Ram Tough?
Pro Bowl quarterback Kurt Warner sheds light on the Rams' disappointing 0-3 start.
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Chris Mortensen recaps Week 3 in his weekly Inside the Huddle segment on ESPN Radio.
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Winless Wonders
Chris Mortensen weighs in on the 0-3 Vikings and the 0-3 Bengals.
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Cup o' Joe: Bucs' D a tough test for Warner

TJ's Take on Week 3 in the NFL

Chris Mortensen Archive
Not-done-yet Rams featured in Week 3 top-five lists

Believe it or not, the Rams are still alive. The Buffalo Bills started 0-3 in 1998 and still made the playoffs. Plus, the Arizona Cardinals overcame an 0-2 start in '98 to likewise make the playoffs. So why not the Rams?

More karma: The Cardinals beat the Cowboys in the playoffs that season. The Rams play the Cowboys this week. The Cardinals used to play in St. Louis, which then snatched the Rams from Los Angeles. Follow me? No? Anything's possible in the NFL.

Kurt Warner's Rams haven't looked like the team that was supposed to win Super Bowl XXXVI.
After three games, I'm extending my one-week pick of the Eagles vs. the Patriots in the Super Bowl. That means I'll get more nasty letters from Raiders fans. Here's what I saw this past weekend:

Most Impressive in Victory
1. Buccaneers 26, Rams 14 -- No matter what state (Florida, Missouri, Disarray) you may think the Rams are in, the Bucs had to beat a wounded animal Monday night. Yes, Marshall Faulk's injury may have been the difference in the game, but it was the hard-hitting Bucs who put him on the sidelines. I detect the Bucs are on their way to getting just as nasty as that short, blond Chucky fellow who roams the sidelines.

2. Eagles 44, Cowboys 13 -- Yes, the Cowboys led 7-3. Yes, Quincy Carter even played respectably. Yes, the Eagles are that good. Obviously, Donovan McNabb and Co. have decided that it's a whole lot of fun just kicking tail in the NFC East with convincing wins over the Redskins and Cowboys in six days.

3. Dolphins 30, Jets 3 -- I'm standing at a blackboard, writing, "Norv Turner + Ricky Williams = 2,000 yards," over and over again. This was a fairly dominating win over a Jets team team that found out very quickly that the AFC East belongs to the Patriots and Dolphins.

4. Broncos 28, Bills 23 -- Again, the Bills are for real and will get better every week. But what I saw was two of the league's great coaches -- Denver head coach Mike Shanahan and "I'm not the line coach" Alex Gibbs (Denver's assistant head coach) -- orchestrating from the sidelines with great intensity. That's the way they did it you-know-when.

5. Saints 29, Bears 23 -- I wasn't blown away by the Saints on Sunday. But they were on the road, they were down 20-0, went up 21-20, fell behind 23-20, and watched Aaron Brooks will them to victory against a wounded Bears team. That's impressive.

5a. Falcons 30, Bengals 3 -- I checked the NFL Record & Fact Book to confirm that the Bengals are still a professional football club. They are. Therefore, Atlanta's total domination and the continuing emergence of Michael Vick is worthy of mention.

5b. 49ers 20, Redskins 10 -- You try to win an NFL game when the toilet has a waiting line of (49er) players who are supposed to be on the field.

Least Impressive in Victory
1. Giants 9, Seahawks 6 -- Well, Johnnie Lynn has gotten off to a terrific start as the Giants' defensive coordinator, and Sean Payton is an excellent offensive coordinator. But I really had a tough time watching more than five plays from this game.

2. Packers 37, Lions 31 -- Yes, the Packers are suffering injuries at an alarming rate, which certainly would explain why they struggled in victory. But if Lions TE Mikhael Ricks catches the catchable, this would have stunned everyone who stopped paying attention when Green Bay had a 34-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.

3. Patriots 41, Chiefs 38 -- True, it was a trap game for the Pats. Tom Brady was brilliant again. But what happened to the Super Bowl defense?

4. Colts 23, Texans 3 -- Maybe it's a reach. But I'm reaching, and this was a 13-3 game at the end of three quarters.

5. Browns 31, Titans 28 -- Another reach, but the Browns were down 28-14 midway through the fourth quarter. You can't count on winning many games that way.

Best Games
1. Bucs 26, Rams 14 -- This was classic Monday night football. Crowd was alive. Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice mugged it up after mugging Kurt Warner. Jon Gruden and Keyshawn Johnson had a beautiful "In Your Face" moment or two. And the Rams were left wondering where they go from here.

