NFL Nation: 2011 Week 9 coverage



PHILADELPHIA -- The Chicago Bears overcame a furious Philadelphia Eagles third-quarter onslaught and a couple of their own mistakes on the road to carve out a 30-24 victory at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday night.

The Bears scored an impressive victory, given the circumstances, to boost their record to 5-3.

Let’s take a deeper look:

What it means: If the regular season came to a conclusion today, the Bears would be the second wild card team behind the Detroit Lions in the NFC. So this impressive victory over the Eagles raises the stakes for Sunday’s game against the Lions at Soldier Field.

The Lions, which are coming off a bye week, lead the Bears in the NFC North standings by one game. So a Bears victory ties them with the Lions for second place in the division.

Wright nabs first career pick: Major Wright should send linebacker Lance Briggs a thank-you card for helping the second-year safety pick off the first pass of his NFL career.

Briggs tipped a Michael Vick pass into Wright’s hands, which resulted in a Bears field goal after the safety’s 36-yard return.

Despite the big play, Wright wasn’t able to stay in the lineup full time. Veteran Brandon Meriweather replaced Wright in the second quarter, but Wright was back at his strong-safety position to start the second half.

Bennett returns: Wildcat quarterback, chain mover. Yes, Earl Bennett resumed his role as Chicago’s Swiss-Army knife of offense Monday night after missing nearly six games with a torso injury and he didn’t disappoint, racking up five catches for 95 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the team a 27-24 lead.

Bennett caught just two balls in the first half for 40 yards, and took one snap as quarterback in the Wildcat formation.

Look for his role to increase as the season continues. Jay Cutler's comfort with the receiver was apparent almost immediately against the Eagles. On Chicago’s first third-down situation, Cutler completed a 14-yard strike to Bennett.

Forte’s first fumble of 2011 a fiasco: Bears running back Matt Forte racked up 79 all-purpose yards in the first half, but made a mistake in the second quarter that nearly caused a major momentum swing. After catching a short dump off from Cutler, the running back looked to make a move on Brian Rolle, who punched the ball loose and scooped up the fumble for a 22-yard touchdown return.

Rolle’s score helped Philadelphia tie the game 10-10 with 1:38 left in the first half.

The fumble was Forte’s first of the season, and interestingly the running back hadn’t put the ball on the ground in 347 touches prior to Monday night. Forte’s second fumble led to another Eagles touchdown, but the running back finished the game with a game-high 133 yards rushing.

Gould booms another bomb: Robbie Gould made his second field goal of the season from 50-plus yards when he banged in a 51 yarder in the second quarter to give the Bears a 10-0 lead.

Gould is 7-of-9 from 50-plus yards over the past three years and 7-of-11 from those distances over his career.

What’s next: The Bears take the day off Tuesday before getting back to work on Wednesday in preparation for their second meeting with Detroit. The Bears trail the Lions by one game in the NFC North standings, and can move into a tie with them for second in the division with a victory.

Rapid Reaction: Bears 30, Eagles 24

November, 7, 2011
11/07/11
11:58
PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Some thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' very costly 30-24 loss to the Chicago Bears on "Monday Night Football."

What it means: The Eagles may well need to run the table at this point if they want to make the playoffs. Not only are they 3-5 at the midpoint of the season, they have head-to-head losses to three teams over which they'll have to climb in order to win the division or earn a wild-card spot -- the Giants, Falcons and Bears. They're at the point where they can win almost no tiebreakers and probably have to go at least 7-1 the rest of the way if they want to save their season.

Dumb mistakes: The Bears looked for much of the night as though they were trying to give the game to the Eagles with mistakes, but Philadelphia kept hurting themselves with mistakes of their own. From DeSean Jackson's fumbled punt, to Jason Babin's roughing the passer penalty on a third-down stop, to any number of poor Michael Vick decisions, and right on up until Nnamdi Asomugha's pass interference with five minutes left in the game and the Bears apparently stopped on third down in Eagles territory -- the Eagles repeatedly put themselves in bad positions with mental and physical errors the likes of which they believed were behind them after two straight wins.

