The Patriots were up 21-0 and in complete control of this contest. Thinking the game was over, here's what I started writing:
How do the Bills recover from this one? They were 2-0, their fans were pumped, and even Chris Berman went on a 30-minute rant on SportsCenter regarding Buffalo's 15-game losing streak to New England.
Well, it's now 16 in a row, and Buffalo still appears to be a long way from being a legitimate perennial playoff contender.
I say "appears" because the Bills didn't play as poorly as the score would suggest. They continuously shot themselves in the foot in the first half to put themselves in a hole. Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed an early pick, but it was actually tipped by Donald Jones. Later, when Buffalo was down 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, Fitzpatrick completed a pass to set up a 4th-and-1 in the red zone. Unfortunately, a chop block took them out of field goal range. They went for it on a 4th-and-long, but Fitzpatrick tossed a second pick to Kyle Arrington.
Wow, is all I have to say. I projected the Bills to go 9-7 in my season preview, but that was because of a combination of returning players in a lockout year and an easy schedule. Beating the Patriots after falling behind 21-0 speaks volumes.
Fitzpatrick was incredible. He went 27-of-40 for 369 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Four Bills had at least 80 receiving yards: Donald Jones (5-101), Steve Johnson (8-94, TD), Fred Jackson (5-87) and David Nelson (6-84). Scott Chandler (2-10) had the other score.
As for Jackson, he didn't get a chance to carry the ball much because of the early deficit. That didn't stop him from gaining 74 rushing yards and a score on just 12 attempts; the emerging running back took full advantage of Albert Haynesworth's absence.
Tom Brady threw for 387 yards and four touchdowns, but he also uncharacteristically tossed four interceptions. In the second half, Brady was just 14-of-23, 165 yards, one score and three picks. It was very weird to see Brady struggle like that in crunch time. It was also strange to see the Patriots waste timeouts and commit foolish penalties on Buffalo's final possession.
Wes Welker (16-217, 2 TDs) and Rob Gronkowski (7-109, 2 TDs) both had monstrous games with Aaron Hernandez sidelined. Deion Branch shockingly caught no passes.
Meanwhile, I thought Chad Ochocinco would step up with Hernandez out of the lineup, but that was hardly the case. Ochocinco hauled in just two grabs for 28 yards. Even worse, he dropped a wide-open touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Could Stevan Ridley be emerging as New England's featured running back? Ridley (7-44), had nearly as many carries as BenJarvus Green-Ellis (9-16) and Danny Woodcock (sic) (6-21). What makes this encouraging is that most of Ridley's workload came in the fourth quarter; five of his seven attempts occurred in the final period.
Panthers 16, Jaguars 10
It's a shame that the Panthers and Jaguars battle each other only once every four years because the showdown between Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert was mostly ruined by rain. If you didn't catch any highlights of this contest, it was a torrential downpour for most of the afternoon. In fact, it was so bad that most of the Carolina fans fled the stadium. It was impossible to even see who had the ball.
Despite the rain, Gabbert was able to hook up with Mike Thomas on a 36-yard touchdown as time expired in the first half. It was reminiscent of the David Garrard-to-Thomas Hail Mary, though Jacksonville didn't get the victory this time.
Gabbert was pretty mediocre otherwise. He went 12-of-21 for 139 yards, one touchdown an interception and three fumbles. He did have his first pass - a nice, 13-yard completion to Jason Hill - wiped out because of a Eugene Monroe penalty. However, Gabbert's pocket presence was a big problem; he struggled with pressure and even took a safety. Most of his yardage came on screen passes to Jones-Drew.
Speaking of Jones-Drew, there's no doubt now that he's healthy; the Pro Bowl running back gained 122 yards on 24 carries to go along with three catches for 45 receiving yards.
The rain cleared up as the game progressed, and the Panthers were able to finally take the lead in the fourth quarter when Cam Newton hit Greg Olsen (7-57, TD) for a 16-yard touchdown. Newton had accuracy issues all afternoon, but you can't completely blame him because of the rain.
Two Panthers who also struggled: Steve Smith had just two catches for 15 yards, while DeAngelo Williams rushed for only 18 yards on 10 carries. I have no idea why the hell Carolina gave Williams that mega deal. He looks done, and there's no question that Jonathan Stewart is the better back. Stewart took his 10 attempts for 59 yards to go along with three catches for 26 receiving yards. He also had a 60-yard gain wiped out by a shady ruling that his elbow hit the ground.
