The Bengals are not a playoff team. That's my biggest takeaway from this game. They may have won by three touchdowns, but this was a most unimpressive victory. If the Eagles hadn't imploded, they would have lost to a 4-9 squad with nothing to play for.
And what an implosion by Philadelphia. Just check out what went wrong:
- Jeremy Maclin lost a fumble on the opening drive of the game. The Bengals scored a touchdown as a result.
- On the following possession, punter Mat McBriar kicked the ball right into teammates Marvin McNutt (feel free to create your own pun). This led to a field goal.
- Nick Foles tossed his first interception since his initial start on an underthrow to Jeremy Maclin. The Bengals found the end zone on the ensuing drive.
- Bryce Brown never had control of a handoff on the following drive. Wallace Gilberry scooped the ball up and scored a touchdown.
- Clay Harbor fumbled inside his own 25 on the next possession, and the Bengals returned it to the Eagles' 10-yard line.
- Philadelphia muffed the ensuing kickoff (yes, back-to-back-to-back-to-back turnovers). Cincinnati claimed its fourth fumble recovery of the evening.
Like the Eagles, the Bengals played far from a clean game. They were called for a whopping 11 penalties. They also surrendered six sacks to a team that hadn't been getting pressure on the quarterback all year. Brandon Graham (2.5 sacks, forced fumble) and Fletcher Cox (1.5 sacks) were both monsters. Graham's strip-sack of Dalton was Philadelphia's first takeaway since Week 9.
Andy Dalton, meanwhile, missed a number of open receivers and had several inaccurate throws. He went 13-of-27, 127 yards, two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and two lost fumbles. He could have easily tossed a pick-six on the opening drive, but the ball sailed right through Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's hands.
Amazingly, only three Bengals caught passes: A.J. Green (6-57, TD), Jermaine Gresham (6-63) and Brian Leonard (1-7).
Cincinnati had success moving the chains on the ground, as BenJarvus Green-Ellis eclipsed the century mark for the fourth time in five outings. He gained 106 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. His best run was his first - a 29-yard burst to move his team into the red zone.
The Law Firm's counterpart didn't perform as well. In addition to that fumble, Brown had just 34 yards on 16 attempts. Forum member Roddoliver expressed his frustration: "Gotta find a way to hack NFL.com and remove Bryce Brown from my flex."
Foles didn't have a good game either. He went 16-of-33 for 182 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned pick, and was especially brutal in the second half (4-of-9, 37 yards, INT). He could have been intercepted a couple of more times, and several of his deep shots sailed out of bounds in Brady Quinn-like fashion. He did make some quality throws, so I wouldn't say he was terrible, but he definitely took a step backward after last week's brilliant comeback.
Foles' touchdown went to Riley Cooper (3-20), while Jeremy Maclin (4-73) led the team in receiving, though he did have that lost fumble.
Falcons 34, Giants 0
I guess this was an obvious result. The Giants absolutely embarrassed Atlanta in the playoffs last year, so they didn't really respect their opponent in this rematch. The Falcons, meanwhile, were tired of everyone disrespecting them. They wanted to prove that they're a legitimate Super Bowl contender - and they did just that. Maybe.
Again, it's just the regular season. We've seen impressive victories from the Falcons before prior to January. They've already pretty much clinched the No. 1 seed, so this win is pretty much irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. They'll be measured by what they do in the playoffs.
One of the major differences between this Atlanta squad and last year's team is the secondary. Asante Samuel has been a tremendous addition, and because he's so familiar with Eli Manning, having played against him twice per season with the Eagles, he told his teams some pointers to give them an edge on the opposing quarterback. Sure enough, Samuel came through. On the very first drive, he jumped in front of Manning's target and picked off a pass to set up a short field for a touchdown.
Manning had an awful performance. He went 13-of-25 for 161 yards and two interceptions. Normally clutch on third and fourth downs, Manning was just 4-of-13 in those situations, including 0-of-3 on fourth down. The Giants eschewed some field-goal tries once they fell down by a couple of touchdowns. It probably wouldn't have mattered anyway, as Lawrence Tynes whiffed on a 30-yard try. The end result was the first Giants' shutout since 1996.
Part of the problem for Manning was the absence of Ahmad Bradshaw. Yes, rookie David Wilson is explosive - he rushed for 55 yards on 12 carries - but the coaching staff doesn't trust him on third down. Someone named Kregg Lumpkin took over those duties. He hurt the team with a lost fumble. Wilson, meanwhile, was stuffed on a key 3rd-and-1 try that took way too long to develop.
