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2009 NFL Season – Week 11 Review by Lloyd Vance

November 25, 2009 1 comment

“Just a Kicker, Being a Kicker”!  For missing two potential game icing field goals, Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham is one of Lloyd’s Lackey’s for Week 11

Week 11 of the 2009 NFL Season typified the topsy-turvy nature of the world’s best sports league.  This week started with a great slugfest on Thursday Night football between the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers – won 24-17 by the Dolphins (5-5) as RB Ricky Williams (See Game Balls) proved he has plenty left in the tank. Then the week’s remaining 15 games provided some great action all the way through the Tennessee Titans’ 20-17 down-to-the-wire Monday Night Football win over the host Houston Texans.

Some of the other bigger headlines from this week included:

An unexpected great game with a thrilling finish – What a turn around when everyone was calling this one, Week 11’s “Toilet Bowl” before the game was even played.  Aided by a questionable pass interference play in the endzone as time expired, the Lions (2-8) got one last untimed down near the goalline.  Rookie QB Matthew Stafford (26-43, 422 yds, 5 TDs, 2 INTs) shook off a separated left shoulder to throw the game-winning score to rookie TE Brandon Pettitgrew on the “new” last play of the game and Ford Field exploded with the improbable 38-37 win over the Cleveland Browns (1-9).  This game was an awesome high-scoring affair where both quarterbacks Stafford and the Browns’ Brady Quinn (21-33, 304 yds, 4 TDs) played extremely well.

Two overtime home team winners — The Kansas City Chiefs (2-8) ended their 10-game losing streak with a shocking 27-24 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, who did not have QB Ben Roethlisberger in the extra period due to concussion like symptoms.  Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop provided the winning points on a 22-yard field goal with 8:28 left in overtime after both Steelers QB’s Roethlisberger and his backup Charlie Batch (wrist) had left the game with injuries.  In the other overtime game, I guess the bye week after 4 straight losses was just what the NY Giants (6-4) needed.  This overtime thriller saw the NY Giants jump out to an early 17-7 halftime lead over the Atlanta Falcons with things getting interesting late. The hard charging Falcons led by QB Matt Ryan (26/46, 268 YDS, 2 TD) scored 14 unanswered points on two touchdown passes late in the fourth to force overtime..  Then resurgent QB Eli Manning (25/39, 384 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT) hit WR Mario Manningham (six catches for 126 yards) for a 29-yard reception just after overtime began to setup Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes 36-yard game winner.

Major upsets — The aforementioned Chiefs win over the Steelers and the Oakland Raiders beating the Cincinnati Bengals.  The Raiders were a heavy home underdog, but led by new starter Bruce Gradkowski (17-34, 183 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT) and their defense, they won a hard fought 20-17 home win.  The key to Oakland surprising the Bengals was, the “overconfident” AFC North leader giving up 10 answered points in the final 33 seconds of the game. You have to believe the Bengals long flight back to Cincy was very quiet especially for kickoff return man Andre Caldwell, who lost a fumble in the game’s closing moments to set up Oakland’s game-winning field goal.

A total bore-fest – The week’s most boring game occurred in Jerry Jones’s billion dollar Dallas Cowboys stadium as the host Cowboys (7-3) woke-up just in time to put together one touchdown drive (QB Tony Romo’s 10-yard touchdown pass to WR Patrick Crayton with 2:41 left) to beat the Washington Redskins 7-6.  Romo was 7-of-8 passes for 60 yards on the winning drive and kept several plays alive by eluding Washington’s pass rushers – finished with numbers 15/27, 158 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT.  All I can say is, “A win, is a win”, but overall the Cowboys were lackadasical and they should send Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham some roses for missing two field goals in the second half that could have iced the game for Washington (3-7). The good news is the Cowboys got the win and may have found their running game (153 rushing yards including 99 yards by RB Marion Barber), but the bad news is their receiving corps was non-existent including zero catches for looking-more-like-bust-everyday WR Roy Williams. Now the Cowboys have a short week to prepare for the Raiders on Thanksgiving.

Winning streaks continuing — The Tennessee Titans won their 4th straight game this time over the Houston Texans (5-5) on MNF. As Titans kicker Rob Bironas booted a 53-yard field goal with less than a minute left and then conversely Texans kicker Kris Brown shanked a potential game-winner with 1 second left on the clock.   However the story of the game was Titans quarterback Vince Young (passing numbers 12-22, 116 yds, and 1 TD plus 73 rushing yards), who returned to his hometown of Houston and continued his development as a Steve McNair-type leader – now 4-0 as a starter in ’09.  V.Y made plays with his arm and legs while of course leaning on MVP-candidate RB Chris Johnson (29 rushes for 151 yards and 5.2 ypr average).   The Titans are right back in the thick of the AFC wildcard hunt at 4-6.  Another big streak that continued was by the San Diego Chargers (7-3) who won their 6th straight  (over Broncos) and moved into  first place  in the AFC West with their dominating 32-3 victory.  On the other side of the field there was no winning as the Broncos lost their 4th straight game.  The last winning streak winner was the Indianapolis Colts, who continued their 19-game streak with a 17-15 win over the Ravens.  The 19-game winning streak is the second-longest in NFL history behind the New England Patriots 21-game streak from 2006 to 2008.  Also keeping their winning streak alive were the New Orleans Saints, who won their 10th consecutive game (over TB Bucs) for the first time in franchise history. 

Of course the one headline that I did leave out up top were the NFL’s two unbeaten squads (New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts) staying that way for another week.  By virtue of the Saints 38-7 dismantling of the Tampa Bay Bucs (scored touchdowns all five times they entered the red zone — and the Colts tough win over the Baltimore Ravens, both teams are now 10-0 this season.  The pair’s records make them a true rarity in NFL history as for only the third time in league history that  two teams are 10-0 (1934 Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions along with 1990 teams the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers).  The two games were drastic contrasts of one another, but in the end both teams are on the threshold of greatness.  I am not saying that the 1972 Miami Dolphins (perfect 17-0 including a Super Bowl win) or the 2007 New England Patriots (perfect 16-0 in the regular season) need to worry just yet, but both the Saints and Colts are moving close to their neighborhood. 

The offensive Saints woke-up from an early Bucs’ lead of 7-0 to put up 38 unanswered points led by quarterback Drew Brees’ three touchdown passes.  In contrast, the Colts in their return to Baltimore were in a real street fight as the scrappy Ravens fought to the bitter end. The game didn’t end until a last chance lateral attempt by Ravens safety Ed Reed on a punt return was ruled a fumble and recovered by Indianapolis.   The Ravens defense, even though they did not sack QB Peyton Manning, limited the Colts high-powered offense to only 17 points including only 3 points in the second half.  But it was too many field goals (5) for Baltimore’s offense and not enough touchdowns in the redzone that spelled their doom.  Surprisingly one of the many heroes for the Colts was former Ravens longtime kicker Matt Stover, who booted a 25-yard field goal to give his team the win.  In the crucial game that showed the grit of the Colts, where they won on not their best day, the undefeated squad overcame losing the turnover battle (3 to 1) and effort that was not his best by Manning (2 INTs) to keep moving-on.  With their win in “The Charm City Grudge Match”, the Colts have now won their two toughest games in the last two weeks by three points combined – Week 10 over the Patriots by a score of 35-34 and Week 11 over the Ravens by a score of 17-15. 

Though I don’t think the Saints and Colts can do the impossible (no pair has ever reached 11-0 together) of reaching the 1972 Dolphins’ perfection – too many teams getting up for a fight with the “Town Bully” – I have listed both teams remaining games below.

Saints:    NE           @WAS    @ATL      DAL         TB     @CAR

Colts:      @HOU    TEN         DEN         @JAC      NYJ   @BUF

With only six games left to be played for all teams, there is much more separation left to do within the league’s standings before January’s playoffs.  There are still the “Have’s” (8 teams with 7 wins or more including the league’s two undefeated teams — Colts and Saints both 10-0) and the “Have Nots” (9 teams with 3 or less wins, who are now basically spoilers).  But the majority of the NFL (15 teams) are still playing within former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s parity dream section.  With records ranging from 6-4 to 4-6 including four inconsistent teams stuck right at the .500 mark (Ravens, Texans, Dolphins and Falcons all 5-5) it is time for the “Contenders” and “Pretenders” to pick and choose their status in the league’s last six weeks.  There are 12 covet playoff spots up for grabs and you have to expect that some teams will soon be giving thanks this Thanksgiving holiday for their opportunity for the playoffs.

Here’s the current division breakdown after Week 11:

NFC East – Dallas Cowboys (7-3) have a 1-game lead over the Eagles (6-4) and Giants (6-4).  All three teams own a 2-1 record in their NFC East games.  The Giants play the Cowboys in Week 13 and the Eagles in Week 14

NFC West —Arizona Cardinals (7-3) have a 3-game lead over the Niners (4-6).  The Cardinals seem to be in the driver’s seat in this division, but QB Kurt Warner’s head injury will be something that needs to be monitored.

NFC South — New Orleans Saints (10-0) have a 5-game lead over the Falcons (5-5).  It looks like the Saints will soon claim the NFC South title.

NFC North – Minnesota Vikings (8-1) have a 4-game lead over the Packers (4-5)

AFC East – New England Patriots (7-3) have a 2-game lead over the Miami Dolphins (5-5)

AFC West — By virtue of their 32-3 shellacking of the Broncos this week, the San Diego Chargers (7-3) have a one-game lead over the reeling Denver Broncos (6-4). 

AFC South – Indianapolis Colts (10-0) have a 4-game lead over the Houston Texans (5-4)

AFC North — Cincinnati Bengals (7-3) maintained their 1-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) as the entire division lost in Week 11. 

Before we move onto the Game Balls and Lackey’s for this week, here are some Lloyd’s Leftovers.

Quarterback talk is none of your business – After the Eagles 24-20 win over the Chicago Bears on NBC Sunday Night Football, opposing quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler (NFL-high interception total to 18 and had passing numbers 24-for-43, 171 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) embraced in a man-hug for quite some time after the game for some “QB Talk” for it seemed forever….But what was said.   Unfortunately McNabb was mum on the subject in his postgame comments.  “It stays between me and Jay,” McNabb said  to NBC.  “That’s just kind of the fraternity that we have, the quarterbacks. Just continue to have your confidence, keep strong and keep working hard. Things will work out well.”  I truly believe McNabb, who has been through the ringer at times in Philly, told Cutler, to develop some tough skin because he will need it.  After being acquired in April from Denver and being named the Bears first Super Star at quarterback since Jim McMahon in the 1980’s, Cutler has clearly struggled and some have let him have it.  Here’s an example, the Chicago Sun-Time headline after Sunday’s loss read”Jay Cutler is a bust”.

Injuries, Injuries, and more Injuries – I say it every week, “The NFL Season is a War of Attrition” and Week 11 brought that fact to light again.  The team that suffered the worst blows were possibly the Green Bay Packers who lost veterans CB Al Harris and OLB Aaron Kampman both to knee injuries for the season in their 30-24 win over the  Niners.  The multitude of other frontline injuries included:  Steelers QB Charlie Batch (wrist), Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (concussion type symptoms), Lions S Kalvin Pearson (hamstring), Lions QB Matthew Stafford (left shoulder), Dolphins DT Jason Ferguson (quad-season), Redskins RB Ladell Betts (knee – season), Seahawks S Deon Grant (hand), Rams QB Marc Bulger (broken tibia – 6 weeks), Lions WR Calvin Johnson (hand, knee), Bengals DT Domata Peko (sprained MCL), Bills C/GEric Wood (broken leg – season), Bills G Seth McKinney (knee – season), and Cardinals QB Kurt Warner (concussion).

Before we go to this week’s awards, our thougts and prayers go out to former NFL LB Chris Spielman.  The former Ohio State star sorrowfully lost his wife Stefanie Spielman (42) after she passed away after a courageous battle with breast cancer.  “Stefanie has gone home to be with the Lord,” Chris Spielman said in a statement released after his wife’s passing. “For that, we celebrate, but with broken hearts. I want to thank everyone for their support over the last 12 years. Together, with your help, hopefully we made a difference in this fight.”  The Spielmans have raised over $6 million dollars for breast cancer research at Ohio State University.

Game Balls

Miami Dolphins RB Ricky Williams – And you thought at age 32 and after his lengthy off the field quirky nature (Drug use including several NFL suspensions, playing  in the CFL, studying holistic medicine, living in the Australian outback, “quitting his career”… I could go on and on) that Williams couldn’t totally even come close to replacing injured teammate Ronnie Brown.  Well you were wrong as it was “Run Ricky, Ricky Run” time — in and out of the Wildcat — as the 2002 NFL rushing champ turned back the clock in the Dolphins’ Thursday Night win over the Panthers.  The former 1998 Heisman winner finished with rushing numbers 22 rushes (most carries since 2005), 119 yds, and 2 TDs plus he added a 14-yard touchdown catch for the Dolphins’ first score.   The Dolphins (5-5) are now back in the playoff picture after winning their fourth game out of their last six.  “Our offense really clicked,” Dolphins left tackle Jake Long said. “Ricky ran great.”

Honorable Mention

Buffalo Bills WR Terrell Owens – Speaking of turning back the clock, T.O re-emerged in Jacksonville of all places.  Owens (9 Rec, 197 Yds — the most since gaining 213 yards for Dallas in Week 11 last season – and  1 TD ) was unstoppable at times in the Bills’ road loss to the Jags.  The VH1 reality star definitely has developed a great camraderie with new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as shown by their franchsie record 98-yard touchdown hook-up.  Though Owens had to  endure being mocked by Jags WR Mike Simms-Walker on the Jags’ game-winner, he clearly was a lot happier than in past weeks.  T.O’s season numbers are now a little more respectable at 35 receptions for 563 yards, 16.1 ypc, and 2 TDs.  “Well, it doesn’t mean that I am washed up,” Owens joked after the game. The petulant one now has 14,685 career receiving yards, which moved him into fourth place on the NFL’s all-time list, ahead of Marvin Harrison (14,580).

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford  — What a gutty performance as the 2009 NFL Draft’s first overall player selected led the Lions to a huge home win over the Browns.  Stafford put up phenomenal numbers 26-43, 422 yds, 5 TDs, and 2 INTs.  Apparently Stafford feels no pain as he willed himself back on the field to throw the game’s winning score despite dislocating his left shoulder the play earlier.  The Lions rookie’s 422 passing yards are the most by a rookie in a single game in NFL history, besting the mark set by Arizona’s Matt Leinart (405 yards; November 26, 2006).  Stafford is also the second rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw five touchdown passes in a game, joining Ray Buivid of the Chicago Bears who had five TD passes on December 5, 1937. 