If I had to choose between watching a replay of this game and going to a Justin Bieber concert without ear plugs, I might choose the latter. Professional football was technically on display. If I was a member of the Bengals and 49ers, I would see if this week's check clears because this was an ugly game. I even had someone thank me on Twitter for my updates, saving this poor soul from having to endure the madness.
It started promising for rookie Andy Dalton. Cincinnati came out with an excellent blend of running Cedric Benson (5 carries for 15 yards) and completing passes primarily to Andre Caldwell (3 receptions for 32 yards). They chewed up almost half the opening quarter, but on first and goal from the six, picked a bad time to run on consecutive plays for the first time in the drive. It stalled and a field goal put them up, 3-0. Little did we know they would not score again until the fourth quarter.
Alex Smith came out on San Francisco's first possession and immediately completed a pass to Bruce Miller for 11 yards. Then he got sacked and threw two incompletions. You can pretty much copy that a few times, and you get the gist of what the 49ers did on much of the afternoon, mixing in some unsuccessful runs by Frank Gore who finished with 42 yards on 17 carries. This is not lazy analysis - I am serious.
Both defenses played well in this game obviously, with the final total yards going to Cincinnati just barely at 228-226. Cincinnati's five sacks were crucial in getting their defense off the field. Only once did the 49ers get a first down on a drive following a sack, and it was the result of a penalty. Meanwhile San Francisco's defense was getting it done on third down, stopping nine out of 10 conversion attempts. If not for a Frank Gore fumble early in the fourth quarter, the Bengals would not have scored after the opening drive.
Vernon Davis was the offensive force for the 49ers. His 39-yard reception in the second quarter led to the tying field goal. Yes, it was 3-3 at halftime. Then with the game on the line, he had receptions for 8, 8 and 20 yards during a 72-yard march for the game's only touchdown. Kendall Hunter finished it off with a 7-yard run and he had a mild coming out party here. Gore was ineffective and the smaller rookie Hunter ran big. Immediately after the score, Carlos Rogers intercepted Dalton and even though the drive immediately stalled, David Akers drilled a field goal from 53-yards out to put them up 13-6.
Those two drives took the game from 8:57 remaining to 2:11 by the time Cincinnati got the football back trying to drive for the tying touchdown. Dalton started connecting with tight end Jermaine Gresham and had the Bengals on the move until a dreadful interception to Reggie Smith. Head coach Jim Harbaugh made a questionable coaching decision last week not taking points off the board in a loss to Dallas, but this time managed the final 1:45 well. The 49ers took time off the clock and then punter Andy Lee chewed up precious seconds while conceding a safety, and that was that. I wish I had more to say about this game, but I really wish I could just erase it from my memory.
To start the game, Reggie Bush was in the backfield over rookie Daniel Thomas. The Dolphins were mixing both of them into the game, but Bush gave Miami a reason to keep him on the sidelines when he fumbled the ball away in the first quarter. Browns safety T.J. Ward among others hit Bush and he put the ball on the ground. Bush had another fumble in the second quarter, but he recovered on that loose ball.
On Cleveland's first possession, Colt McCoy rolled out and threw a bad pass that was intercepted by Dolphins cornerback Jimmy Wilson. There weren't any open receivers and McCoy threw behind wide Mohammed Massaquoi. Wilson made an easy pick to set the Dolphins up at the Browns 43-yard line. On the next possession, McCoy had Josh Cribbs running wide open down the middle of the field. It was an easy pass that Cribbs would have turned into an 80-yard touchdown, but McCoy's pass was horribly overthrown, and the Browns had to punt.
McCoy came back and got the Browns on the board in the second quarter. He rolled out of the pocket and tossed a jump ball into the end zone for Cribbs. The wide receiver made a leaping catch in front of cornerback Shaun Smith for the game-tying score. To start the second half, McCoy helped lead another tying drive with a lot of passes to Ben Watson.
