It was hard not to think about Jim Kelly while watching the true grit performance of Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger last week in Jacksonville.
Roethlisberger's toughness and indomitable will reached Kelly-like proportions in the Steelers' 26-21, come-from-behind victory over the Jaguars.
Despite an offensive line that threatens to submarine the Steelers' season, Big Ben passed 41 times for 309 yards and completed his 15th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.
The Steelers are 4-1 despite the fact they rank 31st in the NFL in pass protection. Roethlisberger has been sacked 18 times, and at this rate he will go down 58 times for the year, if he lasts that long.
"The kid, he's just a winner," receiver Hines Ward told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I don't know what it is about him. He just has a knack. He has that 'It' sort of thing."
Roethlisberger, who has needed every bit of his 6-foot-5, 241-pound bulk this year, pulled off the comeback despite the fact he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday before the game and was limited Friday.
His play of the game came on third-and-8 from the Jaguars' 31. Down by 21-20, Pittsburgh couldn't just play conservatively and settle for a field goal, because kicker Jeff Reed was hobbled with a calf injury. Roethlisberger had two Jaguars draped on his back before throwing an 18-yard pass to Ward to set up the winning score.
"That was a heck of a football play," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio marveled. "Guys were draped on him and somehow he got his arm out of the way and got the ball completed."
Roethlisberger improved his regular-season record to 43-17 (.717), which ranks second only to Tom Brady (.784) among active NFL QBs.
Roethlisberger is an early front-runner for league Most Valuable Player honors, but the Steelers need to work on their pass protection to keep winning. Roethlisberger has been playing with a sore shoulder that was injured in the season opener.
The Patriots seem to be relying less and less on running back Laurence Maroney, the 21st overall pick in 2006. Maroney managed 26 yards on 10 carries in the win at San Francisco last week. He sat while the Pats used both Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan during long stretches. Maroney had 835 yards in 13 games last season.
Maroney once ran toward the sideline and did not power forward near the first-down marker, instead stepping out of bounds. Maroney did show up on the team's injury report this week with his troublesome shoulder, but he's taking some heat in New England and rightfully so.
No call on Trent
Bills sources say no call has yet been made on whether quarterback Trent Edwards will play next Sunday against San Diego.
Edwards is described as improving and doing well in the wake of his concussion last week against Arizona. It was a standard concussion, so to speak, just as Edwards' teammates have indicated this week. It was by no means the kind of long-term, debilitating injury Sabre Tim Connolly suffered. Nevertheless, the team is following its post-concussion medical protocol, whatever exactly that is. The team may wait until midweek to make a firm call on whether Edwards will face the Chargers.
How long can the Colts defy the odds and win despite continually losing the battle in the trenches? The Colts' run defense is performing even worse than in its Super Bowl season of 2006, when it allowed a league-worst 173 rushing yards a game.
Indy is yielding 188.5 a game. Indy "held" Houston to 156 rushing yards last week, the Colts' best showing this season. The Colts also are last in rushing offense at 67.8 yards per game.
Even though the Colts will play host to a Baltimore team with Joe Flacco starting his second road game, the matchup does not look great today. Baltimore (2-2) is No. 1 in rush defense at 64 yards allowed and fourth in rushing offense at 153.8 yards per game. The Ravens are winning time of possession with an average of 35:43.
"They have more of a smash-mouth, downhill running game," Dungy said of the Ravens. "They have big backs and big offensive linemen. They try to pound it right at you."
Jaguars defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been shy of the media ever since being discarded by Buffalo. He gave his first interview since the spring last week to Jacksonville reporters, and he discussed his men, who rank 21st after five weeks. The Jags were 12th on defense last year. In all five games, the Jaguars have given up a score on their last defensive drive.
"It's not Gregg Williams' defense," he said. "This is the Jacksonville Jaguars' defense. We're doing largely, playing 85-90 percent, of what's been done here in the past. You have to adapt. I've changed everywhere I've been. Every place you evolve to doing what the players there do. There's only so many ways you can line 11 guys up."
At Washington last year, Williams led the league in blitzes of six or seven men (23 percent, according to the Web site footballoutsiders.com). He's not blitzing nearly as much this year.
"From a percentage standpoint, there were more pressures called last year than there are this year because I can't hang the corners out to dry all the time, and especially if you have some guys that have moved around some positions," he said.
Williams described his defensive style as: "Being a hard-hitting, challenging defense, being able to run sideline to sideline, continuing to do our part in scoring points and setting up short fields for our offense."
*In falling to the Colts last week, the Houston Texans became the first team in NFL history to lead by at least 17 points in the last five minutes and lose in regulation.
*Texans rookie Steve Slaton is getting better running in the zone scheme Houston uses. Slaton has 285 yards rushing and a 5-yard average per carry. He also already has 16 catches.
*The Ravens have lost underrated nose tackle Kelly Gregg for the season due to a left knee injury. He had microfracture surgery to try to grow more cartilage. Ex-Bill Justin Bannan, who has played well in Gregg's absence, will continue to start in his place. Bannan has 16 tackles and a sack.
*The Pats have won 12 straight on the road, the second-longest streak in NFL history.