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BASN’s Week Five NFL Review
PHILADELPHIA — The second quarter of the NFL season began with a wild weekend filled with upsets, furious finishes, unbelievable comebacks, teams rising, teams falling toward the “parity” packed middle, downtrodden teams (one or fewer wins) slipping toward preparing for the 2009 NFL Draft and further distinctions between contenders and pretenders.
Only two undefeated teams remain (Giants 4-0 and Titans 5-0), making you really appreciate the ’07 Patriots 16-0 romp through the regular season. With an “Any Given Sunday” attitude prevalent throughout the NFL, I don’t foresee the Giants and Titans making it to week 10 without losing a game.
The Buffalo Bills found out in the Arizona desert just how hard it is to be the hunted as the upstart Cardinals (only winning team in the NFC West at 3-2) put a big “L” on their formerly undefeated record. The Bills unfortunately like many teams around the NFL had to deal with a key injury that turned the tide in their 41-17 loss as quarterback Trent Edwards was forced out of the game by a concussion.
Cardinals defensive back Adrian Wilson crushed the improving starting quarterback with a scary borderline helmet to helmet hit only three plays into the game. Edwards was helped off the field leaving disposed former starter JP Losman to comeback into the line-up.
Though Losman threw an 87-yard touchdown bomb to receiver Lee Evans, there were not many other highlights for the Bills. The Bills are now a half of game ahead of the New England Patriots (3-1) with a highly anticipated match-up in week 10 at Foxborough.
The current standings show just how little separation there is between the good teams as there are the two aforementioned undefeated teams (Giants 4-0 and Titans 5-0); six (4-1) teams including the Broncos, Steelers, Redskins, Cowboys, Panthers, and Bills; the (3-1) Patriots and four (3-2) teams including the Bears, Buccaneers, Falcons, and Cardinals. So there are only 13 total teams with winning records in the NFL…which is only 41% for crying out loud!!!
That leaves 19 teams in the parity laden league that are .500 or have a losing record including four (2-2) teams – Ravens, Jets, Dolphins, and Colts — that will soon be joining or leaving the playoff race.
The under .500 bunch includes a glut of seven (2-3) teams – Vikings, Saints, Jaguars, Chargers, Eagles, Packers, and 49ers; three (1-3) teams – Raiders, Seahawks, and Browns; the (1-4) Chiefs; and the hapless winless bunch consisting of the (0-4) Texans, Rams, and Lions along with the only (0-5) team in the NFL, the Bengals. Before you start trashing the Cincinnati stripes you have to admire their grit in fighting the mighty Cowboys to the end in their close 31-22 loss.
The game of the day in my opinion occurred in Houston as the Texans made their home debut against the hard to figure out Indianapolis Colts. With Commissioner Roger Goodell in attendance, the Colts first stormed out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter with everyone thinking that the winless Texans would not be showing up.
But fueled by new starting quarterback Sage Rosenfelds, the Texans found their stride with Rosenfelds finding former Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson (a season-high 131 yards on nine receptions) often and rookie running back Steve Slaton looking like the second coming of Brian Westbrook.
The Texans after scoring 27 unanswered points held an almost commanding 27-10 lead with 5 minutes left in the game. Just as the Texans and their fans were about to celebrate their first “W” of the season, the Colts and quarterback Peyton Manning awoke producing a finish for the NFL archives.
With the Colts trying to avoid a disastrous 1-3 start, the big play they badly needed came from veteran middle linebacker Gary Brackens. The stout hitter brought the Colts back to life after Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels made a big error on a third down that could have “milked” the clock. Rosenfels, who had played perfectly until the fourth quarter, tried to jump for a first down and was met with a vicious hit by Colts DE Raheem Brock and CB Marlin Jackson sending him spinning and fumbling at the same time.
The fumble was quickly scooped up by Brackens, who raced 68 yards and breathed new life into the Colts. Rosenfels then did not heed the warning of Texans head coach Gary Kubiak to “protect the football” as he fumbled again on third down as Colts DE Robert Mathis go the “hat trick” of a sack, forcing a fumble, and recovering it all on the same play —- BTW: What in the world were the Texans doing passing at the end of a close game anyway.
