NFL 2009–Week 14 Recap

The Tygrrrr Express spent the second night of Hanukkah driving from San Diego to Sedona, Arizona. Today I speak to the Sedona Republican Women’s Federated before driving to Lake Havasu.

Normally this column would be entitled “Hanukkah Night 3,” but out of deference for the NFL, it is Week 14.

Before getting to football, driving from San Diego to Sedona was one of the reasons the lord (with help from the Snowman Jerry Reed, rest his soul,” wrote “Eastbound and Down,” for the movie “Smokey and the Bandit.”

“Put your foot hard on the pedal…son never mind them breaks. Let it all hang out cause we got a run to make.”

Another song you shall have stuck in your heads goes like this.

“Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah, come light the Menorah. Hanukkah oh Hanukkah, we’ll all dance the Horah. Gather round the table, will give you a treat. Lots of tasty chocolates and latkes to eat. Hanukkah oh Hanukkah, come light the Menorah…”

Yes, it is an endless loop, but again, I did have a 7 hour drive today. Sure Sirius Radio has Fox News, and more importantly the NFL Network, but those shows repeat. Luckily my singing voice is divine, especially when nobody else is around to hear it but the voices in me cranium.

Anyway, here are some words I say every year around this time.

At the beginning of the football season in September, all the teams have dreams. They are all like young pups, excited about the prize.

Yet this is December. The little puppies need to grow up. Some will and some will not.

So to quote football philosopher John Randall, “This is when the big dogs come out.”

Let’s play football. Here is the recap.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns was the Thursday night game. As awful as it was expected to be, it exceeded expectations and was worse. A pair of 29 yard field goals by Phil Dawson, one in the first and second quarters, had the Browns leading 6-0. It was not snowing. The teams were just pathetic on offense. Very late in the half Jennings ran it in from 10 yards out, barely making the pileon as the Browns had a stunning 13-0 lead. Reed got the Steelers on the board before the half with a 27 yard field goal to make it 13-3. Reed added a 42 yarder in the third quarter as the Steelers trailed by 7 points after three quarters.

Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 8 times in this game. He finished 18 for 32 for 201 yards, but was beat up all game. Brady Quinn was a wretched 6 for 19 for 90 yards. Yet Jennings made the difference, as the Steelers never reached the end zone. Pittsburgh had one last shot with 1:49 left, but went nowhere. The Browns had the shocking upset, while the defending champion Steelers lost their 5th straight after a 6-2 start. Mike Tomlin had no answers, as the Steelers will most likely not be making the playoffs. 13-6 Browns

New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons–With Matt Ryan injured, Chris Redman had to square off against Drew Brees. Redman did manage to move the Falcons early from the Atlanta 25 to the Saints 18, where a field goal had the Falcons up 3-0. Shockingly enough, the Saints did not panic. Brees brought the Saints back, reaching the Atlanta 15 before settling for the tying field goal. Redman brought the Falcons down the field again, but on 4th and 2 from the 12, Mike Smith opted for the field goal. In average, non-descript, white guy news, Mike Smith looks like a guy named Mike Smith. The field goal was good and the Falcons led 6-3.

In the second quarter Brees finally began unleashing, and a 42 yard gain to Robert Meacham led to a 6 yard touchdown pass to Reggie Bush to put the Saints in front 10-6. The Saints got the ball back, and Brees led a 13 play, 6 1/2 minute drive that ended with Brees hitting Marques Colston for a 3 yard touchdown pass as the Saints led 16-6. The extra point was no good, which would loom large later on. With only 51 seconds left and on their own 20, Redman quickly hit White for a 27 yard gain. With help from an unnecessary roughness penalty, The Falcons reached 3rd and 4 from the 8 with 8 seconds in the half. Redman fired incomplete, as the Falcons settled for another field goal and a 16-9 halftime deficit.

The Saints took the second half kickoff and Brees moved them 80 yards in 10 plays in 6 minutes. On 3rd and 1 from the 29, Bush picked up 19 yards. On 3rd and 10 from the Atlanta 40, Brees was intercepted, but pass interference nullified the pick and had New Orleans at the Falcons 12. Bush then fumbled on the next play, but the Saints recovered for a 9 yard loss. So the Saints went right back to Bush, who ran it in from 21 yards out as the Saints appeared cruising for an easy win at 23-9.

The game quickly changed when Redman hit Jenkins for a 50 yard touchdown pass to get the Falcons to within 23-16. When the Saints failed to covert 3rd and 1, the Falcons got the ball back. Redman led the Falcons 79 yards in 11 plays over 5 1/2 minutes. When Snelling ran it in from 4 yards out, the game was tied 23-23 with 13 minutes left in the game. The missed extra point was a potential game changer.

Brees then milked the clock with an exruciating 16 play, 8 minute drive from the New Orleans 17 to the Atlanta 10. An intentional grounding call pushed the Saints back 10 yards, but  Hartley, filling in for the benched John Carney, made up for his failed extra point with the go ahead 38 yard field goal with 4:42 to play. The Falcons then self destructed as a Wildcat snap lost 12 yards and Redman was then intercepted.

With 2:11 to play, the Saints faced 4th and 7 at the Atlanta 15. Sean Payton called for a fake field goal. Marc Brunelle fired incomplete, and the Falcons only needed a field goal to tie things. On 4th and 2 from the Saints 46 with 1:18 left, the Falcons were one good play from the attempt. It never came as Redman fired incomplete. For the second week in a row, the Saints had survived. At 13-0, they are not taking the foot off of the accelerator. 26-23 Saints.

