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FMIA Week 4: Saturday in Deion Sanders’ Colorado and a Dominant Sunday for the Bills

Week 4 recap: Bills, Cowboys make huge statements
Maria Taylor, Mike Florio, Devin McCourty and Jason Garrett dive into Week 4, where the Bills handed the Dolphins their first loss of the season, the Cowboys gave Bill Belichick the worst loss of his career and more.

BOULDER, Colo.—I’m not exactly sure what I expected to find here at the Deionization of football, but I am happy I came on this weekend, to see this USC-Colorado game, to see two future NFL quarterbacks, to run into some 6:25 a.m. tailgaters, and to mingle with the glitterati on the Colorado sideline. This week: Warren Sapp, Michael Irvin, Jaylen Brown, C.C. Sabathia, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and some music stars I am much too old to know.

I was blown away by one of the quarterbacks, and his name may surprise you: Shedeur Sanders. It’s obvious that USC’s Caleb Williams could (and probably will) be a franchise quarterback at the next level. But I give Shedeur Sanders, son of Deion, immense credit for taking a beating, for putting some blame for Colorado’s 48-41 loss to USC on his shoulders, and for making the kind of vital desperado throw on fourth-and-five in the fourth quarter that Patrick Mahomes might nod respectfully at and say, “That’s a throw most NFL quarterbacks can’t make, young buck.”

Lots going on in in the Big League this weekend: Miami failing to climb Mount Buffalo and take AFC East supremacy, Damar’s back, the Pats embarrassing themselves, 0-3 Bowls in Chicago and Charlotte, Eagles and Niners the last unbeatens, Mike Tomlin seethes, and more.

But this scene, this game, this coach, the reigning Heisman winner (Williams), maybe a better future quarterback (Shedeur Sanders) I came to Boulder out of curiosity, plain and simple. Who doesn’t want to see what’s going on out here in the shadow of the Rockies, in the land Deion Sanders is resuscitating? I wasn’t alone. “Huge Deion fan,” said Sabathia on the packed pre-game Colorado sideline. “I just had to see it.” I do believe this is the first time in the 27-year history of this Monday column that I’ve led with a college football game. But the way I see it, this was a hybrid day: part big-ratings game of the day in college football, part 2026 NFL preview.


Fourth quarter of Saturday’s USC-Colorado matchup.

Fourth quarter of Saturday’s USC-Colorado matchup.

Shedeur Sanders and Caleb Williams likely will be starting NFL quarterbacks. They’ve both pledged allegiance to college football, but USC’s Lincoln Riley (and perhaps offensive aide Kliff Kingsbury) and Deion Sanders will both get NFL feelers, probably soon. Can you imagine Riley and Williams teaming up to revive the Chicago Bears? Be still, Michael Wilbon’s heart. And the receiving talent on these teams is likely bound for the next level: Tahj Washington, Brenden (son of Jerry) Rice and Zachariah (grand-nephew of Cliff) Branch on USC; Omarion Miller, Xavier Weaver and two-way player Travis Hunter on Colorado. (Branch and Hunter missed the game with injuries.)

Williams and Sanders could be the top picks in the next two NFL drafts. On a sun-splashed perfect day in the land that time is remembering, they combined for 10 touchdown passes, 774 passing yards and zero disappointment among the 30 NFL scouts crammed into Folsom Field with the biggest media contingent—892—ever to cover a game here. No one left yawning.

Williams has a much better front wall than Sanders, and Sanders faced more pressure than Williams all afternoon. That’s one reason I came away thinking Sanders could well be a better pro. Having a better supporting cast and stronger D shouldn’t penalize Williams, of course. But I saw more of what a quarterback needs to do in the NFL from Sanders, at least on this one day.

Sanders aced the short anticipatory out-routes that are staples of modern NFL pass games. He processed under pressure the way he’ll have to do if, as is likely, he goes to a losing team in the pros. He brought his team back from 41-14 to nearly win the game. He threw the best pass of the day (the season, probably) on a pressurized fourth-and-five with 12 minutes left, evading a sack, running right and finding a pinhole of a window into airtight coverage for a nine-yard TD. An amazing, amazing 22-yards-in-the-air dart that hit Miller right in the hands.

Every Sanders pass and run from Week 5 loss to USC
Look back on every pass and run from Shedeur Sanders in Colorado's Week 5 loss to USC, where the QB finished 30 of 45 for 371 yards and four touchdowns and 14 carries for 50 rushing yards and one TD score.

His negative: Sanders took far too much time when he should have played faster, down two touchdowns in the last five minutes. But I liked how he took the blame for it post-game, saying he’d rather not snap it fast when he thinks two or three teammates aren’t sure of their tasks. That’s more of a total-offense and coaching issue, but Shedeur Sanders took the heat for it all.

There was a moment in the post-game media session that showed the command and the confidence of his father. With true frosh Miller seated next to Shedeur, I asked him about the lasered TD throw to (my pronunciation) “O-MEER-ee-on” Miller.

“It’s ‘O-MARE-ee-on,’” Sanders said. “This is my man ‘O-MARE-ee-on.’ He went for a lot of yards today.”

Sticking up, sort of, for his teammate and friend. Giving him the spotlight. Shedeur knows smart quarterbacks do a lot of giving and a lot of deflecting. Walking off the field after the game, he gave too. Shedeur took his wristbands off, sought the right recipient in the first row of the stands next to the Colorado tunnel, and handed them to a 10-ish-year-old boy.

“His name in my phone is ‘Grown,’” said his father and head coach, Deion Sanders. “G-R-O-W-N. He’s very mature for his age. He’s very confident. He never gets flustered. He’s been built and reared for this his whole life. I’m proud to be his father and his coach.”

Boldface Names

Patrick Mahomes kills dreams. Did you see him slide, inbounds and just past the first-down marker, with 1:53 left at the Jet two-yard line? He could have scored, but not scoring meant he could kneel three times and win, never allowing the Jets to touch the ball again. QB Nostradamus.

Zach Wilson ruined every New York narrative Sunday night. “You can’t play quarterback better than this,” Cris Collinsworth said when the Jets tied KC at 20 in the third quarter. The Jets let him play football Sunday night. His game defined “moral victory.”

Khalil Mack, playing against his old friends, the Raiders, had six sacks in 43 minutes.

The Bears. It’s amazing how embarrassing they are.

Yo, Bills Mafia: Sean McDermott’s about to give you major, major props for your role in stifling the Tuas Sunday.

Brocktober. Mr. Purdy began the month with a 20-of-21 strafing of the Cardinals. But go ahead. Keep thinking that being 12-0 in NFL games where he’s played at least three quarters is fluky.

Sam Howell, what a day. Heroic, almost pulling that one out in Philadelphia.

Puka Nacua. Energizer bunny. BYU, 2022: 48 catches all season. Rams, 2023: 39 catches in four games, the 39th an overtime game-winner.

