Stat No. 4. New England and Buffalo have played three straight overtime games. Finals: 13-10, 16-13, 13-10.
Stat No. 5. The Panthers ran up 30 points despite just 169 yards of offense. They gave up more sack yardage (22) than they gained rushing (11 yards on 15 attempts).
Bane of Resplendent Jersey: Detroit is 4-3 at home but 2-0 at the Meadowlands, having beaten both Jersey/A and Jersey/B there this season.
Three Rivers Stadium Farewell: Thirty years, four championships, only one home losing season. Wow. The concrete chunks will be consecrated rubble.
Jerry Rice Nonfarewell: It looks like Rice has played his final home game for San Francisco, which faces yet another crash on the salary cap. Rice appears determined to show 'em by slogging through one extra year with another team; this would be a mistake. Part of the mystique of the great player is to spend his entire career in the same colors, enduring the good and the bad without ever leaving town because something didn't go exactly his way, the memory of his greatness belonging to one city alone. That is why Dan Marino was so, so right to walk off as exclusively a Dolphin though he could have slogged through in one more season as a Viking. That's why other stars such as Jim Kelly, Anthony Munoz, Phil Simms, and Mike Singletary were so, so right to wave farewell as one-team players though they could have caught on somewhere for a final year.
Pause for a moment to contemplate Rice's achievements. He not only leads the NFL in multiple career categories; what's amazing is the percentage by which he leads. Rice has 20 percent more receptions than the next closest player, Cris Carter; 32 percent more receiving yardage than the next closest player, James Lofton; 34 percent more 100-yard receiving games than the next closest player, Don Maynard; a stunning 44 percent more receiving touchdowns than the next closest player, Carter. In most all-time categories in sports, the leader is slightly above the next player. Rice has practically lapped the field.
What a shame it would be to watch Rice spend a listless, superfluous season shagging down-and-outs for the Panthers or Eagles when he could walk away with his name inexorably synonymous with two words: "Wow" and "Niners." Canton-class receivers Lofton, Art Monk, and Andre Reed tried to prolong their careers with one extra season catching dump passes for strange teams, dreaming they were still 24 years old with the glory still ahead of them. Each looked pitiable at the last. Reed is the most recent example. In his final home game of the 1999 season, Reed became No. 2 all-time in receptions: Rather than wave farewell to thundering cheers as a one-team great, he cursed his own club for telling him the truth, that his moment had run its course, and has spent the 2000 season in embarrassment as a third-string nobody for a strange team. Can you even name the team Reed is on right now? Rice should not go out this way. He has records, three Super Bowl rings, the love of fans and purists alike. No football career has come closer to perfection. But the sun also sets.
Touch Football Script: After the item on the 15-play "script" sequence of calls used by offenses such as Denver and San Francisco, several readers wrote in asking for a script they could use in the football that applies to their lives, namely touch football. Here, as a public service, is a touch script:
1) Any crossing pattern.
2) Everybody run a quick out.
3) Everybody go deep.
4) Any crossing pattern.
5) Everybody buttonhook.
6) You run a pump and go; everybody else do something on the other side.
7) Reverse pass by a WR back to the QB. (Technical note: In touch football, all players are WRs.)
8) Any crossing pattern.
9) You go deep, and I'll deliberately underthrow it.
10) Hook-and-ladder left.
11) Quick snap as soon as we get to the line.
12) Any crossing pattern.
13) Act like you're mad because you're not going to get the ball, then I'll hit you.
14) Direct snap to anyone.
15) Quarterback draw on three Mississippi.
Repeat as necessary. Stop as necessary to drink microbrewed strawberry-blond winter-wheat-based spiced dark pale holiday ale.
Great Moments in Coaching: A week ago Chicago enjoyed a rare victory, quarterback Shane Matthews throwing a Bears-record 15 straight completions. As his reward he was benched for Cade McNown, who lost Sunday's game while completing nine in total. McNown is 1-8 as a Bears starter, the benched Matthews 2-2. Chicago coach Dick Jauron has changed starting quarterbacks nine times in the past two seasons. And look how well it's working! The Bears are 10-21 during that span.