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Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Updated: April 25, 12:29 PM ET
When in doubt, pass on second down!

By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

When you pass, traditionalists say, three things can happen and two of them are bad -- completion, incompletion or interception. Actually four things can happen and three of them are bad -- completion, incompletion, interception or sack. It's a Darwinian world.

But consider that when you run, three things can happen, and two of them are bad -- gain, loss or fumble. Actually four things can happen and three of them are bad -- gain, no gain, loss or fumble. So there are eight possible outcomes of offensive plays, and six are negative. That's the same negative-positive outcome ratio of the typical date!

But although Tuesday Morning Quarterback thinks the NFL has gone pass-wacky, there's one kind of run TMQ dreads: the predictable second-down rush after an incompletion on first down.

Watch football and behold it over and over again. Teams that throw incomplete on first down feel they must run on second down; defenses know this; the second-down rush is invariably stuffed; suddenly, it's third-and-long. Coaches planning to call the totally obvious rush following an incompletion on first down might as well tell the officials they are waiving their second down and will proceed directly to third-and-10.

Vinny Testaverde
Vinny, after you throw your incompletion on first down, please don't bother with the handoff to Curtis Martin on second down.

Reader Michael Hall, a golf course superintendent at Shadow Wood Country Club in Bonita Bay, Florida, wrote to TMQ, "It seems that a team that throws an incomplete pass on first down will run the ball on second down most of the time, and usually get stuffed because the defense knows what is coming."

Statistically true? Tuesday Morning Quarterback looked at three close games from Sunday -- New Orleans at Tennessee, Jersey/B at New England and Minnesota at Detroit. (I did not check blowouts, on the theory that in the second half of a blowout, the trailing team is almost always passing and the leading team almost always running.) In these games, there were 12 incompletions on first down that were followed by rushes on second down; the runs netted just 9 yards. Ye gods.

TMQ will track this stat through the season to see if it's a representative outcome. But it seems clear that if you decide to pass on first down, and the pass clangs to the ground, you've got to screen or reverse or something on second down; a run up the middle will surely be stuffed. TMQ proclaims an immutable law: Clang on First Bars Run on Second.

In other NFL news, the Ravens caught the last plane for the coast on Wednesday evening, leaving Baltimore early to be sure of averting the Thursday arrival of Hurricane Isabel and making Sunday's appearance at San Diego. Sportswriters and sports commentators, including on ESPN Radio's Sunday pregame show, bemoaned what a disadvantage the early departure from home base was for the Ravens. Disadvantage? They won 24-10.

TMQ has long been mystified that NFL teams going from the West Coast to East Coast or vice-versa don't leave until late Friday or even Saturday morning -- thus insuring they will play jet-lagged and groggy on Sunday. Every team bound for the opposite coast should depart on Wednesday! Coaches and travel departments, please take note.

Andre Davis
Andre Davis' winning TD catch capped the Browns' 17-play drive.

Best 91-Yard Drive:Taking over on their own 9 with 6:19 remaining, trailing 12-7, the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.1) went 91 yards in 17 plays for the winning touchdown against the Squared Sevens. Cleveland converted five third downs on the drive, and left the Niners just 31 seconds on the clock.

Worst Failure to Watch Game Film: Leading 10-2 in the second, the Flaming Thumbtacks faced fourth-and-six on the Boy Scouts' 46. Not a bad spot for a fake punt. But Tennessee had punter Craig Hentrich throw the previous week, and surely New Orleans would know that from film study, right? Fake punt, Hentrich throws for the first down, Tennessee scores on the possession.

Daddy, Make It Magic Again: From the perspective of the tiny tetragon of the television cube, receivers must be working magic -- you see the quarterback drop back, you see the pass fly and the receiver is incredibly open! But watch a game in person, or watch film, and the fairy dust blows off. Case in point: Denver 7, Oakland 0 in the first quarter last night, the Cursors (see below) facing third-and-13 on the Raiders' 44. Jake Plummer looks, he throws, Ashley Lelie is standing alone, touchdown! Watch the tape: Denver lined up two-wide right; Oakland expected crossing patterns; Lelie went straight up the field and no one from the Raiders covered him. He was totally alone owing to a coverage blunder. Lelie did no more than run in a straight line and benefit from an error. Six points, but better to maintain the fairy-dust illusion that something spectacular happened.