2. Patriots 41, Chiefs 38 (OT) -- You have to give credit to Kansas City. They understand the value of TV ratings, as they kept another audience captive in pushing the defending Super Bowl champs into overtime. Priest Holmes' 1-yard TD run with no time left was a gem, but so was Tom Brady's aerial show for New England.

3. Saints 29, Bears 23 -- A game between unbeaten teams, the Saints did what nobody else can seem to do against the Bears -- win at the end, thanks to another big play by rookie WR Donte' Stallworth.

4. Broncos 28, Bills 23 -- The weekly Drew Bledsoe special in which Broncos QB Brian Griese, fairly mediocre for much of the day, delivered a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive just when it looked like Bledsoe was going to steal another one.

5. Browns 31, Titans 28 (OT) -- Tim Couch's comeback from injury was overshadowed by Cleveland's comeback from 28-14 deficit in fourth quarter.

Best Performance: Quarterbacks
1. Donovan McNabb, Eagles -- The Cowboys threw it all at him, and he threw it right back in their face with 287 yards passing, 67 yards running and a combined four TDs.
2. Tom Brady, Patriots -- He went 39-of-54 for 401 yards, four TDs and produced 41 points. One-year wonder, my rear.
3. Tim Couch, Browns -- Don't worry about his ability to deal with pressure. He answered skeptics, and then he answered the Titans in OT victory.
4. Aaron Brooks, Saints -- He not only brought Saints from behind twice, he did something cousin Michael Vick couldn't do, running past Brian Urlacher a few critical times.
5. Brett Favre, Packers -- No Ahman Green, offensive line is decimated, defense is hurting, and Favre showed why he's still an MVP with 357 yards and three TDs.

Worst Performance: Quarterbacks
1. Gus Frerotte, Bengals -- His season honorary pass is in the mail.
2. Kurt Warner, Rams -- OK, his receivers weren't in the right spots a few times, but the decision-making against the Bucs appeared to be very Gus-like.
3. Vinny Testaverde, Jets -- I'm not one for age discrimination, but he did look 39 vs. Dolphins.
4. Daunte Culpepper, Vikings -- Sorry, but I have a hard time blaming Randy Moss for a bunch of overthrows.
5. Trent Green, Chiefs -- As inspiring as Priest Holmes was, Green was uninspiring vs. Patriots.

Best Performance: Running Backs
1. Priest Holmes, Chiefs -- The same Patriots team that stopped Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin couldn't slow down Holmes, who is pushing hard to lay claim as the league's best all-around back.
2. Ricky Williams, Dolphins -- South Beach must be good for him. A different guy.
3. Lamar Smith, Panthers -- Don't blame his 154-yard, two-TD game on the Vikings. They had stuffed Anthony Thomas and Travis Henry in the first two weeks.
4. Clinton Portis, Broncos -- Says here that he'll be starting very soon.
5. Kevan Barlow & Garrison Hearst, 49ers -- Combined, 34 carries for 191 yards vs. the Redskins.

Best Performance: Receivers
1. Troy Brown, Patriots -- Hawaii's very nice in February. That's where 16 catches for 176 yards will get you.
2. Antonio Freeman, Eagles -- Not only did he go over 100-yard mark, but it's evident that he's opening things up for fellow WRs James Thrash and Todd Pinkston.
3. Rod Smith, Broncos -- Made every tough catch down the stretch when everyone in the house, including the Bills, knew the ball was coming his way.
4. David Patten, Patriots -- It seems to me that this guy plays like he thinks he's pretty good, which he was Sunday when his 7-for-108 day included a one-handed catch.
5. Keyshawn Johnson, Bucs -- OK, he was blanked in second half, but not his fault. He was an ace in a big game.

Best Plays
1. Oronde Gadsden's remarkable one-hand, spread-eagle 23-yard grab that saved Jay Fiedler from throwing an interception in Miami's win over the Jets.
2. Derrick Brooks' game-sealing interception for a TD in Bucs' MNF win over the Rams.
3. Dennis Northcutt's triple play -- a game-tying TD catch, punt return and onsides kick recovery -- can't be separated in Browns' decision over Titans.
4. Terrell Owens' 38-yard TD run on 49ers' aborted trick play in which Garrison Hearst and Jeff Garcia threw terrific blocks.
5a. Simeon Rice's interception of Kurt Warner that killed Rams' potential scoring drive.
5b. Brian Westbrook's halfback pass to Todd Pinkston on a day when Eagles' Andy Reid pulled out all the stops.
5c. Az-Zahir Hakim's 72-yard punt return to score first-ever TD at new Ford Field, capped by his celebratory mauling of Lions' mascot.
5d. Ricky Williams' 53-yard scoring run vs. Jets, effectively ending The Jinx. So Ricky can go the distance.

