Week 10: Ryan, Flacco ahead of schedule; Pats find winning formula
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Week 10 analysis: Ryan, Flacco bucking trend
By John Clayton, ESPN.comNo one can forget the impact Ben Roethlisberger had as a rookie in 2004. Protected by a solid running game, a good defense and smart coaching, Roethlisberger guided the Steelers to a 15-1 record and quickly established himself as an elite, playoff-caliber quarterback. For things to work that well for a rookie quarterback -- which is rare -- the head coach and general manager have to handle the transition to a rookie as if they were handling plutonium. Handled incorrectly, the rookie experience can blow up in the face of a franchise. Ryan Leaf, David Carr and Joey Harrington are just a few of the rookie QBs rushed into service whose failures caused collateral damage to their franchises. That's why it's so pleasantly surprising to watch Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco evolve in Atlanta and Baltimore. They've beaten the odds because they landed with the right franchises and are doing the right things.
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Falcons QB Matt Ryan threw for 248 yards with two TDs and no interceptions against the Saints.
Thanks in part to Ryan and Flacco, the Falcons and Ravens have a chance to go from worst to first in their divisions. Both teams sit at 6-3 because Ryan and Flacco are success stories -- major success stories.Drew Brees may be the first-half MVP, but his Saints are 4-5 despite Brees' 2,985 yards and 17 touchdown passes in nine games. Ryan simply outplayed him in Sunday's 34-20 victory because he's outgrown his rookie status. Ryan plays like a veteran. He gets into his third and fourth reads. He'll run a no-huddle. He'll call audibles. Peyton Manning had those skills as a rookie. Ryan's doing a remarkable job by not trying to exceed his limitations. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey is making sure the running offense takes pressure off his young quarterback. In the first half against the Saints, Mularkey called 18 runs and 13 passes. Ryan completed 10 of 13 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown, and the Falcons led 17-6 at halftime. "Our quarterback is maturing each week,'' Falcons coach Mike Smith told reporters after the game. "As long as he continues to develop, we will continue to add to what we can do offensively.'' In Baltimore, less is expected from quarterbacks because the Ravens win with defense. The Ravens blew out the Texans 41-13 because Flacco can come up with the big plays when needed. Sunday wasn't particularly pretty for Flacco. He was sacked three times and he netted only 157 passing yards on 23 attempts. But Flacco kept bouncing back from bad plays to make good plays. "Early in the game, I was giving Joe a hard time,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I was getting at him a little bit and he doesn't get flustered. I think momentum swings don't affect him too much. He comes out and plays the next series. He takes care of business. That's the kind of person he is, and it's a credit to his parents.'' Flacco hit Yamon Figurs with a 43-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter on a third-and-13. He also had third-and-19s and third-and-17s, and none of it flustered him. "I think Coach Harbaugh already stated it before, just the demeanor that [Flacco] brings to the huddle,'' tight end Todd Heap said. "We could have had a horrible play. We had a couple of second-and-25s, third-and-20s, a couple of tough situations to overcome, and he just comes in the huddle and we don't get flustered. We just go about our business. And that's kind of how we play."
Five things I learned in Week 10
By John Clayton, ESPN.com
John Clayton's game balls
Loose endsWeek 10 Studs & Duds: Adrian Peterson carried the Vikings past the Packers. Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions against the Colts. • Fantasy: The TRUM blog: Time for a reality check • Experts' picks: How did we do?
Sunday Countdown | ESPN.com • NFL Blog Network
Week 10 rundown• Atlanta 34, New Orleans 20
The Falcons continue to amaze. The Saints, who clearly aren't the same team without Reggie Bush, continue to be one of the league's biggest enigmas. Photos
• Tennessee 21, Chicago 14
Turns out Kerry Collins is more than just a game manager. On a day when the Titans' running game struggled, Collins (289 passing yards, 2 TDs ) delivered his best game of the season. Photos
Minnesota 28, Green Bay 27
Now that the Vikings have lifted a giant monkey off their backs (they had lost five straight to the Packers), it'll be interesting to see what they can accomplish down the stretch. Photos
New England 20, Buffalo 10
Early in the season, QB Trent Edwards was lauded for his ball security. Over the past three weeks, Edwards (5 INTs, 2 lost fumbles) hasn't given the Bills much of a chance against their three divisional rivals. Photos
Baltimore 41, Houston 13
There's good news on many fronts for the Ravens. The team won its fourth straight, RB Willis McGahee (112 yards) looked healthy and TE Todd Heap recorded his first multiple-TD game since 2005. Photos
Carolina 17, Oakland 6
Panthers QB Jake Delhomme picked the right time for his worst game of the season. Only the Raiders can hold an opposing QB to 72 yards, intercept him four times and still never really have a chance to win. Photos
Indianapolis 24, Pittsburgh 20
Byron Leftwich proved he's capable. So why won't the Steelers give Ben Roethlisberger (eight interceptions in the past three games) a couple of weeks off to rest his ailing shoulder? Photos
San Diego 20, Kansas City 19
The Chiefs' Herm Edwards gambled on a two-point conversion and lost. Was it the right call? Probably not, but when you're coaching a one-win team, conventional wisdom doesn't really apply. Photos
The most effective blueprint for beating the Eagles? Contain Brian Westbrook. The Giants did just that Sunday night. Photos • Monday Night Football: San Francisco at Arizona (ESPN, 8:30 ET): It's November and the Cardinals (5-3) are still relevant. Shocked? Don't be. Here are three reasons why Arizona is rolling heading into its MNF game against the Niners. Mike Sando • Watch MNF booth preview: How good are Cards?
• Animations: Deep In, WR Cross | Discuss
• Preview podcast | Win $1M | MNF Surround
Looking aheadAn early look at next weekend's biggest games:
• N.Y. Jets (6-3) at New England (6-3): Who's the class of the AFC East? The winner of this matchup officially earns that distinction.• Chicago (5-4) at Green Bay (4-5): A must-win situation for the Packers? Chances are a lot of folks in Green Bay are ready to make that argument. • Dallas (5-4) at Washington (6-3): Tony Romo will likely return at QB for the Cowboys. Can he stop the bleeding? • Week 11 schedule