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Sunday night wrap-up: Giants give it away

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Only in a Cowboys-Giants game can Tony Romo come back from an injury to lead a win, and become almost a footnote.

Romo played well enough for long enough to hang on for a 36-31 Cowboys win, despite clearly not feeling well after a second-quarter shot to the ribs. But the story was the Giants coughing up a game they had a chance to win, even after committing five turnovers.

The sixth, inside the two-minute warning, was more than they could withstand. Eli Manning’s futile chase of Brandon Carr after his third interception was symbolic of the night, the frustration of repeated errors boiled over.

Romo may or may not be completely well, he’s played with rib injuries before. But he missed just one play and threw for a pair of touchdowns, showing the kind of toughness he has so many times. It wasn’t the most efficient, as he wasn’t able to bury the game when the Giants were begging him to.

But unlike every other time the Giants have been to Jerry Jones’ new stadium, it worked.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. David Wilson was a first-round pick in 2012, taken one spot after Doug Martin.

But we may never see him again, at least carrying the ball for the Giants.

Fumbling on his second NFL carry found him a place in the doghouse last year, and fumbling twice in this year’s opener may make him a return man for the rest of his career.

He’s clearly a talented back, but he might not going to get many more chances to show it for Tom Coughlin. Ball security isn’t the only issue, as his pass protection isn’t sufficient either.

They can’t turn to Ahmad Bradshaw now, he’s a Colt. And with Andre Brown on short-term IR, it will be another few months before he can fix things.

The Giants sniffed around some veteran backs last week (working out Beanie Wells and Jonathan Dwyer among others), and it’ll be a surprise if they don’t add one this week.

2. Monte Kiffin still has it.

The Cowboys managed a grand total of 16 turnovers last year.

It looked like they were going to match it in the first half. The Cowboys forced three turnovers in the first quarter alone, picking Manning twice and forcing the first Wilson fumble.

The elder coordinator’s legacy in the NFL is well-established, but if he can keep the Cowboys playing this well — especially given the injury depleted defensive line — it might be as impressive as anything he’s done.

Turning a middling 3-4 defense to a productive 4-3 is a feat, and doing it with Nick Hayden and George Selvie instead of Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer is practically alchemy.

3. Jason Witten has it too, sort of.

The veteran tight end was caught on camera having a bit of gastro-intestinal distress, but continued to play his guts out after surrendering his pre-game meal.

Early in the game, Romo seemed to be making a conscious effort to get the ball to Miles Austin, as Dez Bryant was drawing so much attention from the Giants’ secondary.

But it didn’t take long to get the 31-year-old back into the flow. He caught 110 passes last year, but only three for touchdowns. That doesn’t appear to be case this time through, with two already.

4. It’s fun to see hustle pay off.

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray finished the night with 86 rushing yards.

But his biggest contribution might have been the four points he saved when the game was in doubt.

Murray had the tackle when Giants safety Ryan Mundy picked off a Romo pass in the first quarter and returned it 91 yards.

Murray’s tackle dropped Mundy at the 1, and when the Cowboys defense held, the Giants were forced into a field goal.

It wasn’t quite Don Beebe-Leon Lett, but it was an effort play that paid off.

5. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz isn’t playing like a guy who just got paid.

After getting his big contract this summer, the Giants’ slot receiver continued to make big plays. His 70-yard touchdown was nice, the second one was a tougher play, and the third was meaningful.

With Hakeem Nicks in a contract drive, the Giants knew they were going to have at least one highly motivated receiver. Having two could make them dangerous, and getting Rueben Randle incorporated gives them plenty of options, as long as Manning doesn’t continue throwing it to the other team.

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PFT Live: Eagles talk with Geoff Mosher, Ravens talk with Clifton Brown

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The Eagles outlasted the Titans on Sunday for a 43-24 win that guaranteed them at least a share of first place in the NFC East when the day came to an end.

That share is all they own after the Cowboys were able to come back to beat the Giants on Sunday night, leaving both teams with 8-3 records after 11 games. Only one of them can win their ninth game this week, though, as the two sides will square off in Dallas on Thanksgiving.

Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly will join Mike Florio on Monday’s edition of PFT Live to take a look back at what the Eagles did on Sunday as well as look ahead to how they’ll fare on Thursday after a quick turnaround.

There are still two games yet to play in Week 12 and we’ll take a look ahead to one of them with Clifton Brown of CSN Baltimore. He’ll talk to Florio about what the Ravens have to do to get a win in the Superdome and keep pace with their competition in the AFC North.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Jarvis Jones returning to practice this week

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Steelers are returning from their bye week on Monday and they’ll have one more body on the practice field than they had last week.