Lousy finishers: The Eagles have held fourth-quarter leads in each of their five losses this season.

No pressure: Heading into the game, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was one of the most harried quarterbacks in the league. But the Eagles were unable to get any consistent pressure on him with their front four against the Bears' offensive line. It may be that they were staying back to prevent Matt Forte and the Bears' running game from beating them, especially after Forte spent the opening drive doing just that. But for whatever reason they could not rattle Cutler, and he was able to make some brilliant improvised plays during Chicago's fourth-quarter comeback.

Shady the star: As usual, the best Eagles player on the field was running back LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 71yards, caught five passes for 46 more yards and tied a 64-year-old Eagles team record by scoring a touchdown in his eighth consecutive game. McCoy finds holes where there don't appear to be any. He keeps plays alive with his athleticism and can turn them big with his speed. If the Eagles do have any hope of recovering from their lousy start and making the playoffs, they rest largely with their ability and willingness to continue to feature McCoy as their star player and focal point on offense.

What's next: The Eagles host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon in a game they now absolutely cannot afford to lose. The week after, they travel to New York to play the Giants, who now hold a commanding three-game lead and beat the Eagles in their head-to-head matchup in Philadelphia earlier in the season.

PITTSBURGH -- Thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 23-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field:

What it means: Joe Flacco's 26-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith with eight seconds remaining allowed the Ravens (6-2) to complete their first season sweep of the Steelers (6-3) since 2006 and give them a share of first place in the AFC North with the surprising Cincinnati Bengals (6-2). This came after Baltimore failed to hold a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and fell behind 20-16 with 4:59 remaining. It was the first time since 2006 that the Ravens beat Ben Roethlisberger at Heinz Field.

Flacco's comeback: Trailing by four points (20-16) with 2:24 left, Flacco led a 12-play, 92-yard drive that ended with the touchdown pass. It's the second time in three trips to Heinz Field that Flacco has delivered the comeback.

Bouncing back: Smith, the rookie second-round pick, redeemed himself with the touchdown catch. He had his third drop of the game four plays earlier when Flacco's pass went off his fingertips in the end zone.

James Harrison storms back: In his first game after missing the previous four, Harrison recorded three sacks, including a critical forced fumble in the fourth quarter. It led to Roethlisberger's go-ahead touchdown pass to Wallace.

Suggs steps up: Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs made his presence known in the third quarter with the Steelers driving in the red zone when he picked off Roethlisberger. Suggs anticipated the quick pass and leapt in the air instead of rushing to make that play. The Ravens converted that turnover into a Ray Rice touchdown to take a 16-6 lead.

What's next: The Steelers travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals. The Ravens go cross country to play the Seattle Seahawks.

Wrap-up: Broncos 38, Raiders 24

November, 6, 2011
11/06/11
8:04
PM ET
What it means: The Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs are 4-4 and tied for first place in the AFC West after all three teams lost at home Sunday.

The Denver Broncos are 3-5 and one game off the pace in this hot mess of a division. The Raiders -- who went 6-0 in the AFC West last year -- were primed to be 6-2, but they have lost back-to-back home games to Kansas City and Denver.

Palmer’s impact: Quarterback Carson Palmer had his moments Sunday as he threw three touchdown passes in his first start as a Raider. But the man brought to Oakland to be the difference maker has thrown six interceptions in six quarters of play.

Tebow’s impact: Tebow played better than he did in his first two starts of the season, but he wasn’t terrific throwing the ball. Yet, with 117 yards rushing, he very likely did enough on keep his job as the starter. Denver is 2-1 with him as the starter.

McGahee’s day: The star of the show for Denver was 30-year-old Willis McGahee. Playing two weeks after breaking his hand and only limited practice, McGahee ripped through an Oakland defense that is giving up too many big plays. He had 163 yards rushing and he scored on runs of 60 and 24 yards in the second half. Denver, which has struggled all season on the ground, had 298 yards rushing.

