Week 5 Judgements: Brees Saints' gain, not exactly Chargers' mistake

by | Senior NFL Columnist
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Revisionist history says San Diego made a mistake when it gave up on Drew Brees in 2006 and chose Philip Rivers as its quarterback ... but don't believe it. In the last game of the 2005 season, Brees suffered a serious shoulder injury that scared the Chargers -- who, it should be pointed out, still made him a free-agent offer he could refuse. So Brees walked, and the injury scared off everyone else but New Orleans ... and you know the rest of the story. It's a nice story with a great ending, but let's not let the facts get in the way, and the facts were San Diego had a healthy young quarterback ... a former first-round pick ... it had on the bench and a free-agent veteran with a bad shoulder that could've derailed his career. Plus, there's this: In the salary-cap era, you cannot pay top dollar to two quarterbacks on the same team. The Chargers knew what they had in Rivers and liked it ... and he responded with a 14-2 record his first season as the starter. It's convenient to say the Chargers screwed up. It's also wrong.

2. Hey, if you want to point the finger at anyone for not pulling the trigger on Brees, point it at Miami. The Dolphins talked about adding him, then went in another direction ... namely, Daunte Culpepper. Check, please.

3. An injury was waiting to happen for RG3, and it happened sooner. So here's my question: What next, Washington? I mean, when Griffin returns from a concussion how do the Redskins play him? I watched Steve Young spiral downward as he suffered repeated concussions, and that can happen when you run like Young ... or Griffin. But it happened at the end of Young's career. This happened in Griffin's fifth game. So what next, Washington?

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4. Finally, "Ground and Pound" is back in New York. Only it's not the Jets who have it; it's the Giants, who grounded and pounded Cleveland into oblivion, rushing for 243 yards, their most since putting up 301 on Carolina in a 2008 defeat of the Panthers.

5. You like to see good things happen to good people, which is why you should be rooting for Minnesota's Leslie Frazier. There are few better guys in this business than the gracious Frazier.

6. This is how good Chicago's defense is: It outscored the Bears' past three opponents by itself, and if you think I'm exaggerating, you can look it up: The Bears have five touchdowns off takeaways, translating to 35 points; their past three opponents combined for 27 points, period.

7. The honeymoon is over with regular refs, and if it didn't end last weekend in Green Bay with Jeff Triplette's crew, it ended in Kansas City with Pete Morelli's outfit. It blew the call on a Joe Flacco fumble that could've decided the game ... and won it for Kansas City ... when it whistled the play dead way too soon. Imagine if that happened with replacement refs. We would be demanding a Congressional inquiry. Now, Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel just says, "We have to live with the call," and we move on to the next Chiefs loss.

8. Crennel said the Chiefs are going "to find out" what they have in Brady Quinn, but we already know. He's an inaccurate quarterback who can't win. There's a reason Cleveland and Denver gave up on him, and Kansas City is about to find out.

9. The Philadelphia Eagles have playmakers galore on offense, yet score 16 points per game -- or barely more than two touchdowns. The reason: turnovers, and what's new? The Eagles can't stop making them, with quarterback Michael Vick responsible for 11 of the team's 14 -- including two more fumbles Sunday. "We need to score more points," Vick said. "We need to help our defense out." He's right about that. But he needs to glue the football to his hands. "I wish I knew [why all the fumbles]," he said. "but I don't have any explanation." Somebody better.

10. Shame on those cretins in Kansas City who cheered Matt Cassel's concussion. Tackle Eric Winston was dead-on when he shredded the morons who applauded the injury to their quarterback. "It's 100 percent sickening," Winston said. I'll second that.

11. Guess that makes Bruce Arians frontrunner for Coach of the Year.

12. Don't say you weren't warned. I said here a week ago the Redskins should think about flushing kicker Billy Cundiff. So what's stopping them? Adios, Billy.

