Forget 0-16. If you gave this Colts team 100 games, they'd go 0-100. They absolutely stink, and their lack of effort and miserable execution is completely embarrassing.
This was seriously like a blooper reel. Indianapolis was guilty of the following ridiculous plays:
- Delone Carter fumbled the ball on the second play of the game. The Falcons took over and scored with Michael Turner (19-71, TD) after running it five consecutive times. All they had to do was rush the football. Carter (4-8) was benched in favor of Donald Brown (16-70).
- On the next drive, Curtis Painter (13-27, 98 yards, INT) threw a terrible interception to Kelvin Hayden - a cornerback whom the Colts cut earlier this year.
- Painter had a pass of his tipped back to him. He then decided to throw the ball again, and consequently was whistled as an illegal forward pass.
- Julio Jones (3-131, 2 TDs) caught touchdown passes of 50 and 80 yards. On the former, Jones was covered by three Colt defenders, who couldn't do anything to stop the stud rookie wideout.
The Falcons won this convincingly, but Matt Ryan looked like he was trying his best to keep Indianapolis around. Ryan's stats look good (14-24, 275 yards, 3 TDs, INT), but his interception was an ugly pick-six to Jerraud Powers. Ryan also nearly threw multiple other interceptions, mostly at the end of the first half.
Ryan's other touchdown went to Tony Gonzalez (4-36). Roddy White didn't score, but he had a solid outing (4-76).
Speaking of receivers, none of Indianapolis' wideouts did anything. Reggie Wayne (4-30) and Pierre Garcon (3-22) disappointed. Dallas Clark (3-21) left the game in the second quarter with a leg injury.
(Editor's Note: Matvei texted me when the Buccaneers scored what looked to be a backdoor cover touchdown: "It's nice to have shady pass interference penalties go our way for once. Go Bucs!" So much for that. Ugh, did the Saints really have to kick that frontdoor cover field goal? Why does something like this happen to me every week? Why God, why!?)
Saints cornerback Tracy Porter put a big hit on Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams, jarring the ball loose for an incompletion on one of the first plays from scrimmage. Both players were injured, with Porter having his head immobilized and carted off the field.
After a missing field goal, New Orleans got on the board with a drive led by running back Darren Sproles. He started it with a 35-yard run up the middle of the Tampa Bay defense. On the next play, Sproles caught a swing pass for 15 yards. They finished the drive with Drew Brees throwing a fade pass to Lance Moore for a short touchdown.
The next drive saw the Saints move the ball downfield quickly. They pounded the Buccaneers' run defense on the ground and set up a 21-yard screen pass to Sproles for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Just before halftime, Tampa Bay's offense got going. Freeman lofted a deep ball to wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe for a 46-yard gain. That set up a field goal to cut New Orleans' lead to 14-3. Brees led a quick-strike drive to get the three points back.
In the third quarter, Brees was intercepted by veteran Ronde Barber on a dump off pass to Sproles. That set up the Buccaneers to get another field goal. It could have been more, but an idiotic late hit penalty by running back LeGarrette Blount put Tampa Bay in a 3rd-and-15. The Saints answered with a long drive to take a commanding lead. Running back Pierre Thomas charged through a few defenders to score a 9-yard touchdown run.
Freeman later tried to mount a comeback for the Buccaneers. He led a field goal drive to start the fourth quarter, and after getting the ball back, he engineered a 77-yard drive for a touchdown. Freeman made a clutch third-down play to wide receiver Mike Williams and tossed a 5-yard pass to tight end Kellen Winslow in the back of the end zone to cap the drive. That cut the Saints' lead to 24-16 with five-and-half minutes left. New Orleans put the game away on their next possession when they drove down the field and kicked a field goal.
Brees finished the afternoon 27-of-36 for 258 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Jimmy Graham led the Saints with six receptions for 78 yards. Sproles had 89 yards rushing and receiving with a touchdown reception.
Freeman finished the game 27-of-37 for 267 yards and one touchdown. Blount ran for 72 yards on 13 carries. Williams paced Tampa Bay in receiving with six catches for 46 yards. The Buccaneers killed themselves with terrible gap integrity in run defense and horrible tackling. They also played very undisciplined football with a number of stupid, critical penalties.
