‘Salute’ by Adams deserves a reprimand
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Maybe Bud Adams was too busy to get the message out on his Twitter page. Or maybe the Tennessee Titans’ 86-year-old owner hadn’t been notified of the invention of cell-phone cameras. Or maybe he just didn’t care.
Whatever his reason, Adams found a new way to draw the spotlight to his franchise when he was caught not once, but twice flashing a set of middle fingers at the Buffalo Bills sideline during Sunday’s 41-17 win. Amazingly, Adams also watched part of Sunday’s game with league commissioner Roger Goodell, who probably doesn’t hold a pro-bird stance when it comes to NFL communication.
Emails? Certainly. Faxes or texts? Why not. Middle fingers? Not so much.
We’ll find out Goodell’s true stance in the coming days, since Adams felt obliged to whip out the gestures in front of at least one reporter and one cell-phone camera. Initially reported by The Tennessean, Adams was seen standing in what appears to be a luxury suite, flashing his middle fingers.
Now, I’m no prude. I get that this is an elderly billionaire standing in his own stadium doing what he pleases. But it raises the question of whether NFL owners should be held to the same standard as the players they employ. Certainly, if Titans running back LenDale White(notes) was caught behaving the same way, he’d get whacked for some of his loot – just like when the league fined Michael Vick(notes) $10,000 for flipping off some Atlanta Falcons fans in 2006.
But while the league has some wide-ranging and fairly flexible rules governing its players, there really are no hard and fast guidelines for owners. However, if Goodell is serious about cracking down on things that reflect badly on the NFL’s shield, how could he not slap Adams on the wrist?
Undoubtedly, some fans will think what Adams did was funny. Surely some players will get a kick out of it, too. But it’s probably not the kind of thing the league wants from anyone representing the product, particularly when so many players already feel like there is one standard for the management and another standard altogether for the players.
Maybe Adams was just having some fun at the expense of a longtime AFL and NFL rival. Or maybe he was practicing his technique for next week’s game in Houston – the city Adams spurned when he moved his franchise. Whatever he was doing, he should be held accountable just like every other person who represents the NFL.
Here are some more Week 10 winners and losers:
• Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme
No need to blink repeatedly. Delhomme had far and away his best game of the season in the win over Atlanta. It’s amazing how much better Delhomme looks when he’s got plenty of time to operate. He was patient and efficient in his opportunities, throwing a pair of zingers to wideout Steve Smith in the red zone. You have to wonder if part of Delhomme’s problem this season has been a crisis of confidence, especially after seeing how decisive he was against the Falcons. Smith re-emerging as a go-to guy has been a monumental lift, too.
• Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams(notes)
Williams came up huge when Ronnie Brown(notes) left the game with a knee injury, including a 27-yard run that put the Dolphins in position for the game-winning field goal. For all of the talk about Brown, Williams is quietly having his best season since 2003. His legs look as fresh as ever and he’s got a fantastic burst, too. And nobody has noticed, but he has zero fumbles in 123 touches this season. Kind of makes you wish you could get some of his flaky years back.
• The Indianapolis Colts
The thrilled look of disbelief on quarterback Peyton Manning’s face at the end of Sunday night’s stunning 35-34 win over New England said it all. The game was gift-wrapped by some terrible coaching by the Patriots down the stretch and will always be remembered for Bill Belichick’s blunder. But it should also be remembered for how easily Manning and the offense scored 21 of the game’s final 24 points and slashed through the defense in the waning moments. The game winning hookup between Manning and Reggie Wayne was a ridiculous display of timing and athleticism. This one will go down as perhaps the most memorable of all the tilts between the Colts and Patriots.
• Minnesota Vikings wideout Sidney Rice(notes)
It’s amazing how much Rice’s game has grown over the course of this season. If you watch him, his routes are fairly crisp and he goes after the football with a lot of confidence. Including Sunday’s 201 receiving yards against Detroit, his last four games have been monstrous: 27 catches for 553 yards. He would be a bigger presence in the red zone, too, if the Vikings didn’t feature the running game and tight end so much in that area of the field.
