The 49ers beat the Lions, but the big story is the coaches acting like bitches after; Saints coach breaks leg; Cowboys wimp out against Pats; MVP pick; hot player of the week.
How I saw Week 6 of the NFL:
The coach of the year so far this season is Jim Harbaugh of the 5-1 San Francisco 49ers. Because of the lockout, Harbaugh had no offseason to prepare for his new job, yet he has the Niners looking like a playoff team.
The biggest beneficiary of Harbaugh's hire is quarterback Alex Smith, who is finally looking like a legit NFL talent. He threw a clutch fourth-down touchdown pass with less than two minutes to go to put the 49ers ahead for good en route to a 25-19 win over the Lions, handing Detroit (5-1) its first loss. It was the 49ers' third win this season in the Eastern time zone, a tough feat for a West Coast team.
The Niners have a 2 ½-game lead in the crappy NFC West, where no other team has a winning record. They would really have to screw things up to not win the division.
As for the Lions, I am not surprised they lost. They were a bit overhyped, but I saw an inconsistent team despite their record. It's admirable that they twice won games down 20+ points, but also a bit unsettling since those kinds of comebacks are rare. Detroit won't catch Green Bay for the division, and they will be in a dogfight for a wild card.
The biggest news from the game was the bitch-fest after between Harbaugh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz. Harbaugh acted like a dick in shoving Schwartz in an over-exuberant moment while congratulating him. Schwartz then couldn't let it go and ran up to Harbaugh and start jaw-boning. Harbaugh said it was “on me,” but refused to apologize, while Schwartz said the Niners coach used an obscenity. I love how these guys are always telling their teams to stay focused and not lose their cool, then they do this. Expect some sort of NFL fine.
No guts, no glory: The Patriots (5-1) used a last-drive comeback to beat the Cowboys (2-3), 20-16, on a Tom Brady pass to Aaron Hernandez. Up until that drive, I was very impressed with the Cowboys defense, which forced three turnovers and held the Pats well below their season scoring average.
Despite the last drive, the reason Dallas lost wasn't the defense, it was an offense that got conservative at the wrong time. The Cowboys D had just forced the Pats to punt after a three-and-out and the offense had the ball on its own 28, with 3:28 left and a three-point lead. The next five plays: run, run, false start penalty, run, punt.
Did Bill Belichick call the Cowboys' plays, since it played right into New England's defensive strength? The Pats had the 32nd-ranked pass defense heading into the game and Tony Romo was playing well. An aggressive approach and two first downs seals the game. But Dallas coach Jason Garrett got cold feet.
I sense that memories of Romo's meltdowns against the Jets and Lions caused Garrett to play way too conservative. And it cost them. After I wrote this, I checked SI.com and found this quote from Dallas owner Jerry Jones: “We rolled the dice at the end and went conservative rather than try to get some points and it bit us."
Ouch I: Saints coach Sean Payton got drilled on the sidelines by his tight end Jimmy Graham in their 26-20 loss to the Buccaneers and has a torn MCL and broken leg. I guess this means Payton will be in the coaches booth for a while since it will be unsafe for him to be on the sidelines. In the same game, Bucs defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake tore his patella tendon after he celebrated a key interception in the end zone. It's an odd day when coaches get more ink than players.
Ouch II: The Raiders (4-2) kept rolling with a 24-17 win over Cleveland (2-3) but lost QB Jason Campbell to a broken collarbone. It is unclear how long he will be out. The backup is Kyle Boller, married to former Miss California Carrie Prejean, famous for her opposition to gay marriage. Boller is a lousy starting QB, and I wonder if former Ohio State star Terrell Pryor gets a look at some point.
Not impressed: With their 29-14 loss to the Ravens (4-1), the Houston Texans are 3-3 and a half-game behind Tennessee in the AFC South. With Peyton Manning out, the division looked easy for the Texans, and I still see them winning it almost by default. But they have key injuries (Mario Williams and Andre Johnson) and a knack for screwing up at the worst time. The Texans have been tabbed a dark horse for the past several seasons, but they consistently fail to live up to expectations.
MVP: It's pretty easy who the league MVP is through six weeks – Peyton Manning. And I'm not joking. He is on the active roster, so is eligible, and his absence shows no one is more valuable to his team. With him, the Colts would be 5-1. Without him, they are 0-6, with their last five losses all in close games where a handful of plays decided it; plays that Manning would have made.
Hot player of the week: You no doubt have seen the ad for Acura starring superstud Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, where he undresses from his uniform into a suit and tie. I was watching at a sports bar in Houston during the Gay Bowl last week and the guys at my table were all oohing and ahhing for the right reasons: