Houston Texans RB Ryan Moats was one of Week 8’s Game Ball winners for his efforts in the Texans 31-10 win over the Buffalo Bills
With the 2009 season officially hitting the halfway mark, the league celebrated with a magnificent week of action in Week 8. This was a great week in the NFL filled with upsets, big wins, and playoff picture shaping moments. Despite six teams on a bye (Bengals, Buccaneers, Chiefs, Patriots, Redskins, Steelers) and some blowouts that have been too plentiful this season – 8 teams won by 12 points or more — there were compelling storylines everywhere that kept viewers glued to their seats. The NFL is clearly winning the battle for sports fans weekly and I am sure Week 8 will be a landslide too when the numbers are reported, especially with FOX having both the Eagles-Giants NFC showdown and then Favre’s return game to Green Bay — during Week 7, FOX’s doubleheader drew 28.4 million viewers for the most viewership since the Super Bowl.
You cannot review the action from Week 8 without talking about the highly anticipated Lambeau Field return of former Packers legend and current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. No. 4 playing for the hated Vikings not only returned back to his home of 16 years, but he clearly showed his “former” fans and employers that he has plenty left in his right arm. Favre and the Vikings dominated the Packers 38-26 in a game very similar to the Vikes’ Week 4 win in Minnesota. The Vikings defense didn’t give Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (26-41, 63.4%, 287 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs plus 52 rushing yards) any time in the pocket (6 sacks) and Favre put up some big numbers with a little help from his friends. Emerging rookie WR/KR Percy Harvin had a big game producing 5 catches for 84 yards and 1 TD plus five kick returns for 175 yards. And All-World running back Adrian Peterson (25 carries for 97 yards and one touchdown) was tough till the end, but the day clearly belonged to Favre.
After enduring a week of being called a “Waffler”, “Flip-Flopper”, “Drama Queen” and “Traitor”, Favre stepped on the field and put aside a booing crowd to “Stick It” to his old team. Favre threw a season-high four touchdown passes and was never even touched in the pocket (zero sacks) as he piled up superb passing numbers 17-28, 244 yards, 4 TDs, and 0 INTs. And of course like he always seems to do every week, Favre set a record of most completions in one venue (passed John Elway’s record) and tied Dan Marino’s NFL record of 21 career games with at least four TD passes. After the game, Favre hugged several members of the Packers team and staff including former favorite receivers Donald Drivers and Greg Jennings. The future Pro Football Hall of Famer left the field surrounded by media everywhere and pumped his fist to a mix of cheers and boos. Favre said after the game, “I’m not going to sit here and throw any daggers…We played about as good as we can play. We can play better, but that’s what it was going to take to beat that football team. That’s the satisfying thing.” Favre added, “I’ve never been one to rub it in anyone’s face…The guys I’ve played with as a Packer, I’ve got a lot of respect for, as I do (for) this organization and these fans.”
So with Favre-a-palooza over for the second time in less than 1 month, let’s take an inventory of what happened. Favre in two “big” wins over the Packers (scores of 30-23 in Week 4 and 38-26 in Week 8) finished with passing numbers 41-59, 515 yards, 7 TDs, 0 INTs, no sacks allowed and a passer rating well over 130. The Packers on the other hand have a 10-13 record since sending their former franchise quarterback to exile in the Meadowlands in 2008. Favre stated at his postgame press conference, “What I’ve done here (Green Bay) speaks for itself.” For those unable to interpret Favre’s last comments, I will translate them for you. “Hey Packers GM Ted Thompson and the rest of you haters…How do you like me now, What!!”
With everyone caught up in the Vikings-Packers and all the drama that followed Favre’s revenge homecoming, there were some other serious stories this week that I felt were a little neglected.
The Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints were both tested but still continued on their unbeaten ways – both 7-0 — The Indianapolis Colts are the NFL’s number one team (very quietly), but even they have to sweat one out here or there. In their 16th straight win (franchise record), the Colts rallied from a 14-12 deficit to finally beat the scrappy San Francisco 49ers 18-14 in Indy. The win was a testament to how well rookie head coach Jim Caldwell is keeping a veteran group of players on track without future hall of fame coach Tony Dungy. With the win, Caldwell joined Potsy Clark (1931 Portsmouth Spartans started 8-0) as the only rookie head coaches in the past 80 years to start the season 7-0. Caldwell leaned on veteran quarterback Peyton Manning (31-48, 347 passing yards, 0 TDs, and 0 INTs) in the win, but it was a great halfback pass from RB Joseph Addai (former high school quarterback) to Reggie Wayne (12 catches for 147 yards and 1TD) that was the game-winning score. Also special recognition needs to go out to veteran kicker Matt Stover who was 4 for 4 on field goal attempts.
