Week 13 NFL Game Recaps
Falcons 23, Saints 13
Some credit must be given to the Falcons, but most of this was on Brees. His first pick was thrown deep into double coverage, though Thomas DeCoud made a great catch. His second one was thrown behind his running back. His third was an odd one heaved off his back foot over the middle of the field - something you'd expect to see out of Jake Locker. His fourth was tossed to a defensive lineman as he was under pressure. His fifth was a desperation heave into double coverage, snagged by safety William Moore, who came up with two picks. Brees actually had a sixth interception that doinked off a defensive lineman's helmet, but it was called back because of an offsides penalty.
Brees, who finished 28-of-50 for 341 yards otherwise, made several other mistakes. He missed an open Marques Colston (6-71) for a first down. Most notably was what occurred prior to halftime. As the clock was running down, Brees checked it off to Darren Sproles (5 catches, 47 yards), who was tackled short of the goal line. However, the time ran out just as Brees spiked the ball. The Saints inexplicably came away with no points.
New Orleans' other players made errors. There were several drops, one of which came via Lance Moore (7-123) in the end zone. Mark Ingram (6-13, TD), meanwhile, fell down after catching a pass in the flat on a key second-and-goal. An offensive pass interference by Jimmy Graham (4-59) negated a touchdown in the second quarter.
I'm mentioning all of this stuff about the Saints because they outplayed the Falcons. They outgained them by more than 150 yards (436-283). They won the time of possession by 7-and-a-half minutes. Atlanta converted just 1-of-11 third-down attempts. Still, the fact remains that the team held on to its lead and put its arch rival away.
Bills 34, Jaguars 18
Henne finished 18-of-41 for 208 yards, one touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble. Those numbers are way better than how he really looked, as the score and a big chunk of the yardage came in garbage time as Buffalo was playing prevent. Henne was just 5-of-15 for 86 yards at the break.
Having said that, the Bills played very well overall and deserved to win this game. As mentioned, the rushing attack was paramount, and the Bills ran all over Jacksonville. Fred Jackson actually had way more carries than C.J. Spiller for some strange reason, but both backs were very effective. Jackson gained 109 yards on 25 attempts, while Spiller mustered 77 yards and a touchdown on just 14 tries. Spiller's score came on a 44-yard burst early in the fourth quarter.
Seahawks 23, Bears 17
Wilson's final numbers are 23-of-37 for 293 yards and two touchdowns, though his passing numbers don't tell the whole story. He did a great job of buying time with his legs. He kept plays alive, either finding an open receiver after roaming around in the pocket or scrambling for yardage. He ran it nine times for 71 rushing yards.
Wilson nearly had a third touchdown, by the way. At first glance, it appeared as though Braylon Edwards hauled in a pass in the end zone just prior to halftime, but the play was automatically reviewed and overturned.
Colts 35, Lions 33
The difference between the Seattle and the Indianapolis victories was that the Seahawks were down by one score the entire time. The Colts, meanwhile, trailed 33-21 late in the fourth quarter. In fact, that was the score with less than three minutes remaining in regulation, but Luck engineered two touchdown drives, including one that concluded on a fourth down just as time expired.
Luck was 8-of-15 for 128 yards and two touchdowns on the two final possessions. He was remarkable at the very end after some shaky moments earlier in the game. He had numerous ugly throws, completing fewer than half of his passes (24-of-54) and throwing three interceptions. He did pass for four total touchdowns, however.
Packers 23, Vikings 14
Adrian Peterson was amazing, but Christian Ponder completely sabotaged a potential victory for the Packers. He was absolutely horrible, going 12-of-25 for 119 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. One of the picks was horrendous. Peterson trampled Green Bay's reeling defense on the entire drive, but Ponder was asked to throw inside the red zone. He scrambled right and didn't have anything, yet he still threw late across his body. The Packers snagged a very easy interception.
Ponder just keeps getting worse. He now has 11 interceptions to just 10 touchdowns since Week 5. He's completed better than 54.3 percent of his passes just once since Week 7. He ruined what looked like a possible record-breaking day for Peterson, who was amazing. He rushed for 210 yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts. He eclipsed the 200-yard barrier early in the fourth quarter, so it appeared as though he could break his own single-game rushing record of 296 yards. Unfortunately, the Vikings trailed because of Ponder's ineptitude, so they couldn't give Peterson enough carries.
