NFL Nation: 2010 Week 7 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Packers 28, Vikings 24

October, 24, 2010
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Let's hit the high points of a wild game at Lambeau Field:

What it means: The Green Bay Packers beat their longtime quarterback Brett Favre for the first time since Favre defected to the Minnesota Vikings. In what could be considered a changing of the guard, quarterback Aaron Rodgers won for only the second time in his career in a game decided by four or fewer points. It was especially poignant to watch Favre, who threw three second-half interceptions, literally limp off the field after suffering a second-half ankle injury. It could well be his final game at Lambeau Field.

What it means II: The Packers improved to 4-3 and are in a virtual tie for first place in the NFC North with the Chicago Bears. The Vikings fell to 2-4.

Close but ... The Vikings gained possession at their 17-yard line with 6 minutes, 7 seconds remaining. Leaning heavily on tailback Adrian Peterson, they moved the ball to as close as the 15 yard line, converting two fourth-down calls and getting a 26-yard play on a screen pass to Peterson. But consecutive penalties on tight end Visanthe Shiancoe pushed the ball back 20 yards, and officials reversed a 35-yard touchdown pass to receiver Percy Harvin after his second foot was revealed to have landed out of bounds. It was the third Vikings touchdown to be reversed by instant replay. Ultimately, the drive ended at the 21-yard line when Favre's pass to Moss in the end zone was too high.

Missed opportunity: This needs to be noted for a team that entered the game with 11 losses in its past 12 contests decided by four points or fewer. The Packers had a chance to seal the game following Favre's third interception, but the drive stalled at their 44-yard line. Fortunately for them, Tim Masthay's punt pinned the Vikings at their 17-yard line, pushing the Vikings 83 yards away from the score they would have needed.

Injury report: The Packers were down to three defensive linemen for most of the game after Cullen Jenkins strained a hamstring during pregame warm-ups and Ryan Pickett appeared to reinjure his problematic ankle. They compensated by using a fair amount of two-man lines in their nickel package.

What's next: Both teams are on the road next Sunday. The Packers will play at the New York Jets and the Vikings will travel to the New England Patriots.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 23, Chargers 20

October, 24, 2010
SAN DIEGO -- Rapid reaction from the New England Patriots' 23-20 win against the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: Stunning finish. This was a game the Patriots were in control of midway through the third quarter, ahead 20-3 after a terrific long drive. But the Chargers came roaring back. With the Patriots leading 23-20 with two minutes remaining, they went for it on fourth-and-1. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was stopped for a loss, turning the ball over to the Chargers. It was almost like fourth-and-2 in Indianapolis all over again. But a Kris Brown 50-yard field goal with 23 seconds left hit the left upright and bounced into the field of play, giving the Patriots the hold-on-by-the-seat-of-your-pants victory. The field goal would have been 45 yards, but a false start penalty pushed it to 50.

Onside kick hurts Patriots: After the Chargers closed to 23-13 midway through the fourth quarter, they successfully executed an onside kick. The Patriots had their regular return unit on the field, and while it was an extremely well-executed onside kick, the result also led to some natural second-guessing as to whether the Patriots should have done something differently from a personnel perspective in anticipation of the onside kick. The Chargers moved up the field for a touchdown, closing to 23-20 with 4:01 remaining.

Kickoff out of bounds aids Patriots: After the Chargers scored to make it 23-20 with 4:01 left, the Patriots got the ball at their own 40 after Kris Brown’s kickoff sailed out of bounds. The Patriots worked the clock, not snapping the ball until late on the play clock, but faced a fourth-and-1 from their 49 after an 8-yard catch by Wes Welker, a run for no gain by Danny Woodhead and then a 1-yard catch by Welker. The Patriots challenged the spot on the Welker catch at the two-minute warning, but the ruling on the field stood. That set up a fourth-and-1 and BenJarvus Green-Ellis was stopped, although the defense rose up.

Offensive adjustments in second half: The Patriots’ offense played as poorly as it has all season in the first half. They had just 38 net yards in the first two quarters. But some adjustments at the break sparked an 18-play touchdown drive (including penalties) that chewed up 8:35 and culminated in Green-Ellis’ 1-yard touchdown run as the Patriots went ahead 20-3. It was the drive of the game, as it featured two third-down conversions and a fourth-and-1 conversion as well. The touchdown came on third-and-goal from the 1. The adjustments included going to a semi no-huddle type attack and inserting Ryan Wendell at left guard in place of Dan Connolly.