Texans 30, Browns 12
The Browns almost won this game. Seriously. All they needed to do was have a lot more talent on offense and tackle much better on defense, and they may have beaten Houston.
All kidding aside, this score was completely indicative of how much of a bloodbath this matchup was. In the first quarter and a half alone, Houston had outgained the Browns, 216-38. Cleveland's tackling effort against Ben Tate and Arian Foster was pathetic.
The Browns' offense, meanwhile, wasn't going anywhere. Colt McCoy didn't threaten the secondary, and it didn't help that Chris Ogbonnaya (13-28), starting in place of Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty, coughed up the ball right away. Ogbonnaya's fumble on Cleveland's opening drive allowed the Texans to score an easy second touchdown, putting the game out of reach.
The Browns ruined any chance they had with another turnover right before halftime. McCoy foolishly heaved a weak-arm lob into triple coverage on a 2nd-and-19. It was naturally picked off, allowing the Texans to kick a field goal with two seconds remaining prior to intermission.
McCoy went 14-of-22 for 146 yards, one touchdown and a pick. If it wasn't obvious before, Cleveland has to look for a new quarterback this offseason.
Only one Cleveland receiver (Josh Cribbs) had more than two receptions (5-50, TD). Greg Little (2-33) was not a factor, outside of the fact that he spent some time arguing with McCoy on the sideline.
None of the Houston wideouts did much either, only because Matt Schaub (14-23, 119 yards, 1 INT) didn't have to throw much. Owen Daniels (3-32) had the most yardage, while Foster actually led the team in receptions (5-26).
Speaking of Foster, he barely had more rushing yardage (19-124, TD) than Tate (12-115, TD). It's amazing how easily they both ran the ball against Cleveland.
Jets 27, Bills 11
Could this be the end of Buffalo's magical 2011 run? This game certainly could have been an indication of that. Because as lopsided as this score was, it could have been much, much worse for the host.
The Jets outgained the Bills, 339-207 while the game was still in question (Buffalo had an 80-yard drive late in the fourth quarter against a prevent defense). The only reason this was remotely close for so long was because of two Jet turnovers deep in Buffalo territory. Mark Sanchez tossed an ugly interception in the end zone following a long opening drive. In the second quarter, there was a botched snap between Sanchez and Nick Mangold.
Buffalo had its own turnover problems. Ryan Fitzpatrick had a really ugly outing, as he spent most of the first half lobbing interceptions to Jet linebackers. He was 4-of-12 for 24 yards and two picks at halftime, and most of his total yardage (191) came in that aforementioned 80-yard junk scoring possession.
Fred Jackson was also guilty of a key give-away. Down just 6-0 at the beginning of the third quarter, he fumbled deep in his own territory, giving New York an easy touchdown drive. Given Buffalo's inability to move the chains - they had just three first downs up until that point - a 13-0 deficit was just too much for them to overcome.
As for the Jets, Mark Sanchez played pretty well aside from that aforementioned pick, though he nearly had a second interception prior to halftime. Sanchez finished 20-of-28, 230 yards, one touchdown and that pick.
Sanchez's touchdown went to Santonio Holmes (3-29). Plaxico Burress, meanwhile, led the team in receiving (5-79).
Shonn Greene has been running the ball well since Nick Mangold returned from injury. That once again was the case today, as Greene gained 76 yards on 19 carries. Unfortunately, LaDainian Tomlinson (5-18) vultured a 1-yard touchdown opportunity.
Dolphins 31, Chiefs 3
So much for taking over the AFC West. Every good thing the Chiefs did in their Monday night upset victory was just erased by this. How do you allow a winless team to blow you out; let alone beat you at home?
The Dolphins apparently don't think they need to Suck for Luck. Matt Moore was amazing in this contest. His stat line was great (17-of-23, 244 yards, 3 TDs), but that doesn't even do his performance justice. He threw some perfect passes, including a beautiful 27-yard touch lob to Reggie Bush along the sideline.
