NFL Game Recaps: Week 20, 2015






Broncos 20, Patriots 18

  • It's crazy how different public perception and reality can be sometimes. Going into this game, everyone believed that the Patriots would win. They were favored by either three or four at Denver, which was just insane. Everyone just assumed that Tom Brady would outplay Peyton Manning despite battling the tougher defense, based on what happened during the regular season. As usual, when most people think something will happen, the opposite occurs.

    Manning was the better quarterback in this game. Brady, who feasted on horrible opponents all year, simply couldn't do anything. It wasn't all on him though, as his supporting cast, outside of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, sucked big time. This includes his offensive line, which couldn't block whatsoever. Brady was constantly under siege, as the four sacks he took weren't nearly indicative of the amount of pressure he faced. Brady had to throw numerous passes away, and it's astonishing that he wasn't flagged for intentional grounding on a couple of occasions. Von Miller terrorized him, logging 2.5 sacks and an interception.

    Meanwhile, Manning opened the game by throwing the ball into the dirt, which made me question what the hell I was betting on. However, Manning rebounded with some solid throws on a pair of third downs, and the opening drive culminated with a touchdown to Owen Daniels. Manning continued to play well throughout, abusing a secondary that hadn't been tested much all year because of a ridiculously easy schedule. Manning, for the first time all season, didn't throw an interception in a game that he started, though he did technically commit a turnover on a pass in which he threw backward. Bill Belichick successfully challenged, and it turned into New England's sole touchdown of the afternoon until the very end.

    The Broncos controlled the game throughout, never trailing, but there was some concern as the game progressed. Denver lost numerous key defenders to injury, including T.J. Ward, who was Denver's best solution against Rob Gronkowski. Derek Wolfe and Brandon Marshall also got banged up, but were able to return to the field.

    With Ward gone, Brady hit Gronkowski on a pair of miracle fourth-down throws on the final drive. The first was a big gain on a fourth-and-10 to reach the red zone, and then the second was a touchdown to bring the margin to 20-18. However, because of Stephen Gostkowski's missed extra point earlier in the afternoon, New England had to go for two. The attempt failed, and Denver was able to hang on to a victory. Let's take a moment to congratulate Roger Goodell for installing a new rule that allowed a conference championship to be decided by an extra point. I doubt Goodell is upset though, as he finally got his revenge on the Patriots for failing to penalize them for Deflategate.




  • The stats say that Brady outplayed Manning, but that was hardly the case. Brady went 27-of-56 for 310 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, while Manning finished 17-of-32 for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Brady's 310 yards were a byproduct of garbage time; by halftime, he was just 9-of-20 for 87 yards and the two picks. The first interception was telegraphed, and it could've been returned for six had Miller not slipped. The second was the result of a Malik Jackson hit. Brady was nearly picked on a couple of other occassions, all of which was the result of Denver's incredible pressure.

    Manning, meanwhile, barely completed half of his passes, but he didn't really turn the ball over. He was better than Brady, but didn't play great. He missed some throws he could've made in his sleep five years ago, overthrowing a couple of his targets in the end zone for easy touchdowns. However, Manning did some nifty things, including a scramble for a first down when he somehow picked up 12 yards on a third-and-10 early in the second half.

  • Manning's touchdowns both went to Daniels, whose only catches were in the end zone. Daniels was just one of two Broncos to accumulate more than 20 receiving yards, with the other being Emmanuel Sanders (5-62), who made a ridiculous 34-yard reception over Malcolm Butler that brought Ward off the bench in celebration. Demaryius Thomas, meanwhile, made just two catches for 12 yards. He dropped a pass, of course.

  • It continues to be a mystery why the Broncos continue to waste downs giving Ronnie Hillman the ball. Hillman (11-16) was outgained by C.J. Anderson (16-72) by a wide margin once again. Hillman also lazily didn't try to pick up the ball on Manning's apparent backward pass.

