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Snap Judgments


At least we were basically prepared for the English attacks in the battles of Lexington and Concord. You have to wonder if the good folks of London really saw the Dolphins coming. And we Americans have the temerity to say soccer is boring?

There's no telling how much the NFL's international efforts to broaden its fan base got set back by Sunday's Giants at Dolphins game, played in the rain and slop at venerable Wembley Stadium. But, Lord, it couldn't have helped the cause. If the NFL catches hold in Europe after this one, you know they were really hungry for the game of tackle football in the old country.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw for all of 59 yards on 8-of-22 passing -- and won. Miami quarterback Cleo Lemon beat that, but just barely, completing 17 of 30 for 149 yards passing in the Dolphins' 13-10 loss -- which dropped the Dolphins to a franchise-worst start of 0-8.

Sending the Dolphins over to represent the NFL was not exactly a Marshall Plan-like gesture of generosity. Miami fielded a junior varsity squad on offense: No Trent Green. No Ronnie Brown. No Chris Chambers. In their places were Cleo Lemon, Jesse Chatman and Justin Peelle. With fairly predictable results.

The league might have packed in 81,000-plus for the first NFL regular-season game to be played outside of North America, but the real test will be to see how many of those supporters (love that English term) will be back for more after sitting through a three-hour fight for good footing and proper divot-replacement.

The Giants played stout defense -- limiting Miami to just three points for the first 58 minutes, and 254 yards of offense overall -- and ran the ball convincingly behind BrandonJacobs' career-best 131 yards. But if getting the Brits hooked on offense is the key to their conversion to RogerGoodell's game, Sunday wasn't a persuasive opening statement.

If the NFL really cared about getting Europe interested, maybe it could have talked Bob Kraft and Jimmy Irsay into moving next week's larger-than-life-itself Pats-Colts game across the pond. I'm pretty sure Bill Belichick wouldn't have minded.


• Those pumpkin-colored jerseys the Bears wore at home in honor of Halloween certainly didn't scare the Lions. The only thing scary about Chicago on Sunday was its offensive execution in a 16-7 loss to visiting Detroit.

• Another week, another ho-hum showing by Cedric Benson. The Bears lead running back finished strong to gain 50 yards on 13 carries, after having just 29 on his first 10 carries. That just won't get it done. Benson has just 416 yards on the ground this season, with a paltry 3.1 yard average and two rushing touchdowns.

Can we just admit the obvious? By trading Thomas Jones to the Jets, the Bears banked on the wrong running back.

• TomBrady's having a pretty good year. He threw three more touchdown passes in the Patriots' rout of Washington, giving him 30 on the season. His previous career high was 28, and he needed fewer than seven and a half games to break that mark.

Get the MVP plaque inscribed and polished up, folks. It's belongs to T.B. this year. No ifs, ands or buts.

• Didn't the Eagles used to have a running game? I mean, like late last season? Oh, that's right. That's when Jeff Garcia was their quarterback.

• The next time the Bengals defense stops the run will be the first time the Bengals defense stops the run. The Steelers tore through Cincy for 160 yards in their win at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, led by WillieParker's 126-yard, one-touchdown day on 22 carries.

There's no more glaring broken record in the NFL. Will the rushing defense woes ever end for MarvinLewis' team?

• Who said Sebastian Janikowski was a wasted first-round pick? Oakland's kicker -- who always sort of seemed to me to be the John Daly of the NFL -- had three field goals at Tennessee to beat out Chris Bahr as the Raiders' career leader in field goals. Janikowski's always an adventure on field goals, but he has 165 of those babies now, three more than Bahr.

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• Oh, and this just in: It rains a bit in London. Been known to get a tad foggy too. Wembley's turf -- sorry, pitch -- didn't fare so well in the wet conditions that prevailed on Sunday. Apparently us Yanks have mastered the art of drainage systems to a degree they haven't in jolly old England.

The NFL might want to be aware of that little sticky wicket the next time it decides to kick it off in England.