Bob Labriola of the team’s website reports that Jones will return to practice on Monday, opening up a three-week window for him to practice before the team would have to decide whether to activate him from injured reserve. It doesn’t have to take that long, however, and Jones is eligible to play as soon as this Sunday if the team deems him ready.

Jones needed to have wrist surgery after getting injured in a win over the Panthers in Week Three, one of several key injuries that have provided obstacles on defense for the Steelers this season. His loss helped lead the Steelers to coax James Harrison out of retirement, a decision that has brought them 18 tackles and four sacks in Jones’s absence.

That’s one more sack than Jones has managed in his first 17 NFL games, something that the Steelers would surely like to see their 2013 first-round pick improve on as they try to make the playoffs.

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Bill Belichick twists the knife on Dominic Raiola for cut block

Bill Belichick AP

The NFL is going to review Lions center Dominic Raiola’s late-game dive at Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore, primarily because he bragged about doing it late in the game.

But it’s hard to imagine any punishment from the league that will sting as much as the words from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, when asked about the play this morning.

“Sure there was a lot of frustration there with Raiola,” Belichick said, via Tom Curran of “He’s never beaten us. Tough day for him.”

We’re going to give that sick burn a minute to cool off, … whew.

Raiola is 0-4 all-time against the Patriots, a part of losses in 2002, 2006, 2010 and yesterday.

And don’t think Belichick wasn’t delighted to point that out.

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Browns fearing bad news about Tashaun Gipson’s knee injury

Cleveland Browns v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

The Browns played without defensive end Phil Taylor and linebacker Karlos Dansby on Sunday and their defense took another hit during the 26-24 victory over the Falcons when safety Tashaun Gipson was carted off with a knee injury.

Gipson and cornerback Joe Haden collided while trying to break up a pass and the cart was brought out after Gipson briefly returned to his feet to find that he couldn’t put any weight on his right leg. It looked bad and Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the team is bracing for bad news when they get the results of a Monday MRI.

It would be a big loss for the defense as the Browns try to navigate the final five weeks well enough to make it to the playoffs. Gipson has six interceptions in the first 11 games of the season.

“Gipson is one of the best safeties, one of the top three in the NFL for sure,” Haden said. “Losing him, you can’t replace him, but in the NFL nobody is going to feel bad for you.”

Jim Leonhard and Jordan Poyer are both options to replace Gipson in the lineup if the bad feelings the Browns have about Gipson’s knee turn into bad news this week.

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NFC playoffs could see a 5-11 team in and a 12-4 team out

Corey Peters AP

Here’s how bad the NFC South is, and how good the NFC wild card race is: There are scenarios in which a 5-11 team is in the playoffs as NFC South champion, and a 12-4 team is left out of the playoffs entirely.

We noted last week that it’s entirely possible that a five-win team could win the NFC South. That scenario only became more plausible on Sunday, when both NFC South teams in action lost.

And with four of the NFC’s worst teams concentrated in one division, that means there are more good teams in the other divisions than there are playoff spots available. There are seven NFC teams — the Cardinals, Packers, Eagles, Cowboys, Seahawks, Lions and 49ers — that could still win 12 games, and there are plausible scenarios in which six of those seven actually reach the 12-win mark. (All seven can’t do it because the Seahawks and 49ers, who still play each other twice, can’t both get to 12 wins.) Only five of those seven teams with hopes of getting to 12 wins can make the playoffs because at least one of the six NFC playoff spots has to go to the NFC South champion.

Using ESPN’s NFL Playoff Machine, I found a scenario that saw the Packers finishing at 12-4, losing the NFC North tiebreaker to the 12-4 Lions, and then losing the NFC wild card tiebreaker to the 12-4 Cowboys and 49ers.

Green Bay fans would be livid if that happened, although that scenario is a long shot. However, there are plausible scenarios that have an 11-5 team missing the playoffs while a 5-11 team wins the NFC South.

There’s been increasing talk in recent years about adding a seventh playoff team in each conference, and that seems to be something NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants. Goodell and the owners, of course, are motivated primarily by the extra revenue that extra playoff games could bring. But there’s nothing that could get the fans to support expanding the playoffs more than a seemingly deserving team being shut out. That’s likely to happen this year.

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Aaron Rodgers had to make a 39.4-yard throw for a 1-yard TD


When you look at it on a stat sheet, a 1-yard touchdown pass from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to tight end Richard Rodgers might not look like much.

