OK, so we’re rolling this thing out a month into the season. So sue us.
The goal of The Morning After is to provide you with a tour of what you might have missed if you weren’t parked at PFT all day on Sunday, but also to add some new takes and/or views and/or information — without taking too much away from the flood of Monday blurbs that will be coming as the day unfolds.
For the first effort, we’re going to organize our thoughts by game, since it requires the least amount of thought on your end and, far more importantly, on ours.
And we’ll loosely present them from what we think was the best game of the day to the worst.
But, when it comes to the NFL, there’s never really a truly bad game.
Then we’ll finish with a take on the Monday night game, which will be regarded as a very bad game for the fans of the team that loses it this week.
Here’s a final twist, aimed at reflecting our real-time, F5-mashing style. We’ll be posting each take as its done, in lieu of pulling the sheet off the entire item when it’s ready.
Patriots 27, Ravens 21: A great game that could have been even better if Ravens receiver Mark Clayton hadn’t been eating popcorn easily could be overshadowed by stuff said after it was over. For starters, Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, still sweating from under his post-game old-man hat, teed off on the protection that the NFL provides to quarterbacks — focusing on the specific level of laundry-tossing that the zebras applied to Pats quarterback Tom Brady.
The issue went to another level when Brady’s former teammate, Rodney Harrison, invited Brady during halftime of NBC’s Sunday night game to “[t]ake off the skirt and put on some slacks.”
When I passed the quote along to Rosenthal, who apparently was watching Nick At Nite instead, I probably should have mentioned that Rodney was smiling as he said it.
Regardless of the facial expression, the words were jarring.
Former Giants defensive lineman and current FOX analyst Michael Strahan calls it a “bad move” on this Twitter page. “Rodney is selling out his teammates, friends and enemies to try to make a name or something,” Strahan says.
My own reaction was that Rodney apparently hopes to play no favorites when offering up his candid opinions about the things that he sees and hears. The problem, however, is that this approach, even if applied on an equal-opportunity basis, violates one of the basic rules of the “jockocracy,” and that will do little to convert the folks who consistently scribbled Harrison’s name when asked by Sports Illustrated to identify the dirtiest player in the league.
The best news to appear in the aftermath of the game? Ravens tackle Jared Gaither apparently will be OK after a scary neck injury resulted in Gaither’s extremely large body being immobilized so that he could be taken to a hospital.
And his body is so large that it wouldn’t fit in the MRI machine.
The title of the PFT item — “Gaither has movement, was too big for MRI” — caused a little confusion. Said the commenter who goes by the “pudgalvin” handle, “When I read the headline, I just thought he had taken a huge dump.”
Broncos 17, Cowboys 10: Someone asked during the Sunday Night Football Extra live chat whether we can expect to see more good stuff from Denver receiver Brandon Marshall, or whether he’ll revert to the form of the first two weeks. Without question, the best is yet to come this year.
In Week One and Week Two, the limited production arose from the fact that Marshall had been injured and disgruntled in the offseason, and again injured and disgruntled during training camp. So he was behind, especially when working with a new quarterback and a new coach and a new offense. But that suspension in late August ended up being one of the best coaching moves in recent history, because it caused Marshall to realize that he’s not going to get his way — and that the only way to get paid in the future is to bust his ass in the present.
The new attitude won praise from FOX’s Troy Aikman, who said during Sunday’s game that, at practice on Friday, Marshall worked harder than any receiver Aikman had seen other than former Cowboys great Michael Irvin.
The comparison to Irvin becomes even more appropriate in light of the fact that Marshall used one of Irvin’s tactics to get open on the game-winning play. It’s subtle, but it’s there — at roughly 40 seconds of this clip. Marshall grabs the jersey of Dallas corner Terence Newman to obtain separation, a fact about which Newman complained after the game.
