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.
Ok, so maybe this week’s Realist came a little bit later than the “Morning”, but sue me! It still came, just a little later than usual. Monday Evening Realist just doesn’t have the same ring to it, though…
Break up the….Jaguars?
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been consistently lambasted as the supposed worst team in the NFL in the 2013-2014 season. This is for good reason as for the first half of the year, they looked like the closest thing to an 0-16 team since the 2008 Detroit Lions “ran the table in reverse”. Then, they defeated their division rival Tennessee Titans to get themselves in the win column for the first time in 2013.
Meanwhile, it feels like forever since the Houston Texans won a football game. Mired at 2-8 coming into their Week 12 matchup at Reliant Stadium against the Jags, one would not think that coming into this game that this Texans team was at one point 2-0. Even both of those wins were not exactly in dominating fashion. Since then, this team has been through a quarterback controversy, their original starting quarterback coming to within a hair’s breadth of being booed out of the city, a health scare involving its coach, two heartbreaking losses in which they were ahead by wide margins, and players now arguing with other players.
Needless to say, the “Bulls on Parade” seem to be locking horns with its own instead of its opponents.
It showed again on Sunday. Jacksonville assumed an early 7-0 advantage on a short TD run from Maurice Jones-Drew in the first quarter. It increased to 10-0 on a Josh Scobee field goal in the second. Houston didn’t score until they only had 29 seconds left in the first half when Randy Bullock kicked a 49 yard field goal to end the half at 10-3 Jaguars.
Another Bullock field goal would cut the deficit to 10-6, but thanks to the Jacksonville defense, the Houston offense was ineffective all game long. Even with Scobee’s second field goal that occurred in the fourth quarter, the game was still well within reach for the Texans to come back and tie it up. But, it was not to be as the Texans lost their 9th consecutive game—this time to a team that was said to be the worst team in the league.
This one was all about resolve. The Jaguars know they have no shot at the playoffs this year and are still battling as if they do. The Texans look like they have completely given up on the season—and possibly on head coach Gary Kubiak as well. If the Texans were going to win a game to snap their losing streak, this was going to be it, especially when they were matched up against the Jags at home.
Chad Henne went 23/32 for 239 yards, zero touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Jones-Drew had 84 yards on 14 carries in addition to a touchdown. Cecil Shorts—8 receptions for 71 yards.
Case Keenum (who The Realist is surprised hasn’t received the keys to the City of Houston yet as much as Texans fans love him these days) was only 18/34 with 169 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception. Dennis Johnson rushed for 74 yards on 13 carries.
Jacksonville will play another winnable game Week 13 against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. The Texans’ next game isn’t as winnable—they stay at Reliant…to play the Patriots.
It has been a remarkable story what has happened to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013-2014. They’ve gone from worst to first essentially overnight. They began the season at 9-0 for the first time since 2003 when the legendary Dick Vermeil was their head coach and Trent Green was their quarterback. Exit Vermeil and Green, enter Andy Reid and Alex Smith. Reid is looking more and more like a Coach of the Year candidate.
Then, the Chiefs faced their ultimate test of their legitimacy for this season—Sunday Night Football on NBC in primetime against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field in Mile High Stadium. They were defeated, guaranteeing that this season will not see a team go perfect. Cue the celebration from the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Even though, the defense did give them a game for most of the outing.
The San Diego Chargers are also a team that looks like it is reeling as it is coming off a loss to the Miami Dolphins in South Florida by the final score of 20-16.
The Chiefs have succeeded in 2013 because of defense. Such a defense was nowhere to be found for the course of this game. San Diego took an early 3-0 on a Nick Novak field goal before Kansas City went ahead 7-3 when Donnie Avery caught a 32 yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith.
Also, early in the game, two of the Chiefs’ defensive standouts in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, both had to come out of the game due to injuries.
The Chargers recognized this and it showed throughout the game. The Chiefs increased its lead to 14-3 on a Jamaal Charles 7 yard run, but San Diego closed strong on a long TD drive as Danny Woodhead caught a TD pass for 11 yards from Philip Rivers. It was 14-10 Chiefs at the half.
The offensive shootout from both teams continued in the second half. The Chargers took the lead for the second time of the game in 17-14 on a short TD run from Ryan Mathews. The Chiefs answered by closing its own TD drive on Charles’ second touchdown of the game. 21-17 Chiefs. Woodhead then had his second TD of the game to put San Diego back in the lead at 24-21 while Smith’s second touchdown pass (this time to Anthony Fasano) gave the scoring advantage back to the Chiefs at 28-24.
