It figures that a game taking place on Halloween would feature horrifying mistakes, a quarterback costume change and the third walk-off safety in NFL overtime history.
Both teams tried their hardest to blow this game. Andy Dalton, in particular, was pretty brutal despite being named the AFC October NFL Player of the Month. In fact, Marshall Faulk said after the game, "In the spirit of Halloween, that was Matt Schaub dressed up as Andy Dalton."
Dalton's completion percentage and yardage - 32-of-53 for 338 yards - don't look too bad, but he missed too many open receivers in this contest. He converted quality throws, including some clutch passes on third down, but his turnovers were costly. He opened with a lost fumble on a strip-sack deep in his own territory. He then went on to throw three interceptions. The second one occurred in the red zone; it was behind his intended receiver on an out, which Brent Grimes took 94 yards back for a score.
Only one of the picks wasn't Dalton's fault - the third one was a drop by Mohamed Sanu that popped into the arms of a Miami defender. Sanu was dreadful - more on that later - but Dalton took a sack on what was the decisive safety when Cameron Wake (3 sacks) beat struggling guard Kevin Zeitler.
Despite the loss, the Bengals are still in good shape, record-wise. They fell behind the Patriots and Colts, and are now the No. 4 seed in the AFC, but they still maintain a big lead in the division. Unfortunately, this game was quite costly in that Geno Atkins tore his ACL. Atkins is one of the top defensive players in the NFL, and he will sorely be missed going forward.
A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard carried Cincinnati's offense. Green caught 11 passes for 128 yards despite going up against Grimes. His only mistake was dropping a pass on third down that would've moved the chains. Bernard, meanwhile, rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries to go along with four catches for 25 receiving yards. One of Bernard's scores, a 35-yarder, was unbelievable. If you didn't catch it on SportsCenter, make sure you do; Bernard broke out of three tackles, including one sure one by Grimes, and then reversed field. He then sprinted forward and juked several more Dolphins - including Grimes again - and somersaulted into the end zone. It was absolutely breathtaking.
But staying with Bernard, I have an issue with how Cincinnati used him. It's inexcusable that Bernard received nine carries when BenJarvus Green-Ellis was given 21 attempts (72 yards). Green-Ellis should be getting a third of the rushes; not the other way around. I'm not sure why Cincinnati feels the need to use lesser talents over players who are much more skilled. This is also the case with Sanu and Marvin Jones. Sanu stinks. He caught six balls for 62 yards, but had multiple drops, including one that resulted in a touchdown. Jones is much more explosive. He caught four balls for 66 yards, but had a 50-yard touchdown wiped out by a stupid hold by Jermaine Gresham.
It's funny because the Dolphins have the same issue. Lamar Miller (16-105) was far more effective than Daniel Thomas (12-38) - though he did fumble after a 41-yard inside the Cincinnati 10-yard line - yet the latter eats into way too many of Miller's carries. Thomas was stuffed on two third-and-short situations in this contest. It's puzzling why Miami insists on using him there. Sure, he's heavier, but Miller is a much better runner. He would unquestionably have more luck in terms of moving the chains.
It looked like it was going to be a long night for Ryan Tannehill early on when he was sacked on the first drive. Tannehill entered the game leading the NFL in sacks taken, but he was brought down only three times. It almost certainly would've been a higher total had Atkins not been knocked out in the second quarter, but the offensive line looked better as a whole despite the strange absence of Jonathan Martin.
As a result of improved pass protection, Tannehill let the ball hit the ground only eight times. He finished 20-of-28 for 208 yards. Most importantly, he didn't turn the ball over.
Tannehill's top target was Mike Wallace (6-82), who drew a 38-yard pass interference on Terence Newman in overtime. Brian Hartline (3-39), meanwhile, was involved in three very sketchy calls. The first was offensive pass interference in which he barely touched the cornerback. The second was a non-defensive pass interference in which Hartline was mugged. As this happened, I posted the following in the live in-game thread: "Haha holy ****, and that Hartline offensive pass interference warranted a flag?" The third set up Miami in field-goal range for the game-tying kick at the end of regulation. Hartline made a great, 21-yard diving catch along the sideline, but replay seemed to show that his second foot never landed inbounds. The play was never reviewed.
I mentioned that both teams tried to blow this game. Miami's mistakes were Miller's lost fumble and an errant chip-shot, 34-yard field goal by kicker Caleb Sturgis. The Dolphins also blew another 14-point lead because the defenders struggled to tackle in the second half, but that could've been the result of being on the field for about 13 consecutive minutes of game action.
Brad Nessler with his weekly gaffe: In the past, Greg Little was "Mr. Dependable," and Jay Feely transformed into Jim Feely." This week, Koa Misi suddenly became "Koa Misa."
The NFL Network spent some time showing pictures of kids in Halloween costumes in between action. I thought this was a horrible decision. A better choice would've been displaying pictures of slutty chicks in their Halloween outfits.
