NFL Nation: 2012 Week 7 coverage

Rapid Reaction: Bears 13, Lions 7

October, 23, 2012

CHICAGO -- Some thoughts on Monday night's events at Soldier Field:

What it means: The Chicago Bears overcame a scare with their starting quarterback to win their fourth consecutive game. At 5-1, they remain alone atop the NFC North. The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, made four big mistakes to scuttle any chance at one of their signature comeback wins. At 2-4, the Lions are the only team in the division without a winning record. Their playoff hopes are bleak.

CutlerWatch: Bears quarterback Jay Cutler absorbed a violent but legal sack late in the second quarter from Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Cutler's right shoulder hit the ground flush and Suh fell on top of him, apparently bruising Cutler's ribs. But Cutler missed a total of only five plays and returned from a locker room examination to start the third quarter. He completed seven of his final 14 passes for a modest 77 yards, but if there were any questions about his toughness -- and to be clear, there were none here -- Cutler answered them Monday night.

Lions mistakes: The Lions committed four turnovers in Bears territory, three in the red zone, on plays the Bears' opportunistic defense deserved credit for. Tailback Mikel Leshoure lost a fumble at the Bears' 17-yard line in the second quarter. Returner Stefan Logan muffed a punt at the Bears' 27-yard line after the Lions had stopped the Bears on the opening possession of the third quarter. Running back Joique Bell lost control of the ball at the Bears' 1-yard line. Finally, quarterback Matthew Stafford threw an interception at the Bears' 2-yard line on fourth down with 2 minutes, 39 seconds remaining. The Lions were going to have a hard time beating the Bears straight-up. Fouling up four scoring opportunities gave them no chance.

Two-deep: The Bears mixed up their defense early in the game, tossing in a few blitzes to keep Stafford from establishing a rhythm. But for the most part, their deep-safety look left the Lions unable to drive the ball downfield. Leshoure rolled up 63 yards on 12 carries, but the Lions didn't manage a pass play longer than 19 yards until midway through the fourth quarter.

Injury report: The Lions lost two starters in the third quarter. A right knee injury sent receiver Nate Burleson to the locker room. Safety Amari Spievey, meanwhile, suffered a concussion. It should be noted that symptoms from Spievey's most recent concussion, in the 2011 wild-card playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints, didn't subside until the middle of the spring. Burleson was replaced by rookie Ryan Broyles, who caught his first NFL touchdown with 30 seconds remaining to prevent a shutout.

What's next: The Lions will host the Seattle Seahawks, and the Bears will host the Carolina Panthers. Both games are Sunday.

CINCINNATI -- Thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 24-17 win at the Cincinnati Bengals:

What it means: It was far from perfect, but the Steelers found a way to hold on to a fourth-quarter lead and win their first road game of the season. Overcoming a sloppy start, Pittsburgh (3-3) moved to within 1.5 games of the division-leading Ravens (5-2). The Bengals (3-4) lost their third straight and their ninth in a row in prime time. This marked the Steelers' fifth consecutive win over the Bengals.

Running game resurfaces: Rookie fifth-round pick Chris Rainey made his first touchdown a memorable one. His 11-yard score up the middle of the Bengals' defense put the Steelers ahead 44 seconds into the fourth quarter. Rainey had 15 yards rushing in his first five games. In his first start, Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer rushed for 122 yards on 17 carries.

Dalton struggles: Andy Dalton was wildly inaccurate as he once again struggled against the Steelers. He finished 14-of-28 for 105 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His longest pass was 17 yards. Dalton fell to 0-3 against the Steelers.

Slipping up before halftime: The Bengals had a first down with 1:30 left in the first half and a 14-6 lead. But they went into halftime tied at 14. Dalton, who has been picked off in every game this season, threw a pass off the back of right guard Kevin Zeitler's helmet and was intercepted by Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley. The Steelers converted that into a 9-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller, who also caught the two-point conversion to tie the game.

Steelers drop the ball: The Steelers could've had two touchdowns in the first half if they caught the ball. On a trick play, running back Baron Batch, with no one between him and the end zone, couldn't pull in a pass from wide receiver Antonio Brown. Wide receiver Mike Wallace, who had three drops in the first half, couldn't handle a deflected pass that went to him in the end zone. Wallace dropped his fourth pass, one that was thrown behind him, on third down with 5:38 left in the fourth quarter.

