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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Seattle Tuffs Out A Win Over The Lions

The Lions have some of the same pass blocking problems faced by the Oakland Raiders. But they have a stout defense and a more creative passing system.

Brown's FGs carry Seahawks over Lions

NFL.com wire reports

DETROIT (Sept. 10, 2006) -- The Seattle Seahawks got to celebrate at Ford Field -- seven months too late.

On the turf where Seattle lost the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Josh Brown kicked a 42-yard field goal on the last play of the game to lift the Seahawks to a 9-6 victory over the Detroit Lions.

When the game ended, the Seahawks jumped around, hugged and shouted.

"I'm ready to pass out. That's fun," Brown said on the field after a teammate jubilantly lifted him off the ground. "This is exactly the way I would like to start the season."

Perhaps only a kicker could enjoy a game with five field goals and no touchdowns.

The defending NFC champions, who led the NFL in scoring last season, put together a key drive when they needed it after a sluggish day behind a shaky offensive line.

Seattle started the game-winning drive at their 20 with 3:13 left after Lions' new coach Rod Marinelli decided against a long field-goal attempt.

Maurice Morris set up the game-winning kick with a 17-yard run, one of his three carries, spelling last year's league MVP Shaun Alexander.

Seattle defensive end Bryce Fisher said it was not an ugly win.

"I've never seen one," Fisher said. "It's like an ugly baby -- you never see one."

The Lions blocked two field-goal attempts in the first 17½ minutes of the lackluster game to give them a chance to pick up a surprising victory in the season opener.

Despite two blocked FGs, Josh Brown celebrates the game-winner as time expired.
Marinelli, a head coach for the first time at any level, said he didn't regret his late-game decision that many will second guess.

The Lions drove to Seattle's 37, but Marinelli chose to punt instead of allowing Jason Hanson to attempt a 54-yard field goal. Nick Harris then sailed the punt beyond the end zone.

"We were playing dominating defense at that point and I was hoping to back them up again and get another shot," Marinelli said.

Hanson acknowledged that it's a tough call for a coach to make.

"I'd like to think I can step out there and make a 55-yarder, and if I do, we have a good chance to win," Hanson said. "But if I don't, they only need one first down to get into field-goal range."

On Detroit's previous two possessions, Hanson made it 6-all with a 37-yard field goal with 7:05 left after being short on a 52-yard kick that he said was tipped at the line.

Marinelli spent the previous 10 seasons coaching Tampa Bay's defensive line and coached the unit in place of Joe Cullen, who was arrested twice recently on suspicion of drunken driving and because police say he was driving nude. Cullen will be back to coach in the next game at Chicago, Marinelli said.

Detroit's defensive front gave the Seattle's offensive line problems, perhaps because it missed Steve Hutchinson, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent.

The Lions sacked Matt Hasselbeck five times, hurried him a few more times and knocked him around on several other attempts. Detroit also limited Alexander to 51 yards on 19 carries. Hasselbeck was 25 of 30 for 210 yards.

"It's not good enough," Marinelli said. "I'm not interested in just playing hard and well."

Detroit's Jon Kitna, who replaced Joey Harrington, was 21 of 37 for 229 yards and was booed at times for making poor throws.

"We will be fine on offense," Kitna said. "We'll score and hold up our end."

Harrington, the third pick overall in 2002, was traded in the offseason to Miami.

The Seahawks got off to a rough start with two blocked field goals and a fumble on their first three drives. Shaun Rogers knocked down Seattle's field goal on the opening drive, the eighth blocked field goal of his career, and James Hall blocked the other attempt

Hanson put the Lions ahead 3-0 on their first possession with a 44-yard kick.

The Seahawks tied the game midway through the second quarter on Brown's 20-yarder and his 51-yard field goal at the end of the half put them ahead 6-3.

Vikings Beat Redskins As Tom Cruise Watches

Tom Cruise was the guest of Redskins owner Dan Synder

Vikings outkick Redskins late 19-16

NFL.com wire reports

LANDOVER, Md. (Sept. 11, 2006) -- Two days before his 38th birthday, Brad Johnson was the one handing out a very nice present. In the locker room, the quarterback gave the game ball to new head coach Brad Childress, whose mission to transform the Minnesota Vikings is off to a winning start.

