Week 5 was another exciting week in the NFL, but perhaps for the wrong reasons, as offensive and defensive co-ordinators up and down the league were left scratching their heads. Not least the game which saw the Philadelphia Eagles travel to the so-far impressive Buffalo Bills and capitulate once more, going down in a 31-24 defeat.
After the final play of the second quarter, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick raised his index finger to the air.”One second” Vick shouted, believing his team to have enough time to run one more play. Emblematic of the Eagles season thus far, Vick had elongated the play trying to look for an open man in the end zone, but the time expired for the first-half with none of his receivers able to get open, Vick just tossed the ball harmlessly away.Vick was forced to return to the locker room for half time to reflect on how during the first-half Buffalo safety, George Wilson and the rest of the lesser-known, lesser paid Bills were able to capitalise on interceptions and dominate a lacklustre “dream team” comprised of some of the hottest acquisitions available in free agency.
The Eagles, the pre-season smart pick to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2004, demonstrated a pure inability to tackle, and allowed on-fire Bills running back Fred Jackson to rack up 111 yards on the ground, including a 5-yard touchdown. The Eagles turned the ball over 5 times in the game. Philadelphia showed signs of life in the second-half, demonstrable by a Vick 53-yard run which set up great field position, allowing Vick to pass former quarterback legend, Randall Cunningham’s record to become the number one QB rusher in NFL history. However, another poor mistake from the Eagles when they had the chance to tie the game late on in the 4th Quarter, defensive end Juqua Parker fell hook, line and sinker for Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hard-count, and gave away a costly penalty to allow the Bills to run the clock out and plunge Philadelphia to a 1 win to 4 loss record.
So what exactly is going on? How is a team with so much talent collapsing quite so often? Vick, despite being charged for four interceptions can hardly have this or any other of the losses dumped at his feet, as his receivers are not playing well. Former New York Giant, Steve Smith, looks to have been purely signed to harm a divisional rival and Jason Avant, a favourite target for Vick, seems to enjoy handing the ball to the other team. On the other side of the ball defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha, who received a huge five-year $60 million deal in the summer, is performing nothing like the shut-down corner he was for the Oakland Raiders and the Eagles can’t seem to stop anybody running on them.
Elsewhere Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers travelled to Atlanta in the Sunday’s late game to meet an Atlanta Falcons team who have built the Georgia Dome into a fortress during the regular season, with few teams able to travel there and come out victorious. Despite conceding two quick scores and going in at the half behind, the Packers came out and scored 22 unanswered points to win 25-14 and teach some “respect” to the Falcons, whom Rodgers had accused of showing little of during their play-off clash last season.
Other notable results included another excellent week for rookie Cam Newton as the Carolina Panthers ran the New Orleans Saints close 30-27. Tim Tebow was brought in at quarterback for the Denver Broncos and almost led a fightback against division leaders San Diego but to no avail, as it ended 29-24, Adrian Peterson destroyed a porous Arizona Cardinals defence, scoring 3 TDs as the Minnesota Vikings recorded their first win. The much mocked NFC West showed that some of its representatives were not to be underestimated as the Seattle Seahawks and the now 4-1 San Francisco 49ers were able to soundly beat much favoured opposition, with the 49ers trouncing the usually solid Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-3. In the Monday night game the Detroit Lions remained undefeated after five games for the first time since 1956 beating the Chicago Bears 24-13.
“Just win baby!”
Symbolic Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis died this week in his home aged 82. Davis’ career spanned over 50 years, in which he was a coach, a general manager and an owner. In this time he became commissioner of the then rival AFL, contesting the old NFL for key talent, and set up the game which comprised of an AFL vs NFL match up, which eventually became the Super Bowl. Not only did Davis battle against a merger of the two, he also took several stances against the NFL, which included moving his Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles, and back again.
Sadly, Davis career will probably be remembered for some of his questionable latter-day draft choices, which led critics to wonder whether he was still in touch with the game he had such influence over for many decades. His name will be forever synonymous however with controversy, rebellion and counter-culture.
He will still always have a big spot in the hearts of those in the “Raider-Nation”, and one of his famous catchphrases “Commitment to Excellence” must have been ringing in the ears of the Raiders this Sunday, as they took an emotional 25-20 victory over the Houston Texans. *Full credit for the feature image to Keith Lovett Photography