NFL Nation: 2010 Week 13 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 45, Jets 3

December, 6, 2010
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots obliterated the New York Jets 45-3 on Monday night in Gillette Stadium.

What it means: Week 2 is a distant memory. The Patriots asserted command over the Jets and the entire AFC with a thorough demolition of a team that talked big and played small. The Patriots own the NFL's best record at 10-2, while the Jets have to be concerned with one of the league's most difficult schedules ahead.

What defensive issues: The Patriots went into the game ranked 32nd in total defense and 22nd in scoring defense, but played like world beaters against a team with dangerous offensive weapons. The Jets converted three of 12 third downs against a team that had yielded 51 percent. The Patriots allowed their fewest points of the season and won by their widest margin.

Quarterback no contest: Mark Sanchez was 3-0 against the AFC East with eight touchdowns and no interceptions entering Gillette Stadium. He failed to reach the end zone and threw three interceptions. Tom Brady was masterful, completing 21 of his 29 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.

Jets' all-weather offense melts: The Jets rushed for 152 yards, but that real estate seemed marginal in the context of the entire offense. Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, meanwhile, ran 18 times for 72 yards and two touchdowns.

Woodhead's revenge: Patriots running back Danny Woodhead went off against the team that cut him. He had four catches for a game-high 104 yards.

What's next: In Week 14, the Patriots will have a tough matchup at the Chicago Bears. The Jets will host the Miami Dolphins at the Meadowlands in hopes of getting back some momentum.

Rapid Reaction: Steelers 13, Ravens 10

December, 5, 2010
Here are some early thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' come-from-behind 13-10 victory over the Baltimore Ravens:

What it means: The Steelers (9-3) take a one-game lead over Baltimore (8-4) with four games remaining and avoid the season sweep to their biggest rival. Pittsburgh has the inside track to win the AFC North. The Steelers also have a shot at home field advantage throughout the playoffs depending on what happens to the New England Patriots (9-2) and New York Jets (9-2) down the stretch.

What I liked: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, despite an injured foot, took a beating but made enough key plays to improve to 8-2 in his career against the Ravens. His touchdown pass to running back Isaac Redman put the Steelers ahead for good. Both teams played hard-nosed defense in a game in which yards were hard to come by. Steelers safety Troy Polamalu caused a key fumble on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to set up Pittsburgh's final score.

What I didn't like: Baltimore collapsed in the fourth quarter. The Ravens seemed in control most of the game and took a touchdown lead into the fourth quarter. But Pittsburgh scored 10 unanswered points in the final period to escape with a win. Baltimore's defense allowed Pittsburgh to drive down the field for the first field goal, and Flacco's fumble set up Pittsburgh's game-winning touchdown. Flacco also short-armed a pass on fourth down that could have set up a field goal. It will be debated whether the Ravens should have tried a field goal with kicker Billy Cundiff to force overtime from Pittsburgh's 32.

Injuries aplenty: There were plenty of injuries throughout the game, which is typical of this physical rivalry. Roethlisberger suffered a broken nose in the first quarter but played through it. Steelers punter Daniel Sepulveda also had a knee injury in the first half and couldn’t punt, and tight end Heath Miller (concussion) was knocked out of the game in the third quarter after a brutal hit by Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain that may be subject to review by the league. For Baltimore, starting tight end Todd Heap had a hamstring injury and was knocked out of the game.

What's next: After another physically taxing game, both teams will try to recuperate and get healthy for next week. Pittsburgh will host the Cincinnati Bengals, who are on an NFL-high nine-game losing streak. The Ravens will travel to play the Houston Texans on "Monday Night Football."

INDIANAPOLIS -- David Buehler's 38-yard field goal with 8:01 to play in overtime gave the Dallas Cowboys a 38-35 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

What it means: The Cowboys appear determined to finish 8-8, and that's a positive thing for Jason Garrett, who would love to remove the interim coach tag. The Colts' playoff hopes are in trouble.

