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Gibbs-style football makes successful return

By Marv Levy

Special to NFL.com

Gibbs-style football makes successful return

(Editor's note: Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy, one of the smartest and greatest coaches in NFL history, provides his thoughts about the players, the coaches and the games each week throughout the season.)

(Sept. 12, 2004) -- The Redskins played sound, Joe Gibbs-style football in their win over the Buccaneers. They didn't necessarily light up the scoreboard. Clinton Portis had a great game as Washington predictably ran the ball. It was vintage Gibbs -- he's back, so look out, folks!

Of course, because he's back, all the fans and media expect nothing short of a Super Bowl from Washington. I think he's under some added pressure, certainly more than most of the head coaches in the league, and he's willing to bring it on himself. But if he thinks back to his prior days, he'll remember that he was always under pressure then, too. So I'm sure Gibbs has already gotten over the pressure. That's the way a coach has to approach it.

Someone once asked me, "How do you handle all the stress that comes with coaching?" Well, I never had any. I've never had an inch of stress in my life. Now my adrenalin has flowed, and I've been excited, anxious, angry ... even apprehensive. But I never had any stress. At least not over the game of football. I don't think Gibbs will feel any stress either.

Brady gets his due

I think we saw a preview of the AFC Championship Game in January when the Patriots beat the Colts in the first game of the year. They're the two best teams in the AFC, but that will likely change as the season flows. I always knew that Peyton Manning was a great quarterback, but despite all of Tom Brady 's accolades, I never realized he was this good. I know that sounds funny since he's a two-time Super Bowl MVP, but he never really got my full attention and admiration until now.

Brady amazed me. His ability and composure really impressed me. He, too, seems to handle the game without much stress, and that's such an important quality.

Manning is still my favorite quarterback playing right now. If I had the wonderful opportunity to start an expansion franchise and pick any one player in the league to build around, I'd pick Manning. But from that point on, there are plenty of areas open to argument on the basis of how Brady performed. He's nosed Manning out in their past three meetings, the last two of which came in New England, which I believe gives Brady and the Patriots a significant advantage.

Jags win on buzzer-beater

In typical NFL style, the Jaguars and Bills battled to a fantastic finish. Buffalo had the lead for 59 minutes and 56 seconds, but it was Jacksonville that finished the game with a 14-play drive, finishing with a touchdown pass with no time left. Byron Leftwich threw three fourth-down conversions on the drive, including a 45-yard connection to Jimmy Smith on a fourth-and-14 as well as the game-winning score. All the drama was there.

Whether you're blown out or in a close game, obviously any loss hurts. But here's a team that worked hard since training camp started in the Bills. To lose it on the last play of the game tears you apart. It's heartbreaking, but the Bills players and coaches can only be angry at the world for one night. They're going to pound the pillow and be upset, but when they wake up on Monday, their eyes better be on their next opponent. There's a period to mourn, a period to own up and ask, "What can we do to get better?" Then find some of the good things to focus on and get busy.

Rams win ... barely

The biggest problem the Rams have, and they've had it for a long time, is that they turn the ball over far too often. They've always been cavalier about turnovers, even in their better years. On Sunday, they had two fumbles and an interception, along with an additional interception that was called back by a Cardinals penalty. When will Mike Martz have his Rams focus on keeping the ball safe?

Of course, what counts is that the Rams won the game. It's going to be forgotten that they struggled or turned the ball over so often.

Eagles are for real

I realize not a lot was expected from the Giants, but the Eagles were dominant in the 31-24 win. They've strengthened themselves in so many ways on offense to go along with another year of development for Donovan McNabb, who I think is terrific. I've been impressed with the Eagles all along. Everybody points to those three straight NFC title game losses, but this is a solid, well-coached, levelheaded team that is always in championship contention. It's a well-run organization and I admire everything about them.


Marv Levy knows a lot about other stuff besides football. Each week, Levy will touch on a non-football topic as part of his column.

Here's something I don't understand. After watching a day of this tremendous physical activity of these games, why don't Americans exercise more? Knowing the benefits that exercise provides, how can people just sit there and not be active? I run about three miles a day and do weight work three days a week to stay fit and feel great. Come on, let's spruce up the American image. Let's look better, be healthier and stand taller. Move it for America!

With the addition of Terrell Owens, they become much more difficult to defend. Owens has a reputation for being high-maintenance, but I don't think you ask him to change his personality. I'm beginning to see that he's not trying to do goofy things. He's still exuberant, but I think he's been wisely counseled. He's matured some and learned some from his past experiences and is happy to have a new lease on life. He's magnificently talented and has the right cast around him. Boy, he's going to be a weapon.

As for the Giants, they played against a real good team on the road, but they have a ways to go. There's been a lot of disruption there with coaching changes and a quarterback shuffle and they have an uphill battle in front of them.

Vikings make an impression

Of all the teams this week, Minnesota is the one that left me with the impression that it is going to be better than I originally thought with a 35-17 win over Dallas. Daunte Culpepper is an unbelievable physical specimen at quarterback and he has a remarkable talent to use in Randy Moss, but he wasn't the only weapon out there. Culpepper was able to spread it around because they have superb balance in their attack. I liked Onterrio Smith running the ball and they are a strong team all around.

Their offense has always been solid, but it's on defense where they've really made strides. I worked with Ted Cottrell, the defensive coordinator they brought in this year, when he was on my staff in Buffalo. He is a very sound coordinator and he'll relate extremely well with players. Players like him, relate to him and believe in him. He's an intelligent man so I think he has had an impact.

What did we learn this week?

The kicking game is really, really important. Look no further than the kicking game to find out why the Lions beat the Bears and snapped their losing streak on the road. Detroit blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown. That's a 10-point swing (and a 50-point swing in Lovie Smith's blood pressure). Take seven away from the Lions and give three to the Bears, and you have a completely different outcome to their game.

Don't underestimate rhythm. The Jets really surprised me. They seem to have a very smooth, rhythmic offense. Chad Pennington performed really well and Curtis Martin played magnificently. When you're on defense, your goal is to take the offense out of its rhythm. But once you get into a rhythm offensively, your confidence grows and you get better and better. There isn't a better example of this than the 2003 Patriots.

Emmitt Smith is not done. The all-time leading rusher added 87 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown against St. Louis. Whether he's the same Emmitt he was before remains to be seen. He's not Clinton Portis or Shaun Alexander, but he did give the Cardinals a legitimate running option. He's still got something left in the tank.

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