McCoy struggled with his accuracy. There were a number of receivers that McCoy had open, but his passes were off the mark. On the final drive of the game for Cleveland, McCoy got his act together and moved the ball down the field with Cleveland down six by dinking and dunking. He completed 9-of-13 passes on the drive. McCoy capped the possession off with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Massaquoi who beat Wilson. The score put Cleveland up by one with a minute remaining. For the game, McCoy was 19-of-39 for 210 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Montario Hardesty was the lead back as Peyton Hllis was out of the game due to illness. Hardesty ran hard and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. He totaled 67 yards on 14 carries with three receptions for 19 yards. Watson led Cleveland in receiving with five receptions for 64 yards. Cribbs had three catches for 49 yards with a score. Massaquoi had two receptions for 26 yards and a score, but was covered well for most of the game by Vontae Davis.
Miami turned McCoy's first quarter interception into a touchdown on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Thomas. The Dolphins executed a screen pass well and Thomas coasted into the end zone.
Chad Henne started out the game extremely well. He was 9-of-10 for 101 yards with one touchdown and completed passes to seven different receivers in the first quarter. Henne moved Miami in position for a long field goal, but it was missed. Late in the first half, Henne started moving the ball again and was aided by a fabulous catch from Brian Hartline on the sidelines. Henne took Miami inside the Cleveland 10-yard line just before halftime, but Miami had to settle for a field goal and a 10-7 halftime lead.
In the second half, Henne generally moved the ball well against Cleveland, which is a credit to him because his pass protection was lacking. He made some plays with his legs and distributed the ball pretty well. Miami and Henne did not finish drives and had too many possessions fizzle out or settle for easy field goals rather than getting in the end zone. On the last drive of the game Henne got to midfield when he overthrew his receiver on fourth-and-10 and was intercepted by safety Mike Adams. Henne completed 19-of-29 passes for 255 yards with one touchdown and one interception. It was an incomplete game from Henne, but not a horrible performance especially when you consider the Dolphins struggles in pass protection.
Miami got a good game out of Thomas as he ran for 95 yards on 23 carries. Thomas also caught three passes for 27 yards. Even though he wasn't shorted carries, Miami probably should have gotten the ball to Thomas more as he was running well in the second half. Bush ran for 24 yards on 11 carries and was ineffective. He caught one pass for 12 yards.
Hartline led Miami in receiving with four catches for 87 yards. Brandon Marshall was held in check by Browns cornerback Joe Haden. He had four catches for 43 yards.
Miami's offensive line had a mixed performance. They blocked well for Thomas in the ground game, but they struggled mightily as a unit in pass blocking. The Dolphins allowed five sacks in the game. Left tackle Jake Long and center Mike Pouncey stood out for their run and pass blocking. Pouncey allowed a sack to Browns defensive tackle Athyba Rubin, but it was a coverage sack that saw Henne run right into Rubin. Henne ran into Taylor for another sack. Overall though, Taylor and Rubin played very well. Right tackle Marc Columbo and tight end Anthony Fasano allowed a bad sack. Guard John Jerry had some bad plays against the Browns tackles, but left guard Richie Incognito had the worst game against Cleveland. Rubin dominated Incognito. The Dolphins really could use a new right tackle and a new left guard.
Overall the Browns' defense played well. They bent, but did not break. Haden, Rubin, Taylor, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and rookie defensive end Jabaal Shread all had good games for Cleveland.
Lions 26, Vikings 23
The Vikings were up 20-0 at halftime. Thinking the game was over, here's what I started writing:
This was everyone's no-brainer pick. It was difficult to find anyone who thought Minnesota had a shot against the seemingly unstoppable Lions. Even the Viking fans on my forum thought I should have made Detroit my September NFL Pick of the Month.
Well, the Vikings apparently didn't agree. They're a proud veteran team that didn't take too kindly to being underdogs against an unproven Detroit squad.
The return of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams was severely underrated. With Williams wreaking havoc in the middle of the line of scrimmage, Matthew Stafford took countless sacks. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, in particular, was awful. He was benched, but Minnesota right end Brian Robison continued to abuse his replacement.
Stafford couldn't get anything going. Even on the rare occasions when he wasn't pressured, he looked jittery in the pocket. The Lions had just four first downs in the opening half.
Perhaps I should have listened for forum member Lukic, who at the time posted, "Detroit is gonna win and cover. Calling it here. Vikings are gonna choke again." Minnesota did indeed choke the game away. Literally. Percy Harvin (3-47) puked in a trash can in the second half and didn't return to the contest.
The Lions finished with 19 first downs. Stafford was simply on fire in the second half, going 32-of-46 for 378 yards and two touchdowns in an unbelievable comeback effort. Calvin Johnson (7-108, 2 TDs) and Brandon Pettigrew (11-112) were unstoppable.
