NFL 2009–Week 13 Recap

November has become December.

Two weeks ago I maintained that neither 10-0 team would go undefeated, and neither would reach the Super Bowl. I am often wrong, but never in doubt. At 12-0 and 12-0, I am doubling down and maintaining my prediction.

As for the games, hyperbole not needed. Let’s play football.

New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills was the Thursday night game. It did not deserve hyperbole. A early 49 yard field goal had the Bills up 3-0. The Jets responded with a 38 yarder to tie the game 3-3. The second quarter featured another 49 yard Jets field goal and a 6-3 lead before Marshawn Lynch finally created something evenly resembling a highlight. A 15 yard touchdown run had the Bills up 10-6. Jay Feeley continued the juggernaut that passed for offense, as his 3rd field goal had the Jets within 10-9. Late in the half the Jets finally finished a drive, as a 13 yard pass from Mark Sanchez to Braylon Edwards late in the half had the Jets up 16-10 at the break.

The second half was unwatchable. The first play of the 4th quarter had Feeley’s 4th field goal and a 19-10 lead as Rex Ryan decided not to gamble on 4th and 1 from the Buffalo 19. Sanchez got injured and was replaced by Kelly Clemens, who fumbled at midfield. With 5 1/2 minutes left in the game, 4th and 12 from the Jets 14 led to another field goal, as the Bills were back within 6 points. Buffalo got the ball back with 2 1/2 minutes left, but Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted by Darrell Revis, who outplayed Terrell Owens. The closest this game had to a highlight was when a perfectly thrown Sanchez bomb to Braylon Edwards resulted in Edwards doing his best Terrell Owens impersonation by dropping it and mouthing off. The Bills could not blame Dick Jauron for the loss, as he is is no longer coach. 19-13 Jets

Tampa Bay Buccaneers At Carolina Panthers–Jake Delhomme did not play in this game, and backup Moore was a game manager, going 14 for 20. Jimmy Stewart ran it in from 9 yards out to give the Panthers the 7-0 lead. Out of respect for the game of football, the rest of the first half should be given short shrift. The Panthers added a field goal in the first quarter and the Bucs kicked a pair of them as the Panthers led 10-6 at intermission. An equally thrilling third quarter featured an 11 play, 60 yard drive that ate up 6 minute and led to another field goal as the Panthers led 13-6. With 10 minutes left in regulation, on 4th and goal, Josh Freeman was intercepted in the end zone. Freeman passed for 321 yards on the day, but was killed by 5 interceptions. Late in the game Moore hit Steve Smith for a 66 yard gain that led to the final field goal to lock up the ugly victory for Carolina. Jon Gruden is still in the Monday Night Football booth. 16-6 Panthers

Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons–Michael Vick returning to Atlanta while playing for the Eagles would have been a real storyline, except that he is a bit player while Donovan McNabb leads Philadelphia. The Eagles are underrated while the Falcons are overrated. The sophomore jinx seems to be getting to Matt Ryan and Mike Smith, a non-descript white fellow with good hair. Yet the biggest problem for Atlanta in this game was the fact that Ryan was out with an injury, meaning Chris Redman played. A field goal had the Eagles up 3-0. McNabb then hit Leonard Weaver for a 4 yard touchdown pass as the Eagles led 10-0. McNabb went to Weaver in the second quarter for a 71 yard gain, setting up another field goal and a 13-0 Eagles lead at intermission.

Vick was booed by the crowd whenever he touched the ball, and in the third quarter he was booed loudly when his 5 yard touchdown run had the Eagles coasting at 20-0. An 83 yard interception return by Brown had the Eagles up 27-0. In the fourth quarter Vick got to see more action as Andy Reid decided to give McNabb time to laugh on the bench and stay healthy for next week. Vick hit Captain Morgan Brent Celek from 5 yards out as the Eagles led 34-0. The Falcons scored during garbage time, which for them was the entire game. 34-7 Eagles

St. Louis Rams At Chicago Bears–For some reason this game was played. It was worse than expected, which says a lot. Matt Forte ran it in from one yard out and the Bears added a field goal to lead 10-0 early on. The Rams reached the 3 yard line in the second quarter and settled for a field goal and a 10-3 game at halftime. The worst football game is still better than baseball, soccer, and golf combined, but this game might not have been better than curling, which is something Canadians play. Roger Goodell refused to cancel the second half. The Rams kicked a field goal in the third quarter, but then Jay Cutler hit Bennett from 3 yards out to cap off a 13 play, 7 1/2 minute, 76 yard drive to ice it. The Bears snapped a 4 game losing streak because they played the Rams at home. 17-9 Bears

Detroit Lions @ Cincinnati Bengals–Matthew Stafford went deep to Calvin Johnson for a 54 yard touchdown and a 7-0 Lions lead before reality set in.In the second quarter Stafford completed a 45 yard touchdown pass to Fanene, who plays defense for the Bengals. A touchdown pass to each team had the game tied 7-7. Fanene tastes great on flat bread. Carson Palmer then went Deep to Chad Johnson for a 36 yard touchdown pass as the Bengals grabbed the lead for good at 14-7. The rest of this game belonged to Shane Graham, who nailed 3 field goals, one in each of the remaining quarters to have the Bengals up 23-7. The Lions scored during garbage time, and the Bengals, while not with much beauty, are now 8-3 and in strong control of their division. 23-13 Bengals

