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BASN’s NFL Review: Week #10
As the weeks keep fly by, the league keeps chugging along with a sense more than ever that soon enough playoff clarity will soon be upon us…well maybe.
After 10 weeks of play, there are still the “Have’s” including two undefeated teams (Colts and Saints both 9-0) and the “Have Nots” (six teams with 2 or less wins).
But there are also 15 teams currently caught in the league’s parity-filled middle (records ranging from 3-6 to 5-4) that still need to figure out, real fast, if they are joining or jumping out of the playoff hunt.
This week also marked the last set of bye weeks with the Houston Texans and New York Giants both trying to heal-up for a stretch run, so now the “real” fun is about to start in the NFL.
Week 10′s headlines were dominated by a mega Sunday Night Football heavyweight match-up (Patriots-Colts) and a strong undercard (Bengals-Steelers, Eagles-Chargers, Cowboys-Packers, and Falcons-Panthers). But there was one common theme that I saw during Week 10′s fifteen games.
Like Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s No Place Like Home”.
For the first time in a while, we saw home teams including underdogs (Washington Redskins) fight back to regain home field advantage. In fact, home teams were a combined 10-5 this weekend thus proving that you must defend your home turf in order to succeed in the NFL.
The trend started in the NFL’s first Thursday Night game of the season with the home team San Francisco 49ers beating the turnover prone Chicago Bears 10-6 on NFL Network.
The game other than Bears QB Jay Cutler’s devastating 5 interceptions was rather boring, but there was some excitement at the end. After Cutler and the Bears finally found their mojo – moved the ball all the way to San Francisco’s 12-yard line.
The Niners needed a great goalline stand culminating in safety Michael Lewis’ game-ending interception to hold on for the win. After the game, Cutler took most of the blame for the loss and said, “It was tough. I have to apologize to the defense”.
He added, “I think the offense as a whole has to apologize. They played a great game and kept us in there even through all the turnovers.”
I know it was not Picasso, but to Niners head coach Mike Singletary he will take it as his team jumped right back into the playoff race.
It will now be real interesting to see if the Niners can catch the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals (lead by 2 games) or compete for a wildcard spot with teams like the Eagles, Giants, Falcons, and Panthers.
The Niners home win was nice, but any game talk this week revolved around the Colts and Patriots super match-up as the two heated rivals played for the 10th time since 2002, including playoffs.
The Indianapolis Colts (9-0) continued their steady climb through their 16-game schedule by remaining undefeated by beating the New England Patriots by a score of 35-34 in an “Instant Classic”.
Super Bowl XLIII Â½, as some are calling it, was a thrilling game filled with plenty offense, solid defense, and strong quarterback play — two teams combined for 69 points and 884 combined net yards.
The game came down to the last seconds with Colts QB Peyton Manning (28-44, 327 yards, 4 TDs, and 2 INTs) quickly hitting WR Reggie Wayne with a 1-yard touchdown strike with 13 seconds on the clock to comeback from a 17-point deficit and an improbable of victory.
The Colts have now won 18 straight regular season games (2nd longest in NFL history) and have also won 11 straight home games (5-0 in 2009), which ties the second-longest home win streak in Colts’ history.
But this game will forever be remembered for one play that could have very well marked the end of the dynasty for the team that has dominated this decade in the NFL.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick with the situation of a 4th-and-2 at his own 28-yard line and the Patriots clinging to a 34-28 lead with 2:08 left on the clock, decided to go for it.
That’s right from very deep in his own side of the field, Belichick decided that his defense was not good enough to stop Manning from driving the Colts offense 70 to 80 yards for the winning score and disregarded an “obvious” punting situation.
As you probably already know…Belichick now looks like the 2009 reincarnation of former Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer after gambling and losing. On the crucial play, Patriots QB Tom Brady threw to RB Kevin Faulk and the Colts defense stopped him short from converting the first down.
After the game Belichick simply said, “I was trying to win the game”. But his actions spoke much louder than his words. It seems with veterans DT Richard Seymour, SS Rodney Harrison, LB Mike Vrabel, and others no longer on the Patriots defense, that the former 3-time Super Bowl champions’ defense can no longer be counted as one of the best in the NFL. And apparently by his decision Belichick agrees too.
I am still scratching my head as to “how” fBelichick’s confidence in his defense has fallen that now their “genius” head coach’s decision is the subject of a national debate. However the Patriots at a record of 6-3 and a 2-game lead in the AFC East are still firmly in the AFC’s playoff picture, but now there are more cracks in their armor.
