NFL 2012 Week 15 Recap

NFL 2012 Week 15 Recap

The National Football League will be holding a moment of silence for the victims of the tragic events in Connecticut a couple of days earlier. The events are not being described here because the issue is one for political blogs and religious institutions. We all deeply care about what happened, but for those lucky enough to escape today, that is what will happen. Narcotics For Leatherheads is about football, so let’s get down to the game of football.

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With that, here is the Week 15 Recap.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Philadelphia Eagles was the Thursday night game. After 8 straight losses, Walrus Lite Andy Reid saw his Eagles show a ton of heart last week by defeating Tampa Bay on the final play of the game. The Bengals are the potential playoff team that nobody outside of Cincinnati respects because they never beat Pittsburgh or Baltimore. Nevertheless, Marvin Lewis has them in possible position for a wildcard loss.

This was a game of wild momentum swings. The Eagles got the ball first and disaster struck immediately. A short swing pass from Nick Foles to Jeremy Maclin was fumbled, one of five Philly turnovers in the game. Cincinnati began at the Philly 44. Benjarvus Green-Ellis quickly ran for 29 yards. After Andy Dalton hit AJ Green for 8, the Law Firm Green-Ellis did the rest, gaining 5, 1, and on 3rd and goal at the one, the last yard to quickly make it 7-0 Bengals.

Philly punted on their next series and the punt was blocked in the most impressive of ways. The defender could not get to the punter, so they just man-handled the offensive lineman and threw him toward the punter, resulting in it being blocked by the offensive line. The Bengals took over at the Philly 11, but could not convert. Josh Brown hit the 24 yarder to make it 10-0 Bengals, but the defensive stand turned the game. Philly punted on their next series and the Bengals reached 1st and 10 at the Philly 39. 3 straight incompletions was followed by the decision to punt rather than try a 57 yard field goal.

In the second quarter after another exchange of punts, the Eagles finally got a big play facing 2nd and 3 from their 43. Foles went deep to Maclin for a 46 yard gain and then found Riley Cooper for the 11 yard touchdown to get the Eagles within 10-7.

On the next Cincy series, facing 3rd and 9 from their 36, Dalton was sacked and fumbled. The Eagles took over at the Cincy 29 and Foles hit Brown for 11. Consecutive defensive penalties gave the Eagles 1st and goal at the 3. Yet pass-happy Andy Reid does not like to run the football, especially during goal line situations. Foles threw 3 straight incompletions and the Eagles settled for a 22 yard Alex Henery field goal and a 10-10 game.

More punts led to the Bengals having the ball facing 1st and 20 from their 22 at the 2 minute warning. Dalton was sacked again and fumbled again. The Eagles again had gift field position at the Cincy 12. On 3rd and 1 from the 3, Reid actually called a run, and Brown got the yard. Yet on 2nd and goal from the 1 Reid reverted to form, and Foles threw incomplete twice. On 4th and goal a t the 1, a disgusted crowd watched Reid play it safe and Henery kicked the field goal to make it 13-10 Eagles.

With 6 minutes left in the third quarter, a field position game had the Eagles at their own 47. Yet then the pendulum swung back. Foles was intercepted, and the Bengals took over at the Philly 40. On 1st and 20, Green-Ellis gained 16 and 4. On 3rd and 9 from the 29, Dalton hit Green for 11. Green-Ellis gained 4 and Dalton added 8. Dalton scrambled for an 11 yard touchdown and the Bengals led 17-13 with one minute left in the third quarter.

In a seas of miscues, even the quarterback-center exchange was failing. Foles fumbled, and the Gilberry picked it up for the Bengals and raced 25 yards for another Cincy touchdown. 2 touchdowns in 30 seconds had the Bengals up 24-13. Philly got it back at their own 9 and Foles hit Harbor for 16. Yet Harbor fumbled it away and the Bengals took over at the Philly 13. After offensive holding, 3 plays gaining 0 yards to start the fourth quarter resulted in Brown hitting from 32 to make it 27-13 Eagles.

Philly was now in full self-destruction mode as they fumbled the ensuing kickoff. The Bengals took over at the Eagles 33. On 4th and 3, Marvi Lewis went for the field goal, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the defense for trying ti simulate the snap count was the final nail in the Philly coffin. Dalton would hit Green for a 5 yard touchdown. 24 unanswered points in a 3 1/2 minute span embodied the entire Eagles season. Marvin Lewis has a team that may actually make the playoffs while The Eagles have their first losing season under Andy Reid since his rookie year. He is a good coach who deserves better, but as Jerry Glanville reminded us all, the NFL stands for Not For Long. 34-13 Bengals

New York Giants @ Atlanta Falcons–The Giants are out of breathing room despite winning big last week to get to 8-5. Dallas and Washington are only one game back, and Tom Coughlin has a tough road game for his team to try and stay ahead. Atlanta was embarrassed last week against a bad Carolina team to drop to 11-2, and Mike Smith will have a true bunch of angry birds at home in the Georgia Dome as Atlanta tries to lock up home field throughout the playoffs.

The Giants took over at their own 13 and Eli Manning quickly completed a pass to Asante Samuel, who plays defense for the Falcons. Atlanta took over at the Giants 16. Michael “The Burner” Turner did the rest, running for 3, 8, 4, and the one yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Falcons. Manning rebounded and moved the Giants from their 30 to a 3rd and 3 at the Atlanta 12. Manning threw incomplete, and Lawrence Tynes missed the 30 yard field goal as Captain Grumpy Tom Coughlin saw his Giants still scoreless.

Atlanta soon faced 3rd and 3 from their 27 when Matt Ryan hit Roddy White for 5 and Cox for 11. On 2nd and 4 from the Giants 48, Ryan went deep to Douglas for a 37 yard gain. On 3rd and 11 from the 12 Ryan found Tony Gonzalez for the touchdown to make it 14-0 Falcons. After an exchange of punts, Manning completed a pass to DeCoud, who also plays defense for the Falcons. Atlanta took over at the Giants 27. Yet on 3rd and 1, Douglas lost a yard. Mike Smith opted for the field goal and Matt Bryant hit from 38 to make it 17-0 Falcons.

The Giants moved from their 20 to a 2nd and 2 at the Atlanta 33. 2 carries by Lumpkin netted only one yard and Tom Coughlin went for it on 4th and 1. Wilson got stoned cold. The Giants got it back at their 10 and moved to a 3rd and 1 at the Atlanta 11. Lumpkin again got nothing and again Coughlin went for it on 4th and 1. Manning threw incomplete and the Giants trailed 17-0 at halftime. The second half was even worse for the Giants.

Atlanta began the third quarter facing 3rd and 7 from their 23. Ryan hit Douglas for 10 and Turner gained 14. From midfield, Ryan went to Jones for 10 and then again deep for the 40 yard touchdown to make it 24-0 Falcons. The rout was on. New York moved from their 20 to a 4th and 2 at the Atlanta 25. For the third time Coughlin gambled and lost as Manning threw incomplete. Ryan led a 74 yard drive that took 12 plays and the remaining 7 minutes of the third quarter. On 3rd and goal at the 1 Turner did not get in, and Mike Smith played it safe. Bryant hit the 19 yarder to make it 27-0 Falcons.

In the fourth quarter the Falcons ground the Giants into dust with a 13 play, 69 yard drive that took over 9 minutes off the clock. Ryan would throw a 3 yard touchdown pass to Jones to complete the scoring. Last year the Giants knocked Atlanta out of the playoffs with a 24-2 win at home. This time the field were reversed, and it was the Giants getting blanked only one week after scoring 51 points. The Giants are 2-4 in their last 6 games and clinging to an 8-6 lead. They had a stranglehold on the division lead, and that is gone as now they are tied for it. Even the playoffs are at risk. Atlanta is 12-2 and has all but locked up home field advantage. Many critics refuse to accept them because of their repeated playoff losses. This game was an opening statement. 34-0 Falcons

Denver Broncos @ Baltimore Ravens–This is a dandy of a game. Denver is 10-3 and Peyton Manning has led the Broncos to 8 straight wins. Baltimore is 9-4 but 2 straight losses led John Harbaugh to fire his offensive coordinator. Injuries are hurting the usually stout defense. A Denver win keeps them in the hunt for a 1st round bye and even puts Baltimore at risk in their division. Yet a Baltimore win pretty much wraps up their division and gives them the shot at the bye.

Denver went 3 and out, and Baltimore quickly faced 3rd and 1 at the Denver 46. Flacco took the quarterback keeper, and he fumbled. Denver got it back at their 47. Peyton Manning went to Eric Decker for gains of 5 and 9. On 3rd and 10 from the Baltimore 31, Manning hit Brandon Stokley for 14. On 3rd and 7 from the 14, a completion to Denarius Thomas only gained 5. John Fox opted for the field goal and Matt Prater hit from 27 to make it 3-0 Broncos.

