First and 10: Trouble brews in Big Easy, Johnson stars in K.C., more

Sunday October 24th, 2010

Quick-hitting insights from the slate of 1 p.m. games.

The Browns had a perfect game plan for winning with only 74 yards of passing. They won the game by taking advantage of Drew Brees' mistakes, winning the special teams battle, running the ball and throwing in some creative trick plays to get first downs. Colt McCoy hasn't put up any real numbers yet, but Cleveland has to be happy with his poise and his ability to avoid mistakes. When the Saints finally woke up offensively in the second half, it was too late. The defending champions aren't doing a lot of the things they did last season. You have to look at their coaching staff, which was soundly out-done by Eric Mangini's crew on Sunday. Maybe Sean Payton and Co. spent too much time soaking up their celebrity this offseason.

Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson is putting together a Pro Bowl season and his pick-six was the key play in the big win over the Jags. Johnson is the standout performer on a well-coached defense loaded with young talent. Interestingly, Johnson becomes a free agent after this season and could get a monster contract somewhere if the Chiefs can't re-sign him.

The Ravens benefited from a bad call in overtime. Forward progress was obviously done when Ray Lewis stripped the ball from tight end Shawn Nelson to set up the winning field goal. Lewis, and his old buddy Ed Reed, are still making game-changing plays. That's their signature ... not just stopping other offenses, but creating scoring opportunities.

With the two most outspoken receivers in the NFL in the house, the less flashy Roddy White stepped up and made a strong claim to being the best receiver in the NFL right now. White totaled 201 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta's win. Credit White for not getting discouraged after Adam Jones stripped the ball from him and returned it for a touchdown. White came right back and made more impactful catches to help the Falcons secure the win.

The Eagles likely ended any quarterback controversy by falling apart late against the Titans. They'll turn to Michael Vick after the bye to face the Colts. But Kevin Kolb doesn't deserve all the blame despite being a bit off all afternoon. Philly running back LeSean McCoy fumbled on the Titans' 2-yard line and everything changed. The Titans became energized and the Eagles' offense basically stopped after moving the ball well. After being involved in a bar fight during the weekend, Tennessee receiver Kenny Britt dominated the Eagles, who have a real problem with rookie safety Nate Allen's inability to cover.

The controversial fumble at the end of the Steelers' win over the Dolphins pointed to the limit of instant replay. The officials are only as good as the cameramen, and there's nothing anyone could do. But that has to hurt for Miami, who appeared to have the ball at the bottom of that scrum. But the Dolphins had their chances against a Steelers team that appeared a little flat on the road.

The Rams' inability to hold on to a lead on the road against the Bucs is no surprise. That's the sign of a young team. They have a talented corps and will start to play better in the second half as they mature. They would have hung on easily if that game was in St. Louis. Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman has a lot of poise and has shown he can lead this team to ugly wins.

Mike Shanahan may be an early candidate for coach of the year to have the Redskins at 4-3, even though they don't have much going on offensively. They simply made fewer mistakes than a Bears team that would be better off if it just sent out their defense and special teams and didn't have to send Jay Cutler onto the field. All the controversy around Mike Martz is going to amp up to the next level this week. They actually had -5 yards of offense in the first quarter, and, even though they did start to move the ball, they make way too many mistakes.

The Panthers' Matt Moore may not be an All-Pro, but he looked like Joe Montana, Dan Fouts and Peyton Manning rolled into one compared to Jimmy Clausen ... or compared to Moore himself before he got hurt early in the season. Moore threw for 308 yards in the 23-20 win over the struggling Niners. The Panthers could actually be a dangerous team moving forward even though John Fox still has to be a dead coach walking.

Who says you need to throw the ball to win in this league? Look at some of the mediocre QBs' stat lines on Sunday: Colt McCoy (74 yards), Matt Cassel (193 yards), Donovan McNabb (200 yards), Josh Freeman (212 yards). Meanwhile, the top three passers from the early games -- Carson Palmer (412 yards), Ryan Fitzpatrick (374 yards) and Drew Brees (356 yards) -- all lost. Goes to show you one of the many ways fantasy football doesn't resemble the real thing. So many of the big passing yards we're seeing this season are in desperation. While teams like the Browns, Chiefs and Redskins showed you can still win by grinding it out on the ground.

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