The key to Mark's success: hand the ball off - USA TODAY Sports
A look back at all the games in week 14
Say hello to the newest flavor of the week in the NFL, the New England Patriots. The Patriots have now rolled off 7 consecutive wins and in 4 of those games they completely dump trucked/curb stomped/farted on the team they were playing, including a wafting of retched halitosis breath last night against the Texans. Given the fickle nature of so many fans, many are already anointing the Patriots as the team to beat.
So are the Patriots really that good? It should be pointed out that in their other 3 wins one was an OT win at home against the Jets, another was a 6-point win at home against the Bills, and the 3rd was a 7-point win in Miami where several early Dolphins miscues were turned into a 17-3 second quarter lead before the Dolphins were able to fight back and make it a game.
It should also be pointed out that the Texans haven't exactly been rolling over teams of late. In their previous 3 games they needed OT to get past the Jaguars at home, lucked out with the stupidity of Jim Schwartz to beat the Lions in OT on Thanksgiving, and beat the Titans 24-10 thanks in large part to winning the turnover battle 6-0.
While in this game several things went the Patriots way. They recovered both their fumbles including one that bounced forward into the end zone, Matt Schuab was pretending he was a QB for the Cardinals on their second drive and tried to throw into double coverage in the end zone only to watch it be picked off, and it was a good thing they jumping out to a 21-0 lead because they punted on 5 of their next 6 possessions including 4 that were 3-and-out. It also helped that after Schuab made his Cardinals QB impersonation he decided to impersonate a Chiefs QB for most of the rest of the game. As a side note, the QB situation in both Kansas City and Arizona has gotten so bad both teams are starting to wonder what it would take to pry Christian Ponder away from the Vikings since even he would be an improvement over what they have.
The poor play of Schuab was the key to the dominating win since pass defense is the one real weakness of the Patriots. They're surprisingly balanced on offense both running and passing the ball well, and they do a good job defending the run, but their pass defense ranks around the bottom 10 in almost every category. The lone exception is in interceptions where they've had 15, 6th most in the NFL.
That will be the key for the 49ers next week, how well Kaepernick can throw the ball and not trying to force anything that can result in an interception. Truthfully, I actually think their game against the Seahawks the following week will be a much tougher challenge than their game this week against the Pats.
Based on my own statistical analysis I have the 49ers as slight favorites next week with a 57% chance of winning while they're almost even against the Seahawks at 52%. I'd show you my numbers but it's a complicated regression that relies heavily on my gut, is slightly skewed thanks to some rose tinted glasses, and has a margin of error of +/- 25% so it's next to worthless, but I'm sticking with it. Oh, and one other thing, of the Pats 3 losses one came at home against the Cardinals and another was against the Seahawks. Just saying.
If the NFL needed any further proof that the road team in Thursday Night Football was at a disadvantage all they need to do is look at this game. Yes the Broncos won but come on, they should have destroyed the Raiders instead of just handily beating them. And even the most casual fan can't help but notice how much sloppier the play is on Thursday as opposed to the games played later in the week, but that's what happens when teams have less time to prepare and one of those teams loses time thanks to travel.
The Broncos have now won 8 straight after starting the season 2-3 while the Raiders have lost 6 in a row after a 3-4 start. Carson Palmer, who now knows what it means to fall from the frying pan into the fire and he's wondering if it's too late to get back into the frying pan, threw an interception that cost the Raiders a scoring chance and also fumbled to set up the Broncos second TD. Afterwards he said, "To rack up this many losses in a row in the fashion that we've done is just extremely frustrating," No, losing like the Lions, Panthers, and Chargers have lost is frustrating, they way you've been losing is just plain embarrassing. Next up the Chiefs, which is a match made in heaven for anyone wondering what an NFL interpretation of The Three Stooges would look like. Is Palmer more like Larry, Curly, or Moe?
Cardinals 0, Seahawks 58
If you didn't watch the game and saw that score you would assume Russell Wilson just went off on the Cardinals. But you know what happens when you assume? You make an ass out of u and the Cardinals. Actually, it doesn't take much to make an ass out of the Cardinals these days. This is the same team that won their first 4 games including one in New England right?
