This and that
Dick VitaleSPECIAL TO ESPN.COM
Each week I'll talk about the world of sports …
The Patriots became the first team in 35 years to go through the regular season with an unbeaten record. Think about how special that accomplishment is! Congratulations to coach Bill Belichick for keeping this talented team focused week in and week out. Congrats to Tom Brady on breaking Peyton Manning's single-season touchdown passing record. Congrats to Randy Moss for catching more touchdown passes in one season than any other player. What the Patriots did is extraordinary since each week there was a target on its back. It is truly a season to cherish, though there is still work to be done. The goal is to get that ring!
Now the NFL playoffs are set and the Washington Redskins made an amazing comeback to get into the postseason party. Remember when Joe Gibbs was being criticized for getting a penalty for back-to-back timeouts against Buffalo? That led to a Bills last-second win and Washington looked like it would miss the playoffs again. The team rallied and won four in a row, including an impressive victory over Dallas Sunday. Yes, I know the Cowboys rested several starters, but the 'Skins did a great job against Tony Romo in the first half and proceeded to break the game open behind Todd Collins after that. Now Washington has to head west to take on the Seahawks. Rest assured Mike Holmgren's team will be throwing the ball often.
I can't wait to see the Steelers and Jaguars tangle again. I think this has the potential to be an exciting contest. Think about the road facing Pittsburgh in the playoffs: the physical Jaguars, followed by a trip to New England. If Mike Tomlin's club survives that, the AFC Championship showdown would likely come against either Indianapolis or San Diego. Wow, that is as tough as it gets! Tennessee earned the final playoff berth, winning in Indianapolis. We have to see how Vince Young feels after suffering a quad injury against the Colts.
I have said that life is all about making good decisions. It appears that former major leaguer Jim Leyritz made a very bad one. Best known for his performance in the World Series as a member of the Yankees, Leyritz was charged for his involvement in an accident that led to the death of a woman. He is accused of DUI. My friends, this is a sad story.
It is nice to see Eddie Sutton back on the sidelines, though San Francisco fell short against Weber State in his return to college coaching. Sutton is still just two wins shy of the magical 800 plateau. I also want to wish the best to former Dons coach Jessie Evans, who took a leave of absence for the rest of the season. It is uncertain if Evans will return to the San Francisco sidelines in the future.
Rick Neuheisel gets another chance as a head coach. He had been serving on the staff of the Baltimore Ravens when his alma mater, UCLA, hired him as its new coach. Neuheisel previously served as boss on the sidelines at Colorado and Washington. This is a golden opportunity for the former quarterback.
Imagine if the Portland Trail Blazers had Greg Oden in the lineup? Wow, Nate McMillan has done a remarkable job with this young squad. Portland has won 13 straight games and suddenly this is a dangerous team in the Western Conference. When Oden comes back next season, it will be like adding a number one draft pick to a club likely to make the playoffs now. Brandon Roy has developed into a superstar at the pro level.
It seemed ironic that Phil Jackson was trying to pass the late Red Auerbach on the NBA's all-time coaching win list Sunday night; Jackson's Lakers took on the Celtics in Los Angeles. Jackson matched the career total of Auerbach when he earned his 938th win as a head coach on Friday night (the Lakers beat Utah 123-109). Well, call it Celtic Pride as Doc Rivers and company denied Jackson that milestone victory, easily beating Kobe and company, 110-91. Boston is an incredible 26-3 this season!
Joe Paterno simply continues to roll on. At age 81, he just coached in his 500th game and he keeps adding to his win total. Paterno earned his record 23rd career bowl win when his Nittany Lions got past Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl. Congrats to Joe Pa.
I feel for Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon. His Panthers scored a big win over Duke but suffered a setback when starter Mike Cook was lost for the season with a major knee injury. The latest blow came during a blowout loss at Dayton as guard Levance Field suffered a broken foot. That injury may sideline him for the rest of the campaign. Competing in the tough Big East minus two starters is a great challenge, though Dixon has quality depth and you can never count out the defensive-minded Panthers. Speaking of that loss to the Flyers, Brian Gregory has done a great job with Dayton. Brian Roberts is an outstanding guard and this team is for real. Wins over Louisville and Pittsburgh stand out in a 10-game win streak. Remember, Dayton was picked sixth in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll!
The Knicks just flat out continue to struggle. New York is 8-21 after Sunday's home loss to the suddenly rejuvenated Chicago Bulls. Isiah Thomas' club is in the midst of a four-game losing streak and three of the next four contests are on the road.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.