Jones starts with Barber out: Running back Marion Barber was out with a calf strain, handing Felix Jones his third career start. Jones finished with 22 carries for 83 yards. In a strong performance, Tashard Choice finished with 100 rushing yards and a touchdown. This could mean the end of Barber's status as the starter. Dallas could make him inactive the rest of the season.

Cowboys getting turnovers: The Cowboys forced four turnovers, all interceptions. Two of the picks were returned for touchdowns. Orlando Scandrick picked off a pass and returned it 40 yards for a score in the second quarter, and Sean Lee snatched a pass away and returned it 31 yards in the third quarter.

Injury update: Dez Bryant suffered a broken right ankle on a kick return with 12:50 to play in the game and did not return. Orlando Scandrick suffered a concussion in the first half and returned for one play. He didn't play in the second half. Lee and Mike Jenkins suffered nagging injuries, but both players returned after missing a few snaps. Gerald Sensabaugh suffered an apparent leg injury with 2:13 left.

What's next: The Philadelphia Eagles, in first place in the NFC East, visit Cowboys Stadium on Sunday. The task is to stop Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick. It might be impossible. Dallas plays Philadelphia twice in the last five weeks of the season.

TAMPA, Fla. -- A quick reaction on the Atlanta Falcons' 28-24 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What it means: The Falcons won their sixth straight game and have won 10 of their last 11. They’re 10-2 and still in sole possession of first place in the NFC South. So much for the myth that the Falcons can’t win on the road against a good team. For the Bucs, it was another strong performance by a team clearly on the rise. But it also was further proof that the Bucs still aren’t quite there with the big boys. They’re 7-5 and the loss could hurt their playoff chances.

Hero: Brent Grimes. The Atlanta cornerback, who a lot of people thought was too short to succeed in the NFL, continues to have a great season. Grimes picked off Josh Freeman on the first play after the two minute warning to seal the victory for the Falcons.

What I liked: Other divisions get much more hype. But I’ll take this game between the Falcons and Bucs or the one they played in the Georgia Dome earlier in the season any day. This wasn’t flawless football. But it was a great game to watch -- hard fought and close all the way.

What’s next: The Bucs travel to Washington next Sunday. Dig out those old stats about the Bucs playing in cold weather. The Falcons get their second bye of the season. They travel to Carolina to play the Panthers.

Rapid Reaction: Rams 19, Cardinals 6

December, 5, 2010
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 19-6 victory against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13:

What it means: The Rams held onto first place in the NFC West by improving to 6-6. The Cardinals ensured they will finish with a losing record for the first time since Ken Whisenhunt became coach. The Rams have now won two in a row on the road after failing to win away from the Edward Jones Dome all season previously. The Rams won a game on the road comfortably despite not playing their best game. That stands as progress even though the Cardinals aren't a good measuring stick.

What I liked: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford showed toughness, bouncing back from hard hits to make important throws. This wasn't his prettiest game by any means, but Bradford did enough. The Rams showed toughness throughout their roster, come to think of it. Billy Bajema, Ron Bartell and Jason Smith returned to the game after suffering injuries.

What I didn't like: The Cardinals' quarterback situation devolved into more of a mess. Arizona replaced Derek Anderson with Max Hall. Hall promptly threw a pick and suffered an injury while fumbling. The team turned to third-stringer John Skelton a week after coach Ken Whisenhunt said Skelton would not play this season unless injuries forced him onto the field.

Tomorrow's Talker: Who should the Cardinals start at quarterback? Is there any reason for them to go with Anderson at this point? Why not take a longer look at Skelton? The Cardinals know they're going to finish with a losing record. They're out of it.

Toe-to-toe battle: The Rams' Josh Brown made four field goals without a miss. The Cardinals' Jay Feely made two without a miss. Brown has had some troubles recently, particularly from the right hash. He appeared to overcome whatever was bothering him.

