Thanksgiving took center stage in week 12 and fans were treated to 3 boring blowouts. Not that it came as any surprise considering 2 of the games featured teams (Detriot and Oakland) that have been models of futility for much of the decade, and the third featured a battle between two teams that have combined for a 2-8 record over their last 5 games. For many fans, with full bellies and tryptophan in their systems, the games literally became a snoozefest. So I'm going to save the Turkey Bowls for later and start with a game that actually had some excitement and drama.
While some teams in the NFL would just like to win back-to-back games, the Colts have now won 20 in a row. That's the second longest winning streak in the history of the NFL behind only the Patriots streak of 21. What's more amazing is that the Colts have had to come from behind in the 4th quarter in their last 5 wins. The Texans had to be feeling good with an early 17-0 lead and a 20-7 lead at halftime, but no lead is safe against the Colts. Peyton Manning (27 of 35 for 244 yards and 3 TD's) got the offense going in the second half and with 8:24 to play in the 4th quarter, Manning found Dallas Clark on a 6 yard TD pass to take a 21-20 lead. The Colts defense completely shut down the Texans running game and as a result, the play action stopped working and the Texans offense went nowhere until scoring a late TD with only :19 seconds left. The Texans must feel like the Colts are the bully Mike Singletary was talking about after the 49ers lost to Green Bay last week. Since becoming a franchise, the Texans are only 1-15 against the Colts and the trend doesn't look like it will stop any time soon. Maybe Matt "Not the right man for the" Schuab should consider pulling a Nancy Kerrigan on Manning.
What's the cure for a team that has yet to win on the road? Play against the Rams in a half empty stadium. The announced attendance of 47,475 was the lowest ever since the team moved to St Louis. Not that I can blame them. Why watch a game between two teams going nowhere when their are so many better games on TV? After rushing for only 4 yards last week, the Seahawks ran through the Rams for 170 yards. While Matt Hasselbeck (14 of 25 for 102 yards) did just enough through the air to pull out the win. The Rams actually had a chance to take the lead at halftime but on a 4th and 4 from the 34 with 1:38 left, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo decided to go for the first down instead of kicking the FG. Josh Wilson intercepted the pass and returned it 65 yards for a TD, so instead of possibly being up by 3 at halftime, the Rams found themselves down by 7. Not that anyone should be surprised since this is the Rams we're talking about. In his Sunday's news conference Spagnuolo noted that yes, injuries are an issue. So is the relative inexperience of so many players. So is the lack of proven talent. But in spite of all that, they need to find ways to win. Umm....with what!?
High energy Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman hurt his foot in the second quarter, meaning he won't be able to participate in "Dancing with the Stars" anytime soon, but the Chargers defense did just fine without him. The Chargers forced 4 turnover that led to 28 points as the Chargers routed the Chiefs. It was a rude reminder to the Chiefs that, even though they had won 2 straight games coming into the match-up, they're still not that good. Phillip Rivers completed 21 of 28 passes for 317 yards and 2 TD's and wasn't sacked for the second straight game. Antonio Gates also had a huge game for the Chargers catching 7 passes for 118 yards and 2 TD's. When asked if this was an easy win, Rivers responded, "It's hard to answer that as a yes, but certainly today things came up about as crisp as they have all year." So, the read between the lines translation is, "Hell ya it was an easy win!".
The last time Matt Leinart and Vince Young met it was for the BCS championship. Young led the Texans to a come from behind victory and stunned Leinart and USC. Leinart must have been feeling a sense of deja vu on Sunday. With the Titans trailing 17-13, Young got the ball at their own 1 yard line late in the 4th quarter. Young calmly lead the Titans 99 yards down the field, converting three 4th downs along the way, and scored the winning TD as time ran out, the last play coming on 4th and goal from the 10 with just :06 left in the game. Leinart was decent, completing 21 of 31 passes for 220 yards, but the combination of Chris Johnson (18 carries for 154 yards) and Young (27 of 43 for 387 yards) was too much. In a despondent Cardinals locker room after the game, Antrel Rolle commented, "This will only make us stronger,". Sure thing Antrel. Whatever lies you have to tell yourself to make it through the day.