“I could have swore it was going to be a penalty at the start,”
Newman said, per the Dallas Morning News. “He grabbed my jersey and threw me to the side. If that
wasn’t a hold, I don’t know what is. I tried to grab him back. I
figured either way, we were both going to be called for a hold. . . . He grabbed my jersey and he threw me to the side. You can put that on
any clip in the NFL. It didn’t get called. He grabbed me, so I tried to
grab him back. . . . I thought I did a good job on him all day. If he doesn’t grab my
jersey, the ball is going the other way, I guarantee you that. He
grabbed my jersey, tried to play the football, that’s it.”
Though Newman makes it sound worse than it was, like Rain Man scribbling in his notebook that Charlie Babbitt “grabbed and pulled and hurt my neck in 1988,” Marshall did grab the jersey and he did get separation by doing so.
Even after that game-breaking catch and run and redirection and run and run and redirection and run some more, it looked like the Cowboys were destined to push the thing to overtime. But with receiver Roy Williams relegated to the role of spectator (for reasons still not completely clear) and quarterback Tony Romo determined to continue to try to get the ball to Sam Hurd via Champ Bailey, the Broncos stiffened.
Next Sunday, Denver host the Patriots in a possible “I will turn your face to alabaster” opportunity for Josh McDaniels, who’ll get a crack at his old boss in what looks to be the best game of the week. They might have to do it without running back Correll Buckhalter, who left the stadium on crutches. Through four games, Buckhalter has 267 yards on the ground on 37 carries, for a whopping 7.2 average. He also has 96 yards on eight receptions.
Bengals 23, Browns 20: This game presented an important challenge for the Bengals, who likely were beginning to think (rightfully so) that they’re pretty good after beating the Packers and the Steelers in consecutive weeks. Truly good teams win the games they’re supposed to win.
After Cincy raced to a 14-0 lead, it looked like the Browns were going to steal it. The Bengals offense went MIA, with five straight three-and-out efforts. They woke up once the Browns took at 20-14 lead, moving down the field in ten plays to tie the game with a six-pointer.
The problem? Shaun Rogers stormed through the line and knocked down the extra point like a stripper (allegedly).
The move sparked an uninspiring fifth quarter of football, which featured seven drives.
And, like the Cincinnati game that ended in a tie last season, this one featured a serious mental gaffe from a quarterback.
“I’m curious why they called a time out with seven seconds left,” Rich Gannon of CBS said after the Bengals killed the clock late in the overtime period. “Because what’s gonna happen now is you’re gonna be forced to kick the ball off to Joshua Cribbs.”
“No, it’s over,” said Gannon’s on-air partner, Ian Eagle. “You win.”
Gannon agreed and apologized for the blunder, and Ian Eagle gave Gannon a little of the business.
“Is Donovan McNabb in the booth,” Eagle said. “Where’s Donovan?”
The only good news? It gave the Raiders something to smile about on a day when they otherwise collapsed. Again.
For a team with even one fewer win than the Raiders, the effort was encouraging, albeit incomplete. Quarterback Derek Anderson looked good enough to keep the job for another week or two, even without Braylon Edwards catching a pass.
49ers 35, Rams 0: We’re going out of order a little bit just to make sure you’re paying attention. And because NFL Network’s Deion Sanders, who thrust himself into the middle of the Michael Crabtree mess on September 4 by suggesting that two teams have tampered with the unsigned first-round pick, has dropped a strong hint that Crabtree could be jumping on to the San Fran bandwagon.
“Crabtree may be on his way,” Sanders said during NFL GameDay Final. “I’m just sayin’.”
And Deion would know, given his close ties to Crabtree’s tight-lipped agent, Eugene Paker.
It remains to be seen whether Crabtree plans to take the offer that has been sitting on the table longer than Aunt Audrey’s day-old deviled eggs, or whether the Niners have sweetened the pot.
With the 49ers rolling, Crabtree simply could be caving. At 3-1 and with the other three teams in the division a combined 2-9, San Fran is undergoing a resurgence that does justice to the uniforms that conjure memories of their first rise to prominence, nearly 30 years ago. Crabtree would be an idiot (and, by all appearances, he is) to not want to be part of it.
As to the guys currently on the roster, linebacker Patrick Willis is thrusting himself into the conversation for league MVP, with 2.5 sacks on Sunday and an interception returned for a touchdown in the 35-0 pasting of the Rams.
