Tony Romo won the Positive Impact Factor (what's this?) for the NFC East this season. However, it's Eli Manning, who finished third during the regular season, who is in the playoffs.
Here's the 2011 NFC East Positive Impact Factor Standings (PIF with sacks counted as rushes like the NCAA in brackets):
1. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, 42.8 (50.5)
2. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, 36.1 (40.2)
3. Eli Manning, New York Giants, 25.4 (37.2)
4. Rex Grossman, Washington Redskins, -14.4 (15.5)
For Romo to win the regular season PIF is a little surprising. During his career, he has usually posted a decent number during the regular season but nothing like this year. In fact, his 2011 PIF was the best of his career. What changed this past season? He produced touchdowns at a higher rate and didn't lose fumbles at his average rate.
Michael Vick was second in the NFL behind Tom Brady last season with a 52.7 PIF, the best of his career. This past season was a return to normalcy for Vick. His touchdown rate went down while his interception rate went back up as did his rate of lost fumbles.
Eli Manning had a bit of a bounce back year from the 10.1 PIF he put up last season (28th in the NFL). His career low came in 2009 with a dead-last -48.2 PIF. His best season came in 2008, a 29.4. While his fumbles lost rate is still troublesome, his touchdown rate came up and interception rate went down.
Grossman has never finished with a PIF number in the positive side in his NFL career as a starter. This past season was his worst season. His best season was a -4.4 in 2006. Grossman can produce touchdowns at a decent rate but his turnovers come way too often be it interceptions or fumbles lost.
Big (soon to be even less accurate) 10/Big (soon to be less than) 12: MISSOURI TO THE BIG TEN. Notre Dame is not budging for the present. This is an unconfirmed report, but why not mention it? Speaking of ND...
Independents: EDSBS brought us this Notre Damemusic video...click at your own discretion. Once seen, Freekbass cannot be unseen. Shrewd move by ND. The Big 10 has an image to keep up and Freekbass doesn't fit in it.
SEC: LSU Coach Les Miles is on the Tiger Tour. Mike VI is not going on the tour for obvious reasons.
The Tiger Tour is not to be confused with Auburn's Tiger Prowl (which the NCAA has targeted with its latest inane rule).
PAC 10: Lane Kiffin had a press conference. The Trojans had a scrimmage of some sort today. Presser highlights: On the scrimmage format: “We don't have enough bodies to be able to create two different teams as far as having ones versus twos, so it will be just an offense versus defensive format, which we will have a scoring system for and very little special teams. We'll kick field goals and extra points with no rush.” Don’t be a “loaf”. Kiffin will embarrass you via flat screen TVs and wall postings of your grade if you get beat at practices. Parting shots: Kiffin also had some words about SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and a coach he didn’t beat, Nick Saban. Not that he was asked about them--the question concerned the NCAA rule on head coach travel which Kiffin thinks is “ridiculous”. “Yeah, I've been very strong about that. Not that anybody listens but I have expressed myself to (SEC) Commissioner (Mike) Slive every meeting that we are in. I don't think he appreciated it after the first two times I did and I brought it up and every time I bring it up, it would piss off Nick Saban, because he would bring it up again because he thinks the rule was changed because of him.” Is there really an NCAA “Saban rule”? The Trojans start the 2010 season in Honolulu.
WAC: Hawai'i had its Warrior Bowl on Friday. It was situational and featured "shifty running" by RB Chizzy Dimude and "bruising" running from RB John Lister. Both TDs during the scrimmage were scored on runs. None of this sounds like the Hawai'i you are used to does it? The Warriors will start home games this season at 5:30 p.m. Hawaiian. For those of you on the East Coast it means that Hawai'i games will actually start on Saturday (barely).
Big Sky: Junior QB Bo Levi Mitchell (transfer from SMU) has won the starting job for the Eastern Washington University Eagles. Mitchell threw for nearly 4,600 yards at SMU along with 36 TDs and 33 INTs in 19 games. EWU had a wide open competition for the starting job as it lost Matt Nichols to the NFL (he has signed a contract with the Dallas Cowboys). Nichols threw for 12,616 yards and 95 TDs in his career as an Eagle. If you are wondering why this school rings a bell, they are installing red turf for the 2010 season.