All three of Manning's targets hurt their fantasy owners. Hakeem Nicks (3-40), Victor Cruz (3-15) and Martellus Bennett (1-15) couldn't get going. Cruz left the game with an injury after safety Chris Hope blasted him with a dirty hit in the fourth quarter.
Speaking of New York injuries, stud guard Chris Snee was knocked out with a hip. Snee had already been playing with a hip pointer, so he could be missing for a while.
Matt Ryan basically did whatever he wanted to against New York's beleaguered back seven. He went 23-of-28 for 270 yards and three touchdowns. The Giants' vaunted pass rush was silent, sacking him just once.
Two of Ryan's scores went to Julio Jones (6-74). The other was thrown to Tony Gonzalez (6-49). Roddy White, who was a game-time decision, did nothing, catching two passes for 16 yards. Harry Douglas led the team in receiving yardage (3-83) and topped it off by mimicking Cruz with his own salsa dance on the sideline.
The Falcons ran all over the Giants. Michael Turner (16-52, TD) and Jason Snelling (6-39) proved to be too much for the Giants, which is saying a lot about how poorly New York's stop unit performed.
Broncos 34, Ravens 17
Perhaps Cam Cameron was better than everyone, including the Baltimore front office, thought this whole time. Six days after axing Cameron, the Ravens put on a pathetic offensive showing. By the time the Broncos were up 31-3, Baltimore had been outgained, 302-164 - and that 164 isn't even close to being indicative of how poorly the team played offensively.
Joe Flacco may have finished 20-of-40 for 254 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but most of those positive numbers - including both scores - came in garbage time. By halftime, he was just 7-of-15 for 78 yards, a lost fumble and a pick, which was returned 98 yards by Chris Harris for a touchdown. Flacco, who telegraphed that throw, just looked completely lost.
The Ravens fired Cameron because he didn't give Ray Rice enough touches. Well, they should have just kept him because Jim Caldwell didn't do a better job of that. Rice was given the ball only 15 times. He had 12 carries that went for 38 yards, which is understandable because the Ravens were down big early. But why did Rice have just three receptions? That's just inexcusable.
Flacco's junk-time scores went to Dennis Pitta, who had a big game with seven catches for 125 yards. Torrey Smith (1-14) did nothing, outside of landing out of bounds after a big gain. Adding injury to insult, Smith had to leave with a concussion.
The Broncos held a 17-0 lead at the break, but it could have been even uglier. They just missed so many opportunities early on. For instance, Peyton Manning overthrew Demaryius Thomas in the end zone and then Thomas paid him back with a dropped first down. Later on, a Manning pass fell incomplete on a 3rd-and-1 because he and Joel Dreesseen had a miscommunication.
Manning would end up finishing 17-of-28 for 204 yards and a touchdown that went 51 yards to Eric Decker (8-133). Manning was pressured often for the third week in a row; he was sacked twice, but it could have been uglier for him if he wasn't capable of releasing the ball so quickly. Denver's offensive line has to be a concern heading into the playoffs, though getting guard Chris Kuper back from injury will help.
Decker was the only Denver wideout who had more than 36 receiving yards. Demaryius Thomas did very little (4-13), thanks to the aforementioned miscues early on.
The Broncos became the latest team to gash the Ravens on the ground. Moreno compiled 118 yards and a touchdown on just 22 carries, which includes one play where he impressively leapt over Ed Reed.
Packers 21, Bears 13
Jay Cutler's inability to beat the Packers continues. He's now 1-7 against his arch rival. Green Bay gave him plenty of opportunities with mistakes of its own, but Cutler simply couldn't take advantage of them, leading his team to 190 total net yards and converting a pitiful 0-of-9 on third downs.
Cutler went just 12-of-21 for 135 yards, one touchdown and an interception. That means in eight games versus the Packers, he's 127-of-237 for 1,518 yards, eight touchdowns and a whopping 18 interceptions. That gives him a completion percentage of 53.6 and a YPA of 6.4.
You can't put this all on Cutler though. It's not even close to being all of his fault. There are two issues with Chicago's offense, one of which is the offensive line. The group once again couldn't block for him, allowing four sacks, one of which came when Green Bay rushed only TWO players! Clay Matthews, notched a pair in his first game back.
