NFL 2008–Week 12 Recap

Anything is possible in the National Football League. It has not happened since 1947, but if the Arizona Cardinals win this week at home against the defending champion New York Giants, they will host a playoff game. They will have made the playoffs for the first time since 1998, and won their division for the first time since Air Coryell coached them in the 1970s before heading to the Chargers and revitalizing them.

The Cardinals have been the joke of the NFL for so long, that it is nice to see them win. They have 5 games left, and need one win. Yes, they play in the worst division on Earth, but they are 7-3 and looking phenomenal on offense. They are the Greatest Show in the Desert. Keep in mind, when other teams were winning in that division, it was still a terrible division, partly because of the Cardinals. So if 8-8 gets them in to the playoffs, they still absolutely deserve to be there.

Yet one word to describe the early games today would be disappointment. All 8 games were blowouts. I cannot recall the last time that happened. I am used to toggling between 4 or 5 games going down to the wire. Today, the closest morning game was 10 points, and that was only one game. Every other game featured at least an 18 point spread. Some of these games were close for a half or 3 quarters before being blown open. The late games were better. With that, below is the Week 12 NFL Recap.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers was the Thursday night game. The Bengals began the season 0-8, but have since become a juggernaut, winning one and tying another one in the first tie game in 6 years. They were one missed field goal from a two game winning streak. Yet their second game against a Pennsylvania team in 2 weeks was a miserable experience. The Steelers are very good, were at home, and had the snow flurries and swirling winds for dramatic effect. This was simply Goliath beating up David.

The Steelers dominated time of possession 35:20 to 24:40 and yards 364 to 208. The Bengals did shock the crowd with an 11 play, 6 minute drive that went 62 yards, ending in an 18 yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Holt. The Bengals led 7-0 after the opening quarter before reality set in. Ben Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for a 3 yard touchdown pass to tie the game, and a field goal had the Steelers up 10-7 at the half.

In the 3rd quarter, another field goal extended the lead for the Steelers. On their next drive, Big Ben hit Miller for 19 yards to set up a 2 yard touchdown run by Russell to put the Steelers safely in front 20-7. In the 4th quarter, a short field led to the Bengals facing a 4th and goal at the 8 with 7 minutes remaining. Ina  very curious decision that almost seemed like giving up, Coach Marvin Lewis opted for the field goal. The decision to not try and make it a one score game was puzzling. Speaking of 8 yards, Big Ben led the Steelers on one final drive, and he scrambled for that amount to cap the 73 yard drive and end things. 27-10 Steelers

Philadelphia Eagles @ Baltimore Ravens–Philadelphia was coming off an ugly game that produced a tie against hapless Cincy. The Ravens have been winning ugly for the last decade. Shockingly enough, these teams produced an ugly game. A scoreless first quarter was followed by an even moire hideous beginning to the second quarter. An interception of Donovan McNabb gave the Ravens a short field, but a pair of sacks of Joe Flacco set up 4th and 37. The Ravens punted. With 3 minutes left in the half, a field position battle led to a Philly Punt that had the Ravens starting at the Philadelphia 28. The Ravens offense moved 2 yards and kicked a field goal to lead 3-0 in what may have been one of the worst games in NFL history.

McNabb was then intercepted again, and Ed Reed had the Ravens at the Philadelphia 6. Even the Ravens can occasionally drive 6 yards. They needed 3 plays, but Flacco hit Wilcox for a 1 yard touchdown and a 10-0 Ravens lead. 1:49 remained in the half, but the Eagles needed only 12 seconds. Demps returned the kickoff 100 yards to make it a 10-7 game. Neither team had anything resembling offense.

The only thing worth discussing about this game is what may reverberate for the rest of the history of the Eagles. Andy Reid benched Donovan McNabb. Yes he was playing badly, but this was a close game, and Reid and McNabb have been a team for a decade. A fellow named Kolb took over in the second half. 1st and 10 at the 20 turned into 4th and 26 from the 4. The turning point in the game came when the punt was blocked out of the back of the end zone for a safety and a 12-7 Ravens lead. Kolbe was then intercepted at midfield by Samari Rolle. This led to a field and a 15-7 Ravens lead seconds into the 4th quarter.

After a punt, the Ravens showed the closest thing the game would have for offense. Flacco threw a 53 yard touchdown pass to Clayton to put the Ravens up 22-7. The only thing worth discussing about this game will be the future of Donovan McNabb in Philly. Unless Andy Reid wants to give up on the season, he should let McNabb keep his job. Kolb was intercepted in the end zone by Ed Reed, who returned it 108 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens defense is their offense, but after a 12-7 game, the 4th quarter blew the game open. 36-7 Ravens

Houston Texans @ Cleveland Browns–Sage Rosenfels began the game by leading a 79 yard drive that took 14 plays and over 8 minutes of clock. Rosenfels hit Walter for a 17 yard touchdown pass to put the Texans up 7-0. After that, the game was virtually unwatchable. I watch so you do not have to. In the second quarter, the teams exchanged field goals, and the Texans led 13-6 at the break.

This game was one of two games where the only drama came due to a quarterback benching. Romeo Crennel is under pressure, but playing carousel with quarterbacks destroys a team. First they draft Brady Quinn. Then Derek Anderson leads the team to a 10-6 record, and gets a 6 year contract. This year the team struggles to a 3-6 record, and Anderson gets benched in favor of Quinn. Quinn plays very well in his first start, losing a shootout. He wins his second start. In his 3rd start today, he throws a pair of interceptions, and gets benched in a close game in favor of Anderson.

