Week 15 NFL Game Recaps
Bengals 34, Eagles 13
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.
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.
Falcons 34, Giants 0
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.
Broncos 34, Ravens 17
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.
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.
Packers 21, Bears 13
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.
- 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.
Redskins 38, Browns 21
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.
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.
Texans 29, Colts 17
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.
Dolphins 24, Jaguars 3
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.
Saints 41, Buccaneers 0
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
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.
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
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.
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.
Cardinals 38, Lions 10
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.
Seahawks 50, Bills 17
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.
Panthers 31, Chargers 7
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.
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.
Cowboys 27, Steelers 24
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
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.
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.
Raiders 15, Chiefs 0
49ers 41, Patriots 34
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.
For thoughts on Jets-Titans, check out my updated 2012 NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.
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