Down … Set … What?
The New England Patriots lost star tight end Rob Gronkowski to a broken arm because they left him on the field for a meaningless point after touchdown, the 59th point in their 59-24 blowout of Indianapolis?
The Philadelphia Eagles lost their best offensive player, running back LeSean McCoy, to a concussion because he was still in the game in the final two minutes of a 31-6 loss to Washington?
As the NFL season heads into its stretch run, the injuries are piling up, and some of them are more senseless than others.
Gronkowski reportedly had surgery Monday, and it's unclear how long he'll be out. True to form, tight-lipped Coach Bill Belichick didn't shed much light on the topic in his Monday news conference.
When asked why Gronkowski, who had been listed as questionable because of a hip injury for seven consecutive weeks, is on the field for kicks, anyway, Belichick said: "I don't think there are any quicker ways to lose a game than getting a kick blocked and run back for a touchdown. That's probably one of the quickest ways to put it up in the loss column. It's an important job. Whoever does it, it's a very important job in the game."
Now, the Patriots will be without Gronkowski for Thursday night's game at the New York Jets, as New England (7-3) looks to hang on to its three-game lead in the AFC East. The Jets, Miami and Buffalo are tied at 4-6.
The Eagles (3-7) are in the NFC East cellar and they will play host to Carolina (2-8) on Monday night in a game that has greater implications on draft position than much else.
Coach Andy Reid defended his decision to keep McCoy on the field, even though the Eagles trailed by 25 points when the injury occurred with 1 minute 58 seconds on the clock.
On Sunday, Reid had a curious response to those who questioned his decision: "We were trying to come back and win the game."
A day later, the coach gave a more plausible explanation.
"There are a few things that I wish wouldn't have happened and that's obviously one of them," Reid said. "But these kids want to play, so there are two sides to things."
Keeping with tradition
It has been a decade since Washington and Dallas last played in a Thanksgiving game, and this figures to be a good one. The Cowboys are 6-0 against the Redskins on turkey day, and Thursday's matchup has playoff implications as both teams try to catch up with the New York Giants in the NFC East.
For the third consecutive week, the Cowboys will face a rookie quarterback, and this one figures to command the spotlight. Washington's Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor, makes his return to Texas to face a team coming off games against fellow rookies Nick Foles of the Eagles, and Brandon Weeden of the Cleveland Browns.
Griffin was outstanding against the Eagles on Sunday, completing 14 of 15 passes for four touchdowns, and running for 84 yards.
"He's a great, great athlete," Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett said. "You see that on tape and he's certainly a very mature quarterback at this stage in his career, so we are certainly going to have our hands full."
Assuming they can get their hands on him, that is.
One of the more devastating pieces of evidence against the New Orleans Saints in the bounty scandal was an audiotape of then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams delivering an obscenity-laced pep talk to his players and urging them to injure their opponents, the San Francisco 49ers.
That talk came the night before the Saints faced the 49ers in a divisional playoff game. The 49ers won, 36-32, to advance to the NFC championship game against the Giants.
The Saints and 49ers meet again Sunday, this time in New Orleans, in what figures to be a great game between suddenly bitter rivals. (They used to be division opponents, although last season's drama only heightened the animosity between the franchises.)
"We ran into a buzz saw last year and they beat us," Saints interim Coach Joe Vitt said Monday. "This is a new season. This is a new set of challenges. This is a new week and this is our next opponent."