  • As bad as Hillman was, I'm sure Belichick would've killed to have him on his roster, given how incompetent his running backs were. It was so bad that Brady was the Patriots' leading rusher with 13 yards on three scrambles. James White (5-11) caught five passes for 45 receiving yards, but was very inefficient, being targeted 16 times. Steven Jackson scored, but gained just eight yards on four carries.

  • As for Brady's aerial targets, Gronkowski predictably led the way with eight catches for 144 yards and a touchdown. However, most of his production came after Ward left the game, as he caught just two balls in the opening half. Julian Edelman (7-53) was next on the receiving list.

  • One final note: I think Belichick screwed up big time in the fourth quarter. He eschewed two field goals, opting to go for it on a pair of fourth downs. His offense failed on both occasions. Had he kicked the ball, the score would've been 20-18 when Gronkowski caught his initial fourth-down pass on the final drive. A short field goal would have won the game, 21-20. The Patriots had six minutes and three timeouts remaining when Belichick eschewed his first kick, so there was still plenty of time.





    Panthers 49, Cardinals 15

  • You know what's crazy? The Panthers and Cardinals were considered to be the two best teams in the NFL entering this game, and despite this result, that's still probably the case. And yet, Carolina absolutely demolished the team right below them in the power rankings. That's how much better they are than any other squad in the NFL.

    The Panthers nearly posted 50 points on Arizona, dominating in all facets. The offense generated 476 net yards, compared to 287 by Arizona. The defense forced six turnovers. Even the special teams factored in; they collected a Patrick Peterson muffed punt and had a great return by Ted Ginn to set up an early touchdown.

  • Delving more into this and beginning with the offense, Cam Newton had a terrific performance. He scored four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) and completed 19-of-28 passes for 335 yards to go along with 47 rushing yards on 10 scrambles. He made only a couple of poor throws, including one in the red zone that was picked off, as it was behind his intended target. That didn't hurt Carolina at all, however, as Carson Palmer hurled an interception on the very next play.

  • Newton's two touchdowns went to Philly Brown (4-113) and Devin Funchess (2-21). The score to Brown was an 86-yarder that put the Panthers up 17-0, blowing the game completely open. It came on a third-and-long from the Carolina 14. Newton had plenty of time despite an Arizona blitz, and he connected to Brown, who broke away from Rashad Johnson, who gave a horrible tackling effort.

  • Greg Olsen didn't score, but he was a huge part of the offense. Newton continued to lean on him, targeting him more than any other player. Olsen caught six of the eight balls thrown to him for 113 yards. I suppose we can safely say he's OK after he got banged up last week.

  • Speaking of injured Panthers, the one dark cloud over this game is that Thomas Davis appears to have broken his arm. That occurred when Darren Fells inexplicably leapt into him at the end of a 21-yard reception. The loss would be huge, but the Panthers won't be playing a quality offense in the Super Bowl.

  • Before moving on to the Cardinals' numbers, it should be noted that Jonathan Stewart ran well, gaining 83 yards on 19 carries. He had a pair of long gains on one drive and got tackled at the 1-yard line, but didn't score. Newton capitalized with a sneak. Also, Ted Ginn found the end zone on a 22-yard "rushing" touchdown, which was actually a reverse.



  • As for Arizona, Palmer was absolutely disgraceful. You could've had him don a Brian Hoyer jersey, and no one would've known the difference. He was that bad, and that's not an exaggeration in the slightest.

    Carson Hoyer, I mean Palmer, went 23-of-40 for 235 yards, one touchdown, four interceptions and two lost fumbles. But those horrific numbers don't even tell the whole story. Palmer was wildly inaccurate throughout, beginning on the opening drive when he overshot Michael Floyd. Palmer was then nearly picked on a deep attempt downfield, and then proceeded to toss the ball into the ground. On the following drive, Josh Norman dropped a potential interception, leading me to wonder why in the world Palmer was targeting Norman when the rest of the Carolina secondary was the weak spot of the defense.