The other problem with the Bears is that they have just one reliable downfield receiver. Brandon Marshall caught six passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. Matt Forte (5-64) and Anthony Allen (1-15) were the only other Chicago players to catch passes. Rookie Alshon Jeffery was whistled for THREE offensive pass interferences and was dominated by corner Sam shields, while Devin Hester ran the wrong route on one play, which resulted in Cutler's lone pick.
Forte added 69 rushing yards on 20 carries to his five catches. The Bears did a good job of sticking with the running game despite trailing throughout.
I mentioned earlier that the Packers gave Chicago some opportunities. They were very sloppy with the following miscues:
- Aaron Rodgers had an open Randall Cobb for a touchdown, but overthrew him. Mason Crosby then whiffed on a 43-yard field goal that wasn't even close.
- Ryan Grant (8-32) lost a fumble near midfield.
- Crosby missed another field goal. He hit the left upright on a 42-yard try.
- The Packers, for whatever reason, attempted a backward pass on a punt return, up 21-10 with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The throw was dropped, which gave Chicago a fumble recovery. Unfortunately for the Bears, they could do very little with it, mustering just a field goal.
Rodgers was great enough to overcome those errors. Though he blew a potential touchdown, he threw three more on 23-of-36 passing for 291 yards. He took three sacks despite the Bears missing top interior pass-rusher Henry Melton, so the offensive line continues to be a big concern.
All three of Rodgers' scores went to James Jones (5-60). Randall Cobb (6-115) and trash-talker Jermichael Finley (5-61) both had good games. Greg Jennings (4-50) once again failed to contribute very much.
The Packers didn't run the ball very well. Alex Green managed just 35 yards on 13 carries. Grant and DuJuan Harris (5-27) had gains of 14 and 21, respectively, but couldn't do much else.
Redskins 38, Browns 21
Nearly everyone criticized Mike Shanahan for spending a fourth-round pick on Kirk Cousins. Myself included. I liked Cousins as a prospect, but I thought a mid-round selection would have been better spent on a player to help Griffin or an anemic defense. What purpose would Cousins serve? If Washington used him, it would mean that Griffin either struggled or suffered an injury, which would be counterproductive because a fourth-round pick would perhaps help prevent that from happening.
Well, it looks like Shanahan and the front office knew what they were doing all along. Cousins was awesome in his first career NFL start. He went three-and-out on his first drive and then was picked off, which ultimately resulted in a Cleveland touchdown, but he was on fire after that. Cousins finished 26-of-37 for 329 yards, two touchdowns and the aforementioned pick. He was especially sharp in the second half, going 15-of-18 for 183 yards and a score.
Cousins will be relegated to the bench next week if Robert Griffin is ready to play, but it has to be assuring that Cousins can step in and perform well in the event of an injury to the franchise quarterback. For the long term, the Redskins can trade Cousins for an early-round selection. This performance was very impressive considering that Cleveland's defense had been on fire heading into this contest.
As for the other rookie quarterback, Brandon Weeden struggled immensely. His final numbers don't look too bad - 21-of-35, 244 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions - but he was just 19-of-31 for 166 yards and the pair of picks once the Redskins went up 31-14 in the second half and put this game out of reach.
This had to be extremely discouraging for Cleveland fans. Cousins was taken three rounds after Weeden and also happens to be five years younger. The Browns could have spent the No. 22 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on a talented player and then grabbed Cousins in Round 3. Instead, they're stuck with Weeden, who has been terribly inconsistent thus far. Perhaps he'll improve as he gains more experience, but his physical skills will begin to erode by then. It's still mind-boggling that Cleveland used a first-rounder on him.
As for the skill-position players, a pair of former Miami Hurricanes combined for three combined touchdowns. Leonard Hankerson (2-56) had two of them, while Cleveland rookie Travis "Private" Benjamin secured the other, which happened to be for 69 yards. Meanwhile, Pierre Garcon (6-65) and Greg Little (5-74) paced their relative teams in receiving. Josh Gordon disappointed with three grabs for 27 yards.
Each of the starting running backs scored a couple of touchdowns. Trent Richardson (11-28) powered in two near the goal line, while Alfred Morris (27-87) reached the end zone twice in the second half.
Texans 29, Colts 17
This was Indianapolis' big chance to prove that it could hang with the big boys. The team previously was blown out on the road at Chicago and New England, but at 9-4, it had gained confidence in recent weeks. Well, the Colts lost, but they certainly handled themselves well. In fact, they played almost evenly with Houston and could have prevailed if it weren't for a few mistakes.
