NFL Nation: rapid reaction 4
If the Eagles are a serious contender in the NFC East, they sure hid it well in Sunday night's 24-20 loss in Chicago. They fell to an inferior team, and in doing so, fell to 2-2 on the season. With the Giants at 3-0 and the Redskins and Cowboys tied at 3-1, Philadelphia has taken its place in the basement of the league's best division.
You can point out the fact that the Eagles were playing without top running back Brian Westbrook (ankle), tight end L.J. Smith and right guard Shawn Andrews on Sunday, but that's not a viable excuse. The Eagles had every opportunity to win the game -- despite their poor effort.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb (chest) wasn't efficient enough, and the running game was non-existent for much of the evening. Westbrook's not a bull around the goal line, but you have to like his chances better than Correll Buckhalter's.
The most alarming thing for this team is giving up almost 200 yards and three touchdowns to Bears quarterback Kyle Orton. There's no shame in giving up that type of output to Tony Romo, Eli Manning and Jason Campbell, but 200 is a season's worth of stats for Orton. The Eagles harassed him for four sacks, but it didn't matter.
CHICAGO -- Thank you, Philadelphia.
The Chicago Bears defense finally came through Sunday night after consecutive second-half collapses. What isn't quite as clear: Where the Bears' credit should end and the Philadelphia Eagles' blame should begin.
The Eagles were in position to give the Bears another fourth quarter loss but were unable to score on four consecutive plays from inside Chicago's 5-yard line late in the game. Of course, that failure could have been because the Eagles unimaginatively ran the ball four consecutive times up the middle.
A touchdown would have given the Eagles a 27-24 lead with 3:40 remaining. But instead, defensive end Alex Brown stopped tailback Correll Buckhalter on fourth down from the 1-yard line. The Eagles were playing without starting tailback Brian Westbrook, and you would have thought they would try at least one pass play near the goal line.
Instead, the Bears (2-2) are now tied with the Green Bay Packers for first place in the thus-far uninspiring NFC North division race.
The Jaguars are feeling a lot better about themselves tonight, having pulled to 2-2 with their overtime win over Houston.
David Garrard played the sort of mistake-free game that was such a boon to last year's team. And from what I saw he really took things over late, with a few of his seven runs for 41 yards, including his TD run, coming in the clutch.
The Texans didn't fly back to Houston happy, having come so close to getting their first win.
Schaub was not sacked and game statisticians credited the Jaguars with just four QB hits. Like most QBs, he's a different player when he's got time and space. In this game it translated to 307 yards, three touchdowns with no picks and a 119.5 passer rating.
The thing is, how often are the Texans going to be able to provide him with that time and space?
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
IRVING, Texas -- In what was probably their last visit to Texas Stadium, the Washington Redskins provided the Cowboys with another painful memory Sunday. Tony Romo is considered one of the league's premier young passers, but on this day, it was Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell who led his team to a 26-24 victory in front of a stunned crowd.
Campbell overwhelmed the Cowboys in the first half by completing 20 of 31 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. The Cowboys focused on slowing down Santana Moss, who has torched them in the past. But the strategy backfired. Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman was burned for two touchdowns and a 53-yard pass to Moss. Campbell did an excellent job moving around in the pocket, and he put constant pressure on the Cowboys' defense.
In the second half, the Redskins gashed the Cowboys with their running game. All the misdirection plays the Redskins tried early opened the way for running back Clinton Portis to have a huge second half. Coach Wade Phillips has said "no one runs on the Dallas Cowboys," but that wasn't accurate Sunday.
Late in the game, the Cowboys' defense appeared winded. The Redskins' defense kept Romo in check through much of the afternoon, and then rookie safety Chris Horton picked him off to set up a Redskins field goal that put them up, 23-17.
The Cowboys were considered to be the best team in the league coming into this game, but after scoring the game's first touchdown, the Redskins kept them on their heels.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Perhaps Buffalo Bills head coach Dick Jauron should wake up his players early on game days and stage an intra-squad scrimmage a couple hours before kickoff. That way, maybe they won't sleepwalk through the first half anymore.