The defenses dug in and Denver took over with one minute left in the quarter at their 22. Knowshon Moreno gained 20 yards and Manning hit Decker for 14 as Denver began the second quarter at the Baltimore 41. Moreno gained 9, 3, 9, and 2 on 3rd and 1 from the 20. Manning hit Decker for 14 down to the one. Jacob Hester got in to make it 10-0 in front of a nervous home crowd.

Just before the 2 minute warning, Flacco quickly moved the Ravens from their 20 to a 1st and goal at the 4 with 30 seconds left in the half. Then came the play of the game. Flacco threw a pass at the goal line, and Harris read Flacco’s eyes the whole way. Harris stepped in front of Boldin at the 2 yard line, intercepted the ball, and went coast to coast for  98 yard touchdown return. Now the crowd was shellshocked as the Broncos led 17-0 at the break.

A 50 yard kickoff return by Jones sparked the Ravens, who began the second half at their 44. Ray Rice ran hard, yet 1st and 10 from the Denver 27 resulted in 3 plays and 0 yards. Justin Tucker hit a 45 yard field goal to finally get the Ravens on the board down 17-3. Yet Manning slammed the door shut a few plays later. From the Denver 21 on 2nd and 6, Manning hit Decker for 15. Moreno ran for 8 and 9. Manning then went for it all and found Decker for a 51 yard touchdown to make it 24-3 Broncos.

The spirit of Christmas was with the Broncos as Holliday returned a punt 27 yards to the Baltimore 39. Manning hit Joel Dreesen for a 28 yard gain and Moreno ran it in from 6 yards out to make it 31-3 Broncos.

In the third quarter the Ravens did move to a 4th and 4 at the Denver 23, but Flacco threw incomplete. The fourth quarter began with the Ravens facing 2nd and 25 from the Denver 31. Flacco went deep to Danny Pitta for the touchdown and the Ravens were down 31-10. Yet there was no miracle comeback. Manning is the master, and he led a staggering 15 play drive that took a ridiculous 10 minutes off the clock. Prater hit a 34 yard field goal to make it 34-10 Broncos. Only one play from scrimmage was enough for Flacco to hit Pitta on a short pass that Pitta turned into a 61 yard touchdown. Yet it was far too little, too late.

Baltimore has lost 3 straight and at 9-5 now only leads their division by one game. They went from possible home field throughout to possibly missing the tournament altogether. John Harbaugh is searching for answers while the Broncos found theirs in Manning. After the 2-3 start, John Elway has seen his best free agent signing win 9 straight. Denver is a solid 11-3 and still has a shot at home field throughout the playoffs. 34-17 Broncos

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears–Chicago at 7-1 have since been exposed as pretenders as Lovie Smith has seen hit guys go 1-4 since. Meanwhile, Green Bay is in position to win the division again after a sluggish start as Aaron Rodgers has the offense moving. Chicago has the home field but Green Bay is still the better team.

This was Black and Blue NFC North football early on. Chicago moved from their 20 to the Green Bay 31, but on 3rd and 1 a false start penalty killed the drive as Lovie Smith opted to punt and play field position rather than try a 54 yard field goal or go for it. In the second quarter Green Bay moved from their 26 to a 4th and 6 at the Chicago 25. Mason Crosby has been having a miserable year, and he missed another one from 43 as a disgusted Mike McCarthy saw the game remain scoreless.

Chicago took over at their 33 and Jay Cutler hit Brandon Marshall for 10. Matt Forte gained 22 and Cutler hit Marshall for a 15 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Bears. Green Bay took over at their 11 and Aaron Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for 19. On 3rd and 6 from their 34, Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for 31 yards. On 3rd and 4 from the Chicago 29, Rodgers went deep to Jaquez Rodgers for the score to make it 7-7 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the half.

After an exchange of punts with 1:37 left in the half, the Bears took over at their own 37. Cutler was quickly intercepted by Hayward, who returned it 24 yards to the Chicago 26. On 3rd and 7 Rodgers hit Cobb for 13 and then found Jones for an 8 yard touchdown as the Packers led 14-7 at halftime.

Green Bay began the second half at their 21 and Harris immediately ran for 21 yards. On 3rd and 2 from midfield, Rodgers hit Finley for 9 and Jennings for 9. On 4th and 6 from the Chicago 26, Mike McCarthy decided to go for it. This showed his complete lack of faith in kicker Crosby, which was understandable at this point. Rodgers hit Cobb for 12. On 3rd and 13 from the 17, Rodgers threw incomplete but defensive pass interference put the ball on the one. After a delay of game, Rodgers hit Jones for the 6 yard touchdown as the Packers built a 21-7 lead.

Green Bay got it back and was in total control of the game when Ryan Grant got the carry just shy of midfield. He ran 14 yards, but fumbled the ball away. The Bears took over at their 37. Cutler went deep, and a 53 yard defensive pass interference penalty meant 1st and goal at the 5. On 3rd and goal at the one, Forte did not get in. Lovie Smith decided to go for it, and on 4th and goal Cutler hit Jeffery for the score. Yet penalties killed the Bears all day, and offensive pass interference wiped the score off the board. Olindo Mare hit the 34 yard field goal to get the Bears within 21-10 at the end of the third quarter.

Green Bay moved to put the game away in the fourth quarter, and on 4th and 1 from the Chicago 24, Mike McCarthy this time decided to go with his kicker. Crosby doinked the 42 yarder off the upright as an exasperated McCarthy saw his weak link on a good team mess up again.

Things got worse when McCarthy went to his bag of tricks, and the gadget play blew up. Chicago punted, and while the Adelphia Miracle known as home run throwback won Tennessee a playoff game, when the Packers tried the lateral on the punt, it was fumbled. McCarthy’s defense bailed him out when 3 plays from the Green bay 16 netted 0 yards for Chicago. Olindo Mare hit the 34 yarder and the Bears only trailed 21-13 with 7 minutes left in regulation.

Chicago got it back at their 33 with 3:47 to play but with 2:12 left they faced 4th and 9 from their own 45. Despite having only one timeout plus the 2 minute warning, Lovie Smith decided to punt and trust his defense. The Bears took their last timeout with 1:50 to play and the Packers facing 3rd and 6 at the Chicago 41. Grant got the carry and came up one yard short as the clock ticked. On 4th and 1 Mike McCarthy could have brought in Crosby for  54 yarder. That way a missed or blocked field goal could tie the game. Just kidding. He decided not to go for it either, and a perfect punt by Masthay pinned the Bears at their own 3 with 56 seconds left.

The Bears did manager to complete a bomb earlier, but a second offensive pass interference call just killed them. On this last desperation drive, Cutler hit Forte for 10, and on the next play, despite 9 guys in coverage and only 2 rushers, Cutler took forever. The pocket collapsed, and Cutler was sacked. With 2 seconds left and needing 96 yards, Cutler hit Forte for only 18 of them. The Bears acted like the clock was not running out on them. Terrible clock management is one reason why these teams are not both 9-5 as Chicago has lost 5 of 6. Green Bay has won 7 of 8 and at 10-4 has clinched the NFC North. They have an outside but unlikely shot at home field throughout, but a 1st round bye has them well positioned. Chicago at 8-6 may miss the playoffs altogether. 21-13 Packers

Washington Redskins @ Cleveland Browns–Washington is 7-6 but the entire city held its collective breath when RGIII went down with a leg injury. This was not Joe Theismann broken, but it was bad. He will not be starting this week. Cleveland began the season 2-8 but has quietly won 3 straight games, although 2 of them were against the bottom of the barrel.

After an exchange of punts, it was Kirk Cousins and the Redskins facing 3rd and 10 from their 23. Cousins was intercepted by Ward, who returned it to the Washington 6. One play was enough for Trent Richardson to take it in to make it 7-0 Browns. The defenses controlled the line of scrimmage when a 34 yard punt set up the Redskins at their own 46 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the quarter. One play was enough for Cousins went deep to Hankerson for a 54 yard touchdown to make it 7-7.

Much of the first half was a defensive slog and with 9 1/2 minutes left in the half the Redskins took over at their 23. Cousins hit Morgan for 6 and ran for 17. On 3rd and 9 from their 47, Cousins hit Royster for 25 yards. The drive stalled from their, but Kai Forbath hit from 44 to make it 10-7 Redskins with 6 minutes left in the half.

Cleveland soon faced 3rd and 5 from their 30 when Brandon Weeden hit Gordon for just enough and again for 12 more. Weeden then went to Greg Little for a 30 yard gainand Josh Cribbs to a wildcat snap 16 yards to set up 1st and goal at the 7 at the 2 minute warning. On 3rd and goal at the one, Richardson got in to have the Browns up 14-10 at halftime.