New England Patriots WR Wes Welker –  Wow is there anyone better out of the slot than Tom Brady’s security blanket.  What didn’t Welker do in the Patriots’ win over the NY Jets.  He finished with 15 Receptions for 192 yards, and 0 TDs (who cares) with  an additional 11 yards rushing.

Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre – America’s greatest comeback story gets better each week.  Favre (22 of 25 — a career-best 88% — 213 yds, and 4 TDs) continued to turn back the clock in the Vikings’ 35-9 thrashing of the Seahawks.  The 40-year old passer even looks like a strong contender for the 2009 NFL MVP Award – would be his 4th honor.   The Vikings are now 9-1 and right on the heels of the undefeated Saints for NFC playoff homefield advantage.

New England Patriots CB Leigh Bodden —  This man really had some sitcky hands in the Patriots’ 31-14 win over the NY Jets.  Bodden intercepted Jets’ QB Mark Sanchez a career-high three times – tied a Patriots’ franchise record — including  returning one 53 yards for a touchdown.

Other Honorees: Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young (won his eighth consecutive start and led the Titans to their fourth straight win while producing numbers 12-for-22 for 116 yards and a TD and 73 rushing yards on Monday Night Football); Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson (had eight receptions for 107 yards and 1 TD of 48 yards plus a 10-yard run in the Eagles’ SNF win); Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson – (Megatron was in the house producing 7 Rec, 161 Yds, and 1 TD of 75 yards in the Lions’ win);  Green Bay Packers RB Ryan Grant (ran hard producing rushing numbers 21 rushes for 129 yards, 6.1 ypr, and 1 TD); NY Giants QB Eli Manning (was dominat while throwing for numbers 25-39, 384 yds, 3 TDs, and 1 INT in the Giants overtime win); Baltimore Ravens tackles Jared Gaither and Michael Oher (held Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis without a sack for the first time all season); Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward (this future HOF produced awesome numbers again with 10 receptions for 128 yards and 1 TD); and Baltimore Ravens Kicker Billy Cundiff (the only Ravens player to score as he kicked five field goals, in the Ravens close loss to the Colts… Steven Hauschka who)

Lloyd’s Lackey

NY Jets QB Mark Sanchez  — What happened to the kid and team that started this season 3-0.  Sanchez looked like  a quarterback that only had 16 starts in college at USC as he threw for awful number 136 yards, 1 TD, and 4 INTs – now has 16 INTs this season —  plus 1 lost fumble.  The Patriots frazzled the young passer in the pocket and his 5 turnovers were indicative of the NFL now being prepared for his tendencies.  Some have said, “Put in backup quarterback Kellen Clemens”, but plain and simple I attribute much of Sanchez’s problems  to just  being a “rookie”.

Dishonorable Mention

Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels – The Broncos now have lost 4-straight games and lost the lead in the AFC West after a 32-3 butt-kicking by the San Diego Chargers this past Sunday.  To make matters worse, McDaniels took off his coach’s hat before the game and engaged in pre-game smack talk with the Chargers’ linebackers during warm-ups.   Chargers linebacker Stephen Cooper claimed after the game that McDaniels said, “We own you”…. I guess the NFL’s 32-year old wonder kid coach was wrong.

Denver Broncos QB Chris Simms – Making his first start since rupturing his spleen as a member of the Buccaneers more than three years ago, Phil’s boy was terrible.  In fact, Simms was so terrible (2-for-4 with 10 yards passing and a lost fumble on the game’s opening series) that the Broncos went back to ailing Kyle Orton (ankle) rather than leave him in.  Maybe the Tampa Bay were right about Simms.

Denver Broncos WR Brandon Marshall – Had only 3 receptions for 26 yards in the Broncos loss to the Chargers.  Marshall also caused the game’s biggest commotion as he got in the face of rookie RB Knowshon Moreno on the sidelines after the youngster fumbled at the goalline.  Speaking specifically about the confrontation with Moreno, after the game Marshall said, “Those are the plays that kind of kill drives. We’ve just got to punch it in next time.” Later, Baby T.O  added: “I don’t regret anything. This is a playoff game. If there were guys on the sideline that weren’t angry, who didn’t have a lot of emotion, they need to look themselves in the mirror. This is a game where you’ve got to have it. None of us can make any terrible plays.”

Redskins K Shaun Suisham – Though a perfect 12 for 12 going into the Cowboys-Redskins game, Suisham was awful.  The ‘Skins kicker missed two big field goals – a 39-yarder at the end of the first half and a 50-yarder in the 4th quarter — that could have ‘iced’ the game for the Redskins. For the game, Suisham finished with numbers 2 for 4 on FG attempts with a long of 45  yards and 6 points.

Pittsburgh Steelers special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky — On Sunday in Kansas City, the Steelers gave up a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown by Jamaal Charles on the opening kickoff.  Charles’ return marked the fourth time in five games an opposing kick returner has taken one to the house against the Steelers.  Ligashesky’s unit has a lot of work to do or the coordinator could be hitting the street after the season.  Hard to believe, the Steelers had the NFL’s top-ranked kick-coverage unit last season.

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler – Over threw at least 3 potential touchdown producing receivers in the Bears loss to the Eagles.  And though it was a tipped pass interception by Birds safety Sean Jones, Cutler threw another pick giving him 18 INTs for the season.  For the game Cutler had pedestrian numbers of  24-43, 171 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.  Maybe former Bears quarterbacks like Jim Miller and Henry Burris were not that bad after all.

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte – Where has the running game gone for the Bears and this former 2008 NFL Rookie of the year candidate.  Forte only produced numbers of 14 rushes for 34 yards  and a poor 2.4 ypc averge in the Bears’ home loss to the Eagles.

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco –  Maybe it is possible that Flacco and Falcons QB Matt Ryan are experiencing “Sophomore Slumps” after their magic carpet ride seasons as rookies in 2008.  Flacco produced zero touchdowns and 1 INT in the Ravens’ home loss to the Colts and he now has just one passing touchdown in his last four games.

Seattle Seahawks Defense — For the fifth time in five road games, the Seahawks lost by double-digits.

NFL Week 11

THU, NOV 19 

Miami (5-5) over Carolina (4-6), 24-17

SUN, NOV 22 

Washington (3-7), Dallas (7-3), 7-6

Cleveland (1-9), Detroit (2-8), 38-37

San Francisco (4-6), Green Bay (6-4) 30-24

Pittsburgh (6-4), Kansas City (2-8), 27-24 in OT

Atlanta (5-5), NY Giants (6-4), 34-31 in OT

New Orleans (10-0), Tampa Bay (1-9), 38-7

Buffalo (3-7), Jacksonville (6-4), 18-15

Indianapolis (10-0), Baltimore (5-5), 17-15

Seattle (3-7), Minnesota (9-1), 35-9

Arizona (7-3), St. Louis (1-8), 21-13 

NY Jets (4-6), New England (7-3), 31-14

Cincinnati (7-3), Oakland (3-7), 20-17

San Diego (7-3), Denver (6-4), 32-3

Philadelphia (6-4), Chicago (4-6), 24-20

MON, NOV 23 

Tennessee (4-6), Houston (5-5), 20-17

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 10 Review by Lloyd Vance

Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was one of Lloyd’s Lackey’s for Week 10 of the 2009 NFL Season

The 2009 NFL Season has finally reached the double-digit week number portion of the schedule.  As the weeks keep fly by, the league keeps chugging along with a sense more than ever that soon enough playoff clarity will soon be upon us…well maybe.  After 10 weeks of play, there are still the “Have’s” including two undefeated teams (Colts and Saints both 9-0) and the “Have Nots” (six teams with 2 or less wins).  But there are also 15 teams currently caught in the league’s parity-filled middle (records ranging from 3-6 to 5-4) that still need to figure out, real fast, if they are joining or jumping out of the playoff hunt.  This week also marked the last set of bye weeks with the Houston Texans and New York Giants both trying to heal-up for a stretch run, so now the “real” fun is about to start in the NFL.

Week 10’s headlines were dominated by a mega Sunday Night Football heavyweight match-up (Patriots-Colts) and a strong undercard (Bengals-Steelers, Eagles-Chargers, Cowboys-Packers, and Falcons-Panthers).  But there was one common theme that I saw during Week 10’s fifteen games. Like Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s No Place Like Home”.  For the first time in a while, we saw home teams including underdogs (Washington Redskins) fight back to regain home field advantage.  In fact, home teams were a combined 10-5 this weekend thus proving that you must defend your home turf in order to succeed in the NFL.  The trend started in the NFL’s first Thursday Night game of the season with the home team San Francisco 49ers beating the turnover prone Chicago Bears 10-6 on NFL Network. 

The game other than Bears QB Jay Cutler’s devastating 5 interceptions was rather boring, but there was some excitement at the end.  After Cutler and the Bears finally found their mojo – moved the ball all the way to San Francisco’s 12-yard line.  The Niners needed a great goalline stand culminating in safety Michael Lewis’ game-ending interception to hold on for the win. After the game, Cutler took most of the blame for the loss and said,  “It was tough. I have to apologize to the defense”.  He added, “I think the offense as a whole has to apologize. They played a great game and kept us in there even through all the turnovers.”   I know it was not Picasso, but to Niners head coach Mike Singletary he will take it as his team jumped right back into the playoff race.  It will now be real interesting to see if the Niners can catch the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals (lead by 2 games) or compete for a wildcard spot with teams like the Eagles, Giants, Falcons, and Panthers. 

The Niners home win was nice, but any game talk this week revolved around the Colts and Patriots super match-up as the two heated rivals played for the 10th time since 2002, including playoffs.  The Indianapolis Colts (9-0) continued their steady climb through their 16-game schedule by remaining undefeated by beating the New England Patriots by a score of 35-34 in an “Instant Classic”. Super Bowl XLIII ½, as some are calling it, was a thrilling game filled with plenty offense, solid defense, and strong quarterback play — two teams combined for 69 points and 884 combined net yards.  The game came down to the last seconds with Colts QB Peyton Manning (28-44, 327 yards, 4 TDs, and 2 INTs) quickly hitting WR Reggie Wayne with a 1-yard touchdown strike with 13 seconds on the clock to comeback from a 17-point deficit and an improbable of victory.  The Colts have now won 18 straight regular season games (2nd longest in NFL history) and have also won 11 straight home games (5-0 in 2009), which ties the second-longest home win streak in Colts’ history. 

But this game will forever be remembered for one play that could have very well marked the end of the dynasty for the team that has dominated this decade in the NFL.  New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick with the situation of a 4th-and-2 at his own 28-yard line and the Patriots clinging to a 34-28 lead with 2:08 left on the clock, decided to go for it.  That’s right from very deep in his own side of the field, Belichick decided that his defense was not good enough to stop Manning from driving the Colts offense 70 to 80 yards for the winning score and disregarded an “obvious” punting situation.  As you probably already know…Belichick now looks like the 2009 reincarnation of former Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer after gambling and losing.  On the crucial play, Patriots QB Tom Brady threw to RB Kevin Faulk and the Colts defense stopped him short from converting the first down.

After the game Belichick simply said, “I was trying to win the game”.  But his actions spoke much louder than his words.  It seems with veterans DT Richard Seymour, SS Rodney Harrison, LB Mike Vrabel, and others no longer on the Patriots defense, that the former 3-time Super Bowl champions’ defense can no longer be counted as one of the best in the NFL.  And apparently by his decision Belichick agrees too.  I am still scratching my head as to “how” fBelichick’s confidence in his defense has fallen that now their “genius” head coach’s decision is the subject of a national debate.  However the Patriots at a record of 6-3 and a 2-game lead in the AFC East are still firmly in the AFC’s playoff picture, but now there are more cracks in their armor.  We will have to wait and see, starting with the NY Jets in Week 11, if the Patriots can rebound from this colossal moment gone awry.  After the game, former Super Bowl-winning Colts head coach and current NBC football analyst Tony Dungy said, “In that situation…You have to punt the football”.  I totally agree coach and I know in hindsight, Belichick does too, even if the “Pompous One” will never admit it.

Here’s the current division breakdown after Week 10:

NFC East – Dallas Cowboys (6-3) have a 1-game lead over the Eagles (5-4) and Giants (5-4)

NFC West —Arizona Cardinals (6-3) have a 2-game lead over the Niners (4-5)

NFC South — New Orleans Saints (9-0) have a 4-game lead over the Falcons (5-4)

NFC North — Minnesota Vikings (8-1) have a 3-game lead over the Packers (4-5)

AFC East — New England Patriots (6-3) have a 2-game lead over the NY New Jets and Dolphins (4-5)

AFC West — Denver Broncos (6-3) are tied with the San Diego Chargers (5-3).  These two will square-off in Week 11 in Denver

AFC South — Indianapolis Colts (9-0) have a 4-game lead over the Houston Texans (5-4)

AFC North — Cincinnati Bengals (7-2) have a 1-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3).  The Bengals also hold the most important tiebreaker of head-to-head wins (2-0) over the Steelers

Before we move onto the Game Balls and Lackey’s for this week, here are some Lloyd’s Leftovers.

A changing of the guard in the AFC North – “WHO DEY…WHO DEY… Gonna beat them Bengals, Nobody”.  The Cincinnati Bengals 18-12 road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers may have marked a complete turnaround from 2008 for Marvin Lewis’ team.  The Bengals (7-2) have gone from the bottom of the AFC North with a 2008 record of 4-11-1 to sweeping former AFC North bullies, the Steelers (6-3) and Baltimore Ravens (5-4).  The win marked the first time Cincy has swept the Steelers since 1988 and they are also 4-0 against both teams since the division’s inception in 2002.  The Bengals now have a commanding 5-0 division record and I have to admit, you can now count me as one of their believers.  The Bengals are now a complete team in all 3 phases of the game (offense, defense, and special teams) and it took a solid effort from each unit to pull off a win in tough Heinz Field.  The Bengals’ defense is no longer under the radar (ranked 2nd in points allowed with 16.3 ppg) and more attention is sure to come after holding the Steelers’ offense to 226 yards and four Josh Reed field goals.  The Bengals defense pressured Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger all game while forcing one interception and sacking Big Ben 4 times. The game’s offensive star definitely was Bengals rookie RB Bernard Scott, who scored the lone touchdown of the game with a 96-yard kickoff return in the first quarter – Steelers 7th return for a TD this year including three kickoff returns in their last four games. The news wasn’t all great for the Bengals as their leading rusher Cedric Benson left at halftime with a hip flexor causing Scott to fill-in in the second half (rushed for 33 yards on 13 carries and catch one pass for 21 yards). **Note with the news that Benson maybe out longer than expected, the Bengals signed RB Larry Johnson, who was recently released by the Kansas City Chiefs. Johnson (turns 30 on Nov. 19th) has rushed for 5,996 yards and 55 touchdowns over a 7-year career.

