The Award Section
Offensive Players of the Week
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota. This is almost unfair. Peterson does something every week that reminds me of Walter Payton. On a day when only five backs about the league rushed for more than 100 yards, Peterson obliterated the quality standard for runners, carrying 25 times for 180 yards. On one highlight that'll be played in Canton someday, Peterson ran up the left sideline, wriggled out of a near-certain tackle and finished a 64-yard touchdown run.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. Brees shredded Detroit with the first six-touchdown-pass season opener by a quarterback in NFL history, including two to the long-lost Jeremy Shockey. "There was probably one or two we left out there,'' said Brees, who threw for 358 yards. "That's what keeps you coming back.''
As much as he is celebrated (as least by me), Brees, I believe, is the most underappreciated player in football.
Shaun Hill, QB, San Francisco. Be honest: How many of you out there DIDN'T have Hill as number 32 in your preseason starting quarterback rankings? Well, I'm not sure any of us had such a list, but no matter. Hill was just 18 of 31 in Sunday's opener at Arizona, but he had some quality throws. With the game tied at 6 in the first half, on third-and-10 from the Niner 44, Hill attacked big-money free-agent corner Bryant McFadden, throwing a 50-yard completion to Isaac Bruce over McFadden's head. On the next play, Frank Gore ran for a six-yard touchdown to put San Francisco up 13-6. Trailing 16-13 in the fourth quarter, San Fran got a touchdown throw from Hill to Gore to, essentially, win the game. A clutch day for Hill.
Defensive Players of the Week
Patrick Willis, MLB, San Francisco. Willis is becoming the heir to Ray Lewis. At Arizona on Sunday, the Cards faced a third-and-eight on their first series, and Kurt Warner looked like he'd convert on a short toss to Tim Hightower. But Willis smothered Hightower after a gain of four and Arizona had to punt. Second series: On an intermediate throw up the right side to Jerame Urban, Warner got picked by the athletic Willis. End of threat. For the game, Willis had 13 tackles with the interception and another pass defensed.
Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York Giants. In his first game back from knee surgery that caused him to miss the 2008 season, Umenyiora steamed around Washington left tackle Chris Samuels, batted the ball from the grip of quarterback Jason Campbell, then picked it up and sprinted 37 yards down the right side for the touchdown that blew open the Giants' win over the Redskins at Giants Stadium. For the game, Umenyiora -- "our leader,'' fellow defender Justin Tuck says -- had four tackles, the strip-sack/fumble and a pass deflected in the Giants' 23-17 win. "I've played a little running back in my dreams,'' Umenyiora said.
Special Teams Players of the Week
Joshua Cribbs, PR, Special-teamer, Cleveland. His seventh career special-teams touchdown might have been his easiest. Cribbs bolted for 67 yards and a touchdown on a second-quarter punt, keeping the Browns in the game. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Cribbs is the best special-teams player in football, and if he continues on this path, he'll be as powerful a factor in games as Steve Tasker was in the Bills' run of greatness.
DeSean Jackson, WR/PR, Philadelphia. Jackson's the luckiest man on the face of the earth, Week 1 version. He broke open the Eagles-Panthers game with an 85-yard punt-return for touchdown in the second quarter at Charlotte, and he was barely touched on it. But one of the reasons he was barely touched was a how-did-they-miss-it illegal-block-in-the-back by Philly's Chris Clemons as the return just got up and running. The return, up the left side on an otherwise well-blocked play, gave Philadelphia a 17-7 lead, and the Eagles basically just grinded out the win from there.
Coach of the Week
Danny Smith, special teams, Washington. Washington was on a major downer, trailing 17-0 with less than a minute left in the first half. And the Giants stopped the 'Skins again at the New York eight, forcing Washington to settle for a field goal attempt. But on a perfectly disguised fake, punter/holder Hunter Smith picked the ball off the ground and gamboled around right end for an easy touchdown. The look on Tom Coughlin's face could kill at that moment. But I give Smith the credit on this one, without a doubt, because to make such a play against a team as disciplined in all ways as the Giants are is amazing. Look at the replay: Every Giants is intent on blocking the kick or rushing forward and collapsing the Washington line. Perfect execution, and that's the product of long hours and a great plan by a conscientious special-teams coach.
Goat of the Week
Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina. He needs to be careful or he's going to retire this award. Five months after signing a new contract extension with $20 million in guarantees, Delhomme had his second straight meltdown at home for Carolina, completing seven of 17 throws for 73 yards, with no touchdowns and four picks. Yikes. History repeats last year's NFC playoffs.
Stat of the Week
In his last 22 series as quarterback for the Panthers, Delhomme has thrown nine interceptions and lost two fumbles, an amazing streak of incompetence.
In 2008, three quarterbacks played complete seasons and turned it over less that Delhomme has done in the last seven quarters: Jason Campbell (553 combined passes-rushes) seven turnovers, Kerry Collins (440) eight, and Chad Pennington (506) eight.
One proviso: I can't include Brady or Philip Rivers. They haven't played yet.
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota. Brett Favre's got the greatest job a quarterback trying NOT to get hurt could have -- turn around and hand it to the best back in the football.
2. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. Well, he is on pace to throw for 96 touchdowns.
3. Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore. "These are the kinds of games, and the kinds of drives, that'll help us become a great team,'' Flacco said after driving the Ravens to a way-too-difficult 38-24 win over Kansas City. First 300-yard game of his career.
4. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. Evergreen. If he's healthy and the Colts are winning, he's in the top five, somewhere.
5. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh. Not a pretty outing Thursday against Tennessee, but when you're 16 of 18 for 132 yards in the final 15 minutes (including overtime) of a brutally physical game, it's a credit to your desire and drive, and it says everything about your value to the team.
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