"This is SPARTA!!!"
Posted Nov. 25 at 11:41 PM
A quick whirl around the league at the highlights and lowlights of the games I paid the most attention to on Sunday…
Random Thought: Right before the half of Eagles-Patriots, Jabar Gaffney caught a touchdown in the back of the end zone where there was some question as to if he got two feet (or even one) down. Since it was in the last two minutes, no challenge flag could be thrown, but the replay booth chose not to review it. That’s the third time in the last two weeks I’ve seen critical and uncertain plays not reviewed. The NFL is either going to have to give coaches the opportunity to challenge those plays if they still have a timeout, or get their replay officials to be a little more attentive to these close plays.
Random Thought No. 2: With three of the league’s best teams – Packers, Cowboys, Colts – having played on Thanksgiving, and two more – Patriots, Steelers, and a third if you count the Eagles – playing on Sunday and Monday night, there sure were a lot of lousy teams playing lousy games on Sunday. The day was somewhat salvaged in terms of entertainment by several fantastic finishes, but even those tended to showcase ineptitude: the Rams and Cardinals flat-out blew games to their NFC West rivals, more than the Seahawks and 49ers won them. Anyway….
Seahawks-Rams: Seattle has won two road games: at San Francisco and St. Louis, who have five wins combined. (And two of those were against each other.) They’re not that good, but their dramatic win at St. Louis, combined with Arizona’s excruciating loss at home, mean they’ll probably open the season at home, as the NFC West division champ. Unfortunately for them, it won’t be against a team as inept as the Rams were on Sunday. Granted, St. Louis lost Marc Bulger early – which is what happens when your quarterback gets sacked as often as Bulger does – but it was all right there for them at the end of the game, with four tries from inside the 5-yard line. Instead, Gus Frerotte throws at the feet of a wide-open Isaac Bruce, Steven Jackson gets stopped inches short of the goal line, and Frerotte fumbles a snap to end the game. Brutal. The only thing you can say for St. Louis is they really did miss Steven Jackson, who looked every bit the explosive element this offense has missed most of the season on his 53-yard TD run.
As for Seattle: Their offense seems to have a lot more life now that they’ve shut down Shaun Alexander “until he’s 100 percent healthy,” according to Mike Holmgren. Which is when, four years after he retires? Maurice Morris looked pretty good, Deion Branch and Bobby Engram made some big catches, and the passing game will probably continue to click pretty well, at least until Matt Hasselbeck gets injured – which could happen this week at Philadelphia. Good news for Engram owners, as it appears D.J. Hackett will be out for a while (again) with an ankle injury.
Washington-Bucs: If Washington misses the playoffs, will short-yardage failures – or coaching miscues? – be the main reason why? They blew a game against the Giants by failing near the goal line in the final seconds. They botched some plays against the Eagles in a come-from-ahead defeat. And then trailing by 9, in the third quarter, against the Bucs, they passed up a short field goal to try to convert a fourth down (they failed miserably). With a field goal there they could have tied the game in the final seconds; instead, Jason Campbell badly underthrew Santana Moss for a game-losing interception. Not to pick on Campbell, who actually had a pretty good game against a very tough Tampa Bay defense, but that was a game Washington needed to and could have won. Nice game for Chris Cooley, anyway, who eats Cover 2 defenses alive.
For the Bucs, Jeff Garcia is clearly the team’s MVP. If they don’t keep him healthy (he should be fine for next week after missing most of this game with a back injury), they won’t go anywhere. That said, Earnest Graham might create an interesting offseason controversy for the Bucs, who will get Cadillac Williams back from injury next year. The Bucs have tended to be a frustrating committee team most years anyway. Next year, they probably will be again.
Raiders-Kansas City: Either Kansas City got themselves a steal in fifth-rounder Kolby Smith, or Smith picked the right opponent to make his first NFL start against. In any case, Smith looked pretty good rushing for 150 yards and 2 TDs, but let’s not go crazy. Ron Dayne (122) and LenDale White (133) also put up big totals against Oakland. Plus Kansas City actually lost the game, thanks to Dave Rayner missing a short field goal – which probably played a factor in Herm Edwards passing up a short field goal later in the game to try (and fail) to convert a fourth and short in a 3-point loss. Anyway, don’t trade the farm for Smith, who doesn’t get to face the Raiders again this season. (Based on the way he butchered a pass thrown his way, his receiving skills are also in question, although he did catch 24 passes at Louisville last year.) Dwayne Bowe continues to impress; he got open for a touchdown, but Brodie Croyle didn’t see him.
