It is always better to watch a game in person, even if the teams playing aren't what one would consider, world beaters. This belief held true this weekend, when I spent my Sunday watching the Raiders and Jets at MetLife stadium. It was a great game to watch, and more can be seen when watching from the stands. I love sitting a few sections off the field because everything can be seen, from formations and starting coverages, to holes that open up in the running game, and every passing route that a receiver runs. Unfortunately, it did mean I missed watching my Bengals play for the third seed (almost the second seed), as well as, a bunch of close games and wild finishes. There is something to be said for the ability to watch all the games that being played.
Houston Texans 20 - Jacksonville Jaguars 27
Playing to stay out of last place in the division, the Jaguars and Texans played their second game against each other in three weeks. The outcome was the same, but the discrepancy in play was vastly in Jacksonville's favor this week. Marcedes Lewis had only two catches, but he also had the most yardage and both catches were big plays. His first catch was a one yard touchdown, which was the product of being far too big for Kareem Jackson on a curl route, to cap Jacksonville's first drive. Lewis' second catch was an amazing 41 yard reception while coming down on top of Daryl Sharpton and getting hit from behind by D.J. Swearinger, without even getting a chance to tuck the ball into his body. Chad Henne only threw for 117 yards in the game, but he also threw for two touchdowns. Henne didn't need to do much in the passing game because Maurice Jones-Drew ran over the Texans' defense, gaining 103 yards on only 14 carries. Jones-Drew didn't get the ball into the end zone, but he did have a big 48 yard run midway through the third quarter. Although I do not like seeing run plays out of shotgun, this particular play worked to perfection, with Jones-Drew bursting through an open hole on the right side of the line, opened up by a pulling Will Rackley, and breaking three tacklers at a time once he got into the secondary. Jones-Drew would also be injured on the play, which has him listed as questionable this week with a hamstring injury. The Jaguars also ran a trick play, getting speedster, Ace Sanders, to throw a 21 yard touchdown to back-up running back, and UConn graduate, Jordan Todman. On defense, Jacksonville had three sacks and two interceptions, picking off both Houston quarterbacks.
Case Keenum started the game for the Texans, and he threw a touchdown to go along with the interception. Keenum completed 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards, hitting a wide open Keshawn Martin in the end zone for an eight-yard touchdown, but also throwing a terrible interception on the sideline. Matt Schaub and DeAndre Hopkins hooked up for a great 46 yard catch and run, for Schaub's second attempt of the game. Schaub, however, was only 17 for 29, with 198 yards, a touchdown to Garrett Graham and an interception, after throwing an ill-advised pass into triple coverage, which was jumped for by Geno Hayes. André Johnson had a big game, gaining 154 yards on 13 receptions, but he wasn't able to get into the end zone. Ben Tate rushed the ball as often as Jones-Drew had for the Jaguars, but Tate only rushed for 53 yards.
For the time being, Houston is in last place in the AFC South, but with three games left to play, it's still possible to make up the three necessary games to finish in third. Keenum and Schaub have both played legitimate time in the past two games, which may be a continuing strategy as the season closes, however Gary Kubiak was fired as head coach the day after the loss. Wade Phillips will be the interim head coach, so we will see how the final three weeks play out. In Jacksonville, Henne seems to have become the starter, so he will be playing to have the same position next season. Jones-Drew has begun to play better in recent weeks, and has said that he wishes to stay with the Jaguars next season.
Indianapolis Colts 28 - Cincinnati Bengals 42
The Colts and Bengals went into the game tied, but because of a division record tiebreaker, Indianapolis was the third seed. The Colts have had issues recently, on both sides of the ball, but they were able to win the division with a loss by the Titans. They didn't play very well in Cincinnati in Week 14. The offense had its best game through the air, in weeks, with Andrew Luck throwing for four touchdowns and 326 yards, on 29 completions over 46 attempts. The Colts, however, didn't put together a good drive, let alone any points, until the third quarter. They finally got on the board during their first drive of the second half, when Luck hit rookie Da'Rick Rogers over the middle on what became a 69 yard touchdown reception, after breaking a poor tackle attempt by Reggie Nelson, but it was already 21-7 at this point. Rogers would add a second touchdown late in the fourth quarter, and finished the game with six catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Lavon Brazill was on the receiving end for both of Indianapolis' other touchdowns, pulling in three passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns. Brazill's first touchdown was aided immensely by terrible tackling by Cincinnati's defense. The Colts' running game was abysmal, with Trent Richardson and Donald Brown rushing for a combined total of 31 yards 10 carries. On defense, Indy's problems continued, with Cincinnati dropping 42 points against them.
