So the season is 25% over and the Colts are 2-2, Dallas is in last, and the Rams, Bears, and Chiefs are all in first. Oh what a difference a year makes. Of course it's still early and there's still a lot of football to be played. Even the 49ers, in spite of their 0-4 record, are only 2 games out. OK, that doesn't actually help me feel any better but it was worth a shot. So let's get the weekly review rolling with the game that shocked the NFL world.
Colts 28, Jaguars 31
After the last play of the game, Josh Scobee and the Jaguars decided to play a game of smear the queer. Can I say that? Is it PC? Josh Scobee had just kicked a game wining 59 yard FG, the 8th longest in NFL history and the longest in franchise history, so he ripped off his helmet and went running wildly down the field, dodging in and out of teammates who were trying to congratulate him. "I've never been that excited after a kick in my life," Scobee said. Gee, we couldn't tell. Manning threw for 352 yards, 196 of them to Reggie Wayne, but losing the turnover battle 2-0 is what ultimately cost them the game. David Garrard was efficient, throwing for 163 yards and 2 TD's, thus quieting the fans who were calling for his head. At least until the next time he blows a game for them.
Poor Browns. In all three of their games they held a 4th quarter lead, only to blow it. So when they found themselves leading once again in the 4th, 23-13, the fans had to be wondering how they were going to lose this time. But the players had a different idea. Peyton Hillis, who led the Browns with 102 yards rushing and 1 TD, gathered his teammates together and laid out their plan. "The message was," Hillis said. "We've got to pull this one out." Good plan. The Bengals, led by a resurgent Terrel Owens who had 222 yards receiving and his first TD with the Bengals, scored a TD to close with in 3, but after getting the ball back the Browns defense stepped up and forced a punt. With 4:40 left in the game, the Browns were then able to produce a 10 play drive that used up the rest of the clock. They were even able to take a knee at the end, although the players seemed confused where to line up since they so rarely use that offensive alignment.
LaDainian Tomlinson might be in the twilight years of his career, but on Sunday he looked like he was back in his prime. Tomlinson led the offensive onslaught, carring the ball 19 times for 133 yards and 2 TD's, while Mark Sanchez once again did just enough through the air to keep the Bills honest, throwing for 161 yards and 2 TD's. The Jets defense constantly put pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick who only completed 12 of his 27 passes for 128 yards, but he made up for it a little by leading the Bills in rushing with 74 of their 114 yards. So why does LT suddenly look like his old self? He attributes it to the faith Jets head coach Rex Ryan has in him. "You want to run through a brick wall for him," Tomlinson said. Fortunately LT didn't have to run through a brick wall. Just the soft pillow that is the Bills defense.
When Charles Woodson took an interception back 48 yards for a TD and a 28-14 lead, it looked like the Packers were going to cruise to an easy victory. But the Lions had other plans. The Lions forced 3 second half turnovers while Shaun Hill, who threw for 331 yards, led the Lions on 4 straight scoring drives. Too bad all four drives ended in FG's. After the only Lions punt of the second half, the Packers offense finaly got rolling again as the went on a 12 play drive to run out the remaining 6:32 left on the clock. "We deserved that win," an upset Hill said afterwards. "We deserved to get the feeling of a win in this locker room. We really do." But in the immortal words of Clint Eastwood in the movie Unforgiven, "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."
Broncos 26, Titans 20
Quick question. Who has the best passing offense in the NFL? If you said the Colts, Chargers, or Saints, you're wrong. The answer is the Denver Broncos. Who knew? Well they needed every bit of that passing offense to get by the Titans on Sunday. Kyle Orton threw for 341 yards and 2 TD's, while the Broncos ground game managed only 19 yards on 20 carries. It gets even worse when you consider 21 of those yards came on 3 carries. And yes, that means they actually lost 2 yards with their other 17 rushing attempts, with the key word there being "attempt". The Titans were only marginally better as Chris Johnson was held to only 53 yards on 19 carries. It's the second time in three games he's been held to under 100 yards, after reaching 100 yards in 12 straight games. "This loss is unfortunately an example of just not being able to make the play at the end to close this game out, and that's exactly what happened," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. Call me crazy, but isn't that always the case for the losing team in a close game?
Seahawks 3, Rams 20
Don't look now but the Rams just might have the best offense in the NFC West. At least through 4 games they're scoring more points than any other team in the NFC West. No comment on who's in last. Sam Bradford led a Rams team that suddenly finds themselves on a wining streak, throwing for 289 yards and 2 TD's. Matt Hasselbeck, on the other hand, only threw for 191 yards and turned the ball over twice. But the QB that finished the game with the highest rating was Michael Robinson who completed his only pass attempt for 28 yards. And if you're wondering, yes, it's that Michael Robinson. Steven Jackson, who wasn't sure until kickoff if he could play because of a groin injury, had 126 combined yards in rushing and receiving. A disgusted Hasselbeck told reporters after the game, "I give them credit, but...", and then he proceeded to say why they didn't really deserve that much credit.