We will have to wait and see, starting with the NY Jets in Week 11, if the Patriots can rebound from this colossal moment gone awry. After the game, former Super Bowl-winning Colts head coach and current NBC football analyst Tony Dungy said, “In that situation…You have to punt the football”. I totally agree coach and I know in hindsight, Belichick does too, even if the “Pompous One” will never admit it.
Here’s the current division breakdown after Week 10:
NFC East – Dallas Cowboys (6-3) have a 1-game lead over the Eagles (5-4) and Giants (5-4)
NFC West â€”Arizona Cardinals (6-3) have a 2-game lead over the Niners (4-5)
NFC South — New Orleans Saints (9-0) have a 4-game lead over the Falcons (5-4)
NFC North — Minnesota Vikings (8-1) have a 3-game lead over the Packers (4-5)
AFC East — New England Patriots (6-3) have a 2-game lead over the NY New Jets and Dolphins (4-5)
AFC West — Denver Broncos (6-3) are tied with the San Diego Chargers (5-3). These two will square-off in Week 11 in Denver
AFC South — Indianapolis Colts (9-0) have a 4-game lead over the Houston Texans (5-4)
AFC North — Cincinnati Bengals (7-2) have a 1-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3). The Bengals also hold the most important tiebreaker of head-to-head wins (2-0) over the Steelers
Before we move onto the Game Balls and Lackey’s for this week, here are some Lloyd’s Leftovers.
A changing of the guard in the AFC North – “WHO DEY…WHO DEY… Gonna beat them Bengals, Nobody”.
The Cincinnati Bengals 18-12 road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers may have marked a complete turnaround from 2008 for Marvin Lewis’ team.
The Bengals (7-2) have gone from the bottom of the AFC North with a 2008 record of 4-11-1 to sweeping former AFC North bullies, the Steelers (6-3) and Baltimore Ravens (5-4). The win marked the first time Cincy has swept the Steelers since 1988 and they are also 4-0 against both teams since the division’s inception in 2002. The Bengals now have a commanding 5-0 division record and I have to admit, you can now count me as one of their believers. The Bengals are now a complete team in all 3 phases of the game (offense, defense, and special teams) and it took a solid effort from each unit to pull off a win in tough Heinz Field. The Bengals’ defense is no longer under the radar (ranked 2nd in points allowed with 16.3 ppg) and more attention is sure to come after holding the Steelers’ offense to 226 yards and four Josh Reed field goals. The Bengals defense pressured Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger all game while forcing one interception and sacking Big Ben 4 times. The game’s offensive star definitely was Bengals rookie RB Bernard Scott, who scored the lone touchdown of the game with a 96-yard kickoff return in the first quarter – Steelers 7th return for a TD this year including three kickoff returns in their last four games. The news wasn’t all great for the Bengals as their leading rusher Cedric Benson left at halftime with a hip flexor causing Scott to fill-in in the second half (rushed for 33 yards on 13 carries and catch one pass for 21 yards). **Note with the news that Benson maybe out longer than expected, the Bengals signed RB Larry Johnson, who was recently released by the Kansas City Chiefs. Johnson (turns 30 on Nov. 19) has rushed for 5,996 yards and 55 touchdowns over a 7-year career.
Injuries, Injuries, and more Injuries – I say it every week, “The NFL Season is a War of Attrition” and Week 10 really proved that point. The Philadelphia Eagles may have suffered the biggest blow of the week when RB Brian Westbrook suffered his 2nd concussion in less than 1 month in a close 31-23 loss to the San Diego Chargers. By all indications, the Birds’ mercurial runner may have quite possibly played his last game for this season. With the NFL’s recent poor history of combating concussions (see Congressional hearings regarding the handling of former NFL players’ concussions), the Eagles would be wise to put Westbrook on the self as his health is more important than anything else.
The multitude of other frontline injuries included: Panthers OT Jordan Gross (ankle – season), Bengals RB Cedric Benson (hip), Bears TE Desmond Clark (neck), Niners LB Takeo Spikes (left hamstring), Browns WR/KR Josh Cribbs (neck), Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown (foot), Falcons RB Michael Turner (ankle), Broncos QB Kyle Orton (foot/ankle), Rams WR Keenan Burton (knee – season), Steelers DB Troy Polamalu (left knee), Saints CB Tracy Porter (knee) and Seahawks RB Julius Jones (bruised ribs).
Restoring the Roar – After a 0-2 start, many people around the NFL buried the Jacksonville Jaguars and their head coach Jack Del Rio. But getting back to the philosophy (run the ball, play-action passing, tough attacking defense, and good special teams) that served them so well in their 2007 playoff run, the Jaguars have jumped back into the AFC Wildcard race with a 5-4 record. This week the Jaguars again rode Maurice Jones-Drew aka “Pocket Hercules” (see Game Balls) to a huge 24-22 road over the NY Jets in the Meadowlands. Jones-Drew and QB David Garrard kept the Jets’ defense on their heels the entire game and the Jags were able to close-out the win on a short field goal after MJD had the most unselfish play of the 2009 season. The Jags still have to play the Colts (Week 15) and Patriots (Week 16), but four out of five of their other opponents have losing records.
