Jack Daniel's-pong is bad for your health

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 14, 2008



This week's Monday Morning Hangover was written in protective custody, after the weekly gathering of the Cold, Hard Football Facts crew Sunday descended into an ill-advised game of Jack Daniel's-pong.
 
We admit that numerous pets and humans were injured in the resulting disturbance, but assure you that each and every one of the bastards had it coming.
 
As for football, we try to arrange the games within the Monday Morning Hangover in general order of newsworthiness. But for some more detailed reports of around-the-league action today, also see:
Denver 39, San Diego 38
Sure Mike Shanahan earned the Cold, Hard Football Facts Rocky Mountain Oysters Award for his decision to go for the win with a 2-point conversion vs. San Diego, rather than settle for a tie and hope for the best in OT.
 
But more importantly, he's officially recaptured his "offensive genius" status after a two-year hiatus.
 
Shanahan's decade-long run of offensive success was one of the best in the post-merger NFL. From 1995 to 2005, his Bronco teams finished in the top 10 in scoring 10 of the 11 years – with John Elway, then with Brian Griese, then with Jake Plummer. They were also good on the ground as long has any team had ever been.
 
But they finished 21st in 2006 then 17th in 2007, which may be why Shanny was so gung-ho about going for two Sunday – he's got the league's No. 1 scoring offense again (40.0 PPG).
 
You don't bring a knife to a gun fight. And Shanahan has some heavy artillery in Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and the re-invigorated Broncos offense. Cutler has passed for 650 yards through two games (which puts him on a heady pace for 5,200 yards). Marshall, meanwhile, hauled in a team-record 18 receptions, tying 1950s Rams star Tom Fears for second most in NFL history (Terrell Owens caught 20 with San Fran in a game against the Bears back in 2000).
 
Shanahan simply put the game in the hands of his greatest asset, his offense, in the biggest play of the game Sunday. It paid off with a clutch divisional victory and sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
 
Indianapolis 18, Minnesota 15
Minnesota made what will probably prove to be the worst decision (or non-decision) in the off-season, failing to upgrade at quarterback and rolling the dice with Tarvaris Jackson.
 
As the Cold, Hard Football Facts noted last week, he's killing an otherwise impressive Vikings offense – and did so again Sunday.
 
The Vikings absolutely dominated the first 30 minutes of play, as Adrian Peterson rushed for a career-best 118 first-half yards and the defense held Indy scoreless.
 
But the Vikings couldn't get the ball in the end zone, though they knocked on the door time and again. Jackson completed one pass in the red zone all day, and that went for 3 yards. With their inability to move the ball once deep into Indy territory, the Vikings had to settle for five field goals and a 15-0 lead in the third quarter, when a two-dimensional offense might have built an insurmountable lead. 
 
But despite their struggles Sunday, the Colts actually have a quarterback, a guy named Peyton Manning. On a day when he didn't have his best stuff (2 INTs) or half his offensive line, Manning and the Colts rallied to tie with a pair of late TDs and a 2-point conversion.
 
Then Manning's 20-yard strike to Reggie Wayne moved the ball to Minny's 29 with less than 30 seconds to play. That set up a certain clutch kicker by the name of Adam Vinateiri, who hit a 47-yard game-winner with 8 seconds to play. It was his longest field goal since the 2006 postseason.
 
More importantly, it proves the importance of a quarterback. The team that was better in virtually every phase of the game Sunday lost. The team that was better only at quarterback won.
 
New England 19, N.Y. Jets 10
Via act of the Massachusetts assembly, it's now official: the Jets are New England's bitch.
 
The Patriots have won 11 of the last 12 meetings between the division rivals (including playoffs) and have won every meeting in the Meadowlands since 2001.
 
But none of New York's  losses were as damning as yesterday's. The Jets had picked up high profile free-agent offensive linemen in Alan Faneca and Damien Woody during the off-season. And, in case you haven't heard, the Jets also added a first-ballot HOF quarterback in Brett Favre.
 
Yet the resulting offensive performance was as bad and as frustrating as any that had preceded it in recent years. The Jets have scored 20 points or more against the Patriots just once since their 30-17 win over New England back in 2002. They've averaged 12.6 PPG in the 12 games since then.
 
For Matt Cassel's first NFL start, the game plan was conservative but effective. Of course, that conservative effort has served the Patriots extraordinarily well this season. And their historic ability to keep the ball out of the hands of their opponents has sparked their record 21-game win streak (see that whole story here).
 
