By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s NFL Review: Week Nine
PHILADELPHIA — The “Clash of the Super Powers” or “Super Bowl XLI Â½” is over and NFL fans were treated to a “good” regular season game, but would I call the Patriots (9-0) come from behind 24-20 win over the Colts (7-1) an Instant Classic, “No”.
Unlike all of the hype surrounding the game it never lived up to it. The greatest game I ever watched was the January 2nd 1982, San Diego Chargers 41-38 overtime win over the Miami Dolphins in the divisional playoffs. Sure the Patriots “survived” as they broke a three-game losing streak against the Colts and now seem poised to move on their merry way to their perceived undefeated season, with NFL Network Analyst Steve Mariucci saying “They are going to go 16-0. They got over their biggest obstacle today”.
But it was a struggle to the end as they had to wake up to score two touchdowns in a four-minute span of the final quarter to overcome a 10-point deficit. The game wasn’t over until Patriots LB Roosevelt Colvin recovered a Peyton Manning fumble on a sack by DE Jarvis Green with the Patriots nursing a 24-20 lead. New England linebacker Junior Seau said after the game, “We were going against a hostile crowd, an undefeated team, we took our hats off to them. But we still played well enough to win”.
The boxscore will tell you Randy Moss (9 catches for 145 yards w/ 1 TD) and Tom Brady (21-32, 255 yards, 3 TDs, a franchise record 33 for the season and continued his record of 3 TDs in a game) did all the work, but credit for the big win should be spread around to all the Patriots from the first guy (Brady) to the fifty-third player.
After a first half where the Patriots were outscored 13-7, demoralized by an incredible Joseph Addai 73-yard touchdown catch and run right before halftime, and outgained 114 total yards to the Colts’ 229, they turned the tables around in the second half gaining 228 yards to the Colts 100 yards plus produced 17 points.
Linebacker Tedy Bruschi said after the win “Some victories do mean more than others” and This is one we’re going to remember.” Well don’t languish on this win too much Tedy as regular season wins are good for morale and playoff seeding, but playoff wins are the only thing that matter. The hype machine surrounding the game told us that the NFL season should have stopped with the winner of this game, but remember the season is only half over and there is a lot of football still to be played.
The mighty Patriots were supposed to destroy the Colts as they had been scoring more than 41 points a game plus beaten their opponents by an average of over than 25 points. But the Colts led by a dominant game by running back Joseph Addai — first Colts player to record 100 yards on the ground (112) and 100 yards receiving (114) in the same game, franchise record 226 yards from scrimmage — were in control for over three quarters. The Patriots also had a very bad 10 penalties for 146 yards in the game and seemed to be dominated physically at the line of scrimmage by the Colts in my opinion.
I know the Colts will be back to face the Patriots again probably in the AFC Championship game, so round two is inevitable. Some may now want to anoint the Patriots as the future successors to the 1972 Miami Dolphins season-long undefeated throne and handing them the Super Bowl XLII trophy, but the Patriots need to show me more before I am a full believer.
Each week team after team will get hyped to fight the town bully –1985 Bears and 1998 Vikings, both finished 15-1 with lower level teams rising to knock them off for their only regular season losses — and I personally think either the Steelers in Week 14 or the Giants in Week 17 — will knock off the Pats. What we did learn from the game was that the Colts are not as good without receiver Marvin Harrison and left tackle Tony Ugoh, that field goals instead of touchdowns come back to bite you (sorry Colts), pressure is good but sacks are better (Colts only had 2 sacks by Robert Mathis — Where was the 72 Million Dollar man Dwight Freeney ??).
Randy Moss proved once again why he is the best receiver in the game when motivated. Moss was incredible making one-handed catches, catching alley-oops, providing a spark (Tom Brady went to him 7 of 12 times in crunch time including a 55-yard catch on a 2nd and 10 with the Pats trailing 20-10 in the fourth quarter), catching his 12th TD catch of the season tying Stanley Morgan for the Patriots team record, and I even saw him “BLOCK”.
Before the weekly awards and game notes lets gobble up some of Lloyd’s Leftovers.
– Patriots Linebacker Adalius Thomas promised after beating the Colts “We’re going to win next Sunday” — Hey A.D, you and the NFL’s hype machine led by the four letter network can relax as “America’s Team” has the week off. Now the Pats can let some other teams get some camera time.
– Super Bowl XLI 1/2 earned the highest overnight rating (22.5) for a Sunday afternoon regular-season game since 1987. The incredibly high number eclipsed the previous high of 22.2 for Dallas-San Francisco on Nov. 10, 1996.
