Flem File's Monday observations
Here are a few Monday morning observations from Week 4 in the NFL:
• Some people oooh and ahhh when they see a great drive in golf, a home run blast or a long-distance 3. Is it weird that I make that same noise when a back like Correll Buckhalter makes a beautifully timed cut underneath a pulling guard?
• Talked to Falcons sophomore QB Matt Ryan during Atlanta's bye week for a piece in ESPN The Magazine about the difficult balance a rookie quarterback has to maintain between doing enough to lead and win now while understanding that true leadership takes time. "You can't rush it," Ryan told me. "You're not gonna have everyone's respect after one game. Not even after four or five games. You're not even gonna have it after one full season. The true test to earning someone's respect is being consistent long-term."
• The Bears were joking about chugging Red Bull before their game against Detroit. But, ya know, former Eagles and Steelers back Duce Staley used to drink, like, eight of those cans before kickoff.
• I understand and even agree with the frustration felt by Ray Lewis for the blatant way the league legislates ironclad protection for its marquee quarterbacks. But the bottom line is the NFL has never, ever been anything but totally upfront with the fact that it is a business, first and foremost, that quarterbacks are the rainmakers of that business and that the NFL will do whatever it takes to protect those assets. Whatever it takes. It always has been that way. It always will be that way. It will never change. And to not understand that as a defensive leader is dangerously naive -- like celebrating a big hit near the goal line even though the Pats converted on fourth down.
• My TV might be messed up -- or the angle of the end zone camera in Cleveland slightly askew -- but I rewatched Shayne Graham's 31-yard winning field goal several times, and I never saw it go inside the upright.
• Two things from Tennessee: Kerry Collins is pressing and taking risks to try to make something -- anything -- happen in Nashville. He just flat-out has never been that kind of quarterback. And it says a lot about how the powers that be and the players in the locker room feel about Vince Young that no one has offered up as much as a whisper of discontent about how Young hasn't gotten a chance.
• Denver linebacker D.J. Williams should take the game film from his performance on Sunday against the Cowboys and sell it as an instructional video for linebackers trying to learn how to work in pass coverage.
• After watching Giants WR Hakeem Nicks' 54-yard touchdown, I was reminded of what Eagles wideout Jason Avant told me last week: that sometimes the most important speed a wideout has is how fast he can stop.
• Matt Cassel is being wrecked by the Kansas City Chiefs. Not the other way around. Although he's getting $63.2 million for his troubles.
• How many near-catastrophic misses did Kyle Orton have throwing the ball against Dallas? Throws that absolutely should have been picked off. Six? Seven?
• Are the Chargers the most underachieving team this past decade?
• I received hundreds of e-mails about the column on Brett Favre's exaggerated comeback stat. They broke down into three categories: 1. Readers who were extremely angry, such as the guy in Utah who e-mailed a second time to make sure I got his message that I should die a horrible, fiery, cursed death. (I even had a woman shoot me the stink eye at a charity event Saturday night.) 2. Readers who, correctly, thought it was unfair and shortsighted not to point out what Elway's adjusted "real" comeback number was. I have him in the low 30s but far, far ahead of Favre. And 3. Readers who totally agreed, many of whom went a step further and asked a very good question: How many games has Favre lost in the fourth quarter?
Here's an example from sharp reader Billy:
Favre's cult of worship (which includes many of your company's employees) makes me gag. During the regular season, Favre is a "gunslinger," and his mistakes are glossed over by the fact that the season isn't on the line. So I present an abbreviated history of Favre's postseason play.
Jan. 20, 2002, divisional playoffs in St. Louis: six interceptions.
Jan. 4, 2003, divisional-round loss to Atlanta: 54 passer rating, two interceptions, including one that sealed the game.
Jan.11, 2004, divisional playoffs in Philly: First play of overtime, an inexplicable Hail Mary that gets picked, Eagles win the game on a short field goal.
Jan. 9, 2005, wild-card playoffs versus Minnesota: 22-for-33, 216 yards, one touchdown, four interceptions
Jan. 20, 2008, NFC title game versus Giants: You know this story. An interception in overtime, the Giants go on to the Super Bowl.
Nov. 30 through Dec. 28, 2008: One of the worst months of quarterback play in NFL history leaves Favre as the NFL leader in interceptions.
• A few years back, when the Patriots were on the verge of a perfect season, I wrote a column about what defines greatness. The definition we came up with was the ability to make the extremely difficult and complicated look easy and sustain that excellence over time. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Peyton Manning and his second touchdown on Sunday, a perfectly thrown 21-yard ball to rookie Austin Collie after an audible at the line of scrimmage from the master.
• Not questioning Junior Seau's heart, his legacy or all this "presence" everyone keeps talking about in New England. But the last time I studied him closely, he looked slow, old and able to make a big play only when he took big risks and left his teammates flapping in the wind -- and that was in 2007.
• Brandon Marshall and Josh McDaniels hugging after the win against Dallas? Can we all finally agree that chemistry is a myth? Winning is what creates chemistry, not the other way around.
David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and the author of the memoir "Noah's Rainbow" and "Breaker Boys: The NFL's Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship." And his work will be featured in the 2009 Best American Sports Writing anthology. The Flem File appears every Wednesday during the NFL season with updates on Mondays and Fridays.
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