Tuesday, September 18, 2007

NFL Week 2: The Results

Patriots leave Videogate behind with pasting of Chargers while the Bucs lay a beatdown on sorry Saints

New England silences critics with dominating 38-14 win over San Diego

What better way to answer a week loaded with scrutiny, criticism, and enormous expectations than by waylaying your most vocal and bitter opponent on national TV?

The Patriots took care of business and took out their frustrations over answering thousands of questions about the video taping scandal the way they always have throughout the Belichick regime, by treating an opponent like O.J.'s memorabilia dealer, and the end result left no doubt as to whether or not New England needed the aid of stolen game tapes to win their three titles.

Consider the answer a resounding "no".

With the hanging commissioner breathing down their necks, the eyes of the pigskin-loving planet trained on their Sunday Night Football contest, and a snarling bunch of crybaby Chargers ready to rip the Pats a new one, New England came out of the locker room and shoved the football down the throat of the vaunted San Diego defense, then let their own defensive unit lay the hammer on league MVP Ladainian Tomlinson (42 yds), over matched QB Phillip Rivers, the artist formerly known as Antonio Gates and Co.

The revamped defense, playing without suspended safety Rodney Harrison and lineman Richard Seymour, was led by blanketing corners Assante Samuel and Ellis 108 yards Hobbs and versatile linebackers Rosie Colvin (2 sacks, 5 tackled, INT) and Adalius Thomas (3 tackles, INT, TD); those four anchored a furious attack that limited the high-powered Bolts to a mere 201 total yards, a paltry 52 coming on the ground.

Meanwhile the much-hyped retooled offense ran like a well-oiled machine for the second week in a row, racking up an excellently distributed 400 total yards as Tom Brady was a Manning-like 25-31 for 279 yards with three TDs and one pick and New England cranked out 144 yards on the ground.

The Randy Moss experiment continues to get rave reviews as well with the reformed wideout grabbing 8 passes from Brady for 105 yards and two more slick touchdowns, bringing his two game total to 17 receptions for 288 yards (17 Y/C) and three scores, once again proving to be a fantasy geek's wet dream.

Not bad for a guy who missed the entire preseason.

That offense would thrive with Tom Terrific incorporating weapons like Moss, the invaluable Wes Welker and Dante Stallworth into the mix this year was a given; it's the defense that has been the surprise thus far with all the turmoil and uncertainty surrounding the unit coming into the season.

Samuel's holdout, Seymour's continuing health problems forcing him to the sidelines for the first six games of the season, and Harrison's embarrassing suspension for receiving HGH were all factors in pundits questioning whether this year's defense would be able to hold up to the challenge of taking a team to the Super Bowl.

After two weeks, 28 points and 428 yards allowed, I'd say those questions have been answered.

Thomas, the free-agent acquisition from the Ravens, proved that his speed, size, and versatility should be a perfect fit in Belichik's ball-hawing defense, and his interception that he returned 65 yards for a touchdown was a effective reminder that the addition of this physical freak may count just as much as that of Mr. Moss when all is said and done.

And if Rosie Colvin can come back from years of injury and ineffectiveness to play like he did Sunday--punishing the passer, roaming the field from sideline to sideline and crushing people whenever possible--this unit could really turn out to be something special.

Bottom line is that as the furor of Videogate dies down, the focus will return to what this season has been about since the beginning of training camp: how easily the Pats cruise through the regular season, and who's going to stop them on their way to their fourth title in six years?

Bucs send Saints marching back to New Orleans with a demoralizing 31-14 lossThis is why it's so hard to predict what team is going to the Super Bowl year after year--you just cannot base the estimation on what a team did the previous season.

Falling one game short of the ultimate game last year, the high-octane Saints were the chic choice to make it to the Bowl this season, what with Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Marques Colston and Deuce McAlister all having had a year to refine their already potent offensive attack.

So far, not so good.

For the second week in a row the Saints got blindsided by an opportunistic offense while its own offense struggled to move the ball down the field, only this time it wasn't the defending Super Bowl champs doing the damage, it was the backsliding Bucs, who despite the addition of Jeff Garcia looked lackluster in losing to the Seahawks last week.