– There are now 19 teams with a .500 or better record after nine weeks including the undefeated Patriots. There are also 13 teams with losing records including two winless teams (Rams and Dolphins, both 0-8). Remember though that the NFL season is a long 17 week process that will no doubt go down to the last weekend for playoff spots, so every team except for the two wins or less teams still have a chance to get to the dance. The key for all teams is you want to get “hot” and string some wins to together to make a playoff push in the crucial months of November and December (ex. 2006 Eagles went from a record of 5-6 to 10-6 and playoff spot).
– A remarkable stat after Week Nine is that five teams — the Cleveland Browns (5-3), Detroit Lions (6-2), Oakland Raiders (2-6) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4) and Washington Redskins (5-3) — have already equaled or surpassed their win totals of last year and four of them are legitimately in the playoff hunt. This stat marks only the fourth time in 20 years that at least five teams have equaled or surpassed their previous seasons win total through nine weeks.
– Welcome back to Bengals receiver Chris Henry and Cowboys defensive tackle Tank Johnson. Both players recently completed their eight-game suspensions for violating the NFL’s conduct policy and hopefully they have learned their lesson that playing in the NFL is not a privilege — Stay clean fellas.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson: Going into the 2007 NFL Draft there was only one player that I thought was a sure slam-dunk of a pick and it was Peterson. I guess the six teams that passed on him due to questions of him being injury prone want their pick back (How about it Raiders — Nothing but a hold out from JaMarcus Russell, and Buccaneers — 1.5 sacks from Gaines Adams). Peterson broke Jamal Lewis’ single-game NFL record for rushing yards with 296 yards on 30 carries without looking winded in the Vikings 35-17 win over the Chargers. He also scored three rushing touchdowns (1, 64, and 46 yards) and catch one pass for 19 yards plus went over a 1,000 yards for the season (1036 yards w/ 8 TDs) in only 8 games. The Vikings also set a club single-game record with 378 rushing yards in the win over the Chargers. 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.”
Dallas Cowboys WR Terrell Owens: After being appointed as a captain before the game, T.O should have known his return to face the Eagles was going to be good. As usual Owens was treated to loving boos from the partisan Eagles crowd and he used the fan ferocity to his advantage as he embarrassed the Eagles secondary. The enigmatic Owens produced 10 catches for 174 yards with a touchdown, which is a far cry from his Bill Parcells numbers from last year against the Eagles where he only caught five passes for 68 yards in the two. T.O was his usual physical self as he shook off tackles (especially on his 45 yard touchdown catch and run) and did a good blocking. He also moved into 12th place on the all-time receiving yardage list with 12,445 yards, which moved him ahead of Jimmy Smith.
San Diego Chargers CB Antonio Cromartie: The former first round pick from Florida State looked like his hero Deion Sanders again as he returned a missed field goal an NFL-record 109 yards for a touchdown in the Chargers. Cromartie grabbed the missed field goal inches from it going out of bounds and followed a convoy of blockers down the right sideline for a touchdown. The score was the third return score in successive weeks for the flashy corner and he also added 2 tackles on defense in the loss to the Vikings. Including Cromartie’s return there were three 100-yard touchdowns on Sunday, the first time that has happened since 1958
Tennessee Titans DT Albert Haynesworth: The huge defensive tackle was everywhere in the Titans big win over the Panthers as he contributed seven tackles, including three sacks. Haynesworth is now living up to his first round status and he may even make people forget that he was a malcontent in 2006 after stepping on the face of Dallas center David Guorode.
Pittsburgh Steelers OLB James Harrison: The virtually unknown linebacker from Kent State introduced himself to the nation on Monday Night Football. Harrison looked like a reincarnation of former Steelers great Greg Lloyd, as he was a one-man wrecking crew recording nine tackles, 3Â½ sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in the Steelers thrashing of the Ravens 38-7.
Philadelphia Eagles DT LaJaun Ramsey: The former USC Trojan had one of the bigger “bonehead” plays of the week as he hit Dallas running back Julius Jones helmet to helmet as the running back was sitting on the ground. The play drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty, but Ramsey probably should have been ejected from the game (Later in the week the NFL fined Ramsey a game check of $21,000 dollars). The play obviously was a frustration penalty as the Eagles defense (zero sacks) was dominated by the Cowboys O-line to the tune of 434 total yards. Ramsey didn’t even register a tackle in the Eagles debacle.
Carolina Panthers QB David Carr: As the weeks go by it appears to be more evident that the former first round bust is looking more like washout Ryan Leaf. Carr was the first player selected in the 2004 draft and has never lived up to the billing. In the bad loss to the Titans, Carr’s passing numbers of 15-27, 107 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT were putrid. He routinely has looked befuddled on the field and receiver Steve Smith is suffering from his deficiencies (only 3 catches for 15 yards in the game). Carr will now probably take a backseat to Matt Moore as he was later diagnosed with a concussion after being sacked 7 times including three by Albert Haynesworth (See Honorable Mention).
