A look around Week 4 in the NFL

By Jerry Greene

Knight Ridder Newspapers

• Play; of the Day -- Houston's decision to go for the winning TD instead of the tying field goal on the final play of the Texans' home game with Jacksonville. David Carr's one-yard winning dive is another payback for the terrible beating he took as a rookie.

• The; Jags' radio broadcast of the game began with "What time is it, Jags fans? It's feeding time."--Yeah, right.

• The; Chiefs' Dante Hall has six return TDs in nine games. That's remarkable.


• Sunday's; Best Fib -- Bengals' Corey Dillon goes to locker room for "an equipment problem" but later leaves the game for good due to a groin injury. Interesting use of the word "equipment."

• I; know it's the wrong sport, but add my voice to those cheering the Detroit Tigers (43-119) and pitcher Mike Maroth (9-21) for avoiding the curse of becoming historic losers. If I were Detroit, I'd have a parade.

Morning sickness

• CBS; won the pregame battle because of an excellent feature on Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson by always-excellent Lesley Visser. She went with him to the Watts neighborhood of L.A. where he grew up. Said Johnson: "Easy to put a liquor store on every corner," while explaining his effort to bring more legitimate businesses to the area. Best thing about the feature was that it finally gave us a reason to respect Johnson for something beyond his courage to go over the middle.

Meanwhile, Warren Sapp was in the NFL Today studio, teaching the guys how to dance.

• ESPN; continues to produce a strong show and, yes, Rush Limbaugh continues to be a big part of it. Sunday he took a strong stand against Maurice Clarett being allowed into the NFL next year, saying Clarett should "prove his endurance and enter the draft when he's a man."

Rush added: "Infusion of teenagers killed the NBA." Is that right, T-Mac?

• Fox; may be reacting to the slight slip in its pregame ratings, because there was a lot more football talk and a lot less giggling.



Green Bay at Chicago:

• Buzz; No. 1 -- Far more interesting than the game is the unveiling of the crashed spaceship that now sits where legendary Soldiers Field once stood. Here's a comment by Blair Kamin, architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune:

"The new Soldier Field, the face that launched a thousand quips ("Monstrosity of the Midway," "Eyesore on Lake Shore," "Mistake by the Lake") is almost here--a skillful, sometimes brilliant and ultimately jarring failure."

Gee, I wish I were an architecture critic. Think of the fun I could have with that "Killer Cucumber" that stands in front of Orlando City Hall. But back to Mr. Kamin in Chicago:

"With its spaceship-like seating bowl crammed between the stadium's legendary rows of Doric columns, the stadium is Klingon meets Parthenon, an architectural close encounter of the worst kind."

It will be interesting to see if ABC raves about it--and I bet they will.

• Buzz; No. 2 -- Speaking of the network, they must be worried about losing viewers to CSI: Miami at halftime because they are launching something called "Monday Night At The Mic." It's about putting a football player with a musician and viewers vote on who's best. Tonight the competition is Joey Harrington working with John Popper against Marcellus Wiley working with DMC and Vic Damone.


Be still my heart. There have been so many great fictional detectives but my favorite must be obvious--Columbo. Why? Because of his impeccable fashion sense, of course.

That man could dress.

But going into Sunday, even Columbo would have been scratching his head if asked to solve the September Mystery of the NFL, called "The Case of the Missing McNabb."

As it turned out, McNabb returned on his own Sunday--although I doubt if his whereabouts during the first two games of the Philadelphia Eagles' season will ever be solved. He simply wasn't there.

Everybody thought they could explain the mystery. He broke his leg last year and never really recovered. He married a pretty girl and never really recovered. He let his hair grow and never really recovered. He made one of those cursed Campbell Chunky Soup commercials and never really recovered.

In Buffalo, he really recovered.

"It's important we get something going early," Eagles Coach Andy Reid had said before the game. "We need to have something positive happen."

And that's what happened. On his first play, McNabb threw a perfect 27-yard pass to Todd Pinkston. Two plays later, McNabb scrambled for another 25, leading to a touchdown and a lead the Eagles never surrendered.


Granted, McNabb did not go on to have a wondrous day passing, completing 18 of 29 passes for 172 yards with no TDs and no picks. But in the game's final two minutes, he completed a vital third-down pass that kept the ball in the Eagles' hands--and on the next play, Brian Westbrook broke through the stacked Bills defense for a 62-yard clinching TD run.

So the mystery may never be solved but that case does appear to be closed.

Still, there are always unsolved mysteries in the NFL:

• The; Case of the Vanishing Buffalo. After the first two weeks, Bills fans were clearing their calendars for a trip to the Super Bowl. But after the last two weeks, they just want to go hide. Between Miami and Philadelphia, the Bills went eight quarters without scoring before mounting a mini-rally in the final minutes against the Eagles.

One obvious clue--RB Travis Henry is missing and Joe Burns is not the answer.

• The; Case of the Pillaging Vikings. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper can't play and the Vikings look better with journeyman Gus Frerotte? And Randy Moss is the old Moss again with eight catches for 172 yards and three TDs? Either Coach Mike Tice sold his soul to the Devil--or the Vikes suddenly have the best offensive line in football. I'm betting on Tice and the Devil.

• The; Case of the Retired Raiders &; Niners. Best guess is that there's something in the water up there. Whatever reason, both teams in the San Francisco-Oakland area suddenly look really, really old and slow. Of course, so does Columbo.

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