By now every fan of the NFL knows about the tragic death of Bengals WR Chris Henry and how Chad Ochocinco wanted to honor him by wearing his jersey. Commissioner Roger Goodell told him he couldn't and would have to pay a fine if he even tried. The NFLPA tried to do the right thing by telling Ochocinco that they would pay the fine for him, but Goodell said that all fines had to be paid by the players who received them. Since Ochocinco's been fined for things considerably more trivial than this, I just figured he'ld wear the jersey and pay the fine. But then a really weird thing happened. Several reporters in the media started accusing Ochocinco of making the death all about him. And not just a small minority but a very large number. Since Ochocinco realized this was just turning into a media circus and really was starting to be about him, he backed down and the Bengals wore a sticker instead (No doubt the size of the sticker was thoroughly scrutinized so as to not make it too big and compromise the product). My head understands why Goodell made the desicion he did. If you make one exception to the rules, then you'll have to make another, and another. Where do you draw the line? But my heart tells me to just let him do it. I'm not a big fan of Ochocinco, but I doubt he desired anything other than to honor a teammate and friend who's death shook him deeply. Sometimes we can become a slave to the rules and lose sight of why they're there in the first place. It's just a number. Would it really have tarnished the product on the field? This game is made up of people, not machines, and Commissioner Goodell blew an opportunity to honor one of it's fallen members.
How many articles written about this game had a headline similar to this, "The Saints march for perfection is at an end"? What's even more unbearable than the cheesy headlines was that the Saints lost at home to a Cowboys team that hadn't figured out how to win in December. Like many of the previous teams to play the Saints, the Cowboys jumped out to an early lead, 24-3. What was different this time around was that they were able to hold on for the win. The Saints did cut it to 24-17 and had the ball with a chance to tie, but DeMarcus Ware stripped Drew Brees which finished off any chance the Saints had of making another incredible come back. Tony Romo led the Cowboys, completing 22 of 34 passes for 312 yards and1 TD, which was easily his best game of the month. Drew Brees, who was 29 of 45 for 298 yards and 1 TD said of the Saints run at perfection, "We feel like we deserved it and the whole city deserved it." But as Clint Eastwood said in "Unforgiven", "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."
The Cardinals jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead and the route was on. Too bad no one told the Lions they were supposed to quit. Louis Delmas returned a Kurt Warner interception 100 yards for a TD and Maurice Morris ran the ball 64 yards for a TD on the Lions next possession to get them right back in it. But this is still the Lions so they were able to finda way to lose. Warner, who completed 23 of 37 passes for 233 yards, found Anquan Boldin in the endzone with 1:54 to play and the Cardinals were able to avoid their most surprising loss on the season. Rookie Beanie Wells was also a big reason for the Cardinals win, rushing for a career high 110 yards and1 TD. Asked if he was happy with the win, Larry Fitzgerald replied, "We're not happy with how we played. We know we need to improve, but the opportunity to win in double digits, I don't know the last time a Cardinals team was able to do that." How about before you were born.
Patriots 17, Bills 10
I'll usually read 2 or 3 articles on every game and one Boston paper started their story by saying, "So much for all those who wondered whether the New England Patriots were vulnerable this season." Really? They barely held on to beat a below average Bills team. They look pretty vulnerable to me. They were even out gained offensively, 241 to 224, and Tom Brady was almost a non factor completing 11 of 23 passes for 115 yards. The good news for the Patriots was that Randy Moss finally started to play again, catching 5 passes for 70 yards and 1 TD (His best game in 5 weeks). In response to all the criticism he's faced over the week he said, "I've been in this league 12 years, and I've been through a lot. And these shoulders that I have on my body, you can put the earth on it. So just to let you know, I bounced back." Congratulations on doing what you get paid for. You caught 5 passes for 70 yards. Hardly a statement game, you're expected to do that every week. As for putting the world on your shoulders, it's called a headstand.