The Saints, who tied their best start in franchise history (1991 team was also 7-0), were involved in a tough game too. The Atlanta Falcons led by their quadruplets (QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, TE Tony Gonzalez, and WR Roddy White) and their attacking defense were not going to give New Orleans their usual 40 points and another easy win. The game came down to the final seconds after the Falcons had recovered an onside kick. But Saints S Darren Sharper (NFL leader with 7 INTs) intercepted Matt Ryan’s desperation heave with 3 seconds left to preserve a 35-27 win. The Falcons on offense ran the ball effectively with Turner (20 times for 151 yards and a touchdown) and their defense put more pressure on Saints QB Drew Brees than I have seen all season (2 sacks and numerous other hits). However the Saints once again proved that they are the “real deal” and it is going to be difficult to stop them. Right now their offensive line is providing good protection, Brees is looking like a MVP candidate, the Saints have too many offensive weapons to write down, and their defense has 6 TDs off turnovers – the Cleveland Browns offense only has 5 TDs total. I won’t bring up the 1972 Dolphins’ undefeated season yet, because the Saints have a long way to go but other than games against the Patriots (Week 12), Falcons (Week 14), and Cowboy (15) every other team that the Saints face from here on out has a losing record through 8 weeks.
The St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans both got off the “schnide” by winning their first games of the season — The Rams broke their 17-game losing streak with a road win over the Lions by a score of 17-10. I would like to have said that quarterback Marc Bulger had a lot to do with the win, but the star of the game clearly was RB Steven Jackson. The hard-runner and perennial Pro Bowl player finally was rewarded for his efforts with some good blocking as he piled up 149 rushing yards and scored his first touchdown of the season. The Rams other big play was a touchdown pass from kicker Josh Brown to FB Daniel Fells on a fake field goal in the second quarter.
The Tennessee Titans after a very long bye week decided to go back to the future by inserting 2006 Rookie of the Year QB Vince Young back into the starting lineup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The former franchise quarterback had not started in 22 games and was finally lobbied into the starting lineup by Titans owner Bud Adams. Young responded passing for numbers 15-18, 125 yards, and 1 TD plus rushing for 30 yards including moving the chains on a couple 3rd down runs. As good as Young was in the Titans 30-13 win, running back Chris Johnson (see Game Balls) was even better. One of the NFL’s fastest players streaked to two long touchdown runs in the second half that closed the door on the Jaguars and plucky running back Maurice “Pocket Hercules” Jones-Drew.
There was also:
- The rested Baltimore Ravens dominated the previously undefeated Denver Broncos 30-7, knocking them from the unbeatens. The bye week sure was a good thing for Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s team as the Ravens were focused and energized by their home crowd. The Ravens defense limited the Broncos to a season-low 200 total yards, forced 1 turnover, produced 2 sacks and on special teams they had a kickoff return for a touchdown.
- The Carolina Panthers pulling a total reversal from their 2008 playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Quarterback Kurt Warner (see Lloyd’s Lackey) looked like Panthers QB Jake Delhomme in an embarrassing 34-21 home loss.
- The Philadelphia Eagles tore apart the NY Giants on “Sports Sunday” in South Philly
- The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans jumping back in the playoff hunt
- The Cleveland Browns continuing to look like the NFL’s most pathetic team in a loss to the Chicago Bears
Miami Dolphins WR/KR Ted Ginn – Who needs to play offense anyway? After being demoted from his starting job (too many drops), Ginn made the most of his opportunities on special teams in the Dolphins 30-25 win over the J-E-T-S. A special returner coming out of Ohio State, the former track star looked like the real deal again. Ginn helped pick up the Dolphins’ flagging offense by producing two touchdowns on lengthy 3rd quarter kickoff returns of 101 and 100 yards. Ginn became the first player in NFL history with two touchdowns of 100 yards in the same game and is the eighth player in NFL history with two kick-return touchdowns in a game. Ginn also became the first player to record two KR-TDs in the same quarter since Green Bay’s Travis Williams in 1967.
Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson – “Every Coach’s Dream” was in full affect as the mercurial running back sprinted the Titans to a much-needed 30-13 win over the Jaguars, for their first win of the season. Johnson ran for a franchise-record 228 rushing yards on 24 carries and scored on two long touchdown runs (52 and 89 yards) that displayed his game-breaking speed.
Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre – In the ultimate “In your face” moment of this week, Favre returned to Lambeau with both guns blazing. The former Packers legend and current Vikings quarterback threw a season-high four touchdown passes and was never even touched in the pocket (zero sacks) as he piled up superb passing numbers: 17-for-28, 244 yards, 4 TDs, and 0 INTs. Favre also in his 90th win at Lambeau (2nd only to John Elway’s 95 wins at Mile High) tied Dan Marino’s NFL record of 21 career games with at least four TD passes. Favre’s record since the second half of the 2006 season is 33-10 games (.767 winning percentage), which is amazing considering the guy is 40 years old.
Carolina Panthers DE Julius Peppers — And you thought his salary of $1M per week salary was too high (2009 salary of $16M). Peppers in leading the Panthers to a revenge road win over the Arizona Cardinals had 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 force fumble, and returned an interception for a touchdown.
Houston Texans running back Ryan Moats – This former Eagles running back, who many in Philly thought didn’t have the football smarts to play the game, busted out in a big way this week. With starter RB Steve Slaton fumbling his way out of the lineup, it was Moats turn to carry the rock in the Texans 31-10 win over the Buffalo Bills. The small speedy back ran for 126 yards and 3 TDs plus he was able to block when needed and catch the ball, which are two things Moats had trouble with in Philly. The Texans are now two games over .500 for the first time in franchise history.
Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd – If you don’t know this rookie’s name, you better learn it quick. Byrd, a second-round pick from Oregon, had two more interceptions in the Bills’ loss to the Texans. Byrd also tied an NFL record with three straight games of at least two interceptions. Byrd now has 7 INTs in only 8 games and is on pace to break former Bears’ hard-hitting safety Mark Carrier’s NFL rookie record of 10 picks.
Other Honorees: Titans QB Vince Young (was efficient finishing with solid numbers 15 of 18 passes for 125 yards, 1 TD, and ran 12 times for 30 yards in the Titans first win of 2009); Atlanta Falcons RB Michael Turner (rushed 20 times for 151 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons’ MNF loss to the Saints); Saints CB Jabari Greer (had a crucial 48-yd interception return for a touchdown in the Saints’ MNF win); St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson (had 149 yards and scored his first touchdown of the season in the Rams’ first win since October 2008); Eagles FB Leonard Weaver (had a career-high 75 yards rushing yards including a 40-yard touchdown run in the Birds 40-17 win over the G-Men); San Diego Chargers LB Shawne Merriman (registered his first 2 sacks in nearly two years in the Chargers win over the Raiders); Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (scored on a 54-yard touchdown reception in the Eagles’ 40-17 win over Giants. Became just the second player in NFL history with six touchdowns of 50 + yards in his team’s first seven games of a season – tied HOF Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, LA Rams 1951); Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew (MJD only eight carries but rushed for 177 yards and two scores 80 and 79 yards in the Jags’ loss to the Titans); Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte (Had 121 yards from scrimmage, including 90 rushing yards, and two touchdowns in the Bears’ win over the Cleveland Browns); Houston Texans LB Brian Cushing (produced 10 tackles, one sack and an interception to end Buffalo’s final drive of the game in the Texans’ 31-10 win over the Bills); Baltimore Ravens CB Lardarius Webb (had three tackles and a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Ravens’ 30-7 win over the Broncos); Carolina Panthers’ two-headed running back combo DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart (the pair thrashed the NFL’s former #1 rushing defense with Williams finishing with 23 carries for 158 yards and Stewart adding 83 yards and 2 TDs).
Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner – In a game that could have shown that the Cardinals were truly back, Warner was awful in a bad home loss to the Carolina Panthers 34-21. To make matters worse the Cardinals could have gained ground on the Niners and Seahawks, who both lost. Warner looked like his counterpart QB Jake Delhomme who was awful and frazzled in the Panthers 2008 playoff loss to the Cardinals. Warner’s final numbers tell the whole story (27/46, 242 YDS, 2 TD, career-high 5 INTs and 1 lost fumble). In all the Cardinals had six turnovers, all committed by Warner.
The New York Jets – It is so much easier to talk trash and eat hotdogs on the sidelines when you are beating up the hapless Oakland Raiders. A week after saying they were going to turn the tables on the AFC East rival the Miami Dolphins this time. The Jets might have suffered their worst loss of the 2009 season, going down at home by a score of 30-25. Even though the Dolphins had only 104 yards, they scored on special teams (Ted Ginn) and on defense (Jason Taylor’s fumble return for a touchdown) to put the J-E-T-S away. And embarrassingly Jets LB Bart Scott refused to give the Dolphins credit for beating his team twice this season. Maybe their upcoming bye week will be the cure that the Jets need as they are 1-4 record in their last five games.
Cleveland Browns QB Derek Anderson – With rumors swirling that the Browns don’t want to pay incentives on backup QB Brady Quinn’s contract, inexplicably the Dawgs have stuck with Anderson. In another horrible performance in a bad 30-6 loss to the Chicago Bears, Anderson threw for putrid numbers 6/17, 76 YDS, and 2 INTs. Anderson’s 2009 statistics stand at a passer rating of 40.6 (lowest-rated quarterback in the NFL), 605 passing yards, 2 TDs, and 7 INTs. Maybe the Browns should put WR/KR Josh Cribbs (former college QB0 as he is the best quarterback on their roster. Anderson said after the game as a personal policy he doesn’t look at his statistics, because he knows they’re not pretty.”Honestly, they are garbage,” Anderson recently said. According to STATS LLC, only Ryan Leaf (34.5 in 2000) and Kerry Collins (37.5 in 2006) have started a season more poorly.
Baltimore Ravens WR Derrick Mason — Totally lost his cool in the Ravens win over the Broncos. Granted he was upset about a bad call by the officials – imagine that…sorry head of officials Mike Pereira – where they missed a defensive holding call. But Mason went too far screaming an official’s face and then slamming his helmet down on the sideline. Of course he was flagged for his actions for unsportsmanlike conduct, but enough was enough. Eventually Ravens head coach John Harbaugh had to calm his star receiver down and cooler heads prevailed.
St. Louis Rams safety James Butler – Made a boneheaded move after picking off Lions QB Matthew Stafford. Butler caught the ball in the endzone ran out then went back into the endzone where Lions RB Kevin Smith tackled him for a safety. Luckily for Butler the gaffe only cost the Rams two points and they won the game anyway for their first win of the season.
Houston Texans RB Steve Slaton – The former 1,000-yard rusher in 2008 lost the ball again (5 lost fumbles in 2009 including one in the win over the Bills) and may have lost his starting job to emerging runner Ryan Moats.
Seattle Seahawks CB Marcus Trufant – Returned from a back surgery for the first time this season and really struggled as he committed 3 Pass Interference penalties.
Sunday, November 1
Baltimore Ravens (4-3) over Denver Broncos (6-1), 30-7
Houston Texans (5-3) over Buffalo Bills (3-5), 31-10
Chicago Bears (4-3) over Cleveland Browns (1-6), 30-6
Dallas Cowboys (5-2) over Seattle Seahawks (2-5), 38-17
Miami Dolphins (3-4) over New York Jets (4-4), 30-25
Indianapolis Colts (7-0) over San Francisco 49ers (3-4), 18-14
Philadelphia Eagles (5-2) over New York Giants (5-3), 40-17
St. Louis Rams (1-7) over Detroit Lions (1-6), 17-10
San Diego Chargers (4-3) over Oakland Raiders (2-6), 24-16
Tennessee Titans (1-6) over Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4), 30-13
Minnesota Vikings (7-1) over Green Bay Packers (4-3), 38-26
Carolina Panthers (3-4) over Arizona Cardinals (4-3), 34-21
Sunday, November 2
New Orleans Saints (7-0) over Atlanta Falcons (4-3), 35-27
Byes: Bengals (5-2), Buccaneers (0-7), Chiefs (1-6), Patriots (5-2), Redskins (2-5), Steelers (5-2)
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)