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.
Empty on Lucas Oil
Games like that which happened in Week 10 with the St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts from Indy’s Lucas Oil Stadium are precisely why the phrase “Any Given Sunday” is a common theme in the American sporting lexicon.
The Colts had won last week on the road at Houston’s Reliant Stadium in comeback fashion to defeat the Texans 27-24 after being down at one point 24-6. That moved them to 6-2 with Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton having huge games in the process as they played their first game of the season sans Reggie Wayne.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Rams, who earlier in the year lost Sam Bradford for the remainder of the season, were defeated at home by one of the Colts’ division rivals—the Tennessee Titans. That final score turned out to be 28-21.
Wayne or no Wayne, there was no way the Colts were going to lose to the Rams, right? Even given the fact that Indianapolis has been known to play down to its competition this year, the Colts were at home where they have only lost once coming into the day. And it was supposed to be close if they do lose. 7-2 Colts, right?
Regular readers of Monday Morning Realist know what usually comes next. Except, there’s a huge difference between playing down to one’s competition (like the Colts have done earlier in the year) and not even showing up to compete against inferior competition. Luck fumbled early in the first quarter that led to a Chris Long fumble recovery for a touchdown. St. Louis was leading 7-0.
While Indianapolis apparently missed their flight out of Houston this past week, the Rams continued the rout. It was 14-0 after a Zac Stacy one yard touchdown run. Wasn’t this supposed to be the other way around?
There are three phases of football—defense, offense, and special teams. The first two already did damage to the Colts earlier. It became the special teams’ turn when Tavon Austin returned a Colts punt 98 yards for a touchdown. 21-0 Rams.
Austin was not done making huge plays. He put the Rams ahead 28-0 after Kellen Clemens threw a 57 yard pass for a touchdown in his direction. Also, he began the second half with an 81 yard reception from Clemens to make the score 35-0.
After it was 38-0 on a Greg Zuerlein 32 yard field goal, this one was stunningly over. It took Indianapolis until the end of the third quarter to finally get on the board as Luck’s 13 yard pass to Donald Brown netted the Colts’ first points. Then, he found Coby Fleener for a successful 2 point conversion, but that would be it for Indianapolis on the day. It was 38-8 Rams.
St. Louis won by this score to pick up their fourth win on the season, but if Bill Belichick was the Rams’ coach instead of Jeff Fisher, we’d probably be talking (and writing) about a 50-plus point outing by the Rams instead of only 38. The Rams do have a wealth of young talent as well as an earlier blowout victory over the Texans, but that was when “Schaubdom” was in overdrive in Space City, USA. The Colts are a team that (again, with Reggie Wayne) has victories over the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and Denver Broncos—three Super Bowl contenders.
Clemens was 9/16 with 247 yards and 2 touchdowns. Benny Cunningham carried the rock 7 times for 72 yards. Austin had the huge day. Despite only two receptions, he had 138 receiving yards, plus both of Clemens’ TDs, and the huge punt return for a touchdown.
The numbers were less notable on the Indy side. Luck was 29/47 with 353 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions in addition to being their leading rusher—with 17 yards. When the game was clearly out of reach, there was even a Matt Hasselbeck sighting for a brief period of time. T.Y. Hilton had another impressive game with 7 receptions for 130 yards.
That’s not a bad way for a team to transition into its Week 11 bye week as the Rams will do. The Colts will head to the road and LP Field to play the Tennessee Titans on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.
Sun Shines Again on Florida Football
And you won’t believe where it came from….
The last time the Jacksonville Jaguars received honorable mention on the Realist, it was in the Week 7 edition when the Jags were coming off a 24-6 loss to the San Diego Chargers. At the time, the Jaguars looked so bad that the 0-16 card was being thrown around, and even earlier than that, the CBS station in Orlando (Post-Newsweek’s WKMG-TV) was apologizing for showing a matchup between the Jaguars and Raiders instead of that featuring the Brothers Manning (Peyton’s Broncos vs. Eli’s Giants).
Since then, the NFL-related headlines out of the Sunshine State of Florida have been anything but sun-filled. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still winless and blew a 21-point lead on the road only to lose to the Seattle Seahawks. And the Miami Dolphins/Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin story is a soap opera unto itself.
The Jaguars were the only one of the three Florida franchises playing on Sunday with the Fins and Bucs facing off on Monday Night Football on ESPN. Jacksonville’s opponent—the Tennessee Titans who, as mentioned earlier, defeated St. Louis last week at the Edward Jones Dome 28-21.
Again, remember what was mentioned earlier about “Any Given Sunday”?