Two of Moore's touchdowns went to Anthony Fasano (2-38), who actually dropped one of Moore's few incompletions. Brandon Marshall (8-106) had the other score.
Reggie Bush had a tremendous outing. Despite the fact that Daniel Thomas was able to play with an injury, Bush had nearly twice as many carries, rushing for 92 yards and a touchdown on 13 attempts. He also caught three balls for 50 receiving yards.
As great as Miami's offense looked, Kansas City's scoring unit was obviously on the other end of the spectrum. There seemed to be a lot of confusion once again, and the crowd spend the entire second half booing Matt Cassel and Todd Haley after almost every play.
Cassel went 20-of-39 for 253 yards. With a ton of pressure in his face (five sacks), he had to run around a lot. In fact, he fell two yards short of leading his team in rushing yardage. Jackie Battle (14-40) paced the Chiefs in that category.
Only two Kansas City players had multiple receptions: Steve Breaston (7-115) and Dwayne Bowe (6-88). Jonathan Baldwin's one catch went for 12 yards, but he was targeted six times and had a touchdown nullified by offensive pass interference.
(Editor's Note: I don't think I'm ever going to draft a Mike Shanahan running back ever again. He's just being an a**hole at this point. Oh, and by the way, I'm now calling John Beck "John Blegh.")
I anticipated a defensive struggle and was not disappointed. Late in the first half, neither team had reached 100 total yards.
The Redskins did start with a bang. Rookie Roy Helu Jr., who got the start at running back, ran around the edge for 16 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Unfortunately, Helu (10 rushes for 41 yards) would average just 2.5 yards per carry the rest of the game. Even with Ray McDonald out on the defensive front, the 49ers were not budging. Starting in his place was Ricky Jean Francois, no doubt pumped over his alma mater LSU's huge win the previous night. Two short runs and a failed pass to Terrence Austin later, the opening possession ended in a punt.
San Francisco's offense was just a little more functional in this one even though they only drove more than 40 yards once. Their first drive was stopped by a funky shift that resulted in a penalty on 3rd-and-1 from the Washington 49. Head coach Jim Harbaugh clearly felt it should not have been a penalty for inducing the defense to jump and therefore an illegal motion penalty. Nevertheless, needing to throw, Alex Smith was crunched by rookie Ryan Kerrigan for a sack.
After a quick exchange of punts, Washington mounted a bit of offense, digging its way out from their own 3-yard line to reach the 37 thanks in part to a pair of 5-yard penalties. However, John Beck (30-for-47 254 yards 1 TD, 1 INT) was picked off by Dashon Goldson. One play later, the scoreless first quarter was over.
The 49ers went to Gore three times in a row to start the drive totaling 21 yards, then went away from him and failed to muster three yards on two plays to force a long field goal. David Akers, one of the most valuable players for them this season, was good from 52 yards out to make it 3-0.
The Redskins tried to mount an answer with Jabar Gaffney (4-40) catching two passes to convert third downs. However, on the second one, Trent Williams was nailed for a totally unnecessary smack in the back of Justin Smith for a 15-yard personal foul to force a punt following a pass to Helu. Now that I mention it, passing to him was a large part of the offense. He set a team mark with 14 receptions, putting Art Monk out of the record book in the process, for 105 yards.
Following another exchange of punts, San Francisco took over at its own 45. Alex Smith scrambled for eight yards on first down and Gore (19-107) had his longest run of the game chugging down field for a gain of 27. Two runs by Kendall Hunter set up the two-minute warning for a third-and-one. Smith threw incomplete under a bit of pressure, missing a wide-open Gore in the flat. Harbaugh decided to go for it, putting Smith in the Pistol formation. However, backup tight end Justin Peelle moved prior to the snap to set up another field goal for a 6-0 lead.
For some reason, Mike Shanahan was determined to get points prior to the half, even after a false start set them back to open the drive. Two plays later, a Helu reception ended in a fumble forced by Patrick Willis and recovered by Donte Whitner. Like a bolt of lightning, the 49ers immediately called a play and executed it, hitting fullback Bruce Miller down the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown for a 13-0 lead. The Redskins did scratch their way down the field in the final minute and get into field goal range. Graham Gano set a team record with a 59-yard effort to make it 13-3 at the break.
