Here’s a stat you will never use but was announced in the press box. Santonio Holmes‘ punt return for a touchdown was the first against the Chargers in a playoff game since the Bills’ Butch Bird took one 74 yards in the 1965 AFL Championship Game. Just in case you want to pull a Cliff Clavin on your friends.
NFL Network player correspondent Ty Law is making sure that I put in my blog that he told us Chargers RB Darren Sproles needed to get some screen passes so he could operate in space.
The Commissioner is in the building. I made sure to call Roger Goodell “Mr. Commissioner” this time. The first time I met him, he caught me off guard. He tapped me on the shoulder while I was texting someone on the sidelines, and I called him Roger. I was mortified and made fun of by my colleagues for weeks. I later apologized to him, to which his response was, “Don’t worry about it. People have definitely called me worse things.”
Ty Law, producer Ed O’Brien and I are on the field for pregame, and we’re amused by the Chargers’ linebackers, who are getting fired up by yelling at the Steelers’ fans. Shawne Merriman is acting like a player/coach, although you can tell it’s killing him to not be out there in a uniform. Shaun Phillips is ready to hit someone (I won’t use his exact words).
Cornerback Asante Samuel set an NFL playoff career record with his fourth interception return for a touchdown, giving the Eagles a 16-7 lead over the Vikings with less than seven minutes left in the second quarter.
One of the “X-factors” coming into this game was Eagles rookie DeSean Jackson against a Vikings punt-coverage unit that ranks last in the league, allowing an average of 15 yards per return. Now we see why, as Jackson just had a 62-yard return. When asked about the matchup this past week, Jackson played coy, saying, “I might have some opportunities.”
You certainly couldn’t tell from the noise level in here that the Vikings had a problem selling out the Metrodome. NFL Network player correspondent Jon Jansen said he played here in college, and it was one of the loudest places in which he has ever played.
NFL Network’s Kara Henderson is dreaming of Vikings coach Brad Childress rocking a “skullet” as she prepares for Sunday’s NFC Wild Card Game in Minnesota.
These two quarterbacks won’t necessarily be compared to one another with their history here with the Jets, but here’s the comparison at halftime. Chad Pennington, the ex-Jet, has completed 13 of 18 passes for 103 yards and a rating of 104.6. Brett Favre, the current Jet, is 9 of 22 for 125 yards and a rating of 37.1.
The game that Dolphins players look to as the seminal moment of their season camein Week 3, when they were 0-2 but beat the Patriots 38-13 by running wild with the ‘Wildcat’ formation. Their mindset must be “dance with the one who brung ya” because with 4:30 to play in the first half, the Dolphins already have run six plays out of that formation, with two missed opportunities at big plays. Chad Pennington also just constructed a signature touchdown drive, going 5-of-6 passing for 60 yards, without a run play in the mix.
The Dolphins are going for more than just a playoff spot in this game: They have the chance to break an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a 16-game regular season. (The Chiefs had just 12 turnovers during the nine-game 1982 season.) After Chad Pennington‘s fumble with 11 minutes left in the second quarter against the Jets, the Dolphins have 13 turnovers.
Former NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer was on the Jets sideline before the game, talking to quarterback Brett Favre, giving him some words of encouragement.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, an apparently inebriated fan jumped out of the Gillette Stadium stands and actually tackled Patriots LB Junior Seau on the sideline. The fan was, of course, forcefully removed from the field while being pelted with snowballs from five other fans who were still left in the stands.
It’s still early, but if this score stands 41-0, it would match the largest shutout victory in Patriots history. Forty-seven years ago this week, they shut out the Chargers 41-0. Even Junior Seau wasn’t there for that one.