Sunday Takeaway

Peyton is still the Manning
Little bro looked like he might eclipse his more celebrated older sibling when the Giants won a scintillating Super Bowl over the unbeaten Patriots. But Eli Manning is now 9–9 in his last 18 starts, and he was vastly outshone by Peyton in the Colts’ 38–14 win. In this latest edition of the Manning Bowl, Peyton was ruthlessly efficient, completing 20-of-26 passes for 255 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 145.5. Eli was 13-of-24 for 161 yards two touchdowns and an interception, and his two fumbles gave the Colts 14 points, including Fili Moala’s decisive fumble recovery for a touchdown that gave the Colts a 31–7 lead and ended any lingering suspense. Peyton played the gracious winner, obviously taking no pleasure in the beating his team administered to his brother. “I think they will be fine. They play the Titans next week and we’ll be pulling hard for them to help us in the AFC South,” Peyton said. “We will do our best to help them when we play all these NFC East teams. I am proud of him and I love him.”

Brett Favre may be regretting his latest comeback
Last season, Brett Favre threw two interceptions at home all season. Yesterday, in a frustrating 14–10 loss to Miami, he had three picks and a fumble. Favre is off to his first 0–2 start since 2006, when he was a Packer, and he has to be wondering what he was thinking in trying another comeback instead of resting on the laurels of the best statistical season of his career. The Vikings have a long, arduous road ahead of them, and you have to wonder whether Old Man Favre has the stomach for it. “It’s a 14-game season now and we’re sitting at the bottom of it,” Favre said. “What we do with it from here remains to be seen. It won’t be any easier.” Especially for a soon-to-be 41-year-old grandpa.

Dick LeBeau is the best defensive mind in football
Pittsburgh’s 19–11 win over the Titans set offensive football back 50 years. The Steelers might as well have been wearing leather facemask-free helmets. But when you’re playing with your ninth-string quarterback, and you can muster only 127 offensive yards, you do what it takes, and it helps to have Dick LeBeau calling your defensive signals. LeBeau can make the best offenses look inept, and yesterday, he was facing an offense determined to do its part. He didn’t need the help, but the Titans played right into LeBeau’s hands, running Chris Johnson into a brick wall and putting Vince Young into obvious passing situations where the Steelers could either bait him into an interception or attack (and bodyslam) him with their pass rush. LaMarr Woodley’s second-quarter interception was classic LeBeau — Woodley started toward the line in a run-support posture before backpedaling at the last second into the passing lane. Johnson had averaged 145.6 yards in his previous seven home games; yesterday, he could muster only 34 yards on 16 strength-sapping carries (he did have an 85-yard touchdown called back for holding). The Steelers forced seven turnovers in all and sacked Titans quarterbacks four times. Fisher’s response? Yank Young and create a quarterback controversy where none was needed, but that’s another story.

Panic time in Big D
Normally, I’m not one to overreact after a couple of poor performances; it’s a long season, after all. But the panic in Dallas this morning is not an overreaction. The Cowboys are 0–2 for the first time since 2001 and have looked bad in getting there. In two games, they’ve turned it over four times and have yet to force a takeaway of their own. Wade Phillips, who’s overseeing this mess, leaps to the top of the list of likely impending coaching casualties. “I’m mad, I’m upset, I’m very frustrated and extremely disappointed,” said owner Jerry Jones. Well, that’ll make Phillips sleep soundly. Diehards in Big D might be tempted to point out that the 1993 ’Boys started 0–2 and went on to win the Super Bowl. But that year, Emmitt Smith was holding out, and once he re-entered the fold, all was well. Emmitt Smith ain’t walking through that door.

Surprising unbeatens
The Packers, I get. The Dolphins have tantalized us before; they started 4–0 last year. Even the Texans aren’t all that surprising, although I never expected them to beat the Colts in Week 1. But the Bucs? The Chiefs? The Bears? The Big Ben-free Steelers? This is the strangest assortment of Week 2 unbeatens in recent memory. Tampa Bay is one win away from matching its win total from a year ago. Both the Bucs and Chiefs are enjoying their first 2–0 starts since 2005. The Bears are 2–0 for the first time since their 2006 Super Bowl season. “We’ve just got a bunch of guys that don’t care what people think about them,” said Bucs corner Ronde Barber, who had an interception against the Panthers. “We’re young, we know we’re young and that nobody has any expectations for us. (Coach) Raheem (Morris) has done a great job of preaching what this team is and what our identity is going to be.” That unexpected identity: Winners, at least for now.

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