Manning Sets New Single-Season TD Record, Several Teams Clinch Playoff Berths, and All of NFL Week 16—The Monday Morning Realist

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.

Last-Minute Gifts

Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Domenik Hixon (87) reacts with fullback Mike Tolbert (35) after scoring the winning touchdown in the last minute of the fourth quarter. The Panthers defeated the Saint 17-13 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With Christmas Day being only a mere two days away, there’s an obvious Holiday theme to this week’s Realist. Football fans everywhere received an early present in the form of Week 16 NFL football this Sunday. 14 of the 16 games that were to be played in the season’s next to last season all had some type of playoff implications.

Very few of these had bigger postseason implications than New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers from Bank of America Field in Charlotte. These two teams played earlier in the season in New Orleans on Sunday Night Football in which the Saints completely demolished the Panthers. It gave the Saints the edge in the NFC South race. Ever since then, the two teams were once again even as both were at 10-4 going into Sunday.

If New Orleans were to win, they would clinch a playoff berth, the NFC South division, and the two-seed in the NFC which would earn them a first round bye. Such a bye would be huge for the Saints given their record in the Big Easy.

As for Carolina, a victory over their division rivals at home wouldn’t clinch them the NFC South, but it would send them into the playoffs and it would overtake the Saints in the division to move into the two-seed.

The Panthers were at home the previous week and defeated the New York Jets 30-20 while the Saints struggled again on the road as they lost 27-16 to the not exactly playoff bound St. Louis Rams.

Given the fact that the Panthers stellar play this year has been predicated on the defense, as well as the fact that Rob Ryan is the Saints’ defensive coordinator, it was expected that this one would be low scoring.

The pundits would be proven correct. Carolina did have a chance to score on its first drive as they wound up at the Saints’ 16 yard line before Cam Newton was intercepted by Malcolm Jenkins on a pass intended for Ted Ginn. New Orleans would then get its first points of the game later in the quarter when a long drive that went into the second quarter resulted in the first of Shayne Graham’s two field goals. This one was from 40 yards out. Graham, a former Houston Texans kicker, replaced Garrett Hartley who has struggled for the team this year.

The Saints would keep the ball even after going in front 3-0 because head coach Sean Payton surprised the Panthers by attempting an onsides kick. It was successful.

Hmmm….Sean Payton and successful onside kicks. The Realist has seen this movie before. Sound familiar, Indianapolis? Super Bowl XLIV anyone?

The result was Graham’s second field goal of the game, this time a chip shot from 24 yards. 6-0 Saints.

Near the end of the first half, the Saints were driving again, but Brees was picked off by Thomas Davis at New Orleans’ 43 yard line. This was followed up by a DeAngelo Williams 43 yard touchdown run to give the Panthers their first lead in the game as well as the momentum heading into halftime.

Coming out of the half, Carolina padded their lead with a 40 yard field goal from Graham Gano to make it 10-6 Panthers.

As mentioned earlier, it was predicted to be a low scoring affair and it was. Defense ruled the day—particularly Carolina’s Luke Kuechly. He finished the day in historic fashion with 24 tackles (tying a record). He was also responsible for Brees’ second interception of the game as he was picked off on the Saints’ next possession after the Gano field goal.

In the fourth quarter, though, it appeared that Kuechly’s effort would be all faor naught as New Orleans picked the best time to finally engineer a touchdown drive. A 48 yard completion to Jimmy Graham as well as Brees finding Graham in the endzone put the Saints on top 13-10 as they could smell a division crown.

But Cam Newton also picked the best time himself to start wearing his “SuperCam” cleats. On their last possession of the game, the Panthers went 62 yards on 5 plays in 32 seconds, resulting in Newton finding Domenik Hixon in the endzone to put Carolina ahead 17-13. The Saints had one more drive, but too little too late for a  late game “march”. Carolina won the game & clinched a playoff berth.