13. People who should know tell me they expect commissioner Roger Goodell to make a decision on the Saints' appeal of Bountygate shortly, probably this week.

14. Maybe it was the loss of tight end Aaron Hernandez that woke up New England, I don't know. What I do know is the minute Hernandez was sidelined, the Patriots had to find someone to take his place ... and Wes Welker was that someone. Yeah, I know, a no-brainer, right? Tell that to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. He's the guy who tried to run an offense without Welker as a principal weapon, and he's the guy who learned that's not exactly smart. So where Welker catches eight passes his first two games, he catches 30 the next three -- including 13 vs. Denver -- and New England returns to the top of its division. People who said Welker should be more involved, stand up. Somebody heard you.

15. That should end the debate once and for all about whom the Indianapolis Colts should've taken with the first draft pick. It's not just that rookie Andrew Luck upset heavily favored Green Bay. It's that he overcame a 21-3 deficit.

16. We all know how good Luck is as a passer, but nobody talks about his athletic ability ... and maybe you should after that third-down scramble that kept the game-winning drive alive.

17. Yep, that was veteran Reggie Wayne with 13 catches, and that tells me something. It tells me the Green Bay secondary still has holes it has to plug ... or else.

18. Look at it like this, Miami fans: If it weren't for those Dan Carpenter misses vs. the Jets, your team ... yes, the Miami Dolphins ... would be tied with New England for first in the AFC East.

19. That was another nice come-from-behind victory for the Giants, but has anyone checked out what's next for these guys? Every game from here on in is either against a division opponent or a playoff team, starting with San Francisco next weekend.

20. I always said I should've drafted Chicago's Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman for my Fantasy football team. Each has two touchdowns the past two weeks, or two more than Chris Johnson has this season.

FIVE THINGS I LIKE

1. The game ball Indianapolis sent coach Chuck Pagano. You want to make an ailing coach feel better? First, win. Then, get him the game ball. The Colts did both.

2. The response by the Unitas family to Drew Brees' record. First, it sent a letter of congratulations to Brees. Second, Unitas' son, Joe, showed up at Sunday's game to meet with Brees. And third, nobody demanded an explanation.

3. Ben Roethlisberger's record vs. the NFC at Heinz Field. With the defeat of Philadelphia, he's 14-1 at home. He's also 2-1 in Super Bowls.

4. Eli Manning in the rear-view mirror. You already know what happens when he trails in Super Bowls. So how about what he has done this season. Manning trailed Tampa Bay, 27-13, in the second half three weeks ago and wound up throwing for a career-best 510 yards in a 41-34 victory. Then he trails Cleveland, 17-7, before throwing for three touchdowns in a 41-28 win. Now the kicker: He did it without star receiver Hakeem Nicks, with Manning making 16 of his 25 completions to guys named Hixon, Randle, Bennett, Pascoe and Jernigan.

5. Robert Meachem producing the first touchdown in the San Diego-New Orleans game. Everyone last week talked about Brees going against his former teammates, and for good reason. The guy was going to break a record that lasted over 50 years. But Meachem was returning to play his ex-teammates, and if you didn't think that was a big deal, you didn't see him celebrate the game's opening TD.

FIVE THINGS I DON'T

1. The past six quarters for Buffalo. Do the math: The Bills have been outscored 90-17 in those periods by New England and San Francisco. When they shelled out the bucks for free agents Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, it was to prevent something like this from happening. So why is it?

2. Minnesota safety Harrison Smith pushing an official. You gotta be kidding me, Harrison. Get a clue. Somewhere along the line, Smith must have been told it's not OK to have contact with anyone but the guy you're supposed to tackle. Look for Smith, who was fined $21,000 earlier this season, to hear from commissioner Roger Goodell this week.

3. Cam Newton's fourth-down pass to the end zone. His target, tight end Ben Hartsock, was wide open, but Newton one-hopped the ball to him. Ouch. Newton stunk ... not just on that play, but for most of the afternoon ... and he knew it. "I haven't been playing good football," he said later. "Shame on me."

