This was one of the craziest Sundays in NFL history. The bad teams, all of which have played extra terribly this season, looked terrific. Drew Brees was shut down by the worst secondary in football. And quarterbacks like Matt Moore and A.J. Feeley performed like Hall of Famers at times. It was really unbelievable.
Well, at least one thing made sense - and that was the Colts sucking. Coming off a disgraceful 62-7 defeat at New Orleans, Indianapolis showed no heart or fight in this divisional matchup.
Of course, it didn't help that Indianapolis continuously shot itself in the foot. The score at halftime was 20-0 even though Tennessee outgained the Colts by just 54 yards. The problem was a blocked punt touchdown, a Curtis Painter interception that bounced out of Pierre Garcon's hands and seven first-half penalties.
It's been a crazy year overall though, and nothing's been weirder than Chris Johnson's demise. CJ20 and Javon Ringer split carries evenly; they each had 14, with Ringer outgaining Johnson, 60-34. Ringer was also a bigger factor in the passing attack (5-42) than CJ20 (3-17). Ringer played almost exclusively in the fourth quarter, indicating that he may have taken over the starting job.
Matt Hasselbeck went 23-of-33 for 224 yards and a touchdown - a somewhat surprising performance considering there was some concern with his thumb.
Painter, meanwhile, finished 26-of-49 for 250 yards and two picks. Both interceptions weren't his fault. I mentioned the one to Garcon. The other was the result of a tipped pass. Channeling his inner QB Dog Killer, Painter also scrambled seven times for 79 rushing yards.
Four Colts caught at least five passes: Dallas Clark (6-77), Pierre Garcon (7-66), Reggie Wayne (5-61) and Austin Collie (5-44).
Texans 24, Jaguars 14
I'd really like to congratulate Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for coming up with the most amazing game plan of all time. Despite never trailing by more than a touchdown in the first three quarters, Del Rio and Koetter called 22 Blaine Gabbert passes compared to 13 Maurice Jones-Drew carries in that span. When you have one of the best running backs in the NFL and an extremely raw rookie quarterback, every defense is going to expect you to pound the rock. But Del Rio and Koetter outsmarted Houston.
I'm obviously being facetious. Del Rio and Koetter once again proved that they are complete morons. Jones-Drew's 13 attempts went for a somewhat respectable 51 yards, while Gabbert once again was absolutely abysmal. The first-year signal-caller was a humiliating 10-of-30 for 97 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Whereas the other rookie quarterbacks are thriving, Gabbert still hasn't shown any signs that he can be a capable NFL starter.
Jones-Drew finished 63 yards and a score on 18 carries. He inexplicably wasn't used in the passing game either; he caught just one ball for 11 yards.
Marcedes Lewis led the Jaguars with four catches for 45 yards, but had a key holding penalty in Houston territory. Mike Thomas hauled in just three grabs for 24 yards.
Matt Schaub was obviously better than Gabbert, but only by default. He went 16-of-30 for 225 yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville's tough defense. He really missed Andre Johnson, but should have his No. 1 wideout back next week.
Jacksonville contained Schaub, but struggled against Houston's rushing attack. Both Arian Foster (33-112, TD) and Ben Tate (5-42) broke off big chunks of yardage at will, especially toward the end to set the Texans up with a field goal and a cheap cover. FML.
(Editor's Note: Cam Newton said this past week that the Panthers would be undefeated if he didn't commit any turnovers. Ironically, this game was tied at 14 at the half solely because of Newton's give-aways. He was strip-sacked twice, leading to a pair of Minnesota touchdowns. Not only is Newton good; his analysis is completely accurate.)
A couple weeks prior to the 2011 NFL Draft, I mocked Christian Ponder No. 16 overall and was roundly ripped for having him so high. As we all know now, he was selected No. 12 and is proving to be worth the investment. Most times it is not fair to say Ponder "won" in a battle of rookie quarterbacks over first-overall pick Cam Newton. In this case it is absolutely true. I will explain that later.
The opening kickoff was the only one Minnesota returned the entire game. Marcus Sherels went 78 yards to put his rookie quarterback in a great opening spot on the road. However, Adrian Peterson was stopped for no gain, Greg Hardy knocked down a Ponder screen pass and rookie Terrell McClain sacked Ponder to stop them dead in their tracks. Ryan Longwell shanked the 45-yard field goal attempt.
