Philip Rivers is the worst two-minute quarterback I've ever seen in my entire life. Like, Donovan McNabb is John Elway compared to him. What Rivers showed against the Jets made me realize why he chokes in the playoffs every year.
I still can't believe what I saw. Down six with about 90 seconds and no timeouts, Rivers had the ball on his own 24-yard line. He converted a first down, but wasted 17 seconds lining everyone up instead of spiking the ball. When he finally got the play off, he fired a 3-yard pass to a receiver who was tackled inbounds. After another lengthy delay, Rivers completed a similar pass to another target who once again couldn't get out of bounds.
After an incompletion, it was suddenly fourth down with about 20 seconds remaining. Rivers heaved a pass downfield that fell incomplete out of bounds. It looked like he wanted to call another play, but had to be told that his team turned it over on downs.
Like I said, McNabb's eight-minute drill in the Super Bowl was an upgrade over this. The only thing the Chargers can hang their hat on is that Rivers didn't vomit all over the field.
I'd say I'm mildly surprised that San Diego blew a 21-10 advantage with possession, but these are the Chargers we're talking about. They always do stupid stuff like this. They had a whopping 13 penalties and two second-half turnovers; both interceptions by Rivers. The Trident bastard went 16-of-32 for 179 yards, one touchdown and those picks, one of which was tipped, but the other was fired directly to a Jet. I have no idea what Rivers was thinking on that throw.
I thought San Diego would play better as a whole because Antonio Gates was returning to the lineup and reportedly looked as healthy as ever during practice. Gates was solid early on, catching three balls and a touchdown in the first quarter. However, he disappeared after that, snagging just two more receptions after that. He finished with five grabs for 54 yards.
Mike Tolbert (11-58) and Ryan Mathews (13-39) split the carries pretty evenly, but only because Mathews missed some time with a thumb injury.
Former Charger LaDainian Tomlinson started this contest, and was able to rip off rushes of 8 and 4 yards to kick things off. Unfortunately, he was knocked out with some sort of odd "illness," allowing Shonn Greene to compile 112 yards on 20 attempts. San Diego looked helpless to stop him.
Mark Sanchez was able to capitalize off Greene's superb running, going 18-of-33 for 173 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. All of Sanchez's scores went to Plaxico Burress (4-25, 3 TDs). Dustin Keller led the team in receiving (4-53), but was responsible for a fumble returned for a touchdown early in the first quarter.
Browns 6, Seahawks 3
Crappy teams continue to struggle off byes. The Seahawks just had a week off and they just couldn't get anything going the entire contest. Here are some key lowlights:
- Seattle had four penalties on the opening drive. Two were James Carpenter false starts. There was also a delay of game and a holding infraction.
- The next drive saw an anemic Charlie Whitehurst (12-30, 97 yards, 1 INT) severely underthrow an open Ben Obomanu on third down.
- Whitehurst was strip-sacked at the beginning of the second quarter, setting up the Browns for their first field goal. What also helped was that the Seahawks were offside on a 4th-and-3, giving Cleveland a free first down.
Given all that, it's a miracle that the Browns only pushed. They outgained Seattle, 298-137, and the Seahawks had just nine first downs.
That Seattle push was one for the ages. They have to both block a field goal and then commit a moronic headbutt that allowed the Browns to kneel rather than knick another field goal. That took five years off my life.
Some noteworthy stats:
- Leon Washington paced the Seahawks with 39 rushing yards. Marshawn Lynch was inactive after injuring himself in pre-game warmups.
- Joe Haden limited Sidney Rice to just two catches on 38 yards. It's worth noting that Haden was not on Rice on his 38-yard reception.
- Colt McCoy was a very pedestrian 20-of-35 for 178 yards and a pick, but he had some nice scrambles (8-31), including a 12-yarder in the fourth quarter in which he evaded numerous tacklers to pick up a first down.
- Montario Hardesty had 33 carries with Peyton Hillis out, but managed only 95 yards.
- Greg Little caught five balls, but had just 31 yards. Little's potential will continue to go unfulfilled with a limited McCoy under center.
