Indianapolis Colts 18, New England Patriots 15
Classic Colts-Patriots: you had New England eating up the clock and controlling the tempo, Peyton Manning making all the big plays through the air, Adam Vinatieri deciding it with a 52-yard field goal and Bill Belichick barely shaking Tony Dungy’s hand afterward.
The Patriots lost this game, but a huge positive that stood out was the confidence Matt Cassel displayed. He is growing each week. And while he’s still not making his third and fourth reads from the pocket, he’s at least diagnosing defenses on the presnap and showing a presence in the huddle.
The tendency is to think that the Colts got gashed by New England’s inside run. They did, but in exchange, they kept Randy Moss and Wes Welker in check. If these teams square off again, expect Indy to keep their safeties back deep again.
The Colts rushing attack is still not there. I think this team really misses guard Ryan Lilja.
It’s a shame that this thoroughly well-played game came down to a boneheaded penalty by a pedestrian player. David Thomas’s 15-yard personal foul was one of the most costly infractions we’ve seen in the NFL this season.
Only one time did I see Dwight Freeney truly disrupt the pocket in this game. I still respect the double teams he commands, but the Colts will come to regret making him the highest paid defensive player in the league.
New York Giants 35, Dallas Cowboys 14
It wasn’t even as close as the score indicates.
Have we ever – EVER – seen a team as befuddled and downtrodden by their quarterback situation as Dallas? At one point, Brooks Bollinger started to go into the game and was called back. Not a soul in this organization believes in Brad Johnson or Bollinger. I can’t remember ever seeing such a high quality team become utterly deflated from losing its quarterback for a few weeks.
We get on Terrell Owens’s case all the time; to be fair, we need to praise his leadership this week. Owens did his best to uplift Brad Johnson on the sidelines, and after the game he remained positive. (Contributing to the offensive catastrophe with a rare fumble may have helped humble the man.)
I still can’t get over the job Steve Spagnuolo is doing with this Giants defense. He has made stars out of role players like Danny Clark, Fred Robbins (who is playing at a Pro Bowl level in his own right), James Butler and Jason Webster.
If you asked me what I’d rather have, New York’s trio of running backs or Adrian Peterson, I’d take the former…mainly because I love Brandon Jacobs.
Dallas is really missing cornerback Terence Newman, but more than him, they’re missing a complimentary pass-rusher to DeMarcus Ware. Anthony Spencer can’t stay healthy, and Greg Ellis has gotten old.
Miami Dolphins 26, Denver Broncos 17
I hope a lot of people had the opportunity to watch this game – it was a genuinely hard fought contest. These teams went at each other like long-time division rivals. Amplifying the drama was the fact that Brandon Marshall spent the afternoon sulking (like a child), Joey Porter was ruthless in his trash talking, Tony Sparano was as animated as an end zone seat fan and Jay Cutler was downright pissy by the fourth quarter.
Here’s a very revealing – and truthful – quote from Joey Porter about Brandon Marshall: “He’s one of those guys that if he don’t get the ball in the first two series in the first quarter, he’s out of it. He had 18 catches in a game before. So he’s not used to going the whole first half with no balls. We got in his head and he pretty much was done.”
Porter went on to say, “I didn’t get inside his head, we just were talkin’. He got in his own head. He was done,. He’s one of those soft receivers, where he has to have the ball all the time. If he don’t get it, he’s going to mope and cry. He did it to himself.”
The Dolphins defense outperformed Denver’s offense in every fashion. It started with taking away the run game. Miami loaded the box with eight, sometimes nine defenders, and held the Broncos to 14 yards on 12 carries. The defensive backs, particularly the corners, were extremely physical with the wideouts.
On the bright side for Denver, rookie left tackle Ryan Clady had another outstanding game. He has outperformed Jake Long this season. Clady, in fact, might already be a Pro Bowler.
Without Champ Bailey, Denver’s defense is worthless. Karl Paymah led the team with 13 tackles on the day…most of them against Greg Camarillo, the diminutive Dolphins receiver who turned the Broncos into dog food.
Tennessee Titans 19, Green Bay Packers 16
This may have been the best game of the day, and nearly half the people who watched it did not get to see the ending because FOX took them to their local market broadcast of New York vs. Dallas. This begs the question: if FOX has the doubleheader for the day – which they did – then why can’t the NFL just push back the start time of the Cowboys-Giants game by 15 minutes or so and give the Titans-Packers audience a chance to see a great ending to a great game? The people who didn’t get to see this ending got screwed out of three hours of their Sunday afternoon. There’s no reason not to delay the Cowboys-Giants start time. Making the 80,000 people at the Meadowlands wait is better than screwing the millions of viewers at home. Plus, if we’re lucky, the late game will start so late that FOX will cancel that pathetic post game show they call The OT.
As for the game itself….
Chris Johnson is one of the league’s elite running backs. Few guys can change directions going full speed north and south like him. He has some of the best hip swivel I’ve seen.
Helping matters is the fact that LenDale White is thriving in a complimentary role.
Titans center Kevin Mawae is performing at an All-Pro level once again.
Although they lost, the Packers are in pretty good shape. Aaron Rodgers is playing like a star (this game included), which is good because he just got paid like one (over $20 million guaranteed). Al Harris and Atari Bigby are back healthy, which means the secondary can be stifling again.
Also, the Green Bay offensive line is starting to round into shape. Left guard Daryn Colledge has been more consistent this season. On Sunday, Colledge slid outside to left tackle to replace an injured Chad Clifton and did a very commendable job. (It should be noted that Kyle Vanden Bosch missed all but three plays.)
Cortland Finnegan vs. Greg Jennings was a first-class matchup. Finnegan won it, just barely.
Stephen Tulloch is blossoming into a very fine middle linebacker for Tennessee. Playing behind Albert Haynesworth helps.