NFL Nation: rapid reaction 8
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Perhaps the Cleveland Browns enjoy the turmoil?
After one of the most eventful weeks in recent memory, and for all the wrong reasons, the Browns still showed enough resolve to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road 23-17.
This ranks right up there with the surprising win at home against the New York Giants. Cleveland hadn't been asked about the Jaguars all week, who were patiently waiting to pounce on the Browns during a week that included a high-profile suspension and then non-suspension of tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.
But Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson continued his up and down season with a solid performance, throwing for 246 yards and a touchdown. The Browns led for most of the game and held off a late Jacksonville rally to improve to 3-4.
Cleveland has an AFC North showdown with the Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Browns Stadium next week with a chance to suddenly get back in the hunt.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
So much for the Cincinnati Bengals' chance of winning a game anytime soon.
In what appeared to be their best shot in the near future, the Bengals didn't come close in Sunday's 35-6 blowout loss to the Houston Texans. Cincinnati fell to 0-8 with no relief on its schedule in sight.
The Bengals went from losing somewhat competitive games to not bothering to show up.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub carved up Cincinnati's secondary with ease, completing 24-of-28 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns. Schaub's counterpart, Cincinnati's Ryan Fitzpatrick (155 yards), turned the ball over three times and failed to get the Bengals into the end zone.
Cincinnati officially has gone through the first half of its 2008 schedule winless. Will the Bengals do the same in the second half of the season?
Before Jones could get a sixth touch and corral the throw on the second-to-last play of the game, Nick Sorensen arrived and the ball bounced away off his helmet. (See it at the end of the highlight package here.)
Upset losers to Cleveland, Jacksonville now stands at 3-4.
They were supposed to get their running game going against the Browns, but Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combined for only 53 yards and neither had a run longer than five yards. Jacksonville's success on the ground came when Garrard kept the ball -- he had seven carries for 59 yards.
The Jags have run for at least 139 yards in their three wins and Cleveland came into the game as the NFL's 26th-ranked rush defense. But Jacksonville totaled only 113 ground yards.
It was not the scenario the Jaguars were hoping for coming off their bye for a game where they expected to refortify their offensive line by plugging in center Brad Meester and right guard Chris Naeole, both coming off injuries. Meester played, but it was a bad omen when Naeole was scratched after he injured his hand in warm-ups.
Cleveland nose tackle Shaun Rogers was a real trouble-maker against the middle of the Jaguars' line, with a team-high nine tackles, a sack and a blocked field goal.
A botched special teams play by the Steelers allowed the Giants to tie the game at 14 and quarterback Eli Manning led one of his patented fourth-quarter drives. On a key third-and-7 play, he found Steve Smith for a 25-yard gain. Two plays later, he connected with Plaxico Burress for an 8-yard gain and the Giants scored quickly after that to make it 21-14.
Once again, though, it was the defense that kept the Giants in the game. Ben Roethlisberger was picked off four times. He was also sacked five times. Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka had the best game of his career with three sacks and a forced fumble. The Steelers focused on stopping defensive end Justin Tuck, and Kiwanuka took advantage of the strategy.
Burress didn't start the game as punishment for skipping a treatment Saturday for his sore neck. He played, but he was a non-factor until the end of the game. Trailing 14-9 in the fourth quarter, Manning made his best throw of the day. On fourth-and-six from the Steelers' 34-yard line, the quarterback hit Amani Toomer in stride for a 30-yard pass.
The Giants had to settle for a John Carney field goal, but the points put them in position to strike when replacement long snapper James Harrison sailed the ball over his punter's head. The victory sets up an NFC East showdown in the Meadowlands with the 5-3 Cowboys. The Giants are 6-1, and a win over the Cowboys would put them in great position at the midway point.
Huge win for the Eagles at home. You had the feeling running back Brian Westbrook would put up big numbers and he didn't disappoint. He used the bye week to recover from ankle and rib injuries, and he ran like a man possessed Sunday. He ran 22 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb wasn't all that efficient, but he made plays when he had to. He showed some speed on a 12-yard run and then he raced in for a 3-yard touchdown. It appears that Andy Reid isn't trying to protect him as much anymore -- and that's a good thing for Eagles fans.
Matt Ryan put up decent numbers with 277 yards and two touchdowns, but his two interceptions were big. Lito Sheppard and Asante Samuel each had an interception as the Eagles improved to 4-3 on the season. The Eagles now travel to Seattle, which blew out the 49ers on Sunday. If the Eagles beat Seattle, they have a great chance of overtaking the Cowboys in the standings next week.