Running hard: Steven Jackson's 27-yard touchdown run was a back-breaker in this game. Jackson finished with 102 yards on 28 carries. He ran tough despite not having much room. The Cardinals had some success on the ground as well. Tim Hightower carried 15 times for 81 yards, with a long run of 32 yards. His 20-yarder from four-receiver personnel caught the Rams off-guard, it appeared.

Beanie in background: Hightower started the game after Wells lost a fumble early in the game last week. Wells got only three carries against the Rams.

What's next: The Rams visit New Orleans in Week 14. The Cardinals are home against Denver.
SAN DIEGO -- A look at a surprisingly one-sided game, a 28-13 victory for the Oakland Raiders.

What it means: The Kansas City Chiefs have to be thrilled. After beating Denver to improve to 8-4, the Chiefs watched Oakland move into a tie for second place (the Raiders own the tiebreaker over San Diego because they swept them) at 6-6. If the Chargers lose next week at home to the Chiefs, they will be eliminated from the AFC West after winning the past four division crowns. The Chargers were 19-0 in December in the Phillip Rivers' era before Sunday’s decisive defeat.

Tomorrow’s talker: The Raiders snapped an ugly streak. They have won six games for the first time since 2002. They owned an NFL record for losing at least 11 games in seven straight seasons.

Trending: Oakland won this game the way it typically wins -- on the ground. After being stifled on the ground, in back-to-back lopsided defeats to Pittsburgh and Miami, the Raiders ran the ball well again Sunday. It had 251 rushing yards on 52 carries, taking pressure off of quarterback Jason Campbell. If they Raiders can stick to this recipe, they can win some more games.

What’s next: San Diego has a do-or-die home game against the Chiefs. Oakland plays at Jacksonville in a game it has to win to stay in the playoff conversation.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 31, Redskins 7

December, 5, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Some quick thoughts on the New York Giants' dominating win over the Washington Redskins. This one was over by halftime.

What it means: The Giants did what you have to do against an inferior opponent: break their spirit early. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride talked last week about how he likes to get a feel for what defenses are doing on the first drive of the game. But against the Redskins, the Giants were determined to set the tone early. They scored a touchdown on their first possession for the first time this season on the strength of running back Brandon Jacobs. He had a 39-yard gain on the second play from scrimmage and then finished off the drive with an 8-yard run. The Redskins were playing without their highly paid defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who is battling an undisclosed illness. But I don't think it would've mattered. Between Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants rolled up 139 rushing yards in the first half.

Devin Thomas' revenge: Let me start this by saying that the Redskins had plenty of reasons to finally release their former second-round draft pick this season. But it looks like the Giants picked up the wide receiver at the right time. He downed a punt deep in Redskins territory, had a big hit on Brandon Banks on a kickoff return and then he tipped a Hunter Smith punt that traveled 4 yards. And that's why I have to call it a "tip" instead of a "block." It wouldn't surprise me if Giants coach Tom Coughlin gave Thomas a game ball.

A fast start: Safety Antrel Rolle was upset about his team being booed by Giants fans at halftime last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But there wasn't much to boo about a 21-0 halftime lead that should've been 28-0 if not for a ridiculous interception by quarterback Eli Manning. But about the fast start, the Giants scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and ended any hopes of a competitive game. Even against the lowly Redskins defense, it was impressive to see this offensive line take over the game.

Poor Donovan McNabb: I know the man received a lucrative contract extension a few weeks ago, but you still had to feel for him as he watched his teammates drop all those passes. Chris Cooley and fullback Mike Sellers dropped perfect passes in the first half, and tight end Fred Davis got involved later in the game. McNabb did throw one awful interception in the end zone after the Skins had trimmed the lead to 28-7. Terrell Thomas had the easiest interception of his career when McNabb forced a ball into heavy coverage for no apparent reason. I lost count at one point, but I believe the Redskins had six turnovers in the game.

What's next? The Giants travel to Minneapolis next Sunday to play a Vikings team that has won two consecutive games under interim coach Leslie Frazier. If the Giants can win that one, they'll be 9-4 when the Eagles come to town. The Eagles will have to get past the Dallas Cowboys to have an identical record. But with Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks returning to the lineup soon, the Giants are poised to get on a roll. The Redskins don't have any hope of making the playoffs after today's loss. Breaking news, there.

