Part Two of the recap includes five more games from this past week, which also means 10 more teams' whose season is over. I am trying to be fair to each team and include as many end of year stats as I can, but some players and teams will end up getting articles devoted more specifically for them later on in the off-season, possibly after the playoffs. In this part, another division will be decided in the NFC North, and we will lose another contender for the sixth seed in the AFC, leaving just two for Part Three.
New York Jets 20 - Miami Dolphins 7
The Jets lost to Miami, at home, by a score of 23-3, not even a month ago. In the final week, they were out for revenge, and to play spoiler to Miami's playoff hopes. After allowing a touchdown in the second quarter, New York only allowed the Dolphins to cross midfield on two more drives, and they intercepted the ball on both drives. Muhammad Wilkerson, in his third season, recorded 10.5 sacks, and is shaping up to be one of the best defensive ends in football. Calvin Pace had 10 sacks, as well, playing as the rush linebacker. Dee Milliner, the rookie first round pick, had three interceptions on the season, two of them coming against the Dolphins in Week 17. One of Milliner's picks was made when he drove on a curl route by Mike Wallace and dove in front of him to get to the ball. Milliner has come a long way since being held out of the first game against the Patriots to "keep his confidence up". Veteran Ed Reed went from the Houston Texans to the Jets this season, and he had three interceptions in his five starts for New York, including one this week, late in the fourth quarter.
Geno Smith played one of the most efficient games of his season, completing 17 of 27 passes, for 190 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions, while running 10 times for 44 yards and a touchdown at the end of the first half. Smith threw more interceptions this season than touchdowns, however, with only 12 touchdowns to 21 interceptions. Smith completed 55.8 percent of his 443 attempts for 3,046 yards. He ran well, gaining 366 yards and scoring a touchdown on 72 carries. Chris Ivory battled injury to start the season, before becoming the starter for good, but he only carried the ball five times for 19 times, to cap off a season that saw him start six games, and rush for 833 yards and three touchdowns on 182 rushes. Bilal Powell, the starter out of training camp, threw one pass, to Jeff Cumberland, for 30 yards and rushed 21 times for 76 yards to finish off the season. He rushed 176 times for 697 yards, but he only made it into the end zone once. Jeremy Kerley led the Jets in receiving this season, catching 43 passes for 523 yards and three touchdowns. Jeff Cumberland, the second tight end, caught four touchdowns on 26 receptions in his third season.
Rookie defensive tackle, Shelden Richardson, ran for the second touchdown of his season, carrying the ball four total times, for four yards and two touchdowns. Richardson also played well on defense, starting 15 games as a rookie, and recording 42 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Playoffs on the line for Miami, win and they are probably in, and instead they failed to score more than one touchdown. The Dolphins scored the first points of the game, when Ryan Tannehill hit Mike Wallace for a five yard touchdown early in the second quarter. The drive started in the first quarter, and Miami drove 89 yards to score the touchdown. Tannehill was up and down most of the season, but he showed that he has the potential to be a good quarterback in this league. Against New York, he threw 40 passes, completing 20 of them for 204 yards, a touchdown, and three unfortunate interceptions late in the game. Tannehill improved on his rookie numbers, even though he was sacked 58 times, completing 355 of 588 passes (that's a lot of pass plays for a team without a top-notch quarterback or receivers), for 3,913 yards, with 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Tannehill and Wallace were unable to develop much of a connection in their first season together, with Wallace only catching 73 passes for 930 yards with five touchdowns. Brian Hartline emerged as Tannehill most consistent target, catching only three more passes than Wallace, but gaining 1,016 yards and scoring four touchdowns. Charles Clay was the "jack-of-all-trades" for Miami this season, playing fullback and tight end, as a blocker and a receiver. He caught 69 passes for 759 yards and six touchdowns, with some highlight reel runs after the catch throughout the season. Neither Lamar Miller nor Daniel Thomas played well enough to lock down the starting running back position. Miller gained 709 yards on 177 carries this season, but only scored two touchdowns, while Thomas carried just 109 times for 406 yards and four touchdowns.