In the second half, Washington really never had a chance to get back in the game. After an exchange of punts, San Francisco finally converted its first third down (having failed on their first six) and made it to the 21-yard line before Brian Orakpo delivered a sack to force another field goal by Akers and a 16-3 lead. Trying to answer, the Redskins battled their way into scoring range, but had to go for it on fourth down. Navorro Bowman came up with the play to end the threat and things looked grim as the game entered the final quarter.
With the defense wearing down ,it was easy to mix in some passing plays. Vernon Davis picked up 22 yards and Braylon Edwards broke tackles turning a short gain into a big play for 24 more. The drive ended with another field goal for a 19-3 lead. Bowman, who of course had a great game, recovered a fumble but the 49ers gave it right back when Vernon Davis coughed it up. However, the subsequent drive ended on downs. After forcing a punt, they finally faced a soft prevent defense. It was too little, too late even though Gaffney caught a touchdown and rookie starting wide receiver Leonard Hankerson added the conversion to make it a 19-11 game with 1:05 to play. The onside kick was recovered by Vernon Davis who drew a flag for trying to fair catch a ball that was driven into the ground.
There was not much to this game. Both defenses can play. Smith (17-for-24 200 yards, 1 TD) was amazingly efficient and did not turn it over. Washington was forced to throw, and Chris Cooley or Santana Moss, that was not going to work. Fred Davis (4-42) did not start making plays until after the outcome was decided.
Cowboys 23, Seahawks 13
The biggest story to come out of this game was DeMarco Murray. The rookie runner, who broke Dallas' single-game rushing record a few weeks ago, proved Sunday that his previous performance was no fluke. Murray gained 139 yards on 22 carries to go along with four catches for 47 receiving yards. And he wasn't doing this against some pedestrian defense; the Seahawks were ranked second against the run heading into this weekend.
Murray is the real deal. At this point, it'll be a complete shock if he has to share the workload with Felix Jones once the latter back returns from injury.
Despite Murray's great running and Tony Romo's solid outing (19-31, 279 yards, 2 TDs), the Cowboys couldn't really pull away because they did what they do best - shoot themselves in the foot with dumb mistakes.
This game was tied at 6 at halftime despite the fact that Dallas was outgaining Seattle, 304-134. The Cowboys had the ball on the Seahawk 1-yard line on two occasions and mustered only three points. One instance was a first-and-goal at the 1 in which Dallas couldn't punch it in. The second was a Dez Bryant fumble.
Bryant's fumble hurt because he could have reached the end zone at the end of his long reception. He had four catches for 76 yards. Jason Witten also had four grabs (71 yards, TD). Miles Austin-Jones (2-53), meanwhile, left early with a hamstring injury.
I mentioned earlier that Murray was able to run the ball well against a stout run defense. Well, the same could be said about Marshawn Lynch, who tallied 135 yards and a score on 23 carries. Dallas was ranked seventh versus ground attacks heading into this contest.
The Seahawks were ultimately done in by Tarvaris Jackson's ineptness. Jackson made some nice throws, particularly to Sidney Rice (3-69), but his three interceptions were costly. He went 17-of-30 for 221 yards otherwise.
(Editor's Note: Keyshawn Johnson said Sunday morning that there was no chance Tim Tebow would beat the Raiders. Haters will keep on hating.)
Tim Tebow returned to the stadium where he made his first NFL start, often called the Black Hole. Funny, because last week it must have felt like he fell into a black hole, getting smashed up by Detroit. However, the first possession went to the other Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Carson Palmer. His first pass fell incomplete trying for dynamic rookie Denarius Moore, but Denver safety Rahim Moore was lost for the game with a concussion. After Michael Bush ran for seven yards, Palmer again threw incomplete for Moore.
Denver's offense started with a bit of foreshadowing. Willis McGahee ran for two yards. Tim Tebow then ran twice for six yards to set up the punt. The pair of them would wind up being the bulk of the offense, but more on that later.
