NFL 2016 Week 13 Recap
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings was the Thursday night game. It was a defensive bonelock. Mike Zimmer was at home recovering from eye surgery, but the Minnesota defense summoned up his attitude. For much of the night they frustrated the tainted Dallas offense while generating little offense of their own. Kai Forbath hit a 48 yard field goal to have the Vikings up 3-0 after the first quarter. Ezekiel Elliott got the last yard of an 84 yard drive to have the Cowboys up 7-3 at halftime. Forbath hit again from 36 as the Vikings only trailed 7-6 after three quarters. Just before the third quarter ended, facing 1st and 20 at their own 25, Dak Prescott was sacked and fumbled for the second time in the game. Minnesota recovered at the Dallas 19, but again could not get in the end zone. The fourth quarter began with Forbath hitting from 33 to have the Vikings up 9-7 and smelling upset.
With 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Cowboys punted on 4th and 24 from their own 40. The punt was fumbled, a killer turnover by the vikings. Dallas recovered at the Minnesota 8. One play later Prescott hit Dez Bryant on a short slant, and Bryant took it to the end zone for a 14-9 Cowboys lead. Minnesota could not move the ball, and a shanked 33 yard punt had the cowboys get it back at their own 46. Elliott then broke off a 30 yard run. After that Minnesota held. Dan Bailey hit the 39 yard field goal to put the Cowboys up 17-9. With 4:20 to play, Minnesota needed to finally reach the end zone to try and tie the game. A sack of Bradford had the Vikings facing 4th and 12 at their own 36 with 3:14 to play. With all 3 timeouts left, the decision was to punt and trust the defense.
On 2nd and 9 from the Dallas 23, Prescott appeared to run for the first down. However, Minnesota challenged the spot. Prescott clearly began his slide before the marker, and the officials properly reversed the call. On 3rd and 1, a first down would end the game. Prescott fumbled the center snap exchange, and the Cowboys were lucky to retain possession. On 4th and 4 they punted, and it was Minnesota fumbling another punt and barely escaping disaster by retaining possession. With 2:09 left, the Vikings were at their own 35. Bradford hit Adam Thielen for an 18 yard gain. From the Dallas 36, Bradford hit Diggs for a 15 yard gain. With one minute to go, another completion already had Minnesota at the Dallas 11. On 2nd and 6 from the 7, Dallas jumped offsides, stopping the clock with 30 seconds to play. Dallas then took their final timeout. Bradord then threw the 4 yard touchdown to McKinnon with 25 seconds left. Now it all came down to the 2 point conversion.
A false start moved the try back to the 7 yard line. The Vikings committed another false start and would have been better off had it been called. Officials let the play continue, and under heavy pressure, Bradford threw a mile high and out of the end zone. Bradford took a blow to the head and it was also not called. The onside kick failed. Jason Witten saw his streak of 130 games with a catch snapped, but Witten recovered the winning onside kick. Minnesota fell to 6-6 after the bitter home loss. As for Dallas, they are 11-1 with their 11th straight win. This was their ugliest win, but very good teas gut out tough road wins against good defenses. Dallas did exactly that. 17-15 Vikings
Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars — 20 years ago John Elway’s Denver Broncos had the NFL’s best record and were shocked at home by the 2nd year Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs. 20 years later, Denver was again expected to steamroll over Jacksonville. However, Trevor Siemian was out injured as rookie Paxton Lynch got the start. After a scoreless first quarter it was actually the Jaguars who scored first. Jared Myers hit a 30 yard field goal for the 3-0 Jacksonville lead. The Broncos finally got on the board when a 75 yard drive culminated in a 6 yard Booker run for a 7-3 Denver lead. Jacksonville’s defense hung tough the entire half until the final minute. Brandon McManus hit a 32 yard field goal to make it 10-3 Broncos at halftime.
Blake Bortles can always be counted on to throw a touchdown pass to the players wearing different color jerseys. On 3rd and 4 just shy of midfield, Bradley Rob’s interception return went 51 yards for a score and the 17-3 Broncos lead. The Jaguars fought hard, coming back from their own 30. 12 plays, 70 yards, and 6 minutes led to a critical 4th and 5 at the Denver 22 less than one minute into the fourth quarter. Gus Bradley decided to go for it. Bortles scrambled up the middle all the way for the touchdown. The Jaguars were now only down by 7 with ages of time left.