Defense bends but doesn’t break: A unit that is growing on the job, the Patriots’ defense did its part against the NFL’s No. 1 offense, and of course, received some help from the Chargers, who shot themselves in the foot. Still, credit must be given to a defense that in Week 3 against the Bills looked like one of the worst in the NFL. The final stop -- making the Chargers set up for a long field goal -- was huge.

Patriots injuries to watch: Safety Pat Chung left the game in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. Receiver Matt Slater, one of the Patriots’ top special teams players, left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.

What’s next: The Patriots return home for a late-afternoon Halloween game against the Vikings. Think there will be some pregame hype for that one with Randy Moss returning to town? The Patriots will be donning their throwback uniforms in the game.
SEATTLE -- A quick look at the Arizona Cardinals-Seattle Seahawks game at Qwest Field in Week 7:

What it means: The Seahawks take over sole possession of first place in the NFC West with a 4-2 record, outperforming expectations. This game would have meant more in the NFC West race if the Cardinals had pulled an upset. Seattle essentially held serve by winning at home. With a road game against Oakland in Week 8, the Seahawks have a shot at maintaining their lead in the division even if Arizona beats Tampa Bay at home.

Tomorrow's Talker: The Cardinals' decision to release Matt Leinart isn't the reason Arizona is struggling on offense. It's not like Leinart would be lighting up defenses. Still, would the offense be any worse with No. 7 under center? Max Hall and Derek Anderson struggled Sunday. Hall was overmatched while completing 4 of 16 passes before leaving with his second injury in as many starts. The Cardinals' offense has not scored a touchdown with Hall at quarterback. Anderson started quickly in relief Sunday, but his play deteriorated over the course of the second half. Rainy, noisy conditions did not help. Anderson does have an NFL arm. Hall has not shown he has the physical ability to lead an offense. What to do?

Injurie(s) of note: The Seahawks lost starting left tackle Russell Okung after he injured his ankle early in the game. Seattle's performance on the line suffered from the absence. Marshawn Lynch had a 39-yard run to the left side when Okung was still in the game. He had trouble finding much room once Okung departed.

What I liked: Seattle's Mike Williams and Arizona's Alan Branch played up to their draft status. Williams dominated matchups against every defender he faced, including Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Branch showed pass-rush moves I hadn't seen from him previously.

What I didn't like: This was a sloppy game with far too many penalties and special-teams miscues. The Cardinals' inability to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald also stood out. He was largely a wasted talent in this game.

What's next: The Seahawks visit Oakland while the Cardinals face Tampa Bay at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Rapid Reaction: Titans 37, Eagles 19

October, 24, 2010
NASVILLE, Tenn. -- A quick look at Tennesse's 37-19 win against the Philadelphia Eagles.

What it means: The Titans forged a comeback on what was not their best day, winning for the third time against an NFC East opponent and improving to 5-2, the best record in the division with Houston and Indianapolis both at 4-2 and off this week.

Hero: After his alleged involvement in a bar room altercation early Friday morning, Kenny Britt didn’t play until about midway through the second quarter. He responded with an impressive performance from there, with seven catches for 225 yards and three touchdowns. Say what we may about his maturity off the field. On it, he’s developing into a first-rate threat that the Titans need to build plans around.

What I didn’t like: Kerry Collins threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, making things very difficult for the Titans on a day when Vince Young couldn’t play because of knee and ankle injuries. Even with heavy action late, the Titans struggled to get the ball to Chris Johnson, who finished with 24 carries for 66 yards.

Good development: The Eagles like putting Kevin Kolb on the move, but on many of his rollouts in this game Titans defenders were in hot pursuit, forcing quicker throws than he’d like or making him throw the ball away. Dave Ball’s excellent season continued as he was often the player closing in on the quarterback.

What’s next: The Titans travel to San Diego to face the Chargers before arriving at their bye week.

Rapid Reaction: Falcons 39, Bengals 32

October, 24, 2010
ATLANTA -- Here are some early thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' wild 39-32 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

What it means: The Bengals' season is on the brink just seven weeks into the season. After three straight losses, Cincinnati (2-4) is in a very deep hole. The AFC is deep, and if the Bengals want to make the playoffs for the second straight year, they need to get hot very quickly.

What I liked: After falling behind early, the Bengals showed character by scoring 22 straight points in the third quarter to take the lead, 25-24. Cincinnati dominated in stretches and showed glimpses of what this team could be. Rookie receiver Jordan Shipley and veteran Terrell Owens both went over the 100-yard receiving mark.

