Lawrence: Giving Thanks

Football fans have a lot to be thankful for – both on and off the field

Amy Lawrence
November 20, 2018 - 6:38 pm

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At the risk of sounding corny, football fans have much for which to be thankful.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, it's the perfect chance to inhale deeply and take stock of where we are in this 2018 NFL season. The first 11 weeks on the schedule have flown by in a blur. Ratings are up, and excitement is skyrocketing. Exactly why are we so giddy?

Offenses are feasting. The final touchdown of Week 11 capped a record-setting duel between the Chiefs and Rams in Los Angeles. The 4th quarter alone was enough to make us fans dizzy with its 35 points and multiple lead changes. When Jared Goff found tight end Gerald Everett streaking down the right sideline with 1:49 left, the scoreboard brazenly exposed us to the first game in league history with BOTH teams over 50! More than a thousand total yards and 14 touchdowns left us exhausted but exhilarated. The Rams' triumph showcased the high-octane new age of the NFL where creative offenses and schemes take center stage, and quarterbacks let 'er rip. With the rules designed to keep QBs upright and create wide open spaces for receivers, offenses are soaring to new heights. It's definitely not the same smash-mouth football of decades past, but there's no denying it's FUN.

Young superstars are emerging. Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes are the cream of the new quarterback crop. With a combined 63 touchdown passes and 7,175 yards, the pair is already must-see TV. Along with Carson Wentz, Jimmy Garoppolo, Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, and a deep rookie class, they represent the hopes of millions of fans. Beyond their collective talent, they offer moxie and confidence. We knew their names, stats, strengths and weaknesses before they hit the green room for the NFL Draft. They were groomed for the white-hot spotlight and the weighty responsibility before they ever started cashing the checks. Even as we value the wisdom and experience of future Hall of Famers in Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger, the passing of the torch will be seamless.

The GOATS are rewriting history. No need to send the old guys out to pasture just yet. From Adam Vinatieri becoming the sport's all-time scoring leader (and showing off his dance moves in the locker room) to Brady and Brees joining the 500-touchdown club, we are privileged to watch some of the greatest of all time amend the record books. Brees and the Saints are building their greatest case for a championship since the 2010 Super Bowl win, and along the way, he's reached the top as the NFL's most prolific passer. Every week, Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore rumble their way up the rushing charts, and Larry Fitzgerald steadily climbs through the receiving ranks. Their contributions cannot be overstated, and we get to serve as witnesses to living history.

Defense is not dying. While popular opinion tells you defense no longer counts in the NFL, that couldn't be further from the truth. The gaudy 54-51 final between the Chiefs and Rams included a trio of defensive touchdowns as well as 35 points off seven turnovers. Linebacker Samson Ebukam (he pronounces it "ay-boo-com") recorded a sack, recovered a fumble, snagged an interception, and scored twice for Los Angeles. Teammate Aaron Donald wreaked havoc on the Kansas City offensive line with a pair of sacks to boost his league lead to 14.5, and he forced a pair of fumbles. The teams combined for eight sacks and 13 more quarterback hits. If you tell me defense didn't matter in the best game of the season, I know you weren't actually watching. And as we hit the stretch run, a handful of defenses are paving the way toward the playoffs. The Chicago Bears are tops in the NFL in takeaways (27) and turnover differential (+13), while fellow division leaders L.A. and Washington are top five. The Bears and Saints are the only teams allowing fewer than 80 rushing yards per game. The Steelers and Chiefs are first and second in sacks. The Houston Texans rely on their D to keep them close in games when the offense is sputtering. Defense is not dead yet!

The postseason is beckoning. The Rams are the first to achieve ten victories this season, and they cruise into their holiday bye week on a high note. The Saints are riding a nine-game streak, and the Chiefs possess the best record in the AFC. Otherwise, no team owns more than seven wins. Among the non-division leaders, only the Chargers and Panthers have more than five wins. In the final month and a half, almost everything is up for grabs: first-round byes, division titles, wild cards. Even franchises with .500 records like the Cowboys, Seahawks, Ravens, Titans, and Colts are very much alive for the postseason which sets up a mad scramble between now and the end of the year. Bring it on! The more chaos, the better.

Thanksgiving week offers much-needed perspective. As passionate as we are about sports, football is not life or death. Before the Rams kicked off their memorable Monday night affair with the Chiefs, they donated thousands of tickets to firefighters and first responders who spent countless hours battling the deadly blaze that ravaged nearby communities. The organization also welcomed families of victims in the Thousand Oaks shooting, including the wife, son and colleagues of Ventura County Sheriff's Sergeant Ron Helus, who sacrificed his own life to save others on November 8th. After the game, team members took time to hug them and offer words of compassion. Sports have the power to heal, and the Rams deserve credit for remembering that people are what matter most in this world.

Happy Thanksgiving! May yours be filled with family, friends, food, and fun...with a side of football.

A well-traveled veteran of sports radio and television, Amy is the passionate host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program, After Hours with Amy Lawrence, from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Listeners can tune in from Canada and overseas, thanks to SiriusXM, cbssportsradio.com and the CBS Sports app. Amy has also handled basketball play-by-play and color duties for various radio and TV outlets over the past 15 years. Amy graduated from Messiah College with bachelor’s degrees in Communications & Accounting before earning her master’s in TV & Radio from Syracuse University. She is a native of Concord, NH.

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