Adrian Peterson did his best to keep the Vikings to dropping to 0-3. He had an impressive 43-yard run and scored a 6-yard touchdown in the second quarter, but was betrayed by his teammates when multiple holding penalties wiped out big gains. You have to wonder why he had just 17 carries (78 yards). Donovan McNabb, meanwhile, was a mediocre 22-of-36 for 211 yards and a score. Another bad game, and it could be Christian Ponder time.
Saints 40, Texans 33
This game really epitomized Houston's typical season:
- The Texans started hot and got everyone excited. They had leads of 10-0, 16-10 and 26-17. Matt Schaub (22-of-39, 373 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) was unstoppable. The Texans were getting good pressure on Drew Brees and even picked him off twice. It really looked like Houston was about to take the next step.
- But as usual, the Texans withered down the stretch, choking for what seems like the billionth time in franchise history. Suddenly, Brees was the quarterback who couldn't be stopped (31-44, 370, 3 TDs, 2 INTs). Schaub also tossed a horrible fourth-quarter pick with the lead. There's no excuse for that.
In my 2011 Houston Texans season preview, I expressed concern with Schaub being able to perform in the clutch, listing his awful fourth-quarter and overtime numbers when the game is close. Well, it appears as though nothing has changed. Well, scratch that. The Colts are a non-factor, so maybe the Texans can sneak into the playoffs by winning an awful AFC South. Maybe...
Other numbers of note:
- Jimmy Graham was silent in the first half, but really became a reliable weapon for Brees down the stretch. Graham hauled in four grabs for 100 yards and a touchdown; one of the receptions featured an impressive hurdle over a Houston defender.
- Lance Moore is healthy again. He had nine grabs for 88 yards and a touchdown. Pick him up if he was dropped last week.
- Darren Sproles continues to be a big weapon in the passing attack. Sproles had six catches for 50 yards to go along with a 30-yard rushing touchdown.
- Andre Johnson (7-128) and Owen Daniels (5-76, TD) predictably had huge games. H-back James Casey (5-126, TD) put together a great statistical performance against the Saints, but I would ignore him in fantasy.
- Ben Tate, starting in place of Arian Foster, had a decent contest, gaining 82 yards on 19 carries. He didn't find the end zone, however. He was also severely underutilized in the second half.
-Mark Ingram scored, but rushed the ball just nine times because the Saints were in an early hole.
Giants 29, Eagles 16
As the score may indicate, this was not a good game for the Eagles. Not only did their offense look completely out of rhythm, and not only did the glaring defensive weaknesses get exposed, but the quarterback also suffered a broken hand.
QB Dog Killer's broken hand is his right one, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal. What has to be disconcerting though is how dreadful the offense looked before the injury. The line pathetically allowed quick pressures on three-man pass rushes. A frustrated QB Dog Killer looked scared to run coming off a concussion. He threw a pick that was a tipped pass by Steve Smith, but he should have been intercepted a second time by Kenny Phillips in the red zone.
Overall, QB Dog Killer went 16-of-23 for 176 yards an interception and three fumbles. He came out of the game twice; on the first occasion, Mike Kafka lobbed an ugly interception downfield on his initial pass. Kafka finished 4-of-7 for 35 yards and a pair of picks.
With the offense struggling for most of the afternoon, particularly in short yardage, only LeSean McCoy put up nice fantasy numbers (24-128, TD). DeSean Jackson (2-30) could never get going. Jeremy Maclin (5-69) was only slightly better, but left the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury.
As mentioned, the Giants did a great job of abusing Philadelphia's weaknesses. They opened up with a nice Eli Manning 40-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Jacobs, where the big running back beat beleaguered rookie linebacker Casey Matthews. On the next score, Kurt Coleman whiffed on two separate tackles and knocked Nnamdi Asomugha out of the way, allowing Victor Cruz to score.
Manning finished 16-of-23 for 254 yards and four touchdowns. Two were to Cruz, one went to Bradshaw, and the other was thrown to Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw had a great game, collecting 139 total yards.
With Mario Manningham out and Hakeem Nicks locked down, Cruz led all Giants in receiving yardage; his three grabs went for 110 yards.
