All four teams in the NFC West won in the same week for the first time in 11 years. Is this a sign of the apocalypse? Are they the four horsemen? Are Tim Tebow's two completions the two witnesses? Are the 49ers front seven the seven headed dragon? Who would be the whore of Babylon? All I know is if Tebow can't play one week because he's suddenly disappeared into thin air I'm going to start getting nervous.
Remember in 1995 when the Rams started 5-1 and were all set to make a statement win at home against the 49ers in week 7? The 49ers went out and crushed the Rams 44-10 to which one of the 49ers players replied afterwards, "Same old Rams." No doubt the Patriots players were thinking the same thing Sunday night, "Same old Jets." The Jets hadn't lost at home all season while the Patriots had lost two in a row, but it didn't matter because the Patriots still have Tom Brady while the Jets still have, well...Mark Sanchez. Brady threw for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns while Sanchez threw for 306 yards but also had 2 interceptions, including a costly pick-6 by Rob Ninkovich in the 4th that sealed the win for the Pats. "It looks doubtful right now," Rex Ryan said of the Jets chances of winning the AFC East. "What am I going to say? Maybe I should guarantee the fact we're out of it. The last time I did that, we made the playoffs. Yeah, we don't have a chance." Hey, you said it not me.
The Cowboys are back! They just crushed a quality team, or what used to be a quality team, at home. Tony Romo threw for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns. They now look like the team to threaten the Giants in the NFC East. Wait a minute. Weren't we saying the exact same things about the Eagles just a couple weeks ago? Is there any other bandwagon we can jump on after the team played one good game? "I think that's as good as we played against a team that's credible," said Jerry Jones. Credible? That's one way of putting it. The Bills did just lose 27-11 at home last week to a Jets team that just lost at home 37-16 to the Patriots. Using the transitive property that means the Bills would lose on the road to the Patriots 157-3. My math might be off but I think that's close. The Bills may have lost but at least the Bills David Nelson's girlfriend is hot, and yes Bignerd, you can put that on a tombstone.
Trailing 23-13 midway through the 4th, the Falcons came storming back to tie it up and send it to OT. The Saints got the ball first but the Falcons defense did their job and forced a three-and-out. That's when things got interesting. After 3 plays the Falcons found themselves with a 4th-and-inches at their own 30. Obviously coach Mike Smith decided to punt...wait, he went for it?! Yes, I saw the numbers but I don't care what they say. I thought it was a dumb call. The thing is if you make it all you have is a 1st down and you still have to drive down the field, while if you don't get it the Saints are already in field goal range. Michael Turner got stuffed at the line and Drew Brees, who threw for 322 yards and 2 touchdowns, moved the Saints 20 yards to set up the game winning chip shot field goal. "It takes some steel and you-know-what to make the call," Brees said of Smith's call. "This one play is the game." Well it did take you-know-what. Too bad Smith was also thinking with his you-know-what.
Blaine Gabbert and Curtis Painter took turns pretending to be NFL starting quarterbacks but it was the bruising running of Maurice Jones-Drew, who ran for 114 yards and a TD, that ultimately was the difference in this game. Both Gabbert and Painter threw an interception in their teams first five plays, 35 of the 61 offensive plays in the first half went for 2 yards or less, there were a combined 11 punts, 4 turnovers, and the score was tied 3-3 with less than 2 minutes to play in the 3rd. Even Dan Orlovsky, who came in for Painter in the second half, lost the ball when he was stripped on a sack. "The team is sputtering," said longtime Colts defensive end Robert Mathis. Really? I suppose next you're going to tell us the economy's not doing well, diet Dr Pepper really does taste more like real Dr Pepper, and setting up a squatter's camp in the middle of NY City is bound to end up with police in riot gear, tear gas and people screaming, "The world is watching!" if only because they like to see people get thumped by night sticks.
Are you kidding me?! Two completions! And that's good enough to win a game in today's NFL? Turning water into wine, big deal. Parting the Red Sea, yawn. Stopping the sun in the sky, boring. Walking on water, I'm sure there were stepping stones hidden somewhere. But winning a game in the NFL with only two completions, now there's a real miracle. The Broncos ran the ball 55 times while only attempting 8 passes, and now the man with the ugliest looking throw in the NFL is 3-1 as a starter this season and 4-3 for his career. More impressively, all three of his wins this season came on the road. Kyle Orton is 4-14 as a starter over that same time. "It's a low-risk offense," said Broncos coach John Fox. "It's just whatever is working for us. If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Now someone just needs to coach John Elway on how to not look completely disgusted as he stands on the sideline.
