One quarter of the 2009 NFL’s “Own the Moment” season is already in the books with the recent close of Week Four around the league. Before we start recapping Week Four’s action on the field, I have to commend the NFL for their great work this week in supporting the fight against breast cancer with their “Crucial Catch” campaign. As someone whose family has been personally affected by the disease, it is great to see the NFL getting involved in trying to find a cure.
There was “pink” everywhere in NFL stadiums including NFL coaches’ hats, fan jerseys, goalpost pads and ribbons on NFL personnel—even Michael Irvin on NFL Network wore a pink tie and ribbon. Plus there was a Public Service Awareness piece by Fergie from the Blackeyed Peas on early screenings and “tough” NFL players thumbed their nose at stereotypes by wearing pink uniform attire including Saints QB Drew Brees, Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Vikings QB Brett Favre, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco and others.
I can totally understand why NFL fans are flocking to TV’s everywhere as the story lines are plentiful around the league. Last week NFL games topped the local ratings in 26 markets, beating several premieres on the networks including ABC’s Dancing with the Stars (ranked No. 2).
Week Four was another exciting week filled with Revenge (Brett Favre looked like his old MVP self in leading the Vikings over the Packers), “Normalcy” (Peyton Manning throws for over 300 yards in another victory, Steelers pounding their running game to a win over the Chargers and the Giants steamrolling the hapless Chiefs), “Surprises” (Jaguars easily knocking the Titans into the 0-4 abyss and the upstart Broncos fighting off the Cowboys), and “Heartbreakers” (NY Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez playing like a rookie in a tough loss to the Saints, Jim Zorn Haters going home unhappy as the Redskins squeaked out a 16-13 win over the winless Bucs and the poor Browns losing in the last seconds of overtime to the promising Bengals).
The game everyone wanted to see, Brett Favre’s long awaited showdown with the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football didn’t disappoint. The NFL and ESPN’s leading man turned back the clock—defying his impending 40th Birthday on October 10th—and showed the league, and more importantly Packers GM Ted Thompson, that he still has some fire left in his basement in a 30-23 victory.
Favre continually said leading up to the game that one game was not going to define his career and that he was not out for “revenge”, but who was the old graybeard passer trying to kid. You know Favre felt great as he produced three touchdown passes and 271 yards while completing 24 for 31 passes, without a turnover. Of course everyone will “paint” the MNF game’s picture as Favre, Favre, and more Favre, but it was a total team effort by the ascending Vikings (4-0). The Vikes battered Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (passing numbers: 26-37, 384 yards, two TDs, and one INT), sacking him eight times, causing an interception and forcing a fumble. The main disruptor for the Vikings improving defense was DE Jared Allen, who produced a career-high 4 1/2 sacks and a safety in the fourth quarter. The night was magical for Favre and Vikings, but everyone—especially ESPN—better remember there are 12 more games to be played and Super Bowl XLIV in February is a long ways away.
Some Lloyd’s Leftovers from Week 4 include:
NFL needs to stop protecting Brady
As soon as the “Brady Rule” was on the books this spring, you knew there would be a game situation that highlighted the ambiguity (at the referees discretion) and overall ridiculousness of it. It had to be fate as the Patriots-Ravens game this past Sunday was the model for the misinterpretation of the rule that basically makes NFL quarterbacks into China dolls and of course Tom Brady was the “victim”.
In the Patriots 27-21 win over the Ravens, the NFL officiating crew led by referee Ron Winter called two ridiculous personal fouls against the Ravens that of course extended Patriots’ scoring drives. The two calls amplified the NFL’s continuing “sissy-fication” of the game and further fueled the debate that the league cares more about their million-dollar passers than any other position. After the game, the Ravens players could not hold their tongues. “Without totally going off the wall here, it is embarrassing to the game,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Brady is good enough to make his own plays, let him make the play.
When you have two great teams that are going at it, let them go at it. Both of their touchdown drives had personal fouls that kept drives alive. Did that win or lose the game? No, but it got them 14 points.” I could not agree more with the Ravens as the NFL that I grew up watching in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s was a league where a quarterback put his shoulder pads and helmet on like everyone else, so he was rightfully fair game. As former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan used to say, “They should just put flags on the quarterbacks and get it over with”. On NBC’s Sunday Night Football, Brady’s former teammate Rodney Harrison jokingly told Brady, “Take off the skirt and put on a pair of pants”.
The Indianapolis Colts are machines
Despite everyone including yours truly predicting a lower than expectations season, the Colts just keep marching on as they won their 13th straight regular season game in a 34-17 victory over Seattle on Sunday. The AFC South leading Colts , who are off to a 4-0 start this season, extended their NFL record for most 4-0 starts to five (started back in 2000). The way the Colts and their quarterback Peyton Manning dominated the Seahawks made their head coach Jim Mora say, “We played greatness today. (Manning) is one of the finest of all times.”.
