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Tunnel Vision - Week 8
David Dorey
October 24, 2005
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Daunte Culpepper 280 2
Mark Brunell 252 3
Brett Favre 315 2
Running Backs Yards TD
Lamont Jordan 162 3
Clinton Portis 113 3
Edgerrin James 147 2
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Donald Driver 114 1
Santana Moss 112 1
Az-Zahir Hakim 100 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Antonio Gates 72 1
Heath Miller 58 1
Dallas Clark 51 1
Placekickers FG XP
Lawrence Tynes 3 3
Jason Elam 3 2
Paul Edinger 3 2
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Indianapolis 1 5 2
Arizona 1 3 3
Philadelphia 1 3 3

Week 7 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Robert Ferguson (GB) - Knee sprain/possible hyper-extension
Ahman Green (GB) - Reaggravated knee sprain
Aaron Stecker (NO) - Sprained ankle
Chris Brown (TEN) - Shoulder stinger
Billy Volek (TEN) - Concussion
Kevin Johnson (DET) - Achilles injury (season-ending)
Charles Woodson (OAK) - Broken leg

Welcome to Hell Winter, Mr. Passing Game

As a calling card for what to expect later in the season, the normal decline in passing numbers decided to take a dive early this year, making week 7 of 2005 the worst passing week of the last many years. Quite simply, in ten years of The Huddle, I cannot recall such a lackluster week for throwing and catching the ball - ever.

There were only four wideouts that posted 100 receiving yards on Sunday and the best performance of any player? A mere 114 yards by Donald Driver. Santana Moss had 112 yards and a score and Az-Zahir Hakim just squeaked in with 100 yards and one score. The only other - Doug Gabriel - had just 101 yards and no score. There were only 20 wideouts that had a touchdown yesterday and half of them were held to less than 55 yards on the day.

The only player in the NFL with two receiving scores this week was, of course, the fullback Mike Sellers for the Redskins. Antonio Gates started the day slowly but still ended up with the most yardage by a tight end with 72 yards. Only four tight ends had touchdowns.

The only quarterback that exceeded 300 yards was Brett Favre (315) and only Mark Brunell had more than two passing touchdowns in the entire league on Sunday. Just a mediocre, lackluster week that had a handful of games played in the rain though none in the cold yet.

There were 14 running backs that had over 100 total yards and six of them had at least two touchdowns. Lamont Jordan and Clinton Portis had three scores on the day. Pretty much - only running backs did much across all 26 teams that played. About the only question left is when will the first non-running back be drafted next summer? Second round? Third? This week was why we all draft running backs and cannot get enough of them. It's because they are the only ones who keep scoring.

Make that almost every running back

The two leading running backs this season - by a substantial margin - are Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson so it would be only natural to assume that the very best in the position would excel in a week that so many running backs did well. Right? Errr - wrong. Tomlinson had tied an NFL record for 18 consecutive games with a touchdown but failed to score against the Eagles despite several attempts from inside the ten yard line. He also ended with only 'gulp' SEVEN yards on 17 carries. He almost ended with negative yardage since the Eagles devoted no less than eight and at times nine players all focusing on Tomlinson. It was his worst game ever in the NFL.

Shaun Alexander fared somewhat better, gaining 61 yards but needing 21 attempts and he had no scores or receptions. Alexander only had 29 other tailbacks outperforming him on Sunday (note - only 25 other teams were playing). Now if we can only get their owners to make a trade...

It's all in the mechanics... and opportunities... maybe some wind... little luck... blocking...

Hopefully your league uses distance bonuses on field goals because otherwise you missed a bonanza this week. There were NINE field goals of 50 yards or more successfully kicked by the group of Lawrence Tynes (51, 52), Ryan Longwell (53), Jason Hanson (50), Josh Brown (55, 50), Jay Feeley (52), Rob Bironas (53) and last, but not least, Paul Edinger who served up the game winner over the Packers as time expired from 56 yards out for a career and all-time franchise record.

Hey, who needs a punter anyway.

