Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 091310 (Part 1)

In Part 1 of this week’s Taking It to the House NFL Podcast — The post Donovan McNabb era for the Philadelphia Eagles couldn’t have started worse except the stellar play of backup QB Michael Vick

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 091310 (Part 1)

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance reviews Week 1 of the 2010 season with host Mark Gray including talking about Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick’s performance in a close loss to the Green Bay Packers

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2010 NFL Preseason Week 1 Review

Steelers QB Dennis Dixon received a Game Ball for his outstanding play in Week 1 of the 2010 NFL Preseason

Week 1 of the 2010 NFL Preseason is now in the books.  As usual the start of preseason games are welcomed by most players (want to hit someone else other than teammates) and fans (“Jonesing” for their football fix).  But after most of the starters have left preseason games, usually in the first or second quarter, everyone watching can’t wait for the “real” games to start.  Unfortunately there are usually several “training camp” players on the field after halftime, which lends to some sloppy play at times.

The week’s highlight had to be the opening of the New Meadowlands Stadium as the “Battle for New York” was center stage on Monday Night football. Friendly tenants, the New York Giants and New York Jets, battled it out with the G-Men coming away with a 31-16 win.  The biggest television-worth play had to be Giants quarterback Eli Manning having a “Y.A Tittle” moment.  Manning departed the game in the first half with a three-inch laceration to his forehead after getting caught between two Jets’ defenders with his helmet off. Blood was gushing from Peyton’s little brother’s melon, which definitely needed several stitches to close the wound.

One key element that I noticed this week and throughout the preseason is that the National Football League is “survival of the fittest”, where you can never have too much quality depth.  Unfortunately players around the league continue to drop like flies. Some notable injuries were Buffalo Bills RB Fred Jackson (broken hand – 4 to 6 weeks), Houston Texans RB Ben Tate (broken ankle – season), Tennessee Titans RB Stafon Johnson (his great comeback story is over for now after a heart-breaking ankle injury), Dallas Cowboys OT Marco Colombo (knee scoped), Detroit Lions LB Jordon Dizon (knee – season), New England Patriots DE Ty Warren (season-ending hip injury), Baltimore Ravens OT Jared Gaither (back tear) and too many others to list.

All these injuries are making coaches and general managers scream, “Please Let’s Just Start the Regular Season”. I have to agree with them, because too often important pieces of a team’s puzzle are lost for considerable amounts of time, including for the entire season, in meaningless games. We all know that preseason games — or “exhibition” games as I like to call them — are only on the schedule for the purpose of generating extra revenue (television dollars and local teams having two extra “home” games at full price) and they are very unnecessary. Also as Eagles head coach Andy Reid recently said of his game-planning for the his preseason Week 1 opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, “We kept it pretty vanilla” – BTW: the Eagles and Jaguars play in Week 3 of the regular season.  You just are not going to see much in preseason as teams usually want to save their best for the games that count.

With today’s athletes already engaging in year-round NFL activities including OTAs and long arduous training camps, four preseason games is a bit much. Today’s NFL players’ bodies are already pushed to the max after training camp two-a-days in the hot sun, so there is already a “Next Man Up” mentality before preseason games are even played. I know coaches try to limit exposure to key veterans by getting them out of preseason games early, but the risk is always there. I believe NFL commissioner Roger Goodell needs to investigate limiting preseason game, however I am not sure about removing them just to add more career-shortening regular season games.

Even though this week’s preseason games only gave a minor taste of “real” regular season NFL football action, there were some bright spot performances.  Overall though, I say bring on the “real” games, because the NFL’s preseason is just too long of a process and watching games of depth chart 3’s versus 4’s is unbearable.  For goodness sakes, Minnesota Vikings 3rd string quarterback Sage Rosenfels threw for 310 yards and 3 TDs in a 28-7 win over the hapless St. Louis Rams ….need I say anymore.

Game Balls

Redskins QB Donovan McNabb – After a slow start, Washington’s new signal-caller settled down to lead his offensive unit to touchdown.  McNabb hit young receiver Anthony Armstrong with a 4-yard strike to complete his night’s work.  For the game, Big 5 finished with numbers 5-of-8 for 58 yards in two series.

Giants WR Victor Cruz – I guess the NY Jets really do need holdout Darrelle Revis. A preseason star was born in the Giants’ 31-16 win over the NY Jets.  Cruz caught 6 passes for 145 yards and 3 TDs.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers – The former 2009 Pro Bowl passer was amazing as he finished with numbers of 12-13, 159 yards, and 1 TD against the lowly Cleveland Browns.

