Offensive Player of the Week
Arian Foster, RB, Houston
The former philosophy major at Tennessee didn't do a lot of thinking Sunday -- just running. He ran 33 times for 231 yards and three touchdowns, personally putting the game out of reach in the second half. Foster ran the ball 23 times for 191 yards in the last 30 minutes. There's no question the Texans have the free-agent find of the last several years in Foster, who could have left Tennessee early in 2008 and been a high draft choice, but chose to stay in school -- and then got platooned and injured and was forgotten in the 2009 draft. He's not forgotten anymore.
Defensive Players of the Week
Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay
Against two different styles of quarterback -- a more stationary Kevin Kolb in the first half and the mobile Mike Vick in the second -- Matthews played a brilliant game in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' aggressive scheme. Matthews had seven tackles, two sacks, one pass deflected and a forced fumble. His sack of Vick on the last Eagle drive of the game helped clinch the 27-20 victory for the Packers. I still think Matthews should have won the Defensive Rookie award last year.
Mario Williams, DE, Houston
The Texans drafted Williams to beat Peyton Manning and the Colts, and he'd only been able to do it (with a little help from his friends) once in eight tries since coming to Houston as the first overall pick in the 2006 draft. On Sunday, Williams contributed mightily to the Texans' victory over Indianapolis. He hit Manning five times, once sacking him, and added four tackles. The way he knifed through and around the Indy offensive line Sunday, more than a few Houstonians should be sending former GM Charley Casserly a thank-you note this morning for ignoring the cries to take Vince Young or Reggie Bush and taking Williams instead.
E.J. Henderson, MLB, Minnesota
Few will ever forget the gruesome broken left leg (a fractured, femur, actually) Henderson suffered last December in a violent collision trying to make a tackle. I pulled it up on YouTube over the weekend to see it again, and it's just as disturbing to see his left leg break on the iso-camera replay.
Henderson had a titanium rod implanted in his leg, then spent the next four months in a wheelchair, using crutches, then a cane. It wasn't 'til April that he felt good enough to actually be ambulatory without help, and I'm not even talking doing the kind of running drills necessary to get ready to be an NFL middle linebacker. This rehab should have taken a year or longer. But Thursday night, exactly nine months after breaking the leg, he was back patrolling the middle for the Vikings, playing very well in the 14-9 loss to New Orleans. Henderson had nine tackles -- second most of any player in the game -- including one for a loss. His condition bodes very well for a Vikings' D that didn't have an answer at middle 'backer without him.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Brandon Tate, KR/WR, New England
Here's the not-so-secret weapon the Patriots have been thinking all summer long would pay dividends once the real games started. Tom Brady bragged about him to me in May, and Tate blew through the Ram kick-coverage team in preseason Week 3 for a 97-yard touchdown. Against the Bengals Sunday, he grabbed a bouncing kickoff and sprinted/weaved untouched 97 yards for a crippling touchdown.
Coach of the Week
Bill Belichick, head coach, New England
He's taken the slings and arrows throughout the offseason for not doing enough at the receiver position or the running back position; his starting wideouts combined for 13 catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns against Cincinnati, while his backs rushed for a clock-eating 118 yards. The defense was too young or didn't make enough of an impact.
You had to see this game against the Bengals to realize much of the yardage Cincinnati made was after the game seemed well in hand; 428 yards happen when you fall behind 24-0. Four recent very high draft picks -- Patrick Chung, Jerod Mayo, Darius Butler and Brandon Meriweather -- combined for 43 tackles. For one Sunday at least, the moves of the best coach in football were home runs.
Coaching Decision of the Week
Houston coach Gary Kubiak
Kubiak went for it on fourth-and-1.5 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter, ball on the Indianapolis 20.5-yard line, and the Texas up 13-10.
I loved the call, miss or make, because of Houston's six-game losing streak against the Colts, and Kubiak knowing he's can't play for threes, and the momentum of the game going Indianapolis' way. Houston always blows leads against the Colts, and its earlier 13-0 lead had already dwindled.
So with the drive stalled at the 20 and a half, Kubiak called a run to the right for running back Arian Foster, and he appeared to be stopped until tight end Owen Daniels sealed off Clint Session, and Foster burst forward to the 18. It was just the play the Texans needed. They continued on a 15-play, 66-yard drive, covering the first 7:57 of the second half, culminating in Foster's one-yard touchdown run. Houston's 20-10 lead with 22 minutes to go held up. Texans 34, Colts 24.
Goats of the Week
Move over Alex Barron, you have company. The Raiders. Collectively. In the absence of any single true goal, I decided to give a team award, and I could have rewarded either Bay Area team because the Niners were awful at Seattle. The Raiders were a chic pick to be decent in the preseason. Decent, in Oakland, would sell a lot of tickets. But their impressive performance in exhibition games -- another great example of why we should ignore the summer completely -- was erased in Nashville.
The Raiders allowed 205 rushing yards. They allowed a quarterback who historically has not been accurate, Vince Young, to complete 76 percent of his throws. A few teams had to go home depressed Sunday night, but none more than the Raiders in a 38-13 rout at Tennessee and Alex Barron's Cowboys in a 13-7 loss to the Redskins.
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