What does $250,000 buy you….A one-finger salute – Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams pulled a “Bryan Cox” as he let the Buffalo Bills’ sideline have it.
Adams, 86 years young, stuck up both out his middle fingers from the owner’s box during the Titans dominating 41-17 win over the Bills. I don’t know what the Titans’ owner was thinking as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in attendance at the game and you knew the “sheriff” was going to lay down the law. The NFL wasn’t even thinking about only giving a little slap on the wrist for this one as Adams was fined $250,000 for “conduct detrimental to the league.” Goodell said on Monday, “I’ve said before we’re held to a higher standard in the NFL, that includes yours truly.
It includes our owners. It includes front-office people. It includes the players. Those are things we’ll continue to emphasize. And if people violate them, we’ll deal with it.” Adams later apologized saying, “I got caught up in the excitement of a great day, but I do realize that those types of things shouldn’t happen. I need to specifically apologize to the Bills, their fans, our fans and the NFL”.
One party note on this story. Wasn’t it not that long ago that the Patriots were fined 250K for “Spygate”. I guess cheating is just as bad as giving someone the finger…right.
Fisher hits a milestone – One item that happened in the Titans win over the Bills that was more important than Adams’ salute to the Bills was Titans head coach Jeff Fisher hitting a big milestone. Fisher became the 10th head coach in NFL history to coach 250 career games (regular and postseason) with one team. The Titans’ victory gave Fisher 136 wins for his career, tying him with Hall of Famer and former KC Chiefs coaching legend Hank Stramm for 20th all-time.
How about those Saints – The Saints defeated the St. Louis Rams 28-23 and improved to 9-0 for the first time in franchise history. The Saints also have scored an NFL-best 331 points, the fourth-most by a team in the first nine games of a season in NFL history.
Before we go to this week’s awards, our thoughts and prayers are with Seattle Seahawks owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who is was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson – Every week, the self-dubbed “Every Coach’s Dream” just amazes the rest of the NFL. In the Titans’ 41-17 win over the Buffalo Bills, Johnson rushed for 132 yards and 2 TDs with a 5.08 ypc average. The speedy back from East Carolina also had a Roger Craig-type performance catching 9 passes for 100 yards and marking the first 100-yard receiving and rushing game of his career.
Johnson now leads the NFL with 1,091 rushing yards and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. The 2nd-year back also joined Hall of Famer Jim Brown (1963) and Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (2007) as the only players in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and average 6.4 yards per carry in a team’s first nine games of a season.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew – Pocket Hercules rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown (33 yards) in the Jags win over the NY Jets. Jones-Drew was the key ingredient to the Jags’ second win in a row from the start of the game. He ran the ball on Jacksonville’s first five plays and totaled 55 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
But his biggest play wasn’t even a touchdown. To the delight of Jags head coach Jack Del Rio and the dismay of his fantasy football owners, Jones-Drew did not score an “easy” touchdown late to run out the clock and setup a game-winning field goal. MJD took a handoff at the 10-yard line on the game’s final drive and darted towards the end zone, but took a knee at the 1-yard line with 1:48 left ( shades of Brian Westbrook in 2007 ). The Jaguars were able to run the clock down with the Jets out of timeouts and won the game on a short Josh Scobey field goal.
Green Bay Packers CB Charles Woodson – The former Heisman Trophy winner spurred the Packers defensive effort in a 17-7 home win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Woodson was everywhere as Cowboys quarterback was in distress constantly.
The former first-round pick from Michigan contributed 9 tackles, two forced fumbles, a sack and an interception as the Packers kept the Cowboys from scoring until late in the 4th quarter .
Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning – It would not be a Game Balls report without putting the surefire 2009 NFL MVP on our list. Manning was his classic stoic self as the Colts fought back from a 17-point deficit to surprising beat the New England Patriots 35-34 in Sunday’s biggest game. Manning finished with numbers 28-44, 327 yards (reached 300 yards in 8 of 9 games this season), 4 TDs, and 2 INTs plus reached another big milestone in the win. The 3-time MVP quarterback won his 13th consecutive game when passing for 300 yards, tying NFL legend Y.A Tittle for the third-most consecutive wins when reaching the 300-yard passing mark.