The Bengals had their chance to make a statement win and prove they were they team to beat in the AFC North, but after two Rashard Mendenhall touchdowns and two fourth quarter interceptions by rookie Andy Dalton, the Steelers are back on top once again as the kings of the hill. The two interceptions were particularly difficult since both happened when the Bengals were threatening to score in Steelers territory. The first ended a drive at the Steelers 33 when a deflected pass was picked off by linebacker Lawrence Timmons, while the second came when William Gay stepped in front of Jerome Simpson at the Steelers 19-yard line with only 2:27 to play. "It was awesome," linebacker James Farrior said. "I'm especially proud of William Gay (who was the one that gave up the game winning catch to Torrey Smith last week against the Ravens with 8 seconds remaining)." Do you think they always call him by his full name, or do they ever just call him by his last? It reminds me of a girl I knew in High School who's last name was Seaman.
Rams 13, Browns 12
When things aren't going your way, they really aren't go your way. First Peyton Hillis has been struck down by the dreaded Madden Curse, and then they lose at home to the Rams. What made it worse was how they lost. Leading 10-12 midway through the 4th, Josh Cribbs fumbled on a punt return while trying to get extra yards that the Rams turned into a 34-yard FG to take the lead. Then the Browns responded by driving down to the Rams 5-yard line but on their FG attempt the snap went off another player's leg and bounced to the holder, throwing off the timing of Phil Dawson who shanked it left. "I thought this stuff only happened to the Rams," said Steven Jackson who rushed for 128 yards. "I didn't think it happened to other teams." No, it just feels that way when you've spent your entire career playing for the Rams.
Will the real Chargers please stand up? Are they the team that started 4-1 and was looking to be the class of the AFC West or are they the team that's lost 4 in a row and are now tied with the Broncos? Considering all their wins have come against teams with losing records, I'm going to say they're later. Carson Palmer threw for 299 yards and 2 touchdowns, Michael Bush ran for 157 and a TD, while Phillip Rivers had another bad game completing less than half his passes as the Raiders took over sole position of first place. It may have taken longer than I hoped but my dream of watching the Chargers crash and burn for steeling Norv Turner away from the 49ers, Alex Smith's only chance of becoming a quality QB, have finally come true all while Alex Smith is finally becoming a quality QB. That's called karma, or something.
After Reggie Bush scored the second of his two touchdowns late in the 4th to seal the win, he tossed the ball into the stands. What ensued was an all out brawl for the ball, including a man holding a baby that he was using to swat people away. Hey, when your team goes almost a year between home wins, game winning souvenirs are at a premium. Rex Grossman, who got the starting job back from John Beck, did what Grossman does best. He threw two interceptions which now gives the Dolphins four interceptions for the year. Too bad they can't play against him every week. When asked why he made the switch back to Grossman Mike Shanahan said, "If you have this many guys go down (with injuries), I didn't want to go with the inexperienced guy and throw him to the wolves." True, it's much better to go with the guy who's used to being eaten by the wolves.
Cardinals 21, Eagles 17
If all Tim Tebow does is win games than all Michael Vick does is win games...about half the time. His record as a starter is 48-41-1, including an 11-10 record in Philadelphia. In fact, other than last year when he finished with a career best 100.2 passer rating, his best season as a starter came in 2002 when he finished the year with an 81.6 passer rating. Every other year he's had a rating under 80, including this year where he's sitting at 79.8. So can we all just finally admit the problem in Philly isn't Andy Reid who has a proven track record of coaching winning teams and taking them to the playoffs, but is more than likely the huge drop in play by Vick. For the 5th time this season the Eagles blew a 4th quarter lead and for the 5th time this season Vick was unable to generate any late game heroics to come from behind for the win. Of course, the Cardinals have their own QB that they overpaid for when they signed Kevin Kolb. For the second straight week Kolb sat out thanks to an injured toe and for the second straight week the Cardinals won behind John Skelton. So who will be the Cardinals starting QB when Kolb comes back? "I'll have to look at the film," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. Wait a minute. I just know I've heard that somewhere before.
