Hanukkah 2015 Night 1: NFL 2015 Week 13 Recap

Hanukkah 2015 Night 1: NFL 2015 Week 13 Recap

What a great night for Jewish football fans, as Hanukkah 2015 Night 1 wraps up NFL 2015 Week 13. Light those Menorahs and dance the Horah! Let’s play some football!

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions was the Thursday night game. The Packers were reeling after losing 4 of 5 after their 6-0 start while the Lions began 1-7 but then won 3 straight. For almost all of this game, those trends continued. By the time this game was over, football fans had seen three miraculous finishes in the last 7 days. They would also see another finish where the officials received attention for all the wrong reasons.

Matt Prater kicked off the scoring with a 51 yard field goal for the Lions. Detroit got the ball back and moved 76 yards. On 3rd and 2 from the Detroit 3, Matthew Stafford hit Eric Ebron for the touchdown and the 10-0 Lions lead. Aaron Rodgers was then quickly intercepted, giving the Lions the ball at the Detroit 17. One play later Stafford threw another touchdown to Calvin Megatron Johnson as the Lions led 17-0 after the first quarter. Early in the second quarter Mason Crosby doinked a 41 yard field off the upright no good. Prater hit a 34 yard field goal in the third quarter as the Lions led 20-0. Jim Caldwell was so pleased he almost made a facial expression.

Jim Caldwell is a good man, but he has been cursed with coaching a franchise that has won one playoff game since 1957. The decades go by, but the Lions are who they are. The Packers moved from their 25 to the Detroit 8. James Starks got the carry but fumbled at the Detroit 3. The ball went forward into the end zone but was recovered in the end zone by Randall Cobb for a lucky Packers touchdown. Green Bay trailed 20-7, but there was plenty of time left. After a touchback, Stafford was immediately sacked and fumbled. The Packers took over at the Detroit 12. On 3rd and 6, Rodgers found Devonta Adams for the touchdown as the Packers only trailed 20-14 after three quarters.

Anyone who has watched the Lions knew they would collapse. It was only a matter of time. Yet in the fourth quarter, the Lions took 13 plays to eat up 6 1/2 minutes off the clock. They converted a third down and even successfully converted a fourth and two at the Green Bay 38. Prater hit a 42 yard field goal as the Lions led 23-14 midway through the fourth quarter. All they needed was a stop and the game was over.

The Packers took over at their own 16. On 3rd and one Rodgers threw incomplete. With 6 minutes left, Mike McCarthy had the Packers go for it on 4th and 1 from their own 25. Rodgers hit Cobb for 16 yards. On 3rd and 11 from the Detroit 17, Detroit needed one more stop. Rodgers had nobody to throw to, but he scrambled down the sideline all the way for the touchdown. With only 3 minutes left, the Packers were within 23-21.

The Packers used their timeouts on defense as only 10 seconds went off the clock. With 2:54 to play, the Lions faced 3rd and 12 at their own 18. With Green Bay out of timeouts, a run would take 40 seconds more off the clock. An incomplete pass would stop the clock. Jim Caldwell decided to gamble big, as a pass play was called. Stafford came up big, hitting Jones for a 29 yard gain. Now the Lions could run down the clock to almost nothing. On 3rd and 12 from the Detroit 45, this time Caldwell took no chances. A safe run lost a yard but by the time the Packers got the ball back at their own 21, only 23 seconds remained. After a couple of Rodgers incompletions, the Packers faced 3rd and 10 at their own 21 with only six seconds left.

Rodgers has a cannon of an arm, but 79 yards was too much to ask. Rather than try the Hail Mary, the Packers tried the hook and laterals. When the ball was eventually lateraled back to Rodgers, he was tackled at the Green Bay 24 by Taylor. The clock was at double zeroes. The Lions had swept the Packers and were now alive in the playoff race. Then the curse of the Lions reared its ugly head.

A defensive facemark penalty was called on the play. While replays showed that Taylor may have gotten his thumb inside Rodgers’s facemark for a fraction of a second, he did not twist or pull on it in any way. Rodgers was not taken down by his facemark. He was pulled down by his jersey by his collar. It was a legal tackle. The call was horrendous. The NFL used to have a 5 yard incidental facemask penalty, but this would not even rise to that level. That no longer exists, and the 15 yard personal foul call gave the Packers one untimed down at their own 39.

The Lions sent only three rushers. Rodgers just barely avoided a sack and was chased to his right. He then unloaded a Hail Mary. Richard Rodgers caught the ball in the end zone! For the Packers, it was the Motor City Miracle. it may have been referee redemption for the Fail Mary loss to Seattle a few years earlier by the replacement refs in their final game. Golden Tate caught that pass against Green Bay. This time he was on the sideline watching Detroit collapse. For the Lions, it was a second game this year ending with a controversial call against them. They could be 6-6 instead of 4-8.

