Before the start of the season, their were two teams that almost every "expert" predicted would make the playoffs. They were the Cowboys and the 49ers. Many even felt the Cowboys would win the Super Bowl. After 7 weeks, those two teams have a combined 2-11 record and watched as their starting QBs were taken off the field. At least Alex Smith's injury doesn't seem as series as Tony Romo's, who's expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Both teams could easily have winning records if not for a conga line of self inflicted mistakes and bad breaks. It's like watching a horror movie. You know the killer is going to jump out at any second and you almost can't bare to watch it happen.
Maybe it's the sports universes way of balancing the scales for all those years of success in the past. The historically horrible Saints did win the Super Bowl last season. Or maybe the sports gods just knew these cities baseball teams would end up playing above expectations. Not many "experts" predicted the Giants and Rangers would even make the playoffs let alone go to the World Series. In fact, the Mariners got more love than the Rangers, which goes to show preseason picks are more valuable as a source of toilet paper for all those times you forget to go to the store. As an aside, Buster Onley at ESPN came the closest, predicting the Giants and Rangers would both win their division, and that the Giants would win the NL. But this is a football blog. So let's start with the team that overcame a lot of struggles of their own to bounce back to the top of the football pile.
Playing in his second game after a four game suspension, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns. But it was what he didn't do that had everyone talking after the game. Facing a 3rd and goal from the 2, while trailing 22-20, Roethlisberger tried to dive across the goal line but had the ball punched out of his hands. Initially it was ruled a TD, but after review they changed it to a fumble. The problem was that it wasn't clear in the video who recovered the ball, so it was given back to the Steelers who then kicked a FG to take the lead. I guess seeing two Miami defenders dive on it and LB Ikaika Alama-Francis (say that three times fast) emerge from the pile with the ball in his hands wasn't enough proof. Even the Steelers seemed to realize they got a little lucky. "We will take it and exit stage left," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. So how do the Dolphins feel about the call? LB Channing Crowder said, "The refs called a wonderful game -- for the Steelers."
The rest of week 7 after the jump.
Brett "I did not have sexual texting with that woman" Favre made his second return to Lambeau field, and once again it looked like he was going to leave a winner. That is until a replay official ruled that Percey Harvin's touchdown reception with 48 seconds remaining was really an incomplete pass. Favre also threw 3 interceptions, giving him 10 for the season, which is already more than the 7 he threw all of last season. Vikings coach Brad Childress, who's probably thinking of a way he can accidentally hit Favre's gimpy ankle with a lead pipe, told reporters that Favre has to do a better job protecting the ball and that this was, "the worst officiated game I've seen." I guess he never watched the Seahawks v Steelers Super Bowl. As for the game winning TD that was really an incomplete pass, Harvin said, "Some of those plays you make, some of them you don't." Deep thoughts by Percey Harvin. He should put that on a bumper sticker.
The Falcons stormed out of the gates for a 24-3 halftime lead, watched it disappear in the 3rd when they fell behind 24-25, and then fought back in the 4th for the seven point win. Matt Ryan threw for 299 yards and 3 touchdowns, but the real hero for the Falcons was WR Roddy White. White, fired up by the trash talking coming from a couple of receivers on the Bengals team, had a monster day, catching 11 passes for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also caught a key 2 point conversion. White said during the week, "We're going to go out there and want to run the score up on him for doing that,". He was referring to the derogatory T-shirts Ochocinco sent to the Falcons defensive backs. Rumor is that the shirts had lewd pictures of Brett Favre on them.
Just a random thought, but I wonder if the Redskins have ever considered changing their mascot to someone with a really bad sunburn. It wouldn't inspire a lot of fear but at least it would be politically correct. As for the game, the Redskins won because Jay Cutler kept forgetting that DeAngelo Hall isn't on his team. Hall tied an NFL record with 4 interceptions in the game, including one that he returned 92 yards for the game winning touchdown with only 1:36 remaining. It's probably a good thing Hall had so many interceptions considering his own QB, Donovan McNabb, threw 2 interceptions of his own and was limited to 200 yards passing. Cutler, who threw for 281 yards and 1 touchdown to go with his 4 interceptions, was asked if he ever considered throwing the ball towards a different CB. "No," Cutler said. "Not at all. I've played against him before. There's no reason to shy away from him. I mean that's hard for me to say throwing four picks to the guy, but I still think if we had to play him tomorrow, I'd go after him every time." I guess it's a good thing for you then that you don't have to play him again tomorrow.