Panthers 33, Redskins 20
This is just one defeat for the Redskins, but this loss may have cost Washington its season. The team incurred two huge injuries, including one to Santana Moss, who broke a bone in his hand. He's expected to be out for at least one month.
The other injury was to Rex Grossman, who wasn't able to hold the clipboard on the sideline because of flu-like symptoms. Just kidding. The second injury was to Tim Hightower, who suffered a nasty-looking blow to the knee in the second half. Hightower isn't the most talented running back in the league, but he's the only complete back on Washington's roster in terms of pass protection and catches passes out of the backfield. Plus, as we saw last week amid Ryan Torain's struggles against an inept Philadelphia defense, losing Hightower would be a major downgrade to the ground attack.
Hightower was outstanding at Carolina. Abusing a soft rush defense, Hightower bulldozed for 88 yards on just 17 carries. The Panthers had absolutely no answer for him.
On the bright side, John Beck played relatively well. He went 22-of-37 for 279 yards, one touchdown and an interception. However, he could have been picked off a couple of times. He was also strip-sacked by Antwan Applewhite, who had an outstanding performance for Carolina.
As for the Panthers, it was another prolific outing by the No. 1 overall pick. Cam Newton went 18-of-23 for 256 yards and a passing touchdown. He also rushed for 59 yards on 10 scrambles with another score coming on the ground. Newton made some really nice throws, including one very impressive 17-yard strike to Steve Smith (7-143) along the sideline on a 3rd-and-13.
It was nice to see Jonathan Stewart receive more carries than DeAngelo Williams for a change. Stewart (14-68, TD) once again outperformed Williams (10-35).
Despite winning by 13, Carolina played sloppily and let Washington hang around for far too long. The team committed 13 penalties compared to three by the Redskins. One infraction was a completely idiotic unsportsmanlike penalty by linebacker Thomas Williams on fourth down that gave Washington a free set of downs.
The Bears struck first when Matt Forte burst into the end zone from 32 yards out. He ran to the right and reversed field. Forte cut across to the left as he juked safety Tanard Jackson and burst into the end zone to give the Bears a touchdown lead.
At the end of the first quarter, Roy Williams and Marion Barber had terrible dropped passes. Barber's was tipped into the air and intercepted by Jackson. On the next play, Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman was intercepted by Bears rookie safety Chris Conte. The Bears were at their own 1-yard line. On the next play, Chicago handed the ball off to Matt Forte and he was stuffed in the end zone by Ronde Barber for a safety.
Williams made a big play in the second quarter. At the line of scrimmage, he shed a jam from cornerback E.J. Biggers and came open running down the field. Jay Cutler lofted the ball to Williams and he coasted into the end zone from 25 yards out.
Freeman had a hard time getting into a groove in the first half. The Tampa Bay offensive line struggled to give him time to throw the ball, and the Buccaneers receivers were taking too long to come open.
In the third quarter, the Bears opened up a 21-5 lead with a short touchdown run from Barber. Freeman promptly threw a terrible pass that was intercepted by Lance Briggs. It was returned to the 1-yard line, but a penalty for a block in the back put the ball at midfield. Later, Freeman was intercepted again, this time inside the Bears 20 by Brian Urlacher. Cutler gave the ball right back on an interception by Buccaneers safety Corey Lynch. Tampa Bay was able to move the ball and score on a short touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow. The two-point conversion attempt was dropped by wide receiver Mike Williams. Freeman kept the comeback going with a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe.
The Bears answered with Cutler and Forte moving the ball down the field together. A 36-yard screen was called at the right time, and Forte got the ball into the Buccaneers' 5-yard line. Tampa Bay put together a goal-line stand that was about to force a field goal. An idiotic unsportsmanlike penalty on Aqib Talib gave the Bears a first down, but the Buccaneers' defense again stopped Chicago to force a field goal and a 24-18 lead.
Freeman had one more chance to make a comeback and started to move the ball down the field. The Bears sealed the win with Freeman throwing his fourth interception of the game to defensive back D.J. Moore. Freeman finished the game 29-of-51 for 264 yards with two touchdowns and four picks. The Buccaneers' offense was without running back LeGarrette Blount and Earnest Graham blew his knee out early in the game. Safety Tanard Jackson and middle linebacker Mason Foster also left the game early with injuries.
