NFL Week 4: Michael Vick Has Sore Ribs and 25 Things We Learned
The biggest story of the week was the showdown between Michael Vick's Philadelphia Eagles and Donovan McNabb's Washington Redskins.
Of course, it didn't turn out to be the battle it was billed as. Vick left the game very early with a rib injury and Kevin Kolb took over.
In the other 13 games that took place on Sunday several surprising revelations turned up as well.
Here are 25 things we learned during the fourth Sunday of the 2010 NFL season.
No. 25: Jay Cutler Can’t Get Rid Of the Ball
Even before enduring the ninth sack that knocked him out of the game, Cutler was practically clueless in the pocket against the Giants.
Mathias Kiwanuka wasn’t even on the field, yet the Giants had no problem getting to the quarterback. Surely the offensive line and backs deserves the blame for a few of those. But Cutler didn’t seem interested in getting rid of the ball before being taken down.
You never want to give up on the play, but it’s better to throw it away and live to fight another day.
No. 24: Clinton Portis’ Days As A Starter Are Numbered
Portis made some nice runs today in the Redskins surprising road win at Philadelphia. He also added a few nice gains catching the ball out of the backfield. But Ryan Torain was the best runner in a Washington uniform today.
He ran with explosiveness and speed that resembled the Portis of old. Mike Shanahan is pleased to have a duo of veteran and hungry rookie. But by season’s end, Torain will be the primary ball carrier.
No. 23: Terrell Owens Isn’t Finished Yet
During the offseason, it seemed that no one wanted T.O. And since he didn’t produce much in the early going for the Bengals all those GMs and front office decision makers seemed to make the right move, passing on him.
But against Cleveland he returned to his Hall of Fame form, catching 10 balls for 222 yards. With Chad Ochocinco on the other end, the Bengals passing game can be one of the best in the league. It’s up to Carson Palmer to deliver and he did today.
No. 22: Kyle Orton Is Good
He can do more than manage the game. During his stay in Chicago, the front office constantly tried to replace him until they finally shipped him to Denver. And it would seem that the same happened this offseason when the Broncos traded for Brady Quinn and drafted Tim Tebow.
But against a very good Tennessee secondary, Orton threw for 342 yards today and two touchdowns and led the Broncos to a late score that pushed them to 2-2. Don’t expect Josh McDaniels to put in Tebow anytime soon.
No. 21: The Lions Are On Their Way
It’s hard to say a team is progressing when they are 0-4. But in three of those losses, the Lions put up one heck of a fight, losing by less than a touchdown to Chicago, Philadelphia and, this week, the Packers.
Jim Schwartz has started to change the losing culture. When Matthew Stafford comes back, the Lions can expect to be that much better. And with Ndamukong Suh, Calvin Johnson, and Jahvid Best, the future is bright in the Motor City.
No. 20: Sam Bradford Is For Real
Rarely does a rookie quarterback show this type of maturity. Not only has he helped turnaround the Rams but he has done so by making a significant impact.
Recent rookie phenoms like Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, and Joe Flacco were surrounded by much more talent than Bradford. Bradford has done a lot of this on his own.
No. 19: Some Kickers Are Reliable
The Steelers have had trouble with converting field goals all season. And until today, so did the reigning Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
But Josh Scobee earned kickers a bit more respect this weekend by nailing a game winning 59-yarder in the last seconds of the Jaguars upset over Indianapolis. Perhaps some kickers need that type of do-or-die moment to perform their best. That might be the only explanation as to why so many seemingly “easy” field goals have been missed so far this season.
No. 18: The Jets Offense Might Be Better Then Its Defense
Last year, the Jets worked their way into the AFC Championship Game because of their stifling defense. And because they’re offense was so dismal in their 10-9 Week 1 loss against Baltimore, it seemed that not much had changed in the Big Apple.
But in the past two weeks, the Jets defense has been a bit overshadowed by a balanced offensive attack. Braylon Edwards has hauled in long touchdowns each of the past two weeks, Mark Sanchez looks very sharp and, the duo of Shonn Green and LaDainian Tomlinson, each ran for 100 yards against Buffalo today.
If both units continue to play this well, the Jets will again be a Super-Bowl favorite.
No. 17: David Garrard Is An Excellent Quarterback
Maybe he’s not elite in the way of a Peyton Manning or a Drew Brees but look at what he’s done thus far.