Russell's stat line was a very pedestrian 7/13, 148 yards, 1 TD, 1 int. And he wasn't pulled until the 4th quarter. The reason for the blowout was that the Seahawks scored 2 defensive TDs, rushed for 284 yards and 4 TDs, and forced 8 turnovers. Although I'm not sure if "forced" is the right word. Maybe "gifted" 8 turnovers would be more accurate. In fact, the Cards had almost as many turnovers (8) as they did 1st downs (10). I will say my idea for a drinking game where you take a shot every time a Cardinals QB misses Larry Fitzgerald was poorly conceived. Fitzgerald finished with 1 reception for 2 yards and I finished with a half empty bottle of scotch.
Jets 17, Jaguars 10
After Mark Sanchez was pulled last week in a 7-6 win over the Cardinals where the Jets won in spite of him not because of him, he was back once again as the starter. Things were not looking good as the Jets entered the locker room at halftime trailing 3-0, but the 3rd quarter was Sanchez time. I know, not as catchy as "Tebow Time" but I couldn't think of a word that started with "S" to use instead.
With their first possession of the 3rd quarter Sanchez drove the Jets 57 yards for their first TD led by him in their last 18 chances, and no, that's not a typo. I should also point out that by leading a drive Sanchez basically turned around and handed the ball off to Shonn Greene. That also seemed to work for the game as the Jets ran the ball 42 times for 166 yards, mostly to Greene (77 yards, 1 TD) and Bilal Powel (78 yards, 1 TD), and tried only 20 pass attempts that netted them 104 yards. "Both those guys found holes because there were holes to be found," Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "It was fun to watch." I think he's talking about the game but he might be referring to the last time he went to pick up girls with his friends at the bar.
Rams 15, Bills 12
Here's your multiple choice question for the day:
Team A has a RB who has 907 rushing yards on the season and is averaging an incredible 6.6 yards per carry. In a game where team A was only trailing for less than 6 minutes, how many times did they hand the ball off to their RB?
D) Team A is the Bills so they don't know what they hell they're doing
If you said "D" that means you're a fan of the NFL and the answer was obvious. Despite leading most of the game and never trailing by more than 1-point until just 48 seconds remained, the Bills decided to hand the ball off to C.J. Spiller a grand total of 7 times and that was in a game where Fred Jackson had to leave because of an injury. Not to mention they came away with only 6-points on 3 drives that got past the Rams 25-yard line (2 FGs and a fumble by Jackson). "We've got to develop a killer instinct," Ryan Fitzpatrick said who finished with 247 yards passing on 33 pass attempts (41 if you count the 5 sacks and 3 runs when the pocket collapsed). "And we've got to win these games if we want to be one of the teams that's sitting there at the end of the year ready for the playoffs." That's 13 years and counting the Bills have missed the playoffs. Hey Toronto, would you like a football team?
Tony Romo finally got to feel what it was like to win a game when the other team makes all the mistakes that allow you to hang around. The Bengals scored on 5 of their first 6 possession of the game while the Cowboys got a FG on their first possession and then punted on 5 of their next 6. The problem was the one time the Bengals didn't score it was because of an interception and it set the Cowboys up for a short 27-yard TD drive. The Bengals also only managed 1 TD and had to settle for 4 FGs and just like annoying in-laws staying at your house, if you let them hang around too long pretty soon they're cleaning out your pantry, using all the gas in your car without refilling it, and leaving an empty toilet paper roll instead of changing it. Honestly, that last one really drives me crazy.
After being outgained offensively 303-185, the Cowboys offense and defense came alive in the 4th quarter. The Bengals managed only 29 yards on their two 4th quarter possessions while the Cowboys had drives of 68 and 50 yards and won on a game winning FG as time expired. It was an emotional win for the Cowboys who had just lost two teammates because of a drunk-driving accident, one in jail the other one dead. "I don't remember crying this much other than maybe the day I was born," defensive lineman Marcus Spears said. Holy crap! You remember the day you were born? I think I'd be traumatized for the rest of my life if I remembered that. Walking in on my parents that one time was traumatizing enough.
Chiefs 7, Browns 30
Jamaal Charles took the opening handoff of the game 80-yards to give the Chiefs a 7-0 lead but it was all downhill from there. Brandon Weeden threw for 217 yards, Travis Benjamin returned a punt 93-yards for a TD, Trent Richardson scored his 8th and 9th TDs on the year tying a Browns rookie record (no points if you can figure out who he tied since anyone with a minimal amount of NFL knowledge should know the answer to that one) and the Browns defense allowed only 230 yards of offense for the rest of the game. Not that it was all that hard playing against Brady Quinn and the Chiefs.
The Browns have now won three straight as they continue their climb out of the NFL's cellar. "It's all kind of coming together," said 14-year veteran kicker Phil Dawson, who booted three field goals. "We're just doing all the little things right now. Guys are hungry to come back to work every day. There's some energy around here that I haven't felt. This is all good." Now the cellar is left with just the Chiefs, Jaguars, and Raiders. I wonder which one will have their legs cut off first to feed to the cannibals living above them like in the book/movie "The Road".
Titans 23, Colts 27
Another Sunday and another Andrew Luck come from behind victory. This time the Colts were trailing by 13-points at halftime but with Luck at the helm (I guess football offenses are somehow similar to ships but I'm not sure I totally see the comparison) you know they're never really out of it. For the 6th time this season Luck led a 4th quarter or OT winning drive which is the most ever by a rookie since the merger in 1970.
Luck's numbers weren't impressive (16/34, 196 yards) and his 2 interceptions give him 18 for the season, tying him with Drew Brees, but when it mattered most he was able to do what was needed to get the win. Trailing 23-21 midway through the 4th Luck led the Colts on back-to-back drives that ended with a 53-yard and 40-yard Adam "yes I'm still playing in the NFL" Vinatieri FGs. "We've got faith in this team, in not quitting," defensive end Cory Redding said. "We don't concede to the word 'quit,' and especially not at home." At the risk of sounding pedantic, can someone explain what he just said? I mean, I know what he's saying it just doesn't make sense when you look at it. You have faith in not quitting? You don't concede to the word "quit"? Are there many teams out there not named the Arizona Cardinals who do quit? And I don't think even they would quit in a close game, or at least I think they wouldn't. Plus, you don't concede to the other team, not a word. But again, I'm probably just being pedantic, which means I really just wanted to use the word "pedantic" in a sentence.
Bears 14, Vikings 21
I heard a rumor from Brandon Marshall that some guys in the NFL in addition to using adderall to gain an edge, "cough" Seahawks "cough", are also using Viagra. Could that be Adrian Peterson's secret? You have all that...energy...built up inside you so it makes you play harder (pun intended). Peterson had another monster day rushing for 154 yards and 2 TDs and was complemented by another sub-par day by Ponder who threw for a whopping 91 yards and an interception. I guess that would make him the equivalent of going to a nude beach and seeing Roseanne Barr.
The Vikings were also aided by the usual Jay Cutler blunder that creeps up from time to time when his pass was intercepted and returned for a 56-yard TD by Harrison Smith turning what could have been a promising Bears drive into a 21-7 deficit. Cutler also had to leave the game late in the 4th quarter after taking a fierce hit to the head by Everson Griffen. "It started stiffening up more and more," Cutler said. He's talking about his neck. You people all need to get your heads out of the gutter.
Chargers 34, Steelers 24
The Steelers who have wins on the road against the Ravens, Bengals, and Giants also have losses to the Titans, Browns, Raiders, and now the Chargers. And this was in a game where the Steelers actually had Ben Roethlisberger back and against a team that hasn't won in Pittsburgh since I think the Eisenhower administration. Not to mention a team that is giving new meaning to the phrase "meltdown". But that wasn't the Chargers fate in this game as they stormed out to a 27-3 lead and harassed Roethlisberger all game.
"This isn't necessarily the team we thought we'd have on the field in December, but this is the type of performance we thought we'd put together," said Rivers, who completed 21-of-41 passes for 200 yards. He then went on to say, "I have no clue (why we're inconsistent). If I knew I don't think we'd do it anymore. I thought we'd play better." Wait, that was Roethlisberger who said that last bit. I thought I was cutting and pasting from my long list of Rivers befuddled comments after a loss. I've just heard Rivers say similar things so often after a loss I just assumed he said it. But you know what happens when you assume? You make an ass out of u and the Cardinals.
Ravens 28, Redskins 31
Is this the section where I talk ad nauseum about the dangers of having a running QB and how you're risking your teams future by exposing the most important player on the team to such risks, and just look how much Vick's been injured in his career, and this is the second injury to RG3(PO), and maybe it's not such a bad idea to keep Smith around for another year since the 49ers are exposing Kaepernick to similar injury risk, and their combined salary for next year will only be around $11 million which isn't too bad considering how many starting quarterbacks alone make more than that, and can I make this sentence run on any longer? Honestly I'm just asking because I wasn't sure.
Turns out the Redskins knew what they were doing when they drafted a second QB after already giving up so many picks for the first one. Trailing by 8-points Kirk Cousins came in and led the Redskins for the TD with only 29 seconds to play and even ran in the game tying 2-point conversion himself. "He's ice. Like they used to say about Larry Bird, he got ice water in his veins. That's the best thing you can say about Kirk," receiver Joshua Morgan (really, are you too good for "Josh" now?) said. "He was coming like nothing was even going on." They also say that about Matt Ryan and look how that's worked out for him.
The Eagles have a long history of having one QB too many and taking advantage of teams that have one too few. Nick Foles looks to be the most recent addition to the Eagles QB stable throwing for 381 yards and 2 TDs, including the game winner to Jeremy Maclin as time expired. What's even more impressive is that he did it on back-to-back drives. The Eagles watched as their 10-0 halftime lead disappeared and found themselves trailing 21-10 with just 7 minutes to play. That's when Foles took over and the Eagles got their first win since week 4. "Very special. Very humbling," Foles said of his first victory as an NFL starter. "It's a great win, too, because we came back. We were winning, then we lost the lead. Guys stuck together." What do you think the Eagles will get for Vick?
Falcons 20, Panthers 30
Considering the Falcons are 7-0 this year in games decided by 7-points or less and the Panthers are 0-7 in those exact same games, including a 30-28 loss to the Falcons in week 4, is it possible the Panthers and Falcons are closer to having the same talent level than their records would indicate? Regardless if people want to admit it or not, there is some luck involved with football, just ask the Seahawks and Packers, and it seemed like the Panthers had gotten some bad breaks including being 0-13 in coin tosses until finally winning the coin toss to start this game.
After a slow start to the season and talk of a sophomore slump by Cam Newton, he's caught fire these last 4 weeks throwing 8 TDs and 0 interceptions, and has the highest QBR (85.7) of any qualifying QB over that same span. Yes, I'm not a big fan of QBR either but there it is so deal with it. Newton threw for 287 yards and 2 TDs while he was also had the most rushing yards in the game with 116 and a TD. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said of their team's performance, "This shows what we were capable of. That's the sad part." Or it shows what the Falcons aren't capable of. Now all those Falcons fans who were crying about lack of respect, pipe down. You'll get your first round by and can lose in the second round just like normal.
Saints 27, Giants 52
Rodger Goodell has been making headlines again with his talk of getting rid of the kickoff, so it seems somehow appropriate that in the game he chose to attend he saw the Giants David Wilson finish the game with 227 total return yards including a 97-yard kickoff return for a TD. Wilson also ran the ball 13 times for 100 yards and 2 TDs, while the Giants set a team record with 287 total return yards. All while Brees threw 2 more interceptions giving him a league high 18 for the season, and the Saints turned it over 4 times overall. Eli Manning had a couple of picks of his own but with the much better supporting cast of players he had no problem finishing off the Saints. The plus for the Saints is that for the 3rd week in a row they were able to hold a team to under 400 yards of total offense and even outgained the Giants in total yards 487-394.
But with the Saints turning it over so many times and Wilson making such a huge impact on special teams, it wasn't enough. "He made some huge plays today, when we needed it the most," said receiver Victor Cruz, who had eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. "Some were unexpected. We've watched him in practice just do amazing things, be it breaking plays or making cuts that you only see guys who are Hall of Famers make. So he definitely is the most athletic on the team and showed it today." Did Goodell see it as well? Probably, but something tells me he probably doesn't care. That something, by the way, is my parrot. I taught it to say, "Goodell doesn't care." Although it sounds more like, "Goodell has good hair" which gets me a lot of funny looks from my friends when they come over.
Lions 20, Packers 27
And the Lions blow another game they could have won. Wah, wah, wah, wahhhhhhh.
Dolphins 13, 49ers 27
Yes, I picked that score in the Niners Nation predictions contest as well as the score of the Lions/Packers game. Now I'm just waiting for Bignerd to admit that I am the god of the week 14 Niners Nation prediction contest.