Chiefs 27, Panthers 21
Kansas City played a very clean game overall, as the team was guilty of only one penalty compared to Carolina's seven. Romeo Crennel also showed a ton of guts on one occasion, opting to go for it on a 4th-and-goal near the goal line with two seconds remaining in the first half. The Chiefs were able to find the end zone, which gave them incredible momentum going into the second half.
Patriots 23, Dolphins 16
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
The game started terribly for the Dolphins when punter Brandon Fields fumbled a snap. He picked up the ball, but couldn't get the punt off before he was tackled. That set up the Patriots at the Miami 12-yard line, and Steven Ridley (19-71) put the ball in the end zone. The Dolphins' special teams had another critical error as a roughing-the-punter penalty gave New England a first down, which the Patriots turned into a short touchdown toss to Wes Welker.
Tannehill had Hartline running wide open into the end zone after getting a couple of steps on Aqib Talib, but the pass was overthrown. Tannehill completed 13-of-29 passes for 186 yards. Patriots backup defensive end Trevor Scott rocked Tannehill for a sack fumble that was recovered by Vince Wilfork. Otherwise, Tannehill made good decisions. Wilfork was a disruptive force for the Patriots on Sunday, especially in the first half. His fumble recovery produced a field goal for New England. Scott had two sacks for the Patriots while filling in for Chandler Jones.
Jets 7, Cardinals 6
It is official - after 11-and-a-half games are miserable quarterbacking, Mark Sanchez was finally benched. Unfortunately, Tim Tebow was conveniently out with a rib injury of some sort, so McElroy was able to take the field. He completed 5-of-7 passes but for only 29 yards and a touchdown.
McElroy is very limited physically, but he may get a shot at the job because unlike Sanchez, he didn't turn the ball over. Sanchez went 10-of-21 for just 97 yards and three picks. One of the interceptions wasn't his fault because Patrick Peterson made a great play, but the other two were absolutely awful. He nearly tossed a fourth pick, but it was dropped by William Gay (not that there's anything wrong with that).
As for the Cardinals, it was a miracle that Ryan Lindley wasn't benched. To demonstrate how bad he was, he had a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald in the red zone for what would have been a short touchdown, but completely misfired. Lindley's completion rate looked like a batting average, as he connected on just 10-of-31 attempts for just 72 yards and a pick. That's a yards-per-attempt average of 2.3. I don't think I've ever seen a YPA that low on so many passes. I'm still not sure why John Skelton was benched in favor of this bum; Lindley just isn't prepared to play on this level.
Rams 16, 49ers 13
Of course, St. Louis wouldn't have been in this position if it wasn't for a very strange play at the end of regulation. The 49ers were attempting to run out the clock, up 10-2, when Colin Kaepernick inexplicably pitched the ball back to Ted Ginn, who couldn't handle it. The ball was scooped up by rookie corner Janoris Jenkins, who recorded two pick-sixes last week, and took it back for a touchdown, though I thought it was obvious that he was down short of the goal line.
Kaepernick did not have a good aerial performance. He went 21-of-32 for 208 yards and was responsible for a safety when he ran too far back in the pocket and heaved a pass that didn't reach the line of scrimmage. He wasn't bad, by any means, but he barely took any deep shots, which is curious because his ability to hit long passes - along with his scrambling strength - is what separates him from Alex Smith. But speaking of his scrambling, he made up for his mediocre throwing numbers with 84 yards on nine rushes, which includes a 50-yard scramble.
Texans 24, Titans 10
This game followed that trend. The Texans completely dominated their AFC South opponent from the start. Taking advantage of a free play because Tennessee was offside, Matt Schaub hit Lestar Jean for a 55-yard touchdown, as Houston went six plays and 80 yards in just 2:31. The team never looked back. It went up 24-3 in the middle of the third quarter. At that point, the Texans were outgaining the Titans, 237-144.
Tennessee didn't help its cause with numerous turnovers. Chris Johnson, who had just 51 yards on 13 carries, lost a fumble when he was trying to find a running lane that just didn't exist. The ball was forced out by J.J. Watt and returned for a touchdown by Antonio Smith - except that the official incorrectly ruled Smith down by contact.
