The Cleveland sports scene has endured many hardships over the years. The Indians lost in the fake baseball playoffs on Wednesday, but this was the Browns' night. This was their chance to take the AFC North lead with a 3-2 record, thanks to a new, promising quarterback.
But because the Browns are the Browns and Cleveland is Cleveland, Brian Hoyer (2-of-4, 25 yards) suffered what appeared to be a torn ACL on an awkward slide during the second drive of the game. Adding insult to injury, the tackling player, Kiko Alonso, wasn't even whistled for a blatant helmet-to-helmet hit. It's as if the sports gods looked down and said, "Cleveland, you must suffer, so we're taking all hope away from you again."
Brandon Weeden entered the game to a chorus of boos. The jeers grew louder with each ugly incompletion. Weeden, who holds the ball way too long, took some unnecessary sacks as well. Weeden started poorly, but got more and more comfortable as the game progressed. He did well to convert multiple third downs in the second quarter to lead his team down the field for a touchdown. Weeden was even better in the second half, going 7-of-12 for 129 yards and a score after the break. He had some throws that made me go "yeeesh," but he impressed me at times. His main highlight was a beautiful 37-yard rainbow to Josh Gordon for a touchdown. Weeden finished 13-of-24 for 197 yards and that score.
Of course, the Browns wouldn't have won this game without Travis Benjamin. He had a 57-yard punt return in the first quarter to set up a field goal. He then took back a punt for a touchdown. The Bills were too terrified to kick it to him after that, so they had some short attempts to give Cleveland good field position. As it turned out, the Browns had more yardage on punt returns in the first half than net yardage on offense.
The Browns weren't the only team to lose their starting quarterback. E.J. Manuel banged his knee while going out of bounds in the third quarter. He walked off on his own power, and it appeared as though he'd be able to reenter the game, but Manuel eventually limped off into the locker room. Manuel finished 11-of-20 for 129 yards. Not included in this was a 29-yard pass interference on the opening drive. Manuel threw well when he had a clean pocket, but his accuracy issues were prevalent when he couldn't set his feet. He's incredibly inconsistent, but at least the talent is there.
Rookie Jeff Tuel stepped in under center when Manuel exited the contest. Tuel impressed in the preseason, but he was horrendous in his professional debut. His numbers - 8-of-20 for 80 yards and a pick-six - don't illustrate how bad he was. His lacking arm strength was extremely apparent, as his throws wobbled and fell short of his intended targets. He wasn't accurate in the slightest. Worst of all, he was constantly whining and complaining to his teammates, the coaching staff and the officials.
More injury woes for the Bills: Stevie Johnson had the aforementioned 29-yard pass interference and then caught two balls for 19 yards, but he aggravated his hamstring in the second quarter and left the game or good. Rookie wideout Robert Woods led the team with five catches and 64 receiving yards.
Both of Buffalo's running backs were iffy to play in this game, but they posted solid fantasy numbers. Most of C.J. Spiller's 66 yards (on eight carries) came on a 54-yard touchdown to open the second half. Barkevious Mingo couldn't get off a block, and then T.J. Ward missed a tackle to help spring Spiller into the end zone. Fred Jackson was the better player once again, rushing for 53 yards and two touchdowns on 17 attempts. He also caught four balls for 40 receiving yards.
It's hard to believe, but Willis McGahee was the leading rusher in this contest. He had just one solid run, which would explain his meager YPC (26 carries, 72 yards). However, he scored a touchdown, so those who started him as a bye-week filler were happy.
Gordon, who also scored, paced the Browns with 86 receiving yards off four catches. He had what seemed like a devastating drop on the opening drive that could have been a 90-yard touchdown. Gordon later dropped another pass, but at least he wasn't Greg Little (3-71), who foolishly took two kickoffs out of the back of his own end zone. He fumbled one of the attempts, but Cleveland luckily recovered.
Jordan Cameron was a disappointment (3-36). He was targeted once in the end zone, but Weeden overthrew him.
Browns' stud defense Desmond Bryant was yet another player who was knocked out of this game. He went to the hospital with shortness of breath, so hopefully he'll be OK.
There was some stupid stuff in this game:
1. The NFL officials now have pink flags. I know it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but pink flags are just way too much. It's a dumb idea that needs to go away. Not everything needs to be pink. We get it.
2. Bills' coach Doug Marrone appeared to challenge illegal contact in the first half. Yeah, I didn't understand it either. There was illegal contact in the end zone that gave Cleveland a first down. Marrone threw his flag, and the official had to announce that the Bills were charged with a timeout on a non-reviewable play. I have no idea what Marrone was trying to do.
3. Why didn't the Browns go for two after the pick-six? The touchdown made it 37-24 with about 1:50 remaining. Going for two would've made it a 14-point game. I know it ultimately didn't even come close to mattering, but this poor type of game management could come back to haunt Cleveland in the future.
4. NFL Network play-by-play announcer Brad Nessler doesn't know about any of the football players. I'm serious. He's said some weird stuff this year, this week called Greg Little "Mr. Dependable." I thought I was hearing things, but couldn't rewind the game because my DVR wasn't functioning at the time. However, multiple forum members confirmed this.
How the hell is Little worth the title of "Mr. Dependable?" He's been benched several times because of drops and fumbles. He's the opposite of dependable. Why in the world would Nessler call him that then? Is he just completely clueless, or is he trolling us?