The Bears got another excellent game out of Forte. He ran for 145 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown. Forte also caught two passes for 48 yards. Roy Williams led Chicago in receiving with four receptions for 59 yards and a score. Cutler was 17-of-32 for 226 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Texans 41, Titans 7
And another team coming off a bye bites the dust because of the stupid post-lockout rules.
The Titans looked awful, and this score doesn't even indicate how lopsided this game was. Houston outgained Tennessee, 518-148. What's more hilarious is that Arian Foster himself outgained the entire Titan team by 86 yards.
This contest was over by intermission, with Houston leading 27-0. The remaining Tennessee fans in the crowd spent their energy booing their team after every play in the second half.
Foster was unstoppable, and I hope you weren't going against him in your fantasy league. He compiled 115 rushing yards on 25 carries and 119 receiving yards off five catches, scoring thrice in the process.
With a big lead and Foster doing most of the work, Matt Schaub didn't have to do much. He still had a great game though, going 18-of-23 for 296 yards and two touchdowns. Most of Schaub's yardage came on Foster's 78-yard receiving touchdown in which the hapless Tennessee defense blew a coverage and left the stud running back wide open.
Owen Daniels posted solid numbers (4-71), but Schaub's mediocre wideouts did nothing; Kevin Walter (3-35) and Jacoby Jones (2-27) both disappointed. The good news for Houston is that it looks like Andre Johnson will be able to play next week.
As for Tennessee's offense, Chris Johnson's lack of production has become really alarming. His blocking is still awful, but he's looked slower and indecisive this year. CJ20 had just 18 yards on 10 carries.
Meanwhile, Matt Hasselbeck continued to look awful without Kenny Britt. He went 14-of-30 for 104 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was a very ugly duck. His leading receiver was Johnson, who had six catches, but for only 27 yards.
Broncos 18, Dolphins 15
"Did you see how bad Tim Tebow was for three-and-a-half quarters? He's terrible! He just got lucky in the end because he was playing the Dolphins. He'll never be good in the NFL!"
I'm just generating a random Tim Tebow hate comment that Cris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson and Merril Hoge can use the next time they're on the air. It's amazing how some analysts continue to ignore Tebow's ability to rally his team and stage amazing fourth-quarter comebacks. He's a winner, and his teammates believe in him.
Maybe one day his coaching staff will believe in him as well. It really looked like John Elway, John Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy were setting him up to fail. McCoy constantly ran the ball on early downs, putting Tebow in a plethora of third-and-long situations. Tebow had no chance on those early on, as none of the receivers could get open with Brandon Lloyd off the team. Even when they could, Demaryius Thomas was guilty of dropping a pass and running the wrong route on one instance. Meanwhile, the offensive line couldn't block; Tebow took a whopping seven sacks.
Tebow began the game 4-of-14 for 60 yards. It was pretty ugly. I mentioned the poor blocking and atrocious receivers, but Tebow was partly to blame. He had some really hideous throws, including one where he completely overthrew a running back in the flat. There was also an instance in which Tebow could have been pick-sixed.
But all of that doesn't matter because Tebow led his team to victory. He finished the contest 9-of-13 for 101 yards, two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion on a rushing attempt.
This game wasn't all about Tebow. OK, maybe it was. But here are some other notes:
- Willis McGahee rushed for 76 yards on 18 carries, but fumbled deep in Miami territory. This set up a Miami field goal. Unfortunately, he fractured his hand and could be out for a while.
- Matt Moore went 22-of-33 for 197 yards and a touchdown, which is pretty impressive considering that his receivers dropped three passes in the first quarter alone. As you may suspect, Brandon Marshall (6-61) was guilty of doing so.
- I hated Denver's play-calling in overtime. The team recovered a Moore fumble at Miami's 36-yard line, but ran with Lance Ball on three consecutive downs to set up a Matt Prater 52-yard field goal attempt. Prater nailed the kick, but he whiffed from 49 and 43 in the first half of this contest. I would have put more faith in Tebow, but then again, I don't hate him.