The Bengals finally arranged their offensive line in a way that I have advocated for since they first moved Andrew Whitworth to left tackle. Keeping Whitworth at left guard gives Cincinnati one of the best left guards in the game, and moving Anthony Collins to left tackle, gives them a great left side. Collins can block speed rushers better than Whitworth on the outside, and Whitworth's size and strength make him a great guard, especially in the AFC North. Andy Dalton went through the game unscathed, even though one of the best pass rushers in the NFL was on the other side, in Robert Mathis. Not only was Mathis blanked by Collins, the Bengals' offense committed zero turnovers. Dalton threw 35 passes, completing 25, for 275 yards and three touchdowns, adding a rush touchdown late in the fourth. A beautiful pass down the left sideline to a diving Marvin Jones, scored Cincinnati's first touchdown. Jones caught only two more passes for 60 yards in the game, en route to his best game in four weeks. A.J. Green scored a touchdown and gained 72 yards on six catches. Gresham caught Dalton's third touchdown pass. Giovani Bernard had his best game rushing, carrying the ball 12 times for 99 yards, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored two rushing touchdowns on his 17 carries. Green-Ellis' first touchdown was ultimately reviewed by the NFL, and it was decided that he was awarded a score incorrectly. It was a close play, but it looked like he was contacted before he fell. Even without that touchdown, the Bengals would win the game. Cincinnati's defense didn't play up to par, recording zero sacks or takeaways, but they held the Colts scoreless the entire first half, giving them a lead that wouldn't be relinquished.
Cincinnati moved into the third seed with the win, but they came within a last second field goal, in the Cleveland game, to ending up with the second seed in the AFC. If Dalton can continue to play turnover free football, it will give the defense some help and allow them to have games in which they don't play flawless football. Indianapolis clinched the division with the loss by Tennessee, but they may be going into the playoffs on a downward spiral, which usually doesn't bode well.
St. Louis Rams 10 - Arizona Cardinals 30
Coming off a loss that dropped the Cardinals out of the sixth seed in the NFC, they hosted a Rams team coming off of an embarrassing loss to the 49ers, who happened to take over that sixth seed. Arizona needs to win out, which would include a victory over the 49ers, if they want to go to the playoffs this year. The demolition of St. Louis was a good start. The defense held the Rams' rapidly progressing rookie running backs to 9 yards on two carries and 25 yards on 14 carries, for Benny Cunningham and Zac Stacy, respectively. Tavon Austin had one rush for 56 yards, but nothing else happened on the ground for St. Louis. John Abraham had three sacks, giving the 35-year-old 11 sacks for the season, including a safety early in the third quarter, and forced a fumble. Karlos Dansby had a sack of his own, Arizona would have four total, and one of two interceptions by the Cardinals defense. Dansby's interception was returned for a 26 yard touchdown, and Rashad Johnson picked off Kellen Clemens in the fourth quarter. On offense Arizona was efficient and mostly mistake free. Carson Palmer completed an awesome 84 percent of his passes, for 206 yards and a touchdown. Larry Fitzgerald caught that touchdown pass, as part of his 12 receptions for 96 yards. André Ellington rushed for 46 yards on 11 carries with a six yard touchdown run, while Rashard Mendenhall ran 17 times for 41 yards and a three yard touchdown. Even corner back Patrick Peterson carried the ball once, gaining 12 yards.
The Rams offense played as badly as the defense. Clemens threw the two aforementioned interceptions, and completed 16 of his 27 passes for just 181 yards. Clemens didn't get any help from the run game, but they need more production through the air, as well. Austin had the one rush for 56 yards, but the highly touted receiver has been sub-par this season, outside of a few big plays, and only caught one pass for 9 yards. Jared Cook was the Rams' leading receiver, with a spectacular 49 yards on three receptions. Zac Stacy scored St. Louis' only touchdown on the day. Alec Ogletree did force a fumble on the goal line, which was recovered by Janoris Jenkins, but the defense did little else to limit Arizona's offense.
