NFL Nation: 2012 Week 6 coverage

SAN DIEGO -- A look at an all-time Monday Nighter by the sea:

What it means: The AFC West landscape had changed. With a bang. In the wildest game of the NFL season, the Denver Broncos shocked the San Diego Chargers in what could define the AFC West season. Both teams are 3-3 and tied for first place in the division.

Did that really happen? San Diego led 24-0 at the half? According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chargers had a 98.5 percent win probability at halftime. And get this nugget the fine folks at Stats & Info dug up: Since the Super Bowl era began, a team has led 24-0 at the half 442 times. Just three of those teams lost. Welcome to a lousy club, San Diego.

Manning soars: In all three of Denver’s losses, quarterback Peyton Manning led the team on a big comeback attempt that fell short. He broke the door down Monday night. Manning completed his first 13 passes of the second half and threw three touchdowns. The key Monday night was his teammates matched his intensity during the comeback.

Rivers falls: Meanwhile, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers couldn’t hang with Manning as the Chargers gave up their second double-digit lead in the second half in as many weeks. Rivers threw three of his four interceptions and lost two fumbles in the second half. His turnovers resulted directly in two touchdowns for Denver. It was a tale of two very different quarterbacks when it mattered most.

Decker comes up big: Denver receiver Eric Decker looked like he was going to be a goat. He tripped on what would have been a sure touchdown in the first half. Later that drive, San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer returned a Manning interception 80 yards for a touchdown; But Decker came back with a second- and third-effort short touchdown catch in the second half as the Broncos roared back.

What’s next: Both teams get to think about this incredible game for a while. Both start their bye week. Denver hosts New Orleans in Week 8, and San Diego travels to Cleveland.

Wrap-up: Packers 42, Texans 24

October, 14, 2012

A few thoughts on Sunday night's events at Reliant Stadium:

What it means: The Green Bay Packers roared back from last week's disappointment in Indianapolis with the most impressive response imaginable, drilling the previously undefeated Houton Texans in their building on national television. One of the best performances in quarterback Aaron Rodgers' career overshadowed a series of defensive injuries that could change the long-term analysis of this game.

RodgersWatch: Rodgers took it upon himself to raise the Packers' bravado this week, telling NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth that the Packers considered themselves the favorite for this game -- and that the Texans probably agreed. Rodgers then attacked the Texans' bump-and-run coverage with an aggression we hadn't seen this season, starting with a 41-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jordy Nelson in the first quarter and not calling it a night until he had tied a team record with six touchdowns. Nelson caught three, fellow receiver James Jones caught two more -- his third consecutive game with a pair of scores. Tight end Tom Crabtree's 48-yard score put the game away early in the fourth quarter. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers is the fifth player in NFL history to finish a game with at least 330 passing yards, six touchdown throws and no interceptions. It should also be noted that the Packers stayed true to their running game throughout the game, and tailback Alex Green finished with 22 carries.

Injury report: Already playing without nose tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) and receiver Greg Jennings (groin), the Packers had four players carted off with what appeared to be significant injuries. Linebackers Nick Perry (knee) and D.J. Smith (knee), running back Brandon Saine (knee) and cornerback Sam Shields (shin) did not return to the game. Erik Walden replaced Perry, Brad Jones played for Smith and rookie Casey Hayward had two late interceptions after replacing Shields. We'll provide an update Monday on their statuses.

Defense shines: Even with those injuries, the Packers doubled the number of sacks Texans quarterback Matt Schaub had taken (three) and the number of interceptions he had thrown (two). And probably more important, they did a number on tailback Adrian Foster (17 carries for 29 yards), which clearly diminished the Texans' flexibility on offense. Just a swarming effort all-around by Dom Capers' group.

What's next: The Packers will play at the St. Louis Rams next Sunday, the third of three consecutive games on the road.

