It’s wasn’t glamorous, but Donovan McNabb and the Washington Redskins squeaked out another win. This time beating Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to remain atop the NFC East. Conversely, the Bengals found another way to lose. As did the 49ers.
Week 5 offered a handful of surprises, and the realization that the NFC is downright awful.
Week Two Headlines
McNabb wins again
Donovan McNabb takes a lot of heat for his erratic play and nonchalant demeanor, but he has an uncanny ability to win games. What you’ll read on Monday is that the Packers couldn’t score touchdowns, allowed the Redskins to hang around, and ultimately lost the game. What you won’t read is that McNabb outplayed Aaron Rodgers. It’s true.
Rodgers and the Packers have lacked a running game since Ryan Grant went down in week one. The Redskins haven’t had a ground game all season either. To no one’s surprise, neither team could run the ball today. Without the threat of a running attack, McNabb and Rodgers were under heavy pressure. McNabb was sacked five times; Rodgers was taken down four times. The weapons that each quarterback has available aren’t quite as even. Rodgers has one of the NFL’s elite receiving corps. There are few, if any, quarterbacks in the NFL that would trade their receivers for McNabb’s.
Considering the circumstances, both quarterbacks played well and miraculously didn’t leave the field on a stretcher. It was clear each offense could only go as far as their respective quarterbacks would take them. In the end, McNabb took his a little further. Their numbers were nearly identical, though. McNabb completed 26 of his 49 attempts for 357 yards with a touchdown and one interception. Rodgers finished 27 of 46 for 293 yards and a touchdown and pick as well. However, McNabb’s pick was the result of a Hail Mary attempt at the end of regulation while Rodgers’ interception came in overtime on a poorly thrown ball. McNabb protected the football and kept his team in the game until a big play broke their way, or the opponent made a mistake. Rodgers made that mistake and McNabb and the Redskins took advantage. With McNabb under center and a stout defense, the Redskins will be a tough win for any opponent. Just ask Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
The Bengals are once again, the “Bungels”
Cincinnati is not a bad team. While not flashy, their defense is one of the league’s top units. On paper, the offense looks capable of filling up the scoreboard. Unfortunately, those skills haven’t translated to the field. Carson Palmer keeps getting worse and is walking his career off a cliff ala Jake Delhomme. To make matters worse, Chad Ochocinco has been invisible since week one and the offense as a whole has been plagued by turnovers and dropped balls. As a result, the defending AFC North champs have fallen to the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in consecutive weeks. It’s easy to blame Sunday’s loss on Palmer’s poor play. He threw three interceptions, two at the worst possible times. However, I’m going to put this one on the coaching staff too. Why, with just over two minutes left in the game and a seven point lead, do you have Carson Palmer dropping back to pass on 3rd down? Your defense had handled the Buccaneers’ offense for most of the afternoon and a punt would have pinned them deep in their own territory with around two minutes remaining. In football, you lean on your strongest asset when you need to win. Carson Palmer is a liability right now. Cincinnati should have ran the ball on 3rd down and been content to punt, trusting their defense to close out the win. Instead, Palmer threw a bad interception. On the next series, after Tampa Bay had tied the game, Palmer again threw an interception that would ultimately cost Cincinnati a win. (It should be noted that Ochocinco dropped a huge reception for a first down just before the INT.) Poor quarterback play and bad coaching. Sounds like the Bungels have returned to Cincinnati.
Where are the offensive juggernauts?
In 2007 we had the dynamic Patriots led by Tom Brady and Randy Moss. The Cowboys and Colts could be counted on to light up the scoreboard then too. In 2008, the Saints, Chargers, and Cardinals kept defensive coordinators up at night, and fantasy owners glued to the television. Last year, the Saints and Vikings were unstoppable forces on offense and the Packers were prolific too. After five weeks of 2010 action, I can’t think of an offensive unit on the same level of any of the aforementioned offenses. The Colts come to mind, but Peyton Manning and his receivers were held in check by Kansas City on Sunday. In New Orleans, the Saints are a shell of their 2009 offense. The Patriots are inconsistent and will need to replace recently departed Randy Moss. Brett Favre’s struggles have slowed the Vikings attack, and the Cowboys can’t protect Tony Romo. An elite offense may still emerge, but for now, poor offensive lines and superior defenses are getting the best of once prolific offenses.
