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Snap judgments

Avoiding an 0-3 start is crucial for playoff aspirations

Posted: Sunday September 24, 2006 9:26PM; Updated: Monday September 25, 2006 1:02PM
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MINNEAPOLIS -- They say the more desperate team usually wins in the NFL, and in Week 3 you could almost smell the desperation in some quarters of the league. Not to go all Apocalypse Now on you, but it smelled like ... well, victory.

In Sunday's 12 afternoon games, four winless teams avoided the death knell that is an 0-3 start, with Carolina, Washington, Miami and Green Bay all beating a fellow winless squad to save their seasons -- for now, at least. As for Houston, Cleveland, Tennessee, Detroit and Tampa Bay, better luck next year.

You can make statistics say anything you darn well please, but it's hard to escape the hard, cold reality of an 0-3 start in the NFL. Since 1990, when the playoff field expanded to 12, 204 teams have begun their season 0-3. Only three of them climbed out of that shallow grave to make the playoffs: the 1992 Chargers, 1995 Lions and 1998 Bills. You can't like those odds.

That's why it was kill-or-be-killed time for the Panthers, Redskins, Dolphins and Packers, all of whom won on the road except Miami. Here's how they lived to fight another week:

• Carolina got maybe a career day from ageless kicker John Kasay -- a 16-year veteran and the last remaining original Panther -- to beat the Bucs in Tampa. They say that Kasay's leg has lost strength at 36 (he'll be 37 late next month), but don't try telling Bucs coach Jon Gruden that. Kasay connected from 51, 50, 49 and 46 yards, the latter driving a stake through Tampa Bay's heart with two seconds remaining in Carolina's 26-24 must-win.

• Speaking of 36-year-olds who were reportedly well past their prime, Washington quarterback Mark Brunell told the nattering nabobs of negativism to shut up in a big way, setting an NFL record with 22 consecutive completions in the Redskins' absolutely necessary 31-15 win at Houston. Brunell was 24 of 27 overall, for 261 yards, as Washington rid itself of its offensive frustration with 495 yards against the Texans.

• Miami finally got a turnover-free game from quarterback/savior-to-be Daunte Culpepper to squeak past Tennessee 13-10. That's the good news. The Fish didn't exactly inspire much confidence, barely beating the woeful Titans at home, but after staring into the abyss of what could have been an absolute washout of an opening month, the Dolphins will take it. You'd better believe they will (see above 0-3 statistical study).

• And lastly, Green Bay put to rest any silly notion that the Lions will be improved under new head coach Rod Marinelli, beating Detroit like a Japanese import, 31-24 at Ford Field. At this rate, Lions general manager Matt Millen will be back in the crosshairs in Motown in about seven seconds. Detroit was so inept on defense it made Brett Favre look young again, as the Packers legend ran around and made plays with abandon en route to a 340-yard, three-touchdown, no-interception day.

Don't get used to it, Brett. It was the Lions.