Hanukkah 2012 Night 2–NFL 2012 Week 14 Recap

NFL 2012 Week 14 Recap

To Jews everywhere, Happy Hanukkah. This NFL recap is dedicated to Alan Veingrad, the only Orthodox Jew with a Super Bowl ring. He played for the 1992 Dallas Cowboys team that won it all.

Now on to the football players and games of today. This begins football in December. To quote John Randle, “This is when the big dogs come out.”


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Here is the NFL 2012 Week 14 Recap.

Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders was the Thursday night game. For more on the game of the week, go to http://www.justblogbaby.com

First of all, condolences are in order to Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen. A couple of days ago he lost his father, who was only 66. While many in the Raider Nation have been critical of Mr. Allen this year, all of hearts and prayers go out to him as he and his family grieves.

The best way the Raiders can honor their head coach is by winning this game for him. Kansas City was 1-10 and they fought hard for their coach a few days ago. Now the Raiders need to show that Pride and Poise still means something, and that the Silver and Black still matter. While the Raiders are 3-9, after this game their schedule is not a difficult one. Tonight finally sees the return of running back Darren McFadden, as well as Mike Goodson. Yes, Denver is 9-3 and has Peyton Manning, but let’s offer a prayer.

After all, even Norv Turner as Raiders coach beat Denver. He won 9 games in 2 years, but that was one of them and it was in Denver in the snow 25-24. Even JaMarcus Russell, who won only 7 games in his entire career before flaming out, beat Denver 20-19. That game was also in Denver. Carson Palmer and Dennis Allen are at home in Oakland, and the crowd will be fired up for the Raider Nation to play like they did last year when they won a heartstopper the day after Al Davis died. If they leave it all on the field, it will be a Silver and Black Thursday.

The Broncos immediately faced 3rd and 4 from their 37. Peyton Manning threw a pass right into the arms of Oakland cornerback Tyvon Branch. Branch had a clear path to the end zone for an interception touchdown, but he dropped it. Defensive holding on the play meant 1st and 10 Denver. Then came 3rd and 6 from the Denver 45. Manning found Eric Decker for a 16 yard gain. Then came 3rd and 10 from the Oakland 38. Manning hit Knowshon Moreno in the seam and Moreno split defenders for a 27 yard gain. With all the time under the sun, Manning hit Joel Dreesen for the 6 yard touchdown as the 7-0 Broncos lead came easily.  So much for Silver and Black emotion at the beginning.

The Raiders took over after a touchback and Carson Palmer found an open Darren McFadden for what would have been a big gain had McFadden not dropped it. The Raiders went 3 and out and punted. Denver fumbled the punt but retained possession at their own 25. Manning looked to end the game in the first quarter. On 3rd and 5 Manning found Decker over the middle for a 19 yard gain. Tom Kelly jumped offsides for another Denver first down. A 19 yard completion to Jacob Tamme meant 1st and 10 at the Oakland 15. On 3rd and 10 Manning was sacked. Coming into this game Denver linebacker Von Miller had more sacks than the entire Oakland defense, which had only 14. Yet this sack held Denver to a 43 yard Matt Prater field goal as the Broncos led 10-0.

The Raiders looked lifeless, and a handoff to McFadden gained maybe a couple yards. Yet then Palmer went deep and found Rod Streater for a 58 yard gain. One play had the Raiders back in it and one more play took them right back out of it as Palmer went to the end zone and was intercepted by Champ Bailey at the one yard line. Bailey returned it to the Denver 21.

Manning quickly hit Dreesen for 13 and Denver was moving again. Moreno gained 7 and 6. Manning hit Denarius Thomas for 15. The no huddle was killing the Raiders, and Hillman gained 12 more. Manning found Thomas for 11 more as the second quarter began with Denver at the Oakland 11. Denver led 25-7 in plays, 12-1 in first downs, and 12-3 in possession minutes after an opening quarter every bit as lopsided as the stats reflected. The second quarter began with a sack of Manning, setting up 3rd and 15 from the 16. Manning threw high out the back of the end zone and Denver settled for a Prater field goal from 34 to make it 13-0 Broncos.

Manning moved the Broncos again and from the Oakland 30, went deep for what looked like a 20-0 lead and game over. Yet a diving interception by Philip Adams at the goal line saved the Raiders. From the 20, McFadden finally got to the outside and gained 10, only to have offensive holding nullify it. It looked like another dead drive.

Yet McFadden went straight up the middle and got the first down again on the next carry. Palmer went to Streater for a 13 yard gain to the Oakland 45 and then to Denarius Moore for 11 more. A pass to a wide open Streater over the middle was dropped, but Palmer went back to Streater for a 15 yard gain. Palmer then found Moore for 6 and McFadden for 8, and Brandon Myers for 7 to set up 2nd and 3 at the Denver 7. A West Coast dink and dunk pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey gained only one yard to set up the critical 3rd and 2. Palmer faked the dink and dunk pass and went across the field to McFadden on a screen for the touchdown. At the 2 minute warning, the Raiders were only down 13-7.

Manning threw a pass that was batted in the air and incomplete, but illegal use of hands on the defense moved Denver to their own 30. Manning hit Matthew Willis for 19 to midfield. Manning was sacked by Mitchell for a 6 yard loss as the Broncos took a timeout with 47 seconds left in the half. On 3rd and 10 under heavy pressure, Manning threw a duck that was almost intercepted but dropped with 20 seconds left in the half. Despite being totally outplayed and Manning already going 16 for 22 for 201 yards, the Raiders were only down 13-7 at halftime.

Manning threw a pass that was batted in the air and incomplete, but illegal use of hands on the defense moved Denver to their own 30. Manning hit Matthew Willis for 19 to midfield. Manning was sacked by Mitchell for a 6 yard loss as the Broncos took a timeout with 47 seconds left in the half. On 3rd and 10 under heavy pressure, Manning threw a duck that was almost intercepted but dropped with 20 seconds left in the half. Despite being totally outplayed and Manning already going 16 for 22 for 201 yards, the Raiders were only down 13-7 at halftime.

The Raiders are a completely different team with McFadden in the lineup. On the first play of the third quarter after a touchback, McFadden got the carry, bounced to the outside, and raced down the sideline for a 36 yard gain. A pair of runs up the middle did little and a false start meant 3rd and 13 at the Denver 47. Palmer threw off his back foot incomplete as the Raiders wasted McFadden’s run. Shane Lechler did his job as Denver was pinned at their own 8.

Defensive pass interference moved the ball to the Denver 21. A running play was blown up in the backfield as Denver faced 3rd and 12 from their own 19. It didn’t matter as Manning hit Thomas for 23 and Decker for a 29 yard gain. The Raiders could not slow the Denver offense, but luckily for the defense a clock malfunction led to confusion as the officials stopped the game to sort it out. After the break, Manning went deep to the end zone and despite double coverage, defensive pass interference put the ball on the one. After an incompletion, Moreno got the carry and got buried. On 3rd and goal from the 2, Manning threw incomplete. The goal line stand resulted in Prater hitting the 20 yarder to make it 16-7 Broncos midway through the third quarter.

A misguided attempt to bring the ensuing kickoff back from near the back of the end zone had the Raiders starting at their own 7. On 3rd and 6 Palmer went back to pass and the pocket collapsed. Palmer was hit and fumbled. It looked like his arm was going forward, but Denver got the ball at the Oakland 2. Moreno got in and Denver had a 23-7 lead. Oakland after a touchback went 3 and out and Denver took over at their own 36. Manning hit Thomas for 19 and Denver was on the move again. On 3rd and inches after a timeout, a play action rollout to Moreno gained 15 yards. The defense finally held but a 26 yard Prater field goal, his fourth of the game, made it 26-7 Broncos after three miserable quarters in Oakland.

Palmer was sacked on 3rd and 6 to start the fourth quarter but defensive holding gave the Raiders a second chance. Palmer also took a slap to the helmet that was not called. A perfect pass over the middle was dropped and the Raiders punted again. Oakland would finally get on the board again with 5 1/2 minutes to play but it was too little too late. Palmer found Heyward-Bey, who put on a move and raced for a 56 yard touchdown. Moore caught the 2 point conversion but only got one foot down as the Raiders trailed 26-13.

The onsides kick failed and Manning continued to kill the Raiders on 3rd down. A 3rd and 5 completion forced the Raiders to use their timeouts and a short run by Moreno on 3rd and inches ensured the Raiders would not get the ball back. Dener won their 8th straight to get to 10-3 while the Raiders lost their 6th straight to fall to 3-10.

