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Monday, November 22, 2004
Updated: April 25, 1:17 PM ET
Greetings from the gridiron

Page 2 staff

It's Thanksgiving Week so that must mean that the holiday season is back in full force.

Time for turkey, logging some serious time in the car and hoping that this is "the year" where you don't have sit at the kids' table anymore.

But before your start thinking about your third helping of mashed potatoes, let's see how some of our NFL QBs are catching up with their family, friends and loved ones.


First down:
Dear Mom and Archie,
So, coach Coughlin finally gave me my first NFL start today. We were facing the No. 2 defense in the NFL, and I had to run for my life. Still we almost won at the end, before losing 14-10. Mom, the QB on the other team was really, really fast ... Still, I learned a few things today, like the following ...

Alan Grant: This might be more fun than I thought. I know my ball handling skills are right up there with Petyon's. And I know I already throw a pretty good ball. But I think if I just play my game and not Peyton's, then I'll have really good time out here. Everyone is talking about my career and how it will match up to dad's and Peyton's, but after today, and watching that Vick guy, I realize I don't really have to listen to anyone. Like Vick, I can be myself. I can't run like Vick does. Well, actually, no one can run like Vick does, but I do run pretty well. And I like Jeremy Shockey. We're not that different, actually. You may not believe it, but he's a really good influence on me. Really. He's all "Man, I don't care what people think about me, or what they say about me, I'm just gonna be me." That's why I trust him so much. He's a pretty good player too. Someone told me Shockey and Amani, and the other guys dropped a lot of balls, but you know, I didn't really notice. I was actually enjoying myself out there.

Eric Neel: Kurt was right, the O-line is a bit, um, offensive. Oh, and I should probably cut Peyton some slack when we're home this weekend for the holiday. He must be almost as good as he always says he is.

Patrick Hruby: Atlanta is the least imposing 8-2 team in the league. Jeremy Shockey doesn't smell so good when he's hugging you. And NFL defenders make up ground a lot faster than the minor leaguers in the SEC. P.S. -- Is it warm in San Diego this time of year?

Skip Bayless: I learned that my buddy Jeremy Shockey is much more fun off the field than on it. He and Amani Toomer might as well have been playing for the Falcons. They dropped more passes in the first quarter than Peyton's receivers do in a season. But the best thing I did was hang in there and not let it get to me.

And by the second half, it started to feel like those guys were feeding off me. I actually started feeling like I belonged out there. I really believe if coach Coughlin had started me from the first exhibition that we'd have become a playoff team by now, even without Michael Strahan and Keith Washington on defense.

Yeah, I did make two mistakes only because I had made up mind where I was going to throw even before I looked. And we fell short at the end, though honestly, that didn't tear me up. If I'd won the game with a last-second pass, they'd be calling Joe Willie Manning today and I'd never be able to live up to the expectations in this town. Now I'm fired up to do even better next week.

Aaron Schatz: 1) It is probably a bad idea for your receivers to get their hands amputated before the game. I know that sometimes this is a popular fashion statement but it makes it makes the ball bounce right off you. Mr. Shockey and Mr. Toomer had their hands surgically re-attached at halftime and then they were able to catch the ball which sure did make my life a lot easier.

2) They have this play in the NFL called the zone blitz. I wish Peyton had explained this a little to me before I played today because the Falcons ran this play at a very bad time. I was coming down the field to score a go-ahead touchdown just like you taught me and the Falcons were in a formation where they weren't going to have a linebacker in the place I wanted to throw the ball. So I snapped the ball and threw it and suddenly this guy #91 was right there for some reason and he caught the ball instead. Huh? That's not a linebacker number! Back in the SEC you could only intercept a ball that far down the field if you were a linebacker or defensive back so I'm just confused. I hope people don't run this play on me in the next few games. I'm sure Pittsburgh will be nice to me and not run this. I mean, Pittsburgh doesn't do things like this, right?


Second down:
Dear Mom and Archie,
All anybody wanted to talk about this week was my silly kid brother. Geez, what type of record does a guy have to break around here to get some love. So, I threw four more TDs today, and I've got 35 TD passes through 10 games. I'm going to break Dan Marino's record, but my career will be much different from Marino's Super Bowl-less career because ...

