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Monday, August 21, 2006

Matt Leinart 4 of 11 and Cardinals Fall To Pats 30-3

Pats QBs stellar in 30-3 drubbing of Cards

NFL.com wire reports

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Aug. 19, 2006) -- In the first minute of his NFL career, Matt Leinart looked like a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback -- running a hurry-up offense that impressed even Tom Brady.

For the rest of the night, there was little for Leinart and the Cardinals to be proud about.

"To go against this team on this field and get something in my first drive, that was pretty cool," Leinart said after his debut, which featured a quick 54-yard drive that netted Arizona its only points in a 30-3 loss to the New England Patriots.

But he spent the rest of the night resembling what he is -- a rookie with almost no real practice experience.

Five days after reporting to the Cardinals' training camp, the 2004 Heisman winner entered Arizona's exhibition game with 1:09 left in the first half. He promptly drove the Cardinals down the field to set up Neil Rackers' 48-yard field goal, scrambling for 29 yards on two runs and completing 3 of 6 passes for 20 yards on the drive.

That was against a New England defense made up mostly of regulars.

In extended action, Tom Brady looked to be in midseason form.
The Patriots' starters should have stayed in the game. In the third quarter, he was just 1 for 5 -- a 25-yard completion to tight end Eric Edwards -- and was sacked twice by New England backups. He finished 4 of 11 for 49 yards.

It was a miserable night all around for Arizona, which last week opened its new stadium with a 21-13 win over Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh. In fact, Leinart's drive at the end of the half was the only positive.

"I don't think anyone could have expected any more," said Kurt Warner, Arizona's starter, who two years ago helped break in Eli Manning with the New York Giants. "I thought he did a great job in the two-minute drill. He handled the situation well."

For New England, it was a workmanlike effort. Brady played most of the first half and completed 15 of 20 passes for 149 yards as the Patriots marched up and down the field but usually stalled before reaching the end zone.

Rookie Stephen Gostkowski, competing with Martin Gramatica to become the replacement for Adam Vinatieri, kicked three field goals for the Patriots (1-1). Matt Cassel, Leinart's backup at Southern Cal, threw two TD passes -- a 9-yarder to Heath Evans in the third quarter and a 5-yarder to Rich Musinski in the fourth quarter -- as both sides inserted subs liberally.

That made Leinart, who signed a six-year deal that could be worth $51 million, the major part of the show. He was the NFL's last draft choice to sign.

At first, he made it look as though his drop to 10th overall in the draft was a mistake -- at one point he was considered the top rookie coming out or at least one of the top three.

Because the Patriots had the ball on three long first-half scoring drives, Leinart didn't enter until 1:09 was left in the half.

His first NFL play was a pass in the right flat to wide-open running back J.J. Arrington that picked up 11 yards. His longest play was a 16-yard scramble up the middle that might have gained more had he not slid down at his 45. His second longest was a 13-yard run to the New England 37.

"I'm not a runner, but they were laying back and the middle was open," he said.

But in the second half, Leinart looked like a raw rookie and the Cardinals reverted to their old selves -- a franchise that has made the playoffs only once in 19 seasons in the desert. On one sack, Leinart fumbled but teammate Marcel Shipp recovered. As the game went on, he looked more and more unsure.

Leinart has a fan in Brady.

"I thought he did a great job," the two-time Super Bowl MVP said of the rookie. "He's a big strong kid. What impressed me was that he had such excellent scrambling ability. I remember when I was a rookie. There's so much to learn and he's coming in with just four days practice, which makes it doubly tough.'

Cassel, by contrast, got better as the Cardinals put in more subs. When Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about Leinart, he replied: "I liked the way our quarterback from USC played."

A seventh-round draft pick a year ago, Cassel finished 14 of 20 for 192 yards and those two touchdowns, far better than Leinart, who beat him out for the starting job at Southern Cal after Carson Palmer was the No. 1 pick by Cincinnati in the 2001 draft. "I was happy for him," said Leinart. "We're good friends and we talked a couple of times last week. He showed he can be an NFL player."

For that 1:09, so did Leinart.

Vince Young - 11 of 19 But Titans Drop To Denver 35 to 10

Broncos ride Bell to 35-10 win over Titans

NFL.com wire reports

DENVER (Aug 19, 2006) -- Mike Bell made another big blunder and got another earful on the sideline.

Last week, the undrafted, unheralded rookie running back fumbled away the football just days after his dazzling rise through the depth chart to become the Broncos' top tailback.

He redeemed himself by scoring two touchdowns in Denver's 35-10 rout of Tennessee on a wet and chilly night, when he rumbled for 73 yards on 10 carries.

Still, he had some more explaining to do.

Wide receiver Rod Smith chastised him for going out of bounds at the end of a 34-yard run instead of burying his helmet into safety Lamont Thompson.

"There is no one on our football team who has the right to run out of bounds on his own unless it's the quarterback," Smith said. "You always fight for the extra yard. You never know. They might miss the tackle. They might slip. So, he didn't know that, so we let him slide on that one."

Smith intercepted a fuming running backs coach Bobby Turner and convinced him that the admonition should come from a teammate.