2-2. Quite fashionable. Twelve of 30 teams with four games played are dead even—and if the Giants win tonight, it’ll be 14.

Mike Tomlin is not happy. Such is life after a 24-point loss to the Houston Texans. Tomlin: “Hell yeah, there’s gonna be changes.”

Lord, Jerry Tillery. Don’t do bush-league stuff like that. Excellent job by the officials, ejecting the Raiders defensive lineman for blasting the clearly out-of-bounds Justin Herbert.

The Bengals: 41 possessions this year, three touchdowns. Joe Burrow’s going to keep gutting it out with the bad calf. But should he?

LeBron’s football crush. It’s Christian McCaffrey. The basketballer on social media, watching Niners-Cards: “CMC you’re ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!!!!”

Explain the Cowboys. Lost to Josh Dobbs by 12 last week. Beat Bill Belichick by 35 Sunday. Football’s a funny game.

Belichick, by the way, coached his 498th NFL game in Texas on Sunday. The 35-point loss was the worst of his NFL head coaching career.

Expiration date? Mac Jones may have one on him after that awful cross-field pick-six he threw at the Cowboys. But this is looking very much like the fourth straight year since Tom Brady walked that New England won’t win a playoff game, and the way Robert Kraft thinks, the head coach and draft czar has to be responsible for that.

Caleb Williams looks like a superb prospect. But as Bill Parcells said about 647 times, Let’s not go putting this guy in Canton yet.

Taylor Swift, football factor. An email popped in Sunday night, from Gary Kugler of Gainesville, Va., just before Kansas City at the Jets, with Ms. Swift in a suite at MetLife—and all over NBC’s telecast. Gary Kugler described a pre-SNF conversation with his wife in the family room of their home:
Me: “Oh cool, it’s the season premier tonight of the Simpsons at 8 and then the season premier of Family Guy at 9:30.”

Wife: “I guess I’ll be watching football upstairs then (long pause while my son and I stare at her in disbelief) so I can see Taylor Swift.”

Per Kugler, “My wife has never asked that a football game be turned on till tonight.”

Four Stories

More of my college football dalliance later in the column, but let’s look at four NFL things now. First, in Orchard Park.

The Bills are who we thought they were. Or at least who I thought they were. Every week, there’s a different most impressive team in the league. After two weeks, we thought it was Dallas. After three, Miami. After four? Maybe San Francisco. Maybe Buffalo. It’s close.

The Bills’ 48-20 win was notable for a few reasons. Miami had lost nine of the last 10 games in this series; since the Bills got good again with Josh Allen, Buffalo owned Miami. So this meeting was about division supremacy. A win would give the Dolphins a two-game AFC East lead over Buffalo, with tough road games against Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Miami remaining for the Bills. The league advantaged the Dolphins in the scheduling too. With their two meetings on Oct. 1 and Jan. 7, Miami could have to travel to play in Buffalo in full winter weather. Putting Miami at Buffalo in the first game this year meant playing on a bright 70-degree afternoon with a soft 5-mph breeze. Perfect football weather. Everything was setting up for the Dolphins.

Well, the crowd wasn’t.

“The crowd, man,” Sean McDermott said from his office a half-hour after the game. “They were deafening. In all my years in this league, I’m not sure I’ve heard No, this crowd was as loud as I’ve heard any crowd in an NFL stadium. And that mattered today. I tip my cap to Bills Mafia.”

Leading into the game, it was hard to keep the outside noise out of the building. “They put 70 points on another team last week,” McDermott said. “We saw that, and we saw the tape. They were so impressive. But we really tried to keep it as ‘Next game.’ Respectfully, we treat every game like that. But we watched the 70 points on film, and they didn’t even have [Jaylen] Waddle. So we’re just emphasizing, one play at a time, one series.”

Miami began in track-meet style, going 77 and 70 yards for touchdowns in the first 17 minutes. But Buffalo defensive front seven started winning consistently—Ed Oliver, Daquan Jones and Greg Rousseau in particular—and Miami had four straight three-and-outs. That seemed so counter-intuitive after four quarters last week and the first one Sunday. Another factor was Miami left tackle Terron Armstead leaving with a knee injury in the second quarter. And when Tua Tagovailoa had time, he missed receivers more than he had in his starry September.

Josh Allen was superb in three ways: no turnovers, no major collisions in the open field, and the first perfect passer rating in his career. In 11 career games against Miami, he has 36 TD throws and five interceptions. It helped Sunday to have an inspired game from Stefon Diggs. His 55-yard catch-and-run for a TD, after being interfered with, then being in the grasp of corner Kader Kohou and breaking free, was the most impressive play by a receiver in week four.

Allen, Bills send 'reminder' in win over Dolphins
Chris Simms and Ahmed Fareed go inside the numbers after Josh Allen's five-touchdown performance against the Dolphins in Week 4, where he displayed maturation in the Bills' convincing win over their division rival.

“I think the Buffalo Bills proved why they are the team that our whole division is trying to beat,” Mike McDaniel said. That’s what this game was about: one team trying to wrest a division away from the once and future kings of it, the other team battering the challenger. Reality was a bitter pill for Miami Sunday. For Buffalo, as impressive as Allen and Diggs were, McDermott had to be thrilled with a defense that held Miami to six points in the last 42 minutes. “On defense, our guys really took over,” he said.

Sunday’s upshot: The window’s closing on all that talk about the Bills’ championship window closing.

The Eberflus Era could be short-lived. Blowing a 21-point lead at home to a winless team is bad. Losing 14 games in a row is worse. But the team just seems to careening into chaos. Case in point: the Chase Claypool situation. Lackadaisical in week one and unhappy with the coaching in week four, Claypool was made inactive for Sunday’s loss to Denver. Afterward, Eberflus (3-18 as Bears coach) was asked if Claypool was told to stay away from the team Sunday, and the coach said it was “a choice,” implying it was up to Claypool whether to show up or not. A half-hour later, a Bears PR person told the press that Claypool was told to stay away Sunday. I won’t be surprised to see Claypool released (what a waste of the 33rd pick in the 2023 draft, which is what it cost to get Claypool from Pittsburgh last season) this week. But it’s just another bad look for a team on fire, a team that’s going to start over again at the end of the season. In Chicago, what else is new?

Khalil Mack’s career day. Six sacks in a game has been exceeded only once—by Derrick Thomas, who had seven in a game 33 years ago. Mack had been sackless in the first three Chargers’ game. But he said he took advantage of a first-time starting quarterback, Aidan O’Connell of the Raiders, and the momentum of the moment. Amazing to think that Mack had three sacks in the first five plays of the third quarter, with all coming in a 43-minute span. “Everything was going right for me—not many chips, I felt great, I felt I could bend the edge with my foot and feel totally healthy,” Mack said. This was a career high in sacks for him, but Mack told me he thought his five-sack day against Denver eight years ago was better. In that game, he made three sacks of Brock Osweiler in the last 12 minutes of a close game.