San Francisco is a mess
The 49ers can’t hope to beat their opponent until they can stop beating themselves. Alex Smith’s 4th quarter fumble was a back-breaker in what should have been a very winnable game. Smith isn’t the only one to blame, though. Frank Gore didn’t help matters by fumbling twice. It’s a recurring theme in San Francisco. The 49ers have the pieces to be a good football team, maybe even a playoff contender. However, until they find a way to avoid shooting themselves in the foot, they’ll remain in the basement of the putrid NFC West. Fans can continue to blame Smith all they want. The truth is, the coaching staff has a done a poor job in developing a scheme that allows the offense to rely on its strengths; Gore, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis. I’m not exonerating Smith, because he commits at least one stupid mistake every week, but I think Mike Singletary and the coaching staff are responsible too. Regardless, next time you dream of being a professional quarterback in the NFL, remember it’s not so glamorous when 65,000+ fans are screaming for your benching. It now appears inevitable that Alex Smith will need to find another home to continue his NFL career. With his athletic ability, I’m sure there will be another team willing to take a shot. The NFL is built on second (and third) chances.
Someone take them to Chic-Fil-A (NFL’s top 5)
1. Steelers – They added a two-time Superbowl champion at quarterback over the bye week. So yeh, they’re still the best team in football.
2. Ravens – Baltimore leapfrogged the Jets this week after dismantling the Broncos. With their defense, if they get Sunday’s production from Ray Rice on a weekly basis, they’re virtually unbeatable.
3. Jets – A distracted Minnesota team is on deck. Two losses on Monday night would certainly hurt morale.
4. Patriots – It was either the Pats or the Colts. Both defenses are bad, but Brady has New England at 3-1, so they’ll go here for now.
5. Falcons – They’re still not the 5th best team in the NFL, but I can’t totally ignore the NFC. However, the Giants are making a strong push for this spot, so Atlanta better shape up before they run into their prodigal son, Mike Vick.
(Last Week: PITT, NYJ, BAL, HOU, ATL)
Not even Ramen Noodle worthy (NFL’s bottom 5)
28. Browns – They’re tough and play hard. Unfortunately, they still aren’t winning. If Seneca Wallace’s injury is serious, we could see Colt McCoy earlier than expected.
29. Lions – That was certainly a solid win, but beating the Rams won’t get you out of the bottom five. Sorry.
30. 49ers – They just keep giving the games away. Heads are going to roll in the Bay area if a four game winning streak isn’t on the horizon.
31. Panthers – Jimmy Clausen looks lost. I know he’s a rookie but what’s he doing lounging on the bench? Get off your butt and learn something.
32. Bills – Good thing the Sabres just started their 2010 campaign.
(Last Week: CAR, DET, SF, AZ, BUF)
Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)
Giants – That’s two consecutive impressive wins against winning teams. As long as their defense is playing this well, the Giants are in contention for the NFC title.
Redskins – It’s rarely easy and hardly pretty, but the Redskins find a way to win. Winning ugly is always a good sign when a new team is trying to gel. At some point, though, the offense will need to score some points.
Jaguars – I didn’t want to leave this spot blank, so I’ll throw Jacksonville a bone for winning two in a row.
Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)
Packers – Injuries are beginning to take their toll on the preseason Superbowl darlings. If Aaron Rodgers’ concussion is severe, the season could fall apart rapidly in Green Bay.
Saints – Drew Brees lost to Max Hall. Max Hall! I wonder why Marques Colston retired. Oh wait, he still plays?
Texans – Houston’s recent play has made their fans forget about their huge week one victory over the Colts. It was one win, fellas. You’re going to need a bunch more to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Things I thought and would’ve said, but my son is only 3 months old and wouldn’t understand…
- Does anyone have an offensive line anymore? I can’t remember the last time quarterbacks were being chased around the backfield with such consistency. Tony Romo is lucky to be alive, as is Donovan McNabb and Aaron Rodgers.
- Shouldn’t the Buccaneers start losing at some point?
- I think Jake Delhomme’s career might be over. I know he played injured today, but his two fourth quarter interceptions cost the Browns big time.
