Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Special Teams Extraordinaire


What a wild and wacky weekend of football was week 15 of the NFL season. What has to be the highlight of the year, so far, was seeing number 63, Dan Connolly, of the Patriots, rumbling 71 yards down the field on a kickoff, carrying the football like a loaf of bread. The Patriots offensive lineman had the experience of a lifetime...and the only thing that would have made it better is if he could have made it the six more yards to end zone. But, I am sure it was highlight reel fodder for some good yuks in the New England locker room following the game. The Patriots play the Bills this week, and Buffalo coach Chan Gailey was asked if he was concerned with Connolly's return skills, concerning which, he responded...with a laugh. Thanks, Dan, for a memorable moment. There were a couple of other significant returns that bear mention. DeSean Jackson of the Eagles concluded a ferocious comeback by the Eagles against the Giants, where they were down by 21 with seven and a half minutes to play. Thanks to some big plays and a successful onside kick, the Eagles came back to tie the game 31-31 with just a couple of minutes to play. Yet, with just 14 seconds left on he clock, Giants punter, Todd Dodge, inexplicably punted to Jackson, and the star wide receiver then wove his magic, scoring on a 65 yard punt return to cap an incredible comeback, 38-31. Finally, special teams guru, Devin Hester, of the Chicago Bears scored on a 64 yard punt return against the Vikings, Monday night, to set an NFL record 14 punt or kickoff returns for a touchdown. What is remarkable is that he has accomplished this in only five years, breaking the mark of 13 that it took former return star, Brian Mitchell, 14 years to set. Kudos to Hester who figures to add many more happy returns during his career...to the end zone, that is.

From the "let me get this straight" category...as mentioned last week, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has alienated players and fans with his strong arm tactics...most recently, benching highly-paid, (formerly) prized QB, Donovan McNabb, and cutting punter, Hunter Smith, who botched a hold on a missed extra point that cost Washington its game against Tampa Bay last week -- not much grace there. Now, we go from Mr Hyde, to Dr Jekyll...Tom Coughlin, coach of the Giants. You mean that Tom Coughlin, who has a reputation for being tough as nails? Yep...him. His punter, the aformentioned Dodge, who made the ill-fated punt to DeSean Jackson, was the subject to intense criticism following the Giants loss to the Eagles. Yet, unlike his counterpart, Coughlin did not cut the punter, but encouraged and restored him...after blasting him following the game, of course -- but his response was more...grace in action. I have to say, that even a few years ago one would have thought that these actions would be the other way around, but maybe I have read Coach Cough wrong...I have a new found respect for him...too bad I still despise the Giants. ;-)

Once again, there were other happenings in week 15. The Cowboys outlasted a comeback by backup QB, Rex Grossman, and the Redskins and held on to win 33-30. This has to help Jason Garrett's bid to have the "interim" tag removed from him as Cowboys coach. But, remember...we are dealing with the enigmatic, unpredictable Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, so we will see. The Ravens beat the Saints, 30-24, by running, running and running star halfback Ray Rice some more. I don't know that this means anything, though. It seems like most of the good teams this years could split a best of four series of games...if they were to play such a schedule. From the "give credit where credit is due" category, Green Bay backup QB, Matt Flynn, played very well in nearly leading the Packers to an upset of the Patriots, but who still lost, 31-27. The Colts avoided what would have been a stunning playoff elimination by beating AFC South front runner, Jacksonville, 34-24. The Colts who looked all but dead a couple of weeks ago would appear to be back in the drivers seat for the division, as they are now tied with the Jags at 8-6. Tim Tebow made his debut for the Denver Broncos and played very well. The Mile High team really needed to take a look at their prize #1 draft pick from this year, and he didn't disappoint, although the Broncos still lost to the Raiders, 39-23. With Denver in such disarray this year, it will be interesting to see who will hang on as the starting QB for next year...incumbent, Kyle Orton, who has had a very good year, or the highly popular, Tebow. Finally, as mentioned earlier, Devin Hester had a big game for the Chicago Bears, as the Bears dumped the struggling Minnesota Vikings, 40-14. The Vikings were slated to start rookie QB, Joe Webb, for week 15...but at the 11th hour, the old gunslinger, Brett Favre came back from the dead (that is, down and out...literally...with a significant injury) to start the game and give his team a boost. The plan seemed to be working well until early in the second quarter when Favre suffered a concussion, as he was slung to the ground, banging his head on the frozen field. He left the game and did not return. It would appear that Favre may finally be done playing...although, how can anyone really say for certain. He says that this is it...that he is done. Personally, I hate to see Favre leave...he has been the most exciting player of his generation, but even old gunslinger's have to step aside at some point. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, and we will catch up with you again after the holiday.


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