Scoreboard and Game Notes
Patriots 24, Colts 20
In a come from behind him the Patriots showed they are the NFL’s best team, so far. There were several big plays, but the game was not decided until Patriots RB Kevin Faulk scored on a 13-yard Tom Brady pass with 3:15 remaining, giving the Patriots a 24-20 lead. After the score, Patriots LB Roosevelt Colvin recovered a Peyton Manning fumble on a sack by DE Jarvis Green. The Colts held New England to just 59 yards passing in the first half, but the Patriots changed that in the second half finishing with 255 yards.
Texans 24, Raiders 17
Led by their defense, the Texans continued their rise toward .500 by hanging on to win 24-17 at Oakland. The Texans’ front seven applied pressure on Raiders quarterback Josh McCown all game forcing him into throwing three interceptions with the biggest one coming when linebacker DeMeco Ryans intercepted McCown at the Houston 5-yard line with 4:37 remaining. The player of the game on offense was enigmatic Texans running back Ron Dayne who replaced injured starter Ahman Green and rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown (sixth game the Raiders have allowed a 100-yard rusher). There was almost an NFL record moment when a 64-yard field goal attempt by Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski hit the right upright.
Browns 33, Seahawks 30
Everything is coming up roses for the Scrappy Doo Browns as they rallied to an overtime win over the Seahawks in Cleveland. Browns kicker Phil Dawson booted a 25-yard field goal in overtime to give the Browns their third straight victory for the first time since 2001. With Browns quarterback Derek Anderson not throwing a touchdown, running back Jamal Lewis led the way running for just 37 yards but scoring four rushing touchdowns and catching four balls for 67 yards. The biggest play for Seattle was a Nate Burleson 94 yard touchdown punt return (a franchise record). The Browns have scored 27 touchdowns this season after a total of 25 last season.
Falcons 20, 49ers 16
The Niners hit rock bottom as they couldn’t even beat the hapless Falcons. The Niners desperation drive to salvage a win failed when quarterback Alex Smith threw an interception with only 40 seconds left. Falcons running back Warrick Dunn (27 rushes for 100 yards w/ 1 TD) had his first 100-yard rushing game since Oct. 15, 2006. The Falcons also got a stellar effort on defense from veteran safety Lawyer Milloy (eight tackles and an interception). Despite their 2-6 record, the Falcons have a plus-five turnover ratio.
Vikings 35, Chargers 17
As mentioned in the game balls section, there was only one story to this match. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was a plow horse as the Vikings dismantled the Chargers 35-17 in Minnesota. The Vikings held a nearly 10-minute advantage in time of possession and the Vikings defense did their job holding Chargers Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates to only one reception for 10 yards.
Titans 20, Panthers 7
The Titans ain’t pretty, but all they do is win games. Jeff Fisher’s team moved to 6-2 with a dominating 20-7 win over the lifeless Panthers in Tennessee. After another pedestrian passing performance by quarterback Vince Young (110 yards and 2 INTs), the Titans were led again by improving running back LenDale White (31 rushes for 100 yards, 1 TD), who reached the century mark for the third straight game. Panthers QB David Carr struggled badly going 15-for-27 for 107 yards, with one touchdown and an interception. Carr was later diagnosed with a concussion after 7 sacks (three by Albert Haynesworth, see Honorable Mention).
Lions 44, Broncos 7
Alright the Lions are for real — okay I said it — as they showed me and the entire NFL that they are legitimate by pounding the reeling Broncos 44-7 in Detroit. The Lions knocked Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler out of the game and showing no mercy on offense piling up over 400 yards. The play of the game came when mammoth Lions OT Shaun Rogers ran back an interception 66 yards for a touchdown. The huge player punctuated the play by diving in the endzone prompting NFL Network host Rich Eisen to laughingly say “Earthquake !!” The Lions’ offensive line allowed just one sack and the Lions are 6-2 for the first time since 1999, which happens to be the last time they made the playoffs. The Broncos didn’t help themselves having four turnovers and committing 12 penalties
Buccaneers 17, Cardinals 10
The Bucs continued their miraculous ride going from four wins in 2006 to exponentially more in 2007 with a 17-10 over the visiting Cardinals. Like most Bucs game this year the game was and it took a Jermaine Phillips interception of a Kurt Warner pass with 2:39 left to seal the deal. The venerable Joey Galloway continued to show why he is Jeff Garcia’s favorite target, as he caught five balls for 84 yards and a touchdown. The Bucs also got a good effort from running back Earnest Graham who had his best game as a pro rushing 34 times for a career-high 124 yards and a touchdown. For the Cardinals, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was a standout producing 10 tackles and two sacks. Tampa Bay held Arizona to only 23 rushing yards on 12 attempts including Edgerrin James carrying 9 times for 15 yards (Edge did go over 11,000 yards and had a touchdown in the loss). The Buccaneers held the ball for over 43 minutes and ran 77 plays to only 42 for the Cardinals.