• The Cincinnati Bengals defense
This was one of the more superb game plans I’ve seen in a while. The Bengals rarely sent more than their front four after Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger(notes), choosing instead to blanket the Steelers’ trio of Hines Ward(notes), Santonio Holmes(notes) and Mike Wallace(notes). The front four actually got to Roethlisberger quite a bit, notching three of the Bengals’ four sacks and forcing some throws. Refusing to scheme for pressure against that Pittsburgh passing game seems counterintuitive, but it worked well. Now the Bengals have an amazing season sweep of both Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
• New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush(notes)
Bush had eight touches for 98 total yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Rams. His two touchdowns were of the exciting, high-flying variety. While he may not be the consistent superstar we all expected, he is one of the league’s most electrifying players around the goal line. Indeed, he plays with complete abandon when it comes to getting the football in the end zone.
• Vince Young and Chris Johnson
Another ridiculous day from Johnson, who put up 232 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. He’s a superstar. Period. And Vince Young has done about as well as you could have envisioned when he took this job over. His athleticism is actually opening up some interesting wrinkles, including the option plays with Johnson. Without a doubt, the offense has been invigorated by Young’s ability to create, and he continues to be smart with the football. Amazingly, his quarterback ratings in his three starts have been 114.1, 92.4 and 90.4. It’s still too early to say whether this is suddenly a good team again, but next week’s game at Houston should give a lot of perspective.
• The Washington Redskins
That had to be one of the more bizarre wins in team history, only because it was a victory sparked by a fake field goal that turned into a fake punt that turned into a 35-yard touchdown. And the Broncos had to know the gadget was coming because Washington blew its own cover by having to call a timeout on the fake field goal. If you haven’t seen the sequence of plays, check them out online. It didn’t hurt that Washington dominated the tempo of the second half, with the tandem of Ladell Betts(notes) and Rock Cartwright(notes) rushing for 155 yards in the game.
• Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew(notes)
Jones-Drew put up 145 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown, but he made the risky move of forgoing a second touchdown to help ice the win over the Jets. On second-and-six from the Jets’ 10-yard line, he burst up the middle and could have gone in for the score. Instead, he dropped down to the ground at the 1 with 1:48 remaining. The resulting first down allowed Jacksonville to run the clock down and kick a game-winning field goal with no time left for a 24-22 win. It was both smart and extremely bold, but when you’re 4-4, what do you have to lose?
• Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles(notes)
All week long, Chiefs coach Todd Haley sent out signals that he was warming to Kolby Smith(notes) and not so hot on Charles, leading some (including me) to believe that Smith was going to get a chance to be the Chiefs starter. In hindsight, I think I was duped along with anyone else who read into Haley’s demeanor. I now think he was trying to motivate Charles, who ran for 103 yards on 18 carries and became the driving force behind Kansas City’s second win. Charles also had a 40-yard kick return. Look no further for Larry Johnson’s(notes) interim replacement, as long as Charles can hold on to the football.
• The Arizona Cardinals offense
Hmmmm … this is starting to look familiar. The Cardinals rolled up 462 yards of offense on Seattle with an attack that had some flawless balance. Anquan Boldin(notes), Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston(notes) notched 257 receiving yards to go along with 122 rushing yards from Chris Wells and Tim Hightower(notes). It’s still a little premature, but the Cardinals might be getting into a groove before our very eyes. Just in time to go to St. Louis next week. Yikes. Can’t wait to see that point spread.
• The Green Bay Packers
If you’ve stopped trying to figure this team out, it’s probably for the best. Every time you think you have the Packers pegged as an underachieving team, they do something like they did on Sunday, putting the brakes on a Dallas team that was looking like the best team in the NFC East. But this is what makes the Packers so maddening. The defense can disappear one week, then look stellar the next. Aaron Rodgers(notes) can go two and a half quarters looking mediocre, then engineer a clock-devouring drive to take command of a game. And of course, moving to 5-4, Green Bay just refuses to fade from the playoff race, so the roller-coaster ride will last late into the season. At least we have Charles Woodson(notes) to watch.
• The San Diego Chargers
It feels like 2007 all over again, with the Chargers threatening to take over the AFC West again and LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) in a starring role. Tomlinson had a few little flashes of brilliance in the win over Philadelphia, including a 20-yard touchdown that brought back a lot of old memories. Most impressive, the Charges showed they could continue to roll up points even without Vincent Jackson(notes) starring. I won’t argue with coach Norv Turner as an offensive mind, but a good head coach has to win next week’s tilt against Denver, too.
