Week 17 NFL Game Recaps
Eagles 34, Redskins 10
It's true though. Philadelphia has found its stride after that horrible Thursday night effort in Seattle. The players have saved Andy Reid's job (though as I've noted multiple times on this Web site, I never believed it was truly in jeopardy), and have built momentum for 2012. There's no doubt that this team will be much better next year, thanks to an entire offseason in which all of these players can gel.
49ers 34, Rams 27
By Greg Cox - @ActuallyGregCox
Speaking of Clemens, by the way, he's screwed me in two of the past three weeks with backdoor touchdowns. He is the new Backdoor Bandit.)
As it turned out, Indianapolis lost, but no one could accuse this team of quitting based on this effort. Unfortunately for head coach Steve Spagunuolo and general manager Bill Devaney, their team's effort was not enough because, if early reports are to be believed, both are out of a job.
San Francisco got its hands on the football first and wasted no time moving the chains. As has been the team's pattern all season, the 49ers chewed up clock and methodically moved down the field. A drive covering only 48 yards took 5:15, but record-setting veteran kicker David Akers missed the 48-yard field goal.
The Rams immediately took advantage of field position with Kellen Clemens hitting ex-49er Brandon Lloyd for a gain of 24 yards. Lloyd (6-100, TD) did what he could to wreck his former team. Then, Steven Jackson (16-76) picked up 20 yards on three straight carries to put St. Louis in the red zone. Two plays later, the Rams were forced to third down, and with Clemens scrambling out of trouble, it looked like a field goal attempt was coming due. That is, until he kept running towards the end zone for the 7-0 lead and rare rushing score against this 49ers' defense.
Both offenses followed with three-and-outs, but the field position exchange went heavily in favor of San Francisco, which got a huge 66-yard punt out of Andy Lee and wound up starting from the St. Louis 33-yard line. Unlike a lot of occurrences this season, the 49ers actually finished the drive. Alex Smith (21-of-31, 219 yards, TD) completed a couple of short passes and ran for the tying touchdown as the first quarter came to a close.
The Rams repeatedly started drives at their own 20-yard line or worse field position (eight times to be exact) but on this possession, worked out of it with a 19-yard pass to rookie tight end Lance Kendricks. However, after two Jackson runs created a third-down situation, Clemens was intercepted by Tarrell Brown. Smith wasted no time finishing this second-consecutive drive and putting San Francisco on top, completing two passes to Michael Crabtree (9-92, 2 TDs) to cover the 34 yards and make it 14-7.
Cadillac Williams substituted in for Jackson on the next drive for St. Louis, but again, the team couldn't move the ball, so it flipped back to the 49ers. Having started at their own 33-yard line, which on this day was par for the course, San Francisco executed two short runs, which Smith followed by hitting Vernon Davis (8-118) for a gain of 44. However, the red-zone woes that have haunted this offense all year showed up when Smith was sacked, threw incomplete and threw a "give up" completion to Crabtree. Akers, who now owns the records for field goals made and attempted in a single season, converted to make it 17-7.
The 49ers defense was starting to take over, and forced consecutive quick punts sandwiched around their own three-and-out. Although head coach Jim Harbaugh insisted that his team would not rest anyone, Frank Gore (7-9) was clearly not part of the equation due to an exhausting season of wear and tear. Two runs from Kendall Hunter for a total of 19 yards helped put San Francisco in plus territory, and a completion to Davis made it an easy field goal opportunity for Akers who put the 49ers up 20-7 at halftime when the Rams failed on their final desperation two-minute drive.
To its credit, St. Louis came out firing in the second half. Jackson ripped off a 27-yard run, but the drive stalled. The field position was changed at least, and San Francisco had to punt after a weak ensuing posession.The Rams responded with big gains to Kendricks and Lloyd, keying a drive that resulted in a 49-yard field goal from Josh Brown, trimming the 49ers' lead to 20-10.