What’s next: The Raiders have a quick turnaround. They will play a crucial AFC West game at San Diego on Thursday night. Denver plays at Kansas City,

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –- The New York Giants and New England Patriots got together for their first meaningful game since Super Bowl XLII and it was another classic. And Eli Manning got the better of Tom Brady again.

What it means: The Giants opened a brutal six-game stretch of their schedule by playing their best game of the season. The Giants allowed Brady to find Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown on a fourth-and-9 from the Giants' 14 to push the Patriots up 20-17. But Manning drove the Giants down for the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds remaining, hitting Jake Ballard on a 1-yard touchdown pass, a score that was helped by a pass interference call against New England on Victor Cruz at the Patriots' 1.

Fantastic Finish: The Giants have lived dangerously this season, so it was no surprised that their sixth straight game went down to the fourth quarter.

Down 13-10, Manning drove the Giants down for a go-ahead touchdown when he hit Mario Manningham on a 10-yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone with 3:03 left. Manningham also drew a key pass interference on the drive for a gain of 35 yards.

But Brady marched the Patriots right down to the Giants' 14-yard-line and, on fourth down, he hit Gronkowski for a touchdown on Michael Boley with 1:36 left to push the Patriots up 20-17. Gronkowski gave Boley a slight shove to get free, but there was no flag.

But Manning did it again to the Patriots.

Terrible Tom: The Giants' defense, which has had difficulties this season against the run and no huddle, managed to get the better of Brady for 2½ quarters. Brady threw two interceptions and was hit as he was attempting a pass, resulting in a fumble that set up a Brandon Jacobs' touchdown in the third quarter. That put the Giants up 10-3.

The Giants did a good job of disguising their defense, changing things up and switching defenders on receivers. But it didn’t last as Brady started getting comfortable near the end of the third quarter and led the Patriots to 10 unanswered points early in the fourth.

Costly mistakes: With a second-and-goal at the Patriots’ 2-yard-line, the Giants were called for a delay of game. Two plays later on a third-and-5 at the Patriots’ 5-yard-line, a backpedaling Manning lofted a ball to the back left corner of the end zone that was intercepted by Kyle Arrington. Instead of getting at least a field goal to add to a 10-3 lead, the Giants gave the Pats the ball.

Defensive battle: The Giants and Patriots played to the first scoreless half in the NFL this season. While the Giants' defense played well, Brady didn't look comfortable. Part of it was due to the Giants' pass rush and Perry Fewell moving defenders around to give him different looks. But Brady also missed a wide open Aaron Hernandez in the end zone and the usually reliable Stephen Gostkowski missed a 27-yard field goal just before the end of the half.

The Giants were able to keep New England from hitting on big plays and they switched defenders on Brady's receivers often. Both teams combined to go 3-for-14 on third downs in the first half.

What's next: The Giants' torturous schedule continues as they travel to San Francisco, where the 49ers are no longer a treat to face. The Niners are 7-1 under Jim Harbaugh, and Frank Gore will be difficult for the Giants to stop.

SAN DIEGO -- Thoughts from a wet day by the sea.

What it means: There is a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West at 4-4 between the Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs. All three teams lost at home Sunday.

Tomorrow’s talker: The Chargers made a furious comeback, but they didn’t have enough. All four of the Chargers’ losses have occurred because the team has made too many mistakes. The Chargers' defense came on strong at the end of the game, when it stopped Aaron Rodgers twice, but he wasn’t forced into making any mistakes.

Rivers still shaky: For the first time in his career, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers threw three interceptions. They were all extremely costly. Two were brought back for touchdowns and the third ended a potential game-tying series in the final minute. The Chargers have lost three straight games and Rivers made crucial, fourth-quarter miscues in all three of the games. Rivers has thrown 14 interceptions this season. He had 22 in the past two seasons combined.

What’s next: The Chargers have a quick turnaround as they host Oakland on Thursday night in a key AFC West game.

