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Colts' Manning continues his awe-inspiring start


When I was a grade-school kid living in New Jersey, I loved two things about the fall: Redskins games and highlights. Growing up in the 1970s, however, getting to see highlights wasn't an easy chore. Often, I would have to wait until halftime of the Monday night game for a glimpse of three or four plays from that Sunday's game.

With incredible advancements in technology, not only can we now watch every game, there is even a channel that lets us know when a team is in the red zone. How sweet is life?

The beauty of NFL Sunday Ticket is not watching every game -- you might look at parts of every game but you can't really watch them all. The real purpose of Sunday Ticket is the freedom to switch from a bad game to a better one.

Week 4 shall forever be called "Lopsided Weekend." So many games were over at the half that quick adjustments had to be made for finding the right game to watch. Coaches are not the only ones who need to make halftime adjustments; all of us watching the Sunday Ticket must make our own.

Six games were decided by 17 or more points. The Giants and Saints both had 14-point leads at halftime.

Still, there were some games that provided further insight into the 2009 season.

Sunday's best

Manning of the moment: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning continues to astound. Every defensive coach I talk to is just in awe of his start. On Sunday against Seattle, Manning was once again incredible. Four of the first five times the Colts offense had the ball, it scored touchdowns. Yes, touchdowns. Manning made fast work of the Seahawks defense.

Going big time in the Big Easy: Gregg Williams was hired by the Saints this offseason to establish an attacking defense. A defense that can complement the team's explosive offense. Against the Jets, the defense did more than complement; it controlled the game, enabling the Saints to win another game without Drew Brees throwing a touchdown pass. New Orleans is the real deal.

A real gamer: Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall may have had some issues off the field this summer, but on the field he is a beast. He is the hardest wide receiver to tackle in the NFL. On Sunday, he ran through the Cowboys secondary like he was playing Madden 2010, scoring the winning touchdown in what might be the catch-and-run of the year so far.

Catching on: Much has been written about how the Giants would have a hard time overcoming the loss of Plaxico Burress, but after just a quarter of the season, the receiving corps looks to be a strong part of New York's offense. Against the Chiefs (yes, I know the Chiefs are bad), starters Steve Smith and Mario Manningham each had a play of more than 20 yards and rookie Hakeem Nicks had the most spectacular play, a 54-yard touchdown catch-and-run.

This cat goes wild: David Garrard was sensational Sunday as he came out throwing the football (25 passing attempts in the first half) with pinpoint accuracy. He notched his third career three-TD game and passed for 323 yards against the porous Titans secondary.

The Sunday funnies

Funny playcalling: It's not funny in Dallas. I bet Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett would like to have two calls back from Sunday, both of which came at the end of the game. Garrett chose to keep his best player, Jason Witten, in protection instead of getting him into the route. Witten is a red-zone nightmare for opposing defenses and watching him block on those two critical plays had to make the Broncos very happy.

Who's to blame now? You can't blame Jessica Simpson or Terrell Owens for the latest poor performances of Tony Romo. The Dallas quarterback has been very pedestrian the last eight games -- throwing nine touchdowns to 10 interceptions, fumbling eight times (losing four) and, most importantly, only winning three games. To me, Romo misses former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells being in his ear, stressing that the details get done right. As Parcells would always say, "One wrong, all wrong." And there is much wrong in Big D these days.

Razzing the rookie: Mama told Mark Sanchez there'd be days like these, especially when you have to play on the road in front of a very loud, hostile crowd. Sanchez came back down to rookie earth Sunday, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble. The turnovers resulted in 14 New Orleans points. Sanchez is the type of player that will take this New Orleans experience as a "lesson learned."

Phil Coale / Associated Press
Chris Johnson and the Titans are just the fourth team since 1975 to start a season 0-4 the year after having the best record in their conference.
No. 1 seeds that started following season 0-4 or worse (since 1975)
Year
Team
Start
Finish
0-4
--
0-5
7-9
0-4
6-10
0-5
6-9*
* Strike-shortened season

D'oh and four: The Tennessee Titans started 10-0 last year, but since then, counting a playoff loss to Baltimore, they are 3-8. There is no more talk of the Titans being in the playoffs. All the talk needs to center around how they can win a game, how they can play better pass defense and how they can stop making mistakes in games.

On the lookout

» On Sunday, the Jaguars proved to me they can throw the ball very well, combining that passing game with one of the league's best backs, Maurice Jones-Drew. They have played every team in the AFC South and are 2-1 in those games. The Jags play in Seattle and then host the Rams the next two weeks. They are improving and will be tough down the stretch.

» Two teams have really changed their identity from past successes: The Bears are winning with offense now and hoping the defense can complement; the 49ers win with their defense and hope their offense can complement.

» Rashard Mendenhall made a statement to the NFL and his team that the Steelers might have found their feature back after his 165-yard performance against the Chargers.

On the lookout ... for fantasy fans

» Jacksonville's Mike Sims-Walker is quietly becoming the go-to guy in Jacksonville. Sims-Walker is big and strong, and very effective once he has the ball in his hands. When Garrard plays like he did Sunday, Sims-Walker will keep posting incredible numbers.

» Young quarterbacks often hold onto the ball too long and take too many sacks. Chad Henne made his first start for the Dolphins and was not overly impressive, getting sacked six times, but he did not turn the ball over and threw his first touchdown pass.

» Julian Edelman and Wes Welker will play together, giving the Patriots two extremely quick slot receivers and a nightmare for defensive coaches to match up against.

Off the beaten track

» The 49ers must be feeling like they have hit the lottery. With Michael Crabtree holding out, they have shown they can win without him. And the bonus: They can hope the Panthers keep struggling as they hold Carolina's first-round pick in 2010.

» The groove is starting to come back for Tom Brady. The Patriots were 3-for-5 in the red zone against Baltimore,and Brady was able to make some big throws down the field, completing seven passes of more than 15 yards.

» Speaking of the groove, Jay Cutler of the Bears is on a very hot streak, completing 71 percent of his passes the last three games and throwing seven touchdowns to one interception.

» By the way, Giants wide receiver Steve Smith set a franchise record Sunday. With a career-best 11 receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas City, Smith now has 34 receptions, the most ever by a Giants receiver after four games.

Three-step dots…

» Josh McDaniels is a fine coach and he is proving that with each win. He will be one of the coaches from the Bill Belichick tree that wins a Super Bowl as a head coach. Maybe not this year, but he will. ...

» I have a strong feeling the Ravens-Patriots matchup might be repeated in January. Both teams are strong and will keep getting stronger. ...

» The Bengals had to make it interesting in their win over the Browns, missing an extra point and then converting a fourth-and-11 at the Cleveland 41 with just over a minute to go in overtime. Bengals QB Carson Palmer made the play of the game with his feet -- running for the first down on that fourth-and-11 and putting the team in position to kick the winning field goal. It is never easy with the Bengals. ...

» Do you think the Rams regret passing on Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez in the past two drafts? Their reasoning was that they had money invested in Marc Bulger, clearly a bad investment. This coming draft? Guess what, they will pick a quarterback. ...

» The Bills cannot get the ball to Terrell Owens because they cannot protect Trent Edwards. All this talk about Owens exploding is just talk -- the Bills have bigger problems with their team than how many touches T.O. gets.

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