Stat of the Week: Kansas City has already scored 110 points.

Koren Robinson
Koren Robinson and the Seahawks are feeling all good about themselves after beating the Rams.

Stats of the Week No. 2: Stretching back to last season, the Seattle Blue Men Group has won six straight.

Stats of the Week No. 3: San Diego held Jamal Lewis to just 132 yards rushing.

Stats of the Week No. 4: A pro football-like 58,784 people were present at Sun Devil Stadium to watch the Arizona Cardinals upset the Green Bay Packers. Roughly half the crowd was Wisconsin residents who had flown south on various tour packages; travel agents know that when the Cardinals play, good seats are always available!

Stats of the Week No. 5: Dolphins tailback Ricky Williams has 478 yards rushing in his last three games against Buffalo. Bills corner Nate Clements has six interceptions in his last three games against Miami.

Stats of the Week No. 6: The Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons had 41 non-kicking snaps in Jersey/A territory, and Dobby the Elf (Steve Spurrier) called 34 passes and seven runs. Result: defeat.

Stats of the Week No. 7: City of Tampa, Miami and Pittsburgh outgained Atlanta, Buffalo and Cincinnati by a combined 569 yards.

Stats of the Week No. 8: Tampa has allowed one touchdown in its first three games.

Stats of the Week No. 9: Stretching back to last season, Green Bay has followed a 12-3 run with a 1-4 run.

Stats of the Week No. 10: Stretching back to last season, Oakland has followed a 9-1 run with a 1-3 run.

Broncos cheerleader
We've always thought the Broncos had some of the best-looking uniforms in the league.

Cheerleader of the Week Catherine Williams of the Denver Broncos holds a bachelor's of science in electrical engineering and a master's in business administration. Electrical engineering degree, MBA -- that can't be right; cheer-babes are not allowed to have more impressive credentials than TMQ! To relax, Williams dances, hikes and works out, and her most recently read book is "A Civil War" by John Feinstein, a football volume. (It's about the Army-Navy rivalry.) Williams, known as Cat, also says she thinks "George W. is doing an unbelievable job as president." Cat, just donate $250,000 and he'll make you an ambassador.

The "audition info" section of the Broncos' cheerleaders site advises aspirants to wear Spandex and not much else and cautions, "Auditions are not like a dance class. Your hair and makeup need to be performance quality -- no pony tails. Our official salon is Antoine du Chez and they are highly recommended for hair styles and makeup applications."

Performance quality hair! Antoine du Chez of Denver also offers a men's spa retreat, where "well-groomed nails are a must for men." At the men's spa, do you get to look at the cheerleaders as they acquire performance-quality hair? I think I need my nails done!

Best Variation on Game Film: Near the goal line in Week Two, Minnesota scored by having Duante Culpepper fake the quarterback draw, then step back and loft a pass. This Sunday, trailing Detroit 10-0, Minnesota faced second-and-10 on the Lions' 14. Culpepper stepped up as if to draw, then hesitated; defenders who had seen the film of the fake draw all dropped off; then Culpepper went up the middle for the touchdown.

Dave McGinnis
And you thought TMQ could only mock the Cardinals! Congrats, Dave McGinnis, on beating the Packers. Enjoy your next 13 losses.

Best Fake to the NFL's All-Time Leading Rusher: Reaching first-and-goal on the Green Bay 1 with 4:45 remaining, game tied at 13-13, the Arizona Cardinals ran on first down for no gain. Normally, a goal-line play-fake has little credibility on the snap after a run has been stuffed, because after a run has been stuffed, the defense is thinking pass. But with the situation now second-and-goal from the 1 with 4 minutes left, Green Bay knew Arizona could pound two more times. The Cards faked the handoff to Emmitt Smith, who drew a crowd of defenders, and Jeff Blake tossed to little-used fullback James Hodgins in the flat for the winning points.

Fundamentals Blunder of the Week: The Blue Men Group scored their first touchdown against Les Mouflons when rookie returner Arlen Harris tried to catch a punt on his own 4, muffed the catch, and Seattle recovered in the end zone. Never try to field a punt inside your own 10! (Note: many French-adept readers, including Katie Collier of Lexington, Kentucky, have written to TMQ suggesting that if the Rams are going to be the Mouflons, they should be Les Mouflons.)