Chiefs 23, Bills 13
I've received a ton of flak from Kansas City fans for where I've slotted their team in my NFL Power Rankings. They were No. 9 this week for a number of reasons, one of which is the simple fact that they haven't beaten anyone. Their previous four victories have come again Ryan Fitzpatrick, Terrelle Pryor, Case Keenum and Jason Campbell. This contest wasn't going to be much of a test for the Chiefs because they were taking on Jeff Tuel, a noodle-armed Ryan Leaf, and yet they still struggled to come away with a victory.
The Bills actually controlled this game despite the result on the scoreboard. They outgained the Chiefs in the first half, 217-115. They were up 10-3 and had the ball at the Kansas City 1-yard line at the beginning of the third quarter when it happened: Tuel lofted a weak-armed pass right to cornerback Sean Smith, who took it back 100 yards for a pick-six.
That was the first of two plays that decided this game. The second was a T.J. Graham fumble returned for a touchdown by Tamba Hali when the game was tied at 13. And just like that, the Chiefs were up by seven and ultimately finished with a 10-point victory despite the fact that Buffalo outgained them by a whopping 260 yards!
The defense, or rather two poor moments from Buffalo offensive players, really bailed out the Chiefs' putrid scoring attack. Alex Smith was in pure check-down form, going 19-of-29 for only 124 yards. He had just one completion - a 20-yarder to Anthony Fasano - that went longer than 12 yards. However, Smith wasn't entirely to blame for this output, as his supporting cast really let him down.
Kansas City's offensive line didn't play very well. Smith was sacked on just two occasions, but that's only because he released the ball so quickly for minimal gains. Center Rodney Hudson had major issues trying to block Kyle Williams. He was also whistled for two penalties. In fact, the offensive line as a whole was called for four infractions.
Smith's receivers also hurt him with some drops. Dwayne Bowe (7-67) had two of them, including one in the red zone that hit him right in the numbers. Dexter McCluster also let the ball hit the ground, negating a long reception in the second quarter.
I don't understand what the Chiefs were doing with Jamaal Charles. They gave him only six carries in the first half. He ultimately finished with 90 yards on 17 attempts, but held to just six receiving yards on his six catches.
The Bills also had their issues. They did a good job of moving the chains throughout the afternoon, but kept finding ways to shoot themselves in the foot. I already mentioned the pick-six and the fumble returned for a touchdown. That interception was one of two from Tuel, who went 18-of-39 for 229 yards and a touchdown otherwise. Tuel's other pick was an overthrow. He also fired way too high for Robert Woods, who was open in the end zone. Woods (4-44) went on to drop a pass in the end zone and then suffered an injury while diving for the football.
Tuel's sole score went to speedy rookie Marquise Goodwin (2-64). Goodwin was robbed of an impressive catch that he managed to pin to his helmet, but official Ron Winter incorrectly ruled that it was an incompletion.
Buffalo's offense was so effective because of C.J. Spiller. Returning from injury, Spiller was unstoppable. He rushed for 116 yards on 12 carries and also caught a pair of passes for 39 yards. Spiller, whose big gain came on a 61-yarder in the third quarter, seemed to injure his ankle a bit earlier in the contest. He managed to return, but then aggravated it and wasn't seen from again. Fred Jackson (16-77) was stuffed three times at the goal line.
Panthers 34, Falcons 10
It's weird seeing Matt Ryan play this poorly. He tossed four interceptions last week against the Cardinals, and he added to that total with three more picks in this contest. With a depleted supporting cast, Ryan has discovered that he just can't do everything by himself.
The box score says Ryan was sacked only once, but that's because he spent most of the afternoon releasing the ball shortly and quickly. That would explain his line of 20-of-27 for 219 yards. He also threw a score to Tony Gonzalez (6-81), which was remarkable because it was the first touchdown Carolina had allowed all season in an opening half.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, Ryan also tossed those three interceptions. He was fine when being safe, but he paid the price whenever he went downfield. His first pick was forced, which Luke Kuechly snatched. Carolina ultimately scored a touchdown. Ryan later heaved a pick-six, which really opened the game up when it was just a 24-10 contest.
I guess the one silver lining for the Falcons is that their defense performed somewhat well for a change. Of course, the Panthers being limited offensively could have been because of Cam Newton's stupidity. Newton, who hadn't thrown an interception in a month, tossed two dumb picks in this game. The first was heaved carelessly into double coverage. The second was also a shot into the end zone when his receiver wasn't open (though Steve Smith didn't help by failing to break it up). He also missed some open receivers throughout.
Newton did have some positive moments though, finishing 23-of-37 for 249 yards, two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and the pair of picks. He also rushed for 22 yards on five scrambles. One of his best plays occurred in the opening half when he broke out of two potential sacks and found Steve Smith (4-52) downfield for a 23-yard gain.
Newton's sole score went to Greg Olsen (4-66). Brandon LaFell led the team in receiving with six catches for 74 yards. He had a chance for a touchdown, but Newton overthrew him.
Jonathan Stewart made his return to the lineup off the PUP list, and he managed to outgain DeAngelo Williams, 43-43. Stewart did this with four fewer carries (nine compared to 13).