It looked like San Francisco had had about enough of that, completing passes to Crabtree and Davis, setting up yet another Akers field goal attempt. A funny thing happened though. No one covered Crabtree wide and Akers hit him for an easy touchdown, creating a seemingly safe 27-10 lead as the third quarter came to a close.
Still, the St. Louis would not quit. A couple passes to Danario Alexander moved the Rams into field goal range, and Brown was good from 48 yards to trim the advantage to 27-13. The 49ers went to more running from Hunter (16-76) but had to punt when Smith threw short to Antonio Dixon on a check down. However, the San Francisco defense came up big with Tarell Brown intercepting Clemens once again. Set up at the 13-yard line, the 49ers ran the ball five times with Hunter and Dixon (8-21 yards, TD) sharing the work and Dixon's score putting them safely up 34-13.
Well, everyone thought San Francisco was safe with just 6:30 left in the game up 21 points. However, St. Louis was on a different page than the rest of America. A pass to Lloyd coupled with a 15-yard penalty put the Rams almost at midfield in the blink of an eye. Three plays later, a deep touchdown to Lloyd making it 34-20. After recovering the onside kick, which was moved up thanks to another 15-yard penalty on the 49ers, Brown was flagged for interfering with Lloyd, and the ball was spotted at the 1-yard line. Williams cashed in the touchdown from there, and, to everyone's amazement, the score was San Francisco 34, St. Louis 27 with plenty of time (4:36) left.
The 49ers couldn't do anything with Smith sacked on third down by James Hall. The Rams threw a big scare into them when Clemens hit Brandon Gibson for 21 yards to the San Francisco 33-yard line. Two plays later, Navorro Bowman sacked Clemens, putting the signal caller on the sideline. Backup Tom Brandstater threw incomplete twice, and San Francisco ran Dixon three times to set up the victory formation.
The game definitely didn't go how the 49ers drew it up, but they earned the bye and didn't suffer any more notable injuries.
Bears 17, Vikings 13
With that in mind, you can imagine my reaction when Ponder left the game in the second quarter with a hip injury. I yelled, "S***!"
It turns out that I overreacted. Webb was better than Ponder, but the former was guilty of two interceptions. He went 17-of-32 for 200 yards and the picks. Ponder, meanwhile, was 4-of-10 for 28 yards and an interception of his own.
Packers 45, Lions 41
With a 9-0 lead and Aaron Rodgers sidelined because of a coaching decision, it looked like the Lions were going to run away with an easy victory.
And then Matt Flynn happened. All he did against the Lions was set the all-time Green Bay single-game passing yardage record. That's right - Flynn outgained Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Rodgers. Crazy.
Flynn went 31-of-44, 480 yards, six touchdowns and an interception. It was all legitimate too. He tossed multiple bombs to his receivers, mostly to Jordy Nelson (9-162, 3 TDs). Flynn led the Packers on a game-winning scoring drive with just a minute remaining. Due to hit free agency this March, Flynn has made himself a TON of money. At just 26 years old, Flynn now has to be considered one of the top free agents available this offseason. I'll have 2012 NFL Free Agency Rankings posted soon.
I can only imagine what the ref said when talking to Schwartz: "Sorry Jim, I placed a large bet on Packers +6 this morning. I know it's a catch - I can see as much on the screen - but I need to buy my kids some late Christmas presents."
Saints 45, Panthers 17
The Panthers had no chance because of this reason. They kept this NFC South battle close for a while, but Brees was simply unstoppable. The NFL's new single-season passing-record holder went 28-of-35 for 389 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. He put on an absolute clinic.
Brees' pick, by the way, wasn't his fault. Darren Sproles came up gimpy on the play, but was on the field in the second half, so the injury wasn't serious, apparently.
Newton also had 32 rushing yards on six scampers. Jonathan Stewart (9-79, TD) and DeAngelo Williams (7-53) had success running the ball as well. New Orleans' Chris Ivory (19-127, TD) was better.