Detroit Lions @ Baltimore Ravens–A Detroit team with nothing to play for and Matthew Stafford injured went on the road with Dane Culpepper against a Baltimore team fighting for its playoff life. For those who like inspiring upsets, this was not it. Culpepper was salty a couple of weeks earlier when he was told he would not be starting. Well today Culpepper had his chance, and the entire team made the least of it.

The Lions reached midfield but failed to convert on 2nd and 2 as well as 3rd and 2. The Ravens marched down the field but fumbled the ball away at the 6 yard line. The Lions moved again but failed to convert on 3rd and 1 from the Baltimore 26 before missing a field goal. After stopping the Ravens, Detroit failed to covert one yard on 2nd and 3rd down. Late in the opening quarter the Ravens did kick a field goal, and their 3-0 lead looked like a typical defensive slugfest. Reality then set in, and quite brutally.

In the second quarter, facing 3rd and 4 at the Baltimore 44, Culpepper fumbled the ball, and the Lions punted. Joe Flacco then hit Derrick Mason for a 62 yard touchdown to make it 10-0 Ravens. Culpepper brought the Lions back with a 15 play, 75 yard drive that ate up 7 1/2 minutes of clock. On 4th and goal at the 3 the Lions settled for a field goal, but with only 4 1/2 minutes left in the half the Lions were only down 10-3. They were making a game of it.

Then they remembered they were the Lions. Ray Rice ripped off a 59 yard touchdown run to put the Ravens up 17-3. Culpepper was then intercepted at midfield. Rice ran for 15 yards, followed by Flacco hitting Rice for a 30 yard gain down to the 5. The Ravens settled for a field goal and a 20-3 lead at halftime.

The Ravens took the second half at their own 26, and 11 plays and 6 minutes later, they had another score. Flacco hit Williams for 34 yards, and McClain took it in from 3 yards out to have the Ravens coasting at 27-3. The Ravens got the ball back, and Flacco hit Todd Heap for 31 yards to set up Willis McGahee from 8 yards out as the Ravens led 34-3. When McGahee ran it in from 19 yards out, the Ravens led 41-3, and the league considered canceling the 4th quarter before bowing to television contractural rules that only the league understands.

Culpepper showed his mettle in the fourth quarter by sneaking on 4th and 1 from his own 23. Like previous attempts, this failed. The Ravens took over, and Smith ran it in from 15 yards out. Baltimore improved to 7-6, while league owners met to discuss whether Detroit should be relocated to the Canadian Football League. 48-3 Ravens

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears– Chicago is an injury riddled mess, while Green Bay has rebounded from a 4-4 start to win four straight. The game looked like the expected Green Bay blowout when RYan Grant ran for a 62 yard touchdown on Green Bay’s first play from scrimmage. The Packers got the ball back, and Aaron Rodgers moved them over 12 plays and 6 minutes. Mason Crosby nailed a 3 yard field goal to have the Packers up 10-0.

Jay Cutler completed a pass to Charles Woodson. Unfortunately for the Bears, Woodson still plays cornerback for the Packers. Starting at the Chicago 39, the Packers faced 4th and 3 at the 32. Mike McCarthy decided to go for it, and Rodgers picked up 9 yards. After 11 plays and 5 minutes, a 26 yard field goal in the second quarter had the Packers coasting at 13-0.

With 8 minutes left in the half Cutler finally got the Bears going with a 13 play, 6 1/2 minute drive. From the Chicago 20, the Bears moved backwards and then forwards. On 3rd and 18 from their own 35, Cutler hit Johnny Knox for 28 yards. On 3rd and 9 from the Green Bay 36, Cutler hit Aromashodu for 19 more. Finally on 3rd and 12 from the 19, Cutler hit Knox for the touchdown. Despite being dominated all game, the Bears only trailed 13-7 at the break.

2 minutes into the second half, Rodgers fumbled, and the Bears took over at their own 44. Cutler hit Knox for 22 yards and then to Aromashodu for the 10 yard touchdown as the Bears, with little offense, had a 14-13 lead handed to them. Yet the Bears would not accept the generosity. Early in the fourth quarter Cutler was intercepted, and the Packers took over at the Bears 11. Grant ran it in form 1 yard out, and the 2 point conversion had the Packers up by 7 with 12 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

Cutler led the Bears to the Green Bay 44, but several incomplete passes later, the Bears punted. The Bears got 2 more chances but went nowhere. The game was ugly, but the Packers won their 5th straight, as their 9-4 record puts them in strong playoff contention. 3 years after reaching the Super Bowl, the Bears may fire Lovie Smith, but he can’t make injured players play or their substitutes play like starters. 21-14 Packers

Seattle Seahawks @ Houston Texans–A pair of bad teams that have potential and fail to live up to it squared off. 16 seconds and one play from scrimmage were enough to end the suspense as Matt Schaub went deep to Andre Johnson for a 64 yard touchdown and a 7-0 Texans lead. Houston got the ball back, and despite failing to convert on 3rd and 2 from the Seattle 11, a field goal had the Texans up 10-0. The Texans got the ball back at their own 44, and on 3rd and  Schaub found Anderson for 27 yards. Ryan Moats ran it in from 4 yards out as the Texans led 17-0.

In the second quarter Schaub hit Johnson for a 17 yard touchdown as the Texans led 24-0. on the next drive Schaub took 6 1/2 minutes and 11 plays as the Texans moved from their own 3 to a 3rd and 2 at the Seattle 6. On the next play Schaub lost 2 yards, and the short field goal attempt was blocked. Had the Texans not been up by 4 scores this would have been inspiring.

Matt Hasselbeck finally got going from the Seattle 16. He hit Nate Burleson for 22 yards before Julius Jones ran for 24 more. Hasselbeck hit TJ Houshmanzadeh for 31 yards and then Carlson for the 4 yard touchdown. Seattle trailed 24-7 at the break. As for Schaub, he had 336 yards passing in the first half. Yes, in the first half. The team got bored in the second half as Schaub added only 29 more yards for a total of 365 on 29 for 39 passing.

