NFL 2009–Week 11 Recap

Finally after several weeks on the road I get to enjoy an NFL Sunday at home with the guys.

Yet before there can be an NFL Sunday, a Slamathon Saturday was in order. My coed touch football team Kiss Da Baby, formerly known as Slamathon, began the week with some controversy.

Our team captain Scott announced that despite being defending champs, our team was called out by the other team. Why would they be trashtalking? I suspected something was amiss.

I called out our captain by email, stating that he was manufacturing enemies to get us motivated. Michael Jordan used to do this after the Bulls had beaten everyone. He would claim the Knicks were disrespecting him, even though they were crying in their locker rooms insisting they did not say anything.

Captain Scott showed the email we received. It was insulting. We were out for blood. Our theme for the week was Rubik’s Cube, where everybody wore multicolors and exchanged them. I made it clear that pink underwear was not to be worn by the men unless it was a laundry mishap.

While I am a role player on a great team, technically I scored the winning points. Leading 20-6, I caught the pass for the 2 point conversion to make it 22-6 at halftime. In the second half I dropped a pass due to blindness. I was wearing shades, and in the fourth quarter the sun had gone down. Some players lose the ball in the sun. I lost it in the blackness. Nevertheless, we held on 34-20. My 2 point conversion adds to the legend that is in my own mind.

After the game I asked Scott which player sent the offending email. He confessed that I was the only player on the team that figured it out, even though I did not stick to my convictions. He made it all up. He Michael Jordaned us. In my case, it worked. I was ready to rip off limbs.

Thanksgiving is not until later in the week, but what I am thankful for right now is watching football at home. I am even more thankful that several weeks after badly played blowouts, this week brought a ton of thrilling finishes.

Enough hyperbole. Let’s get down to football.

Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers was the Thursday night game. I truly believe the NFL Network drew the short straw because the matchup of two teams in separate conferences does not offer any rivalry or compelling storyline. Nevertheless, both defenses were laying the lumber in what turned out to be an exciting football game.

Jake Delhomme got the Panthers on the board early with a 12 play, 5 1/2 minute drive that bogged down at the 7 yard line. The John Kasay field goal had Carolina up 3-0, but the defenses stiffened after that. Both teams failed to pick up 3rd and 1 at their own 41, and punted. In the second quarter the Dolphins got going. Chad Henne led an 81 play drive over 5 1/2 minutes, capping the drive off with a 14 yard touchdown pass to Ricky Williams as the Dolphins led 7-3. Late in the half a punt return had Miami starting a drive at the Carolina 29. Ricky Williams ran it in from one yard out from a Wildcat snap as the Dolphins led 14-3 at the intermission.

In the third quarter a 50 yard run by Deangelo Williams was wasted when Delhomme was intercepted at the Miami 4 yard line. The Panthers moved to the Miami 8 yard line but settled for another field goal to pull within 14-6 less than a minute into the fourth quarter. When Miami chewed up 7 minutes over 11 plays, the field goal that put them up 17-6 midway through the fourth quarter appeared to end the game. Instead these teams were just getting started. 52 minutes of grinding was followed by 8 minutes of excitement.

The Panthers came to life on offense as Delhomme hit Steve Smith for a 27 yard touchdown where Smith made a ridiculous one handed catch. The 2 point conversion had the Panthers within 17-14 with over 5 minutes to play. Miami then faced 3rd and 12 at their own 39, but the Panthers could not stop them as Henne hit Bess for 15 yards. On the next play Ricky Williams broke through for a 46 yard touchdown run that had Miami up 24-14 with 4 minutes left. Again, the game seemed over, and again it was not.

Delhomme moved the Panthers 50 yards, and a 48 yard field goal had the Panthers within 7 points with 1:41 left. The onsides kick failed, and Miami had the ball at the Carolina 35 with 1:41 left fully prepared to end it. With 44 seconds left, facing 4th and 3 from the 28, Tony Sparano decided to go for it rather than risk a field goal block. A successful kick would have iced it. The Panthers held. Delhomme hit Barnridge for gains of 29 and 17 yards, and one final Hail Mary from the Miami 26 fell incomplete as this time the Dolphins finally ended it. John Fox had a team that fought to the end, but fell short at home. 24-17 Dolphins

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys–A scoreless first quarter led to a thrilling 45 yard Shawn Suisham field goal as the Redskins led 3-0 against an underachieving Dallas team trying not to lose twice on the road to an inferior team. Dallas missed a field goal late in the half to prevent this awful game from being tied. A scoreless third quarter led to another thrilling Shawn Suisham field goal as the Redskins led 6-0 with 11 1/2 minutes left in this awful game. With 7 minutes left, Suisham was brought in for a 50 yard field goal attempt to ice things. He missed, and the Cowboys had good field position. Was there any doubt that an incredibly bad Washington team would find a way to lose? No.