The play was soon followed by a Manning to Reggie Wayne fabulous one-handed 5-yard touchdown catch to give the Colts an improbably victory. The Colts win set an NFL record of a team coming back from 17 points down with five minutes left. Tony Dungy and the Colts should be counting their lucky stars, but this is the type of win that can propel a team. The Colts next face the Ravens as they will attempt to get their first win at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Before we go to the weekly awards, a special shout-out must go to the Washington Redskins. The Redskins completed a crucial first five weeks of the season stretch by going 4-1 including a 2-1 record versus division rivals the Giants, Cowboys, and Eagles all on the road.
In their game this week at Lincoln Financial Field against the Eagles, the Redskins fueled by efficient passing by Jason Campbell (16-29, 176 yds, 0 TDs, 0 INTs), a stingy defense that stepped-up in the second half, and downhill running by running back Clinton Portis (ran for 145 yards and one touchdown against the #1 ranked rush defense – overall 204 rushing yards for the ‘Skins) took care of business with a tough 23-17 win.
The ‘Skins are now a half of a game behind the Giants and they will now only have the rest of their divisional games at FedEx field. The Jim Zorn led team will also need to be watched in the coming weeks as they head into the cupcake portion of their schedule with home games vs. St. Louis (0-4) and Cleveland (1-3), then a road game at Detroit (0-4).
New Orleans Saints RB Reggie Bush – I know a lot of people will say “How could you give the week’s highest honor to a player that was on a losing team?” Well it is very easy to give my game ball to the third-year mercurial running back after watching him in awe on Monday Night Football. Bush’s rushing numbers were pedestrian (held to 29 yards on 12 carries and fumbled twice, losing one) in the Saints 30-27 loss to the Vikings.
But it was his electrifying punt returns that sparked a second-half comeback for the Saints. Bush’s ankle-breaking cuts were just sick as he scored on a 71-yard third-quarter return closing the gap to 20-17, then added a 29-yard return where he probably would have scored if he didn’t slip (set up a game-tying 53-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica) and finally ending his Vikings special teams nightmare performance with a fourth-quarter 64-yard punt return touchdown to give the Saints a 27-20 lead. In the end Bush couldn’t carry the Saints on his own, but he did produce a Saints record 176 return yards and became just the 12th player in NFL history to score on two punt returns in a game.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger – The NFL most battered quarterback stood tall as the Steelers got revenge from two prior ’07 defeats to the Jaguars. The Steelers controlled the game’s action in the 26-21 road win as Big Ben threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns. The win was the Steelers first victory over the Jags since 2004.
Patriots QB Matt Cassel – We all know he is not Tom Terrific, but the former USC signal caller is growing into his own. Cassel answered an early Niners lead by throwing a game-changing 66-yard perfect bomb to Randy Moss where you swore it was Brady throwing the pass. Cassel finished with respectable numbers of 22-32, 259 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs. The 30-21 win was the Patriots first win ever in San Francisco.
Vikings DB Antoine Winfield/span> – The hard-hitting former Ohio State player was everywhere in the Vikings’ Monday Night win. He returned a blocked field goal 59 yards for a touchdown, had a key sack, forced a fumble and recovered it, and had several tackles for a loss. Winfield’s Pro Bowl worthy night produced a line of eight tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 touchdown.
Bears QB Kyle Orton – I guess Lovie Smith is getting the last laugh on everyone who thought Rex Grossman was better than Orton. The composed former Purdue star continued his maturation as he set career highs in passing yards (334) and completions (24) plus threw three touchdowns in the Bears 34-7 shellacking of the hapless Detroit Lions.
