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Tunnel Vision - Week 5
By David M. Dorey
September 29, 2003
 

Week Four Bumps, Bruises and Bow-outs

After all the injuries this season, here is a delightfully short list this week.
Lamar Gordon (ATL) - Injured wrist
Corey Dillon (CIN) - Re-aggravated groin injury
Kris Mangum (CAR) - Sprained ankle
Jim Kleinsasser (MIN) - Abdominal contusion - returned to game

Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Peyton Manning 314 6
Rich Gannon 348 3
Gus Frerotte 267 4
Running Backs Rush TD
LaDainian Tomlinson 211 1
Stephen Davis 191 1
Jamal Lewis 159 1
Wide Receivers Catch TD
Randy Moss 172 3
Marvin Harrison 158 3
Torry Holt 133 1
Tight Ends Catch TD
Shannon Sharpe 74 1
Doug Jolley 55 1
Alge Crumpler 76 0
Placekickers XP FG
Jeff Wilkins 4 3
John Kasay 2 3
Mike Vanderjagt 7 2
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Kansas City 1 4 3
Tennessee 1 3 2
Carolina 0 6 1

Okay, okay, other than Terrell Owens...

After chronic low scoring the first weeks of the season, week four finally treated us to the long awaited points explosion, concluded appropriately with the Colts 55-21 humiliation of the Saints. Yesterday there were a dozen quarterbacks with at least two touchdowns and six with at least three touchdowns. There were nine different runningbacks that exceeded 100 total yards and they included notables like Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter. For some reason there were no runningbacks that had multiple touchdowns, but there were three receivers that did and that includes Randy Moss (3) and Marvin Harrison (3). Donovan McNabb was good again! The Eagles used Correll Buckhalter!

Gannon was the best quarterback, Tomlinson was the best runningback and Randy Moss and Marvin Harrison were both so good why bother with who did more? It was finally a week that saw those high draft picks pay off (at least more of them) and a weekend that starts with touchdowns everywhere before the cheese on your nachos goes cold is a week we needed to see.

Not so easy when they still care, huh - boy wonder?

Thanks to his elbow stitches, Mark Brunell missed the Houston game and gave Byron Leftwich his first NFL start on Sunday. He had mopped up in the last two games and completed 11 of 13 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns against no interceptions. The games were already decided and not all players saw his performance since they were already preparing to leave.

In Houston against a team that is getting pretty tired of never being favored in any game, Leftwich did set a franchise record with a 84-yard touchdown throw to Troy Edwards. Other than that wonderful throw, Leftwich completed 16 of 35 passes for 147 yards, no scores, three interceptions and a very badly timed lost fumble which gave the ball back to Houston. Since Jacksonville hosts the Chargers next week, Mark Brunell had better heal up before Leftwich starts to think it is that easy again.

Sign #8 that you are not going to get back into the game

Down only 17-7 with the second quarter only 28 seconds from ending, the Rams had the ball on their own 36 yard line. Since St. Louis was facing Arizona, Marc Bulger did not just take a knee to end the half but instead winged the ball to Isaac Bruce all the way down at the Arizona 5-yard line where it was intercepted.

Oops.

Dexter Jackson ran back to the 35-yard line before he was stripped of the ball. Instead of a momentum changing return, Jackson ended up letting the ball pop out and get recovered by the Rams.

Oops.

With only three seconds left, Jeff Wilkins nailed the 53-yard field goal. Another sign that the Cardinals were not the winning team came after the game when it was realized that they had taken their #1 NFL ranking for converting third downs (59%) and likely damaged it since they never actually converted one in the game.

Oh for the love of... now who is that one?

There were twenty-six teams that played yesterday which means there were, at least in theory, 26 primary rushers. In addition to those 26 primary running backs, there were 45 more backs that took a handoff yesterday and ten others that had no carries but at least one catch. What ever happened to the good old days when Edgerrin James would take every single handoff for his team?

Speaking of the Colts, those fantasy fans who scrambled with the back-up guessing game all were rewarded with a little something for the effort. There was Dominic Rhodes (52 yards, 1 TD), Ricky Williams (74 yards, 1 TD) and even James Mungro (30 yards) just in case you guessed wrong. Fred Taylor only gave up one carry to FB Marc Edwards and Priest Holmes only saw Tony Richardson run the ball once as the only two rushers with minimal sharing. Weren't those the two guys that needed resting the most?

Drama 101 - Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Gus Frerotte 267 4 QB Jeff Garcia 108 0
RB Brian Westbrook 101 1 RB Corey Dillon 20 0
RB Ricky Williams (Colts) 74 1 RB Eddie George 18 0
WR Troy Edwards 111 1 WR Terrell Owens 55 0
WR Justin McCareins 81 1 WR Lavernues Coles 62 0
WR David Givens 57 1 WR Plaxico Burress 64 0
PK John Kasay 2 XP, 3 FG PK Owen Pochman

1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 121

Huddle Fantasy Points = 26

I practice that. Of course it never actually happens in practice.

