This will be the first Recap post of the new blog. It will be raw to start, but through practice and a continuing dedication to writing, it will take on a style of its own and will hopefully enlighten y'all about what took place during each game, while being at least mildly interesting.
Not every week will be in any kind of chronological order, some weeks I may go with the best/most exciting game at the top of the recap, and other weeks it will be completely random. This week, however, as a Bengal fan who was sincerely disappointed in the performance by his team in the Thursday night game this week, I will begin with that game.
Cincinnati Bengals 20 - Miami Dolphins 22
A defensive struggle all the way through, although both teams had trouble stopping up a bit in the running game. This game was highlighted by an incredible run by Giovani Bernard, 3 key drops by the Cincinnati Bengals (Jermaine Gresham and AJ Green on third down plays, and an unacceptable drop by Mohamed Sanu which turned into one of Dalton's 3 interceptions), and Dalton committing 3 turnovers (not counting Sanu's drop), one of which was a pick-six; the Dolphins had a great pass rush all game and kept Dalton off his rhythm (Cameron Wake had 3 sacks, including a sack-fumble and the game winning safety in overtime). The Dolphins, offensively, were able to move the ball, but were not very effective at punching it in for the touchdown, but they won the turnover battle as Ryan Tannehill completed 20 of 28 passes with no interceptions, their only turnover coming from a fumble by Lamar Miller after a vicious slap of the ball from Carlos Dunlap.
A walk-off safety though? That's a crazy ending to a game, about why the Bengals were even dropping Dalton back at that point, nobody truly knows. The biggest loss of the game, however, was the loss of Geno Atkins for the season with an ACL tear. The Bengals have, arguably, the best defensive line in the game when he's on the field, so it will be tough for them to fill that void.
Tennessee Titans 28 - St. Louis Rams 21
From a battle of mediocre teams came an interesting football game. Sam Bradford is out for the Rams, leaving them with Kellen Clemens as the starter, and thus far Clemens has been an adequate fill-in, with lots of room for improvement. After a not so great showing against the Seahawks (but it is the Seahawks), he came back this week and was able to take care of the ball and complete passes. Clemens gained assistance, immensely, this week by Zac Stacy, who has come in to give the Rams a running game over the past 2 weeks. If he can continue what he is doing, he'll be able to help this offense for years to come. Still not much of a Tavon Austin showing, but I believe that people are paying too much attention to what he has/hasn't done. The Titans finally got Chris Johnson running again (much to the excitement of his fantasy owners), but it was also done against the Rams who have been no better than a sieve. That said, Johnson and Shonn Greene were able to carry the load in this game and ultimately gave the Titans a win, in spite of 2 picks from Jake Locker returning from his injury.
The Titans are a team to watch moving forward because outside of the Colts, the AFC South doesn't offer much in the way of playoff teams. They have a good running game (sometimes), and Locker has done well in his development. Tennessee's defense is led by a solid secondary, mostly because of Alteraun Verner's play this year and Jason McCourty. The Rams are in a state of flux, again, but the emergence of Stacy could play a big role over the next couple of years for that team.
Kansas City Chiefs 23 - Buffalo Bills 13
The Chiefs were looking to match the best start in their history (they were 9-0 in 2003 before a loss to the Bengals) and their defense is the impetus behind their record. The Bills have been disappointing this year, but Thaddeus Lewis has been mostly solid in his out of nowhere replacement of E.J. Manuel. They need their running game and defense to step up, big, if they want to do anything this season.
This match-up looks bad on paper, but the Chiefs offense will give most teams a chance to stay in the game. As it was, the defense scored more points by getting a 100 yard pick six by Sean Smith, although if Jeff Tuel had been paying attention, Stevie Johnson beat Smith bad into the back of the end zone. Tamba Hali added a fumble return for a TD after Marcus Cooper stripped TJ Graham of the ball. CJ Spiller had his best game of the season, but is having trouble finding the end zone (although considering the defense he did it against, that could be a positive sign). Spiller and Fred Jackson can still be a dynamic one-two punch.
The Chiefs are for real. As long as their defense can stand up the way it has thus far, they will win and will fight for the division. Alex Smith doesn't put up eye-popping numbers, but he takes care of the ball and Jamaal Charles has run well behind a line that is opening holes every week.
