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There have been several weeks where I've been emotionally reeling from tough Bears and Redskins losses in the same week, and have had trouble mustering up the what-have-you necessary to do my insistently positive Toasts blog.  This week, both blew two-score leads, and yet somehow I'm feeling plenty positive.  Maybe it's because now I've resigned myself to the fact that neither is making the playoffs.  Maybe it's the knowledge that only one can lose this week.  But more likely, it's all the reminders that life is bigger than football, and that's where I'll start my toasts:

  • 1) Here's to everyone who wore that #21 sticker this week, particularly the Dallas Cowboys, who also held a moment of silence for Sean Taylor at home. In a world thriving on rivalries, we throw the word "hate" around a lot, but it's good to see that beneath it all, there is love for all the other people who've chosen this great sport to be their life. When tragedy strikes, they're all in it together.
  • 2) Here's to you, Gregg Williams, or whoever came up with the idea to start the game with a defensive lineup of 10 living men and one memory. And if you ask me, the fact that the play was a 22-yard run was even more fitting; it was a gesture that said "this matters more than football." And though I appreciate Don Banks' point of view on the matter, that Sean Taylor would have wanted them to play hard, and do nothing to weaken the team-here's my counterpoint. The gestures we make as a tribute to those who've passed are not for those who've passed. They are for ourselves, and for that person's loved ones. They help us heal.
  • 3) Here's to you, Chris Samuels, for your candor in criticizing those who jumped to conclusions about Taylor's past and its relevance in his murder. That's a brother and a leader for you. And here's to you, Peter King, for allowing so much of your MMQB to pay tribute to Taylor from a much more respectful perspective than we've seen other places.
  • 4) On to the actual games: Here's to you, Fred Taylor. There aren't many RBs in the league right now who juke better than you. I can't believe you're 30.
  • 5) Here's to you, Maurice Jones-Drew. I love watching you knock big guys over.
  • 6) Here's to you, David Garrard. Though the scoreboard, fantasy football stats, and QB rating indicate otherwise, you outplayed Peyton Manning in my book. Every ball you threw was beautiful, and you only threw 5 incompletions, most of which were drops. And your red zone interception was a deflected ball that wasn't a great decision, but your guy had a shot at it. Manning's red zone interception was a bonehead didn't-see-that-guy situation.
  • 7) But here's to you, Peyton Manning, because you did play a brilliant game, and despite having no Marvin, you found the open guy consistently, and did a great job escaping pressure on numerous occasions. And to both of you - the third-down ratios were ridiculous! There were only two punts and two FG tries all game! I watched the whole game, and it was a treat, so thanks, guys.
  • 8) Here's to you, Aaron Rodgers. Most people thought it was over after Brett left, but you made a game of it.
  • 9) Here's to you, Tony Romo. You keep finding Owens somehow, no matter how many people they put on him, and if it weren't for a couple of drops, he would have had nine catches, probably pushing 200 yards.
  • 10) Here's to you, Richard Marshall. Nice running on that interception of Dilfer for a 67-yard TD.
  • 11) Here's to you, Patrick Willis. 17 tackles? I don't think the Rookie of the Year contests have ever been so clear-cut.
  • 12) Here's to you, LaDainian Tomlinson. I feel like order has been restored. I can't believe you're already past Walter Payton.
  • 13) Also helping with the order-restoration feeling, here's to you, Shawne Merriman, getting three sacks and suddenly jumping into the league-lead picture.
  • 14) Here's to you, Jets defense. Special attention goes to David Harris, the main standout performance from a D that got 3 sacks, caused 5 turnovers, allowed no offensive TDs, and enabled your offense to put up 40 points on a non-gaudy 372 net yards.
  • 15) Here's to you, Leon Washington. Soon the Jets may have to find out if you can keep that yardage rate up over the course of 20 carries.
  • 16) Here's to you, Kellen Clemens. Wasn't a perfect game by any means, but your arm strength transforms this offense. 9.8 Y/A is quite good.
  • 17) Here's to you, Aundrae Allison. That was a heck of a return.
  • 18) Here's to you, Tarvaris Jackson. You've completed 77.5% of your passes for 8.7 Y/A over your past three games. Is it possible I was wrong about you?