Bills 33, Bengals 21
The Bills proved that they maybe a wild-card playoff contender getting their third straight victory after exploding for 17 fourth quarter points in a dominating 33-21 home win over the hapless Bengals. The Bills may have even found a quarterback as JP Losman threw for almost 300 yards and 1 touchdown in his first win of the season. Even if Losman is not the man at quarterback the Bills sure do have a running back in rookie Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 153 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries. The Bills controlled the game by holding onto the ball nearly 11 minutes longer and racking up 479 total net yards to the Bengals’ 299. A scary moment for the Bills crowd came when loquacious Bengals WR Chad Johnson was carted off the field after taking a hard hit in the neck area in the fourth quarter,.
Saints 41, Jaguars 24
Look out NFL here come the New Orleans Saints as they remained red-hot by pummeling the Jaguars 41-24 in the Superdome. The victory was the Saints fourth in a row and they now one game out of first place in the NFC South at 4-4. Everyone on the Saints contributed especially QB Drew Brees who spread the ball to nine different players throwing for a season-high 445 yards on 35-of-49 passing with three touchdowns. The play of the game came on a 75-yard interception touchdown return by Saints cornerback Mike McKenzie in the third quarter. The Saints have allowed just five sacks all season and only one in the last five games
Redskins 23, Jets 20 (OT)
The Jets continued their free fall from a playoff team in 2006 to one of the NFL ‘s worst in 2007. The Redskins did just enough to outlast Jets for a 23-20 overtime win. Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham booted the 46-yard field goal game winner (5 FGs for the game) after the Jets won the overtime coin toss, but stalled at the Redskins 40-yard line. The star offensively for the Redskins was running back Clinton Portis, who had his first 100-yard game of the season (196 yards w/ 1 TD). With quarterback Jason Campbell struggling (142 passing yards w/ 1 INT), the Redskins ran the ball 48 times for 296 yards (6.2 yards per attempt).
Packers 33, Chiefs 22
To those who didn’t believe the Packers were for real — including yours truly — you better get on board the Favre express. The Pack are atop the NFC with a record of 7-1 after a comeback 33-22 win over the Chiefs in Kansas City. The Packers were led by surefire Pro Bowlers QB Brett Favre (24-34, 360 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs — went deep to Jennings again) and CB Charles Woodson who intercepted a Damon Huard pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown with 59 seconds left in the game. The Packers O-line held Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen to just half a sack and two tackles. If they want to stay at the top the Packers will need to do a better job on penalties as they had 13 of them in the win.
Cowboys 38, Eagles 17
Cowboys dominated putting up 38 points (21 in the first half) in a demoralizing victory over the Eagles in Philly on Sunday Night Football. The game seemed lost for the Eagles on the first offensive play from scrimmage as Donovan McNabb fumbled. The Eagles usually stout defense — no team had scored more than 21 points in the first seven games and they only allowed eight touchdowns in 77 possessions — looked tentative as the Cowboys marched to 35 points in three quarters. Dallas racked up 437 total yards (Eagles 316), won the turnover battle (3 to 1), and were an incredible 8 for 12 on third downs. All those positive numbers were to the delight of Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens (see Honorable Mention), who embarrassed the Eagles secondary. The stat line for Eagles (now 0-3 in the NFC East and 3-5 overall) was bad too with 10 total tackles for the Eagles LB’s, 5 penalties, No Defensive Sacks, 3 Turnovers, and allowing 3 Sacks. The lone bright spot for the Eagles was the continued quality play of running back Brian Westbrook who had 65 yards rushing with a touchdown and tied a team record with 14 catches for 90 yards — Don Looney also had 14 receptions for Philadelphia at Washington on Dec. 1, 1940.
Steelers 38, Ravens 7
On the night when the Steelers honored their 75th Anniversary, the team dominated putting up 38 points (35 in the first half) in a demoralizing home victory over the Ravens on Monday Night Football. With the win, the Steelers matched the Oakland Raiders’ all-time record of 12 consecutive Monday Night home victories. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (five touchdown passes in the first half) and linebacker James Harrison (see Game balls) were the catalysts in the victory for the Steelers. The Ravens seem to be in jeopardy of losing their season as quarterback Steve McNair looked tentative (13-22, 63 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT), they turned the ball over 4 times, committed 11 Penalties, and allowed 6 sacks.
Byes: Bears, Dolphins, Giants, Rams