Arizona stayed within one game of San Francisco with the win, and have their own fate in their hands if they can manage to win out. The NFC West turned out to be a legitimately difficult division, but St. Louis has not been very good for most of the season, and was blown out in multiple division games.
Tennessee Titans 28 - Denver Broncos 51
Tennessee needed to win to have an outside chance at winning the division, but even with the loss they have a small shot at making it to the playoffs as the sixth seed. They did play well in the first half, finishing the half with a 21-20 lead. It fell apart for the Titans in the second half, though. After scoring 21 points in the first half, they would only add one more touchdown the rest of the game, a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Justin Hunter who was wide open behind the defense after beating Quentin Jammer on a post. Hunter finished with 114 yards on just four catches. Fitzpatrick only threw 24 passes, completing 13 of them, for 172 yards the touchdown to Hunter, and an interception. All three of Tennessee's touchdown's in the first half, were on the ground. Shonn Greene ran in two of them, rushing nine times for 46 yards. Greene ran off-tackle and cut through a huge hole, before finally getting pushed out-of-bounds, in the end zone, by David Bruton after 28 yards. Chris Johnson scored a touchdown, too, gaining 46 yards on 12 carries. Tennessee was beaten in all areas on defense, allowing 154 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and 397 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
Denver's offense was firing on all cylinders this game. Montee Ball finally broke out with a big game and no fumbles, rushing for 77 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Knowshon Moreno had a similar day on the ground, gaining 78 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Moreno also had six receptions, although he only gained 31 yards. Peyton Manning had, another, ridiculous game passing, completing 39 of 59 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns. Eric Decker had another great game, catching eight passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. Demaryius Thomas caught seven for 88 yards and a touchdown. Wes Welker scored a touchdown, and hauled in five passes for 61 yards, but also suffered from a concussion in the game. Julius Thomas came back from his ankle injury to score a touchdown with five receptions, but only 35 yards. Denver recorded two sacks, picking off Fitzpatrick once, and recovering a fumble by Johnson. Matt Prater set an all time record with a bomb of a field goal, splitting the uprights from 64 yards away, to make the score 21-20 at the half.
The Broncos are one game closer to locking up home field advantage in the playoffs, although the Patriots and Chiefs still stand a chance to unseat them. If the defense can step up a little more, Denver may be a shoe-in for the Super Bowl. The Titans still have an outside chance of making the playoffs, but they need to rely on a loss or two by Baltimore and other teams.
Atlanta Falcons 21 - Green Bay Packers 22
The Packers are still in the running for the division title in the NFC North, but they need to keep winning. Atlanta is at the end of a terrible season, but that doesn't mean they don't care about winning. Matt Ryan had one of his better games for the season, completing 20 of 35 passes for 206 passes and two touchdowns, but he also threw an interception. Roddy White has played well since returning to health, against Green Bay he gained 74 yards on eight receptions. Tony Gonzalez scored a touchdown, but only had three catches for 25 yards. Steven Jackson rushed 15 times for 71 yards. Atlanta sacked Matt Flynn five times, and picked him off once, forcing a fumble on a William Moore sack, which was recovered by Malliciah Goodman. Sean Weatherspoon returned the pick of Flynn 71 yards for a touchdown. They weren't able to keep the Packers from scoring when they needed to, though.
Flynn had an adequate game in his second start, completing 24 of his 32 pass attempts for 258 yards and a touchdown, with an interception. Flynn's touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless was the winning score for Green Bay. Quarless had 66 yards on his six catches. Jordy Nelson caught four passes for 85 yards, his best game in a couple of weeks. Eddie Lacy scored a touchdown, but he only gained 65 yards on 20 rushes. Lacy is still the leading rookie rusher, but his yards per carry have dropped under four. Mike Neal recorded Green Bay's only sack of the game.
With a Detroit loss, Green Bay was able to make up some ground with the win. They are still a half game out, with three games left to play, including one game against Chicago, they still have a realistic shot at the division. Atlanta will end the season this year with a disappointing follow-up to a season in which they made it to the NFC Championship game.
