The beat goes on. Five teams remain undefeated: New England, Indy, Pittsburgh, Dallas and—surprise!—Green Bay. Five remain winless: Atlanta, Buffalo, Miami, St. Louis and New Orleans.
Titans 34, Saints 14—Titans (2-1) do a lot of little things well enough, but also intercept Drew Brees 4 times. Saints—considered Super Bowl contenders by many preseason prognosticators (ahem...)—are in trouble with 0-3 start. Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister combine to rush for 20 yards on 11 carrries. Both teams head into bye week facing in opposite directions.
Giants 24, Redskins 17—Skins (2-1) blow 17-3 halftime lead in one of the grossest displays of lack of character you’ll ever see. And on their home field no less. They even had a first-and-goal with a minute to play and couldn’t punch in a tying TD. Giants (1-2) plucky in making comeback. Plucky...and lucky.
Eagles 56, Lions 21—The 2-1 Lions’ passing offense is okay, but that defense needs help if they’re going to be a force in the NFC North. QB Donovan McNabb flawless for Philly (1-2), with 21-26, 381 yards, 4 TDs. RB Brian Westbrook and WR Kevin Curtis have huge days also. Eagles’ D records 8 sacks.
Cowboys 34, Bears 10—Cowboys (3-0) look excellent. But never mind the balanced and potent offense; the D recorded three sacks and grabbed three INTs. Bears’ D tried, but team’s sputtering offense kept turning it right back to Romo, Owens & Co. Even Brian Urlacher is human, you know. Bears now 1-2, and QB Rex Grossman is...well...gross, man. His on-the-job training program probably shouldn’t continue. Brian Griese is a proven productive NFL quarterback. Here’s the proof. He’s only 32, and he deserves a chance.
Colts 30, Texans 24—Peyton & Co. outlast gritty Texans (2-1). Once again, Colts’ D rises up in final moments to shut down an opponent’s last-ditch effort. Colts (3-0) balanced in all phases of game. Texans play without Ahman Green, Ron Dayne and Andre Johnson, but still put up a fight behind QB Matt Schaub.
Patriots 38, Bills 7—Pats (3-0) score 38 points for the third consecutive game. Brady, Moss and Maroney all stellar. A juggernaut in the making. Bills are now 0-3, and lost starting QB J. P. Losman to injury, replaced by rookie QB Trent Edwards. Bills rookie LB Paul Posluszny breaks left forearm. Bills’ season in shambles.
Bucs 24, Rams 3—Jeff Garcia once again leads the 2-1 Bucs to victory, with efficient, errorless passing and inspiring leadership. Cadillac Williams, Earnest Graham and Michael Pittman combine for 177 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, while the 0-3 Rams get their running game untracked (Steve Jackson: 115 yards), QB Marc Bulger throws 3 INTs. Rams’ playoff hopes already in jeopardy, and schedule just gets tougher.
Steelers 37, 49ers 16—Solid defense, quietly efficient quarterbacking by Ben Roethlisberger, and another fine running performance by Willie Parker vault the Steelers to 3-0 and status as a serious force in the AFC. Steelers have outscored opponents 97-26. Niners (2-1) keep it close into the second half, then Steelers wear ‘em down.
Packers 31, Chargers 24—Packers, now 3-0, still have no running game, but Brett Favre is proving that retirement would’ve been a mistake. Fabulous numbers (28-45, 369 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) and good use of eight different receivers keeps the Pack offense rolling, with WRs Donald Driver and Greg Jennings hauling in 10 passes for 208 yards and 2 TDs. Pack D contains LaDainian Tomlinson and rest of Chargers offense just enough to seal impressive win. Chargers now 1-2 and coach Norv Turner on hot seat.
Ravens 26, Arizona 23—Cards QB Matt Leinart gets benched and sub Kurt Warner almost shows him how to do it, with 15-20 for 258 yards and 2 TDs. Ravens (2-1) win tight one at home on Matt Stover’s last-second field goal. Baltimore controls clock and grinds this one out. QB Steve McNair has decent game but replaced late due to nagging injury. Rookie Yamon Figurs sparks Ravens with 75-yard punt return for a TD.
