Week 10 wrap-ups
Vikings 28, Giants 16: I hate to have an attitude about this, but
where have you been, Randy Moss? Does it really take Monday Night Football to wake you up ... to turn you on?
If that's the case, then Moss earned as
much disrespect in this victory as he had in his flat-line performances
during the season's first half. Well, we have known all along the Vikings are a different team at
home, where all four of their victories have been secured. Are we supposed
to get excited about the showing? I don't know. You tell me.
The Giants gave it a go, but I don't know. Kerry Collins has the arm, he made some big-time throws, but he isn't finishing enough drives. Then
again, it's not always Collins' fault -- he had a near-perfect drive in the
final minutes that was spoiled by Ike Hilliard's bobble for an interception. Whatever the Giants have in them, they need to lay it out Sunday at Giants
Stadium. The Raiders come to town.
The Vikings get a shot Sunday at home
against the division-leading Chicago Bears. If they beat the Bears, they'll be .500. We might even pay attention again to the men in purple.
Bears 27, Bucs 24: It's dangerous to jump to conclusions about this
|Bears receiver Marty Booker had seven catches for 165 yards and three TDs (and told Tampa fans all about it).|
That in mind, this is the game that likely will define both
teams when the dust settles at the end of the year. The Bears had to win a
big division game on the road, especially after losing one (to the Packers)
at home the week before. The Bucs had to win just to get on track, to prove
that this season will be similar to recent ones in which the team puts
together a second-half run.
Nine games into the season, the Bears -- yes,
the Bears -- have a three-game lead over the Bucs in the NFC Central.
What Jim Miller and Marty Booker did Sunday isn't supposed to happen against the Bucs' defense. It is a defense that usually is designed not to
give up big plays -- I mean, we're not talking Daunte Culpepper to Randy Moss here. Miller to Booker. Three times. Three big plays. Three touchdowns.
Buc ball also disappeared on offense. Did you see the rushing totals?
Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott combined for 14 yards on 12 carries. Ridiculous, no matter how good the Bears' defense played. Bucs QB Brad Johnson completed 40 passes for 399 yards. He had no TDs and two
As for the ending, it's a good thing for Bears cornerback R.W. McQuarters that Martin Gramatica missed a 48-yarder to end the game. McQuarters' late hit gave the Bucs the 15 yards they needed for a shot at
overtime. Still, let me say this -- the officials really had to want to
throw the flag on that sideline hit, because it wasn't nearly flagrant
enough to warrant a potential game-turning call.
Jets 24, Dolphins 0: Dave Wannstedt and Jay Fiedler, as coach and quarterback of the Miami Dolphins, have a 17-8 win-loss record since 2000. Take away the Jets and they're 17-4. Ah, but you can't take away the Jets,
can you? This is why Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas was so upset after the first meeting, when his team blew a 17-0 halftime lead. He knew the Jets
were in transition. New coach. New schemes. They were going to be better the
second time around. And the Jets are better. Much better.
Jets coach Herm Edwards now has a team that is 7-3 and headed into a
bye week. They're in first place and they feel, look and smell like the
best team in the AFC East. Watch them closely when they return. As teams
like the Broncos, Ravens and Colts fade, the Jets appear capable of joining
the Raiders and Steelers as viable AFC Super Bowl contenders.
The offense played it conservatively smart with a lead Sunday, but I see
potential. Laveranues Coles could be a star at wideout. Santana Moss didn't catch any balls but he is finally on the field. Vinny Testaverde is taking care of the football. We know about Curtis Martin and the O-line. Yes, they are worth watching down the stretch.
Rams 24, Patriots 17: Kurt Warner is a man. He could have easily had his confidence broken when he threw two early interceptions to the crafty
Patriots' defense. But that's not Kurt Warner. The Rams quarterback was so
good, so accurate again, so tough that it had to be most discouraging to the
Patriots. But as much as we continue to praise Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Tory Holt, et al, this game was also a tribute to the O-line and the
good work of Rams coach Mike Martz and his offensive staff that picked up a zillion blitzes all night.
