NFL Nation: 2011 Week 11 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Patriots 34, Chiefs 3

November, 22, 2011

A look at a game in which the visiting Kansas City Chiefs were eventually worn down by the New England Patriots:

What it means: The Chiefs are now 4-6 after their 34-3 loss. They trail the Oakland Raiders by two games in the AFC West. Kansas City is tied with the San Diego Chargers for last place in the division. The Denver Broncos are 5-5.

Team of streaks: The Chiefs are on their second three-game losing streak of the season. They sandwiched it with a four-game winning streak.

Getting tricky: The Chiefs used a lot of fast snaps, they used the Wildcat and they tried an onside kick. In the end, it didn’t matter. But an undermanned team on the road needs to try anything and Chiefs’ coach Todd Haley was up for anything.

Second-half blues: The Chiefs actually led this game in the first quarter 3-0. The Patriots scored all but seven of their points in the final 31 minutes of the game. The Chiefs hung in this game for a while, but the Patriots eventually overtook them in every phase of the game.

Tough start to a tough stretch: It doesn’t get any easier for Kansas City. It entered the week with the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL. It plays Pittsburgh, Chicago, the Jets, Green Bay, Oakland and Denver in the final six games.

Palko wasn’t horrible: Tyler Palko had his issues and he threw three interceptions. But in his first start Palko had his moments, especially early in the game. He didn’t look like a player who was lost. After entering the game with just 13 total NFL passes under his belt, he completed 25 of 38 passes for 236 yards. The left-hander looks like a coachable player who can improve. He’ll get his chance. The Chiefs put starter Matt Cassel on the injured reserve with a broken thumb on Monday. He was injured in a loss to Denver last week. I’m interested to see how Palko responds after getting more practice time. He had a nice chemistry with receivers Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston. They had a combined 13 catches for 160 yards.

Jones plays well: Veteran running back Thomas Jones had 48 yards rushing on eight carries. The Chiefs ran for 119 yards on 26 carries.

Getting pressure: The Chiefs sacked Tom Brady three times, all in the first half. Like every other aspect of the Chiefs on Monday night, the pass-rush dwindled in the second half.

Got Gronked: New England tight end Rob Gronkowski lit up the Chiefs. He had touchdown catches of 52 and 19 yards. Kansas City simply didn’t have an answer for him.

Not so special: New England broke the game open with just less than 10 minutes remaining on a 72-yard punt return for a score by Julian Edelman.

What’s next: The Chiefs are on prime time again in Week 12. They host Pittsburgh Sunday evening.

Wrap-up: Raiders 27, Vikings 21

November, 20, 2011
A few thoughts on Sunday's festivities at the Metrodome:

What it means: The Minnesota Vikings dropped to 2-8, tied for the second-worst record in the NFL, amid a gloomy first-half performance and a second-half surge that fell short as they lost 27-21 to the Oakland Raiders. Soon it will be time to start projecting the Vikings' draft position. As of this moment, it would be no worse than No. 4 overall.

PetersonWatch: Tailback Adrian Peterson didn't return after a scary injury to his left ankle, but X-rays showed no fracture, according to coach Leslie Frazier. Peterson is expected to undergo an MRI on Monday. It's impossible to overstate what the loss of their best player, even for a game, would mean to the Vikings. For now, their backup running backs are Toby Gerhart (24 carries this season) and Lorenzo Booker (four).

Mistakeball: Left tackle Charlie Johnson jumped offsides on the first play from scrimmage. Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder threw three interceptions, including one in the end zone and one near the goal line. The field-goal team botched placement of a 49-yard attempt. Booker lost a fumble on a kickoff return. That litany of mistakes, among others, dug a hole far too deep. That extended an embarrassing stretch of getting outscored 72-14 between the start of their Week 10 loss at the Green Bay Packers and the fourth quarter of Sunday's game.

Pass protection: Ponder had a shaky performance but faced a heavy rush for the second consecutive week. He scrambled for 71 yards on five carries, a good way to limit opposing blitzes, but at some point you need to have time to make plays in the pocket. The Raiders had five sacks. Offensive line has already emerged as one of the Vikings' top priorities for this offseason.

What's next: The Vikings travel to the Georgia Dome next Sunday to play the Atlanta Falcons.

Wrap-up: Bears 31, Chargers 20

November, 20, 2011
A look at another San Diego stumble:

What it means: The Chargers have now lost five straight games and they are falling out of the AFC West race. San Diego is 4-6 and it is two games behind division-leading Oakland, which is 6-4 and has already beaten San Diego.

