NFL Nation: 2011 Week 10 coverage

Rapid Reaction: Packers 45, Vikings 7

November, 14, 2011

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' 45-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings:

What it means: The Packers are more than halfway through an undefeated season at 9-0 after a laugher that carried none of the drama of a typical NFC North game in November. The outcome was never in doubt, and the Vikings need to take a hard look at how and why they arrived at Lambeau Field with so little energy.

RodgersWatch: Ho hum. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished with a 140.3 passer rating, courtesy of four touchdown passes, a 76.7 completion percentage and no interceptions. The game got so out of hand that Rodgers departed after throwing his final score with 10:59 remaining.

Questioning: There is no doubt the Vikings were outmatched in this game. The only time their offense made it to the red zone came after Packers punt returner Randall Cobb lost a fumble at his own 14-yard line. But I didn't see a lot of fight from a team that seemed to know it would lose this game before it even started. That's too bad. The Vikings seemed to want this game to be over as quickly as possible. It's rare that you'll see a prime-time division game so poorly competed, regardless of the teams' records.

No question: After a week of discussion about their performance against the pass this season, the Packers defense found plenty of ways to pressure quarterback Christian Ponder. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers blitzed often, but linebacker Clay Matthews took advantage of a pair of 1-on-1 matchups to record his first two-sack game of the season. The Vikings finished with 266 yards and 14 first downs.

CobbWatch: Cobb essentially put the game away less than two minutes into the game by returning Chris Kluwe's first-quarter punt 80 yards for a score. Cobb seems to save his best games for prime time. In the Week 1 kickoff game, Cobb had a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The fumble represented the risk-reward of a flashy but young punt returner.

What's next: The Packers will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Lambeau Field and the Vikings host the Raiders.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 37, Jets 16

November, 14, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Here are some initial thoughts on the New England Patriots' convincing 37-16 victory over the New York Jets:

What it means: The Patriots (6-3) swept the Jets for the first time since 2007 and took control of the AFC East division. New England essentially holds a two-game lead over the Jets with seven games left. In addition, the Patriots have the NFL's easiest remaining schedule. New England's next six games are against teams with losing records. New York (5-4) missed a golden opportunity to take first place in the division. Now, barring an unexpected collapse by New England, the Jets most likely will fight for a wild card with several AFC teams down the stretch.

Tom was terrific: The Jets came in playing some of their best defense of the season during their three-game winning streak. But New York still couldn't solve Brady, who made key throws when New England needed it the most. Brady finished with 312 yards and three touchdowns. Brady found his favorite red-zone target, tight end Rob Gronkowski, for two of those scores. New England protected Brady well and didn't allow a sack in the game.

Jets' offense struggles: New York was expected to have an advantage against New England's last-rated defense. But quarterback Mark Sanchez and and the offense struggled. The Jets couldn't protect the quarterback or move the ball efficiently. Sanchez was sacked five times, including 4.5 sacks by Patriots defensive end Andre Carter. The Jets also had three turnovers, including Sanchez's pick six to linebacker Rob Ninkovich in the fourth quarter.

Ochocinco sighting: New England receiver Chad Ochocinco had his most productive game as a Patriot. Ochocinco caught two passes for 65 yards, which included a 53-yard catch in the first half. The Patriots traded for Ochocinco this summer to provide big plays to the offense. Perhaps this is a sign that he can turn his season around.

What's next: The Jets have to get over this loss quickly. They have a short week and travel to play the Denver Broncos (4-5) on Thursday night. The Patriots will begin the easy part of their schedule. They will host the Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) next week on "Monday Night Football." New England doesn't play a team with a winning record until Week 17 against the Buffalo Bills (5-4).

Wrap-up: Titans 30, Panthers 3

November, 13, 2011
Thoughts on Carolina’s 30-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium:

What it means: A few weeks ago, when the Panthers defeated the Washington Redskins, it looked like this young team had a great opportunity to turn the corner. Home games with the Vikings and Titans were coming up and they looked winnable. Instead, the Panthers lost them both. They’re 2-7 and the early hope that rookie quarterback Cam Newton brought is fading a bit. Earlier in the season, it looked like the Carolina offense could score against anyone. The Panthers couldn’t even get into the end zone against the Titans.

