The San Diego Chargers are racing toward the playoffs. San Diego’s impressive win in Dallas continued the Cowboy’s December swoon and blew the NFC East wide open. The AFC Wildcard is also a complete mess as the Jaguars were unable to knock off the Dolphins. Does anyone want to make the playoffs?
The Chargers are riding an eight game winning streak that has brought them from second in the AFC West to second in the AFC. Their formula for success isn’t overpowering, nor is it flashy. It is effective though, and that’s the most important thing. San Diego relies on its downfield passing attack to open up the rest of the offense. With the largest receiving core in the league and a premiere tight end, Philip Rivers can heave the ball all over the field confident his receivers will use their size to make the play. Rivers is no slouch either. He’s quickly become a top quarterback in the league. He’s smart, rarely turns the ball over, and throws the deep ball better than anyone. Naysayers will argue that the Chargers can’t run the ball. They would be right. The Chargers won’t run over anyone as their rushing attack ranks 30th in the league. However, they will effectively run the ball late in games to milk the clock and close out a win. Once the passing attack has softened up a defense, the Chargers attack the soft spots with their quick running backs, LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles. Not to be forgotten is the Charger defense. They aren’t the biggest or most physical defense, and they won’t force a ton of turnovers. But they win. The secondary is strong, limiting big plays and forcing teams to sustain long drives to produce points. While the Chargers are not your conventional contender, they’ll be a force in the AFC playoffs. The Colts are on notice.
In an electrifying game that resembled the 2008 week two Philadelphia/Dallas showdown, the Eagles and Giants went head to head for first place in the NFC East. With the exception of a seven hour stretch on October 25th, the Philadelphia Eagles have waited 14 weeks to stand atop the division. While the crown is far from secure, the Eagles now control their destiny. Obviously, there are defensive concerns. The NFC playoff field is full of potent offenses, so the Eagles’ defense will need to vastly improve, and quickly. However, for the first time since the unmentionable donned Eagles’ green, Philadelphia has a potent offense of their own. They’re explosive, they can light up the scoreboard, and most importantly, they can sustain long drives. Even without Westbrook, Philadelphia has proven they can run the ball when necessary. Michael Vick’s also been successfully inserted into short yardage and red zone packages. It’s easy to forget that the Eagles are still adding to their repertoire. Vick’s touches will certainly increase, and the injured Westbrook and Kevin Curtis may return before the playoffs. Now, if we can only teach those defenders how to tackle.
I love exciting football games. I was pumped for the handful of early afternoon games on Sunday. The slate included several intriguing matchups of playoff contenders, division rivals, and teams desperate for a win. For most of the afternoon, it looked as if we were headed for exciting finishes in seven of the ten games. I already created my “viewing priority chart.” I was ready to capture the madness. Unfortunately, it all fell apart. The collapse began with three close games that fizzled in the 4th quarter. Leads in the CINC/MINN, CAR/NE, and DEN/IND contests inflated to two scores, leaving the decisions in hand well before the final minutes. There was still hope though. The Bears, Chiefs, Falcons, and Jaguars all had opportunities to tie or win on their final drives. Here were the disappointing results:
Bears: Couldn’t muster a first down. One penalty, one sack, totaled one net yard.
Chiefs: 6 plays, 36 yards, ended on an INT on Hail Mary (Cassel threw an INT at the Buffalo five on Kansas City’s previous drive)
Falcons: Failed to convert a 4th and 2 just 15 yards from legitimate field goal position.
Jaguars: 5 plays, 19 yards, only one 1st down.
Instead of several exciting finishes, I was left watching the Ravens finish off the Lions.
So long, playoffs: Falcons
That was impressive…
- The Texans and Packers wasted little time in getting their offenses going. The Packers first play from scrimmage resulted in a 62 yard TD run by Ryan Grant while the Texans first play was a 64 yard TD pass to Andre Johnson.
- Broncos safety Brian Dawkins showing off his hands on his 2nd quarter interception of Peyton Manning
- Despite injuries to their starting QB, RB, and other key players, the Atlanta Falcons battled the undefeated Saints all the way to the wire. If Atlanta didn’t go 0-3 in the red zone in the first half (they kicked 3 FGs), they probably would have won.
- I often rave about Ravens RB Ray Rice because he’s going to be a star. Today, he outgained the entire Detroit offense in the first half. Rice generated 204 yards, the Lions offense totaled 174.
- The Miami defense is underrated. They surrendered two scoring drives to Jacksonville that totaled 19 plays, 137 yards, and 10 points. The rest of Jacksonville’s drives were limited by the Dolphin defense to the tune of 36 plays, 87 yards, and zero points.