What I didn't like: Coming off a bye week, I expected more from the Bengals. Cincinnati started very slowly and was sloppy in the first half, trailing 24-3. Cincinnati warmed up in the second half, but the Bengals cannot expect to beat good teams on the road by falling behind by three touchdowns. Cincinnati's defense gave up 39 points, the highest total of the season. The Bengals just seemed to be a couple steps behind Atlanta for most of the game. But a lot of credit goes to the Falcons (5-2), who are one of the NFL's better teams.

Injuries of note: Cincinnati's secondary is banged up. Starting cornerback Johnathan Joseph (arm) did not play and was missed in this game. Teammate Adam Jones, who filled in for Joseph, made plays but also suffered a stinger in the second half.

What's next: There is some good news for the Bengals. They will play two straight games at home, starting next week against the Miami Dolphins. After that, Cincinnati will have a huge "Monday Night Football" game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The next two weeks will give the Bengals an opportunity to climb back to .500.
ATLANTA -- I’m heading down to the locker room for interviews and will be back with much more in a bit. But, first, here’s the Rapid Reaction from Atlanta’s 39-32 win against Cincinnati.

What it means: Had it not been for a nearly disastrous third quarter, we’d be talking again about the Falcons being the best team in the NFC. But they’re at least still in the argument, because they recovered from their colossal collapse. They’re 5-2. That’s good enough for first place in the NFC South, and no team in the NFC has a better record than the Falcons.

What’s next: The Falcons have their bye week and that should give them time to get injured starters Dunta Robinson, Sean Weatherspoon, Ovie Mughelli and Thomas DeCoud healthy. The Falcons don’t play again until Nov. 7, when they host Tampa Bay, and they don’t have to go on the road again until Nov. 21 when they play St. Louis.

Redemption time: Roddy White lost a fumble that Adam Jones returned for a touchdown, giving Cincinnati the lead. But White came back with a touchdown catch and a reception for a two-point conversion. White also topped the 200-yard receiving mark for the second time in his career.

Unsung hero: Atlanta middle linebacker Curtis Lofton said in the preseason that he wanted to make more big plays this year. He’s doing it. His hit forced a fourth-quarter fumble by Cedric Benson.

Rapid Reaction: Steelers 23, Dolphins 22

October, 24, 2010
MIAMI -- The Pittsburgh Steelers caught a giant break late in the fourth quarter and edged past the Miami Dolphins 23-22 in Sun Life Stadium.

What it means: The Dolphins have a reason to complain after a controversial ending, but that won't erase their 0-3 record at home. A Dolphins victory would have propelled them into the conversation of best teams.

Play of the game: On third-and-goal from the 2 with 2:37 left in the game, Ben Roethlisberger scrambled toward the end zone. He was met at the goal line by Dolphins safety Chris Clemons and apparently fumbled. The play was ruled a touchdown. The Dolphins challenged. The play was overturned, but there was no video evidence the Dolphins recovered. Jeff Reed kicked an 18-yard field goal.

A less-controversial critical play: With the Dolphins up two points with about three minutes left, the Steelers had third-and-5 on the Dolphins' 43-yard line. Roethlisberger flipped a short pass to Mewelde Moore for a 29-yard gain. One play later, Dolphins defensive lineman Tony McDaniel commits unnecessary roughness to give the Steelers a first down on the doorstep.

Two-minute grill: The Dolphins had more than two minutes left and needed only a field goal against an injury-depleted defense, but they couldn't muster anything. Chad Henne passed three times before losing the ball on downs.

Worthy of debate: Dolphins fullback Lousaka Polite is virtually automatic when it comes to gaining 1 yard for a first down. On third-and-1 from the 50 early in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins handed to Ronnie Brown for no gain and then punted on fourth-and-inches.

Injury report: The Steelers lost three players during the game: right tackle Flozell Adams (ankle), defensive end Aaron Smith (arm) and linebacker Lamarr Woodley (hamstring).

What's next: The Dolphins visit the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears entered Sunday’s game tied for third in the NFL with 14 takeaways.

Yet the tables seemed to turn on the turnover-happy Bears, who suffered through six second-half giveaways -- including four Jay Cutler interceptions to DeAngelo Hall -- on the way to their second consecutive loss, a bumbling 17-14 effort against the Washington Redskins.

