When Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano announced last week he had been diagnosed with leukemia and was leaving the team for extended treatment, it struck Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne to the core.
Pagano was a defensive backs' coach at the University of Miami in 1997 when he recruited Wayne to the Hurricanes. Wayne started all four years at Miami and has had a surefire-Hall of Fame career as a Colt, many of those years as the favorite target of Peyton Manning.
But even as Manning's go-to guy, Wayne never had a night like Sunday. In a game dedicated Pagano, Wayne exploded for 212 yards on 13 catches, a career high, to help the underdog Colts beat the Green Bay Packers, 30 - 27. Five of those catches came on the game's final drive, including the game-winning touchdown, as Wayne out-muscled two Packers to reach the goal line.
"I've been knowing Chuck for a long time, 16 years," said Wayne. "Great human being, great coach, great personality, great husband…To be able to come out and just do it for him, I said to myself I was going to lay it all on the line."
Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck played like the cool leader the team expected him to be when they drafted him with this year's No. 1 pick, throwing for 362 yards as the Colts overcame an early 21 - 3 Green Bay lead. After bulling his way in for a touchdown, Luck ran to the wall behind the end zone and slapped one of several banners hung around the stadium that read: "Chuckstrong."
Like Red, but Not Quite: The NFL's annual "A Crucial Catch" drive, when teams and officials wear pink-trimmed uniforms and accessories for a month to promote breast cancer awareness, is in its fourth year and is popular with fans and players (except Rush Limbaugh, who last week decried it as "chick-ification" of the NFL). But few have embraced the campaign like Redskins' rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III did last week when he asked Adidas to make him a special pink sleeve for Sunday's game—he also wore a pink glove, rare for a quarterback.
Griffin did so despite, he said, having no real connection to the cause. "It's just paying tribute to all those who have had to fight breast cancer. Me personally, I don't know if anyone in my family has ever been affected by it. I know it means something to a lot of different people," Griffin told the Washington Times. "Sometimes, it's not necessarily what you're doing for yourself that can make a difference in this world. It's what you're doing to try to bring awareness to other people's struggles." Griffin left the Redskins' 24 - 17 loss to Atlanta with what his coach later said was a concussion.
Does This Uniform Make Me Look 6 Feet 6 Inches?: The Wall Street Journal dove into a heavy subject this week, undressing the issues many of the NFL's hulking linemen have with Nike's newest uniform. The uniforms are the first made by Nike after the league ditched Reebok this year.
"I hate them," WSJ quoted Alex Boone, a 300-pounder whose San Francisco 49ers destroyed the Buffalo Bills Sunday, bookending a two-game streak wherein they've outscored opponents 79 - 3. "It makes me look like I have big old love handles."
Best and Worst of the Week: New Orleans Quarterback Drew Brees was quick to retrieve a ball he'd just thrown for a touchdown to Devery Henderson early in the Saints' game against San Diego. No surprise. They play marked Brees' 48th straight-game with a touchdown pass, breaking Johnny Unitas' consecutive games record.
Meanwhile, Minnesota's Harrison Smith was ejected from the Vikings' cakewalk over the Tennessee Titans after shoving an official who was attempting to break up a scuffle. It will be interesting to see if the fine that Smith now faces—likely in the mid-five-digits—would be enough to buy Brees' ball.
Two Things You Need to Know for Your Monday Night Football Party:
1. Tebow Tebow Tebow: Everything is in place for a perfect Tim Tebow storm in New York as the reeling Jets take on the Houston Texans and their quarterback, Mark Sanchez, battles the specter of super-backup Tim Tebow. The Texans are one of the league's best teams, the Jets among the worst. The New York fans will be chanting for "Te-Bow!" early and often. Even history is against the Jets: The Tebow Legend was born in the last time the Jets played in a nationally-televised weekday game, when Tebow rallied the Broncos past them late last year.
2. The man who could make or break Sanchez and then maybe break Tebow, too, is Houston's JJ Watt. The Texans' second year defensive end is a quarterback's worst nightmare. Watts currently leads the NFL with 7.5 sacks in four games, even though everyone else played their fifth game Sunday.