When the Bills had Doug Flutie and Rob Johnson, the carousel destroyed the team. This is no different. Put one of them in there and leave them in. The second half was a complete waste. The Texans added one field goal, and Cleveland added one field goal less than that. On 3rd and 2 from the Houston 12, Quinn was intercepted in the end zone. With 7 1/2 minutes remaining, Phil Dawson missed a 39 yard field goal. Rosenfels then threw an interception, but on the next play from the Houston 27, the Browns fumbled it right back. Anderson was then intercepted again late in the game for Cleveland’s 5th turnover. 16-6 Texans

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions–The Buccaneers came in at 7-3 to face the 0-10 Lions. This is the NFL, where even the worst teams have a shot. Any given Sunday does exist. The Buccaneers were the laughingstock of the NFL for so long that they can relate to the current Detroit woes. While the Ford family owns the Lions, the Lions are ineligible for a government bailout. They would have to fix their problems on the field by themselves.

On their second drive, Dante Culpepper found Calvin Johnson for a 41 yard gain to set up Culpepper’s 15 yard touchdown pass to Johnson for the 7-0 Lions lead. Jeff Garcia had the Bucs at midfield, but he was then sacked, resulting in a fumble that was returned 44 yards for a touchdown by Keith Bullock. After a Tampa Bay punt, Culpepper led the Lions to a 38 yard Jason Hanson field goal. After the first quarter, the Lions led 17-0 over a shell-shocked Tampa Bay team.

The second quarter saw a reversal of fortunes. Warrick Dunn ran it in fro 13 yards out to get the Buccaneers to within 17-7. After a Detroit punt, Garcia hit Ike Hilliard for a 36 yard touchdown and a 17-14 game. on Detroit’s next possession, Culpepper completed a pass to Ronde Barber, who plays defense for the Bucs. Garcia took over at the Detroit 24, and needed one play to hit Jeremy Stevens for the go ahead touchdown.

Taking a 21-17 lead into the second half, the Bucs continued rolling. A 70 yard touchdown by Muhlbach had the Buccaneers up 28-17. A Jeff Garcia fumble had the Lions in business at the Tampa 40. Culpepper responded by completing his 2nd pass of the day to Ronde Barber, who still plays defense for the Buccaneers. Barber returned the interception 65 yards for a touchdown to put the Buccaneers up 35-17. Yes, the Lions did lead 17-0 after the first quarter. The Bucs improved to 8-3, and the Lions reward for falling to 0-11 is a face-off with an angry Tennessee team. Instead of a historic 11-0 vs 0-11 matchup, the Titans will be 10-1 with a chip on their shoulder. 38-20 Buccaneers

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs–Buffalo began the season 5-1 and then lost 4 straight. Kansas City has won only one game all year, which gets lost in all the hype about Detroit’s pursuit of winlessness. Yet like Detroit, Kansas City has pride. Tyler Thigpen hit Charles for a 36 yard touchdown pass to put the Chiefs up 7-0. Marshawn Lynch powered the ground game for the Bills, and on 4th and goal from the 1, the decision to go for it paid off when Lynch broke through and tied the game 7-7.

Kansas City began their next drive with awful field position, and on 4th and 17 from their own 1, punted. The Bills began at the Kansas City 40. Just like on their previous drive, they reached 3rd and goal at the 1. However, on this drive, on the last play of the 1st quarter, Lynch was blown up in the backfield for a 2 yard loss. Ryan Lindell made the field goal to put the Bills up 10-7. Kansas City struck back rapidly as Larry Johnson ran up the middle for a 63 yard gain, setting up a 2 yard touchdown pass from Thigpen to Tony Gonzales. Yet leading 14-10, the Chiefs could not handle prosperity. A fumble set up Buffalo at the Kansas City 28. Trent Edwards could not lead the team to a 1st down, and Buffalo settled for another field goal and a 14-13 lead for the Chiefs. After that, the roof caved in for Kansas City.

Thigpen was intercepted by Leodis McKelvin, who raced 64 yards for a touchdown and a 20-14 bills lead. After an exchang of field goals, Thigpen was intercepted again by McKelvin. Taking over at their own 47, with under 90 seconds left in the half, Trent Edwards hit Reed for 20 yards. Edwards ran it in himself from 15 yards out to give the Bills a 30-17 lead just 4 seconds before halftime.

McKelvin returned the second half kickoff to the Kansas City 48, with a facemask penalty moving the ball another 15 yards. Edwards needed only 4 plays to turn a close game in the first half into a rout. Edwards again ran it in himself, this time from 5 yards out, and the Bills were cruising at 37-17. A fumble set up  a Buffalo field goal before Thigpen hit Bradley on a 45 yard touchdown pass to pull within 40-24. Yet Trent Edwards was far from done, and an 8 yard touchdown pass to Reed had the Bills up 47-24 after 3 quarters. They extended the lead and coasted from there. The Bills are above .500 and in the hunt. 54-31 Bills

Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Rams–The Rams are a mess, and a confusing one at that. They started out 0-4, and looked every bit as awful as Detroit and Kansas City. Yet Jim Haslett took over as coach and the Rams won back to back games. Then the wheels fell off and the losing resurfaced. Yet unlike the other bad teams in the league, the Rams are not even competitive. In their last couple games they trailed 40-0 and 35-3, and that was only at halftime. This just does not happen in the NFL. The Bears were shellacked 37-3 last week, and took their frustration out on the hapless Rams.