Oakland's second play of the next drive was a 38-yard completion to Jacoby Ford who bolted down the middle of the field. He fumbled at the end of the play, but tight end Marcel Reece was there for the recovery. Bush (19-96) picked up 14 yards on the next play to put the ball in the red zone. He also wrecked Brian Dawkins, but the grisly veteran would soon return to the game. The drive would stall from there, and Sebastian Janikowski hobbled on for a 48-yard field goal to make it 3-0.
Left tackle Ryan Clady had a tough game, starting with wrecking Denver's next drive with a holding penalty leading to a quick punt. Oakland punted right back though, and Tebow really made his presence known even as the crowd chanted his name followed by a word that rhymes with ducks. He faked the handoff to McGahee, a regular play on the afternoon, and ran for 32 yards. Two plays later, he hit Eric Decker over the middle for a 27-yard touchdown and 7-3 lead.
After trading punts, the Raiders got their offense in motion as the second quarter started thanks to the Broncos failing to get their punt off. Britton Colquitt wound up throwing incomplete after bumbling the snap. On third down, Palmer hit Bush who did the rest, leaping for his first career touchdown reception and the 10-7 advantage. After another Denver punt, Oakland started running Bush, three times in a row in fact, before a pass to Moore put them in plus territory. Then, they tested Champ Bailey and found out he is still an elite player. Bailey intercepted Palmer.
In the first half, Oakland's defense was holding up and forced a quick punt. The offense showed some explosion on their next possession. Ford (5-105, TD) picked up 31 yards down the sideline at the two-minute warning. Three plays later, Reece proved why he is the "matchup nightmare," making a tough catch down the middle on a well thrown ball by Palmer for a 40-yard touchdown to give Oakland a 17-7 lead.
Head coach John Fox made a regrettable call during the final drive of the half, taking points off the board when Taiwan Jones followed up jumping offsides by running into kicker Matt Prater on a successful field goal attempt. Two failed plays later, he missed a shorter attempt, and the offense came up empty. At this point, the Silver and Black were very much in control of the game, but Eddie Royal changed all that after the break.
Denver took the opening kickoff and marched right down the field with McGahee and Tebow doing all of the damage. A strike down the middle to Royal for a 26-yard touchdown capped it off, but he was not done making plays. Oakland did answer with Palmer spreading the ball around before finding Ford for a doozy of a touchdown reception to put the Raiders ahead by double digits again at 24-14. It would be their final score of the afternoon though.
Perhaps departed head coach Josh McDaniels smiled when the Broncos opened their next drive with Tebow throwing to Demaryius Thomas for a 29-yard gain. Those were two of his first-round picks. The drive ended in a field goal, but they were committed to coming right at the Oakland defense.
Palmer came out firing on the next possession, connecting with newly signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a gain of 28 to put Oakland in enemy territory. Three plays later, Palmer tossed his second interception when Moore tipped the errant throw in the air and Chris Harris came up with it. This was definitely a turning point because the Broncos quickly took the field and McGahee blazed down the field on the first play 60 yards for the tying touchdown. Oakland was stunned as the third quarter ended with a 24-24 tie.
After trading punts, the Raiders' offense stalled again and reliable punter Shane Lechler booted the ball past his coverage. Royal housed the return, and all of a sudden, Denver led 31-24. Palmer hit Moore twice on the next drive for 35 yards, but also had four more incompletions and the Raiders punted. After a long afternoon of trying to tackle Tebow and McGahee, the Raider defense was spent. Tebow went for 28 and McGahee picked up 17 to start what would be the clinching march. Two plays later, McGahee capped it off with a 24-yard scoring scamper and the 38-24 final margin. For good measure, Palmer (19-for-35, 335 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs) threw another pick to Bailey.
This was not about any magic from Tebow; just smart play-calling. He had a lackluster passing day (10-for-21, 124 yards, 2 TDs) but ran 12 times for 118 yards. McGahee had 20 rushes for 163 yards and two scores. The key stats for Tebow were no turnovers and just two sacks.
Oakland's pass rush is less vicious without Matt Shaughnessy. Obviously, the run defense is a huge problem after coming within three feet of allowing 300 yards. Denver took the fight to them and absorbed the aerial effort of Palmer in the process. As a result, the AFC West is totally up for grabs.