The most glaring error occurred at the Houston 1-yard line. I have no idea what Bruce Arians was thinking, but he decided that running the ball with Mewelde Moore was a good idea. Moore, who shouldn't even be on a roster at this point, predictably fumbled and Houston recovered. Later in the opening half, an offensive hold to stop a Colt player who was offside negated a terrific touchdown catch by Reggie Wayne. A blocked punt returned for a score didn't help matters.
The 21 points off the two non-touchdowns and blocked punt may not have allowed Indianapolis to secure a victory, but it would have at least allowed them to have a chance to win at the end of the game. Instead, Arian Foster broke a couple of big gains in the final couple of minutes to give Houston a bulls*** front-door cover on a successful chip-shot field goal.
Luck handled himself well. He failed to complete 50 percent of his passes, going 13-of-27 for 186 yards, but he threw two touchdowns. The impressive thing is that he didn't turn the ball over despite battling heavy pressure all afternoon. The Texans sacked Luck five times, including once at the end of the first quarter when he was hit so hard that I didn't think he'd be able to get up. J.J. Watt got to Luck on three occasions, giving him 19.5 sacks on the year.
While the offensive line couldn't pass protect, it did a good job of opening up running lanes. Vick Ballard posted great numbers, gaining 105 yards on 18 carries. With that in mind, it makes you wonder what the hell Moore (4-6) was doing on the goal line.
As previously mentioned, Wayne missed out on a touchdown. He would end up disappointing his fantasy owners with just three catches for 14 yards. Luck's scores were thrown to TY Hilton (3-78) and Dwayne Allen (3-36).
As for the Texans, they opened up impressively with a Matt Schaub 52-yard bomb to Andre Johnson. The veteran wideout would end up with 11 grabs for 151 yards and a touchdown. The Colts simply had no answer for him.
Schaub finished 23-of-31 for 261 yards and a touchdown. The lack of misfires was impressive considering that the Colts did a decent job of pressuring him. They brought him down three times.
Foster was bottled up for most of the afternoon until he started breaking big gains in the second half. He had bursts of 31, 10, 27 (negated by hold), 26 and 25, all after intermission. Foster finished with 165 yards on 27 carries.
Dolphins 24, Jaguars 3
The old saying is that football is a game of inches. The Jaguars, as well people who bet on them (FML), learned this the hard way in this game. Jacksonville played Miami almost evenly - it led in yardage for the majority of the contest - but turned the ball over on downs a ridiculous three times in the red zone. They failed twice on 4th-and-1 early on and then 4th-and-4 late in the contest. As a result, they were limited to just three points.
Perhaps Mike Mularkey felt he needed to continuously go for it because he actually had touchdowns that were wiped off the board. Chad Henne threw a score to Justin Blackmon (6-93), but that was negated by an unforced substitution penalty where tackle Guy Whimper forgot to report as eligible. Cecil Shorts (6-101) later appeared to haul in a touchdown, but the play was reviewed and overturned.
Hene went 18-of-34 for 221 yards. He was simply OK in his return to Miami, which I guess is good for Dolphin fans. They may have lost their sanity had Henne come in and outplayed Ryan Tannehill, but that hardly was the case.
Speaking of Tannehill, he had just six misfires, going 22-of-28 for 220 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 52 yards on eight scrambles. Tannehill was on fire after halftime, going 12-of-14 for 141 yards and a score after the break.
Brian Hartline was the team's leading receiver; he caught five balls for 77 yards. Anthony Fasano also played well, hauling in six grabs for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Reggie Bush struggled to run the ball until breaking a 53-yarder at the end of the third quarter. He ultimately finished with 104 yards on 21 carries. His counterpart, Montell Owens, had 47 yards on 11 attempts.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If the Buccaneers don't have to try, then neither do I. That's all I've got.
It was turn-back-the-clock day in New Orleans. The Saints looked like the 2011 version that almost made it to the NFC Championship Game while the Bucs looked like the 2011 version that completely collapsed in the second half of the season and was incapable of playing competitive football. Drew Brees bounced back and dominated the worst pass defense in the NFL, while Josh Freeman was terrible for Tampa Bay. He was completely inept with horrible accuracy and ball security. The Bucs had no chance from start to finish.
Brees moved the ball down the field with ease on the opening drive to set up a short touchdown pass to David Thomas (2-21). Freeman ended a nice drive with an interception on an inaccurate pass to Dallas Clark that was picked off by Jabari Greer.
