NFL Nation: 2012 Week 14 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Giants 52, Saints 27

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
7:44
PM ET

Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints’ 52-27 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: That dream scenario of the Saints making the playoffs after an 0-4 start and all that off-field turmoil probably can be forgotten. The Saints are now 5-8 and only a game ahead of the last-place Carolina Panthers in the NFC South standings.

Point of no return: The Saints had all sorts of problems with kickoff coverage. They allowed a 97-yard return for a touchdown by David Wilson and Jerrel Jernigan had another return for 60 yards. A lot of people like to talk about how bad New Orleans’ defense is, but that unit wasn’t the real culprit against the Giants. New York’s special teams and a defense that picked off Drew Brees twice and forced two fumbles repeatedly gave the Giants good field position.

One thing that’s obvious: The Saints need a speed receiver. Aside from Joe Morgan, who still is being worked into the offense, the wide receivers weren’t getting any separation against the Giants. That forced Brees to lock in on tight end Jimmy Graham way too often. Both of Brees’ interceptions came on throws for Graham -- one went off the tight end’s hands and the other was underthrown against good coverage.

What’s next: The Saints host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Wrap-up: 49ers 27, Dolphins 13

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
7:15
PM ET

Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Candlestick Park in Week 14:

What it means: The 49ers improved to 9-3-1, maintaining their lead in the NFC West on a day when Seattle (on its way to 8-5) were winning big and St. Louis (6-6-1) also won. That was critical for San Francisco as the team heads into more difficult road games against New England and the Seahawks.

What I liked: Colin Kaepernick completed 18 of 23 passes for 185 yards, good for a 100.2 NFL passer rating. His 50-yard scoring run in the final minutes put away the game for San Francisco.

Second-year outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who entered the game tied with Fred Dean for the single-season 49ers sack record (17.5), moved into sole possession of the mark with a first-half sack.

Rookie running back LaMichael James picked up 10 yards on his first carry of the season. He looked good. Receiver Michael Crabtree continued to produce after the catch. Frank Gore topped 1,000 yards rushing for the season and also had a touchdown run.

The 49ers held the Dolphins to 227 yards.

What I didn't like: Kaepernick took four sacks and the offense wasn't all that cohesive. San Francisco allowed a touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter after taking a 20-6 lead. The Dolphins were more efficient than the 49ers on third and fourth downs. That was clear again when San Francisco went three-and-out after Miami pulled within 20-13. The 49ers had converted only 1 of 8 (12 percent) third-down chances to that point, compared to 5-of-11 (45 percent) for the Dolphins.

San Francisco allowed three sacks to Miami's Cameron Wake.

A 15-yard penalty against the 49ers for NaVorro Bowman's hit on Ryan Tannehill gave Miami first down at the San Francisco 35-yard line in the final five minutes. Bowman made an aggressive play. He did not appear to do anything dirty. But officials have been instructed to err on the side of protecting quarterbacks. They did that on this play. Penalties have been a problem for the 49ers recently. That was the case late.

What's next: The 49ers visit the New England Patriots in Week 15.

Wrap-up: 49ers 27, Dolphins 13

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
7:13
PM ET

Here are some thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 27-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins:

What it means: The Dolphins lost their fifth game in six weeks and fall to 5-8 on the season. Similar to the Buffalo Bills' loss Sunday, this game ends any realistic chance Miami had of getting a wild card. No one expected Miami to win this game on the road against one of the top teams in the NFC. But the Dolphins played hard and kept it competitive until the final minutes.

What I liked: Miami packed its defense on the road. The Dolphins matched the physical 49ers hit for hit and kept the Dolphins to just six points in the first half. San Francisco didn't get a third-down conversion until late in the third quarter, but Miami's defense eventually wore down late. Miami defensive end Cameron Wake continued his Pro Bowl-level play with three more sacks. Miami tailback Reggie Bush also was more involved in the offense and accounted for 103 total yards.