Also, Nessler said, "We lost a valuable employee to breast cancer last summer, Natalie Parker." That's nice of him to say that, but her name flashed on the screen as "Natalie Packer." Nessler obviously never even said a single word to her if he screwed up her name like that, so why would he say she's a "valuable employee?" How would he know she's valuable? Does he even know what she did? I'm just shocked he didn't just refer to her as "Ms. Dependable."
Bengals 13, Patriots 6
It seemed like every single TV analyst had the Patriots winning this game despite the fact that the Bengals were favored for most of the week. What everyone seemed to ignore was how much of an impact Vince Wilfork's absence would have on New England's defense.
The Bengals essentially ripped off big gains on the ground with ease. BenJarvus Green-Ellis looked like Corey Dillon at times, gaining 67 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Giovani Bernard also had success when rushing the ball (13-62), though he did lose a fumble with 3:20 remaining in regulation as Cincinnati was trying to run out the clock. It was raining at the time, so perhaps Bernard coughed the ball up because it was soaked. It's not much of an excuse, but the wet conditions had a huge impact late in the game.
While it was raining throughout the second half, the skies really opened up when the Patriots obtained possession with about two minutes remaining in regulation. It was pouring so hard that it was difficult to see the players on TV. Brady's receivers dropped almost every single ball thrown to them, and it didn't help that Aaron Dobson ran the wrong route on one occasion. Brady ultimately heaved the ball toward the end zone, but it was picked off by Pacman Jones after he tipped the ball in the air to himself.
Humorously enough - as long as you weren't rooting for the Patriots - the rain suddenly stopped seconds before Jones intercepted the pass. It's almost as if some higher being wanted to make sure the Bengals covered the spread. Perhaps he/she/it had Cincinnati in a parlay or a teaser.
All kidding aside, New England's offense was dreadful the entire afternoon, so the rain can't exactly be blamed for this loss. The front line couldn't hold up, as Brady was sacked four times, including twice on the first couple of drives. His receivers dropped what seemed like a thousand passes, including a crucial mishandle by Kenbrell Thompkins to disrupt a promising drive at the end of the first half.
I also didn't understand some of the play-calling. The Patriots had the ball on the 1-inch line early in the fourth quarter. I feel like Brady would've sneaked it in previous years, but New England went with a LeGarrette Blount run (he was stuffed), an inexplicable pass to left tackle-eligible Nate Solder and toss to Julian Edelman, who dropped the ball (albeit Jones made another good play). The Patriots probably would've scored on a Brady sneak attempt (or two), so the thought process didn't make much sense.
Brady finished 18-of-38 for 197 yards and the aforementioned pick. This game marked the first time in 52 occasions that Brady failed to fire a touchdown. This result was surprising because Cincinnati was missing a couple of defensive starters, while Danny Amendola returned to the lineup for the first time since Week 1. Amendola led the team with 55 receiving yards off four receptions. He nearly scored a touchdown, but rolled to the 1-inch line to begin that aforementioned dubious sequence.
New England's other receivers disappointed: Edelman (2-35) and Thompkins (3-16) did nothing but drop passes. In fact, running back Brandon Bolden led the team in receptions (six for 40 yards). Bolden saw five carries for 24 yards, while Blount gained 51 yards on 12 tries. He lost a fumble in Cincinnati territory in the first half.
As the Patriots endured with Blount, the Bengals had their own red-zone turnover. Andy Dalton made a poor decision and fired the ball late across his body. That was Dalton's only blemish on paper - he went 20-of-27 for 212 yards and the pick - but he got away with some other stuff, as Aqib Talib could've come up with a pick or two.
Talib and the Patriots' secondary did a great job of limiting A.J. Green, who had five catches for 61 yards. Tyler Eifert matched Green with five catches (53 yards).
As mentioned, Cincinnati ran all over New England. The Patriots' defense did a pretty pedestrian job overall, despite the 13 points. The defensive line was pushed around, allowing the Bengals to accumulate 341 net yards (compared to 248 yards by the Patriots). The Patriots also permitted Cincinnati to convert a third-and-15 on its own 2-yard line in the third quarter. This ultimately led to the only touchdown of the afternoon.
Saints 26, Bears 18
EDITOR'S NOTE: How does Jay Cutler go 24-of-33 for 358 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and the Bears score just 18 points? Charlie covered this game, so I look forward to watching it later during the week.
New Orleans took control of this game in the opening minutes and never looked back despite a breakout performance by Chicago wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. The Bears' defense couldn't keep Drew Brees from putting up points, while the Saints' defense came up with some clutch stops to keep New Orleans undefeated. The game really wasn't as close as the score, as Chicago got a late touchdown and two-point conversion. Saints' defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has done a tremendous job this season, leading a complete turnaround to give his organization a balanced team for the first time in years.
Early in the game, Brees used the unstoppable Jimmy Graham to move the ball down the field. The standout tight end dominated Chicago's safeties. After a New Orleans drive for a field goal, Malcolm Jenkins came on a safety blitz to get a sack fumble that was recovered by Cam Jordan to set up the Saints for their second field goal. Brees hit Graham for 38 yards to set up a short touchdown toss to Pierre Thomas (19-36, 9-55 receiving). In the final seconds before halftime, Thomas took a 25-yard screen pass to the end zone. The Bears' defense adjusted to play better in the second half and kept New Orleans to only two more Garrett Hartley field goals.
Brees completed 29-of-35 passes for 288 yards with two touchdowns in this game. He was highly efficient and didn't make any mistakes to set up Chicago's offense. Darren Sproles (3-10 rushing, 3-31 receiving) didn't have big totals, but he churned out clutch yards. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman led the way to shut down Marques Colston (2-15).