  • 19) Here's to you, Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson. You have to be my choice for top RB tandem in the league right now (honorable mention to Taylor/Jones-Drew).
  • 20) Here's to you, Defensive Player of the Week Lofa Tatupu. You get three interceptions, and still only win by 4? I don't think any one player was more instrumental to his team's victory this week. Oh, and you had 11 tackles to boot.
  • 21) Here's to you, Julian Peterson. 6 tackles, a sack, and the other interception; and I'm sure you had some pressure on Feeley that led to at least one of Tatupu's picks.
  • 22) Here's to you, Correll Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook, and Maurice Morris, for those exciting long TD scampers. And here's to the blocking that made those possible.
  • 23) Here's to you, Gus Frerotte and Luke McCown. Sure, you threw some picks, but you both stepped in for the starter and won games your team was supposed to, and you led the league in passing yardage to boot (McCown #1, Frerotte #2).
  • 24) Here's to you, Earnest Graham. It'll be interesting to see how Tampa Bay handles its backfield in the offseason; you've certainly made a case for yourself.
  • 25) Here's to you, Joey Galloway. When did you become one of the best receivers in the league?
  • 26) Here's to you, Steven Jackson. Last week wasn't an apparition - you are, in fact, back to form.
  • 27) Here's to you, Torry Holt. You just keep doing it, every single year.
  • 28) Here's to you, Roddy White. You continue to be one of this season's most pleasant surprises. How many people knew this guy was eighth in the NFL in receiving yards? Be honest. It's Owens, Wayne, Johnson, Moss, Fitzgerald, Edwards, Holt, and then Roddy White.
  • 29) Here's to you, Rams pass defense. 10 total passes defensed, including 2 INTs. Way to mess up their plans.
  • 30) Here's to you, Albert Haynesworth. With you: 7-2. Without: 0-3.
  • 31) Here's to you, Mario Williams. 2.5 sacks - way to go after the guy some of your fans wish they had instead of you.
  • 32) Here's to you, Vince Young. At last, some decent quarterback-looking numbers, and 44 rush yards to boot. And as always, most importantly, a win.
  • 33) Here's to you, Larry Tripplett. That diving/rolling interception was very impressive, particularly for a big guy.
  • 34) Here's to you, Reed Doughty. No one envies that you have to be the guy replacing Sean Taylor, and I wish you the best of luck.
  • 35) Here's to you, Fred Jackson. Yet another unheard-of running back puts together a solid game.
  • 36) Here's to you, Roderick Hood. A 71-yard INT TD to open the scoring, and your team never lost that lead.
  • 37) Here's to you, Edgerrin James. Nice running to keep a dangerous offense off the field.
  • 38) Here's to you, Braylon Edwards. You no longer look like a star-in-the-making, but a full-on star.
  • 39) Here's to you, Josh McCown, and to your proud parents who saw both their boys win today. Not glamorous numbers, but those 3 TDs are important - make ‘em field goals and it's a close game.
  • 40) Here's to you, Justin Fargas. 33 carries for 146 yards, and suddenly you're 10th in the NFL in rushing yardage, and you didn't see any serious action until week 4!
  • 41) Here's to you, D.J. Williams. You're up there with the best MLBs.
  • 42) Here's to you, Derrick Ward. I can't believe how many times you set up 2nd and short for Eli Manning.
  • 43) Here's to you, Adrian Peterson of Chicago, not so much for your rushing effort, but for leading your team with 7 receptions and 82 yards through the air. Grossman needs a safety valve like you to help keep him from forcing stuff.
  • 44) Here's to you, Rex Grossman. You outplayed Eli in the "See, Donovan, these white guys get criticized too" matchup, which is all well and good, but the real reason I'm toasting you is this: I've been watching you play for several years now, and yesterday was the first time, ever, that you looked like a true leader to me. The second-half-closing FG drive, during which you chastised Desmond Clark for poor use of a timeout, showed some true leadership ability. There may be hope for you yet.
  • 45) Here's to you, Hines Ward. You'd be my favorite end zone target too.
  • 46) Here's to you, Pittsburgh defense. I missed the game, but I'm looking at the stat sheet, and that's the definition of a team effort. 8 guys with a PD, assisted tackles all over the place, and no standout individual performances. Looks to me like you didn't give them anything to work with.

Feel free to add toasts of your own, but as always, keep 'em positive.  Avoid the sarcasm, and anything self-serving like fantasy football or gambling.  We're here to celebrate the sport we love.

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