Rapid Reaction: Packers 42, Texans 24

October, 14, 2012

HOUSTON -- Thoughts on the Houston Texans' 42-24 blowout loss to the Green Bay Packers at Reliant Stadium Sunday night:

What it means: The Texans can be susceptible to a talented and desperate team with a top-flight quarterback. Houston didn’t adjust well in its first game without inside linebacker Brian Cushing, lost for the season to a torn ACL suffered Monday night against the Jets. Star cornerback Johnathan Joseph didn’t look like himself for the second week in a row. The Texans are still three wins up on Indianapolis and Tennessee in the AFC South.

What I didn’t like: The defensive effort was atrocious. Yes, Rodgers was back to the form that won him MVP last season. But he threw for 338 yards and six touchdowns, three to Jordy Nelson, two to James Jones and one to Tom Crabtree. (Graham Harrell replaced Rodgers late in the fourth quarter.) Houston rushed OK in spurts, but generally did little to throw Rodgers off his game. Texans fans got out of Reliant Stadium in a hurry, leaving Packers fans to send a “Go Pack, Go” chant around the venue.

What I liked: The Texans managed to get Andre Johnson back in the flow with eight catches for 75 yards. He’s been under-utilized lately, so it was nice to see him back. In the fourth quarter, Johnson topped 10,000 career receiving yards. He did it in his 128th game, the sixth-fastest player to the mark in NFL history.

Injury concerns: Right guard Antoine Caldwell, who yields time some to rookie Ben Jones as part of a rotation, was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Special teams: Penalties were an issue for the Texans on special teams. They did get a late blocked punt by Bryan Braman, which DeVier Posey recovered for a touchdown.

What’s next: The Texans host another giant game as the Baltimore Ravens come to town. The Texans were knocked out of last season’s playoffs a game short of the AFC title game by the Ravens in Baltimore and the two figure to be prime candidates for home field advantage through the playoffs.

Wrap-up: Redskins 38, Vikings 26

October, 14, 2012
A few thoughts on Sunday's events at FedEx Field:

What it means: The Minnesota Vikings saw their three-game winning streak end after a comeback fell short at FedEx Field. They're 4-2, officially a half-game behind the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears (4-1).

What I liked: Overcoming a series of defensive breakdowns and a sluggish offensive performance, the Vikings closed a 19-point deficit to as close as 31-26 with three minutes, 42 seconds remaining. They had the Redskins in a third-and-six situation on the ensuing possession, but a rare blitz gave Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III an opening for a game-clinching 76-yard touchdown run. The Vikings had played poorly enough to earn that 19-point deficit, but to their credit, they kept fighting. Quarterback Christian Ponder threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, but he was still pushing late in the fourth quarter.

What I didn't like: The game showed how slim the Vikings' margin for error is. Field goals on three first-quarter trips to the red zone came back to hurt them. That 9-0 lead turned to a 17-9 halftime deficit once Griffin got warmed up against a defense that looked uncomfortable against him. Ponder was inaccurate over too long of a stretch in this game, culminating with a fourth-quarter interception returned for a touchdown by Redskins safety Madieu Williams. This team doesn't have the firepower to overcome big deficits or multiple mistakes.

HarvinWatch: Receiver Percy Harvin caught 11 of the 14 passes thrown his way for 133 yards, four of which went for at least 15 yards. But this was the type of game the Vikings missed receiver Jerome Simpson, or at least the potential of what he can bring. Simpson was inactive because of a back injury, and it's hard to mount a big comeback without a true downfield threat.

What's next: The Vikings have an opportunity to rebound with two home games over the next 11 days, starting with the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 26, 49ers 3

October, 14, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO –- Tom Coughlin said nobody gave the New York Giants a chance to win. But they left Candlestick with another victory over the favored San Francisco 49ers, 26-3 on Sunday.

What it means: The Giants wanted to see how they measured up to an NFC contender. When it was over, the Giants reminded everyone who the defending Super Bowl champions are and how good this team can be when it is motivated and healthy.

The Giants made a statement by dominating the Niners on their own turf. The defense came up with its best performance of the season, suffocating the Niners' offense. Eli Manning and the offensive line were sensational. The Giants moved the offense against perhaps the best defense in the NFL.

More importantly, this is the kind of win that can propel the Giants to a solid winning streak. The Giants have won two straight and will roll into two critical division games with a ton of momentum.