Best Performance: Defensive Linemen
1. Warren Sapp, Bucs DT -- He lined up at DE, too, in three-man rush and devastated the Rams.
2. Jason Taylor, Dolphins DE -- Sacked, stripped and mugged elderly man named Vinny -- all in broad daylight.
3. Mike Rucker, Panthers DE -- You try to bring down (sack) 260-pound Daunte Culpepper three times like Rucker did Sunday.
4. Andre Carter, 49ers DE -- Five tackles and two sacks against Redskins LT Chris Samuels.
5a. Chester McGlockton, Broncos DT -- Playing like he cares, took a 24-yard fumble into the end zone.
5b. Simeon Rice, Bucs DE -- What Sapp didn't do to Warner, Rice did.
5c. Marcellus Wiley, Chargers DE -- Nice, serpentine 40-yard interception return for the 275-pounder.

Best Hits
1. 49ers DE Andre Carter's crushing blow to Redskins' Shane Matthews, who looked like a crash dummy on impact. A very brave crash dummy.
2. Eagles' Sheldon Brown, a rookie special-teamer, with a KO hit on Cowboys' Reggie Swinton, who had gone 100 yards for TD earlier.
3. Vikings S Robert Griffith's blow to Eddie George at the end of a run that made you wince.
4. Bills S Pierson Prioleau's missile hit on Broncos WR Ed McCaffrey, who held onto ball, setting up Denver TD.
5. Bucs LB Derrick Brooks' tackle on Marshall Faulk, who was flipped into a neck sprain and out of the game -- hopefully, a minor injury.

Best Sideline Outbursts
1. Jon Gruden and Keyshawn Johnson, Bucs -- Theatrical counter-punching between star coach and star player.
2. Daunte Culpepper, Vikings -- Unseen: Randy Moss wiping the spit off the back of his helmet when QB screamed, "Catch the ball, #!*#%$&@*"!
3. Kurt Warner and Torry Holt, Rams -- First signs that things are unraveling.
4. Dick LeBeau, Bengals -- All night long in a 30-3 debacle in Atlanta.
5. Stephen Davis, Redskins -- Frustrated RB complained loudly in coach Steve Spurrier's direction, according to teammates. Spurrier tells me "it's a lie."

MVP Race: Sneak Preview
1. Donovan McNabb, Eagles -- May be supplanting Marshall Faulk as best player in the game.
2. Tom Brady, Patriots -- Behind the new Joe Cool, the Patriots are averaging more than 38 ppg.
3. Ricky Williams, Dolphins -- A year ago, they scored 344 points in 16 games. They've got 100 in a 3-0 start. Williams is the difference.
4. Rich Gannon, Raiders -- Only two games, but savvy veteran continues to drive the Silver & Black.
5. Drew Bledsoe, Bills -- Sure, they're 1-2, but just ask Jets, Vikings and Broncos how this guy has made Buffalo a scary team.

Best Coaches (so far)
1. Bill Belichick, Patriots
2. Mike Shanahan, Broncos
3. Jim Haslett, Saints
4. Dave Wannstedt, Dolphins
5a. John Fox, Panthers
5b. Marty Schottenheimer, Chargers
5c. Andy Reid, Eagles

Best Offensive Coordinators (so far)
1. Norv Turner, Dolphins
2. Charlie Weis, Patriots
3. Dan Henning, Panthers
4. Bruce Arians, Browns
5a. Kevin Gilbride, Bills
5b. Mike McCarthy, Saints
5c. Al Saunders, Chiefs

Best Defensive Coordinators (so far)
1. Jack Del Rio, Panthers
2. Ray Rhodes, Broncos
3. Jimmy Johnson, Eagles
4. Jim Mora, 49ers
5a. Johnnie Lynn, Giants
5b. Monte Kiffin, Bucs
5c. Dale Lindsey, Chargers

Best Games, Week 4
1. Cleveland at Pittsburgh -- Rivalry match, with Steelers coming off a fix-it bye.
2. New England at San Diego -- Unforeseen battle of 3-0 teams. You are curious about the Chargers, aren't you?
3. Miami at Kansas City -- Dolphins and Ricky Williams take their show on the road against Priest Holmes and Co.
4. Tennessee at Oakland -- Titans in early must-win game against impressive Raiders minus Charles Woodson.
5. Minnesota at Seattle -- Just kidding.

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