Favre, Moss, L.T. and others defy expectations in '07
Posted: Monday September 24, 2007 5:59AM; Updated: Tuesday September 25, 2007 9:02AM
NEW YORK -- The great thing about a football season, even a young one like this one, is that it's always full of surprises. You can visit every training camp, interview every coach and talk to every key player, but you're going to wake up the morning after the third weekend of the season and realize how wrong you were about so many things on Labor Day.
You'll see the Rams averaging 11 points a game, and 37-year-old Brett Favre playing like he's 27, and the Bears two games out of first place in their division, and LaDainian Tomlinson 32nd in the league in rushing, and Randy Moss playing like the real live version of Randy Moss, and ... well, you get the point. It's so strange the people involved in the weirdness even have to pinch themselves.
"No one gave us a shot to be 3-0 right now,'' Favre told me Sunday evening, "including me.''
Let's start there, on the list of the things we never thought we'd see when the leaves started to turn:
1. Favre's under control, Green Bay's won seven in a row, and the Pack is one of five unbeaten teams in football. And there's that record thing. "Wow,'' Favre said an hour or so after the Packers beat the Chargers 31-24. "It's been a long time since we played a big game and we said 'wow' at the end.''
Favre turns 38 in two weeks, and it's like he can see the end of the line from here. He sounds so happy, so appreciative of having one last shot to be really good.
"I'm studying like I've never studied, preparing like I haven't prepared,'' he said. "The video guys have loaded all the tape on my computer, and I'm looking at it at home more than I ever have. This week, I was up 'til 11 o'clock working on the Chargers.''
His coaches told him last spring to be less Favrian, less daring, and he's doing that. Against the physically imposing Chargers, he had two negative plays -- two sacks, no interceptions -- while throwing for 369 yards and three touchdowns.
"There may come a time when I think out of the box, but that time's not now because things are working too well,'' he said. "Now, dumping it off and letting guys run after the catch is working. It's great.''
As for tying Dan Marino's record of 420 touchdown passes, Favre was properly deferential to Marino on Sunday -- "I could throw for 600 and not be in his class," he said -- but he consistently lets it be known the numbers are fairly meaningless to him. He wants one more shot at January football.
2. Donovan McNabb went from goat to intergalactic hero in an hour. By 2 p.m. Sunday, he'd guided the 0-2 Eagles -- the odds-on pick to win the NFC East a month ago -- to a 28-7 lead over the 2-0 Lions, on the way to a 56-21 rout. This after he'd been vilified for his comment on HBO that black quarterbacks are judged more harshly than white ones.
Looked like McNabb, 10 months removed from major knee surgery, was more mobile and confident without the knee brace he'd been playing with, and that's why he had a terrific four-touchdown-pass day -- one of the best days of his pro career. "Everyone will write he took off the knee brace and moved better and looked better,'' coach Andy Reid said, "but I don't know. I honestly felt for the last 12 minutes of the game Monday night [the Sept. 17 loss to Washington] it started clicking for him and for the team.''
Reid didn't address the controversy with McNabb during the week, just simply told him "what I've always told all the good quarterbacks I've been around -- keep firing. And he did.''
Peace in Philly should last until around Wednesday.
3. San Diego has lost as many regular-season games (two) as it did all last year. Martyball, anyone? Houston, Detroit, Tampa Bay and Washington are 2-1. San Diego is 1-2. Losing in New England, even decisively, was understandable for the Chargers; losing in Green Bay is a different kettle of fish.
It's mind-boggling that Tomlinson is struggling as he is, averaging 2.3 yards per rush. The key for San Diego, starting this week against Kansas City, is to re-establish its dominance on the ground. When you have the best back in football and he's touching it only 19 times a game, something's wrong. San Diego has to run, it has to control the clock, and it has one week to realize the season is at the breaking point right now. I called Marty Schottenheimer after Sunday's debacle in Wisconsin, hoping to get his take on the Bolts. It does not surprise me, nor disappoint me, that I'm waiting for the return call.
4. Pittsburgh is better than even the biggest nut-job Steelers fan ever thought this team would be. The Steelers have won by 27, 23 and 21, respectively, by focusing myopically on today. A defense that showed signs of fraying last year has allowed one offensive touchdown in 32 possessions. I asked coach Mike Tomlin if he'd had much time to watch the Patriots or Colts, and what he thought of them. 'No, I haven't,'' he said. "But the beauty about football is in order to win a championship, you've got to play the best.''
The Colts and Steelers don't play in the regular season, but Pittsburgh's at New England on Dec. 9. You can count on the Steelers not looking ahead.
5. Randy Moss looks like the best receiver in football. Again. The other day, at HBO, former Moss 'mate Cris Carter made a great point about Moss and Tom Brady. Carter said you can't overestimate how valuable it is for Moss to have the kind of relationship he has with Brady -- a guy he views as a peer and a great player. Carter thinks it's vital for Moss to be playing with other great players, otherwise he'd simply lose interest, as he did in Oakland. Well, no one has more TD catches this season than the five Moss has, and his 403 receiving yards are second only to Chad Johnson after three weeks.
Being relevant is all Moss ever wanted. Can you believe that all he cost New England was the 110th pick in last April's draft? And that the player the Raiders picked with that choice is a cornerback, John Bowie, who's been inactive the first three weeks of the season? And that the five players picked before the pick used to acquire Moss were A.J. Davis, Tanard Jackson, Paul Soliai, Antonio Pittman and Stephen Nicholas?
Strange but true. Like this season so far.