Atlanta Falcons 10 - Carolina Panthers 34
The Falcons started the season as a popular pick for Super Bowl contention, with good reason, they have a dynamic receiving corps that consists of Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez, and a great QB in Matt Ryan. That was derailed early when White began having trouble getting on the field, and just got worse when they lost Jones for the season. Jacquizz Rodgers and Harry Douglas have been positive surprises, but it's not enough when the defense has had issues stopping other teams. The Panthers have been on a win streak fed mostly by their defense. They have a top-flight front 7, which tackles well and gets after the quarterback. Their secondary is above average and includes overlooked guys such as Captain Munnerlyn and Michael Mitchell. It's the play of Thomas Davis, Luke Keuchly, Charles Johnson, and Greg Hardy that is really pushing this side of the ball though.
The Panthers' running game didn't work as efficiently as in past weeks, but they were given the ball multiple times by the defense forcing Ryan into throwing 3 INTs. Cam Newton played well, but threw 2 picks of his own. Jonathan Stewart coming back should aid the running game, and help DeAngelo Williams get some big plays. The Falcons, again, struggled without their top receivers. Gonzalez had to work for his 81 yards this game, but it is very difficult when defenses know you're the biggest threat.
Baltimore Ravens 18 - Cleveland Browns 24
The Super Bowl champs have been disappointing this season, but should not get counted out. They still have talent, and Torrey Smith may actually be on his way to becoming an all around receiver. The Browns have been inconsistent, but the defense has been good week in and week out. Jason Campbell started at QB for Cleveland, and he was on his game this week. He threw 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, 2 going to Davone Bess and the other going to Gary Barnidge. Greg Little had one of the best games of his relatively disappointing career with some big catches, and some seriously difficult catches. Ray Rice still couldn't find his stride as he continues to be mostly unproductive in an offense that has been inconsistent at best. Joe Flacco had an above average day, but it is very tough to make plays when you get sacked 5 times.
Joe Haden "lit a fire" the week earlier by saying that the Ravens are just not as good as the Ravens of old, even if they're still good. I, personally, think that he was just being honest, and it showed this week.
Minnesota Vikings 23 - Dallas Cowboys 27
The Vikings have been a carousel at quarterback this year, but with a running back like Adrian Peterson, that shouldn't hurt as much as it has been. This game they gave Peterson the ball and he certainly didn't disappoint. The defense let them down against Dallas. It is my opinion, that they should just ride Peterson week in and week out and just ask Christian Ponder/Josh Freeman/Matt Cassell, to not make big mistakes. Ponder's INT and fumble, are precisely what they need him to not do with Peterson behind him. Tony Romo finally got some "validation", whatever that means, by scoring on a drive that ultimately won the game. The Cowboys have an aversion to running the ball, 9 total runs (including a run by Romo himself) just won't cut it in most games. It didn't hurt this game, but the running game is a vital part of playing offense, and the Cowboys have a great runner in Demarco Murray (when he's healthy). Dez Bryant and Jason Witten played very well, as did Cole Beasley. Bryant is always talking on the sidelines, and when his mind is right he's one of the top 3 receivers in football.
Indianapolis Colts 27 - Houston Texans 24
Matt Schaub may be out for good in Houston, if Case Keenum continues playing well. The Texans jumped on the Colts early, and had Andrew Luck off his rhythm in the first half. Ben Tate ran efficiently, even with cracked ribs, and Andre Johnson had his first really big game in some time. When the play-action is working, the Texans offense can hang with anybody. T.Y. Hilton stepped up strong in the first game Indianapolis played without Reggie Wayne, but the running game is almost in shambles. Trent Richardson is getting out performed by Donald Brown, which is maybe scaring the Colts coaches, but Brown has produced. The Texans did most of their damage in the first half, Keenum threw 3 touchdowns to Johnson and it looked like Houston might run away with it. Tragedy struck at halftime, which may have played a part in the Texans falling back in the second half, when Head Coach Gary Kubiak collapsed walking off the field. Kubiak didn't return, and the Colts came back from halftime to immediately drive down the field and score. They would score on their next 4 drives en route to another win.
The Colts have played well this year and are making statements with every win. Not every game will be won handily, being able to win against adversity is important for the playoff run.
