Snap Judgments: Success of dome teams, Ravens' collapse, and more
New Orleans and Minnesota look to punch holes in the "dome team" theory
The Saints are on pace to score an NFL single-season record of 614 points
Whether you were Sidney or Ray, Rices thrived at the Metrodome
ATLANTA -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we try to make some sense of Week 6...
It has been 10 years this season since the St. Louis Rams shot a big hole in the theory that a dome team couldn't win the Super Bowl. Remember that little time-tested NFL chestnut that got trotted out every late fall, like a well-worn holiday decoration? Dome teams were thought to be too soft and too climatically comfortable to ever endure the type of rough conditions required to earn a ring.
Well, I don't know if you've noticed, but old domes are where it's at this season in the NFL. The two oldest domes in the league are rocking this year, with the Superdome in New Orleans housing the 5-0 Saints, and the Metrodome in Minneapolis featuring the 6-0 Vikings. Toss in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta -- the NFL's third oldest dome -- where the Falcons improved to 4-1 with a win over Chicago Sunday night, and domes were the place to be for big games in Week 6.
And make no mistake, Super Bowl dreams are alive and well under the big top in both New Orleans and Minnesota, and they may well still take root this season in Atlanta, too.
The Saints' 48-27 destruction of the previously undefeated Giants (5-1) establishes Sean Payton's high-powered club as the class of the NFC -- at least until further notice. New York came into the game with the league's No. 1-ranked overall defense and pass defense, but left town with its air of invincibility severely punctured and its reputation for machine-like efficiency shattered.
In improving to 5-0 for the first time since 1993, New Orleans got touchdowns from an astounding seven offensive players against the Giants, rolling to 493 yards of offense and its third showing of at least 45 points in five games.
The Saints are now averaging a league-high 38.4 points per game, putting them on pace to score an NFL single-season record of 614 points. For comparison sake, the 2007 Patriots of 16-0 fame scored 589 points and cracked the 40-point barrier in just four games that season. The Saints need to average just over 36 points per game in their final 11 games to break New England's record.
New York's defense had given up just four passing touchdowns all season before Sunday's showdown of unbeatens, but Saints quarterback Drew Brees matched that despite leaving the game in favor of backup Mark Brunell in the fourth quarter. Brees is playing the game at a level we are unfamiliar with this season, and finished 23 of 30 for 369 yards and four touchdowns, without an interception against the outclassed Giants. The Saints scored touchdowns on their first four drives, and five of their six in the first half.
As for the Vikings, they barely withstood a furious Ravens fourth-quarter comeback to win 33-31, but Minnesota is now 6-0 for the first time since 2003, and has not scored fewer than 27 points in any game this season. That's the Vikings' longest streak in that department since 1998, when Minnesota went 15-1 in the regular season. The Vikings' blueprint for victory was again Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson, as it has been all season.
The ageless quarterback kept his personal magic carpet ride going with a 21-of-29 passing performance, for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Peterson thrust himself back on center stage with 143 yards rushing on 22 carries, a gaudy 6.5 average. And let's not overlook Vikings' receiver Sidney Rice, who is having a breakout season, as he put up career-best numbers against Baltimore's suddenly vulnerable defense (six catches for 176 yards). Favre and Rice are new best friends.
If you're wondering, New Orleans and Minnesota don't play this regular season, but there's always the chance the two NFC powers will collide in the playoffs. Maybe in the NFC Championship Game, with a trip to Miami and Super Bowl XLIV on the line. Newly renamed Land Shark Stadium in Miami wouldn't be like playing at dome sweet dome, but I'm sure the Saints or the Vikings would be able to handle the early February elements in South Florida just fine.
Not that I'm making predictions or anything, but as I wrote last week, fast starts can some times turn into furious fades. The last time the Saints were 5-0 before this season, in 1993, they wound up missing the playoffs at 9-7. The last time the Vikings were 6-0 before this season, in 2003, they wound up missing the playoffs at 8-8.
Just thought it was worth repeating.
It was a very good day to be named Rice at the Metrodome. As we said, the Vikings' third-year receiver came up huge with six catches, including a 58-yard catch and run that set up Ryan Longwell's game winning 31-yard field goal in the game's final two minutes. Rice also had a 63-yard non-scoring reception, which led to another Longwell field goal in the third quarter.
But Baltimore second-year running back Ray Rice caught a career-best 10 passes for 117 yards, and added 77 yards with a pair of touchdowns on the ground in making his own bid for the game's Most Valuable Rice honor.
Pretty shocking to see the vaunted Ravens' defense struggling to this degree. But maybe at this point we should stop calling the Baltimore D vaunted. After entering Week 5 against Cincinnati having not given up a 100-yard rushing game to an individual in 39 games dating to December 2006, Baltimore's defense has now been dented for triple digits twice in two weeks -- by Minnesota's Peterson and the Bengals' Cedric Benson.
Losers of three in a row after a 3-0 start, Baltimore has given up 130 points in six games this season, 21.7 per game. That translates to a season total of 347 points allowed, which would be a whopping 103 more than the Ravens allowed last year. That's an increase of more than 42 percent in points allowed, and that's staggering slippage.
When Ravens kicker Steve Hauschka kicked wide left on what would have been a game-winning 44-yard field goal at the final gun in Minnesota, I'm guessing that's the first time this season Baltimore really, really wished it had re-signed veteran Matt Stover. Too late now. The Colts added the longtime Raven to their roster last week as a midseason injury replacement for Adam Vinatieri.
It had to be fun for the old-guy quarterbacks like Favre and Brees to outduel the younger generation in Eli Manning and Joe Flacco in Sunday's headline games. Flacco darn near brought the Ravens all the way back in the Metrodome, throwing for 385 yards and a pair of scores, but Favre has pretty much been in a zone of his own since winning that Week 3 thriller at home against San Francisco.
Well that should just about seal the deal in Washington. The Redskins let the winless Chiefs score the game's last 11 points to pin a 14-6 loss on Washington and drop Jim Zorn's club to 2-4, despite playing its sixth consecutive game against an opponent looking for its first victory.
Jason Campbell was put out of his misery at halftime, with the benching finally clearing the way for veteran backup quarterback Todd Collins to take over. Not that the move helped the woeful Skins. Things are too far gone in D.C. for that. Now all that's really left is for owner Daniel Snyder to decide when he wants to lower the boom on the beleaguered Zorn, and inform his favorite personnel man, Vinny Cerrato, that accountability runs in every direction except for the owner's box.
Think about this: In three home games this season Washington has scored a total of one touchdown and eight field goals, despite playing host to St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
You wonder what John Riggins might have to say this week? Or even Clinton Portis, for that matter.
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