Quarterback TOM BRADY of the New England Patriots, defensive end CARLOS HALL of the Tennessee Titans and kickoff returner CHAD MORTON of the New York Jets are the AFC Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Week for games played on NFL Kickoff 2002 Weekend (September 5, 8-9), the NFL announced today.
On Monday night against visiting Pittsburgh, which had the NFL's top-ranked defense a year ago, Brady completed 29 of 43 attempts (67.4 percent) for 294 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, leading the Patriots to a 30-14 win. In a rematch of the 2001 AFC Championship Game, Brady compiled a passer rating of 110.0, throwing three or more touchdowns for the fourth time in 15 career starts.
"We had a good game plan, and we were all confident,'' said Brady. ''This is a good way to open up, a good way to defend our title. We came out in a no-huddle offense. (Offensive coordinator) CHARLIE WEIS had a great game plan. It's hard to defend that when you're on the field for so long."
New England called a stretch of 25 consecutive pass plays in which Brady was 16 of 23 (with two sacks) with a touchdown. The game marked New England's largest margin of victory on a Monday night since October 18, 1976 (41-7 vs. Jets) – a span of 24 Monday night appearances.
"Tom did a real nice job of throwing the ball," said Patriots head coach BILL BELICHICK. "The line did a good job of protecting him, the receivers did a good job catching the ball and running with the ball. It really came down to good execution." In his third year from Michigan, this is Brady's third AFC Offensive Player of the Week Award.
Hall, the Titans' second of two seventh-round draft choices this year out of Arkansas, played a major role in Tennessee's 27-24 come-from-behind win over Philadelphia. Replacing an injured JEVON KEARSE in the second quarter, Hall stymied the Eagles' offense with team-highs in sacks (3.0), tackles (7) and passes defensed (2, tied with CB ANDRE DYSON), and added a forced fumble that was recovered by teammate KEVIN CARTER.
Hall's forcing of Philadelphia quarterback DONOVAN MC NABB to fumble with 1:19 remaining in the game on the Eagles' 35-yard line sealed the Tennessee victory. Hall is the first NFL player to record 3.0 sacks in his first game since Cleveland's CHIP BANKS in 1982. Coincidentally, Kearse was the last Titans rookie to post 3.0 sacks in a game (September 19, 1999 vs. Cleveland).
''No one can be another Jevon (out six weeks with a foot injury),'' Hall said. ''He is the fastest defensive lineman in football. All I can do is try to fill in for him and do what I can to make some plays.''
Morton became the first player in NFL history to return kickoffs for touchdowns in regulation and overtime in a single game in the Jets' 37-31 victory over Buffalo.
His 96-yard return to begin overtime accounted for the quickest such period (14 seconds) in NFL history. The only other opening overtime kickoff returned for a score occurred on Thanksgiving Day in 1980 when DAVE WILLIAMS of the Chicago Bears ran back the kickoff at 21 seconds against Detroit.
"I knew it was going to be a footrace," said Morton of his overtime return while being chased by the Bills' SHAWN BRYSON. "I didn't know if I had any gas left. I said to myself when I got to the 30, 'Well, at least we'll be in good field position if I get caught.'"
In his third season from Southern California, this is Morton's first Player of the Week Award.
Other nominees for AFC Offensive Player of the Week were: San Diego quarterback DREW BREES, who posted an NFL-high 138.8 passer rating for Week 1 in his first NFL start to lead the Chargers to a 34-6 win against Cincinnati. Brees was 15 of 19 for 160 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions; Oakland running back CHARLIE GARNER, who led the Raiders in both rushing (127 yards on 15 carries, one touchdown) and receiving (five catches, 64 yards, one touchdown) in a 31-17 victory over Seattle; Buffalo running back TRAVIS HENRY, who ran for career-bests in yards (Week 1-high 149) and rushing touchdowns (3); Cleveland quarterback KELLY HOLCOMB, starting in place of injured TIM COUCH, who posted the AFC's only 300-yard passing game in Week 1 with 326 yards. Holcomb completed 27 of 39 attempts (69.2 percent) for three touchdowns without an interception for a 120.2 passer rating in a 40-39 loss to Kansas City; and Chiefs running back PRIEST HOLMES, who rushed for 122 yards and set a career high and tied a franchise record with four rushing touchdowns (Abner Hayes vs. Oakland, November 26, 1961);
Other nominees for AFC Defensive Player of the Week were: New England cornerback TERRELL BUCKLEY, who had two interceptions against Pittsburgh; Denver linebacker IAN GOLD, who in his first career start recorded a team-high eight tackles in the Broncos' 23-16 win over St. Louis; and Indianapolis linebacker MARCUS WASHINGTON, who in a 28-25 victory in Jacksonville, negated a potential Jaguars scoring drive by returning an interception for a touchdown, while adding six tackles and a pass defensed.
Other nominees for AFC Special Teams Player of the Week were: Indianapolis' CLIFTON CROSBY, who recovered a muffed punt to set up the Colts' go-ahead touchdown; Cleveland kicker PHIL DAWSON, who was a perfect 4-for-4 against Kansas City, including a 41-yard go-ahead field goal to give the Browns a 39-37 lead with 29 seconds remaining in the game; and Miami's TRENT GAMBLE, who recovered a punt in Detroit's end zone for a touchdown after it deflected off of a Lions player in the Dolphins' 49-21 triumph.