Week 9 Snaps (cont.)
The Lions are so much better in the second year of the Jim Schwartz coaching era. But they simply don't know how to close out a game yet. Detroit held a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against New York, and let it get away. This breakdown was roughly the same way the Lions failed to make the plays they had to make late in games against Chicago, Philadelphia and Green Bay earlier this season.
I know Matthew Stafford doesn't like the injury-prone label, but he richly deserves it. Stafford left in the fourth quarter after re-injuring his right shoulder, and if you're Detroit, your quarterback's health is reaching a problematic stage.
In the first season and a half of his NFL career (24 games), Stafford has played in 13 games and missed 11. And in two of the three games he did start this season, he didn't finish. Sorry, Matt. That's being injury-prone. Even if you understandably don't like the sound of that.
The Bucs didn't win their statement game at Atlanta, but you can't blame rookie receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn. Williams and Benn both scored touchdowns in the Bucs' 27-21 loss to the Falcons, and the two are starting to make impact plays on a weekly basis.
When's the last time a team had two rookie receivers contributing in a big way? The 1974 Steelers, with Lynn Swann and John Stallworth? And one more question: Is it just me, or is this year's NFL draft class the best one in recent memory? Across the landscape of the league, rookies have made key differences for many teams.
Not really loving the new purple pants for the Vikings. There is such a thing as too much purple, and I happen to think a 41-year-old like Favre looks a little silly covered head to toe in that hue. It doesn't really go with the gray in his hair.
I'm sure it sounded funny in his own head, but Childress's timing was really off when he gigged Brett Favre in the aftermath of Minnesota's comeback win. Asked about how he was handling the pressure of the past week, Childress tried to go all John Wayne on us, quipping: "I'm not gonna be here and be like Favre and tell you that I need a hug,'' Childress said. "I'll be all right.''
Uh, given that Favre might have just kept his hanging-by-a-thread head coach employed for another week, maybe Childress should aim his sense of humor elsewhere in the foreseeable future. Or at least until Favre throws another couple of costly interceptions.
Matt Ryan won again at home, and so what else is new? The Falcons quarterback has now started his NFL career with a 17-1 record at the Georgia Dome, and that's one of the more remarkable and underappreciated accomplishments in recent history. Matty Ice is almost Matty Automatic at home.
Meanwhile, Ryan's 2008 first-round draft classmate, Joe Flacco, is becoming fairly dominant at home, as well. With Baltimore's 26-10 throttling of Miami at M&T Bank Stadium, Flacco has won his past seven starts at home.
Come to think of it, we've got an enticing Flacco versus Ryan showdown to count down to this week: 6-2 first-place Baltimore plays at 6-2 first-place Atlanta in the opener of the NFL Network's schedule Thursday night.
Miami quarterback Chad Henne threw three more interceptions (without a touchdown pass) in the loss at Baltimore, and you've got to think we're going to see some of Chad Pennington at some point soon. It won't be a long-term benching most likely, but just a chance for Henne to sit and watch for a while, in the hope it'll re-energize his game and further his development.
As great as this year's rookie class has been, that was a hide-your-eyes-ugly kind of a day for Patriots rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski. First, Gronkowski was responsible for making a fair catch call on a first-quarter kickoff and then letting the ball fall to the turf and be recovered by Cleveland. Later, he fumbled inside of the Browns' 5 while struggling for extra yardage.
With two touchdown catches against the Browns, Gronkowski's fellow rookie Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez, continues to play lights out. But Gronkowski, who was drafted higher than Hernandez, had a forgettable day in Ohio.
Speaking of tight ends who have struggled to make an impact this year, the Bears' Greg Olsen had to fight for his third touchdown of the season in Chicago's 22-19 win at Buffalo in Toronto. (You still following me?)
I'm not sure if Olsen or receiver Earl Bennett was Jay Cutler's intended receiver on the four-yard scoring pass to Olsen in the first quarter, but Olsen wound up catching it almost in spite of his teammate, who was right beside him in the pattern.
Maybe when you're a tight end in a Mike Martz-coordinated offense, that's how it goes. You have to fight for every ball you get.
Texans running back Arian Foster had absolutely no beef on that replay reversal of his second-half touchdown catch. If Calvin Johnson's catch in Week 1 at Chicago wasn't a touchdown catch, there's no way Foster's was. Both players had clear possession of the ball for quite some time, but they both put the ball on the ground while it was in their right hand, to steady themselves. And that, like the rule or not (and I don't), is a non-catch.
Let me get this straight: Despite missing tight end Antonio Gates, receivers Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd, Buster Davis and Legedu Naanee, the Chargers' Philip Rivers still threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns against Houston in a 29-23 win?
How bad must that Texans pass defense really be? San Diego didn't have its "A'' team in the passing game, and still won its first road game of the season. Rivers was an efficient 17 of 23 against Houston, with only one interception.
The Chargers got the first two career touchdowns of the wonderfully named rookie receiver Seyi Ajirotutu (four catches for 111 yards) and two more touchdowns from backup tight end Randy McMichael to win two games in a row for the first time all season.
And don't look now, but here come the Chargers. Again. San Diego is 4-5 and appears to be making its annual second-half drive to get back into the AFC West race. The division is better and it won't just roll over and play dead for Norv Turner's team this year, but how can you rule San Diego out, given its penchant for late-season winning streaks?
Yes, Jon Beason, that's a penalty, and I expect the Carolina linebacker will be getting fined by the NFL this week. Hitting the Saints' Marques Colston in that situation is the very definition of the defenseless receiver rule the league has decided to make a point of emphasis this year.
Two things are quickly apparent in the wake of the Giants' 41-7 thrashing of Seattle:
1. The Giants really are the class of the NFC at midseason. New York has won five in a row and its 6-2 record is more impressive than Atlanta's 6-2. This is a Giants team that's starting to look like it has clear-cut Super Bowl potential.
2. And I don't think Matt Hasselbeck has anything to worry about regarding his grasp of the Seattle starting quarterback job. Hasselbeck missed the game against New York due to a concussion, but his replacement, Charlie Whitehurst, was underwhelming to say the least. Whitehurst's stock just dropped faster than any quarterback in Washington this side of Jake Locker. Whitehurst was just 12 of 23 for 113 yards and two interceptions in his first NFL start, giving Seattle no reason so far to think it picked San Diego's pocket via trade last spring.
Have we ever made it to the first week of November before without a bad-weather game or two in the NFL? We had some pregame and early game rain here in Oakland, but other than that it's been a pretty non-eventful season on the weather-event front.
Here's hoping Randy Moss had a restful weekend off,wherever he chose to spend it. After the wideout was told goodbye by two teams in less than a month, I can't think of anyone who ever needed a bye more than Moss.