The Award Section
Offensive Player of the Week
Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati
Stats, schmats. Palmer was 20 of 37 for 183 yards, with one TD and no interceptions in the 23-20 upset of Pittsburgh. But his value to this game, and to his team, can be measured in one very important one: He gives the Bengals hope that they can win any game they're in late. Against the Steelers, he led his team 71 yards in the last five minutes, bleeding the clock so the Steelers wouldn't have a chance to score after the Bengals did. A brilliant, clutch drive by a guy we've forgotten could be this good.
Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans
You mean this team has a catalyst other than Drew Brees? Thomas didn't touch the ball for the first 32 minutes of the game, then carried it 14 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. His 34- and 19-yard fourth-quarter touchdowns gave the Saints the padding to coast home in a 27-7 win at Buffalo.
Defensive Player of the Week
Sorry for taking the lazy way out and not choosing one player. I can't. New York held Tampa to 86 net yards, and didn't allow them to convert one third down. The Giants didn't let Tampa Bay breathe. By the time the Bucs got a meaningless long drive in the final 10 minutes, the Giants had thoroughly suffocated them. Tampa Bay's drives, in plays, until that last one: three, one, three, three, three, one, three, five, and three.
Brandon McGowan, S, New England
Not only did McGowan do a great job in coverage on Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez (he caught one pass for 16 yards), but also he made the play that spurred the Patriots to an uneven 26-10 win. Late in the first half, with the game tied at 10 and the Falcons driving at the New England 27, McGowan, a marginal free-agent pickup from the Bears in the offseason, burrowed into the pile of tacklers on Michael Turner and pasted Turner, causing him to fumble. New England recovered. Instead of going into the half down 13-10 or 17-10, Brady drove the Pats to a field goal and a 13-10 halftime lead.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Percy Harvin, KR/WR, Minnesota
His 101-yard kickoff return gave the Vikings a 20-17 lead late in the third quarter, but that's too antiseptic. What made the return amazing to me was that he did not appear to have been touched on it. How often do you see a touchdown on a return accomplished without any of the 11 defenders touching the return man? I asked Harvin if anyone hit him or even grazed him on the return. "I don't believe so, sir ,'' said Harvin over the phone from the locker room.
Lynell Hamilton, RB, New Orleans
Want to see one of the best form tackles you'll ever see on a kickoff return? Hamilton, a Saints' insurance policy with the early-season injuries in the backfield, contributed five carries for 24 yards in Buffalo, but he made his presence felt midway through the fourth quarter when he burst through the Bills' blocking front on a kickoff return, wrapped both arms around Roscoe Parrish, lifted him in the air, drove him backward and tackled him after a meager gain of 14 yards.
Ray McDonald, DE, San Francisco
With the Niners lining up in field-goal defense at the end of the first half at Minnesota, trailing 13-7, McDonald burst through the middle of the line, got a big paw on the Ryan Longwell kick, and knocked the ball directly to Nate Clements, who lumbered the length of the field for a shocking touchdown at the first-half gun. Instead of going into halftime trailing 16-7, the Niners had a 14-13 halftime lead. Ten-point swing.
Coach of the Week
Scott Linehan, offensive coordinator, Detroit
Anyone recall a team this young and green playing as clean a game as Detroit did -- especially with the weight of a city on its shoulders? The Lions didn't get intercepted, nor did they lose a fumble, and they allowed but two sacks in 38 Matthew Stafford pass-drops. They possessed the ball for 37 minutes, ran for 154 yards and got an efficient day from the rookie quarterback who seemed to be slipping last week against Minnesota. For Detroit to be competent on offense, which the Lions were Sunday, says Jim Schwartz picked the right guy to train his rookie quarterback and run his new offense.
Goat of the Week
CBS Control, New York
What has been the story of this preseason and early football season? Michael Vick. Vick this, Vick that. And so Vick had just touched the ball in a National Football League game for the first time in 33 months -- almost three years -- and then we hear from the booth, "Let's go to James Brown.''
What?!!! Let's go to James Brown?!! Unless it's for live coverage of Armageddon, you're not going to James Brown. MICHAEL VICK HAS JUST TOUCHED THE BALL FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOREVER.
This is not play-by-play man Kevin Harlan's doing. All he's doing is obeying the wishes of the truck, and of New York. Common sense, please. It turned out the only gain of Michael Vick's day was a borderline afterthought to CBS.
Ryan Mouton, DB/KR, Tennessee
Jets up 7-zip, kickoff goes to Tennessee, rookie Mouton takes the ball and fumbles it back to the Jets, who are soon ahead 14-0. But the Titans come back to take a 17-14 lead, and they just might add to it midway through the third quarter when the Jets punt to Mouton. Oh no! The dreaded muff happens, and Jet special-teamer Larry Izzo recovers, and the Jets soon score again. The Jets scored on 19- and 23-yard drives after Mouton fumbles. And I don't want to pour too much horsecrap down on the kid's head or anything, but Mouton's pretty much the reason Tennessee is 0-3 today instead of 1-2.
Shameless MMQB Book Promotion of the Week
My mix of sort-of MMQB classic and new stuff, due out in mid-October, can be preordered, and to tempt you I'm throwing a couple of nuggets at you this week.
One is a Factoid That May Interest Only Me: At one point, the same lawyer represented Barry Switzer, Jerry Jones and Larry Lacewell of the Cowboys. The lawyer's name was Larry Derryberry. They once dined together -- Barry, Jerry, Larry and Larry Derryberry.
Two is a Quote of the Week, from Joey Harrington, the year he was coming out in the NFL draft, 2002, and was asked to take the New York Giants' 480-question personality test, which included one question asking if you enjoyed beating animals. "And I wondered if you're a linebacker, should you say yes?''
Lots more where those came from.
NFL Truth & Rumors