By Andy Benoit, www.NFLTouchdown.com
New York Giants 21, Pittsburgh Steelers 14
Great win for the Giants – they were clearly the better team on Sunday. The New York secondary absolutely stifled the Steeler receivers (you may have noticed Ben Roethlisberger holding the ball for half an hour every time he dropped back). Also, Pittsburgh’s mediocre offensive line could not handle the Giants’ aggressive front seven.
Steve Spagnuolo might be the best defensive coordinator in the league right now. Few dial up blitzes as effectively as him. Sure, he has some stars to work with, but overall, the Giant D is middle of the road in terms of raw talent. Yet it’s performing at an elite level.
Can’t remember the last time I saw a Giants game that didn’t include the announcers beating an Eli Manning storyline to death. Thank you, Kenny Albert and Troy Aikman.
Speaking of the Fox broadcast, did anyone see Pam Oliver botch her report at the beginning of the second half? It might be worth You Tubing (if you have an extra minute or two).
James Harrison sailed a long snap over Mitch Berger’s head for a late game-tying safety. Here’s what I don’t understand: why doesn’t the backup center, or even starting center, handle the long snap duties in emergency situations?
New York has the best rushing attack in football this season. This alone should be enough to finally send one of these starting offensive linemen to Hawaii (I vote for right guard Chris Snee).
Plaxico Burress didn’t get an opportunity to truly stick it to his former team Sunday because he began the game on the bench as punishment for missing a treatment on a neck injury. Ironically, it’s this kind of behavioral garbage that helped make the Steelers Burress’s former team to begin with.
Dallas Cowboys 13, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9
This was a very good defensive struggle, highlighted by two ravenous run-stopping front sevens. For the Bucs, the speed of the defensive line gave Dallas trouble. For the Cowboys, linebacker Bradie James and nose tackles Jay Ratliff and Tank Johnson were big difference-makers.
Terrell Owens had only 33 yards receiving, but he stayed positive afterward. A sign that Owens has maybe grown up – a little – is that he seems to realize the offense is going to be treading water as long as Brad Johnson is under center.
Jeff Garcia is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Few quarterbacks elude the rush and keep their eyes downfield as well as he does. And few can move on from their first read, progress through two more, then come back and hit their first read later in the play.
The formula for beating Dallas is blitzing Johnson and jamming the wide receivers. Tampa Bay did that on Sunday, they just didn’t get any big plays offensively or on special teams.
Cowboys rookie corners Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick had excellent games. Obviously, they must continue to play at a high level while Terence Newman, and now possibly Anthony Henry, sit out. But one concern with both rookies is their level of confidence. It’s bordering on “too high.” Jenkins loves to jump routes, and Scandrick is becoming an all-out tackler. If I’m Cowboys secondary coach Dave Campo, I spend Monday taking both rookies through the film, praising them and then scaring them with foreboding tales about giving up big plays.
After this game I heard Wade Phillips and several Cowboy players refer to the team’s upcoming bye week. One problem: Dallas’s bye is in Week 10. I don’t see any way the Cowboys go on the road and beat the Giants next week.
New Orleans Saints 37, San Diego Chargers 32
Are you like me? When watching this game, did you find yourself thinking, “I wonder if these Brits understand what’s going on.” The Brits had a lot of complicated football thrown at them in this one, including an onside kick and Drew Brees taking a bizarre safety in the closing seconds. (By the way, considering New Orleans was well past the 20-yard-line when they did that, and that it trimmed the lead from seven to five while still leaving eight seconds on the clock, you have to say that was one hell of a stupid decision by Sean Payton).
The Chargers lost, but the good news is they can still win the AFC West (thank you, overrated Denver), and LaDainian Tomlinson appears to be himself again.
Of course, San Diego has to stop somebody. And we’re discovering that without Shawne Merriman, that’s not something they can do.
If the Saints can get a few games above .500, you’ll start hearing Drew Brees’s name loudly in MVP discussions. The way he worked the ball around Sunday without the threat of Reggie Bush was extremely impressive.
Overall, I still don’t like sharing our game with the British. I think any European who attends an NFL game should first have to sign a document acknowledging that football is 1,000 times more complex and exciting than soccer.
Cleveland Browns 23, Jacksonville Jaguars 17
Two organizations badly needed this outcome: the Browns, and ESPN. From a television standpoint, thank God this darling team is still in it.
By the way, at 3-4, are the Jaguars still in it? What’s the deal with them?
Derek Anderson appears to be one of those players who performs well only when he has something to prove. Playing for his starting job again this past week, Anderson was mentally sharper, and thus, less predictable.