Speaking of the Rams, who might soon be owned in part by Rush Limbaugh, the slide continues. They’ve notched 24 points in four games and they’ve allowed 108. The average score? 27-6.
It’s the 14th straight loss for St. Louis, who are now only two defeats away from duplicating over two seasons what the Lions “accomplished” in 2008.
Though some think there are reasons for hope with the Rams, we’re not sure what they are. The team currently is a mess, and they just need to win a game.
To make that happen, of course, they need to first score a point.
Steelers 38, Chargers 28: We’re not sure that there’s anything more to add than what we said during the game in the Sunday Night Football Extra live chat, and in our post-game post regarding the near-historic collapse with which the Steelers flirted.
Here’s one. After the final gun, Steelers linebacker James Farrior and Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson got into a tussle on the field after the game ended, and they had to be separated.
Asked whether something prompted the exchange, Farrior said, “No, we just don’t like each other.”
The two teams surely don’t like each other, either — they’ve met three times in less than a full year, and the Steelers continue to have San Diego’s number. The difference this time around is that there most likely won’t be a postseason rematch; both are 2-2 and, in a top-heavy conference with two 4-0 teams and four 3-1 franchises, it’ll be a challenge for both the Steelers and the Chargers to crash the postseason party.
Saints 24, Jets 10: Rex Ryan’s Captain Lou Albano routine is exciting and intriguing when the team is winning. When they encounter adversity, however, it’ll be interesting to see how the Jets respond.
It wasn’t good on Sunday, when quarterback Mark Sanchez decided that he wasn’t going to catch Saints safety Darren Sharper, as Sharper was returning an interception 99 yards for a touchdown. So why not take out the legs of linebacker Jonathan Vilma instead?
“He got my knees,” Vilma said after the game, per Rich Cimini of the New York Daily News. “Thank G
od, I didn’t get hurt. I hope he gets fined for it, like Brett Favre in the preseason.”
Meanwhile, the Saints are getting it done without quarterback Drew Brees on pace to break an a single single-season passing record. On Sunday, he threw for only 190 yards and no touchdowns.
Through four games, Brees has 1,031 yards and nine touchdowns. That projects to 4,124 yards and 36 scores.
It’s Pro Bowl-level stuff, but it’s hardly historic.
But with his team at 4-0 and Gregg Williams’ defense doing a solid job of keeping other teams from scoring enough points to win, the thing that Brees might put in his pocket is the thing that’s the most important.
Dolphins 38, Bills 10: So with the last 13 games of the 2009 regular season shaping up for the Dolphins to be the first 13 games of the 17-game preseason for 2010, something happened.
The Miami Dolphins woke up, and blew up the Bills.
Though new quarterback Chad Henne threw for as many yards as Ronnie Brown ran (115), it was a total team effort as Miami removed the goose egg in its won-loss record with a big victory.
There’s still a very long way to go to match last year’s outcome. At 1-3, the Dolphins need to keep winning games.
The problem? They won’t be playing the Bills every week.
For Buffalo, the Dick Jauron departure watch officially has commenced. With four more games to go until the bye (Browns, Jets, Panthers, Texans), the Bills might have to win at least two to extend Jauron’s stay beyond November 1.
And while receiver Terrell Owens has not yet exploded (he was downright mellow after the game), the eruption of Kraka-T.O. surely is coming.
We’ll be ready, shaking an old-school tray of Jiffy Pop over the lava.
Redskins 16, Buccaneers 13: Two weeks ago, the Redskins got their first win of the season, outscoring a horrendous Rams team by two points. On Sunday, the ‘Skins got to .500, besting an equally bad Bucs team by three.
Though the end result in the standings puts the Redskins on the same level as the Cowboys at 2-2, the gap between these two franchises currently is quite wide. Though Dallas won’t currently be confused as a team that’s ready to contend for a Super Bowl, the reality is that the Redskins don’t seem suited to scratch-and-claw for the No. 6 seed.
