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Tag:Tom Brady
Posted on: November 25, 2010 3:53 pm
 

At the end of the day, no surprises in Detroit

Posted by Andy Benoit

Well, the Lions at least gave us a half a game on Thanksgiving. At Fords Field Thursday we saw a simpleT. Brady (US Presswire) contrast between a team that knows how to win and a team that knows how to lose. Detroit’s defensive line was dynamic in the first half, with Ndamukong Suh getting an early sack on Tom Brady and Kyle Vanden Bosch delivering a pair of crushing quarterback hits. That effort was matched by an impressively efficient Lions offense (who knew Maurice Morris still had some wheels?). But it only lasted two quarters.

Brady and the Pats offense turned in a masterful – perhaps even perfect – second half. Deion Branch made Alphonso Smith his turkey (sorry). Rob Gronkowski took advantage of Detroit’s tentative safeties. And, late in the fourth, BenJarvus Green-Ellis exhibited the downhill running prowess that has blossomed him into a bona fide feature back. Pretty simple.

Phil Simms made a fantastic point about the Lions: they don’t play for 60 minutes. Effort isn’t the issue so much as simple know-how. Detroit’s lack of depth becomes startling noticeable late in the second of games. It’s all part of the rebuilding process (the never-ending rebuilding process).

As for the Patriots, the story of this game was Brady taking a firm lead in the NFL MVP race, no?

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Posted on: November 23, 2010 12:20 pm
 

Pro Bowl Voting: Peyton leads, Vick follows

Posted by Will Brinson

The initial Pro Bowl vote-counting is all taken care of and, you'll never believe this, but Peyton Manning is really, really popular.

How do I know? Well, 496,658 people have voted for him thus far, making him the No. 1 overall leader in the race to a free vacation to Hawaii.

More interestingly is that Michael Vick, who did lots of mean things to lots of dogs and therefore isn't always popular with everyone, is second overall, and the top NFC vote-getter.

Following Vick are Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, Tom Brady of the Patriots, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, Drew Brees of the Saints, and Philip Rivers of the Chargers.

Chris Johnson (Titans), Arian Foster (Texans) and Antonio Gates (Chargers) round out the top 10.

Rivers having the most ridiculous offensive season in a while -- at least to this point -- and somehow only being the third ranked quarterback in the AFC should tell you all you need to know about this voting. (Fans, by the way, can vote up to December 20th by going to NFL.com/ProBowl and casting their ballots. Apparently you can access it via your phone, too, if it's smart enough.)

Back to the balloting, though -- it's just frustrating when fans vote for names they know. It's cool and everything that fans get a say (they should!), but this happens in every sport. It's why Yao Ming is always an All-Star, it's why Derek Jeter is always an All-Star, and it's why Ed Reed is the top AFC vote-getter at free safety, even though he's only been active for a few weeks.

But, hey, it's fun, and that's all that matters. Plus, the NFL is smart enough to split the votes between the players, coaches and fans, rather than leave the entirety of the voting up to the masses.

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Posted on: November 22, 2010 3:57 am
Edited on: November 22, 2010 9:14 am
 

10 Stories worth your attention Week 11

Posted by Andy Benoit


1. Giants-Eagles: The hyped game that didn’t quite live up but was still fun

You know how college authorities realize they can’t prevent underage drinking so instead they settle for an extra vigorous crusade against drinking and driving? It’s a case of wisely fighting an important battle instead of trying to win an unwinnable war. Apply this concept to the anticipated media coverage of Tom Coughlin this week. It’s November and the Giants have lost two straight. Given the Giants’ history of late season stumbles – including last year’s 3-8 finish – you just know the New York press won’t be able to resist a hot-seat storyline these next few days. V. Young (US Presswire)

Since telling the New York media to not overreact to a negative Tom Coughlin storyline is like telling a college freshman not to drink, we’ll take the media’s keys by saying, “Okay, don’t try to create a hot seat by questioning Coughlin’s disciplinary tactics and relationship with players; if you MUST criticize Coughlin this week, criticize him for his clock management at the end of the first half and for not imploring defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to throw more blitzes at Michael Vick.”

Coughlin had all three of his timeouts with about 30 seconds left at the end of the half. Instead of using one of them, he let the Eagles run down the clock and attempt a field goal to end the half. As it so happened, the field goal was blocked. Had Coughlin used a timeout, the Giants would have had the ball near midfield with 20 seconds and two timeouts left. But even if the field goal wasn’t blocked, the Giants could have at least forced the Eagles to kickoff. You never know what happens from there (though with the way Will Blackmon handled kick returns in the first half, maybe you don’t want to know).

Regarding the blitzes – there wasn’t an Eagles fan in America who wasn’t breathing a sigh of relief every time the Giants rushed only four. Cris Collinsworth said throughout the broadcast that Vick and the young Eagles receivers needed to prove they understood their hot route assignments. But they didn’t fully have to. Vick was flustered nearly every time the Giants brought heat. He made a few plays, but he took even more hits. When he was successful – which was more often than not – he was standing back in a clean pocket.