There’s a reason why this defeat is debilitating for the Saints—this team clearly is a “Jekyll & Hyde” team along with the Seattle Seahawks. They can’t be beat at home, but vulnerable on the road. New Orleans needed that two seed, now they’re probably going to have to settle for a wild card berth if they make the postseason. If they have to play their first playoff game on the road, it increases the Saints’ chances of being a one and done team.

Newton was 13/22 for 181 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Williams had 12 carries and rushed for 67 yards. Ginn caught two receptions for 66 yards. Steve Smith only had one reception for 44 yards as the Panthers played most of the game without him as he was taken out due to injury. Prior to Carolina’s final drive, their offense looked so stuck in North Carolina mountains that it had seven three and outs.

Brees went 30/44 for 281 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. Mark Ingram rushed for 83 yards on 13 carries. Graham caught five passes for 73 yards and one TD while Marques Colston also had 63 yards on five receptions.

The Panthers will play the Falcons in Atlanta in their regular season finale while the Saints return home to await the Buccaneers. Carolina can clinch the NFC South and the two seed with a win in the ATL. The Saints were the two seed coming into this game. They’re now the six.

A New Record For Christmas

Dec 22, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) gives a thumbs up to cheering fans against the Houston Texans during the second half at Reliant Stadium. The Broncos won 37-13. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

“Uhh…Mr. Realist? It’s Week 16. With all of the games that actually involve, you know, teams fighting for the playoffs, what is a game involving the 2-12 Houston Texans doing in this week’s column?”

This is a very good question. Admittedly, was not expecting to even mention the Texans in this week’s edition—unless it was of worthy note. The object of the win has become something highly elusive to Houston’s “Bulls on Parade” as coming into Week 16 they were 2-12 and losers of a dozen consecutive games, including last week to the Colts on the road by a final score of 25-3. Their opponent coming into Reliant Stadium for Week 16—the Denver Broncos. You know, the team with that Peyton Manning guy—even though they did lose at home in Week 17 to the Chargers 27-20.

Surely, Denver would make the Texans’ losing streak evolve from a dozen to a baker’s dozen at 13.

In addition to the Texans’ recent losing ways, Manning was also chasing history as he once again looked to reclaim the single season record for touchdown passes in a season. He already claimed this record in 2004 when he overtook Dan Marino’s 48 with a 49 TD season when he was in Indianapolis. Someone named Tom Brady overtook him in 2007 with 50 touchdowns when the Patriots were within a Super Bowl shy of a 19-0 season.

Manning was at 47 coming into this game. It says something a lot about the NFL today when a quarterback can now throw 40-plus touchdown passes in a season with regularity. Manning, Brady, Brees, and Aaron Rodgers have all done it at least once in the last 10 years.

Most expected this one to be a rout, but it wouldn’t start immediately. Denver did score first on a long drive resulting in a 32 yard field goal from Matt Prater. 3-0 Broncos. Two Texans possessions later, they got a 45 yard field goal from Randy Bullock to tie the game at 3.

The following Broncos possession resulted in Manning finding DeMaryius Thomas for 36 yards and a touchdown. 10-3 Broncos and Manning at 48.

Two more Houston possessions later, they had to settle for another three point try from Randy Bullock—this one from 35 yards out. 10-6 Broncos. Despite the Texans playing for nothing but pride (which translates in Realist language as “the chance to draft Johnny Manziel with the first pick in the Draft”), Houston did hang tough with a team they probably don’t belong on a pop warner field with at this point.

The next two Broncos possessions also resulted in two more Prater field goals. The first one coming after Denver had the ball inside the Texans’ 10 yard line, but couldn’t capitalize with seven points (or another Manning touchdown throw). Prater made a chip shot from 25 yards to increase the Denver advantage to 13-6, and a 44 yard try to close out the half extended their lead to 16-6.

At this point, everyone outside of Houston knew the Broncos would win and are only watching for Manning touchdowns, so a lot of folks (aka Manning fantasy owners) were probably disappointed.

And coming out of halftime, the Texans scored a touchdown on their first drive of the half. Matt Schaub threw to Keshawn Martin for 15 yards to bring the Texans to within 16-13.

