November 14, 2011
See Sunday's five least valuable players here.
John Fox, Head Coach, Denver Broncos. Every good coach will adapt to the talent he has (or doesn't have), but how many NFL coaches are willing to go to a completely different offense in the middle of the season -- one that's different than the one they've run their whole career, different, in fact, from anything that's ever really existed in the modern-day NFL? Denver isn't running plays no one's ever seen before, but I don't know if anyone's ever built an entire NFL offense around them, either. And Fox has adapted himself to this almost pass-free system mid-stream, like he coaches for Navy or something. It's crazy. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that it's working or that the Broncos have a good offense (and it's definitely not something they can do long-term), but they've squeezed a couple of wins out of it. There was a point where Denver looked like it wouldn't sniff four wins all season long.
Rob Gronkowski(notes), Tight End, New England Patriots. I don't know how it was that Bill Belichick got a sputtering offense to roll so smoothly against a Jets defense that had been destroying people, but if the game plan was to feed Gronk, they might want to make that more of a full-time thing. Gronkowski just wore out the Jets on Sunday night, tuning them up for 113 yards on eight catches and two touchdowns, and had another one called back. At 6-foot-6, with his feet, he's just a really tough cover, and if he's got time and Tom Brady's(notes) got time, no one's going to stop them.
Tony Romo(notes), Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo was Sunday's best quarterback, completing 23-of-26 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns against the suddenly vulnerable Bills. I hesitate to say this, because I will not be surprised in the least if the Cowboys come out next week and lose 56-3 to the Redskins, but with Romo playing well, Laurent Robinson(notes) emerging and DeMarco Murray(notes) just killing it, the Cowboys seem like a force. I am such a sucker.
Larry Fitzgerald(notes), Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald makes this list too infrequently, mostly due to the derelicts the Cardinals trot out to play quarterback, but Fitz shined Sunday. Yes, John Skelton(notes) was a nice surprise with 315 passing yards and three touchdowns, but it was Fitzgerald providing the brilliance on offense for the Cards. He did this, he did this, and there was this against "single coverage on the Japanese fighting fish." I have no idea what that means.
Cortland Finnegan(notes), Cornerback, Tennessee Titans. Finnegan and the Titans defense put Cam Newton(notes) and the Panthers on lockdown. Steve Smith, who had Finnegan in his face all day long, was held to just 33 yards. Finnegan led a Titans secondary that assisted their pass rush in sacking Cam Newton five times on the day. Finnegan even got one of them himself.
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