Take six quarterbacks named Craig Krenzel, Billy Volek, David Garrard, Joey Harrington, Quincy Carter and Kyle Boller, throw them together in a handful of games on the same NFL Sunday and what do you get?
Three games decided in overtime, of course.
Krenzel versus Volek -- a.k.a. “Chicago at Tennessee” -- was made possible by injuries to Rex Grossman and Steve McNair, with an assist to a short yet unforgettable stint by Jonathan Quinn as the Bears’ backup, quite possibly the worst exhibition of NFL quarterbacking by anyone lacking the names “Ryan” and “Leaf” in his media-guide biography.
Krenzel now starts for the Bears because public tryouts are just too tough to organize. Against Tennessee, Krenzel completed barely 35% of his passes and was intercepted twice for a quarterback rating of 19.3. Still, his team scratched its way into overtime, where it won by the extraordinary score of 19-17.
Second most amazing stat of the game: The Bears became only the second team in NFL history to win a game in overtime on a safety.
Most amazing stat of the game: Krenzel, a rookie drafted in the fifth round out of Ohio State, where he distinguished himself by handing the ball with aplomb to Maurice Clarett, at least for a little while, is now 3-0 as an NFL starter.
Included in that streak are back-to-back road victories against the New York Giants and Tennessee. The Titans are 3-6 and probably out of the playoff hunt in the AFC. The Giants, losers again Sunday after blowing a two-touchdown lead in a 17-14 defeat in Arizona, are still in the playoff chase in the NFC only because it’s the NFC.
Ten teams in the NFL have records of 6-3 or better, and only two, Philadelphia and Atlanta, reside in the NFC. Meanwhile, the NFC has five teams tied at 5-4, including the Giants, who now find themselves on the short end of a very obscure tiebreaking element: Most Losses At Home Against A Team Quarterbacked By Craig Krenzel.
Six AFC teams are 6-3, including Jacksonville, which was guided Sunday by Garrard, a third-year pro from East Carolina pressed into the lineup because of Byron Leftwich’s injured knee. In his second career start, Garrard passed for 198 yards and two touchdowns against Detroit, including the winner in overtime -- a 36-yard completion to Jimmy Smith in a 23-17 Jaguar victory.
The Baltimore Ravens and the New York Jets are also 6-3 after the Ravens’ 20-17 overtime triumph in East Rutherford, N.J. Difference in the game: Chad Pennington, who did not play for the Jets because of a shoulder injury. That left this very important home game for the Jets in the hands of Carter, which explains why the Jets entered the game at 6-2 and one-point underdogs.
Pregame, Jet Coach Herman Edwards and his staff had two ways to view this development:
The upside: Last season while playing for Dallas, Carter went 2-0 in East Rutherford, participating in Cowboy victories over the Jets and the Giants at Giants Stadium.
The downside: He’s still Quincy Carter.
Jet coaches tried to work around that fact, even with a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. On first and 10 from the Baltimore 17, Jet offensive coordinator Paul Hackett called for a pass. To be thrown by a running back, LaMont Jordan, Hackett opting for the unknown over been-there, let’s-not-go-there-again.
Jordan rolled right and threw into the end zone.
Ed Reed intercepted for Baltimore, and didn’t stop running until he stood in the other end zone, covering a distance of 104 yards. The touchdown was nullified because of a holding penalty, but it still set the Ravens up for a score, triggering a 17-0 run that left the Jets behind, 17-14, late in the fourth quarter.
The Jets moved into scoring position by keeping the ball on the ground. Curtis Martin ran four times for 28 yards. Carter ran once for nine more, producing a first-and-goal situation at the Baltimore four with 50 seconds remaining and two timeouts left.
Cool, calm leadership, that’s what the Jets needed at this point.
Instead, confusion broke out all over. The Jets let the clock run down to 18 seconds before running a play, a one-yard run by Jordan. After a timeout with 14 seconds left, Carter threw incomplete. Eight seconds left. Still time for one more shot into the end zone, except Carter was so slow breaking the huddle, Edwards had to burn his last timeout and send in Doug Brien for the tying field goal, serenaded by booing home fans.
On to overtime ... and you know what they say: Never give Boller a chance to win a sudden-death game on the road.
With the extra time, Boller was finally able to break the 200-yard passing mark, ending this game with 213. His last couple of connections moved the Ravens close enough for a 42-yard field goal by Matt Stover, and the Jets had thrown away a victory that could prove crucial in a conference that has eight teams with winning records vying for six playoff berths.
With New England and Pittsburgh improving to 8-1 with easy victories Sunday, the Patriots and Steelers lead their respective divisions by two games. Meanwhile, 6-3 is good enough for shares of first place in the AFC West (Denver and San Diego) and South (Jacksonville and Indianapolis, riding Peyton Manning’s third five-touchdown-pass performance of the season to a 49-14 rout of Houston).
The NFC has two seven-win teams: 7-1 Philadelphia, which plays Dallas tonight, and 7-2 Atlanta, a 24-14 winner over Tampa Bay. After that, it’s a dart toss, with nine NFC teams either 5-4 or 4-5.
The NFC West and North standings both feature first-place ties, but they are deceiving ties.
In the West, St. Louis and Seattle are 5-4. But the Rams defeated the Seahawks Sunday, 23-12, to complete a season sweep of Seattle, which once was 3-0 and seemingly bound for the quickest playoff clinching in the league.
In the North, Green Bay used a last-second field goal by Ryan Longwell to defeat Minnesota, 34-31, and forge a first-place tie. The Packers, once 1-4, have won their last four. The Vikings, once 5-1, have lost their last three.
Technically, both teams are 5-4, but you don’t need a calculator to know which team is gathering momentum, and which team is gathering dust waiting for the return of Randy Moss.