File under "Too little, too late." Cleveland won its fourth straight game for the first time since 1994, beating the Jags 23--17. After averaging 12.1 points during a 1--11 start, the Browns put up 25.0 per game down the stretch. Thank Jerome Harrison, who averaged 187 yards on the ground in the final three wins.
How good are things going for first-place New Jersey? After 923 games without a hat trick, center and North Star state native Jamie Langenbrunner lit the lamp three times in front of 200 friends at Minnesota. "I heard 'em a few times," he said after last Saturday's 5--3 win.
The green Panthers (they lost four starters from last year) handed then No. 5 Syracuse its first loss last Saturday by holding the Orange to 15 points below its season average in an 82--72 win. "[Defense] is our calling card," said Jamie Dixon, coach of 12--2 Pitt.
Could America's Olympic Nordic combined medal drought finally end? Johnny Spillane, 29, put the field on notice by winning his first career World Cup event on Sunday in Germany. "Johnny was awesome," said U.S. coach Dave Jarrett. "He dropped everyone."
File under "Too much, too soon." For the second straight week, New York spotted a foe a 31-point lead before getting on the board, this time in a 44--7 loss to the Vikings. A week before, the 2008 Super Bowl champs became only the fifth team in 40 years to start 5--0 and miss the playoffs when they fell to Carolina 41--9.
Maybe they should start sleeping in hotels when they're at home, too. Coach Andy Murray was fired after going 11-4-3 on the road but just 6-13-3 at home. His replacement, Davis Payne, lost his first game in charge 6--3 to Chicago last Saturday. In St. Louis, of course.
And then there are the Blue Demons, whose calling card is poor play at both ends of the floor. "It's the same old song, but it is hard to keep defending when you don't score," said coach Jerry Wainwright after Sunday's 67--50 loss to Georgetown, DePaul's 21st straight Big East defeat.
Unheralded West Ham was poised to knock mighty Arsenal out of the FA Cup, but the Hammers conceded twice in the last 15 minutes to lose 2--1. Leeds proved a better giant killer: The third-tier side booted defending champ Man United from England's 139-year-old tournament.
SI PLAYERS NBA POLL
WHO DO YOU WANT ON THE LINE AT THE END OF A GAME?
Steve Nash, Suns G 33.9%
Kobe Bryant, Lakers G 23.4%
Chauncey Billups, Nuggets G 15.2%
Ray Allen, Celtics G 10.5%
José Calderon, Raptors G 7.0%
Bryant's reputation as a cold-blooded buzzer beater—he has three so far this year—may have influenced voters; his 84.8% free throw shooting in '09 ranks just 14th in the NBA.... Conversely, Manu Ginobili, who ranks fourth in free throw percentage this year (89.6) received zero votes.... Only two non-guards, the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki and the Hornets' Peja Stojakovic, received more than one vote.
Based on a survey of 171 NBA players
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (HARRISON)
LOU CAPOZZOLA (LANGENBRUNNER)
JIM PRISCHING/AP (WAINWRIGHT)
MARCO FELGENHAUER/NORDICFOCUS/GETTY IMAGES (SPILLANE)
MARK J. REBILAS/US PRESSWIRE (NASH)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (BRYANT)