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts–The Titans have won 5 in a row under Jeff Fisher and Vince Young after that awful 0-6 start. However, the notion of them running the table is ludicrous, especially since they were at the 11-0 Colts. Jim Caldwell simply unleashed Peyton Manning, who took the Colts right down the field for the early 7-0 lead as Joseph Addai ran it in from 8 yards out. Young brought the Titans right back, but the drive stalled inside the Indy 10, and a Rob Bironas field goal had the Titans within 7-3.

In the second quarter Manning led a 10 play, 77 yard drive that ended when Joseph Addai ran it in from 4 yards out to have the Colts up 14-3. Late in the half Young was intercepted, giving the Colts a short field. Just past the 2 minute warning, Manning hit Collie for the short touchdown pass to have the Colts cruising at 21-3. Yet Young finally got going during the 2 minute drill, and with 20 seconds left, a touchdown pass to Kevin Britt had the Titans within 21-10. What could Manning do in 20 seconds? What he does. A boneheaded unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the defense helped things along, as a field goal had the Colts up 24-10 at intermission.

Midway through the third quarter the Colts failed to expand the lead when a 52 yard field goal just missed. With one minute left in the third quarter, facing 4th and goal from the 2, Young threw the fade rout. The pass was caught out of bounds, as the Titans gave the ball back.In the fourth quarter the Colts did get the field goal, and again the Titans turned it over on downs in the red zone.Despite being down 27-10, Young mounted a furious rally. A 17 yard touchdown pass to Bo Scaife followed by a successful onsides kick gave the Titans the slimmest of hopes, but they got no closer.

The Colts improved to 12-0 under Jim Caldwell, the unprecedented 7th straight year of at least 12 wins. The Colts also tied the 2003-2004 New England teams that won 21 straight regular season games. Yet New England had a Super Bowl win in the middle of that streak while Indy was one and done after a second straight inexplicable loss to an inferior San Diego team. The Colts will not be among the all time great teams with only one Super Bowl appearance and win in that stretch. As for the Titans, Jeff Fisher did not wear a Peyton Manning jersey after this game. 27-17 Colts

Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars–The Jaguars have been under the radar all year, and are a very quiet 6-5. Houston went from promise at 5-3 to typical reality at 5-6. Jacksonville got on the board first with a field goal. A defensive game in typical Jack Del Rio fashion was finally broken open when David Garrard went deep to Nate Hughes for a 35 yard touchdown and a 10-0 Jaguars lead. Matt Schaub then went down with an injured shoulder, as the Jaguars rolled to a 17-0 lead at home when Garrard hit Wilford from 4 yards out. The Texans then decided to make a game of it. Brown ran it in from 8 yards out to get the Texans to within 17-7, but a Josh Scobee 46 yard field goal had Jacksonville up 20-7 at the break.

In the third quarter Garrard was sacked in the end zone for a safety as The Texans closed to within 20-9. Yet the Texans could not take advantage of the free kick to get closer. Scobee nailed another field goal as the Jaguars led 23-9. The Texans came back and reached the red zone before settling for a 32 yard field goal of their own as the Jaguars led 23-12 after three quarters.

Schaub was back in the game, and a 53 yard completion to Andre Johnson with 10 1/2 minutes left in the game had the Texans at the Jacksonville 16. Yet a badly executed gadget play blew up when a halfback option pass was intercepted at the one yard line. The Texans held, got the ball back in Jacksonville territory, and Schaub hit Johnson from one yard out with 4 minutes left to make it a 5 point game. The 2 point conversion failed. So did the Houston defense, as 7 straight carries by Maurice Jones-Drew was followed by 3 straight Garrard kneel downs. At 7-5 Jacksonville is in good position, while Gary Kubiak may be out the door if Bob McNair says enough is enough. 23-18 Jaguars

Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs–Kyle Orton led the Broncos down the field but was intercepted in the end zone. Orton came back, and on the next drive hit Graham for the 7 yard touchdown on a perfectly executed screen pass to give the Broncos the 7-0 lead. Matt Cassel led a staggering 19 play drive that took 8 minutes but bogged down at the 5 yard line. The short field goal early in the second quarter had the Chiefs within 7-3. Noshon Moreno had a short touchdown run in the second quarter to have the Broncos up 14-3. Kansas City added another field goal as the teams took a 14-6 game to the locker rooms.

