The Awards Section
Offensive Players of the Week
Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina. He didn't have a Donovan McNabb kind of day, but Donovan McNabb doesn't have the zipper up the throwing elbow that Delhomme has either, courtesy of the major elbow surgery Delhomme had 11 months ago. This was the first regular-season game he'd played since going under the knife.
Carolina gave up a 19-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter by allowing two Philip Rivers touchdown passes in the span of five minutes. Then Delhomme, with the crowd in San Diego roaring, drove the Panthers 68 yards in 11 plays, capping it by pump faking and then throwing a pass to the back of the end zone that only tight end Dante Rosario could catch. The Panthers won without Steve Smith, and they have Delhomme's grit to thank for that.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta. This has to be quite a performance to outshine a 220-yard rushing day by fellow new Falcon Michael Turner. Ryan was only 9 of 13, for 161 yards, one touchdown and no picks. But to do it in his first NFL game, with his fellow rookie roommate Sam Baker starting at left tackle, is an amazing accomplishment. His first NFL pass was a 62-yard strike for a touchdown to Michael Jenkins. "I feel comfortable,'' Ryan said via cell phone last night. "I feel like we all know what we're doing, and the way we ran the ball was so crucial. We were knocking people off the ball all day.''
Plaxico Burress, WR, New York Giants. His 10-catch, 133-yard night in the Giants' season-opener with Washington gives him 23 receptions for 311 yards in his last three games -- the NFC title game, the Super Bowl (with the winning touchdown catch) and the first game of this NFL season. Can you think of the best receivers in football now without the visage of Burress entering your mind? I can't.
I was thinking what a different player Burress has morphed into since I first met him at the scouting combine in 2000. He was a beanpole then, and when he went to the Steelers in the draft, he caught guff from players for not working hard enough and not being tough enough. Now he's a broad-shouldered, dive-for-the-ball, block-downfield wideout, and without the injuries that plagued him last year, he might be primed for the best year of his career. "It feels good to finally have two good feet under me,'' he said. "When I go out there on the field, I think I'm the best. I want to dominate.'' This year, he just might.
Defensive Player of the Week
LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Pittsburgh. Told you so. Before halftime, this rising star strongside linebacker batted down a pass, sacked Matt Schaub, and intercepted a pass headed for tight end Owen Daniels. Woodley and fellow linebacker James Harrison (three sacks) keyed a 38-17 win over Houston that wasn't that close.
"I need to show I can play in space,'' Woodley said afterward. "That's the big test for me. I've been playing the run my whole football career, and I'm confident in my pass-rush ability. But I've got to prove that I can cover receivers and tight ends, because that's what a Pittsburgh linebacker does.''
If one game is any indication, Woodley's going to do more than fine.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Roscoe Parrish, PR, Buffalo. Said coach Dick Jauron: "When he touches the ball, there is a buzz in the stadium. They expect him to make a big play every time.'' His 120 punt-return yards in the rout of Seattle was a club record, and his weaving, Usain Bolt-like 63-yard return for a touchdown in the second quarter was the third of his brief NFL career.
Coach of the Week
Buffalo coach Dick Jauron. How can a coach have a team more ready to play than Jauron, particularly against a consistent division winner like Seattle? The Bills held the Seahawks to three of 16 third-down conversions, a measly 3.8 yards per play, and recorded five sacks with only one penalty and no turnovers. Pretty impressive, playing in midseason form in the first game of the season -- and on a wet field.