- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each Friday, columnist Dan Daly and Redskins beat writer Ryan O’Halloran debate a football issue. This week’s topic: What are the merits of the Tom Brady rule - avoiding hits to the knee - and other measures to protect quarterbacks?

Dan Daly: Protecting quarterbacks is one of the most difficult jobs the NFL has. Defensive players, after all, are such destructive creatures, and the QB is the most vulnerable player in the game - not to mention the most valuable. What the league is trying to do is strike a balance between common sense and, well, “letting ‘em play.” You don’t want to legislate the football out of football. But in this instance, it might be going a little too far - or at least the officials’ interpretation of the rule might be a bit extreme. In Sunday’s game against Baltimore, Brady hardly got touched on one of the plays when roughing was called. The guy got penalized for intent.

Ryan O’Halloran: Brady is going to get the calls until he hangs up his cleats and starts preparing his Hall of Fame speech. The Ravens couldn’t have been surprised because of who they were playing and the nature of the contact (on the knees). Where the officials need to use a sliding scale is contact to the head. Helmet-to-helmet hits are no-brainers, but when a defender’s hand grazes or slaps the quarterback’s helmet, some of that should be allowed because it’s not intentional. And, don’t forget, it’s a contact sport.

DD: It was very interesting that the league decided not to fine Ray Lewis for his comments about the calls. It obviously felt like he had a legitimate beef - which he did. I think you’ll see the powers-that-be huddle at some point and fine-tune the rule so that defenders don’t get hit with 15-yarders for near misses. But for Rodney Harrison to be telling Brady, his former teammate, to “take off the skirt” is laughable, considering the source. Harrison blew out Trent Green’s knee during the 1999 preseason with exactly the kind of subterranean hit the rule is trying to eliminate.

RO: Mark Sanchez took his skirt off, and it cost him $5,000 for a low block on New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma, so maybe Harrison will say something outlandish about him this week. Like every other league, the NFL is star-driven. The league protects the quarterbacks and lets polarizing defensive players like Lewis lip off every now and then. It was the right move not to fine him.

WEEKEND PICKS

REDSKINS THIS WEEK

REDSKINS (2-2) at PANTHERS (0-3)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 5

Line: Panthers by 3 1/2

Outlook: It has been another zany week at Redskin Park with the addition of offensive consultant Sherman Lewis and the silence of defensive coordinator Greg Blache. But Carolina is vulnerable: The Panthers are allowing a whopping 182.7 rushing yards a game, and Jake Delhomme has thrown seven interceptions. The Redskins move above .500 for the first time this year.

The pick: Redskins 23-16

GAME OF THE WEEK

PATRIOTS (3-1) at BRONCOS (4-0)

Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

TV: Chs. 9, 13

Line: Patriots by 3

Outlook: Denver is the surprise of the early season even though it needed a miracle (at Cincinnati) and then beat three teams without winning records (Cleveland, Oakland and Dallas). The stunner is that the Broncos are actually stopping teams; they have allowed just 26 points. But New England continues to round into form and hands former Patriots aide Josh McDaniels his first defeat.

The pick: Patriots 27-23

UPSET WATCH

BROWNS (0-4) at BILLS (1-3)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

Line: Bills by 6

Outlook: Buffalo tanked as a road favorite last week at Miami, and there isn’t a lot of reason to think the Bills are up to the task at home. The thought here is that Cleveland rallies behind the departure of receiver Braylon Edwards, who was traded to the Jets on Wednesday. Derek Anderson avoids the big mistake as the Browns get their first win.

The pick: Browns 17-7

INSIDE THE AFC

• Among the many problems for 0-4 Tennessee is an offense that is 11th in yards but 28th in time of possession. The Titans lead the league with 51 possessions but have gone three-and-out 17 times.

• With one catch against New England, Centreville native and Virginia Tech product Eddie Royal can join rare company. Only six players have reached 100 catches in the first 20 games of their career, including just two receivers - Anquan Boldin (16th game) and Terry Glenn (20th). Royal has been limited to eight catches for the Broncos this year, significantly behind teammates Brandon Marshall and Jabar Gaffney, who have combined for 27.

• Chargers general manager A.J. Smith is ticked about San Diego’s 2-2 start. “Absolutely embarrassing,” he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Everything is wrong with it right now. I’m not the least bit happy in a lot of areas. I’ve seen us [go from] tough and physical to soft and bewildered. … Everything bothers me right now and there’s not much we can do. You can make trades or go on the street, but all you can do is tweak in football during the season. You can lose your job, and the players are still here.” Countered defensive end Shawne Merriman: “That’s an opinion of a person, and it’s not needed.”

• Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer does his best work in pressure situations. In last-minute drives against Denver, Pittsburgh and Cleveland, he was 21-for-31 (not counting two spikes) for 221 yards, two touchdowns and a 109.7 rating. In all other situations, he has a 66.3 rating.

INSIDE THE NFC

• A year after posting 20 sacks, Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware has none through four games. Look for the skid to end Sunday at Kansas City. The Chiefs have allowed 13 sacks in their 0-4 start.

• Arizona’s Kurt Warner is on the cusp of becoming the sixth quarterback to post 50 300-yard passing games. Warner has thrown for 300 or more in 43.8 percent of his games and can become the fastest to reach 50 on Sunday against Houston, which will be his 113th game. Dan Marino is the leader; he reached 50 in 176 games.

•First-round pick Michael Crabtree ended his holdout and signed with San Francisco on Wednesday. He won’t play this week, and the 49ers are off next week. Breaking down the guaranteed money: Pick No. 9 B.J. Raji received $18 million guaranteed, No. 10 Crabtree $16 million and No. 11 Aaron Maybin $15 million. The two-month standoff produced no extra money for Crabtree. What created his unwillingness to sign was Oakland reaching for Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh pick and then giving him $23.5 million guaranteed.

• Green Bay’s pass protection issues continued last week when Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times by Minnesota. The Packers have allowed a league-high 20 sacks, but help could be on the way. Former right tackle Mark Tauscher worked out Tuesday.

FAST START = PLAYOFFS

Since 1990, the first quarter of the season is a good barometer of whether teams will make the postseason:

RecordMake postseason2009 teams*

4-084 percent5

3-164 percent6

2-235 percent7

1-316 percent5

0-42 percent5

* Four teams will play their fourth game this week.

BY THE NUMBERS

1-11 Combined record for the three teams - Buffalo (1-3), Kansas City (0-4) and Tampa Bay (0-4) - that fired their offensive coordinators in the preseason.

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