Where did Green go?: One play after Ben Roethlisberger's fumble deep in his own territory, Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green caught an 8-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. It was his sixth straight game with a touchdown. But that was the only catch in the first three quarters for Green, who entered the game as the NFL leader in receiving yards. Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, who had struggled this season, broke up a third-down pass to Green in the third quarter.

What's next: The Steelers return home to play the Washington Redskins (3-4). The Bengals are on a bye week before playing the Broncos at home on Nov. 4.

Wrap-up: Raiders 26, Jaguars 23 (OT)

October, 21, 2012
Thoughts on the Jaguars’ 26-23 overtime loss to the Raiders in Oakland:

What it means: The Jaguars fell to 1-5 as they blew a third-quarter, two-touchdown lead on the West Coast. Everyone else in the AFC South won, which means the Jaguars are two wins off the pace of the Colts, who they’ve beaten, and the Titans.

What I didn’t like: Receiver Cecil Shorts lost a fumble on the third play of overtime in an absolute worst-case scenario. The turnover gave the Raiders the ball well within Sebastian Janikowski’s field-goal range with the ability to win it with a kick since the Jaguars had had a possession. The Raiders simply centered the ball and let Janikowski hit from 40 yards for the win. It was Jacksonville’s only giveaway of the game, and it was deadly.

Injury concerns: The Jaguars might have survived the early loss of Maurice Jones-Drew to a left foot injury, but when quarterback Blaine Gabbert was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a left shoulder injury it was more than the offense could handle. While Gabbert posted a 123.6 passer rating, Chad Henne couldn’t manage half that with a 54.4, completing less than half his passes.

More of a rush: A typically anemic pass rush generated two sacks and six hits on Carson Palmer, one of which forced a fumble. Palmer missed on 20 of his 46 passes and threw a pick to Derek Cox.

Can’t win with it: The Jaguars converted just one of 15 third downs and failed to convert their one fourth-down attempt.

What’s next: The Jaguars travel to Green Bay in the third game of the season against the NFC North. Jacksonville has lost at Minnesota and to Chicago.

Rapid Reaction: Pats 29, Jets 26 (OT)

October, 21, 2012

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots' 29-26 overtime victory over the Jets at Gillette Stadium:

PatriotsJetsWhat it means. An unexpected turn of events. The Patriots led 23-13 at the end of the third quarter and found themselves staring at a 26-23 deficit when they started their final offensive drive of regulation at their 20-yard line with 1:32 remaining. They were fortunate to escape, with two drives that produced field goals -- one at the end of regulation and one to open overtime -- to improve to 4-3 (2-0 in AFC East). Defensive ends Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich combined to strip-sack Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to seal the win.

Where has the explosive offense gone? Two weeks ago, after back-to-back wins over the Bills and Broncos, the Patriots’ offense looked explosive and some were wondering if it might be better than the team’s record-setting 2007 edition. The offense has struggled to find its groove since. The Patriots attempted to be more balanced in this game, but couldn’t string together any consistency in either area. Tom Brady’s frustration was evident at various points. The Patriots need to find that spark again.

McCourty’s kickoff return a spark ... then he nearly fumbles game away. The Jets had tied the game at 23 with 2:06 remaining when Patriots kickoff returner Devin McCourty lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return. The Jets recovered and kicked a field goal to go up 26-23. This offset one of the best plays of the game -- McCourty’s 104-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. It was the second-longest kickoff return in Patriots history.

Gostkowski’s 43-yarder forces overtime. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski delivered one of the biggest kicks of his seven-year career with the team, nailing a 43-yard field goal with no time left in regulation. The kick was set up by a five-play, 65-yard drive directed by Brady. Gostkowski's 48-yarder in OT was the winner.

Injuries mount in various areas. The Patriots are a banged-up football team. Starting right guard Dan Connolly (illness) played only the opening series before being replaced. The team also was playing without starting left guard Logan Mankins (hip/calf) and starting safeties Steve Gregory (hip) and Patrick Chung (shoulder), while cornerback Ras-I Dowling (right quad) and defensive end Trevor Scott (right hamstring) left in the fourth quarter and didn’t return.