Panthers QB Jimmy Clausen – Could there be a quarterback controversy in Carolina already?? I am saying hold your horses on that one.  But the former Notre Dame star showed good footwork and arm strength in his team’s 17-12 loss to the Ravens.

Steelers QB Dennis Dixon — Had a perfect passer rating as he finished with numbers 6-7, 128 yards and 1 TD in a 23-7 win over the Detroit Lions.

Panthers OLB Greg Hardy – Showed great burst off the edge as he finished with 2 sacks in a loss to the Ravens

Lloyd’s Lackey

Colts better get another back-up quarterback – Usually try to not give out a “Lloyd’s Lackey” this time of the year.   But there was an awful performance that must be noted.  In case Peyton Manning gets hurt — not that No. 18 ever gets hurt — Indy has no shot of winning games with back-up passer Curtis Painter.  The former Purdue star was awful in a 37-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.  His line for the game was 9-for-19, 64 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 INTs.

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

2009 NFL Season – Week 12 Revew

NFL leading sackman Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil was one of Week 12’s Game Ball winners

Week 12 was Thanksgiving weekend around the NFL and fans were treated to three game days (Thursday, Sunday and Monday) filled with non-stop action.  Unfortunately the games that were played on the actual holiday (Thursday) were some real turkeys – smallest winning margin was 17 points — with the Green Packers (defeated the host Detroit Lions 34-12), Dallas Cowboys (defeated the hapless Oakland Raiders 24-7), and Denver Broncos (feasted on the NY Giants 26-6) all winning handily. 

No disrespect to the league’s schedule makers, but I think it is about time to switch-up the host cities and match-ups on Thanksgiving as it has been too long since America was able feast on turkey while enjoying some quality football.  The main culprit team that probably needs to be removed from the league’s Thanksgiving table is the Detroit Lions.  I know the Lions playing on Thanksgiving — 70 times in the franchise’s history — is part of Americana like the phrase, “Can you pass the gravy”.  But enough already as the Lions have lost six straight games on the holiday, setting a franchise record, by an average of 23.2 points and eight of their last nine.  So for the betterment of everyone’s digestion, the Lions need to go unless the NFL plans on bringing in a semi-pro team to play them.

Luckily for the league, Sunday and Monday brought some much better games that kept people glued to their seats through Monday Night’s much-anticipated battle between the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots.  Putting aside the blowouts, which have become too prevalent throughout the 2009 season (49ers over Jaguars  20-3,  Bills over Dolphins 31-14,  Chargers  over Chiefs, 43-14 and Vikings over Bears, 36-10).  There were storylines and great performances aplenty to keep everyone filled when their turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes ran out.  There were five games that were decided by three points or less including a game-winning touchdown on the last play of the game and an overtime thriller. 

 With only five 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” (6 teams with 8 wins or more including the league’s two undefeated teams — Colts and Saints both 11-0) and the “Have Nots” (7 teams with 3 or less wins, who are now basically spoilers).  But the majority of the league (19 teams) are still caught in the parity-laden middle with records ranging from 7-4 to 4-7 including former 2008 playoff teams – Arizona Cardinals (7-4), Philadelphia Eagles (7-4), NY Giants (6-5), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5), Baltimore Ravens (6-5), Atlanta Falcons (6-5), Tennessee Titans (5-6), and Carolina Panthers (4-7)  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.

Some of the other bigger headlines from this week included:

The Quest for Perfection continues – The NFL’s two unbeaten squads (New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts) stayed that way for another week.  The pair made NFL history as for the first  time in league history there are two teams at 11-0.  For the second straight week, the two unbeatens couldn’t have played more desperaging games, 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 neighborhoods. 

The Colts kept their record unblemished and won their 20th straight game despite falling behind by scores 17-0 and 20-7 (halftime) to the upstart Houston Texans – 5th consecutive win when trailing in the fourth quarter.  Led by QB Peyton Manning (27-35, 244 yds, 3 TDs, 2 INTs), who has a passer rating of 113.9 in fourth quarters this season, the Colts went on a 21-0 run and outscored the Texans 28-7 in the second half on their way to a thrilling 35-27 win in Houston — 6th straight win over the Texans.  Many players contributed to the Colts’ win including rookie starting corner Jerraud Powers (3rd round pick from Auburn), but no player probably came up bigger than LB Clint Session who had  27-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Session read the eyes of struggling Texans quarterback Matt Schaub  and jumped the route for an easy game-changing pick-6.

