By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
The NFL’s Good, Bad & Ugly: Week 7
NORTH CAROLINA — Another wild week of NFL football both on and off the field.
The Titans stay perfect with a rout over the Chiefs, St. Louis rolls over Dallas, the Bears win a wild one over the Vikings, the Bills get past the Chargers, the Packers beat the Colts and get their swagger back, the Redskins survive a scare and edge the Browns and the Raiders work overtime for a win over the Jets.
Steelers: No Willie Parker, no problem. After rushing for 99 yards on 17 carries last week, third string running back Mewelde Moore, had the best game of his career against the winless “Bungles”. Moore rushed for 120 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns at Pittsburgh spanked Cincy 38-10.
Although the Steelers dominated the entire game, the score was only 10-7 at the half. The second half was a different story as the Steelers outscored the Bengals 28-3. The Black and Gold defense sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick seven times and forced a fumble. The Bengals went four consecutive drives where they went three and out and only managed 212 yards of total offense for the game. The Steelers were dominate, physical, confident and look fresh coming off their bye week. They’ll need a repeat performance next week as they host the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.
Titans: What can you say about Tennessee. They play basic smash mouth fundamental football. They run the ball well and stop the run, they put pressure on the quarterback and they get good quarterback play and they are solid on special teams. Put all that together and you get to faced the horrible Kansas City Chiefs. The Titans beat up on K.C. early and often dominating the game and winning easily 34-10. Tennessee piled up 455 yards of total offense and the NFL’s lone unbeaten team rushed for a club-record 332 yards in the blowout victory. Ironically, the previous record (296 yards) was set by the Oilers also against Kansas City on Nov. 27, 1977. The Titans had two running backs rush for over 100 yards (Chris Johnson had 168 yards, 1 TD and LenDale White had 149 yards, 3 TDs). The Titans defense held K.C. to 272 yards total offense including only 58 yards on the ground, held the Chiefs offense to only 28 percent on third down and has two sacks. I know some of Tennessee critics feel they haven’t played many tough games because of their schedule, but that is not the fault of the Titans.
They are playing and beating the teams that are on their schedule and have looked impressive in doing so. No apologies necessary for the Titans needed. Besides, they were going to be a good football team this season anyway in my opinion and 6-0 is indicative of what good coaching, talent and teamwork can do.
Giants: Nothing real impressive here for the “G-MEN” in their 29-17 win over the 49ers. Offensively, Eli Manning was serviceable going 16 of 31 for 161 yards and one touchdown. Brandon Jacobs led the team in rushing for the game with 69 yards and no receiver had more than four receptions in the game. Defensively, New York made a little more noise, forcing three turnovers, held the 49ers to only 253 yards of total offense, 20 percent on third down and sacked J.T. O’Sullivan six times. The Giants did what they were suppose to do against a weaker opponent and did it well. They will need to continue to do it well this weekend as they travel to Steel country to face the Pittsburgh.
Bills: Like Tennessee, Buffalo’s critics felt they needed to beat a quality team in order to be considered a legitimate contender. I think they got what they needed in beating the “overrated” Chargers. Bills quarterback Trent Edwards was solid coming off a concussion throwing for 261 yards and a touchdown.
Buffalo controlled the ball and the defense came up with some big plays throughout the game. The defense allowed only 15 first downs, held the Chargers to only 263 yards of total offense and forced an interception. Like the Titans, the Bills are beating the teams on the schedule regardless of their record but to me, the bigger issue is how they handle adversity and how they play against mediocre or struggling teams. They will get a test this weekend against the mediocre Miami Dolphins.
Rams: Somebody break up the St Louis Rams! After looking like the worst team in football, they suddenly have put two wins together over Washington and Dallas. Last weekend, Steven Jackson ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns and the once maligned defense intercepted Cowboys quarterback Brad Johnson three times, forced four turnovers and three sacks en route to a surprisingly easy 34-14 victory over the “Boys”.
Although the Rams defense allowed Dallas running back Marion Barber to rush for 100 yards, but held the Cowboys to only 38 percent on third down for the game. Oshiomogho Atogwe, who had two interceptions, scored the lone touchdown against the Redskins last week on a fumble recovery. The bad news is that Jackson pulled a quadriceps muscle in the fourth quarter just before Haslett said he was going to take him out, and was to undergo an MRI. But Jackson thought he’d be fine for next week’s game at New England. The one thing that looks fine is the Rams right now. I stand corrected (for now), you can motivate players and turn things around after one coach is fired and the interim coach takes over from within. If the winning continues, the Rams may want to take the “interim” label off a Jim Haslett and sign him as the head coach.
