Updated: October 29, 2006 9:01:56 AM PST

Dramatic endings highlight Week 7


Wild Week 7

As he watched Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant line up for an improbable 62-yard field goal attempt, Philadelphia Eagles middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter was already mentally chalking up a victory.

"I'm thinking, 'It's over man,' and why not?" Trotter recalled, after Bryant's monster kick with no time remaining, the third-longest field goal in NFL history, lifted the Bucs over the Eagles, 23-21, and wiped out a frenetic Philadelphia comeback led by quarterback Donovan McNabb and tailback Brian Westbrook.

Bush
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
Matt Bryant celebrates after kicking the game-winning field goal for the Bucs.

As the veteran Trotter discovered the hard way, almost nothing was over until it was over Sunday. On an afternoon that should have had the fingerprints of Yogi Berra all over it, but instead featured plenty of last-minute feats of the feet that will be recalled as more than mere footnotes, the Week 7 schedule had excitement, extra playing time, extraordinary individual heroics, and, perhaps for last year's Super Bowl combatants, extinction.

In perhaps the most mind-boggling game of the day, one that featured six lead changes, an overtime stanza, a backup quarterback throwing for nearly 200 yards in two quarters of play, and a rare comeback authored by Atlanta's Michael Vick, the Super Bowl XL champion Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the Falcons, 41-38, and fell to 2-4. Pittsburgh now trails AFC North co-leaders Cincinnati and Baltimore by two games.

Last year's NFC champion, Seattle, lost not only a game but also its starting quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck sprained his right knee on the third play of the second half, when Minnesota linebacker E.J. Henderson hit him on an incomplete pass. Hasselbeck was replaced by the little-used Seneca Wallace and, while Seattle officials said a determination on the severity of the knee injury might not come until sometime Monday, there are suspicions Hasselbeck sprained the medial collateral ligament.

In many instances, MCL sprains do not demand surgery, but do require weeks of rest. The loss of their star quarterback for a prolonged period would be a significant setback for the Seahawks (4-2), already playing minus tailback and reigning league most valuable player Shaun Alexander.

Pittsburgh, which had to win its final four regular-season games in 2005 just to grab a wild card spot, and then rattled off four more victories in the playoffs, is accustomed to having its back to the wall. Coach Bill Cowher doubtless reminded his team of that on its Sunday evening trip home. The Seahawks, despite their 31-13 loss to the Vikings, remain tied for the NFC West lead and should get Alexander back in another week, so things may not be so dire.

And, frankly, to linger too long on two franchises that lost on Sunday would be a disservice to those that won in sometimes incredible fashion on a day the league's public relations mavens had to love.

There were 17 lead changes -- not including the initial scores in any of the games -- in the 12 contests that were played on Sunday afternoon. And the games averaged 45.5 points, a notable increase, since games of the first six weeks had averaged just 40.0 points, down nearly two points from a year ago. Indeed, it was a day for numbers and, in some cases, for benumbing plays.

"You expend all that energy coming back and then, just like that, it's over," said San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, after the Chargers' wild comeback went for naught when Lawrence Tynes of Kansas City booted a 53-yard field goal with six seconds remaining to provide the Chiefs a 30-27 upset victory. "It leaves you a little empty."

Empty or not, there were games on Sunday chock-full of excitement.

Five of the dozen games were not decided, either on plays converted or failed, until the final minute. The three game-winning field goals -- by Bryant, Tynes and the ageless Morten Andersen of Atlanta -- averaged 49 yards. Vick threw a career-best four touchdown passes but was all but overshadowed by Andersen and tight end Alge Crumpler. Indianapolis remained unbeaten, as Peyton Manning threw for 342 yards and four touchdowns and, on this day, the feats were basically ignored. The surprising New York Jets moved to 4-3 under first-year coach Eric Mangini. The Oakland Raiders finally won a game and the Denver Broncos' defense finally surrendered a second touchdown. Jacksonville lost at Houston, dropped to 3-3, and looks like one of the NFL's underachievers.

