NFL 2012 Week 11 Recap

NFL 2012 Week 11 Recap

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills was the Thursday night game. The game was delayed at the start due to a security risk when police mistakenly thought that the Unabomber was on the sideline. It turned out to be Buffalo Head Coach Chan Gailey sporting a very sinister looking beard. As for the game, it would not replace Dan Marino and Jim Kelly in the pantheon of epic matches.

Miami went 3 and out and punted, and Leodis McKelvin returned it 79 yards for a touchdown. Just 90 seconds into the game, the Bills led 7-0. Later in the quarter Miami fumbled and Buffalo took over at their own 48. On 3rd and 10 Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Stevie St Johnson for gains of 15 and 16. Ryan Lindell would hit a 32 yarder to make it 10-0 Bills. Yet 12 seconds later it was the Dolphins with their own special teams touchdown as Thigpen took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards the other way. The Dolphins were down 10-7, although viewers could have turned off the television at that point.

Much of the rest of the game was a slog. Buffalo moved from their own 24 to a 3rd and 1 at the Miami 16. Fitzptrick threw incomplete and Chan Gailey decided not to go for it. Lindell hit his second field goal from 34 yards to make it 13-7 Bills after the first quarter.

In the second quarter the Bills faced 3rd and 5 from their own 17. Fitzpatrick threw incomplete but a 31 yard defensive pass interference call moved the chains. Yet on 3rd and 3 from the Miami 17, Fitzpatrick was sacked. Lindell hit his third field goal from 42 yards to make it 16-7 Bills.

At the 2 minute warning Miami punted on 4th and 15 from their own 2. Buffalo took over at their own 47. CJ Spiller caught a pass for 13 yarda and then ran for 20 and 4. On 3rd and 8 from the 18 Fitzpatrick hit St Johnson for 14 but onl 15 seconds remained. On 1st and goal at the one with 6 seconds left, Fitzpatrick threw incomplete. Chan Gailey again opeted for the field goal and Lindell’s fourth kick from 19 yards out made it 19-7 Bills at the half. Buffalo took the rest of the night off, and Miami for the most part did as well.

In the third quarter Buffalo moved from their 21 to a 2nd and 7 at the Miami 36. Yet a pair of incompletions was followed by Chan Gailey playing it safe and punting. Miami moved from their 36 to a 4th and 7 at the Buffalo 32. Dan Carpenter came in for a 50 yard field goal, which was no good.

In the fourth quarter, Miami took over and soon faced 3rd and 2 from their own 27. Ryan Tannehill hit Duane Bess for 9 yards. Defensive pass interference on the next play added 30 more yards. Reggie Bush gained 11 and Tannehill hit Bess for 14 more. On 3rd and goal at the 2, Tannehill hit Bess in the end zone. Initially Bess was ruled out of bounds, but Joe Philbin challenged the call. On reversal, the Dolphins were within 5 points after the 11 play, 81 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive. 8 1/2 minutes still remained.

Buffalo would punt, and Miami was trapped at their own one yard line with 4 1/2 minutes left. After barely avoiding a safety, the Dolphins moved to their own 32 at the 2 minute warning. Tannehill went deep and Byrd made a diving interception, literally robbing away a reception. The acrobatic pick appeared to ice the game. Yet the Dolphins had all of their timeouts, and on 3rd and 1 from their own 44, Buffalo saw Spiller get belted back for a one yard loss. Miami would have one more chance at their own 16 with 0 timeouts and 1:24 to play.

Tannehill hit Bess for 18 and Ryan Mathews for 19, and despite being down all game Miami had a chance to win. On 1st and 20 from their 43, Tannehill was intercepted again by Scott. It was not pretty but the Bills escaped for a win that will not affect the playoff race in any way. 19-14 Bills

Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons–A bad team that has lost five straight games travels on the road to play a very good team angry over losing their first game after winning eight straight. This is not why they play the games.

A surprising start had Atlanta start at their own 27 and Matt Ryan get intercepted on the first play by Johnson. Johnson returned it 34 yards to the Atlanta 9. Larod Stephens-Howling gained 6 and then the final 3 as the Cardinals led 7-0 only one minute into the game. Atlanta then went 3 and out without gaining a yard, and the Cardinals took over at their own 30. Stephens-Howling then broke free for a 40 yard gain. The Cardinals ot nothing more, but Jay Feely drilled a 48 yard field goal to put Arizona up 10-0 in front of a stunned home crowd.

Things got uglier as the Falcons faced 2nd and 10 from the Arizona 29. Ryan was intercepted for the second time. They would not capitalize, and the Falcons faced 3rd and 6 from their own 11. For the third time in the first quarter, Ryan was intercepted. Arizona took over at the Atlanta 18. On 4th and 1 from the 9, Ken Whisenhunt played it safe. Feely hit the 28 yarder as the Cardinals looked like the 4-0 team from early this year as they led 13-0.

The Falcons woke up in the second quarter which began with them facing 3rd and 6 from their 24. Ryan hit Roddy Rhite for a 9 yard gain. On 3rd and 8 from their 35, Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for 12. On 3rd and 7 from midfield, Ryan hit Jaquez Rodgers for 9. Yet on 3rd and 1 from the Arizona 32, Jason Snelling got blown up in the backfield for a one yard loss. Matt Bryant hit the 51 yard field goal to get the Falcons on the board down 13-3.

While it was John “Red” Skelton startig the game, the second quarter saw Lindley come at quarterback with the Cardinals at their own 14. On 3rd and 3 from their 21, Lindley was hit by John Abraham and fumbled. Julian Babineaux picked it up and raced 15 yards for a score to get the Falcons within 13-10. This was a microcosm of the entire Arizona season for Ken Whisenhunt.

Atlanta would take over midway through the second quarter at their own 9 and Ryan went deep to White for gains of 37 and 19. Yet despite 1st and goal at the 10, a failed run and a pair of incompletions meant Matt Bryant from 28 yards. With 1:56 left in the half the game was tied 13-13.

Arizona began at their own 6 yard line with 1:45 on the clock. Stephens-Howling immediately broke free for a 52 yard gain. Lindley hit Floyd for 17 more. Yet Lindley threw incomplete on 3rd and 5 from the Atlanta 20. Feely hit from 38 to make it 16-13 Cardinals. Atlanta got it back after a touchback but with only 32 seconds on the clock. Matty Ice hit Snelling for 13 and Rodgers for 17 to midfield. Ryan hit Julio Jones for 20 as the Falcons took their last timeout with 2 seconds left at the half. Bryant hit the 48 yarder as each kicker made 3 field goals in sending the game to halftime deadlocked 16-16.

Despite the action of the first half, the second half was lifeless.

Arizona saw a promising drive end with a sack of Lindley. Atlanta fumbled away an opportunity. Late in the third quarter after a touchback Matt Ryan threw his fourth interception. Arizona took over at the Atlanta 16. The defense held, but on the first play of the fourth quarter Feely hit his fourth field goal from 27 yards out to make it 19-16 Cardinals.

After an exchange of punts, Atlanta took over at their own 30. Ryan hit Douglas for 11 and then again for 26 more. Ryan then went to White for 18. On 3rd and 5 from the 10, Ryan hit Gonzalez for 9. Michael Turner got the last yard as the Falcons led by 4 points with 6 1/2 minutes to play.

Arizona went 3 and out and Atlanta had it on their own 36 with 5 minutes left. Yet rather than grind down clock, Mike Smith had Matt Ryan keep throwing. Ryan threw his fifth interception, this time to Acho. With 4 minutes left, Arizona had been given gift field position at the Atlanta 32. Yet on 4th and 2 from the 24, Lindley threw incomplete.

The Cardinals were out of timeouts, and everything came down to 3rd and 2 at the Atlanta 32 just shy of the 2 minute warning. Yet Rodgers gained 6 yards allowing Atlanta to run out the clock. Matt Ryan was 28 of 46 for 301 yards, but he had 5 interceptions without a touchdown. Yet Atlanta won. The last time a quarterback with 0 touchdowns and 5 picks one a game wa Bart Starr with the 1967 Packers. They won it all, and that means winning ugly sometimes. Lombardi was not concerned with beauty, and neither are coaches today. Arizona is all but done, while Atlanta is 9-1 and showing their resiliency. 23-19 Falcons

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers–Greg Schiano has seen his Buccaneers get to 5-4 after a couple of wins over AFC West teams. Carolina is having a miserable year, but with the Panthers one does not know what to expect.

Tampa Bay punted and Carolina fumbled it away, giving the Buccaneers the ball at the Carolina 29. On 3rd and 1, Freeman gained 2. Freeman would hit Byham for a 3 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Buccaneers. The Buccaneers got it back at their own 48 and and Josh Freeman hit Vincent Jackson for 19 yards. That was enough for Connor Barth to hit a 51 yard field goal to have the Buccaneers up 10-0.

The Buccaneers were in total control of the game when the Panthers punted on 4th and 26 from their own 4. Tampa took over just shy of midfield and was marching toward a possible early knockout blow as they faced 3rd and 8 from the Carolina 30. At that moment the game change as Freeman was intercepted by Munnerlyn, who returned it 74 yards the other way as the Panthers were only down 10-7 after the first quarter.

Momentum had changed, and in the second quarter the Panthers got it back at their own 23. Jimmy Stewart gained 11 and caught a pass from Cam Newton for 30 yards. On 3rd and 2 from the Tampa 28 Newton hit Steve Smith for 11 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the 11 Newton threw incomplete, but defensive pass interference put the ball on the one. Stewart got in as the Panthers led 14-10. With 3 minutes left in the half it was the Panthers looking to widen the lead as they faced 3rd and 9 from the Bucs 12. Newton threw a touchdown to Steve Smith, but Smith was called for offensive pass interference. Medlock missed the 40 yard field goal as the game remained 14-10 at halftime.

Early in the third quarter the Panthers faced 4th and 6 at their own 41. Ron Rivera gambled on a fake punt, and it didn’t work. Nakamura was tackled for a loss and the Bucs took over at the Carolina 37. Freeman went deep right away but was intercepted. In the fourth quarter Freeman led a time consuming drive from the Tampa 19 to a 4th and 1 at the Carolina 2. Doug Martin got the carry and the first down, but right at the goal line was hit and fumbled. Carolina recovered in the end zone for a touchback. Greg Schiano challenged the call, and it appeared that the ball may have just broken the plane of the goal. Yet the call was upheld and the score remained 14-10 with 10 1/2 minutes in regulation.

On 3rd and 2 from their own 28, Newton hit Brad LaFell for 20. On 3rd and 4 from the Tampa 46, Newton hit Smith for 17 and then went deep to Lafell for the 29 yard touchdown. Newton did his Superman pose and with only 6 minutes oleft in the game the Panthers led 21-10.

Yet this Tampa team under Schiano is very resilient. Freeman quickly moved the Bucs from their 20 to a 3rd and 2 at the Carolina 22. Freeman hen threw incomplete, and needing 2 scores, Schiano opted for the field goal. Barth hit from 40, but the Bucs were still down 21-13 with only 4 minutes left.

After a touchback, Newton hit Smith for 11 as the Bucs were forced to use all of their timeouts. With 3 minutes left Carolina faced 3rd and 11 from their own 30. Newton hit Louis Murphy for 12 and a critical first down, but Murphy ran out of bounds to stop the clock. Nevertheless, unable to stop the clock, it all came down to the 2 minute warning and the Panthers facing 3rd and 12 at their own 40. Newton scrambled himself and came up one yard short as the clock ticked down. On 4th and 1 just past midfield, Ron Rivera decided to punt. The Bucs would get it back after a touchback with 0 timeouts and only one minute left.

Freeman hit Tywuon Underwood for 18 yards, and unnecessary roughness tacked on 15 more and stopped the clock. With 32 seconds left, facing 3rd and 4 at the Carolina 41, Freeman found Vincent Jackson for 17 yards. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, only 20 seconds remained. Freeman went deep to the end zone and found Jackson for the 24 yard touchdown in front of a disbelieving home crowd. Carolina called a timeout before the 2 point conversion try. It didn’t matter, as Freeman faked the handoff and found Jackson in the back of the end zone. The miracle comeback meant a 21-21 ballgame and overtime.

Tampa won the coin toss and took over at their own 20. Doug Martin was the one man wrecking crew, rushing for 11 and 27. Freeman hit Mike Williams for 13. Then Martin gained 7 and 2. On 3rd and 1 at the 9, Freeman hit Jackson for 4. Freman then fired to Dallas Clark, who raced for the 15 yard touchdown in front of a crowd that was now stone cold silent. Carolina would never get the ball as 17 unanswered points late in the fourth quarter and overtime ended things. Carolina is only a two win team for a reason. As for the Bucs, Schiano has turned them around. They have won 4 straight and 5 of 6 to get to a 6-4 record, very much in the playoff hunt. 27-21 Buccaneers, OT

Cleveland Browns @ Dallas Cowboys–The Browns are terrible, while Dallas got a much needed divisional road win to get to 4-5 and perhaps save their season.

A field position game had Dallas punting twice, and Cleveland beginning their second possession at the Dallas 48. On 3rd and 2 Brandon Weeden hit Trent Richardson for 7 and Gordon for 13. On 3rd and 1 from the 11, Ogbayanna got the yard. On 3rd and goal from the 10 Weeden hit Watson for the touchdown as the 7-0 Browns lead had Jerry Jones threatening to blow up his 1.2 billion dollar metropolis if they lost to Cleveland.

Cleveland began the second quarter facing 3rd and 5 at the Dallas 47 when Weeden hit Gordon for 13. That was enough for original Dawg Pound member Phil Dawson hit a 51 yard field goal to make it 10-0 Browns. Dallas was lifeless on offense as Cleveland got it back at their own 27. On 3rd and 8 from their 45, a Weeden incompletion was offset by unnecessary roughness on the defense. That was enough for the Browns to move in position for Dawson to connect again from 37 yards. Shellshocked home fans saw the 2-7 Browns beating up Dallas 13-0 at intermission.

After a punt in the third quarter, Dallas took over at their own 20. Tony Romo hit Dez Brant for 13 and Felix Jones gained 12. Yet on 2nd and 6 from the 19, Romo was sacked. Dan Bailey did hit a 44 yard field goal, but the Cowboys still trailed 13-3 after three quarters. Just remember, these are the Browns.

A surprise squib kick failed, yet from their own 44, Cleveland went 3 and out. Dallas got it back at their own 11. Romo hit Bryant for 6 and again for 30. Romo hit Ogletree for 10 and defensive pass interference on the next play added 13 more yards. Dallas began the fourth quarter with 2nd and 5 at the Cleveland 18. Romo hit Jason Witten for 5 and Bryant for 11. Jones got the last couple as the Cowboys were within 13-10.