Is it possible for both teams to show up for a game at one site?--not this weekend. All four games of the NFL divisional round were filled with boredom. Sure there were some exciting plays but most of them were made by the team which decided it was a good idea to bring at least their B game to the field instead of the other squad which was helplessly thrashing about on live TV.
Out of the morass of Saturday and Sundays' games, a pattern emerged. The NFC was the place for blowout games, the AFC on the other hand, is where Lady Luck decided to blow on some other guys' dice.
Arizona Cardinals 14, New Orleans Saints 45.
The Cardinals' defense which got eviscerated by the Packers showed up again. The Cardinals offense which tore through the Packers' defense did not. Kurt Warner never had a shot in this game, well except for this one. Things started off well for Arizona when Tim Hightower took the opening handoff from scrimmage and ran 70 yards untouched for a score. That was the worst possible outcome for the Cardinals. Hightower's run showed Reggie Bush what running the football is supposed to look like. Or at least that's the only explanation I can think of for what the guy wearing the Bush jersey for the Saints was doing. Bush ran North and South (and that includes over some pathetic tacklers for the Cardinals) for the first time in his entire career. Drew Brees was back to doing his thing carving up secondaries. The Saints big play defense returned and forced a couple of turnovers. Arizona was only able to convert one (1) third down all game. The Saints even broke out the flea flicker when the game was 21-14 to show the Cardinals they meant business. Who Dat Nation was thrilled but this game was essentially over when the Saints were up 21-7 at half. Reggie Bush ran onto the field during pregame with a black bat inscribed with the words "Bring The Wood", a theme which continued without a prop in the other NFC divisional game.
Dallas Cowboys 3, Minnesota Vikings 34.
The number 3 was important in this game. Tony Romo had 3 fumbles (he lost 2). Sidney Rice caught 3 TDs for the Vikings. The Vikings 3rd score in the 4th quarter was a TD pass with 1:55 left which gave Brett Favre passing 4 TDs for the game. Dallas LB Keith Brooking was very upset over what he thought was a lack of sportsmanship. I liked what Jimmy Johnson said about the situation on the postgame show, "if you don't like it, stop it." Maybe if Brooking's defense had been stopping Favre at some point during the game before the whipped Cowboys quit on the last Vikings play (a 4th and 3, by the way, from the Dallas 11 yard line) the result might have been different. Brooking doesn't play on the offensive line which let Tony Romo get hurried (and sometimes hit pretty good) all game long. Brett Favre is 40 but he looked much younger when he was celebrating his career best 4 playoff TDs or singing "Pants on the Ground" in the locker room after the game.
Baltimore 3, Indianapolis 20.
The Ravens need to think about getting a symbol of luck on their helmets, it sure worked out for the Colts on Saturday having a horseshoe on their head gear. Every bad bounce that could possibly have occurred for the Ravens did happen. Ed Reed picks off Peyton Manning (who was not having a great game) towards the latter part of the 3rd quarter with the score 17-3 in favor of the Colts. Reed returns the INT about 40 yards before the intended WR Pierre Garcon chases him down and knocks the ball out. Dallas Clark was right in position and fell on the fumble. Five plays later, Ed Reed got another INT from Manning. Dallas Clark had clearly been interfered with and the ball went back to Indy again. The odd drive ended with a Colts FG to make it 20-3. On the ensuing drive, Ray Rice rumbled for 20 yards down to the Colts 28 yard line and then got pelted by Raheem Brock. The ball squirted free and landed near Colts LB Clint Session who recovered the fumble. Ray Rice is an explosive player who is fun to watch. His 67 rush yards and 60 receiving yards were not nearly enough for the Ravens offense. The 3 points the Ravens did score came in the first quarter. After that the Colts underrated defense buckled down and salted the game away by picking off Joe Flacco twice and forcing the above mentioned Rice fumble in the 4th quarter. The Colts cannot run the ball and it's shameful that they can make it to the Conference Championship game by "running enough to keep you honest", as it was described during the telecast. The Colts leading rusher, Joe Addai, was nowhere near 1,000 yards on the season and the whole team couldn't manage 1,300 yards on the ground. In that sense, it makes the Colts winning 14 regular season games and Peyton Manning throwing for 4,500 yards even more impressive. Ray Lewis and his defense didn't have a bad game holding the Colts to 275 yards and 20 points, but miscues and unnecessary penalties hurt them. Manning's Colts finally won a playoff game after winning the conference during the regular season (0-3 coming into Sunday).
