Block & Tackle is John Teti’s column about pro football.
When Leon Lett appears on-screen, you know somebody screwed up. With two minutes left in Sunday afternoon’s Detroit-Dallas Wild Card game, Fox had its cameras trained on Lett, a former Cowboys defensive tackle who now serves as an assistant coach for the team. Present-day Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence had just made a stupid mistake on the field, and Fox wanted to draw a parallel to lowlights in Lett’s career. It’s practically a reflex instinct. Lett won three Super Bowl rings, yet as far as the networks are concerned, his image is equivalent to ineptitude, a visual shorthand to be summoned when someone plays the game The Wrong Way.
That reputation comes thanks to two boneheaded plays Lett made during his otherwise illustrious on-field career. In the 1993 Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills, Lett recovered a fumble and ran for the end zone, but he slowed up around the 10-yard line when, by his own subsequent admission, he became mesmerized by his own image on the stadium TV screen. Lett’s sudden onset of Jumbotron narcissism allowed a Buffalo player to catch up to him and swat the ball away. The result was a Bills touchback instead of six points for the Cowboys.
The other Lett mishap—you might call it a “Leon Lett Opps” if you are the person who posted this clip to YouTube—also came in 1993, when the Dolphins came to Texas for the Cowboys’ traditional Thanksgiving game. Trailing Dallas 14-13 late in the fourth quarter, Miami lined up for a last-ditch field goal attempt, which was blocked. But Lett made a needless lunge to grab the ball, fumbling it in the process. This allowed Miami to recover possession for another field goal try, which was inevitably successful. It was the most fun America ever had.
So Leon Lett’s name comes up whenever a player makes a costly and pointless error on defense. On Sunday, that player was Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who recovered a potentially game-ending fumble and promptly handed it back to Detroit. Lawrence apparently decided that he only wanted to borrow the fumble and did not want the responsibility of caring for it.
So it was time once again to raise the specter of Lett. And as it happens, Fox didn’t even need the specter. Lett was right there on the Dallas sideline, which must have thrilled the crew in the production truck. The camera lingered on Lett while play-by-play man Joe Buck took a few whacks at him with the storyline stick. “And there’s Leon Lett,” Buck said. “For any Dallas Cowboy fan thinking about Leon—the assistant defensive line coach, he coaches the defensive tackles—thinking about a Super Bowl fumble by Leon or the Thanksgiving game fumble against Miami in the snow.”
The Lett routine is so familiar by now that Buck doesn’t even have to tell the story in complete sentences. He just has to say “there’s Leon Lett” followed by a grab bag of dependent clauses that vaguely recount the poor man’s high-profile blunders. What Buck neglected to mention was that the Super Bowl fumble came when the Cowboys already had a 52-17 lead in the game, an insurmountable five-touchdown advantage. And while the Thanksgiving belly flop did cost Dallas a win, it was the last game they would lose that season on the way to another championship. Lett’s errors are famous, but they were also inconsequential.
In that respect, DeMarcus Lawrence’s mistake would have been worse than either of Lett’s infamous gaffes if the Lions had gone on to win. They didn’t. Lawrence redeemed himself—he eventually did recover a game-clinching fumble—and his story vanished amid the fury of that pass interference controversy. The upshot of the Cowboys’ victory is that Leon Lett remains the mascot for clueless NFL players. So in essence, Lawrence battled to preserve Lett’s legacy of spectacular clumsiness. A touching gift from player to coach.
Because the Cowboys are playing the Packers, and because it will probably be cold, Fox will make copious references to the 1967 NFL Championship Game between these two teams, better known as the Ice Bowl. Every time there’s an Ice Bowl retrospective, the clip run includes a glimpse of this spinning digital thermometer that graced Green Bay at the time. The idea is to remind viewers of how cold it was that day. But the image only serves to remind me that Green Bay used to have a spinning thermometer, and why did they ever get rid of it? People knew how to accessorize a football field back then. (UPDATE: Or so I thought. B&T reader John H., a Green Bay native, emailed me with a welcome correction, noting that the spinning thermometer was not installed at Lambeau Field but “was actually part of the Kellogg-Citizens National Bank time and temperature sign, located at the corner of Cherry and Jefferson Streets in downtown Green Bay. That iconic sign is long gone—replaced with a modern one—and the bank was eventually bought out by Associated Bank.” Thanks, John! And apologies for the error; I had unearthed a couple of sources that placed the sign at Lambeau.)