Rapid Reaction: Jaguars 17, Titans 6

December, 5, 2010
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Thoughts from the Jaguars’ 17-6 win against the Titans at LP Field:

What it means: Jacksonville’s atop the AFC South at 7-5 awaiting Indianapolis’ result against Dallas. The Jaguars hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Colts. The Jaguars have matched last season’s win total. The Titans are 5-7, in last in the division based on a head-to-head result with Houston.

What I liked, Jaguars: They came out hell bent on running it and got success right from the start with a nice combination of Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings. Jacksonville ran it 53 times for 258 yards, with Jones-Drew stiff-arming Michael Griffin out of relevance on a 37-yard scamper on his last touch. The Jaguars made the Titans appear tired and worn down from the start.

What I didn’t like, Titans: Big drops from Bo Scaife (twice) Randy Moss and Nate Washington. Scaife had one near the goal line that really could have changed the complexion of the game and given the Titans a chance. The defense tackled at an unacceptable level.

Opposite directions: The Titans won in Jacksonville on Oct. 18 by a 30-3 score. The scoreboard makes this one seem closer, but it had the same blowout feel very early.

Injury of note: The Jaguars lost safety Courtney Greene early to a shoulder injury that did not look good. He was out of pads in a hurry and in significant pain. Sean Considine replaced him.

What’s next: The Jaguars host the Oakland Raiders at EverBank Field. The Titans have a quick turnaround for a Thursday night matchup with Indianapolis.

Rapid Reaction: Bears 24, Lions 20

December, 5, 2010
DETROIT -- A few thoughts from an eventful afternoon at Ford Field:

What it means: The Detroit Lions provided their usual scare but ultimately were overwhelmed in the fourth quarter. (Sound familiar?) They are 2-10 this season and have lost their past 19 NFC North games dating to Week 8 of the 2007 season. The Bears, who played a professional but not particularly inspired game, improved to 9-3 and maintained their division lead over the Green Bay Packers.

Turning point: Leading 20-17 with 12 minutes remaining, the Lions decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Bears' 41-yard line. Their first play call appeared to be an option for hard-running quarterback Drew Stanton, but they called a timeout just before the snap to avoid a delay-of-game call. After returning from the timeout, they attempted a low-percentage rollout pass to receiver Nate Burleson. Bears cornerback D.J. Moore tipped it away and the Bears moved 60 yards in six plays to take the lead on a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. Overall, I thought Stanton looked like a different quarterback than what we saw in his first NFL start last season.

First time in a while: The nine wins ensure Cutler his first winning season since he was playing high school football in Indiana. No lie. On Sunday, he completed 21 of 26 passes for 234 yards and made only one mistake -- a third-quarter fumble that led to a Lions field goal.

For what it's worth: I've covered four Lions games this season, and in two of them, they've punted in a one-score game and not gotten the ball back. It happened in Week 4 against the Packers, a 28-26 loss, and also Sunday. The Bears' offense ran off the final 5 minutes, 11 seconds.

Picking up slack: With veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch sidelined by a neck injury, fellow defensive end Cliff Avril had three sacks and played a role in forcing a third-quarter fumble from Cutler, leading to a field goal. Avril now has a career-high seven sacks this season.

Nasty Suh: This should be no surprise, but Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh doesn't play nice. He was called for a personal foul in the fourth quarter for literally clobbering Cutler to the ground at the end of a run. Referee Ed Hochuli demonstrated how Suh used a right forearm to the back to knock down Cutler. The Lions' bench exploded in protest; the penalty added 7 yards to the end of an 8-yard Cutler run and immediately preceded Manumaleuna's touchdown.

What's next: The Bears will host the New England Patriots at Soldier Field. The Lions will host the Packers at Ford Field. Both games are next Sunday.



Thursday, 10/16
Sunday, 10/19
Monday, 10/20