Week Nine is almost in the books, and it looks like another season will pass without any team running the table. Perhaps now we can get down to the business of playing football and not worrying about streaks and the like. I will say this, if the playoffs were start today, the Steelers would be even money to become the Champs. Can they keep this streak going for the rest of the season and then the playoffs? Time will tell.
Some strong fantasy performances around the league this week. The Chargers continue their offensive roll, the Patriots begin another winning streak (ok, so I lied about streak talk), the Giants lay another egg at home, while the Bills circle the wagons to stun the high flying Jets. Hopefully you have more of your players mentioned here than your opponent does. On to the games…
Arizona 24, at Miami 23
What a wild game this turned out to be. You would have thought this was two bitter rivals battling for the division lead if you weren’t paying attention, with both teams getting into it in the pre-game warm ups. As for the game, poor Miami just can’t buy a win right now. With just under two minutes left, the Dolphins were down by two, but scored a touchdown to give themselves the lead. Tack on the two point conversion and things were looking good for the mammals. Yet these are dark days in Miami. A quarterback scramble for nine yards on fourth and eight keeps the drive alive for the visiting birds. Then Larry Fitzgerald (92 yds, TD) got free for a big 50 yard play. The Dolphins got a sack, but that was negated by penalty. Two plays later, again it was Fitzgerald, this time in the end zone for the game winning play. Excuse me, Mr. Wannstedt, there’s a Mr. Huizenga on the phone for you…
at Pittsburgh 27, Philadelphia 3
Marquis matchup of the day, no Duce Staley for the Steelers? No problem. Jerome Bettis (149 yds) ran hard all day and the Steel Curtain defense plucked the Eagles and made them look silly all afternoon. Philly is dealt their first loss of the season on a day when they could get nothing going on either side of the ball. Pittsburgh pretty much had their way on offense, especially on the ground. And no Eagle makes the story on offense. That says it all. Back to back great week’s as Pitt looks to continue to ride the momentum.
at Tampa Bay 34, Kansas City 31
Player of the Week Michael Pittman (128 yds, 3 TD) did his best Priest Holmes imitation, scoring three times as the Bucs not only keep up with the Chiefs, but they take the nice win. This was a game that went back and forth, both teams scoring at will as the lead changed hands many times. Brian Griese (296 yds, 2 TD) was surprisingly good in leading the Tampa Bay attack on this day. On the other side, Trent Green (369 yds, 3 TD, 2 int) and Tony Gonzalez (123 yds, TD) did what they could, but a win was not in the cards on this day. Of note, Priest Holmes left the game in the third quarter with what is being describes as a bruised knee, not considered to be serious.
Oakland 27, at Carolina 24
A good comeback by the Panthers is spoiled by a late penalty as the Raiders prevail in this one. Carolina was looking for their second win, and a furious fourth quarter comeback saw them tie things up after being down by 10. Jake Delhomme (299 yds, 3 TD) had a fine day thru the air, and perhaps his team deserved better. Kerry Collins’ long pass towards the end zone as time was winding down struck gold as the Panthers were flagged for pass interference. The Raiders kicked the easy field goal and they escape with the win. Tyrone “Cream of” Wheatley (2 TD) did well in a winning effort.
at Buffalo 22, NY Jets 17
Division battles are always tough, throw in a harsh wind and a two game home winning streak and that spells doom for the favored visitors in this one. The future of the franchise, Willis McGahee (132 yds, TD), had another great day as the Bills play just well enough to take the upset win. Santana Moss (157 yds, TD) did well in a losing effort, but all eyes were on Chad Pennington after the game. He had left midway thru the fourth quarter with bruised shoulder on his throwing arm (not for playing poorly as the announcers were speculating).
at Cincinnati 26, Dallas 3
Two struggling teams met in this one to perhaps determine how and where the rest of the season will go. At least for the time being, Cincinnati is looking up after this game. They take the home win despite wearing what can only be described as ‘wierd’ uniforms. Shayne Graham “Cracker” (4 FG, 2 PAT) and Carson Palmer (212 yds, TD, rushing TD) did well in a winning effort. No Cowboys to discuss here.
Washington 17, at Detroit 10
Two more struggling teams here, the visiting Skins victorious in the Lions Den. Funny how all of a sudden the Lions can’t lose on the road, but now they can’t win at home. The game turned for Washington early in the third quarter as the score was tied at three. Clinton Portis (147 yds, 1 pass TD) lofted a 15 yard touchdown pass to get things going. A little later in the frame, the Skins blocked a punt and returned it for another score. The Lions would rally, Joey Harrington (269 yds, TD, int) clicking from one yard out, but their rally ended on the 20 yard line as time expired.
at San Diego 43, New Orleans 17
Is there a stronger offense than the Chargers right now? Drew “Light” Brees (257 yds, 4 TD) follwed up last week’s strong effort with another solid performance this week as San Diego wins in a rout. Antonio Gates (3 TD) caught the first of his three TD passes early in the first quarter, LaDainian Tomlinson (76 total yds, TD) ran for another score in the first and the rout was on. It was 17-nil before Duece McAllister (81 total yds, TD) finally got New Orleans on the board, however, San Diego ran the score up to 36-7 before the Saints would march into the scoring column again. Just a drubbing here.
