NFL 2010–Week 14 Recap

The 14th week of the 1010 NFL Season is upon us. Each team has finished 12 games, with four left to go.

It is at this time every NFL Season that I tell the story that should be passed down to generations of football fans.

It is the legacy of NFL Football Philosopher and finally Hall of Famer John Randall.

Every September, 32 teams all have a dream of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. They all have an equal shot. They are all young puppies, eager and ready to bite whatever is in their path.

Yet as the season grows, these puppies become unequal.

September turns into December, and the puppies get separated.

There is no room in September for little puppies.

As legend John Randall tells us, heed his words and emotions.

“This is when the big dogs come out.”

So get your intensity level jacked up. Bite the bark off a tree. Eat raw red meat right off the bone. Tackle random objects. Howl at the moon for no other reason than you can.

This is when the big dogs come out.

With John Randall in mind, here is the Week 14 NFL Recap.

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans was the Thursday night game. The Colts came in reeling from back to back home losses to fall to 6-6, as Peyton Manning has thrown 11 interceptions in the last 3 games. 4 of those picks have gone for touchdowns the other way. Jim Caldwell is so concerned that he almost made a facial expression last week. The Colts are one game out of first place. As for Jeff Fisher, his team has gone from 5-2 to 5-7, as his head case quarterback Vince Young has left the building for the rest of the season. Bud Adams wants to keep young and Fisher, which may not happen. Kerry Collins and Randy Moss have both had good careers, but not when they play together either here or in Oakland.

After an exchange of punts, the Colts took over at their own 32. Manning led an 11 play, 6 minute, 68 yard drive. On 3rd and 2 from the Indy 40, Manning hit White for 10, Pierre Garcon for 20, and White for another 20 to set up 1st and goal at the 10. On 3rd and goal at the 1, James took it in to have the Colts up 7-0.

On the opening play of the second quarter, a Titans fumble set the Colts up at their own 41. On 3rd and 14, Manning went deep to Wayne for a 50 yard gain to the Tennessee 13. Manning hit Garcon from 1 yard out to complete the 10 play drive and have the Colts up 14-0.

After another exchange of punts, Tennesee fumbled at their own 41, and after the chaos subsided, the Colts had a gift at the Titans 19. Manning hit Garcon for the score and the Colts had a 21-0 lead in what seemed to be a blowout.

With help from a personal foul against the Colts on the ensuing kickoff, the Titans began at their own 45 with 2:16 left in the half. On 3rd and 6 Collins hit Nate Washington for 21 yards and Chris Johnson for 25 more down to the 5. Johnson did the rest, scoring from 1 yard out to have the Titans trailing 21-7 at halftime.

The Titans took the second half kickoff at their own 38 and Collins found Washington for 12. Johnson then picked up 20. On 3rd and 7 from the Indy 26, Collins hit Kenny Britt for 18. Collins hit Stevens for the 7 yard touchdown and the Titans were back in it down 21-14 with plenty of time left.

The Colts took over at their own 20. From the Indy 46, Manning went deep to Wayne for another 46 to the Titans 8. The drive stalled at the 3, and Adam Vinatieri connected from 21 to give the Colts some breathing room up 24-14.

The Titans punted and the Colts took over at their own 27. There would not be a quick strike deep this time as Manning led a methodical 16 play, 8 minute drive. On 3rd and 1 Manning found Jacob Tamme for 10. On 4th and 4 from the Tennessee 36, Jim Caldwell decided against a 54 yard field goal try. With Manning passing well, going for it was the choice. Yet with the Titans expecting a pass, James took it up the middle on the ground 11 yards. The drive would again bog down deep, but Vinatieri hit the 28 yarder to have the Colts up 27-14 With 13 minutes left in regulation. They had some comfort, but did not put the game away.

The Titans took over t their own 34 and Collins found Hall for 10. Johnson took a handoff 37 yards down the sidelines to the Indy 18. On 3rd and 4, it was the Titans who ran in a passing situation as Ringer gained 9. Collins hit Bo Scaife from 4 yards out as the Titans were only down 27-21 with a full 8 minutes left in the game.

The Colts took over at their own 21, but a 3rd and 1 running play went nowhere as they punted. The Titans took over at their own 25 but a 3rd and 5 run by Johnson only gained 4. With 4 minutes to play, Jeff Fisher decided not to gamble on 4th and  1 in his own territory. The Colts took over at their own 25. Manning hit Garcon on a short pass that went for 43 yards. With 3 minutes to play, Vinatieri came in for a 47 yard field goal to try and ice the game. As people who watched all of his Super Bowls knows, he has icewater in his veins. He connected, and the Colts led 30-21.

The Titans took over at their own 23, and Collins had them at their own 39 with 3rd and 4 as the 2 minute warning came. Collins hit Johnson for 9, then for 14, and again for 5. Collins then hit Cook for 9 yards to the Indy 24 with 55 seconds to play. This is where both the normally sensible Jeff Fisher and Kerry Collins basically blew it.

The Titans needed 2 scores, and Rob Bironas is a good field goal kicker. If he makes a 42 yard kick, the Titans are within 30-24 and then can try the onsides kick with almost a full minute. Instead, Collins kept passing, trying to get the touchdown. They reached the Indy 16 with 32 seconds left, and still no kick attempt. They reached the 8 yard line with 27 seconds left and still no kick. By the time Collins spiked the ball, the Titans were at the 2 but only 10 seconds remained. This was still enough time for a kick, an onsides kick, and a Hail Mary. Instead, another pass fell incomplete. On 4th and goal at the 2, Collins hit Scaife for the score, but the clock was at double zeroes. This was mind boggling.

Perhaps the frustration of the season got to Jeff Fisher, who is one of the best coaches in the league. Yet this clock management was on him. Unless a team is gambling on football games and more concerned with the point spread than actually winning,  the clock management was senseless. They got the touchdown but never got to try the onsides kick. The Colts escaped to get to 7-6 while the 5-8 Titans, only 2 games back of the division lead, are all but eliminated from playoff contention. Even the usually safe Jeff Fisher has not gotten a vote of confidence from Bud Adams this time. 30-28 Colts

Cleveland Browns @ Buffalo Bills–The Bills are better than their 2-10 record, and Chan Gailey has seen his players improve in recent weeks. Eric Mangini has done his part to keep Walrus Mike Holmgren in the front office box as the Browns are 5-7 and fighting hard as well. The last 2 times these teams met the final scores were 8-0 and 6-3, with this game expected to be just as awful.

The Browns took over at their own 45 to start the game. From the Buffalo 44, Peyton Hillis ran for 25 yards, and then 8 more. Yet on 2nd and goal from the 2, Hillis got only half. On 3rd and goal from the 1, Hillis got stopped. On 4th and goal from the 1, Eric Mangini decided to take the points on the road and kick the field goal. Phil Dawson hit the 19 yard chipper and the Browns led 3-0. Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Bills to 4th and 2 at the Buffalo 36. The Bill went for it, and Fitzpatrick threw incomplete.

The Bills would take over at their own 11 late in the first quarter, and Fitzpatrick led a 14 play, 89 yard drive that consumed over 8 minutes. On 3rd and 6 from the Cleveland 11, Fitzpatrick found Nelson for the touchdown to put the Bills up 7-3. Jake Delhomme led the Browns 73 yards in 11 plays in 5 1/2 minutes. The drive stalled at the 8 yard line, but Dawson connected form 26 to have the Browns down 7-6. With seconds left in the half, Ryan Lindell hit a 30 yarder to have the Bills up 10-6 in a game as thrilling as expected.

