Although their were some upsets, we're looking at you 49ers and Packers, week 9 saw favored teams winning and the dogs losing. Even when the dogs jumped out to early leads, the better teams righted the ship and showed why they're the best. So let's start with the game that was for supremicy in the NFC East.
Cowboys 20, Eagles 16
At the end of last season the Eagles and Cowboys met in a do or die game that would decide who would go to the playoffs and who would go home. The Eagles crushed the Cowboys 44-6 and went on to play in the NFC championship game before losing to the Cardinals. This game, while not quite do or die, was still important for deciding who would be in the drivers seat for the NFC East crown going into the second half of the season. By beating the Eagles on their own field, the Cowboys were able to get a small measure of revenge. Tony Romo completed 21 of 34 passes for 307 yards, including a go ahead 49 yard TD to Miles Austin. Austin, not wanting a repeat of his failed goal post dunk from last week, took the safer route of just throwing the ball into the stands. For the Eagles, rookie Moise Fokou made his first start of the season a memorable one, but for wrong reasons. Trailing 10-6, Ellis Hobbs of the Eagles returned a second half kickoff 96 yards for a TD. However, it was called back because of a holding penalty by Fokou. Returning to the bench after the penalty, Fokou waved to fans who he thought were shouting out his name. An embarrassed teammate had to tell him they were shouting something different.
Chargers 21, Giants 20
Remember that big media circus during the 2004 NFL draft when Eli Manning said he refused to play for the Chargers? The teams then traded picks and Manning went to the Giants while the Chargers ended up with Phillip Rivers. Well this was surprisingly the first time these two teams have met since that draft. Rivers, who was 24 for 36 for 209 yards and 3 TD's, must have felt a small sense of satisfaction as he led the Chargers down the field for a come from behind touchdown with only 21 seconds left in the game. Fittingly, Shawne "I have ants in my pants" Merriman, who was chosen by the Chargers with one of the picks they got in the trade, ended the game by sacking Manning. Of course the game might have turned out different if some practical joker on the Giants sideline hadn't put super glue on the ball just before a Lawrence Tynes 39 yard FG attempt. The holder, Jeff Feagle, kept both hands on the ball so Tynes couldn't even attempt to kick it.
Panthers 20, Saints 30
At least one game went the 49ers way as the Saints came from behind for the third game in a row and remained perfect on the season. The 8-0 start is the best start in franchise history. Upon hearing about the record, Drew Breese, who completed 24 of 35 passes for 330 yards and 1 TD said, "That's great. I mean, 1967 until now and we're the only (Saints) team to have done that. That's really special." I guess no one's told him that the Saints have had a lot of really bad teams over the years. They've never been to the Super Bowl and they've only made the playoffs 6 times. Their previous best start was in 1991 when they started 7-0 under Jim "Playoffs?!" Mora. The Saints, who have had at least 1 interception in their first 7 games, had to feel good about continuing that streak with the interception king, Jake Delhome coming to town. But Delhome was surprisingly efficient completing 17 of 30 passes for 201 yards. In an effort to make up for not throwing any interceptions, the Panthers decided to fumble the ball 3 times instead.
Chiefs 21, Jaguars 24
The Jaguars took care of business against the Chiefs and no one in Jacksonville saw it, or even cared. Because of an inability to sell out home games, the Jaguars have had to blackout all 4 of their home games so far this season. Maybe the fans in Jacksonville just don't like seeing football players wearing teal. David Garrard was 18 for 27 for 264 yards and 1 TD, while Mike Sims-Walker had a great day with 6 catches for 147 yards. Leading 24-7 with only 4 minutes left in the game, the Jaguars decided to stop playing football. Matt Cassell threw a 54 yard bomb to freashly claimed off waivers receiver, Chris Chambers. Ryan Succop (I love that last name) recovered his own onside kick and then the Chiefs drove down the field and scored on a 5 yard pass to Chambers again. The Jaguars finally started to play and recovered the next onside kick before runnning out the clock. In defense of giving up the last two TD's Rashean Mathis of the Jaguars said, "They were throwing the ball up and a couple of receivers made some plays. It wasn't like they were picking us apart or anything. It was just throwing Hail Marys down the field and they made some great grabs. That's nothing for us to be concerned about." Oh, well as long as it was only quick strike bombs they were scoring on, that's OK.
Lions 20, Seahawks 32
The Lions jumped out to a lightning quick 17-0 lead before remembering they were the Lions. With the Seahawks in danger of being the first home team to lose to the Lions in over 2 years, Matt "No, my brother's the one married to Elizabeth" Hasselbeck (39 of 51, 329 yards, 1 TD) led the totem pole hawks to 25 unanswered points. Asked if he was nervous about losing to a team everyone has marked as a bye week when the play, T.J. Houshmanzadeh said, "I don't care who you're playing, you don't want to get down 17-0." But then he added, he always felt they were going to win. When asked why, he said, "It could be that we were playing Detriot." Do you think? Detriot did still have a chance to win down 25-20 and driving at mid field late in the game, but Matthew Stafford threw his 5th interception of the game which was returned 61 yards for a TD. After the game Stafford said, "You have to understand, I can't turn the ball over." To which the reporter responded, "What's to understand? I'm not stupid."
