NFL 2010–Week 11 Recap

The leaves are turning, the weather is getting colder, and the second half of the NFL 2010 season is underway. While every game is special, the Colts and the Patriots have another matchup in what has become one of the epic rivalries of all time. The Packers travel to face the Vikings in what could be the last stand for Brett Favre. Before getting to the NFL, my coed touch football team came out enraged after losing our first game in 2 years last week.

Back to back losses were not going to happen. Original leader Scotty Tecate moved to Virginia, and I was wondering why his brother Ryan was not around. Apparently Ryan moved to Arizona. Yet Andrew, Brittany, and Tiffiny were back, and our light green team, known as Team Awesome, was up against the yellow team.

Light Green Team Awesome vs. Yellow Team: We came out firing, and with a 6-0 lead, got an interception, and marched down the field again. Marshall found me in the corner of the end zone with a perfect strike, same as last week. This is my first time with touchdowns in consecutive weeks. We led 14-0. The yellow team did get to within 14-6, but we just obliterated the after that. Marshall would go deep to Steck and to Andrew. Not having him last week hurt bad. By the time Marshall and Andrew were done playing pitch and catch, we led 34-6 at the half. In the second half, our defense just pinned our ears back and turned out the lights. I even had one sack resulting in a fumble. We are now 6-1, and closing in on the playoffs. 42-12, Light Green Team Awesome

Now on to the NFL.

Chicago Bears @ Miami Dolphins was the Thursday night game. 25 years ago this was a phenomenal Monday Night Football game as Dan Marino led the Dolphins to a won over the 13-0 Bears to preserve the 1972 Dolphins as the lone unbeaten season. The teams were expected to meet in the Superbowl, but Miami was shocked at home in the AFC Title Game by New England, who would get crushed by William the Refrigerator Perry, headband wearing mooner Jim McMahon, and the rest of the Super Bowl Shuffle Crowd.

Yet this is not 1985, Mike Ditka, Buddy Ryan and Don Shula are retired, and this was just a game between a pair of incredibly overrated teams. The Bears are one of the weakest 6-3 teams in recent memory, as Lovie Smith keeps his job. The 5-4 Dolphins cannot win at home, and Tony Sparano is saddled with 3rd string quarterback Tyler Thigpen, as Chad Henne and Chad Pennington are both our for the season with injuries. Things were so bad that rumors had the Dolphins contacting JaMarcus Russell. Either way, these teams came together to produce a terrible football game. Thigpen and Jay Cutler both threw for under 200 yards, were intercepted once, and threw 0 touchdowns.

Midway through the opening quarter the Bears took over at their own 39. Matt Forte ran for 21 yards to set up a 46 yard field goal by Robbie Gould to make it 3-0 Bears. Thigpen was then intercepted, setting the Bears up at the Miami 46. Cutler led a 13 play, 55 yard drive that took 7 minutes. That set up a 24 yard second quarter field goal by Gould to have the Bears up 6-0. Later in the half Cutler led the Bears from their own 6 to the Miami 35. Yet a penalty was followed by an interception of Cutler to waste the 5 1/2 minute drive.

The second half was even uglier. Cutler led the Bears from their own 30 to the Miami 32, and Gould connected from 50 for his 3rd field goal and a 9-0 Bears lead. Miami punted, and Cutler led a 13 play, 7 1/2 minute drive that covered 60 yards. Heavy doses of Forte and Chester Taylor led to 3rd and 7 at the Miami 18. Cutler hit Greg Olsen for 10 yards, and Forte took it the final 2 yards for the only touchdown of the game.

The fourth quarter was all defense, as Brian Urlacher and company channeled the ghosts of Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, and Dan Hampton to close the door. Lovie Smith has the Bears at 7-3, while Tony Sparano saw his team lose another home game to drop to 5-5 going into the bye week. It was hideously ugly, but the Bears got the win. 16-0 Bears

Baltimore Ravens @ Carolina Panthers–A very good team is on the road for an interconference game against a bad team. The goal for the Ravens was to not treat this as a donut game, despite the terrible record of the Panthers.

Joe Flacco found TJ Houshmanzadeh for a 56 yard touchdown to have the Ravens up 7-0. The Ravens got the ball back, and Flacco led a 13 play, 84 yard drive that took nearly 7 1/2 minutes. It bogged down at the 5 yard line, and a 22 yard Billy Cundiff chip shot had the Ravens up 10-0.

With Matt Moore injured, Jon Fox was down to an unknown quarterback named St. Pierre. Despite the French surname, the Panthers did not surrender. St. Pierre led the Panthers to a 45 yard John Kasay field goal.

Flacco led the Ravens on a long drive, but on 3rd and 2 from the Carolina 11, a fumble was recovered by the Panthers. The Ravens got the ball back just shy of midfield, and Flacco hit Todd Heap for 26 yards. On 3rd and 16, Flacco hit Ray Rice for 18. Rice took it in after the 2 minute warning from one yard out to have the Ravens up 17-3.

Reed returned the second half kickoff 84 yards to the Carolina 18. The defense held, but a 33 yard Cundiff field goal had the Ravens up 20-3.  Kasay added another field goal for the Panthers to get them within 20-6. Seconds into the fourth quarter, St. Pierre threw a bomb to Gettis for an 88 yard touchdown to get the Panthers within 20-13. The miracle comeback was on.

No, not really. Flacco led the Ravens into position for Cundiff to drill a 49 yard field goal to have the Ravens up 23-13 St. Pierre may not have officially surrendered or collaborated with the enemy, but he began completing passes to the Baltimore defense. In all fairness, may quarterbacks have done that over the years, especially  newbies. Ed Reed had his 50th interception of his career. Reed then lateraled to Landry, who took it the final 23 yards for a touchdown. St. Pierre then was intercepted by Ray Lewis, who took it 24 yards for the final nail in the coffin. John Harbaugh has the 7-3 Ravens marching toward the playoffs, while Jon Fox is just trying to keep a very bad team together. 37-13 Ravens

Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals–League regulations required that this game be played. In 1981 and 1988 these teams would be good, and eventually face off against each other in the AFC Title Game. In 2010 these teams are a combined 3-17, with the Bills finally winning last week.

Carson Palmer hit Chad Johnson with a 2 yard touchdown pass as Ochocinco decided to blog about it with the Bengals lead 7-0 over a team actually worse than his. Ryan Fitzpatrick brought the Bills back with a 12 play, 89 yard drive that consumed 6 minutes. Fred Jackson took it the final 7 yards out to tie the game 7-7.

In the second quarter Palmer quickly took the Bengals 78 yards, with a 4 yard touchdown to Terrell Owens having the Bills back in front 14-7. Owens loves him some him, and tweeted that the Bengals were leading this week’s Stupor Bowl.

Fitzpatrick was then intercepted, setting up the Bengals at the Buffalo 34. Cedric Benson picked up 26 yards, and on 3rd and goal from the 1, Benson took it in to have the Bengals up 21-7. Fitzpatrick was intercepted again, and this time Joseph took it 21 yards for the score as the Bengals led big 28-7. The game was a laugher, but it would not be for long.

Fitzpatrick quickly moved the Bills back, and a 28 yard touchdown pass to Jones had the Bills within 28-14. From the Buffalo 42, Palmer hit Jeremy Shipley for 37 yards. Defensive pass interference set up 1st and goal at the 1 with 15 seconds left in the half. 3 plays yielded nothing, as the Bengals settled for a 19 yard field goal at the gun. They led 31-14, but the goal line stand had the Bills fired up.

