NFC South: rapid reaction 8

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

It's more than a little ironic that Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden remains tied with Tony Dungy for most victories in franchise history after Sunday's outing.

Gruden looked like he might have been using a playbook Dungy left laying around the office against the Cowboys. And that playbook sure didn't include the Peyton Manning chapters that have been written in more recent years.

Yeah, the Bucs did what they've done all season and relied on their defense to give them a shot to win. But you can't do that for 16 games. You've got to be able to score touchdowns, not just kick field goals.

Joey Galloway's return from injury showed there wasn't a solitary missing link to the offense. Galloway, who had three catches for 38 yards, is going to get better as he gets his timing back. You can't say the same thing about a running game that didn't do much and a passing game that's still going sideways, instead of downfield.

Rapid Reaction: Eagles 27, Falcons 14

October, 26, 2008
10/26/08
6:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

One play doesn't make a season. But one play sure cost the Falcons dearly.

It was a controversial call late in the game on a punt return by Adam Jennings. Jennings has been under fire from fans all year and you can make a case that the Falcons should have made a switch in their return game during their bye week. But that's another conversation.

What happened here was the officiating crew ruled Jennings muffed a punt return with a little over two minutes left. Replays sure made it look like Jennings never touched the ball.

But replays didn't matter in this case because the play wasn't reviewed.

Here's what coach Mike Smith had to say to the media after the game.

"(An official) said that since we do not have a timeout that we could not challenge it,'' Smith said. "It would be a 15-yard penalty if we threw the flag. His explanation was of what he thought he saw. He thought he saw the ball touch the return man's hands. That's the call that was made.''

And that's how it stayed. But this play might end up getting reviewed again and again (by the Falcons and their fans) as the season goes on.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

From an ocean away, the Carolina Panthers look very good.

The only part of their game against Arizona I was able to catch in the Wembley Stadium press box was a highlight clip of Steve Smith's 65-yard touchdown catch. But you didn't have to see the Panthers to understand what they did Sunday.

They got themselves to 6-2. That's sole possession of first place in the NFC South. They've got a bye coming. Almost certainly, they'll get starting center Ryan Kalil and right tackle Jeff Otah back from injury right after the bye.

Speaking of right after the bye, they've got a game with the Raiders. Then, a game with Detroit. Yes, the December schedule (Buccaneers, Broncos, Giants and Saints) could be very difficult.

But, then again, it might not matter much. By then, the Panthers could run away with the NFC South.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

LONDON -- In a season where everything that could go wrong has -- or might be about to -- the New Orleans Saints somehow are a .500 team at the midway point.

Give the half-season Most Valuable Player award to New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. He's pretty much the whole reason the season isn't over for the Saints. Brees has carried this team through injuries and a trip to London that, no matter what the Saints say, they didn't want.

For awhile, the Saints were thinking life would get a lot easier if they could just get to their bye with a .500 record because the team is getting healthier. But that scenario might not play out.

There are reports that three Saints have tested positive for banned substances. There could be suspensions coming. Just when it looked as if the Saints had cleared almost every hurdle in sight, it looks as if the obstacles could be just as big or bigger in the second half of the season.

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