At the end of the day, Philly played well enough to win. But since the New York media will start questioning Coughlin anyway, let’s hope they at least take one of these two sensible angles.


2. Peyton Manning Loses

The difference in the Colts-Patriots game was Peyton Manning’s three interceptions. Shockingly, all three were HIS fault. The first interception was an overthrow that landed in Brandon Meriweather’s lap.

On the second pick, as CBS’s bird’s-eye-view camera revealed, Manning read two deep coverage when, in fact, the Patriots played four deep. When tight end Jacob Tamme correctly read the coverage and cutoff his route, Manning threw it deep down the sideline to a wide open…Devin McCourty.
P. Manning (US Presswire)
Manning’s third pick was the coup de grace that prevented a potential game-tying field goal from Adam Vinatieri. Of the play, Manning said he got a good look but just did not properly execute the throw.

Of course, saying Manning lost the game is like saying Abraham Lincoln caused the Civil War: technically, you could argue it’s true, but come on. Aside from a small handful of throws, Manning was his usual ingenious self. And so was Tom Brady, of course. The man who legitimized the Bieber haircut was 19/25 for 186 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was surgical between the numbers, spreading the wealth to Wes Welker (who got his first touchdown in eight games), Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Deion Branch. Brady now has 19 touchdowns and just four picks on the season for a passer rating of 100.6.

P.S. The common perception is that the Patriots have a backfield by committee. Nope. The Patriots have a traditional feature running back they really like. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has had 17 or more carries in three of the past four games. His 133 attempts are 77 more than third down back Danny Woodhead, who is the only other Patriot getting regular carries these days. Fred Taylor has been injured and Sammy Morris has been an afterthought. Green-Ellis is a smart runner with natural downhill momentum; Woodhead is a patient open field weapon. Together, they give the Patriots a classic NFL backfield.


3. Young no more

Whether they get rid of him now or after the season, Sunday, November 21, 2010 will ultimately go down as the day Vince Young threw the final straw on the camel’s back in Tennessee. Please, no more stories about Young maturing or getting his life together or harnessing his talents or whatever else so many people have wistfully said about the guy. This 27-year-old man taunted the home fans when they started booing him. This was actually an improvement from Week 1 of ’09, the last time a Nashville crowd booed Young. In that instance, Young quit on his team, got hurt and then disappeared the next day. V. Young (US Presswire)

After this 27-year-old man taunted the home fans, he injured his thumb. Word is, Young did not ask Jeff Fisher to go back in the game after the injury. FOX repeatedly showed shots of Young sulking on the sideline, even though the Titans were fighting in a fiercely close game.

After the Titans lost in overtime, this 27-year-old man threw his jersey AND shoulder pads (his shoulder pads!) into the stands, then abruptly left the team, but not before calling out his head coach in front of the rest of the locker room. This is the same 27-year-old man who missed meetings earlier in the season, got in a bar fight during the offseason and partied so hard this past spring that even callow Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was taken aback.

The most obvious sign that Fisher and the Titans are done with Young is that Fisher has said Young is not his starting quarterback right now, even though that might mean entrusting the job to rookie Rusty Smith until Kerry Collins (calf) is fully healthy. Did you see Smith, the sixth-rounder from Florida Atlantic Sunday? He looked every bit like a sixth-rounder from Florida Atlantic. Smith was so awful that even a pun involving his first name would be too complimentary at this point. If Fisher is willing to even risk putting Smith on the field again, you know he’s utterly fed up with Young.

If Young is not dismissed now, he’ll be dismissed after the season. After all, he’s scheduled to count $15.21 million against the cap (if there is a cap), which is about $15.21 million too much.


4. McNabb makes Kyle Shanahan look like a jackass

It was Kyle Shanahan who chose to bench Donovan McNabb against the Lions a few weeks ago (Mike Shanahan took the bullets as the messenger – the extremely ill-prepared-for-the-DC-media messenger). The reasoning behind it? Cardiovascular endurance and no understanding of the two-minute offense (which the Redskins spend zero time practicing, by the way).

Well, Sunday at Tennessee, McNabb’s Redskins were tied 16-16 with the Titans with 1:37 to play. Instead of asking Rex Grossman to put on a Superman cape he doesn’t own, Shanahan (either Mike or Kyle, it doesn’t matter) let their franchise quarterback go back out there and actually be their franchise quarterback. All McNabb did was complete 5/6 passes (the scorebook says 5/8, but that’s only because the NFL foolishly credits a spike as an incompletion) for 44 yards. It was a textbook two-minute drill that set up a potential 47-yard game-winning field goal.