Again, there are other bad teams but they are competing. This was yet another double digit loss, as almost all of the Raiders losses have been. Of course heartfelt sympathies go out to Coach Allen. He is a human being and is suffering immensely right now. Yet as Coach Romeo Crennel said last week, the coaches and players have jobs to do. The Raiders were 8-8 last year and are now a football team that is terrible on offense and defense. Owner Mark Davis may have to blow this whole thing up because nothing is working and it does not seem like more time will do anything to improve this team. Last year Dennis Allen was the defensive coordinator under John Fox. He had only one year of assistant experience before getting this head coaching job. He failed to beat his old boss, who excelled himself as the Raiders defensive coordinator before quitting and becoming a successful head coach. 26-13 Broncos

St. Louis Rams @ Buffalo Bills–The Rams are an improving team under Jeff Fisher. He knows defense, and his defense is developing a solid reputation down the stretch. As for Buffalo, the only scary thing about their team is Chan Gailey’s sinister looking beard. This was not the game of the day.

A slugfest early on eventually saw Buffalo take over at their own 27. Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Jones for 19 and on 3rd and 13 hit CJ Spiller for 15. A 15 yard toss to Chandler was enough for Ryan Lindell to hit a 35 yard field goal in a 3-0 Bills game that deserved no further elaboration. With 90 seconds left in the half the Rams had 3rd and 5 at the Buffalo 44. Sam Bradford was intercepted, giving Buffalo the ball just past midfield. The interception was actually returned for a touchdown, but an illegal block nullified the return. Instead Lindell hit a 40 yard field goal to make it 6-0 Bills at halftime.

The Rams began the third quarter and quickly faced 3rd and 6 from their 34. Illegal use of hands gave the Rams the first down. On 3rd and 5 from their 44, Bradford hit Quick for 6. On 3rd and 7 from the Buffalo 47, Bradford hit Gibson for 22 and 16 and Givens for 8 down to the one. Stephen Jackson carried it in as the 11 play, 6 1/2 minute, 70 yard drive made it 7-6 Rams.

Buffalo took over at their 25 and CJ Spiller ran for 13. Fitzpatrick hit Stevie St Johnson for 11 and Spiller gained 13 more. On 3rd and 6 from the Rams 34, Fitzpatrick hit Fred Jackson for 7, Graham for 16, and St Johnson for 9 down to the 2.  Fitzpatrick hit Smith for the touchdown. The 2 point conversion failed but the Bills led 12-7 after three quarters. With 12 minutes left in regulation, the Bills faced 4th and 7 at the Rams 34. Chan Gailey opted against the field goal or going for it, deciding to punt. The Rams were pinned at their own 3 and the game became a field position puntfest. With 5 minutes left the Rams took over at their 16.

Jackson gained 9 and 7. Bradford hit Kendricks for 22 and Jackson for 9. The 2 minute warning came with the Rams facing 3rd and 1 at the Buffalo 37. Bradford threw incomplete, and now it came down to 4th and 1. Bradford found Pettis for a 9 yard gain. On 3rd and 10 from the 28 with 1:07 to play, Bradford found Gibson for 15 yards. Bradford went back to Gibson for the 13 yard touchdown. The 2 point conversion had the Rams up by a field goal as the Bills got it back at their own 23 with only 42 seconds to play and 2 timeouts.

Buffalo took their last timeout with 21 seconds  left after a sack left them with 3rd and 19 from their 33. Fitzpatrick was intercepted to end it. Jeff Fisher now has a Rams team that are for real. After winning only 15 games in 3 years, the Rams are now 6-6-1. They have an outside shot at the playoffs. As for Buffalo, they are just playing out the string. 15-12 Rams

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers–Mike Smith has an 11-1 Atlanta team while Ron Rivera has a 3-9 squad and a second year quarterback in Cam Newton who has had a tough sophomore season. Yet the phrase “Any Given Sunday” still means something. As uber-announcer Chris Berman reminds us, “That’s why they play the games.”

Carolina jumped on Atlanta from the outset. On 3rd and 2 from the Carolina 31, Cam Newton hit Steve Smith for 10 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the Carolina 38, Mike Tolbert gained 38. On 3rd and 4 from the Carolina 25, Newton went deep to Greg Olsen for the touchdown and the 7-0 Panthers lead.

Carolina would keep moving the ball, although each time they would have to settle for field goals. Meanwhile, Atlanta was settling for nothing. Carolina moved from their own 22 to a 4th and 1 at the Atlanta 38. On the last play of the first quarter, newton gained 2 yards. On 3rd and 11 from the Atlanta 37, Newton gained 14. The drive stalled at the 6 yard line but Graham Gano hit from 24 to make it 10-0 Panthers.

Carolina got it back at their 25 and Newton went to Smith for gains of 20, 15, and 22. Gano would hit from 41 and now it was 13-0 Panthers. Carolina got it back and faced 3rd and 6 from their 32. Newton scrambled for 21 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Atlanta 47, Newton hit Smith for 19. On 3rd and 1 from the Atlanta 19, Deangelo Williams gained 5. The drive again stalled but Gano connected again as the Panthers led 16-0 at halftime in front of a thrilled home crowd.

Atlanta punted in the third quarter and Carolina took over at their 14. On3rd and 1, Tolbert gained 5. From their 28, Newton rolled out, and raced for a 72 yard touchdown as the shellshocked Falcons found themselves trailing 23-0. Matt Ryan would try and mount a comeback, but this was a humbling blowout.

Ryan moved the Falcons from their 16 to a 4th and 4 at the Carolina 13. Forced to go for it, Ryan found Jason Snelling for 5. Ryan would throw a 4 yard touchdown pass to Roddy White to complete the 13 play, 6 minute, 84 yard drive and get Atlanta within 23-7. Atlanta got it back at their 20 after Carolina went 3 and out. On 3rd and 8 from their own 39, Ryan hit White for 18. The fourth quarter began with the Falcons facing 3rd and 10 at the Carolina 22. Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for 11 and then to Julio Jones for 11 yard touchdown. The 2 point conversion failed but Atlanta was only down 23-13.

Atlanta got it back at their own 10 and with 6 1/2 minutes left faced 4th and 8 at the Carolina 48. Ryan was intercepted, giving Carolina the ball at their 40. On3rd and 9 defensive holding killed Atlanta. Newton then went deep to Williams for a 53 yard touchdown to ice the game. With 4 1/2 minutes left the Panthers had a shocking 30-13 lead. Atlanta would get a garbage touchdown with less than one minute remaining as Michael Turner ran it in from one yard out, but the stunning upset was complete.

Carolina is only 4-9, but perhaps this is something to build on. Atlanta is 11-2, and normally 11-2 teams do not have so many doubters. Yet Atlanta has not win a playoff game with this group, and losses like this only heighten the notion that the Falcons are paper tigers. This could be a bump in the road, but until the playoff are over the significance of this loss will not be known. 30-20 Panthers

Dallas Cowboys @ Cincinnati Bengals–The Cowboys played with heavy hearts due to another senseless NFL tragedy. A drunk driving accident resulted in the death of Jerry Brown and the arrest of Josh Brent. The team got the news just before their plane took off.

An emotional Dallas team quickly faced 3rd and 6 from their own 24. Tony Romo hit Harris for 21 yards and Vickers for 11 more. On 3rd and 1 from the Dallas 32, DeMarco Murray gained 4. On 3rd and 1 from the 19, Romo threw incomplete. Jason Garrett decided not to go for it. Dan Bailey hit from 37 to make it 3-0 Cowboys. Ciny got it back at their own 30 and Benjarvus Green-Ellis ran for 19. Jones then got around the end for a 37 yard gain. Andy Dalton hit Hawkins for 6 and then for the 8 yard touchdown as the Bengals rapidly took the 7-3 lead.

Dallas went 3 and out and a shanked punt of only 23 yards had Cincy at the Dallas 47. Dalton hit Jones for 17. On 3rd and 7 from the 27, Dalton hit AJ Green for 16. Yet on 3rd and 4 from the 5, Dalton was sacked. Brown hit the 25 yard field goal to make it 10-3 Bengals.

In the second quarter the Bengals had the ball at midfield when Dalton was intercepted by Brandon Carr at the Dallas 36. Carr returned it 37 yards to the Bengals 27. Tony Romo then hit Jason Witten for 25 yards. On 3rd and goal at the 1, Murray got in to tie the game 10-10.

With 10 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Bengals took over and soon faced 3rd and 5 from their own 24. Dalton hit Hawkins for 11 and Jones for 17. On 3rd and 7 from the Dallas 47, Dalton found Gresham for 25. After 7 minutes, on 3rd and 3 from the 15, Dalton threw incomplete. A 33 yard field goal by brown had the Bengals up 13-10 at halftime.

