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.
The Better Halves
At this point where it is late in the regular season, the Houston Texans could win just one game the rest of the way, and the Bulls on Parade will have reason to throw a parade in Downtown Houston. After beginning the season at 2-0 and with promise that they’d make another postseason run, coming into their Week 13 game at Reliant Stadium against the New England Patriots, Houston had lost nine consecutive games, including last week to the Jacksonville Jaguars who once looked like the league’s worst team.
Meanwhile, the New England Patriots have to be riding a tidal wave of momentum after last week. After being behind on Sunday Night Football to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, New England rallied and came back again to win on their home field as they did earlier in the season against another opponent this year with Super Bowl aspirations—the New Orleans Saints. The victory over Denver moved the Pats to 8-3.
Given that this game featured a perennial Super Bowl contender against a team well-positioned for a Top 3 Draft pick, on paper it looked like a game that should’ve only been seen on CBS in the New England and Houston markets.
The actual game itself, turned out to be more interesting than what many believed it would be.
No one can say that the Texans did not come out to play and win, even if they are at this point only playing for pride. For much of the first half of the game, it appeared as if Houston was the playoff team and New England was contending for a draft pick. Thanks to a Ben Tate touchdown run, the Texans had the lead early at 7-0. Then, Brady was picked off by Jonathan Joseph at the Texans’ 38 yard line. Houston turned the turnover into points via a Randy Bullock 43 yard field goal to make it 10-0 Texans. Before the first quarter ended, New England did get on the board. Tom Brady threw his first TD pass of the game to Rob Gronkowski for 23 yards to bring New England to within 10-7.
For the first half, though, that would be the only productive Patriots drive. The ten point deficit returned when Tate scored his second touchdown of the game to increase Houston’s score to 17-7 heading into the half.
The Patriots are a team that has been down at the half before and still won. The Realist has a theory that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady may have mastered the art of the halftime speech because it has clearly translated into stellar second half play. Also, that whole Brady still being one of the best quarterbacks in the league thing.
Sunday afternoon was no different. New England scored on its first two drives in the third quarter. James Develin’s 1 yard touchdown run decreased the deficit to 17-14. Then, the Patriots had their first lead of the game when Brady threw his second pass of the game for a touchdown—this one to Shane Vereen.
The Texans still didn’t go away—one wonders where this has been all season from this team. The Texans did take the lead once again on a 5 yard run from Case Keenum to make the score 24-21 Texans.
But, almost immediately, the seesaw that became the second half of this game tipped back towards the Patriots side on a LeGarrette Blount seven yard touchdown run. 28-24 Patriots. That became 31-28 Texans again on another run for six from Tate. The Patriots engineered two more scoring drives for the game—both resulting in Stephen Gostkowski field goals, both from 53 yards out, first to tie it up at 31, then to take the lead at 34-31. The Pats won by that score to move to 9-3.
Brady was 29/41 for 371 yards, two touchdowns, and one pick. LeGarrette Blount carried the football 12 times for 44 yards while Vereen did so 10 times for 38 yards. Gronk—6 receptions, 127 yards and a touchdown. Brady’s primary target for the game was Julian Edelman with 9 receptions for 101 yards.
In a losing effort, Keenum went 15/30 for 272 yards and one interception. Tate’s game was huge with 3 touchdowns, 22 carries and 102 yards while Andre Johnson caught 8 passes for 121 yards. DeAndre Hopkins also caught 2 passes for 77 yards.
In Week 14, the Patriots head home as they await the Cleveland Browns. The Texans have a short week to prepare for their NFL Network Thursday Night Football matchup at the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Vin For The Win
We all know at this point what has happened to the Indianapolis Colts—the loss of Reggie Wayne has happened to the Colts. Ever since then, the team has no longer looked like the Super Bowl threat they were in the first half of the year. Last week, they were blown out in Arizona by the surging Cardinals 40-11. Playoff wise, the Colts didn’t have much to worry about since the rest of their division is as weak is wet paper.
Believe it or not, the Titans still do have an outside shot at the playoffs as they came into their divisional matchup vs. the Colts at 5-6. Indy already beat Tennessee earlier in the year 30-27 in comeback fashion.
The Colts would put together a litany of long drives in this game, but they rarely resulted in touchdowns. For the vast majority of the game, they had to settle for field goals from future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri. Indy had a 3-0 lead early when he made one from 47 yards out, and it ballooned to 6-0 on a 48 yard try.
Usually, long drives resulting in field goals instead of touchdowns will eventually catch up to you. Early on, it did. It allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Titans to assume the lead at 7-6 on a short TD run from Fitzpatrick. But, the Colts had the lead at the half on two more field goals from Vinatieri—one from 45 yards out (9-7 Indy), the second from 37 (12-7 Indy).
