Al Davis Passes Away
The major story of the week was the passing of Oakland Raiders owner and general manager Al Davis. The Raiders have struggled over the last decade as a series of questionable personnel moves and coach hirings left the franchise struggling in the lower echelons of the NFL.
This is not what Al Davis will be remembered for, however. Davis was one of the greatest innovators in the history of the NFL and he helped shap the league as it is known today. Davis became the youngest person to be named head coach and general manager of a professional football team when he took charge of the Oakland Raiders in 1962. In 1966, Davis was named the commissioner of the AFL, although he opposed the merger with the NFL.
As owner, the Raiders won three Super Bowls (’76, ’80, ’83), one AFL Championship (’67) and four AFC Championships (’76, ’80, ’83, ’02). Davis was also owner when the Raiders controversially moved to Los Angeles in 1982 and back to Oakland in 1994.
Davis will always be remembered as controversial character, but he will also be honoured as a Hall of Fame legend.
NFC North Powerhouses
The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions remained the NFL’s only two unbeaten teams after impressive victories this past weekend. The Packers trailed the Atlanta Falcons 14-6 at half-time, but 396 yards and two touchdowns from Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay to a 25-14 victory. The Packers have been 5-0 on five previous occasions (1929, ’30, ’31, ’62 and ’65) and won the NFL title each time.
The Lions also continued their early season form with a 23-13 win over division rivals the Chicago Bears. The crucial scores came in the third quarter as Matthew Stafford found Brandon Pettigrew with an 18 yard touchdown pass and Jahvid Best scored an 88 yards rushing touchdown.
Both sides are playing entertaining offensive football and benefitting from superb quarterback play from Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford. The teams are on course for a Thanksgiving Day match-up that could help decide the division.
The Quest to Replace Marino Continues
Dan Marino is rightly regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in history, racking up a host of all-time NFL records despite his failure to lead the Miami Dolphins to a Super Bowl victory. The Dolphins have failed to replace Marino since his retirement in 2000, however. When new signing Matt Moore takes to the field on Monday against the New York Jets, he will be the Dolphins’ 16th starting quarterback since Marino ended his career. The Dolphins have started Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Ray Lucas, Brian Griese, A.J. Feeley, Sage Rosenfels, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne and Tyler Thigpen in that period.
Big Ben Bounces Back
There were a number of impressive performances in week five, but the best came from Ben Roethlisberger. The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback had struggled for form in the opening four weeks of the season and was suffering from an injury. Roethlisberger responded by throwing five touchdowns as he led the Steelers to a 38-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Turnovers are crucial in the NFL and a number of playmaking defences are turning these opportunities into victories. Of the six top teams in terms of interceptions, five have a record of at least 4-1. The Green Bay Packers (10 interceptions) and Detroit Lions (7) are 5-0, while the Buffalo Bills (12), San Francisco 49ers (8) and New England Patriots (7) are all 4-1.
The surprise has been the Buffalo Bills, who have intercepted an NFL high 12 passes already this season. The Bills also returned an NFL high three interceptions for touchdowns.
Week 5 Notes
The New England Patriots have now scored at least 30 points in 13 straight matches. They can equal the record of the 1999-2000 St. Louis Rams if they score more than 30 points against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
Tom Brady’s interception in the second quarter against the New York Jets, which was a catchable pass to Aaron Hernandez, was the first interception inside the red zone at Gillette Stadium in Brady’s entire career.
Rookie quarterback Cam Newton became the first player in NFL history to pass and rush for at least five touchdowns in his first five appearances.
Calvin Johnson is the first player ever to catch nine touchdowns in the first five games of the season.
The leading rusher Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis, leading receiver Victor Cruz and highest scoring kicker Nick Novak were all undrafted free agents.
The NFL trade deadline is next Tuesday and the moves have begun in earnest as the Houston Texans trade for Derrick Mason and The Raiders acquired Aaron Curry. Trades are rarer in the NFL than other American sports due to the salary cap implications, but a few small moves could be made before next Tuesday.
Derrick Mason only played five games for the New York Jets after joining as a free agent in the summer. The 37 year old, who enjoyed successful stints at the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens, was poor in his five outings for the Jets but should help boost a Texans offense that throws the ball more consistently than New York.
Curry was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft but has been a disappointment for the Seattle Seahawks. The Raiders traded a seventh round draft pick in 2012 and a conditional pick in 2013 for Curry.
The Denver Broncos have also reportedly placed pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Lloyd on the trading block. Lloyd led the league with 1,448 yards in 2010 but is in the last year of his contract. The likes of Carson Palmer, who has retired after failing to force his way out of Cincinnati, and Kyle Orton, who lost his starting job in Denver, could also be trade bait.