Tampa Bay Sports Day

Favorite Five of the Week

HONRABLE MENTION

Nice job by the NFL and its players and coaches with all of the pink equipment being worn on Sunday and Monday night to help fight breast cancer. All football lovers enjoy the type of the stuff listed below, but a cause like that is the type of stuff that really matters, and kudos to the NFL for doing it part, and doing it well. Let’s all hope it helps.

#5: LIONS DOMINATE STATS, BUT BEARS CRUISE TO VICTORY

Usually, by looking at all of the key statistics in a football game boxscore, you can tell which team won, and how easy it was. And then, there are those games when you look at the stats, and then the final score, and say “How did that possibly happen?” Detroit at Chicago on Sunday was definitely the latter. The Chicago Bears had 11 fewer first downs (25-14), 183 fewer passing yards (308-125), ran 28 fewer plays (78-50), and controlled the clock for exactly 13 minutes less (36:30 to 23:30). The Lions even led 14-7 after the first quarter, and it was still tied, 21-21, at halftime. And yet, the Bears not only won, they won huge, 48-24, outscoring the Lions 27-3 in the second half and 41-10 over the final three quarters. How did Chicago do it despite the large statistical disparities going against them in several major categories? Well, the Bears won the turnover battle 2-0, scored 10 points off Detroit miscues, started the third quarter with a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by rookie Johhny Knox, and they did win one key statistical category: outgaining the Lions 151-90 on the ground.

#4:  SHARPER & SAINTS ‘D’ INDOCTRINATE SANCHEZ TO THE NFL

This was certainly nothing new for safety Darren Sharper, it’s just that Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez had never witnessed it in person before. The four-time pro-bowler Sharper, entered Sunday’s game with 57 career interceptions and 8 touchdowns during his brilliant 13-year career out of I-AA (now FCS) William & Mary. Now, make that 59 picks, 10 touchdowns, and one huge headache for the Jets’ offense on Sunday. The Jets and Sanchez had been cruising along at a surprising 3-0, with the rookie Sanchez limiting his mistakes a lot over the first three weeks. However, that was all before the Jets’ trip to New Orleans. Welcome to the NFL, officially, Mark. The Saints’ defense, which has surprisingly played at as high or even a higher level than their vaunted big-play offense, showed Sanchez how tough the NFL can be for a rookie quarterback. Not only did New Orleans hold Sanchez to just 138 passing yards on only 14 completions in 27 attempts, but they sacked him four times (once for a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown), and intercepted him three times –- two of those by Sharper, who returned a second quarter pick for a 99-yard touchdown, and who later sealed the win with his second interception late in the fourth quarter.

#3:  “COACH” PALMER SALVAGES A WIN THAT ALMOST GOT AWAY

What a rollercoaster ride it was on Sunday afternoon in Cleveland for the Cincinnati Bengals. But then, what else should we expect this year for a teams who’s played four games in which all have gone down to the wire? After all, the Bengals blew a game late on a fluke play against Denver, before rallying to beat the defending champion Steelers, before winning in a tough place like Green Bay, before struggling a lot on Sunday with the lowly Browns… who they jumped out to a 14-0 lead against (rollercoaster on the way up), only to give up the next 20 (whoosh! rolling back down fast!) and fall behind 20-14… before Carson Palmer found Chad Ochocinco for a touchdown (back up again) to… win the game, 21-20, right? Nope! Rollercoaster going down again… the PAT was blocked! So… overtime, tied 20-20. The Bengals, who were involved in the only tie game in the NFL last year (you remember, when Donovan McNabb thought they might play another overtime?), then wait more than a full quarter later to finally get their opportunity to win, 23-20, on a Shayne Graham 31-yard field goal just four seconds before Cincinnati ended in a tie for the second straight season. But, hold on… here’s the added fun that led to the game-winning field goal… Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis had no qualms with ending in another tie. He was all set to have his team punt, facing a 4th-and-11 at the Browns’ 41 with 1:04 left in the game. But, his quarterback adamantly protested enough to convince his coach to let the Bengals go for the win. With his receivers covered, Palmer ran for the first down himself, leading eventually to the field goal by Graham, who not only had that PAT, but also an earlier field goal attempt blocked, both by Cleveland nose tackle Shaun Rogers… on a side note, this game was about as even as could be stats-wise (yes, I know, we already did a stats one with the Bears and Lions), BUT for a game that came within seconds of ending in a tie… First Downs: 22-21, Browns; Total Yards: 395-375, Browns; Rushing Yards: 154-146, Bengalis; Passing Yards: 249-221, Browns; Interceptions: one each; Fumbles: one each; Penalties: Bengals 6 for 46 yards, Browns 5 for 44 yards; and, Third Down Efficiency: Bengals 5-for-18; Browns 6-for-19.

