1-2. It’s the 2004 draft revisited. Quarterbacks Eli Manning and Philip Rivers will be forever intertwined after Manning made it known he didn’t want to be selected by the Chargers with the first overall pick in that draft. San Diego selected him anyway, and three choices later, the Giants picked Rivers and the two teams then made a trade.
1. Sunday, in the Giants’ 27-23 victory against Baltimore, Manning had 3 touchdown passes to give him 302 for his career. He passed John Elway (300) for seventh place on the all-time list. Only four quarterbacks in history have at least 300 touchdown passes and two Super Bowl victories: Manning, his brother Peyton, Elway and Tom Brady. The win Sunday was also Manning’s 100th regular-season victory in his career.
2. Rivers, who is ninth on the touchdowns list with 293, moved up the passing yardage list last Thursday in San Diego’s 21-13 win against Denver. With 43,094 yards, Rivers passed Dan Fouts for the Chargers’ all-time lead and is now in 13th place on the all-time list.
Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said, “The San Diego Chargers organization is very fortunate to have two of the best of all-time. Philip is the best in the business. He’s been that way for a long time. I’ve been fortunate to be with him the last four years. He’s a special player and it doesn’t matter who’s in the huddle with him, he just shows up to work every single day, busts his tail, does his job, leads this organization, goes out and performs week in and week out at the highest level. That’s the only way he knows how to play. More important than any of that stuff, he’s one of the greatest human beings around.”
3. Then there’s Beckham. Nary a week goes by without headline grabbing by Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Sunday, it was a combination of his play on the field, and bizarre antics off it when he actually proposed marriage to the kicking net on the sideline. Beckham’s 66-yard touchdown play accounted for the winning points on a fourth-and-1 play with 1 minute, 24 seconds to play. Earlier in the game, he scored on a 75-yard play and finished the game with 10 catches for 222 yards.
After the winning score, he took his helmet off at the back of the end zone, drawing a 15-yard penalty, and then got cute with the net, which he had head-butted in an earlier game against Washington and cornerback Josh Norman. He said grinning, “Our relationship is growing, so I thought we might as well make it serious. I proposed and she said yes. Me and the net are going to get married sometime soon. Hopefully it all works out. I’m 23, so I don’t know much about marriage. She seems like a pretty nice gal.”
Beckham was playing with a hip pointer suffered in the second quarter, and said, “I sat there and just prayed. I prayed for strength. (God) placed his hand of anointment on me and I was able to go out there, get enough adrenaline to make a play and put us in position (to win). I don’t think I played any different besides me being injured. It was the same passion. I think because I was hurt I couldn’t express it as much as I wanted to. I couldn’t even yell to my coach and tell him something. God is good.
“It’s kind of an example of what God can do for you. He’s put me on this platform and in position to do the things like this. He’s put me there for the ups and the downs and to learn and grow from them. Really, there’s going to be a lot more downs and a lot more ups. I trust in Him.”
Head coach Ben McAdoo was glad for Beckham, but also wasn’t pleased with the penalty or the net incident. He said, “I think (his talent) was on full display this afternoon. Very talented young man. He is humble in a lot of instances and he pushed through some tough times and injuries today and he really made us a better football team today. He’s a lightning rod for us. He’s a great energy source for his team.”
As for the penalty. “He came up to me right after. We had a discussion about it. Can’t have it. He knows that. He went out and wanted to fire up the kickoff coverage and the defense. He knows we can’t have it.”
Asked Monday if he was OK with his “relationship” with the net, McAdoo said, “We need to keep our focus on the ballgame.” A reporter asked, “What do you mean?” to which McAdoo repeated, “We, as a team, need to focus on the ballgame.”
4. Kubiak returns.
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak missed his team’s game against the Chargers because of complex migraines he experienced during the team’s Week 4 loss to Atlanta. Kubiak was back with the team Monday as they began preparations for next Monday night’s game against Houston.
Said Kubiak, “I feel good. I feel really good. I got too much rest, unfortunately. I didn’t want it, but I got it. I feel very good. I spent some time going through some things with some doctors and I’m very encouraged. It made me feel really good. All of my tests came back great. All I can say is it’s good to be back to work. I really missed a few days there. It was really tough to watch and be away from. I’m glad to be back.”
