Three games kick off in the late afternoon slots in Week 11 and we’ve got all the inactives from all of them right here.
Saints at Raiders
Colts at Patriots
Chargers at Broncos
Three games kick off in the late afternoon slots in Week 11 and we’ve got all the inactives from all of them right here.
Saints at Raiders
Colts at Patriots
Chargers at Broncos
It wasn’t long ago that cleaning house looked like a good idea for the Dolphins.
But after winning three of their last four, there’s apparently a measure of security for the guy who put them together.
According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland “has received assurances” from owner Stephen Ross that his job was safe.
Ireland has been a popular whipping boy for Dolphins fans, and he spent Ross’s money this offseason like he was desperate to avoid firing.
But after the team has bounced back from the criticism that came with the early days of the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito bullying investigation to play well, some of the frustration with the direction of the team has subsided.
Is there anything better than sitting in the comfort of your warm home and watching football in the snow?
Has there ever been anything better than sitting in the comfort of your warm home and watching the three and a half hours of football we got early on Sunday afternoon?
Let’s say you were (like me) sitting at home on Sunday, watching all the games thanks to the magic of DirecTV and multiple screens and the Red Zone Channel. Let’s say you had a buddy who had some work or family obligation, and he called you after the early games were over to ask you what he’d missed. How would you possibly convey to him everything that happened? (Other than to tell him that his work or his family really sucks for making him miss a day like this.)
Of the nine early games, eight of them were played in brutal winter weather. Detroit at Philadelphia was a blizzard of apocalyptical proportions, and we also had snow with Miami at Pittsburgh, Kansas City at Washington, Minnesota at Baltimore and Atlanta at Green Bay. It was also cold, if not snowing, for Indianapolis at Cincinnati, Cleveland at New England, and Oakland at New York Jets. Only the Bills-Buccaneers game in Tampa (which only the most masochistic of Bills and Bucs fans could watch) was played in good weather.
And, let’s face it, football is just a lot more fun in bad weather. Yes, it’s sloppy. Yes, it’s brutal for the fans in the stands. But the sloppiness makes for some crazy plays we wouldn’t otherwise see, and I sure didn’t get the sense that any fans in the stands on Sunday were anything less than thrilled with the great games they were getting. (Well, maybe not in Washington, but more on that later.)
It’s fun to see players slipping and sliding on the field, falling face-first into the snow and then picking snow out of their facemasks. It looks like what we used to do when we were kids, when we’d get tackle football games going in the snow at recess and then spend the rest of the school day in wet socks and pants.
And what games we got! Lions-Eagles was a winter classic, a game that looked for most of the day like it would result in the Lions winning a brutal defensive struggle, only to suddenly change to the Eagles winning a fourth-quarter shootout. Falcons-Packers was a back-and-forth battle that went down to the final second. Dolphins-Steelers had what appeared to be an ending worthy of the Stanford marching band, with Pittsburgh lateraling five times before Antonio Brown ran into the end zone as time expired — except that Brown stepped out of bounds. Browns-Patriots went from looking like one of the biggest upsets of the year, to looking like an incredible New England comeback, to looking like one of the most awful things Cleveland fans have ever gone through (which is really saying something).
And then there’s the ending of Vikings-Ravens. Through the first 57 minutes, this was a dull game, notable mostly for Adrian Peterson getting carted off the field. And then something amazing happened. with 2:05 to play, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco hit Dennis Pitta in the end zone for an apparent game-winning touchdown. Then, with 1:27 to play, Minnesota’s Toby Gerhart rumbled 41 yards for an apparent game-winning touchdown. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones raced 77 yards for an apparent game-winning touchdown. Then, with 45 seconds left, Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson raced down the field for an apparent game-winning 79-yard touchdown. And then, with four seconds left, Flacco hit Marlon Brown in the end zone for what finally was really the game-winning touchdown.
Five touchdowns in the last 2:05. Amazing. Six lead changes in the fourth quarter, the first time that has ever happened in NFL history.
With the NFL preparing to put the Super Bowl in New Jersey in two months, there’s been much hand-wringing about whether we’re really ready for a Super Bowl in a blizzard. We can only hope the football we get on Super Bowl Sunday is as good as the football we got on this cold and snowy Sunday.