Ryan Longwell's 31-yard field goal with one minute remaining gave the Vikings a 19-16 victory against the Washington Redskins. For now, Childress has at least some temporary bragging rights over Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.

"I am tremendously humble and was a little emotional after the game," Childress said. "I'm just happy for those guys in the locker room. ... They faced a lot of adversity tonight. It was an away game, a Monday night, Hall of Fame coach -- I'm just pleased with what they accomplished."

Johnson deserved much of the credit himself for doing what he has been doing throughout his NFL life: win, win and win some more.

He has won an impressive 61 percent (66 of 109) of his starts with four teams in his 15-year career -- including two years with the Redskins. He completed 16 of 30 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown, and kept bailing out his team, completing 10 of 15 passes on third down.

"That's Brad," center Matt Birk said. "He's just so smart, and he's obviously crafty to have played in the league this long."

The loss subdued a Washington crowd that turned the stadium into a sea of fluttering red, white and blue as they waved American flags to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Big things are expected of the Redskins this year, a confidence reflected in an attendance of 90,608 that set a new record for the largest stadium in the NFL. Even Hollywood made an appearance: Actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were guests of owner Dan Snyder, who has recently entered into a partnership with Cruise's production company.

Nothing in the sideshow helped the Redskins win. They did have a chance to send the game to overtime after Longwell's kick, but John Hall -- who has struggled with leg injuries for the past two years -- was wide left with a poorly hit 48-yard field goal attempt with 12 seconds remaining.

"There were some plays, yards and even some touchdowns that we left on the field," said Mark Brunell, who was 17-for-28 for 163 yards. "How far off we are I'm not quite sure yet, but I do know that we're a throw away, a block away and a run away from really doing some good things tonight."

Childress has vowed to change the culture of a Vikings team that was belittled last year following the infamous "Love Boat" party involving several players. He made a statement before the game by deactivating safety Dwight Smith, who was cited for indecent conduct two weeks ago.

Marcus Robinson beats Carlos Rogers for a 20-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
"A win is always good," receiver Troy Williamson said. "It's going to be even greater for Coach Childress."

Chester Taylor, the Vikings' free-agent signing from Baltimore, rushed 31 times for 88 yards and a touchdown, upstaging Clinton Portis' surprise return for Washington. Portis, who spent the week downplaying his chances for the game because of a shoulder injury, entered the game late during the Redskins' first drive and finished with 39 yards on 10 carries and scored his team's only touchdown.

A game that had no turnovers was decided with a winning Vikings drive that began at Minnesota's 33 with 5:34 remaining. A 13-yard pass to Williamson converted a key third down, and 15 yards were added to the play when Redskins safety Sean Taylor grabbed Williamson's face mask.

From there, Taylor carried five consecutive times to the Washington 13, forcing the Redskins to use all their timeouts before Longwell's winning kick.

The Vikings become the 10th road team to win in the NFL's opening weekend, the most in Week 1 since 1983, when there were 12 road winners.

"That just shows how battle-tested we are," said Minnesota safety Darren Sharper, who saved a touchdown by knocking the ball out of Santana Moss' hands in the end zone late in the first half. "That's what coach has expressed to us all camp -- he wants a hardened unit."

The Redskins sputtered as they unveiled a new offense designed by assistant coach Al Saunders. Saunders' arrival meant Gibbs wasn't calling plays for the first time in his head-coaching career, and the attack relied heavily on laterals and screens, making for some odd stats. At halftime, a receiver, Moss, led the team in rushing, while a running back, Ladell Betts, led the team in receptions.

"I think, obviously, we'd like to have more points," Gibbs said. "I don't think anybody in there from an offensive standpoint is satisfied."

San Diego Chargers 27, Oakland Raiders 0 - Monday Night Football

Chargers dominate Raiders 27-0

NFL.com wire reports

OAKLAND, Calif. (Sept. 11, 2006) -- LaDainian Tomlinson and Shawne Merriman made Philip Rivers' job easy.

