The winless teams get on the board, the bottom falls out of the bottom of the AFC playoff race and the NFC East continues to wallow in a hopelessness that makes mediocrity seem like a description overly kind. But the biggest development of NFL Week 10 was a pair of clutch road wins by a pair of teams whose stock is on the rise…
Carolina 10 San Francisco 9: It’s long past the time for the Carolina Panthers defense to start getting some love in the national media. They completely shut down Colin Kaepernick, holding him to 91 passing yards. Even more impressive, Carolina sacked the mobile 49er quarterback six times, and as the score indicates, kept the offense out of the end zone all day long.
Meaning no disrespect to Cam Newton who has played decent, but not great during his team’s five-game winning streak, the reason the Panthers are now a serious player in the NFC is because of their defense.
Detroit 21 Chicago 19: The Lions went outdoors and just physically won the battle up front in Chicago. Reggie Bush ran for 105 yards, while Matt Forte could get nothing going on the other end. While the Detroit front four only had two sacks, there was sustained pressure throughout the game and the Lions preserved the win by stopping a two-point conversion with 40 seconds left.
Bears’ coach Marc Trestman is coming under deserved heat for not only bringing back Jay Cutler from his groin injury, but leaving him in until the fourth quarter when Cutler was obviously hurt, and backup Josh McCown had played well in his two relief appearances–in fact, when Trestman finally did pull the trigger, it was McCown who led the drive that nearly tied the game.
If nothing else, watching Cutler fight to play as he limped around and was chased by Ndamakong Suh throughout the game should finally end this silly discussion about whether the Chicago quarterback is tough enough.
In the NFC East, nobody is over .500…
New Orleans 49 Dallas 17: Losing in New Orleans in prime-time is certainly not a cause for shame, and Dallas has plenty of company in getting lit up by Drew Brees in that circumstance. What was surprising was just how poorly Tony Romo played (10/24, 128 yards) and how the Saints’ ground game just ran right over Dallas, with Mark Ingram going for 145 yards. The Cowboys drop to 5-5 with the loss, depriving the division of its only winning team.
Minnesota 34 Washington 27: RG3 was sharp, going 24/37 for 281 yards, no interceptions, three touchdowns and two more third-down passes that tight ends dropped in the end zone. The Redskin running game, led by Alfred Morris was punishing. The defense contained Adrian Peterson.
Yet Washington managed to turn Christian Ponder into Fran Tarkenton, as the Viking quarterback went 17/21 for 174 yards. Then when Ponder banged up his hand, Matt Cassell came in and went 4/6 for 47 yards while leading drives for two key field goals. I would say the Redskin defense can’t sink any lower, but as any Twelve Step group will remind you, there’s always another bottom out there somewhere.
Philadelphia 27 Green Bay 13: Forget about Aaron Rodgers being hurt and then third-stringer Scott Tolzien having to come in for Green Bay. While it obviously mattered, there is no explaining away how the Packer defense–previously in the top five against the run–could be absolutely destroyed by LeSean McCoy, who ran for 155 yards. Nick Foles only threw 18 passes, but his 12 completions went for 228 yards. Finally, Packer kicker Mason Crosby blew a couple field goals. On a day when Green Bay needed the rest of their team to step it up at home, they all went in the opposite direction.
NY Giants 24 Oakland 20: The win was far from impressive–playing at home, the Giants turned it over three times and trailed 20-14 late in the third quarter. But they got 115 yards rushing from Andre Brown, got their third straight win and at 3-6, with wounded Green Bay coming to town are implausibly in the division race. Only in the NFC East.
The AFC had a few teams who came into the week at 4-4 and in the fight for the #6 seed in the playoffs. They all lost. It amounted to a great week for Jets fans, whose team was 5-4 and saw all the competitors slip back, including two who lost to the previously winless teams…
Jacksonville 29 Tennessee 27: It was a complete disaster for the Titans. Not only is the loss at home to the consensus worst team in the league, but it’s all about mistakes–three Tennessee turnovers, it’s not as close as the score looks (it took a late touchdown to cut the lead to two) and Jake Locker is gone for the year. A nice dark-horse season in Nashville went off the tracks.
Tampa Bay 22 Miami 19: The Dolphins got two rushing yards. Apparently driving one of your promising offensive lineman crazy with over-the-top hazing and pushing him over the edge has a negative effect on your football team.
Baltimore 20 Cincinnati 17 (OT): Baltimore actually moves up to 4-5 with this win, not down, although both teams looked like they were desperate to play their way out of the postseason. Andy Dalton threw three interceptions, his second straight mistake-riddled game since he supposedly “broke out” two weeks ago against the Jets. Can we have a new rule in the media that requires a player to do something well at least two weeks in a row before we put him in Canton?
Baltimore still nearly gave the game away, allowing a desperation pass at the end of regulation to tie the game and Joe Flacco continuing to play poorly.
Denver 28 San Diego 20: San Diego also drops to 4-5, although in this case it was at least expected. The Chargers showed some heart, cutting a 28-6 lead to eight points with nearly 11 minutes still to play, but couldn’t get over the top at home. Peyton Manning suffered a high ankle sprain, but he played the entire game and will be good to go again next Sunday.
Two other games involving division leaders…
Seattle 33 Atlanta 10: This just a beat-down in every possible way. Marshawn Lynch ran wild, Russell Wilson was both efficient and made big plays, and the Seahawks’ run defense was impenetrable and they kept all of Matt Ryan’s passes underneath.
St. Louis 38 Indianapolis 8: The Colts’ run defense was awful, as Zac Stacy continued his emergence running the ball for the Rams. Andrew Luck was no less atrocious, tossing three interceptions.
And the two remaining Week 10 games…
Arizona 27 Houston 24: Carson Palmer played an efficient game and the Cardinal defense repeatedly harassed Case Keenum, with ten QB hits on the Houston quarterback.
Pittsburgh 23 Buffalo 10: The Steelers got at least a semblance of a running game, with Le’Veon Bell getting 57 yards on 22 carries, and then a reverse by Emmanuel Sanders for 25 more gave Pittsburgh a decent rush average on the day. It shows how far the once-proud Steeler ground game has fallen that this is actually considered a nice showing.