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.
At the top of the NFC North along with the Detroit Lions, the Chicago Bears have been one of these teams that has been interesting to follow in the 2013-2014 season. Under first year head coach Mark Trestman, they have continued to stay in the postseason race despite losing starting quarterback Jay Cutler and having to put their team in the hands of backup quarterback Josh McCown.
During that time, many in Chicago have also become enamored with the play of one wide receiver in particular—Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery, in addition to putting up a multitude of receiving yards has made the conversion of difficult catches into a science.
This week, word came out of the Windy City that Cutler would be returning to start at quarterback for the Bears in Cleveland against the Browns at First Energy Stadium. This, of course, meant McCown has back to holding the clipboard.
This surprised some Monsters of the Midway fans since McCown, in Cutler’s stead, was able to throw ten touchdowns while only committing one interception. Bears fans were at least confident in what they were getting from McCown—they didn’t know what they would get from Cutler, who is very turnover prone.
Chicago is coming off a 45-28 throttling of the Dallas Cowboys in Soldier Field on Monday Night Football.
Cleveland is coming off of a heartbreaking game that saw them give up a late touchdown to the New England Patriots that allowed them to beat the Browns by a final score of 27-26. The late Pats drive was aided with a controversial call, but it came at a cost as they lost Rob Gronkowski for the rest of the season with a torn ACL and MCL. The loss came despite the Browns winning the time of possession and quarterback Jason Campbell throwing for 391 yards and three touchdowns.
Trestman’s decision to start Cutler over McCown paid early dividends—for the homestanding Cleveland Browns early on. In the first Bears possession of the game, Cutler was intercepted in the red zone by Tashaun Gipson on a 1st and 10 pass intended for Brandon Marshall. The Browns turned it into three points as a drive that stalled at the Bears’ 17 yard line resulted in a 35 yard field goal from Billy Cundiff.
The Bears would answer back on the ensuing drive that went into the second quarter with a 23 yard field goal from Robbie Gould after driving all the way to the Browns’ 5 yard line.
Later in the second, another Cutler mistake occurred. Gipson picked off Cutler again on another pass intended for Marshall. This time, it was a pick six that gave the Browns a 10-3 lead.
Towards the end of the quarter, Cutler finally found Marshall in the end zone for a touchdown to tie the game at 10.
Coming out of the half, the Browns had the ball, and on the first possession, turnover-it is shifted from Chicago’s side to Cleveland’s. A Campbell pass intended for Greg Little instead found the Bears’ Zack Bowman who returned it for 43 yards and a touchdown. The Bears took a 17-10 lead.
The Browns would get another shot—and make it count. On their next possession, a five minute drive resulted on a two yard run from Edwin Baker. 17 all.
Cleveland would score again—on a Chicago possession. Cutler completed a six yard pass to Martellus Bennett before the Browns’ Billy Winn forced a fumble, allowing T.J. Ward to get a successful fumble recovery for 51 yards and a score. 24-17 Browns.
The Bears would respond to the Browns’ final lead of the game with 21 unanswered. Alshon Jeffery was mentioned earlier in this section of this week’s Realist. Jeffery would be the recipient of Chicago’s next touchdown when Cutler threw his second touchdown pass of the game. This one was for 45 yards. 24-24 tie.
The Bears would also score TDs on their following two drives. They scored on an Earl Bennett 4 yard TD reception from Cutler. 31-24. A 40 yard run for six from Michael Bush made it 38-24.
Cleveland tried to comeback when Campbell found Josh Gordon for 43 yards to bring the Browns back at 38-31. The onsides kick attempt failed and the Bears won 38-31.
Cutler in his return threw 22/31 for 265 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Matt Forte ran for 127 yards on 24 carries. Michael Bush ran three times for 44 yards and a touchdown. Marshall caught six passes for 95 yards and one touchdown. Jeffery caught five passes for 72 yards and a touchdown as well. Bennett also had 71 receiving yards on six receptions.