Carolina Panthers 13 - New Orleans Saints 31
The Panthers, the young upstart in the NFC South, could have made a statement, while taking over sole possession of first place. They have lived off of their defense this season, but going into New Orleans may have been too tough for them. For a defense that is at the level it has reached because of a pass rush, they had shockingly little pressure on Drew Brees in the game, recording only two sacks, and they were not able to force any turnovers. The defensive backs and linebackers were over matched in the passing game, allowing 313 yards, and four touchdowns on 42 pass attempts. Cam Newton and the offense were mostly shut down. Newton only threw for 160 yards and one touchdown, even though he threw 34 passes and completed 20 of them. Newton gained 48 yards on the ground, carrying the ball six times. DeAngelo Williams led the ground attack with 13 rushes for 52 yards. Steve Smith scored the Panthers' lone touchdown, but only caught six passes for 49 yards. Greg Olsen caught eight passes, but he gained just 40 yards. Carolina was forced to settle for field goals in the first quarter, despite some great drives to get around the red zone.
New Orleans was embarrassed on Monday night of Week 13 by the Seattle Seahawks, but this week they were at home against the Panthers, with a chance to jump ahead in the division race. They made mincemeat of a defense that had allowed an average of less than 13.1 points per game coming in. Drew Brees completed 30 passes for a completion percentage of 71, and he threw two touchdowns each to Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham. Colston had nine receptions for 125, catching many passes over the middle with nobody around. Graham had 58 yards on six receptions. The Saints couldn't run very well, gaining a total of 69 yards on the ground on 17 carries.
The two teams still have a game to play this season, in Week 16, which could either solidify the division for the Saints, or put the Panthers in a position to earn it in Week 17. The Panthers are still going to be a force in the playoffs, but the Saints rebounded very well from the big loss to the current number one seed.
Cleveland Browns 26 - New England Patriots 27
The Browns seemed to be in control after the first half, holding a lead that reached 19-3 before the Patriots scored. Jason Campbell threw for 391 yards, completing 29 of 44 passes, with a touchdown and no turnovers. Campbell played very well for a team that has yet to have consistently good quarterback play this season. In spite of the quarterback difficulties, Josh Gordon has put together a great season, even after missing the first two games of the season. His seven receptions for 151 yards and a touchdown, put him at 1,400 yards with 71 catches and eight touchdowns, in just 11 games. Jordan Cameron had a big game, as well, gaining 121 yards on nine receptions, with a touchdown. The Browns still had no running game, Josh Gordon had the most yards rushing, gaining 34 yards on one carry. Cleveland recorded four sacks, and forced two turnovers, one interception and one forced fumble. Paul Kruger forced the fumble on a sack, but that would be the last drive on which they stopped the Patriots.
New England couldn't score until late in the third quarter, but once they did, they didn't stop. After a field goal kicked off the scoring, they would kick another field goal and score three touchdowns. They recovered an onside kick after a Julian Edelman touchdown reception, and drove down the field to take the lead on a one yard pass to Danny Amendola. The Amendola touchdown came on the play after a bad pass interference call in the end zone. The Patriots, however, gained the lead on the touchdown, and forced Cleveland to try a long field goal to win, but Billy Cundiff missed. Tom Brady turned the ball over twice, throwing an interception and fumbling the ball on a sack, but he threw for 418 yards and two touchdowns, completing 32 of 52 pass. Shane Vereen scored a rushing touchdown, but his impact was felt mostly in the passing game, where he caught 12 passes for 153 yards. Edelman caught six passes for 64 yards. Rob Gronkowski only had two catches in the game, but he suffered a torn ACL on the second catch and will be out for the rest of the season.
The Patriots narrowly avoided losing the second seed, and they stay within striking distance of the top seed and home field advantage. The Browns caught fire for a few games, but since then they have dropped game after game. They couldn't put away New England this week, and may not win another game this season.
Oakland Raiders 27 - New York Jets 37
It was awesome being at the game, even if it was nigh on meaningless. The Jets are technically still in a position to make the playoffs, but with their inconsistencies, it is unlikely. Geno Smith threw 25 passes and completed 16 of them, throwing for one touchdown and an interception. Smith also ran for 50 yards and a touchdown in the game. Kellen Winslow led Jets receivers with three receptions for 61 yards, but Jeremy Kerley caught Smith's touchdown pass, while two of the three Raiders players in the area, ignored the football. Chris Ivory rushed 18 times for 76 yards and a touchdown. Ivory's touchdown was an awesome individual effort, and he ran over Charles Woodson, before running through at least three other tacklers, for 15 yards. New York's defense forced just an interception by Matt McGloin, giving Ed Reed his first interception of the season. Antonio Allen ran through the line untouched on a punt by Oakland, and blocked it right to himself in the end zone for a Jets touchdown.
