By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s NFL Review: Week Six
PHILADELPHIA – The highly touted “Shootout in Dallas” pitting formerly 5-0 teams the Patriots and Cowboys was more Holmes vs. Cooney (definitive mismatch) than the anticipated “Thrilla in Manila”, with the Patriots dismantling the Cowboys 48-27. The Patriots showed the entire world the vast difference between the NFL’s version of the major leagues (AFC) and their AAA version (NFC).
The Cowboys kept it close for one half (Pats led 21-17 at the half), but the Patriots exploded for 27 second half points as quarterback Tom Brady threw a career high five touchdown passes for the game. With the Patriots’ win there are now two unbeaten teams (Patriots at 6-0 and Colts 5-0 with a bye this past week) and I know the NFL hype machine and the league’s fans hope that both teams can make it to their Week Nine meeting in New England without a blemish.
The separation gap and parity that I always like to talk about continued in Week Six. There are now 19 teams with .500 or better records and 13 teams with losing records, including winless St. Louis and Miami (both 0-6). The AFC East seems all but wrapped up with the Patriots sporting a five-game edge, but all of the other divisions have brewing battles coming with teams currently one to two games within the lead.
The NFL season truly is “survival of the fittest” as injuries have decimated teams (Rams) and units (Redskins O-Line, Bears D-Line, Bengals LB’s) all over the league. It seems every team has to deal with losing two to three key players each week – some for the year — and that is why quality depth on your 53 man roster is paramount.
No position has felt the sting of the injury bug more than the quarterback position. Teams know from past history (see Rams 1999) that they better have a good bullpen of throwers (2 or 3 QB’s in reserve) to succeed in the NFL, because fast defensive players and schemes are always coming after the “golden boys”.
The quarterback injury problem has gotten so bad that 43-year old quarterback Vinny Testaverde was called by the Carolina Panthers from his couch to play and he actually won a game in week six – becoming the oldest player to win as a starting quarterback in NFL history. Here is a list of some teams with quarterbacks that have missed playing time due to injury and I am sure the list will be growing weekly:
- Arizona Cardinals — Kurt Warner (elbow), Matt Leinhart (shoulder — Season)
- Atlanta Falcons — Joey Harrington (knee), Byron Leftwich (ankle)
- Baltimore Ravens — Steve McNair (groin)
- Carolina Panthers — Jake Delhomme (shoulder – Season)
- Miami Dolphins — Trent Green (concussion)
- Minnesota Vikings — Tavaris Jackson (groin)
- St. Louis Rams— Marc Bulger (broken ribs)
- Tennessee Titans — Vince Young (quad)
Two events that will have little impact on the field took place on Tuesday:
First, the NFL trading deadline — 4 PM EST (usually there are no trades, but there were two these season as the Dolphins sent WR Chris Chambers to the Chargers for a second roundpick and the Chiefs sent RB Michael Bennett to the Tampa Bay Bucs for a 2008 and 2009 late round draft picks).
Second, the start of NFL Pro Bowl balloting also on the same date (seems too early to be talking about who is the best as we haven’t even reached the half way point of the season — for the record Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has my vote).
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson: I guess all of the naysayers that said he was too injury prone before the draft want their vote back. Peterson was a man amongst boys rushing 20 times for 224 yards (fifth most by a rookie in NFL history) and three touchdowns in 34-31 win over the Bears in Chicago. The University of Oklahoma rookie had touchdown runs of 67, 73, and 35 yards plus he had one catch for nine yards and 128 yards on returns, giving him 361 all-purpose yards (third-highest total in NFL history). NFL Network Analyst Deion Sanders said of Peterson, “He has the vision of a Marshall Faulk, the power of a Terrell Davis, and the speed of an Eric Dickerson. Let’s pray he has the endurance of an Emmitt Smith.”
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady: In his 100th career start, the Patriots signal caller showed why he is the leader so far in the MVP race in a win over the Cowboys. Brady may have Hollywood good looks, but he plays with a gritty determination that was on display Sunday. He threw a career high five touchdown passes (21 for the year), going 30 of 45 for 377 yards. He also went in the record books passing Steve Young to become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw at least three TD pass in the first six games of the season. Brady is now 24-4 as a starter vs. the NFC, including his three Super Bowl wins.