But, once again, the Titans took advantage of the Colts continuously having to settle for 3 points instead of 7. Midway through the third quarter, Chris Johnson caught a touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick from 1 yard out to give Tennessee the lead again at 14-12. That changed again on—what else—Vinatieri’s fifth field goal of the game. This time, he put one through the uprights from 49 yards out. These were 40+ yard field goals Vinatieri was kicking for most of this game, so these weren’t chip shots.
At the end of the game, the Colts finally realized that it actually works to put one in the end zone for a change. Shortly after the two minute warning, Donald Brown ran for four yards and a touchdown to increase the score to 22-14. The Colts would prove to be victorious by this same score.
Andrew Luck’s line was 17/32 for an even 200 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception (Bernard Pollard). Brown carried the ball 14 times for 54 yards while Luck ran for 42 yards on 5 rushing attempts himself. Coby Fleener caught three passes for 50 yards. T.Y. Hilton had a 46 yard receiving performance on 5 receptions. Lavon Brazill also caught three passes for 42 yards.
As for the 5-7 Titans, Fitzpatrick was 21/37 for 201 yards, one touchdown, and 3 interceptions, including one at the end of the game that sealed the deal for the Colts at home. The man formerly known as CJ2K only had 69 yards rushing for the game on 18 carries. Fitzpatrick ran the rock himself eight times for 54 yards. Nate Washington had five attempts for 81 yards while Kendall Wright caught six passes for 77 yards.
And, yeah, five Vinatieri field goals. His fantasy owners on Sunday had to be doing carthweels.
The Colts can clinch the AFC South with a win next week, but it won’t be easy as they have to go on the road to take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. But at least they’re not the Titans who also have to go on the road—to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
This was a game The Realist had circled on this slate of games for this week. Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles from the Linc. The Cards were 7-4, winners of four consecutive games, and are now sitting pretty in the NFC Wild Card picture thanks to a resurgent Carson Palmer who is experiencing some of his best days as a quarterback since he was in Cincinnati (as well as USC).
Philadelphia sports have been fascinating to cover this year in terms of individual athletic performances. First, it was Dom Brown for the Phillies who came out of nowhere to eventually earn a spot on the MLB All-Star team for the National League. Then, it was Michael Carter-Williams of the 76ers. Now, Nick Foles has come into his own as Eagles quarterback and has positioned his team into the NFC playoff picture after not even being the starting quarterback at the outset of the year.
Now, his play his earned him the starting gig for Chip Kelly’s team for the remainder of the year.
Last week, the Eagles were on bye week while the Cards were leaving the Colts stuck in an Arizona haboob. They throttled Indy at University of Phoenix Stadium 40-11.
One aspect of the rise of Foles into the starting job is that he has yet to throw any interceptions. This also continued into Sunday. After the Eagles’ defense forced an Arizona three-and-out, Foles and the offense went to work. They scored a touchdown on their first drive on a six yard touchdown pass from Foles to Zach Ertz. 7-0 Eagles.
It looked like on the ensuing Arizona possession that the Cardinals would respond with points of their own before Palmer threw the first of his two interceptions of the game on a 1st and 10 from the 39 yard line of the Eagles. This one was intercepted by Nate Allen.
It took a little bit longer, but the Cardinals did eventually tie the game at 7 in the second quarter when Palmer connected with Larry Fitzgerald for 43 yards.
On the ensuing Philadelphia possession, a 9 play, 68 yard drive resulted in an Alex Henery field goal to put the Eagles ahead by a score of 10-7. The Eagles also scored on their next possession as well when Brent Celek caught a short touchdown pass from Foles to increase the Eagles’ lead to 17-7 heading into the half.
Even more so, the Eagles also scored on their opening possession in the second half as well. Foles threw his third touchdown pass of the game and his second to Ertz. The Eagles were sitting pretty with a 24-7 lead in the third quarter.
Arizona still hoped that they had a comeback in them. The Eagles’ defense has been described lately as a “bend but not break” defense. Eagles fans know this from the Redskins game a few weeks ago in which they nearly blew a late lead after leading for the majority of the game. Palmer threw a touchdown pass to Michael Floyd for 23 yards to make the score 24-14.
Late in the fourth quarter, ‘Zona would inch even closer when Jim Dray caught another short TD pass from Palmer. It was 24-21 Eagles. The Cardinals would have one more possession for the game, but they wouldn’t even reach their own 20 yard line. The Eagles won 24-21 to move to 7-5—the same record the Cardinals have now.
Foles was 21/34 for 237 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions (again). LeSean McCoy went 79 yards on 19 carries. Ertz caught 5 passes for 68 yards and 2 touchdowns. Riley Cooper also caught three passes for 48 yards.
