Every Sunday night, Around The League takes a closer look at four of the day's most interesting subplots. We call it "The Filthy Four" ... mostly for alliteration purposes.
Denver clocks now set on Tebow Time:
The Broncos' resident Beatle, Tim Tebow, has done what many believed was just a matter of time: grab the reins of Denver's never-going-away quarterback drama. Kyle Orton can go back to knitting hats and scarves to survive the long Colorado winter ahead, because it appears he has some big-time clipboard-holding to do. Tebow -- and who cares if the Chargers won? -- sparked the Broncos' offense in a torrid, come-from-behind performance that simply ran out of time but will only fuel his rabid supporters. Love him or hate him, Tebow moved the ball and pumped oxygen into this up-to-now-milquetoast attack. If streams of news bulletins about Tebow's career arc aren't your thing, this would be a good week to vanish into the deep woods.
Earlier in the day, mere miles from the Pacific Ocean, at a raucous establishment known as Busby's in Santa Monica, Calif., nearly 300 Bills fans of all ages and backgrounds -- working men, pockets of blondes, Gen Y'ers, soccer moms -- watched Ryan Fitzpatrick deliver the team's fourth win in five games. The resounding victory over Michael Vick's free-falling Eagles turned the room wild. With every significant play, The Isley Brothers' doctored-up "Shout" anthem rolled over the speakers, rattling the beams. One misguided young woman in DeSean Jackson getup blindly waltzed in -- then immediately fled. It's not hostile territory -- these are salt-of-the-earth types -- but it's hard to identify a more dyed-in-the-wool band of loyalists. The majority of them, transplants from upstate New York -- here in L.A. for cinema, business, life -- carve out every Sunday for the Bills. Fan club organizer Kurt Graves told us that in good times and bad, the house is packed. Lifelong Bills fan Joe Kieffer said it's a fan base that before telling people it roots for "the Bills," says it roots "for Buffalo." They identify with their proud city wherever they are, even at the very edge of America.
The captain has turned on the "fasten seat belt" sign:
Next stop: A Jets gathering at Rocco's Tavern in Culver City, Calif., just minutes from the NFL Network compound. Maybe it was the late-game start -- who knows -- but it lacked the energy of the Bills' melting pot. We saw a smattering of dudes in Joe Namath jerseys; some guy in a Mark Gastineau shirt; another donned Jerricho Cotchery; Wayne Chrebet, too. It was hard to pinpoint the most out-of-date garb there, but it's clear these guys didn't hop on any bandwagon. Besides, on Sunday, there was no bandwagon, with the Jets continuing their drift through an autumn-long fog with a 30-21 loss to the New England Patriots, their Marcia Brady (no pun intended). New York's unhealthy attachment to acquiring over-the-hill "names" has come home to roost with a vengeance, with one Jets fan telling us: "This team is utterly done."
Just win, Heyward-Baby:
Al Davis' death hung heavy over the league Sunday. Younger fans might not understand the acclaim heaped on Davis' epic run in Oakland -- maybe because they've seen a mess in recent years -- but Raiders wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey is one young man who owes an enormous amount to the team's former owner. Davis, as always, went against the grain by drafting Heyward-Bey No. 7 overall in the 2009 draft, sending shockwaves through war rooms everywhere -- he wasn't even on the radar. The young pass-catcher tweeted Saturday: "R.I.P Coach Al Davis ... Thank you for everything. You've changed my life. A true players Owner." On Sunday, Heyward-Bey played in a way that would have delighted Davis, flashing his speed in catching seven passes for 99 yards and one touchdown in an electric, last-second victory over the Houston Texans. It was a fitting reminder of Davis' anti-establishment heartbeat.