NFL 2012 Week 12 Recap

NFL 2012 Week 12 Recap

Houston Texans @ Detroit Lions was the Thanksgiving morning game. While The Texans are 9-1, they barely survived 1-9 Jacksonville at home last week. Detroit lost a heartbreaker at home last week to division rival Green Bay that all but ended their playoff hopes. It used to be a mistake to bet against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day, but that is more of a tradition than actual reality. Detroit has lost the Thanksgiving game for the past eight straight years.

Detroit got the ball and soon faced 3rd and 12 from their own 18 when Matthew Stafford hit Broyles for a 25 yard gain. Stafford then found Megatron Calvin Johnson for 20 yards. Leshoure gained 12 and Stafford hit Thomas for 12 more. On 3rd and 10 from the 12, Stafford found Tony Scheffler for 10. Leshoure got the last couple yards to make it 7-0 Lions early on. After a puntfest the rest of the first quarter, the second quarter became a pinball machine that was expected with these two high powered offenses.

The Texans began at their own 26 and Matt Schaub went deep to Andre Johnson for a 37 yard gain. Forsett gained 7 and Arriun Foster picked up 11 and 3. On 3rd and 2 from the 11, Foster gained 5 and then the 6 yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.

Detroit had 2nd and 7 from their 20 when Stafford hit Johnson for 14 and then deep for 35 yards. On 3rd and 8 from the Houston 29, Stafford hit Johnson for 12 and Brandon pettigrew for 12 more. On 3rd and goal at the 5 Stafford hit Thomas for the score as the Lions led 14-7 with 6 minutes left in the half.

Houston came right back in this track meet. From their 25, Schaub hit Walter for 15 and Martin for 6. On 3rd and 5 from their 45, Schaub went deep to Johnson for a 43 yard gain. On 3rd and 7 from the 9 Schaub went to Owen Daniels for the touchdown as the game was now tied 14-14 with 2:15 left in the half.

Detroit needed about 20 seconds to respond. Stephan Logan took the ensuing kickoff 38 yards to the Detroit 41. Stafford went to Broyles for 37 yards and then Johnson for the 22 yard touchdown to make it 21-14 Lions.

The first quarter was mostly defense while the second quarter was practically all offense. The pace slowed considerably again in the third quarter. After a Houston punt, Stafford moved the Lions from their 22 to a 3rd and 5 at the Houston 28. Again Stafford went to Johnson deep, but this time it was incomplete. Old Reliable Jason Hanson kicked field goals at the original Thanksgiving dinner with the pilgrims, and he hit the 46 yarder to give the Lions some breathing room up 24-14 after the 12 play, 6 1/2 minute drive.

From the Houston 19, major controversy ensued. Forset took a handoff, gained a few yards, and everybody stopped play. Everybody except Foster. No whistle blew, so Foster got up and kept running for an 81 yard touchdown. Jim Schwartz immediately threw the challenge flag. Replay clearly showed that Forsett’s elbow and knee were clearly down by contact. This is where everything got into the arcane weeds of arcane NFL rules. Under the rules a couple years ago, a coach would challenge the call. Under the rules implemented last year, all scoring plays are automatically reviewed. This would have been overturned. However, since Jim Schwartz threw the flag, that was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. To make matters worse, now the play was automatically not reviewable. An enraged Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham kicked his clipboard. Schwartz moved to quickly calm his team down by pointing to himself and saying the equivalent of “This is on me. My bad.” An angry crowd saw the Texans get to within 24-21.

Momentum had clearly swung and Houston got it back at their own 33. Foster ran for 7 and 10 and Martin added 17 more. The drive would stall but Shane Graham would hit a 45 yard field goal to tie the game 24-24 with 2:40 left in the third quarter.

Detroit got it back at their 20. Stafford hit Pettigrew for 5 and Leshoure gained 7. On 2nd and 3 from the Detroit 39, Jeremiah Bell got free for a 26 yard gain as the third quarter ended. Stafford began the fourth quarter by hitting Pettigrew for 6 and running for 6 more. Bell then got free again for a 23 yard touchdown as the Lions retook the lead 31-24 less than 90 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Houston went 3 and out and the Lions had great field position at their 46. They reached 3rd and 5 at Houston 36, in long field goal range to give them a possible 2 score lead. Yet Stafford was sacked and the Lions had to punt. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Texans were pinned back at their own 3 yard line.

On 3rd and 8 from the 5, Schaub hit Johnson for 13. Then Foster ran for 15 more. Schaub hit Johnson for a 23 yard gain. The Texans took their first timeout with 4:43 to play while facing 3rd and 12 from the Detroit 46. A completion to Foster only gained 5 yards. On 4th and 7 from the Detroit 41, Schaub hit Johnson for 16 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the 25, Schaub hit Johnson for 12 and Graham for 11 down to the 2 yard line. Yet this time the Texans may have erred. Rather than let the clock hit the 2 minute warning and then run the play, the Texans handed it off at the 2:03 mark. Foster gained a yard, but this prevented the Lions from having to burn a timeout. Foster scored on the next play from one yard out to tie the game 31-31. Yet the Texans may have scored too early. The Lions got it back with 1:50 to play and all 3 timeouts at their own 24.

Stafford began with an 18 yard completion to Johnson. Stafford fired over the middle to Pettigrew in field goal range, but Pettigrew had it knocked out of his hands at the last moment. On 3rd and 10 from the Detroit 42, Stafford found Scheffler for 13. On 3rd and 10 from the Houston 45, Stafford decided to go for it all. He went bombs away for Johnson, but the play was well defended and incomplete. Jim Schwartz took no chances on a 62 yard field goal try and punted. The game went to overtime, the second overtime game for Houston in four days.

The Lions won the toss and took over after a touchback. Stafford began overtime the way he ended regulation, going for the long ball to Johnson. This time they connected for a 40 yard gain. Stafford hit Pettigrew again over the middle and his troubles got worse. At the end of regulation he had one knocked out from his hands. This time he caught it in field goal regulation but had it ripped out of his hands. A turnover free game just saw its first one as the fumble gave Houston the ball at their own 35. Now the game was sudden death.

Foster gained 11, Schaub hit Johnson for 14, and Foster gained 2 and 11. Now the Texans were well within field goal range. Yet from the Detroit 27, a false start backed up the Texans. Gary Kubiak played it very conservatively, and failed runs meant 3rd and 14 from the Detroit 29 as the Texans took a timeout. Then they ran again and lost a couple more yards. Shane Graham came in for a field goal that was 51 yards instead of 45 as the Lions took a timeout. The kick was long enough and could have gone either way. At the last moment it was no good.

Now the Lions had great field position at their own 41. Stafford found Scheffler, who hurdled a defender to gain 14 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Houston 45, Schaub fired to Johnson, who could not haul it in. It then took a freak bounce and appeared to be intercepted. The officials ruled it an interception, but the replay clearly showed the ball on the ground. This year all turnovers are also reviewed automatically, and Jim Schwartz kept his challenge flag in his pocket. This time everybody got it right as the officials ruled the ball incomplete. On 4th and 10 Coach Schwartz did not even consider a 62 yard field goal try with 8 1/2 minutes still in overtime. Another great punt coverage team effort put the ball at the 9 yard line.

Schaub barely avoided a safety before completing a dumpoff pass to Foster for 5 yards. On the next play Schaub was in trouble again and nearly ended it for the wrong team. A checkdown pass went straight to defender Kyle Vanden Bosch. Vanden Bosch could have walked into the end zone with the interception but he dropped it. Yet on 3rd and 5 on an incompletion, Detroit jumped offsides to give the Texans the first down. Foster then gained 11 to the Houston 30. Schaub then fired over the middle, and with receiver Johnson and defender Chris Houston fighting for possession, Houston came down with the interception at the Houston 41 with half of the overtime still remaining.

On 3rd and 11 from the 42, Stafford went to Scheffler knowing an incompletion would mean another punt or megalong field goal try. Yet Scheffler came down with it for a 14 yard gain at the Houston 28. At this point it was Jim Schwartz going ultra-conservative. On 3rd and 11, Schwartz brought in Hanson for a 47 yard try to win it as the Texans took their second and last timeout with 4 1/2 minutes left in overtime. After a bad snap, Hanson clanked it off the upright no good.

The Texans took over on their own 37 and Schaub hit Casey for 15 yards. Schaub then found Johnson for a 25 yard gain to the Detroit 23. This time Kubiak did not go conservative, as Schaub went to Casey for an 11 yrd gain. Now the kick for Graham was only a 32 yard chip shot. Kubiak brought Graham out on first down as Schwartz took the second and final Detroit timeout with 2 1/2 minutes left. The kick looked like it was hooking left but barely snuck inside the upright.

Stafford was magnificent, throwing the ball 61 times, completing 31 for 441 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Schaub was 29 of 48 for 315 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Each team had over 500 yards of offense. Detroit has now lost 9 straight Thanksgiving games and 2 home games in 4 days that they should have won. The Lions are now cooked like Thanksgiving turkeys in terms of playoff chances while the Texans at 10-1 maintained their top spot in the AFC with their second overtime win in four days. The Jim Schwartz challenge mistake will be talked about for awhile. 34-31 Texans, OT

Washington Redskins @ Detroit Lions was the Thanksgiving afternoon game. Originally this game was cancelled due to a State Department brokered cease-fire. Yet like all State Department cease-fires, this one failed as the teams vowed to resume fighting. Tom Landry and George Allen are in the big stadium in the sky, but they are both watching today at the 1.2 billion dollar Jerry Jones Metropolis. The Redskins and RGIII are 4-6 while Jason Garrett is fighting to keep his job with a 5-5 Cowboys team that never lacks drama, good or bad.

Washington would punt on 4th and 22 from their own 8 and Dallas took over just past midfield. Defensive pass interference moved the ball to the Washington 35. Dallas moved to a 3rd and 6 from the Washington 7, but a false start and an incompletion stopped the drive. Dan Bailey hit a 30 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Cowboys. They would still have that lead after the first quarter, yet the second quarter saw a turn of events that had Jerry Jones ready to fire everyone again. It may have been the worst quarter of football in Cowboys history, if not close to it.

Late in the first quarter Washington took over at their own 7, and the second quarter began with them facing 1st and 15 from their 32. Then came Robert Griffin III and an aerial assault that rocked the stadium. A 68 yard touchdown bomb to Robinson made it 7-3 Redskins.

Dallas moved from their 24 to a critical 3rd and 2 at the Washington 46. Tony Romo hit Dez Bryant for 11 yards, but Bryant fumbled. Now it was Washington taking over just past midfield. On 3rd and 2 from the Dallas 41, RGIII hit Santana Moss for 9 and Pierre Garcon for 19 more. Morris would run it in from one yard out to make it 14-3 Redskins.

Dallas went 3 and out and the Redskins quickly faced3rd and 4 from their 35. Griffin hit Banks for 8 and then found Garcon for what would become a 59 yard catch and run as the Redskins were now stomping their rivals 21-3.

Just over 2 minutes remained in the half and Dallas moved from their 20 to their 46. Yet Romo was intercepted, giving the Redskins the ball at the Dallas 33 with only 30 seconds left in the half. Mike Shanahan was not thinking field goal, as the Redskins had all of their timeouts. RGIII hit Morgan for 11 and Morris gained 16. RGIII hit Moss for the 6 yard touchdown just before the gun as the home crowd booed Dallas with Washington taking a 28-3 lead into the locker rooms. Dallas would mount a furious comeback in the second half, but 25 point deficits are what they are.

Dallas took the second half kickoff and marched from their 20 to a 1st and goal at the 6. Yet a dumpoff pass lost 4 yards and a false start and 2 incompletions meant another dead drive. Down by 25, Jason Garrett opted for the field goal. Bailey hit from 33 as the Cowboys were within 28-6.

Late in the third quarter Romo was intercepted again on a 3rd and 7 from the Dallas 46. Yet despite having the ball just shy of midfield, Washington would go 3 and out to give it back to Dallas at their own 15. This time it was Romo going bombs away, and Bryant caught the deep ball for an 85 yard touchdown. Now the Cowboys were only down 28-13 after three quarters, with a slim chance of pulling out a miracle.

In the fourth quarter from their 18 RGIII ran for 14, Morris added 15, Griffin hit Morgan for 13, and on 3rd and 1 from the Dallas 29, RGIII went deep again to Paul for the touchdown. RGIII’s 4th touchdown pass of the day now had the Redskins up 35-13 with 13 minutes left in regulation. Yet as awful as Dallas had been, they again attempted to rally.

From their 12, Romo hit Bryant for 15, Beasley for 11, Harris for 36, Beasley for 12, and on 3rd and 6 from the 10, Felix Jones for the touchdown. 10 minutes still remained, and the Cowboys were within 35-21 after Romo ran in the 2 point conversion himself.

RGIII was brilliant on this day, but on 2nd and 8 from the Washington 22, he was intercepted. Dallas took over at the Washington 18. On 4th and 3 from the 11, Romo hit Bryant for the touchdown. 8 1/2 minutes still remained, and a 25 point deficit was now only 7 points. Down 35-28, if the Cowboys could get one more stop the miracle could be theirs.

On 2nd and 11 from their 19, RGIII again went deep and found Moss for 23 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the Dallas 49, RGIII hit Moss for 4. A pass to Hankerson gained 12. With 3 minutes left, Kevin Forbath came in for a 48 yard field goal try to give the Redskins some breathing room. He drilled it, and now Washington had a 38-28 cushion.

Dallas quickly moved from their 21 to a 2nd and 10 at the Washington 33 with 36 seconds to play. Romo threw incomplete twice, and now Bailey had to try a 51 yarder. He leveled it, and Dallas was back within 7. Yet only 18 seconds remained. The Cowboys needed the onsides kick and the Hail Mary. They never got to try the second one as Washington recovered the kick to finally end the threat. Both teams are 5-6, but Dallas missed a golden opportunity at home to gain ground in the division. Romo threw 62 passes, completing 37 of them for a ridiculous 441 yards. Yet that is because Dallas was so far behind, as 3 touchdown passes were offset by 2 killer interceptions. RGIII was fantastic, going 20 of 28 for 311 yards and the 4 touchdowns with one interception. One day after this game, legendary oil man J.R. Ewing died, as Larry Hagman entered the great oil rig in the sky. As for the other oil man who had a cameo on “Dallas” recently, performances like this are going to make Jerry Jones even more ruthless than J.R. Ewing until he gets personnel that can do the job. He shelled out 1.2 billion for his metropolis, and the ROI has not been good. 38-31 Redskins

New England Patriots @ New York Jets was the Thanksgiving night game. Rex Ryan and the Jets circled the wagons and got to 4-6. Three years ago a 4-6 Jets team got to 9-7 and the AFC Title Game. This year the Patriots are 7-3 and the Evil Empire of Football is playing angry. Evil Hoodie Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady like to run up the score, although they lost Rob Gronkowski to injury on the last play of a game last week that they led by 34 points.

The way this game ended it was hard to believe that it started out competitive. The Patriots would miss a 39 yard field goal and Mark Sanchez would throw an interception from the New England 23. With 6 minutes left in first quarter, the Patriots took over at their own 16, with a penalty on the defense adding 5 more. Tom Brady knows how to throw the ball and Rex Ryan likes to ground and pound, but it was the Patriots keeping it on the ground and the Jets once vaunted defense getting pounded. Danny Woodhead gained 8, Ridley gained 9, and Vereen gained 7 on 3rd and 1. On 3rd and 4 just past midfield, the Jets jumped offsides again. On 3rd and 1 from the Jets 35, Ridley gained 3. Vereen gained 13, and another defensive penalty added 10 more yards to make it 1st and goal at the 9. The first quarter ended 0-0, but the second quarter may have been the worst one in the history of the Jets franchise. Woody Johnson could have taken guys from the local Pathmark and gotten a better effort. The first play of the second quarter featured 3rd and goal at the 3. Brady hit Wes Welker for the touchdown and the Patriots led 7-0.

The Jets moved from their own 32 to a 3rd and 2 at the Patriots 32 when Powell only got half. On 4th and 1 from the 31, Rex Ryan decided to go for it. Greene got nothing, and fumbled the ball as well. Gregory recovered for the Patriots, who took over at their own 17. Despite the blunder, the Jets had fought hard. 10 minutes remained in the half, and after 20 minutes of football they were only down 7-0. This was a tough game and they were hanging in there. Yet the next 52 seconds would produce results that left even cynics completely dazed.

First Brady threw a short pass to Vereen, who outraced everybody for an 83 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Patriots. 2 plays later after a touchback came the play that will be shown on football follies videos forever. From the Jets 31, Marsk Sanchez scrambled up the middle and slipped. His head slammed straight into his own offensive lineman’s posterior. Yes, you all read that correctly. Many NFL players have their heads u their @sses, and with Sanchez dating Eva Longoria, some suspect he is guilty of this. Yet in what may be an NFL first, a quarterback banged into his own lineman’s buttocks, resulting in a fumble. Gregory picked up the loose ball and raced 32 yards for a touchdown. Again, Mark Sanchez fumbled the ball after running head first into his own lineman’s buttocks, resulting in a touchdown the other way to make it 21-0 Patriots.

The ensuing kickoff officially turned this into a carnival show, as if the previous touchdown was not comical enough. McKnight got hit on the ensuing kickoff and fumbled it. The ball bounced straight to Julian Edelman, who returned it 22 yards for another touchdown. 3 touchdowns in 52 seconds turned a close game into a 28-0 laugher. The New York Post after the game called the Jets effort “Butt Ugly.”

The Jets got it back at their own 18 and managed to run a few plays before punting. New England took over at their own 27, and Evil Hoodie Bill Bellichick loves humiliating Rex Ryan. Ridley gained 12, and then came 3rd and 5 from their own 44. Brady went deep to Edelman, who now had a 56 yard touchdown reception to go along with his fumble return. With 3 minutes left in the half a scoreless game after one was now 35-0 Patriots.

With 7 seconds left in the half the Jets were at the New England 14 with 0 timeouts. Rex Ryan inspired the crowd by cutting a 35 point deficit to 32 as Nick Folk hit the 32 yard field goal. The crowd booed mercilessly and did not stop as the Jets trailed 35-3 at halftime.

The Jets tried to make a game of it in the third quarter as they recovered a New England fumble at their own 43. They moved to a 1st and goal at the 3, but on 3rd and goal from the 2 Sanchez only got half. Needing 5 touchdowns to win it, they went for it on 4th and goal at the one and Shon Greene got stuffed. Frank Reich did once play for the Jets, but his 35-3 miracle comeback was when he was with Buffalo. By the time he played for the Jets they went 1-15. An offensive penalty in the end zone on New England did give the Jets a safety, as they were now down 35-5. They took the free kick at their 29 and Sanchez hit Cumberland for a 39 yard gain. Coincidentall, Cumberland is the school that once lost a football game 222-0. Powell ran it in from 4 yards out. 4 1/2 minutes remained in the third quarter and now the Jets were within 35-12. Was this a comeback for the ages?

Absolutely not. In the fourth quarter Brady would cap off a drive with a one yard touchdown run. Then on the first play from scrimmage Sanchez was intercepted again, giving the Patriots the ball at the Jets 37. Brady hit Welker for 28 and Ridley got the last 9 to make it 49-12 Patriots.

A garbage touchdown got the Jets back within 30 points, but they fell to 4-7, making it likely that Rex Ryan and everyone else on Gang Green may be unemployed before 2013. The Patriots got to 8-3 with a good shot of still getting a first round bye in the playoffs. The Patriots are still very good, and the Jets will now literally be the butt of jokes from now until forever. 49-19 Patriots

Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears–Minnesota is an overachieving 6-4 while the Bears have lost 2 straight to fall to 7-3 and a first place tie with Green Bay. An injured Jay Cutler killed Chicago last year and is already hurting them again. Minnesota may have a quarterback controversy as Christian Ponder has not won over the faithful.

Chicago’s 1st play from scrimmage from their 29 saw Matt Forte fumble, and the Vikings take over at the Chicago 28. They did nothing with the ball and settled for a 40 yard Walsh field goal to lead 3-0. Minnesota got it back at their own 32 and Adrian Peterson returned the gift, putting the ball on the ground. Chicago took over at the Vikings 34. On 3rd and 4 Jay Cutler hit Bennett for 11 yards and Davis for 15 more. Michael Bush banged in from one yard out to make it 7-3 Bears.

Chicago got it back at their own 46, and on 3rd and 1 Bush gained 2. On 3rd and 1 from the Minnesota 34, an unnecessary roughness penalty on the defense made the difference as Robbie Gould hit from 47 to make it 10-3 Bears.

Minnesota moved to a 2nd and 6 at the Chicago 12, but Ponder threw incomplete twice and it was time for a 30 yard field goal by Walsh. The kick was blocked, and Chicago turned the close game into a route. On 3rd and 5 from their 25, Forte gained 6. On 3rd and 3 from the Chicago 38, Cutler hit Rodriguez for 11. On 4th and 1 from the Minnesota 42, Lovie Smith decided to go for it. Bush gained 5. On 3rd and 4 from the 31, Cutler hit Marshall for 6. Defensive pass interference meant 24 yards down to the one, and Bush got in. A 2 point conversion succeeded when Podlesh got in to make it 18-3 Bears. On the next series from their 25, Ponder was intercepted by Conte, who returned it 35 yards to the Minnesota 13. One play was enough for Cutler to hit Spaeth for the score as the Bears led 25-3.

A relatively quiet second half saw the Bears just coast. An interception of Cutler had the Vikings at the Chicago 40, and a defensive penalty moved the ball to the 24. On 3rd and 1 Ponder hit Rudolph for 13 and then the 2 yard touchdown to get the Vikings within 25-10. Chicago then moved from their 21 to a 3rd and 1 at the Minnesota 28. Cutler threw incomplete but Robbie Gould hit the 46 yarder to put the game out of reach. The 12 play, 7 minute drive ended things as the fourth quarter was scoreless. Minnesota fell to 6-5 while Chicago at 8-3 maintained the pace for NFC North lead. 28-10 Bears

Oakland Raiders @ Cincinnati Bengals–For more on the game of the day, go to http://www.justblogbaby.com

The Raiders at 3-7 have lost 3 straight by giving up more points in any 3 game stretch since the 1-13 1961 team, 2 years before Al Davis arrived. So Dennis Allen has managed to “accomplish” what Davis did not do in half a century. While the Raiders do not have as bad a record as a couple other teams, the 1-9 teams are competing hard. The Raiders most of their losses by double digits, including losing the last 2 by a combined 56 points. Cincinnati is not that good, but this may be the worst Raider team ever, which says a lot considering Joe Bugel and Lane Kiffin.

This game was as expected, and the Raiders are who we thought they were. They punted on 4th and 20 from their 25, and the Bengals took over at their own 42. On 3rd and 1, Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis broke free for a 48 yard gain inches shy of the goal line. Green Ellis got in 2 plays later to make it 7-0 Bengals. Oakland went 3 and out and the Bengals got the ball back at their 12. On 3rd and 6 Andy Dalton went deep to AJ Green for a 44 yard gain. On 3rd and 4 from the Oakland 34, Sanu gained 5. Dalton went deep to Gresham for a 27 yard gain and Dalton hit Sanu for the 2 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Bengals.

In the second quarter the Bengals began at their own 11 and it was deja vu all over again. On 3rd and 2 Green-Ellis gained 3 and caught a pass for 9. Green gained 20. On 3rd and 3 from the Oakland 42, Green-Ellis gained 4. Peerman broke free for a 31 yard gain. On 3rd and goal from the 5, Dalton hit Sanu for the score to make it 21-0 Bengals.

The closest the Raiders came to offense was 4th and 1 at the Cincy 45. Schmitt got the carry and lost a yard. With 45 seconds left in the half, Mike Nugent missed a 48 yard field goal. All the Raiders had to do was get to the half. Yet with 17 seconds left in the half and 1st and 10 at the Cincy 39, long field goal range for Sebastian Janikowski did not happen. Palmer was intercepted by Crocker, who returned it 29 yards to the Oakland 48 with 8 seconds left. Dalton hit Sanu for 11 and this time from 55 yards out, Nugent was good to make it 24-0 Raiders at the half.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns–After playing World War III against Baltimore, Pittsburgh gets to have the equivalent of a bye week against the Browns. Yet Cleveland has been fighting hard despite their 2-8 record. Pittsburgh will again be without Ben Roethlisberger, and last week in relief Byron Leftwich was injured as well. Now the Steelers turn to their 3rd string quarterback. Yet this is not rookie. 15 year veteran Charlie Batch has played in relief of Big Ben before, and Mike Tomlin will not be tolerating any excuses from his injured team.

Brandon Weeden began for the Browns by completing a pass to Lawrence Timmons, who plays defense for Pittsburgh. Brett Keisel and his sinister beard tipped the ball to Timmons, who returned it 53 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-0 Steelers. These are the Browns. Yet a few minutes later Rashaard Mendenhall fumbled, giving Cleveland the ball at the Pittsburgh 44. Trent Richardson gained 6 and 7 and Hardesty gained 13. Phil Dawson would kick a 28 yard field goal to get the Browns within 7-3.

Mike Tomlin is known for a disciplined football team, but on this day the Steelers had 8 turnovers. The fact that they were playing Cleveland was the only reason they could still win. The second quarter began with Pittsburgh facing 3rd and 19 from their own 5. Tomlin played it safe and called a handoff, but Ian Redman fumbled and the Browns took over at the Pittsburgh 10. On 3rd and goal at the 5, Brandon Weeden hit Cameron for the touchdown to put the Browns up 10-7.

Cleveland got it back at their own 42 and Weeden hit Gordon for gains of 12 and 7. On 3rd and 8 from the 33 Weeden hit Watson for 13. On 3rd and 8 from the 18 Weeden nonly got half. Dawson hit the 32 yarder to make it 13-7 Browns with 3 1/2 minutes left in the half.

Pittsburgh would fumble the ensuing kickoff, giving Cleveland the ball at the Pittsburgh 34. Yet a sack of Weeden meant another punt. With 1:51 left in the half, Pittsburgh took over at their own 16. Rainey gained 6 and Charlie Batch hit Emanuel Sanders for 27 yards, Rainey for 4 more, Sanders again for another 10, and Heath Miller for 11. On 3rd and 10 from the Cleveland 26 with 12 seconds left in the half, Batch went for it all and defensive pass interference put the ball on the one with 7 seconds left. Pittsburgh still had 1 timeout so a running play was possible. Rainey got in and the Steelers led 14-13 at halftime. Even by AFC North standards, the second half was ugly.

Midway through the third quarter Pittsburgh faced 3rd and 6 from their 19. Batch was intercepted by Brown, giving Cleveland the ball at the Pittsburgh 31. Weeden hit Richardson for 4, Massaquoi for 17, and Richardson after a false start ran for the 15 yard touchdown. The Browns retook a 6 point lead, but 20 minutes of football still remained. Those who missed those 20 minutes missed absolutely nothing.

Pittsburgh would face 3rd and 32 from their own 7 and Cleveland faced 3rd and 23 from their own 7. Neither team converted. With 12 minutes left in regulation Pittsburgh faced 2nd and 12 at the Cleveland 30 when Bath was intercepted. Cleveland then faced 3rd and 27 from their 15. They did not convert. With 3 minutes left on 1st and 10 from their own 42, Batch was intercepted again. Pittsburgh had to use their timeouts and got the ball back at their own 26 with 2:36 to play. Batch hit Rainey for 11, and then Rainey coughed it up. Now Cleveland had it at the Pittsburgh 40 with 2:25 left.

On 4th and 3 from the Pittsburgh 33 with 1:15 left, Pat Shurmur opted against a 51 yard field goal to put the game out of reach. Instead a delay of game meant 4th and 8. A perfect punt pinned the Steelers back at their own 3 with 19 seconds to play. From their own 16, the attempt to engage in laterals just meant another fumble. Cleveland came in 2-8 but got the win. With Walrus Mike Holmgren set to leave the Browns in a few days, he got to exit on a win. The loss but Pittsburgh 3 games behind Baltimore, and they go on the road to play them next week. Now Pittsburgh is only 6-5 and in danger of missing the playoffs altogether. 20-14 Browns

Buffalo Bills @ Indianapolis Colts–When a bad team goes on the road against a good team angry over a loss, the result is ugly. Reality hit the Andrew Luck era against New England, but the 6-4 Colts are still on the upswing and should right the ship this week.

The ship got righted in a big way when TY Hilton returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-0 Colts. Buffalo did rebound as they moved from their 20 to the Indy 20. The drive would bog down at the 15, but Ryan Lindell hit a 33 yard field goal to get the Bills within 7-3.

The second quarter belonged to the field goal kickers. Buffalo began the second quarter pinned at their own one yard line. They would punt, and Indy had great field position from their 47. Andrew Luck was intercepted, andthe Bills took over at their 46. Yet on 2nd and 7 from the Indy 27, back to back losses moved Buffalo back to the Indy 34. Chan Gailey opted against the 52 yard field goal try, and punted.

Indy soon faced 3rd and 3 from their 18, and Luck gained 8 and then hit Donald Brown for 23 and Allen for 24 more. On 3rd and 11 from the 28, Luck gained 14. Yet on 3rd and 3 from the 7, Luck threw incomplete. After the 12 play, 6 minute, 82 yard drive, Adam Vinatieri came in for a 25 yard field goal. With 4 minutes left in the half, the Colts led 10-3.

Buffalo got a quick spark after a touchback when Ryan Fitzpatrick went deep to Stevie St Johnson for a 63 yard gain. Yet the Bills got nothing more as they settled for a 21 yard Ryan Lindell field goal. The Bills were only down 10-6, and at the 2 minute warning the Colts were backed up at their own 8. On 3rd and 8 from the 10, Luck hit Reggie Wayne for 10, Avery for 17, and Allen for 10. The Colts would punt, and now it was the Bills backed up to their own 8 with one minute to go in the half. Buffalo took only 14 seconds off the clock as the Colts got it back just shy of midfield with 32 seconds left and one timeout. Defensive pass interference moved the Colts 23 yards and Luck hit Wayne for 25 more. The Colts took their last timeout with 16 seconds left and 1st and goal at the 3. After an incompletion, a pass to Wayne only gained 2 yards. Luck raced to the line and spiked the ball to stop the clock. This meant 4th and goal at the one with one second left. The crowd did not like it, bun Vinatieri was brought in for the field goal. The 19 yarder had Indy up 13-6 at the break.

In the third quarter after a Buffalo punt, the Colts took over at their own 13. Ballard gained 9 and 3. On 3rd and 6 from their 29, Luck hit Wayne for 15. On 3rd and 6 from the Indy 48, Luck hit Avery for 10. On 3rd and 17 from the Buffalo 32, Luck hit Wayne for 25. On 3rd and goal at the 8, Luck hit Hilton for the touchdown. The 87 yard, 15 play drive took 8 minutes off the clock, and gave the Colts a 20-6 lead.

Buffalo took over late in the third quarter at their own 22 and CJ Spiller broke off a 41 yard run and then gains of 6 and 2. The fourth quarter saw Buffalo face 3rd and 2 at the Indy 29. Fitzpatrick hit St Johnson for 14 and Jones for 12 down to the one. Fitzpatrick hit Smith for the score as the Bills were only down by 7 with a full 11 1/2 minutes left to play.

Buffalo would have great field position at their own 47, but fail to move the ball. Indy got it back with 3 1/2 minutes left at their own 5 yard line. Brown ran for 11 and Luck hit Wayne for 14. The Bills took their last timeout as the Colts faced 3rd and 10 from their 31 with 1:48 to play. Luck threw incomplete, but defensive pass interference killed the Bills. Luck took 3 knees to end it. The Colts are 7-4 and playing inspired football. 20-13 Colts

Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars–A pair of bad teams are playing because league rules require this game not be cancelled. Jacksonville fought hard before losing in overtime to AFC leading Houston on the road. Chad Henne played well in place of Blaine Gabbert.

Chad Henne was quickly intercepted to start the game, giving Tennessee the ball at the Jacksonville 28. Yet Jake Locker threw incomplete on 3rd and 2 as the Titans settled for a 38 yard field goal and a 3-0 Titans lead. Yet after an exchange of punts, Jacksonville faced 3rd and 1 from their own 34. Henne got the yard and then hit Justin Blackmon for a 21 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the Titans 35, Jennings gained 2 and Henne hit Mercedes Lewis for a 23 yard gain. Jennings gained 8, 1, and on 3rd and goal from the 1, the last yard to make it 7-3 Jaguars.

The second quarter began with the Titans facing 3rd and 1 from their 27. Chris Johnson gained 6. On 3rd and 11 from the 32, Locker hit Johnson for 14 and Nate Washington for 21. On 3rd and 3 from the Jaguars 24, Locker hit Washington for just enough. Yet Jacksonville challenged the call and it was reversed incomplete. Bironas connected from 42 as the Titans trailed 7-6 at halftime.

In the third quarter the Jaguars faced 3rd and 1 from their 34. Parmale gained 4. On 3rd and 7 from their 41, Henne went deep to Chris Shorts for a 59 yard touchdown as the Jaguars now led 14-6.

Tennessee moved the ball throughout the day, and this time moved from their 15 to the Jacksonville 20. Yet the drive bogged down again. While Jacksonville was scoring touchdowns, Tennessee was settling for field goals as Bironas hit from 39 to keep the Titans within 14-9.

In the fourth quarter Tennessee moved from their 13 to a 1st and 10 at the Jacksonville 15. Yet Locker then threw 3 straight incompletions, and yet again Bironas had to come out for a 33 yarder. With 10 minutes left in regulation, the Titans trailed 14-12.

Jacksonville faced 3rd and 4 from their 31 and Henne found Shorts for a 23 yard gain. On 3rd and 9 from the Titans 30 Henne hit Blackmon for another 23 yards. Henne found Blackmon for a 7 yard touchdown to make it 21-12 Jaguars midway through the fourth quarter.

From the Titans 22, Locker hit Washington for 7, Wright for 5, Washington again for 20, and Wright again for 9. Johnson broke free for a 31 yard gain and the Titans finally cracked the end zone when Locker hit Britt for a 6 yard touchdown. With 5 minutes left in regulation the Titans were within 24-19.

With 3 minutes left Tennessee had the ball at their own 37. Locker was intercepted by Lowery, who returned it 21 yards to the Titans 36. A pair of 6 yard gains by Jennings forced the Titans to use their timeouts. Josh Scobee came in for a 41 yard field goal. He made it, and the Jaguars had a 5 point lead. The Titans had only 19 seconds to work with from their own 13. Locker was intercepted and the Jaguars had their second win of the season. Despite their terrible record, Jacksonville is fighing hard. THey are competitive. 24-19 Jaguars

Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs–Denver has a stranglehold on the AFC Worst while Kansas City has a shot at the top pick in the 2013 Draft. This game seems almost unfair as Peyton Manning seeks to take advantage of a dispirited Chiefs team.

That’s why they play the games. Kansas City fought hard all game, starting out from their 29. On 3rd and 2, Draughn gained 7. On 2nd and 7 from the Denver 42, Dexter McCluster gained 19. On 3rd and 3 from the 16, wildcat snap to Hillis resulted in an incomplete pass. Yet Ryan Succop hit the 34 yard field goal as the Chiefs led 3-0. Denver went 3 and out and Arenas returned the punt 20 yards to the Denver 37. On 3rd and 4 Brady Quinn hit Moeaki for 19 yards. On 3rd and 5 from the 7, a short completion only gained 3 yards. On 4th and 2 from the 4, Romoe Crennel played it safe. Succop hit the 22 yarder as the Chiefs had a surprising 6-0 lead after the first quarter.

Denver could not get anything going, as Matt Prater missed a 47 yard field goal late in the first quarter and Peyton Manning was intercepted in the second quarter. With 6 minutes left in the half, the Chiefs saw a drive that began on their 20 come to a critical 3rd and 8 at the Denver 33. Another field goal would make it 9-0, but Succop never got the opportunity. Quinn was sacked for a 9 yard loss to kill the drive. The Chiefs would punt. Their defense had stymied Manning and the Broncos all game, and now Denver was backed up to their own 6.

Manning hit Thomas for 15, and Knowshon Moreno gained 10. Manning then went deep to Brandon Stokley for a 31 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the Chiefs 29, Manning hit Joel Dreesen for just enough. Manning then found Jacob Tamme for 22 yards. On 3rd and goal at the 7 with 23 seconds left in the half, Manning hit Tamme for the touchdown. Despite being outplayed, Denver led 7-6 at halftime.

Denver began the third quarter at their own 42 and quickly moved to the Chiefs 15. Yet Prater doinked a 33 yard field goal off the upright no good. The Chiefs took over at their 23. Jamal Charles ran for 5 and 11. Quinn hit Newsome for 10 and Charles gained 11 and 2. On 3rd and 7 from the Denver 37, Quinn hit Dwayne Bowe one yard short. On 4th and 1 Romeo Crennel again decided not to gamble. Succop hit from 49 as the resilient Chiefs had a 9-7 lead midway through the third quarter.

After a touchback, Moreno gained 15 with a defensive penalty adding 5 more. Hillman gained 10, and next up was a critical 3rd and 2 from the Chiefs 42. Manning found Tamme for 12 yards. On the next play Manning went deep to Thomas for the 30 yard touchdown. Denver retook the lead 14-9. A quarter and a half of football remained, but it was all defense.

Midway through the fourth quarter the best chance for the Chiefs came on a 3rd and 1 from the Denver 41. Yet a critical false start killed the drive. Denver took over at their own 16 with 6 1/2 minutes left. Even on days when Manning is not flasht, he knows how to finish games. John Fox likes to run the football, and Moreno helped wind down the clock with gains of 5 and 17. On 3rd and 3 from their 45, Manning hit Thomas for 10. The 2 minute warning came with Denver facing 3rd and 7 at the Chiefs 42. Manning went deep to Thomas for a 27 yard gain. The Chiefs now had to use all their timeouts. After 12 plays and 6 minutes, Prater came in for a field goal from 34 yards out with only 18 seconds left. The kick was good, and Denver had an 8 point lead. The Chiefs got it back at their 23 with 11 seconds left. On the final play, Quinn was intercepted. Denver survived to win their 6th straight to get to 8-3 and all but lock up the AFC West. The Chiefs fought hard, but fell to 1-10 and now have sole possession of the worst record in the league with the NFL Draft 5 months away. It was ugly, but good teams win these kind of games on the road, and Denver did just that. 17-9 Broncos

Seattle Seahawks @ Miami Dolphins–Pete Carroll has a good defense, while Joe Philbin has seen his team fall out of contention after a promising 4-3 start.

A scoreless game with 10 minutes left in the half saw the Seahawks face 4th and 1 at the Miami 38. Pete Carroll played it safe and punted, and the Dolphins took over at their own 6. Thomas gained 6 and Ryan Tannehill hit CLay for 8 more. Tannehill found Bess for a 23 yard gain and Clay for 18 more. On 3rd and 1 from the Seattle 26, the Seahawks had 12 men on the field for an automatic first down. Reggie Bush, despite having dated a Kardashian, ran for the 21 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Dolphins with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half.
Seattle soon faced 3rd and 3 from their 27 when Russell Wilson hit Turbin for 20 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the Miami 44, Wilson hit Marshawn Lynch for 7 and Golden Tate for a 32 yard gain. With 30 seconds left in the half, Wilson hit McCoy for a 3 yard touchdown to tie it 7-7.

After a Miami punt in the third quarter, Seattle played keep away with a drive lastin more than 8 minutes from their 20. Wilson hit Sidney Rice for 12 yards, and on 3rd and 3 from their 39, found Kearse for 8 and Danny Baldwin for 14. On 2nd and 19 from the Miami 48, Wilson found Turbin for 18 and Moore on 3rd and 1 for 5. Wilson then ran for 20 and hit Robinson for a 4 yard touchdown to make it 14-7 Seahawks.

With 12 minutes left in regulation Miami took over at their 18. Tannehill hit Clay for 19 and Bess for a 39 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the 9, Thomas got 2. Thomas ran it in from 3 yards out to tie the game 14-14 with 8 minutes left. Yet Seattle has a special teams demon named Leon Washington. He did it again, this time returning the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-14 Seahawks.

After a touchback Bush gained 22 yards. On 3rd and 7 from their 45, Tannehill hit Thomas for 18. Bush gained 8, and Tannehill then went deep to Clay for a 29 yard touchdown. With 5 1/2 minutes to play, the game was tied 21-21.

Seattle took over at their 20, and ground down the clock. With 2:17 left the Seahawks faced a critical 3rd and 4 from their 40. Wilson hit McCoy for 20 yards, and now Seattle was only a few yards from long field goal range. Yet then Seattle simply blew it. A run lost a yard, and a swing pass lost 6 more yards. Seattle would have to punt, and Miami had their chance to win it from their own 10 with 90 seconds to play.

Tannehill hit Bess for 19, and then scrambled himself for 15 more yards. Tannehill then went to Bess for 25 yardsWith 4 seconds left on the clock, Dan Carpenter was brought in for a 43 yarder to win it. The kick was good, and Seattle fell to 6-5. Miami continues fighting hard for Joe Philbin while Pete Carroll saw what looked like a sure win get away. 24-21 Dolphins, OT

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers–Atlanta barely surived at home last week against reeling Arizona to get to 9-1. Despite 5 interceptions thrown by Matt Ryan, Atlanta escaped. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay also barely escaped after trailing by 11 points with 5 minutes left against woeful Carolina. Tampa tied it with seconds left before winning in overtime to give the Bucs their 4th straight win and a 6-4 record under rookie coach Greg Schiano.

This was a game of long drives as both teams played ball control early on. On 3rd and 4 from their 26, Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones for 13 yards and Jaquez Rodgers gained 20. Yet after 7 1/2 minutes, on 3rd and 3 from the Tampa 11, a completion actually lost 2 yards. Matt Bryant hit the 31 yarder to make it 3-0 Falcons.

From the Tampa 19, Josh Freeman hit Mike Williams for 8 and Doug Martin for 5. Martin gained 8 and Freeman hit Dallas Clark for 21 more and Tyquon Underwood for 22 more. From the 17, Martin gained 5, 6, 5, and one more for the score as the Buccaneers now led 7-3 after the 10 play, 81 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive.

Atlanta began the second quarter facing 3rd and 3 from their own 32. Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for 20 and Jones for 15. On 3rd and 7 from the Tampa 30, Ryan hit Gonzalez for 16. On 3rd and 1 from the 5 Rodgers got in to make it 10-7 Falcons.

Atlanta got it back and faced 3rd and 4 at their 47. Ryan was intercepted by old man Ronde Barber, who returned it 28 yards to the Atlanta 31. Greg Schiano then went to bag of tricks as Mike Williams threw the halfback option pass to Vincent Jackson for a 28 yard gain. Yet on 3rd and goal from the one, Martin lost 3 yards. Connor Barth hit the 22 yarder to tie the game 10-10 with 3:40 left in the half.