This is what The Realist calls “trading touchdowns”. The two division rivals began the fourth quarter trading field goals. Nick Novak converted from 30 yards (28-27 Chiefs) while Ryan Succop was good from 25 (31-27 Chiefs).
Late in the game, San Diego went back in the lead when Rivers went 60 yards to Lardarius Green. 34-31 Chargers. Then, in what seemed to be a game winning drive, the Chiefs converted on a touchdown pass from Smith to Dwyane Bowe for 5 yards with just over a minute left in the game. It was 38-34 Kansas City.
But, the Chargers remembered that Kansas City’s defense was missing two of its premier playmakers, and dearly at that. The defense in the beginning of the Chiefs’ last drive only had to make one more defensive stop to get into double-digit victories this year along with their former division rival Seattle Seahawks. Instead, Rivers and the Chargers engineered a long drive resulting in a 26 yard TD pass to Seyi Ajirotutu to put San Diego in front 41-38 with under 30 seconds to go.
The game would end under the same score. Chargers won 41-38.
It’s safe to say that this game was a season-saver for the Chargers. If they went 4-7 in a division with the Chiefs and Broncos, the Chargers would be finished. They’re still alive for a Wild Card spot in the AFC while the Chiefs have to be concerned about their team. They are not a team that is built to get into shootouts. They are a defensive minded team. They’ll still get into the postseason, but they may not get as far is Houston and Hali are not back in time in January.
Rivers was 27/39 with 392 yards and 3 touchdowns. Matthews only rushed for 55 yards on 14 carries but had a touchdown. Keenan Allen caught 9 passes for 124 yards. Eddie Royal also had an 87 yard outing on 4 catches.
Smith also threw for 3 touchdowns, but had one interception as well courtesy of Marcus Gilchrist. In addition, he threw for 294 yards on 26/38 passing. Charles had a huge performance with 115 yards on 14 rushes. Donnie Avery—4 receptions for 91 yards.
The prognoses on Hali and Houston are that Hali suffered a slight ankle sprain while Houston is said to have sustained a dislocated elbow.
San Diego returns home to Qualcomm to play the Cincinnati Bengals while the Kansas City Chiefs have to play their second game in three weeks against the Denver Broncos—this time in Arrowhead Stadium. Such a venue may not matter without Houston and Hali, though.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers from Lambeau normally always has a pizzazz to it. Two division rivals, a legendary football stadium, the whole nine yards. But with the Vikes out of the playoff picture and the Packers being exposed without Aaron Rodgers, it wasn’t necessarily on the radars of many pundits.
The matchup itself may not have been the most hyped up matchup, but the result would certainly be memorable.
Both teams lost the previous week. The New York Giants defeated the Discount Double Check-less Pack 27-13 in East Rutherford, New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium while the Vikings were pounded by the (Puget) Sound at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field as the Seahawks beat them 41-20.
The Packers did take an early lead in the first quarter when Scott Tolzien (who?) ran for 6 yards en route to a 7-0 lead.
From that point, it looked like it would be all Vikings, all the time. Minnesota’s Blair Walsh would follow with two field goals (one to end the first quarter, another to start the second quarter). This brought Minnesota, first within 4 at 7-3, then within one at 7-6. The Vikings took their first lead on a short touchdown run from Adrian Peterson to make the score 13-7. The first half closed with this score.
Christian Ponder’s only touchdown pass of the game occurred in the third quarter—a 12 yard pass to Rhett Ellison. 20-7 Vikings. Walsh’s third field goal of the game would occur in the same quarter and it increased the Vikings’ advantage to 23-7.
With just under 12 minutes left to go, it looked as if the Vikings were poised for a blowout and that the Packers were once again looking like the Packers sans Aaron Rodgers and a few other players.
Then—the comeback started. Time—fourth quarter.
Green Bay first started its fourth quarter comeback with Eddie Lacy’s three-yard touchdown run to make it 23-13. Then, Jarrett Boykin caught a short touchdown pass from Matt Flynn (not Tolzien) to close the deficit to 3 at 23-20. One more Packers drive late in the game resulted in a Mason Crosby 27 yard field goal with under a minute to go in regulation. The score was knotted all up at 23.
The game then moved to overtime in which no TDs were scored—only field goals. Crosby first converted his from 20 yards out with under eleven minutes to play to give Green Bay a lead at 26-23. The Vikes responded with one of their own from Walsh from 35 yards out. The next score, regardless of whether it was for seven or three, would win the game.
That next score would not come as with triple zeros left on the clock, the Packers and Vikings would end the game tied at 26.