In the third quarter the Bengals moved from their 23 to a 3rd and goal at the Dallas 7. Yet Dalton threw incomplete and again the Bengals would settle for a 25 yard Brown field goal. Cincinnati led 16-10, but too many field goals were a problem. Dallas went 3 and out and the Bengals took over and faced 3rd and 10 from their 48. Dalton threw incomplete but defensive personal foul was just enough for Brown to hit a 52 yard field goal. The Bengals led 19-10, but again, too many field goals were a problem.

With 9 minutes left in regulation, Dallas faced 3rd and 2 from their 40. Romo hit Kevin Ogletree for 5 yards. On 1st and 20 Romo went back to Ogletree for 23 more. On 3rd and 10 from the Cincy 42, Romo went to Miles Austin for 15 and Dez Bryant for a 27 yard touchdown. With 6 1/2 minute to play, the Cowboys were only down 19-17. Cincinnati would fail to close out the game, and Dallas got it back at their own 28 with 3:4 to play.

On 3rd and 5, Romo hit Witten for 9, Bryant for 9, and Murray for 7 more.  At the 2 minute warning Dallas faced 3rd and 1 from the Cincy 38. Murray gained 3. On 3rd and 5 from the 30, Murray gained 6. Romo took the clock down to 4 seconds and Dan Bailey came in for the 40 yard field goal try. Playoff births for both teams hung on this kick, and possibly the job of Jason Garrett. The Cincinnati crowd prayed for a miss, while at least one Dallas player held up a jersey with Jerry Brown’s #53 on it.

The kick was good, and players hugged Garrett while waving #53. Emotions flowed on both sides. Both teams are 7-6 and clinging to playoff life as the Bengals missed a golden chance to gain ground with others in their division losing. Dallas has clawed out of a 5-6 hole with consecutive wins, both on the road. The pain of the day before will take time to heal, but football can build character and the Cowboys showed a ton of character in winning this game when they trailed by 9 in the fourth quarter. The Bengals will have plenty of questions to answer about their heart and character, but this day belonged to the grieving Cowboys. 20-19 Cowboys

Kansas City Chiefs @ Cleveland Browns–On the surface these are just a pair of terrible football teams, with 2-10 battling 3-9. Yet both of these teams have showed a ton of heart in recent weeks, with Kansas City dealing with the Jovan belcher tragedy and Cleveland seeing organizational turmoil with the new ownership and the departure of Walrus Mike Holmgren. They have both been competing hard, and gotten wins to show for it. Romeo Crennel and Pat Shurmur may both be fired at the end of the year, but their players have not quit.

Kansas City took over after a touchback, and on the very first play from scrimmage, they had a 7-0 lead as Jamal Charles broke through for an 80 yard touchdown run. At this point the Chiefs could win 300-0, but the pace slowed down and actually reversed. Cleveland would punt and Kansas City moved from their own 21 to a 1st and goal at the Cleveland 4. The Chiefs were in total control, but then what became a metaphor for their entire season occurred. Brady Quinn was playing against his old team, and on 2nd and goal from the 3, Quinn threw incomplete twice. Then there was a false start on the field goal try. It was only a 27 yard try anyway, but Ryan Succop doinked it off the upright no good.

After that Cleveland took over. They moved from their 20 to a 1st and goal at the 2. Yet this time it was Trent Richardson losing 2 yards and Brandon Weeden throwing incomplete twice. Phil Dawson made the 23 yard field goal but as the Browns trailed 7-3 this game was starting to look like the futility bowl. On the first play of the second quarter, the Chiefs decided to punt on 4th and 3 from the Cleveland 48. Benjamin fielded it at his own 7, which players are repeatedly told not to do. Inside the 10 means let it bounce into the end zone. Yet coaches tend not to scream at return men who return punts 93 yards for a touchdown. Benjamin did, and the Browns led 10-7.

The rest of the second quarter was uneventful, and Succop continued his miserable day by kicking the second half kickoff out of bounds. Cleveland took over at their own 40, and Benjamin, who burned the Chiefs earlier on the punt, took a reverse for 15 yards. Weeden then hit Gordon for 11 and Little for 17. Josh Cribbs took an end around for 12 and Richardson got the last yard up the gut to make it 17-7 Browns

Quinn was quickly intercepted by Gipson, giving the Browns gift field position at the Chiefs 13. Weeden hit Gordon for 11, but after that it became another blunder bowl. On 3rd and goal from the 4, a touchdown pass was nullified by an illegal shift. On 3rd and goal from the 9, another touchdown pass was nullified by offensive pass interference. Original Daw Pounder Phil Dawson at least did his job, as the field goal made it 20-7 Browns.

Cleveland got it back at their 18. On 3rd and 1 Weeden hit Watson for 7. Hardesty then got free for a 25 yard gain. on 3rd and 11, the famed Weeden to Watson connection gained 23 yards. On 3rd and 9 from the 18, Little gained 17. The fourth quarter began with Richarsdson getting in from one yard out to make it 27-7 Browns. Josh Cribbs would return a punt 38 yards to set up one more Dawson field goal to complete the scoring.

Kansas City still is tied for the worst record in the league as neither Romeo Crennel or Brady Quinn got revenge against the team that got rid of them. One week after being inspired, the Chiefs went back to being a bad team. As for Cleveland, they have very quietly won 3 straight games to get to 5-8. Pat Shurmur may still be canned, but there is a glimmer of hope in the Dawg Pound. 30-7 Browns

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts–The Colts are the feel-good story of the year as they remain Chuckstrong. They won a thriller last week on the road on the final play after being down by 12 points in the fourth quarter. Last year they were 2-14 and now they come in 8-4 against a reeling Titans team that has regressed under Mike Munchak in his second season. Andrew Luck is a serious candidate for rookie of the year and maybe even has an outside shot at league MVP.

Tennessee got the early jump after a touchback as Jack Locker hit Kenny Britt for 9 and Wright for 2. Locker then scrambled for a 32 yard gain and hit Britt for 10. On 1st and 20 from the Indy 32, Locker hit Wright for 8, Chris Johnson for 6, and on 3rd and 6 found Cook for the 18 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Titans.

Indy went 3 and out and gained 0 yards. Tennessee moved from their 26 to a 4th and 4 at the Indy 39. Mike Munchak decided to bring in Rob Bironas for a 57 yard field goal try rather than punt or go for it. Bironas was no good, and the Colts had great field position at their own 47. Luck found TY Hilton for a 36 yard gain. On 3rd and 4 from the 11, Luck hit Vince Ballard for 10. After a run lost 3 yards, Luck hit Reggie Wayne for the 4 yard touchdown to make it 7-7.

The second quarter began with Tennessee facing 2nd and 22 from their own 15. Locker hit Wright for 14 and on 3rd and 8 went deep to Britt for a 46 yard gain. The drive stopped there but this time Bironas hit from 40 as The Titans led 10-7. After an exchange of punts, the Colts took over at their own 8. On 3rd and 3 from their 39, controversy ensued. Trying to make something happened, Luck tried to throw as he was going to the ground. He threw it straight into the breadbasket of Will Witherspoon, who raced 40 yards for a Titans touchdown. The replays clearly showed that Luck’s knee was down, and the refs made a horrendous call as the touchdown stood. Luck should know better than to try to make those throws, but the blunder had the Titans up 17-7.

With 1:51 left in the half the Titans got it back at their own 15. Locker hit Wright for 6 and 9, Preston for 11, and then deep to Britt for a 46 yard gain. Yet on 3rd and 7 from the 10, Locker was sacked. Bironas hit a 31 yard field goal as the Titans had a commanding 20-7 lead. Luck was intercepted to end the half.

Last week the Colts trailed by 12 late, so a 13 point deficit with an entire half to play was less pressure. The third quarter began after a touchback with Luck running for 9 and Ballard gaining 8 and 3. On 3rd and 9, Luck hit Wayne for 12 to midfield. Ballard gained 13. On 3rd and 11 from the Titans 38, Luck hit Wayne for 20. Ballard gained 11 and 6, and on 3rd and goal at the one, Carter got in. The 14 play, 6 1/2 minute, 80 yard drive had the Colts within 20-14.

An exchange of punts had the Titans backed up to their own one. Locker decided to pass from his own end zone, and a simple screen play looked like the replay of Joe Theisman to Jack Squirek in the Super Bowl almost 30 years ago. Locker was intercepted by by Vaughn, who glided 3 yards for the score as the Colts had the 21-20 lead handed to them.