This game featured another awful half for the Rams. A kickoff return by Manning, and not Devon Hester, had the Bears at midfield. A 20 yard run by Hester set up a 13 yard run by Matt Forte for the 7-0 Bears lead. Later in the quarter, the Devon Hester show took place, and it was not even on a kickoff or punt return. Kyle Orton found Hester for a 27 yard pass completion. Hester then ran for 12 yards before catching an 8 yard pass from Orton. Orton finished the drive with a 7 yard pass to McKie and a 14-0 Bears lead. In the 2nd quarter Matt Forte broke through for a 47 yard touchdown run to put the Bears up 21-0. For the 3rd week in a row, the Rams got shellacked in the first half, followed by an uneventful and meaningless second half. The Bears led 24-3 at the break before everyone fell asleep. 27-3 Bears

New York Jets @ Tennessee Titans–Before the season this looked like a matchup of average teams that could possibly make the playoffs with Chad Pennington and Vince Young. Instead it became a clash of the Titans with Brett Favre and Kerry Collins. Titans should be taken literally since that is the former team name of the Jets. The Old Oilers are the New Titans, and they came into the game at 10-0. The Old Titans and New Jets just came off of a shocking overtime win over New England that catapulted them into first place in their division.Although the Jets are playing good football, Tennessee had the home field advantage.

Favre took over at the New York 24 and promptly began firing. The Gunslinger went 6 for 6, capping the drive off with a 10 yard pass to Thomas Jones to put the Jets up 7-0. Yet these teams both have good defenses, and points were expected to be at a premium. Favre then led the Jets in the 2nd quarter on a 13 play, 7 1/2 minute drive that reached a 3rd and 1 at the Tennessee 2. They failed to convert, and Eric Mangini opted for the field goal on the road and a 10-0 lead. The Titans came back with a field goal of their own, cutting the gap to 10-3 at halftime. Both teams had missed opportunities, as a promising Jets drive led to a fumble in the red zone. An interception of Favre had the Titans starting with a short field, but on 4th and 3 from the 35, Jeff Fisher opted to punt and play field position.

The New Titans have been winning with hardnosed defense and long drives. Today it was the Jets that played smashmouth. Favre took the opening second half kickoff and led a 13 play, 7 minute drive that led to a field goal and a 13-3 Jets lead. The normally disciplined Titans fumbled the ensuing kickoff, allowing the Jets to begin at the Tennessee 35. Favre hit Laverneous Coles for an acrobatic 2 yard touchdown pass to put the Jets comfortably in front. After a Tennessee field goal, Leon Washington broke through on a 61 yard touchdown run to have the Jets ahead 27-6.

Collins did hit Hall for a 6 yard touchdown with 10 minutes remaining, but Favre led a 12 play, 7 1/2 minute drive to remove any doubt that the Jets are for real. Leon Washington ran it in from 4 yards out for the exclamation point. Jeff Fisher is too even keeled to have his team panic. Yet the Jets have consecutive road wins against New England and Tennessee. They are for real. Brett Favre is definitely not ready for retirement. The Jets are 8-3, and the Titans fall to 10-1. The 1972 Dolphins will not have to wait until the end of the Super Bowl to pop the champagne corks. The only thing left is for Detroit to win a game and protect the legacy of the 1976 Bucs and Lee Roy and Dewey Selmon. On Thanksgiving, Detroit faces an angry bunch of Titans. It also seems unfair. Tennessee still leads the entire AFC by 2 games. 34-13 Jets

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins–Last year this was the 16-0 Patriots vs the nearly 0-16 Miami Dolphins, who needed overtime and a missed field goal to get their win. The win came against Baltimore, who also blew the game against New England for what should have been a loss for them. The Patriots shredded the Dolphins. Yet this year, the Patriots lack Tom Brady and the Dolphins have a new attitude, a Wildcat offense that is sweeping the league, and a President in Bill Parcells that demands execution. Both of these teams came in 6-4 and one game out of the division lead. In the Week 2 matchup, the Dolphins went into New England and destroyed the Patriots 38-13. If there is one person Bill Bellichick cannot stomach losing to, it’s his former mentor Parcells. This was another Tuna Bowl matchup, and a good one at that.

Matt Cassel went right to work, but an incomplete pass on 3rd and 2 from the Miami 12 led to a field goal and a 3-0 Patriots lead in what would be a seesaw game. Cassel was intercepted later in the quarter by Hill, allowing Chad Pennington and the Dolphins to start at the Miami 42. A pass to Martin went for 29 yards to set up a 3 yard toss from Pennington to Camarillo to put the Dolphins up 7-3.

In the 2nd quarter, Cassel led a 12 play, 5 1/2 minute drive, and again faced 3rd and 2 at the 12. This time Sammy Morris picked up the 1st down, and Cassel ran it in himself from 8 yards out to give the Patriots the 10-7 advantage. Pennington led a 12 play drive that ate up over 7 minutes, and he also ran it in himself for the score, with his run coming from 7 yards out. Yet trailing 14-10, the Patriots struck back fairly quickly. Cassel hit Randy Moss for a 25 yard touchdown pass to give New England a 17-14 halftime lead.

To start the 3rd quarter, the Dolphins began at their own 18. Pennington went deep to Ted Gin for a 46 yard gain. A 16 yarder to Camarillo continued the drive, and Pennington hit Cramer for the 2 yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone. The 5th lead change of the game had the Dolphins up 21-17. The Patriots came back with an 11 play drive that ended with Cassel hitting Moss for an 8 yard touchdown pass. The 6th lead change of the game had the Patriots up 24-21. Miami’s next drive reached the New England 27, but a holding penalty and a sack forced a punt. Cassel then hit Welker for a pass that eventually became a 64 yard gain. Kevin Faulk then ran up the middle for 21 yards to give the Dolphins a 31-21 lead as the 3rd quarter ended.

The Dolphins came right back in the 4th quarter, needing less than 2 minutes. Pennington hit Bess for 36 yards before hitting Ricky Williams for the 13 yard touchdown to make it a 31-28 game. Yet neither defense could prevent this pinball machine of a game from slowing down. With 9 minutes remaining, Cassel hit Moss for a deep touchdown with 9 minutes remaining. Their 3rd connection of the day went for 40 yards and put the Patriots up 38-28.

