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Gibberman: Week 4 thoughts and observations

The NFL has the impossible of job of balancing protecting its players and trying to not effect how the game is played. The problem is like being on a seesaw, when the weight shifts to one side it becomes off-balanced. Two questionable roughing the passer calls against Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive end Haloti Ngata led to 14 Patriots points in a closely contested game between Baltimore and New England. In the New York Giants-Kansas City Chiefs game, Chiefs safety Jarrad Page was flagged for a personal foul for hitting NYG WR Steve Smith with a vicious soldier.

Being on the outside I see all the different angles. I understand why Ray Lewis was so upset after their loss to the Pats and I get why Todd Haley was ready to blow another gasket after the personal foul call; defenders can no longer play on instincts or read and react, they have to think plays through. A defensive player does not have the ability to fly around the field trying to decapitate the players on the opposite side of the field, it has become more important than ever to make sure when you tackle you wrap up and throw the guy with the ball to the ground. This is another advantage to a game that is already favoring the offenses.

I understand why Commissioner Goodell and the NFL owner’s are enforcing these rules. The NFL is a business and its biggest selling points are the skilled position players on offense. No one wants to watch the Patriots play without Tom Brady or Randy Moss. Stopping wide receivers from getting destroyed over the middle and quarterbacks from suffering season ending injuries is very high on the NFL priority list. As fans this is something we are going to have to accept and get used to, the game is changing and it isn’t going back.

Now, lets hit the Week 4 12 pack:

1. Let’s start off the with the Baltimore Ravens-New England Patriots game. If I’m the rest of the AFC I am very scared about the New England Patriots moving forward. They aren’t even playing good football and they beat the team many including myself considered the favorites of the AFC. Brady still hasn’t found his rhythm, their missing Jerrod Mayo – the Pats best defensive player, and this was Wes Welker’s first game back from injury. This is a game the Baltimore Ravens should have won and would have had a chance to if Ravens WR Mark Clayton doesn’t drop a crucial 4th down pass on Baltimore’s final drive.

2. In the battle of the undefeated the New Orleans Saints took down the New York Jets 24-10. Mark Sanchez played like a rookie accounting for 14 of the Saints 24 points and turning the ball over four times. Part of the blame goes on Sanchez and a lot of the blame goes on Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Schotty is not putting Sanchez in situations for him to be successful; he is asking him to make too many plays. With a defense like New York has the Jets should be playing field position and waiting for the other team to make a mistake. On two 3rd and 1 plays Brian called pass plays. For running backs Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and Shonne Greene to combine for only 21 carries is unacceptable.

3. With all the early season talk centered around New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees; Peyton Manning was flying under the radar to start. That has now changed and after four weeks Peyton Manning is starting to run away with the NFL MVP award. Manning is flat out incredible. He has thrown for over 300 yards in all four games and in the last two has gone over 350 yards. Outside of Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, Peyton is working with a very inexperienced offense with WR Austin Collie (caught his first NFL TD against the Seahawks) and WR Pierre Garcon (had 70 receiving yards). The Colts are 4-0 and they are running away the AFC South.

4. Week 4 gave two examples of why NFL teams will always take a risk on players with questionable backgrounds. Denver Broncos WR Brandon Marshall had an incredible TD catch that ended up being the game winning touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner Aquib Talib had three interceptions against the Washington Redskins. If you can make plays on Sunday there will always be a team willing to give you another chance no matter what you have done off the field or how immature you act on the field at times.

5. Speaking of the Denver Broncos they are making me eat my words early this season. Through Week 4 Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels is the NFL Coach of the Year. With all the turmoil that the Broncos had in the off-season and through training camp it is incredible that this team is 4-0. This is a case of a nice early easy season schedule giving a team confidence and right now they are on a roll with a two game lead over the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West.

