The Tuesday Morning Quarterback: NFL Week #12 Winners and Losers
New York Jets 34, Tennessee 13—Titans (10-1) finally take a hit, as Brett Favre and the 8-3 Jets supposedly make a statement, winning their second straight key road game and maintaining their one-game AFC East lead over the Patriots. The Jets had a varied offensive game plan, and they executed it well, thus keeping the Titans’ defense on the field for more than 40 minutes. Of course, if the Titans’ offense had showed up, it might’ve been a game, and it’s less clear if the Jets’ D didn’t simply benefit from the lax play of Titans receivers (who dropped a bunch of catchable passes) and running backs (Chris Johnson fumbled at a critical juncture, and LenDale White was MIA). Favre played very well—discernably vintage, actually—but the Jets still have a lot to prove.
Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 10—It was a game for a while, then it became academic. Bengals, now 1-9-1, are pathetic. Steelers, now 8-3, are atop the AFC North, but only by a game over the surprising Ravens. And their offense looks like it needs a tuneup.
Baltimore 36, Philadelphia 7—Now 7-4, the Ravens kept pace with division-rival Steelers, thanks to a balanced offense led by rookie QB Joe Flacco (12/26, 183 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) and an opportunistic defense that grabbed four interceptions off Donovan McNabb and his second-half replacement, second-year-man Kevin Kolb. The Eagles, now 5-5-1, looked startlingly inept, but they’re still not technically out of the wild-card hunt. McNabb’s days as a starter could be numbered, but no matter who plays QB, the miracle finish seems remote.
Houston 16, Cleveland 6—Parting is such sweet sorrow, Romeo. This might be the game that signals the effective end of the Romeo Crennel regime in Cleveland. Now 4-7, the Browns couldn’t build on last week’s Monday night thriller victory over the Bills, losing at home to a Houston squad that’s notoriously bad on the road. Browns savior QB Brady Quinn wasn’t that, and he was replaced by erstwhile starter Derek Anderson. The duo combined for 13/32, 145 yards, 0 TDs and 3 INTs. Sage Rosenfels put up some halfway decent quarterbacking numbers for the 4-7 Texans, rookie RB Steve Slaton continues to be productive, and WR Andre Johnson had 10 catches for 116 yards.
Tampa Bay 38, Detroit 20—The Lions are 0-11 after blowing a 17-0 lead, and they now head into a Thanksgiving Day game versus the 10-1 Titans. Their quarterbacks in this game were Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton, neither of whom seems likely to rescue them from winless freefall. Rookie RB Kevin Smith gained 86 yards on 16 carries, so that’s hopeful, but when you yield four sacks, two interceptions and two fumbles to the opposing defense, you just get further behind the 8-ball. In this case, the Bucs are playing pretty well on both sides of the ball, and once they took a 21-17 lead into halftime it was all but over. Bucs QB Jeff Garcia continues his efficient winning ways, and ageless Warrick Dunn gained 90 yards on only 14 carries. With the win, the 8-3 Bucs tied the Panthers for first place in the NFC South.
Atlanta 45, Carolina 28—In the NFC, only the Giants and the Cardinals have scored more points than the 7-4 Falcons, who continue to impress with a varied offensive attack led by rookie QB Matt Ryan and an aggressive defense. The Falcons exhibit a remarkable can-do spirit, and their turnaround from last year’s disastrous campaign is downright inspirational. Now they’re breathing down the necks of both the Panthers and the Bucs for the NFC South lead. The 8-3 Panthers really didn’t play badly in this one: They had no turnovers, and they passed and ran with efficiency. They simply got outlasted by a very determined squad. Mike Smith for NFC Coach of the Year.
Buffalo 54, Kansas City 31—Bills QB Trent Edwards regained his form in this one—24/32, 273 yards, 2 TDs—which was over by the third quarter. The 1-10 Chiefs show signs of life, but they’re simply too young, and too unformed, to get over the hump. Tight end Tony Gonzalez had 10 catches for 113 yards and a touchdown, but it must be frustrating to be as good as he is and always be surrounded by failure. The Bills improved to 6-5, helped to eradicate the memory of their previous tough Monday night home loss to Cleveland, and kept pace with the Jets and Patriots in the AFC East.
New England 48, Miami 28—The Matt Cassel story keeps getting better. Dude spends his entire college career backing up Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC. Then he carries Tom Brady’s jockstrap in Foxboro till he’s suddenly pressed into service with a huge question mark over his head and the Patriots’ playoff chances on the line. So after a stellar, record-setting day—30/43, 415 yards, 3 TDs (all to Randy Moss) and thus becoming the first Patriots QB to ever throw for 400+ yards in two consecutive games—Cassel has the Pats at 7-4 and stalking the AFC East-leading Jets. The Dolphins dropped to 6-5 after gamely putting up a fight, including some actual on-field fighting that got fairly intense as their chances slipped away. But it’s already a good season for the Fins, who were 1-15 a year ago, and they’re not technically out of anything yet.