But there's something to be said for a team that picks up steam as the game evolves. It speaks to coaching adjustments, and it indicates a relentless mind-set among the players.
The Bills received contributions up and down the roster again. The turnaround came when Fred Jackson broke off a 22-yard touchdown run to pull the Bills within a point in the third quarter, and cornerback Jabari Greer returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to give them a permanent lead.
Here's a stat that shows how far the Bills have come since last year:
Over their past three games, the Bills have scored 55 fourth-quarter points. They called off the dogs in their opening-day rout of the Seattle Seahawks.
The Bills scored only 64 points in the fourth quarter last year. In 10 of their 16 games, they failed to score at all in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Trent Edwards had a pedestrian first half, but in the second half he went 7 of 8 for 88 yards and a touchdown. He completed all three of his fourth-quarter passes for 66 yards, including a 39-yard TD hookup with Lee Evans to put the game out of reach.
Edwards in the fourth quarter this year: 27 of 35 for 349 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Maybe Sean Payton was bluffing or maybe he was trying to borrow some time for the healing process.
It doesn't really matter now. Deuce McAllister assured he won't be a question anymore. With a 20-carry performance against the 49ers, the veteran running back gave the injury-riddled Saints their best news of the season.
Kept on the sidelines for almost all of the first three games of the season, McAllister showed he's got something left in his surgically-repaired knees. He scored a touchdown and gave the Saints the consistency they'd been missing in the short-yardage game.
That's huge for a team that's still going to be without receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey for the foreseeable future. Quarterback Drew Brees has shown he can complete passes to anyone (and that now includes receiver Robert Meachem). But the Saints had lost two in a row largely because the offense couldn't keep an equally-battered defense off the field.
That all changed Sunday with McAllister's strong showing. He's not going to just disappear again. He's back in as a staple in a New Orleans offense that suddenly looks a lot better and more balanced than it was at the start of the day.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
All blowouts are not the same, but that won't matter if the Rams decide to fire coach Scott Linehan following the team's 0-4 start.
The Rams were more competitive this week than last. They held a 14-13 lead in the third quarter. Steven Jackson topped 100 yards rushing for the first time this season. Trent Green passed for 236 yards. The run defense tightened considerably, preventing Marshawn Lynch from taking over the game.
But the final score was all too predictable. The Bills returned an interception for a touchdown. They made big plays in the passing game, continuing a trend against the Rams' pass defense. It's just tough to find much hope taking a 31-14 defeat and 0-4 record into the bye week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
OAKLAND -- Darren Sproles may have done in Lane Kiffin in Oakland.
After 15 days of speculation, it may have been the Chargers' 5-foot-6, 181-pound dynamo of a return man who nailed Kiffin's coffin.
Sproles returned a kickoff to the Oakland 35 with less than three minutes to go. That set the stage for a 47-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding to give San Diego a 21-18 lead with 1:51 to go in the game.
LaDainian Tomlinson added a touchdown less than a minute later.
It was the second time in as many weeks that Oakland blew the game in the fourth quarter.
Oakland led 15-3 the after third quarter and 15-0 at halftime. Last week in Buffalo, the Raiders led 16-7 and 23-14 in the fourth quarter before losing 24-23.
Oakland has played hard the past three weeks but is just 1-3 in a season in which hopes were high. If Al Davis was looking for an excuse or the perfect timing to finally relieve Kiffin of his duties, this would be it.
Kiffin has been the subject of rampant job security rumors for two-plus weeks. The Raiders' brass have said nothing. Not yet. The silence could end soon.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
The Panthers won a game, but -- at least for the moment -- lost a couple of offensive linemen.
Left tackle Jordan Gross and rookie right tackle Jeff Otah, two key members of a young and steadily improving line, were injured against the Falcons. Otah told reporters after the game he suffered a sprained ankle and could have returned late in the game, if necessary.