With the trade for Jay Cutler, the Bears had high hopes coming into the season. So they had to be disappointed with their 4-6 record after 10 games. In an effort to renergize the demoralized team, coach Lovie Smith came up with the idea of two seasons. Their first season of 10 games was over. Now they're starting a new season that's 6 games long. Not surprisingly, those mental gymnastics failed to motivate the Bears as they got crushed in their first game in this new 6 game season. They lost 36-10 and it wasn't really even that close. Part of the problem was that the Bears decided to go all in on stopping Adrian Peterson which left their corners alone to cover the WR's. Brett Favre ripped apart the Bears defense completing 32 of his 48 passes for a season high 392 yards. As great as Favre played, Cutler was equally as bad completing 18 of 23 passes for only 147 yards and 2 interceptions. Cutler now has 20 interceptions on the season. The Bears were particularly bad in the second half gaining a total of 2 yards on 12 offensive plays. Yes, only 2 yards in the entire second half. At this rate the Bears will lose just as many games in the 6 game second season as they lost in the first.
The battle for supremacy in the great state of Ohio took place on Sunday and no one outside of Ohio really cared. In a battle between two teams trying to decide who has the uglier shade of orange on their uniforms, it was the Bengals who came out on top. Newly acquired RB Larry Johnson rushed for 107 yards for the Bengals and Carsen Palmer completed 13 of 24 passes for 110 yards and 1 TD. Both teams seemed determined to grind it out on the ground as they both combined for only 207 yards passing while combining for 268 yards rushing. After having a career game last week, the Browns Brady Quinn only completed 15 of his 34 passes for 100 yards. The Browns did cut the lead to 13-7 aided by a trick play were Quinn caught a 18 yard pass but that was all the offense they could muster. When Palmer was asked if he was bothered by not throwing the ball more he quickly replied, "Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It was fun to watch." That's three "Absolutely not's" for those keeping track at home. I guess denial isn't just a river in Egypt. Yes, I know that's a lame joke. Cut me some slack.
Coming out of a commercial break, audience members were treated by Bonco's coach Josh McDaniel yelling, "All we're trying to do is win a fudging game!" He didn't actually say fudging but it did start with an F and it rhymes with bucking. Wholesome families across the nation gasped in horror while everyone else laughed. Really, it's just a word. Can we stop acting like it was an attack on the moral fabric of America. Brandon Marshall made two spectacular 1 handed grabs, including one at the 1 yard line that set up a Knowshon Moreno TD. Kyle Orton completed 18 of 28 passes for 245 yards and the Giants started a new losing streak after barely ending their last losing streak. Don't look now, but if the Giants don't turn things around in a hurry, they're going to miss the playoffs. I'm not sure what upsets commissioner Goodell more. The accidental profanity going out on the NFL network, or the idea that both teams in New Jersey will miss the playoffs.
For two straight games the Cowboys have managed only 7 points. So they had to feel good knowing a team that was more dysfunctional than their own was coming to town. Dallas ended up with 494 yards, the most on the season, and easily handled the Raiders. In fact, the yards were spread around like a football buffet. Tony Romo completed 18 of 29 passes for 309 yards. Miles Austin and Jason Witten each had over 100 yards receiving. Felix Jones, Tashard Choice, and Marion Barber all had over 60 yards rushing. And even high priced WR Roy Williams got into the action with a TD. The Raiders rookie WR Darrius Heyward-Bey caught his first NFL TD, but it wasn't nearly enough. Nnamdi Asomugha, responding to the teams inability to win consecutive games said, "Trying to win two games for us has been like trying tro climb Mount Everest." I'm not so sure. I think climbing Mount Everest would be easier than that.
All season long the Packers Aaron Rodgers has been running for his life. That's why it must have felt so nice that the Lions decided to give him a break. Rodgers wasn't sacked in the game and was hardly pressured. As a result, he was able to pick apart the Lions defense, completing 28 of 39 throws for 348 yards and 3 TD's. Commenting on the amount of time he had, Rodgers said, "There were a couple of times when I held the ball for 4 or 5 seconds, maybe more." Got to love the Lions. The Lions actually scored first after recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff, but then the Packers reeled off 27 unanswered points and easily came away with the win. Matthew Stafford, who became the youngest QB to throw 5 TD's in one game last week, was picked off 4 times. Charles Woodson, who had an interception returned for a TD in the game, donated 2 million to the Michigan Children's hospital. At least one person is trying to make things better for the people in Michigan. I almost wonder if Matt Millen had compromising pictures of the Ford family. Why else would they keep him on for so many futile years?