As for Atlanta's running game, Steven Jackson managed to gain 57 yards on 13 carries to go along with three catches for 19 receiving yards. He also appeared to score a touchdown, but that was wiped out by a Garrett Reynolds hold. However, Jackson looked like he lacked burst again. Jacquizz Rodgers (5-19; 6-25) was much more impressive as a runner, though he did lose a fumble.
Cowboys 27, Vikings 23
The Cowboys tried their hardest to lose this game. They often do stupid things every week, and things weren't any different in this matchup. Here's the list:
- Dallas had four drops - in the first half! Cole Beasley let the ball hit the ground inside the 10-yard line. Jason Witten's drop was also key, as it ruined a drive at the end of the second quarter.
- Tony Romo (34-of-51, 337 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) had a decent game overall, but he cost his team some points by taking two consecutive sacks in the red zone during the first half. His pick, which came much later, was a terrible one.
- Jason Garrett screwed up a couple of times. He had to waste a timeout on defense, prompting heavy boos from the crowd, and he also failed to challenge a play in which DeMarco Murray seemed to achieve a first down. Murray seemingly hit the ground, but was actually on top of a Minnesota player. Had Garrett threw the red flag, the Cowboys could've kept a drive alive.
- Dez Bryant (6-64) had a miserable second half. It started when he committed offensive pass interference. The call was questionable, but Bryant made it worse by taking his helmet off, which drew a personal-foul flag. Bryant later dropped a pass that hit him right in the numbers.
- Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan had DeMarco Murray run the ball just four times. FOUR times! Murray gained 31 yards on those attempts. Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle combined for four more carries. I have no idea why Dallas didn't bother with its ground attack.
- The defense let Christian Ponder look like an elite quarterback on most occasions. He completed 25-of-37 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). Ponder also had a 19-yard scramble early on a third-and-9. However, he really cost his team with a late interception and a strip-sack fumble by George Selvie in the end zone, which was recovered by Nick Hayden for a score.
Ponder was able to be effective most of the time because of Adrian Peterson, who seemed like he was running with extra motivation. He gained 140 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, as he dragged defenders on many of his attempts. He also caught three balls for 37 receiving yards. Peterson was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 in the beginning of the second quarter when the Vikings were in the red zone. I disagreed with the call, as the correct move would've been kicking the field goal to establish a 6-3 lead.
Ponder's sole aerial touchdown went to Kyle Rudolph (2-35), thanks to missed tackles by safeties Jeff Heath and Barry Church. Unfortunately, Rudolph injured his foot. It looked like it could be serious. Minnesota's leading receiver was Greg Jennings (6-56).
Minnesota right tackle Phil Loadholt was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
Going back to the Cowboys for a second, Jason Witten (8-102) had a big game despite the prior drop. Cole Beasley (6-68), Bryant and Murray (6-19) all caught six balls. Dwayne Harris (2-13) hauled in the other touchdown, while Terrance Williams struggled (2-33), as he was also guilty of failing to make a grab on a catchable ball.
Jets 26, Saints 20
The Jets were the butt of many jokes during the week after their horrific 49-9 loss to the Bengals. But as they've done all year, they rebounded off a loss, thanks to a tremendous effort by their defensive line.
What New York's front did to Drew Brees was unbelievable. The numbers say they sacked him just twice, but that's very misleading. They pressured and hit Brees nearly every time he dropped back in the pocket. They were actually whistled for a pair of roughing penalties, though one of which was completely bogus. There was one sequence in which the Jets forced a hold, then had a sack and a strip-sack.
Muhammad Wilkerson, in particular, was completely dominant. He put a ton of heat on Brees and collected one of the two sacks. He also nearly came away with an interception that was tipped into the air. Calvin Pace, who had the other sack, forced the aforementioned fumble. Quinton Coples then sealed a victory by stuffing tight end Josh Hill on a curious fourth-down end-around.
Despite all of this, Brees still put up impressive numbers, as you'd expect him to. He went 30-of-51 for 382 yards and two touchdowns. However, he was also picked twice, one of which was tipped on a pass thrown behind Ben Watson. Thanks to all of the pressure, he struggled to convert third downs; he was successful on just 3-of-11 tries.
Part of the problem for the Saints was Darren Sproles leaving the game with a concussion on the first drive. Sproles is such a vital part of the offense that his absence helped disrupt whatever Brees was trying to do. Having him as a safety valve amid all of the pressure perhaps would have allowed New Orleans to perhaps win this contest.
Reports indicated prior to kickoff that Jimmy Graham was running around very fluidly in pre-game warmups. Graham turned out to be unstoppable, hauling in nine passes for 116 yards and both of Brees' touchdowns. Meanwhile, Robert Meachem (4-93) and Lance Moore (6-70) both had decent statistical performances with Marques Colston being out. Pierre Thomas also caught seven balls for 66 yards.
As for the Jets' offense, Geno Smith failed to complete his passes, going 8-of-19 for 115 yards. He managed to score on the ground (six scrambles, 18 rush yards), but had some issues in the red zone early on.