Rivers’ struggles continue: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers had a solid day as he threw for 280 yards on 21 of 31 passing. He threw two touchdowns. However, he threw two more interceptions in the fourth quarter. Rivers has made critical miscues in the fourth quarter in all six of the Chargers’ defeats this season. Rivers has thrown 17 interceptions in 10 games. It is his highest interception total of his career.

Vincent Jackson has a big game: The San Diego receiver had 165 yards receiving on seven catches. He also had a touchdown. Jackson has to be a major part of the offense for the rest of the season.

Mathews has ball security issues: Second-year running back Ryan Mathews had a tough day. He fumbled twice and lost one. Mathews had just 37 yards on 13 carries.

The offensive line holds up: Credit the makeshift San Diego offensive line. Playing without three injured starters, the line did not give up any sacks Sunday. The Chargers will have to keep it up on the fly. The San Diego Union Tribune reports that left tackle Marcus McNeill may miss the rest of the season with a neck stinger.

Cutler wins dual: Rivers lost his first game playing former AFC West rival, Jay Cutler, since 2008. Cutler threw for 286 yards in the win.

Defense sagging: The San Diego defense has been giving up way too many big plays during this five-game losing streak. It looks tired and overmatched.

What’s next: The Chargers host Tim Tebow and the hot Denver Broncos in Week 12.

Wrap-up: Lions 49, Panthers 35

November, 20, 2011
A few thoughts on a wild game at Ford Field:

What it means: Down 24-7 in the second quarter, the Detroit Lions outscored the Carolina Panthers 42-11 the rest of the way to clinch their seventh victory of the season and keep pace with the Chicago Bears in the NFC wild-card picture. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Lions are the first team in NFL history to overcome 17-plus point deficits to win three games in the same season. The others were in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings (20-0) and Week 4 at the Dallas Cowboys (27-3). No lead is safe against this team.

Welcome back Mr. Smith: Raise your hand if you saw this kind of game coming from tailback Kevin Smith, who re-signed with the team only two weeks ago. Smith scored three of the Lions touchdowns, accounting for 201 combined yards rushing and receiving. The only Lions player in the past 50 years to average more than Smith's 8.8 yards per carry Sunday is Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. Most of us had given up on the Lions getting game-changing production from their backfield in any sense, much less as a runner. The Lions thought so little of Smith that they declined to bring him to training camp. Could he be their answer? What a story that would be. Said Lions coach Jim Schwartz: "There are a lot of great stories in the NFL and I’m sure there are a lot of storylines today, but I think the NFL would be hard-pressed to find a better story than Kevin Smith."

StaffordWatch: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw two first-quarter interceptions, putting him in a similar situation as last Sunday against the Bears: In a pass-only catch-up mode while hampered by a fractured right index finger. But I thought Stafford got it together on the possession after the Panthers took their 17-point lead. He hit receiver Nate Burleson for a 15-yard pass on third-and-12, and ultimately completed the final six passes of a 12-play drive that made clear the Lions weren't going away. Stafford completed 77.8 percent of his passes and followed those two interceptions with five touchdown passes. That's what a quarterback does when he wants to take his team to the playoffs.

SuhWatch: Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh finished with two tackles, but don't let the box score fool you. He had a whale of a second half, forcing one of Cam Newton's four interceptions with a strong inside rush. I'm not sure if Suh has impacted a game more this season than he did Sunday.

What's next: The Lions will host the Green Bay Packers in their annual Thanksgiving Day game, beginning a stretch that will include two games against the Packers and one against the New Orleans Saints. That schedule is what made Sunday's victory so crucial to the Lions' playoff chances.

Wrap-up: Seahawks 24, Rams 7

November, 20, 2011

Thoughts on Seattle and St. Louis following the Seahawks' victory at the Edward Jones Dome in Week 11:

What it means: The Seahawks improved to 4-6 heading into a three-game homestand against losing teams. Seattle is now in position to approach its 7-9 record from last season. That would be admirable, but also costly for those hoping the team will draft high enough to select the college quarterback it prefers. For the Rams, this defeat drops their record to 2-8 while again revealing their limitations on offense, with or without Sam Bradford at quarterback. Defeats such as this one -- at home, against a losing team, without being competitive -- raise questions about Steve Spagnuolo's job security beyond this season.

What I liked: The Seahawks won the field-position battle and continued grinding out yards on the ground despite losing right guard John Moffitt and right tackle James Carpenter to season-ending injuries before this game. They exploited matchup advantages against the Rams' injury-depleted secondary, including with receiver pass for a 55-yard gain. They also took advantage of their pass-rush matchups after the Rams, already playing without starting left tackle Rodger Saffold, lost backup Mark LeVoir as well. Chris Clemons dominated and finished with three sacks. Leon Washington enjoyed a strong day on punt returns for Seattle. For the Rams, linebackers Chris Chamberlain and James Laurinaitis were everywhere at times. Chamberlain picked off a pass. Rookie defensive end Robert Quinn got a piece of another punt. He also collected a sack.

