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Just Win. NFL Week 12 Recap

Playoff fortunes fluctuated after a wild week 12 in the NFL. A handful of contenders performed poorly but escaped with victories while other playoff hopefuls failed to improve their postseason standing. FYI: Vince Young is back and so are the Titans.

Kicking Off

Winning pretty is a luxury that can only be enjoyed in the first half of the NFL season. As November turns to December, the wins become less impressive and more unsettling. Teams in the middle of a playoff race don’t care. Winning ugly is part of advancing to the postseason. It’s not how you win but whether you win that matters. On Sunday, the Bengals, Colts, Eagles, Falcons, and Ravens all added an ugly “W” to their respective win columns in the NFL standings. The Bengals struggled to put away the lowly Cleveland Browns while managing only one touchdown. The Colts fell behind early and needed a 4th quarter rally to top their division rivals in Houston. The Eagles nearly allowed a crippled Washington squad to steal a win before McNabb led the Eagle offense on two scoring drives late in the 4th quarter. And Atlanta watched as their playoff hopes came within 30 seconds of leaving town with the one win Buccaneers. Only a 4th down touchdown pass saved the Falcons season. Winning is everything, even if it comes ugly. At this point of the NFL season, the goal is to simply live another week.

The Tennessee Titans are watching Vince Young revive their 2009 season. After an embarrassing 0-6 start, head coach Jeff Fisher inserted his much maligned quarterback into the starting lineup. The Titans have been undefeated since. Sunday’s unthinkable come from behind victory against the Arizona Cardinals propelled the Titans right back into the AFC Wildcard hunt. While they’re still a long shot, Tennessee is a force to reckon with in the American Football Conference. On Sunday, Young’s failure to manage the game clock and get three points as time expired in the first half appeared to cost his team a victory. Instead of trailing 17-16 late in the 4th quarter, Tennessee trailed 17-13 with just 2:37 left on the clock. While a game winning field goal would be plausible, a game clinching touchdown appeared impossible. The Titans were pinned at their own one with two timeouts and 99 yards to go for the win. Young admirably led Tennessee on an 18 play, 99 yard drive that culminated with the game winning touchdown pass as time expired. On the drive, Young converted three 4th downs, one of which was the game winning score. The Titan’s resurgence has been a direct result of RB Chris Johnson and a significantly improved defense. However, Sunday’s victory can be attributed to the amazing play of the forgotten Vince Young. The Titans are back from the dead. And so is Vince Young.

The Baltimore Ravens are breathing, barely. The Steelers, without QB Ben Roethlisberger, were supposed to be a beatable team for the desperate Ravens. With their season on the line, Baltimore faced a 4th down late in the 4th quarter. Ray Rice made a big play to convert and gave Baltimore possession at the Pittsburgh 10 yard line. The Ravens failed to punch it in for the victory and settled for the tie. After just missing the game winning 56 yard field goal as time expired, the AFC North slugfest headed to overtime.  The defense took advantage of Pittsburgh’s inexperienced quarterback and handed the Raven’s offense the ball deep inside Pittsburgh territory. The Ravens drove to the 12 yard line before kicking the game winning field goal. It wasn’t pretty, but again, a win is a win, especially in late November. Baltimore’s win, combined with losses by Houston, Miami, and Jacksonville, has the Ravens back in the playoff mix. A favorable schedule (3/5 remaining games against teams with a losing record) should propel the Baltimore Ravens into the playoffs.