- They’re four weeks late, but it’s nice to see the Houston Texans show up for the second half of the regular season.
- A lot of emotion was on display when a female Bronco fan balled her eyes out for several minutes after receiving a football from Brandon Marshall following the first of his two TDs. The CBS announcers got a real kick out of her.
- Tennessee Titans RB, Chris Johnson’s touchdowns of 39 and 66 yards. Johnson is the most exciting player in football. Whenever he gets the football, I hold my breath and slide to the edge of my couch.
- I love intensity. I was thrilled to see Falcons Head Coach, Mike Smith slam his headset to the ground while arguing a questionable pass interference penalty. The headset exploded. I’m amazed this doesn’t occur more often.
- The Washington Redskins going into Oakland and dominating the Raiders. Their season has been over for months now, but the Redskins keep fighting. Jim Zorn deserves credit for keeping his team committed to a lost season.
- Amazing performance by Broncos WR Brandon Marshall. Marshall (21 receptions) broke the NFL record for receptions in a single game. The record was previously held by Terrell Owens. Excluding Owens’ mama, I think most of us are happy with the title change.
- It’s rarely pretty, but both the Colts and Saints find a way to win games.
- Jets RB Thomas Jones passed the 1,000 yard mark today for the 5th consecutive year. He’ll also probably finish in the top five of the NFL for the 3rd consecutive year. There isn’t a more underappreciated back in the league than Jones.
- The 4th quarter Kevin Harlan “Dagger Drive” delivered by the Philadelphia Eagles was executed to perfection. Leading by six with over 13 minutes remaining, the Eagles went on a 12 play, 91 yard TD drive that ate 7:24 off the clock to take a two possession lead. The Eagles didn’t face one 3rd down throughout the entire drive.
- The Baltimore Ravens thrashed the Detroit defense today. Baltimore rushed for 308 yards with a 7.7 yard per carry average…
Not so much…
- …The Detroit Lions surrendered 308 rushing yards on 7.7 yards per carry
- The Cincinnati Bengals opened up Sunday’s game with five penalties in the first eight minutes. Not the way you want to start on the road.
- You won’t see a lazier route than the one Randy Moss ran on Tom Brady’s 1st quarter interception. Brady needs to pay an opposing safety to just light him (Moss) up. Carolina’s secondary admitted after Sunday’s game that they knew Moss would quit if they frustrated him early. They did, and he did.
- The officiating in the nightcap, Eli Manning fumbling without being touched, the Eagles’ secondary tackling like fairies.
- It’s hilarious that someone with Favre’s experience has no idea when he’s three yards beyond the line of scrimmage (he had an early TD called back for this).
- Welcome to the NFL, Keith Null. The Rams started their rookie quarterback on Sunday. He responded like a rookie by throwing five interceptions.
- Anyone else disturbed when host Curt Menefee closes the FOX postgame show as cameras zoom out and the other four guys stare at the camera? Very, very akward. Creepy too. Just put the camera on the guy closing the show, or let the other four pretend that their gathering their papers to leave. Just don’t have them staring at me.
- In the 4th quarter of a one score game, Bears Head Coach, Lovie Smith, called a timeout after a dropped pass by tight end Greg Olsen. Smith then decided to challenge the call, and lost. Can someone inform Lovie that a challenge, worst case scenario, equates to a timeout? Lovie lost two critical timeouts on one play.
- It’s December alright. The Cowboys are now 0-2 and the Chargers are 2-0. We don’t even need calendars anymore.
- Jacksonville’s offense looked confused today. Don’t ask David Garrard to carry your offense, let Maurice Jones-Drew take the load. If the run game struggles (as it did today), the Jaguars need to include Jones-Drew in the passing game. He’s on pace for the lowest receiving output of his career.
- I watched the Rams for the first time in months. As soon as I turned the game on, Rams Tackle, Richie Incognito picked up his second personal foul of the day. Every time I watch the Rams he’s called for another stupid penalty. How is this guy still in the NFL?
- FOX analyst, Moose Johnston’s suit today. I wonder who he lost a bet to. The suit was bad enough, but the scarf? Com’on Moose!
- Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed a 42 yard FG that would have extended the Packers’ lead to 10 with just over six minutes left in the game. Mike McCarthy can’t feel comfortable heading into the playoffs with a struggling kicker. Nor can Wade Philips as Nick Folk also missed a 42 yarder, indoors.
- Nice hands, Hakeem Nicks. Nice tackling, Asante Samuel and Quintin Mikell.
- Due to injury, JaMarcus Russell returned to the field for the Oakland Raiders. When Bruce Gradkowski left the game, Oakland’s chances of winning left too.
- Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense looks terrible. It’s essentially Brady and Wes Welker vs. 11.
- For the second week in a row, the Cowboys defense couldn’t keep momentum on their side. After tying the game at 10 in the 4th quarter, the Cowboys allowed the Chargers to drive 75 yards on 8 plays that culminated with the go-ahead TD.
- Matt Cassel rebounded from his benching last week quite nicely. Cassel went 26/43 for 224 yards and 4 INTs. Maybe he needs some extended time riding the pine.
Take that man to Chic-Fil-A
QB Drew Brees: 31/40 296 YDS, 3 TD
RB Ryan Grant: 20 Carries, 137 YDS, 2 TD
WR Brandon Marshall: 21 Rec, 200 YDS, 2 TD
WR Andre Johnson: 11 Rec, 193 YDS, 2 TD
TE Dallas Clark: 5 Rec, 43 YDS, 3 TD
D Browns: 6 Points Allowed, 216 Total Yards, 8 Sacks
Probably should have stayed in bed
QB Keith Null: 27/43 157 YDS, TD, 5 INT
RB Cadillac Williams: 11 Carries, 14 YDS
WR Randy Moss: 1 Rec, 16 YDS, Fumble
WR Donald Driver: 2 Rec, 11 YDS
TE Bronco Tight Ends: 1 Rec, 6 YDS
D Lions: Surrendered 48 Points, 548 Yards, 300+ Rushing Yards
Turnovers ruin an offense’s rhythm. The Miami Dolphins were cruising on Sunday until WR Davone Bess fumbled the ball on Miami’s fourth drive. Up until the fumble, the Dolphins ran 39 plays for 225 yards, and 2 TDs. After that point, the offense ran 33 plays and managed just 108 yards. They also missed a FG, fumbled again, and threw an interception.
The Carolina Panthers frustrate me. Until late in the 4th quarter, the Panthers never trailed by more than seven points. Despite an unproven quarterback and a fantastic running tandem that averaged over five yards per rush on Sunday, Carolina only ran the ball 24 times and threw it 30. Playing to your weaknesses is not how to win in the NFL.
After the Titans went for a touchdown on 4th and goal from the 1 with a 33-7 lead, Steve Spagnuolo looked toward the Tennessee sideline and shared his displeasure. “Are you shi***** me?” he said. I’m with Spags, Jeff Fisher’s decision to go for the TD was bush league. This isn’t college football.
The Cowboys handing out 3D glasses to watch the game in 3D doesn’t make sense to me. Why go to a game where you’re already watching in 3D to watch it on a screen in 3D? Maybe Jerry Jones is trying to distract the fans from the annual December collapse.
The Saints are a very good football team. However, they’ve surrendered over 300 passing yards the past two weeks to Jason Campbell and Chris Redman (and neither had a running game). You can’t convince me that the Saints are a lock for the Super Bowl, or even the NFC Championship. Look at their probable playoff opponents and where they rank in the league in passing; Eagles (11), Cowboys (8), Cardinals (6), Packers (9), Vikings (10). All three can get after the quarterback as well.
With Brett Favre coming back to earth, the Vikings need to get more productivity from their top back. While he had a solid game today, Adrian Peterson hasn’t been unstoppable over the past month. In his last four contests (including today), Peterson has rushed for 283 yards on a lousy 3.2 yard per carry average. The Vikings will need more come playoff time.
With 5:42 remaining in the first half, FOX play-by-play man, Thom Brennaman had seen enough of the Chicago Bears. “Boy, this is ugly,” he said.
Wade Philips’ decision to go for it on 4th down from the one that early in the game was inexcusable. In a close game, you always put points on the board until you absolutely need to gamble. Not kicking the field goal was significant in determining the game’s outcome. Instead of playing out the garbage time, Dallas could have been driving for the game tying score.
Nice head butt, Visanthe Shiancoe. Lucky for you, the refs bailed you out with a garbage off-setting penalty on the Bengals.
Contrary to what he tells the media, Sean Payton is trying to lose a game. His decision to fake a 4th quarter field goal in a three point game is proof. Is there another logical explanation for that call?
Coaches need my help. Jack Del Rio’s call to go for the first down on 4th and 3 with 7:57 left in the 4th quarter was a poor decision. With the ball on Miami’s 45, Jacksonville should have pinned Miami deep and let their defense get the ball back with prime field position. (Miami threw an INT the very next play so it didn’t matter, but still, it wasn’t the right call.)
When Andy Reid goes for the “hip five” with DeSean Jackson, you know it’s a good night.