Welcome to the Fifth Quarter, the only NFL recap column you’ll ever need. It’s the only one to provide a full day’s supply of Vitamin C, after all. Here’s what was going on around the rest of the league while you were selfishly focused on your home team and your fantasy players.
The Steelers of today are a long way from the legendary Steel Curtain, the foundation of Pittsburgh's 1970s dynasty. But the Steelers are still a reasonable facsimile of an NFL team, and on Sunday, Tom Brady — a guy who may or may not have injured his throwing hand in recent weeks — threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns against them.
Overall, Brady and New England hung 55 points and 610 yards on Pittsburgh, both franchise worsts. The fact that Pittsburgh served as basically a runway for the Patriots has to chill the already-cold bones of Steeler fans ... and make the rest of the NFL more than a little nervous.
See, we've all been looking for Tom Brady to crest, to begin his inevitable downward slide, if only because it'll allow the rest of us to catch up. Ridiculous man-card-surrendering Halloween costumes aside, the big news about Brady over the last couple weeks has been the fact that he may have suffered an injury to his throwing hand. In between singing the praises of the Red Sox, Boston sports radio callers and hosts gave the Zapruder treatment to photographs of Brady's swollen hand and his fingers taped together at a charity event.
Sure, next year marks the 10-year mark since the Patriots won a Super Bowl. But we're still very much in the window where New England could win a Super Bowl. Suppose everything breaks just right, suppose Denver and Peyton Manning suffer another mental misfire, suppose Seattle's Russell Wilson remembers he's still a callow young lad at exactly the wrong time. It could all happen, and we could see the city of Boston celebrating yet another championship in just three short months.
Yeah, it's clearly going to take more than a couple screwed-up fingers and a picket-fence defense to derail Tom Brady.
Running down the biggest stories of Week 9. We'll try not to catch you offsides.
• Cam Newton comes of age. We can see the Cam Newton Narrative being shaped before our eyes: angry, arrogant youth becomes wise team leader. Heck, the Fox pregame show basically crafted that entire story, complete with treacly lesson-learned music. That said, if you're going to be a leader, you gotta lead, and Newton did exactly that on Sunday, burying the last of the Falcons' playoff hopes, wrestling his team into contention in the NFC South, and putting himself on the outskirts of the elite-QB conversation. Plus, he's good to his young fans:
• Tony Romo, workin' every angle. Hey, if you can't get that extra few inches with your leg, get it with your toe:
(GIF via @corkgaines.)
• Rob vs. Rex. In the battle of Los Hermanos Ryan, it was Rex who triumphed over twin brother Ron as the Jets topped the Saints. Back in the '80s, though, they battled to a Jheri-curled dead heat:
• Somewhere up there, Lennay Kekua is smiling. Manti Te'o got his first NFL sack on Sunday. He could pile up another thousand of these and he'd never, ever, ever outrun the invisible-dead-girlfriend gag:
• What a, uh, lovely baby. Finally, check this insanely creepy Redskins doll, via the Washington Post's @SarahKogod:
Yes, that's a sculpture. And it will haunt your nightmares.
In which we recap every game in seven words. Ready ... go!
Miami 22, Cincinnati 20. Miami fans just now arriving for this.
Kansas City 23, Buffalo 13. Chiefs remain undefeated; apocalypse close at hand.
Carolina 34, Atlanta 10. See you in August 2014, Falcons fans.
Dallas 27, Minnesota 23. Tony Romo chokes game agai- wait, what?
New York Jets 26, New Orleans 20. Rex trumps Rob in Ryan boys' brawl.
Tennessee 28, St. Louis 21. Rams score well, give up much more.
Washington 30, San Diego 24. Chargers lose by length of this sentence.
Philadelphia 49, Oakland 20. Chip Kelly, back to being a genius.
Seattle 27, Tampa Bay 24. Bucs play for four quarters. Not OT.
Cleveland 24, Baltimore 18. Super Bowl seems a long time ago.
New England 44, Pittsburgh 31. Epic thumping has the Steel Curtain weeping.
Indianapolis at Houston. Houston decides to begin the 2013 season.
Chicago at Green Bay. We're intrigued by "grill class" on planes.
Bye: Denver, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Detroit, Arizona, San Francisco..
Champ: Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles. You left him on your bench, didn't you? You thought Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco would be a better bet than the guy who was backing up Michael Vick. More fool, you, because Foles threw for seven touchdowns. Against Oakland, yes, but they still count. Perhaps the most accurate and telling praise for Foles' astonishing afternoon came from Vick's ever-mouthy brother Marcus ... who has said absolutely nothing on Twitter about Foles.
Chump: Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We really could give this award to the entire Tampa Bay team after their loss on Sunday, but since Schiano has made it clear that he wants the Bucs made in his own image, he takes the heat when they screw up, like giving up a 21-0 lead over the Seahawks and failing to score at all after the opening possession of the second half. Everybody loves to pile on Jacksonville, but Tampa Bay's also winless. Relegate both of 'em to the college ranks and promote Florida State to the NFC South, already.
Hey, stop laughing, Jared Allen. You guys couldn't hold off the Cowboys, either.
Miami's Halloween game against Cincinnati was a veritable cornucopia of fan costumery. The lesson above is obvious: dress like a local hero (in this case, swollen-headed Dan Marino) and get attention from a ref in a miniskirt; dress like a dolphin, get attention from a dolphin. Aside: we'd like to see giant-headed (or, in the case of Peyton Manning, miniature) quarterback mascots become a thing.
Got your own quality tailgate/party photos? Hit us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share.
There's plenty of good writing every day on the NFL. Here are a few choice reads to keep you busy while there's no football. Because the other alternatives are talking to your family or doing chores, and nobody wants that. (Send us your favorite words of the week.)
• Could disgraced Jacksonville receiver Justin Blackmon redeem himself? Absolutely. Here, according to Eric Adelson, is how. (Yahoo Sports)
• The Ravens' Jameel McClain is inspirational in his recovery from a spinal injury. (Yahoo Sports)
• How will the Broncos go on while coach John Fox recovers from heart surgery? (The MMQB)
• Is Richie Incognito the ringleader of a Miami Dolphins hazing ring? He says no, others say yes. (CBS Sports)
• Terrell Owens is really giving this whole bowling thing a go. (Sports On Earth)
Each week, we’ll make a random Super Bowl pick based on trends, stats or general nonquantifiable gut feelings. One of these weeks, we’ll be right. Probably right after both conference championships.
Packers vs. Patriots. San Francisco and Denver didn't play this week, which means they drop out of the national consciousness. Seattle and New Orleans showed serious weaknesses this week. The Patriots, meanwhile, looked absolutely unstoppable, even against the highway on-ramp that is the Steelers. And Green Bay plays Monday, so we'll give 'em the benefit of the doubt and say that Aaron Rodgers will be known for more than just State Farm airplane commercials this year.
Super Bowl picks, full season: Denver 3x, San Francisco 2x, New Orleans 2x, Seattle 2x, , New England 2x, Indianapolis, Green Bay, Kansas City.
And that's a wrap for this week's edition of Fifth Quarter. Got a question? Comment? Concern? Rant? Contact info's below. We’ll run your words here or in Thursday’s weekly letters column. For now, enjoy the week. It's not long 'til more football!