The second half was even uglier. With 11 minutes left in regulation, Delhomme fumbled and the Bills took over at the Cleveland 23. On 3rd and goal at the 2, Fred Jackson got half. On 4th and goal at the 1 with 8 minutes left, Chan Gailey opted for the field goal. Lindell hit the 19 yarder, but it was still a one possession game.

Cleveland went 3 and out, got the ball back, and saw Delhomme get intercepted with 4 minutes left. Fred Jackson got the ball 9 straight times to run out the clock, as Cleveland did not get the ball back. The Browns fell to 5-8 and Buffalo improved to 3-10 for Gailey. 13-6 Bills

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers–The best team in the NFC is on the road against the worst team in the NFL. While Mike Smith is the poster child for Non-descript Caucasian Monthly Magazine, Jon Fox is just counting the weeks until he is fired and eagerly courted by other teams.

On the first play from scrimmage, the game went exactly as expected as the Panthers fumbled, giving the Falcons the ball at the Carolina 29. Matt Ryan hit Roddy White for 9, Michael Turner ran for 16, and Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for the 4 yard touchdown as the Falcons led 7-0 only 80 seconds into the game.

Carolina punted and the Falcons took over at their own 27. Matty Ice mad eit look easy. On 3rd and 3 from the Atlanta 45, Ryan went deep to Douglas for 46 yards. On 3rd and goal from the 1, Ryan rolled out and got nailed at the goal line. Yet defensive offsides gave the Falcons another try, Turner took it in to have the Falcons up 14-0.

In the second quarter Mike Smith may have been prepared to just run out the final 45 minutes given how lifeless the Panthers were. Ryan led a mind boggling 18 play, 64 yard drive that consumed nearly 9 minutes. It stopped at the red zone but Matt Bryant nailed a 39 yard field goal to have the Falcons coasting 17-0.

In the third quarter the Panthers found some life when Jimmy Stewart ripped off a 48 yard run. Goodson ran it in from 13 yards out to have the Panther within 17-7. An exchange of punts had the Falcons at the Panthers 49. Ryan hit White for 7 and 16, followed by encroachment. Ryan hit White for 18 more and Turner did the rest from 3 yards out to have the Falcons up 24-7.

Jimmy Clausen led the Panthers from their own 30 to the Atlanta 18, and a 36 yard Jon Kasay field goal had the Panthers within 24-10 with 10 minutes left in regulation. With 6 minutes left Carolina got the ball back, but there would be no comeback. Clausen was intercepted, and the Falcons took over at the Carolina 16. Turner ran it in from yards out to end the scoring. The Falcons remained an NFC best at 11-2 while the Panthers remained an NFL worst at 1-12. Next year they may have some luck, specifically Andrew Luck with the first pick in the draft. 31-10 Falcons

Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions–The Packers at 8-4 cannot afford to look past this game to their showdowns with the Giants and Chicago, since a playoff spot is not assured and they still trail Chicago by one game. As for Detroit, they are 2 games better than the 0-16 squad, but Jim Schwartz has not seen the team shake the ghosts of Rod Marinelli.

A scoreless first quarter saw the end of the streak for Aaron Rodgers, who had not been intercepted in 182 passes. All he did was throw a perfect bomb to Greg Jennings that should have been a touchdown. Jennings bobbled it, resulting in the interception. Detroit returned the favor as the teams played a scoreless first half that deserves no further description except to point out that Green Bay suffered a huge loss when Aaron Rodgers was knocked out of the game with a concussion. A backup named Matt Flynn quarterbacked the Packers in the half while 3rd stringer Drew Stanton played the whole game for Detroit.

The Packers began the third quarter at their own 28, and Flynn hit Quarless for 20 yards. The Packers would reach the Detroit 24, and when Mason Crosby kicked a 42 yard field goal the Packers led 3-0. Again, had this been Baltimore and Pittsburgh it would have been thrilling. It wasn’t and it wasn’t. Later in the third quarter Flynn led the Packers from their own 10. On 3rd and 10 at the 21 Flynn scrambled for 12. and then hit Jennings for 32 yards. An 18 yard pass to Nelson had the Packers at the 9 yard line. Flynn then capped off the drive with an interception in the end zone as it remained 3-0. The Lions took over at their own 9 and Stanton. From the 20, Stanton went deep to Calvin Johnson for 44 yards. Raynor came in for a 48 yard field goal to tie the game. It was no good.

30 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Lions took over at their own 20. On 3rd and  from the Lions 40 Stanton hit Johnson for 10. On 3rd and 2 Stanton hit Brandon Pettigrew for 11 more. A 12 yard pass to Nate Burleson went to the 13. Then, after over 52 minutes of ineptitude, the end zone was discovered Stanton hit Heller for the score. The 12 play, 80 yard drive took 6 1/2 minutes and had the Lions on top.

Both teams went 3 and out, and the Packers had one last chance from their own 9 with 4 minutes to play. On 3rd and 11, Flynn found Jones for 18, Nance for 14, and Greg Jennings for 9 to the Packers 49 at the 2 minute warning. Flynn hit Quarless for 11 and 8 more to set up 2nd and 2 at the Detroit 32 with 90 seconds remaining. With time not a factor, a run only gained one yard. An incomplete pass set up 4th and 1 with 1:03 left. Flynn fired incomplete and the Lions had the shocking upset in this horrendous football game to get to 3-10. The Packers at 8-5 remained one game out of the division lead. Flynn did not play badly, but Green Bay needs Aaron Rodgers to have a chance going forward. 7-3 Lions

Oakland Raiders @ Jacksonville Jaguars–Tom Cable and Jack Del Rio both have squads that have been derided by critics as overachievers, yet both of these teams may make the playoffs. The Raiders have less of a chance as Bruce Gradkowski is on injured reserve and Jason Campbell is starting, but Oakland is only 2 games back in the division with a showdown the final week against Kansas City. The Jaguars are shockingly in first place, and need a win to stay one game up before their rematch with Indy.

The Raiders took over at their own 20 and punted on 3rd and 4 when Campbell threw incomplete on 3rd and 4. The Jaguars took over at their own 33 and Jack Del RIo went straight to the bag of tricks with an end around. It was blown up in the backfield for an 8 yard loss. Maurice Jones-Drew got nailed on the next play and Jaguars also went 3 and out and punted. The Raiders took over at their own 30. On 3rd and 8 a short pass from Campbell to McFadden resulted in him faking out a defender at midfield and racing down the sideline for a 67 yard touchdown to have the Raiders up 7-0 only 4 1/2 minutes into the game.

David Garrard led the Jaguars on their next possession from their own 33 to a 2nd and 5 at the Oakland 36. Yet this time the Silver and Black came up big on defense,  forcing an incompletion followed by a sack for an 8 yard loss to move the Jaguars out of field goal range. A solid punt had the Raiders backed up to their own 3 yard line. They went 3 and out. Standout punter Shane Lechler was going into the wind, but somehow kicked it 49 yards to the Jacksonville 48.

On 2nd and 9 Garrard escaped a sack and scrambled to set up 3rd and 3. Maurice Jones-Drew took the pitchout and got just enough to move the chains. Defensive holding added 5 more yards, as the Raiders continued to lead the league in penalties in number and yardage. Yet the defense continued to play hard early on as Jones-Drew went nowhere and Garrard was called for intentional grounding after getting planted to set up 3rd and 22. After a punt the Raiders took over at their own 11.

