It was oddly a really boring day of NFL action until it wasn’t around 7:20 p.m. Eastern.
Two games in overtime at the same time. The Bills at the Bucs. The 49ers at the Bengals. Me in seat 1F on United Airlines.
I was flying home from Cleveland after watching the Browns squeeze by the Ravens when I saw a flurry of updates on Twitter on what would be the games of the day. How did people watch and keep up with football before phones, by the way? I don’t want to even think about life before that!
We can stop asking whether the Chiefs are back. What we need to start wondering is how do teams avoid the Chiefs in the playoffs. Who wants to go through Kansas City? The answer is probably nobody. The Titans are getting healthy. Running back Alvin Kamara is giving the Saints a spark with his return, and quarterback Zach Wilson continues to make Jets fan wonder if this was a mistake.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson has a sprained ankle and the Ravens’ season is in flux. Can they win games if he can’t play?
The Cam Newton experiment in Carolina is just that, and while the Cowboys guaranteed a win, it seemed like it was a lock until it somehow got too close for comfort. The game was weird, but the pregame report from ESPN’s Todd Archer about Dallas bringing in its own heated benches makes me love this league. Todd Archer's story on heated seats
Everyone is absolutely out of their minds, and it makes me feel sane, even if I was frozen Sunday morning.
In Cleveland a really nice reader hanging out in the "Dog Pound" asked me about our little Sunday Sauce here. He says he stops by here for quick football reflection, but actually wanted my family's meatball recipe. Look for a post this week! I'm going to have my husband take pictures too while I roll the meatballs so I can really fulfill my lifelong dream of being Giada DeLaurentiis for a day.
Let’s get to it!
Garlic bread: A little something that tastes so good.
It was a beautiful, touching scene in Denver as the team lined up with just 10 men on the field for the first snap of the Broncos’ game against the Detroit Lions. The Broncos paid tribute to their own Demaryius Thomas, who died this past week at his home at the age of 33.
The receiver, who played for almost nine years in Denver, had the spot where he once regularly lined up for the Broncos, left open. Denver let the play clock wind down and was called for a delay of game. The Lions declined the penalty as fans loudly chanted "D-T, D-T."
It was a powerful moment, and I can bet you Patrick Smyth, the team’s chief communications director, had a large say in the logistics of how they wanted to honor Thomas. Smyth is one of the best in football at his job and always operates with a special touch. Its rare in football to come across people like him.
Hopefully the Thomas family appreciated these moments during a time that must be very difficult. I still can't believe he's gone...
Pasta: We cook ours al dente (Al dente literally translates to “to the tooth.”). So, let’s take this literally.
San Francisco tight end George Kittle. After posting a 12-catch, 181-yard performance with two touchdowns in the 49ers’ loss to Seattle last week, it felt like it was a wasted stat line. This week he made sure his team won. In the 49ers’ win against the Bengals, he had 13 receptions, 151 yards and a touchdown with a couple of huge third-down catches in the 4th quarter and overtime. We know Kittle has been banged up this year but seems to be hitting his stride even with some lingering issues. When San Francisco has its full complement of players healthy, we see the team that has championship-level credentials. Also, as he left the game to go to the locker room after the win, Kittle saw a service dog, smiled, and said to it, “puppy.” (NFL Network's Mike Giardi)
That’s George Kittle. A beast of an athlete, who also makes us smile.
The Sauce: The most important part of the meal. All the ingredients have to come together at the right time. Some people like it spicy, some people like it sweet, but either way the sauce is the star of the show.
The Bucs kept it interesting by having a meltdown against the Bills, but let’s not have that distract from what is happening with Tampa Bay. Since the Bucs lost back-to-back games to the Saints and the WFT they are 4-0. Their schedule is manageable too; they have the Saints, Panthers, Jets, Panthers. You are looking at the defending Super Bowl champs who can finish the regular season on an eight-game winning streak, finishing 14-3 overall on what is supposedly a Super Bowl hangover.
Headed into Sunday’s game on paper it looked like this:
Most passing yards per game this season: The Bucs
Fewest passing yards allowed per game: The Bills
Most passing TDs this season: The Bucs
Fewest passing TDs allowed this season: The Bills
In other words? Strength on strength yet the story of the game was this glaring state. Per ESPN, the Bills became the first team since 1991 to not hand the ball off to a running back for the entire first half and were 0-5 on third down throughout the opening two quarters. Buffalo is hanging on by a thread for a playoff spot while Tampa could be cruising through the NFC (depending on what happens with Arizona).
Also watch my friend Jeff Darlington lose his mind after the canons went off during his pregame report. AH!!
What a meatball! Most of us really like meatballs and they are essential on our Sundays, but if you are called a “meatball” by one of my uncles, you probably did something really stupid, so this could be a play, a team, or a coach.
Reports of the Jaguars head coach treating his staff poorly and having numerous conflicts with players has been circulating all season. After being blanked by the Titans, the former Ohio State head coach who worked with Titans head coach Mike Vrabel at the university, shook hands after the game, except the shake looked like Meyer was done with Vrabel, done with losing, and I’m sure, done coaching in the NFL.
If you want to see what kind of impact he’s having in Jacksonville, it doesn’t take much to see there is talent on his roster, like the defense, and quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and most of the world would never know it.
There are too many awful stories about who Urban Meyer is as a man, forget as a coach. Let’s just say a quarter of them are true, is he really worth keeping as your leader?
He was asked by a reporter how to fix what's wrong: "What's the answer? Starting leaking some information or nonsense? That's garbage. ... If there is a source, then that source is unemployed. I mean, within seconds."
I have a feeling this is going to get ugly. Jacksonville can't get it right.