Giants 41, Cowboys 35
With Dallas leading 20-7 midway through the 2nd quarter, LB Michael Boley came through unblocked on a blitz and pounded Tony Romo to the turf. He hit him so hard, he heard Romo, "let out a little scream." That's because Romo had just broken his collar bone. It was the fifth QB to be taken out of a game because of hard hits by the Giants defense, and it has all the remaining QBs who still have to play them trying to think of an excuse for why they won't be able to play in the game. Without Romo, the fire seemed to go out of the Cowboys and the Giants ran off 31 unanswered points to take a 38-20, thanks to 306 passing yards from Eli Manning and 201 combined rushing yards from Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Giants coach Tom Coughlin was so proud of his team afterwards he said, "The way we started the game tonight, to be able to come back from that and show mental toughness was big." Of course, taking out Romo didn't hurt either.
After David Akers kicked his 4th FG of the game to give the Eagles a 19-10 lead early in the 4th, it was time for the Titans vaunted Collins to Britt combo to take over the game. I'm not kidding. Kerry Collins threw touchdowns passes of 26, 80, and 16 yards to Kenny Britt, who finished the day with 225 yards of receiving. Not bad for a guy who was suspended at the start of the game because of a bar fight two days ago. Britt said he felt he redeemed himself and learned it's not a good idea to be out after midnight. I'm guessing the 20 shots of tequila were also a bad idea. "For a guy to continually catch the ball over and over, then we've got to do things better from a coaching standpoint," said Eagles coach Andy Reid. True, you should have told your CB to stop getting burnt over and over again. What also helped the Titans were the 3 turnovers committed by Kevin Kolb who's been told he's lost his job again to Michael Vick. That is until Vick gets hurts or has a bad game himself, at which point the job will go back again to Kolb.
With injuries to their top 2 QBs, the Jaguars turned to Todd Bouman. Now I know what you're thinking. Who? Don't worry, I had to look it up as well. Bouman is a 38 year old journeyman QB who hasn't played in an NFL game since 2005, and hasn't won as a starter since 2001. He wasn't even on an NFL roster until the Jaguars picked him up off the street, which makes it sound like he was wandering around aimlessly like a hobo until they pulled him into their car. Surprisingly, Bouman played well, and even threw a 9 yard TD pass to Mike Simms-Walker to cut the lead to 20-21 in the 3rd quarter. Then the wheels finally came off. Bouman threw an interception that was returned for a TD, and then threw another late in the 4th that allowed the Chiefs to put the game away. "Todd played great," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "He played above what we hoped and needed form him today." Uhm...if he played above what you hoped and needed, and you still lost by 22, I'm guessing you didn't have very high expectations coming into this game.
Browns 30, Saints 17
Anyone who's watched these two teams closely this season, shouldn't be too surprised by this outcome. The Saints haven't exactly looked like world beaters, and the Browns have lost some really close games against good teams. Drew Brees threw for 356 yards, while Colt McCoy only threw for 74, but it was what McCoy didn't do and what Brees did, that cost the Saints the game. Brees threw 4 interceptions while McCoy didn't turn it over once. No turnovers were more costly then the two interceptions Brees threw to LB David Bowens. Bowens returned one interception 30 yards for a TD just before the half, and another 64 yards for a TD late in the 4th. But the real big news in this game is that the Saints play dirty. Cleveland safety Nick Sorenson said during one fumble recovery, "They were gouging my eye and ripping into my face." LB Blake Costanzo reacted angrily because they were chocking people. But the worst accusation came from the do everything Josh Cribbs who said, "They were grabbing my crotch."
Rams 17, Bucaneers 18
The Rams jumped out to an early 17-3 lead thanks in large part to two Sam Bradford touchdown passes and strong rushing from Steven Jackson who finished the day with 110 yards and is now the Rams all time leading rusher. Unfortunately for the Rams, once again their offense failed to do much in the second half. Josh Freeman, who finished with 212 yards passing, led the Buccaneers on three straight drives that resulted in field goals of 39, 53, and 38 yards that cut the lead to 17-12. Then, late in the 4th, he got them moving again, only this time he was able to punch it in for a TD with a 1 yard pass to Cadillac Williams with only 10 seconds left in the game. "We're the best team in the NFC," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "Yeah, I said it. We're the best team in the NFC." Looks like he said it a second time. Ugh, that's just what we need, another Rex Ryan. In case you're wondering, the Bucs are 4-2 with all 4 wins coming against teams with losing records.