Cassel completed 16 of 23 passes (69.6%) for 165 yards, 7.17 YPA, 0 TD, 0 INT and led the Patriots on five scoring drives (4 FGs, 1 TD).
 
He rarely tested the defense deep, but he didn't turn the ball over and got some nice runs after the catch from Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk.
 
The New England defense also turned in a solid performance, holding New York to 12 first downs and 256 total yards.
 
Favre threw his first interception as a member of the Jets (to Brandon Meriweather) and took two sacks, including a costly one for a loss of 20 yards (by Adalius Thomas) on what would prove to be his team's final possession.
 
Pittsburgh 10, Cleveland 6
If the Jets are New England's bitch, the Browns hold the same dishonor among football fans in Western PA.
 
In fact, it's been even more one-sided than Patriots-Jets, as the Steelers have won 16 of the last 17 meetings between these so-called division "rivals."
 
One of Pittsburgh's secret weapons in recent years has been the underrated Willie Parker.
 
New England's Matt Cassel is the poster boy right now for achieving success despite a zero college career. But Fast Willie has him beat by a long shot.
 
Parker couldn't keep starting jobs at North Carolina in his sophomore or junior years, and barely played as a senior.
 
He signed with Pittsburgh, taking a flyer on his 4.3 speed in 2004, and has become one of the NFL's best and most underappreciated players.
 
Over his last 22 starts, Parker has produced 13 100-yard games and 2,077 rushing yards with 4.35 YPA.
 
He's had at least 20 carries in 18 of those 22 games (including the 2007 finale where he was injured for the season after one carry).
 
And his career average of 4.5 YPA with Pittsburgh is even more impressive considering that Jerome Bettis averaged only 4.5 YPA or better twice in a decade with Pittsburgh.
 
Willie Parker, a hell of a player. Maybe the Tar Heels should've given him a shot.
 
Green Bay 48, Detroit 25
If the Cheeseheads had only listened to the Cold, Hard Football Facts all summer – and our assurances that everything would be O.K. in the post-Favre Era – they might have saved themselves a lot of time and emotional energy.
 
Packers fans were in such distress over the summer that they sounded as if they thought the Green Bay offense was about to take the field this year with 10 players and nobody under center. Yeah, it probably would have been tough to score in that scenario.
 
Instead, the offense has clicked fairly effectively through two weeks (62 points), while the 48 points scored Sunday was the most by the Packers since a 52-3 win over the Saints in October 2005 (two of yesterday's scores came defensively).
 
Aaron Rodgers – who replaced old-what's-his-name of the Jets – has been brilliant.
 
Sure, everybody picks apart the Lions. So Rodgers' performance Sunday won't earn him a bronze bust in Canton. But after two weeks, it's hard to argue with his results.
 
Rodgers has completed 42 of 60 passes (70.0%) for 506 yards, 8.4 YPA, 4 TD, 0 INT and a 117.8 passer rating that's currently sixth in the NFL.
 
The Lions, for their part, fell behind by a score of 21-0 for the second straight week.
 
But unlike last week's loss to Atlanta, they came all the way back to take the lead. The Lions ripped off 16 fourth-quarter points, including a pair of long touchdown passes to emerging superstar Calvin Johnson, to rally to a 25-24 lead.
 
From there, however, it was all Green Bay. The Packers scored 24 points in the game's final six minutes, with the last two touchdowns coming via interceptions of Jon Kitna.
 
Rodgers fared much better. He threw three first-half TD passes to three different receivers and remained interception-free on the season. In two games, Green Bay's eight touchdowns have been scored by eight different players.
 
Oakland 23, Kansas City 8
Epic clashes like this inspire us to break out all our favorite clichés:
 
Oakland-Kansas City was a classic meeting of the moveable force vs. the resistible object – and a true battle of who wanted it less.
 
In the end, though, it was a battle of witlessness between two coaches destined to be watching football from the broadcast booth and not the sidelines in 2009.
 
And in that contest – no surprise! – Kansas City's Herm Edwards earned the inside track over Lane Kiffin. (Even though, due to the erratic state of ownership in Oakland, Kiffin is likely to be fired today after his victory, while Herm, after an 0-2 start, will cling to his job for a few more weeks).
 
Edwards will be lucky to make it through the end of the year. Kansas City fans will be lucky if he doesn't.
 