The last time the Jaguars were mentioned on the Realist, one player mentioned was Maurice Jones-Drew was one of the superstar runningbacks for the Jags when they were competing for playoff berths a few years ago. It was 7-0 Jacksonville on a 6-yard TD run from MJD. At the end of the first quarter, the Jaguars’ lead was 10-0 after a Josh Scobee field goal.
The Jaguars were winning a football game.
And their lead extended to 13-0 after Scobee’s second field goal which happened in the second quarter.
Titans starting quarterback Jake Locker had to come out of the game early after a blown handoff in which he injured his foot. His prognosis—done for the season. In came Ryan Fitzpatrick, who put Tennessee on the board with a 9 yard touchdown pass to Taylor Thompson. Going into halftime, the score was 13-7 Jacksonville.
The Jaguars were winning a football game.
Midway through the third quarter, the Jaguars’ lead extended to 13 on a five yard TD run from Jordan Todman. The Titans answered with a Rob Bironas 39 yard field goal—their first of the game. At the end of three…
The Jaguars were winning a football game. 20-10 over the Titans.
20-10 became 20-13 after Bironas’ 2nd field goal early in the fourth quarter.
Later on would come what would turn out to be the deciding moment of the game. With Fitzpatrick and the Titans deep in their own territory, offensive lineman Chance Warmack was flagged for a hold in the end zone. A hold in the end zone translated to a safety and two more for Jacksonville. 22-13 Jaguars.
The Titans didn’t go away and Fitzpatrick attempted to help his own cause by running into the end zone for his own touchdown. 22-20 Jaguars. Jacksonville still winning, but those two safety points are looking much bigger.
Jaguars fans had to have their hearts in their throats with Tennessee driving late in the game. Late in the game, the Titans had the ball and cornerback Will Blackmon forced a fumble, picked up a fumble recovery, and returned the rock 21 yards for a touchdown. The Jaguars had a 29-20 lead and a virtual stranglehold on their first victory of the season.
The Titans did try to lead one more touchdown drive as they converted on a Fitzpatrick pass to Delanie Walker. The Titans got to within 29-27. They needed an onside kick with less than a minute to play. It didn’t happen.
The Jaguars won a football game. Their first of the year. 29-27 over Tennessee. Such a game turned out to be a missed opportunity for the Titans because if they won, with the Colts losing to St. Louis, the Titans would’ve only been behind by one game in the AFC South heading into a huge Thursday Night Football matchup to kick off Week 11.
Chad Henne was 14/23 with 180 yards, no touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Maurice Jones-Drew carried the ball 21 times for 41 yards and a touchdown. For the Titans, Fitzpatrick went 22/33 for 264 yards, two touchdowns. Kendall Wright caught 7 passes for 78 yards while Delanie Walker had four catches for 62 yards and a TD.
As mentioned earlier, those Titans play the Colts on TNF in Nashville. The Jaguars will go back home to face the surprising Arizona Cardinals, who themselves are now only a game back of the San Francisco 49ers for third place in the NFC West.
Details on that later…
Tips On How to Bungle Football Games
A couple of weeks ago, it somewhat appeared as if the Cincinnati Bengals would run away with the AFC North as if they had stolen it. They were 6-2, Andy Dalton was once again looking like an underrated young quarterback overshadowed by the likes of Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, and RGIII, and him and A.J. Green was looking like one of the premier QB-to-wide receiver duos in the NFL.
Then, the Bengals blew a game on Thursday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins on a game-ending safety to keep the Fins’ playoff chances alive, just before “BullyGate rocked South Beach like a hurricane. It sent them to 6-3.
Meanwhile, the Ravens were in the throws of a 3-5 season in which their most recent matchup had them losing to the Cleveland Browns on the road 24-18.
What would give between these two division rivals?
Site: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Early on, M&T Bank was an ATM for the home team. As the Ravens defense held Dalton and the Bengals offense scoreless in the first half, Baltimore’s offensive attack converted on a 1 yard pass from Joe Flacco to Dallas Clark for a touchdown to give the Ravens a 7-0 advantage. Later in the frame, Justin Tucker would nail a 36 yard field goal to increase the lead to 10-0.
The halftime score would be 17-0 home team after Torrey Smith caught Flacco’s second touchdown pass of the game midway through the second quarter. All indications was that the Ravens were dominating this game.
If there was a such thing as a “Tale of Two Halves”, this game was it. The Ravens won the first half, while the Bengals were clearly the winners of the second half. Cincy’s comeback started in the third quarter when a long Bengals drive midway through the third resulted in a Mike Nugent 32 yard field goal. It was now 17-3 Ravens.