The Colts managed to stay perfect but it wasn't easy. With the Jags trailing late in the 3rd, David Garrard (23/40, 223 yards, 3 TD's) led them down the field to take the lead, 31-28. But Peyton Manning, who completed 23 of 30 passes for 308 yards and 4 TD's, did what he does best. He led the Colts on a long drive late in the game to take the lead, 35-31. Garrard did have one last chance to be the hero, but Jacob Lacey intercepted the ball on 4th and 10, and the Colts ran out the clock. Manning may have broken the Jags players and fans hearts, but the owner probably wishes he'ld play here every week. It was the first time all season that they had a home sellout. Unfortunately for the fans at home, the game was played on the NFL network, so it was still like a blackout.
Christmas came early for the Dolphins, Jets, Jaguars, Texans, Titans, and Steelers. If the Broncos won at home against the lowly Raiders, all of their playoff hopes would have been finished. Instead, the Broncos gave them the best Christmas present of all, and lost. The Broncos were able to move the ball well against the Raiders, but they couldn't get it done in the redzone. Four times the Broncos had to settle for FG's including 2 times when the got inside the 10. As a result, the Raiders were able to hang around. But things looked bad for the Raiders in the 4th quarter when Frye had to leave the game because of a blow to the head, which brought in the plodding Russell. Russell was his usual inefficient self, completing only 5 of his 11 passes for 47 yards, but with the game on the line in the 4th, he actually started to look decent. He drove the Raiders 62 yards and eventually found Chaz Schilens for a 10 yard strike with 35 seconds remaining. It was another hard blow for the Broncos who now found themselves in danger of missing the playoffs, in spite of starting the season 6-0. Then again, if you allow JaMarcus "where's my checkdown receiver" Russell to beat you at home, you don't deserve to go to the playoffs.
Bengals 24, Chargers 27
Their was a lot of trash talking between Chad Ochocinco and Shawn Merrimam early on in the week, but than Chris Henry unexpectedly died and all that seemed secondary. It was a tight, back and fourth game, that was decided by a 52 yard FG in the final seconds. After grinding it out on the ground most of the season, the Bengals opened up the pass attack with Carson Palmer completing 27 of 40 passes for 314 yards and 2 TD's. But Phillip Rivers matched him throw for throw, completing 24 of 38 passes for 308 yards and 3 TD's. Not only did the Chargers win, but with the Broncos loss, they've now clinched the AFC West. An almost unbelievable occurance considering they were 3 1/2 games out after week 4. Ochocinco didn't wear Henry's jersey, but he did have a good game with 3 receptions for 79 yards and 1 TD. After the TD Ochocinco went down on 1 knee and pointed to the sky and was visibly emotional. Reports are that Commissioner Goodell won't fine Ochocinco for the demonstration, but the fact that it was even considered shows how out of touch the NFL can be at times.
Steelers 37, Packers 36
The Steelers finally ended their 5 games losing streak, and it took the best game ever by a Steelers QB, and an almost miracle pitch and catch to seel the victory. Ben Roethlisberger threw for a Steelers record 503 yards as well as 3 TD's, with none more dramatic than the last one. On the very last play of regulation, Roethlisberger threw a 19 yard TD strike to Mike Wallace who's feet were just inbounds and was leaning 2-3 feet out of bounds to make the catch. With no time on the clock, the PAT was good and the Steelers eeked out a 1 point victory. One things for sure. This was not the, pound the ball in the running game and play stout defense, team that won the Super Bowl last season. This was the, air it out and score as many points as you can because our defense will give up a lot of points so hopefully we can score more, team that's fighting for their playoff lives. The Steelers only ran the ball 19 times, compared to 46 pass attempts. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has so little faith in his defense, that he tried an onside kick even though they were leading 30-28 and their was only 3:58 to play. It didn't work and Green Bay took the lead. Tomlin said in regards to the onside kick, "I don't live in my fear. I just play to win, and I don't worry about being judged." That and a desperate need to end a 5 game losing streak contributed to the decision.
Buccaneers 24, Seahawks 7
After last weeks loss, Seahawks coach Jim Mora publicly stated how the Seahawks needed tougher "dirtbags", and then said the league wide perception is that they're soft. So how did the team respond? By being beaten up by one of the worst teams in the NFL. Obviously injuries have not been kind to the Seahawks this season. It's gotten so bad that they had to go with Kelly Jennings, a backup CB, as their long snapper. The Bucs were frantically pointing at Jennings, thinking a trick play was about to happen, but that was hardly the case. The Seahawks just don't have anyone else. But you can't blame injuries for everything. This is clearly a team on the decline. Even the 12th man has deserted them. Boos rained down onto the field after the game, but since their were only around 500 fans left in the stadium by the end, it was more pathetic than anything else. TJ Houshmandzadeh said in reply to what other teams think of them, "[They] probably say, 'Aw, the Seahawks [stink].'" And to think the 49ers lost to them. At least they'll get a slightly higher draft pick.