But then again, you might have been folding paper footballs that day in geometry class when they covered the Pythagorean theorem.

Via Rob Demovsky of, the heave from one side of the field to the back of the end zone of the other traveled 39.4 yards in the air. (And Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin showed his work, and can prove it. #nerds)

Of course, the real losers were the Vikings, who didn’t have a defender within 15 yards of the Packers tight end who caught it.

On a first-and-goal from the Vikings 1, Aaron Rodgers rolled right, to the other sideline. All the Vikings chased him, ignorning the fact Richard Rogers was drifiting alone to the left corner of the end zone.

“You usually don’t have to throw the ball 20 or 30 yards for a 1-yard touchdown,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I’m sure you guys will measure that out and correct me. But Richard ran a great route on the back side. It’s a delay route. Aaron delayed more than he probably needed to, but it was obviously a great throw.”

Richard said he was open “forever,” so he started waving his arms like on the playground.

“I was just open, no one was really covering me,” he said. “So I was just standing back there waving.”

Aaron had to put a little more muscle on the ball than he anticipated from that down and distance, but the results were geometrically amazing.


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Tom Brady: We’re so far from the Super Bowl

Detroit Lions Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Getty Images

The Patriots won for the seventh straight week on Sunday and they won by at least 22 points for the fourth week in a row, a run that has led some, including our own MDS, to start talking about a sixth Super Bowl trip for coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

With the Packers playing better than anyone in the NFC right now, that’s given the Patriots’ upcoming trip to Lambeau Field the look of a possible Super Bowl preview. Brady won’t be selling that line of thought this week, however.

“We are so far from [the Super Bowl],” Brady said on WEEI, via “We have so many games [left]. If we are lucky enough to make it there, no one ever cares who we play. But that’s so far down the road. We think about the one game we have ahead of us, which is a good opponent. We have nine wins. We’ve done a good job getting ourselves to this position. This is when the weather turns, the mental toughness, the discipline, how much we’ve improved really comes into play.”

There are plenty of similarities between the Patriots and Packers this season. They are scoring the most points in the league, have the biggest positive point differentials in the league and both teams had plenty of people concerned after shaky performances early in the season. Brady never went down the spelling bee route that Aaron Rodgers took, but patience proved to be just as wise a course of action in both cases.

None of that means that they’re destined to meet in the Super Bowl because there’s way too much football left to play when we haven’t reached Thanksgiving, but that’s not likely to stop the hype from building ahead of Sunday’s kickoff.

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Cowboys know they have to get right back to work

Tony Romo AP

The Cowboys ought to enjoy last night’s win.

But there isn’t really time to.

The relief or excitement of beating the Giants 31-28 last night also brings the realization they have to turn things around quickly to prepare for Thursday’s game with the Eagles.

“When we land in Dallas, [this] game no longer matters,” wide receiver Dez Bryant said, via Todd Archer of

The Cowboys got home in the wee hours and will practice this afternoon, but coaches got a head start on game-planning for the Eagles during their post-London bye week, which is why owner Jerry Jones wasn’t griping about the turnaround from playing a Sunday night road game to a short-week special.

“That’s three hours, that’s really nothing,” Jones said of the travel difference. “We’ll get rest on the plane and go in there, but we’ve got three more hours to prepare than Philadelphia, I guess. Did Philadelphia get a bye last week? OK, we got one, so we got the edge. . . .

“And we’re playing at home, so when you look at the edges, which edge would you rather have?” Would you rather have Philadelphia’s having to travel or us when we had a bye week?”

Either way, this week’s game is crucial. Even though the two teams are tied at 8-3, the Eagles have a better division record which will benefit them in case of a tie. But with two games between them in the next three weeks, they have a chance for that to not matter.

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Jadeveon Clowney still being affected by knee injury

Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans Getty Images

We’re 11 games into the 2014 season and Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney still hasn’t made the kind of impact that many were expecting based on his collegiate exploits.

Clowney had three tackles in Sunday’s loss, one for a loss, to the Bengals and he also was guilty of a neutral zone infraction that helped the Bengals get into position for a field goal. It was just his fourth game of the season as Clowney missed a big chunk of time after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus suffered in Week One and Clowney said after the game that he was still being affected by the injury.

“Somewhat,” Clowney said, via the Houston Chronicle. “Some things are holding me back still but I’m just out here trying to do what I can do and have fun. You never know if you’re going to have an injury or not coming into the league. So when that happened to me, it was a setback. I’m just trying to do everything I need to do to get back to where I need to be to help the team out.”

