Week 4 NFL Game Recaps
Bengals 23, Bills 20
The Bills were one of those squads. They held a 17-3 advantage at halftime and appeared as though they were in complete control. Andy Dalton was just 7-of-20 for 116 yards and two picks. He also missed a wide-open A.J. Green in the end zone in the first quarter. It would have been even worse if he wasn't bailed out by the Tuck Rule on what was initially ruled a strip-six.
In the end though, Dalton outthrew the previously red-hot Ryan Fitzpatrick; Cedric Benson (19-104) outrushed Fred Jackson (17-66, TD); and Green (4-118) outcaught Steve Johnson (4-58) even though the rookie wideout dropped a touchdown. Like I said, it was a weird Sunday.
Lions 34, Cowboys 30
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
Romo attacked Houston again with a 44-yard pass to Laurent Robinson that got the Cowboys all the way to the Lions' 6-yard line. On the next play, Romo threw a pass up to Bryant who grabbed the ball and fought off cornerback Eric Wright in the front of the end zone. Following that, Romo led a field goal drive midway through the second quarter and just before halftime for a 20-3 halftime lead. Romo picked apart the Detroit defense, completing 19-of-24 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Jones ran for 37 yards on 10 carries. Robinson paced Dallas in receiving with four receptions for 85 yards. Bryant had two catches for 37 yards and two scores.
The next possession was, as Yogi Berra would say, "deja vu all over again." Romo threw a slant pass toward Robinson, but it was off the mark. Houston out-fought Robinson for the ball and made the interception. Houston raced down the sideline 56 yards and dodged a few potential tackles for a touchdown.
Romo was aided by a dumb facemask penalty on Ndamukong Suh. The Lions kept Suh blocked for most of the game, but Suh hit Romo hard with a hand to the face of Romo. It turned an incompletion on a third down to a first down around midfield. Romo's next play was a 37-yard pass to Witten. That led to a field goal and a 30-17 lead.
After the Lion defense got Stafford back in the game, he returned the favor in the fourth quarter when he finally got the ball into the end zone. Stafford threw a jump ball in the end zone for Johnson, and Megatron out leaped two defenders to come down with a 23-yard touchdown catch. After a three-and-out, the Lions moved the ball, but sloppy play and penalties forced Detroit to settle for a field goal to make it a three-point game.
Detroit put up 10 more points to narrow it to 30-27. With just over four minutes remaining, Romo was pressured by Suh. He tossed a ball up for Witten that was short of his tight end. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch tipped the ball to himself and secured a huge interception for Detroit. The Lions made Romo pay and took the lead.
Some good passes from Stafford to Johnson and hard runs by Best, moved the ball inside the 5-yard line. Stafford finished the drive with a fade pass to Johnson for a 2-yard touchdown toss. Romo didn't have a comeback in him, and Detroit improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1980. Dallas fell to 2-2.
Saints 23, Jaguars 10
Perhaps Blaine Gabbert was confused about this because he was pretty dreadful. He went 16-of-42 for 196 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The bulk of his yardage came on a wide receiver screen to Mike Thomas (5-73) that went for 47 yards. Outside of that, Gabbert didn't have a completion longer than 18 yards. He was especially bad in the second half; he had just 34 passing yards after the break, as he continuously missed wide-open receivers.
49ers 24, Eagles 23
By Greg Cox - @ActuallyGregCox
Their defense was potent in the first half, limiting the 49ers to movement on just two drives which both wound up in field goal attempts. Only one was converted by their former kicker David Akers. When he lined up for his first try, a bit of the crowd actually cheered. They roared when he missed from 44 yards out. He was not the worst kicker in the stadium though. More on that later.
Vick's lone interception ended a drive in the first quarter, but the killer turnover came from Ronnie Brown in the second quarter. He was trying to find the end zone on an inside run from the San Francisco 1-yard line. After realizing he would not make it, something froze his brain, prompting a backward pass attempt. He failed according to the refs, and it was ruled a fumble. The turnover basically took three points off the board, assuming they attempted and converted an easy field goal from about the 3.
After driving the field at will, Philadelphia led only 20-3 at halftime, but should have been up by much more. The 49ers found some offense to start the second half only to watch King Dunlap block an Akers field goal attempt. A quick drive for a field goal later made it 23-3, and while the Philadelphia crowd was booing, they were still completely in charge of the game.
Then the defense came unraveled. It is worth noting that Jason Babin earned his check and then some, constantly harassing Alex Smith. He was a force. The rest of the unit had issues in the second half when the 49ers kept driving the length of the field for touchdowns. Kendall Hunter had a sweet reception for 45 yards to key their first touchdown march.
The game was still in their control when Nnamdi Asomugha, signed to be a shutdown corner, let Michael Crabtree beat him for a gain of 32 yards to start a drive that ended in a touchdown to trim the lead to 23-17, which gave the visitors hope.
