Week 16 NFL Game Recaps
Falcons 31, Lions 18
Give credit to the Falcons. They took advantage of Detroit's mistakes, turning them into 14 points, which is why they were up 15 at halftime despite being outgained by Detroit. But that's just the story of the Lions' season. They play very well at times, but absolutely kill themselves with dumb errors.
Jim Schwartz has to be blamed for this. When a team continues to make the same mistakes every week, it's on the head coach. A key example of Schwartz failing to take control of things is his inexplicable insistence on keeping Stefan Logan as his return specialist. Logan, who has had difficulty catching the ball all season, made a blunder on a fair catch - he signaled for one but didn't mean to - and then kneeled down at his 4-yard line after grabbing a kickoff. It was one of the dumbest things I've ever seen.
Panthers 17, Raiders 6
When Carson Palmer suffered a rib injury early in the first quarter, it gave the Raiders an excuse to give snaps to Terrelle Pryor. I mean, why not see what he has with an offseason coming up? That would have been the logical decision. However, 15-year-old head coach opted to go a different route. He went with Matt Leinart.
Matt Leinart? Matt Leinart!? Why!? Haven't we seen enough proof that he sucks? I guess Allen is too young to remember when Leinart played for Arizona. Leinart was predictably horrible, going 16-of-32 for 115 yards and an interception to set up a Carolina touchdown right before halftime. Most of his completions were checkdowns.
As for Pryor, he played a handful of snaps. He completed a 5-yard pass, rushed for two yards and hauled in a 22-yard reception. And that was it. Nice job, Dennis.
Saints 34, Cowboys 31
Dallas' defense just had no answer for the Saints, who easily won the yardage battle, 562-446. Drew Brees was unbelievable, going 37-of-53 for 446 yards and three touchdowns - numbers that could have been even better if his targets hadn't dropped about half-a-dozen passes. The Cowboys just couldn't get New Orleans' offense off the field; Brees was an unreal 11-of-19 on third down, as it helped that Dallas simply didn't seem to realize that Brees was capable of throwing short passes to his backs. And on one instance on a goal-to-go in the fourth quarter, Dallas actually had just nine defenders on the field, but the Saints called timeout because the clock was running down.
Packers 55, Titans 7
This game was just as ugly as the score indicates. It didn't even look like two NFL teams were playing this afternoon. The real statistics look even worse than the final ones, as the Titans padded some stats when they were down 55-0. By the time the score was 41-0, the Packers had the yardage lead, 421-115. Jake Locker was a miserable 7-of-20 for 66 yards and two interceptions.
Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, was unstoppable, especially in the second half, when he went 12-of-13 for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers' final numbers were 27-of-38 for 342 yards and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). He barely saw any pressure, as Tennessee mustered only one sack.
Vikings 23, Texans 6
The Vikings' stop unit was absolutely dominant. They completely shut down the run, limiting Arian Foster to 15 yards on 10 carries. It was easily his worst outing of the season. Making matters worse, Foster lost a fumble in the first half and later exited the contest in the second half with an irregular heartbeat. Foster called it a "very minor situation."
Meanwhile, Ponder had some brilliant moments, as indicated earlier. He also made several terrible throws. It was crazy how inconsistent he was. He'd make an awful-looking pass and then come back and convert a long-yardage situation. In all, Minnesota was 9-of-18 on third down, as Ponder went 16-of-30 for 174 yards and a touchdown. He also had seven scrambles for 48 rushing yards.
Peterson now has 1,898 rushing yards. He needs 208 yards to break Dickerson's record, which is feasible, though the Packers, who happen to be next week's opponent, just limited Chris Johnson to 26 yards.
Patriots 23, Jaguars 16
The Patriots played exactly as they did last Sunday night against the 49ers. They started sluggishly and committed turnovers, but then got their act together to mount an impressive comeback. This time, however, they didn't battle a team good enough to reestablish a lost lead - though Jacksonville came incredibly close.
Brady began the game 3-of-10 for 50 yards and two interceptions. One of the picks was his fault, but the other was on Stevan Ridley, who tipped the ball into the air. I questioned why Ridley (18-94) was even on the field after fumbling twice last week, but Bill Belichick apparently wanted to see if his young back could be more careful with the football. Apparently not.
Fortunately for New England, Brady eventually figured out Jacksonville's defense. After beginning 3-of-10, Brady was 21-of-31 for 217 yards and two touchdowns from then on, though one of his scores shouldn't really have counted because one of the Patriot receivers got away with a blatant offensive pass interference pick play.
The Jaguars, as mentioned, nearly came back after blowing their 13-3 lead. They were down seven with a third-and-goal on the half-inch line. Unfortunately, Zach Potter false started, and Jacksonville ultimately got no points out of the drive because Mike Mularkey stupidly opted to go for it on a 4th-and-10. It's amazing how frequently Mularkey goes for it on fourth down despite failing nearly every time. It's like he has no clue.