Despite a stout Jacksonville defense, the Raiders like the Jaguars were determined to try and run the ball. McFadden picked up 7. A rollout pass to Zach Miller for 10 was nullified by illegal formation. A sack of Campbell led to another punt. Lechler boomed it again, but the Jaguars began at the Oakland 46.

Jacksonville was outgained 79-27 in the first quarter, but began moving in the second quarter. On 2nd and 14 just past midfield, Garrard hit Mercedes Lewis for 20. Garrard hit Jones-Drew for 9, and on 3rd and 1 Garrard scrambled for 3. Jennings took it 16 yards to the one, and Garrard hit Lewis for the score to tie the game 7-7.

The Raiders again had poor field position, starting at their own 18. Campbell hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for 16 yards. McFadden gained 5 and 2. On 3rd and 3 facing a ton of pressure, Campbell rolled out, and at the last second Found McFadden before getting drilled to complete a 17 yard catch and run. Campbell then found a wide open Jacoby Ford for a 27 yard gain to the Jacksonville 15. On the next play McFadden took  a pitchout and got to the pileon for an apparent touchdown, but holding nullified it. A sack was nullified by illegal contact on the defense. On 3rd and 3 it from the 6 was Tom Cable and Hugh Jackson going with a wildcat snap around the end to Jacoby Ford. Yet Jacksonville was not fooled, and the play lost 2 yards. Sebastian Janikowski hit the 26 yard field goal to have the Raiders up 10-7 with 6 1/2 minutes left to complete the 10 play, 74 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive.

The Jaguars took over at their own 24 and Garrard hit Lewis for 19. Jennings picked up 13 to the Oakland 44. Garrard then went deep and found an open receiver for what appeared to be a first down. Yet the receiver got blasted by Tyvone Branch, and the ball popped into the arms of Michael Huff. First it was ruled a turnover, then down by contact. Cable challenged the call successfully, and the Raiders took over at their own 21 with 4 minutes left in the half.

Campbell found Miller for 12 , and then avoided a sack to find Marcel Reese for 11 more. Michael Bush picked up 6 to midfield, and then got 2 more as the Raiders faced 3rd and 2 at the 2 minute warning.  Another roll out pass by Campbell led to a 13 yard gain by Reese. Campbell then worked the play action pass perfectly and found Heyward-Bey for 24 yards down to the 11. Bush picked up 3 and Campbell threw incomplete to set up 3rd and 7 at the 8. Campbell stayed in the pocket, fired to the back of the end zone, and found Louis Murphy for the touchdown with only 19 seconds left in the half as the Raiders led on the road 17-7.

The Jaguars continued to have great field position when a low line drive kickoff to start the second half had Jacksonville at their own 43. Garrard found Lewis for 17. After a penalty, the Jaguars finally got the big play after several near misses as Garrard went deep for a 48 yard touchdown bomb to get the Jaguars within 17-14.

The Raiders took over at their own 22, and on 2nd and 12 Campbell found Zach Miller for 29 yards. Again, Darren McFadden jolted the Raiders forward, bursting through the middle for a 51 yard touchdown to stun the Jacksonville crowd again and have the Raiders up 24-14.

Field position finally changed when a touchback had the Jaguars at their own 20. They went 3 and out, and the Raiders took over at their own 37. Bush ran for 11, but a sack of Campbell led to a punt and the Jaguars took over at their own 18. On 3rd and 2, Jennings escaped a tackle in the backfield, got to the sideline and escaped another tackle, and raced 75 yards for a score as the Jaguars were right back in it. Cable challenged the call saying Jennings stepped out of bounds. Cable lost the challenge as the Raiders led 24-21 with no more challenges left.

Disaster struck the Raiders when Ford fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Jaguars the ball at the Oakland 21. Jones-Drew picked up 9 and 2 more to set up 1st and goal at the 10. A run went nowhere and Garrard got taken down on the next play for 3rd and goal at the 10. Garard fired to the end zone for a touchdown to Mike Sims-Walker. The receiver may have been out of bounds but again Cable was out of challenges. The Jaguars had their first lead of the game at 28-24 with 4 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Raiders went 3 and out on their next drive and the Jaguars took over at their own 38. Jones-Drew picked up 9 and another 3 while a toss to Greg Jones went for another first down at the Oakland 37. Jones-Drew picked up 7 more as the third quarter ended. The Raiders would have the wind advantage in the fourth quarter, but the Jaguars had all the momentum. On 3rd and 3, Garrard faked a pitch and the entire Oakland defense for a 24 yard gain down to the 6. On 3rd and goal from the 2, Jones-Drew got stopped. On 4th and goal from the 1, Del Rio decided to play it safe. Josh Scobee hit the 19 yard field goal as the Raiders were still within one score down 31-24 with 11 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

The Raiders took over on their own 27, and on 3rd and 10 Jacksonville thought they had the dagger. Campbell was sacked, and instead of tucking it, tried to do something. That something was a fumble, returned for a touchdown, and the Jaguars were an extra point from celebrating a 38-24 lead. Yet the Raiders got a very lucky break when instead a personal foul for  a helmet to helmet hit on Campbell instead gave the Raiders 1st and 10 at their own 42. After that hit, he was also slammed to the ground. Campbell was not so lucky as he was knocked out of the game and Kyle Boller came in.

On the next play, Boller went back to pass and got belted after he threw it. Yet the wounded duck was caught by Miller for a 20 yard gain to the Jacksonville 38. Boller scrambled on 2nd down to set up 3rd and 3. Boller fired incomplete, and Cable decided to go for it. Boller took a timeout, leaving the Raiders with only 1 left as 8 minutes remained. Boller was then intercepted, and the Jaguars had a chance to put the game away. Yet with the Jaguars facing 3rd and 3, Garrard got belted in the pocket. Jacksonville punted and the Raiders took over at their own 18 with 6 minutes left to play.

A gutty Campbell came back in, got nailed again, but just before getting hit got it to Reese, who broke a tackle and picked up 10 yards. After a false start, Campbell received a gift when a sure interception for a touchdown was dropped. Campbell hit Murphy for 12 to set up 3rd and 3. Campbell fired to Murphy for 10 to the Oakland 46. Campbell hit Reese again for 13 more. McFadden gained 5 to set up 2nd and 5 at Jaguars 36. McFadden slammed up the middle, barreled over a tackle, bounced off another one like a ping pong ball, and stunned the Jaguars for the third time. The game was tied 31-31 with 1:53 to play. The Jaguars would be going against the wind, but perhaps the Raiders scored too early.

The game changed again when the Jaguars returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards to the Oakland 30. It might have been beneficial for the Raiders to let Jacksonville score rather than have them bleed the clock. Jones-Drew took it 30 yards on the first play as the Raiders trailed 38-31 with 1:34 to play and 1 timeout. A short kickoff was returned 27 yards to the Oakland 41.

On 2nd and 10 Campbell found Murphy for 15. On 3rd and 1 Campbell completed a 4 yard pass to the sideline. 18 seconds remained and the Raiders were at the Jacksonville 33. Campbell was sacked with 11 seconds left as the Raiders took their final timeout. Campbell had at most 2 chances, and had to go to the end zone. Instead Campbell threw  a pass over the middle that would have been better off dropped. The clock ran out on the game and most likely the season as the Raiders fell to 6-7. They are fighting had, but have not had consecutive road wins since 2001.