Injuries, Injuries, and more Injuries – I say it every week, “The NFL Season is a War of Attrition” and Week 10 really proved that point.  The Philadelphia Eagles may have suffered the biggest blow of the week when RB Brian Westbrook suffered his 2nd concussion in less than 1 month in a close 31-23 loss to the San Diego Chargers.  By all indications, the Birds’ mercurial runner may have quite possibly played his last game for this season.  With the NFL’s recent poor history of combating concussions (see Congressional hearings regarding the handling of former NFL players’ concussions), the Eagles would be wise to put Westbrook on the self as his health is more important than anything else.  The multitude of other frontline injuries included:  Panthers OT Jordan Gross (ankle – season), Bengals RB Cedric Benson (hip), Bears TE Desmond Clark (neck), Niners LB Takeo Spikes (left hamstring), Browns WR/KR Josh Cribbs (neck), Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown (foot), Falcons RB Michael Turner (ankle), Broncos QB Kyle Orton (foot/ankle), Rams WR Keenan Burton (knee – season), Steelers DB Troy Polamalu (left knee), Saints CB Tracy Porter (knee) and Seahawks RB Julius Jones (bruised ribs).

Restoring the Roar – After a 0-2 start, many people around the NFL buried the Jacksonville Jaguars and their head coach Jack Del Rio.  But getting back to the philosophy (run the ball, play-action passing, tough attacking defense, and good special teams) that served them so well in their 2007 playoff run, the Jaguars have jumped back into the AFC Wildcard race with a 5-4 record.  This week the Jaguars again rode Maurice Jones-Drew aka “Pocket Hercules” (see Game Balls) to a huge 24-22 road over the NY Jets in the Meadowlands.  Jones-Drew and QB David Garrard kept the Jets’ defense on their heels the entire game and the Jags were able to close-out the win on a short field goal after MJD had the most unselfish play of the 2009 season.  The Jags still have to play the Colts (Week 15) and Patriots (Week 16), but four out of five of their other opponents have losing records.

What does $250,000 buy you….A one-finger salute – Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams pulled a “Bryan Cox” as he let the Buffalo Bills’ sideline have it.  Adams, 86 years young, stuck up both  out his middle fingers from the owner’s box during the Titans dominating 41-17 win over the Bills.  I don’t know what the Titans’ owner was thinking as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in attendance at the game and you knew the “sheriff” was going to lay down the law.  The NFL wasn’t even thinking about only giving a little slap on the wrist for this one as Adams was fined $250,000 for “conduct detrimental to the league.”  Goodell said on Monday, “I’ve said before we’re held to a higher standard in the NFL, that includes yours truly. It includes our owners. It includes front-office people. It includes the players. Those are things we’ll continue to emphasize. And if people violate them, we’ll deal with it.”  Adams later apologized saying, “I got caught up in the excitement of a great day, but I do realize that those types of things shouldn’t happen. I need to specifically apologize to the Bills, their fans, our fans and the NFL”.  One party note on this story.  Wasn’t it not that long ago that the Patriots were fined 250K for “Spygate”.  I guess cheating is just as bad as giving someone the finger…right.

Fisher hits a milestone – One item that happened in the Titans win over the Bills that was more important than Adams’ salute to the Bills was Titans head coach Jeff Fisher hitting a big milestone.  Fisher became the 10th head coach in NFL history to coach 250 career games (regular and postseason) with one team.  The Titans’ victory gave Fisher 136 wins for his career, tying him with Hall of Famer and former KC Chiefs coaching legend Hank Stramm for 20th all-time.

How about those Saints – The Saints defeated the St. Louis Rams 28-23 and improved to 9-0 for the first time in franchise history.  The Saints also have scored an NFL-best 331 points, the fourth-most by a team in the first nine games of a season in NFL history.

Before we go to this week’s awards, our thoughts and prayers are with Seattle Seahawks owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who is was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

Game Balls

Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson – Every week, the self-dubbed “Every Coach’s Dream” just amazes the rest of the NFL. In the Titans’ 41-17 win over the Buffalo Bills, Johnson rushed for 132 yards and 2 TDs with a 5.08 ypc average.  The speedy back from East Carolina also had a Roger Craig-type performance catching 9 passes for 100 yards and marking the first 100-yard receiving and rushing game of his career.  Johnson now leads the NFL with 1,091 rushing yards and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry.  The 2nd-year back also joined Hall of Famer Jim Brown (1963) and Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (2007) as the only players in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and average 6.4 yards per carry in a team’s first nine games of a season.

Honorable Mention

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew – Pocket Hercules rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown (33 yards) in the Jags win over the NY Jets. Jones-Drew was the key ingredient to the Jags’ second win in a row from the start of the game.  He ran the ball on Jacksonville’s first five plays and totaled 55 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown to open the scoring.  But his biggest play wasn’t even a touchdown.  To the delight of Jags head coach Jack Del Rio and the dismay of his fantasy football owners, Jones-Drew did not score an “easy” touchdown late to run out the clock and setup a game-winning field goal.  MJD took a handoff at the 10-yard line on the game’s final drive and darted towards the end zone, but took a knee at the 1-yard line with 1:48 left (shades of Brian Westbrook in 2007). The Jaguars were able to run the clock down with the Jets out of timeouts and won the game on a short Josh Scobey field goal.

Green Bay Packers CB Charles Woodson – The former Heisman Trophy winner spurred the Packers defensive effort in a 17-7 home win over the Dallas Cowboys.  Woodson was everywhere as Cowboys quarterback was in distress constantly.  The former first-round pick from Michigan contributed 9 tackles, two forced fumbles, a sack and an interception as the Packers kept the Cowboys from scoring until late in the 4th quarter.

Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning – It would not be a Game Balls report without putting the surefire 2009 NFL MVP on our list.  Manning was his classic stoic self as the Colts fought back from a 17-point deficit to surprising beat the New England Patriots 35-34 in Sunday’s biggest game.  Manning finished with numbers 28-44, 327 yards (reached 300 yards in 8 of 9 games this season), 4 TDs, and 2 INTs plus reached another big milestone in the win.  The 3-time MVP quarterback won his 13th consecutive game when passing for 300 yards, tying NFL legend Y.A Tittle for the third-most consecutive wins when reaching the 300-yard passing mark.

San Diego Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson – Before the game started against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tomlinson was already a winner as he learned of his wife’s pregnancy with their first child.  L.T then went out and rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns – beset performance of the 2009 season — in the Chargers’ 31-23 win against Eagles.  In the game, Tomlinson reached the milestone of recording his 145th and 146th career touchdown to surpass Hall of Famer Marcus Allen (145) for the third-most touchdowns all-time.  Tomlinson also now has 12,145 career rushing yards moving him into 12th place for most rushing yards all-time.

New Orleans Saints RB Reggie Bush – The Saints are on a roll and so is their multi-threat speedster.  Bush rushed for 83 yards on eight attempts, including a 55-yard run bursting through tackles in the Saints’ 28-23 win over the scrappy St. Louis Rams. He also scored one rushing touchdown and added a 15-yard scoring reception. Bush and the Saints are now 9-0 for the first time in club history.

Other Honorees: Arizona Cardinal QB Kurt Warner (Threw 2 TDs in the Cardinals’ 31-20 in against the Seattle Seahawks giving him 200 touchdown passes.  Warner reached the mark in his 118th career game, becoming the fifth-fastest player in NFL history to accomplish the feat); Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre (Passed for a season-high 344 yards in his 300th consecutive start (including postseason) in a 27-10 win over the Detroit Lions.  Favre’s 344 yards are the third-most passing yards in a game by a 40-year old quarterback in NFL history trailing only Hall Famer Warren Moon (409) and Vinny Testaverde (355); Buffalo Bills rookie safety Jairus Byrd (Registered his eighth interception of the season in a loss to the Titans.  Byrd now has an interception in five consecutive games and is one of only two players since 1970 with an interception in five consecutive games in their first season in the NFL); Seattle Seahawks RB Justin Forsett (Rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown after starter Julius Jones’ left the game); Redskins P Hunter Smith (Threw his first career touchdown pass on a fake field goal as he connected with RB Mike Sellers on a 35-yard score); Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (Who needs LJ.  Charles had his second-career 100-yard rushing day in the Chiefs win over the Raiders (18 rushes for 103 yards, 5.7 ypc, and 1 TD — 45-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter)

Lloyd’s Lackey

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick – C’mon did you think I was going to select anyone else after his horrible gambling mistake.  Say it with me, “PUNT THE FOOTBALL”.  I still cannot believe a head coach that has been to five Super Bowls (won 3) had such a brain cramp to be put in the same league as Barry Switzer.

Dishonorable Mention

Titans Owner Bud Adams – His aforementioned 1-finger salute to Bills was unnecessary.  I hope it was worth the 250K fine from the NFL.

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid – Some things never change as the Birds called 57 pass plays (55 passes and 2 sacks) while only running it 13 times in a bad road loss to the San Diego Chargers.  They also squandered timeouts making it easy for the Chargers to burn the clock.  As one of loyal and frustrated Eagles e-mailers wrote me, “Year 11 of a five-year plan”.

The Oakland Raiders – Another week, another embarrassment for Al Davis’s team.  The Raiders were unable to overcome 10 penalties for 88 yards their loss to the Chiefs.. Several of the flags proved costly as three of them gave the Chiefs a first down and three more negated Raiders first downs.  Also Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell was rightfully benched after an 8-23 for 64 yards passing performance.  Hope beleaguered head coach Tom Cable has his resume ready for a possible UFL job.

Oakland Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey – I wonder if the Raiders still would take DHB (10th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft) over emerging receivers Jeremy Maclin (Eagles) and Michael Crabtree (SF 49ers).  Heyward-Bey had only 1 catch for 22 yards plus he helped the Chiefs close the game out too.  With 30 seconds to play, fittingly Heyward-Bey had a pass clank off his chest to Chiefs S Mike Brown for a game-ending interception.

Week 10

Thursday, November 12

SF 49ers (4-5) over Bears (4-5), 10-6

Sunday, November 15

Bengals (7-2) over Steelers (6-3), 18-12

Cardinals (6-3) over Seahawks (3-6), 31-20

Chargers (6-3) over Eagles (5-4), 31-23

Chiefs (2-7) over Raiders (2-7), 16-10

Colts (9-0) over Patriots (6-3), 35-34

Dolphins (4-5) over Buccaneers (1-8), 25-23

Jaguars (5-4) over Jets (4-5), 24-22

Packers (5-4) over Cowboys (6-3), 17-7

Panthers (4-5) over Falcons (5-4), 28-19

Redskins (3-6) over Broncos (6-3), 27-17

Saints (9-0) over Rams (1-8), 28-23

Titans (3-6) over Bills (3-6), 41-17

Vikings (8-1) over Lions (1-8), 27-10

Monday, November 9

Ravens (5-4) at Browns (1-8), 16-0

Byes: Giants (5-4), Texans (5-4)

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 9 Review by Lloyd Vance

By virtue of his 5-interception performance in the Lions loss to the Seahawks, QB Matthew Stafford is Week 9’s Lackey

The second half of the 2009 NFL Season has begun and the “real” fun of self separation into the “Contenders” and “Pretenders” was very prevalent in Week 9.  Though there were still four blowout games (winners by 10 points or more) from the NFL’s slate of 13 games, overall there were several competitive games that may have future playoff implications.

This week the NFL’s Big 3 from this decade all were tested and won. By virtue of their dominating 28-10 win over the AFC West leading Denver Broncos (6-2), the Pittsburgh Steelers have won 100 wins since the start of the 2000 season. The Steelers joined fellow former Super Bowl winners and 100-win teams this decade, the Indianapolis Colts (109) and New England Patriots (108).  In their Monday Night Football win, the Steelers in their 5th straight win (tied for first in AFC North with Bengals at 6-2) returned to the type of football that has made them a mainstay in the NFL for almost 40 years.  Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin preached that there was more work to be done, 2nd-year running back Rashard Mendenhall ran with a physical style against the NFL’s best defense (22 times for 155 yards), and the Steelers defense fueled by the improved health of safety Troy Polamalu (3 tackles and 1 INT) produced 3 turnovers and 2 sacks. Safety Ryan Clark, who couldn’t play in the altitude of Denver due to blood disorder, talked pretty candidly after the Steelers’ D picked-it-up in his absence, “It’s a team sport and we’re probably the ultimate team in the NFL”.

The Colts (8-0) continued their winning ways by a score of 20-17 home win over the scrappy Houston Texans (5-4) -– 17th straight win and eighth in a row this season.  The Texans wanted to get to a 6-3 record for the first time in team history, knock the Colts from the ranks of the unbeatens, and jump into the AFC South race.  Unfortunately for head coach Gary Kubiak’s squad, they were their worst enemy drawing 13 penalties for 103 yards, turning the ball over four times including a crucial RB Ryan Moats’ fumble in the redzone and kept three Indy scoring drives going with untimely penalties.  Conversely the Colts led by Peyton Manning (34/50 318 yds 1 TD, and 1 INT) and TE Dallas Clark (14 receptions for 119 yards) stuck to their tried and true philosophy that has produced an NFL record 6 straight 12-win seasons (good running game, Manning hitting timely throws, and defensive pressure led by Pro Bowl player Dwight Freeney).  In the end, a back-and-forth game came down to the leg of Texans kicker Kris Brown and the former Pro Bowl kicker — already hit a 56-yard field goal earlier in the game — missed a makeable 42 field goal attempt to tie the game as time expired.

The Patriots (6-2) in their 27-17 win over the Dolphins (3-5) also had to dig deep to be a desperate team trying to get back to their winning ways from 2008.  The Dolphins battled the Patriots throughout a game where Miami relied on grinding it out via their running game – Wildcat returned back to its 2008 birthplace – while New England had some big plays from quarterback Tom Brady (25/37 332 yards, and 1 TD) and receiver Randy Moss (see Game Balls).  One of the NFL’s deadliest quarterback-receiver combos hit on a 71-yard touchdown catch and run that turned a 17-16 Dolphins lead into a deflating moment that sent the Pats’ faithful home with their 3rd straight win.  The victory by the Patriots gave them a two-game lead over the NY Jets (4-4) in the AFC East.  But importantly set the stage for Week 10’s uber Sunday Night Football showdown with the undefeated Indianapolis Colts, which has been marked down as a must-see game since the schedules came out in April.