Pittsburgh Steelers 31 - New England Patriots 55
The Steelers and Patriots are perennial, if not powerhouses, contenders in their respective divisions, but this season hasn't necessarily been kind to either team. The Steelers have been far below average, and the defense hasn't looked like everyone is used to seeing it. Le'Veon Bell came back and has provided a bit of legitimacy to their running, but that alone won't fix their issues, as shown this week. Pittsburgh's inability to stop the Patriots offense forced Ben Roethlisberger to throw the ball 48 times. He was actually effective through the air, throwing 3 touchdowns to former Jet Jerricho Cotchery, but he also threw 2 interceptions, both of which turned into touchdowns for the Patriots. New England's offense basically had their way with Pitt's defense. Brady threw 4 touchdowns while completing 23 of his 33 passes. Rob Gronkowski coming back has seemed to inject some life into their passing game, and Aaron Dobson has overcome his drops issues from the beginning of the season, exploding this week for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns on 5 receptions. Stevan Ridley gashed a normally stout defense for 115 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns.
The Steelers have been mired in misery most of the season, and it doesn't look like that will be changing much. The Patriots don't seem to be on track some weeks, but other weeks they can put it all together. They may ultimately end the season at their normal high, but they aren't as worrisome for opponents this season.
New Orleans Saints 20 - New York Jets 26
The brothers Ryan were coaching for opposing teams in this one (Rex Ryan is the head coach for New York and Rob Ryan is the new defensive coördinator for New Orleans). The Jets have rookie Geno Smith, starting at quarterback and he's had many ups and downs over the course of the year. The rest of the team is in the same place, though, as the Jets have won every other week. Their defense has been at the top of the league even in most of their losses, barring the loss to Cincinnati. The offensive line has done a great job in protection, most games, and the running game is good, if inconsistent. The Saints seem to have the division in hand, unless the Panthers can snatch it from them, so this game should have been a New Orleans win. New Orleans has issues running the ball, however, and not having Darren Sproles in as a receiver out of the backfield doesn't help them. Pierre Thomas is a good hard runner, but they never seem to trust him to carry the load, and Mark Ingram has yet to show anything in his time in the NFL.
In this game Drew Brees had to throw the ball 51 times and he did find Jimmy Graham relatively often, including 2 touchdowns. Brees did, however, throw 2 interceptions which led to 10 points for the Jets. Both defenses played solid games, New York just did more to win. The Saints couldn't get any takeaways, which could be in part because Smith only threw 19 passes. Chris Ivory has run well since coming back from his injury, seeming to have taken the number 1 running back spot from Bilal Powell, and he rushed for 139 yards against his old team.
Philadelphia Eagles 49 - Oakland Raiders 20
Chip Kelly has introduced a "new offense" to the NFL as the head coach of Philly. The offense has had mixed success, which is partly because Michael Vick hasn't been able to stay healthy, and it seems to be clear that Matt Barkley isn't ready to play at the NFL level. Enter Nick Foles... Apparently. Before getting to that though, we'll touch on the Raiders', although there's not a huge amount to say. Terrelle Pryor has played better at QB than many would have thought he could, but he still isn't a quarterback that I would want to rely on. Darren McFadden still can't stay healthy, and there's a copious amount of speed in the receiving corps, but their hands are iffy. Offensive line issues and an average, at best, defense, are not likely to help most of that.
So about this game. We saw Peyton Manning throw 7 touchdowns to start the season, and in a performance from possibly the most unexpected quarterback in the NFL, we saw Foles match it against Oakland. Foles got off to a quick start by hitting Brent Celek for a short touchdown pass, then he started to find his favorite target (at least this week) as he threw 3 of his touchdowns to Riley Cooper. DeSean Jackson caught one himself, leaving the other 2 to be split between LeSean McCoy and Zach Ertz. McCoy, it is worth noting, has not been as dominant as he began the season, but he scares defenses with his speed. Would Foles have done this against a better team? Probably not, but he did do it, and it is a possible indicator that he may be able to take over this offense and run it effectively and successfully. For the Raiders, as if giving up that many touchdowns wasn't enough, Terrelle Pryor was hurt again and rookie Matt McGloin came in for his first appearance this season. All things considered, McGloin wasn't bad, completing 7 of 15 passes. Rashad Jennings put in most of the work on offense, rushing for 102 yards.