As we chronicled at the start of the season, when we dubbed Edwards the worst coach in the league, it's been his complete and utter destruction of the Kansas City offense in recent years that should quickly earn him his pink slip – it was an offense, mind you, that dominated the NFL before his arrival in the 2006 season.
 
No more.
 
The Chiefs mustered a paltry 8 points against Oakland Sunday, after an insipid 10 points in a Week 1 loss to the Patriots.
 
The Chiefs have now scored just 120 points in their last 10 regular-season games (12.0 PPG). The 8 points against the Raiders might have been the worst outing in that stretch.
 
After all, the Oakland defense has proved utterly incapable of stopping anybody. In its last five games, the Raiders defense has surrendered a horrific 179 points – an average of 35.8 PPG. And the trend was certainly not good. After all, Oakland was shredded for 41 points by the Broncos in Week 1.
 
But an Edwards offense proved just what the doctor ordered for the Oakland defense. Sadly for the AFC West – and gladly for Chiefs fans – the NFL won't have a Herm Edwards offense to kick around much longer.
 
Tennessee 24, Cincinnati 7
Meet the NFL's best defense. It belongs to your Tennessee Titans.
 
Jacksonville was ripped after Week 1 for its inability to put points on the board in a 17-10 loss to the Titans. The Jaguars averaged 357.4 YPG (7th) and 25.7 PPG (6th) last year. Against Tennessee in Week 1, it was 189 yards and 10 points.
 
Cincinnati will be ripped (again) for its inability to move the ball here in Week 2. The Bengals averaged 348.0 YPG (10th) and 23.8 PPG (11th) last year. Against Tennessee in Week 2, it was 215 and 7.
 
Hmmm. Perhaps its time to stop ripping their opponents and started crediting the Titans defense.
 
Since Tony Brown got the starting DT job next to Albert Haynesworth at the start of 2007, the Titans have allowed 14.4 PPG when the twin beasts have been starting together – and that's in a division with good offensive teams in Jacksonville, Indy and Houston.
 
Through two games this week, Tennessee has surrendered 8.5 PPG. That will likely be tops in the league tomorrow morning, after Philly (3 points allowed in Week 1) faces the potent offense of Dallas in tonight's Monday Night Football donnybrook.
 
N.Y. Giants 41, St. Louis 13
Including their Super Bowl victory, the Giants have now won 12 consecutive games on the road, and their miracle touchdown drive to win Super Bowl XLII in the final minute has certainly seemed to inspire the team.
 
They've yet to trail in their first two games, and they've held a lead for 106 of 120 minutes.
 
The pathetic Rams proved no match, allowing the Giants to march virtually effortlessly to points in all four quarters, including a 21-point explosion in the fourth quarter.
 
Defensive end Justin Tuck, a new starter in the wake of Michael Strahan's retirement, was the defensive star against St. Louis. He recorded two of the team's six sacks and made an athletic play to pick off a Marc Bulger pass at the line of scrimmage and return it 41 yards for a game-sealing touchdown.
 
San Francisco 33, Seattle 30
Seattle was largely concerned with the state of its depleted corps of receivers heading into what was expected to be an easy victory over the previously punchless 49ers.
 
Once the game began, the focus shifted to the 49er receivers who ran by and around Seattle defenders all game long.
 
San Francisco's wideouts combined for 283 yards despite constant pressure on 49er quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, who was sacked eight times. Newcomer Isaac Bruce led the way for San Francisco with 4 catches for 153 yards, including a 37-yard reception on third down in overtime that helped set up Joe Nedney's game-winning field goal.
 
Bruce has been a thorn in the side of the Seahawks secondary since the creation of the new NFC West in 2002. He has 53 receptions for 801 yards and 3 touchdowns against Seattle since then.
 
Seattle now falls to 0-2 for the first time since 2002, which was the last season they failed to make the playoffs.
 
More importantly, the 49ers exposed that the Seahawks have more problems than they anticipated. They might have been able to muscle through with a second-rate group of receivers. But when the immortal J.T. O'Sullivans shreds your defensive secondary despite facing heavy pressure, it sounds like a team that's in for a long, long season.
 
Washington 29, New Orleans 24
Washington head coach Jim Zorn was incompetent after last week's 19-7 loss to the Giants, a deer-in-the-headlights sideline stalker not ready to be a head coach and bound to be fired before the end of the season.
 