Packers: Green Bay came into the game against Indianapolis trying to gage how good they really are and would a lot to prove to themselves and their fans. I think they found out they are pretty good. Despite being depleted with injuries, the Packers “patch-work” defense stymied and stuffed Peyton Manning and the Colts offense. Safeties Nick Collins and Aaron Rouse both ran interceptions back for long touchdowns as the Pack won 34-14 in front of a fired up and excited crowd in Lambeau Field. The Packers have won two straight after snapping a three-game losing streak at Seattle last Sunday. It’s the worst start to a season for Indy since 2001 (the last time the Colts missed the playoffs) and puts them three games back of the Titans. .Manning finished 21-for-42 for 229 yards, plus the two interceptions. With the win, the Packers sit atop of the NFC North with Chicago. Green Bay has a bye this week and then plays at Tennessee on Nov. 2 while the Colts get a shot at the Titans on Monday night.
Browns: After an impressive and dominating win over the Super Bowl Champion Giants last Monday night, Cleveland came crashing down to earth with another poor offensive performance in losing 14-11 to Washington last weekend. With several big plays, the Redskins shutdown the Browns while Clinton Portis did the heavy lifting on offense for the “SKINS”. Led by middle linebacker London Fletcher and missing injured corner back Shawn Springs, the defense gave up only 236 yards and only allowed one touchdown the entire game. Carlos Rogers, nursing a calf injury, held Braylon Edwards to four catches. Demetric Evans knocked away a fourth-down pass near the goal line. Andre Carter had a sack for the Redskins, who have won five of six and bounced back from last week’s last-play loss to the St. Louis Rams. Portis ran the ball for 175 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. He leads the NFL in rushing attempts, yards, 20 plus yard runs and is second in touchdowns. The Redskins are showing they win games when they play well or when they struggle. Derrick Anderson struggled throughout the game going 14 of 37 for 136 yards and a touchdown. No turnovers by Anderson, but no big plays down the field either. The Browns were slated to get Kellen Winslow Jr. back from an undisclosed injury, but he was suspended by the team. Could this be a mini Dallas drama in Cleveland? Only time will tell if the Browns can get on the same page on and off the field. The Browns better get their offensive woes together fast because they travel to Jacksonville to face a very physical Jaguars team.
Seahawks: Seattle lookd horrible! They struggle to score points and struggle to stop opposing offenses and that certainly was the case in Tampa Bay last weekend. Jeff Garcia completed 26 of 37 passes for 310 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant on Tampa Bay’s opening drive, and the Buccaneers beat Seattle 20-10. Making his second straight start in place of Brian Griese, Garcia helped the NFC South-leading Bucs to improve to 4-0 at home. Garcia clearly outplayed fellow backup-turned-starter Seneca Wallace, the Seahawks’ third quarterback in three weeks. Wallace finished 12-of-23 for 73 yards, with a 2-yard touchdown pass to John Carlson with 1:55 left, and had two turnovers in the second quarter. Maurice Morris ran for 56 yards for Seattle in its third straight loss. Not exactly the way Mike Holmgren wanted to finish his last season with the Seahawks. Up next for Seattle, a battle in San Francisco against the 49ERS and their interim head coach Mike Singletary.
Jets: Brett who? Favre is going to lead the Jets where? New York is a pretender and will continue to be if they struggle against teams like the Raiders. Not only are they losing to teams they shouldn’t beat, they are losing to teams they could and are expected to beat. No Jet fans, come talk to me when you beat a real contending team in the NFL until then, shut up!
Colts: I don’t know what to say about the Colts and their lousy performance in Green Bay other than maybe the run is over. Peyton Manning throws two pick 6′s to the Packers defense and Indy looks old and slow in the 34-14 beat down they took at the hands of the Packers. The Colts are similar to the Chargers where they look like the best team in football one week and the worst the next. Even Manning is suffering from “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” syndrome where he looks like he is back at from the surgery he had in the off season and then he throws two huge picks the next. The biggest surprise this season with the Colts is all the mistakes they make during games whether it’s turnovers, penalties, wrong assignments on defense and missed opportunities on offense. This is not the disciplined team we are use to seeing on the field. I guess we should expect Indianapolis to beat the Titans next week in Tennessee since they are so up and down this season. The Colts will have to win to save their season.