Colts 27, Chiefs 20
Let's begin with the Colts. They were actually outgained in this contest, 507-288, and those numbers are not misleading. Kansas City's defense had a very spirited performance, shutting down the run - Vick Ballard managed 69 yards on 20 carries - and putting heavy pressure on Andrew Luck. The Chiefs mustered three sacks, but it could have easily been several more.
Luck looked like a mere rookie in this contest, going 17-of-35 for 205 yards and a touchdown, though the score was a clutch one on third down late in regulation to take the lead for good. However, Luck held on to the ball way too long in the pocket. On a couple of occasions, it appeared as though the Chiefs would be able to strip-sack him, but he tucked the ball away just in time.
Having said that, the Chiefs ran the ball one more time than they needed to. Down 27-20 late in regulation, they inexplicably gave Hillis a carry on a 3rd-and-8. Hillis managed just a minimal gain, forcing a punt. Kansas City never got the ball back.
Romeo Crennel just didn't trust Brady Quinn at that point, but you can't really blame him. Quinn was anemic, going just 10-of-22 for 162 yards and two picks. One of the interceptions, which was taken back for a touchdown, occurred because the receiver wasn't looking. However, Quinn actually tossed a third interception, but the official called the Colts for an awful pass interference.
The NFL will be better off if Quinn never plays a single snap ever again. Unfortunately, Crennel doesn't have any incentive to try out Ricky Stanzi, so Kansas City fans will probably have to deal with Quinn for one more week.
Dolphins 24, Bills 10
Buffalo actually outgained Miami by 80 yards, but the three giveaways were killers. The first occurred when Johnson (4-44) fumbled in the red zone. Dorin Dickerson them fumbled in Dolphins' territory. After that, Ryan Fitzpatrick coughed the ball up, setting up a Miami score.
Give credit to the Dolphins though, as they took advantage of Buffalo's mistakes. Bush gained 65 yards on the ground (19 carries) and 42 yards aerially (4 catches) and scored thrice in the process. Miller, meanwhile, mustered 73 yards on 10 attempts. He could be the team's starting running back next year, as Daniel Thomas is just a mediocre plodder.
Chargers 27, Jets 17
McElroy wasn't as awful as Sanchez, but he was pretty ineffective. He went 14-of-24 for 185 yards, an interception and a lost fumble. Worst of all, he took a ridiculous 11 sacks, including 2.5 from Shaun Phillips and 3.5 from impressive rookie Kendall Reyes.
McElroy is what he is - a game-manager who could at the very best "Dilfer" a team to a Super Bowl if the NFL still had the same passing rules of 10 years ago. But that's no longer the case, though I don't think Rex Ryan seems to realize that. Ryan, by the way, announced that McElroy will be the starter next week. That's because he doesn't have a quarterback who can win games on his roster.
Redskins 27, Eagles 20
Griffin scrambled just twice for four rushing yards, but he was able to showcase his passing skills, going 16-of-24 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Nick Foles, meanwhile, was very impressive at times, but showed his inexperience in some instances. He was able to go 32-of-48 for 345 yards, one touchdown and an interception that was the result of a tipped pass. However, he checked down often and lost a fumble because he held on to the ball too long. Later on, he did a good job of leading his team into the red zone on the final drive, but he short-armed a pass to an open Jeremy Maclin in the end zone for what would have been the game-tying score. Almost immediately afterward, Foles was guilty of intentional grounding, which ended the contest because of the added 10-second run-off.
Bengals 13, Steelers 10
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
This was the second straight week Roethlisberger choked in crunch time and threw a bad interception to set up the game-winning field goal for the opposition. As a result, the Steelers will miss out on the playoffs, and Cincinnati clinched a wild-card berth for the second-straight season.
Dalton engineered a drive for a field goal near the end of the first half. Roethlisberger answered as he got the Steelers on the board with a 60-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown (5-97) after he burned Adam Jones on a go route.
The second half saw a lot of inept offense and two good defenses. Dalton was intercepted on the first play of the third quarter by Cortez Allen. It was a bad throw by Dalton, who had telegraphed the pass.
The Bengals had a nice drive inside the Steelers' 20-yard line, but penalties pushed them way back into a fourth-and-22. Instead of a long field goal of around 50 yards, Cincinnati went for it. The team would've had it, but A.J. Green was pushed out of bounds before he could get two feet down on a superb catch. Pittsburgh took advantage with a drive that produced a Shaun Suisham 40-yard field goal.
The Bengals crossed midfield in the fourth quarter but Green fumbled the ball away after getting hit by Allen. Dalton threw another pick to Allen, who made a great catch off a deflection. Cincinnati missed a 56-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, but the Steelers missed a 53-yard field goal, too.
With 20 seconds remaining, Roethlisberger made a dumb decision and overthrew Mike Wallace (1-3) on a roll out. The ball was easily picked off by Reggie Nelson. Dalton made a huge throw to Green to move the ball about 20 yards and get in range for the game-winning 43-yard field goal by Josh Brown.
