Weekend Recap  


It wasn't easy, but Colts and Saints each improve to 8-0

Patrick Semansky / Associated Press
Jake Delhomme fumbles as he is sacked by the Saints' Will Smith.
» Best of Week 9 | More photos

Saints 30, Panthers 20
After being stymied by two-deep coverage for a half, Drew Brees altered his approach to engineer an explosive second-half comeback. He attacked the middle of the field with an assortment of short and intermediate throws to exploit the soft spots in the coverage. Operating out of a variety of multiple receiver sets, Brees found Robert Meachem on throws that took advantage of mismatches. While most teams opt to run crossers or square-in routes between the hashes to take advantage of the coverage, the Saints exploited the scheme by running vertical routes. The tactic worked to perfection on two separate occasions with Meachem producing a 54-yard touchdown and a 21-yard grab on identical patterns. With the Panthers forced to pay more attention to the deep throws over the middle, Brees was able to methodically move the ball by going to his running backs and tight ends on a number of check downs to keep several critical drives alive.

Colts 20, Texans 17
The Colts used a surprising "air-it-out" approach in the first half to get off to a quick start. Peyton Manning completed 26 of 40 for 242 yards in two quarters using an assortment of short and intermediate throws to exploit the soft areas of Houston's zone coverage. While the Colts had to settle for field goals on two of their three trips inside the 20-yard line in the first half, the use of a pass-heavy game plan kept Houston on its heels and sparked Indianapolis' early lead.

Patriots 27, Dolphins 17
The Dolphins unveiled a different breed of "Wildcat" against the Patriots with Pat White acting as the point man. The rookie signal caller brought an added dimension to the formation as his potential to pass kept New England from bringing a host of blitzes off the corner when he entered the game. Additionally, Miami used the tactic to introduce a Pistol-like formation that is prevalent in college. The modified shotgun formation brought White closer to the line of scrimmage (about 4 yards behind the center), which allowed the Dolphins to run speed option to the perimeter. While the tweak to one of their favorite offensive tactics didn't result in a win, it gives defensive coordinators another gimmick to worry about when preparing for the Dolphins' sophisticated rushing attack.

Cardinals 41, Bears 21
The Cardinals continue to use a high-percentage, quick-rhythm passing to jump on opponents early. Kurt Warner is a master at getting the ball out of his hands and his quick release renders the blitz useless. Against a defense intent on bringing pressure at the outset, Warner connected on 17 of his first 22 passes for 189 yards and four scores. The sizzling start was part of an offensive explosion that resulted in scores on Arizona's first six possessions. With the Bears' defense reeling from the barrage of short and intermediate throws, the Cardinals were able to turn to a surprisingly effective ground attack that churned out 182 yards behind the tough running of Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells. Arizona's explosive offense got a balanced effort, but it was the sizzling start by the passing game that sparked the victory.

Buccaneers 38, Packers 28
Josh Freeman's debut won't garner a lot of kudos from observers who study stats, but his solid performance against the Packers showcased the immense potential that led the Bucs to take him 17th overall in the draft. The rookie threw the ball with plenty of zip and showed surprising poise in leading Tampa Bay back from an early deficit. Additionally, Freeman's athleticism created a few big plays outside of the pocket, which helped jumpstart an offense that had struggled with his predecessors at the helm. Although Freeman still has to develop, his promise and potential should give the Bucs hope as they move forward.

Chargers 21, Giants 20
The Giants' woeful pass defense fell apart at critical moments against the Chargers. Although defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan alternated between blitz and coverage during San Diego's final drive, New York could not consistently pressure Philip Rivers or cover the receivers during the winning drive. In looking at the Giants' final sequence of calls, they used a two-deep, man under scheme that placed their corners in press coverage with inside technique at the line of scrimmage. The coverage is designed to allow the corners to undercut all underneath routes, while the two deep safeties are positioned with enough depth to prevent the quarterback from going deep. However, New York's corners didn't keep San Diego's wideouts from getting to the middle of the field. The easy access allowed Rivers to move the ball on an assortment of short throws. When the Giants opted to bring pressure, the defenders didn't hug up to their assigned receivers and Rivers was able to squeeze the ball into tight windows before the defender could arrive. While observers have been critical of the team's play-calling in recent weeks, it has been the poor execution by the defenders that has the Giants in a four-game losing streak.