The Panthers hope that's the case, but let's give the training staff a day or two to confirm Otah's diagnosis. Gross suffered a concussion on the first offensive series of the game and didn't return.
It remains to be seen if either player will miss any future games, but the thought of having your two starting tackles out has to be scary for any team. The Panthers were trying to build their line around two book-end tackles and the loss of one or both for any period of time could be devastating.
Jeremy Bridges and Frank Omiyale are the only other tackles on the roster. Left guard Travelle Wharton slid outside after Gross was injured and the Panthers likely would stick with that formula if Gross has to miss any more time. Omiyale is viewed as a project and isn't ready to start. Bridges has been a starter at various points in his career and is an adequate run blocker at right tackle, but is not known as a strong pass blocker.
There will be a good bit of quarterback discussion this week in the Twin Cities after Gus Frerotte injured his hand late in the fourth quarter in Nashville. But in watching the game from afar, what stood out more than anything was the way the Titans manhandled the Vikings in a physical sense.
Coach Brad Childress has put a special emphasis on building the Vikings' offensive and defensive lines. Even in their losses over the years, the Vikings have always played a punishing brand of football on both ends. I don't think they backed off Sunday, but the Titans -- defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth among them -- seemed to be playing at a more physical level.
Childress' whole program is built on dominating the line of scrimmage to facilitate his power running game on offense along with a run-stopping defense. But on Sunday, the Vikings ran for 80 yards -- 28 of which came on a touchdown run by Adrian Peterson. That means the Vikings totaled 52 yards on their other 19 carries.
On the other side of the ball, Titans rookie Chris Johnson rushed for 61 yards on 17 carries and probably would have gone for 100 if he didn't have to share carries with LenDale White. Johnson is as quick of a back as the Vikings will face, but I saw plenty of open running lanes for him.
The Vikings are 1-3 for a lot of reasons. One reason I never would have suspected: Getting pushed around by an opponent.
You probably couldn't have drawn up a more a more nightmarish scenario Sunday for the Green Bay Packers. On the day former quarterback Brett Favre threw a career-high six touchdown passes, new quarterback Aaron Rodgers was struggling through a three-interception, injury-marred performance in a game that ended with a rookie seventh-round draft pick taking snaps for the Packers.
For the first time since he took over the starting job, Rodgers looked rattled Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay's veteran defense induced Rodgers into a series of mistakes, and his propensity to take off from the pocket finally got him in trouble.
Rodgers suffered a shoulder injury while trying to stretch for a first down in the third quarter; he came up a yard short while landing on his right shoulder. Rookie Matt Flynn ultimately replaced him. (In a sign of how anonymous the Packers' backups are, FOX's television cameras at first focused on No. 3 quarterback Brian Brohm when Rodgers was initially shaken up).
It's not immediately clear how serious Rodgers' injury is. And it was only fair to expect him to have a bad game at some point after his otherwise strong debut as the Packers' starter. Unfortunately for him -- but to the joy of Favre-lovers everywhere -- his timing couldn't have been worse.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
For those who thought the Denver Broncos were a fraud during the first three weeks of the season, you ought to feel pretty good right now.
Is Denver a paper contender?
It will be if its offense continues to bobble games away. This is what we know about the Denver Broncos, now 3-1: The defense will not win games. The Broncos have to score. If the offense plays sloppily, the Broncos will lose.
That's what happened Sunday at Kansas City as the Chiefs got their first win of the season. This was considered a lock for Denver by many. The Chiefs entered the game with little offense and a porous defense.
The only way, it seemed, they would be in the game was if the Broncos made a ton of mistakes. And they did. Denver committed four turnovers. Jay Cutler was intercepted twice and the Broncos fumbled twice.
What's clear after today's game is Denver's defense isn't good enough to carry the day. Denver's offense, which compiled more than 400 yards despite the miscues, can't give the ball away and expect the Denver defense to stand up.
