By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
NFL 2007: The Best Of The Best (Part 1)
PHILADELPHIA — Every season there are moments that like the commercial says are “priceless”. I have listed some of the moments/performances that I thought left an impression on the NFL in 2007.
Week 1: New England Patriots WR Randy Moss against the Jets – In this “I am Back” performance, Moss showed that he didn’t need training camp. After sitting out most of training camp and the pre-season with a lingering hamstring injury, Moss exploded on the New York Jets secondary for nine catches for 183 yards (20.3 ypc) with a touchdown in a shellacking 38-14 over the Jets. The 10-year veteran receiver looked nothing like the malcontent that shuffled through the 2006 for the Oakland Raiders (42 catches, 553 yards, 13.2 ypc, and 3 TDs). What impressed me the most about Moss’ performance was his deep 51-yard touchdown bomb that showed he still had game-breaking speed. He ended the season with a NFL Record 23 receiving touchdowns and he will be laughing all the way to the bank this off-season (Free Agent) with the Raiders only having a 4th round pick to show for it.
Week 1: The Mike Tomlin era begins with a huge win over the hated Cleveland Browns – The Steelers kicked off the Mike Tomlin era with a thrashing of the Cleveland Browns 34 to 7 in Cleveland. The game marked the first time in 15 years that Bill Cowher wasn’t on the sideline. The star of the game was Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger who threw a career-high four touchdown passes as Pittsburgh built an early 17-0 lead and didn’t look back. The Browns had an embarrassing day of turnovers, sacks and poor play from starting quarterback Charlie Fry whose pitiful line was 4-for-10 for 34 yards, INT (benched and later traded opening the door for surprise quarterback Derek Anderson). Steelers RB Willie Parker rushed for 109 yards as Pittsburgh continued their bruising style.
Week 2 Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre against the Giants – The tales of the future Hall of Famer’s demise were greatly exaggerated as he showed the world that the 2007 season was going to be something special for the 38-year old quarterback. With his line protecting him, Favre led the Packers to their six straight regular season victory. The Packers got off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2001 and Favre won his record setting 149th career victory over the Giants 35-13. In the game, the “old gray beard” threw for 29-of-38 for 286 yards with 3 TD’s and one interception.
Week 2: The Patriots put “spygate” in their rearview mirror against the Chargers- In what was billed as the weekend’s grudge match, it never materialized as the Patriots took a 24-0 halftime lead and coasted to a dominating 38-14 victory over the Chargers in Foxboro. The Patriots were led by QB Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick and I believe they wanted to show last year’s regular season champ and the entire NFL that they didn’t need to cheat in winning their 3 Super Bowls. The players wanted to backup their coach after the NFL fined Belichick $500,000, the team another $250,000, and made them forfeit a first-round draft pick in ’08 for “spygate”. Brady (25-31, 279 yards w/ 3 TDs) said, “After everything that went on this week, we wanted to do our best for him”. Patriots WR Randy Moss had his second straight 100-yard receiving game including two touchdowns and big time free agent signee LB Adalius Thomas returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown. 2006 NFL MVP Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson could not back up his boasts that he wanted the Pats by running for only 43 yards on 18 carries.
Week 3: Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb against the Lions – After enduring a tough home loss to the Redskins on MNF and receiving arrows from everywhere regarding his interview with HBO’s Real Sports, Big 5 took off his knee brace and dismantled the Lions. He was at first greeted by more than a smattering of boos from fans, but they quickly turned to cheers as McNabb led the way in a 56-21 rout. He was pinpoint and had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3, finishing 21-26 passing for 381 yards and four touchdowns. I don’t know if it was the throwback uniforms, the chip on his shoulder or his repoirre with wide receiver Kevin Curtis, but it was evident McNabb came to play and to silence his critics. After the game he said about his comments, “What’s been said has been said” and “Sometimes reality hurts. Some people don’t want to accept it. Some people feel they aren’t a part of it. But I don’t take it back. I don’t regret it.”
Week 3: One of the few shining moments for the Ravens as they beat the Cardinals at the gun – In a game that came down to the final play, the Ravens showed that good defense and special teams are keys to winning the NFL taking down the Cardinals 26-23 in Baltimore. After Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner rallied the Arizona Cardinals from a 17-point deficit, Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller moved the Ravens into position for a 46-yard game-winning field goal by veteran kicker Matt Stover as time expired. The Ravens only had one offensive touchdown, as KR Yamon Figur’s 75-yard touchdown punt return and Stover (4 FGs and 2 XPs) accounted for the other 20 points. The game-winner by Stover was the 13th of his career. The win would be one of few good moments for the Ravens in a season where head coach Brian Billick would be fired at the end and they limped home with a 5-11 record.
Week 4: Revenge Weekend - There must have been something in the air this weekend as several coaches and players had happy/unhappy reunions (depending which side you were on).
– Raiders starting QB Daunte Culpepper – After being acrimoniously released by the Dolphins this summer due to supposed knee woes, Culpepper had this one circled on his calendar. In an in-your face my knee is fine win, Culpepper got his roll on for 5 touchdowns (2 passing and 3 rushing).
