MMH: Can Titans go undefeated? It Depends

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 16, 2008



(Ed. Note: This week's Monday Morning (now afternoon) Hangover was pieced together after a Sunday night drowning our sorrows in our Iron City after NFL officials costs us a cool $10 by blowing a call at the end of the San Diego-Pittsburgh game.)
 
Somewhere, members of the 1972 Dolphins are peeing in their adult diapers – which means they're not a whole lot different than we are.
 
In our case, we just think it keeps us from getting winded racing to the bathroom during commercial breaks.
 
In the case of the 1972 Dolphins, they're faced with yet another challenger to their undefeated legacy. The 2007 Patriots made Mercury Morris & Co. sweat out every last one of 1,140 minutes of football before finally falling. Here in 2008, the Titans have made it through 600 minutes, stand at 10-0 and show no signs of slowing down any time soon.
 
That can only mean one thing, America: Mercury Morris is coming to a talk show near you. Hell, that's reason enough for even Titans fans to root against their team.
 
Tennessee 24, Jacksonville 14
Kerry Collins's reputation as a "game manager" was mortally wounded in Tennessee's 21-14 win over the Bears in Week 10, when he passed for a season-high 289 yards.
 
His "game manager" reputation was put out of its misery with Tennessee's come-from-behind win over the Jaguars here in Week 11.
 
Collins rallied the Titans from a 14-3 deficit with three second-half touchdown passes, including two long bombs to Justin Gage for 56 and 38 yards. His 112.3 rating was the third time this year that the former game manager topped the 100.0 rating mark.
 
Collins had thrown for just three TDs in his first eight games – but he matched that mark in one half against Jacksonville.
 
The win pushed the Titans' record to 10-0. Collins is no stranger to that lofty mark. Back in November 1994, he led Joe Paterno's Penn State squad to a 45-17 drubbing of Northwestern en route to a 12-0 season and a Rose Bowl win over Oregon.
 
Dallas 14, Washington 10
Tony Romo returned, and even threw a fourth-quarter touchhdown pass to Martellus Bennett to secure a key win for the Cowboys in the NFC East.
 
But the Dallas defense was the story of the day for what seems like the first time since Jethro Pugh and Chuck Howley roamed the field.
 
Dallas walked into the NFL's largest (and often rowdiest) arena and held the hometown Redskins to 10 points, 14 first downs and just 70 yards on the ground from ball carriers other than the quarterback. The Redskins were held scoreless in the second half.
 
If you're wondering what happened to Washington running back Clinton Portis, so are we.
 
He had rushed for 121 yards or more in five straight game, and had carried at least 21 times in each of Washington's first eight games.
 
He's disappeared over the last two: carrying a total of 28 times for 119 yards – both losses – including a mere 15 carries for 68 yards Sunday night. 
 
Meanwhile,  Jason Campbell had been one of the league's best stories, throwing exactly zero picks through the first eight games ... but three in the last two as his number of attempts has shot up sharply.
 
Note to Jim Zorn: give the ball more to Portis.
 
Blog of the Week: Two Bills Drive
The Bills have been in a state of chaos ever since Wade Phillips made the biggest gaffe of the last half century of pro sports and benched Doug Flutie. But we've loved this site ever since those halcyon days of our pre-middle age when Our Hero was leading Buffalo into the playoffs, only to get stabbed in the back by Phillips and his alter-ego in douchery, Rob Johnson.
 
Still, if you want to know what's going on anywhere in the world related to the Bills, especially as they prepare to host the Browns tonight, TwoBillsDrive is the place to find it.
 
Tampa Bay 19, Minnesota 13
When it comes to NFC contenders, don't forget to include the Buccaneers.
 
Tampa Bay dominated the second half Sunday against the Vikings turning a 13-6 halftime deficit into a convincing 19-13 win.
 
For an idea of how dominant the Bucs were in the second half consider this: Tampa Bay gained 16 more yards (80-64) and three more first downs (6-3) on their opening drive of the third quarter than the Vikings gained in the entire second half.
 
Tampa Bay held Adrian Peterson to 14 yards on six carries in the second half while doubling Minnesota's time of possession 20:38-9:22.
 
Second Half Comparison:
 
Tampa Bay: 200 total yards, 81 rushing yards, 12 first downs, 13 points, 20:38 TOP
Minnesota:    64 total yards, 14 rushing yards, 3 first downs, 0 points, 9:22 TOP
 
Ouch!
 
Miami 17, Oakland 15
Twenty-two percent is great if you're measuring the body fat of your average CHFF reader.
 
It's not so great when you're the Raiders, and that's your third-down conversion rate for the season. Oakland finished the Miami game 2 of 11 on third downs, bringing their season total to 30 of 136.
 