Dot-dot-dot. Incredibly impressed with Sam Howell, the Washington offense and the poise the Commanders showed in the painful 34-31 loss at Philadelphia. In the last two seasons at Lincoln Financial Field, the Commanders have split the two games and outscored the Eagles 63-55Bills play Jags in London Sunday, and there could be some Josh Allen-on-Josh Allen crime. The Bills QB was superb Sunday, and the Jags’ pass-rusher had three sacks of Desmond Ridder Andy Reid and Tom Landry each have 250 regular-season wins now. Knowing Reid’s love of football history, that’s got to send him into orbit Best you can say about the 140th pick last April, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, is he looked like a rookie in his first start Sunday for Cleveland. The 135th pick, Aidan O’Connell, made a few more plays in his Raider debut … Ezekiel Elliott’s return to Dallas was grim (six carries, 16 yards), which exemplified his team’s day.

In Deion’s Colorado

A few other notes from Boulder:

The fans. Ran into Jerry McCarthy, 71, and Preston Moxcey, 45, both CU grads, setting up a tailgate for 100 people at 6:25 a.m. McCarthy got up at 2 and arrived at 4 to begin set-up. Moxcey paused loading the Modelo into an ice chest and McCarthy came out of his tailgate-equipment van with the huge buffalo on the side to talk about the change in college football, and the change in Colorado.

“This is pure business,” Moxcey said. “This is the minor leagues. The U.S. is a weird country. We’re the only people that have college athletics and it’s not built for the real world. I think there’s going to be a college football premier league and Colorado wouldn’t have been in it but now maybe they will. There will be 20 or 30 teams that matter. And there’ll be a bunch of teams that don’t. There’ll be a Tier 2 and a Tier 3. Colorado and a bunch of other big schools have to decide which way they want to go.”

“Once they did transfer portal,” McCarthy said, “that was one thing. NIL opened the floodgates. Showman that Deion is, he’s totally embraced the portal and NIL where other coaches were very apprehensive about NIL. Look at us—back on the map in the biggest way possible in college football. Huge TV ratings. Far and away first in media coverage. Everyone on the planet knows Deion.”

I barely have to interject anything. They’re on a roll and the sun’s not up yet.

Moxcey: “This circus can move anywhere. Who wants to do it next? We proved you can take the worst team in the country, switch 80 athletes, and you can win anywhere. Just appreciative that it’s here for a while.”

McCarthy: “It’s gonna be here a long time. Deion’s not going anywhere. We’ll pay him whatever he wants.”

“What happens,” I ask, “if Jerry Jones comes here in three years and offers Deion the moon and say, ‘It’s your destiny to coach the Dallas Cowboys?”

McCarthy: “He’s not leaving. Whatever check Jerry Jones is bringing, we’ll match it. If we have to tackle him and hold him down

Now it’s light enough to clearly read Jerry McCarthy’s black hoodie. Small letters on top, big letters on the bottom.




On Deion. I remember when he came out of college, he started the “Prime Time” thing in a major way. Cornerbacks didn’t get paid like quarterbacks, but he intended to change that. By 1995, he had. The Cowboys signed him to a deal worth an average of $5.0 million a year in ’95. At that time, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Steve Young was in the midst of a $5.1-million-per-year deal. Same thing with being a two-sport player. You can’t play football and baseball at the same time! He did, and at a high level. He homered off Orel Hershiser—twice. He went 8-for-15 in the 1992 World Series, moonlighting for the Braves while a Falcons corner. He figured out how the system worked, and he beat it.


Deion pregame.

Deion pregame.

Same thing with the circus on the sidelines now. How cool is it for 19- and 20-year-olds to see the same music acts they listen to just a few feet away from them on the sidelines? It’s got to be a recruiting edge. Warren Sapp told me Saturday he went to Colorado’s first game at TCU and wasn’t into the ear-splitting music played in the locker room before the game. But he looked around the room, saw some kids bopping to it, and some looking over their assignments for the game. “Elevator music,” Sapp said. “Kids are so used to it.”

“Deion figured it out,” Sapp said, meaning Sanders understood the way he thought the kids functioned best. “He met the kids halfway.”

Not all of them. Sanders the coach can show his hard side. He hasn’t been happy with the top corner recruit in the country this year, freshman Cormani McClain. Asked during the week why McClain wasn’t playing much, Sanders said, “Study, prepare, be on time, show up to the dern meetings.” McClain played some against USC and Sanders was asked if McClain took his coach’s criticism seriously. “He’d be a fool not to, because you’re not gonna play if you don’t [listen to the coaches]. I’m not gonna change.”

Highlights: USC holds off late Colorado rally
Look back on the best moments from USC's 48-41 win over Colorado, where Caleb Williams threw six touchdowns to help the Trojans outlast the Buffaloes and earn the road Pac-12 victory.

There are still some on-field issues holding Colorado back. Special teams is awful; they do a lot of weird formation shifts on punts and placements, along with odd running punts. There’s really no excuse for the molasses-slow offensive play-calls the offense had late against USC. That’s got to be fixed. The front seven doesn’t bring much pressure, and the offensive line needs upgrading. But Boulder wasn’t built in a day. There’s excellence at a lot of positions, particularly at quarterback. One more recruiting season and trip to the transfer portal, and Colorado should be significantly better next year.

Caleb Williams. His reputation, well-earned, preceded him to this game, and his six touchdown passes for USC on a big stage reinforced that he’s very likely the top prospect in the 2024 draft. And deservedly so. I’m going to nitpick here, but I believe it’s worth noting. Williams’ most spectacular TD came late in the first quarter when he waited, surveyed the field, rolled left, waited, and launched a strike across his body to Tahj Washington for a 71-yard score. It was the kind of throw and sudden strike that makes the internet explode. And it did. Comparisons to Patrick Mahomes abounded.

A couple of things. Williams had 7.42 seconds between the time he took the snap and the time he threw. That’s an inordinately long time to ponder one’s options. And when Washington caught the ball, the nearest defenders were eight and 11 yards away from him. The combination of those two variables may never happen for Williams in the NFL.

I asked NextGen Stats to look at Mahomes’ career numbers on time to throw. Through Sunday night, Mahomes has thrown 3,136 career regular season passes. On only 17 has he had 7.42 seconds or more to throw. So once per each 184 passes as a pro, Mahomes has had that much time.

This isn’t to say Williams won’t adjust supremely well to the pro game. But he has a very good line and an excellent corps of receivers. If you look at his possible landing spots next spring—assuming he comes out—it’s doubtful he’d have very good position groups on the line and at receiver.

Every Williams pass and run from USC's Week 5 win
Look back on every pass and run made by Caleb Williams in USC's Week 5 victory over Colorado, where the star QB finished 30 of 40 for 403 yards and six touchdowns and five carries for 12 rushing yards.