With 5 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter after a touchback, Locker led a staggering 16 play drive that consumed over 10 minutes off the clock. On 3rd and 11 from their 19, Locker hit Stevens for 19. On 3rd and 8 from their 40, a sack of Locker was nullified by defensive holding. The fourth quarter began with 3rd and 5 at midfield. Locker threw incomplete, but defensive pass interference meant 10 more yards. On 3rd and 2 from the Indy 32, Locker gained 11. Locker found Nate Washington for 15 to set up 1st and goal at the 5. A run lost 5 yards, and then Locker ran for 8. Yet on 3rd and goal at the 2, a critical false start was followed by Locker throwing incomplete. The Titans needed 80 yards and got only 73. Yet Bironas was good from 25 as the Titans led again 23-21 with 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

The Colts soon faced 3rd and 2 from their 28. Luck fumbled, but defensive offsides kept the drive going. On 2nd and 15 Luck found Avery for 18 and Ballard for 14. Luck then fumbled again but the Colts retained possession. The drive stalled at the Tennessee 35, and with 6 1/2 minutes left Adam Vinatieri came in for a critical 53 yard field goal try. Vinatieri knows a thing or two or ten about big time kicks, and he leveled this one to put the Colts up 24-23.

Tennessee quickly faced 2nd and 8 from their 22 and Locker was intercepted by Butler. The Colts took over at the Titans 28, but on 3rd and 4 Luck threw incomplete. Vinatieri connected again from 40, but the Colts only had a 4 point lead. Tennessee would get it back at their own 20 with 3:48 to play. On 4th and 10 from their own 30, Mike Munchak decided to punt and trust his defense. The Colts took over at their own 10.

On 2nd and 9, Ballard gained 11. Then on 2nd and 10 from their own 24, the Colts called a pass play. This was insane in this situation, but Luck hit Allen for 11 and the Colts ran out the clock. This team does not play the conservative try not to lose approach. The Titans are done for the year while the Colts are 9-4. Barring a miracle they will not win their division, but after being the worst team in football they are now a solid wild card entry that should give other teams cause for concern. 27-23 Colts

New York Jets @ Jacksonville Jaguars–Last week the Jets and Arizona played one of the ugliest games in NFL history, and somehow Gang Green won 7-6. This week the Jets play Jacksonville, and this game had the potential to be even worse. It was. Rex Ryan did start Mark Sanchez, but if his play gets any worse Eva Longoria will start dating 3rd stringer McElroy.

In the first quarter Chad Henne moved the Jaguars from their 33 to a 3rd and 1 at the Jets 11. Henne was then intercepted by Bart Scott. In the second quarter the Jets moved from their 18 to a 3rd and 7 at the Jacksonville 36. Sanchez was sacked and fumbled, and Jed Babin recovered for Jacksonville. Jacksonville took over at their own 43 and moved to a 3rd and 1 at the Jets 13. Jones got the carry and got nothing. On 4th and 1, the decision to get something, anything, was easy. Josh Scobee hit the 31 yard field goal as the Jaguars led 3-0 in a game that the league refused to cancel on account of dreadfulness. The closest thing to a positive Jets play was when they fumbled again. Initially it was ruled returned for a Jacksonville touchdown, but on further review it was only a turnover and down by contact. Scobee missed from 55 at the gun.

Last week the Jets overcame a 3-0 deficit to win the 7-6 disgrace to football. This time they had to again overcome a 3-0 deficit. From their own 43 in the third quarter after a Jags punt, Sanchez hit Chaz Schilens for 10. Shon Greene gained 8, 3, 9, and 5. Sanchez hit Kerley for 6 and Powell gained 12. Greene got 3 more and then the last yard as the Jets led 7-3. They had their touchdown for the game.

Late in the third quarter the Jets got it back at the Jaags 47. Sanchez hit Reuland for 5 and Green gained 14. That was enough for Nick Folk to connect from 44 to make it 10-3 Jets as somebody actually did reach double digits in this game. Another poor Jacksonville punt had the Jets getting it back at the Jags 46. Rex Ryan decided not to even let his quarterback raise hit arm. Powell gained 7, 7, 13, 0, 5, 10 on 3rd and 5 from the 14, and then the last 4. Yes, Rex was running on 3rd and 5, showing zero confidence in his signal caller. With 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Jets led 17-3.

Jacksonville took over at their own 14 and Owens ran for 15. On 3rd and 7 from their 32, Henne hit Elliott for 9. On 3rd and 3 from their 48, Henne gained only 1 but a facemask tacked on 15. Henne hit Shipley for 11 and Owens took an end around for a 32 yard touchdown. Midway through the fourth quarter, the 11 play, 5 minute, 86 yard drive had the Jaguars within one score.

Jacksonville got it back and faced 4th and 6 at their own 42 with 3:47 left. They Jaguars decided to punt. They took their timeouts and got it back at their own 20 with 1:43 to play. On 4th and 15 from their 29 with one minute left Henne hit Shipley for a 28 yard gain. On 4th and 2 from the Jets 35 with with 35 seconds left, Henne hit Elliott for 7. With 22 seconds left, the Jags faced 2nd and 10 at the Jets 28. Henne went deep and was intercepted by Lankster at the four yard line to end the threat.

The Jets are winning ugly against terrible teams, but Rex Ryan will take it. They have won 3 of 4 and are now 6-7. Jacksonville is 2-11 and tied for the worst record in the league. After the season, the entire Jacksonville organization will face the wrath of Shad Khan. Woody Johnson may clean house as well depending on the last 3 weeks. 17-10 Jets

Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings–The Bears have the better team, but Lovie Smith teams often struggle on the road in the Black and Blue Division. Leslie Frazier has his Vikings competing hard, with an outside shot at the playoffs. This was do or die December football.

After a touchback, Minnesota immediately got the jump on the Bears. Adrian Peterson took a handoff up the middle, got to the outside, and gained 51 yards. On 3rd and 9 from the Chicago 28, Christian Ponder hit Malcolm Jenkins for 11 yards. Peterson got around the end for 16 and then got the final yard as the Vikings led 7-0 only 3 minutes into the game.

Chicago took over at their 17. On 3rd and 4 from their own 33, Jay Cutler was intercepted by Robinson. Initially it was ruled that Robinson returned it 49 yards for a touchdown, but on further review Robinson was down at the 5. Minnesota decided to change their name to the Petersons as Adrian Peterson ran for 3, 1, and on 3rd and goal at the 1, the last yard to make it 14-0 Vikings.

The score stayed the same when the Bears took over at their 31 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half. Cutler hit Devon Hester for 8 and Brandon Marshall for 11. On 3rd and 3 from the Minnesota 35, Cutler hit Marshall for 12 and Jeffery for a 23 yard touchdown to get the Bears back within 14-7.

This game was mostly defense, and late in the third quarter it was still a one score game. With 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter the Bears faced 3rd and 2 from their 39. Cutler was intercepted again, this time by Smith. Smith returned it 56 yards for a touchdown, and this one stood as the Vikings had the 21-7 lead.

The Minnesota defense just clamped down. With 9 minutes left the Bear moved from their own 5 to a 2nd and 6 at the Minnesota 23. Yet with 4 1/2 minutes left, 3 straight incompletions by Cutler ended the threat. Minnesota only took 30 seconds off the clock as the Bears took their timeouts. Chicago got it back at their own 24, but Cutler was not in the game. Lovie Smith brought in backup Jason Campbell. There is not a qb controversy in Chitown, so maybe Lovie thought the game was over. Campbell moved the Bears to a 3rd and 15 at the Minnesota 16 at the 2 minute warning.  Campbell hit Marshall for the touchdown. Yet the onsides kick failed and the game was over. Minnesota at 7-6 is only one game back of Chicago, with Green Bay not playing until Sunday night. The NFC North is now up for grabs. 21-14 Vikings

San Diego Chargers @ Pittsburgh Steelers–The subplots to this game were monumental. The Chargers have never beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh ever during the regular season, but have taken 2 of 3 from them there in the playoffs, including the critical 1994 AFC Title Game. Ben Roethlisberger, who is not Jewish, returned in time to play on Hanukkah after missing the last 3 games. His son was just born, a little non-Hanukkah miracle for the non-Jewish child. The Steelers may have saved their season last week with a tough win at Baltimore on the final play to get to 7-5. Then there is Norvelous Norv Turner, who is expected to be fired after the season. Yet every time his underachieving team seems ready to mail it in, they play the way they should have all year.

Pittsburgh punted twice and the Chargers did once, with San Diego taking over at their 31. On 3r and 4 Philip Rivers hit Antonio Gates for 6. on 3rd and 8 from their 45 Rivers hit Michael Spurlock for 11. On 3rd and 10 from the Pittsburgh 44, consecutive defensive penalties meant 1st and 10. Nick Novak would hit a 51 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Chargers.

A field position game eventually gave the Chargers the ball at the Pittsburgh 48. On 3rd and 1, Rivers went deep to Alexander for the 39 yard touchdown as the Chargers had the surprising 10-0 lead with 3 1/2 minutes left in the half. At the 2 minute warning, Mike Tomlin decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from their own 47 despite being stopped on 3rd and 1. Pittsburgh got stopped again and the Chargers had the short field.