While Rolando McClain did sit this game out with a bad foot, that is no excuse. The Raiders fought hard on the road and came up short. As for the Jaguars, at 8-5 they are still one game up on Indy with their showdown with them in Indy next week. 38-31 Jaguars.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers–When an awful team that has lost 9 straight games to have the worst record in the conference goes against one of the best teams in the conference, the question will be if the league instills a mercy rule at halftime. The Bengals have a pair of tweeting twits, with one reality show for each victory on the season. Mike Tomlin may hire Marvin Lewis as a defensive coordinator next year since Lewis will not be back in Cincinnati, which is to his benefit.

The Bengals shocked the football world by starting at their own 31 and taking 5 minutes to march 69 yards. Defensive offsides on 3rd an 3 kept the drive going early on. From the Pittsburgh 43, Carson Palmer hit Terrell Owens for 22 yards. Defensive pass interference in the end zone led to a 1 yard touchdown pass form Palmer to Whitworth on a tackle eligible to have the Bengals up 7-0 on the road. Yet in the second quarter Palmer completed a pass right to Troy Palomalu, who plays defense for the Steelers. His Royal Hairness took it 45 yards for the score to tie the game 7-7. Naturally, Owens complained to Palmer on the sideline because he does that. Palmer reminded him that they both likely would not be back next year anyway.

Late in the half, Ben Roethlisberger, who despite Hanukkah having just ended is still not Jewish, took his team and his broken nose rapidly down the field 75 yards in 13 plays. They began at the 20, and on 3rd and 2 Big Ben hit Brown for 12. On 2nd and 12 he hit Hines Ward for 18. Big Ben hit Antwon Randle-El for 22 and scrambled for 13 more to the 5. They got nothing more, and a field goal had Pittsburgh up 10-7 at intermission.

The Steelers began the third quarter at their own 30, and a 6 1/2 minute drive peaked at the 9 yard line when Roethlisberger hit Ward for 21. Yet another field goal by Suisham had the Steelers only leading 13-7 going into the fourth quarter. Luckily, they were playing the Bengals, who were determined to lose 10 straight in Bengals fashion.

The Steelers had 2nd and 7 from the Cincy 15, but back to back sacks on Roethlisberger moved the Steelers back to their own 32. Mike Tomlin decided against the 50 yard field goal attempt, and a punt had the Bengals at their own 10. They were only one touchdown away from the lead. Palmer found Lamar Woodley for the touchdown. Unfortunately for him, Woodley also plays defense for the Steelers, as a 2nd interception return for a score went for 14 yards and a 20-7 lead.

Pittsburgh had only 6 points on offense, but for the seconds straight week their defense was coming up gigantic when it counted most. Pittsburgh would end up tacking on a field goal to get to 10-3 and lead their division by one game. The Bengals fell to 2-11 for their 10th straight loss. 23-7 Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Redskins–The 7-5 Buccaneers have not beaten any quality teams, but Raheem Morris has them in the hunt. The 5-7 Redskins are all but done, as Mike Shanahan has finally gotten rid of Albert Haynesworth. Donovan McNabb wants to avoid becoming a journeyman backup, and a winnable game at home is where he plans to start.

Had it been Pittsburgh and Baltimore playing a scoreless opening quarter, it would have been fantastic. It wasn’t, and it wasn’t. The Redskins began the second quarter at the Tampa 32. They got down to the 6. Graham Gano missed a 24 yard field goal. The Buccaneers would fumble the ball back as the Redskins took over at the Tampa 46.

On 3rd and 5, McNabb found Santana Moss for 22 and 21 yards down to the 6. On 4th and goal at the 1, Mike Shanahan decided to go for it, perhaps given how shaky Gano was. McNabb hit Paulsen for the score to finally have the Redskins up 7-0.  The Buccaneers took over at their own 25, and Josh Freeman went deep to Benn for a 64 yard completion down to the 11. The defense held, and the Bucs settled for a 25 yard Connor Barth field goal to trail 7-3.

The Redskins took over at their own 40, and Torain picked up 19 yards at the 2 minute warning. McNabb then hit Williams for 36 yards down to the 5. With 20 seconds left in the half, the Redskins had 3rd and goal at the 2. A false start killed the drive and this time Gano connected from 25 to have the Redksins up 10-3 at the break.

The Redskins continued the fine quality game by fumbling the ensuing kickoff, giving the Buccaneers the ball at the Washington 34. Tampa Bay went 9 yards backward, eventually moved a bit forward, and settled for a 44 yard Barth field goal to trail 10-6. After a punt the Buccaneers took over at their own 39. Benn picked up 17, and on 3rd and 11 from the Washington 34, Josh Freeman hit Kellen Winslow for just enough. Again the drive stalled, but Barth hit a 35 yarder to have the Buccaneers within 10-9.

A lifeless game saw the Buccaneers facing 2nd and 10 at the Washington 41 with 4 minutes left in regulation. Freeman went deep to Winslow for a 41 yard touchdown as a shocked Washington crowd saw the Buccaneers take the lead. Freeman ran in the 2 point conversion himself as the Buccaneers led 17-10. The Redskins took over at their own 25.

On 3rd and 3 McNabb hit Armstrong for 8 and Chris Cooley for 15 more to the Tampa Bay 45 at the 2 minute warning. McNabb hit Williams for 15 and 9, and Armstrong for another 10. With 32 seconds left in the game, the Redskins had 1st and goal at the 2. After an incomplete pass, a running play lost 4 yards. Another incomplete pass set up 4th and goal at the 16 with 13 seconds remaining. With everything on the line, McNabb fired to the end zone to Moss for the touchdown as the Redskins celebrated.

Then it happened. With the rain coming down, overtime was a virtual certainty. Except that the snap on the extra point was slightly high. It went right through the holder’s hands. Gano never had a chance to kick it. In a shocking ending, the Redskins lost at home on a failed extra point attempt. The Redskins are done at 5-8 while the Buccaneers are 8-5 and still in playoff contention. 17-16 Redskins.

St Louis Rams @ New Orleans Saints–In the NFC Worst, the 6-6 Rams under Steve Spagnuolo are tied for for first place, with Sam Bradford leading the charge. Yet today they are at the 9-3 defending champions, who are one game out of the division lead. Sean Payton knows the Saints have to go to Atlanta for the rematch, so they have to keep pace today.

Drew Brees went right to work, leading the Saints 72 yards in 13 plays over 6 1/2 minutes. After a pair of 3rd down conversions, the Saints faced 3rd and goal at the 5. Brees hit Marquis Colston for the score to have the Saints up 7-0. From the Rams 32, Stephen Jackson ripped off a 20 yard run, but then fumbled the ball away and the Saints were back in business at their own 39.

On 3rd and 8 Brees hit Moore for 12. On 3rd and 3 from the Rams 40, Brees found Reggie Bush for 6. On 3rd and goal at the 2, a touchdown pass was nullified by unsportsmanlike conduct on the offense. It did not matter, since on 3rd and goal from the 17, Brees hit Colston for the score to have the Saints up 14-0.

In the second quarter, Bradford led the Rams into the red zone, but no further. A 38 yard field goal by Josh Brown had the Rams within 14-3. Brees brought the Saints to a 4th and 4 at the Rams 33. Sean Payton decided to go for it, and an incomplete pass ended the drive. On the next Saints drive, Brees was intercepted, giving the Rams the ball at the Rams 43. A 23 yard pass to Gibson led to a 45 yard field goal as the Rams got to within 14-6.