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

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Jeff Garcia 244 1 QB Drew Bledsoe 136 1
RB Frank Gore 89 1 RB LaDainian Tomlinson 33 0
RB Mike Sellers 21 2 RB Shaun Alexander 61 0
WR Az-Zahir Hakim 100 1 WR Torry Holt 0 0
WR Doug Gabriel 101 0 WR Terry Glenn 35 0
WR Heath Miller 58 1 WR Anquan Boldin 0 0
PK Paul Edinger 3 FG 2 XP PK Jeff Wilkins 4 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 95

Huddle Fantasy Points = 27

Sunday's Couch Commentary

KC 30, MIA 20 Hurricane Wilma forced this game to be played on Friday night, thereby screwing up everyone trying to get a final starting lineup in for their league. Trent Green still is challenged with throwing scores but finally noticed Tony Gonzalez jumping up and down and screaming downfield. Gonzo ended with 7 catches for 67 yards which by this time feels like a monster game. The Chiefs take the surprise win after going from the plane to the game on Friday and this forced a simplified game plan which could best be described as "Larry Left, Priest Right". The duo combined for 183 yards and three scores. The Miami offense played like they were just notified a game was happening and other than Ronnie Brown's 65 yard touchdown run, there was very little happening here. Ricky Williams new attitude will help him accept and embrace his six carries for negative one yards though fantasy owners looking for anything are not so serene.
GB 20, MIN 23 Strong contender for game-of-the-week in another weekend with several great endings. The Vikings fell behind 17-0 while the announcers devoted most of their time to describing the demise of the Vikings and how the Love Boat situation killed all chances of there being a team in Minnesota this season. Whether the team had a fiery speech at halftime by Mike Tice or they were relaxed by the same attendants of the cruise, the Vikings can finally declare a turning point in their season even if it only lasts for one week. Culpepper ended with 280 yards and two scores and also ran for 41 yards. Favre blew up in the first half with two scores and 211 yards but only had 104 yards in the last two quarters. The Packers lost Robert Ferguson to a leg injury in the game which leaves just Driver and Chatman now as wideouts with any experience. They also lost Ahman Green during the game. Ends up that Favre is not enough to win a game when there is no one left to catch or take the handoff. For the first week this season, Mike Tice shows up to the post-game interview before the game has actually ended.
IND 38, HOU 20 The Texans went into halftime tied 14-14 for a nice facade that they were improved but the Colts strung out 24 second half points to crush the hopes of the only 0-7 team. The Texans new offensive scheme did work much better because David Carr only threw nine times with six completions for 48 yards, one score and one interception. There's a headshaker for you - he only threw NINE passes in the entire game. Lost by 18 points, but only threw nine times. In the second half - the entire freaking second half, he threw only four passes and was sacked four times. He had exactly one more completion than sack. Domanick Davis had 105 total yards and a touchdown and accounted for all but 86 yards in the game. James (147 yards, 2 TD) and Manning (237 yards, 2 TD) barely broke a sweat because they knew, like we all did, that they could win this game even if they only tried for one quarter - long as it was the last one. Just one more time - NINE PASS ATTEMPTS. It's like the game plan just had Carr's name lined out. He could prepare for the game sitting next to Domanick Davis in a booth at Wendy's. And turn, and handoff. And turn, and handoff. Oohh, look - square hamburgers!
DET 13, CLE 10 The Lions opted not to use Jody...Joe..Jerry Harrison? JoJo Harbinger? Not to spend time on needless memory exercises, the Lions starting quarterback was Jeff Garcia who with a leg still mending from a broken fibula was still a superior option to Jack Harringstoner... the other guy. Garcia threw for 210 yards and no interceptions and most importantly, did not make any game killing mistakes. He also scored a rushing touchdown. The Browns held true to their intention to return to a better rushing game and proved it by having Reuben Droughns get 19 carries for 100 yards while Trent Dilfer could only throw for 73 yards and three interceptions. Braylon Edwards returned to the playing field and led all Browns receivers with only three catches for 30 yards. It is only appropriate that the winning score was actually Jeff Garcia rushing in from the one-yard line. You'd never see that from Josie Hairyten... Jolly Herringson... that other guy. Just for a little sweetness, the Browns fans booed Garcia when he was introduced since he had been considered one of the problem players for Cleveland last year. Evidently he is still killing their chances of winning.
PIT 27, CIN 13 The AFC North just got a little tighter since the Steelers were not at home and therefore won. Holding true to the league memo mandating the end of passing, Ben Roethlisberger only had 93 yards but managed two touchdowns on only nine completions. Heath Miller (6-58, 1 TD) evidently will actually change the Steelers into a tight end using team. Willie Parker (18-131, 1 TD) showed up at the right time and made the biggest difference in the game including a 37-yard touchdown run. Chad Johnson scored once... no wait... called back on a replay. Chad had no scores but did catch four passes for 94 yards so he gets another check mark. Carson Palmer had been magic this season but facing the tough Steelers only produced 227 yards and two interceptions. Houshmandzadeh (7-75) did play, but he and Johnson alone are not enough against a top defense. Week 13 will have the Bengals visiting the Steelers and that game will likely be for all the divisional marbles. At least it will be played in Pittsburgh so Cincinnati has a chance.