Green Bay Packers CB Charles Woodson: In a big home victory over the Redskins 17-14, the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner was up to his “big play” ways contributing 4 tackles, a first-half interception, and a game ending fumble recovery. On the fumble recovery, Woodson picked up a Santana Moss fumble and returned it 57 yards for the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
San Diego Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson: LT is back as he led the Chargers to their second straight win (28-14 over Raiders). He finally got the touches he has been craving compiling 198 yards on the ground and a career high tying four rushing touchdowns. Tomlinson also passed John Riggins for fifth on the all-time rushing TDs list with 106.
Chicago Bears KR/WR Devin Hester: Though the Bears lost 34-31 to the Vikes, the NFL’s most explosive return man was electric once again. Hester first returned an 89-yard punt for a touchdown and then as a receiver he raced past the Vikings secondary on an 81-yard strike that tied the game with 1:38 remaining. The 2006 Pro Bowl player’s punt return broke Gale Sayers’ franchise touchdown record for returns and he now has nine TD returns (five punts, three kickoffs, one missed FG) in his short career.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez: In the 27-20 win over the Bengals, Gonzalez had two touchdown receptions including a 3-yard catch in the first quarter that broke the record of 62 career touchdown receptions set by Shannon Sharpe. The Chiefs athletic TE finished with nine receptions for 102 yards.
Carolina Panthers QB Vinny Testaverde: In one of this season’s most incredible stories, the 43-year old Testaverde joined the team on Wednesday and then led them to a 25-10 win over the Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday. In the game, he became the third-oldest starting QB since 1970, but he was efficient completing 20-of-33 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown. The former Heisman Trophy winner (1986) also leapt into the record books becoming the first quarterback to have twenty-one straight seasons with a TD pass and becoming the oldest starting quarterback to win a game.
St. Louis Rams QB Gus Frerotte: Maybe he hit his head on a concrete wall again, because the veteran quarterback looked awful in a 22-3 loss to the Ravens in Baltimore. Frerotte finished with numbers of only 19-36 for 208 yards with 0 TDs, 5 interceptions to five different Baltimore defenders (Ravens record) plus one fumble lost. The journeyman quarterback will be glad to hand the job back to Marc Bulger, because the Rams sport a patchwork O-line that caused him to be harassed all day by Ray Lewis and his boyz (four sacks, 12 hurries and knocked down five times).
New York Jets QB Chad Pennington: The Jets may be looking to get second year quarterback Kellen Clemens ready, because Pennington seemed lost in a 16-9 loss to the Eagles at the Meadowlands. Pennington finished with poor throwing numbers of 11-21 for 128 yards with 0 TDs, 1 INT, and being sacked 3 times. The former Marshall quarterback capped a horrendous game by throwing a bad pass to Laverneus Coles that was broken up easily on fourth-and-1 at the Eagles 14-yard line with just over three minutes left.
Arizona Cardinals: This is a group award, because the Cardinals had the chance to take the lead in the NFC West, but they continually shot themselves in the foot in a bad 25-10 home loss to the Panthers. Losing starting quarterback Kurt Warner was definitely a key for the Cardinals, but committing five turnovers, punted seven times, had several dropped passes, and were penalized 11 times for 103 yards led to their loss.
Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis must be feeling the “hottest” seat in the NFL as his team fell to 1-4 after losing again, this time to the Chiefs 27-20. The Bengals have lost four consecutive games and they have gone 1-7 since starting 8-5 last year (didn’t make the playoffs). Bengals Carson Palmer was harassed all day by Chiefs DE Jared Allen who finished with 2.5 sacks and the Bengals didn’t score in the second and third quarters. The “Bungles” were also 0-for-10 on third down conversions until finally getting their first conversion in the fourth quarter. Other bad totals were six penalties for 59 yards, time of possession of only 24:50, and having three turnovers.
