Week Seven is almost in the books and isn’t it grand to not have to stay up into the wee hours and watch baseball anymore. Some great football games were played this weekend, a few involving division rivals, a few involving the iron of the league, and a few of the not so iron in the league. But isn’t that how it always is?
A whopping 42 players will make the story this week, and it’s a good thing there is no Sunday night football this week so I can get this column going earlier than usual. Defense was not at its best this week, as many of the usual studs went wild as yards were gained on the ground in bunches. As a side note, has anyone ever seen so many quarterback draws that end in a fumble? Seemed like I was watching the same play when I was seeing QB after QB running then fumbling the ball. Yet I digress. Let’s get into the games…
at Cincinnati 34, Baltimore 26
This one was billed as a game between two of the games top backs, yet neither Dillon nor Lewis make the ink here. Instead, it was a Cincinnati team that came out fired up in this one, running out to the lead thanks to some turnovers and they hold on for the win. Jon Kitna (274 passing yards, 3 TD, 0 int) and “Hanging” Chad Johnson (5 catches for 130 yards, TD) played well, assisted by a long pass that should have been intercepted, but instead was tipped and Johnson kept his concentration and catch the ball for the long score. On the other side, Travis Taylor (4 catches for 138 yards, 2 TD), Kyle Boller (302 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 int), and Todd Heap (7 catches for 129 yards) did well, but it was the continued mistakes on the part of Boller that is keeping this Raven team from winning on the field. Though they are in the right division, the loss drops them to 3-3, but they remain in first place.
at Buffalo 24, Washington 7
A matchup here of teams that were supposedly heading in different directions, the Bills circle the wagons here and take the nice home win. With the threat of rookie Willis McGahee returning to the field, co-Player of the Week Travis “Oh” Henry (31 carries for 167 yards, 2 TD) proved that he still belongs as the starter. Josh Reed (8 catches for 109 yards, TD) also did well in victory. On the other side, the Skins are suddenly struggling, losing four of their last five games, no one gets a mention here.
Tennessee 37, at Carolina 17
A monster matchup featuring one of the three unbeatens, and the perennially strong Titans. This one was over early. Thanks to some early fumbles by their opponent, Tennessee raced to a 20-0 lead and never looked back. Steve “MVP” McNair (190 passing yards, TD, 0 int, rush TD), Gary Anderson (3 FG, 4 PAT) and the Titan D (4 sacks, 4 turnovers, return TD) were high performers. On the other side, no one expected the Panthers to go thru the season undefeated, but this was a tough home loss where they never gave themselves a chance to win the game. Steve Smith (10 catches for 151 yards, TD) and Jake “E.T.” Delhomme (362 passing yards, 2 TD, 0 int) played well, but it was not nearly enough on this day.
San Diego 26, at Cleveland 20
Playing without a win on the season, co-Player of the Week LaDanian Tomlinson (200 rushing yards, TD) pulled the team onto his back and nearly singlehandedly got San Diego into the win column. The Browns had no answers, and if not for some Grady Little play calling on the part of Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer near the goal line towards end of the game (two fullback draws and a 13 yard sack forcing the FG attempt instead of the touch), it wouldn’t have been as close as it was. Steve Christie (4 FG, 2 PAT) also gets a mention here for the winners. On the other side of the ball, no one earns the right to appear in this space, though it is worth mentioning that it was Kelly Holcomb that lead the second half comeback in relief of an ineffective Tim Couch. The quarterback controversy continues in Cleveland.
Dallas 38, at Detroit 7
When you are a team on a roll, then nothing can stand in your way – not that the Lions are standing in anyone’s way these days. The plan apparently was simple, get it to Terry Glenn (6 catches for 75 yards, 3 TD) in the end zone. Her first three touches of the ball went for six, the first a great catch at the back of the endzone with his toes barely in bounds, the second a spectacular grab where pass interference was being called (hoop and the harm!). The Dallas D (5 turnovers, 157 yards allowed, 7 points allowed, return TD) also chipped in, as well as Quincy Carter (190 passing yards, 3 TD, 0 int) and Troy Hambrick (89 total yards, TD). Nothing to see here for the Lions.
New England 19, at Miami 13 (overtime)
What a great game this was, a battle of the two teams tied for their division, and it went into overtime. Early on, it was a field position battle, with the Dolphins holding the slight lead. New England was able to keep it close, and they tied it with a couple minutes left in the third quarter. The fourth quarter started with some punting, then the Miami offense went to work. Starting from their own ten with eleven minutes to go, Miami converted on several third downs, and they were driving the field. New England was out of time outs, and the Dolphins were lining themselves up for the winning field goal from 35 yards out. Yet is wasn’t meant to be as Olindo Mare’s attempt was blocked! Perhaps it was because it was on the baseball dirt, yet Adam Vinatieri hit a field goal from that same spot earlier in the game. With little time to work with, the Patriots tried but were unable to mount an attack, falling about 15 yards short of a FG attempt of their own. And this is when it got controversial: The Patriots thought they had won the overtime toss, but referee Gerald Austin disagreed, awarding the toss win to Miami. Apparently, there was some confusion on which side was tails (side note, why don’t referees just use an American quarter?) and Miami got the ball. Was this the Curse of the Bambino all over again? Miami again went to work and set themselves up for another FG attempt from the exact same spot on the field as the last try. This one was wide right. New England couldn’t get it going and had to punt, yet their defense stiffened on the next possession, picking off a pass deep in their own territory. On the next play, Tom Brady (283 passing yards, 2 TD, 0 int) hooked up with Troy Brown (6 catches for 131 yards, TD) for the touchdown that ended the game, and brought some joy to New England fans scarred by the Red Sox loss to the Yankees.
