Week Seven of the NFL season saw some front-runners solidify their position in the standings, other teams starting to look toward next year, and a few even working in a little football amidst the injuries, commercials and penalties.
A swarming Pittsburgh scheme left the Miami backfield looking more like a battlefield, as Dolphin after Dolphin fell to the turf seriously injured by the onslaught of the league’s best defense.
“The president is Martin Van Buren,” said Miami coach Tony Sparano, who was among those suffering concussions, following the defeat. “The year is 1967. My name is Fernando Lamas.”
The Steelers’ dominance of the line of scrimmage was so overpowering that Miami gave up carting off the wounded by the third quarter, instead leaving players laying about the field where they fell. Some were covered with sheets to allow them to suffer in privacy, while others were simply marked with a spray-painted orange “X” on their uniforms. An effort to enlist the help of cheerleaders to fill vacant positions on the roster did little to stem the attrition, with many of the women suffering broken midriffs and sprained cleavages.
“That’s the kind of effort we’re going to need if we’re going to make the playoffs,” said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. “Our pass patterns worked much more smoothly when the entire defensive side of the field was empty of upright players. You gotta give the Miami team credit, though; the spastic twitching of those with life-threatening spinal injuries nearly tripped us up a couple of times.”
The league’s announcement last week that it was cracking down on overly aggressive play seemed to have little impact on Pittsburgh. While helmet-on-helmet hits seemed to decrease, and fewer defensive backs were seen “launching” themselves head-first into defenseless receivers, many Steelers did carry heavy oak clubs that they used to bludgeon opponents to the ground.
“There’s nothing in the rules — yet, anyway — that says we can’t carry blunt instruments,” said defensive standout James Henderson.
A Miami assistant coach promised his team would be back in action next week. “They may have broken a lot of limbs, but most of them they didn’t break off,” said Harold Carmichael. “We hope to reunite those arms and legs that did become separated with their rightful owners once we get it sorted out what belongs to who.”
Listed as “probable” for next Sunday’s contest against Cincinnati was Miami quarterback Chad Henne (broken hip, dislocated jaw, missing foot), while running back Ricky Williams was described as “questionable” because the top of his head was ripped off, and linebacker Channing Crowder was listed as “day-to-day” because he had died.
In Chicago, the Bears took on the Washington Redskins in a contest that saw heavy-duty pick-up trucks climbing up rocky inclines and having steel girders dropped into them. Also featured were middle-aged men wondering if their retirement plans would permit them a comfortable lifestyle in their later years.
Concerns about the cost and service level of various car insurance offerings dominated the first half, while the Bears worked to establish a ground game that could counter Washington’s plans to order three Domino’s pizzas for only $15. Following adjustments made at halftime, the Redskins instead got Whoppers and Gatorade sports drinks, which they intend to consume during Wednesday’s night’s Game One of the World Series, shown exclusively on Fox.
Washington staged a stirring fourth-quarter comeback, keyed by Flo from Progressive Insurance’s structuring of a homeowner’s package that allowed the Redskins to name their premiums, something that no other insurer is offering. Washington eventually prevailed with a cell phone data usage plan that caused the Bears to stop in mid-play and check the fine print of their contracts, only to discover that they were often paying for unused minutes. The guy from the “Dirty Jobs” show talked about how much he liked Fords and his new jeans, and a mom manipulated a family photo session to make her kids seem less like jerks and more like Photoshop victims before the whole clan was embarrassed on Facebook.
“That definitely proved to be a distraction to our guys,” said Bears coach Lovie Smith. “We were already thrown off our game by the thought of making stock trades for as little as $7.95 per transaction.”
The Sunday night contest matching the Vikings and the Packers promised to be filled with the drama of Brett Favre’s return to Green Bay. That was overshadowed, however, by an error-plagued game that saw Minnesota penalized 23 times for 1.2 miles, while the Packers were flagged on every play except two.
The Vikings scored an early touchdown but were hit with an “excessive celebration” call when they donned party hats, grabbed fists full of colorful balloons from a nearby clown, and jumped up and down squealing like little girls in an inflatable bouncy house following the eight-yard screen pass. On the ensuing kickoff, Packers’ return specialist Deshaun Wilson was cited for unsportsmanlike conduct as he ran from the field and into the stands while being chased by the Vikings’ kick coverage team.
The Pack recovered with a 57-yard pass play that was nullified by an interference call, a holding call and a clipping call, as well as having too many men on the field (83). Green Bay running back Brandon Jackson eventually made a one-yard plunge for an apparent touchdown, though it too was called back for a “personal fowl” when it was discovered Jackson had stuffed a chicken in his jersey.
Favre had his typically hot-and-cold performance, brilliantly reckless one moment and turnover-prone the next. He appeared to shake off the commotion surrounding allegations that he had “sexted” a female coworker while he was with the New York Jets in 2008, though he was flagged twice for an illegal forwarded pass and once for an intentional johnson.
“We simply made too many mistakes today,” said Vikings coach Brad Childress. “We need to get back to basics and pay more attention to the rulebook. I didn’t even know that kicking someone in the face was illegal.”