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Like Fish Outta Water. NFL Week 7 Recap

The Dolphins made me look like a genius for most of the first half, and then the fish began to drown. Elsewhere, the AFC dominated, London fell asleep, and momentum got dizzy in Pittsburgh. I’m emotionally exhausted and the Eagles haven’t played yet. I might not make it to the World Series.

Kicking Off

The Dolphins should be embarrassed. They were doing everything right until WR Davone Bess fumbled the ball away with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. They never fully recovered. Drew Brees immediately marched his offense down the field and a 24-3 Dolphin lead quickly turned into a 24-10 score at the half. A two touchdown lead against the most prolific offense in the NFL is never safe. The Dolphins came out of halftime needing to respond. Instead, they welcomed the Saints back into the game. On the third play from scrimmage in the 2nd half, Chad Henne threw deep down the left sideline for WR Ted Ginn Jr. The ball was well thrown, but Ginn dropped it. Saints FS Darren Sharper intercepted the pass and took into the end zone. In a matter of minutes, the Dolphins 21 point lead was down to seven. The Dolphin defense eventually fell apart, the offense stalled, and the Saints ultimately won the game. Two mistakes by Dolphins’ receivers changed the momentum of the game and ultimately cost the Dolphins their biggest win of 2009.

Momentum in the Vikings/Steelers Sunday showdown was as loyal as ESPN analyst Steve Phillips (google his name). According to my record keeping, the elusive intangible swapped sides seven times in the last 32 minutes of Sunday’s game. Here’s the breakdown… With a 7-3 lead and momentum on their side, the Minnesota Vikings got the ball with 3:30 left in the first half. It was a perfect opportunity to extend their lead before halftime. The Vikings failed to move the ball and punted to the Steelers who regained possession with 1:39 remaining in the half. Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger threw a 40 yard TD that gave the Steelers the halftime lead 10-7 (Switch #1). Midway through the 3rd quarter, the Vikings regained the momentum by converting on a 4th and 1 inside Steelers’ territory. The 4th and 1 play gave the Vikings the ball at the one yard line (Switch #2). Just three plays later, the Vikings were forced to settle for a field goal. While the Steelers defense bended, they did not break (Switch #3). Momentum stayed with the Steelers until early in the 4th quarter as they drove inside the Vikings 20. On 1st and goal from the 9, RB Rashard Mendenhall fumbled the ball, the Vikings recovered. A game clinching drive turned into an opportunity for Minnesota to tighten the game (Switch #4). Brett Favre subsequently led the Vikings the length of the field. As they were threatening to score, Favre was hit and fumbled. The Steelers defense returned the fumble for a touchdown (Switch #5). On the following kickoff, Vikings WR, Percy Harvin returned the kick for a touchdown (Switch #6). The Vikings defense then forced the Steelers to punt the ball on their ensuing possession. With momentum on their side, Minnesota would have a chance to tie or win the game. Well within field goal range for the tie, Brett Favre and the Viking offense looked to deliver the knockout blow. On 2nd and 3 from the Steelers 19, Favre’s screen pass to RB Chester Taylor slipped through Taylor’s hands and right into the arms of Steelers LB, Keyaron Fox. Fox returned the interception for a touchdown (Switch #7). At this point, momentum had had enough and settled on the Pittsburgh sideline. Game over. While she’s tricky and elusive, momentum’s swings make for exciting football.

All season long I’ve been raving about how the NFC had finally caught up, and maybe even passed, the AFC. Sunday proved that I am absolutely wrong…thus far. In eight inter-conference games on Sunday, the AFC went 6-2. Yes, a collection of three of those wins came against the embarrassing Rams, Buccaneers and Panthers, but the Packers’ win came against the Browns. For argument’s sake, let’s eliminate the aforementioned games and leave the record at 3-1. Therefore, the AFC defeated the 49ers, Bears, and Vikings. All three are/were thought to be playoff contenders. The lone NFC win came from the Saints who struggled mightily against the pesky Dolphins. While the NFC is improving, week 7 undoubtedly belonged to the AFC.