Jacksonville got it back and moved to a 3rd and 4 at the Denver 38 with 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation. Bortles threw incomplete. On 4th and 4 Bradley went for it and Bortles threw incomplete again. Making matters worse, unsportsmanlike conduct on Jacksonville gave Denver the ball at the Jags 47. Lynch threw incomplete on 3rd and 3 as the Jaguars got it back at their own 20. On 3rd and 10 from the Jacksonville 40, a run gained only 5 yards. With 5 1/2 minutes left, Gus Bradley decided to punt and trust his defense. Lynch came up short on 3rd and 1 and Jacksonville had another chance at their 29 with 3 minutes left. On 3rd and 10, a completion gained only 4 yards. On 4th and 6 from the Jacksonville 33, with 2:16 to play, a 2-9 Gus Bradley with nothing to lose opted to punt. The crowd jeered but the Jaguars had all their timeouts. Jacksonville held on defense and got it back with 1:41 left at their own 34. Yet Bortles was sacked and fumbled. Denver took over at the Jacksonville 29. The defense held again but McManus hit a 41 yard field goal with 30 seconds left to lift Denver to 8-4 and very much alive in the playoff race. 20-10 Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons — A pair of teams in strong playoff position faced off as the high octane Atlanta offense grappled with the stout Kansas City defense. Early on a 10 play, 81 yard, 5 minute drive saw Devonte Freeman get the final yard for a 7-0 Falcons lead. It was set up when Matt Ryan threw incomplete on 3rd and 11 from the 12 but defensive pass interference nullified it. The Chiefs quickly came back 77 yards. Alex Smith usually throws West Coast Offense dink and dunk passes, but Andy Reid unleashed him early. Perhaps it was because dinking and dunking would not keep pace with Atlanta. From the Chiefs 41, Smith went deep to Travis Kelce for gains of 21 and 35 yards. Ware got in from the 3 yard line for the score. The extra point was blocked as the Chiefs trailed 7-6.
After a touchback the Falcons moved easily into the red zone, but on 3rd and 3 from the 4, Matty Ice was tackled for no gain. Matt Bryant hit the 22 yard field goal to make it 10-6 Falcons. The Chiefs quickly moved to from their 23 to a 3rd and 3 at the Atlanta 39. Smith was sacked and fumbled, giving the Falcons the ball at their own 43. The second quarter began with the Falcons with 1st and goal at the 2. Yet an incompletion was followed by a run that lost 2 yards and another incompletion. Bryant hit another 22 yard field goal to make it 13-6 Falcons.
The Chiefs came back 92 yards in 11 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. On 4th and 1 from the 3, Andy Reid decided to go for it. Smith hit Ware for the touchdown for a 13-13 game. With 48 seconds left in the half, the Falcons took over at their own 25. Matt Ryan fired over the middle and was intercepted by Eric Berry. Despite having the 27th ranked offense and 28th ranked defense, the Chiefs defense wins by forcing turnovers. Berry returned the interception 37 yards for a touchdown and a 20-13 Chiefs lead. Some quick passes by Ryan allowed Bryant to come out for a 59 yard field goal try on the last play of the half. Bryant was dead center and it cleared the crossbar as the Falcons trailed 20-16 at halftime.
Two minutes into the third quarter, the Chiefs prepared to punt on 4th and 1 from their own 45. Andy Reid called a fake punt that worked to perfection. Alex Wilson took the direct snap straight up the middle for a 55 yard touchdown. The Chiefs led 27-16, making Andy Reid a happy Walrus Lite. With 3 minutes left in the third quarter, the Falcons moved from their own 20. On the first play of the fourth quarter, on 3rd and 2 from the Chiefs 38, Freeman gained 4 yards. On 3rd and 4 from the 15, Ryan found Taylor Gabriel for 14. Freeman got the last yard. With 12 minutes left in the game and the Falcons down by 5, Dan Quinn made a very questionable decision to go for the 2 point conversion. Ryan’s pass was incomplete and the Falcons trailed 27-22.
Earth to NFL coaches: Don’t go for 2 point conversion until you have to. This Falcons-Chiefs game is ridiculous. How many times have we seen teams “chase points,” going for 2 a second time only because they didn’t get it the first time? Carolina lost to New England in the Super Bowl because of repeated failed 2 point conversions.
Atlanta got it back at their own 20 with 9 1/2 minutes left in regulation. On 3rd and 1 from the Atlanta 40, a short pass from Ryan to Toilolo gained 42 yards. On 3rd and 9 from the Chiefs 17, Ryan scrambled for 12. Ryan threw a 5 yard touchdown pass to Robinson. with 4 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Falcons led 28-27. Now they had to go for two, which they would not have had to do had they not gone for it the first time. So instead of a pair of extra points and a 30-27 lead, they only led by one point. Then came a disaster and a complete shock to the home crowd. Ryan’s 2 point pass attempt was intercepted by Eric Berry. Berry went coast to coast, 100 yards. This year that is now a 2 point score. Instead of leading the Falcons now trailed by a point and had to kick off.
