Every Monday, SI.com's Ross Tucker will hand out letter grades to deserving NFL parties...
Richard Seymour, New England Patriots. I am often asked to name the best defensive lineman I ever faced and my answer is always Richard Seymour. He proved why once again Sunday with a typically dominating performance against the St. Louis Rams.
When healthy, Seymour is the rare physical phenom whose passion for the game and temperament match his god-given gifts. Seymour has extremely long arms and uncanny natural leverage that allows him to power through opponents, like he did in the Rams contest when he literally pushed back and then threw high-priced free agent left guard Jacob Bell into Marc Bulger's lap on one play, knocking down both men and forcing an errant throw by Bulger.
And therein lies the greatness of Seymour. Yes, he led the team in tackles with seven, which is quite the feat by itself for a 3-4 defensive end who is tasked with the responsibility of two-gapping the offensive tackle across from him. (Editor's Note: Two-gapping means Seymour is responsible for both gaps on either side of the lineman, as opposed to just one.) He also added a sack. But it is the other plays, like the Bell pressure, where Seymour really shows his penchant for physically manhandling the opposition, even when he doesn't make the play.
Greatness in the NFL only occurs when amazing physical attributes are combined with outstanding attention to detail from a technique standpoint, and when that player has a fervor for the game that borders on obsession. Seymour is all of that and yet truly unique among elite defensive lineman in that he never takes a play off or relents in any fashion. He will be a force to be reckoned with for the remainder of the season as long as he can avoid injury, which has plagued him in recent years.
J.T. O'Sullivan, San Francisco 49ers. This is not an easy grade to give because sometimes the truth hurts. As a fellow journeyman who played for a number of teams, I have been hoping O'Sullivan could become a competent starting quarterback in the NFL. Everyone loves the underdog. Unfortunately, O'Sullivan may have played himself out of a job after getting two wins under his belt earlier in the season.
He had a pair of fumbles and a costly interception on Sunday that Seahawks defensive back Josh Wilson returned for a touchdown. O'Sullivan was careless with the ball a number of times, which has been a disturbing trend for a quarterback who has been responsible for 17 of his team's 20 turnovers. The interception was a poorly thrown ball and the fumbles show a lack of awareness on O'Sullivan's part that cannot be minimized.
O'Sullivan was replaced at halftime with Shaun Hill in a move that could spell the end of O'Sullivan's stint behind center in San Francisco.
Leon Washington, New York Jets. I certainly hope Washington got a game ball for his efforts in the Jets' victory over the lowly Kansas City Chiefs because he was the clear difference maker in a contest the Jets could not afford to lose. Washington sparked a surprisingly uninspired Jets squad that appeared doomed to defeat as Tyler Thigpen clearly outplayed Brett Favre throughout the day. Yes, you read that correctly. Thigpen lit up the Jets secondary by going 25-of-36 for 280 yards and two touchdowns while Favre threw three picks, two of which were of the woeful variety.
But Favre's mistakes will be temporarily forgotten and forgiven thanks to Washington, the little engine that could in every facet of the game. Washington finished with 274 all-purpose yards on his 13 touches, scoring a touchdown both rushing and receiving. If it wasn't for Washington's explosive scoring plays, the Jets would have been toast and their playoff hopes would be on life support.
His biggest play, however, may have been his punt return in the fourth quarter that set up the game-winning touchdown pass from Favre to Laveranues Coles. Washington was the spark when his team needed him the most, and the Jets would be wise to get the ball into his hands more often because of his versatility and ability to complement Thomas Jones in the running game.
Despite his outstanding game, Washington was not politicking for more opportunities after the victory. "I just do the best I can when my number is called," he told me when I spoke to him after the game on Sirius NFL Radio. Hopefully the Jets will see the wisdom in calling No. 29 more often.
Buffalo Bills pass defense. One week after bottling up Philip Rivers and the Chargers prolific passing attack, the Bills traveled to South Florida and were torched by Chad Pennington for 314 yards and a touchdown on a 22-of-30 passing day. I gave the Bills a D and not an F because, in fairness, they were without premier pass rusher Aaron Schobel, and it showed.
Pennington had time to pick apart a Bills secondary that was supposed to be aided by the return of top corner Terrence McGee, who had missed a couple of games with a sprained knee. The Bills were so focused on stopping the run -- which they accomplished, I might add -- that they allowed Pennington to spread the ball to eight receivers. In the process, the Bills let Ted Ginn go off for 175 yards on seven grabs.
The Bills had a golden opportunity to stay one game ahead of the Patriots in the AFC East and continue their winning ways with Trent Edwards under center, but it was all for naught as they were let down by their entire defensive unit when it came to stopping the pass.