Rams 28, Buccaneers 13
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
- After Sam Bradford threw an interception in the end zone to Danny Gorrer, Freeman gave it right back when he was picked off by Janoris Jenkins. The rookie corner returned the ball 41 yards for a touchdown. Freeman made a terrible decision throwing off his back foot to a well-covered receiver.
- Just before halftime, Freeman threw another bad interception into a group of defenders. Linebacker James Laurinaitis came down with the ball. That set up a nice drive by Bradford that ended with a Steven Jackson (19-81) touchdown run.
- A few plays after St. Louis' touchdown that opened the third quarter, Freeman dialed up the Rams up for points with an interception to Trumaine Johnson. Bradford tossed a short touchdown pass to Austin Pettis. Those 21 points off of turnovers were the difference in the game.
Other than that play, the Bucs' defense shut down Bradford and the Rams' offense in the final two quarters. Bradford finished 13-of-27 for 196 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
A 50-yard pass to Vincent Jackson (7-108) set up the Bucs inside the Rams' 5-yard line, but once again the defense made a stop on fourth-and-goal to take away points from Tampa Bay. Freeman's fourth interception came after Brockers batted a pass and Eugene Sims tracked down the ball. St. Louis' defense had two more fourth-down stops late in the fourth quarter.
Freeman finished 30-of-54 for 372 yards with a score and four interceptions. The Rams' defense focused on Doug Martin (18-62 rushing, 7-57 receiving) and dared Freeman to beat them.
The St. Louis defensive line played really well too, recording five sacks. Williams Hayes (two sacks), Chris Long (one sack), Kendall Langford (one sack), Brockers and Quintin Mikell (sack-fumble) all stood out. Jenkins and Johnson also had impressive days for the Rams.
Broncos 34, Browns 12
Manning finished 30-of-43 for 339 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He was 9-of-15 on third downs, leading Denver to 457 net yards. His passing numbers could have been even better, but the Broncos took the air out of the ball with such a huge second-half lead.
Cleveland's game plan was puzzling. Richardson had just six carries by halftime compared to 16 Brandon Weeden attempts even though it was just a 14-3 contest at the break.
Bears 28, Cardinals 13
The Cardinals were especially pathetic in this contest, but the quarterbacks weren't the ones who deserved the most blame. That would go to Chris Wells and his three yards on four carries. Wells was given the ball right near his own goal line in the first quarter. He slipped and fumbled the ball, allowing Zackary Bowman to pounce on it for a touchdown. Wells was benched, giving way for an equally ineffective (but more careful) LaRod Stephens-Howling (11-20).
Of course, Ryan Lindley's play didn't help. He went 17-of-30 for 141 yards and an interception. He had a second pick that was nullified by a penalty. He was benched after his real interception (returned for a touchdown) in favor of Brian Hoyer, who was added off the waiver wire. Hoyer went 11-of-19 for 105 yards and a telegraphed interception in relief.
Hoyer wasn't good or anything, but he looked like a legitimate NFL quarterback (albeit a backup), as he was actually capable of getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, who hauled in eight catches for 111 yards. Fitzgerald hadn't topped the century mark since Week 3 when Arizona beat the Eagles to improve to 3-0. That seems like a million years ago.
First, about Forte, he was in a walking boot in the locker room afterward, but his status for Week 17 and beyond is currently unknown. He gained 88 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. With Michael Bush on injured reserve, the Bears will go with a platoon of Kahlil Bell and Armando Allen if Forte is out.
Then there's Cutler, who began the game miserably. He was 0-of-6 in the first quarter before completing a 30-yarder to Brandon Marshall. He was also 1-of-11 at one point, but ultimately finished 12-of-26 for 146 yards and a touchdown.
Ravens 33, Giants 14
However, there's no guarantee New York will beat Philadelphia. If it plays like it did against the Ravens, it has no chance. The Giants were thoroughly dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. It was really bad. Eli Manning had zero time to throw on most occasions, while Joe Flacco barely had anyone in his pocket.
- New York dropped two interceptions (Stevie Brown, Keith Rivers).
- The Giants had Corey Webster in their secondary. Flacco targeted Webster on seemingly every throw.
- Flacco's receivers somehow made unbelievable acrobatic catches all evening.
Seahawks 42, 49ers 13
Wilson was amazing in this game. He misfired on only six passes, going 15-of-21 for 171 yards, four touchdowns and an interception on a fluky tipped screen attempt. Wilson also rushed for 29 yards on six scrambles. He was up to his old tricks, maneuvering around the pocket and making defenders look silly trying to tackle him. Thanks to his ability to buy time, Wilson was able to convert an unreal 11-of-13 third downs.
Davis was just one of many 49ers who was knocked out of the contest. Mario Manningham and cornerback Tarell Brown were both assisted off the field. Manningham's X-rays came back negative.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.
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2008 Championship Sunday Diary - Jan. 20
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