The Vikings established a electrifyingly quick 28-0 advantage in the first quarter. Their fans understandably weren't too confident that they would hold on to the lead. Here are some GameCenter comments:
mcnabb's 2 for 10 and we're ahead 28-3. here we go..time to loose a bigger lead
LOL THE VIKES OFFENSE IS STILL TRASH IN THE SECOND HALF LOL
TOLD YA THIS GAME IS OVER VIKINGS ARE GOING TO LOSE ...HEAR COMES A CARDS TD ....DONT LET MCNASTY PASS THE BALL ...ILL REPEAT ...DO NOT LET MCNASTY PASS THE BALL
Well, there won't be any Viking fans slitting their wrists or jumping off buildings tonight because they actually held on to their big lead.
Minnesota's huge advantage was a mixture of Adrian Peterson's awesome running and poor Arizona offense. The Cardinals turned the ball over twice in the opening quarter. Kevin Kolb tossed a pick to Asher Allen and then fumbled it away on the ensuing possession. Peterson looked great (29 carries, 122 yards) and was able to find the end zone thrice.
Both quarterbacks really struggled in this game. I mentioned Kolb's two first-quarter turnovers; he tossed another pick later and missed open receivers all afternoon. He had tight end Rob Housler wide open for an easy touchdown, but flat out screwed up on the throw.
Donovan "McNasty," meanwhile, went 10-of-21 for 169 yards. Most of his yardage came on one 60-yard play to Devin Aromashodu. It was a nice throw, but McNabb was just abysmal otherwise. He was just 4-of-12 for 63 yards at halftime, and was booed throughout the afternoon. Peterson and his defense really saved him.
A couple of disappointing fantasy performances: Larry Fitzgerald (4-66) and Percy Harvin (1-11) suffered through their quarterbacks' ineptness. Harvin hurt his ribs in the first quarter, but quickly returned.
Chiefs 28, Colts 24
What the hell is going on this year? Seemingly no team can hold on to a lead - not even veteran squads that had Hall of Fame quarterbacks playing for them the year before.
The Colts were up 17-0 in the first half. They tallied 291 total yards of offense. They had complete control of this contest, and it looked like the Chiefs had no chance. Pierre Garcon (5-125) torched Brandon Flowers constantly. He scored twice, including once from 63 yards.
It's amazing how everything changed after halftime. Kansas City outgained Indianapolis by nearly 100 yards after the break. Dwayne Bowe (7-128) suddenly became the receiver who couldn't be stopped. He and Steve Breaston (4-50) both scored twice.
Indianapolis' rush defense was the culprit. Thomas Jones (10-55) was solid, but Jackie Battle was the one who really did the damage. Battle, who had just 155 career rushing yards entering this contest, ran for 119 yards on 19 carries. Todd Haley really loves him, so you'll definitely want to pick him up in your fantasy leagues.
As for the Colts' runners, Joseph Addai (6-19) left the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. Donald Brown (8-38) and Delone Carter (12-22, TD) split carries afterward. Carter had the goal-line carries, though on one play he hilariously tried to leap into the end zone from the 4-yard line. He wasn't even close.
Matt Cassel really deserves a lot of credit for this win. Now completely healthy off that ridiculous and unnecessary preseason rib injury, Cassel went 21-of-29 for 257 yards and four touchdowns.
Curtis Painter, meanwhile, was awesome in the first half (12-17, 237 yards, 2 Tds), but was just 3-of-10 for 40 yards after the break. He finished 15-of-27 for 277 yards and two scores.
Bills 31, Eagles 24
The Cursed of the Killed Dogs strikes again!
I'd write something involving clever wordplay with "dream team" and "nightmares," but all of those puns have been exhausted already. Let's just say that everyone would have been shocked if you told them before the season that the Eagles would kick the 2011 campaign off with a 1-4 record. They're really in trouble.
Philadelphia's glaring weaknesses festered once again. The team can't stop the run whatsoever, and Fred Jackson took advantage. He rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He was also effective in the passing game, catching six balls for 85 receiving yards.
The Eagles also gave this game away with sloppy play on offense. QB Dog Killer went 26-of-40 for 315 yards and two touchdowns with 90 rushing yards. However, he also had four interceptions.
