NFL Nation: 2010 Week 4 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 41, Dolphins 14

October, 4, 2010
MIAMI -- The New England Patriots wrecked the Miami Dolphins 41-14 on Monday night in Sun Life Stadium.

What it means: Some were calling the Dolphins a legitimate contender after their impressive 2-0 start on the road. The Patriots knocked them back to reality with a second straight home loss. As bad as everybody thought the Buffalo Bills got blasted by the New York Jets, this game was even more lopsided.

Hero: Patriots safety Patrick Chung blocked a punt, blocked a field goal that Kyle Arrington returned for a touchdown and returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown.

Goat: Dolphins special teams coordinator John Bonamego should be squirming. The Patriots returned a kickoff for a touchdown, blocked a field goal for a touchdown and needed two plays to turn a blocked punt into a touchdown.

Marshall? Moss? The superstar receivers had a combined zero catches at halftime. Brandon Marshall finished with five for 50 yards. Moss never did get one.

Slots-o-fun: Slot receivers Wes Welker and Davone Bess had big games. Bess made nine catches for 93 yards and a touchdown and would have been a bigger story had the Dolphins won. Welker had eight for 70 yards.

Unsung hero: Patriots outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich had an amazing game against his former team. He intercepted Chad Henne twice and recorded a sack to put the Dolphins at third-and-17 early in the fourth quarter.

Trending: For the second straight week, Brandon Fields had a punt blocked in Dolphins territory. The Patriots scored a touchdown two plays later to take a 20-7 lead early in the third quarter. The New York Jets blocked one in Week 3 and turned it into a field goal. Fields also had a pair of punts blocked in the preseason.

Injuries of note: Patriots Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather hurt his knee and didn't play in the second half.

What's next: Both teams are on their bye weeks. In Week 6, the Dolphins visit the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, and the Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens in a rematch of last season's first-round playoff.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 17, Bears 3

October, 4, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few observations from the New York Giants 17-3 win over the Chicago Bears.

What it means: It means much more than just your average Week 4 win. The Giants were facing what felt like a must-win. This was far from a perfect game and there is plenty to improve on, but the Giants got what they needed and upset the previously undefeated Bears. With all the controversy surrounding Tiki Barber's comments about Tom Coughlin in a crisis and the questions about the team's leadership, the Giants stopped a two-game losing streak and did it with terrific defense.

For one week, at least, the Giants can stop answering questions about what's wrong with their team.

Rock-a-bye-baby: The Giants gave Jay Cutler nightmares and a concussion. The Bears wanted to hire defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Fewell showed why. Cutler was sacked nine times in the first half and he was knocked out with a concussion, possibly when Aaron Ross hit him from behind on a corner blitz from the blind side. Cutler hit the turf hard. Todd Collins replaced Cutler and he was knocked out of the game with 4:20 left.

The Giants defense came back with a vengeance as the Bears were forced to finish the game with third-stringer Caleb Hanie. Fewell mixed things up, largely using two linebackers and three safeties in a 4-2-5. He rotated in rookie Jason Pierre-Paul at defensive end and moved Justin Tuck inside often. Cutler looked completely confused at times, holding on to the ball way too long until his night ended prematurely.

Nothing special: As advertised, the special teams was a disaster again at times. Rookie punter Matt Dodge mishandled his first punt attempt, picked up his drop, ran to the side and instead of trying to gain one yard for the first down, he punted on the run. He got it off but could have possibly gained the first down. Lawrence Tynes missed a 38-yard field goal after a Terrell Thomas interception set the Giants up at the Bears' 28 late in the first quarter. Then, from the Bears' 34, Dodge booted a punt into the end zone and was unable to pin Chicago deep in its territory as he was booed again.

The only person booed louder than Dodge was Barber during the halftime Ring of Honor ceremony. Any punt that Dodge was able to kick out of bounds with no return was considered a success. But they still survived and Devin Hester didn't get a touchdown return. Mission accomplished, no matter how it was done.

Welcome back, Osi: Osi Umenyiora's knee swelled up on Friday and he was listed as questionable for the game. He played and terrorized Cutler. With Mathias Kiwanuka out with a bulging disc in his neck, Umenyiora had three sacks and two forced fumbles in the first half alone. He looked like vintage Osi coming off the edge.

Just run it: The Bears came in with the top-ranked defense against the run, surrendering a total of 119 yards in the first three games. Ahmad Bradshaw, though, found seams in the Bears defense. Often cutting back against the grain and eluding defenders, Bradshaw rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time this season and scored a touchdown. He did fumble again inside the red zone for the second straight week when he was on his way toward a long touchdown run, only to have the ball poked out of his hands.