The Colts clinched the AFC South with the win combined with the Jaguars’ loss to the Niners — can you believe it in only 11 games.  So now Jim Caldwell’s team may soon be sitting out some veterans so that they can heal-up for the playoffs.  The Colts are also, only one win shy of tying the Patriots’ record of 21 straight regular season wins set in 2006-08.  With 11 wins, Caldwell tied Steve Mariucci for the most consecutive wins by a rookie head coach since 1950. Indianapolis has won 11 games for the seventh straight year, an NFL record and they can also extend their current NFL record of 6 straight seasons with 12 wins or more with one more win.

The Colts win was thrilling, but the Monday Night Football match-up of the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots was much more anticipated.  In a game that some people were calling, “The Battle of the Bayou” or Super Bowl XLIII ¾, many people – including yours truly —  thought that the Saints’ magic carpet ride would end to Bill Belichick’s three-time Super Bowl champion Patriots.  But to the chagrine of Saints’ doubters, Sean Payton’s high octane team quickly made the Patriots look old and confused while turning  this game into a laugher.  The Saints in stunning fashion whipped up on the New England in a 38-17 rout.  Playing without former 2006 first-round pick scatback Reggie Bush, the Saints didn’t miss a beat as they piled up 480 yards of total offense and easily scored 38 points.  Luckily for the Patriots, the Saints were in cruise control for much of the 4th quarter and New England agreed putting in their backups to end the game. 

Though the Saints will try to downplay the significance of the win, there is no doubt that they wanted to prove to the rest of the league that they are the “Real Deal”.  And they did make a statement with the win , because this wasn’t the Bucs, Seahawks, or any other lower level NFL squad that the Saints dismantled.  This was the big bad New England Patriots, who have won over 105 games this decade and recently only lost to the Colts by 1-point just a couple of weeks ago.  To put it plain and simple, the Saints are a scary bunch who jumped all over the Patriots and never let-up.  With 407 points scored through 11 games, they are approaching the the exclusive NFL 500+ point club.  The 1999 St. Louis Rams (529 points scored and Super Bowl champs), 1998 Minnesota Vikings (556 points scored and a record of 15-1), and 2007 New Patriots (NFL record 589 points score and 16-0 AFC Champs) better watchout as the 2009 Saints are a force to be reckoned with. 

I don’t know about you, but from my TV it looked like  the Saints were the best team in the NFL in all three phases of the game.  And of course MVP candidate QB Drew Brees (see Game Balls) led the way as he had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 for the contest while averaging an amazing 16.1 yards per pass attempt.  Brees, who was only sacked once, spread the ball around to seven different pass catchers including explosive receivers Marques Colston, Devrey Henderson, and Robert Meachem who each caught a touchdown.  The Saints offense wasn’t the only story of the game as their defense basically shutdown the NFL’s 2nd ranked offense coming into the game.  Using a variety of blitzes and coverages, the Saints made Patriots QB Tom Brady (21 of 36 for 237 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions) look very “average”.  The Patriots were limited to 17 points and only a 3rd down efficiency of 4 for 13 (30%) while turning the ball over 3 times (2 INTs and 1 lost fumble). New Orleans’ defense recorded two sacks and everyone contributed even 33-year-old CB Mike McKenzie (3 tackles and 1 INT), who was signed by the Saints last week.  A very telling stat was that the Saints held Patriots wide receivers Wes Welker and Randy Moss to combined numbers of nine catches for 99 yards and no touchdowns with only one catch going longer than 10 yards.

The Saints have now won 11 games in a season for the first time since 1991 and could be on their way to the No. 1 seed in the NFC.  Though the Vikings are only 1-game behind the Saints in terms of wins, New Orleans could possibly the NFL’s best due to their explosive nature on offense, defense and special teams.  After the game,  Brees talked about how this win means a little more than your average “W”.  “[The win] only counts for one win on the stat sheet,” Brees said. “But emotionally, those types of wins can mean a little bit more. We played a tremendous football team tonight. They know how to win, they do things the right way.”