Saints: A week after destroying the Raiders at home for their third win of the season, New Orleans went to Carolina trying to inch closer to first or even tie the Panthers and Bucs for first place. The Panthers were not having any of that. After giving up sole possession of first place in the NFC South with a woeful road performance, the Panthers were determined to prove they were different than the poor performance they had against the Bucs last week.On Sunday, they again looked like one of the NFL’s best in a 30-7. The Saints quickly unraveled after Reggie Bush left with a knee injury and Jeremy Shockey perhaps re-injured his groin. Jake Delhomme threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns, Jonathan Stewart rushed for another score and the Panthers’ defense shut down Drew Brees and the NFL’s second-rated offense. Brees, who came in leading the NFL in completions and yards passing, was hounded all day and struggled with his accuracy The Saints couldn’t overcome the loss of Bush in the first half and were smothered by the Panthers’ improved defense. Carolina twice stopped New Orleans on fourth down in the second half. Julius Peppers had a sack and a forced fumble and the Panthers posted another lopsided home win to improve to 4-0 at Bank of America Stadium. The Saints are in a must win situation when they face another team in the same predicament, the Chargers in a show down in London, England.
Chargers: THE SAME TWO WORDS ONCE AGAIN FOLKS: NORV TURNER.
Broncos: Coming into the Monday night game against the Patriots, we knew Denver could score but couldn’t stop anyone. In the game against the “Brady-less” Patriots, they couldn’t do either. New England played like the club that had a perfect regular-season record last year as Matt Cassel, in his best game since taking over for the injured quarterback, threw three touchdown passes, Sammy Morris ran for 138 yards and New England routed the Broncos 41-7. On defense, they forced five turnovers. And on special teams, Wes Welker’s 44-yard punt return set up Randy Moss’ second touchdown catch. Denver struggled on offense largely because they couldn’t hold on to the football. Andre Hall lost two fumbles, Michael Pittman lost a fumble, Patrick Ramsey lost a fumble and Jay Cutler was intercepted twice. Defensively, they were just as bad allowing 257 yards rushing including 138 to Morris who later was injured in the game. Cassell was sacked six times but he was efficient. It was an overall lousy and pathetic performance by the Broncos who also lost the services of brothers Champ (groin) and Boss Bailey (knee). New England also have their injury concerns as they lost Morris to an injury and safety Rodney Harrison for the rest of the season with a torn quad injury. The Broncos made not be as hurt physically as the Patriots but I’m sure their ego’s are and they should be embarrassed in the way they played on the national stage. Denver gets to get to lick their wounds for this week as they have a bye. USE IT WISELY DENVER!
49ers: Well Mike Singletary, it’s your turn! After losing once again and looking bad in the process, San Francisco fired head coach Mike Nolan and replaced him on an interim basis with the Hall of Fame Linebacker (more on him later). Brandon Jacobs ran for two touchdowns, Eli Manning threw for one, Michael Johnson had two interceptions and the Giants managed to make fewer mistakes than the woeful Niners in a 29-17 victory. The loss was their fourth straight and if it weren’t for Seattle, the Niners would be in last place in the NFC West. J.T. O’Sullivan was ok going 16 of 28 for 256 yards and a touchdown but didn’t get much help on either side of the ball. O’Sullivan was such a one man show, he led the team in rushing with 27 yards on 4 carries. Frank Gore had a whopping 11 yards on 11 carries. The Niners come across as a team without identity which is surprising from a franchise that had many positive identities over the last three decades. The one glaring thing missing from this once proud franchise is toughness and hopefully making the change to a tough former player like Singletary will make a positive difference and will turn things around for the five time Super Bowl Champions.
Chiefs: They stink! Next!
Bengals: They are worse! Next!
Lions: They are the worse of all! Next!
Games to watch in Week 8:
Arizona at Carolina: This is a battle of first place teams trying to stay atop their divisions. The Cardinals come off a nice victory over the Cowboys while the Panthers bounced back from getting blown out by the Buccaneers to dishing out a blow out of their own against the Saints. This will be a battle of what offensive line can protect their quarterback and block successfully for the running game. Arizona has issues in protecting starting quarterback Kurt Warner while the Panthers are trying to patch up their offensive line until they are completely healthy. The team that protects their quarterback the best and runs the ball well I think will win the game.