• New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick
He took a terrible risk and it failed catastrophically. Going for it on fourth-and-two at his own 28 while leading by six points with only 2:08 left was inexcusable. Particularly when the Patriots had no timeouts left in case there needed to be a challenge on the decisive play (and there did). It was interesting to hear Belichick say in his postgame remarks that he didn’t know how his team couldn’t have gotten one yard on the quick flare completion to Kevin Faulk. It sounded like a not-so-veiled shot at the officials. But Belichick needs to look in the mirror on this one. He took a gamble that would get most coaches fired and simultaneously told his defensive players that he didn’t have that much faith in them. For now, he gets the heavyweight championship belt for bonehead moves.
• Teams hoping to stay injury free
There was a wide swath of injuries. Some appeared to be season ending, including that of Carolina offensive tackle Jordan Gross(notes) (broken ankle) and Dallas offensive tackle Marc Colombo (broken leg). Among the other injuries that looked troubling: Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu(notes) (knee), Carolina’s Steve Smith (ribs), Cincinnati’s Cedric Benson(notes) (hip), Miami’s Ronnie Brown (knee), Atlanta’s Michael Turner(notes) (ankle), Washington’s Albert Haynesworth(notes) (ankle) and Denver’s Kyle Orton(notes) (ankle).
• Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan
Ryan is having the worst stretch of his pro career, with two interceptions in the loss to Carolina and 11 in his last six games. He has already exceeded last year’s interception total in 136 fewer pass attempts. He appears to be pressing at times and his accuracy is certainly suffering for it. Losing three out of four games was definitely not how this team wanted to go into next week’s game, when the Falcons visit the New York Giants.
• The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The last defensive series was remarkably feeble. After taking an emotional 23-22 lead with 1:14 left, the Bucs allowed plays of 25, 16 and 27 yards on Miami’s ensuing possession. Tampa Bay also committed a nine-yard pass interference penalty on the drive. The Bucs look far more competitive with Josh Freeman(notes) at quarterback, but the collapse at the end of this one has to be extremely deflating.
• The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive plan
Was Mike Mularkey back as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator on Sunday? The game plan was so far out of whack that you had to wonder. How does Ben Roethlisberger throw 40 passes while Pittsburgh’s running backs only rush the ball 16 times? That’s certainly not the kind of formula coach Mike Tomlin wants, especially when it’s a low-scoring affair. The Steelers should have been able to run the ball and dominate the line of scrimmage late, but they made no serious commitment.
• Fox analyst Joe Buck
Said Buck during the Green Bay-Dallas broadcast: “We’ve been talking about him for years it seems, but now there are a lot of bandwagon fans for Jay Ratliff(notes), the nose tackle for the Cowboys.” Hands off the interior linemen, people. You’re all late to the party. Joe Buck saw Jay Ratliff first, and he has a medal to prove it.
• The New York Jets defense
Mark Sanchez(notes) and the offense haven’t consistently lit it up, but this defense has been anything but dominant in recent weeks – not what we expected from Rex Ryan at this point in the season. Not only did Jacksonville drive 80 yards to win the game, the only reason the Jaguars didn’t score a touchdown on the drive was because of Maurice Jones-Drew’s kneel-down at the 1, allowing Jacksonville to kick the winning field goal as time expired. The Jets simply haven’t been able to get consistent stops in two straight losses. And where is linebacker Calvin Pace(notes)? He was expected to be the Jets’ best defensive player, yet all but one of his four sacks came in one game this season.
• The Denver Broncos
A week ago, I thought 10 wins was a lock. Now it might be time to get a little worried. It’s not just that the loss to Washington was Denver’s third straight. It’s that it comes in a period when the Broncos face San Diego, the Giants and the Indianapolis Colts in three of the next four games. Even with two of those games coming at home, I don’t know how the Broncos could be favored in any of those games, especially with the ankle injury to Kyle Orton.
• Oakland Raiders wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes)
JaMarcus Russell(notes) was awful in this game before getting benched, but I have to wonder if things would have gone differently if six different players hadn’t dropped passes. Particularly Heyward-Bey, who let a bomb that could have potentially turned into a 57-yard touchdown go right through his hands. Russell couldn’t have thrown the ball any better. It went right into Heyward-Bey’s arms … and then onto the turf. The potential touchdown could have been the difference in a 16-10 loss.