The game changed in the third quarter when Weeden began from his 27 by throwing an interception to Jackson. The Redskins took over at the Browns 15 and moved quickly. Cousins hit Morgan for 12 and Morris ran in the 3 yard touchdown as the Redskins led 17-14.

A short 32 yard punt gave the Redskins great field position at their 40. Cousins hit Santana Moss for 17 and 20. Morris ran for 6 and 11. On 3rd and goal from the 2, Cousins hit Hankerson for the touchdown to have the Redskins up 24-14 midway through the third quarter.

Cleveland quickly moved from their 32 to a 4th and 3 at the Washington 41. Pat Shurmur decided to go for it and Weeden threw incomplete. On the next series from their 17, Weeden needed only 2 plays to move to the Washington 43. Yet on the next play Weeden was intercepted by London Fletcher. Washington took over at their own 33.

On 3rd and 6, Cousins hit Paulsen for 19 as the Redskins began the fourth quarter at the Cleveland 44. Cousins hit Pierre Garcon for 15. On 3rd and 2, Cousins hit Garcon again for 6. Royster ran it in from 4 yards out to give the Redskins a comfortable 31-14 lead. Comfort quickly disappeared 3 plays later. On 3rd and 7 from their 31, Weede went deep to Benjamin on the last day of Hanukkah for a 69 yard touchdown as the Browns were only down 31-21 with 10 minutes left in regulation.

Cousins turned out the lights from the Washington 24, starting with a 32 yard completion to Morgan. On 3rd and 4 from the Cleveland 38, Cousins hit Paulsen for 10. On 3rd and 8 from the 26, Cousins hit Santana Moss for 7, and Moss fumbled it. A scramble ensued, and Washington recovered their own fumble at the Cleveland 8. Morris took it in on the next play with 5 minutes left to complete the scoring. Cleveland fell to 5-9 but is fighting hard down the stretch. As for Washington, Mike Shanahan has 2 quarterbacks he can count on after years of having none. Washington has won 5 straight and turned a 3 1/2 game division deficit into a first place tie with 2 weeks left. The playoffs are within reach. 38-21 Redskins

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans–The 9-4 Colts are the feel-good story of the year but Andrew Luck showed mortality at New England. Houston is 11-2 and were also embarrassed by New England last week, although they still have a one game lead for home field throughout the playoffs. These teams play twice in the final 3 weeks, and theoretically Indianapolis could win the division. Yet if Houston wins this game the division is locked up. Indianapolis has a virtual stranglehold on the top wildcard spot in the conference. Andrew Luck will have his work cut out for it against Wade Phillips and the Houston defense.

After a touchback Matt Schaub immediately went to Andre Johnson for 9 yards and then went deep to Johnson for a 52 yard gain. On 3rd and 4 from the 13, Arriun Foter only got half. Gary Kubiak went for the field goal and Shane Grham hit the 29 yarder to make it 3-0 Texans.

Indy went 3 and out and Houston took over at their own 43 with 1st and 5. Schaub hit Owent Daniels for 8 and on 3rd and 5 from the Indy 40, Schaub found Daniels for 8 more. A 9 yard toss to Casey set up 3rd and 9 from the Indy 19. Schaub found Johnson for 10. On 3rd and goal from the 3, Schaub and Johnson connected again for the touchdown to make it 10-0 Texans.

In the second quarter a field position game had the Colts starting at the Houston 38. Indy got to the one yard line when Mewelde Moore got the carry and fumbled at the goal line to kill the drive. The defense held, and Indy got it back again with a short field at the Houston 34. Ballard gained 19 and 10. Yet from the 5, Ballard lost 3, Andrew Luck threw incomplete twice, and the Colts settled for a 26 yard Adam Vinatieri field goal and a 10-3 deficit.

With 5 1/2 minutes left in the half the Texans faced 3rd and 7 from their 23. Schaub threw incomplete but roughing the passer was a killer penalty. On the next play Schaub went deep to Posey for 36 yards, with another personal foul tacking on 13 more. From the 13, the drive died, but a 35 yard Shane Graham field goal made it 13-3 Texans with 4 minutes left in the half.

With 1:54 left in the half, the Colts punted on 4th and 16 from their 29. Then Braman got the trifecta as he blocked it, recovered it, and took it in for an 8 yard touchdown to make it 20-3 Texans. Yet give the Colts and Luck some credit. From their own 26, Luck hit Avery for 13 and then went deep to TY Hilton for a 61 yard touchdown as the Colts got right back into it 20-10. The Texans missed a chance to pad the lead on the last play of the half when Graham missed a 50 yarder.

The Colts had momentum, but in the third quarter they began by going 3 and out. The Texans got it back and bled the clock by moving from their 13 to a 2nd and goal at the Indy 8. Schaub was sacked to end the drive, but Graham hit from 27 as the 11 play, 78, 6 1/2 minute drive made it 23-10 Texans midway through the third quarter.

Indy fought hard, and after a touchback, Ballard gained 15 and Luck added 7. Ballard gained 9, 1, and 12. On 1st and 10 from the Houston 31, Ballard gained 23 and Luck hit Allen for the 8 yard touchdown as the Colts were right back in it down 23-17 and thinking upset with 2 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

Houston punted and the Colts had a chance to drive for the lead. Yet pinned back deep, they punted it back on 4th and 15 from their own 3. A critical unsportsmanlke conduct penalty on Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians had the Texans starting at the Colts 39 with 12 minutes left in regulation. On 3rd and 1, Foster gained 3. The penalty was a killer as Graham hit a 46 yard field goal to give the Texans a 26-17 cushion with 8 1/2 minutes left.

The Colts moved from their 20, but a critical penalty had them at 4th and 20 from their own 34 with 5 minutes left. Needing 2 scores, Arians decided to punt. Houston was backed up to their own 8, but Arriun Foster killed the Colts. He ran for 3, 26, 9, 25, 2, 2, and 8. By the time Graham hit another field goal from 33, only one minute remained. Michelin Man Wade Phillips saw his defense suffocate the Colts and snuff out any rally.

Gary Kubiak saw the Texans get to 12-2 and lock up the AFC South. The Texans still have a one game lead for home field throughout but Denver and New England are only one game back. Despite the loss, Indy is 9-5 and in very strong position for the wildcard. These teams meet in the finale in 2 weeks in Indianapolis, and the rematch could be a good one. 29-17 Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Miami Dolphins–For some reason this game has to be played. Jacksonville at 2-11 is tied for the worst record in the league, where Miami is just below average. The game nobody in 49 states outside of Florida cared about had little to offer.

Jacksonville moved from their 20 to a 3rd and 8 at the Miami 13 at the start of the game. Chad Henne was sacked and Josh Scobee hit a 37 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Jaguars. That concluded the Jacksonville highlights for the game. Miami moved from their 22 to a 3rd and 4 at the Jacksonville 35. Ryan Tannehill threw incomplete but Dan Carpenter hit the 53 yarder to tie the game 3-3 after the first quarter.

In the second quarter after a Tannehill fumble, Jacksonville faced 1st and 10 at the Miami 20. Henne went to Justin Blackmon for the touchdown, but an illegal substitution penalty negated it. On 4th and 1 from the Miami 11, Jacksonville went for it and Henne went up the middle for nothing.

Miami faced 3rd and 8 from their 13 and Tannehill hit Thigpen for 15. On 3rd and 1 from their 37, Tannehill got the yard and then hit Matthews for 11. On 3rd and 4 from the Jacksonville 45, Tannehill threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant a 13 yard gain. Thomas gained 6 and Tannehill added 9 more. Reggie Bush tacked on 11. Tannehill hit Lane for 4 yard touchdown at the 2 minute warning to make it 10-3 Dolphins. For some reason the second half was played.

In the third quarter, Miami moved from their 19 to a 4th and 4 at the Jacksonville 5. Joe Philbin tried a fake field goal, and the wildcat snap to Fields led to an incomplete pass in this scintillating game. Miami got it back a their 28. Despite having dated a Kardashian, Reggie Bush may now be focused on football as he ran for a 53 yard gain. On 3rd and 3 from the 12 Bush got the carry and got nothing. This time Carpenter did kick the 30 yarder to make it 13-3 Dolphins. Jacksonville punted, and Miami moved from their 23 to a 4th and 1 at the Jags 13. Another thrilling field goal by Carpenter from 31 made it 16-3 Dolphins.