Yet somehow Seattle did even less. Seattle is 4 years removed from the Super Bowl, and the Walrus, aka Mike Holmgren, may come back. Either way, the team is currently wretched, as was the second half. The Texans added a field goal. Schaub was intercepted, but Hasselbeck threw it right back to Pollard, who raced 70 yards for the interception touchdown to end the scoring. If Gary Kubiak is fired, it won’t be because of today. 34-7 Texans

Denver Broncos @ Indianapolis Colts–Denver has righted the ship after a midseason slump to get to 8-4, but traveling at the Colts has not been good to them in years past. This was three games all in one. The beginning of the game saw Peyton Manning put on a passing clinic. For some bizarre reason, despite winning the coin toss, Josh McDaniels decided to defer. Apparently he is not aware that Peyton Manning is really good.

Manning led the Colts 80 yards in 13 plays and 6 minutes, with a 5 yard score to Collie putting the Colts up 7-0. McDaniels asked if he could change his mind and take the ball first. He was told no. The Broncos punted, and the Colts took over at their own 44. Joseph Addai picked up gains of 12 and 8 yards on the ground and 25 more on a pass from Manning. Manning hit Dallas Clark for the 10 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Colts.

The Broncos reached a 4th and 1 at the Indy 41, but Moreno was stuffed. In the second quarter Manning hit Clark for 22 yards, and later hit Clark for a one yard touchdown to complete an 11 play, 5 minute drive as the Colts led 21-0. The Colts were 38 minutes away from locking up home field, but they went to sleep way too early.

Kyle Orton led the Broncos 80 yards in 12 plays and 5 1/2 minutes. Three 3rd down conversions finished with a 5 yard touchdown to Brandon Marshall to make it 21-7. Late in the half Denver had 4th and 1 from the Indy 45, but again Moreno was stuffed. Manning was intercepted, and with 6 seconds left in the half, Denver had 3rd and 8 from the Indy 45. Rather than a Hail Mary or a 62 yard field goal attempt, Orton completed a 4 yard pass to Marshall. For those who hate the West Coast Offense like I do, the half ended 41 yards short of the goal line.

Even good teams can play bad football, and the third quarter was dreadful. Manning was intercepted two more times, while Orton was intercepted once, and Denver missed one field goal. Manning’s 3rd interception led to the Broncos making a field goal 10 seconds into the 4th quarter as they trailed 21-10. Denver hung tough, and a 5 yard touchdown pass from Orton to Marshall with 10 minutes left in the game had the Broncos within 21-16 as the 2 point conversion failed.

With a 21-0 lead all but evaporated, Manning simply took over as he has done so many times. On 3rd and 10 form the Indy 20, he hit Collie for 23 yards and then Reggie Wayne for 20 more. 80 yards, 14 plays, and 7 1.2 minutes bled the clock. Manning hit Clark for the one yard touchdown on 3rd and goal to give the Colts some breathing room with a 12 point lead with 2 1/2 minutes left.

At the 2 minute warning, facing 4th and 18 at their own 12, Orton completed a 7 yard pass to Brandon Marshall. The Broncos turned it over on downs to end their final threat, but the final reception broke an NFL record. Marshall caught 21 passes in this game, breaking the mark of 20 set by Terrell Owens in 2000. That game was the last one for Jerry Rice in San Francisco, so while Owens set the record, Rice was carried off the field. Marshall was not carried off the field as the Broncos lost the game.

Speaking of records, the Colts won their 22nd consecutive regular season game, breaking the mark of 21 set 2x by New England. Jim Caldwell has said that he is following the Tony Dungy tradition of resting everybody. The Colts have locked up home field throughout the playoffs, but the Colts are not interested in being the best team ever, just the best team of 2009. Keeping everyone healthy is expected to take precedence over chasing history, although Manning might quietly lobby hard to play. Denver is 2 games out in their division but in a strong position for a Wild Card birth. 28-16 Colts

Miami Dolphins @ Jacksonville Jaguars–A pair of teams desperate for a Wild Card berth slugged it out in a defensive bonelock. After an exchange of punts, Chad Henne led the Dolphins 67 yards on 13 plays and 7 minutes. The running game was key in this match, and Ricky Williams ran it in from one yard out to put the Dolphins up 7-0. In the second quarter Miami continued to pound it down the Jaguars throats, with a 74 yard, 13 play, 7 1/2 minute drive ending in a one yard Henne run as the Dolphins led 14-0.

The Jaguars came back with a lengthy drive of their own. David Garrard led the Jaguars 74 yards in 12 plays and 6 minutes. Maurice Jones-Drew banged through on 3rd and goal from the 1, as the Jaguars trailed 14-7 at intermission. In the second half Tony Sparano and Jack Del Rio saw their defenses dominate. If these were bad teams the game would have been unwatchable, but two good teams fighting for their playoff lives made for a great game.

In the third quarter Miami missed a field goal, and Jacksonville reached the Miami 8 before stalling. Jacksonville made their field goal to make it a 4 point game with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. Ricky Williams fumbled at the Jacksonville 29 at the end of the third quarter. With 8 minutes left the Jaguars failed to convert on 4th and 3 from the Miami 45. Henne was then quickly intercepted, but after picking up one first down, Jacksonville faced 4th and 10 at the Miami 39 with 6 1/2 minutes left. Del Rio decided to punt, pinning Miami at their own 14. Jacksonville got the ball back at their own 31 with 3 1/2 minutes left, but on 4th and 3 from the Miami 46, Garrard lost 4 yards with 1:20 left.

