Last year the Rams finished 1-15, the worst record in the NFL. This year they're one win away from wining the NFC West. Last year the Chiefs finished 4-12. This year they're 10-5 and have clinched the AFC West title. Last year the Buccaneers finished 3-13. This year they're 9-6 and still have a shot at making the playoffs. Last year the Bears finished 7-9. This year they're 11-4 with a first round bye and a shot at the 1-seed. So what's the moral of the story? It's possible to turn things around in a hurry. There's also one other thing all those teams have in common. They all have received solid to great play from the QB position. Funny how that works.
Lions 34, Dolphins 27
If you want to know where the real party is in Miami, it's in the visiting locker room of Whatever They're Calling it Today Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. Even though the Dolphins are sitting at 7-8, they're a pathetic 1-7 at home. Even hosting the 5-10 Lions, who now are riding a 3 game winning streak, did little to change that trend. A Dave Rayner 47 yard field goal tied the game at 27-27 with 2:47 remaining before DeAndre Levy returned an interception 30 yards for the win on the Dolphins next possession. The loss is bad news for Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano who now finds his job in jeopardy. But the real bad news is that the 49ers actually have the same record as the Lions. Ugh.
With TO and Ochocinco out with injuries, surely the Bengals passing game would suffer. Instead, Carson Palmer threw for 269 yards and 4 touchdowns on way to a career best 157.2 passer rating. The Bengals held a slim 13-10 lead going into the 4th quarter, but a 21 point outburst put the game away. Speaking of his new group of young receivers, Palmer said, "They ran great routes and made big plays." I bet that's the first time he's said that all year.
Tom Brady threw 3 touchdowns while setting the NFL record for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception at 319 and going. The old record of 308 was held by the dog pound's own, Bernie Kosar. The win clinched the #1 seed in the AFC for the Patirots. While the win wasn't that surprising, what was surprising was that the Patriots punted the ball 5 times, compared to only 2 times for the Bills. So how is such a strange stat possible for a team that won by 31 points? Easy. The Bills lost 4 fumbles, threw 3 interceptions, turned the ball over on downs twice, and had one possession end at the half. Playing like that, I think even the Panthers could have beaten the Bills on Sunday.
Jets 34, Bears 38
So, if two defensive first teams play an outdoor game in Chicago during the month of December what do you get? A 38-34 shootout of course. Jay Cutler threw 3 touchdowns and Matt Forte ran for 113 yards as the Bears handed the Jets their 3rd loss in 4 games. In spite of the loss, the Jets still made the playoffs thanks to the Redskins victory over the Jaguars. "We lost a game, so I'm thinking, 'Am I allowed to celebrate?'" said Jets TE Dustin Keller. But not everyone felt like him. Keller said LaDainian Tomlinson was acting crazy, like a kid celebrating a birthday. Of course, Tomlinson may have just been celebrating that he wasn't on the Chargers this year.
Last week the Giants completely fell apart in the 4th quarter, blowing a 21 point lead. This week they didn't wait nearly that long to fall apart. Led by Aaron Rodgers 404 passing yards and 4 touchdowns, the Packers jumped out to a 14-0 lead on way to a 45-17 pasting of the Giants. "We came out and we played like we didn't have anything to play for," said DE Justin Tuck. Turns out, if the Packers go on to beat the Bears on Sunday afternoon, the Giants really won't have anything to play for in their next game Sunday night.
Panthers 3, Steelers 27
The Steelerseasily handled the Panthers 27-3 on Thursday and it wasn't even that close. The Steelers outgained the Panthers 408-119 and mostof those yards came on the opening drive when the Panthers took the opening kickoff to the Steelers 32 before punting. Yes, you read that right. A two win team decided to punt 32 yards away from the endzone. "They're 2-13 for a reason," said Steelers safety Ryan Clark. Yes, they sure are.
The Cardinals returned two interceptions for a touchdown in the first quarter to jump out to a 14-0 lead and then capped the scoring with a 48 yard Jay Feely field goal as time expired. This game was a microcosm of the Cowboys season. Several times the Cowboys were able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They scored the go-ahead touchdown late only to miss the PAT. After the kickoff they got the Cardinals in a 4th-and-15 situation deep in their own end and then watched as John Skelton completed a 26 yard pass to Larry Fitgerald, his only catch of the game. Finally, the Cardinals drove into field goal range but were called for an illegal formation with only 5 seconds remaining. The Cowboys thought they won because of the 10 second runoff rule. Only, there isn't a 10 second runoff on an illegal formation so Feely was able to make the kick for the win. "We tried to do what we could to block the pain," said Jon Kitna. No word on if he was referring to the pain from his injury or the pain of the Cowboys season.