    Palmer went on to float a short pass over Andre Ellington's head and then was strip-sacked. Palmer, facing a 17-0 deficit, then had a stretch in which he completed 7-of-9 passes, but went on to struggle after that. He lost a fumble and then heaved a careless interception into the end zone, staring down his receiver. Much later, whatever life the Cardinals had following a touchdown was sucked out when Palmer was responsible for a dumb interception into double coverage. Further embarrassing himself, Palmer was pick-sixed by Luke Kuechly with a few minutes remaining on the clock.

    People are going to say that Palmer's finger injury was the reason for his struggles. However, that doesn't excuse his horrible decision-making. We haven't seen much of him in the playoffs, but he's now 1-3, and it's safe to say that he's a choke artist. The Cardinals need to think about using a day-two selection on a quarterback to groom behind Palmer, who will turn 37 during the 2016 campaign.

  • Outside of Palmer, Arizona's greatest disappointment was Larry Fitzgerald, who caught four passes for 30 yards, and no, it wasn't because Norman was covering him. Norman was on Michael Floyd (3-37), who didn't catch a pass in meaningful action. Fitzgerald was guilty of two drops. Meanwhile, John Brown snagged just one pass for 16 yards.

  • David Johnson was the only Arizona offensive player who didn't suck. He could've had a big game on the ground had the Panthers not jumped out to a big lead, as he gained 60 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He also caught nine passes for 68 receiving yards. He has a very bright future ahead of him.


    For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.



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    2015: Live 2014 NFL Draft Blog - April 30
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    2007: NFL Draft: Day 1 Review Blog - April 28
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    Richard (Anonymous Poster)
    12 day(s) 18 hour(s) ago - hide

    The idea that Belicheck should have just kicked two field goals is a pretty lazy critique.  It assumes the game would have played out exactly the same way and the Broncos would do nothing differently.  That assumption doesn't fly.

    The Broncos, on their final drive, ran twice into the line to force NE to use two timeouts prior to the two minute warning.  Most likely this (terrible) strategy is a result of them being up by 8.  If they're up by 2, chances are, their play calling is completely different.

    4    0 Reply
    Kamala the Ugandan Headhunter (Anonymous Poster)
    9 day(s) 10 hour(s) ago - hide
    @Richard 

    I agree with you 100 percent but in defense of Walter this seems to be the way that everyone feels not just him.
    0    1 Reply
    Derp (Anonymous Poster)
    12 day(s) 8 hour(s) ago - hide
    Bill Belichick was the person who introduced a harder PAT as a rule change.
    0    0 Reply
    Andrew (Anonymous Poster)
    12 day(s) 11 hour(s) ago - hide

    @Dinner but Arizona is still overrated 

    1    0 Reply
    Wesley C (Anonymous Poster)
    12 day(s) 14 hour(s) ago - hide
    Palmer is 1-2 in the postseason in my eyes. I don't pin the 05 loss on him since he got hurt on the 3rd offensive play
    0    1 Reply
    Andrew (Anonymous Poster)
    12 day(s) 16 hour(s) ago - hide
    The cardinals lost because there defense is overrated. There d-line and secondary is pretty good. But try naming one of there staring linebackers, and they run a 3-4 for crying out loud.
    6    0 Reply
    Dinner 22 Posts (23 )
    12 day(s) 15 hour(s) ago - hide
    @Andrew  The Cardinals lost because the Panthers scored more points than they did.
    3    0 Reply
    sorcerer (Anonymous Poster)
    13 day(s) 4 hour(s) ago - hide
    Arguing Brady's yards came in garbage time is absurd considering it was a one score game pretty much from beginning to end.
    9    1 Reply
    Dinner 22 Posts (23 )
    13 day(s) 4 hour(s) ago - hide
    Its crazy the Panthers let go of Williams for Steward, and both RBs have dominated this season.
    3    1 Reply
    Robert K (Anonymous Poster)
    18 day(s) 14 hour(s) ago - hide
    "I don't get how the NFL allowed it to be that bad, but Roger Goodell always seems content with screwing over Seattle in every way imaginable because he doesn't want them in the Super Bowl."

    Can someone provide some context here regarding this conspiracy? Why doesn't Goodell want Seattle in the Super Bowl? Does he think that Carolina or Arizona would pull in more viewers? Is it a personal beef with Allen or Carroll? What's the deal here?