Graham Gano happened to miss that kick. But thanks to three first downs resulting from three Titans penalties (including two personal fouls) on Washington’s second overtime possession, Gano got another crack at it. His successful 48-yard field goal gS. Moss (US Presswire)ave Washington a victory (albeit a Pyrrhic one, as seven Redskins, including Clinton Portis and Casey Rabach, got hurt) and a 5-5 record.
Afterwards, when asked about McNabb and the two minute offense, Mike Shanahan said, “"I guess we don't have to talk about that anymore".


5. Moss and Moss

There were two Moss’ playing wide receiver in the Redskins-Titans game. The little one did extremely well (six catches, 106 yards, one touchdown); the bigger one, eh, not so much.

It’s doubtful many people care to talk about how Santana Moss beat the Titans defense over the top on more than one occasion Sunday. What people want to talk about is how Randy Moss was blanked for a second straight game. Each person who has helped make Moss’ Titans jersey a top-seller these past three weeks has as many catches in that Titans jersey as Moss himself does.

Moss was targeted just four times Sunday. What was the issue? The same as usual: help coverage against Moss compelled the quarterback to look in a different direction. Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall shadowed Moss and played well, but he had the luxury of shepherding the receiver inside to safety help all afternoon. Moss’ presence is still valuable – this special coverage was part of the reason Nate Washington had 117 yards on five catches – but the guess here is that he’ll probably want to catch a pass sooner or later.


6. The Raiders are back!

Lately we’ve been hearing all about how the Oakland Raiders are back. It’s true. The team that came into Sunday having lost seven straight after the bye extended the streak to eight in spectacular fashion. This wasn’t a case of the Steelers showing up and being the more focused team. And it wasn’t a case of mistakes costing the Raiders (heck, it was the Steelers who committed 14 penalties for 163 yards). No, this was simply a case of one football team being significantly better than another. R. Seymour (US Presswire)

The Steelers’ front seven thrived in its usual aggressive, downhill attack mode much of the afternoon. Every time Jason Campbell seemed to finally anticipate a jailbreak blitz, the Steeler linebackers would drop back into coverage. Every time Campbell anticipated a traditional rush, the Steelers would bring overloads off the edges. Each blitz seemed to be uniquely designed to exploit a particular mental weakness of Campbell’s (which explains why there were so many different blitzes). It didn’t help that Oakland’s No. 2 ranked rushing offense managed just 61 yards – only 14 of which came from Darren McFadden.

The highlight of this game, besides the fluid acceleration showcased by Rashard Mendenhall (his 59 yards on 23 carries seemed more like 115 yards) and besides Ben Roethlisberger’s 18 completions and three touchdowns (all of which seemingly resulted from him extending the play), was Richard Seymour’s ejection in the first half. The ejection came after the All-Pro defensive tackle’ got involved in his third scrum on the day. Seymour, incensed by something Roethlisberger whispered in his ear after a touchdown, turned around and struck a blow to the quarterback’s face (helmets were on). Roethlisberger immediately hit the deck in a reaction that was probably 20 percent Divac, 80 percent legit.

In what was a really nice touch, referee Tony Corrente announced that Seymour “ejected himself because of his actions.” Some might try to paint this as another classic installment of the Raiders-Steelers rivalry. Don’t get poetic. The Raiders-Steelers rivalry was three and a half decades ago. In today’s world, this was a matchup between a first-class organization and a no-class organization. Have the Raiders improved from “no class” standards this season? Perhaps, but we didn’t see it Sunday.


7. Heartbreakers

Last week, the Jets crushed the Browns’ hearts on a last second overtime touchdown. Minutes earlier, the Jaguars had crushed the Texans’ hearts on a hailmary. This week, the Browns’ hearts were re-crushed by those same Jaguars, while the Texans’ hearts, presumably still broken, were further shattered by those same Jets.

And so we have the Jets at 8-2 sitting atop the AFC East. And, believe it or not, the 6-4 Jaguars are atop the AFC South. That good looking young star quarterback for the Jets has now conducted three game-winning drives in the past three weeks, with the most impressive coming Sunday. Sanchez’s 42-yard sideline strike to Braylon Edwards was the product of a great throw and great play design against Houston’s two-deep man coverage (which is a terrible coverage to call in that situation because the corners are told to push the receivers toward the sideline, which helps the Jets when they don't have any timeouts). A seam route from a Jet in the slot held safety Eugene Wilson just long enough for Sanchez to unload the ball over the top; it was a classic case of offense simply defeating defense.

The following play brought about the touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes, which struck yet another blow to all the Friar Tucks out there who claim that off-the-field character issues matter. (Only when they spill into the locker room or onto the field do they matter.)
Sanchez still isn’t reading coverages with great efficiency, but he’s obviously showing poise in crucial situations. His surprising surge (passing yard totals of 336, 299 and 315 the past three games) is what has New York in first place.

As for the Jaguars, it’s time to start asking if they’re for real. David Garrard still hasn’t gone out and singlehandedly won a game for them yet, but when you have a player like Maurice Jones-Drew, maybe the quarterback really can be average (MAYBE). Jones-Drew led all Week 11 rushers with 133 yards, and by now you’ve seen his five broken tackles on that magnificent 75-yard catch and run to set up the late go-ahead score against the Browns.


