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- American football quarterback
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In the aftermath of holding on against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh celebrated with his team and yelled at one point: "A lot of teams would not have found a way to win that game."
If you didn't know that Harbaugh isn't a big trash talker, you might have thought he was taking a shot at the Cowboys.
Dallas' play continues to mirror one of the rides at Six Flags just down the road from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Dallas is up, it's down, it's thrilling, it's gut-wrenching and then it ends up right back where it started, making no progress.
No combination of events defines that pattern more than the touchdown by wide receiver Dez Bryant toward the end of regulation followed by the dropped two-point conversion pass by Bryant on the next play during the Ravens' 31-29 victory. On the touchdown, Bryant was powerful, explosive and dominant. It was his final catch of a 13-reception, 99-yard and two-score day.
On the next play, Bryant turned into an unfocused complainer when he begged for a pass-interference after letting the game-tying play slip through his arms. Sorry Dez, if you want to play physical like Hall of Famer Michael Irvin – whose number you share – you have to take as well as you give. The key is to focus on making the play the way Irvin did.
Bryant hasn't figured that part out, which is also why he wasted time on the final drive of the game, costing the Cowboys a shot at another play and leaving them to settle for a 51-yard field goal attempt.
The Cowboys remain a mentally weak team, capable of strutting their stuff one week and then looking like a JV squad the next. The Baltimore game is a microcosm, but this story has gone on for years and is playing out perfectly this season. The Cowboys opened the season with a fantastic road win against the champion New York Giants, then had 10 days off before going to Seattle and getting dusted.
Dallas returned home to hang on against Tampa Bay then got embarrassed at home on a Monday night against Chicago with Romo getting intercepted five times. Two of the five were returned for scores.
At Baltimore, the Cowboys started strong, but found themselves down 24-13 early in the second half. The Ravens' final score up to that point was an NFL-record 108-yard touchdown return by Jacoby Jones. The most telltale part of that return was how Jones was barely touched.
In other words, Dallas can look great at times with its array of stars like Bryant, Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarco Murray and DeMarcus Ware. But when it came to doing the little things that win games against a team that was losing stars by the minute (Baltimore lost linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Lardarius Webb), the Cowboys fell short -- again.
Here are the winners and losers for Week 6:
There was some premature talk in Seattle about benching rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who led the Seahawks to more than 16 points in only one of his first five games. Then Wilson put together a magnificent performance on Sunday against the New England Patriots, leading the Seahawks to a 24-23 victory with a 46-yard touchdown strike with 1:18 remaining in the fourth quarter. The most impressive part about Wilson's performance was his deep throwing. It's not just the actual throws, but it's the ability of Wilson to keep his focus downfield even after getting flushed out of the pocket. In the first three games of the season, Wilson didn't do that very well. But in keeping with the theme that Wilson is a "fixer," as coach Pete Carroll says repeatedly about him, Wilson has quickly corrected that problem. That's critical if Wilson is going to make it, because he's only 5-foot-10.
• While Wilson deserves plenty of praise, the Seattle defense was obviously terrific in the second half, limiting New England to only two field goals and intercepting quarterback Tom Brady twice. Most impressive is that Seattle, in Carroll's first game against the Patriots since getting fired by them after the 1999 season, was the intimidator in this game. For football purists, there is nothing better than watching Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner laying the wood to a receiver. The hit the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Browner put on New England's Wes Welker in the first half was perfectly clean and perfectly beautiful.
• Magnificent work by Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns – the latter a fantastic 76-yard scoring run in the win over the Minnesota Vikings. Griffin showed no signs of backing down from contact after having a concussion last Sunday. In the long run, his health may be a bit of a concern, but for now it's simply breathtaking to watch him go.
• If you're a fan of a team in the AFC East, this is one very entertaining season already. All four teams are tied at 3-3. If you're looking for some advantages among the four, here are a few: Both New England and Buffalo have six home games remaining. However, both Miami and the Jets are done playing Houston, and the Jets are also done with San Francisco. The Patriots still have the best quarterback in the division, but it's going to be a fascinating finish.
• Speaking of the Jets, running back Shonn Greene was obviously a winner with his 32 carries, 161 yards and three touchdowns in the blowout of the Indianapolis Colts. However, give quarterback Mark Sanchez a little love. He broke a streak of four consecutive games in which he completed less than half his passes. No, 11-of-18 isn't spectacular, but it's a step in the right direction.
[Related: Jets' backup Tim Tebow is an unwanted man]
• Yes, there's going to be a lot of handwringing over linebacker Ray Lewis' torn triceps injury. However, there are several people who believe the loss of Lewis could be a positive for the Ravens in the long run. Yes, Lewis is the emotional leader of the team, but there are plenty of people around the league who will tell you he has lost a step. One former player said recently: "I can't believe they still leave him on the field on third down. You can see that he knows where to be, but he just can't get there. You can see he lost weight to maintain his quickness, but it's not working." Of much greater concern for the Ravens is the loss of cornerback Lardarius Webb to a likely torn ACL in his right knee.
• If you're not paying attention, wide receiver Josh Gordon has quickly started to show why the Cleveland Browns used a second-round supplemental pick on him in July and why some people said he had the talent to be a first-round pick. Gordon has five catches for 181 yards and three scores in the past two games. That includes touchdowns of 62 and 71 yards. Gordon is exactly what the Browns desperately needed going into this season.