Don't let the final stats fool ya; New Orleans may have finished with more total yards (343-330), passing yards (244-243) and rushing yards (99-87) than the Bucs, but much of that came in garbage time as Tampa Bay had already jumped out to a 21-0 lead by halftime, and after adding another TD to make the score 28-0 with minutes to go in their third, Chucky called off the dogs on a stifling late September day in the Bay.

Everyone here expected the veteran Garcia to provide an immediate upgrade to what was a young and anemic offense, and the fact that he's been willing to butt heads with Gruden in order to run the plays he wants to run and not just the ones Chucky thinks will work has been icing on the cake.

The fact that 57-year-old receiver Joey Galloway is still able to toast DBs and corral 4 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns as he did in this game is a miracle(of modern science?) in of itself.

But the way the aging defense has regained its Super Bowl swagger while upgrading at most of the key positions has been nothing short of amazing. Against the Saints Monte Kiffin's squad, led by a rejuvenated Derrick Brooks (perhaps still pissed that peter King left him off his Topp 500 players list), patrolled the field like Leonidis and his Spartan army.

Up front Brooks (9 tkls) and emerging stud linebacker Barrett Ruud (11 tkls, 1 fumble recovery), along with newcomers Greg White & Jovon Haye (1 sack each), walloped Bush, Brees and McAlister while Ronde Barber, Jermaine Phillips and Tanard Jackson combined for 18 tackles and kept Brees from connecting with targets Colston, David patten and deep threat Devery Henderson until the game was well in hand.

And so two weeks into this season these two teams sit at 1-1, yet one team is looking like an up-and-comer, while the other is looking like a one-and-doner.

Other games of note:

-Cleveland 51, Cincy 45
In the "WTF?!" game of the week, the offensively-challenged Browns, who jettisoned their starting quarterback following last week's season-opening loss, rolled up 554 yards of offense and hung half a hundy on the reeling Bengals.

Cincy has now allowed 883 yards and 71 points in two games, including a Coltish 337 on the ground, and lost for the first time in five trips to C-Town despite 6 touchdown passes from Carson Palmer and 209 yards and 2 TDs from Chad Johnson, who got doused with beer after jumping into the Dawg Pound following his second TD.

He's lucky they didn't pee on him.

- Green Bay 35, NY Giants 13
The surprising Packers ran their record to 2-0 for the fist time in six years as Brett Favre became the winningest quarterback in NFL history, recording his 149th win to pass John Elway in an absolute pasting of the disgraceful G-Men.

While the star-free Pack continue to win behind the gritty play of their grizzled leader, New york continues to spiral down into an ugly abyss. Although injured QB Eli Manning did play and played pretty well, the Giants defense has allowed 846 yards and 80 points in two games, and the more they lose the more likely Commander Coughlin will be made the scapegoat for this mess sooner rather than later.

-San Fran 17, St. Louis 16 the Rams continue to disappoint fans and pundits who had them pegged as a potential sleeper team
-Indy 22, Tennessee 20 another close, exciting game between these emerging division rivals, this time won by the Mannings
-Pitt 26, Buffalo 3 so much for that turnaround season by the Bills
-Houston 34, Carolina 21 the Carr-less Texans are 2-0 for the first time ever
-Jax'ville 13, ATL 9 the Vick-less Falcons are 0-2 and the question is will they ever win one?
-Detroit 20, Minny 17 Kitna helps 10-0 boast by returning from concussion to lead game-winning drive
-Dallas 37, Miami 20 think Tony Romo, T.O and Co. are glad to be out from under the thumb of the grand Tuna? 41PPG says yes
-Arizona 23, Seattle 20 the Cards use a late FG to get over unimpressive Seahawks
-Chicago 20, KC 10 Devin Hester did it again, returning a punt 73 yards for a score as the Bears toppled the weak Chiefs
-Denver 23, Oakland 20 a late Raider FG was nullified by a Denver timeout, and after Oakland missed the new kick, the Broncos marched down the field and hit the game-winner
-Baltimore 20 NY Jets 13 with two backups QBs battling it out on the field, the Ravens defeated the Jets in an ugly, uninspiring game

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