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Colts should attack Pats' secondaryBy KC Joyner
As the Colts prepare for Monday's showdown against the Patriots, they obviously will be hoping history doesn't repeat itself. The best way to prevent another defeat at the hands of New England is to examine last season's two encounters and learn from their mistakes.
The first thing the Colts should do is remember the things that have worked against the Patriots. In their first meeting in 2004, Indianapolis hit four passes of 20 yards or more. The most interesting part about those four passes is whom the Colts attacked to get these yards and the area of the field they attacked:
Drive/Play Receiver Yards Route Area Defender
1-4 Wayne 42 Go Middle Vrabel/Harrison
2-4 James 20 Check/short Left flat Colvin
4-1 Clark 64 Seam Middle Vrabel
10-1 Stokley 45 Slant Middle Harrison/Bruschi
The Colts were attacking the Patriots' linebackers in coverage and beating them quite badly. It's a good thing they were able to beat the linebackers in this game, because they had almost no success against starting cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Tyrone Poole:
Even if you add the penalty yards into the mix, that is still only 3.7 yards per attempt against the cornerbacks.
These charts show the Patriots were focusing on guarding the outside of the field and leaving the middle of the field more susceptible. The Colts were able to exploit this for a number of big plays and probably would have won the game if not for some untimely turnovers.
Contrast this meeting to the AFC Championship Game. Indianapolis did not attempt one pass down the deep middle of the field. In fact, the Colts threw only one deep pass, which was on their 10th drive of the game and was intercepted.
Indianapolis threw seven medium passes in the game, but only three were in the medium middle of the field. The Colts got only five yards on those three passes, and those yards came via a penalty. The Colts did throw two other medium passes at the Patriots' linebackers and completed one for 16 yards.
Add it all up and you only get 21 yards on five passes to the medium middle (or at New England's linebackers). These metrics make it clear that the Patriots focused their defense on taking away the middle of the field in the AFC title game and were certainly successful in doing that.
How did this focus on the middle of the field affect their cornerbacks? Here are their numbers (with Randall Gay replacing Poole as a starter):
The cornerbacks went from allowing a 25-percent completion rate and 3.7 yards per attempt to allowing an 82-percent completion rate and 7.5 yards per attempt. The Patriots' cornerbacks had to bear the brunt of the defensive changes, but they didn't give up any big plays and the tradeoff worked in the Patriots favor.
As I detailed in an earlier column, the Colts have been adjusting their play-calling this year to the types of defenses they are seeing. The Colts' opponents are following the Patriots' blueprint from last season's AFC Championship Game by frequently playing both safeties deep and putting only seven defenders in the box. Indianapolis' response to this has been to run the ball early and often, and it has worked well enough to achieve a 7-0 record.
As tempting as it might be continue to maintain the same approach that has produced seven straight wins, if the Colts insist on attacking the Patriots with the running game on Monday night, they will be playing right into coach Bill Belichick's hands. New England has weaknesses in its run defense, but its secondary is in terrible shape.
Duane Starks has had problems all year long and has been beaten deep in nearly every game he has started. Starting strong safety Arturo Freeman wasn't even on an NFL roster a few weeks ago.
The Patriots also don't have much depth at cornerback. Randall Gay is their primary backup, but he has been injured much of the year. The only other cornerbacks on the roster are rookie Ellis Hobbs and Hank Poteat. In his brief playing time in 2004, Poteat allowed nearly 10 yards per attempt, a number that will normally get you cut from an NFL roster.
The Patriots may have struggled against the run early in the season, but the return of Tedy Bruschi is helping to improve the situation. Bruschi can do a lot of things for New England, but he can't play cornerback or safety.
If the Patriots want to defend the middle of the field and leave their cornerbacks in single-coverage situations, the Colts should waste no time in attacking them. They should also force the Patriots to play those backup cornerbacks by making frequent use of multiple WR sets.