It is said that there are no moral victories in football, but given the fact that the Packers were down 23-7 heading into the fourth quarter, The Realist feels better about the Packers in that game than it does the Vikings. After all, in football, it’s not how you start but how you finish.
Christian Ponder finished with 233 yards on 21/30 passing and 1 touchdown. Adrian Peterson rushed for 146 yards on 32 rushing attempts. Normally when All Day is over 100 yards, the Vikings win. Cordarrelle Patterson caught 8 passes for 54 yards. Jerome Simpson also had 54 receiving yards, but on 2 receptions.
Tolzien was only 7/17 for 98 yards. Flynn came into the game and was 21/36 for 218 yards and 1 touchdown pass. Lacy, who is becoming a rising star for Green Bay, had 110 yards on 25 carries. James Jones caught seven passes for 80 yards.
The Packers, though, have to immediately turn around a play another game on the road. They’ll face the Detroit Lions in Detroit’s annual Thursday Thanksgiving afternoon matchup. As for Minnesota, they stay home to also face a division rival—the Chicago Bears.
Hotter Than the Arizona Desert
This perfectly describes the Arizona Cardinals as of late. Their recent hot streak has not been the most ballyhooed (partly because they play in the same division as the Seattle Seahawks, who many consider the best team in the NFL, and the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers).
But, this league is known far and wide for its parity, and teams that were garbage one year look like legitimate threats the following year (or vice versa—see the Houston Texans). They are two of the rising teams in the NFC along with the Carolina Panthers.
Arizona was victorious in Week 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-14 from Everbank Field in Jacksonville.
Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts have been going in the opposite direction as the Cards have been. The horseshoe on the sides of Indy’s helmets have stood for anything except (no pun intended) Luck as of late. Even though, they did defeat the Tennessee Titans 30-27 last week on Thursday Night Football on NFL Network, this is a team that has not been as impressive as it was in the first half of the season when they got wins over the Seahawks, 49ers, and Broncos.
The theme for the Colts is that they clearly have not been the same team ever since losing Reggie Wayne. He’s a future Hall of Famer and was Andrew Luck’s deep threat. Ever since then, the Colts have not been the same on either side of the football.
Colts vs. Cardinals Week 12 exemplified the directions both teams are headed. Carson Palmer and the Cards got the rout going early with a short touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald to make the score 7-0. It’s amazing what can happen to the Cardinals when they have a quarterback and a system that enables Fitzgerald to get the football. Prior to this hot streak, Fitzgerald was thought of as a potential name to listen for at the NFL’s Trade Deadline.
It was 7-3 ‘Zona on a 27 yard field goal from Adam Vinatieri. From that point forward, it was all Cardinals, all the time.
Fitzgerald caught his second TD pass of the game to make it 14-3. Then, Jay Feely had his first field goal to increase the Cards’ lead to 17-3. Andrew Luck had only one interception for the game—the interception was a Pick 6 from Karlos Dansby who returned it 22 yards to the house. 24-3 Arizona. Tack on another field goal from Feely, and you have a halftime score of 27-3 Cardinals. Needless to say, this is one football team playing another football team that didn’t show.
It was 34-3 Arizona on a Rashard Mendenhall 5 yard TD run in the third quarter.
The Colts did score one TD—in the fourth quarter on a 17 yard pass from Luck to Coby Fleener. They also converted on a two-point conversion from Luck to Darrius Heyward-Bey. Unfortunately, if you are a Colts fan, one touchdown will not score you 31 points. Two more Feely field goals in the fourth quarter would give the Cardinals 40 for the game as they were victorious in dominant fashion 40-11.
Needless to say, the Colts need Reggie Wayne and their defense is not stopping opponents like it used to. Indianapolis no longer looks like the Super Bowl threat it was earlier in the year, and it all can be pointed to losing Wayne. The Colts are now 7-4.
Meanwhile the Cardinals’ 7-4 looks better than Indy’s. Also, if Palmer can continue to consistently get Fitzgerald the ball, Arizona is a possible threat to overtake San Francisco in the NFC West, which now looks like the best division in football. It was so bad it was referred to as the NFC Worst a few years ago.
At the time of this week’s Realist, the Cardinals would be the 6th seed in the NFC if the playoffs began.
Palmer was 26/37 with 314 yards and 2 touchdown passes. Mendenhall rushed for 54 yards on 13 carries. Fitzgerald was not Arizona’s leading receiver for the game as he only had 52 yards on 5 receptions with the 2 touchdowns. Michael Floyd was with 104 yards on 7 receptions.