The ball hawk: The Giants got the sacks they wanted, but they also collected something even better –- three rare interceptions of Alex Smith.

Smith came into this game having thrown just one interception on the season. But Prince Amukamara picked off a pass in the first half and Antrel Rolle intercepted Smith twice in the third quarter, helping to set up two Giants field goals.

Rolle said last year that he often was not put in position to be the ball hawk that he wants to be. He certainly harassed Smith on Sunday.

No Vernon: Vernon Davis scored three touchdowns against the Giants in two games last season. On Sunday, he was invisible when the game was on the line. He made just two catches for 13 yards in the first three quarters.

O-line: The Giants' offensive line felt as if it had something to prove after giving up six sacks and 12 official quarterback hits to the Niners defense in the NFC title game. This time, Manning's jersey was kept clean and Ahmad Bradshaw broke the 100-yard barrier for the second straight Sunday, this time against an elite run defense.

Salsa time: After all the back and forth about the salsa with Carlos Rogers last week, Rogers had to watch Victor Cruz do it at his expense in the first half.

Cruz caught a Manning bullet over the middle in the back of the end zone and delivered his patented salsa celebration. Rogers initially said he might mimic the salsa again if he made a play. But after finding out that Cruz dedicated the salsa to his late grandmother, Rogers said he wouldn't do it.

Diehl comes off bench: David Diehl was active for the first time since Sept. 16 when he injured his MCL against Tampa Bay.

He came in as the extra blocker. The Giants opted to keep Sean Locklear at right tackle and Will Beatty at left tackle with the offensive line doing well. Diehl had started all 142 regular-season games he played in for the Giants.

Special-teams miscues: The Giants had a field goal blocked near the end of the first half, but the Niners helped the Giants' cause with two missed field goals. David Akers missed from 43 and 52 yards.

What's next: The Giants get their first taste of Robert Griffin III next Sunday at home. At 0-2 in the division, the Giants need an NFC East victory.

Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 24, Patriots 23

October, 14, 2012

SEATTLE -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 24-23 loss to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field:

PatriotsSeahawksWhat it means. The Patriots led for most of the game and had a chance to put the Seahawks away, but their inability to drop the hammer cost them the game. That is one area that has mostly eluded the team this year -- the ability to finish off an opponent. The Patriots left a lot of points on the field and kept the “12th Man” -- Seattle’s spirited crowd -- in the game throughout. The Patriots fall to 3-3.

Secondary in shambles. The Patriots were playing with rookies Nate Ebner and Tavon Wilson at safety at the end of the game, a result of injuries and a lack of depth. The Seahawks capitalized with a 46-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice off play-action, as he split the safeties. Overall, the secondary had a very tough day.

Not Brady’s best day. The Patriots decided that the passing game was the best way to attack the Seahawks, and while quarterback Tom Brady produced some solid numbers, this wasn’t a performance up to Brady’s high standard. He entered the game with just one interception on the season, but had two on the day. He also had an intentional grounding penalty on a throw through the back of the end zone at the end of the second quarter that cost the team a chance at three points.


Which group had the most disappointing performance in the Patriots' loss to the Seahawks?


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Game management a downer. The Patriots' coaching staff didn't have its best day, either. Timeouts were burned, the sequence at the end of the second quarter cost the team three points and a third timeout, which could have been valuable on the final drive, was burned when the defense had 12 men on the field. Uncharacteristic of a Bill Belichick-coached team.

Welker’s toughness shines through. Receiver Wes Welker turned in another Welker-like performance. The stretch of plays that perhaps best defined his work came in the second quarter when he absorbed a crunching hit, missed three plays, then returned to the field and promptly caught a pass for a first down. The stats look impressive for Welker, but this was a game where the stats don’t even tell the story when it comes to Welker. So tough and so valuable to this offense. He was one of the bright spots.