The Colts' offense has reacted to the Patriots' defense in their past two matchups and Indianapolis has come up on the losing end. The Colts must show they can dictate the pace of the game. If they don't go after the weaknesses in the Patriots' secondary with a ruthless focus, history may end up repeating itself.
KC Joyner, aka The Football Scientist, is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider. He has a Web site at http://thefootballscientist.com."
"Updated: Nov. 4, 2005, 12:51 PM ET
Colts finally have a defense to lean onBy Gary Horton
The Colts are 7-0 and the NFL's only undefeated team, but no one will view them as a serious Super Bowl contender until they can get over the hump against New England. No one has come close to frustrating the normally unflappable Peyton Manning the way Bill Belichick and the Patriots' defense have.
However, the biggest difference between this year's game and the last four Colts-Patriots games has nothing to do with Manning's play or Belichick's schemes. Rather, it is that this year the Colts finally feel they have a good defense and no longer feel as though they have to outscore and outgun the Patriots.
Tony Dungy has been trying to install a productive cover-2 defense since he arrived from Tampa, and this year he finally has one. The Colts' defense starts with the defensive line, and Indianapolis' defensive line starts with DE Dwight Freeney, who might be making a case for NFL defensive player of the year. Freeney (six sacks) is so explosive off the end in pass-rush situations that he often draws double- and triple-teams. This often leaves the other Colts pass-rushers -- DE Robert Mathis (eight sacks), DE Raheem Brock (two sacks), DT Larry Tripplett (two sacks) and DT Montae Reagor (3.5 sacks) -- matched up one-on-one, and they are often winning those matchups.
This is a small, quick, penetrating defensive line that will play the run on the way to the quarterback. Like the Bears, this is an attacking defense that likes to meet the running back in the backfield. They also play a lot of games up front with stunts and loops, not to mention Freeney's well-documented spin move that gives offensive tackles fits.
Like in the current credit-card commercial featuring New England quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots' offense might need five layers of protection to stand up to the Colts' defensive line pressure. The Pats are not particularly strong at either offensive tackle position, with rookie Nick Kaczur at left tackle and Tom Ashworth on the right. Because of this, they will be forced to run a lot of two-tight-end formations with both tight ends staying in to block or at least chip on their way out into routes. They also might have to keep a running back in for extra protection and blitz pickup, though the Colts do not blitz often. If the Patriots do need to do that, Corey Dillon excels in this area.
What this means is a lot of two-man routes for Deion Branch and David Givens against cover-2 zone coverage. The Colts are so confident in their defensive line getting pressure that they rarely blitz. This allows them to rush four and drop seven into coverage on almost every play, and, so far, that zone has been hard to pick apart.
The big reason for that is the improved play of the Colts' safeties -- SS Mike Doss and FS Bob Sanders -- and linebackers. OLB Cato June is having an outstanding year (53 tackles, five interceptions, two touchdowns). He plays the Derrick Brooks role in Dungy's cover-2, and he has become a playmaker on this defense.
The biggest difference in the Colts' defense might be at middle linebacker, manned by Gary Brackett. The Patriots always had success attacking the deep middle of the Colts' cover-2, especially with their tight ends. Former starting MLB Rob Morris simply couldn't drop back fast enough. With Brackett, Indianapolis no longer has that problem. He has great athleticism and range and is much better in coverage than Morris was. So between Brackett's taking away the deep middle and the tight ends' having to stay in to pass block, a key component of the Patriots' attack might be nullified.
There are some significant changes for the Colts on offense as well. First and foremost, they are very willing to run the football and are no longer a pass-first offense. Although they certainly still have big-play capability, Manning & Co. have become very patient -- and that's the key word.
Except for the Ravens, who did blitz, defenses are playing a very conservative zone coverage against the Colts. Opponents will rush only three men and drop eight into coverage and play a very deep cover-2; they no longer want to get burned by the big play. They also hope Manning will get impatient and start trying to attack deep rather than take the short and underneath passes. Unfortunately for the opposition, Manning has stayed patient and the Colts are completely content with slowly marching down the field.
