BY ANDY BENOIT, www.NFLTouchdown.com
Indianapolis Colts 18, New England Patriots 15
Classic Colts-Patriots: you had New England eating up the clock and controlling the tempo, Peyton Manning making all the big plays through the air, Adam Vinatieri deciding it with a 52-yard field goal and Bill Belichick barely shaking Tony Dungy’s hand afterward.
The Patriots lost this game, but a huge positive that stood out was the confidence Matt Cassel displayed. He is growing each week. And while he’s still not making his third and fourth reads from the pocket, he’s at least diagnosing defenses on the presnap and showing a presence in the huddle.
The tendency is to think that the Colts got gashed by New England’s inside run. They did, but in exchange, they kept Randy Moss and Wes Welker in check. If these teams square off again, expect Indy to keep their safeties back deep again.
The Colts rushing attack is still not there. I think this team really misses guard Ryan Lilja.
It’s a shame that this thoroughly well-played game came down to a boneheaded penalty by a pedestrian player. David Thomas’s 15-yard personal foul was one of the most costly infractions we’ve seen in the NFL this season.
Only one time did I see Dwight Freeney truly disrupt the pocket in this game. I still respect the double teams he commands, but the Colts will come to regret making him the highest paid defensive player in the league.
New York Giants 35, Dallas Cowboys 14
It wasn’t even as close as the score indicates.
Have we ever – EVER – seen a team as befuddled and downtrodden by their quarterback situation as Dallas? At one point, Brooks Bollinger started to go into the game and was called back. Not a soul in this organization believes in Brad Johnson or Bollinger. I can’t remember ever seeing such a high quality team become utterly deflated from losing its quarterback for a few weeks.
We get on Terrell Owens’s case all the time; to be fair, we need to praise his leadership this week. Owens did his best to uplift Brad Johnson on the sidelines, and after the game he remained positive. (Contributing to the offensive catastrophe with a rare fumble may have helped humble the man.)
I still can’t get over the job Steve Spagnuolo is doing with this Giants defense. He has made stars out of role players like Danny Clark, Fred Robbins (who is playing at a Pro Bowl level in his own right), James Butler and Jason Webster.
If you asked me what I’d rather have, New York’s trio of running backs or Adrian Peterson, I’d take the former…mainly because I love Brandon Jacobs.
Dallas is really missing cornerback Terence Newman, but more than him, they’re missing a complimentary pass-rusher to DeMarcus Ware. Anthony Spencer can’t stay healthy, and Greg Ellis has gotten old.
Miami Dolphins 26, Denver Broncos 17
I hope a lot of people had the opportunity to watch this game – it was a genuinely hard fought contest. These teams went at each other like long-time division rivals. Amplifying the drama was the fact that Brandon Marshall spent the afternoon sulking (like a child), Joey Porter was ruthless in his trash talking, Tony Sparano was as animated as an end zone seat fan and Jay Cutler was downright pissy by the fourth quarter.
Here’s a very revealing – and truthful – quote from Joey Porter about Brandon Marshall: "He's one of those guys that if he don't get the ball in the first two series in the first quarter, he's out of it. He had 18 catches in a game before. So he's not used to going the whole first half with no balls. We got in his head and he pretty much was done."
Porter went on to say, "I didn't get inside his head, we just were talkin'. He got in his own head. He was done,. He's one of those soft receivers, where he has to have the ball all the time. If he don't get it, he's going to mope and cry. He did it to himself."
The Dolphins defense outperformed Denver’s offense in every fashion. It started with taking away the run game. Miami loaded the box with eight, sometimes nine defenders, and held the Broncos to 14 yards on 12 carries. The defensive backs, particularly the corners, were extremely physical with the wideouts.
On the bright side for Denver, rookie left tackle Ryan Clady had another outstanding game. He has outperformed Jake Long this season. Clady, in fact, might already be a Pro Bowler.
Without Champ Bailey, Denver’s defense is worthless. Karl Paymah led the team with 13 tackles on the day…most of them against Greg Camarillo, the diminutive Dolphins receiver who turned the Broncos into dog food.
Tennessee Titans 19, Green Bay Packers 16
This may have been the best game of the day, and nearly half the people who watched it did not get to see the ending because FOX took them to their local market broadcast of New York vs. Dallas. This begs the question: if FOX has the doubleheader for the day – which they did – then why can’t the NFL just push back the start time of the Cowboys-Giants game by 15 minutes or so and give the Titans-Packers audience a chance to see a great ending to a great game? The people who didn’t get to see this ending got screwed out of three hours of their Sunday afternoon. There’s no reason not to delay the Cowboys-Giants start time. Making the 80,000 people at the Meadowlands wait is better than screwing the millions of viewers at home. Plus, if we’re lucky, the late game will start so late that FOX will cancel that pathetic post game show they call The OT.