Week 9’s other big winner surprisingly took place in Tampa Bay, Florida.  That’s right…the team that entered the week as the NFL’s last winless squad put forth a miraculous effort in defeating the Green Bay Packers 38-28 before a sell-out crowd.  I am sure several fans came out to help honor the 1979 Bucs, who 30-years ago led by quarterback Doug Williams almost made it to the Super Bowl.  But the 2009 version of the Bucs came with an effort worthy of their predecessors and told the rest of the NFL that the 2008 Detroit Lions could have their 0-16 infamy.  Wearing their throwback creamsicle orange uniforms with Bucco Bruce on their helmets, the Bucs played with pride and poise in a game no one expected them to win — first win since Nov. 30, 2008, snapping an 11-game losing streak.  The Bucs, who hadn’t scored more than 21 points in a game this season, tallied 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and set-off a heartwarming celebration. The Bucs were led by their defense (forced 3 INTs from Packers QB Aaron Rodgers including one for a touchdown by safety Tanard Jackson and sacked the beleaguered quarterback 6 times), young quarterback Josh Freeman (see Game Balls) and veteran CB Rhonde Barber (5 tackles and blocked a punt, which he returned for a 31-yard touchdown). 

Other teams with big wins other than the Bucs and the Big 3 of the AFC were the Dallas Cowboys (improved to 6-2 and took control of the NFC East with a tough road win over Philly); the New Orleans Saints (shook off an early 14-0 deficit to NFC South rival, Carolina Panthers, to win going away 30-20 and remain undefeated at 8-0); the Cincinnati Bengals (ran all over the mouthy Ravens for the second time this season in a dominating 17-7 defensive win); the Tennessee Titans (won for the second week in a row as QB Vince Young, RB Chris Johnson, and their turnover happy defense led the way); and the San Diego Chargers (QB Philip Rivers and his teammates came to the East Coast on an mission and pulled out a road win over the NY Giants – 4th straight loss).  These wins plus the other aforementioned victories definitely have helped to clear up the playoff picture as we are in the NFL’s proving ground months of November and December.  But for teams at or near .500, all is not lost as since 1990 -– when the NFL went to their current 12-team playoff format — 47 teams (20.6 percent of the 228 playoff clubs) have advanced to the postseason after starting the season with a .500 or worse record after eight games. 

Here’s the current division breakdown after Week 9:

NFC East – Dallas Cowboys (6-2) have a 1-game lead over the Eagles (5-3)

NFC West—Arizona Cardinals (5-3) have a 2-game lead over the Niners (3-5)

NFC South — New Orleans Saints (8-0) have a 3-game lead over the Falcons (5-3)

NFC North– Minnesota Vikings (7-1) have a 3-game lead over the Packers and Bears (both 4-4)

AFC East– New England Patriots (6-2) have a 2-game lead over the NY New Jets (4-4)

AFC West– Denver Broncos (6-2) have a 1-game lead over the San Diego Chargers (5-3)

AFC South– Indianapolis Colts (8-0) have a 2 ½ game lead over the Houston Texans (5-4)

AFC North– Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers (both 6-2) have a 2-game lead over the Baltimore Ravens (4-4)

Game Balls

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman – What a debut for the first round pick from Kansas State.  Looking real good in his creamsicle best, Freeman threw for 205 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, and 1 two-pt conversion plus ran for 20 yards. He showed poise and confidence while leading the Bucs to a come-from-behind win that also happened to be their first win of the season. Freeman’s best throw of the day was a beautiful touch pass touchdown to WR Sammie Stroughter on 4th-and-four late in the game to take the lead.

Honorable Mention

Patriots WR Randy Moss — In a game that was tight throughout, Moss (six receptions for 147 yards, 24.5 ypc, and 1 TD) had two big plays for the Patriots. He hauled in a 36-yard one-handed reception to set up RB Laurence Maroney’s 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and in the 3rd quarter, he turned in the play of the game.  After the Dolphins scored to  take a 17-16 lead, it was Moss who rose to the occasion.  Moss using a “Walter Payton-esque” right stiff-arm sent the young rookie Vontae Davis flailing to the turf and sprinted all the way to the endzone for an electrifying 71-yard touchdown catch and run. 

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald – Is there player better than Fitz right not at the receiver position…NO!!!  In a road win over the Bears, Fitzgerald produced numbers 9 Rec, 123 Yds and  2 TDs. Each week this Pro Bowl receiver makes at least two or three catches that make you say, “Are you kidding me?”

Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson — The league’s leading rusher carried the ball 25 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Niners.  Johnson became the first back to top 100 rushing yards against the Niners and also added three receptions for 25 yards. Johnson rushing yardage total thus far this season is 959 yards and he is on pace for 1,918 yards rushing this season, which would be extremely close to  breaking Earl Campbell’s franchise record from 1980 of 1934 yards.

Indianapolis Colts TE Dallas Clark – Has become the NFL’s best X-factor combining skills that work as a receiver, H-back, tight end, and fullback.  In the Colts win over the Texans, Clark was Peyton’s main target hauling in 14 passes for 119 Yds with most of them causing first downs.

San Diego Chargers Shawne Merriman – Welcome Back, Welcome Back.  Merriman appears to be rounding back into form from a tough knee injury in 2008.  The tough pass rusher had two sacks for the second straight week and now has 4 sacks for the season.  Led by Merriman the Chargers had 5 sacks for the second week in a row.

Other Honorees: Atlanta Falcons RB Michael Turner (166 Rush Yds, and 2 TDs with 2 Rec, 14 Yds in the Falcons win over the Redskins); Chicago Bears TE Greg Olsen (5 Rec, 71 Yds, and 3 TDs in the Bears’ loss to the Cardinals);Detroit Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (rookie is coming into his own as he catch 7 balls for 70 yards and 1 TD); Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (keeps piling up the yardage w/ 149 Rush Yds, and 2 TDs with 2 Rec for 12 yards in a loss to the Saints); Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner (261 Pass Yds, 5 TDs, 0 INTs in a huge win over the Bears); Tennessee Titans CB Cortland Finnegan (returned an interception for a touchdown in a win over the Niners); Seahawks LB David Hawthorne (2 INTs of Lions QB Matthew Stafford)

Lloyd’s Lackey

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford –- He looked like a rookie throwing for only 203 yards, 2 TDs, and a whopping 5 INTs in a loss to the Seahawks.  Stafford was also sacked twice and Seahawks CB Josh Wilson returned one of his picks 61 yards for a touchdown.

Dishonorable Mention

Washington Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall – A noted jerk around the NFL, Hall continued his infamy at the Georgia Dome.  Playing his former team, the Atlanta Falcons, Hall sniped all week about how the team and GM Tom Dimitroff had treated him unfairly, then got into with the whole Falcons’ sideline.  After Hall was roundly booed during the game by fans, he was involved in a sideline skirmish after teammate LaRon Landry took a late shot at Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.  Hall had to be separated from equally hot-headed nincompoop Falcons head coach Mike Smith.  Hall said after the game, “Later on, coach Smith, Mike came over and grabbed me, talking [stuff] to me…Saying he’ll kick my [butt] and all this other [stuff]. I definitely stay in Atlanta in the off-season. So if Mike Smith wants to see me, he can find me”.  He added, “I can’t wait for guys to sit back and watch the replay. I can’t wait to watch the replay. I’m going to be giving Commissioner [Roger] Goodell a call myself because something needs to be done about that.  “He put his hands on me in a harmful way. Talking about that he was going to kick my [butt] and all this other [stuff]. That’s not how you do things”

Chicago Bears DT Tommie Harris — Referee Ed Hochuli ejected Harris early in the 1st quarter of the Bears’ game against the Arizona Cardinals for punching Cardinals guard Deuce Lutui in the head.  Lutui had blocked Harris on a 10-yard run and took his time getting off Harris after the play.  The angry and subpar performing Harris responded by punching Lutui in the facemask. Harris has just 9 tackles and zero quarterback sacks this season.

Arizona Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin – After learning of his deactivation for Week 9 due to a lingering ankle injury, Boldin sulked and expressed discontent with the Cardinals’ coaching staff.  The malcontent Pro Bowl receiver said the coaches weren’t “man enough” to tell him before the game that he wouldn’t play. Did you know the Cardinals are 5-1 in the games where Boldin did play in the past two seasons.

Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco – I know it was only in fun, but No. 85 went over the line again.  The audacious Bengals receiver playfully tried to bribe an NFL official with a $1.00 bill during a replay in the third quarter of his team’s win over the Baltimore Ravens.  You know Ocho Cinco will be getting a call from Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Week 9

Sunday, November 8

Bengals (6-2) over Ravens (4-4), 17-7

Buccaneers (1-7) over Packers (4-4), 38-28

Cardinals (5-3) over Bears (4-4), 41-21

Chargers (5-3) over Giants (5-4), 21-20

Colts (8-0) over Texans (5-4), 20-17

Cowboys (6-2) over Eagles (5-3), 20-16

Falcons (5-3) over Redskins (2-6), 31-17

Jaguars (4-4) over Chiefs (1-7), 24-21

Patriots (6-2) over Dolphins (3-5), 27-17

Saints (8-0) over Panthers (3-5), 30-20

Seahawks (3-5) over Lions (1-7), 32-20

Titans (2-6) over 49ers (3-5), 34-27

Monday, November 9

Steelers (6-2) over Broncos (6-2), 28-10

Byes: Bills (3-5), Browns (1-7), Jets (4-4), Raiders (2-6), Rams (1-7), Vikings (7-1)

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 7 Review by Lloyd Vance

benson 

After a fantastic 189-yard”revengeful” performance against the Chicago Bears, Cincy RB Cedric Benson is Week 7’s  Game Ball winner

I will start with a “Cheerio” this week as the NFL returned to London, England for the third year in a row.  Unfortunately for the NFL’s English fans viewing our version of football, they were not treated to an entertaining game.  The New England Patriots (5-2), led by QB Tom Brady and WR Wes Welker, continued their dominating ways by disposing of the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35-7 at sold-out Wembley Stadium — 17 consecutive games against NFC opponents, the longest streak of any team against the other conference since the 1970 merger.  With the 2009 “Own the Moment” season quickly nearing its halfway point, weekly fans are getting more clarity about who are the true “Contenders” and who are the “Pretenders”.  But Week 7 should have been called “Blowout Week” around the NFL as 6 teams lost by 20 points or more and 11 teams won by 10 points or more. 

However despite the ever-increasing number of blowouts in an NFL world where anyone can see the Grand Canyon sized divide between the  “Have’s” and “Have Nots” (after 7 weeks of play there  are three undefeated teams – Colts, Broncos, and Saints and  three winless teams – Rams, Titans, and Bucs) there were a few match-ups that lived up to their hype.  With only two divisional grudges on this week’s slate, the highlight of Week 7 had to be the 8 inter-conference games pitting the AFC and NFC, where conference bragging rights were at stake. After the dust settled it was the AFC, once again, that dominated the NFC with 6 wins and 2 losses.  The AFC’s dominance this week, held true a distinct pattern that we have seen this decade.  Despite the New York Giants winning in 2007, clearly the AFC has picked up their collective games as they have won all but two Super Bowl titles (other NFC title was the Buccaneers in 2002).  The AFC has the Indianapolis Colts led by Robo-Quarterback Peyton Manning seem to win 12 games every year (beat-up on the winless Rams this week), the Patriots who have won 3 Super Bowl titles this decade (thumped the Bucs in London, England) and the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers (ended the Vikings winning streak this week).

Even though two of the three big AFC franchises stumbled early (Steelers and Patriots), you knew they would get back in the race at the top of the NFL and they have so far.  The AFC’s Big 3 is almost always in the mix come playoff time and do not expect anything different this season.  Each team has a quality quarterbacks making timely throws, solid running games providing balance, and attacking defenses who turn turnovers into points.  The Steelers won their 4th straight game, this time disposing of one of the NFC’s two unbeatens (Steelers 27, Vikings 17). The Steelers fueled by their resurging defense – wonder if the return of Troy “The Hair” Polamalu has anything to do with it – bent but didn’t break in their victory that put the first “L” on the Vikings (outgained Pittsburgh 386-259, but only scored 10 Points offensively).  Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s defenders were able to stop Vikings QB Brett Favre (34 of 51, 334 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT), All-World RB Adrian Peterson, emerging receiver Sidney Rice, and the rest Vikes offense deep in Pittsburgh territory when it mattered most – 3 big defensive stands. 

The Steelers were able to turn back Peterson 3 times (from the half-yard line) on a crucial early game goalline stand that left the score 13-10 in favor of the home team.  But the two biggest game-changing plays happened when the 2008 Super Bowl champs needed it most, especially with their offense sputtering at times.  Other a short Peterson touchdown run, there no passing touchdowns and easily the Vikings biggest play was a Percy Harvin 88-yd kickoff return.  Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley’s 77-yard fumble touchdown return after Favre was stripped in the 3rd quarter and LB Keyaron Fox’s 82-yard interception touchdown return of a Favre dump-off pass late in the 4th quarter were the keys in ending any of the venerable quarterback’s comeback magic this week. Favre said after his team’s first loss of 2009, “There were a lot of what ifs, a lot of reasons we didn’t win, the red zone was one of them. (The Steelers) are physical, and they were as good as we thought they’d be”.  The Steelers held Peterson to only 69 rushing yards – 25th straight game without allowing a 100-yard rusher – produced 3 turnovers, and kept Favre out of the endzone for the 1st time this year in the win.

Even in a weekend of AFC dominance, one NFC team continues to “March On” and that is the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints.  The Saints continued the best start in their franchise’s history by beating the Dolphins in a thrilling comeback as they increased their record to 6-0.  Brees and the unbeaten Saints fell behind for the first time all season, then overcame a 21-point deficit Sunday to beat the Dolphins 46-34 (biggest comeback in franchise history). The NFL’s highest-scoring team topped 40 points for the fourth time (most since 1950) and outscored the Dolphins 22-0 in the fourth quarter to seal a crucial road victory.  Brees, who have looked like a miniature version of Johnny Unitas at times this year, had his worst game of the season – 3 INTs, a lost fumble and five sacks — but it didn’t matter as the Saints won again.

Brees this week used his legs rushing for 2 TDs including a crucial quarterback sneak at the end of the first half that cut the score to 24-10 in favor of the Dolphins.  To their credit, the Saints’ staff made the right adjustments at halftime that eventually won them the game.  “It can be a season-defining win,” linebacker Scott Shanle said. “This was a test we hadn’t faced yet, and we couldn’t be happier with the way we responded.”  Brees was not the only hero of the game as their Saints defense produced the stops that allowed their offense to comeback.  After a first half where the “Wildcat” was running wild (for the game, America’s most talked about formation netted 30 yards on 14 plays), the Saints dug in and limited the Dolphins to only 10 second-half points.  The Saints biggest play happened early in the 3rd quarter when Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper (NFL leading 6 INTs) scored on an interception return for the third time this season. The 42-yard INT to the ‘House came after Sharper took a deflected from Dolphins WR Ted Ginn Jr.