"The guy got like 30 yards. You can't be mad at him," Smith said. "But at the same time, you're like, 'Look, man, don't ever run out of bounds again. That sideline is not for us; it's for the quarterbacks."

Jake Plummer looked very sharp early on as he got the Broncos back on the right track.
That is something Denver coach Mike Shanahan had to remind Jake Plummer to do when he took a big hit from linebacker David Thornton while trying to score on a scramble to the pylon in the second quarter.

"I've got to be smart in the preseason to make sure I'm not taking those hits," Plummer said. "It wasn't like I got hit that hard but, still, the head coach doesn't like to see me take those hits in the preseason if I don't have to, so next week you won't see me do that again. I don't want to get yelled at."

Neither does Bell, who said he didn't know about the Broncos' rule that nobody goes out of bounds on their own accord unless they're the one taking the snap.

"I didn't know about that, but as a running back, that's like the golden rule: you never go out of bounds. I don't know what I was thinking," Bell said. "I'm definitely never going to do it again. So, you live and you learn, right?"

Sandwiched in between Bell's 1-yard dive and 1-yard dart into the end zone was a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth down from Plummer to tight end Nate Jackson after the Broncos got the ball at midfield on safety Nick Ferguson 's interception of Billy Volek's pass.

Plummer kept the Titans off balance with a bevy of rollouts and completed 7 of 9 passes for 97 yards before giving way to backup Jay Cutler, the Broncos' top draft pick, who led Denver on touchdown drives on his first two possessions.

Denver didn't punt until the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter and led 35-3 before Vince Young, the No. 3 pick in the draft, led the Titans on a late scoring drive.

The Broncos' defense was almost as efficient and impressive as its offense. Despite missing linemen Courtney Brown (knee) and Gerard Warren (toe), the Broncos registered three sacks of Volek, two by Demetrin Veal, who started in place of Warren.

Two Broncos defensive captains, cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker Al Wilson, were held for breaking curfew: "If you miss curfew, you don't play," Shanahan said. "We've got rules, and they're good for everybody."

The Titans trailed 35-3 before they finally got into the end zone, and even that was an adventure.

Young recovered his own fumble at the goal line after Hamza Abdullah punched the ball loose following an 11-yard scramble up the middle in the fourth quarter.

"It's been a while since I've been hit like that," said Young, who led Texas to the national championship last year.

Young completed 11 of 19 passes for 125 yards against second- and third-stringers. He also had an interception that was wiped out by a penalty. Fellow rookie LenDale White, a Denver native, led the Titans with 28 yards on seven rushes in his NFL debut after sitting out last week for spitting on a teammate during practice.

"All I could say about tonight's performance is I'm glad it was preseason," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "We've got a lot of work to do. We played a really good team tonight and didn't do a good job of matching up."

Notes: Tennessee DE Antwan Odom sprained his right knee making a tackle in the first quarter and was carted off the field. He'll undergo an MRI. ... Broncos WR Javon Walker didn't have any passes thrown his way in his first start since blowing out his right knee in Green Bay's season opener last year.

New York Jets 27; Waahington Redskins 14

Team effort lifts Jets over Redskins 27-14

NFL.com wire reports

LANDOVER, Md. (Aug. 19, 2006) -- If Derrick Blaylock can have another game or two like this, the New York Jets might stop trying to find another running back.

As for the Washington Redskins? Well, suffice it to say that coach Joe Gibbs was agitated and terse, sounding as if he'd just lost by four touchdowns to Dallas in Week 6 of the regular season.

Blaylock made a promising bid to win a starting job, rushing for 46 yards on 10 carries in the Jets' 27-14 victory over the Redskins. He punished what is supposed one of the league's best run defenses with four consecutive carries for 27 yards to start New York's opening drive.

"I feel real good. I felt good about getting the holes, hitting the holes, and seeing the way everybody performed," Blaylock said. "It felt good tonight."

Rookie Brad Smith ran 61 yards for a touchdown on a double reverse, and fellow fourth-round draft pick Leon Washington returned a kickoff 87 yards for a score. Reggie Newhouse added a fourth-quarter touchdown catch as the Jets showed some all-around improvement after last week's 16-3 loss to Tampa Bay.

Leon Washington had six carries for 17 yards to go along with this punt return for a touchdown.
The Jets entered the game trying to sort out two marquee positions. Three quarterbacks got a chance to make a case for the No. 1 job, but none made the kind of statement that would put them ahead of favorite Chad Pennington, who missed the game due to a family illness.

Patrick Ramsey, acquired from the Redskins in the offseason, got the start in his return to his old home stadium. His performance wasn't bad but it was hardly inspiring -- he went 6 for 9 for 33 yards, was sacked twice and didn't have a completion for longer than 9 yards. Ramsey was on the field for one score, but it was the one-play drive that consisted of Smith's long TD run.

"I do feel like we took a step," Ramsey said. "But there are plenty of things that we can clean up."

Brooks Bollinger entered midway through the second quarter and seemed at times to do as much running as throwing. He completed 10 of 16 passes for 69 yards and ran five times for 35 yards. He led a 23-play, 76-yard drive that took nearly 12 minutes and resulted in a field goal in the third quarter.