With a 5-6 record at this point in the year, the Texans are pretty much left to hope that Clowney can stay healthy and start making progress that will help him make more of the impact they imagined in his second NFL season.

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NFL will look at Raiola’s late-game knee dive

Raiola Getty Images

No rule prohibits an offensive lineman from firing out into the knees of a defensive lineman.  But after Lions center Dominic Raiola did it to Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore on the final play of Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium, Raiola admitted to doing it intentionally, deliberately, and maliciously.

Angered by a decision by the Patriots to score a garbage-time touchdown, Raiola decided to retaliate against the Patriots on a play in which the Lions, down 34-9, lined up in non-victory victory formation.  The result became the bizarro version of Greg Schiano’s approach to the kneel-down play, with a member of the offense opting to be overly aggressive at a time when the rest of the offense opts to be docile.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL will review the play.  Whether any action is taken in response to it is anyone’s guess.  But the rule book provides the league office with ammunition to take action against Raiola.

Rule 12, Section 2, Article 6(g) prohibits a player from “unnecessarily running, diving into, cutting, or throwing the body against or on a player who . . . should not have reasonably anticipated such contact by an opponent, before or after the ball is dead.”  In this specific case, with the Lions lined up to take a knee and end the game, Moore shouldn’t have reasonably anticipated Raiola diving at Moore’s knees.  Coupled with Raiola’s admission of intent and malice, and given the NFL’s enhanced sensitivity to player safety, Raiola could be hearing from the league office soon.

He’s due to make his 200th career start on Thursday against the Bears.  A suspension is unlikely, since the action happened during the play.  But a stiff fine should surprise no one, given the circumstances, Raiola’s actions, and most importantly his post-game words.

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Danny Trevathan expected back at practice for Broncos

Denver Broncos vs New York Jets, NFL Getty Images

The Dolphins hung 36 points on the Broncos on Sunday, which wasn’t enough for the Broncos to lose the game but was enough to know that the Broncos Defense has to be better if they want to make a deep playoff run this season.

It looks like they’ll have some help getting better in the near future. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that linebacker Danny Trevathan is expected back at practice this week and that he hopes to be back in the lineup when eligible to return from injured reserve on December 14.

Trevathan suffered a fracture near his kneecap in the team’s Week Six game against the Jets. That was just his second appearance of the regular season as Trevathan also fractured his leg during training camp, which kept him out of the first three games of the season.

Trevathan started every game for the Broncos last season and they could use him back in the mix with Nate Irving out of the picture.

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Anquan Boldin on running through Ryan Clark hit: The game was on the line

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

During the drive that led to Carlos Hyde’s game-winning touchdown run, wide receiver Anquan Boldin came up with a key 29-yard catch to get the team closer to the Washington end zone.

Boldin making a big catch is nothing new, but this one came with a twist. Boldin took a shot to the helmet from Redskins safety Ryan Clark’s helmet that drew a flag and left Clark on the ground, but the receiver bounced off and gained more yards before the defense could finally bring him down.

“At that point, the game’s on the line,” Boldin said, via “There’s no way that I cannot go for the ball at that point. You’re called upon in that moment, and your teammates are expecting you to come through for them. It’s part of football.”

Boldin, who had nine catches for 130 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, learned the downside of such hits in 2008 when he suffered a concussion, sinus fracture and other injuries on a hit from Jets safety Eric Smith. Boldin missed just two games despite those injuries and said Sunday that he doesn’t “need to play this game anymore if I’m thinking about a hit that happened five, six, however long it was.”

It was a big moment for the 49ers, who may have wound up with a bad loss if Boldin weren’t able to deliver a blow instead of succumbing to one.

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Peyton credits Gase for game-changing play call

peytongase AP

As the third quarter wound down in Denver on Sunday, the Broncos appeared to be in trouble: Trailing the Dolphins 28-17, the Broncos faced a fourth-and-2 and decided to go for it. Get stuffed there, and the Dolphins have a two-possession lead and the ball as the fourth quarter begins.

But the Broncos pulled off a great call, changing the formation and the play at the line of scrimmage, and going with a handoff to C.J. Anderson that picked up 20 yards. Denver scored a touchdown three plays later, took the lead on its next possession and won the game 39-36.

Usually, when the Broncos change a play at the line, Peyton Manning gets the credit. But Manning said it was offensive coordinator Adam Gase in his ear, telling him what to call.