"A lot of wild things can happen out there," said Cincinnati wide receiver Chad Johnson.

The Bengals' star was referring to the 32-yard reception he made on a critical fourth-and-one call in the fourth quarter of his team's 17-14 win over Carolina.

But he could have been talking about the whole day.

Clayton's Quick Hits

• The four-game steroid suspension of Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman really comes at a horrible time for the team. Linebacker Shaun Phillips is expected to be out four to six weeks with a calf injury. They've lost linebacker Steve Foley for the season. The only outside linebacker of note is Marques Harris or Nick Speegle, which might the Chargers move Tim Dobbins or Donnie Edwards to the outside.

• The second-round pick the Colts gave up last Tuesday for defensive tackle Anthony McFarland might have been a bargain. Where would the Colts be without him? McFarland, despite arriving midweek, started and was on the field for about 40 plays Sunday in the Colts 36-22 victory over the Redskins. Defensive tackle Montae Reagor was in a hospital because of a car accident that caused a head wound. Without McFarland, the Colts would have been severely undersized and undermanned at defensive tackle. The Colts entered the game giving up 167 rushing yards a game. They gave up 114 Sunday.

• You kinda sensed injuries would be catching up to the Jacksonville defense. Once considered one of the soundest and toughest defenses in football, the Jaguars have holes. First, the season-ending losses of linebacker Mike Peterson and defensive end Reggie Hayward has taken away their speed and pass-rushing. Marcus Stroud's lingering ankle problems sidelined him Sunday and allowed the Texans to gain 131 yards on the ground with Samkon Gado as the main back. Even Texans quarterback David Carr came out of the game upright. He was sacked only once and had a 110.4 quarterback rating.

-- Check out John Clayton's blog

Heard in the pressbox (in Cincinnati)

• Second-year center Geoff Hangartner has played so well for the Carolina Panthers over the past month, that veteran Justin Hartwig, one of the Panthers' most high-profile acquisitions in the unrestricted market this past spring but sidelined by an injury sustained in the opening game of the season, could have a difficult time reclaiming his starting spot.

• Sixth-year veteran defensive end Justin Smith has been a steady player for the Cincinnati Bengals, but is slated for unrestricted free agency next spring. If his price tag gets too high, the Bengals, who have been rather free-spending of late in retaining key veterans, especially on the offensive side of the ball, might let him leave. They would then move Robert Geathers, who has been terrific this season as a situational pass rusher, to the right end spot to replace Smith.

• Despite being cleared to work in seven-on-seven passing drills this week, Kansas City quarterback Trent Green doesn't figure to return to the Chiefs' starting lineup before mid-November, at the earliest.

• If the Arizona Cardinals dump coach Dennis Green after this season, one guy on their list of potential replacements almost certainly will be Pete Carroll of Southern California. It's a natural fit for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it would reunite Carroll with quarterback Matt Leinart. But the Cardinals are going to have to be willing to cede total control of the football operation to Carroll, as would any team that attempts to lure him away from the Trojans, and that could be a tough swallow for Arizona ownership. The Bidwill family never has believed in vesting total authority in one man.

• West Virginia quarterback Pat White, a redshirt sophomore who meets the requirements for entering the 2007 draft, is toying with the idea of leaving school after this season. Most scouts feel it would be a major mistake for White, an incredible playmaker, but terribly unpolished and inaccurate as a passer.

• Look for three-year veteran linebacker Demorrio Williams to lobby Atlanta Falcons officials to trade him in the offseason. Williams can be a restricted free agent and Atlanta will almost certainly retain his rights by tendering him a qualifying offer. But Williams, who was the team's leading tackler through the first five games of the season, isn't thrilled about being benched Sunday so the Falcons could get high-priced middle linebacker Ed Hartwell back into the lineup.

• Because of his big-play potential, Oakland tailback Justin Fargas is going to start taking carries away from starter LaMont Jordan.

• The play of rookie linebacker Ahmad Brooks, chosen by the Bengals in the supplemental draft, all but assures that former starting middle linebacker Odell Thurman won't be back with the Bengals in 2007.

