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.
Tornado Touchdowns and Football Touchdowns
Baltimore Ravens vs. Chicago Bears from Soldier Field at 1:00 p.m. was supposed to be a typical early afternoon game scheduled in the same way as the rest of the early afternoon games.
That turned out not to be the case. More on that in an instant.
The playoff fortunes of the current defending Super Bowl champions have not exactly been the best out of 32 teams in the NFL this year. Coming into this game, they were 4-5 and behind the AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals who were at 6-4 and undefeated at their own Paul Brown Stadium.
The Ravens did get a huge victory over the divisional leading Bengals last week at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore by a final score of 20-17 in overtime after originally building a 17-0 lead on the Bengals. This was also where A.J. Green caught a miraculous Hail Mary pass from Andy Dalton to at least force overtime.
Meanwhile, last week, the Bears lost to the Detroit Lions 21-19. Chicago was 5-4 while the Lions were at 6-3 and in control of the NFC North with an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team also occupying their division.
In Chicago at the Bears, early on, the Ravens got out to an early 10-0 lead. Ray Rice got Baltimore its first touchdown on a short run, followed by a Justin Tucker 52 yard field goal.
It’s not the first time things have started good for Baltimore for it to only turn south quick due to delays (see last year’s Super Bowl, of course).
With the Ravens ahead 10-0, Mother Nature started dominating both teams. A line of tornadoes and severe weather activity that slammed the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area earlier in the day had made its way into Chicago. Fans had to be cleared out of the stands. Certain portions of the Chicagoland area sustained a great deal of damage.
Play did resume around 2:25 p.m. Chicago time, which was roughly two hours after the delay began. It was assumed that with the inclement weather and saturated grass that this game was going to turn into “Matt Forte vs. Ray Rice”.
But similarly to the Super Bowl, this delay also paid dividends for a Baltimore opponent. In the 2nd quarter, the Bears first got on the board with a drive that resulted in a 20 yard Robbie Gould field goal. Then, Flacco threw one of his two interception passes—to David Bass who made it a pick 6 with a 24 yard interception return.
Flacco, later in the same quarter threw the correct variety of touchdown pass—to his own teammate, namely, Torrey Smith for five yards. Another Gould field goal made it 17-13.
The second half became a defensive struggle (as many expected). The Chicago “Monsters of the Midway” defense held the Ravens to only three points via a Justin Tucker field goal that tied the game. Prior to that, Forte did get his only TD reception of the game for 14 yards from Josh McCown (of all people with an injured Jay Cutler).
Heading into the overtime period, it was 20-20. The Bears eventually got themselves the ball and set things up for a 38 yard field goal attempt from Gould. A somewhat underrated kicker, Gould’s kick was good, resulting in a Bears win 23-20.
Joe Flacco was 17/31 for 162 yards, 1 interception, and 2 touchdowns. Ray Rice carried the rock 25 times for 131 yards.
For Chicago, McCown went 19/31 for 216 yards, 1 touchdown, and zero interceptions. Forte notched up 83 yards on 18 carries. Alshon Jeffrey caught seven passes for 83 yards despite the inclement conditions in the Windy City.
The 6-4 division leading Bears won’t have to worry about bad weather affecting their Week 12 matchup—at the Edward Jones Dome to face the St. Louis Rams. The 4-6 Ravens head back home as they await the New York Jets.
Is It Steel-ing if Given To You?
As has been well-documented in 2013-2014, the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers are two teams heading in opposite directions. Pittsburgh is in the throes of another, unusually losing campaign, while the Lions look like playoff contenders. Also, Calvin Johnson is finally getting the name recognition he never really had since he played on mediocre Detroit teams his whole career.
Granted, the Steelers did get a victory last week at home against the Buffalo Bills 23-10. As mentioned earlier the Lions did defeat the Bears 21-19. That victory completed a season sweep of the Bears since they also defeated them earlier in the year 40-32.
Defenses were made to take a back seat in a city well-known for its historically defensive minded football team. It began early on as two Antonio Brown TD passes from Ben Roethlisberger got the Steelers out to a fast start by a score of 14-0.
Early on in the second quarter, these two teams started by trading field goals from David Akers and Shaun Suisham. 17-3 Pittsburgh. 18 seconds then ticked off the clock between Suisham’s first field goal and Matthew Stafford finding Megatron for 79 yards to make it 17-10.
