By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN NFL Review: Week Eleven
PHILADELPHIA — This weekend’s games brought more strange plays, separation between contenders and frauds, upsets, and surprises as once again the NFL showed that it is definitely the hardest league to predict.
We are now in the time of the NFL schedule that I like to call the “championship rounds” — Late November and Early December — because byes are over and teams are making their final push towards making the playoffs by stringing wins together.
These wins are usually accompanied by the same formula of running the football (especially in bad weather), passing efficiently and protecting the ball on offense (25 or less throws), causing turnovers on defense, keeping penalties to a minimum, and making plays on special teams (especially my favorite players kickers) — see Giants 7-3 and Bucs 6-4.
Conversely teams that are starting to fall to the wayside (ex. Panthers) continually have too many penalties (six or more), too many turnovers (2 or more in a game), too little rushing attempts (18 or less), injuries, and special teams gaffes (poor field position, no big plays on returns, and missed field goals).
One team that is not going anywhere, but to the top of the charts is the New England Patriots who continued to make the NFL their weekly Pop Warner game. This week it was the poor surprising Bills turn to get the boot in the butt as the Pats throttled them 56-10 in Buffalo on Sunday Night Football.
Some may not like the “childish” way that Bill Belichick is proving his point that his team is more than a bunch of cheaters (told you when it happened forget “spygate” this team is special). But I have no problem with a professional team “running the score up” against another professional team. This is not the University of Miami beating up on Division 1-AA Florida A&M circa the ’90′s; these are big boys being paid to stop each other.
And as Barry Switzer used to say when his vaunted option attack was destroying teams by sixty points or more “It is not my fault they can’t stop the run, they knew we were going to run it and they should have been able to stopped it”. Over the past few months I have constantly been on the side that the “America’s Team” will not make it unscaved through the 2007 season, but I may have to eat some crow.
This team truly looks like a juggernaut with an amazing net point total of 254 points — Points scored: 411 (#1 in NFL) and Points allowed: 157 (#3 in the NFL) which is over 125 points better than the next team (Steelers at 124) — to prove no one is even close to them at this time. The Boston pretty boys still need to navigate tough games coming up against the Steelers in week 14 and Giants in week 17 to reach the 1972 Dolphins holy grail, but I don’t even know if those two potential playoff teams have enough to compete with the Patriots.
One of the interesting storylines that has continue throughout this season is the struggles of former 2006 playoff teams the Baltimore Ravens (4-6), Chicago Bears (4-6), New Orleans Saints (4-6), Philadelphia Eagles (5-5), and San Diego Chargers (5-5). Of this group only the Eagles won 17-7 over the winless Dolphins (struggled after being down 7-3 at the half).
Coincidently their have also seen the rise of 2007 NFL Draft early selectors (Lions 6-4, Browns 6-4, Buccaneers 6-4, and Cardinals 5-5), which shows that the NFL is a year to year / week to week league where fortunes can change quickly. With byes completed, “good” coaches have made the adjustments necessary to win the championship rounds and are getting ready for the playoffs.
In case you missed it there were some “stop the presses” moments this week
– Jacksonville Jaguars short but stout running back Maurice Jones-Drew putting out the lights of Chargers LB Shawn “Lights Out” Merriman. Jones-Drew decked the flamboyant linebacker with an in your chest block that allowed quarterback David Garrard to throw a touchdown pass. As Jones-Drew told me before the 2006 NFL Draft “I am not a small back, I just happen to be short but I am physical” and he sure is as each week he gets tough yards between the tackles taking on all comers.
– I am going to call it “The holy pinball” as the scrappy Browns continued their rise up the standing thanks to a strange game tying 51-yard field goal by Phil Dawson. In the final moments of regulation, Dawson apparently missed a field goal that bounced off the right upright and then off the crossbar. After the play had seemed to be completed with the Ravens going to their locker-room, but not so fast as the officials got together for 5:00 minutes (seemed like forever) to make the right call — Oh my goodness they got it right!!! Which is awesome considering they could not use replay. They reversed the call correctly calling that the ball hit the upright went over the bar and then hit the pole behind the crossbar causing it to bounce back onto the field. Fortunately for the Browns the play propelled them to an overtime victory. Unfortunately the Ravens continued on their journey toward a major rebuilding job this offseason with another game they let slip away.
– The holy pinball probably caused beleaguered Ravens head coach Brian Billick to grab the Maalox as their season seems to be slipping away. Other coaches that also lost this week who are probably feeling the hot seat along with Billick include Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, Panthers head man John Fox, Niners head coach Mike Nolan, Falcon first year head coach Bobby Petrino and Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron.
– I don’t know if it is me or what, but this year in the NFL seems to be the year of the kick returner. It seems that almost every team (sorry Eagles) now has a guy in the mold of Bears return man Devin Hester that can take it to the house. At the Eagles-Dolphins game which I attended, your jaw couldn’t help but drop to the floor as you watched the breathtaking speed of Dolphins returner Ted Ginn Jr as he made one move and sprinted 87 yards for a stopwatch touchdown.
Arizona Cardinals CB Antrelle Rolle: After struggling for his first couple years in the league this former 2005 first round pick has finally found his stride. Rolle was amazing in the Cards 35-27 victory over the Bengals intercepting not one or two, but three passes returning two for touchdowns. Rolle would have had an NFL record 3 returns for a TD, but defensive end Antonio Smith was flagged for a block during Rolle’s 71-yard potential touchdown run with 32 seconds left in the game. Did I mention he also had 4 tackles and performed some serious acrobatics after his scores.
