The second half of the season began with a bang. Sunday's early games provided a number of fantastic finishes and scary stat lines. We saw the last of the unbeatens fall, the probable ending of a coaching career in Miami and a kicker with one of the best stat lines ever.
Let's go around this week's action, starting with the Eagles' visit to Heinz.
Philadelphia Eagles 3, Pittsburgh Steelers 27
Where are Sherman and Mr. Peabody when you need them? I want to see this Steelers team take on the 1972 Dolphins. Well, since I don't have the time machine handy, I guess I'll have to bust out my Madden game.
What's left to say? For the second straight week against an undefeated foe, the Steelers get the job done. They went into this game without Duce Staley, who tweaked a hamstring injury in Friday's practice, leaving pundits to wonder whether Jerome Bettis would dive to the ground at the sight of a thick yard marker. The offensive line created holes big enough to literally drive a bus through, and Bettis rumbled to 149 rushing yards on 33 carries. Bettis had five carries of nine yards or more on the day, but alas, watched his best TD opportunity turn into a two-yard TD pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Jay Riemersma.
Roethlisberger finished the day with two TD passes and two turnovers.
Terrell Owens and the Eagles trailed 21-0 before he made his first catch of the day. He finished with seven catches for 53 yards, breaking his streak of five straight 100-yard games.
A friend of ours likes to use the line – "You only sing when you're winning!" – when the home crowd goes silent in defeat. He sure wasn't quiet, but I don't think that Terrell Owens wasn't singing to Donovan McNabb (15-for-24 for 109 yards and four sacks) on the sidelines. Don't lose heart, Owens and McNabb owners, it's only one game. There will be time to sing again.
New York Jets 17, Buffalo Bills 22
Battling a stiff wind, the Bills rode Willis McGahee to his third 100-yard game (38 carries, 133 yards) in his past four outings. He also found the end zone for the third time in two weeks. Travis Henry, the "co-starter," had only three carries for 15 yards.
The Bills did a good job shutting down Curtis Martin, holding him to 66 rushing yards. For those keeping track, this output leaves Martin 136 yards short of his tenth straight 1,000-yard season.
Santana Moss found the end zone for the first time this season, catching a 51-yard TD pass from backup Quincy Carter in the final minutes. Chad Pennington struggled (7-for-15, 141 yards with one TD and one INT) before leaving with about six minutes left. He had taken a sack on the Jets' previous possession, but the connection to a possible injury was not immediately made, as he got up immediately and left the field by his own power. It was later revealed that he suffered a shoulder sprain due to that sack. Keep an eye on his status as the week progresses.
Moss finished with 157 receiving yards, and fellow wideout Justin McCareins caught a TD pass for the second straight week.
Those who started the Bills defense got a solid outing. Though they allowed 17 points, they forced two turnovers and scored a safety on Carter's first snap after a beautiful Brian Moorman punt. Can he get an assist or something?
Tyrone Wheatley was the start of the Raiders' stat sheet, rushing for 54 yards and two touchdowns. Check your league's waiver wire. Due to his injury problems earlier in the season, he may just be floating around.
Kerry Collins was held without a touchdown for the third time in six starts, and turned the ball over for his seventh straight appearance. He connected with young wide receivers Doug Gabriel and Ronald Curry four times each and finished with 231 passing yards.
Sebastian Janikowski booted the winning FG for the Raiders.
Dallas Cowboys 3, Cincinnati Bengals 26
Over the weekend, it was announced that Peter Warrick will miss the remainder of the season with a fractured bone in his leg. The Bengals then rallied to defeat the visiting Dallas Cowboys.
Jason Witten contributed 98 receiving yards for the 'Boys, who used a three-headed attack of Eddie George, ReShard Lee and Richie Anderson in the backfield. The team rushed for only 109 yards, almost 50 yards less than the average allowed by the Bengals this season.
Vinny Testaverde had four turnovers in his worst game as a Cowboy signal caller.
Shayne Graham booted four field goals for the Bengals.
Washington Redskins 17, Detroit Lions 10
Clinton Portis took matters into his own hands, literally. He carried the ball 34 times for 147 yards and accounted for the 'Skins only TD by passing the ball to Laveranues Coles (four catches for 46 yards). He is the sixth non-QB to do so this season. (I'll get to a stranger one that became No. 7 shortly).
The Washington defense blocked a Detroit punt for a touchdown, and a 24-yard Ola Kimrin FG accounted for the other scoring by the Redskins.
Joey Harrington tossed a late TD pass to Corey Schlesinger to get into the scoring column. He finished the day with 52 attempted passes! He completed 26 of them for 269 yards.
Arizona Cardinals 24, Miami Dolphins 23
Here was yet another fantastic ending to a ballgame. The Dolphins have lost two kickers to injury. Both Matt Bryant and Olindo Mare were inactive for this one, prompting the signing of Bill Gramatica. Well, the former Arizona kicker missed two PAT's, and the final scoreboard shows a one-point defeat.