Chicago's offense was carried by Jeffery, as New Orleans sold out to stop Brandon Marshall (4-30) and limit Matt Forte (12-55). Jeffery (10-218) stepped up with a monster game. He made a superb leaping catch for 31 yards in the first quarter. That would set up a short touchdown toss for the duo. Cutler hit a 48-yard completion to Jeffery in the third quarter and a gain of 18 yards to Martellus Bennett (5-56) set up a field goal. Late in the game, Cutler lofted in a pass to Jeffery for 58 yards after he beat Kenny Vaccaro to the Saints' 2-yard line. A quick out to Brandon Marshall for six and a two-point run by Matt Forte pulled the Bears within eight, but Chicago couldn't get the ball back with enough time.
Cutler was 24-of-33 on the afternoon for 358 yards with two scores. He also ran for 27 yards on four carries.
The Bears' defense did a nice job of holding the Saints to field goals, but Chicago was unable to generate any takeaways. Lance Briggs was all over the place with 14 tackles and a sack, but he jumped offsides with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-1 when New Orleans was probably not going to snap the ball. That allowed the Saints to drain more time off the clock and kick a field goal.
New Orleans' defense got good games from Curtis Lofton (9 tackles) and Jabari Greer, who did a good job defending Marshall. Aside from getting burned late by Jeffery, Vaccaro played well with six tackles and a sack.
Packers 22, Lions 9
The Lions' chances were thwarted even before this game began. Around 11:30 Eastern, it was announced that Calvin Johnson would not play. Johnson practiced Friday, albeit on a limited basis, but this news still came out of nowhere. The spread rose from -7 to -10, as it was obvious that Detroit would have extreme difficulty moving the chains without their best player.
That certainly turned out to be the case. The Lions were stuck on zero or three points for most of the afternoon. They generated 286 net yards of offense, but 80 of that came in garbage time when the Packers were up 22-3 in the final quarter. The running lanes weren't there either with no Megatron threatening downfield.
Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, posted decent-looking numbers - 25-of-40 for 262 yards and a touchdown - but a bulk of that was compiled in junk time. To give you an idea of bad things were for him, Stafford was 5-of-11 for just 43 yards heading into the final drive of the first half. The issue, besides the receivers failing to get open and dropping passes, was pass protection. Without having to worry about Megatron, Dom Capers sent the house. Stafford was sacked five times as a result, including twice by Nick Perry, who also forced a fumble.
To once again illustrate how futile Detroit's offense was, Brandon Pettigrew led the team with 59 receiving yards (four catches). Yes, Brandon freaking Pettigrew. Kris Durham (3-30) caught Stafford's sole score, but that was very late when the Packers stopped trying.
As for Reggie Bush, he was limited to 44 yards on 13 carries, with a big chunk of that coming on a 20-yard scamper. Bush caught just four balls for 25 receiving yards. He dropped a pass in the second quarter.
Detroit's defense needs to be given credit for keeping the team in the game. The Packers couldn't get anything going until the middle of the third quarter when they hit a couple of big plays: Randall Cobb had a 67-yard carry out of the backfield to set up a field goal, and then Aaron Rodgers hit James Jones with an 83-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession.
Jones just missed out on a second touchdown in the final period. He seemingly scored, but replay showed that he had one foot inbounds. The funny thing about this was that Jones, attempting a Lambeau Leap, couldn't jump high enough to get into the stands. He also failed to do so when he legitimately found the end zone earlier.
As for Aaron Rodgers, he went 20-of-30 for 274 yards and the big score to Jones. He missed out on two touchdowns: the aforementioned Jones' one-footer, and a Jordy Nelson drop on what would've been a 34-yard score.
Nelson tried to make up for the miscue, finishing with five catches for 82 yards. Meanwhile, Cobb's receiving totals were poor (4-35), but he made an amazing, one-handed catch on third down in the middle of the opening quarter.
The Packers welcomed back Eddie Lacy from his concussion. He was a workhorse, rushing for 99 yards on 23 carries.
Clay Matthews was knocked out of this game with a broken thumb. It's unclear how long he'll be out.
Colts 34, Seahawks 28
The Seahawks' recent road games have all been the same. They've begun slowly, but Russell Wilson's second-half surges have put them in position to pull off an improbable victory. Things were different this afternoon, however, as Seattle got off to a hot start. They were up 10-0 when the team blocked an Indianapolis punt. Jermaine Kearse recovered the ball in the end zone, but it was ruled a safety. Official Ron Winter was too inept to make the correct call after looking at the replay.
Still though, the Seahawks were up 12-0 on the Colts, who looked completely out of it. Indianapolis had three drops on third down at that point, so the players just appeared to be too unfocused to mount any sort of comeback.
Everything changed after that, however. Not only did the Colts start generating consistent scoring drives; they also got on the board via a special-teams block of their own when a Seattle field goal was batted down and returned for a touchdown.
Andrew Luck and his receivers eventually got on the same page. Luck finished 16-of-29 for 229 yards and two touchdowns. He was on fire in the second half, going 11-of-16 for 132 yards and a score following intermission.
Both of Luck's scores went to T.Y. Hilton, who caught five balls for 140 yards, though it should be noted that one of the scores could've been prevented if a lethargic Richard Sherman ran downfield instead of halfheartedly waltzing toward Hilton. Including plays nullified by penalty, Hilton saw more targets than Darrius Heyward-Bey, 8-7. Reggie Wayne, meanwhile, struggled with drops early, but finished with six receptions for 65 yards, with all but one catch coming after halftime.
