Here is a tribute to the people who made the NFL great this weekend. I plan on making this a weekly thing, to highlight all the great things about the league and spread some positive energy for a change.
If only I was allowed to drink at work, I'd actually do a toast to each of these players right now. Alas, I'll have to use coffee.
1) Here's to Jason Campbell and Ben Roethlisberger. Both played near-flawless games without their top receiver, and without their top two receivers for at least part of the game. Campbell got Keenan McCardell, who'd joined the team just days before, involved as one of 8 pass-catchers wearing burgundy and gold. Roethlisberger got decent numbers out of Cedric Wilson, even though he's a #3 receiver going up against a #1 corner. And both led numerous drives that kept dangerous offenses off the field, limiting the Seahawks and Lions to a COMBINED 3 points.
2) Here's to Andre Carter, for getting two sacks and putting two points on the board for a defense that no one gave a chance this offseason (except myself, B0mb3rs, Big Ben68, and I think Michael Silver). Their 2006 team totals for sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles and defensive points, respectively: 19, 6, 8, and 0. 2007? 12, 4, 4, and 9. And they've played 1/4 of their games.
3) Here's to Brad Maynard, for diving to the ground to recover a fumble on a long punt return before it went out of bounds. That was one of many plays that won the game for the Bears.
4) Here's to Brett Favre. Yes, he lost, and finally tied Blanda's interception record. And yes, that interception could have been a game-tying touchdown if thrown just slightly to the right. But it was so fitting of the gutsy kind of QB Favre is--he chucked it up to his most reliable receiver, trusting him to win a jump ball. And Driver caught it, just not as well as Brandon McGowan, who wrestled the ball away to record the pick. He's convinced me this year - I was quite vociferous in calling for his retirement in years past, and scoffed when he was talked about as one of the all-time greats, because his playoff flameouts outnumber his conference championships. But five games into the season, I must confess: this guy's a legend.
5) And here's to Brandon McGowan, for such a great defensive play to seal the game the Bears shouldn't have won. Here's a formerly undrafted backup safety, filling in on a battered, depleted secondary, and he makes a huge play, his first career interception, in the final second, unintimidated by the legacy of Favre. I have not heard his name enough today. Note: in his last two games, he's gotten 31% of his total career tackles.
6) Here's to Tom Brady, for his NFL-record fifth straight 3-TD performance. You are the league MVP by far. And here's to you and Bridget Moynahan, for naming your son Jonathan, not Pomegranate, Mercury, or Heinz Memorial (and anyone who can name the celebrity babies I'm making fun of there will get a toast added to the post).
7) Here's to Trent Green. Personally, I'd love it if that block he threw was the last play of his NFL career. "The NFL is very concerned about concussions this year." "One more hit and he's scrambled eggs." "Skrew you (apparently I'm not allowed to spell it right) guys, I'm gonna slam my head into a 300-pounder's knees because I'm a football player." I'm glad that it looks like he'll return, but I almost don't want him to because that's such a good ending, and no, it wasn't a dirty hit, it just wasn't squeaky-clean.
8) Here's to David Carr, for getting back in and winning a game after a hit that gave you "by far the worst pain I've ever felt in my life." You may not be a brilliant QB, but I like you anyway.
9) Here's to rookie QB Matt Moore, for somehow getting some playing time this year, and completing a 43-yarder. You are currently averaging 21.5 YPA for your career. You were undrafted, yet you have 43 more passing yards than #1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell.
10) Here's to Michael Turner, who with 14.7 YPC against Denver is going to be a very rich man in six months. Maybe sooner if the Chargers decide to get something for him and trade him now.
11) Here's to Lane Kiffin, whose Oakland Raiders are now in first place, thanks to not having to play this week.
12) Here's to Kris Brown, who was once cast off by the Steelers for missing field goals in the most kicker-unfriendly stadium in the NFL. 5-for-5, including 3 of 54+, despite hurting his heel? Dynamite.
13) Here's to the St. Louis fans, for cheering Kurt Warner in his return. There's been a lot of classlessness in the stands around the NFL this year, and you guys are a nice exception. Sure, you've booed your own team for shoddy play, but who wouldn't? At least you aren't booing your starting QB while the starting lineups are announced, like Philadelphia did, or cheering when your starting QB goes down with an injury, like Jets fans did. (And here's a belated toast to Jaguars fans for doing the same for Mark Brunell in the preseason.)
14) Here's to Anthony Gonzalez, Cedric Wilson, and Antwaan Randle El, who made it so that Marvin Harrison, Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward, and Santana Moss were hardly missed.
15) And a separate toast to Kenton Keith and Sammy Morris for doing the same for Joseph Addai and Laurence Maroney.
16) Here's to Aaron Ross and Fakhir Brown, both of whom returned from suspension of some kind and got two interceptions. Ross was benched for a half for violating team rules; Brown was returning from a substance-violation-suspension. Ross spurred his team to victory, Brown was a huge reason his team was even in the game.
17) Here's to Karlos Dansby, who got 14 solo tackles and 1 assist, and didn't even get mentioned in Yahoo! Sports' game writeup. You're my game MVP.
Here's to you all, who have in your various ways made me fall even more in love with the game of football.
Any toasts I should add in? Make your suggestions below.