The Bills took the second half kickoff, and when Fitzpatrick hit St Johnson for a 28 yard touchdown, the Bills were only down 31-21. Cedric Benson then fumbled, and Florence returned it 27 yards for a score. Out of nowhere, the Bills were within 31-28 with plenty of time left.

Palmer brought the Bengals back. A 31 yard touchdown pass to Owens was nullified by a penalty. Yet a 17 yard pass to Johnson and a 17 yard run by Benson led to a 3rd and goal at the 5. Palmer was then intercepted in the end zone by Wilson, who returned it 56 yards just past midfield.

In the fourth quarter Fitzpatrick put on a clinic with the short field. An 11 yard touchdown pass to St. Johnson had the Bills in front 35-31. The Bengal went 3 and out, and a shanked punt had the Bills again just past midfield. Fitzpatrick hit Lee Evans for 18 and St. Johnson for the 32 yard touchdown as the Bills turned a 21 point deficit into an 11 point lead at 42-31 with 12 minutes left in regulation.

Palmer led the Bengals to the Buffalo 25, where incomplete passes led to a 43 yard field goal attempt with 5 1/2 minutes to play. It was no good. The Bengals got the ball back with 3 minutes left, and Palmer was intercepted again as Marvin Lewis wondered why he bothered coaching these loser malcontents. Fred Jackson iced things with a 30 yard touchdown run with just under 2 minutes left. 35 unanswered points had both teams at 2-8, with Chan Gailey seeing consecutive wins. Fitzpatrick finished with 316 yards passing and 4 touchdowns. The Bills may have begun 0-8, but they do have what the Bengals totally lack…heart. 49-31 Bills

Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys–These teams both play on Thanksgiving, which means the games this year on Thanksgiving will be awful. Both starting quarterbacks are out for the season, although Jason Garrett did win his debut last week in a road stunner.

Jon Kitna led a 13 play, 98 yard drive that culminated when he hit Dez Bryant on a 3 yard touchdown to have the Cowboys up 7-0.   A 47 yard field goal by a backup kicker in place of injured Jason Hanson had the Lions within 7-3.

With 48 seconds left in the half, the Cowboys were pinned at their own 4 yard line. Just trying to run out the half, Felix Jones fumbled and the Lions took over at the Dallas 14. On 3rd and 5 from the 9, Shawn Hill hit Burleson for the touchdown as the Lions led 10-7 at the half in the battle of the bads.

Early in the third quarter the Cowboys were again backed up to their own 4 yard line. This time, offensive holding in the end zone had the Lions up 12-7. The Lions took the free kick with a chance to take control of the game. They would end up punting at their own 44, when chaos ensued. A Detroit player tried to down the ball before going into the end zone. The issue would be a touchback or Dallas being pinned. Except the ball was batted to the 3 yard line, and no other Detroit players were around to down it. This would not be a big deal except it was still a live ball, and Brian McCann alertly picked it up and raced 97 yards for a touchdown These are the Lions. The 2 point conversion failed, but the Cowboys led 14-12.

The Lions needed 2 plays from scrimmage to fumble the ball back, giving the Cowboys the ball at the Detroit 19. Kitna found Miles Austin, who despite dating a Kardashian has enough substance to catch a football. The 3 yard score had the Cowboys up 21-12. This time Shawn Hill brought the Lions back. On 3rd and 11, a bomb to Nate Burleson went for a 58 yards.  A 14 yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson had the Lions within 21-19.

Kitna moved the Cowboys methodically from their own 29 to the Detroit 24 as the clock clicked into the fourth quarter. On 3rd and 15 from the 29, Marion Barber ran for 24. On 3rd and goal from the 4, Miles Austin caught another touchdown pass to have the Cowboys up 28-19.

With 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Hill had the Lions on the move with a 3rd and 7 at the Dallas 35. Hill was then sacked for a 9 yard loss to kill the drive. From the Dallas 20, Kitna led the Cowboys to a 4th and 1 at the Detroit 29 with 3 1/2 minutes left. Kitna ran a bootleg all the way for the score to turn out the lights. Dallas has won 2 straight for Jason Garrett, while Jim Schwartz is stll channeling his inner Rod Marinelli while hoping that next year Matthew Stafford can finally stay healthy. 35-19 Cowboys

Cleveland Browns @ Jacksonville Jaguars–These teams are in the playoff hunt, with the Browns losing a heartbreaker at the end of overtime last week and the Jaguars winning on a miracle Hail Mary in what may have been the play of the year.

A 47 yard field goal by Josh Scobee had the Jaguars up 3-0. Colt McCoy gave the Browns the 7-3 lead with a short touchdown pass to Peyton Hillis.  That completed a staggering 16 play, 92 yard drive that consumed 10 minutes, stretching into the second quarter. McCoy showed veteran poise with 4 conversions on 3rd down.

Cleveland got the ball back and missed a chance to extend the lead when Phil Dawson missed a 51 yard field goal. Jack Del Rio went to the bag of tricks with a halfback option pass, but Maurice Jones-Drew was intercepted.

With 5 12 minutes left in the half, the Jaguars got the ball back at their own 32. A pair of 3rd down conversions led to the completion of the 13 play drive with Garrard hitting Thomas for a 5 yard score to have the Jaguars up 10-7 with 30 seconds left in the half.

Early in the third quarter, Jones-Drew followed up his interception with a more traditional turnover that was worse. His fumble was returned 18 yards for a score, and just like that the Browns were back on top 14-10 in this see-saw game. On the next series the Browns faced 4th and 1 at their own 36. Del Rio decided to go for broke, and Jones-Drew picked up 3 yards. Yet on the next play Garrard was intercepted. On the next series, Garrard was intercepted a 2nd time.

Cleveland took over at the Jacksonville 19, lost a yard, and had Phil Dawson kick a 38 yard field goal to have the Browns up 17-10. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Garrard had his fourth turnover when he fumbled. Yet with the Browns at their own 43, they could not take advantage. Garrard then threw his 3rd interception. It was his 4th turnover, and the 5th overall for the Jaguars. Yet they were only down by 7. Del Rio decided not to bench Garrard, leaving him in to fight through the mistakes. This loyalty was rewarded. With 10 minutes left in regulation, Dawson missed another 51 yarder, as the Browns could not put the game away.

From the Jacksonville 41, the Jaguars finally got going. On 3rd and 3, Jones-Drew gained 6. On 4th and 1 from the Cleveland 39 with 6:17 to play, Jones-Drew gained 5. Jones-Drew picked up 7 more, and then burst free for 22 yards to the 5. Garrard was sacked for a 9 yard loss, but then redeemed himself with a 14 yard touchdown pass to Lewis. The 12 play, 6 minute drive tied the game 17-17 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the game.

From the Cleveland 20, Colt McCoy hit Moore for a 38 yard gain. On 3rd and 4 from the Jacksonville 36, McCoy scrambled for 18 yards. Despite over 3 minutes to play, the Browns then took their final timeout. Eric Mangini decided to go conservative, and Jack Del Rio had the Jaguars take their timeouts to preserve time. A sack of McCoy brought in Dawson again, Yet this kick was from 41, not 51. Dawson nailed it, and the Browns led 20-17 on the road with 2:46 to play and both teams out of timeouts.

The Jaguars took over at their own 13 after fumbling the punt. From the 24, A short pass to Jones-Drew resulted in several mistackles, as Jones-Drew raced 75 yards inside the one yard line. Jones-Drew banged it in, and the Jaguars had fourth quarter heroics for the same straight week while the Browns had their second consecutive meltdown with everything on the line. Yet 1:16 still remained, and the Browns needed 80 yards.

McCoy connected with Massaquoi for gains of 17 and 12. With 18 seconds left, facing 3rd and 10, McCoy hit Moore for 22 yards. From the Jacksonville 29, with 13 seconds left, McCoy went deep and was intercepted at the  yard line to end a game of multiple lead changes.