In his first NFL start, Rivers didn't do much more than hand the ball off and watch his defense dominate. He didn't have to: Tomlinson carried 31 times for 131 yards and one touchdown and the Chargers handed Oakland its second home shutout in a 27-0 victory against the Raiders.

"It was exciting," Rivers said. "I've been waiting for this day for a long time. ... I've said before, I don't care if I have to hand it off 50 times or throw it 50 times, as long as we win."

With much of the focus on Rivers as he replaces Drew Brees, Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer put the game in the hands of Tomlinson and his defense, spoiling Art Shell's first game back as Raiders coach.

"I was shocked," Shell said. "We didn't play well, as you could tell. We didn't have the intensity level that the San Diego Chargers did. I didn't get us prepared for this game."

San Diego beat the Raiders for the sixth consecutive time and shut them out for the first time in their past 90 regular-season meetings. When the Chargers won 44-0 in 1961, Al Davis was an assistant coach with San Diego.

Tomlinson showed little sign of rust after sitting out the entire preseason, topping 100 yards rushing in the second quarter. He has 837 yards rushing in his past six meetings with Oakland.

"When you have a young quarterback, you run the football a lot," Tomlinson said. "You don't ever want to put a young quarterback in a situation to make a turnover unless you have to. We played conservative and our defense was playing well so we had to ride our defense."

Rivers, who spent his first two seasons as a backup, went 8-for-11 for 108 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates in the fourth quarter that made it 20-0.

The Chargers ran the ball on 48 of 59 plays, and Rivers threw only two passes to wide receivers.

"That was dictated by the score," Schottenheimer said. "If I had Dan Marino, I would have done the same thing. Everything he was asked to do, he did in a winning fashion."

The Chargers' victory capped an opening weekend in the NFL in which 11 games were won by visiting teams, the most on opening weekend since 1983, when 12 teams did it. The Raiders joined Green Bay and Tampa Bay as home teams who failed to score in their openers as they had no answer for Merriman and the Chargers defense.

Merriman, the NFL’s top defensive rookie last season, had three of San Diego's nine sacks and the Chargers held the Raiders to 129 yards in Brooks' first game as quarterback. Brooks, who went 6-for-14 for 68 yards, was replaced in the fourth quarter by Andrew Walter.

"It was just a tough outing. They played better than us," Brooks said. "We're going to get better."

Shell was brought back to Oakland to turn the Raiders around after the worst three-year stretch in Davis' more than four decades with the franchise. But after one game it looked like the same old Raiders, who won 13 games over the past three seasons.

No matter where Aaron Brooks turned, Shawne Merriman seemed to be there.
The Raiders was shut out for the first time since a 30-0 loss to Kansas City on Dec. 7, 1997, and they hadn't been blanked at home since losing 17-0 to Denver on Oct. 4, 1981.

"They were getting kind of frustrated because we weren't giving the quarterback enough time," Merriman said. "They didn't have as much time to throw the ball as they wanted to. We made Aaron Brooks make decisions that he didn't want to make."

The Chargers ran the ball eight of nine times on the opening drive, with the only pass going to Tomlinson, as the Chargers moved 51 yards to set up Nate Kaeding's 47-yard field goal.

Tomlinson ran 58 yards on the first play of the second drive and capped it with a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal.

Rivers didn't throw a ball to a receiver until the third drive, when he connected with Keenan McCardell on an 18-yard pass on third-and-8. Kaeding missed wide on a 42-yard field goal attempt, but Nnamdi Asomugha was called for running into the kicker and Kaeding made good on his second chance from 29 yards to make it 13-0.

The Raiders offense was booed by the sellout crowd only 12 minutes into the season. The revamped offensive line failed to create any running lanes for LaMont Jordan, who had 20 yards on 10 carries, or to protect Brooks.

Oakland's leading receiver in 2005, Jerry Porter, was inactive for the game as his standing on the team has dropped after demanding a trade at the start of training camp. He joked on the sidelines as the Raiders struggled to move the ball.

Brooks didn't even attempt a pass to Randy Moss in the game’s first 25 minutes. Moss had four catches for 47 yards.

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