Tuesday Morning Armchair Quarterback: Review of Week 2

Frank Gore 

3 Most Electrifying Games:

Cleveland Browns 51, Cincinnati Bengals 45:

What I liked from the game:  The offensive fireworks were unpredictable, unbelievable, and unheard of from any NFL game other than (Bengals 58 vs. Browns 48).  When these teams match up it usually comes down to the wire, as this battle did not disappoint.  Back and forth it went, and the team that won the game was the team that ran the ball more effectively (what a concept).  It was nice to see Jamal Lewis re-gain his old form, running like his old self, as he rumbled through a pathetic Cincy defense that was mind-boggling, considering the fact they forced six turnovers last week – oh, what a difference a week makes, and what a road game does, too.  Lewis rushing the ball for big gains and touchdowns reminded me of when he did it with Baltimore, back against Cleveland!  Derek Anderson was very accurate and made every right move and decision, finding often, former high first round draftees Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, as they showed what a 1-2 combo they could be, albeit only, maybe just for one game?  Cleveland’s offense was explosive, but so was Carson Palmer and Co.  Palmer threw for a career-high six touchdowns, to go along with 401 yards passing, while his main target Chad Johnson went for 209 receiving yards and two scores.  Houshmandzadeh found the pay dirt (end zone) too, and the kickoff returns in this game were another joy to watch, among many found in this contest.  The close game, Johnson’s jump into the Pound, and non-stop action made this a top game for Week 2.

What I did not like:  That the game had to end and that the Bengals did not use RB Rudi Johnson enough to slow down the pace/tempo.  If they used Johnson the same way Cleveland used Lewis, they might’ve came out on front.  Chad Johnson’s lack of TD dance the first time around was nothing worthwhile (creativity?), though it was sort of funny with him looking for the Dawg Pound. 

What I would change:  I found it hard to believe that Marvin Lewis and his coaching staff stayed away from the blitz/pass rush on Anderson.  Why not attack the slow-footed QB while he was on fire, and the same goes for Cleveland’s side. That was the option in breaking up the rhythm of the QB’s.  The defenses didn’t work, so why didn’t both coaches switch it up somewhat, from time to time, here and there.  The pass rushes on both sides were non-existent, and it just goes to show you, that both of these teams are in for long, suffering years with their respective defenses.  Also, if I’m Cleveland I found more ways to get Joshua Cribbs the ball, implementing him on offense and involving him in long, 3rd down situations, they need to utilize his talents more.  

Indianapolis Colts 22 @ Tennessee Titans 20:

What I liked from the game:  Vince Young’s ability to lead a team and have ‘em hop on his back for a comeback is mightily impressive, for such a young, dual-threat QB in only his second year in the NFL.  This former Longhorn is an incredible talent and the one of the most electrifying players to watch, and he’s worth the price of admission.  He showed his control of the team (leadership), poise (cool under pressure in the pocket), and improvement (accuracy is getting better and lead team passing the ball).  Young, in a day where the run game wasn’t getting the job done, and the defense was not so good, had his team within 10-15 yards of FG range of a victory.  Titans Coach Jeff Fisher is the most worthy of head coaches (4-year extension) to be named/ranked in the upper echelon of all the sideline callers today.  His job with this not-so talented squad has been phenomenal, and you also have to give credit to OC (USC) Norm Chow.  Tennessee’s defense forced a couple of turnovers and key stops toward the end in keeping it a two-point game (could’ve been 35 + points for Indy).  They made plays and stops when they needed to, and this team will only build and grow to improve each week.  The Colts on the other hand, are just flat out winners.  Bob Sanders was a man on a mission (12 tackles, 2 ½ sacks), as he flew to the ball, having his nose in on every play, he is a joy to watch, being the heart and soul of the Indy defense.  Manning and Harrison are still the 1-2 connection in the NFL and Joe Addai is one tough runner inside the tackles and the 20.  I liked how Indy managed the game and came up with huge defensive stops.  Also, Anthony Gonzalez made an impact (2 big catches in a row) and they spread the defense by stretching the field, throwing down the middle to (still?) secret weapon, TE Dallas Clark. 

What I did not like:  Vince Young’s lack of accuracy on the final drive and last two or three plays.  Young needs to settle down and get the job done in crunch time, if he wants his team to go to the playoffs.  I also would have liked to see him run the ball more often and go deep some more.  Titans need to open up the offense and playbook at the right time to make this offense click, to get even better.  I want to see Chris Brown get the bulk of the carries, rather than share the load with LenDale White.  Another thing, I would want TE Ben Troupe to be a part of the offense and for Young to look for veteran WR Eric Moulds, too.  Indy needs to improve their red zone offense, and get the ball in, rather than settle for FG’s.  I want to see Addai get the ball a ton and Gonzalez and Clark are in there together.  I wanted the Colts to go deep and exploit a shaky Titan secondary.