SD 17, PHI 20 Another great contender for GOTW, this game was all Eagles for a 10 point lead, then all Chargers for a 17-10 lead. Then the Eagles kicked a field goal with six minutes left to play. The Eagles went for it on fourth and one with only 3:37 left to play on their own 30-yard line as a last ditch effort to win and failed when McNabb threw an incompletion. The Chargers took over and ran Tomlinson three times before setting for the field goal attempt that would have made the score 20-13 but it was blocked and returned for a touchdown by the Eagles for the eventual win. LaDainian Tomlinson finally did NOT score for the first time in nineteen games and he only gained 7 yards on 17 carries (thanks only to the last drive that got him into positive numbers). The Eagles offense was nothing special as McNabb threw for 287 yards and one score against two interceptions and Brian Westbrook will continue to whine since he only had 10 carries (but only 25 yards). McNabb tied an all-time team record with 54 pass attempts. Even Terrell Owens only had 53 yards but had the lone Philly offensive score. The Eagles did not really deserve the win, the Chargers did not deserve the loss but in the end - only the scoreboard matters. And now Tomlinson has to start all over.
SF 17, WAS 52 It has to be considered a minor triumph when the worst secondary in the NFL holds an opponent to only 252 passing yards (over 100 yards less than the average) though giving up three passing scores alone is impossible for the 49ers to compete against. Throw in Portis gaining 101 yards and three more touchdowns and the good old-fashioned ass kicking is on. Alex Smith turned in a career high game though, completing 8 of 16 passes for a gaudy 92 yards and one interception. While prompting the question "why are they running?", the 49ers had both Kevan Barlow (14-54) and Frank Gore score touchdowns. Gore had a 72 yard run for a score late in the fourth quarter just to reward any 49er fans who may have still been watching. Both of them greatly appreciated the effort by Gore and then switched over to the cooking channel.
DAL 10, SEA 13 Another contender for GOTW. Cowboys had the win in hand until the final drive (Part II). Alexander could not run and only gained 61 yards on 21 carries and the roulette wheel in Dallas stopped on Marion Barber this week who took 22 carries for 95 yards. But the entire game revolved around two passes. Matt Hasselbeck hit Ryan Hannam for a touchdown to tie with only 40 seconds left to play and then the Cowboys took over with only 33 seconds left to play. Ends up that was just enough time for two completions to Glenn, followed by a third straight throw to Glenn that was intercepted by Jordan Babineaux and returned to the Dallas 32-yard line where Josh Brown nailed the 50-yard field goal for the win. Dallas goes from being the NFC East leader to being all alone in the cellar (but only a half game back of everyone else). Seattle squeaks out the win and now owns a two game lead in the NFC West. Bill Parcels was somewhat surprised to find he was the only person on the team plane as all others had just decided to walk home. If they time it right, they will all arrive just in time for the Arizona game.
BAL 6, CHI 10 This was not a game for those who enjoy scoreless defensive matchups. It was a game only for those who enjoy scoreless defensive matchups and who have a relative playing on one of the defenses. Everyone else stopped watching at halftime because they knew only one more field goal would happen to stretch the lead to an impossible four point margin. Thomas Jones ran well with 139 yards on 25 carries though 42 came on one run. The Ravens are sticking with Jamal Lewis (15-34) even though Chester Taylor (2-21) continues to be the only Ravens back that seems to run well. Watching any game is brutal when there are only 16 total points but this one made it even worse when there were no turnovers in the game. The only promotional aspect of this game was that it showcased MLB Brian Urlacher and MLB Ray Lewis. Woo-hoo! Neither had sack or turnover recovery. Lewis had 5 tackles to only three by Urlacher..HEY! Wake up! I'm still talking here...
TEN 10, ARZ 20 Chances are last spring at TItan HQ, coaches were not sitting around a table discussing how exciting it would be to watch Matt Mauck throw to the rookies Jones, Roby and Williams while Jarrett Payton was the running back. And rightfully so, because it was anything but exciting. Billy Volek got concussed on a demolition job by the defense and Chris Brown not only had a shoulder stinger, he also fumbled the ball when he was hit. The Titans started out 10-0 at the end of the first quarter but then never scored again as the Cardinals slowly picked up steam by returning an interception for a touchdown and then, finally, thank you Lord, Josh McCown hit Larry Fitzgerald on a 34-yard touchdown help boost his stats up to an unrespectable 140 yards. Marcel Shipp ran 14 times and only managed to gain 8 yards while J.J. Arrington ripped off a 32 yard run and then ran four more times to net only -2 more yards. Anquan Boldin - no catches on his five passes but now he has diversified by gaining 15 yards on two runs. Wonder if he can do that maybe 22 times a game or so?
BUF 17, OAK 38 In a move that you will always remember and yet can never rely on, Randy Moss was listed as doubtful this week and yet still had a touchdown and 43 yards. He was mostly replaced by Doug Gabriel who turned in 101 yards but the difference maker for the Raiders was Lamont Jordan who gained 122 yards on 28 carries and scored three times. He could have had four but they let Crockett get some playing time at the end of the game and he scored as well. The Raiders take their second win of the year while the Bills drop to 3-4 behind Willis McGahee (16-50) and Kelly Holcomb (159 yards, 2 TD). The Raiders defense had a huge game here holding all receivers to 36 yards or less and stuffed self-proclaimed greatest running back McGahee on every carry. The Bills now get to travel to New England to play against the rested Patriots and once again be reminded that "there's no place like home."
DEN 23, NYG 24 What a week - here is yet another great game and solid contender for GOTW. The Broncos had this game won when they led 23-10 in the fourth quarter but allowed Tiki Barber to score with 9:15 left in the game to make the score 23-17. Then the Broncos took the ball and drove down to the Giants 31-yard line and where with only 5:24 left to play, Jason Elam missed a 49-yard field goal. The Giants only needed three plays for Eli Manning to throw an interception at the DEN 42-yard line with only 4:46 left to play. Three and out meant the G-men got the ball back on their own 17-yard line with 3:39 left in the game. The drive lasted 15 plays and included a third and ten from the DEN 32-yard line when Shockey had a 24-yard catch to to DEN 8-yard line and then three plays later with only 10 seconds left on the clock, Manning hit Amani Toomer for a touchdown to tie and an extra point to win. This game will be a part of Manning's history for a while - he could not have scripted a better ending for the hometown fans.