On 3rd and 10 Rivers hit Spurlock for 12 and Gates for 14. 3 straight incompletions meant the Chargers settled for a 39 yard Nick Novak field goal and a 13-0 lead. Pittsburgh got it back at their own 10 with 45 seconds left in the half. Yet Big Ben hit Brown for 11, Emanuel Sanders for 31, and Mike Wallace for 17 on 3rd and 10. That was enough for Shawn Suisham to drill a 49 yard field goal at the gun to get the Steelers within 13-3 at halftime. San Diego has blown many leads, and they had time to mess this one up.

Yet the Chargers began the third quarter at their own 22 and kept moving. Rivers hit Alexander for a pair of 8 yard gains. On 3rd and 3 from their 46, Rivers hit Spurlock for 5. Matthews gained 9 and on 3rd and 5 from the Pittsburgh 33, Rivers hit Alexander for 7. On 3rd and 13 from the Pittsburgh 29, Brown gained 17. On 3rd and 1 from the 3, Rivers hit Malcolm Floyd for the touchdown. A defense killing 17 play, 9 1/2 minute, 78 yard drive made it 20-3 Steelers.

Pittsburgh got it back at their own 8 and controversy ensued. The Music City Miracle was a disputed lateral. Yet in this case Big Ben threw a forward pass that bounced off a helmet and went backward into the end zone. The Chargers recovered for a touchdown. It was an obvious incomplete pass, but on further review the call stood and now the Chargers led 27-3. Ambivalent Chargers fans were scared that this would result in Turner not being fired. As for Steelers fans, they were just stunned.

Pittsburgh tried to make a game of it from their 20. Dwyer ran for 14 and 6. On 3rd and 4 from their 43, Big Ben ran for 8, hit Brown for 9, andw ent deep to mike Wallace for a 40 yard touchdown. In a curious decision, Mike Tomlin decided against the 2 point conversion as the Steelers trailed 27-10.

Pittsburgh got it back at their own 6, but on 2nd and 6 Roethlisberger was intercepted by Bird, giving the Chargers the ball at the Pittsburgh 17. Rivers hit Alexander for the 15 yard touchdown to make it 34-10 Chargers with only 10 minutes left in regulation.

The Chargers did blow a 24 point lead a few weeks ago, and Pittsburgh mounted a rally. On 3rd and 1 from their own 28, Roethlisberger hit Wallace for 5. On 2nd and 20 Roethlisberger hit Wallace for 19 and again for 10. Big Ben then went to Heath Miller for 20. Defensive pass interference added 7 yards. Big Ben then ran for 10 and hit Wallace for an 11 yard touchdown. Again Tomlin decided against the 2 point conversion, which made no sense. Instead the Steelers trailed 34-17 with 6 minutes left.

Pittsburgh would punt on their next series and get it back at the San Diego 44 with only 2 1/2 minutes to play. Big Ben would hit Brown for a one yard touchdown with one minute left. Yet had the Steelers successfully made a couple 2 point conversions, it would have been a one score game. Those are big ifs, but without gambling when needed, they were down by 10. The onsides kick failed, rendering it all meaningless.

San Diego got to 5-8, and if they run the table Norv Turner and AJ Smith may be given lifetime contracts. Dean Spanos insists no decision has been made, and Oakland and Denver fans hope Turner stays in San Diego forever. Sadly for those fans, he is most likely gone. As for the Steelers, they fell to 7-6 and missed a golden opportunity to get back in the division race. Now they are teetering in the playoff race. 34-24 Chargers

Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers–It may be the end of the line for Walrus Lite Andy Reid, who has seen his once proud Eagles lsoe 8 straight to fall to 3-9. Jeffrey Lurie is expected to screw up the franchise further by firing Reid.  Greg Schiano has turned the Buccaneers around, as they have an outside shot at the playoffs. These teams played some classic defensive battles in the past, but that was when Monte Kiffin and the late Jim Johnson were the defensive coordinators. Nevertheless, the teams that fought for the right to go to the Super Bowl a decade ago played a game that truly could be described as Buc Ball.

After a scoreless opening quarter, the Eagles got the ball with 10 minutes left in the half at the Tampa 43. On 3rd and 17 from the Tampa 40, Nick Foles hit Avant for 20 yards. Brown ran for 11 and then the drive stopped. Yet Alex Henery hit the 28 yard field goal and the Eagles led 3-0.

With 4 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Eagles took over at their 20 and Foles hit Riley Cooper for 6 and 5, and Desean Jackson for 14. on 3rd and 4 from the Tampa 49 at the 2 minute warning, Foles found Avant for a 39 yard gain and then scrambled himself for the 10 yard touchdown as the Eagles led 10-0 at halftime. Yet like the promising start to the Eagles season, the second half brought more pain. Henery missed from 58 to end the half.

Tampa got the ball to start the third quarter but would punt on 4th and 4 from the Philly 40. The Eagles fumbled the punt, and the Buccaneers took over at the Philly 5. On 3rd and goal at the 1, Josh Freeman hit Mike Williams for the touchdown as the Buccaneers were within 10-7. Philly then moved from their 40 to a 4th and 2 at the Tampa Bay 13. Andy Reid played it safe with the field goal, but in a miserable season gone wrong Henery missed the 31 yarder. Those who blame Andy Reid for everything should look at that play.

Late in the third quarter the Buccaneers got it back at their own 23. From the 33, Freeman went deep to Vincent Jackson for a 40 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the 18, Doug Martin gained 2 with a facemask tacked on down to the 8 as the third quarter ended. On 2nd and goal from the 13, Freeman hit Jackson for the touchdown as the Buccaneers led 14-10 less than 30 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Philly went 3 and out and Tampa got it back at their 25. Martin ran for 7 and 11. On 3rd and 9 from their 44, Freeman gained 13. On 3rd and 7 from the Eagles 40, Freeman hit Jackson for 28. Martin gained 5, 3, and on 3rd and 2 from the 4, got the touchdown. Midway through the fourth quarter the Buccaneers led 21-10 and the Eagles were on their way to their 9th straight loss.

Yet the Eagles have not quit on Andy Reid. From their 28, Foles hit Maclin for 24. On 3rd and 10 from the Tampa 48, Foles hit Maclin again for 22 and Avant for 12. On 3rd and 7 from the 11, Foles found Harbor for the touchdown. The 2 point conversion failed, but the Eagles were within 21-16 with 4 minutes left. They needed the ball back.

After a touchback, Martin gained 11. Yet just trying to run out the clock, a critical offensive holding penalty stopped the clock. On 3rd and 8 from their own 33, Greg Schiano played it very conservative, and a handoff went nowhere. The Eagles took their last timeout and got the ball back at their own 36 with 2:44 to play. A sack of Foles meant 3rd and 14 at the 2 minute warning.

Then Foles came into his own. Michael Vick was injured. Foles had the stage all to himself. He hit Maclin for 23 yards. With 54 seconds left, the Eagles faced 4th and 1 at the Tampa 31. Foles ran for 3, and Tampa Bay had 12 men on the field when Foles spiked the ball to stop the clock. So instead of 2nd and 10 it was 1st and 5 at the Bucs 23 with 35 seconds left. Foles threw incomplete 3 straight times, and 4th and 5 came with only 16 seconds left. Foles went deep to Avant for a 22 yard gain down to the one as the Eagles raced to the line. Foles spiked the ball with 2 seconds left. The entire game down to one play from the one yard line.

Foles found Avant for the touchdown in front of a shellshocked home crowd. The Eagles finally stopped the bleeding. The worst losing streak for this team in 42 years was over. Tampa Bay saw its playoff hopes severely diminished with the loss while Philadelphia finally gave Walrus Lite Andy Reid a reason to smile. Reid has had a nightmarish year on the field and an even more horrific year off of it with the death of his son. Andy Reid is one of the good guys in sports, and it is good to see his players fighting hard for him, no matter what the end of the season brings. 23-21 Eagles

Baltimore Ravens @ Washington Redskins–These teams play only a few miles from each other so there is a geographical rivalry despite playing only once every 4 years. Baltimore is 9-3 but saw a first round bye possibly slip away by losing a home game last week to hated Pittsburgh, who was playing with a backup quarterback. Wshington is only 6-6, but RGIII has united the city and created more excitement in Washington in some time. Mike Shanahan brings the offense and John Harbaugh serves up the defense, and together these teams gave fans a very good football game.

The Redskins began from their 20 and on the first play from scrimmage Morris gained 29 yards. Robert Griffin III then hit Pierre Garcon for 14 yards. On 3rd and 2 from the Baltimore 30, Morris gained 6. RGIII then hit Garcon for 23 yards down to the one. A run lost 3 yards but on 3rd and goal from the 4, RGIII hit Morgan for the score to make it 7-0 Redskins. Baltimore came right back from their 19 as Ray Rice gained 5 and then broke free for a 46 yard gain. Rice got the carry again, and got 12 more yards. Joe Flacco then hit Anquon Boldin for the 19 yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7.