At this point the offense kept moving down the field only to watch their rookie kicker act like a rookie. Alex Henery missed field goals on consecutive drives sandwiched around forcing a San Francisco punt. Suddenly, the 49ers had the ball with the outcome in doubt and 6:28 left. They got big plays from Hunter and the physically limited Frank Gore, who capped the drive off with a 12-yard touchdown scamper. The icing on the cake was Akers striking the extra point to make it 24-23.
Still, the Dream Team had a full three minutes to answer the bell. Short passes put them just inside San Francisco territory. A pass to Maclin had them at the 32 and pretty much in field goal range, assuming Henery was up to it. One problem - Justin Smith forced a fumble, and a pack of 49ers was there to cover it and end the threat.
Again, it wasn't over until Philly's defense let Gore run for 4, 8, 4, 5 and 5 yards on consecutive plays when it knew what was coming. How do you let an injured running back average over five yards per carry on a drive like that with the game on the line? There is plenty of blame to go around, but clearly this team of "stars" lacks heart and finishing skills.
Redskins 17, Rams 10
The problems, of course, had to do with Sam Bradford's supporting cast. I was shocked when I looked at the box score and saw that Bradford was sacked only seven times. Key word: only. I estimated a dozen sacks. The offensive line barely gave him any time to throw. On the rare occasions when Bradford (20-43, 164 yards, TD) was able to scan the field without a defender in his face, none of his receivers were able to get open. And then there were the drops. There were plenty of them, including Lance Kendricks' botched try in the end zone.
Penalties were an issue too. The Rams had nine of them, and one infraction completely changed the game. Early on, the Rams had a fourth down on Washington's 28. Josh Brown had a makeable field goal attempt coming up. However, beleaguered right tackle Jason Smith committed a personal foul. Set up in a 3rd-and-22, Bradford was strip-sacked, and the Redskins scored two plays later on a short field. Instead of a 7-3 deficit, St. Louis fell behind, 14-0. Game over.
Titans 31, Browns 13
Chris Johnson was able to finish with 101 yards on 23 carries, but aside from a 25-yard scamper in the first quarter that probably should have been a longer gain, he wasn't able to do much until late when the Browns gave up.
Hasselbeck, meanwhile, went 10-of-20 for 220 yards, three touchdowns and a pick despite not having Kenny Britt for the first time this year. The bulk of his yardage came on an 80-yard touchdown to tight end Jared Cook in which Cleveland defensive back Usama Young took a horrible angle and whiffed on a tackle.
McCoy went 40-of-61 for 350 yards, one touchdown and a desperate, late interception. The Browns were behind for most of this contest, so they had no choice but to throw often. Peyton Hillis was able to carry the ball just 10 times for 46 yards.
Chiefs 22, Vikings 17
The second-most exciting part of this contest was a sideline fight between Todd Haley and Matt Cassel. The two yelled at each other in the first half, and it appeared as though Kansas City was about to come apart at the seams. Instead, Cassel did a good job leading the team to victory, going 18-of-29 for 260 yards and a touchdown, though he did have an interception dropped in the red zone.
Bears 34, Panthers 29
Like I said, Newton was awesome. He did make a crucial mistake in the first quarter when he tossed a pick-six into double coverage, but was outstanding otherwise. He went 27-of-46 for 374 yards, one passing touchdown, two rushing touchdowns and that interception.
- Legedu Naanee dropped an easy catch on what would have been a 30-yard completion on the first drive.
- Later in the possession, a long pass to Jeremy Shockey was wiped out by an illegal formation.
- The Panthers were guilty of a delay-of-game penalty on a first-and-goal in the middle of the second quarter.
- A Jeremy Shockey third-quarter touchdown was called back by a bogus offensive pass interference.
- The Bears blocked a 34-yard field goal.
- Carolina allowed Devin Hester to return a kickoff 73 yards, which set up a short field for Chicago and a subsequent Matt Forte touchdown.
- Minutes later, Hester scored on a punt return touchdown.
Texans 17, Steelers 10
As an indication, Houston won the time-of-possesion battle in the first half, 21:32 to 8:28. In fact, the Steelers didn't even get the ball until there was 4:05 remaining in the first quarter.
Pittsburgh was completely helpless against the run; Arian Foster rushed for 155 yards on 30 carries, while Ben Tate, who suffered a groin injury, chipped in with 20 yards on two attempts. That's 5.5 yards per carry. It's amazing that the Steelers' once-vaunted defense that perennially ranked in the top five in grounddefense can't even come close to stopping the rush.
The reason why the Steelers were able to hang around? The Texans absolutely killed themselves with penalties. They had eight in the first half alone, including the dumbest block-in-the-back infraction ever on Danieal Manning on Johnathan Joseph's blocked field goal return.
Falcons 27, Seahawks 7
Matt Ryan went 28-of-42 for 291 yards and a touchdown despite facing heavy pressure all afternoon. He found Julio Jones 11 times for 127 yards. Roddy White (6-78) and Tony Gonzalez (7-56, TD) were also major factors.
The stats are a bit misleading, however, because a 52-yard score of Jackson's came on a desperate heave to Sidney Rice (3-79, TD) when the discombobulated Atlanta defense was offside.
