I don't know how far Rich Gannon can effectively throw the football. It isn't far, I
know that much.
I also don't care. He has been one of my favorite football players since
he arrived in Oakland four seasons ago, and Monday night he showed why in a lopsided
decision over the Denver Broncos, who henceforth should decline all appearances on
|Rich Gannon played a near-perfect game Monday night.|
Gannon obviously wasn't listening to all the expert analysts who said he needed to
hand the ball off more to Charlie Garner (heck, he tried that against the 49ers and lost).
He wasn't listening to Garner or Tim Brown or Jerry Rice -- all of whom want the ball all
the time. Gannon drives the Raider bus. He basically said, "The ball's in my hands, and
this is what I'm gonna do with it."
A tremendous competitor, that's what he is. There's a
bunch of very competitive people in the NFL, but Gannon is among the elite.
On another note, I like the confidence that Raiders coach Bill Callahan exudes on
the sidelines. It was a huge game for Callahan's credibility with Raider Nation.
So what are we all thinking about now? The Broncos looked pretty average. The
Eagles ... oh my, did the Colts really dominate the Eagles at Veterans Stadium? The
AFC East race is topsy-turvy with a three-way tie for first and the Jets (4-5) now just one
game out. Speaking of the AFC, who's the best team? Hint: You don't know. Another
hint: I don't know. This week's Super Bowl forecast: Green Bay vs. We Don't Know.
Here's what I saw in Week 10, reflected in my numerous top-five lists:
Most Impressive in Victory
1. Raiders 34, Broncos 10 -- If the Raiders were dying on the vine with all those
old guys, how come Rich Gannon (36), Jerry Rice (40) and Rod Woodson (37) looked so
good Monday night? Must've been that Rocky Mountain air.
2. Colts 35, Eagles 13 -- Now we know what was missing from the Colts' offense
all along: James Mungro. As Colts president Bill Polian said Monday, "This was Dungy
ball." At its finest.
3. Rams 28, Chargers 24 -- True, the Rams got sloppy enough to give the
Chargers two defensive TDs, but Marc Bulger and Co. overcame the turnovers and the
injury to Marshall Faulk to win their fourth straight.
4. Packers 40, Lions 10 -- I know a Super Bowl team when I see one. Through 10
weeks, I see one. Just one. Well, maybe two. The key date on your calendar to mark is
Dec. 15. The Packers travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers. It may decide home-field
advantage for the NFC playoffs.
5. 49ers 17, Chiefs 13 -- Honestly, I got bored watching this game. But what a
great job by Steve Mariucci and 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora, who allowed
the Chiefs to have the football for only 21:26.
1. Patriots 33, Bears 30 -- There were two ways to look at this game. Tom Brady
willed the Patriots to victory after trailing 27-6. Or Dick Jauron and the Bears found a
way to lose. Either way, it was great fourth-quarter drama.
2. Falcons 34, Steelers 34 -- Yes, you have to list the Falcons first. They trailed
34-17 in the fourth quarter before Michael Vick brought them back. More than 1,100
yards total offense. I do have one question: How do two teams accumulate that many yards,
score 68 points and then go blank in a 15-minute sudden-death overtime?
3. Rams 28, Chargers 24 -- The Rams' dreams of a season turnaround were on
the verge of being dashed. They trailed 24-14 in the fourth quarter and Superman
(Marshall Faulk) was on the sidelines. But Marc Bulger, Isaac Bruce and Dre' Bly's recovery
of an onsides kick broke the Chargers' hearts.
4. Saints 34, Panthers 24 -- Final score should have read: 27-24. It was a slugfest,
back-and-forth game that Saints QB Aaron Brooks salvaged with his poise and
performance. And, yes, I feel bad for the Panthers.
5a. 49ers 17, Chiefs 13 -- Sure, it was a bit of a snoozer with some excruciating
kicking snafus, but when you consider what was at stake for both teams, you gotta count
5b. Giants 27, Vikings 20 -- Daunte Culpepper got benched, Todd Bouman put
the Vikings up 20-19, and Kerry Collins answered with the Giants' biggest drive of the
season to pull within one game of the Eagles in the NFC East.
5c. Jets 13, Dolphins 10 -- It deserves mention because it was a key divisional
game that puts the Jets back in the AFC East race. But neither team (or quarterback) was
all that impressive.