A second Suisham field goal extended the Steelers’ advantage to 20-10, but Stafford and Johnson once again beat the Pittsburgh secondary. This time for a slightly less amount of yards—19 as the Lions closed to within 20-17. Detroit assumed their first lead of the game at 24-20 on a short touchdown run from Joique Bell.
With four seconds to go and the Lions looking to pad their lead, they had to settle for another Akers field goal. It was now 27-20 at the half with Stafford already at 327 yards. He also became the Lions all time leading passer thanks to this game.
Nothing much happened in the third quarter—only a Shawn Suisham field goal to close the gap at 27-23.
Early in the fourth quarter will be the moment in the game that is sure to have the Detroit sports radio station phone lines buzzing. The Lions had a chance to extend their lead to 30-23 on a chip shot field goal from Akers, before head coach Jim Schwartz decided to be aggressive and try a fake field goal attempt on the road. That did not do Detroit any favors as the attempt was unsuccessful.
This is the exact kind of play where taking a gamble didn’t pay off. Not every play like this is going to turn out like Sean Payton’s onsides kick against the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl. The general consensus for plays like this is not hard to figure out—if it works, the coach is a genius and if it’s unsuccessful, the coach is a complete bonehead.
In this case, Schwartz is likely being ripped for being a bonehead to leave three points out there with a whole quarter still left to play. The Steelers took full advantage on their home turf.
Late in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass to Will Johnson for the Steelers to retake the lead. Pittsburgh added on to that lead with a 20 yard TD connection to Jerricho Cotchery. It was 37-27 Steelers at that point and it was 37-27 Steelers when the scoreboard showed triple zeros. The Steelers moved to 4-6 while the Lions became a 6-4 team with a head coach with Heinz ketchup on his face.
On most occasions, it is normally the head coach who gives a postgame speech to his players. One has to wonder if it shouldn’t have been the other way around given the Schwartz decision. Even though, the Steelers defense must have been given a pretty good halftime speech with the way they contained Stafford and Johnson for the second half. That contributed dividends to Pittsburgh’s victory even without the Schwartz call.
Stafford was 19/46 with 362 yards. Johnson caught 6 passes for 179 yards and 2 TDs. Roethlisberger went 29/45 for 367 yards and 4 touchdowns. Antonio Brown had another big game with 7 receptions and 147 yards and 2 touchdown receptions of his own.
Oh, and The Realist got through this whole section without mentioning the Steelers’ bumblebee uniforms. Yeah, those happened.
Now tied with the Bears for the NFC North lead, Detroit returns home to face the 2-8 Buccaneers. The Steelers head to the road to take on their division rival Browns on Week 12.
Linc, Sweet Linc At Last
As well-covered on this particular website, the Eagles have been one of the more interesting teams this NFL season. From the supposed-to-be explosive offense of new head coach Chip Kelly, to the talk of if Nick Foles would take over as Eagles quarterback in Michael Vick’s stead (which gained plenty of traction throughout Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey after Foles’ 7 TD performance against the Oakland Raiders). The Eagles have not been a dull story in 2013-2014.
Now, even with the problems that the Eagles have had in 2013-14, they still had a shot to win the NFC East by virtue of their weak division. The Dallas Cowboys were once seen as the frontrunners to win this division. That is no longer the case given the surge that the Eagles have been on as of late. They came into Week 11 tied with the Cowboys for the top spot in the division at 5-5. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2013-14 NFC East.
After getting a 27-13 victory over an Aaron Rodgers-less Packer team, Philadelphia returned home to play the Washington Redskins who lost the previous week to the Vikings by a score of 34-27 on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.
For three quarters of this game, this one appeared to be like a mismatch. Late in the first quarter, Foles kept it himself for a short run into the endzone to put Philadelphia on top 7-0. Later, LeSean “Shady” McCoy (who made headlines prior to the game for ripping a Redskins’ fan’s banner from them) extended the Eagles’ lead on a 1 yard TD run. 14-0 Eagles. Alex Henery’s 24 yard field goal made it 17-0 Eagles at the half.
This game was becoming so emblematic of where both of these teams’ seasons were going for the time being. The Eagles had everything going right, seemingly, while the lowly Redskins could not get anything happening for them at all. Another McCoy TD run in the third made it 24-0. Game over (and possibly Mike Shanahan’s job in DC over), right?