San Diego Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson – Before the game started against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tomlinson was already a winner as he learned of his wife’s pregnancy with their first child. L.T then went out and rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns – beset performance of the 2009 season — in the Chargers’ 31-23 win against Eagles. In the game, Tomlinson reached the milestone of recording his 145th and 146th career touchdown to surpass Hall of Famer Marcus Allen (145) for the third-most touchdowns all-time.
Tomlinson also now has 12,145 career rushing yards moving him into 12th place for most rushing yards all-time.
New Orleans Saints RB Reggie Bush – The Saints are on a roll and so is their multi-threat speedster.
Bush rushed for 83 yards on eight attempts, including a 55-yard run bursting through tackles in the Saints’ 28-23 win over the scrappy St. Louis Rams. He also scored one rushing touchdown and added a 15-yard scoring reception. Bush and the Saints are now 9-0 for the first time in club history.
Arizona Cardinal QB Kurt Warner (Threw 2 TDs in the Cardinals’ 31-20 in against the Seattle Seahawks giving him 200 touchdown passes.
Warner reached the mark in his 118th career game, becoming the fifth-fastest player in NFL history to accomplish the feat).
Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre (Passed for a season-high 344 yards in his 300th consecutive start (including postseason) in a 27-10 win over the Detroit Lions. Favre’s 344 yards are the third-most passing yards in a game by a 40-year old quarterback in NFL history trailing only Hall Famer Warren Moon (409) and Vinny Testaverde (355).
Buffalo Bills rookie safety Jairus Byrd (Registered his eighth interception of the season in a loss to the Titans. Byrd now has an interception in five consecutive games and is one of only two players since 1970 with an interception in five consecutive games in their first season in the NFL).
Seattle Seahawks RB Justin Forsett (Rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown after starter Julius Jones’ left the game).
Washington P Hunter Smith (Threw his first career touchdown pass on a fake field goal as he connected with RB Mike Sellers on a 35-yard score).
Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (Who needs LJ. Charles had his second-career 100-yard rushing day in the Chiefs win over the Raiders (18 rushes for 103 yards, 5.7 ypc, and 1 TD — 45-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1 play in the second quarter)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick – C’mon did you think I was going to select anyone else after his horrible gambling mistake. Say it with me, “PUNT THE FOOTBALL”. I still cannot believe a head coach that has been to five Super Bowls (won 3) had such a brain cramp to be put in the same league as Barry Switzer.
Titans Owner Bud Adams – His aforementioned 1-finger salute to Bills was unnecessary. I hope it was worth the 250K fine from the NFL.
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid – Some things never change as the Birds called 57 pass plays (55 passes and 2 sacks) while only running it 13 times in a bad road loss to the San Diego Chargers. They also squandered timeouts making it easy for the Chargers to burn the clock. As one of loyal and frustrated Eagles e-mailers wrote me, “Year 11 of a five-year plan”.
The Oakland Raiders – Another week, another embarrassment for Al Davis’s team. The Raiders were unable to overcome 10 penalties for 88 yards their loss to the Chiefs.. Several of the flags proved costly as three of them gave the Chiefs a first down and three more negated Raiders first downs.
Also Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell was rightfully benched after an 8-23 for 64 yards passing performance. Hope beleaguered head coach Tom Cable has his resume ready for a possible UFL job.
Oakland Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey – I wonder if the Raiders still would take DHB (10th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft) over emerging receivers Jeremy Maclin (Eagles) and Michael Crabtree (SF 49ers). Heyward-Bey had only 1 catch for 22 yards plus he helped the Chiefs close the game out too.
With 30 seconds to play, fittingly Heyward-Bey had a pass clank off his chest to Chiefs S Mike Brown for a game-ending interception.
Thursday, November 12
SF 49ers (4-5) over Bears (4-5), 10-6
Sunday, November 15
Bengals (7-2) over Steelers (6-3), 18-12
Cardinals (6-3) over Seahawks (3-6), 31-20
Chargers (6-3) over Eagles (5-4), 31-23
Chiefs (2-7) over Raiders (2-7), 16-10
Colts (9-0) over Patriots (6-3), 35-34
Dolphins (4-5) over Buccaneers (1-8), 25-23
Jaguars (5-4) over Jets (4-5), 24-22
Packers (5-4) over Cowboys (6-3), 17-7
Panthers (4-5) over Falcons (5-4), 28-19
Redskins (3-6) over Broncos (6-3), 27-17
Saints (9-0) over Rams (1-8), 28-23
Titans (3-6) over Bills (3-6), 41-17
Vikings (8-1) over Lions (1-8), 27-10
Monday, November 9
Ravens (5-4) at Browns (1-8), 16-0
Byes: Giants (5-4), Texans (5-4)