We may now return to our regularly scheduled football.
After months of reporting on the lives, loves, trials, whims and thoughts of Brett Favre, Jay Cutler, Tom Brady, Mark Sanchez, Donovan McNabb/Michael Vick, Tony Romo and way too many other NFL quarterbacks, I’m glad to say Week 1 showed us, once again, that the guys who matter most are the ones who carry the rock.
Guys who endure the mayhem of mad men intent on doing them bodily harm.
Quarterbacks are sexy and all. They’re the names atop the marquee. But without a solid, top-tier running back, they’re eye candy. Or Jake Delhomme.
New Viking Favre, the most talked about re-retired player ever, was given kudos for winning (and surviving) his three millionth consecutive start, a 34-20 victory over Brady Quinn and the Cleveland Browns. He was 14-for-21 for 110 yards and a TD – about what used to be a good quarter for Favre.
In truth he was just a bit more than the guy with the best seat in the house for witnessing the best player in the house, tailback Adrian Peterson. The NFL’s reigning rushing leader barrelling over, through and around the Browns defense, rambling for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Even Favre marveled, calling him “awesome, and that’s an understatement,” and saying he’d never played with a running back like Peterson.
In Houston, Jets rookie Mark Namath, er, Sanchez grinned his way through New York’s 24-7 mini-upset of the Texans. He was 18-for-31 with 272 yards, a TD and and an INT. As time ran out, he asked the ref for the game ball. He then should have done what he did all day – handed it to running back Thomas Jones, who had 107 yards and 2 TDs.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco (307 yards, 1 TD), the Saints’ Drew Brees (6 TD passes) and Matt Hasselbeck (279 yards, 2 TDs) in Seattle were all the toast of the town after victories, but they should have sent a bottle to, respectively, second-year runner Ray Rice (108 yards, at left), bruising Mike Bell (143 yards) and Julius Jones (117 yards, 1 TD) – other running backs who, like Peterson and Thomas Jones, gained 100-plus yards on the day.
On the flip-side, the Bears (now, officially the Bad News Bears) couldn’t create even a slow lane for running back Matt Forte (55 yards), which forced Cutler into a nightmare four-INT debut evening and the Bears to a 21-15 loss.
Delhomme? He’s still tossing crippled pigeons into the sky. In a 38-10 loss to McNabb and the Eagles, Delhomme threw nearly as many interceptions (4) as completed passes (7), and had to be re-named today as the Panthers’ starter for Week 2. No coincidence that Carolina’s leading rusher, DeAngelo Williams, managed just 37 yards on 14 carries.
Some chicks (and unschooled football fans) still dig the long ball, so quarterbacks will continue to dominate the highlight shows and daily headlines. But give me a good old-school running back any Sunday afternoon (or Sunday or Monday night), and I’ll take my W and go home.
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Photos by AP and Reuters