Plug a quarterback’s name into Google Image Search, followed by the words “desktop wallpaper,” and you get a look at the myth of the man, as rendered by the masses. The artists who create these images understand the players on both an aesthetic and athletic level, and their work can provide profound insights
Take this Tony Romo wallpaper, which eschews a predictable focus on passing skills to instead focus on Romo’s pointing prowess. Even when he doesn’t have a football in his hands, he demonstrates leadership by pointing at the nearest football and asking you to throw it to him, so he can play football.
But the direction-indicating talents of Tony Romo are nothing compared to Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who—as this wallpaper reminds us—can sail through the air supported by only the slightest cloud of raw sewage. Intimidation advantage: Green Bay.
Green Bay 23, Dallas 14.
Look for Peyton Manning to inspire his troops, as he did Week 15 against the Chargers, with a bone-crushing block in the running game. Never mind that the bones being crushed are his own.
Indianapolis Colts long snapper Matt Overton has tweeted more than 27,000 times. His feed includes disturbing reality TV screenshots…
…a salute to fossil fuels…
…and pictures of that time he and Matt Hasselbeck pretended to show each other their nipples:
Meanwhile, Denver Broncos long snapper Aaron Brewer doesn’t have a Twitter account at all, and he might not have any nipples, either—how would we know? Tweet advantage: Indianapolis.
The Colts are 1-0 against teams wearing hideous orange uniforms in this postseason.
Denver 35, Indianapolis 24.
Last Saturday, ESPN play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico couldn’t stop gushing over Carolina kicker Graham Gano’s ability to kick the ball out of the end zone. By the time the Panthers kicked off for the third time, Tirico had lost the ability to form complete sentences. His astonishment was so profound that he could only utter, “Three kickoffs. [dramatic pause] Three touchbacks.” So look for more of the touchback—the most exciting play in football—at CenturyLink Field this Saturday. It’s probably the best weapon that Carolina has at its disposal.
Parents are advised not to let small children handle the Seattle Seahawks wordmark, whose 30 razor-sharp serifs were responsible for dozens of hospitalizations last year.
In most states, fans require a concealed-carry permit to wield the Carolina Panthers wordmark. Its 17 pointy things are complemented by nine vicious reverse pointy things that have been carved out of the letters by the league’s top branding craftsmen. Forget what I said above. This logo is Carolina’s most fearsome weapon. Pointiness advantage: Seattle.
Seattle 27, Carolina 3.
Loyal Block & Tackle reader and commenter Whovian emailed me to note the existence of A Gronking To Remember, a novella that optimistically purports to be “Book One in the Rob Gronkowski Erotica Series.” Although Amazon has pulled the book from its listings, supposedly after complaints from customers, The Daily Beast has a bunch of excerpts from this literary mash note to New England’s star tight end. Written from the perspective of a libidinous Patriots fan, A Gronking To Remember leans heavily on one particular motif. See if you can spot the running theme in these passages from the book:
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Gronk spike a football. … The unrivaled power of his touchdown dance: “The Gronk.” It jettisoned jiggling ribbons of electric jelly through my body and melted my knees like two pads of margarine…
Gronk lifts the football in his hand and spikes it with such violence the ball launches 50 feet in the air. … Silky ribbons of juice pleasure wobble through my nethers.
I would sneak away to a dark corner of the library and fire up a computer. I’d google info on Gronkowski, check his stats, read his bio, watch some videos, then rub one out right then and there in the library—let jiggly ribbons of lady-sensuality cavort on my body, strangle me, swallow me whole and annihilate me in its pink and roiling.
In front of the entire country, Gronk’s spike impacts right between my butt-cheeks. I don’t know how to explain exactly to you what happened to me since it was so otherworldly. There really is no accounting for it. But I can tell you that it felt amazing. Gronkowski’s ball unleashes a rainbow of sensation throughout my body. Pleasure shoots magically in every direction like an explosion of sparks. It jettisons jiggling ribbons of joy to every part of my body.
Who knew ribbons could be so raunchy? I’ll never look at gift-wrapping the same way again.
If New England and Baltimore’s top defensive players were Girls characters, which Girls characters would they be?
New England cornerback Darrelle Revis would be Jessa.
Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs would be Shoshanna. Self-involved millennial advantage: Baltimore.
If Sunday’s game comes down to which coach does a better job of harassing the sideline crew, expect Baltimore to pull off the upset:
“I’m not the biggest crybaby. You’re cheating!” It’s true what they say; football really is the ultimate game of manliness.
New England 21, Baltimore 20.