Quarterback TOM BRADY of the New England Patriots, defensive end DWIGHT FREENEY of the Indianapolis Colts, and punter CHAD STANLEY of the Houston Texans are the AFC Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Week for games played the ninth week of the 2003 season (November 2-3), the NFL announced today.
New England's Brady completed 20 of 35 (57.1 percent) passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns against one interception for a 108.0 passer rating in the Patriots' 30-26 come-from-behind victory in Denver on Monday night. The win earned New England a 7-2 (.778) record as the Patriots extended their first-place standing in the AFC East to one-and-a-half-games.
With 2:15 remaining in the fourth quarter and his team trailing 26-23, Brady led the Patriots on a game-winning 58-yard drive by connecting on four of five passes for all 58 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver DAVID GIVENS with 36 seconds remaining.
"We weathered the storm," said the 6-4, 225-pound Brady. "There were some things we didn't do very well tonight, but the thing about this team is that sometimes we're down, but we're never out."
The victory was Brady's tenth career fourth-quarter come-from-behind win and was his 12th career game with a passer rating of more than 100.0 with all 12 games resulting in Patriots wins. Brady has now thrown for three or more touchdowns in 10 career games.
In his fourth season from Michigan, this is Brady's fifth Player of the Week Award and his first of 2003. This is the second-consecutive week that a Patriot has won AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors as tight end DANIEL GRAHAM earned the distinction for his play in Week 8.
Freeney was a one-man blue-facemasked force in helping lift the Colts to an impressive 23-17 victory at Miami against the Dolphins. The second-year defensive end from Syracuse chalked up six tackles, including an AFC Week 9-high 3.0 sacks, and two forced fumbles. With the victory, Indianapolis moves to 7-1 (.875) and leads the Tennessee Titans by one game in the AFC South.
"He's in that category of, 'If You Are in a Passing Situation and We Know You Have to Throw, He Can Disrupt Things,'" says Colts head coach TONY DUNGY. "If you don't double-team him or chip him or something, he's one of those talented guys who can create a lot of havoc."
With the Colts nursing a 23-17 lead with 2:15 remaining in regulation, Miami had possession on the Colts' 15-yard line. On first down, Freeney came across the field to tackle Dolphins running back RICKY WILLIAMS for a two-yard gain. On second down, the 6-1, 258-pound Freeney burst through the line and jarred the ball loose from Miami quarterback BRIAN GRIESE who had dropped back to pass. The fumble was recovered by Indianapolis, allowing the Colts to run out the clock for a win.
"Every time I go after the quarterback, I'm trying to strip the ball," says Freeney. "That's the ultimate prize for a defensive lineman."
This is Freeney's second-career Defensive Player of the Week Award.
Houston's Stanley was a key contributor to a 14-10 Texans victory against Carolina to hand the Panthers their second loss of the season, lifting the Texans to 3-5 (.375). The Texans reached their third win in their eighth game, a three-week improvement from 2002.
The 6-3, 210-pound Stanley punted three times for a 48.0-yard average, placing all three of his kicks inside the Panthers' 20-yard line. Following Stanley's punts, Carolina began drives on their own 12, their own 2 and their own 19 and registered no points on any of those three drives.
"Our special teams players responded to the challenge," says Texans head coach DOM CAPERS. "I thought Chad Stanley punted the ball exceptionally well. We ended up downing three punts inside the 20. We didn't have any touchbacks."
In his fifth season from Stephen F. Austin, this is Stanley's first Player of the Week Award.