Not so fast. With just under thirteen minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Redskins began to make it interesting. Robert Griffin III finally connected on his first touchdown pass of the game by going 62 yards to Darrel Young. The first two-point conversion to Nick Williams was successful and it became 24-8 Eagles.
Later, with just under six minutes to play, RGIII engineered another touchdown drive—this time by going 41 yards to Aldrick Robinson. Griffin kept the ball himself on this two point conversion attempt.
And late in the fourth, the Skins were driving again and they were in the redzone. What was once a comfortable victory waiting to happen for the Eagles became an immediate nail-biter.
Nails in Lincoln Financial Field were spared at the moment RGIII threw his first and only interception—to Brandon Boykin to save this one for the Eagles. They won by a final of 24-16 for their first home victory in over a year.
Because the Cowboys were on bye week this week, this win puts the Eagles (for the time being) atop the NFC East at 6-5. Despite starting the season 0-6, the weak division has also allowed the Giants to move back into the thick of things as they have won four straight.
Foles was 17/26 for 298 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. McCoy ran the ball 20 times for 77 yards. He even caught four passes for 73 yards, but DeSean Jackson was the Eagles’ leading receiver with four receptions for 82 yards.
In a losing Washington effort, Griffin went 17/35 for 264 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception. Alfred Morris nearly rushed for 100 yards by putting up 93 on 22 carries. Pierre Garcon—six reception for 68 yards.
The Eagles will be on bye week in Week 12 while the Redskins return to Landover as they await the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football on ESPN
Did Someone Mention the 49ers?
The Realist had to get a better transition than “Speaking of Which” which it has used in the past.
Such malicious self-promotion is beside the point, though. What is of notable mention is that the San Francisco 49ers, while still playoff contenders, do not look anywhere close to the “worldbeaters” they were last year when they went to the Super Bowl as the NFC representative.
Coming into their Week 11 road matchup at the Mercedes Benz Superdome against the New Orleans Saints, the Niners found themselves at 6-3 after being “Candlestuck” at Candlestick to the surging defense of the Carolina Panthers. Those Panthers are also 6-3 by virtue of that victory. The 49ers also possibly need to start looking over their shoulder, because in their rear view mirror are the Arizona Cardinals who came into Week 11 at a 5-4 clip.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints are riding a wave of momentum after getting to stay home after throttling the Dallas Cowboys 49-17 last week on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. The Saints were playing their second consecutive nationally televised game in two weeks as 49ers/Saints was Fox’s “America’s Game of the Week” (Whatever that means to the Realist) for this week.
New Orleans was picked to win this game because some pundits favored its offense over San Francisco’s even though both the 49ers and Saints seem to be evenly matched on the defensive side of the football.
A Drew Brees 3 yard touchdown pass to Josh Hill gave New Orleans an early advantage as the score was 7-0. Prior to that, Saints cornerback Jabari Greer was carted off the field with a knee injury after breaking up a third down pass attempt from Colin Kaepernick. Greer didn’t return for the rest of the game and who knows about the rest of Greer’s season. Only time will tell until a prognosis is in.
There was still a game to be played, and the 49ers came back. Kaepernick found Anquan Boldin for 11 yards to tie the game in the second quarter at 7-7. Phil Dawson’s field goal later in the quarter gave the 49ers a lead at 10-7. Right before halftime, the Saints retook the lead on a 1 yard run from Jed Collins. This made the score 14-10 New Orleans at half.
In the third quarter, Kaepernick found Vernon Davis, arguably the most important San Francisco offensive weapon. The 49ers took the lead 17-14. This gets mention here because Davis, of course, suffered a concussion last week against Carolina, but his prognosis was that he’d play in New Orleans.
San Francisco had a six point lead after another 49er drive that resulted in a Dawson field goal. But, the Saints eventually produced three drives in the fourth quarter that resulted in Garrett Hartley field goals. With the 49er offense contained throughout the remainder of the game, Hartley went to work by converting three field goals (including the game winner with no time left on the clock) to win the game for Who Dat Nation. Saints over the 49ers 23-20.
The Saints do move to 8-2, but the story here is that the 49ers and Cardinals (because of their victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars this week) are tied at 6-4 for second in the NFC West. The 49ers did defeat the Cards earlier in the season, but the two teams will play each other again in the season finale in Week 17. This time, it’ll take place at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
Brees went 30/43 for 305 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Marques Colston caught five passes for 80 yards while the Saints’ leading rusher was Pierre Thomas with eleven carries for 49 yards.