As for the game itself…
Chris Johnson is one of the league’s elite running backs. Few guys can change directions going full speed north and south like him. He has some of the best hip swivel I’ve seen.
Helping matters is the fact that LenDale White is thriving in a complimentary role.
Titans center Kevin Mawae is performing at an All-Pro level once again.
Although they lost, the Packers are in pretty good shape. Aaron Rodgers is playing like a star (this game included), which is good because he just got paid like one (over $20 million guaranteed). Al Harris and Atari Bigby are back healthy, which means the secondary can be stifling again.
Also, the Green Bay offensive line is starting to round into shape. Left guard Daryn Colledge has been more consistent this season. On Sunday, Colledge slid outside to left tackle to replace an injured Chad Clifton and did a very commendable job. (It should be noted that Kyle Vanden Bosch missed all but three plays.)
Cortland Finnegan vs. Greg Jennings was a first-class matchup. Finnegan won it, just barely.
Stephen Tulloch is blossoming into a very fine middle linebacker for Tennessee. Playing behind Albert Haynesworth helps.
Atlanta Falcons 24, Oakland Raiders 0
I don’t even need to state any opinions about this one. Here’s all you need to know:
First Downs: Atlanta 27, Oakland 3 (the three tied with Cleveland for fewest in the NFL since the merger)
Total Yards: Atlanta 453, Oakland 77 (at halftime, Atlanta 309, Oakland -2. Minus two! You have any idea how hard that is to do?)
Young Franchise Quarterbacks: Matt Ryan…17/22, 220, 2 TD. JaMarcus Russell…6/19, 31 yards, 1 INT
Team Owner: Atlanta…Arthur Blank, Oakland…Al Davis
Philadelphia Eagles 26, Seattle Seahawks 7
The score would have been 53-7 if Philly didn’t go through their customary dry spell early on.
One of the most fascinating things I learned in this game was that Brian Westbrook does not always maximize his yardage opportunities in the first half because he likes to set up the defense for the second half. Very few players in football are good enough to do this. Just further evidence that Westbrook is one of the smartest competitors in the game.
Somewhat quietly, Donovan McNabb is having a Pro Bowl campaign. He was 28/43 for 349 yards and two touchdowns with one pick in this one. Expect the nation to take note of McNabb’s Renaissance now that the Phillies are off the radar and NBC is broadcasting the Eagles game against the Giants next Sunday night.
Seneca Wallace was absolutely reckless with the football on Sunday. His completion percentage was under 50, and it’s amazing he did not throw at least one interception.
Marcus Trufant, who received a long-term mega deal over the offseason, has been victimized too often in 2008.
Brent Celek enjoyed a fine coming out party in this game. The second-year tight end had six receptions for 131 yards. In all likelihood, he just made L.J. Smith an unrestricted free agent in 2009.
New York Jets 26, Buffalo Bills 17
It’s time to raise our eyebrows about the Bills. This marks two consecutive division losses, both of which were aided by turnovers.
Marshawn Lynch has not been much of a factor in the run game as of late.
Nobody is talking about the Jets defense, but it’s a unit that ranks near the top statistically. All of the key pieces that New York was banking one coming into the season have materialized. Kris Jenkins has been outstanding at nose tackle. Calvin Pace has made plays at outside linebacker. Kerry Rhodes is earning his big checks, and Darrelle Revis continues to climb the charts on the list of elite cornersbacks.
You know, one Jet defender who hasn’t done anything all year, however, is first-round rookie Vernon Gholston. Is anyone even talking about him anymore?
Have we mentioned Brett Favre’s gunslinger mentality yet? Better make sure to get that in at least once.
Chicago Bears 27, Detroit Lions 23
Give credit to Rex Grossman – the guy came in and did exactly what a backup quarterback is supposed to do. That said, Bears fans better pray Kyle Orton’s ankle heals in a hurry.
Matt Forte had another fine game, thanks as usual to his vision and patience.
Calvin Johnson had a career-high eight receptions in this game. And still, all that made me do was shake my head even harder at how despicable it is to see this man’s rare talent go to waste.
What’s the deal with Devin Hester? All season long I’ve been saying that he’d kill teams if they didn’t make a concerted effort to avoid him in the return game. I still think that’s true, but even when Hester has been getting his opportunities this season, he hasn’t done anything. He doesn’t seem to be running with a decisive burst. We see this happen all the time to return aces. They have huge success and, in a strenuous effort to replicate that success, they get away from running downhill and take up dancing.
Cincinnati Bengals 21, Jacksonville Jaguars 19
Congratulations Jacksonville, you’re officially the most disappointing team in the NFL this year.
Someone needs to call the Duval County Sheriff’s Office and repot a missing run game. How is it that Fred Taylor hits a wall all the sudden and his understudy and partner, Maurice Jones-Drew, suddenly stops making impact plays?
And an even bigger “how is it” for Cedric Benson gaining over 100 yards against this team.