One perfect pass. After the game, Shedeur Sanders wasn’t going to help glorify the best pass I saw in football, college or pro, this weekend. Nor was his father. So I’ll do it myself. Fourth-and-five for Colorado, USC nine-yard line, 12 minutes left, Trojans up 48-27. This fourth-down has to be converted, or game over. As happened all afternoon, Shedeur Sanders got flushed and nearly sacked. As he rolled to the left, Omarion Miller came back, left to right, midway in the end zone, with USC safety Bryson Shaw covering him so tightly that Shaw seemed like yoga pants on Miller.

Sanders, from his own 16-yard line, threw an Aroldis Chapman fastball, on the run, toward a diving Miller six yards deep in the end zone. Shaw leapt over Miller’s back trying to deflect the ball; you cannot play the ball any better, at any level of football, than Shaw played it. Miller looked screened, or at least he didn’t have a clear view of this BB coming at him. And the ball velcroid into Miller’s hands maybe eight inches off the ground.

“There was NO SPACE for that ball!” Michael Irvin enthused later. Absolutely. But Shedeur Sanders fit it in. Having the physical tools to be able to do that is impressive enough. But doing it with one of the biggest games in recent school history on the line, on fourth-and-five, knowing the game’s over on an incompletion, well, that increases the degree of difficulty. By a lot. I saw one game, and one game cannot be enough to be rock-solid in one’s opinion about a player. But if Shedeur Sanders can’t play on Sundays, and play well, I’ll burn my know-it-all card.

My First Game

Last week I asked readers to send memories of the first NFL game they attended.

You responded—476 of you by late Friday. I liked so many of them that I’m running 11 of them this morning. I may continue this in a future column. With some edited for brevity, here they are:

Burr Bohannon, 1946

“I was 11 years old, playing for the Windsor Eagles in southwest Philadelphia and we traveled to Shibe Park in 1946 to play a 10-minute game against the Venango Bears at halftime of the Eagles-Packers game. We watched the game from the visiting team’s baseball dugout. Before the game a sportswriter approached our coach and said, “I have a treat for your team.” With that, a tall man wearing a Packers warm-up jacket entered the dugout and shook hands with every one of us. The man was Don Hutson, who had retired the year before. I was 11 years old shaking hands with a Hall of Fame legend. Great first game!”

Arthur Frank, 1947

“My first professional football game was not an NFL game, but one played between the New York Football Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 12, 1947 in the AAFC. It was the day after my bar mitzvah and my Uncle Morty, who came up from Atlanta for the event, took me to the game the following day. I still remember where we sat—behind the first-base section of the stadium—and also remember seeing Buddy Young running wild.”

Simon Statter, 1958

“I was 7 years old, seeing the 49ers at Colts, with the Colts losing 27-7 at half. Lenny Moore led an amazing comeback and the Colts won 35-27. The game clinched a spot in the 1958 championship game, and fans stormed the field. A few weeks later, once again, they stormed the field at Yankee Stadium after winning the championship game. In interviews with many of the old Colts, they consider the game against the 49ers better than the championship game.”

Edward McGowan, 1965

“In 1965, at age 11, I was watching a kids’ TV show called ‘Just For Fun.’ They were having a contest for a free trip to Six Flags Over Texas. I sent in a postcard to enter the contest. Lo and behold, a few weeks later we were notified that I won the trip! We spent a week in Dallas. In addition to our time at the amusement park, our family of four was treated to other activities:

  • My first concert (Freddie and the Dreamers, The McCoys, and The Beau Brummels)
  • My first college football game (Arkansas 24, SMU 3)
  • My first NFL game (Cowboys 24, Steelers 17)

“I was in heaven seeing 2 football games in the same weekend. The NFL game was more exciting for me, since it was much more competitive than the college game. As I recall, Dan Reeves and Bob Hayes scored fourth-quarter touchdowns for the Cowboys.”

Phil Kilkus, 1965

“My Dad took me to my first NFL game when I was 13. It was 1965 and the Bears played John Brodie’s 49ers. My dad was a salesman in Chicago and would take customers to Blackhawks, Cubs and Bears games. On this day it was my turn to see the Bears and their two standout rookies, Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers. I’m pretty sure my dad held back these company tickets so we could go to the game together.

“As we were walking under the Wrigley concourse to get to our seats, my dad said there probably would not be much scoring in the game since it had been raining and the field was muddy. So of course Gale scored six touchdowns, including a spectacular punt return and a long screen pass. The final that day was 61-20.

“I attended college at Southern Illinois University. Gale was athletic director. While at a basketball game, Gale happened to sit down in a row just below me for a halftime presentation. Scooting down behind him, I asked for his autograph. He extended his hand back to me and I gave him my program. I then told him about my first Bear game. Suddenly he turned around and looked at me and said, ‘You saw a good one didn’t you?’”

Herb Stevens, 1970

“I attended my first NFL game at Harvard Stadium: Boston Patriots versus Baltimore Colts on Oct. 4. We watched Johnny Unitas throw two touchdown passes in his black high-top shoes. That was all he needed to beat the Patriots, 14-6. Hearing the signal calls and the hitting, and seeing the game in color, I was hooked. I bought season tickets 30 years ago, the day after Parcells was hired. To say the least, I have gotten good value for my entertainment dollars!”

Bill Meyer, 1971

“Giants versus Washington, Yankee Stadium, Sept. 26, 1971. I was the starting quarterback and co-captain for the Derby (Conn.) High School football team and our head coach was former New York Giants offensive lineman Lou DeFilippo. Coach DeFilippo honored his captains every year by taking them to a Giants game. The Giants lost 30-3. Three best memories: No ticket required, as Coach took us through a special entrance reserved for former players and their families Fran Tarkenton, running for his life, mostly backwards Tucker Frederickson, dropping a sure touchdown pass in the end zone.”

Andy Hoodward, 1987

“I was lucky enough to be a football player at Orange Coast (Calif.) Junior College when the program was approached about providing some players to work as stage-setters for the Beach Boys pre-game show at Super Bowl XXI on Jan. 25, 1987, between the Giants and the Broncos. Many great memories from that: meeting and hanging out with Mike Love of the Beach Boys; seeing Joe Theismann and Cathy Lee Crosby going up the stadium steps to the press box, a group of us running up for a photo, and how gracious they both were to us; and Phil Simms. During pre-game I was in the Giants’ end zone when Phil Simms came out for warmups. I snapped a couple of photos (with an actual 35mm Minolta and a 105mm lens, old school!) and it was remarkable how focused and unfazed by the environment he was. It was a life-long lesson for me on how one should prepare and execute the task at hand. Then, of course, he went out to have the brilliant game he did in the Giants’ win.”