Palmer was 24/41 for 302 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Rashard Mendenhall had 76 yards on 18 carries while Floyd caught 5 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Fitzgerald also caught five passes for 72 yards.
Arizona returns home in Week 14 to face the St. Louis Rams while the Eagles will remain home as the Detroit Lions arrive in town. Foles and Manning are the only two quarterbacks this year that have thrown seven touchdown passes in a game. Next week, Foles has a chance to tie or break the record for most TD passes without an interception with a 20th or 21st pass for a touchdown. He has 19 right now.
Decked In The Face
Earlier this year, the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs faced off for the first time this season—Week 11 (two weeks ago) to be exact. At first, defensive play made things close and made things promising for Kansas City before they eventually fell to their division rivals from the Rocky Mountains by a final score of 27-17.
That was the first loss on the season for the Chiefs. They had an opportunity to rebound last week against another division rival in the San Diego Chargers, before they beat them 41-38 thanks to a game winning drive from Philip Rivers with less than a minute to go in the game. It was also one in which they had to play without two of their premier defensive standouts in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.
Ever since then, the Chiefs defense, which was such an asset to this team during the first half of the regular season now is looking more and more like a liability with the amount of points they are giving up on an increasingly regular basis.
The Denver Broncos, it appears, have less to think about in that sense than do the Chiefs. They blew a huge lead last week on Sunday Night Football to the New England Patriots, but it was to the Pats in Foxboro in a game in which Peyton Manning wasn’t driving the offense—Knowshon Moreno was on account of the frigid conditions in Foxboro that night.
Hali, it turned out, was active for the game vs. the Broncos at Arrowhead. The Broncos won the coin toss, but deferred to the Chiefs who put together a long drive that got them to the Broncos’ 2 yard line before Alex Smith was picked off in the end zone by Wesley Woodyard.
Manning would also be picked off on his opening drive. On a 3rd and 9 at the Chiefs’ 47, he was intercepted by Quinton Demps. The two teams traded interceptions for their opening drives.
The Kansas City interception would be the one that would translate into points. On the ensuing drive from the Chiefs, Smith found Junior Hemingway for 17 yards to put Kansas City on the board 7-0.
On the following Broncos possession—we would see something that would become a common theme of this game—a long Denver drive resulting in a Manning touchdown pass to Eric Decker. The pass to Decker went for 41 yards. 7-7 tie.
Kansas City went back into the lead thanks to special teams. A Broncos kickoff to Knile Davis resulted in 108 yard return for a touchdown to make it 14-7 Chiefs. That turned out to be the longest play in Chiefs history.
The defense forced a Broncos three and out, then scored another touchdown, this time via a 12 yard pass from Smith to Anthony Fasano. It was 21-7 Chiefs.
Later in the quarter, Denver cut the deficit back to seven as Manning found Knowshon Moreno for three yards and a score. 21-14 Chiefs. This score would hold up into halftime.
During halftime, legendary Chiefs lineman Curley Culp, who was part of this year’s class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was honored for his accomplishments and his induction.
The Chiefs could’ve used the Curley Culp of the 1970s for this game against Denver. Coming out of the half, the Broncos tied the game at 21 on Manning’s third TD throw of the game and the second to Decker. They later assumed a 28-21 lead in the third quarter on another Manning touchdown pass to, who else, but Decker. He would later catch a fourth touchdown pass to extend the Broncos’ advantage to 35-21.
Just as Adam Vinatieri fantasy owners had to be doing cartwheels on Sunday, so were those of Eric Decker. By the start of the fourth quarter, Denver scored 28 unanswered points when the Chiefs had the 21-7 advantage.
Kansas City still had a shot when they had the ball for nearly eight minutes on one possession that resulted in a 1 yard Jamaal Charles touchdown run to bring the score to within seven at 35-28. The Chiefs had one more possession in them before the end of regulation in which they got all the way to Denver’s 13 yard line, but couldn’t convert on a 4th down and 4 to keep the chains moving. The Broncos won 35-28.
The Chiefs are looking like this year’s “Jekyll & Hyde” team. Earlier, we were mentioning them as Super Bowl contenders. But now, with the way the defense has flamed out, even when they do clinch a playoff berth, it could be a one & done team. This would be somewhat of a shame given where this team came from and the story they have been all year long.
Manning was 22/35 with 403 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He now has 41 for the year which puts him within 9 TDs of tying the all time single season record. Montee Ball carried the rock 13 times for 117 yards. Decker, in addition to his banner day of 4 TDs, also caught 8 passes with 174 yards. DeMaryius Thomas caught three passes for 106 yards. Moreno had 72 yards for 4 yards.
In a losing effort, Smith went 26/42 for 293 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Charles ran for 93 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown. Dwyane Bowe caught three passes for 56 yards. Dexter McCluster—5 receptions for 43 yards. Junior Hemingway—3 receptions for 42 yards.