The Raiders mustered just 186 yards of offense against Miami, but held a 14-8 lead with 4:30 to play, thanks to a safety on defense and a punt return for a touchdown by Johnnie Lee Higgins. But then CHFF favorite Chad Pennington led the Dolphins on a 10-play, 61-yard drive into field goal range to set up Dan Carpenter for the game winning 38-yard kick with 38 seconds left on the clock.
 
While Pennington's rebirth in Miami remains a big story, perhaps the single biggest comeback story of the season is the astonishing, turn-back-the-clock success of linebacker Joey Porter. The ferocious pass-rusher and defensive player of the year candidate recorded another 1.5 sacks on the day, bringing his NFL-leading total to 13.5.
 
Through 11 games, Porter has already surpassed his career high of 10.5 sacks, which he  accomplished twice with the Steelers (2000, 2005).
 
 
N.Y. Giants 30, Baltimore 10
 
Through their first nine games, the Ravens had allowed just a single rushing touchdown – a 1-yarder by Indy's Dominic Rhodes in Week 6.
 
On Sunday, Brandon Jacobs needed only the first quarter to double the output of his predecessors. Two 1-yard scoring runs by Jacobs gave the Giants an early 13-point lead (one PAT was aborted due to a bad snap) and ultimately provided all of the points that his team would need.
 
Behind the three-headed ground attack of Ahmad Bradshaw (96), Jacobs (73) and Derrick Ward (41), New York amassed 207 net yards rushing against the league's top-ranked defensive hogs. The previous single-game high versus Baltimore this season was just 76 net yards rushing.
 
(See more on Ravens-Giants here and here.)
 
Arizona 26, Seattle 20
Arizona vs. Seattle was a combustible mixture that could end only one way: with the Cardinals airing out a win over the Seahawks.
 
In case you didn't know, Kurt Warner is really good ... and the Seattle pass defense is really bad.
 
It showed on Sunday. Warner ripped about the Seahawks in the first quarter (144) yards a
 
So good in fact we will just let you bask in the greatness of his performance Sunday.
 
Warner by Quarter:
1st Quarter: 13 of 14 (93%) for 144 yards, 10.3 YPA, 0 TD, 0 INT, 109.5 passer rating.
2nd Quarter: 9 of 13 (69%) for 107 yards, 7.6 YPA, 0 TD, 1 INT, 62.0 passer rating.
3rd Quarter: 5 of 8 (63%) for 98 yards, 12.3 YPA, 1 TD, 0 INT, 144.8 passer rating.
4th Quarter: 5 of 9 (56%) for 46 yards, 4.6 YPA, 0 TD, 0 INT, 69.7 passer rating.
 
Totals: 32 of 44 (73%) for 395 yards, 8.6 YPA, 1 TD, 1 INT, 98.2 passer rating.
 
Pittsburgh 11, San Diego 10
When Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu broke up an intended San Diego lateral and returned it for an apparent touchdown on the last play of the game, every gambler involved watched in disbelief.
 
The Chargers, who were underdogs of 4½ to 5 points, had never trailed by more than a single point. But the TD was overturned on a dubious call of an illegal forward pass, and the margin of victory remained at one.
 
Great news for those who had bet the Chargers to cover ... bad news for the greater number of people who bet the Steelers to cover.
 
The game has another distinction besides the dubious swing of millions at the end of the game: In 12,836 previous NFL games, there had never been a final score of 11-10.
 
Philadelphia 13, Cincinnati 13
The "pundits" say that a tie is like kissing your sister.
 
The average CHFF contributor knows a thing or two about kissing his sisters and cousins and other blood relatives (we're big in Maine after all), and we can tell you that Philly's tie with Cincinnati was nothing like kissing your sister.
 
It was more like kissing your drunk old, unshaven, stinky homeless uncle Elmer when he dressed up as Santa each year.
 
After all, the Eagles are fighting snaggle-tooth and nail for a playoff spot in the tough NFC East. Yet they still couldn't muster enough game to put away the terrible Bengals. In fact, Philly came painfully close to blowing it completely.
 
Cincy kicker Shayne Graham had a chance to boot a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of overtime, but his 47-yard attempt sailed wide right. The resulting tie was the first in the NFL since the Steelers and Falcons finished deadlocked on Nov. 10, 2002.
 
In that game, which was attended by our own Chief Troll, each team had a chance at game-winning field goals in the extra session, but both attempts were blocked. The Eagles now own an all-time record of 0-3-1 in the Queen City, and they currently sit alone in last place in the rugged NFC East.
 
The Eagles still have never won in Cincinnati, but at least they haven't always lost ... which is more than we can say for uncle Elmer.
 
Indianapolis 33, Houston 27
Bob Sanders, who?
 
For the second game in a row, a Colts victory wasn't secure until Melvin Bullitt got his hands on the ball.
 
