One week after throwing five interceptions in a home loss to Carolina, Kurt Warner(notes) traveled to Chicago and absolutely torched the Bears. Torched them. Set them ablaze, then walked away. This wasn't merely like a great NFL quarterback versus a bad defense. No, this was like a great pyromaniac versus an abandoned house.
Warner passed for 261 yards and five touchdowns. The Cardinals scored on each of their first six possessions. Larry Fitzgerald(notes) finished with nine catches for 123 yards. Tim Hightower(notes) and Beanie Wells(notes) combined for 149 rushing yards.
It's tempting to entirely devote tonight's introduction to the efforts of Arizona's offense. At the very least, we should remind you that the Cards have one of the league's friendliest rest-of-season schedules, including matchups with the Lions and Rams in Weeks 15 and 16. Fantasy owners should invest wherever they can.
But Chicago's painfully overmatched defense cannot be ignored. In the Bears' last two games against credible opponents – nope, we're not counting the Browns – they've allowed 86 points, 397 rushing yards, 10 passing TDs and 886 total net yards. They've recorded just one sack. What the Bengals did to them in Week 7, the Cardinals repeated on Sunday.
Chicago will face San Francisco, Philadelphia and Minnesota in the weeks ahead, so the 40-point/400-yard games probably aren't at an end. They can't rush the passer, they can't cover, and they can't stop the run. And DT Tommie Harris(notes) should be facing a suspension following his ejection for idiocy against the Cards. And CB Charles Tillman(notes) was lost in the second quarter in Week 9 due to a shoulder injury (although it can be argued that Fitzgerald lost him much earlier).
"Don’t have a lot of reasons to give you why we played that way," said Lovie Smith.
Fantasy owners, play your Niners on Thursday night…all of 'em. The Bears have four days to fix the defense, and no one can explain what's broken.
• The New York media will likely perform a thorough (if premature) autopsy on the Giants over the next two weeks, while the team is on a bye. That should be rather entertaining. The Giants' defense really had no answer for Vincent Jackson(notes) in the one-point Week 9 loss to San Diego. Jackson caught five passes for 58 yards and two TDs, including the game-winning score with 21 seconds remaining. LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) carried 12 times for the Chargers, gaining only 1.8 yards a pop, and he was denied again at the goal line.
• Tennessee's gameplan seems brutally simple with Vince Young(notes) at quarterback: Give the ball to Chris Johnson, constantly. For the second straight week, the Titans pulled out a victory with Young attempting fewer than 20 passes. Johnson hit triple-digits in rushing yards again, finding the end zone twice (again). His second touchdown was a 2-yard run off an option pitch from Young that appeared to have no chance at all, but Johnson's speed and acceleration are really unmatched. Highlight here beginning at the 1:14 mark.
• Atlanta coach Mike Smith would like you to know that he was not trying to assault DeAngelo Hall(notes) during Sunday's sideline battle, despite appearances. "All I was trying to do was restore order," he said after the game. Matt Ryan(notes) offered this, with a smile: "It's good when your coach has your back."
• Of course the Saints won that game. It's not like they've never seen a 17-3 deficit before. (Miami, Week 7). Drew Brees(notes) finished with 330 passing yards and a long touchdown pass to Robert Meachem(notes). Video here. Pierre Thomas(notes) dominated the backfield work, with 18 touches for 81 total yards and one TD. Mike Bell(notes) had just five carries for 17 yards; Reggie Bush(notes) had only two carries for 16, but he added seven receptions for 37.
• Whenever a prima donna receiver expresses dissatisfaction with their workload, they typically get a slight bump in my ranks. I haven't collected hard data to back up this practice, but it generally works out. TJ Houshmandzadeh(notes) came through on Sunday, catching six passes, including a touchdown. The Seahawks had a surprisingly difficult time with the pesky Lions, but they eventually won by double-digits thanks to five Matthew Stafford(notes) interceptions (and his completion percentage of just 52.4, and his 4.8 yards per attempt). Calvin Johnson(notes) was quiet in his return, catching just two passes on six targets.
• Alex Smith completed 29 passes on Sunday, and 17 went to either Frank Gore(notes) or Vernon Davis(notes). Michael Crabtree(notes) was heavily targeted, but infrequently found (three catches, 30 yards). Jason Hill(notes) finished with 50 receiving yards and a pair of TDs, but he's at best the fourth option in a low-yield attack.
• Jim Zorn intends to be "cautious" with Clinton Portis'(notes) return. Ladell Betts(notes) ran for 70 yards and a score after Portis was concussed. Betts is a reasonable speculative add, although Denver is on the schedule in Week 10. The Broncos have allowed just 3.4 yards per carry through seven games.
When asked to describe the play that knocked him out against the Falcons, Portis had this to say: "You tell me what happened. I don't remember what happened." That's never a good sign.