What was a good game for 50 minutes turned into a blowout. A field goal added the New England lead to 41-28. Then Bill Bellichick showed why he is the least classy individual in football, and maybe on Earth. With 40 seconds remaining, the Patriots faced 4th and goal at the 1. Rather than kneel on the ball, the Patriots ran the ball in for the touchdown as Bellichick felt necessary to remind Parcells who he was. At least the Patriots opted not to attempt a 2 point conversion. The Patriots moved to 7-4, one game behind the Jets, and one game ahead of Miami and Buffalo. Cassel passed for 415 yards, in addition to his 400 yards passing last week. Only 5 quarterbacks in NFL history since the 1970 merger have done this. Tom Brady is not one of them. Matt Cassel is. 48-28 Patriots

Minnesota Vikings @ Jacksonville Jaguars–Minnesota came in 6-4 against an underachieving and desperate 4-6 Jaguars team. Yet less than one minute into the game, the game seemed over. Jack Del Rio is known for having disciplined teams, and a lack of discipline off the bat put the Jaguars in a deep hole. On their first play from scrimmage, a fumble on the snap was returned 27 yards for a touchdown by Meester for a 7-0 Minnesota lead. On their next possession, the first play from scrimmage was another Jacksonville fumble. Minnesota took over at the Jacksonville 28. Chester Taylor ran 11 yards, Bernard Berrian picked up 14, and then Taylor picked up the final 3 yards to put the Vikings up 14-0 early on.

The Jaguars were given life by a 38 yard punt return by Witherspoon that had them starting at the Minnesota 27. After a completion to Jerry Porter, David Garrard hit Williams for the 8 yard touchdown pass that had the Jaguars within 14-7. Josh Scobee hit the ensuing kickoff out of bounds. Combined with an offsides penalty, the Vikings took over at their own 45. A 21 yard Adrian Peterson run had Minnesota at the Jacksonville 34. The drive stalled, but Ryan Longwell nailed a 54 yard field goal to put the Vikings up 17-7 after the opening quarter.

In the second quarter Garrard led a 14 play, 8 1/2 minute drive that went from the Jacksonville 31 to the Minnesota 3. However, the Jaguars moved no further and had to settle for a Scobee field goal to pull within 17-10. In the 3rd quarter, the Jaguars began their half the way they began the game, by fumbling the ball away. Minnesota took over at the Jacksonville 38, and kicked a field goal to lead 20-10. A field goal in the 3rd quarter and a 16 yard Adrian Peterson run rounded out the scoring for Minnesota. They took an intentional safety late in the game for the only Jacksonville points after halftime. The Jaguars fell to 4-7, but in 1996 they were 4-7 before running the table to the AFC Title Game. 5 turnovers today does not suggest history will repeat itself. After a shaky start, Brad Childress made the quarterback switch and stuck with his decision. The Vikings are 7-4 and in the hunt. 30-12 Vikings

San Francisco 49ers @ Dallas Cowboys–This is not the 1990s, and this game was not for the NFC Title Game. Mike SIngletary is turning around a pathetic 49ers team, while Wade Phillips is trying to hold the Cowboys together after a midseason collapse. This game was a blowout, not a classic. In the first quarter, the 49ers drove twice inside the Dallas 5 yard line. Twice they had to settle for field goals and a 6-0 49ers lead after the first quarter. In the second quarter, the game reversed for good as Dallas exploded.

Tony Romo threw the bomb to Terrell Owens, who loves him some him. The 75 yard touchdown pass put the Cowboys up 7-6. The 49ers on their next possession had to punt on 4th and 21 from their own 5. Polk blocked the punt for a safety and a 9-6 Dallas lead. Another Dallas punt went 70 yards and was downed at the one yard line. The 49ers punted from their own end zone again, allowing the Cowboys to start at the San Francisco 35. A field goal put Dallas up 12-6. Later in the period Romo hit Owens for a 45 yard gain to set up another field goal and a 15-6 lead. The ensuing kickoff was fumbled, and Dallas began at the San Francisco 19. Romo hit Bennett for a 1 yard touchdown pass as Dallas took a 22-6 lead at intermission.

Dallas took the second half kickoff and rapidly moved 75 yards, with Romo hitting Crayton for a 10 yard touchdown pass to put the Cowboys safely in front 29-6.  The 49ers mounted a furious late rally, but it was far too little and far too late. The Cowboys remained in the playoff hunt. 35-22 Cowboys

Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos–The game of the day actually was a fabulous game. I remain pleased and shocked. The Silver and Black are on pace for their 6th straight losing season, but not today. The 2-8 Raiders were at the 6-4 Broncos. In Week 1, the Broncos went into Oakland and thrashed the Raiders 41-14. Yet that game cost Lame Kiffin his job, so some good came out of it. Another fired Raiders Coach is Mike Shanahan, whose life seems to be about his bitterness towards Al Davis. Shanahan wins this battle often, but even Norvelous Norv Turner beating Shanahan 25-24 in the snow in 2004 was enough to make Shanahan go ballistic. Shanahan’s head might explode after this one.

The game started out in typical fashion. The Raiders went 3 and out, and the Broncos marched right down the field. They moved from their own 16 to the Oakland 7. From the Oakland 28, Jay Cutler hit Brandon Marshall for 21 yards. The blowout was on the horizon. Yet then it was not. Cutler fumbled on the next play, and the Raiders recovered. A moral victory for the Raiders occurred when the game was scoreless after the opening quarter.