• Wait a minute. I thought Jay Feely said he had experience kicking a football in the mist and wet of England? The Dolphins kicker missed wide right on a 48-yard field goal attempt on Miami's opening drive against the Giants, his ex-team, and then dribbled an onside kick out of bounds in the final moments, killing the Dolphins' comeback.

Turns out Feely played the "other football'' in England, touring the U.K. three times as a teenaged soccer player while growing up in the Tampa area.

• Livening up things a bit in the dreary conditions were unconfirmed reports of a streaker at Wembley. And I don't think they were talking about wideout Ted Ginn Jr. in this case.

• As part of the rebuilding program that has already begun in Miami, the Dolphins are thought to be open to trading that 26-foot-tall animatronic version of Miami defensive end Jason Taylor that was assembled just for the London game. In case you missed, it the bigger version of J.T. weighs more than a ton, has moveable arms and legs and motors nearly 5 mph, with a footstep that spans about 8 feet. (No word on whether it is married to the animatronic version of ZachThomas' sister).

Early speculation has Redskins owner Daniel Snyder interested in trading for the Thomas robot, but he's wary, having been burned on one stiff already in the Adam Archuleta deal.

• Hey, I know the Cleveland beat a winless team in the Rams, but you still have to be impressed with the 4-3 Browns, who matched their 2006 win total and now have their first winning streak since Weeks 5-6 of 2003. Cleveland was down 14-0 early at St. Louis, but it didn't panic or fold the tents like it has in just that situation so many times before.

Behind DerekAnderson's three touchdowns and 248 yards passing, the Browns offense continued its play-making ways in the 27-20 win. Cleveland's offense fell just short of the 32 points per game average that it entered Week 8 with, but as the weeks go, it's more and more obvious that the pass-catching tandem of Braylon Edwards (two more touchdowns Sunday gives him nine) and KellenWinslow (one against St. Louis, he has three touchdowns on the season) is something special.

• It looks like LenDale White is starting to become a force in the Titans ground game (133 yards on 25 carries against Oakland). But that was a head-scratching performance from Vince Young, whose 6-of-14, 42-yard performance in Tennessee's 13-9 win was virtually without highlight. Young's longest completion was for 12 yards, and his longest rush went six yards. He was also sacked twice.

• Wow. Even though they kept pace with Miami and remained winless, the Rams actually looked like an NFL team when their Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson was in the game in the first half. Jackson returned from his groin injury and had 41 yards and a touchdown on eight carries as St. Louis raced to a 14-0 lead after two possessions.

Alas, Jackson's lost season kicked back in at that point. He left the game in the second quarter with lower back tightness. Did I really pick the Rams to win the NFC West?

• I'm thinking it says something about the Vikings' struggles on offense in the two-year Brad Childress era that the team made a big move last week to lock up punter Chris Kluwe with a six-year contract extension. Minnesota knows which side its bread is buttered on. When a team takes care of its punter in a big way, that's not the best possible news it can have.

• Hard to imagine in a town that once adored its high-flying Rams of "Greatest Show on Turf'' fame, but St. Louis suffered its second home blackout in four games this season. I imagine that even Scott Linehan knows that's the kind of stuff that gets a head coach fired in this league.

• As much as they love Rob Bironas in Nashville, I would imagine Titans fans -- and JeffFisher for that matter -- is seeing entirely too much of the kicker. He had two more field goals Sunday, on the heels of his record eight three-pointers last week at Houston.

• Vinny Testaverde left the Panthers game early in the third quarter with an ankle injury, and the team said his return was questionable. When you're a starting quarterback just days shy of your 44th birthday, everything about your status is questionable. Indefinitely.

• Getting Alex Smith back into the lineup didn't quite jumpstart the moribund 49ers offense. San Francisco started 2-0, but that was a mirage. The 49ers have lost five in a row and only the Rams are keeping them from sinking into the NFC West basement.

• Speaking of divisional races, the Saints aren't dead in the NFC South after all. With three consecutive wins, New Orleans is 3-4 and just one game behind division leader Carolina (4-3). Kudos to Saints head coach Sean Payton for finding a way to keep his team in contention after that 0-4 start.