The Saints fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and the Rams took over at the Saints 21 with 1:37 left in the half and all the momentum.  2 plays later came the key play of the game. Looking to tie the game, Bradford was intercepted by Jenkins, who returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. Just like that, the Saints led 21-6.

Midway through the third quarter, the Rams missed a chance to get closer when a 46 yard field goal try was no good. On 3rd and 5 from the Saints 41, Brees found Moore for 12. On 3rd and 10 Brees hit Colston for 11. Brees then went deep to Moore for a 31 yard touchdown to have the Saints rolling 28-6. The Saints tacked on a 40 yard field goal early in the fourth to extend the blowout. The Rams did get a garbage touchdown on 4th and goal at the 1 with 5 1/2 minutes left. The Saints improved to 10-3, one game out of their division lead. The Rams at 6-7 under Steve Spagnuolo are still tied for the NFC Worst division lead. 31-13 Saints

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers–Both of these teams are terrible, but in the NFC Worst that does not matter. Pete Carroll has Seattle at 6-6, while Mike Singletary at 4-8 can count on the rest of the division losing but not his team winning. He officially gets the Ray Rhodes all bark and no bite award if they have another losing season. Alex Smith takes from Troy Smith, which means something to somebody somewhere.

Today the 49ers were plenty of bite. Only 2 1/2 minutes into the game, Alex Smith hit Vernon Davis on a short pass that went for a 42 yard touchdown to quickly have the 49ers up 7-0. An exchange of punts had the Seahawks at their own 48. Matt Hasselbeck would end up hitting Martin on an 11 yard score to tie the game at 7-7. After that, the deluge came in only one direction.

On 3rd and 7 from the San Francisco 30, Smith hit Morgan for 21 and Dixon picked up 34. A 33 yard field goal by Reed had the 49ers up 10-7. In the second quarter Hasselbeck began completing passes to the San Francisco defense, a theme of the day. His first one set up the 49ers at the Seattle 44. A 44 yard field goal by Reed had the 49ers up 13-7. On the next series Hasselbeck was sacked and fumbled, as the 49ers began at the Seattle 17. On 3rd and 8 Smith hit Morgan for the score as the 49ers led 20-7.

On the next series Hasselbeck led Seattle to a 4th and 4 at the San Francisco 32. Pete Carroll opted against the field goal and decided to go for it. Hasselbeck threw incomplete. Smith then went deep to Bryan Westbrook, and instead of a possible 20-10 game, the 49ers led 27-7 with 1:50 left in the half. Haselbeck was intercepted again, and Butler returned it 20 yards to the Seattle 11. The defense held but Reed connected from 22 to have the 49ers romping 30-7.

The Seahawks began the second half with Hasselbeck getting intercepted again. Baker returned it 39 yards for a score as the 49ers led 37-7. Hasselbeck stayed in the game as Pete Carroll called Steve Sarkisian and Lame Kiffin searching for answers. Hasselbeck led Seattle on their next series to the San Francisco 7. Shockingly enough, Haselbeck was intercepted again. After an exchange of punts, Smith connected with Morgan for 46 yards to set up a 36 yard field goal as the 49ers led 40-7.

Leon Washington returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a score to make it 40-14. The comeback was on. No, it was not. A 4th and 2 pass from the San Francisco 33 by Hasselbeck was incomplete. With 9 minutes to go down by 26, for some reason Seattle tried a field goal from 43. It was no good. Seattle did get a garbage touchdown at the 2 minute warning. Smith finished 17 of 27 for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns while Hasselbeck was 27 of 42 for 285 yards and 2 touchdowns, but with 4 interceptions and a lost fumble. Seattle at 6-7 is still tied for the NFC Worst division lead. As for the 49ers, much fun has been made of Mike Singletary when the team was 1-7. Yet the 49ers have gone 4-1 since and at 5-8 are actually one game out of the division lead. 40-21 49ers

Denver Broncos @ Arizona Cardinals–A pair of 3-9 teams meet in the Stupor Bowl. Only 2 years ago Ken Whisenhunt had Kurt Warner in the Super Bowl. Now with Max Hall on ijured reserve and Derek Anderson concussed, they are down to 3rd stringer Skelton. Not even Red Skelton could help this team, although Denver will be playing their first game since some unknown running backs coach took over from Evil Hoodie Wannabe and now former coach Josh McDaniels.

Given his Cardinal colored jersey, the Cardinals did have a Red Skelton leading them. Yet this awful game was the Jay Feely show. To describe the action would be unfair to the game of football. Denver had Hauschka filling in for the injured Matt Prater, and his 32 yard field goal capped off an 11 play, 73 yard drive. Later in the quarter Kyle Orton was intercepted by Adams, who returned it 36 yards to the Denver 23. Feely connected from 36 to tie the game 3-3.

The Cardinals began the second quarter at the Denver 47. Feely hit a 48 yard field goal to have the Cardinals up 6-3. Denver fumbled on their next drive, an on their ensuing drive Orton was intercepted. With 4 minutes left in the half, the key and only noteworthy play of the game came with the Cardinals kicking another field goal on 4th and 2 at the Denver 5. Feely did score, but not through the uprights as Ken Whisenhunt called a fake field goal. Feely ran around the corner and made it in to have the Cardinals up 13-3. Feely would add a 55 yard field goal at the halftime gun to have the Cardinals up 16-3.

An uneventful second half saw Feely hit another field goal, this time from 23 yards out. Hauschka missed his second field goal in 3 tries, while Feely after making 4 would also miss one from long range. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Feely made his 5th field goal in 6 tries to along with his touchdown and even one extra point. He had every single one of Arizona’s points as the Cardinals led 22-3.

With the game out of reach the Broncos faced 4th and 10 at the Arizona 12. The new interim coach decided on a field goal to make it 22-6. Yet the Cardinals decided to not wear out Feely, so they began scoring touchdowns instead of field goals. After 5 carries by Stephens-Howling, Tim Hightower raced for 41 yards, then 7 more, and the final 8 for the score as the Cardinals led 29-6.

After 56 1/2 minutes of pathetic offense, the Broncos benefitted from defensive pass interference in the end zone. Knowshon Moreno scored the one yard touchdown as the Broncos trailed 29-13. Yet Denver did what they could to keep this game from ending respectably.

Tim Hightower broke free for a 35 yard touchdown run. The Orton was intercepted by Washington at the Denver 40. Washington returned it but started strutting like Leon Lett near the goal line. The officials ruled that he crossed the goal line before it was knocked out of his hands, but it would not have mattered since it bounced to an Arizona player anyway. It was that kind of day. Tim Tebow did not play, as the Denver misery continued and the Arizona losing streak was finally stopped. As insane as it sounds, the 4-9 Cardinals can still win their division, at which point the entire division should quit and join Division III in the college ranks. 43-13 Cardinals

New England Patriots @ Chicago Bears–The real Evil Hoodie still has not had to see his deal with the devil cashed in, as the Patriots are 10-2, atop the conference after a demolition of the hated Jets. The Bears at 9-3 lead their division as well, but Green Bay is right on their heels. An interesting chess match will be the rematch from 2001 between Bill Bellichick and Mike Martz. They split the 2 games, but New England won the one that counted.