Next week, Kansas City heads to the road to face a Redskins team that seems to have a lot of locker room issues. The Broncos return to Denver to face Tennessee.
What in The Ref?
Speaking of the Redskins, they faced the New York Giants in Landover, Maryland on NBC Sunday Night Football. As we all know, NBC is in the portion of its Sunday Night programme where it has the option of “flexing” games. Given where the Giants and Redskins are at this point in the year, one has to wonder why NBC still decided to stick with this game for Sunday Night.
Both teams lost the previous week. New York had a four game winning streak snapped when the Dallas Cowboys beat them 24-21 to put the G-Men at 4-7 to dent their playoff chances. The Redskins laid a Capitol-sized egg on Monday Night Football last week against the San Francisco 49ers 27-6 to move their record in the wrong direction to 3-8. This has also raised concerns that there is a rift between quarterback Robert Griffin III and head coach Mike Shanahan to stems to last year’s game against the Seattle Seahawks in which RGIII suffered his injury.
This didn’t seem to be an issue early on. A long Redskins drive resulted in them scoring on their opening possession, capped off by an Alfred Morris one yard touchdown run to make the score 7-0 Washington. The Skins would score again early in the second quarter when Logan Paulsen caught Griffin’s only TD pass of the game. It was 14-0 Redskins.
Not for long, though. The 14-0 Washington advantage became 14-7 on an Andre Brown 23 yard touchdown run. With less than a minute to go in the half, the Giants tied up the game at 14 when Eli Manning connected with Brandon Myers for 22 yards and a touchdown. This would hold up into halftime.
One of the biggest issues with the Giants this season has been turnovers, specifically, Eli Manning interceptions. This problem was in full effect midway through the third quarter when he was picked off by Brandon Meriweather on the Giants’ side of the field. Luckily for New York, the Skins only converted it into three points instead of seven via a Kai Forbath 33 yard field goal.
It was 17-14 Redskins, but it’d be the last points Washington would get for the game. New York would drive again towards the end of the third quarter into the start of the first quarter that resulted in Andre Brown’s second touchdown run of the game. It was 21-17 Giants. This became 24-17 New York after a later drive from Big Blue resulted in a Josh Brown 39 yard field goal.
The Redskins did have a shot to tie the game at the end of regulation prior to an officiating controversy. A second and five completion to Pierre Garcon to the Washington 45 yard line with 1:37 left resulted in a play that was close to a first down, but didn’t seem to be according to the TV replays, even though the yellow line is always unofficial.
There was no measurement by the chain gang to see if it was a first or third down. The initial ruling was that it was a first down, when it was clearly a third down. The next play was incomplete deep down the middle from RGIII to Fred Davis. The play after that was completed to Garcon before it was stripped away from him by the Giants’ Will Hill.
Referee Jeff Triplette said that the signal was third down even though the chains moved as if it was first down. The Redskins players as well as head coach Mike Shanahan didn’t have time to ask the referees for more info. They were thinking about tying the game. Shanahan said he asked an official for a measurement. That ref said it was unnecessary because it was a first down.
The reason why this is glaring was because this it affected the play calling. There’s no doubt that the call that would’ve come from the Redskins offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, would’ve been different if the play was third down instead of first. But even with this, the Redskins blew an early lead and their receivers dropped passes left and right.
Either way, the Giants won 24-17 to move to 5-7 and the Redskins moved to 3-9. They are officially out of playoff contention along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons.
Eli Manning was 22/28 for 235 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Peyton Hillis—six carries for 45 yards. Andre Brown had 14 carries for 35 yards and two touchdowns. Victor Cruz caught six passes for 80 yards. Brandon Myers—five receptions for 61 yards.
Griffin went 24/32 with 207 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. He was also their leading rusher with 88 yards on 12 carries. Alfred Morris himself had 11 carries, but only 26 yards. Garcon caught nine passes for 61 yards. Paulsen caught 3 passes for 41 yards and a touchdown.
New York will fly cross-country to San Diego for a Week 14 game at the Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium. The Redskins stay at FedEx Field to meet the Kansas City Chiefs.
Lions defeat Packers 40-10 (Thanksgiving)
Cowboys defeat Raiders 31-24 (Thanksgiving)
Ravens defeat Steelers 22-20 (Thanksgiving)
Jaguars defeat Browns 32-28
Vikings defeat Bears 23-20 (overtime)
Dolphins defeat Jets 23-3
Panthers defeat Buccaneers 27-6
Falcons defeat Bills 34-31 (overtime) (Toronto)
49ers defeat Rams 23-13
Bengals defeat Chargers 17-10
Saints vs. Seahawks (8:30 Monday Night Football)
If The Playoffs Started Today…