2010 NFL Football Season: Week Three Observations

Tom Brady

I realize after the first three weeks of the season that what I thought I knew, I don’t know, but there some things I know that I know, at least I think so this week.

What I Thought I Knew

I was ready to anoint the Green Bay Packers one of the top teams in football going into the week and I thought Mike McCarthy was a good coach. The horribly sloppy play and penalties against the Chicago Bears and questionable decisions by McCarthy lost the game for the Packers.

I thought the Ravens had one of the best defenses in the NFL. Who would have thought they wouldn’t be able to stop the run, against the Cleveland Browns of all teams? Luckily for them the offense woke out of its slumber for a win.

I thought the San Francisco 49’ers were an up and coming team despite their losses, but they proved me wrong Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

I thought the Houston Texans might be the best team in the AFC but they got punked by Dallas’s defense.

And while I knew the St. Louis Rams would be better this year than last, I didn’t expect them to completely handle the Washington Redskins the way they did.

And finally, I have never been a big believer in Michael Vick coming back to be an effective every down quarterback. I guess he has proven me wrong, so far.


What I Think I Know

Pittsburgh has the best defense in the league and they just keep proving it. It is scary that they are 3-0 without Big Ben. Very scary.

The New England Patriots young defense is terrible, mostly in the secondary. I sure hope Bill Belichick gets that squad straightened out, soon.

Clinton Portis has seen his better days.

Philip Rivers is a whiney punk and San Diego has once again started off slowly. I’d love to see them lose the rest of their games. I am tired of Philip Rivers.

Baltimore’s offense could be one of the best in the league once Joe Flacco starts playing well. Even though he played well against the Browns, I still didn’t like his jittery feet and mechanics.

The Super Bowl is totally up for grabs this year. So far, there are no clearly dominant teams in the NFL.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Buffalo Bills 38-30 (On NFL Game Rewind)

What is going on with the New England Patriots defense?! Giving up 23 points to the Buffalo Bills is simply not acceptable (I am not counting the kickoff return for a touchdown by C.J. Spiller). The young rookie defensive backs are struggling mightily. Hopefully they will improve over the course the season. Otherwise we are in big trouble.

Thankfully, the offense looked great. Tom Brady had a terrific game and spread the ball around to a variety of receivers. The one huge concern I have is the lack of commitment to the running game. Even without a marquee running back, it is imperative to have a rushing attack to slow down pass rushers and keep defenses a little more off guard. Otherwise teams will just catch up with our passing attack.

Ryan Fitzpatrick obviously had a great day at quarterback as well and you can understand why the Bills jettisoned Trent Edwards who was just not working out. It will be interesting to see what kind of success the Bills can muster when they face tougher defensive backs.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB

Baltimore Ravens over Cleveland Browns, 24-17

I was absolutely shocked watching the Cleveland Browns and Peyton Hillis run all over the Ravens defense. Hillis ended up with 144 yards against what I thought was one of the toughest run defenses in the league.

Luckily for the Ravens the offense woke up after two disappointing weeks with Flacco hitting Anquan Boldin for three touchdowns. Despite having a better game I still though Flacco sometimes looked sketchy in the pocket. No quarterback has a lot of time to throw in the NFL but when Flacco gets what I consider normal pressure, he seems to get happy feet and throw off his back foot or make mental errors. It was less pronounced this week than last but there are still some issues there.

And what can you say about the acquisition of Anquan Boldin? He has been one of the most consistent offensive performers in the league and the bright spot on offense for the Ravens the past three weeks.

For Cleveland this should be a game to build on. If they can play that well against this defense, they should be able to notch up a few wins this season. And I wonder if Jake Delhomme will get his starting job back? Seneca Wallace looked awfully good in this game. Of course he was getting a lot of support in the running game.

MVP: Anquan Boldin, WR

St. Louis Ram over Washington Redskins, 30-16

Despite some miscues and not taking full advantage of some of their opportunities, the St. Louis Rams looked like a good football team against the Washington Redskins! I was extremely impressed with the team on both sides of the ball.