8. Saints go marching in

It was disappointing that New Orleans wasn’t able to build a bigger lead against Seattle Sunday. Some expected thD. Brees (US Presswire)e Saints to run the score up on Pete Carroll because, as Sports Illustrated’s Peter King wrote, “I wouldn't be surprised if there's a sentiment among some on the Saints who think Pete Carroll left Bush out to dry when he returned his Heisman in September over the USC football scandal.” Bush and Carroll exchanged warm pleasantries before the game, but that was likely just the ultimate display of teeth-gritting diplomacy from Bush.

Oh well, Bush didn’t play anyway, as he’s still recovering from the fractured fibula (you wonder if the fact that New Orleans has to play again in four days had anything to do with the decision to keep him out one more game).

Fortunately, the Saints didn’t need Bush. Drew Brees was 29/43 for 382 yards and four touchdowns. (He did have two interceptions.) Five different Saints had over 35 yards receiving, including wideout Marques Colston (113 and two scores) and rising, long-armed third-round rookie tight end Jimmy Graham (five catches, 72 yards). The Saints offense clicked on all cylinders.

It’s likely that New Orleans will get a victory in Dallas on Thursday. A coaching staff’s preparation for a Thursday game is totally different than for a Sunday game, and we’re talking about a Sean Payton/Gregg Williams-led coaching staff versus the interim Jason Garrett/Paul Pasqualoni-led coaching staff. In that case, the defending World Champs will suddenly be 8-3.

As for the lowly Seahawks, they’re 5-5…and in firm command of the putrid NFC West.



9. The obligatory Vikings mention

We can save the Brett Favre-Brad Childress talk for another time (like, say, all other times for the rest of this week). All you really needed to see in this game was Greg Jennings’ touchdown catch early in the third quarter. The play was not only a masterful display of quarterbacking by Aaron Rodgers (four touchdowns, no picks on the day – though thanks in part to the buttery fingers of Husain Abdullah in the red zone), it was also a microcosm of Minnesota’s season.

Defensive end Jared Allen was unable to get around the single blocking of Packers left tackle Chad Clifton (a leading Pro Bowl nominee). With minimal pass-rush up front, Vikings cornerback Asher Allen became vulnerable late in his coverage against Jennings. Allen gave up separation on a slight double move, then failed to make the routine open-field tackle. The safety helping over the top, Madieu Williams, had no idea what angle to take in pursuit of Jennings. Waffling between a downhill angle and lateral angle, Williams eventually settled on an awkward cross between doing both and doing nothing, which resulted in him goofily attacking thin air. Jennings wound up walking into the end zone.


10. Quick Hits

**Please, nobody try to start a discussion that goes anywhere near the sentiment of, “Dallas has momentum under Jason Garrett – you never know, crazier things have happened.” No, crazier things have not happened. A win over the Lions does not make the 3-7 Cowboys special. And just in case you are a Cowboys fan who, for some reason, is still holding out hope, just know that your team faces New Orleans, Indy and Philly over the next three weeks.

**Raiders punter Shane Lechler brought a strip of smelling salt with him on the field bD. Revis (US Presswire)efore every punt Sunday. That’s what it takes to be arguably the greatest punter of all-time.

**The Chiefs lined up Mike Vrabel at wide receiver on one of their goal-line plays. Todd Haley must be shocked that defenses still don’t respond to Vrabel when he lines up in goal-line offense. Putting Vrabel at wideout was probably Haley’s way of pinching himself to see if this is real, if defenses still aren’t alert. (For the record, Cassel’s pass to Vrabel on that play was incomplete, as the wideout/linebacker had trouble getting off the jam of safety Kerry Rhodes.)

**Whoever suggests that Darrelle Revis has not been his MVP-caliber self this season is not paying attention. Two weeks after holding Lions star Calvin Johnson to one catch for 13 yards on four targets, Revis held Texans star Andre Johnson to four catches for 32 yards on nine targets.

**Why is the middle of the field brown and dead in San Francisco but outside the hash marks it’s green and luscious?

**The FOX crew working the Cardinals-Chiefs game had a heck of a good time telling viewers that Arrowhead Stadium was as loud as a jet engine Sunday afternoon. My beef with this is, whenever we get these decibel level comparison things, I never know how close to the jet engine we’re talking about. There’s a difference between a jet engine that’s in the sky or lifting off two runways over and a jet engine that is within arms length. So where, exactly, are we in relation to this make believe jet engine being talked about at all the noisy venues?

**For the record, I kept a close eye on both the Bucs-Niners and Cardinals-Chiefs games. The bits about the field color and the jet engine were the best either game had to offer.

**The Jets really missed right tackle Damien Woody Sunday (Mario Williams had a field day). Let’s hope the veteran’s MCL injury is not serious.