However, the Lions lost that earlier game because they fumbled at the one yard line. In this game they blew a 20-0 lead. They also did not have Megatron on the field to defend the Hail Mary. Coach Caldwell said after the game that he was expecting another hook and lateral play rather than a Hail Mary. There is plenty to blame the Lions for, and yes, the Packers showed heart to get to 8-4 and drop the Lions to 4-8. Yet that Hail Mary never should have been allowed to be attempted. In a nightmarish season for the officials, they blew another big call. The Lions may fire Jim Caldwell after the season. If coaches and players get affected, officials should as well. Heads should roll over the phantom penalty call, and perhaps that is something that should be reviewable in the future. Controversy aside, it was a thrilling finish for the ages. 27-23 Packers

San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears — The 49ers are done while the Bears cling to playoff hopes. The Bears had a punt return for a touchdown called back due to holding on the return. Robbie Gould kicked 40 and 51 yard field goals to make it 6-0 Bears early on. However, Jay Cutler did what he does far too often. Cutler was intercepted by Ward, who returned the pick 29 yards to the house for a 6-6 tie. The extra point try was blocked. In the second quarter Matt Forte ran for a 5 yard touchdown to cap off an 80 yard drive and make it 13-6 Bears. The 49ers came back with a 16 play, 81 yard, 7 minute drive. Draughn got in from the one to tie the game 13-13.

The Bears had the ball for 6 minutes to start the third quarter, but the normally reliable Robbie Gould missed a 40 yard field goal. Midway through the fourth quarter the Bears got the ball at their own 17. Cutler went to Jeffery for 30 and Mariani for 26 more. Karey got in from the 4 to make it 20-13 Bears with 3 1/2 minutes left. The 49ers for it back at their own 36. With 1:52 to play, the 49ers faced 3rd and 3 at the Chicago 44. Blaine Gabbert may be one of the most criticized quarterbacks in football, but not today. He scrambled all the way for the touchdown to tie the game 20-20.

The Bears thought they had the win when Thompson returned the ensuing kickoff 74 yards to the san Francisco 28 with 90 seconds left. With 2 seconds left, Gould came in for the 36 yarder to win it as he has done so many times before. He was no good again as a shocked home crowd saw overtime. After an exchange of punts, the 49ers took over at their own 29 only 2 minutes into overtime. Gabbers then went deep to Torry Smoth for a 71 yard touchdown in front of a now shellshocked crowd. For Gould, his nightmare game most likely knocked the Bears from playoff contention. For Gabbert, it was sweet vindication, at least for one week. 26-20 49ers, OT

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns — The 9-2 Bengals took on the 2-9 Browns as Mike Pettine decided to start Austin Davis over his bench party boy. Red Rifle Andy Dalton moved the ball 84 yards in 10 plays, running the final 3 yards himself for a 7-0 Bengals lead. In the second quarter Dalton found AJ Green for a 23 yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Bengals. Mike Nugent tacked on a 44 yard field goal to make it 17-0 Bengals. An interception of Davis set up a 40 yard Nugent field goal for a 20-0 Bengals lead. Travis Coons hit a 47 yard field goal to have the Browns trailing 20-3 at intermission.

In the third quarter from the Cincy 38, the Bengals quickly moved to put the game away. From the Cleveland 21, a pass from Dalton to Green was ruled a touchdown and then reversed to a completion at the one. Jeremy Hill got in to make it 27-3 Bengals. Another 62 yard drive had Dalton going to Jones, and this time the 21 yard touchdown pass stood to make it 34-3 Bengals. The rest of the game was garbage time, as the Bengals added one more field goal. Will Mike Pettine play Johnny Manziel now that the Browns have double digit losses. Pettine and Manziel may both be gone after this awful Cleveland season. 37-3 Bengals

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans — These teams are both done. Marcus Mariota led a 12 play, 80 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive and threw a 10 yard touchdown pass to Stevens to make it 7-0 Titans. In the second quarter Blake Bortles moved the Jaguars 75 yards in 10 plays and threw a 2 yard touchdown pass to Greene. The extra point was no good as the Jags trailed 7-6. The Titans responded with a 10 play, 90 yard, 6 minute drive. Mariota found Melanie Walker for a 7 yard touchdown pass for a 14-6 Titans lead. The Jaguars moved 66 yards and Yeldon got in from the one. The 2 point try failed as the Jags trailed 14-12. The Titans came back 75 yards and Andrews got in from the one to make it 21-12 Titans at the break.

In the third quarter it was the Jaguars going 64 yards in 14 plays and 7 1/2 minutes. Robinson had the one yard touchdown to get the Jaguars within 21-19. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Marionta’s third touchdown pass went to Green-Beckham for 47 yards and a 28-19 Titans lead. The Jaguars came back again in the fourth quarter, moving 80 yards. Bortles threw an 8 yard touchdown to Robinson. Myers missed his second extra point on the day, which is why the Jaguars trailed 28-25 with 12 minutes left in regulation rather than be in a tie game.

Both quarterbacks had been playing well, but then Mariota blundered. On 3rd and 8 from his own 10, Mariota was sacked and fumbled. The Jaguars recovered at the Tennessee 9. One play later Bortles threw his fourth touchdown pass, a 9 yarder to Thomas for a 32-28 Jaguars lead with 10 minutes left in regulation. Mariota came right back as these bad teams were putting on a great football game. With the Titans facing 3rd and 7 at their own 13, Mariota scrambled and ran all the way for an 87 yard touchdown as the home crowd went crazy. With 8 1/2 minutes left, the Titans had regained the lead 35-32. Two plays later with the Jaguars facing 2nd and 4 from their 26, A bad snap out of the shotgun was picked up by the defense all the way at the Jacksonville three yard line. Woodyard ran it in from there to make it 42-32 Titans.