Falcons 31, Redskins 17
After starting the season as an offense driven by the play of Matt Ryan, the Falcons have returned to their winning formula from a season ago. Behind the power running of Michael Turner, the Falcons dominated the Redskins at the point of attack and used their physical ground game to control the tempo. Turner had three runs over thirty yards, including a 58-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that sealed the game. Although Turner got off to a slow start this season, he has topped the 100-yard mark in back-to-back weeks and remains the key to the team's offensive success.

Bengals 17, Ravens 7
The Bengals' defense has flown under the radar for most of the season, but the unit's impressive performance against the Ravens is another indication that the group is on the cusp of becoming elite. The Bengals held one of the league's most explosive offenses to only seven points and limited the Ravens to 1 of 10 on third down. While Cincinnati's front seven played exceptionally well, the secondary was spectacular. Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph blanketed Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton on the perimeter as the team used an extensive amount of two-deep, man under coverage against the Ravens in long yardage situations. The tactic allowed the young corners to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage while protecting them down the field with safety help over the top. With Joe Flacco unable to find high-percentage passes to fall back on in critical situations, the Ravens never found their offensive rhythm.

Jaguars 24, Chiefs 21
The inability to stop the deep pass continues to undermine the Chiefs' chances of winning. Kansas City allowed Mike Sims-Walker and Jarett Dillard to slip behind the defense on bombs. Sims-Walker, in particular, delivered two game-changing plays (a 61-yard touchdown reception and a 45-yard catch-and-run) that helped the Jaguars jump out to a 24-6 lead that was ultimately too much for the Chiefs to overcome. The Chiefs have allowed a league-worst 12 completions over 40 yards this season and rank as one of the worst pass defenses. Until defenders stop allowing balls to fly over their heads, Kansas City will continue to have a tough time winning against top teams.

Seahawks 32, Lions 20
Matthew Stafford's horrific day was partially due to the rookie repeatedly throwing the ball late over the middle. A quarterback is routinely instructed not to pass tardy between the hashes because the bulk of the defense rests in the center of the field. Balls that are delivered late often lead to tips or deflections and often become interceptions. Of Stafford's five interceptions, four occurred between the numbers, including two picks by linebacker David Hawthorne.

Titans 34, 49ers 27
The insertion of Vince Young has given the offense the balance it desperately needed in the early part of the season. Young's efficient play from the pocket has complemented the explosive running skills of Chris Johnson. While Young only completed a handful of short throws off bootlegs and play-action last week, he threw downfield with surprising success against the 49ers. Young completed two passes over 30 yards, but took at least four other shots deep during the game. The attempts to stretch the field pulled the safeties out of the box and created room for Johnson to run. Additionally, Young's occasional runs outside of the pocket forced the backside defensive end to remain at home to defend the bootleg. With that backside edge player unable to crash down, Johnson could cut back on zone runs that started out to the front side. The offense has looked completely different with Young at the helm and his versatility has given the unit an added dimension.

Cowboys 20, Eagles 16
After a week of debating who the No. 1 receiver is in Dallas, Tony Romo proved the Cowboys are most effective when the passing game is divided amongst the wideouts. Romo hit seven different receivers and the diversity made it difficult for the Eagles to focus on slowing down a primary target. Jason Witten and Roy Williams were the favorite options, but the emerging Miles Austin continues to act as the team's top playmaker. Austin's only reception was a 49-yard bomb, which proved to be the deciding score. While the Cowboys will continue to sort out the pecking order in the passing game, the unexpected depth and versatility of their receiving corps is suddenly problematic for opponents.


Seven from Sunday

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played during the ninth week of the 2009 season.

» The Indianapolis Colts defeated the Houston Texans 20-17 and have won a franchise-record 17 consecutive regular-season games dating back to 2008. The Colts are now tied with the 1933-34 Chicago Bears for the third-longest such streak in NFL history.

» New England wide receiver Randy Moss had six catches for 147 yards with one touchdown in the Patriots' 27-17 win over Miami. Moss, who now has 140 career touchdown receptions, tied Buffalo's Terrell Owens for second-most all-time. Jerry Rice holds the NFL record with 197 career touchdown receptions.

» Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber registered his 13th career return touchdown on a blocked punt in the Buccaneers' 38-28 win over the Green Bay Packers. Barber is now tied for the third-most return touchdowns all-time. He trails only Deion Sanders (19) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson (17) for the most return touchdowns in NFL history.

» Jacksonville wide receiver Torry Holt had four receptions in the Jaguars' 24-21 win against the Kansas City Chiefs. Holt, who has 902 career receptions in 166 games, ranks second in NFL history for the fewest number of games to reach 900 catches. Holt trails only Marvin Harrison, who accomplished the feat in 149 games.

» Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney registered 1.5 sacks in the Colts' win over Houston. Freeney has recorded a sack in each of the Colts' first eight games of the season and tied teammate Robert Mathis (eight games, 2005) for the longest such streak since the sack became an official statistic in 1982.

In addition, Freeney has recorded a sack in nine consecutive games overall, tying him with Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Smith and Kevin Greene for the third-longest streak since 1982.

» Green Bay running back Ahman Green gained 45 rushing yards on six attempts in the Packers' 38-28 loss at Tampa Bay. Green, who now has 8,208 rushing yards with the Packers, surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Taylor (8,207) for the most rushing yards in franchise history.

» New England quarterback Tom Brady passed for 332 yards in the Patriots' victory against Miami. Brady recorded the 27th 300-yard passing game of his career, surpassing Drew Bledsoe (26) for the most 300-yard games in franchise history.

Monday night

Steelers at Broncos: Pittsburgh goes for its fifth straight victory Monday night, when it looks to snap a three-game losing streak to a Denver Broncos club trying to bounce back from its first defeat of the season.
» Game preview

Injury report

» Chris Henry, WR, Bengals: Forearm. More ...

» Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins: Concussion. More ...

» Austin Collie, WR, Colts: Neck. More ...

» Glen Coffee, RB, 49ers: Concussion. More ...

» NFL.com blogs: More updates

Fantasy studs

Who was this week's best fantasy player? Was it Kurt Warner? What about Chris Johnson, who ran the Titans to a second consecutive victory? Or, was it Michael "the Burner" Turner? Check out all of Michael Fabiano's nominees and cast your vote.
» Vote for Week 9 fantasy stud


The NFL delivered more exciting games and performances Sunday, including the Buccaneers getting their first victory of the season while sporting throwback uniforms. Check out the memorable moments from Week 9.

» Fans of the NFL
» NFL cheerleaders during Week 9
» NFL.com photo gallery archives

Weekly Countdown

NFL Weekly Countdown, which airs each Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network, lets fans program the show. Check out the 15 nominations for the best performances, and then rank in the order you want to see those on the show. Come back Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to see the results.

Top 15 moments of Week 9:

» Benson runs through Ravens | Vote
» Babineaux's big game | Vote
» Saints ride Brees to 8-0 | Vote
» Cutler + Olsen = 3 TDs | Vote
» Bucs' Freeman wins first start | Vote
» Manning of the moment in Indy | Vote
» Moss torches Dolphins | Vote
» Johnson burns 49ers | Vote
» Chargers win in last minute | Vote
» Seahawks get five picks | Vote
» 'Burner' blazes through 'Skins | Vote
» Sims-Walker quite a catch | Vote
» Warner tossed five TDs | Vote
» Big day for Panthers back | Vote
» Romo lifts Cowboys to first place | Vote

» Vote: Week 9's top performances

Ahead ... Week 10!

Thursday (all times ET) Chicago at San Francisco, 8:20 p.m.
Atlanta at Carolina, 1 p.m.
Tampa Bay at Miami, 1 p.m.
Detroit at Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Jacksonville at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
New Orleans at St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Buffalo at Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Denver at Washington, 1 p.m.
Kansas City at Oakland, 4:05 p.m.
Seattle at Arizona, 4:15 p.m.
Dallas at Green Bay, 4:15 p.m.
Philadelphia at San Diego, 4:15 p.m.
New England at Indianapolis, 8:20 p.m.
Baltimore at Cleveland, 8:30 p.m.

Bye week: Houston, N.Y. Giants.

» Complete schedule



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