The Bengal defense’s heart will be seen on milk cartons across the southern Ohio and northern Kentucky areas Monday morning.

**Panthers second-year running back Mike Goodson rushed for over 100 yards for a second straight week. And against the Ravens, no less.

**Kudos to Ed Reed for pitching the ball to Dawan Landry for six points on Reed’s interception return. Why don’t more teams pitch the ball in return situations? It’s not like the offensive players-turned-would-be tacklers naturally know how to react to that….

**Just so we can touch on all 14 games from Sunday, I’ll pass along the most substantial note I wrote myself from the Falcons-Rams game: Matt Ryan is excellent throwing off of rollout motion.

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Posted on: November 22, 2010 3:35 am
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Posted on: November 19, 2010 5:24 pm
 

Hot Routes: 11.19.10: Mocking Brady's rant

Hot Routes

Posted by Andy Benoit and Will Brinson

Titans tight end Craig Stevens will miss a few weeks after having his knee scoped. G. Jackson (US Presswire)


The Jets will be without wideout Jerricho Cotchery (groin) this week .


Maurice Clarett has completed his first full football season since 2002 when he was a superstar at Ohio State


An arrest warrant has been issued for former NFL defensive tackle Grady Jackson. Authorities believe he has a $50,000 watch that he shouldn’t have. Jackson says it’s all a misunderstanding .


Want to see an unbelievably hysterical Tom Brady rant mock video ?


DeAngelo Williams' contract situation .


Marion Barber won't be benched in Dallas.


Ravens not underestimating Brian St. Pierre. In unrelated news, they won the award for "Most Cliche Gamespeak of 2010 ".


The Chiefs may be without sensational rookie tight end Tony Moeaki this week (he suffered a head injury late against the Broncos).

Joey Galloway is getting dumped on in Washington . He’s had a very solid career, but is it a surprise that the 38-year-old who couldn’t stick on the Steelers or Patriots rosters last season is struggling now?


Rams punter Donnie Jones is getting some love .


Linebacker Mark Simoneau has retired after his short-lived comeback effort in Kansas City resulted in him going on Injured Reserve .


As expected, Rob Ryan’s name is starting to be tossed around in head coaching discussions.


The Broncos brought back running back Andre Brown. He was with the Giants in training camp, the Broncos early in the season, then the Jags for a few weeks, then the Colts and now the Broncos again. So is he extremely wanted or extremely unwanted ?


The Packers are giving Sam Shields another crack at punt returns .


For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: November 16, 2010 1:32 pm
 

Garrard the reason for Jags success

D. Garrard is quietly having a solid season for Jacksonville (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

If you were to stop an obvious, but random, NFL fan on the street today and ask him or her how the Jaguars were faring this season, he or she would probably tell you something like this, “Oh, they’re totally not very good. I watched them on Monday Night Football a few weeks ago (against the Titans), and they absolutely sucked. Hey, aren’t they going to fire their coach?”

Even in Jacksonville, I imagine many of the responses would be sort of similar.

So, when you look at the standings in the AFC South today, and you see that the Jaguars – MY GOD! – have a winning record and, at 5-4, are only one game behind the Colts for first place, it’s a stunning piece of information.

And then you think back to Week 4 when the Jaguars actually beat Indianapolis, and you might think, “Man, how in the heck are they doing this?”

The somewhat surprising answer is QB David Garrard.

Garrard has never before been considered an elite NFL quarterback (and for good reason) but he’s quietly having a solid season – a 69.4 completion percentage (third-best in the league), 15 touchdowns, seven interceptions, a passer rating of 104.9 (second-best in the league). And the past two weeks, he’s played out of his mind, completing 41 of 52 passes for 602 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions.

What in the hell has gotten into Garrard, anyway? And is he an elite quarterback? That second query is the question posed by the Florida Times-Union today.

From the paper:

When the question was posed on Monday … Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio immediately backed off. He wasn't ready to go there because he knows Garrard's history is more roller-coaster than sustained excellence.

In other words, Garrard's boss wants to see an extended period of success, not a four-game snapshot, before putting his quarterback in a category with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.


Del Rio praised the "decisiveness" of Garrard doing a better job of getting the ball out early. He lauded him for playing at a "high level," but he wasn't biting on him being an elite quarterback. Smart move.


It is a smart move, because Garrard has not shown this kind of sustained excellence before. Can he keep it up? Probably not. But the fact we’re even using the words “David Garrard” and “elite quarterback” in the same sentence in a non-sarcastic way is not something anybody is used to doing.

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Posted on: November 16, 2010 1:20 am
 

F&R NFL Approval Matrix, Week 10

Posted by Will Brinson

Our affinity for graphs and charts and purty pictures knows no bounds, so (with a nod to the smartypants at NY Mag), we present the NFL Approval Matrix. Suggestions, complaints and intellecutual property lawsuits may be directed to us on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).

