Winners and losers: RB makes Pats look foolish

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Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown throws a touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Fasano during the third quarter of their 38-13 win over the Patriots.

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

One play, four touchdowns. Ronnie Brown to the right. Ronnie Brown to the left. Ronnie Brown up the middle. And for good measure, a Ronnie Brown scoring pass.

With a total of five touchdowns – four stemming from a direct-snap, college-style play – the Miami Dolphins running back was the most shocking winner in the league on Sunday. It's hard to remember the New England Patriots looking so befuddled on defense, let alone brought to their knees by a single play that they couldn't remedy.

"Brutal," is what New England defensive end Ty Warren labeled it for reporters afterward.

Despite entering Sunday's game as big underdogs, Brown and the Dolphins stunned New England 38-13 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Brown, who was coming off reconstructive knee surgery last season, made his first start of the season after grinding out 48 yards and 2.8 yards per carry in his first two games.

But after reviewing game film, Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Dan Henning wanted to throw a play at New England that would keep them off balance. So they lined Brown up for a direct snap behind center, with quarterback Chad Pennington splitting wide. On the play, Brown took the snap, faked to running back Ricky Williams who faked a reverse, and then picked a hole and took off.

And when it worked once – first on Brown's two-yard touchdown to the right of center in the first quarter – the Dolphins decided to work it in again … and again … and again. The Patriots never came close to stopping it, watching Brown score on carries of two, five and 62 yards. He also rolled out once after the direct snap, passing for a 19-yard touchdown to tight end Anthony Fasano. All of that and a garden variety 15-yard touchdown run off a handoff in the second quarter.

It was Brown's most productive scoring day since high school, making him this weekend's biggest winner. Some of Sunday's other winners and losers …


WINNERS
WINNERS
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Vikings QB Gus Frerotte is in his 15th NFL season.

(Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)

•The Minnesota Vikings: It wasn't pretty, but this is exactly what coach Brad Childress had in mind when he replaced quarterback Tarvaris Jackson with Gus Frerotte in the team's win over the Carolina Panthers: Limit mistakes, move the ball in spots, and let the defense do its job. But there is still plenty left ahead with road games at the Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints in the next two.

• Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler: This Arena League pace won't last, but Jay Cutler is blistering teams at this point – 914 passing yards and eight touchdowns in three games. And Brandon Marshall is right there with him – 321 receiving yards and two touchdowns in only two games.

• Seattle Seahawks RB back Julius Jones: The former reserve has 267 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games. Don't hurry back, Maurice Morris.

• The Philadelphia Eagles defense and coordinator Jim Johnson: After all the talk this week about the lack of a pass rush, the Eagles notched nine sacks in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and showed they are a force to be reckoned with in the NFC. Safety Brian Dawkins also looked like himself again, after getting ripped as too old and too slow in Philadelphia over the past week.

• The San Francisco 49ers coaching staff: Mike Martz got his revenge on the Detroit Lions and did it in relatively kind fashion by running Frank Gore 27 times. And Mike Nolan is now sitting on an improbable 2-1 start after entering the season with his job on the line.

• The Buffalo Bills: With upcoming games at the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals, are they looking at 5-0 heading into their Week 6 bye? It's time to start believing it.

• The Baltimore Ravens defense: Granted, it came against an inept Cleveland Browns offense, but who would have guessed the Ravens would have improved to 2-0 at this point and once again look dominant on defense? Ed Reed returned just in time to show that he's still one of the biggest defensive playmakers in the NFL.

• Gimmicks: At least four running backs took direct snaps on Sunday with a decent amount of success – Miami's Brown, Buffalo's Fred Jackson, the Oakland Raiders' Darren McFadden and the Chicago Bears' Garrett Wolfe. Count on it continuing as teams find more creative wrinkles to throw at defenses.

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Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew had 166 total yards and one rushing touchdown against the Colts.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

• The Jacksonville Jaguars running game: There's nothing like the swiss cheese Indianapolis Colts defense to get Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor going. That 228-yard combined effort looked like everything we loved last season.

• New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo: I had my doubts without Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, but with 12 sacks over the last two games, this defensive front looks as tough as ever.

• Miami Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter: He talked a lot of smack about the Patriots and quarterback Matt Cassel during the week, then went out and piled up three sacks. Porter hasn't looked this good in two years.

• The Atlanta Falcons: Yeah, the 2-1 start is a mirage at the expense of two terrible teams in Detroit and the Kansas City Chiefs. But give general manager Tom Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith credit. The team's attitude looks different from last season. And with a little luck, the Falcons could win seven games this season.

• Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan: A seventh-round pick out of Samford in the 2006 draft, Finnegan has been spectacular, intercepting his fourth pass of the season on Sunday and returning it for the game-clinching 99-yard touchdown against the Houston Texans.

• Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell: Two fourth-quarter wins in two weeks. The more I watch Campbell's composure, the more I like him. And suddenly that opening-week loss to the Giants doesn't look so bad.

• Falcons defensive end John Abraham: He's got six sacks in three games this season. People just assume the best defensive end in the NFC South is Julius Peppers. I'm not sure anymore.

• The Dallas Cowboys: Felix Jones, Miles Austin and Martellus Bennett – that's the kind of depth that gets you over the hump when it matters. Beating Green Bay without a signifcant contribution from T.O. and Patrick Crayton is yet another step forward for this team.