• Ray Rice(notes) led the Ravens in both rushing and receiving on Sunday, gaining 135 yards on 20 touches. He picked up the final 35 yards on the game's final play in what was essentially garbage time, but every yard counts in our world. Rice's short-yardage touchdown in the fourth quarter accounted all of Baltimore's scoring; he now leads all NFL running backs in receptions.
• Scott Pianowski piled up a fantastic collection of tweets this afternoon, for those who dare to follow.
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• At halftime in New Orleans, DeAngelo Williams(notes) had 115 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He went practically untouched on his 66-yard first quarter TD. If you don't think the Saints are missing DT Sedrick Ellis(notes), check the tape.
Carolina led New Orleans after two quarters, 17-6, but it typically takes 40-something to beat the Saints.
• San Francisco is the Land of Misfit Quarterbacks today, as Vince Young and Alex Smith are dueling. Both QBs have touchdowns to their credit. Young scored on the ground, per his usual, and Smith hit Jason Hill for a 12-yard TD with just 20 seconds remaining in the first half.
• You won't get many short-yardage touchdowns out of Julius Jones(notes), but his three-yard score against the Lions was excellent. He took a shot from Larry Foote(notes) behind the line of scrimmage, then simply recalculated his route and kept going.
• The final numbers are in for the Houston backfield. Ryan Moats(notes) had 16 carries for 38 yards against the Colts and he added three catches for 15. Moats had a 1-yard TD reception, though he also lost a fumble. Steve Slaton(notes) carried six times for just 17 yards, but he broke the plane on a 1-yard rushing score and caught six passes for 12 yards. Uncharacteristically, he did not fumble.
• Jason Campbell(notes) suffered chest and ankle injuries in the loss to Atlanta, though he kept returning. It was an admirable effort on Sunday, even if the 'Skins were doomed from the start. Washington gets Denver at home next week, in a game that has 16-9 written all over it.
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• Josh Freeman(notes) made his first NFL start much earlier than his employer intended. This was supposed to be an observe-and-learn year. But the rookie quarterback led Tampa Bay to an improbable, confidence pool-killing win over the Packers in Week 9.
Freeman passed for 205 yards and three touchdowns against Green Bay, and he was at his best late, when his team was behind. He directed a 72-yard fourth quarter scoring drive that gave the Bucs a 31-28 lead with 4:14 remaining, connecting with Sammie Stroughter(notes) for a 7-yard TD. Earlier, Freeman tossed touchdown passes to Kellen Winslow(notes) and Derrick Ward(notes).
(Quick memo to Green Bay: Are we sure that this is the best possible use of Aaron Kampman(notes)? He's supposed to drop into coverage and contain running backs? Really? Because he's known to have sacking skills).
Unfortunately, there aren't actually any great fantasy starts for Freeman anytime soon (at MIA in Week 10, vs. NO in Week 11). But he looked terrific on Sunday, enhancing his keeper value in a big way. And those DeBerg Era uniforms didn't hurt.
• Not sure if Shutdown Corner accepts Least Valuable Player nominations, but we'd like to offer LaRon Landry's(notes) name for consideration this week. It was Landry's personal foul that ignited the sideline melee in Atlanta, and his unwillingness to challenge Michael Turner(notes) allowed the Burner's 58-yard fourth quarter TD. Lowlight here. That was shameful. (Deion would call it "a business decision.") Turner finished with 166 rushing yards and two scores, so he victimized basically everyone. Landry was not alone.
• For a few minutes there, our early concession in the Cards-Bears game seemed like a mistake. (See below). Jay Cutler(notes) threw a pair of fourth quarter touchdown passes to tight end Greg Olsen(notes), bringing the Bears within two scores. But then Cutler tossed a brutal pick to setup the Cards inside the red zone. Four plays later, Kurt Warner had his fifth TD pass of the game and the defenseless Bears trailed 41-21.
Olsen doubled his '09 TD total on Sunday. The first touchdown was particularly impressive, as Olsen escaped double coverage for a 33-yard grab. But then Arizona just kept scoring and scoring and scoring…
• Whenever Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) carries a collection of defenders into the end zone, we're going to show it to your. Video here. That was delightful. Give an assist to No. 77, guard Uche Nwaneri(notes). He may have nudged the pile.
• Somewhere, there's a fantasy owner who's going to lose their Week 9 matchup by a single point, because Reggie Wayne(notes) threw an interception. That's a miserable feeling; we've all been there. Houston had a chance to tie the Colts at the end of regulation, but Kris Brown(notes) just missed a 42-yard field goal.
• The separation Wes Welker(notes) is able to get within the first second following the snap is just ridiculous. Welker caught another nine passes for 84 yards today, although the highlights belonged to Randy Moss(notes) (6-147-1).