What I didn’t like: Miami’s special teams were awful. First, linebacker Jonathan Freeney had a brain cramp when he grabbed the football but failed to down it inside the 5-yard line. Freeney inexplicably trotted inside the end zone for a touchback. Then, Dolphins return man Marcus Thigpen muffed a punt inside Miami's 10-yard line in the third quarter to set up a San Francisco touchdown. Plays like this in the third phase are costly in a competitive game. Dolphins rookie Jonathan Martin struggled in his first start at left tackle. Aldon Smith beat him for two sacks. Martin is auditioning to potentially replace Jake Long next season. Long is on injured reserve with a triceps injury and will be an unrestricted free agent.

What's next: The Dolphins will return home to face the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11). It will mark the return of former Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne, who played in Miami from 2008-2011.

Wrap-up: Browns 30, Chiefs 7

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
6:37
PM ET

A look at another Kansas City Chiefs loss:

What it means: The Chiefs couldn’t find a way to win their second straight game after a horrific tragedy that has affected the team. The Chiefs beat Carolina last week a day after starting linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins and then killed himself in front of key figures of the team's brass. Belcher's memorial service was Wednesday and many in the organization attended Perkins’ funeral in Austin, Texas on Saturday and then flew to Cleveland. The Chiefs were flat Sunday and they fell to 2-11. They are on pace for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. It was a lousy return to Cleveland for several Chiefs including head coach Romeo Crennel, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, quarterback Brady Quinn and running back Peyton Hillis. Hillis was booed loudly because of the rocky ending of his time in Cleveland last year.

Big day for Charles: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had 165 yards on 18 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Charles was among those at Perkins’ funeral. Charles has had at least 107 yards rushing in the past three games. He has 1,220 rushing yards this season.

New streak: Last week the Chiefs scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game for the first time since Dec. 2010. Charles' touchdown made it two straight games that the Chiefs have scored a touchdown on their first drive.

Quinn not effective: A week after being the AFC Offensive player of the week, Quinn struggled. He completed 10 of 21 passes for 159 yards and tossed an interception.

Bowe hurt: Star Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe left the game with an injury to his ribs and did not return.

Turnover problem getting better: Quinn wasn’t good, but the Chiefs are more careful with the ball than when Matt Cassel was the starter. The Chiefs have committed four turnovers in the past five games after committing 29 turnovers in the first eight games. Cassel was a big reason for the turnovers.

What’s next: The Chiefs play at 3-10 Oakland in a game that will have draft-choice implications.

Wrap-up: Jets 17, Jaguars 10

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
6:13
PM ET
video
Thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 17-10 loss to the New York Jets at EverBank Field:

What it means: The Jaguars allowed Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to end a stretch of 17 scoreless possessions he quarterbacked en route to a loss that dropped them to 2-11. They remain contenders for both a post-season front office shake up and for the first overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft.

What I didn’t like: The Jets are far better rushing the ball on offense than passing it, and the Jaguars allowed them to do just that. Bilal Powell turned 19 carries into 78 yards and a score and Shonn Greene took his 20 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown. That meant Sanchez only needed to manage things and he did well enough, completing 12 of 19 passes for 111 yards. Chad Henne had to throw it 43 times and while he made a of couple big fourth-down conversion throws in the Jaguars' last ditch drive, the last one resulted in a game-sealing interception when he threw it long and receiver Kevin Elliott broke off his route.

What could have been: Derek Cox forced a Jeremy Kerley fumble after a second-quarter, 7-yard gain and it appeared Dwight Lowery recovered it, got up and went 60 yards up the sideline for a touchdown. But the replay review showed Kerley touched Lowery while he was down. Instead of a touchdown, the Jaguars got four plays and then had to punt.

Impact play: Jason Babin produced a pass rusher’s trifecta with a sack of Sanchez that forced a fumble that Babin recovered himself. It’s just the sort of thing Jacksonville was looking for when it claimed Babin off waivers from Philadelphia a couple weeks ago.

