AFC South: 2013 Week 13 Rapid Reaction
December, 1, 2013
By Michael DiRocco | ESPN.com
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 32-28 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
What it means: It has been a while -- nearly three years, in fact -- but the Jaguars finally have a winning streak. Their victory over the Browns marks the first time they have won back-to-back games since Weeks 13-14 of the 2010 season. Jacksonville (3-9) has won three of its four games since the bye week. All of those victories have come on the road, which marks the first time since 2007 the Jaguars have won three consecutive road games.
Stock watch: It had been a pretty miserable homecoming for Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts, who grew up in Cleveland and played collegiately at Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio -- until the Jaguars' final drive. Browns cornerback Joe Haden had pretty much shut Shorts down and Shorts hurt himself with two drops. But he came up big when it mattered most, beating Haden for a 20-yard game-winning touchdown pass with 40 seconds remaining. On the other end of the spectrum, the secondary really struggled. The Jaguars had little trouble with Houston's Andre Johnson last week, holding the All-Pro to just two catches. But they appeared to be playing a man short because Josh Gordon absolutely shredded them for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Gordon's last touchdown was a 95-yard catch and run in which safety Winston Guy went for the interception instead of the tackle and rookie cornerback Dwayne Gratz chased Gordon for 20-plus yards and never dove for Gordon's legs.
Ace in the hole: With Shorts a nonfactor for most of the game and Mike Brown playing with a very sore shoulder, the Jaguars needed somebody to step up at receiver, and Ace Sanders did, catching five passes for 38 yards and carrying it once for 4 yards in the first half. Those don't sound like big numbers, but Sanders converted four third downs. He finished with a team-high eight catches for 67 yards, including a 25-yarder on the Jaguars' game-winning touchdown drive.
Turnover binge: The Jaguars went from trailing 14-7 to leading 20-14 in less than a two-minute span at the end of the first half thanks to three turnovers. Two were interceptions, which double the amount the Jaguars' secondary had entering the game. Rookie safety Johnathan Cyprien picked off the first pass of his career, which led to Maurice Jones-Drew's touchdown pass to Marcedes Lewis to tie the game with 1:24 remaining. Gratz intercepted Brandon Weeden's next pass, which led to Josh Scobee's 44-yard field goal and a 17-14 lead with 52 seconds remaining. The Browns tried to drive for a field goal but defensive end Jason Babin knocked the ball from Weeden's hand and defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks recovered the ball and returned it to the Cleveland 18-yard line with five seconds remaining. Scobee hit a 36-yard field goal to give the Jaguars a six-point lead.
What's next: The Jaguars will play host to the Houston Texans on Thursday night.
December, 1, 2013
By Mike Wells | ESPN.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 22-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
What it means: It was far from a thing of beauty -- it was even ugly at times -- but the Colts control their own fate in the AFC South. The victory gives them a three-game lead over the Titans with four games left in the season. The ageless wonder Adam Vinatieri kicked five field goals and the Colts found their ground game on their final offensive series to seal the game. Running back Donald Brown had six carries for 46 yards on the drive that gave them an eight-point lead. He capped it off with a touchdown run. Brown, who replaced Trent Richardson in the starting lineup, had eight carries for 8 yards prior to the final drive.
No protection: The Colts shook up their offensive line some by moving right guard Mike McGlynn to the bench and replacing him with Jeff Linkenbach. That didn’t stop the Titans from being able to get after Andrew Luck. The Titans sacked Luck five times, including four times in the second quarter alone.
Getting defensive: The Colts also changed things up some in the secondary. Cassius Vaughn had been starting for the injured Greg Toler at cornerback, but he was replaced by Darius Butler. The demotion woke Vaughn up, as he intercepted Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick twice. Linebacker Robert Mathis added to his league lead in sacks -- 15.5 -- when he got a strip-sack of Fitzpatrick in the second half. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman iced the game when he picked off Fitzpatrick's pass in Colts territory with 24 seconds left.
Still no offense in the first half: The good news for the Colts is that they went into the half with a 12-7 lead. The bad news is that they still can’t score any touchdowns in the first half. The Colts have had 31 possessions and 153 plays in the first half of their past five games. They haven’t scored a touchdown in any of those halves.
What’s next: The Colts can clinch the AFC South if they can go on the road and beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 8.
December, 1, 2013
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Tennessee Titans' 22-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts a Lucas Oil Stadium:
What it means: The Titans blew a chance to get back to leading the pack for the sixth seed in the AFC and couldn’t close to within a game of the Colts in the AFC South. They are now 5-7. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. Kicker Adam Vinatieri made up for the Colts' inability to find the end zone until the end, when they drove 92 yards in 11 plays over 6:12, capped by a 4-yard Donald Brown touchdown that provided the final margin.
Stock watch: Tight end Taylor Thompson was called on for a major role with Craig Stevens inactive because of a concussion and Delanie Walker lost in the first half to a concussion of his own. Thompson looked thoroughly overmatched, booting a couple of catchable balls and hardly providing a reliable option for Fitzpatrick.
Four in a row: The Titans have played reasonably well in four games against the Colts since Chuck Pagano took over as coach and Andrew Luck took over as quarterback. But Tennessee is 0-4 in those games as the Colts have found a way every time in the second half.
Giant goat: Well away from the tackle at the very end of the first half, linebacker Moise Fokou shoved fullback Stanley Havili in the back and drew a personal foul penalty. The 15 yards put the Colts in range for a 37-yard Vinatieri field goal.
What’s next: The Titans travel to Denver for a matchup with Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
December, 1, 2013
By Tania Ganguli | ESPN.com
HOUSTON -- Thoughts from the Houston Texans' 34-31 loss to the New England Patriots at Reliant Stadium on Sunday.
What it means: The Texans remain at the bottom of the league at 2-10, but showed more life on Sunday than they have in past weeks. The end result was familiar to the Texans, though, and another step in their march toward what could be the No. 1 overall draft pick.
Stock watch: Quarterback Case Keenum followed his worst game of the season with a better showing. It was a mixture of good and bad for the young quarterback. Keenum showed some lack of awareness in the pocket, but showed poise on some throws and got his first rushing touchdown in the NFL. Keenum threw for 272 yards, completing 15 of 28 passes. He threw one interception and no touchdowns.
Running game makes progress: What was a productive part of the Texans' offense last season struggled in 2013. The Texans scored only two rushing touchdowns in their first 11 games. Against the Patriots, they scored four -- three by Ben Tate and one on a 5-yard run by Keenum. Tate had his ankle examined and wrapped on the sideline in the first half, but that didn't prevent him from having his best game of the season. It's no coincidence that, with a productive run game, the Texans' offense was able to keep pace with the Patriots' offense.
Defense bends in the second half: The Texans' defense played a solid first half -- the Patriots had only 108 yards passing -- but its second-half pass defense struggled. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished the game with 371 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception.
What's next: The Texans travel to Jacksonville for a nationally televised Thursday night game. They'll be only 11 days removed from the last matchup between the teams. While the Texans weren't supposed to have any trouble with the Jaguars in their first meeting, they had plenty.