This type of defense also has made Edgerrin James very effective. Teams are backpedaling on the snap for fear Manning will attack them downfield, so James has plenty of room to run. Plus, Manning's favorite passing package, the play-action, has almost been nullified because opponents are on their heels already and are not affected by the play fake. Manning uses the play fake now almost not to confuse the defense but for his own timing and rhythm.
For all that will be made this week about Belichick's defensive schemes, he really will be limited in this game. His defenses are always built from the inside out, and right now on the inside, he has Rodney Harrison out, an injured Richard Seymour, a retired Ted Johnson and a rusty Tedy Bruschi. This could mean a huge game on the ground for the Colts' James. There is no snow in the forecast for Monday, and in the opening game last year -- in weather that wasn't inclement -- the only thing that stopped James and the Colts' ground game was two fumbles.
The Patriots can't match up man-to-man against the Colts' receivers with their corners, especially Duane Starks, who has been getting picked on routinely in every game. So the Patriots will be forced to play the same defense other teams have been playing -- rushing three and dropping eight -- and hope that they can stop the running attack and the underneath passes or that Manning gets impatient.
If the Colts do have success and complete long drives and the Patriots become impatient and start to blitz, the Colts will welcome it. Manning would love to see man-to-man matchups on Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley because he feels those tilt way in the Colts' favor.
All of that means most of Belichick's creative looks and defenses might be out the window because of personnel deficiencies.
Another thing to note is how surprisingly poor the Patriots' red-zone defense has been this year. The team has allowed 15 touchdowns in 22 red-zone possessions. This is partly because teams often have to play man-to-man in the red zone and the Patriots' cornerbacks struggle mightily in doing that. If this game does remain close into the fourth quarter, the Colts would have a big advantage there.
Bruschi will be the X-factor in this whole thing. In past games, and especially in last year's championship game, he was the playmaker on the Patriots' defense. He shadowed James everywhere he went, leaving Manning few options in the underneath passing game. The question is whether Bruschi's instincts and abilities are up to par yet, and even if they are, whether he alone will be enough to slow down the Colts.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN Insider."
"Culpepper's injury raises many questionsBy Len Pasquarelli
The injury suffered by Daunte Culpepper last Sunday, one in which the Minnesota Vikings star quarterback tore three ligaments in his right knee, certainly has wide-reaching implications.
And some of them, in fact, stretch beyond the Vikings organization.
Not only did the injury shatter any lingering hopes Minnesota players still harbored for maybe resurrecting this shipwreck of a season, but, with Culpepper now confronted by a rehabilitation schedule some feel could last a full year and perhaps even more, it likely scuttled quiet plans by at least two other franchises to inquire about his availability in an offseason trade.
It's unclear when Daunte Culpepper will be ready to play football again.One of the teams, not surprisingly, was Arizona, where head coach Dennis Green has worked with Culpepper, and where the Cardinals need to stabilize a quarterback situation that has seen five changes in the last 14 games. There was some feeling among other teams that new Minnesota owner Zygi Wilf might sacrifice his highly-paid quarterback as part of a wholesale organizational makeover. That Wilf would part with his best player, only one year after the Vikings dubiously dealt away the guy who once held that distinction, wide receiver Randy Moss, is unlikely.
Now it's moot.
With his future up in the air, any plans to try to acquire Culpepper via a trade are gone with the wind. Even under the most optimistic prognoses, Culpepper will probably miss all of training camp, and the worst-case scenario has him not returning until 2007. It's very likely that when the seven-year veteran returns, he will be a different quarterback than the one who performed with such recklessness and noble disregard for his body.
Culpepper is listed at 264 pounds, bigger than at least 10 starting NFL defensive ends, and that weight might actually be a tad low. He imposes incredible torque on his legs, particularly on his knees, when he makes hard cuts. No one is suggesting Culpepper will never again scramble upfield but, bet the mortgage, he will be more judicious than in the past, and more of a pocket quarterback when his career resumes.