As for the Raiders, well, another nice game for Justin Fargas, even though he lost a TD to LaMont Jordan (wasn’t he going to be cut?). Fargas gets to face a similarly bad run defense next week, Denver, in a game that might feature the fewest passes of any game all season. Particularly with Daunte Culpepper slated to start again, since Culpepper, even post-knee injury, seems far more interested in running the ball in the red zone than trying to throw an accurate pass.
Vikings-Giants: In case you missed it, Eli Manning missed on a few throws. Missed his own receivers, that is, albeit not the Vikings defenders. Yeah, one was tipped at the line (a possible touchdown to a wide-open Jeremy Shockey), but let’s not mince words. Horrible game for Manning and the Giants offense. Oh, guess I picked the wrong week to start the Giants D over the Vikings D. On the bright side, my opponent started the Titans, who were actually worse – the Giants D wasn’t even on the field for most of Minnesota’s touchdowns. Shockey, by the way, got another end-zone throw early on. Should be good down the stretch.
For the Vikings, do you think Chester Taylor is a little ticked off about losing his starting job? He was running awfully angry on his TD run. Too bad for him, Adrian Peterson will likely be back next week. Sidney Rice, continues to be the only Vikings receiver you can say anything good about. Their No. 1 guy, already, and probably for years to come.
And then some other random around-the-dial things…. An announcer for Bills-Jaguars said of Maurice Jones-Drew, “He’s a guy who plays bigger than he is.” Jones-Drew is 5-foot-7, so yes, he’s small, but do we need the weekly reminder? I want them to say that LenDale White “plays thinner than he is,” but I guess they never will, because he doesn’t. … Rudi Johnson scored his first rushing touchdown of the season. In week 12. Wow. Also, Shayne Graham butchered a short field goal. Just another area the Bengals need to think about upgrading in the offseason. … For the Titans, Justin Gage (who hauled in a long completion) is the clear No. 1, seeing as he doesn’t drop as many passes as, oh, every other Titans receiver. Gage also got robbed of an apparent score on a great catch in the corner of the end zone. That’s what my TiVo says, anyway, and I believe it. The Titans had another score reversed by replay. Tough week for anyone who started Rob Bironas and lost by one point. … Lot of big hits in Browns-Texans. It looked like both teams wanted to shed the label of “worst team in the AFC over the past several years.” … Now we know why Carolina’s David Carr doesn’t throw downfield. Ugly interception. Which former No. 1 overall pick had a worse day: Eli Manning, David Carr, or the injured Alex Smith?
Last but not least, what a great game of football Eagles-Patriots was. I was rooting for the Eagles, and they could have won but for a horrible A.J. Feeley interception in the final minutes, but man, you play as far over your head as Feeley did all game, and it’s tough to give him too much grief. If nothing else, the game gives you hope that one, maybe the Patriots can be beat, and two, ridiculous point spreads are just that: Ridiculous. A well-coached, talented team shouldn’t be a 24-point underdog to anyone, even the (now) 11-0 Patriots.
The fact that the Patriots perhaps can be beat, of course, doesn’t mean anyone actually will beat them, but hey, you never know. Maybe they really are like the inexorable force of Xerxes’ Persian army – Yes, I just saw 300 – but somebody will stand up against them again, just like the Eagles did, and somebody will come away with a win. Two months back I said it’d be one of the Philadelphia teams. I’ve got one more chance to get it right.
Posted by Paul Owers | Nov. 26 at 03:39 AM
Re: Rams-Seahawks: Yes, the Rams sure did miss S. Jackson this year, and I was pleased that he scored Sunday because I had just traded for him last week. That said, he didn't even crack 100 yards rushing after getting 53 in one fell swoop. And, for a big guy, he gets injured a lot. That'll make me think twice before spending a Top 5 pick on him next year.
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