Little did we know how much the next play would turn the game later on. Newton was sacked by E.J. Henderson and fumbled. Jared Allen, who occasionally made his presence felt in this one, was there for the recovery. The Vikings went to Harvin on consecutive runs and quickly covered the 16 yards for a 7-0 lead.
At least the Panthers did not let momentum sway too much, holding possession for 14 plays and converting a pair of third downs. The drive stalled when they failed twice on third down. The first time was an incomplete pass thrown into heavy traffic, but Byron Bell was called for holding. Leslie Frazier decided to back them up instead of risking a long made field goal. After an incomplete pass, the strategy paid off.
A shovel pass to Adrian Peterson (5 receptions for 76 yards, 1 TD) for 22 yards helped Minnesota change field position, but it wound up not mattering. Carolina's offense started to click with three big plays by Steve Smith (8 touches for 112 yards) totaling 57 yards, one being a creative run. A touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey tied it up at 7 early in the second quarter.
A flat possession by the Vikings followed. It was highlighted by Percy Harvin and Captain Munnerlyn, who had a terrific game, scuffling on the Panthers' sideline. It looked like Carolina might be starting to take over when Newton hit Greg Olsen on a beautiful 39-yard touchdown pass down the middle when he beat Husain Abdullah who probably wishes he had gotten safety help. Looking to get even, Minnesota drove right down the field, but at the end of a third-down conversion, Harvin had the ball stripped from his new friend Munnerlyn.
Carolina worked its way out of the poor field position only to watch Allen get a different part of the sack/fumble action, this time leaving the recovery for Chad Greenway. At this point, Peterson (21 carries for 86 yards, 1 TD) was getting stood up in the running game, so the Vikings smartly threw to him twice for a quick 39 yards and the tying touchdown as the half pretty much expired.
Once again, Carolina's offense got on the move, not even getting to third down until it was inside the Minnesota 30-yard line. Newton's 23-yard scamper was the highlight, and he capped the march by hitting Smith for a 22-yard scoring pass to put the Panthers up 21-14.
After an exchange of three-and-out possessions, Minnesota unleashed Toby Gerhart. His presence seemed to spark "All Day," who up to that point had been flat. Basically alternating to start the drive, the duo combined to carry the ball five times for a quick 48 yards. A pair of 12-yard completions helped move them to the red zone and Peterson capped the scoring drive with a 9-yard touchdown run to tie the game. The third quarter came to a close with a three-and-out by Carolina.
Minnesota's next two possessions were sandwiched around another three-and-out by the Panthers. This is where Ponder's steady play came in. He delivered a 13-yard pass to Visanthe Shiancoe on 3rd-and-11 to extend the first drive. On the next drive, Ponder utilized Percy Harvin to cash in another third down (11-yard pass) and completed two other throws totaling 37 yards with the game on the line. The drive did stall inside the 20 when he threw short twice, but Longwell hit the 31-yard field goal to put the visitors up 24-21.
At this point, I expected some Newton magic. He opened the drive with an incompletion, but hit Legedu Naanee and Jonathan Stewart on moderate gains to put the ball at the Carolina 40. Then he got caught by safety Husain Abdullah for the third and final sack he took, and only one he retained possession on. A short completion and misfire later made it 4th-and-14. I thought it was over, but he threw a strike to Brandon LaFell that covered 44 yards and put the ball at the Minnesota 21.
Two plays later, Smith was flagged for a crucial holding penalty when Newton had converted a third down by running to the 3. Newton hit Smith on a short gain, but the damage was done. Instead of trying for the winning touchdown, or kicking what amounted to an extra point to force overtime, Olindo Mare came in to attempt a 31-yard field goal. He pulled it wide and the game was over.
Now back to the rookie quarterback showdown. Looking up and down the box score, it was a dead even game in almost every area. What was the difference then? Ponder (18-for-28 236 yards 1 TD) protected the ball and Newton (22-for-35 290 yards 3 TD) did not. His two fumbles led to a pair of two-play touchdown drives totaling just 55 yards.