Two of the picks weren't his fault. The first one was the result of a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage. The final interception occurred because the ball popped out of Jason Avant's hands. Avant had been enjoying a great game (9-139) prior to that mental error. This marked the third time in four weeks that an Eagle wideout screwed up on the final possession. Jeremy Maclin was the culprit against the Falcons and 49ers, dropping a catchable first down and fumbling, respectively.
QB Dog Killer's other picks were his responsibility. He was hit as he threw on his second interception, but he held on to the ball way too long in the pocket. The other was a poor pick-six.
Speaking of waiting too long in the pocket, the Eagles cost themselves three points at the end of the first half. The clock was running out, but QB Dog Killer held on to the ball too long. He fired an incompletion as time expired, so they weren't able to attempt a field goal. Sadly, Philadelphia fans have gotten used to this in the Andy Reid era.
Quality fantasy performances: DeSean Jackson (5-86, TD), LeSean McCoy (11-80, TD) and Jeremy Maclin (6-54, TD) all made their owners happy. Steve Johnson, did not, although that was a bit predictable considering the cornerbacks he was going up against.
It was going to be an emotional game for the Raiders, one day after the owner and face of the franchise died at the age of 82. The decal on the back of their helmets was a black shield with "AL" in silver. His catchphrase was "Just win baby," and the always-present traveling fans had that on several signs in the stands along with "RIP Al Davis." This was a class JWB performance.
If you look at the final stat sheet, Matt Schaub appears to have tortured Oakland's secondary, finishing with 416 yards passing while clearly outperforming his opposite number Jason Campbell (15-of-35 for 190 yards). Really, neither passer was accurate, and while Schaub chewed up yardage, a lot of it was wasted. Nearly every inch of the Raiders' offense (278 total yards) wound up on the scoreboard thanks to booming field goals by Janikowski from 54, 55, 50 and 42 yards out.
Everything started out fine for Houston. The crowd was raucous with the roof closed and rain pouring down outside. Oakland ran three plays and punted. The Texans then got a 20-yard rumble from Arian Foster on his first carry as part of a 65-yard march for a quick 7-0 lead. Little did they know his rushes would be stuffed from that point forward, as he gained only 48 more yards on his 21 additional attempts. You don't need a calculator to figure out how low the average was on those plays.
The Houston defense again stood up, forcing a three-and-out for Oakland, but after converting their fourth consecutive third down to open the game, Schaub was intercepted by Lamarr Houston on a pass deflected by John Henderson. Tipped passes would be a theme on the day with the Raiders finishing with six by my count. This was a turning point when it came to converting third downs. Houston would go just 4-for-16 the rest of the way after having converted their first four. Even though the defense moved the Raiders back a yard, Janikowski's long field goal made it a 7-3 game.
Houston had a three-and-out, setting up another field goal "drive" for Oakland of minus-2 yards because Bruce Davis (no relation obviously, but fitting) blocked the punt. Then, Schaub hit tight end Owen Daniels, who had a solid game (7 receptions for 89 yards), for a pickup of 28, but the drive died when Gary Kubiak did not have the confidence to go for it on fourth down, needing just two yards from the Oakland 45.
The move paid off with a punt pinning the Raiders at the 2. Campbell immediately threw deep and was intercepted by Jason Allen. On Houston's first play, Schaub found Joel Dreessen wide open for a 56-yard touchdown, taking advantage of linebacker Rolando McClain missing coverage. It appeared McClain was running gingerly and suffering from some sort of injury. At 14-6, with a huge advantage in total yards, and the crowd behind them and things were going very smoothly early in the second quarter for the home team.
Two punts on each side later, Oakland's offense woke up starting on their own 25 at the two-minute warning. Campbell hit Darrius Heyward-Bey for 18 yards twice and then for 34 yards and a touchdown on an eye-popping drive. Heyward-Bey, one of the picks Al Davis was criticized heavily for making because Texas Tech's more-heralded Michael Crabtree was on the board, finished with seven receptions for 99 yards and that score. A missed two-point conversion left Houston ahead 14-12, which remained the score at halftime.
At the break, the Raiders had an opportunity to take advantage of Mario Williams, who left the game in the first quarter, being out of the lineup. Rookie Brooks Reed did not do a bad job stepping in, but the front seven was not nearly as effective the rest of the way. On the other hand, Oakland's front made Schaub uneasy. He was only sacked three times, but looked out of it at times, and was an erratic 24-for-51, with the aforementioned tipped passes a huge problem.