Here are my other thoughts on Sunday’s games:
How is Jeff Triplette still an NFL referee? Triplette has been an NFL referee since 1999. He has consistently been the worst ref in the business. What we usually see from Triplette is general incompetence, things like what he did last week in Washington, when he failed to notice that the down marker had wrongly been changed to first down late in the game. But what we saw on Sunday in Cincinnati was even worse: Triplette used replay to reverse a correct ruling on the field, giving the Bengals a touchdown that they didn’t actually score. Colts defensive tackle Josh Chapman tripped Cincinnati’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the backfield, and he was correctly ruled down on the field. But Triplette somehow looked at the replay and called it a touchdown. After the game, Triplette was asked if Chapman tripped Green-Ellis, and Triplette answered, “I don’t know about that.” Um, Jeff? It’s your job to know. It’s totally unacceptable that the NFL keeps trotting Triplette out there, week after week, when he simply isn’t up to the task of being an NFL referee.
Appreciating Tom Dempsey. Broncos kicker Matt Prater booted an NFL record 64-yard field goal on Sunday, meaning that Tom Dempsey, who hit a game-winning 63-yard field goal in 1970 (in New Orleans, without the benefit of Denver’s elevation), no longer owns a share of the record. But while Dempsey no longer owns an NFL record, a man who was born without toes on his right foot and without fingers on his right hand but who nonetheless became a great kicker. Dempsey is one of the great stories in the history of the NFL.
Does Washington have the worst special teams ever? All season long we’ve been talking about how bad the special teams in Washington are, but they reached a new low on Sunday by giving up 158 punt return yards and a touchdown, and 123 kickoff return yards and a touchdown — before halftime. The stats website Football Outsiders said last week — before Sunday’s fiasco — that Washington was on pace to have the fifth-worst special teams ever. Maybe a lousy effort over the last few games will be enough to get Washington to worst ever. Mike Shanahan has been saying all season that he supports his special teams coach, Keith Burns. If Shanahan supports these special teams, then Shanahan shouldn’t be a head coach.
Bernard Pollard was a victim of his own reputation. Pollard has long been known for committing personal fouls and causing injuries, but on Sunday in Denver he put a perfectly clean, shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Broncos receiver Eric Decker . . . and was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit anyway. Pollard may have reached the point where the officials don’t give him the benefit of the doubt, but on this play there is no doubt: Pollard delivered a hard but legal hit, and the officials flagged him anyway.
A great game — and career — for John Abraham. Abraham had three sacks in the Cardinals’ win over the Rams on Sunday, giving him 133 for his career. That moves him into ninth place in NFL history, and it raises a question: Is Abraham a Hall of Famer? I would probably lean toward “no,” but he at least deserves consideration. He’s among the best pass rushers of his generation, and at age 35 he still doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
Peyton Manning was brilliant on Sunday. Manning completed 39 of 59 passes for 397 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions, and his numbers would have been even better than that if his receivers hadn’t dropped several perfect passes. Manning, who needs just six touchdown passes to break Tom Brady’s single-season record of 50, had his huge game despite bitter cold temperatures in Denver. So much for the talk that Manning can’t play in the cold. Manning looked on Sunday like he enjoys football in the cold weather just as much as the rest of us.
It’s been a while since the Panthers had lost a game.
Now they have to remember how to respond to one.
The Panthers fell flat in New Orleans last night, losing 31-13 to kill an eight-game winning streak.
“The sky isn’t falling. We just got used to winning eight weeks in a row. We wanted to win. We prepared well. We just didn’t play well.”
The Panthers adopted a defiant tone in the aftermath of a game that saw them offer little resistance to the Saints.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera insisted they were “a better football team than we showed,” and his quarterback echoed the point.
“I felt those guys were better than us today,” Cam Newton said of the Saints. “Are they better than us? No.”
Because of the Saints’ tiebreaker edge, the Panthers would still need somebody else to beat the Saints even if they won the rematch in Charlotte in two weeks. That leaves the Panthers keeping an eye on the rear view mirror of the Wild Card chase, a game ahead of the Cardinals — who happened to be the last team to beat them prior to last night.
They bounced back well from that loss in Arizona in October. How they respond to another thorough beating will determine how seriously they are to be taken come playoff time.
