JUDGE: Week 14 observations

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Clark Judge

  • I don't know who wins the Defensive Player of the Year this year, but I know where you can find him: Tampa Bay. I don't care if it's defensive end or linebacker , but one of these guys walks away with the award. Rice leads the league in sacks and had a streak of five straight multi-sack games stopped Sunday, but he doesn't get my vote. Brooks does because the man is better than anyone out there at covering the field. He has uncanny speed, racing from sideline to sideline, and makes a raft of big plays. He's the Bucs' second-leading tackler and has as many touchdowns (4) as wide receiver . Brooks should have a fifth, returning a first-half interception Sunday for a first-half TD, but it was called back because of an offsides penalty.
  • Uh, about that MVP drive ... it's Oakland's Gannon, not Vick or , who's pressing now. Favre, who lost some momentum when the he threw seven interceptions in back-to-back losses in mid-season, regained it Sunday night by leading an injury-depleted club to a come-from-behind win over Minnesota. Nevertheless, I still think he trails Gannon, who refuses to give an inch. All he's done this season is throw for 300 yards an NFL-record 10 times ... not to mention leading the back to the top of the AFC. I know, I know, they still have three tough games — including the in Miami next week — but Gannon gets the early vote because he's producing for a team that's winning ... and winning big. The must keep win the division if he's to pull the upset. The longshot here is Holmes, who would win the award if the could figure out how to win their last three. Good luck. Two of them are on the road, in Denver and Oakland, while the third is a Dec. 22 date with San Diego.
  • For all those jackals calling for Jim Fassel's head last week, keep this in mind: The ' head coach has the same record as Denver's Mike Shanahan ... and not nearly the talent. OK, OK, so he plays in a lesser division, but there hasn't been a worse collapse down the stretch than what's going on in Denver. The have blown three straight fourth-quarter leads and are all but out of the playoff picture. Shame on them. They were in great shape three weeks ago; now they're on life support, tied with Kansas City for last in the division. You know what bothers me most about these guys? They not only can't win games they should win; they can't win at home. They lost their last three at Denver, and that's one place where home-field advantage used to mean something.
  • When and if the San Diego don't make the playoffs, they can blame Denver. It was the who ruined San Diego's season last week when guard put defensive tackle out for the season with a dislocated left ankle. Williams, who is big, strong and terrific, is one of the game's best defensive tackles and a player the couldn't afford to lose. Well, they did, and they did when Herndon chopped the guy. The later apologized for the cheap shot, and Herndon was fined by the league office, but that won't undo the damage. Williams will recover, but I don't know that the can.
  • You can't blame New York ' defensive end for going after Washington's at the end of the first half. An infuriated Strahan thought Brown was guilty of two cheap shots — the first when he dove into a pile, injuring safety , and the second when he hit Strahan late shortly before the end of the first half — and if officials weren't going to punish Brown then Strahan would. So it cost the a field goal. Big deal. They won. Strahan made his point, and you didn't hear of Brown again. "If you want to be an idiot like that, you'll be treated like one," Strahan said. "He isn't good enough to be in the league too long anyway."
  • Don't say you weren't warned. When Washington owner Daniel Snyder dumped Marty Schottenheimer for Steve Spurrier, more than a few NFL head coaches wondered how Spurrier could improve on the job Schottenheimer did. Well, he couldn't. His blind faith to journeyman quarterbacks and his failure to rely on running back (the guy carried 12 times Sunday) combined to put him at 5-8, tied with Dallas for last in the NFL Least. Schottenheimer was 8-8 but 8-3 down the stretch with . Why? He featured Davis, leaned on his defense and minimized mistakes. Spurrier might take a peek at last year's videotape if he ever gets serious about winning in the pros. Spurrier was supposed to jazz up an offense Snyder thought too boring, but at last check the were 24th in scoring. Memo to The Daniel: Be careful what you wish for.
  • Kansas City's has an NFL-high 21 touchdowns rushing, and it's time we give credit where it's due. The ' offensive line is outstanding, with center Casey Wiegman, tackle and guard possible Pro Bowl choices. Wiegman has been the most consistent, a center with the speed to pull on runs to the corner, but it's Roaf who is coming on. Over the last month he's played at a level that reminds some of his 1998 performances. "He's been off the charts," said one ' assistant. A week ago he dominated Arizona's , and on Sunday he was superb against the ' . So Wistrom had the ' only sack. It came on a broken play, which means Roaf had nothing to do with it. Incidentally, it was just over a year ago that Roaf underwent knee surgery; now, he's beginning to play as if the knee doesn't bother him.
  • The best quarterback in the NFC the past month hasn't been Atlanta's Vick; it's been Tampa Bay's . While Vick and Green Bay's are more exciting, Johnson has been more productive — completing 65 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and one interception. Since Johnson returned from a broken rib, the Bucs are 4-1 and their quarterback is playing the best football of his life. Still, the Bucs will have trouble making it to the top unless they produce a rushing attack, and I don't care that they had 150 yards against Atlanta. They had 68 after three quarters. They don't have a breakaway threat, nor do they have a reliable short-yardage back.
  • OK, so winning by 18 points when you produce three first downs and 47 yards in offense is pretty alarming. But the Houston had company in the upset department, and I offer Carolina's 52-point effort against Cincinnati. How in the world does a team with at quarterback and without at running back score 52 against anyone? One of the explanations is special teams. The have the best special teams coach in the business in Scott O'Brien, and his units produced two punt returns for touchdowns. But offensive coordinator Dan Henning should take a bow, too. He called the plays that had Peete produce the best game of his career, completing 21 of 29 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns.
  • It's time to stop asking why New England coach Bill Belichick was willing to trade within the division and start acknowledging that keeping Brady over Bledsoe was the right decision. Brady is 4-0 vs. Buffalo and 2-0 vs. Drew, with the ... uh, Belichick ... making life miserable for their former star quarterback this season. In two games against New England Bledsoe threw five interceptions, was sacked six times and lost by 41 points. Case closed.
  • Congratulations to Cleveland quarterback for pulling off his second career win on a Hail Mary (remember New Orleans?), but what in the world was Jacksonville doing leaving in man-to-man coverage with ? Yeah, Morgan made a helluva catch, but where was the safety help? "The thing I don't get," said one AFC executive, "is why teams continue to rush three men in this situation. Not only does the quarterback have time, he has room to move around. What happened here is the same thing that happened in New Orleans in 1999, and the rushed three there, too. If you're asking me ... I'd rush four." So now he tells us.
  • You saw Couch throw the game-winning touchdown pass to Morgan, and you saw the Cleveland quarterback rip off his helmet immediately afterward. Question: Why wasn¿t he penalized? After all, there was the all-important extra point to follow, and shouldn¿t it have been moved back 15 yards? No. When Couch pulled off his helmet there was no time left on the clock. If there was a penalty, it would have been a dead-ball foul, which means it would have been marked off on the kickoff that followed. Except there was no kickoff. So Couch escaped the hanky police.
  • If the St. Louis are "The Greatest Show on Turf" what does that make Kansas City? The scored 98 points their last two games, including a 49-10 defeat of the on Sunday. Clark Judge can be reached at his e-mail address,
  • Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Packers, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Dolphins, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Jaguars, Cardinals, Chargers, Texans, Michael Vick, Tony Banks, Brett Favre, Will Shields, Grant Wistrom, Drew Bledsoe, Willie Roaf, Shaun Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jamal Williams, Derrick Brooks, Stephen Davis, Steve Smith Sr., Steve Herndon

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