Wasn’t this game supposed to be over by the Texans’ Cheerleaders’ halftime performance? Wasn’t Manning supposed to have about six more touchdown passes by now and have already broken the record?

“No more ‘Mr. Nice Sheriff.”—Manning in the fourth quarter.

The Broncos finally received the memo in the closing frame on how 2-12 teams get dealt with by playoff bound clubs. At the start of another Houston drive, Schaub was intercepted (stop the Realist if you’ve heard or seen this meme before) by Mike Adams at the Texans’ 31 yard line. Manning eventually found Eric Decker for 10 yards and his 49th TD pass of the season. 23-13.

They would score again on their next possession as Manning once again connected with Decker, this time for 20 yards. 30-13 Broncos and 50 for Manning to tie Brady’s 2007 campaign. The catch, though, looked someone iffy as Decker didn’t seem to maintain full possession of the football. But at this point, the Texans should be thanking Manning as Houstonians’ opportunity to see history made at Reliant was probably the only thing keeping their rears in their seats.

The Texans certainly weren’t.

On the next drive for the Broncos was when history happened when Manning threw for 25 yards to Julius Thomas to increase the Denver lead to 37-13. It was his fourth TD pass of the game and Number 51 on the season. Record broken.

Okay, Texans fans. You saw the record. Now you can go and beat Houston traffic on Interstates 10 and 45. It’s worth beating.

It would also be fitting for the next Texans possession to result in Schaub’s second pick of the game—this one to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at the Broncos 22 yard line. Broncos won big 37-13.

Manning—32/51 for 400 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a new record. Knowshon Moreno rushed for 76 yards on 11 carries. Decker caught 10 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. DeMaryius Thomas also had 123 yards on eight receptions and one touchdown. Julius Thomas, who caught the record breaker had 78 yards on six receptions.

As for the Texans, Schaub went 18/37 for 176 yards, one touchdown, and two picks. Deji Karim was Houston’s leading rusher with only 30 yards on eight carries. Dennis Johnson also ran the ball 12 times for 29 yards. Jonathan Grimes—five carries for 23 yards. Ryan Griffin caught five passes for 66 yards. Andre Johnson was targeted 13 times, but only caught four passes for 63 yards. Keshawn Martin had four receptions and 35 yards including his touchdown catch.

The win did come at a cost as the Broncos’ Von Miller injured his knee. There are concerns that the injury is an ACL tear which would sideline Miller for the playoffs.

Lost in all of the ballyhooed talk of Manning’s record once again, was the fact that the Broncos clinched the AFC West and a first round bye thanks to this win & Manning’s former team, the Colts, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 23-7. Those Broncos will close the regular season with a visit to O.co Coliseum and the Oakland Raiders in Week 17.

2013-2014 can’t end fast enough for the Texans as they travel to Nashville’s LP Field—and the Tennessee Titans (aka the former Houston Oilers).

Still in the Spirit

Dec 8, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) walks off the field after defeating the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Things the Realist pondered during a week of no football:

How did Rudolph get his red nose?

How badly Christmas music on the radio will be missed once December 25th comes and goes.

What flavor of cookies and milk to leave Santa when he arrives.

How the Dallas Cowboys gave away a 26-3 lead at home to a Green Bay Packers team playing without its MVP and Super Bowl winning quarterback.

The first three questions may not have crossed many minds in North Texas, but that last one was the talk of the week in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Everyone that wears a blue star got a share of the blame. Tony Romo was lambasted for choking again in December. Jason Garrett much maligned for being a puppet for the owner Jerry Jones. Jones was criticized for, once again, trying to be judge, jury, and executioner instead of wielding power to people who know…you know…football instead of…money?

What everyone seemed to forget was as heartbreaking a loss it was, the Cowboys were still 7-7 with a chance to still clinch a playoff berth as a wild card or division champion. Also, their Week 16 opponent was the Washington Redskins, who are even more dysfunctional at this point than their division rivals from Dallas.