Credit to the Jets. Two weeks ago, the Jets were left for dead by some after back-to-back losses to the 49ers and Texans, but they've rebounded and gave the Patriots all they could handle in this game. The Patriots were ineffective for long stretches of the game, but the Jets deserve credit for parts of that. They mixed up their defensive plan -- sometimes bringing pressure, sometimes rushing just three -- and also played tough against the run. They served notice that they will be a factor in the AFC East.

What’s next. The Patriots travel to London for a “road” game against the Rams on Sunday. The team is scheduled to leave late Thursday afternoon. Following London is the Patriots' bye week. The Jets return home to entertain the Dolphins.

OAKLAND -- A look at an ugly one in overtime:

What it means: The Raiders came back from a 14-point deficit to win in overtime to improve to 2-4. This game wasn’t pretty and the Raiders had their problems, but they came back and beat Jacksonville. Credit to Oakland for not folding when it was down by two touchdowns. The Raiders trail first-place Denver and San Diego, both 3-3, by one game in the division and they play two struggling teams, Kansas City and Tampa Bay, in the next two weeks. Maybe this win will spark Oakland.

Jaguars short-handed: The Raiders were quite fortunate. Jacksonville played without quarterback Blaine Gabbert and running back Maurice Jones-Drew for much of the game. Jacksonville could muster very little offense in the second half. Gabbert’s replacement, Chad Henne, was, in a word, awful.

Questionable coaching: Both Oakland coach Dennis Allen and Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey made several questionable calls. Allen burned his timeouts early in the second half. Mularkey went for it on fourth down late in the second quarter when he should have punted; Oakland turned it into three points. Also, with less than seven minutes to go in the game, Mularkey called three straight passing plays even though Henne was struggling mightily. All three passes were incomplete. He needs to burns the clock by running. The Jaguars made several crucial penalties in the fourth quarter. Mularkey inexplicably called timeout in the final seconds when the Raiders were trying to run out the clock and go to overtime.

What’s next: Oakland goes to Kansas City next Sunday to face the 1-5 Chiefs.

Wrap-up: Packers 30, Rams 20

October, 21, 2012
A few thoughts on Sunday's events at the Edward Jones Dome:

What it means: The Green Bay Packers got through a difficult portion of their schedule with a 4-3 record. After playing three consecutive road games, and winning two of them, they'll get four of their next six games at Lambeau Field.

RodgersWatch: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has caught fire. (In a good way.) Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, he completed 20 of his first 22 passes. He finished with 342 yards and three touchdowns. Over his past two games, Rodgers has completed 73 percent of his passes for 680 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions. It's been five years since a quarterback has thrown a combined nine touchdowns without an interception in back-to-back games, according to the NFL. And there aren't many, if any, other quarterbacks who could have made the across-the-body throw that Rodgers did on a 39-yard touchdown strike to receiver Randall Cobb in the fourth quarter.

No-huddle issues: The Packers opened in the no-huddle offense but were admittedly "disjointed," coach Mike McCarthy said. According to McCarthy, officials stood over the ball -- preventing the snap while the Rams' defense substituted personnel -- "much longer than we experienced in the past." That's why the Packers moved toward the standard huddle as the game wore on. The change appeared to work.

CobbWatch: Cobb caught two touchdowns as he continues establishing himself in the Packers' three-receiver sets. We've already noted the 39-yard score. In the third quarter, his outside-in move in the end zone turned around cornerback Trumaine Johnson and got him wide open for a 5-yard score. Cobb caught all nine passes Rodgers targeted him on, the second time this season he has caught 100 percent of the passes thrown his way. No other NFL receiver has done that (minimum eight targets) once this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Hayward steps up: Starting for the injured Sam Shields, rookie cornerback Casey Hayward intercepted Rams quarterback Sam Bradford late in the third quarter, giving him four in limited playing time this season. "They don't care if you're a rookie or a veteran," Hayward said. "They're going to throw the ball at you and you just have to be in position to make plays."

Quote to note: Speaking about Cobb, Rodgers said: "He's a star in the making. He's a big-time player."

What's next: The Packers will host the Jacksonville Jaguars next Sunday.