The defense did its part in forcing three Redskins turnovers, but the offense -- plagued by protection issues, a lack of production on the goal line and problems converting third downs -- proved too generous in giving away three interceptions and two fumbles.

Luckily for Chicago, it enters its bye before meeting Buffalo on Nov. 7 in Toronto. The club will need some time to bounce back from this one.

There’s quite a bit to get to from this game. So let’s not waste time.

What it means: It’s no secret the Bears’ schedule significantly stiffens after the bye week with matchups against Miami, Philadelphia, New England and the Jets over four of the next eight weeks. So after dropping back-to-back games against the Seahawks and Redskins, it’s safe to say the Bears squandered a golden opportunity to maintain their lead over the Packers in the NFC North, and made their potential road to the playoffs much more difficult.

Third-down disaster: Heading into the contest, Cutler had led the Bears to 0-for-22 on third-down conversions over his last eight quarters, and the struggles only continued against the Redskins.

The Bears went 0-for-6 on third-down conversions in the first half Sunday, before finally converting their first one with 4:32 left in the third quarter.

OL settles after rough start: Playing for the second consecutive week with a starting line comprised of Olin Kreutz, Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale, Edwin Williams and J’Marcus Webb, the Bears gave up three sacks in the first half -- two to Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo -- before finally settling down in the second half to give Cutler solid protection.

The Bears allowed only one more sack after the three-sack onslaught in the first half. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz played a role in club reducing sack numbers by shortening Cutler’s drops.

Briggs leaves: Linebacker Lance Briggs left the Sunday’s contest on Chicago’s third series, and the club announced he was questionable to return. At halftime, however, the team declared Briggs out for the game.

Still hobbled by a sprained ankle suffered Oct. 10 against the Panthers, Briggs missed last week’s loss to Seattle and alternated with backup Brian Iwuh early in Sunday’s game. The decision to pull Briggs in the first quarter may have been the smart move for the Bears, who enter their bye before meeting Buffalo in Toronto on Nov. 7. The week off should do some good for Briggs, who is considered one of the leaders on defense.

Moore robbed by delay of game: Bears nickel corner D.J. Moore watched a Redskins’ delay-of-game penalty wipe out what would have been his second touchdown of the day.

Having already returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown off Israel Idonije’s tipped pass in the first half, Moore picked off Donovan McNabb in the third quarter and skipped into the end zone for an 8-yard return. Prior to the snap on that play, however, officials flagged the Redskins for delay of game. The call wiped out what would have been Moore’s second career TD.

Goal-line struggles continue: The Bears entered the game 0-for-9 from an opponent’s 1-yard line. Make that 0-for-10, thanks to a Cutler fumble.

Trying to leap over the top on a sneak, Cutler jumped into the arms of Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, who halted the quarterback’s progress. As Cutler reached to put the ball across the plane, a Redskins defender knocked it out and London Fletcher recovered for the Redskins.

Turf a problem: Judging from some of the conversations in the team’s locker room Friday, the Bears anticipated problems with the turf at Soldier Field. In fact, several players made it a point to tell equipment managers to make sure they packed plenty of pairs of seven-stud cleats for the matchup with the Washington Redskins.

From the look of things, the Bears needed them. Several offensive and defensive players slipped on the turf that had been pelted by rain earlier in the day. As the game wore on, the turf dried up somewhat and footing improved. The Bears should expect more footing issues as the weather worsens over the next several weeks.

Shorter drops pay off: Martz called for a seven-step drop on a third-and-3 with 5:23 left in the first half. After Cutler threw incomplete to Greg Olsen on the play, Martz shortened up the quarterback’s drops, which helped tremendously.

After the failed conversion attempt, Martz called several three- and five-step drops on the club’s next series, which contributed to Cutler finishing the quarter 7-for-7, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Knox with 31 seconds left that gave the Bears a 14-10 halftime lead.

Manning answers challenge: Bears coach Lovie Smith praised the play of Danieal Manning earlier in the week, but said he wanted the safety to make more plays in the passing game. Manning delivered in the third quarter on arguably the club’s most athletic interception of the season.

What’s next: Thankfully for the Bears, nothing. The club enters its bye week, which serves as a good opportunity for players such as offensive lineman Roberto Garza (knee), safety Major Wright (hamstring), and linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle) to regain their health prior to the team’s matchup with Buffalo on Nov. 7. The bye also comes at a good time for all the players dealing with nagging injuries.