Brady leads demolition in Dallas

ON THE NFL

Monday Morning Qb

Ravens Gameday

October 15, 2007|By KEN MURRAY

In a big-game atmosphere that plays out just a few times each regular season, the New England Patriots proved again last night that nobody rises to the occasion better than they do.

The Patriots' 48-27 demolition of the Dallas Cowboys was pitch-and-catch football at its finest. Quarterback Tom Brady put up fantasy numbers in what looks more and more like a fantasy season for the Patriots.

Five touchdown passes and 388 passing yards when he had barely the threat of a running game seems to suggest Brady has recaptured the unofficial title of the NFL's best quarterback-if, in fact, he ever lost it.

What is so striking about last night's win is that the bigger the game, the better the Patriots play. Dallas gave them only a mild scare, going up 24-21 in the second half, before the Patriots steamrollered to the victory.

Firepower? Peyton Manning has his homeboys with the Indianapolis Colts and his ring, but there was no way the Cowboys were going to cover Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth. This is Brady's bunch and they're as good as any receiving group in the league.

It wasn't an AFC-NFC thing, either, as much as it was two of the league's best teams making plays. Dallas is good, Tony Romo is good. They're just not as good as the Patriots. Not by a long shot.

Keep in mind the Patriots are in the middle of their most challenging stretch of the season. Starting with Dallas, they play four of five games - and five of seven - on the road, a stretch that ends with a Dec. 3 game in Baltimore.

They might even lose one of those games, but it will take extenuating circumstances. The Patriots are averaging better than 38 points a game and allowing fewer than 16. Brady is playing better than anybody ever has with 21 touchdown throws and just two interceptions. He's on pace to throw for a record 56 touchdowns.

That last figure might not be accomplished. But as of last night, there looks to be no stopping these Patriots.

Around the league

Somebody please explain the Vinny Testaverde phenomenon. How does a 43-year-old veteran who hasn't played regularly for several years come off the street and throw for 206 yards - and a gorgeous 65-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith - in a big road win for the Carolina Panthers? Testaverde, who was at his best with the Ravens a decade ago, tore up the Arizona Cardinals' defense with his arm, and, for the first time all year, the Panthers were able to run the ball. It might have been Testaverde's last hurrah, and if so, it was well-deserved.

The Offensive Rookie of the Year award has been virtually locked up. The undeniable winner is Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who destroyed the battered Chicago Bears with touchdown runs of 67, 76 and 35 yards. In a huge 34-31 win over the Bears, Peterson ran for 224 yards of the Vikings' 311 rushing total.

In five games so far, Peterson has averaged 6.3 yards per carry. Only once - against Detroit - has he been held under 100. The seventh pick in the draft has made by far the biggest impact, even if the Vikings are only 2-3.

The worst sight of the day also came in Chicago, where Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson, a former Maryland star, hammered Bears fullback Jason McKie on the final play of the half. McKie was running out the half in the middle of a pile when Henderson rammed his helmet into McKie's chest and ball, forcing a fumble. McKie lay motionless for a few minutes, then got up and walked off the field under his own power. It seemed incredible he could after that collision.

The rejuvenation of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can be attributed to two things: a soft, fourth-place schedule and the signing of veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia. The fiery Garcia produced only one touchdown in a 13-10 win over the Tennessee Titans, but he controlled the game with his passing (274 yards). His 69-yard touchdown strike to Joey Galloway in the third quarter was his fifth of the season - without an interception.

Joe Gibbs gets a lot of credit for coaching up Jason Campbell so quickly in Washington, but the Redskins coach was too wasteful with his second-half timeouts in Green Bay. When he needed them for a do-or-die drive at the end, Gibbs didn't have any. Campbell played well enough to beat Brett Favre and the Packers, but four turnovers and bad clock management were the difference.

Sooner or later, the Kansas City Chiefs' Larry Johnson was due to erupt. The day arrived at home against the hapless Cincinnati Bengals. Johnson rushed for 119 yards and his first touchdown of the season. The Chiefs abandoned the running game in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars a week ago, but Johnson ran 31 times in a 27-20 victory over the Bengals.

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