Jets continue remarkable run in win over Saints; more Week 9 Snaps
• If I'm San Diego flying home after that loss in the nation's capital, I'm sick about the mind-boggling play-calling of offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The Chargers were probably two feet away from victory late in regulation, but tried just one run and two passes on that game-tying field goal drive, neither of which had much of a chance for success.
The Chargers played for the tie, and wound up getting the loss. Isn't that the way it always seems to go for San Diego?
• Being designated as "just a guy'' (or JAG) in football scout talk has always been known as a putdown of sorts. But maybe it'll morph into more of a compliment after Sunday in Washington, when Chargers defensive end Lawrence Guy sparked a first-half block party. Guy blocked a 25-yard Kai Forbath field-goal attempt on Washington's first drive, then he really helped San Diego's cause, blocking a Griffin pass in the Washington end zone, with the deflected ball bouncing right to Chargers defensive tackle Sean Lissemore for a touchdown to end the Redskins' second possession.
Inspired by Guy, Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget went on his own block rampage, knocking down a pair of Griffin pass attempts in the second quarter, before ending the half by swatting away a 59-yard Forbath field-goal try. And to think San Diego entered Week 9 without a field goal block in 11 years.
• Darrel Young entered Sunday with one career rushing touchdown in his first 52 games for the Redskins. Then he scored three more in the second half and in overtime, the latter coming on his four-yard game-winner. Yeah, I think it's safe to proclaim it Young's career day. Even if he plays until he's 73.
• Have you noticed that since the Carolina Panthers started playing with nothing to lose, they haven't lost? The Panthers have won four in a row and stand 5-3 at midseason, thanks in large part to a great defense and their willingness to take some chances on offense.
The latest gutsy call by Carolina head coach Ron Rivera was a 4th-and-1 play-fake pass to tight end Greg Olsen for a 14-yard touchdown in the second quarter against visiting Atlanta, putting the Panthers up 14-10, a lead they would never relinquish. That made Carolina 5-of-7 on fourth downs this season, as Riverboat Ron continues to gamble in smart situations.
Carolina wasn't perfect in the 34-10 defeat of the Falcons (Cam Newton had two interceptions), but the Panthers have taken five out of six since starting the season 0-2, with Rivera thought to be a goner back in September. The next two games should reveal how legitimate Carolina's playoff hopes are. The Panthers haven't beaten any quality opponents (10-35 combined record), but next week at San Francisco and Week 11 at home against New England present opportunities to change that perception.
• There's nothing wrong with finding a way to win on the road when you don't have your A game, but Kansas City has to be at least concerned about its light-hitting offense and its suddenly missing pass rush.
The 9-0 Chiefs are headed for their bye week, and look like they could use a break after their 23-13 win at Buffalo. Kansas City's offense managed just three Ryan Succop field goals, with Alex Smith completing 19-of-29 passes for a meager 124 yards. His longest connection of the game went for just 20 yards. On defense, Kansas City tops the NFL with 36 sacks, but didn't get to Bills rookie Jeff Tuel once on Sunday, and dropped Cleveland's Jason Campbell just once last week.
Cornerback Sean Smith and linebacker Tamba Hali both scored defensive touchdowns for the Chiefs, allowing them to weather the Bills' upset bid, but that's not a blueprint you can count on come playoff time. Kansas City's offense is going to need to be far more productive than it was Sunday if the Chiefs hope to stay on the field in their upcoming showdowns with the Broncos in Weeks 11 and 13.
• I thought last week's coverage of the Dez Bryant sideline "discussions'' were partially overblown, but he's not making it easy to defend his tendency to over-do it on the "passionate'' front. The Cowboys' gifted receiver drew a costly penalty in the third quarter against Minnesota, getting hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct call after removing his helmet to argue an offensive pass interference flag. That's filed under the heading of two wrongs do not make a right. The penalty took Dallas out of field-goal range, and could have proven critical if the Cowboys weren't able to rally past Minnesota 27-23 in the final minute.
Passionate or not, Bryant's outburst hurt his team, and it's clear his maturity level isn't yet to the point where he can be trusted by the Cowboys in critical situations. Bryant has grown up some in the past three years or so, but not as much as some of us wanted to believe.
• As it turns out, Christian Ponder appears to be the best quarterback on the Vikings roster after all, but I'm not sure it really matters at this point. Minnesota (1-7) is going nowhere but last place in the NFC North this season, with a ticket into the draft's top six or seven next spring.
Ponder threw for 236 yards and one touchdown and ran for a second score in the four-point loss at Dallas, with a respectable 25 completions in 37 attempts, and 82.7 passer rating. He wasn't the reason the Vikings matched their worst start in franchise history, dropping a third game this season on a touchdown that came in the game's final minute.
Interestingly, Josh Freeman was designated the team's No. 3, emergency quarterback on Sunday, even though he had been cleared to play and was free of concussion symptoms. Not sure what that means for his future in Minnesota, but if Ponder is on the move next year, solid performances like this one in Week 9 will assure him there's a job waiting for him somewhere in the league.
• If I'm the Broncos, I'm looking at Jack Del Rio as a no-brainer in terms of an interim head coach to replace John Fox, who is expected to miss several weeks after surgery to replace a heart valve. Del Rio, the team's defensive coordinator, was a Jaguars head coach for parts of nine seasons, from 2003 to '11, and knows the ropes when it comes to the non-coaching part of his responsibilities.
Del Rio has far more experience at heading up an organization and handling the media and peripheral aspects of the position when compared to young offensive coordinator Adam Gase and running backs coach Eric Studesville, who served as the Broncos' interim head coach for four games in 2010, after Josh McDaniels was fired.
• Miami got that win against Cincinnati and stopped its four-game losing streak, but what a mess the rest of the Dolphins' week was, with the Jonathan Martin saga peeling back the curtain on a situation that leaves us grasping for much to compare it to.
Yes, veterans have been making rookies or young players foot the bill for a lot of various expenses throughout league history, but I don't think I've ever heard of anything as obscene as being expected to cough up $15,000 to fund a trip to Las Vegas that you don't even get to take part in.
This might be another one of those NFL traditions that has run its course, at least at that level of excess. It kind of reminds me of the same type of macho practice that playing through concussions long represented. You were expected to do it, because that was the accepted norm in the league, the same way soaking the rookies has long been. But somebody took it way too far, and got caught letting it get to a point where it's almost indefensible.
I'm sure all the facts have yet to come out in this story, which seems a complicated tale with a lot of layers, especially in terms of how it affected Martin. But none of it looks or smells very good at the moment, and Miami's season might hinge on where things go from here.
• I'm sure we all can't wait for Dolphins at Bucs, on Monday Night Football, a week from tomorrow night. Nothing to talk about for ESPN's cast of thousands leading up to that one, eh?
Just the winless, Greg Schiano-led Bucs, against the 4-4, steady-as-she-goes Dolphins. Should be fun.
• Considering they hadn't won in a month of Sundays -- three losses and a bye week since beating the Jets at home in Week 4 -- the Titans were not in position to get picky about how they collected victory No. 4 of the season. But the best news for Tennessee was getting running back Chris Johnson some room to roam. Johnson scampered for 150 yards and his first two rushing touchdowns of the season in the 28-21 win at St. Louis, and you have to figure Tennessee's best hope to make good on an AFC playoff berth is tied closely to the kind of work Johnson can produce in the season's second half.
If Johnson gets hot and the Tennessee running game starts to click, he can carry the second-place Titans, starting with next week's very winnable home game against winless Jacksonville (0-8). If quarterback Jake Locker is forced to bear too much of the offensive burden, Tennessee's task becomes much more difficult.