What I didn't like: Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, fined $20,000 for an illegal hit last week, drew a personal-foul penalty with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Rams tight end Lance Kendricks. Chancellor could be subject to bigger fine and/or suspension. Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson tossed two early touchdown passes. He also took four sacks and eight quarterback hits, raising questions about his ability to last through the season as he plays with an injured pectoral. The Rams' Mark Clayton dropped a pass. Steven Jackson had his three-game streak of 100-yard rushing games end. He has now played 15 career games against Seattle without reaching 100 yards.

What's next: The Seahawks are home against the Washington Redskins in Week 12. The Rams are home against the Arizona Cardinals.

Wrap-up: Raiders 27, Vikings 21

November, 20, 2011

A look at a fortunate day for the Oakland Raiders in the Twin Cities as they beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-21.

What it means: The Raiders are now 6-4 and they will remain in first place in the AFC West regardless of the rest of the action in the division in Week 11. Denver is 5-5 and San Diego and Kansas City are 4-5.

Survival: The Raiders looked great in the first two quarters against the undermanned Vikings, who fell to 2-8. Oakland scored 24 unanswered points and led 24-7 at the half. Yet, the Vikings came back thanks to several Oakland penalties. Had the Vikings not been mistake prone (they committed five turnovers, including two interceptions that were deep in Oakland’s territory), they could have won this game. The Raiders need to find a way to play a complete game moving forward, but a win is a win.

Spreading the ball around: In his third Oakland start, quarterback Carson Palmer had his moments, especially in the first half. He ended up 17-of-23 passing for 164 yards. It was a great sign that Palmer spread the ball around. He completed passes to seven different receivers and hit tight end Kevin Boss five times. Getting Boss more involved is paramount. Palmer’s comfort level in this offense is groining even though his numbers weren’t spectacular Sunday.

Scary scene: Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey had a good game with four catches before he injured his neck or head in the fourth quarter. He had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.

Controlling Allen: Minnesota sack master Jared Allen came into the game with a sack in 11 straight games. The streak ended Sunday. Oakland did allow four sacks, but it was able to contain Allen.

Big game for Bush again: Oakland backup running back Michael Bush had 109 yards on 30 carries. He has a total of 266 rushing yards in the past two games as Darren McFadden has been out since Week 7 with a foot injury.

Satele hurt again: Center Samson Satele had a concussion in the first half. Rookie guard Stefen Wisniewski was moved to center and Stephon Heyer came in to play left guard. Wisniewski excelled at center in Week 10 at San Diego when Satele was injured.

Bringing the heat: The Raiders continued to get to the quarterback. They had five sacks Sunday and have 11 sacks in their past two games.

Penalties still an issue: The Raiders -- the most penalized team in the NFL -- were flagged 12 times for 117 yards. This is a major issue for Oakland that has to somehow be cleared up.

Fourth-quarter problems continue: The Raiders were shut out in the fourth quarter for the fifth straight game. It almost caught up to them Sunday.

What’s next: The Raiders host Chicago in Week 12.

Wrap-up: Browns 14, Jaguars 10

November, 20, 2011
Thoughts on the Browns-Jaguars game:

What it means: While it wasn't the most stylish of wins, the Browns still ended their three-game losing streak as well as their two-game touchdown drought at home. Led by Colt McCoy, Cleveland had only two scoring drives, but both were impressive (going 87 and 85 yards). The Browns (4-6) remain in last place in the AFC North, trailing the Ravens and Steelers by three games.

Thumbs up: McCoy. The Browns quarterback showed physical and mental toughness. He shook off an injury to his right shoulder in throwing 199 yards and the winning touchdown. His 3-yard touchdown pass to Josh Cribbs in the fourth quarter came after the drive where he threw an interception in the red zone.

Defensive stand: It's never easy for the Browns, and they needed to stop the Jaguars on five plays from the 5-yard line or closer. The final two plays of the game: Jason Hill dropped a pass in the end zone and Mike Thomas couldn't reach the last throw.

Revving up the run game: Even though Montario Hardesty was scratched -- he was a game-time decision -- the Browns had great success against the 14th-ranked run defense. Chris Ogbonnaya rushed for a career-high 115 yards and scored on a 1-yard run, which ended a touchdown drought at home that lasted more than 158 minutes.

What's next: The Browns look to end their three-game road losing streak when they play at the Cincinnati Bengals.