4. San Diego tackle Jared Gaither on the Chargers' last series. Something was wrong with the guy, and don't ask San Diego's coaches. Nobody seemed to notice. But NBC's Cris Collinsworth did, accurately predicting Gaither was ripe for a game-ending sack. Gaither couldn't move, so the Saints' Martz Wilson used him as a turnstile to make his game-clinching hit on Philip Rivers.

5. St. Louis without Danny Amendola. He not only is the team's leading receiver; he's Sam Bradford's security blanket, and you saw what happened after he left the lineup last Thursday -- not much. Three of the Rams' next four games are against Green Bay, New England (in London) and San Francisco, and good luck with that.

FIVE GUYS WHO HAVE SOME 'SPLAINING TO DO

1. Denver running back Willis McGahee. He didn't just pull the plug on one fourth-quarter drive. He pulled it on two. The first time he dropped a certain ... and easy ... first-down catch; the second time, he fumbled inside the New England 10. Who needs a defense to close out Denver when the Broncos have McGahee?

2. Kansas City running back Dexter McCluster. The Chiefs are down, 9-3, and lose their starting quarterback. But backup Brady Quinn comes to the rescue with a 15-yard touchdown pass to put Kansas City ahead ... or does he? Nope, the play is erased because of an offensive pass interference call against McCluster, and that can happen because ... well, because bad things happen to bad teams.

3. Philadelphia offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. It's first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 3. The score is tied at zero. And you've just dodged a bullet when an apparent Michael Vick fumble was overruled by replay. So you call a run, which makes sense ... only not when LeSean McCoy is on the bench. Uh-oh, that means ... uh-huh, Vick is the guy running it. He fumbles, one of two Sunday, and another scoring chance is squelched.

4. Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel. I'm not trying to pick on the guy, but, c'mon. You have the ball, first-and-goal at the Baltimore 1-yard line, and the one thing you cannot ... absolutely must not ... do is lose it. Only Cassel does, botching the snap, with Ed Reed recovering. You want to know why the Chiefs stink? Try 10 turnovers the past two weeks.

5. New Orleans defensive end Martez Wilson. He's the guy who committed a hands-to-the-facemask penalty on San Diego's last drive, which is bad enough, but he did it on ... 2nd-and-37? You bet. So what was an incomplete pass pushing the Chargers to third-and-37 became an automatic first down. Talk about stupid. To Wilson's credit, he later ended the game on the same series, sacking Rivers and stripping him of the ball on the same play.

JUST ASKING BUT ...

 Who's your pick for the NFC North now?

 Anyone with Cleveland want to cover Victor Cruz?

 What's wrong with Cam Newton?

 Who hangs the first loss on Atlanta?

 Who has more buyer's remorse -- Jimmy Haslam or Shahid Khan?

NUMBERS TO REMEMBER

0-3 -- Jacksonville at home
4 -- Philadelphia turnovers in the red zone this season
5 -- Matt Cassel interceptions in his past two starts vs. Baltimore
5 -- Defensive TDs for Chicago the past three games
8 -- Consecutive losses for Washington at home
9-4 -- Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning
18 -- Game-winning drives by Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter or overtime
20 -- Jamaal Charles' first-half carries
55 -- Andrew Luck passes vs. Green Bay
99 -- Career TDs for Tony Gonzalez

MY TOP FIVE

1. Houston
2. Atlanta
3. Baltimore
4. San Francisco
5. Chicago

MY BOTTOM FIVE

32. Cleveland
31. Kansas City
30. Jacksonville
29. New Orleans
28. Tennessee

NEXT WEEKEND'S THREE BEST GAMES

Dallas at Baltimore ... Four of Cowboys' next five are on the road.

N.Y. Giants at San Francisco ... NFC championship game, Part Deux.

Green Bay at Houston ... Time for the Packers to stop the bleeding.

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