Best Performance: Quarterback
1. Rich Gannon, Raiders -- Consider the circumstances. The Raiders were on a
four-game losing streak. It was the 500th MNF game. The game was at Invesco Field at Mile High. The Broncos were coming off a bye and "own" the Raiders. And Gannon delivered 21 straight
completions for an NFL record, and it really should have been 30 straight to open the
game if the officials had gotten it right when it was apparent Charlie Garner got both feet
inbounds on an "incompletion."
2. Marc Bulger, Rams -- Made all the throws in a 36-of-48 performance for 453
yards, four TDs and no interceptions. His two fourth-quarter TD passes to Bruce were
about as perfect as can be.
3. Michael Vick, Falcons -- If you were able to watch this game, you saw the wonders of
this left-handed quarterback. Harassed all day by the Steelers, he proceeded to frustrate
them with his laser passes on third-and-very-long, and then broke an 11-yard TD run with 42 seconds left to send it to overtime.
4. Peyton Manning, Colts -- Ask the Eagles' great defense if Manning is
overrated, as some of the cynics were starting to say. He finally got a running game, he
outwitted Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and he delivered one of the season's
great victories in Philadelphia.
5a. Tommy Maddox, Steelers -- Somebody's going to wonder how Maddox isn't
No. 1 on this list with the greatest Steelers' passing day (473 yards, four TDs) ever. He was pretty
darn good. A few mis-aimed passes at critical times were the only flaws.
5b. Tom Brady, Patriots -- He really was Tom Terrific as he brought the Patriots
back from a 27-6 deficit, ending with a perfect pass to David Patten with 21 seconds to go.
5c. Brett Favre, Packers -- It's almost sacrilegious to put Favre down this low. But the guy only played three quarters -- and completed 26-of-39 for 351 yards and two TDs.
Best Performance: Running Back
1. James Mungro, Colts -- The Eagles had not allowed a 100-yard rusher this
season -- heck, not even an 80- or 90-yard rusher -- until Mungro went for 101 yards in the
first half. The undrafted free agent from Syracuse got Philly's attention, and that
put the play-action pass back in Peyton Manning's game.
2. Tiki Barber, Giants -- He had 127 yards and the winning 8-yard TD run. But even
more impressive was the final two minutes when the Vikings punted, somehow believing
their defense would give them the ball back. Barber carried four straight times for 41
yards, including a 20-yarder to basically end the game.
3. Jamal Lewis, Ravens -- He racked up 135 yards on 21 carries and had two TDs
to get the Ravens back in the win column vs. hopeful Bengals.
4. Warrick Dunn, Falcons -- For the second time in three weeks with T.J. Duckett sidelined, Dunn delivered a 100-yard day (129 on 20 carries) that included a 59-yarder for a TD.
5a. Michael Bennett, Vikings -- Once again, showed his explosive speed with a
78-yard run that gave the Vikes a 20-19 lead in the fourth quarter vs. Giants. Finished
with 167 yards on 15 carries. That's a good average, isn't it?
5b. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers -- Almost lost in a bitter defeat for San
Diego was Tomlinson's strong 24-for-120 yards and two-TD afternoon against the Rams.
Best Performance: Wide Receiver
1. Plaxico Burress, Steelers -- Even before he hauled in the Hail Mary pass that
fell 2 feet short of the goal line to end overtime, Burress earned this perch. All told,
he had nine catches for 253 yards.
2. Isaac Bruce, Rams -- True, Bruce's fumbles almost gave the Chargers an upset,
but he was pretty spectacular catching the ball (10-for-163) and hauled in both
fourth-quarter TD passes from Marc Bulger to give St. Louis another win.
3. Marvin Harrison, Colts -- Six more catches, 137 yards, two TDs vs. Eagles. Nobody has more receptions in his first seven NFL seasons than this guy.
4. Hines Ward, Steelers -- I heard some good advice Monday -- let's stop talking
so much about what a great blocker Ward is; he's an outstanding receiver, too, and had 11
catches for 139 yards vs. Atlanta.
5. Kevin Faulk, Patriots -- He's a back, but he made some huge catch-and-runs
with seven catches for 109 yards and two TDs.
1. Brian Urlacher, Bears -- Maybe he got tired of listening to analysts wondering
if he was missing Ted Washington in front of him. He was the best player on the field vs.