Trent Richardson's stats sucked - he had 56 yards on 18 carries, most of which came on a 16-yard try - but he didn't have much of a chance behind an offensive line that couldn't open up anything for him. The Indianapolis front struggled throughout the afternoon - left tackle Anthony Castonzo was abused by Chris Clemons, who had a sack and a forced fumble - so that makes Luck's performance all that more impressive.
Russell Wilson played well despite the loss. He failed to complete half of his passes - he went 15-of-31 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in desperation time - but he rushed for 102 yards on 13 scrambles. Wilson once again navigated the pocket like a 10-year veteran, but he had to do way too much because of injuries to his offensive line.
Marshawn Lynch matched Wilson's 102 rushing yards. The Colts simply couldn't tackle him. He was in vintage Beast Mode. He could've had a monstrous statistical outing had the Seahawks maintained their lead. Instead, he was limited to just 17 carries.
Wilson's two scores went to Golden Tate (5-61) and Kearse (1-28). Doug Baldwin led the way with five receptions for 80 yards. Sidney Rice made only one catch.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I think I would've had a mental breakdown if Caleb Sturgis nailed that game-tying 57-yard field goal at the very end. Thank the gods.
The Ravens' defense came alive to bail out Joe Flacco from a costly mistake, while Ryan Tannehill was let down by a weak performance by his supporting cast. Baltimore sacked Tannehill six times as Miami's offensive line was completely inept in pass protection and run blocking. Baltimore was able to generate just enough offense from Torrey Smith and Ray Rice to get a win that keeps the team tied at 3-2 with Cincinnati and Cleveland.
In the first half, Flacco set up a field goal by hitting Torrey Smith for 41 yards. A big gain to Ed Dickson (2-51) of 43 yards set up the Ravens' second field goal. The Dolphins' offense also had opportunities, but had to settle for too many field goals. After dropping a pass inside the 10-yard line, Mike Wallace (7-105) beat Matt Elam and Lardarius Webb for a 49-yard reception. That only set up another field goal though. Tannehill hooked up with Brian Hartline (4-60) for a few completions just before halftime. The second-year signal-caller then tossed a nice back-shoulder touchdown to Charles Clay. Clay (3-52) had a nice game with a 45-yard reception that set up a field goal in the second half.
In the third quarter, Torrey Smith (6-121) drew a pass interfence on Ben Grimes in the end zone. Rice (27-74 rushing, 6-28 receiving) plunged into the end zone on the next play. That gave the Ravens a 16-13 lead. He added to it with his second short touchdown run.
With Baltimore up 23-16 midway through the fourth quarter, Flacco had a pass deflected by Dion Jordan. Dolphins' safety Reshad Jones tracked it down like a punt and raced 25 yards into the end zone to tie the game. Rice started getting better gains on the ground late in the game and Smith made a leaping 14-yard catch to set up Justin Tucker for the game-winning field goal from 44 yards out.
Down by three with two minutes remaining, Miami had one more shot. On a fourth-and-10 deep in his own territory, Tannehill dodged a sack and rolled out to loft in a beautiful 46-yard pass to Brandon Gibson (4-74). Tyson Clabo was beaten by Elvis Dumervil for a critical sack that made the final field goal attempt about five yards longer and Caleb Sturgis missed the 57-yarder.
Flacco finished 19-of-32 for 269 yards with zero touchdowns and a pick-six. Bernard Pierce (11-46) and Tandon Doss (3-58) contributed.
Tannehill was 21-of-40 for 307 yards with a score. Wallace, Clay and Hartline all had costly dropped passes. However, the offensive line was the biggest liability for the Dolphins as the team had only 22 yards rushing on the ground. Courtney Upshaw and Pernell McPhee had sacks against the interior linemen. Terrell Suggs absolutely dominated Jonathan Martin for three sacks using speed and bull rushes against the weak left tackle.
Miami's defense played well too. Rice fumbled the ball away on a hit by Paul Soliai in the first quarter, and it was recovered by Dannell Ellerbe. Both Olivier Vernon and Koa Misi (7 tackles) had sacks. Philip Wheeler played well with 10 tackles.
Eagles 36, Giants 21
It was a certainty that Philadelphia's starting quarterback would suffer numerous injuries this season. The question was whether Nick Foles could step in and operate Chip Kelly's offense once that happened. It's a small sample size, and it happened against a pathetic Giants' defense, but so far so good for Foles.
QBDK suffered a hamstring injury at the end of the first half. He scrambled out of bounds for a decent gain, but pulled up and grabbed the back of his leg. He remained in the game for the duration of that drive, but showed no desire to run the ball after that. Foles entered on the next drive. He took over at his own 7-yard line, but led the team to a field goal on what would be the final drive of the first half.
Foles ultimately finished 16-of-25 for 197 yards and two touchdowns. The difference in accuracy between Foles and QBDK was night and day. Foles can't run at all, but at least he was able to complete half of his passes. QBDK was 6-of-14 for 105 yards, but helped out with 79 rushing yards on seven scrambles (including a 34-yard scamper on a third-and-19). The running ability is nice, but QBDK is such an injury liability because of that. The Eagles need to keep starting Foles so they can learn if they need to take a quarterback early in the 2014 NFL Draft.
