NFL Nation: 2012 Week 7 Wrap-ups

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.

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.

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.

Wrap-up: Vikings 21, Cardinals 14

October, 21, 2012

Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 21-14 loss at Minnesota in Week 7:

What it means: The Cardinals fell to 4-3 with their third consecutive defeat. They've got San Francisco, Green Bay (road) and Atlanta (road) on the schedule from here. The team will need better play from quarterback John Skelton to avoid dropping to 4-6. It's fair to wonder whether the Cardinals will see rookie Ryan Lindley at quarterback at some point over the next few weeks, either through injury or Skelton's poor performance.

What I liked: The Cardinals stuck with the running game early and got better production. LaRod Stephens-Howling tied the game at 7-7 with the team's first rushing touchdown since Week 2 and third of the season.

Paris Lenon's interception set up the scoring drive. Sam Acho made a diving interception right before halftime. The Cardinals' ground game and defense put the team in scoring position frequently enough to keep the game competitive -- if only the offense could capitalize.

Left tackle D'Anthony Batiste fared far better than expected in pass protection against Vikings defensive end Jared Allen.

What I didn't like: The Cardinals' run defense struggled from the beginning. Adrian Peterson popped a 28-yard run before his 13-yard touchdown run gave the Viking a 7-0 lead. Peterson topped 100 yards rushing. But with Jay Feely missing a field goal try right before halftime and Skelton throwing a pick-six in the third quarter, the Cardinals fell behind and the game slipped away.

What's next: The Cardinals are home against the San Francisco 49ers on "Monday Night Football" in Week 8.