Wrap-up: Bengals 24, Titans 17

November, 6, 2011
11/06/11
7:47
PM ET

Thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 24-17 win at the Tennessee Titans:

What it means: The Bengals continue to validate themselves as playoff contenders. They came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to win their fifth straight game, their longest winning streak since 1988 (point of reference: quarterback Andy Dalton was 1 year old at the time). Cincinnati (6-2) will either share first place in the AFC North (if the Ravens beat the Steelers) or have sole possession of second place (if the Steelers beat the Ravens).

Thumbs up: Dalton. The rookie quarterback threw for 217 yards and three touchdowns, but the impressive part was how he threw the touchdowns. In rallying the Bengals, he threw two touchdowns -- a 15-yard pass to Jerome Simpson in the third quarter and a 5-yarder to Andre Caldwell in the fourth -- with high velocity. Unlike most first-year starters, Dalton isn't afraid with throwing in between the numbers.

Second-half shutdown: Dalton was able to bring back the Bengals because Cincinnati's defense dominated Tennessee in the second half. Titans running back Chris Johnson was limited to nine yards after halftime and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had only 106 yards passing in the second half. The Bengals' defense nearly scored for the fourth straight week, but Carlos Dunlap's touchdown was taken away because replays showed it wasn't a backward pass.

What's next: The Bengals get back into AFC North play when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game will mark the first sellout at Paul Brown Stadium this year.

Wrap-up: Cardinals 19, Rams 13 (OT)

November, 6, 2011
11/06/11
7:47
PM ET

Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals following the Cardinals' 19-13 victory at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 9:

What it means: Rookie Patrick Peterson is becoming a legend already after his 99-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Cardinals an overtime victory. This was his third punt return for a touchdown in eight games and it came when the Cardinals were desperate for a victory. The last time they won, against Carolina in Week 1, his punt return score was the difference. In the bigger picture, this game hurts Arizona's chances for securing a higher choice in the draft, but the payoff was sweet for the Cardinals.

What I liked: Calais Campbell continued to demonstrate his value on the field-goal block team. His third career block made sure the game went to overtime. Campbell also dominated from his spot at right defensive end. The Cardinals got No. 2 receiver Andre Roberts more involved in the offense. Adrian Wilson made an aggressive play in the Rams' backfield to foil a third-and-1 rushing attempt, forcing the Rams to settle for a field goal and a 6-3 lead. Arizona's John Skelton made a good touch pass to Larry Fitzgerald for the tying 13-yard touchdown in the final five minutes. ... Sam Bradford toughed it out on his sprained ankle, a starting point in his return to the Rams' lineup. Steven Jackson continued his physical running and topped 100 yards on the ground for the second week in a row. He has at least 96 yards in three of his last four games and at least 70 in all four. Rams rookie Greg Salas caught seven passes. Rams safety Darian Stewart was again active, getting a hand on passes well down the field.

What I didn't like: Skelton became the first NFL player since Aaron Rodgers in 2008 to take two safeties in the same game. Both were avoidable. Both were costly in a low-scoring game dominated by defense. The Cardinals had 58 yards and four first downs in the first half. Beanie Wells did not appear healthy and had a hard time getting anything going against the Rams' defense. Bradford took too many sacks. Salas suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury and was carted off the field. Later, medical personnel carted off Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams after a scary collision that appeared to put his head and neck area in jeopardy. Peterson continued having problems with penalties, including with the game on the line.

Controversial call: The Rams went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Arizona 33 with 1:48 remaining and did not get it. They were within range for a 51-yard field-goal attempt. Their kicker, Josh Brown, had made all three attempts Sunday (48, 37, 41 yards). Brown had made 15 of 19 tries from 50-plus yards since signing with the Rams. Field conditions in Arizona appeared excellent. Yes, Jackson was running well, but that was partly because the Rams had done a good job mixing up their play calls. Arizona knew what was coming in this situation. The fact that Arizona blocked the Rams' field-goal try later in the game doesn't validate Steve Spagnuolo's decision.

What's next: The Cardinals face the Eagles in Kevin Kolb's return to Philadelphia. The Rams visit Cleveland.