Second-round pick Kellen Clemens played the fourth quarter and threw the first touchdown pass of the game, a 5-yard toss snagged nicely by NFL Europe product Newhouse, son of former Dallas fullback Robert Newhouse.

With Curtis Martin's career in doubt because of a knee injury -- and after last week's attempted trade for Lee Suggs fell through -- the Jets are left with Blaylock, Washington and Cedric Houston in the mix at running back.

Washington, playing the part of the second quarter and all of the third, ran for 17 yards on six carries. Houston ran for 53 yards on 14 carries in the fourth, when the stands were half-empty and the starters long gone.

The Redskins wanted to see something from their starting offense after last week's 19-3 loss to Cincinnati, but new assistant coach Al Saunders' attack generated only three first downs in three drives with starting quarterback Mark Brunell. The first-team defense was embarrassed by Smith's reverse and allowed 145 yards rushing in the first half.

"I'm concerned all the way across the board," Gibbs said in a postgame news conference that lasted less than three minutes. "I think it's not playing, and me not coaching. When we show up and do stuff like that at home, I take it real serious. I think our players do, too. We're going to do something about it. It's hard for me to find something where I thought we played well."

Jason Campbell, competing with Todd Collins for the No. 2 job, threw an interception in his first drive, but made a nice 20-yard completion under pressure on his next drive to set up Washington's first score, a 1-yard run by Rock Cartwright. Collins, playing the fourth quarter, recovered from a miserable outing last week and went 12 for 18 for 114 yards with one touchdown and an interception.

Redskins defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin left the game in the first quarter with a sprained right knee. Griffin was able to jog off the field, and Gibbs said it was "just a bump -- nothing serious." Backup tight end Robert Johnson injured his left ankle in the third quarter; X-rays were negative.

The Redskins were already playing without three key starters: running back Clinton Portis (shoulder), cornerback Shawn Springs (abdomen) and defensive end Phillip Daniels (back).

In addition to quarterback and running back, the Jets might want to think about starting some competition at punter. Ben Graham, the only punter on the preseason roster, produced a 7-yard shank on his first attempt, then later launched an 8-yarder at the end of a bizarre play. Graham at first looked as if he were going to run the ball on a fake, then, just before reaching the line of scrimmage, he booted the ball diagonally well into the stands.

Green Bay 38, Atlanta Falcons 10

Favre, Packers rout Falcons 38-10

NFL.com wire reports

GREEN BAY, Wis. (Aug. 19, 2006) -- A couple of their touchdowns might have come on fluke plays, but the Green Bay Packers offense suddenly looked legitimate.

One week after being held to a single field goal in San Diego, the Packers put together several sustained scoring drives in a 38-10 preseason victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

Brett Favre was 16-of-22 for 134 yards, throwing two touchdown passes to cap long drives and leading the Packers to a field goal after an interception by Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

"We drove the ball really well," Favre said in quotes distributed by the Packers. "We had some good drives. That was a good feeling, compared to San Diego."

Falcons coach Jim Mora said he was happy with his first-team offense but needs to see more from his reserves.

"It's good to come to Lambeau Field and have Brett Favre on the other side of the field and have 69,000 people in the stands and see how those guys handle the pressure," Mora said. "Tonight, a lot of guys didn't handle it well."

Vick played only the first two series for Atlanta, looking sharp on a seven-play, 80-yard drive on the first. Vick threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dwayne Blakley to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead.

"I felt good. I think everybody did their job," Vick said. "The first unit went out and played with a high level of intensity and we were able to make plays, move the ball, possessed great tempo. When we came out, it was up to the younger guys to pick it up."

Mora didn't see that happen.

Brett Favre looked like the Brett Favre of old, tossing two TDs in limited action.
"After that, as everyone saw, it was downhill," Mora said. "You see we have a glaring deficiency in backups right now. Now that doesn't mean we don't have guys on this team that can't step forward and fill those roles."

Favre answered by driving the Packers to the 3, where he threw a short pass that skipped off the hands of tight end David Martin and was caught by Bubba Franks to tie it at 7.

"We had to come out and punch those guys in the mouth early, and we did," receiver Donald Driver said.

Vick was intercepted by Packers rookie Tyrone Culver on the Falcons' second series, and left the game after completing 5 of 7 passes for 59 yards.

Atlanta backup Matt Schaub entered in the second quarter and had good field position after a 43-yard kickoff return by former Packer Allen Rossum.

Schaub got the Falcons into Packers territory, and Michael Koenen kicked a 51-yard field goal to tie the game at 10 -- another step toward solidifying Koenen's bid to handle both kicking and punting duties for the Falcons this season.

Favre threw his second touchdown pass to running back Najeh Davenport with 2:42 remaining in the half. Packers cornerback Jason Horton then intercepted Schaub's pass just before halftime, running it back 44 yards for a touchdown that gave the Packers a 24-10 halftime lead.

Rookie receiver Greg Jennings caught another Packers touchdown off a favorable bounce, snagging a tipped pass from backup Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter and running 85 yards for a touchdown, allowing the Packers to take a 31-10 lead.