After a punt from each side to start the second half, Houston found a way to involve Foster. He took a screen 60 yards and would finish with a game-high 116 yards receiving on five catches. Needless to say, Andre Johnson was missed, but four Texans had at least 81 yards receiving. The drive immediately stalled, and it was wasted when Neil Rackers missed from 41 yards out.
Oakland answered with a scrappy drive for another long field goal and suddenly took the lead 15-14. Houston responded by hitting Kevin Walter for 41 yards on the first play of their drive. A few Foster runs mashed up with incompletions, set up a long field goal, and Rackers converted from 54 yards out to put the Texans back ahead 17-15.
Speed was something Al Davis loved, and Jacoby Ford displayed some of it, returning the subsequent kickoff to the 39. Darren McFadden finally made his presence felt running for 8, 14 and 20 yards on consecutive plays to put them in the red zone. Forced to third down, Campbell was ready to run for it when he spotted oft-injured wide receiver Chaz Schilens wide open for the touchdown and the 22-17 lead as the fourth quarter began.
After a Houston punt, Oakland was pushed to fourth down again. Hue Jackson channeled Les Miles by calling for a fake, and Rock Cartwright ran 35 yards down the sideline. The drive stalled, but Janikowski hit another field goal, this one a gimme 42-yard effort, and a 25-17 advantage. An exchange of punts set up the Texans with 8:22 left at their own 7-yard line. Screens to Foster were key on this drive, along with a pass interference penalty, to help them into field goal range. The biggest play was the Raiders finally being in position to stop the screen, with Michael Huff sniffing it out and three defenders crunching Schaub on third down. Kubiak had no choice on fourth-and-18 but to call for a field goal, and Rackers made it 25-20 from 40 yards out.
Even with only one timeout remaining, Houston got the ball back with 1:50 left thanks to Campbell checking out of a run on first down and going for the sealing first down on a deep ball to Denarius Moore. The Texans were not going down easy. After a complex review showing 12 defenders were on the field (Quentin Groves was lazy running off) during a Tommy Kelly sack, a face mask on Kelly took precedence over that flag and seemingly buried them. Schaub then found Walter for 26 yards.
They put a foot in the coffin again when an errant snap cost them 13 yards. Two plays later, Schaub bought time and found Dreessen down to the 5-yard line. The clock was ticking, but a spike stopped it with 7 ticks remaining. Huff sealed the victory with an interception on a play where Schaub was indecisive. He was clearly trying to figure out if he was fast enough to run for the score. The replay showed Schaub wouldn't have made it, since Tyvon Branch was sprinting towards him. Schaub had a deer-in-the-headlights look all game with Oakland's front seven hassling him.
Saints 30, Panthers 27
It's becoming a theme. The Panthers play well every week, but continue to shoot themselves in the foot. Here are some examples from this game:
- Cam Newton threw a pick on the opening drive. It looked ugly, but it was really a miscommunication between the rookie quarterback and Steve Smith.
- A holding penalty wiped out a big gain by Smith in the first half.
- On a sequence of events that had me posting "Dumbest. Move. Ever." on the forum, the Panthers called a timeout as the Saints were hurrying to get a field goal off as the time was winding down in the first half. It didn't seem like New Orleans was going to get it off in time, yet the coaching staff still asked for a clock stoppage. As a consequence, the Saints got three free points.
- The Panthers had a false start on 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
Carolina trailed 23-13 at the beginning of the second half, but got its act together. The offense held the ball longer in the third quarter than it did in the entire first half. Thanks in part to a pair of roughing-the-passer penalties (one legit; one bogus), Newton engineered two touchdown drives to take a 27-23 lead. As always, the defense let him down, and Drew Brees (32-of-45, 359 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) was able to lead his team to victory in the final minute.
The Panthers are now 1-4, but that shouldn't diminish what Newton is doing. He once again performed extremely well, going 16-of-31 for 224 yards, three touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) and an interception. Smith, meanwhile, had three grabs for 79 yards and a score.