Smith's running game really saved him. Chris Ivory, looking to make his former team look bad for trading him away, bulldozed New Orleans' defense for 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The Jets also had success with Bilal Powell (9-29) and also Joshua Cribbs, who ran some plays out of the Wildcat. Cribbs ran three times for 12 yards and also completed a 25-yard pass to Zach Sudfeld (2-46).
Greg Salas was the only Jet who had more receiving yards than Sudfeld; he collected 57 yards on his two receptions. Jeremy Kerley was knocked out with a serious elbow injury.
Titans 28, Rams 21
In a thrilling rematch of Super Bowl XXXIV, both of these teams found running games that they lacked earlier in the year. For the Rams, Zac Stacy picked up where they left off Monday night. He rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, while also chipping in with a team-leading six catches for 51 receiving yards. His best run was a 32-yarder in which he broke three tackles and also drew a horse-collar penalty. Stacy is extremely difficult to bring down, and the fact that he can contribute in the passing game means that he has a very promising future in the NFL.
Chris Johnson, meanwhile, eclipsed the century plateau for the first time all season, rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Like Stacy, Johnson contributed as a receiver, catching three balls for 20 yards. This is an increasing trend; CJ2K has 14 receptions the past four games compared to four catches in his first four games. Tennessee's coaching staff needed to give him the ball as much as possible, so they're doing a good job of that.
Now that the Titans have Johnson going, there's no reason for Jake Locker to struggle. But that's exactly what happened in this game, as Locker went 13-of-22 for 185 yards, one rushing touchdown and two interceptions. The first pick, caught by former Titan Cortland Finnegan, was telegraphed. The second was oddly hurled toward no one.
The problem for Locker was that his offensive line was overwhelmed. While the front did a good job of opening up holes for Johnson, they struggled to contain St. Louis' fierce pass rush. Locker was sacked four times in the first half alone.
Only one Titan had more than 28 receiving yards. That would be Kendall Wright (3-69). Nate Washington, who happens to be Locker's favorite receiver, surprisingly didn't make a single catch. He was targeted only four times.
The Rams didn't receive quality quarterbacking either. Kellen Clemens wasn't too bad just throwing the ball - 20-of-35, 210 yards, one touchdown - but he absolutely killed his team with a lost fumble deep in his own territory immediately after Locker's second interception. Johnson scored the decisive touchdown on the very next play. This was the second huge lost fumble for St. Louis, as Stacy's backup, Benny Cunningham, coughed the ball up in the red zone even though he wasn't touched.
Clemens' lone touchdown went to Jared Cook (3-36), who hurt his team with a drop. Chris Givens (4-55) led the team in receiving. It's also worth noting that Stedman Bailey made his first career reception, a 12-yarder.
EDITOR'S NOTE: It was weird that there was a report that stadium security was worried about American Indian protestors. This predictably turned out to be a non-factor. Perhaps that's because there is now controversy over other NFL team names.
In a tough back-and-forth game, Washington showed some heart with an overtime thriller. The Redskins needed a win to remain in the NFC East race, and they stole it thanks to a goal-line stand at the end of the fourth quarter. Conversely, San Diego's wild card hopes were dealt a blow combined with wins from Miami, Tennessee and the Jets.
The Redskins' first drive started at their own 1-yard line. Jordan Reed (4-37) moved the chains with an 18-yard run on a read option and two third-down conversions on receptions against Eric Weddle. Robert Griffin III hit Pierre Garcon for 30 yards, but the drive stalled inside the 10. A chip-shot field goal was blocked by Lawrence Guy.
Chargers' punter Mike Scifres had two punts down to the 1-yard line. The second punt resulted in a defensive touchdown for San Diego. Griffin had a pass batted by Guy, and it ping-ponged off a few linemen before Sean Lissemore was able to control it for a pick-six.
Just when the Chargers were looking like they were taking control of the game, Rivers and wide receiver Vincent Brown weren't on the same page as Brown cut outside when Rivers thought he would go to the inside. The ball floated to E.J. Biggers for an interception. A Griffin pass to Leonard Hankerson (5-55) and two runs by Alfred Morris ate up the remaining 30-plus yards and a touchdown for Morris.
San Diego took the lead just before halftime. D.J. Fluker had a great block on a wide receiver screen to Eddie Royal (4-56) for a 15-yard touchdown. Corey Liuget batted two passes just before halftime and blocked a long field goal attempt on the final play.
In the third quarter, Garcon (7-172) made a highlight reel 38-yard catch where he batted the ball up with one hand and controlled it after the ball bounced off Derek Cox. An option run to Santana Moss went for 18-yards and Darrel Young plowed into the end zone to tie the game. The next drive saw Young dive in for his second touchdown.
Rivers threw to a perfectly covered Keenan Allen early in the fourth quarter and David Amerson cut underneath for an interception. That led to a 47-yard field goal for Washington. Rivers came back to lead a nice drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Allen (8-128), who beat Amerson with a double move.
