They say every underdog has its day, and the downtrodden of the National Football League showed their teeth on Sunday as three of this season's poodles decided it was finally time to bite back.
The Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers share much in common. Each has performed below par this season, each had achieved only one victory, and all three contrived to overcome the odds last weekend against opponents with legitimate play-off aspirations.
The Falcons travelled to New York to stun the in-form Giants 27-7, Jacksonville entertained an Indianapolis Colts team who had lost just once all year and upset them 28-23, while the Chargers racked up their biggest score in a decade to defeat the Minnesota Vikings 42-28.
For the Atlanta head coach, Dan Reeves, the moment was particularly sweet, as the win in New York was his 200th in a distinguished career. Reeves became only the sixth coach in the game's history to achieve the feat against the team which sacked him in 1996, and it owed much to the running of TJ Duckett, who had a pair of touchdowns, and Warrick Dunn, who gained 178 yards on the ground, including a 45-yard scoring run.
Reeves may be the elder statesman of the coaching fraternity, but his counterpart on the playing side is the San Diego quarterback, Doug Flutie, who turned 41 two weeks ago, yet also turned his first start since 2001 into a shock Chargers triumph.
Flutie simply bamboozled the hapless Vikings with a dazzling array of skills. He not only ran for two touchdowns himself, with body swerves that would have been the envy of a man 15 years his junior, he also threw a pair of touchdowns as San Diego scored at will.
"I feel as good as I did when I was 30," he said. "It was fun, I had a blast. It was an emotionally draining day."
It was also draining for the Vikings quarterback, Daunte Culpepper, who threw a career-high 370 yards and four touchdowns, but was also intercepted in the end zone late in the game to make Flutie's day.
Jacksonville had never beaten the Colts, and not many fancied their chances this year either. However, the Colts failed to account for the running-back Fred Taylor, and he punished their oversight with 152 rushing yards and the game-winning touchdown run, a 32-yarder with just over a minute remaining.
Taylor had talked during the week about what he wanted to do to the Colts, and backed up his words with actions. Simeon Rice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had guaranteed that his side would beat the Carolina Panthers, but that proved worthless as Jake Delhomme threw a five-yard touchdown to Steve Smith in the dying seconds to give the Panthers a 27-24 verdict.
Undeterred, Rice has already guaranteed his team will win next week instead, and his team-mates will hope he is right, because the defending Super Bowl champions have already lost five matches this season, and are in danger of missing out on the post-season.
No such problems for the Tennessee Titans, whose championship credentials improve each week, as their effortless 31-7 pounding of the Miami Dolphins confirmed. Miami's quarterback, Brian Griese, was harried for four sacks, three interceptions and two fumbles. Similarly, the St Louis Rams seem to be contending for a third Super Bowl appearance in five years after an impressive 33-22 win over the Baltimore Ravens.Reuse content