Another factor was Carolina's thin linebacker position. Omar Gaither went down in the second half and eventually, they just could not come up in run support. Aided by the running game and Ponder's key plays, the offense did just enough.
Rams 31, Saints 21
I just don't know anymore. Six days after publishing a dissertation on how the bad teams were especially bad in the wake of the lockout, this happens. The NFL makes absolutely no sense.
This game was not the result of some fluky turnovers or shady officiating. The Rams legitimately outplayed New Orleans. They outgained them by 50 yards and had two more first downs. The Saints' offensive line couldn't keep the St. Louis defenders out of the backfield. The Rams tallied a whopping six sacks, including three by Chris Long.
On the other side of the ball, New Orleans had no answer for Steven Jackson, who rumbled for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Jackson also chipped in with four catches for 32 receiving yards.
Jackson's running made life especially easy for Adam Joshua Feeley, who went 20-of-37 for 175 yards and a score to Brandon Lloyd (6-53, TD). Feeley managed the game well, though he got away with an interception in the red zone, thanks to a Jabari Greer drop.
Brees, meanwhile, went 30-of-44 for 269 yards, one touchdown and a pair of picks. The pressure that St. Louis constantly put on Brees prevented him from establishing any sort of rhythm, causing the two turnovers.
The Rams also did a great job of shutting down Brees' favorite weapon, Jimmy Graham, who had just four catches for 39 yards. The only two targets of note were Lance Moore (7-74, TD) and Darren Sproles (6-60).
As you can imagine, the Saints couldn't run the ball particularly well. Mark Ingram was out, so Pierre Thomas paced the team with seven carries for only 23 yards. Fortunately, he saved his fantasy day with a late touchdown.
Ravens 30, Cardinals 27
This was an epic battle of the crappy quarterbacks. Kevin Kolb and Joe Flacco fought tooth and nail, competing for which one wouldn't suck more. Flacco ultimately prevailed, so congratulations are in order.
Let's take a look at how Kolb (10-of-21, 153 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) tried to lose this game for Arizona:
- He took six sacks, including three on the first two drives. I wouldn't say all of them were his fault, but most were the result of him holding on to the ball too long. Kolb's pocket presence and footwork have been beyond shoddy this year.
- Kob was strip-sacked on the third drive, leading to a Baltimore touchdown.
- He tossed an interception in his own territory down four at the end of the third quarter.
- Ray Lewis dropped a potential pick-six.
- Kolb had a lost fumble and an interception in the fourth quarter, but both were nullified by shady penalties.
And here were Flacco's gaffes:
- Flacco (31-of-51, 336 yards, 1 INT) missed a receiver on a 3rd-and-8 on the opening drive. His target wasn't completely open along the sideline, but it's a throw most solid quarterbacks can make nine out of 10 times.
- He nearly tossed a pick-six in the end zone later on that possession.
- Flacco was strip-sacked in the second quarter. Arizona would score two plays later.
- He was strip-sacked again in the third quarter. A lineman of his luckily pounced on it.
- Flacco missed Anquan Boldin in the end zone at the end of the third quarter.
- He fired behind Torrey Smith on a crucial third down in the final period.
Flacco was able to pile up the yardage by heaving deep bombs to Anquan Boldin, who torched all three of Arizona's top cornerbacks. Apparently motivated to defeat his former team, Boldin had seven grabs for 145 yards.
Aside from Boldin, Ray Rice was the main reason Baltimore was able to prevail. He totaled 99 yards and three touchdowns. Chris Wells, meanwhile, was a surprise producer coming off an injury; he gained 83 yards and a score on 22 attempts.
(Editor's Note: I'm sick of the Giants. There's a reason they fade the second half of every season, and it's because they don't take games like this seriously. This was apparent on the first drive when on a 4th-and-9, Eli Manning heaved an inaccurate bomb to the end zone. It was a careless play call and attempt, and the resulting short field sparked Miami's first touchdown. New York would go on to commit five penalties in the first half alone, while several defensive players loafed around.)
The Dolphins were shorthanded without cornerback Vontae Davis and running back Daniel Thomas, but they started the game strong and played New York tough. Miami had a good drive early in the first quarter as quarterback Matt Moore was moving the ball well. He had a big 16-yard run on 3rd-and-9 to extend the drive. Moore tossed a few passes to Reggie Bush, and a 16-yard connection to Charles Clay. A pass interference penalty on Aaron Ross in the end zone moved the ball to the 1-yard line. Miami capped the drive with Steve Slaton plunging in the end zone.
