Vikings save their season, McCoy's a keeper in Cleveland, more Snaps
The Vikings' comeback win means Brad Childress lives to coach another day
The Browns made the most of their trap-game win over Belichick's Patriots
The Lions need to learn how to close games; Matthew Stafford needs to finish 'em
OAKLAND -- Musings, observations and the occasional Week 9 insight as we make special note of our first ever Snap Judgments filed from the Black Hole, the very epicenter of Raiders Nation ...
That could've easily been a job-saving comeback win for Vikings head coach Brad Childress against Arizona. As much as his players might not be digging Chilly right now, you can't say they've quit on him. Minnesota scored the game's final 17 points to win 27-24 in overtime, scoring two touchdowns in the final 3:34 of regulation and then getting the game-winning 35-yard field goal out of Ryan Longwell in OT.
Naturally, Brett Favre was the Vikings' ultimate hero, and his dramatic fourth quarter probably saved his embattled head coach's bacon for at least another week. Favre left everything he had on the field, throwing for a career-high 446 yards and a pair of scores, including an exquisite game-tying 25-yard strike to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in the final minute of regulation. (And when you've played for 20 NFL seasons, anything that's a career high is saying something).
I'm almost certain Childress will wind up paying for this season's disappointment and Randy Moss-related chaos in Minnesota with his job at some point, but Vikings owner Zygi Wilf can't fire his fifth-year head coach after the team's most inspiring win of the season. At 3-5, Minnesota is still firmly entrenched in third place in the NFC North, and the playoffs are an extreme long shot. But if the Vikings had exited Week 9 at 2-6, in full-blown meltdown mode, a tipping point might have been reached in regard to Wilf's patience with Childress.
The best reason to can Childress in-season? That's easy. Well-respected Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is going to get a head coaching job somewhere in the offseason. If you're the Vikings, why risk losing him when all you're doing the rest of this season is probably marking time until the end of the Childress era? Give Frazier the job at some point in the coming two months and avoid the possibility that he's coaching against you in 2011.
I guess we shouldn't be surprised after the week he had, but Childress being booed for taking the field in the pregame warmups at Minnesota is the coldest shoulder a home crowd has given any NFL head coach in a long time. Signs imploring the Vikings to Fire Childress and Put Childress on waivers must make Childress truly sorry he ever heard the name Randy Moss.
OK, Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, thanks for coming and all, but Colt McCoy will be taking it the rest of the way this season in Cleveland. That much is obvious in the wake of Cleveland's shocking 34-14 manhandling of New England. The rookie quarterback has been one of the real revelations of this NFL season, and it's clearly in Cleveland's best interests to toss him the keys and let him drive this team as far as he can take it in the season's second half.
The best news for the Browns on Sunday was they even let McCoy take the training wheels off, and the ex-Longhorn responded by going 14 of 19 for 174 yards and an FM station-like 101.6 passer rating in his first-ever start before the home fans. With consecutive wins over the defending champion Saints and the vaunted Patriots in a three-week span, sandwiched around the Browns' bye, Cleveland may have just found its long-sought after franchise quarterback -- and to think he was sitting right there in last April's third round.
Thank goodness for the Browns this season didn't go as planned for McCoy. The day after Browns new football czar Mike Holmgren took him 85th overall, late in the third round, Holmgren announced that McCoy wouldn't play in 2010, but instead sit, watch and learn from Delhomme and Wallace with an eye on 2011 and beyond. But then, as sometimes happens, football fates intervene. Delhomme and Wallace were both hurt, McCoy had to play, and the Browns were the fortunate benefactors.
Cleveland is only 3-5 after its two big wins, and it won't be going to the playoffs this season. But with McCoy -- the NCAA's all-time winningest quarterback -- looking more like an NFL No. 1 quarterback every week, the Browns have every right to think there are some playoff trips in their future.
Every time I watch Peyton Hillis run the ball, like he did for 184 tough yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, I wonder what in the world was it about his game that Denver head coach Josh McDaniels didn't like? I've heard that McDaniels questioned Hillis's toughness last year in Denver. But he looks tough enough to me. And even tougher to bring down. His rushing total on Sunday was a career high.
Meanwhile, Denver's so-called running game? Mostly tough luck this season. Cleveland gouged New England for 230 yards rushing, and had 404 yards of total offense against the shellshocked Patriots defenders.
I've rarely seen a group of coaches reveling in a win more than Cleveland's three former Patriots assistants did Sunday against New England. Even while the game was still going on, the threesome of head coach Eric Mangini, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan -- former Bill Belichick hires all -- were back-slapping, hugging and congratulating one another for that decisive win over their former mentor's team. As victories go, I'm guessing this one was in the extremely satisfying category.
But from the look Mangini had on his face, I don't think he really appreciated getting the Gatorade bath treatment with two minutes or so left to play. Mangini never even turned around to see who did it, and I know he hopes it escaped Belichick's notice. Pretty quick and cursory handshake between Mangini and Belichick after this one, but then, that's nothing new.
OK, I'll say it: Even though they had not paid for it before Sunday, the Patriots offense really lacks for much big-play capability in its new post-Moss incarnation. With the possible exception of the second half against the Vikings last week, New England has had to have a lot of things go right for it to mount a scoring drive of late. So while the versatility of the Patriots' new-look offense has it positives, it hasn't been all golden.
That was your classic trap game for New England at Cleveland. With high-profile matchups against the Steelers and Colts coming up the next two weeks, New England may have simply gotten burned for looking ahead. Doesn't usually happen to a Belichick-coached team, but this group of Patriots isn't really good enough to take any wins for granted. Even if they did enter the game with a five-game winning streak -- and as the NFL's only six-win team.
What a case of vapor-lock brain-cramp play by the Jets' Trevor Pryce, who committed a roughing-the-kicker penalty against Lions Jason Hanson on a 21-yard game-tying field goal in the third quarter. Instead of a 10-10 game, the Lions took the penalty and the automatic first down, and then scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard Matthew Stafford run on the next play.
The Jets fought back to tie the game at 20 late in regulation and then won 23-20 in overtime, but Pryce's play was anything but what you'd expect from a 14-year veteran in that situation. And New York could have paid for it with its third defeat of the season.
Pryce actually hurt Hanson's right knee on the play, which prompted my favorite play of Week 9: Lions rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh trotting out to replace Hanson on the ensuing extra-point attempt. Alas, Suh proved that he can't do it all on the football field, missing his kick when the ball hit the right upright.
Suh played soccer growing up, and actually had pretty good form on his PAT. But when you lose 23-20 in overtime, Hanson not being on the field to kick that extra point winds up looming rather large.
Speaking of special teams follies, seriously, yet another botched San Diego punt? Chargers punter Mike Scifres came into Week 9 with an inexplicable four blocks in eight games, and then it happened again early in San Diego's 29-23 win at Houston. On the Chargers' first drive, the Texans poured in and deflected Scifres' punt, causing it to travel all of one yard. Scifres was roughed up in the process, and Houston scored on the very next play, on an 8-yard Arian Foster touchdown run.
Wow. Chargers special teams coach Steve Crosby might just self-combust any minute here.