Jacksonville did get one last shot from their own 20 with 17 seconds left, but Garrard was sacked to end the scoreless fourth quarter and the game. Despite pitching a shutout in the seconds half, the Jacksonville defense got no help from the offense. The Miami defense was stout the whole game. Both of these teams are 7-6 and in playoff contention, with Miami in much better tie breaker position. This was playoff football early. 14-10 Dolphins

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs–A pair of awful teams played a game that some of their family members may have cared about. Matt Cassel was intercepted 4 times, although Buffalo provided little excitement on their end. Kansas City faced 4th and 11 at the Buffalo 35, and Todd Haley decided to punt. Yet Ryan Fitzpatrick was then sacked, fumbling the ball away to the Chiefs at the Buffalo 9. On 4th and goal from the 1, Haley decided to go for it. Even worse, he called for a pass play, and Cassel was sacked for a 7 yard loss. Shockingly enough, 0-0 was not the final score, although if fans left with 3 quarters remaining this would make sense.

From the 8, Marshawn Lynched ripped off a 47 yard gain. Fitzpatrick hit Terrell Owen for a 9 yard touchdown as the Bills led 7-0. Cassel led the Chiefs on a 13 play drive in the second quarter, but on 3rd and 3 from the Buffalo 5, Cassel completed  a 2 yard pass. Yes, the West Coast offense should be abolished. I am not sure why quarterbacks refuse to throw past the marker, praying instead that grown adults on defense fail to make a tackle. Mike Jones can explain this. On 4th and 1 from the 3, Haley, not wanting another debacle, kicked a field goal to get the Chiefs to within 7-3.

Buffalo fumbled at midfield, but on 3rd and 3 from the Buffalo 31, Cassel was sacked out of field goal range. From the 37, the Chiefs punted. If I forgot to mention it, these teams are awful. Buffalo came back, but on 4th and 2 from the Chiefs 24, Fitzpatrick completed a 1 yard pass. Again, the West Coast Offense should be abolished. Throw past the d@mn marker. A field goal made it 10-3 as 4th and 1 from the 23 seemed too difficult for either of these teams to convert.

The Bills began the second half by picking up only one yard on 3rd and 2, but at least it was a failed run instead of a failed pass. Cassel was then intercepted at his own 24, but on the 5 yard line Fitzpatrick threw it right back to the Chiefs. Again, these teams are awful. Fitzpatrick led an 11 play, 6 minute drive, but on 3rd and 4 from the Kansas City 6, the Bills shockingly failed to convert. At least this time it was an incomplete pass. A field goal made it 13-3 Bills.

In a game that was total garbage, one play was highlight worthy. Charles broke off a 76 yard touchdown run as the Chiefs got to within 13-10 only 1 play and 17 seconds after trailing by 10. The game then went back to being worthy of cancellation. The fourth quarter saw Cassel completing passes repeatedly to the Buffalo defense.

Cassel was intercepted at the Buffalo 35, his second pick of the game. That led to a Buffalo field goal and a 6 point Buffalo lead with 8 minutes left. Cassel then led a long drive that created a 4th and 10 at the Buffalo 21 with 2:20 to play. Cassel threw his 3rd interception. With one minute left, the Chiefs got the ball back at their own 27. With 7 seconds left, from the Buffalo 37, Cassel threw the Hail Mary. Despite neither team deserving to win, the game did not feature a miracle touchdown, missed extra point, and pointless overtime. The ball was intercepted. 16-10 Bills

Cincinnati Bengals @ Minnesota Vikings–Both of these teams came in trying to move closer to the # 2 seed in their respective conferences and a 1st round bye. After a scoreless opening quarter, Ryan Longwell nailed a 41 yard field goal to get the Vikings on the board first 3-0. A short Cincinnati punt had the Vikings staring their next drive at the Cincy 43. Brett Favre hit Adrian Peterson for 28 yards, and on 3rd and 8 from the 9, Favre hit Sidney Rice for the touchdown as the Vikings led 10-0. Carson Palmer hit Chad Johnson for a 15 yard touchdown to get the Bengals within 10-7. Despite not being fined after the play, Johnson could not motivate the Bengals to do much more the entire game.

Favre quickly led a 14 play drive near the end of the half, although it stalled at the 5 yard line. A short field goal had the Vikings up 13-7 with 35 seconds left in the half. With 13 seconds left, a short pass was fumbled, and the Vikings recovered at the Cincy 26 with 4 seconds left. The gift turnover led to another field goal and a 16-7 Vikings lead that seemed to deflate the Bengals.

Cincinnati lost even further momentum when the second half kickoff went out of bounds. From their own 40, Favre made critical 3rd down conversions. On 3rd and 5 from the Minnesota 45, Favre hit Chester Taylor for 6 yards. On 3rd and 17 from the Minnesota 44, Cincinnati jumped offsides. On 3rd and 12, Favre hit Taylor for 26 yards. Taylor picked up 17 yards, and Peterson ran it in on 3rd and goal fro the one to have the Vikings leading 23-7.

Early in the fourth quarter the Bengals faced 4th and goal from the Minnesota 4. Marvin Lewis opted for the field goal to make it 23-10. Yet the Benglas could not stop the Vikings offense. Favre moved the Vikings 67 yards in 11 plays and 6 minutes, with Peterson carrying it the final 3 yards to complete the scoring.

The Vikings won by the exact same score they lost by last week, as the Vikings moved to 11-2. The Bengals fell to 9-4, leading their division but now one game behind San Diego for the first round bye. Brad Childress is Catholic and bald. 30-10 Vikings

Carolina Panthers @ New England Patriots–The Panthers have had a nightmarish season, while the Hoodie, aka Bill Bellichick, is trying to delay the collapse of the evil empire of football in New England. The Panthers had Matt Moore starting in place of injured Jake Delhomme. Yet despite leading the division by only one game, the Patriots have been accused of playing unenthused, while the Panthers have been scratching and clawing for Jon Fox.