Dallas 35, San Francisco 22—Cowboys stifle the 49ers’ running attack, and QB Tony Romo fires three TD passes, including one to Terrell Owens, who racks up 213 receiving yards. This one was a game the host Cowboys should’ve won, and mission accomplished raises their record to 7-4. The 3-8 49ers got a decent performance out of QB Shaun Hill but were simply outclassed.
Washington 20, Seattle 17—Skins avoid the pitfalls of a potential “trap” game in coach Jim Zorn’s homecoming to Seattle, where he starred as a Seahawks QB three decades ago and served as an assistant under Mike Holmgren in the recent era. Playing through injury, Skins RB Clinton Portis gained 143 yards on the ground, and QB Jason Campbell returned to his error-free ways. The 2-9 Seahawks can’t do anything well enough, and it was another mediocre outing for QB Matt Hasselbeck. Skins, now 7-4 and tied for second in the NFC East with the Cowboys, host the division-leading Giants next week.
Chicago 27, St. Louis 3—The Rams are 2-9, and QB Trent Green threw four interceptions after replacing the injured Marc Bulger. The 6-5 Bears held the Rams to 14 yards rushing while piling up 201 yards of their own on the ground, led by rookie Matt Forte’s 132 yards. This one was over by halftime. Bears don’t falter on the road, and continue to share the NFC North lead.
Minnesota 30, Jacksonville 12—You know the Jags, now 4-7, are pretty much done for when they lose badly at home even while holding their opponent to 226 total yards. Fumbles and interceptions did ’em in, and a team once noted for a hellacious running attack gained only 35 yards on the ground. The Vikes moved to 6-5, taking advantage of the mistakes and utilizing their own excellent D, though they’ll have to get more than 104 yards out of their passing attack if they expect to beat anyone good down the road.
Oakland 31, Denver 10—Even good Raiders teams have trouble winning in Denver. For this disorganized bunch to come to the Mile High City and put the hurt on Mike Shanahan & Co. means the world must’ve shifted on its axis a little. Well, what it really means is that the Broncos (6-5) are simply not to be trusted. Their unpredictable offense and troubled defense guarantee that every game’s a crap shoot. They still lead the woeful AFC West by two games over the catatonic Chargers, but they better watch out. Tomorrow is not promised. The Raiders are now 3-8, getting a remarkably efficient performance out of QB JaMarcus Russell (10/11, 152 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs), 107 yards on the ground from RB Justin Fargas, plus a serious Ashley Lelie sighting, the ex-Bronc WR torching his former team for four catches for 92 yards and a TD.
Indianapolis 23, San Diego 20—More trouble for Chargers coach Norv Turner, whose team is now a disappointing 4-7 with no clear-cut answers as to why their malaise persists. They lost this one at home, despite decent offensive numbers from QB Philip Rivers and RB LaDainian Tomlinson. Simply put, the Colts came up big when they had to, and Peyton Manning hasn’t lost his ability to frustrate opposing defenses. The Colts moved to 7-4 with their fourth straight win and appear to have regained their swagger. They even gained a game on the AFC South-leading Titans, who finally fell from the unbeaten ranks. Marvin Harrison and Joseph Addai made serious contributions in this one, which is definitely good news for Colts coach Tony Dungy.
New York Giants 37, Arizona 29—Not a bad effort from the 7-4 Cardinals against the defending Super Bowl champs. But every time they’d threaten to make a game of it, the Giants—even minus bruising RB Brandon Jacobs, out with a knee injury—upped the ante with an Eli Manning TD pass. Peyton’s little brother threw for three scores and got an assist from sub RB Derrick Ward (69 yards, 1 TD) and K John Carney (three field goals). The 10-1 Giants now head to Washington for an NFC East rematch with the Redskins. Cardinals QB Kurt Warner threw for more than 300 yards for his fifth straight game, but he also threw a critical interception and fumbled once. The Cards’ running game was nonexistent. Their NFC West lead is secure, with their nearest rival the 3-8 49ers. The team travels to Philadelphia for a Thanksgiving Day game versus the Eagles.
New Orleans 51, Green Bay 29—The Saints put on a huge offensive display in running their record to 6-5 and keeping their playoff hopes alive in the ultra-competitive NFC South. QB Drew Brees threw four TD passes, including two of 70 yards, and veteran, oft-injured running back Deuce McAllister set a Saints record with his 54th career touchdown. But maybe most importantly, the Saints might have found a younger, healthier, more consistent every-down RB in second-year man Pierre Thomas, who gained 87 yards on 15 carries and scored two TDs. The Packers were very much in this one at the half, 24-21, but they were swamped by a 21-point New Orleans third quarter, and that was pretty much it. The Pack are now 5-6, dropping a game behind NFC North co-leaders Chicago and Minnesota.