Every Monday morning, Section 215’s Akiem Bailum gives an in-depth and unfiltered look at all of the weekend’s NFL action in The Monday Morning Realist. You can follow Akiem on Twitter @Li495Akiem.
No Trap Door in Buffalo
The Kansas City Chiefs came into Week 8 vs. the Buffalo Bills with an 8-0 record & as the last undefeated team in the NFL. They have not had a season like this since 2003, which was the first year that the NFL Network came into existence.
Some, perhaps, predicted that their Week 9 road matchup at the Bills would serve as somewhat of a “trap game” since the Chiefs in Week 10 will be on their bye week before what it sure to be a well-ballyhooed Sunday Night Football battle against the Denver Broncos. This became a Sunday Nighter after the NFL announced that it was “flex scheduled” to Sunday Night given the significance of that Week 11 game. The original game on the Week 11 Sunday Night programme was Packers vs. Giants, but flexing Broncos/Chiefs to primetime was an easy call given where the Giants are in the grand scheme of things in the NFL.
Coming off a 35-17 drumming from the New Orleans Saints the previous week (albeit on the road), not too many gave the Buffalo Bills much of a chance against the undefeated Chiefs.
In the early portion of the game, it looked as if that there was a Niagara Falls-sized trap door waiting for Kansas City. It would be Buffalo who would take an early 7-0 lead after Jeff Tuel (WHO?!) threw a 59 yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin. Each team then traded field goals prior to halftime as the Bills had a 10-3 lead on Kansas City.
Early in the third quarter, it looked as if Tuel the Bills would indeed pad their lead to 17-3 over the Chiefs and make some folks in Colorado and Southern California extremely happy. With the Bills driving inside the five yard line, Tuel threw one of his two interceptions of the game to Sean Smith who converted it into a 100 yard interception return for a touchdown. 14 point swing and the game right there.
Undoubtedly, that Pick 6 showed the proficiency of the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense that they’ve displayed all year. Such a huge play also completely turned the momentum around. The Chiefs later picked up their first lead of the game on one of Ryan Succop’s 3 field goals for the game in the same quarter. The Bills did tie it at 13 prior to the end of the third.
But, clearly, the play of the game was the Smith Pick 6 and it showed throughout the second half. Tamba Hali recovered a T.J. Graham fumble for 11 yards for a touchdown. 20-13 Chiefs. One more Succop field goal extended the Kansas City to 23-13—the final score as the clock was left with “Triple Zeros”.
Another week, another Kansas City Chiefs win, definitely. But, the Bills have to take solace in the fact that its defense did not give up one touchdown on offense. Also, the Chiefs have played tougher games as of late—and their schedule is only going to get tougher as they have yet to play both of their games against the Broncos. They will play their first in Week 11.
Alex Smith only went 19/29 with 124 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. Jamaal Charles rushed for 90 yards on 17 carries.
For the Bills, 18/39 with 1 TD and 2 interceptions was what Jeff Tuel did. C.J. Spiller’s performance was huge despite a losing effort with 12 rushes for 116 yards. Goodwin only caught two passes for 64 yards, but one of the receptions was a touchdown.
As mentioned (several times already), the Chiefs go on bye week in Week 10 before their Sunday Night tilt with the Denver Broncos in Week 11. The last place Bills head on the road against another struggling team—the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Don’t look now, but the Carolina Panthers are no longer playing football like little kittens. A down NFC South (or injured if you are the Atlanta Falcons in the case of Julio Jones) had Carolina 4-3 heading into a huge divisional matchup vs. the Falcons who are reeling after a 27-13 defeat on the road in Arizona.
Meanwhile, Carolina defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football last week 31-13 to win their third consecutive game.
Falcons vs. Panthers in Week 9 was not supposed to be a well-looked at game on the NFL schedule. If anything, this was supposed to be, if not a Falcons blowout, at least a win for the Dirty Birds. The only thing dirty about them this year—has been their win-loss record.
Carolina early on got a 4 yard touchdown run from Mike Tolbert to take an early 7-0 lead. It was 7-3 when Matt Bryant kicked a 28 yard field goal. What was 7-3 became 14-10 Panthers as both teams traded touchdown passes towards the end of the first half (Cam Newton to Greg Olsen and Matt Ryan to Tony Gonzalez).