I was most impressed that after taking a 14-0 lead, the Washington Redskins came back to take the lead 16-14 early in the third quarter but the Rams didn’t falter. This is when bad teams fall apart and get spanked. Instead, the Rams stayed calm and retook the lead with a nice touchdown drive and never looked back. While I think Sam Bradford has a lot of work to do, his calm leadership and solid play showed that he can eventually be top flight starter in the NFL if he stays healthy. And the defense shut the Redskins out the rest of the game thanks to linebacker Bill Laurinaitis being all over the field and the play of free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe before leaving the game with an injury.

On the Redskins side of the ball, they absolutely could not get a running game going. Without a running game they just could not do much in the second half. It would appear Santana Moss is getting too old be a receiver that can carry the load and Joey Galloway is even worse. I am surprised the Redskins didn’t go to tight end Chris Cooley more than they did.

The most bizarre play was when Clinton Portis broke off a long run and then simply fell to the ground himself. Later in the week it was reported he told Coach Shanahan it was because of his wrist injury and concern about ball security. While I think Portis is one of the biggest whiners and malcontents in the league, he has been a tough player so I give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

This game reminded me a lot of the Detroit Lions game last year in the third game of the season where the Redskins lost in a poorly played game and Portis got into an argument with Jim Zorn on the sideline after taking himself out of the game. To me, that game marked the day the wheels came off for the Redskins in the 2009 season. Again, in the third week, they lost to a team most would think they should beat, and didn’t look great in the process. Will the wheels come off again or will Shanahan keep this team rolling forward and improving? With a weakened offensive line, no running game, and a questionable corps of receivers, it might be tough. Donovan McNabb can’t do it all on his own.

MVP: Bill Laurinaitis, LB

New York Jets over Miami Dolphins, 31-23

Mark Sanchez had a great game against the Dolphins. Is this his breakout game or will he revert back to the poor play we saw in the first game of the season? Time will tell. But I will say, I am not a believer.

I also think if the off field incidents like Braylon Edwards’ DUI continue, it will become a distraction for this team. He did catch a long touchdown pass to help redeem himself. The key to this game, to me though, was the ability of the Jets to run the ball with LaDanian Tomlinson, helping out the passing game.

Miami hung tough and tried to come back but to no avail, even with Brandon Marshall catching 10 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.

MVP: Mark Sanchez, QB

Chicago Bears over Green Bay Packers, 20-17

Green Bay outplayed the Bears but their 18 penalties for 152 yards killed them. Holding penalties thwarting the offense and a stupid roughing the passer penalty negating a Green Bay interception really did the Packers in. Punter Tim Masthay was horrible, having the kind of game that should get him cut. A short low kick allowed an easy punt return for a touchdown by Devin Hester that put the Bears ahead in the fourth quarter and was really the key play in the game.

And then Mike McCarthy challenged a fumble that was clearly a fumble in the fourth quarter costing the team a timeout. That was a really stupid move on his part. There is no way that play was getting overturned.

The Bears are now 3-0, the only undefeated team in the NFC, and have knocked off two good teams in Dallas and Green Bay. Frankly, they just don’t look like a 3-0 team to me.

MVP: Devin Hester, WR/KR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Defensive Player: Bill Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis Rams
Offensive Lineman: Adam Goldberg, G, St. Louis Rams
Special Teams: Leon Washington, RB/KR, Seattle Seahawks
Rookie of the Week: C.J. Spiller, RB/KR, Buffalo Bills

2010 NFL Football Season: Week One Observations

Wes Welker Scores Against the Bengals

A new season is upon us and it should be an exiting one.

In the NFC we wonder if the New Orleans Saints can repeat as Super Bowl champions, if all the hoopla over the Dallas Cowboys will end again in ignominy, if Brett Favre can take a depleted receiving corps back to the playoffs, if the San Francisco are as good as advertised, and how will the only rookie starting quarterback in the league, Sam Bradford, fare in St. Louis?