Bortles was not done. He needed only 4 plays to move the Jaguars 80 yards and throw his 5th touchdown pass, a 7 yarder to Robinson. With 6 1/2 minutes left the Jaguars were within a field goal. However, this was not the game to ask for a defensive stop. After a touchback the Titans moved again. The Jaguars took their last timeout with 3:43 to play and the Titans facing a critical 3rd and 3 at the Jacksonville 42. This time Gus Bradley’s defense held, sacking Mariota for a 5 yard loss. The Jaguars got it back at their own 11 with 3 minutes left.

On 4th and 6 Bortles was sacked and the Titans took over at the Jacksonville 6. On 4th and goal at the one with 23 seconds left, Mariota threw incomplete. Going 99 yards in 19 seconds is tough, but the Jaguars never got the chance. Defensive pass interference allowed the Titans to take a knee and end this thrilling football game. Mariota was 20 of 29 for 268 yards, 3 touchdown passes and one touchdown running, and one interception. Bortles was 24 of 36 for 322 yards, 5 touchdown passes and 0 interceptions. Yet missed extra points killed the Jaguars. Meanwhile, these 2 quarterbacks will be around for a long time. 42-39 Titans


Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills — The 6-5 Texans and 5-6 Bills played a game with playoff desperation on the line. Tyron Taylor threw a 3 yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins to make it 7-0 Bills. Bryan Hoyer brought the Texans back with an 11 play, 80 yard, 5 1/2 minute drive. An 8 yard touchdown pass to Griffin had the Texans within 7-6 but the extra point try failed. In the second quarter the Bills moved 71 yards and Taylor ran for an 8 yard touchdown to make it 14-6 Bills. Rex Ryan was clearly in ground and pound mode as Taylor at this point had only thrown 3 passes, completing 2 for 15 yards. The Bills already had more than 100 rushing yards. Hoyer brought the Texans back again with a 60 yard, 10 play, 5 minute drive. Hoyer hit Polk for an 11 yard touchdown as the Texans trailed 14-13. Taylor quickly moved the Bills 71 yards and threw a 2 yard touchdown to Woods to have the Bills up 21-13 at halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, The Texans moved 83 yards in the fourth quarter. Hoyer found Deandre Hopkins for a 19 yard touchdown. Grimes ran it the 2 point try to tie the game 21-21 with 9 minutes left in regulation. With 2 1/2 minutes left the Bills took over and quickly faced 1st and 20 at their own 25. Taylor found Hogan for 12 and LeSean McCoy raced for 20 more. At the 2 minute warning from the Houston 40. Taylor went deep to Clay for the touchdown. Dan Carpenter doinked the extra point try off the upright. The Bills led 27-21, but an angry Carpenter knew what that miss could mean.

After a touchback, the defense bailed Carpenter out as Hoyer threw 4 straight incompletions. Three safe runs had Carpenter coming in with 37 seconds left for a 36 yard field goal. Carpenter got his redemption and the Bills locked up the win. Both teams are 6-6 as the Texans saw their 4 game win streak snapped. 30-21 Bills.

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins — Sometimes a pair of bad teams can come together to play an incredibly great football game. This was not that game. In the second quarter the Ravens used 8 1/2 minutes to move to a 3rd and 1 at the Miami 2. After a run got stuffed, John Harbaugh decided to go for it. Matt Schaub took it himself and got stoned for no gain. After 28 minutes of bad football, Schaub did what he does. At the 2 minute warning, he was intercepted to set up the Dolphins at the Baltimore 38. Ryan Tannehill immediately went to Parker for the touchdown for the 7-0 Dolphins lead in the Nobody Cares Bowl. 20 seconds later Schaub was intercepted again, and it was returned 22 yards by Shelby for another touchdown and a 13-0 Dolphins lead. The Ravens blocked the extra point and returned it for a 2 point score the other way, but it was wiped out by an offsides penalty. Given another chance, the Dolphins went for 2 and ran it in for a 15-0 lead. Justin Tucker did hit a 38 yard field goal for the Ravens to have them trailing 15-3 at the break.

In the third quarter Schaub threw a 41 yard touchdown pass to Allen to get the Ravens within 15-10. Tucker hit a 47 yard field goal in the fourth quarter to have the Ravens within a deuce. With under 3 minutes to play Harbaugh decided to give Tucker a chance at a 55 yard field goal for the lead. The kick was no good. The Ravens got it back after a touchback with 20 seconds left. With 2 seconds left, the Ravens were at their own 39. Would America see its 2nd 61 yard Hail Mary in 4 days? No. Schaub is not Aaron Rodgers and Baltimore is not Green Bay. A pass of only about 20 yards was incomplete to end this hideously ugly game. Schaub was 32 of 46 for 308 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. Tannehill was an awful 9 of 19 for 86 total yards with 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. 15-13 Dolphins

Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings — The Seahawks are 6-5 and clinging to playoff life while the 8-3 Vikings want to maintain their NFC North lead. Early on the Seahawks moved 81 yards in 12 plays and 7 1/2 minutes. Rawls got in from 5 yards out to make it 7-0 Seahawks. In the second quarter after a punt pinned them at their own 2 yard line, the Seahawks moved 98 yards in 13 plays and 6 minutes. Russell Wilson ran for the final 8 yards on 3rd and 7 to make it 14-0 Seahawks. Earl Thomas then intercepted Teddy Bridgewater and returned it 25 yards, with a 15 yard penalty moving the Seahawks all the way to the Minnesota 20. One play later Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin for a 21-0 Seahawks lead.