at Minnesota 28, Denver 20
For undefeated Minnesota, this was going to be a test to see if they were as good as their record indicated. Mission accomplished. Though Denver was without their starting QB, Steve Beuerlein filled in admirably, but he was knocked out of the game. Enter Danny Kanell, who brought the Broncos back, nearly all the way to the win. But it just wasn’t enough, the Minny D (5 sacks, 3 turnovers, return TD) held when they had to, and they take the home win. Spectacular play of the game took place just before the half, Duante Culpepper (277 passing yards, 2 TD, 0 int) launched a bomb that was caught by Randy “No” Moss (10 catches for 151 yards), yet he was surrounded at the 15 yard line. Despite being tackled, he flipped the ball behind his back blindly where Moe Williams (92 total yards) caught it in stride and raced into the end zone for the score. The play was reviewed, but it held. Great play, check it out if you get a chance. As for the Broncos, tough loss as only Clinton Portis (117 rushing yards, TD) played well enough to get a mention here.
New Orleans 45, at Atlanta 17
This has the looks of a lost season for Atlanta. Coming off last weeks drubbing, they follow that up with another one this week. Where art thou Michael Vick? Aaron Brooks (352 passing yards, 3 TD, 0 int), Duece McAllister (116 rushing yards, 2 TD) and Joe “Little Big” Horn (8 catches for 133 yards, TD) lit the lamp early and often as the Saints coasted home from a 35-14 half time lead, never looking back. Let’s just move on.
Philadelphia 14, at New York Giants 10
Another tough division battle here, between two teams that really needed a win here in order to get back on track and get involved in the division race again. Both defenses were holding firm, especially that of the Giants, limiting the Eagles to 134 yards in total offense for the game. New York had pulled in front in the third, thanks a Jeremy Shockey finally holding onto a pass in the end zone. His celebration was a little humorous, as he punted the ball into the stands ….and so the Giants were salting the game away, needing only to punt with under two minutes to go and continue to hold Philadelphia at bay. With 1:34 to go, Jeff Feagles’ punt was away..and it bounced inside the Eagle 20 yard line, then Brian Westbrook (67 rushing yards, TD, return TD) picked it up and 80 yards later the Eagles had the lead they needed to win the game. Special teams for the Giants is just killing them. No other player from either offense gets a mention here.
at St.Louis 34, Green Bay 24
Green Bay’s inability to win in a dome continues to haunt them. Yet this was a game that in the beginning it looked like neither team wanted. Mistakes, penalties, turnovers, bad plays…you name it. The Rams held the slight edge at the half, already playing without Marshall Faulk, they lost Lamar Gordon in this one (Arlen Harris filled in), but it was their defense that really came alive and started to put the clamps on the Packers. In the end, the Packers scored late to make it the ten point final and the Rams held on. For the winners, Marc “Battle of the” Bulger (247 passing yards, 3 TD, 2 int), Torry Holt (4 catches for 67 yards, 2 TD) and Isaac Bruce (9 catches for 129 yards) did well. On the losing side, Ahman Green (97 total yards, TD) and Brett Favre (268 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 int) get into the story.
New York Jets 19, at Houston 14
Houston thought they could hold on to win this one, but they couldn’t put the Jets away. Houston discovered a missing ground attack, as Domanick Davis (129 rushing yards, 9 catches for 70 yards) pretty much went wild. But it was the Jets that came back to score to take the lead with less than two minutes to go. The Texans got a nice kickoff return, but their drive ended at the nine yard line as David Carr’s pass on fourth and four fell incomplete. Santana Moss (6 catches for 111 yards, TD) did well in victory.
at Seattle 24, Chicago 17
The Bears came out strong in this one, weathered an early storm, yet it was some late game heroics by the Seahawks that did them in. Chicago found themselves in the catchup position, but they were able to score a touchdown and convert the two pointer to tie the game with less than five minutes to go. Enter Shaun Alexander “The Great” (101 rushing yards, 2 TD), who took over in the ensuing possession. He broke free from 25 yards out with less than a minute to play to provide the margin for victory. Yet the Bears weren’t out of it, they tried to work their way back again, but Chris Chandler was picked off and that was that. Paul Edinger (3 FG) did well in defeat.
at San Francisco 24, Tampa Bay 7
Finally this week, yet another team gets to take out some frustration on the defending Super Bowl champions. This week, the Niners offense went to work as Garrison Hearst (117 rushing yards, TD), Terrell Owens (6 catches for 152 yards, TD) and Jeff “Cherry” Garcia (253 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 int) all played well enough to get a mention here. On the other side of the ball, the Bucs couldn’t get much of an offense going as only Keenan McCardell (3 catches for 119 yards, TD) played well enough to get a mention here. Just a one sided affair where San Francisco gets a measure of revenge for the beating they took in the playoffs last year at the hands of Tampa Bay.