#2:  FAVRE MAKES THE PACK WISH THEY HAD HIM BACK…

WHILE ALLEN SACKS THE PACK AND PUTS RODGERS ON HIS BACK

(aren’t football poems fun?)

This was the long-awaited Monday night matchup. It might not have been quite as big as it will be when Brett Favre goes back to Lambeau as a visiting player for the first time, on November 1st, but it was still a sight to see… and one to forget, for Green Bay Packer fans. Not only did Favre torch the fellow NFC North franchise he’ll eventually represent in the Hall OF Fame for a 135.3 quarter back rating (going 24 of 31 for 271 yards, 3 TD’s and no turnovers), but on a night when Favre’s successor in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers, came to the Metrodome and posted a career-high 384 yards, the Packers couldn’t protect Rodgers enough to win. Jared Allen went nuts with 4½ sacks of Rodgers, and he, Favre, and the rest of the Vikings sent Green Bay as 30-23 losers, back to The Land O’ Cheese (not to be confused with cheesemakers Land O’ Lakes… though, that is ironic since Minnesota is the land of 1,000 lakes). Favre said it was “just another game.” Come on Brett, credit to you for backing it up by playing so well against your former team where you became a legend, before things got unfortunately sour. But, do you really expect us to believe those words? We know you must still be reveling in beating the Packers even as you get set to go to St. Louis next (wow, talk about a complete 180 as far as hype, pomp, and circumstance, going from Favre & the Vikings vs. Packers on Monday night, to the awful Rams on a regular Sunday afternoon).

#1:  “PEY” DIRT

(this was way shorter after that last title)

… as in ESPN’s Stuart Scott’s favorite description for a football player scoring a touchdown and finding “pay dirt.” Only, when it’s Peyton Manning having yet another stellar performance, leading to Manning tying Drew Brees for most touchdown passes in the NFL (9), it’s instead called “Pey Dirt,” or at least that’s what I just made up. Hmmm… Colts fans, let me know your size and how many of those blue and white “Pey Dirt” t-shirts you’d like to order, and I’ll get them made up for you. Well, at least after I check into a few NFL licensing legality items, decide on pricing, and check into some copyright things first. But, I digress… Manning was once again outstanding in the Colts’ 34-17 dismantling of the Seattle Seahawks, after opening a 34-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter, with the Colts’ future Hall Of Famer throwing for 353 yards while completing 31 of 41, and throwing 2 touchdown passes and just one interception.

As Seattle coach Jim Mora put it, “We played greatness today. He’s one of the finest of all times.” Manning even topped himself on Sunday. He’s thrown for over 300 yards in each of the Colts’ four games this season, marking the first time in Manning’s storied career that he’s eclipsed the 300-yard mark in four consecutive games. That accomplishment is also a franchise record, but here’s a few more of those for this season, thus far: In addition to tying Brees with the 9 TD passes, Manning now leads all NFL passers in Quarterback Rating (114.5), Passing Yards (1,336), Passing Yards Per Game (334.0), and he’s second (behind only Ben Roethlisberger’s 73.2 percent) in Completion Percentage at 70.8 percent… Meanwhile, the Colts just keep on quietly winning with Manning steering the ship. The 2007 New England Patriots got all the attention (deservedly so) for their perfect 16-0 regular season, but Manning and the Colts have now won 13 consecutive regular season games, dating back to last season, and we hear little about that. And, if the NFL did things as they should, like not sending last year’s 12-4 wild-card Colts to San Diego to play the 8-8 Chargers in a home playoff game that San Diego didn’t deserve, maybe we’re talking now about the Colts on a current 17-game win streak overall, and being this year’s defending champions instead of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although postseason success for Manning and the Colts is certainly debatable, you have to go all the way back to 2002 (when Indianapolis was 10-6) to find a year in which Manning and the Colts won fewer than 12 games during the regular season. That’s 79-21 over the past 100 regular season games, covering the last 6¼ regular seasons. Very impressive, even by Manning’s high standards.