The Giants came back with a drive that yielded a field goal for New York. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw had a nice 18-yard run. Then, quarterback Eli Manning had a 21-yard pass to tight end Jake Ballard. Still, New York's drive fizzled inside the 20 and they had to settle for the kick. Miami kept up its strong play on its next drive. Moore ran for 11 on third-and-6. The next play saw running back Reggie Bush break out with a 35-yard run. He had a good hole to get to the second level of the defense. About 10 yards downfield, Bush broke tackles from Aaron Ross and Kenny Philips with a spin move. The Dolphins finished the drive on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Moore ran a bootleg and coasted into the end zone to give the Dolphins a 14-3 lead. The Giants were able to answer the score. With only a few seconds left before halftime, Manning tossed a perfect corner touchdown pass to Mario Manningham.
In the first half, Moore was excellent for Miami. He spun away from sacks, picked apart the secondary, and made critical drive-sustaining plays with his feet. His stats don't completely indicate just how well he was playing. He completed 8-of-11 passes for 71 yards with five carries for 31 yards and a score. Manning was also very good, throwing the ball accurately and making good decisions. The biggest issue for the Giants' offense was inconsistent play from the offensive line.
To start the third quarter, Bush ran for 41 yards on two carries to get Miami a field goal. That was all the scoring of the third quarter as the teams gave their punters some work. Early in the final period, Manning led a field goal drive with two good passes to Ballard. On the next possession, the Giants took the lead when Manning hit wide out Victor Cruz on a slant in the intermediate part of the field. He slashed his way through the secondary and dashed into the end zone for a 25-yard score. That put New York up 20-17.
The Giants' defense took over and started putting a lot of heat on Moore. New York's defensive line was overwhelming the Dolphins' front. Osi Umenyiora beat Jake Long for a sack. Mathias Kiwanuaka got by Vernon Carey for a sack on the next play. That ended up putting Moore in a 4th-and-23 just after the 2-minute warning. He threw downfield and was intercepted by Corey Webster. Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck also got into the sack column in the game.
Moore finished 13-of-22 for 138 yards and one interception. Earlier in the week, Bush admitted that he and his team have been terrible this year. Well, Bush tried to do something about it as he ran for 103 yards on 15 carries. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall had 55 yards on four catches.
Manning had a fabulous performance. He was 31-of-45 for 349 yards and two touchdowns. Bradshaw ran for 50 yards on 13 carries and had five receptions for 38 yards. The Giants wide outs all had solid games. Cruz led the unit with seven receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown. Hakeem Nicks caught six for 67 yards and Manningham notched six receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown. Ballard caught four passes for 55 yards.
One thing that was clear from the game was both teams could use help on the offensive line.
Bills 23, Redskins 0
The Saints beat the Colts by the score of 62-7 last Sunday night, but this was more of a lopsided victory, despite Buffalo's relatively slim margin of victory. The Bills completely dominated this contest and probably should have won by 55, outgaining Washington, 390-178. This marked the first time in Mike Shanahan's overrated career that one of his teams was shut out.
The Redskins couldn't do anything:
- Running the ball was not an option. Ryan Torain gained just 14 yards on eight carries (Roy Helu had no attempts) despite the fact that Pro Bowl nose tackle Kyle Williams was out. I thought Washington would be able to pound the rock without Williams clogging the interior, but the offensive line just couldn't open up any lanes.
- John Beck was awful (20-of-33, 208 yards, 2 INTs), but it's not like he had much of a chance. Buffalo's pass rush overwhelmed Washington's front, accumulating a ridiculous nine sacks.
- The defense was inept against both the run and the pass. Ryan Fitzpatrick went 21-of-27 for 262 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Both of Fitzpatrick's scores went to Scott Chandler (2-35). Steve Johnson paced the team in receiving (6-57).
- Fred Jackson was a nightmare for Washington. He rushed for 120 yards on 26 carries and also caught three balls for 74 receiving yards.
This marked the first time that the Bills have covered the spread in Toronto. From the shots I saw from FOX's cameras, it looked like half the seats were empty. Great job screwing the great Buffalo fans out of another home game, Ralph.
(Editor's Note: When I heard that John Fox created a specific game plan for Tim Tebow, I actually posted the following on the forum: "The Broncos are either going to win 35-0 or lose 35-0. Well, at least I got the margin correct.)
Many were interested to see how Tim Tebow would fair against the Lions' 10th-ranked defense. He started the game well on the first drive with a 14-yard out route completion to Eric Decker. Tebow then dropped in a precise toss to him in the back of the end zone for what should have been a 21-yard touchdown. Decker didn't do well to tap his feet inbounds so it was ruled incomplete. The drive ended with a field goal.
Detroit answered with Matthew Stafford exploiting broken coverage. There was a miscommunication as Titus Young was wide open in the end zone with no Bronco player within 30 yards of him. The 41-yard touchdown pass was Young's first score of his career.
Things got tough for Tebow in the second quarter. Lions defensive end Cliff Avril notched a sack-fumble after beating right tackle Orlando Franklin to nail Tebow from his blind side. The Denver signal-caller made a nice 16-yard pass to Decker as he stepped up and delivered a throw on the money, while also taking a hit. After that, Tebow was sacked again, this time by Stephen Tulloch, and started "Tebowing" right above the second-year quarterback.
Tebow then had a string of incompletions. Some passes were off the mark, but his receivers also had issues. On some good throws from their quarterback, the Broncos wideouts were dropping passes, and in the case of Demaryius Thomas, a pass was simply slapped out of the hands. The Bronco receivers were seeing man coverage but weren't getting separation. In the first half, Tebow was sacked three times and under steady pressure, making only 4-of-13 passes for 37 yards. He also had carried the ball four times for 15 yards. FOX analyst John Lynch was very critical of the Broncos' play calling for not setting up some easy completions.
When it was Detroit's turn, Stafford threw a jump ball and Tony Scheffler made a juggling 29-yard catch to set up the Lions at the Broncos' 2-yard line. Scheffler finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown reception on third-and-goal. Later in the second quarter, Stafford moved the ball through the air with a few passes to Calvin Johnson. That led to Maurice Morris diving to the goal line from a yard out. Detroit was up 24-3 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Tebow got hit from behind again by Avril. This time on the sack-fumble, Avril picked up the ball and ran into the end zone for a score. A short time later, Johnson torched Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey for a 56-yard touchdown pass along the sidelines.
In the fourth quarter, Denver finally got a drive going, but it ended in disaster. Tebow threw an awful pass for Decker that was too high and behind him. Cornerback Chris Houston had the ball sail to him, and with the interception in hand, he raced 100 yards down the field for a score. On the next possession, the Broncos finally responded to the Lions' 45 unanswered points. Tebow threw a 14-yard screen pass to Decker for the home team's only touchdown.
The game was extremely ugly for Denver. Tebow played poorly and got no help. His offensive line was awful, allowing seven sacks. His receivers couldn't get separation, and the play-calling was horrible. The Broncos' defense was equally terrible.
Tebow completed 18-of-39 passes for 172 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Decker led Denver in receiving with six catches for 72 yards and a score.
Stafford finished 21-of-30 for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson collected 125 yards and a score on six receptions.
Tom Brady owns the Steelers. Brady has never lost when favored by less than a field goal. I mean, everything we've known pre-lockout has practically been erased. It's like the NFL is a completely new sport this year.
This was a massacre. Pittsburgh moved the chains at will. Ben Roethlisberger made New England's defense look like a bunch of high-schoolers. Meanwhile, the Steelers' stop unit put immense pressure on Brady and smothered his receivers. I'd say it was almost as if Pittsburgh was battling some CFL team, but that would be an insult to the CFL.
The Steelers outgained New England by more than 200 yards and won the time-of-possession battle by about 19 minutes. Roethlisberger's passes barely hit the ground; he went 36-of-50 for 365 yards, two touchdowns and a pick.
Hines Ward's absence obviously didn't affect Big Ben. Four Steelers caught at least five passes: Heath Miller (7-85), Emmanuel Sanders (5-70), Mike Wallace (7-70) and Antonio Brown (9-67, TD). I hope you were able to pick up Brown because he's emerging as a big-time stud.
Rashard Mendenhall didn't post mind-boggling stats or anything, but he was effective when utilized. He totaled 92 yards (70 rushing, 22 receiving) on just 13 carries.
Speaking of running backs, I think someone forgot to tell Bill Belichick that this is a new decade. Why the hell did Kevin Faulk lead the team in carries and get more total touches (11) than any other Patriot? Where are Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen? Why draft two running backs in the first three rounds if you're not going to use either one?
Brady was a mediocre 24-of-35 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. As mentioned, he had a ton of pressure in his face. He was also frazzled by Pittsburgh's press man coverage. As Peter King noted, Ryan Clark said that he had never played so much press man coverage in his life. I'm sure Brady will adjust for the next meeting between these two squads - unless he has to rely on a 40-year-old running back again.
(Editor's Note: I was glad to get one pick correct on Sunday afternoon. They should throw me a parade for nailing this one.)
The 49ers have the best defense no one is talking about, but this was not exactly a loaded Browns' offense on the other side. Mohammed Massaquoi was out, forcing the smaller Jordan Norwood (5 receptions for 32 yards) into action at wide receiver. Peyton Hillis is still out, and early on, Montario Hardesty injured his calf. Chis Ogbonnaya, not exactly a household name, took over the bulk of the rushing duties. He entered the game with 17 carries and is on his third team in as many seasons. They handed him the ball 11 times, and he came up with 37 tough yards.
Overall, however, Cleveland's offense was without playmakers and unable to mount much of a threat. On their second offensive play, Colt McCoy (22-for-34 241 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) was greeted by Amhad Brooks, who lost his helmet along the way. The sack caused a fumble recovered by Isaac Sopoaga, who was not done making plays on the afternoon.
San Francisco's offense from the 20 was pretty simple. On the three productive plays, they handed it to Frank Gore who gained 14 yards and scored the touchdown. Other than not catching a single pass, he was leaned on heavily with 31 rushes for 134 yards and that score for an early 7-0 lead.
From time to time, McCoy did some damage with his legs, finishing with eight scrambles for 30 yards. He had one such run for a first down on the next drive, but the Browns stalled and punted. The 49ers were pinned at the 1-yard line when Gore made it outside and picked up 23 yards. Almost all of his effective runs were away from the two Hutts in the middle, Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor. His understudy Kendall Hunter followed with a nifty run for 26 yards breaking tackles along the way. With the defense stunned, there was only one play call - the pass to tackle Joe Staley. The former college tight end picked up 17 yards. The lengthy drive did stall eventually when an inside run by Gore was stuffed. A David Akers field goal made it 10-0.
Cleveland's offense managed one first down before punting and the first quarter came to a close. San Francisco got another big run by Gore for 26 yards in between a pair of 19-yard receptions from their tight ends Vernon Davis and Justin Peelle. A Gore touchdown run was overturned, and three consecutive runs failed, giving the Browns possession on downs.
It didn't matter too much. Cleveland did convert a third down with a 17-yard pass to Ben Watson and gained a little field position punting to San Francisco's 36. The 49ers sprinkled in a couple passes to their opponent's former top pick, Braylon Edwards, and capped the drive with a touchdown to their own top selection, Michael Crabtree, for the 17-0 lead. It was looking like a rout.
The Browns did show some spunk in the 2-minute drill though. Dashaun Goldson was nailed for a 15-yard penalty and Joshua Cribbs caught a 12-yard pass to help set up a 52-yard field goal attempt. It put them on the board at the halftime gun, but the home team was very much in control.
Whatever happened at halftime definitely changed things defensively for Cleveland. San Francisco went three-and-out on four of their first five possessions. The Browns got feisty on offense, but getting back to the opening statement, lacked the playmakers to pull this one out. Goldson made up for his penalty earlier by killing a drive that reached the San Francisco 34 with an interception. McCoy threw it up for rookie Greg Little in the end zone, but he was doubled up. The score held at 17-3 after the third quarter.
Rookie Aldon Smith sacked McCoy to end Cleveland's next drive, but the next time they got it, things became interesting all of a sudden. Cribbs caught a ball down the sideline and shed a tackle racing for a 46-yard touchdown. Leading by just one score, it was time for San Francisco's offense to regain their first-half form. This could mean only one thing - a pass to defensive tackle Sopoaga on third down from Cleveland's 32. It went for 18 yards and more importantly, allowed them to chew more time off the clock. The drive took 4:05 and concluded with a short Akers field goal to seal it at 20-10.
Cleveland managed some garbage time yards and that was that. There really was not much to this game. Alex Smith (15-for-24 177 yards 1 TD) did his usual thing, taking just one sack with no turnovers. McCoy (22-for-34 241 yards 1 TD 1 INT) was on his back four times and had the key fumble on the opening drive.
The 49ers rushed for 174 yards on the afternoon and were never legitimately in danger of losing the game even when the Browns pulled close late. Their conservative style might not work in a playoff setting against a high-powered offense, but in the regular season, it is serving them quite well.
Bengals 34, Seahawks 12
The CBS announcers mentioned this during the broadcast - Seattle was really thinking about selecting Andy Dalton with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Instead, the team took struggling tackle James Carpenter, whom many regarded as a third-round prospect. Oops!
This was not a great complete game for Dalton (18-29, 168 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs), but it looked to be at first. He was 13-of-18 for 125 yards and two touchdowns by halftime, which means he was only 5-of-11 for 43 yards and a pair of picks after the break. Pete Carroll screwed up in so many things in this contest (including a called run deep in Cincinnati territory with only a few seconds remaining in the first half, which allowed the clock to expire), so I'll at least give him credit for making some nice second-half adjustments.
What you have to bash the Seattle coaching staff for is the handling of its quarterbacks, both during the offseason and the week leading up to this game. How Carroll thought he could win with Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst is beyond me. And what was up with telling everyone he was going to start Jackson, then giving Whitehurst the nod, and then replacing him with Jackson?
Jackson (21-of-40, 323 yards, INT) was better than Whitehurst (4-of-7, 52 yards), but only by default. The former was knocked out late with a minor injury.
Jackson and Whitehurst didn't have much of a ground attack to work with. The Bengals completely shut down Marshawn Lynch, who gained only 24 yards on 16 carries. He saved his fantasy day with a late score.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, had more success pounding the rock despite the absence of a suspended Cedric Benson. Bernard Scott tallied 76 yards on 22 attempts.
Two key fantasy receivers: A.J. Green had four grabs for 63 yards and a score, while Sidney Rice hauled in seven balls for 102 yards.
Eagles 34, Cowboys 7
"Dream Team, huh? Heh... heh... heh..."
Maybe Vince Young wasn't so crazy/stupid. The Eagles completely demolished the Cowboys, finally looking like the so-called "Dream Team." Despite being just field goal favorites, Philadelphia outgained Dallas, 495-267. More impressively, they won the time-of-possession battle, 42:09 to 17:51.
QB Dog Killer basically did what he wanted. It was just basic pitch and catch. He went 21-of-28 for 279 passing yards and two touchdowns to go along with seven scrambles for 50 rushing yards.
Dallas' defensive game plan was to take away DeSean Jackson (3-31) and Jeremy Maclin (3-54, TD). This left the middle of the field wide open for Brent Celek (7-94, TD) and LeSean McCoy, who was simply amazing. McCoy gashed the Cowboys' stout rush defense for 185 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries.
Tony Romo went 18-of-35 for 203 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pick wasn't his fault - it bounced out of Martellus Bennett's arms - and he was sacked four times, so you can't really blame him for this loss. It didn't help Romo that Philadelphia's stud cornerbacks locked down Dez Bryant (3-28) and Miles Austin-Jones (3-27).
A couple of bright spots for the Cowboys:
- DeMarco Murray looks legit. The problem is that he didn't get many opportunities. Murray gained 74 yards on only eight carries. Dallas just couldn't run the ball because it was behind throughout and seldom possessed the football.
- DeMarcus Ware had a whopping four sacks, which is especially impressive considering the quarterback he was going after.
This was a bloodbath for the Cowboys, and not just because of the score. Several players were knocked out of the game with injuries. Mike Jenkins pulled his hamstring, and could be out for a game or two. Sean Lee sprained his wrist. Jay Ratliff limped off the field with an undisclosed injury. Even punter Mat McBriar was forced out with a foot issue.