The Patriots have nothing to be ashamed of. I'm not sure Antowain
Smith fumbled at the Rams' 3. If he doesn't, how does this game shake out
with New England holding a 17-7 lead? But the Rams got the ball, and Warner
carved out a sensational 97-yard drive.
As for Patriots QB Tom Brady, he still looks pretty darn good. It's interesting. Contrary to how anybody wants to spin it, there's a controversy
in New England. Drew Bledsoe must be healthy, otherwise he wouldn't have been the No. 2 QB Sunday night. But Pats coach Bill Belichick is handling
this very interestingly, and I'd say rather well. Brady is his man. He
hasn't wavered. If he still isn't wavering two weeks or three weeks from
now, we will know that Brady is his man for good.
Falcons 23, Packers 20: No question, this represents Packers coach
Mike Sherman's toughest weekend since he got the job. He worked hard to
convince the Pack that they were in the danger zone after two emotional NFC
Central wins over the Bucs and Bears. They were at Lambeau Field. The
Falcons were coming to town. It was a trap for the Packers. Sherman saw it;
his team did not.
Sherman also now has the task of trying to get QB Brett Favre to stop killing the team with costly -- even stupid -- turnovers. Favre can say all he wants, but his throw that was intercepted by Ashley Ambrose to clinch the
game for Atlanta was foolish. Favre needed only a field goal to send the
game to overtime, but rookie tight end David Martin ran up field instead of a crossing route. That was a rookie mistake. Favre is a veteran. There is no
excuse for the pick.
That's not winning football. Then there was the sideline confrontation
between Sherman and safety Chris Akins. By all accounts I have received, it was ugly and it was a huge distraction. All these things are signs of
immaturity for the Packers, who must regroup quickly because there is
another trap ahead -- a Thanksgiving date with the winless Lions in a place
where Green Bay has dropped six of its last seven games.
Let us not forget the Falcons. As casual as the Packers were Sunday,
the Falcons played with playoff-like intensity. QB Chris Chandler outplayed Favre on Favre's field with a 352-yard passing day. The Falcons were
physical, and their defense had its best game yet. Dan Reeves and staff
outcoached Sherman and his staff. Now the Falcons (5-4) will have their own
test of maturity -- they travel to play a wounded Panthers team.
Browns 27, Ravens 17: Oh, you know Cleveland fans are ready to name a
street or something after Butch Davis, whose beloved Browns have swept Art
Modell's Ravens this season in the AFC Central. Even more impressive than
the sweep were the circumstances the Browns faced going into this game -- two
gut-wrenching defeats to the Bears and Steelers had to be left behind. They
were also in Ravens territory. And two rookies provided big plays that
enabled Cleveland to improve to 5-4.
Cornerback Anthony Henry had three interceptions, but the surprise rookie was running back Ben Gay, who started for injured James Jackson and had big runs and big returns. Davis' primary plan was to "red-shirt" Gay, the former
Houston prep legend who has played just one season of post-high school
football at the junior college level. But Jackson aggravated an ankle injury
in practice and Gay got the call. Gay also got a game ball.
The Ravens, oh, the Ravens. Where have you gone, Trent Dilfer? Elvis Grbac threw four interceptions and now has 13 for the season (and just nine TD passes). He is responsible for 17 of the team's 25 turnovers. The Ravens
led the NFL during their Super Bowl season in turnover differential with
plus-23. They are now minus-nine. That's a 32-turnover differential between
this year and last year. Grbac got an endorsement from coach Brian Billick,
both in a team meeting and in a media briefing on Monday. If he doesn't earn
that endorsement the final two months of the season, the Ravens likely will say goodbye.
Redskins 17, Broncos 10: This is funny. Marty Schottenheimer is
really messin' with owner Daniel Snyder's visions of Steve Spurrier. The
Redskins' fourth straight win was a beauty. On the road, in Denver. Cold.