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on yet another Green Bay Packers victory, 45-38:

What it means: A rare rainy day at Qualcomm Stadium led to quite a shootout. It reminded a few of us of the Packers' 2009 wild-card playoff game at the Arizona Cardinals. For a while there in a wild fourth quarter, nobody could stop nobody. In the end, however, the Packers raised their NFL-best record to 8-0, winning for the 14th consecutive time dating back to last December.

Pass defense: Packers safety Charlie Peprah and cornerback Tramon Williams each returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the first quarter, two of three interceptions the Packers had on the day. Those scores were obviously critical to the final outcome. But overall, this game won't do much to settle concerns about the Packers' pass defense. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns, including two after the halfway point of the fourth quarter that made this game a nail-biter for the Packers. The Packers had a particularly tough time tracking tight end Antonio Gates, who caught eight passes and drew two key fourth-quarter penalties.

Thanks, Quentin: The Chargers appeared to have the Packers stopped on third down with 2 minutes, 44 seconds remaining. But a holding penalty on cornerback Quentin Jammer, who was defending receiver Jordy Nelson, gave the Packers an important first down. The penalty robbed the Chargers of their remaining timeouts and cost them about a minute and 20 seconds on the clock. The Chargers finally regained possession with 1:05 left, but Peprah's second interception of the game clinched it with 14 seconds left.

RodgersWatch: Oh yeah, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and a total of five incompletions in yet another razor-sharp performance. Rodgers has had at least a 110 passer rating in all eight Packers game this season, an NFL record.

Injury report: Hard-luck linebacker Frank Zombo did not return after injuring a hamstring. Zombo has also dealt with shoulder and knee injuries this season.

Packers pride: I've never seen a visiting team cheered as loudly as the Packers were Sunday. Conservative estimates suggested a third of the stadium was populated by Packers fans. I would say it was closer to half. It was quite a showing, regardless, and made for a raucous midseason atmosphere.

What's next: The Packers have an extra day of preparation for next Monday night's game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Rapid Reaction: Bengals 24, Titans 17

November, 6, 2011
11/06/11
7:34
PM ET

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Thoughts on the Tennessee Titans’ 24-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at LP Field:

What it means: The Titans fell to 4-4, which feels about right for their talent and performance but really shows off their failures since a 3-1 start. Tennessee now trails Houston in the AFC South by two games plus a head-to-head loss. The Titans had a 17-7 halftime lead after a solid first half but really faltered from there. Their final good chance to win ended when TE Jared Cook was stripped by cornerback Nate Clements, who recovered it.

What I didn’t like: The passing game is just too out of sync. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to Matt Hasselbeck when there appears to be timing, route depth or route break-off issues. Coach Mike Munchak said more often than not his quarterback is right when things go wrong. But there are too many plays where targets turn back after incompletions and seem surprised about where a throw went.

What I also didn’t like: They allowed a rookie quarterback (Andy Dalton) and a rookie receiver (A.J. Green) to scald them in the second half. On the go-ahead touchdown drive, they connected on a 23-yard pass on a first-and-20 and a 20-yard pass on a third-and-18.

Fooled us in the first half: Tennessee did some things better in the first 30 minutes. Chris Johnson had 55 rushing yards on nine first-half carries. The Titans threw to Cook more often (but look what it ultimately got them). Cortland Finnegan spearheaded a fine defensive first half, getting his hands on a couple of balls and threatening as a blitzer.

What’s next: The Titans head to Carolina to face another rookie quarterback, the Panthers' Cam Newton.

Wrap-up: Dolphins 31, Chiefs 3

November, 6, 2011
11/06/11
5:05
PM ET

Here are some thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' impressive, 31-3, victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

What it means: The Dolphins (1-7) are no longer winless. They broke a 10-game losing streak, dating to last season. Miami is playing better football the past three weeks. The team blew a pair of fourth-quarter leads against the Denver Broncos and New York Giants before dominating the Chiefs on Sunday.

What I liked: Miami quarterback Matt Moore played his best game of the season. He was efficient and effective for the Dolphins. Moore completed 17-of-23 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns. I also liked how the Dolphins took control of this game and knew how to finish. Miami took a 14-3 lead at halftime and turned it into a 28-point win.