Washington got it back at their 17 and RGIII hit Santana Moss for 31 and Hankerson for 19 more. Griffin found Morgan for 21 and Morris got the last yard to make it 14-7 Redskins in what was becoming a shootout.

In the second quarter after an exchange of punt, Baltimore faced 3rd and 8 from their 25. Flacco hit Rice for 9 and Torrey Smith for 21. On 3rd and 1 from the Washington 36, the defense jumped offsides. On the next play Flacco went to Boldin for the 31 yard touchdown to tie the game 14-14. Washington quickly faced 2nd and 6 from their 24, and Morris fumbled the ball away. Baltimore took over at the Washington 14, and on 3r and 10 Flacco hit Danny Pitta for the touchdown to make it 21-14 Ravens. Washington moved from their 20 to a critical 3rd and 1 at the Baltimore 33. Yet RGIII fumbled, and although Washington retained possession the play lost 9 yards to move Washington out of field goal range.

The game considerably slowed in the second half. Baltimore moved from their own 14 to their 46, but Flacco was sacked and fumbled. Washington took over at the Baltimore 46. Morris gained 10, but little more. Kevin Forbath hit the 48 yard field goal to have the Redskins within 21-17. Washington moved from their 35 to another critical 3rd and 6 at the Washington 11 after a Rice run lost 2 yards. Flacco was then intercepted by London Fletcher to kill another threat. Washington would move from their 15 to a 3rd and 7 at the Baltimore 36. Yet RGIII only gained 5, and Mike Shanahan decided not to gamble.  Forbath hit the 49 yarder to get the Redskins within 21-20.

The defenses dug in, and midway through the fourth quarter Baltimore faced 3rd and 1 from their 47. Vonte Leach got just enough and Flacco then hit Pierce for 11. On 3rd and 4 from the Washington 35, Flacco hit Boldin for a 28 yard gain. Rice got the 7 yard touchdown run and with 5 minutes left the Ravens led 28-20. It looked like the game was over when Washington fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Ravens took over at the Washington 15. Yet on further review, the ball was recovered out of bounds. From their own 15 with 4:40 left, Washington had life.

On 3rd and 6 from the 19, RGIII hit Hankerson for 6 and Moss for 6 more. Griffin was sacked but then gained 13,  setting up 3rd and 6 from the Washington 40. Shanahan went to the bag of tricks, and it was Cousins trying to complete a pass. The pass was incomplete but defensive pass interference meant a 7 yard gain. RGIII then hit Moss for 15 and Garcon for 22 down to the Baltimore 16 with only 49 seconds to play. Intentional grounding lost 10 yards and RGIII was injured on the plat.

Cousins would have to throw again, with the game on the line. He completed a 15 yard pass to Hankerson for 15. The Redskins took their final timeout with 36 seconds left facing 3rd and 5 from the 11. Cousins hit Garcon for the score and it came down to the crucial 2 point conversion. Cousins rushed it in himself, and this fine football game was going to overtime deadlocked 28-28.

The leg injury to RGIII at the very end of regulation was serious, and he would not be playing in overtime. All the Ravens had to do was defeat a backup quarterback in Cousins to win the game. Yet there is a third phase to football that some sneer at, and that is special teams. The Ravens punted in overtime, and Crawford returned it 64 yards to the Baltimore 24. Then the defense jumped offsides. A pair of conservative runs set up 3rd and 2 from the 16, and Shanahan took no chances. Forbath came in from 34 yards out, and he nailed it.

The Redskins got the win to keep their playoff hopes alive at 7-6. Even the division is within reach in what is now the NFC Least. Yet everyone in DC will be holding their breath for the healthy return of RGIII. Baltimore has now lost 2 straight and has a major showdown next week with Peyton Manning and Denver in Baltimore. The Ravens are 9-4. With division rivals losing, Baltimore still has a stranglehold on the division. Yet they are now down a game in the race for a 1st round bye. This is great defense but an old one, and they need the rest of the bye week. As of now they will not get it. 31-28 Redskins, OT

Miami Dolphins @ San Francisco 49ers–On paper this was a complete mismatch. A below average Miami team was traveling on the road to face a very stingy 49ers defense with a revitalized offense under Colin Kaepernick. This was supposed to be a blowout. Instead it was a slugfest.

The first quarter was scoreless, although Miami finally got a drive going on 3rd and 7 from their 41 when Ryan Tannehill hit Duane Bess for 10 and 21. On 3rd and 7 from the 15, Tannehill hit Miller for 8. The second quarter began with Miami facing 2nd and goal at the 9. Tannehill was sacked to kill the chance. Duane Carpenter hit from 28 to make it 3-0 Dolphins.

After a touchback San Francisco got going when James ran for 10 and Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for 16. Unnecessary roughness set up 1st and 10 at the Miami 32. The 49ers would move to a 3rd and 1 at the Miami 11. Gore got the carry and lost a yard. Jim Harbaugh brought out David Akers, who hit the 30 yarder to tie the game 3-3.

The 49ers got it back at their 20 with 3:15 left in the half. Kaepernick hit Crabtree for 25, Randy Moss for gains of 13 and 17, and James for 15. Yet from the Miami 11 with one minute left in the half, Kaepernick was sacked to end the threat. The half ended with Akers nailing a 37 yard field goal to make it 6-3 49ers.

The first big break of the game came 3 minutes into the second half. Miami punted, and the 49ers were punting it back. The Dolphins fumbled the punt, and the 49ers recovered at the Miami 9 yard line. Dion gained 8 and Gore got the last yard to make it 13-3 49ers. Thigpen returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards just past midfield. Tannehill hit Bess for 8 and Bush for 11. The drive stopped, but Carpenter nailed the 5 yard field goal to have the Dolphins back within 13-6.

The 49ers took over at their 17. Kaepernick hit Crabtree for 13 and 10 . On 3rd and 2 from their 38, Kaepernick hit Miller for just enough. James gained 13. On 2nd and 20 from their 43, Kaepernick hit Gore for 19. Kaepernick threw incomplete on 3rd and 1 from the Miami 38, and Jim Harbaugh decided to go for it. Kaepernick threw incomplete again but defensive pass interference meant an  8 yard gain. Gore gained  and 3. The fourth quarter began with the 49ers facing 2nd and 12 from the Miami 20. Gore gained 19 and Dixon got the last yard as the 49ers had some breathing room up 20-6.

Miami hung tough and took over at their 25. Tannehill hit Bess for 8 and from the Miami 40, Tannehill scrambled for 20. On 3rd and 8 from the Frisco 38, Tannehill hit Bush for 9. On 3rd and 4 from the Frisco 23, Bush gained 17. On 4th and goal from the 3 with 8 minutes left in regulation, Tannehill hit Anthony Fasano for the score. The Dolphins were only down 20-13.

Miami got it back and moved from their 38 to a 1st and 10 at the Frisco 35. Yet Tannehill threw 4 straight incompletions as the Dolphins turned it over on downs with 4:10 to play. Gore gained 4 and James got 6 for a critical first down. With 2:19 to play and the Dolphins out of timeouts, everything came down to the 49ers facing 3rd and 5 from midfield. One stop would give Miami a chance to tie it. Instead Kaepernick rolled around the end all the way for a 50 yard touchdown to ice the game. The 49ers are still in strong position for a first round bye and still have an outside shot at home field throughout the playoffs.  27-13 49ers

New Orleans Saints @ New York Giants–The Saints rallied from 0-4 to get to 5-5 but have since dropped 2 straight and see themselves on the brink of playoff elimination. The Giants started 6-2 but under Tom Coughlin are taking their typical second half swoon as losing 3 of 4 had them at 7-5 coming in and only one game up in the NFC Least. This was a bizarre game of big plays as Eli Manning and Drew Brees know how to sling the rock. One minute this game looked like a blowout and the next minute it was a barnburner. One man etched himself into the history books, that being the previously unheralded Giants kick returner David Wilson.

Wilson returned the opening kickoff 58 yards to the Saints 44. Yet on 3rd and 3 Manning threw incomplete and Tom Coughlin decided to punt. The Saints soon faced 3rd and 4 at their own 18. Brees went deep to Marquis Colston for a 30 yard gain, but Colston then fumbled, giving the Giants another short field at the Saints 45. On 3rd and 6 from the Saints 29, Manning was intercepted by Mack. Mack juggled the ball, but got full control of it and raced 73 yards the other way for a touchdown to make it 7-0 Saints. Yet only 13 seconds later the game was tied as Wilson took the ensuing kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-7.

