Snap Judgments: Patriots find their old magic; QB quandary in Philly
• There still may not be any truly elite teams in the NFL this season, but I'm starting to think the most resourceful and resilient club I've seen so far is
Try these numbers on for size after New England's thrilling 23-20 overtime victory over a Ravens squad that pounded it 33-14 at Gillette Stadium in last year's first round of the playoffs:
• The Patriots, down 10 points early in the fourth quarter, scored the final 13 points of the game, rallying against a defense that entered the game allowing the fourth-fewest points at 14.4 per game. Despite struggling at times, New England moved the ball against Baltimore in crunch time and got the 10 fourth-quarter points it needed to force overtime.
• The New England running game was again led by the likes of
• The Patriots, in essence, exchanged Moss for old friend,
With Moss gone, and their defense still green and growing, the Patriots are not a star-driven team anymore. Outside of Brady, their biggest name player is
It's working so far. With three wins in a row, and really only one bad half of football played by New England (that second half against the Jets in Week 2), the Patriots look formidable once more. Maybe not elite, but that doesn't seem to be a necessity in this season's NFL. Beating the Ravens and Dolphins back-to-back settled a couple of key scores for New England. But you get the feeling there's plenty more to come from the Belichick-men this year, even if the dominance of 2007 has faded into the distant past.
• For a while there on Sunday, I was thinking the Texans finally proved they have what it takes to beat the Colts, but seemingly had forgotten how to beat anyone else. Houston was the on cusp of losing its third consecutive home game -- and third in four weeks -- before rallying past the upstart Chiefs, 35-31, on the strength of 14 unanswered fourth-quarter points.
Falling to 3-3 after their hopeful 2-0 start could have doomed the Texans, and
But while 4-2 Houston managed to keep pace in the AFC South clump, the truth is the Texans are going to have to win most games like they did on Sunday, simply because their defense can't stop anyone. Even
The Texans have largely earned the boos that have been showered on them the past two weeks at home, and things are not going to get markedly better in Houston until the defense grows some back bone.
• Middle linebacker
• Kansas City's loss has to sting, but it's a stage of development that
• You can have the rest of the field, I'll take
• Maybe this is the year the Chargers finally discover they can't merely flip the switch and dig out of their annual early-season hole. San Diego's 20-17 loss at St. Louis drops it to 2-4, and while no one looks likely to waltz away with anything in the AFC West, the Chargers can't count on six easy wins within the division, either.
They've already lost at Kansas City and Oakland, and when you throw in defeats at Seattle and St. Louis, the Chargers are now 0-4 on the road, with losses to four teams that were a combined 15-49 last year. With games at home against New England and Tennessee the next two weeks, and then a trip to Houston in Week 9, that hole might even be too deep for a Chargers club that's near-untouchable in November and December.
• For me, there's no bigger surprise this season than Green Bay quarterback
Banged up Green Bay keeps losing overtime games, but it still only trails first-place Chicago (4-2) by a game in the NFC North. Things are ugly right now, but the Packers just have to figure out a way to hang around the division race until their myriad of injured players start getting healthy again.
• With three sacks of Green Bay's Rodgers, Miami outside linebacker
• That's about what I was expecting from
So, the Steelers starting quarterback is back, but so is the Pittsburgh tradition of winning with the running game and defense. We know from the past, both distant and recent, that it's a winning combination.
• All I could think of when I saw Falcons cornerback
But with its first home win of the season, in convincing 31-17 fashion over Atlanta, no less, Philadelphia is right there in the NFC East, tied for first at 4-2.
• And we do have another quarterback controversy in Philadelphia, thanks to Kolb's strong 326-yard, three-touchdown, one-interception showing. At the very least, Kolb has made it very difficult for Eagles coach
It's got to be the proverbial good problem to have, but why is it always so complicated on the QB front in Philly?
• When the Falcons play the Eagles, it's pretty apparent that Atlanta's offense features no explosive playmakers in the mold of Jackson and
• The overall numbers weren't anything to write home about (44 yards rushing on 17 attempts), but that
Lynch broke two tackles as he bulled in from the left side, giving Seattle the kind of power running it was in desperate need of this season. Maybe pushed a bit by Lynch's arrival,
• The Bears' three-point loss to a Seattle team that had dropped both of its previous road games by 17 points should provide a little smelling salt beneath the nose of the Chicago fandom. This is not a Bears team that's good enough to overcome its glaring pass-protection problem. The returning
That said, Cutler continues to hold the ball too long at times and is still making some questionable throws as he runs for his life out there.
• A touchdown catch for Kansas City linebacker
• What an impressive calm-the-nerves win for the Saints at Tampa Bay, against a Bucs team that has bedeviled
• Um, I regret to inform the rest of the NFL, but
It may be time to again ask what was once the most obvious question in the NFL:
• Uh, oh. Another chip shot missed by