The Raiders punter Shane Lechler was asked to come out on fourth and six from the Oakland 26-yard line and earn his paycheck. The punt, which should be immortalized immediately to the right when you enter the Punters Hall of Fame that will never be built, traveled at least fifty yards in the air and was not fielded by the Charger return man. He decided to "let it go" since the punt hit the ground and shot toward the endzone. By the ten yard line it was slowing but not quite enough to stay out of the endzone. At least not until the tumbling trajectory hit the nose of the ball just right on the half yard line and it lazily bounced exactly parallel to the goal line. That made for a 73 yard punt and today was much too good to be talking any further about punts.

It all averages out

LaDainian Tomlinson may have been a disappointment to all those fantasy teams that drafted him with their precious first pick, but he tried to make it up with 187 rushing yards and one score, seven receptions for 24 yards and then he also threw a 21-yard touchdown pass back to Drew Brees. Now if he could just kick field goals too...

Sunday's Couch Commentary

TEN 30, PIT 13 The Titans continue their role as the "bad cold" that the Steelers get every year - you know it is coming, you can do whatever you want to avoid it and yet it still lays you out for a week and makes all the fans grab their tissues. On the plus side, it can only happen once a season now that they changed divisions.
SF 7, MIN 35 Maybe the 49ers should take this whole week off and just stay home playing Nintendo. It certainly worked for Randy Moss. The battle of Owens vs. Moss turned into the Mrs. Erickson's class field trip to see a real football team. Terrell Owens said ' "Wowser! I want to do that someday!" just prior to going back to the bus where he broke all the windows.
KC 17, BAL 10 The bad part of the game for the Ravens was not the 140 yard, no scores and three touchdowns that Boller had. It was the fact that he was the best QB available. J-Lew is still a celebrity even if the Priest left town still in the hunt for the ring.
CIN 21, CLE 14 Bengals lose Dillon, Cleveland dusts off Quincy "Me? Really?" Morgan and yet Cincy still turns in a win because this sort of game must happen at least once each week in the NFL. Who are the real Bengals or Browns? You are not supposed to know.
PHI 23, BUF 13 Maybe the Eagles are just a really good road team. McNabb's back and your dropping of Westbrook last week now looks like less of a good idea. Don't worry - if you take him back he'll never do it again.
NE 17, WAS 20 Washington discovers they can win games without passing well if they just allow their opponent to throw all the interceptions. Patriots use six different rushers and eight different receivers all of which does not add up to even one good fantasy player.
ARZ 13, STL 37 The Rams held the ball 42 minutes of the game. That's 35 Cardinal plays to 83 for the Rams. That's another loss for the Cardinals. A perfect example of this throwback week.
SD 31, OAK 34 OT The Raiders finally learn the secret of winning again. It takes 45 minutes of play before their joints loosen up and their iron supplements kick in. Chargers make it a great game by using stars like Antonio Gates and Justin Peelle and their secret weapon is ' ssshhh - LaDainian Tomlinson. Rumors are that David Boston missed the overtime period because his mirror was not facing the TV.
ATL 3, CAR 23 You skunked us twice last year? WHAP! Think you are still so bad without Vick? WHAP! Well who is your daddy now? WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! Doh - someone go catch that Crumpler kid before he gets away.
DET 16, DEN 20 Proof positive that you cannot ever try to mail in a game against an inferior opponent these days. Unless, of course, they are the Lions on the road in which case they'll eventually screw it up for you. Mooch actually could have won the game but wanted to save that elusive first Detroit road win in three years for a little matchup he has in San Fran next week.(Pssst - cover Terrell)
DAL 17, NYJ 6 Parcells stops off at the airport to buy a "I LOVE NY" bumpersticker for his golfcart. Maybe the Cowboys are not as good as everyone, but they are definitely as good as they can be. HC Herman Edwards now wears a perpetual look that says "I sort of wrecked the car again, Dad".
IND 5598, NO 21 So THAT'S what the "Big Easy" means. Peyton proved you not only can go home, but you can also throw six touchdowns for a team record. Marvin Harrison seeks out sponsors to advertise on the butt of his pants since that is about all the secondary ever sees.

Game-O-The-Week

Winner: Jacksonville 20, Houston 24

The Raider-Charger tilt was a definite contender as an overtime game with big scores and yards. San Diego lost one receiver and suspended the other before the game and yet still made the Raiders sweat like a sumo wrestler at an iron foundry before they could steal the win. But in the end, Houston richly deserves the nod for not only entertaining us, but for giving us a reminder of why we play games in the first place.