With a few minutes remaining, Rivers engineered a great drive. He converted a fourth down with a 26-yard completion to Allen, who was left uncovered. A pass to Danny Woodhead took the ball to the 6-inch line, but a great tackle by Amerson kept Woodhead (7-21 rushing, 9-77 receiving) out of the end zone. The Redskins came up with a clutch goal-line stand to force a field goal and overtime. The Chargers had terrible play-calling by Ken Whisenhunt, as San Diego threw the ball twice despite having timeouts available and being less than a yard from a game-winning touchdown.
In overtime, Morris (25-121) had a nice run, and Griffin had great throws to Reed and Garcon to move the ball down the field. Young (5-12) scored his third touchdown from a few yards out to win the game for Washington.
Griffin was 23-of-32 for 291 yards with an interception. He also ran for 17 yards.
Rivers was 29-of-46 for 341 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Ryan Mathews (7-34) started strong before being pulled with an apparent injury.
There was some horrible officiating in this game. Antonio Gates lined up obviously offsides late in the second quarter, but wasn't called for it. A few plays later, Keenan Allen was flagged for an offensive pass interference when there wasn't any contact between him and the cornerback. In the fourth quarter, Danny Woodhead fumbled the ball away but the referee blew the challenge. In overtime, the officials got ticky-tack with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Garcon. This unit needs to get it together before screwing up a critical game down the stretch.
Eagles 49, Raiders 20
Sid Luckman. Adrian Burk. George Blanda. Y.A. Tittle. Joe Kapp. Peyton Manning. These quarterbacks were the only ones who have thrown seven touchdowns in NFL history. And now, Nick Foles joins that group.
Foles is obviously not as talented as four of the six members of that illustrious club (Burk and Kapp being the aberrations), but he was downright lethal in this contest, going a near-perfect 22-of-28 for 406 yards and the seven scores. This is arguably the best statistical performance by a quarterback in NFL history. He spent the afternoon torching Oakland's secondary, namely unqualified first-rounder D.J. Hayden, firing downfield bombs to Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson. The Raiders also missed a number of assignments, as Philadelphia's receivers were open all afternoon.
So, what happened? Foles was so dreadful against the Cowboys. He couldn't even complete simple, 5-yard passes. The big difference - aside from all of the blown coverages - was the pass rush. Foles was constantly harassed versus Dallas, but he barely felt any heat in this contest. This was a strange development, as Philadelphia's offensive line has struggled this year, while the Raiders maintained a quality pass rush, led by Lamarr Houston. The fact that Oakland couldn't rattle Foles at all or cover whatsoever tells me that the team simply mailed this one in, as it was overconfident following last week's victory over the Steelers. This is a shame for Raider fans, who have been excited for their team for the first time in a decade.
The Eagles hit a number of big plays in this contest. Cooper was the main recipient of them, as he caught five balls for 139 yards and a whopping three touchdowns. Jackson also had five catches, taking them for 150 yards and a score. Foles' other touchdowns went to Zach Ertz (5-42), LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek (3-27).
Speaking of McCoy, it was odd to see him split carries evenly with Bryce Brown in the first half. Each had four carries, with Brown outgaining McCoy by a wide margin, 51-5. McCoy ultimately finished with 44 yards on 12 carries along with the aforementioned receiving score.
While Foles was unstoppable, Terrelle Pryor looked very raw. Playing very indecisively, Pryor went 22-of-41 for 288 yards and two interceptions, though he did scramble 10 times for 94 rushing yards. Pryor ultimately left the game for precuationary reasons. He walked into the locker room with nine minutes remaining without any sort of limp.
Pryor wasn't the only important Raider to get knocked out of this contest. Darren McFadden (5-12) also suffered an injury, leaving the game in the second quarter. It was later revealed that he aggravated his hamstring in the same spot. Rashad Jennings took over, gaining 102 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries to go along with seven catches for 74 receiving yards.
Pryor aired it out 41 times, so it shouldn't be surprising that his two starting receivers had solid statistical outings. Rod Streater and Denarius Moore both had five grabs for 98 and 82 yards, respectively.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Seahawks have barely beaten two of the worst teams in the league in the past six days. I'm tempted to bump them down in my NFL Power Rankings.
This is why they play the games. Nobody gave Tampa Bay a snowball's chance in hell, but the Bucs came out and fought their tails off to play the Seahawks to overtime on the road. Tampa Bay was up 21-0 before Seattle came roaring back to complete the biggest comeback win in franchise history. The Bucs are now 0-8 for the first time since 1985, and the 8-1 Seahawks have their best start ever.
Seattle's offense moved the ball well all day. The Seahawks had a nice first drive going, but they blew some points when an inaccurate throw from Russell Wilson was picked off by Mark Barron, who had a great game for the Buccaneers. A horrible pass interference call took away a great leaping interception from Earl Thomas, and a few plays later, Glennon hit Tim Wright (4-58) in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. On the next drive, Glennon drilled the ball down the field and Glennon found Tiquan Underwood (2-29) wide open in the end zone.
