Return To Sender
What a week in the NFL. Two return records were set and 17% of all the return touchdowns this season were posted in Week 10. Between special teams and defenses there were a total of ten return touchdowns. Six came via special teams and four via defenses. They were the most return touchdowns for any given week in the NFL this season.
Who needs an offense to win games? The Minnesota Vikings became the first team in NFL history to have a kickoff (Koren Robinson– 86 yards), a punt (Mewelde Moore– 71 yards) and an interception (Darren Sharper-92 yards) returned for touchdowns in the same game. That explains how the Giants’ offense could dominate the ball for over 35 minutes and outgain the Vikings’ offense, 405 yards to 137 yards and still lose to Minnesota, 24-21. In addition to giving up two special teams’ touchdowns, their automatic kicker, Jay Feely missed a 28 yard chip shot and kick returner Willie Ponder fumbled away the opening kickoff to further aggravate a Giant special team meltdown.
The Windy City was the sight of another NFL record. With winds gusting at almost 50 mph, San Francisco 49ers’ kicker, Joe Nedney layed into a 52 yard field goal attempt on the last play of the first half. The wind took hold and the ball sailed to the back of the end zone. What happened next would become the longest return of any kind in NFL history. Bears’ starting right cornerback, Nathan Vasher settled under Nedney’s windswept pigskin, as he caught it he began running towards the left sideline, the Niners’ defenders overpursued leaving an opening along the right sideline. Vasher suddenly changed gears, reversed direction and proceeded 108 yards down the field behind a sea of orange jerseys to score the touchdown that would break the record. Up until Sunday, Baltimore Raven’s cornerback, Chris McAlister held the mark. He returned a missed field goal 107 yards in 2002.
Kudos to the other romping returners who scored touchdowns this past week: Jaguars’ middle linebacker, Mike Peterson rambled 26 yards after an errant pass by Ravens’ quarterback, Kyle Boller; Broncos’ rookie right cornerback, Darrent Williams galloped 80 yards after a pick off of Raiders’ quarterback, Kerry Collins; Panthers’ linebacker, Will Witherspoon put the nail into the Jets’ coffin with a 35 yard interception return off of quarterback, Brooks Bollinger; Redskins’ running back, Ladell Betts broke a 94 yard kickoff return against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Cleveland Browns’ right cornerback, Leigh Bodden returned a blocked field goal 59 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers; and finally, with under three minutes to go, Cowboys’ strong safety, Roy Williams stepped in front of an ill-advised Donovan McNabb pass and shocked the Eagles by returning it 46 yards for the game winning touchdown to lead Dallas to a one point victory at Philadelphia (21-20) on Monday Night Football. Of the eight teams that had return touchdowns, the Cleveland Browns were the only ones to lose their game.
Former rodeo clown, Cody Pickett probably had an easier time getting away from wild bulls than he did getting away from the Chicago Bears. In the ugliest individual performance of the week, the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback completed 1 of 13 passes for 28 yards and an interception. For the first two quarters the Bears might as well have rested their entire secondary. Coach, Steve Mariucci had such little confidence in his quarterback that Pickett attempted only two passes in the entire first half, both incomplete. His quarterback rating was a ghastly 7.5!!!
Ties Are For Losers
For the second week in a row, an NFL coach eschewed the safe call and on their teams’ final offensive play went for the win. Last week, Kansas City Chiefs’ coach, **** Vermeil (infamously remembered for his emotional breakdown following his departure as the Eagles’ coach over 20 years ago) showed how thick his skin has become when he decided to take the ultimate gamble. With five seconds left, his team losing by three (23-20) and the ball on the Raiders’ one yard line, Vermeil chose to forego a virtually automatic field goal that would have sent the game into overtime. Larry Johnson plunged over center Casey Wiegmann and into the end zone, stunning the Oakland Raiders and sending the Arrowhead crowd into a tizzy. This week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coach, Jon Gruden followed Vermeil’s example. At first, Gruden went for the tie and had the extra point blocked. But, because of a defensive offsides penalty against the Redskins, the Bucs had a second chance. Gruden took advantage of the extra couple of feet gained from the penalty and went for broke when he called for a two point conversion. Massive fullback, Mike Alstott spun and twisted his way through a kamikaze attempt by linebacker LaVar Arrington and the rest of the Redskins’ defense. The referee hesitated before signaling that the attempt was good. The play was challenged but upheld by the review booth and the Bucs went on to win 36-35.