What I didn't like: There is little to complain about when a team wins its first game of the season in convincing fashion. The only complaint would be that the Indianapolis Colts fell to 0-9 with another ugly loss. Indianapolis now is the clear-cut favorite in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes, especially if Miami continues to play competitive football.

What's next: The Dolphins will return home and try to win their first home game at Sun Life Stadium against the Washington Redskins. Miami is 1-12 in its last 13 contests at home.

Wrap-up: Falcons 31, Colts 7

November, 6, 2011
11/06/11
4:48
PM ET

Thoughts on the Colts’ 31-7 loss to the Falcons at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Colts are 0-9 and showed no reason for optimism. With Miami winning in Kansas City, Indianapolis is the only winless team in the league and thus the favorite for Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.

What I didn’t like: The Colts didn’t have a play longer than a 16-yard Curtis Painter-to-Austin Collie pass play. The Falcons, meanwhile, got two gigantic touchdown receptions from rookie Julio Jones, the first for 50 yards and the second for 80. His receiving yards on those two plays were more than the Colts’ total of 118.

Injury of concern: Tight end Dallas Clark left the game in the second quarter with a lower leg injury and did not return. His productivity as a pass catcher is way down with Painter in at quarterback for Peyton Manning, but the Colts are hardly a better team without him in the mix.

The same, but different: Both teams averaged 4.0 yards a carry in the run game. But Atlanta ran it 41 times and the Colts just 21.

Other ugly numbers: Average gain per pass play was 10.8 for Atlanta and 2.9 for Indianapolis. Time of possession was 37:46 to 22:14 in the Falcons’ favor. At least the Colts’ offense shouldn’t be especially tired this week.

What’s next: The Colts host the Jaguars in a game many consider Indianapolis' best chance to win a game. Jacksonville will be coming off a bye.

Wrap-up: Dolphins 31, Chiefs 3

November, 6, 2011
11/06/11
4:35
PM ET

A look at a shocker at Arrowhead Stadium.

What it means: If the Kansas City Chiefs don’t win the AFC West, this game will be looked at as the beginning of the end. The Chiefs came roaring into this game, winners of four straight games. They entered the game in a three-way tie for first place with the Chargers and Raiders. Now, they must hope those two teams lose to keep pace.

Tomorrow’s talker: The Chiefs lost at home, by 28 points, to the previously winless Dolphins. How does that happen? The Chiefs have been good for a month, but this performance was reminiscent of the first two weeks of the season when Kansas City was outscored 89-10.

Where’s the defense? One of the reasons why the Chiefs’ were hot was the defense was playing great. The Chiefs allowed one touchdown in the past two games. Yet, the Dolphins passed and ran on Kansas City, steamrolling the home team.

What’s next: The Chiefs host Denver next Sunday before they enter a ferocious five-game stretch, beginning with a Monday Night date at New England. The expectation was that the Chiefs would be 6-3 going into that’s stretch. Now, they must hope to be 5-4.

Wrap up: 49ers 19, Redskins 11

November, 6, 2011
11/06/11
4:33
PM ET

A few thoughts from the Washington Redskins' fourth straight loss, this one at home to the 49ers on Sunday afternoon:

What it means: Well, at least the Redskins scored this week. Heck, they even came up with a late touchdown to keep things respectable. But for much of the game it was more of the same -- an inept, outmanned, overmatched offense that just couldn't get yards when it had to and asked the defense to stay on the field too long and do too much. The worst part is that they're not even doing what they say they want to do. John Beck threw 47 passes in this game and they only had 15 rush attempts. They weren't far enough behind to justify a split like that.