That was impressive…
  • Vikings RB, Adrian Peterson completely ran over Steelers CB William Gay on a 4th quarter check down pass. Peterson lowered his shoulder, sent Gay sailing backward, and then walked over him for another 15 yards for good measure.
  • Dolphins CB, Vontae Davis’ diving tackle of Saints kick returner, Courtney Roby was an incredible display of hustle. The tackle saved the Dolphins 4 points as the Saints were held to a FG.
  • Falcons opening drive in Dallas: 16 plays, 80 yards, TD, 8:34. That is how you take the home crowd out of the game. (Shame that was the best thing they did all day.)
  • Vikings WR, Percy Harvin is quick, he turned an 8 yard loss into an 8 yard gain. Moves like a joystick is controlling him.
  • Amazing catch by Giants TE Kevin Boss in the 4th quarter. Catch was awesome, hanging on to it after the hit was just incredible.
  • After sitting out the entire preseason and regular season up to last week, 49ers WR, Michael Crabtree’s play was very impressive. Maybe he was worth all that money after all.
  • The Vikings offense had three drives that consisted of 13 plays or more. That feat alone is praiseworthy, but to do it against the Steelers is extraordinary.
  • Darren Sproles paying homage to the great Barry Sanders by running without one of his shoes.
  • Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning picking apart the Rams defense on the very first drive of the game.
  • Alex Smith coming off the bench to lead the 49ers back from a 21-0 deficit, and saving his career at the same time (at least for now).
  • Bengals RB, Cedric Benson ran all over the team that let him go. It’s hard to blame the Bears because Benson stunk, but he made the Bears pay today.
  • If you let Chargers WR Vincent Jackson get his hands on the ball, he’ll catch it, doesn’t matter where it is. He has excellent hands.
  • Great play by Cowboys QB, Tony Romo to escape the pressure and find WR Patrick Crayton in the end zone.
  • Carson Palmer is regaining his 2005 form. The Bengals offense is tough to stop when he’s clicking.
  • Athletic interception by Dolphins LB Reggie Torbor off a tipped ball
  • Also a great interception by Cardinals CB, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He went up high to get that ball.
  • Another jaw dropping one-handed grab by Panthers TE Dante Rosaria. The call prompted CBS play-by-play man, Gus Johnson to let the R roll off his tongue for emphasis, “Rosarrrrrria with the grab!”
  • How about the hit David Thomas put on Saints RB Reggie Bush in the 4th quarter? Unfortunately, Thomas is the Saints TE. Still a good hit though.
  • Play of the day: All-around effort and hustle by the entire Steelers defense to escort LaMarr Woodley 77 yards into the end zone on what would ultimately be the game winning touchdown.
Not so much…
  • Steelers first drive from scrimmage: Play 1: run for 14 yards. Play 2: sack. Play 3: 6 yard pass. Play 4: incomplete. Maybe go back to the run? Coaches confuse me.
  • Chargers RB, LaDainian Tomlinson isn’t the same back he once was, especially at the goal-line. He just can’t score.
  • Poor display of tackling by the Cleveland Browns defense on both of the Packers’ TD receptions in the 2nd quarter.
  • Inter-conference match-ups just aren’t as exciting
  • Adrian Peterson’s 1st quarter stats: 3 carries, -1 yard
  • I love the retro/throwback uniforms, but please don’t make us look at those creamsicle referee uniforms any more. The NFL must spend thousands counseling these men after the emotional distress of wearing such an ugly uniform.
  • I’m sure London fell in love with American football after that performance by the Buccaneers
  • I think it’s time for the Rams to start looking at different options at QB. Marc Bulger’s best days are a few years behind him.
  • An embarrassing effort by Chiefs Safety, Jon McGraw on Darren Sproles’ touchdown reception. McGraw never made a play on Sproles and let him score without putting a hand on him.
  • Attention Texans Defense: Vernon Davis likes the post. Yes, the post. You know, the route he torched your defense on for 3 touchdowns today
  • Raiders first play from scrimmage: QB JaFumble Russell fumbled the ball away
  • Favre is an old guy, but his effort to bring down Steelers LB Keyaron Fox on his 82 YD TD return was embarrassing
  • Rashard Mendenhall going airborne and fumbling the ball in the red zone in the 4th quarter of a tight game. The fumble let the Vikings back in the game and could have cost the Steelers the win if it weren’t for their defense. If you leave your feet, protect the ball with two hands. It’s that simple.
  • Drew Brees at halftime last week: 17/20 249 YDS, 3 TD. This week: 12/22 104 YDS, 2 INT.
  • Panthers kicker, John Kasay missed two FGs that were critical in the Panthers defeat to the Bills
  • Terrell Owens’ effort on a 3rd down reverse in the 4th quarter was disgusting. He was chased down by a linebacker and then made no attempt to fight for the yardage.
  • Dolphins 4th quarter drive to take back the lead: 2 drops, 2 penalties, INT returned for a TD
  • One of those Dolphin penalties was a flag for purposely fumbling the ball out of bounds. Perhaps the dumbest play I’ve seen this year.
  • Does Eli Manning know where the play clock is? Someone should really explain that rule to him.
  • Brett Favre will get the burden of the INT, but RB Chester Taylor blew the game by allowing the ball to slip right through his hands.
Take that man to Chic-Fil-A

QB Carson Palmer: 20/24 233 YDS, 5 TD
RB Cedric Benson: 37 Carries, 189 YDS, TD
WR Chad Ochocino: 10 Rec, 118 YDS, 2 TD
WR Miles Austin: 6 Rec, 171 YDS, 2 TD
TE Vernon Davis: 7 Rec, 93 YDS, 3 TD
D Steelers: Two 4th Quarter returns for touchdowns, 4 Sacks