The Browns are fighting hard for Mangini, but at 3-7 Mike Holmgren cannot be a happy Walrus. Colt McCoy is playing very well, which could mean Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace both leave Cleveland despite Holmgren bringing them both in. Del Rio has seen his Jaguars survive another cardiac win to get to 6-4 and in the thick of the playoff hunt. 24-20 Jaguars.

Arizona Cardinals @ Kansas City Chiefs–Both of these teams got blown out last week, and Kansas City has lost 2 straight. Yet both teams are in the playoff hunt because they play in awful divisions where 8-8 could be enough for the crown.

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings–Either # 4 Brett Favre has another miracle in his bag, or the Vikings are done. At 3-6 they are hanging by a thread, and Aaron Rodgers got the monkey off his back by winning earlier this year in a thriller where Favre’s winning touchdown pass was ruled out of bounds.

Both teams punted on their first drive. On Minnesota’s second drive, Adrian peterson ran for 24 yards, and Favre threw a completion of 19 yards on 3rd and 10, and then hit Greg Lewis for 29 yards down to the Green Bay 11. The drive stalled, but a 24 yard Ryan Longwell kick had it 3-0 Vikings

Rodgers was getting harassed by the Minnesota defense, as a  sack by Jared Allen killed one drive. Yet early in the second quarter, Favre had the Vikings on the move  when a completed pass at the Green Bay 40 was fumbled away. Eventually Rodgers hit Jennings to set up the tying field goal in the second quarter as the expected shootout was instead a 3-3 slugfest.

With 6 minutes left in the half Rodgers went deep to James Jones for 39 yards down to the Minnesota 11. Rodgers avoided a sack and hit Jennings for the touchdown to have the Packers up 10-3 on the road. With one minute left in the half, and the Vikings on the move, Favre was intercepted for the 17th time this season. Brad Childress, who is bald and Catholic, was so mad you could fry an egg on his head. A personal foul on Minnesota added 15 more yards after the run.

Rodgers scrambled for another first down, and then hit Brandon Jackson at the three yard line with 9 seconds left in the half. Rodgers fired to Jones for the score as the Packers led 17-3 at intermission.

The Packers took over at their own 27 to start the second half. On 3rd and 8, Rodgers scrambled for 15 yards. From the Minnesota 46, Rodgers hit Greg Jennings on a short swing pass that Jennings took all the way for a touchdown. Only 3 minutes into the half, and the Packers led 24-3 on the road.

Favre led the Vikings to the Green Bay 33, and Longwell drilled a 51 yard field goal. Yet offensive holding nullified the kick, and the Vikings punted. Early in the fourth quarter the Vikings faced 4th and 2 at their own 43. Favre threw incomplete. On 3rd and 7 from the 39, Rodgers hit Donald Driver for 8. On 3rd and 1 from the Minnesota 22, Rodgers went deep to Jennings for the final score of the game.

There is no way to sugarcoat this. The Packers are 7-3 and have swept the Vikings this year. Minnesota is 3-7. They did have Sidney Rice back for the first time all year, which meant nothing. Rodgers finished 22 of 31 for 301 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Favre was 17 of 38 for 208 yards and an interception. Childress may have wanted to bench Favre for good, while owner Zygi Wolf instead did the same with Childress. The Vikings are a mess, and getting blown out at home had the look of the team quitting on Childress. Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier is the interim coach, and he made it clear Favre is his starter. 31-3 Packers

Houston Texans @ New York Jets–The Texans lost on the cruel Hail Mary last week, while the Jets won after nearly 5 quarters on a minor miracle of their own. Nick Folk got the Jets on the board first with a field goal to have the Jets up 3-0 at home. Yet in the second quarter Matt Schaub led the Texans 67 yards in 11 plays. Arriun Foster took it in from 2 yards to have the Texans up 7-3.

Mark Sanchez answered Schaub’s 11 play, 5 1/2 minute drive with a 10 play, 5 minute counter response. On 3rd and 5 from the Jets 27, Sanche hit Santonio Holmes for 26 yards. On 2nd and 23 from the Jets 40, Sanchez hit Turner for 21. Richardson took the wildcat snap for the necessary 2 yards. Sanchez then went deep to Braylon Edwards for 27, and to Edwards again for the 4 yard score to have the Jets up 10-7.

Houston went 3 and out and the Jets took over at the Texans 48 with 4 minutes left in the half. Nick Folk would hit a 33 yard field goal to have the Jets leading 13-7 with one minute left in the half. Schaub got the Texans to the Jets 39, but Gary Kubiak decided against the 57 yard field goal try. Gang Green sacked Schaub to still lead at breaktime.

Sanchez moved the Jets early in the third quarter into position for a 53 yard field goal, but Nick Folk missed it. Houston punted, and the Jets took over at their own 8. Sanche hit Edwards for 13 and Greene ran for 12 more. On 3rd and 10 from the Jets 37, Sanchez hit Ladanian Tomlinson for 21. Sanchez hit Holmes again, and he raced 41 yards for a touchdown to have the Jets up 20-7.

Late in the third quarter, Foter fumbled and the Jets took over at the Houston 22. The Jets went nowhere, and seconds into the fourth quarter Nick Folk nailed the 30 yarder to appear to close things out with the Jets up 23-7. Yet these are the Re Ryan Jets, which means everything is going to be dramatic.

Schaub quickly led the Texans from their own 22 to the Jets 19. The drive stopped, and Kubiak decided not to go for it since a full 12 1/2 minutes remained in regulation. Neil Rackers hit the 38 yarder to get the Texans within 23-10.

Sanchez led the Jets from their own 21 to the Houston 41. With 9 1/2 minutes left, the plan was to grind down the clock and go home. Yet Green fumbled, and the Texans took over at the Jets 43. One play was all Schaub needed to go deep to Dreesen for the score as the Jets now only led 23-17. The Jets went nowhere and the Texans took over t their own 27 with 6 minutes to play.

Schaub went deep to Anderson for 35 yards, and then to Andre Johnson for another 20 to the Jets 15. Arriun Foster did the rest, banging in from one yard out. In what had turned into a shocker, the Texans led 24-23 with 2:18 to play. Sanchez was then intercepted, setting the Texans up at the Jets 10 with 1:52 to play. They had their miracle comeback in front of a stunned Jets crowd.

Kubiak played it ultra-conservatively, even by Texas standards. Foster ran ahead 3 times, the Jets used their timeouts, and a 22 yard field goal had the Texans up 27-23. The Jets took over at their own 28, but with 49 seconds and 0 timeouts. Finally, the Texans had won a close one.

No, they hadn’t. Sanchez hit Tomlinson for gains of 5 and 19 to the Houston 48 with 24 seconds to play. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Sanchez went deep to Edwards for a 42 yard gain. With 16 seconds to play the Jets had 1st and goal at the 6. On the next play Sanchez hit Holmes for the score, and it was the Jets who had the shocking victory.

