2009 NFL Season – Week 9 Review

stafford

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)

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