NFL: Patriots top Colts in historic showdown



Jamie Augustinsky

As the ’07 NFL season reaches its halfway point, the grid iron stories remain hot. Week 9 saw a highly anticipated matchup of the two best teams in the NFL, a few broken NFL records and the Philadelphia homecoming of one of the most explosive and outspoken wide receivers to ever play the game.

In what was the biggest game of the season and possibly the most anticipated matchup ever in the NFL regular season, the undefeated New England Patriots traveled to Indianapolis to take on the Colts, their AFC rivals and only other undefeated team in the NFL. The Pats had won their first eight games easily, beating their opponents by an average of 25 points per game, but they found themselves trailing most of this game which was a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game. The defending Super Bowl champion Colts were leading 20-10 with 9:42 left in the game after quarterback Peyton Manning scored a touchdown on a 1-yard sneak. The Patriots found themselves in an unfamiliar position, as they had not trailed in a game in the fourth quarter all year, but quarterback Tom Brady and his offense were up for the challenge. On the Pats’ next drive, Brady completed a 55-yard pass to wide receiver Randy Moss to set up a 3-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker, making the score 20-17. After the Patriot defense forced the Colts to punt on their next possession, Brady completed his comeback by throwing a 33-yard pass to wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth, then finding running back Kevin Faulk for a 13-yard touchdown pass which ended up being the game winner. Manning fumbled on the Colts’ next possession, putting an end to their chances to stage their own late-game comeback. Brady threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns in the Pats’ 24-20 victory, while Manning passed for 225 yards and had one touchdown pass. Indianapolis running back Joseph Addai was the Colts’ biggest offensive weapon as he was the leading rusher and receiver, carrying the ball 26 times for 112 yards and making five receptions for 114 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown reception. The Colts fell to 7-1, and the Patriots improved to 9-0, maintaining the chance to be the first team to have an undefeated season since the Miami Dolphins did in 1972.

It was a record-setting day in Minnesota where the Vikings beat the San Diego Chargers by a score of 35-17. Minnesota’s rookie running back Adrian Peterson set an NFL single-game rushing record of 296 yards, surpassing Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis who had 295 yards against Cleveland in 2003. He broke this record in only his eighth career NFL game. In a season where he is not only a candidate for Rookie of the Year but is also earning consideration as a possible MVP, Peterson already has 1,036 rushing yards. This puts him on pace to beat Eric Dickerson’s rookie record of 1,808 yards set in 1983 with the Los Angeles Rams. Also in reach for Peterson is the all-time single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards which Dickerson set in the ’84 season.

Peterson wasn’t the only one to break a record in this game. San Diego cornerback Antonio Cromartie recorded the longest play in NFL history with a 109-yard touchdown return off an attempted field goal. Minnesota kicker Ryan Longwell’s attempt at a 57-yard field goal just as time was expiring in the first half was short but left enough room for Cromartie to catch the ball without stepping out of bounds. He ran all the way to the end zone without being touched. He gained 18 more yards on that one return that his offensive gained in the entire first half. Cromartie had also scored two touchdowns two weeks ago against the Houston Texans, one on a fumble recovery in the end zone and the other on a 70-yard interception return.

The Philadelphia Eagles took on their NFC East division rival Dallas Cowboys in a Sunday night matchup in Philadelphia. The Eagles desperately wanted to win this game to climb back to the .500 mark and gain ground on the division-leading Cowboys. The Philadelphia crowd was fired up before the game but was quickly silenced when the first play from scrimmage was a Donovan McNabb fumble that resulted in a Cowboy touchdown. The Eagles tied it up at seven on a touchdown run by Brian Westbrook, but the Cowboys took the lead on a Tony Romo touchdown pass to Tony Curtis and would not give up this lead for the rest of the night. Almost two years to the date that he was kicked off the Eagles, Dallas wide receiver Terrell Owens had an explosive homecoming in Philadelphia. He played his best game ever in a Cowboys uniform and had the fourth-best game of his career in catching 10 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. Romo, who had just gotten a six-year, $67.5 million contract extension, finished 20 for 25 in the game with 324 yards and three touchdowns. The Cowboys improved to 7-1, while the Eagles fell to 3-5, their worst start ever since Andy Reid became head coach in 1999.

Next week, the Cowboys will travel to New York to take on the Giants in a game that could be critical in the NFC East standings. Minnesota will head to Green Bay to take on the 7-1 Packers in an NFC North matchup. The Eagles will try to win an NFC East matchup for the first time all season as they travel to Washington, and the Colts will attempt to rebound from their first loss of the season when they go to San Diego to play against the Chargers, who have disappointed thus far this season at just 4-4 after last year’s 14-2 mark.