That’s one of Smart’s strengths, though.

Thielen grew up watching Vikings games on Sundays on the couch with his dad, idolizing the legendary receivers that came through Minneapolis. “You’re watching guys like Cris Carter and Randy Moss and Jake Reed,” Thielen says.

Who envisioned Chris Paul going down with a sore knee after one game and missing several weeks? I expected improvement from Victor Oladipo as one of the main guys in Indiana, but did anyone envision this type of start (25.5 PPG)? Who thought Kawhi Leonard would miss all of the preseason with a mysterious quad injury that would keep him sidelined all of October and possibly longer?

Can Goff (five turnovers) continue avoiding major mistakes and carry the offense should an opposing defense stuff Gurley? If the answer to both questions is yes, the Rams are well on their way to making the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Contributing to Stafford’s big night (423 yards) was that Pittsburgh’s sack-happy pass rushers (T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree) failed to get home against the elusive QB. Stafford led the league in sacks taken heading into Week 8, but was taken down just twice by the Steelers. Stafford also exposed the vulnerable spots of Pittsburgh’s cover-two defense on big plays in the first half.

It was the first of several times that Smart would take the temperature on Bamba, curious as to how serious he really was about considering the Longhorns. Bamba, who was meticulous about his recruiting, assured Smart that he wasn’t wasting his time. By the fall, when Bamba visited, Smart felt like he had a real shot. He began pouring as much time as he personally could into the recruitment; he had a lot of catching up to do to others who had been recruiting Bamba for longer.

Said Horn, a 20-year coaching veteran with two previous head-coaching stops: “The time that he puts into [building relationships] is very different.”

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