Some did it by sacking the quarterback, some did it with strong running games, and in most cases victory was largely the result of creating turnovers, but only in a few cases did teams win games yesterday because of their powerful passing attacks.
Here are some examples of how to win in the NFL these days:
• Cleveland quarterback Tim Couch was a mere 11 of 18 for 149 yards, hardly the stats of a winning quarterback. However, the Browns defense had seven sacks and knocked Elvis Grbac out of the game and forced three turnovers in a rather easy, 24-14 win over the Ravens.
• Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart was 10 of 16 for 100 yards and no touchdowns, but Jerome Bettis mowed down the vaunted Bucs defense for 143 yards rushing, including a 46-yard touchdown run in a 17-10 win that was much more decisive than the final score would indicate. Oh, yeah, the Steelers defense sacked Brad Johnson 10 times.
• Chicago, the lowest of the league's lowly teams heading into the season, is 4-1 today following a 24-0 win over Cincinnati. Anthony Thomas set a Bears rookie rushing record with 188 yards, and the Bears defense held Corey Dillon to 30 yards. It is the consummate example of run the ball and stop the run.
• Atlanta rushed for 124 yards against the Saints' stonewall defense, in a 20-13 win in New Orleans. "Those guys were open," Falcons quarterback Chris Chandler said of his receivers, "because the defense went with our fakes. Once the linebackers and the secondary committed, our guys were open."
Then there were examples of how to lose:
• Indianapolis' Peyton Manning threw for 335 yards, but he would've had to throw for 700 yards the way the Colts defense played in a 38-17 loss at home to the Patriots.
• Detroit quarterback Charlie Batch passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns, but the Lions defense was a sieve against the Titans.
Then there are the St. Louis Rams, the NFL's only undefeated team. The Rams' style is distinctive. Their wide-open attack is almost without respect for the time-honored principles of the game. Of course, it helps that their defense is greatly improved over last season. The Rams are currently the eighth-best defense in the league, which qualifies as a stunning reversal from last year, but the Rams don't win with defense; they win with a weekly barrage of offensive weapons that leaves opponents wondering what they could've done differently.
St. Louis is the only team in the league that can play that way. For all the others, the formula would seem to be run the ball, sack the quarterback and force turnovers.