The Chiefs took over at their own 8. At the 2 minute warning, the Chiefs faced a critical 3rd and 6 at their own 26. Smith hit Wilson for a 10 yard gain, allowing the Chiefs to run out the clock. Atlanta fell to 7-5 while the Chiefs at 9-3 are still in strong position to win the AFC West. They have upcoming rematches against Oakland and Denver. 29-28 Chiefs
Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers — With snow coming down, the first quarter was a scoreless slog. With the Texans facing 3rd and 9 from midfield, a completed pass was fumbled away, letting Green Bay take over at the Houston 24. Yet on 3rd and 1 from the 2, Aaron Rodgers fumbled the snap and the Texans recovered. The second quarter began with Bill O’Brien deciding to go for it on 4th and 1 from midfield. Alfred Blue got the carry and got stopped cold as the Packers took over. After a 3rd and 1 run lost a yard, Mike McCarthy decided to go for it on 4th and 2 from the Houston 42. Michael gained 5 yards. Rodgers threw a 9 yard touchdown to Randall Cobb as the Packers led 7-0 midway through the second quarter. In the third quarter the Texans moved 63 yards in 10 plays and 5 minutes. On 3rd and 9 from the Houston 38, Osweiler went deep to Will Fuller for a 24 yard gain. On 4th and 1 from the 6, Bill O’Brien decided to go for it. Osweiler hit Griffin for the touchdown and a 7-7 game midway through the third quarter.
A strong kickoff return had the Packers taking over at their own 44. On 4th and 2 from the Houston 48, Mike McCarthy decided to go for it. Ripowski got the carry and came up a yard short. The Texans soon faced 2nd and 5 at the Green Bay 36. Osweiler threw incomplete twice. Rather than go for it or try a 54 yard field goal in the snow, O’Brien decided to punt and play field position. Shane Lechler placed a perfect punt that pinned the Packers, which is alliteration for those who care. For those who don’t, the Packers took over at their own 2 yard line. On 3rd and 1 from the 11, Montgomery gained 13 yards. On the last play of the third quarter, on 3rd and 8 from their own 26, Rodgers found Jared Cook for 10 yards. Rodgers then found Adams for 17 and scrambled for 10. Rodgers went deep to Jordy Nelson for a 32 yard touchdown. With 13 minutes left in regulation, the 12 play, 98 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive made it 14-7 Packers.
The Texans moved from their 15 to a 3rd and 7 at the Green Bay 44 with 9 minutes left. After Osweiler threw incomplete, O’Brien again decided to punt. The Packers were pinned at their own 11. Again, it did not matter. Rodgers hit Nelson for 21 and on 3rd and 6 from midfield hit him again for 28 more. Ripowski got the last 3 yards to make it 21-7 Packers with a little more than 4 minutes to play. The Texans did quickly move 78 yards, as Osweiler hit Hopkins for a 44 yard touchdown. The extra point failed, but the bigger problem was the onside kick also failing. Both teams are now 6-6 and in playoff survival mode. 21-13 Packers
Philadelphia Eagles at Cincinnati Bengals — Neither team is expected to make the playoffs. Mike Nugent started the scoring for Cincinnati with a 32 yard field goal. Cincinnati got it back and went 81 yards, with Jeremy Hill gaining the final 2 yards for the touchdown and the 10-0 Bengals lead after the first quarter. In the second quarter the Bengals kept rolling. Mike Nugent hit a 44 yard field goal to make it 13-0 Bengals. Cincinnati got it back and quickly moved 93 yards in 12 plays. Red Rifle Andy dalton hit Tyler Eifert for a 13 yard touchdown. The extra point was no good but the Bengals led 19-0 at the half. In the third quarter the Bengals continued the blowout as a 77 yard finished with Dalton hitting Brandon LaFell for an 8 yard score and a 26-0 Bengals lead. Nugent tacked on a 26 yard field goal for a 29-0 Bengals lead. Most of the second half was garbage time. Carson Wentz threw 60 times, completing 36 of them for 308 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions. Dalton was 23 of 31 for 332 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The Eagles needed 4 touchdowns and only got 2 of them, as a late Cincy field goal ended the scoring. 32-14 Bengals
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints — Despite both teams having high octane offenses, a 27 yard Matt Prater field goal early on was the only score as the Lions led 3-0 after the opening quarter. In the second quarter the Lions moved 92 yards in 11 plays, taking 7 1/2 minutes off the clock. Matthew Stafford hit Golden Tate for a 35 yard gain and then went to Theo Riddick for the one yard touchdown to make it 10-0 Lions. After that the field goal kickers took over. A field position game had the Saints taking over with a short field at the Detroit 48. That was enough for Will Lutz to hit a 40 yard field goal to get the Saints within 10-3. Prater responded from 29 and Lutz hit again from 32 to close out the half with the Saints down 13-6. In the third quarter Prater hit from 32 and again from 27 as the Lions led 19-6. Both offense kept moving into the red zone, but it was the defenses making the end zone mostly out of reach.