Composure: After the previous Sunday's meltdown, in which they committed 11 penalties including five personal fouls after the whistle, the Giants kept their cool.

Offensive line: The Giants offensive line is not what it was two seasons ago. But at least Coughlin had the better front five than the Bears' line, which was under siege all night long. Also, Bradshaw gained more 100 yards against a stingy Bears defense and Eli Manning had decent time to pass. Even Brandon Jacobs finally scored a touchdown late in the fourth to seal the win.

What's next: Houston, we may have a problem. It won't get any easier for the Giants, who head to Houston to take on an explosive Texans offense. Expect Andre Johnson to be back after being a scratch on Sunday. The Texans can run with Arian Foster and their passing game is electric. This will not be an easy task.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Chicago fell from its undefeated perch in humiliating fashion Sunday. The supposed high-powered Bears offense short circuited against a dominating Giants defense that produced nine sacks in the first half on the way to a 17-3 New York win.

More concerning than the defeat was the nine-sack first half that put quarterback Jay Cutler out of the game with a concussion, and the fact the offensive line -- already depleted by injury -- lost another starter when right guard Lance Louis left the game with a left knee injury.

The severity of Louis' injury wasn't immediately known. But we’ll get into that and more in discussing this tough loss for the Bears, who played their second game in seven nights:

What it means: The Bears no longer own the designation of being the NFC’s lone remaining undefeated team. Still, the club at 3-1 leads the NFC North (by virtue of head-to-head win over Packers).

Offensive line health concerning: Don’t be surprised if the Bears make a move in the coming days to add depth along the offensive line. Left tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) missed Sunday’s game, leaving backups Frank Omiyale and Kevin Shaffer at the tackle positions. Inside at guard, the situation looks just as bad.

Left guard Roberto Garza missed practice time throughout the week with a knee injury, which appeared to force him to miss some snaps against the Giants. Edwin Williams filled in for Louis when he left the game. Earlier in the night, Williams had filled in for Garza.

Rookie offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb could be a candidate for a possible move inside, but the Bears may also explore -- depending on the severity of Louis’ injury -- activating Johan Asiata off the practice squad. At one point in the offseason, Asiata was working the starters at guard.

Run defense penetrated: So much for the Bears’ tough run defense. Giants running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 191 yards and a touchdown apiece on 29 attempts. Prior to Sunday’s contest, the Bears had allowed 119 through the first three games combined.

Active … but not really: Wide receiver Devin Aromashodu finally made the Bears' active 45-man roster, but it’s as if the Bears actually wasted the spot since they didn’t use him.

Cutler targeted Aromashodu 10 times in the opener. Then he played one snap during Week 2 in Dallas, before earning the sideline sweatsuit for the Bears' win over Green Bay. Aromashodu commented (unwisely) on his disappearance from the offense in the week leading up to Sunday night’s game, saying he didn’t know exactly what he did wrong to get on the staff’s bad side.

Some within the organization wonder whether the receiver is talking himself out of town.

“We don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves because when you’re walking on eggshells, you really can’t play well,” Aromashodu said last week. “You’ve still got to go out there, let it loose and do your best. You’re not going to be perfect every play.”

Aromashodu dropped a few passes in the opener and missed some downfield blocks. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz indicated that Aromashodu didn’t fully understand his assignments from the slot receiver spot, which is where the Bears planned to use the receiver. Besides that, Earl Bennett has performed well in that slot role the club originally envisioned for Aromashodu.

Although Aromashodu seems to have a good rapport with Cutler, the receiver could find a hard time getting back into Martz's good graces.

Lucky Lovie: Chicago escaped a possible 10-point deficit in the first quarter when the Giants squandered opportunities in the red zone on drives ending at the Bears’ 4 and the 20. Instead of scoring a touchdown on their second drive, the Giants settled for a 22-yard field goal on fourth-and-2 from the 4. Terrell Thomas intercepted Cutler on Chicago’s next possession, giving the Giants the ball at the Bears' 28. Four plays later, Lawrence Tynes missed a 38-yard field goal wide right.

Corner shuffle: The Bears benched starting left cornerback Zack Bowman last week against the Packers in favor of Tim Jennings. The club started Jennings against the Giants, only to pull him with 1:06 left in the opening quarter to insert Bowman.

The team shuffled the corners throughout the first half, but Bowman took most of the snaps and appears to have regained his starting job.

What’s next: The Bears travel to Carolina to face a winless Panthers squad that on Sunday nearly upset the New Orleans Saints on the road.