Best Use of TMQ: One of TMQ's immutable laws, Regular Pass Does Not Equal Victory, governs the goal line. The closer the offense gets to the goal line, the harder it becomes to advance, since the defense has steadily less territory to protect. By the goal line itself, a play-fake, power run or roll-out might work, but regular passes become nearly impossible. Also, usually it's best to play-fake on first down, when the defense is thinking run, than on second down, when the defense has just stuffed a run and is thinking pass. This immutable law is, Play-Fake On First.

Leading 7-3 in the late third, Indianapolis reached first-and-goal on the Jax 4-yard line. The Lucky Charms followed TMQ's immutable law, play-faking on first down; touchdown to Reggie Wayne, and Indianapolis never looked back. Game tied at 9 in the late third, the Patriots reached first-and-goal against Jersey/B. New England followed TMQ's immutable law, play-faking on first down; Tom Brady held the ball a moment and then ran for the touchdown, and the Patriots never looked back.

You Don't Need the Football Gods to Foresee This Outcome: Game scoreless in the second quarter, Pittsburgh lined up in field-goal formation on the Cincinnati Fudgsicles 32. Quarterback Tommy Maddox, who also holds for placement kicks, threw off the fake to tight end Jerame Tuman. Trailing by three in the second quarter, Jersey/B lined up in field-goal formation on the New England 16. Punter Dan Stryzinski, who also holds for placement kicks, threw off the fake to center Kevin Mawae, who had lined up eligible.

Now take a wild guess. Which fake kick resulted in a first down and a touchdown on the possession, and which fake kick resulted in the ball clanging to the ground: quarterback to tight end, or punter to offensive lineman?

Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All: Trailing by 10, the Detroit Peugeots had first-and-goal on the Minnesota 1 with 1:40 remaining and holding all their timeouts. Knowing this was a four-down situation, did Detroit pound, pound, pound for the touchdown, calling the timeouts to preserve the clock? Incompletion, run, incompletion, incompletion, game over. On the plus side, Detroit never called two of its time outs, and can now donate them to charity.

Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All, No. 2: Trailing Tennessee 13-2, New Orleans reached first-and-goal on the Flaming Thumbtacks' 9-yard line with 2:21 remaining in the half and all three of its timeouts. Considering three timeouts and the two-minute warning, the clock was a non-issue for the Saints. So did New Orleans pound, pound, pound? Incompletion, sack, incompletion, field goal and the Saints never threatened again.

Miss California
TMQ mental note: make more visits to California.

Lamarche Hopes to Be the First Minister to Be Ordained in a Swimsuit: Congratulations to Ericka Dunlap, Miss Florida and now Miss America. TMQ's eyes focused on Nicole Lamarche, Miss California and tops in the all-important swimsuit competition. Lamarche won in swimsuit despite breaking tradition by going barefoot -- why the standard male fantasy is a woman naked but wearing high heels will be a subject for a future column -- and for good measure also won the quiz competition. Lamarche is a graduate student at the Pacific School of Religion, and hopes to be ordained as a minister in the United Church of Christ.

For academic firepower, the impressive Lamarche was bettered by Miss Wisconsin, Tina Sauerhammer, an M.D. and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Medical School. Reader Joel Nelson of Huron, South Dakota -- two mentions of Huron, S.D., in this column, see below -- notes that Sauerhammer also won Phi Beta Kappa and plays the cello. Nicole Lamarche gets further academic competition from Miss Virginia, Nancy Redd, a Harvard graduate. (Last year's winner, Erika Harold, was Harvard Law -- Harvard is taking over Miss America?) But TMQ is hard-pressed to come up with a better-sounding mega-babe combination than a barefoot bikini-clad California girl who's a divinity student and smart enough to win the quiz segment. Nicole, I've written a book on theology. Let's hold a seminar! Plus, I need pastoral counseling on certain sinful thoughts I experienced during the swimsuit judging.

Rev. Lamarche, Here's a Topic for a Spiritual Seminar: Science Has No Idea How the Universe Works: Last week at a University of Chicago conference, cosmologists mapped out plans to attempt to locate "dark matter" and "dark energy." I don't wish to alarm you, but at least 90 percent of the universe is missing. Astronomers hope to find it.