In the fourth quarter the Saints got back in it. After three quarters of offensive futility, a 75 yard drive saw John Kuhn get in from one yard out. The Saints were only down 19-13. Moments later the Lions turned out the lights. Stafford went deep and found a wide open Golden Tate for a 66 yard touchdown bomb. The 2 point try failed, but the Lions led 25-13. Prater added a 52 yard field goal to complete the scoring. Prater’s 5 field goals were the difference as the first place Lions are now an 8-4 team. Jim Caldwell was so excited after the win that he almost made a facial expression. Meanwhile, the Saints are all but out of the playoff race, as Drew Brees and Sean Payton need more help on both sides of the ball, especially the defense. 28-13 Lions
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears — Forget that the 49ers and Bears are terrible. The NFL has its first snowstorm football game of the year. This is December football. Neither quarterback completed a pass in the first quarter. It could be because Colin Kaepernick and Matt Barkley are terrible, but lets give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it is the snow coming down. Jay Cutler was thanking his stars he is injured so he can stay inside. The 49ers actually received an excessive celebration penalty on a touchdown that never happened. To be fair, San Francisco was the Hillary Clinton capital of America. Midway through the second quarter saw the game’s first completion. Meanwhile, Phil Dawson hit field goals of 31 and 28 yards in the second quarter for a 6-0 49ers lead at the 2 minute warning. Despite no offense whatsoever for 28 minutes, an 8 yard completion by Matt Barkley on 3rd and 5 from the Chicago 24 finally got the bears going. Barkley hooked up with Meredith for gains of 28 and 17 yards. From the san Francisco 12, a pass to the end zone led to defensive pass interference. From the one, Howard got in with 30 seconds left in the half to make it 7-6 Bears.
In the third quarter the Bears moved 75 yards in 10 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. Howard got the last 2 yards for a 14-6 Bears lead. Chicago got it back at their own 41 and Matt Barkley somehow turned into Jim McMahon in 1985. Playing the 49ers defense 30 years after Ronnie Lott helps. Barkley hit Bellamy for 22 and again for 31. Howard ran for a 5 yard touchdown to make it 21-6 Bears. In the fourth quarter Connor Barth hit a 45 yard field goal to lock up the win. Chip Kelly allowed Kaepernick to throw only 5 passes the whole game. His only completion gained 4 yards. Colin Kaepernick was benched for Blaine Gabbert. So much for his channeling Fidel Castro’s ghost to a win. Gabbers was sacked for a safety. In the 1980s these teams played in the NFC Title Game twice. This was the Stupor Bowl. At least John Fox got his team to show up. 26-6 Bears
Los Angeles Rams at New England Patriots — 15 years ago Bill Belichik and Tom Brady shocked the world as the Patriots stunned the heavily favored Rams in the Super Bowl. A few years ago Belichick and Brady led Jeff Fisher’s team 59-0 after three quarters before taking a knee the entire fourth quarter. Fisher again leads a struggling team while Brady and belichick are on a Super Bowl mission. This time 80 yards ended with a 43 yard touchdown run by Laguerrette Blount as the Patriots led 7-0 after the first quarter. On the last play of the first quarter, the Rams faced 3rd and 7 at their own 32. Jared Goff threw a well thrown ball that went straight out of the receiver’s hands for an interception by Malcolm Butler. The Patriots began the second quarter at the Rams 30. Brady threw a 14 yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan for a 14-0 Patriots lead. Stephen Gostkowski tacked on a 28 yard field goal just before the half ended for a 17-0 Patriots advantage.
Who says the Rams don’t have an offense? Greg Zuerlein kicked a 44 yard field goal in the third quarter to have the Rams within 17-3. Gostkowski responded from 48, again from 45 after an interception of Goff, and again from 45 in the fourth quarter for a 26-3 Patriots lead. The Rams added a garbage touchdown, which is fitting because they have a garbage offense. Jeff Fisher received a 2 year contract extension before this game, and he is now 2 losses away from the all time NFL record of coaching losses. However, he has won plenty of games as well and now has time to develop Goff. As for Brady, with the win he passes Peyton Manning to be the all time winningest quarterback in NFL history with 201 wins. Meanwhile, the Patriots at 10-2 still have the top seed in the AFC. 26-10 Patriots.
Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens — Miami came in winning 6 straight in this key battle of teams with realistic playoff hopes and good defenses. Early on it was all Baltimore. Joe Flacco hit West for a 3 yard touchdown to cap a 79 yard drive. Then Baltimore got it back and went 63 yards as Flacco hit Dennis Pitta for a 13 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Ravens. In the second quarter after the teams traded turnovers, the Ravens mounted a staggering 18 play, 88 yard drive that consumed 9 minutes off the clock. Flacco hit Pitta again for a 9 yard touchdown as the Ravens were rolling at home 21-0. Justin Tucker capped off the half with a 55 yard field goal to have the Ravens dominating 24-0. On the first play of the fourth quarter, a Baltimore fumble gave the Dolphins the ball at the Baltimore 8. Yet after Miami scored, Flacco threw a 53 yard touchdown to Brad Perriman. A 9 yard touchdown run by West completed the blowout. Both teams are 7-5 although only Baltimore can realistically win their division. Miami is now on the outside looking in regarding the playoff race. 38-6 Ravens
Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders — With Kansas City and Denver winning earlier in the day, the Raiders needed to extend their five game win streak to stay atop the AFC West. Last week they got to 9-2 for their first winning season since 2002. Today they would face off against a desperate Bills team and Rex Ryan’s defense. In the first half, the Raiders were out of sync as dropped passes killed them. The Bills moved easily on their opening drive, but settled for a 27 yard Dan Carpenter field goal to lead 3-0. The Raiders came back with a 47 yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal for a 3-3 game. Buffalo in the second quarter moved 80 yards in 11 plays and 6 minutes. Gillislee scored from the one for a 10-3 Bills lead. The Raiders saw Michael Crabtree drop an easy touchdown pass as Oakland did everything to stay out of the end zone. Seabass hit field goals of 41 and 47 yards as the Raiders only trailed 10-9 at halftime. Despite being outplayed, the Raiders had a chance.
The Bills began the third quarter at their own 34. On the first play from scrimmage LeSean Shady McCoy raced for a 54 yard gain. On the next play, Tyrod Taylor scrambled for the 12 yard touchdown to make it 17-9 Bills. Buffalo got it back at their own 46 after Oakland punter Marquette King, normally one of the best in the game, shanked a 28 yarder. Buffalo made it look easy, converting a pair of third downs to face a critical 3rd and 1 at the Oakland 2. Gillislee got the carry and scored. Rex Ryan was playing ground and pound, and the Bills were pounding the Raiders 24-9. Oakland’s defense was awful and its offense was moribund. With 9 minutes left in the third quarter, the man who has been carrying the Silver and Black did it again. The gunslinger began firing on all cylinders, as Derek Carr led an offensive explosion that even retired Raider greats had to admire.
Carr fired to Clive Walford for an 18 yard gain that began a 75 yard march. On 3rd and goal at the 3, Carr hit Michael Crabtree for the touchdown. Crabtree was not going to miss another touchdown catch, as the Raiders trailed 24-16 with over 5 minutes left in the third quarter. The Raiders defense came alive as Buffalo’s offense went cold. A short punt and a 17 yard return by Jalen Richard had the Raiders starting at the Buffalo 38. Richard then ran for 21 yard gain. Latavius Murray got in from the one and Jack Del Rio smartly decided against the 2 point conversion. The Raiders were only down 24-23 after three quarters, but their offense was just getting started.
Another failed Buffalo series and another relatively short punt had the Raiders taking over at their own 41. On 3rd and 10 Carr hit Mychal Rivera for 22 yards and then went deep to Amari Cooper for a 37 yard touchdown. Less than one minute into the fourth quarter, the Raiders had taken the 30-24 lead. Again, Del Rio wisely avoided going for the 2 point try. Buffalo again went 3 and out but this time the Raiders got it back at their own 15 instead of midfield due to a penalty on the return. The Raiders got to their own 41 but a pair of incompletions ended the drive. After three straight touchdown drives the Raiders had stalled. Yet the defense came through in a big way.
With 11 minutes left in regulation, the Bills were pinned at their own 4 yard line from a great punt and even better punt coverage. On the first play from scrimmage, Khalil Mack continued his stretch of terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. Mack hit Taylor just as he threw the ball, leading to a wounded duck that was plucked out of the air by Nate Allen. The Raiders had gift field position at the Buffalo 16 yard line. On 3rd and 2 from the 8, Murray gained 5 and then got the last 3 yards. this time with 8 1/2 minutes left Del Rio went for 2, and Car hit Seth Roberts. Roberts had dropped a couple passes earlier but hauled in the critical conversion as the Raiders now led by 14 points.