Pat Lennon, 1987

“My first NFL game was Cornelius Bennett’s first NFL game after the blockbuster Eric Dickerson trade. [Bennett, a linebacker, was drafted by the Colts, held out, and was part of a three-team deal that sent Bennett to the Bills.] Broncos-Bills, Nov. 8, 1987, Rich Stadium. I was 10 years old, made the bus trip with my father, older brother and the rest of the parish altar boys and their dads. Remember throwing my arm out playing catch in the tailgate lot with all of the boys. Biscuit [Bennett’s nickname] had a sack on John Elway, which I can still picture in my mind on the sunny fall day and sea green turf. Robb Riddick blocked a punt for a safety and scored a touchdown, Steve Tasker blocked another for a safety, and Jim Kelly threw a touchdown pass to Andre Reed. Such a thrilling roller coaster of a game. Plus, that was the day we knew we had something special for years to come on D. My mom heard all about it at the dinner table when we got home.

“Thanks for the opportunity to share a great memory and thank you for being the first thing I do online Monday morning for the past 21 years. Football is a good thing.”

Scott Rider, 1992

“It was November 1992, the heyday of the Jim Kelly-led Bills, that I saw my first NFL game as a guest of [Buffalo safety] Mark Kelso’s sister. The opponent was Jerry Glanville’s Atlanta Falcons which of course featured Mr. Prime himself, Deion Sanders. He did not disappoint. On the kickoff return, Deion took it to the house, going right past our seats with such comments overheard as ‘He runs like a deer!’ Of course, the Bills went on to win handily but I’ll never forget the show Deion put on that day.”

Paul J. Roche, 2023

“I’m 59, born and raised in beautiful Newfoundland, Canada and living in Ottawa. Last weekend at Hard Rock Stadium was my first-ever Dolphins game. I went with five lifelong friends who convened in Miami from six different North American cities. We saw 70 points, 10 TD’s. Unreal. Two of my buddies are Jets fans, one is a Bills fan. We were all astonished at what we saw. It’s gonna be hard to ever top that experience.”


A recurring element in the column this year: a video memory of one of my favorite memories of 40 years covering pro football.

I don’t bemoan the massive change in access from when I started in the business, but I certainly acknowledge how different life is on the football beat. Case in point: When I covered the Giants in the eighties for Newsday, they went to the Super Bowl in January 1987—and twice during Super Bowl week I had 5 a.m. coffee in the lobby with New York coach Bill Parcells and his high school basketball coach, Mickey Corcoran. That was some great value, spending 45 minutes with Parcells a couple of mornings. My recollection:

40-For-40: King finds Bill Parcells in a hotel
Peter King recalls one of his favorite memories that dates back to 1987, where he found former New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells having coffee in a hotel room days before Super Bowl XXI.

Interesting to note that same hotel—the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif.—is a 10-minute drive from Rams and Chargers training camps these days. The lobby’s been totally remodeled, so the corner of the formerly huge lobby is now more compact. A couple of years ago, there was an elderly doorman at the front of the hotel, and I asked him if by chance he remembered that January 30-something years ago, with the Super Bowl at the nearby Rose Bowl. And yes, the guy worked there back in 1987.

The Award Section

Offensive players of the week

Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Baltimore. In the first three games of the season, Cleveland’s defense was state of the art, allowing one touchdown in 12 quarters. Jackson accounted for three in the first half Sunday: TD runs of 10 and two yards, then a brilliant throw in the back right corner of the end zone, put so high that only tight end Mark Andrews could catch it.

Stefon Diggs, wide receiver, Buffalo. Diggs was magnificent in a span of 23 minutes of the Bills’ beatdown of the Dolphins Sunday, with TD catches of 11, 55 and 13 yards. His 55-yarder will be on his career highlight tape. Diggs battled Miami corner Kader Kohou, undrafted but feisty from Texas A&M-Commerce, all day. On this play from the Bills’ 45-yard line with three minutes left in the half, Kohou was flagged for illegal contact but Diggs caught a ball at the left sideline with Kohou hanging on for dear life. Diggs broke the tackle and galloped for the touchdown that gave Buffalo a 28-14 lead. It wasn’t close after that.

Christian McCaffrey, running back, San Francisco. His four-touchdown day keyed the win over Arizona. Eleven months ago, I was concerned the Niners overpaid for McCaffrey in the trade, sending second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks to Carolina for him. Now it looks like they underpaid—perhaps significantly. Think about it. The best pick, overall, in that trade was the 61st in the 2023 draft. McCaffrey has played 18 games for the Niners, including playoffs, missing none with injury. His average game: 20 touches, 117.2 rushing/receiving yards, 1.1 TDs. No wonder LeBron’s posting socially about him.

Defensive players of the week

Henry To’oTo’o, linebacker, Houston. A ferocious defensive effort that smothered the Steelers for much of the day Sunday was led by this rookie fifth-round pick from Alabama. Pronounced TOE-oh-TOE-oh, by the way. His stats (seven tackles, one for loss, and a pass defended) don’t jump off the page, but you had to see his impact on the game, particularly in the third quarter. With the Steelers down 16-0 and threatening at the Houston 15-yard line on third-and-two, To’oTo’o plastered running back Jaylen Warren behind the line, and he was stopped for a two-yard loss. Pittsburgh settled for a field goal. Next series: Pittsburgh at the Houston eight, first-and-goal, and Kenny Pickett threw for George Pickens in the back of the end zone. To’oTo’o broke it up. Pittsburgh settled for a field goal. Two huge plays in the Texans’ 30-6 win.

Jerry Jacobs, cornerback, Detroit. The undrafted free agent from Arkansas was big in the Lions’ 34-20 win Thursday night, picking off Jordan Love twice. He stopped a second-quarter drive with Love trying to go deep to Christian Watson. Then, in the fourth quarter, he picked off Love at the Lions’ four-yard line, ending the Pack’s last real chance with four minutes to play.

Khalil Mack, outside linebacker, L.A. Chargers. You’re a DPOW when you have a six-sack game. There’s nothing like having the hot hand. Mack had it. How often does a player get three sacks in five minutes—which Mack did in the first 4:30 after halftime and how often does a player get six sacks in 35 minutes? It was a golden day for the 32-year-old Mack. “Surreal,” he called it.

Harrison Smith, safety, Minnesota. Smith had never had a two-sack game in his distinguished career, and he’d gone 21 straight games without a sack. But he had three of Bryce Young in Charlotte Sunday, including one of the biggest plays of the game. With the Vikings down 13-7 and getting zero done on offense, Smith strip-sacked Young, and outside linebacker D.J. Wonnum picked it up and ran for a 51-yard TD. That gave Minnesota the lead for good—and took the Vikings out of the ranks of the winless.

Special teams players of the week

Jake Elliott, kicker, Philadelphia. Drilled a 54-yard OT field goal to beat the consistently difficult Washington Commanders. No wonder Nick Sirianni trusts Elliott—he’s consistently big in big spots.