The Bengals crept closer in the fourth after a Dalton pass to Giovani Bernard for 18 yards and a score. 17-10 Ravens.
Cincinnati was driving late in the fourth quarter with one last chance to win this game or risk falling to 6-4 on the season. It looked like it was over with the team at midfield and needing a touchdown to send the game into overtime. Hail Mary anyone?
The prayers of Bengals fans were answered…at least on the last play of the second half. Dalton heaved a 51 yard Hail Mary pass into the end zone that was first tipped, then hovered in the air before it found the hands of A.J. Green. The Bengals had tied the game at 17 heading into overtime.
Despite Cincinnati winning the overtime coin toss, the Ravens ultimately won on a 46 yard field goal from Justin Tucker. The final score was 20-17 Ravens, proving once again, that it’s not how you start sometimes—but how you finish. Baltimore did so again and Cincinnati did not, just as they failed to finish in Miami.
Flacco was 20/36 for only 140 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Ray Rice carried the ball 18 times for only 30 yards. Torrey Smith caught 5 passes for 46 yards and one touchdown.
For Cincinnati, Dalton was 24/51 with 274 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. Giovani Bernard was the leading rusher with 58 yards on 14 carries. Green was the leading Bengals receiver with 151 yards and 8 receptions on 1 touchdown.
The Bengals do return home in Week 11 to play the Browns while the Ravens travel for the road to Chicago’s Soldier Field to play the Bears.
First in Sight
Ok, raise your hand if you had the Carolina Panthers competing this year out of the NFC South.
The Realist sees a lot of people with raised hands, but sees almost all of them are from North and South Carolina. Those folks can put their hands down.
One person’s hand is still up—a Bears fan still peeved about the fact that current Carolina head coach Ron Rivera used to be on Chicago’s coaching staff.
If not for the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, the Carolina Panthers would be the surprise team this year in the NFL. Coming into Week 10, they had won four consecutive after starting the season at a 1-3 clip. Now, they were at 5-3 behind one of the top defenses in football and in second place in the NFC South, just a game back of the first place New Orleans Saints. But, most of their wins had come against inferior competition.
Their opponent for Week 10—the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers (at Candlestick Park) was anything but inferior. This was the game many was waiting for to see if the Panthers were indeed for real. Meanwhile, the Niners were coming off a bye week.
Both defenses came ready to play by the Bay on Sunday (rhyme alert!). San Francisco, by midway through the second quarter would be ahead by a score of 9-0 thanks to three field goals from Phil Dawson of 52, 43, and 25 yards, respectively. It would be 9-7 49ers after the Panthers notched their first points of the game on a 25 yard touchdown run from DeAngelo Williams late in the first half.
Nothing much in terms of scoring happened in the third quarter, but one must mention the job of the defenses in this game. The Panthers were able to get six sacks on Colin Kaepernick while the 49ers got to Cam Newton on four occasions. Out of those four sacks, three of them were courtesy of Ahmad Brooks. Charles Johnson of Carolina was responsible for 1.5 sacks on Kaepernick.
Carolina assumed their first lead of the game in the foruth quarter on a long 53 yard field goal from Graham Gano. It was 10-9 Panthers. For the remainder of the game, as for most of the previous three quarters, the defense did the rest en route to a huge victory on the defending NFC Champions. The 49ers final drive resulted in Kaepernick’s only interception—to Drayton Florence which sealed this game up. Carolina won 10-9 to move to 6-3 on the year.
Once again, the Panthers’ defense proved that this team is for real and now looks like a legitimate threat in the NFC. Also, right now, this is looking like a team that the New Orleans Saints, in their own division, may not want to see as hot as it is. The Seattle Seahawks could matchup with the Panthers better considering that their defense is just as good as Carolina’s, but the Saints could be given a scare from the Panthers.
For the win, Newton was 16/32 for 162 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception. In addition to DeAngelo Williams’ one touchdown, he carried the rock 8 times for 46 yards. Steve Smith (another veteran) caught the ball six times for 63 yards, but did have one very egregious drop at one point in the game when the Panthers were threatening.
It was not exactly one of Kaepernick’s better games in his young NFL career. He was only 11/22 with 91 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception. Frank Gore had sixteen carries for 82 yards while San Francisco’s leading receiver, Mario Manningham, only had 3 receptions for 30 yards and nary a touchdown.
Again, thanks to this 49ers loss and the Cardinals defeating the Texans to move to 5-4, Arizona is only one game shy of second place in the NFC West. The Panthers moved closer to first in the NFC South by virtue of this victory.