In both of Jacksonville’s wins, the quarterback has completed better than 75 percent of his passes. Maurice Jones-Drew is the star of that offense and will likely be an AFC Pro Bowler. But without Garrard’s clutch throws on third down this year, the Jags would not be a game out of first place in the AFC South.
No. 16: Seneca Wallace Isn’t Bad
His arrival in Cleveland was hardly one of the offseason’s most publicized transactions, but Wallace has had a considerable impact on the Browns in 2010.
Jake Delhomme’s injury combined with poor play made Wallace’s rise into the lineup an easy decision for head coach Eric Mangini. And he’s completed better than 65 percent of his passes in the last two weeks as the Browns nearly defeated Baltimore last week and won their first game today against Cincinnati.
Expect Colt McCoy to be the future of the organization, but for now, Wallace is holding that offense together with his legs and arms.
No. 15: Ken Wisenhunt’s Job Is In Jeopardy
Hard to believe that the team that was two minutes away from upsetting Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII could be this bad. And although the Cardinals are certainly not out of the race in the West—because the division is so bad—things need to turn around fast for Arizona.
Whether or not it was the right decision to unload Matt Leinart, if Max Hall cannot get the job done when he steps in for Derek Anderson, it’s going to look like Wisenhunt did not have a plan.
No. 14: The 49ers Are Cursed
The clear cut pick to win the NFC West this season, the 49ers have had nothing but trouble in 2010. After an 0-3 start, they seemed to be on track for their first win this weekend in Atlanta. Even after blowing most of a 14-0 lead.
But even an interception coupled with a very long return turned into a disaster for San Francisco. Nate Clements was stripped of the ball during an interception return, which led to the Falcons game winner in the final seconds.
The only silver lining for the once-proud franchise is that the NFC West is so horrible, they are far from out of contention. This must be payback for all those Super Bowl wins from 1981-1994.
No. 13: Donovan McNabb Can Still Move
In his return to Philadelphia, McNabb made some nice throws early on to help the Redskins build a 14-0 lead against the rival Eagles. Of course he also missed several wide open receivers, prompting Philly fans to rejoice in the decision to trade him away.
But in the second half, McNabb kept several drives going by scrambling for first downs with his feet. The Redskins remain a work in progress on offense, but even at age 33, McNabb is still capable of being a multi-talented quarterback.
No. 12: The Steelers Defense Is Far From Perfect
Don’t let the score fool you. Even though they had surrendered just 10 points in the game until the final minute, Pittsburgh’s defense was shaky against Baltimore.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s touchdown was the most obvious defensive breakdown, but the Ravens were able to move the ball on Pittsburgh through the air. Neither Troy Polamalu nor James Harrison came up with the big play on defense that was becoming routine this season. Carrying the team in Ben Roethlisberger’s absence might have taken a toll on the unit.
No. 11: Jimmy Clausen Is Ahead of Schedule
The Panthers are 0-4 and with the Falcons and the Saints three games ahead of them already, their season might be on life support. If that is the case then expect to see more experimentation with Jimmy Clausen.
Although he isn’t a high-priced No. 1 pick, the Panthers front office has to be pleased with his development. Otherwise he would not be slated to start on the road against the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.
Whoever had that much faith in him this early was rewarded a bit on Sunday. Despite not posting very good numbers, Clausen made some important throws and kept the Panthers in the game down to the final minutes. That type of experience is far more valuable than anything he could gain in practice or in the team meetings.
No. 10: Dustin Keller Is a Pro-Bowler
Antonio Gates is the gold standard for AFC tight ends and the perennial All-Pro is headed for another Pro Bowl spot this season. But Gates will have some serious competition when it comes to Pro Bowl voting.
The Jets Dustin Keller already has five touchdown catches in just three games this season. His 19 catches and 254 yards are trailing Gates but Keller and Sanchez have a great report. Look for that to continue all season.
No. 9: Atlanta Is A Super Bowl Contender
Minnesota, Dallas, and the Saints each earned much more preseason publicity as the contender for the NFC’s spot in Super Bowl XLV. But the Falcons should have the inside track at the league’s quarter mark.
There only blemish is an overtime loss at Pittsburgh: nothing to be ashamed of. And although they needed all 60 minutes to defeat the winless 49ers today, they crushed Arizona by five touchdowns earlier this season and defeated the Super Bowl champion Saints at the Dome last week.
