NFL 2007–Week 16 Recap

Let John Randle’s voice thunder loudly. This is when the big dogs come out.

As much as I love bombast and hyperbole, Shakespeare once said that the play was the thing. Rock group Aerosmith said that we should let the music do the talking. Ok, I just engaged in hyperbole and bombast. Nevertheless, the games shall now speak for themselves. I will avoid describing playoff scenarios until after every team has only one game left.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ St. Louis Rams was the Thursday night game. This was a well played game, with plenty of entertainment. Despite their terrible record, the Rams had inspiration on this night in two forms. Marshall Faulk’s number was retired, and Isaac Bruce moved into third place all time on the NFL list for yards received.

As for the game, Pittsburgh is known for tough running, and the Rams for lots of passing. Naturally, Ben Roethlisberger put on an aerial show, and Stephen Jackson ran all over the field. Roethlisberger and Marc Bulger each had 3 touchdown passes. Roethlisberger finished with a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating, which would be even more impressive if people knew what that meant or how it was calculated.

On their first play from scrimmage, from their own 3 yard line, Roethlisberger went bombs away to Santonio Holmes for an 83 yard gain, setting up a touchdown pass. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, on their 3rd play froms crimmage, NFL rushing leader Willie Parker left the game with a broken leg. He is done for the year.

The Rams tied the game thanks to Stephen Jackson, and the Steelers were forced to punt on their next series. Yet a perfectly executed fake punt on 4th and 7 went for 32 yards, setting up a field goal. Both teams moved the ball almost at will in the first half, with Pittsburgh leading 24-17 at the break.

Pittsburgh scored on their first possession of the second half, and the Rams answered right back, at which point the game finally slowed. Also, the teams reversed game plans, with the Rams throwing to Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and Najeh Davenport running in place of Parker. A long sustained drive on the ground by Pittsburgh led to a field goal with just under 5 minutes that put the Steelers up 34-24. Trying to mount a rally, Bulger threw an interception that was returned 50 yards for a touchdown by Ike Taylor to close out the scoring. In the same week Ike Turner died, Ike Taylor concluded a Steelers revival ceremony. Awful Ike analogies notwithstanding, the Steelers stopped their two game slide, moved a 1/2 game ahead of Cleveland, and are still on pace for the # 3 seed (seeds 1 and 2 are locked up). The Rams fell to 3-12, but are playing with pride, and a game effort fell short. 41-24 Steelers

Dallas Cowboys @ the Carolina Panthers was the Saturday night game. Carolina has had a nightmarish season, and 4th string quarterback Matt Moore was trying to keep the team’s slim playoff hopes alive against an angry Dallas team that lost a shocker at home last week to fall to 12-2. While rational people understand that Jessica Simpson was not to blame for the loss, football is about emotion, not logical reasoning.

The bottom line is that Dallas is fighting for home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and they in that sense were as desperate as Carolina. Jessica Simpson’s eyes were not as important as Tony Romo’s thumb. Romo fumbled the snap on the first play of the game, but eventually settled down. Romo threw a touchdown pass to Terrell Owens, and a Marion Barber run on a draw play had the Cowboys up 14-0. Moore then threw a touchdown pass to Steve Smith, which was set up by a long run by Deangelo Williams. Dallas added a field goal to take a 17-7 lead at the half. Of deeper concern to Dallas was Terrell Owens leaving the game with an ankle injury. X-rays were negative, but he did not play in the second half. Of deeper concern to Carolina was the fact that in the first half they were outgained 291-109, and trailed in time of possession 22+ minutes to 7+ minutes.