The Saints moved from their own 27 to a 1st and 10 at the Giants 48. Yet a short completion to Collins was fumbled, and Joseph returned it 16 yards for the Giants to the Saints 35. Manning hit Dominic Hixon for 16 and defensive pass interference added 7 more. Defensive holding added even more, and Manning hit bennett for a 16 yard touchdown to make it 14-7 Giants. The Saints would then punt on 4th and 37 from their own 8 and the Giant would punt on 4th and 20 from their own 35. The second quarter began with the Saints at their own 5.

On 3rd and 2 Thomas got the deuce. Brees then hit Moore for 26 and Thomas for 11 and 12. On 3rd and 8 from the Giants 30, Brees found Colston for the exact amount. Yet on 3rd and 6 from the 14 Brees threw incomplete. Garrett Hartley hit a 32 yard field goal to get the Saints within 14-10. Wilson burned the Saints again, returning the ensuing kickoff 52 yards to the Saints 46. Yet on 4th and 10 from the 17, Lawrence Tynes missed a 36 yard field goal.

From the Saints 26, Mark Ingram gained 6 and 8. Brees hit Thomas for 11. Then Darren Sproles got around the end for a 34 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the 6, Sproles got the carry and lost a yard against a Big Blue brick wall. On 4th and 2 at the 2 minute warning the decision was the field goal. Hartley hit the 25 yarder and the Saints were within 14-13.

The Giants took over at their own 31 with 1:52 left in the half. Manning hit Bennett for 11, 7, and 8. On 1st and 20 from their 47 with 1:14 left, Manning went deep to Victor Cruz for a 35 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the 9, Ahmad Bradshaw gained 4. Manning hit Hixon for a 5 yard touchdown with only 25 seconds left in the half as the Giants took a 21-13 lead into the locker rooms.

The third quarter began as a disaster for the Saints, who took over at their 22. The first play was Brees throwing an interception to Stevie Brown, who returned it 21 yards to the Saints 20. On 3rd and 8 Manning hit Nicks for 12. Wilson killed the Saints on kickoff returns, and now a traditional 6 yard touchdown run made it 28-13 Giants.

The Saints went 3 and out and the Giants took over at their own 38. Manning found Nicks for a 23 yard gain. On 3rd and 2 from the Saints 28 Manning hit Cruz for 3 and then went deep to Nicks for the 25 yard touchdown. What was a 14-13 title bout in just over half a quarter of football was now a 35-13 Giants romp. Yet the Saints have Drew Brees. They are never out of it.

From their own 25, Brees needed one play to go deep to Morgan for a 62 yard gain. Sproles did the rest, getting around the end for a 13 yard touchdown as the Saints were down 35-20. The Giants took over at their 23. A 34 yard completion to Cruz set up 2nd and 7 from the Saints 35. Manning was then intercepted by Quddus, who returned it 12 yards to the Saints 32. Ingram gained 19 and 5 and Brees hit Graham for 27 and Collins for 7. On 3rd and 2 from the 9, a touchdown pass to Sproles had the Saints right back in it down 35-27 after three quarters.

With rain coming down all day, normally that means a slog. Yet with these quarterbacks, the pinball machine materialized anyway. Yet the fourth quarter saw only one team keep the momentum going. David Wilson had been torching the Saints all day, but this time Jernigan got the return and took it 60 yards to to the Saints 25. Bradshaw gained 6, and then 3 straight 3 yard runs. The fourth quarter began with Manning hit Cruz for the 10 yard touchdown as the Salsa dancer had the GIants up 42-27.

The Saints quickly faced 3rd and 9 from their 20 and Brees went deep to Morag for a 44 yard gain. A horse collar tackle on the next play meant 1st and 10 at the Giants 21. Yet the next play was offensive hlding and on 1st and 20 Brees was intercepted again by Stevie Brown. Brown returned it 70 yards to the Saints 22. The Giants went nowhere on offense but Tynes hit the 39 yarder to make it 45-27 Giants.

The exclamation point came with the Saints punting on 4th and 19 from their own 6.  The Giants took over at their own 48 and again it was David Wilson. He took a run around the end for a 52 yard touchdown. Wilson would finish with 327 all purpose yards, a Giants record. Big Blue is now 8-5 and still leads their division by one game. The Saints at 5-8 are all but out of it. 52-27 Giants

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks–When the season began, both of these teams were considered to be afterthoughts in the NFC Worst. Yet Pete Carroll has turned Seattle into a contender. As for Ken Whisenhunt, they started the season 4-0 and have lost 8 straight. Since Kurt Warner retired, Matt Leinart was shipped out of town, Kevin Kolb has gotten hurt, John “Red” Skelton as benched, Ryan Lindley lost last week when the defense gave up only 7 points, and now Skelton is back in. It is hard to believe this game started 0-0. Pete Carroll must have thought he was back in college coaching USC. The Cardinals have been awful for much of 125 years, but this may have been rock bottom.

The Cardinal began at their 22 and moved to a 3rd and 2 from the Seattle 37. Skelton was intercepted by Wagner, who returned it 45 yards. To add insult, 10 more yards were tacked on as Skelton was called for tripping. Seattle took over at the Arizona 14. On 3rd and 2 from the 6, Wilson was sacked. Steve Hauscka hit the 31 yarder to make it 3-0 Seahawks. It seemed like a defensive stand for Arizona, but Hauschka would wear his leg out by the end of the game.

Arizona punted and Seattle faced 3rd and 11 from their 14. Russell Wilson scrambled for 17 and 4 and Marshawn Lynch gained 4, 10, and 2. Wilson then went to McCoy for 21 and Robinson for 12. Lynch ran for a 20 yard touchdown to make it 10-0 Seahawks. Seattle got it back at their own 27 and Wilson went deep to McCoy for a 67 yard gain. On the first play of he second quarter, Lynch ran it in from 4 yards out to make it 17-0 Seahawks.

Arizona would fumble on their next possession, but Seattle failed to capitalize. Arizona got it back and soon faced 1st and 14 from their 5. Skelton was intercepted by Sherman, who coasted for a 19 yard interception touchdown return to make it 24-0 Seahawks. Arizona went 3 and out and the Seahawks decided to punt it back on 4th and 1 from their 43. Patrick Peterson has showed flashes of brilliance, but not today. He fumbled the punt at the 6, and bounced to the end zone, and Smith fell on it for a Seahawks touchdown and a 31-0 lead.

Arizona punted but got a break when on the next Seattle possession, Wilson was intercepted by Peterson. Yet 3 plays later on 3rd and 6 from the Seattle 45, Skelton was intercepted by Sherman. Seattle took over at their own 6. Seattle would punt on 4th and 1 from their 30, and again the Arizona nightmare continued. Again Peterson fumbled the punt, and Maxwell recovered it for Seattle at the Arizona 24 with only 19 seconds left in the half. Wilson went deep to Zach Miller for another touchdown as the Seahawks led 38-0 at halftime.

The biggest NFL blowout was the 1940 Championship Game when the Monsters of the Midway won 73-0. Seattle was on pace for 76-0. They fell short, but not by much. Seattle began the third quarter at their 14, and moved to a 3rd and 4 at the Arizona 33. Lynch did the rest, running for the touchdown to make it 45-0 Seahawks. Arizona soon faced 2nd and 5 from their 15 when Skelton was intercepted again by Wagner. Seattle took over at the Arizona 25. Russell Wilson was benched, but with a 45 point lead it was not for job performance. Matt Flynn came in and Seattle settled for a 28 yard Hauschka field goal and a 48-0 lead.

Arizona took over at their 26 and Lindley came in for Skelton. Down by 48, this was performance related. On 3rd and 6 from their 42,  Lindley was sacked and fumbled. Seattle took over at the Arizona 40 and moved to the 14 before settling for a 32 yard field goal and a 51-0 lead. 5 minutes still remained in the third quarter, so 51 points in 40 minutes still made 76 points a possibility.

Arizona moved from their 38 to a 4th and 6 at the Seattle 39 as the fourth quarter began. For some reason, Ken Whisenhunt decided to punt. Seattle moved from their 9 to a 1st and 10 at the Arizona 20. Yet consecutive offensive penalties made it 4th and 23 from the Arizona. Rather than kick another field goal and rub it in, Pete Carroll decided just to go for it and an incomplete pass ended the drive.

Arizona punted again and Seattle took over at their 38. On 3rd and 8 Turbin gained 26. On 3rd and 6 from the Arizona 30 with 2:46 to play, Pete Carroll called a pass and Flynn hit Baldwin for 27. Leon Washington got the 3 yard touchdown to finally end the scoring barrage. Seattle is for real at 8-5 while at 4-9 Arizona is a real mess. 58-0 Seahawks

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers was the Sunday night game. On Thanksgiving Day these teams played in Detroit and Green Bay won a hard fought contest 24-20. Yet Detroit has been reeling, especially since blowing a 12 point lead at home last week and losing on the final play. Jim Schwartz has seen his team regress while Mike McCarthy has the Packers winning 6 of 7 with a chance to win the NFC North again. The snow came down throughout the game. This was Packers weather, and since the Lions play in a dome, this was set for a Green Bay coronation. The Lions have not beaten Green Bay on the road in over two decades. That’s why they pay the games.