The AFC appears to be even more wide open than the NFC. Several teams have a legitimate shot at Super Bowl glory. The New England Patriots with a healthy and hot Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Randy Moss and a young defense should improve over the year and be a contender. The New York Jets and their slothful undisciplined coach say they are the heirs to the AFC East. The Baltimore Ravens are loaded on offense and their defense looks as good as ever. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has proven to be as formidable as ever and when Big Ben gets back their offense should improve. The Indianapolis Colts are always a tough team and the Houston Texans are emerging. Meanwhile, the San Diego Chargers may or may not slip. They are in the weakest division in the AFC and despite losing their opener, will likely have a spot in the playoffs.

Before jumping in the games I watched this, a few big picture headlines that week one revealed.

  • Brady, Welker, Moss and the offense are back and as good as ever.
  • New Orleans appears to have started right where they left off last year, with a powerful offense and defense that is solid. They are the favorites to emerge from the NFC.

  • Minnesota, after the tiresome annual saga of Brett Favre’s retirement dance, suddenly found themselves without receivers. Their defense is solid but their opening salvo on offense bodes ill for their chances this season.

  • Thankfully, for once, we won’t have the annual will the Indianapolis Colts go undefeated as they spank the teams in their weak division. Houston hung a loss on the Colts, and if their offense line continues to struggle, Peyton Manning is in for a long season.

  • Will Michael Vick be the Eagles starter this season?

  • San Francisco is not as good as we thought they were.

  • Dallas continues to shoot itself in the foot.

  • Finally, for the most part the defenses in the league seem to have started the season a step ahead of the offenses. This is likely to change as the season progresses but as someone who loves the defensive side of the ball, it was refreshing to see.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Cincinnati Bengals, 38-24

One word: Welker.

It was a very happy sight to see Wes Welker looking like, well, Wes Welker, after his amazingly fast recover from reconstructive knee surgery after suffering an injury in the last game of the season last year. WELKER! WELKER! WELKER!

Tom Brady also looked very sharp in this game, as did the entire offense. It was good to see a little bit of the running game back in the game plan, although I still think they could run the ball even more. Fred Taylor seemed to have fresh legs in the first half and the running back by committee approach worked. And I continue to be amazed at how older players like third down back Kevin Faulk can continue to be so effective.

What was also heartening to see is the very young defense with two rookie starting cornerbacks holding up well against the powerful Cincinnati Bengals offense with two of the best receivers in the league. I did get somewhat worried in the second half when the Bengals had two back to back sustained scoring drives. Barring injury I expect the defense to continue to improve as the season progresses. While it was not a lock down defense, it was good enough to win this game.

And Brandon Tate! His kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half was crucial, as it turned out, to extend the lead. Instead of providing even more momentum for the Patriots, it almost seemed like the Patriots players thought the game was over and played really rather poorly in the third quarter. The defense suddenly looked vulnerable and the offense didn’t do much either.

The Patriots played a very good all around game while the Bengals really didn’t get started until the second half. But for us Patriots fans the story was Wes Welker.

As a side note, good riddance Baloney Lauren Maroney. And don’t worry about Randy Moss, he’ll be fine.

MVP: Wes Welker, WR


New Orleans over Minnesota Vikings, 14-9

There are really a lot of storylines to this game.

The Saints look like a Super Bowl team. While their offense did struggle a bit their two scoring drives were dominant and once they started running the ball in the second half, they locked the game up. If they can continue to mix in a solid running game with their vaunted passing attack they will be very difficult to beat this season.

The Saints’ offensive line was the most dominant unit in the game and the best I saw all weekend. Guards Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, along with center Jonathan Goodwin, completely dominated Minnesota’s defensive tackles, Pat and Kevin Williams. Maybe the Williams boys need to get back on that supplement that almost cost them a suspension. They got punked in this game. And I really have to give a huge shout out to Jermon Bushrod. He totally handled my 2009 defensive player of the year Jared Allen entirely on this own. Last year I got a lot of criticism for favoring Carl Nicks over Jahri Evans as my All Pro guard. I did so because last year Nicks often had to help Bushrod, who really was the weak link on the offensive line. I don’t know if this is a one game stellar effort by Bushrod or if he has really improved that much. If continues this level of play the Saints may even be better this year than last.

In the second half the Saints finally started running the ball with Pierre Thomas, who ate up the clock and moved the chains. He has solid performance behind the dominant offensive line and I felt it was a great change of pace by Sean Peyton.

