NFL Nation: 2010 Week 9 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Packers 45, Cowboys 7

November, 7, 2010
Hitting a few points after watching a massacre at Lambeau Field:

What it means: The Green Bay Packers improved to 6-3 by playing the best game of any NFC North team this season. I realize the Dallas Cowboys are a mess, but the Packers dominated this game from the start. Early in the fourth quarter, it looked like a preseason game. I saw a few numbers I didn't recognize out there.

What I liked: Well, pretty much everything. But I think we have to make first mention of the Packers' defense, which followed up last weekend's shutout of the New York Jets by holding the Cowboys to one touchdown and 205 total yards. Linebacker Clay Matthews broke double digit in sacks for the season (10.5) and also scored on a 62-yard interception return. It was a premier performance made even more impressive by the players who remain sidelined by injury.

What I liked II: Receiver James Jones filled in well for the injured Donald Driver (quadriceps), catching a career-high eight passes for 123 yards. Even without Driver, Packers wide receivers caught 20 of Aaron Rodgers' 27 completions.

What I liked III: As the Packers head into their bye, Brandon Jackson looks much more comfortable as a starting tailback. It's also important to note that Packers coach Mike McCarthy has found ways to put him in comfortable situations, most notably as a receiver out of the backfield. Jackson had 68 total offensive yards Sunday night, including two touchdowns.

Hold your breath: You wonder what the NFL will do about safety Nick Collins' unnecessary roughness penalty in the third quarter. His helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Roy Williams cost the Packers 15 yards and probably will result in a big fine this week. But ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted during the game that the NFL has been waiting to suspend a player since declaring a new emphasis on the helmet-to-helmet rule earlier this season. Would the NFL really suspend Collins for the Packers' next game, Nov. 22 against the Minnesota Vikings? It would be harsh and somewhat random, but we'll find out soon enough.

What's next: The Packers have their bye and, as we noted, return to the field in two weeks at the Vikings. The Packers also must make decisions on cornerback Al Harris and running back James Starks by Monday. Both are at the end of their three-week window to practice after being activated from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. If not added to the 53-man roster on Monday, neither will be eligible to play this season.

Wrap-up: Jets 23, Lions 20 (OT)

November, 7, 2010
Hitting a few points on a wild game at Ford Field:

What it means: Late Sunday afternoon, it appeared the Detroit Lions were poised to leapfrog the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North standings. They held a 20-10 lead fourth-quarter lead over the New York Jets amid a raucous Ford Field crowd, while the Vikings trailed the Arizona Cardinals 24-10. Alas, at the end of the day, the Lions were 2-6 and the Vikings were 3-5 after a crazy turnaround befitting the Lions' recent history.

StaffordWatch: Quarterback Matthew Stafford did not return after re-injuring his right shoulder in the fourth quarter. Coach Jim Schwartz said the Lions are "going to take a pretty serious look at it," prompting questions about whether Stafford will be shut down for a period longer than the five games he got the last time. I have no questions about Stafford's toughness, but I think it's fair for all of us to wonder why his body has been so brittle in the first 1 1/2 seasons of his career.

Numbskull play: Of all the crazy things that happened in the fourth quarter and overtime, the one I can't get over is linebacker Julian Peterson's blatant and inexcusable hit out of bounds against LaDainian Tomlinson with about 40 seconds remaining. The mistake in essence put the Jets in range for the game-tying field goal. The Lions use a number of young players who might have made that mistake, but it was stunning for it to be a veteran like Peterson who apparently had no idea where he was on the field.

Suh kick: The novelty of having defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh attempt an extra point after a Jason Hanson injury quickly gave way to some serious questions. Why is Suh, not punter Nick Harris, the backup kicker? Why wouldn't you go for two points in that situation? Schwartz said "we have a lot of confidence" in Suh but admitted he was put in a difficult situation. "He went out there without any warm-ups," Schwartz said, "where a kicker that's not playing a position generally has time to take his time. Probably should have called a timeout, given him time to get ready." Had the Lions made the kick or a two-point conversion, the Jets would have been playing for a touchdown instead of a field goal at the end of regulation.

What's next: The Lions play at the Buffalo Bills next Sunday.

Wrap-up: Saints 34, Panthers 3

November, 7, 2010
A quick recap of New Orleans’ 34-3 victory over Carolina.

What it means: This game went exactly the way you would expect. The Saints, who haven’t been dominant this season, were dominant. The Panthers, who’ve been pathetic all season, were pathetic and had injuries (quarterback Matt Moore and running back Jonathan Stewart) added to insult.

What’s next: The Saints are very much in the NFC South race at 6-3 and they’re heading into their bye week. That might help get running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas back on the field and give some other banged-up guys a chance to rest. The Saints are off until Nov. 21 when they host Seattle. The next stop on what appears to be the end of the John Fox tenure in Carolina is a road trip to Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Stat of the day: Carolina finished with 68 passing yards. Seriously.

Sunday night quarterback: I didn’t think it was Fox’s idea to draft Jimmy Clausen because Fox doesn’t believe in drafting quarterbacks to play right away. Fox always has felt that way and it probably was more true than ever as he entered the season without a contract beyond this year. It’s safe to say either owner Jerry Richardson or general manager Marty Hurney made the call on Clausen. It’s becoming more and more obvious Fox isn’t a Clausen fan. He had to play him after Moore got hurt, but Fox yanked Clausen in favor of fellow rookie Tony Pike. If Moore can’t play next week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fox start Pike.

Rookie watch: With Jeremy Shockey leaving the game with injured ribs, rookie Jimmy Graham got extended playing time and responded with his first NFL touchdown catch.

Wrap-up: Bears 22, Bills 19

November, 7, 2010
Some thoughts from Buffalo's 22-19 loss to Chicago.

What it means: The Bills remained winless despite being highly competitive and losing by a field goal three straight games. The Bills also are 0-3 in Toronto since beginning that annual series.

Still in the ditch: The Bills are the only NFL team without a victory and at 0-8 are off to their worst start in 26 years.

Trending: Bills receiver Steve Johnson had another big game. He caught 11 passes for 145 yards, but his touchdown streak ended at five games. He'll have to settle for tying the team record rather than owning it outright.

Lindell miss looms: Rian Lindell's rare mistake could've been costly. His streak of 321 consecutive extra points was the longest to start a career in NFL history. His 322nd attempt was blocked in the third quarter, preserving a 14-13 Bears lead and factored in the teams going for two-point conversions late in the game. The Bears got a two-pointer, but the Bills didn't.

Sack exchange rate: Maybe sacks aren't worth as much in Canada as they are in the U.S. The Bears went into Sunday as the NFL's most-sacked team, with 31 in just seven games. The Bills got to Jay Cutler just once. The Bills couldn't get an interception either.

What's next: The Bills will host their first Ralph Wilson Stadium game in five weeks when the Detroit Lions visit Sunday.

Wrap-up: Chargers 29, Texans 23

November, 7, 2010
Thoughts on the Texans’ 29-23 home loss to San Diego.

What it means: Remember when the Texans jumped out to an early lead in the AFC South? It’s ancient history now. At 4-4 after a harrowing loss to the Chargers, Houston’s even with the Jaguars in last in the division behind the idle Titans (5-3) and awaiting the result of the Colts’ game in Philadelphia that could get Indy to 6-2.

What I didn’t like: A late intentional grounding call against Matt Schaub seemed ridiculous and sunk the Texans’ second-to-last drive. Andre Johnson need to catch the pass, but a drop at the end was a killer, as it ricocheted off his knee and resulted in an interception by Paul Oliver that effectively ended the game. Neither might have mattered if the Texans pass defense could have stopped Seyi Ajirotutu, whose four catches were good for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

What I liked: They did better getting the ball to Arian Foster, who had 27 carries for 127 yards and two touchdown and four catches for 70 more. The 33:49 to 26:11 time-of-possession margin looked good, but it arrived in part because San Diego was making big plays.

Injury question: Schaub appeared to suffer a chest or rib injury late in the third quarter. Did it affect his play from there?

What’s next: The Texans resume AFC South play with a trip to Jacksonville, where one team will be left under .500 when the day is over.

Wrap-up: Ravens 26, Dolphins 10

November, 7, 2010
Here are some thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 26-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins:

What it means: The Ravens remain in first place in the AFC North and improve to 6-2. They will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) no matter what happens on Monday night. Baltimore is taking care of business by protecting its home stadium, where the Ravens are 4-0 this season. The game marked the first road loss this year for Miami.

What I liked: Baltimore's defense wreaked havoc by forcing turnovers, and that's something the Ravens haven't done consistently this season. Baltimore made things uncomfortable for Miami quarterback Chad Henne, who threw three interceptions and was sacked twice. Ravens safety Ed Reed recorded his third interception in two games back from hip surgery.The turnovers made it easy for the offense.

What I didn't like: It was a good win for Baltimore. The offense gained 402 total yards but settled for too many field goals. Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff had a busy day with four field goals, as the Ravens were 1-for-7 in red-zone efficiency.

What's next: The Ravens have a very short week to prepare for the talented Atlanta Falcons Thursday night in what will be a battle of first-place teams. Both teams are Super Bowl contenders in its respective conferences, and it should be one of the top games of Week 10.

