The thing you suddenly like about Carolina is that it won a muscle game against a true muscle team in the other guy’s gym. A day of heavy thrusts and rejections and the raw incense of scorched earth.

“I would say we out-physicaled them,” said Ron Rivera, the Carolina coach. “It was 10-to-9. That was about as tough a football game as it gets.”

Ten points on the road at San Francisco – or anyplace else – is rarely enough to win a pro conflict. But the Panthers dug out an 80-yard drive for one score and banged a 53-yard kick for another and their defense made it all stand up. Sometimes they stood up their defensive ends and sometimes they blitzed the linebackers, and the net result was a 151 yards of 49er offense. The key was a savage Carolina front four that rose up from the Candlestick turf then wrecked it.

“That’s our style of defense,” said right DE Greg Hardy, who showed the biggest burst on the field and scored one of six sacks on Colin Kaepernick. “We say it every week. I know the words – we dominate.”

Kaepernick was under the gun all day. He rarely had time to set his feet, and the stat pages showed a San Fran afternoon full of of third-and-nine and third-and-12 and third-and-23. Afterwards the Niners’ offensive people insisted it was a simple lack of execution on their part. You can’t blame them for that story. Muscle teams take severe pride. I mean, who admits to being pushed around in their own back alley?

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I’ve tuned the whole Incognito-Martin nonsense in Miami out completely. I’ll tell you exactly when I tuned it out – during Joe Philbin’s press conference, last Wednesday PM, right after one hero in the crowd demanded to know, “Is there racism on your team?”

That’s what this whole media frenzy is really about. They want it to be a black-white thing. They like the bullying angle, but they love the racism angle. Blend the two of them together and, oh, boy, the easy mileage they can get out of that parlay. We shall uncover the facts! Justice shall be served!

Me? Couldn’t care less. It’s not football. It’s a locker room issue. They’re all big boys down there in Miami. Let the Dolphins handle it.

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How smug are Crimson Tide fans these days? Sat next to an old timer at LSU-Alabama Saturday night, a 38-17 choke-out of the Tigers. “What does this Alabama team remind you of?” I asked him.

“The ‘60s Packers,” he answered.

“Wait…you don’t mean Lombardi, Taylor, Nitschke…?”

“Hell, why not?”  he said.

Roll, Pack, roll.

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The Saints bomb their way to the all-time record for first downs in a game, forty of ‘em last Sunday versus Dallas. Drew Brees going deep and the Cowboy defense going deep into its bench. Hey, anybody remember the last time a team suited up and got zero first downs for an entire game? I had to look that one up myself.

Turns out it was the 1966 Broncos, in their AFL days, the season opener against Houston. You’d think it was a real craptacular Denver outfit that committed this foul deed, but not so fast. I remember hearing Red Miller, Denver’s first Super Bowl coach, talk about those mid-Sixties Broncos and getting a bit defensive if you goofed on ‘em too hard.

“Hey, don’t laugh at those old Bronco teams,” Miller said. “In ’65 we had the second best offense in the league, and I coached the unit. How about this lineup – Abner Haynes, Wendell Hayes and Cookie Gilchrist in the backfield, Hewritt Dixon at tight end and Al Denson and Lionel Taylor at receivers?”

Well this was the 1966 version, not ’65, and those Broncos came up with a grand total of 32 yards of offense that day – 33 running and negative one passing. The Denver passers cranked back and went 2-for-20 through the air. Ingredients to a no-first-down recipe.

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In its never-ending quest to destroy itself, the NFL announced it is coming out with season three of its moronic cartoon series called Rush Zone – Season of the Guardians. As seen, thankfully, only on the NickToon Network. “The NFL has a new team of heroes. Join the Guardians as they protect the NFL…and the world!”

How I’d love to be a saboteur…I mean, um, a writer on that show. Or my own version of the show. Lord, the possibilities! So many different ways to save the world!

Get on your NFL jammies, kids. Bust out the Sugar Smacks and soymilk. It’s time for Roger Dodger Goodell and the Saturday Morning Gang!

Episode 1Road to Piccadilly. A animated, wisecracking Goodell pays $12.6 million for Speed Racer’s car and drives it along with Chim-Chim to London, picking up Aquaman, Jabberjaw and SpongeBob Kraft along the way. The zany bunch has loads of fun and adventure, including a close call with Incognito, the undersea bully lobster, plus a stop at Atlantis, where they talk with the elders about the NFL’s nuclear enrichment program and franchise opportunities for the legendary underwater city.

Episode 2Big Trouble in Big D! The JerryDome is once again under intergalactic siege, this time by a gang of rogue cartoon space invaders, led by George Jetson and The Robonic Stooges. The Cowboy air defense puts up a valiant struggle, allowing only 753 Kerblooey stink missiles to penetrate the stadium’s massive protective walls. The day is finally saved when a massive Jimmy Johnson-style toupee woven from Romomite is draped over the structure by She-Man, Johnny Quest Manziel and Yosemite Sam Hurd.

Episode 3 – Oh, never mind….