Wrap-up: Packers 35, Buccaneers 26

November, 20, 2011

Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35-26 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

What it means: This time, you can’t question the Bucs’ effort or say they were quiet. A week after all those things were said many times in an embarrassing loss, the Bucs went into one of the NFL’s toughest venues and played with plenty of heart. They had the Packers on the ropes most of the game, but couldn’t pull it off in the end. No shame in that and coach Raheem Morris won't have to talk about a lack of effort this week. But the Bucs are now 4-6. They have to get extremely hot the rest of the season to have any shot at the playoffs.

What I liked: Tampa Bay’s offense. It looked better than it has most of the season because there was balance. LeGarrette Blount ran for 107 yards, including a spectacular touchdown run (if you haven’t seen it, be sure to catch the replay) and Josh Freeman threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns. But Freeman also was intercepted twice. That gives him 15 for the season. He was only intercepted six times all of last season.

What I didn’t like: You couldn’t really have expected Tampa Bay’s defense to go into Green Bay and shut down Aaron Rodgers. Tampa Bay’s defensive talent just isn’t that good. But the Bucs played defense about as well as they could for a large chunk of the game. But there were a few defensive penalties in the fourth quarter that were very costly.

What’s next: The Bucs play at Tennessee next Sunday.

Wrap-up: Browns 14, Jaguars 10

November, 20, 2011

Thoughts on the Jaguars’ 14-10 loss to the Browns in Cleveland:

What it means: The Jaguars fell to 3-7, and while they talked during the week of getting back into the AFC South race, the loss pretty much killed the chances of that. Decision-making at the end, when they were in position to win, was poor. Read on.

What I didn’t like: The Jaguars had two plays from the Cleveland 1-yard line to score a touchdown and win the game at the end and couldn’t do it. With 8 seconds left, the prudent play call was to throw first. Jacksonville did that, knowing it would either get the touchdown or stop the clock with an incompletion. Blaine Gabbert threw incomplete to Jason Hill in the back left corner of the end zone. With three seconds left, the Jaguars have to be able to make room for their best player, Maurice Jones-Drew, to run it in. But they called for Gabbert to throw, and from the shotgun he pump-faked, then threw well behind Mike Thomas.

What I didn’t like, II: Gabbert had more chances, which I like, but 21 of 41 for 210 yards with no touchdowns hardly qualified as the breakout game we’ve been looking for -- that’s 4.6 yards per pass play. And the Browns dropped a couple balls that should have been picks.

Bad call: Officials botched a second-quarter call that helped position the Browns for a touchdown. On a second-and-goal from the Jaguars' 7-yard line, Colt McCoy threw into the end zone and safety Dawan Landry was called for pass interference. But replays clearly showed the throw was tipped at the line, which would mean there couldn’t be pass interference. Jack Del Rio challenged it, but referee Terry McAulay upheld the initial ruling, giving Cleveland a first-and-goal at the 1 yard-line.

What’s next: The Jaguars host the AFC-South leading Houston Texans, who are coming off a bye week and will start Matt Leinart at quarterback with Matt Schaub injured.

Wrap-up: Lions 49, Panthers 35

November, 20, 2011

Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 49-35 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field:

What it means: Remember when the Panthers were scoring moral victories every week early in the season? Well, they’re back at it. But this one had the potential to be so much more. This was a chance for a young team and first-year head coach Ron Rivera to turn a big corner. A victory in Ford Field would have sent a firm message to the rest of the league that the Panthers will be a force to be reckoned with next season and a potential spoiler the rest of this season. The Panthers went toe-to-toe with the Lions much of the day. But they couldn’t quite turn the corner. On the bright side, there were plenty of promising things that emerged, and the Panthers seem to be putting themselves in nice position for next year’s draft.

What I liked: Carolina’s offense. Yeah, Cam Newton was intercepted four times, but he had some great moments. The whole offense did. Even though they’re losing, the Panthers are so much more exciting on offense than they ever were under former head coach John Fox.

What I didn’t like: Carolina’s defense. It’s been a problem all year and it’s not getting any better. You can’t allow Matthew Stafford to throw for five touchdowns and you can’t allow 49 points. No matter how good your offense is, it’s pretty tough to match 49 points. Wherever the Panthers end up in the draft order, they better use their first pick on a defensive player. They better use just about all their picks on defensive players.

Sign of progress: The Panthers have made it clear they’re going to look at their young players a lot down the stretch. One guy who stood out Sunday was rookie return man Kealoha Pilares. He took a kickoff back for a touchdown.

What’s next: The Panthers play at Indianapolis next Sunday.