We'll be watching to see if he can continue playing well over the rest of the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 - Seattle Seahawks 27
The Bucs have been the epitome of bad this season, no wins thus far, and only the Jaguars are really challenging them for worst team. Mike Glennon has come in to take over the quarterback position, and has played relatively well, but the team just hasn't been good enough to put together the wins. This game would prove to be no different. After being able to jump on the Seahawks 21-7 before halftime, aided significantly by some bad throws and big mistakes by Russell Wilson, the Bucs seemed to forget how to play football. In fairness to Tampa Bay, the Seahawks are still the best team in the NFC, and won't be an easy win for anybody in the NFL. After the offense settled down a bit, Seattle mounted their comeback, which was on the back of a defense that has allowed more rushing yards than they should be. In yet another week, they allowed a relative unknown to rush for over 100 yards against them, this time it was Mike James filling in for Doug Martin. They did, however, allow only 3 points in the second half, and those 3 points came on the first drive of the half. Seattle has, almost without debate, the best secondary in the NFL, and quite possibly the best cornerback as well. Teams will have to fight for everything they get against this team, and this week showed that they can win tough games at home.
It's an overreaction to say the Seahawks are in trouble over this game, and the Rams game. No team is invincible, no team is immune to adversity or mistakes. These games are important for the best teams, even more so than the bottom feeding teams because in the playoffs, it's not likely that you will be involved in a dominating win. They came back from a large deficit to beat a desperate team. As for that desperate team, they will still be desperate, but they should be able to take from this game that they can fight even the best teams. If Glennon can stay efficient and turnover free, they may have some good things in place when Martin comes back.
San Diego Chargers 24 - Washington Redskins 30
Robert Griffin III, is supposedly the only player on the Washington Redskins, but this week the most points were scored by Darrell Young. You may be asking who that is, he is their starting fullback and up until this week, he'd carried the ball a total of twice on the season. He scored 3 touchdowns, including the game winning score in overtime, on 5 rushes. Pierre Garcon broke out of what has been a pretty enveloping shell this season for 172 yards on 7 catches, but couldn't find the end zone. Griffin played well, throwing only 1 interception and completing 23 of 32 passes. The defense, as strange as that seems, won the game for Washington. They picked off Phillip Rivers twice, which led to 10 points for the Redskins. They also rendered the Chargers running game non-existent, holding them to a total of 69 yards on the ground.
Rivers has had what some are calling a "career resurrection" this season. He rebounded very well from a couple of iffy seasons, but he has had a couple of games this season in which mistakes he made came back to bite the Chargers. They still have a good chance at a wildcard, but they can't lose games like this one.
Chicago Bears 27 - Green Bay Packers 20
Division rivals fighting for the number one spot in the division? Sounds like a great game! The Bears were missing Jay Cutler, but Josh McCown (yes, I said that right) has played well in his absence and the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers on the first drive of the game, which should have taken some of the steam out of the game... Right? Wrong. Seneca Wallace came in and handed the ball to Eddie Lacy, who is in the process of making his case for being the best running back out of Alabama, as Green Bay fought to maintain first place in the NFC North. Shea McClellin had 3 sacks for the Bears and neither team turned the ball over, leaving it up to the offenses to get their points on their own. 2 touchdowns from McCown, including one that went to Alshon Jeffery who was just way too tall for Davon House (who is 6'1" himself), helped push Chicago over the Packers and left them in a tie with each other, as well as the Lions, for first in the division.
The Packers are a different team without Rodgers, but if Lacy can continue to run like he has, and James Starks can continue to produce when he gets his touches, they should be alright. The Bears seem to be playing well with everybody else healthy, they are finally getting some blocking on the offensive line, and Jeffery is proving be quite a complement for Brandon Marshall.
I hope y'all enjoyed this. I found my own issues as I wrote it that I plan to improve on in the coming weeks, but I am open to constructive criticism. At no time will I explain to you how well one quarterback outplayed the other, if you want to see direct comparisons go elsewhere. Each quarterback is playing against a different defense, with a different supporting cast. I will be getting into more detail as I move forward with these recaps, and I will be focusing more on defensive plays and players. I would like to say too, I will unfortunately not be able to update this next week, although I may have somebody fill in for me. Please keep reading. Should be a fun rest of the season!!