Three for the Road
How our teams fared this weekend
Last night, on Monday Night Football, the New York Giants officially ended the loudly announced hopes of the Dallas Cowboys to be the first squad to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium. With their 41-35 win, not only did they lower America’s Team’s record to 1-5 (0-3 at home!) after their bye week; on a sack, they broke star quarterback Tony Romo’s collarbone, leaving him out for a minimum of four to six weeks (after which time one imagines the 3-9 Cowboys being smart enough only to play him sparingly, if at all, lest they screw up next season, too).
The Giants played very typically: QB Eli Manning threw two early interceptions; they let their opponent, now led by journeyman back-up
Rob Jon Kitna, back into the game; gave up a special teams touchdown, to speedy rookie Dez Bryant; and ultimately pulled out a win with the help of their stellar defensive front four and wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, who simply must enter any discussion about the best 1-2 wide receiver combo in the NFL. I am not sure I trust the Giants, who have major holes in their defensive secondary and a habit of imploding on Coach Tom Coughlin, down the stretch; Bryant’s return TD, in particular, reeked of post-Super Bowl Giants game giveaways. But credit where it’s due: As of right now, the Giants are the best team in the National Football Conference.
The New England Patriots came in to San Diego to face the number-one passing offense with a clear strategy: Bend, don’t break; allow short passes, even first downs, but no deep plays; let the receivers catch the ball, and then hammer them. It is the exact same defensive game plan—which now sits in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio—that the New York Giants defensive coordinator drew up to defeat the favored Buffalo Bills in the 1991 Super Bowl. That coordinator, of course, is now the head coach of the Patriots, where he continues to scowl and go by the name of Bill Belichick and win close games, like Sunday’s 23-20 victory.
There was a moment like last year’s Fourth-and-Two, where the Pats, up a field goal and facing fourth-and-one at midfield, elected to go for it, and got stuffed on a run up the middle. But unlike last year’s primetime loss in Indianapolis, the Pats improved to 5-1 and keep right at the heels of the division-leading New York Jets, who were on their bye. New England fans should feel jittery that it was this close; the rest of us should just tip our caps and trust that BB knows what he is doing, which in all likelihood he does.
The first thing to know about the Washington Redskins-Chicago Bears game, which the Skins won 17-14, is that it was on crack. The Redskins fumbled the ball four or five times, and recovered all but one; the Bears fumbled twice, and recovered neither time. Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb threw two interceptions; Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall caught all four of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s interceptions. It was just that sort of game. It could have gone either way. The key fact about it at this point, I think, is that it was in Chicago. Road teams can win those sorts of games and just be happy; home teams have got to win them, and can’t lose them if they want to make the playoffs.
What positive things can the Redskins take away (other than the W, of course)? Ryan Torain looks to be the real deal: The no-name running back had his second consecutive 100-yard game (125 yards on 21 carries). Given that the Skins’ defense created five turnovers, well, maybe there is something to coordinator Jim Haslett’s new 3-4 scheme after all. Hall, of course, had a historic game: Only two other players in NFL history have had four interceptions in a single contest, and the previous one did it in 1978. And nose tackle Albert Haynesworth, the team’s highest-paid, greatest purely talented, and most volatile player, had a phenomenal game, eating up double- and triple-teams, stopping Bears backs at the line of scrimmage, and enabling the defense to pressure the quarterback (which is half of how you get those four interceptions). If they can withstand the crappy Lions next week in Detroit—a trap game if ever there were one, but so obviously a trap game that the Skins just may actually show up—they will be heading into the bye 5-3, which is to say, with one more win than they had all of last season.
Our record: 14-6.