2. Joey Porter, Steelers -- Without question, a candidate for defensive player of
the year as he continued to make big plays vs. the Falcons and Vick.
3. Julian Peterson, 49ers -- He was asked to contain Chiefs' All-Pro TE Tony
Gonzalez. He did better than that. He shut him down with one catch for six yards.
4. Donnie Edwards, Chargers -- This is the free agent the Rams wanted in the
offseason. He was everywhere Sunday and took a fumble 82 yards for a TD in near-upset
of the Rams.
5. Edgerton Hartwell, Ravens -- Maybe he's not Ray Lewis, but he's a talent
worth noting. Sunday, he had nine more tackles and two sacks. He's really very good.
1. David Patten's 20-yard touchdown catch from Tom Brady in which he dragged
his second foot just at the back of the end zone to give the Patriots a 33-30 win.
2. Rod Woodson's 98-yard interception return for a TD that demoralized Brian
Griese and the Broncos' faithful early in Monday night's game. And I was just telling
people how Woodson, the future Hall of Famer, was losing a step-and-a-half.
3. Dre' Bly's recovery on an onsides kick for the Rams at their own 46. The Rams
had no timeouts left and were forced to try the kick with three minutes left. They drove
54 yards for the winning score.
4. Chad Pennington's 42-yard pass to Laveranues Coles that set up Jets' winning
field goal vs. Dolphins. It was about the only productive pass Pennington threw all
night, but the timing was perfect.
5. Tommy Maddox's 50-yard Hail Mary pass to Plaxico Burress to end the
bizarre 34-34 tie between the Steelers and Falcons. It fell a foot or two short, but it left
everyone shaking their heads.
1. Ravens rookie safety Edward Reed's interception return for a would-be
46-yard TD in which his premature showboating resulted in a Leon Lett moment -- the
ball was knocked loose by T.J. Houshmandzadeh and recovered by the Bengals in the end
zone. Reed did have another interception to set up a TD, but this was not pretty.
2. Greg Blache, the Bears' otherwise excellent defensive coordinator, calling a
timeout when the Patriots had none on the Chicago 20 with the clock showing 20
seconds. It gave Tom Brady and Co. a chance to catch their breath for a game-winning
TD pass when play resumed.
3. Lions WR Bill Schroeder dropping three passes against his former Packer
teammates, including one that went for a 14-yard scoring interception return by Marques Anderson.
4. Donovan McNabb having an overall bad day, including a drop of a throwback
pass from Dorsey Levens as the Eagles were stunned by the Colts.
5. Isaac Bruce's fumble that was scooped up by Donnie Edwards for an 82-yard
return that put Rams in 24-14 hole.
1. The Saints, down 24-20, were stuck on their own 5 with 3½ minutes left.
Aaron Brooks calmly took them downfield and finished off the Panthers with a
7-yard pass to Donte Stallworth.
2. The Patriots, down 31-25, with no timeouts and under two minutes to play,
capped off a 56-yard drive with Tom Brady's 20-yard strike to David Patten.
3. The Jets, tied at 10 and going nowhere against the Dolphins' defense, drove 84
yards on 11 plays to set up John Hall's winning field goal.
4. The Falcons, down 34-27, drove 50 yards in six plays in 1:13 with Michael
Vick making huge third-down throws and finishing it with an 11-yard run to tie the game.
5. The Rams, trailing 24-14, went 94 yards in six plays behind Marc Bulger to
pull within three points with 3:06 left to play vs. the Chargers. That set up an onsides kick
recovery ... and another 54-yard drive to ice it.
Best Games (Week 11)
1. New Orleans at Atlanta -- This game could decide either the NFC South
division title or a wild-card berth. The Saints can't afford to be swept by the Falcons, but
No. 7 in Atlanta gets better every week.
2. New England at Oakland -- These teams probably could use an extra day of
psychotherapy, but huge wins this weekend make this a must-see game.
3. Buffalo at Kansas City -- It could be a fireworks show on offense, with the
game having likely wild-card implications.
4. San Francisco at San Diego -- The 49ers are on a roll and the Chargers have to
stop the bleeding.
5. Pittsburgh at Tennessee -- A renewal of a good rock 'em, sock 'em rivalry (and
both teams are still feeling their way).