Bolden, Chung & Slater are injury situations to monitor. Rookie running back Brandon Bolden left the game in the second quarter after hobbling off from covering a kickoff that went for a touchback. The Patriots announced that Bolden had a knee injury, and he didn’t return. In addition, safety Patrick Chung left for the locker room in the fourth quarter with team doctor Thomas Gill and appeared to be favoring his arm. The team announced that Chung had a shoulder injury. Finally, special-teams captain Matthew Slater limped off after covering a punt in the fourth quarter and didn't return. Receiver Brandon Lloyd was shaken up late but returned to the game.

What’s next. The Patriots return to Gillette Stadium on Sunday to entertain the Jets, who scored a big win over the Colts on Sunday. The Seahawks have a quick turnaround with a trip to San Francisco on Thursday night.

Wrap-up: Bills 19, Cardinals 16 (OT)

October, 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals’ 19-16 overtime defeat at home against the Buffalo Bills in Week 6:

What it means: The Cardinals rallied again but ran out of their usual home magic, snapping an eight-game winning streak at University of Phoenix Stadium. Losing at home to a Bills team that was playing as poorly as any in the NFL will fuel skepticism that Arizona wasn’t as good as its record indicated. Kevin Kolb was shaken up late in the game and did not finish it. And when John Skelton threw a killer pick in overtime, a quarterback controversy was probably averted.

What I liked: Jay Feely’s 61-yard field goal to tie the game in the final minute or so marked a career long by 6 yards. The Cardinals’ ability to force overtime in such unlikely fashion was typical for them at home.

Patrick Peterson picked off Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter when the Cardinals desperately needed to make a play. Buffalo was driving while holding a 16-13 lead when Peterson got the ball back for Arizona with a little more than three minutes remaining.

John Skelton came off the bench late and converted on fourth-and-11 to give the Cardinals a chance as they worked to approach field goal range in the final two minutes.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald passed 10,000 yards receiving for his career on a fourth-quarter reception. He joined Randy Moss as the only players to reach the milestone before age 30.

What I didn’t like: A penalty against fullback Reagan Maui’a for spiking the ball following a reception killed a drive when the Cardinals needed to answer the Bills’ go-ahead field goal. That was a momentum killer for Arizona at a critical time. Having Feely miss the game winner late in regulation after delivering from 61 came as a big surprise. That was a crushing miss.

What’s next: The Cardinals visit the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7.

Wrap-up: Bills 19, Cardinals 16 (OT)

October, 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 19-16 overtime win over the Arizona Cardinals:

What it means: This was a gut-check game for the Bills. After getting pounded two straight weeks, Buffalo responded and finally showed toughness to win an overtime game on the road. So this win was important to get the Bills (3-3) back to .500.

What I liked: Overall, I liked Buffalo's toughness. Talent was never an issue. The Bills matched physicality with the Cardinals. Buffalo tailbacks C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for 141 rushing yards and two touchdowns. On defense, a lot of things came in twos. Bills safety Jairus Byrd recorded two big interceptions, including one in overtime to set up Buffalo's game-winning kick. After heavy criticism, Bills defensive end Mario Williams responded with a two-sack performance. Buffalo linebacker Nick Barnett and defensive also registered two sacks. The Cardinals' offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL and Buffalo took advantage.

What I didn't like: Why Brad Smith is in the game throwing passes late in the fourth quarter is mind-boggling. There are times for trick plays and that wasn't it. Smith threw a big interception to Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson that set up Jay Feely's 61-yard field goal at the end of regulation. I blame poor coaching on that one more than Smith. But otherwise, the Bills pulled through in overtime with a gutsy effort.

What's next: After back-to-back road games, the Bills will return home for a meeting with the Tennessee Titans (2-4). Tennessee has struggled this season but is coming off a big upset against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Titans have 10 days to prepare for the Bills, who cannot have a letdown.

Wrap-up: Redskins 38, Vikings 26

October, 14, 2012

A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' first victory in their last nine home games, Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field.

What it means: That the Redskins are a .500 team and only one game behind the first-place Giants, who they play next week in New Jersey. This was an impressive victory over a Minnesota team that came in 4-1 and playing very well, especially on the defensive front.