Bryan Anger, punter/holder, Dallas. As cool as the other side of the pillow (all credit to Stuart Scott), Anger picked up a routine PAT snap in the first half against New England and tossed a perfect pass to defensive end Chauncey Golston for the two-point conversion. If you had Chauncey Golston scoring points in the NFL in week four, you’re a better prophet than I.

Coach of the Week

Bobby Slowik, offensive coordinator, Houston. Much has been said about how precocious C.J. Stroud has played in his first month in the NFL for the surprising 2-2 Texans. Give Slowik, a smart technical coach who also relates to players exceedingly well, his due too. To have a rookie quarterback in a new offense with no true stars as skill players play well is a credit to the staff too. For the Texans to have put up 67 points in two wins and to have won those games by 20 and 24 very good accomplishment for the first-year Texans coordinator.

Goat of the Week

Matt Eberflus, head coach, Chicago. Denver 28, Chicago 28, fourth-and-one for Chicago in field-goal range; Cairo Santos would have been sent out for a 35-yarder. Bears burn a timeout trying to get the Broncos to jump offside. Then Eberflus decides to go for it and bypass the 35-yard field-goal try. Bears get stopped. Turn it over on downs. Broncos score the winning field goal. Win the game. For the Bears to lose a game they led 28-7 is bad. Eberflus’ strategy: worse.

Quotes of the Week


Zach played his ass off. Sorry about the language.

Patrick Mahomes on his Sunday night rival, Zach Wilson.

You just want to piss me off going into this weekend. I appreciate that. I do, actually.

— Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, asked after the Cowboys’ win Sunday to recall his feeling walking off the field after the playoff loss in San Francisco last January.


Tis but a scratch. Just a flesh wound.

Justin Herbert, channeling his inner Monty Python, talking about an injured finger in the 24-17 win over the Raiders.


I’m open. I’m always f------- open. Excuse my profanity.

Cincinnati wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who, despite having 29 catches, is averaging only 9.8 yards per catch in the Bengals’ dink-and-dunk passing game. (Two years ago, Chase averaged 18.0 yards per catch.)


We’ll get you ready for the battle of the basement-dwellers! Here on 104.3 The Fan!

Promo heard on Denver sports station 104.3 The Fan Friday, two days before the 0-3 Broncos met the 0-3 Bears.


Sometimes you just wonder why. He personifies what it means to be a Buffalo Bill.

Bills coach Sean McDermott, asked about a possible season-ended Achilles injury to ace cornerback Tre’Davious White.

Numbers Game

If you think you’re seeing the emergence of a great edge player in the NFL in Aidan Hutchinson, you are. Comparing Hutchinson’s game-influencing plays over the past six games to NFL royalty Micah Parsons, Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt over each player’s last six games, per NextGen Stats:

Hutchinson Chart.PNG

In those six games:
Sacks: Garrett 8, Watt 7.5, Hutchinson 6, Parsons 4.5.
Interceptions: Hutchinson 1, Parsons 0, Garrett 0, Watt 0.
Forced fumbles: Watt 2, Hutchinson 1, Parsons 1, Garrett 1.
Recovered fumbles: Parsons 2, Watt 2, Hutchinson 1, Garrett 0
Batted passes: Hutchinson 4, Watt 2, Parsons 1, Garrett 0


Joe Burrow, 2021-’22: One TD pass per every 16.3 attempts.

Joe Burrow, 2023: One TD pass per every 75.5 attempts.

Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 25: Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks on before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Paycor Stadium on September 25, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Getty Images

King of the Road

This was the kind of bodyclock game USC will have to get used to in transitioning to the Big Ten. With occasional road games in Eastern Time at powers Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, this won’t be the Trojans’ last noon ET kick. A slice of their Saturday lives, with Mountain Time (Colorado’s time zone) and USC’s normal Pacific Time:

4:40 a.m. MT (3:40 PT): Wakeup calls for players and staff at Denver Renaissance Central Park Hotel.

5 a.m. MT (4 PT): Short walkthrough practice in hotel ballroom, followed by team breakfast.

6:40 a.m. MT (5:40 PT): Teams buses leave for the 29-mile trip to Folsom Field, Boulder.

7:19 a.m. MT (6:19 PT): Buses arrive at Folsom Field.

10:05 a.m. MT (9:05 PT): Opening kickoff.

1:40 p.m. MT (12:40 PT): Final snap of USC 48, Colorado 41.

You could say the choppy defensive performance by USC (41 points, 564 yards allowed) might have been due in part to fatigue. But you could also say the offense clicking so efficiently—48 points in the first 43 minutes—meant the early start wasn’t a big factor. I don’t think it mattered.


Reach me at

I erred on the Lee Corso quote. From Brad Cummings, of Seattle: “You slipped up on the Lee Corso story. Corso called the Oregon State-Washington State game the “No One Wants Us Bowl.” Unfortunately, WSU Coach Jake Dickert erroneously thought that Corso said, “No One Watches Bowl”, and so he lit up Corso, not surprisingly. That was truly a misquote of what Corso said earlier on Saturday morning.”

Brad, you and about 15 others were correct in calling me out on this story, and I owe Corso an apology. It’s my fault for not checking the quote after the Washington State coach ripped Corso for what he thought he heard Corso said. I have no excuse. If I’m going to call out someone for saying negative things about teams or a game, I should be absolutely sure of the accuracy of the accusation, and I did not do that. So my apologies to Corso, and thanks to you and others for calling me out. I deserved it.”

He says I’m wrong on Payton. From Richard Worley: “You and your colleagues in NFL commentary seemed to hit a new low. After regularly dissing Russell Wilson and trumpeting for months that Russell might be fixed, you have nothing to say about one of your favorites, Sean Payton, and his disastrous coaching. You didn’t hold him accountable for doing a poorer job of coaching the Broncos than the much-maligned Nathaniel Hackett. The Denver owners should fire Payton as they did Hackett. And you should be forthright to admit that your acolyte relationship to Sean Payton is misguided.”

Payton and the Broncos have a long way to go, Richard. But let me ask you a question. The folks who own the Broncos now are Rob Walton, the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, and Rob Walton’s daughter Carrie Walton Penner and son Greg Penner. Greg Penner, chairman of the board of Walmart, is the day-to-day owner on site, and he had the biggest hand in hiring Payton. Penner gave Payton a five-year contract worth somewhere around $100 million. What kind of businessman would Greg Penner be, Richard, if he fired Sean Payton three games into a five-year contract, with $97 million left on the deal? And you’re so sure Payton will be a colossal failure? This acolyte is not so sure.

Thanks so much. From Richard Crotty: “Your column is always great but I thought that [FMIA last Monday] was the best one ever. One: I knew little about Buddy Teevens which was my loss. What a great life. What great tributes. Two: Of all the things I like about the NFL the best is when a guy comes from nowhere [and] has a big performance. You told of a lot of them. Three: Your baseball story reminded me of so many in Joe Posnanski’s Why We Love Baseball. Great Nate Eovaldi story.”

