Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 8 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…

St. Louis Rams Steven Jackson looks downfield after making a reception in the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on October 31, 2010. St. Louis won the game 20-10. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

– “If only the Rams could now somehow beat the Saints on Sunday, this would be the greatest sports weekend EVER,” uttered the random St. Louis fan on Friday night after the Cardinals defeated the Rangers in Game 7 of the World Series. How do the previously winless Rams defeat a team in the Saints that just racked up 62 points on the Colts? Well, that’s pretty easy. When you can’t stop Steven Jackson even though you know he’s going to get the ball every down, you lose two turnovers over on your side of the field, and you don’t protect your quarterback, you’re going to lose to most opponents regardless of whether or not they have any wins. The Rams won this game because of Jackson and their defense, which sacked Drew Brees six times and returned one of his passes for a game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter. Chris Long absolutely abused Charles Brown, who should have been given more help because he clearly needed it. The Rams clearly haven’t checked out and they’ll continue to fight every Sunday. That was apparent for anyone who saw Jackson flip out on his offensive line late in the second half following yet another false start penalty. What a sweet first win this was for a city that is on cloud nine right now.

– It’s not really shocking that the 2-6 Panthers lost another game. But considering whom they were playing and given that they were 3.5-point home favorites, it was a little surprising to see Carolina go down in flames to Minnesota on Sunday. Christian Ponder’s 102.7 passer rating and 8.4 yards per attempt were both season-highs for the Vikings, who apparently just should have started the kid from Week 1 and bypassed acquiring Donovan McNabb altogether. Ponder threw for 236 yards and a touchdown on 18-of-28 passing while earning his first career win thanks in large part to Olindo Mare’s inability to hit a 31-yard chip shot. The miss, which came with under a minute left to play, cost the Panthers an opportunity to force overtime. Good thing Carolina GM Marty Hurney spent so much money on Mare this offseason. Dude was totally worth it.

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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.

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Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 6 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…

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) is congratulated by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) on the Bucs’ victory after their NFL football game in Tampa, Florida October 16, 2011. REUTERS/Pierre DuCharme(UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

– A week after the Bucs were absolutely embarrassed by the 49ers in San Francisco, they turn around on Sunday and dominate the Saints to even things up in the NFC South. Granted, this was the Saints’ third-straight road game and their head coach had to call plays from the bench and from up in the booth after tearing his MCL and fracturing his tibia in a nasty first-quarter collision with his tight end on the sidelines. But still, you can’t take anything away from the Bucs today. They picked off Drew Brees, forced four turnovers and got a 300-yard performance out of Josh Freeman. They were also without promising runner LeGarrette Blount, but Earnest Graham filled in admirably with a 109-yard effort. Suddenly the NFC South is once again tight, as the Saints and Bucs are both 4-2 and the Falcons are only one game behind at 3-3.

– Who would have thought that the midfield handshake would provide more action than the actual game between the 49ers and Lions today? I’m sure plenty of Lion fans were upset with Jim Harbaugh’s excitement following the Niners’ win in Detroit, which is understandable. Considering Harbaugh didn’t have his finest coaching performance of the year, he probably could have toned down his exuberance while heading out to midfield to shake Jim Schwartz’s hand. But let’s make one thing clear: If you’re going to dish it out, you better be willing to take it. And Schwartz has been dishing it out all year in the form of taunting opposing players and nearly knocking himself out with hay-maker fist pumps. In fact, as my good buddy Drew (a huge Lions fan) pointed out following the game, Schwartz gave Harbaugh guff in the first quarter after the San Fran coach challenged a touchdown. Schwartz seemingly shouted “No the rules!” at the 49er sideline. The Niners won and Harbaugh has every right to be excited. Schwartz should have kept his composure.