Though I don’t think the Saints and Colts can do the impossible 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:    @WAS    @ATL      DAL         TB     @CAR

Colts:      TEN         DEN         @JAC      NYJ   @BUF

V.Y comes of age — Weeks ago, Titans’ owner Bud Adams made it clear he wanted Vince Young to replace Kerry Collins as the team’s starter and clearly he was right.  Adams received his vindication after V.Y’s breakout career-high 387-yard passing performance in the Tennessee Titans last-second 20-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals including throwing the game-winner with no time left on the clock.  The Titans were down by a score of 17-13 late in the fourth quarter to the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals and had 99 yards to cover with only 2 minutes, 37 seconds left on the clock.  Young (27/43, 387 YDS, 1 TD, and 0 INTs) capped off an 18-play, 99-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to leaping rookie receiver Kenny Britt in the back of the end zone as time expired.  The most impressive part of the game-winning drive was the determination of the Titans’ starter.  Young (23-11 as an NFL starter) completed 10 of 16 passes for 94 yards and ran for another five while converting three fourth-downs on the drive, including the winning touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Cardinals’ 10.

A little while ago, the former 3rd overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft just wanted a chance to show, that he was still a playmaker in the NFL and not the perceived malcontent potential bust that many were painting him out to be… well the past 5 games should have shut-up a lot of people.  Young has had several Steve McNair-type leadership performance making plays with his arm and legs while of course leaning on MVP-candidate RB Chris Johnson (on a pace for over 2,000 yards rushing).   In their 5th straight win after an 0-6 start, the Titans also snapped Arizona’s five-game winning streak.  It must have been deja-vu all over again for Cardinals starter Matt Leinart, who had lost the 2006 Rose Bowl to Young when they were both college hotshots for USC and Texas respectively, as No. 10 left the field with another comeback victory in his hands.  Young has won 9-consecutive starts going back to 2007 and he is now a perfect 5-0 as the Titans starter this season.  But the Titans’ new unquestioned leader pointed out after the game, it was a huge “team” win.  “As the Tennessee Titans, I feel we fought to the finish,” Young said.  The Titans are now 5-6 and right in the middle of the AFC’s wildcard hunt — remaining games @IND, STL, MIA, SD, and @SEA — after almost no one, but themselves, thought they were still in the race. 

Winning streaks continuing —  When making a playoff push, the most important thing for NFL teams is stay “hot” i.e produce a winning streak.  Here are some teams on a roll right now — The Indianapolis Colts won their 20th straight; The New Orleans Saints have strung together a franchise record 11-straight wins; The San Diego Chargers maintained their lead in the AFC West by continuing their win streak (6); The Tennessee Titans have turned everything upside down by winning 5 games in a row and in Week 13, they can stop the Colts’ win streak; Also the Minnesota Vikings currently have a 4-game winning streak and the Green Bay Packers have a 3-game winning streak.  Conversely a few teams can’t seem to buy a win including the Cleveland Brown (lost 6 in a row) and Chicago Bears (lost 4 in a row as their quarterback keeps throwing picks),

Here’s the current division breakdown after Week 12:

NFC East – The Dallas Cowboys (8-3) have a 1-game lead over the Eagles (7-4).  Now is “crunch time” in the NFC East as we will see if the Cowboys will start their December swoon again.  After feasting on the lowly Raiders on Thanksgiving, the Dallas’ next five games should a lot tougher (@NYG, SD, @NO, @WAS, and PHI)

NFC West — The Arizona Cardinals (7-4) have a 2-game lead over the Niners (5-6).  The Cardinals better get QB Kurt Warner (concussion) back fast  for their Week 14 showdown with the Niners.  Arizona’s next five games are a mix of good and bad opponents (MIN, @SF, @DET, STL, and GB)

NFC South — The New Orleans Saints (11-0) have a 5-game lead over the Falcons (6-5).  With a win in Week 13, the Saints can continue their unbeaten ways plus claim the NFC South title.  New Orleans next five games right now make 16-0 look a little more possible (@WAS, @ATL, DAL, TB and @CAR)

NFC North – The Minnesota Vikings (10-1) have a 3-game lead over the Packers (7-4), plus they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker after sweeping Green Bay this season.  QB Brett Favre’s gang will continue to chase the undefeated Saints in hopes they falter, causing the road to the Super Bowl in Miami to go through the Metrodome.  However the Vikings have some tough playoff contenders in their remaining five games (@AR, CIN, @CAR, @CHI, and NYG)