Despite a miserable game, Tony Romo hit Patrick Crayton with 2:41 left to take a 7-6 led. Despite a good game, Jason Campbell was intercepted with 1:46 left to continue the misery of the Jim Zorn era under Daniel Snyder. As for Jerry Jones, 1.2 billion dollars into a stadium should inspire better play. The win allowed Wade Phillips and the entire team not to be deported to Gitmo. The Cowboys are at home on Thanksgiving to Oakland, but despite being 7-3, nothing comes easy for this team. 7-6 Cowboys

Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions–A pair of 1-8 teams played because the NFL refused to cancel this game. A 3-3 tie was broken when Brady Quinn threw a 59 yard touchdown pass to put the Browns up 10-3. Quinn came back and threw a 40 yard touchdown pass to Chauncey Stuckey to make it 17-3. Matthew Stafford completed a deep ball, but it was to Wright, who plays defense for the Browns. The 44 yard return inside the 10 yard line set up Quinn’s third touchdown pass of the opening quarter as the Browns became the greatest 1-8 team in history to throttle an even more woeful team that somehow won a game, with a 24-3 Cleveland lead. The four yard touchdown toss went to Joshua Cribbs. Yet these are still the Browns.

Brown came back for Detroit, as a 26 yard touchdown run closed the gap to 24-10. In the second quarter Stafford found Kevin Smith, who is not the guy who made the movie “Clerks.” The 25 yard touchdown had the Lions within 24-17. Apparently these teams forgot that awful teams should not put on exciting games, but the Lions came all the way back and tied the game 24-24 when Stafford went deep to Calvin Johnson for a 75 yard touchdown pass. Just before the half Cleveland retook the lead as the 51 point aerial circus closed the half with the Browns up 27-24.

In the third quarter Stafford led Detroit down the field, with a 1 yard touchdown pass to Heller putting the Lions on top 31-27. In the fourth quarter of a game that slowed considerably, Stafford gave up a safety as the Browns closed to within 31-29. Later in the quarter Joshua Cribbs barreled over tacklers down to the one yard line. Quinn Hit Michael Gaines on 3rd and goal to complete  14 play, 7 minute drive that covered 75 yards. The 2 point conversion with 6 minutes left had the Browns up 37-31.

Yes, both of these teams are awful. It does not change the fact that this was one of the great games this year, with one of the most exciting and inspirational finishes in some time. A game like this is why people watch football, and why any football game is better than the best of any other sport.

Good football was not played the next couple of minutes as Phil Dawson kicked the ball out of bounds. Yet Stafford went for all the marbles and was intercepted in the end zone with 3:40 left to play. The Browns ended up punting, and with 1:46 left, the Lions took over at their own 12. Stafford hit Johnson for gains of 13 and 17 to the Detroit 46 with 45 seconds remaining. 11 yard passes to Pettigrew and Heller set the Lions up at the Cleveland 32 with 8 seconds remaining. Then all heck broke loose on what was expected to be the final play.

Stafford scrambled all over the place, turning into the second coming of Fran Tarkenton. Stafford got belted as soon as he threw the Hail Mary. As he lay motionless on the ground, the ball was intercepted in the end zone and Cleveland celebrated the win. Yet there was a flag on the play. Dwayne Rudd no longer plays for the Browns, and nobody took their helmet off. The hit on Stafford was legal. There was no roughing the passer. Yet defensive pass interference in the end zone was called. Are you kidding me? That never gets called. Apparently it does. The Lions were given one untimed down from the one yard line. Except Stafford could barely hobble.

With everything on the line, Dante Culpepper was brought in for one play without any preparation. Anything from a fumbled snap to heroics would await him. Yet a timeout was called, and when play resumed, a gimp Stafford hobbled onto the field. One play, no time, and one yard to go. The only thing missing was Burt Reynolds. Stafford took the snap, and rather than hand it off, fired to the end zone where Pettigrew caught it between defenders. Stafford clutched his shoulder in agony and hobbled off the field again. A missed extra point would have meant overtime, but Jason Hansen completed the miracle comeback.

I will say it again. This is why we watch football. This is what we learn from football. Brady Quinn threw 4 touchdown passes and over 300 yards. Rookie Matthew Stafford, brought in to save an entire franchise, passed for 422 yards and 5 touchdowns, with the final yard being just enough. The Lions battled back from down 21 points early on. Speculation about Eric Mangini and Jim Schwartz can wait. This was simply a fine football game. It did not have the significance of the Indy vs New England thriller, but it was every bit as exciting a game from start to finish. 38-37 Lions

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers–This game mattered in 1998 as a pair of mediocre teams squared off. Green Bay is coming off a shocking win of Dallas, the other team form the 1990s. On 4th and inches from the Green Bay 29, Mike Singletary opted for the field goal and a 3-0 49ers lead. The Packers added a pair of field goals of their own to lead 6-3 early in the second quarter. Green Bay then turned the game into a blowout in the second quarter.