It's hard to get a feel for this Eagles team, but they're definitely right in the thick of things in the playoff race.
New York Jets fans might want to buy their antacids in bulk. They won't go to waste.
Their team tried to give away Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but avoided losing consecutive games to NFL doormats with a late touchdown for a 28-24 victory at the Meadowlands.
Brett Favre was the main source of indigestion. He threw three interceptions. One went for a 91-yard touchdown to give the Chiefs a 24-21 lead with 9:39 to play. But Favre managed to pull it out, hitting Laveranues Coles, who made a scintillating grab in the end zone from 15 yards away.
The Jets ran the ball well. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington combined for 121 yards and two touchdowns. The Jets rolled up 420 total yards, giving them back-to-back games with at least 400 yards for the first time in a decade.
New York's defense also had its moments, holding the Chiefs to 80 yards rushing and sacking quarterback Tyler Thigpen four times.
Good news comes in small doses for woebegone teams, and so on Sunday afternoon Detroit had this bit of optimism to rally around: They managed to score in the first quarter for the first time all season.
Yes, the Lions led Washington after the first quarter (7-3) and at halftime (10-6) before Washington snuck away with a 25-17 victory. But in all seriousness, it's hard to imagine the Lions walking away from this game with any sense of optimism.
Not many people saw this game -- paid attendance was 54,312 at the 62,000-seat Ford Field and the game was blacked out locally. What the rest of the world missed was a game in which the Lions stayed competitive even as they were once again blown away at the point of attack.
This time, their opponent converted that dominance into a series of big plays: A 50-yard touchdown reception by Santana Moss, a 31-yard run by tailback Clinton Portis and a 31-yard reception by Antwaan Randle El. (And don't forget about Moss' 80-yard punt return.)
In the end, the Lions' punchless offense was unable to keep up. Expect that theme to continue for the foreseeable future.
The Redskins dominated the game in every area but the scoreboard. Even though quarterback Jason Campbell was almost perfect in the first half, the Redskins trailed the winless Lions, 10-6. And running back Clinton Portis had a sideline meltdown that head coach Jim Zorn felt compelled to address at halftime.
The net result: The Redskins reach the midway point at 6-2, and remain just a half-game behind the New York Giants. Campbell actually had his first lost fumble of the season, but he kept his remarkable interception-less streak alive. If my math's correct, he's now gone 252 attempts without an interception. He was 23 of 28 for 328 yards and a touchdown against the Lions. Santana Moss and Chris Cooley combined for 214 yards receiving. Moss added a punt return for a touchdown when he was forced to fill in for Antwaan Randle El.
Portis is in the middle of the best stretch of his career. He's now run for 120 yards or more in five consecutive games. And from what I can tell, the confrontation with Zorn shouldn't hurt the team. In fact, it was sort of impressive to see Zorn walk over and confront his star running back. Portis apparently didn't take the field because of an equipment issue at the start of a drive in the first half. Zorn didn't know that.
Anyway, it was another important win as the Redskins prepare to host the Steelers next Monday. The NFC Beast is preparing to pull the rare double-dip with Cowboys-Giants on Sunday followed by Redskins-Steelers on Monday.
The first three-game winning streak in Houston Texans history came in impressive fashion.
A week ago, critics talked of the team's inability to finish strong and the lack of a killer instinct in a win over a bad Detroit team.
The Texans showed a capacity for both against another bad team Sunday, ensuring the Cincinnati Bengals remained winless by turning a 14-6 halftime lead into a 35-6 romp.
Perhaps this will be regarded as a game that got the defense moving in the right direction? Houston didn't allow a pass longer than 14 yards and forced three turnovers. (Yes, they still have the 8-for-14 on third down defense to discuss.)
And the Texans showed off some depth -- with Andre Davis out with a finger injury, Jacoby Jones stepped in as the punt returner and gave his team a 7-0 lead on the fourth play from scrimmage, a 73-yard touchdown return. [An overdue correction: Jones has been the punt returner, he filled in for Davis on kickoffs. Apologies]
Houston was basically buried at 0-4 on Oct. 5, when it unraveled in the last five minutes and handed a game to the Colts.
Now at 3-4, the Texans are even with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South, though the Jags have the head-to-head advantage based on a 30-27 overtime win in Florida on Sept. 28.
If the Titans beat the Colts in Nashville Monday night to improve to 7-0, the Texans will line up the same way with 3-4 Indianapolis.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Two weeks ago, several precincts in Patriot Nation wanted to get a look at the rookie quarterback.
Two games later, all is well.