That was impressive…
  • The San Diego Chargers continue to run over the AFC West. It’s not even close anymore.
  • Jason Campbell has played well this season. He’s unfairly gotten a bad rep due to the disastrous season in Washington D.C. but Campbell is a solid NFL quarterback.
  • The Cincinnati Bengals rushed for 210 yards without starting running back Cedric Benson. Even still, the Bengals need to figure out a way to put more points on the board.
  • The Denver Broncos dominated the New York Giants on Thanksgiving to save their season.
  • I want Ray Rice on my football team. He constantly makes big plays and he refuses to go down.
  • That’s two weeks in a row that WR Terrell Owens has come up big for the Buffalo Bills. Maybe he and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick are developing the same connection he temporarily had with Garcia, McNabb and Romo.
  • A fantastic 3rd quarter interception by Colts safety Antoine Bethea on a deep pass attempt by Texans QB Matt Schaub. A terrific play.
  • Falcons QB Chris Redman and WR Roddy White saved Atlanta’s season today. Their game winning 5 yard TD connection to defeat the Buccaneers kept them in the NFC Wildcard chase.
  • Great TD catch by Ravens WR, Derrick Mason. He simply out-jumped the Pittsburgh corner and caught the ball at its highest point, textbook.
  • This is becoming a weekly addition; Brett Favre’s first half stats were out of this world: 20/31, 256 yards, 3 TD. Again, no turnovers this week. Favre is amazing right now.
  • After getting trampled in the 4th quarter by the Texans and the Titans, the Bills finally got to do some 4th quarter trampling of their own. Against the Dolphins on Sunday, Buffalo scored 24 unanswered points to erase a 7 point deficit and intercepted Dolphins QB Chad Henne three times to seal the victory. Another division rival (Dolphins) is dealt a severe blow to their playoff chances by a team that has already been eliminated (Bills). This is what makes the last few weeks of the NFL season so great and unpredictable.
  • 49ers QB, Alex Smith is making a strong case to be the future signal caller in San Francisco.
  • After a devastating fumble, Kenny Britt redeemed himself by catching the game winning reception as time expired. Britt aggressively attacked the ball and got his hands on it before the Arizona secondary could make a play on the ball. Well done by the rookie.
Not so much…
  • Adrian Peterson is a bruising running back, but if he can’t get his fumbling issues under control, he’s going to cost the Vikings a football game, maybe in the playoffs.
  • Despite his heroics, Vince Young inexplicably allowed the clock to expire at the end of the first half on Sunday when the Titans were in field goal range.
  • For someone who supposedly knows his way around the goal line, LaDanian Tomlinson’s fumble while lunging into the endzone was embarrassing. He barely got hit.
  • 49ers TE Vernon Davis terrorizes defenses in the red zone. Apparently, the Jaguar defense didn’t pay attention in their film sessions this past week. Davis was all alone on his 2nd quarter 3 yard TD reception.
  • Welcome back Jake Delhomme, welcome back.
  • Shame on Baltimore for not sporting the black uniforms. I was extremely disappointed.
  • The Thanksgiving performances of the Giants, Lions, and Raiders. The sleepy stuff in turkey wasn’t needed this Thanksgiving as all three contests were enough to put us to sleep.
  • Titans rookie WR, Kenny Britt, made a big play downfield on a 51 yard reception that put the Titans, who were trailing by four at the time, in field goal range at the Arizona 24 halfway through the 4th quarter. Britt made the grab, rose to his feet, ran a few yards and then was hit from behind and fumbled the ball away to the Cardinals. Rookies.
  • On a field goal that was essentially an extra point, Jaguars kicker, Josh Scobee clanked it off the goal post. Combine Scobee’s miss with David Garrard’s two fumbles, and the Jaguars only scored one field goal in four red zone trips.
  • The Dolphin defense should be ashamed. They surrendered a 31 yard rushing touchdown to Bills QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick probably runs a 12.7 forty-yard dash.
  • Eagles TE Brent Celek needs to find a better pair of gloves or work on his hands. In an embarrassing 3rd quarter, Celek dropped two consecutive passes. Both would have resulted in much needed first downs for a struggling Philadelphia offense.
  • Colts kicker, Matt Stover, missed an easy 32 yard field that would have cut the Houston lead to three early in the 4th quarter. Indianapolis would come back to win, but missed field goals inside of 40 yards must concern coaches this time of year.
Take that man to Chic-Fil-A