Slump busters: There will be a lot of stories about how Tennessee running back Chris Johnson snapped out of a season-long funk as he rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown. I wouldn’t go declaring that Johnson’s slump is over. I’d make the case that he was simply going up a defense that can’t stop the run.

Nobody’s coming to the rescue: Perhaps the most discouraging thing about the rest of the Carolina’s season is that it’s highly unlikely the defense is going to show any signs of improvement. Season-ending injuries to linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis and defensive tackle Ron Edwards were beyond devastating. The Panthers simply didn’t have much depth behind him. The defensive problems can’t be fixed until next year, when some of the injured players return and the Panthers have a full offseason to reload their defense.

This is never a good sign: Legedu Naanee led the Panthers with eight catches for 75 yards. Naanee’s not a threat. Steve Smith, who is a huge threat, was held to five catches for 33 yards. He’s been outstanding all season, but Smith didn’t have a catch go for more than 15 yards on Sunday.

What’s next: The Panthers travel to Detroit next Sunday to play the Lions at Ford Field.

Rapid Reaction: Bears 37, Lions 13

November, 13, 2011
CHICAGO -- A few quick thoughts on the Chicago Bears' wild 37-13 romp over the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field:

What it means: With seven weeks to go in the season, the Bears and Lions have matching 6-3 records. The Bears' is the result of a four-game winning streak, and they now have won 11 of their last 13 regular season divisional games at home. The Lions have lost three of their last four, and their six-turnover meltdown in a game that carried as much significance as Sunday's at least gives us pause in considering their viability for the playoff race. It also won't do much to halt the national perspective of the Lions as a dirty team, as you'll see in a moment.

StaffordWatch: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had a terrible game, throwing four interceptions, two of which the Bears returned for touchdowns to put the game away in the third quarter. You have to wonder how much Stafford was affected by an injured finger on his right hand, which apparently occurred two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos. Stafford wore gloves on a warm day -- the game-time temperature was 69 degrees -- and had trouble with his accuracy for much of the afternoon. Equally notable was his loss of composure after the Bears' third interception, throwing down cornerback D.J. Moore and instigating a brawl that ultimately led to Moore's ejection. Stafford threw 63 passes, tied for the eighth-highest single game total in NFL history, but he has questions to answer on a number of fronts after this game.

Chippy fourth quarter: The Stafford-Moore showdown was the culmination of a chippy game that had recently included personal fouls against Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley and Bears linebacker Lance Briggs. Those of us who saw through this fourth quarter are eagerly anticipating the rematch, whenever it occurs.

Bears' defense: The final numbers won't back this up, but I thought the Bears did an exceptional job in pass coverage. Lions receivers were tightly covered throughout the game and didn’t get much in the way of yards after the catch. Cornerback Charles Tillman's performance against Lions receiver Calvin Johnson was Pro-Bowl caliber.

Injury report: Johnson, whose first-quarter fumble started the Lions on their sloppy path, didn't play after an end zone collision midway through the fourth quarter. The Lions weren't sitting their starters at the time, so we can only presume Johnson suffered some sort of injury.

What's next: The Bears will host the San Diego Chargers, and the Lions will host the Carolina Panthers, next Sunday.

Wrap-up: Texans 37, Buccaneers 9

November, 13, 2011
Thoughts on Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 37-9 loss to the Houston Texas on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium:

What it means: The Buccaneers have been searching for an identity all season. Looks like they finally found it. They are a mediocre team with problems in a lot of places on offense and defense. They’re 4-5 and have to face the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers next. Coach Raheem Morris has been saying all year that his team’s goal is to win the NFC South. That’s probably not going to happen, unless the Bucs suddenly get dramatically better and the Saints stumble.