Speaking of which, Roman Harper should have been ejected from this game. I'm sure you've all seen it by now. If not, Harper hit Smith in the end zone about three seconds after the Pro Bowl wideout caught a touchdown. It was a ridiculous cheap shot. The Saints were penalized 15 yards, but they should have lost their strong safety for the afternoon.
As for the New Orleans skill-position players, Jimmy Graham didn't score, but hauled in eight grabs for 129 yards. One of those eight receptions was incredible; he tipped the pass to himself and somehow caught it while getting tackled.
Darren Sproles had 91 total yards. Mark Ingram wasn't as successful, rushing just nine times for 32 yards and a touchdown. Sean Payton stubbornly continues to give Pierre Thomas and Jed Collins way too many touches. Why even spend two high picks on a running back if you're only going to give him nine carries? It makes no sense, but Payton has won a Super Bowl recently, so I'm sure his reasons make sense.
Bengals 30, Jaguars 20
It's shocking that there were 50 points scored in this game. This was an ugly slugfest that was knotted at 13 entering the fourth quarter. The rookie quarterback matchup was a reason for this, but the heavy wind was the main culprit. It was difficult to complete passes of longer than 10 yards. On one occasion, Blaine Gabbert had Jason Hill wide open for a first down, but the ball just died.
Despite this, Gabbert was able to find Jason Hill for a 74-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Hill was wide open because of a blown coverage. However, the Bengals were able to take the lead thanks to a pair of awful punts by 80-year-old Matt Turk. One of Turk's punts traveled just 22 yards.
Overall, Gabbert was pretty mediocre. He made some nice throws, but once again struggled with pocket awareness. He finished 15-of-28 for 221 yards and the aforementioned long score.
Andy Dalton was the superior quarterback in this matchup. He had a poor interception in his own territory that set up Jacksonville with a 1st-and-goal at the 3-yard line, but was solid otherwise. He converted a 3rd-and-17 with a 37-yard touchdown to A.J. Green (5-90). He also moved the chains on a clutch fourth-down conversion to set up Bernard Scott's winning score.
Scott scored the touchdown, but had only a quarter as many carries (6-20) compared to Cedric Benson (24-53). Scott, of course, will take over as the primary runner if Benson is suspended.
Maurice Jones-Drew gained 85 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. His longest attempt went for 25 yards, but it should have been called back. He was knee and shin were clearly down - the CBS announcers strongly agreed - but Marvin Lewis didn't challenge for some strange reason.
On the first play from scrimmage, Chris Johnson broke off a 21-yard run to get things started for Tennessee. Some good runs by Johnson with some passes from Matt Hasselbeck moved the ball downfield. A 20-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook set the Titans up inside the five-yard line, but the Steelers hunkered down and forced a field goal.
The Steelers answered with a drive where Ben Roethlisberger moved the ball with passes downfield. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown made good catches to get first downs. Big Ben finished the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Heath Miller.
A fake punt where punter Daniel Sepulveda threw a pass to defensive back Ryan Mundy went for 33 yards. That set the Steelers up at the 17-yard line. A few plays later, the Steelers finished the drive with a short touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to wide receiver Hines Ward.
After a Titans punt, the Steelers had the ball at their own nine-yard line. Backup running back Jonathan Dwyer took his first carry of the season for 76 yards. The Pittsburgh offensive line made some great blocks and Dwyer broke free into the secondary. He was caught from behind by Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan. The drive was capped with another short touchdown toss from Big Ben.
Roethlisberger was moving the ball for another score just before halftime. The Steelers tried a fake spike, but his pass was intercepted by cornerback Cortland Finnegan. In the first half, Roethlisberger completed 15-of-22 passes for 114 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Wallace had three receptions for 24 yards. Miller had two catches for 26 yards and a score. Isaac Redman ran the ball 10 times for 28 yards.
After the first drive, Tennessee's offense struggled to maintain possession of the ball. The Steeler defense played well with a number of pass breakups. They bottled up Johnson and got some sacks of Hasselbeck. They held Hasselback to 8-of-14 for 76 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. Johnson ran the ball for 42 yards on 10 carries. Wide receiver Damien Williams had 42 yards on four receptions.
In the third quarter, the Steelers produced another scoring drive that ended with a short touchdown pass to Ward. Down 28-3, Hasselbeck and the Titans moved into the hurry-up offense. They were aided by a catch to Jared Cook that was actually an incompletion. The Titans capped the drive with Johnson's first touchdown of the season from one-yard out.