Wrap-up: Cowboys 19, Panthers 14

October, 21, 2012

Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 19-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium:

What it means: I’ve never been sure exactly what the point of no return is for an NFL team. Now, I know. It’s 1-5. That’s what the Panthers are and their season is officially over. There are no miracles coming from a team that came into the season with so much promise, but has produced nothing but disappointment. Coupling some key injuries (Ryan Kalil, Jon Beason, Chris Gamble) with a four-game losing streak, the Panthers have the snowball effect going and it’s about to turn into an avalanche. You can go ahead and put general manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera on the hot seat. Owner Jerry Richardson likes them both, but his patience is wearing very thin because he’s shelled out big-money salaries, but hasn’t had a winning season since 2008.

Don’t blame the officials: Yeah, I know there were three questionable calls or non-calls late in the game. But the Panthers can’t put the blame for this one on anyone else but themselves because they simply didn't make enough plays to win. If they’d played anywhere near their potential at home against a mediocre team, they would have come away with a victory that might have kept their season alive. They didn’t get the job done.

What happened to the offense? The main reason there was so much excitement about the Panthers coming into the season was because Cam Newton had great statistics as a rookie last season and the Panthers, with coordinator Rob Chudzinski, had the most entertaining offense in franchise history. I know a lot of people are saying other teams have caught on to what Newton does and doesn’t do well. There may be some truth in that. But, more than anything, I see an offensive scheme that’s not nearly as imaginative or daring as it was last season. You must be able to score more than 14 points if you expect to win.

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

Wrap-up: Colts 17, Browns 13

October, 21, 2012

Thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 17-13 win over the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Colts are at .500 after recording their third home win and have surpassed last season's total just six games into the 2012 season.

What I liked: A team that has struggled to run and to stop the run did both. The Colts turned 37 carries into 148 rushing yards with Vick Ballard and Delone Carter doing better with their chances and Andrew Luck running for two short scores. The previous Colts quarterback to score twice on the ground was Ricky Turner in 1988. The rush defense also fared quite well, at least in part because rookie back Trent Richardson was unable to play in the second half with the rib injury he suffered last week. The Browns managed just 55 yards.

What the Browns didn’t like: The dose of good fortune (for the Colts) that came with fewer than seven minutes left in the game, when rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden hit the mark on a play that would have put the Browns ahead, but receiver Josh Gordon dropped a long touchdown pass.

Good news: Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who's battling leukemia, was out of the hospital and watched the win from his family's home.

Welcome back: Inside linebacker Pat Angerer, who broke a foot in the preseason, appeared in his first game of the year. While the Colts didn’t record a sack, Angerer had two of their quarterback hits.

What’s next: The Colts, who’ve played four of their six games at home, head for Tennessee, where they face the 3-4 Titans. The winner of that one will stand as the second-best team in the AFC South.

Wrap-up: Titans 35, Bills 34

October, 21, 2012

Thoughts on the Titans’ 35-34 win over the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium:

What it means: The Titans won their second game in a row and improved their record to 3-4, keeping their hopes of getting into the playoff mix alive. It was their first road win of the season.

What I liked: Against a terrible run defense, Chris Johnson did what a good back should do -- ran wild. He turned 18 carries into 195 yards and two touchdowns, including an 83-yard home run that was once the sort of play opponents feared on any touch of Johnson's. Jamie Harper added two short touchdown runs. In their first five games, they’d combined for just one score on the ground.

What I also liked: Cornerback Jason McCourty pulled in a crucial interception of Ryan Fitzpatrick late in the game that gave the Titans a chance to win it. And Matt Hasselbeck converted a fourth-and-9 from the Bills’ 15-yard line with a touchdown pass to Nate Washington that provided the winning margin.

Signs of life: Two defensive ends who’ve been too quiet combined to create a big takeaway when Kamerion Wimbley forced a Fitzpatrick fumble that Derrick Morgan recovered. That turnover led to a touchdown.

The lingering concern: Missed tackles remain a problem, and it’s clear the Titans are unable to coach the players they have to tackle better. They need better players who tackle better. The Titans' 7.3 yards per carry average was offset a bit by the 6.9 yards per carry the Bills managed.