A field position game in the third quarter had the Seahawks starting at the Minnesota 42. On 3rd and goal at the 5, Wilson found Fred Jackson for the touchdown to make it 28-0 Seahawks. Wilson then threw a 53 yard touchdown to Baldwin for a 35-0 Seahawks lead. Cordarelle Patterson returned the ensuing kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown to prevent the shutout. The entire fourth quarter was garbage time as the Seahawks added a Steve Hauschka field goal. The blowout win had the Seahawks very much alive in the playoff race at 7-5 while the 8-4 Vikings fell back into a tie for the NFC North lead. 38-7 Seahawks

Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams — The Cardinals are a 9-2 wrecking machine while the Rams have lost 4 straight after a decent start. The Rams beat the Cardinals in the Desert, but today was supposed to be payback time. Carson Palmer led the Cardinals 80 yards in 10 plays and 5 minutes as a 22 yard touchdown pass to Nelson made it 7-0 Cardinals. Chandler Catanzaro tacked on a 33 yard field goal in the second quarter as the Cardinals took a 10-0 lead into the locker room against a resilient Rams team with a good defense but no offense. Zack Hocker did hit a 35 yard field goal in the third quarter to get the Rams within 10-3.

A fumble on the ensuing kickoff had the Cardinals starting at their own 2. This time the Rams defense could not get a stop. On 3rd and 3 Palmer went deep to Floyd for a 31 yard gain. On 3rd and 8 from the Rams 10, Palmer found David Johnson for the touchdown and the 17-3 Cardinals lead with 6 minutes left in the third quarter. Arizona got it back and moved 81 yards. Williams ran for a 35 yard touchdown to put the game away. Arizona added one more field goal in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals at 10-2 are in strong position for a first round bye while five straight losses has Jeff Fisher on the hot seat. 27-3 Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Atlanta after a 5-0 start has been reeling to fall to 6-5 while the Buccaneer have slowly moved in the right direction to get to 5-6. In the first quarter Jameis Winston led a 13 play, 77 yard, 6 1/2 minute drive, getting the final 5 yards himself to make it 7-0 Buccaneers. The Falcons moved the ball, but the end zone was not happening. Atlanta had to settle for Shane Graham field goals from 28, 47 and 52 in the second quarter and from 29 in the third quarter as the Falcons led 12-7. The Buccaneers moved 80 yards and Doug Martin got the last yard. The 2 point try failed but the Bucs led 13-12. The Falcons punted on 4th and 20 from their own 1, and a 28 yard return had the Bucs starting at the Atlanta 34. The Buccaneers reached 2nd and goal at the 5 but a pair of Winston incompletions meant a 23 yard Connor Barth field goal and a 16-12 Buccaneers lead after three quarters.

The fourth quarter began with Doug Martin fumbling and the Falcons taking over at their own 45. Matt Ryan threw a 5 yard touchdown pass to Williams as Atlanta finally cracked the end zone with 11 minutes left in regulation for a 19-16 Falcons lead. Midway through the fourth quarter after a touchback, the Buccaneers moved. From near midfield, Winston was intercepted. However, defensive pass interference meant 1st and 10 at the Atlanta 46. With 2:45 left the Buccaneers faced 3rd and 19 from the Atlanta 43. Winston scrambled for a 20 yard gain. On 3rd and 4 from the 6, Winston fired to Mike Evans for the touchdown. Now the Bucs had the 4 point lead. After a touchback, Matt Ryan was quickly intercepted. Dan Quinn and Lovie Smith both have 6-6 teams, but it’s the Buccaneers thinking playoffs while the Falcons just want to stop the bleeding. 23-19 Buccaneers

New York Jets at New York Giants — Technically this was a home game for the Giants, as both the 6-5 Jets and 5-6 Giants are fighting for their playoff lives. The Jets moved deep into the red zone but had to settle for a 24 yard Ryan Bullock field goal. The Giants could not get anything going on offense but on the first play of the second quarter, Harris returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 Giants lead. Captain Grumpy Tom Coughlin was so pleased he almost smiled. The Jets then fumbled in the red zone and the Giants took over at the Jets 10. On 3rd and goal from the 1, Williams got the carry and lost a yard. Tom Coughlin went with the field goal and Brown hit the 20 yarder to make it 10-3 Giants.

With 3 1/2 minutes left in the half, Ryan Fitzpatrick found Powell on a perfect slant pass over the middle. Powell split the seams and raced for a 25 yard touchdown to make it 10-10. The Giants quickly struck back on the exact same play as Eli Manning found O’Dell Beckham, who outraced everyone for a 72 yard touchdown and a 17-10 Giants lead. A deflected pass was intercepted by the Giants. Beckham almost made another circus catch in the end zone, but the ball was knocked loose at the very last moment and ruled incomplete. Brown hit a 35 yard field goal to make it 20-10 Giants at halftime.