After the score, the Titans executed a nice onside kick that was recovered by cornerback Alterraun Verner. The next play saw a pass from Hasselbeck get batted into the air. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley came down with the ball and it was the first interception of the season for the Pittsburgh defense. It led to a field goal and a 31-10 advantage for the Steelers.
Sepulveda had a punt blocked midway through the fourth quarter. It was picked up by Finnegan and returned for a touchdown, but a block in the back penalty took the score away and gave the Titans the ball in Steelers' territory. Hasselbeck finished the drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Damien Williams. For the game, Hasselbeck was 29-of-49 for 262 yards and one score with one interception. Johnson ran for 51 yards on 14 carries.
The Steelers finished the game with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace. He had mainly caught short passes in the game, and that set up the Titans for a deep strike to the speedster receiver. Wallace caught six passes for 82 yards and one touchdown. Ward had seven receptions for 54 yards and two scores.
Roethlisberger completed 24-of-34 passes for 228 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. It was very impressive considering he was playing with an injured foot. Dwyer led the Steelers in rushing with 107 yards on 11 carries.
Overall, the Steelers' heavily criticized offensive line played well against the Titans defensive line. The Steelers had signed Max Starks off the street recently. He started and played well at left tackle. On the defensive side of the ball, Woodley, Ziggy Hood and Brett Keisel had good games. In the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh rookie defensive end Cameron Heyward came alive. He recorded a sack and also had a near sack that got an intentional grounding call made.
Tennessee defensive end Derrick Morgan got some pressures mainly coming from left defensive end. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey had a couple of nice rushes.
The Titans need a wide receiver. The team is really missing Kenny Britt as it lacks a player who can get separation and produce some big plays to move the chains. Tennessee also could use some interior offensive line help. That was a big problem in Johnson not getting going. The Titans' veteran linebackers Barrett Ruud and Will Witherspoon look like they are about at the end of the line, and they were exploited by the Steelers.
Seahawks 36, Giants 25
Wow. The Seahawks were traveling to the East Coast to play an early game, which is one of the many reasons they were double-digit underdogs in this contest. It was the Giants, however, who looked asleep. New York played with no urgency, and it seemed like it thought that a victory over Seattle was a given.
The Giants had no answer for the Seahawks' no-huddle offense. Tarvaris Jackson opened 5-of-7 for 64 yards on the initial drive. He was 15-of-22 for 166 yards, one touchdown and a pick before he left the game with what looks to be a minor chest injury in the third quarter. Before anyone gets too excited, Jackson could have been intercepted a few more times.
Charlie Whitehurst replaced Jackson, and predictably performed better, going 11-of-19 for 149 yards and the winning score to a wide-open Doug Baldwin in which Osi Umenyiora was offside.
Baldwin had eight grabs for 136 yards and a score, but he's not a recommended fantasy pick-up. He's inconsistent and has a bye week coming up anyway. Sidney Rice, meanwhile, had just four catches for 38 yards.
With Justin Tuck out of the lineup, Marshawn Lynch was able to rumble for 98 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries. The Giants simply can't stop the run without their stud left end.
Lynch and Michael Robinson both lost fumbles in the red zone, so this game could have been much uglier for New York. The Giants converted just 1-of-12 third downs. Eli Manning, who went 24-of-39 for 420 yards and three touchdowns, was responsible for three picks.
It's worth noting that a 68-yard score of Manning's was a bit of a fluke; Victor Cruz came down with an amazing jump ball and ran it in to the end zone. Cruz had eight grabs for 161 yards and a touchdown, outshining both Hakeem Nicks (4-65, TD) and Mario Manningham (5-56).
Ahmad Bradshaw couldn't run the football against Seattle's third-ranked rush defense. He had just 58 yards on 17 carries - a wasted effort with Brandon Jacobs sidelined.
San Francisco took early control of the game and never let up. They were unrelenting as they blew out Tampa Bay, scoring a touchdown in every quarter.
On the first possession for the 49ers, Alex Smith moved the ball well and threw a perfect strike to Delanie Walker for a 26-yard touchdown. Walker was in the middle of three Tampa Bay players and went up to make a nice catch for the first score of the game.