When cosmologists measure the gravitational attraction on heavenly bodies, at least two-thirds of the matter in the cosmos appears to be missing; stars move as if acted upon by more gravity than can be accounted for by observed amounts of normal matter. For years, this has led to speculation that there is "dark matter" or "missing mass" throughout the firmament -- perhaps as strange forms of subatomic particles not present in this solar system, perhaps as very heavy black holes, perhaps as huge numbers of almost-stars hard to see because they don't shine. There are other theories. Searching for the missing mass has for decades been an obsession of astrophysicists.

Hubble Telescope
The Hubble Telescope can't find the missing universe? Hey, guys, try directing it away from the Eagles cheerleaders.

Then, a few years ago, astronomers made the unexpected discovery that not only are the galaxies rushing away from each other, they are speeding up. It had been assumed that the Big Bang provided the impetus for the movement of the galaxies; and across the eons, momentum from the Bang would wear off, causing the galaxies to slow down. Instead, they're speeding up: the evidence looks solid. Cosmic acceleration cannot be happening unless something unseen is pushing on the galaxies -- that is, adding energy to them. Hence, dark energy.

The new betting line among scientists is that the luminous, observable forms of energy in the universe -- shining stars, natural radio waves and X-rays and so on -- constitute only a small share of total energy. Some force much more potent, dark energy, carries most of the power in creation; dark energy has so much power that it's speeding up unfathomable numbers of galaxies across unfathomable distances. The existence of dark energy would answer the riddle of why gravity does not cause everything in creation to crush together: Dark energy is repelling the components of the universe at the same time that gravity attracts them. And it's looking like dark energy is stronger than gravity --stronger, perhaps, by orders of magnitude.

Here's the rub. While there are theories about what dark matter might be, no one has the slightest clue what dark energy is. No instrument can detect it. No one knows its source or how it works. Dark energy appears strong enough to push the entire universe, and yet science can't locate it.

Bear this in mind when you're tempted to think Homo sapiens already understands the physical world, or even has the slightest idea what's going on. Combining missing dark matter and missing dark energy, science can't locate 90 percent of the universe! Bear this in mind, as well, when you're tempted to think we "know" there is no nonmaterial realm. An energy strong enough to push the entire universe is pulsing through your body right now, yet science has no idea how it works or where it originates. How many other nonmaterial forces might there be?

As for the University of Chicago conference, hope you didn't miss this session: "APEX-SZ, a Millimeter-Wavelength Galaxy Cluster Survey Using the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich Effect."

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Game scoreless in the first, the Oakland Raiders had the Denver Cursors (see below) facing second-and-eight on the Oakland 18. It's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line, touchdown pass to Shannon Sharpe.

Best Blocks: The Kansas City offensive line used "slide" blocking -- everybody slides in the direction of the play -- to good effect on both Priest Holmes touchdown runs against Houston. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper cleaned the clock of a Detroit defender on the corner to set up a 61-yard run by Moe Williams, establishing the tone for the Minnesota win.

TMQ Is Currently Engaged in "Adventure Parenting": Last year, TMQ did a column on ridiculous movie disclaimers, such as warnings of "crude humor" (no movie ever warns of "sophisticated humor") or "action violence" (as if this were somehow different from "violence"). Comes now the sure-to-be-awful flick "The Rundown," whose disclaimer warns of a new category, "adventure violence." So smashing stuff and killing people is okay as long as you're having an adventure?

The Ads Are Certainly Getting Longer: Levitra, the new competitor to Viagra, is aggressively marketing through the NFL. So far this season, TMQ has been to games at Lincoln Field in Philadelphia and Giants Stadium in Jersey; both had extensive Levitra signage, and played Levitra ads featuring Mike Ditka on the Jumbotron. A web site designed to promote Levitra has been set up as part of the NFL's own web site. Men's sexuality is important and should be approached frankly, though there is a certain oddity quotient to finding a quiz about erection quality -- questions include, "when you attempt sexual intercourse, how often is it satisfactory for you?" -- on an official NFL web site.

Atlanta Falcons
The only thing that could make this uniform looks good is Mike Vick scrambling in it.

Meanwhile, TMQ noticed that after they put up Levitra signs at stadiums, the fields started getting longer. Now, some NFL fields are 150 yards long, and drives have stalled as the end zone gets farther and farther away during the game. Also the tunnels leading to the fields are beginning to resemble -- OK, abandon joke.

