Week 10 – Thrills, Spills and Downright upsets
Detroit Lions 18, Green Bay Packers 16
1. The Lions did everything in their power to let this game get away. Matt Prater missed two extra-point attempts, the second of which came late in the fourth quarter and gave Green Bay new life down 18-10. The Packers scored a TD on the ensuing drive, failed on their two-point conversion attempt, but then recovered the onside kick when Calvin Johnson couldn’t secure the ball with 31 seconds to play. The Lions escaped because Packers kicker Mason Crosby badly missed a 52-yard field-goal attempt on the game’s final play.
3. James Starks didn’t make the most of his audition as Green Bay’s top running back with Eddie Lacy sidelined by a groin issue. Starks managed just 42 yards on 15 carries, and appeared to leave yards on the field on several runs. He had better success in the passing game, but didn’t look like a dynamic option. The Packers need Lacy — or at least the Lacy of last year.
Jacksonville Jaguars 22, Baltimore Ravens 20
1. Elvis Dumervil sacked Blake Bortles as time expired, but was charged with a facemask penalty in the process. Since NFL games cannot end on a defensive penalty, the Jaguars were allowed one last play, offering redemption for Myers after a missed chip shot that would have given his team the lead late in the third quarter. At 3-6, Jacksonville is just one game out of first place in the eminently winnable AFC South.
2. Allen Robinson is the superior talent, but fellow second-year receiver Allen Hurns is developing into one of the league’s most effective second fiddles. He’s the first player since Dez Bryant in 2012 to catch a touchdown pass in seven consecutive games. Hurns took big hits on receptions of 17 and 21 yards to put the Jaguars on the doorstep of the end zone late in the third quarter, only to see Bryan Waltersdrop an easy touchdown pass and Myers miss a 26-yard field goal.
3. Although far from flawless, Joe Flacco deserves credit for moving the offense with little help from the rushing attack and former special teamer Kamar Aiken as his No. 1 receiver. Minus Steve Smith, Aiken was targeted a whopping 14 times as Flacco’s go-to target outside the numbers. The rest of the offense was limited to dumpoffs and seam throws to fullback Kyle Juszczyk and the speed-challenged tight-end trio of Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. The Ravens finally got a decent performance out of their secondary — particularly cornerback Lardarius Webb — but the offense just doesn’t have enough firepower to save a lost season.
Miami Dolphins 20, Philadelphia Eagles 19
1. Sam Bradford left the game with a left (non-throwing) shoulder injury and a concussion midway through the third quarter. The Eagles led 16-13 at the time, and proceeded to blow many opportunities to put the game away. Mark Sanchez moved the ball in spurts, but he went Full Sanchez by throwing a crushing interception into heavy traffic with under five minutes remaining. The 4-5 Eagles only trailed by one point at the time, and Sanchez also failed to drive for a game-winning field goal with plenty of time remaining. Every fan who wanted to see Sanchez all season did not enjoy getting their wish.
2. Ndamukong Suh earned his paycheck Sunday. He finished with eight tackles, three quarterback hits, three tackles for a loss and a quarterback hit. After the Eagles scored touchdowns on their first two drives, the Dolphins held Philadelphia to only three points on their next 12 (!) possessions. Bradford and Sanchez were both under plenty of pressure. DeMarco Murray(61 yards on 23 carries) was held in check. Miami’s defense was the difference.
3. Miles Austin is killing the Eagles. He had a drop on a deep pass and made little effort on Sanchez’s fourth-quarter interception. He also wasn’t aware of the ball coming his way on the Eagles’ final drive. Murray also had a bad drop in an ugly final sequence that also included a poor Mark Sanchez pass and an offensive line breakdown.
Pittsburgh Steelers 30, Cleveland Browns 9
1. Ben Roethlisberger’s return came sooner than expected. Still nursing a mid-foot sprain, the Steelers quarterback took over on Pittsburgh’s third drive in place of Landry Jones, who was carted away with an ankle injury. Big Ben came out slinging, hitting Martavis Bryant right away for 44 yards on a play that set the tone for Pittsburgh’s pass-happy offense. Roethlisberger showed no sign of physical discomfort as he repeatedly slung it deep for an outrageous 286 yards passing at the half and 379 on the day. Spraying the ball to seven different receivers at 11.5 yards per throw, Big Ben put up a heroic effort.
2. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported before the game that Browns coach Mike Pettine doesn’t believe Johnny Manziel has earned the starting gig. I see a quarterback who needs to keep playing. Why not? Despite clumsily losing the ball for a fumble on his first pass attempt, Manziel rebounded to hook up with Travis Benjamin for a 61-yard gain en route to hitting 19 of his first 23 passes. He generated points on just two of his 11 drives, but Cleveland’s dried-up ground game, spotty blocking and endless penalties were no help as Manziel was sacked five times on the day. Finishing 33-of-45 passing for 372 yards with a touchdown and a pick, Manziel made his mistakes, but showed overall growth under center. We don’t understand what the Browns are doing if they sit him again. Find out what you have. After all, certain moments from Johnny suggest something special.
3. Coming off his 170-yard rushing explosion against the Raiders, DeAngelo Williams was held to nine yards on his first 10 carries before finishing with 54 yards on the day. The Browns had problems of their own, running for just 15 yards at 1.1 yards per tote. It’s become painfully clear that Isaiah Crowell can’t handle lead duties. It was troubling to see Cleveland’s O-line wholly overwhelmed by the Steelers front seven. Browns first-round lineman Cameron Erving took his lumps filling in for the injured Joel Bitonio at left guard.
Chicago Bears 37, St. Louis Rams 13
1. The Bears used two huge catch-and-run touchdowns in the first half to bury the St. Louis Rams. Zach Miller rumbled for an 87-yard touchdown in the first quarter, aided by some poor tackling — the 31-year-old tight end still has some wheels. Running back Jeremy Langford added an 83-yard score on a perfectly timed screen pass. With the yards-after-catch plays, Jay Cutler became the first Bears quarterback in franchise history to throw two 80-plus yard touchdowns in a single game.
2. This game was a Jeff Fisher offensive nightmare. Down by two scores early, the Rams were forced to put the ball in the hands of Nick Foles. Predictably, the quarterback struggled. His long release allowed Vic Fangio’s corners to make breaks on the ball, when those passes were even on target. Foles was constantly off the mark high and wide when trying to put it in tight windows. Sometimes I wonder if Foles ever yells “500” when chucking up hanging deep balls into double coverage. He completed a sad 47 percent of his passes for 5.7 yards per attempt and a dreadful interception. Foles is just not a good quarterback.
3. We should be looking at the future of the Bears’ backfield. Langford again showed good vision and patience in the run game and broke some big gains in the pass attack, including outrunning the Rams’ secondary on the touchdown scoot. Langford possesses the speed to get to the edge and the power between the tackles. The rookie earned 73 yards on 20 carries, 109 yards on seven receptions and two scores. Ka’Deem Carey added some oomph in spells. With the two young backs looking spry, Matt Forte’s return to Chicago in the offseason likely would be at a discount.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10, Dallas Cowboys 6
1. Rookie quarterbacks will always have peaks and valleys, and Winston is no different. Winston threw two interceptions — he had gone four games without a turnover before Sunday — and very nearly cost the Bucs the game with a goal line fumble on Tampa Bay’s final drive that was recovered in the end zone by the Cowboys. A defensive holding penalty wiped out the turnover and gave the Bucs new life. Better to be luck than good.
2. The Cowboys have lost seven straight games because they have no idea how to finish games without Tony Romo. Dez Bryant had his chances in this one, dropping a Matt Cassel pass with four minutes to play that would have been a huge third-down conversion. Bryant had a chance to redeem himself on the Cowboys’ last play from scrimmage, but he didn’t make a play on Cassel’s end zone heave that was intercepted by Bradley McDougald. Bryant was calling for pass interference, but he would have been better off just going up for the ball.
3. Mike Evans was hard on himself last week after finishing with “just” eight catches off 17 targets against the Giants. He had eight more catches on Sunday — this time on 13 targets — and was Winston’s security blanket all day. Evans was abusing Morris Claiborne before the cornerback left with a hamstring injury.
Carolina Panthers 27, Tennessee Titans 10
1. The Panthers stuck with their winning formula, becoming the first team since the 1989-90 Chicago Bears to run for at least 100 yards in 20 consecutive games. Newton got off to the best start of his career, completing his first 11 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. A better-than-advertised Titans defense stiffened in the second half and sacked Newton a season-high five times, but the MVP candidate led a back-breaking, 10-play touchdown drive to put the game away late in the fourth quarter.
2. After Marcus Mariota nearly matched Newton throw-for-throw in the first half, the Titans’ offense went in the tank in the second half, failing to score a single point. Mariota closed out the final two quarters with an interception, three drives that ended in punts and a lost fumble by Dexter McCluster. With Kendall Wright inactive for a second straight game, Mariota has no reliable weapons beyond tight end Delanie Walker.
3. Carolina’s defense is fueled by five legitimate stars in cornerback Josh Norman, defensive tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei and linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. They will welcome back a sixth in two weeks, as pass rusher Charles Johnson is expected back from IR boomerang for the Week 12 matchup with the Cowboys. The Panthers don’t play an opponent with a winning record until a pair of NFC South showdowns with the Falcons in Weeks 14 and 16.
Washington Redskins 47, New Orleans Saints 14
1. Washington offensive line coach Bill Callahan is a genius when it comes to blocking schemes. This is a fact. But that does not at all excuse the Saints’ defense on Sunday, which was absolutely embarrassed by a series of gouging screens and draws that led to 27 first-half points alone. Kirk Cousins is a starting-level NFL quarterback, but he is not the kind of quarterback that should be putting up 297 yards and three touchdowns AT HALFTIME. Washington had their second-highest yardage total within the first half hour. This will all eventually fall on the shoulders of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Over the years, I’ve been one of his biggest defenders and was a firm believer in the versatile run/pass secondary he was building in New Orleans. Those days are just about over. The Saints need to start thinking about a change.
2. As an extension of our first point, the Saints look like an absolute mess sometimes. Coaches argue with one another and players argue with coaches, but it happens on an incredibly consistent basis for a franchise that is still viewed as “stable” by some. Brees waved off the punt team on Sunday deep in New Orleans’ own territory and went on to sling a pass two yards short of the marker. Washington was up so many points, they didn’t know if it was proper etiquette to kick a field goal up 44-14 or to go for it on fourth-and-3.
3. At 4-5, Washington finds itself in an interesting position here, with games against the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys (2) still remaining on their schedule. Consistency has been the issue all season long, but if they can play half as efficient against the Panthers next week and against the Giants the following Sunday, Gruden and Co. could at least add to the absolute traffic jam atop the division.
Minnesota Vikings 30, Oakland Raiders 14
1. The Vikings dialed up a time-tested plan on offense: Hand it to Adrian Peterson. Rinse and repeat.The All-Pro back barreled through Oakland’s fifth-ranked run defense for 203 yards on 26 attempts, marking the sixth 200-yard outing of his stellar career. It was impressive to watch Peterson grow stronger as the game progressed, plowing for tough yards and chewing up the clock before breaking free on an 80-yard touchdown gallop in the fourth quarter that sunk a knife into the Raiders. It was Peterson’s biggest output since running for 211 yards in Week 13 against the Bears in 2013.
2. In a mostly ugly game between two promising second-year passers, Derek Carr came up short against Teddy Bridgewater. The Raiders quarterback wove almost all his magic during the second quarter, throwing his 20th and 21st touchdowns on the year, already matching his rookie output. I love Carr’s desire to challenge defenses deep. We saw this on Oakland’s second scoring march, with Carr unfurling a 38-yard rope to Amari Cooper before hitting Andre Holmes for a 34-yard scoring strike to give the Raiders a 14-13 lead. Carr also threw a pair of costly picks, including a crushing lob that landed in the arms of Vikings cornerback Terence Newman with just under four minutes to play.
3. Peterson’s heroics took some of the heat off a 31st-ranked Vikings’ air attack that deserves its low ranking. Bridgewater has thrown for under 250 yards in seven of nine starts this season after dialing up just 140 yards against the Raiders. His 22 attempts were fewer than Peterson’s 26 carries. The Vikings signal-caller is careful with the ball and runs Norv Turner’s scheme with poise, but he doesn’t offer you the deep-strike talents of Carr.
Kansas City Chiefs 29, Denver Broncos 13
1. If the convincing Week 8 victory over Green Bay was the high point of Denver’s season, Sunday was the nadir. Two weeks ago, Peyton Manning appeared to be on the verge of turning the corner and resuscitating the Broncos’ offense. On the same day he was celebrated as the most prolific passer in history, however, Manning authored the ugliest outing of his career, leading to a third-quarter benching in favor of Brock Osweiler. After tossing four interceptions on Sunday, Manning is now on pace for a career-high 30. The question is whether coach Gary Kubiak allows an NFL legend to play through the mistakes or turns to Osweiler for the stretch run.
2. This was a comprehensive beatdown by the Chiefs’ defense, equivalent to the Broncos’ dismantling of the Packers referenced above. Led by All-Pro pass rusher Justin Houston, defensive lineman Jaye Howard and Comeback Player of the Year candidate Eric Berry, Kansas City’s defense has been one of the league’s stingiest since its September struggles. With three consecutive victories, Andy Reid’s squad is back in the AFC wild-card hunt.
3. Strange but true: The Chiefs have played their best ball of the season since star halfback Jamaal Charles was lost for the season. Charcandrick West has been more than capable as a fill-in, averaging 133 yards from scrimmage during the three-game winning streak. The offense has also gotten a shot in the arm from De’Anthony Thomas, who has been utilized in a Tavon Austin-like role as a package-play threat. Ultimately, though, this is a field-goal offense in a touchdown league. While that’s working just fine in November, it’s not a sustainable formula for January success.
New England Patriots 27, New York Giants 26
1. Facing fourth-and-10 at his own 20-yard line with no timeouts and 88 seconds left, Tom Brady needed a completion to keep the Patriots season unblemished at 9-0. He found Danny Amendola on that play, and two more key times on the team’s game-winning field goal drive. This was not Brady’s best game of the season. He was picked off at the goal line with under five minutes left and was lucky not to be picked off to start the final.
Yet this was still a vintage Brady performance, reminscent of his early championship performances. The Patriots won without Dion Lewis, their top two tackles, and Julian Edelman, who left with a foot injury early in the game. New England trailed by 10 points in the third quarter and trailed two different times in the fourth quarter. And Brady just found a way to get it done on a game-winning field goal drive. The only thing different is that Stephen Gostkowski is now the NFL’s best kicker instead of Adam Vinatieri.
2. Eli Manning deserved a better fate. He had a career high 251 yards in the first half and did a masterful job picking on the weak spots of the Patriots secondary. The Giants looked like the better team for much of the day, and Manning’s willingness to go down the field paid off. We can’t completely kill Tom Coughlin for throwing the ball late instead of burning clock because he was trying to let his best players win the game.
3. Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty combined to give up a 87-yard touchdown to Odell Beckham on the Giants’ first play from scrimmage. (McCourty seemed most at fault for letting that play go long.) After that, Butler put together one of the best performances by a cornerback we’ve seen all season. Butler took Beckham in press man coverage all game and only gave up three more catches for 17 yards on 11 more targets. His quick hands knocked a potential game-winning score out of Beckham’s hands.
Arizona Cardinals 39, Seattle Seahawks 32
1. The Cardinals almost literally fumbled this one away. Palmer was stripped twice deep in their own territory in the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks took advantage, converting both of those fumbles into touchdowns to swing a eight-point deficit into a four-point lead. The pocket around Carson Palmer collapsed under an intense pass rush from Michael Bennett and blitzing linebackers, and the quarterback looked frazzled for the first time all game. Errors like that will kill Arizona against teams that don’t give away games in the fourth quarter.
2. Late game woes, meet the Seattle Seahawks. Oh, you already know each other? Once again, Seattle blew a fourth-quarter lead for the fifth time this year — albeit, this one lasted for just over four minutes — and lost another heartbreaker. In fact, in all five of Seattle’s losses this year, the Seahawks have held a lead in the fourth quarter. If Seattle misses out on the playoffs — and at 4-5, they just might — it will rightly because they could not close out close games.
3. Michael Floyd had himself an evening. The Cardinals’ best receiver not named Larry Fitzgerald made sure the vaunted Legion of Boom knew his name Sunday night. First, Floyd burned Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor on a pretty streak down the right sideline and toe-tapped in the corner for his first score of the night. Then he left Cary Williams in the CenturyLink rubber-pellet dust on a streak down the left sideline, hauled in a perfect Palmer heave and walked a tight rope into the end zone. Floyd compiled seven catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns before leaving with a hamstring injury. (For what it’s worth, Fitzgerald posted a measly 10 catches for 130 yards, but when is that news?)