Scoreboard and Game Notes
Chargers 28, Raiders 14
Led by LT (see Game Balls) and a ferocious defense, the Chargers climbed back to .500 (3-3) and into first place in the AFC West after a 1-3 start. Charger linebackers Shaun Phillips and Shawn Merriman (2.5 sacks) seemed to be everywhere as the Chargers defense put up some big numbers including six sacks, two interceptions, two fumbles (one of which they recovered) and allowing only 246 total yards.
Panthers 25, Cardinals 10
Led by 43-year old quarterback Vinny Testaverde the Panthers exploded for 16 fourth quarter points to break open a close game. The game really changed when Cardinals QB Kurt Warner was knocked out forcing Tim Rattay (another third string QB) to come in the game. Rattay was intercepted on the key play of the game when his pass was tipped three times before landing in the arms of Carolina’s Deke Cooper with 3:26 left in the game. The play showed that the Cardinals were their own worst enemy (see Dishonorable Mention). Carolina DE Julius Peppers was a force again, picking up his first sack of the season and finishing with six tackles, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Eagles 16, Jets 9
In one of the more boring games of the day, the Eagles stayed perfect after a bye under Andy Reid (9-0) by beating the Jets in the Meadowlands. The Eagles only had one turnover and two penalties plus their key player running back Brian Westbrook returned from an abdominal injury to gain 120 yards on the ground and 36 receiving yards. The Eagles defense continued their stout ways holding the Jets to 128 yards passing with 3 sacks and shoring up their run defense in the second half after allowing over 100 yards to Thomas Jones in the first half. The Jets wore blue and yellow jerseys in a tribute to the New York Titans of 1960-62, which I thought were just a hair better than the Eagles throwbacks from the Lions game.
Ravens 22, Rams 3
This game showed what the Ravens’ ravenous defense does to an injured team. The Ravens took a 13-0 halftime lead and never looked back. Veteran kicker Matt Stover was 5 for 5 on field goal attempts and the aforementioned defense had four sacks, 12 hurries and knocked down Rams backup Gus Frerotte five times. Ravens running back Willis McGahee also scored his first rushing touchdown of the season. St. Louis is 0-6 for only the second time in franchise history and they suffered more injuries to receiver Drew Bennett (hamstring), center Brent Romberg (left ankle), and defensive end Leonard Little (sprained left toe).
Buccaneers 13, Titans 10
The Buccaneers ended a tough defensive battle when kicker Matt Bryant made a 43-yard field goal with 11 seconds left to give them a win over the Titans. The Bucs were led by veterans quarterback Jeff Garcia (20-31, 274 yards w/ 1 TD and 0 INTs, no interceptions for the season too), receiver Joey Galloway (4 receptions for 97 yards, TD), and cornerback Ronde Barber (several key passes defensed). Garcia and Galloway hooked up on the play of the game when Garcia hit Galloway and he split Titans defenders on the way to a 69 yard touchdown. The Titans controlled the clock for nearly 38 minutes, outgained the Bucs 317-304, had 20 first downs, but lost probably due to losing quarterback Vince Young in the third quarter to a quadriceps injury.
Chiefs 27, Bengals 20
The Chiefs continued their comeback from a 1-2 start by beating the reeling Bengals. The game came down to the wire with the Chiefs securing a win when Jarrad Page recovered an onside kick in the final minute. Fantasy football owners could rejoice as the game marked the return of Chiefs workhorse Larry Johnson (31 carries for 119 yards) as he scored his first TD of the season. The Bengals (see Dishonorable Mention) did everything to keep the Chiefs in the game with several mistakes that caused them to fall to 1-4 this season and 1-7 since their 8-5 start last season.
Jaguars 37, Texans 17
People keep sleeping on the Jaguars, but the Jags keep rolling on and they are only one game behind the Colts. They are now 4-1 after a dominating win over the Texans. The Jaguars were led by their defense that held the Texans to 60 yards on the ground and running back Maurice Jones-Drew who bowled his way to 125 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Jones-Drew finished the game with 184 total yards. Jags quarterback David Garrard had another turnover-free game, going 22-of-34 for 221 yards passing with two touchdowns and 0 INTs – None for the season. Garrard has yet to throw an interception this season.