Carolina began the second half with a 7 minute drive that reached the Dallas one yard line. After a penalty and a couple sacks, they ended up outside the red zone, although a 38 yard field goal by Jon Kasay cut the gap to 17-10. Carolina put up a game effort, including a gutty 9 catch, 137 yard performance by Steve Smith, but a Dallas field goal with 7 minutes left put the game out of reach. The injury riddled panthers were eliminated from playoff contention, while Dallas can lock up home field throughout the playoffs with a win next week. 20-13 Cowboys

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals–The Browns needed to keep pace with Pittsburgh for the division lead, and the Bengals were playing spoiler. That’s why they play the games. A pair of field goals had the Bengals up 6-0, and then a close game got broken wide open when Derek Anderson had a nightmarish final minute of the first half. He has played well this year, but his 2 interceptions allowed Cincinnati to score two touchdowns in 39 seconds at the end of the half to take a 19-0 lead into the locker room. Carson Palmer threw a touchdown pass to TJ Houshmanzadeh and Kenny Watson ran it in from a couple yards out for the other one. The Browns mounted a furious rally, and closed to within 5 points with 6 minutes left. Cincinnati had a chance to run out the clock but fumbled the ball away in Cleveland territory. Anderson moved the ball to the Cincy 29 yard line, but the final desperation pass fell incomplete. Despite Anderson’s pair of touchdown passes to Braylon Edwards, his four interceptions were too much for the Browns to overcome. The Browns loss allowed Pittsburgh to clinch the division. Even worse, the Browns no longer controlled their own playoff destiny. Tennessee needs to lose for Cleveland to sneak in. 19-14 Bengals

Kansas City Chiefs @ Detroit Lions–Somebody had to win at some point, although a tie was a possibility. KC had lost seven in a row, and Detroit had lost six straight. Detroit jumped to a 19-0 lead when a Brodie Croyle pass was intercepted and returned 61 yards for a touchdown by Paris Lenon. Croyle was injured on the play trying to tackle the runner. Kansas City rebounded with Damon Huard before the half to close the gap to 19-14. After a Detroit field goal, KC clawed to within 2 points on another Huard touchdown pass. The 2 point conversion to tie the game failed, although over 13 minutes remained. Huard actually threw for 305 yards on the day, even though he only played 3 quarters. With the chance drive and take the lead, the Chiefs turned it over deep in their own territory late in the game. The Lions could only manage a field goal. Kansas City had another chance to win, but ran out of time when their final hook and ladder had the player stumbling to the ground untouched at the Detroit 30 yard line. 25-20 Lions

Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts–although the Colts cannot get the # 1 seed, a first round bye is still necessary for this team to get healthy. They came out firing on all cylinders against a Texans team that was simply overmatched. The Colts led 24-7 at the half, and were well on their way to a first round bye. Peyton Manning was 21 for 26 with 241 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns in the first half alone. Yes, Peyton is ridiculous, and no, the Texans had no answers. Neither does most of the rest of the league. 38-7 Colts

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears–As the cliche says, throw out the records. The Packers needed to keep pace with Dallas to have a shot at home field throughout the playoffs. The Bears beat the Packers earlier in the year in Green Bay. With snow coming down, the Bears led 6-0 on a pair of field goals. Green Bay could not muster anything, and then one play instantly changed everything. Ryan Grant burst through the defense for a 66 yard touchdown run, and just like that, Green Bay led 7-6 late in the second quarter. Kyle Orton is the epitome of a quarterback asked to “manage” the game, but he does that well. A sustained drive led to an Adrian Peterson touchdown run and a 13-7 Bears lead at the half. Another Kyle Orton touchdown pass and successful two point conversion had the Bears up 21-7 midway through the third quarter.

Early in the game the Bears blocked a punt, recovered inside the Green Bay 10 yard line, but came up with no points when a 4th and goal pass failed. The Packers had a second punt blocked, and Peanut Tillman’s block was picked up by Corey Graham for a touchdown and a 28-7 Bears lead. An 85 yard interception return by Brian Urlacher was the final dagger. Green Bay is now the # 2 seed, with Dallas locking up home field. Dallas has never won in Green Bay, and Brett Favre has never won in Dallas. 35-7 Bears

New York Giants @ Buffalo Bills–Kevin Everett visited the Bills before the game, several months after nearly dying from a spinal cord injury in Week 1. His visit was heartwarming. The rest of the game was ice cold freezing. The Giants were in complete control of their playoff destiny, and they were in full scale collapse mode. Facing a Buffalo team no longer fighting for its playoff life, the Bills jumped to a 14-0 lead on passing by Trent Edwards, including a long bomb setting up a short touchdown. The Giants face the Patriots next week, and could go from being a playoff lock to being locked out altogether.