New York Jets 17, San Diego 14.
If Nate Kaeding makes his 3 FG attempts, San Diego wins this game. He made none of the three. CBS jinxed him by putting up the graphic showing how long it had been since he had missed a FG from 40 yards or closer. Kaeding missed 2 tries 40 yards or closer on Sunday. Just as the Ravens committed too many penalties, the Chargers racked up 87 yards on 10 flags. Phillip Rivers was just shy of 300 passing yards but most of those were wasted when the Chargers could not convert 3rd downs (they finished 4-13). Their running attack was pretty bad (61 yards). Healthy or not, LaDainian Tomilinson was powerless to help his team. Darren Sproles picked up 33 yards on 3 carries but only had 3 carries! The Chargers secret weapon (FB Jacob Hester) was rolled out in the second quarter. He ignited the first scoring drive for either team by first making a 15 yard catch. Both teams had trouble making first downs up to that point. Hester made a crucial block to give Rivers enough time to throw his only TD of the game to WR Kris Wilson. Hester nearly blocked a punt in the 4th quarter. The Chargers scored on the short field created by the tipped punt. Ultimately, this TD only produced the closer than reality final score of 17-14. Hester creates instant hustle when he is on the field and the Chargers needed such a spark throughout the game. The Jets defense was great from a bend but don't break standpoint (especially if you include the FG defense which made Kaeding choke). They were also the beneficiaries of Lady Luck. Darrelle Revis made one of the most incredibly fortunate INTs you will ever see on his own 17 yard line in the 3rd quarter with San Diego up 7-3. The Chargers defense didn't allow a point until the first drive of the second half. Rivers' second INT set up a short field and the go-ahead score for the Jets in the 4th quarter. After a Chargers punt, RB Shonn Greene destroyed arm tackles on a 53 yard blast up the middle of the field for the second Jets TD. The Chargers lethargic offense was suddenly down 17-7 with about 7 minutes left and that was too much to overcome. Mark Sanchez won his second playoff game and was not good in barely hitting the 100 yard mark in passing. He threw 1 TD and 1 INT. Sanchez was nearly perfect in the first round of the playoffs so Sunday's game was more like a return to normalcy. San Diego had won 11 straight games coming into the first playoff game and the week off seemed to coat them in a layer of rust. The Jets were the only road team to win a divisional round game.
Next week's NFC championship has the Vikings travel to the Superdome to take on the Saints. Both Brett Favre and Drew Brees were outstanding in their first playoff games, if both can keep it up we should see the shootout that Arizona v. New Orleans was supposed to give us. The Vikings and the Saints brought the wood in their divisional games, which one will bring it again? The AFC title game features two offensively flawed teams. The Colts don't have a running game. The Jets don't have a reliable passer. The Colts have a better defense than the Jets, but which team will get the lucky breaks?
Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez has had some up and down performances this season. His first playoff game was great in terms of what you want out of your game manager style of QB: 12/15 for 182 passing yards, 1 TD, 0 INT. His shaky regular season merited a QB rating of 63.0 because he threw 12 TDs to 20 INTs and only completed around 54% of his passes for less than 7 yards per attempt. His first playoff game was rated 139.4 which is more than 32 points better than his best regular season outing--a 38-0 shutout of the Raiders. The Jets running game was also rolling with rookie Shonn Greene getting most of the carries. Greene with 135 yards and a TD on 21 attempts also had his best game since that week 7 shutout of the Raiders. For the Bengals, this game was an improvement over their 37-0 drubbing at the hands of the Jets in week 17. First of all, the Bengals scored points in 2 quarters. They had the ball for over 26 minutes. Cedric Benson played and had 169 yards rushing and a TD on 21 carries. QB Carson Palmer played the whole game and crossed the 100 yard passing barrier (he had 0 yards on 11 attempts in week 17). Heck, he even threw a touchdown. WR Chad Ochocinco caught 2 more passes than the 0 he had in week 17. He was unable to celebrate a TD though. The inability of the Bengals to throw and catch the ball was simply amazing. The Bengals franchise is still not ready for the playoffs (they haven't been here often) and haven't won a playoff game since 1990. The Jets won their first playoff game since 2004 and move on to play the team they beat in that game, the San Diego Chargers.
This game turned into a blowout faster than you could have imagined. Nobody scored in the first quarter. By halftime, the game was over. Dallas got a TD on a Tony Romo pass early in the 2nd. The Eagles responded with a laser pass from Mike Vick which turned into a 76 yard TD. Dallas rattled off 20 unanswered points to make it 27-7 at half. Cowboys RB Felix Jones exploded for a 73 yard rushing TD in the 3rd to make it 34-7. Jones finished with 148 yards on only 16 carries. The Eagles had 56 yards rushing...total. Both teams' QBs threw for 200+ yards but Romo was more efficient than Donovan McNabb. McNabb was pressured often and threw 1 INT and lost 1 fumble. The Eagles turned the ball over 4 times compared to the Cowboys' 1 turnover. It is surprising to think that the Cowboys win on Saturday was their first playoff victory since 1996. It was not a shock that the Cowboys won this game. The Eagles had absolutely no way of stopping the Cowboys offense. The Eagles' defense appeared to have never defensed a screen play before. This game was similar to the Jets v. Bengals affair. It was a step forward for the Eagles over getting shutout 24-0 in week 17, but it was an effort which was far from what they needed to win the game. The Eagles finished their season in highly disappointing fashion. They had won 6 in a row until they met the Cowboys in week 17. This game was their 3rd loss to the Cowboys in the 2009 season. The Cowboys broke a two game losing streak in week 15 by upsetting the then undefeated New Orleans Saints. Dallas has been red hot ever since only allowing 31 total points during their 4 game win streak. The Cowboys play Minnesota next.
This wildcard game was over even quicker than the Eagles v. Cowboys. Aided by Tom Brady turnovers, the Ravens put up 24 unanswered points in the first quarter. It got ugly early for the Pats. The first play from scrimmage was a Ray Rice 83 yard TD run. The only Patriots players to put out any effort were RB Kevin Faulk (52 of the Pats 64 rush yards and 37 receiving yards) and WR Julian Edelman (2 TD catches). New England played this game like they were banged up and wanted to end their season. The Ravens came out onto the field jacked up and were more than ready to oblige the lethargic Pats. Ray Rice finished the game with 159 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 22 carries. The Ravens didn't need QB Joe Flacco to be good. He was terrible: 4/10 for 34 yards passing with a pick. Despite the lack of passing, the Ravens outgained the Patriots (who couldn't run--64 total rush yards) 268-196. Brady's ribs were bothering him and was clearly off during the game. He threw for only 154 yards 3 INTs and only 2 TDs. He also lost a fumble. Brady's 49.1 QB rating was the lowest of his playoff career. The Patriots were loudly booed in their first playoff home loss since 1978. Ravens LB Ray Lewis (pictured above) was dominant with 13 tackles and a sack. He also had told the CBS crew calling the game that he could pick out what the Patriots were going to run because he had Brady figured out. On certain plays where Lewis slammed into Brady or Faulk or other unfortunate Patriots, it sure seemed like he had the read the Pats playbook. The Patriots will have the offseason to try to regroup. The Ravens move on to play the Colts (a team which should be in the best of health due to basically forfeiting their last 2 games of the regular season). If the Ravens hope to stand a chance, Peyton Manning will have to turn the ball over and Joe Flacco must do something, anything, positive on offense.
If you liked the Ravens' smothering defensive performance in the early game, this latter contest (the highest scoring game in NFL playoff history) probably drove you nuts. This game started out much like the Ravens v. Patriots however. The Cardinals built a quick 17-0 lead by the end of the 1st quarter aided by Packer turnovers. Green Bay got their own offense going with a great defensive play by DB Charles Woodson. Arizona was threatening to score another TD in the 2nd quarter when Kurt Warner dumped the ball off over the middle to WR Larry Fitzgerald, Woodson used his fist like a sledgehammer and smashed the ball out of Fitzgerald's arms and Green Bay recovered the fumble. Warner was screeching at WR Early Doucet about something that had happened besides the fumble on the play. It was the only mistake Doucet made in a game where he caught his first 2 playoff TDs and set up a game winning FG chance. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had his first pass of the game intercepted. His second pass was complete and then fumbled away. Somehow Rodgers had caught fire in the second quarter after the Arizona turnover. By halftime the Packers were only down 24-10 in a game that could have easily gotten away from them. The Cardinals scored on their opening possession of the second half and were up 31-10. The Cardinals defense then turned into swiss cheese. Rodgers threw 2 TD passes to cut the lead down to 7 points. Warner responded with a TD near the end of the 3rd quarter to extend the lead to 38-24. By the 10:57 mark of the 4th quarter, Rodgers had thrown another TD pass and set up a rushing TD and game was tied at 38. Warner threw his 5th TD pass of the game about 6 minutes later. Rodgers responded with his 4th TD pass to tie the game up at 45 with 1:52 remaining. Warner, armed with 3 timeouts, quickly hurried the Cardinals down the field and hit Doucet on a 16 yard pass down to the Packers 16 yard line. The Cards used their last timeout with 14 seconds left and sent veteran kicker Neil Rackers out onto the field for a 34 yard FG to win the game. Rackers choked and pushed the ball wide left. The game was going to overtime. The Packers won the toss and of course took the ball. Arizona's offense had to be nothing short of livid that their defense had seemingly blown the game by letting the Packers get back into it. What they were thinking about Rackers probably contained too much profanity to type. However, in overtime, the Cardinals defense finally got back to the way they were playing at the beginning of the game and ended it. Here's the play, you decide what should have happened, if anything.
The defense for most of the game was so awful on both sides that there were 62 total first downs, 1024 total yards, 9 passing TDs, 3 rushing TDs and Arizona RB Beanie Wells looked good. It would normally take a stretch of the imagination to think that Wells was fast enough to play in the NFL (I'm not saying he couldn't be good in short yardage situations). Today was not one of those days. On one play, the Packers defense checked out completely and allowed Wells to get his career long run of 42 yards. Since he finished with 91 yards, that one play severely inflated his yards per carry average to 6.5. Wells hadn't looked this good since his 110 yard performance against the Detroit Lions. To be fair, those guys are so pathetic on run defense, they can make anybody's running back look great.
This was the only game of the three wild card matchups which were played on week 17 to turn out differently. In the last week of the season the Packers demolished the Cardinals 33-7. That wasn't really a fair measure of performance as the Cards rested players while the Packers did not. The Packers won't take any consolation of sending this game to overtime into the offseason. The Cardinals have the Saints next. I would really like to see New Orleans in top form (which they haven't been anywhere close to since that Cowboys loss) to get a game which will rival this wild card game in excitement.
Gameball for the former LSU Tiger in the NFL on Wild Card Weekend: Early Doucet, WR Arizona: 6 catches, 77 yards, 2 TDs and set up Neil Rackers for an easy kick to win the game even though Rackers didn't come through.
And then there were two: of the 8 playoffs teams remaining only the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings don't have a former LSU Tiger on the roster. There has been at least one former Tiger on every Super Bowl champion since 2001.