Cassel was the AFC offensive player of the week for destroying the Denver Broncos on Monday night. He followed up with his first fourth-quarter comeback victory, hooking up with Kevin Faulk on a 15-yard touchdown play with 3:19 to go.
Cassel did throw two interceptions and got sacked three times. But the Patriots are 5-2 and tied with the Buffalo Bills despite a slew of injuries. The Patriots played without any of their top three running backs Sunday.
For those of you who wrote off the Patriots, I hope you used a pencil. Time to break out your erasers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Last week, after Oakland's overtime win over the Jets, interim Raiders coach Tom Cable tried to rah-rah it up by saying the Raiders were now 1-0.
On about 10 different occasions in his post-game presser, he said the Raiders were 1-0.
A week later, the truth is Oakland is 2-5. Coach, that's just what your team is. It's a 2-5 team.
The Raiders actually had a chance to get in the AFC West race Sunday, but was outclassed by a decent Baltimore team. The Raiders had no chance in this game. Often, 2-5 teams don't have chances against decent teams.
And as of right now, that's what the Raiders are: they are young, they have holes and they do have some potential. But right now, they are 2-5.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers might be just getting started under interim coach Mike Singletary, but they appear finished after losing at home in embarrassing fashion.
The team is running out of options after firing coach Mike Nolan during the week and benching quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan during the game Sunday.
Perhaps quarterback Shaun Hill can deliver more fundamentally sound play to an offense that badly needs to cut down on turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks' search for viable receivers took them to an unlikely place: Their backfield. Fullback Leonard Weaver caught four passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. His big plays, plus an interception return for a touchdown from cornerback Josh Wilson, compensated for a running game that went nowhere.
The Seahawks remain only two games behind division leader Arizona, but the Cardinals are playing at another level entirely.
This is why the San Diego Chargers are one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this season --- their defense, particularly their pass defense, is bad.
That's why San Diego is 3-5 and showing no signs of being that sure thing Super Bowl contender we all expected them to be.
It's not the San Diego offense's fault. The Chargers, offensively, are doing what it takes to win. Quarterback Philip Rivers stood toe-to-toe with former teammate Drew Brees. LaDainian Tomlinson had a good game. Antonio Gates was in his old form.
The Chargers' offense was good. Good enough to win. But it's that passing defense, that is ranked the worst in the NFL, that is killing the Chargers.
At this point, don't expect any major turnaround. Sure, the Chargers could still win the AFC West because Denver appears to be in a terrible tailspin. But the Chargers didn't suit up this season to win another division crown. They wanted the Super Bowl.
But their chance may be passing by.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
It's more than a little ironic that Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden remains tied with Tony Dungy for most victories in franchise history after Sunday's outing.
Gruden looked like he might have been using a playbook Dungy left laying around the office against the Cowboys. And that playbook sure didn't include the Peyton Manning chapters that have been written in more recent years.
Yeah, the Bucs did what they've done all season and relied on their defense to give them a shot to win. But you can't do that for 16 games. You've got to be able to score touchdowns, not just kick field goals.
Joey Galloway's return from injury showed there wasn't a solitary missing link to the offense. Galloway, who had three catches for 38 yards, is going to get better as he gets his timing back. You can't say the same thing about a running game that didn't do much and a passing game that's still going sideways, instead of downfield.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
One play doesn't make a season. But one play sure cost the Falcons dearly.
It was a controversial call late in the game on a punt return by Adam Jennings. Jennings has been under fire from fans all year and you can make a case that the Falcons should have made a switch in their return game during their bye week. But that's another conversation.
What happened here was the officiating crew ruled Jennings muffed a punt return with a little over two minutes left. Replays sure made it look like Jennings never touched the ball.
But replays didn't matter in this case because the play wasn't reviewed.
Here's what coach Mike Smith had to say to the media after the game.
"(An official) said that since we do not have a timeout that we could not challenge it,'' Smith said. "It would be a 15-yard penalty if we threw the flag. His explanation was of what he thought he saw. He thought he saw the ball touch the return man's hands. That's the call that was made.''
And that's how it stayed. But this play might end up getting reviewed again and again (by the Falcons and their fans) as the season goes on.
1:00 PM ET Tampa Bay Cleveland 1:00 PM ET Arizona Dallas 1:00 PM ET Philadelphia Houston 1:00 PM ET New York Kansas City 1:00 PM ET Jacksonville Cincinnati 1:00 PM ET San Diego Miami 1:00 PM ET Washington Minnesota 4:05 PM ET St. Louis San Francisco 4:25 PM ET Denver New England 4:25 PM ET Oakland Seattle 8:30 PM ET Baltimore Pittsburgh