"They caught a lot of breaks," Falcons linebacker Edgerton Hartwell said. "A tipped pass for a touchdown, another tipped pass for a touchdown. A blown coverage for another touchdown. ... Thank God for the preseason, it doesn't count."

Packers rookie defensive lineman Johnny Jolly intercepted a tipped pass in the fourth quarter, setting up Rodgers' touchdown pass to Zac Alcorn to make it 38-10.

The Packers got improved pass protection from a revamped offensive line, that includes two rookie starting guards, and struggled to protect Favre against the Chargers last Saturday.

"I think we're definitely headed in the right direction," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who earned his first preseason victory as a head coach. "You could see that we were capturing the line of scrimmage."

But Davenport, who is returning after missing most of last season with a broken ankle, carried 10 times for only 30 yards.

"I thought he played physical," McCarthy said.

Packers rookie linebacker A.J Hawk made a couple of solid defensive plays in the second quarter, tackling Justin Griffith for a 2-yard loss and breaking up Schaub's pass two plays later.

"As a whole, we played a lot faster tonight than last week," Hawk said. "It's good to get a win, even though it's just a preseason game."

Hawk was penalized 15 yards on the opening drive of the second half for roughing rookie quarterback D.J. Shockley, but later broke up an attempted pass by Shockley on third-and-15. Hawk's play should quiet some early criticism of the first-rounder.

"When he hits his comfort level, you're going to see what it's all about," McCarthy said.

Mario Williams Shows Up / Texans 27 St Louis 10

Williams steps up; Texans hold off Rams

NFL.com wire reports

ST. LOUIS (Aug. 19, 2006) -- A calmer Mario Williams was a lot more disruptive in his second pro game than the amped-up one was in his first.

Williams, who made a negligible impact last week, showed signs of justifying Houston's decision to take him at No. 1 over Reggie Bush in a 27-20 Texans victory against St. Louis.

He drew the Rams into a pair of penalties, batted down a pass to force a punt and tackled running back Tony Fisher for a 3-yard loss.

Last week, Williams said he was too excited.

"I just came out and was really thinking about taking my time and not being too caught up in just being on the field," Williams said. "I just took my time and let it happen, just had fun.

"I had a lot more fun today than I did last week."

Coach Gary Kubiak said Williams "played like a rookie" in the preseason opener.

He saw a different player against the Rams.

"Without looking at the film, I could feel his pressure out there," Kubiak said. "That's what you have to have. You have to take steps each week."

Vernand Morency, who did not play in the preseason opener due to a hip injury and coach Gary Kubiak's decision to look at other backs, had touchdown runs of 4 and 43 yards and totaled 95 yards on 11 carries. Phillip Buchanon also had a big game for the Texans (2-0), with punt returns of 32 and 33 yards and a fumble recovery on the first play of the second half that gave Houston the ball at the St. Louis 17, which led to Kris Brown's field goal and a 13-3 lead.

A pass-interference call in the end zone on Buchanon, however, led to a 1-yard run by Fred Russell late in the third quarter that cut the Texans' lead to 20-17.

The Texans, who completed a preseason sweep of Missouri's NFL teams after beating the Chiefs 24-14 last week, also got a 44-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels to Derrick Lewis in the fourth quarter.

The Rams (1-1) scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter -- a 4-yard touchdown pass from Gus Frerotte to Shaun McDonald and a 1-yard run by Fred Russell. St. Louis had first-and-goal at the 2 at the 2-minute warning but the Texans' defense held.

Vernand Morency's two touchdown runs paced the Texans to victory.
Coach Scott Linehan said he would have gone for a 2-point conversion and the victory had the Rams scored.

"The bottom line is the keys to winning weren't there," Linehan said. "I don't think we played as smart and as tuned-in as we did a week ago."

Last week, Williams was on the field for only 11 plays and was credited with one assist. This time he lined up at both end positions and saw some action at tackle.

Williams was part of a defensive-line rotation that played the first half, along with quarterback David Carr and the rest of the Texans' first-stringers. Most Rams starters were out of the game by early in the second, with the starters producing three points in three possessions.

"We've got some things we've still got to iron out with our offense," Carr said. "It was good to see that, so I don't mind playing the whole half."

The Rams' No. 1 offense has not scored a touchdown in five preseason possessions.

The Texans' first touchdown, Morency's 4-yard run midway through the second quarter, came against the Rams' second-stringers. So did Kris Brown's 48-yard field goal with one second left in the half, four plays after Dexter McCleon blocked Remy Hamilton's 51-yard attempt.

Carr was 10-for-17 for 99 yards, while Rams starter Marc Bulger was 7-for-13 for 86 yards.

The Rams' special teams, last in the NFL last season, struggled for the second successive game. Matt Turk had two 50-yard punts and a 59-yarder, but Buchanon returned one of the 50-yarders 33 yards to help set up Houston's first touchdown.

Buchanon's 32-yard return came one play after an ineligible-downfield call on Brandon Green negated a Turk punt that would have pinned the Texans at the 3.

"That's huge field position, and this is a field-position game," Linehan said. "That's as bad as a turnover."

Last week, the Rams were victimized by an Indianapolis onside kick on the opening play, and also gave up a 63-yard kickoff return to set up the Colts' first 10 points in St. Louis' opening 19-17 victory.