Indy's second-year safety, starting in place of the (stop us if you've heard this story before) injured Sanders, intercepted an errant pass from Sage Rosenfels (another familiar story) in the final minute as Houston was attempting to drive for the game-winning touchdown.
 
Last week Bullitt had thwarted a Pittsburgh comeback, recording an end zone pick on the final play of a 24-20 win.
 
Bullitt leads the Colts this year with four interceptions – twice as many as his closest teammate (Jennings, 2).
 
Close games, meanwhile, have become an everyday occurrence for a team that's dominated their opposition for much of the decade.
  • Five of Indy's six wins this year have been by 7 points or less.
  • From 2004 to 2007, just 19 of Indy's 51 wins were by 7 points or less.
Denver 24, Atlanta 20
Football fans got their first look at what could become the next great QB debate after Brady-Manning runs its course.
 
The first round went to Denver 25-year-old QB Jay Cutler, who edged out Atlanta's 23-year-old Matt Ryan.
 
Cutler completed 19 of 27 (70.4%) for 216 yards, 8.0 YPA, 1 TD and, most importantly, 0 INTs (106.4 rating) as the Broncos captured a much-needed 24-20 win at Atlanta.
 
Ryan was fairly effective, but made the critical mistake: he was picked off by Dre Bly (while Broncos defender Jamie Winborn dropped another INT opportunity).  The rookie-of-the-year candidated finished the day completing 20 of 33 (60.6%), for 250 yards, 7.6 YPA, 0 TD, 1 INT and 71.5 rating
 
The biggest gaffe of the game was not Ryan's, though: Atlanta receiver Roddy White dropped what could have been a game-winning TD in the fourth quarter.
 
MMH Intermission: Gratuitous Panty-Dancing video of the week
Some of you want them. Some of you don't. But we're all adults here, aren't we? (Not safe for work.)
 
show video here
 
Green Bay 37, Chicago 3
If .500 football sends a thrill up your leg, then you must be a fan of the Black & Blow Division.
 
The group blows like the wind across Lake Michigan again here in 2008, with three 5-5 teams locked in a battle for the division title, thanks to Minnesota's loss to Tampa, and Green Bay's unexpected dismantling of the Bears.
 
The 37-point explosion was Green Bay's greatest offensive output in the post-Favre Era. Oh, sure, the Packers scored 48 points against the Lions ... but the Bears were actually a servicable defensive club.
 
The Lions, as you'll see next, have essentially stopped playing defense.
 
Carolina 31, Detroit 22
Sure, the Lions can't stop anybody through the air.
 
But they make up for it by not stopping anybody on the ground, either.
 
Detroit entered their Week 11 game against Carolina with one of the worst pass defense in NFL history, while surrendering a league-high 171.5 YPG rushing.
 
That rush-defense number will only go up after the Panthers torched Detroit for 264 yards on the ground.
 
Both DeAngelo Williams (120 yards) and Jonathan Stewart (130 yards) eclipsed 100- yards rushing becoming the sixth and seventh running backs to gain at least 100 yards against the Lions this season.
 
Detroit has now given up at least 150 yards on the ground six times this season; Carolina had 155 yards at halftime and finished the game with a very dominant 8.3 YPA.
 
New Orleans 30, Kansas City 20
The Saints still have a little life in them ... if you consider beating a Herm Edward team a sign of life.
 
Otherwise, the most exciting thing Saints fans have to look forward to is the race to pass Dan Marino  ... and it's suddenly getting real close.
 
Drew Brees passed for another 266 yards in the win over the Chiefs, thought it's our assertion that passing yards against the Chiefs should be discounted 50 percent.
 
Regardless, Brees has now passed for 3,251 yards this year, which puts him on pace for 5,202 yards – which would easily break Marino's 1984 record 5,084 yards.
 
But Kurt Warner cranked 395 yards against the hapless 'Hawks Sunday, to reach 3,155 yards this year – which puts him on paced for exactly 5,084 yards.
 
Warner may actually have the inside track. Brees must face tough pass-defenses from Green Bay (No. 1 in defensive passer rating), Tampa, Chicago and Carolina. Warner has tough games against the Giants and Eagles, but also gets to play the piss-poor pass defenes from St. Louis, New England and Seattle (who he just torched for 395 yards this week).
 
San Francisco 35, St. Louis 16
If a team falls in the NFC West, does it make a sound?
 
Including their 47-3 defeat last week to the Jets, the Rams have been outscored 75-3 in the first half of their last two games, and the Jim Haslett Era that began with such promise is now officially road kill.
 
The Rams had lost three straight after a promising 2-0 start to the Reign of Jim. But at least those three losses came at the hands of potential playoff teams: the Patriots, Jets and Cardinals.
 
But San Francisco was 2-7 entering Week 11 and could barely get out of their own way this season. Yet the 49ers still overhwelmed the Rams, a team so sad somebody should send it a postcard.

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