Probably should have stayed in bed

QB JaMarcus Russell: 6/11 61 YDS, 2 INT, 1 Fum in only 1 1/3 quarter
RB Frank Gore: 13 Carries, 32 YDS
WR Braylon Edwards: 1 Rec, 14 YDS, 0 TD
WR Ted Ginn Jr.: 2 Rec 16 YDS, 0 TD, Multiple Drops
TE Randy McMichael: 2 Rec, 9 YDS, 0 TD
D Raiders: 447 YDS Allowed (316 Rushing Yards), Surrendered 38 Points

Quick Slants

Dolphins RB Ricky Williams can still terrorize a defense. The Dolphins have two talented running backs down there in Miami.

Speaking of running backs, Texans RB, Steve Slaton is everything Reggie Bush was supposed to be coming out of college.

Steelers kicker, Jeff Reed, should be fined by the Steelers for stupidity and laziness. He was stopped for a DUI this past week, and on Sunday, he looked like an idiot trying to take down Percy Harvin on his kickoff return for a TD. Hey Jeff, next time, just lie down on your back and swing your arms and feet in the air. You’ll have a higher rate of success and you won’t look as stupid.

FOX play-by-play man Chris Myers needs to attend Gus Johnson’s school of broadcasting. Myers calls a game with as much excitement as an economics professor.

After all the hype, that Saints defense didn’t look as good as the one that all the sports networks keeping raving about.

How many Paul Poslusznys do the Buffalo Bills have on their defense? That guy is everywhere.

This actually happened: FOX sideline reporter, Laura Okmin, was informing the booth that Carson Palmer and Cedric Benson wanted the offense to keep the intensity despite the 21-0 lead. A certain WR then called Okmin over and shared two words with her, “Child please,” he said.

Bills/Panthers at halftime: Bills: 39 total yards, 7 points. Panthers: 237 total yards, 2 points. The Panthers can move the ball all day, but can’t put points on the board. After Delhomme’s performance on Sunday, I think it’s time for a change in Carolina. Coach, quarterback, coordinator, it all has to go. I must mention that Carolina Punter, Jason Baker is a lot of fun to watch. He’s good.

Brilliant call by Dolphins coach Tony Sparano to abandon the running game and throw the ball on the Dolphins’ drive after the Saints took the lead. The passing game is definitely Miami’s bread and butter. Again, coaches confuse me.

At what point of his career will we stop hearing about Adrian Peterson’s handshake? He’s got big, strong hands and it hurts when he shakes your hand. OK, we get it. Talk about something else now. By the way, I’m not a big fan of the Kenny Albert, Moose, and Goose combo on FOX.

Did you see how dark it was in Kansas City for their 12PM game? That was scary.

CBS Color Analyst, Phil Simms on the players’ transition to London time: “If they got no sleep at all, I don’t think it would affect their performances on the field.” Wwwhhhaaattt?!?!?!

The Texans are looking like a potential wild card team in the AFC. They need to fix their defense if they hope to compete with the Colts in the AFC South though.

FOX Color Analyst, Brian Billick on Matt Schaub’s speed: “Matt Schaub is not a particularly gifted athlete in terms of, he’s flat slow.” Nice.

Vikings WR Sydney Rice is turning into one of the better wide receivers in the NFC. He’s always open and Favre gives him plenty of chances.

Apparently Brett Favre plays in Green Bay next week.

After a ball bounced off RB DeAngelo Williams’ chest, Gus Johnson blurted out, “too much hot sauce on that one.” When can we move Gus to primetime? I could watch him call a soap opera on daytime television.

The roughing the passer call on DE Tyler Brayton for hitting Bills QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick was bogus. How long until the quarterbacks starting wearing flags? This is getting ridiculous.

Hey FOX, Thom Brennaman is short. Maybe next time you want a booth shot, have him and Troy Aikman sit so he doesn’t get a neck strain from looking up at Aikman.

What a bizarre day for quarterbacks. There were two extremes. Those who threw 3 interceptions; Matt Cassel, Josh Johnson, Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, and Jake Delhomme. Those who threw 3+ TDs; Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer (5), and Alex Smith.

This is the weird stuff that interests me. Look at the first half scores from the early games on Sunday: HOU/SF 21-0, GB/CLE 21-3, SD/KC 20-0, IND/STL 21-3, NE/TB 21-7. Apparently MINN/PITT didn’t get the, “twenty to something little,” memo. That halftime score was 7-10.

Cardinals Safety, Adrian Wilson reminds me of a young Brian Dawkins. He terrorized the Giants offense on Sunday night and gave Eli all kinds of headaches.

Jets RB Leon Washington suffered a horrible injury on Sunday. His broken right fibula broke through the skin. Let’s hope the injury doesn’t ruin his career. I’m going to pass out now.

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