Freeman threw his second red-zone interception a short time later to Rafael Bush. That turned into another Brees-led drive with a short touchdown toss to Darren Sproles (5-22 rushing, 5-21 receiving). A nice punt return by Sproles and a great catch by Jimmy Graham (5-69) set up a short touchdown to Lance Moore (4-42) with a few seconds left before halftime.
The third quarter started with another Freeman interception. He threw the ball up for grabs in the deep middle of the field and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus came down with the ball. Once again, Brees made the Bucs pay with a 34-yard touchdown to Joe Morgan (2-61).
Freeman threw his fourth interception on a terrible pass into the end zone down field that was nowhere near his receiver. Greer came down with his second pick of the game. Freeman's fifth turnover came on an impressive sack-fumble by Cam Jordan that was recovered by Jordan.
Brees had it easy picking apart a terrible Bucs secondary. He completed 26-of-39 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns. It was a nice bounce-back performance after two rough outings for the veteran signal-caller. Mark Ingram (14-90) ran well for the Saints, and he had an 11-yard touchdown run in during fourth-quarter garbage time.
Tampa Bay's offense made a terrible New Orleans' defense look like one of the league's best units. Doug Martin (9-16), Vincent Jackson (6-81) and Mike Williams (4-63) were all held in check. Greer was excellent, while Roman Harper, Will Smith and Patrick Robinson played well for the Saints.
Freeman completed 26-of-47 passes for 279 yards with four interceptions. He was horrible, and his play has steadily regressed over the past month. With his rookie contract winding down, Freeman did himself a lot of damage with another ugly inaccurate performance. With the way he is playing, starting competition for 2013 seems more in order rather than a lucrative contract extension.
Vikings 36, Rams 22
Once the Vikings went up 10 following a fluky touchdown, a long Adrian Peterson run and a botched snap, it was obvious that this game was essentially over. Sam Bradford neither has the physical talent nor the players around him to mount a double-digit comeback against a competent defense. But more importantly, Minnesota would be able to pound Peterson all afternoon.
The fluky score really got this game going for Minnesota. The Rams were doing a great job of dominating the line of scrimmage on the opening possession. They had Christian Ponder dead to rights in the backfield. However, Ponder somehow escaped a St. Louis defender who had his arms wrapped around him and then scampered into the end zone.
What wasn't fluky was what Peterson did afterward. He broke free with an 82-yard score at the beginning of the second quarter. Peterson proceeded to trample St. Louis' defense the rest of the afternoon, ultimately finishing with 212 yards and that touchdown on 24 carries. He's now 294 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards.
With Peterson running wild, Christian Ponder didn't need to do much. He went just 17-of-24 for 131 yards and the aforementioned rushing score. As a result, no Viking had more than 27 receiving yards. Kyle Rudolph (3-22) disappointed his fantasy owners.
As for the Rams, I made note of Bradford's contract situation in my recently updated 2014 NFL Mock Draft: "The Rams will probably know what they have in Sam Bradford following the 2013 season. Bradford will be due $14 million in 2014, so St. Louis will either have to give him a new contract or pull the plug."
Well, Bradford didn't do anything today to give the front office any sort of confidence in him. His final numbers look great - 35-of-55 for 377 yards, three touchdowns and an interception - but most of that came in garbage time. He was just 14-of-23 for 148 yards a score and the pick at halftime. His interception was returned for six, as he didn't see lineman Everson Griffen dropping into the coverage. Bradford later missed a wide-open Chris Givens for a touchdown.
Bradford's scores went to Danny Amendola (6-58), Lance Kendricks (3-35) and Brian Quick (2-12). Amendola's touchdown is worth noting because he spiked the football in celebration, which then hit an old usher, breaking his glasses and injuring his face. After another St. Louis touchdown, Amendola offered the ball to an usher, but it was a different guy.
Steven Jackson had a nice outing overall, rushing for 73 yards on 13 carries and also catching eight balls for 73 receiving yards. He simply couldn't get enough work on the ground because the team was down big early, but he made up for it with his receiving numbers.
Cardinals 38, Lions 10
Where did this come from? The Cardinals couldn't do anything offensively last week. In fact, they hadn't scored 28 or more points in a game all year. Yet, in this contest, they were able to muster 38 in a four-touchdown victory.
