Week 7: No one immune to blowouts; Panthers solve Brees
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Week 7 analysis: Blowouts becoming commonplace
By John Clayton, ESPN.comCHARLOTTE, N.C. -- What's weird about the 2008 season is there have been an extraordinary number of blowouts. It wasn't a surprise that the Steelers blew out the Bengals by 28 or the Titans blasted the Chiefs by 24. The meek take a whipping on any given Sunday. But even the good teams were victimized in Week 7. The Rams blew out the Cowboys by 20. The Packers destroyed the Colts by 20. On Sunday, the average margin of victory was 13.8 points. The NFL is all about parity, but parity is taking a beating so far in 2008. Of the first 101 games, 24 have been decided by 20 or more points. Over the past five seasons, 45.3 percent of games were decided by seven points or less. This year, the number is down to 43 percent. "There is no answer for it,'' Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme said following his team's 30-7 blowout of the Saints. "I don't know why. Last week against the Bucs, we had a punt blocked for a touchdown and I had a pass bounce off Dante Rosario and it went right to the safety. They had the ball at the 20 and made the score 14-0. And the one team you never want to play behind against is Tampa Bay.'' The Bucs won that game 27-7. What we're starting to see is games of extremes. The Panthers, for example, refocused after their 20-point loss to the Bucs and now the Saints will have to do the same after their blowout loss to the Panthers. "That's what the NFL is about,'' Panthers coach John Fox said. "It's 16 hard weeks. It's a game of momentum. There are ebbs and tides every week.''
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Yes, you read that right: Peyton Manning threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.
How do games turn into blowouts? Turnovers and other mistakes are the main culprits:• Cowboys quarterback Brad Johnson, trailing the Rams 14-7 in the first quarter, was intercepted by Rams linebacker Will Witherspoon at the Cowboys' 19. The Rams then scored on a Steven Jackson touchdown run to open a 21-7 lead. In the second half, Nick Folk missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt. Two plays later, Jackson scored on a 56-yard touchdown run. Two more interceptions down the stretch sealed the Cowboys' fate. • Normally, when Peyton Manning falls behind by 10 points or more, he'll answer back with touchdown passes. Against the Packers, his second-half touchdown passes went to the Packers. Trailing 17-7 in the third quarter, safety Nick Collins returned a Manning interception 62 yards for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, safety Aaron Rouse returned one 99 yards for a score. The comeback attempt turned into a disaster for the Colts. • Drew Brees is normally unflappable, but things fell apart for him and the Saints in the third quarter against the Panthers. Cornerback Ken Lucas' interception of a Brees sideline pass intended for Marques Colston set up an easy 18-yard touchdown drive for the Panthers, giving them a commanding 27-7 lead. On the next two possessions, the Saints were stopped on fourth-and-short, and they now head to London with a 3-4 record. "We turned the ball over, we allowed big plays,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said. "We did all the things that keep you from winning games.''
Five things I learned in Week 7
By John Clayton, ESPN.com
Bob Donnan/US Presswire
The Panthers held Saints QB Drew Brees to 231 passing yards -- his second-lowest total of the season.
John Clayton's game balls
Loose endsWeek 7 Studs & Duds: The Rams' Steven Jackson rushed for 160 yards against the Cowboys. Chargers QB Philip Rivers made some costly mistakes against the Bills. • Fantasy: The TRUM blog: By the numbers • Experts' picks: How did we do?
Sunday Countdown | ESPN.com • NFL Blog Network
Week 7 rundown• Buffalo 23, San Diego 14
After their convincing victory over New England in Week 6, the Chargers appeared to be emerging as the team to beat in the AFC. Does that title now belong to the 5-1 Bills? Photos
• Chicago 48, Minnesota 41
The Bears' defense gave up a lot of yardage (439), but it made plenty of big plays with the game on the line. Still, the Bears need to figure out why they're constantly blowing sizable second-half leads. Photos
Pittsburgh 38, Cincinnati 10
Thanks to Mewelde Moore (120 rushing yards in Week 7; 99 yards in Week 6), the Steelers' ground game has been able to withstand injuries to Larry Parker and Rashard Mendenhall. Photos
Baltimore 27, Miami 13
Is the Joe Flacco bandwagon filling up once again? After a couple of supbar games, Flacco (17-of-23, 232 yards, no INTs) flashed the form that made him an early season fan favorite in Baltimore. Photos
N.Y. Giants 29, San Francisco 17
The 49ers are reeling (four straight losses), and it's easy to see why. Against the defending champs, the Niners played like chumps (three turnovers, 134 penalty yards). Photos
Carolina 30, New Orleans 7
So much for the Saints' offense being unstoppable. Before Sunday, QB Drew Brees had been able to thrive despite a banged-up receiving corps. Will he continue to flourish if Reggie Bush's knee injury turns out to be serious? Photos
Oakland 16, N.Y. Jets 13 (OT)
The good news for the Jets? They finally got their running game going, as Thomas Jones ran for 159 yards on 24 carries. The bad news? Their passing game disappeared in the Black Hole. Photos
Looking for MVP candidates? Clinton Portis (four straight 100-yard games) is emerging as a bona fide candidate. Photos • Tampa Bay 20, Seattle 10
Times are tough for the Seahawks' offense. Quarterback Seneca Wallace averaged 2.5 yards per completion Sunday night. Seattle's leading receiver? Keary Colbert, who had two catches for 18 yards. Photos • Monday Night Football: Denver at New England (ESPN, 8:30 ET) The Patriots' secondary was shredded by the Chargers' Philip Rivers in Week 6. Uh-oh ... Denver's Jay Cutler is in town for Week 7. Graham | Watch: Field Pass • Football Outsiders: Patriots' defense can't hide
• Animations: Broncos' play action, Pats' shotgun
• Podcast | Streak: Win $1M | Jaworski
Looking aheadAn early look at next weekend's biggest games:
• Tampa Bay (5-2) at Dallas (4-3): Will the Cowboys' tailspin continue? The Bucs' defense is sure to make things difficult for whoever is playing QB for Dallas.• N.Y. Giants (5-1) at Pittsburgh (5-1): A Super Bowl preview? • Indianapolis (3-3) at Tennessee (6-0): Amazingly, the undefeated Titans are still flying under the radar. This a great chance for Tennessee to make a statement. • Week 8 schedule