Still, given everything that happened last week, the Skins were seen as an upset pick. Last week, Washington was within one Mike Shanahan two point conversion too many of forcing overtime in the Georgia Dome against the Atlanta Falcons as they fell by a final of 27-26.

The Cowboys needed this game to theoretically stay in the playoff race and to make next week’s matchup between themselves and the Philadelphia Eagles be one for the NFC East. As expected, Eagles fans were also watching this game closely as Philly could clinch its division with a win and a Cowboys loss.

This one was also notable as it was London Fletcher’s final home game at FedEx Field. Fletcher recently announced that he’ll retire after this season.

Early on, Dallas had no intentions on allowing the Eagles to have a coronation later in the day on Sunday Night Football against Chicago. They scored a touchdown on its opening possession via a short run by DeMarco Murray. 7-0 Dallas. Murray was talked about a lot this week in the sense that the Cowboys seemingly don’t use him enough as they probably should. Instead of running with him more, they simply have Romo throwing passes all game long.

Sound familiar, Eagles fans?

Washington got on the board two possessions later with a 36 yard field goal from Kai Forbath to make the score 7-3 Cowboys. Prior to the field goal, that Redskins drive had them at the Cowboys’ 18 yard line. They also had to settle for three points on their next drive after being in a first and goal situation inside the Dallas 10 yard line. This time, it was a 22 yard chip shot field goal from Forbath to make the score 7-6.

The Skins were scoring field goals while the Cowboys put touchdowns on the scoreboard, as was seen on their next possession when Romo threw for 14 yards to Dez Bryant. 14-6 Dallas. Washington had an opportunity to tie the game at the end of the half (if they tried a two point conversion after a touchdown) but Kirk Cousins was intercepted by Jeff Heath at the Cowboys’ 7 yard line to end the half.

And this is the part where the Realist wonders about what was said during the Redskins’ halftime speech. For the third quarter, it worked. Romo threw a short pass to Tyler Clutts for four yards (his only reception of the game). Clutts fumbled the ball where it was recovered by Washington’s Josh Wilson at the Dallas 28 yard line. Cousins and the Redskins converted that into points via an eight yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon to bring Washington to within one at 14-13.

On the next Dallas possession, DeAngelo Hall intercepted Tony Romo, also on the Cowboys’ end of the field. The Redskins assumed possession of the football once again, and converted it into points once again when Alfred Morris ran for four yards to give Washington a lead at 20-14. They’d also increase their lead to 23-14 on their next drive when Forbath kicked his third field goal of the game. It was all going the Redskins’ way. Everything.

Dallas would get two clutch drives on their final two possessions of the game. First, they cut the Redskins lead to 23-17 thanks to a long drive resulting in a 25 yard Dan Bailey field goal after driving to the Redskins’ 7 yard line. On their next possession needing a touchdown, they got one on a 4th and Goal from Washington’s 10 yard line when Romo found DeMarco Murray for those 10 yards to put Dallas back ahead by a score of 24-23 with 1:08 left in the game.

The Redskins couldn’t advance the ball past their own 17 yard line on their final possession, giving the Cowboys the win at 24-23.

Romo was 17/27 with 226 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Murray ran for 96 yards on 22 carries. Terrance Williams caught four passes for 84 yards. Bryant also had four receptions for 73 yards and one TD.

Cousins—21/36 for 197 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Morris ran for 88 yards on 24 carries and one touchdown. Pierre Garcon led the receiving effort for the Redskins with 10 receptions, 144 yards and one touchdown. Also, Fletcher finished with six tackles in his final home contest.

With everyone playing division rivals in Week 17, Washington heads to the Meadowlands to close the season at the New York Giants while the Cowboys travel back to Arlington to play the Eagles for the NFC East title.

Jingle Bells

Dec 22, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le

The team that the Cowboys saw while they were on the receiving end of last week’s comeback victory—the Green Bay Packers, were still firmly in control of its own destiny thanks to that win in Arlington last week. This meant another week of “Will Aaron Rodgers Play?” speculation that surely had the entire state of Wisconsin constantly checking for any news regarding #12.