Remember, when New England safety Rodney Harrison suffered a similar knee injury in a Sept. 25 game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, also tearing three ligaments and requiring reconstructive surgery, people assigned the term career-threatening to his situation. No one has employed such language with Culpepper, five years younger than Harrison, and with far more time remaining on his football biological clock. But his relative youth does not diminish the daunting months which lie ahead.
There are some elements of Culpepper's contract that the Vikings will have to examine, too, as part of the big-picture evaluation of his future. Minnesota awarded Culpepper a contract adjustment this summer, paying him a $6.5 million roster bonus, when he sat out a day to protest the long-term deal he signed last year, but which he felt had already been rendered obsolete by other quarterback contracts. The Vikings promised at the time that they would address a possible contract upgrade, perhaps bumping up the rest of a deal that runs through the 2013 campaign, after this season.
But once Culpepper goes onto the operating table, it will be difficult to get Minnesota officials back again to the negotiating table. At least not until they are assured that their quarterback is whole again and has a viable future. According to league salary documents, Culpepper is due a $6 million roster bonus next spring, long before his rehabilitation will be completed, and he could be asked to delay that. His 2006 base salary, $2 million, is certainly palatable, but his cap charge of $9.42 million is very high for a guy who doesn't figure to start all 16 games for the Vikings.
When the Vikings signed Culpepper to the new contract, everyone envisioned that it would have to be revisited in a few years, like when the base salaries reach $6 million in 2008 and then spiral upward from there. It might be imperative now, given the uncertainty surrounding Culpepper's career, that adjustments be made even sooner. If there is any kind of positive for the Vikings, and that's certainly a relative term, it is that the team signed the very capable Brad Johnson to a four-year deal this spring, instead of just going the rent-a-quarterback route with a one-year contract.
As for the two teams poised to approach the Vikings about a deal for Culpepper once this season ends, well, there is no positive spin. The Cardinals probably will have to cast their lot with Kurt Warner or Josh McCown, or maybe look elsewhere for a veteran. Officials from the other unnamed franchise that planned to inquire about Culpepper have already begun video study on other veterans who might be available via trade or free agency, and have not ruled out investing a high-round draft choice on a quarterback.
Around the league
• With the dearth of quality quarterbacks in the senior class, and Southern California's Matt Leinart arguably the lone legitimate first-rounder in the 2006 draft, scouts are taking a long look at the potential underclass candidates who might enter the lottery. Much of the focus has been on the trio of Brady Quinn (Notre Dame), Vince Young (Texas) and Drew Stanton (Michigan State), but here's another name to put on the radar screen: Marcus Vick of Virginia Tech.
The younger brother of Atlanta Falcons star Michael Vick, graduated from high school in 2002 and is eligible for the draft by virtue of the so-called "three-year rule." In fact, by the '06 draft, he will have been out of high school for four years. He hasn't made any public comments about his plans beyond this season, and hasn't given any serious thought yet to the possibility of bypassing his senior year and going into the draft. But sources close to Marcus said this week that, by the end of the Hokies' season, which could culminate in a national championship game appearance, the younger Vick will have seriously considered all his options.
Because of a redshirt season in 2002, and the year-long suspension levied against him in 2004, Marcus Vick has thrown only 215 passes in his college career. Not a lot of drop-backs, for sure, and not many opportunities to read defenses, a shortcoming that certainly plagued Michael Vick when he came into the league. But in any undertaking, you strike while the iron is hot, and the thin quarterback class for the 2006 draft could sway Marcus Vick's decision about his future. Notable, too, is that Marcus Vick will be 22 years old at the time of the '06 draft. That's still young for a prospect at any position. But at the age of 22, Michael Vick was already in his second NFL training camp.