In the second quarter, Jay Cutler was intercepted by Chris Johnson, who raced 35 yards for a touchdown. Unfortunately, a defensive holding penalty nullified the score. The Broncos missed a 47 yard field goal o the drive. The Raiders took over at their own 37 and moved the ball. From the Denver 33, JaMarcus Russell hit Zach Miller for a 30 yard gain down to the 3 yard line. On 2nd and goal from the one, Justin Fargas was blasted backwards. 3rd and goal featured Fargas going nowhere. The Oakland Raiders had not scored an offensive touchdown in 3 straight games. On 4th and goal at the 2, a false start forced them to kick a field goal. They led 3-0, but still could not put it in the end zone. I personally felt the false start saved them a failed attempt on the ground and a scoreless game.

The Broncos took over at their own 20, and a 13 play drive included 3 third down conversions, including 13 yards on 3rd and 7 from their own 23 that would have ended the drive. A field goal tied the game 3-3. At the 2 minute warning, the Raiders faced 3rd and 1 from their own 42. Michael Bush went nowhere, and again the Raiders were stoned on the ground. Denver went nowhere, and with 1:25 left in the half a 60 yard punt was fielded by Johnny Lee Higgins at the 11. 89 yards later, Higgins had a touchdown on a punt return for the second consecutive week. While this absolutely does not count as offense, the Raiders led 10-3 with one minute remaining in the half.

Since these are the Raiders, anything positive has to involve something negative as well. An unsportmanlike conduct penalty for excessive celebration forced the Raiders to kick off from their own 15. Thankfully, Sebastian Janikowski belted the kickoff 85 yards. The Broncos moved to midfield, where an incomplete pass was offset by a horrendous roughing the passer penalty. Apparently the referees think that football is tiddly winks, since Cutler was barely touched. The dreadful call should be a reminder to all Raiders fans that it is tough to defeat the opponents and the refs. Disaster was averted when a 43 yard field goal attempt was no good. The second miss of the half kept the Raiders up 10-3 at halftime despite no offensive touchdowns for 14 quarters.

The Broncos began the second half at their own 15. On 3rd and 9 from the 16, Cutler scrambled himself for the first down. Terrible tackling gifted the Broncos life. These are the Raiders. On 3rd and 2 from the Oakland 41, Cutler again was the beneficiary of a nightmarish and horrendous roughing the quarterback call. I am critical of the Raiders when they deserve it, but these 2 calls are enough to make a guy break his television. If I could have leapt through the television I would have. On 4th and 1 from the Oakland 6, Shanahan ordered the Broncos to go for it. Hillis scored on the play, and the game was 10-10. The Raiders appeared set to do an el foldo.

Not this time. Russell threw only 11 passes all day. He completed 10 of them. His first pass of the second half was a 51 yard bomb to Ashley Lelie, the former Broncos wide receiver. On 2nd and goal from the 1, Fargas again went nowhere. On 3rd and goal from the 1, Darren McFadden scored. It took 3 1/2 games, but the Raiders FINALLY had an offensive touchdown. More importantly, The Raiders had a 17-10 lead.

Even more important than that was the inspired play of the defense. The Broncos went 3 and out. The Raiders took over at their own 24, and mounted a 10 play, 76 yard drive that took over 5 minutes off of the clock. Given that the running game had no success in the first half, I was skeptical when the Raiders faced 3rd and 3 at their own 44. I mentioned to my friend that a halfback option pass would be a good call at that time. Shockingly enough, that is exactly what was called. Michael Bush took the handoff, and threw a terribly high pass that Zach Miller somehow caught for 8 yards and a first down. On 3rd and 1 from the Denver 39, Frgas finally broke through for a 9 yard gain. From the 30, it was the Raiders who got a break when a defensive pass interference call put the ball at the 6 yard line. Russell hit Lelie for 4 yards and the Raiders were leading in a shocker 24-10.

90 seconds into the 4th quarter, Cutler was intercepted by Howard at the Denver 43. The Raiders had nothing on the ground in the first half, but the Raiders kept pounding. A 21 yard run by Fargas had Oakland at the Denver 22. Michael Bush and Justin Fargas got the ball to the 6 yard line. Darren McFadden did the rest, running for 5 yards, and then one yard on the next play to give the Raiders a 31-10 lead. The closest the Raiders have had to a route in their favor in 2008 was cornberback Stanford Routt. Yet this was for real. The team that had no offensive touchdowns for 3 1/2 games had 3 of them in only 7 minutes.

The Broncos faced 3rd and 11 at their own 19, but the Raiders still have improvements to make. Cutler hit Brandon Marshall for a 32 yard gain just past midfield. Yet on 4th and 11 from the 38, the Raiders held as the Broncos turned it over on downs. The Raiders took over with 6:47 remaining. Russell id not throw a single pass. The Raiders ran the ball down the throat of the Broncos. The Broncos did not get the ball back. The Raiders had played a complete game, and had finished the game. There would be no heartbreaking loss today. As I said after the Jets game against the Raiders, this could be something to build on.

No matter what happens the rest of the season, the 2008 Oakland Raiders went into the worst city in America and thrashed the hated Denver Broncos on their home field. Tom Cable has the team fighting hard. Mike Shanahan may hate Al Davis more than Al Queda, but that could not change the score. 31-10 Raiders

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons–The 8-2 Panthers came into Atlanta to face a 6-4 Falcons team coming off a tough home loss. One announcer described this game as a dogfight, but that term should never be used to describe an Atlanta game. On the second play of the game, Matt Ryan found White for a 38 yard gain. The drive stalled when a 3rd and 2 pass from the 5 was incomplete. The field goal had Atlanta up 3-0. AFter a punt, Ryan led the Falcons 75 yards. A 27 yard pass to Snelling began the drive. On 3rd and 3 from the 7, this time the Falcons converted, as Douglas scored to make it 10-0.