Packers 17, Redskins 14
The Packers outlasted the Redskins in Green Bay as they didn’t bring their “A” game, but they did enough to improve to 5-1 and remain in the lead of the NFC North division. The Packers quarterback Brett Favre struggled going 19-37 for 188 yards with 0 TD’s and 2 INTS (Broke all-time interception record of 277 by George Blanda), but he was good enough to improve to 4-0 against the Redskins throughout his career. The play of the game was the aforementioned 57-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Charles Woodson on a screen pass to Redskins WR Santana Moss. The Packers then sealed the deal by stopping Ladell Betts on a reception on fourth-and-1 with seven minutes remaining. Defensive end Aaron Kampman was a beast collecting nine tackles, two sacks and constantly pressuring Redskins QB Jason Campbell.
Browns 41, Dolphins 31
There was a shootout in the NFL in week six, but it was in Cleveland and not Dallas. The Browns looked sharp defeating the winless Miami Dolphins (0-6) as quarterback Derek Anderson (18-25, 245 yards) hooked up with receiver Braylon Edwards on three touchdowns. The Dolphins starting quarterback Cleo Lemon also accounted well for himself finishing with numbers of 23-43 for 256 yards passing with two touchdowns, running for two touchdowns, but he also had two picks. In the loss Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown (19 carries for 101 yards) had his fourth 100-plus rushing game. The Dolphins have lost nine consecutive games (franchise record) and the Browns have won three straight at home for the first time since 2004. Maybe the Dolphins can get their first win in merry old England versus the Giants in week 8.
Vikings 34, Bears 31
Led by dynamic rookie running back Adrian Peterson (see Game Ball), the Vikings had a huge divisional road win over the Bears 34-31. The game came down to the end when Vikings kick Ryan Longwell hit a career-long 54-yard field goal as time expired. The Bears had tied the game on an 81-yard bomb from Brian Griese (26-45, 381) to Devin Hester with less than two minutes left, but on the ensuing kickoff Peterson returned the kick 53 yards to put the Minnesota in excellent field position for the winning kick.
Patriots 48, Cowboys 27
The game of the week proved to be a mismatch as the Patriots led by QB Tom Brady’s 5 TDs (see Game Balls) beat the Cowboys 48-27 in Dallas.
Patriots WR Wes Welker was amazing finishing the game with career highs in receptions and yards, catching 11 passes for 124 yards. NFL Network Analyst Deion Sanders said of Dallas’ defense against the Patriots receivers, “Dallas was so enamored with stopping Randy Moss, they forgot all about Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth.” The Cowboys didn’t help themselves committing 12 penalties for 98 yards in the game, including seven in the first half.
Saints 28, Seahawks 17
The Saints came marching back to the win column and maybe back into the NFC South race with a win on Sunday Night football over the host Seahawks.The Saints defense came to play as they held Seahawks star RB Shaun Alexander to only 35 yards on 14 carries, capitalizing on two turnovers, and sacking Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck five times. Running back Reggie Bush was the key for the Saints rushing for 97 yards and producing 44 yards receiving. The Saints will try to become the second team in NFL history to start the season 0-4 and end up in the Super Bowl (San Diego, 1992).
Giants 31, Falcons 10
This Monday Night Football battle looked a lot better in April when the schedulers thought that Michael Vick would be playing for the Falcons, but without the flashy enigmatic quarterback the game turned into a Giants rout over the hapless Falcons 31-10. Giants quarterback Eli Manning (27-39, 303 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs) showed that he didn’t need to practice with receiver Plaxico Burress as he hit him with six passes for 97 yards including one touchdown (25th TD connections since ’05 – most in NFL). Manning also found receiver Amani Toomer, who passed Tiki Barber for most receptions in club history (587) and tied Kyle Rote on the Giants all-time list with his 48th career touchdown. The lone bright spot for the Falcons was running back Jerious Norwood who scored their only touchdown on a 67-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The Giants will now face the Niners at home in week 7 before they head off to merry old England to take on the Dolphins in the first regular season game outside of North America (10/28).
Byes: Buffalo, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco.