Cowboys storm back to grab lead

Getty Images

The Cowboys looked like they were on the ropes when they fell behind 23-0 early in the second quarter against the Giants, but they may have been just borrowing the rope-a-dope strategy from Muhammad Ali.

They’ve scored 24 straight points to grab a 24-23 lead with time winding down in the third quarter. They’ve scored two touchdowns on Tony Romo rollouts since the start of the second half. The first was a run by Romo on fourth-and-goal from the foot of the end zone and the second looked like a mirror image until Romo flipped the ball to John Phillips in the end zone for another score.

The Giants defense has still been able to get pressure on Romo, but the Cowboys quarterback is standing up and making the throws he didn’t make in the first half. Eli Manning, meanwhile, is 3-of-10 for 27 yards since the Giants grabbed that 23-0 lead. We mentioned the Giants’ conservative offensive approach at halftime and it appears to be coming back to haunt them in the second half.

Of course, this could just be Manning’s latest variation on the thrilling comeback so we’ll keep watching to see how this seesaw affair plays out.

Jennings recovers from Smith’s butt-kicking to make big play

Getty Images

Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith made plenty of plays Sunday, but Tim Jennings made the one that counted.

Jennings’ interception for a touchdown was a crucial turning point in the Bears’ 23-22 comeback win, and Smith took the blame.

“I slipped, sir. I slipped,” Smith said, via Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “The ball was thrown. He picked it. That what-if game, and this and that, that requires energy that I just don’t have right now to go through.”

Smith had seven catches for 118 yards Sunday, continuing a run of good games against the Bears (averaging 149 per game entering the day).

And since Jennings was on him all day, Smith’s praise was, shall we say, muted.

“That was the best play he made all game on me,” Smith said. “But it was a key moment in the game, changed the momentum. I know you want to pump him up. But I’ve been kicking his ass every time I come up here. And today wasn’t no different. Do you disagree?”

Jennings took the high road (which isn’t hard when Smith’s coming off a loss), showing respect to his 1-6 opponent.

“It’s very important when you got a Pro Bowl receiver like that’s been playing the game at a high level like that his whole career,” Jennings said. “He’s going to make some plays. But I had to have the mentality that I got to stay up and stay playing aggressive and minimize his playmaking ability.”

While they didn’t minimize Smith, they kept it from making a difference.

And that’s the difference in their responses.

Cowboys edge closer before the half


The first 17 minutes of the game were a total nightmare for the Cowboys, but they’ve used the last 13 to draw close enough to the Cowboys to keep hope alive for a comeback.

Tony Romo was able to string together several passes in a row without an interception to set up a Felix Jones touchdown run and then hit Dez Bryant behind the Cowboys defense near the end of the half to put the team in position for a Dan Bailey field goal. That second drive could have led to more, but Romo was sacked by Jason Pierre-Paul before throwing incomplete under pressure on third down. They’re still within two scores at 23-10 and that’s pretty good given how awful things started out.

Romo was picked three times, including one JPP returned for a touchdown, and Bryant fumbled a punt to help the Giants to a 23-0 lead two minutes into the second quarter. The Giants defense has been opportunistic and the pass rush has been heavy since the very start of the game, contributing to Romo’s poor half and putting the Giants in front.

The game would be out of reach if they had done a bit more with the opportunities. The Giants play calling has been a bit conservative given the weapons at their disposal, there have been a few drops that kept the offense from putting up more points and Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled to kill another drive. Eli Manning is just 8-of-18 for 106 yards, a sign of how good the Cowboys defense has done given the tough circumstances they keep finding themselves in thanks to the offense.

It’s still a game thanks to that defense, although it is one the Giants could put out of reach by getting their offense in gear.

Bush takes the high road on Cromartie

Getty Images

After Sunday’s game, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said he didn’t lose his composure during a first-quarter incident with Dolphins running back Reggie Bush, telling reporters Cromartie called Bush a “punk” because, as Cromartie put it, “that’s exactly what he is.”

“We beat them fair and square,” Bush told PFT after the game by phone.  “They can say whatever they want.”

Bush, who hadn’t heard about Cromartie’s comments, laughed them off.  “Of course he lost his composure,” Bush said of Cromartie.  “He got flagged.”

Bush said that other players were saying things to him during the game, but that it didn’t bother him.  “Trash talking is part of the game,” Bush said.  “They beat us in our building, and now we beat them in their building.  That’s all that matters.”

Bush became a focal point in the days leading up to the game, based on comments from Jets players and coach Rex Ryan regarding an apparent desire to hurt Bush, who suffered a knee injury when the teams first played this season in Miami.  With cornerback Darrelle Revis suffering a torn ACL in that same game, Bush said, “What goes around comes around.”  That prompted Jets coach Rex Ryan to suggest that Bush should apologize for his remarks.

Michael Vick: Reid “obviously” thinking about a quarterback change

Getty Images

Questions about Eagles quarterback Michael Vick holding onto the starting job were inevitable after another dismal loss and Vick isn’t pretending they don’t exist.

Reuben Frank of reports that Vick said that coach Andy Reid is “obviously” thinking about making a change at quarterback and “if he makes that decision, I support it.” Frank got Vick to expound on his thoughts about potentially losing the job.

“It’s tough when you know everything is up in the balance, but that’s the decision that coach is thinking about making, and I’m going to fight until he says, ‘Come on out,’ and he takes me out of the game,” Vick said. “Despite everything that’s been said the last couple weeks, I still continue to put in the hard work and the effort and try to do everything I can to prepare and win football games, man. I can’t do it by myself. I would love to stay in there and finish what I started. It would mean the world to me. But, hey, that’s not my decision right now.”

Reid said that he will go back and “look at everything” when asked about making a change at quarterback. Vick was 21-of-35 for 191 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, a performance that didn’t feature any of the turnovers that plagued the first six games but still prompted Reid to say “he can play better.”

It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that more change is coming to Philly, although we won’t find out about it Monday. The Eagles will close their facility with Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the area, which may wind up amounting to a momentary delay to the end of the Vick era.

Raiders up 13-6 at halftime, Chiefs still haven’t led


The Chiefs haven’t led this season.

And at this point, it’s a decent bet they may not.

After losing “starting” quarterback Brady Quinn to a head injury, former starter Matt Cassel led them to a pair of field goal drives which felt like progress, considering it was 6-6 late in the first half.

But then Javier Arenas fumbled an attempted fair catch just before halftime, giving the Raiders a short field.

Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer made them pay three plays later, hitting Denarius Moore for a quick touchdown and a 13-6 lead at the break.

The Chiefs lead the league in turnovers, and have allowed 86 points off those givebacks (10 today). Teams don’t get to be 1-5 by accident.

Cromartie says Bush is a “punk”


The Dolphins won the battle, but the Jets have won the war of words.


After New York’s loss to Miami, cornerback Antonio Cromartie addressed a personal-foul penalty he received after a first-quarter incident with Dolphins running back Reggie Bush.

Cromartie addressed the situation after the game.  “I didn’t lose my composure,” Cromartie said, via Mark Hale of the New York Post.  “I just called [Bush] a punk and that’s exactly what he is.”

Bush and the rest of the Dolphins punked the Jets on Sunday.  So maybe Cromartie, in a way, is right.

Things go from bad to worse for Cowboys

Getty Images

When last we left the Cowboys (it wasn’t that long ago), they had two turnovers and the Giants had a 13-0 lead with more than three minutes to go in the first quarter.

It’s now less than two minutes into the second quarter and those qualify has the good old days. The Cowboys have turned the ball over twice more, including a Jason Pierre-Paul interception that the Giants defensive end returned 28 yards for a touchdown. That lifted the Giants lead to 23-0 and it is going to be hard for the Cowboys to stop the Giants from remaining undefeated at Cowboys Stadium without a sudden and total change in fortunes.

The Cowboys defense seemed to come up with a big win when they forced the Giants to go three-and-out after a Cowboys punt, but the Giants got the ball right back when Dez Bryant fumbled Steve Weatherford’s punt. The defense held the Giants to a third Lawrence Tynes field goal, but Tony Romo’s third interception was enough to suck any potential momentum right back out of the room.

There’s still plenty of time to play in Dallas, although it’s hard to tell if that’s a good thing for the Cowboys right now.

Cowboys get off to a rough start against Giants


If the Cowboys are hoping to get the crowd fired up on Sunday afternoon, they should probably focus a bit more on their play and a bit less on flashy scoreboard graphics.

Tony Romo was intercepted on each of the team’s first two possessions and the Giants have turned them into 10 points to open up a 13-0 lead with just under four minutes to go in the first quarter. Romo’s first pick came on a play where either Romo or running back Phillip Tanner went the wrong way on a play action fake before Romo threw a pass that Stevie Brown picked off. Number two was a long ball intended for Miles Austin that wound up in Giants cornerback Corey Webster’s hands.

The Cowboys defense was able to hold the Giants to a field goal the first time, but the second one became an Andre Brown touchdown. That wasn’t the end of the bad news for the Cowboys on that drive, however. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware went down with an injury briefly before walking off the field by himself. He’s getting oxygen on the bench, so he may have just had the wind knocked out of him during an Ahmad Bradshaw run.

That would be the first bit of good news on the day for the Cowboys.

Louis Delmas injures left knee


Lions safety Louis Delmas missed the first four games of the season with a left knee injury.  He now has another one.

Per a league source, X-rays were negative but further testing (specifically, an MRI) will be conducted on Monday.  The injury happened in the third quarter.  Delmas was examined on the sideline and then taken to the locker room.

Per various reports on Twitter, coach Jim Schwartz declined to characterize the condition as a re-injury.

Rex Ryan’s sticking with Mark Sanchez

Getty Images

It was an ugly, ugly day for the Jets offense on Sunday, but it wasn’t ugly enough to convince Rex Ryan to make a change at quarterback.

Ryan said from the podium of his postgame press conference that Sanchez will remain the team’s starting quarterback because he gives the team the best chance to win. Sanchez didn’t do much to give the Jets a chance to win in the 30-9 loss to the Dolphins, completing 28-of-54 passes for 283 yards to go with a touchdown, interception and lost fumble. That touchdown came in the fourth quarter when the Jets were already down 27-3 and his earlier play was studded with the kind of inaccuracy and inability to make plays under pressure that have popped up in half his starts this season.

All of that comes with Tim Tebow standing on the sideline and doing very little offensively other than standing on the sideline. Ryan isn’t switching to Tebow during the coming bye week and he said after the game that he never thought about benching his quarterback.

“I just never thought it was the time to do it. Mark’s our quarterback,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s sticking with Sanchez after another poor game. His job security could wind up being seriously impacted by that loyalty.

Quinn leaves game with head injury, Cassel back in


The Brady Quinn era didn’t last long.

After throwing an interception earlier, Quinn’s out in Kansas City, after taking a hard shot on a sack. He’s been taken to the locker room with what was described as a head injury.

The Chiefs threw for minus-six yards in the first quarter, part of their 17 total yards.

Matt Cassel is now back in the game, and there was no cheering when it happened.

The Raiders are up 6-0 early in the second quarter on a pair of Sebastian Janikowski field goals.

Falcons break Reid’s 13-game post-bye streak


It’s fitting that in a year that could see the Eagles bid farewell to coach Andy Reid, the team lost for the first time under its 14-year head coach after the regular-season “bye.”

Previously 13-0 in the regular season with extra time to prepare, the Eagles lost in decisive fashion at home to the Falcons, 30-17.

The Falcons also had a bye in Week Seven.  It’s the third game for the Eagles this season against a team that was emerging from a bye.  The Eagles are 0-3 in those games.

In Philly’s first game under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Eagles surrendered 392 total yards, including three touchdown passes by quarterback and MVP favorite Matt Ryan.  The performance prompted chants of “Fire Andy” during the second half.

The Falcons are now 7-0 and in command of the NFC South.  The Eagles have fallen to 3-4.  They head to New Orleans next Sunday.

Dolphins roll over Jets after losing Tannehill

Getty Images

We’ll have to wait until there’s word about the health of quarterback Ryan Tannehill before we know whether Sunday’s 30-9 victory over the Jets was bittersweet or just sweet for the Dolphins, but there’s a lot for them to be happy about while waiting for the diagnosis on Tannehill.

They are now 4-3 and headed into a game that could push them further into playoff contention against the 4-3 Colts in Indianapolis last week. They also pushed the Jets to 3-5 and into what will surely be a media and fan-driven maelstrom in the two weeks until the Jets next take the field. The Dolphins are now positioned to be the second team in the AFC East and, with two games left against New England, could find their way to more than that.

Sunday’s win came because of solid play in all three phases, although the offense took a back seat to the defense and special teams. The defense made Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense look completely foolish over the entire afternoon. Chris Clemons had an interception, the pass rush dropped Sanchez four times and the bulk of the Jets’ yards came during extended garbage time.

The special teams blocked a punt for a touchdown and blocked a Nick Folk field goal near the end of the first half. There was also a good kickoff return by Marcus Thigpen to stem any potential momentum shift after the Jets finally got on the board in the third quarter. Matt Moore did a solid job moving the team after Tannehill was forced out, the running game was steady and that formula was more than enough to carry the day for the Fins.

The Jets have their own quarterback question to answer in the wake of this loss. Sanchez isn’t hurt, although it might be easier if he were because there would be an easier explanation for his 28-of-54 performance that wasn’t even as mediocre as that sounds. There are plenty of other issues plaguing the Jets offense, but there’s not much reason left not to try something else in hopes of sparking a consistent offensive performance. Sanchez played the entire game, save a couple of Tim Tebow cameos, and the offense never moved until the game was well out of hand.

Change could be in the air in New York. The smell is much nicer down in Miami.

Colts get overtime win with touchdown on first possession


Unless there’s a touchdown on the first possession of overtime, both teams get a chance to have the ball under the overtime rules put in place for this season.

Only one team got the ball in Tennessee. Vick Ballard made a remarkable twisting dive at the end of a 16-yard run following a screen pass from Andrew Luck to end the game less than five minutes into the extra session. The play was subjected to a long review, but the word finally came back that Ballard’s acrobatic effort was a touchdown and the Colts were 19-13 winners.

Titans fans will likely rue a 47-yard missed field goal by Rob Bironas in the second half, which would ignore the fact that the team had plenty of other chances to get points over the course of the game and couldn’t get it done. Chris Johnson ran for 99 yards and Matt Hasselbeck was 22-of-29 for 236 yards, but they didn’t get enough of them when they weren’t being thwarted by some ill-timed penalties.

It also didn’t help that the Titans defense, which had played extremely well until that point, couldn’t get off the field when Luck took the Colts 80 yards in 14 plays to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Luck’s play wasn’t great throughout the game and he threw a pretty bad interception, but he was sharp on that drive and made a big throw to Reggie Wayne in overtime. His numbers at the end — 26-of-37 for 297 yards to go with the touchdown and the pick — tell that story pretty well. Donald Brown did most of the heavy lifting on that overtime drive and he finished with 80 yards as part of a second straight strong rushing effort for Indianapolis.

The win leaves the Colts at 4-3 with a big game at home against Miami, which has the same record after routing the Jets, next week. The winner will be one of the unlikelier members of the playoff hunt at the start of the second half of the season.