At the moment — and it’s early yet — Mike Shanahan is still the coach of the Redskins.
But even if — or when — he’s not, he’s apparently not on the Texans’ wish list.
According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans won’t pursue Shanahan even if he’s fired by the Redskins.
McClain also mentions that ESPN Jon Gruden is not on the list compiled by Texans owner Bob McNair.
Former Bears coach Lovie Smith, Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and Stanford’s David Shaw are mentioned in his report, though McNair listed NFL experience as a factor for his next coach.
When a youngster is learning to swim, there comes a point when they have to jump into the deep end to figure out if they can handle themselves in the water.
The kids that float are fine. The ones that don’t have to be taken back for some more lessons before giving it another shot.
Why the swimming talk? Because the Bills are heading back to the shallow end with quarterback E.J. Manuel after Sunday’s 27-6 thumping at the hands of the Buccaneers. Manuel threw four interceptions and took seven sacks as he continued his habit of poor performances away from Ralph Wilson Stadium and coach Doug Marrone said after the game that the team would be cutting back on the offense to avoid overwhelming the rookie quarterback.
“I think we’ve been giving him more and more. Now it’s a point of where you have to re-evaluate that. He’s been going fast with his progression and now we just have to look at it and get him started again,” Marrone said, via ESPN.com. “It’s not starting over — don’t get me wrong — [but] we’ve got to look to see what we can do and probably cut down what we’re doing.”
Manuel’s rookie season has been a mixed bag in terms of performance and the knee injury that cost him four games certainly didn’t do anything to help smooth out his transition to the pro game. Scaling things back at this point and then rebuilding things during the offseason sounds like a wiser move than continuing to force feeding things that aren’t working at this moment in time.
The Packers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 22-21 win over the Falcons on a snowy day in Green Bay, but their chances of navigating the last three weeks successfully took a bit of a hit when running back Eddie Lacy injured his ankle.
Lacy hurt the ankle on the final play of the first half when coach Mike McCarthy decided to give him the ball on 3rd and 10 from the Green Bay 32 with four seconds left in the first half. Lacy gained a yard and an injury that he said limited him in the second half of the game.
“I definitely couldn’t push off of it as much as I wanted to,” Lacy said, via Paul Imig of FOX Sports Wisconsin. “I could feel it whenever I ran and, if I was healthy, I could have broken a couple of tackles. But I couldn’t because I couldn’t push off.”
Though limited, Lacy played the entire game so it appears he should be fine as the team moves forward. The fact that he got hurt at all should resonate with coaches who insist on calling running plays with no chance at the end of halves to run out the clock when they are a long way away from the end zone.
The list of draw plays or other handoffs out of the shotgun that have gone the distance is shorter than the list of people who think NFL officials are doing a good job this season yet we see it every week while wondering why you’d risk injury on a play with so little hope for reward. McCarthy said he didn’t regret the call after the game, but he hurt his team just to kill some time. Having the quarterback take a knee makes that happen without jeopardizing anyone’s health.
The Colts have clinched the AFC South, while the Broncos and Seahawks have each clinched playoff berths. With three teams in and nine playoff spots to go, here’s a look at the state of the playoff race:
AFC East: The Patriots clinch if they win one more game, or if the Dolphins lose one more game. Suffice to say, New England will win the division, and the Patriots will likely be the AFC No. 2 seed.
AFC North: The Bengals have a two-game lead over the Ravens and will likely be the AFC No. 3 seed.
AFC South: The Colts have clinched the division and will likely be the AFC No. 4 seed.
AFC West: The Broncos have a one-game lead over the Chiefs and own the tiebreaker advantage. Denver just needs to win two of its remaining three to clinch the division. If Denver wins all three, it clinches home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
AFC wild card: Kansas City will almost certainly be the AFC No. 5 seed and likely play at Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs. The final wild card will likely go to 7-6 Baltimore or 7-6 Miami, with the 6-7 Chargers and Jets still clinging to playoff hopes.
NFC East: The Eagles lead the Cowboys by half a game, pending Monday night. Dallas and Philadelphia meet in a Week 17 game that will likely determine the division winner.
NFC North: The first-place Lions will win the division if they win their final three games. If they lose a game, either the Bears or Packers (who meet in Week 17) can win the division by winning out.
