The story of Week 4 was the dramatic comeback of the Detroit Lions over the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas. The Lions were being soundly beaten in all three phases of the game and trailed 27-3 in the second quarter. The Cowboys were poised to restore hope in the Lone Star State and serve notice that they could deliver convincing wins against quality opponents. Instead, following consecutive Pick Six plays off passes by Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys proved they remain uniquely positioned to lose games in frustratingly compelling ways. The Cowboys fell 34-30 and headed into the bye week with the same old questions and the same old answers.
The second big story of Week 4 unfolded in Cincinnati where the brash Bengals, led by coach Marvin Lewis, upset the undefeated Buffalo Bills, 23-20. The Bengals held Harvard’s Finest (Ryan Fitzpatrick) out of the end zone for the first time all season. With the smartest guy in the room unable to manufacture much offense, the visitors were left to lick their wounds. The Bills should have seen this coming. In 2010, the undefeated Houston Texans took a flight to Cincinnati and returned home without Owen Daniels and without their unblemished record. The Bengals, a team that has come to bank on physical, imposing wins over the Ravens, pushed themselves within striking distance with a 2-2 record.
Ok, maybe the second biggest story of the week was the 49ers surprising win over the Philadelphia Eagles. A few quick things about the Niners: Jim Harbaugh is a Michigan man and he’s cut out for this coaching business. He routinely handed Pete Carroll his lunch while both were at Stanford. Jim stole the keys from Pete’s Ferrari and drove it all around northern California every time the Cardinal “shocked the world.” The 49ers were a team with great expectations in 2010. The failure of Alex Smith to mature was at the root of much of their trouble — and the team seemed to lack mental toughness and depth in the running game. Remember Favre’s improbable pass to Greg Lewis in 2009? That was the last time the 49ers were where they thought they should be — until Sunday. The Eagles continue their tailspin, but the story of this game was the resilience of the 49ers; the maturation of Alex Smith; the depth of the Niners running game; and the toughness of a defense shaped by Iron Mike Singletary.
In other news:
My Steelers stunk up the joint in Houston with a disheartening road kill look-alike game vs. the Texans. Andre Johnson left the game in the 2nd quarter. His injury provided no relief as Arian Foster ran all the way to Knoxville on the Steelers front 7. The Steelers need to bounce back. The Texans need to sustain momentum as they approach the middle of the most physical stretch of games in franchise history (Pittsburgh, Oakland, Baltimore).
Matt Cassel’s ribs have healed. Look for him to make some noise with Breaston and Bowe until defenses figure out that the Chiefs have changed their offensive script for 2011.
The Redskins are hard on the eyes, but Ryan Torain is a fun player. It would be nice to see Shanahan forego the merry-go-round approach to his running game, but it works. The offense gets yards; the GM gets an expendable player that he can cut at the end of each season. Exit stage left.
What are the Miami Dolphins doing? Really. If you know, please call them and let them know.
The Panthers almost won a close one in Chicago. I know you cannot “play the schedule,” but I can’t help thinking this team is going to start winning some of these close games. Newton continues to impress with his accuracy. Shockey continues to inflame with his tenacity. The refs should have come under fire for that call that took a touchdown off the board.
The Raiders were simply ROBBED by the referees in the 3rd quarter against the New England Patriots. Officials picked up a flag on 3rd down that would have put the ball at the 1-yard line. Oakland was in the midst of creating a Decision Moment for the Patriots front line. Darren McFadden and Michael Bush were enjoying considerable success on the ground. While nothing is guaranteed, it is likely that Oakland manages to punch that in and draw within a touchdown of the Patriots. The Decision Moment never game; the game never tightened; the Patriots won…and all of this was done with nary an explanation.
The Packers look like they would run over a nun.
The Jets are all talk. Funny thing about talking smack — when that’s how you derive your identity, you don’t always play better by shutting up. You have to talk the talk all the time — even when you can’t back it up. And that’s when teams go from FEARING you to LAUGHING at you. It’s a slippery slope. Another beat down in Foxboro and the Jets will be comedic fodder for the indefatigable New York media.
It’s too bad the Colts don’t have Peyton Manning.
Bye weeks begin in Week 5. Not soon enough for Dallas. Too soon for the Ravens. Just in time for the Rams and Browns. Jackson and Hillis could use a little rest before resuming their commitment to deliver pain to defenses around the league. (Through Torain and Hightower in that mix.)
“[Fill in name of miserably performing quarterback] gives us the best chance to win.” This season we heard this repeatedly from Jeff Fisher and John Fox. They said it week after week after week as if it were the gospel truth. The Titans lost games where Kerry Collins hardly moved the ball past the line of scrimmage. Remember the stat line: 2-12, -7 yards, 1 interception? The Panthers dropped contests were Jake Delhomme could barely complete a pass — to his own teammates. Remember the stat line: 7-17, 73 yards, 4 interceptions? And, they both had superior running games and strong, physical defenses to support them. In short, there were no excuses.