If Wayne Chrebet’s latest concussion turns out to be career ending, what a way to go out. Chrebet’s potential final catch was a perfect personification of the type of receiver he has been. Chrebet jumped high in the air with total abandon to snare a first down that kept the Jets final drive alive. Chrebet will always be remembered as a tough underdog, often labled too small and too slow by NFL standards. He was always a clutch receiver, always at the top of the list for first down catches in a season. Chrebet is the longest tenured player on the New York Jets and has played his entire eleven year career with the them. For his career he has 580 receptions for 7365 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Believe It Or Not
The Green Bay Packers are 1-7 this season, yet unbelievably have scored more points than they have allowed (168 points scored and 159 points allowed). How is this possible? Thanks to a 52-3 blowout of the Aint’s in week five and having lost another four games by a grand total of 9 points the Packers have accomplished this rare dichotomy. On the other end of the spectrum, the defending NFL Champion New England Patriots are 4-3 despite allowing more points than they’ve scored (159 points scored and 180 points allowed).
With their 20-10 victory at Green Bay this past Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers became the fourth team ever in NFL history with at least 11 straight road victories. They have a long way to go though as the 1988-1990 San Francisco 49er’s hold the record with 18 straight road victories. The next road game for the Steel Curtain is November 20th at Baltimore. If they win that game, the streak could be in serious jeopardy the following week as they are scheduled to play at the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night, November 28th.
My heart goes out to you and Gang Green. Injuries have ravaged your roster, so I don’t blame you for not having all cylinders working. But, I still must take umbrage with you.
First, I commend you for keeping the ranks motivated- everyone played their hearts out on Sunday. The problem I have with you is strategic. I see no benefit in playing old man Testaverde. I hope you have finally figured out that Brooks Bollinger must play. Here is a chance to develop a quality and fiery backup quarterback for next season. If you want to get creative, go talk to the Chargers and gage their interest in dealing quarterback, Phillip Rivers. I’ll bet a number one pick and a quality defender like Bryan Thomas could get it done.
That brings me to my second beef with you- creativity. Herm, the one obvious area that Brooks gives you an upgrade in over your other quarterbacks is speed. This guy can scramble. He is probably one of the top five best scramblers in the NFL. Call some roll outs, how about a play action or two. Your play calling on the last drive when the Jets had first and goal from the Chargers three yard line was about as creative as a couple of kids playing hide ‘n seek with their eyes open— pass left, run up the middle, pass left, pass right. Come on man, pitch it out, boot leg your quarterback, at least have him roll out and give him an option to run it in. Jeez Herm, even Paul Hackett was laughing at you.
Finally, hire a draft guy for your war room. Your net gain from your top two draft picks ends up being a worthless tight end, Doug Jolley and a mediocre kicker, Mike Nugent. O’k, you scored with kick returner, Justin Miller but I have a feeling that was just dumb luck. And, by the way, have you checked out the type of season Santana Moss is having in Washington?
Week 10 Jets Player of the Game Week 9
QB- Brooks Bollinger– COMP ATT YDS TDS
11 20 106 2
While watching the NY Giants this past Monday, I was alarmed that the Jints couldn’t handle a fella in the Chargers’ back field. No, it wasn’t a surprise that Ladainian Tomlinson jitter-bugged his way around would be tacklers, what was alarming to me was how many Giant defenders fullback Lorenzo Neal was hammering, sometimes swatting them away like flies. When I think of great fullbacks in the history of the NFL, I think of Larry Csonka, Rocky Blier, Darryl "Moose" Johnston… but how about adding Lorenzo Neal to that group. For eight consecutive years now Lorenzo has cleared the way for his tailbacks to have 1000 Yard seasons. And over the past six they have had no fewer than 1300 Yards a season. Yes, a couple of the tailbacks Lorenzo has paired with over the streak have been top flight rushers—Ladainian Tomlinson and Corey Dillon probably would have rushed for 1000 Yards no matter who was blocking for them— but, what about Adrian Murrell and Warrick Dunn? Eddie George had the best season of his career (2000) with Lorenzo leveling some of the toughest linebackers and safeties in the league. It may be no coincidence that the year after Neal left Tennessee Eddie George failed to reach the grand mark.
