NFL Notebook

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 16, 2011

Associated Press
The NFL notebook …
NEW YORK — The Steelers’ last-minute victory over the rival Baltimore Ravens drew the highest preliminary television rating for a divisional playoff game in 15 years.
Pittsburgh’s 31-24 win Saturday afternoon on CBS earned a 20.9 overnight rating and 39 share. The network said Sunday it was the best rating for this round since Green Bay-San Francisco in January 1996.
Ratings represent the percentage of all homes with televisions tuned into a program. Shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time. Overnight ratings measure the country’s largest markets.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Dennis Byrd gave the New York Jets a big lift before their playoff game against the New England Patriots.
Byrd, one of the most inspirational players in franchise history, addressed the team Saturday night at the Jets’ hotel and delivered what wide receiver Braylon Edwards called on Twitter, “the most inspirational message of my life.”
Byrd’s career ended in 1992, when he suffered a broken neck while colliding with teammate Scott Mersereau in a game against Kansas City, leaving him temporarily paralyzed. Three months after breaking the C-5 vertebra in his neck, he walked on crutches to a news conference at his hospital in Manhattan.
The next season, he walked out to midfield on his own for the coin toss, as the crowd at the Meadowlands gave him a standing ovation. The team’s most inspirational player award is named in Byrd’s honor, with running back LaDainian Tomlinson winning it this season.
Coach Rex Ryan, who called Sunday’s game against the Patriots “the second-biggest in franchise history,” normally addresses the team the night before games. They are usually emotional, inspiring speeches, but this time, the coach stepped aside to have Byrd speak.
“As God is my witness, I have never been more ready to perform in my life,” Edwards tweeted. “Dennis Byrd, I respect, salute and honor you.”
No Jets player has worn Byrd’s No. 90 since his career ended. Byrd, 44, lives in Oklahoma, and was expected to attend the playoff game between New York (12-5) and New England (14-2).
Byrd wrote a book about his story called, “Rise and Walk,” which was later turned into a television movie.
ATLANTA — Atlanta’s Eric Weems set an NFL playoff record when he returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of Saturday night’s NFC divisional playoff game against Green Bay.
It’s the longest scoring play in NFL postseason history, according to STATS LLC. The previous longest scoring play was 101 yards on an interception return by Green Bay’s George Teague on Jan. 8, 1994 at Detroit.
Weems ran straight ahead past Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby and then beat Pat Lee in the race to the end zone.
Weems was selected to his first Pro Bowl after returning punts and kickoffs for touchdowns in the regular season. He also returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown against Tampa Bay on Dec. 5.