Peyton Manning’s homecoming falls flat, thanks to a big difference in supporting cast performance. The Jets get a win both lucky and deserved all in one, the Cowboys grab first place, the Bengals win a wild one in Detroit and the improbable Chiefs are the last unbeaten team. These games lead up TheSportsNotebook’s NFL analysis as we run through all the action of NFL Week 7…
Indianapolis 39 Denver 33: This game was an eye-opener. Once we got past the emotion of Peyton Manning coming home and the unnecessary drama created by Indianapolis owner Robert Irsay what we saw was a display that pitted one very complete football team against one great quarterback. Even in today’s NFL, the complete team still wins.
Indianapolis ran the ball, with 121 yards rushing. They pressured the quarterback with four sacks, plus a Robert Mathis hit on Manning that forced a fumble and ended up as a safety for the Colts. Indianapolis played relatively smart football, letting Denver commit 12 penalties. Andrew Luck’s performance–21/38 for 228 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, was good, although not great. The thing is, when a complete team effort is taking place a quarterback need only be good and mistake-free. Luck was both.
Manning went 29/49 for 386 yards, with three touchdowns of his own against one interception. He didn’t have any help from the run game and was playing from a deep hole most of the second half, as the Colts took a 33-14 lead.
Denver’s problems in every area except quarterback play are not going away. Indianapolis has now beaten the Broncos and 49ers.
NY Jets 30 New England 27 (OT): There’s a lot of media discussion surrounding the atrocious interpretation of an obscure rule about whether defenders can push against each other to create momentum in blocking a field goal. The Patriots were flagged for it, and the Jets were allowed to re-kick the game-winning field goal in overtime. If you reduce the game to strictly this, the Pats got robbed, particularly given they were about to take over the ball on the 46-yard line.
But let it not be overlooked that the Jets played better football. Both quarterbacks were erratic in terms of completion percentage and each threw a pick-six, but I think the Jets will take a wash between Geno Smith and Tom Brady any day they can get it. Furthermore, New York simply pounded the ball on the ground, with Chris Ivory getting 104 yards and New England not able to generate a rush attack.
The Patriots are 5-2 and still atop the AFC East, but the Jets at 4-3 now have to be seen as a legitimate contender.
Dallas 17 Philadelphia 3: Of all the things one didn’t see coming, this outbreak of excellence from the Dallas defense had to top the list. A unit that can be sporadic in any case, was dealing with key injuries. But they chased Nick Foles from the game and shut down LeSean McCoy. The Dallas offense wasn’t all that good, but Tony Romo got hooked up with Dez Bryant enough to generate some yardage and churn out a win. A “battle” of 3-3 teams for first place in the NFC East goes Dallas’ way.
Cincinnati 27 Detroit 24: A 54-yard field goal from Mike Nugent at the gun ends a back-and-forth game at Ford Field. The game, as befitting the result, was evenly played. If we had to pick a difference, Andy Dalton was a little more efficient than Matthew Stafford in the passing game. Each were in the high 300s yardage-wise, but Dalton was 24/34, with Stafford at 28/51. It’s another inter-conference win for the AFC, and you wonder if a couple 8-8 teams are going to make the playoffs out of the NFC.
Kansas City 17 Houston 16: Kansas City is now 7-0 and in the big picture the fact that last year’s disaster is this year’s last undefeated team is the big story. In the short-term, the fact Houston got efficient play from new quarterback Case Keenum (15/25, 271 yards, no interceptions) gives the Texans some renewed hope. In fact, if Houston can just match Kansas City on the ground, an area both teams take justifiable pride in, the Texans sneak out with an upset.
The Chiefs opted to go for it on a fourth-and-goal play in the fourth quarter to effectively go for the throat and get an eight-point lead. I agree with the call–the risk of not stretching the lead to four points is made up for by pinning the opposition inside the 5-yard line. Although the failure to get the touchdown meant Kansas City didn’t cover the (-6.5) number and probably caused some cursing in Las Vegas casinos.
Washington 45 Chicago 41: RG3 was brilliant, save for one ill-advised throw early that Charles Tillman turned into a pick-6. The Redskins quarterback made outstanding throws on the run, took off in the read option and ran for 84 yards. The threat of his running revitalized Alfred Morris, who had 95 yards on 19 carries.
But those of us who are Redskins fans have to be realistic. We saw our team score 45 points, have Jay Cutler go out with a groin injury (he’s gone for at least four weeks) and still have to win in the final minute at home. This is not what you call sustainable success.
Pittsburgh 19 Baltimore 16: This game was everything the Steelers needed. To begin with, when you’re 1-4, any game that ends up with a victory falls in that category. And it was in the AFC North. And it was against their archrival.
But beyond the obvious, Pittsburgh did offensively what they haven’t done all season and that’s run the football. Le’Veon Bell had 93 yards and the team overall averaged nearly five a pop. That’s the way you slow a pass rush, like the one Baltimore brings with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. It was enough for Pittsburgh to win it on a last-play field goal.
Green Bay 31 Cleveland 13: Nice easy day for the Packers. If Eddie Lacy keeps running like this–82 yards–Green Bay will be a serious problem for anyone in the NFC playoffs.
San Francisco 31 Tennessee 17: Colin Kaepernick isn’t spectacular, but his 13/21 for 199 yards was one of his most efficient performances of the last month. The 49ers also ran the ball well, played good defense and only a meaningless late touchdown from the Titans kept this from appearing as the rout that it was.
Seattle 34 Arizona 22: Another game not as close as the score made it look. Seattle got 91 yards from Marshawn Lynch and sacked Carson Palmer seven times, demonstrating complete control of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Atlanta 31 Tampa Bay 23: Matt Ryan showed why he’s an excellent quarterback, going without Julio Jones and Roddy White and instead simply targeting Harry Douglas for seven catches and 149 yards, part of an almost perfect day for the Atlanta quarterback. But the Falcons need a big winning streak, and 18 rush yards, while allowing 111 is not going to get you there.
Buffalo 23 Miami 21: With Thad Lewis playing quarterback for the Bills and the game in Miami, this has to qualify as the most shocking upset of Week 7. Ryan Tannehill was horrible, at just 19/37 and throwing two interceptions. Just when I was starting to have some confidence in Tannehill, he reminds me why I thought taking him with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft was so dumb.
Carolina 30 St. Louis 15: Sam Bradford is lost for the season, although I don’t know that Kellen Clemens can’t do just as mediocre a job as Bradford had been doing in St. Louis. How about Cam Newton though? He was a razor-sharp 15/17 for 204 yards, and this marks two good games in a row for the erratic Carolina quarterback.
San Diego 24 Jacksonville 6: Obviously no one gets any props for beating Jacksonville this year, but I think we should point out that San Diego played very efficiently in spite of this being a clear letdown spot on a short week (they had beaten the Colts on Monday Night) and then factor in the difficulties West Coast teams often have with early kicks on the East. The Bolts got 110 yards rushing from Ryan Mathews, a sharp day from Philip Rivers and moved to 4-3.
NY Giants 23 Minnesota 7: The Giants came in winless, the Vikings had only won once and this game lived up to the “stakes.” No one did anything well, and Josh Freeman’s debut in purple-and-gold saw him go 20-for-53. New York is on the board, but there is nothing to indicate they’ve solved their problems.