Classic Shootout in Cleveland
Entering this weekend, I'm sure everyone wrote off the Cleveland Browns as they hosted the Cincinnati Bengals and their high-powered offense. The Bengals feature some of the league's most potent offensive weapons, but in the end it was the Browns' high-powered … wait a second, we're talking about the Browns, right?
That's right, the Browns countered every punch and then some against Cincinnati on Sunday. The biggest news last week for the Browns was the decision to trade Week 1 starter Charlie Frye to Seattle a day after he had an abysmal performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. So with Frye gone, backup quarterback Derek Anderson, not Brady Quinn, became the Browns' starter.
This turned out to be a wise decision for Cleveland as Anderson completed 20-of-38 passes for 328 yards, five touchdowns, and an interception. This game featured many great performances from some of the league's premier players, but it was the way Cleveland was able to compete with the Bengals that was impressive.
One of the biggest surprises on this day was the reemergence of running back Jamal Lewis. The former Baltimore Ravens star was outstanding, rushing for 216 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Lewis, who rushed for over 2,000 yards during the 2003 season, signed a one-year deal during the offseason with Cleveland to show that he can still be an every-down rusher. He took one giant step to proving his critics wrong on Sunday.
On the opposing side, quarterback Carson Palmer had a career day, completing 33-of-50 passes for 401 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. Wide receivers Chad Johnson (11 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns) and T.J. Houshmanzadeh (8 receptions for 69 yards and two touchdowns) benefited from Palmer's video game type of performance.
The Browns receivers also stepped up on this day. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow finally flashed some of their talents against the Bengals. Edwards hauled in 8 receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns, while Winslow caught six passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Edwards and Winslow have been plagued by injuries in their young careers, but Sunday was a day for everyone to breakout. This was truly an instant classic between two intrastate rivals; one any Ohio football fan will cherish for years to come.
Are the Packers for Real After Latest Wynn?
The Packers continue to show that a nice mix of youth and skilled veterans is a formula for success. Green Bay defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1, 16-13 -- mainly due to the Eagles' woeful excuse of a special teams unit. But they entered Week 2 with some questions about their offense as they traveled to New York to take on the Giants.
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The biggest concern was the Packers' running game. Rookie Brandon Jackson didn't show much against the Eagles (15 carries for 40 yards), so how would Green Bay try to establish a consistent running game? They went with their rookie running back. No, not Jackson, but seventh-round rookie DeShawn Wynn.
Wynn entered the game against the Giants with only one carry that came late in the game against Philadelphia. He showed great strength and speed during an impressive performance, rushing for 50 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns. The former Florida Gator helped lead the Packers to a dominating 35-13 performance.
For the Packers to be a consistent offense, they need a running back that keeps the defense honest. At the moment, Jackson isn't getting the job done, so why not make Wynn the featured back? He's a powerful runner with great size (5-foot-10, 235-pounds) who is able to pound the ball up the middle. And he's deceptively quick and is able to get around the end to pick up positive yards.
Possibly the biggest reason for the Packers' success is the play of the defense, a unit that has allowed just 13 points the last two weeks. They possess one of the league's top cornerback tandems (Al Harris and Charles Woodson), and an emerging trio of linebackers (Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, and Brady Poppinga).
In the Packers' victory against the Giants, Brett Favre became the winningest quarterback in the history of the National Football League, surpassing former Broncos quarterback John Elway.
Favre is back. He's on the field having fun and showing a lot of youthful emotion. Favre still takes a lot of chances and will still throw his share of interceptions, but if the Packers continue to play good defense and show consistency on offense, Favre's experience will shine while Green Bay strives to get back to the playoffs.
Cowboys' Barber Cutting Up Some Turf
Will someone tell me why the Dallas Cowboys continue to platoon Marion Barber and Julius Jones? I'm baffled by how the Cowboys can continue to give the majority of the carries to Jones. Barber is by far the better and more complete back between the two. When Barber's in the game, you see more energy out of the offense. Tony Romo becomes more effective. The offensive line blocks better and the receivers have a better opportunity to get open because of Barber's ability to block defenders.
