A high-scoring duel, a grudge match and a personal milestone were the main stories from the third weekend of play in the National Football League, as the contenders started to distance themselves from the pretenders in the quest for a place in February's Super Bowl.
The duel came in Indianapolis where Peyton Manning of the Colts, and Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers combined for over 750 passing yards and nine touchdowns in a breathtaking 45-31 victory for the home side.
Manning and Favre are two of the most thrilling quarterbacks ever to play the game, and their personal contest made compelling viewing. Manning would move his team effortlessly against a starstruck defence, only for Favre to reply with similarly devastating effect.
"From their standpoint, I'm sure they thought they could score every time, and so did we," Favre said.
The only significant defensive play came in the fourth quarter, and it proved to be a match-winner. With the Packers trailing 38-31 but driving for the tying score, the receiver Javon Walker, who had already scored three touchdowns, fumbled after a tackle from the Colts' Jason David.
The Oakland Raiders wanted more than revenge for their Super Bowl defeat 18 months ago when they entertained the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, because there is genuine hostility between the two franchises. For Tampa's coach, Jon Gruden, it was a first return to the city following his sacking in 2001 by the Raiders' idiosyncratic owner, Al Davis.
Gruden has subsequently taken several former Oakland players and management to Florida with him, while former Buccaneer Warren Sapp made the return journey this summer.
Gruden made a point of ignoring Davis during the pre-game warm-ups, and was roundly booed by Oakland's notoriously hostile fans. "I don't mean any disrespect, but I wasn't greeted very nicely," he said.
It was Davis who enjoyed his revenge, with quarterback Kerry Collins replacing the injured Rich Gannon and leading his side on four scoring drives as Oakland prevailed 30-20.
In Minnesota, the veteran Danish kicker Morten Andersen converted a pair of field-goals to help his side past Chicago 27-22. Andersen, who made his debut in 1982, was playing in his 341st game, setting an all-time record.Reuse content