• Be it ever so hallowed, there's no place like home, especially this season. Through the first eight weeks of the 2005 campaign, home teams have fashioned an aggregate record of 77-39. If things continue at the current pace, the .664 home winning percentage would be the highest in modern league history. The current record was established in 1985, when home teams forged a .643 winning mark. The other seasons in which home teams won more than 60 percent of the time: 1998 (.629), 1981 (.623), 1996 (.621), 2003 (.613), 1997 (.608) and 1992 (.607). Going into this weekend, there are four teams who are undefeated at home and only five clubs having losing marks in their own ballparks. In four of the eight divisions -- the AFC East, AFC West, NFC East and NFC West -- all four franchises have non-losing home records. The combined home record of the NFC East franchises, a robust 13-1 (the best in the league), is a huge part of why it is the only division in which all four teams sport winning records. Not surprisingly, every division leader has a winning record in its own stadium, and those eight teams have combined for a 27-4 home mark.
• It's not often that NFL teams get a shot at a solid cornerback in-season, a young guy who has lined up and played and possesses physical potential, and can essentially be had for next to nothing. That's what made this week such an unusual stretch. One young cornerback, former Green Bay third-round pick Joey Thomas, popped free on the waiver wire, was claimed by five teams, and awarded to the New Orleans Saints on Thursday evening.
At some point in the next week or two, when he has recovered from a mild groin injury, the Denver Broncos will release fourth-year veteran Lenny Walls from the injured reserve list, and he figures to generate multiple waiver claims as well. Walls is a bit of a tease, a talented player who can't seem to stay healthy, and that makes him somewhat of a moderate risk. But the guy is 6-feet-5, can run, has started in 20 games, including three this season, and is only 26 years old. Yeah, he has just one career interception, and his long injury history would make any insurance adjustor cringe. But he's a player at a premium position, with cornerback a difficult slot to fill, and some team is going to be convinced (and might be correct) that it can help him fulfill his potential.
Walls, who requested his release, was moved in part by coach Mike Shanahan to send a not-so-subtle message to his first-place team as it entered its bye week. Plus, in rookies Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth, the Broncos seem to have finally hit on some young cornerbacks, after Shanahan posted a miserable track record at the position, striking out with past high-round choices such as Deltha O'Neal and Willie Middlebrooks. The performance of Williams and Foxworth in recent weeks certainly made Walls expendable.
Thomas, on whom the Packers staff simply soured, is likewise a big, talented cornerback who needs to grow up both on and off the field. But for just $161,000, the balance remaining on his minimum base salary for this season, hey, why not take an inexpensive two-month look at the former Montana State star? If the Saints like what they see in Thomas, who will be helped by the fact his agents are headquartered in San Antonio, where New Orleans has temporarily relocated, they've got him under contract for two more seasons, also at minimum base salaries. In truth, it's mildly surprising that more than five teams (Dallas, Miami, St. Louis and San Francisco were the other franchises that attempted to steal him) didn't submit waiver claims on Thomas.
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
12 10 2 0 0 2
• On the subject of young cornerbacks, keep an eye on Tennessee rookie Reynaldo Hill, a seventh-round choice from the University of Florida, and a guy who is outplaying the Titans' first-round corner, Pacman Jones.
Even though he didn't go off the board until the final round of the draft, scouts were onto Hill in the weeks leading up to the lottery this spring, and he was a player several franchises tabbed as a late-round steal. He might be precisely that in Tennessee, where coach Jeff Fisher elevated him to the starting lineup at left cornerback this week, ahead of veteran Andre Woolfolk, another former Titans first-rounder. When he returns from a hamstring injury, Woolfolk will be relegated to the nickel cornerback slot.
In the last two games, Hill has snatched two interceptions and grabbed the attention of the Titans staff, who understood in camp that they might have a diamond in the rough. Hill is a terrific, young ball athlete, has good enough size and excellent instincts. Jones, on the other hand, continues to struggle with technique and in coverage, as well as with his temper. He recently approached the stands to seek out a fan who had been heckling him, another indication that Pacman hasn't grown up yet.
• The quarterback carousel continues to spin wildly. There will be at least three new starters this weekend -- Charlie Batch (Pittsburgh), Brad Johnson (Minnesota), and Cody Pickett (San Francisco) -- and will raise the number of different starters for 2006 to 49, with the season barely at the halfway point.