Aaron Rodgers hit Greg Jennings on a 64 yard touchdown pass to put the packers up 13-3. Rodgers then led a 10 play, 81 yard drive that took almost 5 minutes, with a 7 yard toss to Nelson making it a 20-3 game. Green Bay added a field goal before the half to make it 23-3 in a game that was more lopsided than even the score indicated. Yet the second half featured a dramatic comeback.

Alex Smith drove the 49ers in the third quarter to a 4th and 2 at the Packers 28, where an incomplete pass turned the ball over on downs. Yet the next time the 49ers had the ball, a 38 yard touchdown pass from Smith to Michael Crabtree made it a 23-10 game. In the fourth quarter a Green Bay punt had the 49ers starting at their own 2 yard line, where Smith was promptly intercepted. Ryan Grant ran it in from one yard out as the Packers led 30-10 with 11 minutes remaining. Yet this game was far from over.

A 76 yard kickoff return by Morgan was followed by a 3rd and 10 Smith pass to Vernon Davis for a 24 yard touchdown to make it 30-17 only 30 seconds later. The Packers went 3 and out when Aaron Rodgers was sacked on 3rd and 2. The 49ers took over at their own 17 with 8 1/2 minutes left. A facemask followed by a 20 yard pass t Isaac Bruce had the 49ers at midfield. A 35 yard completion to Crabtree set up a 10 yard touchdown pass to Frank Gore as the 49ers were within 6 points with a full 6 minutes left.

Yet the Packers took over at their own 9, and never gave the ball back. Rodgers completed a critical 5 yard pass on 3rd and 4 from the Green Bay 15. Despite no Steve Young, Troy Aikman, or Brett Favre, who oh by the way still plays, this game was still more exciting in the end than it was for three quarters. 30-24 Packers

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs–An interesting statistic is that the defending champion Steelers had given up either a special teams return or defensive return of a touchdown in seven straight games. Despite playing the pathetic Chiefs, the streak continued when Charles returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown with help from terrible tackling to put the Chiefs up 7-0. Reality then set in. After a Pittsburgh field goal, Big Ben ROethlisberger heated up, finding Hines Ward for an 8 yard touchdown and connection and Heath Miller for a 10 yard score to put the Steelers up 17-7 at halftime.

In the third quarter Matt Cassel hit Pope to get the Chiefs to within 17-14 on a 21 yard touchdown pass. Big Ben led Pittsburgh right back, when one play turned the game. Roethlisberger was intercepted in he end zone by a slow, lumbering Studebaker. Jason Studebaker, like his namesake, ran out of gas after a 94 yard interception return inside the Pittsburgh 10. Rashaard Mendenhall raced down the field to prevent the score. It made the difference as the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal and a 17-17 tie.

Early in the fourth quarter Roethlisberger hit Mendenhall for an 8 yard touchdown to put the Steelers back in front 24-17. Yet Cassel brought the Chiefs back with a 91 yard drive that culminated in a 2 yard pass to Charles. The Steelers had dominated statistically, but the game was tied 24-24 with 5 minutes remaining. Neither team could move the ball and he teams went to overtime.

The Steelers took over on their 20, and only 2 minutes into overtime, Roethlisberger ad the Steelers facing 2nd and 3 at the Kansas City 49. Roethlisberger at that point was 32 of 42 for 398 yards and 3 touchdown passes. Yet he did not top 400. On the next play he was sacked for a 1 yard loss. Even worse, offensive holding was called. Even much worse than that, Roethlisberger  took an accidental knee to the head. He was knocked out of the game. He watched from the sidelines as Charlie Batch came into a game in overtime after having no reps in practice with the starters. Mike Tomlin preaches toughness, and now the team had to hunker down.

Batch calmly completed a 17 yard pass to Santonio Holmes for a first down. The Steelers then faced 3rd and 2 from the Chiefs 35. This was long field goal range. Mewelde Moore got the ball on a sweep and lost 3 yards. Running East and West in that situation is awful play calling. Run North and South. Yes, I know, Tomlin has a Super Bowl ring and players have to execute. From the 38, Tomlin played field position and punted, resulting in a touchback. On 3rd and 5 from the 35, a short pass from Cassel to Chris Chambers ended up becoming a 61 yard gain all the way down to the Pittsburgh 4 yard line. Todd Haley took no chances, and on first down Ryan Succop kicked the 22 yard field goal to win it.