DeSean Jackson should be fine with Foles starting, as he had more receptions in the second half than he did in the first. Jackson (7-132) also caught his touchdown from Foles. He hurt QBDK with a drop on the opening drive.
LeSean McCoy was once again a big part of Philadelphia's offense. His YPC sucked (20-46) - he struggled to find running room when QBDK was out of the lineup - but he found the end zone and also chipped in with six catches for 46 receiving yards.
As for the Giants, it was more of the same. They've been plagued by turnovers and dumb penalties all year, and both continued to haunt them in this contest. They were guilty of 12 infractions (compared to eight by the Eagles) and gave the ball away on four occasions. They also used up all of their second-half timeouts in the third quarter.
Part of the problem for New York was David Wilson's injury. Wilson, who was going to be a big part of the game plan in this matchup, left the contest in the first quarter with a neck injury. Wilson (6-16) was off to a good start with a touchdown, and his absence completely destroyed whatever New York wanted to do on offense. In fact, Brandon Jacobs (11-37) was responsible for one of those turnovers when he fumbled the ball away at midfield.
Eli Manning started this game well, hitting Hakeem Nicks for a 49-yard strike with pressure in his face. However, things quickly fell apart after Wilson was sidelined. Manning ultimately threw for 334 yards and two touchdowns, but failed to complete 50 percent of his passes (24-of-52) and tossed three interceptions.
Rueben Randle hauled in both of Manning's touchdowns, registering six catches for 96 yards in the process. This had to anger Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz owners. The former had nine receptions for 142 yards, but he dropped a touchdown. Cruz (5-48) drew a long pass interference.
Rams 34, Jaguars 20
Despite these teams entering this matchup with a combined 1-7 record, they put together quite an eventful game. Big plays and storylines were abound in St. Louis, including:
- Ace Sanders had a punt return touchdown in the first quarter, but it was nullified because of an illegal block above the waist.
- On the ensuing drive, Justin Blackmon hauled in a 67-yard touchdown. Blackmon, making his 2013 debut, caught five passes for 136 yards and a touchdown.
- Luke Joeckel was carted off with a season-ending fractured ankle. The Jaguars actually had some success moving the chains prior to his injury, but they could barely do anything afterward.
- Gabbert was pick-sixed on a horrific overthrow.
- Gabbert was good for more lulz later on, when he was nearly picked on a red-zone attempt in the third quarter. The Jaguars would settle for a field goal, but they took the points off the board after a Rams' penalty. On the very next play, Gabbert tossed an interception in the end zone.
Jacksonville's cowardly quarterback went 9-of-19 for 181 yards, one touchdown and two picks. He was ultimately benched in favor of Chad Henne (7-of-13, 89 yards, TD), who was much better only because he didn't turn the ball over.
Other Jaguars of note: Maurice Jones-Drew had 70 yards on 17 carries, while Cecil Shorts hauled in five balls for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Sam Bradford was able to shred Jacksonville's putrid defense, going 19-of-34 for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't complete a pass longer than 31 yards, but it seemed like he was always converting passes between 10 and 17 yards throughout the entire afternoon.
Two of Bradford's scores went to Austin Pettis (4-49), who happens to be his favorite receiver. Tavon Austin (3-32), Jared Cook (3-26) and Chris Givens (2-16) all disappointed their fantasy owners. Those who own Cook had to be especially frustrated, as Lance Kendricks outgained his teammate (4-37) and also scored Bradford's third touchdown.
The Rams seemed to find a running attack for the first time all year. Zac Stacy gained 76 yards on 14 carries. He would've had an even bigger performance, but he left the game in the fourth quarter with a minor rib injury. Stacy looks promising, but he'll need to be tested against a better defense. Daryl Richardson (13-48) predictably struggled.
Chiefs 26, Titans 17
The Titans came into this week being the only team to not turn the ball over this season. Well, when it rains it pours. Tennessee gave the ball away for the first time in the opening quarter and ultimately were guilty of three turnovers, all of which were crucial:
- On a punt return, the ball kicked off an unaware Damian Williams' foot. The Chiefs recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an interception in the second quarter, setting up a Kansas City field goal.
- Fitzpatrick was guilty of a second pick that he tossed behind his target. This led to another field goal.
- This wasn't technically a give-away, but the Titans turned the ball over on downs on an impressive Kansas City goal-line stand in the second quarter. Well, it wasn't all the Chiefs' defense; Tennessee was guilty of dumb play-calling. On the four plays, the team ran it twice with Jackie Battle and had Fitzpatrick attempt two passes. Chris Johnson was nowhere to be seen, which is downright inexplicable. Johnson was also absent on a third-and-1 try in which Battle was stuffed for no gain. I have no idea why the Titans are using Battle over Johnson. Are they that dumb that they don't realize that giving the ball to their best player gives them the best chance to win?
Johnson had trouble running the ball - he gained 17 yards on carries - but he broke a reception for a 49-yard touchdown. Battle gained 38 yards on six carries, but that's deceiving because all but one of his yards came on a 37-yard scamper in which the Chiefs were caught unawares.
Fitzpatrick went 21-of-41 for 247 yards, one touchdown and the two picks. He could've tossed a third interception, but the Chiefs dropped it. Fitzpatrick picked up a second score on the ground and actually happened to lead the team in rushing yardage (6-50).
