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Monday, December 6, 2004
Updated: July 14, 2:42 PM ET
The Eagles have landed

Page 2 staff

Snap Judgment often comes to praise Brett Favre -- not bury him. In fact, when he started in his 200th straight game last week, we all bowed down at the altar of Brett.

Well, let's remember that this is the NFL and what a difference a week makes, especially when you're playing the 10-1 Eagles.

Still, this game was supposed to take the whispers of the Pack going to the Super Bowl and turn them into shouts. Too bad the boys from Green Bay didn't show up.

They only thing the Packers accomplished on Sunday was help Donovan McNabb rack up a few more MVP votes.

(Calm down, Peyton fans. Snap Judgment's QBs have their eye on No. 18, too.)


First down: The Showdown was a Blowout: Donovan McNabb (32-for-43 for 464 yards, five TDs and no picks) vs. Brett Favre (14-for-29 for 131 yards, no TDs and two picks). Using your vast knowledge of sports and culture, make a comparison to another much-anticipated showdown that should have been competitive but wasn't.

Aaron Schatz: The one is so easy that I have to grab it before any of the rest of you do, and before I answer any of the other questions. I actually turned to my friend Ian during this game and said, "You know, this is just like the World Series." Everyone thought it would be this great close battle between the Red Sox and Cardinals, and then the Sox just came out and clobbered St. Louis. And each game was worse than the game before, just like that first half got more and more and more one-sided as it went along, until by the end Philly was scoring a touchdown and then a minute later scoring another touchdown.

I think Sherman's decision not to toss the red flag on Favre's second interception, when replays showed that the ball touched the ground before Sheldon Brown fully had control of it, was this game's version of Jose Oquendo throwing up his hands and walking away when Jeff Suppan got himself thrown out at third base. At that point, emotionally, both the Eagles-Packers game and the 2004 World Series were over.

Alan Grant: In 1988, Michael Spinks met Mike Tyson for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world. Despite Larry Holmes' seven-year reign and impressive 48-0 record, the heavyweight division lacked a pulse. And the Spinks-Tyson fight signified a rebirth of sorts. Spinks was a converted light-heavyweight, a man whose heart and disciplined boxing skills were buried beneath the mountain of mystique that encased the raw, almost feral energy offered by Tyson. Spinks, 32-0 at the time, had never once been knocked down in his career. Like everyone else, I was shocked when one minute and thirty seconds into the fight, Tyson dropped Spinks after landing an uppercut -- fittingly to Spinks' heart. I was bit disappointed, even dismayed by the physical/mental/spiritual mauling which had just taken place. But after it was done, I sat back and reflected on what I had just witnessed. It wasn't that Spinks was that bad; it was that Tyson was that good. Well, he was that good at the time.

In context, the Packers really aren't that bad. I know that in this game -- particularly in November and December -- there are times when as an individual, and as a team, you are as mentally and spiritually prepared as you can possibly be. But the laws of human nature dictate that physically, there are days when you simply "don't have it." The Packers may be the second-best team in the conference. But right this moment, the Philadelphia Eagles just might be that good.

Eric Neel: Two words for you: "No Mas." Donovan was windmilling, Favre was sitting. It was just like Leonard-Duran II.

Jeff Merron: Jon Stewart vs. Tucker Carlson on "Crossfire." Stewart hit Carlson's weak spots (and there are many), while Carlson lobbed some bad tosses that gave Stewart some easy INTs. If there was any doubt about who was better beforehand, they were erased before the end of the first half, when Carlson was reduced to pleading, "I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny."

One big difference: Brett Favre and the Packers, even while being routed, displayed (as we would expect) a lot of class. Carlson: not so much.

Patrick Hruby: I'll go with "Jurassic Park" versus "Last Action Hero." On paper, this had all the makings of a box-office donnybrook: Spielbergo's CGI dinos against the post-T2, biggest-star-in-Hollywood Ahnold; a cliched-yet-classic "don't play God" plot line against a postmodern, self-referential action movie spoof; McDonald's Happy Meals against a Burger King toy tie-in.

In retrospect, that last one should have been a tip-off, given BK's long, ignominious status as a Burger Wars also-ran. I could drone on about the lousy plot in "Last Action Hero", underwhelming special effects and decided lack of white-knuckle action. But why bother? Frankly, "The Simpsons" managed to sum it up best: magic ticket my butt. Packers, too.

