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AFC Preseason Recap
by ASA - 08/22/2006
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The Raven offense continued to show that it is a force to be reckoned with 359 total yards in Baltimore=s 20-10 win over Philadelphia. New quarterback Steve McNair appears to have mastered the offensive scheme already, going 14 of 18 for 148 yards against the Eagles, and now boasts a 78.3 completion percentage through two games. Baltimore also owns one of the league=s deepest running back corps, with Musa Smith B who gained 55 yards on four carries against Philly B stepping up to form a solid trio with Jamal Lewis and former Bronco Mike Anderson.
The Buffalo offense saw both ends of the spectrum in the Bills= 44-31 loss to Cincinnati. The Bills totaled 366 yards against the Bengals and displayed a penchant for the big play with three plays over 45 yards, but could not overcome four turnovers, two of which were taken back for touchdowns. Quarterback J.P. Losman personified the Buffalo problems, completing 7 of 11 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown but turning the ball over three times with two fumbles and an interception.
The 2006 edition of the Cincinnati defense has some glaring similarities B both good and bad B to last year=s version. The Bengals forced four turnovers, returning two for touchdowns, in their 44-31 win over Buffalo but also allowed 366 yards to a poor Buffalo offense. Cincinnati went through the same routine last year when it finished sixth in the NFL in turnovers forced, but finished 28th in yards allowed. For the Bengals to compete for the AFC crown this year, they will need a more all-around effort from their defense.
All the talk following Cleveland=s 20-16 win over Detroit centered on the play of rookie running back Jerome Harrison. The diminutive back out of Washington State tallied 107 yards of total offense B 53 on the ground and 54 through the air B and caught the go-ahead touchdown. With starter Reuben Droughns facing domestic abuse charges, Harrison looks like he will be able to provide the Browns with a viable backup option.
The Broncos put on a dominating offensive effort in their 35-10 victory over Tennessee. Quarterback Jake Plummer squelched talks of a quarterback controversy, at least temporarily, with an impressive showing. Plummer completed 6 of 8 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. The Denver running attack leads the league with 179 yards per game following a 238-yard performance versus the Titans. The triumvirate of Mike Bell (10 carries for 73 yards), Damien Nash (14 for 72) and Cedric Cobbs (10 for 65) did a majority of the damage, combining for 210 yards.
The Houston running attack has been one of the leagueâ€™s best through two weeks of the preseason. The Texans rushed for 143 yards on just 21 carries in their 27-20 win over St. Louis and are third in the league with an average of 158 yards a game. The Houston offensive line may finally be starting to provide some protection for quarterback David Carr. The O-line has allowed just one sack through two games and the team is plus-seven in sacks after finishing minus-31 last season. Continued productive play up front could lead to a playoff run for the Texans.
The Peyton Manning-led Colt offense duplicated what it did last week, scoring on its first possession, but the running game remains stuck in neutral. Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai, who are expected to fill the hole left by Edgerrin James, combined for just 32 yards on 15 carries in Indyâ€™s 30-17 loss to Seattle. The Coltsâ€™ best bet might be second-string punter Reggie Hodges, who ran for 25 yards on a fake punt. Backup quarterback Jim Sorgi left the game after one possession with an injury but third-stringer Shaun King played well, completing 14 of 22 passes for 146 yards.
A looming quarterback controversy was put to rest following Jacksonvilleâ€™s 17-10 loss to Carolina. Head coach Jack Del Rio gave backup David Garrard extensive time with the first-string offense but Garrard did not respond the way he wanted. He finished 7 for 11 with 86 yards passing but threw two interceptions and fumbled three times. Byron Leftwich solidified his role as starter with a solid showing, completing all four of his passes for 52 yards.
Kansas City Chiefs
The departure of Al Saunders, last year=s offensive coordinator, is starting to show in Kansas City=s offensive output through two preseason games. Saunders called the plays for a Chief offense that led the league with 387 yards per game last season, but without Saunders, Kansas City is averaging just over 141 yards a contest. The Chiefs have also experienced some injury woes along the offensive line. Pro Bowler Brian Waters just returned after missing all of training camp with a sprained foot while fellow Pro Bowler Will Shields has sat out the last few practices after suffering a high ankle sprain in the loss to New York.
Daunte Culpepper saw his first extensive action since last seasonâ€™s knee injury and came away feeling good about it. Culpepper, who completed 7 of 9 passes for 86 yards, even went as far as to say it was â€œbeautifulâ€쳌 to finally getting hit again. The Dolphins saw immediate dividends on their signing of Dan Wilkinson in their 13-10 win over Tampa. Wilkinson, who was signed Aug. 14, claimed he was able to play after just three days of practice and proved it come game time. The defensive tackle finished the game with 1.5 sacks in limited action.
New England Patriots
The Patriots put a big-time whoopinâ€™ on the Cardinals in their 30-3 win. New England dominated in all facets of the game, producing 486 yards of total offense while holding Arizona to just 151 yards. The Patriots showed they may not need wide receiver Deion Branch, who is holding out over a contract dispute, as 16 players caught at least one pass in the game against Arizona. Recent signee Junior Seau suited up for New England but did not see any action.
New York Jets
New Yorkâ€™s floundering running attack, brought on by the injury and questionable return of Curtis Martin, has received a double-shot of good news. Derrick Blaylock made a play for the starting spot with 46 yards on 10 carries to lead the Jets to a 216-yard outing against a tough Redskin run defense. Blaylock also picked up some competition in the form of newly acquired Kevan Barlow. The Jets hope Barlow can bring another dimension to the team after starting the last two years at San Francisco. Barlowâ€™s best season came in 2003 when he ran for 1,024 yards.
The Raiders moved to 3-0 during the preseason with their most complete effort yet in a 23-7 win over San Francisco. Oakland showed some life on the offensive side of the ball while maintaining its strong defensive play. Aaron Brooks had his struggles but showed improvement from his first two games. Brooks completed 10 of 17 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 31 yards. Oakland gave up only 209 yards to the 49ers and is now allowing just 10 points and 237 yards per game, fourth- and sixth-best in the league respectively.
Ben Roethlisberger started at quarterback for Pittsburgh despite being listed as questionable and promptly guided the Steelers to a touchdown in their 17-10 loss to Minnesota. Roethlisberger, who injured the thumb on his throwing hand earlier in the week, captained a rarely-used no-huddle offense 55 yards in six plays that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown pass to Cedrick Wilson. It marked the first time Roethlisberger has run the offense as a Steeler, but if Pittsburgh can maintain its efficiency, the no huddle may become a staple of the Steeler attack.
San Diego Chargers
San Diegoâ€™s defense continued to perform well in the second week of the preseason. The Charger defense surrendered just 189 yards and 10 points to the Bears and have allowed just 407 yards and 13 points overall through two weeks. Philip Rivers fell back down to Earth against Chicagoâ€™s tough pass defense, having a pass intended for Antonio Banks taken back 64 yards in the other direction by Brian Urlacher.
The Titan defense left a lot to be desired in Tennesseeâ€™s 35-10 loss at Denver. Tennessee allowed 434 yards, 238 on the ground, and Denver scored touchdowns on its first four possessions. The Titans are now last in the league in rushing defense. The play of first-round pick Vince Young was the lone bright spot for Tennessee. Young entered the game in the second quarter and completed 11 of 19 passes for 125 yards and ran four times for 19 yards, including a 13-yard scramble that resulted in Tennesseeâ€™s only touchdown.