Alex Smith, despite earning the victory, wasn't much better than Fitzpatrick. He went 20-of-39 for 245 yards and an interception that was a strange overthrow of Jamaal Charles coming out of the backfield. Smith could've easily tossed a second pick, but the Titans dropped the ball. Tennessee defensed Smith extremely well in the second half, limiting him to 7-of-14 for 55 yards and the interception following the break.
Smith continues to ruin Dwayne Bowe's fantasy value. Bowe had four catches for 35 yards, but one was a fluke grab off a tipped pass. Bowe actually made a mistake by catching it because it allowed precious time to tick off the clock at the end of the first half. Donnie Avery, meanwhile, led the team with 91 receiving yards off three catches.
Charles once again had a huge performance. He rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown to go along with five catches for 37 receiving yards. His only mistake was a lost fumble after a fierce hit, but the Titans couldn't take advantage of that turnover.
Cardinals 22, Panthers 6
There were two games going on in the 4 o'clock window. One was the fourth-highest-scoring game of all time in which both teams barely punted. The other was an epic battle of suckage between Jake Plummer and Jake Delhomme wanna-bes.
It seemed like the two turnover-prone quarterbacks were playing in this contest because Cam Newton and Carson Palmer were both brutal. Beginning with Newton, he threw for 308 yards (21-of-39), but was guilty of four give-aways. The trouble started when Newton underthrew a pass, which Patrick Peterson picked off at the goal line. Newton later tossed two more picks and lost a fumble.
The reason I was scared to bet on the Cardinals was because the Panthers were coming off a bye, and road favorites following a week off have a great covering history. However, I didn't want to take Carolina either because I questioned if Newton would spend the free week watching film of Arizona. As Matvei joked: "It looks like Newton watched film of Derek Anderson instead of the Cardinals' defense."
Newton was terrible, but I don't agree with Rodney Harrison's take that he needs to be benched. Two reasons: First, are the Panthers going to turn to Derek Anderson? Jimmy Clausen? What's their option if they're going to sit Newton? Second, this wasn't all Newton's fault. His leaky offensive line surrendered seven sacks, one of which resulted in a safety. His receivers dropped passes as well. Steve Smith was especially guilty of this, as he let the ball go through his hands in the end zone during the first half. Brandon LaFell had an equally crucial drop on fourth down in the red zone.
There are, however, things Newton needs to work on. He needs to actually learn how to read defenses. He also has to use his legs more frequently. It's inexcusable that he scrambled only four times for 25 rushing yards.
Four Panthers had four or more receptions: Greg Olsen (5-79), Ted Ginn (4-78), Smith (4-60) and LaFell (4-47). Peterson did a number on Smith, who was frustrated enough to commit a pass-interference flag by pushing off the Pro Bowl corner. Daryl Washington, making his 2013 debut, also had a pick in the red zone.
It was not a surprise in the slightest that the Panthers struggled to run the ball. DeAngelo Williams gained just 39 yards on 12 carries.
Before I move on to Arizona, it must be noted that Carolina destroyed itself with penalties. The team was whistled for nine infractions, most of which came at crucial moments. Once again, the Panthers were expected to play better coming off a bye. The fact that they struggled like this is an indication that they're poorly coached.
Carson Palmer outplayed Newton, but only by default. Whereas Newton was guilty of four turnovers, Palmer gave the ball away just three times. He similarly threw a pick at the goal line, coincidentally on the drive following Newton's aforementioned first interception. Another pick happened because Palmer didn't see Luke Kuechly.
Palmer saw a good amount of pressure in his face all afternoon - though not as much as Newton - which would explain his meager statistics: 19-of-28, 175 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions. Palmer struggled to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, who registered just three receptions for 43 yards.
The Cardinals need to get the ball more to Andre Ellington. The sixth-round rookie is seeing more touches go his way - he handled the ball 11 times - but he needs even more opportunities. Ellington, who is very quick, rushed for 52 yards on just seven attempts and also caught four balls for 31 receiving yards.
Rashard Mendenhall, meanwhile, plodded his way for 43 yards on 17 carries with no attempt longer than seven yards. He did save his few remaining fantasy owners, however, with a touchdown.
Cleaning up other stuff: Karlos Dansby (2 sacks, 1 INT), Washington (2 sacks, 1 INT) and Calais Campbell (2 sacks, 1 forced fumble) all had huge games. On the other side, Panthers' guard Amini Silatolu suffered a knee injury.
Broncos 51, Cowboys 48
This was an awesome matchup. Some cool stats:
- This was the fourth-highest-scoring game of all time, and the second-highest this century, falling short of a 58-48 tilt between the Bengals and Browns in 2004.
- These two teams combined for more than 1,000 net yards - the third time this season that two teams in a single contest have reached that collective total (Eagles-Chargers, Packers-Redskins).
- There was only one punt in this game. This is only the sixth time since 1992 that there has been one or fewer punts in a contest.
- Tony Romo threw for 506 yards. Ths is the first time Dallas has ever had a 500-yard passer - and the franchise has enjoyed plenty of great quarterbacks over the years.
Romo went 25-of-36 for 506 yards and five touchdowns. For 58 minutes, he was amazing. He was doing his weird hocus-pocus BS where he inexplicably spins out of sacks and finds receivers deep downfield. His first posssession was a thing of beauty, as he held control of the ball for 6:54 and eventually found Dez Bryant for a 2-yard score. This was crucial, as it kept Peyton Manning on the sidelines.
