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IDP Notes
Week 10
11/10/04

Quick Hits (Details in individual team notes)
  • Week Ten Bye: DEN, MIA, OAK, SD
  • NYG starting DEs done for season
  • BAL SS Ed Reed has NFL-record 106 yard INT return
  • Chicago has a sack and turnover party in New York
  • Injuries and ineffectiveness plague Vikings LBs
  • CAR LB Dan Morgan out, should return this week
  • ATL DT Rod Coleman expected back this week
  • CIN CB Tory James leads league with 5 INT
  • Hot and cold IND DE Freeney sizzles Monday night
  • KC and NO shuffling starters, not getting results
  • NYG, HOU, and CIN DBs leading D Rookie of Year candidates
  • NE LB Mike Vrabel on offense, WR Troy Brown on defense
Week 10 Injury Report (available Wednesday PM)

Arizona

The strong play of the corners led HC Denny Green to shake up the secondary a little to get them all more time. Renaldo Hill got the start at FS, moving Duane Starks, previously demoted to the nickel corner, moved back into the starting lineup opposite David Macklin. The move paid off, as Hill led the team with 10 tackles (6 solo) and Starks returned an INT 41 yards for a TD near the end of the 3rd quarter that pulled the Cardinals closer on their way to an eventual victory. Starks also had 7 tackles (5 solo). Macklin had 3 solo tackles, broke up 2 passes, and forced a fumble. Ifeanyi Ohalete, bumped from the starting FS role, had 4 tackles (2 solo). They apparently aren't too down on Ohalete though, as they extended his contract through next season on Monday.

The front seven put some pressure on the Dolphins, led by Bert Berry with 4 tackles (3 solo) and forcing a fumble on a sack, recovered by Dansby, who also had a sack. Berry now leads the team with 5 sacks for the year. Rookie DT Darnell Dockett had a key sack on a 3rd-and-goal from the Cardinals 4 yard-line, forcing the Dolphins to settle for a FG when they already had a 9-3 lead early in the 2nd quarter. DE Peppi Zellner tipped the pass that led to the INT by Starks.

Atlanta

DT Rod Coleman is back in practice and expected to play this week. One of the players who will be happiest to see him back in the lineup is DE Patrick Kerney. After relishing in the team's switch to a 4-3, Kerney quickly posted 7 sacks, still good for second in the NFC. However, he hasn't had one since Week 4, as he has spent some time working inside to help compensate for the loss of Coleman the last three weeks.

Baltimore

With Cleveland deep in Baltimore territory and poised to tie the game, SS Ed Reed added another big play to his impressive resume. He picked the ball off 6 yards deep in the end zone and returned 106 yards, a new NFL record, for a TD to seal the victory. It was his fourth INT of the year, which leads the team and is second in the AFC. He also had 3 solo tackles in the game. His backfield partner, FS Wil Demps, had a big game, as well. Demps had 6 tackles (4 solo), a sack on which he forced a fumble, and shared another sack with LB Terrell Suggs. Suggs leads the team with 7.5 sacks, good for second in the AFC.

Deion Sanders saw some action on offense, but was overthrown by Kyle Boeller on the only pass his way. He battled toe problems during the first half, finally coming up limp and did not return in the second half.

LB Peter Boulware returned to practice, but was not yet activated from the PUP. He is expected to be by the deadline this week, but will likely see a limited role in the near future. Adalius Thomas, who had a sack and forced fumble Sunday, should continue to start in Boulware's place.

The team was led in tackles with 8 by MLB Ray Lewis (7 solo) and CB Gary Baxter (6 solo). Baxter was flying around the field in run support all night, and also forced a fumble with a well-timed run blitz stopping Lee Suggs for a loss in the 3rd quarter.

Buffalo

SS Lawyer Milloy had is first INT of the season. MLB London Fletcher had 4 solo tackles and a forced fumble the Terrence McGee recovered. Fletcher is second in the AFC with 81 tackles. Takeo Spikes led the team with 6 tackles (5 solo).

While McGee's fumble recovery, and subsequent return, are examples of the big plays he can turn in, his coverage ability and propensity to give up big plays continues to be a problem. The Buffalo News attributed 6 receptions and 163 yards on Sunday to Jet WRs he covered. A struggling Santana Moss had a breakout game with McGee on him much of the day. When they played the Jets in NY, it was Wayne Chebret's season that McGee helped revive. While he's a great returner and has shown ability to turn in big plays as a DB, he'll need time to develop and the team needs Troy Vincent back in the starting role ASAP.

DE Aaron Schobel remains frustratingly hot and cold. He went his first three games without a sack. Then he had 5.5 sacks in the next three games. Now he's gone two games in a row without a sack.

