JEROME BETTIS BLOG: RGIII CONTINUES TO AMAZE
By JEROME BETTIS
It's not often that the losing quarterback is the player who leaves the greatest impression, but I thought that was the case with Robert Griffin III on Sunday.
This was an amazing performance by a rookie quarterback against the defending Super Bowl champions. RGIII faced one of the NFL's best front fours, a defensive line that gives just about everyone they play serious problems, and he still put on a show with accurate deep throws while eluding intense pressure.
He did everything you want to see from your quarterback, and almost won the game. To see him this composed as a rookie makes me very comfortable in saying he's going to be a special player for a long time. And hearing that Osi Umenyiora said RGIII is the best quarterback the Giants have faced this season is just more confirmation this guy is the real deal.
On the flip side, we saw an equally awesome performance from Eli Manning. If anyone still questions his ability to make plays in the clutch -- and I don't know how they could after his two comeback victories in Super Bowls -- they certainly can't any longer. He finds a way to get the job done when he has to, and that's a gift that's very rare.
Here are my takes on the rest of Sunday's action:
NEW ENGLAND WAS VERY FORTUNATE
The Jets outplayed the Patriots and really should have won this game, but they came up short on a couple of key plays where they didn't take advantage of opportunities. That let New England off the hook in a close game where they underachieved despite being at home.
Unless the Patriots regroup quickly I think it's going to be difficult for them to be the Super Bowl team they want to be. Their biggest weakness is still the defense, where they have some talented players, but also some young ones that they're perhaps asking too much from.
For the Jets, I thought Mark Sanchez performed pretty well, at least well enough to keep his job. I don't see a change at quarterback in the cards for them any time soon. I also wasn't surprised about the talk that Tim Tebow might get work at running back against New England. That was just a numbers thing, because they thought Joe McKnight might not be available. But McKnight was able to go, and Tebow had to settle for his normal workload.
MY STEELERS GAVE BEN THE HELP HE NEEDS
The Steelers won a game they were supposed to win, a tough AFC North game on the road. But what was surprising about the victory was that the offensive line finally came alive and kept Ben Roethlisberger from being chased.
Ben was sacked twice but faced far less pressure that has been typical in a season where he often has had to run for his life and be a one-man army. That's a really strong sign for Pittsburgh.
Meantime, I don't make much of the chatter that Ben has a problem with Pittsburgh's new offensive coordinator, Todd Haley. In Pittsburgh, everything that happens with the Steelers gets scrutinized. And I think the news media assumed Ben was going to have a problem with Haley because Pittsburgh got rid of Bruce Arians, who was Ben's guy.
I don't think that's really the case. Getting to know a new offensive coordinator is a process and I think the media may be paying too much attention to this relationship, waiting for it to explode.
CAM NEWTON NEEDS TO WAKE UP
Cam Newton is starting to regress and the feared second-year slump clearly has hit him.
Newton isn't responding at all well to how defenses have changed the way they attack him. Now they want to keep him in the pocket more, and ramp up the pressure and prevent him from running as much as he did last season. He must find a way to combat that and make adjustments. But he hasn't so far and as a result the game is becoming harder for him.
The coaching staff naturally needs to help with that, and keep him comfortable. But at the end of the day it's the player who has to execute, make adjustments and play to his strengths. Cam needs to recharge his batteries and get back into the fight in a hurry.
RAVENS OFFENSE HAS TO STEP UP
It wasn't surprising to see a really powerful team like Houston explode for 43 points against a Ravens defense that was still in a little bit of shock after losing its physical and emotional leader, Ray Lewis. But what was perplexing was that Baltimore's offense wasn't able to produce at all.
That's a game where the offense has to step up, and that will continue to be the case for at least a few games. If Joe Flacco and the rest of the Ravens offense can't figure out quickly how to carry the team Baltimore will take a downward spiral.
I THINK AP AND CJ ARE ALL THE WAY BACK
There were two big days for a pair of running backs that many people had doubts about at the start of the season. Adrian Peterson ran for 153 yards, and some of those cuts he made against Arizona can't be made unless your knees are in great shape. So I'd say he's made it all the way back from his ACL surgery.
The same goes for Chris Johnson, who put up 195 yards on Buffalo. Earlier this season and most of last year he wasn't attacking holes downhill. He always tried to get to the outside, hoping a big play was going to happen, rather than making it happen.
Against Buffalo Johnson made one cut and was off to the races, especially on that 83-yard touchdown run. I think one thing that helped get him going was playing the Steelers the week before. Against Pittsburgh, every opponent preaches that running backs must make one cut and go. That's because of the 3-4 defense Pittsburgh plays. The Steelers are notorious for stopping the run, and you have to hit the hole fast because it's not going to be there for long.
Now Johnson just needs to keep that one-cut-and-go philosophy for every game.
HOW I RANK THE NFL'S TOP SIX QUARTERBACKS
Drew Brees' four touchdown passes against Tampa Bay reminded everyone the Saints will always be dangerous as long as he's their quarterback. New Orleans has super-talented players on offense and if that defense can get competitive and hold people I think the Saints can still get back in the playoff picture.
And speaking of great quarterbacks, here's how I rank the top six in the game right now:
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Drew Brees
3. Eli Manning
4. Ben Roethlisberger
5. Tom Brady
6. Peyton Manning
Next week I'll be back with my favorites to reach the Super Bowl, an MVP prediction and a mid-season report card. Meantime, follow me on Twitter @JeromeBettis36.
The NFL's No. 6 rusher all-time reviews each week's action with his "Around the League with Jerome Bettis" blog. Bettis retired after his Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL in 2006 and The Bus is expected to be a strong candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January's voting. Bettis was a six-time Pro Bowler and since 1996 his The Bus Stops Here foundation has worked to help underprivileged children in inner cities.