By the end of the weekend, three teams will have used at least three different starters. Pickett will be the 49ers' fourth different starter in the last five weeks. Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil hinted Thursday that Trent Green might not start on Sunday, after spending much of this week away from the team as he dealt with the death of his father, but the veteran probably will start against the Oakland Raiders.
Vermeil isn't so much concerned with Green's preparation as he is the mental state of his starter. Last week, though, just days after his father's passing, Green had arguably his best performance of the season in a loss at San Diego, throwing for more than 300 yards in the second half of that contest. If, for some reason, Vermeil decides Green isn't prepared, the Chiefs' starter would be longtime and underworked backup Todd Collins, who hasn't started a game since 1997.
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Rec Yds TD Avg Long YAC
14 228 1 16.3 80 102
• His obvious football abilities aside, Braylon Edwards was viewed by some league scouts before this year's draft as just another wide receiver diva, a prospect whose ego might eclipse his talent. Apparently, from what the Cleveland Browns people tell us, that was a bad call. The former University of Michigan star, and the third overall prospect selected in the 2005 draft, has been a hard worker and team officials say, really wants to be good. Edwards returned to the field much sooner than anticipated from an infection that forced surgery to his right arm, worked hard to get back into the flow, and has now earned extended playing time.
Coach Romeo Crennel said this week that Edwards, who has 14 catches for 228 yards and one touchdown, will now split time with veteran Dennis Northcutt at the wideout spot opposite Antonio Bryant. It won't be much longer, it appears, until Edwards assumes a starting role.
• Tampa Bay rookie tailback Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, hampered by a foot injury for the past month, is said to have had his best practice sessions in weeks over the past few days and coaches believe their first-round pick is healthier than he has been in some time. It couldn't come at a better time, either, since tailback Michael Pittman is battling through a pinched nerve which is causing numbness in his left hand. Pittman had an MRI examination of his neck and spine this week and has been cleared to play, but it is likely he will have no physical contact in practices for the rest of the season as he tries to avoid surgery.
In his last two appearances, sandwiched around two games he missed with his foot injury, Williams has carried 24 times for only 33 yards. Nineteen of those carries netted 2 yards or less and 15 of them went for 1 yard or less, with eight of them for losses. Cadillac's longest run in those two games was for 15 yards, this after having five explosive plays (runs of 20 yards or more) in his first three outings.
The Tampa Bay offense, which sputtered under the direction of Chris Simms last week, desperately needs to get Williams back on track in Sunday's big NFC South contest with Carolina. And Simms, who won't be looking over his shoulder as recently-acquired quarterback Tim Rattay doesn't yet have sufficient grasp of the offense to be a factor, must step up, too.
• Carnell Williams' former Auburn teammate, Ronnie Brown of Miami, might yet learn to coexist in the same backfield as Ricky Williams. But it might take a while. The two played in tandem for 12 snaps in last week's victory over New Orleans and, in those situations, Brown logged zero carries. Ricky Williams, on the other hand, gained 40 yards in the dual-tailback alignment.
As noted in the "Morning After" column on Monday, Brown has now supplanted Carnell Williams as the league's leading rookie rusher. He has 114 carries for 544 yards and three touchdowns and has now rushed for 95 or more yards in four of his last five games. In that stretch, Brown has carried 80 times for 452 yards, an impressive 5.65-yard average. Even factoring in his first two games, Brown is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He has demonstrated that he can pound the ball inside and can also make the home-run play, with runs of 28, 35, 58 and 65 yards.
• Heath Evans, the veteran fullback signed by the Patriots this week, is getting an intense crash course in the New England offense this week, and for obvious reasons. Evans, who was released by Miami two weeks ago, is the healthiest running back on the Pats' roster, and could actually see some playing time against Indianapolis on Monday night. Starter Corey Dillon continues to be slowed by a sprained ankle, Patrick Pass has a hamstring injury and Kevin Faulk remains out with a broken foot. New England auditioned a four veteran free agent backs this week: Olandis Gary, Mike Cloud, Anthony Thomas and Jesse Chatman. It's possible the Patriots could add a runner, most likely Cloud, before Monday night.