Carolina

Dan Morgan made his inevitable return to the inactive list for the first time this season. Vinny Ciurciu started in his place at MLB and had 4 solo tackles. Morgan is expected to return this week. Plenty more injury problems hampered the D. DT Kindal Moorehead, already starting in place of Kris Jenkins, who is done for the year, was inactive due to a shoulder injury, forcing the Panthers to start rookie undrafted FA Jordan Carstens. 1st round pick CB Chris Gamble left the game with a knee sprain, after totaling 5 solo tackles. Dante Wesley replaced Gamble and finished with 4 solo tackles. Gamble looks to be OK for this week. S Travares Tillman was placed on the IR this week, ending his season, and leaving Colin Branch to man FS with a broken thumb.

Only two players had noteworthy performances in another disappointing loss. Not having to beat a streaking Dan Morgan to the play allowed WLB Will Witherspoon to lead the team in tackles with 9 (7 solo). He also had an interception in the 3rd quarter that the offense failed to capitalize on. DE Julius Peppers continues to make tackles at a career-high pace, finishing with 4 solos, but he also finally returned to the opponent's backfield, registering 2 sacks, his first since Week 2. He now has 4 on the season, but has made them all in only 2 games.

Chicago

The Bears front office began discussing a contract extension for Alex Brown last week, and it looks like it will cost them for not getting it wrapped up then. Brown had a career-high 4 sacks, to go with 8 tackles (6 solo) and a forced fumble. He was just one of the IDP heros in a huge defensive showing by the Bears.

After spotting the Giants 14 points and looking out of sync the 1st quarter, the Bears defense quickly turned things around with some hard-hitting and turnovers. With the Giants deep in Chicago territory yet again, Tiki Barber appeared to have his third TD of the game, until it was nullified by a holding call. After that, something clicked, and the defense took over. MLB Brian Urlacher stopped Barber on the next play, then broke up a pass. Then, on the last play of the 1st quarter, CB Jerry Azumah registered the first of 7 sacks, forcing a fumble that nickel CB Nathan Vasher recovered, the first of 5 turnovers they'd cause on the day. As the 2nd quarter wound down, they would shock New York with an incredible sequence of turnovers on three consecutive plays. After scoring their first TD to make it 14-7, DE Alex Brown would stuff Tiki Barber for a loss, then sack Kurt Warner, his second of the day, setting up a 3rd-and-long deep in New York territory. On the next play, SS Mike Green would knock away a ball caught by Ike Hilliard and recover it, with less than four minutes to play. The Bears scored on the next drive, and the next play from scrimmage for the Vikings was a pass to Amani Toomer that barely hit his hands before FS Todd Johnson delivered a vicious blow, up-ending him. The ball was deflected to Vasher, who returned it 41 yards. The Bears settled for a FG, and on the next play from scrimmage for the Giants, there was a mix up between Warner and Jeremy Shockey, resulting in an errant pass to CB Jerry Azumah. The Bears would score another FG right before half to take a 20-14 lead and all of the momentum. The Giants wouldn't see the end zone again until there were just two minutes left in the game.

Most of the secondary turned in huge days: SS Mike Green with 8 tackles (6 solo), 1 pass defensed, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery; CB Jerry Azumah with 4 tackles (2 solo), a sack, an INT, and a forced fumble; nickel CB Nathan Vasher with 1 solo tackles, 3 passes defensed, an INT, and a fumble recovery; and FS Todd Johnson, who led the team with 9 tackles (7 solo). Vasher is a player who HC Lovie Smith is very high on for his ability to create turnovers, and with a team-high 3 picks, including one for a TD, and a fumble recovery, he continues to do just that. Todd Johnson is not the playmaker Mike Brown was, but he has been a steady tackler and intimidates opponents with big hits.

On the injury front, Adewale Ogunleye (I almost don't need to look it up to spell it right anymore) returned from his mystery leg injury to post 3 solo tackles, a sack, and knock down a pass. However, he reported after the game that the ankle was "very sore" after the game. MLB Brian Urlacher didn't turn any huge plays, but was around the ball all day and the Giants concern for his presence opened opportunities for teammates. He finished the day with 7 tackles (6 solo) and broke up a pass. Most importantly, his running appeared fine and he didn't look like a player headed to the IR, per rumors circulating last week. CB Charles Tillman is a bit ahead of schedule in his rehab and could return in two weeks.

DT Tommie Harris continues to improve. His ability to demand double-teams are critical to the pass rush. He also had a sack, giving him 3.5 on the season, an impressive total for a DT, especially a rookie, halfway through the season.