New England punted early on, and Devon Hester returned it 17 yards to the New England 46. On 3rd and 1, Matt Forte lost 2 yards, ending any threat for the Bears all day. The game was played in a blizzard, and after Chicago punted, the Patriots took over at their own 15. Brady came out snow throwing, hitting Wes Welker for 8.  Green-Ellis ran for 12. On 3rd and 10 Brady hit Welker for 17. On 3rd and 12 from midfield, Brady found Deion Branch for 16 and Welker for 24 more. On 3rd and goal at the 7, Brady found Rob Gronkowski for the score as the Patriots led 7-0.

The Patriots began the second quarter at their own 13. Brady found Welker for 12 and Green-Ellis picked up 11. A 19 yard toss to Welker followed by Green-Ellis runs of 9 and 17 set up Danny Woodhead from 3 yards out to have the Patriots up 14-0. On the next Chicago play from scrimmage, Johnny Knox fumbled and Guyton returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to have the Patriots leading in a rout 21-0. They were far from done.

Julian Edelman returned a punt 42 yards to the Chicago 30. On 4th and 2 from the Chicago 12, Shane Graham nailed a 30 yard field goal to have the Patriots up 24-0. The Bears took over on their own 17, and one play was all they needed for Jay Cutler to get sacked and fumble. The Patriots took over at the Chicago 10. The defense held, but Graham connected from 25 to make it 27-0 Patriots.

With 1:38 left in the half, a 71 yard punt return by Julian Edelman was nullified by holding, the only break the Bears got. It did not matter. Brady went deep to Branch for a 59 yard touchdown with 5 seconds left in the half. The extra point was no good, which would have been critical had the Patriots not led 33-0 at halftime.

The Bears began on the second half by failing to convert on 3rd and 1 as Cutler threw incomplete. After the punt, the Patriots took over at their own 37. Ever the classy gentleman, Bellichick had Brady keep throwing. Brady hit Branch for 20, Green-Ellis picked up 13, and Brady hit Gronkowski for 15 more. The drive stalled, but Graham hit the 29 yarder as the Patriots led 36-0.

The Bears would eventually crack the scoreboard, but by then they had been exposed at home. Not even Mike Ditka and Refrigerator Perry could have saved them on this day. At 9-4 they still lead their division by one game. The Patriots at 11-2 lead the AFC, have a stranglehold on their defense, and have carpet-bombed 2 other good teams in consecutive weeks by a combined 81-10. They became the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth. Cutler was a miserable 12 of 26 for 152 yards and 2 interceptions. Brady was 27 of 40 for 369 yards and 2 touchdowns in his winter wonderland passing clinic.The deal with the devil that the Evil Hoodie made has apparently not expired yet. 36-7 Patriots

Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets–Miami cannot win at home, but plays well on the road. The Jets got destroyed by New England last week. Nevertheless, Rx Ryan and his bravado boys are still 9-3, while Miami at 6-6 is another loss from sleeping with their fellow fishes.

Mark Sanchez was intercepted, setting up the Dolphins at the Jets 42. Dan Carpenter kicked a 47 yard field goal to have the Dolphins up 3-0. On the next series Sanchez was hit and fumbled, giving the Dolphins the ball at the Jets 26. On 3rd and goal from the 6, Chad Henne hit Brandon Marshall for the touchdown. The Dolphins led 10-0, and the final 47 minutes of the game should have been canceled.

In the second quarter the Jets faced 4th and 1 from the Miami 37. Brad Smith took a direct snap and got stopped cold. Yet the Dolphins fumbled the ball right back, and Nick Folk hit a 35 yard field goal to have the Jets down 10-3. Miami fumbled again, giving the Jets the ball at midfield. With one minute left in the half Rex Ryan decided to punt rather than try a 54 yard field goal. That decision would loom large later on.

An awful second half saw the Jets take over at their own 7 with 10 1/2 minutes left in regulation. On 3rd and 13 from the 15 Sanchez scrambled for 14. Sanchez then found Santonio Holmes deep for a 42 yard gain to the Miami 26. The drive went cold, but Folk connected from 42 as the Jets trailed 10-6 with 5 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

The Jets got one final shot with 2:16 to play from their own 25. On 3rd and 14 from the 32, Sanchez found Cotcherry for 15. Yet with time winding down, the Miami defense dug in and sacked Sanchez twice to end the threat. Rex Ryan has seen hi team fail to score a touchdown in 2 straight games to drop to 9-4. The division is all but lost although if they right the ship they can still steer it into the playoffs. Tony Sparano continues to see his team lose at home but win on the road with just enough offense and a suffocating defense. At 7-6, the Dolphins are still in playoff contention.   10-6 Dolphins

Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers–San Diego lost a stunner at home last week to the Raiders t fall to 6-6, as Norvelous Norv Turner saw his team come perilously close to elimination. Yet they are only 2 games back of Kansas City, and a win today would tighten things up again. The big story is that Todd Haley this week will be without Matt Cassel, who had an appendectomy 4 days ago.

The Chargers took over at their own 33. On 3rd and 1 Vincent Jackson ran for 14. On 3rd and 2 from the Chiefs 36, Rivers gained 4. On 3rd and 5 form the 27, Rivers hit Jackson for 10 and then threw the 17 yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Floyd to have the Chargers up 7-0 to complete the 10 play, 67 yard, 6 minute drive.

In the second quarter the Chargers began at their own 31. Rivers hit Mike Tolbert for 13. On 3rd and 9 he found Jackson for 19. From the Chiefs 26, Rivers found Floyd at the 8. Floyd fumbled but Jacob Hester recovered to keep the 5 minute drive going. Tolbert ran it in on the next play to have the Chargers up 14-0.

With 3 1/2 minutes left in the half the Chargers got the ball back at their own 19. Tolbert picked up 18 yards and then 6 more. On 3rd and 5 from the Chiefs 43, Rivers hit Sproles for 6 and then 9 more. Sproles then ran for 19, and Rivers hit Floyd for the 9 yard score just before the half to have the Chargers cruising 21-0.

The forgettable second half saw Rivers throw an interception and lose a fumble in the third quarter, with the Chiefs so anemic on offense that nothing came out of it. Early in the fourth quarter a 10 play, 5 1/2 minute drive that led to a 48 yard Nate Kaeding field goal to have the Chargers up 24-0. Late in the game a 42 yard punt return had the Chargers at the Chiefs 36. On 3rd and 8 from the 15, Mathews ran around the end for the finals core of the game.

Instead of the Chiefs locking up the division, the 7-6 Chargers are one game back of the 8-5 Chiefs. Philip Rivers was an efficient 18 of 24 for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns with one interception. As for the Chiefs, they desperately need Cassel back. Brodie Croyle has never won a game, going 0-10 in his career starts. Today he was 7 of 17 for a pathetic 40 yards passing. 31-0 Chargers

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys is the Sunday night game. Walrus Lite Andy Reid has seen Michael Vick take the Eagles to 8-4 and a tie for the division lead with a showdown with the Giants still to come. Yet since Jason Garret took over the Cowboys, they have been one heartbreaking play by the defending champs away from going 4-0. Nevertheless, winning 3 of 4 still makes them a very dangerous spoiler as Garrett wants to fend off Jerry Jones from bringing in a big name coach from outside.