The Buccaneers responded with a 33-yard wide receiver screen to Arrelious Benn that set up a field goal. After that drive, and for the rest of the game, Tampa Bay's offense struggled.
The 49ers successfully drove the ball into Buccaneers' territory on the next drive, but Frank Gore fumbled the ball away, sacrificing a scoring opportunity. Josh Freeman gave it right back. He dropped back and had plenty of time to throw, but made a bad read on a throw to Kellen Winslow. The pass was picked off by Carlos Rogers, who returned the ball 31-yards for a touchdown.
On the next possession, Freeman threw an interception to Chris Culliver, who returned it to almost midfield. The 49ers moved the ball down the field, and Gore plunged into the end zone from one yard out for a 21-3 lead. Freeman was out of sync throughout the first two quarters, throwing two interceptions and nearly allowing two more, both of which fell incomplete.
Early in the third quarter, Smith and Gore kept moving the ball against the Buccaneers. Smith threw a nice pass to Vernon Davis, who powered his way into the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown catch. The connection of Smith to Davis torched Tampa Bay for a 14-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Smith threw a perfect fade pass and Davis beat Ronde Barber off the snap to break open.
Raheem Morris hurt his team's efforts on a possession when he was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Tampa Bay was marred by critical penalties and untimely turnovers, such as when wide receiver Mike Williams fumbled the ball away in the second half.
The 49ers dominated the Buccaneers, completely kicking their butt. The Tampa Bay run defense was a disaster, constantly getting blown out of their gaps. Gore ran for 125 yards on 20 carries and Smith finished the game 11-of-19 for 170 yards with three touchdowns.
Third-year quarterback Freeman played a terrible game. He failed to move the ball consistently and made a lot of bad decisions, ending up 17-of-33 for 187 yards and two interceptions. Blount had no carries in the second half. With five catches for 54 yards, Winslow led Tampa Bay in receiving. The 49ers' defense saw great performances out of rookie outside linebacker Aldon Smith, defensive end Justin Smith, linebacker Patrick Willis, cornerback Carlos Rogers, and safety Dashon Goldson.
To make matters worse for Tampa Bay, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy went down with what looked like a serious knee injury in the first half.
Patriots 30, Jets 21
History was made in this game. For the first time in his illustrious career, Tom Brady threw a red zone interception at home. He had passed for 100 red zone touchdowns and no picks prior to today. I guess not even the Golden Boy can be perfect.
The pick actually wasn't Brady's fault; the ball deflected off Aaron Hernandez (5-56), who was playing for the first time since Week 2. The pick prevented New England from running away in this game, allowing the Jets to hang around. Had Brady converted his 101st touchdown, the Patriots would have been up 24-7 at the beginning of the third quarter.
Brady went 24-of-33 for 321 yards, one score and that interception. He was pressured constantly, but that didn't deter him from hanging 30 on Rex Ryan's defense. He's unstoppable right now.
Brady's tight ends didn't do much. I already mentioned Hernandez; Rob Gronkowski caught four balls for just 31 yards. Brady targeted his receivers more frequently; Wes Welker (5-124) and Deion Branch (7-74, TD) were the stars. Branch appeared to fumble the ball at New York's 2-yard line on the opening drive of the second half, but Bill Belichick challenged the play, and it was reversed. Branch scored on the next play.
The Patriots ran the ball well, but Stevan Ridley barely did anything (7-13). It was all BenJarvus Green-Ellis (27-136, 2 TDs).
Shonn Greene, meanwhile, looked really good for the first time all year. With Nick Mangold back in the lineup, Greene rumbled for 83 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Mark Sanchez was a decent 16-of-26 for 166 yards and two touchdowns, but more was expected of him because he was battling a poor New England defense that was missing Pro Bowl linebacker Jerod Mayo. Sanchez was able to convert just 3-of-11 third downs. The Patriots were 7-of-14.
Sanchez's scores went to Santonio Holmes (4-60) and Jeremy Kerley (3-35). Plaxico Burress caught only three balls for 42 yards and had a couple of drops, while Dustin Keller (1-7) was a complete non-factor for some strange reason.
Chargers 29, Broncos 24
I'm so sick of these bogus non-covers. The Broncos finally replaced Tim Tebow to the delight of the Mile High fans, and he was able to lead two touchdown drives. Brandon Lloyd dropped a two-point conversion attempt, making the game 26-24 with a couple of minutes remaining. San Diego had the ball on Denver's 40-yard line as the clock was ticking down. However, a phantom personal-foul penalty on Denver moved the Chargers into field goal range. With 20 seconds remaining, Nick Novak, who might just be the best kicker of all time the way he's drilling field goals against me, converted a chip-shot attempt.
The personal-foul penalty was the major issue. It was completely bogus. The official didn't even mention who committed the infraction. There was no number announced, and the replay showed nothing. Even the CBS announcers were befuddled. The refs, who actually did this twice in this contest, made sure San Diego covered at all cost. There's no doubt in my mind about this.
It may sound like I have sand in my vag, but seriously, no ref should ever be able to go, "Personal foul on the defense. That's a 15-yard penalty. First down." Personal foul on whom!? Give us a f***ing number! Don't leave the announcers saying, "I'm not sure what that's all about." And it's not like the refs did it just that one time. They did it twice in this game! Unbelievable.
Of course, if Lloyd just caught the two-point conversion, it all wouldn't have mattered. Lloyd, who snagged only one pass for 20 yards (on the final drive), couldn't get two feet inbounds on another possible completion.
Keep that in mind when I talk about Tim Tebow. Kyle Orton was dreadful in the first half; he went 6-of-13 for 34 yards and a really dumb interception. John Fox finally benched the should-be Miami quarterback in favor of Tebow. Tebow finished 4-of-10 for 79 yards and a touchdown. However, he also had six carries for 38 rushing yards and another score on the ground.
The passing stats may not show it, but Tebow was amazing. He sparked both the team and the crowd. When his Hail Mary attempt fell short as time expired, the crowd chanted his name despite the loss.
Tebow must start the rest of the season. He's also worth adding in all fantasy leagues even though Denver has a bye next week.
As for the Chargers, they moved the ball well the entire afternoon - except in the red zone. That figures to change if/when Antonio Gates returns.
Philip Rivers went 18-of-29 for 250 yards, one touchdown and a pick. Rivers' score was a 42-yarder to Malcom Floyd (3-100). An injured Vincent Jackson (3-34) struggled.
Both of San Diego's running backs left the game with injuries. Ryan Mathews (24-125) was able to return after a calf strain. Mike Tolbert (5-24), however, never came back after suffering a concussion.
Willis McGahee rushed for 125 yards on 16 carries. Knowshon Moreno didn't get a single attempt, but caught three balls for 40 yards and a score.
Packers 25, Falcons 14
The only way the Packers don't beat all of their opponents soundly (save for New England and New Orleans) is if they make mistakes. That's exactly what they did at Atlanta. Ryan Grant fumbled the ball away in Falcon territory on the team's opening drive. At the end of the first half, Jermichael Finley dropped the ball on third down at the goal line.
Atlanta went up 14-0 almost instantly and led at the half, 14-6. The Packers looked like they were in trouble. They couldn't stop the Falcons, while left tackle Chad Clifton was knocked out of the game with a leg injury. Aaron Rodgers seemed a bit discombobulated. He apparently didn't trust the protection and hurried some of his throws.
And then the second half happened. Rodgers was on fire after the break, finishing 26-of-39 for 396 yards and two touchdowns. Dom Capers, meanwhile, made a great adjustment, switching to more man coverage to really slow down Matt Ryan. After starting 8-of-10, Ryan completed fewer than 50 percent of his attempts. He finished 18-of-32 for 167 yards, one score and two picks (one interception was the result of a dropped Roddy White pass).
Rodgers has now maintained a quarterback rating of at least 111 in every single game this year. I don't need to tell you how amazing that is. What's also amazing is that a whopping 12 Packers caught a pass Sunday night. Leading the way were James Jones (5-140, TD), Greg Jennings (4-82, TD) and Jermichael Finley (4-67).
As for Ryan's targets, Tony Gonzalez (6-60) and Roddy White (6-50, TD) were the only players to catch more than two passes. Julio Jones (1-16) left the game early with a hamstring injury.
Neither rushing attack could really get going. Michael Turner (16-56) at least found the end zone once. James Starks (12-40) had more than double the carries that Grant did (7-18).