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Chaotic day offers proof that no team is unbeatable


On a day of jolting turnarounds and intriguing twists, two developments stood out above the rest of the NFL's Week 5 chaos.

When the New York Giants dismantled the St. Louis Rams' offense, they proved the vulnerability of coach Mike Martz's fast-break system. Inspired by rampaging defensive end Michael Strahan, the Giants beat up quarterback Kurt Warner, knocked running back Marshall Faulk out of the game, and held the Rams to a single, tainted touchdown. That New York lost on the road, 15-14, should not diminish the magnificent effort.

When Brett Favre pierced the Ravens' defensive aura with an electric passing performance, the Green Bay Packers quarterback gave a how-to primer with illustrations. Take a great quarterback at the top of his game in his home stadium and you, too, can beat the Super Bowl champs.

Fortunately for the Ravens, there is only one Brett Favre and they won't have to return to Lambeau Field any time soon.

On a topsy-turvy Sunday, Strahan and Favre achieved the unthinkable against two teams thought to be the best in their respective conferences.

Even if the Giants didn't get the victory, they at least gave the Rams something to ponder. Following the lead of the Philadelphia Eagles, who also experienced a near-miss loss in Week 1, the Giants went into the game wanting to muscle up on the Rams' offense. The effects were immediate and lasting.

In the first half, the Rams' offensive line was flagged for four false start penalties. In the second half, the Rams were guilty of four turnovers. Indeed, it took a questionable pass-interference call in the end zone to set up St. Louis' only touchdown. And it took a fortuitous turnover on a pass that would have put New York in Morten Andersen's field-goal range to preserve the Rams' one-point lead.

Which is not to say the Rams didn't deserve to win. Warner still threw for 316 yards, and the Rams moved the ball when they had to. But the beating Warner took may foretell the strategy he will see in the weeks ahead. His 2000 season ended in the haze of a concussion, and that has to frighten the Rams.

Now, they will have to play without Faulk for the short term. Out with a knee bruise, Faulk's position will be manned by second-year player Trung Canidate. More than ever, that leaves the bigger burden on Warner.

Baltimore's 31-23 loss at Green Bay showed a vulnerability, too. But unlike Vinny Testaverde's 481-yard air show here last December, Favre was virtually mistake-free.

Bottom line: There are no untouchables in the NFL this season.

Frenzied finishes

How crazy was Week 5?

Ten of Sunday's 13 games were decided by seven points or less. The last time that happened was Oct. 10, 1999, a span of 34 weeks.

Three games went to overtime and another (New Orleans over Carolina) was decided on the final play of regulation.

Three teams overturned double-digit deficits to win: the New York Jets (17-point deficit), San Francisco 49ers (14) and New England Patriots (10). The Rams and Saints erased five-point deficits in the fourth quarter to win. And Detroit rallied from a 31-6 deficit to get one last crack at Minnesota before time ran out in a 31-26 loss.

Lost and found

The Lions didn't beat Minnesota with their comeback bid, but they appear to have resolved the quarterback issue. Charlie Batch, benched by coach Marty Mornhinweg after just one game, returned as the starter by throwing for a career-high 345 yards with three touchdowns. The Lions had 457 total yards, high on the day.

In this case, leadership and grit count more than familiarity. Ty Detmer, brought in for his experience in the West Coast offense, is the unquestioned backup now.

Patented formula

Seattle quarterback Trent Dilfer is following the same formula that won 11 straight games for the Ravens a year ago. With two touchdowns from his defense, 146 rushing yards and two TDs from his running back (Shaun Alexander), Dilfer completed 12 of 18 for 110 yards beating Denver, 34-21.

Unless coach Mike Holmgren has a change of heart, though, Matt Hasselbeck will reclaim the Seahawks' starting job against Miami in Week 7 after a bye week.

Two-minute drill

Denver's Mike Anderson, who rushed for 326 yards in two games against Seattle in 2000, had 51 on Sunday. ... Former Ravens running back Priest Holmes loves those 3-4 defenses. Now with Kansas City, Holmes gained 150 against Pittsburgh. It was his third career 100-plus game against the Steelers, but wasn't enough to keep the Chiefs from falling to 0-3 at home. ... The Cincinnati Bengals' 3-2 start is the team's best since 1990 (4-1).

Good, bad and ugly

The good: Packers QB Brett Favre was as good as he's been since winning three straight MVP awards in a not-as-close-as-it-looked victory over the Ravens. He threw for 337 yards and three TDs, and Green Bay's play-calling made Ravens MLB Ray Lewis a non-factor.

The bad: The Rams' coaching decision to let RT Ryan Tucker play man-to-man against Giants DE Michael Strahan nearly cost them the game and QB Kurt Warner. Strahan battered Warner with four sacks and one forced fumble before the Rams replaced Tucker with Rod Jones in the fourth quarter. Tucker was playing with a mild shoulder separation and a broken left hand.

The ugly: WR Germane Crowell cost the Lions a shot at an improbable comeback victory when he inexplicably cut toward the middle of the field rather than go out of bounds at the Minnesota 25 in the final seconds of the game. Crowell was tackled at the 20 and the Lions couldn't get off another play in a 31-26 loss.- Ken Murray

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