In the fourth quarter Jacksonville moved to a 4th and 1 at the Miami 15. Owens got the carry, and got nothing. Chad Henne did the world a favor by leading a long drive that would end this awful game as quickly as possible. He moved Miami 85 yards in 14 plays, taking 9 minutes to do it. On 3rd and goal at the 2, Tannehill hit Fasano for the score. The 2 point conversion to Fasano completed the scoring. Miami will not be going to the playoffs, but they have some talent. Jacksonville at 2-12 has the worst record in football and a shot at the top pick. They will feel the wrath of owner Shad Khan after the game. 24-3 Dolphins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints–Tampa Bay is improved, but a tough home loss last week on the final play severely hurt their playoff chances. The Saints lost to fall to 5-8 and will be missing the playoffs.

The Saints began at their own 26 and Drew Brees went right to work. He hit Graham for 13 and Marquis Colston for 13 more. Darren Sproles gained 15 and Brees hit Thomas for gains of 11, 20, and finally the 9 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Saints.

On 3rd and 4 Brees hit Graham for 15 and Devry Henderson got around the end for 11. Brees went to Colston for a 26 yard gain as the Saints began the second quarter with 3rd and goal at the 2. A critical false start ended the drive and the Saints settled for a 25 yard Garrett Hartley field goal to make it 10-0 Saints.

Later in the quarter a 39 yard punt return by Roscoe Parrish had the Buccaneers starting at the Saints 33. Yet on 3rd and 14 from the 26 Freeman was intercepted by Bush, who returned it 40 yards to the Saints 49. On 3rd and 11 from their 45, Brees hit Colston for 21. Mark Ingram gained 9 and Brees hit Colston for 16, Sproles for 7, and Sproles again for the 2 yard touchdown to make it 17-0 Saints with 5 minutes left in the half.

Tampa Bay punted, and a 37 yard punt return by Sproles put the Saints at the Bucs 38 with one minute left in the half. On 3rd and 3 Brees hit Graham for 24. With 12 seconds left from the 7 yard line, Brees put the dagger in by hitting Lance Moore for the score as the Saints took a 24-0 lead into the locker rooms.

In the third quarter Freeman from the Tampa 47 went deep and was intercepted by Quddus. The Saints took over at their own 8 and literally ran Tampa into the ground. Mark Ingra gained 31 and 5, Sproles gained 7, and Thomas gained 1 and 7. On 3rd and 2 from the Tampa 41, Brees hit Graham for 10 and Morgan for a 34 yard touchdown to make it 31-0 Saints. The Bucs would reach the Saints 34 and then the Saints 11 and both times turn it over on downs.

In the fourth quarter the Saints tacked on a 36 yard field goal and turned a sack fumble recovery of Freeman into an 11 yard Ingram touchdown run to close the scoring. Both teams are eliminated from contention while both teams, despite the lopsided score, have reason for optimism for next year. It was the first shutout for the Saints since 1995, and the league had better enjoy the playoffs without them since next year they will be back to form. 41-0 Saints

Minnesota Vikings @ St. Louis Rams–Minnesota won a crucial division home game last week and is still hanging around in the playoff race and even has a slim shot at the division. Jeff Fisher has the Rams fighting hard at 6-6-1. The loser of this game is all but eliminated from contention.

Minnesota took over after a Rams punt with a short field at the Rams 45. Christian Ponder began Christmas by hitting Rudolph for 14 and Simpson for 11. On 3rd and 14 from the 20, Ponder hit Burton for 13. Leslie Frazier decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from the 7. Ponder gained 3. On 3rd and goal from the 5 Ponder got in to make it 7-0 Vikings.

The Rams began the second quart facing 3rd and 4 just past midfield. Sam Bradford went to Danny Amendola for 7, Chris Givens for 22, and Gibson for 12. Bradford hit Quick for the 4 yard touchdown and it was 7-7. Yet just as soon as it was ball game on, it was ballgame off as the roof caved in.

On the first play from scrimmage from the Minnesota 18, Adrian Peterson showed why he is not only the comeback player of the year, but a legitimate candidate for league MVP. He is not just targeting 2,000 yards, but the 2,105 mark set by Eric Dickerson. He entered the game with 1600 yards, and he began here with an 82 yard touchdown run that put the Vikings up 14-7 and broke the game open.

The Rams soon faced 3rd and 2 from their 28 and the snap was fumbled. Minnesota took over there, lost 4 yards, and settled for a 50 yard Walsh field goal to make it 17-7 Vikings. 3 plays later the Rams faced 3rd and 9 from their 21. Bradford was intercepted by Griffen, who returned it 29 yards for the touchdown to make it 24-7 Vikings.

Minnesota got it back at their 32 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the half and moved to 2nd and 5 at the Rams 20. Ponder threw incomplete twice but Walsh hit from 38 to make it 27-7 Vikings with 3 minutes left in the half. Desperately needing something, Jeff Fisher brought in Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein to try a 57 yard field goal with one minute left in the half. The kick was no good, and Minnesota took over at their 47. Ponder hit Rudolph for 6, Toby Gerhart for 12 and 9, and Walsh hit a 42 yarder at the gun as the Vikings stormed to a 30-7 lead at intermission. In the third quarter after an exchange of punt, a 25 yard shank by Hekker had Minnesota at their own 40. Walsh hit from 53 to make it 33-7 Vikings in a laugher. Yet Bradford led a furious comeback, finishing 35 of 55 for 377 and 3 touchdowns. This game would get much tighter.

Bradford moved the Rams from their 20 to a 4th and 1 at the Minnesota 21. On the last play of the third quarter, Bradford hit Pettis for 5. Bradford threw a 6 yard touchdown to Danny Amendola one minute into the final quarter. Jeff Fisher opted against the 2 point conversion as the Rams got to within 33-14 but needed over 7 minutes to do it. The Rams got it back at their 12 with 10 minutes left and Bradford was lights out, hitting Pettis for 8, Amendola for 26, Pettis for 6, Richardson for 13, and deep incomplete for a 29 yard defensive pass interference penalty. A 6 yard touchdown to Kendricks and a successful 2 pointer to Amendola had the Rams within 33-22 midway through the fourth quarter.

The Minnesota defense was gassed, but the offense had Peterson. He gained only 8 yards on his first 8 carries before exploding for the 82 yarder. This time the first play from scrimmage saw him rumble for another 52 yards. The drive stalled as a pair of Toby Gerhart runs lost 5 yards. Walsh hit from 51 and Minnesota had some breathing room up 14 with 5 1/2 minutes left. Yet the defense barely had a chance to rest.

After a touchback Bradford needed 2 plays to get the Rams to just shy of midfield. Yet 4 straight incompletions turned it over 4 1/2 minutes left. Minnesota took little time off the clock as the Rams got it back at their 12 with 3:15 to play and one timeout. Bradford moved the Rams to a 4th and 3 at the Minnesota 12 as the Rams took their last timeout with 1:22 to play. A touchdown meant a one score game and an onsides kick try for the tie. Yet Bradford fired incomplete, and the exhausted Minnesota defense bent but did not break. The Rams at 6-7-1 are out of the playoff picture but still have plenty of optimism for next year. Leslie Frazier meanwhile has the Vikings at 8-6 and tied with Chicago and other teams with a serious shot at a wildcard despite the division being out of reach.

The big story in Minnesota is Adrian Peterson. He now has 1,812 yards. 2,000 is well within reach, but he made it publicly clear he is shooting to break the record of 2,105 yards held by Eric Dickerson. Peterson is one of the all time good guys in sports, and coming back one year after a devastating knee injury shows his heart, guts, skill, and tenacity. In a pass-happy league, his ground game is even more noteworthy. 29-17 Vikings

Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals–The Lions are falling apart with three straight fourth quarter meltdowns where double digit leads were blown. Arizona began 4-0 and has lost 9 straight. League rules prevent this game from being canceled. Ryan Lindley was back at quarterback after Ken Whisenhunt asked a reporter to play the position for him. Jim Schwartz, who despite this being Hanukkah is not still not Jewish, has a solid quarterback and an all world receiver but is just as frustrated with a losing team.

Lindley moved the Cardinals from their 20 to a 2nd and 8 at the Detroit 24. A wildcat snap to Patrick Peterson gained 8 more, but offensive holding and a false start killed the drive. On the next series from their 43, Lindley was intercepted. It was fitting that the Frustration Bowl was scoreless after the first quarter in the battle of who wanted it least.

The second quarter began with the Lions facing 3rd and 9 at the Arizona 43. Matthew Stafford hit Smith for 13. On 3rd and 4 from the Arizona 24, Stafford hit Heller for 12 and Megatron Calvin Johnson for 11. Matt Leshoure got the one yard touchdown run and the Lions led 7-0. One week after losing 58-0, the Cardinals were on their way. Then the clouds parted. It was a Phoenix desert miracle. Punting on 4th and 20 from their own 36, the Lions fumbled the punt and the Cardinals recovered at the Detroit 5. Beanie Wells ran it in and the game was tied 7-7.