Cincinnati

The inconsistent Bengals D showed up looking good back at home Sunday, turning in big plays and holding the Cowboys to 3 points in a victory.

With Kim Herring inactive, HC Marvin Lewis must have remembered what force rookie Madieu Williams had been as a starter earlier in the year, as he returned him to FS. Williams provided results, leading the team with a game high 10 tackles (9 solo), including one on special teams. He also grabbed an INT for the second straight game, late in the 4th quarter, helping seal the victory and getting his Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign back on track. CB Tory James was another defensive star of the game, he forced a fumble on Keyshawn Johnson which Brian Simmons recovered, leading to a FG and later picked off a pass, his NFL-leading 5th of the season.

With DT Tony Williams done for the season, rookie reserve DE Robert Geathers has moved up in the DLine rotation. He contributed a sack, the first of his career, and a forced fumble, recovered by reserve DB Anthony Mitchell, that led to the Bengals first score.

After Caleb Miller sprained his ankle on the first play of the game, he did not return, and Landon Johnson played MLB all day, finishing with just 2 solo tackles.

Cleveland

SS Robert Griffith led the team with 8 tackles (5 solo), highlighted by an outstanding open field tackle of a Jamal Lewis at full speed around the edge. The only other standout performance was by DE Ebenezer Ekuban, who had 4 tackles (3 solo), the only sack of the game, and a recovery of an aborted snap the resulted in a Cleveland FG.

As discussed last week, Chris Crocker took over at FS for Earl Little. Crocker had 6 solo tackles. The move was brought about due to the number of big plays being given up in the passing game, and while no passes were completed over 19 yards on Sunday, facing an inept Kyle Boeller is hardly the game to measure the success of the move on. Little will be needed more next week, as depth of reserves in the secondary was hurt by a concussion suffered by Lewis Sanders and a season-ending shoulder injury to Leigh Bodden.

Dallas

With no sacks or turnovers, and just a horrible all-around effort Sunday, there is little to talk about.

With CB Tyrone Williams inactive with a hamstring injury suffered the prior week, undrafted FA rookie Lance Frazier got his first NFL start. After recording his first NFL INT the prior week, he led the team with 8 tackles (7 solo). Fraizer also continued to handle the punt return duties and appears to be the latest "Parcells favorite", a status that keeps you on the field over potentially more talented players and guarantees you a spot on the team at the next job he takes.

Still rehabbing his back, SS Darren Woodson is now plagued with a calf problem. He was activated from the PUP this week, but isn't ready to play. It is possible his season, and likely his tenure as a Cowboy, is over.

Denver

DE Trevor Pryce had a check-up Friday and he can continue his rehab from surgery for a herniated disc, but he won't be returning after the 11/14 bye. His next exam won't be for another month, and he won't return until medically cleared to play.

A strong pass rush helped the Broncos get back on track after back-to-back losses. A couple old men led the way, as DT Luther Elliss got to David Carr and DE Marco Coleman had his first sack of the year. DE Reggie Hayward, who lost his starting job earlier this season, but returned to it when Pryce went down, got his first sack since Week 3. He leads the team with 3.5 on the year. CB Kelly Herndon had one, as well.

Nick Ferguson started at FS with John Lynch out and had 5 tackles (3 solo). Lynch is expected to return after the bye this week. MLB Al Wilson led the team with 9 tackles (6 solo).

Detroit

With no help from the offense, the D did little to help itself, forcing no turnovers and registering no sacks. It was the second straight game the seemingly improved DLine did not get to the QB.

CB Dre' Bly broke up 3 passes, but failed to grab one that could have helped swing the momentum. He also had 2 solo tackles. SS Bracy Walker led the team with 7 tackles (4 solo), including one on special teams. CB Fernando Bryant returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with an ankle injury. He had 4 solo tackles and a pass defended.

Green Bay

FS Darren Sharper was still being held out of practice as of Monday, but is hopeful to play in a key conference game against the Vikings this week. He missed their last game with a torn PCL, but was able to rest and rehab it for another week due to the bye. He is unlikely to practice until Friday and the decision on him playing will be late, possibly a game-time decision. Bhawoh Jue would remain his replacement, if he is still out this week. Sharper was the only player not to practice on Monday.

Houston

Eric Brown started at SS, but was limited by his nagging knee problems, so rookie Glenn Earl, returning from a hip injury, saw significant time. Earl had 6 tackles (5 solo). With Jason Simmons still recovering from a concussion, Earl could get his first career start this week. The injuries also gave reserve S and former Jaguars started Marlon McCree some more playing time. The team also has to decide what to do with Ramon Walker, who was on the PUP and a move regarding him must be made this week.