• Because of the injury to Culpepper, the Minnesota Vikings will play this week with only two quarterbacks, starter Brad Johnson and untested backup Shaun Hill on the active roster. The No. 3 emergency quarterback will be wide receiver Koren Robinson and, given the disasters that have befallen the Vikings this season, no one should be too surprised if he's pressed into action.
The team did audition three free agents -- Rohan Davey, Preston Parsons and Doug Johnson -- late in the week. One free agent who tried to get in touch with the team about a workout, and who the Vikings apparently ignored, was Jeff George. The longtime veteran played in Minnesota in the past, knows head coach Mike Tice and some front office staffers, and still couldn't get a sniff.
Nothing against the players the Vikings auditioned -- regular readers know we like Davey a lot -- but it's difficult to imagine any of them would be a better fit than George, a guy who has played in a lot of offenses and could come in and figure out the ropes in a short period. George was actually a pretty popular player during his stint in the Twin Cities, a guy who did good things in the community, and he had hoped the Vikings would give him a shot.
• Stat of the week: Bad enough the New York Jets will field the NFL's 30th-ranked defense against the rush, surrendering 140.6 yards per contest, against San Diego star tailback LaDainian Tomlinson in Sunday's game. But the Jets also have to concern themselves now with Tomlinson the passer. Tomlinson has completed all three of his pass attempts this season, for 47 yards, and all have been for touchdowns. The four quarterbacks who have thrown passes for the Jets -- Chad Pennington, Jay Fiedler, Brooks Bollinger and Vinny Testaverde -- have an aggregate 207 attempts. And they only have, you guessed it, three touchdown passes. The Jets, by the way, have gone 308 minutes and 19 seconds without a touchdown pass, the longest drought in franchise history.
• Punts: He probably won't be active this weekend, but look for the Vikings to try to get some playing time later in the year for tailback Adimchinobe Echemandu, elevated to the active roster from the practice squad this week. The Minnesota coaches feel Echemandu might have the best pure running skills on the team. The former University of California standout saw brief action with Cleveland in 2004. ... At age 34, Tampa Bay wideout Joey Galloway is having a pretty notable season. The 11-year veteran has 39 catches for 648 yards and five touchdowns and has now scored 11 times (10 on receptions and once on a punt return) in his last 12 games, dating back to last season. His current receiving numbers projected over a full season (89 catches and 1,481 yards) could represent career highs. ... Condolences to New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi on the death of his mother, Mary Accorsi, 95, this week. ... Indianapolis is minus-23 in turnover differential against the Patriots since 1998, a prime reason for the Colts' 2-10 record versus New England in that period. ... The Eagles, who seem to fall behind every week, have now surrendered 62 first-quarter points. That's more first-quarter scoring than Philadelphia has allowed for a full season since 1999. The Eagles have trailed by 14 or more points in the first quarter in three games this season. ... Despite optimism last week, it appears Baltimore quarterback Kyle Boller is a few more weeks away from returning to the lineup. ... There is a good chance that LaVar Arrington will replace struggling starter Warrick Holdman at weak-side linebacker Sunday night, when the Redskins meet the Eagles. ... Seattle, which keeps winning without its starting wideout tandem, will get Bobby Engram (broken ribs) back this weekend. Darrell Jackson, who is still rehabilitating a knee injury, remains a few weeks from returning.
• The last word: "Beautiful. They put me in first class. They really took care of me [and] I appreciate it. Didn't do the movie, you know what I mean? But a first-class flight. A lot of magazines. This is a magazine, like this here, I read coming home. A lot of beautiful women, you know what I mean? That's what I read on the flight home. A first-class flight home." -- Tampa Bay defensive end Simeon Rice, clutching the most recent edition of Black Men magazine, with a scantily-clad model on the cover, on his flight home after Bucs coach Jon Gruden suspended him for last weekend's game in San Francisco because he was late to a Saturday night team meeting.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here ."