Cleveland again went 3 and out and the Cowboys got it back at their own 42. On 3rd and 1 from the Cleveland 44, Felix Jones went nowhere. On 4th and 1 Jason Garrett decided to go for it. Romo hit Vickers for 3 to keep the chains moving. On 3rd and 6 from the Cleveland 37, Romo hit Witten for 9. Romo then went deep to Brant for a 28 yard touchdown. The Cowboys led 17-13 as the football world conceded that these are the Browns.

Cleveland took over at their own 12, and with 6 minutes left faced 2nd and 10 from their 29. Weeden was sacked and fumbled, and Dallas took over at the Cleveland 18. These are the Browns. Yet looking to now ice the game, offensive holding and a sack of Romo forced him to fumble, and the Browns got it back at their own 35. This year, these have been the Cowboys. 5 minutes remained.

Weeden hit Little for 17 and Gordon for 23 more. On 3rd and 3 from the 16, Weeden hit Watson for 10. Trent Richardson gained 5 as Dallas used their timeouts to preserve the clock in case Cleveland scored. On 3rd and goal at the one Richardson leapt over the top and got belted backward. With 1:47 to play it came down to 4th and goal at the one. Weeden threw a fade route so far to the corner that it was caught way out of bounds. These are the Browns. The goal line stand did not end things because the Browns had all 3 of their timeouts. Jason Garrett went more conservative than Rick Perry, hammering Jones into te line 3 times. Dallas took only 19 seconds off of the clock.

On 4th and 8 from their own 4, Dallas punted. Josh Cribbs returned it 21 yards to the Dallas 32. A questionable horsecollar tackle came went Joshua Cribbs was pulled down by his long hair. While that may be bush league, it is not against the rules. From the Dallas 17, Cleveland needed one play for the famed Weeden to Watson combination. Only 1:07 remained and th Browns were up 20-17. Dallas was 80 yards away from the end zone without a timeout. The only thing in their favor was that they were playing the Browns.

From the 24, an incompletion was nullified by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Cleveland. These are the Browns. Romo hit Miles Austin for 12. Romo went deep incomplete, but a 35 yard defensive pass interference penalty made it 1st and 10 at the 14. These are the Browns. On 3rd and 5 from the 9 with 12 seconds left, a delay of game penalty and incompletion left only 6 seconds and 4th and 10. Bailey hit the chip shot from 32 as the game went into overtime tied 20-20.

Dallas moved from their 20 to a 3rd and 2 at the Cleveland 41 in overtime. Yet an incompletion meant a punt, and the game now became sudden death. Cleveland went 3 and out and Harris returned the punt 20 yards to the Cleveland 48. Romo hit Austin for 9 and Dunbar gained 7. On 3rd and 2 from the 24, Dunbar gained 3. At this point Dunbar gained one more yard just to center the ball. On 2nd and 9 from the 20 with 6 minutes left in overtime, Bailey came in for the 38 yarder to win it. It was good, and Dallas survived a scare to get to 5-5, only one game out of the NFC East division lead. Jason Garrett kept his job for another week as Jerry Jones did not hit the detonate button. As for 2-8 Cleveland, everyone say it with me. These are the Browns. 23-20 Cowboys, OT

Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions–The Packers are clicking after early season struggles while Detroit is regressing after Jim Schwartz got them to the playoffs last year. Yet Detroit often plays well at home against NFC North foes.

A field position game had the Packers starting at the Detroit 48. Yet on 4th and 4 from the Detroit 31, Mike McCarth decided to go for it rather than kick a 49 yard field goal. Mason Crosby has been very shaky lately, missing 5 of his last 10. Aaron Rodgers threw incomplete to end the drive. Detroit faced 3rd and 12 from their 29 when Matthew Stafford went deep to Megatron Calvin Johnson. Between 2 defenders, Johnson did what he does for a 53 yard gain. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 3, Stafford was sacked for a loss. Old Reliable Jason Hanson, who has been kicking field goals since feet were invented, hit the 30 yarder to make it 3-0 Lions.

The Packers moved the ball and the second quarter began with Green Bay facing 3rd and 3 at the Detroit 42. Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for 19, Randall Cobb for 3, and Jermaine Finley for a 20 yard touchdown to make it 7-3 Packers.

Stafford took his turn from the Detroit 26, hitting Heller for 17. On 3rd and 9 from their 47, Stafford hit Johnson for 21. On 3rd and 3 from the Packers 25, Stafford again went to Johnson for 14. Leshoure gained 10 and then the final yard as the Lions retook the lead 10-7.

With 2 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Lions had 1st and 10 at the Packers 29. Yet Stafford was intercepted by Hayward, who returned it 20 yards to the Green Bay 48. Rodgers was then quickly intercepted, and the Lions had it back at their 33 with 1:51 left. On 3rd and 10 from the Detroit 43, Stafford was sacked and fumbled. Green Bay took over at the Detroit 42. With 3 seconds lef in the half, Crosby came in for a 50 yard field goal try. He misse dit wide right, but Jim Schwartz did the Mike Shanahan timeout at the last moment that everyone hates so much. Given a second chance, this time Crosby was wide right as a disgusted Mike McCarthy saw the Packers trailing 10-7 at the break.

Midway through the third quarter the Lions faced 3rd and 10 at the Green Bay 44. Stafford fired over the middle to Tony Scheffler, but it bounced off of Scheffler’s fingertips. It caromed straight into the arms of the doctor, MD Jennings. Jennings broke tackles, got to the sideline, had a convoy, and dove just over the pileon for a 72 yard touchdown return. There was a flag on the play, but it was an illegal block against Stafford of all people. The Packers had the 14-10 lead.

Detroit took over at their own 17. Leshoure gained 5 and a facemask on the next play added 15. On 3rd and 2 from the Detroit 45, Stafford hit Pettigrew for 12. Leshoure gained 5 and 12. On 2nd and 20 from the Packers 25, Staffors went deep to Johnson, who did what he does. The touchdown had the Lions back on top 17-14 after three quarters.

Early in the fourth quarter confusion reigned as the Packers faced 4th and 5 at the Detroit 40. Mike McCarthy appeared to be trying a fake field goal when the Packers were called for illegal motion. The Packers punted. Detroit went 3 and out and the Packers got it back at the Detroit 44. On 3rd and 2 from the Lions 20, Rodgers threw incomplete. Crosby came in for the tying kick, this one only from 38 yards out. Again Crosby was no good as his struggles continued with 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

From their 28, Leshoure gained 4 and 5. On 3rd and 1 Stafford hit Broyles for a 27 yard gain and Young for 24 more. With 5 1/2 minutes left the Lions had 1st and goal at the 10 with a chance to ice it. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 9, Stafford fired incomplete. Hanson hit the 27 yard field goal, but with 4 1/2 minutes left the Lions only led 20-14.

From their own 18, Starks gained 11. Rodgers hit Finley on a short pass that went for a 40 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the Detroit 22, Rodgers fired to the end zone for Randall Cobb. Safety help was one split second too late as Rodgers split the double coverage for the touchdown. The see-saw game had the Packers up 21-20 as the Lions took over at their own 25 with 1:48 to play.