What I would change:  The outcome of the game and Vince Young to stick to a go-to-guy WR, having someone step up (Roydell Williams?)  Also, seeing the Titans use Chris Henry and to have called for a direct run on 2nd or 3rd down for the final drive for Young.  Titans need to get more creative on the offensive side of the ball.  I would like for the Colts to use play-action in the Red Zone more and to see them use some screens with Addai.

Arizona Cardinals 23, Seattle Seahawks 20:

What I liked from the game:  The Arizona Cardinals offense was clicking like it should be, except for one pick from Leinart.  QB Matt Leinart showed us that he is an All-Pro QB and that he can handle the pressure of being called upon to lead the team to important victories against division rivals, unlike last week.  Leinart went for 299 yards and a touchdown, while going to many different receivers, having a strong game against a good team and defense in Seattle.  Edgerrin James proved to be effective, rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown, as he has to be a main threat and contributor every week on the ground.  This Cardinals team showed perseverance when giving up a 17-0 lead, by re-gaining, eventually winning the game on a GW FG by Neil Rackers, something that would not have happened last season.  The defense forced a crucial turnover late in the game to set up the game-winning field goal, and they contained/held All-Pro RB Shaun Alexander to 70 yards rushing.  Seattle did what they had to, and they improved passing the ball this week.  Deion Branch showed that he can be a reliable #1 target for Hasselbeck, catching 7 passes for 122 yards.  Alexander ran for a nice touchdown run, while Burleson and Engram helped out in the passing attack.  Seattle rebounded well after being down 17-0, and fought back with good defense and timely offense.  This game was a great one, and the Cardinals got off the “snide”, so to say.  Arizona needed this one and they proved that they could win a vital game against a tough divisional opponent.  DL Darnell Dockett came up big with a fumble recovery to ignite the GW drive, as much is expected out of this former Seminole who has loads of skill.   

What I did not like:  Edgerrin James’ outburst after the end of the game, as he pouted off and whined about how bad the team was last year, and how they better not have lost the game.  Who is he to say, as he was one of the main reasons the team was where they were last season.  Shaun Alexander only took the rock 18 times???  Arizona’s defense is young, talented, and improved, but Coach Holmgren needs to give him a lot more carries than that.  Cards blew another big lead, as they were up 17-0 at home, and almost lost another disastrous game (think back to Monday Nite vs. Chicago Bears), at the hands of a division rival – it would’ve been tough to swallow.  Coach Whisenhut’s play calling was one to be questioned, I expect the Cards to go to Boldin and Fitzgerald more often, as they’re both All-Pro wide outs.  I want them to become more aggressive, developing a better passing attack, involving James and then go the run.  The conservative style/approach was almost what lost them the game, along with a defense that gave up 20 straight unanswered.  Seattle needed to bring more pressure from standout LB Julian Peterson (2 sacks last week) and they could’ve attacked Leinart with more blitzes.

What I would change:  I would have liked to see it go into overtime and have more play of course, but ultimately, I would have brought an eight-man front if I were Seattle on defense.  They could’ve stopped Arizona from driving, as all they were doing was just running the football.  Seattle should’ve went to Alexander earlier in the game and they did not take care of the momentum when they had the lead, as they should have pulled away and put the contest away.  Cardinals overall were strong in most areas, but I do have to question their defensive approach, running the 3-4 defense.  In that defense they have to bring more rush to the QB (1 sack) and utilize Dansby and Wilson with blitzes.  I would have gone for the knockout earlier in the second half with the air attack if I were the OC for Arizona.  The Cards could’ve put away Seattle with Leinart precise passing and on-target throwing.  This was probably my favorite game, as I saw my upset pick do it’s job, in taking one small step closer, in becoming the team I think they can be, moving towards their goal of – Division Champions.

3 Most Important/Meaningful Games:

New England Patriots 38, San Diego Chargers 14

This game was a smoking, a laughter, and annihilation from the get-go, as the start was all to reminiscence to the Patriots jumping out ahead like usual at home.   N.E. played around with S.D. and their defense was dominant in stopping Tomlinson, by not giving him the slightest of a chance to get going/started early.  They stopped the run and made Rivers beat them, which was in the end result, a great move on Coach Belichick’s part.  The decision to drop back standout Adalius Thomas, with that 3-4 defensive set, was a classic disguise, a mistake in-line, waiting to happen for the young, Rivers, with the Patriots ready to execute and pounce on it (waiting, licking their chops).  He read the coverage wrong and then 65 yards later, the most talented, skilled OLB (6’2”, 270) in the league went off for a meeting with pay dirt for six, as all he could see was green pastures ahead, outrunning the Charger WR’s to the finish line! 