Again, similar to last week, reports seemed promising before head coach Mike McCarthy announced that Matt Flynn would once again be the starter for the Packers’ Week 16 home matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rodgers, also like last week, was not cleared by doctors to play.

“Awww, man!”—entire state of Wisconsin when they heard the news.

In fact, a recent report said Rodgers was never really close to returning.

Green Bay is not the only place whose playoff aspirations are dim, but yet brightening. Earlier in the year, the Pittsburgh Steelers were all but finished in the grand scheme of things in the AFC. Coming into this game at Lambeau, they were 6-8 with an outside shot of still being able to play football in January. They defeated their division rival Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field by a score of 30-20 last week on Sunday Night Football.

As if that wasn’t enough to make this game interesting, add in the fact that Lambeau did resemble, dare I say, the Frozen Tundra as this one was played under snowy conditions. After all, football without snow in December simply is not football.

It’s more or less basketball with pads, pigskin, and cleats.

These conditions resembled more of those Santa would be proud of rather than those that occurred when Pittsburgh and Green Bay faced off in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium. And just like on that day, the team in green and gold scored first when Flynn threw to Jarrett Boykin for five yards and a touchdown on the Packers’ second possession of the game. 7-0 Green Bay.

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers answered on their ensuing possession when he threw to Emmanuel Sanders for one yard to tie the game at 7.

This game would remain stalled at 7-7 until late in the second quarter when a seven play, 72 yard drive with 1:53 left in the half concluded on a 14 yard touchdown run from Eddie Lacy. That made it 14-7 Packers. Pittsburgh attempted to answer with one of their own, but had to settle for a Shaun Suisham field goal from 31 yards out with two seconds to play in the half. 14-10 Packers at halftime.

The Steelers received the ball coming out of the halftime period. Maybe Roethlisberger gave their halftime speech as their opening drive in the second half resulted in a Big Ben 13 yard run for a touchdown to give the Steelers the lead at 17-14.

Roethlisberger running? That’s notable in itself on any football column given that the idea of him being outside of the pocket is foreign territory to #7.

Midway through the third quarter, a sequence occurred that more or less resembled Halloween or Groundhog Day (which they know a lot about in Western Pennsylvania) rather than Christmas. On a first and 10 from the Steelers’ two yard line, Le’Veon Bell was tackled Jacob Lattimore and A.J. Hawk. After a challenge, was ruled down by contact. Bell fumbled and the ball was recovered by Tramon Williams at the 3 yard line. Green Bay then couldn’t convert a touchdown from the Steelers’ 3 yard line, so they had to settle for a field goal, instead. Mason Crosby’s 25 yard attempt was blocked, but a penalty on the Steelers gave the ball back to the Packers in which a short run from Lacy gave the Packers the lead back at 21-17.

That sequence was probably less confusing to explain than your average Week 16-17 playoff scenario.

The Steelers were not dazed or confused as evidenced on their next drive that concluded in a Roethlisberger TD pass to Matt Spaeth. Steelers 24-21. Offensive touchdowns were followed by Pittsburgh defensive touchdowns when Matt Flynn was intercepted by Cortez Allen at the Green Bay 40 on a pass intended for Boykin. Allen made it a Pick 6. 31-21 Pittsburgh.

But, the Packers would score on their next two possessions. 31-21 became 31-24 on a 22 yard field goal from Crosby even though they drove to the Steelers 4 yard line. A six play, 58 yard drive on their following possession resulted in a John Kuhn touchdown run to tie the game back at 31.

The following Packer drive quickly became a Steeler one when Flynn fumbled at the Green Bay 17 yard line that was recovered by Brett Keisel after Troy Polamalu forced the turnover. With a short field to work with, Pittsburgh took full advantage and got seven points out of it via a short touchdown run from Bell. 38-31 Steelers.

