There was so much to be thankful for over the NFL's Thanksgiving weekend: the birth of Colin-sanity, a new 'butt' for Jets jokes, epic facial hair and a free pass Monday to Google "shaved cheerleaders" without getting fired. Let's get to recappin'!
To support head coach Chuck Pagano's fight with leukemia, Indianapolis Colts cheerleader Megan Meadors agreed last week that, if fans donated $10,000 to Pagano's cause, she would shave her head in solidarity with the coach, who has been left bald by chemotherapy.
Fans quickly sent in $22,000, and Meadors (Miss Indiana 2008) spent the fourth quarter of the Colts' game in a barber's chair on the sideline. She was joined by fellow cheerleader Crystal Anne.
In other notable hair-related news, Aaron Rodgers took on the New York Giants Sunday night with a mustache unequaled on an NFL field since the heyday of Joe Namath. A long-time 'stache proponent, Rodgers told Jim Rome last week that his father, Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds are his mustache heroes but said the greatest mustache-wearer of all time was Sam Elliott. "Especially the one he rocked in Tombstone," said Rodgers. Several reports link Rodgers' November 'stache to the Movember movement, a 10-year-old charity drive that encourages men to grow moustaches this month to heighten awareness of prostate cancer, but its unclear if Rodgers had a message, just dug the look or had taken a no-shave pledge during his team's five-game win streak. If it's the latter, he may join the Colts' cheerleaders in a close shave this week after getting pasted by the Giants, 38 - 10.
Colin-sanity? Or Maybe Kaepern-ania?: Whatever word ends up sticking, get ready to hear it a lot. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick officially took over as the 49er's starting quarterback Sunday after being elevated over an injured Alex Smith last week. The second-year player, who arrived unheralded in San Francisco from Nevada-Reno, outdueled former NFL MVP Drew Brees and the Saints Sunday, leading the 49ers to a relatively easy 31 - 21 win. Kaepernick electrified Niners' fans with his running, taking off six times for 27 yards and a touchdown.
In truth, though, facing Brees may have made Kaepernick's day easier rather than harder. Brees threw five touchdowns, but only three to his team. San Francisco's defense intercepted Brees twice and returned both for scores.
Rolling Rookies: The NFL's brilliant rookie quarterback class is already the most successful in history, with 26 wins and counting between them, three more than the previous record from a full season, and they seem to take turns as the group's brightest star.
While the Colts Andrew Luck, Washington's Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson have dominated headlines for much of the season, this week was Miami's Ryan Tannehill's time to shine. Facing Seattle, Tannehill led Miami on touchdown drives of 82 and 80 yards in the fourth quarter to tie the game and then on a 65-yard drive to the game-winning field goal as the clock hit zero.
Houston-Detroit: In the holiday's first game, Detroit went deep into the fine print of the NFL rulebook to find a way to lose to Houston after the Texans' Justin Forsett took off on what looked like an 81-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Luckily for Detroit, it seemed, Forsett was clearly down near midfield and it seemed certain that Forsett's touchdown would be wiped out when Lions coach Jim Schwartz threw his red challenge flag to demand a replay review. However, Schwartz had forgotten a new NFL rule this year that all scoring plays are automatically reviewed by replay officials. Which sounds like even better news, right? Well, no. The automatic review meant that Schwartz' challenge was unnecessary and therefore considered invalid. And the automatic penalty for an invalid challenge is that all replay, including the automatic kind, is cancelled on the play. So even though everyone in the stadium knew the call was wrong, there could be no review thanks to Schwartz's challenge.
To his credit, Schwartz realized almost immediately what he had done and took the blame. "I overreacted," Schwartz said after the game. "And I cost us. Indeed. With Forsett's touchdown permanently on the scoreboard, Houston eked out a 34 - 31 win.
Washington-Dallas: Dallas' Tony Romo threw for 441 yards and three touchdowns, but couldn't overcome Washington rookie Robert Griffin III's four touchdown passes, his second straight game with that many. RGIII led Washington to 28 points in the second quarter, which seemed like a lot. And then came the New York Jets.
Jets-New England: In the holiday nightcap, the Patriots exploded for 35 points in the second quarter against the hapless Jets, including three touchdowns in a 52 second span, during which New England scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams. The enduring image of the game came in the middle of those touchdowns when, after a hand-off miscue, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez ran into his own lineman's prodigious derrière, causing a fumble which was picked up and returned for a touchdown by New England. Afterward, Jets running back Joe McKnight inadvertently summed up the Jets' incoherent season, saying "We didn't even give them a chance to see us coming."