Campbell was 23/39 for 273 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Baker only notched 38 yards on 8 carries. Marqueis Gray also had 30 yards on 2 carries. Little caught four passes for 68 yards while Gordon caught three for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Chicago, now at 8-6, will head to Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field and will face the Eagles on NBC Sunday Night Football in a game that was recently flexed to primetime. The Browns will be in the Meadowlands next week to meet the New York Jets.
Miami Vice Grip
For this year’s New England Patriots, it has been the year of the comeback (or the near comeback). They’ve notably completed comeback victories over the New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, and last week, over the Cleveland Browns after being down at one point in the game 26-14. It all translated into a 10-3 record coming into Week 15 and another possible run at the Super Bowl for Brady’s bunch.
There was also that near comeback the Pats almost completed over the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte that ended on a play that could’ve been ruled as holding on Carolina.
Last week’s victory over Cleveland came at a cost as they lost Rob Gronkowski for the season with a torn ACL and MCL—a loss that could cost the Pats a shot at the Super Bowl. But, the Patriots did get a boost to their playoff standing when the San Diego Chargers defeated the Denver Broncos 27-20 on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.
The loss put the Broncos at 11-3. Coming into their Week 15 matchup in Miami, a win over the Dolphins would catapult New England into the top seed in the AFC.
But, the Dolphins weren’t a team to be overlooked as they went on the road into un-Miami like conditions at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field (aka snow, aka the white stuff) and defeated the Steelers 34-28.
New England’s first possession of the game lasted for over seven minutes—and only resulted in a 22 yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski after driving the ball to the 4 yard line of Miami.
Near the end of the second quarter, they extended their advantage to 10-0 when Tom Brady threw to Michael Hoomanawanaui (Is the Realist spelling his name right?) for 13 yards and a touchdown.
10-0 became 10-7 when Ryan Tannehill completed a half-ending drive with a 39 yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace.
The Patriots had a chance to score on their first drive coming out of halftime when they drove all the way to the Miami 30 yard line. A 48 yard field goal attempt from Gostkowski went wide left.
The Dolphins ensuing drive also resulted in a field goal attempt. Theirs from Caleb Sturgis for 32 yards was good. 10-10 tie.
They would then score on their next possession that began towards the end of the third quarter and ended in the start of the fourth. The result was a Tannehill TD pass to Daniel Thomas for 2 yards and a Dolphins 17-10 lead.
New England would score on the following possession after a seven minute plus drive resulted in Gostkowski’s second field goal of the game—this one for 23 yards. When the Patriots got the ball again, they would regain the lead again with a Brady 24 yard TD pass to Julian Edelman to make it 20-17 New England.
Normally this year, the Patriots have been the team to come up with comebacks. This time, they were on the receiving end of a game-winning comeback drive when Tannehill led a 60 yard drive resulting in a Marcus Thigpen TD reception for 14 yards and a 24-20 for Miami.
But, as we know, there was 1:15 left on the clock which is nothing to Brady. On the last drive of the game, New England went all the way to the Dolphins’ 14 yard line before being intercepted in the end zone by Michael Thomas. The Dolphins won the game 24-20 and are now 8-6 despite the earlier turmoil in the season involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin—both of whom are no longer on the team. It is the first win for the Fins over the Pats since 2009. In addition, the Patriots missed an opportunity to clinch the AFC East.
Tannehill went 25/37 for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns. Lamar Miller carried the rock 15 times for 61 yards. Wallace—105 yards on 6 receptions and a touchdown catch. Brian Hartline caught the ball 5 times for 70 yards. Rishard Matthews also had 64 yard receiving on 5 receptions.
Brady was 34/55 for 364 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. LeGarrette Blount had 47 yards on 11 carries. Stevan Ridley also had 34 yards on eight carries. Edelman caught the ball 13 times for 139 yards and one touchdown. Damon Amendola also had 10 receptions for 131 yards.
New England travels next week to M&T Bank Stadium and the Baltimore Ravens—the team that eliminated the Patriots last year in the playoffs. The Dolphins will also be on the road against their division rival Buffalo Bills.