Losing a tough one last week does not excuse losing against a bad team this week. Also, Kansas City winning last week did not forecast this week. Pittsburgh hopes Big Ben is healthy. As Chris Berman tells us after games like this…”That’s why they play the games.” 27-24 Chiefs, OT

Atlanta Falcons at NY Giants–A 38 yard field goal had the Giants up 3-0 as they tried to snap a 4 game losing streak against an Atlanta team that has been unimpressive on the road. The Giants defense looked like a team on a losing skid when backup running back Snelling barreled in for a 12 yard touchdown to put the Falcons up 7-3. The Giants did retake the lead 10-7 on a touchdown to Kevin Boss, and Atlanta missed an opportunity when a 35 yard field goal attempt was shanked. The Giants capitalized as Eli Manning moved Big Blue right down the field. On 3rd and 3 from the Atlanta 5, Manning hit Boss again for a touchdown with 18 seconds left in the half as the Giants led 17-7.

In the third quarter the running backs displayed attitude as Snelling ran it in from one yard out for the Falcons, and battering ram Brandon Jacobs responded with a 2 yard score of his own as the Giants led 24-14. Matt Ryan then led a staggering 18 play, 70 yard drive that bogged down at the 7 yard line. Jason Elam kicked a field goal to get the Falcons within 24-17. Yet Manning came right back and led the Giants 79 yards in almost 5 minutes, with a 3 yard touchdown pass to Hedgecock giving the Giants a 31-17 lead.

However, losing streaks do not end easily, and Matty Ice kept the Falcons in it. Ryan led a 12 play, 65 yard drive that ate up 6 minutes, with a 4 yard touchdown pass to Weems getting Atlanta within 31-24. The Giants failed to salt the game away, and Ryan led another 12 play drive that covered 76 yards. With under 30 seconds remaining, Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for an 11 yard score to tie the game 31-31. Overtime awaited.

Eli Manning went to work in the extra period, and with workmanlike efficiency, moved the Giants into field goal range. Lawrence Tynes from 36 yards out did his job, and the Giants under Tom Coughlin have finally stopped the bleeding. As for the Falcons, they fought hard, but their season is in jeopardy. 34-31 Giants, OT

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers–The 9-0 Saints traveled to play the 1-8 Buccaneers. Early on Josh Freeman hit michael Clayton for an 18 yard touchdown pass as the 1976 Bucs…oh wait, this team won a  game…the 2009 Bucs…led 7-0 over the unbeaten Saints. Reality then set in. Drew Brees tossed touchdown passes of 8 and 10 yards sandwiched around a field goal to have the Saints up 17-7.

A fumble in the third quarter by Freeman led to Brees hitting David Thomas for an 11 yard touchdown as the Saints coasted at 24-7. Bell ran it in from 3 yards out to put the Saints up 31-7. This did not make up for their losing to the Bucs in 1977 to end the 0-26 streak, but it got the 2009 Saints to 10-0. The Saints love Sean Payton, while the Bucs miss Jon Gruden. If the Glazer family needs to find him, he is in the Monday Night Football booth. As for the Saints, they are clicking on all cylinders. 38-7 Saints

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars–Dick Jauron has been fired, leaving only Norvelous Norv Turner as coaches that somehow survive. A game that mattered little was played anyway, and the teams traded field goals early on. Midway through the second quarter, with Buffalo leading 6-3, Maurice Jones-Drew banged it in from 3 yards out to put the Jaguars up 10-6. Buffalo added a third field goal to pull to within 10-9 at intermission.

In the third quarter from their own goal line shadow, a deep bomb to Terrell Owens went for a 98 yard touchdown pass. Owens then demanded a new contract or a trade. The 2 point conversion failed, which can never be blamed on Dick Jauron ever again, as the Bills led 15-10. The defenses took over, although the Jaguars moved to the red zone with 8 1/2 minutes remaining in the game. David Garrard was then hit and fumbled, ending the drive. Buffalo went 3 and out, and the Jaguars took over at their own 32 with 6 minutes left. Garrard hit Sims-Walker for 12 yards and Torry Holt for gains of 15 and 6. A 20 yard completion to Sims-Walker led to a critical 3rd and 2 at the Buffalo 4 at the 2 minute warning. Jones-Drew picked up just enough. Jones-Drew lost a yard from the one, but Garrard hit Sims-Walker from the 3 for the score. The 2 point conversion had the Jaguars up by a field goal with 56 seconds left.