Tampa Bay at Dallas: I know it’s early and it’s the Cowboys, but this is a must win for them. Tampa is on a roll with dominating wins over Carolina and Seattle at home while the Cowboys look weak, pre-occupied and unorganized in two losses in Arizona and St. Louis. The key in this game is the Bucs ability to run the ball and control the clock versus the Cowboys inability to make big plays down the field and put pressure on Tampa quarterback Jeff Garcia. As I said, this is a much more important game for Dallas than Tampa Bay both to stay close to the Giants and Redskins and for the mentality of the team .
Atlanta at Philadelphia: Another must game the NFC East contender. Although Philly is only two games behind the Giants, they can’t afford to fall further behind especially since the Redskins and Cowboys are ahead of them as well. Atlanta are playing ahead of expectations and with a win, can move atop of the NFC South with Carolina and Tampa while the Eagles just wanna stay afloat in the competitive NFC East. The key in this game is the Eagles blitz package against Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. If Ryan can handle Jim Johnson’s multiple blitz packages the Falcons should win, if not, the Eagles will. One person that can help Ryan tremendously is the one person who has helped him all season and that’s Michael Turner.
Giants at Pittsburgh: This will be a battle of two defenses that can get after the quarterback. The Steelers lead the NFL in sacks while the Giants pass rush………Well, you know what they can do — Right, New England? These teams are similar in style and philosophy. Both teams like to run the ball, stop the run, try to get big pass plays down the field and put lots of pressure on the quarterback. The key match up will be the Giants pass rush against the Steelers patch work offensive line and the Steelers secondary versus the size and big play ability of Plaxico Burress who will be returning to Pittsburgh after beginning his career there.
Indianapolis at Tennessee: This must be “must win week” because like the Eagles and Dallas, the Colts need a victory in this game against the division leading Titans. Indy comes off another confusing and inconsistent loss at Green Bay while the Titans remain perfect with an easy victory on the road at Kansas City. There are two bad matchups for the Colts in this game. One, the Titans are much more physical on both sides of the ball than the Colts and two, because they are more physical, the Titans should be able to run the ball at will on a poor Colts run defense. If the Colts are to upset the Titans in Tennessee, they must score early and control the ball the entire game. They must somehow stop the Titans running game and force Titans quarterback Kerry Collins to make decisions down the field and hopefully force him into turnovers in order to get a victory on the road and move a little closer to the only undefeated team in football.
My top 15 teams after week 7:
1. Tennessee 2. Pittsburgh 3. Giants 4.Washington 5. Buffalo 6.Tampa Bay 7.Carolina 8. Green bay 9. Arizona 10. Philadelphia 11. Chicago 12. Atlanta 13. New England 14. Dallas 15. Jacksonville
Worst performance by a Division I college football team:
Wake Forest: I am a big fan of Jim Grobe and what he has brought to the Deacons’ football program, but how do you dial up that performance like the one they did against an unranked Maryland team (a 26-0 loss)? The Terps played so well against No. 21 Wake Forest, it was almost impossible to single out offense, defense or special teams in the most significant win of an up-and-down season. They compiled 470 yards of total offense and held the ball for over 34 minutes of the game. The Deacons offense has struggled this season in particular the last two weeks only scoring 12 points in the process. Riley Skinner was only 14 of 30 for 127 yards and no touchdowns and the Deacs only rushed the ball for 55 yards for the game. The Deacons will have to re-group and do it fast as they travel to Miami to face an improved Miami Hurricane team.
Best HBCU football team of the week:
Tuskegee: The undefeated Golden Tigers scored twice within five seconds in the final quarter to down visiting Albany State in front of 9,143 fans at Abbott Memorial Stadium. The victory was Tuskegee’s 23rd in a row, boosting the Tigers to 7-0 overall and 6-0 in the SIAC. TU responded to a game-tying TD by the Golden Rams midway through the fourth quarter with a 60-yard scoring drive and then Michael Henley pounced on a fumble in the end zone on the ensuing kickoff to ice the game with 2:49 left. The Tigers pushed Juan Bongarra back 15 yards for the PAT and it sailed just wide left. The Tigers put together scoring drives of 75, 91, 63 and 60 yards against the SIAC’s No.1 defense and overcame 11 penalties.
