All the close finishes and individual heroics in Week 12 of the NFL season were overshadowed by a fight, a videotaping scandal, an embarrassing dropped pass and a flagrant foul.
Even on a holiday weekend featuring marquee matchups of playoff contenders and division leaders, the focus wound up on in Houston, Spygate II involving the Denver Broncos, and Steelers linebacker James Harrison being flagged for yet another illegal hit.
Sometimes it seems as if pinpoint passing by Tom Brady, dynamic defense by Brian Urlacher and powerful runs by Peyton Hillis - all stars in their teams' latest wins - aren't juicy enough to keep attention on the game. Not, at least, when there is mayhem and cheating on the menu.
It's not just the fans who seem to relish the ugliness - apparently the coaches do too. Minutes after Andre Johnson was escorted off the field for his violent outburst, Texans coach Gary Kubiak awarded the wide receiver the game ball.
Texans owner Bob McNair even made light of the brawl, joking that he thought his star wide receiver won the fight "on points."
The fight even inspired Houston Rockets forward Shane Battier, who told the Houston Chronicle: "I saw the champ. After the crowd got hyped, I got hyped. The champ is responsible for this win. I will roll with Andre Johnson every day of the week. That fired me up when I saw him."
Battier went out and scored 18 points against the Thunder.
Meanwhile, Johnson will reportedly be for the punches.
Then there was the sad case of the Bills' Steve Johnson, who dropped an easy game-winning catch in overtime against Pittsburgh. While the blunder was painful enough to watch, it was Johnson's post-game tweet that was even more cringe-worthy.
Meanwhile in Denver, the fans have had it with a tarnished team that's been in the news for the wrong reasons: trades gone bad, a captain's DUI arrest, and now a videotaping scandal that cost an underling his job and coach Josh McDaniels and the team $50,000 each.
The NFL ruled that McDaniels didn't view video chief Steve Scarnecchia's illicit 6-minute tape of the San Francisco 49ers' practice in London last month but punished him for not immediately reporting the infraction to the league as required.
Sports writers piled on. CBSSports.com's Clark Judge says McDaniels "has got to go" following the scandal while Mike Freeman writes that the coach's explanation was laughable.
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