With a somewhat favorable schedule the remainder of the season, the road to the Super Bowl might run through the Georgia Dome.
No. 8: The NFC East Is Bad
Dallas had the week off but none of the other teams in the NFC East impressed anyone around the NFL either. The Eagles lost to the Redskins with neither team turning in a quality output.
And the Giants struggled mightily to defeat a Bears team that seemingly didn’t bother to show up.
It’s strange to believe but the 1-2 Cowboys might be in the driver’s seat at this point.
No. 7: You Can Win Without Running The Ball
Until they were beaten today by the Jaguars, the Colts seemingly had that strategy working to perfection this year. But a few other teams around the league picked up where Peyton Manning and the Colts' passing game left off.
Without Ray Rice, the Ravens managed to upend Pittsburgh thanks to Joe Flacco, Both the Saints and Broncos have no running game at all and they pulled out victories as well. The same is true about the Packers without Ryan Grant.
It’s not a great strategy for a 16-game season, but week-to-week several teams have managed to survive by keeping the ball in the air.
No. 6: Peyton Hillis Can Be a Star
He seemed to be a throw-in in the Browns-Broncos deal that sent Brady Quinn to Denver. Although he did have on huge game as a rookie in 2008, Hillis was not expected to be the Browns' workhorse
But somehow, the 6'3'', 250-pounder from Arkansas has posted back-to-back 100-yard efforts. That alone doesn’t make him a Pro Bowler, but because the Browns have a very underrated offensive line, Hillis could total well over 1,200 yards this year.
No. 5: The Bills Will Have the No. 1 Pick
Detroit, Carolina and San Francisco are all 0-4 at this point but the Bill have the inside track on the league’s worst record. Why? Because the Bills play a much nastier schedule that includes games against Miami, New England, the Jets, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Baltimore.
It’s pretty obvious that the Bills need a quarterback so there should be some silver lining for Buffalo fans. Jake Locker, Andrew Luck and possibly Ryan Mallett are each good candidates to be the No. 1 overall pick. And since the Bills haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly, they are expected to go after one of those signal callers.
No. 4: Joe Flacco Is Back On Track
Even more than their trademark ferocious defense, the Ravens pulled into a narrow first place lead in the AFC North because of Flacco. The touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh will make all the late night highlight reels but Flacco was on target with most of his passes on Sunday.
Despite struggling earlier this season with interceptions and incompletions, Flacco has rebounded nicely. The addition of Anquan Boldin has helped but Todd Heap’s minor resurgence has as well. And once Ray Rice returns to 100 percent the passing game will continue to open up.
No. 3: Todd Collins Is Still In the NFL
It’s pretty incredible, isn’t it? Collins made some news back in 2007 when he helped lead the Redskins to the postseason. But outside of Washington he had been largely a forgotten man. Until Jay Cutler’s concussion on Sunday Night Football against the Giants.
No matter how often you actually get on the field, it’s a pretty good statistic to go 14 years (1997-2010) without throwing an interception. Sadly, the “streak” came to an end when Collins threw one in the loss to the Giants.
No. 2: LaDainian Tomlinson Still Has A Lot Left
When All-Pro, future Hall of Fame running backs are abandoned by the team that they made famous their usually isn’t much left in the tank for them: See Emmitt Smith, O.J. Simpson, Franco Harris, and Tony Dorsett.
A similar fate was whispered by some with regards to LaDanian Tomlinson’s signing by the New York Jets earlier this year. But L.T. showed a few signs of juice during the Jets first three games, then exploded in today’s win over Buffalo with 19 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
It’s unlikely that L.T. will turn in that type of effort six or seven more times this season, but his use has already far exceeded many expectations.
No. 1: The Saints Are Vulnerable
New Orleans has yet to look like the Super Bowl Champions of 2009. Arguably their best performance thus far came in their only loss of the season, when the Falcons tripped them up at home in overtime two weeks ago.
As has been stated before, the Saints defense has not kept been able to rack up turnovers like it did a season ago: that would be virtually impossible. Instead, New Orleans has been let down occasionally by its offensive unit.
Drew Brees cannot throw on every down and with the injuries to Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, the running game has suffered. The Saints are loaded with receiving talent but they have been somewhat inconsistent when it comes to scoring points.
It’s a long season, however, and the Saints remain at 3-1, essentially tied for the division lead. That could change if the offense doesn’t start to look a little bit sharper, beginning with next week’s trip to Arizona.