Best HBCU football player of the week:
Greg Dillon: The Grambling State quarterback accounted for 327 total yards and two touchdowns to spark host GSU to a 27-7 win against Alabama State on Saturday. Dillon completed 17 of 30 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, adding 147 yards rushing on 20 carries for the Tigers. The Tigers out gained the Hornets 409-169 in the game. Dillon hit Donnell on a 13-yard pass to give Grambling State a 10-0 lead with 8:02 remaining in the second. Seven minutes later, Frank Warren’s 1-yard scoring run gave the Tigers a 17-0 halftime lead. Anthony Speight’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Nicholas Andrews cut the Hornets’ deficit to 10 points to open the third, but Leal’s 44-yard field goal and Dillon and Donnell’s 24-yard connection put the game away in the final quarter.
Worst organization of the week:
Dallas Cowboys: This team is in disarray and the blame doesn’t go on Wade Phillips, Terrell Owens or any other player or coach. The blame goes solely on the owner, general manager, coach, scout and every other title he owns, Jerry Jones. Here is a guy who puts two guys in a position to be co-head coaches (Phillips and Jason Garrett), spends a ton of money on draft picks and free agents on guys who have not worked out so far, trades for a receiver that hasn’t proven himself in the league and the team doesn’t need and has the audacity to go into the locker room and rip the players and coaches after they lost to the Rams? Newsflash!! Jerry Jones, you are not the only problem but you are the sole problem for the soap opera called “Dallas”. You bring in players that don’t fit the chemistry of the team, you create controversy by having two coaches and being the third coach on the field only complicates an already complicated and highly scrutinized football team. I don’t mind owners who are passionate, concerned and dedicated to making their franchise better with an open wallet and lots of expressions during the good and bad times, but that’s where it should end. Coming on the field during the game and beating up on a team after a game in the locker room only causes confusion for the players in terms of the direction of the team and who they get their orders and directions from and it under minds the head coach and his ability to run the team, discipline players if needed and make crucial decisions that affect the entire roster. Jones upsets the “apple cart” when he gets too involved and the Cowboys will continue to struggle because of it. If you think about the last time the ‘BOYS won back to back Super Bowls was in 1994-1995 when Jimmie Johnson was the coach. Ironically, he was the last coach that respectfully left because he didn’t have control of the team the way he should have.
Mike Singletary: Kudos to the Niners for hiring Singletary to replace Mike Nolan even if it’s on an interim coaching basis. Singletary has paid his dues as an assistant coach and brings a lot of passion, knowledge and toughness to a San Francisco team that not only needs some toughness but also needs an identity. Gone is the Montana signature teams of the mid 80′s and 90′s and the precision offense of Steve Young and the teams of the late 90′s and 2000′s. Those teams had a winning tradition that was almost unmatched over the last 30 years. The organization also had a black eye as well which was the opportunity to hire an African American coach and fail to do so thanks to “Mr. Genius” Bill Walsh, Terry Donahue and the DeBartolo family ownership. When the Niners were in the market for a coach and Terry Donahue was the G.M., Bill Walsh was a team consultant and Ed Debartolo was the acting team owner, they conducted what I thought was a mock coaching search to find a successor, but really had Steve Mariucci already penciled in as the next coach of the franchise at a time when coaches like Ray Rhodes, Mike Singletary and others were available to take the job. What made the situation worse, is that reports came out after Marrriucci was hired, that the organization had secret interviews with Marriucci and already made up their mind on hiring him and decided to go through the motions with the black coaches applying for the coaching position for that position and others. This all in the face of the “Rooney rule” which pushed for more minority interviews and hirings in the NFL. Hopefully, Singletary can bring back the physicality of the Niners as well as the poise, confidence, success and championship this franchise is so use to. Maybe if they win some games and make the playoffs, Singletary will reap the rewards he deserves for all the hard work, patience, diligence and dedication he has shown to a game that he did so much for.
My World Series pick:
I like the Phillies in six games because I think they have the better bullpen. One of the reasons, Boston almost came back and beat the Rays is because their bullpen blew a huge lead in Game 5 and struggled against the White Sox in the ALDS. Tampa has a shot if they can get to Brad Lidge because he’s been perfect all season and is due for a blown save.
Until next week…….Enjoy the games!