Sleet. Some snow falling late. Down 10-3 in the fourth quarter. Tony Banks out with a concussion. Kent Graham in.
|Redskins QB Kent Graham hit Zeron Flemister for a 3-yard TD with 2:48 left for the victory.|
Graham led the 'Skins to a pair of TDs and Schottenheimer walked off the field with what was probably his most gratifying win yet.
The Broncos surely are at the height of their frustration as they fell
to .500 (5-5). Here's what we again learned -- Brian Griese is an excellent system QB, but too many parts have broken down around him. John Elway could
carry a team through tough circumstances like these; Griese cannot. In fact,
not many QBs in the NFL could overcome this mass of injuries to a decimated
Saints 34, Colts 20: It looks like Aaron Brooks has finally hit his stride at QB for the Saints and that coach Jim Haslett's patience has paid
off. Brooks' 19-of-22 performance in a duel with Peyton Manning was one for his memory book. Ricky Williams' 100-yard day on the ground also was personally gratifying -- no matter what he says, you know he will always
remember that the Colts passed him up in favor of Edgerrin James. The Saints do have to keep one thing in perspective. Their best offensive day came against the Colts' defense. As for the Colts, injuries continue to mount.
They always do when you lose.
49ers 25, Panthers 22 (OT): Unlike some of their other dramatic wins
this season, there was no celebration in the 49ers' locker room. This one
drained 'em. Yet, QB Jeff Garcia again makes his case for MVP. As for the Panthers, shame on them for blowing an eight-point lead. I'm almost sure of
one thing. The Panthers' Jerry Richardson had to be a very upset man on
Sunday, and he had to be very upset with coach George Seifert.
Raiders 34, Chargers 24: Jerry Rice made us all smile Sunday. If you had simply turned back the clock and change the uniforms, it was vintage
Rice. He sure looked young again, didn't he? Sorry to say, Chargers QB Doug
Flutie hardly looked young. He's not as nimble. He looks like he's turning
down a little, too. By that, he's not standing in there to take the hit. He
looks like he's dodging while he's throwing. Not good. Coach Mike Riley
affirmed that Flutie is the quarterback for the rest of the season. Just the
fact that he was so adamant about it tells you that Drew Brees' time is sooner than later.
Steelers 20, Jaguars 7: The Steelers are doing so many things well. I
even saw WR Troy Edwards throw a nasty block. What hurts is the loss of tight end Mark Bruener for the season with a shoulder injury. That's a big blow. His blocking is huge for the running game. But then, everybody is blocking for the Steelers these days. The Jaguars might have had a shot with
QB Mark Brunell, but he couldn't go. If Brunell and RB Fred Taylor are back this week and stay healthy the rest of the year, the Jaguars will make a lot of teams uncomfortable, starting with the Ravens this week.
Titans 20, Bengals 7: Derrick Mason's 101-yard kick return to start the game was the tonic the Titans needed. The Bengals may not be the Bengals
of old, but losses like this sure must get old.
Seahawks 23, Bills 20: This is a very good win for the Seahawks. It
was almost as dangerous as their cross-country trip to Washington, where
they lost to the Redskins. Bills QB Alex Van Pelt had a nice day, but the offense still misfires at the wrong times.
Eagles 36, Cowboys 3: Another 100-yard rushing day for Duce Staley. That's the key for the Eagles down the stretch because it will open things up for Donovan McNabb and the passing game. As for the Cowboys, do not pick on Ryan Leaf (two interceptions). This is not his fault. It's tough enough to play quarterback in the NFL without joining a sub-par team in midseason
and being asked to start.
Cardinals 45, Lions 38: Jake Plummer has rallied in the past couple of weeks. WR David Boston is making a push for the Pro Bowl. Top pick Leonard Davis is dominating people at guard. So the Cards have regained a little respect. I'm sure this was a worst-case scenario for ex-Cardinals
coach Vince Tobin. He's the Lions defensive coordinator. And the beat goes
on in Detroit. Turkeys, anyone?