AFC East: 2013 Week 12 Rapid Reaction
November, 25, 2013
By Mike Reiss | ESPN.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some thoughts on the New England Patriots' 34-31 overtime victory over the Denver Broncos:
What it means: What a game. The Patriots played a pathetic first half and then turned in a stellar second half to roar back from a 24-0 deficit and win in overtime, when Bill Belichick's decision to take the wind had the potential to blow up with "fourth-and-2" type intensity. Belichick always preaches the importance of playing 60 minutes. On this night, about 43 minutes got the job done in what marks the biggest deficit Brady has overcome. A special-teams play was the difference -- the Broncos' Tony Carter touched a punt, which the Patriots recovered to set up the game-winning, 31-yard field goal. The Patriots improve to 8-3, while the Broncos fall to 9-2 in a game that could later have an impact on the race for a top playoff seed.
Brady does it again: In the 14th installment of the Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning rivalry, Brady played the more consistent game. Manning showed he was up to the task by leading a game-tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Brady is now 10-4 in his career in games against Manning-led teams. Two great competitors doing their thing.
Stock watch: Running backs Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount both lost fumbles in the first quarter and didn't play again, as their miscues put the Patriots in an early hole. Ball security has been an issue for both players, and their roles going forward could be affected.
Defense does its part: While the Broncos ran the ball more than many anticipated -- and had impressive results -- the Patriots defense held its ground enough against the NFL's highest-scoring team. A forced fumble by linebacker Dane Fletcher in the third quarter, recovered by linebacker Brandon Spikes, contributed to the big momentum swing.
Edelman with the Welker-type effort: Julian Edelman, the receiver once viewed as the replacement for Wes Welker but was then trumped by Danny Amendola, turned in a Welker-type performance. Edelman was sensational in two roles -- receiver and punt returner -- providing a big spark on a night when Welker's return was a big storyline. If there was one downer, it was the missed connection in the end zone that could have given the Patriots a 10-point lead (they instead settled for a field goal) in the fourth quarter.
Welker's return not a big factor: The Patriots played highlights of Welker before the game, and the Kraft family had a thank-you message for him on the scoreboard after the highlights played. The fans cheered. Welker and Belichick shared an embrace after the game. But overall, Welker's return wasn't a huge factor in the game.
Injuries to monitor: Third-year right tackle Marcus Cannon, who has been elevated to the top unit after starter Sebastian Vollmer sustained a season-ending leg injury Oct. 27, left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. No announcement was made during the game, but Blount might have sustained a concussion on the hit on which he fumbled. Starting cornerback Alfonzo Dennard left the game in the second quarter and did not return. He entered the day questionable with a knee injury Receiver Aaron Dobson didn't play on the final five drives, but it was unclear if that was injury-related. Veteran defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga didnt play in the second half, although it was unclear if that was because of injury.
What's next: The Patriots visit the Houston Texans on Sunday, Dec. 1. (1 p.m. ET).
November, 24, 2013
By James Walker | ESPN.com
MIAMI -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 20-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
What it means: Every game is crucial down the stretch, and the Dolphins lost a big one in the final minute to fall to 5-6. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw a game-winning, 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen with 43 seconds remaining. The Dolphins led 16-6 at intermission and couldn’t hold on against Carolina at home. They are now grouped with several teams in a battle for the final wild-card spot in the AFC.
Stock Watch: Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace’s stock is certainly up after this game. Wallace had two huge catches of 53 and 57 yards in the first half that gave the Dolphins some early momentum. Wallace beat Captain Munnerlyn with ease on both plays and finished with five receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown. But Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill did miss on a deep connection late in the game that could have made a difference.
As far as stock down, Miami’s running game again pulled a disappearing act. The Dolphins struggled moving the ball on the ground all game and had just 52 rushing yards. Tannehill was the team’s leading rusher with 36 yards. The inconsistency of Miami’s running game has been an issue all year.
Thomas injured: Miami lost a key contributor in the second half in running back Daniel Thomas. He injured his left ankle in the third quarter and didn’t return. Thomas led the team in rushing in last week’s win over the San Diego Chargers. If he misses time, that may provide an opportunity to rookie running back Mike Gillislee to get backup reps next week.
What’s next: The Dolphins have their first of two huge games upcoming against the AFC East rival New York Jets (5-6). Miami will travel to East Rutherford, N.J., next Sunday for a road game with major playoff implications. Both teams are fighting for the final wild-card spot in the AFC.
November, 24, 2013
By Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
BALTIMORE -- A few thoughts on the New York Jets' 19-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:
What it means: So much for the win-one, lose-one trend. The Jets (5-6) dropped their second straight, damaging their wild-card hopes. They fell to 2-6 in the conference, which means their chances of winning a tiebreaker are remote, as of now. It's hard to win when you can't score, and the Jets were utterly inept on offense, producing only 199 total yards and going just 1-for-12 on third down. Yes, it was windy, but that didn't stop the Ravens (5-6). Geno Smith was terrible, the pass protection stunk, the receivers were invisible and the play calling was predictable. In short, it was a total disaster.
Stock watch: Smith continued his funk, looking hopeless against the Ravens' pass rush. For the first 54 minutes, he had only four completions and 42 yards. He finished with two interceptions, increasing his total to 18. His passer rating was an unsightly 14.7, one week after a 10.1 stinker. The question is, what now? Our prediction is that Rex Ryan will stick with Smith because Matt Simms is an unproven commodity. Either way, the Jets are in a lousy position.
Reed's lousy homecoming: The Jets signed former Ravens great Ed Reed to help their problems against the deep ball. So what happens? The future Hall of Famer looked old and slow on Jacoby Jones' 66-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter, which iced the game. Jones beat rookie CB Dee Milliner (so what else is new?) and got behind Reed, who was in his customary deep-middle spot. He showed no recovery speed whatsoever, and that was that -- the first touchdown of the game. Earlier, CB Antonio Cromartie was burned on a 60-yard reception. The Jets emphasized the deep ball in practice, yet they allowed Joe Flacco to throw for 273 yards in brutally windy conditions. The secondary is a bust.
Trickeration: Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg tricked up the running game, featuring a heavy dose of the Wildcat, especially early in the game. The Jets also threw a pass out of the Wildcat, with Josh Cribbs finding Smith for 13 yards. All things considered, it might have been the Jets' best play of the game. Clearly, Mornhinweg's goal was to keep the Ravens' rugged front seven off-balance with different looks. The strategy also was a way to take pressure off the turnover-prone Smith.
Sal Alosi revisited: The Jets' bench was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct in the third quarter because an assistant coach got in the way of an official on a long punt return by Jones. Naturally, it conjured up memories of the infamous Alosi trip in 2010. This time, it wasn't intentional. The unidentified coach simply got caught up in watching the play and wandered too close to the boundary. Leave it to the Jets to entertain us with a nostalgic moment. They got lucky because it didn't lead to any points by the Ravens.
What's ahead: The Jets return home for their first meeting of the season with the Miami Dolphins.