After numerous tests and consultation with doctors, Kubiak said, “The biggest thing for me is really helping me sleep better. That’s about all I can tell you. I’m sure you guys don’t sleep really well either. That’s it. I met with them and spent some quality time with them late last week. I really didn’t do much this weekend except come in here and get my mind going a little bit. I feel very comfortable with where I am heading and how I am feeling.”
Asked how it changes perspective, especially considering the mini-stroke he suffered while head coach of the Texans in 2013, Kubiak said, “It just makes you really appreciate what you’re doing. We’re in a business where you go, go and go. You have 16 weeks to be as good as you can be and all of a sudden taking a few days away from here, when you’re a football coach, is like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ It’s like having a summer off. It just makes you appreciate the players. It makes you appreciate being around the coaches and the players, even you guys.”
5-6. Speaking of the Texans …
5. A huge part of their win against Indianapolis Sunday night was the performance of running back Lamar Miller. Miller rushed for 149 yards on 24 attempts with a 1-yard touchdown and added a 10-yard score on a scintillating reverse-field run after catching a pass from quarterback Brock Osweiler. For the game, he had 3 catches for 29 yards. That touchdown pulled Houston to within 23-16 with 2:37 left in the fourth quarter.
Said head coach Bill O’Brien, “I thought Lamar was offensively one of the big differences in the game. We felt like he was the guy throughout the game that was probably playing the best on offense so at halftime we said, ‘Look, we’ve got to keep finding ways to get this guy the ball.’” In the second half, he had all 3 of his receptions and 12 rushes for 83 yards.
6. After the game Sunday, O’Brien side-stepped questions about a story claiming there was a heated exchange between him and Osweiler following a quarterbacks meeting in the days after the team’s Week 5 loss to Minnesota. The report by Jason La Canfora of cbssports.com said Osweiler was upset with some of the play-calling in the game against the Vikings.
Monday, reporters tried to pry a comment from O’Brien by taking a different angle. O’Brien was asked, “When you worked with Patriots QB Tom Brady, how demanding was he about having things done a certain way?” O’Brien said, “Every quarterback is different. I mean, no two quarterbacks are alike. The key to coaching a quarterback is really getting to know the guy. What is something that helps you get to know this guy? Whether it’s off the field or on the field. You really have to develop a bond. I’m not saying it’s different with other positions, but I think you really have to get to know the quarterback to really understand what he likes, what he’s comfortable with and also for that quarterback to understand your style and how you do things. Sometimes that takes a while. What we know about Brock is that he’s a very hard working guy, very prepared guy. We enjoy coaching him. He’s learning. We just were happy to see him be able to help us win that game last night. That was a good win.”
The follow-up to that was, “You and Brady were obviously demanding of each other. There’s that famous clip of you and him fighting on the sidelines. You two must have been comfortable with each other.” At that, a light bulb went off in O’Brien’s head. He said, “I know where you’re going with this. I think I know where you’re headed with this, with whatever story came out. I mean, anybody that’s been around me knows that I really only know one way to go about it. That’s to work very hard and to do it in a very intense environment. I think that’s the type of players we have. So when you’re coaching football and playing football, and you’re in a competitive environment where everyone is pulling the same rope and everybody is trying to do their very best to win the game, things are going to happen.
“That to me is the biggest non-story of the year. I don’t know if there’s a bigger non-story. Anybody that has seen me or been around me or any of our coaching staff from (linebackers coach Mike) Vrabel to (secondary coach John) Butler to (offensive line coach Mike) Devlin to (offensive coordinator George) Godsey, knows that’s the way we coach. We coach hard. The players play hard. Sometimes that’s the way it goes. That’s what makes it fun to coach and that’s what makes it fun about this league. That’s just the way we are. That’s the way the players are. That’s a competitive league. That’s the environment we’re in.”
In other words, the incident likely happened, but to O’Brien it is part of the team’s culture. In fact, there is apparently evidence that he listened to Osweiler. O’Brien said of Osweiler’s play, “We called plays that he likes and he executed them with his teammates. His head was always in the game. It was just a matter of everybody, coaches and players alike, just doing a better job in the second half and that’s what we did.”
7-8. The Gronk and Brady show.
7. In the two games following the return of quarterback Tom Brady from his four-game suspension, tight end Rob Gronkowski has 12 receptions for 271 yards and a touchdown. His 162 yards in Sunday’s 35-17 win against Cincinnati was a career high.
He has 22 career games with at least 100 yards, tying Jackie Smith for the third-most by a tight end. Tony Gonzalez had 31 and Kellen Winslow 24.