Jake Locker, meanwhile, was a disaster. His final numbers don't look too bad - 21-of-45, 309 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions - but most of those statscame late in garbage time. When Houston went up 24-3, Locker was just 8-of-24 for 96 yards, two picks and a lost fumble - and this was without No. 1 corner Johnathan Joseph on the other side.
Broncos 31, Buccaneers 23
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
Manning dominated the third quarter. He ripped the ball through a weak Tampa Bay secondary. The veteran signal-caller put Denver in the lead for good with a beautiful pass to Demaryius Thomas (8-99) for a touchdown. They hooked up again a short time later on a jump ball in the end zone.
Manning led a field goal drive in the fourth and had another field goal attempt miss. He finished 27-of-38 for 242 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Jacob Tamme (9-89) and Knowshon Moreno (20-69) had minor contributions.
Freeman was held back by an offensive line that allowed too much pressure. Right tackle Demar Dotson was whipped by Von Miller. Donald Penn didn't have his best game, and each drew penalties along with allowing pressures.
Freeman's accuracy was off as a result, and he came close to a number of interceptions. He completed 18-of-39 passes for 242 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He made a beautiful toss to Dallas Clark (3-21) for a touchdown and a 10-7 lead in the first half. Freeman threw a short touchdown pass to Mike Williams (6-93) in garbage time.
Defensively, Lavonte David had another superb day for Tampa Bay. The rookie had a nice interception dropping into the middle of the field on a poor decision by Manning. David also made some tackles for a loss and was all over the field. The weakness at cornerback continues to plague Tampa Bay and looks like the Achilles' Heel that could keep the team out of the postseason.
Steelers 23, Ravens 20
I picked the Steelers to cover, but I thought this would be a low-scoring, grind-it-out football game. When the Ravens took a 13-3 lead in the second quarter, I thought Pittsburgh was screwed. Batch, after all, couldn't even beat the Browns, though he was betrayed by all of his running backs. Instead, Batch lit it up in the second half.
It's still hard to believe, but Batch went 14-of-20 for 219 yards, one touchdown and an interception after intermission. His numbers could have been even better, but Emmanuel Sanders appeared content to sabotage this game. Sanders caught a pass in the open field and had a long touchdown in his sights, but inexplicably lost a fumble even though he wasn't touched. Sanders then dropped a pass near the red zone, though he would ultimately redeem himself with a clutch reception in Baltimore territory.
Browns 20, Raiders 17
One of Palmer's near-picks was actually on Marcel Reece, who had a ball bounce out of his hands and nearly into a Cleveland defender's. Reece disappointed statistically, gaining 36 yards on just seven carries, getting benched in favor of someone named Jeremy Stewart (9-46). Darren McFadden is expected to return on Thursday.
Bengals 20, Chargers 13
There were four reasons why San Diego lost its eighth game of the year. Being unable to tackle Green-Ellis was one. The poor passing game was the second. Philip Rivers went 26-of-48 for 280 yards and an interception, which doesn't look that bad. However, Rivers was awful in the red zone and missed several easy throws because of poor footwork. Of course, Rivers' mechanics are screwed up because of his anemic offensive line. The Bengals sacked him four times (twice by Carlos Dunlap) and forced him into two fumbles.
The third San Diego gaffe was Norv Turner's unwillingness to go for it on two fourth-and-goal situations inside the 2-yard line. He was ultra conservative both times and settled for a pair of field goals. The Chargers had nothing to lose, so why not try to get into the end zone? A touchdown would have energized the team. At the very worst, a failed attempt would have pinned Cincinnati's offense near its own goal line.
The fourth mistake the Chargers made was their usual unforced errors. For instance, they had consecutive false starts on the final drive of the first half. They allowed the Bengals to convert an early 4th-and-9 because of a holding penalty. They gave Cincinnati a free first down because of a Takeo Spikes personal foul. And in a sequence that epitomized their season, they took a delay of game near the end of the third quarter, which put them out of field goal range. Nick Novak had to try a 54-yarder, which was predictably just a bit short.
Cowboys 38, Eagles 33
This was an entertaining game though, as both offenses couldn't be stopped for the most part. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Nick Foles, who went 22-of-34 for 251 yards and a touchdown. Foles has looked incompetent at times in relief of the starter, but he was pretty solid in his second road start. He made several great throws, though the Cowboys dropped a potential pick-six of his in the fourth quarter.
For thoughts on Giants-Redskins, check out my updated 2012 NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.
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