Bad Uniform Watch: Atlanta rolled out an all-black outfit that made Falcons' players appear to be printing-press errors. Inspired by the look, the Falcons played like printing-press errors. Until the team starts winning again, they will be to TMQ the Atlanta Typos.

Denver rolled out a monochrome dark-blue look with a wide orange slash up the side, becoming yet another NFL team (Buffalo, Cincinnati, Jax, Philadelphia, Seattle) to go monochrome. Please don't tell me the Green Bay Packers will come out all-yellow! To TMQ, the bright-strip-on-dark of the new Broncos duds made players appear to be computer cursors. Thus, to TMQ, this club becomes the Denver Cursors.

Best High-School Play:A week ago, the Giants lost in overtime with the killer play coming from the High School 101 playbook -- Dallas lined up heavy left and everyone went left, then the quarterback pivoted back right and threw to the tight end dragging against the action, big gain, position for winning field goal. On Sunday in overtime, the Giants lined up heavy left and everyone went left, then Kerry Collins pivoted back right and threw to fullback Jim Finn dragging against the action, 27-yard gain, position for the winning field goal.

Matt Bryant
Matt Bryant's kick may have been good, but TMQ insists it should have been called back.

Holding Used to Be Subtle, But Then, A Lot of Things Used to Be Subtle: Is holding legal now? TMQ watched offensive line play while attending the recent Bucs-at-Eagles and Dolphins-at-Jets collisions, and saw at least a dozen instances when a lineman brazenly wrapped his arm around a defender's waist -- the Captain Hook hold -- without a flag, the referee merrily looking on. On the winning overtime field goal of the Jersey/A-at-Persons game, Giants OL Wayne Lucier did the Captain Hook on edge rusher Ifeanyi Ohalete of the Persons so flagrantly it looked like a ballroom dance lesson. No yellow hanky. Is holding legal now?

Keep Your Eye Off the Ball: And why can't zebras get goal-line calls correct? On the game-clinching play of the Tennessee-New Orleans collision, Eddie George's knee went down at the one; he lunged forward, extending the ball into the end zone; officials raised both arms. It's not where the ball is, it's where the knee is, and this call ought to be easy at the goal line, which is broad and brightly painted. Yet officials consistently get the call wrong in both directions -- allowing touchdowns when the knee goes down in front of the end zone and the player lunges the rock in, while not calling safeties when the knee goes down within the end zone and the player lunges the rock out.

Where Was the Defense? It's Minnesota 13, Detroit 10 with 35 seconds left in the first half, the Vikings on their own 25 and holding two timeouts. Where, oh where, might a pass go? Maybe up the field! Randy Moss runs a standard go route on the right side and gets behind everybody; 72-yard gain, Minnesota kicks a field goal as the half expires. How is it physically possible to get behind an NFL defense with 35 seconds left and 75 percent of the field to traverse? In the third quarter, Gus Frerotte threw an identical 72 yards to Kelly Campbell on the same right-side go route, and also in an obvious passing situation, third-and-long.

If It Doesn't Keep Ticking, You Take a Licking: In the Week Two MNF loss to Dallas, the Giants coaching staff made a colossal clock-management blunder. Jersey/A kicked its field goal for the lead with 14 seconds left. But the Giants had a timeout, and could have run the clock down to a couple of seconds -- insuring that during the kick the clock would expire, and Jersey/A be the victor. Instead, the Giants left 11 seconds unused, allowing Dallas time set up its improbable field goal, which forced the overtime the Cowboys won.

Flash forward to Sunday, and the Giants lead the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons 21-18 with 2:20 left in regulation. Facing second-and-13 after a penalty, you'd figure Jersey/A would pound, pound and then kick, putting the pressure on the Persons. Instead, Giants coaches call two passes -- the first incomplete, stopping the clock; the next a short gain on which the receiver casually trotted out of bounds, stopping the clock. Jersey/A punted to the Persons at 2:08. The Giants had taken just 12 seconds off the clock -- and not forced the Persons to burn their final timeout. The Potomac gentlemen kicked their field goal to force overtime with a few ticks left. Had the Giants simply slammed up the middle for no gain twice from the 2:20 mark, the Persons might have run out of time.

San Diego Chargers
The powder blues look terrific, but the Chargers play soft when they wear them. Perhaps the color isn't mean enough?

Then Again, the Guys San Diego Is Putting Into the Powder Blues May Have Something to Do With It: TMQ just loves the Chargers' powder blue throwback unis; but the last two times they have worn them, the Bolts have lost both, both at home, and been outscored 68-23. Perhaps the football gods have willed that the powder blues be worn only by the high-aesthetic-appeal San Diego Chargers Cheerleaders. Hemmed extra short, and nothing else, please.

The Course "Theory of Textual Theory" Is Popular: Recently, a book crossed my desk, blurbed by a professor at the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California at Santa Cruz. It's real! And it's a PhD program taking about a dozen new students a year, meaning that men and women with doctorates in the history of consciousness will be filtering into academia.

Now We Know the Real Reason Arnold Won't Stand Next to Arianna Huffington: This article in the Chicago Reader asserts that while Arnold Schwarzenegger claims to be 6-foot-2, he is actually 5-10. A 1980 book by Ralph Keyes concluded that male celebrities and politicians often exaggerate their claimed height, while it is essential to the egos of famous men that people believe they are at least six feet tall. Maria Shriver is short; maybe Arnold fell for her because he could be photographed towering over her. Claire Danes, female costar of AHH-nold's latest movie, "Terminator 3," is 5-5; in the flick, he looks a little taller than her, but not much taller.

Arnold and Clare
Whether he is on the competitive stage or the silver screen, Arnold has been a bigger-than-life influence across popular culture.

So what else is Arnold exaggerating? That PhD in History of Consciousness he claims to have -- maybe it's only a master's?

The Case Against Stats: Though amusing statistical oddities happen all the time, Tuesday Morning Quarterback cautions against making too much of team stats until at least a month of games has been played. Going into Week Three, Dallas was No. 1 on offense, San Francisco No. 1 on defense and Miami was last against the pass. None of these stats is likely to bear much relation to season finishes. Consider -- on Sunday, the "No. 1" San Francisco defense could not hold a 12-point fourth-quarter lead at home against the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.1), while the "last-ranked" Marine Mammals pass defense held Drew Bledsoe to 77 net yards.

Must Be the 21st Century:As the Rams-Hawks game kicked off, Blue Men Group star Shaun Alexander was at a hospital with his wife, Valerie, for the delivery of their first child. After witnessing the birth, Alexander raced to the stadium, where he entered the game late in the second quarter and played well in Seattle's last-second win.

Running Items Department

Obscure College Score of the Week: Si Tanka Huron 27, South Dakota Tech 21. Located in Huron, South Dakota, Si Tanka is chartered by the Cheyenne River Sioux, and bills itself as the "first national American Indian University." It fields a football team, despite a male enrollment of fewer than 300.

Bonus Obscure College Score of the Week: Adrian 48, Franklin 13. One single guy beats one other guy! Located in Adrian, Michigan, Adrian College -- like, as far as TMQ can tell, every institution of higher learning in the United States -- boasts that its finishes high in the influential U.S. News and World Report rankings. Adrian is particularly creative, boasting that its students finish 28th nationally in average severity of debt.

Double Bonus Obscure College Score of the Week: Mary 23, Mayville State 0. One single woman shuts out an entire team! TMQ longs for the Mary vs. Adrian matchup.

Obscure College Stat: Reader Mike Cluff notes that two weeks ago, a Division II game ended Washburn 28, Fort Hayes 4 -- the losers recording two safeties, but nothing else.

New York Times Final-Score Score: The Paper of Guesses goes 0-14 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact NFL final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-879 since TMQ began tracking.

Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply felt grievance? Register it at TMQespn@yahoo.com.

Many, many, many readers, including Michael Patrick of Washington, D.C., protested TMQ's item saying that Jersey/B should have gone for two after scoring to make it 21-9 in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins in Week 2. I maintained that a 21-10 score left the Jets two touchdowns behind, which they would have been, anyway, had they missed a deuce try, where a successful two would have put them down only by a touchdown and a field goal. Many, many readers countered that taking the singleton and an 11-point deficit did leave the Jets down by a touchdown and a field goal, assuming a deuce on that touchdown. OK, fair enough.

Many readers, including Anne Edholm of Dallas, objected to TMQ saying that Cedric Wilson of San Francisco should have taken a knee and called time on the St. Louis 30 with four seconds left in regulation and the game tied. He danced, instead, and the Niners lost in overtime. "Even if he had taken a knee, the play would not have ended until he was touched by a Ram, so the clock might have expired, anyway," Edholm wrote. An antiquated rule does allow an NFL player to end a play by going to his knee and yelling "Down!" True, Wilson might not have known this.