The Saints defense preserved the win for New Orleans finest too as CB Tracy Porter picked off a Chad Henne pass and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown with just under 2 minutes remaining.  Miami’s RB Ricky Williams, who had 3 TDs, said of the loss the NFC’s best team, “This was our game to win, we fought and we fought. They just fought harder at the end.” Everyone knows that it is too early to make season long assertions right now. But New Orleans has shown week in and week out that they are a tough team with a lot of weapons offensively and defensively.  I can tell you, they have made a believer out of this one-time naysayer.  I cannot wait for the Saints to host the Patriots in Week 12.

Here are some Lloyd’s Leftovers for this week before we go to the awards.

New Colts’ head coach is the real deal — Rookie head coach Jim Caldwell has led the Colts to a 5-0 start this season.  With a Colts win on Sunday against St. Louis Rams, the Colts improved to 6-0 and Caldwell tied the mark for the best start by a rookie head coach since 1970.  Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels already tied the mark on Monday night in the Broncos’ 34-23 victory over the San Diego Chargers.  With wins in Week 8, Caldwell and McDaniels can break a tie with former head coaches Chuck Knox, Red Miller, and Mike Martz.

Titans owner wants to see Vince Young now — Though the hapless Titans were on a bye this week, their owner Bud Adams made it clear he wants Vince Young to replace Kerry Collins now.  Adams, 86, has always been in Young’s corner and may be giving head coach Jeff Fisher a mandate. Fisher would not commit to Collins (completing 54.8 % of passes with 5 TDs and 8 INTs) at his press conference Monday — the first time he’s wavered on the decision all year. Nothing is official yet, but it sounds like Young, who counts $14.2M against next year’s salary cap, will get his chance against the Jaguars on Sunday. The third overall pick of the 2006 draft, Young went 18-11 in 29 starts over his first three seasons, but he’s been the backup since suffering a knee injury in the second half of the Sept. 9, 2008 game (2008 season opener) against the Jaguars. “I have been wanting (Fisher) to play Vince Young more because Collins has been having his problems out there,” Adams said. “I just think we need to find out how well (Young) can do.

Tough Injury Loss for the Jets — Mercurial Jets RB Leon Washington broke his leg (fibula) in a blowout win over the Oakland Raiders.  The Jets will probably place Washington on IR and they will need 3 players (rookie Shonn Greene, Brad Smith, and Danny Woodhead) to replace the variety of skills that he offers to the team.  Other key injuries around the NFL were Eagles RB Brian Westbrook (concussion), Steelers DE Travis Kirschke (calf), Redskins TE Chris Cooley (broken foot –season), Steelers LB Lawrence Timmons (high ankle), Colts RB Donald Brown (shoulder), Vikings WR Bernard Berrian (left leg), Saints DT Sedrick Ellis (sprained right knee), Dolphins CB Will Allen (ACL- season),  Niners ILB Takeo Spikes (sprained right shoulder), Colts WR Reggie Wayne (strained groin), Redskins QB Jason Campbell (sprained ankle), Giants TE Kevin Boss (stiff neck), Texans WR Andre Johnson (chest contusion) and Rams CB Bradley Fletcher (torn ligaments in right knee – season).

Nice road ahead for the Arizona Cardinals – After their tough 24-17 win over the NY Giants on Sunday Night Football, the road back to playoffs is a favorable one for Ken Whisenhunt’s team.  Only two of the Cardinals’ 10 remaining games are against teams with winning records. Their next five opponents – Carolina Panthers (2-4), Chicago Panthers (3-3) , Seattle Seahawks (2-4), St. Louis Rams (0-7) and Tennessee Titans (0-7) — are a combined 7-24.

Hey Raiders do you want a re-do on that pick – In his first action since ending his 71-day holdout, Niners first-round WR Michael Crabtree played a ton his team’s close loss to the Houston Texans.  Crabtree was in for 48 of 54 of the Niners’ plays and had five catches for 56 yards in his NFL debut.  Conversely Raiders WR Darius Heyward-Bey (7th overall pick), who was taken three spots ahead of Crabtree by noted need for speed aficionado Al Davis, only has 7 catches for 64 yards and 0 TDs plus at least four drops through 7 games.

Game Balls

Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson – “Revenge” is a dish best served cold and that is exactly what Benson gave the Chicago Bears.  After accusing Bears management (GM Jerry Angelo and head coach Lovie Smith) of bad-mouthing him out the door, Benson took matters into his own hands was spectacular in the Bengals surprisingly easy 45-10 win over the reeling Bears.  The former Bears first round pick who was quickly jettisoned after a couple off the field incidents, regained his lead in the NFL rushing title race with a career-high 189 yards  on 37 carries and 1 TD.  The former University of Texas star seems on a Pro Bowl pace right now as he has rushing stats 164 carries for 720 yards (4.4 ypc) and 5 TDs.

Honorable Mention

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo — The Cowboys (4-2) continued their climb back in the NFC East divisional race with a dominating 37-21 home win over the Falcons – second straight win.  The main cog of the Cowboys’ offense was spectacular completing 21-of-29 passes for 311 yards and 3 TDs plus he added 31 yards on the ground.  Romo also seems to have his T.O replacement in emerging receiver Miles Austin.

Dallas Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware — The Cowboys defensive menace recorded two sacks Sunday in the ‘Boys win over the Falcons and now has 4 sacks for the season.  Ware finally seems comfortable rushing the passer again and the Cowboys rewarded his hard work by giving him a new six-year deal including $40M in guaranteed money.  The 6-4, 262-pound three-time Pro Bowl linebacker now has 57.5 quarterback sacks for his career.

Cincinnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer – While everyone was talking about the effort of RB Cedric Benson, Palmer “quietly” show that he is getting back to his old form in a big win over the Bears.  Palmer was pinpoint as he completed 20-of-24 passes for 233 yards and 5 TDs.

New England Patriots FS Brandon Meriweather – The former product of the “U” had two interceptions across the pond, including returning one for a touchdown in the Patriots’ 35-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Pittsburgh Steelers LT Max Starks — The Steelers strong tackle is finally meriting his big salary.  Starks held Vikings Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen to just one tackle and no sacks in the Steelers win over the Vikings.  Starks and his O-line mate also helped the Steelers produce a 5.3 YPC average in the running game.

SF 49ers QB Alex Smith – It was remember me time as the former first overall pick from 2005 shine after replacing starter Shaun Hill at halftime.  Smith responded by completing 15-of-22 passes for 206 yards and 3 touchdowns (all to emerging TE Vernon Davis) plus rallied the Niners from 21 points down.  Unfortunately the Niners came up short losing to the Houston Texans by a score 24-21.

Other Honorees: Steelers linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Keyaron Fox (scored 4th quarter touchdowns to drive the Steelers over the Vikings); Buffalo Bills Safety Jairus Byrd (two interceptions spurred the Bills to a surprising road win over the Panthers); New Orleans Saints PK John Carney (became the fourth NFL player to score 2,000 points in his career); Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin (showed that his 250-yard breakout at Kansas City in Week 5 was no fluke, by producing 171 yards and 2 TDs in the Cowboys win over the Falcons); Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb (reached career milestones 30,000 yards passing and 200 career touchdown passes in the Eagles win over the Redskins);Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson (caught only two passes but had 69 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ 27-17 win over the Redskins.  Jackson also ran for a 67-yard touchdown and scored both Eagles’ offensive touchdowns); The NY Jets RB’s (led by rookie Shonn Greene’s 144 yards and 2 TDs, the Jets RB’s became the first NFL team since 1975 – Buffalo Bills — to rush for 300 yards in back-to-back games).

Lloyd’s Lackey

Kansas City Chiefs RB Larry Johnson — Things just went from bad to worse for LJ in Kansas City.  The two- time NFL rushing leader and former workhorse has definitely slowed down since his heyday of about 4 to 5 years ago.  Time, off the field problems, and injuries have definitely caught up with him (30 on Nov. 19th). But the bigger story is that after another pedestrian effort (16 rushes for 49 yards with a long of 9 yards) on Sunday in a 37-7 loss to the Chargers, Johnson got on the offensive via Twitter against Chiefs head coach Todd Haley. Here are some of his excerpts: “my father got more credentials than most these pro coaches….google my father!!!”; “My father played for the coach from “remember the titans”. Our coach played golf. My father played for redskins briefly. Our coach. Nuthn”.  It is never a good idea to jump-on your head coach, but then LJ decided to call some reporters a bad word for homosexuals and Tweeted much more. Now NFL spokesman Greg Aiello revealed that the league is investigating LJ’s recent tirade on Twitter.  Plus the team basically told the volatile runner that he cannot practice and is not at their complex.  I don’t think it will be long before LJ is on the free agent running back scrap heap with older RB’s Warrick Dunn and Shaun Alexander.

Dishonorable Mention

Dallas Cowboys WR Roy Williams – The former Detroit Lions first rounder returned to the line-up in Week 7 (rib injury) and produced 1 catch along with several drops.  Williams just doesn’t seem like he will ever live-up to the amount the Cowboys traded for him and now Miles Austin is clearly the team’s No. 1 receiver.  Williams has just 12 catches on 30 targets (40% catch rate) this season and looks like he is a colossal bust.

Oakland Raiders DE Richard Seymour – Predicted his team would make the playoffs after their “lucky’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles last week.  And the Raiders responded by getting shutout 35-0 by the NY Jets.

NY Jets QB Mark Sanchez – I know it was a snooze fest in a dominating 38-0 win over the Raiders, but did you really have to eat a hot dog with mustard on the sidelines.

Minnesota Vikings FB/TE Jeff Dugan – Unnecessarily ran down NFL Back Judge Richard Reels on Percy Harvin’s Kickoff for a touchdown in the 4th Quarter of the Steelers’ win.  Also Dugan had a bad tripping penalty near the goalline that negated a Brett Favre touchdown pass.

NY Giants rookie OT William Beatty – Playing in place of starter Kareem McKenzie (ended Giants O-line’s 38 consecutive starts streak), head coach Tom Coughlin gave Beatty mixed reviews.  The youngster from UConn was beat off the edge by Cardinals OLB Clark Haggans for a sack and also had a bad false-start penalty late in the fourth quarter.

Panthers QB Jake Delhomme – Was terrible in Carolina’s 20-9 home loss to the Buffalo Bills as he threw more 3 interceptions.  The former Super Bowl starter is now on pace to throw a mind-boggling 35 interceptions and has 13 INTs for the season.  The NFL’s 32nd rated passer may soon be watching one of his former backups (AJ Feeley or Matt Moore) playing. 

Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell – Returned to his pitiful ways in a horrible loss to the NY Jets.  Russell had 2 INTs, 1 lost fumble, and was benched for journeyman QB Bruce Gradkowski.

Chicago Bears DT Tommie Harris – Inactive for lack of effort in practices and for overall being in head coach Lovie Smith’s doghouse.  The former Bears defensive leader was told he was not need this week and he may soon be looking for another team despite his huge contract.

NFL Week 7

SUN, OCT 25 

Bengals (5-2) over Bears (3-3), 45-10

Bills (3-4) over Panthers (2-4), 20-9

Cardinals (4-2) over Giants (5-2), 24-17

Chargers (3-3) over Chiefs (1-6), 37-7

Colts (6-0) over Rams (0-7), 42-6

Cowboys (4-2) over Falcons (4-2), 37-21

Jets (4-3) over Raiders (2-5), 38-0

Packers (4-2) over Browns (1-6), 31-3

Patriots (5-2) over Buccaneers (0-7), 35-7

Saints (6-0) over Dolphins (2-4), 46-34

Steelers (5-2) over Vikings (6-1), 27-17

Texans (4-3) over 49ers (3-3), 24-21

MON, OCT 26

Eagles (4-2) over Redskins (2-5), 27-17

Byes: Broncos (6-0), Jaguars (3-3), Lions (1-5), Ravens (3-3), Seahawks (2-4), Titans (0-6) 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 6 Review by Lloyd Vance

seymour

Oakland Raiders DL Richard Seymour was a Game Ball winner in Week 6 for his dominating play in an upset win over the Philadelphia Eagles

After a couple weeks of too many games that lacked viewer interest, Week 6 of the 2009 NFL Season once again proved why the National Football League is the best sports league in the world.  There were two overtime thrillers (Bill over Jets and Jags over Rams), undefeated teams rolling on (Broncos, Saints and Vikings), upsets galore (Raiders over Eagles, Chiefs over Redskins, Texans over Bengals, and the aforementioned Bills’ win), potential playoff contender heavyweight match-ups that lived up to the hype (Vikings over Ravens, Falcons over Bears and Saints over Giants) and a historic blowout (Patriots dismantling the winless Titans by a score of 59-0). 

I will start by looking at Week 6’s marquee match-up.  In a game that a lot of people were touting as a potential 2009 NFC Championship preview, the New Orleans Saints (5-0) remained undefeated by dominating the previous undefeated NY Giants (5-1) with the final lopsided score 48-27.  The Saints hammered the NFL’s former top-ranked defense and No. 1 pass defense to the tune of 493 total yards, 28 first downs, and a season-high 48 points.  The Saints offense mixed in play-action and great protection (no sacks allowed) to keep a Giants defense, who had fattened up on the NFL’s underbelly, always on their heels.  Of course the Saints O-line, especially dominating OT Jermon Bushrod, did their yeoman work producing a power running game and a “clean” pocket, but we all know quarterback Drew Brees (see Game Balls) will get most of the glory.   After not throwing a touchdown for two straight week, Brees coming off a bye was on fire as he produced a 369-yard, four-touchdown performance.  The Saints fueled by a strong home crowd that truly believes this could finally be the year for their team, put up 34 points at the half — the Giants’ last three opponents before Sunday had scored a combined 23 points. 

The Saints and play-calling head coach Sean Payton also had balance in their offensive scheme as they rushed the ball 39 times producing 133 yards as RB’s Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell kept the Giants guessing.  On defense, the Saints were stifling as they held Giants starter Eli Manning to only 178 passing yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.  Manning never had time in the pocket and clearly was off rhythm as rushers DE Charles Grant, DE Bobby McCray and DE Will Smith constantly were in his face.  The win was an eye-opener for those, including this so-called NFL expert that thought the Saints could not match-up with a tough East Coast team.  Former Patriot and New Orleans Saints FB Heath Evans said of the win, “These guys are getting a taste of (non-stop) winning. Dave (Thomas, a backup tight end and former Patriot) and I had it when we were on that ’07 team, and you start racking them up.”  But to Saints fans already booking their hotel rooms in Miami for the Super Bowl, I must throw out a word of caution.  There are still 11 more games to be played and the Saints still must finish the job.  The Saints have started 5-0 two other times in their history and both times the season ended short of the NFL’s ultimate goal – 1991, finished 11-5 and lost in wildcard round and 1993, finished 8-8 and didn’t make the playoffs.  Evans added, “These games don’t count until November and December”.  And I totally agree Heath.

