Since we've conquered poverty
Sweet 'N' Sour Pair of Plays: Normally, safeties occur on snaps from a team's 1-yard line; Seattle surrendered a safety to Cincinnati when snapping from its 6. The Blue Men Group botched the line call, with the right side of the line all slide-blocking left, leaving no one to protect the right flank; Bengals linebacker Lemar Marshall came through untouched by human hands and dragged Matt Hasselbeck down before he could finish his dropback. At the endgame, Cincinnati repaid the hosts with a worse mental error. Trailing 21-17, Seattle had first-and-10 on the Trick or Treats' 22 with 1:06 remaining. The Seahawks must score a touchdown to win, so where, oh where, might the pass go? Maybe up the field! Yet Nate Burleson was single-covered on a simple "up" to the end zone -- touchdown and Seattle wins.
Bartender, Shotgun Spreads for Everyone! Philip Rivers and Brett Favre spent nearly the entire San Diego-Green Bay game in the shotgun spread, and the Ravens, a power-rush team, went shotgun spread even on short-yardage downs against Arizona. At least half the NFL's teams ran the shotgun spread as their base look in Week 3.
Untouched Touchdown Run of the Week: Leon Washington of Jersey/B went 98 yards with a kickoff return without being touched. That doesn't happen unless there is excellent blocking.
Offensive Linemen Honored! The NFL's Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, has too few defensive players and offensive linemen compared with quarterbacks and running backs. No similar problem at the CFL Hall of Fame, which -- as noted by reader Peter James of Ottawa -- just inducted its Class of 2007: two offensive linemen, a linebacker and a wide receiver (Darren Flutie, Doug's brother). Come on, Canton, the Canadians can do it, why can't you? Let more non-glory-boys in.
Offensive Linemen Eligible! Both Kansas City and Pittsburgh run a number of snaps with six offensive linemen on the field. New England linebackers Junior Seau and Mike Vrabel several times lined up as double tight ends. Miami linebacker Jason Taylor lined up as a wide receiver on one snap, drawing a pass interference penalty, and lined up as a sixth offensive lineman on another down.
"Self-Propelled Howitzer Johnson" Doesn't Have Much of a Ring, Either: Now even The New York Times has confused Tank Johnson and Tank Williams. How come no one wants to be nicknamed Half-Track Williams?
Warning -- Praise of New England: Notwithstanding the relentless anti-Belichick tone of the previous two columns, TMQ lauds the New England coach for showing good sportsmanship. Leading Buffalo 38-7 with 4 minutes remaining, the Flying Elvii faced fourth-and-6 on the Bills' 8. Belichick simply had the fullback dive up the middle, Buffalo ball, to hold down the final score.
Leftover Belichick Point: Here's another question raised by the scandal. Three coordinators for Belichick at New England have gone on to become head coaches: Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis and Eric Mangini. When they were at New England, all led offensive and defensive units that performed extremely well. As head coaches, all have struggled, with a combined record of 41-43. Maybe this is because after leaving the New England Patriots, Crennel, Weis and Mangini stopped benefiting from cheating. Excuse me, stopped benefiting from "a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field."
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! With the score tied at 17 with 5:40 remaining, Washington had Jersey/A facing second-and-9 on the Redskins' 33. Tastefully named Gregg Williams blitzed seven, including both safeties; easy touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress, and the home team has blown a 17-3 halftime lead. Now leading 24-17, Jersey/A had Washington facing fourth-and-8 with 1:45 remaining. As the ball was snapped and the Giants blitzed defensive backs, TMQ said aloud, "It's a blitz, that means Washington will make the first down." So the Redskins did. Washington hadn't scored in the second half and had gained only 51 yards in the entire half to that point. Why was a blitz needed?
Suit Seeks $70 Trillion Plus Costs: Last week, former anchorman Dan Rather sued CBS over the circumstances of his departure from the network. Rather made grand statements about his devotion to journalistic seriousness, and news commentators wrung their hands on that point. TMQ chortled because Rather announced he had filed a "$70 million lawsuit," and to my knowledge, almost every news organization called it a "$70 million lawsuit." Plaintiff demands are meaningless in civil action! If the plaintiff succeeds, judges or juries set the damages based on evidence presented and the relevant statutes. Rather might as well have announced a $70 billion lawsuit or a $70 trillion filing. Only novice attorneys, or persons seeking publicity, put ridiculous damage numbers in initial lawsuit paperwork. Thus, in the very act of bemoaning declining journalistic seriousness, Dan Rather employed a cheap gimmick to sensationalize his claim. Bonus observation: Rather's suit calls it a tort that CBS showed the former anchor the door, citing as its reason that he displayed poor judgment. (Rather does not allege breach of contract, the main point on which a person in his position might have a complaint.) In filing this embarrassing preening legalistic frivolity, Rather proves CBS right!
Maybe Houston Should Wear Bright Blue and Yellow: The Texans are 2-1 and just played a close game against the defending champion Colts. But you can't dance with the champ, you have to knock him out! Trailing 14-10, the Moo Cows had second-and-2 at midfield with 1:27 remaining in the first half, holding two timeouts. Houston coaches appeared to decide to take it to the locker room -- they called a dive into the line, then a short pass, then punted and the half was over. You can't dance with the champ, you have to knock him out! And what was that color Houston was wearing? At first glance, the Texans appeared to have gone all-black. Close-ups made the team appear to be in all purple.
Toxic Waste Site Becomes Nature Preserve: As recently as the late 1980s, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, near Denver, routinely was described in news accounts as "the most toxic place on Earth" -- chemical weapons and the napalm dropped on Japanese cities during World War II were manufactured there. Then the most toxic place on Earth became a wildlife refuge. Bald eagles, at the time still an endangered species, began roosting on Rocky Mountain Arsenal grounds in 1986; declaration of a federally protected wildlife refuge came in 1992; coyote, white pelicans and owls have been found on the grounds of the arsenal, and wild bison were recently introduced there. This seemed a good example of the resilience of nature. Commentators speak of the "fragile environment," forgetting that Earth's living world has withstood comet strikes and ice ages. The biosphere isn't "fragile," it's a green fortress. At the same time news reports were calling Rocky Mountain Arsenal "the most toxic place on Earth," endangered species were moving in and thriving.
Now from nearby comes even better proof of the resilience of nature. Not far from Rocky Mountain Arsenal is the Rocky Flats facility, where the plutonium triggers of nuclear bombs once were made. (The two locations often are confused because of their similar names.) Rocky Flats routinely has been called "the most dangerous place on Earth." There was a lot of careless handling of chemicals and plutonium at Rocky Flats, so much so that the FBI raided the plant in 1989 seeking waste-management records. Rocky Flats closed in 1994, and a $7 billion cleanup followed. This summer, the grounds were declared the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. Deer, prairie dogs and elk have been multiplying there in recent decades, apparently unfazed by living in the most dangerous place on Earth. Want to go hiking where nuclear-bomb triggers were made? Just don't disturb the wildlife.
U B the Coach: Trailing 30-20 with 3:07 remaining and two timeouts, Atlanta faces fourth-and-goal on the Carolina 6. The Falcons need a touchdown and a field goal. The field goal here is highly likely, trying for the touchdown is at best a 50-50 shot. On the other hand, the Falcons must score a touchdown, and here they are only 6 yards away; if they take a field goal, they might be a longer way away at the endgame. The middle position is to take a field goal, then onside kick. So do they try for the touchdown, or take a field goal then onside kick, or take a field goal then boom a standard kickoff? U B the Coach.
Scouts Notes: The Cardinals began to move the ball against the Ravens not so much because they switched from Matt Leinart to Kurt Warner but because they switched into a hurry-up spread and called plays at the line. Arizona scored 17 points in the fourth quarter from the pass-wacky hurry-up, doing so on Baltimore's home field. The Ravens' defense is the league's best; offensive coordinators have been struggling to find a weakness. Baltimore should expect to see a lot of hurry-up offense in coming weeks.
Dallas has a hot offense, in part because the Cowboys are using the tight end better than any other team. Tight end is the NFL's most neglected position: endlessly quarterbacks look for wide receivers who are covered by really fast guys when the tight end can go down the seam covered by a linebacker. Will offensive coordinators notice Dallas' success with tight ends and remember that they, too, have tight ends on the roster?
He Dreads the Game Film: A blocked Dallas field goal attempt was recovered by Bears safety Adam Archuleta, who sells a workout video about the incredible training regime that allowed him to "build his musculature and increase his speed." Archuleta was caught from behind in the open field by Pat McQuistan, an offensive tackle.
Miami Milestone in Jeopardy: Stretching back to last season, the Dolphins have lost six straight, and within a week or two, franchise face Dan Marino is likely to become the No. 2 touchdown passer in NFL annals instead of No. 1. Yet a more important milestone is in danger in America's sexiest city. Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, Miami consistently has been the league's leader for most wins in all seasons combined. Season in, season out, through different coaches, owners and quarterbacks, the Dolphins consistently win. At the start of each of the past three seasons, TMQ has written an item noting that the Dolphins could go 0-16 and still end the year as the league's winningest team since the merger.
Well, no more. Miami is now just nine games ahead of the second-winningest team since 1970, the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is possible the Steelers will end the year as the NFL's best since the merger, with both Marino and the Miami franchise itself staring at someone else's taillights.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 1: Robert Morris 9, Morehead State 8. Located in Morehead, Ky., Morehead State is building a $16 million facility for outer-space research. Maybe India is secretly funding the project!
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 2: Indiana of Pennsylvania 45, Millersville 0. Located in Indiana, Pa., Indiana University of Pennsylvania is TMQ's favorite obscure college. Indiana of Pennsylvania provides cable television service to all dorm rooms, including Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Game Show Network.
Revenge of the Cupcakes! In August, TMQ criticized Louisville for having BCS title-appearance pretenses, yet opening the season with consecutive cupcake games against Murray State, which last year finished 1-10 in Division I-AA, and Middle Tennessee, which last year lost 59-0 at Oklahoma. The football gods have exacted their vengeance, and the football gods grind exceeding small. Louisville has since lost consecutive games to Kentucky and Syracuse and, with just a month gone in the college season, is all but out of the BCS bowl picture.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at TMQ_ESPN@yahoo.com. Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: giving your hometown improves your odds of being quoted.
Wednesday: TMQ readers supply shocking proof that Christmas season now begins before Halloween.
Next Week: The NFL hires Rose Mary Woods to review cheating tapes.
In addition to writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of "The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse" and other books. He is also a contributing editor for The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly and is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.
And put an end to war,
Since we've now discovered
What this life on earth is for,
Since we've made a paradise
Of this precious, Godly place,
Let's gather all that wisdom
And move to outer space.
-- Jim Terr, Santa Fe, N.M.