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Bengals lead tandem of teams with statement games in Week 10

Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press
The Steelers' Heath Miller and the Bengals' Rey Maualuga clash at Heinz Field.
» Best of Week 10 | More photos


Bengals 18, Steelers 12
The Bengals' defense hasn't exactly flown under the radar, but the unit's sensational performance against the Steelers is another example of the outstanding play that has become a trademark of the group. The Bengals held the Steelers to 226 yards of offense and relentlessly pressured Ben Roethlisberger. Cincinnati relied on a mixture of five-man pressures to complement its standard four-man rush to keep Roethlisberger on the move. While those four-man rushes involved some stunts and twists, the Bengals didn't blitz much, which allowed the team to commit more defenders to coverage and keyed their surprising suffocation of the Steelers' passing game.

Packers 17, Cowboys 7
After enduring endless criticism regarding the 3-4 scheme, Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers silenced his detractors by putting together a brilliant game plan against Dallas. The Packers dialed up a host of five-man overload zone blitzes to disrupt the Cowboys' rhythm. Capers cleverly incorporated more safety blitzes to get Charles Woodson involved. Additionally, the Packers varied their zone coverage behind the pressure to keep Tony Romo from finding open windows against the blitz. With Romo unsure and hesitant in the pocket, Green Bay tallied five sacks and forced him into two turnovers. The Packers' defense has been inconsistent, but this effort is what coach Mike McCarthy envisioned when he decided to implement the 3-4.

Colts 35, Patriots 34
The decision to try to run out the clock ultimately cost the Patriots a game that seemingly was in the bag. The fourth-and-2 gamble on their 28-yard line backfired when Kevin Faulk's reception was marked inches shy of the first down. While Bill Belichick's choice was undoubtedly controversial, it is not surprising given the unshakeable confidence he has in Tom Brady and the offense. The unit had moved the ball well, and Brady has always been extraordinary at coming up with big plays in critical moments. While conventional wisdom says you always punt in that situation, putting the ball in the hands of one of the NFL's top clutch players was too enticing for Belichick to play the percentages. However, the calculated risk didn't work for the Patriots this time and it likely means that the road to the AFC title runs through Indianapolis.

Chargers 31, Eagles 23
LaDainian Tomlinson turned back the hands of time and gave the Chargers a vintage performance. He rushed for 96 yards with two touchdowns and gave the team's sagging running game a much-needed boost. Although Tomlinson has lost some juice over the years, his vision and running skills still allow him to find creases when the offensive line provides a good push. Against the Eagles, the line provided the seams and Tomlinson showed he still has enough left in the tank to be an effective workhorse. If the old man can provide San Diego with more of the same, the Chargers could quickly ascend back into the ranks of AFC title contenders.

Titans 41, Bills 17
Chris Johnson continues to cement his status as the league's most dangerous weapon. He tallied 232 yards from scrimmage and routinely provided the Titans with big plays at critical moments. The Titans' superb use of Johnson's versatility has catapulted Tennessee out of its early season slump. The Titans incorporated more screens and quick dump-offs to get Johnson the ball in the open field to take advantage of his blistering speed and quickness. Johnson has at least 25 touches in three straight games, and it is no coincidence that the Titans have won each of those contests.

Cardinals 31, Seahawks 20
The Cardinals' much-maligned rushing game keyed the win, and the hard running of Beanie Wells served as the catalyst. The rookie took over in the second half as his physical running style wore down the Seahawks. With Wells grinding out tough yards between the tackles, Arizona was able to seize control by deftly mixing the run and pass to keep Seattle's defense off balance. The Cardinals will always scare opponents due to the explosiveness of their aerial attack, but Wells' recent emergence will make the offense even more dangerous because it's more balanced and versatile.

Panthers 28, Falcons 19
The return of Muhsin Muhammad unexpectedly boosted an aerial attack that had struggled in his absence. The 13-year veteran had six receptions for 91 yards and gave Jake Delhomme a reliable target in the middle of the field. With Atlanta intent on stopping Carolina's formidable ground game and neutralizing Steve Smith on the outside, Muhammad's presence provided an effective remedy to the tactic. For an offense that has been maddeningly inconsistent for most of the season, Muhammad helped the unit find its rhythm in the passing attack.

Dolphins 25, Buccaneers 23
The Dolphins continue to hammer opponents with one of the league's best running games. Whereas the explosive duo of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams is tough to stop out of conventional formations, the extensive use of the Wildcat and Pistol formations made the tandem nearly impossible to defend. The Buccaneers had problems lining up correctly against the exotic formations and the creases created by the misalignments resulted in huge gains.

Vikings 27, Lions 10
Minnesota's front four has routinely dominated the line of scrimmage this season and the unit continued to flex its muscle against Detroit. The Vikings sacked Matthew Stafford three times and repeatedly pounded the rookie. The constant punishment resulted in hurried throws that often missed the mark. The frontline also held Kevin Smith in check. With the Lions unable to muster much offense, the Vikings cruised to another an important division win and control the NFC North.

Jaguars 24, Jets 22
Relying on their offensive strategy of a few seasons ago, the Jaguars ran the ball extensively. Jacksonville fed Maurice Jones-Drew early (five carries on the team's opening drive) to establish the run and used the threat to open up the field for David Garrard off play-action. Garrard repeatedly found open receivers downfield after executing hard run-action fakes. With both aspects of their offense on point, the Jaguars kept the Jets' defense on its heels.