The other big story of this week had to be the New England Patriots 59-0 shellacking of the poor Tennessee Titans in snowy Foxborough, Massachusetts.  In a game that reminded me of hall of famer Warren Moon in his CFL prime with the Edmonton Eskimos, Patriots Tom Brady was loving the cold elements as he threw for six touchdowns including 5 TDs in the second quarter alone — the most TD passes in one quarter by a QB since 1950.  But the story of the game was not the Patriots’ NFL-record 45-0 lead at halftime.  Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in a manner that only he can do, kept his foot on the throttle the rest of the game and thoroughly embarrassed the winless Titans.  The Patriots sent Brady back on the field in the second half and the Pats added two more TDs including one thrown by Tom Terrific.  The move definitely was a slap in the face of the Titans and beleaguered head coach Jeff Fisher.   Though some say Fisher’s team “quit” trying after awhile and the Patriots were just executing better, there was no need to continue throwing the ball over and over against a secondary that has too many injuries – missing Pro Bowl CB Courtland Finnegan and others.  Titans LB Keith Bulluck jokingly said of the Patriots effort, “I guess they were trying to raise their ranking in the BCS”.   New England coach Bill Belichick said of the lopsided game, “We went into the game with a game plan and I know the score got out of hand, but we were just trying to run our offense”. 

NBC’s Football Night in America analyst and former Super Bowl winning head coach Tony Dungy said in support of Belichick, “I don’t think he was running up the score. If you’re Tennessee, you’ve got to stop them.”  But you have to wonder if the “karma” Gods were watching.  Remember back in ’07 the Patriots were running the score up on everyone including an embarrassing 52-7 win over the Redskins and Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs.  For sure around the NFL there were probably few tears for the big bad Patriots when the Giants shockingly beat them 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII.

Here are some Lloyd’s Leftovers for this week before we go to the awards.

NFL in no “Rush” to add Limbaugh — Rush Limbaugh won’t be buying a piece of the St. Louis Rams in the end.  With criticism mounting from the NFLPA, current players, NFL owners like the Colts’ Jim Irsay, and it seemed the entire NFL viewing populace.  Dave Checketts, the businessman leading a group vying for the National Football League franchise, dumped Limbaugh as a potential minority owner of the team.  “Rush was to be a limited partner–as such, he would have had no say in the direction of the club or in any decisions regarding personnel or operations,” Mr. Checketts said. “This was a role he enthusiastically embraced. However, it has become clear that his involvement in our group has become a complication and a distraction to our intentions…endangering our bid to keep the team in St. Louis. As such, we have decided to move forward without him and hope it will eventually lead us to a successful conclusion.”  I applaud Checketts, not only because I am not a Limbaugh fan, but the main reason being that the NFL is the ‘Golden Goose’ of sports and the league does not need a gigantic divisive force coming into their midst.  Especially with a myriad of important league issues surrounding the NFL’s upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations including the splitting of equity between the owners and players, an uncapped year in 2010, a potential lockout in 2011, a rookie salary cap, retired players, player discipline, and much more.

The J-E-T-S find out the NFL is hard work — Of all of the upsets this week, I thought the NY Jets loss to the Buffalo Bills was the most damning.  Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago after the NY Jets defeated the Patriots that everyone was touting the talkative Jets as the next bully on the AFC’s block.  Well you can put away all of the Jets, head coach Rex Ryan and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez are so great talk.  The J-E-T-S went down to their third straight defeat at the hands of the Bills, losing 16-13 in overtime. Bills kicker Rian Lindell — had missed a 46 yarder at the end of regulation — nailed a 47-yard field goal in overtime to halt Buffalo’s three-game skid. The Bills’ overtime win also snapped an 8-game losing streak against their AFC East foes.  Throughout the game you could sense that the Jets did not respect the lowly Bills and they thought eventually their “mystique” would win the game.  But in the NFL victories are won on the field and not at the microphone. The Jets were flagged 14 times for 96 yards — including five times in overtime — and turned the ball over six times in the overtime loss.  The Bills, who seemed a loss away from firing head coach Dick Jauron, rose to the occasion by overcoming injuries (QB Trent Edwards – concussion and everywhere on defense) and an intimidating Jets running game (318 yards).  To the surprise of many, Bills WR Terrell “T.O” Owens wasn’t even really a factor in the game as he only produced 3 catches for 13 yards and 1 run for 9 yards while dropping a few more.  However as little as T.O contributed to the Bills’ win, Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez (See Lloyd’s Lackey) did more than his share.  All the sudden everyone’s automatic Rookie of Year is finding he hard it is to play week-in and week-out in the NFL.

Tough Injury Loss for the Bengals — Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom (28) ruptured his right Achilles’ tendon in the Bengals’ loss to the Houston Texans.   Odom, the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in September, was having a breakout season (8 sacks), but unfortunately he will miss the remainder of the season. Other key injuries around the NFL were Seahawks MLB Lofa Tatupu (torn pectoral muscle – season), Bills QB Trent Edwards (concussion), Giants OL Kareem McKenzie (groin), Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha (eye), Ravens WR Kelley Washington (concussion), Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (ankle), Eagles OT Jason Peters (left knee), Vikings WR Percy Harvin (shoulder), Rams WR Donnie Avery (hip), Jets NT Kris Jenkins (ACL – season), Falcons CB Brian Williams (ACL – season) and Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin (high ankle)

Bittersweet win — Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith was not too happy after his team’s 28-21 win over the winless Tampa Bay Bucs.  The four-time Pro Bowler only had 1 catch for 4 yards and 0 TDs in the game and he clearly was frustrated afterwards.  Smith told reporters that Sunday’s win over Tampa was “bittersweet”.  Smith said, “We get the win, but I have a limited role.  So, obviously, I see this game as showing I’m no longer an asset to this team.”  Asked later about his comments, Smith declined to answer then added, “That’s all I got, My name’s Steve Smith and I stand by that.”  You know it has to be tough on Smith as his team has looked to pound the rock more than passing – threw one pass and ran the ball 14 times in a 15-play, 8 minute game sealing drive against the Bucs.  But Panthers won their second consecutive game to reach 2-3 for the season and RB’s DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are starting to look like there 2008 form .  Smith has only caught 21 passes thus far including three games of  fewer than five catches, but I am sure more passes are coming his way.

Take a seat Adalius – Former big-ticket free agent linebacker Adalius Thomas was inactive in the Patriots blowout win over the Titans.  Thomas, 32, has not live-up to his 2007 contract and even though some say he has an elbow injury, you have to expect more. The Patriots started Jerod Mayo, Gary Guyton, Pierre Woods and Derrick Burgess with newly-signed 40-year old veteran Junior Seau as the first person off the bench. Thomas only has 15 tackles and one sack this season.

Game Balls

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady – He’s BACK!!! The storied career of NFL superstar quarterback Tom Brady added another chapter this week.  Playing in snowy Gillette Stadium, Brady was the driving force as the New England Patriots (wore their old Boston Patriots uniforms) destroyed the Tennessee Titans (wore their old AFL Houston Oilers gear) by a score of 59-0.  Brady threw a career high and franchise record six touchdown passes including 5 TDs in the second quarter alone (most in NFL history since 1950).  Brady answered a ton of criticism after he looked tentative and missed throws the week before in a loss to the Denver Broncos.  Tom Terrific finished his “quick”, but impressive day (left in 3rd quarter) by throwing for numbers 29-of-34 for 380 yards and 6 TDs.

Honorable Mention

Denver Broncos WR/KR Eddie Royal — Eddie Royal didn’t have any receptions, but he became the first player in Broncos history to return a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the same game.  The former Virginia Tech star was the key player as the undefeated Broncos (6-0) seized control of the AFC West division in to a thrilling 34-23 win over the San Diego Chargers on Monday night. Royal looked like he was shot out of a cannon on both his 93-yard kickoff return in the first quarter and 71-yard punt return in the second quarter. 

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees – I still believe Brady’s effort, even though against a depleted Titans secondary, was just a little bit better and historic.  Brees however looked like a Pro Bowl quarterback and possible MVP candidate while leading the Saints over the formerly undefeated Giants.  The former Purdue star completed 23-of-30 for 369 yards, 4 TDs and O INTs while not being sacked against a defense that came into the game ranked #1.

Oakland Raiders rookie WR Louis Murphy – The former Florida star did not catch a pass in the Raiders surprising win over the Eagles, but stats didn’t tell the whole story.  Murphy was the key player in the Raiders’ only touchdown of the game as he two downfield blocks in springing TE Zach Miller on an 86-yard touchdown catch-and-run.  Teammates all along the Raiders’ sideline congratulated Murphy after the big score.  Murphy said after the game, “I didn’t have a catch today, but we won, and that’s all that matters.”

Oakland Raiders DE Richard Seymour –Now this is the guy the Raiders traded for at the beginning of the season.  Seymour spearheaded an inspired Raiders defense in their 13-9 upset win over the Philadelphia Eagles.  The former Patriots Super Bowl winner produced a pair of sacks and a forced fumble and was at times unblockable.

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew – As MJD goes, so go the Jaguars.  A week after complaining about his touches in an embarrassing loss to the Seahawks, Jones-Drew responded in the Jag’s overtime win over the Rams.  MJD ran for 133 yards on 33 carries and scored all three of the Jags’ touchdowns.  Overall you have to think “Pocket Hercules” was happy with his 38 touches in the Jag’s win.

Baltimore Ravens rookie OT Michael Oher – The solid rookie O-lineman slid over from right tackle to left tackle in subbing for starter Jared Gaither.  Oher, despite two false start penalties, was up to the challenge of facing Vikings Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen.  The big rookie from the University of Mississippi held Allen to only one sack and felt pretty good about it.  Oher said after the game, “I think he found out I’m an OK player, that guy (Allen) makes like $100 million. I think I did all right.”

Other Honorees: Jets RB Thomas Jones (rushed for a franchise record 210 yards and 1 TD in the Jets overtime loss to the Bills); Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (passed for 417 yards –the third-most in franchise history – in the Steelers dominating win over the Browns); Raiders punter Shane Lechler (averaged 51.1 yards on seven punts and pinned the Eagles in deep over and over); Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (Ran for 143 yards and 1 TD against the usually tough Ravens defense); Cleveland Browns WR/KR/QB Josh Cribbs (Seem like the only Browns player that looked interested as he returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and looked good running the Wildcat).

Lloyd’s Lackey

Washington Redskins head coach Jim Zorn — On a day where the Philadelphia Eagles surprisingly left their heads in Philadelphia before an embarrassing loss to the Oakland Raiders and the Tennessee Titans “quit” in a 59-0 bludgeoning at the hands of the New Patriots, the NFL got a real view of what “Rock Bottom” is in Washington DC.  The Redskins (2-4) continued to be the laughingstock of the NFL, despite the presence of winless teams like the Rams, Titans, and Buccaneers, in a putrid 14-6 home loss to the formerly winless Kansas City Chiefs (1-5).  The Redskins or “The Deadskins”, if you prefer, managed just 265 yards of total offense and gained only 7 first downs while turning the ball over 2 times, committing 7 penalties resulting in 63 yards, and going only 2 for 14 on third-down conversions.   Zorn in his infinite wisdom decided to pin the Redskins woes on his starting quarterback, Jason Campbell, who he replaced at halftime.  Zorn in explaining why he benched Campbell said, “He was a little late in hitting some things and inaccurate.”   Hey Zorn…I wonder if you have a mirror?  The Redskins’ offense now is averaging only 13.2 points per game this season and hasn’t scored more than 17 in any game despite playing facing six consecutive winless opponents (first team in NFL history).  They have are now 4-10 in their last 14 games and the team told Zorn after the game that he had too many responsibilities, so someone else (insert name: “Sherman Lewis”) should run the offense during games.   “It’s going to be a very hard week,” Zorn said. “Last week, I thought that was as hard as it can get. It just got harder.”  Stay tuned as something stinky needs to be cleaned up in the Nation’s Capital and it has nothing to do with politics.

Dishonorable Mention

The Philadelphia Eagles – All I can say is thank goodness that the Philadelphia Phillies are doing so well in the baseball playoffs.  My hometown Eagles annoyed every fan in the Delaware Valley by forgetting they had to play a game in Oakland against the “supposed” hapless Raiders.  The Eagles never could put touchdown drive together in a game – settled for 3 FGs — where they clearly were overconfident and a little arrogant in their approach to the Raiders.  Eagles head coach Andy Reid threw balance out the wind as his team ran the ball just 14 times and passed 46 times against a Raiders team that came into the game routinely giving up 200 yards rushing.  The Eagles offensive line – don’t give me Jason Peters was hurt —allowed the Raiders to produce 6 sacks and gave little time for quarterback Donovan McNabb.  Speaking of McNabb, the Birds passer was inaccurate and missed on a ton of throws finishing with numbers 22-46 for 269 yards, 0TDs, and an almost interception that would have been a touchdown if not for a bogus penalty against the Raiders.  Did I also mention kicker David Akers was 3 for 5 on field goal attempts, the Eagles failed to capitalize on JaMarcus Russell’s 2 INTs and that they were just 2 of 16 on 3rd down conversions. Alright enough already about the Eagles, at least the Phillies outscored the Birds 11 to 9 on their way to winning their game 11-0 against the LA Dodgers on Sunday.

NY Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez – Some may try to pin the reason for this week’s Lackey award on the tricky Meadowlands’ winds (arm strength), but “Sanchize” won this one all on his own.  Sanchez probably played worse than his stat line (10/29, 119 yards, 0 TDs, and 5 INTs plus a fumble that his team recovered) in the Jets overtime loss, if that is possible.  It still puzzles me how Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer kept throwing the ball when the Jets produced over 300 yards rushing.  The 2009 NFL Draft’s 5th overall pick made bad decisions, locked-in on receivers, forced passes into new favorite receiver Braylon Edwards, and overall was too tentative in the pocket.  Sanchez now leads the NFL in interceptions (10) and hasn’t topped 172 yards in a game since Week 1.