Dolphins 24, Titans 27
After starting the season 0-6, the Titans finally find themselves at .500 with their OT win over the Dolphins. Things looked easy for the Titans early on, as they jumped out to a 24-6 lead halfway through the 3rd, but Miami fought back and eventually tied it at 24-24. Their was then some controversy when the Dolphins had the ball at their own 2 with 56 seconds left in the game and the Titans with 3 TO's. Titans coach Jeff Fisher decided not to use the timeouts and force the Dolphins to punt, but instead let the clock run out. When the Dolphins won the ensuing coin toss, it looked like he blew it. Luckily for him Chad Henne, who had thrown for the most yards of his career with 349, was intercepted and Rob Bironas kicked the game winning FG. It was the 4th turnover for the Dolphins, and all of them seemed to come at critical times. Eight times the Dolphins were able to drive inside the Titans 35 yard line. Three times the drives ended with a turnover, and three more times they ended with a FG. Afterwards, Henne won the understatement of the week award when he said, "Overall, we just hurt ourselves." Thanks for the penetrating insight.
In a battle between two teams that are a combined 2-0 against the Steelers while only 3-19 against the rest of the NFL coming into the game, it was the Browns who came out on top in a surprisingly entertaining game. Maybe things are finally turning around for the Browns. They have their first 2 game win streak going in over a year, and now they have Mike "The franchise rebuilder" Holmgren coming to town. The Browns won because of the duo of Jerome Harrison and Josh Cribbs. It was all Cribbs in the first half who returned two 100+ yard kickoffs for TD's, while Harrison took over the second half, rushing for 286 yards and 3 TD's (all 3 in the second half). It's a good thing those two played as great as they did because Brady Quinn looked horrid, completing 10 of 17 passes for only 66 yards and 2 interceptions. But the Chiefs can feel good knowing they have a replacement for Priest Holmes at RB with Jamaal Charles, who rushed for 154 yards and 1 TD. Matt Cassel also played well, finally looking like he deserved the contract he signed, completing 22 of 40 passes for 331 yards, 2 TD's, and 0 interceptions. Then again, he was playing against the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL, so let's not break out the champagne just yet. In response to the rumors he might be fired with Holmgren coming in, Mangini said, "The reports, they are what they are. I'm coaching this team. I'm proud of this team. I'm proud of the things we've done." Is he really proud of what they've done? Maybe it's like a parent praising a small child. "Good job! You did a doody in the toilet. I'm so proud of you!"
Texans 16, Rams 13
With teams like the Browns and Buccaneers finally winning, the Rams are officially the worst team in the NFL. Even the Lions have more wins. So it's surprising how close they actually came to pulling off the upset. Maybe it had something to do with the throw back jerseys they were wearing. You know the ones with the bright yellow horns on the shoulder pads and helmets. They look like the jersey's they wore in the 80's, but surprisingly they were the jerseys from their Super Bowl winning team of '99. Or maybe they played well because they were honoring Mr Little House on the Prairie himself, Merlin Olsen. Whatever the reason, once again, it wasn't enough. Although, if fans actually came to the game, maybe it would have made the difference. It was the worst attended game in the history of their time in St Louis. Matt Schaub, who completed 28 of 40 passes for 367 yards, and Andre Johnson, who had 9 catches for 196 yards, were the main reason the Texans won. Steven Jackson led the way for the Rams with 82 yards on 20 carries, but he did have to leave for a few plays in the 4th after getting into a fight with Bernard Pollard. Jackson said the reason for the fight was, "Just a little physical football. From the looks of it, I got the worst of it. I wasn't going to get scooped and slammed on national television, I'll tell you that." Sorry Steven but this was a Rams game. It was hardly national. Even the people in St Lious couldn't see it.