One good sign: The Jaguars gave up one 37-yard pass play. Beyond that, they really made the Jets drive the ball, as the second longest play was 14 yards. The Jaguars only got three plays over 20 yards themselves, nothing bigger than Montell Owens’ pretty 36-yard touchdown run.

Big differential: The Jets committed just one penalty for 15 yards while the Jaguars were flagged for seven that cost them 54 yards.

What’s next: The Jaguars travel south for a game at Miami.

Wrap-up: Browns 30, Chiefs 7

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
6:02
PM ET

My thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 30-7 win to the Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns Stadium:

What it means: The Browns won their fifth game of the season, which is one more than their total last season. This rout was Cleveland's third win in a row, the Browns' longest winning streak since the end of the 2009 season. It was the largest margin of victory for the Browns in 29 games under coach Pat Shurmur and the largest for the Browns since 2003. The Chiefs fall to 2-11 with former Browns coach Romeo Crennel and former Browns quarterback Brady Quinn.

Making history: Trailing 7-3, Travis Benjamin returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. It was the longest punt return in the Browns' history. Benjamin is the first rookie with a punt return for a touchdown since Ben Davis in 1967.

Tying Jim Brown: Running back Trent Richardson wasn't the leading rusher for the Browns with 42 yards on 18 carries. But he did make this a memorable game. His two touchdowns pushed his season total to nine, which ties Jim Brown for the most rushing touchdowns by a rookie in Browns history. And Richardson has three games remaining. His second touchdown early in the fourth quarter gave the Browns a 27-7 lead and put away the Chiefs.

Tough start: Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles ran for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Charles went between the tackles on the left side and was never touched. But the Browns didn't give up another point for the remaining 59 minutes, 48 seconds. It helped that Ryan Succop hit the upright on a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter.

What's next: The Browns host the Redskins.

Wrap-up: Cowboys 20, Bengals 19

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
5:43
PM ET
video
My thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 20-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at Paul Brown Stadium:

What it means: Failing to hold onto a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Bengals (7-6) missed out on a prime opportunity to take control of the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC with the Steelers losing. Cincinnati's four-game winning streak ended on Dan Bailey's 40-yard field goal as time expired. The Bengals allowed 10 points in the final 6 minutes, 35 seconds.

Trouble with protection: The Bengals gave up five sacks, but none was more costly than the last one. On third-and-4, Anthony Spencer dropped quarterback Andy Dalton for a 10-yard loss and forced the Bengals to punt. That led to the Cowboys' game-winning -- and game-ending -- 13-play drive.

Cold in the red zone: The Bengals had been the NFL's hottest team in the red zone. That was not the case against the Cowboys. Cincinnati failed to score a touchdown on three of its four trips inside the 20-yard line against Dallas, which was tied for 17th in red zone defense.

Costly mistake by Dalton: Interceptions continue to hurt Dalton. A poor throw in the second quarter resulted in his 14th interception of the season, which was converted into a DeMarco Murray touchdown to tie the game at 10. Dalton was 20-of-33 for 206 yards.

Atkins reaches double digits: Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins recorded a sack to increase his season total to 10.5. He becomes the fourth Bengals player to reach a double-digit sack total since 1982.

What's next: The Bengals continue their stretch against the NFC East, playing at the Eagles on Thursday night.

Wrap-up: Chargers 34, Steelers 24

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
5:36
PM ET

A look at an impressive 34-24 win for the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The Chargers finally played like a winning team Sunday. They had lost seven of eight games going into this game and looked incapable of winning. But they went on the road and hammered a team with designs for the playoff. San Diego is 5-8 and has faint playoff hopes. It was the first time San Diego has won at Pittsburgh in the regular season after going 0-14 there.