Vick began exactly as he did on the road at Washington when the Eagles racked up 59 point. He rolled to his left, fired deep across the field to the right to a streaking Desean Jackson for  a 60 yard gain to the Dallas 13. On 4th and 1 from the 4, Andy Reid decided to go for it. Yet the one thing Reid does not do is run up the middle because they never make it. Yet this time they actually did get 3 yards from McCoy. On the next play Vick took a snap in the shotgun and raced up the middle to have the Eagles up 7-0 only 3 minutes into the game.

Jon Kitna returned the favor as the Cowboys moved 77 yards in 10 plays over 6 minutes. On 3rd and 6 from the Dallas 45, an incomplete pass was nullified by a defensive facemask to keep the drive going. From the Dallas 40, Miles Austin, despite dating a Kardashian showed some substance by taking a double reverse 26 yards. Tashard Choice picked up 9 and then 3 more. On 3rd and goal from the 1, Kitna hit Jason Witten for the score to tie the game 7-7. After that, the defenses settled in.

After several exchanges of punts, the Eagles took over midway through the second quarter just shy of midfield. From the Dallas 39, Vick tossed a short pass to Jackson, who raced 37 yards to the 2 yard line. On 3rd and goal Vick hit Herremans for the score as the Eagles regained the lead at 14-7. After an exchange of interceptions, Kitna worked the 2 minute drill well enough to give David Buehler a chance from 50 with 13 seconds left in the half. Buehler snuck it just inside the upright as the Eagles went to the locker rooms leading 14-10.

The Cowboys began the second half at their own 33. On 3rd and 6 from the 42, Kitna hit Bennett for 11 and Witten for another 17. The drive stalled, but a 43 yard Buehler field goal had the Cowboys within 14-13.

The Eagles took over at their own 22 and Vick fired to Jackson for 22 yards. Yet on the next play Vick rolled to his right and fired back across to the middle of the field, which quarterbacks should not do. The pas was catchable, but it bounced off the receiver’s fingers and was intercepted. Dallas took over at the Philly 38. Kitna hit Felix Jones on a screen pass, and Jones took it all the way to the 2 yard line. After losing a yard, Jones scored from the 3. Jason Garrett wisely opted not to attempt the 2 point conversion as the Cowboys had their first lead of the game 20-14 midway through the third quarter.

The Eagles came right back as McCoy broke off a 55 yard run to the Dallas 21. Philly got nothing else and settled for a 39 yard David Akers field goal to get within 20-17. Dallas punted and Philly took over at their own 40. After a sack, Vick hit Cooper for 11 and Avant for 13 more. With 3rd and 2 at the 34, Vick hit Avant for 4 as the third quarter ended. One minute into the fourth quarter, Akers drilled a 50 yard field goal to tie the game 20-20.

Dallas went 3 and out on their next possession, and a strong punt had the Eagles backed up to their own 9 yard line. 91 yards took only one play as Vick threw a swing pass to Jackson, who shook one tackle and outraced everybody. Jackson was flagged for an excessive celebration penalty, but the Eagles led 27-20.

Dallas took over at their own 32 and they also needed only one play. Unfortunately for them, it was Kitna being intercepted by Patterson at the Dallas 33. McCoy picked up 13. On 4th and 1 from the 11 Andy Reid took no chances, deciding on the sure footed Akers to get the 2 score lead. Akers hit from 28 as the Eagles 16 unanswered points turned a 6 point deficit into a 10 point lead at 30-20 with 8 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

Dallas took over at their own 20 and Kitna hit Witten for 14 and then scrambled for 9. With 5 1/2 minutes left, it all came down to 4th and 7 at the Philly 49. Kitna scrambled for 10, hit Choice for 21, and then found Witten, who broke tackles for the 22 yard score. With 4 1/2 minutes to play, the Cowboys were within 30-27. Then an interesting occurrence happened on the ensuing kickoff.

Rookie Calvin fielded it in the end zone and decided not to run it out. Yet rather than take a knee, he ran sideways in the end zone thinking he was taking time off the clock. On a kickoff return, the clock does not start until the ball is in the field of play, which excludes the end zone. So in addition to running around for nothing, he also earned a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty for retaliating after getting shoved in the end zone. Philly took over at their own 10 as Dallas desperately needed a stop.

They could not get it as they had no answers for McCoy, who took a pass 6 yards, ran for 12 more, picked up another 19, and then again for another 13. Dallas took their final timeout with 2:33 left and the Eagles at the Dallas 40. Vick scrambled for 9 and stayed in bounds as the 2 minute warning hit. Dallas could not stop the clock, and Philly needed only one more yard to ice the game. On 3rd and 1 with everything on the line for both teams, the linemen on both teams collided and the Eagles won the battle as McCoy picked up 6 and then went down to avoid fumbling.

Andy Reid teams usually play smart football, and the Eagles improved to 9-4 before their showdown with the Giants. Dallas fell to 4-9, although they are much improved. In an odd scene after the game, Michael Vick was seen autographing something for a Dallas player. It was most likely for the man’s kid, but most coaches would fine a guy for getting an autograph from an opposing player after that guy just beat you. 30-27 Eagles

Baltimore Ravens @ Houston Texans is the Monday night game.–The Ravens lost a bloody game last week at home in heartbreaking fashion. At 8-4 they are one game out of the division lead when they were one or 2 plays away from having a stranglehold on it. John Harbaugh sees his team on the road against the 5-7 Texans, as Bob McNair decides what to do with Gary Kubiak, who is most likely out of miracles. The Ravens have a ruthless defense, but most likely there will be no punches thrown by or at Andre Johnson in this one. Matt Schaub will have a stern test against Ray Lewis and company.

Midway through the first quarter the Ravens began their second possession at their own 48. On 2nd and 14 Joe Flacco hit Ray Rice for 16 and McClain for 17. Defensive pass interference in the end zone led to a one yard Willis McGahee run to have the Ravens up 7-0. On the first play of the second quarter a 52 yard field goal by the Texans was short, keeping them off the scoreboard.

Midway through the second quarter a field position game favored the Ravens, and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a punt against Houston had the Ravens set  up at the Texans 44. Rice picked up 16 and Flacco hit TJ Houshmanzedah for 14 more. On 3rd and 6 from the 9, Flacco hit Derrick Mason, who made a spectacular one handed catch in the end zone to have the Ravens up 14-0.

With just over 2 minutes left in the half, a pass by Matt Schaub bounced off a receiver’s hands and was intercepted. From the Houston 38, Flacco hit Mason for 20 at the 2 minute warning. A blindside blitz sack led to a fumble just like the one that killed the Ravens against Pittsburgh. Yet this time the Ravens retained possession. On the next play Flacco hit Mason for a 26 yard touchdown. Mason lost his shoe while jumping in the air, but kept the ball for the score as the Ravens led 21-0. With the Ravens in total control, one defensive breakdown got the Texans back in the game. Schaub went deep to Andre Johnson for a 46 yard touchdown pass to have the Texans down 21-7 at halftime.

The backbreaker came when David Reed fielded the second half kickoff 3 yards in the end zone for the Ravens and ran into 3 tacklers at the Baltimore 25. Yet he never went down, broke another tackle, got to the sideline, had a convoy, and finished with a 103 yard return to have the Ravens up 28-7

6 dropped passes killed the Texans, including more than one to wide open receivers. Schaub drove the Texans to a 3rd and goal, when a dropped pass in the end zone led to Gary Kubiak disgustedly deciding on a field goal. Neil Rackers made this one as the Texans still trailed 28-10. A deep bomb for a touchdown was ruled out of bounds as the receiver’s knee hit the chalk. Gary Kubiak unsuccessfully challenged the call, and the Texans settled for a 4 yard field goal to trail 28-13 as the third quarter was ending.