The Texans have lost consecutive stunners in the waning seconds, but losses are losses. The Texans are 4-7. They did run the table last year to get to 9-7, but barring that this year owner Bob McNair may finally can Kubiak. The Texans always look just about to get to the next step, when they instead regress. As for the Jets, Rex Ryan will not offer any apologies for the way in which the Jets are winning. At 7-3, He will swagger and take all of the heat, removing it from his players. Sanchez went from goat to hero, and the Jets keep winning in cardiac fashion. 30-27 Jets

Oakland Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers–Yes the Raiders have won 3 straight and had 2 weeks to prepare for this one. Yes the Steelers got blasted at home last week. Yes the Raiders won last year in Pittsburgh. It doesn’t matter, as the Raiders were in position to get blasted by an angry Pittsburgh team. This is not the 1970s, and the Steelers have far superior talent. The Raiders have shown a ton of heart this year, but last year Bruce Gradkowski was the starter in this game. With Gradkowski still injured, Jason Campbell would have to improve if the Raiders were going to have a chance to win. For more on the game of the day, go to

Pittsburgh got the ball first and went 3 and out as Ben Roethlisberger was caught from behind on 3rd and 3. The Raiders took over at their own 28. A roughing the passer penalty on Pittsburgh followed by a 17 yard pass from Jason Campbell to Johnny Lee Higgins with another defensive penalty for holding had the Raiders at the Steelers 28. An illegal touching penalty moved the Raiders back 5 yards. On 3rd and 10 Campbell called timeout. A short completion set up Sebastian Janikowski from 41 yards out. Seabass connected, and the Raiders led 3-0 on the road.

Mike Tomlin went for the gadget play, but Antwon Randle-El and Hines Ward did not connect. Roethlisberger went deep again to Emanuel Sanders, and again it was incomplete by a hair. The Raiders took over at their own 11. On 3rd and 9 from the 12, Campbell found new phenom Jacoby Ford for the first down on a 15 yard gain. Another 15 yards was tacked on for unnecessary roughness as Mike Tomlin saw his normally disciplined Steelers getting hit with a rash of early penalties. Yet the Steelers knocked the Raiders back a few yards, forcing a punt as the Steelers took over at their own 14.

A pair of runs should have meant 3rd and short, but another personal foul got Pittsburgh, this time clipping on the offense. Yet on 2nd and 14 Big Ben went deep again, and this time connected with Mike Wallace for 27 yards. On 3rd and 7, Roethlisberger hit Emanuel Sanders for 13 yards. A pair of Rashaard Mendenhall runs picked up 9 and 6 yards, just outside the Oakland 30. A completion to Hines Ward went for 14 more. The second quarter had Pittsburgh facing 3rd and 6 from the 12. Big Ben fired complete to set up 1st and goal at the 5. With Rolando McClain on the bench due to a temporary injury, Mendenhall ran it up the middle for the touchdown to complete the 86 yard, 15 play, 9 minute drive.

The Raiders quickly went 3 and out as Campbell was sacked. The punt was returned for a 67 yard touchdown, but holding on the Steeleres nullified the play. Roethlisberger continued to pick the Raiders apart with passes to Ward for 10 and Heath Miller for 18 more to midfield. The Raiders clamped down on defense at that point and the Steelers punted. The Raiders took over at their own 10, went 3 and out, and gave it back to the Steelers at the Pittsburgh 44.

A reverse play to Mike Wallace picked up 19 yards. Encroachment added 5 more yards to the Oakland 32. On 3rd and 5 from the Oakland 17, Roethlisberger scrambled all the way for the touchdown, just getting the ball over the pileon. With 4 minutes left in the half, the Steelers led 14-3.

The Raiders were in dire straits, facing 3rd and 14 at their own 4. Campbell went deep and benefitted from defensive pass interference at the Oakland 33. Yet on the next play a completion to Louis Murphy was fumbled away. Pittsburgh took over at the Oakland 35.  At the 2 minute warning, Roethlisberger hit Ward for 5 at the Oakland 22. Big Ben then fired to Sanders, who made a diving catch for the touchdown as the Steelers led 21-3 with 1:26 left in the half. After the score, Roethlisberger mouthed off to Richard Seymour, who shoved him in the face and knocked him to the ground. Seymour was ejected. Some would say this was a typical Raiders-Steelers game, but those games in the 1970s were competitive. This game was lopsided.

Campbell was sacked again, and fumbled the ball for the second time. Yet both times the Raiders retained possession. Tom Cable had seen enough, and had Campbell run out the clock rather than suffer any more damage.

The Raiders got the ball to start the second half, picked up one first down to reach their own 40, and then saw Jason Campbell stumble without being touched on 3rd and 10 for a 14 yard loss to kill the drive.

The Steelers went backward on their next drive, and on 3rd and 26 a play that went nowhere became another Pittsburgh penalty. After a punt, the Raiders took over at their own 28. Campbell then threw a terrible awkward pass that was deflected and intercepted as the Steelers took over at the same spot.

A penalty and a sack followed by a dropped pass led to a punt that for some reason was fair caught at the Oakland 4 yard line.

On 3rd and 6 from the 8, Campbell was intercepted by Ike Taylor, who coasted into the end zone. Yet a personal foul on James Harrison for driving Campbell into the ground instead meant 15 more yards for the Raiders. O the next play Campbell was sacked, but a false start nullified that. Bruce Gradkowski was ready on the sidelines, but for some reason Campbell stayed in the game. On the next play Campbell was sacked again, but again that was nullified by the defense jumping offsides in an attempt to guess the snap count. Campbell scrambled for a few yards, but this time offensive holding nullified that. As ugly as this was, there was time for ugliness. The Raiders punted, and the Steelers took over at the Raiders 33.

An 8 yard run was offset by another Pittsburgh personal foul. On 3rd and 16 from the Oakland 40, Big Ben went deep. Michael Huff intercepted it in the end zone, but he was ruled out of bounds. Nevertheless, the Steelers punted and the Raiders would eventually field it after wasting a timeout because nobody was back deep to field it. The Raiders took over at their own 20 with a ray of hope, as Campbell was benched in favor of Gradkowski with 5 minutes left in the third quarter.

His first play resulted in him somehow avoiding a sack and completing a 6 yard pass. On 3rd and 3, Gradkowski hit Zach Miller for just enough as the drive continued. After a false start, Gradkowski fired to Myers for another first down as offsides was declined. From the Oakland 41, Gradkowski fired complete to Jacoby Ford for another first down just past midfield. With Gradkowski 5 for 5 on the drive, a draw play by Michael Bush went for 24 yards.

Yet disaster then struck. On 3rd and 10, Gradkowski was intercepted at the 9 yard line by Troy Paomalu, who returned it to the Pittsburgh 46 as the third quarter ended. One play into the fourth quarter, the game itself pretty much ended as Roethlisberger found Mike Wallace, who outraced everyone for  54 yard touchdown as the Steelers led 28-3.

A couple minutes later with the Raiders facing 4th and 3 at their own 43, Cable decided to punt. With 7 minutes left the Steelers faced 2nd and 6 at their own 36. For some reason Big Ben was not only still in the game, but still throwing. He hit Wallace for 37 yards. Yet on the next play Mendenhall fumbled, and the Raiders recovered. The Raiders faced 4th and 3 at their own 41. This time the Raiders went for it, and Gradkowski threw incomplete. Redman ran for gains of 17, 6, and 2, and then caught the 16 yard touchdown pass to end the scoring.

The Raiders may have started to believe their own press clippings after 3 straight wins. Yet while they are not a bad team, they are not a good one yet. They are 5-5, the epitome of average. They fell one game out of first place. While Nahmdi Asomugha was out with an injured ankle and Gradkowski coming in way too late after Campbell’s ineptitude, those are excuses. Pittsburgh is a far better team, and it showed.

A very classy Mike Tomlin after the game praised Richard Seymour, and said that both teams “let it get away from them” in terms of emotion. This was hardly Chuck Noll calling the Raiders a “criminal element.” Then again, most of the penalties were on the Steelers. As for the Raiders Cable and Hue Jackson have a quarterback controversy on their hands, and must return Gradkowski as the starter down the stretch. The Raiders are improved, but proved today they still have a long way to go. 35-3 Steelers

Washington Redskins @ Tennessee Titans–The Redskins gave up 59 points a few days ago at home, while the Titans are coming together and in the playoff hunt. An 87 yard punt return by Marion had the Titans up 7-0. The Redskins came back as Donovan McNabb hit Santana Moss on a 5 yard touchdown pass to tie the game 7-7.

