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With the score 38-31 against them, and the clock under 90 seconds, the Broncos could see their game slip away.
Quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back, rolled to his right and – horror of quarterback horrors – whiffed on the pass. He didn’t fumble the ball; it slipped out of his hands, fell to the ground and was scooped up by linebacker Tim Dobbins. The Chargers get the ball back, run out the clock, win the game.
But wait – the referee, prematurely blew his whistle, which means the ball is dead at the Charger 10-yard line.
It also means that Denver gets a second chance. It should have been a fumble, perhaps, but that’s how it sometimes goes.
Two quick passes later, it’s a one-point game. And even more prematurely then the offical’s whistle, Dick Enberg yells the game is tied and headed to overtime. Both Jay Cutler and head coach Mike Shanahan disagreed and went for two. The Broncos nailed it, on a short pass to Eddie Royal, the same man who caught the touchdown.
It’s a shame that this game will likely me better remembered for botched call then for San Diego’s comebacks from being down 21-3 early on – and 31-17 at the half.
All in all, both quarterbacks were firing on all cylinders. Cutler passed for 350 yards and for four touchdowns; Phillip Rivers for 377 and three majors. However, LeDainian Tomlinson toe was a constant bother, and he only had ten rushes, just 26 yards.
A great game, yes, but only the tip of the weekend’s matches. An overtime finish in Seattle. Aaron Rogers leads the Packers to his first comeback win. Matt Cassel wins his first pro start since high school. The Colts come back after looking dead in the water. An overall great weekend of matches.
And as the afternoon comes to a close, it raises a series of questions: What happened to Detroit? Is Aaron Rogers better then Farve? And what teams are for real – and what teams are faking?
Let’s go to Detroit first, where the Lions seem to be in self-destruct mode. At this point last season, the Lions were 2-0, Kitna had passed for 3 touchdowns and over 500 yards. Granted, they were on their way to a season where they finished 7-9, but at least they seemed like a good team at the time.
Now, they seems like a team that can’t do anything right. Not only are they 0-2, but also they’ve already allowed 82 points firmly showing that they have the worst defence in the NFL thus far. Keep in mind, only one team has allowed over 70 points and none have scored more then Green Bay’s 72 (more on that later).
This isn’t an area where they show many signs of improvement. Their defence is letting other teams dominate the clock – against Green Bay, for example, they gave up an eight-minute drive in the first quarter and had less then 25 minutes of their own.
Looking at game charts on ESPN, the Lions offense seems to have a tendency to run plays out of the shotgun set, which to my mind speaks of a lack of faith in the offensive line. I suppose the 62 total rushing yards also does, too. Remember – you need a running game, and thusly a good offensive line, to control the clock. For a team to be successful in the NFL, they must control the clock.
Granted, teams have been successful without one in the past. The Oilers of the early 1990s were one. Their Run-N-Gun offense emphasized the pass, thanks to the arm of quarterback Warren Moon. But they were a team who fell apart in the playoffs year after year: in 1991 to the Broncos, in 1992 to the Bills in a memorable collapse and finally in 1993 to the Kansas City Chiefs.
So take from that what you will – you can get to the playoffs with passing, but that’s about all.
On the other side of the game, the Packers are finding themselves in the best case scenario. Aaron Rogers, for all the talk that surrounded him, has played exceptionally well this year and is leading the team that could be the best in the conference.
Granted, they haven’t beaten anybody of substance yet – just Minnesota and Detroit, two teams that missed the playoffs last year. The big game is next week, then they play Dallas in a game already scheduled in prime time. But right now, they are the favourites for their division. Rogers looks better then Farve did all last season, and has already had a monster, 300+ yard, three touchdown game against the Lions.
It’s early – too early for me to make this call, really – but he’s looking like he can take the Packers to the playoffs. Granted, he’s in a weak division (Detroit is soft and I’m not sold on Chicago) so it’s not a really outlandish statement, but there you go.
It’s early in the season, which means that time is ripe for trickery and fakery in the standings. The Giants and Cardinals are 2-0, while Seattle is winless.
Of all these teams, the Giants are looking the most like a contender. Their defence, which has allowed just 20 points against so far, looks like the best in the NFC – even without Michael Strahan. Granted, they’ve played two fairly weak teams, the Rams and Redskins. And the bulk of the schedule is daunting: two games against Philadelphia and Dallas, an away game in Cleveland and an early bye week could all prove to be problems. But they’ve got a good opening slate, and could end up 4-0: next up for them are the freefalling Bengals and the collapsing Seahawks.
Who are themselves in a state of flux. A heartbreaking loss at home to San Francisco, where they lead 14-3 after the first but couldn’t stop a newly-high powered Niner offence, is only the latest of their woes: Hasselbeck is battling a bad back; Julius Jones is struggling to fill the hole left by Shaun Alexander; a porous secondary that allowed nearly 300 yards of passing on Sunday.
Even their vaunted home-field advantage wasn’t much help – maybe it rattled the Niners at then end of regulation, but it sure didn’t in overtime when Joe Nedney nailed his third kick of the day (he had missed only one) to win the game.
This is new for the Seahawks, who have feasted on a weak division for the last several years. Their defence, which was seventh in the NFC last year in total yards, eighth in passing yards, and second in points allowed, feasted on the weak offences of San Franscisco and St. Louis. But this year, with Arizona and the Niners looking better then they have this decade, they’re slowing down – giving the Cards a chance to catch up.
Which they finally should be doing. After a couple seasons as a trendy sleeper pick that never panned out, the Cards were an afterthought after the preseason, when Matt Lienart lost his starting job to an ancient Kurt Warner. But they’ve snuck up on unsuspecting teams – granted, two easy ones in San Franscico and Miami. But with Anquan Boldin set to build on a nine-touchdown, 850+ yard 2007 and Edgerrin James as a solid, grinding running back that can help them control the clock, they appear set to make a solid run. Finally.
Of course, all of this is barring injuries.
Remember, more sportswriting like this can be found at North of the 400