I am gong to quit saying what a crazy week of football it has been. It’s a crazy season.
San Diego Chargers over New England Patriots, 30-10
Oh what a difference one man makes on a team. Sorry Matt Cassel, I know it’s not all your fault because you don’t play on our lousy, no account defense. But you hold the ball too long on some plays when you should pass it or throw it away, get too impatient and run too soon on others, and miss seeing wide open receivers too often. This is not the same New England team that almost went undefeated last year, to say the least. And the only real difference in the team? No Tom Brady. I even heard someone suggest that Tom Brady should be awarded the 2008 NFL MVP Award because the Patriots’ performance so far shows just what a difference he made and the rest of the AFC now has a real chance to get to the Super Bowl.
Needless to say watching this game for New England fans was excruciating. We are used to close games but getting blown out twice in four weeks?? Unheard of in recent memory. But let me get on with my take of the game; enough whining and whimpering.
The New England Patriots didn’t seem to show up for this game on offense or defense. The Chargers outplayed the Patriots in nearly every area imaginable and kept torching the defense for long pass plays. The Chargers had a 17-3 lead at halftime and the Patriots looked awful the entire first half.
Then, Patriots fans were given a glimpse of hope as the Patriots marched down the field in the first possession of the third quarter right down to the 1 yard line, first and goal. The Patriots looked like they came out at halftime with new game plan on offense and were ready to make the score 17-10 and get back into the ballgame!
But the hope was false as the Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel’s inexplicably calls three passing plays and the Charger’s stuffed us at the one yard line on 4th and one. Okay, so we have the Chargers backed up on their one yard line, we are still in this game.
But no, BOOM, 56 yard pass to Vincent Jackson on second down, followed shortly thereafter by a pass interference call on Ellis Hobbs in the end zone. 24-10 Chargers. Game over!
Let me say the Chargers played a great game and really took advantage of our weak defensive backfield. But I don’t care about the Chargers, so I am going to talk about the Patriots.
Where was it? No pass rush and lousy defensive back play allowed the Chargers to hook up on bombs that were the difference in the game. We generated no pass rush on Philip Rivers and he and Vincent Jackson torched our defensive backs, especially Deltha O’Neal, making them look like lost little boys among men.
Why not run the ball on the goal line instead of passing three times with Matt Cassel? Forth and goal is when you man up and stuff the ball in the end zone. Cassel did take off running too soon on the fourth down play and had a guy open in the end zone.
Why not run the ball? Because Jamal Williams (DT, Chargers) was slapping around Dan Koppen and the New England guards like they were rag dolls. We could hardly run the ball up the middle. Williams played the best defense of the games I saw this week.
This season to me is shaping up to look a little like the 2005 season when the Patriots beat the bad teams and lost to the good teams because the defense kept giving up huge plays. But our offense was much more prolific than this one, with Tom Brady at the helm, so we survived and made the playoffs while the defense improved. (We got robbed in the playoffs in a loss to Denver by the bad officiating). Only time will tell what the ultimate outcome of this season will be, but seeing a game like this doesn’t give us Patriots fans much hope.
MVP: Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers. 5 receptions, 134 yards, 1 touchdown.
Indianapolis Colts over Baltimore Ravens, 31-3
After seeing the Ravens defense play so well this year and Joe Flacco playing good for a rookie, I really thought the Ravens would give the Colts a run for their money this week. Shows you how much I know about football. Turnovers were a big key to this game for the Ravens and Manning took full advantage of them and looked as good as I’ve seen him all year. This game was never a game from the start. He even got good production out of Marvin Harrison this week who scored two touchdowns.
MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
St. Louis Rams over Washington Redskins, 19-17
I taped this one and watched it this week. The key to this game was turnovers (sound familiar?). Washington outplayed the Rams the first half but were losing at halftime. Of course the key play in the entire game was the 75 yard fumble return by Oshiomogho Atogwe that allowed the Rams to take a 10-7 lead into the locker room. The Rams played better in the second half on both sides of the ball and eked out a 19-17 win. The Rams didn’t look quite as bad on offense as they evidently have all year but I was pretty unimpressed overall. The only player on the Rams team that stood out to me was Steven Jackson. He ran hard through the smallest of holes. Marc Bulger just didn’t look like the Marc Bulger of a few years ago. He tended to be very skittish in the pocket and hurrying his throws. That is what happens to a quarterback who takes a beating and has a weak offensive line. Even when he had time to throw the ball he looked uncomfortable in the pocket. And I’m starting to wonder if Tory Holt has seen his better days. He wasn’t that impressive either. Overall, this game came down to the Redskins’ three turnovers in the first half.
As for the Redskins? No need to panic over this game. Some may recall I was very skeptical of Jim Zorn as a head coach, mostly from lack of experience. Zorn has made a true believer out of me. So far he has done an outstanding job of play calling, with the short passing game and a balanced run-pass attack. He’s also adapted the offense to play to the strengths of a rejuvenated Clinton Portis and the abilities of Jason Campbell. And Campbell has played the best I’ve seen him to date, much of which can be attributed to Zorn’s tutelage and play calling. The Skins are looking good this year despite this hiccup.
MVP: Oshiomogho Atogwe, FS, St. Louis Rams for 75 yard fumble return for touchdown that was the key difference in the game.
Arizona Cardinals over Dallas Cowboys, 30-24
The Dallas Cowboys have been in the wildest, most entertaining shootouts this year. Every week seems to bring something new. This game was no exception, going back and forth on one big play after another. The game started off with a Cardinals kickoff return for a touchdown, featured a 70 yard reception and awesome run by Marion “the Barbarian” Barber to get Dallas back into the game in the fourth quarter, followed by a 52 yard game tying field goal as time expired by Nick Folk – after getting the first attempt blocked but the Cardinals coach had called a time out, and ending on a blocked punt for touchdown to win the game in overtime by the Cardinals. It was a very exciting game, especially since I was rooting for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals are the surprising team this year. Ken Whisenhunt, obviously made the right call in starting Kurt Warner who, other than problems with ball security, has had a phenomenal year. They are almost definitely going to make the playoffs and are one of the more interesting teams this year.
Dallas, on the other hand, seems to be falling apart, with a mouthy Terrell Owens, injuries to Felix Jones and now Tony Romo, and Romo seeming to have problems with fumbling and bad plays. Dallas to me, seems to have the most talent but it is a topsy-turvy team.
Now I am one of those Dallas haters not Dallas lovers but I hate to see good players get hurt. I hope Tony Romo recovers quickly from his broken finger. I’m not a Dallas fan, but Romo is hard to root against and I hope to see him back on the field soon. Although, were I Dallas, I’d be hesitant to start him this week even if he can go. First, he’s too valuable down the stretch to risk additional injury, and he is already fumble prone so the cast or wrapping on his hand would only make that worse.
Larry Fitzgerald may be the best receiver in the league. He made some great plays, especially in the fourth quarter, which to me were the key difference in the game.
MVP: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Cleveland Browns over New York Giants, 35-14
Where has this Cleveland team been all year long? Where has this Derek Anderson been this year? The Cleveland Browns in this game looked like the Cleveland Browns everybody expected at the beginning of the season. While Derek Anderson started off a little shaky in the first half, he played a spectacular second half as the Browns thumped the New York Giants. Braylon Edwards, despite some dropped balls, also had a great game. If the Browns can continue to play at this level they may get themselves back into the thick of things in the AFC.
Of course the Browns were helped by three Eli Manning interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown late in the second half that pretty much sealed the game. Eli looked like the Eli of old, making bad decisions and throwing off his back foot. I still think the New York Giants are likely the best team in the league anyway. The NFC East is shaping up to be a wild race.
MVP: Derek Anderson, QB, Cleveland Browns
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player: Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans
Defensive Player: Jamal Williams, DT, San Diego Chargers
Offensive Lineman: Casey Rabach, C, Washington Redskins
Special Teams: Matt Scifres, P, San Diego Chargers
Rookie of the Week: Chris Horton, SS, Washington Redskins