In the second quarter McNabb led a 15 play, 78 yard drive that took almost 7 1/2 minutes of clock. On 3rd and 16 from the Washington 40, McNabb hit Joey Galloway for 20. On 3rd and 4 from the Tennessee 34, McNabb hit Santana Moss for 18. On 3rd and 6 from the 12, McNabb hit Moss for 7. Yet on 4th and goal at the 2, Mike Shanahan opted or the field goal. Encroachment made it 4th and goal from the 1. Shanahan did not budge, and went for the points on the road anyway. Graham Gano connected from 19 to have the Redskins up 10-7.

With Kerry Collins out for several weeks with a calf injury sustained the previous week, Vince Young got his job back by default. He matched McNabb early on with a 13 play, 7 minute drive that went from the Titans 20 to the Washington 7. The Titans had to settle for a 25 yard Rob Bironas field goal that tied the game 10-10.

The Redskins saw 2 more chances in the half go to waste when McNabb was intercepted deep in Tennessee territory, and Gano missed a 51 yard field goal as the half expired.

The Titans began the second half at their own 20, and Young led an 11 play, 6 minute drive. On 3rd and 5 from the Washington 9, Young was sacked. Bironas connected from 32 yards as the Titans led 13-10.

McNabb continued the tradition in this game of long time consuming drives without touchdowns, as neither team would crack the end zone in the second half. McNabb led the Redskins from their own 24 to the Tennessee 19 before going backward. 10 plays and 5 minutes led to a 40 yard Gano field goal to tie the game for the 3rd time at 13-13.

With 4 minutes left in the third quarter, the Titans took over at their own 20. Young went deep to Nate Washington for a 43 yard gain. Unfortunately for the Titans, Young injured his wrist on the play. Jeff Fisher was forced to go to his 3rd string quarterback, the appropriately named Rusty Smith. On 4th and 3 from the 36, Fisher decided to pass up the 54 yard field goal despite Bironas having the leg. So what did the 3rd string Rusty do? All he did was go deep to newly acquired Randy Moss for a touchdown. The NFL recordbooks were under assault under the very first Rusty Smith to Randy Moss connection. Except it was all for naught as Moss was called for offensive pass interference. The Titans punted.

McNabb moved the Redskins from their own 19 to the Tennessee 33 early in the fourth quarter. Yet Mike Shanahan and Jeff Fisher were playing a mirror image field position game, and Shanahan passed up a 53 yard field goal attempt in favor of a punt with 12 minutes left in the game.

The Titans took over at their own 6 yard line, and the Rusty quarterback wisely handed off to Chris Johnson. From the Titans 21, Rusty Smith showed no rust whatsoever in hurling a 52 yard bomb to Nate Washington at the Redskins 27. Do not be fooled by the last name, Washington does not play for the Redskins. With 8 1/2 minutes left, Bironas nailed a 40 yard field goal to have the Redskins up 16-13.

From the Washington 26, McNabb came out firing, hitting Davis for 21 and Armstrong for 19. Yet the trend of big yardage without tuchdowns continued for both teams. With 5 1/2 minutes left in the game, Gano connected from 42 as each kicker had 3 field goals and each team had 16 points.

Rusty Smith finally did look rusty, and at the worst possible time. His deep ball was intercepted by Philip Buchanon, who returned it 4 yards to the Titans 41. Yet on 3rd and 4 from the 35, McNabb was sacked. With 4 minutes to play, Shanahan was not trying a 57 yard field goal as the Redskins punted. Again the Titans were facing miserable field position, this time at their own 9.

After losing 3 yards, Chris Johnson exploded for gains of 20 and 29. Yet Smith would fire incomplete on 3rd and 8. With 1:49 still to play, a 61 yard field goal was not in the cards as Fisher had the Titans punting. The Redskins took over at their own 22 with 1:37 left. From the 33, McNabb hit Banks for 15 and Cooley for 12 more. With 3 seconds left, Gano came in for the winning 47 yard field goal attempt. It was dead center…and just short. Mike Shanahan, who saw his team give up 59 points at home the previous week, for the second week in a row blamed Al Davis.

The Titans got the ball to start overtime at their own 33. Chris Johnson picked up 15, but the Titans got nothing more and punted. The Redskins took over at their own 13. McNabb went deep to Chris Cooley for 26. On 2nd and 22 McNabb was intercepted, but on replay the call was ruled incomplete. Unnecessary roughness had the Redskins at their own 42. Another penalty for roughing the passer had the Redskins at the Titans 43. McNabb hit Moss for 10 down to the 31. After 10 plays and 5 minutes, Gano came in again for a 48 yarder.

Gano became Ga-Yes and the game was over. After the game Fisher refused to say that Young would be his quarterback of the future. Both of these teams are in the playoff hunt, but in the middle of the pack as the Titans have lost 3 straight after starting 5-2.

An angry Young threw his shirt into the stands after the game, and stormed out of a post-game meeting. When Fisher told him not to walk out on his teammates, Young allegedly replied to Fisher, “I am not walking out on them. I am walking out on you.” Young may have gone rogue for the last time, as Fisher made it clear in his post-game press conference that healthy or not, Young was not starting. If Fisher will start the Rusty 3rd stringer over Young in the middle of a playoff run, that means the 16 year coach Fisher has had it with Young. Young was put on injured reserve, ending his season. Yet Bud Adams intervened by letting coach and player know that he wanted them both back next year, and to work out their problems.

Most importantly, Rusty Smith played for Howard Schnellenberger at Florida Atlantic University. I am an self-titled honorary FAU Owl because that is the closest university to where my parents live. Hanging out in the commons at “Wackadoos” is fun, and I like their Hillel Friday night services. 19-16 Redskins, OT

Seattle Seahawks @ New Orleans Saints–When an average team that has been playing badly travels on the road to face a good team that has gelled after a tough start, the expected result is a blowout for the home team. Upsets lead to the phrase “that’s why they play the games.” This game was not why they play them.

The teams exchanged punts, and Seattle took over at their own 18. On 2nd and 18 from the 22, Matt Hasselbeck went deep to Mike Williams for a 68 yard gain. Yet on 4th and goal at the 2, Pete Carroll opted to take the points on the road. Olindo Mare hit the 20 yard chipper as the Seahawks led 3-0. Carroll jumped up and down and hugged his players, although 52 minutes still remained.

The Saints took over at their own 20, and Reggie Bush was still sitting out with his bad leg. Brees led a 12 play, 80 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive. On 3rd and 1 from the Seattle 29, Ivory broke through for 24 yards, picked up 4 more, and then took it the final yard to have the Saints up 7-3.

From the Seattle 30, Hasselbeck went deep to Obomanu for a 42 yard gain. The second quarter began with Mare kicking a 43 yard field goal to hve the Seahawks within 7-6. The Saints again took over at their own 20, and Brees again moved the Saints 80 yards with ease over 10 plays. On 3rd and 3, Ivory picked up 9. On 3rd and 13 from the Saints 33, Brees hit Marquis Colston for 14, Thomas for another 14,  and Robert Meachem for 15 more. Brees then fired the 23 yard touchdown to Colston to have the Saints up 14-6.