Apparently Tom Coughlin gave his team that very expletive laced message, because the G-men quickly tied the game on a pair of Brand Jacobs touchdown runs, and then took the lead on a field goal. Yes, Buffalo is coached by Dick Jauron, but even he cannot be blamed for a roughing the punter penalty that kept one Giants drive alive. With 10 seconds left in the half and the Giants in field goal range again, Eli Manning fumbled and the Bills recovered, another squandered opportunity.

The second half began with an Eli Manning interception setting up a short Trent Edwards touchdown pass, putting the Bills back up top 21-17 a minute into the third quarter. The Giants reached the Buffalo one yard line on their next drive, and a goal line stand preserved the Buffalo lead. The Giants drove inside the Buffalo red zone on their next possession, and then Eli Manning fumbled the snap.

All the scoring took place in one end zone on a day where rain and wind turned into sleet and then snow by the 4th quarter. As awful as Eli Manning as playing, Trent Edwards had meltdown in the fourth quarter, going against the weather. A perfect pass bounced off a receiver and was returned for a touchdown by Kavika Mitchell to put the Giants up 24-21. After a punt, the Giants started deep in their own territory, when Ahmad Bradshaw ran 88 yards for a touchdown and a 31-21 Giants lead. Between Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants gashed Buffalo for 292 rushing yards. Another Edwards pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown for the last score by Big Blue. Edwards then threw in yet another interception for good measure. The Giants are in the playoffs, winning ugly as they always have. 38-21 Giants

Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints–Pass happy Andy Reid let Donovan McNabb run wild…or throw wild actually…while Drew Brees kept firing for the Saints. The Eagles led 21-14 after the first quarter in a in a ridiculous passathon. The teams combined for 325 yards in the first quarter, 200 for Philadelphia. Games like these usually slow down as the teams get exhausted and run the ball. Philadelphia added a field goal, and then Martin Grammatica nailed a 55 yarder on the last play of the half. Yes, he jumped up and down and celebrated like the Saints had won the Superbowl, and yes his brother Bill injured himself that way. The Saints trailed 24-17 at the break.

In the second half, a game that was all offense featured some solid goal line defense. The Saints reached the one yard line, where the Eagles defense stoned Aaron Stecker. The goal line stand kept Philly on top. McNabb then took the Eagles 99 yards, with a 9 yard touchdown pass putting the Eagles up 31-17. The Saints got no closer than a pair of field goals, and a Donovan McNabb 7 yard touchdown toss put the game out of reach. Both teams are 7-8 and eliminated from contention. 38-23 Eagles

Oakland Raiders @ Jacksonville Jaguars–For more on the game of the day, go to

A 62 yard Fred Taylor run went for one touchdown, and a long Maurice Jones-Drew run set up another touchdown, and at 14-0, the Raiders did their part to get a better draft pick in April. JaMarcus Russell came in, and an interception he threw was fumbled back. Although the season has been awful to date, Russell does look impressive in terms of mobility and arm strength. These games are almost like preseason in the sense that they are helping him get a feel for the game. Unfortunately, the defense looked like they were in preseason form as well. Seabass kicked a field goal to make it 14-3.

After starting their next drive at their own 3 yard line, the Raiders punted. Shane Lechler, the only pro bowler on the team, did his job, but a perfectly executed gadget play led to a punt return all the way to the Oakland 2 yard line. This set up a short Garrard touchdown pass to put Jacksonville up 21-3. On their next series, Russell was intercepted again.

