Some observations of this past weekend’s games…
Not-so-special teams do in Titans
Despite another warrior-like effort from Steve McNair, who could barely walk, the Titans dropped a tough one at home to the Colts 29-27. That’s what four turnovers will do to a team battling to hold on to first place in the AFC South. Four fumbles, four fumble recoveries for the Colts which led to nine of the Colts 29 points on the day. Three of the Titans fumbles came on special teams as Eddie Berlin, who was returning kicks for the first time all season, coughed up the ball twice and Justin McCareins fumbled with less than a minute to play as the Titans were about to get one last shot at getting the win. The Colts did more than just take advantage of turnovers in this game. Make Vanderjagt, who drew some negative attention at last year’s Pro Bowl after shooting his mouth off, connected on five-of-five field goals remaining a perfect 33 for 33 on the season. Vandy already has 136 points with three weeks to play, but don’t expect any interviews this year in Hawaii. It wouldn’t be a Colts story without a mention of at least one of the Big Three. Peyton Manning took a big step forward in the MVP race not only out-performing McNair on his home turf, but stealing a page from the McNair playbook by scrambling for a couple key first downs. Manning was also on the delivery end of a Marvin Harrison one-handed catch that was simply to good too be true. When all was said and done, the Colts now hold their own destiny and with home games against the Falcons and Broncos the next two weeks, the AFC South is theirs for the taking.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
Two feet of snow did not deter the Patriots faithful from making the trek to wintery Gilette stadium. Those brave souls that made the journey were rewarded with a one-sided affair in a 12-0 beat down of the frozen fish clinching the AFC East for the Patriots. It was quite a scene in Gilette, with fans forced to shovel out their own seats in order to catch what they hoped would be a repeat of the Snow Bowl two years ago against the Raiders. The Patriots did not disappoint. It wasn’t what you would call a high-scoring affair as New England led at halftime 3-0 on a questionable field goal that went directly over the post. To say Miami’s offensive gameplan showed the creativity of a first grader would be denigrating to the first grader. The adjustment that needs to be made from playing in 80 degree weather to playing in a snowstorm must be quite difficult to say the least, but some offensive calls were so blatantly obvious, even the half-stewed Patriots fans sipping from their flasks could see what was coming. Case in point: About halfway through the third quarter, Miami put together one of their few solid drives taking the ball to the New England 17 yard line. After a five yards completion to Chris Chambers (who was one of the few Dolphins who came to play) on first down, Miami runs Ricky Williams for two yards. Now it’s third and three from the Patriots ten yard line. With the wind still swirling, it’s clearly four down territory. Does Miami give the ball to Ricky Williams twice in a row? No, that would have been too easy. Instead, they pass on third down resulting in a sack which forced another passing down when Rodney Harrison decleated Jay Fiedler who fumbled and the Dolphins never got any closer to scoring. Kudos to the Patriots defense who continue to show that a defense in the NFL can thrive playing under the “team” concept. Shame on you Coach Wannstedt for not being ready to play when the division was up for grabs.
Priest who? Portis steals the show
Something seemed a little fishy looking at the line on the Kansas City-Denver game prior to Sunday’s battle. Even though the game was in Denver, it was hard to imagine that the 7-5 Broncos who had lost four of their last six games would be favored over the 11-1 Chiefs. Someone in Vegas sure knows what they’re talking about, as the Broncos man-handled the Chiefs 45-27. It wasn’t completely one-sided as the Chiefs led 21-17 heading into halftime. After a Kansas city punt to open the third quarter, the Broncos put together a nice 12-play, 78-yard drive to take the lead 24-21. After that, it was the Clinton Portis show. Portis had already scored two of the Broncos three touchdowns at this point, but as it turns out, in the words of Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman”, he was just getting warmed up. On the Broncos next possession, Portis rumbled for a 59-yard touchdown run. On Denver’s next possession, Portis rattled off a 28-yard touchdown run. On the Broncos next possession, a one-play 53-yard run for Portis made it 45-21 and sealed the deal. To recap, that’s three consecutive Broncos possessions in which Portis ran for touchdowns. The end result for Portis: 22 carries, 218 yards rushing, FIVE touchdowns. Yikes. For those of you that had to face Portis in your fantasy league, my condolences. In one game, Denver’s playoff chances went from a reach to a reality as they are now 8-5 and are neck and neck with the Dolphins for the sixth and final wild card berth.
Some other passing thoughts….
So much for the Cowboys dominating the NFC East. After losing to the Eagles 36-10 on Sunday, the Boys are now two games out of first and are in danger of losing out on a wild card spot. How soon do you think Jerry Jones will make his presence felt on the sidelines sending Parcells into a frenzy? The over/under is week 16. Any takers?
Did anyone see the touchdown catch Warren Sapp made on Sunday? You got to give credit to the big man for making the juggling catch in the end zone. He may talk a lot of trash, but that big boy can back it up.
I’m thinking about putting together a team to take on the Arizona Cardinals, next week. Anyone want in? You don’t need any football experience as the game will be played on the road for Arizona, so we should score at least 28 points against them. After getting beat 50-14, the Cardinals are now 0-7 on the road and have allowed 28 points or more in each of their past five games. When does training camp open up for the Diamondbacks?
Speaking of those Cardinals and the 50 points allowed, Jeff Garcia not only threw for four touchdowns in that game, he also ran for two scores for good measure. How many of you dropped Garcia during the Tim Rattay days? If you didn’t drop him, I guarantee you did not start him this week. Okay, maybe I’m bitter because I was one of those guys that dropped him three weeks ago, but it looked to be the right move at the time!
Is anyone else thankful that Bruce Smith finally broke the all-time sack record so we can stop hearing about this guy? Yes, 199 sacks for a career is quite amazing. But looking at the leader board, it took Smith 19 years to post that many sacks when Reggie White, who previously held the record, posted 198 sacks in 15 years. Not to mention that fact that sacks weren’t even kept as a stat back in the Ed “Too Tall” Jones days so who knows what that record would look like if it was “official” for all those years. If Roger Maris had an asterisk next to his 61, then Smith should have an asterisk, an ampersand, a pound sign and whatever other symbols you can find on a keyboard to signify it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Just when you think the allure of Brett Favre and the Packers is over, they prove you wrong. The Bears were ahead 14-0 in Lambeau field on Sunday, but that wasn’t enough. Favre and the Pack scored 34 unanswered points and won the game 34-21 keeping their hopes of an NFC North division title alive. Favre won’t post huge numbers for your fantasy team, but is there anyone else you’d rather have with the game on the line?
Until next week…