The third quarter saw Denver break the game open, as a field goal followed by a 7 yard touchdown pass from Orton to Brandon Marshall had Denver on cruise control at 24-6. Another field goal extended the lead to 27-6. A fumble return for a touchdown by Goodman had the Broncos in a rout 34-6. Denver won their second straight, meaning Josh McDaniels was right to curse out the team and make them snap out of it. They have, and Todd Haley may wish to kick over a water cooler in an obscenity laced tirade. 44-13 Chiefs

Oakland Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers–For more on the game of the day, go to

Coach Mike Tomlin likes to quote poet Robert Frost. When you are the defending champion, you can quote poetry. He said that the Steelers, losers of 3 straight, “would not go gently into that good night.” He also said that they “were going to unleash hell.” It would have been nice had they not been playing the Raiders, who have just been playing like it.

The Stephan Logan returned the opening kickoff 83 yards for the Steelers to start at the Oakland 19. As awful as this was, the Silver and black held on defense, and Pittsburgh settled for a field goal and a 3-0 lead. Like most Raiders game, the questions would be about the offense. A solid kickoff return had the Raiders starting at their own 42. On the first snap, Bruce Gradkowski went back to pass, and fumbled without being touched, losing 4 yards. On 3rd and 10 the Raiders decided to run the ball, either a creative call or a surrender. The call worked, and on 4th and 1 from the Pittsburgh 47, Tom Cable decided to go for it. At 3-8 it was the right call. Gradkowski rolled out and hit Fargas for a first down. Yet on 3rd and 1 from the 30, Darren McFadden was blasted in the backfield. Sebastian Janikowski nailed the 48 yard kick to make it 3-3.

Field position favored the Raiders, but Rashard Mendenhall broke off a 60 yard run to the Oakland 15. On 3rd and 1 from the 6, Mendenhall appeared just short. On 4th and inches Tomlin decided to go for it. Ben Roethlisberger, despite having a concussion a couple of weeks ago, tried the quarterback sneak. The Raiders stuffed it and took over on downs. Instead of 14 points, the game was locked 3-3. Again, if the offense could just do something for Oakland. They could not. The second quarter began with the Raiders facing 3rd and 3 at their own 11. Gradkowski had Louis Murphy open but just barely overthrew him to end the drive. Roethlisberger came in and hit Hines ward for a 27 yard gain. Big Ben then made it look easy with a 34 yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes to put the Steelers up 10-3.

Given the Oakland offense the last 7 years, it seemed that the game was over, with the only suspense being if the Steelers would cover the 14.5 point spread. Gradkowski hit Zach Miller for a 13 yard gain to start the drive. A personal foul facemask penalty on the defense had the Raiders at the Pittsburgh 46. Gradkowski rolled out and picked up 20 yards, but offensive holding nullified the play. Yet on 3rd and 14 from midfield, Gradkowski stayed in the pocket, and with a man in his face, hit Johnny Lee Higgins for a 22 yard gain to the Pittsburgh 28. On 3rd and 8, Tom Cable went to the bag of tricks with a halfback option pass. Unfortunately, Michael Bush overthrew everyone. Seabass came in for the 46 yard field goal. Somehow, a knuckleball curved back in and had the Raiders within 10-6. Ugly points still count.

On the next Pittsburgh drive the Raiders brought the house on defense. Somehow Big Ben avoided everybody and ran for 20 yards, but offensive holding nullified the play. A perfect punt had the Raiders taking over at their own 5 with 5 minutes left in the half. A false start pushed them back to the 2. For the third time in the game, the Raiders decided to run the ball on 3rd and long. Gradkowski has not been playing badly, but at some point Cable has to take the leash off.

The Raiders punted, and Pittsburgh took over at their own 47. Big Ben had the Steelers on the move, but in the red zone he went to the end zone and was intercepted by Eugene. Again the defense had done its job, and again the offense was asked to function. Gradkowski was doing his job, but he had little help. After a holding penalty, Cable decided to play it safe and run out the half. The Steelers used their timeouts to try and get the ball back. On 3rd and 15 Fargas picked up 14. Shane Lechler did his job, as the Steelers were a their own 22 with 7 seconds left. Big Ben took a knee.

The third quarter began with some promise as Gradkowski completed a 20 yard pass. Yet again Cable went to the bag of tricks, and again the call blew up. A flea flicker involving Darren McFadden resulted in Gradkowski being sacked for a 16 yard loss. The calls are good. The problem is dreadful execution. The Raiders had no answer for James Harrison, who lived in the Oakland backfield throughout the game. A 2nd and 26 pass was dropped, and 3rd down was a formality as the Raiders punted again.

With 4 minutes left in the third quarter the Steelers took a timeoutbefore a critical 3rd and 1 at the Oakland 48. The Steelers converted, knowing a touchdown would put away the Raider and their lifeless offense. On 3rd and 6 from the Oakland 43, Roethlisberger completed the pass at the Raiders 29. On the last play of the third quarter, Ben Roethlisberger, who despite Hanukkah approaching is still not Jewish, was sacked. The fourth quarter began with the Steelers facing a 53 yard field goal. The kick was no good, and the Raiders had the ball at their own 43, with the slightest offense giving them a chance to win.

