In honor of tonight's Emmy Awards, we present our pro-football version (NFL-mmys?). Sure, it's an opportunistic gimmick, but we did enjoy some truly great performances this weekend—along with the sorta iffy ones that, in a way, we enjoyed even more.
Best Lead Actor in a Tear-Jerker: Less than 24 hours before taking the field against the New England Patriots in the NFL's most anticipated game of the season so far, Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith got the news that his 19-year-old brother, Tevin Jones, had been killed in a motorcycle accident near his home in Virginia. Smith played Sunday night against New England, and with his team down 13-0 midway through the second quarter, pulled in a gorgeous, diving 25-yard touchdown to get the Ravens back in the game. NBC's cameras showed Smith crying on the bench throughout the game.
Most Outstanding Karma Blowback to a Trick Play: On their first play against the Washington Redskins, the Cincinnati Bengals lined up quarterback Andy Dalton at wide receiver while rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu took the snap. In the confusion, the Bengals' A.J. Greene streaked down the field for a 73-yard touchdown pass from Sanu. Cute. But you know what they say about karma.
When the Bengals next got the ball, it was on their own 1-yard line after a perfect Redskins punt, and when Dalton tried a swing pass in the end zone, Washington defender Rob Jackson stepped in front of it for an instant touchdown. In other words, just minutes after embarrassing the Redskins with a silly trick play, the Bengals gave away a touchdown with an interception in their own end zone—only the fifth time since World War II such a play has occurred.
Most Outstanding Aerial Performance. Nominees:
• Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, 384 yards passing against the Raiders. Big Ben led NFL this weekened in yardage and threw for four TDs. But lost. No statue for Big Ben.
• Tennessee Titans' Jake Locker, whose arm and talent have been questioned, threw for 378 yards and two touchdowns in the week's wildest game, a 44-41 overtime victory over the Detriot Lions. But Locker was only in on one of the amazing six touchdowns scored in the frantic final 7 minutes which included a 105-yard kickoff return for Tennessee, a 71-yard Locker pass and two touchdown passes in 18 seconds from Detroit's backup QB, including a 46 yard ‘Hail Mary' on the last play of regulation. So perhaps an Outstanding Drama NFL-mmy for the game, but at best a Supporting Role nod for Locker.
• Marble Falls (Texas) High School's Mike Richardson. The senior threw for an astounding 724 yards in a 62-55 win, the second-most yards thrown by a high school player anywhere, ever. For perspective, the all-time NFL record is 554 yards in a game (the Giants' Eli Manning's 510 yards against Tampa Bay last week is 9th). Even in football-crazy Texas, Richardson's air show shattered the state record, though he failed to set one mark: most yards of the weekend.
• That was Taylor Heinicke of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., who threw for 730 yards in a 64-61 win over the University of New Hampshire, breaking a Division I college record that had stood since 1990 (though, astoundingly, Heinicke isn't the all-division record holder for even this month thanks to Sam Durley, a senior at the appropriately named Eureka College in Eureka, Ill., who threw for 736 three weeks ago).
And the NFL-mmy goes to: Locker, but only because, you know, he's actually in the NFL right now. We'll check in with Richardson and Heinicke in a few years.
Director of a Game-Ending Series: Greg Schiano, coach, Tampa Bay. We told you last week that Schiano broke NFL etiquette when he refused to let the Giants run out their game's final seconds with uncontested kneel downs, instead telling his defense to crash full speed into Eli Manning on the last play.
This week: the sequel.
Trailing again in the final seconds against the Cowboys, with no real hope of getting the ball back, Schiano not only had his defense attack at full speed as Tony Romo took a knee, but he used two timeouts in to do it three times. Like Giants coach Tom Coughlin last week, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett looked upset by the gambit, though the punches and tantrums of last week were absent.
Two Things To Know For Your Monday Night Football Party:
1. Tonight's buzz is about the primetime debut of Russell Wilson, Seattle's remarkably poised rookie quarterback. How poised is Wilson? Here's his most famous play from college at North Carolina State, against a North Carolina defense with eight future NFL players.
2. Unlike Seattle, Green Bay has established superstars. But they kind of aren't getting along right now. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers called out one of his receivers, a locker-room no-no, but things got worse when the agent for another Packer tweeted that Rodgers "is a great QB he isn't a great leader. There's a major difference. Leaders take the blame [and make everyone] better. He doesn't." Awkward!