It reminded me (should be a reminder to everyone) that the Patriots defense, with/ or without Seymour and Harrison, is still a true masterpiece in motion, being the same ‘ole D that can still get the job done against anyone, though being undermanned.  No matter what the circumstance or how big the game is, Tom Brady still is as cool and as calm as they get, since the 80s, the playing days of Joe Montana.  Brady to Moss looked like Montana to Rice; no one on the Chargers defense could find a way to contain ‘em and it looked like the team (running by through practice) to win Super Bowl XLII was sporting the Red, White, and Blue Sunday Nite. 

The San Diego secondary is still a major weakness and the Patriots made sure of that, throwing at will, finding every fault on defense, while their own defense was spectacular, forcing bad throws with pressure.  It is just one small chapter in the book finished, for many things are to come, as the Patriots continue to roll and move on, week by week.  The run game has not even started yet, while the Patriots have enjoyed cruising to 38 points per game, allowing a mere 14 a game, with this just being an appetizer for the upcoming season.   Teams can keep underestimating Brady, Moss, Welker, Warren, Green, Bruschi, Vrabel, Hobbs, Watson, and Co. all they want, but it will be an abrupt end to their hopes/thoughts when the Patriots are seen victorious by the largest of margins again as they were in Week 2.  This “statement” game meant that the Patriots are still head and shoulders above the Chargers and all in the NFL for the moment – for now, at least.     

San Francisco 49ers 17 @ St. Louis Rams 16

This game just like last week was another growing step-in progress for the extremely young, Niners, a team that wins close games that they are not supposed to come out on top from.  Frank Gore was a wrecking ball once again as he scored the only two touchdowns for the S.F.  Gore is a proven commodity and the leader of the 49ers offense.  Alex Smith was unspectacular, but he gets the job done, while his team’s defense tallied up 7 sacks.  Manny Lawson, Nate Clements, Brian Young, Michael Lewis, and Patrick Willis, just to name a few, of a strong, stout defense that bends, but does not break.  This team could be a team of destiny and I say if they keep winning close games like this and last week, this may be their year to play past the last week of December.  In this game Marc Bulger was close to 400 yards, yet he only threw for one touchdown.  They were out-gained 392 to 186, yet they won the game. 

They did what “good” teams do, and that’s get the victory when you don’t play your best, or well at all, for that case.  The 49ers have a young, talented nucleus around them, balanced with high-flyers on offense, and playmakers on defense.  This game caught my eye as one that made me more of a believer in the Niners, as they clawed back, picking up the scraps, getting everything they could (something out of nothing), stealing a win on the road against a division rival.

Washington Redskins 20 @ Philadelphia Eagles 12

You think the Eagles would rebound and win at home against division rival Washington?  You think Donovan McNabb would outplay Jason Campbell?  Brian Westbrook would outperform the 1-2 punch of Betts and Portis?  Finally, the Philly Defense would surely outshine the lackluster, Washington Defense, right?  Guess again, as all the questions above are answered emphatically with the Washington Redskins.  In this game Portis and Betts proved to share the workload well together, and the Washington defense held Westbrook to a modest 96 yards.  Jason Campbell threw for over 200 yards and a key, before the end of the half touchdown (after three penalties in a row, deciding not to go for a FG) to TE Chris Cooley to take a lead that they would never give back.  Second-year pro, Auburn Tiger QB Jason Campbell, did not have his best game, but he stood tall and threw the ball well enough to win the game. 

He was sharp at times, and then not so sharp, with a pick and an overthrown, for sure touchdown.  Campbell brings a winning-mentality and a confident presence to the huddle, as is doing a good job leading the ‘Skins.  The rushing attack scored a touchdown and Campbell added with a brilliant 20-yard run to set-up the touchdown before half.  Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El showed why they have to guarded at all times, combining to be a 1-2 duo that has speed to burn.  Add Cooley’s play, and the offense held its end of the bargain, but the story of the victory, the tale of the tape, was the Washington defense.  LaRon Landry came up with a game ending hit that sealed the deal, in front of the end zone when the Eagles were driving.  The LSU rookie proved to be a playmaker (6 tackles, ½ sack) in this NFC East divisional, Monday Nite battle, which featured back and forth competitiveness from both teams, in a hard-hitting affair. 

The ‘Skins D was dominant at times, forcing Donovan McNabb to hurry/rush throws, as they had him off-target all throughout the game.  Sean Taylor, Rocky McIntosh (8 tackles, 1 sack), Marcus Washington (1 sack), Shawn Springs, Carlos Rogers, and London Fletcher helped lead an impressive defensive performance, handing it to the division champion Philadelphia Eagles.  The game was in Coach Gibbs’ control and the team made huge step of improvement, in making it’s way atop the NFC East.  They made a valid point by shutting down a potent Eagles’ offense, coming up with big plays in crucial moments, in a tight, close game, and they did it with smash mouth, grind ‘em out football.  This Washington Redskins team is my team to keep a close eye on, as they caught my eye in their vital win over Philly.  If they keep their play up, they should be able to challenge for the division crown, and earn a trip to the post-season.          

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