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…


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…


Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman greets fans as he comes onto the field prior to the Redskins game against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on October 16, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

– People have been waiting months for Mike Shanahan’s decision to start Rex Grossman to blow up in his face and it finally happened on Sunday. If the Redskins had anything resembling a quarterback they probably would have beaten the Eagles, whose offense went into hibernation in the second half. But instead they had Grossman, who was extra awful in a four-interception performance. The John Beck talk can wait until tomorrow. Here’s the question for today: Why didn’t the Redskins try to run the ball more? I know they fell behind 20-0 in the first half but for God’s sake, Philadelphia’s run defense is the worst in the league and Washington attempted 14 rushes. Nice game plan, Shanahan. You really thought this one through.

– I think Jason Garrett played not to lose on Dallas’ second to last possession of the fourth quarter. While nursing a 16-13 lead with 3:36 remaining in the game, Garrett went conservative with three straight runs as New England forced a three-and-out. Then Garrett watched as Tom Brady marched right up the field for the game-winning score. Hindsight is always 20/20 but considering Tony Romo (317 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) was having a pretty good day up to that point, I wonder why Garrett didn’t attempt a pass or two to try and pick up a few first downs. Instead, he gave Brady the ball back with an opportunity to win the game. That’s a losing proposition nearly 100-percent of the time and it certainly was again today.

– For as well as Matthew Stafford has played this season, he was pretty bad today. He was sacked five times, including once for a safety. He also looked scatter shot in the pocket and kept throwing the ball sidearm while trying to fit it into the smallest of windows. That said, the Lions were coming off a short week and an emotional win on Monday night against a division rival. They were due for a letdown, even with a good San Francisco team coming to town. All-in-all, the Lions are still 5-1 and sitting pretty in the NFC.

– If the Bills are going to make the playoffs this season then the defense has to keep up their end of the bargain. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a costly interception late in the fourth quarter today against the Giants but the offense is doing all it can to win games for Buffalo. At some point the defense will have to start overachieving or else the Bills are going to struggle to keep pace in an ultra-competitive AFC.

– Considering this was their third straight road game and Sean Payton had to call the plays from the bench after he tore his MCL and fractured his tibia, the Saints deserve a reprieve for their performance in Tampa Bay. That said, a lot of their issues from a year ago were on display again today: Turnovers, poor execution by the defense, and a sloppy performance by Drew Brees. Seeing as how the Bucs were absolutely drummed by the 49ers last weekend in San Francisco, I expected more out of New Orleans today.

– The Texans’ defense held its own in the first-half against the Ravens without Mario Williams, but a 51-yard reception by Torrey Smith and a 56-yard snag by Anquan Boldin killed them in the first half. Even though they’re still in good shape in the AFC South, the Texans’ confidence has to be waning. They need to stabilize the situation quickly before things really get out of hand.

– The Jaguars have to be somewhat pleased that they were able to make a game of it in Pittsburgh today after falling behind 17-0. That said, what a rough day for Rashean Mathis. Not only was he brutalized in coverage but he also got stiff-armed by Rashard Mendenhall on the running back’s 68-yard run. His teammates deserved more effort than that out of the veteran corner.


San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh watches the game action from the sideline during the first half of their NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit, Michigan, October 16, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

– Not the greatest performance by Jim Harbaugh and his 49ers today, but they proved that they could beat a good team on the road. Detroit isn’t exactly an easy place to play, even when the Lions are licking the basement of the NFC North. Ford Field gets even tougher when the home team is 5-0 and the crowd is pissed off following an ugly exit for the Tigers in the ALCS. But regardless, the Niners overcame a tough environment and another inconsistent effort by Alex Smith to reach 5-1 on the season. That’s pretty impressive, especially when you stop and think that they’re one bad quarter against Dallas away from being 6-0. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Niners don’t win the NFC West running away.

– One more note on the San Fran-Detroit game: I think the refs made the right call on that pivotal Delanie Walker touchdown catch. When the play ran live, I thought Walker’s knee was clearly down. But the refs did the right thing by calling it a touchdown and then sending it up to the booth for a review. And while watching the review, it looked like his knee went down either a split second before or after the tip of the ball went across the goal line. In other words, it wasn’t indisputable evidence that it wasn’t a touchdown. If you’re a Detroit fan, you’re right to have beef with the call but if the Lions score one more touchdown in the second half they win and that play winds up being insignificant.