While the first half may have been reasonably competitive, the second indeed displayed the directions these two teams are headed into. It was 17-10 Panthers in the third, and the Carolina defense held Atlanta scoreless for the third and fourth quarters.
Meanwhile, Newton helped his own cause with his own touchdown run early in the fourth. Then, Ryan (who has turned into a turnover factory lately as the Falcons offense sans Julio Jones gets further exposed) threw a Pick 6 to Drayton Florence. Carolina led 31-10. The rout, as they say, was certainly on in Metrolina.
A second Gano field goal padded the Panthers’ lead to 34-10 which would be the final score of the game.
The Panthers are now 5-3 while the Falcons are stuck at 2-6. Carolina certainly qualifies as a surprise team, while the Falcons are arguably the biggest disappointment in the NFL in 2013-2014. A case can also be made for the Texans or Giants, but the Falcons were a hot pick among many to get to the Super Bowl after almost making it the previous season. Head coach Ron Rivera was asked if his team is starting to look like a playoff team—he said it is.
Julio Jones cannot get back soon enough if you are an Atlanta fan.
Newton—23/37 for 249 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Olsen caught 4 passes for 66 yards (plus one touchdown reception) while Brandon LaFell also caught six passes for 74 yards.
Ryan—20/27 for 219 yards, one touchdown, and three (more) picks. Hugh Douglas (three receptions) and Tony Gonzalez (six receptions) each had over 80 yards receiving.
And the Falcons in Week 10 will be playing just the team one wants to play when it’s going through a slump…the NFC West leading Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, Carolina’s Week 10 game—on the road in San Francisco. The Panthers may be playoff contenders, but beating the defending NFC Champions would no doubt be a huge statement to the rest of the NFL.
Playing Like…World Champions
Recently, the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in six games to win the 2013 World Series—their third since finally “Reversing the Curse” in 2004, then padding that with a 2007 Series win. Several members of the World Champion Red Sox visited Gillette Stadium in Foxboro to see the Patriots and Steelers. Between the Sox’ victory and rumours of a 2024 Olympic bid, there are plenty of “pahsitives” to talk about in the sports scene in the City of Beans.
As for the underperforming Steelers, Pittsburgh’s struggles are well documented. For the majority of Week 8’s road trip to the Black Hole and the Oakland Raiders, it looked as if the Steelers as a whole had faded into black. They tried a late comeback, but football has a clock—unlike baseball. When the clock in the O.Co Coliseum hit Triple Zeros, the final was Raiders 21 and Steelers 18.
Even though the Patriots were victorious last week against Miami and recently returned Rob Gronkowski back to the roster when they played (and lost to the Jets at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands), Tom Brady has not looked like the same Brady we are used to seeing. One can say that not having Wes Welker as a reliable 3rd Down target can be part of that, but Brady and Bill Belichick have been known for converting no-names into stars via the accuracy of Brady’s arm.
Maybe the Patriots should give the World Champion compadres from Fenway VIP passes to every remaining Pats game, because these looked more like the Pats we all know and…either love or hate.
With 10:30 left in the second quarter, New England’s “Golden Boy” already threw two touchdown passes—one to Danny Amendola and the second to Rob Gronkowski. 14-0 Patriots. Field goals from the Steelers’ Shawn Suisham and the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski made it 17-3. An Antonio Brown TD reception from Ben Roethlisberger cut the Patriots lead to 17-10 with less than two minutes to go in the half, but that was erased with a Stevan Ridley touchdown run with only ten seconds on the clock—proving once again that giving Brady that much time is like giving him an entire quarter.
In the third, the Steelers did hang tough, primarily thanks to Jerricho Cotchery. He caught two touchdown receptions in the third quarter to make the score all tied up at 24. Gostkowski’s second field goal of the game had New England back ahead by three at 27-24 with one quarter left to play.
This is where the Patriots and Bill Belichick began to do what they seem to do best—run up the score. Defense (namely the Steelers’ secondary) clearly did not take the trip to Foxboro, Massachusetts this week.