Alan Grant: Well, it may not be that different. I mean, the Dolphins' defense was a lot better than ours, so at least Marino actually got to play in the Super Bowl. Beginning to think that may not happen around here.. Anyway, I think the difference between me and Marino lay in our pitch man ability. Don't you think I'm pretty convincing when I deliver this line: "hey, you're on my fantasy team! Youre my favorite worker!" Come on, I think, even the people who absolutely hate me have to admit that my delivery and comic timing are pretty damn good in that spot. Marino was okay, I guess. Of course now that I'm no longer fourteen years old, his work in Ace Ventura isn't as impressive as I once thought. Also, I'm a hell of a lot smarter than he is, so I would hope the Colts would one day offer me a front office gig -- even if I just wanted to use it for leverage to get more loot for my TV job.

Eric Neel: You mean besides the turf burns and the cold walks to work? How about this: Edge is no Tony Nathan, for one thing. And for another thing, I'm going to make the greatest pr move of the modern era this off-season, giving up some of my big fat contract to establish an Indianapolis Colts Fund for Underprivileged NFL Defenders. Dr. Tony Dungee will be the curator of the fund, and he'll go get us some mugs who can do crazy stuff  snarling, tackling, throwing things around  stuff the likes of which the good people of Indiana haven't seen since Bobby Knight was roaming the sidelines in Bloomington. I'm gonna do it, I swear. Because if I don't, the only difference between me and Dan will be that I'm the guy sharing the spotlight with my silly kid brother.

Patrick Hruby: I have a running game to match my prolific arm, provided the Colts hang on to Edgerrin James. Of course, doing so might preclude my chances of sharing the locker room with a good defense, since I already Hoover up an ungodly portion of Indy's salary cap. But hey, that's coach Dungy's problem, right? Maybe once he stops losing sleep over "Desperate Housewives," he'll reclaim his rep as a defensive genius.

One more difference between me and Mr. Isotoner: When I'm on the field, receivers yell and point fingers at me. Not vice versa. Er, maybe that's not a good thing.

Skip Bayless: I have Edgerrin James, and Marino never would allow the Dolphins to develop a great back and a balanced running attack. A running play was a wasted down to Danny.

That's why you should really be proud of me for what I did against the Bears. The "SportsCenter" highlights lead you to believe I was flinging passes all over Soldier Field. But the truth was, I only completed 17 of 28 for barely over 200 yards. I did make two really good throws to Reggie Wayne for touchdowns -- one over double coverage.

But what helped set up my four TD passes was that Edgerrin went for 204 yards. Get this: We ran 11 more times than I passed. We had 275 yards rushing. That's how you win a ring. Wouldn't it be something if I broke Marino's record AND we won it all!

Aaron Schatz: He never won a Super Bowl because he had no running game, but I'll never win a Super Bowl because I have no defense. (It's too bad that playing defense against Craig Krenzel does not count.) Also, nobody is going to ask me to advertise their metrosexual handwear.


AUDIBLES FROM OUR QBS
 
Eric
Neel

Patrick
Hruby

Alan
Grant

Skip
Bayless
Describe Brett Favre's streak of (soon-to-be) 200 consecutive starts in five words or less: Greatest of All-Time. Ouch. Touchdown. Ouch. Touchdown. Ouch ... Guts. Love. Luck. Much harder than Cal Ripken's
Man or myth: Quincy Carter: Man enough. Myth, but could start for the Cards and 49ers. Man. Myth as starter.
When will Ben Roethlisberger ever lose?: Playoff rematch with the Pats. And it won't be pretty. Sometime in 2004. Dec. 5. The Jacksonville defense will have much to prove. To Baltimore and at Buffalo.


Third down:
Dear Randy,
Hey, it's me, Daunte. Boy, was today exciting. I'm really sorry that you couldn't come out and play again this week. We started off pretty crappy ... But at the end, I got really passionate and helped my team break its streak of losing three straight heartbreaking games. Here's what I want to say to all those folks who doubted me and you, and expected another late-season flop for Minnesota ....

