All season long, Around The NFL's Marc Sessler will offer up his laundry list of heroes and villains from the week that was.
Let's get down to it:
The Man Known As Mariota: As Dan Hanzus mentioned on the latest Around The NFL Podcast, Ken Whisenhunt must be kicking himself. Had the recently fired Titans coach just made it to Sunday, there's no way Tennessee cans him after watching rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota flame the Saints for four touchdowns and zero picks. It wasn't perfect, but Mariota has emerged as a comprehensive difference-maker. Becoming the first rookie in NFL history with two games of four or more scoring strikes and zero INTs, Mariota makes this Tennessee gig an inviting vacancy for the coach they eventually hire.
Glorious Blaine Gabbert: If you aren't thrilled for Gabbert, a dark and chalky void exists where your heart should be. He's a human who -- if smart -- has avoided the Internet for half a decade, knowing that nothing positive has been penned about his pro career to date. Taking over for the spiraling Colin Kaepernick, Gabbert on Sunday won his first game since 2012, ending a drastic 10-game skid as a starter. It definitely won't last, but Gabbert serves as another reminder that quarterbacks -- even the most noodle-armed -- have nine lives in the NFL.
Steelers Two-Headed Monster: No team in the AFC has been bit more viciously by the injury bug than Pittsburgh. Losing your franchise quarterback and superstar running back for multiple games would send most clubs into the darkness, but not the Steelers. With Le'Veon Bell out for the year and Ben Roethlisberger banged up again, wideout Antonio Brown and veteran back DeAngelo Williams combined for an outrageous 531 yards from scrimmage on Sunday -- the most in a single game by two non-quarterbacking teammates since 1960. Pittsburgh refuses to quit.
Dom Capers: Capers cannot be killed. No matter how many hundreds of yards the Packers allow, Green Bay's oddly coifed coordinator remains in charge. Giving up 491.7 yards and a whopping 28.7 points per game over their past three tilts, the Packers D is responsible for a two-game losing streak that pulled Green Bay out of pole position for an NFC bye. Capers clearly has photos of somebody important doing something ghastly.
Sign-Stealing Quarterbacks: Green Bay's defense wasn't the only villain from Sunday. While Panthers passer Cam Newton was a hero on the field, he loses points here for choosing to tear down a Packers-centric banner at Bank of America Stadium. We get what Cam was going for, but the sign's owner, Mike Dobs, was taken aback by the theft.
"I was just shocked, shocked," said Dobs after watching Ace Boogie, a multimillionaire signal-caller, tear down $500 worth of signage and prance away to parts unknown.
NFL Media's Dan Hanzus put together an exhaustive timeline of this low-grade theft, which stripped Dobs of the prized trinket he planned to hang in his Carolina-based "man room." Dobs associate David Sessoms told Omnisport that his traveling party wasn't happy about "evil" Newton's "blatant disregard" for their property.
Sessoms needs to chill -- Newton is far from "evil" -- but this fiasco was poorly conceived by Cam, who has better things to do than bop around the field playing crowd control. Give Dobs his dough!
November Update From The Streets on Private Eye/Play-Caller Frank Cignetti, Jr.
When we last checked up on Frank Cignetti, the Rams OC -- moonlighting as a West Coast-based gumshoe -- was still on the hunt for a missing L.A. teen by the name of Regina Jane François. Discovering the girl's diary in her vacant childhood bedroom, Cignetti couldn't shake the words of her last recorded entry: "I wish to vanish," she wrote. "Far away from this city, from mother and father, from my studies and cemented future. My current life is over. I'm part of 'The New Dawn Collective' now. Regina Jane François no longer exists."
Fast-forward to Monday, when a Rams source told us that Ol' Cignetti -- following a season-long pattern -- was AWOL in the lead-up to Sunday's disappointing loss to the Vikings. Refusing to return to St. Louis during the week, Frank reportedly "faxed in a half-assed game plan written on a spread of cocktail napkins," leaving his fellow coaches in a fix.
"It's hit a white-hot boiling point," our source said of Cignetti, who remained in Los Angeles until late Saturday night before catching a red-eye from LAX to Lambert-St. Louis International. It was there, in his aisle seat, where Cignetti ordered a pre-takeoff bourbon before reviewing his notes from earlier that afternoon:
11/7/15 (thoughts/notes/evidence): 'The New Dawn Collective' ::: What is it? Can't get my head around it ::: Nothing online but a lone entry from an Orange County-based chatroom for 'Futurist Groups' dated 7/7/13. It reads as follows: "Announcement: The New Dawn Collective seeks like-minded individuals who sense what we do: A change incoming. A time for the great unveiling. A world beyond this world and truth beyond the government-peddled "truth" we've endured for decades. THE DOORS ARE OPENING. /// New Dawn Collective, P.O. Box 17543, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060."
Cignetti's phone lights up. It's a text from Jeff Fisher: "Where the %#$@ are you, Cig?!"
The bourbon arrives as the engines kick in. Frank kills his phone, stirs his drink and watches California vanish out the window, whispering to nobody: "Just try pulling me off this case, you pack of rubes. That's not how Frank Cignetti Jr. operates. Not with somebody's daughter on the lam."