Minnesota, meanwhile, looked awful on offense. With Sydney Rice out for at last half the season and Percy Harvin ailing and running lousy routes, there really were no receivers open to throw to. Bernard Berrian looked awful in preseason and woeful in this game as well. He seems to have completely disappeared. I was surprised Greg Camarillo did not see more action in the slot.

Minnesota’s defense did not play up to their usual standards on the defensive line but they settled down and did manage to hold the Saints to 14 points. They are battling injuries in the secondary and Antoine Winfield is also coming off an injury plagued 2009 and really did not play up to his usual standards. It was great to see linebacker E.J. Henderson back in the lineup and playing extremely well after suffering a gruesome broken femur last year. I though his career was likely over, but clearly it’s not.

Minnesota is likely to continue to struggle on offense unless the receivers get their heads out of their ass and start playing football.

While Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans are better and played wonderfully, I am giving the most valuable player award here to Jermon Bushrod for handling Jared Allen.

MVP: Jermon Bushrod, T

Green Bay Packers over Philadelphia Eagles, 27-20

Let the quarterback controversy begin! The Eagles offense looked absolutely miserable in the first half. Kevin Kolb was harassed and the receivers weren’t really getting open but he wasn’t doing much either. I am not sure if it is because Michael Vick kept entering the game and did not allow Kolb to establish a rhythm or something else, but once he sustained a concussion and Vick took over the offense came to life. But, that was mostly because of Vick’s legs. His running really broke the game open for the offense even though they still fell short in the end.

It will be fascinating to see what transpires this season now that Kolb might be out for a few games and Vick will be the starter. If Vick is successful it will be hard for Andy Reid not to keep him behind center once Kolb is healthy. But you know what? Vick will never lead a team to the promised land (although he has sent quite a few dogs to doggie heaven). His success in this game was mostly his running ability. Just like in Atlanta, once teams scheme against him, his inaccurate passing and poor decision making will catch up with him. Yes, he may have a rocket arm and can throw the ball 60 yards with a flick of the wrist, but Eagles’ fans should not get too giddy over the possibilities. Unless he continues to be a running quarterback he will not be that dynamic, and eventually teams will catch up with the Eagles if Vick is at the helm.

Green Bay didn’t really look all the wonderful either. The offensive tackles had a hard time handling the rush but they did manage a couple of really nice touchdown drives. The star of the game was Clay Matthews, Jr. who was all over the place on defense and recorded a couple of sacks.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

Washington Redskins over Dallas Cowboys, 13-7

GOAT: Jason Garrett. And no, that is not for “greatest of all time” but idiot. I am sure everyone has seen the play by now, but at the end of the first half, in bad field position, with little time left on the clock, the Cowboys ran a short sideline route to Tashard Choice who ended up fumbling the ball which was returned for a Redskins touchdown and was the difference in the game. What made this play so stupid? First, the Redskins offense was doing absolutely nothing and had only a 3-0 lead. Scores were clearly going to be a premium in this game and with so little time left on the clock, the smart move was simply to run the time off the clock and regroup in the second half. Secondly, the play had no chance of even netting enough yards to get into field goal range. It was stupid play call, period, for that situation.

What this play and head coach Wade Phillips’ comments after the game shows is that Wade Phillips is not in control of this team. He basically threw Jason Garrett under the bus by saying they should have kneeled on the ball, didn’t know why the ran a play there, and tersely said the defense (which he runs) did its job and did not give up a touchdown. I believe they will continue to be destiny’s stepchild this season.

Otherwise, both teams struggled a great deal on offense. Dallas’s offensive line did not protect Tony Romo well but they finally got going late in the game to finally make a run for a win, but alas they failed. A holding penalty on the last play of the game negated a would be game winning touchdown. It was clearly holding too so nobody can gripe about the call.

The Mike Shanahan era started off with a win over archrival Dallas on Dallas’s home turf. While it was not a dominating or particularly impressive win, especially on offense, it was a win. As usual, the Washington defense is very solid this year, as they have been in year’s past. While they have sometimes been criticized for not getting enough turnovers, they are basically a very sturdy unit.