“He just makes so many great plays,” Brady said. “He’s a big target and he makes any quarterback look good.”
Perhaps it’s only coincidence that Gronkowski got over a hamstring injury when Brady returned. “Just being able to practice and being healthy, and having two wheels under me,” Gronkowski said when asked about the last two games. “Going out there and seeing how the guys worked throughout the practice when I wasn’t there – it makes me want to get out there, makes me want to work hard in my rehab, which I was – I was doing everything possible to get back to where I needed to get back to.”
He also was called for taunting Bengals cornerback Adam Jones about halfway through the fourth quarter and explained, “Things get a little heated. There was really nothing even being said. I was just bobbing my head, I think – and they gave me a personal foul.”
Asked if he thought the Bengals were trying to bait him after the penalty so he might get ejected for a second personal foul, Gronkowski said, “No, I don’t; they do that every game. If you watch film, they’re always baiting everyone to do that. They’re a tough, physical team. They’re physical football players. They’re big, and they hit hard. I feel like that’s the style that they play, so I kind of gave into it when I got my penalty, and I’ve got to watch out for that, but after that, I just had to stay away. I didn’t need a second one and to get thrown out of the game, so I was good. I was just clearing myself out. After we scored that one touchdown, I let everyone else celebrate. I was just clapping so I didn’t get a penalty.”
8. Brady completed 29 of 35 passes for 375 yards against Cincinnati with 3 touchdown passes, and in his two games has completed 76.0 percent of his passes (57 of 75) for 782 yards, 10.45 yards per attempt, 6 touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 135.5. It was his 47th career game with at least 3 touchdown passes and no interceptions, second-most in history behind Peyton Manning (51).
He also now has 5,010 completions to become the fourth player in history to reach at least 5,000. The others are Brett Favre (6,300), Manning (6,125) and Drew Brees (5,515).
9. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said the team’s coaches had nothing to do with the defense trying to blow up the kneel downs Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford were attempting at the end of his team’s 31-28 victory Sunday.
Fisher said, “This approach did not come from the sideline; it was not a call, it was not something that we practiced or that we preached. I think it was a byproduct of frustration and things that (defensive tackle) Aaron (Donald) endured during the game and the players took it on themselves to do it. We’ll address it. I talked to coach (Jim) Caldwell after the game and apologized and I said I’d get to the bottom of it.
“If the game’s over, the game’s over, pay respect to your opponent. You guys don’t realize all the stuff that goes on inside, up front between the offensive linemen and the defensive linemen. We’ll address it and it’s unlikely that it’ll happen again.”
Stafford appeared to be a little gimpy after the first one as offensive linemen were pushed into him. Guard Graham Glasgow was said to have injured his hand in the scrum and needed X-rays afterward.
When talking to reporters Monday, Caldwell was asked if his players were prepared for a possible altercation while taking a knee against the Rams. He said, “I’m not certain exactly how to handle that question that you asked, obviously a leading question. In a situation where we’ve taken hundreds and hundreds of kneel downs. So, were they prepared for that? Absolutely, that’s all I have to say about it.”
When asked if the team was aware Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ players have a history of altercations when opponents kneel down, he responded, “We just coach the way we’ve always coached and try to be sound in every situation. Try to expect the unexpected and sometimes things happen where they’re unexpected.”
The rest of the questioning went like this:
On how he coaches his team to play against an offense taking a knee: “Guys coach the way they want to coach. It’s their business. We do what we do, everybody else does what they do. We don’t try and copy anybody. We don’t worry about what anybody thinks or anything of that nature. We just try to do our job.”
On what he thinks about teams playing physical against an offense taking a knee: “It’s their business.”
On if teams playing physical against taking a knee is unnecessarily dangerous: “That’s their business. Ask those guys that question.”
On why he doesn’t coach his team to play physical against an offense taking a knee: “That’s just the way we believe in, philosophical.”
On NBC Sunday night, Tony Dungy said, “This is something that is not done in the NFL. The game is over. This is not the time to show you are a tough guy.”
Perhaps the most hypocritical comment came from former NFL safety Rodney Harrison, who said, “Jeff Fisher-coached teams play tough, but they also at times play cheap. I was on the other end of that. I tore my knee up because of a cheap shot from one of his players. It happens every single year and we seem to talk about it every year.”
Of course, when Harrison was playing, he was talked about every year as one of the all-time cheap-shot artists in the league, who blew out quarterback Trent Green’s knee on a low hit in a preseason game.
