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NFL Week 5: Historic comebacks and collapses

The Colts pull out a miracle, the Giants keep dominating and four teams that have underachieved.

How Cyd and Jim saw NFL Week 5

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The Giants have looked good, no arguing with that. But consider their schedule. Their last three opponents are a combined 1-12 (barely beating the Bengals), so I’m not overly impressed with their big margins of victory. They get Cleveland and San Francisco the next two weeks, so a 6-0 start is likely. And they will be declared the best team in the NFL. But look at their schedule after that; They have only three games in their last 10 against teams that are presently below .500 right now, and those three games are against the Eagles (twice) and Vikings, both of which could give them a rough game. Five of the other seven are against teams that presently have only one loss. Don’t be surprised to see a 10-6 Giants team out of the playoffs.

E-mail Jim

Historic collapse: It sucks to be Sage Rosenfels today. The Houston Texans quarterback gave the game away with a series of mistakes that led to an improbable and historic 31-27 win for the Indianapolis Colts. Houston led, 27-10, with 4:10 to go, then fell apart.

First, Peyton Manning threw a fourth-down touchdown pass to rookie Tom Santi to make it 27-17, in what seemed like one of those scores that would make the game look closer in the box score. Then Rosenfels, who had played well to that point, showed why he is a prototypical career backup.

The NFL changed the facemask penalty in the offseason, getting rid of the 5-yard penalty and making all facemask infractions a 15-yard penalty. At the same time, it seems referees have decided to ignore blatant facemask infractions. I have only watched about a dozen games so far this season from start to finish, and in those few games I have seen at least three very blatant, key facemask infractions not called.

The worst yet may have been the pulling of Reggie Bush’s facemask by a Viking Monday night who then caused Bush, who’s head had been twisted 90 degrees, to fumble the ball. I don’t know why the refs aren’t seeing this penalty all of a sudden, but they need to figure it out.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. This year, the Indianapolis Colts are the luckiest team in the League and they are not good. They should be 0-4 and buried in the AFC; instead, they have gotten some stupid mistakes by the Vikings and Texans to rally in the second half to double-digit comebacks. So they sit at 2-2, 2.5 games out of the division lead but tied for a playoff spot with the Baltimore Ravens.

No, the Patriots aren’t “back”; They’re still looking at a 10-6 season.

My Top Five

1) Tennessee Titans. They needed a bad roughing-the-passer call to beat the Ravens, but at 5-0 with possibly the best defense in the League, they look great.

2) Carolina Panthers.
This team is very healthy and playing some very good football.

3) Washington Redskins. Wow. They are 4-1 and have played their three division road games, winning two of them.

4) Pittsburgh Steelers. More surprising than the Titans’ start to me is this team’s 4-1 record. They still have a brutal schedule ahead, but they are playing some good football with a ton of injuries.

5) New York Giants. See above.

On third and 8 in Colts territory, Rosenfels scrambled and was obviously not going to make the first down. No big deal – just slide, punt and the Colts would have to drive the length of the field with 3:50 to go. But Rosenfels thought he was Reggie Bush and tried to hurdle Colt defenders. He got drilled, lost the ball and Colts linebacker Gary Brackett picked it up and raced 68 yards for a touchdown. Texans 27-24.

Rosenfels wasn’t done yet. Three plays later, he started scrambling again on third and 8 and again he lost the ball, this time after being stripped by Robert Mathis. The Colts had the ball at the Texans 20. It took them two plays to take the lead after Manning hit Reggie Wayne for a 7-yard score when Wayne made a brilliant one-hand catch. Colts 31-27.

The Colts had scored 21 points in 2:10 and sealed the game when Rosenfels was intercepted on the Texans’ final drive. “All of our team played great football today, played winning football and I made those mistakes that cost football games,” Rosenfels said. “There is no reason we should have lost that game.”

Historic: The Colts are the first team to trail by at least 17 points in the last five minutes and win the game without going into overtime. (In 2003, Manning and the Colts came back from being down 35-14 in Tampa to win in overtime.)