Rapid Reaction: Redskins 17, Eagles 12

October, 3, 2010
PHILADELPHIA -- The Washington Redskins stunned the Eagles by scoring on their first three possessions and held on for what could be a season-changing win. Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb received a standing ovation from Eagles fans, but then he treated his former teammates rudely with some big-time throws in the first half. Let's take a look at some of the highlights -- and Andy Reid's lowlights -- from this game.

What it means: The NFC East is in a complete mess. The Redskins looked dead in a 30-16 loss in St. Louis last Sunday, but now they're tied with the Eagles for the division lead. The Dallas Cowboys are sitting pretty at 1-2. They were helped by not having to play because of the bye. It's a great win for McNabb, but it's bigger for the Redskins. A 1-3 start would've been tough to overcome. Now they have a legitimate shot at staying in this thing for a little while with a 2-0 record in the division. Those wins will pay off down the road.

The Vick Factor: Just when Michael Vick made his first truly special play of the game late in the first quarter, he was knocked out of the game with a rib and chest injury. He was sandwiched by two Redskins defenders while trying to cross the goal line following a 23-yard run. Vick headed for the locker room and the play was negated because of a holding penalty on right guard Max Jean-Gilles. Kevin Kolb had his moments in the second half, but the Eagles had dug themselves too much of a hole.

The Goat: Eagles coach Andy Reid embarrassed himself at the end of the first half. After a long delay to see whether LeSean McCoy crossed the goal line for a touchdown, the Eagles had a fourth-and-goal at the Redskins' 1-yard line. Reid didn't have a play ready and the Eagles had to burn a timeout. Then they were flagged for a delay of game after the timeout. It forced the Eagles to settle for a short field goal and a 17-6 deficit. Redskins defenders raced off the field pumping their arms after the field goal, realizing they'd been offered a gift.

What's next? The Skins will host the Green Bay Packers next week and the Eagles will go on the road against the 49ers. With these teams, there's no way of predicting what will come next. Everyone will say that the outcome would've been different had Vick remained in the game, but I'm certainly not convinced of that. The Skins raced out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and I think they were by far the most physical team. Now we'll wait and see how long Vick's out. I'll be back with a postgame column a little later this evening.
SAN DIEGO -- A few observations from San Diego's 41-10 victory against the Cardinals.

What it means: The Chargers dominated Arizona in every facet of the game as they improved to 2-2. The Chargers showed they are a high-powered outfit and nearly unstoppable when they don’t self destruct as they did in their two losses.

Big revelation: The Chargers are capable of playing clean football. They did lose a fumble that resulted in Arizona’s only touchdown that tied the game at 7-7. But San Diego cleaned up its act from there. The Chargers committed nine turnovers in the first 12 quarters of the season. San Diego also played much better on special teams after inserting some starters onto the coverage team.

Trending: San Diego's offense and defense are playing well. The Chargers compiled more than 400 yards of offense with balance in the passing and running game. The defense, which has allowed four touchdowns this season, smothered the Cardinals. Arizona did very little on offense. The Chargers, who scored on a Shaun Phillips interception return, had nine sacks, with Phillips accounting for four of them.

What’s next: The Chargers play at Oakland. San Diego has dominated Oakland in recent seasons. San Diego has beaten Oakland in 13 straight games, but the Raiders nearly beat San Diego at home on opening day last season.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few quick observations from Jacksonville's 31-28 victory against the Indianapolis Colts.

What it means: The Jaguars and David Garrard can play well. They got a great effort in front of a spirited crowd and pulled to a 2-2 record thanks to a 59-yard last-second field goal from Josh Scobee. They’re even with the Colts in the standings and have the edge with the head-to-head win. The Colts are 2-2, with an 0-2 mark in the AFC South.

What I liked, Jags: Garrard played so much better than he had over the last two miserable weeks. With a rusher bearing down on a crucial third-and-4 near midfield, he stood in and hit Tiquan Underwood, who shrugged off Kelvin Hayden and converted. Garrard converted another third down with a run. He then threw a go-ahead touchdown to Maurice Jones-Drew on a third down after a bad penalty backed the Jaguars up. Garrard connected with Underwood again on the pass that got Scobee in range.

What I liked Jags, Part II: They still gave up plays, but the Jaguars much-maligned safeties produced some too. Gerald Alexander walloped Brody Eldridge to pop a ball loose and Anthony Smith picked it off near the goal line. Later Smith was in on forcing Wayne’s fumble that Alexander scooped and returned 47 yards. Those two red-zone takeaways were a huge part of the result.