- Jacksonville may have found their recipe for success. Commit to your running game (200 yards rushing on Sunday) and don’t ask David Garrard to carry the offense (only 20 passing attempts).
- I called this one. Quarterback play in Charlotte from Sunday: 22/51, 147 yards, 0 TDs, 7 INTs. Whoa.
- The injury to Jermichael Finley could be the nail in the Packers’ proverbial coffin as far as a Superbowl berth is concerned.
- Both the Chiefs and Packers passed on field goals inside the five yard line, and both failed to convert. The Chiefs were down by only three early in the 1st quarter when they passed on the three points. The Packers were up seven early in the 2nd quarter and did the same. Those three points would have given Green Bay a victory. The lesson; in a close game, always take the three points on the road. ALWAYS!
- The Lions are off the schnide.
- The NFC East made a comeback today. The Giants, Eagles, and Redskins entered week 5 as underdogs and all three won. The Cowboys sit alone in the division basement by two games. As a result, Jerry Jones is asking the NFL to move the Superbowl somewhere else this year.
- Atlanta DE, Kroy Biermann’s deflection, stunning catch, and the return for a touchdown was a thing of beauty.
- After bottling up Chris Johnson in week 4, Denver surrendered 233 rushing yards at 5 yards a pop to the Baltimore Ravens.
- If the Cowboys are going to finish with a winning record, they’ll need a new offensive line.
- Nice to the see the defending NFL champions are staying hungry like they promised. Nothing tells the rest of the league you’re intent on retaining your title like losing to one of the worst teams in the league.
- I think it’s safe to say the Texans were overvalued after the season’s first two weeks. For the second time in three weeks, Houston allowed an NFC East team to come into Houston and trounce them.
- I think if the Eagles defense doesn’t improve, Andy Reid will need to find himself a new defensive coordinator next season.
- There’s a four way tie for first place in the AFC South. 3-2 is the record of choice, apparently.
- I was high on the San Diego Chargers until the 4th quarter of Sunday’s game. One thing that bothers me is the lack of touches given to rookie Ryan Mathews. Mike Tolbert rushed 12 times for 11 yards and fumbled at the goal line. Does this make sense to anyone else?
- Good for Jason Campbell. He looked cool, calm, and collective in directing the Raiders’ 4th quarter comeback. A big win for Oakland without Darren McFadden.
- Matt Cassel isn’t good enough to lead the Chiefs into the playoffs, but Kansas City’s defense may be good enough to drag him there. The Chiefs were the first defense to keep Manning under 250 yards, a completion percentage less than 60%, and no touchdowns.
- Philip Rivers threw for 290 yards in the first half against Oakland. That’s more than 18 teams passed for in an entire game on Sunday.
- One of the main reasons Rivers didn’t win was because the Raiders scored nine points off two blocked punts in the game’s first five minutes.
- The Titans won, but I’m not sold on Vince Young leading Tennessee into the playoffs.
- The Panther defense surrendered 101 yards and two touchdowns on four carriers to Matt Forte before I had time to settle into my sofa. They eventually tightened, but when Jimmy Clausen is your quarterback, you can’t fall behind early.
- With their lost to Jacksonville, I’m not sure where the Bills first win will come from. Buffalo might be staring at 0-16.
- The Baltimore Ravens convinced me they’re a real Superbowl contender. They abused the Broncos in every facet of the game, from start to finish.
- Ladell Betts will be unemployed come Monday evening. Betts looked lost in the offense. What’s worse, he dropped a pass that led to an interception inside his own five. Later, in the 4th quarter of a close game, Betts fumbled and Arizona returned it for a touchdown.
- From the, “you can’t pass your way to victory” department, both Philip Rivers and Tony Romo threw for over 400 yards. And both lost.
- Saints head coach Sean Payton said his team’s current situation isn’t a “crisis.” Uh, Shawn, you can’t score and your team just got beat by a team quarterbacked by Max hall. If that’s not a crisis, I’m not sure what is.
- The New York Giants are making a case to be considered the best team in the NFC…
- …which really isn’t saying much because the NFC is as bad as I ever remember.
- The Chargers are 0-2 in the AFC West. Ouch.
- The race between Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay for World Series MVP may be the most exhilarating competition in the MLB playoffs.