I’m not going to have as many observations this week because I was under the weather this weekend. Well, just one. I love the Dallas Cowboys’ soap opera. I can’t stand the Cowboys or their arrogant owner Jerry Jones. What a train wreck. And what fun watching it.
New England Patriots over Denver Broncos, 41-7
It’s hard to call any game a must win this early in the season but if there was one for the Patriots this may have been it. A loss to Denver would have put us two games back of the streaking Buffalo Bills in the AFC East.
The story of this game was essentially: 5 Broncos turnovers plus a porous run defense equals a New England blowout.
The first half of the game featured four turnovers by the Broncos which got New England’s offense rolling and two gutsy fourth down calls by Belichick. The first was a fourth and one at the goal line that I was happy to see us go for which resulted in a touchdown run. The second fourth and one that Belichick went for was a really ballsy call. It’s fourth and one near midfield with a little less than two minutes remaining in the half. If we make it we run out the clock at worst and possibly get a field goal out of it. If we miss it, the Broncos have the ball at midfield and can turn a 13-0 lead into a 13-7 lead real quick, putting them right back in the game. I thought they were just trying to draw Denver offside but when they actually snapped the ball I screamed “run, run, run.” Good old Sammy Morris rips off a 29 yard run on the play followed shortly thereafter by a touchdown pass to Randy Moss for a 20-0 lead at the half, game basically over.
Matt Cassel’s high quarterback rating in this game belies his struggles. New England had two fumbles in the first quarter that resulted in trips to the red zone but we had to settle for two field goals. Cassel is a very slow decision maker in the pocket and seems even more indecisive in the red zone. A perfect example of this was with about six minutes left in the third quarter the Patriots are in the red zone. Cassel rolls to the right and has a wide open Kevin Faulk in the flat. But instead of throwing the short pass he holds onto the ball too long and hits Faulk in the end zone when he’s double covered. This almost resulted in an interception by the Broncos. The Patriots escaped that mistake and ran the exact same play, which Cassel got right and it resulted in a nice gain. The next play was a touchdown pass to Wes Welker. Cassel looked a little better in this game, but only a little.
And what happened to our offensive line? While Cassel holds the ball too long and takes sacks he shouldn’t, there were numerous miscues and missed blocks along the offensive line and poor Cassel had no choice but to take the sack. This does not look like the offensive line that protected Brady so well last year. This looks like the offensive line that got spanked by the Giants in the Super Bowl. They need to get their act together.
In the second half the Patriots offense just kept rolling along and the defense played well enough to almost shut out the Broncos, who seemed off kilter playing from behind. Earlier in the game Jay Cutler hurt his hand and was shaky for a while but he looked like he was throwing just fine in the second half.
The bad news for Patriots fans were injuries. Before the game they put Laurence “Baloney” Maroney on injured reserve. Sammy Morris had some type of knee injury and never returned for the second half after a career high 138 yards rushing. What at the start of the season seemed to be a deep, if not stellar, crop of running backs suddenly looks very thin with LaMont Jordan missing the last few games with a calf injury. We can only hope that Morris’s injury isn’t very bad.
And worst of all, Rodney Harrison was carted off the field in the second half with what is reportedly a torn quadriceps muscle and is out for the year, which likely ended the career of the 15 year veteran. Harrison is extremely important to the defense, less for his intimidating, physical style of play than that he is the emotional heart and soul of the defense. The Patriots may have won this game, but the injury bug has certainly depleted the team this year.
I am not as high as some Patriots fans are over the win because it’s a long road ahead and we came out of the game with a number of key injuries that will be hard to overcome. For me, the glass still seems half full (well, nearly empty without Tom Brady). I wonder if we’ll see a great game, a flop, and great game, a flop trend the rest of the season.
MVP: Sammy Morris, RB, New England Patriots
New York Giants over San Francisco 49’ers, 29-17
This game was almost irritating to watch. Eli Manning played okay but I thought he looked a little like the Eli of old in the first half. He didn’t look all that comfortable in the pocket and was often inaccurate. He later settled down to a solid game. But the San Francisco offense was so inept, well I should say J.T. O’Sullivan was so inept. They basically handed the game to the Giants. O’Sullivan threw two stupid interceptions, one in the end zone, and was wildly inaccurate at times. I am not sure why Nolan even put him back in the game for the second half, except that they have an unproven Shaun Hill as back-up. Maybe that is why Nolan got fired. This is the first time I’ve seen O’Sullivan play in a full game but it was the worst play at the quarterback position I have seen this season outside of Tarvaris Jackson of the Minnesota Vikings.
The Giants defensive front seven was stellar as always.
MVP: Chase Blackburn, LB, New York Giants
Washington Redskins over Cleveland Browns, 14-11
This was game dominated by defense with the exception of Clinton Portis rushing for 175 yards and a touchdown. This game was scoreless until the third quarter when the Redskins finally scored on Portis run. This game almost had a wild ending with the Browns turning the ball over on downs with a little over five minutes to go and trailing 14-3. But Portis immediately fumbled, giving the Browns the ball on the 29 yard line which they turned into a touchdown and two point conversion to cut the Redskins lead to 14-11. The Browns got one more chance at a game tying 54 year field goal after Washington went three and out but missed.
I have been very impressed with Casey Rabach, the Redskins center this year, but he got housed by Shaun Rodgers, DT, Cleveland in the first half.
MVP: London Fletcher, LB, Washington Redskins. I would give it to Portis but his fumble almost cost them the game.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans, 168 yards rushing
Defensive Player: Chase Blackburn, LB, New York Giants
Offensive Lineman: Chris Snee, G, New York Giants
Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski, K, Oakland Raiders, 57 yard field goal to win game in OT.
Rookie of the Week: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans