Drive Of The Week: OAK 13 NYJ 13 --- 4:36 remaining in OT --- OAK ball, 1st & 10 at OAK 19
Sometimes the hardest part of having # 1 draft picks is dealing with the growing pains that go along with their development. Among all of the other things engulfing the Raiders lately has been a growing concern about whether JaMarcus Russell, the 2007 #1 overall pick, is the long-term solution at quarterback. With time dwindling away in OT, Russell and the Raiders got the ball at their own 19, and two throws later they were in position for the win. On the first play of the drive, Russell threw a dart to Javon Walker over the middle for 16 yards. Then, on the next play, Russell struck again. This time he found his favorite target, Zach Miller, near the left hash, on a play that went for 27 yards down to the Jet 38. All off a sudden the Raiders were in business, and also within range of kicker Sebastian Janikowski. After a Justin Fargas run lost a yard and Russell threw two conservative incompletions, it was time for Janikowski to attempt a 57-yard field goal for the win. It was the longest game-winning overtime field goal in the history of the NFL. And it was a drive that made us remember why JaMarcus Russell was the #1 pick. At least for one day the growing pains didn’t hurt.
STEP FORWARD / STEP BACK:
Buffalo Bills – If anybody entered week 7 needing a big win to validate their record, it was Buffalo. Despite entering the week 4-1 and in sole possession of first place in the AFC East, people still questioned Dick Jauron’s upstart squad. San Diego came to Orchard Park red hot, off the heels of a huge 30-10 stomping of the Patriots, which appeared to get their season back on track. Enter Buffalo’s defense. They held LaDainian Tomlinson to 41 yards on the ground and gave Philip Rivers fits all afternoon, leading the way to a rather decisive 24-13 win. Validation granted!
Washington Redskins– Last week, the Redskins were a classic victim of the proverbial “trap game”. The momentum of a four-game winning streak, including back-to-back wins over Dallas and Philadelphia, vanished after a home loss to the previously winless Rams. With Josh Brown’s 49-yard, game-ending dagger still fresh in their minds, Washington rebounded in a big way Sunday, holding off the resurgent Browns 14-11 in FedEx Field. It wasn’t pretty, but it did provide insight into the bounce-back ability and mental toughness of Jim Zorn’s team.
Green Bay Packers– Peyton Manning came to Lambeau Field after reigniting his stagnant offense in a 31-3 demolition of Baltimore in week 6. Green Bay faced the prospect of entering their bye week 3-4, and losers of four of their last five. All eyes were on Aaron Rodgers, but it was Ryan Grant who stole the show. Finally getting back into game shape after missing training camp, Grant carried 31 times for 101 yards and a score. Now they enter the bye week 4-3 and feeling much better about their franchise running back, after his first 100-yard game of the year.
New Orleans Saints – Not only did the Saints lose their game Sunday 30-7 in Carolina, they also lost Reggie Bush. Injuries are part of football, but the injury bug has bitten this team harder than most. Now the walking wounded head to London for a home game at Wembley Stadium against San Diego, with their season possibly hanging in the balance.
New York Jets – There were the Jets…1:24 remaining…down by three…pinned at their own 5 yard line. This was why they got Brett Favre. Eleven plays later the Jets and Raiders were heading to overtime. After engineering an improbable game-tying drive in regulation, the Jet offense stalled in three overtime drives. By failing to finish the job, Gang Green left the Black Hole 3-3 and two games behind Buffalo in the AFC East.
Miami Dolphins – Miami’s wildcat offense has become the rage of the NFL. Sunday afternoon the Baltimore Ravens defense brought the rage to a screeching halt. With the 27-13 win, Cam Cameron’s return to Miami as Baltimore’s offensive coordinator was also a success. Baltimore leaned on Willis McGahee, who had his best game of the year, rushing for over 100 yards and a touchdown. Now the first-place Buffalo Bills come to town, in what now becomes a must win for the 2-4 Dolphins if they want to maintain any hope in the AFC playoff picture.
The Evolution of Kyle Orton
During the 2005 NFL Draft, six quarterbacks, including the likes of Charlie Frye, Andrew Walter and David Greene, were taken ahead of Orton. Now, four years into his NFL career, Orton is starting to prove he may be the best of a group that also included #1 overall pick Alex Smith and current starters Aaron Rodgers and Jason Campbell. His climb from the 106th pick to third stringer to starter to potential Pro Bowler has been remarkable.
In 2005, fresh off his first NFL training camp, Kyle Orton was immediately thrust into action when Rex Grossman went down in the preseason with a broken ankle. He led the Bears to a 10-5 record, including an eight-game winning streak. The success of the team aside, Orton failed to solidify his place in the lineup, playing to an NFL-worst 59.7 QB rating. When Grossman returned, just prior to the playoffs, Orton went back to the bench. When Chicago signed Brian Griese the following off-season, Orton became the third stringer and didn’t see a single snap in 2006. Orton took the demotion in stride and spent the next two years honing his game. The next time we saw him was at the end of the 2007 season. Amazingly enough he had gotten better, leading the Bears to a 2-1 record down the stretch. He played to a 80.1 QB rating, over 20 points better than in 2005. Kyle Orton was starting to figure things out. In training camp, he destroyed Rex Grossman in the open competition for the starting job. And boy, has he made the best of it. Last week the Bears scored 48 points. I’ll say that again…last week the Bears scored 48 points. Kyle Orton has looked like a totally different player. Proving this is no aberration, Orton’s QB rating is once again on the rise, currently at 91.4! FINALLY, the Chicago Bears have a quarterback!