Buccaneers 17, Falcons 20
The Falcons almost lost to the lowly Bucs because of a toe. Matt Ryan's toe to be exact. Ryan injured his toe on the 9th offensive play and was replaced by Chris Redman. It also didn't help that Michael Turner reinjured himself in the 3rd quarter. Redman did just enough in relief, although it was painful to watch the offense at times, completing 23 of 41 passes for 243 yards and 2 TD's. But it all came down to a 4th and goal from the 5 with 23 seconds to play. Part of the reason the Falcons had this shot was because Bucs coach Rasheem Morris decided to kick a 51 yard FG with 2:30 left in the game. The kick was missed and the Falcons got the ball at the 41 yard line. Not that I totally blame him. After all, it's not like the Bucs are going anywhere this year. If the kick is good you have a 7 point lead. If it's missed and the Falcons score, you just get a higher draft pick. It's almost a win/win situation. Redman completed the 4th down pass to Rody White and the Falcons won. Of note, it looks like Jason Elam will be out of a job. Elam missed a 43 yard FG late in the game and has now missed 7 of his 15 FG attempts of 30 yards or more. When news came out that the Falcons would have tryouts for a new kicker Elam said, "To be honest with you, I thought they were going to do that a couple of weeks ago." At least he doesn't have any delusions of grander.
After blowing so many close games in the 4th quarter, the Bills finally came through on Sunday. Holding a 17-14 lead late in the 4th, Ryan Fitzpatrick audibles at the line of scrimmage and hit Terrel Owens for a 51 yard TD to take a 24-14 lead. Owens now has 14 catches for 303 yards over his last two games. The Bills had been talking to Mike Shanahan about their head coaching job but maybe Perry Fewell, who was the defensive coordinator, is the answer. It's ironic that it took a defensive coordinator to turn the offense around. "The Pineapple Express" Rickey Williams had another solid day rushing for 115 yards and a TD, but it wasn't enough for the Dolphins. When asked about the audible Owens said, "I love it. I told him, 'You have some big (guts).'" I could be wrong, but I'm guessing he didn't actually say guts, but that it was edited for our reading pleasure. Big guts, doesn't even make any sense.
The Eagles hadn't had a 4th quarter comeback since 2007. Now they've done it in back-to-back games. Trailing 24-16 halfway through the 4th, Donovan McNabb (21 of 35 for 260 yards) drove the Eagles 90 yards for the TD and subsequent 2 point conversion to tie the game. After the "Nicelytannedskins" punted on their next possession, McNabb drove the Eagles 66 yards for the go ahead FG with 1:48 left in the game. Despite the win, their was some bad news for the Eagles. Big play maker, DeSean Jackson, had to leave the game in the 3rd quarter because of a concussion, but not before scoring his 8th TD of 35 yards or more. Even though Washington had 4th quarter leads in back-to-back games, they still seem to find ways to lose. How much longer does Jim Zorn have with the team? I wonder how many players think "Dead man walking" every time they see him walk by?
Everything went the 49ers way on Sunday. They won, the Cardinals lost, and so did the Panthers, thanks in large part to another Jake Delhomme interception party. With the Jets shutting down the Panthers potent running attack, Coach Fox had no choice but to let Delhomme air it out, with the end result being another 4 interceptions. The Jets controlled the game from start to finish, but they did have one brief scare when Mark "Sanchize" got hurt and had to sit out an offensive series. Get it? It's a combination of Sanchez and Franchise. Don't blame me, the NY media came up with it. After some interception plagued games of his own, the Jets decided to limit the types of throws Sanchez would make. The result was a 13 for 17 performance for 154 yards. Hardly intimidating, but the Jets have their own powerful running game. A frustrated Steve Smith said after the game, "It wasn't good. There's no other way to put it. We didn't run it well. We certainly didn't throw it well." Was that an open jab at Dellhome?
Jaguars 3, 49ers 20
Is their anything I can say about this game that everyone doesn't know already? The 49ers opened things up offensively. The defense played to perfection the bend but don't break strategy. And Alex Smith avoided making the mistakes that have so often plagued him in the past. In fact, while his numbers looked solid, they would have been even better if not for about 5 dropped catchable balls. With the entire team taking a trip to Seattle on their second bye week, they should be refreshed and ready to go for the big Monday night showdown against the Cardinals.
With injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch, the Steelers found themselves turning to 3rd string QB Dennis Dixon. Dixon played alright for the most part, completing 12 of 26 passes for 145 yards and 1 TD while also rushing for another TD. But it was his one mistake that lost the Steelers the game. With the ball at midfield in OT, Dixon threw an interception to Paul Kruger who returned it 26 yards to the Steelers 28 yard line. Six plays later, Billy Cundiff kicked the game winning FG. Like Dixon, Kruger is also a backup, only playing because of and injury to starter Terrell Suggs. The two teams who played in the AFC championship game last season now both find themselves with 6-5 records, in danger of missing the playoffs. An enraged Mike Tomlin promised after the game to "unleash hell" on the rest of the NFL in December. Would that be the same hell you unleashed in your loss to the Chiefs last week?