The Broncos are not going to win many games scoring 19 points. This was a game in which Denver should have scored 35-plus points. That's what it is going to take for Denver to remain a playoff contender. Denver has scored 133 points this season. However, it has allowed 117 points.
Kansas City entered the game scoring 32 points in three games. It scored 33 today. The Denver defense couldn't bail out its offense.
This is what we learned Sunday about Denver: There is immense pressure on Cutler and his offense to be perfect. A mediocre effort just won't cut it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
That was the sort of performance the New York Jets needed -- mostly.
Their defense made substantial plays, setting up their offense to explode in record-setting fashion.
Sunday's victory gives the Jets a 2-2 record heading into their bye week, putting them in a better frame of mind than they've been. They were coming off two exasperating losses in which the play calling was heavily criticized and doubts were beginning to escalate about whether acquiring Brett Favre was justified.
Head coach Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer could do no wrong on Sunday, and Favre responded with one of his best games.
Favre threw for 289 yards and six touchdowns, a personal record that tied Joe Namath for the most in Jets history.
The Jets led the Cardinals 34-0 at halftime, scoring all of their points in the second quarter. It was turning into a knee-slapping rout. The Jets forced four turnovers and blocked a field goal in the first half. Favre threw three touchdown passes to Laveranues Coles.
Jets fans' ribs still were hurting from the laughter when their team frittered away momentum and somehow let the Cardinals back into the game.
Of all the astonishing numbers the Jets posted in the second quarter, this one was equally striking: By the time the Cardinals slashed the lead to 34-21 with 2:50 left in the third quarter, the Jets offense had three snaps.
New York reawakened. Favre in the fourth quarter connected with Jerricho Cotchery for two touchdowns and Dustin Keller for one more. Favre had thrown for five touchdowns three times but never since Week 4 in 1998.
Giving up 35 points in the second half should temper the excitement, but the Jets now have two precious weeks to get Favre even more acclimated to the offense and to tinker with the defense.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers find their record the same as it was after four games last season. Their offense is better, but the schedule isn't doing them any favors.
New England is waiting for the 49ers in Week 5 after a bye week. At 2-2, San Francisco remains tied with Arizona atop the NFC West. But the 49ers also squandered a chance to keep their offensive momentum going against an injury-depleted New Orleans defense.
The team went from 2-2 to 2-10 last season. That won't happen again in 2008, but the Patriots, Eagles and Giants are next up on the schedule.
Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan absorbed six more sacks, raising his season total to 21. The 49ers should also be concerned about an injury-diminished secondary that couldn't stop Drew Brees from averaging 10.4 yards per pass attempt while tossing three touchdowns.
Frank Gore ran effectively for the 49ers, as expected, but he never broke a long run. And the 49ers weren't in position to force-feed the ball to him the way they did while leading against Detroit in Week 3.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Anquan Boldin's injury sapped the meaning from the defeat while refocusing the Cardinals' thoughts on what matters most.
Medical personnel removed Boldin from the field on a stretcher with 27 seconds remaining. There was no immediate word on the receiver's condition. He did not appear conscious after absorbing a devastating double hit, one in the back of the head and the other in the front.
The game's previous 59 minutes put on hold any talk about a more disciplined Kurt Warner leading a renewed Cardinals team to prominence.
Warner reverted to his old, careless form at the Meadowlands. His teammates followed along. They never quit, rallying back with 21 unanswered points in the third quarter, but fundamentally sound teams don't face 34-0 deficits in the first half.
The Cardinals looked like just another inconsistent team in the weak NFC West. Arizona stared 3-1 in the face and came away looking like a team that could easily find itself 2-4. Buffalo and Dallas are next up on the schedule.
The Cardinals watched Brett Favre toss six touchdown passes, but Favre couldn't have done it without Warner repeatedly handing the ball back to him.
The solution is the same as it's always been for Arizona with Warner at quarterback. The Cardinals need him to protect the football. When he does, the Cardinals can beat most teams. When he does not, the rest of the team also seems to revisit its undisciplined ways.