One of the problems is at quarterback, where Jason Campbell threw three interceptions and fumbled twice (losing once).
After the game, Zorn made it clear that he’s sticking with Campbell, despite the fact that the quarterback admittedly had one of his worst days ever.
“It’s the first time in my career I ever had three picks, even [in] peewee, high school and college,” Campell said.
The question becomes how long that career will continue in Washington. If Zorn hopes to save his job, the answer will be “not very.”
For the Bucs, they’ve found a way to build a 10-point halftime lead. And they’ve found a way to blow it.
Quarterback Josh Johnson showed some promise in his first start, which could eventually create a Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn conundrum in Tampa, delaying Josh Freeman’s debut. Complicating matters is this bizarre quote from G.M. Mark Dominik during Sunday’s pregame show: “We’re committed to finding the Bucs starting quarterback of the future.”
We thought that they had, in round one of the 2009 draft.
Maybe they’ll get a chance to take one even higher than that next April.
Jaguars 37, Titans 17: LenDale White should never have desecrated the Terrible Towel. Since that fateful day in December 2008, the Tennessee Titans have not won a single game.
They lost the regular-season finale, a home playoff game to the Ravens, and now four straight games to begin the 2009 season.
That’s six losses in a row. And, somewhere, the man who created the Terrible Towel (the late Myron Cope) is sharing a stogie with Art Rooney and muttering, “Yoy.”
So what can the Titans do to change their fortunes? Some are clamoring for Vince Young. The resistance by coach Jeff Fisher makes us wonder whether Young is — or ever will be — ready for the job.
But it wouldn’t be unprecedented for Young to thrive in a no-win situation. As a rookie in 2006, Young got his first start when the Titans were 0-3, and the winless streak ran to 0-6 before the Titans began to turn it around.
And turn it around the Titans did, going 8-3 over the final eleven games and had a shot at making it to the postseason.
So maybe it’s time to give Young a chance to prove that the Titans didn’t completely blow it three-plus years ago by drafting him instead of the guy who played college football at nearby Vanderbilt.
For the Jaguars, there’s reason to be optimistic. The schedule for the 2-2 team softens considerably for the next four games (Seahawks, Rams, Titans, Chiefs), which would send them to the Meadowlands on November 15 with a 6-2 record.
Though a win over the Jets still wouldn’t be enough to sell out the home stadium, the Jags might still have a chance at selling out a home playoff game.
Hopefully by then the league will have ironed out the rule regarding the completion of a catch when the receiver falls to the ground.
Colts 34, Seahawks 17: Someone sent me an e-mail Sunday morning asking for one sure-fire pick against the spread for an “office pool.” I didn’t hesitate.
“Coach Neuheisel,” I said, “take the Colts and give the points.”
With each passing week, the legacies of men like Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy are being diminished a little bit, along with the careers of Reggie Wayne, Tom Moore, Howard Mudd, and Jim Caldwell.
As long as Peyton Manning is the quarterback, the Colts will win many more games than they lose.
“We played greatness today, one of the finest of all time,” Seahawks coach Jim Mora said after the game. “He proves it over and over again. Regardless of the circumstances, he comes up with the play.”
It would be easy to put Tom Brady a half-step above Manning because Brady has three rings and Manning has only one. But maybe, with the supporting cast that Brady has enjoyed in New England, Peyton would be working on his fifth or sixth championship.
Before you start flooding the comments page with “Florio loves the Colts!” complaints, keep in mind the fact that we’ve criticized Manning plenty of times over the years. But since we’re all so keen on witnessing history in sports, it’s important to recognize a historic career while it is still is unfolding.
For the Seahawks, last year’s nightmare has continued into 2009. We pointed out in last week’s 10-pack that owner Paul Allen needs to leave no stone unturned to find out why so many of his players are g
etting and staying injured.
Something’s wrong — and now the Seahawks are two full games and a tiebreaker behind the 49ers, with no reason to expect a dramatic turnaround, even if quarterback Matt Hasselbeck can stay healthy for more than a couple of games in a row.