The Rams held out offensive tackle Orlando Pace, who sprained his right knee and ankle Aug. 14. Defensive end Leonard Little (quad) also was held out. The Texans held out guard Steve McKinney (knee).

St. Louis was held to 61 yards on 27 carries after totaling 202 yards rushing last week against the Colts. The Texans took away the run with lots of eight-man fronts.

"I believe we're coming along," center Andy McCollum said. "We've got the guys who are going to take it upon themselves to fix the mistakes they've made."

Vikings 17 Steelers 10

Vikings knock off Steelers 17-10

NFL.com wire reports

PITTSBURGH (Aug. 19, 2006) -- So far this preseason, it's been one and done for Ben Roethlisberger. One series and he's done and, for the most part, so is the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense.

Brad Johnson and rookie Tarvaris Jackson each threw for a touchdown and the Minnesota Vikings got production from starters and backups alike in beating the Steelers 17-10.

Roethlisberger, a surprise starter because of his right thumb injury, threw for a touchdown on the Steelers' opening drive while running a version of the no-huddle. After that, the offense basically shut down for the rest of the game.

Just as in a 21-13 loss to Arizona last weekend, the Steelers' execution was spotty, with mistakes, incorrect pass routes and turnovers. They had a fumble and an interception in their final two possessions of the first half.

Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a touchdown on the team's opening drive.
"It was their first game back after winning the Super Bowl and, after that first drive, we just said we had to weather the storm," said cornerback Ronyell Whitaker, who had a sack and a forced fumble. "We knew it would be a hostile crowd, but we wanted to go out and see how we stand against the Super Bowl champions."

So far, the Steelers are playing much like they were a year ago, when their starters didn't score a touchdown on offense in the preseason before going on to win the franchise's first Super Bowl in 26 years. So much for the importance of exhibition play; Roethlisberger had thrown only one other preseason TD pass in three years before doing so Saturday.

"I think we got in a fast tempo while we were out there, but we didn't run the ball much," Steelers fullback Dan Kreider said. "We didn't mix the run and the pass like we usually do most games because we weren't out there that long."

Roethlisberger was listed as questionable after spraining a right thumb ligament in practice Wednesday. But he got the offense into the end zone so quickly, throwing a 16-yard scoring pass to Cedrick Wilson with less than 5 minutes gone, he was pulled after only six plays.

"The thumb feels pretty good," Roethlisberger said. "It was one of those things where we said let's go out there and warm up and see how we feel. It felt good out there."

In two games, Roethlisberger is 6-of-8 for 59 yards and has shown no effects of the June 12 motorcycle accident that left him with a broken jaw, nose and a concussion, among other injuries.

"They came out with a sort of a no-huddle trying to get us rattled," Vikings linebacker Napoleon Harris said. "We came out kind of flat defensively, but once we settled down and got into the speed of the game, we got pressure on the quarterback."

Both starting quarterbacks had no problems moving their offenses, with Johnson going 9-of-11 for 71 yards while throwing a 12-yard scoring pass to tight end Jermaine Wiggins on Minnesota's first possession after the Steelers' touchdown.

But it was Jackson, the second-round draft pick from Alabama State, who got the Vikings offense moving again in limited playing time -- just as he did during a relatively brief but effective appearance during a 16-13 loss Monday to Oakland.

He didn't have to scramble for yardage as he did while running for 36 yards against the Raiders, but was more accurate as a thrower by completing 9 of 11 passes for 80 yards. His 6-yard touchdown pass to Jason Carter early in the third quarter put the Vikings up 17-7 and finished off a 56-yard drive in which the rookie was 5-of-5 for 54 yards. He was 7-of-13 overall for 60 yards against the Raiders.

"This is what have to do as a team every week," wide receiver Troy Williamson said. "We've got two good quarterbacks and one who's still learning what to do."

The big play on the Jackson-led drive was a 26-yard completion over the middle to Ryan Hoag on a second-and-17 play after Jackson was sacked on first down. Jackson played much better than Mike McMahon, who was expected to be Johnson's backup but was pulled after completing only 1 of 7 passes for 42 yards and throwing an interception.

Steelers first-round draft pick Santonio Holmes also stood out, though mostly for the wrong reasons. After Holmes apparently ran the wrong pass route on a Batch-thrown interception after the Steelers had driven to the Vikings' 27 in the second quarter, players and coaches alike -- led by Roethlisberger -- gathered around to show him what he did wrong.

"We weren't on the same page and you saw the end result," Batch said. "We played in spurts on offense and defense and we've got to put it all together."

Later, Holmes was certain he made a catch along the Steelers sideline, but was ruled to be juggling the ball. Holmes seemed surprised at the call, and coach Bill Cowher challenged it, but it was upheld.

Losing their first two preseason games is nothing new for the Steelers, who also did it in 2002 and 2003.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17, Carolina Panthers 10

Panthers frustrate Garrard, defeat Jaguars

NFL.com wire reports

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Aug. 19, 2006) -- David Garrard's worst game came at an inopportune time. It also ended whatever outside shot he had at supplanting starter Byron Leftwich.