The offense, however, was woeful and did nothing. Shanahan needs to find a way to fix that quick because they won’t be winning many games like this otherwise. He can thank DeAngelo Hall for the fumble recovery and touchdown, which was the difference in the game. Or, send Jason Garrett a thank you card for the gift.

MVP: DeAngelo Hall, CB

Baltimore Ravens over New York Jets, 10-9

The New York Jets are an undisciplined team and reflection of their coach, the slovenly Rex Ryan. They shot themselves in the foot with penalties and giving up big plays on third and long when they had the Ravens’ offense on the ropes, which was the difference in the game. Add to that the harassment by Jets players of a female reporter also shows a lack of professionalism, decorum, and discipline, again a reflection of their head coach. The Jets may very well implode this season.

The Jets defense continues to be a stellar unit, one of the best, if not the best in the league. But their offense looks awful and Mark Sanchez has not proven, yet, that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. They were facing another top defense in the Ravens, so maybe time will tell.

The Ravens defense played excellent football and Ray Lewis continues, in his fifteenth NFL season, to be one of the best defensive players in the league. He got some great hits on the Jets, and the rest of the unit played excellent as well. I was surprised at how the offense was so throttled, however, even facing the Jets. With Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and a very good offensive line, Anquan Bolden, Derrick Mason, and Todd Heap, I thought they were loaded on offense. The Jets bailed them out with bad penalties most of the game and Ravens were lucky to escape with a win.

MVP: Ray Lewis, LB

Kansas City Chiefs over San Diego Chargers, 21-14

I was happy to see the Chiefs beat the Chargers on Monday night but Chief’s fans shouldn’t get too excited. It was really two big plays on offense that sealed the deal, a great 56 yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles and a 94 yard punt return for a touchdown by rookie wide receiver Dexter McCluster were the keys to the game. Otherwise the offense looked anemic and Matt Cassel really did not do much to distinguish himself.

The Chief’s defense did play well. Defensive tackle Glen Dorsey finally looked like a first round draft pick in this game and the defensive backs did a very nice job on the Charger’s receivers, especially Brandon Flowers.

Philip Rivers made himself look like a complete idiot and proved what a jerk he is yelling at his teammates and carrying on a like a petulant child in the second half. While indeed his teammates made mistakes, I can’t imagine that endears him to his offensive line or establishes him as the leader of the team. They did almost come back and win, however. Rookie running back Ryan Matthews had a decent game, but he gave up a fumble that lead to a touchdown, helping the Chief’s secure the win.

MVP: Dexter McCluster, KR/WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans (231 yards rushing, 3 TDs)
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Jermon Bushrod, T, New Orleans Saints
Special Teams: Brandon Tate, WR/KR, New England Patriots
Rookie of the Week: Dexter McCluster, WR/KR, Kansas City Chiefs

A Look Back at How Vince Lombardi Launched a Dynasty

That Great First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set it on the Path to Glory by John Eisenberg
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2009
ISBN 13: 978-0-618-90499-0

Much as been written about Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers dynasty of the 1960’s, but John Eisenberg’s book is the first to provide details about Vince Lombardi’s first season with the Green Bay Packers.

When Lombardi took over as head coach Green Bay was a losing team with a culture of losing, and even quitting, in games.  He was starting at ground zero with a group of players who were used to and even accepted losing.  Once a team establishes a culture of losing it is extremely difficult to break it out of that cycle.  Losing becomes a habit and it becomes acceptable.

But it was not acceptable to Vince Lombardi.  After taking over the head coaching duties prior to the 1959 season Lombardi wondered what he had gotten into after watching game film of this woeful team.

Through punishing practices and motivational tactics more akin to an Army drill sergeant than a professional football coach, Lombardi made it clear to his players that losing was not acceptable and he was gong to work them out of it, literally.  His practices were brutal affairs and his drive for perfection a tangible force.

While that first season ended with a mediocre 7-5 record, Lombardi accomplished one amazing feat.  The Green Bay Packers were no longer losers and quitters.  Instead Lombardi established the mental and physical groundwork for the dynasty yet to come.