Jones was the Cowboys' first pick in the 2004 draft -- a second-round selection (43rd overall) -- since the Cowboys traded their first-round pick to Buffalo in exchange for additional picks. Barber was the team's fourth-round selection (109th overall) in 2005.
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Jones has had some nice seasons, as he's currently in his fourth season with the Cowboys, but he hasn't distinguished himself as a featured back in the league. Barber, on the other hand, has displayed all the characteristics to become a featured back in the league. Last season, while splitting time with Jones, Barber amassed 14 touchdowns while only receiving 165 carries.
Watching the Cowboys on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, it was evident that Barber is the team's spark plug. Again platooning with Jones, Barber carried the ball 14 times for 89 yards (6.9 YPC) and two touchdowns. Through the first two weeks, Barber has carries the ball 25 times for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Imagine if he carried the ball 25 times a game? He'd be mentioned among the elite running backs in the league.
I think it's about time to pull the plug on the platoon situation in Dallas and make Barber the starting running back and Jones his backup.
To Whom It May Concern:
- Is it me or does Vince Young never take a hard hit? For a man of his stature (6-foot-5, 233-pounds), he always seems to elude tacklers. The Titans quarterback is a long-strider and is very smooth making cuts and dodging traffic. In Sunday's game against Indianapolis, it was amazing to see the way he moved through the Colts defense. It looked like the Colts didn't want to hit him, as it appeared they were in awe of his presence and witnessing greatness on the field. The Colts still defeated the Titans, 22 - 20.
- If the Rams want to have Marc Bulger behind center for the entire season, someone has to tell the offensive line that they have to block. The last two weeks, it appeared as if Bulger had spent more time on the ground than he had completed passes. A quarterback as accurate as Bulger needs time to make his throws, so give him at least three or four seconds to make a read. By the time the Rams QB was back in his drop, there seemed to always be an opposing player right in his face. I thought this was going to be a special season for the Rams, but when Orlando Pace suffered his season-ending injury, it may have ended the Rams season early. The Niners defeated the Rams, 17-16.
- If you watched the Jets/Ravens game on Sunday you had to be impressed by
the play of second-year quarterback Kellen Clemens. Clemens made his first
professional start against one of the league's toughest defenses and he
showed a lot of poise and toughness in an attempted comeback. One player who
didn't help out Clemens was veteran wide receiver Justin McCareins. The Jets
were down by seven late in the fourth quarter and McCareins dropped two key
passes -- both of which would have been for touchdowns in a close game at
the end. The Ravens hung on to win, 20 - 13.
- When is a timeout a timeout? The Raiders and Broncos entered overtime tied
at 20-20. The Raiders were driving and got down to the Broncos' 38-yard
line. It was 4th-and-4 and the Raiders sent in Sebastian Janikowski to
attempt a 52-yard field goal. The snap was good, the hold was great and the
kick by Janikowski was perfect. Game over. But wait, after the kick was
through the uprights and the Raiders were celebrating, the referees were
signaling that the Broncos had called for a timeout. Huh? The kick was
already up and good and now the refs are saying that the home team called
for a timeout? I guess it pays to be the home team -- Broncos defeat the
Raiders on Jason Elam's second consecutive game-winning field goal, 23-20.
- What's going on with LaDainian Tomlinson? Through two weeks he's only recorded 68 yards on 35 carries (1.9 YPC) and a touchdown. His longest run thus far was an 11-yard scamper. Usually by this time, Tomlinson has broken off a run that's destined for the yearly highlight reel. Not only is he struggling, but the entire Chargers offense is off to a slow start. The only player that seems to be in midseason form is tight end Antonio Gates. But if the Chargers expect to contend for the AFC Championship, they need to get Tomlinson going quickly.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.