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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Tilting the playing field

Competitive balance is thrown for a loss as six teams win by at least 28 points. The number of shutouts so far this season: seven.

October 26, 2009|SAM FARMER

So much for competitive balance.

Parity? A rarity.

It was on Sunday, at least, as six NFL teams won by at least four touchdowns. That ties an NFL record for most such blowouts on one day (Dec. 20, 1970).

Green Bay beat Cleveland by 28, New England beat Tampa Bay by 28, San Diego beat Kansas City by 30, Cincinnati beat Chicago by 35, Indianapolis beat St. Louis by 36, and the New York Jets beat Oakland by 38.

"You never want to lose at home, and you never want to lose in this fashion," Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel said after a 37-7 loss to the Chargers. "It's going to be a hard film to watch."

At least he doesn't play for the Raiders, who were blanked, 38-0. That brings the league season total to seven shutouts. Fifteen is the most for a season in the 2000 decade. But not all games that begin as blowouts end that way. Ask the Miami Dolphins. They had a three-touchdown advantage at home against New Orleans on Sunday, becoming the first team this season to take a lead against the undefeated Saints.

It didn't last. Drew Brees overcame his worst day of the season -- three interceptions and five sacks -- to direct the Saints to a 46-34 victory. Leaning more on the run than the pass, the NFL's highest-scoring team topped 40 points for the fourth time.

In collecting their sixth consecutive victory, the Saints joined the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos as the only teams to remain unblemished in their right-hand columns. That marks the first time in league history there have been three undefeated teams through the opening seven weeks of the season.

The NFL might not have the "on any given Sunday" feel it has in some seasons, but you won't hear those three teams complaining about it.

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Recognize him?

UCLA's Spencer Havner tried for three seasons to break into the league as a linebacker, first with Washington, then with Green Bay. No luck.

He didn't need a new career path, just a new position. He switched to tight end for the Packers before this season and Sunday scored his first touchdown. He caught a short pass from Aaron Rodgers, turned up the sideline and dived into the end zone for a 45-yard score.

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Blast from the past

The 49ers were looking for an offensive surge heading into their game at Houston, and they thought the return of running back Frank Gore would provide one. Or maybe it would be the debut of rookie receiver Michael Crabtree that would give them that boost.

Instead, San Francisco got scoring help from the most unexpected of places: forgotten top pick Alex Smith. With Shaun Hill struggling, Smith came off the bench in the second half to throw three touchdown passes and almost lead the 49ers back. Almost.

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Recharged

The Chargers exorcised quite a few demons in their thrashing of Kansas City, sending the message that their season isn't over yet.

They were able to run the ball, gaining 135 yards to more than double their bottom-dwelling average of 57.6. (Running LaDainian Tomlinson near the goal line is still a problem, however.) They protected Philip Rivers, who threw for three touchdowns and 268 yards. And they finally blew out an opponent, albeit a shaky one, something they had yet to do this season.

Next up, San Diego plays host to the Oakland Raiders, whom they have beaten 12 consecutive times.

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Octo-Tom

In the second quarter in London, New England opened a 21-0 lead on Tampa Bay. That, coupled with a 59-0 victory over Tennessee a week before, means the Tom Brady-led Patriots had outscored those opponents, 80-0. Not since the 1985 Chicago Bears had any team run up an 80-0 tab on any opponent or consecutive opponents. That team, of course, went on to win the Super Bowl.

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Mirror, mirror

When the 5-0 Colts played at the 0-5 Rams, it was the 12th time in the modern era in which an undefeated team that is 5-0 or better played a winless team that is 0-5 or worse. One of those winless teams wound up winning that game -- the 0-5 Giants beat the 5-0 Buccaneers in 1979 -- but the Colts-Rams game wasn't close.

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Brett familiar

From gunslinger to game manager . . . and back again. After making it through the first six games of the season with just two interceptions, Minnesota's Brett Favre looked like the old high-risk, high-reward gambler at Pittsburgh. He had 51 pass attempts for 334 yards, both season highs, but had two turnovers in the fourth quarter that were returned for touchdowns. Lamar Woodley scored on a 77-yard fumble return, and Keyaron Fox returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown.

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Did we just see that?

The Jets dominated the Raiders so thoroughly that at one point during the blowout, New York rookie Mark Sanchez was spotted on the bench discreetly eating a hot dog. Sanchez has always said he's a hungry player, and, hey, a guy's got to eat.

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Quotes of note

Rivers on San Diego's 30-point victory: "It was a game we could have scored 50-something, we felt like."

Mario Williams, Houston defensive end, on fellow No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith: "I didn't know who the guy was when he came out. I really didn't."

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati running back, who ran for a career-high 189 yards against Chicago, a team that cut him in June 2008: "A couple of drives, I found myself having to calm myself down and gather my emotions to stay poised. Once I got past that, we were good to go."

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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Zero hour

Shutouts in each NFL season since 2000 (There have been seven so far in 2009):

*--* YEAR/ No 2004/4 2000/13 2005/6 2001/10 2006/15 2002/7 2007/5 2003/12 2008/6 *--*

Source: NFL

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