4 incompletions and a false start meant a turnover on downs as 4th and 15 from their own 20 went nowhere. The Lions still had two timeouts, and on 3rd and 10 Mike McCarthy ran it to bleed the clock. With 24 seconds to play Crosbya came in again for a 39 yarder. This time Crosby was good. Down by 4, the Lions needed a touchdown to win.

On 3rd and 10 from their own 37 with 3 seconds left, the Lions were out of Hail Mary range. The hook and ladder was the only chance. Stafford found Johnson for a 30 yard gain to the Packers 33, but the first lateral went straight to Green Bay. The Packers got to 7-3 while the Lions are slipping out of contention. 24-20 Packers

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans–This is absolutely not why they play the game. One of the worst teams in the league at 1-8 goes on the road to play one of the best teams at 8-1. This could get very ugly very early on.

Houston made it look easy at the start from their own 16. Matt Schaub hit Andre Johnson for 7, 22, and then deep for a 45 yard gain. A 9 yard touchdown pass to Martin quickly had the Texans up 7-0 as the league reconsidered its policy of canceling games. Jacksonville would fumble on their first possession, but when the Texans failed to capitalize the game became surprisingly competitive.

With 4 1/2 minutes left in the opening quarter the Jaguars took over at their own 19. Blaine Gabbert had gotten injured earlier in the game when he fumbled, and now Chad Henne was in. Henne went deep to Justin Blackmon for a 63 yard gain. On 3rd and 5 from the 13, Henne hit Mercedes Lewis for the score to make it 7-7 after one. The second quarter began with Houston facing 4th and 6 at the Jacksonville 36. Gary Kubiak decided to play it safe and punt. Jacksonville took over at their own 19. From their 33, Henne hit Chris Shorts on a short pass that suddenly became a 67 yard touchdown as the Jaguars led 14-7 on the road.

Martin returned the kickoff 54 yards to the Jacksonville 48. Schaub found Johnson for 15. Forsett gained 9 and 3 and Arriun Foster gained 9, 6, and 3. Yet with the running game doing it all, from the one yard line Schaub crossed up the Jaguars and threw the touchdown to Casey to make it 14-14 midway through the second quarter.

Jacksonville kept moving the ball from their 31 as Paralee gained 12 and 2 and Henne found Lewis for a 26 yard gain. The drive would stall, but Josh Scobee hit a 43 yard field goal. The Jaguars are 1-8 and the Texans are 8-1, but it was Jacksonville up 17-14 with 3 minutes left in the half.

Yet a few seconds later and special teams had Houston starting at the Jacksonville 31. The drive stopped but Shane Graham hit a 42 yard field goal as the teams went to the locker rooms tied 17-17.

Jacksonville kept the pressure on in the second half. After a touchback, Henne went deep to Blackmon for a 39 yard gain. On 3rd and 10 Henne hit Blackmon again for 11. On 3rd and 2 from the Houston 22, Henne threw incomplete. Scobee hit from 40 as the Jaguars led 20-17. Houston soon faced 3rd and 17 from their own 26 when Foster lost 4 yards and fumbled. The Jaguars took over at the Houston 11. Henne hit Michael Spurlock for 10. On 3rd and goal from the 1, Henne hit Lewis for the score as the Jaguars led 27-17.

Houston moved from their 26, helped along by a 30 yard completion from Matt Schaub to Graham. Yet on 3rd and 1 from the Jacksonville 9, Foster got nothing. On 4th and 1 Gary Kubiak, needing 2 scores, opted for the field goal. Graham hit from 27 to get the Texans to within 27-20.

The fourth quarter began with the Jaguars punting from their own 23. Martin returned the kick 71 yards to the Jacksonville 23. Yet 2 plays later Schaub was intercepted. Jacksonville after a sack and penalty faced 3rd and 21 from their own 19. Henne went deep and found Justin Blackmon, who bounced off a couple of terrible attempts at tackling and completed the 81 yard touchdown. Wade Phillips may be the best defensive coordinator in the game, but his defense was being shredded by the worst team in football. This game was supposed to be a laugher, but now the Texans were fighting for their lives. Instead of a 27-27 game, they were down 34-20 with 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation. The issue would be if Jacksonville could finish things.

On 3rd and 1 from their 29, Foster got the yard. Schaub then hit Casey for 8, and then played pitch and catch with Graham for gains of 5, 8, 6, and 19. Unnecessary roughness moved the bal to the 12. On 3rd and 1 from the 3, Foster got just enough. From the one, Foster got stopped twice as the clock kept ticking down. On 3rd and goal at the one, Schaub went back to Graham for the score as the Texans were within 34-27 with 5 1/2 minutes to play.

Jacksonville went 3 and out and the Texans were backed up to their own 10 with 4 minutes left. Schaub went deep to Johnson for 20, to Walter for 11, to Owen Daniels for 18, Walter for 13, Johnson for 7, and Johnson for 14 to make it 1st and goal at the 7 at the 2 minute warning. Schaub threw a 5 yard touchdown pass to Graham as his passing clinic when it counted tied the game 34-34. Jacksonville had blown a 14 point lead late. They went 3 and out and were in full self-destruction mode.

1:07 still remained, the Texans were at their own 35, and they had 2 timeouts left. On the first play Schaub went deep to Johnson for a 35 yard gain as the Texans were already in field goal range. Gary Kubiak bled the clock, and with five seconds left on 3rd and 4 from the 24, Shane Graham came in for the winning 42 yard kick. A false start moved Houston back from 5 yards out, and from 47, Graham was no good. Jacksonville had life.

Houston won the toss and began overtime at their 20. Schaub hit Johnson for 11 and and Foster for 9. On 3rd and 1 from their 40, Foster got the yard. Schaub hit Daniels for 9 to midfield. Foster gained 6 and 3 and Schaub hit Walter for 12 down to the 29. Foster gained 7. On 3rd and 2 from the 21, Schaub threw incomplete. Yet defensive pass interference put the ball on the 9. On 3rd and goal at the 7 Schaub threw incomplete. Shane Graham hit the 25 yarder to complete the 80 yard, 7 minute drive. Yet under the new overtime rules the game was not over. Houston had the 3 point lead, but Jacksonville would get one chance with the football.

Jacksonville took over at their 32. Henne gained 4 and threw incomplete, but unnecessary roughness meant 1st and 10 just past midfield. A run gained nothing and Henne fired incomplete twice. Jacksonville took a timeout as everything came down to 4th and 10 at the Houston 49. Henne found Blackmon for 15 and again the Jaguars were still alive. Parmalee then broke free for a 28 yard gain. The Jaguars had 1st and goal at the 6. Now even winning the game was as possible as the tying field goal. Parmalee got the carry again and lost 4 yards as the both teams took their second and final timeouts of overtime back to back with 4 1/2 minutes left.

On 2nd and goal from the 10, a false start followed by a pair of incompletions meant Scobee from 33 yards out to tie it. He was good, and the game stayed tied 37-37. Now it was sudden death, and the Texans took over at their 20 with 4:20 left. Last week saw the first tie in 4 years, and this had the chance to be the second one in 2 weeks.