Alan Grant: How could anyone ever doubt me? I know we're playing in a time when the average attention span is defined by a disorder, but come on. It's like people don't actually watch football games. I don't know, maybe I made it look to easy in the beginning. We got to the conference championship game in my second year. I think people thought that meant it would be smooth sailing forever. Oh well. But I think people doubt me mainly because of you. They say without you I'm, well, I'm just some cat off the street or something. But can anyone blame me for throwing to you whenever possible? Who wouldn't? I remember after one Monday Night game a few years ago, a reporter asked Sherman Lewis, our old offensive coordinator, if the plan was to "get the ball to Randy Moss." Man, that's like asking B.J. Armstrong back in the day, "hey are you guys trying to get the ball to Michael Jordan?" Man, Sherman looked at that man like he was high. Then he said: "the plan is always to get the ball to Randy Moss." Anyway, I'm doing okay without you. Me and the other guys are getting to know each other, so it's all good. But when you get back ... it's on.

Eric Neel: They should be looking at the schedule. Jax? Can't hang with our offense. Chicago? Let's see ... Craig Krenzel? Yours Truly? You make the call. Seattle? Yeah, the play great on the road and indoors. We're terrified of them. And we get Detroit and Washington in two of our last three? Come on back soon, Randy, because there is much fun to be had from here on out. Deep routes for all my friends!

Patrick Hruby: ... you can keep on doubting us, since barely beating the tailspinning Lions at home hardly presages a deep postseason run. Still, we have a talented club on offense -- Nate Burleson and Mo Williams are more than adequate second fiddles -- and so long as I'm in the game, we have a chance to win. (Unless I start fumbling again, a problem I think I have under control). Anyway, let's give thanks that management swiped Antoine Winfield from the Jets and that we've both survived the video game cover curse. I'm confident that the Packers will cool off, so assuming we don't face mighty Arizona with a playoff berth on the line, we should be okay.

By the way, I've invited Jermaine Wiggins over for Thanksgiving dinner. So I think I'm gonna ask mom to cook an extra turkey. Maybe two.

Skip Bayless: I want to say, 'Have any of you out there noticed how we have battled our tails off even though we've been without the best receiver in football?' Even though we were playing uphill against Indianapolis and Green Bay -- even though we were always one nuclear weapon short -- not once did we quit like we would have in the past. We took both those teams to the wire. If ever there was such a thing as moral victories ...

And yesterday, when we trailed Detroit 19-7 in the fourth quarter, we could have thrown up our hands and just said, 'Well, this season just wasn't meant to be.' But we scored 15 points for what might turn out to be our biggest win of the season. That was guts. That was survival. Now we're 6-4 and tied for the division lead with Green Bay. And now we're about to get you back, Mr. Terrell-Owens-Can't-Carry-Your-Cleats. Pretty soon, the Eagles will be looking over their shoulders.


Fourth down:
Dear Kurt,
Coach Martz is giving me that damn look again. I threw three picks again today, and we lost by 20 at Buffalo. So, one week after it looked we were pretty good, we now look pretty bad. Of course, the real problem with my team is ...

Alan Grant: Well, everyone has kind of figured us out. Isaac Bruce is still among the best guys at his position, Torry Holt is still dangerous. Marshall may not be nearly as explosive as he was, but next to Tiki Barber, he's still the most complete back in the game. Maybe that Az Hakim guy wasn't so expendable after all. Our defense is average at best. I think folks around here may have underestimated Grant Wistrom's pass rush. And in our secondary, I think the front office guys totally slept on Dre Bly. Letting a corner like that go as a free agent was just dumb. But the truth of the matter is that we don't scare people anymore. If there was anything left to our mystique, the Panthers took it when they came here last January.

Eric Neel: We can't play the Seahawks every week.

Patrick Hruby: ... that Marshall Faulk is getting old, we gave up a flea-flicker to the freakin' Bills, and you pretty much cashed out our contract with Lucifer. Meanwhile, all I got was this stupid Marylin Manson T-shirt. Some deal.

Skip Bayless: Well, the real problem yesterday was that we ran into the NFL's most underrated team, on the road. Buffalo is just the opposite of us: They're turning into a playoff team because of their defense and their running game. That defense is right up there with New England's, and they're letting Willis McGahee do what our rookie, Steven Jackson, could if we gave him a legitimate chance. McGahee's a force.

So what do we do yesterday? Naturally, we run 20 times and throw 51. Understand, I'd love to throw every down, but they took away our run so quickly -- we wound up with all of 35 yards on the ground -- that their pass rush teed off on me like nobody has all season. I went down six times. I threw three picks. You and I both know I've always been more comfortable in our home dome, where I'm 16-2. But that's all the more reason to take a little pressure off me on the road by committing to run the darn ball.

