NFL Week 9 had a lot going on–Nick Foles looked like a Hall of Fame quarterback while Aaron Rodgers was knocked out. The collapses in Atlanta and Baltimore continued, while Seattle and Indianapolis showed some escape-ability. But TheSportsNotebook’s NFL analysis is going to begin with the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers, two enigmatic organizations that are showing themselves to be for real.
NY Jets 26 New Orleans 20: I’m sure there will be an idiotic media member somewhere who will proclaim that Geno Smith outplayed Drew Brees because Smith’s team won the game. In reality, Smith went 8/19 for 115 yards, while Brees was 30/51 for 382 yards. But when a team has to throw that often, it spells problems.
The Jets intercepted Brees twice, while Smith played mistake-free, a luxury he had because of how good the New York running game was. Chris Ivory ran for 139 yards, while the New Orleans running game had nothing. The Jets might throw out disastrous games like last week in Cincinnati, but Rex Ryan’s team is 5-4 and has home wins over the Patriots and Saints.
Carolina 34 Atlanta 10: Neither Cam Newton or Matt Ryan played all that well–Newton acknowledged as much in the postgame press conference, at least regarding the first half. The Carolina quarterback was able to at least make a few plays though, and Ryan threw three interceptions.
This was another game where the differences in running game spelled the ultimate difference. Carolina didn’t overpower Atlanta, but the Panthers got 133 rush yards, while the return of Stephen Jackson has done little to rejuvenate the Falcons. Eventually, Atlanta just cracked. This game was 17-10 after three quarters before the Panthers pulled away. They are now 5-3 and have pulled to within a game of the Saints in the NFC South.
Cleveland 24 Baltimore 18: We’ll fold the other collapsing team losing to the other emerging team right here under Carolina-Atlanta. The Ravens offensive line is coming under a lot of heat, and deservedly so. Before blaming them for this loss, let’s consider though, that they were at least matched in incompetence by Cleveland’s offensive front. Neither the Ravens nor the Browns had a running game to speak of in this game, and the Browns line gave up more sacks (5-2) and allowed their quarterback to be hit more frequently (8-6).
The difference is that Joe Flacco, he who insisted that the organization pay him more than Tom Brady in the offseason, was outplayed by Jason Campbell, he who has kicked around to most every team in the NFL since being drafted by the Redskins in 2005. Campbell was 23/35 for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Flacco was a mediocre 24/41 for 250 yards and one interception. Campbell made a clutch fourth-down throw under pressure that iced the game late.
Moving on to the games with the big quarterback news…
Philadelphia 49 Oakland 20: I love sports history, so I certainly have to tip my hat to Nick Foles and his record-tying seven touchdown passes. Foles joins Peyton Manning, who did it in Week 1, and Joe Kapp, who quarterbacked the Minnesota Vikings to the 1969 Super Bowl.
Beyond a hat tip though, I can’t rush to judgment about Foles being the future of the Eagles offense. This is a quarterback whose offense was shut down by an injury-riddled Dallas defense two weeks ago. Let’s see some sustained consistency, not just spectacular outbursts followed by miserable performances. In that sense, Foles is a microcosm of Chip Kelly’s offense as a whole.
Chicago 27 Green Bay 20: Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone early in the early game and is said to be out for about three weeks. This constitutes as good of an excuse as there is for losing a football game, but in watching the Monday Night game, I felt like the Packers still gave away an opportunity.
Green Bay was still at home, and they got a big game from Eddie Lacy, who ran for 150 yards. The Packer defense had been playing pretty well of late, even without Clay Matthews. When Lacy broke a long touchdown run, and then the Packers turned a recovered onside kick into a field goal and a 20-17 lead in the third quarter, the game was there to be taken.
The defense let them down. The tackling was awful, the coverage subpar and the Josh McNown-led offense first took the lead back, then used up almost all of the last nine minutes on an 18-play drive for a field goal.
If the Packer defense gives the team anything, they win. Instead they cough up a game at a stretch of the season where they’re going to have to fight just to survive. Chicago pulls to 5-3 and even with both Green Bay ad Detroit in the NFC North.
The Houdini-style escapes…
Seattle 27 Tampa Bay 24 (OT): Russell Wilson made too many mistakes, with two interceptions, in spite of a solid ground game led by Marshawn Lynch, and the Seahawk defense inexplicably let Tampa Bay run all over them. In the end, Wilson delivers a late touchdown pass to tie and Seattle escapes to get to 8-1.
Indianapolis 27 Houston 24: The Colts didn’t run the ball, they let Case Keenum pick them apart, and Andrew Luck was wildly inaccurate, at 18/40. Trailing 24-6 in the third quarter, Luck showed his uncanny ability to make big plays though, throwing three touchdown passes in the final 19 minutes of play and stealing a big road win that kept his team two games up on Tennessee in the AFC South.
And a run through the rest of the Week 9 action…
Buffalo 23 Kansas City 13: It’s amazing how many games you can win when you avoid mistakes and just let the other team beat themselves. KC won the turnover battle 3-zip, and had two defensive touchdowns, including a 100-yard interception return. The Chiefs do have to be concerned about the 241 rush yards they gave up though.
Miami 22 Cincinnati 20 (OT): Andy Dalton was awful, throwing three interceptions, in spite of a strong running attack to support him, and then being sacked by Cameron Wake for a game-ending safety in overtime. Wake has been hurt for a lot of this season, but maybe his three-sack night will make people realize just how much he matters to this Dolphin team.
New England 55 Pittsburgh 31: Big days for both Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, as the final score indicates. The difference is that Brady got a little more help in the running game, and had no interceptions compared to Roethlisberger’s two. Funny how the rush game helps in keeping turnovers down. Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Rob Gronkowski all had 100-plus yards receiving days for the Pats. This game was tied 24-24 in the third quarter before New England blew it open.
Washington 30 San Diego 24 (OT): Another game where the rushing attack was the difference. While RG3 was efficient, and Pierre Garcon made some big-time catches, Alfred Morris was the difference-maker, going for 121 yards on 25 carries.
Dallas 27 Minnesota 23: It was a great day for Tony Romo. In spite of no ground support, as has been the norm lately, he throws for 337 yards and a game-winning touchdown with 35 seconds left. The Dallas win kept them ahead of both Philadelphia and Washington in the loss column in the NFC East.
Tennessee 28 St. Louis 21: A battle of Jeff Fisher’s current team and his old team, and a rematch of the 1999 Super Bowl. It was the battle of the running backs, as Chris Johnson and Zac Stacy had big games. The Titans get a hard-fought win, and at 4-4, are very much alive in the AFC playoff picture.