How did they do that?
Is he really that good?
Wow. I had no idea that team was that solid.
That’s what people were saying on Monday after a week of surprising outcomes. Perhaps none was more surprising that the score by which Atlanta dominated San Francisco and the method by which Miami defeated the New York Jets. The Jets and Dolphins played one of the more entertaining games I’ve seen in a long time. I was definitely impressed with both teams, but for different reasons. The Miami Dolphins ground game is as impressive an attack as I’ve seen. The power of Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown set them apart from other teams who run the Wildcat offense. They’re bigger, stronger, tougher and rougher than the “skill position players” on the Eagles or Vikings (excluding Adrian Peterson) or Saints. They’re faster than the power backs on teams like the Ravens. And they have better ball security than rushers in Pittsburgh or Atlanta.
This game tells me that the rest of the league just might have a problem. The Dolphins, with Chad Henne, can do what they’ve always needed to do — throw deep. Henne has a powerful, accurate arm. If Darrelle Revis can’t cover Tedd Ginn, Jr. in man coverage, neither can your team’s top cornerback. Miami is poised to score some points until teams figure out how to commit to the run and disguise coverages enough to trick Henne into being careless.
The Atlanta Falcons throttled the San Francisco 49ers outdoors — on grass. The 49ers didn’t have Frank Gore — and they played as if they were in a fog all game long. After opening with careless penalties and lackluster play, Niner coach Mike Singletary called a timeout to gather the troops. He called the entire team over to the sideline. On the next play, the secondary blew its coverage of Roddy White and it was on!
White went on a career day. 210 yards, two touchdowns — including a 90-yarder vs. Nate Clements. (That just doesn’t happen!) Of course, on White’s post-timeout touchdown, he was in virtually the same position that Greg Lewis was in when he defeated San Francisco the week before.
This game tells me that the Falcons can be explosive when their defense supports them…which cannot happen unless the opponent is incapable of running. Before the bye, the Falcons played outside, on the grass against the Patriots and lost precisely because Fred Taylor was healthy — and he managed to go for 100+ yards. Frank Gore’s health (always a dicey proposition) suggests to me that the 49ers are better than they’ve shown. Now, they have to bounce back from a heart-breaking loss AND an embarrassing beat down.
After the bye, the Niners are on the road to the Texans. If they haven’t fixed what ails them in the secondary by then, Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and company are going to make them pay. Either the 49ers rebound with Gore in impressive physical fashion, or they get run out of the building due to the limitations of Isaac Bruce (age), Josh Morgan (will – tackled at the 3 yard line after a 61 yard run…just sad!!), Glen Coffee (knowledge of the game situation…SF called timeout when Morgan was tackled because Coffee wasn’t ready to go on the field. The rookie assumed that Morgan should have/must have/did score!)
The Houston Texans struggled at the Arizona Cardinals. It’s clear to me that absolutely no one is going to run away with the NFC West. The aforementioned 49ers have dropped their last two games in the conference. While they still have a nice lead in the division, they won’t have another chance to win in the conference until Week 10 (hosting Chicago). By that time, they could be well behind Arizona. If Arizona can figure out some solutions on the ground in the next few weeks (@SEA, @NYG, CAR, @CHI, SEA, @STL), they can win every single one of these games.
The Cardinals are not going into many of these games as favorites. They haven’t been impressive in wins and have been dismal in losses. Still, it’s early and the Cardinals have played 3 teams with whom they have very little familiarity (Jacksonville, Indy and Houston). They’re coming home to the NFC. If last year’s conference champion can go 5-3 over the next weeks (that schedule also includes the Vikings), they’re going to be in a very good position come January.
I think it’s going to be a struggle for them every step of the way. For Arizona, the season is now!