Same old story: Tampa Bay’s offense started off the way it has pretty much all season -- very slowly. The Bucs didn’t score their first points until Connor Barth hit a field goal just before halftime. They didn’t score their touchdown until the fourth quarter. Maybe the Bucs should take a lesson from former coach Sam Wyche. Back in the mid-1990s, the Bucs were starting poorly after halftime. So Wyche actually had his team practice its halftime routine. Maybe the current Tampa Bay offense should practice starting a game.

Albert’s Army: The Bucs picked up defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth during the week because injuries had left them thin in the middle of the defensive line. Haynesworth was fairly active, making four tackles. But the problems on Tampa Bay’s defense go way deeper than the middle of the defensive line. Matt Schaub only had to attempt 15 passes, but he threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns and the Texans had no problem running the ball.

Insult to injury: Derrick Ward, the same guy who was a free-agent bust with the Bucs, ran for a touchdown against his former team.

What’s next: The Bucs travel to Green Bay to play the Packers next Sunday.

Wrap-up: Seahawks 22, Ravens 17

November, 13, 2011
Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 22-17 home victory against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 10:

What it means: The Seahawks beat a good team for the second time this season, improving to 3-6 heading into a favorable four-game stretch of the schedule. Win or lose, Seattle needed to build upon its recent success on the ground. That happened early in the game against a stout Ravens run defense, and again late in the game as Marshawn Lynch ground out 100-plus yards on the ground. The team lost rookie left guard John Moffitt to a knee injury, however, throwing off their plan for the line. The Seahawks also lost their most promising rookie, receiver Doug Baldwin, and their best receiver, Sidney Rice, to head injuries. But with the schedule lightening up, Seattle has a shot at threatening its seven-win total from last season.

What I liked: The Seahawks' defense took the game to Baltimore and prevented the Ravens from getting going on the ground or through the air. This was exactly the type of performance the Seahawks needed from their defense against a team that had scored at least 23 points in six of its eight games this season. Seattle scored its third-highest total of the season in part because the defense and special teams forced turnovers. Seattle built a 22-10 lead through three quarters thanks to four field-goal drives beginning at the Baltimore 19-, 42-, 18- and 4-yard lines. Lynch found running room early, helping the Seahawks jump to a 10-0 lead, gaining confidence. Lynch carried 32 times for 109 yards overall. David Hawthorne's interception was another big play for the Seahawks.

What I didn't like: The injuries were potentially costly. Strong safety Kam Chancellor, one of the best young players in the division, was also hurt. The Seahawks kept having to settle for field goals despite taking over in Ravens territory.

Divisional, uh, dominance: The NFC West went 4-0 during Week 10. That means no "silver linings" files for Monday.

What's next: The Seahawks visit the St. Louis Rams in Week 11.

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 27, Giants 20

November, 13, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO -- Thoughts on the San Francisco' 49ers 27-20 victory over the New York Giants at Candlestick Park in Week 10:

What it means: The 49ers took another step in convincing skeptics they can defeat the top teams without a purportedly "elite" quarterback behind center. With Frank Gore contained early and sidelined by a knee injury for stretches, Alex Smith carried a larger share of the offense this week. He was up to the challenge, mixing in timely rushes to supplement his throwing while generally avoiding errors once again. The 49ers (8-1) maintained their five-game lead in the NFC West and looked like the second-best team in the league.

What I liked: Smith completed 19 of 30 pass attempts for 242 yards. He came through with the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. His lone interception wasn't his fault; the receiver dropped the ball and knocked it into the air. Inside linebacker Patrick Willis had a sack and multiple tackles for loss. Cornerback Carlos Rogers affirmed his status as one of the top free-agent additions this past offseason, collecting two interceptions. Justin Smith batted down the Giants' fourth-down deep in 49ers territory to preserve the victory. The 49ers' offensive coaches did a good job freeing tight end Vernon Davis for a touchdown. They also showed creativity with a successful two-point conversion pass to Michael Crabtree, who lined up in the backfield on the play. This wasn't the best defensive performance by San Francisco from a statistical standpoint, but the defense made key plays in timely moments.

