December 12, 2005
Drew Bledsoe:
Throws for 3 TDs and 332 yards in a huge win for Dallas over the Chiefs. Win keeps Cowboys (8-5) in the thick of NFC playoff race.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
UNDER.  PRESSURE.

I appreciate my colleague Gene Wojciechowski's sentiment that the Colts should go for 16-0 (and presumably, 19-0), but in focusing on the big story he's missing the big picture.

What happens when the Colts go all-out for 16-0 and, along the way, a key player gets hurt in what is essentially garbage time and wrecks the team's chances to win the Super Bowl?

I'm with GM Bill Polian: "Priority No. 1 is be healthy going into the playoffs."

I appreciate the competitive instinct to want to win every game, but Herman Edwards had it wrong. You don't "play to win the game." Hello?! You play to win the championship.

My colleague Woj reflects the national fan's interest in the most compelling story possible. Hey, 19-0 would be the all-time greatest accomplishment in team sports. Everyone WANTS to see it.

But it's misguided as a goal. Immortality is a siren, even if it IS within sight. 19-0 is just the type of eye-OFF-the-ball thinking that leads to stumbling before they reach the real goal, a Super Bowl title.

And make no mistake: At this point, if the Colts don't win the Super Bowl -- whether they go 16-0, 15-1, 14-2 or 13-3 along the way -- they are utter failures.

Woj says people don't remember individual year's Super Bowl champs? Give me a break. Know who people really don't remember? A season's top contender that doesn't win the Super Bowl. Oh, wait. Except, as chokers.

Colts fans from Indiana and across the country will remember a title, no matter how it happens; everyone else's interest is a distant second.

If 19-0 happens incidentally, that's great; I'm rooting for it as hard as the next person sick of the '72 Dolphins.

But let's hope the Colts don't lose the distinctive focus needed to be a champ, in trying to be something sportswriters and fans, who really don't care about the team, want it to be.

19-0 is a sideshow;
a ring is the real thing.

AFC Getting Wild
AFC Wild Card's "Big Four": Two spots for four teams (JAX, PIT, SD, KC) with three games remaining. Here's how they look:

Best shot: Jaguars. Despite a loss to the Colts yesterday, the Jags have a one-game lead over the other three and remaining games against the 49ers, Texans and Titans. They'd have to TRY to miss the playoffs.

Next best: Steelers. Win over Chicago to break 3-game losing streak was huge. They can break another team's long winning streak next week at Minnesota, then finish at Cleveland and Detroit. Essentially control their own destiny, because of the other two contenders' rough schedules.

In trouble: Chargers/Chiefs. Disappointing losses yesterday might have been the difference between making the playoffs and watching them at home.

The Chiefs are on the road at the Giants next week, then face the Chargers in what looks like a knock-out game, then finish with the Bengals, who will likely be motivated by playing for a first-round playoff bye. Ouch.

The Chargers face the Colts at Indy next week, then go to K.C. for that K.O. game, then finish with Denver, another team likely battling for a first-round playoff bye. That's brutal. (Is Charlie Weis still available?)

Theo Back in Boston?
Epstein returning to the Sox in an advisory role has nothing but long-term trouble written on it.

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
Artest trade rumors: He likes Knicks, but watch for Kings
Shaun Alexander: 5 TDs to break Priest's one-season record
Tom Brady: 329 yds and 2 TDs for SI's Sportsman of the Year
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Super Mario in Torino: Won't play (but how aboot Crosby?)
B.C.: Ends bad CBB week with loss to Maryland in ACC debut
Vikings-bashers: Hard to dis 6 Ws in row, p'off contention
 
I'm sure everyone will feel great about having him back, but what's his purview? And how will that affect the co-GM scenario the team is announcing today?

I really like the co-GM experiment, mainly because of the success it seemed to have in the last month of deal-making: Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington bring complementary skills. It just remains to be seen where Theo really fits into all this.

Clemens Returning?
Not to Houston... to Boston! The boldest move the co-GMs could make would bring Roger Clemens back into the fold. They've apparently contacted him... and he's apparently intrigued!

If it happens, it'll be amusing to those of us not in Red Sox Nation to clock how quickly the die-hard fans flip-flop their long-standing loathing to reembrace Clemens.

Tejada Trade Watch
Go figure: Miggy says he was misquoted and has no interest in leaving the team (only that they get better. Gee, ya think?)