– Hey, they’re not all going to be pretty. The Patriots found a way to beat the Cowboys despite a sloppy performance by the offense. All eyes were on the New England defense coming into the game and for the most part, it certainly did its job. While Wes Welker and Jason Witten had quiet days, that final drive was classic Tom Brady, wasn’t it? Ten plays and 80 yards in two minutes and nine seconds. Brady was 7-for-8 on that drive, which included the 8-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez that left the Cowboys with just enough time not to be able to do anything to respond.

– What a huge blow for the Raiders, who notched another win to get to 4-2 on the year. Jason Campbell’s season-ending injury forces the front office to make its first big decision in the post-Al Davis era. Will Oakland stick with Kyle Boller? Get Terrelle Pryor up to speed quickly? Trade for Kyle Orton before Tuesday’s deadline? Gasp! Sign Brett Favre? Gasp again just for good measure! Things are about to get real interesting in Oakland.

– The Eagles still haven’t played a full four quarters since their season opening victory against the Rams, but a win is a win – especially for a team that had lost its previous four games. Philly is still alive thanks in large part to LeSean McCoy and the awfulness that is Rex Grossman, and can now collect itself during its bye. Time to work whatever magic you have left, Andy Reid.

– What a massive interception by Giants’ corner Corey Webster in the fourth quarter against the Bills. New York was on its way to squandering a fourth quarter lead for the second time in two games before Webster went up high to snatch a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass out of the air. Had the Bills scored and went on to win, a huge cloud of doubt would have formed over Giants Stadium the next two weeks. Instead, thanks in large part to Webster, Eli Manning and a big day from Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants head into their bye with a 4-2 record. Not bad for a team many thought would crumble under the amount of injuries they suffered in preseason.

– I didn’t like Green Bay’s second half performance against St. Louis because when you couple it with the Packs’ first-half against the Falcons last week, you wonder if the slightest of cracks are starting to form in the foundation. For the first time all year, the Packers let their foot off the gas and if it weren’t for a couple of poor decisions by Sam Bradford, the Rams would have made it a game in the second half. That said, Aaron Rodgers’ first-half performance was perfect. Literally. It was literally perfect. He had a perfect passer rating at halftime after throwing three touchdown passes in the second quarter. The bullet he threw to James Jones to make the score 10-0 was incredible. That’s the type of pass that makes you wonder how he fell 23 picks in the draft. Twenty-three picks!

– For anyone who has watched him play this year, there’s no question that Michael Turner’s game is declining. But with Julio Jones sidelined and the offense in a major funk, the Falcons turned the clocks back and put a game on Turner’s shoulders. He responded by rushing for 139 yards and two scores in Atlanta’s 31-17 win over the Panthers. For all of their talk about becoming more explosive, it was Turner and the ground attack that got them back on track. This was far from a perfect win, but the Falcons really needed this for their moral.

– Nice effort by Baltimore’s defense. Even without Andre Johnson in the lineup, the Texans were able to cross midfield on six of their first seven drives but the Ravens only allowed two touchdowns the entire game. Baltimore quietly continues to turn in solid performance after solid performance following its ugly loss to the Titans in Week 2.

– Marvin Lewis looks like he’s having fun again, doesn’t he? Of course he does. He doesn’t have Chad Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh constantly in his face after every series trying to tell him how to do his job. He also doesn’t have to worry about Carson Palmer going off the deep end trying to manage all of the different personalities in the huddle. He just has Andy Dalton. Quiet, low-key Andy Dalton. If the Bengals somehow make the postseason this year, this will be Lewis’ finest work to date. It must be nice for him to do his job in peace for once.

– One week after they crushed Tennessee, the Steelers built a 17-0 lead at home against Jacksonville as Rashard Mendenhall goes off for 146 yards and they still had to hold on for a 17-13 win. What a hard team to figure out.

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