Seattle went 3 and out and the Saints took over at the Seattle 42. On 3rd and 10 from the Seattle 28, Brees hit Colston for 16. On 2nd and 15 from the 17, Brees hit Colston again to set up 3rd and 1 at the 3. Brees hit Meachem for the score as the Saints led 21-6. With 6 minutes left in the half, the Seahawks took over at their own 31.

From the 35, Hasselbeck hit Williams for 10 and Obomanu for 11 more. On 3rd and 7 from the Saints 41, Hasselbeck hit Williams for 15. On 3rd and 7 from the Saints 23, Hasselbeck got it to Brandon Stokely for a gain of 12. Just past the 2 minute warning with Seattle facing 3rd and 1 at the 2, Hasselbeck hit Obomanu for the touchdown to get the Seahawks within 21-13. The Saints took over at their own 25 with 1:49 left in the half.

On 3rd and 3, an incomplete pass was nullified by defensive pass interference at the Saints 48. Giving Brees another chance in the 2 minute drill is suicide, and Brees quickly hit Ladell Betts for 25 yards. With one minute left in the half, from the Seattle 22, Brees went deep to Colston for the score. A bad snap ruined the extra point attempt, but the Saints were putting on an offensive clinic worthy of defending champions as they led 27-13.

Yet the ensuing kickoff was kicked out of bounds as Seattle took over at their own 40. Hasselbeck hit Obomanu for 23 yards and Stokely for 14 more. As the half ended, Mare kicked his 3rd field goal, a 43 yarder to have Seattle within 27-16.

The Saints took the second half kickoff from their own 20 and Brees went right to work.  On 3rd and 3, Brees hit Graham for 19. From just past midfield, Brees hit Devry Henderson for 17 and then went deep to Meachem for the 32 yard score to have the Saints up 34-16. Despite having most of the second half left, a pinball machine of points came to a crawl.

Seattle fumbled the ball away on their next series and the Saints took over at the Seattle 48. Yet on 3rd and goal from the 4 Brees was intercepted in the end zone. Seattle took over at their own 5. Hasselbec led them past midfield, but Marshawn Lynch fumbled for the second straight series. The Saints moved from their own 46 to the Seattle 9, but a much maligned Garrett Hartley clanked a 27 yard field goal off the upright early in the fourth quarter.

From the Seattle 20, Hasselbeck led a 15 play, 7 minute drive that moved 78 yards.  Yet time consuming drives are not wise when a team is down by 3 scores. On 4th and goal at the 2, Pete Carroll decided to kick the field goal. Mare connected from 20 to have the Seahawks within 15. The onsides kick failed, and the Saints took over at the Seattle 42. On 4th and 6 from the 8 with the outcome decided, Sean Payton decided not to risk a field goal block. Brees was intercepted again, but it did not matter as only 21 seconds remained.

Hasselbeck finished 32 of 44 for 366 yards and one touchdown while Brees was 29 of 43 for 382 yards and 4 touchdown passes with 2 interceptions. Yet Seattle kicked too many field goals while the Saints scored touchdowns. The Saints got to 7-3, but all 3 NFC South teams in the hunt won today, leaving the Saints one game back. As for the pathetic NFC Worst, all 4 teams lost by at least 15 points, leaving the 5-5 Seahawks still in first place. 34-19 Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ San Francisco 49ers–In 2002, the Buccaneers throttled the 49ers in the playoffs, getting Steve Mariucci fired. The 49ers have been awful ever since. Raheem Morris has made the Bucs forget about Jon Gruden, who may replace Mike Singletary if he continues scowling like Ray Rhodes without the results to back it up.

A terrible first half saw Josh Freeman lead a 14 play, 80 yard second quarter drive that consumed 7 1/2 minutes. Cadillac Williams ran it in from 6 yards out to have the Buccaneers leading 7-0 at halftime.

The second half was just as ugly. On 4th and 3 from the Tampa Bay 33, Mike Singletary opted against a 51 yard field goal as the 49ers punted. On 4th and 3 from the San Francisco 23, Raheem Morris opted for the 41 yard attempt, which Connor Barth missed. The 49ers punted again, and the Buccaneers took over a their own 34. Freeman hit Mike Williams for a 33 yard gain. Blount picked up 16 more on the ground. On 3rd and 1 from the 8, Freeman hit Williams for the touchdown to have the Buccaneers up 14-0.

With 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Troy Smith was intercepted by old man Ronde Barber, who returned it 29 yards to the San Francisco 7. Freeman hit Penn for the score to close out the game. The Buccaneers will now be the least respected 7-3 team, while the 49ers at 3-7 are still laughably only 2 games out of first place.  21-0 Buccaneers

Atlanta Falcons @ St. Louis Rams–Mike Smith is more than an average non-descript white guy who looks like a guy named Mike Smith. He is the head coach of the best team in the conference at 7-2. Steve Spagnuolo has the Rams fighting hard, but an overtime loss last week was a setback.

Mike Smith is more than an average non-descript white guy who looks like a guy named Mike Smith. He is the head coach of the best team in the conference at 7-2. Steve Spagnuolo has the Rams fighting hard, but an overtime loss last week was a setback. The Rams have yet to win a road game, but came in 4-1 at home, while the 7-2 Falcons have struggled on the road.

The Rams started hot, as Sam Bradford hit Hoomanawanui for a 25 yard touchdown pass to have the Rams up 7-0. Matt Ryan then led a 12 play, 6 1/2 minute drive that led to a 42 yard field goal to have the Falcons within 7-3.

Bradford led a 10 play drive that resulted in Josh Brown nailing a 53 yard field goal to have the Rams up 10-3 in the second quarter. A 55 yard kickoff return had the Falcons at the Rams 47. After an unnecessary roughness penalty, Ryan hit Finneran for a 12 yard touchdown to tie the game 10-10.

After a punt, the Falcons took over again at the Rams 46. Ryan hit Gonzalez and Jenkins for a pair of 16 yard gains to set up a 29 yard Bryant field goal to have the Falcons up 13-10. With 5 1/2 minutes left in the half, Ryan led the Falcons from their own 32 on an 11 play drive. With a 19 yard pass to Roddy White moving things along, the Falcons moved to the 6 yard line before stalling. Bryant hit the 24 yarder to have the Falcons up 16-10 at the half.

In the third quarter, a 33 yard punt return had the Rams starting at the Atlanta 37. Stephen Jackson ran for 16, and Bradford hit Gibson for a 13 yard touchdown as the Rams led 17-16.

After an exchange of punts, the Falcons took over at their own 42. Michael Turner picked up 12, and Ryan hot Tony Gonzalez for 16 more. On 3rd and 4 from the Rams 24, Ryan hit White for 9 and Peelle for 12, finally connecting with Peelle for the 2 yard touchdown. With 2 minutes left in the third quarter, Mike Smith decided wisely not to go for the 2 point conversion as the Falcons led 23-17. The Rams punted, and the Falcons took over at their own 24 as the third quarter ended.

Ryan led a 14 play drive that bled over 7 minutes of game time. With 8 minutes to play, the Falcons faced 4th and 1 at the Rams 3. Mike Smith took no chances, preferring to make it a 2 score game on the road. Bryant hit it from 21 as the Falcons led 26-17.

From the Rams 23, Bradford smartly led the Rams down the field. After 11 plays, the Rams had 3rd and goal at the 2 with 3 1/2 minutes to play. Bradford was intercepted, any chance of a comeback. At the 2 minute warning with the outcome not in doubt, Turner burst free for a 39 yard touchdown run. The 2 point conversion completed the scoring to make the game look more lopsided than it really was. The Falcons got  akey road win to lead the conference at 8-2, while the Rams at 4-6 under Steve Sapgnuolo are still only one game out of first place in the wretched NFC Worst. 34-17 Falcons

Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots–This is why we watch football. Calling this Super Bowl 44 1/2 might be overstating it, as the Colts are “only” 5-3 and the Patriots are “only” 6-2. A couple years ago they were both 7-0 when they met. Last year the Colts overcame a 24-7 first half deficit to win 35-34 after Evil Hoodie Bill Bellichick gambled and lost on 4th and 2 at his own 28 late in the game leading by 6 points. Yet that game was in Indy, and this time it is in New England, where the Patriots have had a decisive advantage. These teams very well could meet again in the AFC Title Game. This game is packed with emotion that Jim Caldwell might come close to almost making a facial expression. Oh, and Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are pretty good. Brady won the first 6 meetings of this series, while the last 6 times these teams faced off, Manning won 5 of them.

The Colts got the ball first at their own 11. On 3rd and 6 from the Indy 46, Manning was intercepted by Brandon Meriweather, who returned it 39 yards to the Indy 32. Brady quickly hit Welker for a 22 yard touchdown to have the Patriots up 7-0.

The Colts punted, and the Patriots took over at their own 18. Brady led a 15 play, 82 yard drive that consumed nearly 8 minutes. 3 conversions on 3rd down set up 3rd and goal at the 8. Brady hit Hernandez for the score early in the second quarter as the Patriots led 14-0.

The Colts took over at their own 31, and on 3rd and 10 Manning hit Austin Collie for 14. On 3rd and 5 from midfield, Manning hit Pierre Garcon for 17 and then Brown for 25 more down to the 8. On 3rd and goal from the 1, Manning hit Robinson for the score as the Colts got within 14-7.

Brady led the Patriots right back from the New England 35. From the 41, Brady hit Gronkowski for 25 yards and Deion Branch for 16 more. Green-Ellis took it in from the 5 to have the Patriots up 21-7. The Colts took over at their own 15 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the half.

Manning hit Reggie Wayne for 12, and on 3rd and 1 with Joseph Addai out with an injury, James picked up 2. On 2nd and 15 from the Indy 44, Manning hit Wayne for 17. From the 39, Manning hit Wayne again for  28 yards down to the 11 with 10 seconds left in the half. Manning hit Wayne for the touchdown as the Colts only trailed 21-14 at halftime.

The teas exchanged punts in the third quarter, and the Patriots took over at their own 21 with 6 minutes left in the period. On 3rd and 1, Sammy Morris picked up 4. With just over a minute left in the quarter, New England had 2nd and 3 at the Indy 36. Woodhead broke through all the way to the end zone as the Patriots led 28-14.

Manning was intercepted again as the Patriots took over at their own 39 to end the third quarter. Green Ellis picked up gains of 5 and 16 yards. From the Indy 25, Brady hit Branch for 14. The drive would fall short at the 7 yard line, but a 25 yard Shane Graham field goal had the Patriots up 31-14 with 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation. Ironically, the Patriots led 31-14 last year in the fourth quarter before Manning led a stunning comeback.

The Patriots took over at their own 27. Manning hit Wayne for 11. On 3rd and 4, Brown ran for 36 yards. Manning hit White for the 5 yard score to get the Colts within 31-21 with a full 8 minutes left to play. The Patriots went 3 and out, and the Colts again took over at their own 27, with 7 minutes left.

In what appeared to be instant replay, Manning passed for 11 yards, this time to James. On 3rd and 9 from midfield, Manning went deep to Garcon, with a 15 yard personal foul adding to the 17 yard completion for a 32 yard gain down to the New England 18. Manning then hit White for the touchdown as a pair of 73 yard drives had the Colts down by a field goal. The Patriots took over again at their own 15 with 4:40 to play. Green-Ellis ran picked up 14 yards, but after that the Patriots punted as the Colts took over at their own 26 with 2:25 left.

On 2nd and 6, Manning hit Jacobe Tamme for 17 yards at the 2 minute warning. On 3rd and 2, Brown picked up just enough. With 57 seconds remaining and the Colts facing 3rd and 6 at the New England 39, the Colts took their first timeout. Manning hit Wayne for 15 yards. The clock was moving, but time was not a factor. The Colts were well within Adam Vinatieri’s range, as a field goal would have only been 42 yards. With 2 timeouts, Manning decided to go for the win while Brady could only helplessly watch from the sidelines.

Manning went deep and threw an off balance ball into coverage that was intercepted at the 6 yard line by Sanders. It was a crushing end to another epic game between these rivals. Manning would finish 38 of 52 for a ridiculous 396 yards and 4 touchdowns with 3 interceptions. Brady passed for only 186 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Yet Brady had the win.

The Patriots remain tied atop the conference at 8-2 while the Colts fell to 6-4. The Colts have never been worse than 12-4 the last 7 years, so they need to run the table to get their again. Also, if these teams do meet again, which football fans everywhere would consider a blessing, the Colts will have to return to New England. The weather was tolerable today, but it will be snowing come January. Both of these teams are tied for their respective division leads. 31-28 Patriots

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles–The Eagles score 59 points on the road a few days ago, while the Giants lost a shocker at home to woeful Dallas. These teams are both 6-3 atop the division, and it was expected be a bare fisted slobberknocker.

Midway through the opening quarter, the Eagles took over at their own 32. On 2nd and 18, Michael Vick hit Deshean Jackson for a 23 yard gain. 10 yard passes to Jeremy Maclin and McCoy led to 3rd and 9 at the Giants 28. Vick hit Jackson for 13,  and Vick scrambled for the 4 yard touchdown himself to have the Eagles up 7-0.

Eli Manning in the second quarter led a 14 play, 74 yard drive that consumed 8 minutes. Yet the Giants got no further than the 6 yard line, and a Lawrence Tynes 24 yard kick had the Giants within 7-3.

With 7 minutes left in the half Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled deep in Giants territory, and the Eagles took over a the Giants 23. The Eagles went nowhere, and David Akers kicked a 38 yard field goal to have the Eagles up 10-3. Manning was then intercepted by Asante Samuels, and the Eagles took over at the Giants 13. Again the Eagles could not capitalize, and a 24 yard Akers kick had the Eagles up 13-3.

The Eagles got the ball back at their own 20 with 1:43 left in the half. Vick hit Maclin for 25 and scrambled for 9 more, and hit Maclin for another 21 to set up 1st and 10 at the 15 with 55 seconds left in the half. Yet a 15 yard offensive tripping penalty forced the Eagles to try a 42 yard Akers field goal at the end of the half. The kick was blocked, and nearly returned the other way. 3 trips to the red zone in the second quarter produced only 6 points as Big Blue kept the offense in the game with a ferocious defense.

Tragedy on a personal level took place when Ellis Hobbs was injured returning the second half kickoff. Hobbs was down for about 15 minutes as players and coaches from both teams prayed. Hobbs was taken off the field on a stretcher after a helmet to helmet hit that appeared legal. The crowd cheered when Hobbs gave the thumbs up sign. In the locker room he was walking off under his own power. He was lost for much of last year with a strained neck, and it was his neck that was injured tonight. Early signs were positive.

The Eagles began the second half at their own 8 yard line. Vick led an 8 minute drive. Vick hit Jackson for 7, Maclin for 18, and McCoy for 17 to have the Eagles at midfield. On 3rd and 3 Vick hit Avant for 15. The Eagles face 3rd and 1 from the Giants 19, and Andy Reid can’t stand 3rd and 1 because he does not have  bruising running back, and has not had one in his entire decade tenure. Vick failed to pick up the first down, and on 4th and 1 Reid decided to go for it anyway. Vick picked up 2 to keep things going. Yet for the 4th time in 15 minutes, the Eagles would stall in the red zone. Akers came in for a 28 yarder, and made his 4th kick in 5 tries to have the Eagles up 16-3. Despite dominating, Philly had not put the game away.