Some weeks I love writing the column more than others. And you spotted two of my favorite things: highlighting the life of a vitally important person in Buddy Teevens and discovering that a guy who did something great in a baseball game is really a good person and competitor in Nathan Eovaldi. Thanks.

Buddyball. From Chris Bryant, of Detroit: “After reading the tributes to him in your column, it was MY loss not knowing of him while he was around. Thanks to you for sharing his significance to the football world, and much respect to him for making the football world a better place for all.”

Couldn’t have said it better, Chris.

10 Things I Think I Think

1. I think as much as I appreciate the out-of-box thinking by Brandon Staley on fourth down, he’s just got to learn from his misses. Sunday was the second straight game that, down the stretch, he went for it on fourth-and-one in his territory and failed. Last week, with a four-point lead and 1:51 left at Minnesota the running play got stopped at the LA 24-yard line; the Chargers hung on thanks to clock mismanagement by the Vikings and a late interception. On Sunday, with a seven-point lead at the Charger 34-yard line with 3:34 left, Staley chose to go again. Failed again. As if on cue, one league exec sent a text to me saying, “For such a smart guy, he sure does some dumb things.”

2. I think I don’t want Staley to become cookie-cutter and never take risks. But his team isn’t Philadelphia-proficient at the fourth-and-ones. He’s got to learn from it and cut it out. No more going for it on fourth-and-one with leads late, in your own territory.

3. I think the legend of Micah Parsons grows. You may have seen him hobble off with a left ankle injury early in the second quarter against the Patriots. He missed a couple of series, then returned late in the half. Amazing: Even hobbled, he had six pressures of Mac Jones, per NextGen Stats.

4. I think you can’t have a better run after the catch for a score than A.J. Brown’s, weaving through the Washington secondary for a 59-yard touchdown.

5. I think the most interesting line of the season (no way this can be topped in the next 13 weeks) was Denver favored by 3.5 points against the Bears Sunday. Interesting factors:

  • The Broncos were 0-3, playing on the road.
  • The Broncos just lost a game by 50.
  • The Bears, per game, were being outscored by 20 points and outgained by 157 yards, mayhem was swirling at their door, and their quarterback was the most under-fire player in the NFL west of Zach Wilson. I guess that’d be enough.
  • The oddsmakers, as it turned out, didn’t know nothin’.

6. I think if you’re Sean Payton, you’ve got to be seriously worried about the defense, even after coming back for a win that seemed so unlikely. Denver was seventh in yards allowed last season; even if the offense Payton was trying to rebuild took some time, the defense would keep games close, right? The answer is no, and for the second straight week it reverberated Sunday in Chicago. A week after giving up 70 at Miami, the Broncos gave up 471 yards to the Bears and again, good on the D for making some plays in the second half, and I know injuries are involved, but that is a recipe for going 4-13. At best.

7. I think, having said all that, it’s clear the Broncos have not quit. (What an indictment if they actually had.)

8. I think the last thing I want to do after that display in the second half of Denver-Chicago is to praise a Bear. But across Chicagoland this morning, there’s got to be a lot of needles being removed from a lot of Justin Fields voodoo dolls. That’s what happens when Fields plays the half of his pro career. In the first 29.5 minutes against Denver, Fields was 16 of 16 for 231 yards and three touchdown passes—including a smart beauty to Cole Kmet. About to run out of bounds at the Denver three-yard midway through the second quarter, Fields smartly stopped and threw a little fungo to Kmet for his third TD of the half. He couldn’t finish it off, and characteristically turned it over twice in the second half. But Fields was the least of his team’s woes Sunday.

Bears couldn't stop Broncos at 'critical moments'
Maria Taylor, Devin McCourty, Jason Garrett and Mike Florio reflect on the Bears' 31-28 loss to the Broncos in Week 4, highlighting Denver's comeback and Chicago's defensive meltdown.

9. I think I find myself thinking how long Arthur Smith will go with Desmond Ridder. Three more turnovers Sunday. Smith probably thinks he went too long with Marcus Mariota last year and won’t do that again. I picked Atlanta to win the NFC South a month ago, figuring Ridder could be a C or C-minus quarterback. I didn’t count on him being a letter grade worse.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. I’ve written about the Write on Sports event Tuesday in New Jersey, with special guest Louis Riddick. The silent auction (Broadways shows, Giants-Pats tickets, Sixers club seats, Phil Simms-Gary Myers lunch, Matthew Berry-Peter King lunch, golf) for our event is live. Thanks for considering a bid or a donation. Donations are matched, so anything is doubled.

b. Obit of the Week: Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post, with an absolute gem on the Human Vacuum Cleaner, Brooks Robinson, who died Tuesday at 86.

c. Amazing. Babies and dogs and future NHL players (Brooks Laich, Washington Caps), named after the greatest fielding third baseman of all time. Sixteen straight Gold Gloves. A.L. MVP. World Series MVP. And one of the great, and legible, autographs in all of sports.

d. I know. I got Robinson’s autograph, in pencil, on my 35-cent game program at Fenway Park before a Red Sox-Orioles game as an eighth grader in 1970.

e. (I think it was 35 cents. Might have been 25. And, I am sad to say, I can’t find the thing these days, after nine moves.)

f. Baseball fans old enough to remember recall Robinson diving for line drives, one-hoppers and balls in the hole, and never throwing wildly to first.

g. Wrote Sheinin:

BALTIMORE — To have grown up in Baltimore in the last quarter of the 20th century was to have known a hundred Brookses. The scrappy kid on your Little League team who insisted on wearing No. 5. Your schoolyard buddy from three stoops down. The cut-up in your fifth-grade class: Brooks, Brooks, Brooks. Even now, though Cals eventually came to outnumber them on the playgrounds of Charm City, you still meet an occasional Brooks, and the name still brings a knowing smile.

“Around here, nobody’s named a candy bar after Brooks Robinson,” Baltimore-based sportswriter R. Gordon Beard said in 1977, referring to the confection named for New York Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson. Instead, he said, “We name our children for him.”

Celebrity is not the same as decency, and not every hero is worthy of memorializing with something as personal and eternal as a child’s name — but Baltimore Orioles legend Brooks Robinson, who died Tuesday at 86, absolutely was.

h. Most interesting factoid I learned from the media last week (From NPR’s “Morning Edition”): If you live in the city of Buffalo, you can call 311 and request that a tree be planted on your property. And the city will do it.

i. How great is that? Both the note and the service.

j. Then there’s Dalbo Dog. Found this on social media the other day, from @DalboDog on the former Twitter:

A man was flying from Seattle to San Francisco. The plane had a layover in Sacramento. The flight attendant explained that there would be a delay, and if the passengers wanted to get off the aircraft, the plane would re-board in one hour.