A pair of awful runs led to 3rd and 7. Gradkowski then hit Zach Miller, setting up 4th and inches at the Pittsburgh 47. Cable decided to go for it. Again, the team is 3-8, and again it is the right call. The issue is if the players could accomplish something on offense. Gradkowski snuck successfully for the 1st down. They became so excited at a critical first down that they let the play clock almost run down, resulting in their first wasted timeout. Gradkowski continued to make plays that were not being made before he became the starter. On 3rd and 3 he evaded tacklers, avoided a sack, and ran for the first down to the Pittsburgh 31. On 3rd and 2 from the Pittsburgh 23, a perfectly executed pitchout fooled the Steelers, and McFadden took it to the 16. Another great fake by Gradkowski led to him hitting a wide open Chaz Schillens for a touchdown to complete the 6 1/2 minute drive. With 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation, the Raiders led on the road 13-10.

Before declaring a shocker, it was up to the defense to not break down when it mattered most. The Raiders win games when they score 13 points, beating KC 13-10 and Philly 13-9. They could not give up any more points. The kickoff was returned to the Oakland 40. The Raiders needed one play to collapse. Roethlisberger had all kinds of time, fired across the middle to Holmes, and terrible tackling led to a 57 yard gain to the Oakland 3. One more play had Mednehall stopped in the backfield, only to spin out of more awful tackles and score as the Steelers retook the lead 17-13. Does anybody on Earth think the Raiders can score another offensive touchdown? No. They can’t. The last 7 years have proven that. 7 minutes remained, as if that mattered.

The Raiders took over at their own 16. On 3rd and 1 form the 25, the Raiders may not have shocked the world, but they shocked the entire city of Pittsburgh…and me. Gradkowski faked the run, rolled out, and went deep to Louis Murphy for a 75 yard touchdown. Murphy straddled the sidelines and barely reached the pileon, but with 5 1/2 minutes left, the Raiders led 20-17. 3 1/2 quarters of defense was followed by 3 touchdowns in 3 minutes. The offense finally did its job, and the defense was given a clean slate for their earlier breakdown. Again they needed a stop for the upset.

Again the defense wilted on the first play as Big Ben avoided  sack and completed a pass to the Oakland 47. Another long gain to Holmes had Pittsburgh at the Oakland 21. A busted play turned into Roethlisberger reaching the 11 yard at the 2 minutes warning.

Did anybody in their right mind think the Silver and Black would hold on defense when it counted most? After all, they led 20-17 against San Diego before losing 24-20, giving up the winning score with 18 seconds left. That was Week 1, and another almost step forward was followed by backward falls. This time it was Roethlisberger throwing the touchdown pass to Hines Ward as it was the Steelers with the identical lead. This time there was still 1:56 left to play. The question was not whether the Oakland offense could score again, but would the Pittsburgh defense break down again. The law of averages did not suggest this. It was up to Gradkowski.

As expected, holding on the return had the Raiders set up at their own 12. Gradkowski hit Higgins at the 29. On 3rd and 10 Gradkowski hit Watkins for the first down, but valuable time came off the clock. An incomplete pass left 53 seconds. Gradkowski hit Louis Murphy just before getting hit hard. The Raiders were at the Pittsburgh 40. An injury on the play when a pair of Steelers collided was as unfortunate as it was lucky for the Raiders as it stopped the clock with 41 seconds left. William Gay remained down on the field. At a critical juncture in the game, perspective had players kneeling in prayer. Thankfully, Gay got up.

On the next play, Gradkowski threw a ball straight into the bread basket of a defender. The game winning interception was dropped, and the Raiders had gotten a major lucky break. On second down with pressure in his face, Gradkowski threw a prayer to the sideline, where Louis Murphy somehow outjumped double coverage, caught the ball, got his feet down, and ended up out of bounds. The miracle play had the Raiders at the Pittsburgh 17 with 27 seconds left. The play clock was winding down, and the Raiders took a delay of game penalty rather than burn the last timeout. From the 22, a pass to Higgins was incomplete when Higgins got blasted on a helmet to helmet hit. The personal foul moved the ball to the 11. With 21 seconds left, a pass to Watkins was broken up at the last second.

Then it happened. With 15 seconds left, Gradkowski rolled out and hit Murphy for an 11 yard touchdown pass. 9 seconds remained, and the Raiders were on the verge of a stunner. Gradkowski had moved the Raiders 88 yards in 10 plays in only 1:47. The Steelers took the squib kick at their own 35. Big Ben hit Ward at midfield and then launched a Hail Mary. It fell incomplete, and the Raiders finally had the win.

This game cannot and should not ever be minimized or overstated. Nobody has been more critical of the Raiders than me. I have bled Silver and Black since that 2002 season ended in a nightmarish Super Bowl. Not since Rich Gannon have the Raiders had true leadership at quarterback. The offense that I was criticizing even today scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Bruce Gradkowski showed heart. Those who carp that Pittsburgh lost 4 straight can clam up. In 2006 the Raiders went 2-14 but beat Pittsburgh. This was better.