Jacksonville's backup quarterback mostly struggled with -- and against -- the starters, fumbling three times, throwing an interception and getting sacked once in a 17-10 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers. He was intercepted again in the third quarter against Carolina's second-team defense.

It was hardly the outing Garrard wanted when he was given a chance to showcase his skills with the first-team offense. It also solidified his spot behind Leftwich, essentially ending a mild quarterback controversy that began last season when Garrard went 4-1 in place of an injured Leftwich.

"A real tough night," Garrard said. "I haven't one of those in quite a while. I guess it happens to the best of us. It does hurt a little bit more when you're trying to get these valuable reps because you don't get many of them, and when you do, you've got to seize the moment."

Coach Jack Del Rio decided to let Garrard play extensively with the first-team offense to better evaluate the fifth-year quarterback. But Carolina's defense, which was dominant in its preseason opener against Buffalo last week, proved to be more than he could handle.

Leftwich started the game and played two series. He was 4-for-4 for 52 yards and was sacked twice. Garrard fared much worse in four series of relief.

He fumbled his second snap of the game and was intercepted three plays later when his pass sailed over Ernest Wilford's head and into Colin Branch's hands. Garrard fumbled another snap on Jacksonville's next possession but completed three passes to put the Jaguars (1-1) in position for Seth Marler's 50-yard field goal that tied the score at 3.

David Garrard had some bright moments, but Carolina's defense stung him in crucial moments.
Carolina (2-0) made it 10-3 after Nick Goings scored from a yard out with 26 seconds to play in the first half. The short TD run followed a pass interception penalty against Scott Starks, who was draped all over Keyshawn Johnson in the end zone.

Instead of taking a knee and ending the first half, the Jaguars tried to move the ball downfield with about 20 seconds remaining. But Julius Peppers, who also had a sack against the Bills, beat right tackle Maurice Williams and sacked Garrard deep in the backfield. Garrard fumbled for a third time, and defensive lineman Mike Rucker picked up the loose ball and ran 31 yards for a score and a 17-3 lead.

"For us to come out here and do a couple of good things was a positive move in the right direction," Rucker said.

Del Rio stuck with his first-team offense to open the third quarter, which gave Garrard a chance to redeem himself against Carolina's backups. Garrard led the Jags to the 19-yard line, but Richard Marshall intercepted his pass to Wilford in the end zone.

"Everything was great besides those three plays," Garrard said, referring to the two interceptions and the sack. "You take those three plays away and we're moving the ball and we're doing everything that's asked of us. It was just some poor throws and not holding onto the ball good enough on the sack. But those are all things I can correct."

Garrard finished 7-for-11 for 86 yards.

"It wasn't as sharp as I know he can be," Del Rio said.

Jake Delhomme was much better for the Panthers, who played again without Steve Smith. The All-Pro receiver sat out for precautionary reasons after missing 17 days of training camp because of a strained left hamstring.

Delhomme led the Panthers to a score on their opening possession for the second time in as many games. He completed a 40-yard pass to Keary Colbert on third-and-7, and John Kasey kicked a 22-yard field goal.

Delhomme played the entire first half and was 10-for-18 for 129 yards, but he also saw two passes nearly intercepted.

"Certainly there's a lot more work to be done. That was evident," Delhomme said. "It wasn't our crispest game. But it's going against that defense. That's a pretty impressive defense. They did some good things and we were a little sloppy in some areas."

Miami Dolphins Beat Tampa Bay Bucs 13-10

Dolphins hold off Bucs to win 13-10

NFL.com wire reports

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 19, 2006) -- Daunte Culpepper was more than ready for the next logical step on his comeback trail.

The Miami quarterback took the first real hit since undergoing knee surgery, then absorbed a second and a third while helping the Dolphins to a 13-10 preseason victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"It was beautiful to finally get a hit because everybody was kind of waiting to see what would happen, what would be my reaction," Culpepper said. "I think I handled it pretty well."

The eighth-year pro played into the second quarter, completing 7 of 9 passes for 86 yards and leading a nine-minute touchdown drive after producing little offense on his team's first three possessions.

Culpepper played one series in Miami's preseason opener against Jacksonville, completing one pass for 2 yards. This appearance lasted 23 plays, 14 of them on the 70-yard march that Sammy Morris finished with a 2-yard TD run.

Equally encouraging for the Dolphins (1-1) was the way Culpepper got through the first true contact work he's had since tearing three ligaments in his right knee while playing for the Minnesota Vikings last season.

"I wasn't even worried about it. I'm worried about the next play and what we've got to do to be successful," Culpepper said.

"I told myself that I was going to push myself as hard as I possibly could before training camp even started so at the time when I do start taking some hits I'd be ready for them physically."

Daunte Culpepper absorbed some punishment, but the Dolphins starting QB took it in stride.
Tampa Bay's Barrett Ruud and Anthony McFarland sacked Culpepper on consecutive plays in the first quarter, with the first hit causing a fumble that Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown recovered at the Miami 18.

Ruud later tested the quarterback's mobility, chasing him out of the pocket and forcing Culpepper to throw a pass that was ruled intentional grounding when the ball failed to get back to the line of scrimmage.