AFC East – The New England Patriots (7-4) still have a 2-game lead over the Miami Dolphins (5-6) after both teams lost in Week 12.  Even though the Patriots lost to the Saints, I still believe they will be a dangerous playoff team.  New England’s last 5 games include a Week 13 showdown with the Dolphins in Miami (@MIA, CAR, @BUF, JAC, and @HOU)

AFC West — The San Diego Chargers (8-3) with their 43-14 pounding of the Kansas City Chiefs maintained their one-game lead over the Denver Broncos (7-4).  I believe this will be one of the few divisional races that goes down to the wire.  San Diego still has some tough games left on their schedule and Broncos are still in fight (@CLE, @DAL, CIN, @TEN, and WAS)

AFC South – The Indianapolis Colts (11-0) won the AFC South title for 2009 as they came back for a 35-27 win over the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars lost 20-3 to the Niners.  With the division sewn up it will be interesting to see if the Colts hold out some of their veteran down the stretch (TEN, DEN, @JAC, NYJ and @BUF)

AFC North — The Cincinnati Bengals (8-3) increased their lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens (both 6-5) to 2-games.  The Bengals are now a perfect 6-0 in the AFC North, but their next 5 games, including 3 road contests, should test their playoff resolve (DET, @MIN, @SD, KC, and @NYJ)

Other Contenders remaining schedules

ATL (6-5)                PHI          NO          @NYJ      BUF         @TB

BAL (6-5)                @GB       DET         CHI          @PIT      @OAK

DEN (7-4)               @KC       @IND     OAK        @PHI      KC

GB (7-4)                 BAL          @CHI      @PIT      SEA          @ARI

HOU (5-6)              @JAC      SEA          @STL      @MIA     NE

JAC (6-5)                HOU        MIA         IND         @NE       @CLE

MIA (5-6)               NE           @JAC      @TEN     HOU        PIT

NYG (6-5)               DAL         PHI          @WAS    CAR         @MIN

NYJ (5-6)                @BUF     @TB        ATL          @IND     CIN

PHI (7-4)                @ATL      @NYG     SF            DEN         @DAL

PIT (6-5)                 OAK        @CLE      GB           BAL          @MIA

SF (5-6)                  @SEA      ARI          @PHI      DET         @STL

TEN (5-6)                @IND     STL          MIA         SD           @SEA

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

Concussions and other Injuries – I say it every week, “The NFL Season is a War of Attrition” and Week 12 was another MASH unit special.  Once again concussions  were a huge factor in players leaving the field.  Players suffering concussions were Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson, Chicago Bears CB Charles Tillman and NY Giants RB Danny Ware.  The multitude of other frontline injuries included:  Broncos WR/KR Eddie Royal (thigh), Chicago Bears LB Lance Briggs (knee), Chicago Bears OT Orlando Pace (groin), Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan (toe), NY Giants QB Eli Manning (foot), Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme (finger), Atlanta Falcons RB Michael Turner (ankle), Browns DL Shaun (right ankle/Achilles tendon), Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back), Washington Redskins CB Fred Smoot (head) and Washington Redskins FB Mike Sellers (hamstring).

Thanksgiving rest – A great thing for teams playing on Thanksgiving  is that they get a nice long 10-day rest before their next game.  “Playing on Thanksgiving is a big plus because it gives those teams extra days off heading into December and that can play a major role in how well a team performs,” said former Cowboys RB and current Fox analyst Darryl “Moose” Johnston, who played in nine Thanksgiving Day games.  “The extra days off will give players more time to get healthy and come out fresh that first Sunday in December.  They need to fight through soreness from the previous week’s games to get ready for Thursday, but it will be well worth it.  Especially if your team is on the winning end.”   I also heard  that Cowboys QB Tony Romo and WR Miles Austin used their time off to go to Vegas, Baby!

Game Balls

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees Look out Peyton and Brett as Drew maybe the leader for the 2009 NFL MVP award.  Brees completed 18 of 23 passes for 371 yards with five touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating.  The Saints piled up 480 yards of total offense and they even took it easy on the poor Patriots in the 4th quarter.  Brees now leads the NFL with 27 touchdown passes and has thrown for at least 300 yards in his last five games on Monday Night Football.

Honorable Mention

Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre – The 40-year veteran signal caller gets better each week.  Favre tied former Minnesota Vikings DL Jim Marshall’s NFL record for most consecutive games played by a position player (282) in the Vikings dominating  36-10 win over the Chicago Bears.  No. 4 stayed in the MVP race by throwing for 392 yards and three TDs and he  finished just 10 yards short of his career high for passing yards. The Vikings amassed 537 total yards, which was the most yards a team has racked up against Chicago since 1982.