Well, Arizona's offense didn't really post 38 points. Twenty-one of those came from the lethargic Lions' stupidity. Detroit had a muffed punt, which gave the Cardinals a short field. Matthew Stafford then tossed two pick-sixes. The Lions actually outgained Arizona by more than 100 yards, 312-196, but they did what they do best, which is kill themselves with dumb mistakes.
Stafford finished 24-of-50 for 246 yards and three interceptions. It's sad to say this, but most of that came in junk time; Stafford was just 9-of-22 for 85 yards and a couple of picks prior to intermission.
The silver lining for the Lions, aside from their improved draft position, is that Calvin Johnson caught 10 balls for 121 yards. This means that Megatron has 1,667 yards on the season, which puts him just 181 yards shy of Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yardage record of 1,848.
Detroit recently said that it would be giving Joique Bell more touches, but that was not the case in this contest. Mikel Leshoure had double the amount of carries compared to Bell, outgaining him 55-24. Leshoure scored a touchdown.
As for the Arizona ground attack, Chris Wells found the end zone thrice, but didn't exactly run the ball well. He gained 67 yards on 17 carries, but most of it came on a 31-yard scramper late in the game.
Ryan Lindley started under center for the Cardinals, but it's not like Ken Whisenhunt had a choice after John Skelton's disastrous performance last week. Lindley turned the ball over once, which is the good news. The bad news is that he went 14-of-21 for just 104 yards. Patrick Peterson also played quarterback out of the Wildcat. He had a nice gain on one play, but it was wiped out by a hold.
Poor Larry Fitzgerald continued to post pedestrian numbers. He led the team with four catches, but managed only 22 yards. Michael Floyd (3-37) led Arizona in receiving yardage.
Seahawks 50, Bills 17
If you were to tell a million football fans at the beginning of the season that one team would score 50-plus points in consecutive games for the first time in 62 years, I don't think a single person would have chosen the Seahawks. Well, perhaps Mario Migelini would have, but he doesn't count because he was dropped on his head as a child.
Fifty points in two straight games is unreal. The difference between last week and this Sunday was that instead of watching his defense do all of the work and taking a half off, Russell Wilson did most of the damage. He was simply incredible.
Wilson's passing numbers don't look very good - 14-of-23 for 205 yards and one touchdown - but they don't nearly tell the whole story. First of all, Wilson's aerial stats could have been better. He passed just 10 times after intermission, while Doug Baldwin dropped a potential score. Wilson made clutch throws on third down, converting 5-of-11 tries. He also did a great job of eluding Buffao's pass-rushers and buying himself time in the pocket. What he did best, however, was pick up tons of rushing yardage. He compiled 92 yards and a whopping three scores on the ground, running circles around a befuddled Buffalo defense that seemed like it wasn't aware that Wilson is an elite scrambler.
What Wilson accomplished overshadowed what Marshawn Lynch did. Battling his former team for the first time, Lynch gained 113 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. He had a low number of touches because he wasn't even used following the 12-minute mark of the third quarter.
Wilson's lone aerial touchdown went to Zach Miller (3-26). Sidney Rice led the team with four receptions for 76 yards.
As for the Bills, they'll be looking for a young quarterback of their own very soon. Ryan Fitzpatrick was simply incapable of contending in a shootout with Wilson. He was awful. He went 21-of-38 for 217 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was taken back for six by Earl Thomas. Fitzpatrick also was strip-sacked and nearly saw that one also go back for a score, but Bruce Irvin was tackled close to the goal line.
C.J. Spiller was the only reason Buffalo was competitive in this game. He rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, as Chan Gailey was actually forced into giving him the appropriate amount of touches for a change.
Steve Johnson also had a great statistical performance. He hauled in eight grabs for 115 yards and a score. Four of those receptions came in the opening half, so it's not like Johnson compiled those numbers in meaningless action.
One last thing worth noting is that the Seahawks converted a fake punt when they were up 47-17. That's kind of ridiculous that Pete Carroll would attempt that. Calling for a pass with a backup quarterback to give him reps is one thing, but running something like that is just something a douche bag would do.
Panthers 31, Chargers 7
It's amazing how far San Diego has fallen. Considered a potential Super Bowl candidate back when they were 2-0, the Chargers managed 66 total net yards in the opening half and ultimately scored just seven points against a mediocre Carolina defense. Philip Rivers, formerly mentioned among one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, had only 45 passing yards at halftime.
Rivers simply had no chance behind his banged-up offensive line. Thanks to injuries, someone named Kevin Haslam started at left tackle. As a result, Rivers was pressured the entire afternoon. He was sacked five times, twice each by Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. The blockers were guilty of two false starts and a hold.