Of course, coach Martz calls a run only if he needs a little more time to cook up the next pass play.

Aaron Schatz: That before that jerk Lovie Smith went to Chicago he took all the defensive players and locked them in a closet, and then replaced them with incredibly lifelike robots that were programmed to only play against Seattle. Their programming doesn't work against any other team so today they just stood around and didn't move while Buffalo ran all over the field. Seriously, is there any other way to explain how a team can go an entire game without sacking Drew Bledsoe? The only thing less mobile than Drew Bledsoe is a robot that is programmed to stand still except when playing Seattle so I can't imagine any other explanation.


WEEK 11 RANKINGS:
By Aaron Schatz, footballoutsiders.com

Click here for Aaron's complete rankings for all the QBs.

The QB rankings now include adjustments for the quality of defense faced. (DPAR = Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement that each QB was responsible for.)

WEEK 11: TOP THREE QUARTERBACKS
Quarterback Skinny DPAR
1. Donovan McNabb
18/26, 222 yards
4 TDs, 1 INT
Washington's defense, it turns out, is a bit of a paper tiger. They've controlled the young guys but veterans do well unless they are named "Brad Johnson." 10.5
2. Brett Favre
33/50, 383 yards
1 TD, 2 INTs
After engineering comeback win, cured cancer, solved Israeli-Palestinean conflict, and patched up R. Kelly's beef with Jay-Z. 9.1
3. Michael Vick
12/20, 115 yards
2 TDs, 0 INTs
104 rushing
Three of Vick's top four passing games have come in the weeks he has run at least 10 times. You have to let Vick be Vick. 8.3

WEEK 10: BOTTOM THREE QUARTERBACKS
Quarterback Skinny DPAR
30. Steve McNair
18/30, 209 yards
1 TD, 2 INTs
Yes, he marched the Titans for the winning TD ... on his FOURTH TRY. He threw an interception on the first try, was sacked for a safety on the second try, and had a sack and incomplete on a three-and-out on the third try. He only got the fourth try because the defense was strong and Josh Scobee was not. -7.7
31. Shaun King
28/52, 343 yards
1 TD, 3 INTs
Steals the "garbage time stat padding performance of the year" award away from Jake Plummer. 343 yards of nonsense. -9.2
32. Craig Krenzel
14/24, 175 yards
1 TD, 2 INTs
You may remember a couple weeks ago that I noted Chicago's upcoming schedule and said that bad defenses can make a mediocre quarterback look good. Well, apparently nothing can make Craig Krenzel look good. -11.6


Best Throw of The Week:
Alan Grant: Kyle Boller firing the rock between the safeties for a TD.

Eric Neel: I'm still thinking about that play McNabb made on Monday. The throw to Freddie Mitchell. This thing needs a name. We ought to call it The Improv. We ought to make t-shirts. I know it's not a playoff play, but man, it's maybe the best play you'll ever see, and certainly the most fun. It should be in the history books, next to The Catch and the The Drive.

Patrick Hruby: Peyton Manning's pump-faking, perfectly-placed lob to Reggie Wayne, a crisp ball that dropped between two defenders and into Wayne's waiting hands. Pixelated "Madden 2005" passes aren't as pretty.

Skip Bayless: Two from Favre to Driver in the fourth quarter: A rainbow for a touchdown and a rope that set up the last-second 47-yard field goal that beat Houston 16-13.


Worst Throw of The Week:
Eric Neel: It was three years ago, when the Lions waived Reuben Droughns outright. Ask Jake Plummer what I'm talking about.

Patrick Hruby: Aaron Brooks' falling, underhanded, gettin' crunched "pass" from just in front of his own end zone, which Al Wilson easily jogged in for a Denver touchdown. Amazingly, the second-worst throw of the season just happens to be Brooks' second-worst throw of the season. Coincidence?

Dishonorable mention: AJ Feeley's game-losing interception against the Seahawks, a desultory ending to an otherwise inspired effort. Sorta like Raul Julia making his final film appearance in "Street Fighter: The Movie."

Skip Bayless: The inexplicably bad interception thrown for a touchdown by Aaron Brooks, though at least this time, he threw the ball forward. If you didn't know better, you'd think Brooks was trying to sabotage the rest of the season.