    2    2 Reply
    Dinner 22 Posts (23 )
    13 day(s) 6 hour(s) ago - hide
    @Robert K Because he has the refs working on that. This season there were probably 4 controversial games Seattle won.
    1    0 Reply
    sorcerer (Anonymous Poster)
    20 day(s) 6 hour(s) ago - hide
    Manning's play to Sanders was totally legit. Apparently you do not know the rules of the game, Walt. He was not touched, got back up and made a good throw. Also there were 7 drops by Bronco players from my count, not 5. Do you even watch these games? Both teams had some poor play calling, mainly running the ball. It came down to who made the big mistake and this time it was Pittsburgh, a team that had no business being in this game by being very lucky last week (Hill fumbling)...football karma, I say.
    1    1 Reply
    Walter 1834 Posts (2407 )
    20 day(s) 6 hour(s) ago - hide

    @sorcerer 

    When you give yourself up, the play is over, regardless of whether you're touched or not. That's the rule.

    6    5 Reply
    ifthethunderdontgetya 25 Posts (2 )
    19 day(s) 17 hour(s) ago - hide

    @Walter , you didn't answer the question!!!

    Do you even watch these games?

    1    0 Reply
    coords 91 Posts (27 )
    19 day(s) 15 hour(s) ago - hide

    @ifthethunderdontgetya 

    I was his college roommate...he watches all the games...with the volume pretty much all the way up.  

    2    2 Reply
    ifthethunderdontgetya 25 Posts (2 )
    19 day(s) 13 hour(s) ago - hide

    @coords Sorry, we need a /sarcasm tag here.

    ~

    1    0 Reply
    Apt_pupil (Anonymous Poster)
    16 day(s) 2 hour(s) ago - hide

    @sorcerer one could say the same about the broncos this week had the officials called even 1 of 3 blatanf PI against denver.

    0    1 Reply
    Simon (Anonymous Poster)
    19 day(s) 10 hour(s) ago - hide
    The lack of talk about the Edelman penalty is unreal. IMO it was way worse than Burfict. Told my buddy last week before the Amendola play that the worst helmet to helmets are always the punt return ones as you have one guy moving as fast he can and taking aim at a stationary target. This is much worse than a player playing defense doing this as the punt returner defender knows before the snap exactly where the ball is going. Plus you have a guy whose head is in the worst and most vulnerable position, looking straight up in the air. Thankfully there was no serious injury on it but sadly it looks like because of that there wasn't nearly enough anger from the media on the play. That looked to be one of the most blatant targeting hits I've ever seen before as there's not excuse for what he did as the ball hadn't even arrived yet.
    1    0 Reply
    sdmcc (Anonymous Poster)
    19 day(s) 12 hour(s) ago - hide
    I mentioned before.. William Gay, as you say there is nothing wrong with that, however there IS something wrong if he's your best corner!!! I mentioned that they hadn't taken a CB in the first round since HOF Rod Freaking Woodson, I was corrected in that they took Chad Scott in 1997.. Still, No CB in the first round in 20 years, yet they had kept stocking up on LB's over the last several drafts.. I do think Colbert should be watched at Draft Time this year, he hasn't done so well lately (even when they seem to catch a "Falling Prospect" so far, it's proven more so than not why that prospect fell)
    0    1 Reply
    Joe Q Murrcano (Anonymous Poster)
    20 day(s) 7 hour(s) ago - hide
    LOL at Walt once again @#$@ing about how Seattle somehow got screwed over again. At this point, Walt might as well become a member of Seattle's whiny fanbase
    6    2 Reply
    Dinner 22 Posts (23 )
    20 day(s) 7 hour(s) ago - hide
    @Joe Q Murrcano Considering Seattle only made it to the playoffs based on the refs handing them games, I'd expect you guys to be happy you even made it. Then again, you'll probably be a Panther fan tomorrow, so IDK.
    4    3 Reply
    Robert K (Anonymous Poster)
    19 day(s) 17 hour(s) ago - hide
    @Dinner Wow....you completely missed the point of his post. Talk about a swing and a miss.
    1    1 Reply
    Dinner 22 Posts (23 )
    19 day(s) 15 hour(s) ago - hide
    @Robert K Oops, I did, sorry!
    0    1 Reply
    Morons Unite (Anonymous Poster)
    19 day(s) 14 hour(s) ago - hide