What I liked, Colts: Reggie Wayne’s huge day. He caught a franchise record 15 passes for a career-high 196 yards and was a crucial cog in the Colts’ ability to keep things moving. It was more than enough to offset a fumble in the red zone that temporarily stalled the Colts.

What’s next: The Jaguars travel to Buffalo with a bit of insight from their new backup quarterback, Trent Edwards. The Colts host undefeated Kansas City, which is coming off a bye.
PITTSBURGH -- Here are some early thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' stunning, come-from-behind victory over the Steelers.

What it means: The Ravens pulled out a wild win by scoring a touchdown with 32 seconds remaining. Baltimore improved to 3-1 by driving 40 yards in the final minute and T.J. Houshmandzadeh catching the winning touchdown. Pittsburgh came extremely close to improving to 4-0 without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers should be pleased of their 3-1 start despite the very tough loss.

What I liked: The energy was solid from both teams, which is par for the course in this series. But Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco deserved kudos for staying calm for four quarters against a team he usually struggles against. His performance shows solid growth in his maturation process, and the final throw was one of the biggest of his career.

What I didn't like: Pittsburgh didn't execute on either side of the football in the final minutes, which turned out to be the deciding factor. The Steelers were stagnant on their final offensive drive that could have sealed it, and the defense played too conservatively in allowing the final touchdown. There also were untimely penalties; both teams combined for 18 flags.

Key injuries: The Ravens were hurting at tailback. Ray Rice (knee) was active but was a backup to Willis McGahee until the second half. As long as Rice's health improves next week, running back depth may not be as much of an issue.

What's next: Pittsburgh is on a bye, but will make national headlines with Monday's return of Roethlisberger from a four-game suspension. The Steelers will spend the next two weeks shaking the rust off of Roethlisberger before their Oct. 17 game against the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens, meanwhile, will try to improve to 4-1 when they host the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium.
GREEN BAY -- Let’s hit a few quick items as the Packers hold on for a 28-26 victory:

What it means: The Green Bay Packers were on the ropes for most of the second half because their defense couldn’t get off the field on third down, leading to a tremendous time of possession deficit and few chances for their offense. Oh, and the Lions played a rugged and spirited game as well. The Lions converted 10 of 17 third down attempts and held the ball for 37 minutes and 37 seconds. But ultimately they lost their 19th consecutive regular season game in the state of Wisconsin because the Packers ran off the final 6:32.

Run-down: Converted fullback John Kuhn did exactly what you would hope he could do in the fourth quarter: Help the Packers run down the clock in a close game. I had him for 37 rushing yards on the final possession, which also included a smart 16-yard run from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In this league, the one time you need a powerful running game is at the end of the game. And for 6:32, at least, the Packers had one.

Tomorrow’s talker: Lions quarterback Shaun Hill threw for 331 yards, completing 34 of 51 passes, which are certainly nice numbers. But Hill also showed his mobility by rushing for 53 yards, including a 40-yarder -- no, that’s not one of my many typos -- in the third quarter. Hill took advantage of a wide-open middle of the field to convert a 3rd-and-6 -- and then some. Some people probably forget that Hill often ran the option at the University of Maryland.

Still kicking: Lions place-kicker Jason Hanson was short on a 55-yard attempt just before halftime but drilled four field goals, including conversions from 52 and 49 yards.

What’s next: The Packers play at the Washington Redskins and the Lions host the St. Louis Rams. Both games are next Sunday.

NEW ORLEANS -- I’m heading down to the locker rooms for interviews with the Panthers and Saints. I’ll be back with more postgame analysis in a bit. But in the meantime, here’s Rapid Reaction on the Saints' 16-14 victory.

What it means: A win is a win. But all three of New Orleans’ victories have been ugly. This team has some issues and injuries. You can survive that against the Panthers, but there are some tough games coming up later in the season and the Saints can’t win some of those unless they start playing a lot better. Despite playing better than they have all season, it’s over for the Panthers. They’re 0-4 and John Fox is a lame-duck coach. Injuries to receiver Steve Smith and defensive tackle Ed Johnson looked significant enough that Carolina could face a couple of games without those two players. The effort was there Sunday, but that’s tough to continue when you’re in a downhill spiral.

Hero: John Carney. The 46-year-old kicker was signed this week after Garrett Hartley missed a field goal in overtime last week. Carney connected on all three of his attempts, including the game winner.