With 26 seconds left, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw high for Terrell Owens. Owens had it bounce off his hands that have dropped so many passes over the years, resulting in an interception to end the game. The throw was off, although T.O. will most likely blame the media or the Federal Reserve. Oh no wait, those are Ron Paul supporters, who invited me to a rally today as if I would miss an NFL Sunday at home. It was ugly, but Jack Del Rio tells his guys to play hard nosed and keep chopping wood. Today they did. 18-15 Jaguars

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens–John Harbaugh decided to rely on his defense early on despite an injured Terrell Suggs, deferring the opening kickoff. It almost worked, but on 3rd and 12 Peyton Manning went deep to Reggie Wayne for 55 yards. Manning then found Dallas Clark, who made a ridiculous one handed grab on an overthrown ball for a 7 yard touchdown and a 7-0 Colts lead. The Ravens came back with a Billy Cundiff field goal, an interception of Manning, and another Cundiff field goal to pull within 7-6.

Manning went deep and was intercepted again, this time by Ed Reed, and with 5 minutes left in the half a third Cundiff field goal had the Ravens leading 9-7. Jim Caldwell then benched Manning. No, of course not. The field general brought the Colts right down the field again, and Joseph Addai ran it in from 5 yards out to give the Colts the 14-9 lead with 1:23 left in the half. That was enough time for Joe Flacco and Billy Cundiff, as a fourth field goal sent the teams to the locker rooms with the Colts clinging to a 14-12 lead.

The Colts turned it over a third time in the third quarter, but came away unscathed when Cundiff, who had made 4 field goals, missed his 5th try, a chip shot that was hooked wide. Yet the Ravens got the ball back, and with 10 minutes remaining, Cundiff connected to put the Ravens up 15-14. The Ravens did reach the one yard line, but Gary Bracken lasted the Baltimore running backs in the opposite direction. Manning then brought the Colts down the field, and it was Indy that had retaken the lead with a field goal at 17-15 with 7 minutes left.

Flacco came back again, and with 3 minutes left, the Ravens were in the red zone.Yet the go ahead field goal attempt never happened as the mistake free Ravens finally turned the ball over as Flacco was intercepted by everywhere defender Gary Bracken with 2:42 to play.

Both teams had all of their timeouts. John Harbaugh blundered even worse by calling a timeout before challenging a 3rd and 1 conversion by the Colts. The challenge lost, but worse was that because he called a timeout before the challenge, both timeouts were lost. The Colts eventually punted with 30 seconds left, when veteran and future hall of famer Ed Reed made one tragic mistake. Trying to make something happen, he lateraled the punt return to nobody, and the Colts recovered. Jim Caldwell and his team are 10-0, the first time since 1990 that two teams are 10-0. The Ravens lost another heartbreaker. 17-15 Colts

Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings–Brett Favre was playing, which is why anybody cared about this game. It would have been more compelling had the Walrus Mike Holmgren still been coaching. Yet Matt Hasselbeck was back and playing against his former mentor again. A scoreless first quarter gave way to Favre tossing a 23 yard touchdown pass to Percy Harvin to put the Vikings up 7-0. With 5 minutes left in the half, Favre found Vincent Shiancoe on a short slant pass for another touchdown as the Vikings led 14-0. Seattle fumbled the ensuing kickoff, as Favre hit Bernard Berrian for a 3 yard otuchdown to put the Vikings up 21-0 with one minute left in the half.

In the third quarter Favre threw his fourth touchdown pass, a gorgeous rainbow to Sidney Rice, who caught it between defenders to put the Vikings on cruise control at 28-0. The Seahawks finished with a total of 4 yards rushing. Speaking of 4, that may touchdown passes were thrown by the guy wearing that jersey. Favre, who apparently at age 40 is no longer good, was benched. Apparently Brad Childress, who is bald, is too much of a taskmaster. Not even four touchdowns, 22 of 25 passing, and a 9-1 record was good enough. Tarvaris Jackson got to play. 35-9 Vikings

Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams–The Rams have not been the smae since Kurt Warner was thrown under the bus for Marc Bulger. The Cardinals are the defending NFC Champions. The Rams are as awful as they were before Warner showed up a decade ago. The Greatest Show in the Desert looked to lambaste the team no longer the Greatest Show on Turf.

A 40 yard field goal had the Rams up 3-0, but then the Cardinals went to work. Warner quickly moved the Cardinals 87 yards, with a 5 yard toss to Anquon Boldin putting the Cardinals up 7-3. The Cardinals got the ball back, and Warner moved them even further, taking them 90 yards. An 11 yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald had the Cardinals up 14-3. The Cardinals then tried a short drive, going only 78 yards. Wells ran it in from one yard out to make this scrimmage a 21-3 Cardinals lead.

