The Award Section
Offensive Players of the Week
Tom Brady, QB, New England.
Has any quarterback in NFL history completed 85 percent of his throws in snowy/wintry-mix weather like Brady played in Sunday? I doubt it. With a 29-of-34, 380-yard, six-TD, no-pick game against the hapless Titans (haven't ever written those two words together, I don't think), Brady had an unimaginably good 35-minute game.
JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland.
Russell removed the arrows from his back long enough to play good, but not great Sunday in Oakland. But no player in the league had been as bad in the first six weeks of the season as Russell, so his outing against the Eagles is worthy of mention here, with congratulations. Russell completed 17 of 28 passes for 224 yards, with a TD and two interceptions. Al Davis told Jarrett Bell of USA Today that people should be patient with Russell. I'm not convinced Russell can be good enough long-term, but it's clear the Raiders are going to give him this year to show what he's got.
Jermon Bushrod, T, New Orleans.
At 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, it's hard to be anonymous, but Bushrod was until Sunday. Then he pitched a shutout against one of the best pass-rushers in the game, Osi Umenyiora of the Giants. Zero sacks, zero pressures. "I don't know that we ever hit [Drew Brees],'' coach Tom Coughlin said. Three times, actually. But it wasn't nearly enough, and the wall formed by Bushrod and his peers did the trick.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans.
Now, some would argue, with good statistical evidence, that the Giants had the league's best defense going into the game at the Superdome Sunday. The Saints put that D in the shredder. Brees had but seven incompletions in 30 throws, for 369 yards and four touchdowns. No interceptions. He was brilliant. It's hard to hit receivers in stride better than Brees did.
Defensive Players of the Week
Also the USC rookie linebacker alumni section.
Clay Matthews Jr., LB, Green Bay.
In the Pack's 26-0 whitewashing of Detroit, Matthews had two sacks, another tackle for loss, a pass batted down and five tackles. Green Bay held Detroit to 71 net passing yards, and Matthews played the biggest role.
Brian Cushing, LB, Houston.
The Texans went to Cincinnati and laid a 28-17 beatdown on the red-hot Bengals, thanks to four touchdown passes from Schaub and two important second-half turnovers by Cushing, who forced fumbles in the third and fourth quarters that Houston recovered. Cushing added an interception on the Bengals' last drive of the day. For the season, he's led the Texans in tackles in four of their six games.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Josh Cribbs, KR/PR/RB/Everything Else, Cleveland.
So far, Cribbs has been the Browns' best player, and it's on display every week. With the Browns down 14-0 late in the second quarter, Cribbs took a kickoff at his two, sprinted up the right sideline, ran through the Pittsburgh coverage and singlehandedly kept Cleveland in a game it had no business being in. He also returned a punt for 26 yards and ran six times for 45 yards. Only blemish of the day: an interception, thrown out of the Wildcat formation.
Coach of the Week
Curtis Johnson, wide receivers coach, New Orleans.
I can't take credit for this one; Tony Dungy deserves it. During the Giants-Saints, we were watching Lance Moore, Marques Colston and Robert Meachem catch everything in sight (they caught 16 of the 18 balls Brees threw their way in the Saints' rout of the Giants), and Dungy talked about what a great receiving team the Saints were. Devery Henderson was never a great ball-catcher, yet he's become a decent NFL receiver in New Orleans. Johnson's one of those enthusiastic, demanding coach/teachers who doesn't get enough credit for the work they do day in and day out. Moore and Colston, in particular, are tremendously sure-handed and excellent route-runners.
Goat of the Week
Dante Wesley, DB, Carolina.
As I pointed out earlier in this column, there is absolutely no excuse for launching yourself into a defenseless return man without the ball, the way Wesley did against Clifton Smith of the Bucs. The more I watched the play Sunday night, the more I was repulsed. It was barbaric.
1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. And on the sixth week, he rested. Through five games, Peyton Manning is on pace to set NFL records in two of the most significant categories for a quarterback:
Yards: 5,264. (The record is 5,084, by Dan Marino, 1984.)
Completion percentage: 73.5. (The record is 70.6 by Ken Anderson, 1982.)
He's on pace to be sacked a career-low six times, and he's doing this with two new receivers among his top four targets. Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, obviously are 1-2, but rookie Austin Collie and last year's sixth-round pick, Pierre "Foie Gras'' Garcon, are playing meaningful minutes.
And the schedule's conducive to record-setting. Seven of the Colts' remaining 11 games will be played in total climate-control (home and the Jones Dome), with an eighth in Houston, where the threat of weather will result in closing the roof. The Colts could luck out on the road weather-wise: Nov. 22 at Baltimore and Dec. 17 at Jacksonville. The one bear of a game, Jan. 3 at Buffalo, could be moot if the Colts have clinched a first-round bye by then. I could see Jim Caldwell playing Manning a quarter or less, unless the Marino yardage record is on the line that day.
2. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. Directing one of the great offenses of the decade flawlessly. The 5-0 record is due largely to his consistent greatness this year.
3. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota. Interesting when people are asking what's wrong with your game and you're averaging 5.2 yards a rush and more than 100 rushing yards a week.
4. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta. Rapidly moving up the charts. After a 45-point game last week, he drove the Birds to the winning touchdown with three minutes left Sunday night at home.
5. (tie) Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants, and Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh. One bad game's not going to diminish the ridiculous start of Manning. And Roethlisberger's on pace for a 5,032-yard season. When the weather turns, so will Ben's numbers, but his career-best is 3,513 passing yards. Barring injury, he'll crush that.
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