The question that must be asked: I have no doubt the Titans will turn back to Jake Locker if his left shoulder is sufficiently healed, but the fan base is going to be eager to dissect the move. With Hasselbeck at the helm for a two-game winning streak and a beatable team coming to Nashville, why mess with the formula?

What’s next: The Titans host AFC South rival Indianapolis. The Colts’ win over Cleveland put them at 3-3. It’s a big game for establishing who ranks as the second-best team in the division.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints’ 35-28 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium:

What it means: The Saints are 2-4, but there still is a glimmer of hope for their season. They now have won two straight games. They also will get assistant head coach Joe Vitt back from his six-game suspension. Interim head coach Aaron Kromer did a decent job in a tough situation, but Vitt’s experience might provide a boost for the Saints. The Bucs fell to 2-4, despite jumping out to an early 14-0 lead. The Bucs could have improved to 3-3 and perhaps turned a corner in their development with a win, but this was proof that the Bucs haven’t arrived yet and that their pass defense, particularly their pass rush, has a long way to go.

Brees’ big day: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw for 377 yards and four touchdowns. At halftime, Brees had 313 passing yards and was on pace to break Norm Van Brocklin’s 1951 regular-season record of 554 yards in a game.

Worst move of the day: With 14:54 left in the fourth quarter and New Orleans leading 28-21, the Saints lined up to attempt a 51-yard field goal. But the drive was given new life when Tampa Bay was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for trying to simulate the snap count. The Saints went on to score a touchdown. Simulating the snap count? Maybe that kind of thing works in college, but it doesn't fly in the NFL.

Opportunity lost: The Bucs caught a break with about six minutes left in the third quarter when New Orleans cornerback Patrick Robinson tipped a Josh Freeman pass, but Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson was able to catch it. Robinson fell down and there were no defenders near him. He gained 95 yards, but safety Malcolm Jenkins brought him down at the 1-yard line. The Bucs weren’t able to punch it in on four plays.

Second-worst move of the day: Speaking of what Tampa Bay did in the immediate aftermath of Jackson’s big catch, the Bucs handed the ball to LeGarrette Blount on three straight plays, and he couldn’t get into the end zone against the league’s worst defense. I realize Blount’s a big, power back and you should give him at least one crack at the end zone. But you know what the unofficial coaching handbook says about doing the same thing three times in a row? It’s against it. At some point in those three plays, you need to at least look like you might throw a pass and spread the defense out. The Bucs finally did that on fourth down, but Freeman ended up scrambling out of bounds for a 4-yard loss.

What’s next: The Bucs face a quick turnaround. They’ll play Thursday night at Minnesota. The Saints also will play their next game in prime time. They’ll be at Denver next Sunday night.

Rapid Reaction: Texans 43, Ravens 13

October, 21, 2012

HOUSTON -- On a day of competitive, close early games, this wasn’t one of them. A few thoughts:

What it means: The Ravens and Texans came into this one tied for the best record in the AFC at 5-1. No other AFC team entered the day above .500. But this was truly a one-sided affair. Yes, the Ravens got Terrell Suggs back after a stunning six-month recovery from an Achilles tear. But they still couldn’t make up for the loss of Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. They gave up 29 unanswered points and 258 yards in the first half to trail 29-3 at halftime. It didn’t get much better in the second half.

What I liked: Not much. Up until midway through the third quarter, Joe Flacco was horrible. He had two passes tipped that resulted in interceptions, one of which Johnathan Joseph returned for a touchdown that gave the Texans a 16-3 lead early in the second quarter. The Ravens abandoned their running game early and lost their starting right tackle, rookie Kelechi Osemele, who was carted off the field in the first half with a leg injury. That meant left tackle Michael Oher moved to right tackle and backup Bryant McKinnie stepped in at left tackle.

What I didn’t like: The defense. Yes, the Ravens have been decimated by injuries. But they gave up 36 points through the first three quarters, the most since allowing 37 to the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They got little pressure on Matt Schaub and created no turnovers. Even worse, the offense couldn’t build any momentum to alleviate pressure on the defense after giving up a safety midway through the first quarter.

Suggs was unreal: Seriously, the man is a freak of nature. Sure, he looks like he’s put on a few pounds during his rehabilitation. But no one aside from maybe Suggs himself thought he would be back on the playing field this early. In November, maybe. But Week 7? That was insane. On his seventh play of the game, Suggs sacked Schaub. He played approximately 35 snaps in the first half, and more in the second even though the game was out of hand. We will see how he bounces back following his first game action, but it was an impressive return.