Bengals 24, Titans 17
Hours prior to kickoff, ProFootballTalk.com broke a story about how the Titans would really consider cutting Chris Johnson this offseason because they could save $8 million next year.
Johnson played like a PFT reader early on. Javon Ringer received the first carry, but Johnson then just took the next attempt for 20 yards. He had a 21-yard reception later on the drive, which culminated in a Tennessee field goal. It appeared as though everything was back to normal, and that the Titans were perhaps going to salvage this season and perhaps become a threat to Houston.
Yeah, not so much. The first drive proved to be a fluke, because Johnson's other 13 carries went for 44 yards. He also had three other receptions for only 25 yards. CJ20 still looked tentative and sluggish whenever he had the ball.
I'm amazed the Titans blew this though. They looked well in control, maintaining a 17-7 lead at the break. Tennessee was outgaining Cincinnati at that point, 233-139. The Titans had just 86 yards after halftime, however, while the Bengals mustered 189. Andy Dalton had a huge second half, finishing 22-of-39 for 217 yards and three touchdowns.
A.J. Green didn't score, but he caught seven balls for 83 yards. Cedric Benson, meanwhile, had 78 yards on 20 carries in his return from suspension.
As for Matt Hasselbeck, he went 24-of-41 for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hasselbeck was really sharp early on, but struggled to complete routine passes once Nate Washington injured his hip. It didn't help that tight end Jared Crook had a key fumble that set Cincinnati up with a short scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
Cardinals 19, Rams 13
You gotta love the NFC West. I can't remember the last time I've seen a team be guilty of two safeties in a quarter; let alone a single contest. Well, this is the type of stuff that can happen when a backup quarterback starts in an NFC West battle. Thanks for the high comedy, John Skelton.
What's even worse is that the team that was called for two safeties actually won the game. How does that even happen?
Arizona won this abomination of a game, and Ram fans have to feel really discouraged. With Sam Bradford back and Steven Jackson running well, St. Louis should have blown out this miserable Cardinal squad that was playing without its backup quarterback. Instead, they lost, and Bradford didn't look much better than Adam Joshua Feeley did the past two weeks; the second-year signal-caller had several overthrows in this contest.
Bradford finished 23-of-36 for 255 yards and an interception. He showed an OK rapport with Brandon Lloyd, who hauled in five grabs for 80 yards. Lloyd drew a key pass interference at the end of regulation to set up what should have been a Josh Brown game-winning field goal. However, Calais Campbell blocked the kick, which would eventually allow Patrick Peterson to return yet another punt for a touchdown for what would be the decisive score.
Jackson, as mentioned, performed pretty well. He had 130 yards on 29 carries. Chris Wells, meanwhile, had just 20 yards on 10 attempts. The Rams were ranked 31st against the rush going into the contest, but the Rams were selling out against the run because they didn't respect Skelton.
And rightfully so - Skelton went 20-of-35 for 222 yards and a touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald (4-43). Skelton had trouble moving the chains throughout the afternoon, converting just 2-of-10 third downs.
The Rams should have won this game. They had 121 more yards from scrimmage and seven more first downs. They also won the time-of-possession battle by nearly 12 minutes.
Special teams were a killer. The blocked kick really hurt, and Peterson obviously did them in. Ultimately though, this was probably a good thing for the Rams, who are one loss closer to Falling Flat for Matt Kalil.
(Editor's Note: Was this a replay of the Super Bowl? Eli Manning even made an important throw to a receiver wearing a No. 85 jersey. I guess he is a top-five quarterback. And by the way, if the Patriots still had proud defensive veterans like Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, etc. they wouldn't have allowed that final touchdown. This defense blows.)
In the first half, the Patriots and Giants got a lot of use out of their punters and neither team was able to get any points. New England started to move the ball midway through the half, but on the first play of the second quarter, Tom Brady was intercepted. His ball was deflected by Michael Boley, and Mathias Kiwanuka snatched the deflection.
