Their were a lot of moral victories in the NFL on Sunday. The Rams won a moral victory by coming up just 32 yards short of beating the Saints, maybe the best team in the NFC. The Bucaneers won a moral victory by being just 1:14 away from winning their first road game of the season against their cross state rivals, the Dolphins. The Lions won a moral victory by hanging tough on the road against the now 8-1 Vikings. The Patriots won a moral victory by knowing the should have beaten the Colts on the road except their coach thinks he's God and the normal rules of football don't apply to him. The problem is that moral victories are a little like getting into a car accident while defending your right of way. The other guy may be the one getting the ticket but your still stuck in a rental while your car gets fixed. So let's jump into the action by starting with a game that wasn't even played on Sunday.
Over the first half of the season, the 49ers had as many moral victories as actual victories. The problem was that moral victories don't actually show up on their record. So while their 10-6 win over the Bears was about as ugly a way to win a game as is possible to do, it still counts the same as their 35-0 beat down over the Rams a few weeks earlier. Watching Jay Cutler single handedly lose the game for the Bears made me think of when I play games with my young kids. I always let them win but sometimes I have to try really hard to let them win. If Cutler was really trying to lose the game I can just imagine him thinking after every interception, "How bad do I actually have to play to get these guys to win?" The one bright spot on offense for the 49ers was Frank Gore who rushed for 104 yards and a TD. But after all those moral victories, I'll gladly take this ugly win any day.
Patriots 34, Colts 35
I knew Bill Bellichick thought he was above the rules, as demonstrated by "Spy gate", but going for it on 4th and 2 from your own 28 yard line with a 6 point lead deifies logic. Everyone who thinks that was the right call, please raise your hand. If you're raising your hand, you're an idiot. I know it's always easy to go back with hind sight and question a call, but I was starring at my TV in total disbelief even when it was happening. I thought that maybe they were just going to try and draw them offsides, but when they actually hiked the ball I had to wonder if I was living in Bizaro world. Even if they made it, it was a bad call. Almost as bad as the call was the fact they burned their last two timeouts in 3 offensive plays leaving them with no chance to challangeor try to drive for a last second FG. Faulk caught the 4th down pass but because he bobbled the ball he lost his forward progression, and the Patriots came up just inches short. Payton Manning (28/44, 327 yards, 4 TD's) threw the game winning TD to Reggie Wayne (9 catches, 126 yards, 2 TD's) with just 13 seconds left, and the Colts won a game they probably should have lost. All the Patriot players after the game said they agreed with the call, but then again, how do you question God?
Poor TO. I think he's finally realizing how good he had it in SF, Philadelphia, and Dallas. Trent Edwards was playing in his first game back after being injured, but it doesn't matter if Edwards or Fitzpatrick is throwing the ball. The new "team first" TO is finally starting to give way to his former self. You could see him yelling at coaches and players on the sideline during the game, and I don't think they were words of encouragement. The Bills and Titans were tied 17-17 in the 4th but the Titans offense scored 10 unanswered points before the defense ended the Bills last two offensive possessions with interceptions returned for TD's. TO said after the game, "What's new? That's how it's been the last 7 or 8 weeks. We lose games in the third or fourth quarter." Welcome to Buffalo TO. For the Titans, Chris Johnson had a monster day rushing for 132 yards and 2 TD's, and catching 9 passes for 100 yards. Vince Young completed 17 of 25 passes for 210 yards and a TD, and won for the 7th straight start. After the game TO sent Johnson one of his jerseys as part of a pre game bet. He should have just saved himself the time and just given it to him before the game even started.
Saints 28, Rams 23
The Rams played their 3rd straight home game against an unbeaten team, andfor the 3rd straight time that team left with their streak intact. Not that the Saints didn't do their best to lose. The high powered Saints offense turned the ball over 3 times, and the Saints defense constantly missed tackles. Of course, a lot of the reason for the missed tackels was because of Steven Jackson who rushed for 131 yards and 1 TD. The Rams even had more yards in the game than the Saints, 433-420. Luckily for the Saints, Courtney "yes I know it'sa girls name" Roby opened the second half by returning the kickoff 97 yards for a TD. Reggie Bush also had a solid game, scoring 2 TD's and rushing for 83 yards. After the game, the Saints Randall Gay said, "You're not going to blow everyone out." After which the reporter thought, "That's true, but comeon. You were playing Rams."
Buccaneers 23, Dolphins 25
Ever since Marino retired, the Dolphins have had a rotating door at the QB position. They may have finally found their permanent replacement in Chad Henne who improved his record to 4-2 as a starter. In fact, this entire game was all about the rookies and 2nd year players. Second year kicker Connor Barth kicked 3 FG's of 50 yards or more, and rookie Josh Freeman (16 of 28, 196 yards, 1 TD) made his second start for the Buccaneers, leading them to a go ahead TD on a pass to rookie TE Kery Sperry with 1:14 to play. Second year player Chad Henne then entered the game and calmly lead the Dolphins down to the 7 yard line for the winning FG with only 10 seconds left. Part of the reason they only needed a FG to win was because of a mistake by Raheen Morris, Tampa Bay's rookie head coach, just before the half. After a Freeman interception that was first called incomplete but then changed on review, Morris seamed to lose his mind. Channelling his inner Lou Pinniella, Morris berated the official for overruling the call on the field. He was given an unsportman like conduct penalty, and the Dolphins got the ball at the 7, where they quickly scored. Morris said in his post game press conference, "This loss is solely on me. Getting a personal foul as a head coach is totally unacceptable. I used the wrong type of language to the official." Rumor has it, he pulled an Ochocinco and he just wanted his dollar back.
Lions 10, Vikings 27
You really have to feel bad for the football fans in Detriot. With the loss, the Lions became the second team in NFL history to lose 31 of 33 games. That's the equivalent of back to back 1 win seasons. The Vikings even played horribly in the game. Two times they fumbled in the red zone, and for the game they committed 13 penalties. But all it accomplished was to allow the Lions to hang around in the game for longer than they realistically should have. Matthew Stafford threw the ball an incredible 51 times, completing 29 for 224 yards and 1 TD. For those keeping track at home, that's a paultry 4.39 yards per pass attempt. Check down much? Brett Favre by comparison threw the ball only 29 times, completing 20 for 344 yards. At least Stafford managed not to throw an interception for only the second game of the year. Of course, Ray Edwards was terrorizing Stafford all game. Edwards had 2 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, and hit Stafford 4 times. He even did a Superman impression, literally leaping over the offensive lineman and landing head first on Stafford's head. To bad the "I've got a stick up my butt" official called a roughing the passer penalty on the play.
Mark Sanchez drove the Jets down the field for a TD late in the game for a 22-21 lead, but then the defense couldn't stop the Jaguars andthe Jets never got the ball again. The most impressive play of the game was when Maurice Jones-Drew (124 yards, 1 TD) ran up the middle from the 14 yard line with a minute and a half left in the game, but stopped short of the goal line and took a knee. With no timeouts, the Jets couldn't stop the clock and the Jaguars took it all the way down before kicking the game winning FG. Afterwards, Jones-Drew said, "Sorry to my fantasy owners. I apologize. I had myself today. It was a tough call." I wonder if he really was torn between scoring the TD to help him in his fantasy league, or taking a knee to help them win the game? That's just wonderful either way.
There was something weird going on in Pittsburgh on Sunday. It was a balmy 60 degrees even though it's the middle of November. The Steelers, who had scored at least 27 points in 5 straight games, were held to only 4 FG's. And the laughing stock of the NFL for most of the 90's and 00's, the Bengals, are actually good. If you're a fan of kickers, and I no longer am now that they all stopped wearing the 1 barred helmets, then you would have loved this game. A total of 9 FG's were attempted and the only TD came on a 96 yard kick return by Bernard Scott, ensuring that every score came with a kicker on the field. Ironically, the PAT was blocked, keeping the final score divisible by 3. The Bengals defense frustrated Ben Roethlisberger (174 yards, 1 int), and the offense did just enough to stay ahead for most of the game. If the Steelers had won, they would be sitting on top of the AFC North with a 1 game lead. Since they lost, and the Bengals now have the tie breaker, they're essentially 2 games back. Things really are weird in Pittsburgh.
What's the cure for a 2 game losing streak? Play the Redskins of course. Except someone forgot to tell the Redskins that they were supposed to lose. The Broncos now have a 3 game losing steak, andthe Redskins ended their own 4 game losing steak withthe win. It started out the way it was supposed to for the Broncos with Kyle Orton completing 2 deep passes for TD'sto Brandon Marshall, who the Redskins decided they just didn't need to cover. But 6 minutes before the half the Redskins scored TD on a trick play. With a 4th and 20 on the Broncos 35, the Redskins faked the punt and threw a tying TD instead. It's shocking Denver didn't stop them since Washington all but advertised the play by sending the TE in motion. Seriously, when have you ever seen someone go in motion on a punt? What further doomed the Broncos was an injury to Orton, which forced a rusty Chris Simms into action. Simms completed just 3 of 13 passes for 13 yards. Even the mathematically challenged can tell that's a 1 yard per pass attempt average. Even the Redskins won't be threatened by that.
Who is this new Jake Delhomme and what did he do with the old one? In the first 6 games of the season, Delhomme had thrown only 4 TD's compared to 13 interceptions. However, in the last 3 games, Delhomme's thrown 3 TD's and 0 interceptions. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the fact the Panthers finally realized they have one of the best 1-2 combinations at RB so why let Delhomme throw it all over the place. DeAngelo Williams rushed for 92 yards, and Jonathan Stewart rushed for 82 yards and 2 TD's. What also hurt the Falcons chances in the game was that Michael Turner got injured in the 2nd quarter. He already had 111 yards rushing at that point. The Falcons cut the lead to 19-21 early in the 4th quarter, and even had a chance to take the lead a little later, but Jason Elam missed the 34 yard FG and Stewart ran 45 yards for a TD with just over 2 minutes left to put away the game. You have to wonder how much longer this new Delhomme will hang around. Personally, I liked the old one better.
The Chiefs have been one of the worst teams in the NFL over the last few seasons. They've won only 5 of their 35 games. What's surprising is that 3 of those wins have come in Oakland. Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that the Raiders have been just as bad. But a win's a win I guess. The Raiders started out well enough, scoring a TD on their first possession. But they only managed 3 points the rest of the game. JaMarcus Russell was pulled for the 2nd straight game in the 3rd quarter after completing only 8 of 23 passes for 64 yards. Russell said he was surprised and disappointed in coach Cable for giving him the hook. JaMarcus, you'ld only completed a 3rd of your passes and were averaging less than 3 yards a pass. What's so surprising? The Raiders did have a chance late, but Darrius Hayward-Bey bobbled a catchable ball on the 10 yard line in it was intercepted by KC to end the game. Ryan "I'm not a" Succup kicked 4 FG's for KC in the win.
The Packers stunk it up last week against the Buccaneers, so it was a little surprising to see them totally dominate the Cowboys. Through 3 quarters, the only scoring was on a FG, but the Packers offense finally came alive and drove down the field to take a 10-0 lead early in the 4th. Their was a little bit of controversy as Tony Romo fumbled the ball deep in their territory. The officials said Green Bay recovered at the 3 but Dallas coach Wade Phillips wanted to challenge, saying his player recovered the ball. It did look like he recovered it, but the official said teams can't challenge who recovers a fumble. The Packers took over and quickly scored their last TD. In response to a question asking about the difference from the poor play last week and the great play this week Charles Woodson said, "We've got to have that passion every week, and it's got to show up on the field." I love it when players state the obvious.
LaDainian Tomlinson opened his locker before the game and founda pregnancy test telling him his wife was pregnant with, what would be, their first child. He then went out and had his best game on the season, rushing for 96 yards and 2 TD's. The Eagles fell into an early hole, in large part, due to the fact the couldn't get it done in the redzone. Three times they drove inside the SD 10, and 3 times they came away with FG's. Donovan McNabb had his best game of the year passing for 455 yards and 2 TD's but it wasn't enough. Phillip Rivers completed 20 of 25 passes for 231 yards and 2 TD's including a 20 yarder to Legedu Naanee. After the TD Naaneewent over to a Chargers cheerleader and knelt before her and gave her the ball. But since this is the No Fun League, he was immediately flagged for excessive celebration.
What happened to the Seahawks? They went from perennial playoff contender to top 10 draft status overnight. I know they have a lot of injuries, but that's still a big way to fall so fast. This game mirrored the Seahawks sudden drop from the NFL elite. They controlled the first half of the game and generally frustrated the Cardinals offense. Then, in the second half, the Cardinals seemed to move the ball at will and it was the Seahawks who struggled. Kurt Warner, who completed 29 of 38 passes for 340 yards and 2 TD's said afterwards, "Parts of the first half seemed so difficult for us, then we came back in the second half and sometimes it seemed almost easy." Maybe it was because you were playing a team that barely beat the Lions at home.