Entering his 13th season Lorenzo has appeared in 179 straight games (as of week three-2005). More impressive, is the fact that Lorenzo seems to limit the wear and tear on his tailbacks- since beginning his games played streak, all tailbacks who have teamed with him also have played in every game.
Neal was actually the number two all-time rusher in Fresno State history when he left after the 1992 season. But, at 5’11 and 255 lbs. Neal was a ready-made fullback when he entered the NFL with the Saints, who grabbed him with the 4th round pick of the 1993 draft. Lorenzo probably would have 11 consecutive seasons with a 1000 yard backfield mate if the Saints hadn’t decided to split carries between Mario Bates, Ray Zellers and Derek Brown during his four years with the club. Lorenzo appeared in his only Super Bowl for the Tennessee Titans in 2000 and made his first Pro-Bowl in 2002 with the Cincinnati Bengals. When asked recently who he thought was the best fullback in NFL history and who was the greatest tailback he has ever blocked for, Neal replied, "I’m blocking for a great running back now. Corey Dillon and Eddie George were great, too… They’re all amazing in my eyes. As far as the best fullback… I used to love watching Larry Csonka. I think the best fullback that I really emulated my play after was Daryl ‘Moose’ Johnston…". So, without further ado I give the Cabbie Shout-Out of the week to Lorenzo Neal, "LORENZOooooooooo!!"
The Running Backs Lorenzo Neal Has Blocked For Over The Past 8 Seasons:
Year G R YDS TDS Team
2004 Ladainian Tomlinson 16 339 1335 17 Chargers
2003 Ladianian Tomlinson 16 313 1645 13 Chargers
2002 Corey Dillon 16 340 1315 10 Bengals
2001 Corey Dillon 16 314 1311 7 Bengals
2000 Eddie George 16 403 1509 14 Titans
1999 Eddie George 16 320 1304 9 Titans
1998 Warrick Dunn 16 245 1026 2 Buccaneers
1997 Adrian Murrell 16 300 1086 7 Jets
Carl the Cabbie
I understand it’s been just one game, and I do not believe the Jets are nearly as bad a team as they looked Sunday, but I do have a few grievances:
I tought you guys fired Paul Hackett! I was hitting about .800 on your play calling and I didn’t do any scouting like Vermeil and his crew.
Do you really think Penningtons’ arm is as healthy as you say? Because it looked like he was slinging a shotput out there.
And lastly, do you really believe Doug Jolley was worth a 1st Rd. Pick?
WEEK 2 Jets Player of the Game Week 1
TE- Chris Baker– REC. YDS. TDS
Quick NFL Note:
I haven’t been this excited to see a guy punt since, well, since… Never! I’ve never been excited to see someone punt, until now. I cannot wait to see the first Punt Returner who gets into the open field with only Ben Graham between him and the End Zone. If any Jet fans were asleep during the pre-season Graham is the new Jets’ Punter and a former Aussie Rules Football Star. Big Ben is 6′ 4" 220 Lbs and fairly fleet of foot. He has also gained a reputation during Jet practices for putting strange footy* spins on his kicks that make his punts difficult to catch.
So, Dante- Please be very careful, or you just might be the first to have your clock cleaned by Big Ben Graham.
Quick NFL notes—Sorry Giant fans, but All-Pro DT Corey Simon has signed with the Colts in case anyone missed it. And he was exactly what the Jints needed to plug a huge hole in the middle of their Defensive line. Also, keep in mind that the Giants will have 9 Home games this season because of the terrible tragedy in New Orleans.
Fantasy Note— Anyone needing to get a little September boost for their Pitching Staff, pick up Francisco Liriano(Twins). If any of you missed out on Felix Hernandez when he hit the scene, this guy is almost as good and he’s Lefthanded. To really appreciate him you have to see him pitch, but check out his AAA numbers at Rochester: 9-2 1.78 ERA 112 K’s 24 BB in 91 IP. Look for Liriano to start out in Middle Relief, but I’ll lay down my Blogging Pen if he doesn’t get a couple of late September Starts. Liriano is no joke even if the Giants did underestimate his potential when they tossed him in with Joe Nathan as part of the A.J Pierzynski deal a couple of years ago. Francisco has a searing Fastball (93-98 MPH) and a devastating Curveball. His Changeup is a decent third pitch, but hanging out with Johan Santana should help him improve it.
Carl the Cabbie