What’s next: A long, quiet flight home to Maryland and then a bye week. Couldn’t come at a better time. The Ravens must regroup. They’re still 5-2. After the bye, they travel to Cleveland in Week 9 to face a Browns team they beat 23-16 in Week 4.

Rapid Reaction: Texans 43, Ravens 13

October, 21, 2012

HOUSTON -- Thoughts on the Texans' 43-13 pounding of the Ravens at Reliant Stadium on Sunday:

What it means: At 6-1, the Texans own the best record in the AFC, and with a win over the Ravens in their pocket, they are in an advantageous position to set up a playoff bye and home-field advantage in the postseason. They showed a nice bounce-back ability, recovering from the pounding they suffered a week ago at the hands of the Packers, exploiting matchups and showing themselves to be far better in the playmaker department.

What I liked on offense: The Texans wisely attacked the Ravens’ secondary in their first game without injured cornerback Lardarius Webb. Andre Johnson has had a relatively quiet season, but had no problem routinely getting open, mostly against corner Jimmy Smith. Matt Schaub also did well finding tight end Owen Daniels. The Texans spread out the carries as they used Ben Tate, but Arian Foster still gained 98 yards and had two scores to round out the offensive effort.

What I also liked on defense: Whitney Mercilus had a sack fumble and Connor Barwin had a sack for a safety on back-to-back plays in the first quarter. Antonio Smith had back-to-back fourth-quarter sacks of Joe Flacco. With pressure and pretty good coverage, the Texans never let Flacco find any sort of comfort zone.

Bounce-back effort: Cornerback Johnathan Joseph (groin) got called for a couple of penalties, but appeared far more effective than he had been the past two games. He picked off a fluttery ball from Flacco that was tipped by J.J. Watt and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.

What’s next: The Texans have a bye before returning to action with a trip to Buffalo. The remaining home schedule is hardly intimidating with the Bills, Jaguars, Colts and Vikings.

Wrap-up: Titans 35, Bills 34

October, 21, 2012

Thoughts on the Buffalo Bills' 35-34 loss to the Tennessee Titans:

What it means: It means the Bills are officially pretenders. Buffalo blew a fourth-quarter lead and suffered an embarrassing home loss to fall to 3-4 on the season. The Bills laid an egg before the bye. Titans receiver Nate Washington caught the game-winning touchdown on fourth down with one minute left in the game. This team has talent but the inconsistency and lack of mental and physical toughness are major detriments.

What I liked: Buffalo’s offense and special teams kept the Bills afloat. Scoring 34 points should be enough to beat a mediocre Tennessee (3-4) team. Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had his best game in weeks. He threw for 217 yards, three touchdowns but a late interception kept the Titans in the game. Buffalo’s running game also registered 166 yards, and Brad Smith ran an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The Bills had solid performances in several phases.

What I didn’t like: Buffalo’s defense has too much talent, particularly on the defensive line, to play this poorly. The Titans are not an offensive juggernaut but they scored three touchdowns on their first three possessions against Buffalo. Tennessee entered this game last in the NFL in rushing and ran for 197 yards, which included an 83-yard touchdown by Titans tailback Chris Johnson. Buffalo’s defense couldn't get stops early and couldn't make key plays at the end of the game.

What’s next: The Bills have two weeks to prepare for a very tough road game against the Houston Texans (6-1), which has the best record in the AFC. After the Texans, Buffalo faces a brutal stretch at the New England Patriots and home against the Miami Dolphins. After losing at home to Tennessee, this schedule looks extremely daunting for the sputtering Bills.

Wrap-up: Colts 17, Browns 13

October, 21, 2012

Thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 17-13 loss at the Indianapolis Colts:

What it means: It was a disappointing start to the Jimmy Haslam era. The Browns lost their 11th straight road game, which ties the franchise record (1974-76). This road losing streak is the longest active one in the NFL. Cleveland (1-6) becomes the first team to lose six games this season.

Failing to convert in the fourth quarter: The Browns couldn't extend drives in the final quarter. They failed on four third downs and two fourth downs. The biggest blunder on third down was a dropped 41-yard pass by rookie receiver Josh Gordon that would have gone for a touchdown.

Giving up on the run: The expected game plan was attacking the Colts and the 29th-ranked run defense. But the Browns gave up on the run too fast, handing it off 16 times while throwing 40 passes. Rookie running back Trent Richardson (ribs) didn't play in the second half after getting drilled on a third-and-one with four minutes left in the second quarter. Unlike last week, the Browns didn't give the ball to backup Montario Hardesty. Richardson finished with eight yards on eight carries, and quarterback Brandon Weeden finished as the leading rusher (13 yards) after three quarters.

Wasted turnover: Blitzing cornerback Sheldon Brown came on the blind side to hit Andrew Luck, forcing a fumble and recovering it in the fourth quarter. Down 17-13, Cleveland didn't convert as Gordon dropped a deep third-down pass at the goal line. The Browns chose to punt on fourth-and-1 at the Colts' 41 with 6:31 remaining.

Greg Little shows off hands: Little has been rightfully criticized for dropping the ball in his first two seasons in the NFL. But he made the best grab of his career on the Browns' opening possession. Leaping over a Colts defender in the back of the end zone, Little tapped the ball in the air and caught it while getting both feet inbounds.

Not so special teams: The Browns matched the Colts' game-opening touchdown drive with a 16-play, 90-yard series. But Cleveland failed to tie the game because holder Reggie Hodges mishandled the snap on the point-after attempt. Last season, the Browns struggled with the long snaps.

Luck or RG3?: The Browns had to be confused whether they were playing Luck, the draft's top pick, or Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 overall selection. Luck showed off his athleticism by scoring the Colts' first two touchdowns on runs. He reached the end zone on runs of 3 and 5 yards.

Weeden watch: In the first matchup of rookie quarterbacks this season, Weeden more than held his own against Luck. Weeden looked decisive on his throws, completing 25 of 41 passes for 264 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

What's next: The Browns return home to play the San Diego Chargers, who are coming off a bye.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 27, Redskins 23

October, 21, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' breathtaking victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: Robert Griffin III and the Redskins are a tough team to beat, but Eli Manning and the Giants are still the defending Super Bowl champs. And in one of the all-time acts of one-upmanship, Manning ripped a victory away from Griffin in the final minutes. After Griffin put the Redskins on top with a touchdown pass to Santana Moss with 1:30 left in the game, Manning hit Victor Cruz for a 77-yard touchdown pass with 1:13 to go. The Redskins got the ball back, but a fumble by Moss cut short their final comeback attempt, and the 5-2 Giants seized control of the NFC East.

Burgundy kryptonite: Manning always struggles against the Redskins, and Sunday's first 58 minutes were no exception. He struggled all day to get on the same page with Cruz, missing him in the end zone once, and threw two interceptions before redeeming himself with the final bomb to Cruz that won the game. In three games over the past two seasons against the Redskins, Manning has six interceptions and now just the one touchdown. But what a touchdown it was.

The new kid: It wasn't an incredibly easy day for Griffin, either, as the Giants were able to pressure him with defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck. Griffin was sacked three times, fumbled twice and threw an interception. Of course, he also rushed for 89 yards and eluded Pierre-Paul on a key fourth-down conversion with two minutes left in the game, then ran for 24 yards on a scramble to help set up his 30-yard go-ahead touchdown to Moss.

Redskins running: In what everyone universally recognizes as a passing league, the Redskins continue to insist on running the ball, and they did it with great success against the Giants on Sunday. It was their 13th game in a row with at least 100 yards rushing. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the second-longest such streak in the league coming into this week was two games in a row by the Giants and the Rams.

Injuries: The biggest was to Washington tight end Fred Davis, who left the game in the first quarter with, according to reports, the Redskins fear is a torn left Achilles' tendon. That would end Davis' season and rob the Washington passing attack of another important downfield weapon. Redskins linebacker London Fletcher left the game with a right hamstring injury. Fletcher has played in 231 consecutive games.

What's next: The Redskins will travel to Pittsburgh, where they will play the Steelers in a 1 p.m. ET game next Sunday. The Giants head to Dallas for an important 4:25 p.m. ET divisional showdown against the Cowboys.