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SI: Sticking with ground game pays off in Week 2


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The runaround

Sticking with ground game pays off in Week 2

Clinton Portis ended up with 129 yards despite sitting out the second half with an injury.

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Eight running backs rushed for more than 100 yards Sunday -- and each of their teams won. In fact, among the top 10 rushing totals, nine were on winning teams. The only exception: the Chargers, who were led by LaDainian Tomlinson's 93 yards but were routed by Clinton Portis' Broncos.

On the other hand, six quarterbacks passed for more than 300 yards Sunday -- and none of them had a teammate rush for more than 84 yards -- but four of them lost.( cough** Redskins **cough, Trung 89**sneeze)

While airing it out may make for more entertaining TV, running the ball remains the key to winning in the NFL. Even if you're the defending champion Buccaneers. Brad Johnson passed for 339 yards Sunday, but Tampa Bay's leading rusher, Michael Pittman, gained a paltry 38 yards in the Bucs' 12-9 overtime loss to the Panthers.

The Falcons went into halftime fully in control of their game against the Redskins, running the ball 18 times in the first half en route to a 24-17 lead. Utilizing the backfield tandem of Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett to milk the clock seemed a no-brainer during the second half. But Atlanta ran the ball only four times in the final 30 minutes and Washington rallied to win 33-31.

There were four 100-yard rushers in Week 1 (combined 4-0) and two 300-yard passers (0-2). Through two weeks, teams are 12-0 when they have a 100-yard rusher. Three-hundred yard passers are 2-8. Will this trend continue? In the copycat world of the NFL, whatever is in vogue is what works -- and right now, that is running the football.

Carolina 12, Tampa Bay 9 (OT): Regardless of what some may believe, this is not a changing of the guard in the NFC South. If not for several special-teams breakdowns, the Buccaneers would be 2-0 and Panthers fans would be calling for Rodney Peete to replace Jake Delhomme.

However, it is Carolina leading the division now while Tampa Bay plays catch-up. And the Panthers deserve credit for creating those special-teams problems for the Bucs.

Stephen Davis had his second consecutive 100-yard game, but Delhomme struggled (9-for-23, 96 yards, two INTs). Still, Carolina, which is the NFC's oldest team with an average age of 27.5 years, held Tampa Bay to 60 yards rushing on 22 attempts.

If this sounds like a "yeah, but ..." scenario, that's because it is. The Panthers woulda, coulda, shoulda been 1-1 -- but isn't the mark of a contender that which wins these type games? In any case, the Bucs will get their chance at redemption Nov. 9.

For all those who are taxing their minds trying to write the opening graph to a demise of Tampa Bay storyline, remember this: For 43 consecutive games, the Buccaneers' defense has registered at least one sack and one interception, eclipsing the 1975-77 Colts for the longest streak since 1963.

The Eagles last lost consecutive games in the same season 46 weeks ago -- in Weeks 2-3 of 2000. ... Sunday's Titans-Colts game featured the three players who have started the most consecutive games to begin a career -- Eddie George (114), Tarik Glenn (98) and Peyton Manning (82). ... Saints head coach Jim Haslett is 27-23 in 50 games after Sunday's 31-10 victory against the Texans. ... With 90 yards against the 49ers, Rams RB Marshall Faulk is 10th on the all-time yardage list with 16,560 yards. ... Jets WR Santana Moss had a career-high 142 yards in a 21-10 loss to the Dolphins. ... Wade Richey became only the second kicker in the Ravens' eight-year history to kick a field goal. He booted a 56-yarder after a penalty negated Matt Stover's 51-yard kick in the second quarter. ... Colts CB Nick Harper had a 75-yard INT-return for a TD. He has three picks -- matching the team's total from 2002. ... After the Packers' 31-6 win against the Lions, Green Bay is 16-0 when Ahman Green tops 100 yards rushing. ... The Bengals are 0-9 all-time at Oakland. ... Eagles K David Akers kicked a career-long 57-yard field goal in a 31-10 loss to the Patriots. ... The Falcons' Dan Reeves failed to become the sixth head coach in NFL history to win 200 games. ... Six high schools each have an NFL-high five active NFL players: Ely, Pompano Beach, Fla.; Glades Central, Belle Glade, Fla.; William M. Raines, Jacksonville, Fla.; Long Beach Poly, Long Beach, Calif.; Torrey Pines, San Diego, Calif.; and Thornton Township, Harvey, Ill. ... The Falcons-Panthers game on Sept. 28 has been moved to 4:15 p.m. ET. ... Chiefs K Morten Andersen and Titans K Gary Anderson are tied for second place all-time in games played (324).