My friend and I had a philosophical discussion at this point on 2 key issues from a fan’s point of view. First of all, we both agreed that as long as the offensive line held up, Russell should play the whole game. He needs the experience. Yanking him out serves no purpose. The second issue dealt with removing the Raiders from my big screen television and putting them on my small tv. When the Jaguars went up 28-3 after the interception, the switch was made. Russell was not yanked, but the entire team was yanked so my big screen could view a competitive game that would not make me ill. 6 minutes remained in the second quarter. Russell got knocked out, and the Jaguars had a chance to add to their lead, but Garrard was intercepted in the end zone.

The message that this game sent to JaMarcus Russell was “welcome to the NFL, kid.” With 6 seconds left in the game, Russell threw his first NFL touchdown pass on 4th and goal, to Zach Miller. He also completed the 2 point conversion. It would have been sheer beauty had the Raiders not been down by 46 points at the time. 49-11 Jaguars

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ San Francisco 49ers–The Bucs came in having already clinched their division, and the 49ers were just playing out the schedule. Former 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia started for the Buccaneers, while former Buccaneers quarterback Trent Dilfer plays now for the 49ers. Garcia was incredibly overrated in Frisco, but has matured into a good quarterback. Dilfer is…well…Dilfer. Of course, this game was finished by Luke McCown for the Bucs and Sean Hill for the 49ers.A touchdown pass just before the half put the Buccaneers up 13-7 at the break. The Bucs rested their starters, and backups played the rest of the way. The 49es retook the lead midway through the third, and a Frank Gore touchdown had the 49ers up 21-13. With 5 1/2 minutes left, Jon Gruden bypassed a field goal attempt from 4th and 6 from the San Francisco 25. The pass to the end zone was incomplete. Luke McCown did get another shot, and he threw a touchdown pass. The 2 point conversion pass was completed, but the receiver had one of his feet on the end line. The onsides kick went out of bounds, and the 49ers ran out the clock. Both teams with Pirate logos had a McCown lose at quarterback, but Luke played well. The Buccaneers are now most likely the # 4 seed as they fell behind Seattle by a game. 21-19 49ers

Atlanta Falcons @ Arizona Cardinals–With both teams eliminated from the playoffs, this game deserved short shrift. Both teams scored a pair of touchdowns to have the score tied 14-14 midway through the second quarter. Arizona tacked on a field goal, and Kurt Warner touchdown pass just before the half put the Cardinals up 24-14 at the intermission. A field goal and a Chris Redman touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler tied the game at 24-24 with 5 minutes left. The Falcons got the ball back, and a defensive pass interference call gave the Falcons first and goal just past the 2 minute warning. Arizona used all three timeouts on the next 3 plays, and Morton Anderson’s 21 yard field goal gave the Falcons the lead with 1:41 to play. Kurt Warner went right to work, and Neil Rackers nailed a 29 yard field goal as time expired to send this game into overtime. Of all the games that deserved extra time, this was not one of them. Nevertheless, the Cardinals won the coin toss, drive down the field, and won on a 33 yard field goal by Rackers. Warner was 36 for 53 with 361 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Never has a quarterback with such talent had to step aside for others that did not play as well, be it Eli Manning, Matt Leinart (jury out), or Marc Bulger (debatable). 30-27 Cardinals, OT

Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots–The upset of the century. Just kidding. Goliath beat up David, took his lunch money, pulled his trousers down, hung him from the flagpole, and stole his girlfriend. The question of whether it would be 100-0 or less would be the only reason to watch. Had the Dolphins been 0-14, it would have been history, 0-14 vs 14-0. However, the Dolphins won last week, dampening their hunger, and eliminating any reason to think they would win today.