The Dolphins defense gave up a lot of yards in the season, but they stood strong when scoring chances came about. They only allowed 20.9 points per game, and forced 24 turnovers, while recording 42 sacks. Olivier Vernon led the team in sacks with 11.5 and Cameron Wake was second with 8.5. Brent Grimes turned out to be one of the best free agent additions this season, regularly playing great coverage against the top receivers the opposing team has, picking off four passes, including a 94 yard return for a touchdown against Cincinnati.
Philadelphia Eagles 24 - Dallas Cowboys 22
In another match-up which would decide a division and a playoff spot, the Eagles took their fourth ranked scoring offense to Dallas, to face the 26th ranked scoring defense. While quarterback Nick Foles has received the majority of accolades, the most valuable player for Philadelphia was running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy secured the rushing title, by rushing for 131 yards on 27 carries against the Cowboys. For the season, McCoy carried the ball 314 times for 1,607 yards and nine touchdowns, while catching 52 passes for 539 yards and two more touchdowns. McCoy being most valuable is not to discredit the job Foles has done since taking over. Foles started 10 games for the Eagles, and threw 27 touchdowns with only two interceptions. He completed 203 of 317 passes for 2,891 yards. Although he was sacked five times against the Cowboys, Foles threw 26 passes and completed 17 of them for 263 yards and two touchdowns. DeSean Jackson had the best season of his career, after having two straight down years, catching 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Riley Cooper rebounded well from his off-season "debacle", scoring eight touchdowns on just 47 receptions with 835 yards. Philadelphia's defense started the season at the bottom of the league, and they didn't necessarily take over the NFL, but it improved by the end of the season. Trent Cole is microcosm of the defense and its improvement. Cole was moved to outside linebacker in the Eagles' new 3-4 defensive scheme, and he didn't have his first sack of the season until Week 9 against Oakland, he went on to get seven more sacks over the last six weeks of the season, recording multiple sacks in three different games. Mychal Kendricks improved significantly in his second season, starting all 15 games he was active for, and recording 81 tackles, with three interceptions and four fumble recoveries, including an interception against the Cowboys when the ball bounced off Jason Witten's hands. Cary Williams was brought over from Baltimore to help solidify an inconsistent, at best, secondary, and although he was shaky in some games, his attitude and physical brand of play, proved to be valuable for Philly. Brandon Boykin had six interceptions in his second season, including a game-winning interception against Dallas, although he only started two games this season, but he played in all 16.
The Cowboys' season ended in disappointment, not only for Cowboys fans, but people who criticize Tony Romo in particular. Romo injured his back against the Redskins a week ago, and it was decided that he would have surgery to repair a herniated disc, leaving Kyle Orton to start for Dallas in the win or go home season finale. Romo actually had a very good season, only throwing 10 interceptions to 31 touchdowns, he completed 342 of his 535 passes for 3,828 yards, while being sacked 35 times. He also recorded four "game-winning drives", those all important quarterback stats, which are attributed to quarterbacks as if they are solely responsible for them. Orton played well in relief of Romo, but he also hadn't started a football game since 2011, and had only played in four games since then, so he was bound to be rusty. He 46 passes (the Cowboys really need to get past their passing obsession), and completed 30 of them for 358 yards, two touchdowns, and two costly interceptions. Orton was behind his receivers often in the game, and both interceptions came on passes that he threw behind a receiver. On the final play of the game, he had Miles Austin open going through the middle of the defense, but he threw it late and behind him, where Brandon Boykin was running with him and pulled the ball in to seal the victory for Philadelphia. DeMarco Murray, in spite of the Cowboys tendency to abandon the run, rushed for 1,124 yards on 217 carries, for 5.2 yards per rush, and nine touchdowns, in 14 games. He also caught 53 passes for 350 yards and another touchdown. Witten was Orton's go-to receiver, for good reason, and he caught 12 passes for 135 yards, and ended the season with eight touchdowns and 851 yards on 73 receptions. A lot was said about Dez Bryant, with speculation over whether he is a "cancer" to the team, and he was ripped often for talking too much, but he played very well in the most consistent season of his career. Bryant caught 93 passes for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns. His biggest issue was a tendency to fumble, and a couple of drops on easy passes. Terrance Williams proved to be a valuable asset as a rookie, with 44 catches for 736 yards and five touchdowns, and should be vital to the offense as a complement to Bryant. The Cowboys defense didn't have the ability to stop anybody with any consistency this season. They ended the season with a ranking of 26 in points allowed, and gave up 33 touchdowns through the air. Jason Hatcher emerged as a pleasant surprise with 11 sacks in 15 games. Orlando Scandrick played well and he had to start the majority of the season because of injuries to starter Morris Claiborne.