    @Dinner & Joe Q

    So clueless - they even miss their own point

    1    0 Reply
    Dinner 22 Posts (23 )
    20 day(s) 7 hour(s) ago - hide
    Sad the Steelers lost to Denver after controlling the game for so long, but then again this should have been a blow-out so I'll take the minor victories.
    1    0 Reply
    Robert K (Anonymous Poster)
    20 day(s) 15 hour(s) ago - hide

    So Walt was right again about Alex Smith not getting it done in big games. I'm sure all those Chiefs fans will be coming back to admit he was right...

    LOL. Keep digging in, Chiefs fans. Smith is never getting a title as a starter.

    1    1 Reply
    LOLOL (Anonymous Poster)
    26 day(s) 10 hour(s) ago - hide
    Walt's probably mad his prediction for Steelers/Bengals was wrong and wants to use the narrative that the steelers won because of the refs rather than face the fact he was wrong. The fact that he wants to claim that on the 3rd quarter Shazier forced fumble that there was not enough evidence to rule the fumble when the ball was clearly coming out as soon as the hit was made shows how weak his argument is. What Walt won't tell you is that at the time of the hit, the receiver became a runner after completing the catch and taking multiple steps. Furthermore the only thing the refs screwed up on that play was whistling the play dead prematurely when Shazier recovered the ball and started running. If this is called correctly the Steelers go up 22-0. Also, Burfict got away with a hitting a Steelers lineman after the play, Pacman got away with a pass interference penalty, and the Steelers got penalized more often. Walt of course will ignore all this because it doesn't support the narrative he wants to portray that the steelers won because of the refs
    2    4 Reply
    Walter is Crazy (Anonymous Poster)
    26 day(s) 14 hour(s) ago - hide
    So the ref is incompetent for not overturning a call on the field where there was no conclusive video, and for not calling an intentional grounding.  But the PI call on Chancellor when he was standing there and Rudolph ran into him was just fine in your books?  Did you have the Vikings to win in this one Walter?  What a bunch of one-sided BS.  The officials did not decide this game.
    2    1 Reply
    Mpls Nick (Anonymous Poster)
    26 day(s) 18 hour(s) ago - hide

    @KCshouldQuittheNFL-Walt 

    The difference, which you'd know if you'd paid any attention whatsoever, is that the Vikings/Seahawks game never saw the temperature get above zero degrees (F). Catching a frozen ball is a lot more challenging, as you can see since the "red-hot" Russell Wilson also had trouble getting anything going through the air.

    And yes, I'd generally prefer a performance with 0 TD/0 int to one with similar yardage and completions that had 1 TD/1 int. Turnovers hurt more than TDs help.

    0    1 Reply
    KCshouldQuittheNFL-Walt (Anonymous Poster)
    26 day(s) 19 hour(s) ago - hide

    Alex Smith 17-22 1 TD 1 INT 190 yards and 30 yards rushing is an absolutely terrible QB.

    Teddy Bridgewater 17-24 0 TD 146 yards played very well.

    Only Walter...

    4    0 Reply
    TherealBOB (Anonymous Poster)
    27 day(s) 2 hour(s) ago - hide
    C'mon, man, you gotta give the Chefs some credit...... Oh yeah, Smith don't need no WRs, the Chefs will lose just fine without'em.....pyrric these nuts... HAHA!!!!
    2    0 Reply
    Yep (Anonymous Poster)
    27 day(s) 11 hour(s) ago - hide
    God, yes. Nantz and Simms were disgraceful. Also, I'm not sure that Burfict should be allowed to play in the NFL anymore. That guy is an animal. I don't mean that in the good way.
    5    1 Reply
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