What I didn't like: Ted Ginn Jr.'s dropped pass before halftime led to an interception and robbed the 49ers of a needed scoring opportunity when the team was already in field-goal range. Gore got nothing going when he was in the game and spent most of his afternoon on the sideline. The 49ers' Kendall Hunter did strike with an impressive 17-yard touchdown run at a key point in the game, but San Francisco's ground game was not consistent from play to play. Beyond Rogers, the 49ers' secondary had issues covering the Giants' receivers on deep routes, as feared. Eli Manning made a few perfect throws, but there were receivers open at critical times, including once when Mario Manningham couldn't quite catch up to what would have been the tying touchdown pass in the final minutes.

Versatility on offense: The 49ers put their tight ends' superior speed to good use. They lined up with two backs and two tight ends without sacrificing their ability to strike in the passing game. Delanie Walker caught six passes for 69 yards. Davis had three receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown. Walker's productivity had diminished in recent weeks with Braylon Edwards returning, but that changed in a big way Sunday. The 49ers completed only eight passes to wide receivers. The remaining 11 completed passes went to tight ends and backs.

Special-teams advantage: The 49ers' special teams continued to give San Francisco an edge. David Akers was automatic on field-goal attempts. His surprise onside kick was also perfectly executed, and recovered by the 49ers.

What's next: The 49ers face the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park in Week 11.

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 27, Giants 20

November, 13, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO –- Eli Manning and the New York Giants ran out of their fourth-quarter comeback magic as the 49ers made a defensive stand at their own 10-yard line in the final minute to come away with a 27-20 win.

What it means: After playing perhaps the best football of his career, Manning threw two interceptions -- both to Carlos Rogers. It was Manning’s first multi-interception game since he threw three picks in a loss to Seattle on Oct. 9.

The second pick, which was thrown in the middle of the field with Mario Manningham way off to the right, gave the Niners the ball at the Giants’ 17-yard line. On the next play, Kendall Hunter scored untouched on a run to put the Niners up 27-13 with 12:21 left.

The Giants led 13-12 going into the fourth quarter only to see the Niners score 14 unanswered in the span of 61 seconds. Manning responded with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Nicks with 8:37 to go when San Francisco blitzed safety Dashon Goldson, who started the play over the top of Nicks.

The Giants were on the move again with Manning hitting Manningham for an 18-yard gain on a fourth-and-6 that put the Giants at the Niners' 42. Manningham nearly scored a touchdown but had a would-be 42-yard touchdown pass go off his fingertips as Manning led him just a tad too much. Manning converted another fourth down with a 10-yard pass to Victor Cruz and later had the Giants at the Niners' 10. But later on a fourth-and-2, Manning had a short pass batted down to send the Giants to a loss.

Killer Akers: David Akers stuck it to his old division rival yet again. The former Eagles kicker was a one-man gang in the first half, drilling three field goals -- including a 52-yarder -- and converted a surprise onside kick in the second quarter. That allowed Akers to convert a 39-yard field goal that gave the Niners a 9-6 lead just before the end of the half.

Boley hurt: Linebacker Michael Boley went down with a hamstring injury just toward the end of the first half and did not return. Boley has been a big part of the Giants' defense this season, responsible for relaying calls into the huddle. He also is the Giants’ lone every-down linebacker.

With Boley out, rookie middle linebacker Greg Jones relayed the calls when he was in on running situations. He and rookie Spencer Paysinger took turns playing in place of Boley depending on whether it was a running or passing play.

Niners TE Vernon Davis took advantage of Boley’s absence, scoring on an uncovered 31-yard run-and-catch touchdown with 13:22 left to put the Niners up 20-13.

Cornerback Aaron Ross also left the game with a bruised quad injury in the third quarter.

Gore hurt: Frank Gore had six carries for no yards. The team said he had a knee injury. He returned briefly but wasn’t a factor after coming into the game with five straight 100-yard rushing games.