Once again, the NFL served a weekend full of nice surprises and fast, furious finishes. The Vikings, Lions and Raiders are back in the saddle again while Houston and San Francisco have become the preferred weekly opponent in the NFL. There were so many great games this week that several could have been GOTW in the past - MIN over GB, PHI stealing a won from SD, SEA turning the tables on DAL this year and especially our first glimpse of the other comeback Manning.

As teams rise and fall this year, one game stands out as the one that speaks to the heart of the fantasy football experience - the thrill, the folly, the frustration and the hope of a better future. As we approach mid-season, what better than a game that was a tale of two halfs.

New Orleans 17, St. Louis 28

Before the game even started, fantasy owners the country over were sent scurrying to set their lineups again when Torry Holt went magically from probable to questionable to out from Friday afternoon. While doubtful means "in" for Oakland, now probable means "out" for St. Louis this week anyway. That meant that the trio of Marc Bulger, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt were reduced to Jamie Martin, Kevin Curtis and as it ends up - really no one else. Playing against the Saints is always a treat this year though they had always won in St. Louis when Aaron Brooks visited. And that was against full squads, not the injury depleted team that didn't even have a headcoach this week.

The game was balanced in part though since the Saints had already lost Deuce McAllister and Joe "Ironman" Horn has become more gumby-like thanks to his hamstring. Smith and Stecker would share the rushing load here while Brooks had already learned how to use Stallworth and Hakim.

The Saints had already faced unmatched adversity this season with the hurricane and loss of a home stadium. They were already the most traveled team in the league and lost their star tailback and wideout. And yet, they keep plugging away despite being plagued by injuries, bad calls and every week bringing a new way to challenge the team.

The Rams too have gone through loss of players, not only from the big three in the passing game but numerous defensive players that has become so bad that they pressed wideout Mike Furrey into duty as the new safety. Midway through the first quarter, DT Damione Lewis got ejected for punching the Saints center in the groin to make it just that much more challenging.