“To tell you the truth, Adam made the change,” Manning said. “We got to the line of scrimmage pretty early and we had time on the clock and so Adam actually made the change from the sideline. It was critical. We ran the ball to the left and it was a good thing that we changed it because we really didn’t have a good play based on the look that they were showing early and we did make the change. I think it was what Adam wanted to get to all along.”

Anderson had a huge day, with 27 carries for 167 yards and a touchdown, and he said Gase told him the Broncos would need to win with the running game.

“Coach Gase came to me and said, ‘If you give me four here, we’re going to call another one.’ And if the O-line is like, ‘Man, keep calling them,’ the O-line wants to keep punishing, they want to keep pushing, they want to keep grinding,” Anderson said. “That’s just amazing.”

The Broncos will always be a pass-first team, as long as Manning is the quarterback. But on Sunday they showed they can win games on the ground as well. And they can win games with someone other than Manning calling all the plays.

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Golden Tate on Sunday’s loss: It’s embarrassing

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Lions came into their Week 11 game against the Cardinals with a 7-2 record and a grip on first place in the NFC North.

Monday morning finds them 7-4 and a game behind the surging Packers and the offense is the biggest reason why. The Lions didn’t play well in any phase of Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, but their offense is in the spotlight after failing to score a touchdown for the second straight week. It’s the first time a Detroit team has done that since 2000, which is saying something given some of the teams they’ve trotted out since then.

Whether it was Matthew Stafford sliding a yard short of a first down, dropped passes by receivers or the team’s conservative approach on numerous fourth downs, the Lions Offense was a mess once again. Wide receiver Golden Tate said after the game that the team has to find a way to restore confidence in a short week.

“It’s one of those games, we just … it’s embarrassing,” Tate said, via “We’ve got to chalk it up and have a short-term memory. That’s the most important thing, not to lose our swagger, not to lose our confidence. Just come out with a mission, come out on a mission to really take it out on our next opponent, which happens to be Chicago, who is also another good team regardless of what their schedule says.”

The margin for error in Detroit has dropped to almost zero and it isn’t a coincidence that the offense has produced the same amount of touchdowns the last two weeks. That needs to change quickly or the Lions will see hopes for a winning season disappear down the stretch for the second straight year.

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Monday morning one-liners

Andy Dalton AP

The Bills will be trying to put a difficult week behind them on Monday night.

Things were going well for the Dolphins in Denver until the fourth quarter.

TE Tim Wright continues to be a productive receiver for the Patriots.

The Jets are looking for some payback after losing to the Bills earlier this season.

Some of the key matchups for the Ravens on Monday night.

Sunday’s trip home went well for Bengals QB Andy Dalton.

Browns G Joel Bitonio made a key tackle on Devin Hester to end the first half.

A look at the playoff picture for the Steelers.

The Texans running game never found its footing against the Bengals.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano called his team a “resilient bunch” after Sunday’s win.

DB Aaron Colvin made his NFL debut for the Jaguars after a long rehab for a torn ACL.

A bad start helped bury the Titans on Sunday.

RB C.J. Anderson made the most of his chance to play a lead role in the Broncos backfield.

Rookie RB De’Anthony Thomas’s role with the Chiefs is growing.

Ranking the Raiders’ overzealous sack celebration from last Thursday against past over-the-top moments.

CB Chris Davis was almost a goat for the Chargers.

The Cowboys showed they know how to finish on Sunday night.

An argument against Giants WR Odell Beckham’s catch ranking among the best in the history of the game.

The Eagles Defense is preparing for a tougher test on Thursday.

Said Redskins WR Pierre Garçon, “Oh we had a lot of opportunities to score. We weren’t taking none. Being conservative. That’s what it is.”

Bears DT Stephen Paea earned compliments from the Buccaneers.

S James Ihedigbo said the Lions Defense remains strong despite its play in the loss to the Patriots.

Packers guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang played through injuries on Sunday.

An interception thrown by QB Teddy Bridgewater loomed large in Sunday’s Vikings loss.

The storm clouds are gathering for Falcons coach Mike Smith.

Panthers CB Josh Norman doesn’t miss playing with Captain Munnerlyn, who he’ll see when the Panthers face the Vikings in Week 13.

What will the Saints do at safety on Monday night?

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans tied a franchise record with a touchdown catch for the fourth straight game.

The Cardinals pass rush did its part against the Seahawks.

Rams WR Tavon Austin was happy to find the end zone for the first time this season.

It was a happier Sunday for 49ers LB Ahmad Brooks this week.

TE Cooper Helfet had a couple of big plays in the Seahawks’ win.

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