In the second quarter, a punt return had the Falcons starting at the Carolina 37. 10 plays and over 5 minutes later, the Falcons had scored again. A one yard touchdown run by Michael Turner had the Falcons winning in a laugher, 17-0. Then the game completely changed. Atlanta fumbled, and the Panthers began at the Atlanta 48. From the 32, Jake Delhomme hit Steve Smith for a 31 yard gain down to the one yard line. Yet the Panthers got no closer, as a false start forced them to settle for a field goal and a 17-3 game at the half. Carolina missed a pair of opportunities in the 2dn quarter to tighten the game. On 3rd and 3 from the Atlanta 39, an incomplete pass by Delhomme led to John Fox calling a punt rather than a long field goal. On 3rd and 6 from the Atlanta 35 on their next drive, Delhomme was sacked to end the drive.

Carolina took the second half kickoff and needed only 5 plays to get back in it. Delhomme found Steve Smith for gains of 41 and 22 yards. Williams ran it in from 5 yards out, and the Panthers were within 17-10. The Panthers drove deep into Atlanta territory on their next possession, but on 3rd and 6 from the 7, a run left them short. On 4th and 2 from the 3, Coach Fox again opted for the field goal. A 17-0 deficit was a 17-13 nailbiter after 3 quarters. Yet just as a blowout had turned into a close game, the 4th quarter turned the close game back into a blowout. The teams combined for 30 points in the first 3 quarters, and 43 points in the final quarter alone.

The Falcons answered the 12 play, 6 minute Carolina drive with a 12 play, 5 1/2 minute drive of their own. From the Carolina 26, Ryan found Jenkins for 17 yards. A defensive penalty on the play moved the ball to the 4 yard line. On the opening play of the final quarter, Turner ran it in to put the Falcons up 24-13. Delhomme rapidly moved the Panthers 83 yards. He hit Smith for 27 yards and Donte Rosario for 21 yards. After a 15 yard pass to Smith, Delhomme ran it in himself the final 15 yards. Williams rushed up the middle for the 2 point conversion that had Carolina within 24-21 with 11 minutes left.

Atlanta came right back in lightning speed. On 3rd and 11 from their own 25, Ryan found Douglas for a 69 yard pass completion down to the Carolina 6. On 4th and goal from the 1, the Falcons went for it. Turner scored, and Atlanta led 31-21 with just over 7 minutes left. Carolina had a nightmarish next series, and punted on 4th and 28 from their own 2. A 59 yard punt was all for nought as DOuglas returned it 61 yards for a touchdown to put the Falcons up 38-21 with under 5 minutes left.

Delhomme did manage to rally the Panthers with a 16 yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad with 2:23 remaining, but it was not enough. The onsdies kick failed. With one minute to go, the Falcons faced 4th and 6 at the Carolina 16. The Falcons decided to go for it rather than risk a blocked field goal. Desperately needing a stop, instead Turner ran 16 yards for the score. The Falcons dropped to a first place tie with Tampa Bay at 8-3, just one game ahead of Atlanta. The Falcons scored 28 points in the 4th quarter to break open the close game. 45-28 Falcons

New York Giants @ Arizona Cardinals–A quiet opening quarter ended with the Cardinals up 3-0, but after that the game settled into a shootout. Late in the first quarter, the Giants began a 12 play, 6 minute drive. On 4th and 1 from the Arizona 36, Ward picked up the yard and not more. Ward finished off the drive in the second quarter with a one yard run to put the Giants up 7-3. JJ Arrington returned the kickoff 55 yards to the New York 42. With the short field, Kurt Warner led the Greatest Show in the Desert. Using Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, and Anquon Boldin, the Cardinals reached the 4 yard line. Ti Hightower ran it in and the Cardinals led 9-7. They fumbled the snap on the extra point attempt, which would prove costly later on in the game.

Dominic Hixon returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to the Arizona 17. The Giants only got a field goal out of this, but led 10-9. The Cardinals came right back, with JJ Arrington returning the kickoff to midfield. Warner hit Urban for 30 yards down to the 19. Yet on 3rd and goal from the 4, the Cardinals fell short. On 4th and goal from the 2, Ken Whisenhunt opted for the field goal to put the Cardinals up 12-10. Yet as much as Arrington was helping the Cardinals, Hixon was doing even more for the Giants. His 68 yard kickoff return to the 32 set up a 12 yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Amani Toomer as the Giants led 17-12 at the half. The last play of the half featured Neil Rackers attempting a 68 yard field goal attempt. Like the 76 yard attempt by Sebastian Janikowski earlier in the year, this one did not threaten the record held by Tom Dempsey and later tied by Jason Elam.

Early in the 3rd quarter, Kurt Warner fumbled. The Giants took over at the Arizona 40, and Wanrer’s former protege Eli Manning took advantage. A 30 yard pass to Steve Smith set up a 2 yard touchdown pass from Manning to Hedgecock to put Big Blue up 24-12. Wanrer then took the Cardinals 90 yards in 12 plays, needing only 4:40 to do it. A defensive pass interference penalty moved the chains early on, and on 3rd and 2 from the New York 17, a 15 yard completion to Boldin set up a  1 yard run by Hightower to make it a 24-19 game.  Manning and Warner continued firing away in the 4th quarter.