• Seattle Seahawks’ faint playoff hopes
Maybe they didn’t really have playoff hopes going into the loss to Arizona, but a win would have at least kept them breathing. Yet, despite putting up 472 yards of offense, Seattle couldn’t finish. The fourth quarter was a mini meltdown, with a momentum-killing Matt Hasselbeck(notes) interception and some dumb defensive mistakes. Blame injuries all you want, but this team is far, far too talented to be 3-6 in this division. Then again, they haven’t really challenged a good team, so maybe I’m vastly overrating the roster. It wouldn’t be the first time I did that with a Jim Mora-coached team.
• The Dallas Cowboys
They’re the NFC East’s version of the Packers, with their wild ups and downs. Cue the Tony Romo(notes) haters again, after he missed recognizing the blitz by Charles Woodson and coughed up the ball at the worst time and field position. But before you do that, ask yourself this: Why only 11 rushing attempts? Sure, Green Bay had the ninth-ranked rushing defense coming into the game, but do you just concede that whole part of the offense? With all three of Dallas’ backs having such explosive ability?
• The Philadelphia Eagles coaching
Forget the 56 passes to 13 runs (56-13!). The problem I have is the red zone work. The lack of this team’s ability to get the ball into the end zone in prime scoring opportunities is almost Jay Cutler(notes)-esque. And a big part of that is the utter lack of diversity, too. When you can’t run the football inside the 20, you are exponentially easier to defend. And when your offense makes no effort to consistently run the football, you aren’t going to be able to be balanced in the red zone.
(FIVE THINGS I LOVED AND FIVE THINGS I LOATHED)
Loved: Seeing Redskins fans with signs again at FedEx Field. The franchise never should have banned them in the first place, but it was good to see owner Daniel Snyder realize the mistake. Perhaps it’s the start of a trend in Washington.
Loathed: Watching the Vikings hand off to fullback Jeff Dugan(notes) on fourth-and-one on Detroit’s 8-yard line. The attempt failed, but it was an example of an NFL team getting too cute. Who cares if everyone in the world knows you’re handing off to Adrian Peterson? Surprise doesn’t matter in that situation. Peterson will get you that yard nine out of 10 times.
Loved: Seeing Jerricho Cotchery(notes) back in a groove for the Jets. If you want to trace the issues of quarterback Mark Sanchez earlier this season, they were deeply rooted in Cotchery’s injury issues. He brings balance back to that offense.
Loathed: Seeing Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett(notes) bring down Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck and then purposely drive his elbow into the quarterback’s throat. It was the kind of dirty thing that happens in football, but you rarely see on film. Dockett will likely lose some coin for this one.
Loved: Seeing Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith’s second-quarter touchdown catch against Atlanta. Fantastic timing and hands. It’s unreal the plays he makes for his size. And you can see quarterback Jake Delhomme is really starting to get his confidence back when he looks in Smith’s direction.
Loathed: Watching Troy Polamalu’s shaky left knee knock him out of the game against Cincinnati. We saw Pittsburgh’s defense struggle when he missed four games with an MCL injury earlier this year. He just might be the one guy that defense can’t lose long term.
Loved: The second-quarter hit Washington linebacker Rocky McIntosh(notes) put on Denver’s Brandon Marshall(notes). If you want to see a crushing and still perfectly legal hit, check it out. And it will once again remind fans of why they should have a monumental amount of respect for receivers who are willing to catch the ball coming over the middle of the field.
Loathed: Watching Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson lose his third and fourth fumbles of the season, including one into Detroit’s end zone for a first-half touchback. OK, so he’s not perfect. In fact, this might be the only thing not to like about Peterson’s game. But the Vikings have to keep working on it with him, if only to prevent one he’ll really regret in the postseason.
Loved: The eighth interception of the season by Bills rookie safety Jairus Byrd(notes). It came on an overthrown ball by Tennessee’s Vince Young, but Byrd made a fantastic break on the pass. His skills tracking the ball are unreal right now. Putting anything in his area code is a risk.
Loathed: The third-quarter interception return of Rams safety James Butler(notes). Seriously, you have to see this play. At the end of the run, he inexplicably sits down on the ground like he doesn’t want to get hit. He easily could have fought his way for another five yards or more, but he just stopped. Maybe he still had Detroit’s Kevin Smith(notes) on his mind. At any rate, it was one of the softest plays I’ve seen this season.