In RG3 they trust: Once again it was the rookie quarterback who led them, as Robert Griffin III rebounded from last week's concussion to throw for 182 yards and a touchdown on 17-for-22 passing and also rush for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Griffin's electrifying 76-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run, which came on a designed run play up the middle and with the help of a nice downfield block by wide receiver Josh Morgan, put the game away after the Vikings had cut it to 31-26 with 3:42 left on the clock.

Defensive star: Redskins coaches always rave about how valuable backup linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is, on special teams and as a willing and versatile utility player on defense. But with starters Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker out for the year with injuries, a number of different players have been asked to do more. Alexander was all over the field for the Redskins on Sunday. Officially, he was credited with five tackles, including one for a loss, four quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks. Safety Madieu Williams had an interception return for a touchdown, and the way he's struggled, that was a big relief for him. But Alexander was the Redskins' defensive star of the game.

What's next: The Redskins will travel to East Rutherford, N.J. and play the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon. They beat the Giants twice last year, and if they beat them again Sunday they will be in first place in the NFC East.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 26, 49ers 3

October, 14, 2012

Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 26-3 home defeat against the New York Giants in Week 6:

What it means: The 49ers’ formula for success failed to materialize as the team struggled in many of the areas in which it has been strongest under coach Jim Harbaugh. Turnovers, missed field goals, questionable game management, special-teams coverage lapses and an inconsistent pass rush doomed the 49ers to their second defeat of the season. They’re 4-2 heading into their Thursday night game against the Seattle Seahawks. How will they respond to an embarrassing defeat?

What I liked: The 49ers got Randy Moss involved on downfield throws. They had some success -- not consistent success, but some success -- using Colin Kaepernick in doses. That included when Kaepernick completed a long pass to Mario Manningham as the 49ers moved into position for a field goal attempt right before halftime. The 49ers converted first downs on four of their first five third-down chances, a big improvement from their 1-of-13 showing on third down against the Giants during an overtime defeat in the NFC Championship Game.

What I didn’t like: Just about everything from a 49ers perspective. Alex Smith’s interceptions are a good starting point. He appeared to hold the ball a little long before throwing the first one on a pass intended for tight end Delanie Walker. The Giants made good plays on the ball for the other picks. The 49ers had chances to collect interceptions of their own, but they couldn’t finish plays. Carlos Rogers might have scored on one pass Eli Manning threw deep in 49ers territory, but he dropped the ball.

Smith’s streak ends: Smith had gone 26 consecutive starts without tossing more than one interception in a game. He tossed three against the Giants and also held the ball when the 49ers’ offensive line gave him ample time to find receivers. It’s possible there weren’t open receivers on some of those throws, but a quarterback still needs to unload the football to avoid field-position losses.

Key injury: The 49ers lost left tackle Joe Staley to a concussion. The injury has added significance because the 49ers have to play again Thursday night. Will Staley be cleared to play in time for kickoff? If not, the 49ers will have some shuffling to do as they prepare for Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons, a strong pass-rusher and all-around player.

Questionable decision: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh issued a first-half replay challenge even though it was clear the Giants had not lost a fumble on the play. The decision cost the 49ers one of their challenges early in the game and without any shot at prevailing, based on available replays.

What’s next: The 49ers are home against the Seattle Seahawks for a Thursday night game in Week 7. This will be their first game against a division opponent in 2012.

Wrap-up: Seahawks 24, Patriots 23

October, 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 24-23 victory against the New England Patriots in Week 6:

What it means: The Seahawks improved to 4-2 with a comeback victory that should at least temporarily silence calls for the team to replace rookie quarterback Russell Wilson with backup Matt Flynn. Wilson connected on big plays early, then found Sidney Rice for the winning 46-yard touchdown pass with 1:18 remaining. This was exactly what Wilson and the Seahawks needed heading into a road game against the San Francisco 49ers.

What I liked: Wilson completed passes for 50 and 24 yards to Doug Baldwin, the latter for a touchdown, as Seattle jumped to an early lead. Wilson also scrambled for a 9-yard gain on third-and-4 to sustain that scoring drive. The decision to try a trick play in the second half, when the offense was struggling, worked out when Golden Tate drew a pass-interference call on a deep ball from Rice. The fourth-down scoring pass from Wilson to Tate was a big positive.