• St. Louis Rams wide receiver Brandon Gibson and New England's Brandon Lloyd may have each been on the losing end on Sunday, but each had one of the best grabs you'll ever see. Gibson made a terrific one-handed catch against good coverage along the left sideline during the loss at Miami. As for Lloyd, he laid out for a wonderful catch along the right sideline in Seattle. Sadly, the play went incomplete.
• Speaking of the Dolphins, after losing back-to-back games in overtime, they have responded to win back-to-back games by four and three points. Miami is still a work in progress with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill (and will be for a couple of years), but it appears the resilience of coach Joe Philbin is already starting to rub off on his team.
If you didn't see Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson at the end of regulation against Philadelphia, he put on a show proving why he's the top wideout in the league. On one play, Johnson completely overpowered Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Memo to DRC: You should have learned from all those years with Larry Fitzgerald that when you're one of the skinniest guys in the league, go low). On the next play, Johnson pulled off a prototype toe-tapping catch. People already know about Johnson's ability to run deep (he had six catches for 135 yards), but his ability to play with power and finesse is magnificent.
• Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff may be retiring after the season, but he's hardly mailing it in. In the past two weeks, Westhoff's units have come up with huge plays to keep the Jets alive against Houston and help trigger the blowout of Indianapolis. Last Monday, Westhoff's kickoff return team continued its NFL record run with a TD return in its 11th straight season. On Sunday, the punt team ran a fake run that Tim Tebow turned into a 23-yard pass completion to Nick Bellore. Westhoff is one of the great special teams coaches in NFL history. Sadly, he was never able to parlay that into a head-coaching job.
Some 49ers fans mocked me two weeks ago when I suggested a quarterback controversy between Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick could be coming sooner rather than later. As absurd as it may seem, one of Smith's biggest flaws (throwing deep) was exposed during Sunday's loss to the Giants. In the first half, he had one deep throw picked off and badly underthrew Mario Manningham on another occasion. There are times when it's almost as if Smith's deep throws have hang time. The difference was clearly apparent at the end of the first half when Kaepernick got the call to make a deep throw to Manningham to set up a field goal attempt. It was a terrific throw that resulted in a 36-yard completion. Yes, Smith came into the game leading the NFL in quarterback rating (108.7). A lot of that was built up in easy wins over the Bills and Jets in the previous two games. Against a high-quality Giants team, Smith ended up with three interceptions and you can expect opposing teams to challenge him the rest of the season on deep throws. Even on a 55-yard completion to Randy Moss in the second half, Smith's slightly under thrown ball kept the play from going for more yards.
• I said two weeks ago after the Philadelphia Eagles improved to 3-1, with all three wins coming by a combined four points, that this wasn't going to hold up. Teams that win a lot of close games tend to eventually lose just as many. Two weeks later, the Eagles have dropped one game in the fourth quarter to Pittsburgh and another in overtime to the Detroit Lions. I know everybody loves the emotion of a nail-biting game, but it really doesn't mean what you think and the Eagles are the latest proof of that. If this team is going to take advantage of its talent, it needs to start winning games without so much drama.
• Then again, on the subject of the Eagles, quarterback Michael Vick had three more turnovers, giving him 13 (eight interceptions and five lost fumbles) in six games. Vick is now only six turnovers short of his career-high of 19 in 2004 with Atlanta. In fairness to Vick, a fumble recovered by Detroit but not charged to the QB came on a snap in shotgun formation when he wasn't even looking at the center. Either way, this is shaping up as an ugly season for Vick. If the Eagles and Vick could have cut those turnovers in half, they would probably be 5-1.
[Related: Giants look like NFL's most dominant team]
• Memo to Patriots running back Stevan Ridley: Catch the freaking ball! The Patriots would love to see Ridley take over as the fulltime back so that they could move on from Danny Woodhead – a fan favorite who is clearly a limited player. Right now, Woodhead plays in obvious passing situations when the Patriots go to their four-receiver package, which is about 40 percent of the time. However, Ridley, who had five catches coming into the game and only eight in 21 games dating to last season, had a drop in the first half against the Seahawks. Ridley also wasn't much of a pass catcher at LSU, catching only 18 passes in three seasons.
• The Seattle coaching staff should take a really good look at the second-quarter play where New England defensive end Chandler Jones beat tight end Zach Miller and stripped Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson for a sack and a fumble that the Patriots recovered. The problem was not so much that Miller got beat on the play; Jones is really good and that's a bad matchup for even a good-blocking tight end. But the bigger question is how did that happen on a play when New England only rushed three players and the Seahawks had at least six blockers? Jones should have been double-teamed.
Sorry Kansas City Chiefs fans, Brady Quinn (38 attempts, 180 yards for an average of 4.7 yards per attempt in the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) just really isn't the answer either. I know most of you are ready to move on from the Matt Cassel era, but Quinn, who had the benefit of not facing Tampa Bay's top cornerback Aqib Talib (four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs), has been relegated to backup for a reason. Third-stringer Ricky Stanzi may get a look soon, but the answer to your hopes is playing college ball somewhere.
• Hate to say it, but the Cincinnati Bengals' defense is hideous. Yeah, one of the touchdowns allowed Sunday by the Bengals in a loss to the Cleveland Browns came on an interception return. But the Bengals have allowed 27 or more points in four of six games. The only teams they have stopped are Jacksonville, which has the worst offense in the league, and Miami, which won with a rookie quarterback.
• Sorry great rookie St. Louis kicker Greg "Young GZ" Zuerlein, but there are going to be days like this. Zuerlein, who has already hit kicks of 58 and 60 yards this season and made his first 15 attempts, missed three attempts on Sunday. The last of those was a 66-yard attempt, which had the distance for a league record before it drifted just to the left.
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