Green Bay had one more chance to send this one into overtime, and was poised and ready to do it as they were in a 2nd and goal situation from the Steelers’ 1 yard line before they were flagged for a false start. Flynn was looking for Boykin in the end zone, but the pass was incomplete. Pittsburgh won 38-31.

The Steelers’ playoff cause via the Wild Card in the AFC was aided by earlier L’s from the Dolphins and Ravens. The Chargers did beat the Raiders 26-13.

Roethlisberger was 16/28 for 167 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Le’Veon Bell—26 carries for 124 yards. Antonio Brown caught six passes for 105 yards.

Flynn threw 21/39 for 232 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Lacy ran for 84 yards on 15 carries while James Jones caught nine passes for 84 yards. Boykin had five receptions for 54 yards and one touchdown. Jordy Nelson also caught three passes for 46 yards.

Let another week of Aaron Rodgers speculation commence…wait for it…wait for it…now. Honestly, all we need is someone to say the phrase “Rodgers Watch” & this thing is complete.

The Steelers return to Pittsburgh to end their regular season against the Cleveland Browns. As for the Packers, they will travel on the road (with or without Rodgers) to Chicago to play the Bears with the NFC North on the line.

Jolly Ol’ St. Nick

Dec 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) throws the ball during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Chicago Bears 54-11. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Actually, the earlier portions of Sunday Week 16 couldn’t have been more auspicious for aficionados of “Da Bears”. Earlier in the day, the New York Giants defeated the Detroit Lions at Ford Field to send them to 7-8 as well as eliminating them from playoff contention. Also, there was the Packers loss to Pittsburgh in Lambeau. All the Bears needed to do was to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field and they would win the NFC North.

Unfortunately for Bears fans, no one gave their team the memo.

The Bears’ road game in Philly at the Eagles was flexed to NBC’s Sunday Night Football, but prior to that, they won 38-31 over the Cleveland Browns in Jay Cutler’s return as Chicago’s starting quarterback.

Cutler being reinserted as starting QB was not a popular decision in the City of Broad Shoulders as the team was running on all cylinders under backup QB Josh McCown, who threw 13 TDs and only one interception. Cutler initially was throwing picks left and right in that game against Cleveland before eventually finishing with three touchdown passes en route to the victory.

Eagles fans were still scratching their heads after their defense went on the road to Mall of America Field in Minnesota and gave up 40 points to a Minnesota Vikings team that was playing without Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, or Christian Ponder. That was a game Philly should’ve won going away and that no one outside the Land of 10,000 Lakes had the Vikes winning.

Any given Sunday. Any. Given. Sunday.

Also at question was whether either team would play its starters or rest them for Week 17. The Cowboys’ earlier victory over the Redskins made this game meaningless, playoff-wise, for the Eagles, but the Bears could clinch the division given the fact that the Packers and Lions lost earlier in the day.

Again, no one got the Bears the memo regarding its playoff scenario—Win and In.

This one was a rout—and it began early. On the Eagles’ first possession of the game, Nick Foles connected with Riley Cooper for five yards and a touchdown.

Offense, defense, and special teams are the three “phases” of football. The Chicago Bears failed at all three. On the ensuing kickoff, Devin Hester (who has made a name for himself by returning punts and kickoffs for touchdowns) fumbled at the Chicago 35 yard line. Bradley Fletcher recovered & the Philadelphia offense went to work again.

When it comes to playing the Eagles, rule #4080 is to remember that their running game is “Shady”. It was 14-0 on his short touchdown run for one yard.

14-0 became 21-0 on Foles’ second TD pass of the game as he found Brent Celek for 10 yards. A pattern was developing that surely was making Bears fans turn off their TVs and radios.

Late in the second quarter an Alex Henery field goal increased Philly’s lead to 24-0. The Bears did get points on the board in their final possession before time expired at the end of the half as they did convert on a 50 yard field goal from Robbie Gould.