With 4 minutes left in the half, the Lions faced 1st and 15 from their 2. Stafford went deep for Johnson and was intercepted by Peterson. Peterson returned it 31 yards to the Detroit 3. Wells gained 2 and then the last yard. Despite nothing resembling offense, the Cardinals led 14-7. Stafford moved the Lions from their 20 to a 3rd and 15 at their 43 with 41 seconds left in the half. This time Stafford was intercepted by Johnson, who raced for a 53 yard touchdown. Again, despite 0 offense, the Cardinals led 21-7.

The Lions punted in the third quarter and the Cardinals took over at their 37. On 3rd and 10, in the greatest play in Arizona history 2012, Lindley hit Roberts for 14 and a first down on offense. Lindley then found Larry Fitzgerald for 13. 2 straight completions was just enough offense for Jay Feely to hit a 51 yard field goal to make it 24-7 Cardinals. Detroit moved from their 20 to a 1st and 10 at the Arizona 22, but 3 more plays lost one yard and Jason Hanson hit a 41 yard field goal to get the Lions within 24-10 after three quarters. Arizona would move from their 20 to a 4th and 2 at the Detroit 36, but Ken Whisenhunt decided to punt.

Detroit would have the ball back after some punts with 9 1/2 minutes left at their own 13. Stafford moved the Lions to a critical 4th and 2 at the Arizona 4 with 5 1/2 minutes left. This was the key play of the game, as a touchdown would make it a one score game and signal the 10th straight Arizona loss in a season of collapses. There was a touchdown, but it was all Arizona. Stafford was intercepted by Toler, who returned it 102 yards for a score the other way as the Cardinals now led 31-10, proving that sometimes birds can defeat cats and that Sylvester and Tweety are real.

Late in the game Wells broke free for a 31 yard touchdown to pad the lead. The nightmare is over. The losing is over. The Cardinals after 9 straight losses have tasted victory. Now they and Detroit are just bad teams playing out the string. 38-10 Cardinals
Seattle Seahawks @ Buffalo Bills–Seattle is much improved under Pete Carroll and the team even has a slim chance at winning their division. Buffalo is done for the year, with the only remotely interesting thing in Buffalo being Chan Gailey’s sinister looking beard. Last week Seattle blasted lowly Arizona at home 58-0, in a game they led 38-0 at halftime. Yet they were not going to do this twice in a row, especially on the road. Or maybe they would.

On 3rd and 7 from their own 27 to start, Russell Wilson hit Sidney Rice for 17. On 3rd and 7 from their 47, Wilson hit Zach Miller for 8 and Marcus Robinson for 20. Wilson then found Danny Baldwin for 8 and ran himself for the 14 yard touchdown as 10 plays and 5 minutes meant 76 yards and  7-0 Seahawks lead.

Buffalo lost 9 yards and punted, giving Seattle the ball at their 42. Wilson hit Marshawn Lynch for 14. Wilson then showed why he is a human highlight reel, running for 19 and then again for a 25 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Seahawks.

Buffalo got it back at their own 28 and when CJ Spiller ran for a 14 yard touchdown, the Seattle streak of 72 straight points in only 5 quarters had ended. Bufalo was only down 14-7 after the first quarter, creating the illusion of a game. Like last week, Seattle would have this over by halftime. Seattle began the second quarter at their own 46, and Wilson went bombs away to Golden Tate for a 44 yard gain. On 3rd and goal from the 9, a completion to Rice came up one yard short. On the road, Pete Carroll played it safe on 4th and goal and had Hauschka kick the 19 yard field goal to make it 17-7 Seahawks.

Buffalo went 3 and out and Seattle took over at their own 42. Lynch broke free for a 54 yard gain and Wilson hit Miller for the 4 yard touchdown to make it 24-7 Seahawks. In a familiar pattern, Buffalo went 3 and out and lost one yard before punting. Seattle took over at their own 38. Lynch gained 11 and a short pass from Wilson to Rice gained 41 yards. On 2nd and goal from the 13, Wilson ran it in and the Seahawks led 31-7 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.

The Seahawks again had a shot for 100 points but would again slow down. Buffalo would move 82 yards. On 3rd and 7 from the Buffalo 20, Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Stevie St Johnson for the touchdown as the Bills trailed 31-14 with just over one minute left in the half. This time Seattle went 3 and out and Buffalo got it backa t their own 34 with 41 seconds left and 2 timeouts. They reached the Seattle 23 and Ryan Lindell hit a 41 yard field goal at the gun as the Bills only trailed 31-17 at halftime. Buffalo had a ray of hope, but it would be extinguished in the second half fairly easily.

Buffalo fumbled the second half kickoff and Seattle recovered, although on further review the call was reversed and Buffalo retained possession long enough to mess up again. On 3rd and 20 from their own 14 after a sack of Fitzpatrick, he hit St Johnson for 25. Yet 2 plays later he was intercepted by Wright, who returned it 24 yards to the Buffalo 20. Wilson ran for 7 and Lynch carried the final 13. The extra point was blocked, but Seattle had a 37-17 lead and never looked back.

Buffalo moved from their 34 to a 3rd and 4 at the Seattle 39. Fitzpatrick was then sacked at midfield and fumbled. Clemons made the hit, and Irvin picked up the ball at the Buffalo 45 and raced 35 yards down to the 10. 3 Seattle plays gained nothing and a false start mvoed them backward, but Hauschka hit from 33 to make it 40-17 Seahawks only midway through the third  quarter. 3 plays later, on 3rd and 4 from their 31, Fitzpatrick was intercepted by Thomas, who returned it 57 yards the other way for another touchdown. Seattle led 47-17 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. The only question would be if they reached 50 again, and perhaps reach 60. Yes, and no.

Seattle got it back at their own 7, and Wilson led a ridiculous 17 play drive that consumed almost 9 1/2 minutes. On 4th and 4 from the Buffalo 43, Pete Carroll called a fake punt, thinking he was still coaching USC. It worked, and Robinson gained 29 yards. On 3rd and goal from the 5, Wilson hit Rice for the touchdown. Yet on further review the play was reversed and ruled out of bounds. Hauschka hit from 23 and with 9 1/2 minutes left the Seahawks had what Steve Mariucci would call a 50-burger.

Matt Flynn and Tyler Thigpen finished the game as Seattle got to 9-5. Yes Buffalo and Arizona are patsies, but Seattle is for real. They took weaker opponents and blasted them by a combined 108-17 the last couple weeks, and a combined 39-0 at halftime. Seattle is in strong position for the top wildcard spot, and even has a shot at winning the division. They have a showdown at home next week against San Francisco. A jubilant Pete Carroll after the game said that while he used Russell Wilson as a “game manager” early in the season, he is now comfortable unleashing him to win games. 50-17 Seahawks

Carolina Panthers @ San Diego Chargers–Carolina is only 4-9 but they whipped previously 11-1 Atlanta. San Diego won an upset road victory to get to 5-8 and prove that the team always responds just when Norvelous Norv Turner is about to be fired. With San Diego at home, the Chargers were expected to win a blowout. They got the blowout part right.

Ron Rivera began the game by calling for a wildcat snap after a touchback. It only gained 2 yards, but had the Chargers off balance on defense from the start. Cam Newton then hit Barnbridge for 20 and Steve Smith for 7 with a personal foul adding 15 more. Deangelo Williams gained 12, and on 3rd and 1 from the 15, Mike Tolbert gained 4 and 6. On 3rd and 1 from the 2, Newton threw incomplete. With nothing to lose, Rivera decided to go for it. Newton got the yard and on the next play Tolbert got in to make it 7-0 Panthers.

The Chargers soon faced 1st and 15 from their 30, when Philip Rivers continued what has been a mostly nightmarish season. He was sacked and fumbled, and Chandler recovered for the Panthers at the Chargers 21. Newton hit Greg Olsen for 8. After a facemask on the defense, Tolbert ran it in from one yard out to to make it 14-0 Panthers.

San Diego went 3 and out and the Panthers took over at their 28. Deangelo Williams took another wildcard snap and gained 15. On 3rd and 4, Newton hit Olsen for 6 and then a short pass to Williams resulted in a 45 yard touchdown as the Panthers led 21-0 after the first quarter. While on pace to win 84-0, they did not win by that much.

The San Diego defense finally woke up in the second quarter but their offense never did. With only 1:35 left in the half. Carolina got it back at their 24. Newton rapidly moved the Panthers to a 1st and goal at the 5 with 30 seconds left, but offensive pass interference was the closest thing to defense the Chargers could muster. Graham Gano tacked on a 33 yard field goal as the Panthers led 24-0 at halftime. Fans have been calling for Turner’s scalp since he was hired, and they will get their wish after two more games. San Diego blew a 24-0 home lead earlier this year, and this time they had to come back at home down 24-0. They would not.