Romo was great throughout - until he heaved an interception deep in his own territory with two minutes remaining. Many will blame Romo for choking, but linebacker Danny Trevathan made a great, diving catch to force the turnover. The big mistake by Dallas occurred soon after when the defense didn't have enough awareness to allow Denver to score a touchdown when the Broncos marched down to the 1-yard line. This was a typical poor-coaching maneuever that Jason Garrett has been guilty of over the years. Following three Manning kneels/awkward dives, the Broncos drilled the decisive chip-shot field goal as time expired.
Aside from the two strange dives to kill the clock, Manning had a near-flawless afternoon. He went 33-of-42 for 414 yards, four passing touchdowns and an interception on an underthrow that occurred because he couldn't step into his throw. Manning also had a rushing score - his first in five years - on a play-action naked bootleg that even fooled the cameraman.
Half of Manning's aerial acores went to Julius Thomas, who was a monster. Thomas caught nine balls for 122 yards. He also drew a deep pass-interference flag. Wes Welker (5-49) and Eric Decker (5-87) had the other scores. The latter lost a fumble near midfield on the opening drive, which would explain how Dallas was able to go up 14-0 in the first quarter. Demaryius Thomas, meanwhile, didn't have his best statistical performance (5-57).
Knowshon Moreno was a beast. He gained 93 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries to go along with five catches for 57 receiving yards. Moreno frequently broke out of tackles and was a stud in pass protection.
As for the Cowboys, Romo's final numbers looked like this: 25-of-36 for 506 yards, five touchdowns and the back-breaking interception. He fired scores to four different players, with Dez Bryant (6-141) finding the end zone twice. Bryant, however, lost a fumble in the first half.
The other players who scored were Terrance Williams (4-151), Jason Witten (7-121) and Cole Beasley (4-47).
DeMarco Murray didn't get much of an opportunity to run the ball, managing 43 yards on only 12 carries, though he did find the end zone.
49ers 34, Texans 3
Matt Schaub became one of the handful of quarterbacks in NFL history to have the dubious distinction of throwing pick-sixes in three consecutive games last week. The players rallied around Schaub because they figured he was their best chance of turning around their losing streak...
And then Schaub heaved a pick-six on his very first throw. Schaub was absolutely dreadful at San Francisco, going 19-of-35 for 173 yards and three picks. He had a fourth potential interception that was blatantly dropped by Eric Reid and he missed numerous receivers all evening. His final pick, thrown right to a nose tackle, was the nail in the coffin for Schaub's night. Gary Kubiak benched him in favor of T.J. Yates, who went 3-of-5 for 15 yards in garbage time.
Schaub was to blame for this loss, but he didn't get much help from his supporting cast. There was a holding penalty in the red zone on Houston's second possession. Randy Bullock went on to miss a 45-yard field goal. Later, Andre Johnson (3-39) dropped the ball inside the 49ers' 5-yard line. Ben Tate (7-28) lost a fumble, but this occurred after Schaub was benched.
Owen Daniels led the Texans with six catches for 60 yards. He was the only Texan with more than 39 receiving yards. DeAndre Hopkins managed to snag just two balls for 23 yards.
Arian Foster actually looked good, gaining 98 rushing yards on 21 carries to go along with four grabs for 20 receiving yards.
It's remarkable that the 49ers won this game by 31, given that Colin Kaepernick completed only six passes (two after halftime). He just didn't need to do anything because the defense and running attack carried the team. He went 6-of-15 for 113 yards and a touchdown that went 64 yards to Vernon Davis. Kaepernick, who also had a 14-yard scramble, really made only one poor throw when he missed a wide-open Davis in the third quarter.
Davis had way more receiving yardage (3-88, TD) than any other Niner. Anquan Boldin (2-21) was next on the stat sheet.
As mentioned, San Francisco's ground attack worked very well. Frank Gore gained 81 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, while Anthony Dixon vultured away another possible score. Kendall Hunter (5-29) and LaMichael James (4-31) also had success finding running lanes.
Raiders 27, Chargers 17
Is this still Week 5? Maybe I'm just exhausted, but it seems like this game occurred years after the 1 p.m. contests on this day. Boring baseball moved this matchup from 4 to 11:30, but I have to say, I sort of enjoyed one final, late-night tilt. Roger Goodell should experiment by adding some more games like this next year.
The Raiders, who were suddenly the showcased home team in a prime-time affair (as far as the West Coast is concerned), really put forth a strong effort. The defense set the tone early, intercepting its first pass of the season and standing tall on a great goal-line stand by stuffing Danny Woodhead on a fourth down. The special teams also contributed by recovering a muffed punt by Eddie Royal.
However, it was really the offense - particularly Terrelle Pryor - that was mostly responsible for Oakland's second victory of the season. Pryor opened with a 44-yard scoring bomb to Rod Streater following Rivers' first interception. Pryor ultimately completed his first 10 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Not included in this was a 19-yard completion to Denarius Moore in which he rolled out and found his wideout downfield. Pryor later had a similar play for 20 yards to Brice Butler to convert a crucial third-and-14 in the final quarter.
Pryor went on to finish 18-of-23 for 221 yards and the pair of scores to go along with 11 scrambles for 31 rushing yards. He also should've thrown a third touchdown, but Moore stepped out of bounds prior to catching the ball. Pryor's only real blemish was when he fumbled the ball trying to desperately do something while wrapped up in a sack. He's fortunate that one of his teammates recovered the ball.
As mentioned, Moore (5-84) and Streater (3-56) caught the touchdowns. Marcel Reece was the only Raider with more than two receptions. He had three catches for 25 receiving yards to go along with 32 rushing yards on seven carries. Rashad Jennings (10-41) handled the workload early on, but he was knocked out of the game with a hamstring.