6. If you didn’t believe me last week, Week 4 brought more proof of how important special teams are. The Cleveland Browns almost won a game against the Cincinnati Bengals because of Josh Cribbs punt/kick returns and Shaun Rodgers blocking what would have been the game winning extra point. San Diego Chargers full back Jacob Hester ripped the ball out of Steelers punt returner Stefan Logan, taking it for a TD and then Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin fell asleep on the kickoff by not sending out his hands team and the Chargers recovered an onside kick. Pittsburgh still won the game, but it was a lot closer than it should have been. The Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears were knotted up at 21 when Bears rookie WR Johnny Knox returned a kick off 102 yards for a TD and took the air out of a young Lions team.

7. The Cincinnati Bengals have found their formula for how to win football games; get a defensive TD and come up with clutch 4th quarter drives. This week it was Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers returning a fumble for a touchdown and Carson Palmer finding a way to get it done late in the 4th quarter and in overtime. On a side note my pick for rookie of the year, Bengals running back Bernard Scott finally decided to make an appearance. He had two big runs on the Cinncy’s game tying drive and finished with 6 carries for 41 yards. I thought he would be starting by this point in the season, never expected Cedric Benson to actually be any good.

8. Being four games into the 2009-10 NFL season were at the time where your football team is what is and you can no longer look back at what you accomplished the year before. Tennessee is no longer the best zero win football team; they are just a bad football team. Jeff Fisher’s squad turns the ball over and they can’t stop the pass. Fisher has gone away from what made the Titans such a successful franchise in the past; it’s power run game. The Titans offense has become too finesse. It is time for Tennessee to get back to the basics.

9. Browns Head Coach Eric Mangini continues to show why he is one of the worst coaches in the NFL. In a game where it was clear that his most dangerous weapon was KR/WR/RB Josh Cribbs, he got exactly two touches on offense. Cribbs racked up 223 total yards on punt returns and kick returns; it is inexcusable that Mangini doesn’t find more ways to get the ball in his hands.

10. Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley has been much maligned early in his tenure. Even though they lost to the New York Giants I was impressed with the effort his squad gave. They didn’t quit, scoring two late touchdowns and the Chiefs followed Haley’s lead by fighting to the very end. KC was clearly outmatched it did not stop Haley from playing to win instead of keeping the game close. I loved going for an onside kick to start the second half and in a loss I think Haley is starting to gain the respect of his players.

11. No one can see the Jacksonville Jaguars play football in Jacksonville but coach Jack Del Rio has the Jags playing good football. For the second straight week they have put up over 30 points and evened their record at 2-2. The Jags have a realistic shot to be 6-2 with their next four games being against the Seahawks, Rams, Titans, and Chiefs. Most people thought Del Rio wouldn’t make it past this season, but David Garrard and co. look like they are saving their coaches job.

12. The Pittsburgh Steelers found their running game. Last week I talked about the maturation of 49ers TE Vernon Davis this week we saw the same type of improvement in Steelers RB Rashad Mendenhall rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers. Mendenhall who was benched in Week 3 by Head Coach Mike Tomlin responded by bulldozing the Chargers using his strength and speed. Rashad made Steelers fans forget Willie Parker very quickly.

Rookie Watch

Cleveland Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi from the University of Georgia exploded onto the scene with an 8-catch 148-yard day. In the first three games of the season he only had two catches.

Injury Impact

The big injury in Week 4 was the heel injury to New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Manning is scheduled to get an MRI on Monday, but they do not expect the injury to be serious. The Giants could have Manning take the week off with the Oakland Raiders up in Week 5. Ei’s back up is former #1 pick David Carr.

Week 5 Look Ahead

Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens: A battle for first place in the AFC North. Can the Bengals beat the Steelers and Ravens in a three-week period?

Atlanta Falcons @ San Francisco 49ers: We find out how good the 49ers defense really is when they face one of the most diverse offenses in the NFL.

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos: The Broncos go for their second straight upset as they continue to try and prove they should be considered in the elite class of the AFC.