On the ensuing kickoff, Seattle's Jermaine Kearse fumbled the ball to Tampa Bay, so the Bucs were set up at the Seahawks 31-yard line. Glennon threw a bullet to Wright for 27 yards for the next play. On the following snap, Mike James threw a jump pass to Tom Crabtree for a touchdown. Filling in for Doug Martin, James (28-158) was awesome for the Bucs. He ripped up the Seattle defense all day, while Tampa Bay's offensive line had a superb performance in run blocking against the Seahawks' front seven.
Down 21-0, Seattle woke up with a 16-yard run from Wilson. A facemask on Gerald McCoy and a pass interference on Michael Adams moved the ball inside the 20. Wilson hit Kearse (2-43) for a 16-yard touchdown and cut the Bucs lead to 21-7.
Glennon and James kept things going early in the third quarter to lead Tampa Bay on a field goal drive. After that, the Seahawks' defense shut down the Bucs' offense. Wilson responded with some of his highlight-reel scrambling plays. He made a big throw to convert a third down to Golden Tate (3-29) for 19 yards. Wilson dodged a sack and got 19 more yards on a completion to Doug Baldwin (6-75). Wilson then ran the ball into the end zone on 10-yard run off the read option.
At the end of the third quarter, Tate fielded a punt inside the 5-yard line and broke a bunch of tackles to rip off a 71-yard return into Tampa Bay territory. That led to a field goal and cut the Bucs' lead to 24-17. Wilson soon burned a blitz for a 28-yard reception to Baldwin. Kearse made a phenomenal leaping catch for 27-yards to Tampa Bay's three-yard line, but Wilson threw an ill-advised pass into a crowd that was picked off by Keith Tandy.
The Seattle defense forced a three-and-out, so Wilson had another shot. He hit Zach Miller (3-49) for 26 yards. That set up a 10-yard touchdown strike to Baldwin to tie the game at 24 with just under two minutes remaining. The Seahawks' defense then did their job to force overtime. After a Bucs' punt to start the extra period, Marshawn Lynch (21-125) had some good runs including a 14-yarder to convert a third down. He powered the ball down to the 6-yard line, and that set up the game-winning 27-yard field goal for Seattle.
Wilson finished the day 19-of-26 for 217 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He ran for 36 yards and a score. Wilson had some mistakes but was clutch as usual.
Barron had an excellent game for Tampa Bay. McCoy went down with a leg injury in overtime, which could be serious. Once again, the Bucs' defensive line was held without a sack and the lack of pass rush without blitzing continues to hurt Tampa Bay.
Glennon completed 17-of-23 for 168 yards with two touchdowns. He protected the ball well and was excellent in the first half, but seemed to get gun shy late in the game. Vincent Jackson (2-11) was shut down by Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman.
The Seahawks' run defense was awful. The secondary struggled in the first half, but bounced back to play lights out in the second half. Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril had sacks for Seattle. Earl Thomas (12 tackles) played really well with some clutch tackles to keep James from breaking some long runs.
The Seahawks' offensive line has been dealing with a lot of injuries, and to make the situation worse, center Max Unger went out with a concussion.
Browns 24, Ravens 18
Greg Little and Davone Bess have been highly criticized all year. Little has had trouble hanging on to the ball and running correct routes. Bess, meanwhile, has been even worse in terms of drops. He also muffed a punt last week that cost Cleveland a victory last week at Kansas City. However, both were inexplicably outstanding in this upset victory over the old Browns' franchise.
Little opened up with a difficult 32-yard reception on the second drive, which ultimately culminated with a touchdown that Bess caught as he was falling down. It was the same thing in the second quarter, as Little made another tough catch, but was whistled for taunting. Bess once again would find the end zone a bit later, as he broke Lardarius Webb's ankles. This pattern continued in the final quarter. Little hauled in a 46-yard gain, which was yet again followed by a Bess reception - this one he made diving as Jason Campbell threw late across his body. Unreal.
Little finished with a team-high seven catches for 122 yards, while Bess had three grabs for 24 yards and the pair of scores. It seemed like the Ravens' defense decided to ignore them because they sucked all year, instead concentrating on Josh Gordon (3-44) and Jordan Cameron (1-4). That obviously turned out to be a flawed strategy.
With Little and Bess making circus catches the entire afternoon, Campbell finished 23-of-35 for 262 yards and three touchdowns (the other was to Gary Barnidge). He missed one drive with injured ribs that he sustained on a hit from Haloti Ngata, but he reentered the contest and was extremely effective.
The Cleveland coaches told the media during the week that they wanted to give more carries to Chris Ognonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker. Well, they didn't live up to their word, as the two combined for only 10 touches. By comparison, Willis McGahee gained only 31 yards on 21 carries. McGahee can barely move, so I have no idea why he's handling such a big workload.
Speaking of being unable to run the ball, Ray Rice managed just 17 yards on 11 carries. It's not only him; Bernard Pierce's numbers were also terrible (6-11). The offensive line simply can't open up any holes. The main culprit is the center. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone, but Baltimore also really misses the retired Matt Birk.