But a few other teams were so salivating over the mere possibility of a deal that the O's should explore one anyway, just to see how far other teams are willing to go.

Sure the Red Sox would have unloaded Manny, but how much of his salary would they have eaten? And would they have included Arroyo (or even Papelbon) and an infield prospect like Youkilis (or even Marte)?

And the Angels were reportedly in the mix with an aggressive deal that included SS Cabrera, rising 1B stud Kotchman and even the previously untouchable SP Santana. (Miggy and Vlad? Whew.)

(Even with either of those deals, the O's best move is to stand pat with their perennial MVP candidate. But it never hurts to look!)

Shaq is Back
What a difference having Daddy back makes. Without Shaq, the .500 Heat would have simply racked up just another loss when Dwyane Wade has a wild game (41 points).

Instead, with Shaq patrolling the paint, eating up 11 rebounds to go with 10 points, the Heat were able to hold off the Wizards in OT for a win to nudge their record one game over .500.

CBB: Duke IS No. 1
They thumped No. 2 Texas, and that's good enough for me to stop being a doubter and vault them over Villanova and UConn as the No. 1 team in the country (at least this week).

Even the hatable JJ Redick made it very difficult to do anything but stare slack-jawed at his career-best 41 (including 9 3s). Best shooter in college hoops? Understatement. (Leading the nation in 3s made and hitting nearly 50 percent.)

(Is anyone even close? Maybe the only player ahead of Redick in PPG: Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, who had the Shot of the Weekend on that game-winning bank-was-open 3-pointer to carry the Zags over Oklahoma St.)

All of a sudden, speculation about Redick on Coach K's USA Hoops team with the NBA'ers doesn't seem so crazy. JJ has got a jumper made for the international game (which is good, because that's what his pro prospects look like).

Bush Wins Heisman
Would you rather win a Heisman Trophy or a national title? Reggie Bush cemented his CFB immortality, but Vince Young sounded like he was disappointed enough to be extra-motivated for the Rose Bowl.

The next question for Bush: How good of a pro will he be? Next Sayers or Faulk? Or next Dunn or Meggett?

Despite his transcendent talents, it comes down to having a forward-thinking coach who knows how to use him, so he can avoid the fate of Mike Vick, who has been put into the strait-jacket of conventional NFL coaching.

Looking to 2006: If Vince Young and Brady Quinn both return for their senior years (and right now, both are expected back), that will be one of the best 1-on-1 Heisman battles in a long time.

Young and Quinn's styles aren't simply different; they'll represent an allegory of the contemporary sociological divide between perceptions of what makes a "classic QB."

More Bush-Watching
Which teams helped (or hurt) themselves in the race for the top overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft?

Did the Jets and Packers realize their meaningless wins over Oakland and Detroit cost them a critical game? Play to win the game, eh? (Why not play to win more in '06?)

They could take a cue from the 49ers, who took over sole possession of the second-worst record with a 41-3 shellacking from the Seahawks. That Week 17 "Bush Bowl" between the 49ers and Texans could be the most intriguing game between a pair of duds in years.

Speaking of Houston, the Texans showed what true Bush-worthy ineptitude was, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with a last-second FG miss that would have sent the game with the Titans to OT. They must really want him!

Dick Jauron:
"Fire Millen?" Why not "Fire Jauron!" The Lions head coach blew the Sunday night game vs. the Packers by going for it late on 4th-and-goal from the 1.
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Page 2 Index
Page 2 Critics
 
NFL Power Rankings
Colts
Up next: San Diego
 
Bengals
Barely survived Browns
 
Seahawks
Eyeing Week 16 vs. IND
 
Broncos
Ugly 12-10 win vs. Ravens
 
Pats
Edge out NFC 9-4 logjam
 

MNF: NO-ATL. Was it so long ago that I was spouting "We're all Saints fans." Um, yes. With a chance to gain back a game on Carolina, ATL wins big.

World Cup Draw: Is there any better nickname than "Group of Death?" In '06, it's either Group C or Group E (that's the U.S. group!)

Quotable: "...She has to have fat ankles. Fat ankles will at least cut the population chasing her in half." (Mark Cuban, in Playboy, about his daughter.)

Hawks beat Spurs: Apparently, the NBA is going for the on "Any Given Sunday" thing.

I'd like to hear explanations from the two Heisman voters who gave No. 1 votes to Drew Olsen and DeAngelo Williams, right before they lose their privileges.



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