On a day when the Detroit Lions finally shed their label as the NFL’s Biggest Loser, a stampede of teams — led by the shocking Denver Broncos — edged closer to the quarter-pole with perfect records.
Seven teams still haven’t lost. Some are the usual suspects. Indianapolis. The Giants. Baltimore. Minnesota. All made the playoffs last season, all were pretty much expected to come out fairly hot in 2009.
But the three that are perfect so far after missing the playoffs last year — Denver, New Orleans and the Jets — have passed the point where we should reserve judgment. They are good, no questions asked.
The Broncos are the most surprising. After an 8-8 2008 in which they crawled across the finish line, Denver went through the NFL’s most tumultuous offseason. Now, after Sunday’s 23-3 dismantling of the Raiders, they are 3-0 and looking down at the San Diego Chargers (2-1) in the AFC West. They’ve still allowed just one touchdown, that coming in their miracle, 12-7 win over Cincinnati.
Then there’s the Jets, who might as well hang an “Under New Management” sign out given the way coach Rex Ryan and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez have transformed the vibe about them in New York. They jumped all over a desperate Titans team Sunday, going up 14-0. Then, after blowing the lead, they unleashed another defensive frenzy in the second half and dropped Tennessee — 13-3 in 2008 — to an 0-3 start.
Finally, consider the Saints. They were an offensive juggernaut through the first two weeks but on Sunday, they threw a blanket over Buffalo’s offense, allowing only one touchdown and that came on a gadget touchdown pass thrown by their punter.
It was a wild Week 3 with Brett Favre performing magic, the defending champion Steelers getting stunned at the gun and aforementioned Detroit winning for the first time since December 2007. But aside from the fantastic finishes, the big takeaway is that, the there could be some major changes at the top of a few divisions in 2009.
Favre's still got it
No use arguing that Brett Favre wasn’t worth the headache. Sunday showed why Brad Childress spent months waiting for His Waffleness to finally join the Minnesota Vikings:
Still, the tumblers had to fall into place for Favre.
Had San Francisco’s Dre Bly come up with the pick on Favre’s poorly thrown fourth-down toss with 1:55 remaining, he would have cruised in for the winning touchdown. If the 49ers had decided to give quarterback Shaun Hill a shot at completing a short pass on the 49ers’ penultimate possession, they may have stood a chance of picking up a first down instead of burning just 20 seconds. If 49ers punter Joe Nedney hadn’t placed a poor, short-field punt into the end zone from the Vikings’ 47, Favre might have had too much ground to cover.
But those things didn’t happen. And that paved the way for Favre to use his best asset at the age of 39 — his experience. In this one, that was as important to the Vikings as his vaunted right arm. Consider that the Vikings ran 16 plays in the final 3:30 of the game. And that they had three third-down conversions on that final drive including the touchdown pass to Lewis. And that they finished the game with a timeout remaining. That’s clock-management and quarterbacking you’re not going to get from Tarvaris Jackson and/or Sage Rosenfels.
So put this one in the “wouldn’t have won it without Brett” pile. History says that there may be some additions before the season’s out. With the Vikings at 3-0, there’s not even room to debate that.
For anyone long-since weary of Brett Favre mythology, this was the worst-case scenario result heading into Brett Bowl I against the Packers. But for the Vikings and Favre, it was perfect.
No more Detroit debacle
The Lions’ misery ended Sunday with a 19-14 win over the Washington Redskins. But it’s only just begun for Redskins coach Jim Zorn.
Meanwhile, Matt Stafford continues to defy those who think it was a bad move for a team as bad as Detroit to take a quarterback with the No. 1 pick (like me). He has not been running for his life. He has not looked confused and overmatched. He is, right now, as competent as half the league. His best asset is an ability to take what’s given him which only comes if a young quarterback takes the time to study and understand what he’s being given. Stafford’s 22-yard scramble on third-and-13 in the first quarter and the ensuing touchdown pass he threw to Bryant Johnson was a benchmark play.
Now to Zorn. It couldn’t have gone any worse for him after spending a week under siege by the D.C.-area media. First, he went for it on fourth-and-1 at the end of the first drive (it failed). Then, as the Lions were moving downfield on what would be a 99-yard drive, Zorn accepted a third-down holding penalty after third-down throw from the Skins’ 33 fell incomplete. Zorn could have made Detroit try a 50-yard field goal. Instead, they moved the Lions back 10 yards and Stafford ran for 22.
Making matters worse, $100-million defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was carted from the field with a hip injury. Haynesworth should be OK. Zorn won’t be. The negative momentum has now tipped from “going downhill” to “freefall.” The only question is whether or not he makes it to Halloween.
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
King's Week 3 notebook
Sept. 27: Peter King highlights Minnesota's thrilling win over San Francisco, assesses the Patriots and Tom Brady and delves into the crowded QB situation in Philadelphia.
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