Baltimore's front also struggled to pass protect, as Joe Flacco was under heavy pressure all afternoon. But despite taking five sacks, Flacco actually finished with decent numbers, going 24-of-41 for 250 yards, two touchdowns (though he also had an ugly interception that resembled a high punt). I was surprised by these numbers, as Flacco looked like he played much worse. Perhaps it was because of all the negative plays and a couple of other near-picks.
Both of Flacco's scores went to Marlon Brown (5-54), who also hauled in a two-point conversion. Torrey Smith saw plenty of Joe Haden, but still managed to snatch five receptions for 78 yards, including an impressive one-handed catch.
Baltimore's offense and defense both performed poorly. The same can be said for its special teams. Tandon Doss muffed a punt, resulting in Cleveland's sole second-half touchdown. Meanwhile, punter Sam Koch continued to struggle with his trademark 25-yard boots.
Patriots 55, Steelers 24
Tom Brady has struggled all year, and we finally discovered why last week when a camera caught a glimpse of Brady's throwing hand. The thing looked like a dead animal. It was so incredibly swollen, so I figured Brady would need a bye to get the thing healed. That, apparently, was not the case.
Brady was razor-sharp for the first time all year. Letting the ball hit the ground just 10 times, Brady went 23-of-33 for a whopping 432 yards and four touchdowns. He was throwing strikes all afternoon, though it didn't hurt that the Steelers, looking extremely old and slow, blew a number of coverages. It's also worth noting that Brady just barely missed out on a fifth score; Rob Gronkowski seemed to find the end zone in the first half, but the official ruled that he was short. The Patriots didn't even bother challenging; they hurried to the line of scrimmage and tried to run the ball in. They ultimately failed, but that would turn out to be irrelevant.
Brady focused on just a few receivers; outside of Stevan Ridley, only three Patriots had more than one reception, and all of them caught touchdowns. Gronkowski led the way with nine grabs for 143 yards and a score (as mentioned, he nearly had two). Danny Amendola (4-122, TD) was brilliant for the first time all year, while Aaron Dobson (5-130) found the end zone twice. Dobson was targeted 11 times if penalties are included. This includes one sequence in which Brady fired five consecutive passes to him. Kenbrell Thompkins, by the way, was a healthy scratch.
The Patriots also ran the ball extremely well. Ridley gained 115 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. The biggest take-away here is that Ridley continued to handle the workload despite losing a fumble. Bill Belichick has had a habit of benching Ridley after coughing it up, but he stuck with his top runner. LeGarrette Blount (5-47) scored in garbage time.
Brady wasn't the only quarterback in this matchup who threw for 400 yards. Ben Roethlisberger hit that exact total, completing 28-of-48 passes in the process with four touchdowns. However, Roethlisberger didn't have a very good performance. He threw a pair of interceptions (including one terrible pass that was lofted up for grabs) and was guilty of holding on to the ball for far too long at times, ultimately resulting in five sacks. Big Ben also had an issue with overthrowing some of his targets. He missed Emmanuel Sanders in the end zone in this exact manner, and he also sailed one over Heath Miller on a third down that would've moved the chains at one point in the second half.
Despite the missed score, Sanders still managed to lead the Steelers in receiving with six catches for 98 yards. He didn't find the end zone because three touchdowns went to Jerricho Cotchery (7-96). Antonio Brown (5-71) caught the fourth.
Le'Veon Bell ran well, as all running backs have against the Patriots ever since Vince Wilfork tore his Achilles. Bell gained 74 yards on 16 carries and also caught four balls for 65 receiving yards. However, he was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 opportunity and hurt his team with two drops.
Colts 27, Texans 24
This was the Texans' Super Bowl. They came out of the gates fired up. Case Keenum was slinging the ball around with impressive downfield strikes to Andre Johnson. The crowd was fired up. The Texans, despite being 2-5, were going to win their third game of the year and reemerge as a playoff contender.
But then, all of the energy left the stadium. As the teams were walking off the field and into the locker room for intermission, Gary Kubiak collapsed. He got down on one knee and then fell to the ground. He had his eyes closed the entire time. He was carted off into an ambulance, which took him to the hospital. The Texans ruled out a heart attack and told the media that Kubiak was coherently talking to people, so that's a great sign. Unfortunately, Houston never recovered on the field.
The Texans didn't seem to have the same pace without their play-caller. Keenum, who was hot in the first half - 9-of-17, 208 yards, three touchdowns - cooled off following intermission. He was 11-of-17 after halftime, but for a lower YPA (142 yards). He also nearly turned the ball over a couple times.
The defense, meanwhile, struggled as Wade Phillips had to take over as the acting head coach. Andrew Luck had way more success downfield, torching Houston's secondary with multiple deep bombs to T.Y. Hilton. The second-year wideout had seven catches for 121 yards and three touchdowns. Most of his production came after halftime, as he let his team down with a first-half drop on third down that would've moved the chains.
