Roughing the Passer Calls: Officials are calling roughing the passer calls closer than ever. The Ravens got tagged for one that was rather questionable against the Patriots, and later the Patriots got tagged for one that was an even worse call on what should have been a sack by the Patriots. Over the first few games I’ve seen very, very touchy calls on roughing the passer. I can only say that at least they are being consistent about it, but I don’t like it.
DeMarcus Ware: What has happened to Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware? He is easily being handled by single tackles and is getting no pass rush.
Brett Favre: Favre really knows how to step it up on the biggest stage. Once again we witnessed an otherworldly performance by Favre against his old Green Bay Packer teammates. I just wonder if he can keep it up all year long. With the best running back in the league, a good offensive line, and a stout defense, this team could be scary in the postseason. While I am a bit tired of the off season Favre drama, he sure is fun to watch when he gets revved up.
Aaron Rodgers: And on the other side, Rodgers is clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He was not protected very well against the Vikings but still played well and put points on the board. If the Packers can get their offensive line woes straightened out Rodgers will be phenomenal. If they don’t he won’t even be upright at the end of the season.
LaDanian Tomlinson: I was not one who subscribed to the idea that LaDanian was on his last legs. But is he?
Washington Redskins: The Redskins eked out another close victory over a bad team. It will be interesting to see how many games they lose when they play their NFC East opponents. The offense is anemic and uninspired.
GAMES I WATCHED
New England Patriots over Baltimore Ravens, 27-21
First let me get this off my chest. I am sick and tired of hearing the Ravens and their fans whine about the officials every time they lose a game. This time they were whining about the roughing the passer call when Suggs brushed Brady’s knee, which eventually lead to a touchdown. While I agree the call was close and probably not a good one, later in the game the Patriots sacked Flacco and got called for roughing the passer, which was an even more ridiculously bad call than the one on the Ravens. So at least the officials were calling it consistently. The Ravens did not lose because of the officials they lost because they were outplayed.
This was a very hard fought game and had a playoff like atmosphere with two upper tier teams battling it out. The Patriots offense looks like it is starting to come together after looking mostly pedestrian the first three games of the season. While they didn’t look like the Saints or Colts, at least Brady had a bit more rhythm and we ran the ball successfully. The one thing I still have a very hard time understanding is why the Patriots are not running more screens and draws to slow down the pass rush. Other teams are using these staple plays to great effect, including the Ravens against us. The Patriots lived by the screen pass in their three Super Bowl runs. It would be nice to see it utilized more in 2009.
Also promising is the way the young defense is coming together and playing reasonably well. While nobody will mistake them for the Ravens or Vikings defenses, at least they are making plays and not getting completely outmatched. The big worry with the defense is the inability to get a decent pass rush going, although even here they were slightly improved against the Ravens.
Two interesting personnel notes. First, Laurence Maroney was booed by the fans. His dancing and prancing behind the line of scrimmage is getting annoying. Maroney thrives in open space but you can’t put Maroney in the game just on screens and halfback passes because you would end up tipping off defenses. But on short yardage situations he is the last person you want to see handling the ball in the backfield. I can’t imagine he will be a Patriot next year if he doesn’t improve, and I have seen nothing that would indicate he will. More surprising is that Joey Galloway was inactive for the game and was not injured. He has not done much this year and it makes you wonder if he will be cut this year. That would be shame because he does seem to have some legs left and could be a valuable player down the stretch. Maybe this will be a wake up call for him.
This was a nice win for the Patriots. The Ravens are one of the best, most well rounded teams in the league and will certainly be around once the postseason rolls around. They are team that I could easily see making it to the Super Bowl this year.
Finally, while his stat line does not stand out, Sammy Morris made some key plays down the stretch. And it’s those little important plays that are often the difference between winning and losing.
MVP: Sammy Morris, RB
Denver Broncos over Dallas Cowboys, 17-10
What a difference a year makes. The Bronco’s defense last year was abysmal and this year looks like one of the best in the league. The combination of new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and the addition of a leader like free safety Brian Dawkins has really turned the defense around. Dawkins was fired and played extremely well against the floundering Cowboys. And while Kyle Orton may not be the best quarterback in the league, he’s doing just enough, along with Brandon Marshall, to get the job done. While I have nothing against Kyle Orton, had Cutler still been in the fold this offense would be even better. Denver’s 4-0 start and a win over a quality, if somewhat struggling Cowboys team, puts a stamp of legitimacy on their surprising 4-0 start.
