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Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 7 in the NFL

Every Sunday evening throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING…

Denver Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow celebrates after running the ball in for a two-point conversion to tie the score in the fourth quarter of play against the Miami Dolphins in their NFL football game in Miami, Florida October 23, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Murray (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- Earlier this week the Broncos said that they’re not going to change their offense with Tim Tebow taking over at quarterback. Then on Sunday, they kept their game plan ultra-conservative and hardly called any screen passes or high-percentage throws to help build his confidence while being dominated for 56 minutes by a winless Miami team. Do they want the kid to fail? Are they trying to prove that they were right by not starting him over Kyle Orton? Are they trying to stick it to all of the fans that have basically begged the organization to play Tebow? Either way, I absolutely love what the former Gator did today. Despite his coaching staff’s unwillingness to put him in position to succeed, he found a way to pull off a miraculous victory with some help from his defense and kicker Matt Prater. It wasn’t hard to figure that he would score a couple of touchdowns and compile over 200 total yards. But the way he did it was marvelous. The Broncos did nothing until four minutes left in the fourth, when he basically willed them to victory. He’s too nice of a guy to say it, but that had to feel good to stick it up his critics’ asses for just one week.

- While Denver refused to change its offense in efforts to help Tebow, Minnesota did a nice job of using designed roll-outs and plays that maximized rookie Christian Ponder’s strengths at quarterback. The rookie will be seeing Charles Woodson (2 INTs) in his nightmares for a while, but he showed a lot of grit bouncing back in the fourth quarter to nearly lead the Vikings to an upset over the still-undefeated Packers. Ponder is clearly an upgrade over Donovan McNabb and his performance today was definitely something to build on. Green Bay’s defense has struggled all year but for Ponder to have Minnesota in position to win in the fourth quarter was something not a lot of people expected.

- Anyone who watched DeMarco Murray play at Oklahoma knew he was a versatile player with a bright future. He did everything for the Sooners in his time at OU and the Cowboys really got a steal last April when they selected him with the 71st overall pick in the third-round. Nobody envisioned him rushing for 253 yards (a Dallas single-game record) in one game, but it was only a matter of time before Murray turned heads. Granted, 91 of those yards came on one play and he did face a pathetic St. Louis run defense. But given all the issues the Cowboys have had at running back over the years, his feat today had to be refreshing for Jerry Jones and Co. Here’s hoping the 23-year-old back can avoid injuries and build off of this incredible performance.

- I made it clear in my predictions this week that I liked the Chiefs to at least cover the 3.5-point spread in Oakland. But 28-0 with two 50-yard pick-sixes? Yeah, no – didn’t see that coming. Suddenly Kansas City is only a game back of San Diego and Oakland in the win column. That’s quite a contrast to where the Chiefs were a month ago, when head coach Todd Haley was nearly fired for the team’s ugly 0-3 start.

AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM…

Oakland Raiders new QB Carson Palmer (R) talks with QB Kyle Boller (7) in the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California on October 23, 2011. Each QB threw three interceptions in the 28-0 loss. UPI/Terry Schmitt

- Carson Palmer’s three-interception performance today proved that the Raiders made the right decision by not starting him on Sunday. But Kyle Boller’s three-interception day also proved that the Raiders absolutely had to make that trade to acquire Palmer from Cincinnati. There’s no question that they gave up way too much for the 31-year-old with declining skills. But given the Chargers’ penchant for underachieving, the Raiders have to go for it this year. And Boller would have instantly taken them out of playoff contention if he became the full-time starter. The Chiefs are better than what they showed the first three weeks of the season but there’s no excuse for Oakland’s offense to be shut out at home.

- It’s hard not to appreciate how Jim Schwartz is trying to change the mentality in Detroit. The Lions have lost for a very long time and Schwartz is trying to change the entire attitude of the organization. But maybe it’s time for him to turn it down a notch. Last week he got into a scuffle with another head coach and today a group of his players had to be separated from some of the Atlanta players before the game. I don’t know which team started it, but the Falcons have a knack for starting slow on the road so why rile them up? The Lions are a good team but they’ve really showed their inexperience the past two weeks, which includes Schwartz. After their perfect 5-0 start, they’ve now lost two straight games and Matthew Stafford is hurt again. It’ll be interesting to see how this team handles adversity under their fiery coach.

- If the Colts were to play Oklahoma State next Saturday in Stillwater, I wouldn’t be shocked if Indy was an underdog. And I wouldn’t hesitate to lay the points on the Cowboys either. Sunday night’s debacle in New Orleans was just another example among a million of examples for why Peyton Manning is so important to the Colts.

- I wasn’t at LP Field today but I heard on the radio that fans in Tennessee were booing Chris Johnson. If that’s the case, I don’t blame them one bit. Two straight years Johnson demanded more money because he felt underpaid, which he was. I don’t bemoan him for wanting a contract that represented what he was worth as a player. That said, he got paid so now it’s time for him to start living up to said contract. It doesn’t look like he stayed in shape throughout his holdout and it has showed thus far. The Titans have a golden opportunity to make a playoff run when nobody expected they would. But they’re not going anywhere with Kenny Britt sidelined for the year and Johnson underachieving. If he wasn’t in shape at the start of the season because of his holdout, he better get shape and start helping his team. There’s no excuse for a player that good to only rush for 1.8 yards per carry.

