Green Bay / Tennessee
The first real contender the Titans faced turned into their first real tough match, one that sent them to overtime. Their two-running back system (Johnson and White) helped them move the ball, but the Packers were smothering.
But they kept pounding and pounding, chipping away (okay, too much cliché). They moved down the field, a few yards at a time, moving quietly into FG range.
This is why they haven’t lost a game yet: they don’t need to air the ball out to move around. They can run the ball, run it well, and grind down the defence, tiring out the front four and the linebackers. They can control the clock this way, and with a quarterback who knows how to call a game, they can win games they otherwise wouldn’t.
I’m as big a fan of Vince Young as the next guy, but this is what separates him from Kerry Collins. When he played for the Longhorns, he was their running game, for the most part. He didn’t have to worry about controlling the clock, or at least not as abstractly; Young’s sheer athleticism was enough that he could often scramble out of bounds and stop the clock if need be.
But that doesn’t work in the NFL. The lines are too big, too powerful. I’m sure it was overwhelming, especially now that defences are keyed into what he can do. He’s going to have to learn to call games if he wants to excel at his position, and there aren’t many people better to learn it from then Collins.
Cleveland / Baltimore
Last year, we saw one of the best games of the season between these two, one that featured a kick bounce out of the season. An instant classic, perhaps.
Sunday, we saw Derek Anderson lead the Browns back, moving them deep late in the game – and getting picked off, cementing the Baltimore win.
It’s a neat change from the usual rivalries, and one that’s especially fitting: the old Browns moved to Baltimore.
Anyway, this game most likely marked the end of the Derek Anderson era in Cleveland – one that had it’s highs (a playoff appearance last year, a couple thrilling shootouts) and some lows (an 18 of 32 and two interception night against Pittsburgh earlier this season).
Anderson, when he appeared last year, was a bit of a bright flash. After Charlie Frye flopped in the season opener, Anderson took over and made an immediate impression in a shootout against Cincinnati: over 300 yards in the air and five majors in a 51-45 win. From there the Browns tore it up, finishing 10-6, same as the division-winning Steelers.
But since then his stock has been dropping like a rock: the Browns lost their first three games and Anderson’s numbers are down across the board. It doesn’t help that the Browns are looking more and more like a team headed to the cellar – so why not give the rookie some time?
Other notes: This week seemed to be the backup’s revenge week: Backups had big days in Pittsburgh and Chicago, while it looks like starters in San Francisco, Detroit and Cleveland may be gone. Have to wonder though – after a solid game against the Bears, is it fair to yank out Orlovsky for Culpepper? Remember, Culpepper hasn’t been effective since he blew out his knee… What’s happened to the Raiders? They’ve fallen so far, even from last year. Against a decent Falcons team they looked like a bunch of scrubs – only 77 yards! Indescribably awful.