Buffalo was in desperation mode now and they moved from their 25 to to a 3rd and 15 at the Oakland 33. Taylor hit McCoy for 16 and now the Bills were almost certain to make it a one score game. Yet after 5 minutes of clock, it was all for naught. Mack got the trifecta. He sacked Taylor, forced a fumble, and recovered it himself. With 3 1/2 minutes left, the Raiders were in strong position. The Bills took their timeouts on defense, and with 2 1/2 minutes left from the Oakland 32, Jack Del Rio did not even think about gambling on 4th and 1. Marquette King boomed a 68 yard punt, and the Bills committed a killer roughing the kicker penalty. The Raiders retained possession and ground down almost all of the rest of the clock.
Both quarterbacks threw 35 passes, with Taylor completing 18 and Carr. 19. Carr led in passing yards 260-191. Yet Taylor had 0 touchdowns and one interception while Carr had two touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Dropped passes prevented a third touchdown pass. Buffalo at 6-6 is now on the ropes, as Rex Ryan’s hot seat in frigid Buffalo just turned up several scorching notches. The Raiders are now 10-2, one game up in the AFC West, and in position for a first round bye. They have a very tough schedule down the stretch They face all three division opponents, and all of those games are on the road. Oakland is unbeaten on the road, but these are much tougher games. Nevertheless, 29 unanswered points in the second half came because Derek Carr is playing lights out football. It was ugly for long stretches, but the end result was beautiful. Just win baby. 38-24 Raiders
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers — A pair of teams fighting for playoff survival saw the Buccaneers come in winners of two straight, including a beating last week over heavily favored Seattle. The Chargers struck first on a 75 yard drive when Philip Rivers hit Dontrelle Inman for a 35 yard touchdown and a 7-0 San Diego lead. The Buccaneers answered on a 56 yard drive when Muscle Hamster Doug Martin ran it in from 2 yards out for a 7-7 ballgame. In the second quarter the Chargers moved 75 yards in 11 plays and 6 minutes. Melvin Gordon ran for a 2 yard touchdown as the Chargers led 14-7 at halftime. In the third quarter the Buccaneers moved 66 yards in 13 plays and 6 1/2 minutes, but stalled in the red zone. Roberto Aguayo hit the 27 yard field goal as the Buccaneers trailed 14-10.
Philip Rovers throws touchdowns, but not always to the players wearing the same color jerseys as him. With 4 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, with the Chargers facing 1st and 10 at their own 8, Rivers was intercepted by David. David returned the pick six 15 yards to pay dirt for a 17-14 Buccaneers lead. Yet after a touchback, rivers quickly had a bounce back. A 49 yard touchdown pass to Williams, who does wear the same color jersey as Rivers, had the Chargers back on top 21-17 after three quarters.
After a touchback, the Buccaneers moved to a 3rd and 2 at the San Diego 16. Jameis Winston threw incomplete and again the Bucs settled for a 34 yard Aguayo field goal to trail 21-20. The Chargers moved backwards on their next drive and a short punt had the Buccaneer starting at their own 46. Winston hit Martino for 16 yards, Jacquez Rodgers for 21 more, and Brate for the 12 yard touchdown. Winston hit Mike Evans for the 2 point conversion as the Buccaneers led this topsy-turvy game by 7 with 9 minutes left in regulation. After a touchback, Rivers led a time consuming drive. With 3 minutes to play, the Chargers faced 3rd and 1 at the Tampa Bay 31. Rivers went deep to the end zone and was intercepted. With 2:05 to play and the Chargers out of timeouts, everything came down to the Bucs facing 3rd and 1 at their own 29. Rodgers got the carry and gained 2 yards, allowing Winston to take three knees and end it. Tampa Bay is 7-5 and alive while the Chargers are 5-7 and all but dead in what could be Mike McCoy’s last season. 28-21 Buccaneers
Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals — The improved Redskins came in 6-4 while the Cardinals are on the ropes at 4-6. Early on the Cardinals moved 75 yards in 15 plays, taking nearly 8 1/2 minutes to do it. On 3rd and 12 from the Washington 15, Carson Palmer hit Gresham for 14 yards. David Johnson got in from the one for a 7-0 Cardinals lead after the opening quarter. In the second quarter both teams moved the ball but stalled. Dustin Hopkins hit field goals of 47 and 20 while Chandler Catanzaro connected from 28 as the Cardinals took a 10-6 lead into the locker rooms. The Redskins in particular had to be frustrated when they could not convert 1st and goal at the one into a touchdown. On 4th and goal at the one it was Jay Gruden who decided not to go for it.
