Week seven was a bit of a placeholder on the NFL schedule, with few match-ups between marquee teams and few surprises. Drama only seemed to find teams that tempted fate by taking the field in particularly egregious throwback uniforms. Both New England and Tampa Bay played in getups that reproduced some of the NFL's all-time most unappealing looks and their team's most forgettable eras.
Orange Ya Glad He Wore That: Hosting New Orleans, Tampa Bay played in their infamous expansion-era "Creamsicle" orange jerseys, which apparently came with authentic-style bad luck and poor execution. Though the teams ran up 971 yards of combined offense, the game turned on a single Bucs' play that might be unique in NFL bad-luck history and when Tampa Bay then failed to gain two yards.
In the third quarter, the Bucs were backed up inside their own five when quarterback Josh Freeman hit Vincent Jackson for a 95-yard pass before New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins ran him down at the Tampa Bay one, an almost inconceivably long play to result in no points. Tampa Bay then failed to score on three straight runs and Freeman was sacked on fourth down. New Orleans' Drew Brees, who finished with 377 yards, then led the Saints 95 yards to take the lead for good, his fourth 70+-yard touchdown drive of the day.
Everyday Not Shufflin': The Patriots, meanwhile, sported 1985-style red uniforms with white "Pat Patriot" helmets. Though beloved by many Pats fans, the '80s-era uniforms remind most NFL watchers only of New England's role as the loser in the most famous Super Bowl blowout, 46 - 10, to the Bears' mighty "shufflin' crew." Sunday, the Patriots led the New York Jets by 10, but let them and their shockingly-revitalized quarterback Mark Sanchez score 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter before Tom Brady engineered a desperate last-second drive to tie the game and send it to overtime. The Pats escaped in overtime when Sanchez fumbled to end the game.
No Let Downs: After big wins in major showdowns last week, the stage looked set for the Green Bay Packers or the New York Giants—or both—to have a let down this week. Maybe next week. Or never.
A week after baffling San Francisco's fearsome defense, Eli Manning threw a 77-yard touchdown to Victor Cruz with 1:13 left to clinch a 27 - 23 win over Washington and move the Giants to 5 - 2. Manning threw for 329 yards and the Giants broke a three-game losing streak to Washington.
The Packers' Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, threw for 342 yards against St. Louis in a 30 - 20 win, including three touchdowns, following up his six TD game a week ago against the previously unbeaten Texans. Rodgers has now thrown nine straight touchdowns in two games without an interception after throwing four in Green Bay's first five games.
Swing State: Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan might have fumbled away his chance to pick up Cleveland Browns fan votes this week during a stop at the team's training field. He struck up a conversation with the team's back-up quarterback, Colt McCoy, but apparently thought he was talking to the man who replaced him, rookie Brandon Weeden, who has started every game this year.
"I think he saw the red [practice] jerseys and got us mixed up," Weeden said. "But he's got more important things on his mind right now than me and Colt. It was a good laugh."
Luckily for GOP fans, Ryan brought Bush-era Secretary of State, and long-time true Browns fan, Condoleezza Rice. Rice told the team she'd followed the Browns since her father had watched their games when she was a child. Those Browns, of course, are now the Baltimore Ravens, but that didn't bother return specialist Josh Cribbs, who is apparently a Rice favorite. She told Cribbs she even used to wear his jersey around the White House. Cribbs had four returns against Indianapolis Sunday including a 32-yarder on a kick-off, but it wasn't enough as the Browns lost, 17 - 13.
Two Things You Need To Know for Your Monday Night Football Party
1. Chicago's defense is among the NFL's best and two of its stars, Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs, are on an historic tear. In each of the Bears' last two games, against Dallas and Jacksonville, both intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, the first such 2-game/2-player streak in NFL history. The Bears defense as a whole was so good in those games that Tillman and Briggs outscored the Cowboys and Jags by themselves, 24 - 21.
2. The Chicago-Detroit rivalry is one of the NFL's oldest and fiercest. The last time they got together, Lions' quarterback Matt Stafford was not too thrilled being picked off and then blocked. Enjoy the rematch!