Detroit began and faced 3rd and 4 from their 26. Matthew Stafford hit Megatron Calvin Johnson for 9. Matt Leshoure gained 9. On 2nd and 4 from the Green Bay 46, Bell gained 11 and Thomas tacked on 22 more. On 3rd and 1 from the 4, Leshoure got stopped for no gain. Jim Schwartz decided to gamble on 4th and 1. Stafford called a naked bootleg and got in easily to make it 7-0 Lions after the 12 play, 80 yard drive that consumed almost 8 minutes off the clock.

Green Bay moved from their 33 to a 2nd and 10 at the Detroit 12. Yet Aaron Rodgers was sacked and fumbled. The Lions took over at their 21. On 2nd and 9 Stafford hit Tony Scheffler for 13. Bell gained 13 more. On 3rd and 2 from the Packers 41, Stafford hit Scheffler for 4. The second quarter began with Detroit at the Packers 37. Bell gained 4 and Stafford found Durham for a 27 yard gain. Stafford hit Scheffler for a 3 yard touchdown and the Lions had a 14-0 lead in front of a stunned and frozen home crowd.

The Packers got it back at their 38 and Rodgers hit Jennings for 27 yards. Mason Crosby came in for a 49 yard kick. He has been shaky all year but Mike McCarthy keeps having him kick, even with snow coming down. Crosby nailed the kick to get the Packers on the board down 14-3.

Stafford moved the Lions with ease for much of the first half, and again took them from their 27 to a 1st and 10 at the Detroit 42. Then the most bizarre play of the game happened. Danny White in Dallas used to have a trick thumb that occasionally would have him throw forward passes that went backwards. That was 3 decades ago. Stafford went back to pass, and with nobody around him, the ball came out of his hand clearly before his arm went forward. The fumble was recovered by Daniels after a scramble, and Daniels returned it for a 43 yard touchdown to get the Packers within 14-10.

On the next series Detroit moved from their 20 to a 1st and 10 at the Packers 41. Stafford was intercepted. Detroit had the ball for almost 23 minutes in the first half to barely over 7 minutes for the Packers. Detroit was dominating statistically, yet only had a 4 point lead at the half.

Green Bay took the ball in the third quarter at their 26. Rodgers hit Jones for 11. On 3rd and 6 from their 41, Rodgers threw incomplete but another personal foul for roughing the passer on Ndamokung Suh meant 15 yards for Green Bay. Rodgers hit Finley for 9 and on 3rd and 4 from the Detroit 27, Rodgers scrambled all the way for the touchdown as the Packers took the lead 17-14 only 3 minutes into the second half.

Detroit got it back and faced 3rd and 7 from their 30. Stafford went deep to Johnson for 19 yards and another unnecessary roughness penalty on the defense added 15 more. On 3rd and 2 from the 28, Stafford threw incomplete. Old Reliable Jason Hanson hit the 46 yarder in the inclement weather and the game was tied 17-17.

After an exchang eof punts, Green Bay took over at midfield and Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for 24 yards. Yet on 3rd and 10 Rodgers was sacked. In a surprising move, rather than punt and play field position, Mike McCarthy decided to send Crosby out for a 51 yarder. The kick hooked at the last second no good.

Detroit now had great field position at their 42, and they began the fourth quarter with 3rd and 4 at the Green Bay 33. Stafford threw incomplete and Jim Schwartz made the same exact curious decision. Yes Herm Edwards said that you play to win the games, but with snow coming down punting makes sense. From 51, Hanson was dead center, but 2 yards short. Both kickers missed from the same distance, and Green Bay took over at their 41.

On 3rd and 2 Green gained 10 and 9. Ryan Grant gained 13. Aaron Rodgers plays quarterback but he did not raise his arm on this drive as harris gained 5 and then ran for the 14 yard touchdown as the Packers led 24-17 with 11 minutes left in regulation.

Detroit would punt on their next series and Green Bay would face 3rd and 11 from their 36. Despite the snow not letting up, Rodgers hit Cobb for a 38 yard gain. Crosby came in for a 41 yard field goal try with 4 minutes left to make it a 2 score game. It was good, and the Packers had a 27-17 cushion. Stafford moved the Lions from their 30 to a 1st and 10 at the Green Bay 44 with 2 1/2 minutes left. Yet 4 straight incompletions killed the drive.

Detroit got it back at the 2 minute warning at their 22 with 0 timeouts left. Stafford moved them to the Green Bay 15, but only 12 seconds remained. A few weeks ago they trailed by 14 with 20 seconds left, scored a touchdown, recovered the onsides kick, and got another Hail Mary touchdown. Needing 2 scores, Hanson came in for a 34 yarder. The kick was good, and only 7 seconds remained. The onsides kick went out of bounds and Green Bay had the win to take a one game lead in the NFC North and pretty much knock the Lions out of the playoff picture. 27-20 Packers

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots is the Monday night game. These are when the games really count. Houston is 11-1 and New England is 9-3. Their divisions are not an issue. This is about home field throughout the playoffs. Right now Houston has a 2 game lead on everyone. This game is a chess match. New ENgland has Tom Brady running the offense and Evil Hoodie Bill Bellichick drawing up defensive schemes. Houston has Gary Kubiak and Matt Schaub handling the offense and Michelin Man Wade Phillips bringing the defensive strategy. These teams are both reasonably healthy, and this could be a preview of the AFC Title Game.

Sadly for viewers, only one team showed up. Houston punted, and Wes Welker returned it 31 yards to the New England 44. Shawn Ridley ran for 4, 14, and 4. On 3rd and 6 from the Houston 34, Brady threw incomplete but defensive holding kept the drive going. Brady then found Welker for 25 yards. On 1st and goal at the 4 Ridley coughed it up, but after missing a golden opportunity for a turnover, Houston could not handle it and the Pats retained possession. One play later Brady hit Hernandez for the touchdown to make it 7-0 Patriots.

Houston moved from their 20 to the Patriots 21. Schaub went to the end zone and was intercepted by McCourty. The Patriots took over at their 18. On 3rd and 10 Brady hit Brandon Lloyd for 14, Danny Woodhead for 18, Hernandez for 13, and Lloyd for the 37 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Patriots.

The Patriots got it back and began the second quarter at their own 30. On 3rd and 8 Brady hit Hernandez for 11. On 3rd and 10 from their 43, Brady went deep incomplete, but defensive pass interference meant a 26 yard gain. The ball could not have been caught, but the Patriots get the calls at home. From the Houston 31, Brady hit Welker for 15 and 12 and Hernandez for the 4 yard touchdown to make it 21-0 Patriots. The Texas would drive twice in the second quarter to a 4th and 5, once from the Patriots 33 and once from the 38. Both times they went for it and Schaub threw incomplete.

After an exchange of punts in the third quarter, the Patriots took over at their 26. Brady hit Hernandez for 11, and on 3rd and 10 went bombs away to Dante Stallworth for a 63 yard touchdown to make it 28-0 Patriots. Houston finally got on the board after an 88 yard drive culimated in a one yard Arriun Foster run. Yet down 28-7, they were not going to make a game of it.

After an exchange of punt, the Patriots moved 72 yards easily. The fourth quarter began with a play that proved everything was going the Patriots way. From the Houston 27, Brady hit Woodhead for a 16 yard gain. Woodhead then fumbled the ball, and Lloyd recovered it in the end zone for another Patriots touchdown and a 35-7 lead.

New England got it back at their own 32 and the running game did virtually everything. Brady would complete one pass for 8 yards, but Ridley and Vereen did the rest. From the Houston 20, Ridley gained 4, 2, and on 3rd and 4, the 14 yard touchdown to make it 42-7 Patriots. Brady came out of the game with 5 minutes left and backup Ryan Mallett threw an interception with 3 minutes left. Why they were throwing when they were up 35 with 3 minutes left can only be explained by the classy Bill Bellichick. It set up a  garbage one yard touchdown run by Texans backup quarterback TJ Yates to complete the scoring.

Houston is 11-2 and New England is 10-3, but the top seed in the AFC is facing as many whispers as the top NFC seed. Houston is now vulnerable, and have three teams breathing down their necks to take away the top seed. New England looks as angry as ever, and as scary as ever. Brady threw 4 more touchdown passes, and Houston does not want to come back into New England this year. 42-14 Patriots

eric

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