From the Houston 39, the roller coaster continued as Schaub was intercepted by Cox. Cox returned the ball 16 yards and now the Jaguars had a short field at the Houston 47. A pair of incompletions and a failed run meant 4th and 10 from the 47. With 2 1/2 minutes to play and neither team having a timeout, the decision was whether to punt and play field position or gamble and risk giving Houston great field position. Jacksonville is 1-8, so why the hell not go for it? They did, Henne threw incomplete, and Houston took over. On 2nd and 5 from the Jacksonville 48, Schaub threw a short pass to Johnson, and the beast broke free for the touchdown. Jacksonville remained the worst team at 1-9 while Houston survived the megascare to get to an NFL best 9-1. Chris Berman reminds us that “That’s why they play the games.” Yes it is, and while this was not one of the all time greatest upsets in football, it was still a fantastic game from beginning to end. 43-37 Texans, OT

Cincinnati Bengals @ Kansas City Chiefs–The Bengals got a stunning win last week against the defending champions, and this week play one of the worst teams in football. The Bengals have a slim chance to save their season.

After an exchange of punts the Chiefs took over at their own 25. Matt Cassel hit Moeaki for 22 yards. Jamal Charles ran for 17, 2, 10, and 5. Yet on 3rd and 5 from the Cincy 19, a completion to Dexter McCluster came up 2 yards short. Romeo Crennel went with Ryan Succop, who hit the 34 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Chiefs. After not leading all year until last week, the Chiefs have a lead in consecutive weeks.

Cincinnati could not gain a first down but Marvin Lewis decided to go very bold by calling for a fake punt on 4th and 3 from his own 29. Peerman took the direct snap and gained 32 yards around the end. Then the Bengals again decided to go for it on 4th and 7 from the Chiefs 36. This time Andy Dalton gained 11 yards. Dalton hit Gresham for 18 yards and AJ Green for a 4 yard toudown to make it 7-3 Bengals after the first quarter. The first quarter ended with Peyton Hillis fumbling and the Bengals taking over at the Chiefs 34. Yet the second qurter saw 3rd and 2 from the 26, where Dalton was sacked. Mike Nugent missed the 50 yard field goal. The Bengals would get it back at their own 43. Dalton went deep to Green for a 40 yard gain, with unnecessary roughness setting up 1st and goal at the 8. On 3rd and goal at the 11, Dalton hit Gresham for what was initially ruled a touchdown. Yet on further review it was 4th and goal at the 1. Again Marvin Lewis decided to go for it and again he was rewarded as Dalton got in to make it 14-3 Bengals midway through the second quarter.

The Bengals got it back at their 21 with 6 minutes left in the half. On 3rd and 7 Dalton hit Gresham for 11. Ben-Javis Green-Ellis baked blackbirds in a pie with some extra by gaining 4 and 21. Peerman gained 17 and Dalton hit Gresham for 17 more. The Bengals fumbled but retained possession. Green-Ellis ran it in from one yard out to make it 21-3 Bengals.

With 53 seconds after a touchback, Matt Cassel did lead the Chiefs to a 1st and 5 at the Cincy 15. Succop hit from 33 as 21 unanswered points finally saw the Chiefs on the board again. Their 3-0 lead a distant memory, the worst team in football trailed 21-6 at halftime. League rules were the only thing that forced the second half to be played. An uneventful second half would see Dalton throw a 14 yard touchdown pass to Sanu in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring in this snoozefest. 28-6 Bengals

New York Jets @ St. Louis Rams–The Jets are an imploding mess as the Rex Ryan circus seems to have worn thin on Woody Johnson. Meanwhile, Jeff Fisher has the Rams fighting hard, as they went on the road and took the 49ers to a tie last week.

The Jets moved from their 20 to a 3rd and 6 at the Rams 40. Sanchez was then sacked to kill the drive. the Rams began at their own 14 and Stephen Jackson gained 11, 5, and 2. On 3rd and 3 from their 32, Sam Bradford hit Danny Amendola and McNeil for 9 yard gains. On 3rd and 4 from their 47, Bradford went deep to Pettis for a 36 yard gain. From the 1 yard line on 2nd and goal and 3rd and goal, Jeff Fisher called pass plays rather than go smashmouth. A pair of incompletions meant 4th and goal from the 1. Fisher decided to go for it, and he called another pass play. Bradford hit Gibson for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Rams and complete the 14 play, 6 1/2 minute, 86 yard drive.

The Jets soon faced 3rd and 3 from their 44 and Sanchez hit McKnight for an 18 yard gain. That was enough for Nick Folk to drill a 51 yard field goal to get the Jets within 7-3 after the first quarter. The second quarter began with the Rams facing 3rd and 10 from their own 17. Bradford was intercepted by Smith, giving the Jets gift field position at the Rams 13. They squandered it as a 26 yard Folk field goal was blocked. Yet with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half and the Rams facing 2nd and 8 at the Jets 31, disaster struck the Rams again. Bradford was sacked for a 12 yard loss and fumbled. Bart Scott returned the fumble 38 yards to the Rams 28. 2 plays later Sanchez threw a 25 yard pass to Chaz Schilens as the Jets led 10-7.

With 3 minutes left in the half the Jets took over at their 34 and on 2nd and 16 Sanchez found Kerley for a 32 yard gain at the 2 minute warning. On 3rd and 10 a completion came up 3 yards short. Nick Folk hit the 51 yarder as the Jets led 13-7 with one minute left in the half. Drama ensued as Givens returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. Yet rather than 14-13 Rams, it was an illegal block and a 13-7 haltime lead for the Jets.

With 6 minutes left in the third quarter the Jets took over at their 37. Sanchez gained 8 and hit Dustin Keller from midfield for a 10 yard gain. Sanchez hit Schilens for 9 and on 3rd and 3 from the Rams 23, Sanchez found Reuland for 18 yards. The fourth quarter began with the Jets facing 3rd and goal at the 5. Powell took it up the middle to have the Jets up 20-7. On the next series the Rams fumbloed at their own 35, and the Jets took over at the Rams 38. Gates gained 12, and on 3rd and 9 Sanchez hit Powell for 11. On 3rd and 7 from the 11, Powell again went up the middle for the touchdown as the Jets had a commanding 27-7 lead.

Givens returned the kickoff 48 yards to the Rams 44. Bradford would throw a 2 yard touchdown to Gibson with 6 minutes to play, but it was too little, too late. The 2 point conversion failed, and the Jets had the road win. Woody Johnson said he did not sign up for a 3-6 season, and Rex Ryan and everyone else may be on the chopping block. Yte while 3-7 is game over, 4-6 is a sliver of hope. 3 years ago rookie head coach Rex Ryan had a 4-6 team that lost 6 of 7 after a 3-0 start. They then went 5-1 down the stretch and took a 9-7 team to the AFC Title Game. 27-13 Jets

Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins–Walrus Lite Andy Reid and the Eagles are on the ropes, and now with Michael Vick injured Nick Foles will get his first NFL start. Jeffrey Lurie is expected to clean house, with everything but rehiring Donovan McNabb an option.

One knock on Michael Vick is that he turns it over too much. Yet this was the Nick Foles era. 3 plays into the game, on 3rd and 8 from their 23, Foles was intercepted by Hall. Hall returned it 22 yards to the Philly 9. Robert Griffin III hit Young for a 6 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Eagles less than 2 minutes in.

The Eagles did move the ball, and the second quarter opened with Philly facing 3rd and 8 at the Washington 23. Foles threw incomplete and the Eagles settled for a 41 yard Henery field goal to trail 7-3. Yet RGIII came right back. On 3rd and 6 from the Washington 24, RGIII gained 10. From just past midfield, RGIII went for it all and found Robinson for a 49 yard touchdown to make it 14-3 Redskins.