Skip Bayless: Forgive me, but I didn't hype this as a Showdown on "Cold Pizza." This was like "Alexander" having an opening-weekend chance against "The Incredibles" when insiders knew Oliver Stone's epic was a big, loud, laughable mess.

This was a blowout waiting to happen. This was Brett Favre, whose body is 35 going on 45, having to travel after playing a Monday night game. He obviously hadn't recovered and looked as inaccurate and out of sync as Donovan McNabb often did last year.

And this was a Packers secondary that has more leaks than the BALCO grand jury. Lost amid all the Pack-is-Back hysteria last Monday night was the fact that St. Louis torched that secondary for 400-plus yards. Green Bay should have found a way to sign and keep Mike McKenzie. Without him, the Packers have no hope of matching up with the Eagles -- especially when they get so little pass rush. Terrell Owens didn't have a defender within 15 yards of him on his first touchdown. This was a mismatch.


AUDIBLES FROM OUR QBS
 
Eric
Neel

Patrick
Hruby

Alan
Grant

Jeff
Merron

Skip
Bayless
Matt Leinart, Man or Myth? Myth, like a Griffin: Part Matt Leinart, part Reggie Bush. Trojan Man. Duh. Boy in man's offense. Man. High-pick myth.
When Chris Chandler threw his first pro pass in 1988, I was ... Working the Sunday morning shift at the legendary Leopold Records in Berkeley, CA. Yelling "Steeve Kerrrr!" at Arizona's McKale Center. And still ignoring Chris Chandler. A junior at Stanford, where in '87, Chandler (while at U. of Washington) kind of lit me up for two scores. A game show host working undercover as a CIA operative. Covering the fall of Landry's Rome in Dallas.
Manning '04, Young '94 or Marino '84? I have great respect for Marino¹s 1984 hair, but give me the modern-day Peyton. Young. Great arm, better legs. Marino '84. Young '94 over Marino '84. Manning: wait for playoffs. Marino '84 with no running game..
Arizona should be starting ... A support group. Neil Lomax and his plastic hip. McCown The same QB every week: Josh McCown. Phillip Rivers.
Jake Plummer makes me want to ... Rent "Jeremiah Johnson" Go to the options menu, select "rematch," hit start. Watch football. Retire "The next --- ---" from the cliché book. Say YES! and NO!
Describe Jeff George in four words or less: No Chad Hutchinson. Coulda, woulda, shoulda. D'oh! Luckiest. Man. In. Football. Hobbled by old news. Big arm, small brain.
Best Michigan QB not named Tom Brady (The Candidates: Henson, Griese, Collins, Grbac, Harbaugh, Navarre) Harbaugh. Harbaugh. Harbaugh. As a pro? Harbaugh. Jim Harbaugh, who came within a time-capsule catch of a Super Bowl.
Billy Volek or Chad Hutchinson? Chad's the better surfer, but Volek gets my vote as a QB. None of the above. Hutchinson Volek. He's got moxie. Hutchinson, who was underrated in Dallas.


Second down: Michael Vick gained another 81 yards on the ground on Sunday, giving him 790 rushing yards on the season and on pace to break the league record for single-season rushing yards by a quarterback (968 by Bobby Douglass in 1972). Make the case that the QB rushing record would be at least as impressive an achievement as the single-season TD pass record that Peyton Manning (25 for 33, 425, 3 TDs, YAWN!) is about to break. (Manning has 44, and needs four to tie Dan Marino's record.)

Alan Grant: It's a matter of what this record will mean in an "evolutionary" context. The quarterback-as-runner is akin to that other most recent creature of evolution -- the running back as receiver. Before Marshall Faulk lined up as a wideout and rudely clowned any linebacker or safety who tried to cover him, there was the Niners' Roger Craig. Craig did damage from the backfield, from the flat and at times out wide. He posted the first 50-reception, 1,000-yard season.

These were numbers that inspired the birth of the runner/receiver/returner -- like the Giants' Dave Meggett and the Browns' Eric Metcalf back then and Tiki Barber today. As you know, this all-purpose performer is a vital component to any modern offense.

For now, Vick and his accomplishments are impressive only aesthetically, if not practically. I know (and I'm sure Skip -- the resident poo-pooer of all that is flamboyant -- will agree with this) that we should discount Vick's accomplishments simply because a quarterback is supposed to throw the ball. This might be true, but I think the time will come when Vick, after harnessing that elusive balance of pass/run, will post the first 1,000- yard rushing/3,000-yard passing season in NFL history. This shall set a precedent.