What was 27-24 became 41-24 after an Aaron Dobson touchdown pass and Ridley’s second TD run of the game. Cotchery, while not being the primary target for Big Ben, did catch his third TD pass of the game for Pittsburgh to cut the Patriots’ lead back to ten. But, it started getting late and Dobson caught his second reception of the game for six points. Then, LeGarrette Blount ran for five yards for a score to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind. Patriots won big 55-31.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 55 points they gave up on Sunday is said to be the most they’ve ever given up in team history. So much for that “smash mouth” defensive football the Black and Gold are known far and wide for. But, this is a team that is clearly out of postseason contention. This is not about them.
This game was about the Patriots making a statement to the rest of the league that they’re still Super Bowl contenders despite them seemingly being depleted talent-wise and the offseason from hell they endured over the summer. While everyone in the league has been (rightfully) gushing over the Broncos, Chiefs, and Colts, the Patriots still have won 3 Super Bowl rings in recent memory (even though they also lost two to the New York Giants in even more recent memory). The Pats are nowhere near being out of the picture in the AFC and Super Bowl prognostication departments.
Oh, give me a break, Realist! They won because they didn’t want to embarrass the World Champion Red Sox who were in attendance. Hence, the idea of giving the Sox VIP passes into the rest of their games. It worked on Sunday.
Brady returned to having Brady-esque numbers with 23/33 for 432 yards and 4 touchdowns. Ridley ran the ball 26 times for 115 yards and two TDs. Gronkowski (1 TD, 9 receptions, 143 yards), Dobson (2 TDs, 5 receptions, 130 yards), and Amendola (1 TD, 4 receptions, 122 yards) each caught at least one pass to the end zone and put up triple-digit receiving yard numbers.
Roethlisberger was 28/48 with 400 and also threw 4 TDs—with 2 interceptions and 5 sacks as well (2 from Chandler Jones). Le’Veon Bell—16 runs for 74 yards. Emmanuel Sanders caught 6 passes for 98 yards and was Roethlisberger’s main target. Cotchery, in addition to his 3 touchdowns, also caught seven receptions for 96 yards. Brown had five receptions for 71 and a TD.
While the Patriots are on bye week this upcoming week, the Steelers (as mentioned earlier) head back home to face the Buffalo Bills.
All In the Family
The New Orleans Saints facing the New York Jets at the Meadowlands can be described as a plethora of things, as can any football game. One common phrase many probably used to describe it was “Saints blowout waiting to happen.”
But, it can also be looked as a family reunion. Of course, Rex Ryan is the current Jets head coach and Rob Ryan is the defensive coordinator for the Saints. Prior to the game, the brothers Ryan took a picture with their dad—Buddy Ryan.
New Orleans was coming off a 35-17 beatdown of the Buffalo Bills in The Big Easy in Week 8. The Saints were on the giving end of a blowout while the Jets were on the receiving end of their own when the Bengals defeated the “Mess Mess Mess” 49-9 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincy.
Saints for sure increasing their record to 7-2, right?
(Disclaimer…I thought the same thing).
Anyway, it was 3-0 after a Nick Folk field goal, but Drew Brees connected with Jimmy Graham for 51 yards late in the first quarter to give the Saints their first lead of the game. The second quarter began as a carbon copy of the first—a Folk field goal and New Orleans answering with a Graham touchdown. But TD runs from the Jets’ Chris Ivory and Geno Smith had the Jets on top at 20-14 heading into halftime.
Long drives by both teams in the second half would yield only field goals. Folk and the Saints’ Garrett Hartley each had two in the second half, bringing Folk’s total to four for the game. The result—the Jets upsetting the Saints 26-20.
Brees was 30/51 with 382 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Graham—9 receptions, 116 yards and 2 TDs. Robert Meachem also put up a 93 yard, 4 reception performance.
When the Jets have won, it’s been because of Chris Ivory’s running attack. He carried the ball 18 times for 139 yards. Geno Smith was 8/19 for 115 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions. When Ivory is running the ball as effectively as that (and quickly becoming a household name in the Tri-State area in the process), Smith does not need to throw the ball that much.
Let this one sink in for the moment—if the playoffs began today, the Jets would be the sixth seed in the AFC. The Jets, who had more negative internet memes thrown in its direction than possibly any other team not named Jacksonville, would be a playoff team if they began this day. And they have a few impressive wins, including this one and when they defeated the Patriots. Their problem is, of course, inconsistency.
As mentioned earlier, the happiest people at this result are the Carolina Panthers and their fans in the Carolinas. Right now, the Panthers’ surge now has them only a game back of New Orleans for first place in the NFC South.