As this was the last week of the season, the focus should be on the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints. Coach Sean Payton feels that the entire history of the NFL can be overcome by a franchise that has never had a winner. So, he sat Drew Brees and started Mark Brunell who had not seen regular action since November 12, 2006. The Saints not surprisingly got beat down by a red hot Panthers team which should have made the switch from Jake Delhomme (no hard feelings, Delhomme is still a hero to my high school) to Matt Moore at midseason. Whether Payton realizes it or not, no team has lost the last three games of the regular season and made the Super Bowl. Maybe when your franchise has won two (2) playoff games in 42 seasons such things don't apply, or maybe they apply doubly--especially when your team even with Brees checked out two weeks ago. In any event, Sean Payton wins the award this week of having Herman Edwards remind him why you play the game. For the sake of the folks back home, I'd like to see the Saints pull this off to finish their historic season, but I highly doubt that they beat any of the NFC playoff teams right now.
Indianapolis Colts. Coach Jim Caldwell is the runner up for the Edwards reminder. Caldwell played Manning to continue his consecutive start streak (Brett Favre started again today also, more on him below) and Tony Gonzalez and Reggie Wayne to get them 100 catches in a season. This kind of refusal to participate meaningfully in a game has Roger Goodell thinking about incentives, such as draft picks, to keep playoff bound teams from yanking starters. Caldwell isn't going to look at the film from this game. He's not worried about it. Just like Andy Reid in 2004, Caldwell gave away the final two games to rest starters (Reid did lose Terrell Owens until the Super Bowl though). However, those 2004 Eagles are the ONLY team to lose the final two games of the NFL season and make the Super Bowl--they didn't win, you recall. The Colts got beat like a drum today and I hope they lose the first game they play in the playoffs...oh please let it be the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets.
New England Patriots. Wes Welker is done for the playoffs before they got started with a gruesome knee injury. Welker was an irreplaceable possession WR for the Pats (123 catches, 1348 yards this season) and an inspirational presence on the field. New England finished the regular season 2-6 on the road. They host Baltimore in the first round, but should they get by the Ravens, I think the season ends on the road in the next game.
Wild Card games. Really!? There's four of these games and three of them feature the exact same matchups as the final weekend of the season, Week 17 scores in brackets: Jets v. Bengals (Jets won 37-0), Green Bay v. Arizona (Green Bay won 33-7), Cowboys v. Eagles (Cowboys won 24-0). How unlucky can we get to have this happen?
Ready for the Playoffs
San Diego Chargers. They treated their final game against the Washington [redacted] like a preseason game. They rested starters after the starters put up 10 points in two drives. Perhaps this was a belated preseason game, neither team could crack 70 rush yards. Why are the Chargers in this pile and not the winners not playing to win pile,? The Chargers back ups won the game. Sure it was against Washington, but at least the team didn't pack it in without the starters. Also, the Chargers have quietly rattled off 11 straight wins. LaDainian Tomlinson says he is healthier than he has ever been to start the playoffs--look out.
Minnesota Vikings. Huh? The Vikings looked bad in losses against Arizona, Carolina and Chicago, how are they ready to go? Well the Giants were suggilated by the Vikes 44-7. Brett Favre wasn't going to let Tim Tebow's Sugar Bowl performance show him up. Favre was 25/31 for 311 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs. Favre threw for 4,000+ yards, 33 TDs and only 7 INTs on the season. He's 40 years old and this is probably his best season statistically--Favre has never thrown less than 13 INTs in a full season. He also has Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson to help him out. Due to the Jets running all over the Bengals, the Vikings rush defense is now 2nd in the NFL allowing a little more than 87 yards per game.
The 2009 St. Louis Rams make any argument for contraction (or even better, a relegation division) seem reasonable. The Rams won 1 game this year and it wasn't in Week 17. In a 28-6 loss to the 49ers, the Rams managed 109 total yards on 62 plays. San Francisco wasn't exactly world beaters this year. This game also featured twenty (20) punts for 971 yards.