Charles In Charge
The 2013-2014 Kansas City Chiefs. They began 9-0 for the first time since 2003 when Trent Green was their quarterback, Dick Vermeil was head coach, and Priest Holmes was also on the team. Then three consecutive losses had some wondering if this team looked like a playoff team that would be one and done heading into the postseason.
Thankfully, if you are a Kansas City fan, the Washington Redskins were the team the Chiefs needed to right their ship. They went on the road and dominated the dysfunctional Skins by a final score of 45-10. That increased their record to 10-3 on the year.
It also put the Chiefs into a Week 15 playoff scenario that went a bit something like this: “Win and In”.
If all playoff scenarios were that simple…if only they were…
All the Chiefs had to do was defeat their division rival Oakland Raiders at the O.co Coliseum on Sunday and the Chiefs would punch in their ticket to the postseason.
They were also playing a Raiders team that was coming off a 37-27 road loss to the New York Jets in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Throughout much of the first half of the game, the Raiders defense looked as if they were still on the tarmac in Newark Liberty International Airport and not in the East Bay. The Chiefs wasted no time setting the tone for this game when Alex Smith threw a 49 yard touchdown pass to Jamaal Charles on the first play of the game to give the Chiefs a 7-0 lead.
Smith to Charles would become a fundamental theme of this game.
The Raiders would get on the board on their next possession via a Sebastian Janikowski 34 yard field goal after the Silver & Black drove all the way to the Kansas City 15 yard line.
On the next Chiefs possession, Smith found Charles again, this time for 39 yards to increase the Chiefs’ advantage to 14-3. On the following Oakland possession, Matt McGloin was intercepted by Eric Berry. It was intercepted at the Raider 47 yard line. He returned it 47 yards for a score. 21-3 Chiefs. The Raiders scored on their next possession—for their team this time when Rashad Jennings ran for a 1 yard touchdown to bring Oakland within 11 at 21-10.
McGloin then fumbled on the Raiders’ next possession at their 22 yard line which gave the Chiefs excellent field position. Charles ran it in from one yard out for another touchdown and his third of the game.
This is the point where The Realist began observing Jamaal Charles fantasy owners dancing in the streets.
The next Raiders possession also resulted in a McGloin turnover as he found Eric Berry again on a pick. The Chiefs once again turned it into another Charles touchdown—his fourth (this one of the throwing variety from Alex Smith). 35-10 Chiefs.
“I’m the king of the world!” (Leonardo Dicaprio voice) –Jamaal Charles fantasy owners at this point.
The Raiders responded with a touchdown of their own before the end of the half when Jennings got his second touchdown of the game to make the score 35-17.
In fact, with that touchdown included, Oakland responded with 21 unanswered points. With the Raiders getting the ball out of halftime, they made the Chiefs defense look like a weak Chiefs defense again. McGloin found Andre Holmes for six yards and a touchdown. 35-24 Kansas City. McGloin then connected with Mychal Rivera for 14 yards to bring the silver & black within 4 at 35-31.
Raider Nation was in elation. Unrest in Chiefs Kingdom.
That was before Smith did once again what he was doing for most of the game—throw touchdowns to Jamaal Charles. The next Kansas City possession resulted in a Smith to Charles connection for 71 yards and a touchdown. That is what The Realist calls a momentum shifter. All of it was with the Raiders, and that one play put it back on the Chiefs’ side.
And, oh yeah. Jamaal Charles fantasy owners were really doing cartwheels at that point.
42-31 Chiefs. That became 49-31 KC on ANOTHER Smith pass to Charles—no, actually, Smith threw this one to someone else other than Charles. This time, it was Sean McGrath for six yards.
The two teams later traded turnovers. A McGloin passes intended for Jamize Olawale was intercepted by Frank Zombo. Smith would be sacked on the next possession by Jason Hunter and it was recovered by Stacy McGee.
On the next Raiders possession, McGloin was intercepted for the fourth time in the game. This time, it was from Derrick Johnson. The Chiefs took over and turned it into a Knile Davis 17 yard touchdown run to increase their lead to 56-31.
Terrelle Pryor then came in at QB for Oakland and would be in for the last two Raiders drives. The last one resulted in an interception by Ron Parker at midfield. He returned it 15 yards. The Chiefs won 56-31 to clinch a playoff spot in the AFC.
