Every Monday, SI.com's Michael Lombardi will hand out five letter grades to deserving NFL parties...
Denver defense. This grade has been building all season long and finally had to be handed out. The words Denver and defense should never be uttered in the same sentence again this season.All the plotting scheming and planning is not going to help this bunch. As I mentioned in my Frankly Football column on Friday, the Broncos cannot tackle or pass rush, and they clearly cannot cover from their scheme. They had been able to play the run, until yesterday -- giving up 198 yards to Larry Johnson. As good as the Broncos have been on offense, they have been as bad on defense.
But how can this be you ask? They have millions invested in corners Champ Bailey and Dre Bly. They just signed linebacker D.J. Williams to a hefty extension. They went out in free agency and got two new starting safeties, Marlon McCree and Marquand Manual. They signed new starting linebacker Boss Bailey, traded for defensive tackle Dwayne Robertson, so they have done some fortifications. But big names and winning performances do not always go hand in hand.
The reality is the Broncos lack power and strength in the defensive line and will never control the game with their defensive front. The lack of a pass rush is exposing a secondary poor in tackling and very speed deficient. By the way, has anyone seen 2007 first-round pick Jarvis Moss get near a quarterback this season, or for that matter, make a play? When a team allows at least 32 points in three games, it has a talent problem, not a scheme problem.
Cornerback Terrance Newman and the Dallas defense. Now, I know the Cowboys have played some tough games the last few weeks, but there was no excuse for their poor play yesterday. They allowed the 'Skins to control the ball for over 38 minutes, they never slowed down the running game, and when it came to covering Santana Moss -- they didn't.
Moss wore down Newman with double moves, basic moves; short passes long passes and basically anything he wanted. Moss is the number one man in the 'Skins pass offense, and when you lose a game and allow the opponent's best player to beat you, you deserve to lose. At what point in the game where they going to press Moss and double cover him and force someone else to defeat them?
And what might have been the most costly mistake of all by the Cowboys was early in the fourth. Behind 23-17, they stopped the Redskins on a third and two but had 12 men on the field, allowing Washington to continue its drive. The 'Boys, in the last three weeks, have allowed more than 243 yards per game passing and 7.4 yards per pass attempt. This looks like an area other teams may be able to exploit all season long.
All the talk of an improved secondary with the addition of Adam Jones and first-round pick Mike Jenkins appear to be just that -- talk.
Brett Favre and the N.Y. Jets. In a game that featured two starting quarterbacks over the age of 37, Brett Favre never showed his age. The future Hall of Fame quarterback led the Jets to the second highest scoring output in team history, throwing a career-high six touchdown passes for the day. The last time anyone in the NFL had a six-TD game was New England quarterback Tom Brady last October.
Favre was listed all week on the injury report with a bad ankle, but he rallied as he always does and came out to play his finest game in his brief career as a Jet. (On a side note, the Jets old-time uniforms looked so bad, that it is going to be hard to watch this historic performance over and over again without asking repeatedly -- who is Favre playing for again?) Favre may have found his stride with the Jets, as they looked for the first time all season to be in sync. Favre finally found a way to connect with the Jets best wideout Laveranues Coles. Coles had been quiet in the first three games, with only nine catches, but Sunday he had eight and he and Favre found the end zone three times. It was a nice win for the Jets and an even better sign for the offense.
Kansas City Chiefs. We should have known something on Thursday night, when the Beavers of Oregon State upset No. 1 USC Trojans, and when the upset theme continued into the weekend as the college football world was turned slightly upside down. Not to be outdone, the NFL gave us a few upsets on Sunday, one that finally put the state of Missouri in the win column.
The Chiefs did their home state proud yesterday and they did it against the explosive offense of the Denver Broncos. Behind the powerful running of Larry Johnson and the efficient quarterbacking of Damon Huard, the Chiefs scored more points yesterday than they had in the prior three games combined. They built an early lead and allowed their young defense to make plays.
The Broncos might have posted another 400-plus yard offensive game, but the Chiefs forced four turnovers and played very well in the red area, allowing the Broncos to score only once in four trips. And what stood out most in this game was the Chiefs' ability to score in the final minute of the game, running the ball when they had to run and never allowing the Broncos offense to get back on the field. That was well done on the part of head coach Herman Edwards and his staff.
Jim Zorn and the Washington Redskins. One of the many things to love about the NFL each week is that you get an opportunity to go from rags to riches, and the Washington Redskins have done just that.
They looked horrendous in Week 1 in all phases against the Giants, but have won three straight and quarterback Jason Campbell looks like the real deal. Campbell has not thrown an interception this season and has adjusted to the modified Jim Zorn-version of the West Coast offense.
But the player who amazes me each week is wide receiver Santana Moss. He has been sensational, making plays all over the field, some short, some long, and is very effective with the ball in his hands. Yesterday, the Redskins played toe to toe with the best team in the NFL and came out ahead -- winning the game solidly. They might have started slow, but they finished strong, scoring in six of seven possessions, and always looked to be in control of the game.
The 'Skins never tried to play the game cute. They went out and play tight man-to-man coverage on the and made quarterback Tony Romo have to make perfect throws all game long. And since the Cowboys had no desire to run the ball yesterday, (only 11 times), it forced the 'Skins to play their brilliant man-to-man pass defense, which has been impressing me the last three weeks on tape. The Skins were resilient and determined yesterday to prove they will be a force in the NFC East this year.