The most amazing thing about Lombardi’s feat is he turned the team around with essentially the same players who were so woeful before.  Normally a team breaking out of losing streak essentially has to clean house and build from scratch.  Not Lombardi.  He worked, cajoled, intimidated, and rebuilt this team from the inside out turning a can’t do mentality into a can do winning one.  And that is why Lombardi is praised as possibly being one of the greatest coaches of all time in any sport.

Lombardi also made some key decisions that propelled the team forward.  He finally settled on future Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr as his starter for the future.  He created an offensive attack that utilized the unique talents of Paul Hornung instead of trying to turn him into a power running back, letting Jim Taylor handle those duties.  And he helped players like offensive linemen Jerry Kramer, Forrest Gregg, and Fuzzy Thurston advance from good to great.  And by practicing the bread and butter plays, especially the sweep, until it was second nature, he made the game more simple for his offensive players, and difficult to stop for opponents.

This is a well written book where you get the inside story of that first year from many of the players of that era, like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, and Jerry Kramer.  Fans of professional football should enjoy this look back at how Vince Lombardi launched a dynasty.


That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory

NFL 2009 Wildcard Weekend Review

OBSERVATIONS

It was a shame three teams didn’t show up for their games, the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, and Philadelphia Eagles.

And three marquee quarterbacks put up rather poor performances, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, and Donovan McNabb.

So three out of the four games were duds.

And we had one ridiculous game between Arizona and Green Bay, where the defenses didn’t show up to play.

Weird.

Baltimore Ravens over New England Patriots, 33-14

Needless to say, for me, this was a heartbreaking game. It was over before it started and the Ravens exposed everything wrong with the Patriots this season: a predictable offense, no running game, poor play calling, and a young defense that seems to wander around the field aimlessly at times.

I really thought the Patriots would win a close contest here but the offensive game plan was atrocious and the opportunistic Ravens defense took full advantages. The four turnovers, along with Ray Rice’s 80 plus yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage is really the story of the game.

I’m not so sure the Ravens were so great, as much as it was the Patriots were so poor. They ran roughshod over the Patriots and Joe Flacco didn’t have to throw very many passes to win this one.

I find it humorous how all the Patriots haters (and non-haters) are harping over how the dynasty is over. HELLO! The dynasty was over pretty much last year. Few players from the three Super Bowl wins this decade are still there. It’s hard to stay on the top of the heap for very long in this era.

I’ll write a Patriots retrospective later, not here. But suffice it to say, it’s pretty clear we were not a great team this year and has some gaping holes, and the Ravens took full advantage of all of them.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

Dallas Cowboys over Philadelphia Eagles, 34-14

Just like last week the Eagles didn’t show up for this game. McNabb played a lousy game and the defense gave nearly 200 yards on the ground, which helped Tony Romo have a fine day passing. This was all around a pretty disappointing matchup for a playoff game. The Eagles, who seemed to be on a roll late in the season, fell flat when it counted most, as usual.

MVP: Felix Jones, RB

New York Jets over Cincinnati Bengals, 24-14

This game wasn’t even as close as the score. For the second week in a row the Cincinnati Bengals played like it was preseason. What a woeful and embarrassing end to the season for the Bengals after such a promising start. Despite some of the injuries they suffered, especially on defense, it’s inexcusable to seem so lifeless and pathetic in the playoffs. Ironically, the only Bengal that actually showed up to play was oft maligned, and fairly so, Cedric Benson, who ran the ball like it was a playoff game. Too bad the rest of this teammates kept their game in the locker room.

And Carson Palmer was just flat out horrible in this game, while Chad Ochostinko let himself get punked again by Darrelle Revis, the Jets outstanding cornerback.

As for the Jets, what can you say? They got three passes in a row, and one in the playoffs. Mark Sanchez had a nice game, but didn’t have to do much but hand the ball off and watch his defense take care of business.

You have to take a big hat off to Jay Feely, the Jets placekicker, who had to kick and punt after the Jets punter Steve Weatherford had an accelerated heartbeat and was a scratch.

Jets running back Shonn Greene had a nice day with 135 yards rushing, but my hat is off to Darrelle Revis and the Jets defense.