One reader objected in haiku that the Lockheed Martin F35, which TMQ called the Joint Tactical Fighter, goes by a slightest different name:

Just to let you know,
it's the Joint STRIKE Fighter that
Lockheed Martin makes.

-- Brady McCormick, Lockheed Martin

The item on the helicopter photographers mentioned in passing that the Supreme Court had held that infrared scanning of heat from a person's home is lawful. Several legal eagles point out that the Court held the reverse:

Heat emissions not
protected? In Kyllo, Court
held unlawful search.

-- Tim Ward, Camden, New Jersey

Haiku on fighter planes and Supreme Court cases! This must be the 21st century.

Two different readers, using disguised names in the interest of workplace harmony, noted in haiku the perils of cheesecake and beefcake alike:

Please have sympathy.
I read TMQ at work.
Link to babes, not pics!

--"John A."

Surf site during work.
Beefcake appears suddenly!
Must scroll quickly past.

-- "Patrick of San Diego"

Now, it may be that declines in American productivity can be traced directly to the workplace reading of Tuesday Morning Quarterback. I wonder if national production dips for a couple hours every Tuesday afternoon? Many readers have pointed out that the mega-babe and, now, equal-time mega-hunk pictures make it awkward for them to peruse the column at the office. Perhaps ESPN programmers can come up with a "boss key" command that instantly converts all cheesecake and beefcake into Federal Reserve graphs.

Finally, many math-minded readers objected to TMQ's statement, regarding the lightly-attended Arizona home opener at which 23,127 unfortunates watched the Cardinals lose 38-0, that "It is impossible to calculate how many points Arizona scored per customer, because in mathematics, you cannot divide by zero." Dr. Pete Watson of the University of Colorado noted, "If the parameter you are calculating is points per customer, you wouldn't be dividing by zero, but dividing zero by the attendance, and isn't zero divided by any number infinity?" Watson added, "I'm certainly not saying that at some point in the season, your calculation couldn't be correct -- zero attendance is certainly a possibility at an Arizona home game."

Last Week's Challenge: Playing off Ben & Jerry's Maple-Powered Howard for Howard Dean, readers were asked to propose an ice-cream flavor for NFL personalities.

Craig Eliason of St. Paul, Minn., proposed Any Given Sundae.

Jim Moran of Madison, Ohio, proposed NFL Preseason Surprise: "Costs just as much as the regular ice cream, but the flavor disappears after a quarter is finished."

Joey Drillings of Monticello, N.Y., proposed Ted Washington's Chocolate -- available in gallon sizes only.

Laurie Vokes of Wisconsin proposed Steve's Mariucci-no Cherry.

Jimmy O'Connell of Centennial, Colo., proposed Mike Shanahan Caramel Fudge. It's full of fudge, and the caramel is actually strawberry.

Stephen Feher nominated this boutique ice cream firm, which makes political ice creams -- Iraqi Road and GovernMint, among them.

Robin Fishbein of Chicago proposed Philadelphia Eagles Cheesecake, with a cheerleader picture on every carton.

Brian Papa of Miami proposed Dolphins Delight, an ice cream designed to be eaten in December.

A reader from Beijing calling himself Confucius proposed the delicately flavored Ahman Green Tea. Whenever I get reader email from China, it makes me reflect on the fact that this means the ChiCom authorities are not jamming ESPN.com -- and is that good or bad?

Alex Jurcik from Chicago suggested Dick Jauron's Nothing But Vanilla. A watered-down flavor, expected to be discontinued in January.

Benjamin Herrington proposed David Carr's Black-and-Blueberry.

And the winner is Chris Davis of Toledo, Ohio, who proposed DirecTV Monopoly Mocha. Sold everywhere in Canada and Mexico, but only available in 10 percent of the United States.

This Week's Challenge: Ordained mega-babes! This really must be the 21st century. So if it is, perhaps the Miss America pageant should add a new competition to its traditional lineup of talent, gown and swimsuit. Propose a new Miss America competition category that reflects the 21st century, and submit your witty entries to TMQespn@yahoo.com.

Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor of New Republic, a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is believed to be the first Brookings scholar ever to write a pro football column. You can buy his book, "The Here and Now" here ... and now.