10. Harrison and Dungy were also vocal about Carolina quarterback Cam Newton’s petulant attitude during a 90-second “press conference” following his team’s loss to New Orleans on Sunday. Harrison wasn’t the only one critical and it included NFL Network’s LaDainian Tomlinson, who read Newton’s words about learning his lesson after his behavior following the Super Bowl in February.
Said Dungy, “You’re the leader and the face of the franchise. You have to be better than that in those losing situations. No doubt.”
Harrison added, “If I was Cam Newton’s teammate, my advice to him would be: The way you conduct yourself in these postgame interviews is not for the guys like Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen. It’s for the younger players. The younger players, when you’re going through adversity, they look up to the leaders. You have to be able to conduct yourself. Front-runners get excited and they pump their chest when you are winning.
“But when you go through adversity, you have to be that same confident young man and stand up at the podium, answer the questions and be professional. I think that’s the thing that is missing with Cam. But the one thing I do like about him is he is very passionate and he wants to win. I don’t count them out.”
11-12. Scoring touchdowns for the Chiefs on Sunday against the Raiders were running Jamaal Charles and nose tackle Dontari Poe.
11. Charles, who suffered a torn ACL last season, played 15 snaps, rushed 9 times for 33 yards, scored on a 4-yard run and had 2 receptions for 14 yards.
Said head coach Andy Reid, “It was good to have him back in all areas. Is he ready to carry it every down? I don’t think that’s where we’re at right this minute, but he got more carries than he did against Pittsburgh. His attitude from the get go has been ‘give me the ball, I want to play.’ He’s got the attitude which is awesome. I mentioned yesterday you’re talking about a future Hall of Fame player here, his numbers are astronomical.
“It was great to see him in the end zone, it was great to see him run hard and not shy away from contact or anything. He looked like he was all in. There was a point there where we were feeding him a bit and he was breathing hard, but he was loving every minute of it and wanted more and that’s good. He came out of the game feeling good, he came out of the game wanting more and that’s how I wanted it.”
12. Poe, listed as 6-foot-3, 346 pounds, lined up in the slot to the right of quarterback Alex Smith, who tossed a backward pass his way. Poe deftly caught it, and plowed into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown. He scored a touchdown on a handoff last season, also from the 1-yard line. Afterward, Poe said he has never dropped a throw from Smith in practice: “No drops. Can’t drop it. If you drop it, (Reid is) not going to use it, so you got to let him know you’re automatic.”
Reid said, “I’m taking credit for that one for all the chubby guys out there. He’s got phenomenal hands. I know that’s hard to say about a nose guard, but he’s got phenomenal hands. It’s just a matter of looking it in, be patient and then cut the beast loose.”
13. Redskins tight end Vernon Davis was penalized for excessive celebration after scoring a touchdown Sunday against the Eagles when he shot a free throw with the football. On the short kickoff that followed, Wendell Smallwood returned it 86 yards for a touchdown.
Said head coach Jay Gruden, “I showed all the videos of illegal celebrations the other day and shooting a basketball through the goal post wasn’t one of them. I don’t consider the ball as a prop on that one. I might have done the same thing, but now we know and he won’t ever do it again.”
14. On another explosive afternoon, Saints quarterback Drew Brees passed for 465 yards against Carolina, his 15th career game with 400 or more yards breaking out of a tie with Peyton Manning for the most ever. He also passed 50,000 yards for his career and now has 50,289 yards and extended his record for consecutive home games with a touchdown pass to 57.
Included in the 465 yards was an 87-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who had a 98-yard touchdown in Week 1.
Still, the touchdown pass he will really remember was an 8-yard play to tight end Josh Hill that gave the Saints a 38-30 lead in the fourth quarter. On the play, he was hit in the face by Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short and suffered a split lip.
Brees said, “(The hit) wasn’t that hard, but it looked like he just straight punched me in the mouth. That’s what it felt like, and that’s what it looked like on the Jumbotron, but I’ll take the 15 yards every time. We got the touchdown anyways, so we are all good.”
15. Weird schedule. Sunday’s win against Pittsburgh was the second of four consecutive home games for the Dolphins. By the time they play at San Diego on Nov. 13, it will have been 45 days since playing at Cincinnati on Sept. 29. They were home against Tennessee on Oct. 9, Pittsburgh on Sunday and Buffalo next Sunday followed by their bye and then a home game Nov. 6 against the Jets.