On 4th and 1 from the Carolina 40, Bellichick naturally decided to go for it, and Sammy Morris got stoned for no gain. Later on again from the Carolina 40, New England faced 4th and 3, and Bellichick opted to punt. After Tom Brady was intercepted at his own 48, Matt Moore went deep to Steve Smith for a 41 yard touchdown and a 7-0 Panthers lead.

In the second quarter, Randy Moss caught his only pass of the day and fumbled the ball away. With 3 1/2 minutes left in the half, John Kasay missed a 53 yard field goal. Despite being lifeless on offense the entire half, the Patriots benefitted from a 30 yard defensive pass interference penalty to the Carolina 21. Kevin Faulk ran it in from 3 yards out as the teams were deadlocked 7-7. On the last play of the half, from the Carolina 44, Moore hit Muhsin Muhammad at the New England 40. Muhammad then did the hook and lateral to Steve Smith, who was pushed out of bounds at the Patriots 12. Exciting, but no points out of it.

In the third quarter the Patriots missed a golden opportunity when they fumbled the ball away at the Carolina 15. Yet midway through the quarter they got the ball back at their own 4. Brady led the Patriots 96 yards in 13 plays and 7 1/2 minutes. On 3rd and 2 from the Patriots 12, Brady hit Wes Welker for 13 yards. A 23 yard pass to Welker led to 3rd and goal at the 5, where Brady hit Watson for the go ahead touchdown as New England led 14-7 entering the final quarter.

Moore brought the Panthers into the red zone, but with 12 minutes left in regulation the Panthers settled for a field goal and a 14-10 game. Brady brought the Patriots back, and with 7:20 to play, a Patriots field goal had them back up by a touchdown at 17-10. The Panthers then punted, and taking over at the Carolina 42, the Patriots turned out the lights. Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 47 yard field goal to put the game out of reach. New England was not anywhere near their best, but at 8-5 they lead their division by one game. 20-10 Patriots

New York Jets @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers–The Jets at 6-6 came in fighting for their playoff lives without quarterback Mark Sanchez. Kelly Clemens started in place of the injured rookie. As for the Buccaneers, Raheem Morris is in charge, Jon Gruden is still in the Monday Night Football Booth, and Monte Kiffin is back in college with his son. Clemes was unspectacular, with only 111 yards passing. He looked like a Hall of Famer compared to Josh Freeman, who threw for 93 yards and 3 interceptions.

The first interception came on the first play from scrimmage. STarting at the Tampa Bay 31, the Jets faced 4th and 1 from the 22. Rex Ryan opted for the field goal, as the Jets led 3-0. After a Tampa Bay punt, Clemes led a 14 play, 6 1/2 minute drive that stalled at the Tampa Bay 6 yard line. Another field goal had the Jets up 6-0. Given the pathetic Buccaneers offense, that seemed to be enough of a lead, although the Jets decided to add more. A third field goal midway through the second quarter had the Jets up 9-0 in a game that was less exciting than it sounded.

A 33 yard touchdown run by Thomas Jones had the Jets up 16-0. Just before the half, Jay Feely added a 4th field goal, as his 49 yarder made it 19-0. For some unknown reason, the league refused to cancel the second half. Down 19-0, the Bucs moved 11 plays over 6 minutes, and decided that a field goal of their own would light up the home crowd. They trailed 19-3, and it did not. A surprise onsides kick worked, but on 4th and 2 from midfield, the Bucs punted. Despite briefly waking up, the fans went back to sleep.

In the fourth quarter Freeman was intercepted by Darrell Revis, who returned it 54 yards to the Tampa 7. Thomas Jones tan it in one play later to mercifully end this game. Teams often try to reach back to their glorious past, but the Bucs this year are one win away from channeling 1976. At 7-6 with a 3 game win streak, the Jets are in the playoff hunt, and are one game back in their division. 26-3 Jets

St. Louis Rams @ Tennessee Titans–10 years ago the Greatest Show on Turf survived when Mike Jones made the tackle that won the Super Bowl. 10 years later these teams began the year as the worst of the worst. The Rams are still in the gutter with one win, while the Titans have gone from an 0-6 disaster to a 5-7 team whose only loss was on the road to unbeaten Indy. This season is another reason why Jeff Fisher is as good as it gets. As for this game, especially for the Rams, it was as bad as it gets. Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller were both injured, as a 3rd string quarterback had to face the Buddy Ryan 46 defense Fisher employs.

Chris Johnson ripped off a 39 yard run to put the Titans up 7-0. On the next series Vince Young hit Johnson for a 66 yard touchdown pass as the Titans led 14-0 ina  game that was never competitive. The second quarter saw Vince Young go down with a knee injury. He did not return. Kerry Collins came in, and the rout continued. The period belonged to Rob Bironas, as he nailed 3 field goals to have the Titans up 23-0 at halftime.

A 4th Bironas field goal had Tennessee up 26-0 in the third quarter. By the time Chris Johnson ran it in from 3 yards out, the game was a laugher at 33-0. The Rams finally scored when a fake punt went for 51 yards to set up a touchdown pass. Ironically, the 3rd string quarterback of the Rams is named Null, which is what the team had for points most of the game. Null is the same as nil for those who watch that other boring game futbol. Anyway, Null nullified the null with the score to make it 33-7. Null then led a miracle comeback and a 35-33 Rams win.