"I play the game a certain way -- to make plays, some with my legs. Sometimes you get hit. That's football," Culpepper said. "My knee's fine. I just thank God that everything's holding up. I'm continuing to get stronger every day."

Chris Simms started at quarterback for Tampa Bay (1-1) and led a field goal drive, followed by two three-and-outs. He completed 2 of 7 passes for 27 yards and was sacked twice, once by Dan Wilkinson, the much-traveled defensive tackle who signed with Miami last Monday.

Wilkinson wasn't surprised that he was able to contribute despite being in training camp for less than a week.

"I've been healthy, and I have been in good shape pretty much my entire career," Wilkinson said. "I knew coming out here I was ready to roll."

Joey Harrington, another of the Dolphins' newcomers, followed Culpepper and was 8-of-15 for 81 yards. He led a pair of field goal drives before being replaced by Cleo Lemon at the start of the fourth quarter.

The Bucs made it close in the fourth when rookie Bruce Gradkowski threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Edell Shepherd, who slipped behind Dolphins first-round draft pick Jason Allen to trim Miami's lead to 13-10.

Gradkowski had the Bucs on the move again, but a poorly thrown pass glanced off Shepherd's hand and was intercepted by safety Jack Hunt with just under 2 minutes to go.

"It went pretty well, but we didn't get the 'W,' and that's the most important thing," Gradkowski said. "It's hard to swallow not winning. We have to learn from it, build for next time and see what happens."

Several Tampa Bay starters, including running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and receiver Joey Galloway on offense and linebackers Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles and end Simeon Rice on defense, sat out.

Defensive end Jason Taylor started for Miami after sitting out last week's game with a back injury.

Seattle Seahawks 30, Colts 17

Seahawks get the better of Indy, 30-17

NFL.com wire reports

INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 20, 2006) -- All Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander had to do was keep pace with Indianapolis' starters. Done.

Leonard Weaver and the Seattle backups overwhelmed the rest of the Colts.

Weaver rushed for one touchdown, Mike Green returned an interception for another and Josh Brown kicked three field goals to give the defending NFC champions a 30-17 victory at Indianapolis.

"As bad as we were last week, that's how well we played today," Hasselbeck said. "What a difference it makes when you win a game, just the attitude, the energy in the locker room."

The game, which featured the NFL's last two MVPs -- Peyton Manning and Alexander -- for a little more than one quarter, had a distinctly preseason look to it.

Indianapolis, which has now lost eight straight preseason games and nine of 10 dating to 2004, tried an onside kick and a fake punt, and during one short span in the fourth quarter, the two teams traded possessions twice in three plays. By the end, only a smattering of fans remained in their seats.

The starters for both teams, however, looked sharp.

Alexander ran five times for 20 yards and set up the Seahawks first scoring drive. Hasselbeck completed 8 of 9 passes for 88 yards although he was sacked twice. It was enough to give Seattle a chance.

The Colts offense, as usual, looked good.

Timely stops and turnovers proved Seattle's defense is ready for the season.
Manning completed six of his first seven passes and had a perfect rating of 158.3 in the first quarter before finishing 6 of 9 for 140 yards with one touchdown and a 146.8 rating. And Marvin Harrison turned a spectacular one-handed grab on the run into a 35-yard gain on the Colts' second series. It was his only catch of the night.

The Colts also finished with 93 yards rushing, nearly triple their total from the preseason opener at St. Louis.

"It's always good to go out and get a drive on that first series," Manning said. "The second drive was going good, too, until an unfortunate fumble."

Tony Dungy was more upset with the litany of miscues that followed the starters' departure.

"It's disappointing because we made some of the same errors we made last week," he said. "You can't fumble the ball and drop the ball against a team like Seattle. They were good enough to take advantage of it."

Manning opened the game with a crisp 78-yard scoring drive that ended with a nifty 30-yard TD pass to Reggie Wayne.

Seattle answered with Brown's 30-yard field goal, and then Manning went back to work.

After Harrison's circus catch, Manning had the Colts in scoring position again when he connected with tight end Ben Utecht on a 27-yard pass to the Seahawks 11. One problem: Julian Peterson stripped the ball and Michael Boulware recovered to end the threat.

It was all Seattle the rest of the way.

Peter Warrick's 25-yard punt return put the Seahawks at the Colts 40 midway through the second quarter, and Weaver scored on a 1-yard run five plays later to give Seattle a 10-7 lead. Weaver carried 14 times for 51 yards.

Manning's backup, Jim Sorgi, entered the game on the ensuing series, but was hit hard on each of his first two passes. The second fluttered toward the sideline where Green picked it off and ran it back 18 yards to make it 17-7.

The second hit knocked Sorgi out with an injury apparently to his throwing shoulder. Dungy said the Colts would re-evaluate the injury Aug. 21.

Brown's 39-yard field goal as time ran out in the first half made it 20-7, and the teams traded field goals in the third quarter to make it 23-10.

Then came another preseason caper -- when Weaver fumbled near the goal line and center Chris Spencer fell on it for a touchdown to make it 30-10.

"Our second guys knew they were going to play a lot," Alexander said. "Coach Holmgren just really stressed to them that their lives are on the line. Sometimes when your backs are against the wall, you can't help but throw punches."