Both defenses ruled the second half. With 5 minutes left in the third quarter, the Giants took over at their own 29. and moved slowly and effectively. As the third quarter was ending, the Giants faced 4th and 4 at the Jets 43. Coughlin played it safe and punted, but the Jets were offsides on the play. Todd Bowles watched in disbelief as the Giants kept their drive going. With 13 minutes left, the Giants faced 3rd and 20 from the Jets 28. A completion only gained 11 yards, but illegal contact on the defense instead meant 1st and 10. On 3rd and 10 from the Jets 23, Manning threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant another 1st and 10. On 3rd and 18 from the 20, a completion came up short. With 9 minutes left the Giants faced 4th and 2 at the 4. This time Coughlin decided to go for it to try and put the game away. Manning was intercepted. The Giants held the ball for 11 minutes and got nothing.

With 9 minutes left, Fitzpatrick moved the Jets from their 14 to a 2nd and goal at the 6 with 4 1/2 minutes left. Fitzpatrick then threw incomplete twice. Bullock hit the 24 yard field goal as the Jets were within 7 points. The Jets held on defense and got the ball back at their own 29 with 2:40 to play. At the 2 minute warning, the Jets faced 3rd and 9 from midfield. Fitzpatrick hit Brandon Marshall for 10 yards. With one minute left the Jets faced 4th and 6 at the Giants 36. Fitzpatrick under heavy pressure scrambled for 15 yards. With 32 seconds left, the Jets faced 1st and goal at the 9. Fitzpatrick hit Marshall for the touchdown as the Giants collapse meant a 20-20 game going into overtime.

The Jets got the ball first in overtime and soon faced 3rd and 9 at their own 27. Fitzpatrick found Eric decker for 11 yards. After 13 plays and 6 minutes, Bullock hit a 31 yard field goal after Fitzpatrick threw incomplete on 3rd and goal from the 8. The Jets had the lead but the Giants had an excellent chance in overtime. Harris returned the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Giants 42. On 4th and 6, Manning hit Beckham for a 20 yard gain. With 6 1/2 minutes left in overtime, Josh Brown came in for a 48 yard field goal to tie the game. In front of a shocked home crowd, he was no good. These teams would not both be 6-6. Big Blue is in 5-7 and in deep trouble, although the pathetic NFC Least Division crown is still within reach. Todd Bowles has a 7-5 Jets team that is very much alive in the playoff race. 23-20 Jets, OT

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints — Carolina came in the NFL’s only unbeaten team at 11-0 while the Saints are just playing out the string. As ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman reminds us, “THAT’s why they play the games. After an exchange of punts the Saints took over just shy of midfield. On 3rd and 8 Drew Brees found Coleman for a 31 yard gain and Ben Watson for a 14 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Saints. Cam Newton was then intercepted, but Kai Forbath missed a 38 yard field goal. Yet 2 plays later the Panthers fumbled the ball, and this time the Saints immediately capitalized. Anthony returned the fumble 31 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 Saints.

In the second quarter the Panthers finally got going with an 11 play 80 yard drive. Newton on 3rd and 11 hit Mike Tolbert for a 12 yard touchdown to get the Panthers within 14-7 on the first play of the second quarter. The Panthers got it back and moved all the way to the Saints 27. A completion to Greg Olsen reached the 14 but then he fumbled the ball away. The Panthers got it back got it back again at their own 26 and this time moved 74 yards. At the 2 minute warning from the 5, Stewart ran in for the touchdown it looked like the game would be tied. Graham Gano’s extra point was blocked. The NFL this year now allows those to be returned by the defense for 2 points just like in college football. Williams got the block and Anthony took it the distance the other way as the Saints led 16-13 at halftime.

The Panthers took the second half kickoff and marched 79 yards. On 3rd and goal at the 13, Newton found Ted Ginn for the touchdown to make it 20-16 Panthers. The Panthers got it back at their own 40 and again moved down the field early. Another 13 yard touchdown pass, this time to Funchess, had the Panthers up 27-16 with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. The Saints would not go away, taking over at their own 23. Brees went deep to Brandon Cooks for a 54 yard touchdown. Mark Ingram got the 2 point conversion on the ground as the Saints only trailed 27-24 after three quarters.

The Saints got it back at their own 28 to start the fourth quarter and needed only 4 plays take the lead. On 3rd and 3 from the Carolina 24, Brees went deep to Coleman for the touchdown as the Saints led 31-27. After a touchback, Newton had his turn. On 1st and 20 from the Carolina 21, Newton went deep to Olsen for a 32 yard gain. Newton then went deep to Ginn for a 45 yard touchdown. With a full 12 minutes left, the unbeaten Panthers reclaimed the lead 34-31. Brees was then intercepted, giving the Panthers the ball at their own 46. On 3rd and 1, Newton threw incomplete. Riverboat Ron Rivera took no chances this time and punted. The Saints took over at their own 12 and Brees did what he has done for so many years. He moved the Saints 88 yards without even having a single third down conversion. The saints only had one second down on the drive as the yards came in bunches. Mark Ingram ran it in for a 9 yard touchdown. With 5 1/2 minutes to play, the Saints had the 38-34 lead in this thriller.