Trailing 24-34 in the 4th quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills fought back to send the game to OT, but a 38 yard Billy Cundiff FG made sure the Bills would remain the last team in the NFL without a win. Fitzpatrick threw for 374 yards and 4 touchdowns, but when your defense keeps spotting the other team 34+ points, it's tough to win. It was the first game of the season for Ravens safety Ed Reed, and he made his presence felt forcing 3 turnovers, including one in OT that led to the game winning FG. But in spite of the win and 5-2 record, the Ravens shouldn't feel to happy. They played bad enough to lose on Sunday but were lucky they were playing a team that just got promoted from the UFL.
Cardinals 10, Seahawks 22
The Cardinals have been high on undrafted rookie QB Max Hall all season, but on Sunday he showed why he went undrafted. Hall completed only 4 of his 16 passes for 36 yards, threw an interception, and finished the game with a 13.6 QB rating. He also fumbled the ball at the Cardinals 11 after getting blindsided by DE Chris Clemons. The Seahawks turned the fumble into a FG and a 13-0 lead, and then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that they turned into a 16-0 lead. Given the Cardinals offensive struggles this season, that might as well have been a 50 point lead. All together the Cardinals fumbled 4 times and had 5 turnovers. The offensive star for the Seahawks was kicker Olindo Mare who made all 5 of his field goals and now has hit 30 straight. I'm not so sure the Seahawks really want Mare as their star player. You don't hear very many fans saying, "Think of how much better we'd be if we just had Olindo Mare as our kicker."
When the Broncos fired Mike Shanahan before the start of last season, I don't think this is the direction they were hoping to go. This game was almost over before it started when the Raiders streaked out to a 38-0 2nd quarter lead. Jason Campbell actually looked like a quality NFL QB, throwing for 204 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a 127.9 QB rating. Meanwhile, Raiders RB Darren McFadden looked other worldly, caring the ball 16 times for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns. That's 10.3 yards per carry. He also caught a 19 yard pass for a touchdown to give him 4 on the day. How is this the same team that lost to the 49ers last week? Does that give us hope for London? The Broncos finally got on the board when Kyle Orton found RB Knowshon Moreno for a 7 yard TD. Moreno skipped across the endzone and gathered his teammates around him for a chest bumping session. Because cutting the lead to 31 is definitely the time to pound your chest in triumph.
Patiots 23, Chargers 20
When Norv Turner left the 49ers to be the head coach of the Chargers, I secretly hoped he would crash and burn. I felt it would serve him right for spurning us. Not that I blamed him for seeking a better opportunity for himself, but revenge doesn't have to be rational. Now my dream is finally coming true. It's just happening 1 head coach and several offensive coordinators too late. In the game, the Chargers held the Patriots to only 38 yards in the first half, but still trailed 13-3 thanks to 4 turnovers. The Chargers fought back and even had a chance to send this game to OT, but Kris Brown's 50 yard FG attempt, which originally would have been a 45 yard attempt but was pushed back because of a false start penalty, bounced off the right upright. The Chargers now have 18 turnovers on the season after having only 17 in all of last year. "I don't think we gave ourselves a chance," Turner said. "You do the things we did in the first half with the football and your playing a real good team, it's tough. You're not going to win making these mistakes." You're preaching to the choir brother. At least you didn't say that you needed to look at the tape to state the obvious.
49ers 20, Panthers 23
Maybe the 49ers slogan should be, "We'll make your scrub QB look like an all-star." Seriously, the 49ers got beat by Matt Moore?! This is a guy who only completed 5 of 10 passes for 35 yards and 2 interceptions in his last start. This week he completes 28 of his 41 passes for 308 yards and 2 touchdowns for a 96.4 QB rating. In his previous 3 starts he only managed 2 touchdown passes, as well as throwing 6 interceptions. The only time he's managed to complete 50% of his passes before this game was in that 5 for 10 debacle. Is it too late to enter the Donovan McNabb sweepstakes?