No Prince: Despite traveling with the team for a second straight week, rookie Prince Amukamara was inactive. The Giants clearly want to hold out their first-round pick until he is absolutely ready to make his debut. Amukamara has been out since breaking his foot in his second practice of training camp.

What’s next: The Giants get the reeling Eagles and a chance to bury Philly and win a critical divisional game.

Wrap-up: Titans 30, Panthers 3

November, 13, 2011
Thoughts on the Tennessee Titans’ 30-3 win against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium:

What it means: The Titans got back over .500, improving to 5-4 with a trouncing of the Panthers. Tennessee looked a lot more like the team that raised expectations in big performances against the Ravens and Browns this season. The Titans will have a chance to pull within a game and a tiebreaker of the Texans in the AFC South next week.

What I liked, offense: Chris Johnson had his biggest effort of the season, with 27 carries for 130 rushing yards and a touchdown to go with four catches for 44 yards. Matt Hasselbeck found connections with Damian Williams, who looked like a dependable, dangerous threat in the passing game with five catches for 107 yards including a 43-yard touchdown.

What I liked, defense: A team that’s struggled to get consistent pressure on the quarterback found five sacks of Cam Newton to go with a Chris Hope interception. The Titans didn’t allow a pass play longer than 19 yards.

What I didn’t like: The Titans were just 3-for-13 on third down, a rate that won’t cut it against a higher-caliber team going forward. Nine penalties for 92 yards are too many for too much.

What’s next: The Titans head for Atlanta for a second consecutive game against an NFC South foe. If they can improve to 6-4, they’ll be only a game and a head-to-head loss off the pace of idle Houston in the division.

Wrap-up: Jaguars 17, Colts 3

November, 13, 2011

Thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars 17-3 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Colts remain winless, dropping to 0-10 after failing to find the end zone against the Jaguars. Jacksonville, meanwhile, climbed to 3-6 with the win, showing the gap between third and fourth place in the AFC South.

What I liked, Jaguars: The defense continued to show it can be the core of this team, with five sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Jeremy Mincey accounted for 2.5 of the sacks. On offense, Maurice Jones-Drew made sure he helped control the game with 114 rushing yards and a score on 25 carries. Jacksonville won time of possession 35:21 to 24:39.

What I didn’t like, Colts: We’ve heard about how Curtis Painter is getting better in practice, but his play got him pulled in favor of Dan Orlovsky in the fourth quarter for the second week in a row. Three sacks, two picks and a fumbled snap he managed to recover didn’t amount to pieces of an effort that was close to good enough to win with.

Good enough: There aren’t too many games rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert will win with his stat line. But against the Colts, 14-of-21 for 118 yards with a touchdown pass, an interception and two sacks was enough.

Emerging, again: Tight end Jacob Tamme shined in 2010 after Dallas Clark was hurt. With Clark and Brody Eldridge out with injuries, Tamme was central for the Colts again and pulled in a game-high six catches for 75 yards, including the game’s long play of 29 yards.

Red zone revealing: The Jaguars were two-for-three in the red zone, finding the two touchdowns that were the difference. The Colts failed to find the end zone in two trips inside the 10.

What’s next: The Jaguars travel to Cleveland with a chance to put together a two-game winning streak. The Colts have a week off before hosting Carolina.

Wrap-up: Rams 13, Browns 12

November, 13, 2011
Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 13-12 loss to the visiting St. Louis Rams:

What it means: The Rams (2-7) didn't win this game. The Browns lost it. The Browns fell for the fifth time in six games, including three straight. Cleveland dropped to 3-6 as St. Louis ended a six-game losing streak on the road. With no touchdowns against third-worst scoring defense, the Browns have just two touchdowns in their past four games. The fans' discontent reached a season high as boos could be heard throughout Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Thumbs down: Browns' execution, or lack thereof. Cleveland only had to make a 22-yard field goal to take the lead with two minutes left in the game, but the snap hit the leg of Browns lineman Alex Mack which threw off the timing of Dawson's kick (which sailed left). This was one of many errors in another embarrassing loss.