– For about the 9,000,000 time in my career, I was wrong about the Bears. They screw me at every turn. When I predict that they’ll win, they don’t. When I say they’ll lose, they completely dominate a divisional opponent 39-10 on national television. I don’t understand them and quite frankly, I don’t want to understand them. I have zero clue when it comes to predicting the success or failures of the Chicago Bears, whom I predicted would beat Peyton Manning in the 2006 Super Bowl. (We all know how that turned out and I think it’s fitting that I mention that game on the same day Rex Grossman throws four interceptions.) Tonight I thought Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson would take over the game in Chicago and instead, Jay Cutler and Devin Hester put on a clinic. They were masterful against a Minnesota team that I thought was a tad better than its record indicated. Thus, I humbly eat crow, as I was once again was wrong about Chicago. Congrats, Bears – you mother…

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Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 1 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…

Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton (1) laughs after running the ball during first half action, between the Miami Dolphins, and the Carolina Panthers at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida on August 19th 2011. The Miami Dolphins beat the Carolina Panthers 20-10.. UPI/Susan Knowles

– According to every NFL analyst in America, there was a better chance of Cam Newton putting his pants on backwards than resembling anything even close to a quarterback. But lo and behold the kid can play a little. He completed 24-of-37 passes for 422 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, setting a record for most passing yards in a NFL debut. He also rushed eight times for 18 yards and scored on the goal line in the Panthers’ 28-21 loss the Cardinals. Thanks to Newton, Steve Smith looked rejuvenated after spending a year in NFL hell last season. Obviously the former Auburn product isn’t going to throw for 400-plus yards every week but even his biggest critics have to be impressed with how he performed in his debut. And hey, the young man even put his pants on straight, too.

– The Steelers, the Falcons and the Chiefs: What are three teams who apparently forgot that the preseason was only four weeks long, Alex? Give credit where credit is due – the Ravens, Bears and Bills were dominate on Sunday. But it’s not like any of those teams used black magic to fool the Steelers, Falcons and Chiefs, who were absolutely shocked that they had to suit up today. Those three teams, who all won their divisions a year ago, mind you, managed to make flying to the moon look easier than playing football.

– Speaking of the Bills, this team isn’t a pushover any more. Forty-one points on the road? Good grief, man. Ryan Fitzpatrick is just good enough to be dangerous and they have some offensive weapons in Steve Johnson, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Given how bad the offensive line looked in preseason, Chan Gailey has to be thrilled with his team’s performance. And the best part about the Bills today? They acted as if they expected that outcome. I dare say they were fun to watch.

– Not many people had the Bengals beating the Browns in Cleveland today, which is why they wind up in the “DIDN”T SEE THAT COMING” section. But I’m telling you, if Andy Dalton can play mistake free and just mange games in his first year, Cincinnati won’t be as bad as everyone expects.

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Why did Shanahan bench McNabb for Grossman?

DETROIT - OCTOBER 31: Kyle Vanden Bosch  of the Detroit Lions hits Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins during the first quarter of the game at Ford Field on October 31, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Donovan McNabb has been to six Pro Bowls, has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Year and has led a team to a Super Bowl.

Rex Grossman has never been to a Pro Bowl, has never been the NFC Offensive Player of the Year and although he did lead a team to the Super Bowl, it was primarily due to his defense and Devin Hester’s return abilities – not his play at quarterback.

So it’s natural that Mike Shanahan would choose Grossman over McNabb to run his two-minute offense down a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

I’m not kidding. You think I’m kidding? I’m not kidding.

With just under two minutes remaining in the Lions’ 37-25 win over the Redskins on Sunday, Shanahan benched McNabb for Grossman, who promptly fumbled on his first play, which led to a 17-yard touchdown return by Ndamukong Suh to ice the game for Detroit.

The details are sketchy at this point, but McNabb definitely wasn’t hurt. He had taken six sacks and threw an interception that led to the Lions’ go-ahead touchdown with just over three minutes remaining in the game, but his offensive line and running game didn’t do him any favors either. Suh, Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril completely dominated the interior of Washington’s offensive line so there wasn’t much McNabb could do. The interception was ill timed, but he still completed 17-of-30 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. Those aren’t Hall of Fame numbers but he wasn’t Jay Cutler out there either.

Unless McNabb was turning the ball over at a Brett Favre-like pace, there’s really no reason to ever sub Grossman into the game – any game. What did Shanahan think, that Grossman was going to lead the Skins back with a heroic touchdown drive? Grossman hadn’t taken a snap all season and yet there he was, in for McNabb at the most crucial moment in the game.

Look, I could see Shanahan making a move if he had a better option at backup. But this is Rex Grossman we’re talking about. It’s not Kerry Collins, Charlie Batch or even Chris Redman – it’s Rex Grossman. Just why…what the…huh…are you serious?

Shanahan has some explaining to do as the Redskins gear up for their bye.

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