2011 NFL Week 5 – Huddle Up: An Emotional Win for the Raiders by Jason King

One of the highlights of 2011 NFL Week 5 was QB Jason Campbell leading the heavy-hearted Oakland Raiders to an emotional win, only one day after team owner Al Davis passed away at age 82.  So let’s “huddle up” and recap another great week in the NFL
We are just over a quarter of the way through the NFL season, and it has been a very intriguing 5 weeks.  The Packers and Lions are the only undefeated teams left.  The Colts, Dolphins, and Rams are the only winless teams left.  The Patriots, Packers, and Saints have a combined record of 13-2. 
The Lions, Bills, and 49ers have a combined record of 13-2.  The Eagles and Jets have a combined record of 3-7.  The NFL prides itself on parity, and this season is providing a chance for some perennial losing franchises over the last few years to get back to prominence. 
It was another exciting weekend of football.  The Raiders got an emotional win in Houston .  The Bills stood up to another challenge forcing 5 turnovers and defeating the Eagles 31-24.  The Patriots handed the Jets their third straight loss, which put them in third place in the division.  The Tim Tebow era begun in Denver .  The Falcons stormed out to a 14-0 lead over the Packers on Sunday night, and didn’t score another point en route to a 25-14 loss. 
Al Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders, died on Saturday at the age of 82.  He was a rebel owner who did things his way and didn’t care what anybody thought.  The Raiders played a very emotional game on Sunday.  One of Davis ’ mottos was: Just win, baby!  The Raiders did that beating the Texans 25-20 on a last second interception by Michael Huff.
For the first quarter and a half the Raiders didn’t have any offensive rhythm whatsoever.  The Raiders ran 22 offensive plays before getting a first down.  They got their first first down with 2:00 remaining in the second quarter. In spite of their offensive struggles in the first half, they were only down by 2 at halftime.  It still wasn’t pretty after halftime but it was good enough to get the job done on this emotional day.
Sebastian Janikowski made four field goals, including an NFL record three from 50+ yards.  The Raiders only had 11 first downs in the entire game but still found a way to win.  Darren McFadden had 16 rushes for a season low 51 yards.  This was a gritty win for a grieving team.  Hue Jackson gave an emotional speech in the locker room after the game.  It will be interesting to see how long Oakland can ride this wave.
The Buffalo Bills are trying to prove that they belong in the conversation with the NFL’s best.  They are now 4-1 and in first place in the AFC East.  They may not have the best defense in the NFL but it is an opportunistic one.  They forced five Eagles turnovers including three first half interceptions that helped blow the game wide open.  They only sacked Michael Vick once but they were in his face all day.  SS George Wilson was all over the place against the Eagles.  He had 1 interception, 11 tackles (1 tackle for a loss), 3 passes defended, and 1 quarterback hit.  Wilson was the difference maker on defense for Buffalo.
On the offensive side of the ball, Fred Jackson is carrying this team.  He has to be on the short list of MVP candidates in the early part of the season.  He had 32 touches for 196 yards and 1 touchdown.  He is effective running the ball (111 rushing yards) and catching the ball out of the backfield (86 receiving yards).  In fact, Jackson was Buffalo ’s leading receiver on Sunday.  As a way of illustrating how well Jackson played beyond his numbers is this stat: the Eagles missed 14 tackles against the Bills and 7 of them were trying to tackle Mr. Jackson. 
Ryan Fitzpatrick played an efficient game going 21 of 27 for 193 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.  I’ve got a feeling we are going to see about the Bills in the next few weeks.  Their next four games: at NY Giants, Washington, NY Jets, and at Dallas.  The New England Patriots beat their archrivals, the New York Jets 31-20 on Sunday.  They were lead by The Law Firm (Benjarvus Green-Ellis).  He had a career-high 27 carries for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns.  The Patriots made a concerted effort to run the ball on Sunday.  As a team they had 152 rushing yards.  The Jets were suppose to be the team that ran the ball but the Patriots not only established a solid running game, but they held the Jets ground game in check.  The Jets had 97 yards rushing. 
Tom Brady threw his first red zone interception at home ever on Sunday when Antonio Cromartie intercepted his pass for Aaron Hernandez as time expired in the second quarter.  It looked to be a big momentum booster for the Jets but Brady regrouped after halftime.  On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Brady faked to The Law Firm.  SS Eric Smith bit on the play action and Wes Welker crept pass him for a 73 yard reception.  3 plays later Brady hit Deion Branch for a 2-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone, which gave the Pats a 17-7 lead. 
