Snap judgments (cont.)
As one who grew up in the Tampa Bay area and suffered through the Bucs' orange-uniform era, I'm not sure I would have messed with losing karma like that. But the Bucs trotted out the throwback creamsicle uniforms Sunday at home against Green Bay, in part to celebrate their 1979 playoff team, and it worked. They finally gave rookie head coach Raheem Morris his first NFL win, upsetting the humiliated Packers 38-28 on the strength of a 21-point fourth quarter.
Tampa Bay isn't going anywhere this season, but at least the Bucs now have some honest-to-goodness hope with rookie first-round quarterback Josh Freeman making some big plays in his first NFL start. After a shaky beginning, the 21-year-old Freeman -- the Bucs' youngest starting QB ever -- got better as the game wore on and finished with 205 yards passing, three touchdowns and just one interception. He also showed he can make plays on the move, and wound up as Tampa Bay's second-leading rusher with four carries for 20 yards.
For a team that has looked completely overmatched on offense this season, the dawn of the Freeman era was a start.
Freeman wasn't the only rookie quarterback who had a highlight or two for a Florida-based team in Week 9. I thought we saw the beginning of some effective use of Pat White in Miami's loss at New England. White rushed six times for 45 yards against the Patriots, and was in the game at quarterback in the shot-gun formation (can't call it the Wildcat since White's a quarterback) when he pitched on the option to Ricky Williams for a 15-yard touchdown in the second quarter. White was 0-of-1 as a passer, but his 33-yard run was Miami's biggest gain of the day.
If you're wondering, Ted Ginn Jr. didn't quite follow up on his monstrous game in Week 8 against the Jets. In New England, Ginn returned four kickoffs for an average of 24 yards, with a long of 37. His only reception gained just seven yards.
There was a day in the not-too-distant past when Chris Henry wouldn't have received a big ovation from an appreciative Bengals crowd as he left the field injured, as he did on Sunday. But Cincinnati fans realize how far Henry has come in recent years to rehabilitate his image, and his likely season-ending broken left forearm against Baltimore is a big blow to the Bengals offense. Henry is the team's best deep threat, and there's no obvious replacement on the roster who can stretch the field as he can.
You know who had a great day? The Vikings. And they didn't even play. But Minnesota pulled further ahead of both its nearest division competitors Green Bay and Chicago, who both lost in embarrassing fashion to fall to 4-4, miles and miles behind the 7-1 first-place Vikings.
Remember when everyone thought we were in for a season-long three-team dog-fight in the NFC North? Well, we were half right. The Packers and Bears are playing like dogs.
How bad can it get for the Bears defense? Throw out that win last week at home against hapless Cleveland, and Chicago has lost its past two games by a combined 86-31, getting drilled 45-10 at Cincinnati, and beaten 41-21 by the Cardinals on Sunday. It may be time for head coach Lovie Smith to reconsider having Lovie Smith as his defensive play-caller.
For you fantasy owners out there, I'd say Michael Turner is most definitely all the way back after gouging Washington for 166 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on 18 carries (9.2 average) in the Falcons' 31-17 win. Turner went for 151 yards and a touchdown on 20 runs (7.6) at New Orleans on Monday night, giving him 317 yards and three scores in a less than a week. Both games were at home in the dome, where Turner just seems to have a faster, more explosive game at his disposal.
Can't wait to hear what John Riggins has to say this week about his floundering Redskins, who have dropped four in a row to sink to 2-6. Maybe nothing short of an all-out coup attempt at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., will suffice at this point.
I do believe Riggins has done the near impossible and turned failure-wracked Redskins owner Daniel Snyder into something of a sympathetic figure. Nice job, Riggo.
Who needs Anquan Boldin? Apparently not the Cardinals, who hung up ridiculous offensive numbers at Chicago -- 41 points, 438 yards, and most of them in the first half -- without their injured veteran receiver, who sat out with an ankle sprain. The Cardinals cranked out 10 first downs on their first 14 plays against the Bears, and led 31-7 at halftime.
How's that contract negotiation going, A.B.? The Cardinals are now 5-1, including playoff games, when Boldin doesn't play the past two seasons.
Not a bad waiver-wire acquisition by the Chiefs last week. Receiver Chris Chambers joined Kansas City on Tuesday and wound up catching a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes Sunday in the Chiefs' encouraging 24-21 loss at Jacksonville. Chambers finished with three receptions for 70 yards and those two scores (54 yards and 5 yards), and looked immediately comfortable with K.C. quarterback Matt Cassel.
Another impressive showing by Jaguars receiver Mike Sims-Walker, who torched Kansas City's secondary for six catches and 147 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown grab. Sims-Walker accounted for more yardage than the other seven Jacksonville pass-catchers combined, and the pesky Jaguars (4-4) refuse to completely go away, having reached .500 at midseason.
Joey Porter talked all week in the buildup for Miami's trip to New England, but he didn't make any noise on the stat sheet on Sunday. The Dolphins outside linebacker had no tackles, no assists, no sacks, no passes defensed, and no fumbles forced or recovered in the Miami 10-point loss.
Other than that, Porter was technically active for the game.
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