Seattle’s defense shut down the Patriots’ running game most of the time after New England had hurt opponents with a balanced attack. Richard Sherman put his size to use against Deion Branch in picking off a Tom Brady pass in the third quarter. Fellow cornerback Brandon Browner also made an impact with a huge hit on Patriots receiver Wes Welker. Sherman seemed to have a strong game. Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas picked off passes.

The Seahawks forced Brady into two grounding penalties at critical times. One prevented the Patriots from attempting a chip-shot field goal before halftime. Another forced the Patriots into third-and-20 with 4:47 left in the fourth quarter and the Patriots holding a 23-17 lead.

What I didn’t like: The Seahawks too frequently couldn’t stop Welker before or after the catch. That was a key variable heading into the game. Seattle figured Welker would get his catches, but coach Pete Carroll hoped the Seahawks could stop him from doing damage after the catch. Seattle had ranked third in fewest yards allowed after the catch (per reception).

Seattle’s run game had trouble getting traction. The Patriots were the first team this season able to control Marshawn Lynch from the beginning. That put additional pressure on the Seahawks in other areas, where the team hasn’t been as strong.

What’s next: The Seahawks visit the 49ers for a Thursday night game in Week 7.

Wrap-up: Buccaneers 38, Chiefs 10

October, 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers38-10 victory against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium:

What it means: I wouldn’t quite call this one the turning point for a young team with a new coaching staff because turning points need to come against good teams and the Chiefs don’t fit that bill. But this one was significant and a potential step toward that turning point. The Bucs played well on both sides of the ball and probably played their most complete game of the season. They also improved to 2-3, which places them in sole possession of second in the NFC South.

Best idea coming out of a bye week: The Bucs took the handcuffs off Josh Freeman and the quarterback threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns. The Bucs let Freeman take some shots downfield and he connected with Mike Williams, Tiquan Underwood and Vincent Jackson. Memo to the coaching staff: Remember this one and, going forward, let Freeman continue to do what he does best.

Time to stop the Doug Martin bashing: The knock on the rookie running back early this season was that he wasn’t producing big plays. Well, he changed that against the Chiefs. Martin had a 23-yard run as he finished with 76 rushing yards and he also caught a pass that went for 42 yards.

Stellar day by the defense: There’s been a lot of talk about how improved Tampa Bay’s run defense is from last year. I wasn’t completely buying into that. But, now, I am. The Bucs limited Jamaal Charles to 40 yards on 12 carries.

Defying time: Defensive back Ronde Barber is 37, but the guy just keeps making big plays. Barber recorded his 45th career interception and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown.

What’s next: The Bucs are home next Sunday with the New Orleans Saints.

Wrap up: Browns 34, Bengals 24

October, 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 34-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium:

What it means: A huge weight has been lifted off the young Browns team. The winless Browns (1-5) avoided franchise infamy by ending an 11-game losing streak, which was tied for the longest in team history. Cleveland also won an AFC North game for the first time in 13 tries. The Bengals (3-3) lost for the second straight week to a team with a losing record and fell two games back of the division-leading Ravens. These losses put a dent in the Bengals’ hopes of getting to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1981-82. Cincinnati is also 0-2 in the AFC North.

No Richardson, no problem: The Browns have had to deal with so many injuries. Maybe that’s why Cleveland didn’t blink when first-round pick Trent Richardson left the game with what was described as a “flank injury.” Backup running back Montario Hardesty, who had trouble holding onto the ball in the preseason, did more than step up. He finished off a drive with four straight runs, including a spinning one-yard touchdown run that gave the Browns a fourth-quarter lead and their first lead of the game. Hardesty finished with 56 yards rushing.

Another costly mistake for Dalton: In trying to rally the Bengals from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had an interception returned by Sheldon Brown for a touchdown. This was the third time that Dalton has had an interception brought back for a score. He finished 31-of-46 for 381 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.