“I’m in shock,” Houston middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “I still can’t believe what happened. It’s unbelievable.”

"Do you feel like you guys kind of stole this one?'' somebody asked Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson. "Heck yeah,'' he said. "Did you see the game?''

Wrote the Houston Chronicle’s John McClain: “What a choke! What a blown opportunity! That's one of the worst collapses I've seen a Houston team have.”

The Colts are 2-2 and both wins were frantic second-half comebacks, Sunday’s and Week 2, when they rallied from 15 down to beat the Vikings. Indy could easily be 0-4, but instead is in the thick of the AFC race.

Unbeatens: Tennessee (5-0) and the New York Giants (4-0) are the only unbeaten teams and doing it differently. The Titans are a surprise team and needed a late 80-yard drive and a ticky-tack roughness penalty to beat the Baltimore Ravens, 13-10. Tennessee has a terrific defense, but their offense doesn’t scare many people, which will lead to a lot of close games.

The Giants, in contrast, are playing like they intend to repeat as Super Bowl champs. Sunday, they stomped Seattle, 44-6, and have now won eight in a row going back to last year’s playoffs. The 38 points was the Giants’ largest margin of victory since 1972 and their +78 is the best point differential in the league.

I was one of those who expected the Giants to struggle this season after their magical 2007, but they now are the league’s best at the quarter pole.

Hail to the Redskins: Washington looked lame in losing its season opener to the Giants, but since then have won four in a row, including consecutive road division wins at Dallas and Philadelphia. The Skins spotted the Eagles a 14-0 lead, then dominated the game to go to 4-1 and drop the Eagles to 2-3.

I have been hearing and reading all season why the Eagles were an elite team, even when they lost to Dallas and Chicago. But how to explain a home loss after leading 14-0? I’ll leave it to our Eagles expert, Joe in Philly, who wrote this on our message board:

Disclaimer: I was playing softball and missed the game. I recorded it but I'm not going to bother watching it. However, I've heard enough about the game to declare them big fat FRAUDS -- especially their head coach.

It was so bad that:

1) on Comcast Sportsnet there is usually Eagles Post-Game Live right after the game. Today they're splitting time with Phillies Post-Game Live -- switching back and forth between the two.
2) on that show, Gov. Rendell reported that there were “Let's go Phillies” chants at the Linc.
MVP (Most Valuable Penis) Update: The Redskins are 4-0 since tight end Chris Cooley accidentally showed his penis on his blog.

Direct snap mania: The Miami Dolphins continue to use the direct snap to a running back and it helped lead them to a 17-10 upset over San Diego. In two games, the direct snap to Ronnie Brown has led to six touchdowns. After going 1-15 last season, the Dolphins are 2-2 and have beaten last year’s AFC Championship Game teams (New England and San Diego) by a combined 55-23.

Underachievers: San Diego (2-3), Jacksonville (2-3), Seattle (1-3) and Cleveland (1-3) are all teams that won at least 10 games a year ago. Jacksonville’s two wins were on the final play and in overtime, so they could easily be 0-5. Sunday, the Jags could not hold a fourth-quarter lead and lost 26-21 to Pittsburgh.

Seattle and Cleveland look pathetic and the Chargers look dominant one minute and inept the next. Huge game next week for the Chargers against 3-1 New England. The Chargers will be looking for revenge after two losses last season, and the Pats are without Tom Brady. But this season has taught us that it's hard to predict the outcome of any game with any certainty.

Packers sliding: The wheels appear to have fallen off the Packers (2-3), who lost at home to Atlanta for their third straight loss. Aaron Rodgers was gutty in throwing three touchdowns despite a badly sprained shoulder, but the Packers defense has collapsed. It missed three starters on Sunday and lost to rookie QB Matt Ryan.

Egomaniacs: There was a shot of Dallas owner Jerry Jones, his receiver Terrell Owens and Cincinnati receiver Chad Ocho Cinco Johnson posing for a pregame photo. Must be for the latest issue of People With an Inflated Sense of Themselves.