Scouts Inc. Takes

• Both the Steelers and Falcons needed this game to keep pace in their division. Ben Roethlisberger threw accurate strikes and spread the ball around nicely-before leaving the game from a blow to the head. Special teams were a major factor the entire game and Atlanta clearly won this aspect of the game. The Steelers had many costly mistakes and Michael Vick took full advantage of these gifts. He threw the ball extremely well and made a ton of timely plays. In a back-and-forth emotional bout between two passing attacks, Atlanta landed the last punch. Vick was the difference. Quite a game.

• The Chiefs did a great job this week bouncing back after a poor loss on the road last week. San Diego dug an early hole by turning the ball over and the Chiefs did a great job of capitalizing on those mistakes. The biggest surprise in this game was the manner in which the Chiefs were able to dominate the line of scrimmage. They ran the ball on the stout Chargers defense and they did a good job of controlling the run on defense. The Chiefs ability to protect up front allowed them to get TE Tony Gonzalez back involved in the offense and he had a big day. The Chargers will put this one behind them quickly. They did not play very well, but they rarely do in Arrowhead, so they need to chalk it up to that and get back on track.

-- For more from Scouts Inc., check out the Briefing Room and all of their divisional blogs: AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West, NFC East | NFC South | NFC North | NFC West

The Green Room

Question: Jeremy, how big was today's win for the Falcons and Vick?
Green: It was huge in my mind. They showed me today that they could come from behind and win by throwing the ball. That is something we have not seen from Michael Vick and the Atlanta offense.


Question: How about that 62-yard field goal as time expired for the Bucs? As a Cowboys fan, I can't resist being happy when the Eagles lose.
Green: Two straight weeks now for whatever reason the Eagles have not come to play. They think they are a great team and they are not. They are not good enough to just show up and get the W.


Question: This Chargers pass D makes me cringe every week. Can they win with it?
Green: I think today we found out that the San Diego secondary is still a big concern. That was something we did not know coming in because they have yet to play a team that can throw the football.

Pasquarelli's Game Ball
Crumpler
Crumpler
On a day when a lot of players made headlines with their feet, Atlanta Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler used his feet and his hands, catching six passes for 117 yards and three touchdowns in his team's 41-38 overtime victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A three-time Pro Bowl performer and regarded as the Atlanta receiver in whom quarterback Michael Vick has the most trust, Crumpler entered the game at the Georgia Dome with 16 catches for 194 yards and one touchdown in the first five games of the year. But he put on a tour de force performance, consistently beating a Pittsburgh secondary that had decided during the week of preparation that it would be content to allow Vick to get the ball to Crumpler.

The Steelers felt that if they controlled Vick, and kept him from making big throws to his wideouts on plays where he broke containment to the outside, they would prevail. Crumpler made them pay for that failed strategy. All six of his receptions resulted in either touchdowns or first downs. Three came in third-down situations. Crumpler had four catches of 20-plus yards, but might have saved his best for overtime. With Atlanta facing a third-and-nine on the opening possession of the extra stanza, he shook free for a 26-yard reception to help set up kicker Morten Andersen's game-winning 32-yard field goal.

WEEK 7 RUNDOWN
Atlanta 41, Pittsburgh 38 OT
Michael Vick wanted to throw the ball more and he did just that this week. He attempted 30 passes, completing 18 of them, for 232 yards and four TDs in the big win.

New England 28, Buffalo 6
Patriots smooth, methodical and efficient in disposing of the overmatched Bills.

Cincinnati 17, Carolina 14
News of Bengals' demise greatly exaggerrated. Cincy notches huge win over one of the NFC's best.

Kansas City 30, San Diego 27
Chargers' comeback to tie was good, but Damon Huard's drive to set up Lawrence Tyne's 53-yard game-winning FG was just a little bit better.

Green Bay 34, Miami 24
Miami nightmare continues. Joey Harrington throws for 414 yards and two TDs, but he throws three picks and the Dolphins lose their fourth straight.