QB Brett Favre: 32/48 392 YDS, 3 TD
RB Justin Forsett: 22 Carries, 130 YDS, 2 TD
WR Miles Austin: 7 Rec, 145 YDS, TD
WR Donald Driver: 7 Rec, 142 YDS, TD
TE Antonio Gates: 7 Rec, 118 YDS, 2 TD
D Vikings: 10 Points, 169 Yards allowed, 3 Turnovers, 4 Sacks

Probably should have stayed in bed

QB Jake Delhomme: 14/34 130 YDS, 4 INT
RB Brandon Jacobs: 11 Carries, 27 YDS
WR Devin Hester: 1 Rec, 20 YDS
WR Steve Smith: 1 Rec, 5 YDS
TE Brent Celek: 4 Rec, 33 YDS, Multiple Drops
D Bears: Surrendered 36 Points, 537 Yards, 2:1 Time of Possession

Quick Slants

It’s time for the Carolina Panthers to audition other quarterbacks. Yes, Jake Delhomme is signed through the Apocalypse, but he’s clearly not the future. Give someone else a chance to prove what they can do. Carolina’s 2009 season is officially done, why not?

The Vikings are dominating opponents on the scoreboard and on the field. Minnesota maintained possession of the ball for over 40 minutes of Sunday’s annihilation of the Chicago Bears. It’s scary how well the Vikings are playing right now.

I’d like to thank FOX’s Daryl Johnston for calling out Asante Samuel’s tackling abilities. Although, it’s hard to blame just Samuel when the entire Eagles’ defense could use some tackling help. They miss more tackles than any other team I watch, especially on 3rd down.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak didn’t even watch as his kicker, Kris Brown, booted a field goal. After Brown missed two critical field goals last week, I guess Kubiak couldn’t handle the anxious moment.

Peyton Manning was off today. Regardless, he got himself, and his offense, together in time to stage a 4th quarter comeback to keep their unbeaten season going.  Peyton epitomizes everything a coach would want in a quarterback.

With the score 3 to 6, the Cardinals and Titans were struggling to generate big plays on Sunday. Titans RB Chris Johnson then went 85 yards for a touchdown that was subsequently followed by a 99 yard kickoff return for a TD by Larod Stephens-Howling.

In addition to his return for a TD, Stephens-Howling made several huge special teams plays that pinned the Titans deep in their own end.

The Carolina Panthers lost in New York to the Jets because they ran the ball for 75 yards at a 3.0 yard per carry average. When Jake Delhomme is your quarterback, anything less than 175 yards and a 4.2 average just isn’t good enough.

The Texans collapse at home will ultimately cost them the playoffs and Gary Kubiak his job. The Texans need a coach that can win the big games.

It’s hard to criticize anything Minnesota is doing, but a play action pass at the one foot line when Adrian Peterson is your running back doesn’t make sense to me, especially when the play results in a 14 yard sack.

With their playoff lives on the line, the Dolphins, Giants, Jaguars, and Texans all laid an egg. The Dolphins and Texans are pretty much eliminated. The Jaguars will be eliminated in a few weeks as their schedule gets tougher. The Giants will need some unlikely wins against opponents better than the Broncos to reach the playoffs. Playoff contenders can’t afford an “off” week at this time of year.

Matt Leinart and Vince Young went head to head again. The result was the same as the 2006 Rose Bowl. Young took over the game late and led his team to victory. Leinart must have nightmares of Young.

Even though he threw the game deciding interception, I was impressed with Dennis Dixon’s performance. He kept the Steelers in a game they were supposed to lose. It was the failure of the Pittsburgh defense late in the 4th quarter that cost the Steelers a win, not Dixon.

After impressive victories in week 11, the Chiefs, Dolphins, Giants, Jaguars, Lions, and Raiders all fell abruptly back to earth .

The Playoff races in both conferences are getting tight. We’re headed for quite a finish. I’ll breakdown both the AFC and NFC postseason race later this week.

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