Rookie rights the ship

KEN FIDLIN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

It was a long sigh of relief for the NFL's last winless team and tight squeezes for its two unbeatens.

Having tried everything else to get their first victory in almost a year, the Tampa Bay Bucs sent a raw, untested rookie out against the Packers and found the key to the end zone. All Josh Freeman did was drag his team back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 38-28 win over a Packers team that might not be able to show its faces again in Green Bay.

Meanwhile, both Indianapolis and New Orleans kept rolling along in the fast lane at 8-0. The Colts avoided overtime when Houston's Kris Brown missed a 42-yard field goal on the last play of regulation, squeaking out a 20-17 win.

The Saints, as is usually the case, scored the last 17 points in a 30-20 win over the Panthers in a game they seemed destined to lose early on, but Drew Brees just wouldn't let it happen.

"I think that's the mark of a great football team," Colts centre Jeff Saturday said. He was talking about his own team, but it could have been about the Saints, as well.

The Colts have now won 17 consecutive games. The only team that has won more -- the Patriots -- just happen to be their next opponent, next Sunday night.

Stars in stripes

At the start of this season, not many people were looking past the Steelers and the Ravens in the AFC North. That's what makes what the Cincinnati Bengals have accomplished so surprising.

Even though half the season still remains, the Bengals have put themselves in a prime position to not only hang with the Steelers and Ravens, but to leave them in their dust.

By beating Baltimore yesterday for the second time in a month, the Bengals improved to 6-2 and are now 4-0 within the division. If they can gather themselves for a win in Pittsburgh next week, they can pretty much put it on cruise control the rest of the way.

After the Pittsburgh confrontation, the Bengals face the Raiders, the Browns and Lions in successive games.

Gag reflex

If there was any air left in the New York Giants' balloon, it all went pffffft in the wake of San Diego's stunning comeback win in the last minute yesterday.

The Giants, now losers of four in a row after a 5-0 start, had ralled from a 14-7 deficit with 13 fourth-quarter points to take a 20-14 lead with 2:07 remaining.

But when Philip Rivers engineered an 80-yard drive to win it, it's not hard to imagine the Giants saw their season go down the drain.

It's not just that they are looking up at Dallas and Philadelphia in the NFC East. It's the way they have lost those four games. If they weren't getting blown out by the Saints and the Eagles, they were blowing leads to the Cardinals and the Chargers who both stole road wins at Giants Stadium.

Even before yesterday's game, Giants coach Tom Coughlin had said flatly of the Chargers game: "The message really is, it's a one-game season for us."

Given the result, things have reached a new low in the world of the Giants.

They're back

Remember that team that caught the rest of the NFC looking the other way on the road to the Super Bowl last year? Well, don't look now, but the Arizona Cardinals, behind creaky, old Kurt Warner, are making noises as a contender again. Yesterday they whipped up on the Bears, 41-21, right in Chicago and have now won four of their past five to assume control of the NFC West by a couple of games over the 49ers.

Nobody is mistaking them for the Saints right now, but they have a sneaky-good defence that often gets overshadowed by Warner and Friends. They proved last year that most important thing about the playoffs is to make it in.

KEN.FIDLIN@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos