NFL 2012 Week 9 Recap

NFL 2012 Week 9 Recap

Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers was the Thursday night game. The Chargers have lost 3 straight to fall to 3-4 while the Chiefs have dropped four straight to become a woeful 1-6. Norvelous Norv Turner must have compromising photos of the Spanos family because it seems he cannot get fired. Seeing the Chargers blow a 24-0 lead was not enough. Losing to woeful Cleveland 7-6 was not enough. Yet losing at home to the Chiefs would have been enough. That meant the Chargers would probably win.

San Diego exploded out of the gate. On 3rd and 5 from their 25, Philip Rivers found Ajirotutu for a 28 yard gain and Antonio Gates for 21 more. A 14 yard touchdown pass to Gates quickly had the Chargers up 7-0. The rest of the first three quarters was an unwatchable slog worthy of the AFC Worst.

San Diego got it back at their own 22 and Rivers led a 12 play drive that consumed over 8 minutes off of the clock. With 9 minutes left in the half, a 3rd and 9 completion from the Chiefs 14 came up 2 yards short. Norv Turner opted for the field goal and Nick Novak hit from 25 to make it 10-0 Chargers.

Kansas City then played ball control, which was good because it would get this game over with more quickly. They moved from their own 20 to a 3rd and 1 at the San Diego 31. Peyton Hillis got nothing, and on 4th and 1 Romeo Crennel opted for the field goal. Ryan Succop hit from 49 as the Chiefs trailed 10-3 at halftime. The CHargers missed a golden opportunity to put the game away just before the half when they moved from their 37 to a 3rd and goal at the one. Rivers went to the end zone and was intercepted.

The third quarter was even uglier. On 3rd and 1 from their own 35, Dexter McCluster got the carry and got nothing. The Chiefs punted, the Chargers fumbled it, and the Chiefs recovered at the Chargers 24. 3 plays netted only 3 yards, and a 39 yard field goal try by Succop was no good. The Chiefs got it back at their own 7, and moved all the way to a 4th and 5 at the San Diego 23. This time Succop was good from 41 and the Chiefs only trailed 10-6 after three quarters. Would Romeo Crennel be fired, or would Norvelous Norv Turner finally go?

The Fourth quarter was decisive, From their own 20, Ryan Mathews gained 31 yards. On 3rd and 3 from the Chiefs 31, Brown gained 7 and 9 more. Rivers threw a 13 yard touchdown to Malcolm Floyd as the Chargers led 17-6 with 11 1/2 minutes to go. The Chiefs soon faced 2nd and 13 from their own 5. Matt Cassel was sacked, fumbled, and Shawn Phillips recovered it in the end zone for a gift touchdown as the Chargers led 24-6. A few plays later facing 2nd and 8 from the San Diego 46, Cassel was intercepted by Williams. Williams returned it 59 yards for a touchdown and the Chargers now led a blowout 31-6.

Norv Turner is an offensive guru, and his game plan was to have 2 defensive touchdowns as Matt Cassel helped the other team. As for Rivers, he only threw 20 passes, completing 18 of them. Norv lived to coach another day. The Chiefs did score a garbage touchdown, which is fitting because they are playing like garbage. 31-13 Chargers

Denver Broncos @ Cincinnati Bengals–Peyton Manning is must-see tv, but the Broncos themselves are not and neither are the Bengals. Yet these teams did put together a good football game, which is all Americans ask for on an NFL Sunday.

After a Cincy punt, Denver faced 3rd and 4 from their 26. Manning found Thomas for 5. On 3rd and 3 from their 38, Manning found Bell for 7. Yet on 3rd and 6 from the Cincy 26, Jon Fox decided to cross up the Bengals with a running play. It gained one yard, and a 43 yard Matt Prater field goal made it 3-0 Broncos. After an exchange of punts, Cincinnati took over at their 33. Andy Dalton went deep to AJ Green for a 37 yard gain. On 3rd and 3 from the Denver 23, Dalton hit Green for 5. The Bengals began the second quarter with second and goal at the 10. The Bengals got no further as a 28 yard Mike Nugent field goal made it 3-3.

On 3rd and 2 from their 28, Manning found Thomas for 3 and then went deep to Thomas for a 45 yard gain. On 3rd and 2 from the 13, Manning found Eric Decker for the touchdown as the Broncos led 10-3. Defenses controlled the rest of the half with the closest thing resembling action being a missed Bengals field goal to close it out.

The third quarter exploded with action as Holliday took the kickoff 5 yards deep in the end zone and raced 105 yards to make it 17-3 Broncos. Yet the Bengals came right back. Dalton ran for 11 and found Gresham on a short pass that went for a 52 yard hain to the Denver 11. From the 10, Dalton hit Green for the score as the Bengals were within 17-10.

Manning moved the Broncos from their 17 to a 2nd and 7 at the Denver 9. Yet he was intercepted in the end zone by Terrence Newman to kill the threat. Cincinnati faced 3rd and 7 from their 234 and Dalton went deep to Sanu for a 34 yard gain. Yet on 3rd and 6 from the Denver 24, a sack of Dalton meant a Nugent attempt from 49 yards out. He was good, as the Bengals crept within 17-13 after three quarters.

The very end of the third quarter saw something bizarre. The ensuing kickoff after the field goal was downed by Ball at the one yard line. Perhaps he thought he was in the end zone, but Denver began in a hole. On 3rd and 8 from their 3, Manning was intercepted again as Cincinnati took over at the Denver 27. The fourth quarter began with Dalton hitting Green for 19 yards and Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis running it in from 2 yards out as 17 unanswered points had the Bengals up 20-17.

Denver faced 3rd and 3 from their 27 and Manning went to Decker for 30 yards and Thomas for 13 more. A deep ball drew a 29 yard defensive pass interference penalty, and on 1st and goal at the one, Manning hit Dreesen for the score. The Broncos retook the lead 24-20 with 12 minutes left in regulation.

With 9 minutes left the Bengals faced 3rd and 25 from their own 18. Dalton went deep and was intercepted. Denver took over at the Cincy 46 looking to put the game out of reach. On 3rd and 5, Manning found Brandon Stokley for 15. On 3rd and 1 from the 17, Willis McGahee gained 12. On 2nd and goal from the 4, Manning hit Decker for the touchdown. Only 3:40 remained, and Denver led by 11.

Needing two scores, Red Rifle Andy Dalton rapidly moved the Bengals from their 30 to a 3rd and 8 at the Denver 17 with one minute left. Yet Dalton was then sacked. The Bengals had to burn their last timeout. Nugent hit from 41 to make it an 8 point game, but the onsides kick failed. Manning overcame his two interceptions with three touchdown passes, as Denver stayed ahead in the AFC Worst while the Bengals under Marvin Lewis continued wasting their talent. 31-23 Broncos

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns–The Ravens have been devastated by injuries and despite being 5-2, their loss to Houston last week was a reality check. They have the benefit of a Cleveland team that has pretty much given up for the next decade. cleveland runs the West Coast Offense, which means throwing an incomplete pass on 3rd and 1 rather than run the ball. After the punt, Baltimore took over at their 30. Ray Rice ran for 7 and Joe Flacco hit Anquon Boldin for 6 more. On 3rd and 8 from their 45, Flacco found Boldin for just enough. Rice gained 11 and 4, and Flacco hit Dickson for 8 and Boldon for 16. Rice ran the final 8 yards as the Ravens made it look easy going up 7-0. They made it look this way because it was.

It was deja vu all over again as Cleveland faced 3rd and 1 at their own 32. Again, the West Coast Offense rather than a power run meant an incomplete pass and a punt. Baltimore soon faced 3rd and 5 from their 39 when Flacco hit Boldin for 6. Rice gained 9 and Flacco went to Torry Smith for a 26 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the Cleveland 12, the Ravens tried something unique called running the ball. Pierce got all of it for the touchdown as the Ravens led 14-0.

Cleveland would mount their version of a furious rally in the second quarter. They would face 3rd and 9 from the Baltimore 16. They run the West Coast Offense, which meant a 2 yard completion to pad the stats and a 32 yard field goal by Phil Dawson. Throwing past the marker on third down is not allowed as the Browns trailed 14-3. The Browns would get it back and it was again deja vu all over again yet again as they faced 3rd and 8 at the Baltimore 15. The West Coast Offense meant another dink and dunk pass, this time for 4 yards. Again, throwing past the marker is not allowed as Dawson hit from 29 to have the Browns trailing 14-6.

Cleveland would get it back at their own 39 and moved the Baltimore 11 with 5 seconds left in the half. Dawson connected from 29, but had the Browns had more time to work with they could have thrown an incompletion on 3rd and 1, so kicking the field goal early spared everybody and moved the game along as the Browns trailed 14-9 at halftime.

Brandon Weeden would throw an interception in the third quarter, but the Ravens cooled considerably after their early hot start. Midway through the third quarter the Browns got it back and faced 3rd and 2 at the Baltimore 48. In a stunning turn of events, they called a running play and Trent Richardson gained 3 yards. Unnecessary roughness on the next play had the Browns with 3rd and 4 at the Baltimore 24. Weeden gained 6. Yet on 3rd and 7 from the 15, Weeden threw incomplete. Dawson’s fourth field goal of the day from 33 yards had the Browns within 14-12 after three quarters.

With 12 minutes left in regulation, Cleveland faced 3rd and 6 from their 47. Defensive pass interference meant 7 yards and 1st and 10. Weeden hit Gordon for 12, Greg Little for 10, and on 3rd and 6 from the 18, Gordon for the touchdown. It was a miracle. Cleveland had reached the end zone. naturally, the play was wiped out by illegal formation. Phil Dawson’s 5th field goal from 41 yards out had the Browns winning 15-14. Would a major upset be in the cards?

Of course not. Despite giving up 5 straight field goals, the Ravens rubbed the sleep out of their eyes and the boredom than affected John Harbaugh’s team since going up 14-0 early on. From their 19, Flacco went deep to Boldin for a 40 yard gain. Roughing the passer would add 16 more yards. Ray Rice had a pair of 10 yard gains. On 3rd and 10 from the 19m Flacco hit Smith for the touchdown and Boldin for the 2 point conversion. The Ravens led 22-15 with 4 1/2 minutes left.

Yet asking the Browns to score one touchdown in two consecutive weeks was too much to ask. On 4th and 2 from their own 28, Pat Shurmer decided to go for it rather than punt and trust his defense with 4 minutes left. Weeden threw incomplete, and the Ravens were already in field goal range. Tucker hit from 43 to lock up the victory. The Ravens got to 6-2 while winning ugly while the Browns fell to 2-6 by losing ugly. These teams have been doing exactly this for years. 25-15 Ravens

Arizona Cardinals @ Green Bay Packers–Arizona began winning straight and then lost 4 straight. Now they travel to Green Bay to face a Packers team that is starting to get some of its mojo back after early season stumbles. Early in the game John “Red” Skelton was sacked and Arizona punted. Yet despite great field position thanks to a Randall Cobb return, Aaron Rodgers was sacked and Mason Crosby missed a 44 yard field goal to keep the game scoreless.

Green Bay took over at their own 16 and Rodgers went to work. From the 19, Rodgers hit Jones for 9 and Jermaine Finley for 19 and 6. Green ran for 21, and on 3rd and 18 from the Arizona 18, Rodgers scrambled up the middle for 9 yards. On 3rd and goal from the 13, Rodgers found Randall Cobb for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Packers.

On the first play of the second quarter, The Packers faced 2nd and 4 from their 40. Rodgers was intercepted, giving the Cardinals the ball at the Packers 43. Skelton went deep to Roberts for a 40 yard gain. Larod Stephens-Howling got the one yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.

After a touchback, Randall Cobb took a pair of end arounds for gains of 11 and 12. Starks took one for 9 yards and then ran conventionally for 3 and 4. On 3rd and 6 from the Arizona 38, Rodgers threw incomplete but the defense was offsides. On 3rd and 1, Green gained 2. On 3rd and 10, Rodgers found Donald Driver for just enough and on the next play Rodgers went deep and again found Cobb for the 21 yard touchdown. Green bay led 14-7, with more to come.

Green Bay got it back at their own 25 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the halfStarks gained 5 and then fumbled, but the Packers held on. Green caught a pass for 6 and ran for 2 and 5. On 3rd and 3 from their 45, Rodgers found Jones for 7 and Green for 19. At the 2 minute warning, Rodgers went deep to Jones for a 28 yard touchdown as the Packers were firmly in control 21-7.

Early in the third quarter Skelton was intercepted, giving the Packers gift field position at the Arizona 17. Green Bay failed to move the ball and settled for a 33 yard Mason Crosby field goal to lead 24-7. After an exchange of punts Arizona took over at their own 13. Skelton hit Malcolm Floyd for 17 and on 3rd and 10 found Housler for 11. Skelton went to Roberts for 23, and on 3rd and 5 from the Packers 31, hit Larry Fitzgerald for the score to get the Cardinals within 24-14.

Arizona got it back at their 24 and Stephens-Howling gained 11. Skelton hit Housler for 10 and again for 22. A 14 yard completion to Roberts and a 9 yard toss to Fitzgerald set up a critical 3rd and 1 from the 2. Stephens-Howling got the carry and got stoned cold. Now Ken Whisenhunt had a big decision to make. On 4th and 1 from the 2, he opted from the field goal. Jay Feely hit the 20 yarder as the Cardinals were only down 24-17 with 46 seconds left in the third quarter. Yet 2 plays later the game was iced. Rodgers went deep to Crabtree for a 72 yard touchdown.

The fourth quarter was scoreless as Arizona went 3 and out twice and saw their final gasp with 2 1/2 minutes die when a 4th and 3 pass from the Green Bay 34 was incomplete. Arizona has lost 5 straight and Mike McCarthy sees his Packers firmly in the hunt. Rodgers was only 14 of 30 for 218 yards, but four touchdown passes are more than enough on most days including this one. 31-17 Packers

Buffalo Bills @ Houston Texans–One of the worst teams travels on the road to play one of the best. This is not why they play the games. Sometimes Goliath takes David, beats him up, and steals his girlfriend and lunch money. League rules required that this game not be canceled.

Yet the Bills were surprisingly game, and they hung tough for most of the day. A mostly defensive first quarter saw the Texans take over at their own 23 late in the period. Matt Schaub hit Walter for 18 and Andre Johnson for 6 more. Arriun Foster gained 14 and Schaub went deep to Owen Daniels for a 39 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Texans after the first quarter. The Texans moved in the second quarter from their 27 to the Buffalo 19. Yet a sack and a penalty meant a 46 yard field goal try by Shane Graham. It was blocked. Buffalo took over at their 36 and Fred Jackson gained 13. Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Dickerson for 13 more and Jones for 14. Yet on 3rd and 9 from the 11, a completion left 4th and 2 at the 4. Chan Gailey opted for the field goal and Ryan Lindell hit the 22 yarder as the Bills were only down 7-3 with 1:45 left in the half. Houston went 3 and out and Buffalo took over at their own 33 with 52 seconds left to work with. Fitzpatrick hit CJ Spiller for 12 yards and Jones for 19. Spiller gained 22 and with 16 seconds left in the half Buffalo had 1st and 10 at the Houston 14. Yet Fitzpatrick was sacked and Buffalo settled for a 38 yard Lindell field goal. The Bills only trailed 7-6 at intermission.

Buffalo went 3 and out to start the third quarter with 3 straight incompletions. Martin returned the punt 26 yards to the Buffalo 43. On 3rd and 5 Schaub went deep to Johnson for a 34 yard gain. Foster gained one and then the last 3 yards as the Texans were doing just enough on offense to lead 14-6.

Buffalo took over at their own 23. Fitzpatrick kept throwing, finding Jones for 15 and Chandler for 27 yards. Yet on 3rd and 2 from the Houston 21, Fitzpatrick threw incomplete. Again Chan Gailey decided to play it safe, and Lindell hit from 39. The Bills were still hanging around down 14-9 after three quarters.

Houston took over at their own 32 late in the third quarter and Schaub hit Walter for 10, Daniels for 12 to midfield, and Johnson for 14. The fourth quarter began with Foster running for 8 and 3 more. Schaub hit Johnson for 18 to the 9. On 3rd and goal from the 5, Schaub hit Graham for the touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Houston was sluggish most of the game, but they scored touchdowns while Buffalo kicked field goals. It was hardly beautiful, but Houston is 7-1 while Buffalo is on the verge of extending the longest playoff drought since the 1999 season when an Adelphia Miracle ended their season. Now their seasons end in October. 21-9 Texans

Miami Dolphins @ Indianapolis Colts–Despite being two of the worst teams in the league last year would be in the playoffs today if the season ended. President Obama decided to give a speech in South Florida at the same time as this game. Luckily the game is a road game for Dolphins fans. Nevertheless, a few thousand people may go watch Mr. Obama while 70,000 will watch the game. Anybody wondering which will have higher ratings on television needs to understand the power of the NFL.

Indy came out throwing from their 30 as Andrew Luck hit Avery for 16 yards. On 3rd and 12 from their 44, Luck found Allen for 22 more. Yet on 3rd and 1 from the Miami 25, Donald Carter got stopped. After a false start, Adam Vinatieri missed from 48 to keep it scoreless. Miami took over at their 39 and Ryan Tannehill hit Duane Bess for 14 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the Indy 43, Tennehill found Brad Hartline for 13 yards. A sack of Tannehill meant a 37 yard field goal try from Dan Carpenter. He made it to make it 3-0 Dolphins.

The Colts came back and soon faced 3rd and 2 from their 28. Luck hit Reggie Wayne for 9 yards. On 3rd and 14 from their 33, Luck hit Hilton for a 25 yard gain. Defensive pass interference added 32 yards. On 3rd and goal at the 9 Luck hit Wayne for the score to make it 7-3 Colts after the first quarter.

After a touchback Tannehill went deep to Hartline for 35 yards and again for 10 more as the Dolphins began the second quarter with 1st and 10 at the Indy 35. Tannehill went deep to Clay for a 31 yard touchdown as the Dolphins retook the lead 10-7. After the touchback, Luck came right back with a 48 yard completion to Avery. On 3rd and 3 Luck hit Ballard for 14. Yet the drive got no further than the 5. Vinatieri hit from 23 as the game was tied 10-10.

Miami got it right back and on 3rd and 8 from their 22 Ryan Tannehill hit Reggie Bush for 19 and Thomas for 11. Thomas then ran for 20. On 3rd and 1 from the 19, Thomas got the yard. On the next play, despite his having dated a Kardashian, Reggie Bush ran for the 18 yard touchdown to make it 17-10 Dolphins.

Indianapolis missed a chance to get closer when a 54 yard Vinatieri field goal try was blocked. Yet with only 1:15 left in the half, the Cotls got it back at their own 13. Luck hit Allen for 12, Wayne for 13 and 12 to midfield, ran for 5 himself, and hit Brazill for 6. On 3rd and 20 from just past midfield, Luck hit Hilton for the 20 needed. Yet the Colts had to take their last timeout with 12 seconds left. Vinatieri hit from 47 to have the Colts within 17-13 at intermission.

With 6 minutes left in the third quarter the Colts faced 3rd and 6 from their own 22. Luck hit Ballard for 15. On 3rd and 16 from their 31, Luck found Brazill for 19. Carter gained 9 and 5, and Luck went deep to Hilton for a 36 yard touchdown as the Colts had the 20-17 lead.

Miami took over at their 35 and Tannehill hit Hartline for 15. The fourth quarter began with Miami facing 3rd and 5 at the Indy 42. Tannehill hit Bess for gains of 13 and 16, but 1st and 10 from the 13 was followed by 3 incompletions. Carpenter hit the 31 yarder as the game was tied 20-20 with 13 minutes left in regulation.

On 3rd and 11 from their own 5, Luck hit Allen for a pair of 20 yard gains. On 3rd and 3 from the Miami 45, Luck hi Wayne for 6. Ballard gained 10 and 2, but on 3rd and 6 from the Miami 25, Luck threw incomplete. After 13 plays and 7 minutes, the tie game came down to Vinatieri from 43 yards. He nailed it and the Colts had the 3 point lead.

Miami would punt on one possession and get it back at their own 17 with 2:40 to play. With 1:48 left Miami faced 4th and 15 from their 45. Tannehill rolled to his right, threw across the middle of the field, and somehow completed a duck to Thomas. Yet Thomas was one yard short of the marker, and offensive holding would have nullified the play anyway. Tannehill was decked on the play and the Colts had the tough win.

This was a fine football game, and these teams are no longer losers. Joe Philbin has a 4-4 team and the Colts are 5-3. Luck set the rookie record with 433 yards passing, going 30 of 48 and a pair of touchdowns. Tannehill is turning out to be very good as well, going 22 of 38 for 290 yards and one touchdown. There were zero turnovers in this game, which is another reason these teams are vastly improved. 23-20 Colts

Miami got it right back and on 3rd and 8 from their 22 Ryan Tannehill hit Reggie Bush for 19 and Thomas for 11. Thomas then ran for 20. On 3rd and 1 from the 19, Thomas got the yard. On the next play, despite his having dated a Kardashian, Reggie Bush ran for the 18 yard touchdown to make it 17-10 Dolphins.

Indianapolis missed a chance to get closer when a 54 yard Vinatieri field goal try was blocked. Yet with only 1:15 left in the half, the Cotls got it back at their own 13. Luck hit Allen for 12, Wayne for 13 and 12 to midfield, ran for 5 himself, and hit Brazill for 6. On 3rd and 20 from just past midfield, Luck hit Hilton for the 20 needed. Yet the Colts had to take their last timeout with 12 seconds left. Vinatieri hit from 47 to have the Colts within 17-13 at intermission.

With 6 minutes left in the third quarter the Colts faced 3rd and 6 from their own 22. Luck hit Ballard for 15. On 3rd and 16 from their 31, Luck found Brazill for 19. Carter gained 9 and 5, and Luck went deep to Hilton for a 36 yard touchdown as the Colts had the 20-17 lead.

Miami took over at their 35 and Tannehill hit Hartline for 15. The fourth quarter began with Miami facing 3rd and 5 at the Indy 42. Tannehill hit Bess for gains of 13 and 16, but 1st and 10 from the 13 was followed by 3 incompletions. Carpenter hit the 31 yarder as the game was tied 20-20 with 13 minutes left in regulation.

On 3rd and 11 from their own 5, Luck hit Allen for a pair of 20 yard gains. On 3rd and 3 from the Miami 45, Luck hi Wayne for 6. Ballard gained 10 and 2, but on 3rd and 6 from the Miami 25, Luck threw incomplete. After 13 plays and 7 minutes, the tie game came down to Vinatieri from 43 yards. He nailed it and the Colts had the 3 point lead.

Miami would punt on one possession and get it back at their own 17 with 2:40 to play. With 1:48 left Miami faced 4th and 15 from their 45. Tannehill rolled to his right, threw across the middle of the field, and somehow completed a duck to Thomas. Yet Thomas was one yard short of the marker, and offensive holding would have nullified the play anyway. Tannehill was decked on the play and the Colts had the tough win.

This was a fine football game, and these teams are no longer losers. Joe Philbin has a 4-4 team and the Colts are 5-3. Luck set the rookie record with 433 yards passing, going 30 of 48 and a pair of touchdowns. Tannehill is turning out to be very good as well, going 22 of 38 for 290 yards and one touchdown. There were zero turnovers in this game, which is another reason these teams are vastly improved. 23-20 Colts

Detroit Lions @ Jacksonville Jaguars–The Lions have regressed since last year while the Jaguars may be the worst team in football. Jacksonville may be the only city in America where a political rally will get almost as many fans as an NFL home game, not counting road fans of course. Old reliable Jason Hanson was not so in the first quarter, doinking a 47 yard field goal try off the upright. That was the closest thing to a highlight.

Late in the opening quarter Detroit faced 3rd and 7 from their own 12. Matthew Stafford went to Megatron Calvin Johnson for 10 yards and Leshoure ran for 14 more. A 26 yard completion to Johnson had the Lions at the Jacksonville 37 as the second quarter began. Stafford went to Johnson again for 18. On 3rd and 3 from the 12, Stafford hit Broyles for 5. Leshoure ran the final 7 yards to make it 7-0 Lions. Detroit got it back at their own 47. On 3rd and 9 Stafford hit Brandon Pettigrew for 11. On 3rd and 8 from the Jacksonville 39, Stafford went deep to Johnson for a 38 yard gain. Leshoure got the last yard to make it 14-0 Lions.

Detroit got it back and faced 3rd and 4 at their 35 with under 4 minutes left in the half. Stafford threw incomplete, but defensive pass interference added 20 yards. Stafford found Johnson for 12, and faced 3rd and 7 from the Jags 40 with 1:20 left in the half. Stafford hit Bell for 12 and Titus Young for 17. An 8 yard touchdown run by Leshoure had the Lions up 21-0 at halftime.

The Lions coasted because they could, as a scoreless third quarter was followed by a 42 yard Hanson field goal early in the fourth to make it 24-0 Lions. Blaine Gabbert would throw a 5 yard touchdown to Michael Spurlock with 9 minutes remaining, and the 2 point conversion had the Jaguars down 24-8. There would be no comeback as the Lions moved to ice the game. Stafford hit Johnson for 18 after a touchback and on 3rd and 2 from their 46 Stafford hit Broyles for 7. Bell caught a 14 yard reception and then ran for 11, 7, and the 10 yard touchdown to make it 31-8 Lions.

Jacksonville would get one more garbage touchdown, but garbage is exactly how the Jaguars played in front of their own fans. Jim Schwartz knows his Lions need to get better, but a convincing road win over a bad team is what good teams are supposed to do. The Lions did. 31-14 Lions

Chicago Bears @ Tennessee Titans–The Bears again under Lovie Smith are not as good as their record while the Titans have regressed since last year under Mike Munchak. Yet Jay Cutler and veteran Matt Hasselbeck know how to throw the ball. On the first play from scrimmage, Hasselbeck found Kenny Britt deep for a 43 yard gain. Of course Britt fumbled the ball away. Midway through the first quarter the Titans punted from their own 20. It was blocked by McManis and recovered by Wootton, who returned it 5 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-0 Bears.

Chicago got it back and quickly faced 2nd and 14 from their own 5. Webb was called for an offensive holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety. The Titans were within 7-2, but the free kick resulted in them punting it back on 4th and 27 from their own 9. The nightmare for Tennessee was just getting started, and by the end of this game it would be hard to believe it started 0-0.

Devon Hester returned the punt 44 yards to the Tennessee 8, ever so close to extending his own NFL touchdown returns record. Matt Forte needed one play to run into the end zone to make it 14-2 Bears. 2 plays later Matt Hasselbeck put the game out of reach by throwing an interception to Brian Urlacher. Urlacher returned it 46 yards for a score and all of a sudden it was 21-2 Bears. On the next play from scrimmage the Titans fumbled and the Bears took over at the Tennessee 16. On 3rd and 7 Jay Cutler hit Brandon Marshall for the 13 yard touchdown. The Bears set a franchise record for most points in the first quarter. They led 28-2 after one and could have won 112-8 had they tried harder.

The Bears would pile it on but even they did not get as much as they could have. They tacked on a field goal in the second quarter and with 1:15 left in the half had 1st and 10 at the Titans 14 on a drivbe that had them backed up to their own 9. Yet Cutler was sacked and fumbled. That led to a Tennessee field goal as the half ended, but it was hard to fault the Bears for being up by 26 instead of 36.

Tennessee did try to make a game of it in the third quarter when Hasselbeck threw a 30 yard touchdown to Nate Washington. Yet down 31-12, the Titans would see the Bears continue their avalanche of points. After the touchback, Forte ran for a 46 yard gain with a horsecollar tackle adding 15 more. A 3rd  and goal from the 5 pass to Forte lost 2 yards, but a 25 yard Robbie Gould field goal made it 34-12 Bears. Deja vu all over again had the Bears moving from their 20 to a 3rd and goal at the 4. Yet Cutler threw incomplete and Gould hit from 22. Once again it is hard to criticize a team up 37-12, although Lovie Smith will talk about improvements in goal line situations.

In the fourth quarter Cutler would throw a 39 yard touchdown to Marshall, and Tennessee needed one play from scrimmage to turn it over again. The Bears recovered the fumble at the Titans 2 yard line, and on 3rd and goal at the 5 Cutler hit Marshall for the score. With 10 1/2 minutes still to play, the Bears had a 51-12 lead.

Tennessee would get a touchdown when Chris Johnson broke free for an 80 yard run. The 2 point conversion had the Titans within 31 points. The onsides kick failed, and the Bears took over at the Tennessee 42. Lovie Smith kept it on the ground rather than throw the ball like classless coaches do in this situation. Allen ran for 10, 3, 6, 5, 3, 8, 0, and 2 to set up 3rd and goal at the 5. Allen took the ball again and lost 7 yards. On 4th and goal from the 12 with 4 minutes left, a classy Lovie Smith decided not to bring on the field goal unit to run up the score. He handed it to Allen for the 10th straight time up the middle for a 2 yard gain and left it at that.

The game was a statement, but perhaps a bigger statement needs to be made. While these Bears are not the 1940 Monsters of the Midway or the 1985 Super Bowl Shufflers. Yet they are 7-1. Various Bears teams in 2001, 2005, and 2007 have coasted on an easy record to the playoffs and lost badly at home. Even the 2006 Super Bowl team was not as good as the top 4 AFC teams that year. Yet despite the legendary Dennis Green scream that “the Bears are who we thought they were,” maybe that is not the case this year. They could still be pretenders, but 51 points on the road is not who we think even good teams are. This is a quality Chicago football team. 51-20 Bears

Carolina Panthers @ Washington Redskins–Carolina is a woeful 1-6 while Washington is vastly improved. Last year’s phenom Cam Newton is struggling while Robert Grffin III is this year’s playmaker. Carolina hung tough and lost a heartbreaker at the gun last week, and this week they moved from their 20 to a 4th and 9 at the Washington 38. Ron Rivera decided to punt and play field position.

Washington would face 3rd and 10 from their own 3 when a completion only got half. Yet roughing the passer gave the Redskins a second chance. On 3rd and 6 from the Washington 27, Griffin hit Morgan for 16 and Paulsen for 12. The drive stalled, but Forbath hit from 47 to make it 3-0 Redskins.

Carolina came back and had 3rd and 1 from their 40. Newton gained 3 and the ground game did the rest. Stewart took an end around 17 yards, Newton went around the end again for 10 more, and a third straight run around the right end was a 30 yard Deangelo Williams touchdown run to make it 7-3 Panthers.

In the second quarter Washington began after a touchback and held the ball for a staggering 10 minutes. On 4th and 3 from the Carolina 38, Mike Shanahan went for it and RGIII hit Morgan for 6 yards. On 4th and 1 from the 10 Shanahan went for it again and Young gained 3. On 3rd and goal at the 4, a completion only got half of it. On 4th and goal at the 2, for the third time on the drive, Shanahan kept throwing. RGIII got nothing. From their 2, Carolina soon faced 3rd and 2 from the 10, Newton gained 11. On 3rd and 6 from the 25, Newton hit Greg Olsen for 17 and Stewart for 6. Roughing the passer added 15 more and Newton went back to Olsen for another 8. Defensive pass interference tacked on 7 more yards to make it 1st and 10 at the Washington 19. On 3rd and 10 Newton went to Steve Smith for the touchdown as the Panthers took the 14-3 lead at halftime.

The third quarter belonged to the defenses, although Washington did move from their 23 with RGIII finding Hankerson for 25 yards. Yet on 3rd and 6 from the Carolina 11, a running play gained only half of it. Shanahan would not be gambling this time as Forbath connected from 25 as the Redskins still trailed 14-6 entering the fourth quarter.

The first play of the fourth quarter was the play of the game. From their own 9, Newton went deep and connected with Edwards for an 82 yard gain to the Washington 9. Defensive pass interference moved the ball to the one and Newton took it in. The Panthers had a commanding 21-6 lead with 13 minutes left in regulation. With 6 minutes left in the game the Redskins faced 4th and 10 from their 43 after 3 incompletions. RGII was sacked to end the threat. The Panthers would miss a 50 yard field goal, but at this point it did not matter. A Washington touchdown with 1:34 to play made the score look respectable, but after a failed onsides kick it was over. This one was a surprise, as the shootout turned out to be a defensive hard fought road win for beleaguered Carolina and a head-scratcher for Washington. 21-13 Panthers

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

The Raiders at 3-4 have won consecutive games against two of the worst teams in the league. A home game against another subpar Tampa Bay team separated the Raiders from a .500 record. Yet The battle of pirates has been misery for the Raiders overall. It has been a decade since the Buccaneers shellacked the Raiders in the Super Bowl, beginning their decade long slide. A couple of years later the Raiders won the game but an injury late ended Rich Gannon’s career. The 2012 Pirate Bowl was once again a nightmare for the Silver and Black.

This game saw only 3 points in the opening quarter, 14 in the second quarter, 21 in the third quarter, and a 36 point fourth quarter explosion for 17 first half points and 57 second half points.

A slugfest early on saw the Buccaneers on their second drive move from their own 10 to a 4th and 7 at the Oakland 17. 30 yards in penalties against the Oakland defense started the drive. Yet the 35 yard Connor Barth field goal try was blocked by Lamar Houston to keep the game scoreless. Houston returned the blocked kick 34 yards to the Tampa 44. On 3rd and 3, the Bucs jumped offsides. Darren McFadden was hurt on his very first carry with a high ankle sprain, but he stayed in the game. He rushed for only 17 yards on his first 7 carries, but on this drive gains of 5 and 7 moved the Raiders along. Carson Palmer hit Mike Goodson for an 11 yard gian to set up 1st and goal at the 10. Yet as has been the case too often with the Raiders, the red zone was the dead zone. McFadden lost a yard and Palmer threw incomplete twice as the Raiders settled for a 29 yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal to lead 3-0 after the opening quarter.

The second quarter began with the Buccaneers facing 3rd and 15 at their own 15. Josh Freeman then went deep to Vincent Jackson, who burned the Raiders repeatedly when he was in San Diego. Jackson did it again, catching a 64 yard completion. A taunting penalty on Jakson moved the Bucs back, but from the 36 the Raiders were introduced to Oakland born running back Doug Martin. Martin would gash them before the day was over. On this drive he ran for 3 and 13, and Freeman went back to Jackson for a 20 yard touchdown as the Buccaneers led 7-3 early in the second quarter.

The next drive was just a blunder bowl, with some big plays thrown in. On 3rd and 3 from their 27, Palmer hit Denarius Moore for 21 yards. Yet a sack of Palmer had the Raiders punting on 4th and 20 from their 38. Yet roughing the kicker instead meant 1st and 10 at the Tampa 47. Palmer went deep to Derek Hagan for a 47 yard touchdown, but offensive holding nullified the score. On 4th and 13 from midfield, Shane Lechler came out to punt again. Dennis Allen called a fake punt, and Lechler completed the pass to Taiwan Jones. Yet Jones fumbled the ball. He recoverd it, but the Raiders only gained 6 yards and turned it over on downs.Yet on 4th and 5 from the Oakland 38, Greg Schiano opted to punt it back.

With 1:42 left in the half, the Raiders took over at their own 29. Palmer went deep to Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 46 yard gain. On 3rd and 10 Palmer fired to Rod Streater for the touchdown as the Raiders led 10-7 at halftime. They led Miami at halftime before getting blown out 35-13. The second half was too bizarre to fathom.

The third quarter was almost as nightmarish as the Super Bowl a decade earlier. Tampa faced 2nd and 3 from their 27 and Martin ran for 10 and 6. Freeman hit Ware for 12 yards, and Martin rambled for a 45 yard touchdown as the Bucaneers regained the lead 14-10. Oakland went 3 and out, and the Bucs faced 3rd and 5 from their 45. Freeman hit Williams for a 37 yard gain. Martin gained 6 and 1, and on 3rd and 3 from the 11 Lamar Houston was offsides. Freeman hit Williams for the 4 yard touchdown to make it 21-10 Buccaneers.

Palmer moved the Raiders from their 20 to 1st and 10 at the Tampa 38. Yet dinking and dunking under Dennis Allen only increases the chances for disaster, and Palmer was intercepted by Johnson. From the Tampa 33, Martin broke into the clear again, rumbling for a 67 yard touchdown as the 21 point Buccaneers third quarter had the Raiders trailing 28-10 going into the fourth.

After a touchback, Palmer hit Moore for 12, Brandon Myers for 11, and Marcel Reece for a 26 yard gain. Palmer went back to Reece for 15 more as the Raiders began the fourth quarter at the Tampa 21. Palmer hit Goodson for 12 and Myers for a 4 yard touchdown as the Raiders were within 28-17 less than one minute into the fourth quarter. Yet only seconds later they were down by 18 again as one play from scrimmage was enough for Martin to break free yet again for a 70 yard touchdown. This keystone cops effort by the run defense had the Buccaneers back up 35-17. At this point Palmer mounted a furious rally.

From the 20, Palme hit Streater for gains of 8 and 15 and Moore for 26 more. On 3rd and 5 from the Tampa 21, Palmer hit Streater for 6. Defensive pass interference put the ball on the one, and Palmer hit Myers for the touchdown to get the Raiders within 35-24 with 10 minutes to play.

The onsides kick failed, and Tampa took over at the Oakland 44. Yet on 2nd and 3 from the 27, the Raiders received a break when Freeman fumbled and Richard Seymour recovered. The Raiders took over at their own 35. On 3rd and 10 Palmer hit Reece for 20 and Hagan for 6. With 6 minutes left and 4th and 2 from the Tampa 37, Palmer threw incomplete. Yet defensive pass interference meant a 13 yard gain and new life. On 4th and 2 from the 16, Palmer gained 3 and then hit Reece for the 13 yard touchdown. The 2 point conversion to Criner succeeded. The Raiders were down 35-32 with 4 minutes left. The Raiders had all of their timeouts. Despite Martin running wild all day, Greg Schiano called some pass plays rather than grind it out. The Bucs netted one yard, and the Raiders got it back at their own 38 with 2:42 to play and 2 timeouts. A miracle comeback for the ages was still possible.

Then it wasn’t. Palmer went deep and was intercepted by Black. Black returned it 34 yards to the Oakland 22. The Silver and Black desperately needed a stop on defense again, and this time none was coming. Martin gained 13, 8, and then the final yard to put the Buccaneers back up by 10 1:48 to play. Palmer would go deep again and get intercepted again to snuff out the rally.

Freeman was 18 of 30 for 247 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the real star was Doug Martin. He rushed for 251 yards, 10 yards per carry, and 4 touchdowns. Carson Palmer put the ball in the air 61 times, completing 39 of them for 414 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, all late, the last one after the outcome was decided. The Buccaneers are 4-4 and the Raiders fell to 3-5. This was another double digit loss. What Dennis Allen is doing is not working. The offense only moves when Palmer is unleashed. The vertical game actually is working. Yet the dink and dunk West Coast Offense is killing the Raiders in games. In this game the offense was terrible in the first half and the defense was pathetic in the second half. This looks to be a conditioning issue. A couple of wins over awful teams does not change the fact that the Raiders lost a very winnable game. This team appears set to fall apart down the stretch and perhaps go 4-12 like they did under Joe Bugel. Al Davis is rolling over in his grave after another loss to the Buccaneers. 42-32 Buccaneers

Minnesota Vikings @ Seattle Seahawks–Both of these teams are much improved from last year but still not good enough to quiet the skeptics. Adrian Peterson never should have had skeptics, and he would gash Seattle for 182 yards on the day. After the opening touchback, Peterson gained 5 yards, broke free for a 74 yard run down to the one, and then got the last yard to make it 7-0 Vikings only 90 seconds into the game. Yet on their next possession, facing 3rd and 10 from their own 11, Percy Harvin gained 8 yards before fumbling. Seattle took over at the Minnesota 17. Marshawn Lynch ran for 3 and 8 and Russell Wilson hit Golden Tate for the 6 yard score to make it 7-7.

Later in the quarter Seattle took over at their 22. Wilson hit Tate for 5 and Sidney Rice for a 23 yard gain to midfield. Lynch gained 3 and 10, and then Pete Carroll went to the bag of tricks. Wilson got it to Rice, and Rice threw the halfback option deep to Zach Miller for a 25 yard gain down to the 12. On 3rd and 9 from the 11, Wilson hit Rice for the touchdown as Seattle led 14-7 after the first quarter.

Minnesota came right back from their 20. On 3rd and 7 Ponder hit Jenkins for just enough. Harvin gained 6 and Ponder hit Simpson for 14 as the Vikings began the second quarter at midfield. On 3rd and 4 from the 44, a defensive pass interference penalty went for 24 yards. Ponder hit Reisner for 13 and Peterson ran for 2 and the last 4 to tie the game 14-14.

Seattle failed to convert on 3rd and 1, and Minnesota got it back at their own 24. Ponder gained 8, and Peterson ran wild on consecutive plays, gaining 24 and 15. Harvin gained another 15, but on 3rd and 7 from the 11 Ponder was sacked to kill the drive. Walsh hit a 36 yard field goal as the Vikings led 17-14 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half.

Seattle took over after a touchback and went tothe gorund game. Lynch gained 4, Robinson 6, and Lynch 8 more. On 3rd and 4 from the Seattle 36, Wilson hit Rice for 7. On 3rd and 7 from the Seattle 46, Wilson hit Baldwin but came up one yard short. With 1:52 left in the half, Pete Carroll decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from the Minnesota 48. Wilson got the yard, and then went deep to Miller for a 22 yard gain. From the 20, Wilson hit Turbin for 9 and Tate for the 11 yard touchdown with 52 seconds left in the half. The extra point was blocked, but the Seahawks led 20-17 at halftime. The first half was a track meet, but the second half would be considerably slower.

After an exchange of punts in the third quarter, Seattle took over at their 28. Tate gained 13 and 8, and Wilson ran for 8 and 2. On 3rd and 10 from the Minnesota 43, Wilson was sacked. Yet the defense was offsides. On 3rd and 5 Wilson hit Tate for 6. Lynch ran for 23 yards, 3 more, and the final 3 for the touchdown to make it 27-17 Seahawks.

Minnesota again came back from their 19 as Peterson ran for a 28 yard gain. Unsportsmanlike conduct added 15 to the Seattle 41. Seattle gained only 4 more yards, and Walsh leveled a 55 yard field goal to get the Vikings within 27-20 after three quarters.

Seattle would get it back after an exchange of punts and face 2nd and 13 from their 37. Wilson hit Lynch for 23 yards, and Lynch ran for 7 and 2. On 3rd and 1 from the Minnesota 31, Wilson hit Robinson for 16. A sack of Wilson ended the drive, but Hauchska hit the critical 40 yard field goal to make it a 10 point game and put it out of reach. Ponder was quickly intercepted, and Seattle ran out the last 5 1/2 minutes.

Lynch gained 124 yards and Wilson was 16 of 24 for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns with 0 interceptions. Ponder was awful, going 11 of 22 for 63 yards and the one interception late. Both teams are 5-4, but Minnesota fans still are not sold on Ponder. 30-20 Seahawks

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Giants–This game was played with the backdrop of heavy hearts from Hurricane Sandy. The decision was made not to move the game. The STeelers decided to come in the day of the game rather than the day before and fly out the same night. This was so they would not take up hotel rooms that were desperately needed by displaced New Yorkers and New Jerseyites. Yet Mike Tomlin and Tom COughlin have no patience for excuses, and both teams knew they had a job to do.

A scoreless first quarter saw the Giants fail to convert on 3rd and 1 and later have Eli Manning throw an interception. Pittsburgh took over at their own 42, and began the second quarter with a critical 3rd and 4 at the Giants 23. Ben Roethlisberger hit Johnson for 5 yards. Ian Redman ran for 7, 5, and 2 and Roethlisberger hit Emanuel Sanders for the 4 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Giants.

The Giants took over at their own 28. From their 39, Manning went deep and drew a 41 yard defensive pass interference penalty. On 3rd and 2 from the 12, Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 4, 3, and 3. On 3rd and goal at the 2 Manning threw incomplete, but a personal foul on the defense put the ball on the one. Brown got in to tie the game 7-7.

Rainey returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to the Giants 48. Yet on 2nd and 5 from the Giants 32, major controversy ensued. Roetholisberger went back to pass and was hit as he was throwing. His arm was clearly going forward when the ball slipped out. It was not even a “tuck rule” case. Boley picked it up and raced 70 yards the other way for a Giants touchdown. Yet not only did the replay clearly show his arm going forward, there was also an illegal block on the play. A shocked Roethlisberger saw the officials say that the play stood. Even some of the Giants seemed surprised to be leading 14-7. Roger Goodell was at this game, and thankfully nobody asked him if these were the replacement refs.

The last 90 seconds of the half would be a struggle to see who would score next. Pittsburgh faced 3rd and 7 from the Giants 41. Yet long field goal range became a punt when Roethlisberger was sacked for a 12 yard loss. The Giants quickly moved from their 20 to the Pittsburgh 33. Yet with 30 seconds left in the half, Lawrence Tynes was no good from 51 yards out. From the Pittsburgh 41, Big Ben hit Jerricho Cotchery for 24 yards as the Steelers called their last timeout with 20 seconds left. A 23 yard completion to Heath Miller allowed Big Ben to spike the ball with 5 seconds left. Suisham hit the 30 yarder as the Steelers trailed 14-10 at halftime.

In the third quarter the Giants moved from their own 7 to a 2nd and 7 at the Pittsburgh 32. Yet the Giants got no further. Tynes nailed a 50 yarder as the Giants led 17-10.

The Steelers got it back at their own 6, and from their 20, Roethlisberger was intercepted by Webster. The Giants took over at the Pittsburgh 33. On 3rd and 1, Brown gained 8. The Giants reached 2nd and goal at the 2, but Brown lost 3 yards. Manning threw incomplete and again the Giants settled for a 23 yard Tynes field goal. Big Blue led 20-10 after three quarters, but this game was far from done.

The fourth quarter began with the Steelers facing 3rd and 5 just shy of midfield. Roethlisberger found Mike Wallace over the middle, and the speedster got to the outside, and just outraced everybody for a 51 yard touchdown. Only one minute into the fourth quarter, the Steelers trailed 20-17.

The Giants went 3 and out after Manning was sacked for an 11 yard loss. Emanuel Sanders took the punt and raced 63 yards, finally being taken down at the Giants 12 yard line. That proved to be key. On 3rd and 1 from the 3, Big Ben completed a pass to Redman, who ran into a Big Blue brick wall. On 4th and 1 from the 3, Mike Tomlin decided to settle for the field goal. Yet Tomlin went to his bag of tricks, and it was a fake. A shovel pass to kicker Suisham was snuffed out when Coe, the only Giant in the area, made a perfect tackle. With 10 1/2 minutes left, this hard-nosed game saw both defenses make big stands.

The Giants again went 3 and out and the Steelers got it back just shy of midfield. Roethlisberger hit Miller for 14 yards and Cotchery for 12. On 3rd and 7 from the 14 Redman only gained 5, but the GIants jumped offsides. With 3rd and 2 instead of 4th and 2, Redman gained 8 and then got the final yard for the go ahead touchdown. The Steelers had a 4 point lead with 4 minutes to play.

The Giants yet again went 3 and out and on 4th and 9 from their own 13 but with all 3 timeouts and 3 minutes to play, Tom Coughlin decided to punt and trust his defense. Now it came down to attitude. The Steeler running game would bang into the Giants defense.

A pair of runs went nowhere and the Giants took 2 timeouts. With 2:40 left the Steelers faced 3rd and 9 from their 29. Mike Tomlin has cojones of steel, and he called a pass play knowing that an incompletion would stop the clock while a run would force the Giants into using their last timeout. The gamble paid off as Big Ben hit Sanders for a 16 yard gain. On the next play Redman broke free for a 28 yard gain. Roethlisberger knelt 3 times and the game was over.

This was more than just a tough football game between two classy organizations with good records, the Steelers 5-3 and the Giants 6-3. This was a brief respite from the real pain going on, and both coaches alluded to that. A scary moment came late when Raines got leveled and was on the ground. Players on both teams knelt together in prayer, and Raines eventually walked off the field with help. While neither of these teams would have a first round bye if the season ended, this would not be a bad rematch in February. Last year the Giants began 6-2 before losing 4 straight and then righting the ship. This year they came in 6-2 with a stranglehold on the division by 2 1/2 games. Yet losing today should not set off the panic button. As for both teams, the Rooneys and the Maras have given much to the NFL, and both teams gave the fans a reason to watch today. 24-20 Steelers

Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons is the Sunday night game. Mike Smith may look like an average non-descript white guy named Mike Smith, but he has an unbeaten football team. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys have been one of biggest underachievers this year. While this had the makings of a blowout, as uber-announcer Chris Berman reminds us, “That’s why they play the games.”

Both quarterbacks played well, with Tony Romo going 25 for 35 with 321 yards and a touchdown. Matt Ryan went 24 of 34 for 342 yards. Yet despite the stats, the first three quarters was a defensive bonelock that saw neither team reach the end zone.

Atlanta went 3 and out and Dallas got the first big break of the game when Harris returned the punt 37 yards to the Atlanta 32. Romo hit Miles Austin for 9 and Kevin Ogletree for 10. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 5, Romo threw incomplete. Dan Bailey hit from 23 to make it 3-0 Cowboys. Atlanta moved from their 20 to a 2nd and 2 at the Dallas 18. Yet Michael Turner got nothing and Jaquez Rodgers lost a yard. Matt Bryant came in for the 37 yard field goal to tie it, but it was no good.

Dallas took over and soon faced 3rd and 20 from their own 17. One play made the difference as Romo went deep to Ogletree for a 65 yard gain. Yet on 2nd and 6 from the 14, Romo threw incomplete twice. Bailey hit from 32 as Dallas led 6-0 after the first quarter.

From the Atlanta 27, Ryan went to Julio Jones for 20 yards. On 3rd and 7 from midfield, Ryan hit Roddy White for 18 yards. On the first play of the second quarter, on 3rd and 7 from the Dallas 29, Ryan hit Jason Snelling for only a 2 yard gain. Depite the earlier miss, Bryant was good from 45 as Atlanta trailed 6-3. Dallas moved from their 19 to a 4th and 7 at the Atlanta 36. Bailey came in for a 54 yarder, and it was no good. This gave Atlanta good field position at their own 44. They faced an almost identical 4th and 3 at the Dallas 36. Yet with one missed field goal for each team, Mike Smith at this point decided to play field position and punt. Dallas took over at their own 3 with 6 minutes left in the half. At the 2 minute warning they faced 3rd and 1 just shy of midfield. Tanner got the carry and got nowhere near the halfstripe. They punted, and Atlanta took over at their own 12 with one minute left in the half.

On 3rd and 5 with 37 ticks left, Ryan hit White for 20 yards and scrambled for 8 more. Dallas was charged an injury timeout with 17 seconds left. That lucky break allowed Ryan to hit Gonzalez for gains of 12 and 15. That left 3 seconds for Bryant to try from 46. He was good, and the game was deadlocked 6-6 at halftime.

The third quarter saw both teams move the ball but not translate into points. Dallas moved from their 14 to a 3rd and 7 at the Atlanta 44, but a sack of Romo meant a punt. Atlanta moved from their 14 to the Dallas 25, but from 43 yards out Bryant missed for the second time on the day. Atlanta got it back on their own 19 and Ryan hit White for 16 yards. Michael Turner gained 8 yards and then broker free for a 43 yard gain. Atlanta began the fourth quarter with 2nd and 7 at the Dallas 11. Ryan hit White for 8 and Turner got the 3 yard touchdown one minute into the fourth quarter. After 46 minutes the end zone was cracked as the Falcons led 13-6.

Dallas went 3 and out and Atlanta faced 2nd and 13 from their 17. Ryan hit Julio Jones for a 48 yard gain, and on 3rd and 1 from the 26, Jones gained 8. The drive stalled at the 18, but Bryant hit from 36  to give Atlanta some breathing room up 16-6 midway through the fourth quarter.

Dallas took over at their 22. Romo hit Austin, who despite having dated a Kardashian, for a 20 yard gain. Romo went to Felix Jones for 6 yards, Jason Witten for gains of 7 and 10, Jones again for 14, and finally to Ogletree for a 21 yard touchdown. The Cowboys were within 16-13 and 5 1/2 minutes still remained. If Dallas could get the ball back they had a shot at the upset.

With 4 minutes left Atlanta faced 3rd and 6 from their own 24. Ryan hit Rodgers for a 31 yard gain. On 3rd and 8 from the Dallas 43 with 3 1/2 minutes left, Ryan threw incomplete. Yet a killer defensive holding penalty on Scandrick instead meant 1st and 10 as Dallas had to use their last timeout. On 3rd and 5 from the 33, knowing an incompletion would stop the clock, Ryan hit Rodgers for 11 yards. On 3rd and 4 from the 16, a first down would end it as only 1:10 remained. Mike Smith kept it on the ground with the cowboys unable to stop the clock. On 4th and 2 from the 14, Bryant hit from 32 for his 4th kick in 6 tries. The Falcons only had a 6 point lead, but only 17 seconds remained. Rather than the squib kick, Smith had it kicked deep, and the result was a touchback.

17 seconds in 80 yards with 0 timeouts is not easy. Romo hit Witten for 7 and 11. On the last play of the game from the Dallas 40, Romo heaved a completion to Felix Jones, who escaped several Falcons. Yet with a nervous home crowd looking on, Jones only gained 39 yards down to the Atlanta 21. The Falcons had survived to get to 8-0. Dallas fell to 3-5. The Cowboys gave the Falcons all they could handle, but Atlanta did just enough to stay perfect at the halfway mark. 19-13 Falcons.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints was the Monday night game. Walrus Lite Andy Reid and quarterback Michael Vick are both under fire as Philly as has lost 3 straight. The firing of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has not turned things around. As for the Saints, despite the 0-4 start under Aaron Kromer, they won a couple although Joe Vitt’s debut last week was less than auspicious. The loser of this game would be in dire straights.

The Eagles moved the ball after a touchback to a 1st and 10 at the Saints 27. Yet then the room caved in as consecutive sacks of vick meant 3rd and 35 and a punt one play later. The Saints moved from their 20 to a 3rd and 3 at the Philly 34. Drew Brees threw incomplete, and Garret Hartley missed a 52 yard field goal try to keep the game scoreless.

The Eagles took over at their own 42, and from the Saints 45 Brown raced for a 40 yard gain. On 2nd and goal from the 6 came the play of the game. Vick fired to Captain Morgan Brent Celek, resulting in a touchdown. Yet it was not Celek in the end zone, as the ball caromed off of him, intercepted by Robinson, and returned coast to coast the other way. The 99 yard touchdown return lit up the Superdome and had the Saints up 7-0.

After a touchback the Eagles moved the ball again and began the second quarter facing 3rd and 3 at the Saints 40. Vick hit Harbor, but came up one yard short. Andy Reid decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from the 38. The entire world knows Andy Reid refuses to run the ball in that situation. Yet this time he did, and McCoy got in the open for a 34 yard gain to set up 1st and goal at the 4. Yet after another run gained nothing, Reid abandoned the ground as expected, Vick threw incomplete twice, and the Eagles settled for a 22 yard Henery field goal and a 7-3 deficit.

The Saints soon faced 3rd and 1 from their 33, and Mark Ingram gained 5 yards and then burst for a 23 yard gain. Brees hit Graham for gains of 9 and 8, and Ivory got around the end for a 22 yard touchdown run to make it 14-3 Saints. The Saints got it back with 5 minutes left in the half at their 26. Ingraham gained 7 and Brees hit Graham for 13 more. Ivory gained 8 and Brees hit Graham again for 17. Pierre Thomas gained 19 and 9 and Brees capped off the drive with a one yard touchdown to Marques Colston. Brees extended his own NFL record with his 51st straight game with at least one touchdown pass as the Saints took a 21-3 lead into the locker rooms. The Saints for the most part coasted the rest of the game.

The Saints took the opening kickoff and moved from their 22 to a 1st and goal at the Philly 9. Looking to put the game away early, Brees was sacked and fumbled, and the Eagles took over at their 17. Two plays later Vick did what e is capable of doing when he is at his best. He went bombs away, and found Desean Jackson for a 77 yard touchdown. Rather than a 28-3 game, the 14 point swing had the Eagles only down 21-10.

The Saints then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Eagles the ball at the New Orleans 22. Vick scrambled for 14 yards to set up 1st and goal at the 8. Yet a sack of Vick wasted the opportunity a the Eagles settled for a 37 yard Henery field goal. Two trips to the red zone inside the 10 yard line meant field goals instead of touchdowns. Rather than a tie 21-21 game, the Eagles were down 21-13.

The Saints stayed calm from their own 30 despite giving away 10 quick points. On 2nd and 12 from their 28, Brees hit Ingram for 16, Devry henderson for 8, and on 3rd and 7 from the Saints 47, Moore for 23 yards to the Philly 30. A pair of 7 yard Ingram runs and a defensive penalty meant 1st and goal at the 8. Brees threw a 6 yard touchdown pass to Graham as the Saints built their lead back up to 15 points after three quarters.

Philadelphia got a jolt of momentum on the ensuing kickoff when they redid the Adelphia Miracle made famous in Tennessee and infamous in Buffalo. Boykin tossed the kick to Cooper, who raced all the way for a combined 107 yard kickoff return. Yet unlike that fateful playoff game after the 1999 season, this time it was a forward lateral. Rather than a one score game, the Eagles were backed up to their own 3 yard line and would punt. Philly got it back at their own 26 with 9 minutes to play and reached 1st and goal at the 5 with 4 minutes left. Yet the Eagles self-destructed as consecutive penalties and a sack of Vick meant 3rd and goal from the 22. Vick found Celek for a 14 yard gain but again Celek’s tough night got worse as he fumbled and the Saints recovered at their own 7.

The Saints would punt, but a 66 yard punt backed the Eagles up to their 38 with 1:54 left. Their was not enough time, and despite reaching the Saints 15 with 22 seconds left, 3 straight incompletions finally ended it. The last incompletion went in the area of Celek. The scoreless fourth quarter had both teams at 3-5. Yet the Saints have won 3 of 4 and the Eagles have seen their 3-1 start go up in smoke. Things are definitely not sunny in Philadelphia while the Saints are moving in the right direction. 28-13 Saints

eric

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