With 11 minutes left in regulation, the Ravens faced 4th and 5 at the Houston 38. John Harbaugh decided to punt, and the Texans took over at their own one yard line. From his own end zone, Schaub fired to Owen Daniels at the Houston 24. On 3rd and 3, Schaub hit Anderson for 10. On 3rd and 10, Schaub hit Arriun Foster for 8 to set up 4th and 2 at the Baltimore 35 with 8 minutes left. Schaub hit Andre Johnson for 13. Foster ran for 10, and with 6 minutes left it came down to 4th and 5 at the 7. Schaub hit Jones for the score to complete the 15 play, 99 yard drive that took 5 minutes, as the Ravens were still alive down only 28-20.

The Ravens moved from their own 25 to a 3rd and 2 at the Houston 44 as the Texans took their last timeout. A first down would end the game. Yet Harbaugh was not in the mood for a conservative run. He had Flacco throw, and the bold gamble backfired as Harbaugh fired incomplete. On 4th and 2 Harbaugh opted to punt. Another great punt pinned the Texans back at their own 5. On the previous drive the Texans moved 99 yards against the vaunted Baltimore defense. This time Houston would have to move 95 yards with 0 timeouts and 2:42 to play.

Schaub hit Walter for 16 as the 2 minute warning came. With 1:38 left the Texans faced 4th and 1 at their own 30 as the Ravens took a timeout on defense. Schaub hit Johnson for 7 and Johnson got out of bounds to stop the clock. Schaub hit Johnson for another 20 yards and again Johnson got to the sideline. Schaub hit Johnson a third time for 8 yards, and then scrambled for 8 himself as the clock stopped with exactly one minute left and the Texans facing 1st and 10 at the Houston 27. Schaub hit Foster, who evaded 2 tacklers and just made it to the sideline after a 10 yard gain. Schaub then hit Johnson for 12, and raced to the line to spike the ball. From the 5, Schaub evaded a sack and fired to the back of the end zone. Johnson got one foot down and then his other foot came down in bounds just before his hand came down out of bounds. The acrobatic catch had the Texans within a deuce. Schaub stepped back, and fired a bullet perfectly into the arms of Jones. With 24 seconds left, the Texans had come from down 21 to tie the game 28-28.

The Ravens defense was totally out of gas, and breathed a sigh of relief when Baltimore won the toss to start overtime. The Ravens took over on their own 20, and on 3rd and 5 Flacco hit Anquon Boldin for 16. On 3rd and 10, Flacco was sacked. Another great punt had the Texans starting at their own 9. After going 99 and 95 yards, being only 91 yards away was not so bad. Schaub had already thrown 60 passes, and his 61st could have been intentional grounding for a safety. It was ruled incomplete. Schaub was not so lucky on his 62nd pass as a routine screen was intercepted by Josh Wilson, who strolled 12 yards for the touchdown.

In front of a shocked home crowd that included former President George Herbert Walker Bush, a valiant comeback by the Texans ended in heartbreaking fashion. They have lost three times this year on the final play of a game, including a Hail Mary. At 5-8 they are pretty much eliminated from contention, and Gary Kubiak might not be back next year. The Ravens have played 2 straight thrillers, and after a decade of relying on defense, this time the offense carried them early on, although fittingly enough the exhausted defense won it in the end. The Ravens at 9-4 remain one game back of Pittsburgh in the division, and are on track for the playoffs. 34-28 Ravens, OT

New York Giants @ Minnesota Vikings is the second Monday night game. For those not paying attention, the entire Giants team got caught in a snowstorm and got stranded in Kansas City. The game was moved from Sunday afternoon to Monday night. Brett Favre was given an extra 31 hours to heal.

Making things even more crazy, the roof of the Metrodome collapsed, making it unsafe to play the game there at all. The NFL quickly scrambled to find another location in Minnesota, but nothing was feasible. The league decided to move the game to Ford Field in Detroit. Pro Football was played in Detroit 50 years ago when Bobby Layne quarterbacked the Lions. The Lions still play, but it is not considered pro football.

Ironically, although the Vikings would be the “home” team, the crowd would most likely be rooting for the Giants, cheating Minnesota out of a vital home game. Yet the Giants had to do most of the traveling. Lastly, since the tickets would be free and Detroit fans are known for being so well behaved when drunk, it was expected that the stadium would be in worse condition after the game than the Metrodome, requiring Detroit and Minnesota to find new facilities.

As for the game itself, the Giants at 8-4 are tied for their division lead and still have a rematch with Philly. The 5-7 Vikings have won 2 straight since Leslie Frazier took over. Either Brett Favre will start or he won’t. Either Tarvaris Jackson will start or he won’t. That comes straight from Frazier.

In the year 2030, if Tavaris Jackson is still starting, Brett Favre will be no big deal. Barring that, the Brett Favre streak ending is monumental. People should not use the number 297. The actual number is 321. Of course playoff games should be included. The beatings are even more severe. From now on 321 will be known for the area code of Cape Canaveral in Florida and Brett Favre. Some records will never be broken. Given the brutality of football, this may be one of them.

Favre was inactive, Jackson got the nod, and Eli Manning began by completing passes to the Minnesota defense. Manning’s first pick had the Vikings starting at the Giants 34. On 4th and 1, Leslie Frazier decided to go for it, and Jackson gained 2 after initially being stopped. The drive stopped at the 3 yard line, and Ryan Longwell connected from 21. Manning’s second interception did not lead to any points, as the Giants defense kept them in the game. The Vikings faced 4th and 2 at the Giants 37, and Frazier opted to punt.

One play turned the game around. On 2nd and 8 from the Giants 13, Brandon Jacobs rumbled for 73 yards to the Minnesota 14. Ahmad Bradshaw gained another 11, and on 3rd and goal from the 1, Jacobs took it in to put the Giants up 7-3. With less than 2 minutes in the half, a shotgun snap over Jackson’s head led to 4th and 24 and a punt. A Minnesota personal foul on the punt had the Giants take over at their own 46 with 1:33 to work with.

Manninh hit Hakeem Nicks for 30 yards. On 3rd and 6, Manning hit Kevin Boss for 1st and 10 at the 13 with 23 second left in the half. Manning hit Hagan for 10 and the Giants took their last timeout with 13 seconds left in the half. An exchange of penalties had the Giants at the 6 with 8 seconds left. Manning hit Boss for the touchdown as the Giants led 14-3 at halftime.

Late in the third quarter Bradshaw raced for a 48 yard touchdown to have the Giants up 21-3. With Percy Harvin out of the lineup due to migraines, it was Booker who gave the Vikings a ray of hope for a 96 yard touchdown return. The hope was dashed when the return was nullified due to an illegal block.

Minnesota still had very good field position at their own 43, and on 3rd and 15 after a sack, Jackson found Simeon Rice for 22 yards. Unsportsmanlike conduct on the Giants bench added 15 more to the Giants 25. A false start and a sack killed the drive and the Vikings punted again to end the third quarter. A scoreless rest of the game allowed the Giants to get to 9-4, tied for the division lead with their showdown with Philadelphia next week. The Vikings at 5-8 are effectively eliminated from playoff contention. Leslie Frazier lost his first game as a head coach while Tom Coughlin was so pleased with the win that he almost smiled. 21-3 Giants


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