Titans 17, Broncos 14
John Fox blew this one with a stupid decision. Up 14-10, Denver had a fourth-and-goal at the Tennessee 1-yard line in the final period. Given the Broncos' struggles inside the red zone, the right move would have been to kick the field goal to protect against a touchdown beating them. Instead, they went for it and were stuffed at the goal line. Tennessee predictably scored later and won the game.
The Titans may have won this contest, but they still suffered a huge loss. Kenny Britt oddly fumbled the ball inside the red zone in the second quarter. He went down with a nasty-looking knee injury. His status is currently unknown, but the Tennessee front office is fearing a torn MCL or ACL.
Despite the absence of Britt for more than a half, Matt Hasselbeck was still prolific, going 27-of-36 for 311 yards and two touchdowns. His top target was Nate Washington, who caught eight balls for 92 yards and a score.
Chris Johnson's inability to run the ball is starting to become a huge concern. Not being able to do so against stout rush defenses like Jacksonville and Baltimore was understandable, but his performance against a horrific Denver stop unit makes no sense. He rushed for only 21 yards on 13 carries, though he did save his fantasy day with four catches for 54 receiving yards.
On the other side of the ball, the chants for Tim Tebow will continue because Kyle Orton was dreadful yet again. He went 24-of-39 for 173 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of picks, one of which was an awful overthrow intended for Eric Decker (7-48).
Though the Broncos covered the spread and kept this game close, the Titans should have won by way more. Denver was outgained by Tennessee for the tune of 102 yards, but was able to take advantage of multiple Tennessee miscues. For example, defensive end Jason Jones had a personal foul penalty on the Broncos' second drive that set up a touchdown. There was also that Britt fumble. The Broncos also received another red zone possession because of a Von Miller forced fumble.
The Raiders entered this game on a mission to make Mark Sanchez pay for disrespecting them by eating a hot dog on the sidelines at the end of a 38-0 slaughter here two years ago. Head coach Hue Jackson made sure to motivate his team with that image and it worked. They were physical from start to finish. None of it would have mattered if Antonio Cromartie had come ready to play though. He was penalized on the opening drive and it was a theme throughout. Kevin Boss made a nice first catch in a Raider uniform for 28 yards to set up McFadden's short touchdown run for a quick 7-0 lead.
Sanchez came out firing, completing his first two passes for 40 yards to Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller. That would be a theme as well as he finished with 369 yards. However, the drive stalled. When the Jets quickly got it back, LaDainian Tomlinson made a dynamic run after catch good for 74 yards to set up a Sanchez bootleg run to tie it up at 7. Sanchez was asked to roll out of the pocket quite a bit, and while it worked early, the Raiders adjusted and shut it down. It was really an uneven game for him even with the big passing numbers. Rookie Jeremy Kerley returned a punt 53 yards only to watch Sanchez give it away on an interception to Tyvon Branch.
The second quarter was a scoring frenzy. To be honest, I had trouble keeping up after watching the defensive struggle earlier in the day. Tomlinson caught a touchdown pass to put the Jets on top 14-7. Raider fans used to seeing Tomlinson in a Chargers uniform saw another vintage performance from him as he piled up 154 yards on 11 touches. McFadden answered with a few tough runs for 17, 15 and 6 yards to get Oakland just close enough for Sebastian Janikowski to try a 56-yard field goal. He missed, but it would set him up for later on. The field position allowed the Jets to drive and eventually kick a short field go to go up by 10, but it would be two full quarters before their offense scored again.
In the meantime, the Raiders started working on offense. McFadden turned in a brilliant 70-yard touchdown run. On the next drive, Campbell completed short pass after short pass to march the team into position for Janikowski to make a field goal from 54 yards out and tie the game at halftime. New York head coach Rex Ryan could be seen shaking his head as his team walked off the field. This was not a vintage Jets performance, and although Tomlinson and Shonn Greene did combine for 97 yards on the ground, the running game did not come close to dominating like they have grown accustomed to doing in the past.
Alternating punts chewed up the first half of the third quarter, as both offenses failed twice. Then came the turning point of the game. New York had a 3rd-and-2 from the Oakland 37-yard line. Two incompletions later, the 43-yard drive resulted in no points. The answer from Oakland was dramatic. On the play's third drive, McFadden had a pass option and instead ran left for 27 yards. Rookie phenomenon Denarius Moore then took a reverse 23 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The Black Hole was rocking, and all of the frustration from a game with four penalties built up for Cromartie. He booted the return, and two plays later, a Michael Bush touchdown made it 31-17 to open the fourth quarter.