Buffalo Bills Terrell Owens – For the second week in a row T.O came to play and it now looks like he is feeling comfortable in Buffalo.  Owens had his second straight Pro Bowl type game finishing with five catches for 96 yards and a touchdown.  Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick hooked up with Owens on a 51-yard touchdown that gave the Bills a 24-14 lead and basically allowed them to cruise to a 31-14 win over the Dolphins.  For the season T.O’s numbers are 40 receptions for 659 yards, 16.5 ypc, and 3 TDs.

Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson – The 2nd year speedster became just the third player to rush for 125 yards in six straight games with 154 yards rushing in the Titans’ 20-17 win. Johnson’s showed his sub 4.3 speed by running for an 85-yard touchdown and he also joined Hall of Famer Earl Campbell as the only players in franchise history with six straight 100-yard rushing games.

Cinncinati Bengals RB Larry Johnson – Welcome Back, Welcome Back. Johnson playing in his first game for the Bengals since the Kansas City Chiefs said take a hike looked like his old 2005 self in his team’s 16-7 win over the Cleveland Browns.  Johnson 22 times for 107 yards in relief of injured starter Cedric Benson.  The 100-yard game was the former Penn State runner’s first since December 21, 2008 versus the Miami Dolphins.  As a team the Bengals produced 210 yards.

Denver Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil – The former Louisvill pass rusher dominated against the NY Giants on Thanksgiving.  Dumervil finished with five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in a 26-6 win over the Giants. Dumervil now has 14 sacks on the season, which leads the NFL.

New York Jets CB Darrelle Revis – The former Pitt corner showed why he is one of the NFL’s best cover corners as he held Carolina Panthers RB Steve Smith to one catch for five yards.  Revis also intercepted Carolina Panthers struggling QB Jake Delhomme twice..

Other Honorees: Cleveland Browns WR/KR Josh Cribbs (had 38 kickoff return yards to become the first player in NFL history to amass 1,000 kickoff return yards in each of his first five seasons); Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young (the Titans’ new team-first quarterback almost threw for 400 yards and won his 9th start in a row in a comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals); New York Jets safety Kerry Rhodes (responded from benched by picking off two passes in a 17-6 win against Carolina); Arizona Cardinals DL Darnell Dockett (had 3 sacks and 8 tackles in the Cardinals loss to the Titans); Buffalo Bills interim head coach Perry Fewell (won his first game as an NFL head coach by starting  RB Fred Jackson and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick);  Miami Dolphins OLB Joey Porter (produced 2.5 sacks and 6 tackles in the Bills win over the Dolphins); Minnesota Vikins DE Jared Allen (had 2 sacks in the Vikings win over the Bears); Tennessee Titans WR Kenny Britt (oercame a critical fourth-quarter fumble to make a leaping catch for the game’s winning score. The 2009 first rounder finished with seven catches for a career-high 128 receiving yards and 1 TD); Colts LB Clint Session (had a 27-yard interception for a touchdown and finished with a team-high nine tackles in the Colts win over the Texans); .San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates (had seven catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the Chargers 43-14 win over the KC Chiefs); Baltimore Ravens WR Mark Clayton (caught a season-high 129 yards on seven receptions in the Ravens win over the Steelers); New Orleans safety Darren Sharper (grabbed his eighth interception of the season – tied for the NFL lead — in the Saints win over the Patriots).

Lloyd’s Lackey

Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme — Another awful performance for the quarterback that the Panthers gave a ton of money to in the offseason.  Delhomme threw four interceptions and had a passer rating of 12.7 in the Panthers 17-6 loss to the NY Jets. The former Super Bowl quarterback now has 18 INTs for the season and now  it look like either backup quarterback A.J. Feeley or Matt Moore  will be starting soon.  Delhomme now has five multi-interception games in his 11 starts this season.

Dishonorable Mention

New York Giants RB Brandon Jacobs – I guess Big Jake’s wallet is weighing him down after his huge offseason extension.  Jacobs only ran for 27 yards on 11 carries — his lowest output this season – in the Broncos win over the NY Giants.  The Giants big back’s numbers for the year now stand at 174 rushes for 683 yards, 3.9 ypr average, and 3 TDs.