Both the 49ers and Panthers will have their respective work cut out for them in Week 11. San Francisco heads to the road to face the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome while the Panthers will be going back home as the New England Patriots await as they come off their Week 10 bye.
Messing With Texas
Speaking of which, one most mention the New Orleans Saints as well as the Dallas Cowboys. This was the Sunday Night Football matchup in the final week of the season prior to NBC beginning the flex scheduling portion of the Sunday Night Football programme. It will begin with a bang in Week 11 with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs from Sports Authority Field in Mile High.
As for the Saints and Cowboys, the Saints are coming off a stunning loss to Geno Smith, Chris Ivory, and the New York Jets in the Meadowlands by a final score of 26-20. Dallas outlasted the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9 at AT&T Stadium 27-23 to move to 5-4 on the year.
Both are perennial playoff teams as well. The Saints are starting to look over their shoulder a bit as the Carolina Panthers are tailgating right on their bumpers at 6-3. The Cowboys cannot overlook, even the 3-6 New York Giants who are still in the NFC East playoff race by virtue of the weakness of their division.
This Sunday Night Football game began to resemble that of many previous Monday Nighters—a laugher. A Dan Bailey 37 yard field goal gave the Cowboys an early 3-0 lead, but the Drew Brees-led Saints offense began to look like the Drew Brees-led Saints offense again as Brees threw a 22 yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston to give New Orleans its first lead at 7-3.
The team that calls itself America’s Team hung tough on a DeMarco Murray 7 yard touchdown run. The Cowboys led 10-7 before the Saints responded with 28 unanswered points. The next four scoring drives for the Saints all resulted in touchdowns. Brees threw a 1 yard pass to Pierre Thomas to make it 14-10 Saints. A three yard run from Darren Sproles extended the New Orleans advantage to 21-10. Sproles came through again on a 28 yard pass from Brees for six points. It was 28-10 Saints heading into halftime.
Late in the third quarter, Mark Ingram ran for four yards and a touchdown to make it 35-10 Saints. This was one as, indeed, turning into a beatdown.
Dallas’ final scoring play would occur in the third quarter with less than one minute left to play when Tony Romo threw his first (and only) touchdown pass of the game. This one went 21 yards to Terrance Williams as the lead for the Saints was cut to 18 at 35-17.
This was only prolonging the inevitable. Kenny Stills caught a 52 yard pass from Drew Brees to put the score at 42-17. It was 49-17 after Thomas’ second TD of the game—this one by way of a run instead of a pass. The Saints won in a blowout by this final score.
One aspect of this game was the fact that both Saints head coach Sean Payton and their defensive coordinator Rob Ryan were facing their former team in the Cowboys. Rob Ryan once had the same job in Dallas while Payton was once the offensive coordinator for Jerry Jones’ team. The defense for New Orleans shined just as brightly as the offense did as Rob Ryan’s defense held the Cowboys to under 200 yards of total offense for the game. Time of possession also favored the Saints by almost a 2:1 ratio.
Drew Brees was 34/41 with 392 yards and 4 touchdowns. Mark Ingram carried the ball 14 times for 145 yards and a touchdown. Pierre Thomas also had 17 carries for 87 yards and one rushing touchdown (in addition to a touchdown reception). Colston caught seven passes for 107 yards and a TD, while Sproles caught seven passes for 76 yards for a TD (as well as his touchdown run). Stills had 75 yards and 1 touchdown reception on 3 receptions. With the multitude of offensive players having productive outings for the Saints on Sunday Night, Brees did a hella good job of spreading the proverbial wealth.
As expected, the Cowboys’ numbers this night weren’t as flashy as the star on the sides of their silver helmets. Romo went 10/24 for 128 yards, and one touchdown. DeMarco Murray was the only Cowboys rusher for the game on Sunday Night and had 89 yards on 16 carries. Their leading receiver had 44 yards on one reception—Dez Bryant.
The Cowboys could use a bye week to rub their wounds after this one. Luckily for them, that’s exactly what they will get in Week 11 prior to their annual Thursday Thanksgiving game in Dallas in Week 12. Next week, the Saints will stay home as they await the San Francisco 49ers.
Vikings defeat Redskins 34-27 (Thursday Night Football)
Lions defeat Bears 21-19
Eagles defeat Packers 27-13
Giants defeat Raiders 24-20
Steelers defeat Bills 23-10
Cardinals defeat Texans 27-24
Broncos defeat Chargers 28-20
Dolphins vs. Buccaneers (8:30 Monday Night Football)
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!