NFC South: The Saints have a one-game lead over the Panthers, and the winner of the NFC South will likely be the NFC No. 2 seed.
NFC West: The Seahawks need to win just two of their final three games to clinch the division and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
NFC wild card: The 9-4 Panthers and the 9-4 49ers look like the NFC wild card teams, while the 8-5 Cardinals are still in the playoff hunt.
Some would say Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is a bad winner. On Sunday, he came off as a bad loser.
After the Seahawks absorbed a 19-17 loss to the 49ers, Sherman blamed the loss on the officiating.
“We didn’t project it to be this way,” Sherman said, via quotes distributed by the 49ers. “We expected to blow them out but they got the benefit of a few calls tonight throughout the game and that helps you especially on third down, we will see them again and it will be a different result.”
He reiterated that he expected a blowout for the Seahawks, and that the home team “got a few questionable calls on third down.”
Sherman also disputed the notion that the return of receiver Michael Crabtree, who missed the Week Two game between the teams due to a torn Achilles tendon, made a difference for the 49ers.
“It didn’t make a difference,” Sherman said. “It didn’t make a difference at all. . . . The penalties, that is what made the difference today.”
Regardless, the 49ers won. If there’s a rubber match in the postseason, the Seahawks most likely will host the game. And that’s what will make the difference in January.
When the Steelers were winning, the talk of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley not getting along subsided.
Now that the Steelers have lost two in a row, sliding out of the playoff picture, the dysfunction has begun to return.
Asked after Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins about the lack of a running game in the second half a season-killing loss to the Dolphins, Roethlisberger had this to say (via Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network): “No idea. Coach Haley’s over there. You can ask him.”
Perhaps more telling was Roethslisberger’s response to the question of whether changes need to be made on offense. Per Kinkhabwala, Roethlisberger declined to answer.
At this point, it would be a surprise if Haley returns. Especially since the Steelers have made it clear that Roethlisberger will be back.
Even if Roethlisberger isn’t, the Haley experiment is failing — like many thought it would. If coach Mike Tomlin won’t be taking the fall, someone else needs to. That someone else likely will be Haley.
In a move that could draw NFL scrutiny, Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett stepped on the right hand of Rams left guard Chris Williams at the conclusion of a third-down running play in the third quarter of Arizona’s 30-10 win vs. St. Louis on Sunday.
After being pushed by Williams at the play’s end, Dockett strode toward Williams, who had put his weight on his right hand in an attempt to get off the ground. Dockett stepped on the hand, which led an animated discussion between the two players.
No penalties were called on the play.
There might still be better quarterbacks in the NFL than Drew Brees.
But there’s not a better blend of quarterback, coach and building than Brees, Sean Payton and the Superdome.
The three of them together haven’t lost since the end of the 2010 season (throwing out Payton’s 2012 suspension).
Brees was at his clinical best in the Saints’ 31-13 win over the Panthers, extending his dominance at home and in prime time.
Brees was 30-of-42 passing for 313 yards and four touchdowns, bouncing back from a three-and-out on his first possession to effectively end the game in the second quarter.
And that was against a defense that entered the game leading the league in points allowed, which was coming in on an eight-game win streak.
Brees also became the fifth quarterback to top the 50,000-yard plateau with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass, joining Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and John Elway. While Manning was the previous fastest to that mark, needing 191 games, Brees just did it in his 183rd.
That speaks to his own ability, but also the right mix of atmosphere and a coach who knows how to maximize his talents.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. The Saints didn’t drill the Panthers because Panthers safety Mike Mitchell called Brees “soft.”
They drilled them because Brees is a lot better at his job than Mitchell and his friends are at theirs.
The Panthers have survived despite a makeshift secondary rather than because of it, based on the fact they had been able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The best of the lot is cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, an undersized former seventh-rounder. Munnerlyn’s a solid nickel who is too often forced into physical mismatches because the Panthers don’t have better options.
But when that pressure they’ve counted on wasn’t there (Brees was sacked twice, with backup defensive end Mario Addison getting the line’s lone sack), against a quarterback at the top of his game in his own house, that secondary was exposed.
When you line up undrafted rookies and minimum-wage veterans, the guys up front have to be perfect. The moment they weren’t, the cast-offs were exposed.