Eric Neel: Can't do it. Vick on the move is entertaining, sometimes breathtaking, but it often comes as a last resort, and it rarely (this year) comes in combination with impressive passing performances (which it ought to open up for him, no?). It's a record that reveals his great strengths, but also reveals some of his team's weaknesses: the O-line, the running game, etc. Manning's record is an all-cylinders thing. It speaks to his individual talent and to the balance of his entire offense. Vick's record, fun as it's been to watch, has an edge of desperation about it.

Jeff Merron: Are you kidding? Vick is fun to watch, and the rushing record is sort of impressive, but it's not like it's every QB's dream. And it doesn't rank in head-to-head comparisons, either -- Vick will surpass Douglass (and, like Douglass, end the season as one of the league's leading rushers), but he'll do it in 16 games. Douglass played 14. Vick's versatility is impressive (unlike Douglass, he can throw), but Manning is going to crush Marino's record, and he's doing many other great things besides.

Patrick Hruby: At least as impressive? Think more impressive. As my esteemed colleagues have mentioned on more than one occasion, Manning's gaudy passing numbers are aided and abetted by a first-rate supporting cast. Moreover, they happen when everyone does their jobs, and does them well. Line blocks, Harrison runs route, Manning makes throw. Paydirt. As for Vick? His yards mostly come when everything breaks down. He's yanking rabbits from musty top hats, turning lemons into cool, refreshing cocktails. He's doing it to opponents who are keying on him (no disrespect to the immortal Warrick Dunn and Peerless Price). And keep this in mind: While NFL rules continually are tweaked to promote passing -- as Cameron Diaz so eloquently put it in "Any Given Sunday," "people want passes, Tony, they want touchdowns!" -- they're never changed to boost scrambling. Literally and figuratively, the Vicks of the league are on their own.

Aaron Schatz: It depends on what you mean by "impressive." Does "impressive" mean "impressive as an athletic achievement?" Then by all means, breaking the season record for rushing yards by a quarterback is more impressive than throwing the most TD passes. All that juking, all that shifting, all that quickness, it is very impressive. However, if by "impressive" we mean "impressive in that it is important for winning football games" then you must be certifiably insane. According to my statistical analysis, Vick is worth three times as much as any other QB in the league this season when running, but it is just barely enough to cancel out all the negative value from the horrible year he's had passing the ball. We often get caught up in what looks like impressive physical performance and forget that the point of team sports is to win the most games, not perform the most stunning athletic feats. (Or do you not remember the 2004 USA Olympic basketball team, which sure could dunk really well?) Yes, Atlanta is winning, but Vick's golden arm sure isn't the reason.

Skip Bayless: I can't get too excited about Vick setting the quarterback rushing record because he's the NFL's most dangerous open-field runner regardless of position. That's why the Falcons have become the NFL's "on any given Sunday" team. If Vick gets hot with his decision-making and mixes in two or three big completions with his spectacular scrambles, the Falcons are capable of beating Philly in Philly. But if Vick plays out of control and throws two interceptions and loses two fumbles, as he did at Tampa Bay, the Falcons can lose 27-0.


Third down: Based solely on what you saw on Sunday, and leaving stats out of the equation, which quarterback's "presence" meant the most to his team?

Alan Grant: A few weeks ago, I said that Jacksonville would be the first team to beat Ben Roethlisberger. As it turns out, the Jags failed to do this simply because the youngster remains ignorant to the prospect of failure. With about a minute and half remaining, and trailing 16-14, Roethlisberger, for perhaps the 30th time that night, faced a blitz. He planted his feet and threw an out for a first down. I believe that one play, as well as the other plays in that last drive, demonstrated a certain presence. It was the kind of presence that suggests the kid and his team might not lose again. At least not this year.

Eric Neel: Donovan McNabb. Heads-up against a legend, in a get-back game, in a game in which he could have cruised a bit (the Division title already in hand), and he put the thing away like Jimmy Conway offing a loudmouth, like there was no doubt and no room for discussion. We can talk all day about T.O., but the Eagles are Donovan¹s team, from huddle to end zone celebration; and his strength, maturation, resiliency and smart reads are the No. 1 reason this team is sitting so pretty right now.