More injury problems in the secondary occurred when 1st round pick Dunta Robinson leveled FB Kyle Johnson in the 4th quarter, but Robinson got the worst of it, needing to be helped off the field with a shoulder injury. Demarcus Faggins finished the game at CB and will likely start if Robinson can't go. Missing Robinson would be a huge blow, as he has been the best rookie corner in the league, leading the team with 3 interceptions and 10 passes defended, plus providing solid tackling in run support.

Indianapolis

With Mike Doss and Cory Bird both inactive, rookie Bob Sanders made his first career start, taking over SS. He led the team with 7 solo tackles, including 2 on special teams.

DE Dwight Freeney continues to run hot and cold. After a sack in each of the first two games, he went a stretch of three games without not only sack, but only a total of 2 solo tackles. Then he had his first multi-sack game of the year, then he disappeared again the prior week. Monday night he was playing like a man possessed. Unable to outmuscle the gigantic Vikings LT Bryant McKinney, he utilized speed and text book moves to be in the backfield many times and register 2 sacks. His first was a pure speed rush right past McKinney who whiffed, crushing Culpepper before he had finished his dropback. The second was a tremendous spin move leaving McKinney only able to push him after he was already by, increasing the force he hit Culpepper with.

Jacksonville

Rookie LB Daryl Smith injured his knee the prior week and missed practice through the bye last week. The team feared a serious injury, but tests showed a partially torn MCL, a relatively minor injury. He ran on Monday and the team is hopeful he'll return to practice this week and be able to play. While not putting up much fantasy-wise, Smith has been solid on the strongside all year for the Jags.

Kansas City

With MLB Monty Beisel missing his second straight game with a calf injury, Kawika Mitchell started in the middle and posted 6 tackles (3 solo). Already thin at LB, Shawn Barber was carted off the field with a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return. Quinton Caver replaced him and finished with 4 tackles (3 solo). The early report on Barber is a knee sprain and he is not likely to go this week, so Beisel, who is expected to return, will likely get the nod at OLB, leaving Mitchell in the middle. CB Dexter McCleon was also inactive with a tender hamstring, but expects to return this week against New Orleans, as well. However, it will likely be to a nickel role, as William Bartee is expected to remain the starter opposite Eric Warfield.

Continued ineffectiveness and lack for pressure in the front four has not been resolved by rearranging the deck chairs. After impressing with a team-high 4 sacks in limited use as a reserve, undrafted FA Jared Allen had his first career start the previous week. After only 1 solo tackle in that game, he started again, and improved to a whole 2 solo tackles Sunday. He also drew a roughing the passer call that helped along a drive that led to a Bucs TD. DT Ryan Sims returned to the starting lineup next to Lionel Dalton, sending John Browning back to a reserve role. Sims had 1 solo tackle, as did the last starting member of the front four, DE Eric Hicks. LB Scott Fujita had the only sack on the say, along with 4 tackles (1 solo).

Miami

While the defense played well, penalties kept drives alive for the Cardinals and they couldn't overcome the handicap of their own offense in the second half.

Three penalties, one by DE Jason Taylor and two by DE David Bowens, including a roughing the passer, kept a drive alive at the end of the first half, but they held together and prevented the Cardinals from scoring. With a 12-3 lead coming out of the half, things were looking good as a sack by Taylor (the only one of the game for the Dolphins) helped stop Arizona's first drive of the second half. Shortly after, things fell apart. An INT returned for a TD by the Cardinals pulled the game closer at 12-10. Early in the 4th quarter, SS Sammy Knight picked a ball to end a drive in Miami territory, but a roughing the passer call on CB Patrick Surtain gave the ball back. To make matters worse, Taylor kicked the ball arguing the call and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The two penalties moved the Cardinals up 30 yards to the Miami 16, where they scored four plays later, getting their first lead of the game. After Miami retook the lead 23-17, infractions on defense cost them again in the final minutes of the game. After Taylor registered a sack on 3rd-and-goal from the Miami 4 yard-line, appearing to set up a desperation 4th down at the 15, the play was erased by a defensive holding on CB Sam Madison, setting up a 1st-and-goal at the 2 yard-line. Arizona scored on the next play and went ahead for the eventual win with the extra point. In the end, penalties erased an interception and a sack, while setting up the only two offensive TDs for the Cardinals.

With LB Junior Seau done for the season, Eddie Moore appears to be his replacement. Moore didn't officially start, because Miami began the game in the nickel, but was the SLB in the base 4-3, with Morlon Greenwood moving to the weakside and Zach Thomas remaining in the middle. Thomas led the team with 10 tackles (4 solo) and continues to lead the NFL for the season.