- Tony Sparano isn’t solely at fault for the state of the Miami Dolphins. But someone has to be held accountable for not only today’s collapse against Denver, but the entire season up to this point. The Broncos couldn’t move the ball for 56 minutes and somehow the Dolphins finished the day still winless. If the players haven’t checked out already, they will soon. The organization needs to get some fresh blood in there and see if they can’t muster a few positive takeaways out of this season. I just don’t see how Sparano can hold onto his job for much longer.

- For one half today in East Rutherford, it looked like Norv Turner had finally figured out what was wrong with his offense. But after scoring 21 points against Rex Ryan’s defense, the Chargers were completely shut out in the second-half. Granted, the Jets have the best pass defense in the league but Philip Rivers hasn’t looked comfortable in the pocket all season. Now that he has his full compliment of weapons he should be better than he has been. Even in victory he hasn’t looked sharp.

- The Cardinals lost for the fifth straight time but they had to be encouraged by Kevin Kolb’s performance. He threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns, although he was also intercepted once. The Cardinals were going to have a hard time beating the Steelers even if Kolb was perfect, but at least he came out of their bye week and had himself a decent game.

“CHAMPIONSHIP”…

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees celebrates after his team scored a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during their NFL football game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana October 23, 2011. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- Sixty-two points? That’s insane. What the Saints did tonight against the Colts was insane. This isn’t LSU versus Indiana – the Colts are a professional football team and New Orleans hung 62 points on them. I realize that Indianapolis will be selecting in the top 5 next April (if not the top 2), but what the Saints did on Sunday night was beyond impressive when you consider Sean Payton wasn’t even calling plays from the sidelines. He was up in the booth relaying calls to his offensive coordinator, who then relayed the plays to Drew Brees (who oh-by-the-way completed 31 of his 35 pass attempts with five touchdowns on the night). Despite all the communication hurdles the Saints still put 62 points on the board. Amazing.

- The Falcons are now 24-1 when Michael Turner carries the ball at least 21 times. That’s why a lot of talking heads in the media say that the Falcons “need to get back to doing what they do best,” which is running the ball with Turner and controlling the clock. Look, that approach is all well and good. Atlanta has proven it can make the playoffs by using Turner as the backbone of the offense. But how have they fared when they’ve gotten to the postseason? The Packers showed everyone last January that if the Falcons can’t beat teams through the air, they’re going to struggle in the playoffs, plain and simple. Outside of two interceptions, Matt Ryan played very well in Atlanta’s win over Detroit today and he bailed the Falcons out of several third-and-long situations. If Mike Mularkey ever decides to put his ego away and allow Ryan to run the no-huddle exclusively, then the Falcons could really start taking it to teams both on the ground and through the air. (Turner’s longest runs this season have all been out of the no-huddle, proving that the Falcons can run the ball out of that offense.) But until then, don’t expect this team to blow anyone out like the Packers, Patriots or Saints. They’re just not built that way under Mularkey. Having said all of that, the team’s win over Detroit today was huge. That was the Falcons first road win of the year, their first back-to-back wins and the first time they’re above .500. They now have two weeks to figure out the rest of their issues and try to make a playoff run in the second half.

- After Plaxico Burress made comments earlier this week indicating that once he and Mark Sanchez get on the same page the Jets’ offense will start rolling, I made some rather snarky remarks in my Week 7 preview. I basically poked fun at Burress for thinking that he and Sanchez’s lack of chemistry was the reason the Jets’ offense had been struggling. Then I laughed, and I laughed, and I laughed. Well you know what? Now nobody’s laughing after Burress caught three touchdown passes in New York’s impressive victory over San Diego. My apologizes, Plax. You see, I’m just not that bright.

- The Packers won again but this is the third-straight week where they looked shaky for an entire half. Three weeks ago the Falcons took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and a 14-6 lead into halftime before Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay back in the second half. Last Sunday Rodgers had a perfect QB rating against the Rams in the first half before he and the Packers completely took their foot off the pedal in the second half. Then today in Minnesota, the Pack were trailing at halftime before rattling off 20 points in the third quarter and holding on for a win. For the most part, the defending Super Bowl champs have made 7-0 look pretty easy. But I wonder if these last three weeks are an indication that their first loss is on the way. At some point an opponent will make them pay for only playing one half.

- Keep holding off, Jerry Angelo. Every time Matt Forte plays like he did today you cost the Bears more money. Seeing how he’s your offense, he will get paid at some point. Might as well just give him a new deal and make everyone happy.

- Huge, huge win for the Texans today in Tennessee. HUGE. They needed a victory like that to help instill confidence that they can win without Andre Johnson and Mario Williams. Imagine if Houston got that kind of effort out of its running backs every week. (Arian Foster rushed for 115 yards and two scores while Ben Tate added 104 yards on 15 carries.)

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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