Trying to do too much: Josh Cribbs, who scored the only two touchdowns the past four weeks, fumbled on a punt return. It gave the ball to the Rams at the Browns' 30-yard line and led to the eventual winning field goal midway through the fourth quarter. But when an offense is struggling this much, sometimes players press to make plays when they should play it safe.

Run over again: The Browns allowed 100 yards rushing to the seventh running back in nine games when Steven Jackson ran for 128 yards. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

What's next: The Browns remain home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are coming off a road win at Indianapolis.

Wrap-up: Broncos 17, Chiefs 10

November, 13, 2011

A look a game with major AFC West implications:

What it means: The Oakland Raiders control the AFC West. Oakland, which beat San Diego on Thursday, is 5-4. The other three teams in the AFC West are 4-5. With the victory, Denver stayed in the division race.

Tomorrow’s talker: It’s all about Tim Tebow. The Broncos won despite Tebow completing just two passes. He was 2 of 8 for 69 yards. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the first time in Denver history that they won a game completing two or fewer passes. The only other team in the last 25 years to win a game with two or fewer pass completions and have only one quarterback attempt a pass was the Browns in Week 5 of 2009 at the Bills. The quarterback was Derek Anderson, who went 2-for-17. Denver is 3-1 with Tebow as their quarterback this season.

Broncos’ running backs are banged up: Denver lost both Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno to injuries. Yet, Denver ran for 244 yards. Lance Ball had 96 yards on 30 carries. Tebow added 43 yards on nine rushes. Denver has led the NFL in rushing the past five weeks.

Chiefs are inept: After winning four straight games to go 4-3, the Chiefs have reverted to the poor play of the early season. The Chiefs were particularly out of sorts on offense. If Kansas City doesn’t quickly regroup, it could fall out of the division race again.

Back-to-back bliss: The Broncos have won two straight games for the first time in 29 games. It breaks the NFL’s current longest streak with back-to-back wins.

Cassel sinking: Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel has not been good the past four games. He has completed 67 of 129 pass attempts for 768 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. He threw for just 93 yards Sunday. He left the game late with an apparent injury to his non-throwing arm.

What’s next: Denver has a quick turnaround as it hosts the New York Jets on Thursday. The Chiefs begin a brutal five-week stretch at New England on "Monday Night Football" on Nov. 21.

ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 26-23 victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

What it means: The Saints are 7-3 and firmly in control of the NFC South. The Falcons fell to 5-4 and the Buccaneers also lost to drop to 4-5. The Saints control their own destiny. They’ve already played Tampa Bay twice and have a Dec. 26 game with Atlanta. The Falcons aren’t out of the race yet, but they face an uphill battle.

What I liked: New Orleans’ defense. A lot of people say the Saints don’t have a good defense, and there has been plenty of evidence to support that this year. But not on Sunday. The Saints won this game largely because of defense on a day when Drew Brees and the offense weren’t putting up as many points as usual.

What I didn't like: When Mike Smith first decided to go for it on fourth-and-inches in overtime, I liked the call. I thought it was gutsy and ambitious. After watching Michael Turner get stuffed, I changed my mind. Smith should have punted and taken his chances with his defense.

What else I didn’t like: Roddy White’s game. He had a pass go off his hands that turned into a New Orleans interception. He also was flagged for two penalties away from the play. White’s been a bit off all season, but this was, by far, his worst game. White arguably was the best receiver in the league last year. This season, he hasn't even been close.

The Julio factor: Once rookie receiver Julio Jones left the game, it sure seemed like Atlanta’s offense became stagnant until late in regulation. That shouldn’t happen. Jones is a good player, but Atlanta has plenty of other talent at the skill positions and should be able to get by without him.

The Graham factor: New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham has been getting rave reviews all season. But Sunday showed Graham is still a work in progress. He had seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. But he also dropped two very catchable passes.