Other Honorees: Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (123 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns in win over the Chiefs), Dolphins RB/Single-wing QB Ronnie Brown (24 rushes – 11 out of Wildcat formation — for 125 yards and 1 TD in upset win over the Chargers), Redskins RB Clinton Portis (aforementioned 145 yards rushing and 1 TD), Colts LB Gary Brackett’(5 TKLs and the earlier mentioned 68-yard fumble return touchdown), and Giants RB Brandon Jacobs (pounded his way to 136 yards and 2 TDs on only 15 rushes in the G-Men’s 44-6 blowout win)
Texans QB Sage Rosenfels – After starting in place of sick starter Matt Schaub (intestinal infection), the former Iowa State star was playing almost error-free for three quarters. But he was the key contributor to the Texans unbelievable loss to the Colts. His ball security was weak as he had two fumbles lost – one returned for a touchdown – and an interception all in the fourth quarter.
Rosenfels went from hero to goat in a matter of minutes finishing with numbers 21-33, 246 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and 2 fumbles. Unhappy Texans head coach Gary Kubiak lamented in his press conference, “Just get what you can get and get down. I think he had so much room to go that he got very competitive. I don’t blame him for being competitive, but we’ve just got to find a way to hang on to the ball.”
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe – Why in the world did Kluwe punt to Reggie Bush again and again. On Tuesday, we learned that Vikings head coach Brad Childress was extremely angry about Bush running loose on punt returns. Childress said, “Both of those kicks are supposed to be out of bounds, and when you say to someone to kick the ball out of bounds, that’s what you expect to happen. That’s what I expect to happen from a professional football kicker”.
Eagles head coach Andy Reid – The Eagles lost for the second week in a row as the team failed again to punch it in from within the 5-yard line in a crucial game situation. The Birds overall run/pass margin was overloaded again toward the pass with 29 passing plays to 14 runs. Even with all of the passing, the Eagles only tried to go deep a handful of times.
The Eagles had nine first downs in their first two drives, and then they only had five more the rest of the way. The team squandered a 14-0 lead as by going conservative as the Redskins pounded their way to over 200 yards rushing and a 23-17 victory. On a crucial fourth and one play, you saw who wanted it more as the Redskins moved the pile to get a key first down. After a 0-2 divisional start you have to ask, “Are the 2-3 Eagles in jeopardy of losing their season?”
Bengals RB Chris Perry – You have to wonder how did the Bengals believe that Perry, an often injured back, was ready to replace Rudi Johnson as the team’s featured back. The former Michigan back had his NFL leading fifth lost fumble at the worst time, which was three plays after the Bengals recovered an onside kick trailing 17-16 early in the fourth quarter. Perry finished with numbers of 13 rushes for 31 yards and no touchdowns. By non-coincidence, the Cowboys game also marked the Bengals’ debut of former Bears running back Cedric Benson (10 rushes for 30 yards).
Seattle Seahawks – Head Coach Mike Holmgren might want to consider starting his retirement now as his team was clobbered 44-6 by the Giants. This marked the third time this season the 1-4 Hawks have been routed (Bills, Niners, and Giants). Giants quarterback Eli Manning had all-day in the pocket throwing for 267 yards before being pulled. The Seahawks’ 25th-ranked pass defense even allowed former first-round pick flameout David Carr to throw a touchdown.
Giants WR Plaxico Burress – You ask, “How can a guy that didn’t play Sunday get on the dishonorable list?” Well Plaxico got on this list, because he typifies the pain-in-the butt coddled receivers of today (Burress, T.O, Chad Johnson, etc). He didn’t play, because he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team (missed practice without notifying anyone). But his team won easily won without him 44-6 over the Seahawks proving that in the NFL even big-mouth receivers are dispensable.
Burress exacerbated the situation by nonchalantly not apologizing to teammates by saying, “”That was the decision (the Giants) chose to do (suspending him). I’ll take it at that. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. I got me some rest and was able to get away for a while and chill out and relax. Things like that happen. I’ll keep moving forward and get back to doing what I do: catching footballs, scoring touchdowns and get back to work.” Along with the 2-week suspension including the Seahawks’ game, Burress was fined one week’s pay, or roughly $117,500.