One week and 29-24 win later, Zorn's a genius. It's funny how the NFL works that way.
 
Zorn's Redskins faced a 4th and 2 at the New Orleans 32 with less than two minutes to play, while sporting a meager five-point lead. He made the gutsy decision to go for it, and was rewarded with his first win as a head coach when Jason Campbell hit Santana Moss for an 8-yard gain and a victory-securing first down.
 
Much of the turnaround from Week 1 was thanks to the improved play from Campbell.
 
He looked like a legit NFL starter against the Saints, completing 24 of 36 passes (66.7%) for 321 yards, 8.9 YPA, 1 TD, 0 INT and a 104.1 passers rating (after struggling with 4.9 YPA and a generously misleading 81.2 passer rating in the Week 1 loss to the Giants).
 
Campbell was awesome when the game mattered most, as he led the Redskins back from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter. In the final stanza, he completed his last eight passes, and ended the quarter with 8 of 9 completions for 165 yards (a staggering 18.3 YPA), 1 TD and a 155.8 passer rating.
 
Reggie Bush mustered just 28 rushing yards on 10 carries for the Saints but still eclipsed 100 all purpose yards thanks in large part to a 55-yard punt return touchdown. He racked up 146 all-purpose yards on 18 touches.
 
Buffalo 20 Jacksonville 16
Last season David Garrard didn't throw his third interception until Week 16. 
 
He's already matched that total after just two games here in 2008.
 
Trent Edwards, on the other hand, helped lead the Bills to their first 2-0 start since 2003 by completing 20 of his 25 passes with no interceptions. Both his 80 percent completion rate (20 of 25) and his 9.6 YPA were career highs.
 
The Jaguars fell to 0-2 for the fist time since 2003, when they lost 38-17 to Drew Bledsoe's Bills.
 
Jacksonville's failure to win in the first two weeks is largely due to their struggling running game which mustered only 3.6 YPA against the Bills. They averaged 4.6 YPA as a team in 2007.
 
As the Cold, Hard Football Facts noted over the weekend, a decimated offensive line will probably cost the Jaguars dearly this year.
 
Jacksonville also struggled on third down converting just two of 11 attempts against Buffalo after they completed five of 14 attempts against Tennessee in Week 1. Their season conversion rate of 28 percent is a substantial drop from last season's 45.7 success rate.
 
Carolina 20, Chicago 17
The Kyle Orton-led Bears offense did a remarkably strong impression of the Rex Grossman-led Bears offense – and the result was a lot like what we witnessed last year from Grossman and the Bears.
 
With the game on the line in the second half, the Bears could barely mount so much as a first down (39 yards total on their last six drives). The Panthers, meanwhile, found their mojo, ripping off 17 consecutive second-half points.
 
The result was a change in the force in the NFC.
 
The Panthers are one of just five undefeated teams left standing in the NFC just two weeks into the season (the 1-0 Eagles visit the 1-0 Cowboys tonight, so one of them, barring an exotically rare tie, will drop from the ranks of the unbeaten tonight). And yet Carolina has scored just five more points than they've surrendered (46-41).
 
The 2008 Panthers have the feel of the Cardiac Cats Panthers of 2003, who reached Super Bowl XXXVIII.
 
The Orton-led Bears, meanwhile, had the feel of the Grossman Bears, at least for one week.
 
Tampa Bay 24, Atlanta 9
It didn't take long for Matt Ryan to come back to the terra firm typically inhabited by rookie quarterbacks.
 
It's easy to look good when you're playing the dreadful Lions, who Ryan and his Falcons shredded in a Week 1 victory. It's tough to look good when you're facing what was the NFC's top defense last year and what might be the senior circuit's top defense again here in 2008.
 
Ryan was stymied out of the gates, failing to complete a single pass on his first four drives (8 attempts) while tossing two of those passes into the hands of Tampa defenders.
 
Ryan got a fantasy-football view of the NFL last week facing the Lions. Real football, it turns out, is a lot tougher.
 
Arizona 31, Miami 10
Kurt Warner did his best Erwin Rommel Desert Fox imitation, with his second great game against a second-rate club.
 
He pitched the third perfect game of his career (158.3 passer rating) with a career-high 15.04 YPA. See the whole story here.
 
For those of you keeping score at home, the Dolphins are now 1-20 in their last 21 games, putting them just 20 games behind the Patriots over that period.

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