Titans 23, Texans 22
That's exactly what was happening early on. The Texans marched 90 yards on their opening drive, with T.J. Yates going 4-of-4 for 47 yards. Unfortunately, Yates suffered a separated shoulder, meaning Jake Delhomme quarterbacked Houston for the rest of the contest.
Following a predictable strip-sack, Matvei texted me, "Delhomme in for the Texans, WTF - how many Indian burial grounds did you build your house on?" I replied, "Way too many apparently."
Before any Houston fans get excited, however, they should remember that Delhomme is a turnover machine. He was nearly pick-sixed in the first half, but cornerback Jason McCourty dropped the interception. Now that Delhomme has a chance to start, terrorists are mobilizing to kidnap his son again. Expect some shady antics next week if Delhomme gets the nod.
Jaguars 19, Colts 13
Congratulations to Indianapolis for securing this amazing victory. Things looked bleak when Blaine Gabbert fumbled the ball away in the second quarter, but Dan Orlovsky was able to overcome this with key interceptions.
In the wake of this win, Indianapolis has secured the first-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Great job by the players, coaching staff and owners for ensuring that this franchise will have at least another decade of outstanding quarterback play.
Don't be too excited, however. Gabbert went 5-of-6 for 44 yards and a score in the first quarter, which means he was just 6-of-13 for 48 yards and the aforementioned lost fumble afterward. He once again wilted under pressure in the pocket, taking three sacks.
The score was to Austin Collie (9-96). Reggie Wayne was also solid (8-73) in perhaps his final game as a Colt.
Dolphins 19, Jets 17
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
Miami struck first with a field-goal drive that was led by Matt Moore. To answer, Jets' embattled offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer emptied the playbook with a gadget play. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley threw a pass off an end around to Dustin Keller for a gain of 41 yards. The drive ended with Sanchez tossing a one-yard touchdown pass to Keller.
New York's lack of discipline was a crippler in the first half. The team had repeated false start penalties that turned a promising drive into a field goal. Conversely, the Jets' defense had an excellent first half. They were aided by Brian Hartline dropping a perfectly thrown deep pass from Moore. Brodney Pool intercepted Moore, but Sanchez gave it right back with a terrible pick.
Under pressure, Sanchez tried to dump a pass off but instead he was picked by defensive lineman Randy Starks. That set up a 58-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter on the final play of the first half.
The third quarter started out as more of the same and there was zero scoring, but the Dolphins started a long drive at their own 6-yard line with just under eight minutes in the period. The possession consumed the rest of the quarter. Miami finished the drive with a short touchdown pass from Moore to Charles Clay. It was a 21-play, 94-yard drive that took over 12 minutes off the clock. Moore was extremely efficient as he moved down the field by spreading the ball around, and the Jets couldn't get a pass rush.
On the next drive, Dolphins-great Jason Taylor toasted D'Brickashaw Ferguson and started to wrestle Sanchez to the ground. The third-year quarterback made an idiotic move and tossed the ball toward the line of scrimmage, bouncing it off the back of the head of center Nick Mangold, allowing Starks to make his second pick of the game. Starks ran downfield and the Jets were lucky the big lineman didn't return it for a touchdown. The Miami started the drive at the New York 25-yard line, but only yielded a field goal.
After the punt, the Jets finally started to move the ball, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty on Yeremiah Bell. The Dolphins sealed the game with another pick of Sanchez. It was a terrible pass thrown behind his target. Miami outside linebacker Marvin Mitchell returned the pick 55 yards to set up another field goal.
On New York's final possession, Sanchez moved the ball effectively, tossing a short touchdown pass to Patrick Turner, but it was too little too late since the onside kick attempt didn't work out.
It wasn't clear if it was injury-related or because of a coaching decision, but Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes was benched and did not record a catch in the game.
Moore was 22-of-32 for 135 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Miami was led on the ground by Steve Slaton (11-55) and in the air by wide receiver Brandon Marshall (6-50).
