There are some moments where the emotion of football moves you more than other sports are capable of. Perhaps it's because for most of the game, we're watching bodies outlined in pads and faces masked by helmets, and it's easy to think of the players in non-human terms. There's a reason a guy like Jeff Saturday, one of the best players at center in football, could walk relatively anonymously through a mall, whereas a merely average NBA center or MLB center-fielder like Desagana Diop or Brian Anderson would be recognized by anyone who'd seen more than five of his team's games. He's masked. His jersey number is more recognizable than his face. I'm inclined to believe that a big part of the reason so many NFL players are sporting long dreads is to give them a sense of individuality, so that they don't blend in with the other masked, padded players. It certainly isn't a strategic advantage.
But I'm getting off topic a bit. My point was, there was a series of events that moved me, for good and bad, in the Jets-Patriots game. All of them centered around Chad Pennington.
Into the third quarter, through no fault of Pennington's, the Jets were down 21-7. The running game wasn't working, and it was killing them. Their defense could do nothing against Tom Brady, his staunch offensive line, and his fleet of wide-receivers. And Ellis Hobbs had just set a record for the longest kick return in NFL history by taking the 2nd-half kickoff 108 yards for a score. Pennington was slowly, methodically, leading the Jets on a drive that had them within 10 yards of field-goal range, until Jarvis Green and company swarmed in on him, twisting him around while sacking him, and causing much pain to Pennington's ankle.
Moment 1: Pennington gets up slowly and starts hobbling. He collapses back to his knees. He gets up again, takes a few steps, and falls again. This alone was heartbreaking, watching last year's Comeback Player of the Year so desperate to stay in the game, but unable to. He limped off the field.
Moment 2: Once he reaches the sideline, he rips off his helmet and throws it to the ground. It's hurled so hard, it looks as though it might bounce back onto Pennington's head. The meaning is clear: it's not "why didn't my line protect me?" but "why me? why again? I could have won this thing!"
Moment 3: Kellen Clemens, preseason Wunderkind, trots onto the field. The classless Jets crowd cheers uproariously. This applause was not for Pennington for his great play thus far, the standard sympathy cheer. Nope, Pennington didn't get one of those. This was a crowd cheering that their backup got to play; in other words, cheering that their starting quarterback, who had taken them from 4-12 to 11-5 in one year, was in excruciating pain.
Moment 4: A perfectly angled camera shows in slow motion not only the way Pennington's ankle got twisted, but also the look of agony on his face as he falls.
Moment 5: Clemens completes a 6-yard pass on 3rd-and-20, killing the drive and forcing the Jets to punt. The crowd was quiet, as if in disbelief that Clemens wasn't made of magic.
Moment 6: After the Patriots threw a quick nail-in-the-coffin score on a 51-yard Brady-to-Moss connection, Pennington hobbled back onto the field. I have to believe that in any other stadium, raucous cheers would have ensued. There was enough general clamor to believe that there were a few human beings in attendance, cheering. But nothing like the unanimous roar that Clemens got.
Moment 7: Really, a series of moments, represented by each first down the Jets got on the next drive. They never once faced a first down. Thomas Jones finally found his legs and ran for a couple of 10-yarders, tallying 26 total on the drive. Pennington threw two first down passes to Chris Baker and one to Laveranues Coles between hobbles. Then, on what was to be Chad's last play of the game, he tossed a beautiful 1-yard TD pass to Coles on a perfectly run pattern. The applause doesn't even approach what Clemens got coming onto the field.
Bears fans, you have been bested. At least you have a reason to be calling for your starting quarterback's benching. Now I'm not trying to lump all Jets fans together here, but anyone who cheered for Pennington's injury... well, the ninth circle of hell is where they put the traitors.
Enough about the Jets-Pats game. I predicted 38-17, only three Jets points off. Not bad at all. Here are the other games where I did good. MVP=Brady? Check one.
I didn't quite have the margin of victory, but there's really not much difference between an 18-point win and a 27-point win. So Pittsburgh-Cleveland went as expected. MVP=Roethlisberger? Check two.
Seattle over Tampa Bay - Pretty good, though I overestimated the final score. Shaun Alexander made a case for MVP, but it'd probably have to go to Julian Peterson.
Houston over Kansas City - lower score than predicted, but I had a 10-point Houston win, instead of the 17-point margin that occurred. MVP=Schaub? Weeeelllll, Andre Johnson probably gets the honors. But Schaub did a great job getting him the ball 7 times.
Detroit over Oakland - I thought it'd be close, but at least I was right in predicting a Detroit "upset." Bell did lead the game in rushing, but he wasn't the MVP. That'd have to be DeWayne White: 6 tackles, 2 FF, 1 FR, and an INT. I have a feeling more people will recognize his name by the end of the season.
Dallas over New York by 10 - right on the money, except that it was 45-35 instead of 27-17. And the game MVP was certainly Romo, not DeMarcus Ware or anyone on defense like I thought it would be.
I got five games wrong, including all three that were won by last-second field goals. And I did have all of those as close games. Despite that I went 0-for-3 in the Miami-Washington, Buffalo-Denver, and Philadelphia-Green Bay games, my combined errors in the margin of victory was 19 points. I did that badly or worse in each of the other two games.
Carolina beat St. Louis with a two-dimensional offense: hammering the line with their running back platoon and feeding Steve Smith. It seems to be working for them.
And my big boy-was-I-wrong of the day (therefore not counting New Orleans-Indianapolis) was between Atlanta and Minnesota. I had Atlanta 30-19, and I got Minnesota 24-3. That's 33 points off the actual margin of victory. Tarvaris Jackson still doesn't look like any kind of hero, but as long as Adrian Peterson can stay healthy, the Vikes will have a few wins in them. As for the Falcons, well, if you can't make it a game against Minnesota, get ready for some record-breaking futility this year.
And now, some food for thought. For the first time since I started playing fantasy football, the choice for #1 and #2 player drafted was clear. Yet here's a list of some people who outrushed LaDainian Tomlinson and Steven Jackson combined:
*Derrick Ward* - probably undrafted in most leagues
and even Brian Westbrook, who was probably disappointed in his performance.