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Sam Farmer ON THE NFL

Events are unlikely at every turn

October 06, 2008|Sam Farmer

A month ago, we'd never dream of asking these questions:

Can anyone stop the Miami Dolphins?

Are the Indianapolis Colts finally good enough to win a home game?

Do the New England Patriots recall a guy named Randy Moss?

Is Jim Zorn the NFL's coach of the year?

OK, so that last one's a little premature, but considering the way Zorn's Washington Redskins are playing -- with consecutive road victories over NFC East rivals Dallas and Philadelphia -- he's certainly in the early running. But so are fellow rookie coaches Mike Smith, whose Atlanta Falcons won Sunday at Green Bay, and Miami's Tony Sparano, whose Dolphins beat San Diego.

It's hard to overstate the difficulty of beating the Cowboys and Eagles on the road in successive weeks. Where some might curse the scheduling gods, Redskins running back Clinton Portis sees a conspiracy.

"I think the NFL was trying to throw us to the fire, to get rid of the 'Skins out of this division," he said. "I think that we play our best football with our backs up against the wall."

Now, with that wall reduced to rubble, the Redskins are looking at miles of open road ahead. Their next three opponents are a combined 1-11.

Then again, when it comes to the most unpredictable league in sports, losers can become winners almost overnight. The Dolphins know something about that, reinventing themselves just a season after they were nearly perfection's mirror image, going 1-15. The franchise now has beaten New England and San Diego in consecutive games. You might remember those teams from last season's AFC championship game.

Speaking of remembering, the Patriots shook their collective amnesia and worked Moss back into the offense Sunday after he all but disappeared from the radar screen for two games. He caught five passes for 111 yards, including a 66-yard bomb from Matt Cassel, who, if you squinted, bore a fleeting resemblance to Tom Brady on the play.

The Patriots are a far different team without Brady, but San Diego has no convenient excuse for its struggles. The Chargers can't even say they were caught off guard by the 11 direct snaps to Miami running back Ronnie Brown, who turned one of those into a touchdown. The Dolphins did the same thing to New England, with Brown running for three touchdowns and throwing for a fourth.

(New England even tore a page from Miami's playbook, scoring a touchdown against San Francisco on Sunday with a direct snap to Kevin Faulk.)

So the single wing has been a major migraine for defenses, which only means we'll see a lot more of it this season.

In Houston, the Texans probably wish they'd kept the ball out of the hands of their quarterback. Sage Rosenfels, filling in for an ill Matt Schaub, had to feel sick himself after fumbling twice in the waning minutes and watching the Colts erase a 17-point deficit with three touchdowns in little more than two minutes.

Credit the Indianapolis defense with that victory, knocking the ball from Rosenfels' grasp two times in crunch time, and providing an all-TiVo highlight with a hit that sent him helicoptering to the turf.

The next challenge for the Colts is finally christening Lucas Oil Stadium, their new home, with a victory. It won't be easy, and it might not come soon. The upcoming stretch in their schedule is a stomach-turner: Baltimore, at Green Bay, at Tennessee, New England, and at Pittsburgh.

Of those opponents, the most vulnerable might be the Packers, who have lost three in a row and whose defense has looked very suspect lately.

Regardless, Indianapolis is no longer the king of the AFC South, and it's not Jacksonville either. That designation belongs to the Titans, who beat Baltimore to collect their eighth consecutive regular-season victory to bump their record to 5-0 for the first time in their history.

With Buffalo losing at Arizona, that means Tennessee is the AFC's only undefeated team -- a highly unlikely scenario a month ago, especially considering the Titans have already switched quarterbacks.

The QB-go-round kept spinning Sunday, with Buffalo replacing injured Trent Edwards with J.P. Losman, Tampa Bay turning to Jeff Garcia when Brian Griese went down, and a couple of banged-up passers -- Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and San Diego's Philip Rivers -- wincing with every throw.

Life was supposed to get better for Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, who has battled injuries all season. After all, he was getting his top receivers back. It didn't matter. The Seahawks were stomped by the undefeated New York Giants, 44-6.

What else is new?

Since 2003, the Seahawks are 5-13 in games played in the Eastern time zone.

So, whereas Redskins players shouted, "There's a new beast in the East!" as they triumphantly made their way to the locker room, the teams from the opposite coast faltered. The Seahawks, 49ers and Chargers all lost.

That means the weekend's West Coast winners were the Oakland Raiders and Tom Cable, their just-named head coach.

Congratulations, Raiders.

And good luck coming back from your week off.


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