Chad Johnson found the end zone twice Sunday. His first celebration was a comical scamper down the sideline and into the embraces of his teammates. His second celebration was handing the ball to the referee. Say this about Johnson: he might be a distraction, but at least he knows when to demonstrate humility in fleeting times of success.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is no better than a backup quarterback in this league, but he does deserve a tip of the cap for his underrated running abilities.
Did you see John Henderson’s fight with Andrew Whitworth? Both players got ejected. Henderson deserves to be suspended – for multiple games, in fact. Cameras caught him trying to gouge Whitworth’s eyes.
Baltimore Ravens 37, Cleveland Browns 27
The man with perhaps the best alliteration in football – Ravens rookie running back from Rutgers, Ray Rice – was a monster in this game. Rice should be starting ahead of Willis McGahee even once the veteran is healthy. The quicker, faster Rice offers explosiveness and versatility that an otherwise limited Ravens offense desperately needs. Rice had 21 carries for 154 yards Sunday.
He hasn’t been starting on a weekly basis in Baltimore, but former Bengals offensive tackle Willie Anderson is proving to be an excellent addition to the club.
Hats off to Derek Mason (nine receptions, 136 yards, one touchdown). The savvy veteran’s consistency has greatly aided the development of Joe Flacco.
Trevor Pryce had an outstanding bull-rush on Eric Steinbach. When Pryce is clicking, this is a ferocious Ravens defense.
Cross apply this analysis to Shaun Rogers for the Browns.
Not to pick on the guy, but this season the Browns are 2-0 without Kellen Winslow and 1-5 with him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30, Kansas City Chiefs 27
Okay, let’s get one thing clear: what happened in this game was the Bucs simply had more talent than the Chiefs. Yes, Kansas City built a big early lead, but that was only because they emptied their bag of tricks. Trick plays can mask deficiencies for a little while, but they won’t protect you over the course of an entire game.
Jeff Garcia was a genius down the stretch. Late in the fourth quarter he used his 38-year-old legs to scramble and make tough throws at seemingly every major juncture. His touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant was splendid, and even more impressive was the way Garcia fit the ball between two defenders to find Alex Smith for the game-tying two-point conversion.
By the way, how about the reclamation project that is Antonio Bryant? Out of the league just a few months ago, the former third-round pick is on pace for a 1,000-yard season.
Two players are starting to become intriguing for the Chiefs: quarterback Tyler Thigpen and running back Jamaal Charles. Not saying that either is worth a starting role heading into 2009, but both young guys warrant a close look.
Herm Edwards deserves to be the coach of this team after the season. He has unselfishly put all his chips in developing his young players – including a slew of rookies. Judging by the progress those individuals are making, Edwards’s investment will pay dividends at some point down the road.
Arizona Cardinals 34, St. Louis Rams 13
What may prove to be the biggest personnel move of the season was made by Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt Sunday: benching Edgerrin James for fifth-round rookie Tim Hightower. I was ready to declare the Cardinals frauds because of their one-dimensional offense – in fact, I think I did call them frauds a week ago – but with Hightower’s power and burst, this now becomes a lethal attack.
It will be interesting to see how James handles the rest of this season. He seemed upbeat on the sidelines Sunday, but this is a man who is not accustom to sitting. And sit he will, as the No. 2 running back appears to be, rightfully so, J.J. Arrington. James is almost obsolete.
We’re starting to hear a lot about Kurt Warner now. Take a look at his numbers: well over 2,000 yards passing with a quarterback rating in the triple digits. Wasn’t this his profile back when he was an MVP and Super Bowl champion?
Steven Jackson: seven carries, 17 yards. If the man isn’t 100 percent healthy, don’t put him back in the lineup.
Antrel Rolle is doing a fine job at free safety. What’s unique about him is that he’s not necessarily fast, but he’s proven to be one of the most dangerous return artists once he snags an interception. He had the fourth pick-six of his career Sunday.
Minnesota Vikings 28, Houston Texans 21
The Vikings were in control of this game from the start, which comes as no surprise considering Adrian Peterson had his way with the Texan defense.
Bernard Berrian (two receptions, 104 yards, one touchdown) is really playing well for Minnesota. He got off to a bit of a slow start, but, despite a few dropped passes, he’s turned into the deep threat that they paid him $16 million to be.
Owen Daniels put up big numbers: 11 catches, 133 yards. But the Vikings will take that if it means limiting Andre Johnson to just four receptions for 62 yards.
Quarterback controversy is going to follow Matt Schaub throughout his career, even after impressive backup Sage Rosenfels moves to another team (or after Schaub moves to another team). The reason why is, Schaub is injury prone.
Jared Allen is starting to come alive. He recorded his sixth and seventh sack on the season Sunday, and he remains near the top of the league in quarterback pressures.
Posted by Andy Benoit at 11/3/2008 7:52:00 AM