One criticism of the Cardinals is that they go to sleep and try to coast to the end of games. In this case it was injury, as Kurt Warner got knocked out of the game with a concussion. Kurt Warner was replaced with Pop Warner, aka Matt Leinart. In the third quarter a long drive by the Rams stalled at the 3 yard line. A field goal had the Rams within 21-6. In the fourth quarter a 12 play drive led to a one yard run by Stephen Jackson. The Rams were within 21-13 with plenty of time left. Yet plenty of time was not enough as Bulger got knocked around to the very end. The Cardinals did just enough to win for Ken Whisenhunt, as Leinart failed to lose the game. Luckily for the Cardinals, who are praying for Warner’s speedy recovery, the Rams are what we thought they were. 21-13 Cardinals

New York Jets at New England Patriots–Early this season Rex Ryan was a genius, Mark Sanchez was in the hall of fame, and the 3-0 Jets had a swagger by beating the Patriots. The Jets were the new bullies on the block. Then reality set in as the Jets lost 5 of 6 before limping into New England. Bill Bellichick, fresh off of stinging criticism for singlehandedly letting his arrogance blow the game to Indy, once again had a rallying cry for his players to circle the wagons. Circle they did.

The Patriots outgained the Jets 264-29 and in first downs 16-2. Lee Bodden returned a Sanchez interception 53 yards for a score to put the Patriots up 7-0 early on. Tom Brady then hit Randy Moss for a  4yard touchdown to complete a 76 yard drive to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead. In the second quarter Lawrence Maroney ran it in from 2 yards out to make it 21-0. Brady led the Patriots 10 plays over 5 minutes to cover 44 yards, as a Stephen Gostowski kicked a 26 yard field goal to make it 24-0.

With everything going right for the Patriots, the Jets got a couple of breaks. A blocked punt was returned 4 yards for a score to get the Jets on the board. Although New England came right back, a missed field goal before the half left the door ever so slightly open as the Patriots led 24-7.

In the third quarter, Sanchez hit Jerricho Cotcherry for a 29 yard touchdown to close the gap to 24-14. Yet Sanchez finished 8 for 21 for 136 yards and 4 interceptions. Tom Brady finished 28 of 41 for 310 yards. Lawrence Maroney ran it in from one yard out to turn out the lights as New England increased their stranglehold on the division. 31-14 Patriots

Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Raiders–For more on the game of the day, go to

Despite a miserable existence for the Silver and Black that began with Dexter Jackson in the Super Bowl, a very slim ray of hope appeared in the form of Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback. JaMarcus Russell, who wears the jersey # 2 because that is how he plays, has finally been benched by Tom Cable and forced to hold a clipboard. Had he done that the first time without a lengthy holdout, he might be a better player today in terms of a complete bust. Gradkowski is no superstar, but he can be a game manager. As for Marvin Lewis, he held the team together through lean years, and last week a big win on the road over Pittsburgh put them in the division lead at 7-2.

The game began in typical Raiders fashion. Carson Palmer led the Bengals 78 yards in 14 plays over a ridiculous 9 1/2 minutes. Palmer took it in himself from one yard out to make it 7-0 Bengals. In the second quarter Palmer led a 68 yard drive that took 5 minutes. Palmer again ran it in from one yard out as the Bengals led 14-0 in what appeared to be another blowout. Yet this time the Raiders hung tough. Bruce Gradkowski led a 71 yard drive, and a 10 yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller had the Raiders within 14-7. The Raiders got the ball back late in the half, but a 57 yard field goal attempt by Sebastian Janikowski was no good.

The Raiders kept scrapping in the third quarter, and a 10 play, 5 minute drive led to a 52 yard field goal by Seabass, who nailed this one to make it 14-10. The Raiders had a breakdown on defense when Scott took a short pass made a pair of defenders miss like Keystone Cops, and took it 61 yards to the Oakland 19. On 3rd down an incomplete pass appeared to end the drive. Yet a roughing the passer call on Stanford Routt gave the Bengals new life. I have been very critical of Routt, and still maintain that he is a major weak link for our secondary. He makes way too many mistakes. Yet for once, Routt redeemed himself. On 3rd and goal from the one, Palmer tried play action. Routt was not fooled, and he sacked Palmer for an 18 yard loss. Even more amazing was that Shane Graham missed the 37 yard field goal.

Even more amazing than all of this was the fact that the most penalized team of the decades were playing nearly flawless football. The Routt penalty was the first flag on the Raiders all game. You read that correctly. It is possible to compete when not making mental mistakes.

The Raiders had all the momentum, and Gradkowski had them on the move again. Yet again, the offense self-destructed. Michael Bush has been playing well this year, but after a solid run he got leveled, fumbled the ball, and saw the Bengals return it 38 yards to the Oakland 13. Again the SIlver and Black were combining solid defense with awful offense. Again the defense stepped up, and on 3rd and 5 from the 7, Stanford Routt perfectly defended a pass as the Bengals were forced to try a chip shot field goal. Graham connected, and the Bengals led 17-10 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Raider punted on their next possession, and while the Raiders were stuffing the Cincinnati running game, they could not get off of the field on 3rd down. On the last play of the 3rd quarter, on 3rd and 12 from their own 24, Palmer hit Laverneous Coles for a 40 yard gain to the Oakland 36. On 3rd and 10 Palmer hit Caldwell for 12 yards. Yet from the 14 yard line, the Bengals fumbled and the Raiders pounced on it. 11 1/2 minutes remained and the Raiders had life.