Click to embiggen.


Posted on: November 15, 2010 1:41 am
Edited on: November 15, 2010 1:04 pm
 

10 stories that deserve your attention Week 10

Posted by Will Brinson & Josh Katzowitz

1. Garrett does Dallas

Perhaps the weirdest thing about a really weird Week 10 in the NFL was the Dallas Cowboys' not just winning, but flat-out dominating the New York Giants en route to a 33-20 thrashing of the team everyone thought was the NFC's best just a week ago.

But what could have possibly changed in just one week to take the Cowboys from the definitive punchline of the 2010 season and turn them into a dangerous spoiler machine?

"The difference is the freakish disasters that have defined our season didn't happen tonight for us," Jon Kitna said afterwards.

Well, yes, there's that. But where's the Jason Garrett love?!?!? After all, if he can do this in just one week, imagine what he could do in a whole year with a gigantic contract! (At least that's the argument he's likely pushing to Jerry Jones for the rest of this week.)

Garrett clearly makes the Cowboys a better team right now than Wade Phillips did -- simply based on effort alone -- but whether or not he's the long-term answer as a coach for Jones' organization is going to require more than just four quarters of impressive play from the Cowboys.

But Cowboys fans probably shouldn't bask in the glow of a dominating win against a division opponent -- continued success in a lost season will make Garrett all but a lock for the full-time job in 2011, and that would be a shame, particularly with so many excellent coaching candidates out there after the season.

One thing's for sure, though: whoever coaches Dallas next year and beyond is going to have a very special talent in Dez Bryant. The rookie wideout, whose play this year has to make Jones feel less horrible for passing on Randy Moss so many years ago, continued to light up the stat sheet against the Giants. (WB)

2. Dolphins QBs get tossed into the blender

Entering Sunday’s game, the Dolphins knew exactly where they wanted to go with their quarterbacks. Coaches had determined they needed to replace starter Chad Henne with backup Chad Pennington, and though this couldn’t have been easy for Henne, he took his demotion with class and professionalism.

That lasted all of two plays before Pennington dislocated his shoulder and left the game with a ton of money in hand (not the same hand that’s connected to the shoulder he just dislocated. The other hand, obviously). That’s because he got a $3.25 million bonus to play those two snaps (it was an escalator in his contract that had to do with him playing as the starting quarterback), so hey, good for him.

Next up was Henne, who soon left with a knee injury.

That leaves the Dolphins with one healthy quarterback, Tyler Thigpen. All we’ve heard since he was elevated to starter is how unorthodox of a signal-caller he is but, at the same time, how effective he can be. Apparently, he burns the Dolphins first team defense in practice all the time while running the scout team. Apparently, he’s innovative and, if he can limit his mistakes, he could be a real force. That said, 24 hours ago, he was nothing better than a third-string quarterback.

And to be fair, for all of Thigpen’s attributes, he’s 1-10 all time as an NFL starter.

Miami now will have to shop for at least one other quarterback to back up Thigpen, and the Dolphins probably will add two this week. JaMarcus Russell is apparently one option, as is Sean Canfield, Tom Brandsteter, Todd Bouman, Jeff George, Vinny Testaverde, and hell, I don’t know, Randall Cunningham (only Russell, Canfield, Brandsteter and Bouman are legit, by the way). (JK)

3. Do NOT make the Patriots angry



The debate surrounding the Patriots over the past week was "trap game v. crumbling dynasty." Could the Patriots really be looking that far past a former assistant on Bill Belichick's staff in Eric Mangini? Could Randy Moss have been more important than we thought to Tom Brady's success?

Yes and no are the answers to those questions -- and we can all justifiably hop back on the Pats bandwagon after they dismantled the Steelers on Sunday night behind a monster Brady performance that saw him throw for 350 yards, three touchdowns and rush for another. (Interestingly, all three were to rookie Rob Gronkowski and this was Brady's first game over 300 yards this season.)

Belichick may plan well (22-2 after a bye) and New England may never lose back-to-back games (23-3 following a loss), but not many people saw this coming, even if it was in Pittsburgh, where Brady's consistently ripped owned the Steelers franchise and stomped on the collective heart of the fanbase every time he gets a chance (6-1 against them for his career).

This isn't to say that there shouldn't be any hesitation to crown the Pats the best team in the NFL, because there should be. Their defense is still really young (though it's maturing), and there absolutely questions about the offense, but, really, what you should worry about is not playing them when they're angry. "

And if you saw Brady screaming at his offensive lineman, crunching forward for three yards, slamming the ball once he got in the end zone or referring to the game as "emotional" at least 30 times afterwards, you know the Pats played and practiced angry this week. (WB)

4. What else can go wrong in Minnesota?

Wait, wait, don’t answer that. If there is an answer to that, we don’t want to know the answer.

And we’re not even talking about Percy Harvin’s migraines and Sidney Rice’s hip and Bernard Berrian’s groin and John Sullivan’s calf and Adrian Peterson’s ineffectiveness Sunday and … so on and so on.