Detroit Lions 13 - Minnesota Vikings 14
Another game that lacked intrigue, the Lions and Vikings were out of the playoffs before the week started, although the Lions dropped the ball in their bid. They had the division all but in hand, and literally gave it away. Detroit turned the ball over 34 times this season, giving them a -12 turnover differential, which was 28th in the league. At the forefront of their turnover issues, stood quarterback Matt Stafford. Stafford played mistake free football against Minnesota, even without Calvin Johnson in the game, throwing for 217 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. On the season, however, Stafford threw 19 interceptions and lost four of his 12 fumbles. He did throw for 4,650 yards and 29 touchdowns, but he only completed 58.5 percent of his passes. Calvin Johnson put up big numbers, again, catching 84 passes for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell were the only other players to catch more than 50 passes for Detroit. Bush was hit hard by the turnover bug, losing four fumbles, but he was explosive. Bush rushed for 1,006 yards and four touchdowns on 223 carries, and caught 54 passes for 506 yards and three touchdowns. Bell wasn't as effective per carry, but he scored eight touchdowns and ran for 650 yards on 166 carries, while catching 53 passes for 547 yards. Rookie Joseph Fauria only caught 18 passes for the season, but seven of them were touchdowns. Detroit's defensive line showed flashes of the great potential they have, especially as pass rushers. Rookie Ezekial Ansah led the team with eight sacks. Ndamukong Suh had 5.5 sacks, and was disruptive in the passing game even when he didn't reach the quarterback. Nick Fairley had a sack and a half against Minnesota to raise his season total to six, and he recovered two fumbles, returning one for a touchdown. DeAndre Levy was the best player on defense for the Lions, he had six interceptions for the season, one of which went for a touchdown, and racked up 85 tackles. The Lions fired head coach Jim Schwartz the day after the loss.
The Vikings sat their top two running backs, Adrian Peterson has dealt with injury issues over the last half of the season, and Toby Gerhardt was out with hamstring problems. That was no problem against Detroit because third string running back Matt Asiata rushed 14 times for 115 yards. Rookie receiver Cordarelle Patterson scored both of Minnesota's touchdowns, one on the ground and on through the air. He carried twice in the game, including a 50 yard touchdown run off a pitch as he was in motion into the backfield, he immediately reversed field, and after juking between two defenders he angled across the field to get to the end zone. Patterson has an exciting rookie season, which highlighted his versatility. He scored nine total touchdowns (two kick returns, including a 109 yard return, three rushing touchdowns, and four receiving touchdowns), and started in five games, while appearing in all 16. Patterson rushed just 12 times for 158 yards and caught 45 passes for 469 yards. Against Detroit, Matt Cassel started in place of Christian Ponder, and Cassel threw a touchdown and an interception, completing 20 of his 33 passes for just 189 yards. Cassel and Ponder both threw nine interceptions on the season, but Ponder threw only seven touchdowns, while Ponder threw a slightly better 11. Both quarterbacks completed about the same number of passes, but Ponder had a completion percentage of 63, while Cassel only completed about 60 percent of his passes. Peterson had a "down year", carrying the ball 279 times for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns. There isn't a player in the NFL that I would rather watch than Peterson, his ability to run through, or around, defenders is uncanny, and he runs like a monster. Greg Jennings came closest to breaking the 1,000 yard mark receiving, but he only had 804 yards and four touchdowns on 68 receptions. The Vikings defense did not have many positives this season, and were 32nd in the league in points allowed. Jared Allen was the one bright spot, and his two sacks against Detroit gave him his seventh straight season of double-digit sacks, with 11.5. Minnesota fired Leslie Frazier in spite of the win.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 - New Orleans Saints 42