Giants 27, Chiefs 16: This one was a blowout that the Chiefs made look respectable in extended garbage time. That 54-yard catch and run by rookie receiver Hakeem Nicks pushed the score to 27-3 early in the fourth quarter.
With quarterback Eli Manning done for the day after what initially looked like a Dan Marino/Vinny Testaverde “someone shot me in the back of my foot” Achilles’ tendon rupture, the Giants got a little taste of life without Eli.
It wasn’t pretty.
David Carr, the first overall pick two years before Manning, has never been much more than a journeyman, and the Giants’ journey will get very interesting if Manning ever goes down for an extended stretch.
But Manning appears to be fine, the Chiefs appear not to be, and these two franchises will continue to move in different directions, at least for now.
Things get interesting next weekend, however. Playing as the Dallas Texans, the Chiefs will host the Dallas Cowboys. One way or another, Dallas will win.
Meanwhile, Giants running back Brandon Jacobs nudged himself away from possible retirement by pushing his per-carry average to 3.6, with 92 yards on 21 attempts.
Bears 48, Lions 24: It looked like the Lions might double their first winning streak in nearly two years, when Detroit running back Kevin Smith scored his second touchdown of the day 31 seconds before intermission, knotting the game at 21.
Rookie Johnny Knox changed all that at the start of the third quarter, when he one-upped fellow rookie Percy Harvin.
After that, the Bears methodically pulled away, eventually doubling up the Lions with an outcome much closer than the score suggested.
The most pressing concern for the Lions is the status of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who left the game after a scary knee injury that conjured memories of the Warren Sapp/Jerry Rice play from Week One 1997. Stafford’s knee cap popped out and then popped back in; MRI results will reveal the damage, if any, that was done.
Before he left, Stafford put up solid numbers, passing for nearly 300 yards — more than twice the yardage generated by Jay Cutler of the Bears, whose biggest highlight was his Cutlercopter move.
And so after a Week One stinker at in the land of Limburger, the Bears enter their bye on a three-game winning streak. On the other side? Challenging games at Atlanta and Cincinnati.
For the Lions, they’ll likely take a couple more losses (Steelers, Packers) before getting two weeks to prepare for a chance to extend the Rams’ losing streak.
Texans 26, Raiders 6: Do we really have to talk about this one? [NBC Overlords’ Note: Yes. You do. Now quit bitching and get back to work.]
The Raiders continue to have no offense, even when playing an otherwise bad defense. Quarterback Jamarcus Russell completed only 12 of 33 passes — pushing his passer rating from 39.8 all the way to . . . drum roll . . . 42.4
Darren McFadden generated minus-three yards on the ground in six tries, and neither Justin Fargas nor Michael Bush could get much going, either.
The Texans avoided a nightmarish start to the season by climbing to .500, thanks to the return of Steve Slaton, who had been struggling in his second season. (He’s still struggling a bit when it comes to delivering a chest bump.)
The overall numbers for the Texans’ offense weren’t spectacular, but they didn’t need to be against the Raiders. Especially with the nine points generated on a two-play stretch early in the second half.
The problem is that the Texans have some tough games coming up, with four of five on the road before their bye — and games against the Cardinals, Bengals, 49ers, and Colts.
For the Raiders, 1-7 at the break is now looking likely.
Unless they sign Jeff Garcia right now.
Packers at Vikings: It’s arguably the biggest Monday night game since Bears-Dolphins in 1985. It’s possibly even bigger than that.
When else, in any sport, has a Hall of Fame-level player gotten a crack, with gas still in the tank, against the team with which he has made his legend? Add in the fact that he’s now playing for an arch rival of his former team, and it takes on an even higher level.
Throw in last week’s 50-yard frozen rope, and there’s no question as to whether the player still has gas in the tank.
So, yes. It’s a huge regular-season game. And, in less than a month, they’ll do it all again, in Green Bay.
I’ve already picked the Vikings to win in our PFT/NBC picks. So I’ll stick with it.
Unless the Packers win. Then I’ll be making a “just move on” style edit.
More on that is coming in the Rumor Mill. So just move on and get your ass back there.