Saints 28, Rams 23
The Saints had problems defending the run, which allowed an overmatched Rams team to hang tight. Led by Steven Jackson, St. Louis ran 29 times for 141 yards for an average of 4.9 yards per attempt. Most of the success came on runs between the tackles. Although New Orleans used a lot of eight- and nine-man fronts to stop Jackson, he routinely found creases in the middle of the defense. While the Saints were able to overcome the stellar effort to remain unbeaten, the continuing theme of allowing runners to have big games on the ground ( DeAngelo Williams rushed for 149 yards and Michael Turner had 151 yards rushing the previous two games) could prove to be problematic as games gain importance down the stretch.

Redskins 27, Broncos 17
After using a dink-and-dunk strategy for most of the season, the Broncos discarded their conservative approach and threw down the field early to loosen up the Redskins' defense. Kyle Orton took advantage of the aggressiveness of Washington's corners and connected on a series of deep throws to Brandon Marshall off play-action. Additionally, Josh McDaniels incorporated more vertical throws off double moves to keep defenders from squatting on the team's favorite intermediate routes. Though the majority of the deep throws didn't connect, the decision to take more shots allowed the Broncos to get an early lead. However, Denver couldn't sustain the momentum after Orton left the game due to injury and Chris Simms' inconsistency prevented the offense from building on a positive start.

Chiefs 16, Raiders 10
The emergence of Jamaal Charles has given the Chiefs the running threat they have been missing for most of the season. While his predecessor (Larry Johnson) specialized in grinding out tough yards between the tackles, Charles' quickness offers a perimeter option and allows the team to incorporate more off-tackle runs. The tactic worked against the Raiders as he repeatedly found the second level and churned out a few big runs, which helped the Chiefs find offensive balance and get a road win.

 

Seven from Sunday

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played during the 10th week of the 2009 season.

» The New Orleans Saints defeated the St. Louis Rams 28-23 and improved to 9-0 for the first time in franchise history. The Saints have scored an NFL-best 331 points, the fourth-most by a team in the first nine games of a season in NFL history.

» Tennessee running back Chris Johnson rushed for 132 yards in the Titans' 41-17 win against the Buffalo Bills. Johnson, who leads the NFL with 1,091 rushing yards and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry, joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown (1963) and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (2007) as the only players in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and average 6.4 yards per carry in a team's first nine games of a season.

» San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns in the Chargers' 31-23 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Tomlinson recorded his 145th and 146th career touchdowns and surpassed Marcus Allen (144) for the third-most touchdowns all-time ( Jerry Rice, 208; Emmitt Smith, 175). Tomlinson, who now has 12,145 career rushing yards, also moved into 12th place for most rushing yards all-time.

» Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner threw two touchdowns in the Cardinals' 31-20 win against the Seattle Seahawks. Warner, who now has 200 touchdown passes, reached the mark in his 118th career game, becoming the fifth-fastest player in NFL history to accomplish the feat.

» Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre passed for a season-high 344 yards in his 300th consecutive start (including postseason) in a 27-10 win over the Detroit Lions. Favre's 344 yards are the third-most passing yards in a game by a 40-year old quarterback in NFL history. He trails only Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon (409 on Oct. 26, 1997) and Vinny Testaverde (355 on Sept. 12, 2004).

» Buffalo rookie safety Jairus Byrd registered his eighth interception of the season against Tennessee. Byrd has an interception in five consecutive games and is one of only two players since 1970 with an interception in five consecutive games in their first season in the NFL. The other was Kansas City's Eric Harris in 1980 (six in a row).

» In a 41-17 win over Buffalo, Tennessee's Jeff Fisher became the 10th coach in NFL history to coach 250 career games (regular and postseason) with one team. The Titans' victory gives Fisher 136 wins for his career, tying him with Hall of Famer Hank Stram for 20th all-time.

Monday night

Ravens at Browns: The Ravens forced Brady Quinn from the starting lineup in a Week 3 beatdown. Since then, the Ravens have been just 1-4 and Quinn has been re-inserted as the Browns' starter.
» Game preview

Fantasy studs

Who was this week's best fantasy player? Was it Chris Johnson? What about Kurt Warner? Or, was it Steven Jackson? Check out all of Michael Fabiano's nominees and cast your vote.
» Vote for Week 10 fantasy stud

Photos

The NFL delivered more exciting games and performances Sunday, including the Bengals earning a season sweep of the division rival Steelers. Check out the memorable moments from Week 10.

» Fans of the NFL
» NFL cheerleaders during Week 10
» 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 10:

» Manning tosses winner in thriller | Vote
» Woodson halts Romo, Cowboys | Vote
» Warner keeps Cards on top | Vote
» Chargers of old beat Eagles | Vote
» Peterson impressive vs. Lions | Vote
» Favre + Rice = Win | Vote
» McNabb valiant in defeat | Vote
» MJD runs Jags to victory | Vote
» Johnson burns Bills | Vote
» Dolphins' backfield goes wild | Vote
» Panthers run by Falcons | Vote
» Bush leads Saints to 9-0 | Vote
» Betts runs over Broncos | Vote
» Bengals' defensive domination | Vote
» 49ers pick Cutler five times | Vote

» Vote: Week 10's top performances


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