The Chicago Bears — The Bears were horrible in their 36-10 loss to the host  Minnesota Vikings.  The Bears defense allow 537 yards — the most by Chicago in 27 years. Matters got even worse when injured linebacker Brian Urlacher questioned the team’s direction in an interview with Yahoo! Sports.  Some memorable things Urlacher said were, “Look, I love Jay, and I understand he’s a great player who can take us a long way, and I still have faith in him, but I hate the way our identity has changed. We used to establish the run and wear teams down and try not to make mistakes, and we’d rely on our defense to keep us in the game and make big plays to put us in position to win. Kyle Orton might not be the flashiest quarterback, but the guy is a winner, and that formula worked for us. I hate to say it, but that’s the truth.”  Under beleaguered and on-the-hot-seat head coach Lovie Smith from a win high of 13 games during the Bears’ 2006 Super Bowl run to only 4 wins this season.

Detroit Lions rookie DB Louis Delmas – Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley claims the Lions rookie laid a dirty play on him in the second quarter of the Packers-Lions Thanksgiving game.  The incident happened when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sailed a pass high of Finley over the middle and  Delmas took it out on his chest. The hard hitting safety was penalized, but the Packers were not happy about the dance he did after the hit. Rodgers said he of the play, ‘” (Finley) was unprotected. So don’t go dancing around. You hit a guy who’s unprotected.”

Atlanta Falcons K Jason Elam  — The 40-year old kicker continues to struggle and now the Falcons are auditioning kickers – was 2 of 3 in the Falcons win over the 1-win Bucs.  Despite kicking in a dome, Elam has made  just 10-of-16 on field goal attepts this season and has also a PAT.

Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson – I know he is the best running back in the NFL, but All-Day needs to hold on to the ball better.  Peterson (85 rushing yards and 2 TDs) fumbled twice (and lost one of them) in the Vikings win over the Bears. The Vikings All-Pro also could have lost a third fumble, but it was overruled on replay.

Miami Dolphins QB Chad Henne – Was awful in the Dolphins loss to the Bills.  Henne never posed a passing threat and the Bills grabbed 3 INTs.

Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid – What were you thinking giving the hapless Redskins life by going for an onside kick on the game’s open play.  The onside kick was recoved by Washington’s Quinton Ganther to set up the ‘Skins opening touchdown.

The Jacksonville Jaguars Offense –  In their loss to the Niners, the Jaguars failed to score on four trips inside the 20-yard line.  The Jags’ offensive line also allowed 6 sacks of battered QB David Garrard including two that produced two lost fumbles in the red zone.

Cleveland Browns QB Brady Quinn  — After playing well against the Lions, “Bad Quinn” was back as he threw for just 100 yards on 15 of 34 passes.  Quinn’s effort marked the sixth time this season the Browns’ quarterbacks havent surpassed 100 yards.

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler – Was awful again and the Bears may want average quarterback Kyle Orton back.  Cutler’s passing numbers were 18-of-23 for 147 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs.   The former Bronco leads the NFL  with a career-high 20 interceptions including 15 in the last seven games.

NFL Week 12

THU, NOV 26 

Green Bay (7-4) over Detroit (2-9), 34-12

Dallas (8-3) over Oakland (3-8), 24-7

Denver (7-4) over NY Giants (6-5), 26-6

SUN, NOV 29 

49ers (5-6) over Jaguars (6-5), 20-3

Bengals (8-3) over Browns (1-10), 16-7

Bills (4-7) over Dolphins (5-6), 31-14

Chargers (8-3) over Chiefs (3-8), 43-14

Colts (11-0) over Texans (5-6), 35-27

Eagles (7-4) over Redskins (3-8), 27-24

Falcons (6-5) over Buccaneers (1-10), 20-17

Jets (5-6) over Panthers (4-7), 17-6

Seahawks (4-7) over Rams (1-10), 27-17

Titans (5-6) over Cardinals (7-4), 20-17

Vikings (10-1) over Bears (4-7), 36-10

Ravens (6-5) over Steelers (6-5), 20-17 in OT (SNF)

MON, NOV 30 

Saints (11-0) over Patriots (7-4), 38-17

 

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

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

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)

2009 NFL Season – Week 8 Review

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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

Game Balls

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.

Honorable Mention

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).

Lloyd’s Lackey

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.

Dishonorable Mention

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.

Week 8

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)

2009 NFL Season – Week 7 Review

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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)