The Chargers began the third quarter as lifeless as the rest of the game as 3 plays netted 0 yards. Even Pro Bowl punter Mike Scifres had a bad day, shanking a 36 yarder. Carolina got it back at their own 44 and Newton hit Smith for 9 and Olsen for 12. Williams had 3 straight 9 yard gains and one more yard for good measure. Newton hit Smith for the 4 yard touchdown to make it 31-0 Panthers.

San Diego finally cracked the scoreboard one minute into the fourth quarter when Rivers hit Antonio Gates for a 9 yard touchdown. That concludes the San Diego lowlights. Rivers would get the Chargers to the Carolina 18 before being sacked and fumbling it away again. San Diego began their last series at their 20 with 1:52 to play. Rather than risk injury, the Chargers ended with a whimper at home as the Turner reign of Error saw Brinkley run 3 straight times to end the misery.

Norvelous Norv Turner has saved his job after some 8-8 seasons, but now the Chargers have a losing record at 5-9, same as Carolina. The Spanos family has been besieged with emails and letters begging him to keep Turner, but those letters are coming from Chiefs and Raiders fans with coaching issues of their own. 31-7 Panthers

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Dallas Cowboys–In decades past these teams provided 3 exciting Super Bowls. Now they are both fighting for their playoff lives as the loser most likely misses the postseason. Mike Tomlin has Ben Roethlisberger back but the team lost a shocker at home to reeling San Diego. Dallas is simply hot and cold, and every week is a mystery. Yet Dallas is only one game out of their division lead.

After a Pittsburgh punt, Dallas took over at their own 12. Tony Romo found Miles Austin for 17. On 3rd and 1 from their 38, DeMarco Murray gained 8 and Romo hit Kevin Ogletree for 9 more. Murray gained 11. Romo threw an 11 yarder to Austin, but since he dated a Kardashian Mike Tomlin felt safe challenging the ruling. The catch was reversed incomplete. Dallas settled for a 50 yard Dan Bailey field goal and a 3-0 Cowboys lead.

Pittsburgh moved from from their 20 to a 3rd and 6 at the Dallas 44. Ben Roethlisberger, despite still not being Jewish on the last day of Hanukkah, completed a 12 yarder to Mike Wallace. Yet there would be no holiday miracle as this time it was Jason Garrett challenging the call. The play was reversed incomplete and Pittsburgh punted.

From their 20, Murray gained 6 and Romo hit Austin for 8, 13, and 12, temorarily lifting the Kardashian curse. From the Pittsburgh 35, Murray gained 28. Yet from the 7, Murray fumbled and the Steelers recovered to kill the drive. Pittsburgh went 3 and out and Dallas got it back at their 42 early in the second quarter. Romo hit Hanna for 16 and again for 29. Romo then found Jason Witten for a 17 yard touchdown as the Cowboys led 10-0 with 11 minutes left in the half.

Pittsburgh moved from their 20 and reached a 3rd and 2 at the Dallas 14. Big Ben threw incomplete, and Mike Tomlin settled for the field goal. Shawn Suisham hit the 32 yarder as the 12 play, 66 yard, 5 minute drive finally had the Steelers on the board down 10-3 with 6 minutes left in the half. Dallas would punt on 4th and 27 from their 30, and the Steelers took over at their 27 with 2:11 left in the half. On 3rd and 4, Big Ben hit Heath Miller for 13 and Brown for 18. With 47 seconds left in the half, Roethlisberger tossed a short pass to Miller, who turned it into a 30 yard touchdown as the teams went to the half deadlocked 10-10.

After an exchange of punts in the third quarter, Dallas took over after a touchback. on 2nd and 6 Romo hit Vickers for 15, Murray for 4, and Harris for 7 to midfield. A sack of Romo set up 2nd and 23, but Romo hit Harris for 18 and Beasley to 8 on 3rd and 5. From the Pittsburgh 37, Romo hit Austin for 13 and then went deep to Dez Bryant for the 24 yard touchdown as the Cowboys led 17-10 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter.

The lead lasted 2 minutes as Pittsburgh took over after a squib kick at their 40. On 2nd and 12 Big Ben went deep to speedster Mike Wallace. Tis was not Terry Bradshaw to Lynn Swann in the Super Bowl, but it was gorgeous enough beyond double coverage for a 60 yard gain. Dwyer got in from one yard out to tie the game 17-17.

Dallas punted and Pittsburgh took over at their 22. Ian Redman ran for 22 and Roethlisberger hit Wallace for 20 as the Steelers began the fourth quarter at the Dallas 36. Big Ben hit Jerricho Cotchery for 21. On 3rd and 2 from the 7, Big Ben hit Brown for the touchdown as the Steelers now had the 24-17 lead in this seesaw game with 13 minutes left in regulation.

Dallas would punt again, and Brian Moorman boomed a 60 yarder. Brown fielded it at the Pittsburgh 16 and brought it back 22 yards. Yet then he coughed it up and the Cowboys took over at the Pittsburgh 44 with 10 minutes left. Romo hit Bryant for 13, Jason Witten for 9, and Harris for 17. A pair of incompletions meant 3rd and goal at the 3. With Pittsburgh smelling pass, Jason Garrett called a running play. Murray easily got in and this fine football game was tied for the third time at 24-24 with 7 minutes left.

Pittsburgh moved the ball from their 24 to a 3rd and 4 at the Dallas 37. Roethlisberger was sacked for a 2 yard loss. With 3 minutes left in regulation, Mike Tomlin was not gambling on a 57 yard field goal with a kicker whose career long was 52. He decided to punt. Dallas got it back at their own 12. In these situations, Romo is known for throwing touchdown passes. The only question is which team he would throw them to. On 3rd and 5, a completion came up inches short. At the 2 minute warning, we all learned that Jason Garrett is not Barry Switzer. Dallas wisely punted.

Moorman got a great bounce, and a 59 yarder had the Steelers at their own 20.

Roethlisberger hit Brown for 11 and a critical roughing the passer penalty had the Steelers facing 1st and 10 at their 46 with 1:34 to play. Yet consecutive sacks of Roethlisberger meant another punt. Harris took the punt, and raced 39 yards to the Pittsburgh 49. There was a horsecollar tackle that would have already had Dallas in field goal range, but it was not called. Romo had 47 seconds left, 2 timeouts, and needed one first down. On 3rd and 4, Romo threw incomplete. The Cowboys took their last timeout. They were expected to punt, but the entire stadium held their breath when Jason Garrett came in for a 61 yard field goal. A miss would give Pittsburgh excellent field position. Mike Tomlin took Pittsurgh’s second timeout, and at that point Garrett wisely decided to punt and play for overtime. From their own 20 with 25 seconds left, Big Ben took a knee. A pair of 7-6 teams fighting for their playoff lives would need overtime.

The second play of overtime had Pittsburgh facing 2nd and 3 from their 27. Roethlisberger threw a sideline pass and Brandon Carr made a diving interception near the sideline. Carr caught it, rolled over, realized he was not touched, and with a convoy of blockers raced toward the goal line. He dove but came up inches short. On 1st and goal from the one Romo took a knee to center the ball. Tomlin tried to ice the kicker, but from 21 yards that does not work. Bailey ended it as the home crowd erupted. Pittsburgh at 7-7 is now 2 games behind Baltimore with 2 games left, and one game behind Cincinnati, who they play next week in a do or die game for both teams. As for Dallas, they are now in a 3 way tie for first with Washington and New York at 8-6. Dallas plays Washington to end the season. This is football at its most exciting. 27-24 Cowboys, OT

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

This once proud rivalry has hit rock bottom as these teams are a combined 5-21. The Raiders have lost 6 straight to fall to 3-10. Of their 3 wins, 2 of them were against Kansas City and Jacksonville, who are both 2-11. So the Raiders re that awful. Losing this game could finally blow up the Dennis Allen error and give the Raiders a shot at the top pick in the draft. A win will make them an awful team that will watch their hated rival Chiefs get the top pick.

Sometimes awful teams come together to play a great game. This was absolutely not that game. These dreadful teams played in the Stupor Bowl, although one of them was far worse. Both teams are bad on offense and defense, while the Raiders have excellent special teams with punter Shane Lechler and kicker Sebastian Janikowski. Seabass was the only reason to watch this game.

In the first quarter after several punts, the Raiders moved from their 40 to a 3rd and goal at the Chiefs 2. Carson Palmer threw incomplete and Seabass hit from 20 to make it 3-0 Raiders. This would be a common theme on the day. In the second quarter on 3rd and 13 from their own 25, Brady Quinn went deep for Dexter McCluster but it was a McClsterf*ck. Quinn was intercepted by Hanson and the Raiders took over at the Chiefs 39. The Raiders fumbled but retained possession. On 3rd and 1, Darren McFadden lost 2 yards. Sebass hit his second field goal from 50 to make it 6-0 Raiders.