New York's offensive line had a lot of issues in the first half. They had multiple holding penalties and were letting consistent pressure get to Eli Manning. He took some big hits and moved well to avoid taking sacks.
Late in the second quarter, the Patriots started moving the ball with Brady making a series of short passes. After making a beautiful catch for a 21-yard gain against cornerback Corey Webster, Wes Welker was driven into the ground by Boley. Welker stayed in the game after getting attention from the medical staff. Brady missed Aaron Hernandez running open in the end zone, which really hurt as the Patriots missed the field goal, and at halftime, the score was deadlocked at zero.
To start the third quarter, Brady threw a bad pass for an interception to Deon Grant. There was no opening as the New England signal-caller forced the ball to Rob Gronkowski. The Giants took advantage and started moving the ball. Manning had good gains to Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard. That set up a field goal for New York. On the next New England possession, Brady got hit as he reared back to throw the ball and it came loose. The sack-fumble was recovered by the Giants at the Patriots' 10-yard line. The next play saw Brandon Jacobs run up the gut into the end zone, virtually untouched.
Special teams became a liability for both teams in the second half. First, a muffed punt by Giants cornerback Aaron Ross was recovered by New England. That set up the Patriots for a field goal. A short time later, New England committed their fourth turnover when Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich forced a fumble from Julian Edelman in punt coverage. On the drive, Manning moved the ball with a couple of good passes along the sideline. The Giants got inside the 10-yard line when Manning hit Michael Clayton in the back of the end zone. His catch was tossed because he had stepped out of bounds. A few plays later, Manning threw a pass up for grabs in the end zone after throwing off his back foot. Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington spun off of his man and made a leaping interception to negate scoring chance. It was Arrington's fifth interception of the season.
Brady answered with a big 27-yard toss to Welker in the middle of zone coverage. They hooked up again for 28 yards to get inside the 20. Brady finished the drive with a touchdown strike to Hernandez. He caught the ball short of the end zone and made a few defenders miss before charging in for the game-tying score. Brady led another a field goal drive to take a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Giants came up with a big answer. Manning made a few good throws to move the ball down the field. He was aided by a 35-yard pass interference penalty on Arrington. On 3rd-and-5, Manning made a perfect throw to Mario Manningham, who got by Arrington running through the end zone. The 10-yard score gave the Giants a 17-13 lead. A penalty on Manningham after the play helped give the Patriots good field position.
Brady got to work with a good pass to Deion Branch, and then a 19-yard pass to Gronkowski brought it to the Giants' 15 yard-line. A few plays later, and Brady had a 4th-and-8 at the Giants' 14-yard line. He threw a strike to Gronkowski in the front of the end zone for the lead.
To start the game-winning drive, Manning got a huge gain to Ballard. Manning tossed a ball down the seam, and Ballard made a leaping catch for 28 yards. Manning then scrambled for 12 yards. On the next play, he threw incomplete for Victor Cruz in the end zone but pass interference was called. That put the ball on the Patriot's 1-yard line. Manning threw incomplete for Ballard. Jacobs got stuffed on the next play. On third-and-goal, with 19 seconds remaining, Manning threw a touchdown pass to Ballard running an out route in the end zone. That completed New York's massive road win and saw the Giants improve to 6-2 on the season.
For the night, Manning was 20-of-39 for 250 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Jacobs ran for 72 yards on 18 carries, while Cruz led the Giants in receiving with six receptions for 91 yards. Ballard caught four passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Brady completed 28-of-49 passes for 342 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Giants had a good rush, but Brady missed some open receivers whom he normally hits. Brady seemed off against New York. Welker led New England in receiving with nine receptions for 136 yards. Gronkowski had eight grabs for 101 yards and one touchdown.
Packers 45, Chargers 38
If you put on the NFL Red Zone channel several minutes prior to the 1 p.m. kickoffs, you get to hear fantasy football predictions from random guys standing around in a circle. Two of the people are Michael Fabiano and Dave Dameshek, but I don't know the others. At any rate, one of the guys said something like, "Aaron Rodgers is going to have a bad game. Minimal yardage and one touchdown because San Diego's defense is great against the pass."