Oakland played a bad game all around. Having to start Taiwan Jones at running back, because of injuries to Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings, certainly didn't help. Jones rushed twice for three yards, before running back duties were passed almost solely to fullback Marcel Reece. Reece rushed for 123 yards on 19 carries, including a 63 yard touchdown run, on which the fast fullback outran the Jets defense. McGloin completed 16 of his 25 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and the Ed Reed interception. Rod Streater was the leading receiver with seven catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. Mychal Rivera scored on a one yard touchdown catch.
The Jets can still make a semi-serious push for the playoffs, but Oakland is officially out of the race at this point. If the defense can play like it did most of the first half of the season, and Smith can play turnover free football, the Jets may make that run. They need a lot of losses to fall their way, as well as winning the next three.
Miami Dolphins 34 - Pittsburgh Steelers 28
Miami and Pittsburgh played for a better chance at the playoff spot, but after a Baltimore win, neither of them could have jumped into the spot this week. With the win, Miami stayed tied with the Ravens, but they lose the head to head tiebreaker. The Dolphins won on a wild finish, which came after being up 17-7 early in the third quarter. Ryan Tannehill threw 33 passes, completing 20, for 200 yards and three touchdowns, but he also threw a pick six to Troy Polamalu. Charles Clay, who has had a very good season as the primary tight end and fullback in Miami, scored two touchdowns and caught seven passes for 97 yards. Clay's second touchdown was the product of an amazing individual effort, after catching the ball on the six yard line, he was immediately wrapped up and spun around by Cortez Allen, Polamalu jumped on Clay, almost sending him down, but Clay put his hand down to steady himself and went the six yards untouched into the end zone. Brian Hartline scored a touchdown, on a fantastic catch while diving out-of-bounds and sliding his toes to stay in bounds, finishing with five receptions for 51 yards. Daniel Thomas handled most of the running duties, carrying the ball 16 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Late in the fourth quarter, Thomas took a hand-off and charged through an open hole off left tackle, cutting across the field, he was finally taken down after a 55 yard gain. Tannehill got into the action on the ground, gaining 56 yards on two carries, 48 of which was on one play. Miami took Ben Roethlisberger down three times in the game, include a strip sack by Cameron Wake which was recovered by Randy Starks.
The Steelers had Le'Veon Bell back from a concussion just a week ago, and Bell responded with 61 yards on 15 carries. Roethlisberger completed 59 percent of his 39 passes, for 349 yards and three touchdowns. Antonio Brown led receivers with five catches for 137 yards and a touchdown, while Emmanuel Sanders caught a wide open touchdown in the end zone, en route to four catches for 57 yards. Jerricho Cotchery's early touchdown in the fourth quarter, made the score 28-24, but Pittsburgh couldn't hold on to the lead. The Steelers had a defensive touchdown when Polamalu picked off an ill-advised Tannehill pass, on the Dolphins 20 yard line and dove into the end zone midway through the third quarter. Pittsburgh also had three sacks, with rookie Jason Worilds coming away with two of them. The Steelers came within an inch, maybe less, of winning the game on what was either the most well executed, or worst defended, lateral play I've ever seen. After a couple of uncontested pitches, Roethlisberger tossed the ball to Antonio Brown who burst down the sideline untouched, but around the 11 yard line his foot just barely landed on the sideline and the game was over.
Pittsburgh has two more division games remaining, and they split the series with Baltimore, but they need multiple losses from the Ravens and they need to win out, to beat out the Ravens. On the other side of the coin, if Miami and Pittsburgh end up tied for the final playoff spot, Miami will now have the head to head, and they already have a two game lead.
Detroit Lions 20 - Philadelphia Eagles 34
Detroit went into this snow filled game with a chance to either extend, or hold on to, their lead in the NFC North, but with the loss they fell back into a tie with Chicago, and are only a half game ahead of Green Bay. Calvin Johnson was held remarkably in check, by a below average pass defense, catching only three passes for 49 yards. Joique Bell would be the leading receiver, and rusher, for the Lions, catching four passes for 58 yards and rushing 23 times for 69 yards and a touchdown. Matt Stafford was 10 of 25 passing, for 148 yards and no touchdowns. While the offense was anemic, the defense had trouble stopping Philadelphia, especially on the ground. On a positive note, Detroit picked off Nick Foles for the first time this season. The Lions allowed 299 yards rushing on 43 carries, and four Philadelphia rushing touchdowns. Jeremy Ross accounted for the majority of Detroit's offense and scoring, returning a punt 58 yards and a kick 98 yards for touchdowns.