MVP: Darrelle Revis, CB


Arizona Cardinals over Green Bay Packers, 51-45 OT

I don’t know why people call a game like this, where the defenses are so pathetic it’s embarrassing an unprofessional, an “instant classic.” Yes, it was entertaining and came down to an overtime turnover by the Packers for the Cardinals to pull it off. But a great game? Hardly.

Frankly, I hate seeing games where every time the offense touches the ball it scores. It’s boring. And the second half after the Packers settled down, that is exactly what happened. I seriously, literally, got bored in the second half because I already knew what was going to happen when the offenses took the field.

But of course, the last play of the game with the sack and fumble by Green Bay is why we watch the game right? Who knows what will really happen on any given play.

Kudos to both Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers for their performances in this game. I’ve become a fan of Rodgers the way he has taken over for Brett Favre with all the pressure that entails, and then getting behind in his first playoff game and having the poise to come back.

MVP: Kurt Warner, QB


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Defensive Player: Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets
Offensive Lineman: Alan Faneca, G, New York Jets
Special Teams: Jay Feely, K/P, New York Jets

2009 NFL Season: Week 13

OBSERVATIONS

At the start of the season most people expected the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots to be in the thick of the Super Bowl chase along with the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, none of those three teams look like particularly good teams.

There is a reasonably good chance the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts could go 16-0. Amazing.

Miami Dolphins over New England Patriots, 22-21

Since when did the New England Patriots become a team that doesn’t show up for the second half of football games? Since when did Tom Brady become an average quarterback who throws dumb interceptions? Since when did it become a bad idea to kick a field goal on fourth down in the red zone? Since when did New England’s defense look toothless and unable to stop anyone when it counts? Since when did offensive football mean throwing long passes every play? Since when did New England become a mediocre team? I guess I saw it coming and just didn’t want to recognize it.

Furious might be the best way to describe my feelings after losing this game. The offensive play calling is a joke. I’d like to see Charlie Weiss come in and take over his old role as offensive coordinator and play caller. Yes we can hit the bombs and big plays, but not consistently, and it seems never in the second half of games when we need a score. And Tom Brady’s interception to Moss in the end zone when he was double covered was just atrocious.

And the defense? This looks, and really kind of is, the type of defense you would see on a totally rebuilding team or an expansion team. I don’t know what the average age or years of experience is on the defense but it is clearly very young with mostly players with limited experience. I don’t think I have ever seen a Bill Belichick coached team play defense so poorly.

While Miami seems to often have our number in away games even when the Patriots are at the top of their game, the performance of the Patriots the past two weeks has me down and scratching my head. Are we even as good as we were last year?

If the ship isn’t righted soon, it doesn’t matter much who we play, we could miss the playoffs (unlikely) and if we do make it get embarrassed.

Miami did a good job of hanging in the game. Hats off to Davone Bess who might put Ted Ginn, Jr. on the street next year, and Vontae Davis for his interception of Brady in the end zone. And let’s talk a little Chad Henne for a moment. This second year quarterback from Michigan is showing improvement this season and is getting a longer leash. If he keeps developing and improving, this fellow could be a very solid starter for years to come.

MVP: Davone Bess, WR

GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over Buffalo Bills, 19-13

This really wasn’t the most interesting game to watch. The Jets played reasonably well on both sides of the ball and came out with a nice win. This keeps them a game behind the Patriots in the AFC East now that the Patriots have lost two in a row. The big story in the game, of course, was quarterback Mark Sanchez injuring his right knee when sliding head first for a first down. He already dinged up his left knee earlier in the year. A banged up starting rookie quarterback is not the best situation to be in at this time of year.

The Jets mostly used a solid running game by Thomas Jones to control the game. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis continues to impress shutting down Terrell Owens.

MVP: Darrelle Revis, CB

New Orleans Saints over Washington Redskins, 33-30 OT

I felt sorry for the Washington Redskins after this game. The Redskins have had an insane season with their coach being punked and basically demoted by the owner, squabbling among players, notably Clinton Portis who has always been a head case, and now really is one now that he is on IR with a concussion, and just horrible offensive production. Now with some backups playing with heart and a defense that has always been solid, they are actually playing very competitively. They just aren’t winning.