The Bucs began the third quarter at their own 14 and mounted another lengthy time consuming drive. On 3rd and 5 Freeman hit Underwood for 7. On 3rd and 4 from the Tampa 32, Freeman hit Clark for 13. On 3rd and 10 from their 45, Freeman found Jackson for 31 yards. 3 more incompletions from the 24 meant a 42 yard Barth field goal as the 6 1/2 minute drive put the Bucs up 13-10. Yet the Falcons after a touchback needed 12 seconds to retake the lea. Ryan went deep to Jones for an 80 yard touchdown to make it 17-13 Falcons.

After an exchange of punts, the Bucs faced 1st and 21 from their own 7. Freeman hit Jackson for 10 and Underwood for a 39 yard gain. Freeman went to Jackson for gains of 15 and 12, and a 10 yard Martin run had the fourth quarter beginning with Tampa facing 1st and goal at the one. Martin got in to make it 20-17 Buccaneers.

Atlanta moved from their 20 to a 3rd and 1 at their 44. Ryan was sacked, resulting in a fumble that Tampa recovered at the Atlanta 36. A 3rd and 4 completion came up one yard short. On 4th and 1 from the 30 Greg Schiano decided not to gamble. Barth hit the 48 yarder to make it 23-17 Buccaneers with 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

Atlanta got it back at their 36. Ryan found Rodgers for a 32 yard gain, White for 7 more, Jones for another 15, and Douglas for 5. On 3rd and goal at the 5, Ryan threw incomplete. Yet a killer defensive holding penalty instead meant 1st and goal at the 3. Michael Turner ran it in and the Falcons had the one point lead with 8 minutes to play.

The Bucs moved from their 20 but got no further than the Atlanta 38. With 3 1/2 minutes left, Barth was brought in for a 56 yard field goal try to give Tampa the lead. It was no good. and Atlanta took over at their 46.

Rodgers gained 12, and on 3rd and 5 from the Tampa 37 with 1:55 to play, Ryan hit Roddy White for 8 yards, forcing the Bucs to use their timeouts. With 13 seconds to play, Bryant came in for a 48 yard field goal to extend the lead. The kick was no good, but the Bucs had only 8 seconds left from their own 38.

Freeman hit Clark for 9 yards, and then rolled out, and fired a Hail Mary to the end zone where everyone had a shot at it. The ball was intercepted as Atlanta survived to get to 10-1. Tampa Bay fell to 6-5. The Bucs are a vastly improved team, but Atlanta is elite. Elite teams win tough road games like this one. 24-23 Falcons

Baltimore Ravens @ San Diego Chargers–While Baltimore is the much better team, larger forces may be at work. The Ravens won an emotional war of attrition at Pittsburgh to get to 8-2 and have a solid grip on the division. Yet San Diego has Norvelous Norv Turner, who somehow avoid being fired. Every time he is on the verge of being gone, a Lazarus act occurs and San Diego wins a game it should lose. Philip Rivers has been struggling, and the Baltimore defense even without Ray Lewis is still fighting hard. Ed Reed was suspended one game, but the suspension was overturned. If ever the Chargers should lose a game, it would be this one, giving them an excellent chance to win.

The game began as a Baltimore style slugfest and was tied 0-0 after the first quarter. Early in the second quarter the Chargers took over at their 22. Philip Rivers then hit Alexander for a 26 yard gain and Malcolm Floyd for 16 more. On 3rd and 1 from the Baltimore 27, Battle got nothing. Norv Turner decided to go for it on 4th and 1. A few years ago the Ravens won a game against San Diego when a 4th and 2 was blown up in the backfield by Ray Lewis. Lewis is out with injury and Battle got the carry again. This time he got 2 yards and the chains moved. On 2nd and 6 from the 21, Rivers went deep to Malcolm Floyd for the touchdown as the Chargers led 7-0.

San Diego got it back at their 18 and Ryan Mathews ran for 9, 2, and 4. On 3rd and 6 from their 33, Rovers hit Antonio Gates for 11, Floyd for 15, and Alexander for 19. A sack of Rivers stalled momentum, but Nick Novak hit from 47 with 3 minutes left in the half as the lifeless Ravens offense had the Chargers up 10-0.

Baltimore began the third quarter and soon faced 3rd and 7 from their 19 in a game where they were getting nothing. Joe Flacco threw a short pass to Torrey SMith, who gained 54 yards. The drive stopped, but that one play was enough for Justin Tucker to hit a 43 yarder to get the Ravens within 10-3.

With 6 minutes left in the third quarter the Ravens moved from their 24 to a 3rd and 1 at the San Diego 14. Flacco got stopped, and John Harbaugh decided to go for it on 4th and 1. Pierce got the carry and got blasted for a 2 yard loss. The Chargers began the fourth quarter at their own 16 with a 10-3 lead.

Mathews gained 8 and 4, and Rivers hit Floyd for 13. Mathews gained 7 and Rivers hit Battle for 10. A personal foul moved the ball to the Chargers 32. On 3rd and 7 Ronnie Brown gained 13. The drive would stop at the 12, but Novak hit from 30. The 7 minute drive had the Chargers up 13-3 with only 8 minutes to play in the game. Another Norv Turner miracle was in the works.

After a touchback Flacco hit Jones for gains of 12, 24, and 6. Flacco then went to Smith for gains of 22 and 14. A 4 yard touchdown pass to Danny Pitta had the Ravens only down 13-10 with 4 1/2 minutes to play.

San Diego went 3 and out and the Ravens got it back at their own 40 with 3:10 to play. Flacco hit Pitta for 16, but offensive holding and a sack set up a play thatwill be remembered by both of these teams for years if not decades to come. The 2 minute warning had just sounded. The Ravens faced 4th and 29 at their own 37. One more stop and the game was over. Remember, 4th and 29. Flacco had heavy pressure, and his only option was a dumpoff pass to Ray Rice for what appeared to be a 7 yard gain. Somehow Rice got to the right, cut back left, broke one tackle and another terrible attempt at one, and with four Chargers chasing him ran into a couple of Chargers ahead of him and plowed just past the marker in front of a shellshocked home crowd. The officials reviewed the spot, and it was a first down as the Ravens bench lit up. Flacco then hit Jones for 8 and Rice gained a pair of 3 yard runs. Despite having 2 timeouts, John Harbaugh played it very conservatively, going for the tie rather than the win. Tucker hit the 38 yard field goal and the game went into overtime 13-13 in front of a disbelieving Chargers team.

Both teams in overtime took the ball from deep in their own territory to about midfield before punting, as sudden death took over. San Diego went 3 and out in their second possession and punted. The Ravens got it back at their own 11. Only 5 minutes remained in overtime. A couple weeks ago saw the first tie in 4 years, and this one had the potential to be another one.

Defensive pass interference moved the ball 11 yards. On 3rd and 4 from the 28, Flacco hit Pitta for 11 more. Rice gained 5 and Flacco hit Doss for 9. With 2 1/2 minutes left in overtime, the Ravens faced 3rd and 10 at the San Diego 47. One more stop would mean a tie or even possible San Diego win. Yet Flacco went deep to Smith for a 31 yard gain at the 2 minute warning. From the 16, John Harbaugh showed why he is such a good coach. Since it was 1st down, he had Flacco kneel 3 times to force the Chargers to use their timeouts. That way if the kick missed, they would have only one minute to work with. Of course on 4th down there would be no rmedy for a bad snap.

It didn’t matter. From 38 Tucker was good and the most recent Chargers collapse was complete. The Ravens got to 9-2. They now have a 3 game lead in the division and host wounded Pittsburgh next week. They can wrap up the division in short order and are clicking on all cylinders. As for the Chargers, people always look for Norv Turner teams to rally. Yet this season the wheels may have finally and permanelty come off. They blew a 24 point lead in losing 35-24 to Denver. They lost 7-6 to Cleveland. Now a 10 point collapse at home in the final 5 minutes, including a 4th and 29 meltdown. Turner inherited a 14-2 team from Marty Schottenheimer, and this is what has become of that team. 16-13 Ravens, OT

St Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals–A pair of bad teams play a game for the right to win nothing. After a tough tie a couple weeks ago, the Rams were embarrassed at home against an awful Jets team. Arizona meanwhile began 4-0 and has lost 6 straight since then. Ken Whisenhunt even benched John “Red” Skelton last week while the team was leading 13-0. Ryan Lindley helped make that decision a bad one.

Since the Rams beat Arizona in early October, neither team has won a single game.