We’re talking about how Brett Favre somehow came up with another injury he can fight through (he told ESPN that he’s been having shoulder pains that might be related to biceps surgery he had in 2008) and how he threw three interceptions Sunday to go with a fumble and a QB passer rating of 44.5. Not coincidentally, Minnesota lost 27-13 to Chicago to fall to 3-6 on the season.

But obviously, Favre still thinks his squad can make the playoffs. Right, Brett?

"If I had to gauge today I would say no," he said. "I'm not writing us off. But guys are in that locker room as we did right after the game [saying], 'We've got to find a way to turn it around' – all the cliches that go with it, as you would expect. 'We've got to pick it up. We've got to find a way to win.' And I say yes to all of those.

"Can this team make the playoffs? Yes, I'll say yes to that. Will we make the playoffs? I have no idea. No idea. And for anyone in our locker room to think beyond next week, or really beyond today ... we will be watching the playoffs. That's probably a better guess than us making the playoffs. And that's just being honest."

The truth does, in fact, hurt. Whether Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was being completely honest about coach Brad Childress’ continued employment – he told ESPN that he wasn’t considering getting rid of Childress – we’ll just have to wait and see. But you can’t like the sour attitude that continues to waft through Childress’ locker room. Honest or not. (JK)

5. The AFC West just got wilder

The Oakland Raiders cruised into their bye with a three-game winning streak, but it was reasonable to think the Kansas City Chiefs could put some distance in the AFC West standings thanks to a matchup against the defensively incompetent Broncos.

Then a funny thing happened -- Denver watched how the Raiders beat KC the week before, stacked the box early against Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones, and blew out Todd Haley's squad early and often. Late too, for that matter; Josh McDaniels' decision to keep his starters in the whole game didn't exactly sit well with Haley, who refused to shake hands after the game.

What was the long-term outcome of this game? Well, for starters, the AFC West is wide open now. Oakland and KC are both 5-4 and in first, but looming LARGE are the San Diego Chargers at 4-5 and just one game back.

The Bolts are even more terrifying for that division because by the time the second set of divisional games get underway, they'll be in possession of a fully-loaded weapon, as Antonio Gates, Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson and Legandu Naanee all (should) return sooner than later. 

What might be most weird about this is, given that all eight divisions are completely up in the air at this point, the Chargers might once again represent the team most likely to run away with their division. If they can win their remaining four games against AFC West foes (home-and-home against Denver, home game against Kansas City, home against Oakland), there's a pretty good chance they close the season 6-1 and cruise to another title.  (WB)

6. What else can we say about Palmer?

He’s not just average at this point in his career. He’s worse than average. Carson Palmer showed that again in the Bengals 23-17 loss to the Colts. His stats actually don’t look too bad (31 of 42 for 292 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions). But Palmer, as he’s been the past two seasons, is sometimes so inaccurate, it actually feels like a joke. Surely, he can’t be that off. He must be joshing us.

Yet, he threw another pick-6 Sunday, and against a Colts defense missing most of its key players, he simply wasn’t good enough. He’s also not getting enough help from his teammates, particularly Terrell Owens, who seems to quit on a route at least once a game. Too far out of his reach – which, to be fair, happens quite a bit with Palmer – and Owens doesn’t bother going after it or knocking it away from the defender who’s usually ready to make the interception.

Palmer apparently had a pain-killing injection put into his shoulder before the game – the same shoulder that caused him to miss practice Wednesday and Thursday – and it seems clear Palmer isn’t healthy. Perhaps, he hasn’t been healthy in quite a while. Those are the whispers that follow him around, and though he’s always quick to deny that he has long-lasting pain, that could explain why he’s fallen so far from being an elite quarterback to being one that has dropped below the average line. (JK)

7. When playing not to win works



Pretty sure I'll feel like a jerk suggesting this, but the Browns should have played for the tie on Sunday. And yeah, maybe Herm Edwards won't agree, but when Cleveland dialed up a pass on first down with 1:35 remaining in overtime, and Colt McCoy missed Ben Watson, it ended up costing the Browns the game (and, no joke, a chance to at least get back near the playoff race) because they left the Jets 24 seconds on the clock after a punt to their own 37-yard line.

Now, McCoy had already led an amazing drive to close out regulation, so it's fine putting the game in his hands. But in that situation, you really can't play "just to win," because the risk-reward of having to march 60 yards just to have a shot at a game-winning field goal doesn't pan out. Run the ball with Peyton Hillis twice, and maybe play action on third down. Otherwise you end up losing just like the Browns did. (WB)

8. There's a new Smith in town

When we talked to 49ers LB Takeo Spikes recently about his team, he brought up, with no prompting, how quickly the team had taken a liking to QB Troy Smith.

"Just with Troy’s presence," Spikes said. "He’s a guy who’s not only confident in his abilities but he makes everybody feel confident about themselves and what he’s about to do when we step on the field."