Minnesota

With Chris Claiborne (calf) and Raonall Smith (concussion) both inactive Monday Night, rookie Dontarrious Thomas got the start at WLB, a job he lost earlier in the season. Thomas did nothing to take advantage of the opportunity, eventually being benched and replaced by Mike Nattiel. Like Thomas, Nattiel has been in HC Mike Tice's doghouse this season. Nattiel looked no better, biting on play action and looking lost in pass coverage, and was removed, as well. With no other depth, the Vikings turned to reserve S Willie Offord. MLB E.J. Henderson tweaked his knee during the Colts winning drive at the end of the game. He tried to hobble off the field after a pass completion, then fell and required medical attention. The Indy crowd booed, as they assumed it was a ploy to stall for time. Since the clock wasn't under two minutes yet, the Vikings wouldn't be charged with a timeout. However, the replay showed Henderson's knee be bent out of whack. He was assisted off the field, but returned a play later and finished the game.

CB Brian Williams also had a noticeably poor performance. He was late on getting to Reggie Wayne after the Colts decided to go for it on 4th-and-goal in the 1st quarter, resulting in an easy TD catch. He also failed to execute an open field tackle on Marcus Pollard the next drive, resulting in the Colts second TD.

The inability to create turnovers cost Minnesota once again. The closest they came was a pass right through Antoine Winfield's hands in the end zone that almost landed on Marvin Harrison's hands on the ground. Winfield led the team with 12 tackles (9 solo). DT Kevin Williams had the only sack of the day, his team-leading sixth of the season.

New England

It's not unusual to expect the unexpected from Bill Belichick, but several players were truly in a bizarro world on Sunday. LB Mike Vrabel caught a TD and K Adam Vinatieri threw a TD pass to WR Troy Brown, who saw significant work as a CB. Vrabel is actually no stranger to the end zone on offense. It was his third career receiving TD, including one in the last Super Bowl.

With Ty Law and Tyrone Poole both inactive, Randall Gay and Asante Samuel were both elevated to starting roles at CB, while All-Name Team CB Earthwind Moreland, who was promoted from the practice squad last week, was the third corner. However, when Samuel went out with an arm injury in the 1st quarter, Brown moved into the nickel role. Belichick's decision to work Brown out as a DB in the preseason looked like more genius. Brown posted 3 solo tackles and recorded a pass defensed when he was unable to hang onto a pass right in his hands for the pick. Rookie S Dexter Reid also saw his first significant work of the season, due to all the injuries.

It didn't really matter who was back there, because the front seven did a great job pressuring Bulger all day. LBs Tedy Bruschi and Willie McGinest each had a sack, as did DEs Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, and Jarvis Green. As well as a new win streak, the team started a new turnover streak, when McGinest knocked the ball lose on his sack and Green recovered it. McGinest leads the team 4.5 sacks.

Rodney Harrison led the team with 7 solo tackles. He has 75 tackles on the season, good for third (tied) in the NFL this season.

New Orleans

It appears not just a demotion, but lingering knee problems, have derailed the season of one-time defensive rookie of the year candidate Courtney Watson. Watson was inactive coming off the bye due to his knee, which was originally injured Week 5. He is expected to return this week. Orlando Ruff continues to start at MLB, and tied LB Derrick Rodgers for the team lead in tackles. Both had 9 (7 solo). DE Darren Howard returned from minor knee surgery, and a bye week to rest it, to register a sack, the only one of the game for the Saints. Howard has 4.5 for the season.

Fakhir Brown has impressed enough to remain the starter opposite Mike McKenzie, making a 100% turnover at CB since the beginning of the season. Brown and McKenzie both had 5 solo tackles, and McKenzie broke up 2 passes.

Other roster shake ups included journeyman Howard Green starting at DT in front of former 1st round pick Jonathan Sullivan. Green had 3 solo tackles and a forced fumble.

New York Giants

A devastating loss at home to the Bears Sunday was worsened by the devastating loses to the front four. Both starting DEs left the game with injuries, and the news got worse on Monday. Keith Washington left with knee injury in the 2nd quarter and tests Monday revealed it is a torn ACL, ending his season. Michael Strahan was also injured attempting a tackle on Anthony Thomas in the second half. He left the game and did not return, with his chest and shoulder wrapped in ice on the sidelines. Tests discovered it was a torn pectoral muscle, and it is believed he is done for the season. In his 11 year career, the future Hall of Famer has only missed two games. A slight tear could cost him up to a month, a full tear would end his season. They also lost Keith Washington to a knee injury in the 2nd quarter. Osi Umenyiora and Lance Legree finished up the game at ends. Of the two, Umenyiora has the higher upside. A 2nd round pick a year ago, he is project who projects as a solid pass rushing end. He finished the game with 3 solo tackles, a sack, a pass defensed, and a fumble recovery. He has 3 sacks on the season and is in a great position to finish the season strong. Definitely hot waiver wire material. Despite all the problems at the ends, DT Fred Robbins is looking strong inside. He had a career day with 6 tackles (5 solo) and 2 sacks, his first multi-sack game. His 4 total sacks this year are already the most he's had in a season for his 5 year career, actually equal to his career total prior to this year.