Rodgers is amazing. Some of the throws he made in this game were just breath-taking. He threaded some passes into some really tight windows, and I don't know how he continues to complete those back-shoulder throws. It's like he's some sort of robot who can place any ball wherever he wants. And like any robot, Rodgers can also scramble; he rushed for 52 yards on eight scrambles.
Passing-wise, Rodgers finished 21-of-26 for 247 yards and four touchdowns. All of his scores went to different targets: Greg Jennings (6-46), Jordy Nelson (5-105), Jermichael Finley (5-44) and James Jones (1-21).
As for the ground attack, James Starks had more than three times as many carries (13-66) than Ryan Grant (4-16).
It really looked like Philip Rivers was going to make this really competitive very early on. He completed all three of his passes on the opening drive for 57 yards, giving San Diego a 7-0 lead. However, after a Packer score, Rivers tossed two pick-sixes to Charlie Peprah and Tramon Williams.
Rivers would finish 26-of-46 for 385 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. He led some impressive scoring drives, but those turnovers proved to be costly.
Three of Rivers' scores went to Vincent Jackson (7-141) who really rebounded from a disappointing Monday night performance. The other was hauled in by Antonio Gates (8-96, TD), who could have had a bigger day if he hadn't dropped two passes.
Mike Tolbert also found the end zone. He rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Tolbert also had four catches for 59 receiving yards. Curtis Brinkley, the hero from Halloween night, was nowhere to be seen.
Ravens 23, Steelers 20
ESPN analysts tend to overreact to everything, but I completely agreed with Trent Dilfer when he said that Baltimore's decisive drive was a defining moment in Joe Flacco's career. Flacco had never beaten Ben Roethlisberger prior to this year, and he didn't really need to be clutch in that season-opening win. Well, he definitely came up huge; down four with 2:24 on the clock and one timeout remaining. he drove Baltimore 92 yards down the field for a touchdown.
What's even more amazing is that Flacco's receivers tried their best to lose this game for him. Torrey Smith dropped what would have been a 38-yard touchdown on that final drive. Anquan Boldin then bobbled a pass that would have set up a first-and-goal with 15 seconds remaining. Smith redeemed himself, however, hauling in a 26-yard score with less than 10 seconds on the clock.
Flacco went 28-of-47 for 300 yards and that score. His most impressive number was 14-of-21 - as in Baltimore's third-down conversions. It's amazing how different he looked compared to the inept quarterback who couldn't complete any passes two weeks ago against Jacksonville on a Monday night.
As for Flacco's two wideouts, Smith (5-71, TD) and Boldin (7-88) were both good statistically. Smith had two drops overall and was guilty of a hold that negated a Ray Rice touchdown. The call was terrible though; more on that later.
Rice had 43 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries with five catches for 43 receiving yards. It's a shame for his fantasy owners that he had an 80-yard score wiped off the board.
As for the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger went 20-of-37 for 330 yards, one touchdown and a pick. Big Ben's score went to Mike Wallace (4-68), but emerging stud Antonio Brown was the one who led Pittsburgh in receiving (5-109).
Rashard Mendenhall (13-52, TD) and Heath Miller (5-73) also pleased their fantasy owners.
Walt Coleman was the official in this contest, so naturally there were a number of awful calls on both sides.
Against the Ravens:
- Smith's hold to negate an 80-yard Rice touchdown on the opening play was completely bogus. Cris Collinsworth nearly had an aneurysm yelling about it.
- Rice ran into the end zone in the first quarter, but the play was blown dead extremely early.
- Smith was held a bit later, which prevented a long reception. The hold wasn't called.
Against the Steelers:
- Brown was interfered with in the end zone, but no penalty was called.
- Ike Taylor was whistled for a questionable pass interference in the third quarter that would later give Rice a short touchdown.
- Max Starks' bogus hold wiped out a nice Rashard Mendenhall scamper later on.
When Smith scored the decisive touchdown, there was also a pass interference penalty. Coleman apparently thought the Ravens would wipe the score off the board because he announced: "Pass interference on the defense. The ball will be placed on the spot of the foul."
Because that game-winning score wasn't exciting enough.