Five things to love about the NFL from Week 11:
One. Aaron Rodgers. What’s not to love, starting with his team being 10-0 for the first time since 1962? But this love-fest involves Rodgers having an “off” day in Sunday’s 35-26 victory over the Buccaneers – or least what is perceived as a subpar performance in his MVP season. He threw double-digit incompletions (11) for the first time in four games (and only the fifth time this season) and also an interception for the first time in four games (dropping his TD-to-interception ratio to 31-4). Pity the Packers, having to put up with such shoddy play from their quarterback.
Two. Patrick Willis. The love affair with the 49ers’ middle linebacker began in 2007, when he made 174 tackles in his rookie season. But in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, which pushed the 49ers’ record to 9-1, clinched their first winning record since 2002 and lifted them closer to clinching the NFC West title, Willis’ usual all-over-the-field performance included an interception, three passes defensed, a forced fumble and, oh yeah, a team-high seven tackles. As Steve Mariucci put it on the NFL Network, “Patrick Willis is right up there in the same sentence as Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher; he’s just a little bit younger.”
Three. LeGarrette Blount. Yes, the Buccaneers lost to the Packers. But it wasn’t Blount’s fault. Included in his 107-yard outing was a 54-yard touchdown run where the former Oregon Duck made like Marshawn Lynch while breaking six tackles to get into the end zone. No word on whether there was any seismic activity at Lambeau Field during or after the run, but good stuff nonetheless.
Four. Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane. How can you not love these guys? The Seahawks’ oversized D-end (Bryant) and disruptive nose tackle (Mebane) bonded after Bryant was selected in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL draft; one year after Mebane was a third-round pick. Sunday, these best friends and linemates teamed up for one of those interceptions the NFL needs more of, as Mebane tipped a Sam Bradford pass and Bryant intercepted it. Yes, the 330-pound Bryant had dropped into coverage. As Pete Carroll said after the game, “He looked sleek, didn’t he? Didn’t he look quick?”
Five. Tim Tebow. This isn’t jumping on the Tebowing bandwagon. We have resisted that, and will continue to. This is just giving it up for the guy who does find a way to make things happen, despite his limitations as a NFL quarterback. He’s not only running the option in a league where it’s supposed to be impossible, not to mention dangerous to your health, he ran 20 yards for the game-winning TD with 58 seconds left in Thursday night’s 17-13 win over the Jets. Tebow passed for 104 yards, in completing nine of 20 passes, and ran for 68. Talk about turning back the clock.