The Panthers took over at their 25. On 3rd and 5 from the Carolina 43, Newton went deep incomplete. Yet defensive holding kept the drive going. With 2:09 to play the Panthers faced 4th and 4 at the Saints 46. Newton went deep to Olsen, who cradled the ball as he was rolling over for a 16 yard gain at the 2 minute warning. Newton threw a 15 yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery as the fourth lead change in the fourth quarter had the Panthers up by 3 with 1:05 left. The Saints only needed a field goal to tie it. With 24 seconds left Brees spiked the ball to stop the clock with the Saints at midfield. One more first down meant very long field goal range. It was not to be. On 4th and 10 Brees went deep incomplete, and this time there were no flags. with 9 seconds left, the Panthers had survived a wild one to get to 12-0 and all but end the Saints season. Brees finished 24 of 42 for 282 yards and 3 touchdowns. Newton was a ridiculous 28 of 41 for 331 yards and 5 touchdown passes, with each quarterback intercepted once. 41-38 Panthers.

Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers — Peyton Manning is still injured. Brock Osweiler is still starting. The Broncos are still about defense. A 76 yard drive saw Osweiler throw a 3 yard touchdown pass to Denarius Thomas. Then Philip Rivers was intercepted by Trevathan, who returned it 25 yards for another touchdown and a 14-0 Broncos first quarter lead. In the second quarter Denver held the ball for nearly 7 1/2 minutes and ran 14 plays but only moved 46 yards, bogging down at the 5. Brad McManus hit the 23 yard field goal to make it 17-0 Broncos. Josh Lambo got the Chargers on the board with a 51 yard field goal before the half. The second half was a scoreless unwatchable slog. Denver is 10-2 and now has the inside track on the first round bye while the 2-10 Chargers may flee to Los Angeles without their coaching staff. 17-3 Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders — The red hot 6-5 Chiefs were at the 5-6 Raiders in a do or die battle for the playoffs. Early on the Raiders ran the ball well. Latavius Murray broke off a 35 yard run. On 3rd and goal at the 2, murray was stopped, but on further review the call was reversed and called a touchdown. The 80 yard drive and the Raiders up 7-0. A strong kickoff return with a penalty tacked on had the Chiefs starting at their own 44. On 3rd and 9 from the Oakland 25, Alex Smith found Jeremy Maclin for 16 yards. Smith scrambled for the 3 yard touchdown run himself to tie the game 7-7. The Raiders rapidly moved from their 14 to a 3rd and 1 at the Chiefs 34. Murray got the carry and lost a yard. Jack Del Rio passed up a 53 yard field goal try and decided to go for it. Carr fired a perfect pass to Amari Cooper, who just dropped it. It bounced right off his fingertips.

Alex Smith fumbled to start the second quarter and the Raiders recovered at the Oakland 46. Yet on 3rd and 8 from the Chiefs 39, Carr threw incomplete. The Raiders had the field position advantage for much of the half but did nothing with it. The Oakland defense kept the game a tie. With 1:10 left in the half the Chiefs had the ball at the Oakland 42. Smith threw a 16 yard completion to Troy Kelce. Yet Charles Woodson ripped it out of Kelce’s hands and raced 38 yards the other way to the Chiefs 36. With 19 seconds left in the half from the Chiefs 25, Carr fired a laser to Michael Crabtree, who made a perfect catch between two defenders to give the Raiders the 14-7 halftime lead.

The Chiefs got the ball to start the third quarter and marched down the field 80 yards without much difficulty. On 3rd and 2 from the Oakland 10, Ware ran all the way for the touchdown to tie the game 14-14. The Raiders came back with a 13 play, 83 yard, 7 minute drive. On 3rd and 6 from the Chiefs 12, Carr threw incomplete but a critical roughing the passer call gave the Raiders new life. Carr threw a 5 yard touchdown pass to a wide open Smith in the flat. Sebastian Janikowski doinked the extra point off the upright but the Raiders led 20-14 after three quarters.

The Chiefs punted and the Raiders began the fourth quarter at their own 37. With 12 minutes left in regulation, they were at the Chiefs 33. A field goal would make it a 2 score game. The Raiders were in total control. Then for the rest of this game, Derek Carr played like the second coming of JaMarcus Russell. Carr is a great young quarterback with a bright future. Yet he sometimes tries to do too much. With Oakland’s season hanging in the balance, Carr self-destructed under a flurry of uncharacteristic mistakes. Under heavy pressure, rather than just take the sack or throw the ball out of bounds on 2nd and 10, Carr threw a desperation pass over the middle that was intercepted. Maura returned it 66 yards to the Oakland 2. A courageous effort by Ford tracked Mauga down short of the goal line. It was for naught. Alex Smith, whose entire career is dinking and dunking, threw a 1 yard touchdown pass. Punter Dustin Colquitt fumbled a perfectly good snap on the extra point, and his attempt to throw a pass went incomplete. The game was tied 20-20 with 11 1/2 minutes left.

After a touchback, Carr quickly moved the Raiders to just past midfield. He went deep to Amari Cooper but threw the ball near nobody but the Chiefs defense. Peters returned the interception 58 yards to the Oakland 13. Two plays later Alex Smith threw his typical pass that barely went beyond the line of scrimmage, but it went for a 13 yard touchdown anyway. Cairo Santos missed the extra point as the Chiefs led 26-20. Carr rapidly moved the Raiders from their 24 to a 1st and 10 at the Chiefs 24 with 6 1/2 minutes left. Yet again the Raiders self destructed. On 2nd and 10 Carr was sacked. On 3rd and 17 Carr fumbled the snap, and was lucky enough to get away with an incompletion. 49 yards is well within Sebastian Janikowski’s range. On a terrible day for him as well, he doinked this kick off the upright no good.

The defense held again, and the Raiders got it back with 4 1/2 minutes left at their own 15. Despite all their bumbling, the Raiders still had an excellent chance to win. On 3rd and 9, Carr was intercepted again. This time it was branch who intercepted him and returned it 38 yards for the clinching touchdown with 3 1/2 minutes left. In pure desperation mode, Carr moved the Raiders from their 17 to their 46. He was then sacked twice in a row to end things. Alex Smith was his typical West Coast Offense dink and dunk game manager self, going 16 of 22 for 162 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Carr was 31 of 48 for 283 yards and 2 touchdowns, but 3 killer interceptions. Carr will grow into an excellent NFL quarterback, but he picked a bad time to have a miserable fourth quarter. The Chiefs are 7-5 and alive. The Raiders are 5-7 and dead. Barring a miracle, 13 straight non-winning, non-playoff seasons have arrived. The Raiders are improving, but the Raider Nation has lost all patience. These Raiders are young, and young teams are dumb. They give games away. 34-20 Chiefs.

Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots — On paper this looked like an easy New England blowout win at home against woeful Philadelphia. As ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman reminds us again, “THAT’s why they play the games.”  The Eagles hung tough early ones the first quarter was scoreless. In the second quarter Tom Brady moved the Patriots 80 yards in 10 plays, hitting White for a 4 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Patriots. New England got it back and moved 80 yards again. Brady hit Amendola for an 11 yard score to make it 14-0 Patriots. It was time to yawn and see if New England could break the blowout record of 73-0 set in 1940. Then the impossible happened.

A short kickoff had the Eagles starting at their own 41. On 3rd and 10 Sam Bradford found Matthews for a 20 yard gain. On 3rd and 4 from the 5, Bradford hit Zach Ertz for the touchdown to get the Eagles within 14-7. With 19 seconds left in the half the Patriots faced 3rd and 5 at their own 38 when Brady threw incomplete. The Patriots set up to punt, and it was blocked by Maragos. Goode picked it up and raced 24 yards for a special teams touchdown as the stunned Patriots went into the locker rooms tied 14-14. The bizarreness of this game was just getting started.

A field position game in the third quarter had the Patriots taking over at the Philly 46. Midway through the third quarter, the Patriots had 3rd and goal at the 5 and were about to take the lead. Brady fired a pass that was intercepted by Malcolm Jenkins, who outraced everybody for a 99 yard touchdown the other way. The home crowd erupted as New England was even more stunned. It was the Eagles with the 21-14 lead. The Patriots then had to punt. Darren Sproles fielded it at the 17 and the speedster ran it back 83 yards the other way for another Eagles touchdown. 21 points straight points on defense and special teams had the Patriots up 28-14. Brady brought the Patriots back again from their 18 to the Philly 39. Brady went deep to the end zone and was intercepted by Byron Maxwell.

Even the offense got into the act as Bradford led a 12 play, 80 yard, 6 minute drive. On 3rd and 3 from the New England 48, Bradford threw incomplete but defensive pass interference meant 1st and 10 at the New England 37. On 3rd and 2 from the 10, Bradford found Matthews for the touchdown. With 11 minutes left in regulation the Eagles on the road were pulling off a 35-14 shocker with 5 unanswered touchdowns.

After an exchange of punts, the Patriots got it back midway through the fourth quarter at their own 29. Brady did move the Patriots 71 yards, as a 14 yard touchdown pass to Chandler had New England down 35-21 with 5 1/2 minutes left. The onside kick worked to perfection as the Patriots got the ball at their own 44. With 4 minutes left, the Patriots were down to their last gasp, facing 4th and 12 at the Philly 47. Brady went deep to White for a 25 yard gain. Brady snuck in from one yard out and the Patriots were within 7 points with 3 minutes left.

This time the onside kick failed as Riley Cooper smartly knocked it out of bounds as the Eagles took over at the New England 46. The Patriots used their timeouts as the Eagles quickly faced 3rd and 11 with 2:47 left. Rather than run the ball and take the clock down to the 2 minute warning, Chip Kelly called a pass play knowing an incompletion would preserve 45 seconds. Bradford fired to Cooper for a 14 yard gain. With 1:13 left the Eagles faced 3rd and 5 at the New England 28. A safe run would take the clock down to 30 seconds. A field goal, provided it was not blocked and returned for a touchdown, would lock up this game. In total control with the Patriots out of timeouts, Barner got the ball and coughed it up. It was ripped out of his hands and the Patriots had life at their own 25.