Smith was 17/20 for 287 yards, and five touchdowns. Davis had nine carries for 34 yards. Charles, in addition to 8 carries for 20 yards, caught eight passes for 195 and 5 touchdowns (4 receiving, 1 running).
McGloin went 18/36 for 297 yards, two touchdowns, and four picks. Jennings had 91 rushing yards on 23 carries. Rod Streater caught four passes for 59 yards. Holmes caught four passes for 58 yards and one touchdown. Marcel Reese had two receptions for 52 yards while Taiwan Jones only had one for 52 yards.
With the Chiefs clinching their first playoff berth since 2010, they will go back home to play the Indianapolis Colts. Oakland travels from Northern California to Southern California to play the San Diego Chargers in Week 16.
Not Packing It In
Green Bay Packers football must be torture to watch without a certain #12 (Aaron Rodgers) at quarterback. It is obvious in recent weeks what the team looks like with him and what they look like without him. Scott Tolzien couldn’t get the job done. They got desperate and had to resign Matt Flynn to take over in Rodgers’ place.
With Rodgers seemingly getting better, the entire state of Wisconsin was on pins and needles as they followed “Rodgers Watch” and hoped that he’d be back to start Week 15 against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington. The news was promising at the beginning of the week that he’d be cleared to play after suffering a collarbone injury and that he’d return as the Bears’ QB returned this week as well.
Later, it turned out that the doctors did not clear Rodgers to play and the Flynn would once again be the starter for the Packers against America’s Team.
Green Bay was victorious last week in Lambeau Field when they faced the Atlanta Falcons by a final score of 22-21. As mentioned earlier, the Dallas Cowboys were beatdown last week in Chicago 45-28.
Earlier in the day, the Philadelphia Eagles defense gave up 48 points on the road to a Minnesota Vikings team that was playing without Adrian Peterson or Toby Gerhart. That loss dropped the Eagles to 8-6 and set up the Cowboys to once again sit as pretty as one of their cheerleaders atop the NFC East.
Dallas scored on a Dan Bailey 47 yard field goal on its opening possession of the game. 3-0 Cowboys. The Packers responded with one of their own from Mason Crosby from 57 yards away. 3-3 tie. Another field goal from the Cowboys would be the result of their next possession as they retook the lead at 6-3. This one was only from 23 yards out after reaching the Packers’ 5 yard line.
The Cowboys would score seven instead of three on their next possession when Tony Romo threw for 25 yards to Jason Witten for a touchdown. They led 13-3 at that point.
In the second quarter, the Cowboys still put together long drives, but most of them resulted in only three points instead of seven. They extended their lead to 16-3 on another Bailey field goal—from 43 yards out. They got another one to increase their lead to 19-3 on a 50 yard field goal from Bailey on their next possession after Sterling Moore intercepted Matt Flynn on the previous possession. On their last drive of the half, the Cowboys ended the second quarter the way they ended the first—with a touchdown as DeMarco Murray ran the ball from one yard out. It was 26-3 Cowboys as it looked like they were taking advantage of the earlier Eagles loss. It also looked like, once again, that this was what the Packers looked like without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
This is the part where we decipher what was said during the Packers’ halftime speech. Because it worked wonders.
The Packers got the ball first in the second half—it resulted in Flynn’s first touchdown of the day—to Jordy Nelson for 13 yards. 26-10 Cowboys. A long Dallas drive on the ensuing possession resulted in another field goal from Bailey for 50 yards. It was 29-10 Cowboys at this point.
29-10 became 29-17 on a Flynn touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless on the next Green Bay possession. They followed that up by cutting into the Dallas lead even more on their next drive with another touchdown pass from Flynn. This one was to James Starks for 11 yards.
The momentum continued to be on the side of the green and gold when the Packers defense looked as if they completed another big play. Romo was intercepted by Tramon Williams at the Cowboys 32, but the play was challenged and it turned out that Williams didn’t have complete possession of the ball, so it was ruled an incomplete pass.
