USA football ball 88.
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It could have been known as upset week in the NFL. While the Indianapolis Colts survived a scare against the New York Jets, the Jacksonville Jaguars defense collapsed, giving the Redskins their second victory of the season, and the Buffalo Bills beat the Minnesota Vikings - a team that looked like they could not be stopped in the first two weeks of the season.
Even though the Bills are 2-2, their feisty style has surprised NFL experts.
In an interview last month, Buffalo Bills general manager Marv Levy remarked that when rebuilding a team, it is about"executing the fundamentals." Improved tackling, better blitzing, and more awareness were the keys to turning around the Buffalo Bills, according to their wise old general manager.
In the off-season, the Buffalo Bills did not hire a big-name coach, but rather a coach in Dick Jauron who shared Levy's vision that winning in the NFL is not about being the most brilliant tactician. "He [Jauron] shares my vision about the need for fundamentals on our team," said Levy. "That was one of the reasons I hired him. We practice the basics over and over again."
Jauron had mixed success when he was head coach with the Chicago Bears, highlighted by a season in which the Bears went 13-3.
While Chicago's offense struggled for much of Jauron's tenure, Jauron's ability to build a strong defense was never in question. Over the past two years, the Bills have invested heavily in more defense, leading many to question Levy's personal decisions, especially the decision to take safety Donte Whitner as the eighth pick in the draft earlier this year.
Levy and his staff are finally starting to feel redeemed by what have they seen thus far. Their selection of Whitner in the 2006 draft was universally hailed in the NFL world as a colossal mistake, but he has answered his critics by winning NFL rookie of the month.
It is a defense that has had to start as many as five rookies and yet made the New England Patriots offense struggle for almost three quarters, held the Miami Dolphins scoreless for almost 58 minutes, and limited a Vikings offense with a lot of weapons to only 12 points. The Buffalo Bills offense still has a lot of work to do when it comes to developing young quarterback J.P. Losman.
Levy noted the importance of studying film over and over again. "It's what make the great quarterbacks great," he said. "They can figure out what they are doing wrong and start to correct their mistakes. It is especially important for a young quarterback. I think Losman understands the importance of preparation and he will get better as he does more of it."
So far, Losman has done a good job of managing the game, allowing Bills All-Star running back Willis McGahee, who has run for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, to lead the offense. Not a bad strategy, considering that McGahee is leading the league in rushing with 389 yards through the first four games.
1. New York Jets coach Eric Mangini - His team lost, but the Jets exceeded expectations by almost beating the Indianapolis Colts. If there are such things as moral victories, this was a perfect example.
2. Peyton Manning - how clutch can a quarterback be. Two fourth quarter touchdown drives.
3. Terrell Owens - five catches for 88 yards after the press loaded up on stories about Owens trying to commit suicide. Next up, a game against his former employer, the Philadelphia Eagles. Extra security might be needed at the Cowboys' hotel.
4. New York Jets special teams for both returning a kick for a touchdown and recovering an onside kick.
5. Patriots running back Laurence Maroney, who rushed for 125 yards, as the Pats dominated the Cincinnati Bengals. As he prepared for the draft last April, Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was heavily intrigued with Maroney's ability. When it comes to running backs, Shanahan knows what he is talking about.
6. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Steve McNair after leading his team to a 4-0 start. The days of Trent Dilfer, Anthony Wright, or Kyle Boller are now starting to seem like a distant memory.
1. Best advice for Bay Area football fans (Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers): Watch 1970s and 1980s NFL film footage, back when the 49ers and Raiders were on top of the football world.
2. Albert Haynesworth for kicking Cowboys center Andre Gurode in the head. When it rains, it pours and nothing is going right in Tennessee at the moment.
3. The San Diego Chargers for doing exactly what they did a year ago - find ways to lose games in creative fashion.
4. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner for looking as befuddled as a confused rookie quarterback.