After an Eagles three and out towards the midpoint of the third quarter, they punted and pinned the Bears deep in their own side of the field—more specifically, their 2 yard line. The first play for the Bears was a run play to Matt Forte, but he fell inside the end zone with his knee down prior to the ball crossing the plane all the way outside the end zone. Chip Kelly challenged that Forte was down by contact and he won. 26-3 Eagles on a safety.

At this point, the Chicago NBC affiliate (WMAQ-TV Channel 5) should have a “viewer discretion advised” message coming out of commercial breaks. The ensuing Eagles possession resulted in LeSean McCoy’s second touchdown run of the game. 33-3 Eagles.

Two Bears possessions later towards the end of the third quarter, the Bears got their lone positive occasion in this game when Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall for six yards and six points. 33-9 Eagles. Their following two point conversion attempt was also successful when Cutler threw to Earl Bennett. 33-11 Philadelphia.

That had to make Eagles fans a little bit nervous as Philadelphia had lost huge leads against the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals in earlier games only to let those teams back into those matchups. Philadelphia won those games, but not without making plenty in the Delaware Valley lose their nails in the process.

The Eagles weren’t having it this time. They followed the Bears’ touchdown & two point conversion with a 10 yard TD of their own from Chris Polk. 40-11 Eagles.

On the next Bears possession, a Cutler pass intended for Bennett instead was completed to Brandon Boykin, who returned it 54 yards for a Pick Six. 47-11 Philly.

“Save some of these for Dallas next week!”—Eagles fans

“McCown! McCown! McCown! McCown! McCown!”—Bears fans

With this one clearly out of reach, McCown would be the Bears QB for the remainder of the game. 47-11 became 54-11 on a 65 yard run from Bryce Brown. It was precisely how it ended as well at 54-11.

Clearly, this was a statement win for the Eagles as they had to get last week’s mildew of the Minneapolis defeat off of them. It looks like this team is ready for Dallas next week. The Bears will likely stay with Cutler, but there’s no doubt that fans in the Windy City will be the ones driving the Cutler/McCown talk leading up to their game vs. Green Bay.

Foles threw 21/25 for 230 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. McCoy ran for 133 yards on 18 carries (more than the entire Bears rushing attack). Brown also, on nine rushing attempts, had 115 yards. Celek and Cooper caught three passes for 58 and 53 yards, respectively. Each had one touchdown.

Cutler was 20/35 for 222 yards, for one touchdown, and one interception. Forte was held to 29 yards on nine carries. Cutler also kept the ball twice and finished with 15 yards rushing. Michael Bush was in the game late and got 20 yards on seven rushing attempts. Martellus Bennett caught the ball five times for 85 yards. Alshon Jeffrey finished with 76 receiving yards on six receptions. Brandon Marshall also finished with 36 receiving yards on four receptions and one touchdown.

As mentioned earlier, Chicago and Philadelphia will both play in games to decide their divisions to finish the regular season—the Bears vs. the Packers and the Eagles at the Dallas Cowboys.

Other Games

Bills defeat Dolphins 19-0

Bengals defeat Vikings 42-14

Colts defeat Chiefs 23-7

Rams defeat Buccaneers 23-13

Jets defeat Browns 24-13

Titans defeat Jaguars 20-16

Giants defeat Lions 23-20

Cardinals defeat Seahawks 17-10

Chargers defeat Raiders 26-13

Patriots defeat Ravens 41-7

Falcons at 49ers (8:30, Monday Night Football)

If the Playoffs Started Today…

AFC:

Broncos (12-3, clinched AFC West, first round bye)

Patriots (11-4, clinched AFC East)

Bengals (10-5, clinched AFC North)

Colts (10-5, clinched AFC South)

Chiefs (11-4, clinched playoff berth)

Dolphins (8-7)

Ravens (8-7)

Chargers (8-7)

Steelers (7-8)

NFC:

Seahawks (12-3, clinched playoff berth)

Panthers (11-4, clinched playoff berth)

Eagles (9-6)

Bears (8-7)

49ers (10-4)

Saints (10-5)

Cardinals (10-5)

Cowboys (8-7)

Packers (7-7-1)

Topics: NFL

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