Their leading receiver, Andre Johnson, is out. Their best defensive player, Mario Williams, is gone for the season. Now it looks like they could lose Matt Schaub for the season which would mean Matt "I love the Hollywood life" Leinart would become the starter. Yet the Texans just keep on winning. Having the NFL's top ranked defense and maybe the best 1-2 combos at running back with Arian Foster and Ben Tate undoubtedly are a huge reason why. Foster and Tate combined for 147 yards on the ground and 2 touchdowns, while the defense held the Bucs to only 231 total yards and 9 points, sacking Josh Freeman 4 times and forcing 4 turnovers, 3 of which were interceptions. "Terrible game. Completely, put the blame on me for this one," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "Poor job by myself. I'll take complete responsibility for that. I refuse to believe that our guys are that bad, so it has to be my fault." Well, you've gone 1-4 over your last five games, you've been outscored 136-46 in those game, and you're saying it's not because of the quality of players you have? Denial is a powerful thing. Plus, I've also been told it's a river in Egypt. I still need to double check to make sure that's true.
The Panthers came into the game ranked 5th in total offense, averaging 415 yards and just over 23 points per game, and ranked first in plays of 20 yards or more thanks in large part to having the NFC's leading receiver in Steve Smith. So how did the Titans limit such a potent offense to only 3 points? They put a spy on him. They made sure to keep him in the pocket and took away his deep throws. By the end they had sacked him 5 times (4 of them coming on 1st down), intercepted him once, held him to only 209 passing yards and Steve Smith to only 33 yards receiving, and didn't allow a single completion of 20 yards or more. It also helped that Chris Johnson finally got going, rushing for 130 yards and a TD. "This is embarrassing, man," Newton repeated 3 times while shaking his head. "I know I could have done a lot of things better. It's a reality check, that's what it is." Don't be too hard on yourself Cam, it could have been worse. You could have played like Rex Grossman.
Ravens 17, Seahawks 22
Are Jim and John Harbaugh really brothers? No team in the NFL runs the ball more than the 49ers. In fact, they're one of the few teams that actually run the ball more than they pass it, running it 53% of the time. Considering the similarities between the 49ers and Ravens, and given Joe Flacco's struggles this year, you would think the Ravens would also be a run first team, but you'd be wrong. Only 38% of their offensive plays have been runs and against the Seahawks they ran it even less. The Ravens threw the ball 53 times while trying only 12 runs, with two of those being by Flacco when no one was open. Ray Rice carried the ball only 5 times for 27 yards. Throw in 3 turnovers that the Seahawks recovered in Ravens territory and turned into 9 points, and two missed field goals by the Ravens, and you see why the Seahawks pulled off the upset. "We understand that we are going to be a target of a lot of criticism right now. We understand that," Harbaugh said. "We understand that it's going to be local; it's going to be national." Let's just hope he doesn't fully understand the problem until after Thanksgiving.
The Lions had 22 first downs while the Bears only had 12. The Lions ran 84 plays and the Bears ran only 57. The Lions outgained the Bears on offense 393-216. The Lions 313 passing yards were almost three times as many as the 107 passing yards by the Bears. The Bears did have more rushing yards 109-80 but the Lions averaged more per rush getting 4.2 yards per carry as opposed to only 3.1 yards per carry by the Bears. So how did the Bears not only win but crush the Lions? Because they fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is "Never get involved in a land war in Asia" - but only slightly less well known is this: "Never punt right down the middle of the field when the other team has Devin Hester." Oh, and they also turned the ball over 6 times, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
We all knew the Packers had the scariest offense in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers threw for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns and was already out of the game near the beginning of the 4th quarter. Where the Packers are vulnerable is on defense, particularly their pass defense which had been giving up almost 300 yards per game, 2nd most in the NFL. Part of that was because teams are constantly finding themselves behind and needing to air it out to get back in the game, but it's still the one area where they can be exploited. They also give up 4.6 yards per carry, only 23rd best, which might be the one way the 49ers could beat them. "We needed a game like that," Charles Woodson said. "It feels good, but it's still one game." Sure, one game against a team with only 2 wins starting a rookie QB in a hostile road environment. Amazing what playing a team like that will do for your self confidence.
Giants 20, 49ers 27
Once again all around solid play in all three aspects of the game (offense, defense, and special teams) beat a more one dimensional team. I'm starting to notice a trend.