Carolina Panthers safety Dante Wesley – The high-energy Panthers hitter was rightfully ejected after he launched himself into the head of Buccaneers punt returner Clifton Smith.  Smith had clearly signaled for a fair catch and Wesley’s actions caused a spirited pushing and shoving match after the play.  Wesley was also notified by the NFL that he was suspended for 1 game and I am sure a heavy fine is coming too.

Baltimore Ravens kicker Steven Hauschka – Somehow, you knew it was going to happen…especially after former Ravens veteran kicker Matt Stover signed with the Indianapolis Colts this week.  Hauschka, a strong-legged young kicker, missed a potential game-winning last-minute 44-yard field goal in the Ravens’ 33-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.  The 2nd year kicker from NC State finished will have other opportunities, but like I always say “Just a kicker being a kicker”. Ironically Hauschka had been cut by the Vikings earlier in his career.

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte – The Bears Pro Bowl running back was held to just 23 yards on 15 carries in his team’s 21-14 Sunday Night Football loss to the Atlanta Falcons.  Forte also had two fumbles in the redzone with the second one being recovered by the Falcons inside the 5-yard line.

The St. Louis Rams – Their 23-20 overtime loss to the Jaguars marked the one year anniversary of the last regular season game that they won.  The Rams or is it the “Lambs” extended the NFL’s longest current losing streak to 16 games.

NFL Week 6

SUN, OCT 18 

Houston Texans (3-3), Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) 28-17

Green Bay Packers (3-2), Detroit Lions (1-5) 26-0

Minnesota Vikings (6-0), Baltimore Ravens (3-3) 33-31

New Orleans Saints (5-0), NY Giants (5-1) 48-27

Carolina Panthers (2-3), Tampa Bay Bucs (0-6) 28-21

Kansas City Chiefs (1-5), Washington Redskins (2-4) 14-9

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3), St. Louis Rams (0-6) 23-20 in OT

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2), Cleveland Browns (1-5) 27-14

Arizona Cardinals (3-2), Seattle Seahawks (2-4) 27-3

Oakland Raiders (2-4), Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) 13-9

Buffalo Bills (2-4), NY Jets (3-3) 16-13 in OT

New England Patriots (4-2), Tennessee Titans (0-6) 59-0

Atlanta Falcons (4-1), Chicago Bears (3-2) 21-14

MON, OCT 19 

Denver Broncos (6-0), San Diego Chargers (2-3) 34-23

Bye: Dallas, Indianapolis, Miami, San Francisco 

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Review – Week 5 by Lloyd Vance

October 14, 2009 2 comments

austin

Cowboys WR Miles Austin is Week 5’s Game Ball winner for his monumental effort in the Cowboys’ OT win over the Chiefs

The second quarter of the 2009 NFL season began in Week 5 and the league seems to be a clear case of the “Have’s” and the “Have Nots”.  After five weeks of NFL play, there are five undefeated teams (New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts, and Denver Broncos) — most undefeated clubs through the first five weeks of a season in NFL history.  There are also four winless teams after five weeks (St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers).  Fortunately the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns got off the “schnide” and can now call themselves winners after two close wins. The Browns “fueled” by the return of RB Jamal Lewis won 6-3 over the terrible Buffalo Bills and the Panthers further pushed Washington Redskins head coach Jim Zorn closer to the door with a 20-17 win. 

Overall I am going to designate Week 5 in the National Football League as “Blowout Week”.  There were 6 games of the 14 games played that were decided by 19 points or more.  Going into the weekend everyone feared that the Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers would dominate as they took on the NFL’s bottom rung teams — two combined wins between their opponents.  True to form the Giants (blew out the Oakland Raiders 44-7), Eagles (dominated the Bucs 34-14), Colts (marched through the Titans 31-9) and Vikings (tore apart the Rams 38-10) easily disposed of their opponents.  You can also throw-in other unexpected bludgeonings by Seattle Seahawks (beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-0) and Atlanta Falcons (lopsided win over the home team Niners 45-10).

Luckily for viewers, the NFL did also have its fair share of close games including two overtime thrillers.  Surprisingly two teams that were involved in close games were the Cowboys and Steelers.  Both came away with wins, but clearly they each played down to their respective home team competition too lightly (Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions).   The Dallas Cowboys continued there inconsistent ways as it took a monumental effort from receiver Miles Austin (see Game Balls) and quarterback Tony Romo to comeback in a game where they trailed the lowly Chiefs by a score of 10-3 at halftime.  Finally Dallas’ wake-up call came and the Cowboys hit some big plays to get the game to overtime and finally put the Chiefs away 26-20. Conversely the Steelers let Daunte Culpepper and the Lions hang around for a while due to an interception return for a touchdown then finally putting them away late in the fourth quarter winning by a score 28-20.

The game of the week was the Broncos led by “Belichick Jr” head coach Josh McDaniels beating his former team, the New England Patriots, by a score of 20-17 in overtime.  The Broncos drove 58 yards on the first series of overtime –- never looked back after winning the coin flip — to set up Matt Prater’s 41-yard winning field goal.  With former Eagles pro bowl safety Brian Dawkins leading the way, as usual the new-look Broncos were led by their defense, which has allowed just 43 points this season (8.6 per game).  The Broncos defense held the Patriots’ explosive offense scoreless in the second half and Pats Pro Bowl receiver Randy Moss to just 36 receiving yards.  On offense, RB Knowshon Moreno made his first career start rushing 21 times for 88 yards, but the Broncos went more to the air against a Patriots secondary that was having problems in coverage.  The Broncos rolled-up 321 yards through the air — compared to just 209 passing yards for New England — and rallied for a big come-from-behind win that realistically showed that they are a team to be reckoned with. 

Some Lloyd’s Leftovers for this week before we go to the awards are:

The Wildcat was loose on Monday Night — Running out of multiple formations including the Wildcat, Miami Dolphins’ running back combination, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were nearly unstoppable in a physical 31-27 win over the NY Jets. Brown scored a pair of touchdowns, including the 2-yard game-winner out of the Wildcat, while rushing for 74 yards. Williams had 138 scrimmage yards, the big game coming on a 59-yard reception.  The Dolphins piled-up 151 rushing yards and converted nine of 14 third-down chances.  We even go to see rookie quarterback Pat White come in and move the chains on a third down run.

NFL Trade Deadline is approaching – Tuesday October 20th is the NFL Trade Deadline and for the first time in a while, there is some “buzz” around the date.  Already the NFL saw the trade of former Browns receiver Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets and there could be more.  Watch for the names Bills WR Terrell Owens, Eagles WR Kevin Curtis, Titans QB Vince Young, Chiefs DT Glenn Dorsey, Browns QB Brady Quinn, and Chargers LB Shawn Merriman to possibly be changing teams around the deadline.  Of course I never hold my breath around the trade deadline, as former deals like former Niners QB Tim Rattay going the Tampa Bay Bucs for a future 6th rd pick at the 2005 deadline are usually the norm.

The NFL is now a passing league – Through Week 5, teams with 300-yard passers had a combined record of 23-8 (.742).  Which is the highest winning percentage of teams with 300-yard passers over the first five weeks of a season (since 1970).  The 23 combined wins are already the most in NFL history through the first five weeks of a season.  Perennial 300-yard passer Colts QB Peyton Manning did it again this week as he hit the magic mark in a win over the Titans – has won 5-of-5 this year in 300-yard passing games. Manning’s final passing numbers were 36 of 44 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

Well it was a win — Browns QB Derek Anderson completed just two passes in 17 attempts for 23 yards in his team’s 6-3 ugly win over the Bills.  Anderson’s 11.8 completion percentage is the second-worst since the NFL-AFL merger for a winning quarterback with at least 15 pass attempts – also had a passer rating of 15. The Browns and Bills combined for the lowest scoring game of the season (9 points), besting the 9-7 result between the Redskins and Rams in Week 2.  And the Bills have lost 12 of their last 15 games.  What an ugly game, but at least Anderson “showed” that the Browns didn’t need disgruntled receiver Braylon Edwards…not.

Game Balls

Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin – Who needs T.O anyway!!! The big physical receiver from tiny Monmouth College (NJ) had 10 catches for a team-record 250 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 26-20 overtime victory at Kansas City. Austin saved the Cowboys’ hides with a 60-yard tackle-breaking game-winning TD reception in overtime. Austin became the 10th player in NFL history to record at least 10 catches, 250 yards and two touchdowns in a game. However QB Tony Romo’s new favorite target was the first player with those stats to score a game-winner in OT.

Honorable Mention

Philadelphia Eagles rookie WR Jeremy Maclin – Better stop double-teaming DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis maybe seeing more of the bench.  In his first NFL start, Maclin was electric.  The 2009 first rounder had six catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles’ 33-14 win over Tampa Bay. Maclin was able to get deep twice for returning QB Donovan McNabb as he recorded touchdown receptions of 51 and 40 yards (firsts of his NFL career). Maclin is the fifth rookie since 1970 to have his first two career receiving touchdowns go for at least 40 yards and occur in the same game.

Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner – The veteran passer threw for 302 yards in the Cardinals’ 28-21 victory over Houston Texans. Warner’s efforts marked his 50th career 300-yard passing performance, which is the fifth-most in NFL history. Warner, has now passed for 300 yards in 50 of 113 games (44.2 percent), which is the fastest quarterback to reach 50 300-yard games, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (176 games).  Warner also hit another milestone as he has now passed for 13,255 yards in his Cardinals’ career, which combined with his 14,447 yards with the St. Louis Rams.  Makes Warner join hall of famer Fran Tarkenton as the only players to pass for at least 13,000 yards with two different teams.

Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White – The 2008 Pro Bowl receiver had eight catches for a team-record 210 yards and two touchdowns in the Falcons’ 45-10 win at San Francisco. White’s big day along Austin’s effort marks the second time in NFL history that two receivers each recorded at least 200 receiving yards and two TD catches on the same day (Kansas City’s Stephone Paige and Houston’s Drew Hill, Dec. 22, 1985).

Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson – The former Bears runner rushed 27 times for 120 yards and one touchdown in the Bengals’ 17 – 14 win over the Baltimore Ravens.  Benson became the first running back in 40 games to rush for at least 100 yards against the Ravens.

Other Honorees: New York Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw (rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries in the Giants’ easy win over the Raiders); Denver WR Eddie Royal (10 catches for 90 yards in the Broncos’ overtime victory over the Patriots. Royal, who now has 109 receptions in 20 career games, became the third wide receiver in NFL history to reach 100 catches in 20 or fewer games, joining Arizona’s Anquan Boldin – 16 games – and former New England wide receiver Terry Glenn – 20); Baltimore safety Ed Reed (52-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Bengals, which was the 12th return TD of his career); Seattle Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck (threw four touchdowns completing 18 of 30 passes for 241 yards in the Seahawks’ 41 – 0 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars); Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (had a pick-six interception return and was a big part of the Cardinals’ game-saving goal-line stand); Colts WR Austin Collie (The rookie from BYU caught eight passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts win over the Titans); Carolina Panthers DE Julius Peppers (two sacks and a huge safety in Carolina’s first win).

Lloyd’s Lackey

The Oakland Raiders – Is there a team worse than the Raiders after their 44-7 humiliating loss to the New York Giants – to answer my own question… “NO”.  I am still trying to figure out how the Raiders ever won a game over the Chiefs earlier this year.  The Giants scored a touchdown on each of their first four possessions for a 28-0 lead only minutes into the second quarter. In his brief appearance, Manning was 8-of-10 for 173 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to backup quarterback David Carr. The Giants ended the game with 483 yards of offense compared to only 124 total yards for the Raiders.  Al Davis’ boys were unable to get the ball moving on the ground or in the air.  Their rushing total was just 60 yards on 25 carries for an average of only 2.4 per carry against a Giants’ defense that allowed 5.5 yards per carry in their first four games.  QB JaMarcus Russell continued to struggle as he finished with only 100 yards passing – the former first player selected in the 2007 NFL Draft was 1-of-6 to his wide receivers.  “I expected more out of us,” Raiders head coach Tom Cable said. “We just did not deliver today.” — Amen, Coach. And I didn’t want to mention it… but I will.  The Napa Valley Police and the NFL still might penalize Cable for his alleged punch against assistant coach Randy Hanson.

Dishonorable Mention

San Francisco 49ers CB Dre’ Bly – I guess he was trying to pay tribute to Deion Sanders.  But Bly’s decision to showboat as he was returning a great interception he made against the Falcons proved to be costly. The Niners corner had the ball stripped during his showboating attempt and head coach Mike Singletary was livid.  Of course later, Bly apologized but the damage was already done.

Patriots safety Brandon Merriweather – At a point when the Pats needed a stop late in the game, Merriweather took a dumb taunting penalty.  In the fourth quarter, Broncos WR Eddie Royal was hit in the back by Merriweather on an incompletion and the official right behind the play immediately threw his flag for pass interference. Then Merriweather made matters worse by getting up and pumping his fist while standing over Royal, thus garnering an additional15 yards for taunting.

Rams WR Donnie Avery – In a game that was well over, Avery decided to do a stupid dance after scoring a 27-yard touchdown in the Rams’ 38-10 loss to the Vikings.  Here see for yourself this unneeded display of non-team football.

Week 5 Games 

Bengals (4-1) over Ravens (3-2), 17-14

Broncos (5-0) over Patriots (3-2), 20-17

Browns (1-4) over Bills (1-4), 6-3

Cardinals (2-2) over Texans (2-3), 28-21

Colts (5-0) over Titans (0-5), 31-9

Cowboys (3-2) over Chiefs (0-5), 26-20

Eagles (3-1) over Buccaneers (0-5), 33-14

Falcons (3-1) over 49ers (3-2), 45-10

Giants (5-0) over Raiders (1-4), 44-7

Panthers (1-3) over Redskins (2-3), 20-17

Seahawks (2-3) over Jaguars (2-3), 41-0

Steelers (3-2) over Lions (1-4), 28-20

Vikings (5-0) over Rams (0-5), 38-10

Mon: Dolphins (2-3) over Jets (3-2), 31-27

Byes: Bears (3-1), Chargers (2-2), Packers (2-2), Saints (4-0)

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award -winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 4 Review by Lloyd Vance

October 6, 2009 1 comment

manning

Colts QB Peyton Manning was Week 4’s Game Ball winner for his steady and spectacular play in a win over the Seahawks

One quarter of the 2009 NFL’s “Own the Moment” season is already in the books with the recent close of Week 4 around the league.  Before we start recapping Week 4’s action on the field, I have to commend the NFL for their great work this week in supporting the fight against breast cancer with their “Crucial Catch” campaign.  As someone whose family has been personally affected by the disease, it is great to see the NFL getting involved in trying to find a cure.  There was a “pink” everywhere in NFL stadiums including NFL coaches’ hats, fan jerseys, goalpost pads and ribbons on NFL personnel — even Michael Irvin on NFL Network wore a pink tie and ribbon.  Plus there was a Public Service Awareness piece by Fergie from the Blackeyed Peas on early screenings and “tough” NFL players thumbed their nose at stereotypes by wearing pink uniform attire including Saints QB Drew Brees, Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Vikings QB Brett Favre, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco and others. 