Two rookie head coaches are undefeated
Jim Caldwell ( Indianapolis Colts) and Josh McDaniels (Denver Broncos) with their respective wins over the Seahawks and Cowboys both have led their teams to 4-0 starts. This is only the second time in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) that two rookie head coaches have guided their teams to 4-0 starts in the same season. The last pair were former NY Jets head coach Al Groh and former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz back in 2000.
Redskins pull their coach from the fire, for this week
After an embarrassing 19-14 loss to the formerly winless Detroit Lions (ending their 19-game losing streak) last week, the Washington Redskins and their head coach Jim Zorn could ill-afford to look bad against the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week.
With the Redskins-Lions game ending play of a terrible ill-fated hook-and-lateral play fresh in their minds, Redskins’ fans were ready to let the team have it and they did. The boo-birds were out early and often against the Buccaneers as the Redskins were putrid in the first half producing three punts, three turnovers (fumble and two INTs), one missed field goal and losing by a score of 10-0. By all accounts it looked like many Zorn haters would be putting back on their Burgundy-and-Gold colors after the former Seahawks assistant was let go with another embarrassing loss seeming to be close at hand.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Zorn’s firing, the Redskins woke-up. The Redskins, fueled by a DeAngelo Hall interception and a Jason Campbell to Santana Moss 59-yard touchdown bomb, stormed back scoring sixteen unanswered points in the 3rd quarter to defeat the Bucs by a score 16-13 and thus saving Zorn’s hide for another week.
However as satisfying as the “ugly” win may have been for Zorn, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder may still be lurking to give him the boot. The Redskins still don’t have any offensive continuity and have been held to fewer than 20 points in 11 of the last 12 games. Plus running back and team leader—for better or worse—Clinton Portis is not happy about the play calling and his role on the team as the former Pro Bowl back is still searching for his first 100-yard game of 2009.
For Zorn’s sake, the Redskins better take care of the business against the lowly Carolina Panthers (0-4) and Kansas City Chiefs (0-4) in the next two weeks as they have a big divisional showdown looming against the Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) in Week 7. Struggling Redskins QB Jason Campbell (passing numbers: 12-22, 54.5%, 170 yards, 2 TDs, and 3 INTs) said of his team’s halftime wake-up call, “At halftime, I was like, if we don’t pull this one out, I don’t know what I’m going to do on Monday. I might as well hibernate.”
Injuries still a factor around NFL
The scariest moment of this week’s action occurred when Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither suffered a head and neck injury while blocking a defender in the Ravens loss to the Patriots. Gaither had to be removed on a backboard, which brought back painful memories of NFL players who suffered serious injuries on the field like former Lions O-lineman Mike Utley.
Thankfully Gaither was quickly tended to and head/neck tests at the hospital came back negative. The big former University of Maryland road grader might even miraculously be back on the field in the Ravens’ next game against the Bengals . Other injuries of note happened to NY Giants QB Eli Manning (Plantar fasciitis), Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (possible dislocated kneecap), Raiders RB Darren McFadden (knee), Baltimore Ravens LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (tore his left quad), New York Giants LB Michael Boley (knee sprain), Bears WR Devin Hester (shoulder) and Bears WR/KR Johnny Knox (shin)
Colts QB Peyton Manning – “Robo-Quarterback”, as I like to call him, was at his best in the Colts 34-17 victory over the Seahawks. Manning, while making household names of young receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, produced his 4th straight game of 300- yards plus passing—first time in his storied 12-year NFL career that he accomplished the feat. The three-time MVP definitely is trying to outdo his little brother, NY Giants QB Eli, who also is playing at a high level thus fueling speculation of an all-Manning Super Bowl.
The older Manning finished with passing numbers 31 of 41 for 353 yards, two TDs, and one INT in the win. Manning also tied Fran Tarkenton for No. 3 on the NFL’s career passing touchdowns list with 342 and now only trails Dan Marino (420) and Brett Favre (472).
Jacksonville Jaguars QB David Garrard – Despite playing in front of 18,000 empty seats, Garrard found his rhythm for the second week in a row. In a 37-17 dismantling of the Texans, Garrard threw for passing numbers 27-37, 323 yds, and 3 TDs 323 yards and 0 INTs. I wonder how Jags head coach Jack Del Rio will motivate Garrard this week as last week he put the kibosh on their quarterback’s radio show. Next up for Garrard and the Jags are the struggling Seahawks (1-3) and Rams (0-4).
New York Giants WR Steve Smith – Who needs Plaxico? Eli’s new favorite target posted a career-high 11 receptions for 134 yards and 2 TDs in the Giants’ 27-16 win over Kansas City. Smith has 34 receptions through Week 4, the most receptions through the first four games of a season in Giants’ history.
Denver Broncos WR Brandon Marshall — Let’s not kid ourselves, the Broncos would be “crazy” to get rid of Marshall even if he is a pain. When average QB Kyle Orton and the Broncos needed him most, Marshall responded with the play of the game against the Cowboys. Late in the 4th quarter, Marshall catch a Kyle Orton jump ball pass over Cowboys CB Terrence Newman and weaved his way to a spectacular 51-yard game-winning touchdown.