Jets 31, Dolphins 28—Winless Fins put together balanced offense and score some points but can’t contain Jets in New York. Jets, now 1-2, benefit from another canny, error-free performance from Chad Pennington, 110 yards rushing from Thomas Jones and a 98-yard kickoff return from Leon Washington.
Chiefs 13, Vikings 10—Chiefs get first victory with solid defense (5 sacks) and a step-up performance from rookie WR Dwayne Bowe. Chiefs RB Larry Johnson still can’t get untracked in the running game, with 24 carries for only 42 yards. Vikings (1-2) get 102-yard performance from rookie Adrian Peterson but not much of anything else on offense. Vet Kelly Holcomb replaces injured Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.
Seahawks 24, Bengals 21—QB shootout won by Matt Hasselbeck in the last minute boosts ‘Hawks to 2-1 while Bengals fall to 1-2. Cincy QB Carson Palmer puts up big numbers but also throws two INTs. WRs Chad Johnson and T. J. Houshmandzadeh combine for 21 catches for 279 yards. Seattle RB Shaun Alexander gains 100 yards on 21 carries.
Raiders 26, Browns 24—Tightly contested affair goes to Raiders for their first win of the season. Daunte Culpepper replaces injured Josh McCown at quarterback for Oakland, which mostly rides the running of LaMont Jordan (29-121) to the victory. Browns RB Jamal Lewis has mediocre game to follow-up last week’s 200+-yard effort. Both teams now 1-2.
Jaguars 23, Broncos 14—Jags (2-1) dominate time of possession almost 2-to-1 to gain road victory. Balanced attack features unspectacular but error-free effort from QB David Garrard and 173 rushing yards from Garrard, Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Broncos (2-1) contained effectively both in the air and on the ground by stout Jags D.
Panthers 27, Falcons 20—Winless Falcons waste excellent effort from QB Joey Harrington, who completes 31-44, for 361 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs. Panthers get efficient quarterbacking from Jake Delhomme and backup David Carr, plus a pair of TDs and big yards on the ground from DeShaun Foster (20-122) to close out a closely contested battle. Falcons hurt themselves badly with 135 yards worth of penalties.
NBC’s grandiosely named “Football Night in America” is, in a word, bombastic. All we can say is that Bob Costas is at least not an ex-player, which is getting to be pretty refreshing these days. The lead-in show to “Sunday Night Football” features a real kiss-ass feature where ex-jocks Chris Collinsworth, Tiki Barber and Jerome Bettis huddle at their own little “kids table” and swap POVs from the player perspective. (Hey, Bus, how are those thinking and talking lessons coming along?) But worst of all is decidedly non-jock Keith Olbermann, who goes from pillar to post trying to decide if he’s a serious newsman or a sports funnyman. Surprise, Keith—you’re neither. All I can say is, you can tell he didn’t go to Harvard or Yale. If I didn’t know it was Cornell, I’d’ve guessed Brown. (You know, the school that made Lisa Simpson apoplectic when she projected that attendance there would mark her forever as a “mediocre” genius.) Olbermann is neither witty nor enlightening, and clearly sports run a distant second to his real love: himself. Why not do a taped player profile in that slot—with cool action footage—instead of making us watch Keith playing with his toy telephone?
“Monday Night Football” was a relatively quiet affair. The Booth Boys were okay, and Jaworski was getting some mileage out of his game analysis. The jabber about New Orleans, the city, making a comeback post-Katrina, etc., has gotten tiresome, though. I did like it when the camera focused on a woman with short blonde hair and large breasts, sporting a t-shirt that said something about “keep rebuilding.” But then Little Suzy Kolber did a cutesy-pie interview with former Saints player Archie Manning. She asked Peyton’s dad about New Orleans, whereby Archie proceeded to inform us that the food and the music and the French Quarter were “all back,” and the city just needed people to start coming back again. Typical “tourist dollar” mindset, Archie. Not too incisive. Maybe this time around the folks of New Orleans could build their city on good infrastructure, light industry, manufacturing, e-commerce, retail businesses, and decent schools and public safety, with a tax climate that will provide incentives for all of that. These people are living in a dream world, methinks. And after the Saints got their butts kicked by the Titans, they might have to start rebuilding again themselves.
Media question of the day: Is FOX football announcer Kenny Albert Marv Albert’s son? If he is, does he get kinky in the bedroom too?