New York Jets 31, Detroit 24
Leon Washington's first two career TDs come at a pretty good time as Jets climb over .500 mark.

Tampa Bay 23, Philadelphia 21
This wasn't a cheapie. Matt Bryant's 62-yard game-winning field goal cleared the crossbar with plenty of room to spare.

Houston 27, Jacksonville 7
Maybe the Texans aren't as bad as everyone says they are and maybe the Jaguars aren't as good as everyone says they are.

Denver 17, Cleveland 7
Denver defense once again dominating, holding Browns to just 165 yards total offense.

Indianapolis 36, Washington 22
Peyton Manning got in one of his grooves in third quarter, throwing three TDs as Colts outscore Redskins 20-0 in that quarter.

Oakland 22, Arizona 9
Oakland had five turnovers and still beat the Cardinals.

Minnesota 31, Seattle 13
Minnesota had 175 yards rushing. Seattle had 53. Yeah, looks like Steve Hutchinson does make a difference.

-- ESPN.com

COACH RATINGS
Childress
Childress
Vikings coach Brad Childress improved to 4-2 in his first year on the job. How would you grade his coaching job in Week 7?

Our Coach Ratings give you a chance to cast your vote for all 32 coaches every week.

• Coach ratings

FANTASY FOCUS
Holt
Vick
Eric Karabell goes game-by-game recapping the fantasy action from Week 7, and looks at a big performance by Michael Vick.

• Karabell: Week 7 wrap


• Complete fantasy football coverage
WRITER'S BLOC
Panthers at Bengals
Chad Johnson's making big catches, Carson Palmer isn't running for his life and the Bengals offense is finally acting like, well, the Bengals offense, writes Len Pasquarelli. Story
Vikings at Seahawks
Steve Hutchinson, Chester Taylor and Tony Richardson -- Minnesota's three big free agent signings -- paid off big in the Vikings' win over Seattle, writes John Clayton. Story
Patriots at Bills
They might be the quietest 5-1 team in the NFL. but the Patriots just keep winning, writes Seth Wickersham. Story
ONE TO GO
Giants at Cowboys (8:30 ET, ESPN)
The Giants travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys in a huge NFC East matchup. From our Fan Challenge to in-depth analysis, Monday Night Surround has the game covered.

• Monday Night Surround
MOTION
Barber's farewell tour starts on MNF.
ELIAS SAYS
• Michael Vick's four TD passes snapped his career-long streak of 56 regular-season starts without throwing more than two touchdowns in any of them. That was the fifth-longest such streak during the NFL's expansion era (that is, since 1960).

• The Eagles lost to the Bucs 23-21 despite outgaining them in total yards, 506-196. It was only the third time in NFL history that a team lost a game in which it recorded 500 or more yards of offense and held its opponent to less than 200 yards.

• Elias says ...

OUCH, BABE
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
Left game vs. Falcons after a blow to the head
Shaun Phillips, LB, Chargers
Suffered a calf injury vs. Chiefs
Richard Seymour, DE, Patriots
Suffered an arm injury vs. Bills

• Week 7 infirmary report
WEEK 8
Sunday, Oct. 29
San Francisco at Chicago, 1 ET
Atlanta at Cincinnati, 1 ET
Seattle at Kansas City, 1 ET
Houston at Tennessee, 1 ET
Arizona at Green Bay, 1 ET
Tampa Bay at N.Y. Giants, 1 ET
Jacksonville at Philadelphia, 1 ET
Baltimore at New Orleans, 1 ET
St. Louis at San Diego, 4:05 ET
Pittsburgh at Oakland, 4:15 ET
Indianapolis at Denver, 4:15 ET
N.Y. Jets at Cleveland, 4:15 ET
Dallas at Carolina, 8:15 ET

Monday, Oct. 30
New England at Minnesota, 8:30 ET, ESPN
Bye: Buffalo, Detroit, Miami, Washington

• Complete 2006 schedule
 

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