The game stayed the same as the Eagles had 1st and 10 at their own 12 with 36 seconds left in the half. Just trying to run out the clock, Walrus Lite Andy Reid watched as McCoy coughed it up and Washington took over at the Philly 14. Reid vowed never to run the ball ever again. Curious play calling lost yards, and with 2 seconds left Mike Shanahan sent in Forbath on 3rd and 3 from the 7 to kick it. It was good from 25, and the Redskins led 17-3 at halftime.

After a Washington punt in the third quarter, the Eagles had a short field at the Washington 47. On 3rd and 5 from the 42, Foles hit Captain Morgan Brent Celek for 22 yards. On 3rd and 9 from the 19, Foles was sacked and fumbled. The Eagles retained possession, and Henery hit a 42 yarder to get the Eagles within 17-6. Yet Washington soon buried them. On 3rd and 14 from their own 16, RGIII scrambled for 23 yards. RGIII then went deep to Santana Moss, who between a couple defenders came down with it, and broke free from both of them a couple yards away from paydirt and dragged his way into the end zone. Just like that, the Redskins led 24-6.

In the fourth quarter Washington got it back at their own 45. Morris gained 17 around the end. On 1st and 20 from their 48, RGIII ran around the end for 28 and Morris gained 9 more. On 3rd and 7 from the 17, Griffin hit Paulsen for the touchdown as the Redskins were now winning a blowout in what will have Jeffrey Lurie perhaps ready to fire everyone. 31-6 Redskins

New Orleans Saints @ Oakland Raiders–After an 0-4 start, the Saints have won four of five and face a collapsing Raiders team that gave up a franchise worst 55 points last week. The Raiders have given up over 40 points in consecutive weeks under Dennis Allen, which did not happen in half a century under Al Davis. Drew Brees could break 100 points passing against the Raiders.

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Despite not having Darren McFadden or Mike Goodson, there are no excuses in football. From the Oakland 23, Marcel Reece got the Raiders going by running for 17 and then 8 yards. A holding penalty wiped out another first down and on 3rd and 9, a pass from Carson Palmer to Rod Sreater only gained 6 yards. From their own 47 the Raiders punted. After a touchback, Drew Brees and the Saints made it look easy.

Brees hit Marquis Colston for 14. Mark Ingram gained 16 and Pierre Thomas added 14 more. Brees went to Cadet for 17. Thomas gained 6 and caught a 5 yard pass from Brees to set up 1st and goal at the 8. On 3rd and goal at the one, Brees hit Graham for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Saints. After an exchange of punts, the Raiders had good field position at their own 48. Yet Palmer was intercepted by Malcolm Jenkins, who returned it 55 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 Saints.

Oakland took over at their own 16 and Reece ran for 14 and 2. On 3rd and 8 from their 32, Palmer hit Brandon Myers for 9. On 3rd and 7 from their 44, Palmer went to Criner for 13 and Derek Hagan for 17 more. The second quarter began with the Raiders facing 2nd and 16 from the Saints 32. Palmer connected with Reece for a 20 yard gain. On 4th and 1 from the 3, Dennis Allen decided to go for it. Palmer gained 2, and the Raiders had 1st and goal at the one. First Reece lost a yard. Then offensive pass interference on an incompletion pushed the Raiders back On 3rd and goal at the 7, Palmer was intercepted in the end zone by Roman Harper to kill the threat.

The Raiders got it back at their 19 and soon faced 3rd and 5 from the 24. Palmer found Reece, who turned a short play into a 56 yard gain. Palmer went deep and defensive pass interference meant 1st and goal at the one. This time Palmer hit Myers for the score as the Raiders were only down 14-7 with 4 minutes left in the half. Yet as has been the case with the Dennis Allen Raiders, the roof caved in.

The Saints took over at their own 10. Ingram gained 9 and Brees hit Colston for 24 more. On 3rd and 4 just shy of midfield, Brees hit Colston for 16. With one minute left in the half the Saints faced 3rd and 13 from the 38, not yet in field goal range. It didn’t matter as Brees found a wide open Lance Moore deep for the touchdown as the Saints led 21-7.

The Saints pretty much ended the game when the second half kickoff was returned by Cadet 75 yards to the Oakland 27. One play from scrimmage was enough for Ingram to race around the end for the touchdown to make it 28-7 Saints.

From the Oakland 33, Reece gained 4 and Palmer hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for 13 and Myers for 6 more. On 2nd and 18 from the Saints 45, Palmer hit Stewart for a 23 yard gain. Yet on 1st and 10 from the 22, 3 straight incompletions ended the drive. Sebastian Janikowski hit the 40 yarder to get the Raiders within 28-10.

After an exchange of punts, the Saints took over at their own 42. Ingram gained 4, Brees hit Cadet for 8, and Ingram gained 6 more. From the Oakland 40, Chris Ivory ran for 25 and Brees hit Moore for the 15 yard touchdown to make it 35-10 Saints.

It got worse. On the first play of the fourth quarter the Raiders went for it on 4th and 1 from the Saints 40. Reece got nothing. Garrett Hartley would tack on a field goal to make it 38-10 Saints. A 3 yard garbage touchdown from Palmer to Criner completed the scoring as the Raiders lost another game by double digits.

After the 0-4 start, the Saints are 5-5. Brees has now thrown a touchdown in 53 straight games. Reece did gain 103 yards on 19 carries and Palmer was 22 of 40 for 312 and 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. Yet Brees was 20 of 27 for 219 and 3 touchdowns. Most importantly, the Raiders have given up 135 points in the last 3 weeks. That is the worst 3 game span since the first 3 games of 1961 when the Raiders gave up 141 points to start the season 0-13 before winning their finale. In other words, the Dennis Allen era is worse than Joe Bugel, worse than Norv Turner, and worse than Lane Kiffin. 38-17 Saints.

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos–The Chargers may lose this game on purpose just to finally get Norvelous Norv Turner fired. Earlier this year San Diego blew a 24-0 halftime lead and lost to Denver 35-24. Peyton Manning is licking his chops at giving Denver a stranglehold on the AFC West.

Midway through the first quarter after some punts Denver faced 1st and 10 from their 25. Peyton Manning went back to pass and was intercepted by Eric Weddle. Weddle returned it 23 yards for a touchdown as the Chargers had the surprising 7-0 road lead. Manning did lead the Broncos from their 20 to a 4th and 6 from the San Diego 37. Last year in the Rockies Matt Prater hit a 59 yarder. This time from 55 he doinked the upright no good.

The game changed in the second quarter, which began with Willis McGahee from the Denver 44 gaining 15 yards. On 3rd and 5 from the Chargers 36, Manning found Willis for 10. McGahee gained 8, and from the 13 a pass to Thomas in the end zone was ruled incomplete. John Fox challenged the call, and on further review there was a reversal. Thomas caught the ball inbounds for the touchdown to tie the game 7-7.

On the next play from scrimmage after a touchback, Philip Rivers was intercepted by Woodyard, who returned it 25 yards to the San Diego 8. A 3rd and goal from the 7 pass from Manning to Ball came up one yard short. The home crowd grumbled, but on 4th and goal from the one John Fox brought out Prater. The 19 yarder made it 10-7 Broncos.

