Thanks to Romo’s injury, defense, Cowboys can essentially kiss 2010 season goodbye

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 25: Quarterback Tony Romo  of the Dallas Cowboys lies on the field after a left shoulder injury in the second quarter against the New York Giants at Cowboys Stadium on October 25, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It’s usually not wise to pronounce a team’s playoff chances dead after only seven weeks. But an exception can be made for the 2010 Cowboys.

Tony Romo broke his left clavicle in an embarrassing 41-35 loss to the Giants at home on Monday night. As of this writing there hasn’t been a timetable given for his return, but it’s estimated that he’ll miss anywhere from six to 10 weeks, which means the 1-5 Cowboys can essentially put a bullet in their season.

Jon Kitna did throw for 187 yards and two touchdowns while subbing for Romo, but after the Giants took a 38-20 lead midway through the third quarter it was evident that the game was well in hand. The ‘Boys scored on a 15-yard Dez Bryant touchdown with 40 seconds remaining to cut the Giants’ lead down to six, but New York dominated the game once Romo left early in the second quarter.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Wade Phillips keeps his job. He’s come under fire for many things over the past few years but the one caveat is that his defensive game plans are usually sound. But the Cowboys’ defensive effort on Monday was atrocious.

They were left on the field for long periods of time, but as a defense you still have to tackle. You still have to find ways to generate a pass rush and you can’t allow 497 total yards – 200 of which coming on the ground. The Cowboys did pick Eli Manning off three times, but he completed 25-of-35 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns and at one point he completed 18 of his 21 pass attempts. With how easy it was to find space in Dallas’ secondary, receivers Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham must have thought that they were lining up against their scout team.

The Cowboys faced an uphill climb when Romo was healthy but now that he’s going to miss a big chunk of the season, it’s safe to say that the Cowboys aren’t realistic playoff contenders. The Giants are light years better right now and we’re talking about a team that turned the ball over five times on Monday. I can’t imagine what the score would have been had the Giants not given the Cowboys’ scoring chances throughout the game.

The Cowboys suffered a tough break when Romo went out, but there’s no excuse for how the defense played tonight. Phillips and company are in for a long rest of the season.

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Tom Brady notches 100th win as Dolphins take the night off

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (L) takes aim as Miami Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi (R) pursues in the first quarter during their NFL football game in Miami, Florida October 4, 2010. REUTERS/Hans Deryk  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

It’s rather amazing to think about how Tom Brady has evolved. He went from a nobody to an American underdog to, “Man I really hate that Tom Brady. Cut your hair, hippie.”

But whether you love him or hate him, as a football fan you have to respect what the man has accomplished over the course of his career.

Thanks to the Patriots’ 41-14 lambasting of the Dolphins on Monday night, Brady notched his 100th win to become the 11th NFL quarterback to reach the milestone. He also needed less starts to accomplish the feat than any other signal caller who has 100 wins in his career.

Dan Marino and Jim Kelly needed 157 starts to reach 100 wins. Peyton Manning needed 154, Brett Favre needed 153 and Terry Bradshaw needed 147. The only QB to come close to Brady’s mark of 130 was Joe Montana, who needed just 139 starts to reach 100 career victories.

Perhaps the best part for Brady tonight is that he didn’t even have to break a sweat to earn his 100th. With his team trailing 7-6 at halftime, Brandon Tate took the second half kickoff 103 yards to give the Pats a 13-7 lead. Then, after New England blocked a punt on Miami’s first possession of the second half, BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for a 12-yard touchdown to put the Pats up 20-7.

Adding insult to insult, the Pats then blocked a Dan Carpenter field goal attempt at the start of the fourth quarter. Kyle Arrington scooped up the loose ball and went 35 yards for the touchdown to essentially put the game away. A Patrick Chung 51-yard interception return for a touchdown capped the scoring at 41-14 and ended an embarrassing night for the Dolphins, who could do nothing right the entire night.

Despite throwing for 302 yards and two touchdowns, Chad Henne was picked off three times, including twice in New England territory. And the two touchdown passes were more a testament to Davone Bess and Ricky Williams work after the catch than Henne’s throws. (The screen to Williams was an outstanding play call and well executed on all fronts.)