Panthers 14, Saints 16
This looks familiar. A winless team takes on a team from the NFC South, has a 14-13 lead late in the 4th quarter, only to lose on a late FG. Jimmy Clausen, starting in only his second NFL game, threw for 146 yards and 1 TD, but that wasn't quite enough to take down the reigning SB champions. The Saints, who got rid of Garrat Hartley after he missed a game winning 29 yard FG last week, sent out 46 year old John Carney three times on Sunday, and all three times he nailed it, including the game winner with only 3:55 left in the game. "He's just a pro," Drew Breese said. "That's all you cans say." As for Hartley, Carney said he believes Hartley, a playoff hero a season ago, will be a great kicker in the NFL. Carney also said the new pants his wife bought don't make her butt look fat at all.
The Steelers where almost perfect. They were a mere 32 seconds away from being a perfect 4-0 without Ben Roethlisberger. Too bad almost only counts in not getting caught after you locked a girl in the bathroom and made sure her friend couldn't get in. Or something like that. Joe Flacco, who threw for 256 yards, found TJ Houshmandzadeh for an 18 yard TD with :32 left in the game and the Ravens held on for the win. It was the 5th consecutive year these two teams met and the game was decided by 4 points or less. "We found a way to beat them at their place," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's what makes it so special." That, and the fact the Ravens and Steelers can't stand each other.
The most hyped game of the week ended up as a dud. Donovan McNabb, returning to the stadium where he had so much success, looked nothing like the McNabb fans in Philly were used to seeing, and it had nothing to do with his funny colored jersey. Instead, it had more to do with the fact they watched McNabb turn around and hand the ball off 35 times, while he only threw the ball 19 times for 125 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception. Michael Vick was also hurt in the game, so the McNabb/Vick match up became the McNabb/Kolb match up, which I guess is appropriate since that's the match up most people expected at the start of the year anyway. The Redskins jumped out to a 14-0 lead and kept the Eagles out of the endzone until Kevin Kolb found Brent Celek on a 5 yard pass with 4:10 remaining. Of course the real question on everyone's mind was, how would the fans greet McNabb in his first game back? The answer was that he got a standing ovation. Some fans booed and held up signs that said, "McChoke". But the response, for the most part, was positive. McChoke? Oh, I get it. He replaced "Nabb" with "Choke". Clever. I wonder how he McCameup with that one.
Bears 3, Giants 17
The Giants won this game the old fashioned way. With a punishing ground game and a stout defense. Ahmed Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined to carry the ball 29 times for 191 yards and 2 TD's, while the defense sacked the trio of Bears QB's that came into the game 10 times and hit them 9 times more. In all, the Bears were limited to only 51 passing yards on 26 attempts, 110 yards of total offense on 52 plays, and were 0-14 on 3rd and 4th down. Not exactly Mike Martz's greatest show on turf. The Bears loss means there's only one undefeated team left in the NFL, and as no one predicted, it's the KC Chiefs I don't believe in the apocalypse, but even that has me a little worried.
The NFL's leading rusher, Arian Foster, had to sit out the first quarter for disciplinary reasons resulting from something that happened off the field, but it didn't slow down the Texans run game at all. Derrick Ward stepped up, and together with Foster, the two rushed for 211 yards and 2 TD's at a colossal 7.5 YPC. It also helped the Texans that Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski, who threw for 278 yards and 2 TD's, also turned the ball over 3 times. The Texans scored early in the 4th for a 31-14 lead and were able to hold on down the strech for the win. "You can't sugarcoat it," Raiders coach Tom Cable said. "When you get your rear end kicked like that it is what it is. You don't sugarcoat that, you don't talk around that. You have to deal with that." Truer words were never spoken. It really is what it is. Now, when do we play them again?
Cardinals 10, Chargers 41
Sometimes games are a lot closer than the score would seem to indicate. This was not one of those games. The Chargers 419 yards on offense compaired to only 124 for the Cardinals. It got so bad that Derek Anderson, who has thrown 5 interceptions in the last 3 games and only managed a QB rating of 23.2 in this one, got pulled in favor of undrafted rookie Max Hall. Hall was a little better, completing 8 of his 14 passes for 82 yards, but he was also sacked 6 times and lost a fumble. In fact, the Cardinals only TD came on a 42 yard fumble return by Kerry Rhodes. Philip Rivers completed 75% of his passes for 241 yards and 2 TD's, while Mike Tolbert and rookie Ryan Mathews combined to carry the ball 25 times for 155 yards and 2 TD's. Now the Cardinals are stuck with a QB controversy, although no word has come out yet on who will be starting in week 5. Maybe they can trade back for Matt Leinart.
Patriots 41, Dolphins 14
That score is what's called a chiasmus. If you don't know what that is, that's what google is for. The Patriots won this game not because Tom Brady went wild, he actually only passed for 153 yards. They didn't win because they ran the ball at will, they only ended with 119 yards on the ground. In fact, the Patriots were actually outgained offensively in this game 400-265. So how did the Patriots blow out the Dolphins in spite of having less yards on offense. The Answer is Patrick Chung. The second year player blocked a punt that was turned into a TD two plays later, blocked a 53 yard FG attempt that was returned for a TD, and intercepted a pass and took it back 51 yards for his own TD. It also helped that Brandon Tate took the opening kickoff of the second half 103 yards for the Patriots first lead of the game, 13-7. "It was a mess," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "Embarrassing. These fans deserve better than this." But as I quoted earlier, "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."
49ers 17, Falcons 13
Wait a minute. I think I wrote what the score should have been, not what it actually was. Sometimes I think I'd be happier if I didn't care about sports. I probably would have laid down and not woken up for a week if the SF Giants had lost on Sunday as well.