Gradkowksi moved the Raiders to their own 47, but on 3rd and 1 Justin Fargas got stuffed. Tom Cable ignored the booing of the crowd and had Shane Lechler punt. Lechler did his job, and the Benglas began at their own 10. The Oakland defense knocked them backwards, and the Raiders took over at the Bengals 43 with 6 minutes left and a golden opportunity. Gold quickly turned to ashes as Gradkowski was hit as he threw, resulting in an interception. Even worse, Cable this time did let emotion get to him, as he unsuccessfully challenged an obvious pick, costing the Raiders a timeout.

The Bengals moved the ball and bled some time, but on 3rd and 4 from near midfield, a pass was well defender. The Bengals punted for a touchback, and the Raiders had one last shot from their own 20 with 2:12 remaining and 2 timeouts plus the 2 minute warning. An ounce of life from this anemic offense would reward an inspired defense.

Darren McFadden picked up 6 yards at the 2 minute warning, and Gradkowski hit Zach Miller for a 19 yard gain to the Oakland 45. On 3rd and 1, McFadden just barely picked up the first down. 3 straight incomplete passes to Chaz Schillens resulted in 2 near interceptions and a 4th and 10 at the Cincinnati 45. Everything came down to one play. Last week at home, a deep pass bounced off the receiver and was intercepted. Not this time. Gradkowski went to Schillens for a 4th straight time, and the 16 yard completion kept the drive alive. With 41 seconds left from the Cincy 29, Gradkowski fired deep to Louis Murphy. Murphy made a leaping catch at the one yard line, and out-muscled the defender the final yard, just stretching the ball over the goal line. With 33 seconds left, Seabass kicked the extra point and the game was tied 17-17.

Overtime never happened as the Raiders truly showed more heart than they have in some time. Andre Caldwell got nailed on the ensuing kickoff and coughed it up. Myers recovered the fumble at the Cincinnati 17. Gradkowski positioned the ball perfectly on three straight plays to force the Bengals to use their timeouts. Seabass nailed the 33 yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining. From the Cincinnati 43, Palmer heaved a Hail Mary that was intercepted by Nahmdi Asomugha. The Raiders had completed the stunning upset. This will either be an aberration or a building block, and hopefully JaMarcus Russell will use this time on the bench to relearn the game as Vince Young and Alex Smith have done. For now Bruce Gradkowski has earned his place in Raiders history. 20-17 Raiders

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos–After a 6-0 start under Josh McDaniels, the Broncos are reeling. Only in the once proud and now pathetic AFC Worst division could Norvelous Norv Turner be in the playoff hunt. Now that Dick Jauron has been fired, Turner is clearly the most overrated coach to still be employed.

Philip Rivers drove the Chargers down the field 69 yards, hitting Naanee for a 2 yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0 Chargers. In the second quarter the Chargers simply hogged the ball. Rivers led drives of 11 plays and 7 minutes, and another 5 1/2 minute drive. A pair of Nate Kaeding field goals had the Chargers up 13-0 at halftime. Denver finally got on the board with a field goal in the third quarter, but a LaDanian Tomlinson 1 yard touchdown run had the Chargers romping at 20-3.

The rest of the game featured the Chargers driving deep into Denver territory. They faced 4th and 3 at the 10 and kicked a field goal. Later on they faced 4th and goal at the 1, and Norv Turner opted for the field goal. Finally they faced 4th and 1 at the 8. This time they went for it, and Tolbert scored the touchdown with 34 seconds remaining. Nate Kaeding had the extra point blocked, which would have mattered had Denver not been down by 3 scores. The Broncos have lost 4 straight, the 6-0 start a distant memory. The 7-3 Chargers are in first place. Norvelous Norv Turner is a genius. 32-3 Chargers