No, not really. In the fourth quarter, facing 4th and goal at the one, Fisher decided to go for it. Kerry Collins hit Alge Crumpler for the score. Null then had a pass intercepted by Gibson for a 45 yard touchdown. So since Null had one touchdown pass to each team, his net results really were null. The Titans got to 6-7 and are mathematically alive. Despite being led by Null, the Rams do have one win, although Null has nil as a starter. 47-7 Titans

Washington Redskins @ Oakland Raiders–For more on the game of the day, go to

Both of these teams have sub-par records, but are showing signs of improvement. The Raiders came in winning two straight, while the Redskins outplayed unbeaten New Orleans before losing. Kicker Suisham was kicked off the team for his 23 yard shank. Jason Campbell has shown much improvement at quarterback, while Bruce Gradkowski sparked the Silver and Black with a heroic performance last week. Tom Cable and Jim Zorn can both say that their teams have not quit.

Both teams punted on their first 2 possessions, but Gradkowski then moved the Raiders with one big play, a pass to Darren McFadden that went for 48 yards to the Washington 23. On 4th and 7, the Redskins jumped offsides, but on 4th and 2 from the 15, Cable stuck with the field goal. Sebastian Janikowski made the kick as the Raiders led 3-0.

Campbell brought the Redskins back. On 3rd and 1 from their own 32, Campbell threw a short pass to Ganther that went for 42 yards. On 3rd and 8 form the Oakland 19, Campbell scrambled for 13 yards. Campbell then hit Fred Davis for the 6 yard touchdown to put the Redskins up 7-3.

A 41 yard kickoff return had the Raiders starting their first drive of the second quarter at midfield. Gradkowski hit McFadden for a 26 yard gain to the Washington 24. On 3rd and 10 Gradkowski hit Chaz Schillens for 15 yards. On 3rd and goal from the 11 Gradkowski hit Zach Miller to set up 4th and goal at the one. Cable decided to go for it, and Justin Fargas ran it in to put the Raiders up 10-7.

Campbell again brought the Redskins back, although on 4th and 1 from the Oakland 28, it was Jim Zorn that decided not to gamble. New kicker Gano made the 46 yard field goal as the game was tied 10-10. The Raiders took over on their own 12, but on 3rd and 1 from the 21, this time Fargas went nowhere and the Raiders punted.

With 4 minutes left the Raiders got the ball back on their own 40, but got no further than midfield. Shane Lechler did his job, and the punt appeared to have the Redskins at their own 10. Yet a penalty on Eugene for interfering with a fair catch was compounded by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Raiders. 30 yards in penalties had the Redskins starting at their own 40, and Campbell made them pay. He hit Santana Moss for 14 yards, Devin Thomas for 29 more, and Fred Davis for the 17 yard touchdown as the Redskins led 17-10.

The Raiders took over at their own 14 with only 56 seconds left in the half, and on 3rd and 10 Gradkowski scrambled for the first down. A 16 yard toss to Johnny Lee Higgins helped set up a dramatic end to the half.

On the last play of the half, Tom Cable brought in Seabass to try a 66 yard field goal. Seabass is the Polish Cannon, and he actually once on the last play of a half was brought in to try a 76 yarder. It may seem ludicrous, but he only needs to make it once to be the record holder. He had a 64 yard attempt hit the upright in one game. As for this kick, it may have been good from 60, but not 66. The risk on this play is either a block or a return. Fred Smoot took it 4 yards deep in the end zone, and after a brief scare 64 yards later, he was tackled at the Oakland 40, to end the half on an exciting note despite no points coming out of it.

The Raiders were only down 17-10, and after a Washington punt, the Raiders were brimming with optimism. Then something horrible transpired. Gradkowski apparently was injured, and some 41 million dollar bust who was benched 3 weeks ago retook the field. JaMarcus Russell wears jersey # 2, which is how he plays. I will stop saying this when this changes. Russell said on the radio that Gradkowski was doing well because the offense was making plays. Russell still has not accepted the fact that he was benched because he was the main problem. He had a chance at redemption on this day.

The Raiders started out on their own 44. On 3rd and 3 from the Washington 38, Russell hit Higgins for 10 yards. In field goal range, Russell was sacked for a 9 yard loss. Cable decided to have Seabass try a 54 yard field goal, which for him is a chip shot. He nailed it, and the Raiders were within 17-13.

On the next drive the Raiders began just shy of midfield. The Raiders reached a 1st and 10 at the Washington 28, in excellent position to tighten the game and even take the lead. Then a mindboggling series of events occurred. Russell was sacked for a 6 yard loss to make 2nd and 16. A  false start made 2nd and 21. An ineligible man downfield made it 2nd and 26. A 9 yard sack of Russell, who still has no pocket presence, set up 3rd and 35 at the Oakland 47. Russell threw 13 yards to Miller,  but the completion was challenged and reversed. On 4th and 35, the Raiders punted.

The fourth quarter showed what a true leader Russell is. First Campbell led a 13 play, 6 minute drive that ended with Ganther running it in from one yard out to put the Redskins up 24-13. Russell needed one play to throw an interception, as the Redskins took over at the Oakland 41. Campbell hit Moss for 30 yards to set up Ganther from one yard out to make it 31-13 Redskins. That is JaMarcus Russell.

The Raiders took over at their own 20. Russell was sacked and fumbled, setting up 2nd and 27 at their own 3. This is JaMarcus Russell. On 4th and 14 form their own 16, the Raiders punted. Washington fumbled the punt, and the Raiders took over at midfield. Russell was then sacked for a 9 yard loss. This is JaMarcus Russell. On 4th and 14 Russell was sacked again.