You could really see that against the Rams. Smith threw for 356 yards and a TD on just 17 completions, and as the game entered the second half, he looked completely in control and command. This is not how he looked when he was in Baltimore. Maybe it’s something in that San Francisco air. Or maybe it’s the Rice-A-Roni. (JK)

9. Bills get off the schneid

The Bills have been so close on so many different occasions.

They kept New England in sight before falling 38-30 in Week 3. And after taking their bye in Week 6, the heartbreaks really began to pile up.

In Week 7, the Bills gained 505 yards and scored four touchdowns – and took a 24-10 lead against Baltimore, no less – but the game turned for good in overtime when Ravens LB Ray Lewis lifted up Buffalo Te Shane Nelson (not unlike Patrick Swayze hoisting Jennifer Grey into the air) and stripped the ball away. Four plays later, Baltimore kicked the game-winning field goal.

In Week 8, Buffalo forced overtime AGAIN, and AGAIN, the opponent crushed the Bills souls in the final period. Early in overtime, Bills K Rian Lindell actually kicked the 53-yarder that would have given the Bills the win, but Chiefs coach Todd Haley had called timeout just before the snap. On the retry, Lindell hit the upright and it was no good.

And last week, not even a trip to Toronto could change the Bills fortunes. Despite Buffalo leading 19-14 in the fourth quarter, the Bills allowed (of all people) Bears QB Jay Cutler to throw the go-ahead TD pass with 6:41 to go. The Bears could not respond and fell 22-19.

But Sunday … ah, Sunday. A blessed, glorious victory.

So, Buffalo, how did it feel beating the Lions 14-12? This Associated Press lede should tell you the story:

Elated and relieved, guard Eric Wood could not contain himself as he skipped toward the Buffalo Bills’ locker room door.

“Holy cow! We won a game!” Wood yelled, his voice echoing in the tunnel at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

So, yeah, it felt pretty good. Buffalo can thank RB Fred Jackson, who rushed for a season-high 133 yards and scored both touchdowns. And despite the fact Lions QB Shaun Hill led a furious comeback in the final minutes, the Bills defense cracked down during the two-point conversion and Hill was forced to throw it out of the back of the end zone.

Here’s hoping the Bills enjoy this victory. Lords knows they’ve earned it. (JK)

10. Quick Hitters:

****We had two overtime games this week. In an unbelievable upset, CBS’ Gus Johnson wasn’t calling either game. His game actually was decided on a last-second Hail Mary, which allowed him to be at his best while not having to put any extra (unpaid) time into his shift.

****As a result of the Bills winning, the Panthers look like they're in prime position for the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. It'll be the first time in franchise history Carolina selects first overall -- the closest they came was No. 2 in 2003, which netted them Julius Peppers instead of David Carr. That worked out okay.

****The Lions are 8-1 this season! Against the spread. Which is actually pretty impressive and probably indicative that they're better than their record indicates. So, that's something, right?

****Amazingly, the 49ers had three of their touchdowns called back because of penalties. And they were impressive touchdowns, too. Unfortunately, they’ve gone to that almost-touchdown heaven in the sky, never to be seen or heard from again.

****Speaking of San Francisco, the team was 0-for-11 on third-down conversions until Rams S O.J. Atogwe was called for pass interference in overtime. Two plays later, the 49ers kicked the game-winning field goal. Who said you have to convert third downs to win?

****Shonn Greene was expected to get more carries this week and he did, making the most out of the 20 times he toted the rock (his second-highest total of the season) and giving a good indication that the's prepping to turn into more of a workhorse for the Jets.

****Know what's weird? People just refuse to talk about the Atlanta Falcons as the best team in the NFL. Even though they have a record to match. That is all.

****Mario Manningham and Ramses Barden looked sharp in the loss to the Cowboys, just proving how deep and talented that WR corps of the Giants is -- if Steve Smith misses significant time, it's obviously problematic, but New York can still score.

****Randy Moss said he had a "bad" day/game in his debut for the Titans. And he's correct, but it was odd that he didn't try and blame someone else, merely pointing out he'd do what was necessary in order to help the team win. But that's usually what he does after his first week in a new location. If this keeps up and the Titans aren't winning, things could change. Quickly.

****Pete Carroll's playcalling is so freaking bizarre. It's one thing that the Seahawks simply can't run the ball without Russell Okung healthy (they can't), but it's another to be chunking the ball left and right across the field with little-to-no time remaining. Oh, and his decision to QB sneak in the red zone resulted in a broken bone for Matt Hasselbeck. It's really going criminally underrated because they're having some success this year. 

****Brandon Marshall's temper flared up again Sunday, as he got upset after making a catch and threw the ball into the stands, drawing a penalty. Given that he might be catching passes from JaMarcus Russell soon (no, no seriously), there's a pretty good chance we could be seeing an epic meltdown at some point. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com