Column: Saints-Giants shootout earns shout-outs for QBs Drew Brees, Eli Manning
Good news and bad news, Eli Manning.
First the good: You completed 30 of 41 passes for 350 yards and six — count ‘em, six — touchdowns for the New York Giants at New Orleans.
Now the bad: You lost.
Drew Brees tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes — completing 40 of 50 passes for 511 yards to lift the Saints to a 52-49 victory Sunday in a shootout that included an NFL-record 13 touchdowns.
“It’s not like we came out today with the intent to set a few records just to shut some people up,” Brees said. “Our mind-set is, every time we step on the field, we have a chance to do something pretty special.”
Talk about a New Orleans revival. After starting 0-3, the Saints have won three in a row (and four of five) and the widely written-off Brees has turned back the clock on his illustrious career. And let the good times roll — the Saints’ next three games are against Tennessee, Washington and Houston, who are a combined 7-15.
As the Saints go marching in to NFL relevance, the Giants only muddied the waters in the NFC East, a division with no winning teams and as up for grabs as a Hail Mary into an end zone full of hands.
While it was a hugely prolific day for these two quarterbacks, it was a horrible one for a handful of other offensive stars.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh’s All-Pro running back, was carted off the field after his leg folded under him awkwardly on a tackle by Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson — the same player whose hit on Bell knocked him out the playoffs last season with a knee injury.
On top of losing Bell — the severity of his injury is not known — the Steelers lost at home to Cincinnati, 16-10, with the Bengals staying undefeated at 7-0.
In the San Diego-Baltimore game, Ravens receiver Steve Smith went down with a torn right Achilles’ tendon, ending his season. Smith, 36, has repeatedly said this is his final season, so that injury could be an ugly and abrupt punctuation to a prolific career.
The Ravens wound up winning, 29-26, to pick up their second victory of the season and hand the cellar-dwelling Chargers their fourth consecutive defeat.
The most senseless injury of the day happened in St. Louis, where San Francisco running back Reggie Bush slipped on the cement apron surrounding the field — his cleats turned to ice skates on that hard surface — and suffered what NFL Network said is believed to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Just a week earlier, Cleveland quarterback Josh McCown lost his footing on the same Edward Jones Dome surface and slammed into the wall. He came away with what looked to be pain in his right arm, and later left the game with a shoulder injury.
The scariest injury came during the Seattle-Dallas game, when Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette was apparently knocked out by Cowboys safety Jeff Heath while running downfield to cover a punt. Medical personnel immobilized Lockette on a stretcher and carted him off the field.
Although Lockette lay motionless on the ground for several moments, he was conscious as he was taken off the field and raised his hand to make an L with his fingers. That’s the Seahawks’ gesture for “Legion of Boom” and alternately “Love Our Brothers.”
For four games in a row, St. Louis rookie Todd Gurley has been virtually unstoppable. He trampled San Francisco to the tune of 133 yards in 20 carries — including a 71-yard touchdown — to carry the Rams to a 27-6 victory at home.
In his previous three games, the first three starts of his career, Gurley ran for 146, 159 and 128 yards. His 566 yards are the most by any modern-era NFL player in his first four career starts, topping the 539 of Billy Sims.
“I keep bringing up that ‘S’ word,” Rams Coach Jeff Fisher said. ". . . I’ve been saying that he’s special. Again, credit him to get to this point and credit the guys around him. They bought into the run game. They bought into that philosophy, which you have to have. He’s obviously getting a lot of people’s attention.”
Gurley is the first rookie in NFL history to rush for at least 125 yards in four consecutive games.
The Rams play at Minnesota on Sunday, a game that will showcase Gurley and Vikings star Adrian Peterson. And people call the NFL a passing league.
Answering the call
The Arizona Cardinals are on a mission to prove themselves.
They got off to a 3-0 start, but then lost two of three, dropping games to St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Yes, you only play the teams that are on your schedule, but the fact that the Cardinals have yet to defeat a team that had a winning record at the time only emphasizes the point: Who have they beaten?
So when his team fell behind at Cleveland, 20-10, Arizona Coach Bruce Arians issued a challenge at halftime.
“He said, ‘We’re either pretenders or contenders. And it’s up to you to show who you are in the second half,’” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “When coach challenges you like that, we had to come out and respond.”
Carson Palmer came out and threw three touchdown passes in the second half, the Cardinals scored 27 unanswered points, and they walked away with a 34-20 victory.
Palmer has 20 touchdown passes this season, passing Kurt Warner (16 in 2008 and ’09) for the most by a Cardinals player through the first half of a season.
Now, the Cardinals get a week off before a Sunday night game at Seattle on Nov. 15 and a far tougher second half of the season.
With their 29-26 defeat at Baltimore, the Chargers have dropped their last four games by margins of four, seven, eight and three points.
“I’m not one to say you’d rather get beat 35-0 every week than have close games, because I can’t imagine how that would feel,” said San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who has put up phenomenal statistics this season while his team has lost six of seven. “But I think it does make it tougher when it’s like this.”
Just grin, baby
Another week, another impressive win by the Oakland Raiders.
They throttled the tough New York Jets, 34-20, with four touchdown passes by Derek Carr and 113 yards rushing by Latavius Murray. Those two are young, but the Raiders got help from the other end of the age spectrum, too. Charles Woodson, 39, collected his league-leading fifth interception.
The next two weeks will be big tests. The Raiders play at Pittsburgh, which is always difficult, then play host to the Vikings, who have won three in a row and five of six.
A numbers game
Rams jersey Nos. 28, 29 and 30 — worn by Marshall Faulk, Eric Dickerson and Gurley.
Call it Ewe-merology.
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