The Redskins added a field goal, but this game was about the Raiders at quarterback. The Raiders were down 17-10 when Gradkowki went down, and 17-13 after 3. JaMarucs Russell came in and the team collapsed. It was mostly his fault. He is simply a terrible quarterback. Gradkowski needs to get healthy very quickly. 34-13 Redskins

San Diego Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys–Chargers Coac Norvelous Norv Turner used to be the offensive coordinator for Dallas when they were winning Super Bowls. Cowboys Coach Wade Phillips used to be the defensive coordinator for the Chargers. Phillips is under fire as his team battles against the perception that they are jinxed in December. Turner is awful in September, but he is refusing to join other overrated coaches on the unemployment line. His team is loaded with talent, and I will have to eat my words about Turner if this team does anything in the playoffs.

A 10 play, 6 1/2 minute drive led to a 31 yard Nick Folk field goal and a 3-0 Cowboys lead. Yet Philip Rivers answered Tony Romo. On 3rd and 12 from their own 14, Rivers hit Floyd for 24 yards. Rivers then hit Wilson for 21 yards out. A defensive pass interference call on a gadget play set up a one yard touchdown run by Ladanian Tomlinson as the Chargers led 7-3.

In the second quarter, facing 4th and 1 at the Dallas 31, Rivers snuck for the 1st down. On 3rd and 6 from the 26, Rivers hit Floyd for 7 yards. Yet on 3rd and 3 from the 12, Rivers threw a one yard West Coast pass. On 4th and 2 from the 11, the field goal had San Diego up 10-3.

Romo then led a 72 yard drive that took 8 minutes. Unfortunately from Dallas, they needed to go 73 yards to score. Marion Barber needed one yard on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th and goal. 3 times he got stuffed, as the goal line stand loomed large.

Midway through the third quarter the Cowboys were pinned at their own one yard line. Barber picked up 10 yards and Felix Jones picked up 10 more. Romo hit Miles Austin for 21 yards, and Roy Williams for 25 more. Again from the San Diego one yard line the Cowboys had trouble, but after a false start, Romo hit Austin for the 6 yard touchdown to tie the game 10-10. The 11 play, 7 1/2 minute drive left the teams deadlocked entering the last quarter.

A scary moment happened when Ware was injured with a sprained neck. He was carted off in a stretcher, but later that night was released from the hospital. Shortly after play resumed, the Chargers faced 3rd and 12 at their own 47. Rivers hit Vincent Jackson for 39 yards, and then tossed the 14 yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates as the Chargers led 17-10 with 11 minutes left in regulation.

Romo found Jason Witten for 26 yards, but after that the Cowboys punted. With 9 minutes left, the Chargers took over at their own 11. 3 Tomlinson runs moved the ball to the 25, and Rivers then hit Jackson for 21 yards. Darren Sproles and Tomlinson just ground out yardage, and ground down the clock. After 15 plays and 7 minutes, a field goal with 1:56 left locked up the game. The Cowboys did score a garbage touchdown with 2 seconds remaining, and then failed to recover the onsides kick.

Despite being 8-5, Jerry Jones seems to be on the verge of replacing his entire team. The Cowboys are having a nightmarish December, but not as nightmarish as the questions about Phillips and Romo. Dallas fell one game out of the division lead, while San Diego took a 2 game lead in their division and a one game lead in the race for the # 2 seed and the first round bye. The Chargers have won 8 straight, and 16 straight in December. 20-17 Chargers

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants was the Sunday night game. This game was ridiculous. It was also the game of the year in terms of big plays as these teams took their pinball machines to tilt level. The Eagles have had the psychological edge over the Giants lately. Last year the Giants were the defending Champions, and cruising to another title when the Eagles came into New York and stunned them.Philly simply beat the hell out of them on both sides of the ball, building a 20-7 lead and winning 20-14 in a game that was not that close. Although the Eagles finished 9-7 and the Giants, 13-3, the playoff rematch in New York was more of the same, a complete reversal of 2007 when the upstart Giants knocked off favored Dallas. Again the Eagles romped big on the road. This year in Philadelphia the Eagles put up 40 points and throttled the Giants.

In this game, Donovan McNabb passed for 275 yards on 17 of 26 passing with 2 touchdowns and one interception. Eli Manning was a sensational 27 of 28 for 391 yards and 3 touchdowns. Yet for the third straight time it looked like a Philly road win, at least early on. This was a game of many big plays.

Although McNabb was the quarterback, it was a 32 yard pass from Michael Vick to Desheard Jackson that set up an 8 yard touchdown pass from McNabb to Captain Morgan Brent Celek as the Eagles quickly led 7-0. Brandon Jacobs then fumbled the ball, and Brown returned it 60 yards for a score to have the Eagles up 14-0 barely more than 5 minutes into the game. It looked like a 4th straight blowout 3 of them in New York. Manning coolly then led the Giants 15 plays over 7 minutes from the Giants 15 to the Philly 8 but the drive then bogged down. A field goal had the Giants within 14-3.

In the second quarter, after an Eagles punt, Manning went deep to Hakeem Nicks for a 68 yard touchdown pass to get the Giants within 14-10. From the Eagles 23, McNabb led them over 12 plays and 6 1/2 minutes to the Giants 2 yard line, but after one failed run, Andy Reid did what he always does in short yardage situations, try to throw it. He is an excellent coach but this one area is a nightmare for the Eagles. Incomplete passes led to a 20 yard David Akers field goal and a 17-10 Eagles lead. The Giants punted, and Deshean Jackson returned it 72 yards for another big play touchdown as the Eagles led 24-10.