Gordon goes deep again: For the second straight week, Browns rookie receiver Josh Gordon burned a secondary deep down the field. This time, he ran past safety Reggie Nelson and caught a 71-yard pass for a touchdown in the second quarter. It was the first time since 2002 (Quincy Morgan) that a Browns player had back-to-back games with a catch of 60 yards or more. Three of Gordon's first nine NFL catches have been for touchdowns.

Return of Haden: Joe Haden made an impact in his first game since coming back from his four-game suspension. He had seven tackles (second on the team) and broke up three passes (tied for most on the Browns). Haden also had an interception, his second in two games played, which was converted into a field goal.

Green continues to cause problems: Bengals receiver A.J. Green has been a menace to the Browns defense. He had seven catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. In four games against Cleveland, Green has had four touchdowns.

What’s next: The Browns play at Indianapolis (2-3), which was routed by 26 points at the New York Jets. The Bengals return home to play the Steelers (2-3), who are coming off an upset loss at Tennessee.

Wrap-up: Jets 35, Colts 9

October, 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 35-9 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: The Colts have hardly arrived yet, and while they are capable of a wondrous upset of Green Bay one week, they can get stomped by the mediocre Jets the next. Indianapolis is now 2-3.

What I didn’t like: Indianapolis couldn’t stop the run, allowing the Jets 252 rushing yards on 44 carries for a 5.7-yard average. Shonn Greene, rated by some as the worst starting running back in the NFL, rushed for 161 yards on 32 carries and scored three touchdowns. The Colts were down several players on the defensive front -- Cory Redding (right knee) left early and didn’t return and they started off without tackles Fili Moala and Martin Tevaseu as well as outside linebacker Robert Mathis. Meanwhile, the Colts couldn’t move the ball on the ground at all. Rookie Vick Ballard got his first start with Donald Brown recovering from knee surgery and Ballard didn’t take anything longer than 5 yards all day long. Neither did anyone else for the Colts, who managed 17 carries for 41 yards and didn’t run for a single first down.

What I didn’t like, part II: The offensive line didn’t only fail to run block, but too often it allowed rookie quarterback Andrew Luck to face pressure. He was sacked four times and was not as accurate as he is typically, missing people both from the pocket and on the move.

What I didn’t like, part III: You can’t be ready for everything, but the Jets were due to have Tim Tebow throw a pass as the personal punt protector. And he did, hitting fullback Nick Bellore with a 23-yarder. It converted a fourth-and-11 and spurred a touchdown drive that put New York ahead 21-3.

What I liked: Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman made 14 tackles and outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, playing for the injured Robert Mathis, showed additional signs of life with eight tackles, a sack and three quarterback hits. Rookie tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener look to be growing more comfortable.

What’s next: The Colts host the Cleveland Browns, who just won their first game of the season over the Cincinnati Bengals. Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson is likely to provide as much or more of a challenge as the Jets' running back did today.

Wrap-up: Buccaneers 38, Chiefs 10

October, 14, 2012
What it means: The Chiefs are 1-5 and are one of the worst teams in the NFL. This season has been undone by injuries and poor play on both sides of the ball. The season looks to be unsalvageable.

Quinn not the answer: Many Chiefs fans got their wish and saw Brady Quinn start at quarterback. His results were no better than what Matt Cassel's. Quinn three two bad interceptions (one was returned for a score). I think Cassel will get the chance to start again when he is healthy.

Offensive woes continue: The Chiefs haven’t scored a touchdown on their first drive of the game dating back to the start of last season. Kansas City’s offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in the past two games. The Chiefs have not had a lead during any game. Their one win came in overtime at New Orleans.

Charles misses mark: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles had 40 yards on 12 carries. He now had 591 yards in six games. He was vying to join Priest Holmes (2004) to be the second player in team history to have 600 yards on the ground through six games.

What’s next: The Chiefs stumble into the bye. They host Oakland in two weeks in the first game at Arrowhead Stadium since right tackle Eric Winston berated some fans for cheering when Cassel went down. It caused a national firestorm and prompted coach Romeo Crennel and owner Clark Hunt to praise the team’s fan base. It could be an interesting day at Arrowhead.


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