Rivers ended up 16-of-23 for 121 yards a touchdown and two lost fumbles, padding his mediocre numbers with meaningless passing stats in the fourth quarter. His score went to Antonio Gates (4-31), while Malcom Floyd (2-39) was the team's leading receiver. Emerging wideout Danario Alexander didn't log a single reception, which was surprising to say the least.
Adding injury to insult, Ryan Mathews, who gained 22 yards on four carries, left the game with a broken collarbone and is obviously out for the remainder of the season. This is the second time Mathews has broken his collarbone this year, proving that he is indeed made out of glass.
While Rivers is regressing, Cam Newton is gaining more confidence each week. Building off this past Sunday's impressive victory over the Falcons, Newton went 19-of-33 for 231 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't do much on the ground (4 scrambles, 7 yards), but he didn't really need to. He injured his finger when he banged it on the helmet of Cam Thomas. His finger was bleeding, but it turned out to be a non-factor.
Newton's late-season surge should be a big boost for next year. He was mired in a sophomore slump for the first portion of this season, but there's very little doubt that he's broken out of his funk.
DeAngelo Williams looked great again as well. He gained 93 yards on 22 carries. Mike Tolbert (9-40) stole two touchdowns on the ground from him, but Williams found the end zone once as a receiver coming out of the backfield. He caught a tipped pass on an attempted screen and took it 45 yards for a score.
Only two Panthers had more than a couple of receptions: Steve Smith (6-57, TD) and Greg Olsen (5-56).
EDITOR'S NOTE: So, the Cowboys came through in a must-win game, while the Steelers choked? The NFL no longer makes any sense.
This heavyweight battle with playoff hopes on the line ended with the Cowboys showing more fight. Rather than folding in crunch time like they are known for, the team made big-time plays to score the final 10 points to get an overtime win. Conversely, the Steelers gave the ball away to choke away their chance at a needed win.
Dallas stayed alive in its bid for the postseason while Pittsburgh is in serious danger of watching January football. The Cowboys played with a greater sense of urgency and deserved to get this clutch victory.
Early on, Dallas was going in to score when James Harrison swatted the ball out of DeMarco Murray's hands inside the 5-yard line. After that, Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger were going back-and-forth with their big weapons. Romo put the Cowboys up in the second quarter with a pretty 17-yard touchdown toss to Jason Witten (5-43).
Roethlisberger answered with a 30-yard touchdown pass to his tight end Heath Miller (7-92). It was a crazy play that saw Roethlisberger dance around the pocket for what seemed like 10 seconds.
In the third quarter, Romo came back to hit Dez Bryant for a 29-yard touchdown. It was Bryant's sixth-straight game with a touchdown catch. Bryant (4-59) beat Keenan Lewis on a back shoulder out route. Roethlisberger answered quickly with a 60-yard bomb to his big-play receiver Mike Wallace (4-95). The catch brought the ball to the goal line to set up a plunge into the end zone from Jonathan Dwyer (9-22).
The Steelers took the lead early in the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown (8-76). After a fumbled punt by Pittsburgh, the third tie of the game came on a short touchdown run by Murray (14-81).
Both defenses came up with clutch stops late to force overtime. Dallas really had a good pass rush all day. Anthony Spencer had a tremendous game for the Cowboys with 1.5 sacks and a lot of pressure on Roethlisberger.
In overtime, Brandon Carr maybe made the play of the year for the Cowboys when he undercut a pass to Wallace to make a diving interception. Carr jumped up and returned the interception 36 yards to the 1-yard line. That set up the game-winning field goal that was basically an extra point. Roethlisberger threw the pass too late and telegraphed the throw.
Romo completed 30-of-42 passes for 341 yards with two touchdowns. He made good decisions all game to take care of the football. Miles Austin (7-79) led Dallas in receiving.
Roethlisberger was 24-of-40 for 339 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He played well, but his one mistake cost his team the game. The Cowboys completely shut down the Steelers' running offense so Roethlisberger got little help.
Raiders 15, Chiefs 0
I've spent nearly an hour compiling everything positive the Chiefs did offensively throughout this contest:
The Chiefs had ZERO first downs in the opening half. They mustered just 17 total net yards prior to intermission. at that stage, they had more than double the penalty yards (40) than net yards, as well as more penalties (5) than first downs. And this was against a defense that had surrendered the most points in the NFL entering this weekend.