The Rams punted and Arizona took over at their own 9. Beanie Wells gained 4 and 7. On 3rd and 3 from their 27 Ryan Lindley hit Larry Fitzgerald for 12 and Roberts for 11 to midfield. On 3rd and 18 from the Arizona 42, a 6 yard completion and a defensive personal foul moved the ball to the Rams 37. Lindley hit Fitzgerald for 13 and Roberts for 21. Wells got in from one yard out as the 15 play, 91 yard drive consumed 9 minutes and put the Cardinals up 7-0 after the first quarter. Yet like the first quarter of the Arizona season, this would be a mirage.

On the first play of the second quarter, with Arizona facing 2nd and 8 from their 33, Lindley completed a pass to Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins plays defense for the Rams, and he took the interception 36 yards for the tying touchdown to make it 7-7.

After an exchage of punts the Cardinals took over at their 35. Lindley hit King for 9 and Housler for 28. Roberts ran for 13 and Wells ran for the 12 yard touchdown to make it 14-7 Cardinals.

Sam Bradford moved the Rams from their 30 to a 1st and goal at the 7. Yet Bradford was then intercepted in the end zone by Patrick Peterson. Arizona went 3 and out and the Rams got it back at their 29 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the half. On 3rd and 10 Bradford hit Givens for 18. Stephen Jackson gained 4 and 7. On 1st and 5 from the Arizona 37, Bradford went deep to Kendricks for the touchdown at the 2 minute warning as the game was tied 14-14.

Facing 3rd and 2 at their 31, Lindley hit Malcolm Floyd for 5 and Powell for 10. On 3rd and 1 from the Rams 45, Lindley got the yard. Lindley then hit Floyd for 5 and Powell for 25. With 7 seconds left the Cardinals were at the Rams 14, but Lindley threw incomplete and 3 seconds remained. Ken Whisenhunt sent out Jay Feely for the 32 yarder, and Feely gave the Cardinals a 17-14 halftime lead.

After an Arizona punt in the third quarter, the Rams were backed up to their own 8 yard line. Stephen Jackson broke free for a 46 yard gain. Richardson gained 9 more, and Bradford then went deep to Givens for a 37 yard touchdown as 92 yards in 3 plays put the Rams up 21-17.

On the next series Lindley was intercepted, but the Rams failed to capitalize. Late in the third quarter from the Arizona 22, Lindley was again intercepted by Jenkins. He again took it to the house as his second defensive touchdown made it 28-17 Rams.

Arizona went 3 and out on their next 2 series and with 12 1/2 minuts left in the game the Rams took over at their 27. On 3rd and 1 Jackson gained 15. On 3rd and 6 at the Arizona 45 Bradford hit Givens for 22. On 3rd and 1 from the Arizona 2 Jackson got stopped. Jeff Fisher opted for the field goal and Greg Zuerlein hit the 19 yarder to complete the scoring. The 11 play, 7 minute, 73 yard drive gave the Cardinals their 7th straight loss. 31-17 Rams

San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans Saints–These teams were both 13-3 last year and played in a classic playoff game that 49er fans are calling Catch III. Alex Smith and Vernon Davis combined for the 39-36 win at the gun, which led Smith supporters to reject the notion that he was just a game manager. This year the 49ers are Firestone Tires at 7-2-1, but an injured Smith has seen the fan base abandon Smith again in favor of backup Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick played very well in a route of Chicago last week. There is no quarterback controversy in the Big Easy, where Drew Brees and the Saints offense is lighting it up again. They began 0-4 in the wake of the bounty scandal, but are now 5-5 and clicking.

The chess match was between the Saints offense and the 49ers defense, and early on defense won as the Saints punted twice and the 49ers once. The 49ers took over at their 38. A short pass from Colin Kaepernick went to Mario Manningham for a 40 yard gain and Kaepernick went back to Manningham for 13 more. Kaepernick ran himself for the 7 yard touchdown as the 49ers led 7-0.

On 2nd and 7 from the Saints 24, Drew Brees hit Marques Colston for 13 and Morgan for a 33 yard gain. Brees hit Collins for 7 and Mark Ingram gained 6 and 2. On 3rd and 1 from the 8, Ingram got 2 more. Brees hit Thomas for the 6 yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.

Midway through the second quarter, the Saints punted and Ted Ginn fumbled it. Fumbled punts kept the 49ers out of the Super Bowl last year, and this time it set the Saints up at the 49ers 11. Brees threw a 10 yard touchdown pass to Colston as the Saints led 14-7.

With 43 seconds left in the half, the 49ers had 1st and 10 at their 39. Kaepernick was intercepted, giving the Saints the ball at their own 44. 31 seconds was plenty of time for Brees to do damage and perhaps even ice the game. Instead the damage was self-inflicted. Brees was intercepted by Brooks, who returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. A stunned home crowd so the teams go to the locker rooms deadlocked 14-14.

The 49ers began the third quarter facing 3rd and 2 from their 28. Kaepernick went deep to Walker for a 45 yard gain. Kendall Hunter took an end around 21 yards. Kaepernick hit Frank Gore for the 6 yard touchdown as the 49ers led 21-14. Things got much worse for the Saints. This close game the whole way was broken open 2 plays later on 2nd and 18 from the Saints 22. Brees was intercepted again, this time by Donte Whitner. Whitner returned it 42 yards for the second San Francisco touchdown for Jim Harbaugh’s defense. A tie game was now 28-14 49ers only 3 1/2 minutes into the second half. Yet the Saints had Brees and this game was far from over.

After a touchback, Chris Ivory ran for 7 and 4. Brees hit Thomas for 9 and Ingram gained 7. Brees then went deep to Lance Moore for an acrobatic 43 yard gain. A 2 yard touchdown pass to Collins had the Saints right back in it down 28-21 midway through the third quarter. Yet after that both defenses dug in.

Late in the third quarter the 49ers took over at their own 6 yard line and Kaepernick led a staggering 16 play drive that consumed 9 1/2 minutes off the clock. The 49ers began the fourth quarter with 3rd and 2 at their 31, and Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for 5 yards. On 3rd and 11 from their 35, Kaepernick went to Walker for 25 yards. On 3rd and 3 from the 33, Kaepernick hit Miller for 9 and Frank Gore gained 14. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 5, Gore was tackled for a 4 yard loss. David Akers came in for the critical 27 yard field goal with 8 minutes left. The kick was good and the 49ers had a 10 point lead.

With 6 minutes left the Saints faced 3rd and 2 from their 45. Brees was sacked for a 9 yard loss, and the 4th and 11 pass was incomplete. Akers came in for a 50 yard field goal to extend the lead, but it was no good. The Saints got it back at their 40, but on 4th and 4 Brees threw incomplete. With 1:13 to play Akers came in for a 33 yard field goal for insurance. The kick was blocked, and almost returned for a score. Yet 31-28 would not be happening. The Saints were out of time and after a 35 yard pass to Darren Sproles at the Frisco 37, Brees decided to kneel down rather than throw a meaningless Hail Mary and get somebody injured.

The 49ers beat the Saints for the second time in a row in two different stadiums. Yes there is a quarterback controversy as Kaepernick seems to be the preferred choice. The 49ers are now 8-2-1 while the Saints fell to 5-6 with the loss. 31-21 49ers

Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants is the Sunday night game. Lat year the undefeated Packers went into the Meadowlands and won a heartstopper 38-35. Yet in the playoffs at Lambeau, the 9-7 Giants took the 15-1 Packers and just hit them in the mouth 37-20. For the second time in four years, Big Blue leveraged a road win over Green Bay to a Super Bowl Title. Yet Mike McCarty and the Packers have won 5 straight to get to 7-3 while Tom Coughlin again sees his Giants losing 2 straight after a 6-2 start.

This game was a blowout from the start. Big Blue took over at their own 26, and from their 39, Eli Manning found Ahmad Bradshaw, who took a short pass 59 yards. Brown got the final 2 yards on the ground to make it 7-0 Giants. The Packers took over at their 23 and from their 39 Aaron Rodgers went bombs away to Jordy Nelson for a 61 yard touchdown. The game was tied 7-7, but after that one offense kept firing while the other one misfired. Mason Crosby has had a terrible few weeks kicking, and Mike McCarthy decided to bring him in anyway for a 55 yard try. It was no good as his misery continued.

The Giants took over at their own 45 and Bradshaw gained 5, 8, 6, and 2. On 3rd and 7 from the Packers 34, Manning gained 13. On 3rd and 5 from the 16 Manning hit Randle for the score as the Giants led 14-7 and never looked back.

On the first play from scrimmage after the kick from their 28, Rodgers was intercepted and the Giants took over at the Packers 33. On 3rd and 1 Bradshaw lost a yard. Tom Coughlin brought in Lawrence Tynes from 43, and Tynes made it 17-7 Giants.

In the second quarter the Giants got it back and faced 3rd and 9 from their 40. Manning went deep to Hakeem Nicks for 25 yards and Bennett for 12 more. Bradshaw gained 10 and on 3rd and 6 from the 9 Manning hit Victor Cruz for the touchdown. The salsa dancer had the Giants Cruzing 24-7, and they weren’t done.

