Week 5 (cont.)
Jason Campbell deserves a dose of credit for helping lead Oakland to its first win over San Diego in seven years, despite the shock of being buried on the bench in recent weeks. I'm not sure Campbell will ever be the guy for Oakland head coach Tom Cable, who clearly prefers Bruce Gradkowski. But the ex-Redskin hung up 159 yards passing and one touchdown in relief of the injured Gradkowski on Sunday, and that steady showing helped Oakland to its biggest AFC West victory in Cable's tenure.
I think they got hosed on the Spurlock call, but that doesn't absolve the Bengals entirely. The defending AFC North champs let a Bucs team that won three games last year pin a third loss on them, dropping Cincinnati to below .500 at 2-3, two full games behind first-place Baltimore.
Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer turned in another puzzling performance, throwing three interceptions, with just 209 yards of passing and a completion percentage of only 58.3. Palmer looks like he's losing confidence by the minute, and I can't remember the last time I thought he looked like one of the game's elite starting quarterbacks.
Maybe Chad Ochocinco will tweet Sunday night and tell us what he was doing when that game-turning interception bounced off his hands to Bucs safety Sabby Piscitelli in the final 25 seconds of the fourth quarter.
Kudos to Josh Freeman and the Bucs for hanging in there against the Bengals and finding a way to get it done. I think I'm on to Tampa Bay's plan of attack this season. The Bucs have beaten Cleveland, Carolina and Cincinnati, and are obviously intent on getting a win against every NFL city or state that begins with a C. Alas, Chicago isn't on Tampa Bay's regular-season schedule, so a four-game sweep appears out of the question.
I know the Chiefs weren't going to beat the Colts on the road by playing it entirely safe, but Todd Haley might want to dial it back a bit on the risk-taking front. Kansas City's game-opening onside kick didn't work -- it's the second onside Haley's called for in two games -- and the Chiefs got zero points on their 15-play first drive because they went for a 4th-and-2 near the goal line and failed.
In a game that finished 19-9 Indy, those calls arguably cost Kansas City six points, so they weren't insignificant.
I'm more impressed every week with the Chiefs' young secondary, and Kansas City's defense has been superb, in general, for most of the season. Holding the Colts to four field goals and one touchdown gets Indy beat on most NFL Sundays. Kansas City has given up just one non-garbage time touchdown in its past two games.
That's why it's a shame quarterback Matt Cassel is still holding his team back at times. I did see at least three drops by Kansas City pass catchers (Dwayne Bowe, we're looking in your direction), but Cassel just can't threaten a defense consistently yet. He finished with 156 yards passing and no touchdowns.
The Chiefs were trying to line up for a 51-yard field goal attempt with 1:12 to go at Indy, but something was missing. Namely, a holder. Kicker Ryan Succop kept looking over at the sideline, and finally Dustin Colquitt, the team's punter and holder, came racing on to the field. That's the first time I've seen that one. You wouldn't think the punter/holder had that much to keep track of in terms of responsibilities.
With the 3-0 Chiefs losing, not only is it the first time since 1970 that no one in the NFL made it to 4-0, but also it's the earliest the grumps known as the 1972 Dolphins had to spring for their big annual champagne toast to themselves. Drink up, Mercury Morris. You're relevant for another year.
So I'm watching the Jaguars-Bills game early Sunday afternoon and the announcers point out that Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick plays the position while wearing his wedding ring. (You don't think he's scuffing balls, do you?)
I found that fact both bizarre, and almost impossibly cool, all at the same time. Here's to you, Mrs. Fitzpatrick. Maybe it'll become a trend.
Come to think of it, if he thought it gave him an advantage, Tom Brady would probably wear all three of his Super Bowl rings out there every week.
Speaking of married quarterbacks, maybe we know a little bit more why Brett Favre felt somewhat hesitant to come back to what seemed like such a great situation in Minnesota this season. With this Deadspin story, it strikes me that Favre might have considerably more to lose by playing this season than just some football games.
What a brutal week for the Packers, to lose a fourth-quarter, 10-point lead at Washington and the services of four key contributors in NFL sacks leader Clay Matthews (hamstring), tight end Jermichael Finley (knee), tight end Donald Lee (shoulder) and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (ankle). Then, in the postgame, came the news that quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion during overtime.
Green Bay was banged up coming into Week 5, and now the Packers figure to be in near-crisis mode when it comes to health as they prepare for a visit from Miami and Minnesota over the next two weeks.
The Packers simply can't be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender at the moment. Green Bay has little killer instinct and it keeps letting inferior teams hang around all game. Green Bay's final seven possessions at Washington ended in four punts, two missed field goals by Mason Crosby and the interception that set up the Redskins' winning field goal in their 16-13 upset.
But the carnage wasn't completely confined to Green Bay's depth chart. In the early Sunday games, Broncos rookie receiver Demaryius Thomas (head/neck), Rams receiver Mark Clayton (right leg), Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace (ankle), Colts running back Joseph Addai (shoulder) and Lions receiver Calvin Johnson (shoulder) all exited their games with injuries.
It's not getting any easier for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to make the case to the players for an 18-game regular season, is it?
Jacksonville is another 3-2, tied-for-first-place club that has dramatically reversed its course in the span of the past two weeks. The Jaguars were down 10-0 early at Buffalo, then proceeded to rip off 36 of the game's next 46 points to win comfortably, 36-26.
With wins over the Colts and Bills, Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio is officially off the hot seat.
Shaun Hill isn't about to bump Matthew Stafford out of the starting lineup in Detroit, but he's not a bad insurance policy to have on hand as your backup quarterback. Hill can play some. There are plenty of teams that could use a passer capable of posting a 21-of-32 day, for 227 yards and three touchdowns.
Have we ever seen worse quarterbacking than we had to endure in the Bears' 23-6 beat down of the Panthers? Carolina rookie Jimmy Clausen was 9-of-22 for 61 yards and one interception -- and he was the most efficient passer in the game. Bears starter Todd Collins finished 6-of-16 for 32 yards and four picks, before being yanked in favor of Caleb Hanie.
Clausen actually got benched too, with former Carolina starter Matt Moore re-entering the picture in the second half. Moore didn't exactly reclaim the starting job, however. He completed 5-of-10 passes for 35 yards and two interceptions in his relief stint.
I knew ex-Panther Julius Peppers would be ready to play when the Bears visited Carolina this week, but that was one of the interceptions of the year he made against Jimmy Clausen. Tip it up in the air, then dive and pick it off just above the turf. That's about as good as it gets for a defensive lineman. The only one better on Sunday was Atlanta's Kroy Biermann's against Cleveland, which the defensive end tipped, dove to catch and then got up to return it for a touchdown.
After the Lions rookie's Peppers-like highlight-reel interception, score it Ndamukong Suh 1, Sam Bradford 0. But I have a feeling the 2010 draft's top two picks will have another chance or three to go at it before their careers are over. And for the record, I think the Lions are one of the best 1-4 teams I've ever seen. I think the Rams would at least agree with me on that one.