Jeff Merron: Week in, week out, including this week, Peyton Manning. Even on an "off" day, he directs, he leads, he cajoles that offense. Yep, he's got all the players -- the great O-line, EJames, Marvelous Marv, et al. But there's no doubt who's in charge, all the time. It's what I imagine it must have been like watching and listening to Arturo Toscanini at his peak, although my imagination is limited by the fact that all I know about Toscanini is that he was a great conductor whose name you use to evoke the platinum standard.

Patrick Hruby: Since I happened to be wandering the FedEx Field sidelines, I only saw two quarterbacks, Eli Manning and Patrick Ramsey. And since Washington tub-thumped New York ... well, the latter wins by default. Ramsey wasn't sensational, but his enthusiastic demeanor matched that of his teammates. By contrast, the Giants looked like a beaten team, sullen and lifeless from the first quarter on. Should Manning shoulder all the blame? Of course not. But his halting performance probably didn't help a team that was supposed to be contending for the postseason. Ah, New York media, when will you stop overhyping your deeply flawed teams?

Aaron Schatz: Ben Roethlisberger's fourth quarter comeback was beautifully nonchalant. He was completely in command at all times, and that "let's sit here and run the clock down and then spike the ball" bit was pretty sweet.

Skip Bayless: The most amazing quarter of the day -- if not season -- was Cincinnati's fourth quarter in Baltimore. Imagine being down 20-3 on the road against the defense allowing the NFL's fewest points. But the Bengals are learning that because they have Carson Palmer, they have a chance against anyone anywhere. For now, they're not sure if they'll get young, cross-eyed Troy Aikman (as they did for three quarters) or a coming-of-age Aikman. Still, this time they knew they had a potential nuclear weapon, while the Ravens were stuck wtih Kyle Boller.

And all Palmer did in the fourth quarter was throw for 200 yards and three touchdowns as the Bengals scored a no-way 24 points and won 27-26. First time in four years I've seen the Ravens defense look shellshocked. Welcome to the upper echelon, Carson.


WEEK 13 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 13: TOP THREE QUARTERBACKS
Quarterback Skinny DPAR
1. Carson Palmer
29/36, 382 yards
3 TDs, 1 INT
At the age of 13 weeks, the little boy became a man before our eyes. I think I'll send him a bar mitzvah card. 17.6
2. Donovan McNabb
32/43, 464 yards
5 TDs, 0 INTs
As great as this was, Manning's Week 3 against the Packers was even better, 17.2 DPAR after adjusting for the poor Green Bay secondary. 14.1
3. Peyton Manning
25/33, 425 yards
3 TDs, 2 INTs
Hopefully, Edge's two rushing TDs end that "selfish Manning" nonsense. 13.7

WEEK 13: BOTTOM THREE QUARTERBACKS
Quarterback Skinny DPAR
28. Brett Favre
14/28, 131 yards
0 TDs, 2 INTs
Career 0-4 record in Philadelphia. Allergic to cheesesteaks? -8.4
29. Jake Plummer
16/40, 228 yards
0 TDs, 4 INTs
A performance like this in a must-win game has to earn Plummer the biggest goat horns of the year, although I'm never quite sure how much blame a QB deserves when a ball is tipped by a receiver and then intercepted. -11.2
30. John Navarre
18/40, 168 yards
1 TD, 4 INTs
Hey, it's another low-round draft pick QB from Michigan! What could go wrong? -14.0


Fourth down: Manning's first half (317 yards, 2 TDs), Green's second half (14-of-15, 229 yards) or Palmer's fourth quarter (200 yards, 3 TDs)? McNabb's first half (5 TDs with completions on his first 14 attempts) is in a league of its own and thus off-limits here.

Alan Grant: Easily Palmer's fourth quarter because it came against the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, the Ravens defense isn't the same band of lithe and vicious marauders it was four years ago. But Ray Lewis and his big-play protégé, Ed Reed, still offer a formidable presence. That Palmer could put up such numbers in the final stanza against this unit is proof positive that the rook did what few have ever done to Lewis and his gang -- break their will.

Eric Neel: Palmer's fourth quarter. Manning, you could figure; Green seemed possible, if not expected. Palmer's performance was the shocker, because it came against a very good defense that had the game won (almost), because it seemed to add a new tool (the ice-in-the-veins comeback) to his steadily-growing kit, and because it kept his club at .500 -- not in the playoffs, but in the realm of respectability, and on the road to somewhere, someday soon.