The Saints took the opening kickoff and using Stecker running and a couple of passes, they worked the field down until Brooks hit Stallworth for an 11-yard touchdown. The Rams responded with a 43 yard run by Stephen Jackson but had to settle for a 48-yard field goal attempt that Jeff Wilkins kicked just short.

The Saints took the next possession from their own 38-yard line and once again fed Stecker the ball while mixing the occasional pass. With only 5:05 left in the first quarter, Brooks threw his second score of the game to Hakim for a 14-0 lead. Obviously, the Rams were out matched and the Saints were finally back in control of their offense. The Rams went three and out on their next series.

This allowed Brooks to once again mount a drive that ended on the Rams 27-yard line and the resulting field goal attempt was blocked. A 17-0 lead would have appeared insurmountable by an offense that could not even get a first down, but the Saints were unable to convert. After trading a few series, the Rams took over on their own 14-yard line and Martin finally started to connect with Kevin Curtis. Nine plays later, Steven Jackson scored to make it 7-14 and no longer quite the blowout it seemed.

The second half started out with the Rams fumbling on their own 34-yard line and the Saints recovered but could only lose three yards. After a punt and yet another three and out by the Rams, the Saints marched down to the Rams 21-yard line. On fourth and one, they attempted a fake field goal with a snap to Todd Bouman who was smothered because running up the middle with the ball tends to attract attention no matter what down it is. The Rams went three and out and the Saints once again marched down to the Rams 7-yard line where three plays failed to score. They wisely completed the attempt for a field goal and went up 17-7 with the fourth quarter already started.

With 13:22 left to play in the game and with a 10 point lead against a team that could rarely manage a first down, the Saints appeared to be winding down a sorely needed win. But these are the 2005 Saints, the ones that fate has cast an evil eye on this season. On third and one from midfield, Martin connected for a 42 yard gain with Kevin Curtis. It took all four plays to get the final six yards and the Rams took a chance with a fourth and one run by Jackson that scored his second touchdown in the game. The Saints only led 17-14 with under ten minutes to play. Could it be happening again?

On their second play, Donte Stallworth has the ball stripped from him and the Saints took over again on the NO 42-yardline. Jackson mixed three runs and one catch to reach the five yard line and Kevin Curtis then scored on a reverse for their first lead in the game - 21-17. It was happening again.

After trading series with no first downs, the Saints started on their own 26-yard line with only 2:56 left to play and a four point deficit. Brooks hit Stallworth for 14 yards and then threw two incompletions. After getting a first down thanks to defensive holding, Brooks hit Ernie Conwell who was tackled and then stripped of the ball by - ex-wideout Mike Furrey. The key here was that he was tackled with his knee clearly down on replay before Furrey took the ball that was called an interception since the refs thought Conwell was bobbling the ball and he ran 67 yards for a touchdown. No problem - a simple replay would show that Conwell had possession, was down and then the ball came out. Very clear. Except this happened with 2:10 remaining in the game. Problem. Had it been ten seconds later, the review would have come from the refs in the booth. Outside the two minute mark, even just ten seconds, it requires a challenge by the coach. However... that coach - Jim Haslett - needed to have a timeout remaining to challenge and he didn't. He had used the last two in the previous series to stop the clock.

Touchdown. 28-17 win by the Rams. And it never gets any easier for the beleaguered Saints.

It's like the fantasy season that many are experiencing right now with all these injuries, sudden inactives and phantom injury reports. Sometimes you can do everything in your power to win and it comes down to a blown call that cannot be challenged. Doesn't matter who is ahead at the half each game nor even at the halfway point of the season. What matters is knowing that fate can be cruel and suddenly kind in the space of a week, a month or sometimes - it takes a year. The Saints struggle through their adversity like each game was their first and though the losses have continued by maddening ways, they still play the game each week with their best effort knowing that all that matters is the week, and the next, and then eventually the next season. Tomlinson and Alexander cannot stay up all the time and Vikes take a win by ignoring a 17-0 halftime deficit. Culpepper was even the best fantasy quarterback for the week.

If you are on top of your standings now - congrats and don't get complacent. If you are not, you are likely just like most teams that can point at plenty of adversity in this injury-plagued season why you haven't won enough. But know it now - what goes around, comes around - but only to those who remain in every game. Good luck the rest of the way.

Now get back to work...