• Cedric Benson(notes) has now carried 71 times over his last two games, which puts him on pace for 396 this year. His career high is 214. If you're a Cedric owner, this is at least a small concern. You need him at full strength for the fantasy playoffs, when the Bengals have an incredibly friendly schedule (at SD in Week 15, vs. KC in Week 16). Benson topped 100 yards against Baltimore for the second time this season. If anyone would have actually accepted the '09 yardage bet we were offering back in August, we would have already lost.
• This blog will not formally endorse Chris Chambers(notes), because he's just excruciating to watch. (Drop…15-yard reception…drop…) But it's nonetheless our duty to report that he caught a pair of fourth quarter TDs from Matt Cassel(notes) in the Chiefs' failed comeback at Jacksonville. If you happen to own him, start shopping. Chambers finished with 70 receiving yards.
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• Clinton Portis endured an ugly helmet-to-helmet-to-helmet collision with DBs Thomas DeCoud(notes) and Chevis Jackson(notes) in Atlanta, then sat on the sidelines concussed with a towel over his head. Ladell Betts has taken over. The hits on Portis were vicious; he was disturbingly motionless after they were delivered. Don't be surprised if he's out in Week 10.
This seems like a joke, but it's not: Atlanta head coach Mike Smith led a swarm of Falcons who descended on DeAngelo Hall during a sideline fracas. (DeAngelo, you do not want to battle Smith. He's a biter). Check the video here via NFL.com. Note how Jim Zorn eventually wanders onto the field, dazed.
• Randy Moss made an obscene 36-yard one-handed grab along the sideline in the first quarter in New England, with Miami rookie corner Vontae Davis(notes) draped all over him. Highlight here. Great coverage, better catch. The reception by Moss set up a 1-yard TD for Laurence Maroney(notes), who crossed the goal line untouched.
• If Moss has the day's most difficult catch, Jacksonville's Mike Sims-Walker(notes) has the easiest. The Chiefs simply ignored Sims-Walker on this play, with predictable results.
• Ricky Williams(notes) scored on a 15-yard run via the option, taking a pitch from Pat White(notes). That sentence would have seemed highly unlikely in a blog post about the NFL just two years ago, but the Dolphins have really rewritten the rules.
• Today's leading tacklers: Kickers! Chicago's Robbie Gould(notes) and Kansas City's Ryan Succop(notes) both made touchdown-saving takedowns on return attempts following missed field goals. Antrel Rolle(notes) and Rashean Mathis(notes) were their victims.
• Ryan Moats earned the start at Indianapolis, following his three-touchdown performance against the user-friendly Bills in Week 8. He continued the Texans' proud tradition of fumbling, however, coughing up the football at the 1-yard line at the end of a six-minute drive. The fumble was not called on the field, but the replay team determined that A) Moats lost the ball before he was down, B) the defender who recovered reestablished himself inbounds and C) the play resulted in a touchback. Houston fans are encouraged to share their opinions on A, B and C in comments.
• No mas, Arizona. Chicago hereby concedes. (Tommie Harris tapped out much earlier, earning an ejection for an obvious cheap-shot). Kurt Warner threw four touchdown passes in the first half, connecting twice with Larry Fitzgerald. Tim Hightower absolutely stonewalled a blitzing Bears linebacker on Fitz's first score, allowing Kurt Warner to comfortably review all options. Let's hope for some garbage time stats, Cutler owners.
• Baltimore's Fabian Washington(notes) dropped a relatively easy pick when Carson Palmer(notes) threw deep into triple-coverage in the first quarter. The drive ended with a 1-yard Cedric Benson touchdown. Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata(notes) is inactive due to an ankle injury, so Benson has encountered little resistance up the middle. Chris Henry was carted off after a forearm injury that appeared to be serious.
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Early updates: According to multiple reports – including this one from NFL Network's Jason La Canfora and this one from ESPN's Adam Schefter – Philadelphia running back Brian Westbrook (concussion) WILL NOT PLAY in the Sunday night game against the Cowboys. Westbrook didn't practice on Friday, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by the news. LeSean McCoy(notes) obviously gets a significant value bump here. … Ryan Moats is expected to get the start at running back for Houston in Week 9, though Steve Slaton will likely have a role (other that being the Texans' designated fumbler). … Roddy White(notes) (knee) is ACTIVE against Washington. … Anquan Boldin(notes) (ankle) is INACTIVE at Chicago. Steve Breaston(notes) gets a value boost there.
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Please join us at noon ET for Fantasy Football Live, where the advice might be sketchy, but the entertainment value is quite high. Check back with Sunday Scene throughout the day for updates, observations and valuable prizes.
Photos via Getty Images (Wookiee), AP Images (DeAngelo, Portis) and US Presswire (Breaston, Freeman)