Tom Brady threw a touchdown to Randy Moss to put the Patriots up 7-0. Shockingly enough, that was the score after the first quarter. However, a pass interference penalty in the end zone early in the second quarter set up another Brady touchdown pass to Moss, for a 14-0 lead. Lawrence Maroney took a 3rd and 1 handoff 59 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 Patriots lead. NFL regulations required that the final almost 3 quarters be played. After the Patriots went up 28-0, the Dolphins drove near the New England goal line, only to be stuffed on a goal line stand with seconds left in the half.

In the second half, Tom Brady began throwing interceptions, and his second pick led to the Dolphins going again to the New England one yard line. Again, they failed to score, when a rollout bootleg had the quarterback inexplicably go out of bounds on the wrong side of the pileon. All he had to do was switch the ball to his other hand, and it would have been a touchdown. The Patriots punted from their own one yard line, and it went 64 yards and out of bounds. Even the punter would not give Miami a break. The Patriots failed to score in the second half, but perhaps they were bored. They turned the ball over 4 times, and the Dolphins had no turnovers. The Dolphins even had a slight lead in time of possession. Yet the Patriots led in yards 400 to 241, and most importantly, led in points. They are now 15-0, and will be chasing immortality in six days. 28-7 Patriots

Baltimore Ravens @ Seattle Seahawks–The Seahawks have clinched the NFC Worst, and while they are not a terribly exciting team, the Ravens are just a terrible team. A year ago they were 13-3, and this year they started 4-2 before losing eight straight. Steve McNair may be old by NFL standards, but he wins. His injury wrecked this team. Shockingly enough, by halftime, Seattle led the Ravens 21-0. The second half was uneventful, and Seattle is in the driver’s seat for the # 3 seed thanks to Tampa Bay losing. 27-6 Seahawks

New York Jets @ Tennessee Titans–The Titans at 8-6 came into the game knowing Cleveland had lost, meaning that Tennessee controlled their own destiny from a playoff standpoint. After both teams struggled early, Vince Young moved Tennessee to a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. Chad Pennington brought the Jets right back with a touchdown pass, although the extra point was blocked. The Jets kicked a field goal, took the points off the board when a Tennessee penalty for launching gave them a first down, and the turned it over on a Pennington interception. Young then fumbled it back, giving the Jets another field goal attempt that was wide by a mile. The Titans tacked on a Rob Bironas field goal in the 3rd quarter. Pennington drove the Jets to the Tennessee 45 at the 2 minute warning, but was then sacked, as the Jets went down. It was ugly, but the Titans make the playoff beat Indy next week. While that will be a “Titanic” task, the Colts are locked into the # 2 seed, and might rest everybody. 10-6 Titans

Washington Redskins @ Minnesota Vikings was the Sunday night game. Both teams were in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the conference. The 8-6 Vikings came into this game on a 5 game winning streak, and a win in this game would clinch the playoff spot for them. The Redskins had won their last two games, and a Washington win would place both teams at 8-7, with Washington clinching the spot with a win next week. A Washington Win would also keep alive the 7-8 Saints, albeit barely.

With the home crowd and the red hot streak on their side, Minnesota proceeded to get shellacked in the first half. Washington’s first touchdown on 4th and goal was overturned when replay showed the play dying inside the one but short of the goal. Minnesota thanked their defense by giving up a safety. Washington took the ensuing free kick and marched down the field, this time scoring a touchdown that would not be overturned. The Redskins did virtually everything right in the first half, and the Vikings did virtually everything wrong. The Redskins led 22-0 at halftime.

After Washington tacked on a field goal to further extend the lead, Tarvaris Jackson finally moved the Vikings, and several passes later he found Kleinsausser in the end zone with 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. A perfectly executed onsides kick was wasted when Minnesota failed to pick up a first down. Minnesota started their next possession just past midfield, and Tarvaris Jackson ran it in himself on 3rd and goal from the 8. The Vikings trailed by 11 points, with over 10 minutes remaining. After Todd Collins threw a gorgeous sideline pattern for a completion, Washington hurried to the line to prevent Minnesota from challenging whether or not the receiver was in bounds. Instead, the Redskins fumbled the snap, and Minnesota recovered.