Hello, Helu: In a surprise move, just before the game Mike Shanahan named rookie Roy Helu the starter at running back over Ryan Torain. He also started rookie Leonard Hankerson at wide receiver, and Hankerson played fine. But it was the Helu move that was the eye-opener. The reason Tim Hightower was starting over Torain earlier in the year was that the Redskins liked Hightower better in the passing game -- as a receiver and a blocker. They feel the same way about Helu, and you could see why. Not only did he come up with 41 rushing yards on 10 carries, Helu also caught 14 passes for 105 yards. A Redskins offense that doesn't have many downfield options needs to be able to throw to its backs as well as its tight ends, and while tight end Fred Davis wasn't a factor, Helu showed them that they may have a new dimension on which they can rely going forward.

Beck is a wreck: I'm sure a lot of guys would look jittery playing quarterback behind this offensive line the way it's built right now, but Beck sure isn't the picture of cool confidence back there. It's one thing to know you can make a play with your legs when things break down. It's quite another to be jumping around as soon as you take the snap, ignoring open receivers and making poor choices when the play hasn't yet broken down. Beck could have made more plays than he did in this one. More of this was on him than was the last game, in which he got sacked 10 times. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Redskins will make at least one more starting quarterback change before the end of this year. You've not seen the last of Rex Grossman.

The defense doesn't rest: Once again, I thought the defense fought pretty hard, considering it's being asked to win games by itself. Ryan Kerrigan was a disruptive presence in the backfield early, London Fletcher was once again everywhere all at once, LaRon Landry and DeAngelo Hall made some plays ... The Redskins could be in these games if the offense had better players, but all of the key injuries on that side of the ball have crippled them.

What's next: The Redskins travel to Miami on Sunday to take on the red-hot Miami Dolphins, who picked up their first win in a row Sunday to improve to 1-7.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Seattle Seahawks provided the perfect opponent to solve the Dallas Cowboys' woes. Well, sort of. Dallas played a nice, but not great game Sunday afternoon on the day they inducted Drew Pearson, Larry Allen and Charles Haley into the Ring of Honor. The Cowboys should have played better, but they have next week to solve their issues. For the record: Dallas 23, Seattle 13.

Here's a recap:

What it means: Not really sure. The Cowboys beat up a Seattle team ranking next to last in total offense and rushing offense. Its defense ranked 13th overall but 18th against the pass. Seattle rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time in two weeks and the Seahawks completed numerous big plays in the passing game. But the Cowboys won, and that's all that matters in the NFL sometimes.

DeMarco Murray needs to start: Nothing personal against Felix Jones, but did you see the rookie from Oklahoma on Sunday afternoon? He rushed 22 times for 139 yards. He's now rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the last three games. Jones has rushed for more than 100 yards just twice in the regular season during his career. It might be time to move on from Jones and give things to Murray.

Defense plays OK: The Cowboys' defense pressured Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson numerous times and picked up three interceptions. Terence Newman, Jason Hatcher and Gerald Sensabaugh were the men who did in Jackson. DeMarcus Ware didn't register a sack for the first time in three weeks. It seemed the Cowboys missed inside linebacker Sean Lee, who was out with a dislocated left wrist. Bradie James and Keith Brooking didn't do enough to slow the running game. It's clear the Cowboys need to clean up some things before taking on Buffalo next week. Anthony Spencer picked up his first sack since Week 3 versus Washington, and now has three on the season.

Miles Austin is out: Wide receiver Miles Austin injured his right hamstring in the first half and didn't return. It's the second time this season that Austin has battled hamstring injuries. He finished the game with two catches for 53 yards. But it was OK because Laurent Robinson, once again, is looking like a man who knows what he's doing on the field. Robinson had five catches for 32 yards with one touchdown. Dez Bryant also had a nice game, though he had zero catches in the second half, with four receptions for 76 yards. Defenses are jamming Bryant at the line of scrimmage and he continues to struggle to get off the line.

Red zone problems: The Cowboys went 1-for-3 in the red zone Sunday. For the season, the Cowboys have 26 possessions inside the red zone with just 10 touchdowns and 12 field goals on the season. This has been a problem area for the Cowboys in 2011 and moving forward, things have to get fixed.

What's next: The Cowboys host Buffalo on Sunday afternoon. It's Chan Gailey's chance to beat the man who fired him, Jerry Jones. Jones said firing Gailey was one of his biggest mistakes.

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