No, it was not the 1970s, but it was a thrilling win by a team that showed guts. I can now say with certainty that this team has potential. This was a building block. Tom Cable and Bruce Gradkowski got the job done on the road against a desperate defending champion. Gradkowski finished 20 of 33 for 308 yards and three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, one more than his nameless # 2 predecessor had all season. My inbox was flooded with congratulations. I may have complained, but I did not quit on this team. I watch every week until the final gun. 27-24 Raiders

New Orleans Saints @ Washington Redskins–The 11-0 Saints have a ridiculous pinball offense, but have had some sluggish starts before going ballistic in the second halves of games. The Redskins are awful, but their defense has hung tough in some games. A Jason Campbell touchdown and a field goal had the Redskins up 10-0 early on as they looked for an upset that would be less shocking than it seems. The Saints got going, and a field goal followed by a 40 yard bomb from Drew Brees tied the game 10-10. Yet Jason Campbell brought Washington back, and the response touchdown had the Redskins up 17-10. Yet good teams finding ways to win seems to be less accurate than bad teams finding ways to lose. Late in the half Brees was intercepted. Rather than go down, an attempt to run it back went haywire when Robert Meachem ripped out of the defenders hands. Meacham returned the fumble 44 yards for a score as the Saints had the game tied 17-17 at halftime.

The Redskins kicked a field goal in the third quarter to retake the lead 20-17. The Redskins got the ball back, and when Campbell hit Thomas for a 13 yard touchdown pass, the Redskins led 27-17 and were smelling upset. Brees brought the Saints right back, but at the 10 yard line the drive stalled and a field goal had the Saints still down 27-20. Yet the Redskins kept coming back, and on 3rd and 11, Campbell threw a 44 yard pass to Antwon Randel-El to the Saints 12 as the third quarter ended. In the fourth quarter, several questionable plays led to a heart stopping finish.

Trying to ice the game and knock the Saints from the ranks of the unbeaten, on 3rd and 1 from the 3 Mason was stuffed. With 13 minutes left in the game, on 4th and 1 from the 3, Jim Zorn decided to kick the field goal. Shawn Suisham made the chip shot, and the Redskins led 30-20. Brees again kept firing, and a 12 play 6 minute drive again proved frusrating on this day as the Saints continued to bog down deep. At the 10 yard line, another short field goal again cut the gap as the Saints were within 30-23 with 7 minutes left.

A strong kickoff return had the Redskins at their own 41, and Campbell continued to match Brees drive for drive. Campbell did everything right, and at the 2 minute warning the Redskins were in total control, facing 3rd and goal at the 5. Zorn decided to play it safe, and a running play picked up only one yard. With 1:56 left, Suisham came in for another chip shot from 23 yards out. The kick would lock up the game, defeat the Saints, and inspire the Redskins. The kick was no good. 23 yards out, and Suisham hooked it wide.

This was not the worst miss in NFL history. Scott Norwood in the Super Bowl probably holds that title. Gary Anderson in the NFC Title Game unfairly gets his miss magnified. Ray Finkle missed a 26 yarder that led to him going mad and kidnapping Dan Marino and team mascot Snowflake in a plot foiled by Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. The laces were out, Finkle, who is Lois Einhorn, just missed it. Yet this miss by Suisham will be magnified if the Saints go 16-0. After all, even though we all know that in 2007 Ray Lewis and Baltimore defeated New England, the record books still say 16-0. Thankfully a non-attempt in the Super Bowl corrected the record.

As with the Anderson kick, even though Suisham missed, the Saints still needed to drive the length of the field. Brees needed only 33 seconds, as a 53 yard bomb to Robert Meacham tied the game 30-30. Just like that, the Redskins had thrown away the win. Yet plenty of action was left. With 1:13 left, Campbell moved the ball from the Washington 25 to the New Orleans 45, helped along by a defensive penalty. Yet despite playing mistake free the whole game, Campbell picked the worst time to throw an interception.  Jonathan Vilma returned it to the New Orleans 46 with 28 seconds left. Now the Saints had the chance to end it. With John Carney in street clothes, Hartley was brought in for a 58 yard field goal attempt. The kick was no good, as the game went into overtime.

The Redskins got the ball first, and on the third play of overtime, controversy ensued. A short pass by Campbell appeared to be a catch, and then the ball came out after the receiver hit the ground. The ground cannot cause a fumble, but on further review, the call was reversed. It was ruled that the ball came out before the receiver landed, and the Saints recovered. The good news was that those that want to change the overtime rules can again shut up about fairness. The bad news was that it was a tough way to help end a game. The Saints took over at the Washington 37. Short passes led to some more runs. On first and goal at the one, the Saints failed to run it in, and Sean Payton decided on the field goal rather than a possible fumble. Hartley nailed the shortest possible kick of 18 yards as Suisham and the rest of the Redskins looked on in horror.