As if things could not get any weirder, Joe Gibbs made a decision that only a hall of fame coach can make. Somebody on his staff noticed that on the fumbled snap play, the Vikings had 12 men on defense. Replay showed that one player was not all the way off of the field. Instead of a turnover, the Skins had 1st and 5. Minnesota up to that point had all the momentum, but after the challenge it reversed back. Clinton Portis ran it in from 18 yards out with 5 minutes left to put the game out of reach. For the second week in a row, Washington went on the road and smacked around what seemed to be a superior opponent. The Redskins host Dallas next week, and Dallas will have nothing to play for, having clinched the top seed. If Washington wins, they are in. 32-21 Redskins

Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers was the Monday night game. Denver was playing for pride, and hoping to avenge a 41-3 loss in Denver that changed the seasons of both of these teams. San Diego had already clinched the division, and would be either the # or # 4 seed, which rarely matters.

The key early on to this game was the person who was not there, punter Todd Sauerbraun. He got into an argument with a cab driver over an $8 fare, then argued with police, and the altercation led to him being cut from the team. True, he is not the starting quarterback, but he is a good punter. After San Diego’s Nate Kaeding hit a field goal following a Jay Cutler fumble, Denver’s backup punter hit a punt only 18 yards, setting up a touchdown for the Chargers. Another punt of only 33 yards set up a field goal. Kaeding’s 3rd field goal on the last play of the half had the Chargers up 16-0.

Midway through the third quarter, a touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Chris Chambers put the Chargers up 23-0. At that point they led in plays 52-21, yards, 300+ to 55, and time of possession 26 minutes to 10. It was a blowout in every sense.

One of the major dilemmas playoff teams face is when to rest their players. It can be second, third and fourth guessed, but I have always been a proponent of resting them as quickly as possible. The goal is to win the Superbowl, and individual accolades a reless significant (although the 15-0 Patriots are very tempted). With that said, Philip Rivers was pulled with less than 3 1/2 minutes in the 3rd quarter, and Billy Volek entered the game with the Chargers inside their own 10 yard line. He promptly fumbled the snap, and Denver recovered. They could only turn it into a field goal. Denver did drive deep on their next possession, but on 4th and 1 from the 3, with 12 minutes left, the San Diego defense blew up the next play in the backfield, thwarting any comeback hopes.

With the outcome of the game not in doubt, a bizarre case of trash talking occurred with 8 minutes left. All teams have trash talkers, and it is part of the game, but LaDanian Tomlinson went ballistic last year when the Patriots did the Shawn Merriman “Lights Out” dance on the field. This year it was Philip Rivers trashing at the Broncos from the sidelines, and it seemed like he was yelling at Jay Cutler. There could be more to the storyline, but NFL quarterbacks are a fraternity. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning don’t do that. Rivers and the Chargers beat Cutler and the Broncos by a combined 64-6, so it seemed odd that Rivers was the one jawing.

Perhaps San Diego is trying to establish an identity, but as the only AFC West team without a Super Bowl championship, they have never been given the same hostility that the Raiders, Broncos and Chiefs have for each other. Everybody despises the Raiders, even when they are losing, which is a form of respect. Nevertheless, this is all theory, and the jawing did mar a convincing win by the division champs. It will come back soon enough, since Denver will not stay down for long. After the game, Philip Rivers shared pleasant conversation with backup Denver quarterback Patrick Ramsey, and Shanahan and Turner had warm greetings after the game, expected of them. So Cutler and Rivers remain a mystery for now. The Chargers are on track for the # 3 seed. 23-3 Chargers


One Response to “NFL 2007–Week 16 Recap”

  1. Jersey McJones says:

    I can’t believe the Raiders waited this friggin long to try some different players and plays. Why? What were they waiting for? I had to watch their latest escapade and can only say the Raiders are rudderless. The same for my Jets. GET IT TOGETHER GUYS!!!


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