What’s next: The Saints have a bye next week. They’ll return to action Nov. 28 when they host the New York Giants in a “Monday Night Football’’ game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Falcons will host the Tennessee Titans next Sunday.

Wrap-up: Cardinals 21, Eagles 17

November, 13, 2011

Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 21-17 victory at Philadelphia in Week 10:

What it means: The Cardinals improved to 3-6 with their second harrowing victory in a row. They ended a streak of 11 consecutive road defeats. Backup quarterback John Skelton improved to 4-2 as the Cardinals' starter, fueling questions about whether he should remain in the lineup ahead of injured starter Kevin Kolb. Skelton was up-and-down in this game, throwing a pair of costly interceptions deep in Cardinals territory, one returned for a touchdown. But he made key plays in the clutch, throwing the tying fourth-quarter touchdown pass for the second week in a row. This time, Skelton also threw the winning touchdown pass. Kolb, meanwhile, has a 1-6 starting record. Kolb has to be the starter when healthy given what the Cardinals have invested in him, but with the team winning two in a row with Skelton, the pressure on Kolb is growing.

What I liked: The Cardinals' defensive plan appeared sound. Arizona pressured and shadowed Michael Vick without giving up too much in the secondary. The matchups became easier for Philadelphia once the Eagles made receiver DeSean Jackson a surprise inactive. Rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson fared well against Jeremy Maclin, who suffered a shoulder injury and left the game. The defensive stop Arizona made on an early fourth-and-2 gave the Cardinals momentum early. Adrian Wilson's interception in the end zone, though nullified by penalty, was an impressive play. Calais Campbell's interception in the red zone continued a run of big plays from the defensive end and free agent-to-be. The offensive staff did a good job getting Andre Roberts involved, a trend since Skelton took over for Kolb. Roberts' gain on a rushing play set up Larry Fitzgerald's first touchdown reception of the game. The fourth-quarter scoring pass Fitzgerald caught came on a tipped pass, giving him 70 career touchdown receptions and moving him past Roy Green for the franchise career record. Skelton has now thrown the tying fourth-quarter touchdown pass in consecutive games. Skelton threw the winning touchdown pass to Early Doucet. Cornerback A.J. Jefferson clinched the victory with a late interception.

What I didn't like: Skelton's pick-six interception from deep in Cardinals territory was costly. Skelton appeared to telegraph his intentions on the play. This was a close, low-scoring game. Skelton's error and two missed field goals from Jay Feely forced the Cardinals to play catchup unnecessarily. Their margin for error appears too slim to tolerate those types of issues -- most Sundays, anyway.

What's next: The Cardinals visit the San Francisco 49ers in Week 11.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Thoughts on the Texans' 37-9 win against the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium:

What it means: The Texans jumped to a 7-3 mark as they arrive at their bye, looking more and more like a team that should be ranked with the favorites in the AFC. They maintained a two-win lead over the Titans in the AFC South (plus a head-to-head win). Houston has outscored opponents 132-42 during a four-game win streak.

What I liked: It was a complete effort by the Texans, who threw it well, ran it well, rushed well and covered well. The Bucs have been good on some Sundays, but the Texans made their hosts look well below average in every facet. Arian Foster had 186 totals yards with a rushing and a receiving touchdown.

High heat: The Bucs have offered quarterback Josh Freeman some solid pass protection this season, allowing only 11 sacks. The Texans effectively brought waves after Freeman, who couldn’t get in any sort of rhythm, at least in part because of the effective pass rush that produced four sacks. Josh Johnson replaced Freeman with 5:38 remaining in the game and the Texans promptly pried a fumble away from the Bucs and recovered it.

Backup time: Quarterback Matt Leinart got into the game late for Houston, relieving Matt Schaub. No. 3 running back Derrick Ward was getting carries well before that.

What’s next: The Texans get their week off before a Nov. 27 game at Jacksonville. They beat Jacksonville 24-14 in Houston on Oct. 30. The Texans should have receiver Andre Johnson (hamstring) back for that one.



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