Relegation Division idea: The top 20 teams in 2009 stay in the NFL, the other 12 teams are relegated (finishing last in any of the 8 current NFL divisions is an automatic relegation) to a lower division with a chance to win back their pride and make the show again. Relegated teams for 2010: St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Washington, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Buffalo, Seattle, Oakland, Miami, Chicago.
Realigned NFL for 2010: AFC & NFC, 1 Division each with 10 teams a piece. Top 6 teams in the AFC and NFC Division tables make the playoffs, the lowest two teams in each table are relegated in 2011. The top four teams from the relegation division table in 2010 replace the bottom four relegation teams from the NFL for the 2011 season.
Origin Story: I am an NFL scavenger...not once upon a time, but instead since I was a child aware of Barry Sanders until September 14, 2008 (a date which will live in infamyJon Kitna), I was a Detroit Lions fan. Since that day I just look around the league for oddities or exciting plays or to see how LSU Tigers in the NFL are doing. It's been a good decade for Tigers in the NFL as EVERY Super Bowl Champ since 2001 has had at least one Tiger on the roster. LSU also has the longest current streak of first round draft picks (6 years) and has produced 3 straight top 5 picks.
Here's this week's rundown:
Cowboys end Saints pursuit of perfection, read extended commentary here.
Jamarcus Russell, forced into glory by the manhandling of yet another Raiders QB (Charlie Frye this time, in his first action of the season no less) by an opposing defense, finds Chaz Schilens for a TD with 0:35 remaining in the game. Raiders win in Denver--take that Broncos playoff hopes. Despite these heroics, Russell did not win his starting job back. I swear that link does not lead you to LSU v. Tennessee circa 2006--this link does.
Ben Roethlisberger throws for 503 yards (first Steelers QB to throw for 500 yards) including this mind bottling TD pass to set up the game winning XP. Big Ben's big day broke the Steelers record for passing yards in a game held by the one (and only) XFL MVP Tommy Maddox who futilely slung the ball around for 473 yards in a 2002 TIE.
Colts survive the Jaguars and move out to 14-0 all alone, see Cowboys v. Saints above. Peyton Manning ripped the Jags secondary a new one en route to attaining his 10th season of 4,000 passing yards and yet another 4 passing TD game. The latter exploit tied him with Dan Marino for second all-time with 21 such games. Brett Favre is the leader with 22 4 passing TD games. He certainly won't improve on that record if he keeps playing like he did Sunday and getting into "heated discussions" with his coach about whether he should be in the game or not.
The Arizona Cardinals won the NFC West for the second year in a row by outlasting the worst team in the NFL since 2001 (33-109 over that span), the Detroit Lions. The last time the Cardinals won their division 2 years in a row was 1974-1975 when they still played in St. Louis and were located in the NFC East.
Manning the Younger (Eli) was pretty precise in a terribly unentertaining Monday night game against the Washington [nickname redacted]. It got so out of hand that David Carr got to throw the ball four (4) times for the Giants. To close out a half of ineptness (2 whole first downs), Washington tried a fake FG um what the hell was that? pass play (?) with Hunter Smith (the punter) who promptly threw a wounded duck pass before the 3 unblocked Giants' rushers could sack him. Smith was unsurprisingly intercepted by one of the 5 eligible and willing Giants defenders who crowded underneath the pop fly from Smith. Once Washington finally did score a TD their kicking woes continued as Graham Gano's XP was blocked (Washington failed on a 2 pt try on their other TD). Remember the Unknown Who Dat game?
Shaun Suisham, fired for that miserable shank job above (I swear it was really a FG try, not an XP), was hired by his old mates down in Big D to replace Nick Folk who was more recently a victim of the Unknown Who Dat.
Let's not get too excited about Jerome Harrison breaking Jim Brown's single game rushing record for the Browns. The Browns v. Chiefs was a first class pillow fight between two teams going absolutely nowhere. Jim Brown set his record as a rookie in 1957 against a Los Angeles Rams team that won half of their games. 1957, back when the Detroit Lions won their last championship (destroying the Browns 59-14, coincidentally) and the NFL had 12 teams. However, Josh Cribbs of the current Browns team deserves far more than golf clapping for housing two (2) of Kansas City's kickoffs which gave him a total of eight for his career, an NFL record.