Wrap-up: Vikings 27, Cardinals 24

November, 7, 2010
Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9:

What it means: The Cardinals fell to 3-5 and blew another prime opportunity to assert themselves in the NFC West. This one had to hurt badly. Arizona can still get to 8-8 by winning its five remaining home games (against Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis, Denver and Dallas). But losing fourth-quarter leads in back-to-back weeks has to shake the Cardinals' confidence. At least there's a fat margin for error in the NFC West.

What I liked: The Cardinals' defense and special teams showed up in a big way (even if the defense didn't stick around for a full game). LaRod Stephens-Howling scored on a kickoff return. Cornerback Michael Adams scored on a fumble return collected during a Vikings kickoff return. Safety Kerry Rhodes missed an interception return for a touchdown only when the Vikings forced him to fumble near the goal line, resulting in a touchback. Arizona's goal-line stand in the fourth quarter prevented the Vikings from pulling within a touchdown. Rookie Andre Roberts' weaving run-after-catch for a 30-yard touchdown was another impressive play. These were precisely the types of plays Arizona needed to claim an upset victory on the road.

What I didn't like: The Cardinals have lost a few late leads over the last few seasons, from the Super Bowl to the defeat against Tampa Bay last week. It happened again Sunday when Brett Favre led two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, tying the game 24-24 through regulation. Favre finished with 446 yards passing. The late defensive letdown wasted the impressive goal-line stand. Another downer: Ben Patrick's holding penalty on the Cardinals' first offensive play wiped out a 7-yard gain and put Arizona at risk deep in its own end. I didn't see the play well enough to know whether Patrick committed a blatant penalty. The result, however, could have cost the Cardinals early momentum on the road.

For the records: Larry Fitzgerald moved past Anquan Boldin into third place on the Cardinals' all-time receiving yardage list behind Roy Green and Jackie Smith. Fitzgerald also reached 100 yards receiving in a game for the 24th time. Boldin holds the team record (27).

Wells, Wells, Wells: Running back Beanie Wells carried only once after entering the game listed as questionable on the injury report. Tim Hightower carried 13 times for 39 yards. The Cardinals did not have a run longer than 11 yards, however.

Big Revelation: A Cardinals quarterback could make it through an NFL game without throwing an interception. It hadn't happened since Week 1, but Derek Anderson completed 15 of 26 passes for 179 yards, one touchdown and a 91.7 rating against the Vikings. Minnesota nearly picked off a couple passes, but the interception-free performance was critical for the Cardinals' chances. It's tough to blame the Cardinals' quarterback situation for this defeat.

What's next: The Cardinals return home to face the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10.

Wrap-up: Chargers 29, Texans 23

November, 7, 2010
A look at a key victory for the San Diego Chargers:

What does it mean? This was big for San Diego. The Chargers are now 4-5 and have won two straight games. It was San Diego’s first road win after losing its first four away from home. If 4-4 Oakland beats 5-2 Kansas City Sunday, the AFC West will be very jumbled.

Tomorrow’s talker: Philip Rivers is continuing to play out of his mind. Playing without his top four receivers and without star tight end Antonio Gates, Rivers was 17-of-23 for 295 yards. He threw four touchdown passes. Rivers is leading the NFL with 2,944 yards passing.

Trending: San Diego’s special teams continue to flounder. Mike Scifres had his fifth punt blocked of the season and his second in two weeks. Scifres had one punt blocked in his previous six NFL seasons.

What’s next: San Diego has a bye next Sunday before hosting Denver on "Monday Night Football" on Nov. 22.

Wrap-up: Browns 34, Patriots 14

November, 7, 2010
Here are some thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 34-14 victory over the New England Patriots:

What it means: The Browns improved to 3-5 in impressive fashion and won two in a row for the first time this season. Cleveland has found its quarterback in rookie Colt McCoy, who has now beat the New Orleans Saints and New England in back-to-back games. McCoy played another efficient game, completing 14 of 19 passes for 174 yards and a rushing touchdown. He is now 2-1 as a starter and there should no more questions about the position. This is also a big win for Browns head coach Eric Mangini, who needs to continue to win games in order to impress team president Mike Holmgren.

What I liked: Cleveland tailback Peyton Hillis was dominant, rushing for a season-high 184 yards and two touchdowns. The Browns were more physical and outsmarted the Patriots. New England committed three turnovers, allowing the Browns to capitalize and turn them into points. The Browns' defense also held the explosive New England offense to just 14 points and prevented big plays from quarterback Tom Brady.

What I didn't like: Aside from a Hillis fumble, there wasn't much not to like for Cleveland. It was another signature win for the Browns, which looks like it will be a tough spoiler for teams in the second half of the season.

What's next: The Browns have another quality opponent on their schedule next week in the New York Jets. The game will mark the return of former Cleveland first-round pick Braylon Edwards, who was traded from the Browns unceremoniously last year.