The Eagles were able to do whatever they pleased on the ground, even with the snow. LeSean McCoy rushed only 29 times for 216 yards and two touchdowns. On a 40 yard touchdown, McCoy hurdled a safety and ran through a tackle by Rashean Mathis. McCoy also had a 57 yard touchdown, finding a hole in the middle of the line, and juking once in the secondary, nobody had a chance to catch him after he broke the defense. Foles threw his first interception of the season, but did thrown another touchdown, completing 11 of his 22 passes for 179 yards. A wide open DeSean Jackson was the recipient of Foles' touchdown pass into the end zone, gaining a total of 59 yards on four catches. Riley Cooper led all receivers with 74 yards on three receptions. Nick Foles and third string running back Chris Polk both scored touchdowns of their own, Polk broke a tackle at the line and took it 38 yards to the end zone. The Eagles defense played a great game, holding down the best wide receiver in the NFL, they also recovered three of a staggering seven fumbles by Detroit.
Both teams went for a two point conversion on all but one touchdown, and David Akers actually missed the one extra point attempted. The Eagles moved into first place with a Dallas loss, but they aren't settled yet. The Lions still have first place by way of tie breakers, but the loss make their road more difficult.
Minnesota Vikings 26 - Baltimore Ravens 29
In another game played in a blizzard, only 13 points were scored in the first three quarters. Adrian Peterson suffered an injured ankle, after only seven carries netted just 13 yards. Toby Gerhart rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Matt Cassel completed 17 of 38 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Cordarelle Patterson, the exciting rookie, was the star of the game, catching five passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. Patterson's touchdown came with 47 seconds left in the game, on a screen taken 79 yards, which included a couple of broken tackles and a fallen safety in the middle of the field. Gerhart scored on a 41 yard power run, running through two tacklers in the secondary and dragging another into the end zone. Minnesota picked Joe Flacco off three times in the game, but allowed touchdowns in the last minutes.
Baltimore is still in control of their playoff chances, and they made plenty of mistakes in the blizzard, but came away with the win anyway. Dennis Pitta is back from injury, and he scored a touchdown as part of his six catches for 48 yards. Ed Dickson scored the first points of the game, but only ended with one other catch for a total of eight yards. Baltimore's leading receiver was Marlon Brown with seven receptions for 92 yards and the game-winning touchdown, on a gorgeous throw to the back of the end zone, and Brown was able to get two feet down. Jacoby Jones scored on his first kick return touchdown of the season, this time he didn't have to contend with a coach on the sideline. Joe Flacco threw three touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions, completing just 28 of his 50 pass attempts, for 245 yards. Ray Rice rushed 15 times for 67 yards.
Between the two teams, five touchdowns were scored in the last two minutes and 10 seconds! Baltimore scored the final touchdown, leaving the Vikings only with enough time for a kick return, which they were not able to put into the end zone. The Ravens kept their hold on the final playoff spot, for now, while the Vikings lost another game in a disappointing season.
New York Giants 14 - San Diego Chargers 37
The Chargers are still fighting for that final playoff spot, and they demolished the Giants in Week 14. Philip Rivers threw 28 passes and completed 21, for 249 yards and three touchdowns. Keenan Allen, the third round pick who has led the Chargers in receiving all season, caught three passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns. Danny Woodhead had 52 yards and a touchdown on four receptions, and contributed 42 yards on seven carries. Ryan Mathews had a good game on the ground, carrying the ball 29 times for 103 yards and a touchdown. San Diego only had two sacks, but they picked off Eli Manning twice and recovered an André Brown fumble.
The Giants have been bad most of the season, and with the loss they are even further from a chance at making the playoffs. Manning, who snubbed the Chargers in the 2004 draft, played terribly most of the game. He threw for 259 yards and a touchdown, completing 20 of his 32 passes, and threw two interceptions. Hakeem Nicks had his best game of the season, gaining 152 yards on just four catches, but he didn't find the end zone on any of his receptions. Brandon Myers caught a five yard touchdown, finishing with just 26 yards on four receptions. On the ground, André Brown rushed for 81 yards on 16 carries and Peyton Hillis scored a touchdown, ending the game with 11 yards on four rushes. Justin Tuck had two sacks, and the Giants forced a fumble, but the defense was beaten up this game.
