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Saturday, November 21, 2009

FRO's FAVORITE FIVE Top Five NFL Moments - Week 10

Photo: Lucas Oil Stadium-Where Peyton Manning trumped Bill Belichick ....

Top Five NFL Moments - Week 10
by Jon Wagner, Sr. Writer-At Large, Football Reporters Online


After starting the 2009 season 4-0 on the road but just 1-3 at home, Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals appeared headed for another head-scratching home defeat. They trailed Seattle, which came in 0-3 on the road, 14-0 more than halfway through the second quarter, after being stopped on their first five drives. Then, Warner and the Cardinals caught fire, scoring on their next three possessions and on five of their next six, spanning the game’s final three quarters. In the end, the Cardinals scored 31 of the game’s final 37 points, to beat the Seahawks, 31-20. Warner finished the game throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 29 of 38 passes for 340 yards. It marked the 51st career 300-yard game for Warner, tying him with the legendary Dan Fouts for fourth on the all-time NFL list.


Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson calls his teammate Sidney Rice “Showtime,” but he didn’t come up with the nickname himself. “He’s got it tattooed on his arm,” Peterson said. ”It fits him well.” It certainly did on Sunday, in the Vikings’ 27-10 victory over the Detroit Lions, who joined the Houston Oilers (1982-84) as the only NFL teams to lose 31 of 33 games. Rice caught seven passes, accounting for 201 of Brett Favre’s season high 344 yards, to help the Vikings to 492 total yards of offense. It was the third time in four games that “Showtime” put on a show, as the Vikings’ 2007 second-round pick followed up receiving games of 176 yards in a win over Baltimore in Week 6 and a 136-yard effort in a Week 7 loss at Pittsburgh.


The Cincinnati Bengals resurgence this season doesn’t surprise me. After all, I picked them on our FRO Show as my surprise turnaround team of 2009 after their 4-11-1 season last year. I have to admit though, I didn’t think it would be the Bengals defense that would lead them back this year. I figured their defense would be better, but I thought a strong year from Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco would be leading the charge. And, although a 7-2 isn’t far off from where I thought they’d be at this point in 2009, I do find it hard to fathom that the Bengals have matched last year’s win total solely against their two biggest division rivals, after already sweeping both Baltimore and Pittsburgh. On Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Bengals, using a 96-yard kick return for a touchdown and a punishing defense, beat the Steelers at their own game, not even needing an offensive touchdown, to win, 18-12. Cincinnati held Pittsburgh to 226 total yards, sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times, intercepted him once, and most importantly, did not allow a Steeler touchdown. As a result, there’s a new balance of power in the NFC North, as the Steelers and Ravens are now chasing the Bengals this year.


At 3-6, the Tennessee Titans have had a very tough season overall, but one constant has been Chris Johnson. It’s just that now, Johnson’s exploits are leading to Titans’ victories. Johnson has been excelling all year long, but a lot of that came through an 0-6 start for Tennessee. Lately though, Johnson’s personal success has rubbed off on his teammates to the tune of a three-game winning streak. On Sunday, Johnson, as he has been all season, was a dangerous dual threat. This time, the talented running back reached triple digits both rushing and receiving, carrying 26 times for 132 yards while catching nine passes for another 100 yards. The second of his two rushing touchdowns broke a 17-17 tie with Buffalo, and started a huge 24-0 fourth quarter for Tennessee that was capped by the Titan’s defense returning two interceptions for touchdowns. Johnson is one of just three players in the NFL (the Ravens’ Ray Rice and the Rams’ Stephen Jackson, the others) who leads his team in both rushing and receiving.


Near the conclusion of NBC’s Sunday Night Football telecast of the Indianapolis Colts’ stunning 35-34 comeback win over the New England Patriots, a happy Colts fan flashed a sign for the NBC cameras. It read simply, “Nobody Beats Colts.” Thanks to a huge miscalculation by Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick, those words remain true so far this season. The 9-0 Colts indeed had beaten everyone else so far this season, but to stay undefeated on Sunday, they needed someone else to beat themselves. With Belichik’s help, the Colts rallied from a 31-14 fourth quarter deficit to win a 35-34 thriller in the final seconds. Indianapolis still trailed 34-21 after a New England field goal with just 4:12 left in the game, but Peyton Manning led a 6-play, 79-yard drive in just 1:44, to cut the Patriots’ lead to 34-28 with 2:23 to go. Perhaps seeing how easily and how quickly the Colts marched down the field on that drive, Belichik then decided to do the unthinkable, going for a first down on 4th-and-2 from the Patriots’ own 28-yard line with 2:08 rather than punt the ball away and make Manning and the Colts earn the win with a typical long, two-minute drill type of drive. It initially appeared that the gamble worked, when Kevin Faulk had the ball past the first down marker, but he bobbled it, and was pushed backward while doing so, leaving him short of the first down. The Colts took advantage of Belichik’s failed risk, and moved to 9-0 on the season, going 29 yards on four plays in 1:47, winning the game on Manning’s fourth touchdown of the night, with just 13 seconds left. The irony in the Colts’ win is that it was their 18th straight regular season victory, finishing the 2008 regular season with nine wins and beginning the 2009 season with the same. That in itself isn’t ironic, what is though, is the fact that much is made (and rightfully so) of New England being the only team to go through an entire regular season with a perfect record of 16-0, and extending that to 18-0 in the playoffs. And, here was of all teams, New England, looking to prevent the Colts from going 18-0 over their past eighteen regular season games, and they had a great chance to do it on the Colts’ home field. But, because they couldn’t put the Indianapolis away with a big fourth quarter lead, Belichik panicked into giving the Colts a gift which allowed them to continue their own streak. Interesting stuff in Indy in the latest chapter of a great rivalry between two of the NFL’s best teams over the past decade or so.


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