This season however has been completely different, with the surprising emergence of perennial underachievers such as the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings (both hold a record of 4-1), and the unexpected struggles of two of the last three Superbowl winners, The Green Bay Packers (2-3) and New Orleans Saints (1-4).
Last weekend’s slate of games certainly didn’t disappoint either, as future stars of the game announced themselves to the world, and one established veteran in particular wrote himself into the record books. Here’s my round-up of some of the best games over the weekend:
Green Bay Packers 27-30 Indianapolis Colts:
The Colts welcomed the Packers to Lucas Oil Stadium still reeling from the terrible news that their new Head Coach Chuck Pagano was recently diagnosed with Leukaemia. At the half-time break it looked as though the emotion had gotten the better of them as the Packers raced out to a 21-3 lead, highlighted by two touchdown passes from Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers to James Jones and Randall Cobb. What transpired in the second period was nothing short of spectacular as this young Colts side rallied from 18 down to defeat the consensus pre-season Superbowl favourite.
Central to the comeback victory was the outstanding play of rookie Quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck has already proven to fans and the media why he was chosen with the first overall pick in April’s draft by throwing for over 300 yards in three of his first professional starts. The former Stanford man threw for 362 yards, 212 of which went to veteran receiver Reggie Wayne. While the Colts are deserving of all the credit that comes their way, much blame must also be placed on the Packers. Their offensive struggles and complacency in the second half is characteristic of their play so far this season. Of course the injuries of Running back Cedric Benson, Tight End Jermichael Finley and Nose Tackle BJ Raji didn’t help matters. Statistically, Rodgers finished with 243 yards passing with three touchdowns and one interception. The Colts travel to New York to face the Jets next, while the Packers will face off against the undefeated Houston Texans.
Philadelphia Eagles 14-16 Pittsburgh Steelers:
The Pittsburgh Steelers came out on top in the battle for Pennsylvania, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles thanks to a game-winning field goal by Kicker Shaun Suisham on the final play of the game. The Steelers were in danger of suffering their first two game losing streak in three years when Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick found Tight End Brent Celek in the end-zone to take a 14-13 lead with just over six minutes remaining. However, Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger answered back in typical fashion, leading his offense down the field on a great drive that included two crucial third down conversions by Big Ben.
The Steelers fan base will also feel much more at ease after seeing Running Back Rashard Mendenhall run extremely well in his first game back after suffering an ACL injury in January. Mendenhall ran for 81 yards on 14 carries and added a touchdown as well. Eagles coach Andy Reid will be disappointed his side didn’t get the win after having several chances missed. No doubt the blame will once again fall on Vick who had two costly fumbles. Vicks now has a staggering ten turnovers for the season. The Steelers travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans on Thursday night. The Eagles will host the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Denver Broncos 21-31 New England Patriots:
Sunday night marked the 13th meeting between arguably the two greatest Quarterbacks of the modern generation, as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning went head to head in Gillette Stadium. This time the rivalry took on a different theme as Manning came into Foxborough wearing different colours then the Blue and White of the Colts he had worn for so long. Despite the different team however, Peyton still left the stadium with an all too familiar feeling, the feeling of losing yet again to Tom Brady. By the way, Brady now has a record of 9-4 in the 13 games against Manning. While the outcome was familiar, the way in which it happened certainly wasn’t. For years we’ve been used to seeing passing shootouts between the two legendary signal-callers. This time however, it was the strength of the Patriots’ running game that led them to victory. Second-year Running Back Stevan Ridley had a career-high 152 yards rushing, which in turn opened up the passing game for Brady, who found Wes Welker 13 times for 102 yards and one touchdown. The Broncos defence did a good job at pressuring Brady, with Von Miller getting two sacks. Despite the loss Manning had another great game, throwing for 345 yards and three touchdowns.
San Diego Chargers 24-31 New Orleans Saints:
It seems as though every other week Drew Brees is breaking a new NFL record. Last season the Saints Quarterback eclipsed the all-time single season passing yards record set by Dan Marino in 1984. For years experts had claimed that record was too difficult to conquer. Brees saw that record and raised it by surpassing the record held by Johnny Unitas, throwing for a touchdown pass in 48 consecutive games. That record had been held for half a century until Sunday night. Despite Bress’ individual brilliance, the Saints have really struggled this season due in large part to the fallout of “Bountygate.” This win was New Orleans’ first of the year, and they find themselves at the bottom of the NFC South, the division they’ve dominated for the past few seasons.
Offensive Player of the week:
Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints:
When you pass a half-century old record that nobody ever thought would be broken, it’s almost a certainty you’re the player of the week. Brees had another fantastic statistical performance against the Chargers on Sunday night, throwing for 370 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensive player(s) of the week:
Chicago Bears Defence:
It may seem like I’m taking the easy route here but the Bears D has been amazing this season. Granted they were going up against a horrific offensive outfit in the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bears showed no signs of regression following their dominant performance against the Cowboys last Monday, with Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs both taking interceptions in for touchdowns.
My Top Ten Power Rankings:
1. San Francisco 49ers (4-1)
2. Houston Texans (5-0)
3. New England Patriots (3-2)
4. Atlanta Falcons (5-0)
5. Baltimore Ravens (4-1)
6. Chicago Bears (4-1)
7. New York Giants (3-2)
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)
9. Green Bay Packers (2-3)
10. Arizona Cardinals (4-1)