4 minutes remained in the half, and from the New York 33, Ahmad Bradshaw ripped off gains of 16 and 17 yards. Manning hit Steve Smith for 19 yards, and Bradshaw carried the final 3 yards to get the Giants to within 24-17 with 90 seconds left in the half. This was way too much time for McNabb. On 3rd and 20 from the Philly 32, he hit Jackson for 44 yards. On 3rd an d10 form the New York 24, McNabb found Celek for  23 yards down to the one. Vick came in at quarterback and ran it around the end past the pileon with 10 seconds left in the half. Surprisingly enough, David Akers had his extra point attempt blocked. Nevertheless, the Eagles led 30-17. The Giants then fumbled the squib kick and the Eagles recovered in field goal range. However, despite Any Reid pleading that a couple seconds remained, the officials ruled that the half was over.

The Giants were lucky to not be down more, and Manning took the second half kickoff as the Giants began at their own 26. 11 plays and 6 minutes led the Giants to 1st and goal at the Philadelphia 2. An incomplete passes and a pair of Jacobs runs failed to reach the end zone, and on 4th and goal from the one, Tom Coughlin decided to go for it. Jacobs finally banged it in, and the Giants were within 30-24.

Despite the offenses ruling much of this game, McNabb was then intercepted, and Manning fumbled it right back. After an Eagles punt, Manning went deep, and the game of big plays had another one as Dominic Hixon caught the 61 yard touchdown pass as the Giants had come all the way back to lead 31-30 thanks to the blocked extra point. The Eagles needed only one play and 15 seconds to respond, as McNabb went deep to Jackson for a 60 yard touchdown and 37-31 Eagles lead.

The pace of the game finally slowed a bit, and with 13 minutes left in regulation the Eagles started at their own 9 yard line. A game of quick strikes featured a time consuming drive when it mattered most. McNabb hit Jackson for 20 yards. Leonard Weaver picked up 10 on the ground.  From the Giants 25, McNabb hit Leonard McCoy for 19 yards. Vick came in and ran it to the one. McNabb came back in, and handed it to Weaver for the one yard touchdown as the Eagles were again back up by 14 at 45-31 after making the 2 point conversion. 12 plays and 7 1/2 minutes left the Giants with 6 minutes to come back.

The Giants took over at their own 25. From the New York 38, Manning hit Bradshaw for a 31 yard gain to the Philadelphia 31. On 4th and 4 from the Philly 25, Manning hit Mario Manningham for 7 yards. On 3rd and 11 from the 19, an incomplete pass was nullified when the Eagles jumped offsides. On 3rd and 6 from the 14, Manning his Smith for 10 yards and then Kevin Boss for the 4 yard touchdown. The Giants were within 7 points within 90 seconds remaining.

The onsides kick failed, and although the Giants held, a perfect punt forced the Giants to start at their own 5 with 28 seconds left. Manning was sacked and fumbled, and the Eagles had won a thriller. Again they had beaten the Giants on the road. Had the Giants won their would have been 3 teams in the division at 8-5 with the Giants owning the tiebreaker. Instead, the Eagles are 9-4, Dallas 8-5, and the Giants fighting for their lives at 7-6. McNabb is known for laughing and celebrating on the sidelines, but in this game it was Andy Reid jumping in the air and body bumping one of his players that provided the amusement. 45-31 Eagles

Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers was the Monday night game. The Cardinals had a big win last week at Minnesota, and playing on the road against a below average San Francisco team on the road had the potential to be a trap game. The Cardinals stumbled down the stretch last year, and this year they had another chance to clinch the division fairly early. All the Cardinals did was turn the ball over 8 times in a dreadful effort by a 49ers team that was good enough to win at home.

Alex Smith was intercepted early on, but the Cardinals failed to capitalize. With 4 1/2 minutes left in the opening quarter, the Cardinals took over at their own 6. Tim Hightower quickly fumbled the ball away. Smith then hit Vernon Davis for a 5 yard touchdown to give the 49ers the 7-0 lead. The Cardinals fumbled again, and the 49ers took over at the Arizona 28. On 4th and 2 form the 20 Mike Singletary decided not to gamble. Joe Nedney nailed the 37 yard kick to put the 49ers up 10-0 with no offense.

In the second quarter the Cardinals reached the San Francisco 18, but Kurt Warner was then intercepted to kill the drive. The closest the 49ers came to an actual drive was a missed 53 yard field goal by Nedney. Yet despite golden field position, On 3rd and 6 from the San Francisco 38, Warner was intercepted again. Despite 5 turnovers, the Cardinals were only down 10-0. However, with just under one minute left in the half, Smith found Michael Crabtree for a 35 yard touchdown and a 17-0 49ers lead. The Cardinals took over at their own 42, and had time for a Hail Mary attempt at the San Francisco 41. Warner was sacked and fumbled for the 6th Arizona turnover before intermission.

The Cardinals finally stopped giving the ball away in the second half, moving to a 3rd and 1 at the San Francisco 36. Wells lost 2 yards and the Cardinals punted. The Cardinals got the ball back at their own 45, and a Neil Rackers field goal from 48 yards out finally got Arizona on the board as they trailed 17-3. Smith was then intercepted again as the Cardinals took over at the San Francisco 43. On 3rd and 1 from the 34, Warner hit Wells for 24 yards. On 4th and goal from the one, Ken Whisenhunt decided to go for it less than one minute into the fourth quarter. AFter being stopped cold, a great second effort by Wells barely got the ball over the goal line. The extra point was blocked, and the Cardinals trailed 17-9.

The 49ers punted, and with 12 minutes left in the game, the Cardinals had a chance to tie the game from their own 11. Wells then fumbled it away again and the 49ers took over at the Arizona 16. Frank Gore ran it in from 2 yards out to complete the scoring. Warner fumbled the ball away late for the 8th and final turnover. The 49es were unimpressive, but the Cardinals were awful, giving away all 24 points on turnovers deep in their own territory. The 49ers did not move the ball much, but they did not need to. Arizona gave the game away, but still lead the division comfortably. For the second straight year, that seems to be the problem. 24-9 49ers


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