The Colts got a 1-yard run from Tony Hollings with 7:33 left, but could get no closer.

Both teams were missing a handful of starters.

The Colts played without defensive tackle Montae Reagor, cornerback Jason David, safeties Mike Doss and Bob Sanders, and guard Ryan Lilja. Also sitting out was receiver Brandon Stokley.

The Seahawks held out defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, defensive end Grant Wistrom, Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu, tight end Jerramy Stevens and receiver Darrell Jackson.

Notes: The Colts distributed 56,596 tickets, their highest total for a preseason game in 20 years. Indy had 57,969 on Aug. 30, 1986, a 23-20 loss to Minnesota. ... Ken Hamlin, who had one tackle last week against Dallas, made two tackles against the Colts in his second game back after he fractured his skull in a street fight last October. ... Colts backup running back James Mungro left in the third quarter with a knee injury, and defensive end Johnathan Goddard left with a foot injury. Neither returned.

Oakland Raiders Offense Looks Better; Raiders Top 49ers 23-7

Raiders continue upswing, win 23-7

NFL.com wire reports

OAKLAND, Calif. (Aug. 20, 2006) -- (Aug. 20, 2006) -- The passing game clicked, the defense created turnovers and the special teams was strong once again.

The Oakland Raiders put together their most complete performance of the preseason, yet coach Art Shell is far from satisfied.

Aaron Brooks threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Doug Gabriel on Oakland's opening drive, and Andrew Walter led the Raiders to two second-half scores in a 23-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

"We're not where we need to be," Shell said. "We're not where I want to be. We're not there. I expect a more efficient football team throughout. But I thought they performed better as a team today than the last two weeks."

Doug Gabriel started the game off right with a TD catch on the opening drive.
Oakland improved to 3-0 in preseason under Shell, who coached the Raiders for the first time in the Coliseum. Shell, who played most of his Hall of Fame career in Oakland, coached the team for 4½ seasons when it played in Los Angeles.

"It was really nice to walk back in the stadium on this side and be a part of it again," Shell said.

The Raiders ran for 156 yards, completed 67 percent of their passes, committed no procedural penalties and scored on five of their first eight drives. They also held the Niners to 209 yards.

"We're taking strides," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "We took a really good step today. The offense moved the ball. We played nice, tight defense and created turnovers. ... This is the NFL, my friend. Whenever you can do that, you're playing good football."

Niners coach Mike Nolan was disappointed with his team's performance, calling it a step back from last week's 28-14 win over Chicago.

San Francisco avoided a shutout when Trent Dilfer threw a 6-yard TD pass to Michael Robinson with 3:35 remaining.

"A very flat performance from our football team," Nolan said. "It started that way in our warmups, and I thought we were flat the entire game. We missed tackles, we missed opportunities for turnovers, and much the same offensively. I was not pleased with the tempo."

After completing only one pass in each of Oakland's first two exhibition games, Brooks came out looking sharp, completing an 11-yard pass to Gabriel on his first play.

He was 4 of 5 for 42 yards on the 75-yard drive and also had a 25-yard scramble. He was helped out when Mike Adams dropped a potential interception at the goal line three plays before the TD pass to Gabriel.

Brooks, who finished 10 of 17 for 125 yards, connected with Randal Williams on a 39-yard pass late in the second half to set up Sebastian Janikowski's 23-yard field goal.

Brooks also had problems at times. He missed a wide-open Alvis Whitted on a deep pass, threw an interception in the end zone and botched a handoff to LaMont Jordan that nearly led to another turnover.

"It was a slow start for us offensively the first two games," Brooks said. "I know we made some strides this game, but it's a process. Every time we get out on the football field, whether it's practice or a game, we just want to get better. I felt we did that tonight."

Walter went 8 of 9 for 99 yards, leading scoring drives on both of his possessions. Justin Fargas scored on a 3-yard run to cap the first drive, and David Kimball kicked a 23-yard field goal to end the second drive.

San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, who had a strong preseason opener, struggled against the Raiders. He began the game by throwing an off-target lateral to Bryan Gilmore that ended up as a 12-yard loss and ended his half by throwing a pass that was intercepted by Tyrone Poole.

Smith was intercepted earlier in the half by Raiders first-round pick Michael Huff, who left the game with a slightly sprained left ankle. Smith went 6 of 12 for 81 yards.

"I can probably count on just one hand the number of plays I'd like to redo, but that'll be good to sit down and go over," Smith said. "It's something we can learn from."

Before the game, the 49ers traded running back Kevan Barlow to the New York Jets for an undisclosed 2007 draft pick. The trade officially makes Frank Gore the starter. Gore, San Francisco's leading rusher as a rookie last year with 608 yards, gained 42 yards on seven carries.

Notes: Dilfer got two personal fouls in the game for taunting. The second came after his TD pass when he ran over to the Raiders' sideline to yell at Sapp, his former Tampa Bay teammate. "The apocalypse is definitely on us when Trent Dilfer gets two personal fouls," Sapp said. ... The Raiders have five interceptions through three preseason games, matching their total from the 2005 regular season.

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