Jackson also barely faced any pressure all afternoon. You have to wonder if the Falcons regret breaking the bank on Ray Edwards. Atlanta's defense looks awful.
Giants 31, Cardinals 27
The officials ruled that Cruz gave himself up. Ken Whisenhunt tried to challenge it, but wasn't allowed to. On the next play, Manning hit Hakeem Nicks for the decisive 29-yard score.
Most of the talking heads on TV were pissed off about this and disagreed with the call, but I didn't - until I heard what Cruz said afterward. I thought it was pretty legitimate at first. If you look at Cruz, he glanced to his left and right, decided that he wasn't going anywhere, and dived down on his own. I figured he knew he wasn't touched, and thus gave himself up.
Afterward, however, Cruz said that he thought he was touched. If that's the case, then Arizona definitely got hosed.
Chargers 26, Dolphins 16
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
Backup Matt Moore came into the game and handed the ball off a lot as the Dolphins scored a touchdown with running back Lex Hilliard diving over the top. Moore did not play poorly for Miami, but he didn't make the big plays they needed to have a shot at beating the Chargers.
English also recorded his second sack of the season. It was a coverage sack when Moore stepped up in the pocket next to English, and he took a couple steps to the quarterback away from left tackle Jake Long.
Packers 49, Broncos 23
Orton's passing numbers were a bit of a farce. He threw a 44-yard strike to Brandon Lloyd on a flea flicker that really fooled the Packers. When the Broncos had to move the ball down the field, they often had issues doing so.
Patriots 31, Raiders 19
By Greg Cox - @ActuallyGregCox
Smartly, New England came out and operated a balanced offensive attack knowing Oakland's defense was vulnerable in both areas. Stupidly, their former star Richard Seymour was flagged for a pair of 15-yard penalties to fuel their opening touchdown drive capped off by a 15-yard pass to Wes Welker and a 7-3 lead.
After an exchange of punts, the Raiders opened a drive with a 41-yard run by Darren McFadden. Jason Campbell rumbled for 17 yards and followed it up with a 23 yard pass to Boss. It took the running game three shots from first and goal, but Michael Bush cashed in to put Oakland back in front 10-7. Welker receptions and a few BenJarvus Green-Ellis runs, including a 1-yard plunge for a touchdown, changed that in a hurry to make it 14-10 New England.
The Black Hole was not in panic mode though. Darrius Heyward-Bey picked up 28 yards on a reception, and the return of Jacoby Ford was felt with a trick play run good for 30 yards. The drive ended on an interception I can't even describe. Announcer Solomon Wilcots assumed Campbell was trying to throw the ball away with no Raiders in the vicinity at the New England 6-yard line on second down and goal. I surmised he just delivered it directly to Patrick Chung, who caught it easily even with a hand in a cast. The Patriots drove for a field goal to make it 17-10 at the halftime gun.
Wasted yardage, 75 on that drive, was a theme for the Raiders, who piled up 504 while never realistically having a shot to win down the stretch. If it feels like I am jumping ahead ,it is because the Patriots moved the ball at will in this game when they needed to. Welker's receiving and the hard running of rookie Stevan Ridley were unstoppable. Ridley capped the first drive of the second half with a touchdown run from 33 yards out.
Oakland did answer with a drive for a field goal, but it took 7:34 to get it done. An offense built to wear teams down running the ball is not going to beat an offense run by Tom Brady with long marches for three points. Already up double digits, New England just kept going to Welker for 9, 19, 6 and 28 yards along the way before hitting Deion Branch for the touchdown to make it 31-13.
With the game now in the fourth quarter, it was up to Campbell to make big plays down the field. He really wasn't up to it although he led a drive down to the New England 30 before throwing an interception to Vince Wilfork. Someone on Twitter joked about "Wilfork Island" since the big boy now has a couple picks in the past three games, but it is more like a continent.
There was just some scrapping after that. The Patriots tried to smash in another "in your face" touchdown and failed. The Raiders found Heyward-Bey for 58 yards and Bush for 35 on consecutive passing plays in the closing moments to set up rookie phenom Denarius Moore, a total non-factor most of the day, for a garbage touchdown. The 31-19 final was secured when Campbell failed to find Chaz Schilens on the two-point attempt.
Ravens 34, Jets 17
For the Jets, it was all about the blocking - as in, there was none. Center Nick Mangold's absence was glaring, as backup Colin Baxter continuously botched snaps. Sanchez's protection was awful, as he was under pressure on nearly every single pass attempt. As a result, Sanchez went 11-of-35 for 119 yards, a pick and four fumbles, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
The run blocking was non-existent as well. The Jets tried to run the ball, but Shonn Greene (10-23) and LaDainian Tomlinson (3-minus-3) couldn't do anything.
There was a ton of sharp money Sunday morning on the Ravens. If those botched calls had an impact on the result, I'd suggest that Carey, who also made sure Green Bay covered last week, was perhaps influenced by outside sources. But no, that couldn't possibly happen, could it?
For thoughts on Colts-Buccaneers, check out my updated 2011 NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.
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2008 Championship Sunday Diary - Jan. 20
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