Greg Schiano may have been without a job even if Tampa pulled out the win over New Orleans, but they didn't do him any favors with their performance in Week 17. The Bucs weren't very good on either side of the ball this year, but they did find some players that will do a lot for them in the future. Mike Glennon took over for Josh Freeman at quarterback, early in the season, and the rookie played well considering the circumstances. In the season finale, Glennon completed 22 of 41 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Throughout the season, Glennon looked comfortable in the pocket and made great throws, although he did make some poor decisions. In spite of Tampa Bay losing their best running back in Doug Martin, and his back-up, Glennon was able to take care of the ball, throwing only nine interceptions, but they had trouble getting the ball into the end zone all year. He threw for 19 touchdowns, and only completed 59 percent of his passes, for 2,608 yards. The offensive line blocked well for the run, in most games, but they gave up 47 sacks in the season. Second year third string running back, Bobby Rainey, started the season in Cleveland and became the starter in Tampa after Mike James went down. Rainey's first start against the Atlanta Falcons was a huge game, but he only broke 100 yards once after that, and rushed for 35 yards or less, four times. He finished the season with 137 carries for just 532 yards and five touchdowns. Tiquan Underwood was the man against the Saints, catching five passes for 95 yards. The leader of the Bucs receiving corps, however, was Vincent Jackson, who caught 78 passes for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns. The 30-year-old has gained over 1,000 yards in five of his nine seasons. Defensively the Bucs weren't good overall, but players like Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy had breakout seasons, and Darelle Revis adds stability to a sub-par secondary. David had six sacks, five interceptions, a fumble recovery, and 105 tackles, as well as a safety, on the season. McCoy led the team with nine sacks, and played well against the run. Revis locked down receivers, as he normally does, but the defense as a whole did not have a great season. They have some young players that will continue to improve, and this defense could be a force in the near future. Greg Schiano was, ultimately, fired, along with general manager Mark Dominic.
The Saints came back strong after last season was put off by suspensions of multiple coaches and players. Sean Payton came back, and the Saints offense picked up where he had left off. Drew Brees threw four touchdowns against the Bucs, and completed 24 of his 31 passes for 381 yards, while running for a touchdown. Brees threw a whopping 650 passes this season, completing 446 of them for 5,162 yards, and 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Brees completed more than 70 passes to four different receivers, including running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. Kenny Stills caught one pass in the Bucs game, but it was for a 76 yard touchdown and the rookie caught 32 passes for 641 yards and five touchdowns. Jimmy Graham had a ridiculous season, catching 85 passes for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns. Marques Colston had a solid year with 75 receptions for 943 yards and five touchdowns. New Orleans continued their running back by committee philosophy, with Thomas receiving most of the touches. He ran the ball 147 times for 549 yards and two touchdowns, and he caught 77 passes for 513 yards and three touchdowns. Sproles battled injury throughout the year, but he caught 71 passes for 604 yards and two touchdowns. The Saints' defense, led by Rex Ryan, had a monster year. They finished fourth in the NFL in points allowed. They didn't have many take aways, but they had 49 sacks on the season with two players in double digits. Cameron Jordan had 12.5 sacks, and forced and recovered two fumbles. Junior Galette also recovered two fumbles, and he brought down the quarterback 12 times, including two sacks of Glennon in Week 17. Keenan Lewis led the defense in interceptions with four. The Saints were basically playing to get into the playoffs in this game, and they dominated Tampa Bay, to keep ahead of the Cardinals and move in to the post season, where they will face the Eagles in round one.