In the third quarter, Kirk Cousins went deep to DeSean Jackson for a 59 yard gain. Again the Redskins faced 3rd and goal at the one. This time Cousins got in as the Redskins led 13-10. The Cardinals moved from their 25 to the Washington 23. Then a run lost 2 yards, Palmer was sacked for 10 yards, and a 53 yard Catanzaro field goal try was no good. Two plays later with the Redskins at their own 45, Cousins was sacked and fumbled. Golden picked it up, and ran it back all the way to the Washington 10. On 3rd and goal at the 6, Palmer hit Michael Floyd for the score and the 17-13 Cardinals lead. The Redskins responded. On 3rd and 5 from the Washington 30, Cousins found Pierre Garcon for a 28 yard gain. On 3rd and 10 from the Washington 26, Cousins went deep to Crowder for the touchdown as the Redskins led 20-17 after three quarters.
After a touchback, the Cardinals had their turn. On 3rd and 8 from the Arizona 37, Palmer hit Gresham for 9 yards and again for 11 more. From the Washington 25, Palmer went deep to Johnson for the touchdown. With 11 minutes left in regulation, the Cardinals had retaken the lead 24-20. Both teams kept moving the ball well as the Redskins advanced from their 25 to a 3rd and 9 at the Arizona 35. Cousins threw incomplete. Jay Gruden opted for a 53 yard field goal try. Hopkins delivered as the Redskins trailed 24-23 with 6 minutes to play.
The Cardinals soon faced 4th and 1 at their own 34 with 4 1/2 minutes left. Everybody knows you punt the ball so as not to end up like Barry Switzer. Yet Bruce Arians is a gambler. It looked like he was just trying to get the Redskins to jump offsides, but he actually called a play. Risking the entire game, Arians was rewarded when Johnson gained 2 yards. With 2:11 to play, on 3rd and 5 from the Washington 47, Palmer threw incomplete but defensive holding on Josh Norman meant an automatic first down. Rather than try and grind down more clock, Arians again went for it all. Palmer went deep to Nelson for a 42 yard touchdown. Down by 8 with 1:56 to play, the Redskins moved from their 25 to a 3rd and 4 at the Arizona 28 with 48 seconds left. Looking for the tie, Cousins was intercepted. Palmer finished 30 of 46 for 300 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Cousins was 21 of 37 for 271 yards and one touchdown, but his lone interception was a killer that damaged Washington’s playoff hopes. 31-23 Cardinals
New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers — These two stories franchises saw the Giants come in a confident 8-3 while the Steelers were struggling at 6-5 but still with a chance to win their division. The Pittsburgh defense brought the lumber in this one. With 3 minutes left in the opening quarter, the Giants faced 3rd and 14 at their own 5. Eli Manning hit O’Dell Beckham for 15 yards, but offensive holding in the end zone instead meant a safety for Pittsburgh. The Steelers moved after the free kick to the Giants 24 but stalled. Ryan Bullock hit a 44 yard field goal to end the first quarter with the Steelers up 5-0. With 8 1/2 minutes left in the half, an interception of Manning gave the Steelers a short field at the Giants 44. Ben Roethlisberger went deep to Antonio Brown for a 22 yard touchdown. The 2 point try failed but the Steelers led 11-0. With 6 minutes left in the half, the Steelers got it back and used up most of the rest of the clock. 15 plays eventually led to a 34 yard field goal and a 14-0 Steelers lead at the half.
In the third quarter the Giants moved from their 40 to a 4th and 1 at the Pittsburgh 3. Ben McAdoo decided to go for it and Manning threw incomplete. Yet from the Pittsburgh 15, LeVeon Bell fumbled at the Giants took over at the Pittsburgh 17. The goal line stand was wasted as Manning threw a 13 yard touchdown pass to Rashad Jennings to get Big Blue within 14-7. Pittsburgh got it back at their own 12, and Big Ben immediately went deep to Green for a 33 yard gain. On 3rd and 4 from the Giants 20, Roethlisberger went back to Green again for the touchdown as the Steelers led 21-7 after three quarters.
Late in the third quarter, on 2nd and 20 from the Pittsburgh 22, Roethlisberger was intercepted to give the Giants a short field at the Pittsburgh 43. After converting one third down, on 3rd and 13 from the Pittsburgh 35, Manning threw incomplete. With 11 1/2 minutes left to play, McAdoo went for it and Manning was intercepted at the 3 yard line. The Giants got it back at midfield and Manning quickly hit Beckham for 25 yards. Yet on 4th and 9 from the 24, needing to go for it again midway through the fourth quarter, Manning threw incomplete.
