Things really couldn't have gone much better for the 49ers on Sunday. They destroyed the Cardinals, which always feels good, but the win didn't hurt their draft status much. It only dropped them 2 spots as the Cardinals will draft 5th and the 49ers will draft 7th. What was even better was that every other 5 win team, except for the Browns, also won. That list includes the Texans, Cowboys, and Lions, who hurt themselves the most of the three dropping from 7th down to 13th. But the real losers were the Seahawks who dropped from 8th all the way down to 21st. Yes they're still playing but let's be honest, they're not that good. In fact, they're down right craptastic, if that's even a word. All 9 of their losses have come in blowout fashion, by 15 points or more. They're a -97 in point differential which is 5th worst in the NFL and more than double the 49ers -41. They have the 27th ranked defense, no QB, and went 3-7 over their last 10 games. In other words, they have some serious holes to fill and will have poor draft position to fill them. But have fun getting smacked around by the Saints next week.
In a cold January game in Green Bay, Mike Martz decided the best strategy was to call passing plays twice as many times as running ones. He also thinks going without a jacket in winter really does make you look more manly instead of just plain stupid. Jay Cutler threw 2 interceptions and the Bears offense went nowhere. But the game didn't really matter for the Bears who had already clinched the #2 seed thanks to playing against a healthy dose of backup QBs during the season. The Packers, on the other hand, did need to win in order to make the playoffs as the #6 seed. "Those guys told us during the game they didn't want us in," Packers WR Donald Driver said. "They didn't want to see us, and now they've got to see us." Actually, you need to beat both the Eagles and Falcons on the road to have any shot of playing the Bears again, but miracles do sometimes happen.
Panthers 10, Falcons 31
Matt Ryan threw for 236 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Falcons crushed the Panthers on their way to clinching the #1 seed in the NFC, while the Panthers are on their way to the #1 draft pick. But even though they're on opposite sides of the football spectrum, the Falcons weren't overlooking the lowly Panthers. "We don't consider it the last game of the season but the first game of the playoffs," said DE John Abraham. No doubt. The playoffs are full of 2 win teams with an erratic rookie QB and a head coach that's just been fired. And I don't consider the 49ers to be rebuilding. They're just giving their fans a chance to experience a variety of coaching styles.
Steelers 41, Browns 9
Ben Roethlisberger set the tone for this game early when on his first pass he found Mike Wallace for a 56 yard touchdown. It was a Steelers record 8th time over the last two seasons that Roethlisberger and Wallace have combined for a TD of over 40 yards. The old record of 7 was set by the famed Bubby Brister/Louis Lipps combo. Now there's a couple of guys that must have had their names made fun of in school. The win clinched the AFC North for the Steelers, but for Roethlisberger, it felt more like redemption. "We have been through a lot," said Roethlisberger who also says he feels more at peace with himself. Still waiting to hear how the girl feels.
Vikings 13, Lions 20
After starting the season 2-10, with 6 of those losses coming by 5 points or less, the Lions finished strong, winning their final four games and have high hopes for the future. Meanwhile, the Vikings endured allegations about Brett "open fly" Favre, a brief reunion with Randy Moss, the firing of Brad Childress, and the collapse of the Metrodome's roof. They might have both finished with 6-10 records, but they seem to be moving in different directions. It's also the end for Favre who insists he's done. I tend to believe him since I can't imagine anyone will be traveling to Louisiana this time to change his mind. "It's been a wonderful ride for me," said Favre. "One game, one season does not define me. There will be people saying, 'It's a shame he went out that way.'" And there will be even more people saying, "I'm just glad he went."
The Raiders made history on Sunday be being the only team ever to go undefeated in the AFC West but still miss the playoffs. I guess that's what happens when you go 2-10 against teams not in your division. The Raiders used a strong running game to outgain the Chiefs 344 to 201 and held the NFL's top rated rushing attack to only 115 yards thanks in large part to Todd Haley's stupid insistence of splitting the rushing load between Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. Charles rushed for 87 yards on 14 carries. Jones rushed for 17 yards on 10 carries. You do the math. The win ensured the Raiders would finish without a losing record for the first time since '02. "We're not losers anymore," said Raiders coach Tom Cable. "We came here to get the sixth win, which means we went 6-0 in the division and most importantly, we are done with that losing. We are not losers anymore." Well, you went 8-8 so you're not exactly winners either.
Buccaneers 23, Saints 13
Second year QB Josh Freeman completed 21 of his 26 passes for 255 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Bucs beat the banged up Saints to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. That was until both the Packers and Giants ended up winning, killing those slim hopes. Since the Falcons were crushing the Panthers, and the Saints had nothing but pride to play for, they pulled most of their starters in the 4th when the Bucs were up by only one touchdown. Now the Saints, who have never won a road playoff game in franchise history, will have to win at least two and probably three road games if they want to return to the Super Bowl. Of course, they've only ever played 6 road playoff games in franchise history, and most of the current players only took part in one of those losses, but it sounds more dramatic to say it the other way. Not to mention their first game is against the Seahawks so they should put an end to that streak real fast.
Mark Sanchez started the game and stayed in long enough to hand the ball off 9 times and not attempt a pass before making way to Mark "he's still playing?" Brunell. The Bills turned the ball over 6 times and Joe McKnight rushed for a career best 158 yards as the Jets ran roughshod, whatever that means, over the Bills. The Jets now have their sites set on Peyton Manning and the Colts while the Bills are missing the playoffs for the 11th straight season, tied with the Lions for the NFL's longest current drought. "It hurts," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "It does." If you think that hurts, try watching the T.Ocho show. And yes, I'm reusing old jokes.
The Bengals outgained the Ravens 395 to 199, but Ed Reed intercepted 2 passes and Ray Lewis recovered two fumbles on way to forcing 5 Bengals turnovers. Reed now has 8 interceptions on the season in only 10 games. The win gave the Ravens a shot at the #2 seed but the Steelers beatdown of the Browns eliminated any hope of that. Still, the Ravens feel good about where they're at. "We came in and took care of business, which was to go from 11 to 12," Lewis said. "That's the most important thing for us to get that 12th victory. I just think it's huge." I guess I didn't realize a 12-4 #5 seed had that much better a chance of winning it all than an 11-5 #5 seed. By the way, your Old Spice commercials blow.
Titans 20, Colts 23
Adam Vinatieri kicked a 43 yard FG as time expired to slip the Colts past the Titans and into the playoffs. The also topped 100 yards rushing for the 3rd straight game, all of them wins. It's good news for the Colts and their fans but bad news for me since I predicted the Colts would miss the playoffs before the season began and I wanted to rub it in everyone's nose that laughed at me for making such an outrages prediction. Still, they're a far cry from last years team that started 14-0. But what everyone wants to know is, what's going on with Randy Moss? In 8 games with the Titans, he finished with 6 catches for 80 yards, as the Titans went 1-7 in those games after starting the year 5-3. Maybe no one told him he's supposed to play better, not completely disappear, in a contract year.
Cowboys 14, Eagles 13
With the Eagles locked into the #3 seed, most of their key players sat out, including Michael Vick. That was good news for a Cowboys team full of players and coaches fighting to keep their jobs. Kevin Kolb threw 3 interceptions and lost a fumble but the Eagles still almost won until 3rd string QB Stephen McGee found Jason Witten for a 4 yard TD with 55 seconds remaining. The win improved interim coach Jason Garrett's record to 5-3, with all three losses coming by a combined 7 points, however Jerry Jones has yet to say if Garrett will get the job. He's even said he's going to interview WR coach Ray Sherman first. Not because he's actually considering Sherman for the job but because the NFL says every team must interview at least one minority candidate even if you have no interest in hiring that candidate. I hope they at least give him a fruit basket for agreeing to go through this charade.
As a side note before a get any angry posts. I agree there are a lot of highly qualified minority coaches being overlooked and more need to be given a shot. I'm just not sure the current policy has done much to change that. Besides, I'm only joking. Sort of.
Giants 17, Redskins 14
The Redskins lost but their fans were still cheering at the end. The Giants won but they acted like they lost. The reason? In the games final minutes the score of the Bears/Packers game was announced and the Packers win meant the Giants fell 1 spot short of the playoffs. The fans even started cheering, "Green Bay won!" in an attempt to taunt the Giants. It worked. "There fans were all cheering and what not," said DT Barry Cofield. "That shows you the state of their team, that they have to cheer about us failing. That's when you have no success; those are the kind of things that excite you." Personally, I don't see anything wrong with that. The 49ers may have missed the playoffs but at least I can still laugh at the Cardinals and Cowboys.
Tim Tebow hit Brandon "talk to the finger" Lloyd for a 14 yard TD to give the Broncos an early 7-0 lead, but the Chargers answered by scoring on 5 straight drives to open up a 26-7 lead. The Broncos fought back in the 4th to make it close, but a hail mary pass by Tebow at the end was knocked down in front of the goal line. The loss dropped the Broncos to 4-12, the first time in franchise history they've lost that many games in a season. But interim coach Eric Studesville was still pleased with the result. "I can't ask any more than what this group gave me," said Studesville. "They played for each other and they played the game the way it's supposed to be played." Uhm...they went 1-3 while you were coaching. I'm pretty sure that's not the way it's supposed to be played.
Rams 6, Seahawks 13
Change the playoffs! Blow up the NFC West! Football is flawed! The Giants and Bucs got screwed! Seriously, give it a rest. So a 7-9 team made the playoffs for the first time in NFL history. Big deal. It was bound to happen eventually and teams with losing records make it into the playoffs all the time in the NBA and NHL. I can see changing how teams are seeded so the Seahawks would be the #6 seed not the #4 seed, but other than that, leave it alone. They'll be gone soon enough and all will be right with the world. As for the Giants and Bucs, this is hardly the first time a 10-6 team has missed the playoffs. It even happened to the 49ers in '91. In the meantime, enjoy watching Pete Carroll get upset as his team gets samcked around on national television.
Cardinals 7, 49ers 38
Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith. Alex Smith.
OK. Now that I got that out of my system I'm done talking about him and I'm ready to move on.