Doesn’t change much: The win very likely won’t change the fact that coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will probably be fired after the season. There have been multiple reports that ownership will make a change. Turner was saved by the team’s strong play at the end of the previous season. That likely won’t work this year, but it's a nice win for Turner.

Rivers is sharp: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers had a good day. He threw three touchdown passes and did not commit a turnover despite playing without three starting offensive lineman and without center Nick Hardwick at times.

Yardage woes continued: The Chargers had 294 yards of offense, marking the fourth straight game they had fewer than 300. The last time that happened was 1999.

Running game still lacking: Last week, the Chargers ran the ball just 11 times. They went back to the run this week as they ran for 94 yards on 36 carries. Ryan Mathews had just 65 yards on 25 carries.

Alexander continues to shine: Receiver Danario Alexander, signed off the street earlier this season, had 88 yards on seven catches. Alexander has a chance to be a big part of the Chargers’ future. He has 33 catches for 555 yards in seven games. Newly signed Michael Spurlock had seven catches for 64 yards. Big-ticket free-agent pickup Robert Meachem? No catches. He hasn’t had a catch in the past three games and he has just 14 catches this season. And yes, his contract is guaranteed next season.

What’s next: The Chargers go home to face Carolina and former defensive coordinator Ron Rivera in Week 15.

Wrap-up: Eagles 23, Buccaneers 21

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
5:34
PM ET
video
Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 23-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium:

What it means: This one was particularly painful for the Buccaneers in terms of how they lost and what it means. They had a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but ended up losing on the last play of the game to one of the NFL’s worst teams. But it goes much deeper than that. The Bucs now are on a three-game losing streak, they’re 6-7 and their playoff hopes could be fading away.

Defensive collapse: The pass defense has been a problem all season, and that was only accentuated in this one. Philadelphia rookie quarterback Nick Foles threw for 381 yards and led two touchdown drives in the final 3:26.

Super letdown: The Buccaneers used this day to celebrate an early 10-year anniversary of their Super Bowl championship. Scores of players and coaches from that squad returned and the Bucs had a rare day in which their game was allowed to be shown on local television. But the current Bucs didn’t play anything close to championship football. The Buccaneers have made big strides this year, but they’re not going to consistently sell out their stadium the way they did in their glory years unless they start winning games like this.

What’s next: The Buccaneers play at New Orleans next Sunday.

Wrap up: Eagles 23, Buccaneers 21

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
4:49
PM ET
A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' last-second comeback victory Sunday over the Buccaneers in Tampa, Fla.

What it means: In the 2012 picture, not a lot for the Eagles, whose season was already lost. But it means the end of an eight-game winning streak, the team's first victory since September and a chance for the Eagles and their fans to feel good for a few days. (They play again Thursday.) It also showed the kind of toughness a lot of people have been accusing the Eagles of not having, as they recovered from a 21-10 deficit in the final four minutes to win.

The kid: This was the chance for rookie quarterback Nick Foles to look his best against the worst pass defense in the league, and Foles looked very good indeed. He was 32-for-51 for 381 yards and two touchdowns, including the last-second game winner to Jeremy Maclin, and he also ran for a 10-yard touchdown. He was sacked six times, but he did not throw an interception, and he looked especially in control in the waning minutes as the team was moving the ball down the field in its comeback effort. As the Eagles use this final month to evaluate Foles as the potential answer for them at quarterback next season and beyond, this game stands as his best tape to date.

The defense: In the first game since the firing of defensive line coach Jim Washburn, the Eagles got sacks from defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Cullen Jenkins, seemed to ditch the much-maligned "Wide 9" alignment Washburn instituted last year and held Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman to 189 yards on 14-of-34 passing. They didn't create any turnovers, and it was their seventh game in a row without an interception, but the big guys up front and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did a much better job this week of limiting the opposing team's passing attack. And even once the Bucs appeared to figure things out in the second half, they couldn't get far enough ahead to hold off the comeback.