Jeff Merron: Palmer's fourth quarter. Slowly, I'm becoming a believer, and this is a semi mea culpa. Maybe starting Palmer from the git-go was a smart idea. Bottom line: He's coming through.

Patrick Hruby: Palmer. The least-experienced of the group, facing a bruising, hit-happy defense on the road, getting it done when it matters most. Plus, Palmer has to wear one of those hideous tiger-stripe jerseys. That ought to count for something.

Aaron Schatz: Palmer's fourth quarter, no doubt. Baltimore had the league's best passing defense coming into this week, and then they blow a 20-3 lead in the fourth quarter to a rookie? To be honest, Palmer's game was even more impressive than even McNabb's game, because the Green Bay secondary has played so poorly this season. Palmer is the only person to throw at least 150 yards against Baltimore in the fourth quarter this year, but Green Bay has given up five TDs in the first half TWICE -- to Manning first, and now to McNabb.

Then again, maybe Palmer just owns Baltimore for some odd, inexplicable reason. Carson Palmer this season has only two games over 260 yards passing -- and both are 300-yard games against Baltimore. Baltimore has given up only two games over 230 yards passing -- and both are 300-yard games by Carson Palmer.

Hey, if you are going to own a team, it might as well be a team in your own division that you play twice a year, especially a team that plays great defense against the league's other 30 quarterbacks. Plus, Hruby is absolutely correct, the entire Bengals team deserves credit for making it through a game without all looking at each other in those uniforms and throwing up.

Skip Bayless: Just when I thought we had run out of adverbly adjectives to throw at Peyton Manning, he was positively scary. I didn't think I'd live to see the day when a quarterback threw for 317 yards in a half against a Jeff Fisher defense. But that's what Manning did. He's playing with such unreal confidence that you get the sense you're watching animation. This couldn't really be happening. The bullet he threw up the seam to Brandon Stokely for a touchdown looked like a special-effects stunt out of "Flying Daggers." Not human.

The more that Tennessee scored, the higher Manning rose into some zone no quarterback has ever entered. Halftime score: Indy 31, Titans 24. Not possible.


Best Throw of The Week:
Eric Neel: Byron Leftwich to Troy Edwards (I think) for 36 yards on third-and-eight. Leftwich got Malchi-Crunched and he knew he was going to get Malachi-Crunched, and he stood in and delivered a sweet, tight spiral anyway and kept a drive alive in doing so.

Jeff Merron: Lost in the shuffle of TD passes, Donovan McNabb's first quarter, under pressure, scrambling, off-one-foot, 12-yard throw to Todd Pinkston on third-and-five, right before the first TD pass to TO. How did he do that?

Patrick Hruby: Patrick Ramsey's shovel pass to Clinton Portis. Who doesn't like an NFL touchdown pass that even they could throw?

Aaron Schatz: While Green Bay TRIPLE covers Terrell Owens, Mark Roman completely blows his coverage on Brian Westbrook, alone for the score.

Honorable mention: Brian Griese to Joey Galloway down the right side, splitting two defensive backs and then juking left to go in for the touchdown. The best part of this catch is that Galloway actually looked back to notice the ball was being thrown to him. His usual m.o. is to completely ignore Griese until the ball drops incomplete.

Skip Bayless: Any pass that left Donovan McNabb's hand. This was by far the most accurate he has been for all four quarters. Every choice was right. No interceptions. And all 32 completions were easily catchable bull's-eyes.


Worst Throw of The Week:
Eric Neel: I don't want to pile on Luke McCown (he's a rookie and all) but you can't throw an interception to Troy Brown. You just can't do it.

Jeff Merron: A.J. Feeley's toss across the middle to Buffalo DT Pat Williams with less than two minutes left, sealing another L for the Fins.

Patrick Hruby: A.J. Feeley to Buffalo's Pat Williams. Bad enough that one of your five picks goes to a big-bellied defensive lineman. Worse still when said big-bellied lineman runs it back for six the other way.

Aaron Schatz: Brett Favre's replay of his right side up for grabs interception from last year's playoffs.

Skip Bayless: Brett Favre's "bad old Brett" decision to turn what was going to be fade-route floater into a back-shoulder bullet. This pass could have tied the score 7-7, but this route was double-covered. Favre tried to gun it in anyway, as he did in his bad old days, and Sheldon Brown easily broke underneath and picked it off. No matter that replays showed Mike Sherman should have challenged whether Brown came down cleanly with the ball. Bad idea. Worst throw.