In a pivotal matchup of NFC playoff contenders, the established Falcons proved that experience in meaningful games matters. They made key plays and came up with an important road victory.
The Lions were handicapped heading into the season without rookie running back Mikel LeShoure, the expected power complement to Jahvid Best. Because Best was out with a concussion, the work was split between veteran Maurice Morris (9 carries for 50 yards) and newly acquired Keiland Williams (9 carries for 44 yards) who took the spot of the almost-traded Jerome Harrison after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor which negated the swap for Philadelphia's Ronnie Brown. Got all that?
The backfield tumult resulted in a very uneven rushing attack. If you look at the combination of Morris and Williams, they had a total 94 yards, but almost half of that (49 yards) came on each player's long run of the day. The meat of their carries produced an average of 2.81 yards. Atlanta's running game was similarly stagnant, but they went to it more to help balance the offense. Michael Turner (27 carries for 122 yards) had a big run for 50 yards, leaving his average for the rest at 2.77. Running so much while moving the chains, allowed them to control the ball and the momentum. Meanwhile, Detroit could only convert 1-of-12 third-down attempts.
It looked like the Lions would capitalize on home field advantage when Eric Wright intercepted Matt Ryan, setting them up at the Atlanta 15-yard line just minutes into the game. Immediately, John Abraham abused Jeff Backus and sacked Matthew Stafford. After that, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon blitzed and got his own sack. A short completion later, the Lions were settling for a 3-0 lead. It was a bad tone to set.
A few drives later, special teams started to turn the tide for the visitors. First, Eric Weems put the offense in business, returning a punt 37 yards to the Detroit 26. The Lions tightened up defensively and forced a field goal, but following an Atlanta penalty on the ensuing kickoff, the re-kick resulted in a fumble by Stefan Logan. Then a key penalty really hurt them. It was 2nd-and-5 from the 10 for the Falcons. Ryan threw the ball well over the head of Tony Gonzalez, but linebacker Bobby Carpenter was flagged for pass interference. Two innocuous penalties on Detroit later, Ryan snuck in the ball for a 10-3 lead. It was an exchange they were never able to overcome.
The rest of the game was pretty mundane, actually. The Lions immediately answered with a field goal drive, getting the aforementioned long run from Keiland Williams (18 yards) for the pivotal play. An exchange of punts later, with time running out in the first half, the Falcons had a drive getting all their playmakers involved with big plays. Gonzalez, who moved to second on the NFL's all-time receptions list, picked up a 30-yard gain. Turner had a 19-yard run, and Roddy White finished it off with an 18-yard touchdown catch. It was a powerful march that really had the the Lions' defense on its heels and left Atlanta in command, up 17-6 at halftime.
Detroit's defense played well in the third quarter and thought they caught a break when Ryan had his ankle stepped on by left tackle Will Svitek to put him out of the game. The Falcons punted and the Lions got a field goal drive together, again as a result of a long run, this time from Morris (31 yards), but clearly had no spark as an offense. Then Atlanta immediately answered in incredible fashion after backup Chris Redman threw incomplete. Ryan, barely out of the locker room, ran onto the field for 3rd-and-5. He hit Harry Douglas for a 49-yard rip down the field. Even though the drive stalled, Matt Bryant hit a field goal to extend the lead to 20-9.
With their back against the wall, the pilot light was finally lit up for Detroit in the form of Calvin Johnson catching a 57-yard touchdown on a laser from Stafford. Suddenly, it was a 20-16 game at the end of the third quarter. It got better when Amari Spievey negated a drive highlighted by the big Turner run I brought up earlier (50 yards) with an interception inside the 5-yard line of Detroit. However, they immediately punted and the field position was in Atlanta's favor. They slugged through a 10-play drive and cashed in a field goal to make it 23-16 midway through the final quarter.
Still, the Detroit offense had a final opportunity with 3:20 remaining and started the drive with two pass plays covering 25 yards. A questionable holding call went against them, but they battled through it, reaching the Atlanta 41 for a first down. Then, Stafford threw incomplete four consecutive times trying for Nate Burleson, Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Pettigrew again. He limped off and watched the defense give up any shot at a dramatic final drive by allowing rookie running back Jacquizz Rodgers to battle for five yards on 3rd-and-4.
The Raiders knew they were entering this divisional matchup heavily leaning on their
defense and running game after losing starting quarterback Jason Campbell. It was too
much to overcome when the early action went against them and put the offense in a
hole. They were not equipped to dig out of against a motivated opponent coming in well
prepared off their bye week.
The Chiefs probably could have done more on offense, if they needed to, against
a defense playing with only two cornerbacks, Stanford Routt and rookie DeMarcus
Van Dyke, suited up. Matt Cassel was pretty erratic completing half his passes (15-
for-30) for 161 yards and a pair of interceptions without a touchdown. Nine of those
completions resulted in first downs, and overall, the visitors cashed in 7-of-15 third down
After Oakland's defense held, the Raiders' offense quickly got to 3rd-and-1. Head
coach Hue Jackson probably got too cute too early calling for rookie quarterback
Terrelle Pryor's NFL debut on a trick play. He ran in motion, then quickly jumped under
center, took the snap and ran for a first down. One problem though, Pryor needed to
pause before accepting the ball. Ergo, they were backed up needed to throw. Reserve
quarterback Kyle Boller, forced to start because newly acquired Carson Palmer was
deemed not ready to go, threw a pass towards rookie Denarius Moore who was double
covered. Kendrick Lewis intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown making it
Even after a three-and-out drive, it was not time to panic yet for the Silver and Black.
However, when Darren McFadden left with an injury (sprained right foot), it was looking
like one of those days. Still, the defense forced a punt. Unfortunately, the offense
eventually had to throw another pass. Boller found Brandon Flowers on the interception
to set up Kansas City. He was looking for Moore again, this time on a deep ball and had
linebacker Derrick Johnson in his face.
The Chiefs got two key receptions each from Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston
totaling 54 yards. Le'Ron McClain plunged in from a yard out and as the opening
quarter came to a close, Kansas City led 14-0. The Raiders were apparently motivated
to respond, and their offense got moving. Rookie running back Taiwan Jones kicked
off the drive with a 14-yard run. The revitalized Darius Heyward-Bey caught a pass for
another 14 yards, and Michael Bush rumbled down the middle for 35 more. Setting up
camp at the Kansas City 5-yard line for first-and-goal, a touchdown seemed inevitable. Four Bush
runs later, it was not to be. The final effort was from the Wildcat formation with Bush
taking the snap in a shotgun formation.
Punts dominated the rest of the second quarter. As time ran down, Boller got the
offense going again on a drive that began on the 2-yard line. He connected on a 21-
yard toss to Heyward-Bey, following it up with a scramble for 20 yards to the Kansas
City 36. However, a deep ball to Heyward-Bey was intercepted by Brandon Carr, giving
Boller the hat trick.
Down 14-0 at the half, it appeared to be only a matter of time before Palmer was given
his opportunity to lead the offense. However, Jackson stuck with Boller, who threw three
incompletions to open the third quarter. The pressure was catching up to the Oakland
defense, and two personal foul penalties catapulted Kansas City's offense down the
field. Savvy runs from Jackie Battle (16 carries for 76 yards) surrounded those key
mistakes, and Javier Arenas capped the march with a 7-yard touchdown run. At 21-0,
there was no reason for Jackson not to turn to Palmer. Boller finished 7-for-14 passing
with 61 yards and the three interceptions.
On his first play, Palmer hit Heyward-Bey (5 receptions for 89 yards) for a gain of 18
and picked up another 15 thanks to a personal foul from Tamba Hali, who hit him
low after the pass. One more first down was all they could muster however, and the
absence of kicker Sebastian Janikowski was felt. He might have gotten them on the
board with a long field goal. Instead the Raiders were forced to punt.
After an exchange of punts, the Kansas City offense got going a bit, moving into
Oakland territory until rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke intercepted Cassel. The Raiders
countered by moving into Kansas City territory as the fourth quarter began. Then
Flowers put a stamp on any thoughts of a comeback by housing an interception of
Palmer. Jon McGraw and Travis Daniels ended the next two Oakland drives with
interceptions to give Palmer his own hat trick. His debut could not have been more
forgettable, completing just 8-of-21 passes for 116 yards. The three quarterbacks
finished 30-of-65 for 338 yards and eight interceptions. Adding up their quarterback ratings
still results in a pretty bad mark of 77.9.
The story of the game was the importance of McFadden to the Raiders' offense. He
fights for yardage on running plays and creates offense. Bush finished with 99 yards
rushing, but could not punch it in when it mattered, and over one-third of his yardage
came on the one long run which of course also resulted in no points.
The Chiefs came
in desperate and it showed. This was a sloppy game with both teams in double digits
for penalties for a combined 218 yards. For good measure, Dustin Colquitt had a better
punting performance than Shane Lechler to keep the field position in Kansas City's
The game started poorly for Arizona. Kevin Kolb had a pass intended for tight end Rob Housler deflected and it was intercepted by Steelers safety Ryan Clark. Shortly later, Heath Miller got open in busted zone coverage and Ben Roethlisberger lofted in an easy touchdown pass.
Roethlisberger struck again when he tossed a perfect go route to wide receiver Mike Wallace. The third-year wide out burned cornerback Richard Marshall and a safety running down the field. Wallace sprinted into the end zone with a 95-yard touchdown.
The Cardinals answered with a penalty-aided drive that set up a short touchdown run from Alfonso Smith. At halftime, the Steelers had a 17-7 lead. Arizona running back Beanie Wells left the game with an injury.
Early in the third quarter, Kolb hit running back LaRod Stephens-Howling on a crossing route. Stephens-Howling got two good blocks from tight end Jeff King and wide receiver Andre Roberts to break down the field. Stephens-Howling couldn't be caught from behind and ran 73 yards for a touchdown.
Roethlisberger answered with a short touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders. They kept up the heat on Kolb on the next possession. For some reason, Arizona let LaMarr Woodley come unblocked. He had Kolb sacked in the end zone, but the quarterback threw the ball at his linemen for an incompletion. The proper intentional grounding call was made and Pittsburgh got a safety. The Steelers and Cardinals each put six points on the board in the fourth quarter.
Roethlisberger finished 25-of-38 for 340 yards and three touchdowns. Pittsburgh never really got the ground game going. Rashard Mendenhall led them with 32 yards on 13 carries. Wallace totaled 118 yards on three catches with a touchdown.
Kolb, meanwhile, went 18-of-34 passes for 272 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Fitzgerald had four catches for 78 yards.
Cowboys 34, Rams 7
So, I hope you picked up DeMarco Murray in your fantasy league. All Murray did in this game was break Dallas' single-game rushing record, held previously by Emmitt Smith.
Murray tallied 253 rushing yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, eclipsing Emmitt's mark of 236. None of it was fluky; Murray is a very talented runner who was able to show off his tremendous skills against the hapless Rams. His score came on a 91-yard burst in the first quarter.
With Murray ripping off huge chunks of yardage at will, Tony Romo didn't really have to do anything. This, of course, is when Romo is at his best. He went 14-of-24 for 166 yards and two touchdowns. He could have thrown a third score, but Dez Bryant dropped a potential touchdown at the end of the first half.
Romo's scores went to Dez Bryant (5-90) and Jason Witten (5-35). Only four Cowboys caught a pass.
The Rams really had no chance as a bottom-tier team starting a backup quarterback. Even though A.J. Feeley is one of the top reserve signal-callers in the NFL, he had issues sustaining drives. The Rams had just 13 first downs and compiled 265 yards, nearly 200 fewer than Dallas (445).
Feeley (20-33, 196 yards, INT) definitely wasn't entirely to blame, even though his pick was a bad one in Dallas territory down only seven points.
One culprit was Cadillac Williams, who fumbled on a promising drive at Dallas' 33-yard line in the first half. The Cowboys turned the give-away into a touchdown, giving them a 14-0 lead.
Another issue the Rams had in this contest was on the offensive line. This is nothing new, but right tackle Jason Smith suffered a head injury in which he lied motionless on the field and had to be carted off. Fortunately, he was able to give the thumbs-up sign as they wheeled him into the locker room.
Two Rams of note: Steven Jackson rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, though he was inexplicably on the field during the final seconds. Steve Spagnuolo is very fortunate Jackson didn't get hurt. Meanwhile, Brandon Lloyd had six grabs for 74 yards. St. Louis finally has a legitimate No. 1 wideout for the first time since Torry Holt.
Vegas has so much exposure on Jacksonville, Minnesota and Arizona that if all three of those teams fail to cover there may not be a Vegas next week. Expect referee shenanigans in those games, especially Packers-Vikings, where tickets are running almost 19-1 in favor of Green Bay.
If the fix was in on this game, it wasn't very recognizable. There were only a few shady things that happened, including Randall Cobb's muffed punt at midfield in the first quarter and A.J. Hawk's phantom roughing-the-passer penalty that helped set up a Minnesota touchdown in the final period. However, since the Vikings actually outgained the Packers, it's hard to call shenanigans.
So, what happened? To put it simply, Christian Ponder. The rookie signal-caller out of Florida State definitely exceeded expectations. His completion percentage (13-of-32) and touchdown-interception ratio (2-2) doesn't indicate that, but Ponder was very effective in both navigating the pocket to avoid pressure and converting third downs (9-of-16). He finished with 219 yards, including a 72-yard bomb to Michael Jenkins to open the game.
Troy Aikman had some complimentary things to say about Ponder. Here are two quotes:
"Christian Ponder has already had a better rookie year than I had."
"I don't think these Viking receivers are accustom to the ball coming out that quick."
Though Donovan McNabb proved otherwise, it's not that difficult to look good with Adrian Peterson in the backfield. Peterson rushed for 175 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
The Packers were able to ultimately prevail because of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was nearly perfect, going 24-of-30 for 335 yards and three touchdowns. One of his incompletions was a red-zone drop by Cobb, who will owe all of the other Packer receivers a $100 Best Buy gift card.
Curiously though, Green Bay was just 2-of-8 on third downs, so maybe those missed conversions are the shenanigans I'm looking for.
Green Bay ran the ball well with James Starks (13-75). The second-year back was able to run out the clock in the final three minutes after Leslie Frazier inexplicably opted to punt the ball away on a 4th-and-10.
Saints 62, Colts 7
The Colts were up 7-0 and primed to pull the upset. Curtis Painter opened things up with an 80-yard touchdown bomb to Pierre Garcon. Indianapolis was finally going to win a game!
Wait, that didn't happen. Painter's heave to Garcon was slightly overthrown and bounced off Garcon's fingertips. A few plays later, Joseph Addai, who didn't seem to have any clue as to what was going on because he didn't practice all week, had to be moved around by Painter. As Peyton Manning's replacement was doing this, Jeff Saturday inexplicably snapped the ball, catching Painter off-guard. The Saints recovered the fumble and quickly scored.
New Orleans then scored again. And scored. And scored. And scored. And scored. And scored some more. Want to know how efficient the Saints were? They didn't punt the ball until there were a few minutes remaining in regulation - only because Drew Brees was removed at the end of the third quarter.
Brees was unbelievable. He went 31-of-35 for 325 yards and five touchdowns. Four Saints had at least five receptions: Marques Colston (7-98, 2 TDs), Pierre Thomas (5-68), Jimmy Graham (6-54, 2 TDs) and Darren Sproles (6-19, TD).
Speaking of Sproles, he had 88 rushing yards and another score on just 12 carries. Mark Ingram led the team on the ground with 91 yards on 14 attempts. Unfortunately, Ingram limped off the field in the fourth quarter.
The only stat of note for the Colts is Delone Carter's 89 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries, although he lost a fumble in the first quarter. Addai started, but was quickly benched after two carries (8 yards), since he had absolutely no idea what to do or where to line up. Not that it would have made much of a difference, but Jim Caldwell made a huge mistake by starting Addai.