The Cowboys kept the ball and made it a touchdown drive when Dez Bryant caught a 5 yard pass in the end zone in double coverage. 36-24 Cowboys. Now, it was over, right?
The Packers’ next drive also resulted in a touchdown. Flynn, this time, connected with James Jones to make the score of this thriller 36-30 Dallas.
On the next Cowboys drive, all they had to do was have DeMarco Murray run the football with 4:17 left to play and they would’ve won the game. Instead, head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan called pass plays.
One of those pass plays was thrown to someone in a Packer jersey.
Romo, known in NFL circles for egregious interceptions late, was picked off by Sam Shields at the Cowboys 45 yard line. Green Bay turned it into a touchdown with an Eddie Lacy one yard touchdown run on their next possession. 37-36 for the Packers’ first lead of the game. Lacy also came up huge throughout the Packer comeback trail in the second half as he was extremely difficult for Cowboys defenders to tackle.
They tried a two point conversion attempt that didn’t work.
Dallas still had a shot with one timeout left and over a minute to go left in the game. Another chance for Romo to redeem himself & right his legacy.
And, again, Romo did what Romo has done for most of his career in these situations—throw interceptions. He was picked off at the Dallas 29 by Tramon Williams (again?!) after it was originally ruled an incomplete pass on a tipped ball. This time, it was also reviewed and Williams was more positive he had a pick this time than earlier in the quarter.
Romo and the Cowboys tried to run a play to prevent a referee’s review, but it came too late. Video replay showed that Williams had two hands on the ball and that he had full possession. It was another interception that sealed the deal for the Pack as they were victorious by a final score of 37-36.
After that last pick, Dez Bryant was so upset that he stormed back to the locker room when the game was not over. Garrett also said in his postgame press conference that the pass play that was intercepted (and in which Romo was nearly sacked by a hard-charging Clay Matthews) was supposed to be a run play.
Eagles fans need to send the Cowboys play callers Christmas cards after this game because the Cowboys had it all in the bag. This collapse by Dallas still has them a game behind the Eagles in the NFC East and makes it all the more likely that Week 17 between Eagles and Cowboys will decide the NFC East champion.
As for the Packers, it is their second consecutive victory—one they sorely needed. And as the weeks go by, it becomes all the more likely that they will get Rodgers back at quarterback.
Maybe next week…maybe.
Flynn was 26/39 for 299 yards, 4 touchdowns, and one interception. Eddie Lacy had a huge game—particularly in the second quarter. He finished with 21 carries and 141 yards rushing. Jarrett Boykin had 83 yards on six receptions. Quarless finished with 66 yards on 6 carries and one touchdown. Nelson also had a touchdown in addition with five receptions and 61 yards.
Romo went 29/48 for 358 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Murray ran for 134 yards on 18 carries. Bryant caught 11 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown. Jason Witten also had one touchdown in addition to 71 yards on 4 receptions.
Dallas should get a reprieve next week as they travel to Landover, Maryland to play the hapless Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Green Bay will head home to Lambeau to meet the Steelers in a rematch of Super Bowl XLV.
Say Bye To the Bye
Heinz Field in Pittsburgh set the scene for this week’s Sunday Night Football matchup on NBC. Last week, the field was covered in something a little bit colder and a lot less red than Heinz ketchup. Snowy Steel City USA was where the Steelers lost at home against the Miami Dolphins 34-28—a huge blow into the black and gold’s still slim playoff hopes at 5-8.
As for the Cincinnati Bengals, they had a golden opportunity to better their position as far as the AFC playoff picture is concerned. They were coming off a Week 14 beatdown in the Queen City of the Indianapolis Colts in Paul Brown Stadium. The final score was 42-28 and it moved Cincinnati to 9-4.
That opportunity came in the form of Denver and New England losses earlier in the week’s games. With the Patriots losing to the Dolphins earlier in the day, a Bengals win would put them in position to move to 10-4 & become the 2 seed in the AFC.
Pittsburgh would have none of it.
Cincinnati fumbled the ball on a punt attempt from Kevin Huber early on where it was recovered at the 1 yard line by the Steelers after it was initially thought to be a safety.