Jay Fiedler tossed a TD pass to fullback Rob Konrad, completing 12 of 21 passes for 129 yards. He left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder stinger. A.J. Feeley came on in relief, and completed only six of 15 passes with a pick.
Chris Chambers put up solid numbers, with seven catches for 104 yards, and Marty Booker aided the losing effort with four catches for 91 yards. The backfield duo of Sammy Morris and Travis Minor combined for 148 rushing yards, with Morris rushing for one TD.
Rookie wideout Larry Fitzgerald was held in check until the fourth quarter, and scored the winning touchdown with 23 ticks on the clock. He finished with five catches for 92 yards.
In his second game back for the Cardinals, Anquan Boldin tallied five catches for 38 yards.
But in the end, Bill Gramatica will likely be looking for a new gig again.
Trent Green threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns, but his second interception of the day sealed the fate of the Chiefs. Johnnie Morton, Tony Gonzalez and Jason Dunn were on the receiving end of Green's TD strikes. Gonzalez and Eddie Kennison both went over the 100-yard mark for the Chiefs.
Michael Pittman was spectacular, rushing 15 times for 128 yards and three touchdowns. He was off to the races for a 78-yard TD run and scored what proved to be the game-winner from three yards out with 12 minutes left in the game.
Chicago Bears 28, New York Giants 21
The first quarter was downright ugly for the Bears, with Tiki Barber rushing for two touchdowns and the Bears offense contributing minus-3 yards of total offense. But then things got rolling, rookie Craig Krenzel hooked up with fellow rookie Bernard Berrian on a 35-yard TD strike. Less than three minutes later, the Bears found paydirt again when Anthony Thomas ran it in from four yards out.
After another Giants turnover, Chicago drove for a field goal. The ensuing kickoff would define the game. The Giants busted off a huge 90-yard return, but watched it get wiped away with a holding call, bringing the ball back to the Giants' 30. Kurt Warner was picked off on the next play. The Giants defense did well to thwart the drive, forcing the Bears to settle for a second FG by Paul Edinger.
The Bears defense ruled the day, recording seven sacks of Kurt Warner, and forced five turnovers. Alex Brown had four sacks by himself!
Thomas ran for a second touchdown, a 41-yard scamper down the sideline. He finished the day with 109 rushing yards.
David Terrell led Bears receivers with four catches for 70 yards. Krenzel finished the day with only nine completions, but three of them went for 28 yards or more.
Jeremy Shockey scored on a one-yard pass from Warner in the final two minutes. Shockey finished with six catches for 64 yards.
New Orleans Saints 17, San Diego Chargers 43
His efficiency rating was lower than a week ago, but Drew Brees lit up the New Orleans secondary for another monster game. Brees tossed four TD passes, including three to the dynamic Antonio Gates (Kassim Osgood caught the other). He finished the game 22-for-36 and 258 yards.
The Chargers sprinted out to a 17-0 lead, and New Orleans failed to mount a challenge.
Not that Aaron Brooks and company could stop the Chargers offense, but they failed to get rolling until Deuce McAllister's two-yard TD run with just over eight minutes left in the second quarter. It was McAllister's fifth TD of the season.
San Diego fans got a glimpse of Philip Rivers, as he came into the game to run out the clock and take a couple of knees.
Seattle Seahawks 42, San Francisco 49ers 27
Mike Holmgren got the gift of receiving this week, with Darrell Jackson suiting up to play and contributing five catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Hasselbeck cranked it up for 285 yards and three touchdowns against the injury-riddled SF defense. Koren Robinson added two catches for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Shaun Alexander demonstrated yet again how important it is to feed your stud running back. Alexander rushed 26 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
Kevan Barlow scored his fourth touchdown on the season, rushing for 61 yards on 18 carries.
Tim Rattay turned in another sold effort in comeback mode, tossing two TD passes (one each to Brandon Lloyd and Curtis Conway) and throwing for 259 yards. Eric Johnson led the 49ers with five catches for 54 yards.
Houston Texans 13, Denver Broncos 31
The Denver offense was too much for the Texans, with Jake Plummer tossing four TD passes, each to a different receiver. Ashley Lelie caught his fourth TD pass at home this season (fifth overall) and Jeb Putzier got things rolling with a nifty tap dance down the sideline. Plummer finished with 234 passing yards and did not commit a turnover.
Domanick Davis scored two touchdowns for the Texans, both coming from a yard out. He finished with 71 yards on 19 attempts.
Vinatieri booted four field goals and threw a TD pass to receiver Troy Brown on a fake field goal to lead the Patriots to a 40-point explosion at St. Louis. That gave him an astounding 24 points from the kicker position under the Yahoo! Sports default scoring system.
The Rams defense contributed a TD with the recovery of a Brady fumble.
That's it for now. I'm off to crunch some numbers and catch a breather after this incredible slate of games. I'll be back on Tuesday with the week's Looks & Touches and a deeper look inside the box scores.