Texans 17, Colts 20
Texans RB Steve Slaton has had a problem fumbling the ball away this season. As a result, he lost his starting job to Ryan Moats last week. But Moats apparently doesn't want the job either as he fumbled in this game at the worst possible time right at the goal line. Worst of all, the ball went out right on the goal line so the Colts got the ball at the 20 instead of the 1. After taking an early 13-0 lead, the Colts were just barely able to hold on against a very resilient Texans team. The Texans had a chance to send it to overtime but Kris Brown's FG just missed as time ran out. Of course, the only reason the Texans even had that chance was because at the end of the first half Kris Brown lined up to kick a 56 yard FG. The FG was blocked but the Colts had taken a timout just before the snap. As a result, Brown had a second shot, and this time it went through. How long before the NFL institutes some timout before a FG rule? Peyton Manning completed 34 for 50 for 318 yards, his 7th 300 yard game on the season, and Dallas Clark had 14 catches for 119 yards. The 14 catches were the third most ever by a TE.
Dolphins 17, Patriots 27
Just how frustrating can it be to play the Patriots? The Dolphins sure know. Down 16-10 the Dolphins received the kickoff to start the second half and proceeded to slowly move down the field with a 10 minute TD drive (8 plays of which were Wildcat) to go up 17-16. On the 3rd play of the ensuing Patriots drive, Tom Brady hit Randy Moss over the middle and he turned it up field for a 71 yard TD. Just over a minute after taking the lead, the Dolphins found themselves down again 24-17. For the game Brady was 25 of 32 for 332 yards and Moss had 6 catches for 147 yards. The Patriots seemed more excited than normal after the game and I'm sure that was in no small part to the fact both Miami and New England finished 11-5 last season but Miami had the tie breaker. So while Miami got to move on, only to lose in the first game of the playoffs, New England got to stay home and get the label of best team never to make the playoffs.
Packers 28, Buccaneers 38
The Bucs have started the year 0-7. So in honor of their futility and ineptitude, the Bucs decided to bring out their old creamsicle jersey's when every year was a new opportunity to prove how bad a football team can really be. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell them that they were supposed to play bad. The Bucs won for the first time in 11 games, under the direction of rookie QB Josh Freeman who was starting his first game. Like any rookie QB starting for the first time, Freeman had his ups and downs, but overall he looked like he had some potential completing 14 of 31 passes for 205 yards and 3 TD's. Of course it didn't help the Packers that their entire offensive line decided to play a joke on Aaron Rodgers and not block for him in the second half. Rodgers was sacked 6 times just in the second half, and ended up throwing 3 interceptions in the game. Their was also a Ronde Barber sighting. Did you know he was still playing? He returned a blocked punt for a TD, the 13th of his career. On the whole, watching the game made me very nostalgic for those horrible Bucs teams of old. I really miss the picture of the swashbuckling pirate head with his feathered hat and knife in his mouth. So much better than the skull and cross swords they use now.
Washington 17, Falcons 31
This game was a little like Brett Favre coming back to Green Bay, only it was DeAngelo Hall coming back to Atlanta, and no one really cared except DeAngelo. The Falcons easily won but the real drama came on a hit out of bounds on Michael Turner (18 carries, 166 yards, 2 TD's) along the Falcons sideline. Lots of pushing and shoving ensued, and somehow, right in the middle of it all was Hall. According to him he didn't want to be there. Hall said, "Guys just started coming at me. It wasn't any mindset to break the fight up. It was in a mindset to try to get some licks in. Even the head coach came over there. Mike Smith said some stuff, said some words to me, cussed me out. He was grabbing at me, pulling me." That's right. The 50 something year old head coach of Atlanta was trying to get in a fight with DeAngelo Hall. Hall even threatend to make an official complaint to Roger Goodell. Paranoid much?
Cardinals 41, Bears 21
Last week Kurt Warner threw 5 interceptions in a loss to the Panthers. This week he found his game again completing 22 of 32 for 261 yards and 5 TD's. The Bears almost seemed to be trying to make it easy for the Cardinals. Early in the game, the Bears pro bowl NT, Tommie Harris, punched Duece Lutui while he was on the ground. I've never really understood punching someone with your fist when they're wearing a helmet as protection. Obviously Harris was ejected, and Warner had that much more time to find his receivers. But not every receiver was playing. Anquan Boldin was held out of the game because of an ankle injury, but Boldin disagreed he needed to sit out. He said, "I'd felt better if somebody had been man enough and walked up to me and told me what the situation was." Boldin, how did you know you were going to be sitting out the game unless someone came up and told you? I doubt they're communicating with ESP.
Ravens 7, Bengals 17
Once upon a time the Ravens run defense was like a brick wall. For 39 straight games opposing RB's weren't able to break the 100 yard mark. That is until Cedric Benson ran for 120 yards earlier this season. Now it's like the flood gates have opened. Three of the last four teams to go up against the Ravens have had a RB break the century mark including Benson once again who rushed for 117 yards in this game. The Bengals scored on their first 3 offensive possessions to take a 17-0 lead and it was all Benson the rest of the game. The Ravens offense just couldn't get on track and the Bengals went into ball control mode, dominating the time of possession 40 minutes to 20 minutes. Maybe the Lions can take hope in the Bengals success. Since losing in the SB to the 49ers, the Bengals have only made the playoffs 1 time, in 2005. They were a model of futility. Now it actually looks like they'll make the playoffs for the second time in 5 years. Then again this is the Bengals we're talking about. If any team can find a way to blow it, they can.
Titans 34, 49ers 27