Kaepernick was 17/31 with 127 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Frank Gore rushed for 48 yards on 13 carries while Boldin caught six passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.
As mentioned earlier, the 49ers will remain on the road for a Monday Night Football matchup with the Washington Redskins in Landover, Maryland’s FedEx Field. The Saints have to turn around and travel to Atlanta to take on their disappointing division rival Falcons on Thursday Night Football on NFL Network.
Celebrate, ’72 Dolphins! Celebrate!
With one team undefeated and the other perennial Super Bowl contenders heading into the season, the first of two matchups this season between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos was one everyone had circled on their schedules. This includes NBC, who “flexed” out the Green Bay Packers/New York Giants originally scheduled for Sunday Night Football and replaced it with Chiefs/Broncos. This was the easiest call of the season, arguably media-wise, given the Chiefs’ and Broncos’ seasons, made even easier by the Giants’ less than stellar season and the Aaron Rodgers injury affecting the Packers season.
(Ok, Realist, that’s three references to the Rodgers injury and you haven’t even featured the Packers’ game this week!)
Anyway, the Chiefs were on bye week in Week 10 as Andy Reid and his team had plenty of time to game plan for their division rivals. Before the Broncos could get to play Kansas City, they had to go on the road to Qualcomm Stadium and the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos beat the Bolts 28-20.
Early on, the Broncos led. They got on the board first with a Matt Prater field goal from 54 yards out. This put them on top 3-0. Such a score increased to 10-0 when Peyton Manning threw his first (and only) TD pass of the game—nine yards to Julius Thomas towards the end of the first quarter.
Earlier this week, Dwyane Bowe was in the news for something negative—getting busted for speeding and possession of marijuana on the week of the Chiefs’ big nationally televised game against Denver. No directions to any local Sonic Restaurants in Colorado needed as he caught the Chiefs first touchdown pass from Alex Smith. It became 10-7. Denver got those points back as their next scoring drive resulted in a 1 yard TD run from Montee Ball. 17-7 Broncos. With under three minutes left to play in the half, Ryan Succop kicked a 20 yard field goal. It was close and competitive as many expected it (and hoped) it would be. 17-10 Broncos at the half.
Kansas City’s defense seemed to be keeping them in the game as it has all year, but playing a Peyton Manning-led team can be a whole, different animal sometimes. The Broncos lead became 24-10 after Ball’s second TD run of the game, this time from 8 yards out.
Prater’s second field goal of the game would extend the Broncos’ lead to 27-10. It started to look somewhat academic. Attempting to comeback, Smith and the Chiefs did go on a drive late in the fourth quarter resulting in a TD pass to Anthony Fasano for 10 yards. It was 27-17, which is what the game would end at. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 27-17 to move, once again, into a first place tie with Kansas City for first in the AFC West.
And somewhere, someplace, the 1972 Miami Dolphins are doing their annual celebration, knowing that they are still the only team to go an entire season without losing a game. Who knows what’s actually going on at that celebration?
The Realist prefers not to speculate.
Manning was 24/40 with 323 yards and one touchdown. Knowshon Moreno rushed for 79 yards on 27 carries. Demaryius Thomas had himself a huge performance with five receptions and 121 receiving yards.
Smith was 21/45 for 230 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Jamaal Charles rushed for 78 yards on 16 carries while Dwyane Bowe caught four passes (including a touchdown reception) on 57 yards receiving.
The Chiefs will head back to Arrowhead for another divisional game—against the San Diego Chargers in Week 12. As for Manning and the Broncos, they’ll once again be on a nationally televised game as they play Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Foxboro.
The Realist will speculate on this—NBC will not flex out that game.
Colts defeat Titans 30-27 (Thursday Night Football)
Bills defeat Jets 37-14
Bengals defeat Browns 41-20
Buccaneers defeat Falcons 41-28
Cardinals defeat Jaguars 27-14
Raiders defeat Texans 28-23
Dolphins defeat Chargers 20-16
Giants defeat Packers 27-13
Seahawks defeat Vikings 41-20
Patriots vs. Panthers (8:30 Monday Night Football)
Starting Next Week…
With over 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!