There was no quit in the Jets. A drive basically bookended by completions to Burress spanned 93 yards and resulted in a touchdown to make it 31-24, but it took almost three minutes and left just 5:33 on the clock. Oakland took advantage of a penalty on Calvin Pace to extend a drive, and it was critical considering they did not convert a third down in eight tries. The key play was Campbell's touch pass to Bush good for 28 yards. It set up Janikowski for a chip shot field goal from 49 yards out. Again, the Jets responded with a drive, but Sanchez's scramble on fourth down came up a hot dog short.
A lot of New York's 439 total yards were wasted. Oakland's defense came up with numerous sacks, a pair by Jarvis Moss, who might be experiencing a career renaissance. Most amazingly, the Raiders scored a 34-24 win without the services of their matchup nightmare Marcel Reece.
Chargers 20, Chiefs 17
The good news is that the Chargers won. The bad news is that they continue to make the same, dumb mistakes every single week. San Diego severely outplayed Kansas City, winning the yardage battle, 375-252. They moved the chains effectively all afternoon - until they got inside the Chiefs' 30-yard line, that is. At that point, they committed turnovers and dropped passes. You know, the usual.
It's really telling that the Chargers were up only 10-0 at halftime because Kansas City had ZERO first downs compared to San Diego's 14. Furthermore, the Chiefs even missed a 38-yard field goal, so that wasn't enough to help the Chargers.
Cassel went 17-of-24 for 176 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that was a very weird, game-ending pick on a screen. He was awful prior to halftime, and the coaching staff didn't seem to trust him until very late, opting to run the ball in 3rd-and-10-type situations.
The ground attack wasn't too effective; Thomas Jones had 31 yards on 14 carries. Dexter McCluster was better, generating 45 rushing yards on nine carries and also chipping in with five catches for 17 receiving yards.
Dwayne Bowe hauled in four receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. Bowe's fantasy owners suffered a scare when he limped off the field in the fourth quarter after a nasty hit, but he quickly returned to the game.
Philip Rivers went 24-of-38 for 266 yards and those two picks. He was constantly harassed by Kansas City's underrated defense, though it's a surprise he wasn't able to do more with Vincent Jackson (5-63) after stud Chiefs corner Brandon Flowers left the game in the first half with an injury.
Ryan Mathews is now San Diego's featured back. He had way more carries (21) than Mike Tolbert (4), and looked great in the process, totaling 98 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also caught four balls for more 51 yards, while Tolbert had three catches for 24 receiving yards.
Ravens 37, Rams 7
Think the Ravens were mad about their loss to the Titans? After a lackluster effort at Tennessee, Baltimore took it out on the poor Rams, who stood no chance in this game.
St. Louis' defensive backs looked like a bunch of high-schoolers at times trying to stop Joe Flacco, who went 27-of-48 for 389 yards and three touchdowns. Flacco was pressured often and was guilty of a pair of fumbles, but the Rams' pathetic secondary betrayed the defensive front.
All three of Flacco's scores went to rookie wideout Torrey Smith. It was pretty cool to see Smith's first three career catches go for scores. Unfortunately, Smith, who finished with five grabs for 152 yards, suffered a hamstring injury in the second half and limped off the field. Stay tuned for details. If Smith is OK, he's definitely worth adding to your fantasy roster.
Ray Rice also had a huge game; he didn't find the end zone, but he rushed for 79 yards on eight carries to go along with five catches for 83 receiving yards. Rice probably should have scored on a long run, but a desperate defender brought him down by grabbing his face mask.
Between the receivers who couldn't get open, and the offensive line that couldn't block (5 sacks), and the star running back who couldn't shoulder much of a workload (Steven Jackson; 4 carries, 23 yards), Sam Bradford didn't have a prayer of leading his team to victory. Bradford went 16-of-32 for 166 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The Rams could still win the NFC West, but they don't have much of a chance outside of the division because Bradford's supporting cast absolutely stinks.
The only wideout of note, from a statistical standpoint, was Brandon Gibson, who hauled in five grabs for 55 yards and a touchdown. However, the 34-yard score came very late in the game when Baltimore was already up 30-0. You can't take that seriously.