At the 2 minute warning of this close game, the Chargers were punting on 4th and 18 from their 36. Chargers special teams continued to be a nightmare. 2 years ago they had 5 punts blocked. They corrected the problem last year but last week Mike Scifres had one blocked. Scifres is a Pro Bowler. It’s not his fault that the protection team has been atrocious. This time Scifres had his punt blocked by Irving. From the Chargers 31, Manning immediately went for the kill to Brandon Stokley. The touchdown ahd it 17-7 Broncos at halftime, and the Chargers never recovered.

The Chargers tried an onsides kick to start the second half, and it worked. Yet they lost yards and punted. Denver took over at their own 2 yard line. Manning was sacked for a safety as the Chargers got within 17-9.

After an exchange of punts the Chargers faced 3rd and 4 from their 46. Rivers was sacked, and Woodyard recovered the resulting fumble. Woodyard returned it 12 yards to the San Diego 25. On 3rd and 5 from the 20, Manning found Eric Decker for the score as the Broncos led 24-9.

San Diego took over after a touchback. Ryan Mathews gained 7 and Rivers hit Malcolm Floyd for 10 and Alexander for 15. On 3rd and 10 from the Denver 48, Rivers hit Floyd for 15. On 3rd and 4 from the 27, Rivers found Robert Meachem for 10 and Ronnie Brown for 5. On 3rd and 1 from the 8 Rivers hit Alexander for the score to complete the 80 yard, 12 play, 6 1/2 minute drive. The Chargers were only down 24-16 after three quarters.

Denver took over at their 21 and Hillman gained 19. On 3rd and 3 from their 47 early in the fourth quarter, Manning hit Jacob Tamme for 7 yards. Ball gained 14 and Manning hit Joel Dreesen for 11. On 3rd and 13 from the 24, a Manning pass to Stokley came up one yard short. On 4th and 1 from the 12 again John Fox played it safe. Crowds like to go for it, but the 30 yard Prater field goal was the smart call as it made it a 2 score game again at 27-16 Broncos.

With 9 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Chargers went for it on 4th and 9 from the Denver 41. A delay of game penalty on Rivers was followed with another interception. Denver moved from their 29 in a time consuming drive that finally stalled at the San Diego 14. Prater hit from 32 to make it 30-16 with only 4 1/2 minutes to play.

After a touchback Rivers led a furious rally that came down to a 4th and 1 at the Denver 21 with 90 seconds to play. Rivers went to Alexander in the end zone, and Alexander appeared to make an acrobatic catch. Despite the replay showing that the ball did hit the ground, the review upheld the touchdown. The Chargers were within 7 points and needed the ball back.

The Chargers took their timeouts, but did not get the ball back until 23 seconds remained. They were at their own 13. Rivers was sacked by Elvis Dumervil to end the game. San Diego could have gotten to 5-5 and only one game out in the AFC West. Instead they are 3 games back of the 7-3 Broncos, which is actually a 4 game deficit since Denver swept San Diego. Norvelous Norv Turner has pulled Lazarus acts to avoid getting fired, but he may finally be out of miracles. Manning threw his 421st touchdown pass, moving ahead of Dan Marino and trailing only Brett Favre. Manning won his 148th game, moving him past Marino, tied with Elway, and again trailing only Favre. 30-23 Broncos

Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots–For a decade, this was the greatest rivalry in all of sports. Yet with the collapse of Indy last year and the departure of Manning ended the rivalry. Yet Andrew Luck is a solid quarterback, and he and Tom Brady both are leading 6-3 teams. It won’t ever be the same, but it could be worth watching.

Indy looked impressive early on. On 3rd and 1 from their 29, Hughes gained 5 and Ballard added 20. From the Patriots 46, a deep ball drew defensive pass interference for a 40 yard gain. Ballard gained 5 and Donald Carter got the last yard as the Colts led 7-0.

New England came right back. On 3rd and 6 from their 23, Tom Brady hit Julian Edelman for 18 and Rob Gronkowski for 36 and 16 more. On 2nd and goal from the 4 Brady hit the Gronker for the score to tie the game 7-7.

The Colts got it back at their 16 and Andrew Luck hit Hilton for 13. Ballard gained 9 and 4. On 3rd and 7 from the Indy 45, Luck found Brazill for 25. Ballard gained 15 and Luck hit Hilton for the 14 yard touchdown as the 10 play, 84 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive had the Colts up 14-7 after the first quarter. 2 drives made it look easy, but the rest of the game belonged to the experienced Patriots.

Brady moved the Patriots from their 25 to the Indy 18, but Stephen Gostkowski missed a 36 yard field goal. The Colts had the momentum, but they punted and Julian Edelman made them pay. His 68 yard return for a touchdown tied the game 14-14 with 12 minutes left in the half. 2 plays later on 2nd and 1 from their 31, Luck was intercepted by nely acquired Aqib Talib. The Tampa castoff started in the middle, got to the right sideline, and crossed diagonal all the way to the left corner end zone for a 59 yard touchdown return as the Patriots took a 21-14 lead they would not relinquish.

Luck led a 12 play, 5 minute drive from the Indy 19 to a 1st and 10 at the Patriots 29. Yet 3 straight incompletions had the Colts settling for a 47 yard Adam Vinatieri field goal as the Colts trailed 21-17. Brady did likewise, moving the Patriots from their 25 to a 2nd and 7 from the Indy 13. Brady threw incomplete twice, and at the 2 minute warning Gostkowski hit the 31 yarder. The Patriots only led 24-17 at halftime, but by the end people would have forgotten this game was competitive. Luck did move the Colts from their 10 to a 4th and 6 at the Patriots 40, but Vinatieri was no good from 58 as the half ended.

The Patriots began the second half at their own 24 and quickly moved to put the dagger in. On 3rd and 11 Brady hit Edelman for 17 and Welker for 11. Ridley gained 11 and Brady found Gronkowski for a 31 yard gain. On 3rd and goal at the 2 Brady found Edelman for the score to make it 31-17 Patriots. Luck would lead the Colts from their 20 to a 3rd and 4 at the Patriots 39, but an incompletion was followed by the decision to punt. Indy got it back and faced 3rd and 7 at their own 29. Luck was sacked and fumbled, and Ninkovich recovered for the Patriots at the Indy 24. One play was enough for Brady to hit Gronkowski again for the touchdown as a close game was broken open 38-17 after three quarters.

Luck moved the Colts all day, and on the next drive he got them from their 20 to a 1st and 10 at the Patriots 23. Yet the first play of the fourth quarter was Luck being intercepted by Dennard. Dennard raced the other way for an 87 yard touchdown return and a 45-17 Patirots blowout. Luck would throw a 43 yard touchdown pass to Hilton a coupe minutes later, but they were still down 45-24 and New Engalnd was not done.

On 3rd and 8 from their own 22, Evil Hoodie Bill Bellichick kept throwing. Brady hit Gronkowski for 11, and Welker for 14 Edelman took the end around 47 yards, and Ridley got the last 3 yards to make it 52-24 Patriots.