The new Browns hosted the old Browns, and once again, the old Browns came out on top. The win means the old Browns are back in the playoffs while the new Browns will be sitting at home again. Ed Reed led the stout old Browns defense with two interceptions and a bruising hit on Peyton Hillis, who was held to only 35 yards rushing. At one point someone on the sidelines yelled, "Reed, you're on fire." Only he really was on fire. He was standing too close to one of the sideline heaters and his jacket caught on fire.
Titans 14, Chiefs 34
Matt Cassel threw 3 touchdowns as the Chiefs raced out to a 31-7 halftime lead on their way to crushing the Titans. The win, coupled with the Chargers loss, means the Chiefs have clinched the AFC West championship and have completed the biggest turnaround in franchise history with 6 wins more than the 4 they had all of last season. Their 10 wins this season also equals the 10 wins they've totaled for their last 3 seasons combined. Most of the players talked about how great it was to be in the playoffs after the game. "It's a huge accomplishment," said Matt Cassel. But guard Brian Waters probably said it best when he said of the huge turnaround, "It just means we were just that bad last year."
Jacoby Ford took the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, Peyton Manning threw 2 interceptions, and Sebastion Janikowski kicked 4 field goals, including one from 59 yards, but it wasn't enough to beat the Colts on Sunday. A big part of the Colts recent success is that they've finally figured out how to stop the run. They held Maurice Jones-Drew to only 67 yards last week and held Oakland to only 80 total yards this week. "All we did was win today," said Manning. "We have to find a way to win again next week." I guess it's a good thing then that you're playing the Titans next week.
Seahawks 15, Buccaneers 38
Second year QB Josh Freeman threw a career best 5 touchdowns while LeGarrette "he was our future" Blount rushed for 164 yards as the Buccaneers easily handeld the Seahawks. The win means the Bucs can still make the playoffs if they win in New Orleans next week and the Packers lose to the Bears and the Giants lose in Washington. Strangely, the Seahawks can also still make the playoffs if they can beat the Rams at home. What makes it even stranger is that all 9 of the Seahawks losses have been by 15 points or more. Not even the 1-15 Rams of last year lost 9 games by 15 or more points. And if the Rams beat the Seahawks by 15+ points, they'll become only the third team since 1970 to have that many losses of 15 or more points, and that includes the 1976 expansion Buccaneers who went 0-14 in their first season and 0-13 to start their second. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the reports of Pete Carroll having turned the franchise around have been greatly over exaggerated.
Drew Brees threw 2 costly interceptions but when the game was on the line, he delivered. Trailing 14-10 late in the 4th, Brees led the Saints on a 90 yard drive that was capped by a 6 yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham with 3:24 remaining. The Saints defense that had been staunch all game, limiting the Falcons to only 215 yards of offense, then forced a punt and Brees was able to run out the clock. The win means the Saints still have a shot for the NFC South title and the 1-seed. "You just want to punch you ticket to the big show and we've done that," said Brees. "Obviously Carolina needs to beat Atlanta next week so we can get that 1-seed." Uhm...I'm thinking the odds of Carolina beating the Falcons in Atlanta is about 1 in a million. But as Jim Carrey says in Dumb and Dumber, "So you're saying there's a chance."
It's been a rough year for the Vikings. After barely missing the Super Bowl last season, the Vikings have endured the Brett Favre saga, a head coach firing, and even the collapse of their stadium's roof. But on Tuesday it looked like the Eagles were the team in turmoil. Rookie Joe Webb threw for 195 yards and ran for a touchdown in his first NFL start as he led the Vikings to a stunning upset of the 14 point favored Eagles. The loss means the Eagles no longer have a shot for a first round bye in the playoffs. "We don't deserve it after that performance," said Eagles coach Andy Reid. "Every phase was terrible. We didn't coach well enough. We didn't play well enough. I'm disappointed in myself. It's embarrassing." Just be grateful your not coaching the Cowboys.
49ers 17, Rams 25
Once again the 49ers teased us by making us think they had a chance in the first half, only to make zero adjustments in the second half and lose. This has to be karma paying us back for the 80s and 90s.