The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for

Rubberneck theater


There's a certain elegance to watching Peyton Manning or Drew Brees slice apart a defense. It's more fun to watch Adrian Peterson rush for 122 yards and three touchdowns, wondering every time he gets his hands on the ball whether it will end up rolling on the ground with a pack of guys in black and a pack of guys in white chasing after it.

Kind of like why people rubberneck at auto accidents. It's about unpredictability -- why we've always loved Brett Favre. For his impossible touchdown passes and his interception-defying throws.

Take the one Sunday that killed Minnesota's chances of winning in regulation. It was a lot like many he's converted over his 19 seasons in the NFL: throwing late across his body, one of the first no-nos that quarterbacks learn and are supposed to know by the time they reach the NFL. Except Favre, who has made more big plays with it than turnovers. Even he acknowledged he did the wrong thing. "I guess I should have run,'' he said afterward.

Yes, classic games are often sloppy, even more fun when they're played in bad weather than they are in the pristine atmosphere of a dome, where noise is the only negative condition. Take the "tuck rule'' game in January of 2002, when the ball slipped from Tom Brady's hands in the snow, was reviewed and given back to New England, which then tied the game and won it in overtime. The snow was one reason the ball slipped and the vision of players slipping and sliding so enticed the networks that the NFL increased the number of late playoff games in cold-weather sites.

Then there was the 2007 NFC championship game. It was played in subzero temperatures and marked, the last time "the last pass of Favre's career'' was an interception. A lot of slipping, a lot of sliding and a lot of mistakes -- remember that before Lawrence Tynes kicked the field goal that sent the Giants to the Super Bowl, he missed two potential game-winners from closer in. I was watching the game in the press box in Foxborough and when Tynes trotted on to the field the final time, he was greeted with "On No!'' from a bunch of media folks who had just watched him miss twice.

When he made it the third time, we jaded folks pronounced it one of the greatest games ever.

The AFC game Sunday was very well played. It wasn't boring -- the Jets assured it wouldn't be by getting off to a 17-6 lead. But when Manning took just 58 seconds to drive the Colts up the field for a touchdown just before the half, you had the impression that it was over. In other words, the Colts led at the half with 13 to the Jets' 17. Then, as we assumed they would, they ran away, scoring 17 straight in the second half.

The NFC game? No one knew which direction the ball would bounce. Or whose hands it would bounce in or out of. (Well, I guess you can say Adrian Peterson). Makes for much better theater. A lot better than watching a quarterback take a knee for the final three plays.

By Dave Goldberg  |  January 25, 2010; 9:14 AM ET  | Category:  Adrian Peterson , Brett Favre , Indianapolis Colts , Minnesota Vikings Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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