It’s easy to kick a team while it’s down, but how good does Miami’s two wins look now? They barely beat a horrendous Bills team 15-10 in the opener and then dropped a lifeless Vikings squad 14-10 in Week 2. The past two weeks, they struggled against divisional opponents and tonight they showed little fight after Williams’ touchdown early in the third quarter. There they were down three touchdowns and with over nine minutes left on the clock and they displayed zero sense of urgency.

Enjoy the bye next week, Miami. Because after that you play at Green Bay, home against Pittsburgh, at Cincinnati, at Baltimore and home against the Titans. We’ll certainly find out what this Dolphins team is made of over the course of the next five weeks.

A minute and 19 seconds might as well be a lifetime for Drew Brees

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees looks to pass in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers during their Monday night NFL football game in San Francisco, California September 20, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

If Alex Smith goes on to have a solid year in San Francisco, people are going to point back to this night as the moment everything turned for the 26-year-old former first round pick.

The 49ers turned the ball over four times in their 25-22 loss to the Saints on Monday night, yet there they were with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth and a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and a 2-point conversation.

What Smith did next was exactly what quarterbacks have to do in that situation: he orchestrated a flawless two-minute drive and tied the game. He completed four of five passes for 51 yards and managed to scramble for 24 yards on two carries after New Orleans defenders crashed the pocket. Frank Gore capped the drive off with a 7-yard touchdown run and then Smith found Vernon Davis on a successful 2-point conversation attempt, although the play had to be reviewed because the original ruling was that Davis was stopped short of the goal line.

Unfortunately for Smith and the 49ers, Drew Brees still had 1:19 left on the clock and three timeouts. With his team only needing a field goal to win, Brees led the Saints on a seven-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a Garrett Hartley 37-yard field goal (which was partially blocked, yet still had enough mustard on it to get through the uprights).

Smith did what he had to do to give his team a chance to win, but too bad for him Brees has long mastered the art of the game-winning drive.

It was a significant win for the Saints because in all honesty, it was a game they couldn’t afford to lose. Obviously there’s an entire season yet to be played, but the 49ers handed this game over on a silver platter and had San Fran completed the comeback, we would be looking at a reeling New Orleans team heading into a huge divisional matchup with the Falcons this Sunday. (A game in which they may not have Reggie Bush, who injured his leg on a muffed punt midway through the fourth quarter.)

But at 2-0, the Saints remain perfect on the young season.

Matty Ice is still learning

With how exceptionally well he played as a rookie last year, it’s easy to forget that Matt Ryan only has 24 career starts under his belt.

Ryan did some great things in the Falcons’ 35-27 loss to the Saints on Monday night, most notably throwing a 68-yard rainbow to Roddy White to cut New Orleans’ lead to 28-21 early in the third quarter. He also found White and Tony Gonzalez on some key third downs to keep the chains moving and leave the Saints’ dynamic offense on the sidelines for most of the second half.

But he also made some mistakes that second year quarterbacks are unfortunately prone to making. Things like zeroing in on Gonzalez or forcing a pass into a well covered White late in the first half that led to a huge defensive touchdown for the Saints. He also looked rushed in the pocket at times and took a couple of unnecessary sacks because he didn’t go through all of his progressions. For a young man who has built the reputation of having ice water in his veins, “Matty Ice” looked uneasy several times when the Falcons needed a big play in the passing game.

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The Saints have that Super Bowl feel about them

With their thrilling 35-27 win over the Falcons on Monday night, the Saints are off to their best start in franchise history at 7-0.

They were far from perfect tonight, but it’s hard not to watch the Saints without getting a sense that this team is destined for big things. Their offense is balanced and can beat opponents in a variety of ways, while the defense is incredibly opportunistic and more aggressive under new coordinator Gregg Williams than they have been in years past.

Save for a fumble that led to a Falcons’ defensive touchdown and an interception (what a play by Atlanta cornerback Brett Grimes) that killed a potential scoring drive, Drew Brees was incredible again tonight. Some of the throws he made were so perfect that he couldn’t have walked them to his receivers any better. And speaking of his receivers, Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey and Robert Meachem made some absolutely athletic catches with defensive backs draped on top of them. The one-handed grab that Shockey made in the fourth quarter to help set up the Saints’ final touchdown was one of the best catches of the year.

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