After throwing a 12 yard pass on 3rd and 10, the Patriots faced 4th and 10 at their own 37. Brady fired to Martin, who appeared to have the first down. Yet at the last moment the ball was ripped out of his hands for an incompletion. There was also offensive holding on the play. After a 10-0 start, the Patriots were done and have now under a hail of injuries to their receivers lost two straight. They no longer control the top seed in the AFC and could even miss the first round bye. As for the Eagles, they still could win the NFC Least. Bill Bellichick, not the most gracious guy in the world, gave Chip Kelly a lengthy congratulations after the most shocking upset of the year. 35-28 Eagles

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers is the Sunday night game. A pair of 6-5 teams jockeying for playoff spots faced off. The Colts came in 4-0 with Old man Matt Hasselbeck in place of injured Andrew Luck. The game was sloppy right off the bat. The Steelers fumbled the opening kickoff, setting up the Colts at the Pittsburgh 11. On 3rd and 9 from the 10, Hasselbeck was intercepted. The Steelers fumbled the ball away again and the Colts took over at the Pittsburgh 25. The Colts failed to gain a first down but Adam Vinatieri hit a 35 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Colts. Chris Boswell answered with a 29 yard field goal for the Steelers. Hasselbeck was then intercepted, setting up the Steelers at the Indy 37. They failed to gain a first down but Boswell hit from 51 to make it 6-3 Steelers after a badly played first quarter.

In the second quarter a short punt had the Colts taking over at the Pittsburgh 46. Hasselbeck hit Andre Johnson for gains of 16 and 28. After an offensive penalty, Hasselbeck hit Frank Gore for the 9 yard touchdown to make it 10-6 Colts.  Big Ben Roethlisberger moved the Steelers 80 yards. On 3rd and 2 from the Indy 7, Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for the touchdown. Mike Tomlin is the only coach in the NFL who likes to go for 2 point conversions randomly rather than only as a necessity. Roethlisberger hit Jones as the Steelers led 14-10 with 4 minutes left in the half. The Steelers got it back at their own 40 with 1:48 left in the half. With 14 seconds left in the half, the Steelers faced 3rd and goal at the 5. Roethlisberger found Wheaton for the touchdown as the Steelers took a 21-10 lead into the locker rooms.

In the third quarter the Colts went 3 and out. The Steelers soon faced 3rd and 3 at their own 32. Roethlisberger went deep for Maitavius Bryant, who outraced everyone down the sideline for a 68 yard touchdown and a 28-10 Steelers lead. Pittsburgh missed a chance to extend the lead further. After moving from their own 8 to the Indy 30, Boswell missed a 47 yard field goal with 6 minutes left in the third quarter. The Colts then moved from their 37 to a 4th and 1 at the Pittsburgh 14 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. Needing 3 scores, Chuck Pagano decided to go for it. With the play clock winding down, Hasselbeck rolled all the way to his right near the sideline and threw into double coverage in the end zone incomplete, turning the ball over on downs. Pittsburgh soon faced 3rd and 7 from their own 18. Roethlisberger scrambled up the middle for 13 yards. On the last play of the third quarter, Roethlisberger went deep to Antonio Brown for a 48 yard gain to the Indianapolis 8 yard line.

On 3rd and goal at the 5, Roethlisberger fired to Brown for the touchdown. Although the entire fourth quarter remained, it was essentially over with the Steelers up 35-10. A last ray of hope came with a 60 yard kickoff return to the Pittsburgh 42. Yet on 3rd and 1 from the Pittsburgh 18, Hasselbeck was stripped of the ball and the Steelers recovered. After just barely missing on another touchdown, Boswell tacked on one more field goal with 6 1/2 minutes left. The final indignity came with 4 minutes left when Brown returned a punt 71 yards for another touchdown to complete the blowout. The win got the Steelers to 7-5 and dropped the Colts to 6-6, tied for the lead in the woeful AFC South. 45-10 Steelers

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins is the Monday night game. The first 58 plus minutes had this contest in contention for one of the worst Monday Night Football games ever played. In the second quarter Dan Bailey hit a 38 yard field goal for the Cowboys. Dustin Hopkins answered from 45 for the Redskins. In the third quarter it was Hopkins from 36 followed by Bailey from 34. In the fourth quarter it was Hopkins from 46 and Bailey from 20. Bailey hit his third field goal after Darren McFadden got blasted backward on third and goal from the one. Midway through the fourth quarter Washington missed a chance for a 12-6 lead when Hopkins missed from 43. With 1:47 left, a terrible 9-9 game turned into a thrilling finish.

The Cowboys punted and Desean Jackson fielded the ball at the Washington 16. Jackson tried to make something by going all the way backward and around everybody. It blew up in his face as Jackson was hit and fumbled. Punter Chris Jones recovered the ball at the Washington 15. Dallas should have run a couple times up the middle and forced the Redskins to burn their timeouts. Instead McFadden gained 9 yards but went out of bounds. Then on the next play he scored the game’s first touchdown. Had he gone down at the one, the Cowboys could have taken the clock to near double zero and kicked a field goal. Instead the Cowboys led 16-9 but Washington still had over one minute left and their two timeouts.

Ross took the kickoff near the goal line and returned it 42 yards. A defensive face mask penalty had the Redskins starting at the Dallas 43. with 1:06 left. Cousins went deep to Jackson for a 28 yard touchdown. Jackson got his redemption and the game was now tied 16-16 with 44 seconds left. The Cowboys still had two timeouts of their own and Lucky Whitehead returned the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Dallas 44. Matt Cassel hit Dez Bryant for gains of 12 and 8. With 14 seconds left, Bailey came in for a 54 yard try. His fourth field goal was good. After the final 9 seconds ticked off on a failed hook and lateral, the Cowboys got to 4-8, with Washington and the rest of the division at 5-7 in the NFC Least. 19-16 Cowboys

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