"You couldn't believe what it was like—chanting, hollering, hugging, like
we had just won the national championship," quarterback Philip Rivers said
of the moments following San Diego's 42-point, second-half comeback in a 49--41
win over Cincinnati. Talk about a coming-of-age game for a young passer: Down
21--0 with 38 minutes left, Rivers led touchdown drives of 59, 69, 46, 80, 40,
nine and 72 yards. Though the Chargers gave up 66 points in their first two
games without linebacker Shawne Merriman, they are 2--0 since his suspension
for steroid use, and Rivers has proved conclusively that if the Chargers have
to get into a shootout to win a game, he's comfortable in that situation.
If you sense games are snappier this year, you're right. While the number of
plays is up one per game, through last week the average time of games has
dropped two minutes from last year, to 3:05. Vice president of officiating Mike
Pereira credits new commissioner Roger Goodell's emphasis on reducing dead
time. "Roger's concern wasn't excessive penalty calls," Pereira said.
"It was stoppage of play. When we grade officials, it's not just on the
calls they make. It's also on the flow of the game." The average replay
review is down 20 seconds, and officials have refined their calls of two
penalties: Through eight weeks there were 168 fewer offensive-holding calls and
57 fewer false starts than at the same point last year. In the off-season the
league clarified holding as "significantly restricting" the defensive
player and made a point to be more liberal on false-start calls because of
their ticky-tack nature.
Dick Vermeil always said no stat is as telling as turnover margin. This year
the teams with the best margins, Baltimore ( safety Ed Reed, right) at plus-13
and San Diego at plus-9, are each 7--2. Three teams are tied for the worst
margin, minus 8: Oakland (2--7), Cleveland (3--6) and Pittsburgh (3--6).
1 Following another reported blowup between Terrell Owens and assistant coach
Todd Haley, after the Cowboys' 27--10 win in Arizona, there's no way Owens and
Bill Parcells will both be back in Dallas in 2007. My guess: T.O. survives, and
Parcells takes the golden parachute.
2 The most underrated skill-position player in football: 49ers running back
Frank Gore. He's had four 100-yard games behind a shaky offensive line and is
averaging 5.0 yards per rush, more than LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry
3 Think 10--6 is a pipe dream for the Jets? They face the Bears this week, but
after that none of their remaining six opponents has a winning record.
Monday Morning Quarterback, every week at SI.com/football.