Winners, losers and other observations: Week 4
By James C. Black, Yahoo! Sports
September 30, 2007
Daunte Culpepper delivered against his old squad. So did Matt Schaub, but the pair experienced different results.
On a day when quarterbacks (Brett Favre, anyone?) and the revenge factor dominated the story lines, Culpepper walked out of Dolphin Stadium with his head up while Schaub left the Georgia Dome disappointed.
Culpepper, saying all the right things earlier in the week about the Miami Dolphins making a "business" and not "personal" decision to release him, relished the Oakland Raiders' 35-17 victory on Sunday. That was evident every time he got his "roll on" after a score – save for the one time after a rushing touchdown when he pointed at his right knee and gestured to the fans that it was "OK." But hey, three rushing touchdowns and two more passing would put just about anyone in good spirits, right?
Schaub also had to be excited to show his old team what it was missing out on after trading him to the Houston Texans in the offseason. And if the game simply had been reduced to a battle of quarterbacks, Schaub would have bragging rights over the Atlanta Falcons' Joey Harrington. Unfortunately for Schaub and the Texans, his 28-of-40 passing, 317 yards and one touchdown weren't enough to keep Houston from dropping a second straight game without wide receiver Andre Johnson.
In a day filled with big moments and exciting play, here are more winners, losers and other observations from Week 4:
• Brett Favre has reminded us of why we like the NFL and sports so much: Just when you want to count someone out, he strings together a performance or a series of them to make you aware he's alive and kicking. We've been resigned to the fact for a while that Favre would eventually pass Dan Marino as the NFL's all-time leader for career passes (now at 422). But what we didn't know going into this season was that Favre and the Green Bay Packers would emerge as the team to beat in the NFC North and become legitimate contenders in the NFC. Yeah, it's still early, but the Chicago Bears have QB issues (we'll get to that in a sec) and the Packers are more balanced than the surprising Detroit Lions.
• Trent Edwards, in place of the injured J.P. Losman, was saddled with the responsibility of guiding a team that had scored a whooping 24 points in the first three weeks. He responded by stringing together enough timely passes, finishing 22-of-28 for 234 yards, as the Bills notched their first victory of the season with a 17-14 win over the New York Jets.
• In the past three games, the Cleveland Browns have scored at least 24 points. That matches their total from 16 games a year ago.
• Lovie Smith made the right decision to bench Rex Grossman. His hand was forced after "Bad Rex" was awful against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3. However, as it had been suggested all along, Griese probably won't be much better. Griese threw two touchdown passes but also had three picks – one in the end zone and another returned for a touchdown – during the loss to the Lions.
• For the second time in three weeks, Carolina Panthers fans have witnessed their team get embarrassed at home a week after an impressive road victory. So should they root for road defeats in the next two games and expect good things to happen in their next home game in Week 8 … against the Indianapolis Colts? Uh, maybe they should look ahead to the home game in Week 10 against the Falcons.
• Everyone is looking at the ailments suffered by Orlando Pace, Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger as being the reason the St. Louis Rams are struggling so much. Offensively, that might be true, but don't ignore the role of a defense that has allowed career days to Earnest Graham (two rushing touchdowns) and Patrick Crayton (184 yards) in the past two embarrassing losses.
• Is an explanation needed for the 1-3 San Diego Chargers? Didn't think so.
• The Baltimore Ravens are struggling in the discipline department this year. On fourth and 4, Baltimore jumped offside to nullify a missed long field goal by the Cleveland Browns' Phil Dawson. The Browns retained possession and eventually capitalized with a 1-yard scoring run by Jamal Lewis for a 24-3 lead. So the poised, veteran Ravens have compiled these not so impressive '07 stats: six turnovers in a Week 1 loss to Bengals; 11 penalties for 100 yards against Jets in Week 2; and two touchdowns allowed by the Browns following turnovers. Not good, Brian Billick and Company.
• Speaking of 2006 playoff teams, here's a reminder that success one year guarantees you nothing the following campaign. Five of the postseason qualifiers from last year are under .500: Chargers, Bears (1-3), Jets (1-3), Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) and New Orleans Saints (0-3).
Gutsy call: Even in defeat, Mike Tomlin made an incredibly bold move and statement that should inspire tremendous confidence in his offensive players. Ahead 7-0 midway in the second quarter, the Steelers went for it on fourth and inches from the 29-yard line – Pittsburgh's 29. Ben Roethlisberger converted on a quarterback sneak, but the drive stalled. As a co-worker suggested: not sure if that shows less respect for the Arizona defense or Matt Leinart. Maybe the former, considering Pittsburgh capped its previous drive with a 43-yard touchdown pass from Big Ben to Santonio Holmes on third and 26.
Bad driving conditions: Charlotte was an unkind location for football players with automotive-related names. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Cadillac Williams suffered what was, according to what a source told Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole, a torn patellar tendon after an 18-yard gain in the first quarter during the team's 20-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Meanwhile, Carolina's David Carr was horrendous, going 19-of-41 for 155 yards with a pick and three sacks. The lone highlight was a 24-yard scoring pass to DeAngelo Williams with 23 seconds left to avoid being shut out.
Lightning strikes twice: The start of the Oakland Raiders-Miami Dolphins game was delayed because of lightning prior to the national anthem at Dolphin Stadium. The Raiders' road opener against the Denver Broncos in Week 2 temporarily was disrupted because of lightning strikes. It's probably a good idea to get an advance weather report for the Raiders' next road game against the San Diego Chargers in Week 6.
Another broadcasting jinx: Late in the Bears-Lions game, announcers made a point of suggesting that Chicago desperately would try to force a turnover on every play given that it was trailing by three points. Dick Stockton followed that up by saying the Lions needed to emphasize wrapping up the ball in the huddle. So what happens the very next play?: Roy Williams loses the ball after a 5-yard gain. Fortunately for the Lions, the ball went out of bounds. Even more fortunate, Detroit scored on the play after that.
Time for a group hug: We know the Michael Vick situation has put an unimaginable amount of pressure on the Atlanta Falcons, but does that explain the lack of tolerance the team's members have shown to one another recently? As if the DeAngelo Hall confrontation with Bobby Petrino last week weren't enough, defensive backs Lawyer Milloy and Lewis Sanders got testy with each other in the end zone Sunday. Apparently, the issue quickly was resolved on the sideline.
Team player: Cris Carter and other former/current wide receivers repeatedly have gone on about how hard Terrell Owens works, despite all the talk about his theatrics and reputation for being a "me" guy. His unselfishness was on display Sunday when he sprinted downfield to provide blocking for Patrick Crayton on a 59-yard scoring reception in the third quarter.
Kickers are athletes, too: Packers punter Jon Ryan might have put on the most mobile display ever by a kicker when the team called for a fake punt on its first possession of the second half. On fourth and 4 from the 50-yard line, Ryan started off going right but ran into Minnesota's Vinny Ciurciu. He got away from the defender, ran back to his left, popped back through the middle and spun to pick up the first down.
James C. Black is the NFL editor for Yahoo! Sports.
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