Seattle 42, at San Francisco 27
Speaking of high scores, the Niners and Seahawks went back and fourth in this one until the third quarter when Seattle took the lead and pulled away from the home side in this one. Matt Hasselbeck (285 yds, 3 TD) tossed scores to Koren Robinson and then Darrell Jackson (114 yds, 2 TD) in the third quarter to seal the win. Shaun Alexander (160 yds, 2 TD) also did well for the winners while Tim Rattay (259 yds, 2 TD, int) the lone bright spot for the Niners. By the way, thanks Darrell for lighting the lamp for 2 scores after being downgraded to doubtful.
Chicago 28, at NY Giants 21
The Giants are a frustrating team right now, just can’t get a handle on them. They lose at home after the bye week to the Lions, then they drub Minnesota on the road. This week another disappointing loss this time at home to the Bears. Tiki Barber (131 total yds, 2 TD) scored twice in the first quarter and it looked like the Giants would win in a romp. AFter that it was all Bears as their D (7 sacks, 5 turnovers) really started to put the pressure on the New York offense. Anthony Thomas (110 yds, 2 TD) also did well filling in for the injured Thomas Jones. The Giants had some chances late, even recovering the on-sides kick after scoring to bring the game within 7 points, but it was not to be on this day.
at Denver 31, Houston 13
Jake Plummer (234 yds, 4 TD) followed up last week’s tremendous effort with another strong game as the Broncos roll in a game that was never in doubt. A balanced attack from the other offensive players keeps them out of this week’s story, but gets them into the all important win column. The Texans had a nice drive to start the game, but a missed field goal started a downward spiral they could not recover from. Domanick Davis (71 yds, 2 TD) the lone star mentioned in this match for the non-winners.
New England 40, at St.Louis 22
Bill Belichick simply outcoached a lifeless Mike Martz in this one as the Patriots begin what they hope to be another long winning streak. New England was already hurting at defensive back when another of them got hurt early in the game. WR Troy Brown switched sides of the ball and played a significant amount of time on defense for New England. Adam Vinatieri (4 FG, 4 PAT, 1 TD pass) got the Pats going early booting a couple thru in the first. The Rams would recover a Patriot fumble in the endzone to take the lead. New England LB Mike Vrabel caught a Tom Brady (234 yds, 2 TD) pass to put New England back on top. Marc “Battle of the” Bulger (285 yds, 2 TD, 1 int) found Isaac Bruce to give the Rams the lead back and the shootout was on. The game turned just before the half when the Rams turned the ball over in field goal range. New England got just enough yards to take on another FG of their own and the Patriots had the 19-14 lead and the momentum. In the third, the Pats lined up for yet another kick, this time Vinatieri took the snap and found a wide open Troy Brown for the touch. Corey Dillon (112 yds, TD) ran untouched from five yards out and the Pats were in full control. Torry Holt (111 yds, TD) scored to open the fourth for the Rams but they would score no more. They had a bid to score again late in the game, but the Pats challenged the touchdown ruling and won since the play was out of bounds at the three yard line. The Rams would move backwards from the three yard line, coupled with some bad clock management and the Pats D forced the turnover on downs, where the offense ran out the clock.
at Baltimore 27, Cleveland 13
Excitement early, tough defense in the middle, excitement late. Cleveland’s Richard Alston took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown to start things off, but from there it was a defensive struggle on both sides. The Ravens would win the battle of field position, with Matt “Hot” Stover (4 FG, PAT) booting four FGs in the first half and 12-10 Baltimore lead. Cleveland would take the lead on a kick of their own to open up the fourth, and when Baltimore’s offense couldn’t move the ball, the Ravens special teams turned the game around, downing a punt at the one yard line. The Browns managed just one yard in three plays. Punting out of his own end zone, Derrick Frost sent a chilly punt that went a total of seven yards. Given the ball inside the Brown 10 yard line, Jamal Lewis (81 yds, TD) rushed three times, hitting paydirt on the third try. The Browns weren’t done yet though. They were able to drive the length of the field in hopes of getting that winning score. One minute remained when Cleveland lined up for second and goal from the five and history was about to be made. Jeff Garcia’s pass would go thru the arms of Aaron Shea, and into the waiting arms of Ed Reed for the pick. Reed was six yards deep in his end zone when he caught the ball, 106 yards later he was in the other endzone and the game was over. Another strong game for the Baltimore D (3 sacks, return TD) in this one.