San Diego needs a couple of losses to fall their way, but they are right in the middle of the playoff push. New York is all but done for the season.
Seattle Seahawks 17 - San Francisco 49ers 19
Seattle was coming off a huge win against the current number two seed, but the 49ers are a tough team, especially for a division opponent at home. The Seahawks played well on defense, although they did let San Fran rush for 163 yards on 33 carries. They picked off Colin Kaepernick, while making it tough for the 49ers to have success in the passing game, recording two sacks. Russell Wilson completed 15 of 25 pass attempts for 199 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw an interception. Marshawn Lynch scored a touchdown, carrying the ball 20 times for 72 yards. Back up tight end Luke Wilson led receivers with three catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, while Golden Tate III gained 65 yards on six receptions.
With the Arizona Cardinals hot on their heels, the 49ers needed to win to stay ahead in the playoff rice, and "avenge" the shellacking they took at Seattle in Week Two. Frank Gore rushed for 103 yards on 17 carries, including a big 51 yard run on the final drive, to set San Francisco up for the game winning field goal. Gore burst through a hole on the left side, and cut across the field in front of Earl Thomas, before finally sliding down in bounds on the Seattle 18. Kaepernick threw 29 passes, completing just 15 of them, for 175 yards and a touchdown. San Fran's leading receiver was Anquan Boldin, who caught six passes for 93 yards. Eric Wright intercepted Wilson's final pass of the game, sealing the win for the 49ers, on a deep pass intended for Jermaine Kearse. Phil Dawson did most of the scoring for the 49ers, hitting four out of four field goals.
San Fran still has an opportunity to win the division, but Seattle isn't likely to lose to either the Giants or the Rams to close out the season, making a division title improbable for the 49ers. They are in full possession of the final wildcard spot, and can control the rest of their season. Seattle looks to be well on their way to home field advantage, despite the loss to San Fran in Week 14.
Buffalo Bills 6 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27
Tampa rode rookie Bobby Rainey to another win, which they weren't able to do last week, losing a game by the same score they won with this week. Rainey began the game with an 80 yard touchdown run on the second play of the game, after stiff arming Kiko Alonso, Rainey wasn't challenged again until he reached the nine yard line, when he easily avoided the Bills corner back and waltzed into the end zone. Rainey would end with 127 yards on the ground, on 22 carries. Mike Glennon wasn't very effective, or careful with the football, throwing two interceptions and only completing nine of his 25 pass attempts for 90 yards, but he did throw for two touchdowns, one going to Vincent Jackson. Jackson caught three total passes for 70 yards. The Bucs' defense smothered Buffalo's offense. They picked off E.J. Manuel four times, LaVonte David hauled in two of those interceptions, and recorded seven total sacks. They also recovered a muffed punt by Leodis McKelvin.
Buffalo couldn't do anything on offense. C.J. Spiller continued his disappointing season, rushing for a grand total of 22 yards on 11 carries, but he did catch one pass for 26 yards, for what it's worth. Fred Jackson wasn't any more productive this week, carrying five times for just 12 yards. Manuel threw 33 passes, but only completed 18 of them, and couldn't find the end zone, but he did find multiple defenders, throwing four interceptions. Buffalo's defense recorded one sack, although they did pick off Glennon twice.
Both teams are out of their respective playoff races, even if the Bills haven't been mathematically eliminated yet. Buffalo has seen some promising things from rookie quarterback Manuel, and the defense has shown flashes, but their running game has not lived up to what it was expected to be, and they need help at receiver. Tampa Bay also has a promising rookie quarterback, as well as a possible running back dilemma once Doug Martin comes back. The Bucs' defense has steadily improved most of the season.