Tennessee Titans QB and 2009 Comeback Player of the Year - Vince Young
After going 13-2 two weeks ago (missing on Oakland over Cincinnati and Kansas City over Pittsburgh) and following that up with a 10-6 week (including a 41-17 prediction of New Orleans over New England), there is no doubt that I am on fire!!
The NFL has undergone a number of changes in the past 25 years. Foremost among those changes have been the liberalization of rules to strengthen the passing game. Quarterbacks have never been as protected as they are today. Receivers have never had more room to operate — and they’ve never been bigger. In 1996, Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens exploded the concept Sterling Sharpe and Michael Irvin had brought to life in 1985. These big, powerful receivers have become the prototype for a generation. Of course, they are not alone. Receivers like Carolina’s Steve Smith and Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward continue to be effective. So who is covering these guys?
Former Cal Bear, Nnamdi Asomugha - A Thinking Man's Corner
From where I’m sitting, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have accomplished one thing this season. They’ve shown that they have 3 quarterbacks who can make plays and that they have a defense that is a shadow of its former self. The offense has hardly been lights out this season, but when you consider that the offensive coordinator was fired at the start of the season, that the team has a new head coach, that the starting QB was determined at the end of pre-season, and that two of the QB’s who’ve started this season are new to town, you simply cannot have high expectations. As I’ve said, Byron Leftwich was not the reason the Buccaneers were not winning games at the beginning of the season. They were losing for the same reasons they lost prior to last week: a profound inability to stop the run.
When Leftwich was benched, he was 6th in passing yards in the NFL. Guess who is 6th in passing yards right now? Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have won five in a row.
Leftwich performed well in relief of Roethlisberger last year. Given that Antonio Bryant has played hurt for the entire season, that Michael Clayton is somewhere between Chris Chambers and Chris Henry, and that the Bucs don’t have a reliable deep threat, Leftwich did a credible job. The same can be said for Josh Johnson — except that he was compelled to play against teams like New England (#3 pass defense) and Carolina (#5 pass defense) and Philadelphia (#2 with 15 INTs) and Washington (#1 pass defense). Forget that Leftwich scored 21 points against Dallas and threw for nearly 300 yards vs. Buffalo. Forget that Josh Johnson fought hard against some of the best defenses in the league.
The NFL and its fans are so unforgiving that when injuries strike, there is often little recognition of what impact it may have on the team. Media types and casual observers go from signing your praises to telling you all the ways that you are overrated.
"I Don't Have It, But Neither Do You!" -- Aaron Ross
There were some compelling story lines that emerged this week. The Bengals took a not-so-surprising plunge back to earth after beating the Steelers and Ravens. The Giants were undressed. The “Sanchise” took it on the chin 5 times and the Jets found a new way to lose. The Vikings showed just how tough they’re going to be down the stretch. (It looks an awful lot like the Saints and Vikings are going to play for the NFC Championship.) The Eagles did the unthinkable. With all of these stories, perhaps nothing was more surprising that the rapid and complete demise of the once-proud Tennessee Titans.
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. (more…)
Each week, the NFL schedule provides intriguing story lines. This week is no different. Here are a five things I’ll be watching this week.
1. Pick me! No, pick me! Interception prone Jake Delhomme faces off against interception happy Tony Romo in INT Bowl 2009. Defenders on both teams have to be salivating. There is no telling if Delhomme will show up as the guy who throws for 270+ yards every time he plays the Atlanta Falcons (308 last week) or the guy enamored with the men in other uniforms. Dallas’ Tony Romo needs to bounce back from his undressing at the hands of the depleted New York Giants. Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall are going to sleep like babies this week.
It’s not like they’ll be up worried about Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin.
Watching the New York Jets beat the New England Patriots yesterday triggered a few thoughts. I watched 2007 first round pick, Darrelle Revis, intercept a pass from Tom Brady intended for Randy Moss. Revis, a former Pitt Panther, has been all that the Jets expected and more. Among his draft mates, he’s Top 3 in tackles and interceptions for cornerbacks. He has earned a reputation for being a fierce competitor, solid tackler, and a fine ball hawk.
I wanted to see Revis in Pittsburgh paired with Ike Taylor. I hoped that Revis’ hands and ball skills would rub off on Taylor (No CB has dropped more sure interceptions over the past few years than Taylor. If he could catch, he’d be a household name.) Revis was selected 14th by the Jets, who traded up to get their man. With the 15th pick, the Steelers selected their newly-minted starting middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons (Florida State). Timmons has yet to produce as billed, but he was stuck in traffic behind Larry Foote. With his apprenticeship over, Timmons is poised to produce like many of his other Seminole alums. And, that got me to thinking about the 2006 draft class.