It was not exactly the best game for Andrew Luck. He went only 20/39 with 163 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Dan Herron only carried the ball four times and became the Colts’ leading rusher with only 33 yards. Luck himself wasn’t far behind with 31 on 2 rushing attempts. Coby Fleener caught four passes for 55 yards.
The Colts will return home for the second game in three weeks against the Tennessee Titans. The Cardinals will head to the Linc to take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13.
Show Ponies, Unicorns! Where’s the Beef?
What else is new when Peyton Manning locks horns with Tom Brady?
Every time Manning takes on Brady, it is automatically the most hyped up matchup of the week. Leading up to Week 12’s Sunday Night Football clash of the QB titans, NFL Network aired a whole week’s worth of programming of classic Manning vs. Brady games, including the 2007 AFC Championship between the Pats and Colts in which The Sheriff led his team from behind to clinch a berth in the Super Bowl.
The Denver Broncos staked their territory in the AFC West (and the AFC as a conference) when they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 27-17, also on Sunday Night. The New England Patriots also played on primetime last week, but lost to the Carolina Panthers 27-20 in Charlotte in a game that resulted in a controversial no-holding call that impeded Rob Gronkowski from potentially competing for a game winning touchdown pass from Tom Brady.
The Pats looked to rebound in Foxboro, and the weather conditions seemed to favor New England. It is no secret throughout football circles that Brady turns into Superman in cold weather. Early on, though, it was Knowshon Moreno and the Broncos that played like they had the S on their chest.
The Patriots looked out of sync earlier as they committed three turnovers to start the game. One of them was recovered for a 60 yard return by Von Miller to give the Broncos the early lead at 7-0. Moreno’s lone TD run increased the Denver advantage to 14-0. It was 17-0 at the end of the first quarter after a Matt Prater field goal from 27 yards.
The score would increase to 24-0 Broncos after Jacob Tamme caught one of Manning’s two touchdown passes for the game. What looked like a heavyweight bout was beginning to resemble more of a mismatch.
The Realist needs to know the exact words that were yelled by either Bill Belichick or Brady at the half, because the halftime speech worked.
The Patriots remembered that they were the Patriots playing in November in Foxboro. Brady began blazing the comeback trail in the third with a touchdown pass to Julian Edelman for five yards. 24-7 Denver. Later in the frame, Brandon Bolden ran for a short touchdown to bring New England to within 24-14. Then, with nineteen seconds left in the third, Gronk caught a touchdown to cut the deficit to three at 24-21.
They took the lead in the fourth quarter on Edelman’s second touchdown reception. 28-24 Pats. They padded their lead to 31-24 on Stephen Gostkowski’s only field goal in regulation.
With over three minutes left in the game, Manning and the Broncos tied it up at 31 on a DeMaryius Thomas touchdown reception from Manning. It would remain that way into overtime.
What looked like a Denver blowout had turned into an overtime thriller in the suburbs of Boston. Then, in a much-talked about decision, Bill Belichick after winning the toss, decided to “take the wind” and give Manning and the Broncos the ball. He later told the Boston media that the decision was motivated by the weather conditions and felt that all he had to do was have the defense stop Manning with a little assist from Mother Nature.
Into the overtime period, the Broncos muffed a punt that was recovered by New England. That put the Patriots in perfect position to win the game with less than two minutes left. They did with Gostkowski’s second field goal of the game. Patriots won 34-31.
Brady was 34/50 with 344 yards, 3 touchdowns and no picks. Bolden had 13 carries for 58 yards while Edelman caught nine receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Gronkowski also chimed in with 90 yards on seven receptions.
As for the Broncos—Manning went only 19/36 on 150 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. Moreno went off—37 carries for 224 yards and a touchdown. The decision to put emphasis on the run was most likely motivated by the frigid weather conditions. Tamme was their leading receiver with 47 yards on 5 receptions and a touchdown reception.
The Patriots will likely ride a wave of momentum into their Week 13 tilt against the hapless Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Space City. The Broncos hope to rebound as they continue their road trip in Arrowhead as they play the Kansas City Chiefs for the second time in three weeks.
Saints defeat Falcons 17-13 (Thursday Night Football)
Steelers defeat Browns 27-11
Buccaneers defeat Lions 24-21
Rams defeat Bears 42-21
Panthers defeat Dolphins 20-16
Ravens defeat Jets 19-3
Titans defeat Raiders 23-19
Cowboys defeat Giants 24-21
49ers vs. Redskins (8:30 Monday Night Football)
If The Playoffs Started Today…