Kris Jenkins blocked Martin Gramatica's point-after try to preserve a 9-9 tie with 1:49 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was the Panthers' third special teams block of the day -- two by Jenkins -- and key in Carolina's 12-9 overtime victory. Jenkins also blocked Gramatica's 38-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter, and Julius Peppers swatted down a 47-yard attempt early in the fourth..

Quarterback: Washington's Patrick Ramsey -- Everyone who had the Deadskins starting 0-2, step to the rear. 1-1? Back of the line. Everyone else, enjoy the 2-0 start after Ramsey's gutsy performance against the Falcons. Now that the Skins' QB carousel has stopped spinning, Ramsey is settling in: 25-of-39, 356 yards, two TDs. Then again, who else is Steve Spurrier going to call on? Rob Johnson?

Running Back: Baltimore's Jamal Lewis -- Here's all you need to know: 30 carries, 295 yards, two touchdowns. Take away his 82- and 63-yard TD runs and Lewis still averaged 5.35 yards per carry in the Ravens' grudge-match victory against the Browns.

Wide Receiver: Washington's Laveranues Coles -- OK, so he had 105 yards in Week 1 against his former team, the Jets. You had to expect him to be geeked for that game. On Sunday, in what could have been just another game on the schedule, Coles torched the Falcons for a league-high 180 yards and one TD. Yeah, this is one of Daniel Snyder's free-agent signings that cannot be disputed.

Dallas heads to Giants Stadium for a matchup with its NFC East rivals in a homecoming for Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells. The Tuna led the Giants to an 85-52-1 record from 1983-90, including victories in Super Bowls XXI and XXV.

"It's going to be a crazy night," says Dallas S Darren Woodson. "It's always wild at Giants Stadium when the Cowboys come to town. It's a division game against a longtime rival, so it's going to be big."

The Cowboys will make their first Monday Night Football appearance since a 9-7 win against the Redskins on October 15, 2001. But Dallas is no stranger to Monday nights; the club has played in 61 Monday night games, second-most of any team. Dallas' 35 MNF wins are fourth-most in NFL history.

And it's fitting that Giants WR Amani Toomer could become the team's all-time leading receiver in front of the MNF cameras. Toomer needs 28 yards to pass Frank Gifford (5,434), who was a member of the MNF crew from 1971-97.


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I don't see this as changing their tune in the least. Lets review:

On the game: "The Falcons went into halftime fully in control of their game against the Redskins". Not in the game I watched. They controlled maybe the first 20 minutes, but by halftime the momentum had clearly shifted and the scoreboard reflected that.

Then he hints the Falcons gave the game away by not playing stall-ball the second half. As if a 7-point lead against a clearly ignited offense was going to last a full 30 minutes.

Next, he issues some tepid praise of Ramsey - along with the phrases "Deadskins", "QB carousel", and a gratuitous shot at Rob Johnson - who was obviously not the worst QB named Johnson at the stadium yesterday.

Then, in a clearly painful moment he almost whispers that Coles is tearing up the league, and finishes with an almost pathetically grudging nod to Snyder's offseason acquisitions.

It'll be fun this year to watch these clowns choke on crow.

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