Quieted by the devastating loss on the field, and of Strahan, was the continued march of Gibril Wilson to Defensive Rookie of the Year. He led the team with 9 solo tackles, including his third sack of the year.

LB Barrett Green was inactive due to leg problems, giving Nick Greisen another start at WLB. Greisen finished with 8 tackles (3 solo), broke up 2 passes, and recovered a fumble.

New York Jets

An off-day for the previously impressive-looking Jets D, with no sacks or turnovers. It was the first game this year DE John Abraham didn't have at least a half sack. He finished with 2 tackles (1 solo). DE Shaun Ellis hurt his groin during the game.

With LB Sam Cowart inactive, likely to return next week, MLB Jonathan Vilma and WLB Eric Barton were active. Vilma had a game-high 15 tackles (10 solo) and Barton had 13 (10 solo).

Reggie Tongue and rookie Erik Coleman remained the starters at SS and FS, respectively. Jon McGraw came off the bench, but did not register a stat.

Oakland

The developing story on this defense continues to be undrafted FA Tommy Kelly. He had another sack Sunday, giving him one in each of his first three career games. He also forced his first career fumble on the sack and continues to see more playing time, finishing with three solo tackles. Kelly now leads the team in sacks, passing DE Tyler Brayton, who has 2.5, but hasn't had a sack since the third week of the season. Brayton had a sack taken away by penalties on Sunday. An even newer newcomer also paid immediate dividends, against his former team, no less. Reserve DB Jarrod Cooper had a sack and 2 other solo tackles.

SS Marques Anderson led the team in tackles again with 6 (3 solo) and has been a pleasant surprise with his consistency, after being rode out of Green Bay, despite his big play capability, for a lack of it.

CB Charles Woodson played sparingly, hampered by a hip pointer. He didn't post any stats and was limited to work as pass rusher in blitz packages, where his hip wouldn't be as likely to be aggravated by running straight ahead, as by the swift turns required in coverage. Nnamdi Asomugha started in his place.

Philadelphia

The Eagles once again displayed the solid management approach to salaries that has kept them a contender most of the Andy Reid Era. Instead of waiting to be held hostage by their own free agents or being forced to manipulate the salary cap to fill holes, the team again showed the forethought to lock up some of their young performers on their way to bigger things. The CB tandem of Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, who continue to look better and better the more they adjust to their new starting roles, were give 5- and 6-year extensions, respectively, last week. Brown responded by leading the team in tackles with 14 (7 solo), although both he and Sheppard had mistakes in coverage Sunday. They also gave a 5-year extension to former undrafted FA reserve DT Sam Rayburn. Rayburn celebrated by posting 2 sacks, as well as 4 tackles (3 solo), getting extended work after DT Corey Simon kept getting injured. Simon had to be helped off the field, twice, but returned after each time, finishing with just 1 solo tackle. Rayburn is the prototypical successful role player that the Eagles are adept at keeping and developing into a solid starter when bigger names ahead of him (like Simon) leave for free agency. Rayburn now has 5 sacks on the season. Rayburn was involved in a minor car accident Monday night and his injuries sound superficial.

Despite all that, it was a tremendously disappointing Sunday, as the Eagles not only lost their first game of the year to the in-state, but not often played, rival Steelers. After giving up 3 early TDs, it was a hard day for the defense, which not only put their team in a big hole, but with little help from the offense, spent most of the game (over 41 minutes) on the field.

The Bus rumbled 33 times for 149 yards, and the Eagles gave up 252 on the ground for the day. It seems MLB Mark Simoneau is being blamed for the continued lack of success against the run, as he was spelled more frequently by Jeremiah Trotter, despite Simoneau continuing to start. Simoneau finished with 5 tackles (1 solo) and Trotter had 3 solo. However, the weakness in Trotter's game was exposed on Pittsburgh's third TD, as Trotter failed to keep up with TE Jay Riemersma in coverage, who caught the TD.

This was the type of game the Eagles expect big money free agent DE Jevon Kearse to come up big in, but, like Terrell Owens for the offense, he disappointed. Kearse had 1 solo tackle on the day.

