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NFL 2007: The Best Of The Best (Part 2)
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. Yesterday, we took a look at weeks one through eight. Today, we finish with weeks nine through 17.
Week 9: Vikings RB Adrian Peterson against the Chargers - I am calling this performance “the game that showed the NFL the future”. I guess the six teams that passed on him due to questions of him being injury prone wanted their pick back after week 9 as 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.”
Week 9: The “Clash of the Super Powers” or “Super Bowl XLI Â½” as the Patriots beat the Colts 24-20: This was a “good” regular season game, but would I call the Patriots (9-0) come from behind win over the Colts (7-1) an Instant Classic, “No”. Unlike all of the hype surrounding the game it never lived up to the greatest game I ever watched 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 move on their merry way to their undefeated regular season. 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.
Week 10: Philadelphia Eagles RB Brian Westbrook against the Redskins – The mercurial Eagles multi-purpose back against the Redskins in his hometown area (Washington DC/Maryland) tried to save the Eagles season by catching a screen pass and zigzagging his way 57 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and quieting a sold-out FedEx Field crowd with 3:16 left. The Redskins never challenged again after that point in the Eagles 33-25 victory. For the game Westbrook, finished with numbers of 20 rushes for 100 yards w/1 TD and 5 receptions for 83 yards w/ 2 TDs
Week 10: Cleveland Browns KR/WR Joshua Cribbs against the Steelers – I have been a fan of Cribbs since he was a 1,000 yard passing and rushing quarterback in the same season for Kent State. Cribbs elusiveness was on display this week in Pittsburgh as he was a major component in the Browns almost victory. He had a huge 90-yard kickoff return that directly led to one of Browns quarterback Derek Anderson’s three touchdown passes. Plus he had the NFL’s highlight reel play of the week as he had an improbable 100-yard kickoff return touchdown after fumbling the ball near the goal line and then racing down the sideline to the “house”. Cribbs finished with more yards on kickoff returns (204) than the Browns offense had total yards (163). Cribbs said of his 100-yarder, “It was a couple of inches from going into the end zone and I had to make a decision and live with it”.
Week 11: Dallas Cowboys WR Terrell Owens against the Redskins - 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. At this point in the season, the almost thirty-five old had 58 catches for 1028 yards with a 17.7 average and 12 touchdowns in just 10 games.
Week 11: Arizona Cardinals CB Antrelle Rolle against the Bengals – After struggling for his first couple years in the league this former 2005 first round pick finally found his stride in week 11. 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 3rd return 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. He also had 4 tackles and performed some serious acrobatics after his scores.
Week 12: Chicago Bears Kick Returner Devin Hester against the Broncos – I am no Larry Pasquale (vaunted former NFL Specials Teams coach), but even I know it is useless to kick to Bears uber kick returner Devin Hester especially down the middle of the field. Hester tried to save the Bears season as he returned a punt 75 yards for a score and added an 88-yard kickoff-return for a score in the 37-34 overtime victory against the Broncos. Both plays occurred in the crucial third quarter and Hester tied his NFL record from last year of five returns for touchdowns (later broke the record with two more returns giving him seven for the season). In only his second season in the NFL, the “moves for days” runner has 12 returns for touchdowns in his career, which is two away from Brian Mitchell’s all-time record of fourteen (BTW: It took B-Mitch 13 years to compile his record). Former all-world returner Deion Sanders said of Hester “The reason he is so good is not only is he fast, but he has the strength to break tackles, good peripheral vision and impeccable timing.”
Week 12: San Francisco 49ers LB Patrick Willis against the Cardinals – The Niners tackling machine showed why he was the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year. The first rounder from the University of Mississippi was amazing this week in the Niners 37-31 overtime victory over the Cardinals. Willis had 18 tackles and .5 sacks while flying around the field. He also made the play of the game running down Cards receiver Sean Morey on a 62-yard reception in overtime, when it appeared Morey was taking it to the house.