The Chiefs punted, and the Raiders moved from their 25 to a 2nd and 9 at the Chiefs 38. Offensive holding ended the drive but Seabass had a 51 yard try. This time he was no good with 1:35 left in the half. Despite starting at their own 41, the Chiefs went 3 and out and punted. The Raiders were backed up at their own 9 with 56 seconds to work with. A turnover could give the Chiefs a 7-6 halftime lead, but not this time. Palmer hit Rod Streater for 9 and again for 15. He hit McFadden and Denarus Moore for 7 yard gains. A 14 yarder to Brandon Myers was just enough to give Seabass a shot from 57 yards out with 3 seconds left. He blasted the ball through and the Raiders led 9-0 at halftime. For some awful reason, the second half was played. It was worse.

The Chiefs went 3 and out to start the third quarter and the Raiders were pinned at their own 7. Yet Palmer moved them all the way to a 4th and 1 at the Chiefs 12. Having nothing to play for but pride, Dennis Allen showed that fighting spirit and ordered the field goal. After 13 plays, 81 yards, and 7 1/2 minutes, Seabass hit his fourth one from 30 to make it 12-0 Raiders.

The Chiefs moved from their 13 to a 1st and 10 at the Oakland 33. Yet after 2 incompletions and a sack of Quinn, Crennel opted to punt. After a touchback, one play from scrimmage was enough for McFadden to fumble and give the Chiefs the ball at the Oakland 18. Yet 3 plays for the Chiefs lost 2 yards, and on 4th and 12 Quinn threw incomplete as again the Chiefs turned it over on downs.

The inability to reach the end zone kept the woeful Chiefs in the game, and they moved from their 20 to a 4th and goal at the 4. Romeo Crennel decided to go for it, and a delay of game penalty moved the Chiefs back to the 9. Crenel still decided to go for it, and then came the inexplicable. One reason the Raiders are so awful is because Dennis Allen runs the true West Coast Offense. This means dink and dunk passes that pad stats and lead to punts. This is how 3rd and 3 becomes 4th and 1. The Chiefs needed 9, and Quinn hit Jamal Charles for an elegant one yard gain as they turned it over on downs. Dink and dunk equals death for the offense.

The Raiders soon faced 3rd and 8 from their 10, and McFadden gained 15. Mike Goodson then broke free for a 43 yard gain as the Raiders began the fourth quarter at the Chiefs 32. After illegal contact on the defense, 3rd and 6 at the 23 meant Palmer throwing incomplete. For the 5th time in 6 tries, Seabass was good from 41 to make it 15-0 Raiders.

With 4 minutes left in the game, Quinn threw incomplete on 4th and 1 from the Chiefs 38. The Raiders mercifully ran out the clock.

Despite not reaching the end zone, Palmer finally had a running game to help him. Darren McFadden was the workhorse he was always meant to be, gaining 110 yards on 30 carries. Mike Goodson gained 89 on only 13 carries as the Raiders had over 200 yards rushing. Yes the Raiders blew their chance at the top pick, but in this league nobody tanks games for draft picks. The goal is to win and it is nice that for one week the Raiders showed some pride in this miserable season. The Raiders are one of the worst teams at 4-10 and have now missed the playoffs for 10 straight years, second to Buffalo and their 13 year drought. Yet the Raiders are not the very worst, as Kansas City at 2-12 is tied for that. 15-0 Raiders

San Francisco 49ers @ New England Patriots was the Sunday night game, and what a game it was. New England was the scene of a grisly act two days earlier, and the President addressed the nation from Connecticut while this game was played. Before the game the league observed a moment of silence and lit 20 flares, one for each child lost. Yet once the game started, it was simply a contest between two teams with legitimate Super Bowl dreams. Despite hard rain all game, by the time the game ended, it was already an instant classic.

New England began at their 15 and on 3rd and 1 from the 24, Shawn Ridley lost 2 yards. The 49ers took over at their 37 and Colin Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for gains of 11 and 13 and Randy Moss for 12. On 3rd and 7 from the Patriots 24, Kaepernick went deep to Moss for the touchdown to make it 7-0 49ers only 4 minutes into the game.

New England took over at their 25 and Tom Brady hit Brandon Lloyd for 23 yards. They got nothing else and punted. The 49ers were pinned at their own 8, and on 3rd and 1 from the 17, Kaepernick fumbled the snap. The 49ers were lucky enough to retain possession and punted. The Patriots took over at their 20, and Brady was immediately intercepted by Rogers, who returned it 53 yards to the Patriots 5. Yet when Kaepernick went to Walker for one yard, Walker fumbled and Aqib Talib recovered for the Patriots at the New England 10. The Patriots went 3 and out and the 49ers moved from their 41 to a 4th and 3 at the Patriots 21. David Akers missed from 39. The 49ers were dominating, but only led 7-0.

Three plays later the Patriots faced 3rd and 11 from their 29. Brady hit Vereen for 4 yards, but now it was Vereen who fumbled, and Culliver recovered for the 49ers at the Patriots 34. On 3rd and 1 from the 25, Frank Gore got stopped cold. On the first play of the second quarter, Jim Harbaugh decided to go for it on 4th and 1 rather than try the 43 yard field goal in the rain with a kicker who had missed from closer. Kaepernick fumbled the snap again, and recovered it short of the sticks in another wasted opportunity for the 49ers.

From their 25, Tom Brady led a methodical 16 play drive that consumed 6 1/2 minutes and led to a 3rd and goal at the Frisco 7. Brady was sacked, and the Patriots settled for a 32 yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal to trail 7-3. From their 20, a defensive pass interference penalty moved the 49ers to their own 45. Gore gained 8 and 3, and Kaepernick then went deep to Walker for a 34 yard touchdown that had the 49ers up 14-3 midway through the second quarter.

New England went 3 and out and the 49ers took over at their 18 with 6 minutes left in the half. That was after a 17 minute delay that gave 49ers fans nightmares of last year’s NFC Title Game. 2 fumbled punt returns cost them the game. This time a punt looked like it clearly bounced off a return man. Yet after a lengthy review and an enraged Bellichick, it was ruled that the ball was not touched. The 49ers retained possession, but it sure looked like the ball was touched. The 49ers dodged a bullet.

This time it was Kaepernick bleeding the clock so Brady would not see the ball. With 8 seconds left in the half, the 49ers had 2nd and goal at the 4 and one timeout. They tried to cross up the Patriots with a run, but Gore only got half. On 3rd and goal from the 2 with 3 seconds left, Harbaugh played it safe and Akers it from 20 to give the 49ers a 17-3 halftime lead. The first half was a slog. The second half was a pinball machine.

The 49ers began the third quarter moving from their 30 to the Patriots 33. Yet Kaepernick went to the end zone and was intercepted by McCourty for a touchback. Brady rapidly moved the Patriots to the Frisco 40, and Ridley gained 9 more. Yet he fumbled the ball again, and Goldson picked it up at the Frisco 28 and began rumbling the other way for the 49ers. He brought it back 66 yards, with 3 more tacked on for a penalty to set up 1st and goal at the 3. For the third time in the game, Kaepernick fumbled the snap and then things got bizarre. Gore picked up the ball all the way back at the 9, found a seam, and scored the touchdown Keystone Cops style to make it 24-3 49ers just like they drew it up in practice on the sandlot.

A touchback and defensive unnecessary roughness had the Patriots at their 35. Brady threw a short pass that was batted around and bobbled and caught on the tip drill by defender Aldon Smith, who brought it back 6 yards to the Patriots 27. Harbaugh immediately went for the kill, and Kaepernick went deep to Crabtree for  another touchdown in front of a shellshocked home crowd. Only 4 1/2 minutes into the second half, and the 49ers had a 31-3 lead. The biggest comeback in NFL history was 32 points, and that game was in the third quarter before the rally began. The rest of this game was simply incredible.

The Patriots quickly faced 3rd and 10 from their 27, and one more turnover would have most likely made it a 35 point deficit. Yet Brady hit Hernandez for 17 and the Patriots finally got going. On 3rd and 9 from the Frisco 21 and anyone expecting pass, Evil Hoodie Bill Bellichick called a run. Danny Woodhead gained 15 and then the 6 yard touchdown to get the Patriots within 31-10 with 6 minutes left in the third quarter.