Pittsburgh

For the second straight week, the Steelers have knocked off an undefeated team, and for the second straight week, the story of rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger has overshadowed outstanding play by the defense. Granted, the defense didn't have to work that much, the Eagles possessed the ball for less than 19 minutes. In that time, they allowed an explosive Philly O only 132 yards from scrimmage, holding them to 0 for 8 on 3rd downs and forcing five 3-and-outs.

The game couldn't have started worse for the Eagles. After a TD on the Steelers opening drive, Pittsburgh held them from 3-and-out. Like the "rinse and repeat" directions on a shampoo bottle, this same thing happened again, and then on their third possession early in the 2nd quarter, the Steelers scored a third TD, putting the Eagles behind 21-0 before they knew what hit them.

The defense was led by ILB James Farrior, who had 5 tackles (4 solo), a sack, and an interception. The interception came on an ill-advised toss by Donovan McNabb as he was being dragged down by NT Chris Hoke. Farrior returned it 41-yards, taken down by RB Bryant Westbrook with a TD-saving tackle. The Steelers O turned it into a FG, to take a 24-3 lead late in the 3rd quarter.

CB Willie Williams, LB Clark Haggans, and LB Larry Foote also had sacks. For Haggans, it was the first sack, or big play of any kind, since his two-sack game in the season-opener. Foote started inside, but Kendrell Bell saw work for most of the second half, finishing with 3 tackles (1 solo). It was Bell's first game of the year, after battling a variety of injuries since the preseason. Larry Foote continues to perform well, so it isn't a given Bell immediately regains the starting role next week. A week after his best game in a year, LB Joey Porter had one of his worst, totaling 2 assists on the day.

St. Louis

In just his second game back from a broken arm, CB Travis Fisher left the game in the 3rd quarter with two cracked teeth and did not return…that mouth piece isn't a helmet decoration, kids. He is expected to be fine for this week's game.

DT Jimmy Kennedy made his debut, posting 3 solo tackles in a reserve role. DT Damione Lewis was the defensive star. He led the team with 7 tackles (6 solo) and sacked Tom Brady in the end zone, forcing a fumble that DE Leonard Little recovered for a TD. Reserve DE Tyoka Jackson is back healthy after the bye, and he posted a sack and 2 other solo tackles. The return of Kennedy and Jackson really improves the Rams line for the second half. It was Jackson's first sack this year, after a career-high 5.5 in 2003. He has not been 100% this year due to a nagging hamstring pull that cost him half the season.

As expected, Trev Faulk was the starter at MLB. He finished with 6 tackles (5 solo). Robert Thomas was active, but was limited to work on special teams.

San Diego

LB Steve Foley returned from a couple poor statistical outings to being back among the IDP fantasy surprises of 2004. He had a sack and a half, forcing a fumble on his solo sack, and 4 tackles (2 solo) on the day. Foley now has 42 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, an INT, and a team-leading 6 sacks, third in the AFC, on the season.

LB Donnie Edwards and SS Terrence Kiel both had a game-high 10 tackles. Edwards had 4 solo and Kiel had 7 solo.

San Francisco

LB Derek Smith had his second strong game since returning from ankle injury. Smith led the team with a game-high 11 tackles (8 solo) and shared a sack with DT Anthony Adams. LB Jamie Winborn had another big game, posting 7 tackles (6 solo) and recording his team-leading fifth sack of the season.

LB Saleem Rasheed dressed, but did not play and rookie LB Richard Seigler was inactive, both due to knee injuries, while Seigler also may have stress fracture in his foot. CB Ahmed Plummer remains inactive with a career-threatening bulging disc in his neck. On the bright side, the 49ers did get one player back from injury. DE Andre Carter, who has battled back problems all season, returned in a back-up capacity. He saw limited action and finished with 1 solo tackle. Tony Brown, a DT released by Miami prior to the season, started at DE in place of Carter and had 4 solo tackles.

Injuries across the board have forced SS Tony Parrish to be committed to either run support or assisting in specific coverage on most downs, and unable to roam to make plays. This has resulted in him still looking for his first pick, after having 16 in his first two years with the 49ers.

Seattle

LB Anthony Simmons returned from shoulder surgery to start, marking the first time this season all 3 of the Seahawks first-team LBs have been healthy for a game. Simmons led the team with 6 tackles (5 solo) and had their only turnover, an INT he returned 23 yards for a TD in the 4th quarter to seal the victory in Sunday's shootout. DE Antonio Cochran significantly helped the pass rush in place of the injured Grant Wistrom for the second time in the three games Wistrom has missed. He had a sack and another solo tackle. Wistrom hopes to be back this week to face his old team, but HC Mike Holmgren says he is not optimistic.