2. Because of tiebreaker advantages, the 10-3 Saints are now close to wrapping up the NFC South, and with it the home game in the playoffs and a bye.
That’s huge, because other than the team they were just flattened by (the Seahawks), there’s not a team with a better vibe in their own building.
Now the Panthers have to be ready to take their show on the road, to play the Eagles or Cowboys or the Lions — assuming they don’t let this loss snowball on them.
The Panthers are just a game ahead of the 8-5 Cardinals, who have a head-to-head tiebreaker on them.
3. One of the biggest questions with the Saints this year, as they tried to fix a defense which set a league record for yards allowed last year, was where the pressure was coming from.
The answer is everywhere.
They got good rush from Junior Galette, which they needed. But they also got blitz pressure up the middle and from defensive backs off the edge, keeping the Panthers guessing throughout the night.
4. Panthers right guard Nate Chandler peeks over his shoulder for line calls prior to almost every snap. It almost makes it look like he’s been an offensive lineman for a few months.
Wait, that’s the case. The former defensive tackle has been forced into action as the Panthers sixth choice at the position this year.
Chandler’s part of a right side of the Panthers line that has been exploited this season. Along with right tackle Byron Bell, it’s a side of a line that has to be game-planned out of the game, with tight ends and roll outs to get away from the inevitable pressure.
5. The Saints win was comfortable enough that critiquing individual play calls might be considered quibbling.
But Payton made a couple of unusual decisions which could have been big in closer games.
Not taking a penalty early in the third quarter cost him an automatic first down, in exchange for a 2-yard difference. Then electing for a field goal later in the fourth (when a short fourth-down conversion would have sealed it) seemed like a curious choice.
Again, it’s a brush stroke on a masterpiece, but Payton had a few calls that weren’t as urgent as you’d think they would have been.
The Seahawks lost for the second time this season on Sunday and the cost was more than a game off their lead in the NFC West.
Coach Pete Carroll said after the game that linebacker K.J. Wright broke a bone in his foot during the 19-17 loss to the 49ers. Carroll said that the injury has a six week timetable for recovery, which would put Wright’s return deep into the playoffs if there aren’t any setbacks on the road back to health.
Wright has started all 13 games for the Seahawks this season and has proven versatile and effective enough to be an every down player on the outside for the Seahawks. That’s a big loss at any point in the season, but especially in the postseason.
Malcolm Smith should take over for Wright in the starting lineup when the Seahawks travel to New Jersey for a date with the Giants next weekend.
The league’s top-ranked defense is getting picked apart, and they don’t have long to catch their breath.
The Saints have raced to a 21-6 halftime lead on the Panthers, with Drew Brees at his surgical best.
The Saints have thrown for 183 yards and three touchdowns at halftime, after he was held to 147 yards last week against the Seahawks.
The difference is the Seahawks were able to get some pressure on Brees, and had personnel in the secondary to cover and make Brees make some choices.
The Panthers aren’t getting there with their front four tonight, and Brees is making them pay. He also gets the ball to start the second half, which could allow him to put this one out of reach quickly.
The Saints have gone up 14-6 over the Panthers in the second quarter, cashing in with touchdowns where the Panthers have settled for field goals.
After taking the lead with a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, the Saints just tacked on another Marques Colston touchdown.
After an early three-and-out, Brees has caught fire, 11-of-15 passing for 107 yards and two scores.
The Panthers haven’t been able to get any pressure on him, and he’s picking apart a secondary that plays hard, but isn’t talented enough to match up with his multiple weapons.
No division leader is playing any worse right now than the Indianapolis Colts. But no team in the NFL has clinched its division, except the Colts.
With the Titans’ loss to the Broncos today, the Colts clinched the AFC South, becoming the first team in the NFL to clinch a division title. (The Seahawks and Broncos have also clinched playoff berths, though not division titles.)
But in the process of clinching the division, the Colts aren’t looking good. Today they got whipped by the Bengals, 42-28, and they’ve lost three of their last five.
Although the Colts were playing excellent football early this season, with wins over the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos, they’ve been plagued by injuries and have declined significantly. Still, they’re assured of playing at least one home playoff game. No other team in the NFL can say that.