The 49ers punted and the Patriots got it back at their 14. Brady hit Hernandez for 20, Brandon Lloyd for 13, Welker for 9, and then deep to the incredibly hard to spell and pronounce Hoomanawanui for a 41 yard gain down to the 3. On 3rd and goal at the one, Ridley did not get in. The fourth quarter began with Bill Bellichick deciding to go for it on 4th and goal at the one. Just like in last year’s AFC Title Game, Brady took the quarterback sneak and leapt over the top for the score, extending the ball past the goal plane. The Patriots were within 31-17 with the entire fourth quarter to play.

The 49ers again went 3 and out and the Patriots got it back at their 34. On 3rd and 2 Brady threw incomplete. With a full 13 minutes left in regulation, Bellichick decided to go for it on 4th and 2 from his own 42. At first it looked like theyw ere just trying to draw the defense offsides, but Bellichick has gambled on 4th and 2 much deeper in his own territory before. That one blew up and lost the game. This one saw Brady roll out and throw a screen to Wes Welker for a 15 yard gain. On the next play the Patriots tried a flea flicker and howled when defensive pass interference did not get called. Just as Brady was about to snap the ball on 2nd and 10, Harbaugh called timeout to give his exhausted defense a rest. An angry Brady spiked the football, believing he ahd snapped the ball before the timeout. When play resumed, Brady went bombs away again and this time did get defensive pass interference at the 5 yard line. Brady hit Hernandez for the score, and with 12 minutes left now the Patriots only trailed 31-24.

The next drive was even worse for the 49ers, as a sack of Kaepernick meant 3rd and 22 from their own 13. The 49ers did not convert and punted. With 10 minutes left the Patriots took over at their own 8. Brady hit Lloyd for 10 and then went deep to Lloyd for a 53 yard gain. Brady took a quick snap and gained 5 and then threw to Deon Branch for 13 more. Encroachment tacked on 5, Brady ran for 5 more, and Woodhead got the last yard for another Patriots touchdown. New England became the first team in NFL history to score 500 points in 4 different seasons. 28 points in just over one quarter of football turned a 31-3 deficit into a 31-31 tie with 6:45 to play.

The 49ers were reeling and the Patriots were rolling, yet the tie did not last for long. The 49ers desperately needed a spark, and James provided it. He took the kickoff at the goal line, and ran it back 62 yards to the Patriots 38 before being tackled by the very last line of defense. On the first play from scrimmage, Kaepernick went deep to Crabtree for the touchdown. Only 18 seconds after giving up the lead, the 49ers took it back 38-31.

Consecutive sacks of Brady had the Patriots facing 4th and 22 from their 38. They punted, and the 49ers took over at their 28 with 4:40 to play. Harbaugh played it very conservatively, and on 3rd and 4, James got the carry and got only one yard. The Patriots took their first timeout, but a perfect punt pinned New England back at their own 3 yard line with 3 minutes left. On 3rd and 1, Brady threw incomplete. Bellichick then made a very questionable decision.

Down by 7, he decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from their own 12. There was still 2:24 left and the Patriots had 2 timeouts plus the 2 minute warning. A failed conversion practically guaranteed a 2 score game. Bellichick decided to trust his red hot offense rather than his defense. Brady threw incomplete again and the 49ers took over. Harbaugh took no chances, and 3 straight runs led to the critical 28 yard field goal try at the 2 minute warning. Akers was good, and the 49ers led 41-31. New England took over at their own 20 with 0 timeouts needing 2 scores.

Brady hit Lloyd for 12, and with 1:24 to play the Patriots faced 4th and 3 from their own 39. Brady hit Branch for 8, and with one minute left it came down to 4th and 4 at the Frisco 47. Brady hit Lloyd for 24 and then raced to the line to spike the ball and stop the clock with 43 seconds left. Needing 2 scores from the Frisco 23, Bellichick immediately brought in Gostkowski for a 41 yarder. He made it, and the Patriots were within 7. Now it was time for the onsides kick. It bounced straight to Walker, and he immediately went to the ground to finally give the 49ers the game.

Both quarterbacks were magnificent in different ways. Coming from behind, Brady was forced to throw the ball a career high 65 times. He completed 36 of them for 443 yards and one touchdown, with the 2 interceptions. Colin Kaepernick was only 14 of 25 for 216, but he had 4 touchdowns and only one interception. Each team had 3 turnovers, as the Patriots lost both of their fumbles. The 49ers had tremendous luck. They fumbled 6 times, but only lost one of them.

The Patriots saw their 7 game win streak snapped, and this was also their first December home loss since 2002, a decade of Winter perfection. They are still 10-4 and AFC East Champions, but they are now one game back in the race for the first round bye. The 49ers have the slightest amount of breathing room in the NFC West. Had they lost they would have led Seattle by only half a game, and the game next week at Seattle would have been for the division lead. Instead they lead by 1 1/2 games with 2 to play, so even if they lose next week they can still control their own destiny. A first round bye is also a possibility, but right now they would not have it. This was almost the Super Bowl last year, and it could still be this year. It would be a thriller. 41-34 49ers

New York Jets @ Tennessee Titans was the Monday night game. Sometimes bad teams can come together to produce a thrilling game for the ages. This was not that game. The Titans are done for the year, while the Jets might be the worst 6-7 team in years if not ever. A pair of Jets wins over patsies actually has this team with a slim shot of making the playoffs. The NFL is considering expanding the playoffs, and this Jets team is the reason that proposal should be killed. The Jets came in fighting for their playoff lives, although the biggest losers were the fans who watched this whole game. It was ugly right up to the very end.

The Titans moved from their 22 to a 3rd and 1 at the Jets 18. A pitchout to Chris Johnson lost 10 yards. Then the 46 yard Rob Bironas field try was blocked. It got uglier. The Jets would move from their 37 to a 3rd and goal at the Titans 4. Mark Sanchez hit Cumberland for the touchdown, but on further review the ball was ruled incomplete. The Jets settled for a 22 yard Nick Folk field goal and a 3-0 lead. With 9 minutes left in the half, the Titans faced 2nd and 9 from their own 6. This time Chris Johnson raced up the middle, and outran everyone for a 94 yard touchdown run to make it 7-3 Titans. Sanchez would throw one interception later on. For some reason, the second half was played.

The Jets began the third quarter quickly facing 2nd and 20 from their own 38. Sanchez threw his second interception. It got uglier. The Titans had a short field, but on 2nd and 9 from the Jets 35, a run lost 3 and offensive holding killed the drive. It got uglier. The Jets moved from their 12 to a 3rd and 5 at the Titans 46. Sanchez was sacked. It got uglier. The Titans punted on 4th and 13 from his own 5, and a shanked punt went only 30 yards.

From the Titans 35, McKnight ran for 20. On 2nd and 6 from the 11, McKnight fumbled the ball. Yet Sanchez dove on the ball to set up 3rd and 12 from the 17. While taking a knee and kicking a field goal may have been the best idea, Sanchez rolled out and under heavy pressure found Cumberland for the touchdown as the Jets led 10-7 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. From the Titans 36, Jake Locker hit Preston for 21, Nate Washington for 12, and Wright for 13. On 2nd and 8 from the 13, Locker ran it in himself as the Titans had a 14-10 lead after three quarters. The Jets needed one touchdown to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The fourth quarter began with the Jets facing 3rd and 2 from their 38. A false start was followed by a sack of Sanchez and another punt. It got uglier. After several punts, the Jets got it back at their 23 and midway through the fourth quarter had 1st and 10 at their 34. Sanchez was intercepted for the third time by Griffin, who returned it 40 yards as the Titans took over at their 40. It got uglier. The Jets took over at their own 8  with 5 1/2 minutes left and moved all the way to a 1st and 10 at the Titans 23 at the 2 minute warning. They had plenty of time. Sanchez then went deep and was intercepted for the fourth time at the 2 yard line as Griffin picked it off again. It got uglier.

From their own 2, Mike Munchak played it very conservatively, handing off 3 straight times up the gut. The Jets used their timeouts, and with 53 seconds left the Titans were punting on 4th and 6 from their 6. Rex Ryan went with a punt block strategy rather than set up a return. The punt was almost blocked, and again Kern shanked it miserably. His earlier 30 yarder was beautiful compared to this awful 19 yard punt. With 47 seconds left, the Jets were set up on the Titans 25. Yes Sanchez had time for a 5th interception, or maybe even another butt-fumble. Maybe a touchdown would win it and launch the Jets toward the playoffs.

Out of the shotgun, the snap was low. Sanchez dropped it. When he tried to pick it up, his running back moving in motion accidentally kicked it away from him. The 5th turnover would be a fumble, and not an interception. Nevertheless, the Titans recovered and this miserable game was over as once again JETS stood for Just End The Season. Well they did, as the playoffs will somehow survive without them. Is Eva Longoria going to date Tim Tebow? Does Gang Green require moving all 45 body parts? Will the NY Post headline be hilarious? Don’t care, don’t know, and absolutely. 14-10 Titans

eric

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