Quinn went 18-of-32 for 136 yards and an interception. He's always been inept, but he's looked especially bad ever since Dwayne Bowe was knocked out with a season-ending injury last week. Quinn, who was sacked three times by a stop unit that had the second-fewest sacks in the season coming into this Sunday, simply couldn't find any open receivers. It didn't help that he endured several drops.
Of course, the Chiefs may have enjoyed more success if they didn't refuse to run the ball. Jamaal Charles inexplicably had just three carries in the first half even though Kansas City never trailed by more than nine points. I don't understand that at all. Charles finished with 10 yards on nine carries.
As for the Raiders, they ran the ball down Kansas City's throat. Darren McFadden was given 30 carries, which he turned into 110 rushing yards (he also caught four balls for 39 receiving yards). Mike Goodson, meanwhile, gained 89 yards on 13 attempts.
Oakland's ground attack had to literally carry the team because according to the CBS announcers, Carson Palmer was battling some kind of sickness. He was a mediocre 18-of-29 for 182 yards. Terrelle Pryor replaced him on a 3rd-and-7 situation, but threw an incomplete pass.
Excluding McFadden, two Raiders caught more than a couple of passes: Rod Streater (5-62) and Denarius Moore (5-46). Moore fumbled the ball after one catch, but another Oakland player was able to pounce on it.
49ers 41, Patriots 34
It's amazing that a game that was so sloppy early on could turn into a thrilling shootout in the fourth quarter. The final period was one of the best 15 minutes of football we've seen this year.
Both teams screwed up early. The wintry mix caused a ton of fumbles, including two from Stevan Ridley, who lost one that was returned all the way to the New England 5-yard line. Shane Vereen also coughed the ball up for New England. The 49ers, meanwhile, had issues with the snap. Colin Kaepernick bobbled the ball on an attempted fourth-down sneak - one of his four botched snaps.
The difference between the two squads was the quarterback play. Save for one interception, Kaepernick was on fire, connecting on multiple downfield strikes. He completed five passes of 24 yards or longer. Tom Brady, meanwhile, was a mess early on. He was just 10-of-19 for 76 yards and an interception that was his fault at halftime. He tossed a second pick in the third quarter, but that was on Aaron Hernandez, whose alligator arms allowed the 49ers tip the pass and intercept it.
The Patriots had just six first downs at intermission, but moved the chains a whopping 26 times afterward. Brady ultimately finished 36-of-65 for 443 yards, two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and the two picks. He nearly led an amazing comeback from down 31-3, but fell just a bit short. Brady was magnificent for the most part in the second half, but uncharacteristically missed some manageable throws. He threw way high on a key 4th-and-2 inside his own 20, which gave the 49ers a chip-shot field goal that put this contest out of reach.
Brady did lead the team completely back though - he tied the game at 31 in the middle of the fourth quarter, but following a great return, Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for a 38-yard touchdown which ended up being the decisive score. Kaepernick finished 14-of-25 for 216 yards, a whopping four touchdowns and the aforementioned pick. He also rushed seven times for 28 yards.
Two of Kaepernick's scores went to Crabtree (7-102), who now has 23 catches for 301 yards and the two touchdowns in the past three weeks. Kaepernick also found Randy Moss (2-36) and Delanie Walker in the end zone. Vernon Davis hauled in one reception for 10 yards. Kaepernick actually had him for a potential score, but overshot him during one of his rare poor attempts.
The 49ers ran the ball extremely well. In addition to Kaepernick, two other 49ers averaged about four yards per carry: Frank Gore (21-83) and LaMichael James (7-28).
As for New England's ground attack, Belichick benched both Ridley and Vereen because of their fumbles. He turned to the reliable Danny Woodhead, who looked great. He collected 61 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries.
The 49ers did a great job of taking Wes Welker (5-56) away for the most part. Brady instead targeted Hernandez (10-92, TD) and Brandon Lloyd (10-190) the most. Lloyd did a phenomenal job of working both sidelines.
Ed Hochuli might beat me up for saying this, but he did a poor job of officiating this game. There were some shaky calls, but the worst thing he did was cause a 15-minute delay when he was trying to figure out if Ted Ginn touched a punt. It was close, and I don't think the call could have been overturned either way, but he spent an eternity deciding what to do. He then tried to tell the crowd what happened, but he signaled a penalty on the wrong team. He later corrected himself and ultimately got everything right, but he wasted so much time it was ridiculous.