Kansas City Chiefs 45 - Washington Redskins 10
The Chiefs went on a downward slide, losing three straight within the division (although two of those games were to the Broncos), and they needed the rebound against a bad Redskins team. The defense found itself again, even though Justin Houston is still out, and held Washington to only 10 points. Tamba Hali and Tyson Jackson both sacked the quarterback twice, and the defense recorded five total sacks. Derrick Johnson picked off Griffin and they recovered a fumble by Logan Paulsen late in the fourth quarter. Jamaal Charles ran wild on the Redskins defense, gaining 151 yards on just 19 carries, and scoring a touchdown. Charles also caught two passes for eight yards and another touchdown. Knile Davis, the rookie from Arkansas, scored the first touchdown of his young career, making a couple of jump cuts in the hole to make defenders miss, before scampering the rest of the 17 yards into the end zone. Davis carried 11 times, for just 30 total yards. Alex Smith played an efficient game, committing zero turnovers and throwing two touchdowns, completing 14 of his 20 yards for 137 yards. Kansas City's special teams scored two touchdowns of their own. Quintin Demps returned a kickoff 95 yards, following a huge hole, and running past the kicker before cutting to the middle of the field to elude two defenders on the 10 yard line and scoring. Dexter McCluster returned seven punts for 177 yards, including a 74 yard touchdown, which started with great blocking and culminated in his speed taking him into the end zone ahead of everyone.
Washington had another bad game, and Griffin was pulled from the game in favor of Kirk Cousins, at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Griffin was 12 of 26 for 164 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Cousins didn't fare much better, completing 7 of 16 passes for 59 yards. Alfred Morris carried 12 times for a total of 31 yards and couldn't score. Logan Paulsen scored Washington's only touchdown, but Aldrick Robinson led them in receiving with four catches for 67 yards. Perry Riley picked off back up quarterback Chase Daniel, but the game was well in Kansas City's hands at that point.
The Chiefs needed to win, even though they don't seem to be in grave danger of losing their playoff spot, just for a morale boost after the defense, especially, was picked apart three weeks in a row. They have a well-balanced team, but most of their wins have come against inferior competition, including the entire NFC East. The Redskins are the bottom feeders in the worst division in the NFC, and have not improved over the course of the season.
Dallas Cowboys 28 - Chicago Bears 45
The Cowboys needed to win to keep pace with the Eagles, and the Bears needed to win to keep pace with Detroit, but something had to give. What gave was the Cowboys defense. They forced no punts, zero turnovers, and allowed the Bears to score on every drive, except for the final drive on which Chicago took a knee with six seconds left. They couldn't stop the run or the pass, and looked mostly pitiful, outside of a sack by DeMarcus Ware, although they should have had at least two interceptions, but they dropped them. Dallas' run game was working well against the Bears' defense, but as is the Cowboys M.O., they refused to stick with it. DeMarco Murray had 146 yards on just 18 carries, and Joseph Randle rushed nine times for 53 yards and a touchdown. Tony Romo only threw 20 passes, but he also only completed 11 of them, getting 104 yards through the air and three touchdowns. Purely on a number scale, this seems like a balanced offensive attack, but when your running game is averaging more than seven yards per carry, you keep running the ball. Romo was ultimately pulled with the game out of hand, and Kyle Orton attempted five passes, completing three for 40 yards.
Chicago looked like the opposite of Dallas, except for their inability to stop the run. They only recorded two sacks, and didn't force any turnovers, but they only allowed 28 points (even if some of that was aided by bad play calling). Josh McCown continued to perform admirably in replacement of Jay Cutler, and he completed 27 of 36 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns. McCown also ran in a touchdown of his own. All four touchdowns were caught by different receivers with two of them going to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, who may be the best wide receiver duo in the NFL. Marshall caught six passes for 100 yards and Jeffery gained 84 yards on five receptions. The running backs, Matt Forte and Michael Bush, were recipients of the other two touchdown passes. Forte had seven receptions for 73 yards, as well as, 20 carries for 102 yards. Robbie Gould also hit three field goals for Chicago.
Chicago is now tied for first with a chance of taking the division over the next three weeks, but the Lions hold the tiebreaker, so they need to rely on a loss or two by Detroit. The Bears' defense is not what it has been is past years, which may ultimately be the downfall for the team, although the Lions have a tendency to commit too many turnovers. Dallas went from first to second, but they still have a game to play against Philadelphia. If Dallas can end the season in a tie with the Eagles, they would win the tiebreaker with a perfect division record.
Next week I will be on a snowboarding trip (I know, all these trips make it difficult for consistent posts), but I will have a guest author writing the recap for me. I hope y'all enjoy his writing as much as you have enjoyed mine. I'm really looking forward to these last few weeks of the season, and the playoffs. Please register and comment, as I look forward to having discussions with people! Enjoy next weeks round of games!