Week 13: The Cowboys show the Packers who the kings of the NFC are in a big win – In a game billed as the NFC showdown of the regular, the Cowboys harassed and then knock Packers quarterback Brett Favre (Shoulder, Elbow) out of the game in a dominating 37-27 win. The win improved the Cowboys to 11-1 as Favre (5/14, 56 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INT) continued his losing ways in Texas Stadium (0-9). Golden Boy quarterback Tony Romo had huge numbers of 19-30, 309 yards, 4 touchdowns and only one interception. Romo found all-world receiver Terrell Owens (7 catches for 156 yards w/ 1 TD) and TE Jason Witten (6 catches for 67 yards) as they overcame 10 penalties and one turnover in the big win. The key play of the game was a pass interference penalty on Packers CB Tramon Williams against WR Miles Austin in the fourth quarter, with Green Bay trailing 27-24. The penalty took Dallas from the Packers’ 47 all the way to the 5-yard line. Three plays later, Tony Romo found Patrick Crayton in the end zone for the clinching touchdown with 7:51 remaining.
Week 13: The Vikings continue the Lions free fall with a huge win as Peterson returns - The Lions were crowing to the entire NFL after they started the season with a 6-2 record at the halfway point, but this game was their fourth loss in a row as they were throttled by the Vikings 42-10 in the Metro Dome. The game was a coming out party for Vikings quarterback Tavaris Jackson as he threw for 18-24, 204 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT and 20 rushing yards. Jackson was also supported by the return of running back Arian Peterson from a knee injury as the rookie of the year contributed 15 rushes for 116 yards and 2 TDs in the win. Vikings amassed an amazing 216 yards rushing, 443 total yards, and had a huge edge in Time of Possession (37:02 to 22:58)
Week 14: Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Greg White against the Texans- In a game where the Bucs lost 28-14 to the Texans, the NFL got a good look at Arena Football mystery man Greg White. White had been a player who had toiled for years on the fringes on the NFL in training camps and in the AFL, but never really got a good chance until his coach for the Orlando Predators Jay Gruden peeped his brother Bucs head coach Jon Gruden to him. Wilson played as well as Texans number one draft pick Mario Williams as the AFL vet helped Bucs hold the Texans to less than 280 total yards and contributed three sacks and two forced fumbles. For the season White finished with 8 sacks and 7 forced fumbles.
Week 14: Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Whitten against the Lions – In a game that the Cowboys had to win to protect their home field advantage lead, Witten was huge. In Cowboys improbable 28-27 come-from-behind win, Witten catch a tight end record tying 15 passes for 138 yards (Kellen Winslow also had 15 in a 1984 game) including the game-winner with 18 seconds left in the game. The catch was also set a new Cowboys single-game record (previously held by Lance Rentzel (13) in a 1967 game) and tied the record for most receptions in a game by a tight end. The win brought the Cowboys record to 12-1 and clinched division for the first time since 1998. Unfortunately the loss was the Lions 5th straight on the way to a bad 7-9 record after a hot 6-2 start.
Week 15: The Dolphins Win, The Dolphins Win – All season everyone has been saying that this year’s Dolphins squad was bad enough to finish winless — the last team to achieve the unenviable lowlight were the 1976 Tampa Buccaneers who posted a 0-14 season. Well everyone stopped with the speculation and jokes for one week as the Dolphins led by quarterback Cleo Lemon (23/39, 315 yards, one huge touchdown pass and zero interceptions plus 12 rushing yards) refused to lay down. They fought from beginning to end as they pulled off a huge “get the monkey off our back” win over the reeling Baltimore Ravens 22-16 in overtime. Lemon connected with little used WR Greg Camarillo for a 64-yard touchdown pass to gain the relieving overtime victory that left Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga in tears.
Week 15: Houston Texans DE Mario Williams against the Broncos – Everyone that scoffed at the Texans making him the first overall pick last year – including yours truly – had to eat some crow in week 15 as the former North Carolina State star was a monster. Williams was huge on Thursday night harassing fellow ’06 draftee Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler and registering a career high 3.5 sacks and seven tackles in the Texans impressive victory. Despite the effort Williams didn’t make the Pro Bowl despite 14 sacks.
