The Award Section
Offensive Player of the Week
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta. Big, big game against a very good Chicago defense -- in fact, the league's best third-down defense. On third downs, he completed nine of 12 for 135 yards. That's good. This is better.
With the Falcons needing about 25 yards to attempt a game-winning field goal with six seconds left, Ryan threw a perfect 26-yard strike at the left sideline to Michael Jenkins, and Jenkins held on while crashing out of bounds. One second left. Jason Elam's 48-yard field goal won it.
Folks, we may be seeing the game's next great quarterback growing up before our very eyes. To complete 22-of-30 for 301 yards, one TD and no interceptions against a defense that hounds the quarterback as well as Chicago does is a tremendous feat for a quarterback in his sixth pro game.
Defensive Players of the Week
Melvin "Aptly Named'' Bullitt, SS, Indianapolis. In relief of the injured and defending defensive player of the year, Bob Sanders, Bullitt played a superb game. A 2007 college free-agent from Texas A&M, he had a key early interception against Baltimore rookie Joe Flacco, added five tackles, a pass defensed and two crushing special-teams tackles on Ravens' kickoffs. All in all, the submarining Bullitt has proven himself a terrific temp for Sanders.
DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas. Third-and-7 at the Cards' 46 with 1:44 left. If Kurt Warner converts, the Cardinals run out the clock for a 24-21 win. If Warner is stopped, Dallas has life. Warner, from the shotgun, takes the snap and surveys the field ... and Ware, steaming in from Warner's right, levels the Arizona quarterback for a 10-yard loss, and Dallas has a last chance. That was the ninth straight game with a sack for Ware -- and, more important, set the stage for Nick Folk's tying 52-yard field goal at the gun, forcing overtime. For the game, Ware led the team with six tackles, had a sack in his ninth consecutive game, made two tackles for loss and four quarterback hits. His sack was as clutch as they come.
Special Teams Players of the Week
Sean Morey, WR, Arizona. One of the best special-teamers of this era of NFL history -- he's no Steve Tasker, but he's the closest to Tasker of anyone playing today -- Morey was the decisive figure in the Cards' 30-24 overtime upset of Dallas. After a failed first drive of overtime, Dallas set up to punt, and Morey broke through so fast that he blocked the ball before it got off punter Mat McBriar's foot. The ball was returned for the winning touchdown by an opportunistic Monty Beisel.
Geno Hayes, LB, Tampa Bay. The rookie sixth-round pick from Florida State did something he shouldn't have been able to do. He busted through an inexplicable gap between veterans who should know better -- Na'il Diggs and Dante Rosario -- and easily blocked a Jason Baker punt, then picked it up and bolted 22 yards for a touchdown. Great play by Hayes. Awful play by Diggs and Rosario.
Jason Elam, K, Atlanta. Talk about going from hero to goat to hero in minutes. Elam's fourth field goal gave the Falcons a 19-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he missed a 33-yard chippie that would have lengthened the Falcons lead to nine with 2:50 to play. After Chicago scored a touchdown to go ahead in the final seconds, Elam calmly booted a 48-yard game-winner as time expired. "I've been the goat before,'' he said via the cell phone afterward. "Glad I wasn't again.''
J.J. Arrington, KR/RB, Arizona. Fifteen seconds changed a game the Cowboys needed badly. Arrington, forgotten with the emergence of rookie running back Tim Hightower, took the opening kickoff at the seven, cut left, broke a tackle, ran up the left sideline, cut back across the field and went 93 yards for a score. Amazing half of football. Just when we thought it was going to be 24-21 at halftime with these two explosive offenses, no points were scored in the next 28 minutes. The Cards, obviously, ended up winning in overtime -- an overtime that never would have happened without the electrifying kickoff return.
Coach of the Week
Jim Haslett, interim coach, St. Louis. How about this for strategy? Midway through the fourth quarter at Washington, with the Rams up 16-10, Haslett went to his offense and told them: Guys, the defense is really tired right now. Washington's going to score. You've got to go out there and take the ball downfield and score. "They're all looking at me like, 'Are you crazy?' '' Haslett said over the cell phone later.
He wasn't crazy. And they did take the ball downfield, to the winning 49-yard field goal. Haslett's the kind of coach who pulls those kinds of motivational ploys; sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. He might be the perfect coach for these beaten-down Rams.
Goat of the Week
Adam Jones, CB, Dallas. Jerry Jones knew he had taken on a desperate man when he traded for, and signed, the petulant child of a cornerback. But he figured, as had happened with so many of the desperadoes Jerry Jones has taken on over the years, that Adam Jones understood that he was at the end of his professional rope, and he'd be smart enough to make zero mistakes while trying to rehab his reputation on and off the field. Jerry Jones figured Adam Jones had a brain in his head. He figured wrong.
Adam Jones, last Tuesday, had what's become an infamous, short men's room fight with one of his bodyguards, telling him it was time to go home. Though this isn't the kind of nuclear incident Adam Jones had in Las Vegas two years ago that led to his departure from Tennessee, he was under the strictest of zero tolerance policies from commissioner Roger Goodell. Now that he's had another incident where police were called to a fracas involving him, Adam Jones should expect to be whacked a game or two by Goodell. I'm not saying that's a certainty; I'm saying it's my gut feeling after taking the temperature of the involved parties.