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After suffering a 30-27 loss to division rival Philadelphia on Sunday, Dallas Cowboys RB Tashard Choice was caught by NBC cameras asking Michael Vick for an autograph at midfield following the game. Many Cowboys fans are outraged at Choice for "fraternizing with the enemy" in such a way.
I really didn't have a big issue with what Choice did. If anything, he certainly could have gone about doing it in a different manner. There could be various reasons why Choice wanted Vick's autograph. Maybe Choice has a charity auction to which he wanted to donate a signed Michael Vick glove. Maybe the autograph is for a sick child in a hospital. Maybe Tashard Choice was a huge Vick fan growing up, and wants the autograph for his personal collection in his home. Whatever the case, asking Vick for an autograph immediately after the game gave the impression that he was "idolizing" Vick, like a fan would a rock star leaving the arena after a concert.
The post-game is a time for players to congratulate one another, and catch up for five minutes before taking off to the locker room. The fact that Choice had a marker ready shows me that his intention was something that was planned and thought out. He easily could have told Vick to meet him outside the locker room in order to get his signature, or give him the heads up that he was going to FedEx the glove to his locker or his home for a signature. The whole incident just felt awkward for me to watch, because I felt like Choice was admitting inferiority to Vick as a player, by asking for his autograph in such a way. Could you ever imagine an NBA player asking for Michael Jordan's autograph at center court following a game? Or Wayne Gretzky at center ice? No offence to Vick, but those guys are legends. Vick's had a great year, but if anyone should be signing autographs for other players after the game, it's Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. The whole thing to me just seemed very weird.
Snow at Soldier Field
I thought that the most fun game to watch this past weekend was the New England Patriots' dismantling of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. It wasn't because of the near-flawless performance by Tom Brady and the Pats, but rather the weather! The temperature was -3 celsius at kickoff with wind gusts swirling at 30 miles per hour! While playing for the San Francisco 49ers in 2005, we had a road game at Soldier Field under similar wind conditions. I can say from first-hand experience that there isn't a stadium in the country that gets windier than Soldier Field. The Meadowlands in New Jersey can be tricky, because the wind swirls in different directions depending on what side of the field you are on, but in terms of sheer force, Soldier Field can be a bear (no pun intended).
During our game in 2005, the wind affected everyone. Quarterbacks were forced to be pinpoint accurate, and our starting QB Cody Pickett had a tough day throwing, completing only one pass in 13 attempts! It was also a nightmare day to kick or punt the ball. I remember we were playing the Bears very tough before halftime, winning 3-0 until our head coach Mike Nolan decided to attempt a 52-yard field goal on the final play from scrimmage in the half. Our kicker Joe Nedney tried to drive the ball through the incredible wind, and I remember watching the ball change directions in the air about three times, side to side. The kick ended up being short, and in a brilliant tactical manoeuver by Bears head coach Lovie Smith, return specialist Nathan Vasher was waiting in the end zone to field it. What happened next was unbelievable. Vasher proceeded to return the short field goal attempt 108 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the half! It ended up being the longest play in NFL history!
What should have at worst been a 3-0 lead turned into a 7-3 deficit in a matter of moments. As soon as we got into the locker room, Nolan stood up on a chair and blamed himself for the decision to kick the field goal, as he could probably sense the look of amazement on our faces. We ended up losing the game 17-9, but watching Tom Brady and kicker Shane Graham execute nearly flawlessly on Sunday put a big smile on my face, because I've seen first-hand just how hard it can be to play at Soldier Field in tough conditions.
Rolling with the Punches
Give the New York Giants a ton of credit. With severe weather in Minnesota this past weekend, the Giants were unable to fly into Minneapolis on Saturday for their anticipated match-up versus the Vikings on Sunday. And after the roof of the Metrodome collapsed on Saturday because of an accumulation of snow, the NFL made a last-second decision to change the venue to Ford Field in Detroit on Monday night. NFL players and coaches are creatures of habit. Everyone likes to have a routine. I know first-hand from playing under Giants head coach Tom Coughlin that he likes to follow a strict schedule, particularly when going on the road to play a game.
When last-second complications arise for teams like it did in Minnesota this weekend, coaches are forced to make decisions on the fly that obviously alter schedules. A coach must attempt to make changes that will limit the distraction for his team. Such decisions include: at which hotel will the team stay in the new city? Where will the team have a walk-through? Where can the team watch film? Where can the team get a workout? (remember, the Giants hadn't worked out since Friday before leaving on the plane). Players only pack a change of clothes for two days when traveling to play away games, so now they need to somehow find a third set of clothing! While the Giants didn't look their best on Monday night, they had enough left in the tank to get the win on the road versus a team that Eli Manning had never beaten as a Giant. Congratulations are in order to head coach Tom Coughlin for taking what could have become a major distraction, and getting the end result: a win.
Cause for Concern
The New York Jets may be in trouble. After beginning the year 5-1, and looking as if they would streamroll through the AFC on their way to locking up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Jets have lost two in a row and are stumbling during the final month of the season. The Jets gave up 45 points to division rival New England two weeks ago, and managed only six points against Miami this past weekend. That's two straight losses to division opponents, but what's most disturbing is the fact that the Jets have only scored nine combined points over the two weeks.
After the loss to the Dolphins, head coach Rex Ryan admitted that he thought about benching second-year QB Mark Sanchez because of his ineffectiveness. Sanchez was only 17 of 44 versus the Dolphins, and admitted after the game that he "can't be a roller coaster". Sanchez began the season playing very smart football, limiting his turnovers and managing games. Since their sixth game of the season, Sanchez has thrown seven touchdowns versus 10 interceptions.
Ryan was also disappointed in the Jets' defence after Sunday's loss, but I think if you hold an opponent to 10 points, you should expect to win the game. Keep in mind that Jets' QB Chad Henne was only 5 of 18 on the day, registering the lowest completion percentage for a Dolphins starting QB in a win since 1980. To make matters worse for the Jets, strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi actually tripped a Miami Dolphins player who was trying to cover a punt during the game! I've never seen anything like that! The Jets have suspended Alosi for the rest of the regular season and post-season without pay. New York still has to travel to Pittsburgh and Chicago before rounding out the regular season at home against the Buffalo Bills. Forget about winning the AFC East division if you're a Jets fan, because the New England Patriots will win that. There is major cause for concern in New York because it appears as though the Jets are in a downward spiral, and may be scratching and clawing just to make the post-season as a Wild Card team.