New York running backs LaDanian Tomlinson (11-56) and Shonn Greene (14-55) had some good runs, but never controlled the game on the ground. Kerley (4-71) and Keller (7-45) had quality games for the Jets.
New York will have an interesting offseason, and the organization will surely make some changes on its coaching staff. Miami showed some heart this season and actually has a base of talent to work with. What the Dolphins really need is to find a franchise quarterback.
Patriots 49, Bills 21
Every week this happens. New England comes out flat and s***ty against a s***ty team, everyone sees how bad they are, then Bill Belichick pulls a win out of his a** in the second half and everyone forgets how terrible they looked to begin with.
And that's exactly what happened. Buffalo led 21-0 in this contest, but the Patriots scored 49 unanswered points after that.
So, why was Fitzpatrick just 9-of-18 for 61 yards and four interceptions in the second half? Well, he didn't have his top two receivers. Steve Johnson (4-40, TD) was benched for three quarters after being penalized for revealing something written under his jersey following a touchdown reception. Scott Chandler (3-29) left the game with a leg injury. Fitzpatrick also had one of his picks come on a tipped pass. Buffalo's second-half collapse was not his fault.
Falcons 45, Buccaneers 24
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
Josh Freeman was promptly picked off by cornerback Dominique Franks on a jump ball to Dezmon Briscoe. One play later, Atlanta made Tampa Bay pay with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jones. Both of his touchdowns saw him break tackles to get into the end zone.
The next Buccaneers' drive was almost as fruitless as the previous one, since on the fifth play, defensive end John Abraham strip-sacked Freeman to set up another Falcons touchdown. Michael Turner has looked slow and washed up the last five weeks or so, but Tampa Bay's anemic run defense was the perfect remedy for him. He ran into the end zone on a fourth-and-goal to put Atlanta up 28-0.
The Buccaneers got the ball back for less than a minute since Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton intercepted Freeman (31-of-45, 274 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs) on the drive's third play, returning the pick 26-yards for a touchdown. It was an ugly play where Tampa Bay running back Kregg Lumpkin got blasted by teammate, Kellen Winslow, leaving Lofton as the only player in position to catch the ball.
On Atlanta's next possession, Turner capped the Falcons' collection of 42 unanswered points, with an 81-yard touchdown run. The Buccaneers finally got on the board with a short touchdown from Freeman to Briscoe on the next drive. At halftime Falcons were up 42-7, and Ryan had already been replaced by backup Chris Redmond.
Ravens 24, Bengals 16
Well, karma came back to bite the Bengals in the a**. They made the same, dumb errors in this contest, but couldn't overcome them against a superior opponent.
The key mistake was Jermaine Gresham's fumble in Baltimore territory in the fourth quarter, down 17-13. It looked like the Bengals had a chance to defeat the Ravens, but the turnover was huge because Ray Rice scored on a 51-yard rushing touchdown immediately afterward. That seemed to shut the door on Cincinnati's playoff hopes, but many other outcomes allowed the team to somehow keep its postseason spot.
Steelers 13, Browns 9
It really took a miracle for Pittsburgh not to cover the seven points. The Steelers outgained the Browns, 360-240. They had eight more first downs (22-14), and crushed them in the time-of-possession category, 39:11 to 20:49.
So, what happened? Well, it's easy for anyone with interest to buy off the backup running back, and that's exactly what seemed to happen. Isaac Redman ran well (19-92, TD), but had two lost fumbles in Cleveland territory. Like the last time the Steelers battled the Browns, they let an inferior Cleveland squad hang around because of dumb turnovers.
Redman, by the way, handled most of the workload because Rashard Mendenhall (8-38) left the game at the end of the first quarter with a knee injury. He won't be available for the first round of the playoffs, according to reports.