The Cowboys, on the other hand, and Tony Romo in particular, appear to be in free fall. They have played terrible this season. Romo is inconsistent and a makes poor decisions and Flozell Adams can only block people with dirty tactics. I think it’s about time for a one game suspension for Mr. Adams. And DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas defense can’t seem to get pressure on the quarterback. Maybe Terrible Terrell really wasn’t the entire problem in Dallas.
And what happened to Bronco’s wide receiver Eddie Royal?! After a promising rookie season he has completely disappeared from the offense. Unfortunately he is on my fantasy football team and has done nothing for me.
For player of the game I have to go with Brandon Marshall for his 91 yards receiving and outstanding touchdown. Brian Dawkins is a close second.
MVP: Brandon Marshall, WR
Pittsburgh Steelers over San Diego Chargers, 38-28
The Chargers are another team that came into the 2009 season looking like it had a real shot at a championship. Instead the team is floundering around on both sides of the ball.
For the Chargers injuries to their defensive line has simply decimated the unit. Teams are running all over them and simply dominating their defensive unit. And while their offense is good enough, it’s not so prolific as to make up for their lack of defense, especially with the time of possession is so heavily skewed in the opponents favor. Rashard Mendenhall rushed the ball hard, picking up 165 yards and two touchdowns, but I want to see him do that against a stouter defense. The Steelers offensive line thumped the Chargers, whose defense simply couldn’t get off the field. The Chargers had a nice comeback, but really didn’t come that close to winning the game.
Adding to the Chargers misery, LaDanian Tomlinson is ailing and ineffective and receiver Chris Chambers clearly has seen his best days. I am surprised he is even still in the starting lineup.
The Steelers have seemed to right their ship, at least for one game. Their defense has remained stout and when Troy Polamalu comes back they will be even better. The Steelers are still an elite team in the league.
MVP: Rashard Mendenhall, RB
Minnesota Vikings over Green Bay Packers, 30-23
There was a lot of hype surrounding this game with Brett Favre facing his old team for the first time. The game certainly lived up to its hype. It was a playoff like game with a lot of hard hitting and great plays by both teams on both sides of the ball. As fantastic as Favre played, it was really the Vikings defense that won the game. They forced some turnovers and Jared Allen’s 4.5 sacks and safety was the key difference in the game. But he did take advantage of the Packers’ playing their second string, and then third string left tackle because of an injury to Chad Clifton.
But let’s start with Brett Favre. As bored and annoyed as I am with the drama king’s offseason will he retire, won’t he retire routine, he is fun to watch play football. He had just an amazing game. Amazing. And he had to be with the Packers’ defense mostly shutting down Adrian Peterson. Sometimes Farve is painful to watch, like when he throws multiple and sometimes dumb interceptions in the postseason. At other times he is simply awe inspiring. In this game he was awe inspiring.
And the Vikings defense really took advantage of the banged up Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. Jared Allen and the rest of the defense had eight sacks against Aaron Rodgers, including one for a safety. The Packers really need to straighten out their offensive line if they hope to have a decent season and a healthy Aaron Rodgers. Another standout for the Vikings was Antoine Winfield. This undersized cornerback can really blast running backs and receivers. It’s refreshing to see cornerbacks that can, and will, hit like Winfield.
Aaron Rodgers had an absolutely amazing game himself, maybe even better than Brett Favre given that Brett had plenty of time in the pocket an Aaron had defenders in his face all day long. Other than a few miscues he handled the pressure and played very, very well. I was most impressed with his ability to keep his team moving in face of the fierce pass rush by the Vikings. And despite getting behind, the Packers never quit on either side of the ball and gave themselves a chance to win at the end. If the Packers give Rodgers more time to throw the ball, their offense will really start to click.
And while Green Bay’s defense was victimized by Favre, given the lack of a pass rush I didn’t think they were absolutely terrible. They need to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback to protect their defensive backs better. So far the defensive guru Dom Capers schemes aren’t working that well for the Packers. Aaron Kampman, their best pass rusher last year, dropping back into coverage just doesn’t make sense to me.
Overall this was an amazing game, and as much as it was Brett Favre’s night, it was the Vikings night too. Nobody needs to question why they so desperately courted Favre in the offseason. With the best running back in the league, a solid offensive line, speedy receivers, and a top five defense, they were close but not close enough, to being a Super Bowl contender last year. With Brett Favre, they may be the best team in the league. Let’s face it, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels were not the answer at quarterback. Brett Favre may well be.
MVP: Brett Favre, QB
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player: Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Defensive Player: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings
Offensive Lineman: Willie Colon, RT, Pittsburgh Steelers
Special Teams: Johnny Knox, KR/WR, Chicago Bears
Rookie of the Week: Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland