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A World Turned Upside Down: Week 11 in the NFL

When General Cornwallis and the British army surrendered to General Washington and the Continental army to end the Revolutionary war, the British played the song, "A World Turned Upside Down".  After all, that's how the world seemed to them.  How else could they explain how the rag tag continental army could defeat the greatest army in the world at that time?  On Sunday, several teams probably felt the same way.  How could the Bengals lose to the Raiders?  How could the Steelers lose to the Chiefs?  How could the Broncos go from a 3 1/2 game lead, to a 1 game deficit in only 4 weeks?  And how could the Browns blow a 21 point lead and lose to the Lions?  OK, maybe not the last one.  This is the Browns we're talking about after all.  But how did the Browns blow a 21 point lead against one of the worst teams in the NFL?

Browns 37, Lions 38

No one outside of Cleveland and Detroit had any interest in this game going into Sunday, but without a doubt, this was the best game of the week.  The much maligned Browns offense finally got on track in this game, scoring more points in the first quarter (24) than they had scored in an entire game (20) on the season.  And they had to feel pretty good about their chances of getting their second win with an early 24-3 lead.  But Matthew Stafford and the Lions fought back.  Stafford completed 26 of 43 passes for 422 yards and become the youngest QB ever to throw 5 TD's in one game.  But the most important pass thrown by Stafford didn't even show up on the stat sheet.  Trailing 37-31 with only seconds left in the game, Stafford threw a "Hail Mary" from mid field that landed harmlessly in the endzone.  Unfortunately for the Browns, a pass interference penalty was called on Hank Poteat, so the Lions got one free untimed play from the 1 yard line.  Stafford was hit hard on the "Hail Mary" throw and wasn't able to come out for the play, so the Lions sent out a cold Daunte Culpepper.  Luckily, Brown's coach Eric Mangini called a time out, allowing Stafford time to get fixed up and back out on to the field.  Stafford threw his 5th TD and the Lions won.  Lions coach Jim Schwartz said afterwards, "It's a game that you either win or you lose."  That's deep, Captain Obvious.  Ever thought of putting that on a bumper sticker?

Dolphins 24, Panthers 17

Rickey "The Pineapple Express" Williams may have actually benefited from the time he spent out of the NFL.  While most RB's start losing a step as they get older because of all the pounding they take, Williams seems to be going stronger than ever.  With Ronnie Brown done for the season, the Dolphins turned to Williams, and he was more than ready to step up.  Williams rushed for 119 yards and scored 3 TD's as the Dolphins held off the Panthers to get back into the playoff picture.  Of course, the Panthers coach John Fox helped the Dolphins by turning away from their powerful running game and letting Jake Delhomme throw the ball 42 times.  Delhomme may have avoided throwing an interception in the last 3 games, but if you let him throw it 42 times, I guarantee he'll find a way to lose.  Delhomme completed only 19 of his 42 passes as well as throwing his 14 interception on the season early in the 3rd while in the redzone.  The Panthers did cut the lead down to 17-14 late in the 4th, but a 46 yard TD run by Williams put the nail in the coffin.  I would like to thank Coach Fox.  I was starting to think the 49ers pick might fall out of the top 10.  I feel a lot better now.

Redskins 6, Cowboys 7

Last week the Cowboys were shutout until the 4th quarter and ended up losing to the Packers 7-17.  Once again the Cowboys offense did the same thing, being shutout for 3 quarters and only managing 7 points for the game.  Luckily for them, they were playing the offensively challenged Redskins, so this time they came out on top 7-6.  Part of the Cowboys ineffectiveness was because of an injury suffered by Tony Romo while making a tackle in the first quarter.  Romo completed only 8 of his passes before finally getting on track, completing 7 passes on the final drive with the game on the line.  It also helped that Shaun Suisham missed 2 FG's for the Redskins.  Jason Campbell, who completed 24 of 37 passes for 256 yards said, "Other than a couple of plays, we pretty much beat them."  For those who are wondering, Washington had 324 yards of total offense, Dallas had 304.  Washington had 58 offensive plays, Dallas had 61.  And Washington had the ball for 28:34 while Dallas had it for 31:26.  Oh ya Campbell, you sure dominated them.

Steelers 24, Chiefs 27

Just how bad are things going for the Steelers right now?  Well not only were the defending Super Bowl champions defeated by the lowly Chiefs, but it was Mr Irrelevant who finished them off.  The last player chosen in last year's draft, Ryan "Don't call me a" Succop, kicked the game winning FG for the Chiefs, who now have won back to back games.  The Steelers might have had an inkling they were in trouble this week when Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a TD.  It was the 4th kick return for a TD in 5 games against the Steelers and an NFL record 8th straight game the Steelers have given up a return of any kind for a TD.  Ben Roethlisberger played well, throwing for 398 yards and 3 TD's, but he had to leave late in the game because of a concussion.  On the other side of the ball, Matt Cassel played horribly in the first half, completing only 4 passes for 35 yards before doing a 180 in the second half and throwing for 213 yards.  The win was the Chiefs first home win of the season.  Not that you could tell it was a home game for the Chiefs since half the fans in the stadium were waiving terrible towels.  By the way, what makes the towels so terrible?  Is it the color?

Seahawks 9, Vikings 35

Brett Favre is like the Energizer Bunny.  He just keeps going, and going, and going.  And like the Energizer Bunny it's starting to get really annoying, but for completely different reasons.  Don't misunderstand me.  I'm sure Brett is a great guy.  I just don't want to hear about him any more.  Jim Mora said, "I saw Brett after the game and said, 'Would you retire please,'".  My thoughts exactly.  In the game Favre was almost perfect completing 22 of 25 passes for 213 yards and 4 TD's.  The Viking fans even started chanting "MVP, MVP, MVP".  Will the nightmare ever end?  Matt Hasselbeck also played well, completing 19 of 26 passes for 231 yards.  The problem for the Seahawks was that they only got 4 yards on the ground.  That's not a typo.  That's 4 total rushing yards for the entire game.  Ouch!  Hasselbeck said afterwards, "When they put Tarvaris Jackson in in the fourth quarter, it's almost embarrassing to be down by that much, when they're pulling their guys.  It's just hard being in this situation right now.  We're not used to it."  Don't worry Matt.  There's still 6 more games left in the season.  I'm sure you'll get used to it before the season's over.

Falcons 31, Giants 34

For everyone who's competing in the prediction game here at Niners Nation, who've decided to stop picking the Giants after their 4 game losing streak, I'll just say, "Wah, wah, wahhhhh!"  The Giants went an incredible 42 days without a win before sneaking by the Falcons.  Of course, they almost blew it.  With a 31-17 4th quarter lead, it looked like the Giants would cruise to victory, but Matt Ryan (26 of 46 for 268 yards) wouldn't give up.  Ryan threw a TD pass to Eric Weems with 6:01 to play and a TD pass to Tony Gonzalez with 28 seconds left to tie the game.  Luckily for the Giants, the NFL has the stupidest OT system of any major sports league.  The Giants won the coin toss and instantly were 2 to 1 favorites to win the game.  Eli Manning, who had a career high 384 yards passing and 3 TD's, drove the Giants into FG range and Lawrence Tynes put it in from 36 yards for the win.  Afterwards, Ryan said, "We had a lot of great contributions and great efforts from a lot of guys in the second half to come back from 14 down.  But with that said, there are no moral victories."  You're preaching to the choir, brother.

Saints 38, Buccaneers 7

The Saints are now 10-0 for the first time in franchise history and have the Patriots coming to town next week.  Of all the teams remaining on the Saints schedule, only the Patriots and Cowboys have winning records.  Ramp up the hype machine!  The Buccaneers actually had the early lead as rookie QB Josh Freeman (17 of 33 for 126 yards and 3 interceptions) drove them 95 yards down field for a 7-0 lead.  But it was all Saints after that.  The Bucs were actually trailing by only 3 just before the half, but some poor clock management allowed the Saints to get the ball back, and they quickly scored to take a 17-7 half time lead.  Drew Brees was only average, completing 19 of 29 for 187 yards but the RB tandem of Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell combined to carry the ball 24 times for 167 yards and 2 TD's.  Saint's coach Sean Payton said in a post game interview, "I like where we're at."  Really!?  I never would have guessed that.

Bills 15, Jaguars 18

The Jaguars won again on Sunday, improving to 6-4 and staying right in the thick of the playoff hunt, and once again no one in Jacksonville saw it.  Unless something drastic happens, the Jaguars will be the only team in the NFL to have all 8 of their home games blacked out because they don't sell out their stadium.  They even have a winning record.  Then again, maybe the good citizens of Jacksonville are thinking the same thing I'm thinking.  The Jaguars seem like a weak 6-4 team.  How else do you explain that they barely beat a Bill's team that just fired their head coach and can't decide who they want starting at the QB position.  Mike Ryan Fitzpatrick got the nod over Stanford alum Trent Edwards, but the end results were the same.  The Bills hung around into the 4th quarter only to see the other team make the plays when it counted.  The Jaguars David Garrard (21 of 30 for 215 yards) had only 3 game winning drives in 58 games before orchestrating game winning drives in back to back games.   Trailing 15-12, Garrard threw a TD pass to Mike Sims-Walker with only 56 seconds remaining to take the lead.  For their part, the Bills have been outscored 109-40 in the 4th quarter during the season.  TO did have his best game in a Bill's uniform, catching 9 passes for 197 yards and 1 TD, but it wasn't enough to keep him from losing his jersey for the second straight game.  Last week, the Titan's Chris Johnson got TO's jersey.  This week it was the Jaguar's Sims-Walker who was the lucky recipient.  Only 6 more jerseys to give away TO.

Bengals 17, Raiders 20

Raiders Special Teams player, Marquis Cooper, died in a tragic boating accident in the off season and the Raiders decided to dedicate this game to his memory.  Fittingly, it was a special teams blunder that lost the Bengals the game.  Early on it looked like it was going to be business as usual with the Bengals going out to an early 14-0 lead.  But Bruce Gradkowski, who was starting his first game of the season, got the Raiders offense on track and cut the lead to 14-10 in the 3rd.  With just under 2 minutes left, Gradkowski (17 of 34 for 183 yards and 2 TD's) drove the Raiders down the field and scored a game tying TD with only 33 seconds left in the game.  The Bengals fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Janikowski kicked the game winner.  Sam Williams said after, "He (Cooper) caused the fumble.  That was unbelievable."  Now I know it was an emotional win and I don't mean to make fun of peoples beliefs.  But I watched the fumble several times and it looked like Brandon Myers forced the fumble.

Jets 14, Patriots 31

A lot was made of Bill Belichick's 4th and 2 call last week.  Plenty of people, including myself, criticized the call.  But others defended it.  They used statistics taken out of context.  I saw lots of comments by people who emphatically believed it was the right call.  The problem is that the right call is the one that helps teams win games.  If people want to say they liked the call and they hope he makes the same call again, that's fine.  But to say it was the right call is ludicrous.  It would be like me defending my choice to not sell my home until after the home market bubble burst.  I can pull out charts and graphs and regressions and say all the stats indicated the home market would continue to go up so holding on to the home was the right call, but the bubble did burst and I lost the money.  The right call is the one that improves your chances of winning.  The wrong call decreases them.  If the Patriots got the 1st down then it would have been the right call.  But they didn't.  The Patriots would have been better off if they had punted it.  No one can argue with that.  That means it was the wrong call.  Oh ya, the Patriots also beat the Jets 31-14.  Tom Brady completed 28 of 41 passes for 310 yards and Wes Welker caught 15 of those passes for 192 yards.

Eagles 24, Bears 20

Will the real Eagles please stand up.  One week they look like they couldn't beat a powder puff team and lose to the Raiders.  Then in the next week they look like they could beat anyone in the NFL as they destroy the Giants.  In games decided by 10 or more points, the Eagles are 5-1.  In games decided by 8 or less, they're 0-3.  That is, they were 0-3 before sneaking by the Bears.  Of course it helped that the Bears offense had forgotten how to score a TD.  After 6 FG's and 2 redzone interceptions over their last 6 quarters, the Bears finally scored a TD to take a 20-17 lead.  With 11 minutes left in the game it looked like they would extend that lead, but the Eagles blocked the FG attempt and Donovan McNabb drove them 62 yards for the go ahead TD with 5 minutes to play.  Jay Cutler had two chances to retake the lead but his final throw ended with his league leading 18th interception.  I thought Cutler was supposed to take the Bears to the next level.  I wonder how many fans that were once excited about the Cutler trade, wish they had Kyle Orton and their three 1st round draft picks back?

Colts 17, Ravens 15

Until the Colts lose, I'm not going to bet against them.  There have been several games when I thought the Colts win streak (now at 19 straight) would come to an end, but somehow the Colts keep pulling it out in the end.  Once again on Sunday the Colts came out on the good side of a back and forth game.  What helped the Colts the most was that the Ravens, just like the Bears, couldn't get into the endzone.  Seven times in the game the Ravens drove to the Colt's 28 yard line or closer, including a 1st and goal from the 1, and all they got were 5 FG's.  That might work against the Browns, but it's going to take more than that to get past the Colts.  What had to hurt the most for the Ravens was watching their ex kicker, Matt Stover, kick the game winning FG the week after they cut their own PK for ineffectiveness.  Billy Cundiff did kick 5 FG'sin his first game withthe Ravens, but it was his 1 miss that was the difference in the game.  But the weirdest part of the game was when Ed Reed was fielding a punt with only 17 seconds left.  Instead of holding onto the ball to give their offense one last chance, he pitched to the side where no one was actually standing.  Maybe he saw something gross on the ball and he didn't want to hold it.

Cardinals 21, Rams 13

We got a brief glimpse at what life without Kurt Warner will be like for the Cardinals and it had to put a smile on the face of every 49er fan.  Leading 21-3, Warner didn't play in the second half because of concussion like symptoms.  It was only a precaution but why take a risk with a big lead against the Rams?  Well the Rams fought back and the Cardinals did nothing with Matt Leinart leading the way.  Just so you can get an idea, Warner was 15 of 19 for 203 yards and 2 TD's, while Leinart was 10 of 14 for only 74 yards and 0 TD's.  Steven Jackson lead the way for the Rams with 116 yards and 1 TD and reached 1,000 yards rushing on the season, becoming the first Ram ever to run for 1,000 yards in 5 straight seasons.  The Rams even had a chance to tie it late in the game.  Down by 8 the Rams had a 4th and 4 from the Cardinals 7 yard line.  Marc Bulger threw to Donnie Avery in the endzone but their was a lot of jockeying for position and it was incomplete.  Both Avery and Bulger were visibly upset when they didn't get the pass interference penalty.  Bulger said later, "We'll just go with the ref's call and hopefully next time it'll go our way."  Rumor has it that Bulger found the official later and offered him a $1 bribe.

Chargers 32, Broncos 3

Seven weeks into the season everything was great in Denver.  They were off to a 6-0 start with a 3 1/2 game lead in the division and all the controversy surrounding Cutler was in the past.  Things sure can change in a hurry.  Chris Simms got his first start since almost dying because of a spleen injury and he didn't last long.  I actually feel bad for Simms.  His dad is a Super Bowl winning QB and he's getting pulled for a QB playing on 1 leg.  The Broncos did have a good drive early on, but a costly goal line fumble ended that.  But we all knew the offense would struggle with Simms.  What's more surprising is how the defense was pushed around by the Chargers.  Phillip Rivers completed 17 of 22 passes for a season low 145 yards but the Broncos never came close to sacking him.  He said afterwards, "I was touched one time that I remember."  And he didn't have to throw much since the Chargers rushed for 203 yards even though they came into the game with one of the NFL's worst rushing attacks.  So much for the magic being worked by that new defensive coordinator of theirs.  What was his name again?  I guess it doesn't matter.  I'll think of it eventually.

49ers 24, Packers 30