Campbell finished 30 of 42 with 367 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. Brees was 35 of 49 for 419 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The teams combined for 900 yards of offense. Yet critical decisions and mistakes cost the Redskins the game. The Saints were very lucky, but great teams have luck from time to time. 33-30 Saints, OT

San Francisco 49ers At Seattle Seahawks–Bad teams can sometimes combine for a great game. This was not it, although it was close. The first quarter saw the teams trade touchdowns as Alex Smith hit Vernon Davis from 33 yards out, and Matt Haselbeck hit Deion Branch from 7 yards out to tie the game 7-7. The second quarter featured the exact same in reverse order, as Hasselbeck hit Forsett from 8 yards out and Smith connected with Josh Morgan for a 22 yard score as the teams were deadlocked 14-14 at halftime. The defenses took over in an unwatchable scoreless third quarter. The 49ers had four straight drives that began at their own 5, 6, 13, and 2 yard lines as Seattle wasted golden field position.

With 5 1/2 minutes left, facing 4th and 2 at the San Francisco 7, Olindo Mare nailed a 25 yard field goal. The Seahawks led 17-14 in a game where nobody anywhere wanted overtime. Morgan returned the kickoff to the San Francisco 36. Alex Smith hit Jones for 18 yards, and defensive pass interference eventually led to 4th and 4 at the Seattle 16. With 3 minutes left Joe Nedney tied the game 17-17. After this, both teams tried very hard to lose.

With 1:21 left Seattle was at the San Francisco 40, only a few yards from field goal range. They went backwards and punted. The 49es took over at their own 11 and went 3 and out, failing to run out the clock. Incomplete passes near the goal line are bad. With 21 seconds left Seattle got the ball at their own 48. Defensive holding added 5 yards. Hasselbeck hit Butler for 32 yards, Olindo Mare made the field goal, both teams went to 5-7, and the Walrus, aka Mike Holmgren, is lurking in the background everywhere from Cleveland to Seattle. At least there was no overtime. 20-17 Seahawks

Dallas Cowboys At New York Giants–In Week 1 these teams played a thriller for the ages, with 8 lead changes. The Giants ruined the debut of the 1.2 billion dollar Jerry Jones Metropolis with a 33-31 win. The Giants started 5-0 before falling apart and coming into the home rematch at 6-5. They are 2 games behind the 8-3 Cowboys, who have rebounded strongly from their awful start to the year. As expected, these teams played a tight game as even the slightest mistake by Tony Romo would be savaged as a December swoon.

It was the Cowboys that got off to the hot start as a 13 play, 64 yard drive ate up 7 minutes. The drive stalled in the red zone, but a 34 yard Nick Folk field goal had the Cowboys up 3-0. The Cowboys finished things on their next drive as a 4 yard touchdown from Romo to Roy Williams made it 10-0. The table turned in the second quarter as the Giants got going. Eli Manning hit Hakeem Nicks for a 21 yard touchdown to make it 10-7. Late in the half a one yard run by battering ram Brandon Jacobs had the Giants up 14-10 at intermission.

In the third quarter Manning connected with Williams again, as the 5 yard score had Dallas back on top 17-14. Yet one play later, the Giants had the lead again as Brandon Jacobs, who is big and lumbering but not lightning quick, shook off tacklers, did a tightrope on the sidelines, somehow stayed inbounds, and barely reached the pileon for a 74 yard touchdown run as the Giants led 21-17 after three quarters. Wade Phillips challenged that Jacobs stated inbounds, which failed and cost Dallas a timeout and left them ou of challenges. This would haunt them later on.

Midway through the fourth quarter Manning hit Steve Smith for a 25 yard gain to the Dallas 38. Although it was questionable whether Smith hung on to the ball, it was ruled a catch and the Cowboys had no challenges left. Jacobs then rambled 29 yards to the 9 yard line. On 3rd and goal from the 5, Manning threw a perfect fade pass to Smith, who dropped it. It just bounced off of his fingers. Instead of a comfortable 11 point lead, the Giants settled for a Lawrence Tynes field goal and a 24-17 with 7 1/2 minutes to play.

Dallas failed to move on their next drive, and punted. Dominic Hixon broke bad tackles, made others miss even more badly, and then went to the sidelines with some perfect blocks as he raced 79 yards for the clinching touchdown. Wade Phillips and Tony Romo cannot be blamed for that, in case media vultures question this. They don’t play special teams.Romo rallied the Cowboys with a touchdown to Miles Austin with one minute remaining, but it was too little, too late. The Cowboys recovered the onsides kick, but it had not traveled 10 yards before an illegal touch occurred, as the G-men held on for the win.

The Giants are within one game of Dallas, and the Giants have swept the series, which means this division is totally up for grabs, especially with Philly playing well. In 2007 Dallas went 13-3, swept the Giants during the season, and lost to them at home in the playoffs. In 2008 it was the Giants finishing 13-3 and losing at home to Philly in the playoffs as Philly knocked out Dallas in Week 17. In 2009, It’s going to be a wild finish in the NFC East. 31-24 Cowboys

San Diego Chargers @ Cleveland Browns–Yes the Chargers came in winning 6 straight against the Browns, who won their only game against a Dick Jauron coached team by a score of 6-3. Jauron has been fired, which leaves a Norvelous Norv Turner team as the last hope for Eric Mangini to win something. Knowing the Chargers, they will defeat a 16-0 Indy team in the playoffs, lose the next week, but cheat America out of the greatest potential game of all time as the did in 2007 when we were all cheated out of the Indy-New England rematch of 2006 that never happened. As for the game, it was a parabola, turning from mildly interesting to another boring blowout and back to mildly interesting.