Green Bay came back and faced 3rd and 5 from their 32. Rodgers found John Kuhn for a 32 yard gain. On 3rd and 11 from the Giants 37, Rodgers threw incomplete. Yet defensive holding kept the drive going. On 3rd and 1 from the Giants 11, Green got nothing. On 4th and 1 Mike McCarthy went with Crosby, althogh even from 28 that lately has not been considered the safe option. Crosby was good and the Packers were within 24-10 with 3:44 left in the half.

With 1:12 left in the half the Packers got it back and had 1st and 10 at their 24. From their 39, Rodgers was sacked and fumbled. The Giants recovered at the Packers 23. Manning quickly hit Randle for 10 and Bradshaw ran for the 13 yard touchdown. The Giants led 310-10 at halftime in front of a cheering crowd, and Captain Grumpy Tom Coughlin was so pleased he almost smiled.

The game slowed, and with 6 minutes left in the third quarter the Giants took over at their 47. Manning hit Bennett for 15 and Nicks for 30 more. On 3rd and goal at the 13, Manning went to Nicks, who was initially ruled down at the one. Yet before the Giants could debate 4th and goal, the replay clearly showed Nicks broke the plane. Coughlin successfully challenged the call and the play was reversed to a touchdown and a 38-10 Giants lead.

The fourth quarter began with the Packers facing 4th and 5 at the Giants 14. Even up by 28, Big Blue gave nothing on defense as Rodgers threw incomplete. Manning then led a time consuming drive. Brown gained 9 and 3. On 3rd and 11 Manning hit Cruz for 17. Brown gained 16. On 4th and 2 from the Packers 34, Tom Coughlin decided to go for it rather than try the 52 yard field goal. Manning hit Bennett for 17. On 3rd and 5 from the 12, Manning threw incomplete but a personal foul for a hit on a defenseless receiver meant 1st and goal at the 6. On 4th and goal at the one, the Giants decided to go for it and Manning’s pass was tipped incomplete. Despite not scoring, they moved 86 yards, took 18 plays, and held the ball for 9 minutes, leaving the Packers 99 yards away.

Both teams are 7-4. Green Bay saw their 5 game winning streak snapped as they fell one game behind Chicago in the NFC North. The Giants maintained a 2 game lead in the NFC East with 5 to play. Green Bay failed to get revenge for the playoff game last year, as the Giants have won the last 2 on both fields. Defending champs fight, and the Giants fight hard when counted out. 38-10 Giants

Carolina Panthers @ Philadelphia Eagles is the Monday night game. It has been almost a decade since these two teams played in the NFC Title Game. Now they are just bad football teams. Carolin is 2-8 and Ron Rivera is on shaky ground seeing as Jerry Richardson fired his general manager earlier in the season. Jeffrey Lurie gave Walrus Lite Andy Reid a stay of execution last year, but this year the Eagles have lost 6 straight to fall to 3-7. While football does not allow for excuses, rules should have exceptions. Andy Reid lost his son earlier this year. That is every parent’s nightmare, and the guy is a good human being in a world of hurt. Yes he has a job to do, but some human compassion would go a long way. Plus, Michael Vick is injured again and the offensive line is a sieve. The big losers here are at ESPN, who are stunned that the once vaunted Monday Night Football has sunk so low as to broadcast this bad game. Monday night games cannot be flexed out.

The Eagles started out after a touchback with Nick Foles hitting Desean Jackson for 9 yards. Brown took a wildcat snap for 9 yards and then ran for 19 more. Foles hit Jeremy Maclin for 15 and Captain Morgan Brent Celek for 16 more. The drive then stalled, and Alex Henery hit a 36 yarder to make it 3-0 Eagles.

Carolina took over at their 28 and Stewart ran for 6 and 5. Cam Newton hit Steve Smith for 9 and 14. Brandon LaFell ran for 6, then Newton ran for 5 and threw a 24 yard touchdown to Barnidge to make it 7-3 Panthers. The Eagles went 3 and out and Carolina took over at their own 45. Stewart ran for 12 and Newton then went deep to LaFell for a 43 yard touchdown to make it 14-3 Panthers.

After a touchback and defensive unnecessary roughness, The Eagles faced 3rd and 3 from their 45. Brown gained 5 and then took a wildcat snap for 19 more. The second quarter began with the Eagles facing 3rd and 8 at the Carolina 29. A completion to Maclin came up 2 yards short. Walrus Lite Andy Reid went with Henery, and he hit the 41 yarder to get the Eagles within 14-6. Philly got it back at their own 32. On 2nd and 7, Brown took a handoff through the right side, got to the sideline, and raced for a 65 yard touchdown. Just like that the Eagles were back in it. Then Andy Reid made a curious decision by going for the 2 point conversion. It was only the second quarter, and the attempt failed to keep the Eagles down 14-12. The decision would loom large later.

Philly got it back at their 39 and Brown gained 11. On 3rd and 1 from the Carolina 41, pass-happy Andy Reid actually called a running play. Brown gained 4 and Lewis then gained 11 more. The drive would again stall but Henery hit his third field goal from 45 as the Eagles took a 15-14 lead. Neither of these teams are any good but the game itself was worthy of Monday Night Football.

Carolina began the third quarter at their own 5 yard line. Newton hit LaFell for 12 and then went deep to Louis Murphy for a 55 yard gain. on 3rd and 12 from the Philly 31, Newton scrambled for 14, 9, 4, and on 3rd and goal at the one, the final yard. While this was a situation where a 2 point try could have been justified, again Ron Rivera did the right thing by just kicking the point after. The third lead change of the game concluded the 95 yard, 11 play, 6 minute drive made it 21-15 Panthers.

Philly moved from their 29 to a 1st and 5 from the Carolina 38. Brown gained 6 and then fumbled to end the drive. Carolina went 3 and out and the Eagles got it back at their 31. Foles hit Maclin for 12 and then went deep for all the marbles. Defensive pass interference meant a 54 yard gain and 1st and goal at the 5. Brown got in as the fourth lead change made it 22-21 Eagles.

Carolina again went 3 and out and punted on 4th and 28 from their own 15. Philly got it back at their own 42 but again Brown fumbled the ball. He had 2 touchdowns in the game already, but his 2 fumbled were killers. Carolina took over at the Philly 45. Newton hit LaFell for 19 and the Panthers began the fourth quarter at the Philly 24. Newton hit Olsen for 12 and ran for 4 and 3. Yet on 3rd and 3 from the 5, Newton threw incomplete. Graham Gano hit the 22 yard field goal. With 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the fifth lead change had the Panthers back up 24-22.

Philly moved from their 15 rapidly as Brown for 24 yards. Yet on 3rd and 6 from the Carolina 45, a completion came up one yard short. With 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Andy Reid decided to go for it on 4th and 1. Brown got stopped cold as Reid vowed never to call a running play ever again.

From their 40, Newton went deep to Smith for a 31 yard gain. On 3rd and 10 from the Philly 29, Newton hit Mike Tolbert for 13. Newton would run it in from 2 yards out with 4:40 to play. This is why the decision to go for 2 earlier by the Eagles was so critical. Had they kicked the extra point, they would have been down by 7 and at worst 8. Instead they now trailed by 8 and the extra point would make it a 9 point game, ending it.

Then it happened. Graham Gano missed the extra point. He just hit it wide right. A thrilled home crowd now had a ray of hope as the Eagles only trailed by 8.

Boykin took the ensuing kickoff at the goal line and found a seam all the way to the Eagles 44 yard line. Yet on a day when the Eagles repeatedly self-destructed, one last blunder killed them. Boykin fumbled the kickoff, and Carolina recovered just shy of midfield. The Eagles had all of their timeouts, and needed a stop.

On 2nd and 14, Newton got stopped for no gain. Yet defensive holding meant 1st and 10 at midfield. The Eagles took their last timeout with the Panthers facing 3rd and 4 at the Philly 44 with 4 minutes to play. Newton hit Murphy for 10 and the Eagles were close to being cooked. At the 2 minute warning, the Panthers faced 3rd and 3 at the Philly 27. On the previous 3rd down Ron Rivera risked a clock stoppage by trusting his quarterback, and Newton completed the pass. Again Rivera gambled, and again Newton came through, hitting Tolbert for 11 yards. Now it was over.

Both teams are 3-8, although the Eagles have lost 7 straight after winning 3 of their first 4 by a combined 4 points. Andy Reid and his staff is all on the chopping block, and Jeffrey Lurie is expected to clean house. Andy Reid is a good coach, and he turned losers into perennial winners. Yet there is no loyalty in sports, and this loss may be the last straw for a good man and a good coach who deserves much better. 30-22 Panthers

eric

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