The Bengals would’ve probably preferred it to be a safety rather than a Le’Veon Bell one yard touchdown which is what eventually happened to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Pittsburgh would score again. Ben Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for 12 yards and a touchdown. 14-0 Steelers. Then, after a Cincinnati three and out, Brown returned a 67 yard punt return for a touchdown to make the score 21-0.
A scary occasion would occur as Brown was returning the punt for a TD when the Huber suffered a huge hit from the Steelers’ Terence Garvin that left him with a fractured jaw. He had to be taken out of the game.
So far, the Steelers were pitching a shutout as if they were A.J. Burnett of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It continued into the second quarter when the Steelers drove to the Cincinnati Bengals 7 yard line, only to settle for Shaun Suisham’s first field goal of the game. It was from 25 yards out. 24-0 Pittsburgh.
It was needless to say that the Bengals were looking less and less like a team that was interested in assuming the #2 seed in the AFC.
At least up to that point.
The Bengals finally got on the board midway through the second quarter when Giovani Bernard carried the rock for one yard. That made it 24-7. The ensuing Pittsburgh Steelers possession resulted in Suisham’s second field goal—this one from 45 yards out. 27-7 Steelers going into the half.
Early in the third, a Bengals drive was stalled thanks to a Jermaine Gresham fumble that was recovered by Ziggy Hood (one of the coolest names in football, by the way, in the Realist’s opinion) after being forced by Troy Polamalu.
The Steelers also turned the ball over on their next possession after a deep pass on 2nd and 3 from Roethlisberger intended for Emmanuel Sanders instead found Adam Jones for an interception.
Pittsburgh would not turn it over on the next possession when another long drive resulted in Suisham’s third field goal of the game—from 26 yards out.
This was becoming a classic case of the Bengals looking like the “Bungles” and being down—but not out. Their next drive extended into the start of the fourth quarter as the third quarter was winding down. Andy Dalton threw a short touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert to bring the Bengals to within 30-14.
This game really got interesting when another scoring drive for the Bengals occurred as a touchdown was thrown from Dalton to Marvin Jones who was wide open on the left side of the end zone. This made it 30-20 in a position where they needed two touchdowns and then a couple of two point conversions behind those scores.
The first two point conversion attempt was no good. That practically made it academic, given how little time there was on the clock at that point as it still remained a two possession game. The Steelers went on to win 30-20 and move to 6-8. This meant that the black and gold still have that outside shot at the postseason & that the Ravens (currently on the outside looking in) now may have their sights set on winning the AFC North.
As far as the top three teams in the AFC are concerned, all lost this week, so nothing changed at the top.
Big Ben was 20/25 for 191 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Le’Veon Bell ran for 57 yards on 24 rushing attempts and one touchdown. Antonio Brown caught five receptions for 66 yards plus his touchdown and his punt return. Bell also caught five passes for 50 yards.
Andy Dalton went 25/44 for 230 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Giovani Bernard rushed for 33 yards on 13 carries while Dalton also rushed four times for 20 yards—something he is not exactly known for doing. A.J. Green caught nine passes for 93 yards. Marvin Jones also had 48 yards on 5 receptions plus a touchdown.
The Steelers now head to the road to Green Bay’s Lambeau Field to play the Packers (with or without Rodgers). As for the Cincinnati Bengals, they will return to Paul Brown Stadium for their Week 16 clash with the Minnesota Vikings.
Chargers defeat Broncos 27-20 (NFL Network Thursday Night Football)
Falcons defeat Redskins 27-26
Colts defeat Texans 25-3
Vikings defeat Eagles 48-30
Seahawks defeat Giants 23-0
49ers defeat Buccaneers 33-14
Bills defeat Jaguars 27-20
Panthers defeat Jets 30-20
Cardinals defeat Titans 37-34 (overtime)
Rams defeat Saints 27-16
Ravens vs. Lions (8:30 Monday Night Football)
If The Playoffs Started Today…
Broncos 11-3 (clinched playoff berth)
Chiefs 11-3 (clinched playoff berth)
Seahawks 12-2 (clinched playoff berth)