Manning hit Kevin Boss for 28 yards to set up a 10 yarder to Boss to put the G-Men up 31-19. An interception of Warner had the Giants in a position to wrap up the game at the Arizona 29. Yet on 4th and 1 from the 9, Tom Coughlin went with the field goal, and the Giants led 34-19 with 6:17 left. Arrington returned the kickoff 40 yards to the Arizona 48. Warner then hit Boldin for 15 yards and Breaston for 32 yards. Warner tossed a 5 yard touchdown pass to Boldin to pull the Cardinals to within 34-26 with 4 minutes left.

The onsides kick failed, and the Giants took over at the Arizona 46. At the 2 minute warning, the Giants faced 4th and 1 at the Arizona 16. The field goal had the Giants up 37-26 with 1:55 left. Yet the Cardinals would not go away. The Cardinals took over at their own 31. Warner fired away at will, and with 42 seconds remaining, the Cardinals were facing 1st and 10 at the New York 26. Needing 2 scores, with little time left, Whisenhunt smartly went for the field goal on 1st down. Neil Rackers did his job from 44 yards out, and the Cardinals were again within 8 points. However, the onsides kick again failed.

The Giants moved to 10-1, and the Cardinals fell to 7-4. Yet since everybody else in the NFC West also lost, the Cardinals are still on pace for their first playoff birth since 1998, first division championship since the 1970s, and first home playoff game since 1947. They have only 4 days to be ready when they face the Eagles in Philadelphia on Thanksgiving night. The Giants lead the entire NFC by 2 games. 37-29 Giants

Washington Redskins @ Seattle Seahawks–Former Seattle Hall of Fame wide receiver Jim Zorn came back to Seattle as the Head Coach of the Redskins. From Washington State to Washington, DC, Zorn faced off against the Walrus, Mike Holmgren. Statistically the Redskins dominated. They led in yards 386 to 228 and in possession 38 1/2 minutes to 21 1/2. They had only 2 penalties to 6 for Seattle, and only one turnover compared to 2 for the Seahawks. Yet the game defied the statistics.

In the first quarter, a 40 yard run by Morris set up a field goal and a 3-0 Seahawks lead. In the second quarter, a defensive pass interference penalty kept an 11 play drive moving. After 5:42 of clock, Betts ran it in from one yard out to put the Redskins up 7-3. Matt Hasselbeck answered Jason Campbell with a drive of his own. A 4 yard touchdown pass to Morris had Seattle leading 10-7 at the break. The 3rd quarter featured an 11 play, 5 1/2 minute drive that led to a field goal and a 10-10 game. The key play in the game came when Hasselbeck was intercepted on 3rd and 12 from his own 35 by Landry. Campbell found Chris Cooley for 21 yards to set up an 8 yard touchdown toss to Antwon Randel-El. AFter 3 quarters, the Redskins led 17-10.

The Seahawks took over at their own 38 and needed 5 minutes to go 10 plays. Early in the 4th quarter, on 3rd and 8 from the Washington 31, Hasselbeck hit Bobby Engram for 21 yards down to the 10. A toss to Carlson on the next play tied the game 17-17 with 13:24 left. Washington came right back, and from midfield, Campbell found Santana Moss for 24 yards down to the 27. On 3rd and one from 5, Campbell threw incomplete. On 4th and 1 from the 5 with 9 minutes left, Zorn played it safe and kicked the go ahead field goal.

Seattle punted, and the Redskins took over at their own 4 with 7 minutes left. The Redskins ground down the clock, but with 1:28 left, from the Seattle 23, Betts fumbled. Seattle had one last shot. Hasselbeck needed one play to be intercepted, snuffing out any hopes. The Redskins survived another close one. 20-17 Redskins

Indianapolis Colts @ San Diego Chargers was the Sunday night game. Despite the fact that the Colts are coached by Tony Dungy while the Charger are being destroyed internally by Norvelous Norv Turner, the Colts for some reason cannot seem to beat the Chargers. Peyton Manning just has nightmarish luck against San Diego.

Last year, despite going 14-2, one of those losses was a ridiculous loss to the Chargers. Manning threw 6 interceptions as the Colts fell behind 23-0. Yet the Colts pulled to within 23-21, and late in the game needed only a 24 yard field goal to win it. For some bizarre reason, coach Dungy allowed a 5 yard delay of game penalty to eat more clock. Adam Vinatieri missed a 29 yarder as the stunned Colts lost.

In the AFC Divisional Playoff, the Colts were at home and looking forward to their showdown ti unbeaten New England. With backup Billy Volek playing for Philip Rivers, the Chargers stunned the Colts again, 28-24. The greatest AFC Title Game in history never happened.

Again the Colts played the Chargers in 2008 with expectations of a win. The Colts were 6-4 and the Chargers were 4-6. Again the Colts struggled. Midway through the opening quarter, a 12 play drive that ate up 5:40 stalled at the 5 yard line. The field goal had the Colts up 3-0. The Chargers came back in the second quarter but also bogged down in the red zone, and a field goal tied the game 3-3. With 9 1/2 minutes left in the half, Philip Rivers led the Chargers 89 yards. On 3rd and from their own 14, Rivers found Floyd for 23 yards. A 39 yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson put the Chargers up 10-3. With 5 minutes left in the half, Manning came right back. A 71 yard drive culminated in a 13 yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gonzalez with 38 seconds left in the half. The teams were tied 10-10 at the intermission.

The Chargers took over in the second half at their own 34 and immediately moved the ball. Rivers hit Chris Chambers for 13 yards. LaDanian Tomlinson then ran for 20 yards, followed by a 21 yard gain to the Indy 12 by Darren Sproles. The drive was then ruined when Rivers was hit and fumbled. The Colts took over at their own 34. On 3rd and 4 from the San Diego 46, Manning hit Gonzalez for 29 yards to the 17. Yet the normally organized Colts had significant trouble with clock management on this drive. Whether it was the crowd or some other reason, the Colts took two timeouts on this drive. On 4th and goal from inside the one, a disorganized Colts team had the play clock running down. Rather than run, Manning had to operate out of the shotgun. He fired a 1 yard pass to Dominic Rhodes to put the Colts up 17-10 and complete the 13 play, 7 minute drive.