Said head coach Adam Gase, “In this league, you go with the flow with those kinds of things. What we have is rare. I don’t know if anybody’s really been able to do this before. I know being able to be home this week, a bye and then home again, that’s good for our guys for things as far as injuries and being able to kind of sleep in your own bed and not worry about making two-day trips and staying in hotels. That’s always kind of a refreshing thought for players and coaches.”
16. Big V. Despite some struggles and the loss to Washington, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai will start next Sunday against Minnesota. Vaitai, who was inactive for the first four games of the season, started after Lane Johnson was suspended 10 games, and coaches thought it best not to switch left guard Allen Barbre to right tackle and insert Stefen Wisniewski at left guard.
After watching tape, Pederson said, “You know, you look at it from a certain perspective, then you get a chance to come in today and watch it again and you get a different perspective. Felt like he (had a) slow start, but really settled in nicely throughout the game. And listen, there were — was it perfect? Was it pretty? No. Were there assignment errors? Yes. And I’m not going to stand here and point the finger at Big V because that’s not what happened. There were enough mistakes all around in this football game that cost us this game. But I thought as the game progressed, he settled in nicely and did some good things.”
17. A Smith reunion. When the Buccaneers signed running back Antone Smith on Monday, it gave them five Smiths on the 53-man roster to go with linebacker Daryl Smith, tackle Donovan Smith, center Evan Smith and defensive back Ryan Smith. In addition, defensive end Jacquies Smith is on injured reserve. Oh, almost forgot: the team’s defensive coordinator is Mike Smith.
18-22. By the numbers …
18. It’s tough to figure out the Raiders. Their 26-10 loss to Kansas City on Sunday made their record 1-2 at home and 3-0 on the road this season. In the 22 games with Jack Del Rio as head coach, Oakland is 7-4 on the road and 4-7 at home.
Said quarterback David Carr, “When you come home, that has to be an advantage. There’s got to be something where it’s just a different feel. It has to be. We have yet to create that.”
19. The Chiefs win against Oakland was head coach Andy Reid’s 175th, moving him into 14th place on the all-time list. He had been tied with Mike Holmgren. Reid is two wins behind Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, three behind Mike Shanahan, seven behind Tom Coughlin and eight behind Bill Parcells. The only other active coach with more victories is New England’s Bill Belichick with 251. The win also gave Reid a 16-2 record in his teams’ first game after a bye.
20. Colts running back Frank Gore was pleased Sunday night’s game went to overtime. With 2:32 remaining in the game, Gore gained 2 yards to give him 100 for the game. However, two plays later, on third-and-20, he was dropped for a 1-yard loss. But he gained another chance after Houston tied the game to send it to overtime. He gained 7 yards on one run to give him 106 and become the first Colts player to reach 100 yards in a game since Vick Ballard had 105 on Dec. 16, 2012, also at Houston, a span of 55 regular-season games.
Gore, who passed Jim Brown on the all-time rushing list the week before, went past former Colts running back Edgerrin James (15,610) and Tiki Barber (15,632) to move into 12th place on the all-time list for total yards from scrimmage. Gore now has 15,696.
21. The Texans’ win against Indianapolis was their seventh straight against AFC South opponents and their fifth consecutive win at home, dating back to Week 17 of the 2015 season.
22. The Packers entered their game against the Cowboys on Sunday even in turnover ratio. By the time the game was over, and after having lost to Dallas, 30-16, they were at minus-three because of four turnovers and just one takeaway. Said head coach Mike McCarthy, “I look at the fundamentals throughout the game – No. 1 taking care of the football. The giveaways, giving it away four times and being in the negative category over the season, that doesn’t lead to successful football. That’s not to the standard that we believe, and that’s not what we emphasize each and every day.”
Bills head coach Rex Ryan on a strange question Monday about focus switching from the team’s four-game winning streak to something lewd taking place in the stadium parking lot: “I don’t know what the lewd thing is in the parking lot. I hope I’m not getting blamed for that one. You know what, we just focus on our job and being the best team that we can be. That’s where the attention is for us.”
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the continuing controversy over his kneeling for the national anthem: “I don’t understand what’s un-American about fighting for liberty and justice for everybody, for the equality that everybody says it stands for. Now, to me, I see it as very patriotic and American to uphold the United States to the standards it says it lives by. … I had some Bills fans come up before the game to say they support me, so I think it all depends on who the person is. But at the end of the day, I’m going to continue to fight for what I’m fighting for.”