Cleveland’s best play call this season came in the second quarter on a fourth-and-one. Anderson play-actioned and rolled right before hitting a wide open Steve Heiden for a momentum-boosting 51-yard-gain.
By the way, speaking of Heiden….Kellen Winslow, didya see the veteran tight end’s solid performance? Didya see his blocking? You think maybe you might shape up now that, you know, it’s obvious this team does not need you?
Don’t drink the Matt Jones Kool-Aid. Yes, the guy had his first 100-yard game of what has been a fairly stellar season, but understand the bottom line with Jones: he’s an ultra-athletic former first-round pick who runs horrendous routes, wastes more motion than player in the game and shows less energy than a hungover Eeyore.
Shaun Rogers is playing like a man on fire right now.
Seattle Seahawks 34, San Francisco 49ers 13
Obviously the story of this game is the press conference held by Mike Singletary afterward. You have to admire the interim head coach’s purity. He’s clearly not a guy worried about his own job status. The rules have been laid down; Singletary can’t preach them in this manner too many times again. What he’s saying is right….it’s only a matter of whether the modern football culture – and specifically, the 49er football culture – can handle it.
If Singletary is using this season as an audition, then he should fire Mike Martz right now. Martz’s offense is a quarterback killer and head coach killer.
Case in point: J.T. O’Sullivan. San Francisco was wise to make the move to Shaun Hill. It’s one thing for a quarterback to not be making plays – it’s another to be giving up plays. With 17 turnovers on the year, that’s what O’Sullivan was doing.
Believe it or not, Seattle is just two games out in the NFC West. Their season is far from over.
I was going to make a joke about the 49ers giving up 116 yards receiving and two touchdowns to Seahawks fullback Leonard Weaver, but after seeing Weaver’s highlights, it would be almost unethical for me to not take the opportunity to genuinely praise the man. Not only is Weaver a very good blocker, he’s become a much nimbler runner. He actually shows a burst.
Houston Texans 35, Cincinnati Bengals 6
It might be time to start thinking about the possibility of a winless season in Cincinnati. The mere thought of that is staggering when you consider the number of talented young players on the roster. But Cincy’s already halfway there and heading into the second half of the season with no quarterback, running game or heart.
Any quarterback controversy in Houston is officially off the radar completely. Matt Schaub was 24/28 in this game for 280 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Schaub’s touchdowns were distributed to wideouts Kevin Walter (two) and David Anderson (one). I wonder…is three touchdown passes to white wide receivers a single-game record in the salary cap era?
It’s great to see Dunta Robinson back and playing well after that horrendous leg injury he suffered last season. Robinson could be a real difference-maker in Houston’s secondary down the stretch.
Baltimore Ravens 29, Oakland Raiders 10
JaMarcus Russell faced a very tough defense Sunday, but it’s time to officially be concerned about his completion percentage. Russell was just 15/33 in this game. It was the fourth time this season that he’s thrown more incompletions than completions.
Now the Ravens are using the wildcat offense, only their wrinkle is that they bring in another quarterback, Troy Smith, for it. What’s odd is that they still leave Joe Flacco on the field, which tells you they have some trick play that involves getting the ball to Flacco outside. In the near future, watch for him to throw a deep pass off a long lateral, much like Chad Pennington did a few weeks ago.
How about Flacco’s line in this game: 140 yards passing, with a touchdown; 23 yards rushing, with another touchdown (an impressive one, I might add); 43 yards receiving (in which he out-positioned the defender for the ball).
The other day I was visiting with someone who, everyone would agree, is a football expert. He said to me, completely unprovoked, “You know who is not a very good football player? DeAngelo Hall.”
Carolina Panthers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23
Steve Smith is playing near an MVP level. For years it has seemed like every week he has an enormous catch-and-run for a touchdown. The one he had in this game involved him stepping out of bounds and the ref, for some reason, ruling that he did not step out (something to do with Smith’s heal).
DeAngelo Williams had a nice game: 17 carries, 108 yards. I’ve been saying the past few years that, in terms of simple playing style, Williams is a quicker, faster version of Emmitt Smith. I love his vision and the way he sets up his blocks.
I’m not buying the Arizona Cardinals. This team is too much like all the other Cardinal teams we’ve seen in recent years. Yes, Kurt Warner and his bounty of star receivers put up huge passing numbers, but it’s often to no avail because the Cards don’t have the running game to balance it out. One-dimensional teams become very easy to defeat once the leaves fall off the trees.
Few people are talking about the Panthers secondary, but it’s one of the best in the league. Ken Lucas is having a very good season, Chris Gamble is always steady as a rock, Richard Marshall is a playmaker and Chris Harris is a fumble-forcing machine. More importantly, the Panther defensive backs are good enough for the linebackers and D-linemen to be aggressive up in the box.