After a San Diego punt, Manning led a 13 play drive that resulted in a field goal. The Colts had some breathing room at 20-10. Rivers came back with a 12 play, 6 minute drive that ended when Rivers hit Jacob Hester from 1 yard out with 5:36 left. The Chargers still trailed by a field goal, and needed the ball back from Manning. They got it back at their own 13 with 3:15 left. At the 2 minute warning, Rivers had them at the Indy 37. Nate Kaeding nailed a 47 yard field goal to tie the game at 20-20. Manning got the ball back at his own 30 with 90 seconds left and only one timeout.

With 26 seconds remaining, the Colts faced 4th down and one chain link at their own 48. It took several minutes to measure before determining that the Colts were short by the nose of the ball. If they failed to convert, San Diego would be near field goal range. A quarterback sneak was possible with one timeout left. Yet Tony Dungy trusts Peyton Manning, and gives him latitude that no other quarterback in the league has. A play action pass went for 18 yards to Marvin Harrison to the San Diego 34. With 2 seconds remaining, Adam Vinatieri came in for a 50 yard field goal attempt. He drilled it.

The Colts improved to 7-4, and have a schedule easy enough to allow the Colts to run the table and get to 12-4. The Chargers fell to 4-7. In 1995, the 4-7 Chargers ran the table before losing a home playoff game to the Colts, who also started 4-7 before running the table as well. Norvelous Norv Turner is not Bobby Ross. When he quit the Lions, they were 5-4. The next year they became the Lions we know today. The Chargers are done. 23-20 Colts

Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints was the Monday night game. Both of these teams came in at 5-5 and desperate to get back into playoff contention. A loss tonight would force that team to have to practically run the table to have a shot. The game started out with an exchange of punts before turning into a pinball machine.

The Packers began their second possession on the New Orleans 37. Ryan Grant ran 17 yards to set up Kuhn from one yard out to put the Packers up 7-0. The Saints needed one play from scrimmage to tie the game as Drew Brees hit Moore on a slant that split the seams and went for a 70 yard touchdown. After a Green Bay punt, it was the Saint with a short field at the Green Bay 41. Brees hit Thomas for gains of 14 and 13 yards to set up Thomas on the ground from 3 yards out. The Saints led 14-7 at the end of the opening quarter.

Aaron Rodgers then led a 72 yard drive that took 12 plays and ate up 6 minutes. Green Bay converted 3 third downs, including a 24 yard pass to Donald Driver. Rodgers hit Greg Jennings from 7 yards out to tie the game again at 14-14. Brees came right back with a 76 yard drive. A 19 yarder to Jeremy Shockey eventually led to a 14 yard touchdown toss to Moore to put the Saints back in front 21-14. The aerial show gave Rodgers his turn, and he led Green Bay 83 yards in 14 plays over 6 1/2 minutes. Rodgers hit Jennings for 22 yards, and on 3rd and 6 from the 10, ran it in himself to tie the game 21-21with 1:44 left in the half. A 62 yard kickoff return by Roby had the Saints starting at the Green Bay 32. With 22 seconds left in the half the Saints had 1st and goal at the 7, but stalled at that point. A field goal put the Saints up 24-21 at halftime.

Like many of the early games on Sunday, this game saw a shootout turn into a blowout. The Saints began the second half by moving 80 yards in 13 plays and 6 1/2 minutes. The Saints faced 4th and 1 from their own 45 when Sean Payton, a Bill Parcells disciple, did some riverboat gambling. The gamble paid off as Thomas picked up 4 yards to keep the chains moving. Brees hit Miller for a 16 yard touchdown to put the Saints up 31-21. Rodgers was then intercepted by David, who returned it 42 yards to the Green Bay 3. Deuce McAllister ran it in. The Saints led 38-21, and McAllister set the Saints team record for touchdowns on that play. The crowd gave a lengthy ovation.

Rodgers was the intercepted by David again, allowing the Saints to begin at the Green Bay 29. However, Sean Payton went back to his bag of tricks, and it didn’t work. A backwards pass to a wide receiver to set up an option pass blew up when the receiver faced defensive pressure and threw a ball that was underthrown and intercepted. It did not matter. The Packers punted, and Brees fired a 70 yard touchdown pass to Marquis Colston. At the end of 3 quarters, the Saints led 45-21 in a route.

Drew Brees threw for 4 touchdown passes, while Aaron Rodgers threw his 3rd interception with 6 minutes remaining. At 6-5, the Saints are still in last place and 2 games back in the division that has all the teams playing well. The Packers at 5-6 are one game out of their division lead. 51-29 Saints


2 Responses to “NFL 2008–Week 12 Recap”

  1. Hey hey! So, you’re Raida’s ran their Farga-n butts off and beat the Broncs! Well, well, well…

    That’s great. Still, Oakland has got to get a real QB and Davis has got to go out to pasture, of these flukes will remain just that – flukes.


  2. smokinjoe says:

    Oh man, you check that little skirmish during the Pats-Fins game?

    Apparently the Fins LB (can’t remember his name, his number was 52) grabbed the chestpad of Pats OL (Matt Light, can’t remember his number) and gave a double uppercut, so somehow 52’s helmet gets popped off and Matt Light grabs his dreads and starts pounding his head?

    Man, I hope they both got their punches in, seems like each got some good blows… cause I smell a definite fine, and, god help the Pats vs. the Steelers and that LB Harrison if Light gets suspended.

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