The average time of the first 14 games this season is 3 hours 14 minutes, six minutes more than Week 1 2011. Average penalties per game in the first 14 games: 13.71. That's almost one penalty more than the 2011 full-season average.
I saw a few bad calls Sunday. The officials in Green Bay-San Francisco missed an illegal block in the back on Randall Cobb's 75-yard punt return. In Arizona, ref Bruce Hermansen gave Seattle a fourth timeout in the second half (video above), erring on the rule that when there's an injury inside the two-minute warning or a half, the team with the injured player gets charged with a timeout. After a lengthy delay, what was particularly bothersome is that the NFL observer upstairs didn't notify the officials on the field of the timeout mistake. If the NFL observer isn't going to know the rules, how can he expect officials with less knowledge of the rules to be able to apply them?
This isn't the first time a team mistakenly got four timeouts in a half; it happened in a Browns-Ravens game in 2009. Still, the league's very lucky Arizona won this game. Imagine the outcry if Seattle, with the extra long timeout, had cooked up a play that would have been the winning points in the opener.
Midway through the late-afternoon games, NFL VP Ray Anderson told me: "Overall, we're satisfied with the performance of the officials, considering the unbelievable scrutiny they have been under. As we have said, we're not going to be as concerned with time of games as making sure we take the time to get the plays right.''
Anderson said the Week 2 assignments for all crews have been made, and by Wednesday, the replacement officials would know their assignments for Week 3.
Meanwhile, in our NBC bunker watching the games Sunday, I viewed the proceedings with former league official Jim Daopoulos; NBC has hired him as an officiating consultant. He said the solidarity of the officials will be tested now that they're missing their average $5,500-per-week paychecks. "The wives are going to start saying, 'I miss that paycheck,' '' Daopoulos said.
This could be an interesting week in negotiations -- if indeed there are any. Negotiator and current ref Scott Green told me Wednesday he's never seen the officials more unified. That'll be tested, because I think with no game-turning crises in the first 14 games, the NFL will be motivated to hold a hard line against them.
The 49ers look frighteningly efficient, physical and hard to beat.
Stat of the Weekend: San Francisco has not turned the ball over in the last 26 regular season quarters. That's six and a half games without a turnover.
Newcomer of the Weekend: Randy Moss caught the Niners' first touchdown of the season. He played about a third of the snaps, getting good separation from corners when he was in. And he blocked. That's right. Randy Moss blocked. This could be a ridiculously good pickup for Jim Harbaugh's offense, particularly if Moss doesn't have to play too much and can stay healthy for 16 games. Or more.
The Niners return the conference's best defense intact -- 11 starters and pass rusher Aldon Smith -- and after 45 minutes led one of the best offenses to take the field in years, Green Bay, by 23-7. The Pack made it close down the stretch, but you got the feeling this was San Francisco's game all the way. The Niners' motto is "The team, the team, and the team.'' They have a good one -- the one that looked the best in football in Week 1.
Good signs for Falcons past and Falcons present
Falcons past: On Saturday, Houston quarterback Matt Schaub, acquired by the Texans from Atlanta in 2007, agreed to a contract extension with the Texans through 2016. He was scheduled to be a free agent after this season, and because injuries had cut short three of his five seasons in Houston, his value was murky. Surely the Texans wanted to keep him, but what value would they apply to him? About $15.5 million a year, as it turns out. But it's very likely Houston GM Rick Smith has some injury insurance in the deal, with bonuses tied to Schaub's availability, and we'll get a look at that in the coming days. "Rightfully so that was a concern,'' Schaub said after Houston whipped Miami 30-10. He said he didn't think it would have affected him if he'd gone through the season without the security of a new deal. "But now there's no questions about it -- I can focus 100 percent on football. We got it out of the way, and that's good. It's great Mr. McNair [owner Bob McNair] and the entire organization trusts me to be their quarterback, with all that entails. I'm honored."
Falcons present: Matt Ryan had to live with the memory of putting up zero points in 11 drives in the wild card playoff loss (24-2) to the Giants eight months ago. Sunday, he did something about it. He threw for 299 yards, 108 of them to the deep threat offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter will likely use a lot, Julio Jones, and Atlanta whacked the Chiefs 40-24. "It felt good,'' Ryan said afterward. "It actually felt good just to move on." Ryan said he felt like he was playing fast, and was playing "with as much confidence as I've ever had.'' The NFC South has been a revolving-door division in recent years -- all four teams have won the division at least once in the last five seasons -- and New Orleans could be vulnerable if Sunday's results are an indication. But Ryan is going to have to play great for the Falcons to win it. And he's going to have to beat some very good quarterbacks head-to-head. The next eight Atlanta faces: Peyton Manning (next Monday night in the Georgia Dome), Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Carson Palmer, Mike Vick, Tony Romo, Drew Brees.
Coaching moment of the week
I like when coaches capture a moment and impart the kind of wisdom fourth-grade teachers can impart, but it sounds so logical and simple that ... well, let me throw this story from the Meadowlands at you.
Did you see the silly interception Mark Sanchez threw on the first possession of the Jets' season? Rolling out on second down at his 47, Sanchez neared the sideline when, for reasons known only to him, he tried way too hard to make something happen, flipping the ball in Favrian style to tight end Jeff Cumberland. But safety Bryan Scott picked it off, and the Jets' horrendous offensive summer seemed about to continue into an even worse autumn.
Sanchez looked disgusted with himself when Sparano found him.
"Listen son,'' Sparano said, "you didn't have to do that. You'd made six or seven positive plays in a row to get us there, and if you throw it away, it's third down and you keep the drive going. It doesn't have to be you winning the game by yourself. Cut your losses. Let your teammates help.''
Sparano told me last night: "It was an easy conversation to have. Mark's a very good kid. He knew. Every play doesn't have to be a home run.''
Some players -- and maybe Sanchez last year -- would have squeezed the football so tight on the next possession, and the next, and not been able to make winning plays. But on his next five drives, Sanchez went touchdown, touchdown, field goal, field goal, touchdown, with 266 yards of efficient, accurate drives. "Mark got the ball out on rhythm,'' said Sparano. "That's the way we've seen him play in practice. I think it was just a matter of getting all our receivers out there healthy and contributing as a unit.''
Winning 48-28 in the opener is important to any team. It was incredibly important to the Jets, and to Sanchez. They'd been the worst offensive team in the NFL in the preseason, and it seems like a matter of time before Tim Tebow seriously threatened Sanchez's job security, all the nicey-nice talk around the team notwithstanding. But Sparano never got to dip into his bag of tricks for Tebow on Sunday, basically because he didn't need to; the game was out of hand early. And Sparano figured: Why give future foes a chance to scout Tebow doing exactly what the Jets think can be dangerous enough to win a game down the road? "The kid is getting better,'' said Sparano. "We're going to use him in a bunch of different ways.''
Just not Sunday.
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