Chargers 38, Raiders 26
By Greg Cox - @ActuallyGregCox
Oakland would wind up setting single-season records for penalties and penalty yards, so it was no surprise to see them flag Matt Giordano for a helmet-to-helmet hit on the fifth snap of San Diego's first drive of the game, before the Chargers even got to midfield. To make up for the error, Giordano intercepted Philip Rivers (19-of-26, 310 yards, 3 TDs, INT) on the next play, and that set the Black Hole rocking. The Raiders went on a serious march from their own 5-yard line. Twelve plays later, highlighted by a 27-yard reverse by Louis Murphy, they cashed in a short touchdown pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey for an early 7-0 lead.
San Diego replied with a long touchdown drive of its own, mixing passes to Malcom Floyd with runs by Curtis Brinkley and Mike Tolbert to put the team in plus territory. From there, Rivers hit Antonio Gates for a 38-yard touchdown, tying the game at 7.
As the first quarter ended, a rare failed drive followed. Palmer threw short to Kevin Boss and Oakland punted into the end zone. The Chargers quickly got into the Raiders' territory with a 37-yard pass to Gates, and Tolbert finished the drive with a 1-yard plunge, putting the visitors up 14-7. They would never relinquish the lead.
Oakland got another big play from Heyward-Bey (9-130, TD) who finished just short of 1,000 yards on the season at 975. After a 19-yard reception from Murphy, the drive looked promising, but stalled. After a long field goal by Sebastian Janikowski (52 yards) made it 14-10, there was reason for optimism as Kansas City led Denver 7-0 a couple hours to the east. However, Richard Goodman returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to provide San Diego with a 21-10 cushion.
The Raiders, of course, turned to Marcel "Matchup Nightmare" Reece. Palmer found him down the middle for 22 yards, and after some short gains, another Janikowski field goal trimmed the lead to 21-13. The Chargers' offense never let off the pedal (463 total yards) in this one though. In five plays, they were at the Oakland 33-yard line. The defense held, forcing three straight San Diego incompletions, but Nova's long field goal put the Chargers ahead 24-13.
Typically, the Raiders would answer in a two-minute drill, having done so all year. This looked like no exception when Heyward-Bey caught a pass for a gain of 23 followed by a 9-yard pass to Bush, but with 11 seconds left and no timeouts to stop the clock, Palmer inexplicably completed a short pass to Murphy for a gain of six. Instead of a long, but certainly makeable 55-yard field goal attempt, Oakland entered the locker room for halftime to a chorus of boos from the home fans.
The offenses kept piling up stats in the second half, but field goals never beat touchdowns. Palmer dropped a bomb to Denarius Moore who went 78 yards but needed to go a few more. A short Bush run and two completions put Janikowski back on the field to slice the San Diego lead to 24-16.
The response was a touchdown drive. The Chargers' big receivers used their height advantage all afternoon to school the small defensive backs trying to cover them. After a nice kickoff return set them up at the 34-yard line, Rivers completed all five passes he attempted for 51 yards including the 13-yard score to Vincent Jackson (2-29, TD), who played sidekick to Floyd (7-127, TD) and Gates (5-106 yards, TD) most of the game.
Midway through the third quarter, it was looking bleak in the Black Hole. The Raiders got another big play, a 28-yard pass to Murphy, but again failed to finish with a touchdown. Janikowski's fourth field goal closed them to within 31-19 as the third quarter wound down.
Again, Oakland's defense couldn't really hold, but caught a break when Norv Turner started running the clock with Brinkley, who was given four consecutive carries. Rivers' first pass of the drive came on third-and-two and fell incomplete. Then, Nick Novak missed the 44-yard field goal giving the Raiders life with 11:05 to play.
Late owner Al Davis would have been happy to watch the next quick strike drive. A big gain to Heyward-Bey, short run and touchdown right up the middle to Kevin Boss quickly put Oakland back in the game down 31-26. Boss took a hit that drew a penalty, and that almost turned the game around. That's because the ensuing kickoff almost turned into a safety when Janikowski bounced the kickoff inside the five and Goodman mishandled it. After a discussion, it was ruled he was down just outside the end zone and Hue Jackson chose not to challenge the call.
