards on 12 receptions.
Defensively, they held up for much of the game as well. Miami controlled the ball for 4 minutes longer than did Arizona and Kevin Kolb was under pressure for much of the game. He was sacked 8 times including 4 ½ times by Cameron Wake.
Kevin Kolb was able to engineer a late game drive with the Cards needing a touchdown to tie it down 21-14. He connected with Andre Roberts for a 15 yard pass for a touchdown to tie it all at 21 to force overtime.
One Tannehill interception in overtime & a Jay Feely field goal later, the Cardinals increased their record to 4-0. Right now, they’re not the Falcons or the Texans, but 4-0 is 4-0 which is all that matters in this league.
Coughing Up a Hairball
Speaking of the Falcons, their opponent was the Carolina Panthers at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. I picked Atlanta to win in a blowout, but it may have turned out to be the Game of the Week.
Carolina, to their credit, was much improved from their Week 3 matchup with the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. They gave the team whom many now consider the best team in the NFC (and perhaps NFL) a game.
After a mid-4th quarter touchdown from Carolina, that increased the score to 28-24 Panthers. Despite a Matt Bryant field goal that would make it 28-27 Panthers, Carolina seemed on the verge of winning as they were deep in Falcons territory. Despite Cam Newton throwing for 215, throwing for 2 TDs, and running for another, everyone will be talking about the fact that with the game on the line, he fumbled at midfield to give the ball back to Matt Ryan and company.
Ryan connected to Roddy White for 59 yards from their own 1-yard line to immediately get into Carolina territory. It looked eerily reminiscent of what he did to the Chicago Bears a few years ago in the same building when it looked like the game was over. A Matt Bryant 40 yarder later, the Falcons are celebrating a 4-0 season. The 3 undefeated teams (Falcons, Cardinals, Texans) all won today to maintain their status as undefeated.
As for the Panthers, some are already comparing their collapse to that of Team USA at the Ryder Cup. That’s a little far-fetched, don’t ya think?
Feelin’ That Hot Seat, Spagnuolo?
With the Saints at 0-3 and the Packers at 1-2 coming off that controversial Monday Night debacle, both teams wanted a win today as New Orleans and Green Bay faced off in Lambeau Field.
Despite Drew Brees tying Johnny Unitas for the most consecutive games where a quarterback threw a touchdown, it meant nothing when it came to the final result as the Packers defeated New Orleans 28-27.
Where it looked like the game would start changing was in the 4th quarter. Aaron Rodgers & the Packers were deep in New Orleans territory—in the red zone & only a few yards from a touchdown. 21-17 Pack was about to become 28-17 Pack. Then, Rodgers gets pulled down by the facemask and poked in the eye that had him out for one play. In comes backup QB Graham Harrell.
His first play in the NFL is not one he’ll want to tell his grandkids. A handoff turned into a fumble and the Saints recovered the football. They added onto that with a 80 yard long bomb from Brees to Joseph Morgan. 24-21 Nawlins.
An Aaron Rodgers interception later showed that that fumble may have been in their heads. A Garrett Hartley field goal made it 27-21. When the momentum seemed like it was shifting towards the Saints, one had to remember the difficulties the Saints’ defense has had so far & why Steve Spagnuolo is on the hot seat in NOLA.
Low and behold, the green and gold came back with a Rodgers pass to Jordy Nelson. 28-27. When the Saints had a chance to win, penalties by both teams forced the distance Hartley had to kick from 43 yards, to 53 yards, to 48 yards. Hartley was wide-left.
The Green Bay Packers are now 2-2 while New Orleans is still winless at 0-4 and the San Diego Chargers waiting next week on NBC Sunday Night Football. That 0-4 stands a great chance of becoming 0-5 considering what Philip Rivers and the Bolts’ offense can do to a defense as weak as the Saints’ is.
Turnovers, What Turnovers?
Prior to Eagles/Giants on Sunday Night Football, Philadelphia sometimes made you wonder if they had inked a sponsorship deal with Butterfingers. They had been very interception and turnover prone so far in the season. Some of that is Michael Vick, some of it is Andy Reid, and some of it is a weak offensive line.
It was also the night where Brian Dawkins’ #20 was retired at Lincoln Financial Field. The Philadelphia Eagles put on one of the more elaborate and moving retirement ceremonies seen in recent memory in honor of someone who is now considered among their all-time greats.
Philly was 2-1 despite the turnovers but because their defense has shown up to play in the first few games this year. They fixed that tonight vs. New York by not committing a single turnover all game. That is why I consider tonight’s game their best of the 4 they’ve played in so far. Turnovers will happen, but if they can limit those, Philadelphia can win the NFC East.
Both offenses looked sloppy in the beginning as the defenses took center stage. The scoring didn’t begin until the 2nd quarter when Vick connected with Desean Jackson for 19 yards. 7-0 Eagles. The rest of their scoring would come by the way of 4 field goals from Alex Henery.
Even though Eli Manning would throw for 309 yards and 2 touchdowns (one to Victor Cruz & another to Bear Pascoe—which still sounds like a name given to a heavyweight boxer) he also had 1 interception.
When the G-Men had a chance to tie it late, their drive was based almost entirely on pass plays. That’s ok for getting to midfield, but for putting yourself in a good position to eventually get into field goal range, running the ball may have been a better way to churn more yards. But, tell that one to Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
Instead, New York tries a 54 yard attempt for Lawrence Tynes. Initially, it’s wide left before Andy Reid “iced the kicker”. Let me be the first to say “icing the kicker” is one of the biggest horsecrap moves in the NFL and should be an automatic 15-yard penalty. Just ask Joe Philbin last week.
Luckily for the Birds, Andy Reid was able to escape as Tynes’ 2nd attempt was also no good, but because it was short, not because it was wide.
One thing that many Eagles fans have been giving Andy Reid flack for is that he doesn’t run the ball enough. LeSean McCoy provided Eagles fans “shades” of Brian Westbrook. His line was 23 carries for 123 yards. Vick, as expected, also ran a lot—49 yards rushing for Vick in addition to his 241 yards passing.
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This week, the NFL lost one of its most influential figures in Steve Sabol, the head of NFL Films. It is one of the major reasons why the NFL is the choice sport of Americans because he turned the highlights of NFL games into, almost, a cinematographic production that entertained football aficionados young and old. He will certainly be missed.
With several of this week’s game lasting the length of a Yankees/Red Sox game and going into overtime, Sabol will be looking down very proud of what will be a part of this week’s NFL Films highlight reels for this week.
Somewhere, Frank Wycheck and Kevin Dyson were smiling from ear to ear.