Every Monday, SI.com's Ross Tucker will hand out letter grades to deserving NFL parties...
Tom Cable, Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have been a pretty easy target for the past six months. If they weren't making horrendous decisions in the front office, like giving huge deals to DeAngelo Hall and Javon Walker, they were allowing the daily Lane Kiffin coaching soap opera to drag on for yet another week.
But it's time to give them some credit in the wake of their surprising 31-10 victory over the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos on Sunday.
The Raiders hadn't scored an offensive touchdown in 15 consecutive quarters, yet once Darren McFadden ran untouched into the left side of the end zone, the floodgates opened. The Raiders quickly scored two more times after the drought had ended. JaMarcus Russell was an efficient 10-of-11 for 152 yards and a touchdown. Just as important, he helped the offense go 8-for-13 on 3rd down conversions. Meanwhile, Justin Fargas ran for 107 yards on 24 carries as the Raiders looked, for once, like a legitimate NFL team in all three phases of the game.
A lot of the credit has to go to interim coach Tom Cable, who has his team focused on the things that matter and who has instilled a confidence that hadn't previously been seen. It would have been so easy for the Raiders to pack it in with a 2-8 record, but they didn't do that. They persevered.
"We expected to do this," receiver Ashley Lelie told me after the game. "I think [the Broncos] thought after that game on Monday night that we would just roll over for them, but that wasn't the case."
Baltimore Ravens Defense. Much of the focus will be on the Eagles offensive failures in the wake of their benching of Donovan McNabb, and rightfully so given it may represent the end of an era in Philadelphia. However, looking at Sunday's game between the Eagles and Ravens from only the Philadelphia perspective would be a disservice to an amazing performance by a Ravens defense that bounced back after getting run over by the Giants a week earlier.
Ed Reed was his normally spectacular self as he intercepted two passes, one that he took back 108 yards for the longest interception return for a touchdown in NFL history, breaking his own record in the process. The Ravens forced five turnovers as both McNabb and his replacement, Kevin Kolb, threw two picks and combined to complete a paltry 18 passes on 41 attempts. The run defense returned to dominance as well, limiting Brian Westbrook to 39 yards on 14 carries as the Ravens went to 7-4 in the first season of the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era in Baltimore.
If it wasn't for Reed's exploits, Jarret Johnson would have been the hero for a Ravens defense that held the Eagles offense without a point for the first time in three years. Johnson finished with a team-leading six tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble that he recovered after knocking the ball out of McNabb's hand. Even the quarterback switch wasn't enough for the Birds against a Ravens defense that was ravenous at home.
Kansas City Chiefs Defense. The Chiefs and their fan base had been exceedingly optimistic in recent weeks, despite having the second worst record in football at 1-10. That optimism has been fueled by competitive outings against the Jets, Bucs and Chargers and the play of young quarterback Tyler Thigpen. But Sunday's game against the Bills, however was a large step in the wrong direction.
The Chiefs gave up 47 points on defense and 54 total, the most in team history. And this was against the 2008 Buffalo Bills, not the 2007 New England Patriots, mind you. The Bills had been reeling on offense before they came into the usually hostile confines of Arrowhead Stadium.By the time they left, Trent Edwards had completed 24-of-32 for 273 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for two TDs. And Edwards is not exactly fleet of foot.
It was a pathetic effort against a team the Chiefs should have been more competitive against.
Cleveland Browns Offense. Not a whole lot to say here. The Browns suffered their worst loss so far in a disappointing season that had so much promise in the offseason coming off last season's 10-6 finish. The Browns lost at home to a below-average Texans team, squelching any momentum Cleveland had gained in its Monday night win over the Bills.
The Brady Quinn era took a wrong turn on Sunday as he went 8-of-18 for 94 yards and two picks before he was replaced by Derek Anderson, who didn't fare any better in completing just five passes on 14 attempts for only 51 yards and an interception. The Browns finished with five turnovers and failed to stay committed to the run against a bad Texans rush defense, despite the fact that Jamal Lewis was averaging 5.8 yards a carry.
Next up. Indy and Tennessee.