Buffalo Bills 20 - New England Patriots 34
The Bills have played great defense, although the offense hasn't been able to catch up. Some of that is a product of rookie E.J. Manuel being injured often throughout the season, and that has been compounded by the inability of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson to establish a strong running game. Against New England, with a chance to knock the Patriots back a couple of seeds in the playoffs, Spiller had another one of his inconsistently great games. He ran the ball 19 times for 105 yards. Spiller only scored two touchdowns this season, rushing 201 times for 927 yards. Jackson had 60 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against the Patriots, and finished the season with 10 total touchdowns (nine on the ground), and 896 yards on 207 attempts. Thaddeus Lewis actually played well for the most part in relief of Manuel this season, and against New England he was solid, with 247 yards and a touchdown, completing 16 of 29 passes. Neither quarterback had stellar numbers, but Manuel was solid in his rookie year. He has lots of room to improve, but he threw 11 touchdowns, to nine interceptions, and completed 180 of 306 passes for 1,972 yards. Manuel also lost three fumbles, but he should be the starter in 2014, and he'll improve quickly. Tight end Scott Chandler led the Bills in receiving this season with 53 receptions for 655 yards and two touchdowns. Stevie Johnson was a close second with 52 receptions for 597 yards and three touchdowns, but Johnson only played 12 games. Buffalo's defense had 57 sacks this season, but they allowed 24 points per game. They had three players with double-digit sacks. Mario Williams led the team with 13, his highest sack total since his second year in the league. Fourth year linebacker Jerry Hughes, acquired from the Colts, recorded 10 sacks. 30-year-old defensive tackle Kyle Williams had 10.5 sacks, the first time he has hit the double-digit sack mark in his eight year career. Rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso received lots of press, mostly because of his four interceptions, and is a legitimate candidate for rookie of the year. Aaron Williams saw time at corner back and safety throughout the season, and he tied for the team lead in interceptions with Alonso, Jairus Byrd, and Jim Leonhard. Buffalo has room to improve, but they seem to be in a good spot for success next season.
New England had to defend the number two seed with a win because both the Bengals and Colts won their games in Week 17. Bill Belichick has my vote for coach of the year this season because of how much the Patriots had to alter their offensive, and defensive, game plans after injuries and losing the versatility of Aaron Hernandez. Tom Brady played well, considering he was working with all new receivers, with two rookies, but he was not on the same level he normally is. He threw 11 interceptions, and 25 touchdowns, completing just over 60 percent of his 628 attempts, for 4,343 yards. He did receive some assistance from the running game, though. Especially in the down pour against Buffalo. In the season finale LeGarrette Blount literally did everything for the Patriots. He had 334 all-purpose yards in the game, with 145 yards on kick returns and 189 yards on 24 carries, with two touchdowns. Blount carried the ball 153 times for 772 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Stevan Ridley had very similar numbers, rushing for 773 yards on 178 carries with seven touchdowns of his own. Ridley, however, lost four fumbles this season, and lost a lot of playing time for those fumbles. Julian Edelman, a.k.a. Wes Welker, caught 105 passes this season, 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. After a slow start, highlighted by numerous drops, rookie receiver Aaron Dobson rebounded to catch 37 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns. New England's defense was 10th in points allowed, and they recorded 48 sacks. Even after losing Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, the defense would not give up points easily, and was difficult to beat. Chandler Jones had 11.5 sacks in his second season, and he recovered a fumble for a touchdown. Rob Ninkovich recovered two fumbles of his own, and had eight sacks for the season. Aqib Talib was the most talked about corner back for the Patriots, and he had a great season, he was matched up on some of the best receivers the NFL has to offer, and he held his own, playing a physical press coverage and he wasn't beaten often. Talib also had four interceptions. The most impressive corner back, in my opinion, was rookie Logan Ryan. A third-round pick out of Rutgers, Ryan had five interceptions, including a pick six, and 1.5 sacks. Lining up in the slot, on most downs, Ryan had to cover shifty receivers, but he was typically in a position to at least make the tackle, if not make a play on the ball.