Dare the Realist say that the Panthers have “First In Sight”.
While the Jets are on bye week in Week 10, the Saints will be seen on NBC in Week 10 as they face the Cowboys from the Superdome on Sunday Night Football.
Another Coach Encounters Health Concerns
The Realist chose a more somber headline for this one for obvious reasons. Earlier this week, Broncos head coach John Fox was taken to a hospital in Charlotte after it was thought that he had suffered a heart attack. Those reports turned out to not be true and he is on the path to recovery. The Broncos have since announced that the interim head coach will be defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who last had success in the NFL as a head coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
And at halftime the Sunday Night matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. Wade Phillips, who recently lost his father and legendary Oilers coach Bum Phillips, took Kubiak’s place. Kubiak was taken to Houston’s Methodist Hospital—near the world-renowned Texas Medical Center and a short drive from Reliant Stadium. It is said that he is resting comfortably on his own path to recovery.
It was a shame for the Texans and their fans, because the Texans looked to be riding a wave of momentum on Sunday Night as they were wearing their “Battle Red” uniforms. It was much needed momentum as this team has been slumping as of late and has been attempting to see what they had with Case Keenum at quarterback. Keenum played a good game against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Texans came up short in a 17-16 loss to KC in Week 7. The Colts gave the Broncos their first loss that same week (also on Sunday Night), but lost Reggie Wayne for the year with a torn ACL. Both the Texans and Colts had bye weeks in Week 8.
The momentum mentioned earlier was in the form of a 21-3 Texans lead. Andre Johnson caught two touchdown passes to give Houston an early 14-0 advantage. In the second quarter, Vinatieri put Indy on the board to make the score 14-3. Johnson later caught his 3rd TD pass of the game in the second quarter. 21-3 Texans prior to what happened to Kubiak.
In addition, it looked early as if the loss of Reggie Wayne was affecting the Colts’ offensive fortunes in the first half. Andrew Luck threw a lot of passes and his receiving corps dropped a lot of passes—passes that Wayne normally catches.
What was supposed to be jubilation and pride in their performance became “chaos” as the team was concerned about Kubiak’s status. The game became secondary to the health of their coach.
It looked to be the case in the second half as Luck and Colts slowly began to get back in the game. It was 24-6 after Vinatieri and Randy Bullock traded field goals.
T.Y. Hilton then emerged as the player of the game for the Colts. He was the recipient of all three of Luck’s touchdown passes in the second half. Indianapolis tried for two on the first attempt—it failed. They also did so on the last try in the fourth quarter and it was successful. The Colts won 27-24.
Luck was 18/40 with 271 yards, and 3 touchdowns, all of which went to Hilton who also caught seven passes for 121 yards.
Keenum is seemingly cementing his status as the Texans QB going forward as he was 20/34 350 yards, and 3 touchdowns, all of which went to Johnson who caught nine passes for 229 yards. Ben Tate also rushed for 81 yards on 22 carries. Johnson’s performance would be the story of the game if the Texans won and if Kubiak didn’t have to be taken to the hospital.
Not helping Houston’s cause, now at 2-6, was that Randy Bullock did not have a good night kicking the football as he missed three other field goal attempts, including a 55 yard attempt at the end of the game that would have sent it into overtime.
But, clearly the story from this one is the status of Kubiak. All indications seem to be positive that he’ll be released from Houston Methodist Hospital this week.
The Colts will play the St. Louis Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 10 while the Texans will take to the road to Arizona to play the Cardinals.
Dolphins defeat Bengals 22-20 (Thursday Night Football)
Cowboys defeat Vikings 27-23
Titans defeat Rams 28-21
Redskins defeat Chargers 30-24
Eagles defeat Raiders 49-20 (Nick Foles—7 TDs)
Seahawks defeat Buccaneers 27-24
Browns defeat Ravens 24-18
Coming Soon to the Monday Morning Realist…
With half of the NFL season in the books, it’s time to start looking at which teams are in position to clinch playoff berths and who will be on the outside looking in! As playoff races heat up, “If the Playoffs Start Today” will display the NFC and AFC playoff standings as they change week by week. Stay with Section 215 and the Monday Morning Realist for the most coverage of the NFL’s playoff races!