New England Patriots WR Randy Moss – The future hall of famer posted his first touchdown of the season in the Patriots’ 27-21 win over Baltimore. Moss’ 14-yard touchdown catch gave him 137 career touchdowns and now ranks sixth all-time for the most career TDs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Aqib Talib – The often misunderstood tough corner came to play this week for the Bucs against the Redskins. In the Bucs’ 16-13 loss to the Skins, Talib produced three INTs against quarterback Jason Campbell.
Other Honorees: Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler (Made like John Elway on a memorable helicopter dive for a touchdown in a win over the Detroit Lions); Niners QB Shaun Hill (was solid in the Niners’ blowout win over the Rams, pushing his record as a starter to 10-4); Miami Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown (rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-10 win over the Bills); New Orleans Saints DB Darren Sharper (had two INTs and returned one a club-record 99 yards for touchdown in the Saints win over the NY Jets); Houston Texans Defense (allowed only 165 yards of offense in their 29-6 victory over the Raiders, which was the Texans defense’s best performance since 2004); Pittsburgh Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall (after being benched last week, the former first rounder ran for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a SNF win over the Chargers); Dolphins OLB Cameron Wake (The former All-CFL star was activated this week and produced six tackles and 3.0 sacks while subbing for Joey Porter); Vikings WR Sidney Rice (Special teamer of the week as he snagged two onside kicks – looked like Charles Barkley grabbing a rebound — to seal the Vikes win over the Packers).
New York Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez – Welcome to the NFL rookie!! After three weeks on a magic carpet ride, Sanchez found out that in the NFL, teams will quickly figure you out. Sanchez completed only 14 of 27 passes for 138 yards, 0 TDs, and three INTs in the Jets 24-10 loss to the Saints. New Orleans frustrated and confused the young passer as he turned the ball over four times. Sanchez directly contributed two touchdowns for the Saints—one on Saints’ safety Darren Sharper’s 99-yard interception touchdown return and the other on a sack/fumble in the endzone.
Maybe now everyone including Jets head coach Rex Ryan will back off the “Sanchize” talk, as in he is the franchise. As the first rounder from USC (only 16 college starts) has a lot to learn in the “Big Boy” NFL.
Tennessee Titans QB Kerry Collins – Hey Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, “Put in Vince Young already”. Your team is off to a horrible 0-4 start and Collins along with your terrible secondary are the main culprits. Collins was back to his old New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders form as he produced numbers of 29-48, 284 yds, one TD, and two INTs in the Titans embarrassing 37-17 loss to the Jags. Collins has four turnovers in the last two games and is playing like the “journeyman” that he has always been. Put in the 2006 NFL Rookie of the Year, who might provide a spark to a team looking for a soft place to fold right now.
CBS Analyst and former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon – I guess somewhere Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb was feeling Gannon’s pain regarding overtime rules. Gannon commentating on CBS for the Bengals-Browns game got confused about when an NFL overtime game is completed. Right before Bengals kicker Shayne Graham attempted the potential game- winning field goal with seven seconds left in overtime (made it), Gannon wondered on air about whether the Bengals might be leaving too much time left for a big kickoff return by Browns Pro Bowler Josh Cribbs. Luckily for Gannon, play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle corrected him and they both had a good chuckle over the former Raiders quarterback’s gaffe.
Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden – Boy was I wrong about this guy after he came out in the draft in 2008. Instead of being the next Adrian Peterson, McFadden is looking like colossal draft bust Kijana Carter right now. Maybe it is the play of inconsistent QB JaMarcus Russell or the Raiders banged-up O-line, but McFadden needs to do more. Facing formerly the NFL’s weakest rush defense (Houston Texans), McFadden produced minus-three yards on six rushing attempts. He also will miss two to four weeks with a knee injury that requires surgery. For the season McFadden only has produced 145 yards on 47 carries (3.1 ypc) and only one TD.
Cleveland Browns WR Braylon Edwards – It wasn’t that long ago that Edwards was talking about holding out and that he wanted to be traded out of Cleveland. Well after another terrible game, Edwards may one get his wish as several fans probably want drive him to the airport. Edwards had zero catches and a committed a bad personal foul penalty ( negated a good rushing gain) in the loss Browns 23-20 overtime loss to the Bengals. The former first rounder has not looked nothing like a No. 1 receiver this season and only has only has 10 catches for 139 yards and 0 TDs. Did I also mention that he allegedly got in an altercation with a club promoter arguing over LeBron James too this week.
Patriots 27, Ravens 21
Bears 48, Lions 24
Colts 34, Seahawks 17
Giants 27, Chiefs 16
Redskins 16, Bucs 13
Bengals 23, Browns 20
Jaguars 37, Titans 17
Texans 29, Raiders 6
Saints 24, Jets 10
Dolphins 38, Bills 10
Broncos 17, Cowboys 10
49ers 35, Rams 0
Steelers 38, Chargers 28
Vikings 30, Packers 23
Bye Week Teams: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Arizona, Carolina
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)Posted in 2009 NFL Season, 2009 NFL Week 4 Review, 2009 NFL Weekly Reviews, Game Balls, Lloyd's Lackey, Peyton Manning