New England got it back at the Indy 39 and Brady kept throwing, hitting Vereen for 11. On 3rd and 7 from the Indy 25, Brady hit Welker for 13. Vereen then gained 5, 3, and the 4 yards for the score to finally complete the scoring. New England tied the most points in franchise history that they set three years ago. Normally a 35 point win is celebratory, but afterward the news was bittersweet. Gronkowski was injured, and would be out 4 to 6 weeks. The Colts at 6-4 are vastly improved, but the 7-3 Patriots are as good as ever and just getting warmed up. They made a statement today, and the league noticed. 59-24 Patriots

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers is the Sunday night game. Normally this game is exactly why we watch football. These teams under John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin are mirror images of each other, playing hard nosed defensive bonelocks that have produced epic games. This time Baltimore is 7-2 and Pittsburgh is 6-3. Yet this game may miss some of the intensity. Ray Lewis is still out for the Ravens, while Big Ben Roethlisberger is out with an injured shoulder and rib. In fact, the rib injury is a threat to his aorta, meaning if he plays, he could die. Therefore, Byron Leftwich will be guiding the Steelers. Both teams will still bring the lumber.

Everybody expected the Steelers to go conservative with Byron Leftwich in for Big Ben, but Mike Tomlin had other ideas. After a touchback, on the first play from scrimmage, Tomlin had Leftwich roll out and go bombs away. Defensive pass interference meant a 4 2yard gain. Gilreath gained 7, and on the next play Leftwich rolled out, scrambled, evaded a tackler, and lumbered for 31 yard touchdown. Only 43 seconds into the game, the Steelers led 7-0. Leftwich actually hurt himself on the play without being touched. He stumbled in the end zone and landed hard on his shoulder. Charlie Batch would come in for him, but Leftwich would return to gut it out in the Roethlisberger tradition. However, the Steelers would not reach the end zone for the remaining 59 minutes. As for the Ravens, their offense did not reach the end zone at all. This game was exactly what we thought it was, and it was as great as ever.

A few minutes later the Steelers faced 3rd and 10 from their own 14. Leftwich found Mike Wallace for a 15 yard gain, but Wallace had his arm chopped by Chris Johnson, forcing a fumble. Ball hawk Ed Reed recovered the fumble and returned it 17 yards to the Pittsburgh 12. Yet despite their best field position of the whole game, 3 plays netted only 4 yards. Justin Tucker hit the 26 yard field goal to get the Ravens within 7-3.

Late in the first quarter, the Steelers punted on 4th and 10 from their 12. Jones fielded the punt, and got past everybody down the sideline for a 63 yard touchdown. The Ravens led 10-7 after the first quarter. The final three quarters were all defense, as these teams just beat the hell out of each other.

After a scoreless second quarter, the Steelers began the third quarter by moving from their 15 to a 3rd and 8 at the Baltimore 38. Leftwich was intercepted by Graham, who returned the pick 20 yards to the same spot at the Baltimore 38.

Joe Flacco is more than a game manager, but in this game that is what he was required to do. He did go deep to Anquon Boldin for 23 yards, and on 3rd and 6 from the 35 he hit Ray Rice for 8. Yet on 2nd and 4 from the Pittsburgh 21, Flacco threw incomplete twice. In a game where points came at a premium, Tucker hit a 39 yarder to make it 13-7 Ravens.

The Steelers soon faced 2nd and 14 from their 12. Leftwich hit Dwyer for 15. Tomlin then went to the gorund game and Dwyer gained 7 and 11. Rashard Mendenhall gained 4 and 5. On 3rd and 1 from the Baltimore 46, Batch gained 3. Leftwich went deep to Sanders for 20 yards, with unnecessary roughness adding 11 more to the Baltimore 12. On 3rd and 2 from the 4, Leftwich went to Wallace in the end zone. At first it looked like a touchdown, but there would be no 14-13 Steelers lead. Wallace was ruled out of bounds. Shawn Suisham hit the 22 yard field goal. The Steelers trailed 13-10 after three quarters, and the fourth quarter was a last gladiator standing war of attrition. With Ben Roethlisberger and Ray Lewis cheering on opposite sidelines, the fourth quarter told the story.

With 11 minutes left and the Steelers facing 3rd and 9 from the Baltimore 46, Leftwich was sacked by Haloti Ngata. On 3rd and 11 from the Baltimore 43 with 4:40 to play, Leftwich was sacked again.

On 3rd and 7 from their 38 just before the 2 minute warning trying to run out the clock, Flacco was sacked. Yet the Steelers were offsides. It did not matter. On 3rd and 2, Flacco was sacked again.

Pittsburgh got it back at their own 16 with 1:05 to play. Leftwich found Mendenhall for 12 and then found Jerricho Cothery deep. Yet Cotchery got blasted by Pollard to force an incompletion. Leftwich fumbled on the next play but Pittsburgh retained possession. With 12 seconds left, on 4th and 10 from their 28, the hook and laterals did not work.

Had the Steelers won, both teams would have been 7-3. Instead, 8-2 Baltimore has a 2 game lead on Pittsburgh, and the rematch in 2 weeks is in Baltimore. Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh have built up expectations for these matchups, but those expectations keep being met. This grudge match is why we watch football. The rematch in 2 weeks cannot come soon enough. 13-10 Ravens

Chicago Bears @ San Francisco 49ers is the Monday night game. While these are not the teams from the 1980s, they both have nasty defenses and quarterbacks that do not get their fair share of credit. Chicago lost a tough game last week but are still 7-2 while the 49ers had a stunning tie that got them to 6-2-1. These teams know how to hit, and it could be a slobberknocker.

With Jay Cutler and Alex Smith both out with concussions, it fell to backups Jason Campbell and Colin Kaepernick to make the difference. The tone was set from the first play with the 49ers at their own 18. Kaepernick hit Mario Manningham for 8 yards with unnecessary roughness tacking on 15 more yards. Kaepernick then went to Vernon Davis for 22 yards and then 12 more. Yet on 3rd and 1 from the Chicago 14, Kaepernick fired incomplete. Jim Harbaugh just had a heart procedure, and perhaps he was not in a gambling mood. David Akers hit the 32 yard field goal to make it 3-0 49ers.

Chicago soon faced 3rd and 2 from their own 28 when Campbell was sacked. The 49ers got it back at their own 37. On 3rd and 7 Kaepernick went deep to Williams for a 57 yard gain. On the next play Kaepernick hit Davis for the 3 yard touchdown to make it 10-0 49ers.

Chicago punted again and the 49ers took over at their own 4. Frank Gore ran for 13, Kapernick hit Randy Moss for 12, and Gore gained 7 more. On the first play of the second quarter Kaepernick went deep to Davis for 32 yards. Gore gained 13, and Kendall Hunter ran up the middle for a touchdown to make it 17-0 49ers. On the next series Campbell was intercepted, and the 49ers took over at the Chicago 44. Gore gained 14, and on 3rd and 11 Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for 20. A sack of Kaepernick stalled the drive but Akers hit from 37 to make it 20-0 49ers at the half.

The second half was more of the same as Chicago punted and the 49ers took over at their own 38. Gore gained 11 and Kaepernick hit Manningham for 37. On 3rd and 6 from the 10 Kaepernick hit Crabtree for the score as the 27-0 49ers blowout ended any suspense.

Campbell would throw a 13 yard touchdown to Brandon Marshall to make it 27-7, but another interception of Campbell meant another short field, setting up Akers in the fourth quarter from 32 to make it 30-7 49ers.

The final indignity came with the Bears facing 3rd and 28 from their own 8, as Campbell was sacked and fumbled. The resulting safety was the exclamation point. Lovie Smith has seen his Bears lose 2 straight and are now only tied for the division lead with a resurgent Green Bay. San Francisco righted the ship after it’s tie last week and is firmly in command of the NFC West. 32-7 49ers

eric

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