Packers 27, Bears 17
Jay Cutler doesn't have too much to complain about today. Cutler was sacked three times, but one of the sacks occurred because he held on to the ball too long. He didn't see much pressure in this contest, but only because Dom Capers fooled Chicago by taking away their other options. For instance, Matt Forte ran the ball nine times for only two yards. As a result, Chicago had just 12 first downs.
Forte did save his fantasy day by catching seven balls for 80 receiving yards. Chicago's receiving corps is so awful that Forte will continue to serve as Cutler's No. 1 aerial option.
Speaking of Chicago's wideouts, Roy Williams did nothing. Johnny Knox had four grabs for 84 yards, while Dane Sanzenbacher, taking Earl Bennett's spot in the lineup, logged five catches for 27 yards and a score.
For the second straight week, the Bears' defense had major issues against a Super Six quarterback. Aaron Rodgers was nearly flawless in this contest, going 28-of-38 for 297 yards, three touchdowns and an interception to Brian Urlacher that was more of a great play by the future Hall of Famer.
All three of Rodgers' scores went to Jermichael Finley, who caught seven balls for 85 yards. Greg Jennings paced the team in receptions (9) and yardage (119). Jordy Nelson (3-40) and James Jones (4-24) served as complementary players.
So much for James Starks taking over the lead running back role. Starks really struggled, gaining a pathetic five yards on 11 attempts. He also fumbled in the fourth quarter, which could give Mike McCarthy more of an excuse to go back to Ryan Grant, who tallied 92 yards on 17 carries.
This defeat was epic fail for Chicago all around. Not only did the rival Packers completely whack the Bears; this game had to be delayed because of some random metal object buried in the grass on the field. I'll have more of this in my 2011 NFL Power Rankings.
Seahawks 13, Cardinals 10
One of the reasons I picked the Seahawks to win this game was their great homefield advantage. They won and covered, but the fans at Qwest Field didn't support the entire team. Despite the victory, the crowd chanted "Charlie! Charlie!" whenever Tarvaris Jackson made a mistake.
Jackson wasn't too bad; he went 18-of-31 for 171 yards and an interception, but also rushed for 20 yards and an 11-yard touchdown on four scrambles. He really benefited from the return of Sidney Rice, who hauled in eight grabs for 109 yards. No other Seahawk had more than two catches.
Finding ample running room for one of the rare occasions in his Seattle tenure, Marshawn Lynch rushed for 73 yards on 19 carries.
Kevin Kolb was the superior quarterback in this matchup, but not by much. He went 25-of-39 for 252 yards, one touchdown and a pair of picks. Kolb was pressured frequently, taking three sacks behind his pedestrian offensive line.
Larry Fitzgerald caught five balls for 64 yards and a touchdown. He also drew a pass interference penalty. However, he struggled to do much of anything in the second half once Seattle used bracket coverage on him. Todd Heap (6-61) and Early Doucet (5-50) stepped up, but it wasn't enough.
With Chris Wells out, someone named Alfonso Smith took 17 carries for 54 rushing yards. Yeah, I don't know who that is either.
Calais Campbell was a monster in this game, racking up 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Both Atlanta and Tampa Bay started their pivotal division matchup with some sloppy play. At the beginning of the game, Matt Ryan was sacked and fumbled the ball from a hit by blitzing linebacker Dekoda Watson. Cornerback Ronde Barber covered the fumble for Tampa Bay and set the Bucs up at the Atlanta 17-yard line. Josh Freeman gave it right back a few plays later as threw a terrible pass to tight end Kellen Winslow that was intercepted safety Thomas DeCoud in the back of the end zone.
Freeman was off for most of the first half. A 16-yard pass to Mike Williams and some quality runs by LeGarrette Blount got Tampa Bay on the board first with a field goal. Freeman got into more of a groove late in the second quarter to lead a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. He connected on a few passes to rookie tight end Luke Stocker and Williams. Freeman dived into the end zone from a yard out to give Tampa Bay 10-3 lead. A turnover set Tampa Bay up for three more points just before halftime and a lead of 16-3.
To start the third quarter, Freeman led a drive that ate up over half the period and produced another field goal for the Buccaneers. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Freeman had a pass deflected off the hands of wide receiver Arrelious Benn and into the hands of safety William Moore, who returned the interception to midfield.