Dallas Cowboys WR Terrell Owens: For years here in Philly it has always been talk of T.O ‘s mouth, but this season Owens has reinvented himself in Dallas as of all things a leader. Playing with his new favorite quarterback Tony Romo, Owens was spectacular catching 8 passes for 173 yards and scoring all of the Cowboys 4 TDs (4, 31, 46 and 52 yards) in their 28-23 win over the Redskins. It is hard to believe Owens is almost thirty-five as so far this season he has 58 catches for 1028 yards with a 17.7 average and 12 touchdowns in just 10 games.
New England Patriots Combo: QB Tom Brady and WR Randy Moss: It seems every week one or the other or both are in my Game Balls section, so this week I am giving a combination award. The pair continued their assault on the Patriots and NFL record book by connecting on four more touchdowns. In the laughable 56-10 win over the Bills on SNF, Brady threw for numbers of 31-39, 373 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs) and Moss in seeing what his competition (T.O) did in the afternoon caught 10 balls for 128 yards and 4 TDs. Brady currently is primed to set NFL all-time highs in yards and touchdowns as he currently has 3059 yards and a Patriots record 38 touchdowns through ten games. Moss extended his numbers to 66 catches for 1052 yards with a 15.9 ypc and 16 TDs (Pats Record) in ten games, which may help people forget his two-year exile in Oakland (102 catches, 1558 yards, 15.0 ypc and 11 TDs).
Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis: Ray-Ray has been very loud recently in the papers and in the locker-room recently regarding his team’s play and coaching decisions, but he backed it up on Sunday producing 16 Tackles, 1 Fumble Recovery, and an 1 Interception. Lewis’ 35-yard interception return of a Derek Anderson pass was the play of the game for the Ravens, but it was not enough as they lost at home to Browns in overtime.
Cincinnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer: The nightmare season continued for the Bengals and Palmer as once again turnovers were there downfall in a 35-27 loss to the Cardinals, falling to a record of 3-7. Palmer had to be singled out as the main culprit as he threw four interceptions, three to Antrelle Rolle with two going back to the house (see Game Balls). The Bengals threw the ball way too much and Palmer’s numbers of 37-52, 329, 2 TDs, 4 INTs show that in the NFL you need to have a balanced attack to be successful.
Philadelphia Eagles TE LJ Smith: The big tight end from Rutgers seems more concerned with his next contract rather than concentrating on his play. Smith on the Birds’ second drive of the game nullified a beautiful flea-flicker pass from Donovan McNabb to Kevin Curtis for an apparent touchdown with a holding call. Smith also dropped a pass right on his numbers at the goal line and drew an unsportsmanlike player penalty for yapping at an opposing player after a touchdown.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Everyone thought they might be ready to compete with the Patriots for AFC dominance, but the Steelers (7-3) showed their inconsistency losing in overtime to the hapless Jets 19-16. In the game, the Steelers had 8 penalties, 2 turnovers, and allowed 7 sacks (ouch Roethlisberger).
Detroit Lions – After talking a big game going into their crucial matchup with the Giants, the Lions laid an egg. In front of their home crowd, the Lions were dominated in the first half (were shutout) and they finished with only 25 yards rushing, 7 Penalties, 4 turnovers, 1 missed FG, and 3 sacks by venerable Giants DE Michael Strahan. By the way, Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna shut up!!, because you don’t get the right to say you are better than a team after they just whipped your butt.
Redskins (5-5) 7 3 3 10 23
Cowboys (9-1) 0 7 7 14 28
Rams (2-8) 7 3 0 3 13
49ers (2-8) 3 0 0 6 9
Bears (4-6) 10 7 0 6 23
Seahawks (6-4) 7 10 7 6 30
Steelers (7-3) 0 7 6 3 0 16
Jets (2-8) 10 3 0 3 3 19
Chiefs (4-6) 0 3 7 0 10
Colts (8-2) 0 3 7 3 13
Saints (4-6) 3 7 0 0 10
Texans (5-5) 7 10 0 6 23
Panthers (4-6) 3 0 7 7 17
Packers (9-1) 7 14 7 3 31
Paul Brown Stadium
Cardinals (5-5) 7 14 14 0 35
Bengals (3-7) 7 6 14 0 27
Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
Chargers (5-5) 0 3 7 7 17
Jaguars (7-3) 10 7 7 0 24
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Raiders (2-8) 3 16 0 3 22
Vikings (4-6) 9 10 3 7 29
Lincoln Financial Field
Dolphins (0-10) 0 7 0 0 7
Eagles (5-5) 0 3 7 7 17
Giants (7-3) 3 7 3 3 16
Lions (6-4) 0 0 3 7 10
M&T Bank Stadium
Browns (6-4) 3 10 14 3 3 33
Ravens (4-6) 0 7 7 16 0 30
Buccaneers (6-4) 7 7 10 7 31
Falcons (3-7) 0 0 0 7 7
Ralph Wilson Stadium
Patriots (10-0) 14 21 7 14 56
Bills (5-5) 7 0 3 0 10
Invesco Field at Mile High
Titans (6-4) 0 10 7 3 20
Broncos (5-5) 14 6 7 7 34