"It's 13-nil," said my friend Dave, an American living in London. He was calling from Wembley early in the third quarter of the Giants-Dolphins game.
"I'll give you the highlights," he said over significant background cheering. "Miami (stinks), which you know. New York (stinks) a little less … It's raining. Lots of rain. And the roof is open … Among fans who care, the crowd is probably 70-30 for the Giants … Tough to find a hot dog … No updates on Liverpool-Arsenal … Miami brought cheerleaders. There's maybe 60 of them."
"Would it be safe to say that these are the 60 hottest women in England right now?"
"If you print that, I won't argue."
In my correspondent's estimation, the stubborn ebullience of the Dolphins cheerleading squad was the highlight of New York's 13-10 win. He seemed to think that Ted Ginn Jr.'s late touchdown upset an overwhelming majority of English bettors.
It probably decided a few fantasy match-ups, too. The most thoroughly-hyped game ever to involve an 0-7 team was, on the whole, a disappointment in fantasy terms. Brandon Jacobs had 131 rushing yards, but no touchdowns. Eli Manning threw for 59 yards. Plaxico Burress had two catches for 14 yards. Jesse Chatman had 79 rushing yards. Cleo Lemon threw for 149.
Perhaps the best thing about the NFL's foray into London was that it allowed Brad Evans to do his delightful impression of Bert, the chimney sweep from "Mary Poppins." It's in one of the sit/start video segments (from last week). You'll want to check that out before it drops off the fantasy home page.
Onto the rest of the Week 8 games …
• Two Saints returned to usefulness on Sunday, and they did it rather emphatically. Drew Brees threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns, and Marques Colston caught three of the scores. Eight Saints caught multiple passes, and David Patten had five receptions for 109 yards.
• On the Bears' first play from scrimmage, Brian Griese threw a short swing pass to Cedric Benson. The pass hit Benson in stride, on the hands. It might have been the best ball that Griese threw all day. And Benson dropped it like a flaming bag of excrement.
Later, at the 8:22 mark in the first quarter, Chicago ran a toss to the right. Benson fumbled it, then fell on the ball while a running lane opened in front of him.
Is Adrian Peterson the answer for Chicago? No, probably not. He can't claim any greater escapability or explosiveness than Benson. But at least his hands work. Peterson finished with six receptions for 41 yards. Benson somehow caught two passes for 10.
Still, Benson was actually Chicago's "Top Performer" at halftime according to the Yahoo! box score. He had 10 carries for 29 yards. That should tell you how well the game went for the Bears. When you insist all week that a game is a must-win, and then you lose … well, where is there to go? If you're the Bears, you have a bye, so you'll have two weeks to prepare for your 16-13 defeat at Oakland in Week 10.
• NFL football is just a little too fast for Adam Archuleta these days. He interfered on Roy Williams in the first quarter, resulting in a 47-yard penalty. Then he fell in coverage, allowing a 23-yard completion to Mike Furrey.
• Ben Roethlisberger's third-down completion to Santonio Holmes in the second quarter is one of the best short-gains you'll ever see. Not quite as good as Marion Barber III avoiding that safety, maybe, but it was pretty great. Roethlisberger was at a 45-degree angle to the ground, getting sacked by John Thornton. He still fired a strike toward the middle of the field. The drive ended in a touchdown, giving Pittsburgh a 14-3 lead.
• What happens to the final words in all these sentences that Mike Ditka doesn't finish? Where do they go? It's easy to imagine a parallel universe in which the things he says have no beginning, just an indecipherable final vowel sound.
• Check the Yahoo! play-by-play log from St. Louis' first series on Sunday:
1st-10, STL 24, 14:54, M. Bulger passed to T. Holt to the left for 39 yard gain
1st-10, CLE 37, 14:12, S. Jackson rushed to the left for 4 yard gain
2nd-6, CLE 33, 13:32, S. Jackson rushed to the left for 22 yard gain
1st-10, CLE 11, 13:03, S. Jackson rushed up the middle for 3 yard gain
2nd-7, CLE 8, 12:19, M. Bulger passed to I. Bruce to the left for 6 yard gain
3rd-1, CLE 2, 11:37, S. Jackson rushed to the right for 2 yard touchdown. J. Wilkins made PAT
For a few minutes there, right up until Jackson left with a lower back injury, the Rams looked a lot like the team we'd all expected them to be. Against one of the NFL's more user-friendly defenses, Marc Bulger threw for 310 yards, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce each caught six passes, and Steven Jackson had the rushing touchdown. Just like old times.
St. Louis lost 27-20, of course. Derek Anderson had another massive day, throwing for 248 yards and three touchdowns. The Browns are the new Rams.
• There wasn't a Bengals defensive back within ten yards of Hines Ward on his first touchdown reception, a 21-yarder, and no one was within five yards of him on the second TD – and that was on third-and-goal from the six. If you read many national sportswriters, you might be inclined to think that this is somehow all Chad Johnson's fault.
• Just in case Jon Kitna's miraculous mid-game recovery from a concussion in Week 2 didn't convince you that the Lions are, in fact, the chosen team of your preferred deity … well, check out the video of Jason Hanson's 52-yard field goal. Not that any intervention was required to beat the Bears on Sunday.
• Sweet catch by Kevin Curtis in the fourth quarter, with Philadelphia leading 20-16. Cedric Griffin had both hands on Donovan McNabb's pass, but Curtis pried it away one-handed, then held on as he rolled to the ground. Relatively quiet day for Curtis otherwise – three catches, 76 yards – but a big day for McNabb, who threw for 333 yards.
• Every Friday from this point on, I'm going to declare which Carolina running back I think will have the bigger statistical day, DeShaun Foster or DeAngelo Williams. Under no circumstances are you to follow my advice. I've had this one wrong every week. Back in August, drafting both of the De's seemed like such a clever idea.
• Vince Young had 42 passing yards on Sunday. That's kind of amazing, eh? I know, I know, I know … he just finds a way to win. Right. Total champion. Good for him. Blah-blah-intangibles-blah. But the find-a-way-to-win thing doesn't convert to fantasy leagues. We only get points for tangibles.
• Hey, Laurence Maroney carried the football inside the 10 yard-line on the Patriots first series!
And he did it twice!
No, he didn't score. But the red zone carries were almost unprecedented. The Patriots actually faked another hand-off to him, but that was just to mess with Maroney's fantasy owners. He would have scored easily. Instead, Brady threw an incompletion. Two plays later, Brady himself ran for the TD. 7-0, Patriots.
Later in the first half, Maroney caught a short pass, made a terrific juke, ran up-field … and got pushed out at the four yard-line. He carried for two yards on first and goal, then jogged off the field so that New England could go to their two-linebacker formation. Junior Seau and Mike Vrabel entered. Naturally, Vrabel caught a touchdown pass. 14-0, Patriots.
• Thanks entirely to one play – an 85-yard touchdown reception thrown by a quarterback who wasn't supposed to be in the game – Lee Evans also had a nice day, finishing with 138 receiving yards.
• J.P. Losman entered in relief of Trent Edwards, who apparently hurt his hand in the second half. Kellen Clemens also relieved Chad Pennington, who was – and this is a generous adjective – ineffective. But Clemens wasn't any better. He didn't need much time to throw two picks. Terrence McGee may have broken Laveranues Coles on a fourth quarter hit.
• If you're a fan of unusually violent hitting, you probably enjoyed the Jacksonville's 24-23 win over Tampa Bay. And you're a sick (expletive). The biggest shots were delivered by Jags: John Henderson obliterated Jeff Garcia in the third quarter, leading to an interception; Greg Jones flattened Tanard Jackson after a first-down reception late in the fourth quarter; Rashean Mathis separated Ike Hilliard from the ball in the final minute, resulting in a game-ending pick.
• So that Chris Chambers trade paid immediate dividends … for Antonio Gates. The Chargers' tight end caught a pair of first-half touchdowns. Chambers had two receptions for 35 yards, and a second quarter TD. Vincent Jackson had nothin'. Antonio Cromartie had the IDP game of the year: two tackles, one fumble recovery, two interceptions, two TDs.
Faced with a fourth-and-one at the Washington seven – with 11:02 on the clock in a game they led by 38 points – they ran the ball instead of kicking. Tom Brady picked up two yards and a first down. The drive ended with a Brady-to-Welker touchdown. It was Tom Brady's fifth TD, and the Patriots led 45-0 with 9:06 left.
They elected not to go for the two-point conversion, which was classy. Still, their BCS ranking appears safe.