Offensive Players of the Week
Chris Ivory, RB, New Orleans.
The Saints have been dying for a running back to take the heat off Drew Brees in the first six weeks of the season, and finally, in a 31-6 rout of the Bucs in Tampa Bay on Sunday, they got one. Ivory, an undrafted runner from tiny Tiffin (Ohio) College, rushed 15 times for 158 yards, running through and around the outmanned Bucs. That allowed the Saints to have some clean passing lanes for Brees, and they had their first dominant (476 total yards) offensive day of the year.
King Dunlap, T, Philadelphia.
Not many players had as much pressure on them entering Sunday's games as Dunlap, a seventh-round pick by the Eagles in 2008 who had been nothing but a giant (6-foot-8) roster afterthought -- but who had to block, alternately, strong pass-rushers John Abraham and Kroy Biermann of the Falcons. Stats for Abraham and Biermann: zero sacks, zero quarterback pressures. In fact, Kevin Kolb was sacked only once (by defensive tackle Peria Jerry) in his tour de force performance, and afterward he was fired up about Dunlap and the patchwork line. "He was great today. They all were great today. Amazing day for them, and I can't give them enough credit for keeping me clean in the pocket,'' Kolb said.
Defensive Player of the Week
Cameron Wake, LB, Miami
The two-time Canadian Football League defensive player of the year, who always knew he could play in the NFL, is finally proving it. He had three sacks Sunday in the Dolphins' overtime win at Green Bay, giving him six in five games. The combination of Wake and Koa Misi -- who has three sacks of his own in this rookie season -- was a risky one by Miami because of their inexperience. But they've played great together and look like Miami's pass-rush combination of the future.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Dan Carpenter, K, Miami.
In a tight game throughout, and playing for the special-teams-challenged Dolphins, Carpenter was three-for-three in field goals, from an average distance of 46 yards, in the hostile environment of Lambeau Field, complete with 11-mph winds Sunday. His 53-yarder in the second quarter tied the game at 10. His 41-yarder put the Dolphins up 13-10. And in overtime, he drilled a 44-yard strike down the middle of the plate to win it, 23-20.
Coach of the Week
Steve Spagnuolo, head coach, St. Louis.
The Rams, 6-42 in the past three seasons heading into this one, stunned the Chargers to get to 3-3, a half-game behind AFC West co-leaders Arizona and Seattle, after six weeks. Which is amazing enough. But more amazing is that Spagnuolo has taken a non-pressure defense and turned it into a feisty group bringing more pressure than any recent Rams D. On Sunday, the defense got to Philip Rivers seven times, two each by the famous Chris Long and unfamous James Hall and Larry Grant. Suddenly, the St. Louis front is looking a lot like the Giant front that Spagnuolo choreographed into a Tom Brady hounding in the Super Bowl three seasons ago.
Coaching Decision of the Week
Kansas City offensive coordinator Charlie Weis' Patriot redux, resulting in an early touchdown at Houston.
Weis, the former offensive coordinator of the Patriots, had a fourth-and-one from the Houston two midway through the first quarter at Houston. Mike Vrabel, the former moonlighting tight end of the Patriots, lined up as the tight end on the right side of the formation. Cassel, the former quarterback of the Patriots, got the play called into his helmet from Weis. Vrabel, as he did so often in New England with Brady, acted like he was in to block, slipped through two blockers at the line of scrimmage and stood alone in the end zone as an eligible receiver. Cassel tossed it to him. Easiest touchdown of the year.
Goat of the Week
Le'Ron McClain, FB, Baltimore.
McClain's smarter than the play he made in overtime that helped New England win. In a scrum after a no-gain on second-and-nine from the Baltimore 20 with 6:40 left, McClain got into a tiff with Patriot Jermaine Cunningham and shoved him. Flag. Ten yards, personal foul. Baltimore had to punt two plays later, backed up, and the Patriots took over at their 38. Seven plays later, Stephen Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal won it.
1. Tom Brady, QB, New England. No Randy Moss, and so Brady throws passes to Deion Branch instead, completing nine for 98 yards and a touchdown. No big deal.
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis. Yeah. He's really having trouble making all the throws, isn't he?
3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. Funny how much better Brees looks with a strong running game.
4. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee. I can feel a great run coming up for this great runner.
5. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, New York Jets. Making his debut in the MVP Watch, replacing Troy Polamalu. Somehow, I'm not sure LT can stay in here, but he's been vital for the upstart Jets through six weeks.
Five strange ones, courtesy of the 2-4 San Diego (Underachieving Once Again) Chargers:
1. San Diego is 2-0 at home, 0-4 on the road ... winning by an average of 28, losing by an average of 6.3.
2. The Chargers lost twice in Missouri in the span of 34 days.
3. Philip Rivers is on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season passing-yardage record by 271 yards, whatever good that does.
4. The Chargers have outgained the opposition by 1,065 yards.
5. In six games, they've lost nine fumbles, had three punts blocked and had the opposition score touchdowns on returns of punts, kicks, interceptions and blocked punts.
It's the elephant in the room, but let's face it: Shawne Merriman, essentially cut last week by the Chargers, is going to have the scarlet letter "S'' on his chest unless he has at least one more very good year in the NFL.
In his first two San Diego seasons, Merriman had 27 sacks in 27 games, and missed none due to injury. In that second season, he was suspended four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. In the third season, he was still good, with 12.5 sacks, but suffered a knee injury late in the season that plagued him into the next offseason, when he should have had surgery but went against the advice of the Chargers and tried to play the next season with no operation. He couldn't. So in the last three years, he has missed 18 games due to injury and had only four sacks.
Knee, calf, shoulder, Achilles. "He's had these muscle deals,'' coach Norv Turner said the other day.
Fair or unfair, one of the byproducts of some performance-enhancers, obviously, is muscle and soft-tissue injuries. Merriman will be shadowed by the steroid suspension until he puts another good season together.
Not a big fan of princesses, either in the real world or the travel world. Across the aisle from me Saturday morning on the Acela was one of them. Walked onto the train in Boston. Took one look at a four-seat table with the large card saying, "Reserved for parties of 3 or more,'' threw the card on the floor, and then sat there, alone but with a invisible force field around her, for the entire trip. Despite the announcement advising passengers to please keep your feet off the seats, she put her Uggs on the leather seat in front of her. She talked too loudly on the phone, with an annoying lilt to her voice.
I'm quite glad when we got to New York, I headed for the subway uptown and she headed for parts unknown.
"Did you notice jenn sterger's name backwards spells 'regrets'?''
--@LATimesfarmer, Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, Saturday at 9:56 a.m.
Evidently, Ms. Regrets, the former Jets sideline host, is having none of this NFL investigation. Roger Goodell told NBC's Alex Flanagan on Saturday that the league has been unable to get Sterger to cooperate in the league's investigation of allegedly inappropriate texts sent by Favre to Sterger.