Washington Redskins 25, Detroit Lions 17
Jason Campbell is yet to throw an interception this season. That’s incredible considering the guy is still learning the West Coast offense.
I continue to say this one each week: the Redskins are a different offense when Santana Moss is healthy. We saw again Sunday what his big-play ability can do. The mere threat of those big plays will pay huge dividends against Pittsburgh next week.
It should be a crime for a player as gifted as Calvin Johnson to be stuck in the Lions offense. Have we ever seen so much talent go to waste?
Clinton Portis got an earful from Jim Zorn after the running back checked himself into the game without relaying the information to the head coach. That screwed up the play calls. I understand where Zorn is coming from, but how can any coach yell at a tough guy like Portis for subbing himself for a tough gal like Shaun Alexander?
Miami Dolphins 25, Buffalo Bills 16
Just found out Sunday that Ted Ginn Jr. actually is still alive. In fact, he had 175 yards receiving against the Bills!
Not surprised Buffalo lost this one – this had trap game written all over it. Plus, the Dolphins this year seem like one of those teams that is going to win every time you think they’re about to become irrelevant. Teams like that almost always finish 8-8.
Joey Porter was a monster in this game: four tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He was misused by Dom Capers last season, and I was one of the many who mistakenly assumed that he was also washed up. Considering Porter’s already tied his career-high with 10.5 sacks, I’d say I was wrong.
The Bills need to get more out of rookie receiver James Hardy. A few times this season Hardy has made a nice play because of his size (which is why Buffalo drafted him), but he has only seven receptions on the year.
New England Patriots 23, St. Louis Rams 16
This marks two very encouraging games in a row now for Matt Cassel. Against the Broncos last Monday Night, the first-time starter tossed three touchdowns. In this game, Cassel led a late fourth quarter scoring drive to claim the victory.
Not ironically, Cassel has gotten Randy Moss and Wes Welker consistently involved in each of the past two weeks.
The next star receiver in the NFL might just be St. Louis’s Donnie Avery. Undersized but overly-quick, the second-round rookie is proving to be a big-play threat opposite Torry Holt. Avery had 163 yards on six catches in this game, which might not say a whole lot considering he faced New England’s porous secondary. But in the previous two games – both Ram victories – he faced very good secondaries in Washington and Dallas and came away with eight critical catches for 128 yards and two scores.
Hate to make a sports bar fan type comment, but this probably would have been a different game had Steven Jackson played.
New York Jets 28, Kansas City Chiefs 24
Brett, if this game weren’t against a JV team, your three interceptions would have produced a loss. And you know it. You lead the league with 11 picks now.
“JV team” is harsh…I don’t mean to trash the Chiefs like that. They gave a great effort on the road. Tyler Thigpen – 25/36, 280 yards, two touchdowns and zero picks – was especially effective (in part because New York had virtually no film on him). Herm Edwards needs to go with Thigpen for the remainder of the season and just see how things shake out.
If Herm signs Daunte Culpepper, that tells you he’s trying to save his job for next season.
You wonder why, facing an atrocious Kansas City run defense, the Jets felt compelled to call 41 pass plays and just 23 runs.
Chiefs rookie cornerback Brandon Flowers has performed well this season. The second-rounder was thrust into the starting lineup in Week 1, then became the No. 1 corner shortly after that. Against the Jets, Flowers recorded his first two career interceptions.
Philadelphia Eagles 27, Atlanta Falcons 14
A healthy Brian Westbrook reminded us all of just how special he is. Westbrook carried the ball 22 times for 167 yards and two scores. He also had 42 yards receiving on six catches. Besides versatility and intelligence, Westbrook is great because he can change his tempo no matter what angle his body is moving. Few players in football have this kind of elusiveness.
The refs blew a call on the Adam Jennings muffed punt (it wasn’t a muff, he never touched it), but that’s a tough call to see. Can’t blame an official there. This is why the NFL added the challenge rule. And this is why Mike Smith will think twice before using up all three of his timeouts before the two minute warning.
Donovan McNabb remains in top form, and now he has his top receiver, Kevin Curtis, back. With L.J. Smith and Westbrook also healthy, and rookie sensation DeSean Jackson ostensibly improving, Philly now has a very dangerous offense.
Lawyer Milloy deserves a hefty fine for his illegal hit on defenseless L.J. Smith. Considering Milloy had a DUI a few weeks ago, the league may want to consider sitting him down a game. This begs the question: does a player’s off-field and on-filed transgressions factor together in the eyes of Roger Goodell?
Posted by Andy Benoit at 10/27/2008 8:15:00 AM