The Giants took over at their own 32 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. On 3rd and 7 Manning hit Mario Manningham for 10. From the Philly 44, Manning hit Kevin Boss for 15. On 3rd and 14 from the 33, Manning went deep incomplete. Yet defensive pass interference set up the ball on the 2 yard line, as Manning hit Beckum for the score. The Eagles took over on their own 33 as they took a 16-10 lead into the fourth quarter.

In the first half the Giants gave the Eagles gifts, and the Eagles refused to take them. Seconds into the fourth quarter the spirit of Thanksgiving led to reciprocity as Vick was sacked by Justin Tuck, resulting in a fumble and Giants recovery at the Philly 27. Manning hit Brandon Jacobs for 22 and then tossed the 5 yard touchdown to Hagan as the Giants now led 17-16 just over one minute into the fourth quarter.

Tynes kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds as the Eagles took over at their own 40. On 3rd and 9, Vick hit Avant for 24 yards to the Giants 35. Yet the Eagles then self-destructed after a chop block penalty and a sack  had them punting on 4th and 36 from their own 39.  The Giants would punt it back, and the Eagles took over at their own 10 with 8 minutes to play in the game.

Vick hit Schmitt for 10 and Maclin for 19. With the Eagls facing 3rd and 1 at midfield, would Andy Reid try and run the ball? Of course not. On 4th and 1 from midfield, with 4 1/2 minutes left, Reid decided to go for it. Would he run up the middle? Of course not. On a dangerous pitchout, Vick bobbled the ball. Yet he recovered, pitched it to McCoy, and everybody watched as McCoy ran all the way for a touchdown in front of an elated home crowd. Vick hit Avant for the 2 point conversion to have the Eagles up by 7.

From the Giants 39, Manning was intercepted again by Samuel, this time off of a deflected pass. Yet until every NFL player not named Ed Reed decides to just go down rather than get greedy, turnovers will be for naught. Trying to run it all the way back, Samuel fumbled it back to the Giants. When all was done, the Giants had gained one yard. On 4th and 6, with all 3 timeouts and 3 minutes left, Coughlin decided to go for it. Manning scrambled up the middle for 16 yards. et rather than slide, Manning went headfirst. When he hit the ground, the ball came out and the Eagles recovered. Coughlin challenged the call, saying Manning was down by contact. The replay never confirmed that Manning was touched, and the fumble stood.

The Eagles took over at their own 40. With the Giants desperately needing a stop with 2:48 to play, McCoy ran for 40 yards to the Giants 20 and stayed in bounds. This forced the Giants to take their timeouts. The Eagles took a timeout of their own with 25 seconds left as Akers lined up for a 30 yarder. Knowing that the first half ended with a blocked kick that was almost returned, the Giants tried to get to Akers again.

Akers got it off and snuck it inside the upright for his 5th field goal in 6 tries, icing the game. Manning completed things with his 3rd interception. Walrus Lite Andy Reid saw his Eagles take sole possession of first place in the NFC East at 7-3, one game ahead of Tom Coughlin and the 6-4 Giants. The Giants have lost 2 straight, but are very much alive for the division. This was another great game between hated division rivals, and the rematch in New York cannot come soon enough. 27-17 Eagles

Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers–Denver gave up 59 points a few weeks ago, and last week put up 49 in winning by 20. San Diego appears to have righted the ship in winning consecutive games to get to 4-5 for Norvelous Norv Turner. Josh McDaniels and 3-6 Denver are only 2 games outside of first place in this dreadful division.

Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers–Denver gave up 59 points a few weeks ago, and last week put up 49 in winning by 20. San Diego appears to have righted the ship in winning consecutive games to get to 4-5 for Norvelous Norv Turner. Josh McDaniels and 3-6 Denver are only 2 games outside of first place in this dreadful division.

Denver gave up 59 points a few weeks ago, and last week put up 49 in winning by 20. San Diego appears to have righted the ship in winning consecutive games to get to 4-5 for Norvelous Norv Turner. Josh McDaniels and 3-6 Denver are only 2 games outside of first place in this dreadful division.

The Broncos got the ball and Kyle Orton went right to work. From the Denver 31, Orton hit Eddie Royal for 8 and Brandon Lloyd for gains of 21 and 22. From the San Diego 22, Josh McDaniels shifted to the run, and Knowshown Moreno picked up a pair of 9 yard gains and then took it the final 4 yards to have the Broncos up 7-0.

The teams then exchanged punts, which was remarkable in how uneventful they were. San Diego has put excitement into the punting game this year as Mike Scifres has had 5 kicks blocked. His second punt attempt of the game came on 4th and 14 from the San Diego 41. Yet Turner had called a fake. Scifres looked like a quarterback, faking a pass, opting not to run despite the whole field in front of him, and then throwing a perfect pass to Mike Tolbert for a 28 yard gain. On 3rd and 1 from the 22, Tolbert picked up 13. On 3rd and goal from the 6, Philip Rivers tossed the touchdown to Malcolm Floyd to tie the game 7-7.

In the second quarter Denver missed an opportunity when a 3rd and 3 pass from the San Diego 39 was intercepted and returned to the Denver 40. On 2nd and 4 Turner went to the bag of tricks again, but the halfback option pass was incomplete. Nate Kaeding came in for a 52 yard field goal, but it was just short. Denver moved from their own 42 to the San Diego 37, but a sack of Orton ended the drive. San Diego took over at their own 13.

On 2nd and 9, Rivers hit Patrick Crayton for 16 yards, with a defensive personal foul adding 15 more. Rivers then went deep to Crayton for a 49 yard gain to the Denver 6, with a stiff arm by Crayton the explanation point. Another defensive personal foul moved the ball to the one, and Tolbert banged it in to have the Chargers up 14-7 midway through the second quarter.

Denver tried a flea flicker on their next drive, but it was blown up by a diving sack on Orton. Denver punted, and the Chargers had the ball at their own 48. Rivers was sacked, on 3rd and 18 Rivers threw up a deep jump ball that was safer for this team than punting as it was intercepted by Champ Bailey at the Denver 15. Denver punted, and with 3 minutes left in the half San Diego took over at their own 46.

Rivers hit Tolbert for 14 yards, and on the next play Crayton took a swing pass, split the seams, and raced between the blockers 40 yards for another touchdown as the Chargers led 21-7 just before the 2 minute warning. Orton did lead the Broncos to the San Diego 40, but offensive pass interference and a sack killed their last drive of the half.

Early in the third quarter Rivers hit Darren Sproles over the middle. Sproles followed the blockers all the way for a 57 yard touchdown to have the Chargers up big 28-7. San Diego got the ball back at their own 47, and Rivers led a 6 1/2 minute drive, mostly on the ground. On 3rd and 1, Denver jumped offsides. On 3rd and 8 from the Denver 37, Rivers scrambled for 9. On 3rd and 3 from the Denver 21, Rivers hit Sperry for 8. On 3rd and goal at the 3, Rivers threw to Jacob Hester for the score only 40 seconds into the fourth quarter. The Chargers led 35-7 thanks to Rivers throwing his 4th touchdown pass.

With the outcome not in doubt, the Broncos reached the end zone again with 9 1/2 minutes left. Denver opened and closed the scoring, but San Diego got everything in between. Denver fell to 3-7, and the pressure on Josh McDaniels has intensified. San Diego has overcome another slow start to win 3 straight and get to 5-5, only one game out of first place. This is before Vincent Jackson returns from suspension and Antonio Gates does from injury. 35-14 Chargers


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