Falcons 10, Jets 7
With the Cowboys win over the Saints the day before, the Falcons were officially eliminated from the playoffs, while the Jets were right in the thick of things. In spite of that, it was the Falcons who seemed to be fighting for their playoff lives and the Jets who seemed to be playing out the string. The Jets defense did dominate the Falcons for most of the game limiting them to only 167 yards of offense, but with just minutes left, they started to click and drove down the field for the winning TD with only 1:38 left to play. If the Falcons can win their last two games against the Bills and Bucs, they'll have back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. Meanwhile, the Jets offense did nothing the entire game except for one good 65 yard TD pass from Mark Sanchez to Braylon Edwards. Sanchez had 3 interceptions in the game, and now has 20 on the season. Boos and snowballs rained down onto Sanchez and the Jets as they left the frozen stadium, and 28 fans had to be ejected. At least Mark "The Franchise" Sanchez can take heart knowing it could be worse. He could be Jay Cutler in Chicago.
If you want to know how bad things were for the Bears on Sunday, all you have to do is look at Jay Cutler's stat line: 10/27, 94 yards, 3 interceptions, 7.9 rating. Compare that to Joe Flacco's: 21/29, 234 yards, 4 TD's, 135.6 rating. Cutler even got the hook at the end in favor of Caleb Hanie who completed 2 of his 5 passes for 8 yards, also had an interception, and had a nominally better rating of 8.3. In the game, the Bears turned it over 6 times, and the Bears defense couldn't stop them with the short field. Things have gotten so bad for the Bears that a group of fans are trying to raise money to buy an anti Lovie Smith billboard. They may want to include Cutler on it as well. It was the second straight dominating performance by the Ravens who now have complete control of their playoff destiny. Afterwards, a subdued Cutler told reporters, "You get some breaks, you don't get some breaks. It seems like we haven't got a lot of breaks. A lot of that falls on myself and the rest of the offense as well." Wait a minute. Is Cutler actually taking responsibility for the Bears failures on offense? Now I really have seen everything. A humble Jay Cutler.
This was just not a good week for the 49ers. First the Cowboys won which seriously hurt their wild card hopes. Then the Cardinals managed to win late in the game against a surprisingly tough Lions team. We all know they then lost to the Eagles. And finally, the Panthers completely shut down Brett Favre and the Vikings offense. Then again, we all knew this was coming. Wasn't that the knock on Favre? Sure he can still play great, but as the season wears on, he wears down and becomes less effective. The Vikings were hoping that their strong running game would keep him fresher longer, since he wouldn't be asked to do as much. But that hasn't exactly gone to plan. Over the first 10 games of the season, Favre had a rating under 95 only 2 times. He's had a rating under 80 for each of his last 3 games, and his two worst statistical games of the season have been his last two. Vikings coach Brad Childress was so concerned for Favre's health, that he tried to pull him from the game, even though the Vikings had a 7-6 lead. But since Favre doesn't have to listen to the coaches, and just does what he wants to do, he told Childress where he could go. Matt Moore played great for the Panthers filling in for an injured Jake Delhomme, completing 21 of 33 passes for 299 yards and 3 TD's, and more importantly, 0 interceptions. I'm guessing Delhomme may have a hard time getting his job back next year. Although, he was going to have that problem even if Moore didn't play well.
Giants 45, Reskins 12
To get a really good idea of just how much the Giants dominated the Redskins on Monday, just look at the work done by Giants punter Jeff Feagle. He punted 2 times in the entire game, and one of those was to pin the Redskins inside the 20. In their first 7 possessions, the Giants scored 5 TD's and 1 FG. Eli Manning completed 19 of 26 passes for 268 yards and 3 TD's. The Redskins turned the ball over 3 times, the Giants didn't turn it over once. The Giants are a team fighting for their playoff lives so it makes sense they would come out swinging. But don't the Redskins have something to play for as well? Over the week, Bruce Allen was hired to be the new general manager of the team. So this was the first chance the Redskins had to make a good impression on the man making the personnel decisions. I think the impression they made was to just fire the lot.
49ers 13, Eagles 27
We all saw the game so I won't say much. I just have one question to ask. Can someone please help me understand why the 49ers were trying to cover the most dynamic playmaker in the NFL today, DeSeanJackson, with Takeo Spikes?