San Diego's offense wasted no time getting out of trouble with a 19-yard pass to Floyd. After a penalty, Tolbert (9-58) had the only run of the afternoon that would matter, rumbling 40 yards down the field. Two plays later, Rivers again hit Floyd for a 43-yard scoring strike and 38-26 lead. It was all over but the fighting, even though 6:35 remained on the clock.
Palmer (28-of-43, 417 yards, 2 TDs, INT) put the Raiders in scoring range, but Antoine Cason intercepted him to pretty much seal the victory. The Chargers' offense piled up more yards when Jackson had a 41 yard run on a screen pass, running out most of the remaining clock.
San Diego lost the three-way tiebreaker for the division, and despite scoring 34-plus points four times in the final five games, needed a lot of those points last week when they lost 38-10 at Detroit. The team dragged Oakland out of the playoffs with them, and possibly saved their head coach's job in the process.
Chiefs 7, Broncos 3
But it all doesn't matter because the Raiders lost and the Broncos still were able to win the division.
Cardinals 23, Seahawks 20
Instead, it was Larry Fitzgerald who took over. Fitzgerald made some ridiculous circus catches in the fifth quarter, including a one-handed grab that the officials had to review because they didn't understand how it was physically possible that he came up with the grab. Fitzgerald finished with nine grabs for 149 yards.
Giants 31, Cowboys 14
Romo missed an open Dez Bryant on the following drive and things looked really bleak at that point, but for the rest of the game, he was pretty much the only Cowboy who didn't deserve the blame for this loss.
Romo went 29-of-37 for 289 yards, two touchdowns and an interception despite awful blocking by his offensive line. The Giants registered a whopping six sacks, including two by Osi Umenyiora.
The defense, meanwhile, was atrocious. There was so many missed tackles and blown coverages by the secondary. Terence Newman, Alan Ball and Abram Elam were to blame in particular. Newman is old and slow, and he cannot be allowed to see lots of action going forward. The Cowboys need to address the cornerback position in free agency or the 2012 NFL Draft.
Dallas' stop unit often looked confused and out of sorts. There were assignment screw-ups, as we've often seen in Capt. Lou Albano's unnecessarily complicated defense. The team also jumped offside three times on third down, as Eli Manning did a terrific job with the hard count.
What's most disconcerting, whether I'm Jerry Jones or a regular Dallas fan, is that the team lacked energy and showed no urgency in the first half. There were multiple fumble recovery opportunities, but the players were just really slow in jumping on the loose balls. It's almost like most of the Cowboys thought that this was the third preseason game instead of a win-or-die divisional battle for the final playoff spot.
Cruz caught six balls for 178 yards and the touchdown in total. Hakeem Nicks (5-76, TD) also posted solid numbers.
My final 2011 NFL Power Rankings, will be posted Tuesday morning.
NFL Picks - Sept. 15
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2014: Live 2014 NFL Draft Blog - May 8
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2012: Live 2012 NFL Draft Blog - April 26
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Super Bowl XLVI Live Blog - Feb. 6
2010: Live 2010 NFL Draft Blog - April 22
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Super Bowl XLV Live Blog - Feb. 6
2009: Live 2009 NFL Draft Blog - April 25
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Super Bowl XLIV Live Blog - Feb. 7
2008: Live 2008 NFL Draft Blog - April 26
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NFL Week 1 Review - Sept. 8
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NFL Wild Card Playoffs Review - Jan. 4
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Super Bowl XLIII Live Blog
2007: NFL Draft: Day 1 Review Blog - April 28
Quarterback Rankings - June 25
NFL Kickoff Blog - Sept. 6
Chief Carl Has Lost a Step - Sept. 9
The NFL Cheated the Patriots - Sept. 16
NFL Week 3 Wrap-Up - Sept. 23
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NFL Week 17 Wrap-Up - Dec. 30
NFL Week 18 Wrap-Up - Jan. 6
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2008 Championship Sunday Diary - Jan. 20
Super Bowl XLII Live Blog - Feb. 3
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