The Texans entered the game 1-2 on the season and still lamenting the fact that Vegas still always considers them as the underdog. No matter that they are at home and facing a winless team that is starting a rookie quarterback who would be throwing the ball to...well... no one actually. Matthew Hatchette, J.J. Stokes, Cortez Hankton, Troy Edwards and Jimmy Redmond couldn't scare a defense with machetes and five hockey masks.

At the half, the Texans led 14-10 and then padded that with a Kris Brown field goal in the third quarter to make the score 17-10. With the ball on their own 16-yard line, Byron Leftwich threw an incomplete. Then on second down, he hits Troy Edwards (yes - that Troy Edwards) at the 31-yard line and Troy does not stop running until he scores the longest touchdown in Jaguars' history to tie the game and force a painful smile from the sidelined Mark Brunell.

Not to be outdone, the Texans take the ball and march down to the JAX 32-yard line where Kris Brown kicks a field goal wide right. Jacksonville takes over.

Using a mixture of Fred Taylor, a few passes and RB LaBrandon Toefield who himself throws two different passes (1-2, 32 yards), Jacksonville finally stalls out at the Houston 2-yard line and takes the go ahead field goal for a 20-16 lead. Yikes! This is not going to play in Vegas very well.

After trading a few punts, the Texans are on the march for the game tying field goal using passes to Andre Johnson and Jabbar Gaffney down to the JAX 21-yard line. Plenty close for that game tying field goal and on second and six, the Houston braintrust decides to copy the Jaguars by having Stacey Mack enter the game and throw a pass at Andre Johnson. The problem with this, beyond the fact that all these halfback passes are getting a bit tedious, is that he threw it to the CB Jason Craft at the 5-yard line. With only 4:35 left to play. And the ball is now on the JAX 13-yard line.

Jacksonville just needs to get some first downs and use up the clock. Fred Taylor runs it for one yard, then Leftwich throws a pass to Troy Edwards for an 11 yard gain and a first down. Clock is running and goes below three minutes. Then Fred Taylor rushes again for three yards. On second down and seven yards to go, with a clock to kill and Fred "I'm still healthy" Taylor in the backfield, Jacksonville decides to pass. But the rush forces Leftwich out of the pocket and instead of throwing the ball away and killing the clock, he wisely takes off running and makes it nine yards down the field before the safety Eric Brown catches up to him and wisely pops the ball out of his hand which is recovered by Houston's Matt Stevens at the JAX 28 yard line with only 2:51 left to play.

On Monday, Leftwich should just loop the Edwards touchdown catch when he reviews the game film.

Stacey Mack was out of the game by now since he had already thrown an interception, fumbled the ball away on a run and then dropped a pitch on the next play. Instead, the rookie Domanick Davis ran the ball four times and had two catches to get the Texans down to the JAX 4-yard line with only 29 seconds left to play.

First and ten. Time for a play or two and if that did not work, the tying field goal.

First down - incomplete to Corey Bradford
Second down - Carr cannot throw and gets tackled at the line but a defensive offsides is called.

Replay second down with only 20 seconds left. Carr throws to Andre Johnson but since he is wearing Fernando Bryant on his back, pass interference is called.

First and goal to go from the one, 16 seconds left to play. Davis runs it for no gain and Houston calls a time-out with only 9 seconds remaining as I make a mental note to never again drink so much Dr. Pepper before the end of a close game. On third and one, from the one yard line with only six seconds left to play, Houston does not take the field goal. You know - kick the field goal on third down. Play it safe - get the tie - what are they doing?

Carr takes the snap and fires the ball right before getting hit and it zips past Jabbar Gaffney for an incomplete. The same Gaffney that has also taken to wearing cornerbacks as capes and and pass interference is again called. Only two seconds are left. And then the unthinkable happens. In a league that has traded leadership for committees and turned head coaches from military commanders to mere game managers, HC Dom Capers makes an astounding choice.

Instead of playing to not lose the game, he has the audacity to try to win it. Outright. Right now. Here. One play.

And with that, David Carr walks to the line, gets under center and before the defense has the obligatory six seconds to shift in response to some complicated formation, Carr takes the snap and leaps over the back of his center, shoving the ball over the goal line while held high in the air like an offensive middle finger for Vegas, and playing it safe and anything else short of playing to win. Here and now. One play. Let's go. Me or you.

That's all it was ever supposed to be.

Not five yard passes on third and nine. Not take a knee with forty-five seconds to halftime. Not look for a flag after every play and cry to the refs. Not play according to the number of years on your contract. Not drive the field, consume the clock and kick a field goal so we can start over. Play the game to win. Play the game to win. Right here. Right now. Play the game to win.

Now get back to work...