Every Monday, SI.com's Ross Tucker will hand out letter grades to deserving NFL parties...
The Detroit Lions. It has gotten way past the point of no return in Detroit, where the Lions suffered their fourth straight miserable loss to start the season. I, like many others, thought Sunday's game against the Bears would be when the Lions finally woke up and played at a competitive level after three weeks of first-half futility. I was wrong.
The Lions found a way to take the word listless to a new level as they fell behind early, 31-0, just like they have every other game this season. The Lions have no excuses. They shook up the organization by firing Matt Millen. They were coming off a bye. Yet they managed to look as inept as ever and the blame has to fall squarely on the shoulders of the coaches and players.
Very rarely in the NFL do you question a team's effort, but it is hard to come to any other conclusion after watching the Bears humiliate the Lions in their own building. That this demolition took place in Detroit is ironic, given that one of the reasons the Lions fired Millen was to offer the fans some semblance of hope and to avoid a circus-like atmosphere at home games for the rest of the season. I guess the Lions prefer funerals to circuses because Ford Field had the enthusiasm of a morgue Sunday.
Rod Marinelli is well-liked throughout the NFL and known as an outstanding motivator, but that title has to be stripped soon. Things have gotten so bad in Detroit that they made Kyle Orton look like a superstar, the Bears quarterback going 24 of 34 for 334 yards and two touchdowns with no picks. Kyle Orton. With one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL.
If I were a Lions fan, I would start to worry about the possibility of going winless in 2008. It is that bad.
Sage Rosenfels, Houston Texans quarterback. Rosenfels found out a couple of hours before kickoff that he would be starting due to Matt Schaub's viral illness. Not exactly the perfect circumstances in which to face the Indianapolis Colts, especially since Schaub took the lion's share of the repetitions during the week. But Rosenfels, considered one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL, didn't blink, and proceeded to lead the Texans to a 27-10 lead. Houston was still ahead with four minutes to play (27-17) and had just recovered an onsides kick attempt.
Right about then is when things went awry for Rosenfels. By now, the collapse has been well documented. There was a fumble returned for a touchdown when Rosenfels made an ill-advised decision to try to jump for the first down. It was a gutsy play that would have been roundly praised if it had worked. Or called a dumb play but forgiven as long as he held onto the ball. But he didn't. He got spun around like a helicopter propeller before losing possession. He followed that with another fumble deep in his own territory and then just when the football gods appeared to be back on his side as he marched the team down the field with less than two minutes remaining, he threw an interception to seal the loss. The last two turnovers were so uncharacteristic of the normally poised Rosenfels that one has to wonder if he was woozy from the highlight film hit he took on the first fumble.
Rosenfels showed just how quickly you can go from hero to goat in the NFL while at the same time showing the accountability that made him a sought-after commodity by the Minnesota Vikings this offseason. He stood at the podium and talked about letting all of his teammates and coaches down, which likely only enhanced his reputation within the organization after his disappointing finish dropped the Texans to 0-4.
The Miami Dolphins defense. So much for a one-hit wonder. The Dolphins carried the momentum from their destruction of the New England Patriots through the bye week and picked up where they left off by completely shutting down a Chargers offense considered to be among the league's elite.
Outside linebackers Joey Porter and Matt Roth continue to set the edge in the running game and get pressure on the quarterback in the passing game as Phillip Rivers was hurried into completing less than 50 percent of his passes for only 159 yards. LaDainian Tomlinson didn't fare much better on the ground going against a young Dolphins defensive line that is led by rookies Kendall Langford and Phillip Merling. Tomlinson had 35 yards on 12 carries as the Chargers could muster only 202 total net yards of offense.
As impressive as those numbers are, it was the goal line stand on fourth and 1 on the first play of the fourth quarter that really enabled the Dolphins to flex their defensive muscles and cement the second victory of the year. The Dolphins have now gone from a hapless team that almost went winless in 2007 to a formidable foe that just knocked off the preseason AFC favorites in back-to-back games.
The Washington Redskins offensive line. The Redskins of the George Allen era were known as the over-the-hill gang and it might be time to recycle that moniker and apply it to the current version of the Hogs working under offensive line coach Joe Bugel. With Jon Jansen, 32, back in the lineup for an injured Stephon Heyer, 24, at his customary right tackle spot, the Skins easily have the oldest offensive line in the NFL. Center Casey Rabach and left tackle Chris Samuels are the youngsters, at age 31, on a line that is quickly establishing itself as the best in the NFL.
For the second week in a row, the Skins went on the road to face a brutal NFC East opponent and came away with the victory. There is no secret to the Skins success and it all starts with the old guys up front. The concern about this offensive line coming into the season was its health and durability over the course of a 16-game slate, not its performance.
The Skins had very little difficulty picking up Jim Johnson's blitz schemes, which is exactly what you would expect from a group of vets. Jason Campbell was sacked only one time and that was by safety Brian Dawkins, almost certainly not the line's responsibility. The big men also ran the ball on Philly at will, opening gaping holes for Clinton Portis on his way to 145 yards on 29 bludgeoning carries.
Need further evidence that the Skins front five is at the heart of their success? How about converting 11 of 19 third downs and a critical fourth down late in the ball game to seal the victory. If the Skins linemen can stay healthy, the election of a new president will not be the only big news happening in D.C. later in the season.