• The NFC East. The Division has both of the NFC's last two remaining undefeated teams and a combined record of 10-2. The NFC South is impressive, but this is the division that scores and plays defense.


LOSERS
LOSERS
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Lions QB Jon Kitna was sacked four times by the 49ers.

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

• The Lions: The Ford family should be ashamed of itself. They are stealing money from fans. This franchise is an embarrassment. Tear it all down again, Matt Millen. Maybe a dozen rebuilding projects is a charm.

• The Patriots' defense: Blame the coaches, the game plan and the players. The defense was awful from top to bottom. I have never seen one play – the direct snap to Brown – make one team look so foolish. The Patriots looked completely frozen on their feet. So much for in-game adjustments.

• Browns quarterback Derek Anderson: He looked slow, non-athletic and plodding against Baltimore. Brady Quinn better start warming his arm. Anderson's stock is falling faster than Fannie Mae.

• Texans coach Gary Kubiak: First he failed to throw the challenge flag late in the second quarter on a 37-yard catch in which Tennessee's Justin McCareins clearly didn't get his feet inbounds. Then he didn't throw the challenge flag again on the same drive when LenDale White was credited for a one-yard touchdown in which he didn't cross the goal line. And then there was the terrible call in the third quarter, forgoing the field goal and going for it on fourth-and-4 with over five minutes left and trailing by 12. Those three points could have changed the complexion of the game in the fourth quarter.

• Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning: The Colts still go as Manning goes, and his two interceptions cost Indianapolis dearly Sunday. If he doesn't get his rhythm right after next week's bye and against Houston's terrible secondary in Week 5, this could be a long season for the Colts.

• Kansas City quarterbacks: The Chiefs are the first team since 1960 to start three different quarterbacks in first three games of a season. And frankly, none of them look like anything better than a backup on the NFL level.

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The Raiders under head coach Lane Kiffin are ranked last in passing yards per game.

(Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

• Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin: Giving up a fourth-quarter lead to a good team on the road is one thing, but I'm more worried about what Kiffin isn't doing with JaMarcus Russell. Russell's numbers the last two weeks – 15-of-36 for 211 yards – seem too conservative. What does Kiffin have to lose? His job? What else is new?

• Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson: Hmmm. An 0-3 record plus eight total catches for 88 yards with no touchdowns this season. I'm betting this is the week Johnson starts sniping in the locker room again.

• Texans quarterback Matt Schaub: Yes, he has played against two very good defenses this season. But with five interceptions in two games, Schaub looks like a poor quarterback. There is very little to like about his game at this point.

• Winless teams: So much for breaking the spell. Six winless teams – Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Kansas City and St. Louis – failed to pick up a victory. That's 0-17 for that pack this season.


QUOTE OF THE DAY
QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I don't know why in the world we couldn't stop that play. They just came in and beat our butts.”

New England safety Rodney Harrison on Miami's direct-snap plays to Ronnie Brown, who ran for three touchdowns and passed for another on the plays. .


NUMBERS OF THE DAY
NUMBERS OF THE DAY
67, 0
67, 0

The number of pass attempts by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brian Griese Sunday against Chicago, and the number of times Griese was sacked.



THE SUNDAY 10
THE SUNDAY 10

(Five things I loved and five things I loathed)

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Texans rookie RB Steve Slaton
(5'-9") rushed for 116 yards and
1 TD against the Titans.

(Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Loved: Seeing Texans diminutive running back Steve Slaton run over Tennessee safety Michael Griffin at the goal line for a touchdown. The Texans have a bright spot in Slaton.

Loathed: Seeing the diminished play of Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who has three total tackles and zero sacks in three games. Harris' knee problems have turned him into an average player.

Loved: Watching the Broncos on offense and defense. Games in Denver haven't been this fun to watch since Paul Westhead had that fast-break, no-defense look with the Nuggets in the early '90s.

Loathed: Pretty much everything about the Rams. For the third week in a row. Seriously. Enough.

Loved: Watching Falcons running back Michael Turner churn against the horrific tackling Chiefs. The guy runs like a fire hydrant with legs.

Loathed: Seeing Cardinals running back Edgerrin James go against Washington. James had a decent day with 93 yards on 18 carries, but he has become the definition of vanilla. He doesn't have zip anymore.

Loved: Watching offseason free agent leftovers Brandon Lloyd (Bears) and Antonio Bryant (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) go back and forth on Sunday. Sixteen total catches for 262 receiving yards &ndashl not bad for two guys who most people thought had nothing to offer after flaming out over the last two seasons.

Loathed: Seeing Colts tight end Dallas Clark get blown up by Drayton Florence on Sunday. If there is another player who gets hammered more than Clark, I can't imagine who it is.

Loved: Seeing Donovan McNabb return after going to the locker room with a chest injury. The Eagles have something good going, and losing both Brian Westbrook and McNabb would spell disaster.

Loathed: Seeing Browns wide receiver Braylon Edwards go from one of the most exciting wideouts in the game to an average, mistake-prone player. The issues with Derek Anderson are only part of the problem. Edwards (three catches for 27 yards on Sunday) looks like a guy with concentration issues.