– Cardinals coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm were both passed over for the vacant Steelers head coaching job, but they got the last laugh on their old team. The Cardinals behind a two-headed monster at quarterback and big kick return by Steve Breaston gave the Steelers their first loss of the season 21-14 in Phoenix.
– Browns RB Jamal Lewis overpowered the vaunted Ravens defense in a big home win. In the game, he showed that his old team gave up on him too early rushing for 64 yards including a big 23 yarder and a touchdown..
– Giants Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, a former Eagles coach, showed that he knew the entire Eagles game plan and weaknesses as his unit held the Birds to three little points in a home win. By the way did I mention the franchise and NFL record 12 sacks the Giants registered.
Week 4: New York Giants DE Osi Umenyiora against the Eagles – Poor, Poor Eagles offensive tackle Winston Justice as the stout Giants sack man had a game for the ages collecting six sacks setting a franchise record and came within an eyelash of tying Derrick Brooks NFL record (7). He also forced two fumbles and I am sure that Justice (very bad first start), who was victimized for most of the sacks will not be sending him flowers anytime soon. The Eagles offense was befuddled for the entire game and the Giants D-line was the main cause. The unit totaled a NFL record 12 sacks and limited the Eagles to 190 net yards in a 16 – 3 win. To give you perspective on the number of sacks NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci said “12 sacks in one game? Peyton Manning was sacked 14 times all of last year.”
Week 5: The Bills almost pull of the impossible in a near upset of the undefeated Cowboys on Monday Night Football – I will say it, “The Cowboys did not deserve to win this game”. The game marked the first time since 2000 that MNF was in Buffalo. Ralph Wilson Stadium was rocking — and there wasn’t even a hockey game in the venerable stadium – as the “hated” Cowboys came back to beat the Bills 25-24 in front of a packed house. This was the most improbable victory I have ever seen. The Cowboys were lucky enough to overcome quarterback Tony Romo throwing 5 INTs with two returned for TDs and 1 fumble lost. They also had to weather key drops by receiver Terrell Owens and miraculously recover an on-side kick to setup the last second game-winning field goal. It was the first time in NFL History that a team won a game when it was a minus-5 on turnover differential.
Week 5: Indianapolis RB Kenton Keith against the Buccaneers -The Colts once again showed the quality of depth on their roster — good job GM Bill Polian and Coach Tony Dungy — as their injury replacement for star runner Joseph Addai proved to be so much more. The former New Mexico State and Saskatchewan Roughrider (CFL) back carried the ball 28 times gaining 121 yards with two touchdowns in the Colts’ 33 – 14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Week 6: New England Patriots QB Tom Brady against the Cowboys- This may have been a Super Bowl preview as Tom “Terrific” shined in a Pats win. In his 100th career start, the Patriots signal caller showed why he is the hands down favorite for the MVP. He threw a career high five touchdown passes, 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. The victory also raised Brady’s record to 24-4 as a starter vs. the NFC, including his three Super Bowl wins.
Week 6: Carolina Panthers QB Vinny Testaverde against the Cardinals – 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.
Week 7: Tennessee Titans Kicker Rob Bironas – That’s right a kicker made to my memorable moments despite my “love-hate” relationship for the smallest players on NFL rosters. In week 7, no kicker has had a great performance ever than Bironas. He sent an NFL-record eight field goals through the uprights in a crazy 38-36 victory over the Texans on the road. Bironas’ kicks included a game winning 29-yarder as time expired and others of 52, 25, 21, 30, 28, 43, and 29.
Week 7: Kansas City Chiefs Defensive End Jared Allen against the Bengals - The high-motor sometimes wacky Chiefs defensive end after serving a two game suspension for alcohol related events, showed why he is a bonafide defensive MVP candidate. Allen dominated the Bengals contributing 8 TKLs, 2 sacks (ninth career multi-sack game), and 2 FF while chasing quarterback Carson Palmer all day. Allen produced an NFL leading 15.5 sacks and was the main highlight for the low-light Chiefs going 4-1 with him after a 0-2 start.
Week 8: New England Patriots OLB Mike Vrabel against the Redskins - In a game that would cement the Patriots image as the “evil empire”, the veteran linebacker was everywhere (Offense, Defense, and Special Teams) in the Pats humiliating 52-7 win over the Redskins. In his primary role as the Patriots jack-of-trades linebacker (asked to cover, play the run, and rush the passer), Vrabel gave ‘Skins quarterback Jason Campbell’s nightmares as he produced 13 tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles with one being recovered for a touchdown. If that was not enough on offense, he played as a tight end in the redzone and he caught his tenth career touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Tom Brady to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. As if he didn’t do enough, the former Ohio State defensive end even fielded a Redskins onside kick in the fourth quarter.
Week 8: Philadelphia Eagles DE Trent Cole against the Vikings - The Eagles pass-rushing end told me when I visited with him in training camp “You have to get after it and you need to have the dog in you to make plays” and that is exactly what he did in the Eagles 23-16 win over the Vikings. Cole all year was the Eagles main force on defense. In this game he showed why he deserved high Pro Bowl consideration as he contributed eight tackles, two sacks and applying constant pressured on Vikings quarterbacks. He finished the year with 12.5 sacks.
NEXT: Weeks 9 through 17.