Freeman finished the game 22-of-32 for 180 yards and two interceptions. Williams had five receptions for 43 yards. Winslow had two catches for 20 yards. Blount finished with 81 yards on 24 carries.
The Falcon defensive line got some pressure on Freeman but never sacked him. Defensive end Ray Edwards was held in check by Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood. Left tackle Donald Penn was called for a holding on John Abraham, but otherwise, he limited Abraham to one hit on Freeman. Atlanta's defensive line did not defend the run that well either.
Matt Ryan answered the first three points from the Bucs with a field goal on an 84-yard drive midway through the first half. Ryan moved the ball by throwing the ball up and letting his receivers make some plays. Julio Jones and Roddy White both made big grabs in the first half. Late in the second quarter, Ryan was sacked by rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Ryan put the ball on the ground and it was recovered by Bucs defensive end Michael Bennett.
When Ryan started to throw more to Jones in the second half, good things happened for Atlanta. Jones beat Talib to the end zone on a pass that was overthrown by Ryan. Later in the fourth quarter, Jones beat Talib and the safety in zone coverage for a 49-yard pass to the Bucs' 10-yard line. Jones had to stop and wait for the ball, and a better pass would have been a score. Ryan finished the drive on the next play with a 10-yard touchdown to Gonzalez.
Ryan later had White for a potential touchdown, but his No. 1 wideout dropped the ball. Atlanta had to settle for a field goal and never got the ball back because Tampa Bay was able to run out the clock.
Each team featured a young defensive tackle that was a disruptive force in the game. For Atlanta, third-year pro Peria Jerry was routinely getting the best of Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph. Meanwhile, Bucs second-year tackle Brian Price was hitting Ryan and busting up runs by jetting into the backfield. Price got a sack late in the fourth quarter at a critical time to help force the Falcons to settle for three rather than going in for a go ahead touchdown.
A weakness early in the 2011 season for Atlanta has been its offensive line. Left tackle Sam Baker hasn't played great, although they didn't help him at all in the first game by giving him no assistance against Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. Still, Baker did not have a very good game against Clayborn. New starter Garrett Reynolds hasn't played well at right guard. He was consistently allowing Price or Gerald McCoy to cause disruption in the backfield. Bolstering the offensive line could be a high priority for Atlanta next offseason, and in the short term, they will need to figure out a way to mask that weakness in order to compete for the playoffs.
Steelers 23, Colts 20
The Steelers were favored by 10.5 points at Indianapolis, but they were lucky to win this game. Despite going up 10-0 in the first quarter, Pittsburgh tried its hardest to give this game away with turnovers, missed field goals and poor blocking by the offensive line.
Speaking of which, Pittsburgh's front line is in shambles. Reserve left tackle Marcus Gilbert, who has been starting because of injuries elsewhere, left the game with a shoulder. Later, right guard Doug Legursky was forced out of the game with a shoulder problem of his own. Later on, tackle Jonathan Scott suffered a leg malady. With no other linemen available, Mike Tomlin was forced to usher Gilbert back into the lineup.
I don't have to tell you that the Steelers are in trouble heading to Houston. How can they possibly block Mario Williams and J.J. Watt?
Despite the poor protection, Ben Roethlisberger went 25-of-37 for 364 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He was also strip-sixed. Big Ben showed great rapport with Mike Wallace (5-144, TD), Antonio Brown (4-75) and Heath Miller (5-71).
Rashard Mendenhall is really looking like a fantasy bust. It's not just the poor blocking; he's doing so much dancing at the line of scrimmage that I have to wonder if he spent too much time watching Hines Ward on TV this spring. Mendenhall gained just 37 yards on 18 carries.
As shocking as it was to see Pittsburgh struggle to run the football, it was even more surprising to watch Indianapolis have so much success on the ground. Joseph Addai tallied 86 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
Fifty-one players on the Indianapolis roster played incredibly well against the Pittsburgh to nearly pulled the upset, including Dwight Freeney (2 sacks) and Pat Angerer (20 tackles). Unfortunately, it was the other two Colts who gave the game away. Kerry Collins went 13-of-29 for 93 yards. He was incredibly lucky not to throw multiple picks. He left the contest in the second half because he had to take a sobriety test be evaluated for a concussion.
Curtis "Finger" Painter stepped in and wasn't much better. He went 5-of-11 for 60 yards and a strip-six. Painter had Pierre Garcon wide open for a touchdown on his first drive but completely missed him.