 I can totally understand why NFL fans are flocking to TV’s everywhere as the storylines are plentiful around the league.  Last week NFL games topped the local ratings in 26 markets, beating several premieres on the networks including ABC’s Dancing with the Stars (ranked #2).  Week4 was another exciting week filled with Revenge (Brett Favre looked like his old MVP self in leading the Vikings over the Packers), “Normalcy” (Peyton Manning throws for over 300 yards in another victory, Steelers pounding their running game to a win over the Chargers  and the Giants steamrolling the hapless Chiefs), “Surprises” (Jaguars easily knocking the Titans into the 0-4 abyss and the upstart Broncos fighting off the Cowboys), and “Heartbreakers” (NY Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez playing like a rookie in a tough loss to the Saints, Jim Zorn Haters going home unhappy as the Redskins squeaked out a 16-13 win over the winless Bucs  and the poor Browns losing in the last seconds of overtime to the promising Bengals).

The game everyone wanted to see, Brett Favre’s long awaited showdown with the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football didn’t disappoint.  The NFL and ESPN’s leading man turned back the clock – defying his impending 40th Birthday on October 10th – and showed the league and more importantly Packers GM Ted Thompson that he still has some fire left in his basement in a 30-23 victory.  Favre continually said leading up to the game that one game was not going to define his career and that he was not out for “revenge”, but who was the old graybeard passer trying to kid.  You know Favre felt great as he produced three touchdown passes and 271 yards while completing 24 for 31 passes, without a turnover. Of course everyone will “paint” the MNF game’s picture as Favre, Favre, and more Favre, but it was a total team effort by the ascending Vikings (4-0).  The Vikes battered Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (passing numbers: 26-37, 384 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT), sacking him eight times, causing an interception and forcing a fumble.  The main disruptor for the Vikings improving defense was DE Jared Allen, who produced a career-high 4 1/2 sacks and a safety in the fourth quarter.  The night was magical for Favre and Vikings, but everyone – especially ESPN – better remember there are 12 more games to be played and Super Bowl XLIV in February is a long ways away.

Some Lloyd’s Leftovers from Week 4 include:

NFL needs to stop protecting Brady — As soon as the “Brady Rule” was on the books this spring, you knew there would be a game situation that highlighted the ambiguity (at the referees discretion) and overall ridiculousness of it.  It had to be fate as the Patriots-Ravens game this past Sunday was the model for the misinterpretation of the rule that basically makes NFL quarterbacks into China dolls and of course Tom Brady was the “victim”.  In the Patriots 27-21 win over the Ravens, the NFL officiating crew led by referee Ron Winter called two ridiculous personal fouls against the Ravens that of course extended Patriots’ scoring drives.  The two calls amplified the NFL’s continuing “sissy-fication” of the game and further fueled the debate that the league cares more about their million-dollar passers than any other position.  After the game, the Ravens players could not hold their tongues.   “Without totally going off the wall here, it is embarrassing to the game,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Brady is good enough to make his own plays, let him make the play. When you have two great teams that are going at it, let them go at it. Both of their touchdown drives had personal fouls that kept drives alive. Did that win or lose the game? No, but it got them 14 points.”  I could not agree more with the Ravens as the NFL that I grew up watching in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s was a league where a quarterback put his shoulder pads and helmet on like everyone else, so he was rightfully fair game.  As former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan used to say, “They should just put flags on the quarterbacks and get it over with”.  On NBC’s Sunday Night Football, Brady’s former teammate Rodney Harrison jokingly told Brady, “Take off the skirt and put on a pair of pants”.

The Indianapolis Colts are machines – Despite everyone including yours truly predicting a lower than expectations season, the Colts just keep marching on as they won their 13th straight regular season game in a 34-17 victory over Seattle on Sunday.  The AFC South leading Colts , who are off to a 4-0 start this season, extended their NFL record for most 4-0 starts to five (started back in 2000). The way the Colts and their quarterback Peyton Manning dominated the Seahawks made their head coach Jim Mora say, “We played greatness today. (Manning) is one of the finest of all times.”.

Two rookie head coaches are undefeated  – Jim Caldwell ( Indianapolis Colts) and Josh McDaniels  (Denver Broncos) with  their respective wins over the Seahawks and Cowboys both have led their teams to 4-0 starts.  This is only the second time in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) that two rookie head coaches have guided their teams to 4-0 starts in the same season.  The last pair were former NY Jets head coach Al Groh and former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz back in 2000.

Redskins pull their coach from the fire, for this week – After an embarrassing 19-14 loss to the formerly winless Detroit Lions (ended their 19-game losing streak) last week, the Washington Redskins and their head coach Jim Zorn could ill-afford to look bad against the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week.  With the Redskins-Lions game ending play of a terrible ill-fated hook-and-lateral play fresh in their minds, Redskins’ fans were ready to let the team have it and they did.  The boo-birds were out early and often against the Buccaneers as the Redskins were putrid in the first half  producing 3 punts, 3 turnovers (fumble and 2 INTs), one missed field goal and losing by a score of 10-0.  By all accounts it looked like many Zorn haters would be putting back on their Burgundy-and-Gold colors after the former Seahawks assistant was let go with another embarrassing loss  seeming to be close at hand.  But a funny thing happened on the way to Zorn’s firing, the Redskins woke-up.  The Redskins, fueled by a DeAngelo Hall interception and a Jason Campbell to Santana Moss 59-yard touchdown bomb,  stormed back scoring sixteen unanswered points in the 3rd quarter to defeat the Bucs by a score 16-13 and thus saving Zorn’s hide for another week. 

However as satisfying as the “ugly” win may have been for Zorn, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder may still be lurking to give him the boot.  The Redskins still don’t have any offensive continuity and have been held to fewer than 20 points in 11 of the last 12 games.  Plus  running back and team leader – for better or worse – Clinton Portis is not happy about the play calling and his role on the team as the former Pro Bowl back is still searching for his first 100-yard game of 2009.  For Zorn’s sake, the Redskins better take care of the business against the lowly Carolina Panthers (0-4) and Kansas City Chiefs (0-4)  in the next two weeks as they have a big divisional showdown looming against the Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) in Week 7. Struggling Redskins QB Jason Campbell (passing numbers: 12-22, 54.5%,  170 yards, 2 TDs, and 3 INTs) said of his team’s halftime wake-up call, “At halftime, I was like, if we don’t pull this one out, I don’t know what I’m going to do on Monday. I might as well hibernate.”

Injuries still a factor around NFL — The scariest moment of this week’s action occurred when Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither suffered a head and neck injury while blocking a defender in the Ravens loss to the Patriots.  Gaither had to be removed on a backboard, which brought back painful memories of NFL players who suffered serious injuries on the field  like former Lions O-lineman Mike Utley.  Thankfully Gaither was quickly tended to and head/neck tests at the hospital came back negative.  The big former University of Maryland road grader might even miraculously be back on the field in the Ravens’ next game against the Bengals . Other injuries of note happened to NY Giants QB Eli Manning (Plantar fasciitis), Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (possible dislocated kneecap), Raiders RB Darren McFadden (knee), Baltimore Ravens LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (tore his left quad), New York Giants LB Michael Boley (knee sprain), Bears WR Devin Hester (shoulder) and Bears WR/KR Johnny Knox (shin)

Game Balls

Colts QB Peyton Manning – “Robo-Quarterback”, as I like to call him,  was at his best in the Colts 34-17 victory over the Seahawks.  Manning, while making household names of young receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, produced his 4th straight game of 300- yards plus passing  – first time in his storied 12-year NFL career that he accomplished the feat.  The 3-time MVP definitely is trying to outdo his little brother, NY Giants QB Eli,  who also is playing at a high level thus fueling speculation of an all-Manning Super Bowl.  The older Manning finished with passing numbers 31 of 41 for 353 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT in the win.  Manning also tied Fran Tarkenton for No. 3 on the NFL’s career passing touchdowns list with 342 and now only trails Dan Marino (420) and Brett Favre (472).

Honorable Mention

Jacksonville Jaguars QB David Garrard – Despite playing in front of 18,000 empty seats, Garrard found his rhythm for the second week in a row.  In a 37-17 dismantling of the Texans, Garrard threw for passing numbers 27-37, 323 yds, and 3 TDs  323 yards and 0 INTs. I wonder how Jags head coach Jack Del Rio will motivate Garrard this week as last week he put the kibosh on their quarterback’s radio show.  Next up for Garrard and the Jags are the struggling Seahawks (1-3) and Rams (0-4).

New York Giants WR Steve Smith – Who needs Plaxico?  Eli’s new favorite target  posted a career-high 11 receptions for 134 yards and 2 TDs in the Giants’ 27-16 win over Kansas City.  Smith has 34 receptions through Week 4, the most receptions through the first four games of a season in Giants’ history.

Denver Broncos WR Brandon Marshall — Let’s not kid ourselves, the Broncos would be “crazy”  to get rid of Marshall even if he is a pain.  When average QB Kyle Orton and the Broncos needed him most, Marshall responded with the play of the game against the Cowboys.  Late in the 4th quarter, Marshall catch a Kyle Orton jump ball pass over Cowboys CB Terrence Newman and weaved his way to a  spectacular 51-yard game-winning  touchdown. 

New England Patriots WR Randy Moss —  The future hall of famer posted his first touchdown of the season in the Patriots’ 27-21 win over Baltimore.  Moss’ 14-yard touchdown catch gave him 137 career touchdowns and now ranks sixth all-time for the most career TDs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Aqib Talib – The often misunderstood tough corner came to play this week for the Bucs against the Redskins.  In the Bucs’ 16-13 loss to the Skins, Talib produced 3 INTs against quarterback Jason Campbell.

Other HonoreesChicago Bears QB  Jay Cutler (Made like John Elway on a memorable helicopter dive for a touchdown in a win over the Detroit Lions); Niners QB Shaun Hill (was solid in the Niners’ blowout win over the Rams, pushing his record as a starter to 10-4); Miami Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown (rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-10 win over the Bills); New Orleans Saints DB Darren Sharper (had two INTs and  returned one a club-record 99 yards for touchdown in the Saints win over the NY Jets); Houston Texans Defense (allowed only 165 yards of offense in their 29-6 victory over the Raiders, which was the Texans defense’s best performance since 2004); Pittsburgh Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall (after being benched last week, the former first rounder ran for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a SNF win over the Chargers); Dolphins OLB Cameron Wake (The former All-CFL star was activated this week and produced six tackles and  3.0 sacks  while subbing for Joey Porter); Vikings WR Sidney Rice (Special teamer of the week as he snagged two onside kicks – looked like Charles Barkley grabbing a rebound — to seal the Vikes win over the Packers).

Lloyd’s Lackey

New York Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez – Welcome to the NFL rookie!!  After three weeks on a magic carpet ride, Sanchez found out that in the NFL, teams will quickly figure you out.  Sanchez completed only 14 of 27 passes for 138 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 INTs in the Jets 24-10 loss to the Saints.  New Orleans frustrated and confused the young passer as he turned the ball over four times.  Sanchez directly contributed two touchdowns for the Saints — one on Saints’ safety Darren Sharper’s 99- yard interception touchdown return and the other on a sack/fumble in the endzone.  Maybe now everyone including Jets head coach Rex Ryan will back off the “Sanchize” talk, as in he is the franchise.  As the first rounder from USC (only 16 college starts) has a lot to learn in the “Big Boy” NFL.

Dishonorable Mention

Tennessee Titans QB Kerry Collins – Hey Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, “Put in Vince Young already”.  Your team is off to a horrible 0-4 start and Collins along with your terrible secondary are the main culprits.  Collins was back to his old New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders form as he produced numbers of 29-48, 284 yds, 1 TD, and 2 INTs in the Titans embarrassing 37-17 loss to the Jags.  Collins has four turnovers in the last two games and is playing like the “journeyman” that he has always been.  Put in the 2006 NFL Rookie of the Year, who might provide a spark to a team looking for a soft place to fold right now.

CBS Analyst and former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon – I guess somewhere Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb was feeling Gannon’s pain regarding overtime rules. Gannon commentating on CBS for the Bengals-Browns game got confused about when an NFL overtime game is completed.  Right before Bengals kicker Shayne Graham attempted the potential game- winning field goal with seven seconds left in overtime (made it), Gannon wondered on air about whether the Bengals might be leaving too much time left for a big kickoff return by Browns Pro Bowler Josh Cribbs.  Luckily for Gannon,  play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle corrected him and they both had a good chuckle over the former Raiders quarterback’s gaffe.

Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden – Boy was I wrong about this guy after he came out in the draft in 2008.  Instead of being the next Adrian Peterson, McFadden is looking like colossal draft bust Kijana Carter right now.  Maybe it is the play of inconsistent QB JaMarcus Russell or the Raiders banged-up O-line, but McFadden needs to do more.  Facing formerly the NFL’s weakest rush defense (Houston Texans), McFadden produced minus-3 yards on six rushing attempts.  He also will miss 2 to 4 weeks with a knee injury that requires surgery.  For the season McFadden only has produced 145 yards on 47 carries (3.1 ypc) and only 1 TD.

Cleveland Browns WR Braylon Edwards – It wasn’t that long ago that Edwards was talking about holding out and that he wanted to be traded out of Cleveland.  Well after another terrible game, Edwards may one get his wish as several fans probably want drive him to the airport.  Edwards had zero catches and a committed a bad personal foul penalty ( negated a good rushing gain) in the loss Browns 23-20 overtime loss to the Bengals.  The former first rounder has not looked nothing like a No. 1 receiver this season and only has only has 10 catches for 139 yards and 0 TDs.  Did I also mention that he allegedly got in an altercation with a club promoter arguing over LeBron James too this week.

Week 4

Patriots 27, Ravens 21

Bears 48, Lions 24

Colts 34, Seahawks 17

Giants 27, Chiefs 16

Redskins 16, Bucs 13

Bengals 23, Browns 20

Jaguars 37, Titans 17

Texans 29, Raiders 6

Saints 24, Jets 10

Dolphins 38, Bills 10

Broncos 17, Cowboys 10

49ers 35, Rams 0

Steelers 38, Chargers 28

Vikings 30, Packers 23

Bye Week Teams: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Arizona, Carolina

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)