Brady Quinn began hot, leading the Browns 72 yards in 10 plays over 6 1/2 minutes. An 11 yard touchdown pass to Massaquoi had the Browns up 7-0, and then they celebrated by taking much of the rest of the day off. Had the game ended after 7 minutes instead of 60 they would have won. Philip Rivers brought the Chargers back in 12 plays, although the drive bogged down in the red zone. A 32 yard Nate Kaeding field goal had San Diego within 7-3. The Chargers got the ball back, and in one play Rivers hit Tolbert for a 66 yard touchdown and a 10-7 San Diego lead. In the second quarter Quinn led a 9 minute drive that fell apart when Quinn fumbled the ball away after being sacked on 3rd and goal at the 3. Kaeding added another field later on as the Chargers led 13-7 at the break.

In the third quarter Rivers led an 85 yard drive, capped off with a 31 yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles to make it 20-7. Another long drive of 83 yards ended with Ladanian Tomlinson running it in from 4 yards out as the Chargers were up big 27-7. Yet in the fourth quarter it was the Chargers that went to sleep.

With 13 minutes left, on 4th and 1 from the Cleveland 32, Jacob Hester got stuffed and Cleveland took over. Joshua Cribbs ran for 30 yards and Quinn hit Harrison from 8 yards out to pull the Browns to within 27-14 with 9 minutes left. Rivers came right back with a 41 yard deep ball to Vincent Jackson, but the Chargers got no further than the Cleveland 4 yard line. After 10 plays and 5 minutes, Kaeding hit the chip shot and the Chargers led 30-14 With 4 minutes left.

Cribbs returned the kickoff to the Cleveland 42. Quinn hit Harrison from 8 yards with 1:55 left. A 2 point conversion would have made it a one score game, but Quinn was caught trying to run it in. At 30-20, again the game seemed over and again it was not. Cleveland recovered the onsides kick at their own 41. They reached the San Diego 31, and Phil Dawson nailed a 49 yard kick with 39 seconds left. It was now a one score game, but the next onsides kick was recovered by Tomlinson for the Chargers. They escaped with their 7th straight win. Norv Turner is the greatest coach in history. 30-23 Chargers

New England Patriots At Miami Dolphins–Tom Brady went deep to Randy Moss for a 58 yard bomb as the Patriots, wearing their red retro uniforms, took the 7-0 lead. On the next drive Brady led the Patriots 80 yards in 13 plays, with a 6 yard Kevin Faulk run putting the Patriots up 14-0. Yet the blowout did not materialize. Chade Henne came back with a 10 play, 88 yard drive, capped off with a 10 yard pass to Bess to get the Dolphins within 14-7. Miami added a field goal to get to within 14-10 at the break.

The Dolphins did close to 14-13 in the third quarter, but the Patriots struck again when Brady went deep to Sam Aiken, who was never a singer on American Idol. The 81 yard touchdown play had the Patriots up 21-13. Chad Henne brought the Dolphins back, as a 12 play, 5 1/2 minute drive finished with a 3rd and goal at the 7 touchdown pass to Hartline. Despite it only being late in the third quarter, Tony Sparano went for the 2 point conversion. It failed, and The Patriots led 21-19 entering the last quarter.

With 9 1/2 minutes left in the game, the Patriot had the ball on the Miami 5 yard line. This why the 2 point conversion miss was so critical. A touchdown and extra point would make it a 9 point game. The 2 pointer should not be attempted until absolutely necessary. In this case it did not matter. Brady was intercepted in the end zone, a critical waste of a scoring chance. With 5 minutes to go, it was Miami facing 4th and 2 at the New England 39. Sparano passed up the 56 yard field goal attempt and the punt, and decided to go for it. Henne fired incomplete and Miami turned it over on downs.

New England went 3 and out, and with 2:09 left the Dolphins had 4th and 6 at the Patriots 41. Again Sparano decided to go for it. Henne hit Camarillo for 13 yards to keep the drive going. Carpenter was good, and with one minute left the Dolphins had come all the way back from down 14. History then repeated itself in Miami from a few yeas ago.

I was at the Monday Night Football game where the 12-1 Patriots collapsed late against the 2-11 Dolphins as Brady threw bizarre falling down interceptions. This time again Brady, as he was going to the ground, just tried to fling it anywhere. He was intercepted. The Patriots are not as good as back then, and the Dolphins are not as bad as they were that year. Yet after replay ruled that Brady’s knee was not down, the interception stood and the Dolphins had the upset win. Unlike prior games where the defender got greedy and fumbled it right back, this time the interceptor went straight to the ground to preserve the win.

Instead of a stranglehold on the division, the door is open as New England leads Miami and New York by only one game. Brady finished 19 of 29 for 352 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but a pair of costly interceptions. Henne finished 29 of 52 for 335 yards and a pair of touchdowns with one interception. Bill Bellichick, aka the Hoodie, sees what might be the crumbling of football’s evil empire. 22-21 Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings @ Arizona Cardinals was the Sunday night game. It could have been mistaken for the Senior Bowl as Brett Favre and Kurt Warner are a combined 78 years old. Let the old men play. This is not charity. They are simply playing very well. Favre lit up the Packers from 1995-1998, while 1999-2001 belonged to Warner. They each won one Super Bowl, and were close to winning a second one, falling just shy of  a dynasty. The Packers and the Rams have won nothing since they left. Favre reached another NFC Title Game in 2007 and Warner another Super Bowl in 2008. Yet they both lost.

Nevertheless, The Vikings are mauling opponents at 10-1 while the Cardinals are now the greatest show in the Desert at 7-4. Warner is coming off of a concussion, but this was expected to be the second coming of Air Coryell as Favre and Warner reached out to Percy Harvin and Larry Fitzgerald and others repeatedly.

Yet on the second play from scrimmage it was running back Tim Hightower that fumbled the ball. The Vikings took over at the Arizona 47. Favre hit Vincent Shiancoe from 10 yards out to put the Vikings up 7-0. With 4 minutes left in the opening period, Steve Breaston returned a punt 65 yards to the Minnesota 3, setting up a touchdown from Warner to Anquon Boldin to tie the game 7-7.

In the second quarter Warner found Anquon Boldin, who made a gorgeous one handed grab and outraced everybody else for a 39 yard touchdown and 14-7 Cardinals lead. Favre came back with a 10 play, 62 yard drive that ate up nearly 6 minutes. However, things bogged down at the 8 yard line. A 25 yard Ryan Longwell field goal had the Vikings within 14-10. Warner kept the track meet going, and a 34 yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald had the Cardinals up 21-10 at halftime.

The second half featured a much slower game, with Neil Rackers providing much of the action. Warner kept leading the Cardinals into the Red zone but not the end zone. As for Favre, he was harassed and knocked around. Rackers nailed kicks of 31 and 30 in the third quarter and 29 in the fourth quarter. Slowly but surely the Cardinals led 30-10. A garbage touchdown by Favre made man and others why Favre, and Warner for that matter, will still in the game at such a late juncture. Yes these are competitive guys, but an injury with 6 minutes left should have given both coaches pause about their stars in a blowout.

The stars had good games statistically. Warner was 22 of 32 for 285 yards and three touchdown passes. Favre was 30 of 45 for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns. However, he also had a pair of interceptions. He came in with 24 touchdowns and 3 picks, and now has 26 and 5, still very solid. This was 10 years after the Packers lost to the Rams in the playoffs with Favre throwing 6 interceptions and Warner outplaying him. Adrian Peterson was stifled by the Cardinals defense, as he mustered only 19 yards on 13 carries. The Cardinals are 8-4 with a stranglehold on the NFC Worst. The Vikings are 10-2, but 2 games behind unbeaten New Orleans for home field. If these teams play again it will most likely be in Minnesota. 30-17 Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens at Green Bay Packers was the Monday night game. A pair of slightly better than average teams played a very bad game. Over 300 yards in penalties marred this game. Yet with both teams fighting for a playoff spot, it was worth watching. The Packers kicked a field goal in an ugly first quarter, but Aaron Rodgers got going after that. He finished 26 of 40 for 263 yards passing and 3 touchdowns. In the second quarter he threw touchdowns of 2 yards to Finley and 8 yards to Donald Driver as the Packers led 17-0 at the half in a game that had the makings of a blowout.

The Ravens fought back in the third quarter, helped along by critical Packer turnovers. Joe Flacco hit Washington from 12 yards out. Disaster struck one play later, and 2 scores in 16 seconds meant that Willis McGahee was running it in from one yard out as the Ravens only trailed 17-14 entering the last quarter.

Yet the Ravens failed on both sides of the ball when it counted most. Flacco failed to generate offense, and Rodgers hit Finley from 19 yards out to lock up the win. The Packers added a field goal for insurance, as the Ravens fell to 6-6. Green Bay has very quietly won 4 straight to get to 8-4. They are still 2 games back in their division, and lost both games to Minnesota, meaning they are down 3 games. Yet they are in good shape for the wild card, while the Ravens are on life support and will need to run the table to have a shot. 27-14 Packers


One Response to “NFL 2009–Week 13 Recap”

  1. I watched Gradkowski play in down here in Tampa. He’s a raw talent, but he’s definitely a talent. I like him. I think he’s got the stuff to be an NFL quarterback. I can’t say the same for Russell. Period. I think Bruce should be the future QB for this team, or at least #2 to a quality vet next year.

    Good win for the Raida’s!


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