The Jets came right back with a long Joe McKnight kick return and only took three plays to make the score 17-14.  They then forced the Patriots to go 3 and out.  They got the ball back at their own 28.  On first down Mark Sanchez missed Santonio Holmes over the middle, second down Ladanian Tomlinson ran for four yards, and on third and six Sanchez completed a pass to Jeremy Kerley for 4 yards, short of the first down.
The Jets punted and forced the Pats into a second consecutive three and out.  Once again the Jets got the ball at their own 27, trailing 17-14 after another key defensive stop.  On first down Shonn Greene ran for no gain, second down Greene ran up the middle for 3 yards, and on third and seven Sanchez missed Plaxico Burress.  The Jets had to punt again.  The Pats went on an 11 play 74 yard, 4:12 drive that gave them a 24-14 lead.  The Jets got the ball on their own 8 to start the next drive because of a holding penalty. 
They once again went three and out.  Rex Ryan may look back at those two drives that produced nothing after the defense got a quick stop and point to them as the reason the Jets missed the playoffs.  Three of the next four Jet games are against division leaders ( Miami , San Diego , at Buffalo , and New England ).  The positive is that two of the three games are at home.  If they don’t go 4-0 in those next four games I don’t see how they can make the playoffs.
Tim Tebow came into the Broncos-Chargers game after halftime with the Chargers leading 23-10.  His play wasn’t pretty but he provided energy to his team and the crowd.  Although they didn’t win the game the Broncos made it exciting.
Kyle Orton has been very erratic in the first four Bronco games this season.  That continued for the first half on Sunday and John Fox decided to make a quarterback change.  He was 6-13 for 34 yards and 1 INT in the first half Sunday.  Tebow ignited the team and the crowd.  It seemed the offensive line blocked better, the receivers ran their routes crisper, and the running back hit the holes harder.  Even the defense feed off of that energy.  They got after Philip Rivers sacking him five times (four times in the second half).  They keyed in on the run and forced San Diego into predictable passing situations. 
Tebow had 117 total yards and a touchdown.  He led two Denver scoring drives in the fourth quarter.  He seemed to give the team life and the fans hope.  I see this thing playing out two ways now that Denver has named Tebow the starter against Miami on October 23.  One is that the offense looks worse with Tebow and Orton starts again this season.  The Broncos then trade Tebow in the offseason.  Two is the offense plays better with Tebow and he starts the rest of the year.  The Broncos finish something like 3-13 and the fans still love Tebow.  John Elway uses this to show the fans that the team can’t win with Tebow and drafts a quarterback in the first round of the draft. 
Either way I think the Broncos try and trade Tebow in the offseason.  Tebow isn’t an NFL quarterback.  As fun as it might be for the fans to see, it will not win games.  I now expect that Tebow will start the remainder of the year just so that the fans can see that he isn’t a franchise quarterback.
Huddle Up
1.  The Falcons are losing their identity.  The Falcons never established their running game against the Packers on Sunday night even when they built a 14-0 lead.  But after the first quarter it was hard to watch the Falcons offense.  They couldn’t move the ball.  For the game they were outgained 426 to 251.  It’s a troubling sign when you can’t hang your hat on anything, but it’s even more troubling when you don’t know why.  The Falcons have a young quarterback, a solid running back, a decent offensive line, and a revamped and talented receiving group.  They only committed two turnovers and they were both in the fourth quarter on the Falcons last two drives.  Their defense had a good game plan against the Packers offense, and played as well as anybody can hope for against this juggernaut.  I don’t know what’s wrong in Atlanta , but Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff will figure it out, and fix it.
2.  Vikings/Cardinals: 44 combined points scored, 374 combined passing yards, 0 passing touchdowns.  The astounding and record-breaking passing numbers in the first five weeks of the season have been well documented.  So you can understand how weird a game like this is in today’s NFL.  There were no touchdown passes thrown by either quarterback.  Arizona spent a lot of money on Kevin Kolb and gave up a Pro Bowl corner and second round draft pick.  Through five games he has more interceptions than touchdowns and a 1-4 record.  It’s way too early to make any proclamations about the trade but some people are beginning to question Kolb.  The Vikings gave up considerably less to get Donovan McNabb, but still can’t be pleased with the results.  Through 5 games he only has 869 yards passing and 4 passing touchdowns.  These two quarterbacks both were drafted by Philadelphia so they can appreciate this: the fans in Glendale and Minneapolis are way more patient than the fans in Philadelphia .