Pittsburgh moved from their 32 to the Giants 20, By the time Bullock hit a 38 yard field goal, only 90 seconds remained. With Pittsburgh up 24-7, the game was locked up. The Giants did get a garbage touchdown. Both Roethlisberger and Manning have won two Super Bowls. Mike Tomlin has the steelers tied atop the AFC North while the Giants despite the record at best will be a wildcard. 24-14 Steelers
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks is the Sunday night game. Last year in the playoffs the Panthers took a 31-0 halftime lead and hung on for a 31-24 win that ended Seattle’s reign as two time defending NFC champions. Now at home, Seattle came in looking for a revenge and a chance to all but eliminate Carolina. It was all Seattle in a game that was a nightmare for Carolina from the very first bizarre play. Despite being healthy, football fans everywhere were stunned to see Derek Anderson start and not Cam Newton. The explanation was that Newton was benched for the first play because of violating the team’s dress code. On the Saturday before the game, he did not wear a necktie on the team flight to Seattle. Newton’s overall postgame fashion sense at press conferences was not the issue. Anderson only came in for one play, and it was a disaster.
A short pass to Mike Tolbert bounced off Tolbert’s hands straight into the arms of Seattle’s Morgan, who returned it 14 yards to the Carolina 8. The throw was fine. Tolbert just messed up. Carolina’s defense held Seattle to a 23 yard Steve Hauschka field goal and a 3-0 Seahawks lead. Newton played the rest of the way. Seattle got it back at their own 8 and 92 yards came without much difficulty. Thomas Rawls was back and healthy, and he ran like it. His 8 yard touchdown run made it 10-0 Seahawks. Russell Wilson In the second quarter the Seahawks had 4th and 5 at the Carolina 36. Pete Carroll decided to go for it and Wilson was sacked. On the next play Carolina fumbled the ball right back. 3 plays later Wilson was intercepted. On 3rd and 17 from the Carolina 45, Newton went bombs away to Ted Ginn. Ginn caught the 55 yard touchdown. The Panthers trailed 10-7, but after that it was Seattle who was carpet bombing Carolina.
Thomas Rawls quickly broke off a 45 yard touchdown run for a 17-7 Seahawks lead. Seattle moved at will and Steve Hauschka added on field goals of 37 and 31 for a 23-7 halftime lead. On the first play of the third quarter, Tyler Lockett raced for a 75 yard touchdown and a 3-0 Seahawks blowout. The fourth quarter was a formality. A 10 play, 84 yard, 5 minute drive saw Wilson throw a 1 yard touchdown to Jimmy Graham. Seattle mounted one more 11 play, 70 yard, 6 minute drive that saw Hauschka hit his fourth short field goal from 28 yards out. Wilson was 26 of 36 for 277 yards, one touchdown and one interception, as the 8-3 Seahawks are in strong position for a first round bye at 8-3. Meanwhile last year’s 15-1 Panthers fell to 4-8. They won the division 2 years ago going 7-8-1, but that will not happen this year. After 3 straight division titles, Carolina is all but dead in terms of playoff hopes. Newton finished 14 of 32 for 182 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, but his team took a beating from the 12th man and the Legion of Boom. 40-7 Seahawks
Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets was the Monday night game. It was over from the start. Andrew Luck threw touchdown passes of 7 and 21 yards to Allen before the Jets could blink as the Colts led 14-0 after the opening quarter. The Jets managed a 38 yard Nick Folk field goal before quitting the rest of the game. Adam VInatieri hit a 53 yard field goal for a 17-3 Colts lead. Luck hooked up with Allen a third time for a 23 yard touchdown to make it 24-3 Colts. An Indianapolis fumble at the Jets goal line was the only thing delaying a 31-3 game. In the third quarter the Colts moved 75 yards in 11 plays and 6 minutes. Luck’s fourth touchdown pass to Moncrief did get things to a 31-3 Colts lead. Vinatieri added one more field goal to make it 34-3. Todd Bowles benched Ryan Fitzpatrick and had Brice Petty play the second half. In the fourth quarter an interception of Petty set the Colts up at the Jets 6 yard line. On the first play of the fourth quarter Robert Turbin ran for a 5 yard touchdown and a 41-3 Colts lead. The Jets did get one garbage touchdown as they fell to 3-9. Chuck Pagano has a 6-6 club that can still win the woeful AFC South. 41-10 Colts