Injuries of note: Carolina wide receiver Smith left the game with an ankle injury late in the third quarter. The Panthers went with rookies Brandon LaFell and David Gettis the rest of the game. New Orleans opened the game without starting strong safety Roman Harper, who was injured last week. Pierson Prioleau started in Harper’s place, but was injured in the first half. Chris Reis took Harper’s place, but suffered a shoulder injury. The Saints had to finish the game with Usama Young, their only remaining safety.

What’s next: The Saints will be on the road the next two games. First, they travel to Arizona. Then, on Oct. 17, they go to Tampa Bay. The Panthers host Chicago in a game that has a big subplot as Bears defensive end Julius Peppers returns to play against his former team for the first time. The Panthers have their bye the following week.

Rapid Reaction: Jets 38, Bills 14

October, 3, 2010
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The New York Jets remained atop the division with a 38-14 laugher over the Buffalo Bills in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

What it means: The Jets flexed their AFC East muscle by completing a sweep of their first tour through division rivals. The Jets won only two games in the division last year. The Bills still are searching for their first victory.

Hero: LaDainian Tomlinson didn't play the fourth quarter after rushing 19 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He was dominant.

Sidekick: Shonn Greene more than doubled his rushing total for the season. He had 22 carries for 117 yards. He went into the game with 106 rushing yards.

Quarterbacks: Mark Sanchez still hasn't thrown an interception. He was 14 of 24 for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Fitzpatrick had an economical stat line. He was 11 of 25 for 122 yards and two TDs without an interception.

No joke: Bills coach Chan Gailey lauded his backfield before the season. None of his running backs had more rushing yards than Fitzpatrick. He scrambled for a team-high 74 yards, tying Gary Marangi's 34-year-old franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Fitzpatrick tripled the output of the Bills' best running back. Fred Jackson had 22 yards.

Trending: Dustin Keller scored two touchdowns for the second straight week. He has at least one touchdown catch in three straight games and six of his past seven games, including the playoffs.

Injuries of note: Defensive end Shaun Ellis suffered a knee injury on the opening drive of the second half. Vernon Gholston took his place, but the signing of surprise free agent defensive end Trevor Pryce last week will help if Ellis is out for a while.

What's next: The Bills will welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars and former quarterback Trent Edwards on Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Jets will host the Minnesota Vikings and former quarterback Brett Favre on Monday night at the Meadowlands.

Rapid Reaction: Rams 20, Seahawks 3

October, 3, 2010
ST. LOUIS -- Thoughts from St. Louis' victory over Seattle in the Edward Jones Dome.

What it means: The St. Louis Rams will be tied for the NFC West lead after four games if the San Diego Chargers defeat the Arizona Cardinals later Sunday. They ended a 17-game losing streak within the NFC West and a 10-game streak against Seattle. They are .500 or better for the first time since 2006 and they have, by all appearances, the best quarterback in the division. For Seattle, this outcome suggests the team isn't good enough to win road games and if that does not change, the Seahawks will struggle to reach .500.

Different this time: The Rams have won back-to-back games for the first time since the 2008 season. Then as now, there's a feeling in the Rams' locker room that the team is turning a corner. Back then, there was talk that St. Louis should remove the word "interim" from coach Jim Haslett's title. That team fell apart when Steven Jackson broke down physically. Jackson is playing hurt now, but this team has Sam Bradford, and that means everything. Bradford outplayed Matt Hasselbeck even though Seattle's Earl Thomas picked off the rookie in the end zone.

Big Revelation: The Rams outplayed the Seahawks on special teams, which was a big surprise. They contained Seattle returners Leon Washington and Golden Tate. They weren't fooled when the Seahawks attempted a fake punt in the first half. This was a very good effort on special teams for the Rams, who are without some of their better special-teams players, including Chris Chamberlain and Dominique Curry.

Hero: Jackson barely practiced during the week and didn't do anything significant during warm-ups. His injured groin made it seem unlikely Jackson would factor into the plan significantly. Jackson started the game and made several big plays, including a 49-yard gain on a screen and a couple signature runs. Jackson was not full strength, but he was the best running back in this game. Something would have been wrong if Jackson couldn't have fully celebrated in this Rams victory.

Trending: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll admitted last week that he was a little casual in his game management when Seattle wasted a scoring opportunity before halftime against San Diego. Carroll used two replay challenges in the first half Sunday and his call for a fake punt, though defensible, did not work.

Line issues: The Seahawks' issues on the offensive line finally caught up with them. Russell Okung started at left tackle, but left after aggravating his ankle injury. The team can use its bye week to settle on a more stable combination.

What's next: The Seahawks have their bye. The Rams visit Detroit, site of their only 2009 victory.




Sunday, 2/2