3.  LT Max Starks stabilized the Steelers offensive line.  Starks was signed by the Steelers last week and started on Sunday against the Titans.  He played good in his return.  The Steelers only let Big Ben get sacked once and he threw 5 touchdown passes.  Big Ben is pretty goo when he gets protection, in case you haven’t noticed. 
4.  The upset of the week: Seahawks beat Giants 36-25.  The Seahawks first trip to the East Coast this year didn’t turn out well.  They lost to the Steelers 24-3.  This week they were up for the challenge.  They forced 3 Eli Manning interceptions that helped them stay in the game.  Tavaris Jackson was injured and Charlie Whitehurst played good in relief.  I can’t get a good read on this Giants team.  Tom Coughlin described this loss best: “About as miserable a feeling as we’ve had around here in a long time.”
5.  What a catch Victor Cruz and Dwayne Bowe.  These were the two best catches of the year, hands down.  If you didn’t see them, find them somewhere on the internet and watch.
6.  The San Francisco 49ers are for real.  They beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-3 on Sunday afternoon.  Jim Harbough has this team playing good football.  They ran for 213 yards.  The defense was intimidating, holding the Buccaneers to 272 total yards and 14 first downs (those numbers don’t show how dominant the 49ers defense was because they were inflated in the fourth quarter).  They looked poised to run away and hide with the NFC West.  Alex Smith and Harbough has been a great marriage so far.  Smith only has one interception through 5 games.  The 49ers biggest challenge will await them at Ford Field this Sunday.
7.  The Chicago Bears had 8 false start penalties against the Lions Monday night.  That was one of the worse games I have ever seen from an offensive line.  Jay Cutler was only sacked three times but he was hit constantly.  The Bears have the worse offensive line in football.  Not only do they give up sacks and hits on their quarterback, they committed 8 false start penalties.  That is a recipe for disaster.  Lovie Smith is a coach on the hot seat.  He should be, especially after a game where his team was penalized 14 times for 104 yards.
8.  The ending to the Jaguars/Bengals game is unacceptable.  The Jags are up 20-16 with 6:52 left to play.  The Bengals punt the ball and pin the Jags at their own 2 yard line.  The Jags go three and out and punt the ball from their own 6.  Jags P M. Turk punts the ball 22 yards and after a Jags penalty, the Bengals got the ball at the Jags 23 yard line.  The net yardage gain of the punt was 17 yards.  7 plays later the Bengals took the lead on a Bernard Scott 2-yard touchdown run.  With the Bengals up 23-20 the Jags got the ball back at their own 33.  They gained 9 yards on two plays and it was third and one from the 42.  C Brad Meester snapped the ball before QB Blaine Gabbart was ready and the ball went flying into the backfield.  Bengals CB Nate Clements recovered the ball at the Jags 19.  The Jags lost 23 yards and the game on that play.  But that wasn’t enough.  The Bengals ran the ball four times and the Jags took over on downs at their own 14 with 0:12 to play.  Blaine Gabbart threw the ball to Jason Hill who caught it at the Jags 27 and that’s where the laterals began.  The ball ended up back in Gabbart’s hands and his lateral attempt was taken in for a touchdown by Bengals DT Geno Atkins.  After a lengthy review the play was upheld.  30-20 final score.  The Jags are in for a long season if plays like this continue.  Jack Del Rio will be looking for a new job if plays like this continue.   
9.  The Panthers are fun to watch.  Every week the Panthers are in an entertaining game.  They have had a chance to win every one of their games in the fourth quarter.  The game Sunday against the Saints was no different.  They lost 30-27 but had a fourth quarter lead that slipped away.  Once this teams learns how to play 60 minute games, the NFC South better watch out.
10. The loss of Texans LB Mario Williams cannot be overstated.  Williams suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the first half against the Raiders and is expected to miss the rest of the season.  This is a great loss for a defense in transition.  Although they should be able to weather the storm and win the AFC South, the Texans Super Bowl chances took a big hit with the loss of Williams.  Not only is he the team’s best pass rusher but offenses game planned for Williams.  Now there is not one single player on Houston ’s defense that offensive coordinators will have to plan for.         

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