Everybody got off the plane except one gentleman who was blind. Another man had noticed him as he walked by and could tell the gentleman was blind because his Seeing Eye dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of him throughout the entire flight. He could also tell he had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached him, and calling him by name, said, “Keith, we’re in Sacramento for an hour, would you like to get off and stretch your legs?”

The blind man replied, “No thanks, but maybe my dog would like to stretch his legs.”

Picture this: All the people in the gate area came to a complete standstill when they looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a Seeing Eye dog! The pilot was even wearing sunglasses. People scattered. They not only tried to change planes, but they were trying to change airlines! True story. Have a great day and remember: Things aren’t always as they appear.

k. Baseball Tale of the Week: Steve Buckley of The Athletic, on the life or a forgotten baseball prospect, the late Tom Maggard, who died suddenly 50 years ago.

l. Steve Buckley’s great. He crafts this tale of Maggard, a Red Sox prospect in 1973, the year Jim Rice and Fred Lynn and Rick Burleson began emerging, and a mysterious disease, and how the Red Sox sent him home to rest for the winter, hoping the power-hitting catcher might compete to make the team alongside Carlton Fisk.

m. Writes Buckley:

“Tom had a good throwing arm, had a ton of power,” Burleson told me during a recent appearance at Fenway Park. “He had all the ability to make it. It’s a shame because I think he would have been a big leaguer. He might have been a real good one.”

A week later, I visited the NESN set at Fenway as Hall of Fame outfielder Jim Rice was getting ready to do the Red Sox pregame show …

“You mean Maggs? Let me tell you, Maggs could hit,” said Rice, who knew Maggard from their days in spring training. “They had high hopes for him. Super guy. He was a power-hitting catcher. They wanted that. He could hit the ball a mile.

“But then he went home,” Rice said. “And it was like he faded away from us. Sad story.”

n. Great point from Buckley. Maggard was quickly forgotten because in those pre-Baseball America days there was zero coverage of minor-league baseball. No one got noticed until the big-league team promoted players.

o. Over and over again, we’ve see Angel Hernandez, the major league umpire, blow plays like this. And yet he umps:

p. That’s what you call an utterly preposterous call.

q. Then there’s this:

r. This is the outing from Yankees starter Carlos Rodon, to cap his first season in pinstripes, in a 35-pitch outing at 105-loss Kansas City Friday night: single, walk, double, homer, single, single, single, walk. The line: 0.0 innings, six hits, eight runs, eight earned, two walks, no strikeouts. Closing season ERA after the Yankees paid him $27 million in 2023: 6.85.

s. Chris Snow, the former sportswriter and Calgary Flames executive, died Saturday after nobly fighting ALS for years. In his last moments, the 42-year-old had his organs harvested so he could give the gift of life to others. Sending best wishes to his wife, Kelsie Snow, who has been such a beacon of life while Chris suffered.

t. Happy 99th, President Carter. What an inspiration you’ve been.

u. And a few notes here about a close friend and superb softball co-coach who died last week in Chapel Hill, N.C. Jack Bowers, 71, husband of Karin Nelson, father to Amanda and Jackson, battled an aggressive and unending form of a rare appendix cancer for 14-and-a-half years. The amount of life Jack packed into post-surgeries and endless treatments always impressed me, even when this or that iteration of the disease would knock him for a loop. We went on baseball trips—among them, Milwaukee a few years ago, the World Series in Atlanta two years ago—and a Super Bowl trip, and he was going to come on a couple of stops (Falcons, Panthers) of my training-camp trip this summer. But a week or so before, he just didn’t feel up to it.


v. A good friend, to me, is someone who sees your weaknesses and helps you overcome them while liking you and doing stuff with you anyway. Sort of clunky, I know. But that was Jack. A story: With our wives Ann and Karin, we coached a 10-and-under travel girls softball team, the Montclair Bears, for seven years in New Jersey after our own kids were grown and gone. (Believe me, it took four of us.) This was the first time any of the girls had played fast-pitch softball, and we explained to them and their parents that this year was more about teaching the game than it was about winning—much more. Early in our coaching days on the New Jersey travel circuit, our girls were outmatched. We entered a weekend tournament in Edison, N.J., and got mercy-ruled in our first two games. In the rules of this tournament was a provision a player could be subbed for and re-inserted in the lineup at any time. We had a fairly egalitarian system on our team of newbies—every player would play at least half of every game. In game three, surprisingly, we loaded the bases with two out in the top of the first inning. So our sixth hitter in the lineup was not a good hitter. I called time and told one of our subs, a better hitter, to pinch-hit. I told the confused subbed-for girl she’d stay in the game, play in the field, and bat later in the game. But she felt the sting of being removed. At the time, I got these glares from the other coaches like, You can’t do that! But I did it. The pinch-hitter struck out, we got mercied again, and in the car on the way home post-game, I was told in no uncertain terms why you just can’t make decisions like that with 9-year-old girls. I said, basically, I’m trying to give us a chance to play a competitive game, and we have to at least TRY to score some runs when the first two games have been so disastrous. Blah blah blah. Jack, Karin and Ann were not buying it.

w. We stopped at a 7-Eleven to get some drinks. Before we got back in the car, Jack and I had a moment. He looked at me, half-bemused, half-stern, and said four syllables: “Peter. Come on.” He shook his head. That was it. It took a close friend to have the stones to say, You messed up. We’re in this to teach the girls the game, and you’re playing like it’s the seventh game of the World Series.

x. We all need people to share the good times and tell us we’re idiots when we are. I’ll miss Jack, for that and many other reasons.

y. And RIP, Tim Wakefield. A class player and class human. Gone so young, from cancer, at 57.

Games of Week 5

I can’t do the Nathaniel Hackett Bowl, Jets-Broncs. Just can’t. The game just feels too grim.

Jacksonville “at” Buffalo, Sunday, 9:30 a.m., NFL Network (at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London). The second of two straight games in London for the Jags—after being the home team versus Atlanta Sunday—should be an edge for the Jacksonvillians.

Dallas at San Francisco, Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBC. It’s almost the Dak Prescott Referendum. He’s put up 29 points in eight playoff quarters to the Niners in the last two Januaries (23-17 and 19-12 losses). Another loss with a score in the teens, and the Cowboys’ confidence against a team they very well could face in January would be nil.

Green Bay at Las Vegas, Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN/ABC. Yikes, Jordan Love, you need a comeback game after the ugly one Thursday night against Detroit. Even with that depressing Pack performance, after listening to the Steelers dominate the crowd last week at Allegiant Stadium, I’m guessing the over/under on Green Bay fan percentage next Monday is 65-35, visitors.

The Adieu Haiku

Beginning to doubt
that Belichick can fix this.
(As Robert Kraft seethes.)

Peter King’s Lineup