Week 15: Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR/KR Michael Spurlock against the Falcons - It took 32 seasons and 1,865 tries, but he former Ole’ Miss quarterback made history as he had a 90 yard kick return for a touchdown in the Bucs 37-3 over the hapless Falcons. Did I fail to mention that kick return was the first for a touchdown in the Bucs’ history. For the game, Spurlock had two returns for 98 yards with a 49-yard average. Spurlock said. “Everybody got their block, I hit it and found the end zone.
Week 16: Kevin Everett returns to Buffalo – The scoreboard will read that the Giants beat the Bills 38-21 to secure a playoff berth, but that will not matter. The game marked an emotional high for the close-knit Bills as their injured teammate Kevin Everett walked into Ralph Wilson stadium. Everett with the help of prays by many and fine medical rehab work had done the impossible of walking after he had severely injured his neck in week one against the Broncos on special teams play. Many had said the back tight end would never walk, but he proved everyone wrong with his miraculous effort.
Week 16: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger against the Rams – In a must-win game for the Steelers to wrap up their first divisional title under Mike Tomlin, Big Ben came up big. The nation was watching on Thursday Night football, so Roethlisberger used the occasion to show why he was a Pro Bowl player in 2007. In the 41-24 thrashing, Roethlisberger threw for 16-20, 261 yards, 3 TDs and no interceptions. The performance by the former Miami (OH) quarterback showed that despite the loss of running back Willie Parker that the Steelers were ready to play. The Steelers finished with 425 Total Yards only two penalties, and had an amazing 36:16 in Time of Possession and 24 first downs compared to 17 for the Rams in the dominating win.
Week 17: Patriots Historical Regular Season ends with a 16-0 record against the Giants – History was made on December 29 as the New England Patriots became the NFL’s first 16-0 team as they came back from a 12-point deficit to win 38-35 (joined the 1972 Dolphins 14-0, 1942 Bears, and 1934 Bears as the only teams to be undefeated in the regular season). To my chagrin, beleaguered Giants head coach Tom Coughlin decided that his team was going to stop history as he put his full compliment of players on the field in the Patriots historic 38-35 victory. The G-Men would not back down to the mighty Patriots and they were led by the fiery play of workhorse running back Brandon Jacobs (15 rushes for 67 yards, 44 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD), who got in the face of several of the vaunted Patriots. No matter what happens in the playoffs the play of often maligned Giants quarterback Eli Manning against the Patriots will be remembered, throwing for numbers of 22-32, 251 yards, and four touchdowns with one interception. The interception to Patriots defensive back Ellis Hobbs proved to be costly as the Patriots immediately converted the pick into seven points on a Laurence Maloney 5-yard touchdown run. NFL “Golden Boy” Pats quarterback Tom Brady was pinpoint throwing for 32-42, 356 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Brady found his favorite target Randy Moss twice with the last one being a historic 65-yard touchdown play for both players. The throw was Brady’s 50th touchdown pass of the year breaking Peyton Manning’s 2004 record of 49 and for Moss it was his 23rd touchdown catch breaking Jerry Rice’s record of 22 set in 1987. The record touchdown also had huge consequences on the game as the 65-yard bomb after Moss had drop a pass on the earlier play busted open the game for the Patriots and sapped the will out of the “game” Giants. The Patriots also smashed the 1998 Vikings scoring record of 556 by posting an amazing 589 points for the season and passed the 1984 Dolphins’ regular season touchdown record (70) by putting up 75 touchdowns. Unfortunately the “moral victory” for Coughlin and the G-Men may have been costly as Center Shaun O’Hara, backup safety Craig Dahl and linebacker Kawika Mitchell all left the game with knee injuries, and cornerback Sam Madison had an abdominal strain.