I’ve heard the word snake bitten describing the Redskins after this game and I have to say that is exactly what I was thinking as well. They didn’t lose this game by bad play, really, just some unlucky breaks.

Four plays really defined this game. Near the end of the first half the Saints’ punter Thomas Morstead badly shanks the kick and the Redskins gunner is helpless as he can’t see where the ball is and it hits him on the shoulder. The Saints recover the live ball in good field position. Really bad. But eureka! Defensive back Kareem Moore intercepts Drew Brees on third down and is running it back to midfield. Oops! He is stripped by wide receiver Robert Meachem who runs it for a touchdown to tie the game at 17 at halftime.

The Redskins shook off their misfortune and came out to play an excellent second half of football. The offense moved the ball well and built a ten point lead in the third quarter. But alas, you aren’t going to hold the Saints offense down forever and Shaun Suisham missed an easy 22 yard kick that could have won the game for them. He has since been cut. See ya!

After hanging on to a tie going into overtime, the Redskins won the toss. Having moved the ball well all day long, after the kickoff I thought they had a great chance to get into field goal range for a win (if the kicker doesn’t botch it again). Alas, Mike Sellers fumbles the ball again giving the Saints a short field, game over.

At least the Redskins played hard and showed heart. Other than the miscues it may have been their best game of the season. Redskins linebacker London Fletcher should be a shoe in for the Pro Bowl. He has played well all season.

Will the Saints go undefeated?

MVP: Robert Meachem, WR

New York Giants over Dallas Cowboys, 31-24

The Dallas Cowboys simply cannot seem to get their act together, especially in December. There are a lot of Jekyll and Hyde teams this year, but Dallas might be the most odious of them all. They have talent but just can’t perform when it counts most. They had decent play for the most part but missed filed goals by Nick Folk and a punt return for a touchdown by the Giants, which was less the punt returner being great than it was awful tackling by the Cowboys, doomed them.

The Giants had a great day from wide receiver Steve Smith with six catches for 110 yards. They are barely still in the playoff hunt.

MVP: Steve Smith, WR

Arizona Cardinals over Minnesota Vikings, 30-17

This was a very impressive win by the Arizona Cardinals who looked a lot like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year. Even those who thought the Cardinals might win this game had to be surprised by the way they dominated the Vikings on both sides of the ball. The Vikings defensive player of the year candidate, defensive end Jared Allen, was a non-factor, while the Cardinals offense simply rolled all night long on the arm of Kurt Warner and the receiving of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

The Cardinals defense also turned in an excellent performance. They were able to limit Adrian Peterson to 46 yards rushing and harass Brett Favre into two interceptions. This was the way the Cardinals defense played last year when they made their Super Bowl run. I don’t know if the Cardinals will keep this level of play up, but for this week they looked like one of the better teams in the league.

MVP: Larry Fitzgerald, WR

Green Bay Packers over Baltimore Ravens, 27-14

The Baltimore Ravens are just awful on offense. It may be partially the play calling but the only production they get is from Ray Rice. Receivers Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton give them very little in the passing game and Todd Heap seems past his prime a productive receiving tight end. On top of that Joe Flacco threw some stupid interceptions, especially the one in the red zone in the fourth quarter.

Green Bay, on the other hand, looked good on offense and defense. Aaron Rodgers has established himself as a premier NFL quarterback. The entire defense also played well, particularly linebackers A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews, Jr. and cornerback Charles Woodson. The veteran Woodson has played so well this year he should be on the short list of defensive player of the year candidates.

And of course anyone who watched this game knows how crazy it was. There were flags every few moments, mostly for pass interference. This game featured 310 yards in penalties, tied for second most in NFL history. Crazy.

Overall, despite all the penalties, the Packers simply outplayed the Ravens on both sides of the ball from start to finish.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans Saints
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Levi Brown, RT, Arizona Cardinals
Special Teams: Domenik Hixon, WR/KR, New York Giants
Rookie of the Week: Clay Matthews Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers