The universe certainly has a way of balancing itself out. Last week, the Patriots fell on their mighty sword and a comeback attempt was thwarted. This week, however, Tom Brady and his cohorts were back to their old tricks, pulling out a last second win over the Saints, who were handed their first loss of the season.
The Pats are 5-1 despite submitting a 20-page long injury report every week. The biggest name on that injury report is the NFL's resident punk Rob Gronkowski. (Sidebar - years ago, I had an immense dislike for then-Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey, whose cockiness and attitude always rubbed me the wrong way. Thus, he became the NFL's resident punk. Gronkowski, who possesses a similar ability to grate my nerves, has since taken over this title.) Every week, we all hear the same thing, "I think Gronk is going to play!" We've been hearing that since week 3. And guess when he played? Not this season! There appears to be some issues regarding how quickly his injuries are healing (he had arm and back surgeries in the off-season) and that his injuries were worsened because he was forced back too quickly last time.
Gronkowski has been practicing every day - Patriots team doctors have cleared him to return to the active roster - but each week just before game day, his team of doctors refuse to clear him to play. Making sure he's fully healed is all well and good, but here's the problem this whole thing has created: with all the injuries the Pats have had, roster spots are valuable. If the Patriots had known that Gronkowski was not going to play the first 6 weeks of the season, they could have placed him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and secured a player to help fill in one of the other holes on the roster. Instead, Gronkowski has been eating up a roster spot on the plan that he'd be ready for action in week 3, yet his doctors have continued to keep him out. Patriots players are starting to get resentful, according to a report by Sports Illustrated, and the longer this drags on, the more resentful players may become.
On the other side of the Mississippi on Monday night, Colts second year QB Andrew Luck began his Monday night debut in bold fashion - by running a flea flicker! This little gem of a play has long gone the way of the NFL dinosaurs like Warren Moon, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, but the Colts managed to resurrect it. While it wasn't one of those 50-yard bombs down the field for a touchdown, the Chargers D was taken by enough surprise to allow a 35-yard gain. The drive ended in a field goal, and that's also pretty much where the magic ended for the Colts as well. Perhaps the Colts were caught looking ahead to next week's matchup with Denver (more on that below)?
Also this weekend:
-- Texans fans, meet karma.
Ask any Texans fan to name the goat of the season so far and most will probably say it's their quarterback Matt Schaub. It's hard to argue that, with Schaub throwing a pick-6 in four straight games. However, it's hard to blame everything on Schaub, especially since the last two weeks the Texans were blown out so badly that one pick-6 didn't make a difference either way. On Sunday, Schaub managed not to throw any picks but went down with a leg injury in the 3rd quarter. Fans began cheering. That's right, Texans fans. Whoop it up and kick 'em while he's down! Classy! Enter backup QB TJ Yates to more cheering. This poor doofus then promptly throws an interception which, coincidentally, is returned for a touchdown. The end. Texans lose to karma (although the Rams get the win in the books). Yay! Oh, sorry, I thought we were cheering everything. See... the thing about backups... once they actually get in and start playing, you suddenly recall WHY they're backups. Houston players, rightfully so, are totally appalled by the reaction of the fans to Schaub's injury. I realize that it wasn't all the fans, but the ones who did it should be ashamed. Many folks who buy tickets feel like they bought the right to boo and cheer however they want. That might be true - you're free to do as you choose, but don't forget to bring your soul to the game with you. What if that was your friend, son, husband or dad laying out there on the field and people were HAPPY he was injured? Real fans don't cheer injuries - regardless of whether the guy is on your team or not.
-- Just 48 more yards, and we're back in the outer fringes of field goal range!
The Raiders, only down 7 against unbeaten and homestanding Kansas City, drove to midfield halfway through the 4th quarter, looking to tie up the game. Oakland had first and 10 at the 50. On first down, a holding call on Oakland negated the play, making it 1st and 20. On the next play, Oakland QB Terrelle Pryor was sacked for a 12-yard loss. Now it's 2nd and 32. But ooopps! Hang on - delay of game penalty on Oakland, so make that 2nd and 37. The stench of doom is growing. On the next play, Pryor takes ANOTHER sack for an 11-yard loss. So what we're looking at here now, folks, is an unprecedented 3rd and 48. The Raiders began this set of downs on the 50 - and now they've managed to make their way to the 12 - the BAD 12. Not surprisingly, the 3rd down pass attempt failed, and here we find the Raiders punting it away on 4th and 48, watching any hopes of mounting a comeback sail into the air like the punted football (which, consequently, only went 46 yards). Oy. Al Davis must be spinning in his grave.
-- I got this far, but now I have to mention "him."
As I mentioned earlier, the Colts are taking on Denver this Sunday in Indianapolis. You know what that means, don't you? It's the return of "He-who-must-not-be-named" to Indianapolis. "He-who-must-not-be-named" played 14 seasons for the Colts, and he led them to a Super Bowl win in 2006. While there, he was also named the NFL's MVP four times. So fittingly, the Colts have planned to honor their former QB with a tribute, most likely consisting of film clips. The tribute will take place during pre-game. I suppose it's nice that the Colts are going to do this for "He-who-must-not-be-named", and rightfully so. He deserves it. But at the same time, I just wonder if maybe all this lovey-dovey stuff will affect the killer mentality of the players? Probably not, but there's no doubt there will be plenty of fans in Indy on Sunday still sporting a blue "He-who-must-not-be-named" jersey. Yay! "He-who-must-not-be-named" is back! Yay! He just threw a touchdown against us! Yay! We're Texans fans and we cheer for EVERYTHING!
Aside from the Colts and Broncos game (which we all get to see because it's the Sunday night game), there aren't many other games that tickle my fancy. I suppose the Thursday night game of the Seahawks and Cardinals could be marginally interesting, at least until the game kicks off and the Seahawks run wild. And as per our weekly contractually obligated punishment (come on, you know one or more of these primetime games every week has got to be a dud), the Monday night game features the Vikings and the Giants, who are a combined 1-10. Who needs Unisom when you can just tune in to Monday Night Football? Also asleep this week? The Saints, who are licking their wounds after their first loss, and Raiders, who will spend the off week running plays forward down the field.
Until next week, my friends, enjoy the games!