Snap Judgments (cont.)
It was a good news, bad news day for Houston. True, the road weary Texans dropped to 0-3 with their 30-27 overtime loss at Jacksonville, and that's a long way from where they hoped to be record-wise, after last year's franchise-best 8-8 finish. But on a brighter note, they at least were competitive throughout the game, unlike their first two defeats -- 38-17 at Pittsburgh in Week 1 and 31-12 at Tennessee last week.
And most importantly, Houston quarterback Matt Schaub answered the challenge of defending his job in the starting lineup by throwing for 307 yards and three touchdowns against the Jaguars. Schaub was an efficient 29 of 40, and threw no interceptions for a passer rating of 119.5. There should be no cries in Houston this week for the promotion of veteran backup Sage Rosenfels. Schaub did his job against Jacksonville.
Don't underestimate how big that comeback win was for Jaguars quarterback David Garrard, who has been drawing his share of criticism in Jacksonville this season. I did a radio show in the Jacksonville market last week and one of the hotter topics among the Jags fan base was whether Garrard is the quarterback who can take the team to the promised land?
Not only was Garrard a solid 23 of 32 for 236 yards and a touchdown against Houston, but also he threw no interceptions and tied for the team lead in rushing with 41 yards on seven carries. The last of those rushes was the biggest, a five-yard touchdown with 1:48 remaining that put the Jaguars up 27-24.
I'm not sure Jacksonville is wise to let it come down to a game-winning, last-second Josh Scobee field goal every week, but you can't say it hasn't worked out nicely the last two weeks. Scobee's 51-yarder with four seconds remaining got the job done at Indy last week, and his 37-yard field goal with 11:25 remaining in overtime on Sunday proved that he has become money in such situations.
Now that's the improvement on defense that I thought we'd see from New Orleans this season. The Saints held San Francisco without a touchdown until 4:08 remained in their 31-17 homefield win, and don't forget the 49ers had scored 33 and 31 points in winning their last two games at Seattle and home against Detroit.
In the first half, the Saints sacked 49ers quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan four times, by four defenders -- defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, and cornerback Tracy Porter. New Orleans ended up with six sacks, while allowing just six points, six first downs and 121 yards of offense in the first half.
Fifteen carries for 20 yards and a costly fumble for Ryan Grant? The Packers' out-of-nowhere running sensation of 2007 is starting to look a little like a flash-in-the-pan to us. Grant had just 166 yards rushing yards coming into Week 4, with no touchdowns and no receptions.
He averaged just 1.3 yards rushing against the Bucs, and his fumble with six minutes left in the third quarter was returned 38 yards for a touchdown by Tampa Bay safety Jermaine Phillips, a score that gave the Bucs a 20-7 lead at the time.
Week 4 was tough on offensive left tackles. Kansas City lost its rookie first-round left tackle Branden Albert late in the first half against Denver when he dislocated his right elbow and taken off the field in a cart. Carolina's Jordan Gross left early against Atlanta, the victim of an apparent head injury. He too left the field on the back of a cart.
If nothing else, Damon Huard's game against the Broncos -- 21 of 28 for 160 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions -- should at least settle once and for all the question of which Chiefs quarterback gives Kansas City its best possible chance to win.
Here's a hint: It's not Tyler Thigpen or Brodie Croyle. Huard should stop the Chiefs' quarterback carousel. They started someone different for the fourth consecutive week on Sunday.
If it's true that Plaxico Burress has been fined "40 to 50 times'' in his Giants career, as was reported on Sunday, what in the name of Wellington Mara was New York thinking in rewarding him with a five-year, $35 million contract extension just before the Giants' regular-season opener?
Seems to me that as good a receiver as Burress has proven to be, anybody who requires being fined 40 to 50 times, no matter how small the infraction, is what you would consider a major reliability issue. How do ever expect to get the attention of -- and a sense of discipline from -- a guy who has been fined maybe four dozen times?
Hey, I'm not surprised because I've been listening to the guy talk since 1996, when I covered him as the Vikings offensive coordinator, but ex-Ravens head coach Brian Billick is pretty darn good as a FOX game analyst. Got my first chance Sunday to listen to his work, on the Cardinals-Jets game, and came away impressed.
No one in the NFL has a better formula for victory right now than the 4-0 Titans. They do all the right things on defense, punishing you in the process, and have veteran QB Kerry Collins taking care of the football on offense. Mix in the play-making of rookie running back Chris Johnson and Tennessee is a lock to head back to the playoffs.
The Titans defense gave up 333 yards of offense to Minnesota, but Tennessee makes the plays you have to make to win. The Titans had four sacks, recovered three fumbles and intercepted Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte once.
I admit I was skeptical when Carolina re-acquired veteran receiver Muhsin Muhammad last offseason, wondering how much the 35-year-old could have left? But Muhammad is still capable of having a big day if teams pay too much attention to his fellow receiver, Steve Smith.
Muhammad's eight catches for 147 yards and a touchdown in the 24-9 win over Atlanta gave him more receiving yardage in just one game than he had totaled in the previous three weeks (140 yards, on 14 receptions). Moose apparently can still get loose.
Not only did the Chiefs win their first game in almost a year, as noted above, but also, before Sunday's upset of Denver, Kansas City hadn't even so much as held a lead in a game since a Week 15 loss against the visiting Titans last year. That represented a span of 21 quarters, or more than five games.
Down 14-6 early in the second quarter against a desperate team in St. Louis, the Bills did exactly what you'd hope to see a young, on-the-way-up team do. They responded to the adversity, scoring the game's next 25 points to bury the reeling Rams, 31-14.
It's pretty obvious, isn't it? These Bills will eventually lose a game. But they're not going away. They're going to the playoffs. For the first time since Wade Phillips was their coach in 1999.
What a weapon Darren Sproles has become for the Chargers. It was Sproles' critical 67-yard kickoff return with about 2 1/2 minutes remaining that set-up Nate Kaeding's go-ahead 47-yard field goal, giving San Diego a 21-18 lead. It may sound like blasphemy, but when he gets his opportunities to affect the game, Sproles is giving opponents more trouble than LaDainian Tomlinson.
I'm liking my preseason pick of Drew Brees to win the NFL's MVP award more by the week. Even with Jay Cutler going nuts. Is anybody in the league playing his position as well as the Saints' quarterback?