What's next: The Eagles host the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night. Cincinnati's playoff hopes took a hit Sunday with a last-second loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but they come into the game with a 7-6 record and one of the best defenses in the league.

Wrap-up: Rams 15, Bills 12

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
4:20
PM ET

Some thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 15-12 loss to the St. Louis Rams:

What it means: The Bills blow another game late and fall to 5-8. That puts any chance Buffalo had for a wild card to rest. It's fitting because questionable play in the fourth quarter has been the story of the Bills' season. They lost their fourth game by a touchdown or less Sunday against St. Louis. There will certainly be more questions about the coaching decisions that allowed St. Louis to hang around and eventually win the game.

What I liked: Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams continued his solid play. Williams had a sack and forced fumble in the first half. Williams now has 10.5 sacks on the season and is the first Bill to post double-digit sacks since Aaron Schobel in 2009. Buffalo's defense failed to make the final stop when the team needed it most, but it was a solid performance for three quarters. Bills No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson also played through a hamstring injury and caught six passes for 71 yards.

What I didn’t like: The Bills controlled the pace of the game but couldn't put the Rams away. Buffalo let the Rams hang around too long, and that usually results in a loss. St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford threw a late touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Gibson with less than a minute remaining to win the game. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had a chance to get his team in field goal range but threw another late interception on the final drive. Buffalo also botched an extra point in the third quarter, which you don't see often in the NFL. Bills tailback Fred Jackson's poor luck with injuries continued, as he suffered a leg ailment in the fourth quarter and didn't return.

What’s next: The Bills will conclude their three-game home stand next week against the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is 2-1 against the AFC East this season with wins over the New England Patriots and New York Jets.

Wrap-up: Rams 15, Bills 12

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
4:08
PM ET

Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 15-12 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Week 14:

What it means: The Rams have won three consecutive games for the first time since 2006. Quarterback Sam Bradford enhanced his already strong fourth-quarter credentials with a game-winning drive featuring outstanding plays from his receiving targets as well. St. Louis improved to 6-6-1 and kept itself alive in the NFC playoff picture. This was a huge road victory for the Rams, who had gone 1-6 outside the NFC West before Sunday. The defense deserves credit for hanging tough and keeping the Bills' scoring down without enough help for most of the game.

What I liked: Bradford entered this game ranked third behind Jay Cutler and Peyton Manning in fourth-quarter Total QBR. Austin Pettis helped him out on that front with a sensational fourth-and-1 grab on a pass well behind him as the Rams drove in the final two minutes. Bradford threaded a 22-yarder to Lance Kendricks over the middle on the same drive. Brandon Gibson also emerged in key spots, including on his 8-yard scoring reception to take the lead in the final minute. With that, Bradford led the winning 84-yard touchdown drive to salvage what had been a dispiriting performance from the offense.

The Rams' defense bent, but it rarely broke despite getting little help from the offense most of the way. Stopping the Bills after Buffalo took over at its own 49-yard line in the fourth quarter was critical. The Rams got 2.5 sacks from their starting defensive tackles, including 1.5 from rookie Michael Brockers. Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar preserved the victory with an interception in the final 30 seconds.

Bradford and Gibson got going in the third quarter as St. Louis took the lead. Bradford also showed his running ability, picking up 12 yards on a third-and-9.

What I didn't like: The offense couldn't get anything going by ground or air through the first half and too much of the second. The Rams joined the Kansas City Chiefs as the only teams to go scoreless against the Bills through a first half. The Bills' defensive front, improved in recent weeks as its health has improved, appeared to have its way with the Rams up front. Bradford took too many hits. For too long, the Rams' receivers appeared to have a hard time getting open. The weather was wet and the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium looked like a slow track.

Rookie punter Johnny Hekker mishandled a punt snap and took a hard hit while trying to punt the ball, giving the Bills possession at the St. Louis 37.

What's next: The Rams are home against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 15.

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