Philadelphia Eagles  at Chicago Bears was the Sunday night game. A pair of teams fighting for survival slugged it out. The first quarter was all Eagles. Donovan McNabb led a 68 yard drive that led to a 25 yard David Akers field goal and a 76 yard drive that culminated in a 13 yard touchdown pass to Avant as the Eagles led 10-0. The second quarter was all Bears, but they did not crack the end zone. 3 field goals by Robbie Gould, a 45 yarder and a pair of 28 yarders, had the Bears within 10-9 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Gould’s 4th field goal, a 49 yarder, had the Bears leading 12-10. Yet despite little production since the opening quarter, one play was all the Eagles needed to reassert themselves. McNabb went deep to Deshean Jackson, who hauled in the 48 yard touchdown bomb as the Eagles led 17-12. Jay Cutler, who leads the league in interceptions, brought the Bears right back. He hit Davis for a 15 yard touchdown pass as the Bears led 20-17 entering the final quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter a Philadelphia fumble set the Bears up at the Philly 36. Yet after failing to pick up a first down, Robby Gould’s 5th field goal attempt was blocked as the score remained unchanged with 11 minutes in regulation. The Eagles capitalized, as McNabb led them 62 yards in 11 plays. Deshean Jackson ran it in from 11 yards out as the Eagles retook the lead 24-20 with5 1/2 minutes remaining.

To add a homoerotic moment to what is already a game of guys in tight pants slapping each other on the hides, an Eagles defender tackled Devon Hester by pulling his pants down, as his full moon shined on this Chicago night. Yet while bare-@ssed cheerleaders bring a positive to the game, bare-@ssed players are not why tivo was invented. The game continued, and Jay Cutler fired a pass that was batted up into the air and intercepted. The Eagles are back in a first place tie, while the Bears are 4-6 and on the brink of elimination. McNabb, classy as ever, had a warm exchange with Jay Cutler that he kept private. 24-20 Eagles

Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans was the Monday night game. The subplots were many. The old Houston Oilers vs the new Houston Titans. Vince Young coming back as the opponent to the place where he was  a hero in college and still had some fans. A Tennessee team that had won three straight after starting 0-6 vs a Houston team that was 5-4 for the first time, despite losing a heartbreaker to Indy 20-17 on a missed Kris Brown field goal at the gun. Beyond all the subplots was a fine football game. Vince Young only passed for 166 yards, but he ran for 73 more. Chris Johnson ran for 151 yards. Matt Schaub passed for 305 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and neither quarterback was intercepted.

A field position game had the Texans beginning their second drive at the Tennessee 36. With the short field, Schaub tossed a 3 yard touchdown pass to Steve Slaton as the Texans led 7-0. In the second quarter Vince Young led an 80 yard drive that ended with a 13 yard touchdown pass to Britt to tie the game 7-7. Field position continued to favor the Texans, and from their own 42, Schaub hit Casey for 32 yards to set up a 12 yard touchdown to Andre Johnson as the Texans again led 14-7 with 4 minutes left in the half. Young brought the Titans right back, and a 36 yard pass to Chris Johnson set upa  one yard touchdown run by Lendale White that had the game tied 14-14 with 50 seconds left in the half.

In the third quarter Schaub led the Texans from their own 16 to the Tennessee 31. After failing to convert on 3rd and 4, Kris Brown missed a 49 yard field goal. Starting at their own 40, Young led the Titans in 10 plays and 5 minutes to the Houston 30. Yet a 3rd and 5 play lost 2 yards. Rob Bironas, who once made 8 field goals in one game against Houston, made his 50 yard field goal as the Titans led 17-14. Schaub came right back with a 49 yard pass to Johnson that set up 1st and goal at the 8. The Texans moved no further, and Brown hit the chip shot to tie the game 17-17 on the final play of the third quarter.

Young led the Titans from their own 33 to the Houston 31, but with 10 minutes left, it was Bironas that missed a 49 yard field goal as the game remained tied. The defenses hunkered down, and the Titans took over at their own 6 yard line with 2:52 remaining in the game. A horsecollar penalty on defense followed by a 22 yard Johnson run had the Titans at their own 41 at the 2 minute warning. On 3rd and 3 from the 48, Young scrambled for 12 yards. With 52 seconds left in the game, Bironas came in for a 53 yard field goal to break the tie. He nailed it, the Titans led, but they may have scored too early as Gary Kubiak smartly had the Texans use their timeouts to have one last shot.

With 44 seconds left, the Texans began at their own 38 as Jeff Fisher went for a squib kick rather than kick it deep. This was puzzling given that so much time remained. Schaub hit Anderson for gains of 11 and 14 yards to the Titans 37 with 21 seconds left. With 6 second left Kris Brown came in for the game tying 49 yard field goal. For the second time in 3 weeks, with everything on the line, Brown was no good. For the second time in 3 weeks, the Texans had lost by the exact same score. The Texans are 5-5, and Jeff Fisher, only a few weeks removed from a 59-0 debacle, has seen his team win 4 straight to get to 4-6. This game was tied at the half and after three quarters, and was dead even until the final play. 20-17 Titans


One Response to “NFL 2009–Week 11 Recap”

  1. […] a comment » Don’t miss Eric’s NFL 2009 –  Week 11 recap. The Tygrrrr Express does as great a job as any in recapping the day’s […]

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