CB Ken Lucas left the game after being injured on an attempted interception. He landed on the ball after diving for it and was carted off the field. He did not return and spent the night in a San Fran hospital with a bruised lung. Lucas leads the NFC with 4 picks. Kris Richards replaced him Sunday and would likely start if Lucas can't go this week, but it appears likely Lucas will play. The team seems to prefer to leave Bobby Taylor in his nickel role, as opposed to moving him in as a starter.

Tampa Bay

While the defense was effective against Priest Holmes, their best tactic was knocking him out of the game, the Chiefs biggest weapon off the field for their failed comeback attempts on the last two drives.

The Bucs had some injuries of their own. FS Jermaine Phillips suffered a wrist sprain in the 2nd quarter, but remained in the game and grabbed a pass deflected by Derrick Brooks in the end zone during the 4th quarter to help protect slim lead. Phillips also had 2 solo tackles. Of more concern was the loss of DT Anthony McFarland, who hurt his shoulder in the first half and did not return. DE Dewayne White again saw time inside in McFarland's place, and recorded his second sack of the season, as well as another solo tackle. The injury to McFarland has been identified as a strained pec and he's expected to be Questionable for this week. White should see more work at DT if McFarland can't go.

After a couple solid games, DE Simeon Rice managed only 3 solo tackles. However, he was applying pressure, forcing offensive penalties, and had an apparent sack and forced fumble late in the 4th quarter reversed on replay and ruled an incomplete pass. Unfortunately, those things not in the box score don't help his IDP owners.

LB Derrick Brooks had a game-high 13 tackles (9 solo) and leads the NFC on the season.

I guess all the babbling in this space last week about the things in the Bucs favor, due to the absence of IDP stories, may have at least helped some gamblers. The healthy defense was good enough to stop a KC offense that went over 50 points in their previous two games and HC Jon Gruden moves to 6-1 after a bye, while the TB has now won 3 of their last 4, and 2 in a row, after a bad start.

Tennessee

The Titans front four should be in better shape coming off the bye. Having found a combination that works last week, Kevin Carter and Travis LaBoy should remain at the ends. LaBoy was probably unhappy to see the bye, as he posted 2.5 sacks in his first two career games the preceding two weeks. He could be a good waiver wire acquisition for the second half. Juqua Thomas returned healthy last week and will provide depth vs. the run. Carlos Hall's knee feels better after resting it, and while he remains Questionable this week, should return to add more depth soon. More help is on the way from rookie Bo Schobel. He was activated off the PUP and will practice this week after missing the entire season to this point due to a broken foot. He had 17 sacks his senior season at TCU and could join the rotation quickly. The player most impressing the Titans up front is rookie Randy Starks. Coaches love his strength. Unlike most rookies, his physical stature is already NFL-quality, allowing him to not be pushed around by gigantic pro OLinemen and demand double-teams.

Rocky Calmus continues to practice, but HC Jeff Fisher says he is not ready just yet.

Washington

New starting SS Ryan Clark led the team with 11 tackles (8 solo). 1st round pick Sean Taylor was back at FS after missing last week due to a DUI arrest, and posted 7 tackles (4 solo). CB Fred Smoot had his third INT of the season, and one in his second straight game, tying Shawn Springs for the team lead. Springs had 7 tackles (6 solo). Reserve CB Walt Harris found a way to contribute again. After forcing a fumble last week, he recovered a punt blocked by WR Taylor Jacobs for a TD late in the 3rd quarter.

DT Cornelius Griffin has been a force in the middle lately. He had his second multi-sack game in the last three weeks, totaling a team-high 4 on the season, one shy of his career-high 5 he recorded his rookie season. He is also on pace for a career-high in tackles.

MLB Mike Barrow and LB Lavar Arrington remained inactive. Antonio Pierce continues to start for Barrow and had 6 tackles (5 solo). Statistically (read: from a fantasy perspective) Pierce has done plenty well as Barrow's replacement. However, some of the coaching staff feels he is not as adept at calling the defense and making reads as a MLB should be. So his numbers in this extended audition may not be enough to earn him a starting job in the future. Arrington is unlikely to return while a bone bruise discovered on his surgically-repaired right knee heals. While there is no official word, concern remains both he and Barrow are done. Lemar Marshall continues to start in Arrington's place.

A week after DE Phillip Daniel returned from missing four weeks due to a groin injury, he aggravated the injury in the first half and did not return. He aggravated the injury and is expected to miss several weeks. Demetric Evans and Ron Warner will share time at DE in his place. Neither is an appealing fantasy play.



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