Best LSU Tiger in the NFL performance for Week 15: Jamarcus Russell, of course. With his struggles this season, how could it be anyone else?
That's all the No Fun League coverage I can stomach for this week.
All good things must come to an end and did December 19 inside the Superdome. 13 N.O. was as far as this historic season got for the Saints. Granted, their season isn’t over and any further win would be a franchise record, nevertheless, blame is flying for the first blemish on the Saints perfect season. Breesus was in less than saviorlike form losing two fumbles and throwing a crucial interception on an under throw to former LSU Tiger Devery Henderson. Henderson, for his part, unfathomably dropped a TD pass that would have completely turned the momentum around in time for another Saints comeback (Dallas tried to help out with that anyway). Superstition also reared its head: Did you or any Saints fan you know get a haircut this week? How about a shave? What about the unknown Who Dat?
He was found and attended his first (and last?) Saints game at the Superdome.
The Saints high flying offense was largely grounded by the pass rushing of Demarcus Ware (who left last week’s game on a stretcher with a neck injury) and Anthony Spencer.Tony Romo only threw one TD pass but also went over 300 yards through the air and did not turn the ball over. As a team Dallas gashed New Orleans for 145 yards on the ground and converted 8/15 3rd downs.
From the above it seems that the Saints’ first loss came easy. Until early in the fourth quarter, the Saints looked as if they had finally given up on a game. The Cowboys offense then turned lethargic and a punt sailed into the end zone for a touchback. Brees turned into Breesus once again hitting 6 of 7 passes for 72 yards. Two handoffs later Mike Bell found the end zone and cut the Cowboys lead to 24-10. Dallas followed up with underwhelming 6 yards on 3 plays. Breesus redux, the Saints scored 7 plays later and were down a mere 7 points with a full 8 minutes to go.
Romo and the power running game had enough life to seemingly send the game out of reach on a Nick Folk FG, or not. Andrew Sharp knows your pain Cowboys fans. The Unknown (now well known) Who Dat had struck again! He put the gris gris on Washington’s Shaun Suisham who missed a 23 FG to put the game away on December 6 and now this? I guess we are going to OT, what snack food should I pull out I thought? Brees had to go 80 yards with no timeouts with only 2:16 on the clock. Only 2:16? The Saints have scored 5 less offensive TDs (10) after the 2 minute warning of a half than the St. Louis Rams have scored (15) in the entirety of 14 games (Sad, but true. The Saints also have 3 defensive TDs within the 2 minute warning this year). The game didn’t end with the typical Breesus/Saints heroics. Instead, Demarcus Ware sacked Brees and caused a fumble some 48 yards away from the end zone which set up Romo for the victory formation.
Despite what Head Coach Sean Payton wanted, the Saints aren’t getting an undefeated season. Despite what Saints fans might believe, this loss was good for the team. Since entering the league in 1967, the New Orleans franchise has never seen prosperity like this year. This years’ team had not had to face a real setback or deal with disappointment. Now that they have, the Saints can continue toward Dome field advantage and the first Black and Gold Super Bowl. As I write this, the Vikings blew their chance (do they ever show up for road games?) to make the Saints pay for the loss.
As for the Cowboys, they are the current 6th place team in the NFC for the playoffs. Should they “control their destiny” effectively, I still have no confidence in the ability of Romo and the Cowboys to beat the Saints in the Superdome for a second time, especially not in the playoffs. The Cowboys have five (5) Super Bowl Trophies. The Saints have two (2) playoff wins. However, both of those Saints wins and none of the Cowboys’ Super Bowls have occurred in the 2000s. The man responsible for the first Saints playoff win was Aaron Brooks. Drew Brees, who picked up the second win, eclipsed Brooks’ Saints career passing TDs record (who knew Brooks threw 120 TD passes?!?) in the loss to the Cowboys. No matter what else happens, this season is historic.