Philip Rivers, meanwhile, completed 36-of-49 passes for 411 yards and two touchdowns. However, the turnovers absolutely killed the team. Rivers tossed three interceptions, though one occurred at the end of the contest. A red-hot Rivers was effortlessly leading San Diego down the field to draw within one possession, but Keenan Allen slipped in the end zone, allowing first-round rookie D.J. Hayden to snag his first career pick.
Four of Rivers' targets had monstrous outings. The three non-running backs to do so were Allen (6-115, TD), Vincent Brown (8-117) and Antonio Gates (7-74). Including penalty plays, Rivers threw to Allen 10 times. The third-round rookie is legit.
Danny Woodhead scored Rivers' other touchdown. He snagged nine balls for 58 receiving yards along with 13 rushing yards on nine carries. Unfortunately, Woodhead lost a fumble that was returned for a score by Charles Woodson. This was Woodson's 13th-career defensive touchdown, which ties an NFL record.
Ryan Mathews received just three carries for eight yards because of a concussion.
Jets 30, Falcons 28
Give the Jets tons of credit for pulling off this upset, but the big story is the Falcons' unceremonious collapse. They absolutely had to win this game to stay alive in the playoff hunt. Instead, they dropped to 1-4, and it seems as though their season is pretty much finished.
So, what happened to this team? There are three major issues:
1. Atlanta's defense is awful.
Thanks to numerous injuries, Atlanta can't stop anyone. The pass rush is incredibly lacking, while the linebacking corps can't tackle. Geno Smith barely saw any pressure throughout the evening. As a result, he was able to complete eight of his first nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Smith ultimately let the ball hit the ground on just four occasions. He finished 16-of-20 for 199 yards and three scores. He was absolutely masterful on his final drive, hitting successive strikes of 12, 13 and nine yards before scrambling for an 8-yard gain to put Nick Folk in position to drill a 43-yard field goal to win the game.
Smith was dreadful last week, but he personally went up to each veteran on the team and apologized for his brutal performance against Tennessee. This seemed to really motivate the Jets, who rallied behind their new signal-caller. As a result, Smith became the second rookie quarterback to ever win on the road on Monday Night Football (Ed Rubbert).
Smith's scores went to Jeff Cumberland (3-79), who did all of his damage in the first half, Jeremy Kerley (5-68) and Kellen Winslow (one catch). Stephen Hill, who played despite not being expected to suit up early in the week, didn't do much (2 catches, 21 yards).
The Jets also ran all over the Falcons. Bilal Powell, Mike Goodson and Chris Ivory combined to gain 97 rushing yards on only 19 carries. Smith also chipped in with 21 yards on the ground off three scrambles.
2. The Falcons can't block.
When the front office released right tackle Tyson Clabo this offseason, most assume it had some sort of contingency plan. Apparently not. The offensive line has been completely abused this year, and that trend continued in this contest, as Jets' defensive ends Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson manhandled Atlanta's front. The two combined for a couple of sacks and a forced fumble, but those numbers are not indicative of how dominant they were.
Matt Ryan was constantly under pressure, so it shows how skilled he is that he was still able to go 36-of-45 for 319 yards and two touchdowns. He got away with a potential pick-six in the first quarter and happened to lose a fumble, but those were his only two blemishes on the evening.
The offensive line also failed to open up any running lanes for Jacquizz Rodgers (14-43, 2 TDs) and Jason Snelling (7-13). The former's numbers are deceiving in that 19 of his 43 yards came on a draw for a score when the Jets weren't prepared for it.
3. Atlanta is poorly coached.
How many times are the Falcons going to fail on fourth down in the red zone rather than settle for three points? I wouldn't even have much of an issue with this aggressive play-calling if Atlanta had Ryan throw the ball to Julio Jones or Tony Gonzalez, but it's always something dumb. For instance, on a goal-line try with one second remaining in the opening half, the Falcons had Rodgers run the ball up the middle. He was predictably stuffed. As I posted on Twitter (@walterfootball: "#Falcons logic: We have Julio, Gonzalez, White... let's run the ball in between the tackles with our 190-pound running back!"
This wasn't the only mistake on the drive. The Falcons let time tick off the clock prior to calling a timeout. Had they asked for a stoppage immediately, they would've had an extra opportunity or two to score points. Also, earlier in the series, the Falcons gave Snelling the ball in the red zone. The team has struggled immensely deep in enemy territory all year because it hasn't been able to run the ball. If the coaching staff recognized that, perhaps it wouldn't have called a play for the pedestrian Snelling and instead stuck with what it does best.
The Falcons also wasted a valuable second-half timeout on the opening DEFENSIVE drive after intermission.
Wrapping up some other stuff:
- Gonzalez (10-97) and Jones (8-99) both had big outings. Jones was whistled for a bogus offensive pass interference in the fourth quarter but came back to haul in a 46-yard bomb with a one-handed grab on the very next play. Jones also had the awareness to scoop up a Roddy White fumble in the opening period, which also turned out to be a gain of 46 yards.
- Speaking of White, he had one of the worst performances of his career. The numbers don't look awful (4-45), but White fumbled twice, only to be bailed out by his teammates. He was also called for offensive pass interference. White's night finished early when he aggravated his hamstring. He's a shell of his former self.
- Antonio Allen blocked an Atlanta punt in the first quarter, setting up a Jets' field goal.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.