Luck, meanwhile, finished 18-of-40 for 271 yards and the three scores to Hilton. He was woeful in the first half - he completed just three passes - as he had issues getting anything out of the slot position. Pass protection was also an issue; he took four sacks and had to scramble around to avoid other hits. There was one sequence in which he took consecutive sacks and nearly lost a fumble in the process. He later took a sack in the red zone and then was hit as he threw on the following play. However, things really opened up for him following intermission, with Phillips focusing on managing the game, as mentioned.
Houston's quarterback actually had the superior statistical performance. Keenum's final numbers were 20-of-34 for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Cris Collinsworth remarked that Keenum reminded him of Tony Romo - an undrafted quarterback with a quick release, a tendency to take shots downfield and some scrambling ability (3 scrambles, 26 rushing yards). Even though the Texans lost and their season is over, the silver lining is that they may just have something with Keenum.
Andre Johnson has to be thrilled with Keenum. Whereas Matt Schaub was scared to take shots downfield, Keenum had no concerns airing it out. Johnson, who didn't score a touchdown all year going into this contest, hauled in three touchdowns in addition to nine catches for 229 yards. However, Johnson couldn't come up with an important third-down catch in the fourth quarter, as he bobbled the ball out of bounds along the sideline. Instead of the chains being moved, Houston had to punt, ultimately leading to Indianapolis' decisive touchdown.
Arian Foster started this game, but left right away with an aggravated back. It was stupid of Houston to have him suit up. Ben Tate took over and looked good despite his rib injury, gaining 81 yards on 22 carries. Tate, however, was stuffed in the red zone on a fourth down during the opening half, as Kubiak eschewed a field goal. I thought this was a bad decision at the time, but this was before Randy Bullock destroyed his team's hopes.
Bullock was disgraceful. He hit just one of four tries, missing from 43 and 49 before badly whiffing from 55 to potentially send the game to overtime. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Houston cut him this week.
The Texans weren't the only team with issues on special teams. J.J. Watt blocked an Adam Vinatieri kick, while the punter nearly suffered the same fate. The officials, meanwhile, disgracefully ruled that a Colts' player was out of bounds on a fumble recovery even though it was clear that Indianapolis should've received possession. Both Colinsworth and Al Michaels nearly lost their minds because of the horrible call.
Finishing up with some random stats, Trent Richardson was once again outclassed on the ground by Donald Brown, gaining only 20 yards on eight carries while Brown tallied 49 yards on six tries. However, Richardson showed some burst on a 24-yard reception. Richardson was one of only four Colts with more than one reception: Hilton, Coby Fleener (3-64) and Griff Whalen (3-32). Darrius Heyward-Bey had just one catch for 11 yards, but he drew a long pass interference.
Bears 27, Packers 20
The Packers were a huge favorite in this game, but the Bears were suddenly expected to win based on what happened on the opening drive. Aaron Rodgers, who led his team inside the 10-yard line almost instantly, took a sack on third down. He landed hard on his non-throwing shoulder and walked into the locker room minutes later. He would not return to the field until he emerged on the sideline without his pads in the third quarter.
Green Bay had no shot with Seneca Wallace. The man known as the "Backdoor Bandit" went 11-of-19 for just 114 yards and an interception thrown right at Julius Peppers. Wallace completed mostly short passes, but was very inaccurate when throwing deeper than 10 yards. He often fired behind his receivers. He also failed to show any sort of running ability, which used to be a strength of his.
This wasn't all Wallace's fault; the offensive line betrayed him, failing to block the Bears, who had barely shown any signs of a pass rush prior to their bye. They entered the contest with 10 sacks on the year, yet managed to bring down Wallace and Rodgers (1-of-2, 27 yards) five times. Shea McClellin notched three sacks. Peppers had only one sack, but he dominated the line of scrimmage.
Meanwhile, the other backup, Josh McCown was shockingly precise. Going 22-of-41 for 272 yards and two touchdowns, McCown completed several impressive passes as he was falling down. Overall, however, McCown had a very clean pocket all night. He had all the time in the world to find Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, whom Green Bay couldn't cover. McCown did well converting third downs, being successful on 6-of-14 tries (including 1-of-1 on fourth down). By comparison, the Packers were just 1-of-9 in those situations.
Both Marshall and Jeffery scored touchdowns. Marshall went over the century mark, catching seven balls for 107 yards, despite leaving the game temporarily twice because he got banged up. Jeffery had a 5-60 line.
Matt Forte was huge in this victory. He rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries to go along with five catches for 54 receiving yards. The Packers, who had trouble tackling the entire night, looked helpless trying to stop him, particularly on an 18-play drive in the fourth quarter that sapped all of the time off the clock.
The Packers also ran the ball extremely well. Eddie Lacy was a beast; despite the fact that the Bears stacked the box following Rodgers' departure, Lacy gained 150 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, including a 56-yard burst. James Starks chipped in with a 32-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Only two Green Bay players had more than one catch: Jordy Nelson (4-67) and Andrew Quarless (5-34). James Jones made his return to the lineup, but caught only one pass for 17 yards.
The Packers were able to stay in this game because of their special teams. They blocked a punt in the opening quarter, leading to Starks' score. They were later successful on an on-side kick attempt in the second half.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.